The Great American setup

The Congressional Democrats are once again acting the part of Fool to George Bush’s King by allowing themselves to be set up with the current “bail out” of Wall Street.

Two weeks ago there was no problem in the economy that couldn’t be resolved on its own. Now, one week before Congress is anxious to adjourn so that members of Congress can do what’s really important to them—run for office—the members are told that they have to accept a given deal from the White House. And quickly! Before it’s too late! Basically handing to Bush and Paulson the golden goose with no strings attached.

The Democrats are buying it. They’re buying the rush, they’re buying the stories, they’re buying the panic, the fear—they’re buying the “rightness” of basically handing a get out free card to the most avarice of those in corporate America.

After Iraq, after the disaster that came when Congress last acted impulsively to the Bush administration exhorting, “Quickly! Before it’s too late!”, we’re now considering doing the same again. Not only will the Congressional “bail out” give Bush a way to reward his corporate friends handsomely before leaving office, it’s also painting a lurid red bullseye on the Democratic party just before this election. This election that was supposed to be the Democrats to win. “See?”, the conservative pundits will exclaim, come the first of November. “Tax and spend liberals and their government giveaways.”

Let’s forget politics for the moment, if possible. Never before has there been a greater disconnect between Congress and the people of this country. The American people just aren’t buying the urgency, the desperate need to move quickly, the breathlessly huge scope of what the Treasury department is asking, or the price tag. Why should we? Why should we believe this will ultimately help us? When was the last time these institutions worried about us? Why should we give institutions that, which they are unwilling to give in return?

In 2005, Congress enacted modifications to the Bankruptcy laws that amount to punitive measures for average citizens filing for bankruptcy—measures demanded by the same institutions now holding their hands out. We were told, at the time, that such Bankruptcy law changes were necessary because bankruptcy was being abused; too many people were gambling their money away in Vegas and then filing bankruptcy. In addition, the banks testified before Congress, bankruptcy no longer had the appropriate amount of shame attached, and people were filing for bankruptcy like they were going to a Sunday picnic.

In actuality, bankruptcy filings almost invariably occur because one of three things happening: unexpected and devastating medical costs; loss of a job; divorce or death of spouse. Rather than be a cake walk, bankruptcy is traumatic and costly to those who file, many of whom come away with barely the clothes on their backs (valued at new prices, according to the newly modified laws).

Now the same institutions that required the average citizen take “financial management courses” before filing for bankruptcy, because we’re seemingly too stupid to understand how to manage our money, want a bail out with no strings attached. I have to ask: will we require that the CEOs and other management of these companies attend financial management classes? It would seem they have learned nothing with their Harvard educations, perhaps the local community colleges would do a better job.

And let’s return to the main reason for bankruptcy: medical costs. Though Obama has said this “bail out” won’t impact on his health care plans, of course it will. Even before the bail out, Democrats in Congress were beginning to murmur about how we won’t have the money to make these sweeping health care changes; how we’ll have to think about cutting back; perhaps only ensure that children have health care coverage. That was before the government gulped down a trillion dollars of financial aid to the rich. I don’t have a Harvard education but even I know that we can’t make change when we’re paying the bill for both Iraq and the “bail out”.

What’s tragically ironic, though, is that being unable to make significant changes in health care coverage just leads to the same cycle of overwhelming medical expenses, little or no health care coverage, followed by foreclosure and bankruptcy. At least in this Obama and McCain would share the same failure regardless of who becomes President: McCain’s health care plan will also cost billions, and even conservatives have said his plan will most likely lead to more people being uninsured, rather than less.

Since we can no longer afford to make the “change” both candidates tout, what will we get for our 700 billion? What will the $2,330 this bail out costs each of us, buy us?

It won’t necessarily fix the problem, and may only be the start of the pay outs we’ll have to make.

It won’t buy us real security, because the same idiots who made the bad decisions leading to this mess will still be in charge, still getting their bloated paychecks as a reward for incompetence.

It won’t necessarily lead to safeguards to ensure this type of event won’t happen again, because according to the Bush administration, we’re in too much of a hurry to worry about such things. See, that’s something we’ll do later. You know, sometime later. When later? Later.

You know what this bail out would be equivalent to if applied to thee and me? Going into bankruptcy court and telling the judge, “Your honor, I screwed up, I got greedy. However, I want to keep all of my stuff, and I don’t want my credit to be hurt. I just want you to make all my debt go away, and, in return, I promise to buy lots of new stuff afterward. You know, to help the economy. Oh, if I screw up again, you’ll still be here to help me. Won’t you?”

Of course, this wouldn’t happen to thee and me. Well, not unless you’re the CEO of a major bank, where the rules of sound financing don’t seem to apply.

How, then, will we be repaid for our aid to the wealthy? Probably more laws making the bankruptcy filings even tougher. Less money for education. No real health care reform. Increasing unemployment. No credit card reform. No lessening of tax credits for the companies. No rollback of tax cuts for the rich. Increased use of purchased justice through phony arbitration companies, rather than the courts. More money for more companies who no longer even bother worrying about risk management.

And once our money runs out, the companies will take our land, and our resources, our clean water and clear skies, our dignity and our independence, and eventually, when these run dry, our souls.

Oh come on now, not our souls, you say. Yes, our souls. It was only last week that I got into a debate in another web site about universal health care, where the Christian McCain supporter I was arguing with stated that universal health care is charity, charity should only be given out at church, and should come with a price tag: adherence to the Christian faith. Want to live? Then you must live as a Christian.

Do not say that such won’t happen in the future, couldn’t possibly happen in the US, because two weeks ago, none of us would have believed that in a week we’d be giving 700 billion dollars to the George Bush administration to do with what they will.

Anything is possible. Anything.


Future Firefox and color management

Before the build copy of Firefox (known as “Minefield”) upgraded itself on my Mac, dying a horrible and immediate death in the process, one other change I noticed in the upcoming version of Firefox is that color management is now on by default.

I also noticed, again before the crash and burn death, that the new version seems to be much more efficient and fast compared to the old.

As pointed out in comments, Bobby Holley has an excellent discussion on color management and the state of Firefox. Bottom line, in the interests of performance, the new version of Firefox will have color profiles turned on, by default, for “tagged” images: images with embedded color profiles. I started embedding profiles for my pictures about 2 months or so, ago, in hopes that more browsers will follow this path.

It would be nice to have full color management, but I think support for color profiles in images is a good interim solution. This is also the approach that Safari uses, and hopefully Opera, too, eventually.

Social Media

Eureka: product placement and social media

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Eureka is a popular science fiction show currently showing on the Sci-Fi channel, on Hulu, as well as downloadable from Unbox, and iTunes in beautiful, and expensive, HD. Now in its third year, the show was faced with an interesting challenge at the beginning of the season development: this season’s shows will have a corporate sponsor. Not only will the show have a corporate sponsor, but the rule from high was that the creators were required to feature the product as part of the story line for one of the shows.

Last week’s show, Here Come the Suns was the show, and needless to say, the fans aren’t too happy.

Sensing a potentially explosive situation, the Eureka creators have embraced social media to an extent I’ve never seen with a television show. One of the writers has a personal weblog and talks candidly about the show (in addition to other topics). There’s also a Eureka Facebook account, as well as Eureka Unscripted a Tumblr account focused on the show, the decisions that go into the show, and other items of interest to Eureka fans.

One of the recent entries at Eureka Unscripted discussed the product placement in Eureka, including the very unusual corporate direction that one show has to focus on the product—a move not seen since the says when variety shows were sponsored by health tonics.

It all began way back in October 2007 when the Sci Fi Channel announced to the Eureka staff that 1) we would have an official commercial sponsor this season, one that was kicking in a lot of dough and would therefore 2) require tons of product placement throughout Season Three. We were also told that 3) ONE EPISODE in Season Three would have to incorporate a storyline in which the actual product HAD to save Eureka somehow, or at the very least, be INDISPENSABLE to Carter’s Act 5 solve.


If you’ve not seen Here Come the Suns I won’t give away either the plot or the product. The show should be appearing on Hulu in a couple of days.

Why such obviousness with product placement? Especially since an action like this is going to generate negative attention? One reason could be the new online publication models. When a product is integrated into a show, the product is going to show whether the show is televised on commercial TV, Hulu, or purchased as an episode through iTunes or Unbox.

Then again, production studios are having an increasingly difficult time making profits, what with viewers attention between grabbed by a plethora of entertainment possibilities. The days when you only had broadcast TV or a book are long gone, and so are the old advertising models.

Is this instance of product placement a sign of the future for shows? I hope not. Product placement can be quite discrete, and most people don’t have too many problems with it. However, incorporating a product into a show’s storyline crosses what used to be a pretty solid boundary and impacts on both the creativity and the integrity of the show. Fans feel betrayed, including those fans who spend $2.99 to purchase a supposedly ad-free episode of the show on iTunes, only to be served what could be seen as a theme-based infomercial.

However, the push-back would be more intense if it weren’t for the Eureka team’s use of social media, including the aforementioned Eureka Unscripted posting on the product placement. Now, instead of nameless, faceless executives screwing with a beloved show, we hear Erik who writes candidly on the issue, before announcing he and his wife have a new baby girl. It’s more difficult to get angry with someone who you feel connected to, even if the connection is tenuous, and via the artificial intimacy that social media can foster.

There’s also a sense that the Eureka creators are not terribly overjoyed about the sponsorship. A new character introduced this year is The Fixer, whose purpose in coming to Eureka is to seemingly squeeze profits out of research that previously existed to Serve the Common Good. Of course, it wouldn’t be Eureka if the character didn’t have ulterior motives, and ended being interesting regardless of her reasons for existence. The subtle message about crass commercialism versus purity of purpose, however, shouldn’t escape even the most betrayed-feeling fan.

Eureka’s third season is an interesting experiment. On the one hand, you have increased intimacy through social media; on the other, corporate encroachment on the creative process. We’ll find out if the experiment was a success if the show receives the OK for a fourth season. If Eureka does get a new season, one wonders what will be sold this time.

Dog food? Coffee beans? MIT? One can only hope the show isn’t sponsored by Ex-Lax.

Critters Photography

Not just butterflies

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

My last trip to the Botanical didn’t just result in some butterfly photos. I was also able to grab some photos of birds, including a rather proud looking goldfinch.

male goldfinch

Our bright fellow wasn’t by himself, though. This female goldfinch, with more subtle coloring, was busy either trying to hack loose a leaf, or sharpening her bill.

female goldfinch

Critters Photography

First Monarchs

I spotted my first monarchs this week, and managed to get a couple of photos of them and some of their friends at the Missouri Botanical Gardens.

Monarch butterfly:



I was finally able to capture an image of a Cabbage White. Though they are common, they’re difficult to photograph because they move about more than most of the other butterflies. They’re also a very aggressive butterfly, chasing away other types of butterflies and, on a couple of occasions, small birds.

Cabbage White

The following dainty beauty is most likely a male Clouded Sulphur :

Clouded Sulphur

There’s always room for one more Painted Lady photo:

Painted Lady

At first I thought this butterfly was a male Taxiles Skipper, but the Butterflies and Moths of North America guide say that this species has never been spotted in Missouri. Running through all of the Skipper photos, I then found the Fiery Skipper, which is known to be in Missouri. The two are very similar, at least to someone new to butterfly identification.

Taxiles Skipper?