Saturday, October 10, 2009

Blog. # 109: Telling it Like It Could Be

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A Lead In With a Punch!

What to do for a lead in to this week’s Little Eddy blog? How about leading in with Barack Obama winning this year’s Nobel Peace Prize? Take that you Weekly Standard blowhards who cheered when Chicago lost it’s 2016 Olympic bid that Obama helped plead for. And how does it feel, Rush baby, sitting over there in the Taliban’s corner, your microphone at the ready, desperately holding onto your bag filled with hot air as if it was something worth coveting? Your mouth spouting nonsense?

In our opinion the Nobel Peace committee awarded the 2009 prize to the only person who truly deserved it, citing many of his speeches reaching out to the enemies of the country, as well as it’s allies. "Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future," the committee said. "His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population."

Mr. Nobel, who made his fortune selling gunpowder, and then left his fortune to be used to reward excellence in technological achievements and to reward those working for world peace, must be lying contentedly in his grave, happy that the committee he set up has performed so well in this momentous year. A few Republicans recognized the honor bestowed on our President and congratulated him. Others, like that Uncle Tom running the RNC tried to demean the honor by turning it into partisan politics. Hooray for the U.S.A.! The world has joined Obama's Hope Brigade.

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A Brief History of a Blog

The other day I got an email from my cousin who lives in Equador, who told me she especially enjoyed the piece in which I told of how I happened to choose the title Little Eddy for my blog. I had written that piece early on when I first began writing the blog back in September of 2007, and I reprinted it a couple of weeks ago figuring that since I was attracting new people these days, I owed them an explanation of why I was calling the product of my musings, Little Eddy. This week I plan to follow that revelation with my reason for signing off each week’s blog with the phrase, “The Real Little Eddy,” among other things.

At the time I began this blog one of the hottest bloggers online, whose real identity at that time was unknown, called himself Fake Steve Jobs. It was a must read for all of us with technology interests, Fake Steve was sounding off in words exactly what many of us imagined the real Jobs might use if he was writing the blog. (Fake Steve remarked that he once got an email purporting to be from the Real Steve’s daughter Lisa, who said he sounded nothing like her father, but she read him religiously anyway because he was funny.)

Illustration from Fake Steve Jobs website

Fake Steve’s popularity built to a high point after Apple Computer had bought one of its Fan bloggers out of the business of writing about the company, and Fake Steve dreamed up a scenario whereas an Apple attorney fictionally visited him to try and buy him out. This caused a minor sensation at the time when another blogger accused Fake Steve of pushing a lot of Microsoft causes, especially its animosity towards open source (“freetards” Fake Steve calls them). And it reached a crescendo at an All Things Digital conference, when at a joint interview Bill Gates was doing with the real Steve Jobs, Gates introduced himself by pointing out that he was not Fake Steve Jobs.

My idea for starting this blog was frankly, to give myself something to do to fill my days. My oldest son Daniel had wanted me to write down stuff for his sons, so they would have the benefit of my experience. I called myself the Real Little Eddy, because I thought it would be fun to write what I honestly felt, without worrying about who might read and complain. I am an unashamed Apple Fan Boy, although I do not own either an iPod or an iPhone. But I have used an Apple Mac since December of 1990, when I bought myself a Mac Classic, after having been introduced to computing by way of Coleco’s Adam, and a Commodore 64. I went through several updated Macs after that, closing out the twentieth century with one of the original all-in-one bondi blue iMacs, followed in 2001 by an Apple Cube, and finally in 2007 by a brand new all-in-one iMac with the computer’s guts hidden behind its liquid crystal display screen.

But the idea here is not to get carried away with my tools, although I marvel at the fact that everything I used to do as managing editor to produce Sing Out! Magazine, the typesetting, using electronic typewriters capable of printing out justified type, the paste-up boards, razor blades, and rubber cement, all of the necessary steps needed in the production of a magazine in 1965, can these days be done inside the iMac computer. And if I was interested in producing a printed publication I could simply copy the results of my editing and layout onto an especially treated metal plate, and have the printing company publish the results. That illustrates how the means of production has matured in the years since 1965, and how this ingenious invention has completely reinvented magazine production.

In 2003 Google bought a company devoted to blogging called Blogspot with the idea of providing a blog publishing service on its servers at no cost whatsoever to the bloggers. (Microsoft, which if it had its way would charge us for the air we breathe, instantly turned its hate machine from Apple to Google, for daring to offer its services for free.) When I got the urge to try writing a blog I very tentatively visited Google’s Blogspot site one day in September of 2007. After typing out my first blog using a text editor, I highlighted it, copying the text into the iMac’s memory, then I pasted it into the blogspot template. And after clicking on a button at the bottom of the page, I saw my very first blog published with practically no effort whatever on my part. It was as simple as copying, pasting, and clicking.

I am known to be highly opinionated in this day and age where the conservative right screams at anything differing an iota from their line. But whatever happened to a person’s desire to learn? And how can one expect to learn anything new if they only read those with whom they agree? And since when did being exposed to differing points of view become a dirty word? And folks, the Limbaughs, Becks, the Lou Dobbses, and Fox News types who are rooting against Obama succeeding are also rooting against you and I and the America we represent succeeding.

The idea of a blog is that anyone should be able to write something of interest if they were handed the tools which would make it easy to pull off. I have to admit that I arrogantly went a long time before I bothered to learn enough basic HTML to make my blog conform to the present day characteristics of blogs. However, my weekly hit rate has gone from infinitesimal to double and triple infinitesimal, and each week more people seem to be finding their way my page. And writing my next week’s blog does give me something creative to do to pass the time each day.

Of late I’ve learned to embed videos, which I fondly hope have added value to my musings. And my latest accomplishment was to teach myself how to upload photographs to my blog, which helps it to make more of a visual impression.

But the purpose of my blog is not to compete with the true news and tech blogs out there, the guys that run these are geniuses and know what the hell they are doing. My blog has several purposes. For one I try to see the world and politics through the skewed perspective of humor.

For two, I am what you might call a big government progressive, Republicans would call me a liberal, which to their ears is a dirty word.

For three, I honestly believe that the federal government should be run in the interests of as many of its citizens as possible, and not, as Republicans profess, run in the interests of the wealthy and giant corporations, who in their eyes seem to be the only people who matter.

Four, I truly believe that the richest industrialized nation on the planet should be able to come up with a system whereby all of its citizens are guaranteed access to care when they are ill, as does virtually every other industrialized nation on the face of the earth. It’s called “taking care of your own.”

And so go my rants. Like as not you won’t share my point of view completely, but hopefully you will allow me to own and express a point of view which differs from your own. If you read these pages regularly you have already stumbled upon my messages.

And the other thing I’ve been doing lately is reminiscing about the three sleep-away children’s camps I have spent 22 summers working for. They were three of the very best in New England, and I learned a hell of a lot about children and myself while working for them. From time to time I try reeling in these memories and attempt to recreate them with words, in the hope that you might get some pleasure reading about these past experiences of mine.

In summing up, I finally figured out what this blog is. It is a radio program, one completely without sound.§

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Paul Krugman, economics columnist with the New York Times

Telling It Like It Is

One of our favorite people whose writings we like to call to your attention is that of Paul Krugman. He teaches economics and writes a column on it for the New York Times, and what puts him in extremely rare company, he has won a Nobel Prize for economics. At any rate, as I prepared to begin producing this blog last Monday Krugman wrote what many of us had noted, but lacked the nerve to say out loud: that the Republican Party has become the party of spite.

What seemed to have put Krugman over the top was this: (At the news that the City of Chicago had lost its bid for the 2016 Olympics) . . “Cheers erupted” at the headquarters of the conservative Weekly Standard, according to a blog post by a member of the magazine’s staff, with the headline “Obama loses! Obama loses!” Rush Limbaugh declared himself “gleeful.” “World Rejects Obama,” gloated the Drudge Report. And so on. So what did we learn from this moment? For one thing, we learned that the modern conservative movement, which dominates the modern Republican Party, has the emotional maturity of a bratty 13-year-old.”

Mr. Krugman further notes, “the episode illustrated an essential truth about the state of American politics: at this point, the guiding principle of one of our nation’s two great political parties is spite, pure and simple. If Republicans think something might be good for the president, they are against it — whether or not it’s good for America.” Krugman further noted that the right likens their conduct with that of the Democrats when they are in power and the Democrats are crying on the outside. But he correctly notes: “Now, it’s understandable that many Republicans oppose Democratic plans to extend insurance coverage — just as most Democrats opposed President Bush’s attempt to convert Social Security into a sort of giant 401(k). The two parties do, after all, have different philosophies about the appropriate role of government.

”But the tactics of the two parties have been different. In 2005, when Democrats campaigned against Social Security privatization, their arguments were consistent with their underlying ideology: they argued that replacing guaranteed benefits with private accounts would expose retirees to too much risk.

”The Republican campaign against health care reform, by contrast, has shown no such consistency. For the main G.O.P. line of attack is the claim — based mainly on lies about death panels and so on — that reform will undermine Medicare. And this line of attack is utterly at odds both with the party’s traditions and with what conservatives claim to believe.”

Mr. Krugman then points out that since Ronald Reagan Republicans have been screaming about the evils of Medicare. Newt Gingrich even went so far as to try and shut down the government over Medicare funding during Bill Clinton’s administration, until Gingrich blinked first and the government remained open. So now, as they rail against Democratic attempts to enact Health Care Reform, now they are screaming that Medicare is untouchable. Would you believe?

Mr. Krugman summed up as follows: “The public no longer buys conservative ideology the way it used to; the old attacks on Big Government and paeans to the magic of the marketplace have lost their resonance. Yet conservatives retain their belief that they, and only they, should govern. The result has been a cynical, ends-justify-the-means approach. Hastening the day when the rightful governing party returns to power is all that matters, so the G.O.P. will seize any club at hand with which to beat the current administration. It’s an ugly picture. But it’s the truth. And it’s a truth anyone trying to find solutions to America’s real problems has to understand.”

What a blessing it is in these times of screeching politics to find that the N.Y. Times carries the resonating words of such a reasonable man, a man unafraid of calling the shots as he sees them even in these dark times. For Mr. Krugman’s complete thoughts on the subject move your cursor and click here

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Settlement House Children

As I explained two weeks ago, my first job working with children took place at the University Settlement Camp in Beacon, N.Y. That first summer went by a mile a minute, virtually every minute of every day was filled with new, explosive experiences. It was only after camp that I was able to ply my new found trade at a slower, more measured cadence. I spent the next two years working in the Settlement House itself, located in lower Manhattan at Rivington and Eldridge Sts. Remember, I had never experienced working with children, except for that first hectic summer at the camp in Beacon.

I found the Settlement House’s staff skilled and caring. We had day camp type activities for any children who were interested after school each day. Most of the winter staff did not work summers at the camp, understandably preferring to take their summers off. And the biggest difference between the summer camp and the winter after school group was that in camp a majority of the children were of the middle and upper middle classes, whereas in the Settlement House itself generally economically deprived neighborhood children prevailed. But the biggest surprise to me was how lively and outgoing the neighborhood children really were. There was no subterfuge, no attempt to be anything other than who they were. They were warm and outgoing, and were always direct and straight forward in their dealings. During the years that I worked at the Settlement House the neighborhood children came predominantly from older groups like Russian Jews and Italian, with a healthy dash of newly arrived Cuban and Puerto Rican children thrown in for good measure.

A typical kid’s drawing.

Although at the Settlement Camp I had primarily been a song leader, at the Settlement House I found myself leading a wide variety of activities, including games, reading, and art. Although I have not an iota of talent as either an artist or teacher of art (although I feel I can take a mean photograph on occasion), I did believe in a child’s being able to express him or her self to the fullest. And so I handed out encouragement along with the paper and crayons, and at the end of the day collected their artwork. And the best of it we hung on the walls.

And what struck me immediately was the children’s different uses of color. For instance, the Russian-Jewish and Italian kids had lived in the neighborhood virtually all of their lives, and they favored dark colors, particularly reddish-browns. And their drawings were invariably of many windowed houses, colored reddish-brown, with maybe an occasional child’s face looking out a window. The Puerto Rican children on the other hand were relatively new arrivals to the neighborhood, and they favored the vivid colors of their origins, particularly greens and oranges, and their pictures were of the outdoors with generous splashes of color, their pictures were populated by both animals and people.

Later that year I attended a show about children’s art at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, a show which urged art teachers to not interfere with the child’s expression, but to encourage its development and applaud the results. Isn’t it odd that with the art work of the children of the Settlement House although operating in almost total ignorance I was able to do exactly that which MOMA had directed the skilled art teacher to do. None of their pictures would ever hang in a museum, sure, but they were a true, if somewhat elementary, expressions of their life and experience. And under the direction of a truly talented teacher, I have no doubt that one of more of the visually inclined could over time be directed towards producing museum caliber art.§

What the Hell is a Humanist?

Most Americans are some flavor of Christian. I was raised a Presbyterian, and grew up attending Sunday school at Houston’s Second Presbyterian Church, but I left the church at age sixteen after attending the dullest Easter service I could imagine, made bearable only by a fellow sitting in the pew in front of me, holding a large drawing pad in his lap, and drawing cartoon-like sketches of the backs of ladies heads featuring their various Easter bonnets.

These days I consider myself a non-believer, an atheist if you will, although I have had Catholic priests tell me I cannot possibly be an atheist, as I cannot say for sure that their conception of God doesn’t exist. I point out that in the same way they cannot call themselves Christian, for they cannot say for sure (other than using their faith) that the God they profess really exists. And so I suppose that what it all boils down to is that what I really am is a humanist. I might not be able to call the status of the Deity, but I can say for sure that you and the other people in my life exist. Consequently I believe in and respect the humanity of my fellow human beings.

Let me give you an example. These days David Letterman has come into a lot of grief after admitting that he had “blush, blush,” sex with females who worked for him. Conservatives immediately cry “sin” and predict dire consequences down the road, even though a good many of their own leaders have sexually fallen by the wayside of late. Even the good ladies of N.O.W. are screaming for Mr. Letterman’s head to be served up in pink, as in slip. However, Mr. Letterman has so far handled his situation deftly, resulting in his ratings shooting above those of NBC’s Tonight Show for the first time ever.

David Letterman – photo from

We humanists don’t consider sexual transgressions as sin. We view them as perfectly natural human traits, which are bad only if force and coercion is used in obtaining sexual favors.

For instance, let me reflect on a couple of anecdotes from the Settlement House I was talking about earlier. When I was newly moved into the House one of the other counselors, George H., was showing me around. We had taken a set of back stairs from the fourth floor up to where there was a swimming pool on the fifth floor. As we drew closer you could hear some wild playing around from the twenty or so 14 to 16 year old boys who were skinny-dipping (swimming naked to you non camping types) in the pool. Suddenly ahead of us we saw a woman in her thirties standing in the shadows intently watching the boys as they swam.

My friend stopped me, whispered that perhaps we shouldn’t go any further, and as he led me away he explained that the lady was the mother of a seven year old girl named Jody L., who was a regular in our after school groups. George further explained that the mother made her living as a prostitute, and then he smiled as he remarked, “she must really love her work, several times a week you can find her standing in the shadows on the fifth floor, watching groups of boys as they swim naked.” My first thought was, how come they let her? George seemed to catch my drift, shrugged, and said, “she isn’t hurting anybody, the boys don’t even know she’s there, so why prevent her from having whatever pleasure she gets from her strange activity?” Or, in the words of that ancient proverb, if it is doing no harm, “live and let live.”

The question that next came to my mind was whether the lady’s daughter, seven year old Jody L., was headed for the same destiny as her mother? Who among us is capable of truly seeing into the future? Jody was a pretty little 7 year old, with blonde hair and a pale complexion running to pink. However, Jody had very little money for clothes and material things, as her mom probably spent much of her meager income on the drugs which help a person in her position deal with the many unpleasantries inherent in a lifestyle such as hers, and so little Jody was pretty much left to her own resources. She collected bottles which could be turned into cash at the local store. Andy O’B, in his late sixties and as Irish as they come, was well aware of Jody’s pressing need for bottles, and rather than throwing away the empties dispensed by the soda machine with the trash, he diligently saved them for little Jody.

Once a week Jody would come around to collect her bottles. One day I happened onto the two of them as Jody came to collect her loot and saw Andy lead the child into a utility closet, closing and locking the door behind them. The errand I was on took me away for about twenty minutes, but it happened to bring me back to that closet just as the door opened and Jody and Andy came out.

Jody was all smiles as she gleefully clasped her paper bag full of bottles to her chest, bottles that she could turn into hard cash. And Andy left the closet with a twinkle in his eye and a fresh bounce in his step, indicating that perhaps he had somehow tapped himself into his own personal version of the fountain of youth. “Ours not to reason why” says the time honored poem, good advice for the humanist who must not be judgemental, and so I concluded that whatever transpired in that Utility closet was none of my business. Or anybody else’s. But I have to admit that from the looks on their respective faces, those 20 minutes must have indeed been beneficial for each of them.§

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Parting Shots

Kaspersky Labs' cybersecurity blog Threatpost wrote today about the booming malware economy and highlighted the premiums and features of one particular botnet kit called Adrenaline as an example of the sophistication of the criminal business underworld.

Roy Firestein, a security consultant at Digital Defence and a malware expert, said the toolkit "sells for $3,500 right now and can be customized to suit the needs of even the most demanding attacker," Threatpost wrote. "Adrenalin includes 24x7 technical support, built-in exploits, the ability to steal digital certificates and the option to encrypt the stolen data."

Seriously? 24x7 Tech support? I don't know whether to laugh or cry when I imagine malware phone operators standing by 24/7. – Posted By: Alejandro Martinez-Cabrera (Email) | Oct 06 at 05:43 PM

Absolute worst pun of the week in a headline!

And from the FBI's website comes what we consider the absolute worst pun of the week: One hundred linked to an international computer hacking ring charged by US and Egypt in Operation Phish Phry! Uuurrgh!!!§

And so with our ridiculous meter topping 110 we leave this week’s edition of Little Eddy. As we prepare to leave you, I think I’ve finally figured out what’s with Rush Limbaugh. If he really has an audience hanging onto his every word that his ratings would suggest, this country is in big trouble folks. However, there is a brighter side. He is a comedian who forgot to learn how to be funny. His hook is his outrageousness. People tune in to find out what drug inspired nonsense he is going to come up with next.

So there you have the Rush Limbaugh puzzle solved. We do more of this kind of nonsense each week at this URL, and extend to each of you a non-engraved, digital invitation to return again as your heart may desire. And if you have a friend or two, please recommend us to them. If we had a friend we certainly would.

Meantime, you know what it is they say about wooden nickels? Don’t take ‘em. Nickels aren’t worth a damn thing unless they are made of metal, and these days I don’t think even metal nickels are worth worrying about. And never nickel and dime your fellow man or woman, and least of all the readers of this blog.

It has been a good week overall, but the menace never sleeps. So hang in there and hold your pitch forks and flaming torches at the ready. Beware, Dr. Frankenstein’s Limbaugh/Beck/Dobbs Monster is on the Loose, shuffling along in a neighborhood near you. Keep a sharp eye out for it. See you next week. Bye now.§

The Real Little Eddy

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