Posted by Rojas @ 1:34 pm on January 20th 2009

True representation

After seeing every other American group represented on the stage, it makes sense that they would allow a mentally disabled man to deliver the benediction.

Posted by Rojas @ 1:32 pm on January 20th 2009

Elizabeth Alexander

> Maya Angelou, anyway.

I’m not sure that the political mechanics of the Inauguration make good poetry possible. But at least we weren’t presented with a list of aggrieved groups this year.

Posted by Cameron @ 1:31 pm on January 20th 2009

Pity the translators

They’re in pain trying to reproduce this (great) poem coherently.

Posted by Rojas @ 1:26 pm on January 20th 2009

If nothing else

We have, if nothing else, a President who has the ability to use rhetoric to inspire confidence in the office. That’s not a substitute for competence, but it does count for something. If COMBINED with competence, it can count for a lot.

Posted by Rojas @ 1:14 pm on January 20th 2009

The year is 1912

Or 1880, or 1940, or whenever you’d like. There hasn’t been a word uttered yet in this inaugural that would not have been exactly as relevant in any of those years as in this one.

We’re redefining boilerplate here.

Ah, electric grids. That narrows it to the last eighty years or so.

Posted by Rojas @ 1:06 pm on January 20th 2009

Yipes

How many mistakes do you get to make in the Oath of Office for it not to count?

I’m thinking it doesn’t count.

Also, he’s Indonesian. Or something.

Posted by Rojas @ 1:05 pm on January 20th 2009

Is it just me?

Or is Yitzhak Perlman, like, the spitting image of Colin Powell?

Except, you know, white?

If they had to do a John Williams arrangement, I’d have preferred the Star Wars theme.

Posted by Rojas @ 12:56 pm on January 20th 2009

When all else fades…

Long after we have forgotten all other aspects of this historic day, we shall surely remember, etched into the firmament of our memories, the indelible image of Aretha Franklin’s hat.

Posted by Rojas @ 12:50 pm on January 20th 2009

Diane Feinstein

Begging your pardon, but didn’t somebody say that it was the moment of Obama’s securing a majority of delegates that was the great turning point in America’s history?

The “turning points” seem to be coming thick and fast these days.

Posted by Rojas @ 12:26 pm on January 20th 2009

Inappropriate comedy video of the day

One man saw it coming.

Not work safe.

Posted by Brad @ 8:22 pm on January 19th 2009

Ever Wonder About that Black Suburban Following the Presidential Limo?

Wonder no more.

Posted by Brad @ 3:31 pm on January 19th 2009

Your Moment of Musical History of the Day

Pete Seeger, now in his 80s, agrees to play “This Land is Your Land” at the inaugural concert. But only if he can play the original.

This land is your land This land is my land
From California to the New York island;
From the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and Me.

As I was walking that ribbon of highway,
I saw above me that endless skyway:
I saw below me that golden valley:
This land was made for you and me.

I’ve roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts;
And all around me a voice was sounding:
This land was made for you and me.

When the sun came shining, and I was strolling,
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling,
As the fog was lifting a voice was chanting:
This land was made for you and me.

As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said “No Trespassing.”
But on the other side it didn’t say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.

If this doesn’t move you, you don’t know enough about Pete Seeger, one of the Top Ten Most Important Musical Figures of the 20th Century, bar none. Sure he’s a communist, but he’s a a great American.

Posted by Brad @ 2:49 pm on January 19th 2009

The Fifty Most Loathsome People in America, 2008

Good read, replete with a laundry list of great one-liners.

Joe the Plumber:

The Che Guevara of bald, pissed off white men.

Mark Penn:

The most overpaid gravedigger in the world.

Sarah Palin:

In the end, Palin had the beneficial effect of splitting her party between her admirers and people who can read.

Hank Paulson:

Paulson’s initial spending plan was the financial equivalent of blowing into a broken balloon

Posted by Brad @ 3:23 am on January 19th 2009

The Video

H/t TPM:

This video apparently comes from a Coast Guard surveillance camera. It’s a static scene until just after 2 minutes into the video when the plane, apparently just having touched down, comes into the field of view as a splash line from the left. A few moments later the camera zooms in and you can see the first moments of the passengers coming out of the plane.

Posted by Brad @ 9:34 pm on January 18th 2009

Get on Facebook

Am I the only one who doesn’t have a Facebook account, has no real desire for a Facebook account, and just doesn’t care very much one way or the other about Facebook?

Apparently.

Posted by Brad @ 9:13 pm on January 18th 2009

Radenko Fanuka’s “Thoughts” on the Election

Is there a word for reverse-misogyny?

Parse, if you dare.

Posted by Brad @ 6:26 pm on January 18th 2009

Poor Oprah

First James Frey, now an elderly Jewish couple who apparantly fabricated the story of their meeting at a Nazi concentration camp (though both are indeed concentration camp survivors). Their book deal is currently getting pulled, but not before two Oprah appearances.

As a non-fiction writer, these stories always fascinate me, because they’re never as simple as they appear. Not that I’m advocating truth relativism (and professionally, you can’t, and artistically, you don’t really need to), but the casual way to come at these things is to dice stuff up as either “truth” or “lies”, but reality, and story-telling, isn’t always all that conducive to that.

Posted by Brad @ 6:13 pm on January 17th 2009

In Defense of Sweatshops

All of us have our favorite recreational political arguments. For Rojas, it used to be “Blackmail should be legal”. I’ve often found “Drunk driving should be legal” to be a real cocktail party starter. But one of the ones I’ve always also happened to be passionate about is the one in the subject line. The anti-Wal Mart anti-globalization leftists who rail against sweatshops and the exploitation of labor always strike me as exhibiting a particularly condescending form of Ameri-centrism; namely, the idea that, barring sweatshops, laborers in countries like Bangladesh and Mozambique will go find themselves some nice union or white collar job somewhere.

That is not to say, of course, that basic human rights need to always be respected, nor is it to endorse actual slavery, and believe me when I say it’s not callousness that drives this thought, but I always can’t help thinking…”man, there are some parts of the world, and a great many people, who would kill for a Nike plant in their neighborhood.”

What reminded me of this common discussion (I’m pretty sure I’ve had it with Jerrod before) is this article in today’s New York Times by Nicholas Kristoff called “Where Sweatshops are a Dream”.

Mr. Obama and the Democrats who favor labor standards in trade agreements mean well, for they intend to fight back at oppressive sweatshops abroad. But while it shocks Americans to hear it, the central challenge in the poorest countries is not that sweatshops exploit too many people, but that they don’t exploit enough.

Talk to these families in the dump, and a job in a sweatshop is a cherished dream, an escalator out of poverty, the kind of gauzy if probably unrealistic ambition that parents everywhere often have for their children.

[…]

The best way to help people in the poorest countries isn’t to campaign against sweatshops but to promote manufacturing there. One of the best things America could do for Africa would be to strengthen our program to encourage African imports, called AGOA, and nudge Europe to match it.

Among people who work in development, many strongly believe (but few dare say very loudly) that one of the best hopes for the poorest countries would be to build their manufacturing industries. But global campaigns against sweatshops make that less likely.

Posted by Brad @ 12:36 am on January 17th 2009

$825, Line by Line

Posted by Brad @ 6:14 pm on January 16th 2009

Obama to take on Medicare and Social Security?

I haven’t had time to respond to any comments lately, so I haven’t gotten into the fiscal responsibility via Obama debate. In any case, I thought this worth passing along, though odds are it never amounts to anything.

WaPo:

President-elect Barack Obama will convene a “fiscal responsibility summit” in February designed to bring together a variety of voices on solving the long term problems with the economy and with a special focus on entitlements, he said during an interview with Washington Post reporters and editors this afternoon.

“We need to send a signal that we are serious,” said Obama of the summit.

Those invited to attend will include Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (N.D.), ranking minority member Judd Gregg (N.H.), the conservative Democratic Blue Dog coalition and a host of outside groups with ideas on the matter, said the president-elect.

Obama said that he has made clear to his advisers that some of the difficult choices–particularly in regards to entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare – should be made on his watch. “We’ve kicked this can down the road and now we are at the end of the road,” he said.

Ironically, it’s the first time I’ve ever heard the Obama people really mention entitlement spending in a policy context, and it’s interesting to me that when they finally do so, they do under the rubric of fiscal responsibility and not “social responsibility”. It’s tea-leaf reading to be sure, but I find myself at least guardedly comforting that when this administration first mentions it, they do so in the stated context of impending crisis, “difficult choices”, and under the banner of budget hawkishness. Every reason to be skeptical, to be sure (which we’ll hear about in the comments), but consider this: of every possible way to begin the entitlement discussion, this is about the most fiscal conservative foot to step out on.

Posted by Jerrod @ 12:05 am on January 16th 2009

More ominous signs of the impending death of fair use or Yet Another Unwarranted Use of the DCMA

Film critic Kevin B. Lee recently got smacked down by Youtube’s “3 strikes” for infringement policy, with all videos removed and his account shuttered. He’d gotten the first 2 strikes a while back when he’d put up a few clips of movies for reference in articles that he had written. What makes this third notice notworthy is that he’d gone to a full-on video letter format where he’s talking about the shows and using edited clips as examples. I’ve not seen any of his Youtube videos but assume they are similar to the work he did for The Museum of the Moving Image in breaking down the opening credits of HBO’s The Wire.

When he received DMCA takedown notices for his earlier postings, he took them down because it was reasonable that just posting short but otherwise unedited clips might be infringement. In the latest case, though, he clearly was creating a new object. It did incorporate clips of copyrighted material but the intent was unmistakably critical review, not just an attempt to profit or pirate (or even just host for free) copyrighted material.

Matt Zoller Seitz notes in an excellent essay written in response to Lee’s Youtube death that what is most unnerving is that Lee wasn’t doing anything substantially different than broadcast shows such as The Daily Show does when re-airing clips with commentary.

The DMCA has plenty of problems but even if without getting distracted by those I think it’s pretty clear that Lee’s type of use should not be considered infringement. He was unlucky in that the 3rd strike closed his account before he had a chance to respond (and Youtube doesn’t really make it easy to respond to these things). I understand that Youtube has to protect itself from assuming a judicial role in determining what’s fair use and what isn’t and thus just passes along DMCA takedown notices, but it would really be nice if a mechanism could be put in place to air these kinds of issues and protect people like Lee.

Has Obama appointed his copyright czar yet?

Posted by James @ 10:26 pm on January 15th 2009

The Rules of the Game

A long listen, but worth it when juxtaposed to this.

I know, it’s “quippy” and anecdotal and yaddy ya, but does this not give you even the slightest tingle of apprehension? Since when is the office of a member of the “fourth estate” a destination of choice for a president-elect just prior to inauguration?

Anyone? Anyone? Brad? Beuller?

Posted by James @ 8:25 pm on January 15th 2009

PEOTUS Obama has the power to tap more than cabinet members.

Remember all the machinations over “Wiretap-gate”? The offense some considered worthy of the impeachment of one President George W. Bush? Yeah, that one. Well, guess what?

A federal intelligence court, in a rare public opinion, issued a major ruling validating the power of the president and Congress to wiretap international phone calls and intercept e-mail messages without a specific court order, even when Americans’ private communications may be involved.

The court decision, made in August 2008 by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review, came in an unclassified, redacted form.

The decision marks the first time since the disclosure of the National Security Agency’s warrantless eavesdropping program three years ago that an appellate court has addressed the constitutionality of the federal government’s wiretapping powers. In validating the government’s wide authority to collect foreign intelligence, it may offer legal credence to the Bush administration’s repeated assertions that the president has the power to act without specific court approval in ordering national security eavesdropping that may involve Americans.

Well, la de frickin’ da!

Posted by Brad @ 8:02 pm on January 15th 2009

Quote of the Day

My other favorite nominee, Eric Holder at his confirmation hearing today, asked about waterboarding.

HOLDER: If you look at the history of the use of that technique, used by the Khmer Rouge, used in the Inquisition, used by the Japanese and prosecuted by us as war crimes. We prosecuted our own soldiers for using it in Vietnam. I agree with you, Mr. Chairman, waterboarding is torture.

Posted by Jerrod @ 10:05 am on January 15th 2009

First Digital Presidential Portrait

Apparently this is the first official presidential portrait taken with a digital camera. Personally, I’ll get excited when we’ve got a president with a gamertag.

Posted by Jerrod @ 9:58 am on January 15th 2009

James Fallows on the Communist Free market

Listening to an interview with James Fallows today reminded me of an economic issue relating to free markets, developing economies, and currency flow. Perhaps this is common knowledge among readers of this blog, but the idea is that one of the bedrock ideological components of the IMF and free trade proponents, namely that free flows of currency are a Good Thing™, is deeply flawed when it comes to embryonic and emerging economies.

Essentially the argument is that free flowing currency drains profits from weak economies and that controlling, specifically limiting, the flow of currency out of the economy is essential for future growth and stability. While the idea of any limits on economic behavior are anathema to free market ideologists, on a different level this makes fundamental economic sense. Any money taken out of the system isn’t reinvested and its this reinvestment that the future depends on. A lot of the money that is taken out is profit taking, I think, which must be permitted to the extent that without profits, there is no investment. By the same token, just as a businessman doesn’t take home a lot of money during the startup period and reinvests everything to get the business up and running, keeping the benefits of early investment within the system can lead to greater strength and health in the system later on.

Once an economy reaches some critical point of strength and can stand on its own, it would benefit from opening up currency flows, but the need is there for protection and nurturing early on. The United States has this exact history of economic development as do many other established economies. The mistake is thinking that what is good for established economies is good for emerging economies and thus the IMF imposes such rules. This issue was a big part of the Indonesian (or was it Singaporean?) president’s rant about imperialistic exploitation in the 1990s.

What got me thinking about this again was Fallows’ explanation of the 50% savings rate of the Chinese in his talk about Chinese investment in the USA. While regular Chinese people do save more of their incomes due to an absence of social safety nets such as Social Security and Medicare, the real savings are a result of the governments Mandatory Savings Policy, a government economic policy that dictates how the foreign reserves exchanged at Chinese banks are used by the banks. Fallows suggests that the Chinese economy, in spite of the Communist government, is in most ways more free than European or even USA markets and economies. The main expression of the government control of the economy is this savings policy.

The way he explained it is that when a company receives, for example, US dollars from the sale of goods, it has to take those dollars to a bank to get Chinese yuan. The bank is left with a handful of US dollars. Typically a bank then decides what to do with those, perhaps holding on to them to use when Chinese want to convert yuan to dollars or then can invest them in other currencies or whatever. The Chinese government has this mandatory savings policy that requires these currency flows to be invested, a rather severe form of currency control that deprives bankers the freedom to do what they want with the money.

This policy is designed to provide a secure haven for Chinese money, avoid overheating and inflation in the Chinese domestic economy, and then perhaps more insidiously, especially now that China is investing so much, create strong economic ties with the United States that might be able to be used a political leverage. He goes on to talk about Lawrence Summers “financial balance of terror” whereby the Chinese can’t really use this leverage without hurting themselves nor can the US use its economy against Japan without inflicting significant damage to themselves.

I found it interesting that domestically, the Chinese economy is MORE free than in US in ways but this Communist control of currency flow is what has allowed it to grow. Limiting the freedom of markets in some ways can be beneficial for the overall health and long term viability of the system. Something to keep in mind, perhaps, once we pass through the current rough patch and growth and development of emerging economies becomes the topic of interest again.

Posted by Brad @ 2:09 am on January 15th 2009

Bob Dole Watch (Shinseki Confirmation Hearings)

Yes, there is one.

He popped up today on my CSpan, unexpectedly. He was there for the VA Secretary confirmation hearings, as the official introducer of Obama nominee General Shinseki.

It’s a very nice introduction, between Dole and Inouye.

Warning: It’s a lot like listening to your grandfather talk down at the VA. If the VA was the Senate. Talking about the VA.

Dole’s introduction starts at 17:20. But the whole thing is pretty interesting to watch.

I have to admit, Shinseki is one of my favorite nominees. It’s going to be the most trying VA Secretary tenure in 25 years. And it’s pretty clear from the confirmation hearings that the veterans and Senators are thrilled at having someone of his stature, pedigree, reputation, and access/pull in the position.

Bob Dole just seals the deal.

Posted by Rojas @ 9:58 pm on January 14th 2009

Number Six has left The Village

RIP, and Be Seeing You.

Posted by James @ 7:37 pm on January 13th 2009

Pure Gold!

The scenario: You are a precious metals broker. You want to instill a sense of security and trust in your existing and prospective clients, so you seek a spokesman that exudes an aura of honesty, ethics, and unimpeachable integrity. After a laborious search for a paragon of honor and virtue to be the face and voice of your firm you settle on the natural choice: G. Gordon Liddy.

Awesome!

Posted by Brad @ 6:55 pm on January 13th 2009

Bad Blood

Sorry for the un-blogging lately; I’ve been positively swamped with work.

But, a quickie. Meghan McCain news!

Q: If you could change one thing about the election what would it be?

MM: “Nothing, it was the most liberating experience of my life and I am such a different person now than I was when I started the blog. It was truly an invaluable experience and I sit here today as an incredibly proud daughter and member of the Republican Party.”

Q: So, no comment on the selection of Governor Sarah Palin as Senator McCain’s running mate?

MM: “Sarah Palin is the only part of the campaign that I won’t comment on publicly.”

~sigh~

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