Archive for the 'Barack Obama' Category

Another Realm in Which Expertise Matters: GOTV Software Development

Saturday, November 24th, 2012

Here are a couple of items I found interesting because they relate to what I do for my day job: web application development. It turns out that along with overpaying for advertising and buying a lot of polls that mispredicted the electoral outcome, the Romney campaign also hired a bunch of inexperienced technologists who made common mistakes on their way to under-delivering a custom get out the vote (GOTV) web application called Orca: Inside Team Romney’s whale of an IT meltdown.

Jumping to the end of the article:

IT projects are easy scapegoats for organizational failures. There’s no way to know if Romney could have made up the margins in Ohio if Orca had worked. But the catastrophic failure of the system, purchased at large expense, squandered the campaign’s most valuable resource—people—and was symptomatic of a much bigger leadership problem.

“The end result,” Ekdahl wrote, “was that 30,000+ of the most active and fired-up volunteers were wandering around confused and frustrated when they could have been doing anything else to help. The bitter irony of this entire endeavor was that a supposedly small government candidate gutted the local structure of [get out the vote] efforts in favor of a centralized, faceless organization in a far off place (in this case, their Boston headquarters). Wrap your head around that.”

What made this especially interesting to me is that for the past several years I’ve been learning a lot about the DevOps movement, which solves exactly the kinds of problems the Romney campaign experienced with Orca. If you look around at which companies have done best at iterating their web applications quickly and scaling up successfully (well-known companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google, along with smaller start-ups like Etsy), they’re all using a particular set of practices.

Those practices are the result of an explicitly scientific approach. It’s the same process that Karl Popper described as conjectures and refutations. One can think of the old-school, non-agile, inadequately tested approach to software development that the Romney consultants used as the equivalent of a scientific conjecture. The failure modes that approach leads to are a refutation. If you’re proceeding scientifically, and are treating your ideas as falsifiable, you junk that approach and replace it with one that the people using science have found to be superior. If you’re the Romney campaign’s consultants, though, you ignore what those poindexters are saying and proceed on the basis of your gut feeling.

Contrast this with the Obama campaign, which actually hired people who knew what they were doing: When the Nerds Go Marching In.

We now know what happened. The grand technology experiment worked. So little went wrong that Trammell and Reed even had time to cook up a little pin to celebrate. It said, “YOLO,” short for “You Only Live Once,” with the Obama Os.

When Obama campaign chief Jim Messina signed off on hiring Reed, he told him, “Welcome to the team. Don’t fuck it up.” As Election Day ended and the dust settled, it was clear: Reed had not fucked it up.

The campaign had turned out more volunteers and gotten more donors than in 2008. Sure, the field organization was more entrenched and experienced, but the difference stemmed in large part from better technology. The tech team’s key products — Dashboard, the Call Tool, the Facebook Blaster, the PeopleMatcher, and Narwhal — made it simpler and easier for anyone to engage with the President’s reelection effort.

GOTV software isn’t very important in and of itself. In the rare case that it makes the difference in who gets elected, it would be hugely important (obviously), but that probably didn’t happen here. Obama probably would have won this election without his superiority in GOTV software.

But as a reflection of a fundamental difference in how Romney and Obama (and, to some extent, the modern Republican and Democratic parties that they represent) approach the business of actually governing, I think this story actually is important. Reality matters. Conforming your mental model of the world to the best available scientific understanding is a much better way to get difficult things done than just squeezing your eyes shut and wishing very, very hard that the universe will conform itself to your desires.

Shales on Obama on TV

Saturday, November 17th, 2012

I liked this essay by Tom Shales, in which he praises the job Obama is doing in his role as the person who plays a role: He plays the President on TV, too.

Dunham’s Obama Ad

Friday, October 26th, 2012

Reminding me why I’m really looking forward to season 2 of Girls, Lena Dunham made this ad for Barack Obama:

Also, Mary Elizabeth Williams has fun commentary on conservatives’ response: Conservatives flip out over Lena Dunham Obama ad.

Friedersdorf: Why I Won’t Vote for Obama

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

Conor Friedersdorf in the Atlantic: Why I Refuse to Vote for Barack Obama.

To hell with them both.

Sometimes a policy is so reckless or immoral that supporting its backer as “the lesser of two evils” is unacceptable. If enough people start refusing to support any candidate who needlessly terrorizes innocents, perpetrates radical assaults on civil liberties, goes to war without Congress, or persecutes whistleblowers, among other misdeeds, post-9/11 excesses will be reined in.

If not?

So long as voters let the bipartisan consensus on these questions stand, we keep going farther down this road, America having been successfully provoked by Osama bin Laden into abandoning our values.

Lewis’ ‘Obama’s Way’

Saturday, September 15th, 2012

Here’s my favorite paragraph from the shockingly good Obama portrait by Michael Lewis in the upcoming Vanity Fair, Obama’s way. It’s March 2011, and Obama is meeting with his top advisors to decide what, if anything, to do about Qaddafi, who is advancing toward Benghazi with the stated intention of going house to house to cleanse the rebel city in what will surely be a bloodbath. In the meeting, the advisors focus on two choices: do nothing, or impose a no-fly zone. But Obama doesn’t like either option. The generals from the Pentagon admit that the no-fly zone would not stop Qaddafi; it would basically be a butt-covering move. Unusually, Obama opens up the meeting, soliciting opinions from the people who normally don’t speak, the staffers and speechwriters and whatnot who don’t have a seat at the table.

Public opinion at the fringes of the room, as it turned out, was different. Several people sitting there had been deeply affected by the genocide in Rwanda. (“The ghosts of 800,000 Tutsis were in that room,” as one puts it.) Several of these people had been with Obama since before he was president—people who, had it not been for him, would have been unlikely ever to have found themselves in such a meeting. They aren’t political people so much as Obama people. One was Samantha Power, who won a Pulitzer Prize for her book A Problem from Hell, about the moral and political costs the U.S. has paid for largely ignoring modern genocides. Another was Ben Rhodes, who had been a struggling novelist when he went to work as a speechwriter back in 2007 on the first Obama campaign. Whatever Obama decided, Rhodes would have to write the speech explaining the decision, and he said in the meeting that he preferred to explain why the United States had prevented a massacre over why it hadn’t. An N.S.C. staffer named Denis McDonough came out for intervention, as did Antony Blinken, who had been on Bill Clinton’s National Security Council during the Rwandan genocide, but now, awkwardly, worked for Joe Biden. “I have to disagree with my boss on this one,” said Blinken. As a group, the junior staff made the case for saving the Ben­gha­zis. But how?

The whole thing is very compelling. Like an Aaron Sorkin version of the Obama presidency, with hyper-articulate and self-aware people making pithy observations about their roles as they stride purposefully through the corridors of the West Wing.

Does that mean it’s necessarily fictional schmaltz, like a Sorkin teleplay? I don’t know. Maybe?

Metaphors and stories convey meaning in an otherwise random, chaotic world. They’re how we think. To a significant degree, they’re what thinking is. That’s how our evolutionary investment in our ridiculously big, expensive brains pays off. Reading this story paid off for me. If you hate Obama, you might think you see the scaffolding. The story’s fake! It’s tugging on your heartstrings because it’s designed to tug on your heartstrings. Jesus; wake up, sheeple!

Not me. I choose to believe it’s true. At least to the limit of what this writer, with this access and this deadline and this editor, was able to pull off.

Update: David Atkins and digby at Hullabaloo disagree with each other about the piece. According to Atkins, it’s a very personal, nuanced view of an imperfect but thoughtful man in the crucible of some very difficult decisions. digby, on the other hand, thinks it’s bullshit.

More on Romney and the Embassy Attack

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

I liked this summary from digby: There’s a good reason why the country is polarized. Most of the major US daily papers, and an assortment of lesser ones, ran editorials today condemning Romney in the strongest terms. The thirteen different pullquotes really are amazingly harsh; taken in aggregate they’re kind of breath-taking. Meanwhile, in “Bizarroworld”, as digby puts it, an assortment of strained defenses were offered up by people like Rumsfeld and Rush and the various make-believe journalists at Fox.

I’m sure it makes a certain kind of sense for the more extreme elements in the right-wing media and punditry to make the best case they can; their audience is, after all, substantial, and I’m sure they’ll be able to sell lots of gold coins and adjustable beds or whatever else it is those poor suckers have coming to them. But the rest of the country is under no obligation to view it with anything but disgust and disdain, and I expect the polls coming out in the next week will show that they’ve done exactly that.

Swing voters may be unhappy about the economy, but that doesn’t mean they’re suicidal. Romney isn’t fit to lead, and his actions over the last 48 hours have made that starkly clear.

A couple of longer items I liked:

A recurring theme of some of the best commentary I’ve seen is this: In trying to muddy the facts and gin up tribal animosity aimed at Muslims (allegedly) and Obama (particularly), Romney is allying himself with the same sorts of religious extremists on both sides who want nothing so much as to provoke more violence, since their cynical analysis tells them that in a more violent world their own message will win more converts.

Screw that.

The President We Deserve

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

An interesting series of Romney articles crossed my newsreader over the last few days. Something appears to be happening.

Kevin Drum, in Lies, Damn Lies, and Mitt Romney, talks about the outright lies (on Obama’s alleged “you didn’t build that” quote, his alleged undercutting of Clinton-era welfare reform, and his supposed diversion of Medicare funds into Obamacare) that currently form the central elements of Romney’s campaign messaging, and observes as follows:

I know, I know: politics ain’t beanbag. And past campaigns have hardly been simon pure. But there’s something more….what? Cavalier? Routine? Brazen? Don’t give a shit? What’s the right word to describe the Romney campaign’s approach here?

This is hardly the worst campaign attack ever. Swift boating was worse. Willie Horton was worse. The endlessly twisted quotes of Al Gore were worse. But those attacks were all based on at least a kernel of truth that was twisted for political ends. That’s not admirable, but it’s hardly unusual either. But Romney’s lies aren’t even remotely defensible, and the campaign barely even bothers to try. The welfare attack works, so they’re going to use it.

I think “brazen” is a good choice. And realistically, if a politician can get away with just making things up about his opponent, it would be naive to expect that there would not be some politician willing to do so, and that the ranks of elected leaders would swiftly come to be dominated by such people. So, what’s to prevent that?

The public’s ability to identify the lies for what they are, and punish the perpetrator by voting against him.

Newspapers, TV, radio, and magazines are the traditional way the public has obtained that kind of information. Drum wrote approvingly last Tuesday, in LA Times Gets It Right on Welfare Attack, that the LA Times’ willingness to use the headline “Santorum repeats innacurate welfare attack on Obama” is exactly the sort of coverage that needs to be present wall-to-wall if the Romney campaign’s strategy is going to be dialed back.

Looking at one of the lies in detail, Ron Fournier wrote yesterday in the National Journal about the Romney campaign’s emphasis on the “Obama is undercutting welfare reform” lie. This came to a head in a panel discussion in which Fournier accused senior Romney campaign adviser Ron Kaufman of “playing the race card” by running ads making misleading claims about welfare reform in swing states where racial animus among blue-coller whites runs high.

It’s worth watching the video to get a feel for how this is playing out:

Writing about the exchange in Why (and How) Romney is Playing the Race Card, Fournier wrote:

Kaufman, who I’ve known and respected for years, accused me of playing the race card – a fair point, strictly speaking, because I raised the question in a public setting: a joint interview with CBS’ John Dickerson before a large audience and live-streamed.

Still, Romney and his advisors stand by an ad they know is wrong – or, at the very least, they are carelessly ignoring the facts. That ad is exploiting the worst instincts of white voters – as predicted and substantiated by the Republican Party’s own polling.

That leaves one inescapable conclusion: The Romney campaign is either recklessly ignorant of the facts, some of which they possess – or it is lying about why (and how) it is playing the race card.

Look: We’re not children here. The Romney campaign is not recklessly ignorant. It’s lying. And it’s lying in a way that cynically encourages racial resentments as a way to try to peel off the crucial 2-3% of voters in a few swing states that they need if they’re going to have a credible path to 270 electoral votes.

Josh Marshall wrote yesterday about the Fournier/Kaufman panel discussion, and Fournier’s resulting article, in Outbreak of conscience?

Again, pretty much everyone knows this is true. You’ve either got to be a rube or a jackass not to see it [that Romney is intentionally exploiting racism]. But it’s … well, it’s indelicate to say it. And once you do, appealing to racism isn’t just one view against another. It’s something our society has decided is simply wrong. Could it be that the Romney campaign is just finally doing it so transparently that at least a few of the biggs will come out and say it?

Again, it’s not just the racism. It’s the brazen lying. Writing later yesterday at TPM, Brian Beutler had this analysis (A critical juncture):

If Romney relents [i.e., if he stops running the misleading ads because the media begins to lead with the ads’ dishonesty in its coverage], it’s a big deal for both the obvious reason that candidates looks terrible when they backpedal. But also because he’d have to return to old, ineffective themes, or find new and inspiring things to run on, which he pretty clearly doesn’t have.

On the other hand if he ignores all the pushback from the press, the political establishment will be facing something very new: a candidate – not his surrogates or outside supporters, but the top of the ticket – ignoring fact checkers, traditional campaign reporters, and even a few conservatives, all of whom have determined and publicly declared the attacks false.

That effectively pits the media against the Romney campaign in a test of will and influence. And it’s disconcerting to imagine that a determined media might not be able to effectively neutralize a presidential campaign intent on flooding the airwaves with false attacks. But that’s where we might find ourselves in the next couple weeks.

Commenting last night on day 2 of the Republican convention, Josh Marshall wrote (in Doubling down):

No question. The Romney campaign has doubled down. All in on the race/lazy/dependency groove from here on out. No going back.

In private they’re all but bragging about it – specifically their run of welfare-centric commercials which they’re running at a red hot clip in swing states all across the country. It’s working, they say. The fact-checkers can go screw themselves.

This shouldn’t be surprising. In some minds, it was McCain’s unwillingness to run dishonest racist ads in 2008 that allowed Obama to win. Romney, having demonstrated over and over that there is no principle of personal integrity that he will let stand between him and his shot at the White House, is not going to make that mistake. If he loses, he’s going to go down swinging.

So at this point I have to think that it’s really up to Obama. Not the media; they won’t, and can’t, do much of anything on their own. We don’t live in the Aaron Sorkin universe; there’s no Will McAvoy who’s going to grill the liars on TV every night. But the news will report on what the campaigns say about each other, and if the Obama campaign can succeed in painting Romney as dishonest, they’ll report that. The question then would be, would it stick? Or would it just play into the 5-to-1 onslaught of Citizen-United-funded pro-Romney advertising, which would mine quotes selectively or just lie outright to portray Obama as just another angry black man out to take your job while (paradoxically) lying around on welfare?

Are we, the voting public, dumb enough to fall for that? Or rather, is the teency slice of swing voters in a few key counties in a few key states dumb enough to fall for that? I guess we’re going to find out.

This interval, between the Republican convention and the Democratic one, was always going to be a scary time. This story makes it scarier. Because there really isn’t a cushion in the polls. In the basketball analogy Obama has been using on the stump lately, we’re midway through the fourth quarter, and Obama’s ahead, but not by enough to try to run out the clock. With these welfare attacks, Romney has taken the momentum, and it’s going to take some solid defense from Obama to stop the run and actually play some basketball himself if he’s going to win.

I don’t know what’s going to happen. But it’s not inconceivable that we could end up with a President Romney. For more on how that might look, I recommend the following article by Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone: Greed and Debt: The True Story of Mitt Romney and Bain Capital.


The Exceptionally Dishonest Romney Campaign Ads

Friday, August 10th, 2012

There was a brief flurry of media/blogger chatter this week about the fact that the Romney campaign’s advertising seems to be setting a new standard for, if not outright reprehensibility, at least a casually blatant dishonesty that manages to be noteworthy.

Skeptical jbc is skeptical.

Romney on Obama’s “You Didn’t Build That”

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

Hey, it’s time for campaign ads. (Apologies to those of you who’ve been suffering from them for a while. I live in a non-swing state, so they, like Aaron Sorkin, are still kind of fresh-sounding to me.) You’ve probably heard about this already, but I wanted to note it in passing. Here’s Obama speaking at a campaign event in Roanoke on July 13:

I think it’s pretty obvious that the “you didn’t build that” line was meant to refer to the bridges and roads Obama mentioned just before that. Romney, though, has cut that part out, making it sound like Obama was saying small business owners didn’t build their businesses:

It’s fairly small potatoes, I realize, as political fibs go. But it’s early days. I’m sure we’ll get better whoppers as we move closer to election day.

Friedersdorf on Lessig on Obama

Thursday, November 24th, 2011

I just finished, and enjoyed, Lawrence Lessig’s Republic, Lost. Conor Friedersdorf writes about one of Lessig’s most-compelling arguments: That Obama betrayed his, and other supporters’, trust, not by being too conservative, or being too liberal, but by being too conventional: The Liberal Critique of Obama: Judging the President by His Own Standards.

Roberts on the Republican ‘Fussilade of Lies’

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

David Roberts, writing at Grist, coins my new favorite expression (“the fussilade of lies”) while describing the Republican response to Obama’s attempted centrism: Policy in an age of post-truth politics:

The political logic behind Obama’s center-right healthcare plan (and center-right cap-and-trade plan, and too-small stimulus with too many tax cuts, and too-mild financial reform) is that there is a “center” in the policy spectrum, and that if he chooses policies located there, moderate Republicans, by virtue of their previous policy commitments, will be forced to work with him, and he will get credit for being reasonable and centrist, which will translate into votes, victories, and political momentum. That has been the basic approach of his presidency. Unfortunately, it reflects a naive policy literalism that is absolutely ubiquitous on the left.

What happened instead? On policy after policy, Obama began with grand, magnanimous concessions (see: offshore drilling) and waited in vain for reciprocation. He adopted center-right policies … and was attacked as a radical secular socialist Muslim babykiller. Every Dem proposal, no matter how mild, has been a government takeover complete with confiscatory taxes, death panels, and incipient tyranny. The fusillade of lies began early and has continued unabated.

Now, on the naive, positivist view, the media and other elite referees of public debate should have called a foul. Republicans should have been penalized for opposing and maligning policies that they’d supported not long ago, for brazenly lying, and for rejecting all attempts at compromise. They chose the strategy; the strategy should have been explained plainly to the public.

But the crucial fact of post-truth politics is that there are no more referees. There are only players.

What Will Birthers Do Now?

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

Now that Obama has released his real, official, long-form birth certificate, how will birthers handle the resulting cognitive dissonance? Based on previous experience, I’m betting that it actually strengthens their belief in their rightness. Things I expect high-profile birthers to be saying in the next few days:

  • “It was our insistence that Obama come clean that led to this desirable outcome. We have been instrumental in defending a fundamental principal of democracy: that government derives its legitimacy from the consent of the governed. The people are the ultimate source of authority, and no government official is above them. By forcing Obama to release his birth certificate, we have saved the Republic.”
  • “We have always known that there was something in the long-form birth certificate that Obama did not want the public to see. Now that he has revealed it, we can clearly see that X [not sure what X will turn out to be; I’m not crazy enough in that particular way, but there will be some actually-benign aspect of the certificate that will be seized upon] was the thing he has been trying to hide.”
  • “How do we know this is the actual birth certificate? Why are the media so trusting? Wake up, sheeple!”

Things I do not expect any high-profile birthers to be saying in the next few days:

  • “Huh. You know what? I was — we all were — completely wrong about this. Obama actually is a natural-born US citizen, and there’s nothing damning in his long-form birth certificate. He wasn’t trying to conceal it for some nefarious reason. Apparently he resisted releasing it so long only because realistically, he had already complied with the requirement that he demonstrate his eligibility for the office to which he was duly and legally elected, and the insistence by a minority that he must do more than that to satisfy their delusional (and probably racist, in many cases) paranoia was ridiculous on the face of it. I will have to think carefully about what this new evidence reveals about my own reasoning, and take a hard look at other views I hold that have been challenged by the same people who challenged my birtherism.”

Tucson Shootings + Projection + Epistemic Closure = Reality Fail

Monday, January 17th, 2011

Gregory Rodriguez, writing in the LA Times op-ed section today: Politics’ dark passions.

In the 1960s, Swiss psychiatrist Marie-Louise von Franz theorized that rather than face their defects as individuals, citizens or supporters of a particular cause, people project their worst flaws onto their political opponents. When a congressman yells “You lie” at the president, maybe hes revealing his own failings. “Political agitation in all countries,” Von Franz wrote, “is full of such projections, just as much as the backyard gossip of little groups and individuals.”

I’ve definitely noticed that tendency to project one’s own failings onto one’s political opponents. When combined with the tragic events in Tucson and an epistemically closed conservative-media echo chamber, the result is really kind of shocking.

Take this opinion piece by Charles M. Blow from the NYT: The Tucson Witch Hunt.

Immediately after the news broke, the air became thick with conjecture, speculation and innuendo. There was a giddy, almost punch-drunk excitement on the left. The prophecy had been fulfilled: “words have consequences.” And now, the right’s rhetorical chickens had finally come home to roost.

The dots were too close and the temptation to connect them too strong. The target was a Democratic congresswoman. There was the map of her district in the cross hairs. There were her own prescient worries about overheated rhetoric.

Within hours of the shooting, there was a full-fledged witch hunt to link the shooter to the right.

“I saw Goody Proctor with the devil! Oh, I mean Jared Lee Loughner! Yes him. With the devil!”

The only problem is that there was no evidence then, and even now, that overheated rhetoric from the right had anything to do with the shooting.

Except that the “giddy, almost punch-drunk excitement on the left” didn’t actually happen. Believe me; I pay attention to left-leaning chatter. And at least in terms of reasonably high-profile voices, there was nothing even remotely resembling a “full-fledged witch hunt to link the shooter to the right.” There were some irresponsible attempts to link the shooter to a particular political persuasion, but they were attempts by people like Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) to raise the possibility of links between Loughner and the left.

As described in an item at by Brian Beutler at TPM (How Glenn Beck And Fox News Successfully Painted AZ Shooter As Hitler, Marx Devotee), here’s Beck, speaking on his Fox News show the night of the shootings:

This kid thinks the Mars rover, the landing, was faked. He thinks George W. Bush was behind 9/11. He believes in big government solution. His favorite books include ‘The Communist Manifesto’ and ‘Mein Kampf’…. I could tell you right now this guy is a textbook study of everybody I’ve warned against. But I’m not going to do that.

Here’s Hannity a few hours later:

On YouTube, Loughner’s profile listed Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’s ‘The Communist Manifesto’ and Adolf Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’ among his favorite books.

Here’s Sen. Alexander, the day after the shooting:

What we know about this individual, for example, is that he was reading Karl Marx, and reading Hitler, and burning the American flag. That’s not the profile of a typical Tea Party member if that’s the inference that’s being made.

I’m not saying that those statements are untrue in their specifics, or even that they’re necessarily beyond the pale in terms of misleading listeners in support of a particular agenda. But where are the equivalent statements from the left offering evidence of specific reasons to think Loughner was a Tea Party adherent? As far as I can tell, no one was actually saying that. On the contrary, all the lefty voices I saw were essentially unanimous in saying two things: 1) there is no reason to think Loughner was motivated by any particular political ideology, and 2) notwithstanding, the killings were still a chilling reminder of the worst-case scenario of violent political rhetoric taken to the extreme.

Steve Benen responded to Blow’s column with this: Where was Charles Blow getting his news?

The great irony of Blow’s column is his emphasis on supporting one’s assumptions with “evidence.” He argued, “[P]otential, possibility and even plausibility are not proof.” Those who hope to “score political points,” Blow added, did so “in the absence of proof.”

The problem, of course, is that Blow is guilty of his own allegations. He sees a “giddy” left, where none existed. He sees “punch-drunk excitement” among liberals on a “witch hunt,” but offers literally nothing by way of support.

Within the tightly contained maelstrom of self-reinforcing opinion represented by right-wing TV, radio, and blogs, any excess on the part of the capitalized “Left” and the evil Obama seems credible, I guess. Witness right-wing blogger Jim Hoft writing in his Gateway Pundit blog: If White House Was Surprised by Applause at Tucson Pep Rally… Why Did They Ask For It On Jumbotron? Hoft saw an image of the Jumbotron at the arena where Wednesday’s memorial event was held, in which closed captioning mentioned “[APPLAUSE]” (as closed-captioning is wont to do when an audience applauds), and misinterpreted it as stage direction from the Obama team (as in, “Okay, everybody. Applaud now!”). More at Media Matters: No, Jim Hoft, The White House Did Not “Ask For” Applause On Jumbotron.

Sigh. Is this really what self-styled “punditry” has come to? Look: Everyone has an opinion. But not all opinions are created equal. When you choose information sources based on a desire to confirm what you already know, rather than a desire to actually learn the truth, you can end up looking really foolish. There’s a lot of that going around lately.

Shields and Brooks on Obama’s Tucson Speech

Sunday, January 16th, 2011

I’m not normally a big talking-heads-news-show guy, but I really liked this discussion:

Cooper vs. Berman on Obama’s Birth Certificate

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

Fun stuff:

Marshall on Politico on Obama’s Question-Time Triumph

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

Also interesting: That’s the Story? (#GalacticFail Edition).

The fact that a certain subset of Republican talking points can’t withstand an adult, informed, honest debate is exactly why I wish we had more incidents like the one that The Politico is trying to revise into an Obama ambush. Go ahead and have a British-style “question time” for Obama to stand up in front of congressional Republicans and take questions about the socialist nature of healthcare reform. Go ahead and call real climate scientists to your congressional hearing. Do it every week from now until November, 2012.

Seriously. Bring it on.

Sullivan on the Right on Obama: The Big Lie

Saturday, November 13th, 2010

Andrew Sullivan explains what the Republican playbook was for the last two years (not that it was any secret to anyone who was paying attention): The Big Lie and The Big Lie II.

I, for One, Welcome Our New Tea Party Overlords

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

Marshall Ganz, writing today in an LA Times op ed: How Obama lost his voice, and how he can get it back.

During the presidential campaign, Obama inspired the nation not by delivering a poll-driven message but by telling a story that revealed the person within — within him and within us. In his Philadelphia speech on race, we learned of his gift not only for moral uplift but for “public education” in the deepest sense, bringing us to a new understanding of the albatross of racial politics that has burdened us since our founding.

On assuming office, something seemed to go out of the president’s speeches, out of the speaker and, as a result, out of us. Obama was suddenly strangely absent from the public discourse. We found ourselves in the grip of an economic crisis brought on by 40 years of anti-government rhetoric, policy and practices, but we listened in vain for an economic version of the race speech. What had gone wrong? Who was responsible? What could we do to help the president deal with it?

I enjoyed reading Ganz’s piece, and I think there’s a kernel of truth in it. It may be that now that Obama has a Republican House to deal with, something closer to Obama the campaigner of 2008 will be able to emerge. Going back to the Hillary battles, Obama has always been the guy who played chess while the other side was playing checkers, staying two or three moves ahead, and despite the attempts to portray last night as a referendum on his presidency, the real referendum will be held two years from now.

I actually was pretty gratified by last night’s results. The House fell to the Republicans, true, but again, I think that’s probably a good thing in terms of the larger political picture going forward. Let’s stand John Boehner and an actually-having-to-legislate Republican House up alongside Barack Obama, and let the American people decide whose leadership they prefer.

The Senate remained in Democratic hands, not that that makes a whole lot of difference as long as the party out of power is willing to wield the filibuster like the legislative equivalent of a roadside bomb. But it was gratifying to see Tea Party candidates lose Senate races the Republicans could otherwise have won.

Out here in my state and local races, most of the things I was hoping for came to pass: Brown beat Whitman, Boxer beat Fiorina, and Proposition 23 failed. Locally, all the candidates I supported won, so three incumbents were returned to the Carpinteria City Council, and one incumbent and two newcomers were sent to the Carpinteria Valley Water District board, with all the winning candidates being people I supported.

For me, the big issue going forward is climate change. I strongly approve of the new branding rolled out recently by David Roberts: This fight isn’t going to be won by people who describe themselves as environmentalists. It’s going to be won by climate hawks. More specifically, it’s going to be won by people for whom this issue transcends left-right political ideology. It’s going to be won by Democrats and Republicans who recognize that climate change is real, that it is caused by humans, and that the fight against it will be the defining battle of our generation.

How do we get there? How do we get someone like shcb to come to that realization? I think it has to happen gradually, one brave act of intellectual honesty at a time, and with a steady, careful presentation of the facts. I think we need to engage in the struggle of ideas, but engage in a way that acknowledges the basic intelligence and good faith of those on the other side, and that recognizes that both sides have work to do in terms of getting past our petty differences and facing up to the challenge at hand.

Darrell Issa, the presumptive new chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, says he wants to put Michael Mann on the witness stand. I say, good. I realize that Congressional hearings are not a court of law, and that Issa will certainly stack the deck any way he can to make his “ClimageGate” charges seem more credible. But this isn’t the time to whine about the tilt of the battlefield. This is the time to strap on the armor, grab the weapons, and get to it. As Mike Roddy put it in a comment on the Dot Earth blog:

Bring it on, baby. I can’t wait to see televised hearings, showing people like Michael Mann and James Hansen pitted against Issa and Inhofe. Even the average American will be able to figure out who actually knows what he’s talking about if this happens.

What he said. Let’s do this.

How Barack Obama Is In Fact a Tiny Pony

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

Barbara of Spasms of Accommodation is no longer a hermit in the Georgia swamp, it turns out. Now she’s a support engineer in Austin. But then, Thoreau didn’t spend all that long at Walden Pond, either.

Anyway, courtesy of her latest posting, I was led to this item by Frank Chimero: There is a Horse in the Apple Store.

This part totally made me think of Onan/Conner (who is as famously opposed to reproduction as he is committed to Apple products):

But there are no children in the Apple Store, for the same reason you would not see a child in a jewelry store: things are small and fragile and expensive and shiny. And if you have a child, you probably can not afford Apple products.

I also liked this part toward the end:

Since then, John and I have a term called a “tiny pony.” It is a thing that is exceptional that no one, for whatever reason, notices. Or, conversely, it is an exceptional thing that everyone notices, but quickly grows acclimated to despite the brilliance of it all.

Cell phones and the ability to make a phone call to anyone from anywhere is a tiny pony. The instant gratification provided by being able to have almost any question answered immediately is a tiny pony. Airplanes are tiny ponies. A black president, whose father is from Kenya and mother is from Kansas, being elected President of the United States is a tiny pony.

Photos of Obama Feigning Interest — with Snarky Captions!

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

This actually made me laugh out loud several times: A History of Obama Feigning Interest in Mundane Things. Your mileage may vary.