Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Reviving America

There was a young woman in our town recently, Alex Svoboda. [...] She was badly beaten by the police in North Providence when she was protesting for some workers who weren't receiving their human rights. And I’m actually friends of her parents. They live here in Lincoln. And I saw the pictures of her, you know, sitting on the ground with her leg twisted behind her. And I know how long she’s been in the hospital in the ICU and have heard wrenching stories from her parents. And it reminded me of this story--I don't know if you remember it--that James Baldwin told. But he had left this country, didn't care for America. It wasn't good to blacks, and it wasn’t good to gay men. And he had moved to Paris, where he was having a great time, very respected, very admired. He never planned to come back to the States. And then the Birmingham bombing occurred, and he said he would return to the States and work for civil rights. And his line, which I remember very well, is “I will not let the Civil Rights Movement be carried on the back of four-year-old girls.” And so, another influence for me in the last couple weeks, thinking about my decision, was I was thinking about Alex Svoboda, this young idealistic girl who’s trying to protect workers from working a hundred hours a week for less than minimum wage and about her lying in a hospital all broken up. And I was thinking it’s not fair that we ask our twenty-year-olds to do all the fighting. We sixty-year-olds, we people who have a little authority, we should be on the front lines with these issues. [...]

For everyone in America, I have a different agenda, and that is, at some point in this country we all started to feel hopeless, and we all started to think that there was really nothing we could do, that we were too weak and we were too small and we just had to lie down and let the government and the different forces that were knocking us down just roll right over us. And my own feeling about that is, the best antidote to that kind of despair is get to work. And I believe everybody in America has something important they can do that will make a difference. And so, that's what I really want to see happen.

I’ve had a lot of young people come up to me -- in fact, I’ve had calls from all over the world by now, and everybody is saying, “What you did gave me hope.” And I think what every one of us does gives other people hope. And we can all do that. And we can start to regain our belief in this country as a competent country, as a decent country, as the beacon on the hill that it’s been historically now for 300 years.

Excerpt of interview with Dr. Mary Pipher, author of Reviving Ophelia

Monday, August 27, 2007

Robert Reich and Robber Barons

Cody's Books presents an evening with Robert Reich, former Clinton administration official and now professor of public policy at UC Berkeley. Mark your calendars for Monday, September 10th.

Mr. Reich will be speaking on the subject of his new book, supercapitalism, or what I prefer to label "extremist capitalism"

Modern Western societies are stumbling toward democracy. Along the way, the divine right of kings has been craftily transformed into the divine right of corporations to destroy local economies as well as destroy entire planetary ecosystems.

This is no joke. The cold, hard science is there to draw a picture of both climate doom and an ever-increasing frequency and severity of war for natural resources. If you think the War in Iraq is bad, just wait a few decades for the real war over oil to fire up. Denial is a river in Egypt (Mark Twain).

The faceless corporations wielding bulldozers in the Amazon are the terrorists you don't hear about on CNN.

We cannot go on living a lie promulgated by corporate media, the government, and the chamber of commerce. There will be no future whatsoever for humankind if we continue pretending there is no end to oil or no end to tropical forests, and believing the corporate lies that "extremist capitalism" is benign.

We are living in an era of the new aristocracy--the aristocracy of megacorporations. The top two hundred corporations have greater assets than 80 percent of the present world population of 6.6 billion people combined. The inequities are not just in Mexico or the Sudan. In the US, the wealthiest one percent own 75 percent of the land. Land reform, and decentralization of power from the corporate elite is not a concept limited to the third world.

Democracy has always been subversive to the centralization of power and wealth, for wealth is accumulated through the disproportionate centralization of power over public policy and law. The rule of law remains the rule of the elite in the US. We've got work to do as we fumble toward democracy. The Robber Barons of modern society would like us not only to believe otherwise, but controls the media to assure the uniformity, or "manufactured consent" (to use the title of a book by Herman and Chomsky) of the professional class.

Abuse of power will never be acknowledged by those who abuse power. The news will never appear on CNN or a Rupert Murdoch newspaper. Recognizing modern media as corporate propaganda isn't that much of a stretch considering that the media is run by the likes of General Electric and a tiny handful of media moguls. Corporate media reflects corporate interests. No big leap of logic there, but we're all instilled with the assumption from infancy onward that what is good for Wal-Mart is good for America. Not.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

New Apples in Store - September 5th

Apple will announced new products on September 5th. What exactly is the fodder of rumor mills. New iPods are thought likely, but many pundits are expecting something more substantial such as a scaled-down iPhone model. Something is up down in Cupertino. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Half a Trillion + One Million = One Emmigration

Anyone have a relative or friend in Canada? I am leaving the country if I get half the chance.

The US government has spent upwards of 450 million dollars (and shows no signs of stopping the hemorrhaging) on killing people in Iraq. The total dead in Iraq is difficult to estimate but the numbers are closing in on 1 million, a significant proportion were children.

We learned nothing from Vietnam. Two high school buddies were killed there for the sole propose of carrying on a war against poor brown people. Doug, and Lance, I haven't forgotten you. Back then, I had just enough youthful comprehension of US government propaganda to avoid the draft with student deferments, and avoid it further when the draft lottery was instituted. I got lucky, or did I? My next-door neighbor moved to Canada in the early seventies to avoid the draft. Maybe I would have been better off if I'd been drafted because I would have followed him north.

I'm ready to go now. I'm a slow learner, but just give me a decade or two, or three, and I'll eventually get the picture. When then President Johnson said:
"Without superior air power America is a bound and throttled giant, impotent and easy prey to any yellow dwarf with a pocket knife."
As an eighteen-year-old torn by pressure toward "patriotism" and having been abandoned by my father the year before, without an honorable external moral compass, I did well enough to comprehend that the vast, ubiquitous, messages from TV and newspapers didn't gibe with reality. I was just a kid who grew up in a tiny town in southern New Mexico. Our family moved to Los Angeles when I was ten but I was really just a hick in tight white jeans in hip L.A. trying to fit in. Fitting in then meant "my country, right or wrong" and images of John Wayne leading the heroic charge to defeat the "yellow peril." It wasn't until much, much later that I learned that the Japanese were just people, fallible people like the rest of us, who were emulating the British. If the British can conquer and subjugate India and half of the Middle East and Africa, what better role model?

Well, the Vietnamese were not the Japanese. They hadn't shown any signs of landing on the beach at Santa Monica. We still went to the beach at Santa Monica and Venice. The amusement park Pacific Ocean Park was still there. I didn't' see any signs of Vietnamese landing onshore to capture the hot dog stands or take over Muscle Beach. I knew then, without having the capacity to articulate the political dynamics, that the US "news" media---had nothing to do with news and everything to do with convincing teens like myself to go half way around the world to kill people. Teens. My best friend was killed in Vietnam before he was old enough to vote. I shook hands with Robert Kennedy in '68, but I couldn't vote, either.

In Iraq, the dead and maimed US soldiers were old enough to vote; a lot of good that was. At least in Iraq, they're fighting for something. When the US is done with it, the oil will be stolen. Iraqi oil is being divvied up between US and British oil corporations now. In Vietnam, they didn't have anything worth stealing. Maybe this is how modern progress is measured.

The average American citizen is incredibly stupid regarding foreign affairs, not for lack of intelligence, but by the sheer weight of mass-media propaganda and the intentionally bad public schools. That's a very provocative statement. I include myself in there. I'm American, too--at least for now.

It's not just we citizens, either. Senators Joseph Biden and Carl Levin have made incredibly stupid statements recently. They both think they know what Iraqis need and how to fix their internal civil strife. Both Biden and Levin are astonishingly stupid. There is no other word for it. The American people aren't stupid. They're purposely misinformed. The only thing the Iraqis need is for the US invasionary forces to stop killing Iraqis and get out of their country. The book was written years ago. PCs for Dummies. Macs for Dummies. Dating for Dummies. War for Dummies.

The most powerful step citizens can take is to consider that we really don't know anything meaningful about foreign cultures and US imperialism. In school, we were taught that Manifest Destiny was limited to stealing California from the Indians and Mexicans. Manifest Destiny: The World. Wolf Blitzer is lobotomized eye candy. That's not information. It's propaganda. What little we were taught in public schools and from endless hours of TV was jingoist at best, and scandalously racist at its worst. We were the TV generation raised on the Lone Ranger and Philip Morris. Our entire generation was a social experiment in the childhood developmental effects of the new media: Corporate TV.

Most of my adult life has been devoted to unlearning what I learned in school, as Mark Twain said more famously. That's not far from the facts. What is far from the facts is the official school-version of US foreign involvements beginning with the Spanish American War. How many students were taught that the US military promised the Philippine people independence in 1898, then immediately betrayed that commitment? US troops killed an estimated one million Filipinos, subjugating the people to American colonial rule for the next half century. More recently, how many teens on the street, if asked, would know how many Vietnamese were killed by the US military during the Vietnam War? How many adults know? Why don't they know? They're intelligent people, no less intelligent than the Vietnamese. They don't know because they weren't taught anything of substance in public schools or on TV. An entire generation was no longer a cohort of citizens, but rather enter the new packaged person: The Consumer.

The US government has never apologized to the Vietnamese for the war, and never paid the promised reparations, either. Only in America can a war criminal run for president. Senator McCain is a war criminal responsible for killing defenseless Vietnamese. Instead of living a life of shame and pubic ridicule, he's a proud presidential candidate. Something is seriously wrong with this picture.

Well, that's part of growing up. Knowing that "the picture" isn't what it seems. Smoke and mirrors. When Henry Kissinger---responsible for the deaths of uncounted humans in Vietnam and in Cambodia, and in Laos---received a Nobel Prize for peace---I knew something was seriously wrong with this picture.

Anyway, I am at last, all grown up now and ready to move to Canada. Seriously. If you have a relative or friend who will provide a track to a visa, I will pack my bags. No joke.

To answer my own question, an estimated two million Vietnamese were killed during the American invasion of Vietnam. Invasion is a term the US press never uses with respect to US military activities. We never invade any country. We're just "defending democracy." During the past 50 years, the US government, in the form of overt military action or covert CIA action, is responsible for (or participated in) overthrowing 50 governments, including duly-elected democracies (Iran 1953, etc. etc.). The Vietnamese still suffer from deaths related to this war in the form of landmines that continue to kill and maim indiscriminately. The environmental and health effects of Agent Orange in Vietnam has never been acknowledged by the US government. Something is wrong with this picture.

Anyone want to bet that Bush will invade Iran and also direct the CIA to topple the Chavez government in Venezuela? Chavez is especially dangerous to "US interests" because Hugo Chavez is acting in the public interest of poor Venezuelans. What would happen if the notion that elected officials in the US were expected to act here, in this country, in the public interest?

The US government doesn't represent me and my world. I share no common interests with the government; I've disregarded my assigned social identity. I buy, therefore I am.

Modern democracy is where one can choose from a dozen flavors of spaghetti sauce at Wal-Mart, but only one flavor of power at Washington-Mart.

Handy iPhoto Tool

iPhoto Library Manager is a handy tool for managing photos on your Mac. Adding functionality to iPhoto, iPhoto Library Manager permits splitting of lPhoto libraries into multiples, and storage of photos on external hard drives or network devices such as an NAS (network attached storage).

Monday, August 20, 2007

Beyond E-mail Surveillance

As mentioned here previously, recent acts by the US Congress permit government monitoring of e-mails, chat, VOIP telephone calls, and other electronic communications that are sent from the US to any foreign destinations. Further developments on domestic spying by the US government on US citizens was noted earlier today by Democracy Now:
Congressional Democrats are acknowledging President Bush’s broad new spying powers approved this month could be even more extensive than initially claimed. Ambiguous language defining “electronic surveillance” means the so-called Protect America of 2007 Act could go well beyond wiretapping to permit physical searches and financial record-gathering -- all without court approval. The admission comes amidst news the Bush administration has privately said it won’t be held to those limits the legislation does set on surveillance activities. The New York Times reports Justice Department officials refused repeated entreaties to commit to following Congressional rules at a private meeting last week. Participants in the meeting say assistant attorney general for national security Ken Wainstein told former Justice Department lawyer Bruce Fein the administration does not consider itself bound by Congressional restrictions.
My understanding of this matter is that the government can now enter your home to take computers and physical documents—without a court order. Beyond the legislation itself, Bush administration officials have stated that they will ignore legislation, proceeding with domestic spying as they so please.

Tracking public policy issues related to electronic surveillance matters is conducted by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Center for Democracy and Technology, among others.

Here's an NPR story on how the US government will be using satellites to spy on Americans at home. You thought that backyard barbecue was just a simple affair? Smile, you're on candid camera.

Spying by "the government" is increasingly contracted out to private business firms, now expanded to the tune of a billion dollars. What data are they collecting, who sees it, and what are they doing with it? Check The Spy Who Billed Me blog for further information.

In other related news, the FTC will hold a town hall meeting on the matter of "behavioral advertising" where web search engines record and store web searches by individuals ostensibly for marketing purposes.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Buy a Mac, Get a Free iPod Promotion

Apple has an iPod rebate program for new purchases of certain desktop Macs. Some Mac purchases are also eligible for a free (albeit cheap) inkjet printer.

See the Apple website for details.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

New Feature: Socially Responsible Computing and Consulting

The news is filled with decisions made by government and megacorporations that affect the home office consultant.

Computing technology does not exist inside a technical bubble. The world of events surrounding communications is constantly changing due to decisions and events within the spheres of political and private corporations. Information about computing technology is more meaningful and useful within the broader context.

I shall report from time to time on such events that move me, and may be pivotal to that body of knowledge useful to acting in the public interest.

I shall not remain silent. Silence is in service to the abuse of power.

In news reported today by Democracy Now!, in separate incidents the CIA and Diebolt Corporation have been documented doctoring articles in Wikipedia. As is well known, the IP address of anyone editing a Wikipedia article is recorded. IP addresses of both sources, CIA and Diebolt, have been recorded by WikiScanner.

Reportedly, the CIA changed the Wikipedia entry for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmenidijad. Diebold Inc apparently deleted facts about campaign contributions made by the Diebold CEO to G. W. Bush.

Henceforth, one suspects that the CIA and other powerful vested interests will have the common sense not to log in to Wikipedia from the office. These incidents indicate remarkable stupidity, considering that the CIA is ostensibly sophisticated at subterfuge.

The down side is that the factual accuracy of Wikipedia is in question. Wikipedia can be a useful source of many types of information, but anything related to public policy matters is now highly suspect.

This isn't the first, or last time, powerful interests used overt propaganda techniques to shape public opinion. As recent as 2003, McDonald's openly petitioned Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary to change the definition of McJob (low-paying, dead-end work), according to BBC News.

In a study by the Canadian news source, The Globe and Mail, they discovered that 11,000 changes to Wikipedia originated from Canadian government offices as recorded by WikiScanner. They reported that, "a significant number of edits were made to articles about politicians that removed criticisms, added positive comments and, in some cases, inserted negative comments to the pages of political rivals." According to the same source, several US congressional staffers are now known to have made changes to Wikipedia articles of political rivals.

Clearly, Wikipedia is not a reliable source of information on socially controversial issues.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Microsoft Office Update 11.3.7

Microsoft released Mac Office Update 11.3.7 today, Version 11.3.7 fixes a vulnerability that an attacker can use to overwrite the contents of your computer's memory with malicious code.

The update can be had through the Office Update Utility.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

We Now Interupt Our Regularly Scheduled Program...

We now interrupt our regularly-scheduled program for this important announcement from CONELRAD...

The concept of a national information superhighway is dead--in the United States. Touted by technology geeks and politicians alike only a few years ago, the goal to bring high-speed Internet access to Americans of all economic and geographic persuasions has been replaced by the utopia of corporate monopolization. The "Information Superhighway" modelled figuratively after the interstate highway system initiated during the Eisenhower administration will never materialize, according to a recent essay by Robert Cringely, Game Over. While King George and Congress were busy conducting a now-routine extension of the American Corporate Empire in the Middle East under the usual government-inspired false pretenses, at home, Congress converted a little thing like the Information Superhighway into a Corporate Monopoly Internet Toll Road.

Such a move centralizes information distribution in the hands of a few mega-corporations, thus damaging democracy, and pushing the U.S. far behind much of the rest of Western Europe and Japan in terms of public broadband access. By any quantitative analysis, the US is not anywhere near the top in global Internet access. Oh well, corporate health care, corporate Internet--privatize anything in the interest of protecting American corporate interests. Enter the Dark Ages of the American Empire. Anything and everything in the public interest is now branded as dangerous socialism, while universal health care and universal Internet access become disparaged as elements of the decidedly unmacho "nanny state" or "welfare handout."

More accurately, I argue that the U.S. is now the most extensive corporate welfare state in human history. Never before has so much money been funneled out of the dwindling middle class and into corporate monopolies ranging from the likes of robber baron Bill Gates to war-business Haliburton. Never have so many been swindled by so few, so thoroughly, through such persistent corporate propaganda passed off as "education" and "news."

In other news this week, the number of people now online in China surpassed that in the U.S.. Increasingly, if we do not fix the farce that we call democracy here, the rest of the world will soon leave us behind, or worse yet, far more immoral violence will be employed by the government in the Orwellian name of "protecting democracy" in the interest of extending the American Empire abroad. In the throes of xenophobia and jingoist distractions, corporations have stolen the Information Highway.

Remain silent.

Silence is the forge of fascism. The professional class, whether Germany in 1937 or the U.S. in 2007, are trained to remain silent, in service to power. To speak out is to lose "professional" status. This is the bane of modern civilization. The most serious mistake of historical interpretation would be to consider Nazi Germany as an anomaly of human social behavior. As Herman intimated, social power may be defined as the clout to "normalize the unthinkable." What Bush can do is spew lies directly into sycophantic corporate TV cameras, and claim that the U.S. does not employ torture, all with impunity. This can only be accomplished within the institutional contexts of complicity to deception. The role of public education is to produce a professional class that functions in service to power, first within the context of the corporation. It is no small matter that the most influential institutions in America today are fundamentally anti-democratic. The corporate workplace is a model of tyranny, devoid of democracy, managed by an unelected board of directors, and a training ground for "good citizenship"in the form of obedience to power. The highest form of corporate citizenship is functioning as a "team player."

The silence of the professional class in Nazi Germany was based on the standard role of the professional class as found in any Western society. Angry people are cast as "bad" or "evil" people by the power elite in corporate-dominated societies--they're not "team players." Whether one examines Stalinist Russia or Bushist U.S., the high social status of the professional is maintained by feigning independence through silence. The social climate for meaningful discourse on serious public policy issues is thus iced. The professional elite silenced through maintenance of class status; the poor silenced by their invisible status in the corporate media. The First Amendment becomes neutered through the power of the institutions controlled by the apparatchik professional class-- news media monopolies (TV, newspapers, radio) and public education, most notably. For the press to question assertions made by powerful interests--whether the President of the U.S. or a corporate CEO--is perceived as unseemly, undignified, and unprofessional. The role of the professional journalist in Western democracies is to provide happy-talk news. After all, a journalist is not a team player otherwise. The so-called serious news sources such as CNN, the New York Times, and the Washington Post are not immune to this affliction. A corporate journalist learns that professional promotions are not had by questioning corporate authority. Institutions that in practice reward complicity and subservience to power within the institution cannot expect to question power outside of the institution. There is no conspiracy; a process of self-selection operates to sort those who stay on, learning the rules, and prospering within, whereas those who do not adopt the principles of complicity to power, leave. Thus, CNN ends up with the likes of a Wolf Blitzer, who represents an astonishing achievement of lobotomized naivete that could never be consciously planned by management. The structure and function of social systems manufacture the professional class. Mark Twain said it more succinctly, Circumstances make man, not man circumstances.

One means to fix one social inequality in the U.S. would be to bring back the military draft as Congressman Conyers has suggested. The one difference between now and 1967 is that only the poor kids get killed in Iraq. True, during the Vietnam War mostly it was the poor kids like some of my high school buddies who were killed for the corporatocracy, but the American warfare on brown people was much more the equal opportunity enterprise than it is today.

Putting the rich kids in line down at the draft board tomorrow would transform the social dynamics of the silent elite. The veneer of social aloofness can only be maintained when the poor pay the price of empire. When the risk is more equitably distributed throughout society, the utopia of American-sponsored corporate empire harvested on the graves of the poor becomes supplanted by the "suits" taking to the streets in protest. Protest? Tres chic!

Meanwhile, back on the Internet ranch, the cable and telco monopolies own the physical infrastructure of modern communication. If you think this doesn't matter, think on this one: During the past weekend, an Internet webcast of the well-known rock group Pearl Jam was censored by AT&T. The voice of the lead singer was intentionally muffled as he moved into lyrics urging the impeachment of George Bush. Hmmmm...

We now return you to our regularly-scheduled program intended to waste your precious time with diversionary entertainment and happy-talk McNews...

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

New iMac, New iLife, New iWork

Today, Apple unveiled new iMacs that offer faster processors, faster ports, video out, and a thinner, recyclable glass and aluminum case. A redesigned ultrathin keyboard follows suit. The 17-inch model has been dropped from the lineup as 20- and 24-inch models reign while offering an improved, faster graphics card and larger capacity hard drives within. Highly recommended.

Also new and different: iLife '08 with totally redesigned iMovie and revamped iPhoto. The Apple office software package iWork was also upgraded, now including a spreadsheet. DotMac is now integrated with iPhoto and iPhone, permitting the user to upload photos to iPhone.

Upgrades are found in iWeb, iDVD,and GarageBand, too.

Brave New Internet

America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter, and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves. ~Abraham Lincoln

The U.S. Congress approved a bill today that will change the way we use the Internet. Urged by "Boy Emperor" Bush, the current FISA domestic spy bill permits Mr. Gonzales (the Attorney General) to spy on American citizens with no cause---just because the government feels like it.

E-mail, instant message chats (this means iChat), Internet relay chats, VOIP phone calls made through a personal computer (Skype), cell phone calls, and landline phone calls that connect with people outside of the U.S. borders can now be tapped for no reason whatsoever.

This means if you use your personal computer in the privacy of your own home to chat with a relative in Canada, or the UK, or Japan, or wherever, your chat session can be monitored by American spies spying on Americans---you. With the enactment of this new law (as I understand it--I'm not an attorney) the government is no longer under any obligation to provide just cause to a judge that you are a terrorist suspect. From now onward, every U.S. citizen can be treated under the communications law as a suspected criminal. Computer-tap first; ask questions later.

The U.S. government can now monitor most any communication that arises from your personal computer that is destined to arrive outside the United States , all done without your knowledge and without demonstrating just cause.

I play the social role of "just the computer guy" and therefore I'm supposed to act dumb. I'm prepared to remove the mask now. If this new law doesn't scare you, nothing will. We now have a government run by a Republican president and a Democratic Congress--both of which are in service to fascism. The wishes of the citizens are meaningless. Voting--has no meaning. Political parties--have no meaning. Words--have no meaning. The Press--has no credibility because they have replaced "public service" with service to corporate profits. Schools teach that blind obedience is patriotism.

And so here we are--stuck in a failed democracy. It's just one big totalitarian lie. So, the next time you start up your personal computer, "Welcome to the Brave New Internet."

Historically, the most terrible things--war, genocide, and slavery--have resulted from obedience, not disobedience. ~Howard Zinn

...and lastly, a link to an enormously funny and equally accurate essay by Gore Vidal outlining the end of The Enlightment, President Jonah.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Apple iTunes 7.3.2 Released

Apple released bug fixes for iTunes in version 7.3.2. Download via Software Update.

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