Game of Thrones

There is a wealth of good things to be said about Game of Thrones, the terrific series on HBO, easily the most grownup sword & sorcery epic I’ve ever seen.

Peter Dinklage, who plays Tyrion Lannister, is at the top of my list. He’s a generous actor, but his instincts, intelligence and gift for invention make it impossible to take your eyes off him.

Fascism TV

I have nothing against cops on TV, per se. Like many others, I think The Wire was one of the best offerings in the history of television. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed Without a Trace, Law & Order and CSI. My new fave rave is Justified.

That said, I’m increasingly tired of the whole genre. It’s gone way beyond the saturation point. In recent years we’ve had The Shield, The Academy, Cold Case, and Flashpoint. Today, we have The Closer, Criminal Minds, Blue Bloods, Hawaii Five-O, Prime Suspect and multiple clones of Law & Order and CSI. We have NCIS and now NCIS: LA.

It gets better. Tuesday nights on CBS, all of prime time is dedicated to cop shows. Last week, I had a gander at the ironically titled Unforgettable. It’s about a beautiful woman cop who never forgets anything. It’s a predictable procedural, but with a twist. In this episode, she tells a bunch of activists to go ‘camp out in the park, knock yourselves out.’ You could cut the sneering condescension with an axe.

Friday night, confronted with a vast wasteland, I had a peek at CSI: New York, which is typically all too forgettable, and with no twist in sight. We find a noble cop talking with his adorable girlfriend. It’s an intimate morning-after scene and all very affectionate — right up to the point where she makes a smirking reference to some “sexually ambiguous” person of interest.

In the cop show called Person of Interest, we recently had the computer-savvy-nerd half of a vigilante team make an approving remark about fracking.

You get the picture.

#OWS Highlights Authoritarian Police

Allison Kilkenny on December 18, 2011 – 10:47am ET

A funny thing happens when one uses the term “police state” to describe behavior by authorities in response to the Occupy protests.

Free Speech Zones

In late November, LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa released a midnight press release in anticipation of a raid on Occupy LA, which included this line: “During the park closure, a First Amendment area will remain open on the Spring Street City Hall steps.” The absurdity of that statement should be immediately apparent to anyone who understands how real journalism works. Good reporters don’t obediently stand in a “First Amendment area,” deliberately placed far away from the heart of the story. Reporters need to be able to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with protesters, precisely so they can witness how the police interact with them.

Earlier in the month, journalist Josh Harkinson reported on being alerted to the existence of something called the “frozen zone” when he attempted to cover the eviction of Zuccotti.

A white-shirted officer moved in with a bullhorn. “If you don’t leave the park you are subject to arrest. Now is your opportunity to leave the park.”

Nobody budged. As a lone drum pounded, I climbed up on the wall to get a better view.

“Can I help you?” an burly officer asked me, his helpfulness belied by his scowl.

“I’m a reporter,” I told him.

“This is a frozen zone, all right?” he said, using a term I’d never heard before. “Just like them, you have to leave the area. If you do not, you will be subject to arrest.”

He grabbed my arm and began dragging me off. My shoes skidded across the park’s slimy granite floor. All around me, zip-cuffed occupiers writhed on the ground beneath a fog of chemicals.

“I just want to witness what is going on here,” I yelped.

“You can witness it with the rest of the press,” he said. Which, of course, meant not witnessing it.

“Why are you excluding the press from observing this?” I asked.

“Because this is a frozen zone. It’s a police action going on. You could be injured.”

His meaning was clear. I let myself be hustled across the street to the press pen.

“What’s your name?”

His reply came as fast as he could turn away: “Watch your back.”

The state of open source in solar

 

Around 2016 (more or less) we are going to reach a crossover point, called grid parity. The cost per watt of buying, installing and using a solar system is going to get below the actual cost of buying electricity from the grid, below the cost of generating it with coal or natural gas and transporting it to you.

It’s at this point that I expect open source to shine, because the supply-demand balance will shift. Instead of having to push demand for solar systems, manufacturers will find themselves falling behind demand, just as PC makers began running short (despite production increases) of consumer demand for PCs in the late 1970s, after decades where salesmen had to call on folks to sell mainframes or minicomputers.

When a technology becomes common, when it starts to become standardized, when it has proven itself in the market, that’s when the savings and benefits of open source become obvious.

We’re just getting warmed up.

Justified

Timothy Olyphant and Joelle Carter

My new fave rave

Fans of Deadwood will remember Timothy Olyphant as the intense lawman turned store keeper. He returns as a Federal Marshall in this terrific series, produced by Elmore Leonard and based on a character from one of his stories. Exciting, colorful, sexy, powered by great writing — it’s a heaping helping of good fun.

IMDB: Justified

Time Lapse proof of The Green House effect

11/10/2009 | By Richard Darell

You probably brush the Green House effect off like most people thinking it’s something the governments are trying to use in order for us to buy other kinds of cars, more expensive foods etc. But, did you actually take the time to check for yourself what is really happening? Did you try and Google the evidence that will more than prove to you that the Green House effect is actually occurring as we speak. And in a speed you would have never expected.

I can openly admit that I did. I didn’t think about it until I saw this time lapse put together by a bunch of scientists with James Balog in the lead just to prove to us that if we are not doing something radical right now…well you get the picture. First I thought -”Another one that is going to blow us away using grafs and statistics.” But boy was I wrong.

Using over 25 time lapse cameras all custom made and positioned on bedrock ground in several different glaciers around the world shooting pictures every for over two and a half years they have put together a STUNNING time lapse of our doom if you will.

Banks: We’re breaking the law, OK?

60 Minutes (2/15/09)

How did the mortgage industry destroy itself and set off an economic collapse that ruined the finances of millions of Americans? Executives tend to hold themselves blameless, saying that no one could have seen the disaster coming.

Well, judge for yourself after you hear the story of Paul Bishop, who worked at the nation’s second largest savings and loan. World Savings Bank was among the industry’s most admired mortgage lenders. But Bishop says the kind of lending practices he saw were leading to a world of trouble that would ultimately result in billions in losses and a federal investigation.

What does Paul Bishop say he told executives at World Savings, three years before the crash?

“We’re breaking the law, okay? We’re breaking the law. You know we’re breaking the law. I know we’re breaking the law. What the hell do you think is going on here? You know, you’re granting too many people loans who simply can’t qualify,” Bishop told 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley.

Bishop’s story is a rare inside look at forces that tore the economy apart, as seen by a plain-spoken loan salesman who is now suing World Savings, claiming that he was fired for telling executives what they didn’t want to hear.

“I definitely talked to him about Enron. I said, ‘We’re sitting on an Enron.’ This is…bigger than Enron. I mean, we’re doing four billion a month in loans. If housing drops, housing value drops, people start to default, you know? This is a nightmare. These people will not survive it,” Bishop told Pelley.

Bishop was a mortgage salesman at World Savings San Francisco Loan Origination Center. He’d been a top salesman at IBM and spent years as a stock broker. Most everywhere he went, he had a reputation for speaking his mind and ruffling feathers. He joined World in 2002, in part, because of its history.

Bishop says the owners were Herb and Marion Sandler.

“And their reputation at the time was what?” Pelley asked.

“It was flawless, near as I could tell,” Bishop said.

In fact, Herb and Marion Sandler were legendary. In 1963, they started Golden West Financial and grew to 285 branches under the name World Savings. The Sandlers’ were known for careful, conservative lending. They’ve given away millions of dollars to charity and started an advocacy group for low income borrowers called the Center for Responsible Lending.

In 2006, just before the housing crash, the Sandlers sold their bank to Wachovia and pocketed $2.3 billion.

Trouble is, some of their money came from people like Betty Townes, who is financially ruined after being sold a series of World Savings mortgages she couldn’t afford.

Asked how many times she refinanced, Townes said, “Well we refinanced practically every year.”

World salesmen convinced Betty to refinance her mortgage four times in four years. She got about $20,000 each time. “Well, all I know that they told me this loan was best for me,” she told Pelley.

But how could it be best when Betty’s pension couldn’t qualify her for the loans?

“They told me that they would go by my husband’s payroll,” she said.

“Even though he’d been laid off from the shipyard?” Pelley asked.

“No, he’d passed away,” Townes replied.