Saturday, June 27, 2009

Blog # 94: Thursday, June 25, 2009 - A Bad Day for Legends

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Sleep Well Sweet Princess

Farrah Fawcett 1947-2009 On Charlie’s Angels, "When the show was number three, I thought it was our acting. When we got to be number one, I decided it could only be because none of us wears a bra.”

Goodnight Sweet Prince

Michael Jackson - 1957 - 2009 Jackson seems to have followed Ms Fawcett into the true neverland by three or so hours. How ironic it is that the two legends, Ms Fawcett, the fantasy pinup of the 80’s and 90’s, and Mr. Jackson, the most prolific and successful songwriter, singer, dancer of all time, should both leave our consciousness within hours of each other. Thursday was a heavy day indeed.

The Irrelevant Pretend Relevance

This week a gaggle of irrelevant Republicans led by Senator John McCain and also consisting of Senator Lindsey Graham and House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, have attempted to assert their foreign policy bona fidies onto the world stage by publicly urging President Obama to come out more strongly on the side of the demonstrators which have been filling the streets of Iran this past week.

As the befuddled Republican outcasts attempted to inject themselves into the world picture, thank heavens our President has had the empathy, the sensitivity, not to mention the smarts, to resist the chiding of the Republican whiners. For the lot of them are simply proving for once and for all the wisdom the American people showed in resisting Republican pre-election ravings when on election day 2008 a compelling majority of us went to the polls to elect Barack Obama as our president.


A short history lesson seems in order here. Ever since our C.I.A. overthrew Iran’s popularly elected prime minister in 1953 and set up the C.I.A.’s handpicked Shah as Iran’s leader, the Iranian populace has not held American meddling in a very high place on their list of favorite acts by a foreign government. And all it would take for the repressive forces led by the currently all powerful spiritual leader, supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to go completely berserk would be to inject the slightest hint of American interference, after which the blood would flow like rivers in springtime. President Obama knows this, of course, as does Senator Richard Lugar, the closest thing Republicans have to a genuine foreign policy expert. But the rabble rousing wing of the Grand Old Party keeps trying to brand Iran’s insurgents with an American stamp, as they vainly keep trying to label President Obama as weak.§


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It’s Raining Republican Morality!

And Two More Republicans Fall from Grace

Of course, at this moment our Republican friends are desperate to demonstrate that they still retain some kind of relevance in this world that seems to be passing them by. This is especially true since the previously squeaky clean Senator John Ensign has joined the ranks of once sainted, now defrocked Republicans. A cynical public must be looking over their ranks wondering just who is going to be the next one to fall from grace.

To add to the public’s cynicism, Senator Ensign did not follow his own advice, advice in which he forcefully proposed to former President Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal that he should RESIGN forthwith. The resignation question was also framed in the context of former Sen. Larry Craig, after the Idaho Republican was arrested on charges that he sought sex in an airport men's room. At the time Senator Ensign quite strongly called on Craig to resign. But as to his own indiscretions, not a word about resigning. So much for the Senator from Nevada practicing what he preaches.

In an fascinating aside we learn from a Blog called News Corpse that our dear friends over at Fox News had prior knowledge of Ensign’s scandalous behavior some days before he came out with the news himself in a press conference, but they kept their lips tightly sealed. From News Corpse:

“In a letter dated five days before Sen. John Ensign’s public confession of an extramarital affair, Doug Hampton pleaded to a national Fox News anchorwoman for help in exposing the senator’s ‘heinous conduct and pursuit’ of Hampton’s wife.”

So Fox News knew of Ensign’s infidelity five days before Ensign came forward. They got the information from the husband of Ensign’s mistress. That’s a pretty good source, especially when he asserts that he had corroborating evidence. Yet Fox News failed to report the affair prior to Ensign’s press conference, and has still neglected to disclose their receipt of the letter from Mr. Hampton.

Mr. Hampton addressed the letter to Fox News anchor Megan Kelly. Both she and Fox News have yet to comment on the matter. However, the Las Vegas Sun obtained a copy of Hampton’s letter that began …

“More than any time in my life I understand why people take matters into their own hands. I am disheartened! I have sought wise counsel, tried to do the right thing and continue to run into road blocks (sic) in dealing with a very terrible circumstance and injustice that lives in my life. I am hoping you and Fox News can help.”

Mr Hampton’s eloquent pleading of his case to Fox News was indeed heart rending, except that according to Senator Ensign, Mr Hampton was at the same time attempting to extort money from him, which is why Senator Ensign decided to go public with so private a matter in the first place. And so the pot calls the kettle black, and verse visa. Perhaps Mr. Hampton would have been better off if he had submitted his news to msnbc, a network more antagonistic to the subject of his complaint. For the full News Corpse story of Mr. Hampton’s fruitless efforts to enlist Fox News simply direct your cursor and click here!

And from our “they’re dropping like flies” desk comes . . .

And it only took a matter of days for the next prominent Republican potential presidential candidate to fall from grace. That would be Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina. When the good governor disappeared for five days last week it turns out he wasn’t walking the Appalachian Trail after all. Wednesday afternoon at a press conference as he announced his resignation as head of GOP Governors Association, he followed that by confessing that he had been in Argentina, having an extramarital affair with a woman he was visiting there. Way to go, guv!

Is there a virus of some sort traversing the halls of Republicanism, one that feeds on possible 2012 Republican Presidential candidates? It seems to be a virulent bug indeed. One that sends its victims straight into the arms of an unwed paramour, and then onto a press conference stage to announce their failings to a waiting world.§

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Don’t Forget to Care About Your Health

With the Iran spectacle taking over the television news channels it is important that we keep Health Care ever in our sights. I don’t know how many people have said it, but enough have said it that it has to have a measure of truth. We are probably either going to get Health Care reform this year, or we are not going to get it at all. That is why Health Care shouldn’t be allowed to get moved onto a back burner, but must be led to completion this year. President Obama knows this, but with the sticker shock as to its costs, it must be tackled while the President’s approval rating is in the 60 % range.

The problem with the so-called Free Market system that we have today is that such a system is only profitable when you cut on back services. Insurance companies cannot make money by taking on everyone, and particularly those with so-called pre-existing conditions. And yet basic economics teaches us that the only way to substantially reduce costs is to devise a system that is all inclusive, that truly serves everybody’s health care needs, which would thereby bring down the costs for all.

Paul Krugman, the Nobel winning economist who writes for the N.Y. Times, covers this area in a recent column, Not Enough Audacity, which you can access here!

Once the feds have taken the reins, and have included a government sponsored program which will be priced to allow all of those not currently covered to be covered, then the costs will be contained. However, we must remember that a government run entity must be in the package, no matter how passionately the Republicans whine otherwise. For if we do nothing, then what we will end up with is what we presently have, which would be no improvement, and thereby not acceptable.§

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We decided to run the above cover about the War in Iraq as a reminder that the turbulence in Iran has caused the resurfacing of certain Iraq era neocons such as the likes of Paul Wolfowitz, who echoes the McCain-Cantor line urging President Obama to side strongly with Iranian protesters. But underlying their ravings are the distinct drumbeats towards war. We never should have listened to the neocons back in 2002-2003, and as they once again beat their war drums we have far less reason to listen to them now.

Supremes Make School Child Strip Search a No No

According to an AP story, which the esteemed news organization does not wish us to link to (unless we pay them an arm and a leg), the Supreme Court on Thursday found 8-1 that the strip searching of then 13 year old Savana Redding in the rural town of Stafford Arizona was illegal. The school’s vice principal was looking for prescription strength ibuprofen, the equivalent of two Advil pills, after another student had charged that Savana had given it to her. Arizona obviously takes their drug laws seriously, and after nothing was found in the girl’s backpack she was taken to the nurse’s office and ordered to remove her outer garments Then her bra and panties were moved around in such a way that offered proof that no drugs were on her, but also offered the attendees a view of her very personal private areas.

"What was missing from the suspected facts that pointed to Savana was any indication of danger to the students from the power of the drugs or their quantity, and any reason to suppose that Savana was carrying pills in her underwear," Justice David Souter wrote in the majority opinion. "We think that the combination of these deficiencies was fatal to finding the search reasonable."

However the majority opinion assessed no penalty on the school's vice principal, Kerry Wilson, the official who ordered the search. Justices John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented from the portion of the ruling saying that Wilson could not be held financially liable. "Wilson's treatment of Redding was abusive and it was not reasonable for him to believe that the law permitted it," Ginsburg said in her dissent, proving once again why a woman’s perspective is so vitally needed on the court. Perhaps a more balanced court would have voted to assess damages to the perpetrator.

And we’ll give you one guess as to who the one dissenting vote belonged to. Justice Thomas, of course, who claims that the decision now makes a girls’ underwear the hiding place of choice for pill hiding girls, but who, in truth, could never find it in his heart to rule a strip search as being unlawful. The full story may be found here! §

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Steve Jobs with his game changing iPhone


Confessions of an Unremitting Apple Fan Boy

The news that most gladdened my tired old heart this week, was that Steve Jobs, Apple’s mercurial C.E.O., had a successful liver transplant two months ago in Nashville, Tennessee, and was seen on the Apple campus on Monday of this week. It may be hard to justify my undiminished admiration for Jobs and all things Apple, but just like the sun that rises in the east every morning, it exists.

Of course, I am far from alone in my adoration. The tech website Gizmodo, has a striking compilation of articles on Jobs through the years which you can access by pointing your cursor and clicking here! But by far the most compelling appreciation of the Jobs mystique comes from Daniel Lyons, technology writer for Newsweek Magazine, who caused quite a stir in the tech community last year with his blog The Secret Diary of the Fake Steve Jobs, until he got unmasked by a N.Y. Times reporter. In his current piece, Why We Need Steve Jobs, he explains that he is in yet another line at an Apple store, there to get his hands on yet another piece of technology that he does not need, in this case the iPhone 3G S. You may access the entire piece here! However in it’s ending Lyons summed the mystique of Steve Jobs in as compelling a way as I have ever seen.

Then I went back to my office and tried to write this article on a PC on which I'm running the beta version of Windows 7, the brand-new version of Microsoft's operating system. I'd written a paragraph when the PC crashed, for no reason. I started up again, rewrote the paragraph, and then the PC froze—again for no reason. At that point I gave up and just wrote the story on my Apple MacBook Pro, a pricey but rock-solid little notebook that runs on an operating system I can't remember ever crashing. I have no idea what makes one operating system work better than another, except that I know you need to have someone in charge who keeps telling the engineers that it's not good enough — go back and do better. And that, my friends, is why Apple, and all of us, need Steve Jobs.

Well said Daniel Lyons. And perhaps you should inquire of Microsoft’s System 7 team as to whether it was at CEO Steve Ballmer’s insistence that a bit of code has been inserted which causes Windows Seven to freeze at any appearance of the name Steve Jobs. As absurd as it sounds, it is no more absurd than many of Mr. Ballmer’s public predictions about Apple products.

To say Jobs embodies all things secretive would be an understatement. News organizations, whose job it is to expose secrets, hate such corporate secrecy but few would deny what its penchant for secrecy has done for Apple and its bottom line. An uncountable number of websites exist only to speculate and expose news of Apple’s new projects. What other product in the tech world or otherwise, can claim such intense interest. And public interest in news of the company soars, and especially when the time nears for the worldwide developers conference, or some other occasion appropriate for the launching new and improved products.

The award for the most obnoxious coverage of Job’s and Apple’s secrecy policies, and particularly of Job’s health issues, belongs to a business writer named Joe Nocera, who writes a column in the N.Y. Times. In Mr. Nocera’s latest tome he seems to think that Jobs and Apple’s board of directors owe he and the stockholders he purports to represent minute by minute tweets on the state of Job’s health. His irrational rant may be found here! It is a free stockmarket, Mr. Nocera, and stockholders who agree with you are free to sell off their stocks and take their business elsewhere. One doesn’t see very many of them doing that. What is fascinating is to read the reader’s comments to Mr. Nocera’s blog, most of which show far greater perception and sensitivity than those of the columnist himself. One wonders if Mr. Nocera’s superiors at the Times ever bother to read the comments his column generates, and if so, why he is still writing on the topic?

But like it or not, Steve Jobs, the Apple world has an untiring interest in your well being, and in your health. Hopefully most of us are not as obnoxious about it as is Mr. Nocera, but we are guilty none the less. Not that it is any of our business, but hell, there’s an awful lot in this world that’s none of our business, things that we are constantly attempting to stick our noses into. Of course you have every right to keep your private life, and for that matter, your public life secret. However, it is equally true and many of us will continue to pursue news of you unrelentingly.

Your devoted followers have been given the rather condescending moniker Apple Fan Boys, a term undoubtedly having its origins in Redmond, Washington, home of Microsoft, the Colossus that Envy Built. But let’s face it, you have had an indelible effect on the computer industry, unmatched by any other individual. Two major computer makers, Dell and Gateway, presently sport imitations of your all-in-one iMac computer. Even your most famous failure, the G-4 Cube computer, won design awards worldwide, and a model is on exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in N.Y.C. And another one sits at 12022 N. Fairhollow Ln, as a backup computer to my iMac. And the computer has a cult following to this day, and sells well on eBay.

But it was the original build of the all in one, CRT iMac computer that really changed the face of the computer industry. Home computers of the day were square, box-like contraptions that came in several pieces, the computer, the monitor, and of course keyboard and mouse to control it. And their color was universally beige. Then came the all-in-one CRT iMacs with their curved shapes, their cool colors, and their translucent skins. The Macintosh had become an all in one computer again, like it had been in its very first incarnation, the Macintosh Classic. And it was that computer, the CRT iMac, that singlehandedly brought Apple back from its death bed allowing Apple to re-establish its place as the most innovating computer company of them all.

But Mr. Jobs didn’t stop there. Always the music fan Jobs and Apple did not invent the MP3 Player, there were several out there when Apple decided to enter the market. What Apple did do though that was unique was develop not only a stylish, completely intuitive player, but then build an entire ecosystem around it. A system that saved what was left of the music industry by offering downloads of music you could buy from the iTunes store at a reasonable price rather than steal them from so-called pirate sites.

As far as Apple’s entrance into the mobile phone market, we think it most intriguing to remember Microsoft CEO’s Steve Ballmer’s reaction to Apple’s entering the cellphone market. The following he said on April 30, 2007, "There's no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance," said Ballmer. "It's a $500 subsidized item. They may make a lot of money. But if you actually take a look at the 1.3 billion phones that get sold, I'd prefer to have our software in 60% or 70% or 80% of them, than I would to have 2% or 3%, which is what Apple might get."

Can you think of any other example of the CEO of a gigantic dominating company being so publicly wrong about a competitor’s product? Such is the weird karma that seems to synergistically exist between Cupertino and Redmond, probably going back to a time when Apple discovered that Microsoft, which was developing several software products for the Mac OS at the time, was also developing an operating system to run on msdos machines that was an imitation of the Mac OS and which was named Windows. The Apple that was not being led by Steve Jobs at the time attempted to sue Microsoft in the courts, but since the GUI was originally developed at the Zerox research facility at Palo Alto, the case was lost in the courts. Upon Jobs return to Apple the suit was dropped, Jobs talked Bill Gates into buying a large amount of nonvoting Apple stock, and consequently Microsoft materially helped fund Apple’s comeback at a critical time in it’s history.

But the animosity seems to persist between Cupertino and Redmond. Both Ballmer and Melinda Gates have publicly announced that their children, certainly among the richest in the country, are not allowed to own either iPods or iPhones. When we first read this we satirically suggested taking up a collection to fund the purchase of iPhones and iPods for these exceedingly rich but otherwise culturally deprived children. Of course this is a free country, and every parent has the right to restrict what their offspring may own. But on the other hand, what could possibly be the motive of keeping such innovative, game changing products as the iPod and iPhone away from their children. How many out there really think a Zune can replace an iPod, or a phone running Microsoft mobile can replace an iPhone?

But I think the real secret to Apple’s recent success can be found in it’s retail stores located in many of the nation’s leading malls. Jobs opened the stores because he knew his Apple computers would not be pushed in the usual computer stores. At the time Apple was opening its stores, Gateway Computers was closing their’s. But there was a big difference; Gateway stores carried no stock, if you saw a computer you liked you had to order it like anybody else. But Apple stores are fully loaded with products that you can walk out of the store with. And not just Apple products like computers, iPods and iPhones, but also many peripherals like sound systems, extra hard drives, plus all kind of software.

And unlike most retail operations, even children who obviously aren’t going to buy anything, are allowed to play on computers to their heart’s content. The day I was seeking a pair of stereo speakers for my iMac the Apple associate who was serving me apologized that he could not demonstrate a certain kind of speaker because a nine-year old girl was playing a game on the computer they were attached to. He was apologetic but firm.

To an ordinary person that may sound absurd, completely unbusinesslike. But looking back, every visit to my local Apple store found it with dozens of children playing computer games. And don’t you just know that in a few years those children are going to grow up to be dedicated Apple fan boys and girls. Thinking back on it, it’s one of the most ingenious marketing ideas I have ever encountered. It is no wonder Apple’s retail stores are making marketing history and breathing new life into Apple's bottom line.§

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And so a lousy, momentous week has finally dragged on by. The good news of the week was tempered by the bad, as two icons checked out for parts unknown on Thursday. We plan to do the same at this point, but we hope to be able to find our way back this time next week. And of course we hope you will want to do the same. Meantime, sweet dreams Farrah and Michael, and the same to our readers. See you next week. Bye now.

The Real Little Eddy

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