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.


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

Sometimes it’s Hard Being First Lady

The First Lady has finally returned from Spain, but the trip remains quite  a topic of conversation. Many, including yours truly, have sounded off on the trip to one degree or another. From what I read, the White House was really caught off guard by the criticism. But that in itself does not speak very well of the Administration’s political instincts.

To wit, consider these items. The First Lady filmed a commercial a couple of months ago that encouraged Americans to vacation  on the Gulf Coast. The area  is a wonderful place to visit and it would a real boon to the  hard hit economy. Secondly, the President, doing  a passable Jimmy Carter imitation has repeatedly spoken of the need for sacrifice. The economy is bad, we all to tighten our belts, etc, etc. Keep in mind  also the fact that appearances matter quite  a bit. Therefore, when Mrs Obama heads to Spain, daughter in tow and parties at a luxurious Mediterranean resort what is the message being sent? Is she entitled to  vacation with her daughter? Sure, but the pictures one saw of their time there had to be very had to juxtapose with a President demanding sacrifice and an American economy that is not recovering. Was all of the cost paid by the taxpayers, no, but much of it was and much more than a stateside vacation would have cost.

What is amusing, no, not amusing, actually hilarious is how hard the Democrats and their people are working to justify/spin the trip. Just listen to some of the explanations and rationales being offered up. From political guru David Axelrod comes  this. She wanted to take her daughter on  a trip to celebrate another little girl’s birthday and there aren’t a lot of places to go and get privacy. She’s a good mom and wanted to do something with her daughter. From DNC chair Tim Kaine  spouted the same stuff about being a good mom( sounded coordinated a little to me) and added it was a good opportunity to give her daughter exposure to a  part of the world with which she was not familiar. Even better was this ABC reporter Cokie Roberts who even found it necessary to criticize Jacqueline Kennedy  on the side for taking frivolous vacations. This next from her just floored me though. The trip was  a boost to the Spanish economy that it really needed. Ms Roberts, are you really that out of touch? You are aware of course of huge parts of this country that could use an economic boost if that is why she went. And finally this last rationale. Former Chicago Sun-Times writer Lynn Sweet said that the trip was that one of Mrs Obama’s friends was gong through a rough time emotionally and she had promised to spend time with her. Good freakin’ grief! What else can one say?

August 10, 2010 Posted by | Media, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Unique Birthday

Birthdays are usually rather neat events. One celebrates them with family and friends and as a rule, a god time is had by all. Today is the President Obama’s 49th birthday and we wish him well. But it seems that this birthday will not follow the norm. You see, the President  will celebrate this particular birthday in Chicago without his family.

Seems that the First Lady had a previous engagement and will be  on the Mediterranean coast of Spain with her younger daughter in  the Costa del Sol area, aka the Sun Coast. Don’t know the exact name of her hotel, but it is  a 5 star and her party has booked 60 ( originally said to be 30 ) rooms.  I believe she is meeting with King  Juan Carlos, the  country’s head of state, during her visit. Does that make it a diplomatic event and thus taxpayer-funded? Probably so.

Anyway, the President is going to Chicago and staying in his own home. While there he will doubtless catch up with some old friends. Let’s see, probably not former  Gov. Blagojevich but perhaps Mayor Richard Daley. It might be good if they discussed the crime wave sweeping through the Windy City.

What makes this even more interesting is that Press Secretary Gibbs was asked about the President being apart from his family today.  The question was phrased so as to ask if there was any family tension. Desiring to retain his job, Gibbs gave quite a diplomatic answer by saying they would be together soon.

But really, the First Lady has already given the President quite a gift. Emails were  sent out ( probably in the thousands, I’m guessing) ostensibly asking  loyal  Democrats to wish him  a happy birthday. The catch is they were directed to a link by which they could donate money to the Democrat Party. I’d say that in itself was gift enough!

August 4, 2010 Posted by | Media, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Observations about “The View “

As most everyone knows, not because they watched it necessarily, President Obama was on the daily gossip fest known as The View. Ostensibly he appeared on that show since it’s the only one of its kind that Mrs Obama watches. ( Wonder if  she will be able to watch it while she  and one of her daughters are in Spain? Not to worry, surely someone will Tivo it for her.)

Not sure exactly why, but it just doesn’t seem to be the best venue for  a presidential  appearance. Why then might he make such a choice? Obviously, it has nothing to do with his wife’s viewing preferences. It doesn’t , right?  Anyway, I have obviously not watched the program but I am a bit familiar with its approach and the ladies who are its hosts, its panel, it’s whatever. I happened to see  a still photo from the set and was struck by how, pardon the expression, so ga-ga some of them looked, almost star struck.  The exception seemed to be  Barbara Walters who has interviewed world leaders before, when she did work closer to real news. The other two who come to mind are Joy Behar and Whoopi Goldberg.

Both of these individuals come from the far left side of the spectrum and seem inclined to say whatever comes to mind. Without repeating it verbatim, you might recall the extremely crude joke  she told about George Bush at a Democrat function, at which then Senator Obama  was in attendance. From  watching CBS Sunday Morning I understand that Ms Behar now even has a show of her own. And just recently she had the time in her hectic schedule to bash Rush, even calling his wife ” Eva Braun”s sister. Of course, having called him a terrorist in the past what can one expect. I share these tidbits just to give you an idea of those lovingly crowded around the President.

Press Secretary Robert Gibbs official reason for Obama’s appearance was that it provides an opportunity  to talk to people ( read women) where  they are since they have busy lives. Or was it all a political show since  his support among women voters has plummeted? Sounds much more plausible. Besides the show drew its biggest ever audience in its 13 year existence. Hard to believe it has been on that long. How could I have missed it? Guess that’s another reason for all the channels from which to choose.

From som eof the comments I read the opinion was  divided on whether the appearance was beneficial to the President. One comment asked  is he sacrificing the dignity of the office and answered their own question  with a yes. They went on to say the even so the pluses would outweigh the minuses.

By the way, where was Oprah?

July 31, 2010 Posted by | Media, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Words to Consider

Jose Maria Aznar: Supporting Israel.

This is an unusual thing for me but I thought the subject worthwhile and that it was read in its entirety by the original author. By clicking on the above link, you will be taken to an opinion piece by Jose Maria Aznar, prime minister of Spain from 1996-2004. The article appears on the website of aish.com the world’s largest Jewish content website. I don’t necessarily endorse all that Mr Aznar has to say, but his article is well worth a read.

July 18, 2010 Posted by | International politics | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Jefferson’s Great Gamble”

The title is that of a book by the same name by Charles Cerami about the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. It was a fascinating read on a number of levels. Once again, I was able to revel in and learn about a major event of American history. Just the cast of characters is amazing. Jefferson was the major player of course. But, on the American side alone there were  James Madison and James Monroe, the next 2 presidents, Robert Livingston, John Quincy Adams, and after the fact a little Andrew Jackson. On the French side, one sees Napoleon and the wily Talleyrand as well as the lesser known but important Louis Pichon.

One quote from the book really hit home for me. Its source was our sixth president, John Quincy Adams. He called the purchase”next in historical importance to the Declaration of Independence and the adoption of the Constitution. It was unparalleled in diplomacy because it cost almost nothing.” In raw dollars the price was $15 million. When interest is factored in up till the final payment in 1823( money borrowed from the Dutch) the total expended was around $ 27 million. That equates to less than ten              cents per acre for  an acquisition that doubled the size of the United States.So, in our infancy as a nation, we at one fell swoop surpassed the whole of Europe and “sea to shining sea” became just  a matter of time.

Among the many things on which to reflect are the quality of our nation’s leaders at that time. It just amazes me to realize how incredibly capable  our nation’s leadership was at what was our infancy as  a country. Less than 30 years prior, there was  a group of colonies with a rag tag army arrayed against the pre-eminent  military power in the world. Now, Jefferson,et. al are jousting diplomatically with France and to a degree England, whose spectre hovered in the background throughout the negotiations. Virtually all the decisions made by France and the United States had an English influence. France needed money to wage war against England. The United States feared English control of New Orleans and thus the Mississippi River, and so on.

So, in looking back, the purchase now  seems like  a no-brainer. An offer that you can’t refuse, in a very good sense. That is what I always thought, along with astonishment at the price per acre. But the beauty of studying history tells us much more.

First, France had bullied Spain into “giving” them the land by treaty with the provision that it could not be sold but would revert to Spain. Obviously that did not happen. And what actually was being purchased? What was the western boundary and was Florida included? Napoleon’s response, it’s what you want it to be.

  Did  Jefferson actually have the authority to make the purchase? He wrestled mightily with the idea, leaning as he did, towards the states rights side. Did James M0nroe, our point man in Paris, have the right to agree to  a price of $15 million when Congress had “approved” about 2 million. Would he be disgraced for the agreement? Might Jefferson even be impeached?

There was so much intrigue over the many months of negotiation that one must conclude it was near miraculous that the purchase  happened at all. To me, calling the deal for Louisiana in the health care legislation the  Louisiana Purchase did nothing but provide  a coarse  comparison to this monumental event that took place 207 years ago on May 2, 1803.

For certain, it was a gamble that not only brought the fledgling nation 875,000 square miles and all or part of 13 new states but in Madison’s words “one great, respectable, and flourishing empire.”

March 21, 2010 Posted by | Foreign Policy, History | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Copenhagen Or Bust

By now we know that both the president and first lady will be off to Denmark this week. Why, not just the shopping, but maybe there will be  time for that also. No, we have bigger fish to catch,the 2016 Summer Olympics for Chicago. Do sitting presidents usually throw the   prestige of their office behind  such efforts?  Not sure. Maybe he already had a Denmark trip on the schedule. Sure, major ally there. Of course, nothing is too good for Chicago.

Perhaps even more interesting than the Obamas  joing the campaign is word that maybe Chicagoans don’t really want the games so much anymore. The cost figures are probably a bit scary, the city’s finances are not so good and    why  did we want this honor anyway?

Chicago Tribune numbers showed a 2-1 majority in support of the bid in February. Now it is about even;47% for and  45% against. Suppose that $300 million city budget deficit which had to be covered was a factor. Oh yes, there have even been mandatory shutdown days for some  city services,such as  libraries and sanitation. But not to worry. Obamas + Mayor Richard Daley may yet bring home the bid.

After all, who possibly could Madrid,Tokyo or Rio de Janeiro match in starpower. Still, I vote for Rio. Brazil has never been a host nor has any other South American country. Tokyo  had it in 1964, Barcelona, Spain in 1992 and we  just had it 1996. Better make  that  call to the International Olympic Committee quickly or the Chicago mafia will take over the show,

September 28, 2009 Posted by | Politics, Sports | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment