Tarheeltalker

The Ultimate Nosy Neighbor?

 Once again, I read about Google in a way that leaves me somewhat disturbed. This time, the words come right from the source, Google CEO Eric Schmidt and they have an ominous ring to them. What makes them so for me is not just their content but the matter of fact way in which they are expressed.

Mr Schmidt  recently did an interview with the Wall Street Journal in which he spoke a lot about money and how the company intends to continue making large sums of said commodity. But there were several other points he made that  could easily be described as Orwellian. In fact, one of the online comments  said it quite well. Not only is Big Brother watching you  but is taking notes as well. How so? Let us examine some of Mr Schmidt’s statements.

Before that, I have an issue that often comes to mind when I think of Google. Why are there not more concerns about their monopolistic position or their domination of their field or fields? They have YouTube, their dominant search engine, Blogger( twice as large as my friends at WordPress)  not to mention  Google Earth and  so on. Sure they have some competition but they are a big gorilla in the industry. If memory serves correct, when Microsoft was quite dominant there were lawsuits filed  screaming antitrust. One of the leading voices was Eric Schmidt as  chief technology officer of Sun Microsystems. Microsoft has also had to deal with those issues in Europe as well. Here, it seems that Europe may be ahead of the game as Spain is now raising issues  with Google.

Mr Schmidt acknowledges the issue  by admitting there  are people  “who are intrinsic oppositionists to everything Google does.” Insert Microsoft here. How does his company intend to combat such charges? Easy, by  making sure that everything  they do is ” good for consumers” and ” fair” for competitors. Doesn’t that sound great ? Certainly, but then woud Google not be the arbiter of the goodness and fairness? But I have digressed fair afield.

My original premise was my concerns about their future. Try these on for size. Mr Schmidt envisions a day when search engines will be passe and what does he say about that? Among other things he envisions a time when Google will not be answering your search questions but rather telling  you what you should be doing next. That, folks, is  something to think about. He continues by saying that because of the info they have about you ” we know roughly who you are, roughly what you care about, roughly who your friends are.”  He adds that there are next generation handheld devices that will be capable  of surprising you with information that you didn’t even know you wanted. Wow, is that not a lot to consider?

Just remember that the Google motto is ” Don’t be evil.”  Guess we will have to continue these lovable folks for they are surely watching us.

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August 18, 2010 Posted by | Business, Technology | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Future of Europe?

This is a subject that   I have been pondering for quite  awhile and  is probably just an initial effort at expressing  some opinions. To me the subject is at once complicated, disturbing and perhaps  a view of  our ( United States ) future.

I am a great fan of political novels, especially those set in our era. Those that depict events similar  to those that are occurring and make reference to actual people and places in the course of their books. I have referred before to Daniel Silva whom I thoroughly enjoy and I have just finished a book by Michael Walsh, Hostile Intent, that addresses some similar issues but from a  quite different perspective. Factored in to my post is a challenging nonfiction book that I have just begun to read. It  is by British author Melanie Phillips  and it its premise dovetails nicely with my fictional reading.

These slightly disparate works all have one word common to them that struck me quite forcefully. That word is Londonistan, which is the title of Ms Phillips book. Walsh mentions and I am fairly certain that Silva does also. Both fictional writers speak heavily of the concept as well.

What is the concept of which they speak? Ms Phillips says it best in the intro to her book. She begins her intro with the London subway suicide bombings of July 7. 2005 and  its implications . She asserts that  it reveals London as the  epicenter ( good Joel Rosenberg word) of Islamic militancy. She uses the word ” Londonistan” which is  a mocking play of the names of London and state sponsors of terrorism such as Afghanistan. You can think of others. She added this chilling detail that one could argue that al-Qaeda actually began in London in the 1980s and 90s. She continues to  talk about Britain in essence turning on itself and attacking its own historical values.

And this next may be the most troubling. There is underway an attempt to establish a separate Muslim identity in the country. This is  in  a country approximately 5% Muslim . So there is a  minority attempting and succeeding in many ways to impose its values on the host country. A tiny but illustrative example is that piggy banks are banned from British banks lest Muslims be offended. Funny, maybe, but not ha-ha funny by any means. British Muslims actually insist they are under Western attack  and blame any wrongdoing by Muslims on others. One more thought before part #1 closes.

 British liberals fear being labeled racist or Islamophobic so Muslim extremism goes somewhat  unchecked and  criticism is against the so-called bigot. The London train bombings were, by this logic, caused by American , Israeli or British policies.

My intent is to refer to Ms Phillips book  again in part #2 as well  as some fictional  references from Walsh and perhaps Silva. As I alluded,  her book is a difficult read for me but I hope to plow through  a bit further.

August 11, 2010 Posted by | International politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Spears to Lohan to Cyrus

It may not have the ring of Tinker to Evers to Chance who comprised 3/4 of the Cubs infield about  100 years ago but it certainly is an example for our day of  what?  Of excess, of too much money far too soon, of parental overkill of   three young women who have and are engaged in a great spectacle of  squandering their talents.

Their ages range from 28 to 24 to 17. Hard to believe since it seems that they have  been in the spotlight forever and in a sense they have. All three  started their careers at very young ages and became successful and wealthy very quickly. Nothing wrong with  that if, and it’s a very big if, they are in the right situations with the right people to  manage all that is swirling around them.

And, the right people may not necessarily be their parents. All three of these young women have had  heavy parental involvement in their careers, If fact, Ms Cyrus’ father was a star in his own right. With his direct involvement in her Hannah Montana  series, one would have thought her  more insulated from some of those things that have befallen Ms Spears and Ms Lohan.

Recent events seem to belie that hope as the photos and the music and the concert tours get ever more edgy and the Hannah Montana series comes to an end. An ongoing European tour has produced  a ” simulated” lesbian kiss on stage, just rockin’ out she calls it and  a flashing her underwear moment at a British show.

The mirror.co.uk had a very interesting statement at the end  of an article entitled ” Looks like the game may be up.”  This is what they said. ”  Hanging on to armies of loyal pre-pubescent fans ( and their moms I might add)  while dressing like  a porn  star  is  tricky business. Behaving like one suggests the game is up.”

For my money, I would prefer she not follow the path she seems to be following.  Two of her most prominent predecessors have not fared so well with the examples of drugs and booze and bizarre  behaviors almost too many to count. My hope is that her path will not head in that direction.

June 7, 2010 Posted by | Culture, Media | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Step away from the sandwich and no one will get hurt

One of my favorite topics on which to comment are the antics of those who claim to know what’s better for you than you do yourself. This  is quite prevalent in the area  of food choices. I wrote most recently  about this on May 2oth regarding efforts by the city manger of San Antonio, Tx to have all sugary foods and beverages removed from city vending machines.

Thanks to World Magazine , I have read of an instance that may just leap to the top of my list. By the way, many of these types of things seem to occur in Europe, where  nanny state   is much more advanced than here in the United States, at least for now. Seems that  there  is  a government-run day care near the city of Manchester and they have certain standards that purport to say what foods are healthy for their charges.

It appears that a cheese sandwich, one of my favorite foods, especially if cheddar is employed, does not meet those standards. Why? What a silly question that is. Because at the Westfield  Children’s Centre, one must have lettuce or tomato on one’s sandwich for it to qualify as healthy. So, the 2-year-old in our story was given  fruit and vegetables as a substitute. Parents were given a  lecture about appropriate food choices. Now, little Jack’s mom has thankfully  removed him from the  daycare lest his ” food rights” be violated again or she commit  yet another gastronomical faux pas.

Stories like this really do offend  me  and I try to make light of them to a degree lest I  get too frustrated. Couldn’t happen on this side of the pond ? Don’t bet against it. Things like this are happening already  and will continue to happen in the name of good health and get ready, saving money on insurance costs. People who eat healthy are less of a drain on the health care system. As health care in some way, shape or form gets more rationed, the pressure will grow on people to eat right, however eating right is defined. could it be said that “unhealthy” foods are the new cigarettes? Wonder where that secondhand smoke will come from though?

May 29, 2010 Posted by | Culture, Health | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Bull Moose

Quite a character was the man from New York. He served as Governor of New York, leader of the Rough Riders in the Spanish-American War, was both an ardent conservationist as well as an avid big game hunter,  ( in this country and abroad) an advocate of the “strenuous life” who preached exercise, activity and more. But he was also a sickly asthmatic child and one  who suffered great physical harm from his frequent reckless behaviors. Incidentally these behaviors  lasted virtually his entire life and undoubtedly contributed to his  early demise at age  61. But, if  anyone’s years were ever packed full, it had to be TR. OR, as he put it, ” good to the last drop.” And you thought Maxwell House made that  up.

By the way, he was also our 26th president and  ran the most successful 3rd part candidacy in our history. But why is he among all the choices enshrined on Mt Rushmore? Author Kathleen Dalton calls him our most fascinating  president and after reading her bio of  him, I would have to agree. He was imperfect, contradictory, often full of himself , judgmental, at times intolerant and never happier than when the full focus was on him.

Dalton posits that he best captures the American spirit self-improvement ( one of his mantras), growth and change. He himself continued to move to the left politically after leaving the White House’ vigorously championing causes such as women’s suffrage, improved working conditions for factory workers( many of whom were children) , and “social justice” in various and sundry forms. He ironically was still all out for our entrance into WWI, even volunteering to go himself. Although that did not happen, his sons fought admirably and one son, Quentin, was killed in Europe. Some speculated that Roosevelt never recovered from that loss. And even prior to that, while he was President he pushed hard for a stronger Navy.

As I write this post and it seems to jump all over the place , I readily see Dalton’s point about TR being such as fascinating Chief Executive. For I have yet to refer to his Nobel Peace Prize of 1905, his mentoring of a young Woodrow Wilson ( with whom he fell out and the two basically accused each other of treason) his nephew  Franklin, whom he greatly encouraged  and so it goes.

And we had the precocious daughter Alice Roosevelt Longworth, from his first wife, Alice, who died when the child ws quite young. His daughter was a firebrand from an early age, maybe one for whom the term precocious is much too mild. And did I mention that he wrote hundreds of magazine articles and numerous books, one of which , African Game Trails, sold a  million copies and this in  the early 20th century.

Although born into wealth and privilege, he never seemed d motivated by money. Perhaps, one of the main driving factors was living up to the standards of Theodore Sr, or Thee as he was known. Better yet, I love the line from his children Kermit and Alice. He always liked to be “the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral.” Well said, indeed.

April 29, 2010 Posted by | History | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

April 12,1945 to August 6,1945

The year 1945 was momentous in an almost unprecedented way. The dates referenced above are not the only events of major significance, but they will suffice for now. April 12 is one of those days that  people would always  remember where they were when they heard the news. President Roosevelt  was dead. The only man to be elected to 4 terms; he was just beginning his 13th year in office when he succumbed to a  stroke and died in Warm Springs, Ga at the age of 63. His death elevated a virtually unknown  man to the Presidency at one of the nation’s most critical junctures. WW II, at least in Europe was drawing to an end but the Pacific theater, another story indeed.

Harry Truman was neither  a Dick Cheney or Joe Biden in terms of power or influence. He was Roosevelt’s 3rd veep  and was not what you would call highly influential or knowledgeable and in fact had only occupied the office for 82 days. Thus he was not really aware of the feverish efforts underway to develop the atomic bomb.

Apparently he came up to speed very quickly since his decision to launch the Enola Gay with the first bomb came less than 3 months after he took office. The decision was made even though it  was by no means universally lauded and was opposed by some 70+ scientists.

I would like to draw  a comparison to the situation in which Mr Truman found himself and  the ongoing process about what should be our next step in Afghanistan. I read excerpts frm  a Eugene Robinson column today that lauded the reasoned approach the President is taking versus the “ready, firm, aim” approach of George Bush. He of course makes the typical comments about  this as  well as Iraq being George Bush’s doing.

I have had the nagging thought for some time about Truman’ s position. It was not his war that he was tasked with completing and it might have been easy or expedient politically to not blame Roosevelt, but  to give either him or his policies part of the “credit” for his controversial decision. I don’t think that he did so. Remember the buck stops here?

My point, which I am not making as well as I would like is not to say the President’s reasoned approach is  all that bad. But, given the fact that this  war was frequently referenced in the campaign, it is not conducive to fall back on the Bush’s war approach.

When he took office, WWII became Truman’s war. We could always the question, if Roosevelt had lived would he have dropped the bomb or bombs?  But it remains a specious question. For good or bad, Afghanistan is Obama’s  war ( hopefully his main adviser is not John  Kerry) and history will doubtless allocate to him the credit if he succeeds.

October 28, 2009 Posted by | History, military, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

They Call The Wind Sharia

Not really, of course, but it just sounded good when I said it, so let  us move  along. Probably most of us have at best at only a limited understanding of what sharia is. We have heard of it , but are probably not quite able to explain it and certainly don’t understand it. Since it is somewhat significant in the Islamic world, it behooves to have a working knowledge at least.

So, what is  it and where is it etc.? Broadly speaking, it is Islamic law based on the Koran. But it is actually more than just law in the sense that we think of it and there are several variations. (Fast fact, the literal meaning of the word is the path to the watering place. ) It guides all aspects of Muslim life including  relgious obligations as well as  familial relations. There are branches that have developed throughout Islamic countries, some being liberal and some conservative. The conservative branch or Hanbali school is dominant in Saudi Arabia and among the Taliban.

Marriage and divorce are the most prominent aspects while criminal punishment is the most controversial. The really severe punishments or Hadd are not often used officially but are resorted to in a vigilante sense.

Now, I realize that this is but  acursory knowledge at best, but I wanted to use this as background in discussing an Obama adviser’s recent comments about loving Sharia.

Her name is Dalia Mogahed and she is the president’s adviser on Muslim affairs. By the way, she sees her job as  “to convey …to the President and other public officials  what it is Muslims want.” Quite a mouthful of food for thought there. But is fits well with comments she made on British television  about Sharia and Islam itself not being well understood. Probably some truth there. She says our view of Sharia law is misunderstood and many Islamic women  support it. Wonder how much choice they have?

Anyway, the show on which she appeared was  hosted by  a member of  Hizb-ut-Tahrir. This group is considered terrorist by many countries and is also an advocate of  Sharia being the source of legislation. She apparently did not counter her hosts in any of their attacks on the West.

Now, I realize that Britain must be more advanced than us when they can have such a broadcast (bet our time is coming) but I would have hoped for a  different approach than she took, more pro western , perhaps.

At the rate things are moving in Europe perhaps we will get to see more and more evidence of Sharia in all its  benefience. Scary, huh?

October 17, 2009 Posted by | Religion | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Nevah, Nevah, Nevah” Forget

Today, we celebrate Memorial Day, although we should be celebrating on May 30. You could almost call it a forgotten holiday or a “mis-celebrated” holiday. It is, alas, thought of most often as the beginning of summer and the vacation season. But, if we pause to remember, it is far, far more.

This is not necessarily a day to celebrate wars. It is a day to honor and remember those who, many on a volunteer basis, gave of themselves and many times gave their all. As the Declaration of Independence so eloquently states”… pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.”

As those men put their all on the line in 1776, the men and women of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard have done so  since the days of the American Revolution, the War of 1812, the Civil War, the Spanish- American War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. As well, there have been  have numerous conflicts, skirmishes, etc where soldiers and  sailors have given their  all.

As one who did not serve, it is somewhat embarrassing to to just say thank you. In itself, it is very inadequate but nonetheless should be said repeatedly.

I close with a small montage of photos in honor and memory of all who have served.

2006- U S Army in Afghanistan

2006- U S Army in Afghanistan

Graves at Arlington on Memorial Day

Graves at Arlington on Memorial Day

Vietnam patrol

Vietnam patrol

1944 - under attack in Europe

1944 - under attack in Europe

So , remember the over 43 million who have served and the almost 700,ooo who have died from the Battle of Bunker Hill to Tikrit and all points in between.

So, today, fly a flag, salute a vet but remember.

Semper Fi, Fair Winds and Following Seas, Duty, Honor, Country and Semper Paratus,Integrity, Service, Excellence.

May 25, 2009 Posted by | History, Holidays | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cold, Colder, Coldest ?

There is currently a dispute between Russia and Ukraine over gas supplies, the heating homes type of gas. Bear in mind, that it is really cold over there right now. Vladimir Putin, the real power in Russia has okay ed Russian energy monopoly Gazprom to cut supplies to Europe by the same amount that the Ukrainians are allegedly stealing. At the heart of the matter, as El Rushbo says, follow the money. On January 1 , the original parties in the dispute failed to agree on a fixed price for 2009 and we now have spreading chaos.

Among the countries affected are Bulgaria, Serbia, Austria, Romania, Croatia and even Britain. There are some signs that things are close to being resolved but at what cost, who knows. And, what are the long term effects of any hardships caused?

And article by Jeremy Warner in the UK Independent makes a telling and chilling( pun intended ) point. Gazprom is a creature of the Kremlin and as such the political and the economic are certainly intertwined. He goes on to say that one definitely does  not want to become beholden for ones energy supply to the big ole bear. Supplies shut of f once can be shut off again with no notice or provocation.

Author Joel Rosenberg in one of his excellent fiction works wrote of such a scenario where Russia could easily hold Europe as an energy hostage. A number of fictional events that Mr Rosenberg wrote about in advance have transpired. We could be looking at the next one .

Just think, energy supplies as a weapon.  Not a pleasant thing to consider.

January 8, 2009 Posted by | Energy, International politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

What in the World

What is happening around us these days . The economy is struggling with foreclosures and repossessions and the like although oil prices and in tandem gasoline prices are declining – yeay . The Olympics are coming on 8-08-08 , such an interesting date to begin . As an aside, the Chinese are saying that they are going to control the rain so as not to interfere with the events ( more on the Games later ). On August 1 , El Rushbo celebrates 20 years on the airwaves . And finally , President Obama has been traveling overseas , Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, Germany and France among others . He isnt president yet you say; from much of what I am reading he sounds like he is and folks over there are acting as if it were so . Examples of comments from the German and French media : Der Spiegel ,”Germany meets the Superstar “, Obamania, Rockbama , president in waiting, president in people’s hearts . Perhaps some of his own comments are worth a listen- citizen of the world, remake the world, etc. It has been very interesting to observe his trip with all the media fanfare and all the highpowered network people interviewing Mr Obama . A couple of telling comments referred to the crowd of 200,000 in Berlin as being the largest of his campaign and another that wondered why his most significant foreign policy speech was taking place overseas . I also thought it somewhat interesting that 1/2 of the cost of the Berlin appearance, about $400,000, was paid by Germany . Wonder how this will play in Peoria and Syracuse and Charlotte and Boise . Stay tuned .

July 25, 2008 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , | Leave a comment