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    • Cold War 2.0 Incoming
      Right, with the ban on Huawei using chips made with American manufacturing equipment (one of America’s last few places of absolute advantage); the bans of TikTok, Tencent and WeChat; the attempt to convince other countries to not use Huawei 5G; the arrest of the Huawei founder’s daughter for doing business with Iran along with the […]
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Weird Weather Weekend Open Thread

What Oklahoma looks like today (photo by Native1)

Another snowy view from Native1

It’s a weekend for strange weather. We’ve had heavy snow down south, and way below normal temperatures up here in New England. Dakinikat said it was only about 38 degrees down in New Orleans today. My aunt lives down on the coast in Alabama, and they only had temperatures in the 40s. Our Virginia Conflucians have had heavy snow today too. Here’s the picture that Indigogrrl took of her barn this morning.

I’ve always found weather exciting. Even though I don’t love dealing with snow and ice, I still find big snowstorms kind of thrilling, and there is a nice feeling I get when I know I’m snowed in and don’t have to go out till the storm is over. I love thunderstorms too. I was born in Fargo, North Dakota, in the middle of a terrible blizzard. My mom actually had to go to the hospital a day early because the doctor was afraid if they waited, she wouldn’t be able to get there.

I’ve heard stories about extreme weather from my parents all my life. Maybe that’s where my fascination with weather comes from. My mom often talked about having to dig a tunnel out of the front door of their house back in Hope, North Dakota, in order to get to school. And my mom has talked about the time the temperature went up over 120 degrees, in 1934. That same year in the winter it got down to 60 below 0. That is still a record for extreme temperatures in one location in a year, and it is still the hottest year on record in the U.S. Those were the dustbowl days. My mom says the dust storms were horrible. I found this photo on-line. I’m not sure where it was taken.

In Fargo, where my dad grew up, they have periodic floods when the Red River overflows its banks. Those can get really bad. In 1997, a flood completely destroyed Grand Forks. Much of the downtown burned and had to be rebuilt.

Grand Forks after the 1997 flood and fire

This picture was taken in Fargo during the big flood a couple of years ago.

A dog looking at the swollen Red River in Fargo

My first fully conscious experience with extreme weather came when I was three years old. We lived in Iowa then, and we experienced a tornado. I still have a picture of my three-year-old self sitting on a huge fallen tree. The next year, we moved to Kansas where I was exposed to extreme heat. Many of my memories of Kansas involve us kids playing outside on 100-degree afternoons while our parents took shelter inside. I’ll never forget the day it went up to around 115 degrees and the heat broke the big thermometer in downtown Lawrence. Of course there were the usual pictures in the paper of people frying eggs on their sidewalks. Here’s a classic of the genre.

Hot enough to fry eggs on the sidewalk!

Here in New England we get some pretty extreme weather at times–though not as extreme as the hurricanes down south, the tornadoes in the midwest, or 40-below-zero days they get up in the north country where I was born. But we get some wild nor’easters–those can be really bad, and if they come in the winter it can mean a blizzard with a couple of feet of snow. In February of 1978, Governor Dukakis had to close down the entire state for a week because of the terrible blizzard we got. Here’s a shot of a highway north of Boston after the ’78 blizzard.

Of course New England weather is notoriously unpredictable, and we never know when we’ll get a snow or ice storm in April or even May In the late summer and fall, we often get the tail-end of hurricanes, and once in awhile we get a full-blown hurricane. One October in the 80s we lost our electricity for a week because of a hurricane–I think it was Gloria.

This is an open thread, but if you’d like to share your extreme weather stories, please do.

Halleluja! LOST returns on Tuesday! OPEN THREAD

I don’t know about you, but I’m giddy with excitement over the return of LOST; and while it’s the final season, I’m realllllly looking forward to more answers than questions.

Any other LOST fans out there?  What are your theories for this final season?

For the rest of you, this is an OPEN THREADWhat’s got you giddy today?

Oh…and for any Micheal Buble’ fans out there (gosh,…I can’t be the only one) he’s on Saturday Live tonight. Sing it Michael!

By the way, the lovely blond in this video is his new fiance’ Luisana Lopilato, in case you’re interested. — and yes, I’m a goofball.

Saturday Morning News and Views

Good Morning Conflucians!!!! It is 3 degrees here in the Boston western suburbs!!

Nevertheless, we are better off than you guys in the southern states where there is a winter storm going on. Yesterday, Texas and Oklahoma got about a foot of snow, and today the storm will move east into the Carolinas and Virgina and then out to sea.

California Conflucians are getting a break from the storms, but the state still needs more to end the long-term drought.

Our economics-challenged President is threatening to veto spending bills (except money for wars, banks, and insurance companies), because he thinks cutting the deficit is as important as creating jobs. I wonder when he’s going to figure out that the U.S. economy is dependent on consumer spending; and if people don’t have jobs, it’s kind of hard for them to buy things. Since he never held a full-time job before getting elected President and all his friends are rich corporate types, he doesn’t quite get what us ordinary people are so worried about.

“Like any cash-strapped family, we will work within a budget to invest in what we need and sacrifice what we don’t,” Obama said. “And if I have to enforce this discipline by veto, I will.”

In an effort to make a dent in the growing federal deficit, White House officials announced earlier this week that their budget proposal would keep non-military discretionary programs at fiscal 2010 levels (Greenwire, Jan. 26). The proposal would exempt some of the largest parts of the federal budget including defense and entitlement programs, such as Social Security and Medicare.

It will be up to Congress to decide whether to comply with this request in its spending bills, and Obama pled with them last night to toe the line — addressing critics from his own party and calling the effort vital to keep markets in line and avoid increases in the cost of borrowing.

I guess Obama thinks he can solve our economic problems by creating jobs in the military and defense industries. Maybe he is hoping a lot of us will go to work for Blackwater? I don’t know what he’s thinking, but I like Joseph Cannon’s idea of replacing Geithner with our own Dakinikat.

Eric Holder has been taking a lot of criticism from the right for locating the 9/11 conspiracy trial in New York City, and now he will be getting critiques from not non-Obots on the left. The Justice department review has cleared the Bush torture memo writers of professional misconduct.

Previously, the report concluded that two key authors—Jay Bybee, now a federal appellate court judge, and John Yoo, now a law professor—violated their professional obligations as lawyers when they crafted a crucial 2002 memo approving the use of harsh tactics, say two Justice sources who asked for anonymity discussing an internal matter. But the reviewer, career veteran David Margolis, downgraded that assessment to say they showed “poor judgment,” say the sources. (Under department rules, poor judgment does not constitute professional misconduct.)

By this time everyone should be aware that the Obama administration is not going to hold anyone accountable for planning or participating in torture. Continue reading

Open Thread: Hillary Loses Her Shoe, But Keeps Her Cool

Hillary is all over the “style sections” this evening. On her way to visit French President Sarkozy, she stepped right out of one of her shoes. But she never lost her cool!

Does anyone else have some cheerful news you’d like to share? I think we could all use some smiles and laughter tonight, don’t you?

And feel free to break out the wine, beer, or spirits.

Nitecap and the Marquise de Merteuil

You guys probably have a head start on me.  I just got home from work after spending hours on a frakin’ Excel spreadsheet.  I HATE Microsoft.  Every app is so damn kludgy.  I need a drink.  Rico!  Some tequila please?

In the meantime, let me direct your attention to this excellent smack down of Sally Quinn by Bob Somerby titled The Wages of Quinn.  Somerby dissects Quinn’s most recent column where the Queen Bee of DC threatens the Obama’s with her own personal brand of divine retribution for being lousy hosts.  “Pretty nice administration you got there.  Wouldn’t want anything to *happen* to it.”  As Somerby points out, Sally and her droogs don’t pick on Republicans for being celebrity struck social climbers like the Reagans or intellectual and sleepy boors like the second round of Bushes.  She saves her attacks, and at this point, they seem awfully close to domestic terrorism, for Democrats.  Clinton really frosted her crockies because right after his first election, he called her and the Villagers on their little cliquey games.  Quinn holds a grudge and her vengeance knows no boundaries of decorum.

I don’t know why Sally gets away with it except that she’s married to Ben Bradlee.  She sounds to me like a frustrated woman who should have been a CEO of something but was born 30 years too soon.  So, she is forced to channel her intelligence and thwarted ambition into middle school variety power plays that are approved by her class as being appropriate for her gender and station.  Oooo, the shackles of conformity must be rubbing her raw after sooo many years.  Nevertheless, she will not be ignored.  But someday, probably soon, she will be discarded.  Everyone gets old, eventually.  She will be replaced by a newer version of herself.

In the meantime, she’ll continue to scheme and stab people in the back and help the Villagers take down another Democrat.  Hey, Obama’s a pretty weak president.  It’s not going to be hard for Sally and her posse to take him down.  I’m just sick of people indulging in ruining other people for sport.  Besides, Obama’s doing a pretty good job of ruining himself without Sally’s help.

Someday, I hope Sally gets what’s coming to her.  In my fantasy, it goes a little bit like this:

Thursday: So, there was a speech (and other news).

First of all, I don’t get this at all. I think Joan Walsh is just so desperate to say something nice she’s forgotten that by “spine” most of us mean something more than a lame joke:

Finally, some spine

In case he wasn’t fully aware Republicans are impervious to his political charm, President Obama saw it early in his first State of the Union address. After ticking off a list of taxes he’d lowered, the chamber was in cheers — except for the GOP side of the aisle, where traditionally tax-cutters have clustered. Obama smiled and ad-libbed, “I expected some applause for that one.”


Howard Zinn, dissident historian, dead at 87

The cause was a heart attack, his daughter Myla Kabat-Zinn said.

Published in 1980 with little promotion and a first printing of 5,000, “A People’s History” was, fittingly, a people’s best-seller, attracting a wide audience through word of mouth and reaching 1 million sales in 2003. Although Professor Zinn was writing for a general readership, his book was taught in high schools and colleges throughout the country, and numerous companion editions were published, including “Voices of a People’s History,” a volume for young people and a graphic novel.


Really? Oh, Really? I’m surprised they can get anyone in the airport, much less on a plane!

Iata says airlines suffered ‘worst year’ in 2009
Despite the improvement at the end of 2009, Iata said 2010 would be a tough year for airlines the world over.


Tampering — Bugging . . . What exactly is the difference?

The Landrieu Phone Case: Not A Bugging After All?
It’s still a mystery what exactly filmmaker James O’Keefe and his companions intended to do when they allegedly arrived at Landrieu’s office. But the accurate way to describe what allegedly happened would be attempted phone tampering.

The four men (one of whom was reportedly picked up in a car outside) were charged with entering federal property under false pretenses for the purpose of committing a felony — specifically, “maliciously interfering with a telephone system operated and controlled by the United States of America,” according to the affidavit.

Weird.


And the speech? I can’t do any better than this from Talking Points Memo:

Not Quite
Dems: Speech Was Health Care Breakthrough (Really?)

Democrats praised Obama for pushing Congress on health care reform. But neither chamber is ready to blink yet.


These are the stories that caught my eye this morning — what are you reading?

Thursday Morning Open Thread

Some WTF moments from last night’s SOTU extravaganza:

h/t CX4800: Chris Matthews “forgot he was black tonight for an hour.” WTF?! No. Obviously you didn’t forget. Chris Matthews needs to be put out to pasture.

h/t Judge Alito commits a major breech of protocol when he shook his head and mouthed “not true” as Obama talked about the recent SCOTUS decision that Corporations can donate any amount to candidates, according to Glenn Greenwald. Supreme Court Justices are not supposed to show any emotion; they are supposed to be completely unbiased. I guess that tradition ended in 2000.

TPM has a post on how the SCOTUS decision does “open the floodgates” to foreign influence in U.S. elections.

Justice John Paul Stevens didn’t even show up for the SOTU. New York Times Columnist Gail Collins says there are rumors he may retire soon. No, please, nooooooooo!

I also heard that John McCain mouthed “complete bullshit” at one point during the speech. If I find the video, I’ll post it.
Think Progress also saw McCain mouth “blame it on Bush.”

Post SOTU Open Thread

So what did you think? Did President Obama say anything that gave you any hope? Did he say anything that could be true? How many lies did you hear?

Liveblog: President’s State of the Union Address

This time he's serious.

All you non-recovering Conflucians can get a little tipsy while you watch TOTUS and POTUS put their best feet forward for the SOTU. I have to watch it stone cold sober. Here are a couple of places to watch the speech and listen for your trigger words or phrases:

CNN Live

C-Span coverage

Unfortunately, the POTUS has no plan and is afraid to commit to one anyway. Will the Democrats leap to their feet for multiple standing O’s for O anyway? Or will they sit on their hands? Will President Obama say even one thing of substance? We’ll soon find out.

If you can’t stand to listen to the voice of “The One,” here are a couple of good articles to read while following the comments of those of us who force ourselves to watch and/or listen.

Robert Scheer: The Sorry State of the Union

The state of the union is just miserable, no matter how President Obama sugarcoats it. He will claim that progress has been made in stabilizing the markets, increasing national security and advancing toward meaningful health care reform, but he will be wrong on all three counts.

A Duped President’s Wasted Year

The fatal complacency of the Obama White House and Democratic Party leadership concerning last week’s Massachusetts senatorial election outcome, together with that upset’s probable consequences for health insurance reform legislation, produced a drama in which the president has never seemed a player. He has seemed to have never himself known the reforms he actually wanted, leaving it to Congress and the lobbies to fight over whatever legislation they, undirected, might be able to produce….the president recently told Time magazine that he “overestimated our ability to persuade (Israelis and Palestinians to agree to ‘meaningful conversation’) when their politics ran contrary to that.”

This astounding statement by a president of the United States, after nearly 40 years of futile U.S. efforts to convince Israelis and Palestinians to agree—from the time of Henry Kissinger’s “shuttle diplomacy” in the 1970s to the useless 2009 missions to Palestinians and Israelis by George Mitchell—alone disqualifies President Obama as a maker of American Middle Eastern policy.

Ezra Klein: Waiting for Barack

Every Hill office I’ve spoken to in the past week has had the same complaint. “Where,” they ask, “is the White House?”

There’s been no clear message on the way forward for health-care reform. No clear articulation of preferences. No public leadership to speak of. The administration is taking temperatures rather than twisting arms. The White House press team is blasting out speeches where the president says he’ll never stop fighting on health care but pointedly refuses to throw a punch. The president is giving interviews where he seems to endorse paring the bill back and also seems to argue against doing anything of the kind. The daily message has run from banks to freezes, and early leaks suggest that tonight’s speech will focus on education.

According to multiple sources, there’s an easy answer for the confusion: The White House is confused.

And for a change of pace, I was able to find one blog post that put a positive spin on Obama’s first year. You guessed it–at the Cheeto, where there are still a few half-hearted Koolaid drinkers:

Keeping the Faith

Have at it. Document the atrocities….

Technical Corner – The iPad hype edition

There has been so much hype over Apple’s forthcoming tablet offering that I thought it was worth a look. Not just because it may or may not be an interesting product, after all other tablets have been on the market for a while, but how it might effect things we’re interested in including print journalism and book publishing and blogging. Well, that and it might be a nice distraction from the SOTU speech. Oh, and this is my first post. I really meant to do something political first, but time just got away from me. Hope you like it.

Background/Rumors

Rumors of a tablet from Apple have been around for a long time. Since 1983 in fact. A really nice timeline and summary of events can be found in this Engadget article. Some of the speculation and wild Apple fandom has been a bit weird. Walt Mossberg is a technical reviewer at the WSJ and has gained some fame for his reviews. Here is a great spoof of a muppet version of him reviewing the Apple iPad (here called iSlate):

Publishing/Journalism

What I think is interesting though relates to what’s been happening to print journalism and to the book publishing world of late. As we’ve seen, a number of companies are pursuing e-book products from web based for the desktop to small handheld devices like Amazon’s Kindle. In addition, the boom of smart phones have also included e-book capabilities.

There are a number of interesting factors involved with the various offerings that have been worth watching. One is the store model. It would appear from Amazon’s recent changes, followed by Googles, that the iTunes store model has won out. This is a model where there is little in the way between the original creator (of music, applications, books, periodicals, etc.) and the user. And the ratio of 70% to the creator and 30% to the store is shared by most now. There are still music publishers and book publishers in the middle of many offerings, but independents in those areas are gaining ground. And interestingly what I think has made that possible, given the zillions of competing products, is social networking. More specifically it’s the advent of Crowd Sourcing which is one way to manage and make sense of too many offerings. But of course a stores own editorial staff providing reviews and featuring products is probably still a major factor.

The other area that makes a lot of difference in usability is the means of displaying the material on the screen. There are a number of competing screen technologies, and many of these are just emerging. The choice of technology here also depends on what you want  your device to do. If it’s only about reading text, then the current electronic ink based approaches are pretty nice. These e-ink systems require no backlighting and so are easier on the eyes. However if you want a multi-purpose device, then e-ink as it is won’t work because it is too slow at refreshing for complex graphics. There are newer technologies that can function like normal LCD screens, but then can switch to e-ink type screens. This appears to be the most promising for multi-purpose devices, but has a ways to go.

Now back to print publishing and journalism. As we all know, newspapers seem to be dying in the US. They offer their papers for free online using an ad based model for revenue. That is wildly popular. But to the detriment of print subscriptions. And unfortunately many newspaper businesses aren’t set up for an online only business. Previous attempts to charge for online papers has failed. WSJ being the main exception. In the textbook realm, Terry McGraw, McGraw-Hill CEO, Tuesday on CNBC said the following:

Yeah, Very exciting. Yes, they’ll make their announcement tomorrow on this one. We have worked with Apple for quite a while. And the Tablet is going to be based on the iPhone operating system and so it will be transferable. So what you are going to be able to do now is we have a consortium of e-books. And we have 95% of all our materials that are in e-book format on that one. So now with the tablet you’re going to open up the higher education market, the professional market. The tablet is going to be just really terrific.

As much as newspapers might get a boost with this technology, I think e-books is where the action will be. Time will tell though.

Product Review

Today Apple introduced their “latest creation” the iPad:

The new iPad

iPad showing NYT

iPad Contacts Book

iPad Showing Contacts Book

It looks like they’ve done a nice job. We have a new slick gadget to be sure. They’ve nicely integrated audiobooks, music, video, TV/Movies, apps, etc. It has the benefits of mobile platforms which in the end will be the critical thing I think. It has 10 hours of battery life, which is pretty nifty. And similar to other efforts, it’s very green. But what’s interesting now is the e-book application and integration with the newspaper, magazine, and book publishing worlds. (Note: images above thanks to Engadget).

The New York Times has developed an application for the iPad. They’ve made quite a nice interface that, well, makes it really nice to navigate through sections and articles. And they’ve nicely integrated embedded video. They appear to be working with other newspaper publishers to do the same. The question not answered is what the business model will be for NYT. I suspect it will be free for basic stuff and subscription for additional functions like archives, etc. And like current online papers, the ad model will be used.

In the e-book world, they have initial deals with Penguin, HarperCollins, Simon&Schuster, Macmillan, Hachett among others. The iPad has a bookshelf store, iBookStore (of course). And they have a book reader built in, iBooks (of course) that acts as a book reader and book library. Clearly the book and magazine world is where they’ve put most of their effort. Sorry newspapers. The current library of books seem to be in the range of $5 to $15. There is a big effort for educational/text books, so expect to see more there. This appears to be the biggest deal for the show today.

But to me, a big issue is that they’ve added creation related software since the device is powerful enough. So their iWorks product is available for the device. Which means you can use it for blogging, writing, etc. And you can get a hardware keyboard accessory if you like. There were lots of other applications demoed. I quite liked the Brushes demo which allows you to use the device as an art tablet.

And now the requisite price info:

WiFi (only): 16GB – $499, 32GB – $599; 64GB – $699 (available in 60 days)

3G (and WiFi): 16GB – $629, 32GB – $729, 64GB – $829 (available in 90 days, contract with AT&T)

End of the show shows a street sign showing Technology (street) and Liberal Arts (street) and Steve saying they’ve always tried to be at the intersection of technology and liberal arts. OK, completely cheesy. In fact it was a laugh out loud bit.

What does it all mean?

A nice gadget. Perhaps a big deal in the e-book business. Perhaps not. Time will tell. Will it change the world? No. To me though, it’s symbolic of our creativity, ingenuity, and innovation in the face of a horrible economy and seemingly the end of our country as we know it. Unlike our administration and congress, it gives me a bit of hope. But then again, it’s just a gadget, and I’m clearly biased about cool techy gadgets. Tell me what you think.

Update

Just adding a photo that shows off the e-book aspect (the real winner I think):

iBooks on the iPad