Monday, January 31, 2011

New@C4SS: Let My People Go


A short piece on Egypt.

I don't see how it's possible to really keep current in text from the US, though -- things are happening too fast. Just since I hit "publish" on this one a couple of hours ago, the Mubarak regime has shut down rail service to keep protesters from joining tomorrow's "million man march" in Cairo, the protesters have raised the ante by calling a second march in Alexandria itself, and the army has apparently made a formal statement to the effect that it will not serve as a crackdown agency versus peaceful demonstrations.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

What the Internet "Kill Switch" Bill is Really All About


It's baaaaaaaack -- and this week's world events make abundantly clear what it means.

In Egypt, Hosni Mubarak's regime shut down, as best they could, Internet and cell phone access in order to put a stop to, or at least slow down, a building sentiment for revolution.

In China, the Communist regime censored search results regarding events in Egypt.

The Lieberman/Collins bill is intended to give the US government the same powers -- and for the same reasons. Our lords and masters consider accessible, uncensored communications between the serfs a threat.

And they're right.

Perversely, though, measures like the "Kill Switch" may be just as big a threat.

Right up to the moment the Mubarak regime threw the switch, some Egyptian dissidents were content, or at least willing, to limit themselves to a) spreading the word and b) trying to bring international diplomatic pressure to bear by publicizing the situation.

Shutting down their ability to pursue that strategy made it clear that they were in an "it's Mubarak or us; no help is coming and we're going to win or die" situation, and they acted accordingly.

Friday, January 28, 2011

New song for the US government's iTunes playlist


"Blowback," by Karmic Bitch (featuring Sonny and Cher's long-lost child, Cui Bono, on vocals). Racing up the charts -- Probably about number 5 at the moment, but definitely with a bullet.

The Egyptian army may be throwing in. Which side? Uncertain, but if you have any secrets you want Hosni Mubarak to take to his grave, you might want to get them to him ASAP.

From Suez to Sanaa, from Tunis to Tripoli (the one in Lebanon, not the one in Libya) the US program of maintaining "stability" in the Middle East by playing footsie with corrupt authoritarian regimes is going into the crapper faster than, and with as little warning as, a tainted seafood dinner. The Jordanian and Saudi regimes may not be panicking yet, but they're probably updating their emergency escape itineraries just in case.

Immediate beneficiaries: The Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah, al Qaeda.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Raising my sights while waiting for the bottom to fall out


I've pretty much given up my quest for a $50 e-reader. Not because it isn't coming, but because by the time it gets here, a little more money will get me a lot more than just an e-reader.

Matter of fact, we're pretty much there already.

Right now, the Aluratek Libre is still selling for $99 (at Target, anyway).

For about that price, maybe even a little less, I can get Augen's "The Book." It's not just an e-reader with a bigger screen than the Libre -- it's got wifi, web browsing capability, etc., and since it's built on a Linux backbone efforts to hack it and make it even better are already in the works.

For not much more than $100, there's the Pandigital Novel. Once again, more than an e-reader. Wifi, web browsing -- this time it's Android instead of Linux, and it's got a touch screen.

With a raft of new, improved tablets hitting the market, I figure that the price bottom is about to fall out on the current versions of these machines. Hell, they may hit $50 before the Libre does. And why would I pay as much or more for a non-wifi dedicated e-reader as I would for a wireless-equipped tablet that does other things, too?

My only problem is that I'm not sure how much longer I'm willing to wait. My first take is that I'd rather have the slightly more expensive Pandigital tablet, but The Book isn't half-bad, and I'm barely holding myself back from snapping up one or the other.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Three Things


Thing One:

Whoever, under color of any law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom, willfully subjects any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or to different punishments, pains, or penalties, on account of such person being an alien, or by reason of his color, or race, than are prescribed for the punishment of citizens, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both; and if bodily injury results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include the use, attempted use, or threatened use of a dangerous weapon, explosives, or fire, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and if death results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned for any term of years or for life, or both, or may be sentenced to death. -- United States Code, Title 18, Chapter 13, § 242

Thing Two:

If two or more persons conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or because of his having so exercised the same ... They shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and if death results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, they shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for any term of years or for life, or both, or may be sentenced to death. -- United States Code, Title 18, Chapter 13, § 241

Thing Three:



Any questions?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Apropos of a situation not worth describing in detail


The Moving Finger writes: and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.
-- The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám

Apparently the desire -- and inability -- to unsay that which has been publicly said is not unique to the Internet age.

Round and Round ...


... with Kinsella.

Again.

Usually at least one of us learns something.

Usually that someone is me.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

File under "why am I not seeing this for sale yet?"


I still haven't found the $50 e-reader I'm looking for, but I expect to see something along those lines this year now that tablets and other small-screen devices are the new black. I'm toying with the idea of just going with a cheap Android tablet.

But it also occurs to me that there's an obvious e-reader market that doesn't seem to have any sellers yet: Goggles!

I understand that there are technical and consumer acceptance hurdles to get over in marketing a full-scale "wearable" computer system. Most people don't want to play Minesweeper or read a spreadsheet through goggles.

But reading a book ... well, the main reason I want an e-reader is so that I can curl up in bed with a novel.

The current generation of e-readers makes sense for that in that they're basically book-size, book-shape, book-weight and so forth.

But what would make even more sense for it (maybe) would be a set of goggles with back-lit screens that fit right over the eyes, and controls either on the earpieces (press your right temple to page forward, left to page back, etc.) or maybe on a wired or wireless remote control.

That way you don't even have to hold the damn "book." Just lie back, read, and maybe the thing shuts down if you doze off and don't press one of the buttons every 15 minutes or something.

I'm not seeing any great technical barriers to that. Size and weight, including battery weight, don't seem to be a problem for that kind of thing any more, and presumably LCD screens that can manage e-book type presentation are getting pretty cheap since they're in everything now.

But I'm not finding anything like that for sale. Why?

PS: If you're an e-reader manufacturer or seller, one alternative to the $50 e-reader is a review copy of a more expensive model. [Cough. Shuffle feet. Stare into distance and whistle.]

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Home for sale by owner


Helping a brother out here, literally -- my brother and sister-in-law are putting their home up for sale with an eye toward a move from southern Missouri to Wisconsin. A little link love is always good for the, um, soul, right?

I've been in this house many times, and if it was mine I wouldn't let it go. It's well-constructed, well kept, and sits on 10 acres ideally located in just about every way -- a few minutes out of Marshfield where groceries and sundries are available (and if you have kids and do public education, one of the better such systems you'll find), perhaps half an hour (mostly freeway) from Springfield if you're looking for nightlife, culture, fine dining and so forth.

So, if you're looking for a country home in the Marshfield, Missouri area, this is your lucky day.

Monday, January 17, 2011

A brief note to the US government's creditors


To whom it may concern:

The United States Congress is currently engaged in one of its periodic debates over raising the "debt ceiling" (the total amount of money it "allows" itself to be in debt for).

I'm nearly 100% certain that Congress will "allow" itself to borrow more money.

If you're thinking about loaning them some of that money, though, you might want to reconsider.

The collateral underlying US government debt is the notion that I'll pay you back the money they borrowed.

Three words: Ain't Gonna Happen.

If 435 US Representatives, 100 US Senators and a US President borrow money from you, then so far as I'm concerned they're the ones who get to pay you back.

Those 536 individuals are already extended to the tune of $14 trillion, or (math in my head time) somewhere in the general neighborhood of $25 billion each.

If you think that those 536 people have, on average, assets worth in excess of $25 billion to collateralize/cover their existing debt, with stuff left over to make you comfortable that they'll pay back new debt, by all means loan them all the money you're comfortable loaning them.

If you think I'm going to pick up their check, though, let me repeat myself, just so you can't claim later that you were unaware of it: Ain't Gonna Happen. I didn't borrow the money, they did. I'm not going to pay it back, which means that either they're going to have to pay it back themselves or that it isn't going to be paid back (three guesses which one).

So you might want to look into legitimate investment opportunities instead of the US government's fly-by-night scams. I'm just sayin' ...

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Based on his demonstrated abilities as an intelligence analyst ...


... Joseph Farah should probably consider applying for work as a janitor somewhere.

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