Is This America’s Dark Knight?

                               

In last year’s hit movie, The Dark Knight, there is a classic scene between Alfred and Bruce Wayne. A befuddled Bruce cannot figure out what the Joker is actually trying to gain, and he is sharing his consternation with Alfred. Alfred responds by telling Bruce that some men are just different and, in one of the great lines of the movie, states bluntly, “Some men just want to see the world burn.”

While it is quite early on in the new administration’s term in office, it appears to be behaving in exactly this way. Obama is playing the part of the Joker to perfection, aided and abetted by the likes of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. The only difference being that, instead of wearing a clown’s face, he has chosen to look promising and speak lofty words of nothingness as he and the other Democratic leaders push the nation ever closer to economic collapse.

Ignoring any sound economic principles, these leaders have carved a path of prodigality unmatched in American history. It seems as if they desire the total economic failure of the country.

To be sure, the Bush administration has left the nation ravaged by its excess spending and monetary expansion that undergirded the housing bubble. Indeed, during his eight years in office, federal spending ballooned from $1.8 trillion per year to nearly $3 trillion. That is a 67% increase! But while Bush radically expanded the size and scope of government, Obama and the Democrats plan the absolute explosion of it. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that this year’s federal spending will top $3.5 trillion, with a deficit in excess of $1 trillion. And this number was forecasted prior to the passage of the so-called “stimulus bill.”

Imagine Bush as a drunken sailor in port for the first time in a year. He goes into a casino in Atlantic City, sits down at a thousand-dollar-a-hand blackjack table, and promptly loses a million dollars. Obama comes in as Bush’s replacement, and the casino seats him in Bush’s old chair. While bemoaning the situation, Obama tells us we must end this failed policy by moving up to the ten-thousand-a-hand table and doubling down. Of course, this makes no sense whatsoever, and the sane person would quickly back away. But sanity appears not to be present anywhere in Washington these days.

For far too long now, we have allowed our leaders to take us in this direction. In earlier days our leaders did so mainly to line their own pockets and those of their favored friends. These days, however, it seems that they are merely driven by their own ideological madness. And we have been too busy to pay enough attention to understand the situation and to resist it. Neither Bush nor Obama could do the things they have done or are doing had there not been a long history of governmental abuses. To not understand this now will lead to even greater abuse in the future.

“If there is any hope for our economic future, we must come to a sound understanding of what got us here.”

This was my motivation for my new book, titled Unmasking the Sacred Lies. I wanted to help busy Americans come to grips with the current economic situation and to understand the long political process of change that has led us here.

If there is to be any hope for our economic future, we must come to a sound understanding of what got us here. With that in mind, I put together a book that paints the big picture. It traces the economic history of each policy area in order to demonstrate how each law passed by Congress and enforced by our government has pushed us into this hole that we find ourselves in today.

It is my firm belief that providing the average person with the right information in a readily understandable format can make a difference. I only hope that it is not too late, and that we do not have to watch America burn.

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The Ctrl+Alt+Del Tool for Lazybones

Do you always need to reboot the computer and/or start Windows Task Manager? Look no further than Ctrl+Alt+Del, a handy tool which does just that and nothing more.
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by techeblog.com

Generation OMG

IN 1951, Time magazine set out to paint a portrait of the nation’s youth, those born into the Great Depression. It doomed them as the Silent Generation, and a generally drab lot: cautious and resigned, uninterested in striking out in new directions or shaping the great issues of the day — the outwardly efficient types whose inner agonies the novel “Revolutionary Road” would dissect a decade later.

“Youth’s ambitions have shrunk,” the magazine declared. “Few youngsters today want to mine diamonds in South Africa, ranch in Paraguay, climb Mount Everest, find a cure for cancer, sail around the world or build an industrial empire. Some would like to own a small, independent business, but most want a good job with a big firm, and with it, a kind of suburban idyll.” The young soldier “lacks flame,” students were “docile notetakers.” And the young writer’s flair “sometimes turns out to be nothing more than a byproduct of his neuroses.” (This even before Philip Roth, born 1933, had published a novel.)

“The best thing that can be said for American youth, in or out of uniform, is that it has learned that it must try to make the best of a bad and difficult job, whether that job is life, war, or both,” Time concluded. “The generation which has been called the oldest young generation in the world has achieved a certain maturity.”

Today we are in a recession the depth and duration of which are unknown; Friday’s job loss figures were just the latest suggestion that it could well be prolonged and profound rather than shorter and shallower.

So what of the youth shaped by what some are already calling the Great Recession? Will a publication looking back from 2030 damn them with such faint praise? Will they marry younger, be satisfied with stable but less exciting jobs? Will their children mock them for reusing tea bags and counting pennies as if this paycheck were the last? At the very least, they will reckon with tremendous instability, just as their Depression forebears did.

“The ’30s challenged the whole idea of the American dream, the idea of open economic possibilities,” said Morris Dickstein, an English professor at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, whose cultural history of the Depression will be published in September. “The version you get of that today is the loss of confidence on the part of both parent and children that life in the next generation will inevitably be better.”

How today’s young will be affected 10, 20 or 40 years on will depend on many things — the children of the Depression were shaped as much by the war that followed. The recession generation will include those born into it, at the youngest end, and those emerging out of college and high school into a jobless marketplace, at the oldest. If history is any guide, what will matter most is where they are on the continuum.

“There is no simple cause-and-effect relationship in how economic adversity pushed a generation into any one kind of behavior,” said Neil Howe, who with his longtime co-author, William Strauss, is credited with naming today’s 20-somethings the millennials. “The impact depends on the context and the mood of the time and how children understand the spirit of the times.”

In an afterword for the 25th anniversary edition of his 1974 book, “Children of the Great Depression,” Glen H. Elder Jr., a sociologist at the University of North Carolina, noted differences even between two cohorts of children born relatively close together: one in Oakland, Calif., in the early 1920s (comparable to today’s 9-year-olds) and those in nearby Berkeley at the other end of that decade (today’s toddlers).

In long-term studies, the younger group suffered the bigger psychic scars. For them, the worst disruption of the Depression coincided with the critical years of development when they most needed their parents. With incomes dropping, parents fought more and drank more, leaving children bewildered and often alone. Years later, the group looked back on their childhood as a period of unpredictability, and their high school years as a time they lacked direction or a sense of confidence. As one small-business man put it, “my entire adolescence was a period of painful and frustrating disorientation.”

The older children were better able to understand the hardships, and to get outside the household to help the family earn. They went off to World War II and benefited from the structure of the military, then returned to the booming economy and the G. I. Bill. Ultimately, Professor Elder said in an interview, “they came out with an ability to know how to survive and make do and solve problems.”

Today, the most immediately affected may be the oldest members of Generation Recession — those in high school and college.

Research shows that the wages of those graduating into the recession of the 1980s were held back for more than a decade. And weak stock markets tend to make the young more risk averse about investing into the next decade.

Those who study these young adults predict that they are about to get closer to their parents, at least physically, as more move home to save money. And their higher-education experience may be more a patchwork as they move between two- and four-year colleges as a way to save money getting degrees.

Surveys have shown young people becoming more civic-minded in the last four years, and those who study them suggest this will increase, if only because the jobs will be in creating the public institutions and infrastructure of a new economic order.

And with the assumptions of the past decade now popped, the older among the recession youth might feel bolder striking out in more creative directions.

Typically, applications to medical and law schools go up in a downturn, as young people look for safe haven. Applications to the Peace Corps and Teach for America, meanwhile, are up, as are those to some divinity schools and public policy programs.

Professor Dickstein notes that the 1930s, too, were freeing for a particular kind of young adult. There was no art market to speak of, so artists felt less constrained by commercial expectations. The thinkers who would go on to be the public intellectuals of their day, people like Irving Howe and Alfred Kazin, did not seek the traditional path of a doctorate because they knew there were no academic jobs (though in some cases, this was as much because they were Jewish as because of the economy).

Robbie Blinkoff, an anthropologist who runs a marketing consulting firm in Baltimore, hears both the anxiety and the potential in a class he teaches at Goucher College. One senior said he was applying to be a teacher — a profession he had never considered when there were so many more lucrative lines of work. The economic contraction, he told Mr. Blinkoff, “can give people more room to be creative.”

Neil Howe, who with Mr. Strauss considered how different cohorts react to economic setbacks in their book “Generations,” said history offered two models: the Depression, and the 1970s. Children born in the ’30s were raised in a cocoon. “The whole message was, we’re going to protect you,” Mr. Howe said. “We’re going to make these sacrifices for you and create a better world for you.”

The lesson, he said, “was to trust the system, keep your nose clean, study hard, be a technocrat.” That created the conformist, risk-averse generation that Time described. In job interviews, the first thing Depression babies asked potential employers about was the pension plan. As a generation, he said, they produced more than a dozen White House chiefs of staff, but not a single president.

Children in the stagflated 1970s, meanwhile, grew up in the too-much-information age of Judy Blume. As Mr. Howe quotes one: “Our parents gave us answers to questions we never asked.” The system that produced Watergate had failed everyone, the lesson was to be a free agent, to take risks. Even today, Mr. Howe said, lottery officials report that those Gen Xers are their biggest customers.

But when it comes to raising their children, the pendulum has swung. Today’s youngest children — the recession babies — are being raised in the same kind of protective bubble as the Depression babies. (When Mr. Howe’s Web site did a contest to name this next generation a few years ago, the winner was “the homelanders,” as in security). They stroll in sidewalk versions of sport utility vehicles, learn to swim in U.V. protective full-body suits.

So while today’s high school and college students will be the ones creating the new public agencies and Internet infrastructures, Mr. Howe predicts, those who follow “will come of age wanting to participate in a system they trust and take for granted” — the next Silent Generation.

Regardless of their age, members of the recession generation will most likely be shaped by a return to Things That Matter, a re-definition of values.

The Depression saw a return to traditional values that had broken down in the go-go 20s, said Robert S. McElvaine, a professor at Millsaps College who has written several histories of the period. The difference now, Professor McElvaine said, is that the buy-it-on-credit, how-many-colors-can-I-get-it-in consumer culture runs far deeper, including in the young.

“Our definition of cutting back is not nearly what it was for people in the ’30s,” he said. “Younger people have been targeted at least since the baby-boom generation was young in the 1950s to get them into the whole consumption-oriented way of life. It may take a little longer because we’re so infinitely removed from those waste not, want not values — we’ve never really practiced them.”

But let’s not doom anyone quite yet. In the studies of the Berkeley and Oakland Depression youths, Professor Elder notes that by middle age, the groups looked more similar. Both, as stereotypes have it, did marry earlier, value family life, pick jobs for security more than potential for greater reward. The less successful among them felt a lack of personal meaning. But as a whole, they turned out remarkably resilient.

As the director of the Berkeley study wrote, looking back in the ’70s, “We have learned that no one becomes mature without living through the pains and confusions of maturing experiences.”

By KATE ZERNIKE

A Better Street View Comes to Canada

  Parts of Canada finally have their own Street View maps, but surprisingly, they didn’t come from Google. Instead, the maps were created in a joint effort between British Columbia-based Canpages.ca and San Francisco-based MapJack, two companies that have teamed up to provide the service which Google has yet to bring to Canada. These new Street View maps also have features that the search engine giant doesn’t offer, including a fullscreen mode and views of pedestrian pathways where cars can’t travel.

CanPages Introduces Street View Maps

Canpages.ca, the Canadian business directory listing service similar to the Yellow Pages in the U.S., is home to the new mapping service where it’s accessed by performing a search on their homepage. After your search results appear, they are accompanied by a traditional map of the business location. At the top of the map, you’ll see an option to select “Street View” from the menu bar when it’s available. You can also click on any of the blue highlighted streets to delve directly into Street View at that particular spot. As with Google’s Street View, you can click on arrows to move forward and backward and there’s even a small cartoon figure that appears on the map for reference.

Although the CanPages’ Street View maps offer many similarities to Google’s, what’s most notable about this launch are the many differences between the two services. For example, all of the CanPages maps have been created using high resolution photography. Google, on the other hand, has only used high-res imagery in a select handful of international cities including San Francisco, Paris, and Seattle.

CanPages’s maps also offer a fullscreen view which you can use to fully immerse yourself into the city scene. However, don’t try to tilt the camera up to the sky – that’s one feature the CanPages maps don’t have – they’re limited when it comes to panning vertically.

Another feature of the new Street View maps is a configuration menu which allows you to customize settings like image sharpness, brightness, quality, and projection or the curved effect. You can also choose to turn on or off additional visual aids, the blue navigation dots, or the grid.

Perhaps the nicest feature, though, is the pedestrian maps. Captured by a team of photographers who traveled on foot with shoulder-mounted cameras, the CanPages maps let you explore parts of cities where cars can’t go. For now, this allows you to travel down pedestrian walkways, but the company hopes to use their unique camera set up in the future to film hotel lobbies, retail stores, shopping malls, and parks.

CanPages also made privacy a priority from the start. When Google launched their service, faces and license plates were plainly visible. Only recently have they responded to people’s concerns and began to blur these images. On the CanPages maps, however, not only are these items blurred, there’s also a link at the bottom-right corner of the map that lets anyone submit concerns about that particular image.

A Better Street View

Considering that Google’s Street View technology has still not made its way to Canada, the CanPages maps provide a good alternative – actually, given the features offered, we could even say they provide a better one. For now, CanPages Street View maps encompass the cities of Vancouver, Whistler, and Squamish (all in British Columbia). The company plans to expand to Toronto and Montreal next, followed then by as much of Canada as possible.

Image credits: krisabel.ctv.ca

Written by Sarah Perez

Chrome Experiments: Google Launches New Site to Showcase the Power of Chrome and JavaScript

Yesterday, Google announced a new beta version of Chrome, which features a significantly faster version of V8, Google’s JavaScript engine. Today, Google also launched Chrome Experiments, which showcases JavaScript intensive games, apps, and visualizations. The site is obviously meant to highlight the power of the combination of V8 and Chrome, though quite a few of the apps should also work on Firefox, Safari and IE. In our tests, however, Chrome did indeed provide the best experience.

Chrome Experiments currently features 19 apps, and Google plans to constantly update the site with new experiments and encourages developers to submit their JavaScript apps for inclusion.

Note: If you want to live on the cutting edge, here are the instructions for enabling the Chrome Beta and Developer channels.

Some Highlights

Here are some of our favorite apps in the current Google Chrome Experiments line-up:

Social Collider

Social Collider might just be one of the coolest Twitter visualization tools we have seen in the recent past. Social Collider shows the connections between different Twitter users. You can use a user name or keyword to initiate Social Collider, but it can also be used to visualize current Twitter trends.

Note: Using Social Collider can be quite CPU intensive, but the results are definitely worth it.

Google Gravity

This is an utterly useless experiment, but it shows off some of the surprising possibilities of using JavaScript together with the Box2D Physics Engine. After you have seen gravity take its toll on the Google homepage, also try to perform some searches.

Smalltalk

Smalltalk is another Chrome Experiment that uses the Twitter API to visualize real-time chatter on the Internet. Specifically, Smalltalk looks at comments about the weather in the US (sunny, foggy, windy, etc.). Besides JavaScript, Smalltalk also makes use of the canvas element in HTML5 and the jQuery framework.

BallDroppings

Josh Nimoy’s BallDroppings is a cool little musical toy that has already been implemented in a number of other languages. Here is the JavaScript version. Just draw a few lines on the screen and see what happens.

Browser Talk

 

Click here to access Google Chrome Experiments

To Download Google Chrome Click here

Opera Turbo now available for testing

At Opera, we love speed. We work hard to make our browser faster with features that speeds you up, but your connection also plays a big role on how fast you can go.
Some people have fast connections, a lot have slow connections. Many are always on the run from one place to another — making it hard to find regular fast connection points. Even if you do, it might be that too many people are on the Wi-Fi in the cafe or that you are browsing through your mobile phone when commuting on the train.
That’s why we’ve been working on Opera Turbo, a server-side optimization and compression technology that provides significant improvements in browsing speeds over limited-bandwidth connections by compressing network traffic. This does not only make you surf faster, but also lowers the cost of browsing when you are on a pay per usage plan.
Today we start our time limited test phase for Opera Turbo, please read below to learn a little about how Turbo works and where to download it. You can also see it in action in the following video:

Bottom left corner is where the speed is

When turned on, Opera Turbo will display the average compression rate. Hover your mouse over the Opera Turbo icon to see a tooltip with the amount of bandwidth saved as long as it has been enabled.

Throttle your bandwidth to see the big difference

Opera Turbo will work with any type of connection, but to get the most out of it you should be on a situation with limited bandwidth. In case you can’t attend a crowded conference today or aren’t on a bus connected through your phone, you can simulate a slower connection speed with: NetLimiter 2 Pro on Windows and the pipe command on the Mac. We recommend limiting your bandwidth to 100Kbps.

Opera Turbo doesn’t change the Web site

Turbo uses a technology called “Opera Web Optimization Proxy”, which is different from the Opera Binary Markup Language used in Opera Mini. Web sites layout and text will look exactly the same, but image resolution may appear considerably lower as a result of the compression. Dynamic Web technologies such as Ajax (XmlHttpRequests) and Flash are supported, but some plugin content will load only after clicking on the empty element.

Your privacy is important

Even when Turbo is enabled, encrypted traffic does not go through our compression servers. This means that when you are on a SSL site, we bypass these traffic and let you communicate with the SSL site directly. Opera generates statistics of the usage of Opera Turbo, but these are aggregated numbers and no information can be linked to a single user. Opera does not store any users’ private information.

Opera Turbo will be part of future desktop versions

This is a time-limited release, but the feedback we receive from this test release will help us determine how and when to move forward with Opera Turbo.
You can download the test version of Opera Turbo right here and start playing around with it right away. Please report any bugs or join the discussion at the My Opera community.

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Zombieville USA Update and Lite Version

Touch………..if you dare

A very interesting iphone game

We last looked at Zombieville USA when it was first released in mid-February.

The survival shooter has since rocketed up the charts to the top 10 position in the App Store, and for very good reason. Despite its seemingly simple gameplay, Zombieville actually requires some strategy to progress and is a whole lot of fun.

Last week, Mika Mobile updated the app with a number of requested improvements including:

  • Two new zombie types that appear in high levels
  • 3 different difficulty choices
  • Pause button
  • Improved firing controls
  • Weapon balance tweaks

A Lite version has also bee introduced [App Store] which gives you a single level to play to get a feel for the mechanics. If you haven’t tried this game yet, we give it a solid recommendation.

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