Sunday, September 18, 2011

Last Call

It's a very slow invasive species problem in Miami, but it's a hard shell to crack:  Giant African snails are taking over in a Miami subdivision.

The silent, slithery invasion of an army of Giant African Snails in a southwest Miami subdivision has federal and state agricultural officials launching a time-consuming expensive counter-attack to remove the large slimy creatures.

“It’s us against the snails,” said Richard Gaskalla, director of plant industry at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

The snails, of the species Achatina fulica, can grow up to 10 inches long and four inches wide and are considered one of the most damaging land snails in the world. They eat at least 500 different types of plants, lay about 1,200 eggs a year, and can carry a strain of non-fatal meningitis. Prolific breeders, they contain both female and male reproductive organs and live as long as nine years.

They can be particularly devastating to agricultural areas and ecosystems and result in trade bans. Hailing from Eastern Africa, the snails are only allowed into the United States with special permits and for scientific research.

Two sisters alerted officials to the invasion last week, waving down a fruit fly inspector conducting a routine check. The siblings had tired of the pests, who love cool, dark spots, thrive in limestone, concrete and cement, and are drawn to recycling boxes, compost heaps, and cat food.

Standing on the corner of Southwest 28th Street and 34th Avenue Thursday, Gaskalla and his team were meticulously combing through the neighborhood he termed “Ground Zero” in the attack. About 50 state and federal officials are going house-by-house, removing the slimy pests by plastic-gloved hand. The process is slow and time-consuming.

So far, officials have found about 1,000 within a one-square-mile radius. The mollusks are transferred to freezers in an effort at “humane death,” Gaskalla said.

These little guys are all over the place, apparently.  Somebody smuggled them in and now they're rapidly expanding because they don't have any known predators here.  Hopefully Miami-Dade can get this cleaned up before they invade more of the city...very...slowly...invade, that is.

Moral of the story, don't mess with giant racing snails.

Head Of The Class, Back Of The Unemployment Line

The most honest high school valedictorian speech you'll ever see is making the rounds like wildfire today.

Considering the next huge bubble economy is student debt in the US, she's on to something here.  How bad is it?  From January 2008 to January 2010, student loan debt has doubled from $100 billion to $200 billion.  From January 2010 until now, the amount has doubled again to nearly $400 billion.  The major reason?  Unemployment among 20-24 year olds is upwards of 20-25%.

When you owe $150,000 in student debt and you're struggling to swing a barista job at Starbucks, it's kind of hard to get that house and car you need.  Student debt is basically pinning down everyone in their 20's right now and it's going to get a lot worse before it gets better.  This is the new debt bubble, folks.  When it blows up, it's going to be brutally ugly.

Another Milepost On The Road To Oblivion

Surprise!  Paul Ryan and the rest of the Republicans are immediately playing the "class warfare" card with the Buffett Rule proposal.

The so-called “Buffet rule” would make sure millionaires pay about the same tax rate as the employees that work for them. It’s named after billionaire Warren Buffet, who has said that he is taxed at a rate of about 17.4 percent, while his secretary is taxed at a rate of about 36 percent.

“If you tax something more, Chris, you get less of it,” Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) told Fox News’ Chris Wallace. “Class warfare, Chris, may make for really good politics, but it makes for rotten economics. We don’t need a system that seeks to divide people and prey on peoples’ fear, envy and anxiety. We need a system that creates jobs and innovation, and removes these barriers for entrepreneurs to go out a rehire people. I’m afraid these kinds of tax increases don’t work.”

Of course, Paul Ryan's lying.  That's what he does.  When Bill Clinton raised the top marginal tax rate to 39.6%, not only did it work, it gave America a surplus.  Republicans have been screaming about balancing the budget...well, whenever there's a Dem in the White House, that is.  When Republicans are President, deficits don't matter, remember?

We can't raise taxes on the wealthy in good times.  We can't do it in bad times.  We can't do it, period.  And yet Republicans suffer no political damage for siding with the top 1% over the 99%.  Hell, the Buffett Rule would affect less than 1% of Americans who pay a far lower tax rate than you or I do.  But that's who the Republicans get to play for, and they're the people with all the power in this country.

Nice, isn't it?  Steve M. expands on the theory:

With all the pressure there is on political figures to avoid what's always sneeringly called "class warfare," the fact that the president -- the fact that this president -- is increasingly acknowledging the vast difference between the rich and the rest of us is a hopeful sign. I know this proposal can't get passed. I know it's mostly an attempt to draw a line in the sand as his reelection campaign gets under way. But I like the fact that he thinks this is a political winner. I like the fact that it puts a question back on the table that the right and center thought had been asked and answered: no, perhaps we Americans haven't all decided that we really, really like the rich and regard them as heroes and "job creators" and people who need to be cosseted and coddled because if we don't cater to their every whim they'll be too weak and wounded and sickly and depressed ever to get out of bed and try to make even more money by building businesses and hiring people to do jobs.

Americans are pissed off.  It's time we help them be pissed off at the right people, and Obama contrasting with Paul Ryan whining that our poor, coddled millionaires are the only people the Republicans care about is a real good start.

The Google / Chrome Challenge

I realize Chrome may not work for everyone, and especially the way it works for me because of my Linux setup.  Having said that, get Chrome and say goodbye to all the rest.  If it really ever comes down to browser wars, I know where I'm putting my money.

As most of you know, I am a writer, musician and amateur programmer.  Once in a while I suffer some compatibility issues with my Windows or Mac buddies, but over the past few years that has diminished.  I moved to Chrome (I was a Firefox girl for years and years) and suddenly I had no problems at all.

My writing is with Google Docs, so I don't have to worry about copies and sharing.  It is also nice for times when I find myself waiting, I can dive right in to my writing without worrying about missing a revision.  I have the full function of my word processor, and I've found this is a much nicer way to organize.  The comments section lets me leave breadcrumbs for myself when I edit (double check this, make sure this matches the timeline, etc.) and the highlighting tools make my color coding system work perfectly.  I have a consulting business that I run completely from my site and Google Docs as well, including billing templates and my ledger.

I also write for this blog, and I have a Google Reader and Blogger Chrome tool that lets me easily skim articles from my phone during breaks at work, load them up when I get home, and write my articles with minimum aggravation.  No more glitchy GUIs, forever done with a notepad editor or HTML checker.  My Chrome setup has the tabs parked side by side as pinned items, so every time I open my first browser window, my entire office springs up.  Nifty, eh?  For you Twitterholics, there is an official Twitter app or you can run Tweetdeck from its own tab if you have become a TD fan (I am new to Tweetdeck, but I am quickly falling in love).

I am an admin on a MUD (if you don't know what a MUD is, look it up!).  I can log in from ChroMUD, a beautiful telnet app that lets me log in and perform 99% of my duties from Chrome.  I read mail, chat, and enter complicated commands.  For those who MUD, you can set triggers, aliases and anything a normal client can do.  The only things I have missed are mapping and Portal's super-awesome-fantastic editor.

Thanks to Strato, I don't need an editor.  Strato is an IDE (integrated developing environment) that lets me play with Python code from anywhere.  It runs the editor and shell, so you can test snippets of code and view a full file.  This is a pretty new edition, but in a few months I expect it to be a robust and complete editor, and for there to be plenty of competition coming.  If I need to just paste and tweak code, I can do it here and tidy up whatever I am working on.  The help library needs some love, but again... this is a very new step so that is to be expected.

Writers, bloggers and geeks do a lot of research.  My final topic here will be my most valuable tool ever, Diigo.  I can highlight, color code, separate by topic, make notes, and bookmark sites to my heart's content and organize them easily.  I still love Catch Notes, but this is a web-only tool that makes some of the huge pages I read easy to navigate.  I can highlight a paragraph, make a comment as to what I want to say about it, and move on.  I can mow through hundreds of pages now and when I'm done have a concise list of facts and notes for when I come back.

I will write a few of these, explaining the tools I use and why.  I may pick some of these and go a step deeper, explaining why these functions help and ways to get more use out of them.  My objective here is to explain that this all runs from my browser.  Not an office suite on my operating system.  This is cloud computing at its beginning, where my life and files are stored online and the only thing I need is Internet access and a keyboard.  A thumb drive of modest size would protect anything that requires a local copy (I use my phone as a storage device).  Chrome is able to keep a busy computer geek and writer going without a hitch, and can run on any operating system.  In many ways, it is like an operating system in and of itself, because I can log into Chrome and do a full day's work without ever opening another program.  That is some seriously impressive market cornering, folks.

This is why Windows is suffering, and Microsoft's patents will not be as intimidating in the future.  Apple can no longer thumb their noses at users and have the "whatcha gonna do about it" attitude.  The developers shift the world of computing, and universal access to their product is much more profitable than selling an exclusive version.  This is why the Google / Android / Linux bond may be the one that outlives the rest.  They are way ahead on open source philosophy and are the new name of the "it" services.  I expect them to win by hard work and innovation with a boost of process of elimination.  You can now live your entire computing life through that combination of services.

Chrome has challenged the other big players to step up and streamline, or be lost like lumbering dinosaurs.  A good tablet and phone combination can make the desktop computer a thing of the past.  Laptops still have a market, but only for a short while.  Once open source takes full hold, tablet software will make laptop demand fall sharply.  That's a while in coming, but watch the big laptop names pimp products and work to stay relevant.

Check and mate, Google.  Well played.

Foo-Reaking Hilarious

This is why I love TMZ, folks.

The Westboro Baptist Church came out to protest a Foo Fighters concert last night -- but the band was ready ... and came out to play an impromptu show just for them.

That's right. They sang to them from the bed of a pickup truck, and let them know what others think of them. And you know what? For a group that attacks grieving people at their most vulnerable, these bastards are surprisingly thin-skinned.

And in Kansas City, no less.  Love them guys!

I cannot wait for the day these jerks get what is coming to them. Rarely do I wish ill upon anyone, but when the Westboro bunch gets some of their own medicine I will be on the front line cheering.

For The Love Of Funny Money

Don't think the GOP is serious about President Rick Perry?  Follow the money.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the GOP presidential front-runner, may be leading the pack in the money game as well, as a new "super PAC" supporting him gears up to raise $55 million or more — a potential game changer for the 2012 race.

The new pro-Perry political action committee, Make Us Great Again, is one of the emerging "super PACs" that started springing up after last year's groundbreaking Supreme Court ruling in Citizen's United v. FEC, which allowed unlimited cash from individuals and corporations for PACs that are separate from a candidate's campaign.

"These are new vehicles for vast sums of money," said Bill Miller, an Austin, Texas, political consultant to Republicans and Democrats who is not affiliated with Perry. "It's a new day in campaign finance. They're going to play an incredible role."

You don't announce your intent to raise $55 million plus when you expect someone is just a flash in the pan.  The money's been on Mitt Romney for a while now, but it's beginning to go to Perry too.  It's all about the cash.  You'd better believe big corporations see another four years of George W. Bush in Rick Perry and they're putting up their money to back it up.

And let's remember this is money that will be used immediately to go after Mitt Romney.

A pro-Perry PAC spokesman, Jason Miller, confirmed that "an early planning document" had set the $55 million figure, first reported by NBC News, but he declined to release any updated amount. "Fundraising is going very well and there's a lot of enthusiasm for Gov. Perry," he said.

Mark McKinnon, a Texas consultant who worked with former President George W. Bush, said, "It ain't chump change. And I suspect every penny will be used to attack Romney." Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is Perry's closest rival.

Romney's no longer the golden boy in the race if Perry's pulling down this kind of cash just a month in from joining the Clown Car.  Yes, a Perry/Obama matchup would favor Obama.  But it also favors the big business types who are voting with their wallets, and this time around they can put as much cash in as they need to stop President Obama.

Keep an eye on this.  There's a reason why the money's flooding to Perry right now.

This Week In Village Idiocy

That particular dubious honor goes to the NY Times editorial board this morning with the paper's editorial declaring President Obama's problems getting his message out to the people and cutting through the GOP talking points is -- you guessed it -- President Obama's fault.

It bears repeating that this is all entirely rational, and what the Republicans and some Democrats are proposing is absurd. The country has tried reckless deregulation and overly deep tax and spending cuts before. It brought more than one recession in the last century; caused the near collapse of the financial system and another recession in this one; and helped pile up the current deficit.

Mr. Obama has been making many of those points for months. But he has been doing it with speeches that, while eloquent, are often too long and nuanced, and then lack the kind of relentless repetition that is needed to drown out catchy but false Republican talking points

That's right folks, the NY Times, a media outlet, is saying Obama needs to use the bully pulpit more and stop making these smart speeches. He needs to spout more platitudes and sound bites instead of treating voters like adults.  If only President Obama would make it easier for us to cover him by reducing his logical and nuanced policy to vacuous snippets, America would be great!  Oh, but it gets worse.

He has wasted far too much time trying to puzzle out how he can shave policies down far enough to get the Republicans to cooperate. The answer has long been clear: He can’t. Since he was elected, the Republicans have openly said they would not work with him, and a year ago, Senator Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, said explicitly that the Republicans’ goal was simply to deny Mr. Obama a second term. The new Times poll showed that Americans do not believe bipartisanship is achievable. Six in 10 Democrats want the president to challenge Republicans more. He should not worry about voters thinking he is being mean. What he should worry about is that he is not showing them that he is fighting all out for their interests.

Mr. Obama has done more for the country than many voters realize...

That's right, the NY Times editorial board is now complaining about "Earth flat? Views differ" journalism.  On top of that, they're complaining about the President's message being garbled by going through the filter of media outlets on the way to the American people.  You know, media outlets like THE NEW YORK EFFING TIMES.  On top of THAT, they are freely admitting there's no point in Obama working with Republicans who only care about defeating him, except that's exactly what the Village Idiots at the times keep telling him to do.

Enough to drive a guy to drink, I tell you.  But then the Times ed board wins multiple awards for lack of self-awareness for the ending:

The question is whether he will now fight hard for that program. To get there, he does not need the entire G.O.P. caucus, just a few members, but he also needs to show more strength in leading his own less than courageous caucus. And, win or lose, he needs to stay out of the bargaining backroom and keep making his case to the public.

There is so much noise out there that we are not sure most voters know how much they agree with the president. It is up Mr. Obama to show them

Yep.  Not a few sentences after saying there's no way the Republicans will work with him, they turn around and say all that has to happen is some Republicans have to work with him.  Oh, and he has to scream at his buddies.  Oh, and that it's his fault the message is getting garbled, and certainly doesn't have anything to do with the Village's insistence that "both sides do it" and "both sides are at fault", which is basically the source of the noise that these rocket scientists are complaining about.

It's perfect.  And this is exactly why the cries of OBAMACHU!  USE BULLY PULPIT ATTACK! are completely pointless.  When newspaper editorial boards are saying "Hey the President should say more campaign stuff" and then complains about him being in endless campaign mode and not governing the country, there's nothing he can do to win.

We need a better media, folks.  That's why I write.
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