Why I Still Despise Apple

I’m not generally anti-Apple — I admire much of what they have done in making high-quality products and still do — but today I had problems with Safari for Windows 3.0.x crashing on me, so I figured it was time to upgrade to the latest. So, I Googled for it and came to the download page:

Safari Download Choices

Note the choices. First, email is checked off by default, whereas an honorable company would leave it *unchecked*. Secondly, there are two choices, plain Safari and Safari with QuickTime. Now, plain Safari is what is checked, and that’s good, since why in the hell do I want or need to download and install an update to QuickTime just to get Safari? At least it’s not bundled with iTunes as the QuickTime download once was.

OK, not too annoying, just uncheck the email and get on with the download. Wait! What’s this? The installer name is “SafariQuickTimeSetup.exe” — better cancel the setup and try again, since I must have accidentally failed to select the right radio button in the option group. OK, try it again, and, yes, the file for the *non*-QuickTime installer is definitely named “SafariQuickTimeSetup.exe.” Oh, well, must be some annoying thing they do, and I’d guess the other installer is different (or maybe the files have a different source but are given the same name on download. Or something).

Curious now, I start the download of the QT version and go on with the install from the original file. Well! Turns out the so-called non-QT installer *does* install QuickTime. And when I do a file compare of the two installers:

Safari Installer Files Comparison

well, what a shock — a file compare of the two files shows that they are IDENTICAL.

To add insult to injury, the installer puts a QuickTime link and a Safari link in my Quick Launch bar on my Windows TaskBar — the installer should have asked for permission to do that, not just do it by default. Who the fuck needs a shortcut to QuickTime anywhere on their computer? When does *anyone* launch the content viewer instead of letting the OS launch the appropriate app according to the content you want to view?

I cannot *stand* this kind of behavior. First, I end up not getting what I asked for and then it installs things I didn’t want in the first place (and thought I was avoiding). And didn’t give me any choices about those things (not that at this point I’d even trust it to honor those choices…).

Last of all, making things worse still, I suspected that the installer probably put a system tray (MS keeps telling us that it’s not the “system tray” but the “notification area,” but I don’t give a crap) icon launcher in the Run line in my System Registry, so I fire up RegEdit and, yep, there it is, in all it’s glory — not only does Apple think I need a useless icon in my Quick Launch toolbar, but I also need another useless icon in the system tray. That is, I need TWO USELESS ICONS in my TaskBar from which I can launch QuickTime, but never ever *will*.

What is *wrong* with these people? Don’t they use computers? Don’t they recognize the pollution of the system tray and the Quick Launch toolbar that is endemic, with program after program installing their icons there for no good purpose? Well, no good purpose for the user of the computer — it’s an advertisement for the software, but that doesn’t do *me* any good.

To be fair to Apple, they are certainly not the only ones sticking icons where I don’t want them. But I must say I’ve never seen such a blatant overriding of the end users’ wants and needs as a download page that gives you the same installer regardless of which you choose. Assuming this is not simply a coding error on the download page, that kind of autocratic approach is exactly why long-time Windows users like me can never ever recommend Apple products — because Apple lies to you, telling you you’re in control and then doing whatever it pleases in the background.

Headline in 2030: “Republicans Killed the Planet!”

Kevin Drum is writing about the frightening ways in which recent climate change research shows that things are going bad much more quickly than our most pessimistic models forecast:

It would be nice to think that perhaps our current climate models are too pessimistic; or even that they’re right but maybe we’ll end up at the low end of the predicted warming ranges; or at worst that the models are right and we’ll end up right at the center. But that just doesn’t seem to be the case. What it really looks like is that our current models aren’t pessimistic enough and that the growth in greenhouse gas emissions is exceeding even the modelers’ highest estimates. We are fast approaching a point of no return that will likely kill hundreds of millions of people, destroy much of the world’s food supply, and spark resource wars that make Rwanda look like a mild family quarrel.

I read this and immediately wondered what difference it might have made if we as a nation had gotten serious about climate change in, oh, I dunno, about 2001 or so, within the first year of President Gore’s first term. What if we had a chance back then to turn things around, an opportunity that is now long gone because of five moronic judges, members of what was, until Bush vs. Gore, the most respected institution in our US governmental system?

Will we someday look back and declare that Republican partisanship killed the planet?

Health Care Reform as Investment/Stimulus

Health care reform seems to me like it ought to be a major priority in an economic downturn, since it’s one of the major inefficiencies sapping the economy of vigor. Not doing so is an example of “eating your seed corn,” in that because you feel like you can’t afford to invest in something important, you end up prolonging really bad policies that eat up funds that always seem to add up to the same amount you lacked to finance the reform. The federal government is not like me — when I’m poor I can’t afford the economy size because I have no mechanisms for borrowing money. But the US government can always afford it, and should never avoid a good long-term economic investment on the grounds that it will cost to much in the short run.

And maybe health-care reform will pay off sooner than we think.

Just imagine where we’d be as a competitive world economy if Hillary Clinton’s health-care plan (or something like it) had passed 17 years ago.


The Future of the Republican Party is as Important to Democrats as the Future of the Democratic Party

Some partisan Dems (of which I’m a charter member) are hoping that Palin’s influence waxes rather than wanes, on the theory that the more she mesmerizes her party, the better it is for long-term Democratic interests, since she can only take the Republicans into enhanced irrelevance.

I’m all for that.

But I worry about the implications for the long-term health of political life in this country.

Republicans have sullied political life for the last 15 years (or more) with their Machiavellian power grabs and this has been *very* bad for the country. With Dems in control, wouldn’t it be much better to have reasonable Republicans advocating policies that actually made logical sense (even if we disagreed with them)? Wouldn’t that ultimately be better for the country as a whole?

I fear for a Democratic party that thinks it has all the best answers and doesn’t need an opposition party to help it hone its message and policies into something even better than it starts out as. The whole Clinton/Obama primary battle should be Exhibit A in why credible competition is much more healthy for long-term political interests.

I Still Can’t Believe It Happened

Today I went to the bank to deposit a check. When I was finished, the teller asked if there was anything else I’d like, and I jokingly said “I wouldn’t mind taking some of that 6″ stack of $50 bills off your hands!” She replied “No freebies today” and we both laughed as I replied “Maybe another day…” and walked away from the window. On the way out I went to the ATM to get some cash. As soon as I had my two $20 bills in my hand, and before the cash door closed, the machine barfed out a 3″ stack of $20 bills! I grabbed the bills, and waited for the machine to spit out my receipt, but it was apparently in a bad way, beeping madly while locked up. So, I took the $$ back in the bank and handed it to the same teller and explained what happened.

There was never any doubt, either before of after, that I would return the cash — it wasn’t mine, I knew where it came from and had the ability to return it to its rightful owner. But the striking thing to me was the fact that not one thought of maybe keeping all or part of the cash occurred to me until *after* I’d already returned it. Naturally, there are cameras on all the ATMs and in the ATM lobby, so if I’d tried to keep any of it, they’d know who took the money. But I didn’t even get close to that line of thought, because it was just automatic that I give it back, and it was done before I had a chance to even consider any other option.

Now, I don’t post this simply to pat myself on the back — instead, I’m expressing my surprise in retrospect that I acted so honestly, and that the thought of taking the $$$ didn’t even cross my mind. Yes, I’ve always thought of myself as an honest person, and would never take the money, but if I’d had to forecast my reaction to this situation, I would have at least *thought* about keeping it.

But that didn’t happen.

My last thought: the ATM model for voting machines (which has almost never been implemented) was perhaps not as good as I used to think it.

The “Wisdom” of the American People

Just when the election of Obama has made you think the American populace has come to their senses, we have this:

Sales of handguns, rifles and ammunition have surged in the last week, according to gun store owners around the nation who describe a wave of buyers concerned that an Obama administration will curtail their right to bear arms.

How incredibly stupid *are* these people? To my way of thinking, pretty damned dumb.

There is no evidence whatsoever that Obama’s position on gun ownership constitutes any alteration of the status quo. Secondly, most gun laws are local and not Federal. Maybe Obama will push for the assault weapons ban to be revived (which would be very good), but none of the reports I’ve read or heard on TV have suggested that people are buying anything but semi-automatic rifles and handguns, neither of which there is even the merest suggestion whatsoever that Democrats/Obama would try to ban.

Surely this whole thing has been stoked by some right-wing moron like Limbaugh? Please?

New Jersey Ballot Layout Problems

I was not one of the people who ridiculed West Palm Beach voters back in 2000 for being unable to properly read their ballots, but my roommate was. So, he and I were both chagrined to realize after we voted that we’d neglected to completely fill out our ballots. Here’s a pieced-together scan of the sample ballot sent out to all NJ residents before election day:

New Jersey 2008 Sample Ballot

Note the 11 columns of parties at the top, but only 4 offices being voted for (president, senator, representative and “freeholder,” i.e., like a city councilman but in a township, which is what Weehawken actually is). Then down below, there’s all those blocks of red.

It was only when I was showing the sample ballot to my roommate just before we went to vote at 2pm on Election Day (he’d sent in his voter registration a few days below the deadline and hadn’t received either his voter registration card or his sample ballot; I kept nagging him to send it in earlier, but…). Anyway, it was only at that point that I even noticed that the stuff in red was actually something we needed to vote on. We both read the ballot questions and the interpretations, and I decided I’d vote NO on principle to both, since I disapprove of deciding such issues via ballot initiative.

So, we both went off to the polling place two blocks away, and voted. Neither of us had voted with NJ’s voting machines before, and both of us were rather puzzled about how to do it. It’s not obvious that the X’s next to the names on the ballot in front of you are actually buttons that you push that light up. Anyway, I figured it out and voted for the four offices at the top, and then recorded my vote. My roommate admitted he’d gone through the same puzzlement trying to figure it out, and cursed me for having refused assistance when asked by the poll worker (“Oh, no! I’m sure I can figure it out! Hah Hah!”).

In any event, both of us simply spaced out on voting on the ballot measures. Indeed, a friend who is a lawyer (she’s also a brilliant viol player, and plays in my viol consort) admitted she, too, had failed to vote on these.

I wondered how many people statewide had failed to vote. Well, it turns out the the numbers for these two ballot questions were only about 2/3s of the total who voted for President, so I suspect the three of us were not alone in failing to understand.

This is bad design. If you’re going to have a huge space between one part of the ballot and the other part and you’re going to print part of what you’re voting for in BLACK and part of it in RED, then you need big arrows pointing down saying “Vote on these questions, too! –>>”.

Or so it seems to me.

Early Voting Long Lines?

One thing that has puzzled me is exactly why there were long lines for early voting two weeks before the election. If you didn’t have early voting, everyone would be voting on a single day. With early voting, you’ve got 10-12 days where the polls are open, so, theoretically, you’d be dividing up the voters into groups 10-12 times smaller than you’d have on election day.

So, why the long lines?

Say, for instance, you assume that 50% of voters will vote early. You’d need 50% as many polling place hours as you’d have on Election Day (assuming the same number of voting booths and poll workers). If, for instance, your county has 100 polling places, you’d need 50 of them, assuming you had one day of early voting. If you had 10 days of early voting, theoretically, you could get by with 5 early-voting polling places.

Obviously, that’s not going to work, because you’d still have places where more people showed up than expected. So, you might distribute your voting booths more thinly. If, for instance, at your 100 polling places on Election Day you would have 1000 voting booths, you might want to provide, say, 250 voting booths on each of the early voting days. You could do this by spreading them 10 each at 25 polling places, for instance.

If you did that, one expect that, given the law of averages, you might have a few polling places where on some days too many people showed up at once to prevent lines, but surely you oughtn’t have dozens of polling places with long lines on multiple days, as seemed to be the case from the news reports.

So, what’s up? Did the news media pick a few early voting sites with long lines and keep running the same video over and over again? Or did boards of election simply massively underprovision their early voting sites?

If it’s the latter, then why was that? It’s not like early voting was brand new — there was a lot of it in previous election cycles. Maybe the people running our local elections are just stupid. Or maybe they just aren’t trained adequately.

So far, I’ve seen no one try to explain it, except by saying “higher turnout than expected.” How could turnout be so high that it causes long lines at may early voting sites day after day? And then that there’d still be long lines on Election Day?

Something doesn’t add up.

Spread the Wealth

Leaving aside the odious attack on progressive taxation that is the basis for the right’s fetishization of “spreading the wealth” as “socialism,” I’ve always felt that nobody has pointed out that Obama wasn’t talking about redistributing wealth through progressive taxation, but about the way that providing tax relief to the middle class injects money into the economy that comes into the pockets of small businessmen. The final paragraph of Obama’s conversation with Wurzelbacher:

My attitude is that if the economy’s good for folks from the bottom up, it’s gonna be good for everybody. If you’ve got a plumbing business, you’re gonna be better off if you’re gonna be better off if you’ve got a whole bunch of customers who can afford to hire you, and right now everybody’s so pinched that business is bad for everybody and I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.

You can read the full exchange on Jake Tapper’s blog, and my comments here are based on a re-reading of the full interchange there.

It seems to me quite clear that Obama is talking about trying to make the middle class the engine of the economy. He’s saying that a plumber’s business will be better when the middle class is doing better, that the small business owners will gain wealth when the middle class has money to spend.

Now, clearly, part of that is reducing the tax burden on the middle class, and the way Obama’s tax plan does that responsibly is by taxing the wealthy at a higher rate than at present (but no higher than they were taxed during the boom years of the Clinton administration). McCain didn’t try to be responsible in handing out tax cuts, and he was proposing giving tax cuts to the middle class, too — just not as large as Obama’s (and also giving even larger tax cuts to the very rich). So it seems to me that McCain was ineffectually trying to provide middle-class tax relief as a way of giving them more money, too, and that money would be spent on things that would cause wealth to be spread into the pockets of small business owners.

In other words, McCain’s tax plan for the middle class is based on the same principle of “spreading the wealth” in the sense that Obama actually used the phrase.

Yet, the media, left and right, has completely accepted the McCain campaign’s reframing of Obama’s comment as referring to progressive taxation. Leaving aside the fact that the Bush tax policies (which McCain now supports, after having first opposed them) have redistributed massive amounts of wealth upward such that McCain’s criticism of redistributive tax policy (while not advocating a flat tax) is hypcritical, nobody seemed interested in pointing out that in principle Obama and McCain are proposing the same thing — the only difference is the details of how they move the tax dollars around.

Flat taxation is one of those Republican shibboleths that lurks in the background most of the time, but McCain’s campaign has brought it to the fore, while polluting the whole discussion with a deceitful redefinition of the term “socialism,” something that has distracted from the basic argument about progressive taxation. Yet, in Obama’s original interchange with Wurzelbacher, he addressed the whole set of issues, completely shooting down the flat tax argument.

Why didn’t the media talk about that? I don’t know. It apparently wasn’t on the Drudge Report talking points.

Rahm Emanuel

I was never a big fan of Emanuel when he was the head of the DCCC during the 2006 election cycle because he was too often at odds with Dean’s DNC’s crucial 50-state strategy. He too often picked candidates who were not good, progressive Democrats, and most of his picks lost. He’s also from the discredited DLC wing of the party, and that’s not good.

That said, I think he’s a good choice to be Obama’s enforcer. I have already posted that I thought Obama had a steely political side to him (in Obama Deploys Shiv When He Needs To), based on the way he completely upstaged McCain and the Republicans in the meeting with the President on the bailout plan on Sept. 25th. I thought that from reading between the lines of the Washington Post’s tick-tock article, which, I think, suggested pretty plainly that Obama was able to play political hard ball when he needed to do so. The appointment of Emanuel as Chief of Staff means that Obama can play hardball while remaining insulated from the actual shiv-sticking.

I think this is extraordinarly shrewd and shows the opposition (as well as any recalcitrant Dems!) that the adminstration is not going to be a pushover, that opposition will have consequences.

This is a good start, I think.