Saheli*: Musings and Observations
I told my sister
that I had a funny dream last night*, wherein Google combined with RFID tags (radio frequency identity tags) meant you could search your house. Anyone who knows me knows why that might be useful. She responded by sending me this fascinating speech by science fiction writer Bruce Sterling
at a SIGGRAPH conference in LA this last August. (Finding out what Siggraph stands for is more difficult than its worth, but suffice it to say, they're professional computer graphics geeks.) A lot of it seems a bit handwavy in the way that only good science fiction writers can make words seem simultaneously vague and precise, but I think he might be onto something. He wants these people to make Spimes
, his neologism for not-yet-created precisely documented and interactive objects.
Scenario: You buy a Spime with a credit card. Your account info is embedded in the transaction, including a special email address set up for your Spimes. After the purchase, a link is sent to you with customer support, relevant product data, history of ownership, geographies, manufacturing origins, ingredients, recipes for customization, and bluebook value. The spime is able to update its data in your database (via radio-frequency ID), to inform you of required service calls, with appropriate links to service centers. This removes guesswork and streamlines recycling. . .So -- as long as you could keep your eyes open -- you would be able to swiftly understand: where it was, when you got it, how much it cost, who made it, what it was made of, where those resources came from, what a better model looked like, what a cheaper model looked like, who to thank for making it, who to complain to about its inadequacies, what previous kinds of Spime used to look like, why this Spime is better than earlier ones, what people think the Spime of Tomorrow might look like, what you could do to help that happen, the history of the Spime's ownership, what it had been used for, where and when it was used, what other people who own this kind of Spime think about it, how other people more or less like you have altered or fancied-up or modified their Spime, what most people use Spimes for, the entire range of unorthodox uses of Spimes by the world's most extreme Spime geek fandom, and how much your Spime is worth on an auction site. And especially -- absolutely critically -- where to get rid of it safely. . .By making the whole business transparent, a host of social ills and dazzling possibilities are exposed to the public gaze. Everyone who owns a spime becomes, not a mute purchaser, but a stakeholder.
Dealing with a Spime would be called wrangling
. I have to read the whole speech again, slowly, and extract from the hyperbole and dramatic flourishes interesting information. But it caught my eye particularly because it seems that Sterling wants to take what was previously known as a consumer of an object and make that person an active participant in the object's entire lifecycle and being. Which reminds me a bit of discussions on TheParticipant
. Transform the New Media Revolution into a Complete Stuff Revolution?
*The dream also involved some friends juggling torches on a Shakespearan stage set inside a magnificent library, while other friends and I watched and flitted about the mezanine with billowing scarves tied to our wrists--nanofabric scarves that were catching information from the WiFi network and displaying it to us as we danced. That, I think, will stay in dreamspace for a while.
This Godless Communism.
For a strong hit of our pop-culture past, check out an archived 1961 comic book at The Authentic History Center: This Godless Communism
, 10 issues of the Catholic Guild publication Treasure Chest
. Anything that starts with a letter to school children from FBI director J. Edgar Hoover
is worth taking a look at.
The series opens up with an implausible and weirdly calm scenario for the Communist takeover of America, and the results for a Catholic family. It then focuses on the history of Communism, starting with a young Marx and Engels (who has white hair despite being described as "another young man
"--did they lift the art from somewhere eles?) before moving on to its focus in Russia.
After narrating the Russian Revolution, the Communist goal of world domination is established, symbolized by a somewhat anemic red octopus straddling the globe
. As World War II begins, the scene of Nazis being greeted by happy Russians
is a bit disturbing in its almost-implications, as is the enusing lack of discussion about how and why even we
preferred to deal with Communists rather than Nazis.
After the war the focus returns to Communist world domination, and the existence of communist Party cells in the United States. The comic book is pretty clear about whom it wants young Catholic children to be suspicious of: the random sample of the Communist plotters from "all walks of life" are a public librarian, university professor, and labor-union member
. After panels and panels of grumbling Russians looking ove their shoulder for secret police, the artist blissfully puts in a very ominous-looking FBI agent watching two men on a street corner.
As it exhorts the readers to hate Communism but not Russians, it reminds them them that the Russians are "our brothers in Christ
," yet another eerie omission of mentioning Jews. Also missing: any mention of the Chinese Communist Revolution
, already 12 years old at the time this series came out.
It's true that the series almost certainly does not exaggerate the horrors of Communism in Russia--they weren't even fully understood by the West at the time. It's a pretty awful set of ideas and practices, and it's hard to explain complicated things to children. Nevertheless the simplistic arguments are disturbing, and one can see their ilk in much of our current discourse. Read it to be amused, but also to be concerned.
I'm not really sure what to make of this, but it sure is amusing: Cyrus Farivar
sent me this really goofy advertising campaign site that CNN has: The Power of CNN Under Your Command
. It features CNN's famous anchors and reporters--Anderson Cooper twice, Lou Dobbs and Sanjay Gupta, Christiane Amanpour, and Wolf Blitzer and Paula Zahn, in standing around in offices and delivering the news to petulant and demanding individuals. My favorites are Anderson Cooper spitting out facts, and Lou Dobbs trying to explain something while his take-out-eating audience is busy making eyes at Sanjay Gupta--who seems perfectly happy to be making eyes right back at her. (That's gotta be some kind of SAJA first.) The interviews with the anchors are almost as funny--Anderson Cooper seems to be the most into the spirit of the thing, while Christiane Amanpour seems oddly unable to stop taking herself seriously. (She seemed a lot more laid-back when I met her last year.) Wolf Blitzer greeting his double is almost worth the whole thing on its own. I don't know when this was released, but I'll have to see if The Daily Show
has something to say about it tonight.
It is a little dissappointing, though, because when I got the link, I was hoping it was a substantive campaign unveiling new features on the site.
: You know, the "under your command" tagline seems like just a different way for saying "on demand." Remind anyone of Epic
points out that Dr. Gupta was one of People's Sexiest Men Alive in 2003
, so this isn't really a first for him.
I may have to rethink my choice of organic milk brand. Straus Family Creamery
gets all of its energy needs from its own cows, according this BusinessWeek article by Olga Kharif
In mid-May, he installed a device called a methane digester. The $250,000 system, built partly with government grants, uses bacteria to ferment the waste and produce methane gas. That gas, in turn, generates 1,800 kilowatt hours of energy a day, which is more than twice what the farm uses. It also heats 5,000 gallons of water to 180 degrees Fahrenheit, so the water can be used for cleaning equipment or pasteurizing milk. Better yet, Straus says with a touch of pride, "When you come onto our farm, you can't smell anything at all."
Well, it doesn't do anything for carbon dioxide emissions, but it does decrease other pollutants, dependance on foreign oil, and ecologically damaging disposal. Not to mention the smell. Plus their milk comes in pretty glass bottles with shiny red foil tops.
(Note: this works better if you have a status bar in view, and don't actually click.)
Three cheers for the Internet
, for the Web
, for visionaries
, and for geeks coding away in the night
. Three cheers for friendly writers
, and cranky ones
too. Three cheers for the Republic
, and for its framers
, and for its defenders,
, all kinds
. Three cheers for the kindness of strangers to visiting guests
, and respect to the sometimes tragic costs
. Three cheers for people who keep trying
, for people who never give up
, and for people who catch their breath and start again.
Three cheers to matter and energy
, to Golden Bears and Glorious Bells,
to learning on a beautiful hillside. Three cheers for being curious and loud.
Three cheers for all kinds of wonderful
, fabulous friends
, both seen and unseen
, who read
, leave comments
, and otherwise entertain
, comfort and inspire
. Three cheers for dance
. Three cheers for the Bay.
Three cheers for a most loving family
, and many more for transmitters of that Splendor of which this is all but a spark. Thanks all, and thanks for reading! Happy Thanksgiving.
This Daniel Drezner post
is aptly named Best Blog Post Ever
by Matthew Yglesias
: Drezner decides to attempt Romance Novel prose for the International Relations Theory Set:
It was taboo as a realist not to prefer balancing. If word got out, her reputation among the guns & bombs crowd would be ruined. But Jack's social constructivism was too seductive for her feeble rationalist defenses.
"Oh... Jack," she whispered into his ear, "I give in -- reconstitute my identity!"
If these policy guys think this is eww-inducing, they haven't read the physics versions. I was also amused by the commentspam Matt got--but make sure not to click
Just want to link to some things before the rush of the holidays.
A Croation prison camp may be reopened as a fantasy prison camp for wannabe political prisoners
. By the AP's Eugene Brcic in SFGate. Courtesy of Andrew: "Local officials have expressed interest but say they are unsure how well a vacation from hell will sell. "How avant-garde or realistic this idea is remains to be further analyzed," said the head of the district's tourism office, Alen Andreskic. Modric insisted he would offer gluttons for punishment only as much as they could take -- with plenty of expert supervision. "Weaker inmates would carry out light toil, while fitter inmates would 'kill themselves' with work in the sun during the day and spend the night in solitary confinement," Modric said.
"Of course, unlike real prisoners, nobody would be tortured."
When Words Hide The Truth
, On Political Language, by Don Watson, from The Age, courtesy of Scott. "Stalin was not the first tyrant to be so feared that those around him preferred to imitate even his malapropisms than give him any reason to think they were not in awe of his authority."
Great Salon first person essay
on the need for Democrats to reach out to the religious, by the talented writer ZZ Packer. Link Courtesy of Brian G. "Religious Democrats don't run the party. They don't tend to be high-profile strategists or spokespeople. But there are a lot more of them than the party elite realize -- and they are uniquely positioned to roll back the raging Red sea. These people know how to talk to the folks in the Red states and swing states for a simple reason: more often than not, they live in them.
From TheParticipant's Joe Stange: Radio Station in a Suitcase
From Matt at the Snarkmarket, information
about "Paul Rusesabagina, a Kigali hotel owner whose derring-do saved hundreds from the slaughter [in Rwanda]."
And, just for the hell of it, a story about dolphins
saving a family of lifeguards from a great white shark.
My friend Corey Pein
has a piece in this month's Columbia Journalism Review
that has just infuriated me. Courts are making journalists pay to attend trials, spurred on by the costs of dealing with high profile trials like the upcoming Michael Jackson trial:
So why did the press agree to pay? Well, not everyone did. The deal was brokered by two people who wouldn’t talk on the record — Steve Loeper, the senior administrative editor of The Associated Press’s Los Angeles bureau, and Nina Zacuto, an NBC producer. And reporters who arrived after the deal was struck were asked to play by the consortium’s rules. It works like this: The national press gets billed by a private “pool coordinator,” also hired by the consortium. No breakdown of the county’s fee appears on the invoice. Broadcast pays 70 percent of the bill, print pays 30 percent, and local outlets pay nothing. Print outlets would pay about $8,000 over the course of the trial, which is expected to last four months. For some papers, that’s a lot of money.
Okay, I totally understand asking people to pitch in for the costs of hauling their recording equipment around on public property. But 30% for print journalists? That's totally outrageous. It's a public trial! That's a fundamental right they're paying for! It's my right as an American to walk into any trial, sit down, take notes, and walk out and tell people about it however I damn well please.. I shouldn't have to pay for that right. Whether I'm a blogger, a curious citizen, or a Washington Post writer, you can't make me pay for that right. The AP ought to be ashamed of itself.
I wanted to blog this thing that Robin Sloan made, which he published last week, but I couldn't reliably get it to load. Now I can. Check it out. Epic
. Nicely done flash satire about media conglomerateion and the future. Googlers should be especially interested.
Trees, Fire, and Economics
From Robin Sloan at Snarkmarket,
a cool link to an environmental filter blog: Treehugger.com
. Styled along the lines of gizmodo, it mixes substantial information on items like recycling glass
Stewardship Council certified furniture
, to goofy items like cooking food in your dishwasher
, to more mediative essays like this piece on Sarah McLachlan's World on Fire Video
This last bit is interesting. McLachlan's video is pretty amazing
. For one thing, I like the World on Fire
song. But this is definitely an original way to make a video. Instead of spending the $150,000 that it would take to make the video, McLachlan is videotaped just sitting in a chair strumming. This is intercut with flash and video to illustrate where they spent
the $150,000 instead--things like a 12 room clinic in Kibera, Kenya, a years worth of running costs for an orphanage in South Africa, and schooling 145 girls in Afghanistan for a year. The interesting bit is that the producers thoughtfully broke down the $150,000 cost--for example, $200 for a proudction assistant's labor for a day. The Flash is very well done.
Fundamentally this video is a guilt trip. It hinges on the argument
that made Peter Singer famous during the Bangladesh famine of 1971: most of us spend our money on stuff instead of on charity, and when you remove the distance, these can be seen as morally wrong choices. Would you not save a drowning child from a shallow pond if it was mildly incovenient to you? The Singer argument says that not giving charity is equivalent. To make the guilt trip strongest, the example is almost always a comparison between exorbitantly priced American goods ($3000 for catering a day's shoot? Who eats that much? Are they dining on caviar?) and very, very cheap services in a place like Africa. But it's a guilt trip that only works a few times. The question unanswered by the video is--what to do with all the artists who aren't working because their wages are being given away in charity? The self-righteous answer is they could go work for charities, but that's a bit over the top coming from a successful musician, and so McLachlan probably wouldn't even dream of saying it. But it would be nice to come up with a really good answer, a way of widely harmonizing people's need for creativity, self-fulfillment, and dream-following with a more just global economy.
I'm not a philospher and I can't fundamentally defeat Singer's argument nor McLachlan's video, nor do I want to. Less stuff, more charity, sure. But truthfully, it's an unrealistic point of view to apply wholesale to all of society, and I think acknowledging that respectfully might be a helpful step towards coming up with a more widely acceptable solution--or at least more easily adaptable one. Even Treehugger wants you to buy stuff--advertising for sellers of stuff is a big part of how they finance their blog. In fact, when Robin blogged them, he wrote,
"I love TreeHugger’s unabashedly commercial sensibility: “Consumers also rely on the directory to help facilitate their buying processes.” And they have helpful categories for gifts under $100, gifts under $50, etc.
I just had a birthday and got a bunch of wonderful little presents from my friends--so who am I to ask people not to spend their money on stuff? Denying the affectionate impulse that goes into buying things when you have a little cash is not pragmatic. Got to find a workaround, a more tenable compromise.
I am convinced that such solutions exist, mostly because I'm a bleeding heart optimist. The ideas just need to be found or grown. Another friend Robin (I have no lack of friendly Robins) wrote me the following today:
"Talk about values... we have a serious problem with economic values in this country. And I'm not sure what to do about it -- I seriously don't know who has the right ideas, if there are any.
I choose to take that as a good sign. If ideas aren't close at hand, that means they might still be hunted or grown, and they have not necessarily already failed. Time to go hunting.
Big Game Day
This is a very busy weekend, but I just wanted to say
Luck and Risk and Fun
Since I played a very casual, very friendly game of poker a few nights ago, I was amused by Matthew Yglesias's luck
last night. "If only we didn't play with extremely low stakes, I would now be a wealthy man." I keep hearing about friends cleaning up on extremely low pots. I wonder if people take better advantage of lucky hands like that with low & friendly risks.
Poker is very new to me, and not something I plan on taking up with any seriousness, but I was amused by my friends' willingness to let me make up totally ridiculous games when I was dealing. The best part was naming the game. My friend Dave Goldweber had previously made a game Middle Age
, a build-'em&-wreck'em, with the four limbs and the stomach of a card-man on the table knocking out numbers and faces from the players hand as each card is turned, and upturned head creating a wild card. (The limbs and body grow week, but the head brings wisdom--hence, Middle Age
.) My understanding is that the standard build-'em&wreck-'em formation is a pyramid of six cards. So here's my game:
Everyone gets dealt six cards. Yes, that's right, six. A pyramid of six cards is dealt on the table. Each player turns a card, followed by a betting round. The first three, at the bottom of the triangle, wreck your hands. If a Jack is turned over, you can't use your Jacks. The fourth and fifth cards (the middle two of the pyramid) can rescue cards knocked out in the first three rounds--the build-'em phase--but they're also communal cards, a mini-flop. The sixth and last card is a wildcard. We only played it once, and the mini-flop aspect was not involved, but I still thinki it might be fun. Maybe it already exists? Maybe people shoudl be dealt fewer cards in their hands? If it doesn't already exist, I call it Bermuda Pascal
. The triangle reminds me of Pascal's Triangle, and the Bermuda is the wreck bit. But I thought it was nice and goofy.
They're Moving . . .
Ruchira pointed out to me that some Libertarians and Christian Conservatives are willing to move en masse to a particular state to further their political goals. The former are moving to New Hampshire, and the latter are moving to South Carolina. I'd heard of the Libertarian Free State project
, but the Christian Exodus to South Carolina
is news to me--and intense: If you are tired of government-endorsed sin, then stand up and be counted!
I'd suggest that liberals do the same but I can't honestly think of a red state whose ecology and climate I'd prefer to California. I wouldn't trade in my view of the bay for most blue
states. Well, Colorado's dry climate didn't agree with me, personally, but it's quite pretty. Virginia was also very pretty. Iowa's got lots of writers. Any other suggestions?
Scott just sent me a neat article from the International Herald Tribune by Mark Lacey
about how Google, Microsoft, and other Tech giants are trying to build products for the African market--and make technology available to poorer Africans who only speak their own local language. The article centers around efforts to make Swahili-based products, but also mentions special keyboards adapted for Yoruba and Amharic. There's some hope that these technologies will also help save rare languages from disappearing. The article reminded me of the work of George Gregg
, who I hope will write more about his travels soon---he spends time in Africa studying tribal languages with the goal of helping Africans write in their own language. It also reminds me of Geekcorps
, which was founded by some friends of Scott's brother, my friend Colin
, and which tries to help communities in developing countries by contributing to local IT projects. Scott got the link from TechSoup Stock
, which connects nonprofits with technology resources. Three cheers for geeks making a difference!
Women, Welfare, and the Working Poor
(Please click on Permalink/Full Post to read the whole thing.
Check out this week's Slate Dialogue about welfare reform
. The discussion is centered about the new book American Dream
, by New York Times writer John DeParle, which follows the stories of three women who were welfare mothers in Wisconsin and then began to work. Most of this discussion seems to involve one woman in particular, Angie, who has four children, 12 years on the welfare roles, and a new career as a nurse's aide. Slate seems to have set up Jonah Edelman
, the young founder of Stand for Children
and the son of the famed policy titans Marian Wright Edelman
and Peter Edelman
, as the liberal, and Ron Haskins, a Brookings Insistute Senior Fellow
with policy credentials like 14 years as a Capitol Hill staffer and a stint as GWB's senior advisor for Welfare policy, as the conservative. In the "middle" is blogger and writer Mickey Kaus--conservatives might whine that he's nominally a Democrat, and while any cenrist or liberal who's remotely familiar with his blog might simply groan. (See Crooked Timber's recent spoof.
) Nonetheless it's an important topic with an impressive, if notably all male, line up.
I haven't read the book, and I definitely want to check it out. But based on their descriptions, I have a few quibbles with the convesation so far:(Please click on Permalink/Full Post to read the whole thing.
1) The extreme emphasis on marriage as a solution, especially as it's combined with the oddly cold and insubstantial way these three discuss domestic violence. Kaus even quotes at great length a disturbing scene involving Angie's boyfriend and a shotgun, and yet all three keep harping on how welfare mothers should marry their menfolk. Slate's own Dahlia Lithwick has written a very persuasive piece about the extent to which choosing a legal spouse is choosing someone to trust with your very life.
2) Edelman rather blythely mentions, as a sidenote to his accounting of the less than satisfactory economic outcome, that in one mother's case, "when you take into account her work expenses—which in her case didn't even include child care because she left her four children home alone—she either came out slightly ahead or it was a wash." He seems to be reducing child-care to an expense that, if not paid as a bill, doesn't matter. I'm hoping that the oldest of these four children is a teenager, because otherwise this is an illegal and unsafe situation. But if that is the case, that's still pretty sad--here's a teenager who can't take advantage of after-school programs or extracurricular activities because he or she has to watch his or her younger siblings. Watching children is work, and someone has to do it--if the state isn't going to pay the mother to do it, then the mother has to pay someone else to do it, or find someone who she can ask to (a grandmother) or, essentially, force to (an older child.)
3) Harping on the same quote, none of these men seem to be considering that these children are seeing a lot less of their their mother. Edelman notes the bizarre hours Angie has to work as a nurse's aide as an economic obstacle, but doesn't seem to consider their impact on a child's sleep schedule. The three men want Angie to marry another breadwinner, which wouldn't solve the lack of quality adult time her children get.
4) Haskins writes last, and provokes most of my ire. He says , "But because DeParle, joined by both of you, calls for more support for poor and low-income working families, I think it important to at least mention the level of support they already receive. We now supplement the earnings of low-income workers through several major programs," followed by three citations given in total cash from the system's pov ($32B in cash not taken in the form of taxes via the Earned Income Tax Credit*, $20 B spent on day-care and Head Start, and "many Billions" spent on food and nutrition assistance) and one citation of the Medicaid and CHIP health programs that make available health insurance to children in families who are at 200% of the federal poverty guidelines.
He continues with an amazingly snotty tone, "I mention this extensive list of programs both because they demonstrate the nation's substantial commitment to helping poor and low-income families that work and because they provide essential context for considering the question of how much more taxpayers should be expected to spend on these families." [Emphasis mine.] By citing cash totals, and relying on the difficulty most people have with large numbers, he can ignore the fact that these numbers are puny when compared to the size of the problem. There are 30-odd million people living below the poverty level, so even if they all benefitted from EITC they'd only get around $1000 leg up. Headstart and day-care only help with very young children and during school hours--after-school care for the 6-12 set, let alone all the things that middle class stay-at-home moms can do for their children**, aren't covered. The dollar figures he cites are also meaningless without the context of our overall spending priorities.
Haskins also neglects to mention that many eligible children don't get the Medicaid and CHIP insurance because their parents don't know about it. Considering how eager this administration is to keep the traditionally Republican constituency of soldiers and veterans uninformed of the benefits due to them, I'm not really betting on their enthusiasm at recruiting traditionally Democratic children for healthcare. Even if the Admin did decide to enroll all the eligible children, Haskins still fails to acknowledge the fact that many uninsured children are in families that fall above 200% of the the federal poverty guidelines; this shouldn't be suprising to anyone who's read Slate's explanation of how the rather lame guidelines are pegged to food and not housing, nor to anyone who has a decently paying job but has to buy their own health insurance. It's really, really expensive. So, no Dr. Haskins, I don't see a strong commitment to the working poor.
Let's keep an eye on this conversation.
*I love how when poor people are getting a tax cut it's cast as government aid, but when rich people are getting a tax cut it's cast as the right and glorious thing to do.
**I love how the same conservative party of family values whose religious right base decries women in the workplace and votes for suburban values suddenly sees no need for poor children to benefit from stay-at-home moms.
Time for New Television?
Robert Stribley has a nice post
meditating on the idea that television could and should decrease the information gap in our nation.
Stribley wrote, "I hear people arguing again and again on the subject of homosexuality and they are unaware of the science, they employ absurd stereotypes in their arguments, and they resort to quoting the Bible to support their points."
I agree. Whether it's about homosexuality
, the way science works
, foreign affairs
, or the finances of our Republic
, Americans just aren't very well informed.
Red vs. Blue analyses aside, this ignorance affects all of us.
Stribley: "Additionally, and please pardon this venture in fantasyland, but I really wish the TV networks would participate in educating the public about these issues, too.
" I agree. Television has a uniquely strong potential to address misconceptions. It's not just some "snobbish" desire to correct the abysmal ignorance of people who disagree with me--there are plenty of things I don't understand and would probably like to know, and I know that good
TV could efficiently explain them to me. TV's got four major points in its favor:
1) It's easily available.
2) It's audiovisual, and that's how humans think.
3) You can watch TV while you're folding the laundry.
4) TV can be a group activity.
What are some of the problems stopping TV from tapping into its vast power and providing compelling, persuasive information? There is no mandate for it to do this, despite the fact that the bandwidth of the airwaves belongs to the public and is merely licensed
to corporation. Let's not even begin complaining about the FCC, because clearly Michael Powell isn't going to help us out anytime soon. As Stribley points out, Powell's far more concerned with Janet Jackson's nipple than any substantial concerns about broadcasting policy. So the incentive has to be monetary, and as competition gets stiffer and stiffer for television ad dollars, targetting an audience that might enjoy being informed even if it doesn't seem like it will now could be
lucrative. But a network would have to be absolutely dedicated to truthfulness and substance, as an innate part of their brand and market share, not just an ethical ideal.
Another problem that Stribley addresses is the objectivity faux balance treatment: "Of course, if a network did air such a show, they feel obliged to make it "fair and balanced," which is the new code for "present both sides of the story equally, despite how indefensible one side is compared to the other." I don't want *that sort* of contrived balance. I want falsehood balanced with truth. I want superstition balanced with myth-busting
." I find this interesting in light of Public Editor Daniel Okrent's column in today's New York Times about objectivity
: Okrent sees the ridiculousness of citing balancing quotes from experts whose credibility ultimately relies on the judgement of the very reporters trying not to have an opinion. But I think Okrent is missing the real crying need his audience has. He wants reporters to insert their own opinions instead of quoting surrogates; I want them to insert their own higly specialized skills of logical analysis and fact checking. To take a page from Jon Stewart
: We don't need people (reporters or experts) trying to one-up with incredibly clever snipes and psychological profiles; we need debates centered around facts.
Stribley's final point is perhaps the most important: "On PBS, some show like FrontLine might do it. And a few hundred thousand people across America will nod along approvingly to the program while everyone else is watching The OC."
I don't know the numbers, and while I'm sure PBS viewership is higher, his point remains. Such television has to be broadly compelling and entertaining without being dumb. MTV doesn't really cut it; see an old Snarkmarket post on the bafflingly information-free GOTV spots
. It also has to maintain a tone of fairness (not the same evenness!) and appeal to more than the already faithful choir. Guerrilla News Network
both showcase all kinds of interesting information, but I'm not convinced their stories are getting where they need to go. It's hard to find a balance between avoiding inoffensive blandness and not being tiringly in-your-face, but it has to be done. I think it can be done with a sense of constantly active engagement.
One of the things I learned in doing physics was that when you're trying to maintain a balance between two extremes, feedback is helpful. One of the things I learned while learning and teaching physics is that if you're trying to convey information, an active, participating audience is really
helpful. Over at The Participant
, Joe Stange constantly considers these issues, and recently he posted Hot Group Action
: "It's still asymmetrical. But at least the audience isn't entirely passive anymore. There's more action. It makes things a lot more interesting.
." Television that actively includes its audience in its production might overcome a lot of the barriers listed above. . .and tap into some of the strengths I listed before all the problems.
A lot of these thoughts have been bounding around in my head as I've recently applied to INdTV
; keep an eye on them to see if any of these ideas come to life.
svasty astu visvasya khalah prasidatam
May there be good fortune througout the universe, and may all envious persons be pacified!
is India's beautiful Festival of Lamps, and the New Year by some reckonings.
Happy Diwali everyone! Sweets to the sweet, and fiat lux.
Yesterday was the birthday of the U.S. Marines Corps, and today is Veterans Day. The two are not directly related; Veterans day started out as Armistice Day, the day the peace was signed between Germany, Austria and the Allies during World War I--or, as it was known for many years, the Great War, the War To End All Wars. Well, it was one but not the other. I first learned about this connection while reading one of my favorite childhood series: The Lord Peter Whimsey Mysteries, by Dorothy Sawyers. They aren't really meant for children, and they're the most literary mysteries I've ever read, illuminating English society of the 20s and 30s as much as they explain poisons and autopsies. In The Unpleasantness At the Bellona Club
, we see the usually snappy gentlemen suddenly become serious as they observe the two minute silence in memory of the Great War dead at 11 o'clock.
It sounds silly, but I bet that my childish admiration for Lord Peter helped inform a bit of my deep respect for veterans. He's
not real, but I have no doubt that he was a composite of real men that Sawyers traded witty barbs with. War is an awful thing, and warriors are, finally, also just men and women.
Yesterday when I wished the Marines a Happy Birthday
, Michael raised some very good points in the comments
. I would like to respond to them at length, and thoughtfully. Today is certainly the day to do it, but I'm not sure I can right now. If I can, I will put them here, by updating this post. In the meantime, please read what Phillip Carter has written at Intel Dump
Writer Neil Gaiman
has the same birthday as the US Marines Corps
. He's 44 today, and the Corps is 229. First, let me wish a very happy birthday to Mr. Gaiman. It's comforting that he's so young, and here's to as many again, and then some, years of story-telling.
It's a little odd to be wishing a happy birthday to the Marines when they're busy fighting in Fallujah, but as Phillip Carter points out, fighting is what they do. I wish our government hadn't gotten them into such a troubling situation, but I respect them for giving our Republic their pledge of obedience. Here's hoping for the safe and soon homecoming of our always faithful.
From Crooked Timber
, an absolutely fascinating article in Deutsche Welle about a group of German teenagers in Cologne
who resisted the Nazis in various ways, getting six of themselves hanged without a trial 60 years ago today.
I'm surprised that there isn't loads of scholarship and media devoted to this group. It seems that the nature of German citizen resistance, the lack thereof, and its successes and (more obvious) failures would be the most important thing to understand about the Third Reich. The constant admonition that we learn from our past doesn't work well for the average citizen if the average citizen has no idea what they could have done differently.
There's a feature film
that premiered in Montreal in September. I thought this quote from the article was key:
The director Nico von Glasow said he made the film after being surprised to discover the existence of this group. He says like many Germans he knew nothing about the Edelweiss Pirates despite having grown up in Cologne.
"And I wanted to know why I had not heard about them and I asked my friend Jean Jülich and he said something very interesting. He said that if there is one hero in the country then the rest of the country could say they knew nothing about what was going on. But if there is one hero on every street, then it looks bad for the rest of the street."
I hope someone picks the film up for distribution in the USA.
, 10x10--a computer-generated, automatically updated visual representation of 100 major news stories with tiled thumbnail photos
. Nice rollover effects. I'm not sure how terriby useful it is, and I'm a little suspicious of the implication of a visual representation of statistical information when the methodology
isn't completely clear. The site says it uses RSS feeds of news stories from Reuters, BBC and New York Times International, analyzes them looking for the top 100 words, and then assigns images to those words from the same news stories. It sounds like a computer algorithm chooses the images from the stories, and since they are sometimes only very loosely correlated, the overall tiling of 100 images is less directly informative. For example, right now #42 is "leaders" and the corresponding photo is of some soldiers in Sudan. Colin Powell's face is a representation of both "Bush" and "Foreign."
Nonetheless it's very neat looking and you should take a look. It's a little disturbing how warlike the mosaic is.
And I was so busy feeling sorry for us, I kinda forgot about saying sorry to everyone else
9/11 Report As Literature
Ben Yagoda at Slate
has a column on something I've heard a lot of people say: Apparently, the 9/11 Commission Report is not just readable, it's downright literary. On a recent Daily Show, Jon Stewart even asked Bob Kerrey if they used ghost writers. I've been putting off reading it myself--it seems rather dark to actually view it as potential entertainment--so I can't judge his contentions:
Commission Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton told the New York Times, "Democrats pushed for adjectives to support President Clinton while Republicans pushed for adjectives to support President Bush. It was such a minefield that we finally cut out all adjectives and ended up with a sparse, narrative style." One imagines that the very multiplicity of chefs preparing the stew—attorneys, investigators, politicians, and historians (including the staff executive director and presiding editorial sensibility, Philip Zelikow)—was helpful, each group canceling out the others' infelicities.
The core of the book backs up from the events of 9/11 and describes two parallel stories: the resolve and plans of Islamic fundamentalists to attack the United States, and the U.S. government's well-intentioned but disorganized and ultimately doomed attempts to assess and cope with the threat. Specific, sometimes microscopic, detail is used here, too, in a kind of a cinematic structure cutting back and forth between the two narratives.
Mostly Yagoda talks about the complete lack of unobserved dialog in direct quotes, along with the simple use of words like "apparently" to signal that which the commission has credibly inferred but does not actually know. He claims this makes the narrative more compelling.
I was most interested in the idea of multipe-chef-soup turning out better. It's so counterintuitive. I'm wondering if the the built-in division of the team helps. In my experience, team projects get murky and diluted partially because group harmony becomes more important than the final project's quality, and everyone lets the others slip in a few of their "darlings" in order to save their own. Nobody wants to be seen as the person hacking at everyone else's work, and nobody wants to be ganged up on by the rest of the group. But by naturally dividing the group into two equally sized teams, everyone has allies, and no one can be seen as the sole attacker or the sole defender.
Red States with Blue Governors
A friend pointed me to the website of the Democratic Governor's Association
, and I have to say, my brain is boggled. Most of these are red states. In fact, the three Blue State Classics--CA, NY, and MA aren't on the list. (I knew that, but never thought to look at other Blue States.) I just don't get it. I figured Schwarzanegger was a bit of an anomaly in this as in all things, and CA Republicans are generally pro-choice. Pataki seemed to rely on a combination of Upstate NY voters and Manhattan special interests who are liberal enough to vote for Kerry but have enough at stake in NY to vote for Pataki. I never did understand why MA would have two Democratic senators (one of whom isn't all that liberal) but a slew of Republican governors. But look at this list of governors? Many, many of them were voted in in 2002. How can so many voters happily vote in Democratic governors and then turn out to solidly elect a Republican President and Republican Senators? Someone please explain!
A Time for Fabulous Writings And Visions
A few days ago I said that soon enough there would be time for literature, and the time is now. This is perfectly in keeping with my insistence that, politically, I will not give up or disengage; like I said, there are bigger cultural storms afoot. Besides, literature is the fuel of creativity.
So, the offical prize for literary blog essay efficiently tying up my interests in politics, film, and literature (and throwing in some puns for good measure) goes to the really amazing John Holbo of John & Belle Have a Blog
: "Oh, sweet ursinality of lifelessness." You really just have to go read it, but he posts great screen shots from an obscure German film, links it to Chabon, then to beautifully bizarre short stories by Polish writer and artist Bruno Schulz, of whom I must confess ignorance but about whom I will now happily learn more
. For the first line and screenshot, or even the last line alone, this is the kind of blog entry that makes me think of making a best of anthology type collection. This is the good stuff--let us enjoy it while we wait and plot.
SAJA Webinar: Note
I will clean up the liveblogging below
later this afternoon. In the mean time, please refresh it to make sure you got the last version. Thanks!
I plan to start liveblogging a webinar on the election by a panel of journalists from the South Asian Journalists Association
. This is SAJA's first attempt at hosting a global event
by webcasting it. The webinar starts at 10:00 am PST, 1:00 PM EST. You can listen here
and send your questions to sajaHQ@gmail.com
. Apologies in advance if my broadband cuts out. It seems to be working fine now--if you consider having to listen to elevator musak fine--come on, Sree, where's that Freddie Mercury?
For some reason the liveblogging post went below.
(Please click on Permalink/Full Post to read the whole thing.)
Click on Permalink/Full Post to read my attempt at liveblogging the South Asian Journalists Association's first webcast discussion panel
. I have added some links since I first blogged it this morning. Click here to access the audio archive
. Thank you!
You can't visit this webinar, because it's a conference call. Future panelists will include Strobe Talbott and the newly elected Bobby Jindal.
Washington correspondent, India Abroad
Anchor, "Followup With Fahd" on Geo TV, Pakistan's largest independent channel
Bangladeshi activist, digital media journalist and filmmaker.
President, IALI, Indian American Leadership Initiative
PROF. PHILIP OLDENBURG
Columbia University, Southern Asian Institute
Executive director, USINPAC,
AMBASSADOR TERESITA C. SCHAFFER
Director for South Asia Program, CSIS
(I apologize for mostly using first names for this draft, it's just faster typing.)
Varun Nikore starts off by summarizing how South Asian Americans did in this election. 8/25 Indian-American candidates won their races in this election. (Not sure I got that number right.) Beyond the sheer numbers and the historic win of Bobby Jindal, he's struck by the success of IALI's strategy in focusing on local, small races. Here's a list of the candidates from MahootMedia.
"Law school alone is not enough to say you have the qualifications to be a congressman." Varun reemphasizes the need for India-Americans to start small. IALI was hoping for more candidates, but
Varun thinks the community is becoming more realistic and smarter about tactics and generally getting involved.
Someone has pointed out that a Pakistani-American not on the list was elected to the State Assembly in NH for the third time. (Saghir Tahir.)
Aziz Haniffa is saying that the community was pretty divided in that the older generation mostly voted with GWB while the younger community mobilized heavily for Kerry, and that some bitterness will remain. Sree clarifies that this means there isn't really a South Asian voting block. Aziz agrees, saying South Asians vote across many issues.
400-500 young Indian Americans all over the country mobilized for Bush. The Bangladeshi and Pakistani American communities reportedly went for Kerry, but Fahd points out that within the larger context of the Muslim community (3% voted for Bush) more Pakistanis voted for Bush (15%).
Aziz and Fahd Husain point out that the official governments of both India and Pakistan are relieved. (This jives with what I heard on KQED's Pacific Time, where some Japanese and Chinese opinion writers said their actual governments just didn't want to deal with a change in government now. Audio here.)
Oh dear, not quite sure who's talking right now. . .but he's talking about the extent to which many journalists underestimated the vastness of the rural vote. His group is looking at Bush's actions on tort reform and immigration. (Must have been Sanjay Puri.)
Phillip Oldenburg caveats that he's an expert on South Asia, not America. Points out there is not the Republican senate is not fillibuster-proof. Teresita Schaffer points out that while the Democrats haven't gotten anything done they have been able to block things they object to, and it will be interesting to see how they balance that with their desire for winning future elections. Now, of course, continuity in foreign policy will be total. She says that there has begun to be consensus between both the Congress and BJP parties on relationships with the United States, and that this adds a measure of stability to Indo-American relationships.
In Bangladesh, Naeem Mohaiemen says, the entire reaction is based on the Bangladeshi perception of American foreign policy, because (he says) America doesn't have a very strong relationship with Bangladesh and Bangladeshis don't see an administration change as actually affecting them.
Teresita says the Bangladeshi government isn't too pleased because they've been feeling the heat from this Admin. over bad-governance issues.
Aziz interjects about the importance of a future visit to India from GWB, since only Democratic presidents have visited India. He says people need to keep an eye on the extent to which a Presidential visit to India (if it happens) is an exclusive India visit, or sits in a wider South Asia visit.
Teresita: remember that Iraq is still 90% of the attention span of this Admin's foreign policy.
Sree wants to know if Fahd has heard in Pakistan about fears that the USA will invade other Muslim countries. Fahd says that was a concern, and has grown as the situation in America worsened, but seems to be decreasing. I was more interested in the rest of Sree's question---how do such worries distribute across various classes of Pakistani society?
Phillip and Teresita agree that this Admin probably won't engage very proactively in South Asia, and Teresita cites Bush Sr.'s crisis-only style of intervention (which, nonetheless, was fairly effective.) Aziz says that Bush Admin pressure on Mussharraf to cut down on cross border infilitration into Kashmir has been somewhat successful in decreasing terrorism in Kashmir.
Sanjay Puri says that Iraq draws so much attention in both Congress and the White House that issues like Kashmir are not likely to get that much more attention.
Sree has a question for Naeem: Tell us about the impact from the Bush admin on civil liberty issues and issues affecting the Muslim Community. Naeem says a lot of it depends on rumored cabinet shuffles--rumored departees include Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld and John Ashcroft, the last being the most relevant to immigrant rights. Activists are disheartened but say they want to keep up the pressure. A lot depends on Iraq--if it gets worse, US-Muslim relations will worsen. Another terrorist event would also be a problematic, and notes the recent murder of a Dutch filmmaker and the Dutch response (creating a risk list of immigrants?). (International Herald Tribue article on 8 arrests made in the death of filmmaker Theo Van Gogh.)
Sanjay says it's possible Ashcroft might leave for health reasons but that it's likely he'd be traded in for someone of the same idealogical bent--Ashcroft's idealogy being too important to Bush's core supporters.
Fahd says that the Pakistani American community as a whole is dissappointed but still wants to flex its muscles. He notes that there are plenty of closet Pakistani Republicans to whom Bush actually looks good on issues like gay marriage.
Any reflections on why Democrats are more popular in India? Teresita says there is something to the idea that Democrats are more friendly to India--it was Republicans who signed up Pakistan for cold war alliances. She says the Indian National Security establishment concluded that since Bush wasn't too attached to non-proliferation, he would be easier to work with.
Sree asks Aziz to represent for Sri Lanka. Aziz says that, like all of South Asia, the people had some animosity towards Bush because of Iraq. But he points out that Deputy Secretary Armitage has worked hard on the peace process in Sri Lanka, so that on the policy level the Sri Lankan government does feel that the US is engaged with Sri Lanka. So even though the profile of Sri Lanka hasn't been raised in the media, at the government level a lot of stuff is happening with trade and peace process.
Teresita, former ambassador to Sri Lanka, says that the peace process in Sri Lanka isn't a function of any changes here as much as it is a function of its own momentum. Her worry is that if it slows down the US will not have the will to put more energy into it. The second issue in Sri Lanka is that the current government is very reliant on communist-leaning parties. Aziz notes that West Bengal's communist government is still aggressively courting foreign investment but Teresita says that WB's communism is of a more symbolic brand.
Sanjay is talking about outsourcing and how it dissipated as a campaign issue, and that as economy warms up businesses may become more aggressive about asking for more visas. Teresita notes that most of the political movement on outsourcing is actually at the state legislative issue. Fahd says that Pakistani applications for student visas have dropped sharply. Pakistani students are forgoing the option of coming to the US because the visas are harder to get, there is a perception of discrimination, and they have increasingly better opportunities in Pakistan. Aziz says there is some effect on Indian visas, citing school administrators complaining to Sen. Lugar about a loss in applicants. Aziz thinks that outsourcing is decreasing the need for H1-B visas, but Teresita points out that the quotas for 2005 were filled on the first day.
Phillip says that there's a big story in the decrease of Visa applicants, since strong relations between South Asia and America have been primarily built on the exchange of peoples.
Varun wants to emphasize that South Asian candidates are getting smarter and gaining momentum.
Teresita says that South Asia in general and India in particular are getting more attention from the US government than at any time previously in her 30-year South Asian career. She also notes that South Asian representation in the American electorate is only going to increase.
Sanjay says a lot of members of Congress will be going to India now, and that people should keep an eye on Medica tort-reform.
Phillip: He's seen a lot of South Asian Americans who are politically active without running for office--working in government, as activists, and raising money. He thinks our current policy towards South Asia is getting increasingly sophisticated and nuanced, and hopes it will stay that way and not revert back to Cold War simplicity.
Fahd says that Pakistani Americans are getting more and more involved in the mainstream "The Pakistani community here in America is finally coming of age." The next four years are crucial to how Pakistan moves forward, and he hopes that Bush will help Pakistan really turn things around and perhaps emerge as a more progressive country and a leader in the Muslim world.
Aziz echoes Teresita's views. He says the Indian American community will be looking at the symbolic value of a visit to India, and to a high level, non Assistant-Secretary, sub-cabinet appoinment of an Indian American.
Sree thanks the panelilsts and PR Newswire, and wants to do more of these. Please visit SAJA.org. Remember, a talk with Bobby Jindal is coming up. And he just got cut off.
Okay folks, that's all for now. I'll come back in the afternoon, clean this up, and add links. I apologize for typos and mispellings of names in the mean time. Thanks for playing! Please leave comments!
Click here to access the audio archive.
Starting to Think Through Strategies
(Please click Permalink/Full Post to read the whole thing.)
Might as well harness all this nervous energy, right? Matthew Yglesias has some bullet points, and I think his list is a good starting point. Summarizing and combining somewhat, my take on his list:
1,2&3. Yes! Let's become aggressive on these culture wars and build a broad, persuasive, cultural case for an open and compassionate society now. Instead of just being reactionaries to a self-righteousl paradigm framed by the right, let's be champions of our own, positively defined moral paradigm. Part of this will be bridging the culture gap on common ground--see JesusPolitics, Amy Sullivan, or the Bull Moose. Part of this will be reclaiming language and being sweetly insistent on the moral rightness of a world where the public sphere is run without the need to invoke God or sect. My sister Ruchira has blogged about the work of George Lakoff in this regard. Part of our effort will be creating more viable and cohesive social structures that can help secular and non-Christian, non-Jewish liberals more efficiently pool together their social capital. But this is a long term struggle which has to extend into traditionally apolitical parts of our lives, and for which we really have to extend ourselves.
4. Yes, yes, yes. Please, please, please--no arguments about the reason Kerry won or Bush lost, especially not on the microscopic level of a "when he said this" or "when that news story broke out." As a society, at every level, we really need to learn how to deal with multicausal phenomena. If I ever become dictator, for which there will hopefully be no need, I'd make every college student take math up through multivariable calculus.
5&6. Yes, we have absolutely got to keep on top of this war. Those are our troops, and they're fighting in our name, and we need to take care of them and minimize as much of the horror of their mission as possible. I think this means being diligent banshees about demanding competent strategizing, logistics, and contracting. It means screaming bloody hell every time you hear about an army reserve unit being deployed unprepared, or a soldier being stuck with the bill for his or her lost limb. It means reminding people that Abu Ghraib and killing children are moral issues. It means really supporting the troops. The site to watch on this front is definitely Intel-Dump.
7. "Liberals need to learn to talk the talk and walk the walk of nationalism better." Hell yes. I am not moving anywhere. You want patriotism? I'll give you patriotism. Pick your flavor--whether it's protecting this beautiful land, or our beautiful Bill of rights, or the unique diversity of our cultures and peoples, or the notion of a transparent and accountable Republic.
I don't really have anything to say about 8&9 yet, nor about Yglesias's phantom #4 on Harry Reid. I plan on reeducating myself about American demographics and voting statistics over the next few weeks--please suggest resources. I am looking for good but cheap mapping software. Let's also try and support our sociologist friends. As Eszter Haggitai declared (admittedly with some self-interest) on Crooked Timber: On a final note, one frustration as a social scientist interested in questions of culture and religion, is that there is very little funding available for research in these areas. Given the kind of importance cultural values and religious beliefs seem to play in people’s everyday lives, I find it quite disappointing and disturbing. As a journalist with a physicist's penchant for statistically robust numerical data, I am also disturbed. We need this information to figure out what's going on and what to do.
I am going to make a reading list for the holidays, and a to-do list for the new year: clubs to join, places to visit, and concrete questions to investigate. Suggestions are most welcome.
The Bay Area doesn't seem to be taking the news so well. Those are chunks of white hail all over the deck.
I wrote a post on how this blog was going to take a few days off, and in some sense that may still be true--I could use the lull to redesign, I was planning on it regardless of who won, and 500 posts seems like a good place for a design overhaul. So I still want your comments on what kinds of designs you like, what you want to see more of and less of, etc. But I'm still going to keep shouting.
What got me riled up again was seeing snide comments on liberal blogs--"You're out of step with the rest of the country." You know what? I don't bloody care.
The majority of the country once thought slavery was fine. The majority of the country once though segregation was fine. The majority of the country once thought not letting women vote was fine. If now the majority of the country thinks that gay marriage threatens America more than an incompetently prosecuted war on terrorism that's been exacerbated by an incompetently prosecuted war in Iraq, more than constant attack on transparent government, more than choking pollution and energy shortfalls--well, they're wrong. And I'm not going to say they're right just to be "in step." And I'm not going to give up on changing their minds and rousing up the people who do agree with me to be more active and more participatory. To give up on the things that politically
matter to me--an egalitarian society, safety, security, a clean environment, well taken care of troops, and transparent government--is suicidal.
There is very little I want to do in life--whether it be journalism, art, science, or religion--which is not threatened by the increasing power of this majority. So from a sense of enlightened self-interest, I'm not going to quit now. And from a sense of what is right, I'm not going to quit now. From what sense I have of you, my readers, you are mostly similar people--people who want to push the boundaries of science and technology, people who want to use information to connect and uplift each other, people who not only believe in but need
a more a egalitarian and open society, people who care about transparency and good government and the environment. It's a good source of dark laughter to plot a trip to Canada. It's more than easy to shrug and say, who cares, and we may need to do that for a few days to recover. But this is not "just" politics.
This is not just a contest that has been lost and is over. There is no aspect of our lives that isn't going to be affected by the next four years--and isn't going to continue to be affected for the rest of our lives if we don't learn our lesson and try harder.
I feel a bit like a suitor who has been thoroughly rejected by the object of her affection. Beyond the crushing moment of rejection, there is sometimes the weight of realizing, "You know what? I'm still in love." I know plenty of people who have all the options in the world to give up--move to Canada or the UK or India, or lose themselves in a line of work less directly connected to politics, ostrich-like. But in the very depths of this crushing defeat, I feel very strongly that I do love this country. I can't explain it beyond the fact that no majority can stifle me from shouting. Perhaps I love it just because I do. I'm not sure I agree with the idea that being American is the best thing to be in the world. I don't think we are better than anyone else, and as more of the world wins the rights we have, we are only as good as our collective judgement. Plenty of other countries have lots of things going for them right now. Rejected suitors are almost always counseled to move on to more receptive relationships, and they usually should, and they usually do. Sometimes they don't. Sometimes they decide that they love someone so much, they have to keep trying. And sometimes they do triumph. This is my country and I'm not going to give up on it.
It's Not Over Yet
And nobody should give up. Talkingpointsmemo is not running properly but the lawsuits and provisional ballots in OH are the real story. Do not concede defeat
Pardon me as I take a moment to enjoy some Election day bluster and rhetoric.
In Toledo, at a midnight rally that Kerry dubbed "the first stop of Election Day," Gen. Tony McPeak criticized the Bush administration for wrapping itself in the flag to hide its "incompetence." "You wanna shoot 'em, you gotta put a hole in the flag," McPeak said. "We got a guy in John Kerry who stands in front the flag. He says, you gonna hurt that flag, you're gonna have to run through me."
From Chris Suellentrop, in Slate
. This, btw, is this blog's 500th post.
Go, Johnny, go. . .
As I approached the polling station I was a little taken aback by the afternoon crowds. I don't live in a very high density area, nor should people be too worried about voter intimidation. As I got closer I realized that these were the first time voters of --2012? A class of 7th graders gets a lesson in civics from the host.
Volunteers at my local polling station. The man standing, and wearing a sweater, is John Hogan, who kindly volunteered his garage for the cause of American Democracy.
Please Vote Tomorrow
I've been restlessly surfing the news channels and the blogs, trying to come up with one trenchant piece of news or policy pointer that should emphatically make the case for voting for John Kerry and John Edwards. And I find that I can't find one single thing that stands head and shoulders above the others. There are too many overwhelming reasons.
I'd like at least partially transparent and competent government back. I'd like a president who's capable of handling his own press conferences. I'd like a president who reads the papers and reads books. I'd like a president who doesn't suffer from mental inertia. I'd like a cabinet that works together to defend the country. I'd like an administration that doesn't doctor the facts in order to make ridiculous arguments.
When my father was born, his parents could not vote in their own country, their political fate dictated by the British Raj. Now that country is the biggest democracy in the world, and their granddaughters live and vote in the oldest democracy in the world. Change is possible. No, this is not even remotely a perfect democracy. No, everything isn't going to be made magically better if John Kerry becomes the President in January. But I believe that even when doing the right thing may not create all the change necessary, one should still do the right thing, because one can
. If you're an American citizen who can legally vote,please vote tomorrow.