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Monday, January 31, 2011

Quote of the day--on peace

"The earth is too small a star and we too brief a visitor upon it for anything to matter more than the struggle for peace." --Coleman MacCar

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Football = Socialism (guest post)

"...football is built on an economic model of fairness and opportunity, and baseball is built on a model where the rich almost always win and the poor usually have no chance. The World Series is likeReal Housewives of Beverly Hills. You have to be a rich bitch just to play. The Super Bowl is like Tila Tequila. Anyone can get in.


Or to put it another way, football is more like the Democratic philosophy. Democrats don't want to eliminate capitalism or competition, but they'd like it if some kids didn't have to go to a crummy school in a rotten neighborhood while others get to go to a great school and their Dad gets them into Harvard. Because when that happens "achieving the American dream" is easy for some, and just a fantasy for others.
That's why the NFL runs itself in a way that would fit nicely on Glenn Beck's chalkboard - they literally share the wealth, through salary caps and revenue sharing - TV is their biggest source of revenue, and they put all of it in a big commie pot and split it 32 ways. Because they don't want anyone to fall too far behind. That's why the team that wins the Super Bowl picks last in the next draft. Or what the Republicans would call "punishing success."
Baseball, on the other hand, is exactly like the Republicans, and I don't just mean it's incredibly boring. I mean their economic theory is every man for himself. The small market Pittsburgh Steelers go to the Super Bowl more than anybody - but the Pittsburgh Pirates? Levi Johnston has sperm that will not grow up and live long enough to see the Pirates in a World Series. Their payroll is about $40 million, and the Yankees is $206 million. They have about as much chance at getting in the playoffs as a poor black teenager from Newark has of becoming the CEO of Halliburton. That's why people stop going to Pirate games in May, because if you're not in the game, you become indifferent to the fate of the game, and maybe even get bitter - that's what's happening to the middle class in America. It's also how Marie Antoinette lost her head.
So, you kind of have to laugh - the same angry white males who hate Obama because he's "redistributing wealth" just love football, a sport that succeeds economically because it does exactly that. To them, the NFL is as American as hot dogs, Chevrolet, apple pie, and a second, giant helping of apple pie."    
---Bill Maher from "Real Time with Bill Maher"

Egypt: Another 80-year-old dude who had to go

What is it about these 80 year olds lately?

First it was Charlie Rangel of New York.

Then it was Ike Skelton.

Now it's Hosni Mubarak.

All of them 80 year old guys trying desperately, pathetically to hang on to power for power's sake, it seems.  Or for their ego.  Or something.

I understand and I'm sympathetic to their situations because no one wants to both admit it's the end of the line, so to speak, and go away and give up power but really, you have to be realistic and each of these guys didn't face up to reality until it was forced on them.

Other notes on the Egypt situation:

--It's great that this all started with the young people in Egypt.  I love that.  It's the way it usually happens, true, but it's just reassuring to me, anyway, that the energy and ideas came from the students and young people.  I like that;

--Seeing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell agree with both Secretary of State Clinton and this Obama Administration on the whole Egypt situation is refreshing because in the first place, they are, in fact, saying what needs to be said; second, we need to stand together as a country on this and third, because it must kill him to agree with them, the pointy-headed pinhead.  (Oops, did I say that?);

--It's cool how this revolution in Egypt and the preceding one, in Tunisia, got going from Twitter and Facebook;

--At the same time, it's a bit scary that these both got going on Twitter and Facebook.  There's a bit of anarchy to it all that seems to somewhat threaten all political structures, internationally, potentially;

--Finally, Mubarak's finally appointing a Vice President in Egypt is 1)  Far too little, far too late and 2) pitiful and pathetic, really, because he appointed the former head of their intelligence agency.  That is hardly any open democracy or any good, big step in some right direction.

Charlie Rangel's and Ike Skelton's situations weren't really big deals in terms of power.

Here's hoping things go well and smoothly in Egypt, in a good, reasonably smooth transition to healthy, representative democracy.

Links:  http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/30/world/middleeast/30-egypt.html?_r=1&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha2
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/30/world/middleeast/30military.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha2
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/30/world/middleeast/30voices.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha2
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/30/world/middleeast/30suleiman.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha22

Quote of the day--on judging

"Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods."  --Albert Einstein

Friday, January 28, 2011

This President and gun control

I got an email this morning from "Mayors for Gun Control" (naturally, I signed up to support them and get emails, right?).  They want to push President Obama to push for more stringent gun control.

Then, there's an article out, too, from Newsweek written after last Tuesday's State of the Union speech saying that the President intentionally didn't mention gun control in the speech because, again, according to the arcticle "...aides say that in the next two weeks the administration will unveil a campaign to get Congress to toughen existing laws."


And to this I have to say "wow".


I cannot imagine a worse time or person to bring up any form of measure for our government and its laws that looks remotely like "gun control".  


If President Obama a) wants to get anything accomplished, legislatively, in the next two years or b) truly wants to get re-elected, I would think he and everyone in the White House would know that he can go nowhere near anything that looks remotely like gun control.


The minute this President even suggests even weak gun control, of any kind, every NRA member, every gun owner, every Conservative and every red-necked white person with a gun is going to say "I told you so!" and go out and buy yet more guns, more ammunition, rail against the government takeover (that isn't coming, by the way, but that won't matter) and then they'll register to vote.  (I recognize that some of them will, in fact, already be registered but plenty aren't, for sure).


Apparently, what they're going to ask for is not strong or stringent at all, either:


But in the next two weeks, the White House will unveil a new gun-control effort in which it will urge Congress to strengthen current laws, which now allow some mentally unstable people, such as alleged Arizona shooter Jared Loughner, to obtain certain assault weapons, in some cases without even a background check.


But nothing--I repeat, nothing--would solidify the Right-wing, Conservative, Tea Party, Libertarian and Christian militia groups more than this one man taking on anything that resembles tougher gun ownership laws.


If the Newsweek report is true, and I suspect it is, somebody in the White House must be smoking or drinking something awfully powerful, to get them to push something like this any time in the next two years, Gabrielle Giffords or no Gabrielle Giffords, Tuscon Arizona shooting or no.


My humble advice to President Obama:  don't give your enemies any political ammunition like this, sir.  It will bring them together as nothing else imaginable could.


It would be a gift to them that would keep on giving, right up to November, 2012.


Link:  http://www.newsweek.com/2011/01/27/white-house-to-push-gun-control.html

Kansas City in top 10 for jobs

One reason, at least, to be glad you're here and not in Los Angeles or most anywhere in Florida, palm trees or no:

Monster.com: Kansas City ranks among hottest U.S. job markets

Kansas City Business Journal
Date: Friday, January 21, 2011, 8:15am CST.

Job-matching website Monster.com ranks Kansas City among the 10 hottest markets for job seekers in 2011.

Kansas City was No. 10 on the Monster.com list, which was led by a top three of Washington, San Francisco and Boston. The rankings are based on the relative abundance of job openings for each city’s local work force, or available jobs per job seeker, the company said in a release.

It may not feel like it, but we're "kicking butt and taking names", employment-wise, at least compared to much of the rest of the country.

Have a great weekend, y'all.
Link to original post:  http://www.bizjournals.com/kansascity/news/2011/01/21/monstercom-kansas-city-ranks-among.html
Other, associated links:  http://www.bizjournals.com/kansascity/news/2011/01/27/abaxis-will-set-up-testing-lab-for.html
http://www.bizjournals.com/kansascity/news/2011/01/05/exergonix-picks-lees-summit-for-90m.html

This Congress: Nothing will get done

We knew it would be a tough year for getting anything done anyway in Congress this year--or next, for that matter--since we've effectively begun the campaign season, tragically, for 2012.  That was bad enough.

Added to this is the fact that the Republicans long ago announced that their number one goal with this president is to see him fail.

More gridlock.

Now, the Senate killed any possibility of filibuster reform, as of yesterday.  We came close but it died.

Filibuster lives: Senate rejects changes in rules

Fortunately Transportation Secretary LaHood agrees


Driving Under the Influence of Facebook


Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood may not be friending General Motors — and certainly not at 60 miles an hour. Just as LaHood’s annual conference on combating distracted driving was about to start, GM’s OnStar announced it was developing ways to let you update your Facebook page from your car with voice commands. Secretary LaHood’s response: “Let’s put safety before entertainment.” In television interviews he said he thought Facebook in the car was a bad idea.

I mean, come on.  I don't care if you are big on Facebook, no one really needs to update their status that bad, even and maybe especially if they've had a wreck.  Please.

Common sense, anyone?

Link to original story:  http://moneywatch.bnet.com/saving-money/blog/cars-money/driving-under-the-influence-of-facebook/1624/

Quote of the day--on life and living

"If A is a success in life, then A equals x plus y plus z. Work is x; y is play; and z is keeping your mouth shut."  --Albert Einstein

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Quote of the day--on war and peace

"Heroism at command, how violently I hate all this, how despicable and ignoble war is; I would rather be torn to shreds than be a part of so base an action. It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder."  --Albert Einstein

In case you missed it on Social Security

Just out today:

Social Security fund slides into permanent deficit


By Stephen Ohlemacher, Associated Press
Thu Jan 27, 11:18 am ET

WASHINGTON – Social Security's finances are getting worse as the economy struggles to recover and millions of baby boomers stand at the brink of retirement.
New congressional projections show Social Security running deficits every year until its trust funds are eventually drained in about 2037.
This year alone, Social Security is projected to collect $45 billion less in payroll taxes than it pays out in retirement, disability and survivor benefits, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday. That figure swells to $130 billion when a new one-year cut in payroll taxes is included, though Congress has promised to repay any lost revenue from the tax cut.
The massive retirement program has been feeling the effects of a struggling economy for several years. The program first went into deficit last year — the first deficit since it was last overhauled in the 1980s. But CBO said last year that Social Security would post surpluses for a few more years before permanently slipping into deficits in 2016.

Something has to be done with this sucker.  Our representatives need to stop being such cowards and address it.

And we need to let them, too.

We've known for decades this needs solutions.  We've also known that the earlier we fix it, the easier, relatively, and smaller the fixes will be required.  Alternately, the longer we wait and do nothing, the bigger and more difficult the solutions will need to be.

Washington?  You listening?

Link to original post:  http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110127/ap_on_re_us/us_social_security

Nothing good for us in Health Care Reform??

It seems like the big difficulty Americans have, if they have any, with the Health Care Reform Act of 2010 is that they will be required to buy health insurance. That's their big beef.


Sure, it stinks. I'm not crazy about it, either, but they're trying to work within this insane system we have so that's what they came up with and the fact is that there is a great deal in the reform that is good for America and Americans.

No benefits to this reform?

Right. Because apparently you don't have a pre-existing condition that the insurance agencies can--or have--thrown you and your policy out on. Since it doesn't effect you, you don't recognize that one, significant benefit. That alone was/is pretty monumental but it certainly doesn't stop there.

The GAO recognized that it benefits the US, nationally, fiscally:

The GAO states that the new health care legislation could provide “notable improvement” to our economic outlook.

From the GAO report: “The federal government faces long-term fiscal pressures that predate the economic downturn and are driven on the spending side largely by rising health care costs and an aging population. GAO’s simulations show continually increasing levels of debt that are unsustainable over the long-term. Under the Alternative simulation, debt held by the public as a share of GDP would exceed the historical high reached in the aftermath of World War II by 2020. Both of these simulations incorporate effects of health care legislation enacted in March 2010, which includes a number of provisions to control the growth of federal health care spending. There is a notable improvement in the long-term outlook under the Baseline Extended simulation, which assumes full implementation and effectiveness of cost control provisions, although some–including the Trustees, CBO and the CMS Actuary–have raised questions about the sustainability of certain of these cost controls.”

Link to source, including link to GAO report: http://www.dirtandseeds.com/gao-finds-fiscal-notable-improvement-in-obamacare-republicans-hate-it/

Then there are these, additional benefits for Americans:

--Pre-existing conditions are covered (which was obscene on the insurance companies' part they weren't covered up to now);

--There are small business tax credits for health care;

--Lifetime caps on how much the insurance agencies will pay for your health care are eliminated (no benefits for you, you say?);

--Seniors get a "donut hole" rebate (see link below for explanation);

--More young adults are covered by their parent's health care plans whereas before they had no insurance;

--"Recissions" are ended so you don't get dumped from your coverage once you do get sick even though you've been paying premiums for years (again, HUGE improvement for Americans and it wouldn't have happened without this administration's work);

--New insurance plans must include coverage for preventative care, too (which only makes good sense both for our own health and for the fiscal health of the country);

--Insurers must now, with this legislation, reveal how much money they spend on overhead so there's far more transaparency in the industry and we can see how they're ripping us off AND how much they're making on us and on us getting and being sick;

--There is now, with this reform, a customer appeals process that didn't exist before so you aren't automatically screwed because you're the "little guy" and they're the big, powerful corporation that just tells us what we get, take it or leave it;

--New screening procedures will be implemented to help eliminate health insurance fraud and waste;

--There will be medicare expansion to rural areas, too, because, after all, they're Americans, too and they need health care;

--Non-profit Blue Cross organizations will be required to maintain a medical loss ratio -- money spent on procedures over money incoming -- of 85 percent or higher to take advantage of IRS tax benefits;

--Chain restaurants will be required to provide a "nutrient content disclosure statement" alongside their items so we can make better choices in what we eat and so, stay healthier;

--The bill establishes a temporary program for companies that provide early retiree health benefits for those ages 55‐64 in order to help reduce the often-expensive cost of that coverage;

--The Secretary of HHS will set up a new Web site to make it easy for Americans in any state to seek out affordable health insurance options The site will also include helpful information for small businesses;

--A two‐year temporary credit (up to a maximum of $1 billion) is in the bill to encourage investment in new therapies for the prevention and treatement of diseases which is good for businesses, research AND the American public;

And these are just the first, immediate benefits of the HCRA of 2010. There are more in years to come.

So please don't say this health care reform doesn't help you or it doesn't help Americans or that there's nothing good in it for us. There is, there is a great deal of good in it for us and it is long, long overdue.

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/03/22/health-reform-bill-summary_n_508315.html#s75147&title=undefined

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Facebook? In your car?

Listening to KCUR/NPR yesterday, I heard a story about technology in cars and drivers being distracted, etc.

From what they said, OnStar is considering making it possible to update your Facebook status through their service.

Right.

Anyone else think this might be insane?

And if not insane, how about totally unnecessary?

Link to story:  http://www.npr.org/2011/01/25/133218198/can-drivers-handle-more-gadgets-some-say-no

Utah follows Arizona's lead

First it was Right-wing, looney-bin Arizona, in love with racism and guns.  Now it's Utah's turn:


Utah lawmakers propose M1911 as official state gun


SALT LAKE CITY – State lawmakers are debating whether to designate a semiautomatic pistol as the official gun of Utah, despite protests from people who believe it's inappropriate because of recent mass shootings.
The bill to make the Browning M1911 the official gun breezed through a committee hearing this week and is scheduled to be debated by the full House as early as Wednesday.
Republican Rep. Carl Wimmer said the state should have the gun as one of its state symbols to honor John Browning, a Utah native who invented it in 1911.
A "state gun"?
I ask you, is this really necessary?
More to the point, don't these legislators have any very real problems and issues that need attention and addressing and not nonsense like this, particularly on the heels of the Arizona slaughter?
Even ignoring the Columbine and Arizona shootings, etc., shouldn't the legislators be doing more of their constituent's real business instead of nonsense like this?
I'd think so, anyway, but "Yee-haw!  Let's git our guns, Clem!"
Ironic aside:  The Gun Violence Prevention Center has a board member named Steve Gunn.
Charles Dickens would have loved that.  It sounds like something he'd have written.

Quote of the day--on war and peace

"No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare". --James Madison

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Talk about over-legislating

Okay, here we go.  This is what the Libertarians and maybe the Tea Party members are complaining about.  Talk about too much government.

Two states--Arkansas and New York, if you can believe that--are considering making walking or running while you text illegal:

2 states take aim at distracted walkers, runners


And who's going to police this?  The police?  They don't have enough to do?

My Conservative, long-dead, I believe Republican uncle once made a terrific statement I never forgot:  "You can't legislate us to utopia."

I didn't agree with a lot of his politics but I certainly agreed with that one.

Naturally, that came to mind here, with these goofy ideas.

Link:  http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110124/ap_on_re_us/us_distracted_walkers

Klub Kilo?

I was driving through downtown Kansas City, Missouri Monday afternoon before I headed home when naturally I got stopped at a stoplight.

No big deal.

So I'm sitting there and all of a sudden my eye catches some flashing lights to my left.  I look.

I see an empty old building--one of the cool ones with big columns on the inside, etc.--and there are those lights, flashing.

It looks like an empty dance club.  And it says "Klub Kilo" on the building.

I knew I'd check it out.  And I did, of course.  You can google anything, right?

So here goes:


Club 1000 is a special event venue facility featuring 5 incredible and diverse ceremony and reception spaces. The options that are available at our facility are almost unlimited in creating those lasting memories that we all live to savor in the wonderful journey called life.
Club 1000 is located at 1000 Broadway KCMO 64105 on the corner of 10th street and Broadway Blvd. in the historic downtown garment district.  This historic building is located within the confines of the friendly Quality Hill neighborhood. The building is a traditional loft building built in the year 1904 and completed in April of the year 1905.

Further, it goes on:

John Berkowitz and Debra Berkowitz currently own Club 1000 with John Berkowitz president of operations and Debra Berkowitz president and operator of Glitters Fine Jewelry Store(www.glitters.com).  They are both in the business of love and marriage.

Event 1000 Inc. owns and operates a liquor license with 3:00am and Sunday availability. Club 1000 provides a featured list of approved catering companies that provide all food service in our facility. Wedding celebrations represent approximately 80% of the receptions serviced. The balance of the business is comprised of corporate parties, high school reunions, bar and bat mitzvahs, and a variety of private parties. Club 1000 aggressively strives to maintain and are proud to offer competitively priced event packages for prospective clients from a wide range of budgetary concerns.

The One Thousand Broadway Building represents an important part of John and Debbie’s family history. They will be honored to be a participant in your family’s history as well. Thank you for considering Club 1000 for your celebration.

Klub Kilo is the first floor of the operation and has a dance floor.

Now I have to hope I get invited to a private party there.

Don't hold your breath.

You can see all here:  http://www.club1000kc.com/index.html

Monday, January 24, 2011

The dismal state of FM radio in Kansas City (updated)

Yes, I know, it's been said many times before but I have to say, it's really pathetic.  It seems like no one has said it lately.  There are so many copiers of one another.


I wonder if there is another city in this nation with as many stations, per capita, that play "oldies" in one metropolitan area as there are here in Kansas City.  I have to doubt it, but I certainly hope there isn't, for all the rest of those people's sake.


93.3 KMXV "The Mix" 93 FM?  I think it's new stuff.  Pop/disco type but at least it was newer stuff.  


94.9  KCMO Greatest Hits.  Unfair.  Oldies is all this station has ever been.


96.5 The Buzz  I have to say, it seems like this one station comes closest to what I'm talking of here.  When I flipped them on just now, not only was the song not familiar but it was The Decembrist singing "This is why" and Young the Giant and Kings of Leon were next up.  (This may be that one station.  Maybe.  If so, nice).


98.1 KUDL?  Oldies


98.9  KQRC "The Rock"?  Newer (I think) but all really hard rock, for those who are into it.  Coming up was ZZ Top and Guns and Roses were playing when I just checked.  Motley Crue and Metallica were coming up.


99.7 Gen-X Radio?  Maybe some new stuff.  Not unique but newer, anyway.  When I just went to their site and started listening for this entry, they were playing old Green Day (who I love, admittedly) with Backstreet Boys and Madonna coming up next.  That sums it up right there.


101.1 The Fox, "Kansas City's Only Classic Rock Station"?  You got it--major oldies


102.1 The newly-renamed and revamped "Alice".  Not only is this another of many oldies stations but when they went to re-do the station, the playlist and the name, it seems like they sat around, decided that "Jack FM" was cool or that it worked or both so they decided they'd also rip off their name style.  I can hear the conversation now:  "I know!  Since we can't just call it Jill"  (get it, Jack and Jill), "let's call it 'Alice'!"  Pitiful.


103.3 Hot 103 Jamz?  Soul, R & B, etc.  At least there's one original one, eh?


105.1 Jack "Playing what we want" FM?  Oldies.  All oldies, all the time, just with a wiseguy attitude.


107.3 Magic 107.3?  They're description also gives this one away, too:  "Classic Soul & Today's R&B!"  Right. You got it.  Oldies.


Sure, there's XM/Sirius radio and MP3's and iPods and everything else personal everyone's turning to but couldn't there be at least ONE radio station in the metropolitan area that plays things by new, upcoming, fresh artists?  


Wouldn't you think?  


To hear anything new or different on radio in the area, you have to turn on NPR on the likes of 90.9 The Bridge out of Warrensburg and CMU and hope you get lucky.


If I worked for a local FM rock station in this town, I'd be embarrassed.  I don't think I could tell people where I worked, at least, not when the economy recovers.


Trying to make a living selling advertising for them must be murder, don't you imagine.  Your sales line:  "We're different!  Really!"


Yeah, right.

Truly, nothing is sacred and everything is for sale--or purchase

This from The Washington Post, yesterday:


Interest groups vie for a moment of Obama's time in State of the Union address

By Peter Wallsten and Anne E. Kornblut

Washington Post Staff Writers 

Sunday, January 23, 2011; 12:22 AM

It has been a frenetic few weeks for the country's leading oil industry group: Lobbyists for the American Petroleum Institute have repeatedly phoned the White House, cajoled agency higher-ups, even bought big newspaper ads touting the virtues of oil and natural gas.

The goal of all this activity isn't to win support for a crucial piece of legislation in Congress, but something much narrower - convincing President Obama to say something, anything, complimentary about Big Oil in his State of the Union address Tuesday night.



Could that be more disgusting?  Just when I think I've heard everything and that it couldn't get or be any worse, you hear something like this.

Companies, corporations, their lobbyists and money, buying "mentions" in the State of the Union address.  I don't care who the president is at the time, no matter the party, this should not be allowed.  If it takes legislation to do it, so be it.  We need to get corporate money and money of all kinds, like this, out of our government and in all forms and all areas, from the Executive Branch to the Legislative to the Judicial.

We need to get working on this.

Link to original story:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/22/AR2011012203368.html?wpisrc=nl_agenda

I'm so old...

...I remember when Pandora (www.pandora.com) and Hulu were not only free, they didn't have a membership option available--at any price.

American vs. European thought and lifesyle

A)  Does this not seem true, all down the line? and 

B)  Doesn't theirs seem vastly wiser than ours?

Discuss.


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Farewell, Mr. Olbermann


Farewell, Mr. Olbermann.  I appreciate what you've done.

I took up watching you and "Countdown" as my effort to keep abreast of the way the George W. Bush administration was taking our country apart.  While too frequently sanctimonious (yes, honestly), we shared a great deal of opinions on current events.  I know a lot of us out here want to believe you'll be back, somewhere on some station, doing similar work and very soon.  We wish you all the best.

At least we still have Rachel Maddow.

Missouri Senators first priority?

With all of the hoo-haw coming out of Washington right now (see link below) about Republicans and Democrats mixing up their seating chart while the president gives his State of the Union address, it occurred to me that our Senators, Claire McCaskill and Roy Blunt, should absolutely be sitting next to and with each other, to show they're for Missouri and not themselves and not their own political parties, frst.

This should be a rather obvious, and not radical, idea.

Senators?

Like it or not, you'll be showing us your priorities Tuesday night, just by where--and with whom--you sit.

Link to original article:  http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/23/us/politics/23seats.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha24

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The biggest--and most overlooked--event of the last year, bar none

Submittal:  The Stuxnet virus was the single-biggest event of the last year, barring anything even worse that wasn't actually released to the public's attention.


First, what Stuxnet is, from Wikipedia:  Stuxnet is a computer worm targeted at industrial equipment[1] that was first discovered in July 2010 by VirusBlokAda, a security firm based in Belarus. While it is not the first time that hackers have targeted industrial systems,[2] it is the first discovered worm that spies on and reprograms industrial systems,[3] and the first to include a programmable logic controller (PLC) rootkit.[4][5] It was specifically written to attack Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems used to control and monitor industrial processes.[6] Stuxnet includes the capability to reprogram the PLCs and hide its changes.[7]


Next, then, on the ramifications of this new "computer worm":


Russian digital security company Kaspersky Labs released a statement that described Stuxnet as "a working and fearsome prototype of a cyber-weapon that will lead to the creation of a new arms race in the world."


Perhaps the ultimate tribute to it was by a computer security expert who called its advent—and the swath of destruction it cut through Iran's nuclear program—"an Oppenheimer moment" in the history of hacking. A moment in which malware viruses had made the leap from troublemaking but controllable depredations to potentially unstoppable, history-changing weapons, their capabilities miles ahead of their predecessors', the way the first nuclear weapon Oppenheimer built at Los Alamos left mere TNT in its wake and shadowed the world we live in with the threat of cataclysmic extinction.


Computer-security experts who have handled the most complex "malware" virus infections are agog.


More:


But an Oppenheimer moment means more than a quantum leap in the power and deceptiveness of the virus. It means dramatic geopolitical ramifications. If the original Oppenheimer moment may have guaranteed that WWII would end with the horrific Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombings, the Stuxnet Oppenheimer moment may have bequeathed us an unexpected last-minute reprieve from what seemed like a potential outbreak of nuclear warfare. Consider the fact that Stuxnet disabled Iran's key nuclear facilities (and infected an estimated 60,000 of its computers) just at the moment whenthe Israelis were giving out signals that they were prepared to use air strikes on Iranian facilities, using whatever weapons it took (and, of course, they have an undeclared nuclear arsenal), to prevent Iran from getting the bomb. Whatever you think of the Israeli position, there was little doubt they'd do it if there were no other options, and in doing so risk not only Iranian retaliation but nuclear retaliation from Iranian sympathizers in Pakistan's military, which all-too-loosely controls Pakistan's "Islamic bomb," the generic term for the 60 to 100 nuclear warheads the Pakistanis possess.


Finally, on what nearly happened last year, it is thought:


"The world was on the verge of a regional nuclear war with unknowable further consequences. 


Until Stuxnet did its work."  --Ron Rosenbaum, from his article "Stuxnet and the triumph of hacker culture", Slate Magazine


This last quote, above,  is, by itself, pretty remarkable, I think, for what it suggests we came perilously close to--I wonder how many other such events we've almost had--but what's also remarkable is the term "regional nuclear war".  Yeah, right.  As if.  There would--will?--be nothing "regional" about a nuclear war, anywhere in the world, but particularly if it begins in the Middle East, let there be no doubt.


Apparently the Middle East, at least, nearly literally blew up in nuclear war last year, folks.  


The good news is that nuclear war was averted.


The bad news is that now a "pandora's box" of computer virus "missiles" and all that entails are now released on the world.


Let's hope it's all in humankind's favor... forever and ever, amen.




Have a good weekend, y'all.


Try to think happy thoughts.


Link to original article:  http://www.slate.com/id/2281938/?from=rss
Link to definition of Stuxnet:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stuxnet

Quote of the day--on Speaker of the House John Boehner

John Boehner is the ultimate Beltway hack, a man whose unmatched and self-serving skill at political survival has made him, after two decades in Washington, the hairy blue mold on the American congressional sandwich. The biographer who somewhere down the line tackles the question of Boehner's legacy will do well to simply throw out any references to party affiliation, because the thing that has made Boehner who he is — the thing that has finally lifted him to the apex of legislative power in America — has almost nothing to do with his being a Republican.


The Democrats have plenty of creatures like Boehner. But in the new Speaker of the House, the Republicans own the perfect archetype — the quintessential example of the kind of glad-handing, double-talking, K Street toady who has dominated the politics of both parties for decades. In sports, we talk about athletes who are the "total package," and that term comes close to describing Boehner's talent for perpetuating our corrupt and debt-addled status quo: He's a five-tool insider who can lie, cheat, steal, play golf, change his mind on command and do anything else his lobbyist buddies and campaign contributors require of him to get the job done.


--Matt Taibbi from his article "The Crying Shame of John Boehner", Rolling Stone Magazine


Link:  http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/matt-taibbi-the-crying-shame-of-john-boehner-20110105?page=1

Friday, January 21, 2011

Olbermann quits--or is fired from--"Countdown"



Or so you would think.

Yi.

Chill, people.

"Give me your tired, your poor..."? Fughedaboudit


Remember that, from the Statue of Liberty?
"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
--Emma Lazarus, 1883

Now?  Nah.  Not so much...


U.S. Resumes Deportations to Haiti


The U.S. government has resumed deportations to Haiti for the first time since the devastating earthquake one year ago. On Thursday, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said 27 Haitian nationals with criminal records in the United States have been deported to Haiti. Human rights groups have criticized the move amidst a cholera outbreak, election-related violence and the ongoing devastation from the earthquake. Earlier this month, a group of U.S.-based human rights groups and legal organizations filed an emergency petition with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to halt the roundups, detention and deportations of Haitian nationals by the U.S. government.


They're poor schmucks.  Screw 'em...

On cynicism

Having gone over this morning to Midtown Miscreant's blog for another reliable good read (If you haven't seen it, you might want to as it's good, he's funny and he's right, I think:  http://midtownmiscreant.blogspot.com/2011/01/fast-eddie-friday-house-cat-with.html)

It got me to thinking about cynics and cynicism so I looked up a formal definition of cynicism.  I found this on Wikipedia:

Cynicism (Greekκυνισμός), in its original form, refers to the beliefs of an ancient school of Greek philosophers known as the Cynics (GreekΚυνικοίLatinCynici). Their philosophy was that the purpose of life was to live a life of Virtue in agreement with Nature. This meant rejecting all conventional desires for wealthpowerhealth, and fame, and by living a simple life free from all possessions. As reasoning creatures, people could gain happiness by rigorous training and by living in a way which was natural for humans. They believed that the world belonged equally to everyone, and that suffering was caused by false judgments of what was valuable and by the worthless customs and conventions which surrounded society. Many of these thoughts were later absorbed into Stoicism.


Check that out:  "the purpose of life" is "to live a life of virtue in agreement with nature."  


Zounds.  


That doesn't sound very cynical, at least not by our current usage of the word, does it?  And "rejecting all conventional desires for wealth, power, health" (I don't understand that last one) "and fame, and by living a simple life free from all possessions."  "...happiness by rigorous training and by living in a way which" is "natural for humans."  "...the world belonging equally to everyone..." and "...suffering...caused by false judgments of what was valuable and by the worthless customs and conventions which surrounded society."


Far from our current ideas of cynicism, this sounds positively virtuous, positive, supportive and democratic (in the bigger, older form of the word, having nothing to do with any political party).


How did this word turn in usage?


Or, to be more specific, how did we get so cynical?


Link:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cynicism