Jobs says no to blu-ray on Macs… again

http://www.techradar.com/news/video/blu-ray/jobs-says-no-to-blu-ray-on-macs-again-700614

The point from the article provides the impression that Jobs believes that the internet will defeat blu-ray in terms of movie collection.  What this means is Jobs believes that renting / purchasing movies in the form of internet download / stream will become the dominant form of home movie viewing.

Steven Jobs is wrong, for now.

In the article, Jobs compares the post-CD era to that of the post-movie disc.  But there is a difference between audio recordings and movies.  The quality of the audio recordings sound pretty much the same, while blu-ray disc offer high quality video than internet-streamed / rented movies.

Jobs’ sentiment might become true a few years down the road, but in such a rapidly changing technological world, anything is possible.

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FOX dominates cable news and the rapid rise of Ms. Maddow

FOX News programs have taken up all of the top 10 spots in the latest ratings for cable news.


A few general conclusions can be drawn from this ratings list:

1. People love ‘advocacy journalism’ (term recently made famous by Lou Dobbs, the former CNN anchor). Viewers do not just want ‘news’ and ‘reporting’, they want opinion. Just about everyone now has access to news via the internet, so when they watch television, they want to know what people (journalists, pundits, ‘anchors’) think about these news pieces.

2. The implications of FOX News dominating are many. Does it mean that Americans are getting more conservative? Does it mean more conservatives watch TV? What about the level of education / age demographic that watch FOX News? Does it mean that FOX has better quality news programs?

3. Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity have on numerous occasions accused the mainstream media of being liberal-biased.  And there they are, with shows attracting bigger audiences than any other ‘liberal’ news program.  Perhaps now, with the apparent dominance of FOX news, we would be discussing whether or not there is a conservative bias in the mainstream media.

4. I still think John King is awesome. As are Anderson Cooper and Wolf Blitzer. I think by labeling itself as an ‘impartial’ channel for many years, CNN has given these anchors somewhat of a mystique, causing many to wonder what their personal views are. Imagine King and Cooper being all fired up and opinionated about the issues they’re discussing!

5. Rachel Maddow is on the rise, fast. She and Keith Olbermann are outshining their colleagues Ed Schultz and Chris Mathews by a mile. Maddow’s sharp, crisp commentary will only help her garner more viewers.  The sky’s the limit for Rachel!
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Is General Petraeus Afghanistan’s New Hope?

Petraeus might be a good commander. A very good one. He might even be considered to be the man who turned around the Iraq War. But he is not a saint, and a saint is what is needed to bring hope to the Afghanistan situation.

I refer to it as the ‘Afghanistan situation’, because the conflict there goes beyond a military war. Iraq might have been under the rule of a ruthless dictator before the United States invasion, but at the very least, it had a functioning government infrastructure that, for lack of a better term, did things. These things include essential services such as defense, sewage, health, and the like.

The Afghan government does next to nothing. Beyond Kabul, the reach of Karzai’s government is next to nil. And here lies America’s problem.

America’s mission is nation-building, not winning a war. And on this front, from what I have read (comments from generals, Senators, analysts), most are only grading the progress a mild ‘okay’.

Beneath bipartisan rounds of praise for Petraeus lay fault lines over the nearly nine-year war. A make-or-break military push across southern Afghanistan is stuck in neutral, though U.S. officials insist there are signs of progress and reason for hope.

Here’s the thing, nation-building does not take a few or even ten years. It takes decades. And the United States cannot afford to commit to this country for the next twenty to thirty years.

Let’s hope General Petraeus has something up his sleeve, something brilliant that he hasn’t disclosed to anyone, that can turn this war around, and win the hearts and minds of the Afghans.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Brown votes no


As the piece quotes Barney Frank: “Why anyone would think that the large financial institutions should not pay the administrative costs, I don’t know, but apparently you couldn’t get 60 senators.”

Sounds like common sense, doesn’t it? Why should the taxpayers pay for this? The banks are getting away with paying their dues, again.

On the larger scale, though, this shows the kind of dysfunctional political system that the United States incorporates. The party in the majority, the democrats, cannot get anything passed without a tough time, even with 60 seats in the Senate. This is why the dems need to court the support of Senators Snowe, Collins, and Brown, which means that whether this bill passes or fails hinges whether these three Republican senators vote ‘yes’.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Shut down Guantanamo. Do not hesitate.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/26/us/politics/26gitmo.html?hp#

Stymied by political opposition and focused on competing priorities, the Obama administration has sidelined efforts to close the Guantánamo prison, making it unlikely that President Obama will fulfill his promise to close it before his term ends in 2013

This is deplorable. Guantanamo Bay is a symbol for everything that ‘cowboy diplomacy’ stood for; of Americans doing things on their own, without regard of the consequences of their actions. It still boggles my mind how the Bush administration got away with what they had going on at Abu Ghraib, Bagram, and Guantanamo …Bay.

And now the Obama administration is showing hesitation – at least not trying their hardest – in shutting down Guantanamo Bay. Keeping Guantanamo Bay open represents a continuation of the Bush administration’s foreign policy paradigm.

Maybe these guys need to watch “Taxi to the Dark Side” (again, if they’ve already seen it) to know what went on in those inhumane facilities.

Is the heroin / drug addiction problem an inevitable part of history?



global opium cultivation — which is used to make heroin — has dropped 13 percent overall, to 657 tons.

…heroin use remains solid in Europe. Consumption is particularly strong in Western countries such as the United Kingdom, Italy and France, and as demand for both heroin and cocaine has grown within those nations…

So a drop of 13 percent in opium cultivation only pulls the figure down to 657 tons. Well that’s a relief.

The statistic about the alarmingly high usage in (Western) Europe is particularly interesting. What does it mean? What are the implications of this figure? Does it have anything to do with the histories of these European countries? Does it have anything to do with the political makeup of these countries?

It has become my belief after studying history and political science in University that most countries, since the inception of countries (arguably in the 17th century, after the Peace of Westphalia), loosely follow a linear progress.  Generally speaking, most countries begin as dictatorships.  Some move quickly on to become monarchs and/or theocracies and / or empires.  Then, usually through a period of violent struggles, these countries become democracies.

If one were to attribute the birth of the nation state to Europe (most specifically, Western Europe), then one could argue that these European nations have been on this line of historical progress the longest.  As we can see, most of the Western European countries now have centuries-old democracies, some of which came as a result of the masses overthrowing monarchs (most notably Great Britain and France).  Other democracies were born after extended periods of often violent struggles, some involving the toppling of empires, others involving a battle of ideologies (ex. Italy and Russia, although Russia did not become a so-called democracy until the late 20th century).

(Note that this line of historical ‘progress’ that I’ve outlined does not refer to it being ‘good’ or ‘bad’, because that would stir up a whole other debate about how ‘great’ the countries are, and bring into question the merits of democracy.  The ‘progress’ in my context simply refers to the evolution countries undertake over time.)

With this in mind, let us look the non-European countries that are potentially ‘next in line’, or have already followed, this historical line of progress: India, China, Iran, and various African nations.  The article shows that these countries all have heroin consumption rates of 5-15%.

If these countries do follow the line of progress as those of Western Europe, does this mean that heroin use in these countries will increase in the future?

The key question here is: what is the correlation between the politics of a country and its population’s drug addiction problems? Britain, France, and other Western European countries now have functioning welfare-state style social democracies.  Some of these countries pride themselves on this fact.  It would be quite devastating if there is a relationship between the political structure of a country (more specifically, social democracy) and its drug problems.

But alas, it is nonetheless good news that opium production is down.  Now if only we can ameliorate the drug problems in some of the oldest democracies in the world…
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Republicans block tax extenders bill, with one bogus cause in mind

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/06/23/unemployment-jobs-bill-grim_n_623553.html

“The legislation, known as the “tax extenders” bill, would reauthorize extended unemployment benefits for people out of work for six months or longer, would protect doctors from a 21 percent pay cut for seeing Medicare patients, and would provide billions in aid to state Medicaid programs.

Come Friday, 1.2 million people will lose access to the extended unemployment benefits, a number that will grow by several hundred thousand every week after that…

…the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that dropping the $24 billion in aid to states will cause 900,000 public- and private-sector layoffs in 2011.”

Yep, the Republicans are unanimously blocking this bill.

A Republican filibuster for something that’s actually good for America. Surprised? Nope. But think of it this way, though. The Republicans are always arguing for deficit reduction, which is fine, but why cut spending in such important services such as medicare and unemployment? Why not cut, let’s see… military spending? or NASA? Because they are stubborn ideologues.

It also doesn’t make sense because America’s deficit is increasing no matter what. The US continues to borrow, owes China a huge some of money, and has to spend billions feeding its military endeavors. But of course, nobody in America wants to see their taxes raised, so the problem continues.