31 October 2011

30 October 2011

Sucker punch

Fast Company magazine has a series of articles about the tech war between Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. The issue had four different covers on the newstand, but it turns out to have all four articles inside, so it didn't matter which one you bought. Rico says that, of course, he bought the one with the late Steve Jobs on the cover...

29 October 2011


Rico says his friend Bob Leone sends along this splendid video of another thing Rico won't be doing:

Fort Branch, soon

Rico says he's doing his first-ever reenactment at Fort Branch in Hamilton, North Carolina on 5 & 6 November:

The lady's got damn big feet

The Southwest Airlines magazine, Spirit, also has an article about the Statue of Liberty :
Standing a majestic 151 feet tall, she wears size 879 sandals.
Rico says that those are big feet, and yesterday was her 125th birthday...

Say farewell to the things of childhood

Rico says that, eventually, you can kiss both the nickel and the penny goodbye. The latest issue of Spirit, the Southwest Airlines magazine, has the story:
Rising zinc and copper prices are to blame for high production costs of 1.8 cents apiece for the lowly penny, which, according to the 2010 annual report of the US Mint, led to a loss of $27.4 million last year. The nickel, however, cost 9.2 cents apiece as of 2010...

28 October 2011

It's always something

Rico says that the post title is a phrase taught to him by his mother, whom he's now visiting, but it applies to the sudden failure of his previously-trusty CPAP machine. The manufacturer says there's nothing they can do, and Rico will have to find a tech here in the South to look at it, or plan on snoring until he gets home. (Yes, yes, Rico is pissed...)

Scam email for the day

Rico says they're coming in droves now; remember, you have been warned...
From: Williams Ofor <williamsofor13@yahoo.com.ph

This is to notify you that your consignment has been in our custody waiting for your comply before the delivery will be effected to your delivery address. We have been waiting for you to contact us regarding your consignment box which Courier Company suppose to deliver to you which was on hold by US Department of State Bureau and requesting for clearance certificate which will be obtain from the origination of the consignment box before it will be released.
As a result of you not comply within duration given by US Government that is the reason the consignment box was diverted to treasury.All the walfare of United States Citizen and all part of europe including asia, australia, south america, Antartica, etc., is my concern. Am here to take the protocol of all our citizens to not be cheated by Africans.
After the meeting held by our board of director which was concluded that the delivery of your consignment to your address must be complete within three working days upon your comply to our requirement which is by sending the sum of $75 to enable us obtain the needed certificate and effect with the delivery of your consignment immediately from here to your State.
Note that your consignment box has been arrived in embassy and waiting to receive clearance certificate before the gate pass is given. Mean while you are advice to reconfirm the below information upon contacting us to avoid delivery to wrong person.
1. Your Name
2. Your home address
3. Your occupation
4. Direct Telephone Number
Once you notify us with the above information we will release your consignment to you, Contact the Federal Executive Office Direct with the following information below
Contact person: Mrs. Stella Bush
Phone: +229 983 555 18
Note that you are expected to pay ONLY $75 for clearance certificate through western union or Money Gram once you receive this mail with the information below for immediate release of your consignment box,
Receiver;. Udeanyinyi Lawrence
Amount; $75
Question; when
Answer; today
Country; Benin Republic
Once you send the money, try to notify us with the MTCN for easy pick up and for immediate action on the release of your consignment.
Please treat this as matter of urgency.
Note that any uncliam consignment will be return to the Courier Company after 3 days for final divertion.

So you are urgently advise to comply with our demand so that we will release your consignment.

Dr.Mr.Stella Bush,
Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs

Not really, but maybe some day...

Details have been released regarding Britain's introduction of the next generation of fighting ships, the new British destroyer, HMS Cautious.
The Royal Navy is proud of the cutting edge capability of the fleet of Type 45 destroyers. Costing £750 million, they have been designed to meet the needs of the 21st century; in addition to state of the art technology, weaponry, and guidance systems, the ships will comply with the very latest employment, equality, health & safety, and human rights legislation.
They will be able to remain at sea for several months, and positively bristle with facilities. For instance, the new user-friendly crow's nest comes equipped with wheelchair access. Live ammunition has been replaced by paintballs, to reduce the risk of anyone getting hurt, and to cut down on the number of compensation claims. Stress councillors and lawyers will be on duty twenty-four hours a day, and each ship will have its own onboard industrial tribunal.
The crew will be evenly crewed by both men and women, and balanced in accordance with the latest Home Office directives on race, gender, sexuality, and disability. Sailors will only have to work a maximum of thirty-seven hours per week, in line with European Union health and safety rules, even in wartime. All bunks will be double occupancy, and the destroyers all come equipped with a maternity ward situated on the same deck as the gay disco. Tobacco will be banned throughout the ship, but cannabis will be allowed in the officer's wardroom. The Royal Navy is eager to shed its traditional reputation for Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash. Out has gone the occasional rum ration, which is to be replaced by Perrier water, although sodomy remains, this has now been extended to include all ratings under eighteen. The lash will still be available, but only by request.
Saluting officers has been abolished because it is elitist; it is to be replaced by the more informal Hello, sailor. All notices on boards will be printed in 37 different languages, plus Braille. Crew members will no longer be required to ask permission to grow beards or moustaches, not even the women. The MOD is working on a new "non-specific" flag based on the controversial British Airways tailfin design, because the White Ensign is considered to be offensive to minorities. The ship is due to be launched soon, in a ceremony conducted by Captain Hook from the Finsbury Park mosque, who will break a petrol bomb over the hull. The ship will gently slide into the water to the tune of In the Navy by the Village People, played by the band of Her Majesty's Royal Marines.
Sea trials are expected to take place when the first of the new destroyers, HMS Cautious, sets out on her maiden voyage. It will be escorting boat loads of illegal immigrants across the Channel to ports on the south coast. The Prime Minister said: "While the ships reflected the very latest of modern thinking, they were also capable of being up-graded to comply with any new legislation". His final words: "Britain never, never waives the rules!"

27 October 2011

Another executive idiot

Azam Ahmed, Peter Lattman, and Ben Protess have an article in The New York Times about the fall of Rajat Gupta:
Federal prosecutors are expected to file criminal charges against Rajat K. Gupta, the most prominent business executive ensnared in an aggressive insider trading investigation, according to people briefed on the case. The case against Gupta, 62, who is expected to surrender to FBI agents soon, would extend the reach of the government’s inquiry into America’s most prestigious corporate boardrooms. Most of the defendants charged with insider trading over the last two years have plied their trade exclusively on Wall Street.
The charges would also mean a stunning fall from grace of a trusted adviser to political leaders and chief executives of the world’s most celebrated companies. A former director of Goldman Sachs and Procter & Gamble and the longtime head of McKinsey & Company, the elite consulting firm, Gupta has been under investigation over whether he leaked corporate secrets to Raj Rajaratnam, the hedge fund manager who was sentenced this month to eleven years in prison for trading on illegal stock tips.
While there has been no indication yet that Gupta profited directly from the information he passed to Rajaratnam, securities laws prohibit company insiders from divulging corporate secrets to those who then profit from them.
The case against Gupta, who lives in Westport, Connecticut, would tie up a major loose end in the long-running investigation of Rajaratnam’s hedge fund, the Galleon Group. Yet federal authorities continue their campaign to ferret out insider trading on multiple fronts. This month, for example, a Denver-based hedge fund manager and a chemist at the Food and Drug Administration pleaded guilty to such charges.
A spokeswoman for the United States attorney in Manhattan declined to comment, but Gary P. Naftalis, a lawyer for Gupta, said in a statement: “The facts demonstrate that Mister Gupta is an innocent man, and that he acted with honesty and integrity.”
Gupta, in his role at the helm of McKinsey, was a trusted adviser to business leaders that included Jeffrey R. Immelt of General Electric and Henry R. Kravis of the private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Company. A native of Kolkata, India, and a graduate of the Harvard Business School, Gupta has also been a philanthropist, serving as a senior adviser to the Bill & Melinda Gates FoundationGupta also served as a special adviser to the United Nations.
His name emerged just a week before Rajaratnam’s trial, when the Securities and Exchange Commission filed an administrative proceeding against him. The agency accused Gupta of passing confidential information about Goldman Sachs and Procter & Gamble to Rajaratnam, who then traded on the news.
The details were explosive. Authorities said Gupta gave Rajaratnam advance word of Warren E. Buffett’s $5 billion investment in Goldman Sachs during the darkest days of the financial crisis, in addition to other sensitive information affecting the company’s share price.
At the time, federal prosecutors named Gupta a co-conspirator of Rajaratnam, but they never charged him. Still, his presence loomed large at Rajaratnam’s trial. Lloyd C. Blankfein, the chief executive of Goldman, testified about Gupta’s role on the board and the secrets he was privy to, including earnings details and the bank’s strategic deliberations.
The legal odyssey leading to charges against Gupta could serve as a case study in law school criminal procedure class. He fought the SEC’s civil action, which would have been heard before an administrative judge. Gupta argued that the proceeding denied him of his constitutional right to a jury trial and treated him differently than the other Rajaratnam-related defendants, all of whom the agency sued in federal court.
Gupta prevailed, and the SEC dropped its case in August, but it maintained the right to bring an action in federal court. The agency is expected to file a new, parallel civil case against Gupta as well. It is unclear what has changed since the SEC dropped its case in August. An SEC spokesman has declined to comment.The case could be a challenge for the government. Many of the defendants convicted of insider trading, including Rajaratnam, have been caught on wiretaps swapping secret information.
At Rajaratnam’s trial, the government played a recorded conversation between Gupta and Rajaratnam in July of 2008. On that call, Gupta divulged that Goldman was considering a purchase of either Wachovia or American International Group. Evidence that Rajaratnam traded on this information was never presented, however.
Two of the most incriminating calls played in court pertained to tips that the government said had come from Gupta. But those calls were conversations between Rajaratnam and his employees, which could make them inadmissible in a trial of Gupta.
In one call played for the jury, Rajaratnam told a colleague: “I heard yesterday from somebody who’s on the board of Goldman Sachs that they are going to lose $2 per share.” In the other, Rajaratnam said to his trader: “I got a call saying something good is going to happen to Goldman.”
The SEC’s original case also outlined evidence that could potentially be used at trial. That includes Gupta  phone records of on 23 September 2008. That day, the Goldman board met via telephone to consider Buffett’s five billion dollar investment in Goldman.
“Immediately after disconnecting from the board call, Gupta called Rajaratnam from the same line,” the SEC filing says. A minute later, Galleon funds bought more than 175,000 shares of Goldman just before the market closed, the agency says, and later netted a $900,000 profit when the deal was announced.
Though he had an enviable résumé and earned millions of dollars a year at McKinseyGupta became fixated on the extraordinary wealth showered on hedge fund managers and private equity chiefs, according to trial testimony. Consultants are well paid, but the compensation pales in comparison to those Wall Street titans.
Around the time of his retirement in 2007, he and Rajaratnam helped start New Silk Route, a private equity firm focused on investments in India. Though Rajaratnam never had an active role in the firm, he and Gupta were good friends, having met through their philanthropic interests.
Gupta periodically visited Rajaratnam’s hedge fund, Galleon, on Madison Avenue and 57th Street in midtown Manhattan. The two would order Indian or Chinese takeout and kibitz in Rajaratnam’s office. Gupta became an investor in Galleon’s hedge funds.As part of his foray into Wall StreetGupta took a senior adviser post at KKR, the firm co-founded by his friend Kravis. During Rajaratnam’s trial, prosecutors played a tape of the hedge fund manager gossiping with a friend about Gupta’s ambitions. “My analysis of the situation is he’s enamored with Kravis, and I think he wants to be in that circle,” Rajaratnam said. “That’s a billionaire circle, right?”
Rico says he still finds it hard to believe that anyone, much less weasels like Gupta, control so much money...

Caught the car

Steve Lohr has an article in The New York Times about the latest sucker executive to try and run IBM:
Virginia M. Rometty, a senior vice president at IBM, will be the company’s next chief executive, the directors have announced. She will succeed Samuel J. Palmisano, 60, who will remain as chairman, at the start of next year.
Rometty, 54, is well known within the technology industry, but not widely beyond. She has led strategically important divisions of the company as it has shifted to services and products with high profit margins, like software that mines vast troves of corporate and online data for sales and cost-saving opportunities.
The directors’ choice of Rometty, who managed a crucial merger as well as sales in fast-growing new markets, ends a competition that has been under way for years. The leading candidates were always from within the company’s executive ranks.
A leading rival to succeed Palmisano, analysts say, was Steven A. Mills, the senior vice president who led IBM's highly profitable and growing software division. But his age, analysts note, was probably an obstacle. Mills has just turned 60, the traditional retirement age for IBM chief executives.
Palmisano, in an interview, singled out Mills for praise, saying “he’s done a phenomenal job.”
The selection of Rometty for the top job at IBM will make her one of the most prominent women executives in corporate America, joining a small group of chiefs that includes Ursula Burns of Xerox, Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo, Ellen J. Kullman of DuPont, and Meg Whitman of Hewlett-Packard. Gender, according to Palmisano, did not figure into Rometty’s selection.
“Ginni got it because she deserved it,” Palmisano said, using the informal first name by which she is known to friends and colleagues. “It’s got zero to do with progressive social policies,” Palmisano added.
Rometty has led the growth and development of IBM’s huge services business for more than a decade. The services strategy, analysts say, is partly a marketing tactic. But, they add, it also represents a different approach to the technology business, with less emphasis on selling hardware and software products. Instead, IBM puts together bundles of technology to help business streamline operations, find customers and develop new products.
“IBM is selling business solutions, not just products,” said Frank Gens, chief analyst for the technology market research firm IDC. “Rometty has been at the forefront of that effort.”
Rometty, who graduated from Northwestern University with an undergraduate degree in computer science, joined IBM in 1981 as a systems engineer. She quickly moved up to a series of management jobs, working with clients in industries including banking, insurance,telecommunications, manufacturing and health care.
In 2002, Rometty championed the purchase of the big business consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting for $3.5 billion.
The deal was made shortly after Palmisano became chief executive and it was seen as a big risk. The PricewaterhouseCoopers consultants were used to operating fairly independently, in a very different culture from the more regimented IBM style of the time. The danger, analysts say, was that the business consultants would flee in droves, leaving the business a shell.
Rometty was put in charge of coordinating the work of the acquired firm’s consultants with IBM’s technologists, to tailor services and software offering for specific industries. Rometty, analysts say, worked tirelessly and effectively to win over the consultants. “She did the deal, and she made it work,” Palmisano said.
Ginni Rometty combines performance and charisma,” said George F. Colony, chairman of Forrester Research. “She orchestrated a massive charm campaign to bring the PricewaterhouseCoopers people into the fold. That was the trial by fire for her.”
In 2009, Rometty became senior vice president and group executive for sales, marketing and strategy. Part of the job is leading the IBM drive to sharply increase its business in overseas growth markets, like China, India, Brazil, and dozens of emerging markets, including several African nations. Such markets now account for 23 percent of IBM’s revenue, up from twenty percent when she took over. It should reach thirty percent by 2015, the company projects.
The top marketing job also includes spotting opportunities to use the science coming out of IBM’s labs in new products and services. In that perch, Rometty has pushed to expand the company’s fast-growing analytics unit, which blends data-mining software with services expertise. “It’s not about capturing markets, it’s about making new markets,” Rometty said in a brief interview after the announcement.
Palmisano succeeded Louis V. Gerstner Jr., an outsider who became chief executive in 1993, and led a historic turnaround of IBM, an endangered corporate icon. Palmisano inherited a company that had returned to health, but he set about transforming it once again. Under Palmisano, IBM sold its personal computer and other hardware lines, and focused increasingly on services and software. IBM sells mainly to business and governments, leaving consumer technology to others. His strategy for driving the company behind big services projects to use technology to tackle big business and societal challenges, like energy, traffic, and water management, had a catchy title: Smarter Planet. But such grand themes were initially met with skepticism on Wall Street. “The challenge is that you have to bring investors with you,” Palmisano explained.
That led to the development of a “financial roadmap,” setting out five-year plans for its growth initiatives and profit targets for the company as a whole. This year, IBM is completing the first five-year roadmap, with the numbers running ahead of the plan, despite the 2007-2009 recession.
IBM’s profits have increased sharply since Palmisano took over, and its stock price climbed. Earlier this year, IBM passed Microsoft to become the second most valuable technology company, measured by market capitalization, trailing only Apple, the consumer technology powerhouse.
IBM must steadily evolve, Rometty said, but she does not anticipate changing course abruptly. “What you’ll see is an unfolding of the strategy we have in place,” Rometty said, noting that she had a hand in creating it.
Rico says it's yet another job he wouldn't want, even if it was offered to him, and not even for more money than they're undoubtedly paying this poor woman... (But "we sell solutions" is marketing drivel that produced over a hundred million hits on Google.)

Google note: the latest unasked-for irritant in Blogger is the "we'll finish your word/sentence for you, even if we don't have a fucking clue what you're going to say, and thus almost always provide nonsensical words", which Rico is sure some creative genius got a bonus for creating... (And if Rico can find him or her, they're in deep merde.)

Funnier if you speak Chinese

Spurred by the detention of the artist and government critic Ai Weiwei in April of 2011, Pi San created this satirical animation as a tribute to Ai and, more broadly, as an indictment of the corrosive effects of censorship on society and on language itself. A masterpiece of comic subterfuge, the animation refers to Ai not by name but mainly through the subject of one of his most famous solo exhibitions: the one hundred million porcelain sunflower seeds he laid out across the floor of the Tate Modern in 2010. (The Chinese character for Kuang Kuang’s exasperated sigh, “ai,” , also happens to be just a few brush strokes away from Ai’s surname: .)

Occupy... a jail cell

Rico says he told them not to do it in Oakland, as the OPD has no sense of humor, but Malia Wollan, David Goodman, and Sarah Maslin Nir have the whole story in The New York Times:
Riot police in Oakland dispersed hundreds of protesters with tear gas as crowds tried to re-enter a plaza outside of City Hall that the authorities had cleared of an encampment earlier in the day.
By Wednesday morning in downtown Oakland, a dim cloud of gas still hung in the air over Frank Ogawa Plaza, images broadcast on CNN showed. A small number of police in riot gear stood by barricades around the plaza and a handful of protesters held signs nearby.
“It sounded like bombs,” said Joaquin Jutt, 24, a digital animator who was among the protesters on Tuesday night. “There was a stinging and burning in my throat, eyes and nostrils. My eyes burned like there was hot sauce in them.”
Protesters, many affiliated with the group Occupy Oakland, can be seen scurrying away from billowing clouds of gas and what appear to be flash grenades in video recorded from a high vantage point in an office nearby.
The clashes occurred after the police removed about 170 demonstrators who had been staying in the area after being warned that such a camp was illegal and that they faced arrest if they remained, the police said in a statement. City officials said a hundred people were arrested in the morning raid.
In the video below, included in a report by the Oakland Tribune, the police can be seen dismantling the camp and making arrests early Tuesday morning, using small amounts of tear gas:

The first scuffle broke out later in the day after hundreds marched back to City Hall in an effort to re-establish a presence in the area of the dispersed camp. The police put the number of protesters at more than a thousand, in a statement released Tuesday night.
The Associated Press posted edited video of the scene from the evening until after dusk as the police moved in and crowds thinned:
The crowds dispersed after the first round of tear gas but soon returned in similar numbers, according to protesters on the scene.
At around 9:30 p.m., there was a tense faceoff between protesters and police officers on Broadway at 14th Street. About a hundred officers, some appearing to be sheriff’s deputies, stood behind a metal barricade in full riot gear and wearing gas masks, while on the other side people pressed against the barricade, waving peace signs and chanting slogans. A few protesters hurled objects — what looked like water bottles — at the police, while over a loud speaker, officers instructed people to disperse or risk “chemical agents.”
A video, captured by The New York Times, showed a chaotic scene:

Shortly after 9:30 p.m. the announcements stopped. Moments later, the police began firing canisters of tear gas into the crowd. Many people ran, but a few protesters wearing gas masks stayed and continued to throw things at the police. Those who had been affected by the gas coughed repeatedly and appeared to weep. Some stooped before a woman who volunteered to rinse reddened eyes.
This video, also recorded by The New York Times, shows a protester having his eyes rinsed:

At a late-night news conference, the city’s acting police chief, Howard Jordan, said officers needed to use tear gas after protesters threw rocks and bottles at them. The city has seen multiple clashes between protesters and the police in recent years, particularly in the aftermath of the 2009 shooting of Oscar Grant III, a young, unarmed young black man, shot by a white transit officer. (Protesters who had occupied the park in front of City Hall had begun calling it Oscar Grant Plaza.)
Protesters posted photos of injuries they said had been sustained during the protests, said to have been caused by rubber bullets:

The police denied firing flash grenades or rubber bullets at protesters. “The loud noises that were heard originated from M-80 explosives thrown at police by protesters,” the police said in a statement. “In addition, police fired approximately four bean bag rounds at protesters to stop them from throwing dangerous objects at the officers.”
The police also explained their use of tear gas:
The police used a limited amount of tear gas for a small area as a defense against protesters who were throwing various objects at oplice officers as they approached the area. The objects included glass bottles, rocks, pots, pans, kitchen utensils, and plates at police officers. In addition, the protesters sprayed a fire extinguisher on police officers.
Tear gas is regularly used by police departments across the United States to control crowds. The Oakland police have used tear gas to control large protests in January of 2009 and threatened to do so in July of 2010, when anger over the killing of Grant spilled over into street violence.
In what may be the most dramatic video of the melee, posted by KTVU, a protester very near the police line can be seen falling hard to the ground after a loud pop and a flash. As a crowd gathers around to help the protester, another loud pop and flash occurs in the middle of the group, scattering them.
A shorter version of the same video was also reposted to YouTube, where the same scene occurs at 0:22. [Warning: some fleeting profanity.
It was not immediately clear where the explosive burst originated or if it was a heavy firecracker, as the police indicated, or a non-lethal form of crowd control, as the YouTube title of the video suggests, and other activists have claimed:The police said in a statement that attacks against officers had precipitated the use of “less lethal force tactics” against protesters:
During the evening protest, a number of officers were assaulted, doused with hazardous materials and hit with large rocks and bottles, which resulted in the declaration of an unlawful assembly and the order to disperse. To assist in the dispersal efforts, officers used less lethal force tactics.
The City of Oakland explained its decision to close the Occupy encampment— which touched off the later protests and lead to the violence— because of unsanitary conditions and “increasing incidents of violence.”
The San Francisco Chronicle reported on the early hours of the protest:
Early on, the scene outside City Hall was largely peaceful, but it was a different story a few blocks west on Washington Street. Officers in riot gear hemmed in protesters around 6 p.m. and tried to arrest one person, as about fifty more surrounded them, shouting: “Let him go, let him go.”
Protesters threw turquoise and red paint at the riot police officers’ faces and helmets. Some led the crowd in chanting: “This is why we call you pigs.”
Others pleaded with the agitators to be peaceful and return to the march, yet some protesters tried to fight with the police and were clubbed and kicked in return.
Almost simultaneous to the events in Oakland, police in Atlanta arrested more than fifty protesters for refusing to leave a downtown city park. After the forceful response to the Occupy Oakland protests, officers in Atlanta moved in to clear a similar camp in that city’s central Woodruff Park. At least fifty people connected to the protest group Occupy Atlanta were arrested, and the park was cleared by 2 a.m. Eastern time, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported.
For two weeks, the Occupy protesters had been camping out in tents, despite repeated warnings from the mayor, Kasim Reed, that they were violating a park curfew and other ordinances.
The protesters have drawn strong mixed reactions in Atlanta, a regional banking hub that also has a record of tolerance for civil disobedience tied to its role in the civil rights movement.
A spokesperson for the civil rights group the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, which is led by Reverend Jesse Jackson, called on Atlantans to remove Reed from office because of his confrontation of the protesters.
The protesters vowed to continue their demonstrations, rallying at the jail where the arrested protesters were held and marching to the Georgia State Capitol. Among those arrested, the protesters said on their website, was a Georgia state senator, Vincent D. Fort, and a former city councilman and radio host, Derrick Boazman.
Rico says he almost feels sorry for these well-meaning (if deluded) kids; they didn't know what they were up against...

History for the day

On 27 October 1904, the first rapid transit subway, the IRT, opened in New York City.

Islamic wackos for the day

Rico says his friend Rob from Holland forwards this email:
Ann Barnhardt is described as "a livestock and grain commodity broker and marketing consultant, American patriot, traditional Catholic, and unwitting counter-revolutionary blogger. She has taken on Islam and they have noticed.

To: annbarnhardt
I'm going to kill you when I find you. Don't think I won't, I know where you and your parents live and all I'll need is one phone call to kill y'all.

Ann's response:
re: Watch your back.

Hello, mufcadnan123!
You don't need to "find" me. My address is 9175 Kornbrust Circle, Lone Tree, Colorado 80124.
Luckily for you, there are daily direct flights from Heathrow to Denver. Here's what you will need to do. After arriving at Denver and passing through Customs, you will need to catch the shuttle to the rental car facility. Once in your rental car, take Pena Boulevard to I-225 south. Proceed on I-225 south to I-25 south. Proceed south on I-25 to Lincoln Avenue, which is exit 193. Turn right (west) onto Lincoln. Proceed west to the fourth light, and turn left (south) onto Ridgegate Boulevard. Proceed south, through the roundabout, to Kornbrust Drive. Turn left onto Kornbrust Drive, and then take an immediate right onto Kornbrust Circle. I'm at 9175.
Just do me one favor. Please wear body armor. I have some new ammunition that I want to try out, and frankly, close-quarter body shots without armor would feel almost unsporting from my perspective. That, and the fact that I'm probably carrying a good fifty IQ points on you, makes it morally incumbent upon me to spot you a tactical advantage.
However, being that you are a miserable, trembling coward, I realize that you probably are incapable of actually following up on any of your threats without losing control of your bowels and crapping your pants while simultaneously sobbing yourself into hyperventilation. So, how about this: why don't you contact the main mosque here in Denver and see if some of the local musloids here in town would be willing to carry out your attack for you? After all, this is what your "perfect man" Mohamed did (pig excrement be upon him). You see, Mohamed, being a miserable coward and a con artist, would send other men into battle to fight on his behalf. Mohamed would stay at the back of the pack and let the stupid, ignorant suckers like you that he had conned into his political cult do the actual fighting and dying. Mohamed would then fornicate with the dead men's wives and children. You should follow Mohamed's example! 
Here is the contact info for the main mosque here in Denver:
Masjid Abu Bakr
Imam Karim Abu Zaid
2071 South Parker Road, Denver, Colorado 80231
Phone: 303-696-9800
Email: denvermosque@yahoo.com

I'm sure they would be delighted to hear from you. Frankly, I'm terribly disappointed that not a single musloid here in the United States has made any attempt to rape and behead me. But maybe I haven't made myself clear enough, so let me do that right now: I will never, ever, ever submit to Islam. I will fight Islam with every fiber of my being for as long as I live, because Islam is pure satanic evil. If you are really serious about Islam dominating the United States and the world, you are going to have to come through me. You are going to have to kill me. Good luck with that. And understand that, if you or some of your musloid boyfriends, do actually manage to kill me, The Final Crusade will officially commence five minutes later, and then, despite your genetic mental retardation, you will be made to understand with crystal clarity what the word "defeat" means. Either way, I win, so come and get it.
Deo adjuvante non timendum (with the help of God, there is nothing to be afraid of).
Ann Barnhardt
Rico says he's not sure that a real Islamic wacko would use the word "y'all", but maybe he's from Southern Yemen. (And she's being modest; it sounds more like a hundred IQ points.) But musloid is a nice coinage...

Scam for the day

Rico says it's another classic:
Attention: E-mail Address Owner
The International Monetary Fund(IMF) is compensating all the scam victims and your email address was found in the scam victim's list. This Western Union® office has been mandated by the IMF to transfer your compensation to you via Western Union Money Transfer, we have concluded to affect your own payment through Western Union Money Transfer, $5,000 twice daily until the total sum of $ 800,000.00 is completely transferred to you.
Email ( money_western_union@w.cn )

CALL +22998972353
Although,Dr Terry Jor will send amount of $5,000.00 in your name today So contact Dr Terry Jor and tell him to release your first payment information to pick the $5,000.00 immediately; But you will also send the transfer fee of $67usd pls contact them ASAP to send you the pick up information.
This is the informetion you will use to send the money to the western

Receiver's Name__________ Ozekwe Emmanuel
Country________________ Benin Republic
City__________________ Cotonou
Question___ In God
Answer______We Trust


MTCN #---------------------------5968646330
Sender's First name------------RACHEL
Sender's Last name-------------MITCHUM
Country---------------------------Benin Republic
Text question--------------------Payment
Text answer---------------------Made
Mr. Mike Obi
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Rico says that, as ever, you have been warned... (Because, if you respond to these people, you idiot, your name will surely be on the 'scam victim's list'.)

26 October 2011

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Rico says the post title is, according to Wikipedia, a Latin phrase traditionally attributed to the Roman poet Juvenal from his Satires, literally translated as Who will guard the guards themselves?, also sometimes rendered as Who watches the watchmen? The phrase has other idiomatic translations and adaptations, such as Who will guard the guards?

But William Rashbaum and Joseph Goldstein have an article in The New York Times about a modern version of the problem:
Eight current and former New York police officers were arrested on Tuesday and charged in federal court with accepting thousands of dollars in cash to drive a caravan of firearms into the state, an act of corruption that brazenly defied the city’s strenuous efforts to get illegal guns off the streets.
The officers — five are still on the force, and three are retired — and four other men were accused of transporting M-16 rifles and handguns, as well as what they believed to be stolen merchandise across state lines, according to a complaint filed in the case in Federal District Court in Manhattan.
The current and retired officers, most of whom at one time or another worked in the same Brooklyn station house, were arrested at their homes before sunrise by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and investigators from the Police Department’s Internal Affairs Bureau, officials said. Also arrested were a New Jersey correction officer, a former New York City Sanitation Department police officer and two men identified in the complaint as his associates.
The gun-trafficking accusations strike at the heart of one of the Police Department’s most hard-fought and robust initiatives, and one that has been a central theme of the administration of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg: getting guns off the city’s streets. Mr. Bloomberg is the head of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a coalition of 600 municipal chief executives from around the nation.
And the arrests come at a difficult time for a department, the largest municipal police force in the nation, already besieged by corruption accusations. In recent weeks, testimony at the trial of a narcotics detective has featured accusations that he and his colleagues in Brooklyn and Queens planted drugs or lied under oath to meet arrest quotas and earn overtime, leading to the arrests of eight officers, the dismissal of hundreds of drug cases because of their destroyed credibility and the payout of more than $1 million in taxpayer money to settle false arrest lawsuits.
Two other officers, in unrelated federal cases, have been charged in recent weeks with criminal civil-rights violations accusing them of trumping up charges against innocent victims. In one case, on Staten Island, a white officer is accused of falsely arresting a black man and then bragging about it using a racial slur. And in the coming days, 16 officers are expected to face charges in a ticket-fixing scandal in the Bronx.
Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan, announced the charges at a news conference with the head of the criminal division of New York’s F.B.I. office, Diego Rodriguez, and the police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly.
Janice K. Fedarcyk, the assistant F.B.I. director in charge of the New York office, who was out of town on business, said in a prepared statement that the investigation began in 2009. “These crimes are without question reprehensible, particularly conspiring to import untraceable guns and assault rifles into New York,” Ms. Fedarcyk said.
In an ironic twist, the new case began after an F.B.I. confidential informant sought to have a traffic ticket fixed in exchange for payment. He was introduced to one of the officers, William Masso, 47, according to the complaint. They developed a relationship, and Officer Masso began expressing interest in working with the informant to obtain and sell contraband, largely cigarettes.
It grew into a yearlong undercover operation conducted by its agents and investigators from the Police Department’s Internal Affairs Bureau, with wiretaps on the phones of Officer Masso, the former Sanitation Department officer and four undercover agents, said the complaint, which was sworn out by Kenneth Hosey, an F.B.I. special agent.
The charges include conspiracy to transport firearms across state lines, conspiracy to transport defaced firearms across state lines, conspiracy to sell firearms across state lines and conspiracy to transport and receive stolen property across state lines, according to the complaint.
Most of the initial trips, in October and November 2010, involved ferrying cigarettes into New York. As months went by, the cargo would also include what the officers believed to be stolen or counterfeit goods, including slot machines, clothing and handbags, and eventually the firearms. In addition, one of the officers, along with two co-defendants, sold a shotgun to an undercover F.B.I. agent in July.
As of late Tuesday afternoon, lawyers for the men were not available for comment.
The accusations leveled against the men in the four-count complaint depict the current and former officers and their co-defendants as little more than a loose confederation of petty crooks.
One of the officers, Ali Oklu, 35, suggested at one point that there were certain things he would not do. “As long as we’re not tying anybody up, I don’t care,” he said in a conversation that the undercover agent secretly recorded after Officer Oklu was paid $15,000 for his role in helping steal 200 cases of cigarettes with several other officers in a sting the F.B.I. arranged in May. He added that he did not care “as long as there’s no drugs and guns involved..”
Four months later, on Sept. 22, the undercover agent paid Officer Oklu, three other current officers, two of their retired colleagues and two of the other men $2,000 to $5,000 to transport 22 weapons, including three M-16 assault rifles and 16 handguns from New Jersey to New York, according to the complaint. The weapons, which were provided by the undercover agent, were inoperable, but the defendants knew that the serial numbers on many of the guns were defaced, according to the complaint, which prevents them from being traced to their source if used in a crime.
In a statement, Mayor Bloomberg said that if the charges proved true, the officers’ actions “would be a disgraceful and deplorable betrayal of the public trust,” noting that the city “has lost too many people — and too many police officers — to criminals who buy guns illegally.”
The mayor and Commissioner Kelly each defended the department, suggesting that the rogue actions of a few officers did not impeach the entire force.
“The sad reality is that some people are going to violate their oath of office,” Mr. Kelly said at the news conference, adding: “I would submit to you that it is a very small minority. But if you had 1 percent of 50,000 people you would have 500 people.”
In addition to Officers Oklu and Masso, the current police officers charged in the case are Gary Ortiz, 27, of Brooklyn; Eddie Goris, 31, of Queens; and John Mahoney, 26, of Staten Island. The retired officers are Joseph Trischitta and Richard Melnik, both 42 and of Staten Island, and Marco Venezia, 46, of Brooklyn. Officers Masso, Goris and Mahoney work in the 68th Precinct in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn. The three retired officers worked at the 68th Precinct when they retired.
Also charged were David Kanwisher, 38, of Tuckerton, N.J., a correction officer in New Jersey; Anthony Santiago, 45, of Tuckerton, a former officer with the New York City Sanitation Department police, and two of his associates, Michael Gee, 40, and Eric Gomer, 28, both of Staten Island.
Rico says WHAT

Personhood? They need to get some, first

Erik Eckholm has an article in The New York Times about anti-abortion politics in Mississippi:
A constitutional amendment facing voters in Mississippi on 8 November, and similar initiatives brewing in half a dozen other states including Florida and Ohio, would declare a fertilized human egg to be a legal person, effectively branding abortion and some forms of birth control as murder.
With this far-reaching anti-abortion strategy, the proponents of what they call 'personhood amendments' hope to reshape the national debate. “I view it as transformative,” said Brad Prewitt, a lawyer and executive director of the Yes on 26 campaign, which is named for the Mississippi proposition. “Personhood is bigger than just shutting abortion clinics; it’s an opportunity for people to say that we’re made in the image of God.”
Many doctors and women’s health advocates say the proposals would cause a dangerous intrusion of criminal law into medical care, jeopardizing women’s rights and even their lives. The amendment in Mississippi would ban virtually all abortions, including those resulting from rape or incest. It would bar some birth control methods, including IUDs and “morning-after pills” that prevent fertilized eggs from implanting in the uterus. It would also outlaw the destruction of embryos created in laboratories.
The amendment has been endorsed by candidates for governor from both major parties, and it appears likely to pass, said W. Martin Wiseman, director of the John C. Stennis Institute of Government at Mississippi State University. Legal challenges would surely follow, but even if the amendment is ultimately declared unconstitutional, it could disrupt vital care, critics say, and force years of costly court battles. “This is the most extreme in a field of extreme anti-abortion measures that have been before the states this year,” said Nancy Northrup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, a legal advocacy group.
Opponents, who were handing out brochures to tailgate partiers before the University of Southern Mississippi football game in Hattiesburg, said they hoped to dispel the impression that the amendment simply bars abortions— a popular idea in Mississippi— by warning that it would also limit contraceptives, make doctors afraid to save women with life-threatening pregnancies, and possibly hamper in vitro fertility treatments.
The drive for personhood amendments has split the anti-abortion forces nationally. Some groups call it an inspired moral leap, while traditional leaders of the fight, including National Right to Life and Roman Catholic bishops, have refused to promote it, charging that the tactic is reckless and could backfire, leading to a Supreme Court defeat that would undermine progress in carving away at Roe v. Wade.
The approach, granting legal rights to embryos, is fundamentally different from the abortion restrictions that have been adopted in dozens of states. These try to narrow or hamper access to abortions by, for example, sharply restricting the procedures at as early as twenty weeks, requiring women to view ultrasounds of the fetus, curbing insurance coverage, and imposing expensive regulations on clinics. The Mississippi amendment aims to sidestep existing legal battles, simply stating that “the term ‘person’ or ‘persons’ shall include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the functional equivalent thereof”.
A similar measure has been defeated twice, by large margins, in Colorado. But the national campaign, promoted by Personhood USA, a Colorado-based group, found more receptive ground in Mississippi, where anti-abortion sentiment crosses party and racial lines, and where the state already has so many restrictions on abortion that only one clinic performs the procedure.
In 2009, an ardent abortion foe named Les Riley formed a state personhood group and started collecting the signatures needed to reach the ballot. Evangelicals and other longtime abortion opponents have pressed the case, and Proposition 26 has the support of a range of political leaders. Its passage could energize similar drives brewing in Florida, Michigan, Montana, Ohio, Wisconsin, and other states.
In Mississippi, the emotional battle is being fought with radio and television ads, phone banks, and old-fashioned canvassing. Among the picnicking fans being lobbied outside the stadium in Hattiesburg on Saturday, Lauree Mooney, 40, and her husband, Jerry Mooney, 45, both USM alumni, disagreed with each other. She said that she is against abortion but that the amendment is “too extreme.” Mooney said he would vote yes because “I’ve always been against abortion”.
Shelley Shoemake, 41, a chiropractor, said the proposal is “yanking me in one direction and the other.” She knows women who had abortions as teenagers, and feels compassion for them. “I’ve got a lot of praying to do” before the vote, she said.
Mississippi will also elect a new governor on 8 November. The Republican candidate, Lieutenant Governor Phil Bryant, is co-chairman of Yes on 26, and his campaign distributes bumper stickers for the initiative. The Democratic candidate, Johnny DuPree, the mayor of Hattiesburg and the state’s first black major-party candidate for governor in modern times, says he will vote for it, though he is worried about its impact on medical care and contraception.
No one can yet be sure of how the amendment would affect criminal proceedings, said Jonathan Will, director of the Bioethics and Health Law Center at the Mississippi College School of Law. Could a woman taking a morning-after pill be charged with murder?
But many leaders of the anti-abortion movement fear that the strategy will be counterproductive. Federal courts would almost surely declare the amendment unconstitutional, said James Bopp, Jr., a prominent conservative lawyer from Terre Haute, Indiana, and general counsel of National Right to Life, since it contradicts a woman’s current right to an abortion in the early weeks of pregnancy. “From the standpoint of protecting unborn lives it’s utterly futile,” he said, “and it has the grave risk that, if it did get to the Supreme Court, the court would write an even more extreme abortion policy.”
Bishop Joseph Latino of Jackson, Mississippi said, in a statement last week, that the Roman Catholic Church does not support the proposition because “the push for a state amendment could ultimately harm our efforts to overturn Roe v Wade.” Conservative Christian groups including the American Family Association and the Family Research Council are firmly behind the proposal.
Dr. Randall S. Hines, a fertility specialist in Jackson working against Proposition 26 with the group Mississippians for Healthy Families, said that the amendment reflects “biological ignorance”. Most fertilized eggs, he said, do not implant in the uterus or develop further. "Once you recognize that the majority of fertilized eggs don’t become people, then you recognize how absurd this amendment is,” Dr. Hines said. He fears severe unintended consequences for doctors and women dealing with ectopic or other dangerous pregnancies and for in vitro fertility treatments. “We’ll be asking the Legislature, the governor, judges to decide what is best for the patient,” he said.
Dr. Eric Webb, an obstetrician in Tupelo, Mississippi, who has spoken out on behalf of Proposition 26, said that the concerns about wider impacts were overblown and that the critics were “avoiding the central moral question. With the union of the egg and sperm, that is life, and genetically human,” Dr. Webb said.
Keith Mason, president of Personhood USA, said he did not agree that the Supreme Court would necessarily reject a personhood amendment. The ultimate goal, he said, is a federal amendment, with a victory in Mississippi as the first step.
Rico says that no one he's ever known was actually for abortion, but he took care of creating any 'persons' a long time ago, via a vasectomy. But these people (as usual) fail to see the real problem: too many people having babies who shouldn't. And why it's bad for a woman to kill a 'person' who's no bigger than a pea, but fine for the state to kill them later, once they grow up in bad environments and become criminals, Rico says he (as usual) fails to understand... (And isn't Row versus Wade an illegal immigrant question? Just wondering.)

Scam for the day

Rico says it's a classic (and, as ever, you have been warned):
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Yet more on Jobs

Maureen Dowd has a column in The New York Times about Steve Jobs:
Steve Jobs, the mad perfectionist, even perfected his stare. He wanted it to be hypnotic. He wanted the other person to blink first. He wanted it to be, like Dracula’s saturnine gaze, a force that could bend your will to his and subsume your reality in his.
There’s an arresting picture of Jobs staring out, challenging us to blink, on the cover (photo) of Walter Isaacson’s new biography, Steve Jobs. The writer begins the book by comparing the moody lord of Silicon Valley to Shakespeare’s Henry V: a callous but sentimental, inspiring but flawed king.
Certainly, Jobs created what Shakespeare called the brightest heaven of invention. But his life sounded like the darkest hell of volatility. An Apple CEO who jousted with Jobs wondered if he had a mild bipolarity.
“Sometimes he would be ecstatic, at other times he was depressed,” Isaacson writes. There were Rasputin-like seductions followed by raging tirades. Everyone was either a hero or a bozo.
As Jobs’ famous ad campaign for Apple said: “Here’s to the crazy ones..."

The monstre sacré fancied himself an “enlightened being”, but he was capable of frightening coldness, even with his oldest collaborators and family. Yet he often sobbed uncontrollably.Isaacson said that Jobs yearned to be a saint; but one of the colleagues he ousted from Apple mordantly noted that the petulant and aesthetic Jobs would have made an excellent King of France.
His extremes left everyone around him with vertigo.
He embraced Zen minimalism and anti-materialism. First, he lived in an unfurnished mansion, then a house so modest that Bill Gates, on a visit, was astonished that the whole Jobs family could fit in it. And Jobs scorned security, often leaving his back door unlocked.
Yet his genius was designing alluring products that would create a country of technology addicts. He demanded laser-like focus from employees to create an ADD world.
He was abandoned by parents who conceived him out of wedlock at 23, and he then abandoned a daughter for many years that he conceived out of wedlock at 23.
Chrisann Brennan, the mother of Jobs’ oldest child, Lisa, told Isaacson that being put up for adoption left Jobs “full of broken glass”. He very belatedly acknowledged Lisa and their relationship was built, Isaacson says, on “layers of resentment.”
He could be hard on women. Two exes scrawled mean messages on his walls. As soon as he learned that his beautiful, willowy, blonde girlfriend, Laurene Powell, was pregnant in 1991, he began musing that he might still be in love with the previous beautiful, willowy, blonde girlfriend, Tina Redse. “He surprised a wide swath of friends and even acquaintances by asking them what he should do,” Isaacson writes. “‘Who was prettier,’ he would ask, ‘Tina or Laurene?’” And “who should he marry?”
Isaacson notes that Jobs could be distant at times with the two daughters he had with Laurene (though not the son). When one daughter dreamed of going to the Oscars with him, he blew her off.
Andy Hertzfeld, a friend and former Apple engineer, lent Lisa $20,000 when she thought her father was not going to pay her Harvard tuition. Jobs paid it back to his friend, but Lisa did not invite him to her graduation. “The key question about Steve is why he can’t control himself at times from being so reflexively cruel and harmful to some people,” Hertzfeld said. “That goes back to being abandoned at birth.”
Jobs almost always wore black turtlenecks and jeans. (Early on, he scorned deodorant and went barefoot and had a disturbing habit of soaking his feet in the office toilet.) Yet he sometimes tried to ply his exquisite taste to remake the women in his life. When he was dating the much older Joan Baez— enthralled by her relationship with his idol, Bob Dylan— he drove her to a Ralph Lauren store in the Stanford shopping mall to show her a red dress that would be “perfect” for her. But one of the world’s richest men merely showed her the dress, even after she told him she “couldn’t really afford it”, while he bought shirts.
When he met his sister, Mona Simpson, a struggling novelist, as an adult, he berated her for not wearing clothes that were “fetching enough” and then sent her a box of Issey Miyake pantsuits “in flattering colors”, she said.
He was a control freak, yet when he learned he had a rare form of pancreatic cancer that would respond to surgery, he ignored his wife, doctors, and friends and put the surgery off for nine months, trying to heal himself with wacky fruit diets, hydrotherapy, a psychic, and expressing his negative feelings. (As if he had to be encouraged.) Addicted to fasting because he felt it produced euphoria and ecstasy, he refused to eat when he needed protein to fight his cancer.
The Da Vinci of Apple could be self-aware. “I know that living with me,” Jobs told Isaacson as he was dying, “was not a bowl of cherries.”
Rico says that living with Rico isn't a bowl of cherries, either, but then he's not worth a billion dollars... (But Saint Steve? Why not?)

New from Apple

Bloomberg.com has the story by Adam Satariano:
Apple Inc. is turning to the software engineer who built iTunes to help lead its development of a television set, according to three people with knowledge of the project. Jeff Robbin, who helped create the iPod in addition to the iTunes media store, is now guiding Apple’s internal development of the new television effort, said the people, who declined to be identified because his role isn’t public.
Robbin’s involvement is a sign of Apple’s commitment to extending its leadership in smartphones and tablets into the living room. Before his death, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs told biographer Walter Isaacson that he had “finally cracked” how to build an integrated television with a simple user interface that would wirelessly synchronize content with Apple’s other devices.
“It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine,” Jobs told Isaacson in the biography Steve Jobs, released yesterday by Simon & Schuster.
Trudy Muller, a spokeswoman for Cupertino, California-based Apple, declined to comment. Outside of Jobs’ remarks in the book, Apple hasn’t acknowledged that it’s developing a television; set. And, according to one person, it’s not guaranteed that Apple will release a television. Until now, the company’s television efforts have been limited to Apple TV, a small $99 gadget (photo) that plugs in to a television and gives users access to content from iTunes, the Netflix streaming service, and YouTube. Jobs had called it Apple’s “hobby,” rather than something designed to be a serious moneymaker.
That may be changing. Apple has a prototype television in the works, and may introduce a product for sale by late next year or 2013, according to Gene Munster, an analyst with Piper Jaffray. He based that timing on meetings with contacts close to Apple’s suppliers in Asia, industry contacts, and Apple’s patent portfolio. Munster said Apple also is investing in manufacturing facilities and securing supplies of LCD screens. Apple’s introduction of the voice-command software Siri and web-storage service iCloud also could be used for a future television, Munster said in a note to investors yesterday. Siri may help search for videos, while iCloud allows customers to store video, music, pictures, and other content on the company’s servers instead of their own hard drives.
One of Apple’s goals for a new television is to let users more seamlessly search for a show or movie, said one of the people. For example, instead of having to separately check to see if a movie or show is available through Netflix or a cable service, all the material could be integrated, this person said.
One challenge will be getting makers of movies and television shows to change how they make their content available. Apple has considered adopting new business models for delivering video, including a subscription television service, media executives said last year. Those talks didn’t lead to a deal.
Building a full television set would put Apple in closer competition with consumer-electronics companies such as Samsung Electronics and Sony. Apple could sell 1.4 million televisions next year, out of about 220 million flat-panel sets for the total market, according to Munster. That could add $6 billion in revenue to the company’s top line by 2014, he said.
Google, which competes with Apple in the smartphone market, also is attempting to attract customers to an operating system it has created for televisions. Unlike that approach, Apple would be building both the hardware and the software.
Apple fell two percent to $397.77 at yesterday's close in New York. Its shares have climbed 23 percent this year.
Robbin, the software engineer helping lead the television effort, was hired in 2000 to develop iTunes after Apple bought the SoundJam digital music player he developed. ITunes, introduced in January of 2001, became Apple’s digital hub for synchronizing music, video, and applications across Apple’s devices, including the iPod, iPhone, and iPad.
According to the biography, Jobs considered Robbin such a valuable employee that he wouldn’t let a Time magazine reporter meet him without agreeing not to print his last name, for fear that he would be poached by a competitor.
Robbin was among the Apple executives who helped persuade Jobs to allow computers running Windows software to use iTunes, according to the biography, a move that helped the company add millions of new customers. The iTunes digital store, with more than 225 million registered users, generated almost $1.5 billion last quarter.
Robbin also was closely involved with the development of the iPod, including participating in a crucial 2001 meeting when Apple decided on the spin-wheel design of the digital music player and charted its expansion beyond personal computers to mobile computing, according to the book.
Rico says he'll buy one, for sure...

Peace? Not any time soon

Ross Douthat has an op-ed column in The New York Times about troubles in the Middle East:
The Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt is one of the oldest Christian communities in the world, tracing its roots to St. Mark the apostle and the first century A.D. Coptic Christians have survived persecutions and conquests, the fall of Rome, and the rise of Islam. They have been governed from Constantinople and Ctesiphon, Baghdad and London. They have outlasted the Byzantines, the Umayyads and the Ottomans, Napoleon Bonaparte and the British Empire.
But they may not survive the Arab Spring.
Apart from Hosni Mubarak and his intimates, no group has suffered more from Egypt’s revolution than the country’s eight million Copts. Last week two dozen people were killed in clashes between Coptic Christians and the Egyptian Army, a grim milestone in a year in which the Coptic community has faced escalating terrorist and mob violence. A recent Vatican estimate suggests that 100,000 Copts may have fled the country since Mubarak’s fall. If Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood consolidates political power, that figure could grow exponentially.
This is a familiar story in the Middle East, where any sort of popular sovereignty has tended to unleash the furies and drive minorities into exile. From Lebanon to North Africa, the Arab world’s Christian enclaves have been shrinking steadily since decolonization. More than half of Iraq’s 1.5 million Christians have fled the country since the American invasion toppled Saddam Hussein.
More important, though, this is a familiar story for the modern world as a whole; a case of what the National Review’s John Derbyshire calls “modernity versus diversity”. For all the bright talk about multicultural mosaics, the age of globalization has also been an age of unprecedented religious and racial sorting; sometimes by choice, more often at gunpoint. Indeed, the causes of democracy and international peace have often been intimately tied to ethnic cleansing: both have gained ground not in spite of mass migrations and mass murders, but because of them.
This is a point worth keeping in mind when reading the Big Idea book of the moment, Steven Pinker’s Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. Pinker marshals an impressive amount of data to demonstrate that human civilization has become steadily less violent, that the years since 1945 have been particularly pacific, and that contemporary Europe has achieved an unprecedented level of tranquility.
What Pinker sometimes glosses over, though, is the price that’s been paid for these advances. With the partial exception of immigrant societies like the United States, mass democracy seems to depend on ethno-religious solidarity in a way that older forms of government did not. The most successful modern nation-states have often gained stability at the expense of diversity, driving out or even murdering their minorities on the road to peaceful coexistence with their neighbors.
Europe’s era of unexpected harmony, in particular, may have been made possible by the decades of expulsions and genocide that preceded it. As Jerry Z. Muller pointed out in a 2008 essay for Foreign Affairs magazine, the horrors of the two world wars effectively rationalized the continent’s borders, replacing the old multi-ethnic empires with homogeneous nation-states, and eliminating, often all too literally, minority populations and polyglot regions. A decade of civil war and ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia completed the process. “Whereas in 1900 there were many states in Europe without a single overwhelmingly dominant nationality,” Muller wrote, “by 2007 there were only two, and one of those, Belgium, was close to breaking up.”
Along the same lines, the developing world’s worst outbreaks of ethno-religious violence— in post-Saddam Iraq, or the Indian subcontinent after the demise of the British Raj— are often associated with transitions from dictatorships or monarchies to some sort of popular rule. And from Kashmir to the West Bank, Kurdistan to Congo, the globe’s enduring trouble spots are usually places where ethno-religious communities and political borders can’t be made to line up.
This suggests that if a European-style age of democratic peace awaits the Middle East and Africa, it lies on the far side of ethnic and religious re-sortings that may take generations to work out.
Whether we root for this process to take its course depends on how we weigh the hope of a better future against the peoples who are likely to suffer, flee and disappear along the way. Europe’s long peace is an extraordinary achievement— but was it worth the wars and genocides and forced migrations that made it possible? A democratic Middle East would be a remarkable triumph for humanity— but is it worth decades of sectarian violence and ethnic cleansing?
I don’t know the answer. But maybe we should ask the Copts.
Rico says ethnic cleansing should be a new Olympic sport; everyone could field a team...

History for the day

On 26 October 1994, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin of Israel and Prime Minister Abdel Salam Majali of Jordan signed a peace treaty in a ceremony attended by President Bill Clinton.

Rico says that, yet again, we can see how well that worked...

25 October 2011

Because Antiques Roadshow won't get here soon

Rico says that he's sent off, to Bonham's in New York for an appraisal, a picture of his childhood treasure, this painting by H.E. Verrill, done in 1898, of the USS Maine; hopefully it'll be worth something:

Another movie review for the day

Rico says that Kanal is one of those sleeper movies that you start watching and can't stop:
September, 1944. It's the 56th day of Warsaw's uprising against the Nazis. The third platoon of the Polish resistance is down to 43 heroic men and women, and they're penned in. After a last day of fighting, and of good-byes to family, to love making, and to music, a handful of doomed survivors wade into the city's underground sewers in hopes of escape.
A symbolic depiction of hell on Earth, set in the last days of the Warsaw uprising in 1944. Lieutenant Zadra is commanding a company of 43 men in a desperate battle amidst the ruins. Facing German offense and cut off from their comrades, Zadra is commanded to retreat his men through the sewer system (the 'kanal'). Zadra and his men are reluctant to do so, as it would indicate that they have lost the battle, but decide to obey orders. However, as the men (and women) retreat, it becomes clear that their desperate attempt to flee from the hell of battle will result only in more death and suffering...

Movie review for the day

Rico says it's not that it was such a great movie, even for 1947, but it's just the coincidence that all three stars were named Robert. If you're curious, however, you can get it from Amazon or Netflix:
"Joseph 'Sammy' Samuels (Sam Levene) is found beaten to death in his Washington D.C. apartment by his girlfriend, Miss Lewis (Marlo Dwyer). Captain Finlay (Robert Young) of the police department is the lead investigator into the murder, which seemingly has to do with a group of four military men, most of them recently decommissioned, that Sammy and Miss Lewis had drinks with earlier that evening in a bar. Those four are "Monty" Montgomery (Robert Ryan), Arthur "Mitch" Mitchell (George Cooper), Floyd Bowers (Steve Brodie), and Floyd's friend Leroy (William Phipps). Indeed, Monty, who is questioned first by Finlay as he wanders by Sammy's apartment during the investigation, confirms that he, Floyd, and Mitch were in Sammy's apartment later having drinks with Sammy, which explains why Finlay found Mitch's wallet in the apartment. On the surface, Mitch seems to be the most likely candidate as the murderer, based on Monty's story that Mitch was drunk and out of sorts. A fifth decommissioned military man, Peter Keely (Mitch's roommate, played by Robert Mitchum) confirms Mitch's tenuous mental state over his uncertain future, especially with his wife back in Chicago, but knows that sensitive Mitch is not the type of person who could be a murderer. Keely himself tries to find the missing Mitch to get his story and hopefully a confirmable alibi for the time of the murder. Keely and Finlay at times seem to be working on cross purposes, but both come to the realization of the identity of the murderer about the same time. Without hard evidence or a witness, Finlay believes the key to conviction lies with Leroy.

Wassup with YouTube?

Rico says he's been trying to embed some videos for two days now, and YouTube won't display any of the controls to actually play the videos. Anybody out there know why?

Not a good thing

Rico says that the sixteen-year difference between Ashton Kutcher and Demi Gene Guynes Willis Kutcher (aka Demi Moore) has probably contributed to their recent marital difficulties, including his rumored affair with a twenty-something blonde. Demi is now 48, a classic age for the onset of menopause. Having been through it twice (the first time contributing to his divorce), Rico says he doesn't recommend it for any man still interested in sex, though it is how life works, if you're with a woman of a certain age. But Rico says he can certainly understand the attraction to a hot young blonde by a guy who's only 33 and not getting any at home...

Ferrell on gubs

Will Ferrell (photo) is quoted in Newsweek as saying that he owns "over three thousand antique pistols" and "loves to spend time with them". Given that the guy is a comedian, who knows if it's true or not... (But Rico says that he would not suggest dropping by Ferrell's house unannounced to find out.)

A good thing to not do

Celia Dugger has an article in The New York Times about a barbaric tradition that's, fortunately, going away:
When Aissatou Kande was a little girl, her family followed a tradition considered essential to her suitability to marry. Her clitoris was sliced off with nothing to dull the pain. But, on her wedding day, Kande, her head modestly covered in a plain white shawl, vowed to protect her own daughters from the same ancient custom. Days later, her village declared it would abandon female genital cutting for good.
Across the continent, an estimated ninety million girls and women have undergone it. But, like more than five thousand other Senegalese villages, Sare Harouna has joined a growing movement to end the practice.
The change has not yet reached Kande’s new home in her husband’s village, but if elders there pressured her to cut the baby girl she is taking into the marriage, she said, “I would resist them.” Her parents back her up: “They would never dare do that to my granddaughter, and we would never allow it,” said Kande’s mother, Marietou Diamank.
The movement to end genital cutting is spreading in Senegal at a quickening pace through the very ties of family and ethnicity that used to entrench it. And a practice once seen as an immutable part of a girl’s life in many ethnic groups and African nations is ebbing, though rarely at the pace or with the organized drive found in Senegal.
The change is happening without the billions of dollars that have poured into other global health priorities throughout the developing world in recent years. Even after campaigning against genital cutting for years, the United Nations has raised less than half the $44 million it set as the goal.
But here in Senegal, Tostan, a group whose name means “breakthrough” in Wolof, Senegal’s dominant language, has had a major impact with an education program that seeks to build consensus, African-style, on the dangers of the practice, while being careful not to denounce it as barbaric as Western activists have been prone to do. Senegal’s Parliament officially banned the practice over a decade ago, and the government has been very supportive of Tostan’s efforts.
“Before you would never even dare to discuss this,” said Mamadou Dia, governor of the Kolda region where this village is located. “It was taboo. Now you have thousands of people coming to abandon it.”
The night before Sare Harouna joined 118 other villages for a ceremony to abandon the practice, people poured in by horse cart, bus and truck. As darkness fell, women illuminated by wood fires stirred vats of couscous and beef stew for the hordes of visitors. The next day’s event had the feel of a county fair. Dignitaries spoke over a tinny public-address system. Teenagers staged plays about the dangers of genital cutting. Traditional storytellers known as griots entertained the throng gathered around a dusty field.
Over the past fifteen years, the drive to end the practice has gained such momentum that a majority of Senegalese villages where genital cutting was commonplace have committed to stop it, Tostan and United Nations officials say.
With too few resources to replicate Tostan’s health and human rights classes across Africa, Nafissatou Diop, who coordinates the United Nations-led campaign to end the practice, is looking for quicker, cheaper strategies to change social conventions on cutting. Tostan has pursued an ambitious effort here with support from Unicef and others, but its two- to three-year program costs about $21,000 per village— a substantial sum, considering the countless villages that continue the practice.
“The program is transformative, and I love that as an African woman,” said Diop, who is Senegalese, “but we need to move faster.”
An improbable collection of characters shaped Tostan’s methods: Molly Melching, a friendly, irrepressible educator from Illinois; Demba Diawara, a revered imam from a Senegalese village; and Gerry Mackie, a political theorist and associate professor at the University of California at San Diego. Melching, 61, came to Senegal as an exchange student when she was 24 and never left, working with street children for the Peace Corps, devising a rural education program in a village where she lived in the 1980s, and starting Tostan twenty years ago. The group aims broadly to improve health and spread awareness of human rights. Women in village classes themselves raised the issue of genital cutting. They told of daughters and sisters who had hemorrhaged and sometimes died from botched circumcisions.
In 1997, women in the village of Malicounda Bambara declared their determination to end the practice, a stand that made news. But Diawara, an imam in the village of Keur Simbara and a Tostan student, warned Melching that a single village could not stop such a deeply rooted tradition. The only way, he said, was to persuade villages whose young people intermarried to abandon the practice simultaneously: the defining idea for Tostan. “Even though our villages seem small, behind each village are many other villages,” Diawara said in an interview. So Diawara, 77, visited the ten intermarrying villages of his extended family. He won over the village chiefs and convinced imams that there was no religious requirement for cutting, which predates Islam by centuries. He was tactful, never using the term “female genital mutilation”, but he explained its consequences. At his family’s annual council, the villages agreed to give up the tradition and, in 1998, held what is believed to have been Africa’s first collective abandonment.
That June, Professor Mackie, then a research fellow at Oxford, was proctoring an exam when he read an article in The International Herald Tribune about what Tostan had done. “My heart was pounding,” he said. He bolted from the room after the test, he said, and mailed Melching a copy of his 1996 article from a sociological journal, proposing a strategy that was similar to Diawara’s.
Professor Mackie contended that genital cutting, unlike rape or wife beating, was a convention parents followed out of love for their daughters. He likened it to foot binding, which had disfigured Chinese girls over centuries.
A Western woman— Alicia Little, a British novelist— had played a catalytic role in ending foot binding in China, much like Melching was doing with genital cutting. Little had written literary depictions of Victorian mothers who raised their daughters to win wealthy husbands, and after moving to China in 1887, she researched foot binding and discovered that a congregation’s public pledge to end the practice had worked. Parents pledging neither to bind their daughters’ feet, nor to allow their sons to marry women with bound feet, ultimately ended the practice within a generation, Professor Mackie wrote. “I went nuts!” Melching said of her reaction after reading Professor Mackie’s article: “Here’s our answer; it has to be a collective pledge.”
Mackie, Melching, and Diawara have collaborated ever since, influencing places like Sare Harouna, a village where the voices of children chanting Quranic verses waft through dirt alleyways at dusk.
Bassi Boiro, the elderly woman who was Sare Harouna’s so-called cutter, said she always performed the rite before dawn under the spreading arms of a sacred tree, away from the settlement. “Men couldn’t hear the girl’s screams,” she explained. “They are not part of this.”
Four women would hold down the arms and legs of each girl, usually ages five to seven. For years, Boiro said, she used a knife handed down through generations of cutters in her family until it became “too dull to even cut okra”. She then switched to razor blades.
But Boiro says she has now accepted Sare Harouna’s decision to end the practice and speaks about the harm caused by her life’s work. “I didn’t realize it was my doing,” she said.
Muusaa Jallo, the village imam, was convinced of the need to stop the practice and has spread the word in many other villages. As his toddler impishly poked her finger through a hole in his sock, he placed his hand gently on her head and said, “I have already decided this one will not be cut.” His eight-year-old, Alimata, sat solemnly to the side, her eyes downcast. “I will abandon it like my parents,” she said, almost inaudibly. “I won’t do it to my daughters. It’s not good to do that, and they did it to me.”
Rico says he's still happy he got circumcised (good health results, no sexual problems), but this is something else entirely. But 'it takes a village' is attributed to an African proverb: "It takes a village to raise a child." (The saying and its attribution as an African proverb were in circulation before it was adopted by Hillary Clinton as the source for the title of her book.) It originated from the Nigerian Igbo culture and their proverb, Ora na azu nwa, which means it takes the community or village to raise a child. The Igbos also name their children Nwa ora, which means 'child of the community'. It has been in existence in Africa for centuries. The saying previously provided the source for the title of a children's book entitled It Takes a Village by Jane Cowen-Fletcher, published in 1994.
But 'a convention parents followed out of love for their daughters'? That's some weird love... (And, if Rico ever liked okra, which he didn't, he sure as well wouldn't now.)

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