Thursday, April 26, 2012

Last Call

News Corp. mogul and FOX head honcho Rupert Murdoch is making friends all over the place back home in Blighty as he takes the stand to answer for the company's ugly little phone hacking and bribery scandal.

During a media ethics inquiry on Wednesday, News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch described David Cameron’s disabled son as “retarded” while trying to praise the British Prime Minister as a family man.

In the wake of a hacking scandal at News Corp.’s now-defunct News of the World, Lord Justice Brian Leveson asked Murdoch to testify under oath about his bid to take over British Sky Broadcasting Group PLC.

Only a day earlier, documents released by Murdoch’s son, James Murdoch, suggested that a Cameron ally had smoothed the way for News Corp. to take control of the lucrative satellite broadcaster.

Leveson inquiry lawyer Robert Jay asked the older Murdoch on Wednesday if he recalled first meeting Cameron.

“I first met him once, maybe even twice, at family picnics at weekends at my daughter’s house in the grounds of Blenheim Castle (Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire) where he came with his family,” Murdoch explained. “We were overrun with children, there were no politics.”

But I was extremely impressed at the kindness and feeling he showed to the children, particularly to his retarded son,” the News Corp. chairman added. “And I came away talking about this — what a good family man.

And if that statement doesn't perfectly encapsulate just how much of a complete and utter douchecanoe Rupert Murdoch is, nothing ever will come close.

I hope they invent new books to throw at him.

The Man Looks Back, Looks Forward

Jann Wenner's Rolling Stone interview with President Obama is up on the magazine's web site, and it's a pretty good piece.  The President gives some interesting and frank answers on a number of subjects:  Occupy Wall Street, LGBT equality, the Middle East, the GOP, the war on drugs.  The section on race relations in the country however caught my eye the most:

Do you think racial politics and race relations in America are any different now than when you first took office?

Look, race has been one of the fault lines in American culture and American politics from the start. I never bought into the notion that by electing me, somehow we were entering into a post-racial period. On the other hand, I've seen in my own lifetime how racial attitudes have changed and improved, and anybody who suggests that they haven't isn't paying attention or is trying to make a rhetorical point. Because we all see it every day, and me being in this Oval Office is a testimony to changes that have been taking place.

When I travel around the country, a lot of people remark on how inspiring seeing an African-American president or an African-American first lady must be to black boys and girls, how it must raise their sense of what's possible in their own lives. That's hugely important – but you shouldn't also underestimate the fact that there are a whole bunch of little white girls and white boys all across the country who just take it for granted that there's an African-American president. That's the president they're growing up with, and that's changing attitudes.

My view on race has always been that it's complicated. It's not just a matter of head – it's a matter of heart. It's about interactions. What happens in the workplace, in schools, on sports fields, and through music and culture shapes racial attitudes as much as any legislation that's passed. I do believe that we're making slow and steady progress. When I talk to Malia and Sasha, the world they're growing up with, with their friends, is just very different from the world that you and I grew up with.

In many ways he's right:  even in just five years race relations have improved in some ways.  But in other ways, particularly among the white supremacist movement, things have gotten far worse. The country has gotten far more polarized, and those polarizations are far, far more evident now in polite company.

Let's not forget the Tea Party was a ginned up reaction to Obama's election that nearly wrecked this country in 2010 and badly damaged it.  We've got a lot of work ahead of us, but only if Obama gets a second term.

If it's President Romney, we're done.

Another Milepost On The Road To Oblivion

And the ni-CLANG clock gets a little closer to The Blackest Hour.

During a Tuesday segment on American Family Association’s AFA Today radio program, Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council — a hate group, according the the Southern Poverty Law Center — encouraged listeners to read an article by conservative columnist Sandy Rios which suggests the president is weakening the U.S. so that communists in Russia can “reclaim power.”

“I would encourage you to read the article,” Perkins said. “In society today, we throw around labels a lot and I think we’ve become desensitized and what we’re looking here and what’s Sandy’s bringing up here is not labels. We’re not calling somebody a Marxist, a socialist. … We’re looking at facts.”

“What the media has done — going back to our earlier discussion about the media — is they have attempted to marginalize anyone who challenges this administration on those principles and that driving ideology.”

He added: “You know, it goes back to what they did to those that, you know, questioned the issue of his birth certificate. Look, I don’t know about all that, but I will tell you this: It’s a legitimate issue from the standpoint of what the Constitution says.”

If you still think the President's birth certificate is a "legitimate issue" at this point, there really isn't any other category for you except for "Hard-core racist asshole trying to cover that fact up."   I'm tired of it.  It's complete willful ignorance based on unapologetic hatred of the man.

Revoke this asshole's non-profit status, please.

WTH: Bully In The Classroom Is The Teacher?

(Reuters) - A New Jersey school district has fired at least two educators for verbally abusing autistic children after a father sent his 10-year-old autistic son to school wearing a hidden microphone upon suspecting he was being mistreated by staff.
The audio recordings, made public in a 17-minute video later posted on YouTube, capture educators speaking in harsh tones to the autistic children, including one in which a woman tells the young boy what sounds like "You are a bastard."
"That night my life changed forever," father Stuart Chaifetz said of the first time he heard the recording. "What I heard on that audio was so disgusting, so vile."
The father demands an apology, saying it is about reclaiming his son's dignity.  For six months, he had meetings with the school in response to complaints that his autistic son was acting out of character.  The man was worried about his son's development and taped the events that led to the firing of at least two school employees.

The thing is, while it's great that uploading the video to YouTube had the right results, I'm really worried about the lack of teacher supervision in schools, especially for the most vulnerable students.  In the day of remote monitoring and other technology, I really expected schools to be proactive in recording and watching classrooms, if for no other reason than to deter lawsuits and allegations.

Mistreating autistic children should mean never working with kids again.  However, it likely won't, something that should concern other parents.  Hell, I don't even have kids and I'm worried about it.

Google Drive Off To A Good Start

 It's Google, so of course some people are going to be immediately supportive or dismissive of Google Drive.  I spent a decade with Yahoo and moved last year, and so far I've been impressed.  Google Drive is pretty spiffy, so far.  As I play with it I'm sure I will find bugs and quirks, but it works just like intended, and my Google documents were waiting for me when I logged in.  It works beautifully between my Windows desktop, Linux laptop and Android phone.  I can view my writing, move songs or whatever else I like between devices, and always have my most updated copy.

There are a few problems, but nothing new.  The scheme is obnoxious and the color combinations can be unfriendly.  If you are going to insist on a snow white background, high yellow never practically comes into play.  The lack of customization is the same across all Google products (except Gmail, bless its digital little heart for having a night scheme).  Google Drive has all the goodness you've come to expect, the same issues overall, but no new aggravations, earning it a B+ in my book.  Give me customization in how it appears and we're talking a solid A.  I have written one more "WTF, why can't we have THEMES" review in their request for feedback, so maybe someday they will listen to all of us and implement color choices.  Until then, I have no complaints about the performance or glitches in quality for my documents.  For a writer, that's a big deal, and it beats any sharing system I've used, including Ubuntu One.

Google's integration makes them the leader.  I'm not personally biased and am in fact normally suspicious of the giants.  But if you just look at them in terms of what works, they have them all beat.  The moved into the business market, with more small and medium businesses using Google Docs and Gmail services, and now they will be instrumental into weaning the public away from Microsoft Office.  Once they improve account linking and GIVE THE PEOPLE SOME DAMNED VISUAL OPTIONS they will be the go-to for online storage and activity.

The Barack Ness Monster Drops The Mic On 'Em

With President Obama slow jamming the news with Jimmy Fallon yesterday, he deftly ensures that his stance on keeping student loan interest rates low will be completely opposed by the GOP in a self-destructive orgy of Obama Derangement Syndrome that will go the way of the payroll tax cut fight as Greg Sargent points out:

Consider the parallels. Just as in the payroll tax cut battle, there’s a looming deadline: On July 1st, interest rates on federally funded student loans is set to double. Barack Obama and Democrats, confident that the politics are on their side, are signaling that they intend to remain on offense on the issue.
Meanwhile, Mitt Romney and other Republican leaders, apparently sensing that this a losing issue for them, have voiced varying degrees of support for extending the low rates. And just as in the payroll tax fight, they insist their only issue is about how to pay for the extension. Yet they won’t say what spending cuts they would favor to offset it.

This well-worn ground look familiar?  It should.

Meanwhile, House conservatives — just as during the payroll battle — are beginning to signal that they oppose the extension, period, full stop. Check out this quote from GOP Rep. Todd Akin, who is running in a GOP primary for the right to take on Dem Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri:

Akin said the government should be out of the student loan market altogether. “America has got the equivalent of the stage three cancer of socialism because the federal government is tampering in all kinds of stuff it has no business tampering in,” he said. 

For Akin, federal help with student loan debt is an ideological nonstarter. If we start seeing more of this kind of thing from House conservatives, it could limit the maneuvering room GOP leaders need to reach a deal with Dems on how to pay for the extension they say they favor, in order to resolve this issue and put it behind them.

And this college tour and Fallon performance all but seal the deal on this.  The dopes, they are getting their ropes completely a-doped by POTUS once again.  They can't help themselves and have to mash on the A NEW POUTRAGE HAS APPEARED! button like a guinea pig getting a crack pellet.  If this plays out like the payroll tax cut issue (and there's every indication that it will so far) then the GOP will shoot themselves in the foot with yet another group of voters who will learn there's no percentage in voting GOP unless you're the one percent.

Miner 2049er

Zandardad flags down this article on Planetary Resources, Inc., a new startup with one out-of-this-world business plan and star-powered backers like Titanic and Avatar director James Cameron.

A newly unveiled company with some high-profile backers — including filmmaker James Cameron and Google co-founder Larry Page — is set to announce plans to mine near-Earth asteroids for resources such as precious metals and water.

Planetary Resources, Inc. intends to sell these materials, generating a healthy profit for itself. But it also aims to advance humanity's exploration and exploitation of space, with resource extraction serving as an anchor industry that helps our species spread throughout the solar system.

"If you look at space resources, the logical next step is to go to the near-Earth asteroids," Planetary Resources co-founder and co-chairman Eric Anderson told "They're just so valuable, and so easy to reach energetically. Near-Earth asteroids really are the low-hanging fruit of the solar system."

Turns out there's a lot of hard money in space rocks, folks.

Platinum-group metals — ruthenium, rhodium, palladium, osmium, iridium, and platinum — are found in low concentrations on Earth and can be tough to access, which is why they're so expensive. In fact, Anderson said, they don't occur naturally in Earth's crust, having been deposited on our planet over the eons by asteroid impacts.

"We're going to go to the source," Anderson said. "The platinum-group metals are many orders of magnitude easier to access in the high-concentration platinum asteroids than they are in the Earth's crust."

And there are a lot of precious metals up there waiting to be mined. A single platinum-rich space rock 1,650 feet (500 meters) wide contains the equivalent of all the platinum-group metals ever mined throughout human history, company officials said.

Telescope prospecting could begin in a few years and extraction could begin in as soon as 12-15 years by some estimates.  It's easiest to grab the low-hanging fruit first and drag near-Earth asteroids into a stable orbit around the Moon.  There, unmanned spacecraft could mine the space rocks for tasty metals.  Entirely possible to see this stuff get underway in my lifetime.

And some of these space rocks are worth tons of water, too.  Considering population growth on the planet and a growing shortage of potable water as the decades advance, good ol' aqua celestia from giant orbital ice cubes could be a valuable resource in the near-future.

Besides, if sci-fi writers are to be believed, you kinda want to invest in the ground floor of a venture like this.  Weyland-Yutani Corporation, anyone?


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