Yet More Proof That I’m Behind The Times

As if I needed more examples of how out of touch I am with technology, here’s something that was surprising for a couple of reasons:

The Ubuntu Edge is an exclusive production run, available only through Indiegogo. All of the funding we receive goes directly towards producing the device for expected delivery in May 2014. The only pockets getting filled by this campaign will be yours when the handset arrives.

ubuntu Edge top view

Ubuntu Edge promotional photo. Image credit: Ubuntu Edge/Indiegogo

Ubuntu Edge

Here’s what I find interesting or surprising, in no particular order:
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And Furthermore …

As a postscript of sorts to the explanation I wrote last week about why this is the new home of Slobber And Spittle, I thought I’d note that Google finally provided a place for me to tell them that yes, that really was me trying to break into my Blogger account.

The only problem, apart from that it’s more than a week late, is that it was on Google Maps.

Yes, I’ve been logged into Blogger off and on since then. No indication there, nor has there been any further e-mail. But yesterday I saw this little red banner on Google maps, while I was searching in vain for used DVD stores in my area. It certainly appears that they don’t get the idea of associating notices about services with those services, but instead just randomly pick some other service offering to inform me of a problem.

This is the sort of thing I’ve learned to expect from Blogger/Google.

For those Internet services that are trying to compete with Google’s offerings, I’d say that this is one part of their service philosophy you’d be wise not to emulate.

A Pale Blue Dot

At NASA’s Astronomy Picture Of The Day site today is this montage of two views of our planet:

NASA APOD for July 23, 2013

Earth as seen from Saturn and Mercury, 2013. Image credit: NASA, et. al.

The site’s caption reads, in part:

In a cross-Solar System interplanetary first, our Earth was photographed during the same day from both Mercury and Saturn. Pictured on the left, Earth is the pale blue dot just below the rings of Saturn, as captured by the robotic Cassini spacecraft now orbiting the gas giant. Pictured on the right, the Earth-Moon system is seen against a dark background, as captured by the robotic MESSENGER spacecraft now orbiting Mercury.

Check out the image credit link for a full size photo and the complete caption.

Even from the comparatively nearby locations of our own solar system, the Earth looks like such a small place. As I’ve mentioned before, there’s no need to posit gods to acquire a sense of humility. All you have to do is have some understanding of how vast the universe really is.

Saturday Entertainment: Lewis Black On Economics

It’s a standup routine from a few years ago, but Lewis Black made more sense here in eight and a half minutes than a typical American economics reporter does in a typical year:

Of course, Keynes didn’t really say that we should just build “a big fucking thing”, nor did he mean that having folks dig holes and fill them up again was the best plan. What he was saying was that it’s a better plan than not employing people.

There are plenty of things that need doing in America. If you can’t think of at least two things, I’d say you’ve really not been thinking about America for a while. Employing people to do those things would be a much better plan than either stimulating the banks through Quantitative Easing or its ilk, or pointless tax breaks for the rich.

Wikipedia describes Keynes’ ideas:

Keynes developed a theory which suggested that active government policy could be effective in managing the economy. Rather than seeing unbalanced government budgets as wrong, Keynes advocated what has been called countercyclical fiscal policies, that is, policies that acted against the tide of the business cycle: deficit spending when a nation’s economy suffers from recession or when recovery is long-delayed and unemployment is persistently high—and the suppression of inflation in boom times by either increasing taxes or cutting back on government outlays. He argued that governments should solve problems in the short run rather than waiting for market forces to do it in the long run, because, “in the long run, we are all dead.”

Keynesian economics (Active fiscal policy)

The current depression, AKA the “Great Recession”, serves as proof that Keynes was right. Five years after the initial crash, the economy shows no real signs of recovery. None of the endless tax breaks and spending cuts by federal, state, and local governments has reversed that trend, nor would anyone with a functioning brain think it would. We’ve been cutting taxes and spending for decades. At some point, you really do start cutting bone, and we started seeing the white dust a long time ago.

No Longer .bak

While its title hasn’t changed yet, this is the new home of Slobber And Spittle. The old blog, which is at Blogspot, also known as Google, will continue to be there as an archive. Maybe at some point in the future I’ll return there, but for now, this is the new place.

Why the change? It all started last weekend, when I was on a short vacation in another part of the country. I tried logging into the Blogger account at Blogspot/Google, I was presented with this message:

The message you get from Google when you're not where you're supposed to be.

The message you get from Google when you’re not where you’re supposed to be.

Here I am, faced with the choice of giving them my phone number when they don’t need it, or changing a password and still being unable to log in, I opted for neither. I didn’t have anything I particularly needed to blog about at that moment. Knowing how my mind works, or doesn’t, I wasn’t willing to risk changing the password, only to be unable to remember it later, another problem that Google only seems to be able to clear up if you give them a phone number these days. I was mostly logging in to check on comments and to see what else might be wrong. As it happened, the only thing wrong was nothing I could do anything about.

Of course, there is absolutely no reason they needed my phone number. Google could have confirmed via the e-mail it sent me warning me that I was trying to break into my own account that it was actually I, not some imposter. They could use some special security or passphrase. They chose to leave no option there, either. The help center has no category that strikes me as likely to include help for “I’ve been locked out of my account since I’m out of town and don’t own a cell phone”, so there was no help there, either.

Typical Blogspot in the era of Google, in other words.

What they were telling me, whether they realize it or not, is that they want a cell phone number from me more than they want my continued use of their service. So I’ve stopped.

There are lots of things to recommend Blogspot, of course. And let’s face it, it’s free, so I can’t complain too much. But, in the absence of any real help or possibility of feedback that humans will pay attention to, not using the service anymore seems like the logical choice.

At least for now, this is home. We’ll see how long that lasts…

Another (Former) Politician Who Remembers His Oath

Besides Jimmy Carter, there is at least one other former politician in America who remembers the oath of office that he took. Alas, he’s a Republican:

Former two-term GOP Senator Gordon Humphrey of New Hampshire emailed Edward Snowden yesterday:

Mr. Snowden,

Provided you have not leaked information that would put in harms way any intelligence agent, I believe you have done the right thing in exposing what I regard as massive violation of the United States Constitution.

Having served in the United States Senate for twelve years as a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, the Armed Services Committee and the Judiciary Committee, I think I have a good grounding to reach my conclusion.

I wish you well in your efforts to secure asylum and encourage you to persevere.

Kindly acknowledge this message, so that I will know it reached you.

Gordon J. Humphrey
Former United States Senator
New Hampshire

Email exchange between Edward Snowden and former GOP Senator Gordon Humphrey

One of the sad ironies of this is that if this guy were running against either of my Senators, Murray or Cantwell, he’d have my vote for at least that election. Neither of my Senators, nor most of the other Democrats, have raised a peep about this issue. Maybe they feel they’re not informed enough to have an opinion, but at the very least they should be concerned about the obvious possibilities of tyranny and corruption implicit in a government agency listening in on its own citizens without any outside constraints. Since Humphrey is a Republican, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t agree with him on most issues of the day. But anyone who is concerned about this issue realizes that making our society better is something that won’t be done by secret agencies working beyond the supervision of anyone. That my Senators, and most of the others, seem to want to maintain that condition tells me that they’re really not interested in progress of any sort, whatever they might be saying on those issues.

I have to agree with Lambert Strether’s observation that progressives and liberals who aren’t willing to stand with folks like President Carter and Senator Humphrey aren’t worth very much, partly because they’re all too plentiful.

Being able to argue about issues without fear of retribution by our government is one of the most fundamental conditions for freedom. When our government seems hell-bent on making sure that condition never exists again, politicians who recognize this fact have priority over those who don’t, or won’t acknowledge it.

Quote Of The Day

President Jimmy Carter, as quoted in Der Spiegel and translated by Jesse’s Cafe Americain:

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter was in the wake of the NSA spying scandal criticized the American political system. “America has no functioning democracy,” Carter said Tuesday at a meeting of the “Atlantic Bridge” in Atlanta.

Previously, the Democrat had been very critical of the practices of U.S. intelligence. “I think the invasion of privacy has gone too far,” Carter told CNN. “And I think that is why the secrecy was excessive.”

Der Spiegel: Ex-President Jimmy Carter Condemns Surveillance State, Praises Snowden

Once again, as he did last year, President Carter has spoken the truth loud and clear, and, it appears, most of America has yawned and gone back to their televisions. The reason I’m quoting from a blog rather than a news service is that there appear to be no English-language articles on the speech.

Go figure.

If we hadn’t developed such a prodigious ability to ignore reality, there are at least two wars and one financial crisis we could have avoided in the last decade, just to name a few things.

It’s also pretty clear that if we’re going to climb out of the hole we’ve dug, it will take a lot more than a former President telling us our government’s out of control to get us focused on the task.

A Welcome Return

While I wasn’t paying attention, American Extremists returned to the Internet:

American Extermists by Vastleft - July 11, 2013

It’s good to see Vastleft’s work again. Irony in the quantities we’ve been seeing it lately demands a cartoon.