Obama and the Blackberry
Friday, November 28, 2008
I've been increasingly intrigued by the Obama v. Blackberry drama of late. Specifically, I keep finding myself surprised at how the story is often reported--as a gossip piece. CNN offers the most egregious example to date:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Before he ran for president Barack Obama quit smoking. Now that he's won the job, he may have to break another addiction: Checking his BlackBerry for e-mail.The thing is that Obama's reliance on technology to help him do his job really doesn't compare to a smoking addiction. In any meaningful way. And the mindset that compels one to make such a ridiculous comparison is probably the exact same mindset that is preventing the Secret Service etc from finding an adequate solution to this problem. Or as Bill Brenner says in Computerworld:
First, Obama's e-mail correspondence could easily be preserved for the historic record. Second, his BlackBerry communications could easily be encrypted. Third, whether you voted for him or not, it's not unreasonable to expect that Obama has and will use extreme caution in the messages he chooses to send. It's hard to believe any president would be stupid enough to send classified national security data out from his smart phone. Never say never, but Obama seems smart enough to know better.Obama doesn't need cigarettes (and would do much better without them), but he needs functional information systems to get his job done. And if the Blackberry isn't a good solution technologically-speaking, that's fine. They should find a better one. But the only way they're going to be motivated to do so is if they recognize that, here in the 21st century, smoke signals are out and electronic communication is in. It's a sign of the times.
If the national security apparatus harbors any worry about not being able to properly secure such devices, the answer is for it to find ways to improve that security, not deprive the president of a useful communication tool.
Nothing New byslag at 9:46 PM
Measuring the Obama Transition
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
For the last couple of weeks, I've been unsuccessfully attempting to critically evaluate the activities of the upcoming Obama administration. I say "unsuccessfully", because every time a new or potential Cabinet member is announced, my first instinct is one of hesitation...I want to wait and see what they do. But as a highly judgmental person, I find this position to be an extremely awkward one. I don't know how to measure people, only actions. And these people's actions are complicated. As Glenn Greenwald says about Obama's choices for his economic team:
I don't have the knowledge or expertise necessary to resolve these conflicting pictures or to form a meaningful opinion about these selections (even Baker, in the midst of his sharp criticisms, allows that the choices Obama made might be the best alternatives, as flawed as Baker believes them to be, and Nouriel Roubini praises the choices as "excellent"). But it is nonetheless noteworthy -- in general -- how much accountability-free praise, and how little critical scrutiny, is heaped on establishment figures as they ascend to power.I'm totally on board with the point that Greenwald is making, but since I, myself, don't know how to dissect these people, it's hard for me to be critical of others displaying the same reticence. Also, this entire transition situation leaves me feeling cold. Bush is still in the WH, so I'm tempted to hold him responsible for the lack of transparency into the whole "rescue/bailout" process. But then again, I go back to presidential candidate Obama's conditions for supporting the bailout/rescue package in the first place, and I don't exactly know how many of them are being met:
Trillions of dollars flying around. Deals being cut in the dark, with virtually no oversight, scrutiny or even public awareness until after the fact. All sorts of overlapping relationships and influence-peddling at the heart of these transactions. And people like Rubin, Geithner, and Summers have all long been a part of that system, and in many cases, important components of the key precipitating events. That is some rather substantial ground for concern.
It's certainly possible that they will do a superb job in managing the crisis. I'm definitely not suggesting otherwise, and I assign substantial credibility to the assessments of trustworthy experts like Roubini and Baker. But between too much trust and reverence on the one hand, and too much skepticism on the other, the last eight years should have taught -- but don't seem to have -- that the former is far more dangerous than the latter.
Adding some specificity to proposals he has already made, Mr. Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, called for a payback plan for taxpayers if the bailout succeeds; a bipartisan board to oversee the bailout; limits on any federal money going to compensate Wall Street executives; and aid to homeowners who are struggling to pay their mortgages.I could go on like this for a while, but really, there's not much point. Because at the end of the day, I'm afraid my only reaction right now is: Not enough information. Which is weird, because this upcoming administration has been pretty informative, relatively speaking. So, maybe my real reaction should be: Not the right information. I want measures.
Nothing New byslag at 10:43 AM
Change Your Teevee
Monday, November 24, 2008
I have to say that I've been enjoying Obama's YouTube addresses to a somewhat surprising degree. Sure it's nice to be reminded every week that we have an intelligent, engaged President again. But this week, I found a new source of enjoyment in viewing the objects in the background of the video:
True, some books, a plant, a picture, and a window are not exciting in and of themselves. But the fact that they're all somewhat different from the background of the previous week mildly amuses me:
The changes immediately reminded me of one of those "Find all the Differences" cartoons from the newspaper. In that spirit, it would be awesome if at least one background item were altered every week--just slightly. Just because. It'd be idiosyncrasy I can believe in.
But on a more substantive note, I'm pleased to see some videos from the transition team as well. So far, the best ones are from the Energy and Environment Policy group, including this one from Heather Zichal:
Zichal hits many of the major themes here--mass transit, renewables, greenhouse gasses, etc--and discusses some of the administration's goals. Nonetheless, it would be nice to see a little explanation of some of the trade-offs we'll be making in order to achieve a few of those goals. Also, I'd like to see some indication that all aspects of a product's lifecycle are being taken into account when measuring the environmental benefits of their proposals. For instance, when discussing the need to capture solar energy, it'd be good to hear that they've put some thought into making sure the manufacturing of the solar panels and the other energy grid upgrades aren't going to offset the gains we make from acquiring the solar energy itself. It's never been clear to me how much lifecycle analysis went into the production of ethanol before we started producing it. The environmental movement has taken too many hits, sometimes actually deserved, for favoring symbolism over substance. I'm sure this administration will do its best to avoid some of those pitfalls.
That said, paradoxically, my one concern about these videos is that they seem more vulnerable than most to Republican political exploitation. I'm sure they're pretty well-vetted before making their way onto the interwebs, but Republicans have a particular knack for seizing upon some innocuous word or image and then whipping the media into a frenzy of hackery over it. It's true that anything coming out of the Obama administration is game for exploitation, but these videos have a uniquely informal feeling to them that inspires me to think things like, "I hope that isn't the f-word I see on that dude's piece of paper", as I'm watching. Because, if it is the f-word, you know that the next day Chris Matthews will be all over the teevee declaring that the end of the Obama administration began the day the country saw the f-word on that dude's piece of paper (for example).
All concerns aside, I, for one, am pleased to see some serious communication occuring between the incoming administration and the average folk, such as myself. I sincerely hope it continues.
Nothing New byslag at 12:35 PM
Religion is to do right. It is to love, it is to serve, it is to think, it is to be humble.-Ralph Waldo Emerson
Obama skips church, heads to gymUh uh. As a (semi-)faithful attendee of the church of pugilism, I am compelled to correct the record and state that church and the gym are not necessarily mutually exclusive places. My dictionary defines church as:
place of worship; house of God; house of worshipI don't see anything in there that suggests such a place cannot be a gym...or a strip mall or an open field, for that matter. Now, having had my own qualms about Obama's expressed religiosity in the past, I wouldn't exactly call Politico out for bringing up the question, in general. I think a person's beliefs about the world are totally up for public debate as soon as they manifest into words or actions. Nonetheless, in the process of debating said beliefs, when we start ascribing some level of importance to whether or not they choose to show up at a specific symbolically-decorated building at a certain time, it seems like we might be missing at least some of the point. Like home, church is where the heart is. Otherwise, the word loses what little meaning it has left.
Or, as Joss Whedon mused in Firefly:
Imbue...that's the word.
Nothing New byslag at 8:17 AM
Science Friday: E=mc2 Explained
Friday, November 21, 2008
With teh interwebs being inundated with pirates and Palinized turkeys these days, I was tempted to publish my lesser-known recipe for Turkpiralin on the blog. But since I prefer not to encourage violence toward turkeys (Palins and pirates are on their own), I'm going with science stories today. Specifically, this one:
PARIS (AFP) – It's taken more than a century, but Einstein's celebrated formula e=mc2 has finally been corroborated, thanks to a heroic computational effort by French, German and Hungarian physicists.Of course, as Intelligent Design keeps reminding us, all of physics is just a theory, so this story should be taken with a grain of salt (or is that "an element of sodium"?...wocka wocka!). Nonetheless, I decided to take this opportunity to get my science geek fandom on and search for some of the coolest explanations of mass-energy equivalence (on only the most theoretical of levels, mind you) on the net. Pursuant to my dead-end quest for a rational graphical illustration of this formula, I am inevitably reminded of the necessity of language when representing (or developing, as the case may be) simple theories about such abstract concepts.
So, without further ado, to Dr. Brian Greene's nifty E=mc2 explanation we go:
E = mc2 is certainly a simple equation to write down, but it's a very subtle equation in some ways. You really have to keep your head on straight to recognize what the symbols mean in any given situation. With practice it's not hard to keep it straight, but it certainly is not an equation that reveals all its subtlety in the few symbols that it takes to write it down.Of all the descriptions available from Nova's lineup of physics experts, I like Dr. Brian Greene's the best because he is able to communicate the theoretical (and philosophical) beauty of this formula without resorting to the grandiloquence that mars so many otherwise useful discussions of theoretical physics. Plus, his blatant Einstein fandom helps soften any pretensions he might otherwise be harboring.
Einstein's main goal throughout much of his life was to unify concepts in physics that at first sight seemed completely separate, but through his genius he realized that they're actually different facets of the same thing. This is what he did in special relativity. He showed that space and time, two ideas that we had since the days of Newton and have long thought to be completely separate ideas, he melded them together into something called space-time and showed that they were actually two sides of the same coin.
After he united space and time together with special relativity, he realized a couple of months later that an outcome of that was to merge together two other ideas that had been around for a long time but had also been thought to be different. He put together the concept of mass and the concept of energy and showed that they are actually the same thing when you think about them correctly. So his equation, E = mc2, the E is for energy and the m is for mass, and he showed that given a certain amount of mass you could calculate the amount of energy it contains. Or, alternatively, given an amount of energy, you can determine how much mass you can create from it. So mass and energy, he showed, are the ultimate convertible currencies. They are different carriers of some fundamental stuff that you can call energy, with mass simply being one manifestation of energy. But there are other manifestations: heat and light, radiation, and so forth. These are now recognized to all be different facets of one idea, one entity called energy.
Second, we go to Einstein himself for a briefer explanation:
(YouTube...a thing of beauty)
Finally, a simple poem:
Tao Meets (E = mc²)Not bad.
I'm as left as I am right
as up as I am down
as in as I am out
as far as I am near
I'm loud as pianissimo
I'm bright as I am blind
as cool as caliente
as body as I am mind
I'm dark as I am light
as here as I am there
as seen as out of sight
depending upon your where
Long story short
I'm nuanced and mirrored
as (E = mc²)
Nothing New byslag at 12:27 PM
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Nothing New byslag at 11:19 PM
Of all the themes I could have chosen...I've just realized that I'm a very dull person.
(image from danielleking)
Nothing New byslag at 10:22 PM
One cat is found, lifeless, on the living room floor:
A second cat is spotted, limp, in a nearby chair:
The cause of such devastation remains a mystery to this very day:
Or does it?:
The dreaded Cat-Deactivation Device strikes again!
Nothing New byslag at 11:02 AM
Apparently, the Democrats are intent on making me like them again:
This is big, big, big. In a victory for the Democratic left, Rep. Henry Waxman has just successfully ousted Rep. John Dingell from his longtime perch as head of the Energy and Commerce Committee.This change is further proof that Democrats are actually quite serious about their green energy initiatives. They're actually deciding to get stuff done (good stuff, too--not the kind of stuff Bush got done)! Almost as if they have a plan (gasp!) or something. No, I still don't believe it. This must be a dream...
Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office confirms to us the vote count in the Democratic Caucus moments ago: Waxman 137 votes, Dingell 122 votes.
The defeat of Dingell is a major victory for environmentalists, removing a key obstacle to real energy reform just as a Democrat with climate change high on his agenda takes the Presidency.
UPDATE: I don't usually promote products that I didn't create, but this one is too perfect to pass up. The apex of Waxmania.
Nothing New byslag at 9:58 AM
Procrastination has its Benefits
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
So many ruminations, so little interest...
First, I was going to spill my thoughts on love and marriage in a post-H8 era, but Ta Nehisi Coates does it for me:
As much as I can recall, there were basically three reasons for us to get married. 1.) I might leave. Marriage would force me to do the right thing. 2.) To declare our commitment to each other before a community of people whom we loved. 3.) The business reasons--the legalities of your estate and guardianship. I found--and still find--the first two reasons were utterly unconvincing. The third held some sway, but with the help of a lawyer we've managed to take care of that. The first turned marriage into a kind of insurance policy, and I just believed that if you felt you needed insurance for the person you were having kids by to stick out, you needed to reconsider the whole proposition. The commitment and community reason held some appeal. But I believed, and still believe, that long-term romantic partnerships are between the two people entering into it.I'm not so much into the kid thing and would have a few more acrimonious words to say about marriage itself, but really, I think the fact that Prop 8 passed pretty much lays bare the innate hypocrisy of our cultural attitudes toward the institution. If marriage is actually good for society, we should make it widely available in society. Otherwise, it's a members-only club. And, to paraphrase Groucho Marx, I wouldn't belong to any club that would have someone like me as a member.
I hated the idea of public declarations, because the life blood of the relationship--what bills to pay, how to raise your child, your love life--all of that happened when no one else was around.
That gets at the essential truth for me--a relationship couldn't be about talking to other people. It couldn't be about telling other people what I was gonna do; it had to be about the actual work. From that perspective, a wedding was abominable to me. It was the antithesis of everything I wanted--a vain spectacle of love, when love is to be demonstrated, it is to be done, it is to be worked like a job.
All of that said, I'm completely on board with gay marriage, mostly because of the exact reasons I've laid out against marriage. Relationships are private, and I don't like the idea of the state telling two people what they can call their relationship and how they can live their lives.
Second, I was going to blog my Obama campaign volunteering postmortem, but when I got the Obama campaign survey over email, I figured I spare the rest of you my inane ramblings on this topic and direct them more appropriately. My procrastination is good for everyone in this situation.
Third, this isn't exactly procrastinating, but I was waiting for my favorite lawminatrix (yes, I just made that word up) Glenn Greenwald to dig up the dirt on the new AG, Eric Holder. As expected, he delivers some of the good and some of the bad all in one nicely-worded post. And for non-readers (assuming you made it this far), here's the link to the video of Holder's speech at the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy.
Finally, this has nothing whatsoever to do with procrastinating, but I'm thinking Nate Silver should be getting hazard pay.
Bonus: Weird nerdy Obama stuff here and here.
Nothing New byslag at 1:22 PM
Joe Lieberman: Just One Reason I Don't Donate to the DNC
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
It's a common complaint that, once elections are over, the Democratic base fails to keep up the momentum in support of our party. I thought about this problem when I received David Plouffe's email asking me to donate to the DNC. So, I decided I would definitely pony up some cash if I approved of how the party handled the Lieberman situation. Having donated to Ned Lamont's campaign against Lieberman in the past, I'm strangely not interested in seeing any of my ducats used to benefit Lieberman in the present.
Today, I got to delete Plouffe's email and keep my money.
Does anyone not understand why Democrats regularly receive such tepid support when, within two weeks of putting so much of our time and effort into electing a Democrat, he's already telling liberals to go f%*# themselves?
Pulling a Cheney is definitely not change I can believe in.
Nothing New byslag at 10:35 AM
"Fascism": If it Weren't so Sad, it'd be Funny
Monday, November 17, 2008
Newt Gingrich expresses his fear of those big, scary homo-intellectuals:
I think there is a gay and secular fascism in this country that wants to impose its will on the rest of us, is prepared to use violence, to use harassment. I think it is prepared to use the government if it can get control of it. I think that it is a very dangerous threat to anybody who believes in traditional religion.Like Yglesias and Atrios, I was tempted to find this statement hilarious. But then, I performed this Google search. And stumbled upon today's humorless liberal alert:
ALOHA, Ore. -- A 20-year-old was attacked in Aloha Tuesday, Nov. 11, when she told a man that she was gay. He allegedly "pounded" her in the face with a rock after learning her sexual orientation.Apparently, getting beaten in the head with rocks is the new homo-intellectual "Sieg Heil".
“The suspect became angry and told the woman that was disgusting and she was going to hell," said Sgt. David Thompson with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office. “The suspect jumped on the victim as she was face down. He held her down and began striking her in the face and head with a rock and his fists. The victim was eventually able to get free and she ran away.”
And speaking of mixing rocks and "traditional religion":
A young rape victim, thought to be as young as 13, has been buried up to her neck and stoned to death in Somalia, according to reports.Hmmm...Rape=adultery=death by stoning of a 13 year old girl. That's some serious traditional religion you got there. Maybe we should throw in a traditional witch-burning to go with? Which brings us to the quiz section of our program. Is fascism better known historically for:
The girl said she had been raped by three men. Quoting Islamic law, local authorities said she was guilty of adultery — punishable by death in some Muslim countries.
a) forcing society to allow consenting adults to love whoever they choose, or b) killing/maiming people?
Sad. Just sad.
Nothing New byslag at 3:24 PM
November is MFP's birth month. Up until election day on November 4th, whenever I asked him what he wanted for his birthday, MFP would respond, "A new president." After election day, his response became, "That Incredible Hulk TV series DVD set we saw in that second-hand music store." Happily, he received both gifts this year with the addition of an audio version of "Dreams from My Father" to commemorate his first gift. As I explained to a friend yesterday, I figure that hearing Obama's melifluous voice emanate from MFP's car speakers while he's stuck in traffic on his way to and from work would, "have a calming effect. Like listening to your dad read you a story...only not your real dad...but a cool dad who--for starters--would have actually read you a story." She responded that Barack Obama does seem like a good dad and that she wouldn't have minded trading up for him. I agreed even though I know that the coolest parents are those that never had kids because they were way too busy to bother.
I had re-established my commitment to that very conclusion on the previous day when, surrounded by families of all kinds, MFP and I were waiting at the Department of Licensing to renew his driver's license. While he was busy trying to photograph one of the DMV workers--who was "clearly a Cylon"--with his iPhone, I was analyzing the mother and two daughters sitting in front of us. All three of them had dark brown hair and looked like members of one of those mawkish families you'd see framed up on the wall of a portrait studio. The older daughter was around 16 and appeared to be getting her license for the first time. When her number was called for her to go up to the counter, her younger sister jumped up to go with her. But then her mother gently held the younger one back saying, "She doesn't need you to go with her. She's all grown up now." At which point I gagged, "Seriously? Do these people really live in an AT&T commercial?". I'm skeptical.
But then again, who isn't skeptical of these images? Is there anyone left in America who doesn't appreciate the reality that there may be some disparity between how people present themselves publicly and how they behave in private (gasp!)? According to Howie Kurtz, yes there is:
"The Obamas' New Life!" blares People's cover, with a shot of the family. "New home, new friends, new puppy!" Us Weekly goes with a Barack quote: "I Think I'm a Pretty Cool Dad." The Chicago Tribune trumpets that Michelle "is poised to be the new Oprah and the next Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis -- combined!" for the fashion world.Let's all pause for a moment to appreciate what a burden it must be for Howie as the only adult in the room. But honestly...People and Us Weekly to help prove the point that "journalists" are "fostering the notion that Obama is invincible"? Apparently, Howie is still bitter after being passed over for People's "Sexiest Man Alive" award again this year. We'll ignore the post-9/11 George W Bush boosterism that didn't seem to bother the very grown-up Howie Kurtz and rest easily on the knowledge that here, in America, we've grown accustomed to seeing people as products. And as products invariably disappoint, so do people. This isn't exactly news to anyone (except maybe to Mr. Kurtz).
Whew! Are journalists fostering the notion that Obama is invincible, the leader of what the New York Times dubbed "Generation O"?
It would be hypocritical of me, at this point, to launch into an anti-consumerist diatribe detailing the many defects of our pre-packaged culture. Like it does for Howie, consumerism helps pay my bills. But as much as I revel in my skepticism of how families are portrayed in America and how they portray themselves, I can't help but wonder if all the syrupy idealism isn't, in some ways, good for us. I, for one, am kind of glad that Obama prides himself on being "a pretty cool dad" simply because it's a good thing to take pride in. And as for the lady and her daughters with matching brown hair at the DMV, they may be trying a little too hard, but at least they're trying. Maybe we need these artificially enhanced images around to help us remind ourselves of who we want to be. Even if it's not yet who we are. I know I do.
Nothing New byslag at 8:51 AM
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Apparently, having a rational foreign policy has its advantages:
TEHRAN, Nov. 12 -- Since 2006, Iran's leaders have called for direct, unconditional talks with the United States to resolve international concerns over their nuclear program. But as an American administration open to such negotiations prepares to take power, Iran's political and military leaders are sounding suddenly wary of President-elect Barack Obama.Spencer Ackerman is right about Iran's prospects in dealing with a United States that brings a more judicious approach to the world:
For Iran's leaders, the only state of affairs worse than poor relations with the United States may be improved relations. The Shiite Muslim clerics who rule the country came to power after ousting Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, a U.S.-backed autocrat, in their 1979 Islamic revolution. Opposition to the United States, long vilified as the "great Satan" here in Friday sermons, remains one of the main pillars of Iranian politics.
All of a sudden, you’re deprived of a method of demagoguery that’s aided your regime for a generation. And if you refuse to negotiate, you’ve just undermined everything you told the international community you wanted, and now appear unreasonable, erratic, and unattractive to foreign capitols. Amazing how the prospects for peace are more destabilizing to the Iranian establishment than any inevitably-counterproductive-and-destructive bombing campaign or war of internal subterfuge.Needless to say, if Barack Obama governs as well as he campaigns, we're in for some interesting times. I believe the phrase "floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee" will get a lot of use. But also, there is another cliche that comes to mind in situations like these: it takes two to tango. When we bring ourselves down to the level of our opponents, not only are we conceding the moral high ground, we're conceding all of the diplomatic benefits that come with said high ground. The more the US can conduct itself in a way that draws the sharpest contrasts between it and petty dictatorships, such as Iran, the easier it will be for the rest of the world to side with the US. Rather than seeming arbitrary or power-hungry if they choose to work closely with us, other nations will have the advantage of getting to stand on the moral high ground as well. And that's a big advantage in this interconnected world.
Of course, none of these arguments or observations are new to anyone who has been paying attention for the last eight years or so. But I think they're worth re-stating because not only do they bolster the case for clear-eyed diplomacy, but they also illustrate exactly why issues such as torture, military detainees, and foreign occupation are so incredibly detrimental to the well-being of the United States. Not only are they wrong, but they're also self-defeating. As we've observed in this election, fear and intimidation have their limits as tools of manipulation. Now's as good a time as any to break free of those for a while in favor of a little rational optimism. We need to clean up our act. And fast.
Nothing New byslag at 9:52 AM
You know you're a winner when...
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Nothing New byslag at 11:13 AM
Right now, I'm in the midst of an empire revampification project, which is time-consuming (if not entirely confidence-building). On top of that, I don't trust any of the current presidential transition stories enough to waste any words on them (although this New Yorker article looks interesting). Plus, MFP and I have been trading a particularly lengthy and demoralizing cold back and forth for the last week or so, and right now, it appears to be my turn to have the worst of it. So, instead of discussing any of the things that I should be discussing--my Obama campaign volunteering post-mortem, my treatise on love and marriage in the post-H8 era, my secret scheme to get in on the ground floor of the inevitable Marxist/fascist revolution to come--I leave you with this...nothing but cute:
Consider it part two of my argument about why the Obamas should definitely hold out for a rescue/shelter animal.
Nothing New byslag at 9:36 AM
A Tale of Two Wars
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Nothing New byslag at 11:10 PM
Admittedly, I'm a hardcore pedestrian and am therefore not to be trusted on such subjects, but John Cole asked why American car manufacturers can't make a living in the US, and I feel compelled to offer my response: they suck. True that the cost of labor (including healthcare) in the US is higher than in many other countries, but as BMW, Mercedes, and Lexus have proven, people don't seem to mind paying a lot for a car. But what they do seem to mind is paying a lot for a crappy car. Which is why GM and Ford can't seem to make it here without sporadic taxpayer support.
My own personal complaints about American cars have nothing to do with reliability and everything to do with design. Every time MFP and I go out of town, we invariably end up with an American-made rental car. And whether it be a Ford, GM, or Chrysler, it's pretty much guaranteed to suck. The use of space is often horrendous, with the dashboard being in the realm of 2 feet deep. To accompany the bloated interior, there's the visual and noise pollution produced by various incessantly blinking and beeping things. Amenities, such as air vents and cup holders, are awkwardly sized and placed and sometimes useless. Speaking of useless, we always end up finding these stupid little compartments that aren't shaped in such a way as to serve any real function. Add poor gas mileage and emissions standards to this list and tack on an extra couple of grand for a Made in America label (with most parts really being made in Japan or Taiwan now), and who's going to buy one?
The point is that, as a creator of consumer goods, you can be bad or you can be expensive but you can't be both (unless you're Microsoft, but that's a whole other story). It's no secret that foreign automakers had the vision required to avoid GM's fate. And while vision isn't the whole story, it's certainly a large part. But even worse, if we extrapolate the lessons our car companies have to keep learning to other sectors of American manufacturing, I see no reason to assume a different outcome for US furniture (see IKEA), airplane (see Airbus), and even home (Oh What a Feeling!) builders. While some of these industries may be, by their nature, more flexible than auto manufacturing, we can't ignore the basic reality that we've gotten quite soft around the middle when it comes to innovation here.
I have to say that the conservative in me would like to see the bulkiest companies among us sink under their own dead weight. But the liberal in me would like to see us help them lift themselves up by their bootstraps, change their lives for the better, and become contributing members of our society again. But one thing I know for sure is, if we don't start tightening our belts--thereby making better use of our various resources--there's no point in wasting any effort trying to resuscitate our unrepentant casualties. Bravado has taken us as far as it can. It's time for a little humility.
Nothing New byslag at 2:17 PM
Not usually one to inject myself into people's personal lives, like digby, I am intrigued by the great Obama dog search. And my reasons for sticking my nose where it doesn't belong are pictured above. With two adopted pets of my own (one from a dumpster, one from a shelter), I've always found it odd that people would intentionally go out and purchase animals from a breeder or a store. The thought of doing so just seems kind of...well...cruel. Especially when there are so many uncared-for animals out there who could use a nice loving home with a big yard, servants, and a Secret Service detail. And while I'm not insensitive to the constraints of allergies, I'd still like to see this president set a good example for others and hold out for a shelter/rescue dog (or two). Whether we like it or not, people are obviously watching (even me). Time to make doing the right thing cool again.
Nothing New byslag at 1:21 PM
In which I cannot help myself*
Monday, November 10, 2008
QUESTION: Which one of these people looks like he actually belongs in the White House?
(Hint: It's not the one with the look of sheer stupid on his face)
*=I know I'm trying to be all nice and changey and stuff, but I'm a flawed, flawed human. It's still hard for me to believe that this pasty-faced fool ever got elected. To anything. Ever.
Nothing New byslag at 3:40 PM
For me, the most dispiriting aspect of the Bush Administration and all the king's culture wars has been its unyielding disrespect for thoughtful analysis and, by extension, for the American people. And in return, the American people seemed to have very little trouble living down to our low expectations. I had a friend once tell me that he hated going back home to visit his parents because they treated him like he was twelve, but he hated it even more when he started acting like he was twelve. That sentiment pretty much encapsulates what I believe to be our collective relationship with this country's recent leadership. But many of us felt a powerful dissonance with the overarching narratives created in our public and political spheres. I, for one, was forced to keep asking myself, "Am I crazy?", whenever I left the confines of my carefully constructed cone of silence (the answer--tragically, yes.). Between the insipidity of the national media and the fractiousness of our national discourse, we have all been crazy for quite some time.
But now, with a new president who appears eager to treat us all like rational adults whenever possible, the question remains: Are we entering a new age of American sanity? Michael Hirsh is optimistic:
What Obama's election means, above all, is that brains are back. Sense and pragmatism and the idea of considering-all-the-options are back. Studying one's enemies and thinking through strategic problems are back. Cultural understanding is back. Yahooism and jingoism and junk science about global warming and shabby legal reasoning about torture are out. The national culture of flag-pin shallowness that guided our foreign policy is gone with the wind. And for this reason as much as any, perhaps I can renew my pride in being an American.Reluctantly, I admit to sharing some of Hirsh's optimism and have gone even further with it. Last night, I sat down to watch a West Wing DVD and immediately wondered, now that we have an intellectual and eloquent president in reality, "Will smart dialogue suddenly come back in vogue in the fictional world too?". A thrilling thought, for sure. But I'm still skeptical about all of it for many reasons.
First, the media is still the media. Second, the Republicans are still the Republicans. Third, Proposition 8--and several others like it--appealed only to our crazy parts and all passed. Finally, Sarah Palin ('nuff said). But the overarching reality here is that I don't believe in extreme political or cultural realignments. There are a bunch of academic arguments that I could rely on to bolster that assessment, but the truth is that the concept just doesn't jive with my observations of how people work. To put it plainly, I think we all have crazy parts and sane parts of approximately equal proportion, and we have an uncanny ability to rationalize almost any action we choose to take. In the case of our choice for president, I'm happy that we chose to listen to our sane parts. It doesn't happen very often.
Nonetheless, I'm happy to be proven wrong. Maybe shallow subterfuge is out and self-aware solicitude is in. Maybe we are on the crux of a re-geekification of America, and we'll all join together to intelligently re-design our fractured society. Maybe we'll suppress our individual insanities for a while in an effort to re-connect with our authentic physical and social worlds. Right now, anything seems possible. Which is already a change for the better.
Nothing New byslag at 10:30 AM
Obama Meets Spock
Saturday, November 8, 2008
Wired offers a blog post listing 5 Signs President-Elect Obama is a Geek. To which I say, "Duh!". We've been extolling Obama's geeky virtues for quite a while now. Nonetheless, one of their signs of Obama's geek cred was news to me, and it made me giggle with glee:
[W]hen Leonard Nimoy was the guest on NPR's "Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!" in September, he said that he had run into "one of the presidential candidates" and that that candidate had, upon seeing Nimoy, given him the Vulcan salute. He refused to name the candidate, but said he "was not John McCain." (Ed. Note: not to mention, he is the best example of the strength of IDIC we've seen in a long time)If more television shows produced the same quality of leadership training that Star Trek TOS and TNG provided, we, as a television-watching society, would be in much better shape. I do wonder whether or not this country will experience a bit of a cultural revival after our eight-year descent into the void. If so, hopefully the interwebs will deliver the goods to those of us who have forsaken the teevee. Either way, it's a pleasure to have Mr. Spock for President!
To listen to Nimoy on Wait, Wait..., go here.
Nothing New byslag at 4:34 PM
Friday Drag Queen Star Spangled Sing-Along Blogging
Friday, November 7, 2008
My cat destroyed a lengthy blog post I was working on. So, instead, I present to you the Star Spangled Banner, as conducted by rooftop/Obama-loving drag queen (via the Slog):
Also, here's some post-election newspaper headline porn.
And some Obama pic porn (the safe for work kind).
Not to mention, the best first family evah! (If you care about that sort of thing.)
Bonus for those who still like to read (antiquarians!): here's Alice Walker's open letter to Barack Obama.
Happy Crazy Week of Wonders Friday!
Nothing New byslag at 9:12 AM
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
I celebrated going to bed at 2am by getting up at 5:30am to attend the church of pugilism. At church, I spent most of my time dutifully taking orders from my kick-ass pugilism instructor, who just happens to be a kick-ass lesbian. During the time I spent not taking orders, I reflected on the inanity that is California's Proposition 8, thinking all the while that kick-ass women of any sexual orientation should not be discriminated against. Period. And as I was hitting things, I got more and more impatient with the injustice and inequality that pervades our society. Eventually, my sarcasm gene kicked in, and I began having imaginary conversations with the haters, starting with our new President-Elect, who--though he was against Prop 8--failed to really stand up for marriage equality during this election:
Barack Obama (as heard many, many times): "I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman."And then I stopped. Maybe it's the three and a half hours of sleep talking, but I suddenly realized that thinking of the president that I spent so much time and money to help get elected as an "anti-American jackass" for not fully embracing the spirit of my favorite part of the Declaration of Independence is probably not the best way to let the Changing begin. In fact, it pretty much does the opposite. As Obama implied in his speech last night, the same old "immature" politics tend to yield the same old results. We can't keep doing it.
Me: "Oh yeah? Well, I believe that 'all men are created equal,' you anti-American jackass."
So, with that in mind, for a while, I'm going to take a time out before I embark on one of my many reflexive rants. This change stuff is serious business, and I, for one, plan to take it seriously. I'm going to start constraining myself a bit more. Because if the substance of my rant is worthwhile, it often won't require any name-calling in its expression. That's not to say that sarcasm and name-calling aren't useful messaging tools. It's just that the more the knives get thrown, the duller they become; I want to keep my knives sharp (or, more accurately, sharpen them again). And besides, I'm simply tired of the playing by the culture warriors' rules. It's time for a change.
Nothing New byslag at 8:49 AM
I never truly realized how very little I respected President George W Bush until I got a President-Elect Barack Obama. And that's saying something. It's like becoming President of the United States of America actually means something now. Welcome to Bizarro America.
UPDATE: Obama's Presidential Victory speech is exhibit A:
Apparently not content with continually making John McCain look small and petty, Obama is now proceeding toward making the presidents that came before him look small and petty as well. Ambitious.
Nothing New byslag at 12:21 AM
Go Kick Fear's Ass Today
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Nothing New byslag at 6:53 AM
We Have to Win (Redux)
Monday, November 3, 2008
Nothing New byslag at 5:12 PM
...your times of joy regularly coincide with an equal or greater amount of sadness.
True for Barack Obama:
It is with great sadness that we announce that our grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, has died peacefully after a battle with cancer. She was the cornerstone of our family, and a woman of extraordinary accomplishment, strength, and humility. She was the person who encouraged and allowed us to take chances. She was proud of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren and left this world with the knowledge that her impact on all of us was meaningful and enduring. Our debt to her is beyond measure.Because Obama probably won't be at his best during this time of tragedy, it seems incumbent upon those who want a change this election to carry some of the weight. Volunteer/donate if you can (and yes, you can!).
Our family wants to thank all of those who sent flowers, cards, well-wishes, and prayers during this difficult time. It brought our grandmother and us great comfort. Our grandmother was a private woman, and we will respect her wish for a small private ceremony to be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, we ask that you make a donation to any worthy organization in search of a cure for cancer.
Nothing New byslag at 3:17 PM
The urban answer to Barns for Obama.
Culture War be gone!
Nothing New byslag at 1:31 PM
MFP and I are taking tomorrow off to volunteer. If the day follows some of the traditions established by our previous election days, it will go something like this:
One of the many reasons I dislike tradition.
Nothing New byslag at 12:12 PM
Glenn Greenwald once again approaches the subject of our asymmetrical political discourse:
George Bush is the person in whom the Right placed its blind faith, the one they glorified and held up as the ultimate standard-bearer of what they believe in. And now he -- and they -- lay in shambles and disgrace. No matter what metric one uses, it's difficult to overstate what a profound failure the Bush presidency is, and everyone -- including Bush -- knows that. The most important aspect of this Tuesday's election is to finalize their humiliating repudiation and to bury them for what they've done.As does atrios:
Despite all of that, The Washington Post's Ombudsman, Deborah Howell, today wrote a column claiming that one reason that The Post and other papers are losing money is because they are "too liberal"; have had "more favorable stories about Barack Obama than John McCain," and "conservatives are right that they often don't see their views reflected enough in the news pages." To mitigate newspapers' financial problems, Howell decrees: "the imbalance still needs to be corrected." She adds: "Neither the hard-core right nor left will ever be satisfied by Post coverage -- and that's as it should be."
What if the actual facts -- i.e., "reality" -- are consistent with the views of "the hard-core left" and contrary to the views of the "hard-core right"? What if, as has plainly been the case, the conservatives' views are wrong, false, inaccurate? What if the McCain campaign was failing and relying on pure falsehoods and sleazy attacks, and The Post's coverage simply reflected that reality? It doesn't matter. In order to sell more newspapers, according to Howell, The Post's news coverage must shape itself to the Right and ensure that "their views [are] reflected enough in the news pages" (I don't recall Howell complaining when her newspaper -- according to its own media critic -- systematically suppressed anti-war viewpoints in its news pages and loudly amplified pro-Bush and pro-war views).
No matter how much Obama wins by, if he wins, the media will have Joe Lieberman and Harold Ford explain to us what it really means, which is that the American public supports exactly what Harold Ford supports. The establishment is "center right," whatever that means, and no matter what public sentiment actually is, they will tell you that the American People support their agenda.And here comes Yglesias discussing Joe Scarborough's treatment of Paul Krugman:
The description of Krugman as “hateful” has a nice straight outta 2003 quality to it. Of course there is some hateful political rhetoric out there. But the effort to stigmatize all strident political commentary as “hate” is annoying, and the effort to exclusively stigmatize strident liberal political commentary as hate is absurd. And this — rather than, say, regular appearances by Nobel Prize winning economist and hugely popular political columnist Paul Krugman — is what we get on our terrifyingly liberal MSNBC.All of which remind us that voting Democrat in this election is, as always, just the beginning. We must keep bringing the karmic justice.
Update: TPM reminds us of an old commentary on Obama's wardrobe coming from the most trusted name in news:
But, in the case of Obama, he may be walking around with a sartorial time bomb. Ask yourself, is there any other major public figure who dresses the way he does? Why, yes. It is Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who, unlike most of his predecessors, seems to have skipped through enough copies of "GQ" to find the jacket-and-no-tie look agreeable.These people are insane.
And maybe that's not the comparison a possible presidential contender really wants to evoke.
GREENFIELD: Now, it is one thing to have a last name that sounds like Osama and a middle name, Hussein, that is probably less than helpful. But an outfit that reminds people of a charter member of the axis of evil, why, this could leave his presidential hopes hanging by a thread. Or is that threads? -- Wolf.
Nothing New byslag at 10:19 AM
Sunday, November 2, 2008
MFP and I were scheduled to do some canvassing today. But when we got to Change HQ this afternoon, we had to force ourselves through the wall-to-wall packed rooms in order to find our district leader. Every desk was full; kids on cellphones lined the perimeter; there was a crowd out the door of people doing I don't know what; we could all barely hear each other. And once we made it to our destination, MFP and I discovered that they were totally staffed (overly so). No work for us. So, we went and grabbed a late lunch/early dinner and just relaxed together. It was nice being superfluous for a day. And it was even nicer seeing a bunch of enthusiastic, mission-oriented people working together to make a difference.
Nothing New byslag at 9:05 PM
My Halloween Costume: 1,001 Papercuts
Saturday, November 1, 2008
MFP and I spent this Halloween making walk packets at Change HQ. From 6:30pm til a little after midnight, we sorted, labeled, and rubberbanded until our fingers bled (literally). The best part (aside from the bleeding) was chatting with interesting people of all ages and backgrounds. Twenty-somethings, thirty-somethings, forty-somethings, and fifty-somethings all gathered 'round to focus on the job of getting Democrats elected this year. We met a guy visiting from Denmark . When I asked what brought him to the US to help Obama, he said "Bush" and went on to discuss Denmark's participation in the "Coalition of the Willing" in Iraq and how important it is to the rest of the world that we, in the US, make a change this election. We also met an older couple who just moved here from Maryland for work. The husband's name was Chester the Contractor. And we enjoyed the company of a horde of twenty-something field organizers who could both wonk out and rock out with equal enthusiasm. Needless to say, the time was well-spent.
With that in mind, here are your obligatory inspirational videos:
Don't let up.
And some well-deserved kudos to Obama's ground game:
Speaking of ground game:
Nothing New byslag at 6:56 PM
Nothing New byslag at 2:26 PM
First, we find out Obama's aunt is an undocumented immigrant, and then, we learn that someone in cousin Cheney's administration may have outed her illegally.
And worse, now cousin Cheney comes onto the teevee for all the world to see (in order to endorse McSame):
It's 1pm on a Saturday. Do you know where all of your relatives are?
Nothing New byslag at 1:07 PM