Saturday, July 25, 2009

Blog #98: Non Caring Republicans

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The Mona Lisa Responds to Republican Attempts to Savage President Obama’s Health Care Reform Bill

Graphic from


Is Obama’s Star Dimming?

Well, these days some of the shine and luster is off of the Obama presidency. Republicans are smelling blood, and have figured out, rightly or wrongly, that if they are able to kill the Democrats health care initiative they can bring down President Obama. As Senator Demented gleefully said, “the defeat of President Obama’s Health Care Initiative would be his Waterloo.” President Obama rightly points out that Health Care Reform isn’t for him, he has excellent health care coverage, as do all of those Senators and House members fighting reform tooth and nail. But of course the Republican opposition cares not one whit about the health care needs of the citizenry of this country. Their hearts and minds and welded to the for-profit health care industry, the insurance companies racking up huge profits while denying care, the pharmaceutical industry which sells to Americans at prices double and triple what they sell to the rest of the world.

And after all, if you look at it superficially, history seems to back up their position, at least if you don’t look too carefully as to how things really are different these days from the Clinton’s attempt to bring health care reform to the country. I must say it is eerie to see Harry and Louise resurrected from that 16 year hiatus to again attempt to reason the corporate health insurance and pharmaceutical points of view. They look more than a bit older these days, however, although these days Harry and Louise do seem resigned to the idea that something needs to be done, they have returned to use whatever influence they can still muster to make sure the desires of their corporate masters are listened to. However, television is so much a part of our lives these days that we sometimes confuse what we see on it with reality. We must remember that Harry and Louise aren’t real, they are the concoctions of an advertising agency serving the needs of the Health Insurance and Pharmaceutical industries who originally dreamed them up to sabotage Bill Clinton’s attempt to bring health care reform to America in 1993. We need to keep in mind that they are not real people, but actors mouthing the words of the Health Care Establishment. Of course these days the really virulent of the negative ads are the ones that hysterically yell at us to not turn health care over to the federal government. Those attempt to stoke the embers left from years of Republican propaganda which made people fear, loath and question the ability of the federal government to run its programs efficiently.

Of course, what they neglect to tell you is that it was only Republican administrations which ran government programs inefficiently, while piling up huge deficits along the way. Democratic presidents, from Franklin D. Roosevelt, through Harry Truman, Jimmie Carter, and Bill Clinton, ran their respective presidencies with skill and precision. And especially Bill Clinton deserves kudos for turning Republican mountainous deficits into surpluses while the Republican Defamation Machine harassed him every step of the way. I’ve always felt the Republicans should be ashamed of themselves, but I’m afraid a Republican wouldn’t know shame if it snuck up behind him and bit him in the ass.

Republicans are coming on strong trying to delay, and preferably kill any Health Care legislation which truly brings down the price of health care while getting everyone involved in the system. But just think about it. When have Republicans sponsored any legislation that helped anyone other than the very rich and the big corporations? The answer, of course, is never. Republicans don’t serve you and I, they don’t even pretend to. They only serve the very rich and well connected. They have opposed all legislation that serves as a safety net to protect ordinary Americans, beginning with Social Security, and continuing through Medicare. Most of them make no bones about this, although at election time some pretend to have been in our corner the whole time, in the fond hope of getting our vote.§

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The Washington Post had a running discussion Saturday on the “birther” phenomenon which is the latest craze of our nation’s nut cases. In the comments a reader calling himself Hillman1 had a most down to earth take on the case, which we quote below:

Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Lou Dobbs, and various other Republican leaders egged this whole 'birth certificate' idiocy on during the campaign. Now they rather disingenuously express shock that the idiot story continues. They birthed this mess. It's up to them to clean up after it.

To which we reluctantly add, “fat chance.” We managed to liberate ourselves from Lou Dobbs some weeks before this birther foolishness re-surfaced. Although Chris Matthews is not exactly an exercise is sweetness, we found that he rings our bell far less often than Dobbs used to. Lou proudly calls himself an independent voice, independent of what, reason and common sense?

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Cambridge Police Mugshot of Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.


President Obama: “Cambridge Police Stupid!”

Well, now that we have a black family in the White House racial profiling is a relic of the past. Right? Wrong! Noted Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. (whose Cambridge Police Mug Shot sits above) was arrested on his own front porch after showing a Cambridge Police Officer ID which proved he lived at the house. According to Prof. Gates he simply asked for the officers name and badge number, and for his trouble got himself arrested. According to the Boston Globe online, although the Cambridge police department subsequently dropped all charges, it appeared to professor Gates to be a case of too little, too late.

Black leaders continued to condemn the actions of a Cambridge police sergeant who handcuffed the African-American professor outside his own home Thursday. Gates extended an unusual offer to the officer: in exchange for an apology, personal tutoring sessions on the history of racism in America.

Gates, still angry five days after his arrest, broke his silence Tuesday to chastise Cambridge police for his treatment, dispute their assertion that he had made inflammatory remarks during the encounter, and seized upon his brief incarceration as a teaching moment on race relations, not only for Cambridge, but for the nation.

After being apprised of President Obama’s remarks at a softball game Cambridge Sergeant James Crowley, who arrested Gates last Thursday, declined to respond to the president. Asked at a softball game in Natick last night about Obama’s remarks, Crowley shook his head and said, “I think I’d be better off not commenting on that one.’’ However in the same edition the Boston Globe headlined: Officer in the Eye of the Storm Says He Won’t Apologize. And further perusal of the story brings up even more contradiction as it turned out that l6 years before the officer Crowley desperately tried to save the life of black Boston Celtics star Reggie Lewis after he collapsed while practicing in the school gym. Lewis died, but not after officer Crowley did his best to revive the basketball star.

In our opinion, although the officer consciously does not admit to racism, he nevertheless practiced it when, though he knew that Professor Gates did indeed live in the home and was not burglarizing it, Sergeant Crowley arrested him for disorderly conduct after the professor came onto his front porch asking, perhaps loudly and demandingly, that the officer give him his name and badge number (which the officer is required by law to give, by the way.)

The case is perplexing to blacks all over, including the black Mayor of Cambridge, who must surely be agonizing over support for her officer and the arrest of the professor for no justifiable cause. The Department’s later dismissal of the charges of disorderly conduct is their tactic admission of the officer’s mistake, even though the officer himself refuses to admit it. However, this is not altogether a race problem. Many years ago my mild mannered college journalism professor (who was white) was beaten and arrested by Houston Police officers after he went to headquarters to air some sort of grievance. Police officers universally seem to have zero tolerance to any level of criticism or even so much as a hint of uppityness on the part of a protesting citizen.

If you still have doubts that racism is alive and well in Obama’s America read the comments this story has garnered in the comments which followed the story, or the reactions television stories have generated. Fully half of them back the police, and criticize Obama’s comment, in spite of the fact that Professor Gates was arrested on his own front porch in spite of a picture ID proving residency. Officer Crowley on Friday was getting his share of air time to tell his side of the story, but the fact remains the professor posed no kind of physical threat to the officer, he merely tripped his irritant meter out of the ballpark. President Obama tried to tamp down the conflagration by backtracking his "stupid" characterization of the Cambridge police department a wee bit, and by inviting the principals, Sergeant Crowley and Professor Gates, to the White House for a beer.§

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Is There Actually Hope for the New Generation?

There has been a lot of criticism recently about the present generation of students being far too complacent and accepting. There have been few protests by students against a war seemingly less justifiable than Vietnam. However the video below proves once and for all that there is still a flicker of rebelliousness and street theater left in today’s law students. The YouTube video was taken in the classroom of John Woo, who is one of three lawyers credited with turning out the memos which attempted to legally justify the use of waterboarding and other forms of torture during the Bush Administration. Woo these days is a professor of law at the University of California. (The other two are Jay Bybee, presently a judge on the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and Steven Bradbury.) (Our thanks to Daniel M. Badeaux for emailing us this video.)


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The Scoop No One Wanted

What do you think the American media might do if a whistleblower brought them a story of how ATT and other telecoms were furnishing the N.S.A. with internet emails and voice conversations with no legally required court order in place. Robert McMillan on the Computerworld website interviews Mark Klein whose new book tells all about how he was ignored when he tried alerting the media of this obviously criminal behavior on behalf of the federal government.

The book is called "Wiring up the Big Brother Machine ... and Fighting It." It's an account of his experiences as the whistleblower who exposed a secret room at a Folsom Street facility in San Francisco that was apparently used to monitor the Internet communications of ordinary Americans.

It's an account of his experiences as the whistleblower who exposed a secret room at a Folsom Street facility in San Francisco that was apparently used to monitor the Internet communications of ordinary Americans.

Klein, 64, was a retired AT&T communications technician in December 2005, when he read the New York Times story that blew the lid off the Bush administration's warrant less wiretapping program. Secretly authorized in 2002, the program let the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) monitor telephone conversations and e-mail messages of people inside the U.S. to identify suspected terrorists. Klein knew right away that he had proof – documents from his time at AT&T – that could provide a snapshot of how the program was siphoning data off of the AT&T network in San Francisco.

Amazingly, however, nobody wanted to hear his story. In his book he talks about meetings with reporters and privacy groups that went nowhere until a fateful January 20, 2006, meeting with Kevin Bankston of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). Bankston was preparing a lawsuit that he hoped would put a stop to the wiretap program, and Klein was just the kind of witness the EFF was looking for.

With the EFF on board, Klein was briefly a media celebrity – the man who had the guts to expose the NSA's secret wiretapping program. In his book he provides the documents and the stories that illustrate how all of this transpired.

These days Klein lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife, Linda, and his two dogs. He self-published his book. You can read the entire Computerworld story by pointing your cursor and clicking here

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And From Our What Else is New? Department

Guess what? The Bush/Cheney withheld data from us. Surprise? This time it had nothing to do with Iraq or torture, but instead concerned distractions in driving automobiles. Here are excerpts of the story by Matt Richtell as published in the N.Y. Times:

In 2003, researchers at a federal agency proposed a long-term study of 10,000 drivers to assess the safety risk posed by cellphone use behind the wheel. They sought the study based on evidence that such multitasking was a serious and growing threat on America’s roadways.

But such an ambitious study never happened. And the researchers’ agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, decided not to make public hundreds of pages of research and warnings about the use of phones by drivers — in part, officials say, because of concerns about angering Congress.

Can you believe that? Obviously, with all that has since come out about the secrecy practiced by Bush/Cheney nothing would surprise us. Anything was possible. What about the motive for withholding the data? Do you really believe that they were afraid of offending Congress. Offending the cellphone industry, that’s who they were afraid of offending. For more on this program place your cursor and click here

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One of our favorite writers is Dana Milbank, who writes the Washington Sketch column in the Washington Post. In a twitter-like treatment of a memo to Republicans from Alex Castellanos, a political strategist and contributor to CNN, Mr. Milbank was able to beautifully expose the un-originality of RNC Chairman Michael Steele. We offer you a short excerpt of the piece here, and for the complete article we urge you to point your cursor and click here!

"We need to bring new language to this debate," Republican message man Alex Castellanos wrote in a memo to fellow GOP strategists this month. "If we paint the house the same color, no one will notice anything has changed: We will still be the same, outdated Republicans who have no new ideas and oppose everything."

Castellanos, a consultant to the Republican National Committee, offered poll-tested language that the party could use to kill President Obama's health-care legislation in Congress. "If we slow this sausage-making process down, we can defeat it," he reasoned.

RNC Chairman Michael Steele must have liked what he read. When he gave a speech at the National Press Club on Monday, he all but read aloud from Castellanos's memo.

"Slow down, Mr. President: We can't afford to get health care wrong," said the memo.

"Slow down, Mr. President: We can't afford to get health care wrong," said the chairman.

Memo: "The old, top-down Washington-centered system the Democrats propose will empower Washington to restrict the cures and treatments your doctor can prescribe for you."

Steele: "The old top-down Washington-centered system the Democrats propose is designed to grow Washington's power to restrict the cures and treatments your doctor can prescribe for you."

Memo: "President Obama is experimenting with America, too much, too soon, and too fast."

Steele: "The Barack Obama experiment with America is a risk our country can't afford -- it's too much, too fast, too soon."

Well, you get the idea. In our mind the piece de resistance of the piece was in its title. Milbank called his piece, Health Care for Dummies. Edgar Bergen lives again!§

Edgar Bergen and friends


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What Recession? Apple Has a Banner Quarter

CUPERTINO, California—July 21, 2009—Apple® today announced financial results for its fiscal 2009 third quarter ended June 27, 2009. The Company posted revenue of $8.34 billion and a net quarterly profit of $1.23 billion, or $1.35 per diluted share. These results compare to revenue of $7.46 billion and net quarterly profit of $1.07 billion, or $1.19 per diluted share, in the year-ago quarter. Gross margin was 36.3 percent, up from 34.8 percent in the year-ago quarter. International sales accounted for 44 percent of the quarter’s revenue.

Apple sold 2.6 million Macintosh® computers during the quarter, representing a four percent unit increase over the year-ago quarter. The Company sold 10.2 million iPods during the quarter, representing a seven percent unit decline from the year-ago quarter. Quarterly iPhones sold were 5.2 million, representing 626 percent unit growth over the year-ago quarter.*

*From Apple’s end of the quarter financial report.

Take that Michael Dell and Steve Ballmer. And a Happy Recession to you both. Of course there’re lots of good reasons people are switching. Three of them include people discovering the Mac thanks to the iPods, people are getting tired of having to stay forever vigilant to keep an internet full of malware at bay, and most of all, Apple invented, and keeps improving on, the iPhone. People can try before they buy at an Apple Store in a Mall near you. And more often than not people buy because even though Apple didn’t invent ease of use, they have made an obsession of bringing it to their products.

Apple’s iPhone


Ain’t it pretty? I don’t have an iPhone myself, I must admit. In fact, I don’t have any kind of cellphone. I bought a cheap one last year to be able to communicate with my son Joel after Hurricane Katrina knocked out the power. But power was back on two and a half days later, and I haven’t used it since. Of course, the main reason I have no use for a cellphone because these days I’m at my iMac computer six to eight hours a day. I even view movies and episodes from the first three years of Saturday Night Live on it in the evenings.

Microsoft which never saw a computer program they didn’t want to copy, announced recently that in the fall they are planning to open their own Microsoft Mall stores. They even hired some expert marketer to guide the program. But there’s one little thing they lack, and it is the key to the Apple Stores’ success. It is product to sell.

You come in the Apple store and you are invited to try out a computer or an iPod or iPhone. You can use it as long as you like, and you don’t have to buy a damn thing. One person wrote a book on a Macintosh at an Apple store in New York. She was actually encouraged by the employees, and came in late in the evenings to work on her project.. And children are encouraged to play with the computers even though it obvious that they’re not going to buy anything.

The other key to the success of the Apple stores is the Genius Bar, staffed with experts to help you with whatever you want to know about Apple Computers. And the Bar also offers service on injured machines, often while you wait, or the next day at the latest.

Gateway tried stores in affluent Malls. But they were forced to close their stores at around the same time Apple was opening theirs. But the difference was, Gateway stores sold nothing. It had a repair desk, and it had Gateway computers and monitors a’plenty, but nothing you could walk out of the store with. If you wanted a computer the store placed your order for you, and after it was assembled it was shipped to you. Usually in a week. There’s no instant gratification in that.

No one can foresee whether Microsoft stores are going to be the raging successes that Apple stores have been. But I find it really difficult to imagine how they are going to be able to get the hook on customers that the Apple stores do.

There has been a lot of talk lately about Microsoft’s Laptop Hunter commercials dimming Apple’s bottom line. But in a final note, tech writer Joe Wilcox (who usually sits squarely in the Microsoft – PC camp) notes that according to NPD nine out of every ten dollars spent for computers over $1000 are spent on a Macintosh. Wilcox reports that it has 91% of the over a thousand dollar market. The complete story lurks here

And we can’t leave the subject of Apple without pointing the way to this most interesting projection on a possibly forthcoming Apple product. You might call it our final byte of the Apple:

Tech writer Jason Schwartz writing in a blog called Seeking Alpha, predicts that the rumored upcoming Apple iTouch Tablet is going to revolutionize the way we use digital content and change society as we know it. He predicts the demand for this product is going to overwhelm Apple. You can read this amazing article here! We wonder if he will pass around whatever it is that he's smoking. But of course, there’s always the distinct possibility that he may well be right.§

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For Monty Python: Do Her Majesty’s Twits Twitter?

One highlight of recent late night television was actor Kevin Spacey teaching David Letterman about Twitter, which in case you missed it you can see, or if you saw it, you can relive by clicking on the triangle below.


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And so another edition of the Little Eddy Blog goes down the drain. We trust it won’t pollute the waters of Buffalo Bayou as it flows through Northwest Houston’s pipes. Buffalo Bayou is where much of Houston’s waste flows.

We look forward to seeking out more news of interest during the next week, and we’ll try not to to chew it beyond recognition as we digest it into our blog. Meantime, thanks for stopping by this week, and do drop in again next week. We upload on Saturday mornings around 8 a.m. CDT. Bye bye.

The Real Little Eddy

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