Saturday, May 28, 2011

Last Call

Well, thanks to Bon the Geek for letting me hang out with her in Missouri for a bit.  It was fun...even if I never quite got up on time early enough to write StupidiNews more than one or twice last week.  Got to see the storms that caused the Joplin tornado close up, folks.  It wasn't pretty.  Keep in mind the death toll could have been much, much higher.  Improved tornado and severe storm forecasting gave the people of Joplin several additional minutes to find shelter that even ten years ago they would not have had, and that went double for the Oklahoma tornado outbreak on Tuesday.

PS:  Republicans voted across the board to cut NOAA funding (including tornado and severe storm forecasting) and FEMA disaster relief in order to give more tax cuts to the wealthy.  Government sure is useless until an EF4 or EF5 tornado shows up on the government-funded radar headed for your hometown, right?

No Dealing On The Debt Ceiling, Part 11

If even the low end of the estimate of Democratic House #3 man Jim Clyburn is correct, then Democrats have totally folded on the debt ceiling and have all but lost across the board in 2012.

Representative James Clyburn, the assistant Democratic leader in the U.S. House, said the “odds are very, very good” that negotiators will agree on a $3 trillion to $6 trillion package of spending cuts and tax increases in time to raise the U.S. debt limit before an Aug. 2 deadline.

Any agreement with Republicans “absolutely” must include provisions to raise more revenue, even if it also cuts corporate tax rates, said the South Carolina lawmaker, who holds the third-ranking position in the House Democratic leadership and is part of a bipartisan negotiating group of Senate and House members led by Vice President Joe Biden.

“We cannot get an agreement without revenues” being raised, and absent that “I don’t think we can get to what our goals are,” Clyburn said on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend.

Democrats will resist any Republican plan to reduce Medicare benefits for future recipients, he said.
“We are not going to reduce benefits at all” because Medicare is “a very important part of the safety net” in American society, Clyburn said.

His comments underscore the difficulty negotiators face in reaching an agreement, as Republicans insist on no tax increases and demand significant cuts in spending, including a readjustment of entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security.

Republican leaders also insist that a package of spending cuts without any net increase in federal tax revenue must be part of an agreement to raise the U.S. debt ceiling. 

So, hands off Medicare, but the Republicans get a minimum of $3 trillion in cuts?  If this is the new position of the Dems, then it's over, folks.  We've lost.  So much for the "clean" debt ceiling bill.  The GOP is getting everything it wants, and the second President Obama signs this bill, they will be cutting ads saying the brave heroic Republicans cut trillions in gubment spending, and the evil, horrible Democrat Party raised your taxes so you must PUNISH THEM.

If at this point we're up to trillions in cuts, and the only question now is how much and where, then it's just about over for the Dems in 2012.  And if there's a dime's worth of cuts in Medicare and Obama signs it, the Republicans will end up with the whole ball of wax in 2012.

I really hope this is just Clyburn pushing the panic button and forcing progressive groups to get involved here.  If this is the deal, $3-$6 trillion in deficit reduction at a time when the government is the lender and buyer of last resort, then this economic disaster will last a decade.

A Little Good News For A Change

The Joplin tornado set a record, but they are just the most recent victims.  It's hard to imagine how it feels to lose everything, but anyone who has been through an experience like that can tell you that giving up on pets is one of the many things that weigh on your heart after your home has been destroyed.

A scruffy Alabama terrier mix named Mason was whisked away by fierce twisters last month, prompting his owners, who lost their home in the storm, to fear the worst. But the redoubtable mutt apparently crawled back to his home days later with two broken legs in a remarkable tale of survival.
Local news outlet WBRC reports that Mason was blown away by the storm from the garage in Birmingham where he was hiding on April 27. His owners looked for him everywhere but couldn't find him. Two and a half weeks later, though, they found Mason waiting for them on their front porch when they returned to the house to look through the debris.
Every bit of good news helps.

RIP, Mr. Conaway

Yesterday, Jeff Conaway died.  He was taken off life support, surrounded by loved ones.  The actor had suffered from many illnesses over the years, and at sixty he just couldn't take any more.  He did not seek treatment in time for a bacterial infection, and his ravaged body could not defeat it.

You can click here to read the obituary on Yahoo! Entertainment.  It lists his accomplishments, and what he is known for by different generations.  I'm just going to  explain why his life and death is so memorable for me.  I just plain liked him in Grease, and he disappeared off my radar for many years.  When I saw him on other shows, it was as himself.  A polite, well read and scary intelligent guy who was eaten up with pain.  The line between his physical and mental anguish surely blurred over the decades.  I saw in him the same deep soul I saw in John Candy and the great Clark Gable... pain without relief, life without comfort.  He will be remembered for his acting, perhaps for his drug addictions, but those who ever saw a glimpse of the real man will carry his true legacy.  Above all things, when he wasn't in so much pain that he could function, Jeff Conaway was kind.  And now, though it's a sad ending to a sad life, he is no longer in pain.

Minty Fresh

As I posted earlier, I have made the move from Ubuntu to Linux Mint.  It was meant to be a temporary move, but if things continue in this direction it will be permanent.   I'm still running some tests and checking for bugs (none so far!) and will have a few follow-ups.

Mint is Ubuntu-based, so the feel is the same.  What is missing are all the annoying things about the Ubuntu 11.04.  You can still control your machine, get your geek on, and enjoy a product that works right out of the box.  The look and feel is similar to Ubuntu (pre-Unity) but the differences are all positives.  The window and desktop controls are detailed and thoughtful, and you can jump right in and start working.  I have played on it all day long and it's only gotten better.

I have not given up on Ubuntu, but I am going to fully enjoy this phase of my Linux usage.  As I learn more, I will post updates.  My first impression is that this is a stunning cousin of Ubuntu, and they have managed to avoid the bloat and requirements that may cost Ubuntu first place in the Linux wars.

Ubuntu To You, Too

At first, I wasn't too concerned when I read negative reviews about Ubuntu 11.04.  I've read some scathing reviews and been impressed all the same.  This time, however, they were right.  Ubuntu has brought a lot to the table with this revamp but they have lost the things that made them heroic.  No longer is it intuitive and thoughtful.  The controls are complicated and unnecessarily compartmentalized so that you have to hunt and pray if you wish to avoid the command line.  The hardware functionality took a big hit, as there is a rather intimidating problem with certain (and common) graphics cards.  Grub has issues, and that is scary as hell to a novice.  The graphics card issue prevents being able to log in, a paralyzing problem for someone who just moved over to try Ubuntu.  Worse yet, the graphics issue didn't exist in the generic drivers, so we had no reason to expect a problem until an update made booting up throw an error that for some just led to a flat black screen.

This is not the ideal version for a newbie. Previous versions are stable and delightful, this has a lot of growth and bugfixing required.  The graphics card issue can be resolved by booting into recovery mode and then selecting failsafe graphics mode.  This is a fancy way of saying your graphics card is considered out of date, with no fix date in sight.  I have not found a way to permanently set that, so each time you log in you will have to repeat the process.  The methods I found don't always stick, and may reset to the buggy default at random.  Not the worst thing in the world, but not great either.  The other bugs are significant and can make for a poor experience if one isn't used to tinkering around in Ubuntu.  Experienced users with better hardware will have a great time, everyone else will find it frustrating to navigate.

Ubuntu has been great for years.  I'm still willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume with some time they can get this up and running.  These massive changes will require a certain amount of catching up while they get drivers and patches for older systems.  I have come to expect a high quality product, and I will continue to hope that the developers bring Ubuntu along to where it used to be.  But for now, I recommend staying with an older version and giving the a chance to get a grip on some pretty serious issues.  Just because I enjoy solving problems and learning doesn't mean I have time to do that for every single function I want to perform, and it sure has felt that way lately.

Which leads to a few things.  One, the new geekery tag will keep all my Ubuntu and other articles together, as I open up a on a wider variety of topics.  Two, I will be posting more geeky news and updates here, because the response has been good.  Three... after four years of faithful love, I have left Ubuntu.  Oh, it's just a trial separation and we're still on good terms for the kids sake, but I needed more.  I have just installed Linux Mint and it could be love.

More will follow.

Rick Perry's Not Going Anywhere

He has a good gig in the Governor's Mansion in Texas, but Txas GOP Gov. Rick Perry is staying put.  Anyone who runs stories about Perry considering a White House bid is insane.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry said Friday he will consider a run for the Republican presidential nomination.

"I'm going to think about it" after the Texas legislative session ends on Monday, Perry told reporters in Austin after a bill signing. Perry added, "But I think about a lot of things."

Perry's remarks come on the heels of a Fox News interview this week in which he admitted that he is "tempted" to run for president.

"Oh, I can't say I'm not tempted, but the fact is this is something I don't want to do," Perry said.

A spokesman for Perry's office immediately sought to walk back his comments, noting that the governor has said he has no plans to run and that his position on the matter "remains the same."

And it will remain the same for a very long time.  He's not running for a reason, and that reason is simple:  his Presidential ambitions died in April 2009 when he said this:

Texas is a unique place. When we came into the Union in 1845, one of the issues was that we would be able to leave if we decided to do that.

We got a great Union. There's absolutely no reason to dissolve it, but if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what may come out of that

You cannot suggest that a viable solution to fix Washington is secession from the union, and then later take it back and decide to run for President.  Rick Perry may end up Senator from Texas someday, but he will never, ever run for President, and that quote there is absolutely the reason why any effort to recruit him would be doomed within hours of announcing he'd be running.  A sitting governor advocating secession?  The opposition research would have a field day.

Rick Perry has less of a chance of being President than Herman Cain, people.  Herman Cain.

StupidiNews, Weekend Edition!

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