Monday, August 31, 2009

The new RED Soul from Kia... more features than Scion xB... for less money .... 100.000 miles bumper to bumper Maintence (parts and labor) Warrenty...

Cut out one of these business cards and go get a test drive from Richard Barron. You will find that the turning radius is better than the xB. I tried all the new cubes: Nisson Cube, Scion xB, Honda Element, Ford Fusion, and the Kia Soul is what sold me. FD

Palm "walking" trees

Stilt roots of walking palm tree
Location: Manu National Park in the Rainforest of Peru

Recently I visited this nature trial of Seychelles near the Babarons beach; trail was not long about 800m from the main road. It reminded me of Sinharaja Forest in Sri Lanka, a primary forest like Amazon. The water was so cold that I thought of not having a bath, I regret that decision now. There were these peculiar looking trees which looked like giant Arthropods with so many legs like roots. Some one told me that these are called Walking trees because the tree actually moves on the ground with time. Roots on one side of thee tree grows over each other while the roots on the other side dies, so literally speaking the tree move on the ground with time. Not a bad idea, it must be using this to move towards more fertile soil. These are some of the pictures I took.

Scott mentions "Walking Trees" and sure enough, they walk to where the soil and sunlight are better...

This tree is known as the 'walking tree' because it can move. If the tree needs to move, it just grows roots on that side and lets other roots die. Eventually the tree is relocated.

My description above is how the tree was described to me by a guide. I agree that I can't quite picture how it would actually move without losing its support for the center of gravity of the tree. With regard to the talk of these trees being on hills: this particular tree was on the side of Arenal Volcano, so it was on a slope.

Maybe it's just a good story for guides to tell, or maybe it really works somehow. A netizen sent me a link to this MIT paper using the walking tree as an example of problem solving:

Well, Folks, this is a first for me. A friend sent me his blog from this trip to Peru as he is taking the trip!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Mississippi - M - I - S - S - I - S - S - I - P - P - I


1) A possum is a flat animal that sleeps in the middle of the road.

2) There are 5,000 types of snakes and 4,998 of them live in Mississippi .

3) There are 10,000 types of spiders, and all 10,000 of them live in Mississippi .

4) If it grows, it'll stick ya. If it crawls, it'll bite cha.

5) Onced" and "Twiced" are words.

6) It is not a shopping cart, it's a buggy.

7) "Jawl-P?" means, "Did y'all go to the bathroom?"

8) People actually grow and eat okra.

9) "Fixinto" is one word.

10) There is no such thing as lunch. There is only dinner and then there is supper...

11) Iced tea is appropriate for all meals, and you start drinking it when you're two. We do like a little tea with our sugar.

12) Backwards and forwards means, "I know everythin' 'bout you.

13) The word "jeet" is actually a phrase meaning, "Did you eat?"

14) You don't have to wear a watch, because it doesn't matter what time it is. You work until you're done or it's too=2 0dark to see...

15) You don't PUSH buttons, you MASH 'em.
16) You measure distance in minutes.
17) You switch from heat to A/C in the same day.

18) All the festivals across the state are named after a fruit, vegetable, grain, insect, or animal.

19) You know what a "Dawg" is.

20) You carry jumper cables in your car - for your own car.

21) You only own five spices: salt, pepper, Tony Chachere's, Tabasco , and ketchup.

22) The local papers cover national and international news on one page, but require 6 pages for local gossip and Mississippi football...

23) You think that the first day of deer season is a national holiday.

24) You find 100 degrees "a bit warm."

25) You know all four seasons: Almost summer, summer, still summer, and Christmas.

26) Going to Walmart is a favorite past time known as "Goin' Walmartin" or "off to Wally World."

27) You describe the first cool snap (below 70 degrees) as good gumbo weather.

28) Fried catfish is the other white meat.

29) We don't need no dang Driver's Ed. . . if our mama says we can drive, we can drive.

30) You understand these jokes and forward them to your Mississippi friends and those who just wish they were from Mississippi !!!!!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Sure enough, there is a connection between cuttlebone and cuttlefish...

Cuttlebone, also known as cuttlefish bone, is a hard, brittle internal structure found in all members of the family Sepiidae, commonly known as cuttlefish.

Cuttlebone is composed primarily of aragonite. It is a chambered, gas-filled shell used for buoyancy control; its siphuncle is highly modified and is on the ventral side of the shell. The microscopic structure of cuttlebone consists of narrow layers connected by numerous upright pillars.

Depending on the species, cuttlebones implode at a depth of between 200 and 600 m. Because of this limitation, most species of cuttlefish live on the seafloor in shallow water, usually on the continental shelf.

Human uses
In the past, cuttlebones were used in making polishing powder. The powder was added to toothpaste, and used as an antacid or as an absorbent.

Today, cuttlebones are commonly used as calcium-rich dietary supplements for caged birds, chinchillas, hermit crabs, snails, and turtles.

Monday, August 24, 2009

PBS Nova was looking at Cuttlefish this week...

Waiting for John Brown, when someone drops one of these into your email box ... HARPER'S FERRY PDA


Please believe me that if I had time to write a personal note to each and every one of you, I would. As it is, I've spent 8 hours on this, that I ought to have been using for editing and rewriting.

I break silence because one cannot remain silent in the face of murderous madness. And because I've been warning about this for at least 15 years in print. Call me Cassandra.

Now, the Southern Poverty Law Center agrees with me. We are fast approaching conflagration.


23 August 2009...4:18 pm
Waiting for John Brown
by Hart Williams © 2009

Two years and a month ago, I was savaged by the Right Wing blogosmear (who, conveniently, don’t allow for rebuttal on their blogs), Faux Nooz™ and WorldNutDaily’s editor, Joe Farah in their ‘pages.’ And I wrote this later that month [emphasis added]:

… And that’s just ONE front of this ‘War on Terra,’ (never mind the climate or clean air and water). There is a push to intimidate and silence the blogosphere. Perhaps to provide cover for the next link in the chains of fascism that this country is descending into. (Ask not for whom the chains are forged, Lefties. They are being forged for thee.)

Welcome to the battle of the bulge. The Morlocks are out for brains to eat, and if you’re reading this, probably brains like yours. Morlocks get very hungry with all that strenuous blogosmearing. Michael Moore, Scott Thomas, Daily Kos, Me, The New Republic, and there are more. The offensive (in both literal senses) is under way. Will we defend? Will we curl into a fetal position and whimper? I’ll not hazard a guess. But if ever there were a time ….
(For some odd reason, WorldNetDaily has not devoted a word to the story, so far. But then again: so many targets, so little time.)

And I heard them to shriek
between conniption fits
we hate you all and
to all a Happy Apocalypse.
America is a nation waiting for a John Brown.

Let’s hope that it’s a longer wait than I fear it will be.

Now, for you Doubting Thomasinas out there, I will note that the Weakly Stranded’s Michael Goldfarb — the “point man” for the attack on the New Republic – became McCain’s point man in his attempt to become president by way of dastardly deceits and dissimulation — No doubt BASED on his ability to coordinate the blogosmear.*

[* And, thus, the new coordination of Koch Brothers astroturf groups to kill health care.Did you know that Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks were, formerly, Citizens for a Sound Economy Foundation and Citizens for a Sound Economy, (dis)respectively? If anybody out there is interested, I have the paperwork, the tax returns, the photographs. But I'm doing something to put food on the table right now, and my sense of personal survival is in conflict with my sense of social responsibility. ]

Seemingly, literally if possible. These a**holes don’t believe that words have consequences. And they’ve gone back to the playbook that gave us the Oklahoma City bombing — which, despite all their anti-Arab, anti-Muslim racism, they have never particularly decried: it’s OK for home grown terrorists (as long as they’re not “leftists” or “socialists” or, ghod help us all, “communists), but don’t let none a them furriners join the fun. Nosirree. The Nine-Twelve movement to return to the “unity” we all felt the day after Nine-Eleven-Oh-One doesn’t include y0u or me, frankly.

It is the unity of the fanatic. The return, using coded racist and hate speech, of “the lost cause” of secession. One a**hole* governor (OK, Rick Perry of lunatic Texas) even parsed around it: If we don’t get what we want, we’ll secede.
[* I apologize for the language, but sometimes, you have to call a spade a spade, and "a**hole" is the only word that comes close to characterizing our self-obsessed "patriots," whose sacred writ and only ideology seems to be "no taxes." How noble! This is generally the mind-set of the three-year old, as any mother can tell you. ME!]
But listen to Frank Rich today in the New York Times:

On Monday — the day after he gave a pass to those threatening violence — a dozen provocateurs with guns, at least two of them bearing assault weapons, showed up for Obama’s V.F.W. speech in Phoenix. Within hours, another member of Congress — Phil Gingrey of Georgia — was telling Chris Matthews on MSNBC that as long as brandishing guns is legal, he, too, saw no reason to discourage Americans from showing up armed at public meetings.
In April the Department of Homeland Security issued a report, originally commissioned by the Bush administration, on the rising threat of violent right-wing extremism. It was ridiculed by conservatives, including the Republican chairman, Michael Steele, who called it “the height of insult.” Since then, a neo-Nazi who subscribed to the anti-Obama “birther” movement has murdered a guard at the Holocaust museum in Washington, and an anti-abortion zealot has gunned down a doctor in a church in Wichita, Kan.

This month the Southern Poverty Law Center, the same organization that warned of the alarming rise in extremist groups before the Oklahoma City bombing, issued its own report. A federal law enforcement agent told the center that he hadn’t seen growth this steep among such groups in 10 to 12 years. “All it’s lacking is a spark,” he said.

At the risk of patting myself on the back, that’s what I’ve been talking about. The slow ratcheting up of the hatespeech, as we have tolerated angry, hateful, ain’t-never-beens like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, whose vocal histrionics might SEEM enchanting, but whose life history does not bespeak any familiarity with the actual practices that they advocate. They talk the talk, but they’ve NEVER walked the walk.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Things to look forward to as you get OLD...

What Causes Fingernail Ridges?

Many people don’t realize that the fingernails can be an excellent barometer of overall health. In many cases, changes in the appearance of fingernails can be the first sign of an undiagnosed medical problem such as a circulatory problem, respiratory disorder, iron deficiency anemia, or thyroid disease. Such signs as ridges in the fingernails, discolorations, and changes in the contours of the nail base can be important signs of illness. With that in mind, maybe adults and teens should be scrutinizing their fingernails more often!

When you look at your fingernails do you notice ridges? Ridges in fingernails are not necessarily a cause for concern. The distinction should be made between horizontal ridges in nails and vertical ridges in nails. Vertical nail ridges are seen rather commonly and usually are not signs of serious illness. These ridges generally extend from the base of your fingernail to the tip in an orderly, regular fashion. These ridges tend to become more prominent with age and are generally don’t indicate poor health or a serious medical condition.

On the other hand, horizontal nail ridges may indicate the presence of an underlying illness or medical condition, although this is not always the case. Horizontal nail ridges run from one side of the nail lengthwise across to the other side. One special type of horizontal nail ridge that may indicate underlying illness is called Beau’s lines.

Beau’s lines give horizontal, deeply grooved ridges in the nails which may be slightly darkened in appearance. There are a variety of causes for these distinctive ridges including a previous injury to the nail bed, malnutrition, certain medications, and metabolic disorders such as diabetes. The ridge which characterizes Beau’s lines occurs when growth of the nail is temporarily arrested due to an underlying illness, nutritional, or metabolic problem. If you have this type of horizontal nail ridge, see your doctor right away.

Sometimes the growth of the nail is briefly interrupted due to more common factors such as brief changes in nutritional status or slight trauma to the nail matrix. This can result in the formation of horizontal nail ridges secondary to brief interruptions in nail growth.. These are usually not a cause for concern, although it would be advisable to consult with your doctor if you have obvious horizontal nail ridges since they can be a sign of nutritional deficiency or other underlying disease. In some rare cases, these lengthwise ridges can be a sign of arsenic poisoning.

If you’ve recently developed ridges in the nails, particularly if they are horizontal in nature, a consultation with your doctor would be advisable to rule out an underlying health problem.


Saturday, August 22, 2009

Well, Folks, we need health insurance or healthcare reform... let's look at what we got today.

1) The insurance industry profits over the last ten years have increased over 1000%. In addition to being large in an absolute sense, administrative costs have been rising faster than other health care costs in recent years. The Medicare and Medicaid Actuary's Office estimates that the direct administrative costs of private health insurance plans (including profits) rose from about $40bn in the late 1990s to about $95bn in 2004. The following chart shows these costs represented in dollar terms and as a percent of total private health insurance payments.

2) Our insurance premiums have not gone down, in fact they have increased. Insurance executive compensations have now exceeded the realms of reality, with people like United Health Cares Bill McGuire's 1.87 Billion Dollar retirement or the 125 million a year that he earned before he retired. Stephen Hemsley the present CEO of United (they are the people who Do AARP Insurance) now earns a a modest 3 million plus dollars a year. Fortunately United's board has given him over 300 million in stock options (

3) Don't believe the story that malpractice and capricious suits have driven up their costs. These suits account for less than 1%.

4) If you think that our for profit health insurance industry is there because they want to heal you think again. They are there for only one purpose and that is to make a profit. PROFIT and NOT COST is their concern.

5) And we are not getting what other industrial nations get for their healthcare spending.
In ranking the us against other industrial nations, the World Health Organization ranks the US 37th among the Industrial nations in health care. We are ranked below Costa Rica and Cuba.
We are one of the highest in infant mortality
We are one of the lowest in total adult life expectancy.

6) Every thirty seconds now, someone in the US declares bankruptcy as a result of medical bills.

7) National Health Insurance is not a new idea:
Teddy Roosevelt proposed comprehensive health care for all Americans in 1912.
President Truman Proposed a program for health insurance in 1947
President Eisenhower did the same
President Nixon tried to propose a health insurance program for Americans until he was beat down by the AMA and they compromised with a program forming HMO's.

8) People are leaving the US to have medical care done for them in other countries. Medical Vacations where someone goes to Thailand for a couple of months. He has a pre-existing condition and can not get affordable health insurance. He was able to pay for his trip, his lodging and still come out ahead because of the high cost of US health care.

9) We have the highest cost for health care in the world, but are ranked at the bottom (#37) with 3rd world nations, as a result of the quality of care that we provide.

10) The administrative cost for Medicare is under 3% the average administrative cost for private insurance exceeds 30%.

11) The poor can use Emergency rooms for Emergencies... not preventative care, or even long term help... and you and I are also paying that cost.

12) We see rallies organized by Dick Armies Freedom Works ( ) and other front groups for the the Health Care industry as they try to manipulate people to go against their own best interests.

13) My insurance cost me over $13,000 a year. I have a group plan, and I was fortunate.
Then, my wife lost her job and was hospitalized for something that my insurance plan declared as a pre-existing condition. So, don't think that because you have insurance that it is going to cover you when the time comes to get medical care.

14) I hope you have good insurance, because 46 million people in the US don't have anything.. and people are dying because they can't afford to take care of themselves or their familes..

The Plot Thickens around Apple iPod and Google Voice app

The Truth: What’s Really Going On With Apple, Google, AT&T And The FCC

by Michael Arrington on August 21, 2009
Apple has responded to the FCC’s request for information around its rejection of various Google and third party iPhone applications for the iPhone.

In short, Apple denies that they rejected the Google Voice application, but they go into great detail about how the Google Voice application hurts “the iPhone’s distinctive user experience.” All of those statements are either untrue, or misleading, or both.

The first part of Apple’s argument, that they never rejected the application, is “a total lie,” according to many sources with knowledge of the Google Voice application process.

The second part of Apple’s argument, that the Google Voice application hurts the iPhone’s distinctive user experience, is seriously misleading. I know this because I’ve become intimately familiar with the Google Voice service and applications over the last few months. See here, here, here and here, for example. I haven’t used the Google Voice app for the iPhone specifically, because it never launched. But I have been briefed by the Google team on two separate occasions on how the app would work over the last couple of months. Also, I’ve demo’d the Blackberry version of the app, and now use the Android version of the app.

Here’s the key language from Apple’s letter, with my comments:

Apple: “Contrary to published reports, Apple has not rejected the Google Voice application, and continues to study it.”

Reality: One third party Google Voice app developer disclosed to us in July that Apple SVP Phil Schiller told them that Google’s own app would be or already was rejected. Google also confirmed this to us later. There is overwhelming evidence that Apple did in fact reject the application.

Apple: “The application has not been approved because, as submitted for review, it appears to alter the iPhone’s distinctive user experience by replacing the iPhone’s core mobile telephone functionality and Apple user interface with its own user interface for telephone calls, text messaging and voicemail. Apple spent a lot of time and effort developing this distinct and innovative way to seamlessly deliver core functionality of the iPhone.”

Reality: This strongly suggests that the Google Voice app replaces much of the core Apple iPhone OS function. This certainly isn’t accurate, and we believe the statement is misleading. More details below, but in general the iPhone app is a very light touch and doesn’t interfere with any native iPhone apps at all.

Apple: “For example, on an iPhone, the “Phone” icon that is always shown at the bottom of the Home Screen launches Apple’s mobile telephone application, providing access to Favorites, Recents, Contacts, a Keypad, and Visual Voicemail. The Google Voice application replaces Apple’s Visual Voicemail by routing calls through a separate Google Voice telephone number that stores any voicemail, preventing voicemail from being stored on the iPhone, i.e., disabling Apple’s Visual Voicemail.”

Reality: Not true and misleading. The Google Voice application has its own voicemail function, which also transcribes messages. But it only works for incoming Google Voice calls, not calls to the iPhone. The Google Voice app in no way “replaces” Apple’s voicemail function.

Apple: “Similarly, SMS text messages are managed through the Google hub—replacing the iPhone’s text messaging feature.”

Reality: Not true and misleading. The Google Voice app doesn’t replace or in any way interfere wtih the iPhone’s text messaging feature. If someone sends a text message to your Google Voice number, the Google Voice app shows it. If it is sent directly to the iPhone phone number, nothing is different.

Apple: “In addition, the iPhone user’s entire Contacts database is transferred to Google’s servers, and we have yet to obtain any assurances from Google that this data will only be used in appropriate ways. These factors present several new issues and questions to us that we are still pondering at this time.”

Reality: Complete fabrication, way beyond misleading. The Google Voice app can access the iPhone’s contacts database, like thousands of other iPhone apps. But the Google Voice app never syncs the contacts database to their own servers. There is no option for users to do this. However, Apple offers the ability to sync iPhone contacts with Google via iTunes. So not only is Apple’s statement untrue, but they also provide this exact feature themselves via their own service.

So how did Google answer the same question in their own separate letter to the FCC, also made publicly available today? We don’t know, because Google requested that the answer be redacted. But my guess is that the answer, which the FCC has and can compare to Apple’s response, tells a significantly different (approximately the exact opposite) story:

Our sources at Google tell us in no uncertain terms that Apple rejected the application. And we have an independent third party app developer who tells us that an Apple Exec also told them back in July that the Google Voice Application was rejected.

In other words, there is strong evidence that Apple is, well, lying.

Which also is the easiest way to explain Apple’s long rambling letter to the FCC. Why go into so much detail about the problems with the Google Voice application, and then say that it was never rejected? If the app does actually replace all of those core apple phone, contact and SMS features, why not reject it out of hand? I don’t believe anyone would say Apple made the wrong decision if that laundry list of nonsense had any truth to it (we have an answer to that, below).

Multiple sources at Google tell us that in informal discussions with Apple over the last few months Apple expressed dismay at the number of core iPhone apps that are powered by Google. Search, maps, YouTube, and other key popular apps are powered by Google. Other than the browser, Apple has little else to call its own other than the core phone, contacts and calendar features. The Google Voice App takes things one step further, by giving users an incentive to abandon their iPhone phone number and use their Google Voice phone number instead (transcription of voicemails is reason enough alone). Apple was afraid, say our sources, that Google was gaining too much power on the iPhone, and that’s why they rejected the application.

Apple seemed to be fine telling Google and others that the real reason they wouldn’t accept the Google Voice app on the iPhone was a fear of being turned into little more than a hardware manufacturer over time as users spent more and more time on Google Voice and less time on the competing native iPhone apps. Or simply letting people believe that AT&T was behind the rejection. Until the FCC got involved, that is. Then Apple denied the rejections and directed the FCCs attention to misleading or simply untrue factual statements about the App.

Of course, now both Google and AT&T are required to tell their side of the story to the FCC, too. And those stories aren’t adding up.

What Happens Next?

Here’s what we believe Apple is preparing to do next. Their statement that they haven’t rejected the app, along with the long laundry list of complaints (none of which are true) tells us that they’re backtracking, and fast. Sometime soon, we guess, Apple will simply accept the Google Voice application. They have to - any serious investigation into the app by the FCC will show that the complaints around the app are unfounded and that it does none of the things Apple accuses it of doing. So Apple will save face by simply asking Google to ensure that the App doesn’t take over native phone, sms and other functions, and doesn’t sync the contacts to Google’s servers. Google will comply (they already have), and Apple will graciously accept the application.

But we’ll all know exactly where Apple stands - jealously guarding control of their users and trying to block Google and other third party developers at every turn from getting their superior applications in front those users.

This isn’t about protecting users, it’s about controlling them. And that’s not what Apple should be about. Put the users first, Steve, and don’t lie to us. We’re not that dumb.

Why does it matter that AT&T might have directed Apple to "kill" an iPhone Google App called Google Voice... even if you don't own an iPhone.

Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page A15 "Why AT&T Killed Google Voice"

Earlier this month, Apple rejected an application for the iPhone called Google Voice. The uproar set off a chain of events—Google's CEO Eric Schmidt resigning from Apple's board, and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) investigating wireless open access and handset exclusivity—that may finally end the 135-year-old Alexander Graham Bell era. It's about time.

With Google Voice, you have one Google phone number that callers use to reach you, and you pick up whichever phone—office, home or cellular—rings. You can screen calls, listen in before answering, record calls, read transcripts of your voicemails, and do free conference calls. Domestic calls and texting are free, and international calls to Europe are two cents a minute. In other words, a unified voice system, something a real phone company should have offered years ago.

Apple has an exclusive deal with AT&T in the U.S., stirring up rumors that AT&T was the one behind Apple rejecting Google Voice. How could AT&T not object? AT&T clings to the old business of charging for voice calls in minutes. It takes not much more than 10 kilobits per second of data to handle voice. In a world of megabit per-second connections, that's nothing—hence Google's proposal to offer voice calls for no cost and heap on features galore.

What this episode really uncovers is that AT&T is dying. AT&T is dragging down the rest of us by overcharging us for voice calls and stifling innovation in a mobile data market critical to the U.S. economy.

For the latest quarter, AT&T reported local voice revenue down 12%, long distance down 15%. With customers unplugging home phones and using flat-rate Internet services for long-distance calls (again, voice is just data), AT&T's wireline operating income is down 36%. Even in the wireless segment, which grew 10% overall, per-customer voice revenue is down 7%.

Wireless data service is AT&T's only bright spot, up a whopping 26% per customer. How so? As any parent of teenagers knows, text messages are 20 cents each, or $5,000 per megabyte. After the first month and a $320 bill, we all pony up $10 a month for unlimited texting plans. Same for Internet access. With my iPhone, I pay $30 a month for unlimited data service (actually, one gigabyte per month). Is it worth that? The à la carte price for other not-so-smart phones is $5 per megabyte (one-thousandth of a gigabyte) per month. So we buy monthly plans. Margins in AT&T's Wireless segment are an embarrassingly high 25%.

The trick in any communications and media business is to own a pipe between you and your customers so you can charge what you like. Cellphone companies don't have wired pipes, but by owning spectrum they do have a pipe and pricing power.

Aren't there phone competitors to knock down the price? Hardly. Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile and others all joined AT&T in bidding huge amounts for wireless spectrum in FCC auctions, some $70-plus billion since the mid-1990s. That all gets passed along to you and me in the form of higher fees and friendly oligopolies that don't much compete on price. Google Voice is the new competition.

By the way, Apple also has a pipe—call it a virtual pipe—to customers. Its iTunes music service (now up to one-quarter of all music sales, according to NPD Market Research) works exclusively with iPods and iPhones. The new Palm Pre, another exclusive deal, this time by Verizon Wireless, tricked iTunes into thinking it was an iPod. Apple quickly changed its software to lock the Pre out, and one would expect Apple locking out any Google phone from using iTunes.

It wouldn't be so bad if we were just overpaying for our mobile plans. Americans are used to that—see mail, milk and medicine. But it's inexcusable that new, feature-rich and productive applications like Google Voice are being held back, just to prop up AT&T while we wait for it to transition away from its legacy of voice communications. How many productive apps beyond Google Voice are waiting in the wings?

So now the FCC and its new Chairman Julius Genachowski are getting involved. Usually this means a set of convoluted rules to make up for past errors in allocating scarce resources that—in the name of "fairness"—end up creating a new mess.

Some might say it is time to rethink our national communications policy. But even that's obsolete. I'd start with a simple idea. There is no such thing as voice or text or music or TV shows or video. They are all just data.

We need a national data policy, and here are four suggestions:

• End phone exclusivity. Any device should work on any network. Data flows freely.

• Transition away from "owning" airwaves. As we've seen with license-free bandwidth via Wi-Fi networking, we can share the airwaves without interfering with each other. Let new carriers emerge based on quality of service rather than spectrum owned. Cellphone coverage from huge cell towers will naturally migrate seamlessly into offices and even homes via Wi-Fi networking. No more dropped calls in the bathroom.

• End municipal exclusivity deals for cable companies. TV channels are like voice pipes, part of an era that is about to pass. A little competition for cable will help the transition to paying for shows instead of overpaying for little-watched networks. Competition brings de facto network neutrality and open access (if you don't like one service blocking apps, use another), thus one less set of artificial rules to be gamed.

• Encourage faster and faster data connections to our homes and phones. It should more than double every two years. To homes, five megabits today should be 10 megabits in 2011, 25 megabits in 2013 and 100 megabits in 2017. These data-connection speeds are technically doable today, with obsolete voice and video policy holding it back.

Technology doesn't wait around, so it's all going to happen anyway, but it will take longer under today's rules. A weak economy is not the time to stifle change.

Data is toxic to old communications and media pipes. Instead, data gains value as it hops around in the packets that make up the Internet structure. New services like Twitter don't need to file with the FCC.

And new features for apps like Google Voice are only limited by the imagination. Mother-in-law location alerts? Video messaging? Whatever. The FCC better not treat AT&T and Verizon like Citigroup, GM and the Post Office. Cellphone operators aren't too big to fail. Rather, the telecom sector is too important to be allowed to hold back the rest of us.

—Mr. Kessler, a former hedge-fund manager, is the author of "How We Got Here" (Collins, 2005).

Friday, August 21, 2009

District 9 is a multiple level movie... Anger at ANC record boils over in South African townships | World news | The Guardian

Anger at ANC record boils over in South African townships World news The Guardian:

"Anger at ANC record boils over in South African townships•
Protests over lack of basic services turn violent as Police fight back with rubber bullets
David Smith in Johannesburg,
Wednesday 22 July 2009
Residents of Balfour run during riots with police after protests erupted in townships across South Africa over inadequate housing and public services.
Jacob Zuma faced the first critical test of his presidency today as violent protests at a lack of basic services spread in South Africa's townships.
Residents hurled bottles and stones at police, who responded by firing rubber bullets and teargas. Smoke from burning tyres filled the air as thousands marched in a show of anger at poor services in townships in Johannesburg, Western Cape and the north-eastern region of Mpumalanga.
Immigrants said they feared for their lives and sought police protection as there were reports of foreign-owned businesses being looted in Mpumalanga. Last year 62 people died in xenophobic attacks. The unrest comes as frustrations boil over at the government's record, 15 years after apartheid, at providing townships with basic services such as electricity, running water, housing and sanitation."

WSJ - Emails this out to me as the BEST OF THE WEB... this one is typical of content.. I would not call it the BEST of the Web some how....

Obama & God LLP - The president goes from glibness to grandiosity on "matters of life and death."

Best of the Tube Tonight
We're scheduled to appear this evening on CNN's "Lou Dobbs Tonight" as part of a political roundtable. The hourlong program starts at 7 p.m. ET, with a repeat showing at 4 a.m. ET, and the roundtable will be in the second half-hour.

Obama & God LLP
It's been just over a year since the Rev. Rick Warren asked then-Sen. Barack Obama, "At what point does a baby get human rights, in your view?" The next president of the United States answered with a glib dodge: "Well, you know, I think that whether you're looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity, you know, is above my pay grade."

At the time, we quipped: "Obama just can't win with these right-wingers, can he? For months they've been blasting him for acting like the Messiah. Now they're attacking him for acknowledging he's not God. Well, not yet, anyway."

We thought we were kidding. Then we read this report from Ben Smith of Politico:

***** QUOTE *****
A reader points out that President Obama's call with the rabbis today--as recorded in Rabbi Jack Moline's and other clerics' Twitter feeds--freights health care reform with a great deal of religious meaning, and veers into the blend of policy and faith that outraged liberals in the last administration.
"We are God's partners in matters of life and death," Obama said, according to Moline (paging Sarah Palin . . l.), quoting from the Rosh Hashanah prayer that says that in the holiday period, it is decided "who shall live and who shall die."
The president ended the call by wishing the rabbis "shanah tovah," or happy new year--in reference to the High Holidays a month from now.
***** END QUOTE *****

"We are God's partners"?! Hmm, God & Obama? No, wait! Obama & God. Yeah, that's much better!

As Tevi Troy notes at National Review Online, "The reference to the 'who shall live and who shall die' prayer was strange. . . . Is this really the context in which he wishes to discuss health reform--a powerful and unseen being making determinations of life and death? One would think that he would want to avoid anything that could raise the specter of rationing, death panels, or the like."

Further, "We are God's partners in matters of life and death" is not part of the Rosh Hashanah liturgy. Those words are Obama's. Granted he is in a higher pay grade than he was a year ago--but not nearly as high as he seems to think.

Both the glib "above my pay grade" and the grandiose "we are God's partners" reflect a disturbing callowness on the president's part. Someone who seeks power over life-and-death matters--whether by running for president or by pushing for legislation vastly expanding governmental authority over medical choices--ought to be able at least to make a pretense of maturity and humility.

Josh Yuter, a rabbi and blogger who participated in the conference call, notes that the president urged the rabbis "to address the health care controversy in their upcoming High Holiday sermons"--an idea Yuter finds troubling:

***** QUOTE *****
To be sure, most of the Rabbis on the call probably would advocate for substantial health care reform anyway, and I do not know to what extent the President sought out religious leaders or the religious leaders proposed the audience with the President. In either case, I find the blurring of church and state to be disconcerting not only on political grounds (and legal/tax purposes), but also for competency. Rabbis have enough difficulty understanding the nuances and intricacies of their own religion to be promoting specific policies in areas for which they have no expertise.
***** END QUOTE *****

That's true of politicians as well as rabbis. If God needs a partner, you'd think he'd at least find someone with applicable skills.

Get Me Some Flomax, I'm All Wee Weed Up!
We were going to title this "Bushism of the Day," but we decided that would be unfair to George W. Bush, who, although admittedly less than Churchillian in his oratorical abilities, is beginning to seem eloquent in comparison with today's Democratic politicians, including the one who said this yesterday:

***** QUOTE *****
"There is something about August going into September where everybody in Washington gets all wee weed up!"
***** END QUOTE *****

Yes, the president of the United States is talking baby talk. We don't even know what "wee weed up" means, although the president's comment does lead us to wonder if ObamaCare would cover Tamsulosin prescriptions.

Reader Brian Boyd comments on a presidential quote we noted yesterday:

***** QUOTE *****
President Obama's statement that the chronically ill and those toward the end of their lives are accounting for potentially 80% of the total health care bill out here is better understood in terms of owning a car.
Automobiles that are badly made or near the end of their useful lives account for potentially 80% of the total auto repair bill out here. If we could only send them to landfills and concentrate our auto repair expenses on those automobiles that are not actually in need of repair we could reduce auto repair costs in this country.
If the average life span of a person is approximately 80 years, and that of a car 10 years, then a car between the ages of nine months and about eight years could be considered worth fixing. If one buys a car, and it needs repairs or major tuning in the first nine months or after eight years, it's better, under the ObamaCarCare plan, to just advise the owner to let it rust and allow the insurance money to be spent on another vehicle in that age range which is actually working fine.
***** END QUOTE *****

When we read Boyd's email, we thought it a bit of a stretch--but then we remembered something the president said during yesterday's session with followers:

***** QUOTE *****
Another example is, the way we reimburse hospitals right now, we don't incentivize hospitals to get their patients the best treatment the first time out, because if a patient is immediately readmitted, well, we just pay them the same rate as they were the first time.
Now, think about if your car needed repairs, and you sent it in and got it fixed--you thought. A week later the same thing breaks down. When you went back to the auto shop, you'd probably want them to give you a little discount on fixing it the second time.
But we don't do that right now with respect to hospitals. And those are the kinds of changes that we can make that would pay for about two-thirds of the cost of health reform.
***** END QUOTE *****

Speaking of cars, the New York Times reports that "the government will end its popular 'cash for clunkers' program on Monday, more than two months early, because it is already running out of money." Would you buy a used car from this man?

Stable Condition
Remember how Yasser Arafat used to talk peace in English while promising in Arabic to drive the Jews into the sea? We're reminded of this by the debate over ObamaCare. In English, its supporters keep insisting that the so-called public option--essentially, establishing a new insurance company run by the federal government--is totally different from what is known as single-payer, the complete nationalization of the medical-insurance industry.

But a new video on YouTube demonstrates that, like Arafat, the Obamacarers are talking out of both sides of their mouth. The two-minute video simply strings together a series of clips saying the opposite, beginning with Sen. Russ Feingold (D., Wis.), in an interview with the public-access cable show "Democracy Now!":

***** QUOTE *****
Q: Do you support single-payer health care?
Feingold: I do. I always have. I don't think there's any possibility that that will come out of this Congress, and so for people to simply say that's this way or nothing, are looking at something that can't happen now. But I would love to see it, and I believe the goal here is to create whatever legislation we have in a way that could be developed into something like a single-payer system.
***** END QUOTE *****

Here's Gov. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas, now secretary of health and human services, speaking at Harvard in 2007:

***** QUOTE *****
I'm all for a single-payer system eventually. I think what we have to do, though, is work with what we've got to close the gap.
***** END QUOTE *****

Rep. Barney Frank (D., Mass.), last month:

***** QUOTE *****
I think if we get a good public option, it could lead to single-payer, and that's the best way to reach single-payer.
***** END QUOTE *****

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, answering a question in June:

***** QUOTE *****
Q: Hey Rahm, why did the president take single-payer off the table?
Unidentified woman: Look, sorry. I'm sorry, we don't have time for this.
Q: No, in 2003, he said he was for single payer, and now he's against it. Why did he flip-flop?
Emanuel: Because as I just--it's what I just said in there.
Q: What?
Emanuel: The objective is what's important. It's not the means.
***** END QUOTE *****

And here's a finger-wagging Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D., Ill.):

***** QUOTE *****
This is not a principled fight. This is a fight about strategy for getting there, and I believe we will!
***** END QUOTE *****

Arafat won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1994. Apparently Norwegians only understand English. But unlike Arafat, these pols are stating their true intentions in English. Which makes it all the more inexcusable when media outlets like the Associated Press (see our item yesterday) produce pro-ObamaCare propaganda and claim to be debunking "myths."

Nothing Wrong With EnronCare

- "In Britain, the government itself runs the hospitals and employs the doctors. We've all heard scare stories about how that works in practice; these stories are false."--former Enron adviser Paul Krugman, New York Times, Aug. 17

- "It was a simple thing. Another blood test, some more investigations into whatever flawed gene or missing protein might be the cause of my daughter's troubled life, with her terrible seizures, her blindness, her inability to walk or talk or eat unaided. Over the past 15 years, there have been many such attempts to identify her condition. One year later, we asked the doctor, a top geneticist at one of the world's most famous hospitals, what had happened to the results. His office told us a rambling story about financial restrictions and the need to send such tests to a laboratory in Germany. They said there was little he could do but promised to pursue our case. It was a bare-faced lie. The precious vial of blood had been dumped in storage and forgotten. The following day it was despatched to a laboratory in Wales and 40 days later the specialists came up trumps. They identified her condition, an obscure genetic mutation called CDKL5. . . . The most shocking thing was not the lying. Nor even the incompetence. It was our total lack of surprise at the turn of events, since after 15 years suffering from the failings of the National Health Service we are prepared for almost any ineptitude."--Ian Birrell, Independent (London), Aug. 21

An Insult to Jackasses Everywhere
"TV listings: The Prime-Time TV grid in Thursday's Calendar section mistakenly listed MTV's 'Jackass' show on the MSNBC cable schedule at 7 and 10 p.m. where instead MSNBC's 'Countdown With Keith Olbermann' should have been listed."--correction, Los Angeles Times, Aug. 21

Someone Alert the Death Panel

- "Rumor Has It That Palin's Moving to Rhode Island"--headline, Providence Journal, Aug. 20

- "RI Wind Farm Plan Abandoned After Death"--headline, Associated Press, Aug. 21

Life Imitates 'The Simpsons'

- Bart: "But you gotta support the team, Dad! They're already threatening to move to Moose Jaw."--from "Wild Barts Can't Be Broken," aired Jan. 17, 1999

- "Moose With Giant Warts Causes Commotion in Homer"--headline, Anchorage Daily News, Aug. 21, 2009

A Crucial Voting Bloc
"N.J. Cockroach Contest Predicts Corzine Will Beat Christie in Governor's Race"--headline, Star-Ledger (Newark), Aug. 20

I Am a Man Who Looks After the Pigs
"WHO Predicts 'Explosion' of Swine Flu Cases"--headline, Associated Press, Aug. 21

Good News for Ford
"Former Porsche Officials in Probe"--headline, The Wall Street Journal, Aug. 21

Unfrozen Caveman Goalie
"B.C. Hockey Legend Found Alive"--headline,, Aug. 20

'Oh, No, We're Just Friends'
"Home-Invasion Shooting Suspects Denied Bond"--headline, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Aug. 20

World's Heaviest Jewels
"3 Charged Over 40 Million Pound Jewel Heist in UK"--headline, Arizona Daily Star (Tucson), Aug. 21

Perverse Incentives
"Reward for Tacoma Apartment Arsonist"--headline, KING-TV Web site (Seattle), Aug. 20

It's Always in the Last Place You Look
"3,000-Year-Old Butter Found in Kildare Bog"--headline, Leinster (Ireland) Leader, Aug. 21

Everything Seemingly Is Spinning Out of Control

- "Traffic Noise Could Be Ruining Sex Lives of Frogs"--headline, Associated Press, Aug. 21

- "Inside Obama Administration, a Tug of War Over Nuclear Warheads"--headline,, Aug. 18

- "Devastating Cuts Expected Under Doomsday Budget"--headline, KYW-TV Web site (Philadelphia), Aug. 20

- "Campbell Takes a Gamble, Cuts Salt in Tomato Soup"--headline, Sacramento Bee, Aug. 20

- "Transgender Belly Dancer Helps Launch Arab Gay Initiative"--headline, Local (Sweden), Aug. 21

- "Rep. Boren Promises to Shave His Head if He Votes Yes on Health Reform"--headline, Hill, Aug. 20

News of the Tautological
"Flu Drugs 'Not Needed' in Healthy"--headline, BBC Web site, Aug. 21

News You Can Use

- "Male or Female? Gender Tests Are Not Always Easy"--headline, Associated Press, Aug. 20

- "Don't Sneeze on Your Roommate"--headline, Omaha World-Herald, Aug. 21

- "How to Turn Seawater Into Jet Fuel"--headline,, Aug. 18

- "Basic Advice to Writers: Don't Be Boring"--headline,, Aug. 19

Bottom Stories of the Day

- "Meet the Pizza Delivery Guy"--headline, WTOP-FM Web site (Washington), Aug. 19

- "King County Jail Inmate Dies From Natural Causes"--headline, Seattle Times, Aug. 20

- "Obama: Republican Conspiracy Out to Kill Health Reform"--headline, Washington Times, Aug. 21

Well, the Jerk Store Called. Their Shipment of You Got Lost in the Mail!
Commentary's Rick Richman notes an amusing exchange the other day between ABC's White House correspondent, Jake Tapper, and Press Secretary Robert Gibbs:

***** QUOTE *****
Tapper: In a letter sent last week to the White House from the National Association of Postal Supervisors, the president of that union, Ted Keating, said that his union had a, quote, "collective disappointment that you"--meaning the president--"chose the Postal Service as a scapegoat and an example in efficiency." Does the president--has the president seen that letter? Has he responded? Does he regret using the post office as an example of inefficiency?
Gibbs: I doubt he's seen that letter, and I don't have any reason to believe he regrets it, since he repeated it.
***** END QUOTE *****

Richman observes: "It might have been better to say something like 'I don't know if he has seen the letter yet, Jake, but I am sure he will respond because he holds the Postal Service and its employees in the highest regard'--rather than assert that Obama must not regret using the post office as an example of inefficiency, since he did it twice."

But if Gibbs had any wit, he'd have said: "The president has responded in a private letter to Mr. Keating. I'm sure it'll arrive any day now."

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Alamo made it into the WSJ today....

SAN ANTONIO -- There's a new battle under way for control of the Alamo -- and just like the Texas legend, neither side shows any sign of surrender.

For more than a century, the Daughters of the Republic of Texas -- nearly 7,000 women who trace their pedigrees back to the origins of the Texas Republic -- have had total control of the Alamo, the state's most revered historic site. They maintain what's left of the old mission, manage its historic exhibits and run the gift shop. They don't charge admission, and the site doesn't cost the state government a penny.

Erin Bowman, a Daughter of the Republic of Texas, formed a splinter group, and says the organization doesn't 'understand how to do business.'
.Now a small group of renegade Daughters has broken away, saying the Daughters' outmoded traditions and iron grip on the "Shrine of Texas Liberty" are holding back progress and preventing much-needed preservation work from moving ahead. They liken their declaration of independence to Texas's own split from Mexico in 1836.

"We're still fighting for the same things," says Erin Bowman, the 60-year-old leader of the breakaway group, called Friends of the Alamo. Ms. Bowman's family has owned the same ranch in Independence, Texas, since the days of the Republic more than 150 years ago.

The Alamo has long inspired passion among Texans. Built in the 18th century by Spanish missionaries looking to convert the local Indians, the Alamo gained its place in Texas history in 1836, when about 200 Texas settlers died trying to defend the fort from Mexican forces. Among the dead: soldier Davy Crockett, famed knife-fighter Jim Bowie and Lt. Col. William Travis, who promised never to surrender or retreat. The battle cry, "Remember the Alamo!" helped inspire Texans to defeat the Mexican army a month later, securing Texas's independence.

But Texans haven't always agreed on what, exactly, the Alamo stands for. It has been used as a symbol of patriotism by the U.S. military, the Confederacy and modern-day Texas secessionists. The stone plaza outside the mission in the heart of San Antonio has attracted antiwar rallies, antitax protests and white-supremacist gatherings. Rocker Ozzy Osbourne famously urinated on a monument outside the shrine in 1982 for reasons that remain unclear. The site has been enshrined in the American consciousness through movies like John Wayne's 1960 "The Alamo," and it draws some 2.5 million visitors every year from around the world.

Remembering the Alamo
1724 - Spanish missionaries begin construction of the Mission San Antonio de Valero, later known as the Alamo.

1793 - The Spanish government turns the Alamo and other San Antonio missions over to the local Indian populations.

Early 1800s - Spanish troops are stationed at the mission, which they call the Alamo after their hometown, Alamo de Parras.

December 1835 - Texas settlers led by Ben Milam take control of San Antonio from Mexican troops and establish a base at the Alamo.

MPI/Getty Images

The Texan defenders of the Alamo fought Mexican soldiers.
.February - March 1836 - Mexican forces led by General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna lay siege to the Alamo, which is defended by about 200 Texas troops.

March 6, 1836 - Gen. Santa Anna's forces attack the Alamo, killing its defenders.

April 21, 1836 - Texan forces led by Sam Houston defeat Gen. Santa Anna at San Jacinto, leading to Texas's independence.

December 1845 - Texas is admitted to the United States.

1883 - The state of Texas buys the Alamo chapel from the Catholic church.

1891 - Daughters of the Republic of Texas is founded.

1905 - The Texas legislature names the Daughters as the official custodians of the Alamo.

Everett Collection
.1955 - Walt Disney television series "Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier" helps bring the Alamo legend to public attention, despite historical inaccuracies.

Everett Collection
.1960 - John Wayne stars in "The Alamo"

1982 - Ozzy Osbourne is arrested for urinating on a monument outside the Alamo; he later apologizes.

1994 - State Rep. Ron Wilson introduces a bill to turn control of the Alamo over to the state. The bill fails.

Eric Gay/Associated Press

Members of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas celebrated the 100th anniversary of custodianship of the Alamo on Oct. 5, 2006.
.May 2007 - The Daughters vote to launch a $60 million capital campaign and appoint Erin Bowman to lead it.

May 2008 - The Daughters fire Ms. Bowman from her volunteer position

April 15, 2009 - Thousands of protestors fill the plaza in front of the Alamo for an anti-tax "tea party."

July 2009 - Ms. Bowman founds Friends of the Alamo.
.As its official caretakers, the Daughters have been roiled by their own disagreements since the Texas legislature handed over the keys in 1905. In 1908, one Daughter barricaded herself inside the complex during a battle with other group members over plans for the site. (A local sheriff finally threw her out a week later.)

Their spats -- over parking spaces, new exhibitions, officer elections -- have become the stuff of local legend. "It's almost automatic. Every four years, they have a fight," says Marco Barros, president of the San Antonio Area Tourism Council.

The Daughters say their reputation for infighting is exaggerated. Both sides deny they are waging a battle even now. "There is no feud. There's not two sides," says Madge Roberts, who served as president-general of the Daughters until May. A fourth-generation Daughter, Ms. Roberts traces her lineage back to Sam Houston, the first president of the Texas Republic. She dismisses Ms. Bowman and her group as just "unhappy women."

The crux of the current dispute is money. Both sides agree the Alamo needs to raise millions to fund a preservation and expansion program, including a new library. But they disagree over how to go about doing it.

The site has professional staff of about 85 tour guides, security guards, groundskeepers and store clerks, but little gets done without the Daughters' say-so. No check can go out without a Daughter's signature, and even minor decisions require a vote by the Daughters' 24-member board.

The system, along with the internal battles, makes it difficult to get things done, says former director David Stewart, who resigned in May after seven years on the job. "It's a real trip to work for 6,700 women," Mr. Stewart said. The Daughters say they weren't aware of his complaints until after Mr. Stewart left.

The group has shunned traditional tools of nonprofits; ideas like a "friends" program to encourage big donors, an annual fund and an official logo never got off the ground, say former insiders. Instead, they have relied on sales of souvenir coonskin caps modeled on the one supposedly worn by Mr. Crockett, toy "Bowie" knives and pistol-shaped shot glasses in their own Alamo gift shop to provide more than 90% of the site's roughly $5 million annual budget.

In 2007, though, the Daughters realized they needed a huge injection of money to finance plans for Alamo preservation and expansion, and voted to launch an unprecedented $60 million fund-raising campaign. The group appointed Ms. Bowman to lead the effort.

She tackled the job in a way the group says it didn't expect. For example, she met with potential donors without telling Ms. Roberts, then still the president-general. In a break from the Daughters' do-it-yourself style, she brought in an outside fund-raising firm. She brushed aside offers by local Daughters' chapters to hold bake sales or other small fund-raisers.

"They are very nice people. They just don't understand how to do business," Ms. Bowman says of the Daughters.

Ms. Bowman secured a $1 million gift and several smaller donations in seed money for the campaign. But relations with the Daughters' leadership deteriorated as they fought over how much autonomy Ms. Bowman should have.

In May 2008, the Daughters ousted Ms. Bowman from her volunteer position, citing various violations, including submitting grant applications without getting Ms. Roberts's signature as president-general.

"She's very attractive. Very personable...I think she lost track of the fact that she was not above the rules," Ms. Roberts says.

In the months since, Ms. Bowman has been undeterred. Though technically still a Daughter, she formed Friends of the Alamo and continued raising money. She set up a Facebook page for her group and keeps her supporters updated on Twitter.

"We are looking to the future," Ms. Bowman says, adding that the Daughters have been "completely focused on, 'We've been great for 105 years.' "

Last week, three members of the Daughters' board sent a letter to Ms. Bowman saying they were seeking to expel her and one of her supporters from the group. "It would be sheer idiocy for the DRT to tolerate members who seek to torpedo the DRT's legitimate fund-raising efforts," the letter read. Ms. Bowman says she will hire a lawyer to fight the expulsion. Ms. Roberts says she hadn't seen the letter but that it was sent in accordance with the Daughters' bylaws.

With the Alamo roof leaking and major preservation work needed, the Daughters say they'll still accept any money Ms. Bowman raises. But Ms. Bowman has other plans. She wants the Texas Historical Commission to spearhead Alamo projects, and says she'll steer her money there, effectively cutting the Daughters out of the process. The commission says it has no plans to take a larger role in the Alamo's management.

The Daughters group, meanwhile, is plowing ahead, too. Members have formed their own fund-raising membership program, and the group is planning to launch a drive to collect small change at local schools. They recently received a donation of $1,624.80 that had been raised by children in the tiny East Texas town of Center. Says Ms. Roberts: "Those thousand dollars mount up eventually."

Working out a Democratic Compromise on Healthcare (Insurance) Reform...

The White House and Senate Democratic leaders, seeing little chance of bipartisan support for their health-care overhaul, are considering a strategy shift that would break the legislation into two parts and pass the most expensive provisions solely with Democratic votes.

The idea is the latest effort by Democrats to escape the morass caused by delays in Congress, as well as voter discontent crystallized in angry town-hall meetings. Polls suggest the overhaul plans are losing public support, giving Republicans less incentive to go along.

Greeley, Colo., citizens line up to attend a health-care town-hall meeting with Rep. Betsy Markey, (D., Colo.), on Wednesday. Rep. Markey had planned to speak to small groups, but so many people turned out that she ultimately had to hold a meeting in a college auditorium. Audience members, both for and against health-care reform, calmly questioned her on the issues.
Democrats hope a split-the-bill plan would speed up a vote and help President Barack Obama meet his goal of getting a final measure by year's end.

Senators on the Finance Committee are pushing ahead with talks on a bipartisan bill. Democratic leaders say they hope those talks succeed but increasingly are preparing for the possibility that they do not.

Most legislation in the Senate requires 60 votes to overcome a filibuster, but certain budget-related measures can pass with 51 votes through a parliamentary maneuver called reconciliation.

Journal Communitydiscuss“ Republicans need to come to the table and help produce a good bill. ”
— David Schlemmer In recent days, Democratic leaders have concluded they can pack more of their health overhaul plans under this procedure, congressional aides said. They might even be able to include a public insurance plan to compete with private insurers, a key demand of the party's liberal wing, but that remains uncertain.

Other parts of the Democratic plan would be put to a separate vote in the Senate, including most of the insurance regulations that have been central to Mr. Obama's health-care message.

That bill would likely set new rules for insurers, such as requiring they accept anyone, regardless of pre-existing medical conditions. This portion of the health-care overhaul has already drawn some Republican support and wouldn't involve new spending, leading Democratic leaders to believe they could clear the 60-vote hurdle.

Health-Care Vote: A Split Could Be the Elixir
Senate Democrats are considering a radical approach to passing the health-care bill by splitting it into two parts. White House correspondent Jonathan Weisman explains how the strategy would work.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is the key decision-maker on whether to use the tactic, but several congressional aides said White House officials are being kept abreast of the talks.

"We will not make a decision to pursue reconciliation until we have exhausted efforts to produce a bipartisan bill," said Jim Manley, a spokesman for Mr. Reid. "However, patience is not unlimited, and we are determined to get something done this year by any legislative means necessary."

Privately, those involved in the talks now say there is a 60% chance the split-bill tactic will be used. Mr. Obama is huddling with aides next week, and Senate leaders are likely to review their options when Congress reconvenes after Labor Day.

The likelihood of a strategy shift has grown after the negative response of Republicans to overtures of compromise.

On Sunday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said a public plan, strongly opposed by Republicans, wasn't the "essential element" of a comprehensive bill.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs continued to insist Wednesday that Ms. Sebelius didn't mean to signal the White House was abandoning the public plan. A senior Democratic congressional leadership aide said weekend statements were calculated to test Republican responses.

Lawmaker Gets Flak for Health-Plan Idea WashWire: Obama: Health Care Is Moral Issue WashWire: GOP Eyes Deficit Reports in Fight Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona said Tuesday nonprofit insurance cooperatives, which centrist Democrats have suggested as an alternative to a public plan, were nothing but a "Trojan horse" that would lead to excessive government control of health care.

"It's fair to say the steam is going out of these bipartisan negotiations," the Democratic aide said.

House committees have passed bills that include a public option and new programs that would make insurance available to most Americans who lack it. If the Senate passes its own bill, the two chambers must hash out a compromise that could go to the president for signing. The public option could be the biggest point of contention between House and Senate.

Senate Finance Committee members working on a bipartisan bill are scheduled to talk Thursday on a conference call. "The Finance Committee is on track to reach a bipartisan agreement on comprehensive health-care reform that can pass the Senate," Sen. Max Baucus (D., Mont.), chairman of the Finance Committee, said in a statement.

But other senators noted privately that several factors are working against any deal. Many Democrats now believe it's a long shot. Mr. Baucus has set a deadline of Sept. 15 to reach agreement.

Several softer deadlines have already come and gone without a deal. One Republican senator, Orrin Hatch of Utah, has dropped out of the talks. The remaining Republicans have suggested they would only support something that had the backing of many GOP colleagues.

Still, the three Republicans negotiating with Sen. Baucus said Wednesday they believed a deal could be reached. "I'm hopeful," Sen. Olympia Snowe (R., Maine) said. "It's not without challenges, because of the complexity and the costs associated with it. We recognize that. And that's why it has consumed the amount of time that it has."

Sen. Mike Enzi (R., Wyo.) said the Democrats would be making a mistake by forging ahead on their own. "We need to get a bill that 75 or 80 senators can support," he said. "If the Democrats choose to shut out Republicans and moderate Democrats, their plan will fail because the American people will have no confidence in it."

Democrats also must deal with intraparty differences. They can't agree whether a public-insurance option is essential, as liberals say, a "preferred option" -- the White House stance -- or a bad idea, as some on the Finance Committee believe.

If a deal is not reached by mid-September, Mr. Baucus plans to present a bill that is likely to have little if any Republican support. At that point, Democrats will have to decide whether to proceed under the reconciliation process, which allows legislation to pass with a filibuster-proof 51 votes.

The idea of using reconciliation angers even such moderate Republicans as Ms. Snowe. "At a time when we need to bolster the public's confidence in whatever we do with health care, I don't think the reconciliation process will serve the purpose of providing affordable health security for all Americans," she said.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Here is the Coridian Alien mask that is already SOLD OUT ON THE INTERNET... Prawns look like Wetas

District 9 Science

District 9 : It's Science!

So to sort things out, we were pretty glad we had Dr. Wach with us to run through some of his immediate post-film thoughts. Check it out below.

And please email us with your reviews (text/audio/video) of the science in District 9...
and we'll watch for outside reviews & tweets in the meantime.

Interesting short film by director Neill Blomkamp (Citroen transformer ad) of He is now the director of the new Halo movie. And District 9.

Obama as Joker or the Dark Knight or Zombee

When cryptic posters portraying President Obama as the Joker from "The Dark Knight" began popping up around Los Angeles and other cities, the question many asked was: Who is behind the image?

Was it an ultra-conservative grass-roots group or a disgruntled street artist going against the grain? Nope, it turns out, just a 20-year-old college student from Chicago.

Bored during his winter school break, Firas Alkhateeb, a senior history major at the University of Illinois, crafted the picture of Obama with the clown makeup using Adobe's Photoshop software.

Alkhateeb had been tinkering with the program to improve the looks of photos he had taken on his Kodak camera. The Joker project was his grandest undertaking yet. Using a tutorial he'd found online about how to "Jokerize" portraits, he downloaded the Oct. 23, 2008, Time magazine cover of Obama and began work.

Four or five hours later, he happily had his product.

On Jan. 18, Alkhateeb uploaded the image to the photo-sharing site Flickr. Over two months, he amassed just a couple thousand hits, he said.

Then the counter exploded after a still-anonymous rogue found his image, digitally removed the references to Time magazine, captioned the picture with the word "socialism" and hung printed copies around L.A., making headlines.

Alkhateeb's Flickr page surpassed 20,000 views. By Friday, it had been taken down. On Alkhateeb's page, a manipulated image condemning White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel (captioned "epic fail") was mixed with parodies of the Guitar Hero game franchises and Napoleon on a motorcycle.

Flickr had removed the Joker image due to copyright-infringement concerns, Alkhateeb says the company told him in an e-mail. A Flickr spokeswoman declined to comment due to a company policy that bars discussing inquiries about individual users.

Alkhateeb says he wasn't actively trying to cover his tracks, but he did want to lie low. He initially had concerns about connecting his name with anything critical of the president. "After Obama was elected, you had all of these people who basically saw him as the second coming of Christ," he said. "From my perspective, there wasn't much substance to him."

Alkhateeb, of Palestinian descent, follows Middle Eastern politics closely and says that although his views on foreign relations align with the Democrats, he prefers Republican ideals on domestic issues.

Someday, Alkhateeb hopes to be a history teacher and high school football coach. He's honored by Shepard Fairey's assessment of his Joker picture ("The artwork is great in that it gets a point across really quickly," Fairey said), but disagrees with some of his comments criticizing the socialism poster.

"He made a picture of Bush as a vampire," Alkhateeb said of Fairey. "That's kind of speaking with two faces."

Regardless, Alkhateeb, who says he was making no political statement with his work, does agree with the Obama "Hope" artist about "socialism" being the wrong caption. "It really doesn't make any sense to me at all," he said. "To accuse him of being a socialist is really . . . immature. First of all, who said being a socialist is evil?"

Peter Jackson is alive in the movies this summer.... I am still waiting for the two parts!

On the Hollywood set of “The Adventures of Tintin” this spring, Steven Spielberg directed an actor in a motion-capture suit as he portrayed the antics of the globe-trotting comic-book hero. One camera was beaming a live feed halfway around the world. Filmmaker Peter Jackson was watching from his headquarters in New Zealand, and discussing the action with Mr. Spielberg via the video link.

A Scene From 'Alive in Joburg'
Watch a scene from "Alive in Joburg," a 2005 science fiction short film from Neil Blomkamp, director of "District 9." Video courtesy of Spy Films.

Four years after his last movie hit the screen, Mr. Jackson, director of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, is gearing up for an extended run at the box office. In recent years, the director’s projects have been shadowed by lawsuits, delays and studio upheavals. Now, working with a stable of filmmakers, from fellow Oscar-winners to first-time directors, Mr. Jackson is turning out a slew of new movies from his New Zealand-based production hub. He has entered the territory of a small group of directors like George Lucas and Mr. Spielberg, who control their own movie-making empires.

Next week will see the release of “District 9,” a sci-fi drama that Mr. Jackson produced and seeded with his own money. Though Mr. Jackson’s involvement has helped build buzz for the film, about aliens marooned in Johannesburg, the movie was directed by a young filmmaker that Mr. Jackson has mentored. Mr. Jackson is co-writing and producing an adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit,” but he’s handing the directing reins to Guillermo del Toro, known for his fantastical hit “Pan’s Labyrinth.”

Peter Jackson with Saoirse Ronan on a set of ‘The Lovely Bones’ on the South Island of New Zealand.
.“In some respects, I’m still not sure if I made the right decision in not directing, because I’m enjoying it so much,” Mr Jackson says of “The Hobbit.”

He hasn’t abandoned the director’s chair. His $65 million adaptation of Alice Sebold’s supernatural bestseller “The Lovely Bones” is being released Dec. 11 to coincide with awards season.

Though he shot much of “The Lovely Bones” in Pennsylvania, Mr. Jackson typically works in New Zealand. His largely autonomous operation there includes massive sound stages, a postproduction facility and an effects and design shop capable of making everything from chain-mail armor to operational assault vehicles.

“He has the equivalent of a full studio. He’s got tanks down there. Hangars of them. You don’t see that anymore, not even in Hollywood,” says Bill Block, an executive producer of “District 9.”

To sell the idea for “District 9,” Peter Jackson turned to comics ...

Many sci-fi and fantasy films are adapted from popular graphic novels. The graphic novel that launched “District 9” isn’t available to the public. (Read an excerpt.)

In the fall of 2006, filmmaker Peter Jackson hired a small team at Weta Workshop, the New Zealand design studio that he co-owns, to illustrate a script in development about aliens stranded in South Africa. Meanwhile, Neill Blomkamp, who was co-writing the screenplay with Terri Tatchell, traveled to Johannesburg to shoot photographs in preparation for directing the film. The results were packaged into a graphic novel-style treatment to attract potential investors.

“I was handed that book and told, ‘OK, here’s a movie,’ ” says Ken Kamins, Mr. Jackson’s longtime manager. About 10 copies of the book, a few of them in hardcover, were published. Mr. Kamins took one to the film financing company QED International, which pounced, in large part because of Mr. Jackson’s involvement.

“No star. No script. No budget. To us there was ample data [in the graphic novel] to make a decision,” says Bill Block, chief executive of QED, who also used the book to sign deals with distributors, including Sony.

Working with illustrators helped Mr. Blomkamp confront creative challenges. He had originally envisioned menacing creatures akin to those in the “Alien” movies. But he soon realized audiences wouldn’t empathize with them. The solution was to give them human-like eyes.

The graphic novel also sketched out the wider world of “District 9,” where there’s deep human resentment over the aliens subsisting in a fenced-in shantytown. “The police use cattle prods to subdue the aliens, loading them into vans, moving them off. The evictions are in full effect,” reads one page of the comic.

The comic featured elements that didn’t make it into the final film, but laid the groundwork for the viral marketing. That campaign, orchestrated by Sony, included signs in public places (“Restrooms for Humans Only”) and online videos that showed glimpses of the alien culture. That foreign society was also depicted in the book. One page describes an alien commercial with the lines “Learn to talk human! Better jobs at the mine!” There are no plans to sell the graphic novel in stores.

Many sci-fi and fantasy films are adapted from popular graphic novels.
The graphic novel that launched “District 9” isn’t available to the public. (Read an excerpt.)

In the fall of 2006, filmmaker Peter Jackson hired a small team at Weta Workshop, the New Zealand design studio that he co-owns, to illustrate a script in development about aliens stranded in South Africa. Meanwhile, Neill Blomkamp, who was co-writing the screenplay with Terri Tatchell, traveled to Johannesburg to shoot photographs in preparation for directing the film. The results were packaged into a graphic novel-style treatment to attract potential investors.

“I was handed that book and told, ‘OK, here’s a movie,’ ” says Ken Kamins, Mr. Jackson’s longtime manager. About 10 copies of the book, a few of them in hardcover, were published. Mr. Kamins took one to the film financing company QED International, which pounced, in large part because of Mr. Jackson’s involvement.

“No star. No script. No budget. To us there was ample data [in the graphic novel] to make a decision,” says Bill Block, chief executive of QED, who also used the book to sign deals with distributors, including Sony.

Working with illustrators helped Mr. Blomkamp confront creative challenges. He had originally envisioned menacing creatures akin to those in the “Alien” movies. But he soon realized audiences wouldn’t empathize with them. The solution was to give them human-like eyes.

The graphic novel also sketched out the wider world of “District 9,” where there’s deep human resentment over the aliens subsisting in a fenced-in shantytown. “The police use cattle prods to subdue the aliens, loading them into vans, moving them off. The evictions are in full effect,” reads one page of the comic.

The comic featured elements that didn’t make it into the final film, but laid the groundwork for the viral marketing. That campaign, orchestrated by Sony, included signs in public places (“Restrooms for Humans Only”) and online videos that showed glimpses of the alien culture. That foreign society was also depicted in the book. One page describes an alien commercial with the lines “Learn to talk human! Better jobs at the mine!” There are no plans to sell the graphic novel in stores.

John Jurgensen
.The set-up allows Mr. Jackson to keep his distance from Hollywood as he operates on the far side of the globe without a traditional studio deal, selling movies on the open market. It also gives him a hand in the work of other filmmakers, such as “Titanic” director James Cameron, who relied on the facilities’ cutting-edge technology for his coming 3-D sci-fi epic “Avatar.”

Mr. Jackson’s operations—along with tax breaks offered by New Zealand—have turned his home base of Wellington into a movie hub. In 1998, the year Mr. Jackson began shooting his “Rings” trilogy, four features were shot in New Zealand; last year, five times as many movies were shot there.

Even in New Zealand, Mr. Jackson isn’t safe from Hollywood drama. Both “Tintin” and “The Lovely Bones” temporarily went into limbo last year when Mr. Spielberg’s DreamWorks company split from Paramount. An anticipated movie version of the hit videogame Halo that Mr. Jackson was producing fell apart in 2006.

In 2005, Mr. Jackson and his personal and professional partner Fran Walsh sued New Line Cinema to force an audit on “The Fellowship of the Ring,” believing they had been shortchanged on profits from the first film in the Tolkien trilogy. The three movies brought in about $3 billion combined at the box office worldwide. The feud froze movement on a prequel project based on “The Hobbit,” with New Line executives saying publicly that they wanted nothing to do with the director, and Mr. Jackson announcing his days in Middle-earth were over. A settlement in December, 2007, paved the way for two live-action “Hobbit” films from New Line, with Mr. del Toro tapped to direct. The project is being co-produced by MGM.

“This was purely a business dispute,” says Mr. Jackson’s manager, Ken Kamins. “Once it was resolved, everyone was happy to proceed with an ongoing creative relationship.”

A different lawsuit that does not involve Mr. Jackson now threatens progress on “The Hobbit” again. In a case scheduled to go trial in October, the heirs of Mr. Tolkien have sued New Line for their share of revenues from the trilogy (they say they’ve received none) and to terminate the studio’s rights to “The Hobbit.” A spokesman for Warner Bros., New Line’s parent company, declined to comment on either lawsuit.

The attorney representing the Tolkien family, Bonnie Eskenazi, says the lawsuit isn’t a judgment on Mr. Jackson’s work. “This lawsuit has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of the films,” she says. “It has to do with the money.”

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TriStar Pictures

Mr. Jackson posed with ‘District 9’ star Sharlto Copley, left, and director Neill Blomkamp at San Diego’s Comic-Con in July.
.Mr. Jackson says of the pending case, “I can only assume that whatever the result is, it will allow the film to get made and completed.” Because a script and budget have not yet been submitted to the studio, however, he says, “The Hobbit” doesn’t have an official green light.

Fans were salivating over the prospect of “The Hobbit” long before the project was officially announced two years ago. At Comic-Con, an annual gathering in San Diego for sci-fi and fantasy enthusiasts and the entertainment companies that cater to them, the director received a standing ovation in the convention’s biggest room, the 6,500-seat Hall H. It was the self-described geek’s first in-person appearance at the 40-year-old event (he said his shooting schedule had never allowed it), and he snapped photos from the stage. Mingling with the fans masquerading as Klingons and Star Wars stormtroopers were devotees of Tolkien, including middle-aged triplets, known as the Ring Sisters, who wore peasant dresses and furry plastic Hobbit feet.

Out on the exhibition floor crowded with costumed conventioneers was a booth stocked with laser guns, ornate swords and statuettes. It was the handiwork of Weta Workshop, which Mr. Jackson co-owns. The Wellington-based workshop designed all the mythical creatures of the “Rings” films, such as the creepy Gollum. Sister studio Weta Digital, also co-owned by Mr. Jackson, has pioneered special-effects techniques. For example, Weta’s motion-capture technology used an actor’s movements to animate the giant ape in Mr. Jackson’s 2005 remake of “King Kong.”

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Everett Collection

Mr. Jackson is working with Steven Spielberg on an adaptation of the Belgian Tintin comic.
.Four years ago, Mr. Spielberg approached Weta Digital about inserting a computer-generated character, Tintin’s dog, Snowy, into a live-action feature. After the director discovered that Mr. Jackson was a fan of the comic, the two men eventually teamed up and decided to use motion capture to turn artist Georges Remi’s two-dimensional drawings into 3-D figures with textured hair and clothing. Mr. Spielberg recently finished six weeks of shooting with actors in motion-capture suits, and now Mr. Jackson will oversee the rest of the process at Weta. Then, Mr. Jackson will direct the sequel film, which Mr. Spielberg will produce.

Somewhere in the Weta complex is a cache of props that may never be seen by the public: the Marine uniforms and guns designed for the mothballed Halo film. In 2005, Mr. Jackson was hired to produce an action movie based on the Microsoft videogame franchise, in which futuristic soldiers battle aliens on multiple planets. To direct, they hired the then 25-year-old Neill Blomkamp, who had built a reputation with effects-driven commercials but had never directed a feature film. Mr. Blomkamp decamped from his Vancouver home to New Zealand, where he started working with Weta designers on the look of the Halo world.

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Sony Pictures

In ‘District 9,’ left, produced by Mr. Jackson, aliens are marooned in Johannesberg.
.By fall 2006, however the project fell apart. The partner studios in the project, Universal and Twentieth Century Fox, allowed the Halo rights to lapse and revert back to Microsoft. Microsoft says the project is on hold. Both Universal and Twentieth Century Fox declined to comment.

“It was a very distressing moment in time. We decided to turn a defeat into something of a victory,” Mr. Jackson says.

To continue their mission to “godfather” Mr. Blomkamp’s first film, Mr. Jackson and Ms. Walsh immediately suggested that Mr. Blomkamp launch a new project by expanding on a six-minute film he’d made in 2005 called “Alive in Joburg.” A native of South Africa, Mr. Blomkamp had explored the country’s charged racial history through the short about aliens living uninvited in Johannesburg. Mr. Jackson spent about $500,000 on development of “District 9,” hiring Weta for initial design work, sending Mr. Blomkamp to Johannesburg to shoot photos and helping to produce a graphic novel that was used to entice investors.

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Dreamworks Studios

Mark Wahlberg and Saoirse Ronan star in ‘The Lovely Bones,’ directed by Mr. Jackson.
.In “District 9,” human characters mingle and clash with aliens who look like insects on two legs. Having lost their leadership and control over their massive space ship, the aliens (derisively called “prawns” by the human locals) subsist in a shantytown. With no stars and shot largely with handheld cameras in a documentary style, the movie was made on a tight budget of $30 million.

Mr. Blomkamp says Mr. Jackson helped to amplify many of the film’s action sequences. “I may have been set at like 8, and with him it’s turned up to 11,” says Mr. Blomkamp.

In the movie, actor Sharlto Copley (an old friend of Mr. Blomkamp’s from Johannesburg, who is making his feature debut) plays an Afrikaner named Wikus, a puffed-up middle manager of a corporation hired to transplant the troublesome aliens to a new camp. As he goes shack-to-shack in District 9, Wikus is exposed to an alien substance, resulting in a horrific infection that transforms his body. In one scene, Wikus grabs a hatchet, intending to chop off an infected appendage. The character changes his mind in Mr. Blomkamp’s script. But Mr. Jackson, whose gory first movie was entitled “Bad Taste,” talked the director into an amputation.

Working on “District 9” “has got me itching,” Mr. Jackson said at Comic-Con. While “The Hobbit” is being directed by Mr. del Toro, he said, “maybe I should find a little low-budget horror movie that I can just be making in the meantime.”

Corrections & Amplifications
Director Peter Jackson began filming his “Lord of the Rings” trilogy of films in October 1999. This article incorrectly stated that shooting began in 1998. The article was correct in saying that four film features were shot in New Zealand in 1998.

Write to John Jurgensen at