theobserverinternational

Twelve Zeros

In World Events on June 3, 2010 at 6:35 AM

One trillion dollars. That’s right. When you hit a milestone of this magnitude you break out the confetti. Pop the champagne. Put on sexy underwear. But this time around there will be no colorful streamers. No sweet bubbly. No role-playing naughty Nurses or hunky Firemen.

This trillion is special. And the fancy part is you’ll have nothing to show for it – except for the spectacular mess of the day or decade after.

The “wars” in Iraq and Afghanistan are the subway bathrooms of America. And guess what? You’re the one holding the sewer-scented, splinter-handled mop.

A one trillion dollar (stank) job. In Wall Street, big-oil, big-insurance, big-bank speak, that’s twelve zeros, son.

But please, there’s no reason to feel completely violated. At least not until you’ve gained a realistic understanding of what you could have been spending all that cold hard green on.

If you sadistically want to have a little fun with your own misery, the good folks at  MoveOn.org put together this nifty little factoid submittal: http://pol.moveon.org/trillion/index.html?s=1&a=39-pGGVyfx&d=0

You will have the distinct opportunity to conjure up all sorts of neat-o stats like being able to buy enough Snickers bars to stretch a path to the Moon and back – it’s my dream to see Patrick Ewing dunk on the Moon.

But on to more substantive, down-to-earth spending efforts. Like paying the salaries of two million teachers for ten consecutive years. Or offering up over 21 million Public Safety Officers for an entire year. Or providing basic education to every child on earth! There’s more, but I’ll leave some of the fun ideas on the table, to save you from slitting your wrists prematurely. Relax, get lose, it’s a party!

All said the “War on Terror” has been a smashing success. Just look at how much we’ve bombed those pesky little terrorists into submission. And I’ll tell you what; the good old U.S. of A is back! Back to the 20th Century. Modern day “warfare” if that’s what we’re calling it these days, includes a whole lot more than having the ability to drop a twenty thousand pound bomb on some random “Towel head” – sounds fun, heh?! One trillion bucks later, the most powerful military in human history is losing a “messaging war” with a loosely organized splinter cell of radicals with laptops. Simply put, the world is not convinced that the “terrorists” are the bad guys. To many, more people than Americans are willing to admit, one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.

When spending big dollars, plan carefully. Otherwise, a million here or a billion there could easily be made to feel non-consequential. Afghanis and Iraqis have been shaped to think lean for centuries.

We all may have to face the fact that those middle-eastern “hillbillies” (often) from wealthy families, are a lot more crafty and smarter than our sophisticated and often tough talking “decision makers” when it comes to battle in the 21st century.  After all, they have fewer resources; human and otherwise. Meanwhile our political leaders and military officials wearily sing the conciliatory phrase ”…we have to be right 100% of the time. The terrorists have to be right only once.” Somehow, I am supposed to take comfort in this security song. At least I should get a lap dance with it.

Fighting foreign invaders is old hat in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The reality is our guys are outmatched. This was the case for Russia – their economy was near complete collapse as the tanks rolled out of Afghanistan. The U.S. is trending in the same direction.

To put your anti-terror spending spree into perspective on a large scale, it only took three-quarters of this purse to bail out the entire U.S. banking industry.

Just a heads up, so when the day comes that you visit your local market and find no toilet paper but plenty of party favors, you’ll be able to look back on that grand old party with a crooked smile while quipping: that was one wild binge.

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APPLE HEADED DOWN UNCERTAIN PATH WITH SELECTIVE CENSORSHIP

In Business on February 24, 2010 at 4:48 AM

With the increasing number of adult-themed Applications flooding the Apple App Store and complaints mounting, the big boys in suits decided it was time to take swift action. The decision to pull apps, considered too racy once again relieves parents from that age old responsibility of parenting, while scoring yet another win for the other big boys who always seem able to find a win in a losing situation; yes, our good old pals the corporations.

And yet again, according to Apple Marketing executive Phillip W. Schiller. “It came to a point where we were getting complaints from women…and parents who were upset with what their kids were able to see.”  Of course whenever any industry-dominant corporation like Apple makes a decision, women and children are always the first consideration. I received a Facebook posting on my wall from a friend about an iPhone app that assists in arranging and eventually rating “booty calls”.  I suspect this app may soon be in search of a new home – say the Google Android? Apparently, in the race to catch up with Apple’s App store, which caught every would be competitor with their preverbal pants down (make whatever puns you deem necessary), Google should notice a considerable spike in application developer submittals and downloads, while Apple will at least take credit for initially introducing millions of consumers, who were still marveling over touch screens and cameras on phones, to the future.

In an attempt to become more Wal-Mar-ty, Apple could very well find itself in a non-winning situation. Censorship in almost any form is widely considered a detested practice on the old internet machine.  Savvy techies and noobs generally agree that censorship, when it comes to content at least, gets corporate suits a nice slap on the wrist. How this practice will translate in the burgeoning app world is yet to be seen. What may be of more issue is Apple’s unclear policy on what’s acceptable and who gets the thumbs down.  While upstart software developers like “On The Go Girls” which features some 50 applications of scantily-clad young women performing tasks such as cleaning your iPhone screen (from the inside, duh) got surreptitiously dumped , giants – including Sports Illustrated and Playboy, sailed right along with their applications (of girls in scantily-clad attire) getting the big thumbs up from those geniuses in the corner offices: “The difference is this is a well-known company with previously published material available broadly in a well-accepted format.” I agree. The first thing I hear out of teenaged boys checking out racy pics of hot girls is “where’d that image come from? Oh it’s Sports Illustrated so it’s cool with my mom if I check it out.”

The real story behind Apple’s decision to take the more hawkish path may likely be consideration of the consumer but for quite different reasons. It has been well determined that the more choices one has, the less likely the ability to make sound, clear decisions becomes. While saturation with adult content of the Apple App store is not yet a reality, the distinct possibility of this potential reality stands. Several seasoned Developers constantly complain of “clutter” becoming a big problem for a single app that provides real utility getting drowned out by 50 apps that allow users to remove a woman’s clothing with the swipe of a finger. The real challenge for Apple will be how the big wigs determine and set policy and how that message is conveyed to the developer community.  Remember, these guys are thin-skinned nerds in search of recognition and respect – sorry guys for calling you out like that.

When getting down to the brass tax of it all, Apple is as image- conscious as Nike, Tiger Woods or Cindy Crawford.  Controlling brand image is priority number one for Apple. And if the app store becomes log jammed and thereby characterized as a hub for adult content, Apple could see its core consumer base become indecisive or flee to rivals like Google. The window appears to be wide open for some platform to seize and manage an entire industry’s entre into the app world – an industry known as an innovative tech leader since the inception of the internet itself.  Long live smut.

Sold My TV, Bought A Guitar

In Politics on February 11, 2010 at 10:15 PM

For most of my adult life I have been looking, wishing, hoping for a good reason to walk away. Just put down the remote, and walk away. Sounds easy. However, when you’ve grown up on the old boob-tube and have no shame in enjoying it’s soothingly passive time killing abilities, the task at hand, dauntingly remains. The remedy made itself known in an hour-glass figure with a long, beautiful neck and alluring face. To this day, she remains unnamed, yet never fails to deliver a beautiful pitch – even in the most nubile hands.

How does one open a whole new world of discovery by making a single change in his or her life? Make a b-line to your local music shop (if you’re in southern California the coolest place to get your start is McCabes in St. Monica: best, nicest, most helpful, generous and kindest people ever  – it’s on Pico Boulevard and dog friendly) and buy yourself a guitar.

My journey into this eclectic world of dreamers, poets, impresarios and artists admittedly was somewhat intimidating on approach. The music world historically has clearly marked divides between spectator and performer. Or so one would think. Sure there are plenty of musician-snobs out there but once you manage your fears and step into the arena, you’ll find more helping hands than you can handle.

From my initial interest to my exploration of tools, aids and instructors on the net, I have encountered countless individuals willing to share their knowledge, often times at no cost. The exclusive fraternity I imagined turned out to be the polar opposite. Tremendously helpful websites like chordie.com and  jamplay.com as well as iphone apps Guitar Chords and Touch Chords make it possible for practically anyone to pick up a guitar and,, with a little dedication and a whole lot of patience, become a guitarist.  An incredibly unknown fact is that a great deal of popular songs consist of about three or four basic chords. Thus, if you have the courage to get through the callus (finger tips) stage and can master transitioning between three simple chords, your entry pass to this exciting and joyous world awaits. Do yourself a favor  – this is an easy way to move one component of your daily life from passive to active.  You will thank yourself for years to come.