Saturday, April 17, 2010

Blog # 136: Where Twixt Meets Tween

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The Rages of Fear

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell

Republican Meeting No Tea Party

Last Sunday Republicans finished their latest strategy meeting in New Orleans. As usual they seem pumped to the max over their election chances come this November.

Should they be optimistic? Behind the leadership of Mitch McConnell (Senate) and John Boehner (House) as one man/woman they have put what they perceive as their party’s political interests ahead of the interests of the American voting public. Example: They have circled the wagons and stood steadfastly saying not no but “HELL NO!” to virtually everything that President Obama and the Democrats have proposed.

However, underneath the overlay of bravado that both McConnell and Boehner are projecting, I sense an undercurrent of fear. Perhaps they are having a premonition that, like Newt Gingrich back when he tried to shut down the government but blinked and Clinton was subsequently reelected, just perhaps the masses aren’t echoing their opposition as they so boldly presume. Just perhaps instead Messrs. McConnell and Boehner are presiding over the death throes of all things Republican.

House Minority Leader John Boehner

At this moment there can be seen the slightest fissure on the Republican horizon. As interviewed this week by Dana Bash on CNN newly elected Senator Scott Brown announced that he was breaking ranks with the GOP hard line and voting with the Democratic majority for the extension of unemployment insurance.

When Bash pointed out this comes in the face of initial GOP glee at his election to fill Senator Ted Kennedy’s vacated seat which of course undid the Democrats filibustering breaking 60 vote majority, Brown reminded Bash that he represents the people of Massachusetts and not the Republican Party.

But as they have blindly marched in lockstep with their leadership the Republican politicians have forgotten one little fact. They ran on a platform of conducting the nation’s business, not forsaking it while conducting a strategy that they perceive to be in the interests of their party. Undaunted by either reason or restraint, they have become the party of NO. And it doesn’t take an Einstein to note that in the mathematical scheme of things, NO equals NOTHING, ZILCH.

And so in their mindless opposition to All Things Obama, Republicans have added absolutely nothing to the American agenda. Not one iota. And they blandly assume that the American voter is going to be so pleased with their resistance to Obama that a grateful nation will overlook the past eight years of the Republican’s autocratic and bankrupting misrule and fling themselves over the line to vote the GOP a majority in both houses of Congress.

They might well be correct. It wouldn’t be the first time that the American voter has defied his own best interests and blindly followed one feckless Republican fantasy after another.

Do people really learn from past mistakes. The pessimists among us cry “no!” and point to countless times in the past where Americans continued to vote again and again for concepts like deregulation which have been proven disastrous time and again.

The optimist is an admitted dreamer, as he fondly predicts that this time around people will have learned from their past experience and return Democrats to power in November, albeit without any past history to back up this claim.

And so McConnell and Boehner appear shrouded in qualm. Is the voting public massively behind their hard-nosed dedication, or will a rebounded economy and the public’s increasingly favorable perception of health care reform hearken a massive return of Democrats to power in the fall.

National Democrats are celebrating the results of Tuesday's special election in Florida's 19th Congressional District, which Democratic State Sen. Ted Deutch won handily. According to unofficial results from the Florida Secretary of State's office, Deutch won 62 percent of the vote, with Republican candidate Ed Lynch grabbing 35 percent and the remaining three percent going to third-party candidates.

This area has a large elderly population, which Republicans had been claiming are dead set against Obama’s health care reform. So many questions, so few answers.

What do you think?

Nobel Prize Winner Paul Krugman discusses what Mitch McConnell is up to these days in his column Fire Next Time here! §

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Check Out the Cost of War

To give yourself the proper perspective as you enter this week’s blog go to: and check out the money we’re flushing down the tubes every second of every day and night. What is even more frightening, the figures you see are based solely on budget allocations so do not include “black” budget security expenses, etc. Aaarrrgh!§

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Miners’ Wives

Should Mine Hearings Be Open?

The death recently of 29 coal miners once again proved one of the seamier sides of American life, that is it is cheaper for a mining company to pay the fines assessed it for faults in the mine than it would be to spend what would be necessary to correct the situation that brought on the fine. That is evidently what happened here.

According to the Huffington Post, Ken Ward, Jr. who writes the ‘Coal Tattoo” blog in West Virginia's Charleston Gazette, argued on Monday that the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration should break from its long history of conducting secret hearings when it probes the recent deadly explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine.

West Virginia's Charleston Gazette, argued on Monday that the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration should break from its long history of conducting secret hearings when it probes last week's deadly explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine. The reasons for this are painfully obvious, although it will be in a freezing day in hell before it happens.

The paper rightfully points out that although the testimony is taken in secret, lawyers representing the coal mining companies are allowed to sit in on the testimony. Lawyers for the mining companies, but no newspaper reporters or other representatives of the general public.

Why, you might ask? Well, in truth the mining companies are very profitable, so much so that they find it far cheaper to pay the fines they have levied against them for unsafe conditions in their mines rather than take the steps necessary to correct the situation which brought on the fine.

For instance, Upper Big Branch is owned by Massey Energy Company, which operates 47 mines in central Appalachia. According to the Los Angeles Times, it employs nearly 6000 and in 2009 reported revenues of $2.3 billion, with a net income of $104.4 million.

Although the cause of the explosion, which killed 29 people, hasn't yet been determined, it's probable that a buildup of either methane gas or coal dust was to blame. Indeed, federal regulators have issued 124 citations on that mine so far this year for safety violations, including some related to improper ventilation of methane.

What's clear from the Upper Big Branch disaster is that tough new rules put in place following the deaths of 12 miners at the Sago mine in West Virginia in 2006 didn't go anywhere near far enough, and penalties imposed on mining companies that get citations are too easy to evade. Pay the fine and move on has become the way of life in the coal industry.

And this works out fine until a disaster like the explosion at Upper Big Branch mine happens. However, if the hearings were allowed to be covered by the press, or televised by some non-profit C-Span type entity, you can bet your sweet bippy that the public would be so horrified at such a cavalier attitude on the part of mine management that they would insist on change.

So don’t hold your breath. The mining company plus life insurance companies will pay out a relatively small amount of their huge profits to the families of the departed miners. And for awhile they will change their tactics and make a big show of taking the steps the investigators call for to correct the problem.

But you can just bet that after a few months they’ll go back to paying the fines just like nothing had happened. At least until the next mine disaster brings the matter front and center once again. §

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The Vatican calls The Beatles, a “precious jewel”

Vatican Blesses Fab Four

Well, what do you know? According to the Associated Press in a copyrighted story which you can find here, the Vatican, spiritual leader of millions of Catholic faithful the world over, has finally made its peace with The Beatles.

The Vatican newspaper says the members’ “dissolute” lives and John Lennon’s boastful claim that the band was more popular than Jesus are in the past, while their music lives on.

The tribute marked the 40th anniversary of the band’s breakup.

It is not the first time the Vatican has praised the legendary band from Liverpool. Two years ago, it praised the “White Album,” and last month it included “Revolver” in its top-10 albums.

Would you class this under the heading of “miracles never cease” or one that the Vatican knows a good thing when it hears it, finally, and in this day of public outrage at the Church’s silence in the face of it’s repeated toleration of its Priests’ sexual abuse of children, the Holy See has decided to hide in the shadow of The Beatles? At any rate it does show something that is still unproven among American politicians. It shows the Vatican can change its mind, which after all is a definite step in the right direction. §

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Apple CEO Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs Looking Good

Last week we published two photographs of Apple CEO Steve Jobs as he visited an Apple store on the day of the iPad launch. He is still among the nutrition deprived, looking not unlike one of those skeleton thin Nazi Death Camp survivors on the day of their liberation. But at least his skin has a more normal color, a bit on the gray side, perhaps, but not the violent jaundice look his skin had before his kidney transplant.

A venture capitalist named John Doerr wrote a guest column for Michael Arrington’s TechCrunch website. He had some colorful descriptions of the Computer industry and the iPad. We would like to bring you a few of them, and for the full post you can go here!

It’s hard to imagine that once there was no Internet. Just 15 years ago there was no browser, no web point-and-click. It was 1994, and Steve Jobs had left Apple. Steve was making Toy Story, and object-oriented software for Next.

Then one day Bill Joy showed me a beta version of Mosaic, the FIRST web browser. It was magic. Bill said “John, I have NO idea where this is going. You just better dive in.”

The rest of the 90’s were a ONCE-in-a-lifetime experience. Entrepreneurs created the Web, and great ventures – Netscape, Amazon, Ebay, Google, and others. And they changed our lives. Silicon Valley became the Florence of the New, Networked Economy.

The advent of the iPad feels like deja-vu, like it’s happening all over again. Not once, but TWICE-in-a-lifetime. Newsweek put it best… “Steve has the uncanny ability to cook up gadgets we didn’t know we needed… but suddenly can’t live without.” Steve showed us what computer legend Alan Kay told us… namely, “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”

The original PCs in the early 80’s were pretty crummy, that is, until 1984 when Apple introduced the mouse and the Mac… Back then Alan Kay, inventor of the Dynabook tablet, said “The Mac is the first PC worth criticizing.”

Fast forward to 2007. When Steve introduced the iPhone, Alan Kay told him “Steve, make the screen size 5 by 8 inches and you’ll rule the world.”

On Saturday (April 3) the iPad arrived. We believe it will rule the world. I’ve touched it, held it, and caressed it. It feels gorgeous. It feels like touching the future.

It is not a big iPod. But it IS a very big deal. Instead of WYSIWyg – what you see is what you get – it is WYTIWis. What You Touch… IS what IS. Instead of holding a MOUSE, you’re holding MAGIC.

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Don’t Think Too Different

Mark Fiore, who draws animated political cartoons online, got his app rejected when he submitted it to Apple’s App store in December because it included cartoons that ridiculed public figures. Cartoons, it turns out, can violate Apple’s license agreement with developers, which states that apps may be rejected if the content “may be found objectionable, for example, materials that may be considered obscene, pornographic, or defamatory.”

On Monday Fiore became the only online cartoonist to win a Pulitzer Prize. Speaking of his previous app store rejection he said he had not heard of “the whole concept of getting rejected for ridiculing public figures. That’s what I do. That’s my life!” he said. “That’s a tough one to get around if you’re a political cartoonist.” On the bright side he got an invitation from Apple to resubmit his app.

Apple needs to forget attempting to censor apps on the app store. Is it planning to block adult apps for the iPad? Nudity and porn helped build the VCR industry, and its substantial presence on internet certainly has helped in its growth. Apple doesn’t need to identify with racy apps, it just needs to leave well enough alone.

Two postcripts as we prepare to upload our blog to Google. In an email to a concerned customer, Steve Jobs himself in one of his rare emails said, “This was a mistake that’s being fixed.” Full story here! And the Daring Fireball’s John Gruber takes a major stab at trying to explain Apple’s app store secrecy policy here! §

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CoCo Goes Back to Basics

Conan O’Brien

In typical self-deprecating fashion, in a release accompanying the announcement of his talk show to be aired on cable channel T.B.S. Mr. O’Brien said: “In three months I’ve gone from network television to Twitter to performing live in theaters, and now I’m headed to basic cable. My plan is working perfectly.” §

And now we present:

Conan's Basement Talk Show from The Daily Beast Video on Vimeo.

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Children’s Summer Camps and Growth

I spent 22 summers working in three outstanding children’s camps in New England. In recent times I have made some of my camp reminisces a part of this blog, because to me that was the place where I got to study life and human nature up close and first hand. And it was the environment which in me fostered the most growth.

Children’s camps bring groups of children usually of similar backgrounds together in situations that allow them to develop relations with each other, and also with their counselors. Because the children are away from their homes and their usual habits, they get to develop new skills in interpersonal relationships which will help them immensely as they grow and travel down life’s road.

Girls’ Soccer at Killooleet

Of the three camps I worked for, only one of them, Killooleet in Hancock, Vermont, is still active. Since it has been forty eight years since I last worked for the camp, and it’s original owners have passed on, I wrote to the camp’s current director, Kate Seeger, daughter of John and Ellie Seeger, who ran the camp when I worked there, to get some details of what the program offers these days. Below I quote from an email she sent me in reply to my inquiry.

We are still a small camp - about 100 campers - where everyone gets to know everyone else. First time campers have the option to committing to just the month of July, with an option to stay through the end of camp if they want. Most new campers take that option, and most stay.

We have about thirty counselors (three per cabin) and sixteen other staff – nurses, chef, maintenance, and former campers back to work in the kitchen and laundry.

We have the arts of an arts camp, plus sports (team and individual, horseback riding and waterfront) and hiking and overnight trips. We are accredited members of the American Camping Association.

We visit prospective families at their homes if they live in the Northeast (Washington DC to Maine) and often in other places. (This weekend I head to San Francisco where we have 6 camper families).

We also visit in person, or sometimes by telephone, all returning campers each spring to tell them who is in their cabin, a bit about their counselors, and find out about their ideas and goals for the summer.

Horses are most loved of camp animals

Children’s summer camps are not cheap. But for those of you that can afford it camp remains one of the best investments you can make for the development of your child.

One of the perks of writing this blog and telling of my remembrances of the Children’s camps I worked for has been in the emails I have gotten from former campers and counselors I once knew.

The following email, which came out of the blue after one of my blog posts, illustrates perhaps an extreme example of how camp can add to the growth of a person. Certainly not all campers will get as much from their experience as did Michael Brandon, but sheer chance gave him a summer at Killooleet and as you read his email you will see that it had a most positive effect on his life.

I had been working with Michael’s mother on a project in Houston and she told me she was to spend the upcoming summer in Middlebury, Vt. and needed a place for her two children. So naturally I suggested Killooleet, just a short distance away in Hancock, Vt. And Mrs. Brandon suggested I drive up to the camp with her and the children.

Brandon, Michael to me: Do you remember driving to Killooleet in the early sixties, with the Brandon’s (Mom-Elizabeth, daughter-Anne and me, son Michael (Tex).

Hope the years have been kind to you. The ripple effects of your talking to my mom about camp have been life long, 5 summers at camp and another year as a kitchen aide. Went on to school at Colorado Rocky Mt School outside of Aspen. Ended with a 30 year career as a child psychologist.

You never know the extent of folks who cross our paths. I’m glad you crossed ours.

All the best, Michael Brandon, Ph.D.

District Psychologist-Pearland I.S.D., Child-Clinical Psychologist, Licensed, Specialist in School Psychology & Registrant - the National Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology

Whereas no one can promise that a summer in camp will have such a life changing effect on the future of your child, without hesitation we can promise an intense experience that he or she will probably never forget.

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And so we reluctantly leave this week’s blog. We bask in warm encouragement at the results of the first election since health care reform passed, with the thought that perhaps the American voter, and especially elderly ones, are far smarter than Republicans and Tea Party types give them credit for being.

Our thanks to Daniel Badeaux of Bothell, Washington, for the URL on the cost of the wars. We were properly impressed, and trust you were too.

Meanwhile kudos to President Obama for pressing on with his most vital agenda, particularly the reduction and future elimination of nuclear weapons. Their eventual elimination will not make us less safe as the war-happy and the paranoid would have us believe. Rather it will make our world a far safer place in which to live, mate, and raise our children. Which is, or should be, our true mission in this life. If any genie ever needed to be put back in the bottle, this is the very one.

But enough of this incessant preaching. If you find you want more then bookmark our blog and return again anytime next week, and the Good Lord Google willing, you will get more. Meantime, bye bye, and don’t swallow any of those Republican or Tea Party delusions. They will have a massive effect on your digestive system.

The Real Little Eddy §

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