Sunday, April 8, 2012

Last Call

CBS icon and 60 Minutes mainstay Mike Wallace has passed at the age of 93.

Mike Wallace, the long time journalist at CBS News, passed away Sunday morning at the age of 93.

Wallace’s passing was reported by Face the Nation host Bob Scheiffer at the beginning of the program, who said he died in New Haven, Connecticut with his family.

Wallace was apart of 60 Minutes since the inception from 1968 to his semi-retirement in 2006, helping shape the program into a prominent newsmagazine telecast. He was reportedly ill for years before his passing.

Some 60 plus years in the business, the man who put 60 Minutes on the map will be missed.  The AP's wrapup of Wallace's life is here:

Amazing stuff.  There will never be anyone quite like him, and that's unfortunate.

Happy Easter From The GOP, Folks!

This Easter Sunday, the NY Times has this Jason DeParle story on red states shredding welfare safety nets and the people who keep falling through them.

Faced with flat federal financing and rising need, Arizona is one of 16 states that have cut their welfare caseloads further since the start of the recession — in its case, by half. Even as it turned away the needy, Arizona spent most of its federal welfare dollars on other programs, using permissive rules to plug state budget gaps.
The poor people who were dropped from cash assistance here, mostly single mothers, talk with surprising openness about the desperate, and sometimes illegal, ways they make ends meet. They have sold food stamps, sold blood, skipped meals, shoplifted, doubled up with friends, scavenged trash bins for bottles and cans and returned to relationships with violent partners — all with children in tow.
Esmeralda Murillo, a 21-year-old mother of two, lost her welfare check, landed in a shelter and then returned to a boyfriend whose violent temper had driven her away. “You don’t know who to turn to,” she said.
Maria Thomas, 29, with four daughters, helps friends sell piles of brand-name clothes, taking pains not to ask if they are stolen. “I don’t know where they come from,” she said. “I’m just helping get rid of them.”
To keep her lights on, Rosa Pena, 24, sold the groceries she bought with food stamps and then kept her children fed with school lunches and help from neighbors. Her post-welfare credo is widely shared: “I’ll do what I have to do.

And as any conservative can tell you, this is working 100% as intended.  If those on welfare turn to crime, then it's clearly permissible to cut welfare even further to stop coddling these criminals, and then of course pass those savings through tax cuts on to the Almighty Job Creators, who will then certainly create more jobs and uplift these broken souls back into society.  Any time now, those jobs will be just pouring out.  Yep.

Of course without that vital last part, it becomes and endless conveyor belt to transfer wealth to the wealthy and drive the poor into other states (preferably blue ones) where they become somebody else's problem.  Meanwhile, red states like Arizona get to claim they've cut welfare rolls and that the rest of America needs to follow their success.

Meanwhile, the expensive private prison conglomerates designed to incarcerate the increasingly desperate among us costing taxpayers far more per person than the welfare did in the first place is beside the point, that money's well spent because we're tough on crime.  Certainly the GOP is licking their chops at the latest iteration of the House GOP budget, turning safety net programs into block grants they can raid for even more tax cuts and wealth transfer.  And if the GOP gets control, guess what's happening to these programs in the future?
Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, the top House Republican on budget issues, calls the current welfare program “an unprecedented success.” Mitt Romney, who leads the race for the Republican presidential nomination, has said he would place similar restrictions on “all these federal programs.” One of his rivals, Rick Santorum, calls the welfare law a source of spiritual rejuvenation.
It didn’t just cut the rolls, but it saved lives,” Mr. Santorum said, giving the poor “something dependency doesn’t give: hope.”
As in "hope God chose you to be rich, because otherwise you're screwed."  Happy Easter Hunger Games from the GOP.  Don't worry, when you die, your suffering will be rewarded in the next life.  Oh wait, it won't because you were poor and wasted your life so you obviously sinned, so it's okay if we kick your face in a few more times.

Like I said, working as intended.

Step One: Drill. Step Two: The Gas Face. Step 3: PROFIT!

The Power Line guys go after President Obama for drill baby drill again, because a right wing think tank says so!

So I followed a link from Glenn Reynolds to a piece from the always worthy David Goldman (aka, “Spengler”) on oil prices, namely, that today’s high oil prices are owing to simple supply and demand rather than the Middle Eastern “risk premium” that everyone (including me) supposes:
It’s complete and utter nonsense. Oil is trading in lockstep with expectations for economic growth, as reflected in stock prices. There’s not a shred of evidence that geopolitical uncertainty has added a penny to the oil price. Obama’s $20 to $30 per barrel risk premium is a number pulled out of a hat, without a shred of empirical support. In effect, the President is blaming Israel for high oil prices.
He makes an interesting case, noting the close correlation with the stock market, which may also correlate with a weak dollar and paltry bond returns as much as improving economic prospects. See David’s nifty charts at the link.

Oh it's a great theory,  and since it "proves" that increased domestic production will lower prices, $4 gas is all the Kenyan Socialist's fault.  The problem is fellas is that your little theory here?  It's easily testable thanks to the fact our oil production is now at an eight-year high and growing.  Except for the actual correlation between increased domestic production and gas prices showing that increased production doesn't lower prices, which the AP destroyed last month.

A statistical analysis of 36 years of monthly, inflation-adjusted gasoline prices and U.S. domestic oil production by The Associated Press shows no statistical correlation between how much oil comes out of U.S. wells and the price at the pump.

If more domestic oil drilling worked as politicians say, you'd now be paying about $2 a gallon for gasoline. Instead, you're paying the highest prices ever for March.

Hayward, Instadoofus, and the "Gatestone Institute" here conveniently forget that little point, the one where actually pitting the data against their theory kind of obliterates their theory as complete garbage.

By the way, the Gatestone Institute is a right-wing think tank dedicated to the US turning Iran into a parking lot.  Kinda cool the way they lie about President Obama, who seemingly doesn't want to do that, yes?

An Open Letter To Google

Dear Google,

I know you'll never read this.  However, after our long and tedious years of mutually taking advantage of each other, I want to say I will never leave you.  But there are a few things you can do to make our lives more enjoyable, and justify the shameless harvesting of our personal information.

Give us choices.  I know it's tempting to harvest all the information you can, but by giving users a choice you will win people over to your side without being a complete bully.  Let people opt out of what you want them to do, at the expense of what you know they want most.  It's simple, it works, and the person at least has the choice to control information usage if they care about it.  This would open your market up to all the private folks.  Right now, people who are holding back or won't join or share because of privacy concerns are the only real obstacle you face to dominate the web.  Think it through.

Keep it up with Google+.  You have finally managed to hit Facebook in it's weak spot, the overwhelming amount of crap and spam posts that drive us nuts.  Google+ not only lets us filter those easily, because it's not so damned overpopulated we can enjoy content that is much closer to what we want to see.  Plus, the ability to host meetings and ad hoc group chats is amazing.  Again, there could be more freedom and choices, but this is one case where your clean and narrow design really works.  Please don't screw up a good thing and go to the Mafia Wars side.

Stop messing around already and make a Google Workspace.  With Docs and Sites as two invaluable services, why not make a quick progression and let us have something with all the utilities in easy reach?  The personalized Google page isn't enough, but if you want us to rely on your products giving us a place to live is crucial.  This would rely on heavy customization, but we just had that talk.  Docs has given us so many ways to be productive and share, sites gives us virtual offices to use, but when it comes to purely our view, we are aliens without a home.  Host some built-in IDEs as well and look at your growth explode and stay there.  Python, Java, the basics.

And finally, while I know it's small in your view but important to others, give us some control over what we see.  Your super light and pastel blends are obnoxious.  You have allowed us dark schemes for some apps such as Gmail.  Please take fifteen minutes and give us two or three universal themes that meet the most obvious needs.  Hi-contrast, light on dark, and grayscale would be helpful.  Really, you have a whole staff of coders, this should be a Tuesday afternoon sort of project.


Bon The Geek

Another One Sees The Light

The men in the Republican Party may not think they’re fighting a “war on women,” but its female senators certainly do. Yesterday, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) joined Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Kay Bailey Hutchison in criticizing the GOP’s push for legislation to restrict access to contraception and other basic health care services:
“It makes no sense to make this attack on women,” she said at a local Chamber of Commerce luncheon. “If you don’t feel this is an attack, you need to go home and talk to your wife and your daughters.”
I'm sure several GOP women have felt this way, but one at a time they are saying enough.  Murkowski also expressed regret at voting for the Blunt Amendment.  This implies she was under some mighty strong pressure to show support, because anyone this in tune with women's rights would have surely been disgusted at first sight.

The original article from the town of Homer, Alaska gives additional insight: 

"I think what you're sensing is a fear, a concern that women feel threatened, that a long settled issue might not be settled," Murkowski said.
She cited things like conservative radio commentator Rush Limbaugh's remarks about a female Georgetown University law student, which Murkowski called "offensive, horribly offensive."
To have those kind of slurs against a woman ... you had candidates who want to be our president not say, 'That's wrong. That's offensive.' They did not condemn the rhetoric," Murkowski said.
On abortion and contraception, Murkowski made her views clear.
"The right to a safe and legal abortion has been affirmed by the courts, and I stand by that," she said. "I will continue to support funding Planned Parenthood."

Well done, madam.  She's right every step of the way.  Women feel betrayed, and that any rights given to them can be taken away at the whim of a self-righteous zealot.  Rush Limbaugh was out of line, but that not a single candidate from the right called him on it is disgusting. It also shows they don't know how to play the game.  Even the most repugnant candidate could have scored major points by being the lone one to show compassion.  Epic fail on all counts.

Bravo.  May others follow her footsteps and begin turning this wreck around.

This Easter, We Turn To The Parable Of The Batman

The Dark Knight indeed the hospital charity ward.

Lenny Robinson is still getting acclimated to his 15 minutes of fame. When he pulled up to Baltimore's Sinai Hospital in a black Lamborghini decked out head to toe in a custom Batman outfit, he was greeted by a crush of reporters, news photographers and giddy hospital staff armed with smartphones snapping pictures.

Robinson became a viral video sensation last month when police pulled him over in full costume.  The dashboard camera in the Montgomery County, Maryland, police cruiser caught the entire scene, including the officer calling for back up. “You can send me Robin if you wish,” the officer snickered to dispatch before asking the driver, “What’s your name other than Batman?”

“Lenny,” Robinson replied from the driver’s seat in a cape and Batman headdress.

The police pulled over Robinson’s car because instead of a Maryland license plate, he had the Batman logo. He likes his outfit and car to look just right when he visits hospitals across Washington and Maryland to cheer up terminally ill children. Once police heard that and saw that the official license plate was inside the car, Robinson was on his way both to the hospital and Internet stardom. Last week a local paper unmasked the caped crusader with a front-page article detailing the charitable work done by the 48-year-old father of three.

Turns out Lenny here brings a little joy to hospitalized kids, and he does it right. That's an Easter story we can get behind.

Batman is 48. He is a self-made success and has the bank account to prove it. He recently sold, for a pile of cash, a commercial cleaning business that he started as a teenager. He became interested in Batman through his son Brandon, who was obsessed with the caped crusader when he was little. “I used to call him Batman,” he told me. “His obsession became my obsession.”

Batman began visiting Baltimore area hospitals in 2001, sometimes with his now teenage son Brandon playing Robin. Once other hospitals and charities heard about his car and his cape, Batman was put on superhero speed dial for children’s causes around the region. He visits sick kids at least couple times a month, sometimes more often. He visits schools, too, to talk about bullying. He does not do birthday parties.

His superhero work is limited to doing good deeds, part of a maturation process in his own life. In his earlier years, he acknowledges that he sometimes displayed an unsuperhero-like temper and got into occasional trouble with the law for fights and other confrontations. Putting on the Batman uniform changes and steadies him.

“Eventually, it sinks in and you become him,” Batman told me. “It feels like I have a responsibility that’s beyond a normal person. And that responsibility is to be there for the kids, to be strong for them, and to make them smile as much as I can.” He understands that might sound corny, but he doesn’t care. 

Masks.  We all wear them.  And here's a guy who's giving his time back to the community and the people.  Good work, Dark Knight.
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