Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Sometimes, the people on TV don't know what they're talking about.

In my experience, most of the time most of the people on TV have no idea what they're talking about.

I especially like the laughing, smirking dismissal of the Fox business analysts when Peter Schiff correctly predicts that the real estate and stock markets will not in fact go up no matter what.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

BHO - Not a Liberal?

The great Glenn Greenwald writes that those who are disappointed by BHO's non-"progressive" appointments have been deceiving themselves.

So many progressives were misled about what Obama is and what he believes. But it wasn't Obama who misled them. It was their own desires, their eagerness to see what they wanted to see rather than what reality offered.

I think BHO plays a more subtle game than this right-left, progressive-conservative sport we've been stuck with for so long. Until quite recently, many thought of universal health care coverage as a strictly lefty, progressive thing. Same with opposition to the Iraq war.

The American people, it seems to me, moved away from the right towards a more progressive, more practical "center," and BHO rode this movement as much as led it. Cokie Roberts still thinks pro-choice is "left," even though a substantial majority favors it (and has for some time).

I don't read BHO as "progressive" or "liberal" or "centrtist" or frankly anywhere along the ideological spectrum that we've used as short-hand for so long that we seem to have forgotten what it ever stood for. Well, that plus the fact that an extreme faction arose in our nation which tried to yank the country to the most extreme views through intimidation and deception.

It's certainly wise to look at BHO's actions so far in the context of his campaign rhetoric: he promised pragmatic solutions, focus on the things we all agree on, de-emphasis of things where we seem unable to agree, a hatred of ignorance, stupidity, and the veneration of things that work. For the life of me, I can't characterize that as left or right, really. (I read it as left since I think of progressives as pragmatics; others, maybe most, disagree.)

I'm looking forward to holding BHO accountable to the nation's wishes, but I'm starting to hear a strain of discontent that he is not 100% lined up with some agenda. Well, no one is. But I still expect to see compelling results, just as we did in the two successful campaigns (and so far, successful transition effort) he's already run.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Hey! I Know How to Fix the Economy and Finally Realize the Dream of Democracy!

Change, via Atrios:

CHICAGO -- Armed with millions of e-mail addresses and a political operation that harnessed the Internet like no campaign before it, Barack Obama will enter the White House with the opportunity to create the first truly "wired" presidency.

Obama aides and allies are preparing a major expansion of the White House communications operation, enabling them to reach out directly to the supporters they have collected over 21 months without having to go through the mainstream media.

I think this misses it -- wide. The opportunity here is much bigger than an excellent e-mail list. It's a chance to engage Americans with its own government using a series of tubes on a new and more meaningful level.

BHO is a techno-geek. He "gets" it. I think one of his initiatives will be a re-technologicalization of the federal government. Sort of like Al Gore and the internet, but married with his "re-inventing" government work.

The federal government had made many software companies and tech consultants rich with an unending series of technological drives. (This isn't too different than what most companies have been doing, either. I'll come back to this.) But there hasn't been a, ahem, transformative exploitation of technology into the fabric of government itself. I think (hope) someone with a higher pay grade than mine (mine being "lowly citizen") will see that this is a multiple-goal serving opportunity. It is aimed squarely at making the government more competent, making it more cost-effective, creating jobs and spurring socially worthwhile R&D.

Here's an example. Why can't I go on-line and browse all my tax records, with ease. BHO has talked about a tax system in which the government basically prepares your return for your review and approval. Why not go with that idea in spades? Here's another: if McDonald's can spy on its workers via webcams, why doesn't the US do the same to monitor working conditions (and if not cams, then whatever remote, automated sensor makes sense)?

This could spark a trend in businesses to do similar things. Con Ed might actually allow me to do simple and easy transactions with them. I might be able to look at the Gap website and see the actual in-store availability of the jeans I want. Or have my cel phone easily configurable and transparent to my computer?

When cars and telephones first came on the scene, there was a rush of great fortunes made in those industries. But after a little while, those technologies transformed not only the economy but society itself. We are at the start of this second, more transformational, wave, and the historical trend could well prove to be a key to turning our economic fortunes around.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

We Win!

"My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over."

- Gerald Ford, 38th President of the United States, on the occasion of his swearing in as President following the resignation of Richard M. Nixon, 37th President of the United States and godfather of the modern Republican movement's success.

In 1968, RFK said, "There's no question that in the next 30 or 40 years a Negro can also achieve the same position that my brother has as PResident of the United States." Prescient.

Today begins the next era of American history. The previous period, beginning in 1964 or 1968, was defined by a rising reactionary movement determined to wipe out the legacy of the New Dealers, and unafraid to resort to the most extreme political tactics to do it. As Krugman notes this morning, it was an era that culminated in Monsters --

Monsters like Tom DeLay, who suggested that the shootings at Columbine happened because schools teach students the theory of evolution. Monsters like Karl Rove, who declared that liberals wanted to offer “therapy and understanding” to terrorists. Monsters like Dick Cheney, who saw 9/11 as an opportunity to start torturing people.

Today we begin the ascent to a new and better world, one that presents some of the greatest challenges we have faced in many years, but also one that holds the promise of a world where progress is no longer the enemy ("hopelessly liberal"), but is the cherished and desired goal.