Thursday, August 22, 2013

Ubuntu Edge: Smartphone Convergence

Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth presents his vision for the future with Ubuntu Edge, a smartphone that will transform into a PC when docked with a monitor, with a full Ubuntu Linux desktop and shared access to all the phone's files:

You can read more about what he was trying to do here, but ultimately the crowdfunding effort to launch it failed. But the vision is interesting, and there will be Ubuntu smartphones in 2014; just not the Edge. Not yet anyway.


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Republican Party Reform/Revitalization

Some thoughts on the topic:

Social Conservatives: The Republican Party’s Dilemma
[...] In order to win, therefore, Republicans need to find a way to adapt Reagan’s core insights–”government that rides with us, not on our backs”–in a way that directly addresses the front-of-mind day-to-day concerns of the lower-middle in the 21st century. These concerns include: unemployment, economic insecurity, wage stagnation, healthcare (security and affordability), education, quality of life, etc. And remember, lower-middle people are not ideologues. Maybe capital gains tax cuts or a flat tax would create a rising tide that would lift all boats. Reform conservatives love them some tax cuts. But people in the lower-middle ain’t buyin’ it. If Republicans don’t have good, credible, conservative policies to address these concerns, lower-middle people will vote for Democrats if only by default. This is the story of 2012. Lower-middle people don’t like Obamacare but they still swung the election for Obama because Romney’s alternative to Obamacare was (perceived to be) zilch. At least the Obama agenda realized what their concerns were and addressed them.

The thing that is holding the party back isn’t simply social issues, but economic ones as well. It has to find a way to speak again to the lower middle class on economic matters. I’m guessing a lot of young people are not voting GOP simply on same sex marriage, but also on the fact that they don’t see the party really helping people like them. The same-sex marriage issue is frosting on the cake instead of the cake itself. The problem with social liberals like myself is that we have internalized the Democratic critique of the GOP instead of seeing what is the real problem. Social issues are a drag on the party. But the problems that drag the GOP down looks more like an iceberg. The social issues are on top and look imposing, but the economic issues are bigger and dwell below beneath the waterline. We can support same-sex marriage and immigration, but as long as we don’t deal with what’s below, the party will not win.

So what to do with social conservatives? Instead of trying to throw them overboard, it might make more sense to lift up more of their salient points, while downplaying that which polarizes. [...]

A Reform Conservative Manifesto
[...] The story about politics is fairly straightforward: elections in America are swung by people in the “lower-middle” class, and if the Republican Party wants to win national elections decisively and repeatably, it needs to appeal strongly to these people.

What can we say about “the lower-middle”?

People in the lower-middle tend to be roughly culturally conservative but are they are not ideologues and they tend to vote their pocketbooks and their day-to-day concerns.

Here is the story reform conservatives say about the Reagan Revolution and why Republicans have not managed to repeat that success:

The Reagan agenda was not 100-proof small-government conservatism. Reagan said that “government is the problem” … “in our present crisis.” Reagan called for “government that rides with us”, not the nightwatchman state.

Reagan won the lower-middle not because the lower-middle clamor for minimal government or (just) because he was such a charismatic figure, but because the Reagan agenda appealed directly to lower-middle day-to-day concerns. Inflation. Taxes that ate significantly into middle and lower-middle pocketbooks. A welfare system that destroyed families and made a mockery of diligent hard work. An unprecedented crime wave that a liberal state was failing to rein in.

It is precisely because the Reagan Revolution was so successful that the Reagan agenda no longer appeals to the lower-middle. Inflation is in check (more than in check). Taxes on the lower-middle and middle–at least federal income taxes–are much lower. Crime, though too high, is much lower. Welfare reform has been a phenomenal success of conservative policy. The problems that Reagan fought are problems that are largely fixed now. We’re fighting the last war. [...]

Jonah Goldberg: Excuse me? GOP to blame for ObamaCare?
The Affordable Care Act — aka ObamaCare — is off to a very rocky start, and according to the law's biggest defenders, the blame falls squarely at the feet of Republicans.

It's an odd claim. Republicans did not write the law. They did not support the law. And they are not in charge of implementing it. Yet, it's got to be the GOP's fault, right?


... Republicans are on the right side of the argument in every particular, save one: the effort to force the Democrats to defund ObamaCare by threatening a debt crisis or government shutdown. The Democrats will never agree to such a demand, and the resulting crisis would surely be blamed on Republicans.

Pull of entitlements

There is a bizarre irony at work here. Both the right and left are convinced ObamaCare will eventually become popular if implemented. Conservatives fear the "ratchet effect," a term coined by the great libertarian economic historian Robert Higgs. Once government expands, goes the theory, reversing that expansion is nearly impossible. Liberals have their own version. They point out that once Americans get an entitlement — Social Security, Medicare, etc. — they never want to lose it. They hope that if they can just get Americans hooked on the goodies in ObamaCare, they'll overlook all the flaws.

There's a lot of truth here, to be sure. But it's not an iron law either. Sometimes, bad laws get fixed. It happened with Medicare in 1989 and welfare reform in 1995. Many of the boneheaded laws of the early New Deal were scrapped as well.

Republicans should have a little more confidence in their own arguments. If you believe that ObamaCare can't work, you should expect that it won't. Forcing a debt crisis or government shutdown won't kill ObamaCare, but it will give Democrats a lifeline heading into the 2014 elections, which could have the perverse effect of delaying the day Republicans have the political clout to actually succeed in repealing this unworkable and unpopular law.
All these things make sense to me. Follow the links and read the complete articles. But how many people in the Republican party are listening? How many haven't yet figured out that America doesn't have the same demographics it did in the 1980's? That the majority electorate's concerns have changed?  How many Republicans are talking to, addressing the concerns of, and trying to win the votes of, a majority electorate that no longer exists?

This is important stuff being addressed in these articles. But I don't post about it much anymore, because I doubt many are listening. It seems like pissing in the wind sometimes.

Jonah's last point is a perfect example.  Forcing a debt crisis or a government shutdown won't kill ObamaCare.  The Republicans will be blamed for it, and that will only help the Democrats in the 2014 elections.  But I'm pretty sure the Republicans are going to go ahead and do it anyway.  To no good end.

Cruise Ship Talking Points

And why you shouldn't believe them:

Six Lies The Cruise Lines Will Tell You After The Costa Concordia Crash
Shortly after the Costa Concordia capsized, the cruise lines' PR committee assembled to try and figure out a strategy to minimize the disaster's effect on the cruise industry.

A decision was made for the cruise lines to issue a series of "talking points" to the media. The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) and the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) distributed "cruise safety talking points" to travel agents, travel magazines and the media. CLIA embedded the talking points into "updates" on the Concordia crash on its website. CLIA's president Christine Duffy released "open letters" which travel publications and blogs often published in their entirely, without questioning the accuracy of the information.

Costa Concordia Cruise ShipTravel agents began pitching the talking points to the public in articles like this one from Travel Market Report entitled "What to Say to Clients Post-Concordia." You can read "6 Talking Points" and other tips from travel agents on how to overcome reluctant clients' fears and talk them into buying a cruise.

Here are some of the cruise industry's talking points: [...]
They're telling some real whoppers, which get debunked point by point. Read the whole thing for embedded links, photos and more.


The positive side to being a Crackpot

Various versions of this story can be found on the internet.
The Cracked Pot

A water bearer in India had two large pots, each hung on each end of a pole which he carried across his neck.

One of the pots had a crack in it, and while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water at the end of the long walk from the stream to the master's house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.

For a full two years this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots full of water in his master's house.

Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, perfect to the end for which it was made.

But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.

After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream. "I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you."

"Why?" asked the bearer. "What are you ashamed of?"

"I have been able, for these past two years, to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your master's house."

"Because of my flaws, you have to do all of this work, and you don't get full value from your efforts," the pot said.

The water bearer felt sorry for the old cracked pot, and in his compassion he said, "As we return to the master's house, I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path."

Indeed, as they went up the hill, the old cracked pot took notice of the sun warming the beautiful wild flowers on the side of the path, and this cheered it some.

But at the end of the trail, it still felt bad because it had leaked out half its load, and so again it apologized to the bearer for its failure.

The bearer said to the pot, "Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of your path, but not on the other pot's side?"

"That's because I have always known about your flaw, and I took advantage of it. I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back from the stream, you've watered them."

"For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my master's table. Without you being just the way you are, he would not have this beauty to grace his house."

Moral: Each of us has our own unique flaws. We're all cracked pots. But it's the cracks and flaws we each have that make our lives together so very interesting and rewarding. You've just got to take each person for what they are, and look for the good in them. There is a lot of good out there. There is a lot of good in you!

Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape. Remember to appreciate all the different people in your life! Or as I like to think of it-if it hadn't been for the crackpots in my life, it would have been pretty boring and not so interesting.


Saturday, August 10, 2013

Farewell, Eydie Gorme

Popular singer Eydie Gorme dead at 84
Eydie Gorme, a popular nightclub and television singer as a solo act and as a team with her husband, Steve Lawrence, has died. She was 84.

Gorme, who also had a huge solo hit in 1963 with “Blame it on the Bossa Nova,” died Saturday at Sunrise Hospital in Las Vegas following a brief illness, according to her publicist, Howard Bragman.

Gorme was a successful band singer and nightclub entertainer when she was invited to join the cast of Steve Allen’s local New York television show in 1953.

She sang solos and also did duets and comedy skits with Lawrence, a young singer who had joined the show a year earlier. When the program became NBC’s “Tonight Show” in 1954, the young couple went with it.

They married in Las Vegas in 1957 and later performed for audiences there. Lawrence, the couple’s son David and other loved ones were by her side when she died, Bragman said.

“Eydie has been my partner on stage and in life for more than 55 years,” Lawrence said. “I fell in love with her the moment I saw her and even more the first time I heard her sing. While my personal loss is unimaginable, the world has lost one of the greatest pop vocalists of all time.”

Though most recognized for her musical partnership with Lawrence, Gorme broke through on her own with the Grammy-nominated “Blame it on the Bossa Nova,.” a bouncy tune about a dance craze written by the Tin Pan Alley songwriting team of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil.

Gorme would score another solo hit in 1964, this time for a Spanish-language recording.

Gorme, who was born in New York City to Sephardic Jewish parents, grew up speaking English and Spanish. When she and her husband were at the height of their career as a team in 1964, Columbia Records president Goddard Lieberson suggested that Gorme put that Spanish to use in the recording studio. The result was “Amor,” recorded with the Mexican combo Trio Los Panchos.

The song became a hit throughout Latin America, which resulted in more recordings for the Latino market, and Lawrence and Gorme performed as a duo throughout Latin America.

“Our Spanish stuff outsells our English recordings,” Lawrence said in 2004. “She’s like a diva to the Spanish world.” [...]
Wow, I had no idea. Read the whole thing, they had a pretty interesting life together.

R.I.P. Eydie.

Popular singer Eydie Gorme dies at 84

Here is a photo from 1998: