Saturday, May 22, 2010

Blog # 142: Tea Party Smoking, Not!

Welcome to Arizona!

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Political Goulash

If you’re into politics chances are you had your eyes on several races last Tuesday. Pundits the tube over claimed explanations as to what it all meant, but the simple truth is, even the experts are confused. The only thing they mostly agree on is if the November elections were held today incumbents would be in deep trouble.

But even this is more than likely to change as November is still months away, and the electorate is as fluid as the ocean. Jobs will most likely be the big influence come November, plus the public’s approval or disapproval of health care reform and the new bill regulating the banking industry.

As for last Tuesday, the most interesting race was the Democratic Primary in Pennsylvania where recently switched Republican to Democrat Arlen Specter ran neck to neck with an ex-Navy retired admiral Joe Sestak. The Democrats in the region who had voted against Republican Specter for many years, continued their tradition Tuesday making Sestak the winner in spite of ringing Specter endorsements from Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendel and the entire Democratic hierarchy. So much for a president’s coattails and party influence.

The Republicans didn’t do a damn bit better, as GOP minority Senate leader, Mitch McConnell watched Tea Party endorsed Rand Paul defeat his hand-picked Senate candidate, Republican Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson. Dr. Paul, son of Texas Congressman and Libertarian darling Ron Paul, declared his victory a landmark defeat of the establishment and declared the new rising of the Tea Party. And he exposed the Tea Party’s real agenda as he initially expressed his desire to take back the civil rights act, Social Security, and Medicare, positions he quickly denied at political wags pointed out the implications of such stances in relation to the general election.

And so it went. A final surprise was Democrat candidate, Mark Critz, winning the remainder of the term of the Congressional seat held for many years by the late Jack Murtha. Republicans had held hope and poured money into the campaign because the district was one of the few in Pennsylvania which had voted for John McCain in 2008. But Critz was victorious in the end.

"The voters of this district won a great victory tonight. But it's ... bittersweet," Critz said in remarks prepared to address his supporters at a Johnstown victory party, "because we wouldn't be here right now if Jack Murtha hadn't left us too soon."

And Republicans desperately hoping to see a rising tide of backlash against President Obama and the Democrats, ended up seeing nothing of the kind. Tsk, tsk. §

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Giving BP its Due

A protester holds a sign behind BP America President Lamar McKay, who was testifying about the gulf oil spill before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Photo: Kevin Lamarque-Reuters

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Real Story of Gulf Leak

60 Minutes reclaimed much of its glory of old Sunday as it broadcast the true story of the disaster which killed the workers and kicked off the largest oil leak in the history of the planet.

The 60 Minutes testimony plus the New Orleans Time-Picayune story cited in the Daily Beast rundown below, casts gigantic suspicions on the way oil companies are regulated.

The famous Bush/Cheney Energy policy, determined by the oil industry itself in cahoots with vice-president Cheney, was developed in complete secrecy, and remains secret to this very day. The courts have refused to even release records of who Cheney met with, much less who came up with what.

This horrific spill is the result, and the disaster cries for some entity to reopen America’s offshore drilling rules and go over them with a fine tooth comb. Isn’t it interesting that Halliburton, Cheney’s former company, was one of the three entities involved in this mess, the other two being BP and Deepwater Horizon, which evidently owned the rig?

When all is said and done, and the last bit of tar and petroleum remains has finally disintegrated let us hope that future offshore oil contracts are dispensed under careful supervision, with the entities involved held strictly accountable. §

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A Beast of an Aggregator

One of our favorite sources of news is the Daily Beast, edited by the legendary Tina Brown. The Beast is primarily a news aggregator, although it also has a sterling roster of original contributors. It assembles its news in a way that is truly unlike other aggregators. It’s primary aggregation column is called the Cheat Sheet, which has brief summaries of other paper's stories, with a link to the original source at the bottom should you wish to pursue the matter further. We have picked out several items which appeared on Thursday and which piqued our interest.

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As if we needed any more evidence of BP’s culpability in the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster: The company expelled a safety crew from the Deepwater Horizon oil rig before it had a chance to perform a crucial test just hours before the rig actually exploded. BP never asked the crew to perform the so-called acoustic test, which a cementing company executive calls “the only test that can really determine the actual effectiveness” of the well’s seal. It is believed that the explosion was caused by failed cement seals, which were installed by Halliburton and which allowed for an explosive build-up of natural gas. Read it at the New Orleans Time-Pacayune! §

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Sister Margaret McBride – Defrocked

She’d have been better off molesting children, apparently: The Catholic Church, whose reluctance to punish pedophile priests is much publicized, has excommunicated a nun from Phoenix who allowed a woman under her care to receive a life-saving abortion. The woman, who was 11-weeks pregnant with her fifth child, had “right heart failure” and the odds of her dying if she continued the pregnancy were “close to 100 percent.”

So Sister Margaret McBride, the administrator of the Catholic hospital, allowed doctors to perform an abortion. The woman survived, but Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted excommunicated McBride for allowing the procedure.

“She consented in the murder of an unborn child,” says the medical-ethics director for the Diocese of Phoenix. McBride remains at the hospital in another position. Read it at NPR! §

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Wikileaks, the website which has gained a following for exposing secrets, is keeping plenty of its own. There's no address, phone number, or formal list of employees. But the site has become a leading destination for anonymous whistleblowers who want to expose government malfeasance or corruption.

Just last month, Wikileaks made headlines for releasing a U.S. military video of a helicopter attack on Iraqis. Secrecy is part of Wikileaks' strategy as it allows the site to continue without threat of government interference.

"The message of WikiLeaks to the controllers of information is this: You can either be transparent, or transparency will be brought to you," one of the site's directors told The Washington Post. Read it at the Washington Post! §

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This will either end greatly or horribly: American scientists announced on Thursday that they have created the “first synthetic living cell.” Dr. Craig Venter and a team of scientists created a synthetic genome that can be transplanted into a host cell; the cell then behaves according to what is “dictated” by the synthetic DNA.

Venter explained, "As soon as this new software goes into the cell, the cell reads [it] and converts into the species specified in that genetic code." Scientists hope that such cells will one day produce medicines and fuels and absorb greenhouse gases.

Some scientists worry though that the cells could be dangerous: "If you release new organisms into the environment, you can do more harm than good," said Dr. Helen Wallace of GeneWatch UK. "By releasing them into areas of pollution, you're releasing a new kind of pollution.” Read it at BBC! §

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Celebrities don’t always get off easy: TMZ reports that a judge has issued a bench warrant for Lindsay Lohan’s arrest after she skipped a court date on Thursday morning.

Lohan claims that she couldn’t fly back from France to make the date because her passport was stolen, though French police say she never reported a stolen passport.

A source at U.S. Customs and Border Protection says Lohan will be arrested when she returns to the country. Read it at TMZ!

Might we suggest Ms Lohan consider joining Roman Polanski in his Swiss chalet. Perhaps it could become a gathering place for all future American celebrity fugitives.

And isn’t it interesting how much more the Catholic Church hierarchy seems to value the unborn over the living? Or maybe it’s just women that they don’t value very highly. §

Women walk past a billboard for the film "Gulliver's Travels" in front of the Carlton Hotel during the 63rd Cannes Film Festival in France. Photo: Christian Hartmann-Reuters

”Me” and “We” – We are Both

Sick and Tired of “Balanced” News

After faithfully returning to CNN after the Democratic wins of 2006 and 2008, lately I have drifted away, to msnbc of all places. I didn’t think about it or try to justify it, I just did it. Once in awhile I’ll track back to Wolf’s Situation Room, and weekends I won’t go anywhere near msnbc because of those weird documentaries, so I’m back at CNN. But most all of every weekday is divided between msnbc, and in the evening whichever station is broadcasting an NBA game.

In writing this week’s blog I finally figured out why it is that I switched. I got sick and tired of the way CNN would dig up these tired dinosaurs of Republicanism every time a political story came up, just so their news would be balanced. Unconsciously, inwardly, I seemed to have made a decision; I no longer wanted my news to be “balanced,” I wanted it to offer a point of view.

And strangely enough, although the nerd in me has heretofore caused me to shy away from everything with ms (Microsoft) in its title, I finally put aside my prejudice and drank the coffee. And Morning Joe has since become my morning addiction, as has the Daily Rundown after Morning Joe, and Andrea Mitchell’s show which comes on in Houston at noon.

Don’t get me wrong, I think every side of every issue should get a full airing. I just don’t want the Republican and Conservative line dutifully shoved down my throat. Let Fox and Rush cover that side of things, enough of it will seep over so that I know what’s what without having that nonsense shoveled into my psyche.

However, when you boil down the two areas to their essence the truth of the matter is that most of us contain both points of view and flit from one side of the conflict to the other, because parties like Democrat and Republican and splinter groups like the Tea Party, are all expressions of one of the two sentiments we all carry within us, the “me” and the “we.”

The “me” side is ever looking out for Number One, and wants laws that tax and restrict the least. That selfish side of us is certainly and violently against a tax code being used to attempt to even the disparity between the rich and the poor. In other words, they are are against the income tax which taxes the rich at a higher rate than the middle classes and the poor.

Even the word tax is abhorrent to the “me” extremists, their favorite tax, if indeed there has to be one, is what they call a “value added” tax, that which the rest of us know as a sales tax. Since under this you only pay for what you use, the no-tax freaks feel this is the way to go, whereas the realists among us realize that this method of taxation would put a disproportionate high level of taxation on the poor and the middle class.

The problem with this system came to the forefront when under Bush/Cheney Republicans put through those tax cuts for the very rich, and followed that starting two major wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan, and on top of that, not willing to reengage a national draft which would have adequately staffed the military, had corporations take over the feeding, maintenance and security of the troops and diplomats at a cost considerably higher than if the chores had been handled by the military itself.

As if that was not enough they then passed what we’ll grant was a much needed prescription drug relief for seniors, but again without allotting funds to pay for it, and finally they belatedly cleaned up after Hurricane Katrina also without paying for it.

After coming into office with a Bill Clinton surplus, in eight years Bush/Cheney had more than doubled the national debt, and bowed out leaving the nation’s economy in a mess. And Republicans have fought every Obama attempt to clean up the nation’s fiscal mess, leaving intelligent people to realize that they are working not for our country’s success, but for it to fail. Rush Limbaugh, who proclaims himself a GOP leader, has said as much, making that plain and clear.

Those of us whose “we” side is dominant over the “me”, look at things somewhat differently. We realize that government is expensive and has to be paid for, but we think of our society as a community, one that needs to take care of those who are in need. And so we feel a method of taxation which has people pay as a percentage of their wealth is the only fair method. Our system of government should require that we put into the tax coffers a percentage of what we have gotten out of the government, with those taking more out putting a higher percentage in.

The other thing the “me” crowd can’t stand is regulations. These are the rules that businesses, banks and industry are required to play by that keep greed from driving our economy into the ditch. Republicans fight regulations tooth and nail, never mind that they aren’t capricious, but were inserted to correct a past imbalance or deficiency in our system which allowed a particular situation to happen. The Republicans will never admit this as they merrily go on their way trying to deregulate banking and business, but government is very necessary to oversee business to prevent it from taking advantage of its customers or abusing its wage earners. §

A pelican, looking like he’s in need of the First Lady’s Obesity program, crouches in an outdoor enclosure of the Hagenbeck zoo in Hamburg. Photo: Axel Heimken-AP

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Facebook’s Transparent Attempt to Own Us

I recently got an email from someone I don’t know inviting me to join Facebook so I could check out his photos and videos. I must admit, I have been very skeptical of Facebook for a number of reasons. I am emphatically against joining something everyone else has joined on general principle. Plus, Facebook seems to be ignoring its members privacy concerns by every now and then by opening more of their private data to ever widening groups. Also legitimate charges have been brought against Mark Zuckerberg, its founder, including the fact that he seems to secretly wants to rule the web.

The person trying to get me to join is named Sean McCarthy, who announces he has 46 friends, and who then says, “I set up a Facebook profile where I can post my pictures, videos and events and I want to add you as a friend so you can see it. First, you need to join Facebook! Once you join, you can also create your own profile.”

Then came an ad from something called Crosstown News, which I suppose is a Facebook app which then thanks me for joining Facebook and invites me to use its service.

The coup de grace lay below, where Mr. McCarthy listed some of his friends that I might know, and the list included both of my sons, Daniel and Joel, plus a friend of Daniel’s named Peter, and one of my ex-wife’s sisters, Christy.

Viola! It suddenly becomes clear why Facebook has had such explosive growth. Any normal person would certainly be moved by such a compelling invitation to immediately take a few simple steps to join the thing. Especially when joining is completely free and the invitation includes the names of relatives who have supposedly joined Facebook and are on this person’s list of friends.

But when I checked with Joel, he reported never having heard of the guy. In other words, somehow the guy had claimed a list of names of people who I might know, but at least in Joel’s case it was a lie. He had never heard of the guy. I didn’t bother checking with the others.

But it is also beginning to become apparent why the query “how do I – delete my Facebook account” which Google reports is now fifth on its “how do I” list, is so ranked. And each time Zuckerberg & Company pull yet another stunt indicating that once you join, it is THEY, not you, that own your data, yet another round of withdrawals begins. However, whether or not this will slow Facebook in its quest to obtain its stated goal of 500 million members by the end of this year is unknown.

Joel denying knowing Sean McCarthy throws an entirely different light on the subject. How that person got my name, and those of my sons and wife’s sister, I have no idea. I don’t even know if this is a real person, or a persona on Facebook’s staff paid to solicit new members. Joel, who has a MySpace page, and is leaning towards getting a Facebook page of his own, has a good reason for wanting one. In addition to his psychiatry, after he graduates late next month, he is also pursuing a singing career, as Joe Bad X, and he had the digital equivalents of three CD’s for people to buy, should they so desire.

And so Sean McCarthy, if you are a real person, and not a Facebook recruiter, email me again and explain yourself further, including how you came across my sons’ and wife’s sister’s name. It won’t entice me to join but it sure will clear up a lot of my questions. §

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Apple C.E.O. Steve Jobs with iPad

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Apple’s Not Intractable, Always

For all of you Apple detractors out there who love to harp on Steve Jobs’ intractability we have news for you. Aside from the fact that Jobs is the only CEO to reply directly to customer emails, even when they are from bloggers who live off stolen rumors, Apple, admittedly arbitrary on many issue, will change its mind. ABC News found that out when it reported on the story of a woman who had saved up her money to buy an iPad, only to find out the Apple store wouldn’t sell it to her. They only sell iPads with credit or debit cards. However after ABC news ran the story the Apple store relented, and not only reversed the rule, but hand delivered the lady’s iPad.

Three More iPad Stories

Three other Apple iPad stories floated up in the news on Friday morning. John Paczkowski reports in his All Things Digital column that Apple is selling more iPads than Macs here! Gregg Keizer in Computer World reports that iPad owners report satisfaction numbers in the “nose bleed” range says pollster, and predicts that 1 in 5 will buy an iPad. You can read it here! And finally, iPads all the rage in the halls of Congress, which you can read about here! §

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And so we hereby wind down this week’s Little Eddy blog. We keep ourselves out of mischief by spending much of our week by first gathering material, and then writing it up in html. And finally at breakfast time on Saturday mornings we upload the fruit of our week’s endeavors to Google Blogger.

In all likelihood this is what will happen all over again next week, and you can confirm this for yourself by coming back any time after Saturday (but before the following Saturday.) Meantime on occasions we slip things into our blog after our initial upload, as happened last week when on Sunday we added Bill Mayers take on getting Steve Jobs to run the country.

Anyway, enough is enough, if not way too much. Come back when you can. And until we meet again, bye bye, and watch what you wish for. §

The Real Little Eddy §
Blog # 142: Tea Party Smoking, Not!Blog # 142: Tea Party Smoking, Not!

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