Colorado Ballot Guide - I did the homework so you don't have to

I doubt anyone much cares how I’m voting on the less well-known stuff on the Colorado ballot given that they probably don’t care that much how they cast their own vote!

But on the off chance that I can be helpful, here’s my quick guide on how I voted on the stuff that’s not in the headlines all that much.

Congress District 1

My counter-culture tendencies would like to vote for the Libertarian just because there’s absolutely no hope that anyone other than the Democrat will win in this district. (That’s why I’m voting yes on Y and Z - more on that below.)

But I’m going to vote for Diana DeGette because she’s a proud graduate of Denver South High School, where I went and where my son is going now.

 

Secretary of State

It’s going to be a blue wave this year, no doubt about it. The one guy who might survive is Wayne Williams. I think we have a pretty good tradition in Colorado of keeping politics out of this office, so I’m voting for Williams because he was smart enough to hire the incomparable Lynn Bartles.

 

Colorado Court of Appeals

I actually read the Blue Book for each of the judges, and there was only one who didn’t get a unanimous nod from the State Commission on Judicial Performance: Elizabeth L. Harris. So, that’s enough for a no vote from me. 

From the Blue Book: “Sometimes she unnecessarily reexamines facts and lower courts’ reasoning, which reduces her efficiency and which may create a perception that she is unfair. Lack of timeliness also has been a problem...”

All the rest of them got a unanimous nod, so they all get a Yes vote.

And if I could vote twice, I would for Kerri Lombardi for District court. Is it because I once covered a trial where she was an excellent prosecutor? Maybe a little bit. Actually, the real reason is that she’s another proud graduate of Denver South High School! Is there no end to the glory of that place? ;-)

Denver South High School

That’s Denver South High School in the background. 

 

Amendment V

Change the age for serving in the Legislature from 25 to 21? 

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”

Whatevs.

Brain development and full rational thinking is just not in place until we hit about 25, experts say

So, that’s a no vote from me.

(Even my son — who’s an intern at the legislature, and would be a wonderful elected official, said that he thinks legislators could use some more impulse control, and he’s studied the science enough to know that even he won’t have full use of that until he is 25 — urges a no vote.)

 

Amendment W

Change the format for the ballot for judicial retention elections.

Really? We have to vote on this? Isn’t this up to some underpaid staffer running MS Word in the bill room?

Mmmkay. I’ll vote yes.

 

Amendment X

Industrial Hemp? What?

Luckily, the swell team at Ballotpedia has a page on this one. The thing I looked for was that Jon Becker was in favor, as was just about everyone else in the statehouse. If they all looked at it and are fine with it, than I am, too. 

Yes.

 

Amendments Y and Z

I may be more passionate about these two than anything else this year in Colorado.

A big part of the reason that politics is so screwed up right now is that the congressional districts are gerrymandered so that the entire race is the primary. Only the extreme edges of the spectrum show up for those, so the race is to see who can out-crazy everyone else.

Then the general election comes and those of us nearer the middle wonder where we got these loony candidates.

These two amendments will take a step toward fixing that.

Two big YES votes on these two.

 

Amendment A

Slavery, as the saying goes, is our country’s original sin.

Can we please pass this? It won’t absolve us, but it needs to be a part of our path to absolution.

 

Amendment 73

I have good friends on both sides of this, but for me I’m voting yes.

  • Money does NOT make for a good education, but a good education is impossible without money.
  • This will make all the TABOR mess even messier. Well, maybe we should fix that?
  • The tax falls more heavily on the rich, who should be doing really well because of the Trump tax cuts, so they won’t even notice it, right?

 

Amendment 74

While reading the text of Amendment 74, I kept thinking of this:

  Itsatrap

So, that’s gonna be a hard pass. 

No on Amendment 74.

 

Amendment 75

This is the one about campaign contributions. If someone donates $1 million to themselves, then all the other limits go out the window.

This is a thoughtful amendment, and it may actually help.

But this is a constitutional amendment, so if it has some unintended consequence, well, we’re screwed.

So I’m a no vote, just barely.

 

Proposition 109

This is the one is trying a bit too hard to be clever, with the whole “Fix our damn roads” name and the idea that there is a magical way to pay for roads without raising taxes.

I was tempted to vote yes because I think this throws another bomb into the TABOR mess (we really should fix that) and because, well, I wish we could fix the damn roads.

But there’s a lot of damn stuff that needs fixing, including dams.

(Reminds me of a joke: What did the fish say when he ran into a concrete wall?

“Darn!”)

I think the legislature needs to do its damn job, and decide how to spend tax dollars. We elect them to make the hard calls between roads, schools, prisons, etc. I say we let them do that job, and we’ll stay out of the way.

I’m a no vote on 109.

 

Proposition 110

This is the other roads one, but it’s done the right way. It comes from the Chamber of Commerce, which isn’t exactly a tax-and-spend kind of group. 

If we want roads to be better, we should stand up and say that we will pay for the roads to be better, and that’s what this does.

Yes on 110.

 

Proposition 111

Payday loans. Why hasn’t the legislature fixed this?

My hunch is that the people who make fistfuls of blood money making these predatory loans have spread just enough of it around that it has kept lawmakers from taking action.

When the legislature can’t get the job done, it’s up to us.

Vote yes on 111.

 

Proposition 112

This one has gotten enough press, so you are going to have to make up your own mind about this.

Luckily, this one is a change to the statute, not the constitution, so even if it does pass, the legislature will be able to fix it, or get rid of it entirely.

 

I hope this has been of some help.

Voting is one of the great honors we have, and I hope that everyone reading this does vote, and then checks to make sure all their friends and family are doing the same.

-Scott


The Lighter Side of ‘Fake News’

There's nothing more serious to me than the fight against misinformation.

Innocent journalists are going to jail for doing their job. Elections and democracy itself are being compromised. The very notion of “Trust” is under attack, and it seems like the attackers are winning.

This needs to get fixed.

Serious people need to have solemn and clear-headed conversations and work very hard to fix what's been broken on our watch.

But do we have to take ourselves seriously every moment we are at work?

I sure hope not.

So, with this post, I begin what I hope will be a series of posts taking a look at the lighter side of fake news.

Today’s installment:

The World Cup of Information Warfare?

Inspired by an interview from Alex Stamos with CNN:

 

Nobody knows more about this than Alex, and he’s highly respected. (And I personally find it a bummer that he’s out of the trenches and is now an academic.)

But it got me thinking: Are the U.S. Elections really the World Cup of  Information Warfare?

I mean, he is talking very specifically about the U.S. Elections, and the US didn’t even get into the last actual World Cup. Americans are famously blasé about soccer, so making that analogy here may actually minimize what a big deal misinformation is. 

So, with all due respect to Alex, here’s a better breakdown:

Misinfo Category Sports Analogy Reason
U.S. Election Misinformation Super Bowl While it seems like there is actual competition, at least recently there really isn't. Everyone knows the team coached by Bill Belichick will win, and that he will cheat.

Similarly, everyone knows that the Russians cheated in trying to influence the U.S. elections. But in this case because of their influence, the one person who might stop the cheating is now in charge, so nothing will happen.
U.S. Election Hacking World Series of Poker This is different than misinformation, this is actually trying to manipulate votes. Anyone can get in, anyone can win.
Spammy “News” Olympics Much as with Olympic teams made up of people without much of an actual connection to the country they compete for, there are spammy operators all over the world pretending to be from somewhere else.

And there are so many different forms of competition that nobody can keep them all straight.

And just as we all know about, say Michael Phelps or the time that Google News showed a story about how Las Vegas Shooter Was a Rachel Maddow Fan, most of these competitors toil in obscurity. (Bonus: Just as with the actual Olympics, we know the Russians will cheat.)
People Claiming
“Fake News”
WWE  People who believe a politician who claims that stories he doesn't like are “fake” are the same people who believe Pro Wrestling is not fake. (By the way, it is not fake to report that Donald Trump is in the WWE Hall of Fame.)

  Trump-wrestlemania

 

 


Why I will keep a low profile during Misinfocon in Washington DC

I am really looking forward to Misinfocon in Washington DC. I am.

In part that's because I'm very interested in the topic of misinformation. (Currently that's the most common word I've seen used to avoid having to say “fake news” and perpetuating a phrase that the current occupant of the White House uses as an epithet to describe “news.”)

This is something I study a lot in my role as the founder of the Certified Content Coalition, a project of innovation suite from CableLabs.

But the real reason I’m looking forward to the conference is that I want to redeem myself after the last Misinfocon in Kyiv.

Why do I need to redeem myself?

Well, it's a little embarrassing, but in the spirit of transparency, bla bla bla, here goes:

An American in Kyiv

This was my first Misinfocon, and so I didn't know much of what to expect. I did read that it was a hackathon, and I've seen, participated in, and judged those many times in the startup world, so I was familiar with the format.

I just had never seen one outside of the world of startups. How would that work in the world of trying to root out bad actors trying to weaponize content for political gain? I was excited to find out.

Especially in Kyiv. I had to give credit to the organizers for taking this conference right to what could be considered Ground Zero in the fake news world. On the plane on the way over I had watched Winter on Fire at the recommendation of a friend who had been there. Kyiv is an amazing city. More on that in a bit.

The speakers that started off the day were excellent, and I learned a ton from people like Yevhen Fedchenko, a co-founder of StopFake.org and Veronika Víchová from Kremlin Watch.

Veronika gets special props for her Twitter picture:

Facts and chocolate

I understood going in that the problems were complex, and saw some of that first hand at the kick-off meeting for the Journalism Trust Initiative from Reporters Without Borders the week before.

But the speakers and many of the attendees helped me understand what was going on even a bit more.

After the first day of the conference, I fell asleep quickly, exhausted by the busy day, the Ukrainian beer, and the jet lag.

The next day brings what you might think of as a play in three acts:

Act I: Our Protagonist Goes On A Journey

I woke up very early the next day, and one story dominated the news.

At first, I thought maybe my VPN was busted because one of the top stories I was getting on Google News was from Kyiv, but it turns out that it was just a top global story, and it happened to be a quick Uber ride away from where the conference was happening.

Guradian-Babchenko Dead

Holy Crap!

This caused me to go into full freak-out for a bunch of reasons.

  1. Holy crap!
  2. It happened really close to where I was.
  3. My wife and son were at home, and might get this news, not sure. I didn't know if I should call and tell them I'm fine, alerting them to the fact that fake news fighters are being gunned down right down the street from where I was fighting fake news. Or if I shouldn't call.
  4. Holy crap!
  5. Misinfocon was all about figuring this information warfare, and here's a guy literally on the front lines of that war who became a casualty.
  6. So close.
  7. Holy crap!
  8. What does it mean to be fighting fake news if we can't even keep reporters alive?

I immediately shot off a note to the conference organizers. Dwight Knell made a nice mention of him to open the day, and then we kept going.

But wait, I kept thinking, is this it? Shouldn't we be doing more?

Once we broke into working groups -- and I'm not proud of this -- I pretty much hijacked the agenda of our group. We were supposed to be coming up with ideas of how to fight fake news. We did that, but all in the context of this one death.

Now, I should have been more circumspect. I mean, this was not the first journalist killed. Indeed, there were at least 65 just last year.

And while killing journalists is horrific, it’s not really central to the issues of misinformation. At least it hadn't been. That changed, as we will see.

None of that mattered. I was the excitable American, and Something Must Be Done. THIS SHALL NOT STAND!

I thought, anyway.

Act II, Our Protagonist Leads A (Small) Uprising

The format for the “hack” part of Day 2 was that we broke up into three groups. Building on the work that had been done the previous day, we were supposed to come up with some real, tangible solutions. The rules were that we were to come up with ideas with no concerns about budget or approvals. Just assume that we can get all that, and go to town.

So we did.

I went to our group and made an impassioned plea. The death of this journalist — right here in the city where we were meeting — could not go without note.

So fired up, I was, that the group all got into the action.

Misinfocon_305

Here I am, in the early stages of making an arse of myself. (Photo courtesy Misinfocon.)

 

We came up with a whole plan. I had the brilliant idea that we should make a statue of the fallen journalist, and put it right in the central square of Kyiv. 

Some of the others in the group suggested that we maybe do something that would actually honor journalism, not just this guy. It's so good this was a group project, and not an individual one, or I really would have looked like a moron.

So we came up with a whole list of things, starting with the statue, but then moving very quickly past that to ideas that would make a difference.

  1. A statue in Maidan, the central area of Kyiv made so famous in the winter of 2014 when protesters took over the square. More than 100 died, but the protests eventually led to the ouster of  the Kremlin-installed president, Viktor Yanukovich, who remains in exile in Russia to this day.
  2. Matching statues in major capitals around the world to highlight the importance of journalists and the fact that so many are killed.
  3. An endowment to pay for some number of journalists to report from war-torn areas. With the changing economics for newsrooms, very few news publishers pay to send reporters into the most dangerous regions, even when those are the exact regions that most need the cleansing power of sunshine from an audience paying attention to the facts.
  4. Along with paying the journalists, paying for extensive security for them, and for their families back home.
  5. This one was grim, but was a great idea that came from one of the local participants: Life Insurance for the reporter. The family needs to carry on if the worst happens, and if they don't have to carry on in poverty, it will certainly help. Any children left behind won't need to worry about a roof over their heads, and will be able to afford to go to college.
  6. I don't know if we were channeling Warren Zevon, but it seemed like we were thinking Send Lawyers, Guns and Money. The next item was to set up lawyers to help these journalists navigate the legal minefields while they are in the literal minefields.

I then went on to a crowdsourcing platform and found a guy who turned a photo of Arakady into something that looked like a statue.

The freelancer tried it a couple of ways, one of them with a green hue that was supposed to look a bit like the green of the Statue of Liberty. Another one of the participants from Kyiv nixed that one. It was news to me, but a well known local story is of the Little Green Men — soldiers who tried to be known as the “Polite People” were actually Russian soldiers wearing green uniforms with no insignia. Putin thought he could get away with denying that they were Russian soldiers, and in some ways he did.

Anyway, no green Arkady.

We finally decided on one that just looked like marble, and we'd put an orange safety vest on the statue. Then we'd place it in the central square. We used a tourist picture I'd snapped on my first night Kyiv, and with that, we had our presentation.

Arkady statue

I then was hoping someone else would go on stage and present, but they all looked at me to do it, and so I did.

Screen Shot 2018-08-03 at 2.37.40 PM

 I then had to leave to get to the airport to fly to Lisbon, via Frankfurt. About as far of a trip as you can make without leaving Europe. (Most people in Ukraine really wants to be part of the EU, and Putin wants Ukraine to be part of Russia, hence the conflict.)

Because the first leg of the flight was a bit late, I had to run through the massive Frankfurt airport, I was basically out of communication with the outside world for about six hours.

What a six hours that was for the world of Fake News.

Act III: Our Protagonist Learns His Lesson

My plan was that as soon as I was safe in Lisbon, I was going to call home to let my family know that I was safe.

But by then, well, the only thing that was in danger was my reputation.

You’ve certainly heard the news: The brave journalist was not, in fact, dead. The blood seen near his body was pigs blood. The story is that this journalist was involved in a plot to fake his own death did so to help authorities find those who really did want him dead.

I've read all kinds of stories about this, including one that came out just before I sat down to write this, and I still don’t really know what's going on.

One thing that clearly did happen is that the killing of journalists is now firmly in the territory of misinformation. Right after Arkady Babchenko showed up at the press conference about his own death, Russians said that they were shocked, SHOCKED, that people would accuse them of killing journalists, and this one wasn't even dead. Maybe some of the other dead journalists aren't really even dead.

image from cdn.newsapi.com.au

What have I done?, Babchenko seems to be thinking. Created a mess, is the answer. (Photo from news.com.au)

 

It's hard these days to say that Kremlin agitprop has a point, but in this case, well, they weren't wrong.

This is something pointed out in a story I read the next morning in my Lisbon hotel room from the New York Times that quoted a tweet from Christophe Deloire about how dangerous this was for journalism.

Then I walked over to the Global Editors Network conference and the first two people I saw were Christophe Deloire and Olaf Steenfadt from Reporters Without Borders. 

I couldn't believe that they were quoted in the New York Times, and they couldn't believe that I'd been in Kyiv for the whole outré episode.

We agreed that we may never know exactly what happened, but we do know they'll be talking about it in journalism schools for the next 50 years.

Lesson learned?

I did learn three things, however.

  1. Misinfocon is a great conference. I don't know what will happen there in D.C. exactly — that’s the beauty of a hackathon. But if the one in Kyiv is any kind of guide, it will have all the right people in the right place and something magical may just come out of it.
  2. It might be better if I just keep quiet for this one. If I lead a team it may produce a result that won't be judged well in the light of history.
  3. Slow down and listen. Let me explain that one a bit more:

While we were in a bit of a break at the last event, one of the participants who was from Kyiv told me about their most famous poet, Taras Shevchenko.

I was in such a hurry to Do Something, that I thought it was quaint and possibly a bit annoying that someone would be talking to me about someone who’d been dead for 150-odd years. I’m trying to be a better listener, though, so I pulled up his Wikipedia page while I was talking to her, and then promptly forgot all about it.

A couple of weeks later, when I was finally closing all the tabs from that trip, I found that page. 

Here's the last part of a poem that apparently just about everyone in Ukraine knows:

Oh bury me, then rise ye up
And break your heavy chains
And water with the tyrants' blood
The freedom you have gained.
And in the great new family,
The family of the free,
With softly spoken, kindly word
Remember also me.

 

Oh bury me, then rise ye up.

The woman who told me about this poet didn’t know that Arkady Babchenko — at just about that exact moment in a room a mile or so from where we were sitting — was figuratively “rising up.” 

But something about this whole thing compelled her to share that with me, and now I share it with you.

Freedom of the press is under assault right now, but a lot of us our fighting back. We are all working on different pieces of it, but we are all a lot like a family... as Taras Shevchenko might say, the family of the free.

That family is gathering Monday, and I am so glad that I'll be there for this family meeting.

But if something big happens in the news on Monday night, I won’t say a word about it on Tuesday.

Not. One. Word.

 


Who the hell is Scott Yates?????

First, why this post?

I've been kind of off the radar of social media lately, and this blog has been quiet, even by the not-so-staggering standards of years past.

It's because I'm working on a new project. Can't talk about it just yet, but soon you won't be able to get me to shut up.

Once that project becomes public, my profile on the interwebs may grow a bit, and there may be some people who have the question I posed in the title of this post:

Who the hell is Scott Yates????

In the spirit of always making it easy for the reader, I offer this post as an answer to that question.

One warning: If you come here thinking that you will find proof that I'm a proto-communist, or a quasi-fascist, or whatever, you will likely be disappointed.

I approach politics and life with a single point of reference, and that is that I like to solve problems. That approach has meant I've spent time as policy wonk for a conservative Republican, and as volunteer for the homeless, public television, immigrants, and other traditionally liberal redoubts. 

If you are looking for a box to put me in, it will be a weird-ass box.

Early days

I grew up in Denver happy and basically well-adjusted, given that my mother was a licensed social worker, and read all the books about how to raise well-adjusted kids. She was a liberal dating back to the days when she and her father cried together when JFK died.

I attended CU-Boulder, but dropped out. No scandal there. I wish there was. I wish I could have a story like Steve Wozniak, who reportedly was asked to leave after he hacked into the Regents computer system. Mostly I just didn't know what I was doing, so I left, and spent some time as a live-in volunteer at a Catholic Worker house in community with the homeless, and my best friend, who was doing the same thing for much more intentional reasons.

Then I decamped for New York to attend NYU, and work in the publishing capitol of the world. I had a great time there where I was a columnist for the school paper, and I got internships at New York Newsday and SPY Magazine. I got to meet living heroes of mine in person, like the time I got to meet Nat Hentoff when spoke at the original Catholic Worker House. I loved every second I was in New York.

80s-esque

The author, pictured in the 1980s, at least 10 years after that style of mustache had gone out of style.

 

Then I travelled some, saw some of the world, and then returned to my home state of Colorado and took my first job as a cub reporter at the Durango Herald. That was followed by an ill-advised cup of coffee at the Waterbury (Conn.) Republican-American. I then returned to Colorado and worked at Loveland Reporter-Herald, my second "P.M." paper. (That's what old newspaper hands call an afternoon paper, printed after noon and delivered by high school kids on bikes. That's where I learned to write fast, and why I get approving nods from journalists who've been around.)

I then moved to a weekly paper in my hometown of Denver best known at the time for all the futon advertisements: Westword. It's now better known for marijuana advertising.

You can look at some of the stories I wrote on the Westword site, I think that was the first place to publish my stories on the web. If you want to look for a slant to what I wrote for the papers before that, well, good luck with that. Mostly it was school board stories, so...

After Westword I essentially got out of journalism. I did some work at a health food magazine, but much of that was helping them transition to the Web. Then one day I got a call from Governor Bill Owens. He was a conservative, and he wanted some help with writing, and a few other jobs, including running a conservative think tank for him. He never asked for my party affiliation, just asked if I'd work for him. I did, happily and productively, for years and he remains a friend to this day.

I'm not actually sure what my affiliation was. In those days you had to register with one party to vote in the primary, and because I lived in Denver I probably registered as a Democrat so I'd have some interesting primaries to vote in. Republican primaries in Denver are something like gatherings of non-alcoholic beer fans: Lonely and kind of pointless.

I was conservative, though. I remember my mother wondering where she'd gone wrong when I told her I wanted to vote for Bill Armstrong, and even put a bumper sticker for him on my Datsun.

These days I'm like George Will: a homeless Republican. The party left me while I was standing there, advocating for conservative values like the rule of law, and a stable and limited government.

Startup Life

It didn't take a lot of foresight to realize that there wasn't a great future in journalism, as much as I loved it.

I enjoyed the people in the newsrooms, and the culture, and the problem-solving that came with trying to figure out how to distill complex problems into understandable stories that would hold a readers' interest for 900 words. I really did love all that, but I also started getting frustrated writing about problems and not solving them.

It was one day, stuck in traffic, that I realized I could to some small degree actually solve traffic problems with information.

Kids, ask your parents about the days before iPhones and Google Maps when you couldn't pull a super computer out of your pocket and find out what traffic was like. In those days, we'd all just finish work, go get in a car, and get stuck in traffic without knowing how bad it was really going to be. Ten minutes after we were into the drive and already stuck in traffic, you could hear a guy in a helicopter tell you how screwed you were, which was... not awesome.

So I started a company that let people know about traffic before they got stuck in it: MyTrafficNews.com. In those days, companies like mine weren't called "startups." It was called a "dot-com." I got a patent on that, and eventually sold the company to traffic.com, which later got bought by NavTeq, which was bought by Nokia, which was bought by Microsoft. Food chain in action.

I then started another company that eventually became BillTrack50, and is delighting clients to this day, helping them keep track of legislation. The original company, however, ended up in a lawsuit against some of its investors. I signed a thing saying that I can't say what happened with that suit, which is an obtuse way of saying that I won, but not in court. The original court filings are public, and you can go and get those and read them (I hired a lawyer who was a pretty good writer). But I signed an agreement saying that I would not continue to publish them on the internet as I had been, so sorry for the hassle there.

I then wrote a book called The Future of Water, and then started another company, BlogMutt. You can read lots about that all over this blog, and the BlogMutt blog.

Then in 2016 I decided to hire someone to replace myself. The new CEO and I were together at a trade show in Boston when the election happened.

I wasn't sure exactly what I was going to do after that, but I wrote a post about what I wanted to do, and at the top of the list was to be an Entrepreneur in Residence. It's good to announce to the world what you want to do, because that's exactly what happened, with the most amazing research facility you've never heard of: CableLabs.

I love the concept of an Entrepreneur in Residence because it allows a person to really think broadly about problems and solutions. That's where I came up with this idea that I'll be announcing very soon, I hope.

 

So, that's it. That's my story. Feel free to dig in and see if you can find something more embarrassing than a picture of me with a cheesy Village People-esque mustache, though it's hard to imagine anything more horrifying than that.


Trump Watergate Timeline Comparison - Separated at Birth?

After reading a tweet from Kurt Andersen (without a doubt the smartest and best boss I ever had) I got thinking more about the timeline of Watergate and our current president.

I worked for Kurt at the old Spy Magazine. I'd like to think that this is the sort of thing that Spy would have done. (The headline is an homage to a regular feature in Spy, Separated at Birth?)

If I had all day, I'd do more of a Spy thing, and ask the design team to make this look better, and ask the photo research team to come up with some amazing photos that draw connections, etc. But in the spirit of DONE, here it is.

I hope this is helpful to people all over the political spectrum.

  • For people that want Trump gone tomorrow, this shows pretty clearly that as of July we were really only about half done with the process. There's a long way to go.
  • For people that are tired of the drip-drip-drip, perhaps this will show why it almost has to happen that way.
  • For supporters of President Trump who are currently comforted by the fact that he's still in office despite what you perceive to be relentless media attacks, you won't find comfort, exactly, but with luck you'll see that those on the other side politically are not delusional about Trump, and that the sweep of history is not on Trump's side.

OK, here's the highlights, with lots of help from this page, this Watergate timeline and this Trump/Russia timeline:

 

Nixon/Watergate Trump/Russia
1972 2016
June 17     Burglars break into the DNC headquarters at Watergate June 9    Don Jr., Manafort and Kushner meet with Russian government official promising damaging info about Clinton. Trump tweets later that day for the first time about "33,000 emails."
June 20    Washington Post reports connection between burglary and Hunt July 18    Washington Post reports Trump wants GOP to go soft on Russia
Sept. 15   Hunt, Liddy and burglars indicted Oct. 7    DHS and DNI announce that Russia is interfering in election
Nov. 7      Nixon reelected  Nov. 8    Trump elected
1973 2017
Jan. 8    Burglary trial begins Jan. 4    Mike Flynn reports that he is under investigation
Jan. 11  Hunt pleads guilty Jan. 6    CIA, FBI and NSA report that Putin ordered a campaign to influence the election
Jan. 15    Other burglars plead guilty Jan. 10  Sessions tells congress that he “did not have communications” with the Russians
Jan. 20    Nixon inauguration Jan. 20    Trump inauguration
Jan. 30    Liddy convicted Jan. 30    Trump fires Yates
Feb. 28    FBI director tells congress that Dean had “probably lied” to FBI. Feb. 28    Trump staff instructed to preserve any Russia-related communications because of investigation
March 17 McCord refutes previous denial that he was working for the White House March 17 Page refutes previous denial that he never met with Kislyak
April 27    FBI Director Gray resigns April 5    Nunes recuses himself
April 30    Ehrlichman, Haldeman resign, Dean fired. April 11   Comey tells Rosenstein about “serious concern about the way in which the president is interacting, especially with the FBI”
May 17    Senate Watergate Committee begins hearings May 9    Trump fires Comey

May 19
    Cox appointed as special prosecutor

May 17  Mueller appointed special counsel
June 3    Dean testifies that he discussed the cover-up with Nixon at least 35 times June 8    Comey testifies to Senate Intelligence Committee, worried about president lying, says he hopes there are tapes
July 13    13 months after Watergate burglary, New York Times reports on Oval Office tapes of phone calls and meetings July 8    13 months after meeting of Don Jr., Manafort and Kushner with person they believe to be Russian government official, New York Times reports on that meeting

Oct. 20    "Saturday Night Massacre" firing of special prosecutor.

Oct. 30    "Manafort Monday" Manafort, Gates arrested. Special Prosecutor's office also unseals previous indictment and plea deal with Papadopoulos

Oct. 19 John Dean enters guilty plea after cooperating with prosecutors. 

Dec. 1 Mike Flynn enters guilty plea after cooperating with prosecutors.

Nov. 17    "I am not a crook" speech

Nearly Every Day Trump tweets something saying Russia investigation is phony.

Dec. 7  White House can't explain 18-minute gap in tapes.

Dec. 11 White House can't explain 18-day period that Mike Flynn wasn't fired.

1974

2018

March 1    Nixon named as "unindicted co-conspirator" along with the "Watergate Seven"

 

April 16    Special prosecutor subpoenas tapes

 

May 9    Impeachment hearings begin

 

June 27    House passes Articles of Impeachment 

 

Aug. 9    Nixon resigns from office

 

One last note:

One of the young staffers working on Watergate for the House Judiciary Committee was Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Watergate-hillary

We may not have learned all the lessons we needed to learn from Watergate, but perhaps there's a young staffer working behind the scenes right now who will one day run for president, and if she doesn't come to fame as the wife of a guy who was once impeached himself... and if the election isn't tampered with... maybe she'll even win.


Jackson vs. Hamilton: Which one should we dump from US Currency? [Infographic]


The current controversy over putting a woman on the $10 bill — instead of the $20 — is helpful because it sheds a bright light on the powerful history, and all it represents today.

But history can be hard, so to help make it easier here's a helpful infographic. Feel free to share, embed, print, post, and then share some more. Let's bring history home, and ensure that no injustice is done in the paper we carry in our pockets every day.

Jackson v Hamilton

The full PDF for your full use is here.

For more reading, I recommend Ron Chernow's essay, and that you make plans to go see Hamilton on Broadway.


Brad Feld Patent Office? Most indubitably!

I've been following Brad Feld's observations about the patent system for years now. I find myself mostly agreeing with him, even though I filed for and was awarded a patent for my first company, back in the day.

I've thought about starting Patent Holders Against Patents, but I'm a bit busy with BlogMutt these days. Also, I don't want to be known as the PHAP guy. 

PHAP PHAP PHAP.

But then I saw my chance to do my part. A US Senator, Michael Bennet, went on the interwebs to try to collect opinions about what name should grace the new US Patent Office in Denver. Now, I actually think this new office is a good thing. The Patent system needs smart people working inside of it, and we have lots of smart folks here in Colorado.

(By the way, patents do have their place, especially in our history. Lincoln said that a patent system was a big part of what helped the union win the Civil War. His theory was that inventors wanted to develop new technology for the side where they thought they could make money from their inventions.) 

(And for a nexus of presidents and patents trivia, the first one to name the only US President to hold a patent gets a coffee from me. Just put the name in the comments below, and be as honest as you can about if you googled it or not.)

But the idea of naming the building for Brad makes sense for lots of reasons.

  • Colorado has a rich history of ironic naming. Remember that the Alferd Packer grill was originally an epithet because the food tasted a bit too... familiar. Now there's a bust of the "man-eatin' sonofabitch" in the foyer, making him look positively regal.
  • Come to think of it, Feld has a certain resemblance to Packer. Brad feld and alferd packer
  • Feld himself has his own rich history of getting his name in places where much deep thinking is done.
  • The idea of naming a Patent office after a patent opponent would be much like our nation's history of naming airports after people who died in airplane crashes -- though I'm pretty sure that Denver International Airport is not named for John Denver.
  • This whole thing reminds me of the song Gonna Put My Face on a Nuclear Bomb, but I'm not sure why.
  • And most importantly: It may prompt some kind of actual discussion about how the Patent system should evolve.

Now, I'm not crazy. There's zero chance this will actually happen. I think the Feds will be too timid to even name it after Nikola Tesla, even though Colorado played a critical part in the science behind every single act of plugging a cord into a wall to get electricity to a device.

The fact that Tesla feuded with Edison should help his case, but probably won't. The fact that he was probably gay, well, that could go either way. AC/DC. The fact that the coolest entrepreneur on the planet these days recognized his genius when naming his car company will probably hurt, as GM, et. al. seem to use the government to thwart actual competition.

Pueblo native David Packer would be a good choice, except that it pisses me off that I have to pay more per ounce for ink than I do for 30-year-old Scotch.

Woz would be another great choice, but it seems unlikely after his ignominious exit from the University of Colorado. (The story I heard, which may be apocryphal, is that he hacked the regents computer system so when the workers came in one Monday morning all the printers had run out of paper exhausted from printing expletives all weekend.)

So, in the great spirit of the internets, I encourage you to do the needful: vote for Brad Feld's name to be inscribed on the USPTO office in Denver, Colorado.

 

 


Trophies For All!

I've tried, I have.

I've tried extending opportunities to these Millennials. I dish it up for them, and all they have to do is a little bit of work and…

Disappointment. Every time. 

A little background: I run a blog writing service. We write blogs for businesses. Those businesses are run by people who are just too busy to write their own blog posts.

I thought when I started this that we'd have two great sources of freelance writers to help do that writing: stay-at-home moms and recent grads. The moms, I figured, have a spare hour every now and again and they are smart and some of them are good writers. They just lack an opportunity to write for pay. Zillions of them write for no pay on their own blogs, and that's all fine, but in general those are only read by the people they are already friends with.

That part has worked out very well. Many of our best writers are busy moms who make time for Blogmutt customers.

The other category is college kids, or recent college grads. They, right now, are either working at a coffee shop, or not working at all and either way living in their parents' basements.

I've been there. When I graduated the economy sucked and journalism jobs were hard to find, but you could always find work somewhere and I ended up at the Durango Herald and had some of the best times of my life.

While the Herald is still there, the reality is that the entry-level jobs for writers are far fewer percentage-wise than they have been in generations. I know there's lots of writing being done, but my job at the Herald was "Staff Writer." How many jobs with that title are out there today? Not many.

So I figured that these young Americans would be interested in writing work. Our pay is right in line with the industry, and it would be a lot better than spending all day asking people if they want room for cream. Maybe they could even make enough to move out of their parents' house, get a place of their own.

I really did try to reach out. I would get myself an invitation to go speak to college students anywhere I could, and recently got what I thought would be a perfect invitation to a class specifically designed to help graduating seniors from what for now is still known as the J-school to find work after they graduate.

The class had 35 students. I started by showing them this Ira Glass video. It's so good.

 

I then talked to them about the big idea in that video, that the most important thing is to work hard, to produce a body of work and to work regularly. As I looked around the room, I got a bunch of blank stares.

So I used the standard technique for engaging an audience, I started asking them questions. "Do any of you have anything lined up for after you graduate?"

After an uncomfortable silence, one of them asked, "You mean… a job?"

"I don't want to put boundaries on it," I said. "A job, an internship. Going into the Peace Corps. Anything in the works for after you graduate in a couple of months?"

More awkward silence. 

I then pointed to one of them. "How about you?"

"Well, I hear there's lots of jobs in San Francisco, but my parents keep telling me that I'll get free room and board if I move back home to Minnesota."

So, out of this class of 35 people -- people who went to college to study writing, need experience in writing, and don't have anything at all lined up -- guess how many of them signed up to be writers? One. One guy was brave enough to apply. I put him into the system straight away. After a week he wrote one post. One. The writing was fine, the customer liked it. Nothing glamorous. The posts we write at Blogmutt remind me of the "briefs" I wrote every day when I worked at the Durango Herald. Nothing groundbreaking, just work.

But work, it appears, is not what Millennials do. I'm not alone in discovering this, by the way. I've had this conversation recently with a lawyer, a CPA, a cell phone exec, and others. They all say the same thing: I asked a new associate to do something recently and they told me "no." They told me they had volleyball or something. When I was their age I never said no. 

This connected an important thread for me. I live by Wash Park and every weekday evening I see zillions of people in their 20s hanging out playing volleyball, drinking, having a grand old time. I've often wondered why there didn't use to be so many people hanging out in the park, especially people in their 20s. When this lawyer friend told me that about the associate who left work to play volleyball, it suddenly became clear: It used to be that young people worked. There was a time we were called "Yuppies" and that was short for Young Urban Professionals. There's nothing professional about the Millennials, so the term has just faded away. 

Look, I don't have anything against volleyball. You want to be a professional volleyball player, that's great. Play all the time. If you want to be a writer you should be writing.

Now… I don't want to be scrooge. It's great that people can have some fun with friends, but you get good at the things you do. Read Malcolm Gladwell. If you spend a lot of time hanging out with friends doing nothing, that's what you'll get good at.

I don't totally blame Millennials. It was your parents who gave you a trophy for finishing fifth out of six teams in your soccer league. They are the ones who came to school every couple of days dropping hints about how brilliant you were. They were the ones who helicoptered over you. They are the ones who offer you free room and board if you move back home. 

I was talking about this with a friend recently and heard about an office where parents regularly show up with their children to demand more for their children. This was not a middle or high school, or even a college office. This was the graduate job counseling office of a law school. These kids earn a law degree and still they have their mommies and daddies come with them to demand more from school because they deserve it because they are special! Is it the kids' fault for bringing those parents along, or is it the parents fault for going? Hey, there's plenty of blame to go around.

It was your parents who voted for Baby Boomer presidents (Clinton and GWB) who were just like them and those turned out to be the two worst presidents we've had since…

Yes, that's an interesting question. Since… I think, a similar pair in Wilson and Harding. Those were the ones, along with people of their generation, who were so self-absorbed and incompetent that they led us into the stupid first World War, left a screwed up Europe and eventually led us into the Great Depression. You know who got us out of the Great Depression and saved us from tyranny around the world? Well, now we call them the Greatest Generation. They don't like that title much. You know how they did all they did? There are still a few of them around, and they'll tell you if you ask them. They won't say they saved the world. What they will tell you is that all they did was work and work hard and work all the time and then work some more. 

They did such a good job that they built America into this amazing powerhouse that could put a man on the moon, build the world's biggest and strongest middle class, survive Vietnam and Watergate. The only thing that they didn't do a great job on… was raising kids. Most of those kids were OK, but some of them were the classic Baby Boomers, the ones who wanted to take over because they had better hair. The classic Baby Boomers, I would say were Clinton and George W. Bush. And just like Wilson and Harding they were so self-absorbed and incompetent that they wrecked the economy and got us into another crappy war: the War on Terror. (Not taking anything away from the supremely awesome troops.)

Now before you say Clinton was not bad because the economy did so well while he was president, and we had peace, may I point out that he had many chances to get Bin Laden, and missed them all. He had a chance to stop the Enrons of the world, and didn't. The economy grew, but much of that growth was fueled by people cheating, and it was headed downhill at a pretty good clip when he was wrapping up. 

But it sure did seem like things were going well with the economy for a while there under Clinton... so much so that your parents thought they wouldn't really have to work that hard, and that's a value that you picked up on. It turns out that the most important formative years of childhood that most affect your attitudes about money come when you are about 10-11 years old.

Do the math. If you are 24 right now it means that you were 10-11 in 1999, right when the economy was the most frothy. You "learned" that if you just have a good business plan -- Pet Food On The Internet! -- you could make a zillion dollars. 

Well, you learned wrong. What you learned is the stuff that screwed us up. Luckily it's not going to get too bad. We're not going to let it. Who are we? We're Generation X, and we are a lot like the X Men. There aren't as many of us as there are of you, but we can do these amazing things that you simply can't do.

First thing we did was elect a non-Boomer president. Politics aside, that last election was between a borderline Gen Xer and a borderline member of the Greatest Generation. Both parties rejected the classic Boomers who were the early favorites.

Can you imagine if that election had been between Boomers John Edwards and Rudy Giuliani? <shudder>

Once the primaries were over, those that read about McCain learned that he's all Boomer in his views about how special he is because… well, you know, because he is. For me, the 2008 election was less about politics than it was about generations. 

Luckily the economy is now getting fixed, for real this time. And it's Gen X that's doing the fixing. Xers like Sheryl Sandberg and Sergy Brin. Xers like Brad Feld, Adeo Ressi, and Dave McClure. Xers like Jim Reiner and Ruth Bremmer

Boomers were all intent on replacing "The Man" with themselves because they really know how to change the world because they trust their gut. Xers ignore "The Man" and just go out and change the world. This is well laid out in the excellent X Saves the World, really the only book I've seen that lays out the case for how Gen X is quietly keeping the whole nation from a giant suck-fest that it would be if the Boomers and their Millennial offspring were left in charge.

The Boomers sure aren't going to save the world, for as much as they talk about it. It's us, we're going to save it by just showing up and working hard every day.

And as for you Millennials, well, Stop Whining! We're sick of you telling us about how you need to find your work meaningful. We're sick of you telling us about how you want balance. We're sick of you telling us that you can't work Thursday after 4 p.m. because you have your Ironic Polo Club. We're sick of you working somewhere for six weeks and then asking when you will be taking over as management. We're sick of it all.

And you know what we can't wait for? One point in time. That point will come when you realize that you are expendable. Right now you think that you should have all the things that come with hard work, and you should have them because you've always had them. (Soccer trophies!) You just don't want to do the work. 

But here's the rude awakening that's coming: The next generation. Our kids. My son comes downstairs every morning and finds me working, and he often falls asleep to the sound of my typing. He's started two businesses, and he's 8. We sit and watch Shark Tank together and he has a dead-on sense of which businesses will get an offer, and which will not. He has dreams about my current business, Blogmutt, in which he's solving business problems.

That's right. In his sleep he's better than you are awake.

And he's not alone. An 11-year-old relative of mine recently asked me if I was sad about Whitney Houston, "Because she's from the 1900s, like you."

Pause, and take that in for a moment. "The. 1900s. … Like. You."

She's not from the 1900s, she's from this century. She'll see you, born the 1980s or 90s as being essentially the same as the Xers born in the 60s and 70s. We'll all be lumped in together, and so you know how she'll judge us? 

By our work.

Have you invented Google? No. Then get back to work! 

Now, sure, you will say that Millennials can work. Look at Instagram. Yes. Let's do. Those are not whiney kids, those are people who are smart and work hard. They said it themselves: They saw the "wantrepreneurs"  all around them going to parties, hanging out around incubators playing video games, reading every story on TechCrunch and commenting on all the stories about how stupid an idea was and how unworthy it was of TechCrunch coverage. What were the Instagram guys doing while the Millennials sat around talking about changing the world? They were working. Solving problems. Focussing not on themselves but on their users. 

Now, you may be asking how I can write such incendiary things. Three reasons:

BenS_SFR-18268
First, I'm not worried about any Millennials reading this. If it's longer than a tweet, they can't handle reading it anyway and so they didn't make it this far. If they did read this far it's probably because they are one of the exceptions that are so amazing in part because they stand out so dramatically. Millennials like the "boys" pictured above working 14-hour days on an organic vegetable farm, or writers like Téa Obreht who taught herself English by watching bootlegged Disney movies and wrote every day for as long as she can remember. There are even a few entrepreneurs who show promise.

Second, Even if they did read this far they aren't able to do anything about it. It's like that scene from Bull Durham where Kevin Costner challenges the hot young pitcher to throw the ball right at his chest. The pitcher says he'll kill him, but Costner knows the guy won't come close. He doesn't, either.

Lastly, Let's say there's one Millennial out there who's read this far, is outraged at what I say, and decides that he or she needs to prove me wrong, so that person goes to sign up as a Blogmutt writer and writes 100s of great posts for dozens of different Blogmutt clients. 

Boy, that would really shut me up.

 


Who said this?

Take a look at this quote: 

"They have this idea that people should be left alone, be able to do whatever they want to do. Government ... shouldn't get involved in cultural issues, you know, people should do whatever they want. Well, that is not how traditional ________s view the world, and I think most ______s understand that individuals can't go it alone, that there is no such society that I'm aware of where we've had radical individualism and that it succeeds as a culture."

I cut a little for this experiment (full quote is here), but what word did I leave a blank for? You could make a strong case that you could put the world "liberal" in there both times and imagine many Republicans making this statement.

Turns out that it was Rick Santorum who said this about the Barry Goldwater-style conservatives.

I post this only to make two points:

  1. Wonks like Shawn Mitchell are right that if Santorum is the nominee Obama will probably win all 50 states, and,
  2. Liberals have way more in common with a Santorum than they would ever admit.

I know we are coming into a season of high pique, but my goal for me in this year is to really try to find common ground and say as many positive things as possible about those inside and outside of politics, and the amazing thing is that I don't think it will really be that hard.


Wikileaks Shows Generational Divide (And a Startup Lesson)

The whole Wikileaks event is fascinating on so many levels. There's been ton's of great coverage. I've read lots of it, but there's one thing that hasn't really been said: This seems like essentially a generational issue, yet another sign that the world is changing fast and the Hey-man-let's-change-the-world Boomers are the ones standing in the way of history.

Let me explain.

For all the hand-wringing, the actual upshot of the leaks has been... zilch. No covert operatives have been frogmarched down the streets of Moscow or Beijing. No foreign secretaries have been sacked.

(In the funniest tweet I've seen in a long time, my old Spy Magazine colleague Nell Scovell said: "WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange thinks Hillary Clinton should resign. Does he know NOTHING about the Clintons???")

Clinton, of course, will not resign and neither will anyone else. If anyone was harmed even a little, all the governments and journalists so outraged about the leaks would point to that harm as an example of why the leaks are so dangerous. They've got nothing.

The only reason they are so upset is that they like keeping their little secrets. It makes them feel important. So far, however, the leaks show that the government of Russia is corrupt (Say it aint so!) and in most cases that diplomats have done a pretty good job. If all this stuff hadn't been leaked information, this "news" would be classified as "not news."

How is all this related to startups? I recently saw a presentation from one of the best startup guys working these days: Eric Ries. Ries is an advocate of taking the absolute minimum product that you can create and putting it on the web so you can see if and how people will use it. Then you learn your lessons, iterate quickly and keep moving. Someone asked him how it was possible to do this without alerting your competition to what it is you are doing.

Reis' answer was spot-on. In essence, he said that your competition is just busy trying to do whatever it is they are doing, and really won't be paying much attention to what a startup is trying to do in the same space. He said that you could actually take all the code you've written and send it to your closest competitor, and the chances are that they really wouldn't know what to do with it. So don't worry about them, Ries said, worry about your biggest challenge, which is to just do a good job of figuring out what your customers want and providing it to them.

So it is with all these "secrets" that are now out. They are only secret because of the legacy of the positions the people hold who are doing the communicating.

That's why I say this is a generational issue. People over 45 or so have this assumption that all communication is private. Gen Xers and younger -- the people who regularly post on the 'net where they are eating lunch -- understand that all communication is essentially public.

The reason there's been so much handwringing among the older parts of the media is that they liked the world back in the day when they, and they alone, would get to see all the private stuff and publicize it when they felt that it was interesting. The gatekeepers are just not that useful any more. What's useful is a search engine that allows anyone interested to find what they are looking for.

For those of you keeping score at home, gatekeepers are the Boomers, and search engines are from Gen X.

The person who allegedly provided all those cables to Wikileaks? A kid. The one calling for that kid to be executed? A presidential candidate, a boomer, who cloaks himself in Christianity. (Hypocrisy infects all generations, but its most friendly host is the Baby Boomer.)

So just remember these two things: First, if you really want something to be private, don't put it on the 'net. Second, ask yourself why you want it to be private. Chances are that if you try to keep it private, it will just make really boring stuff that much more sensational.


I refudiate Sarah Palin!

I am not a prescriptionist. I embrace a living language as much as any modern lexicographer.

I'm also not a hater. When George W. Bush had nary a friend in the world, I still wanted him to do well because I wanted the country to do well.

And when he coined the word "Misunderestimate" I went along. The word filled a hole in the language, and was a clever mash-up. It also sort of summed up his presidency.

Now comes Sarah Palin.

In a tweet, she called on her tweeps to "refudiate" something. 

Several things...

First: To her credit, it's clear that she types her own tweets. That's good. 

(The alternate thought, that she has someone so inept with language working for her as a writer, is simply too horrible to imagine.)

Second: She saw it was a mistake and pulled the offense to the language. Good for her.

Third: She compounded the error in the worst way possible, tweeting this:

"Refudiate," "misunderestimate," "wee-wee'd up." English is a living language. Shakespeare liked to coin new words too. Got to celebrate it!

OK, just to be clear: "Refudiate" may have started life as a malaprop, just as with misunderestimate, but it will die there. It's not a new concept and it doesn't have any kind of clear meaning the way that misunderestimate does. 

Misunderestimate is clear from the word itself. Does "refudiate" mean to refuse to repudiate, or to repudiate more? I suppose it might creep into the language incorrectly (see irregardless, penultimate, etc.), but I don't think it will. At least I hope not.

"Repudiate" is a fine word. As with all strong verbs, it carries any sentence smartly. "Refudiate" is risible. 

Palin's worst offense against language, however, is her invocation of Shakespeare. You can almost see the little hamster wheel spinning in Palin's head here: She learned -- during one of her brief interludes at one of her sundry institutions of higher learning -- that the Bard coined many of the words he wrote. She hung on to that little factoid for a moment just such as this. 

I can just... see her... sitting in the back of class... twirling her hair while languorously doodling strings of made-up words on the construction-paper cover of Introduction to English Literature. She hears that Shakespeare invented words and then spends the rest of the class thinking about how she is just like him but she is trapped in the cruel world of academia -- until a squirrel went by outside the window.

What she missed in that class is that there was no dictionary to consult for Shakespeare. The language had no guide then. If he wanted to write about a character who was something less pernicious than "cheap" he needed to invent "frugal."

So, I say that we repudiate "refudiate" except in one very narrow sense: If we find a person using the language improperly, and then claiming the mantle of Shakespeare in becoming a faux-neologist, I say that we rise up and refudiate that person in the strongest terms possible.

Sarah Palin, I refudiate you!


The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico 2010: Politics and Water don't mix

A few liberal writers have been critical of President Obama because his speech about the BP oil disaster was weak. I find myself agreeing with even more liberal friends of mine who posted on Facebook (so I won't link to them) that they thought that criticism unfair.

The mainstream media writers seemed to think that unlike the president's speech on race in Philadelphia, the speech about the oil spill didn't do anything to fix the problem. 

That's just dumb. Racial issues are issues of perception and attitude, and a great speech can help elevate everyone's perceptions and attitudes. The oil spill disaster is one of engineering and physics. No speech is going to fix that.

So, while I agree with my really liberal friends, I also find myself agreeing with conservative friends like Greg Walcher, who writes about how many of the solutions that really could help in the Gulf of Mexico are all illegal

And my perspective on the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico? Well, because of my book I see everything through water-colored glasses right now. I'm working on the chapter about what desalination will look like in the future, and so I've been looking at the volume of water in the oceans.

Bottom line: there's a lot.

The Gulf of Mexico is only the ninth biggest body of water in the world. The Pacific Ocean holds 283 times the volume of water in the Gulf, and still, the Gulf of Mexico is big. It's so big that even using the worst estimates for how much oil is gushing out every day, and even assuming they won't get it fixed until mid-August, the total amount of oil will add up to somewhere between a quarter and a half of one part per billion of the volume of water in the Gulf.

Now, I don't want to minimize the spill. The oil is a huge problem for all kinds of reasons, but it's mostly a problem on the surface (where most of the oil rises) and along the shores. In terms of contaminating the volume of water in the Gulf, it will add up to an amount that is way lower than the allowable amount of arsenic in drinking water. A drop in a bucket is HUGE compared to the amount of oil in the Gulf.

And as for the future of desalination of water... You'll just have to wait for the book!

--

Icon By the way, totally changing topics here, but I've been doing a bunch of the research for the book using a new search engine, DuckDuckGo. Google is googly in lots of googleliciuos ways, but I've really enjoyed the clean results pages and summary results that come up on search results pages while trying to learn about the Future of Water. 

(I am not getting paid for the link, but I do want to spread the news, which is why I used a link that the DuckDuckGo guy set up.)


Elena Kagan is gay. Or she isn't. Big media is, however, dead for sure.

Members of the Supreme Court are the pinnacle celebrities of the legal geek world. As Kobe Bryant is to sports geeks, Steve Jobs or (but not "and") Bill Gates are to computer geeks, as Justin Bieber is to millions (so I read, anyway), the nine members of the high court are big celebrities.

So it makes sense that lots of people are interested in them.

I remember when John Roberts was nominated to the court, I read a bunch of the stories about him. They all had an "info box" or a "sidebar" that listed the highlights of his work history, his education, and his family, which included information about his wife and his two adopted kids.

I did the same reading about Elena Kagan. The stories were similar, both had lots of details showing how brilliant they are, bla bla bla. The one difference is that there was no "Family" section of the info box for Kagan. New York Times. Washington Post. ABC. Nothing.

It's as if everyone in the big media is all saying at the same time, "Move along. Move along. Nothing to see here. Move along."

To learn more, I turned away from the big media to a gay man, a Brit, and a thoughtful commentator, Andrew Sullivan. He has a number of posts on the topic, one of the most interesting, I thought, showed that a relatively new technological tool from (who else?) Google makes it clear that lots of people are interested, and are making their interest known by searching.

Here's my screen grab from this morning:

Google-kagan-gay
Clearly I'm not the only one who wants to know.

If Big Media had done it's job of just reporting, rather than trying to keep information out of stories and hope that we don't notice, I'm sure those Google suggested searches would look much different.

Look, it's not that I hope she is gay or isn't gay. The reality is that I don't care that much, except that I care about the people on the high court; I want to know what sort of people they are. I can find out all kinds of details about what kind of music she likes (opera), what her nickname was when she was a clerk (shorty), how she dressed for her high school yearbook photo (in judicial robes with a gavel), etc., but I'm not allowed to know if she's gay or straight?

This post isn't about her, it's about Big Media, what my old professor Jay Rosen calls the "Church of the Savvy."

Indeed just this morning he pointed me to the best long story I've read in a while by the always excellent James Fallows. It's about the future of news as being shaped by Google

The quote that fits this best is here:

“Usually, you see essentially the same approach taken by a thousand publications at the same time. Once something has been observed, nearly everyone says approximately the same thing.”

That's from a guy who's been watching Google News since the start, and he is absolutely right. I used to be part of that church. I did well, but I always bristled about the idea of knowing something and not being able to get it into the paper, and so I had some mighty fights with editors, and eventually left journalism and started my own business where I could put everything I knew out there.

(By the way, continuing my ongoing series on how rotten Gibbs is as press secretary, he has completely flubbed the White House response. He screwed this up, as he has with so many other issues, because he sees himself as one of the new high priests of the Church of the Savvy, and can't quite figure out how to recognize that the world is changing. His boss does, but in this case I think both President Obama and Kagan herself have erred in trying to keep it all in the closet, so that does put Gibbs in a tricky spot, but one that he could have worked out of more gracefully than he did here.)

The story will only grow and grow, not because it's fueled by haters on the right -- which is whom Gibbs blames -- or anyone else with an agenda. It will be fueled by people bristling at information being kept from them. Those Google suggested words are generated by a computer analyzing millions of searches. There's no conspiracy, vast or otherwise, driving what people all over the world type in their search engine windows.

Luckily for me and for all readers the walls are tumbling down, and it is possible to find other sources of news that are not in the Church of the Savvy.


Obama, health care, parents, and Field of Dreams

I'm a big fan of politics, and of movies, and I often think about politics in terms of what makes for a good plot.

The health care bill makes for a great plot. (Lots and lots of others will argue about if it's good policy, I won't do that here.)

First you have the whole political back story, the failure of Hillarycare. Now HRC is nowhere to be seen near HCR. Even a trip that she planned for the President had to be scrubbed so that he could push health care reform to home base.

But that's a minor backstory compared to the personal one: I really get the feeling that this fight was deeply personal for the president.

President Obama speaks about his health care victory. Image from Reuters

Consider these words from his book:

My thoughts turned to my mother and her final days, after cancer had spread through her body and it was clear that there was no coming back. She had admitted to me during the course of her illness that she was not ready to die; the suddenness of it all had taken her by surprise, as if the physical world she loved so much had turned on her, betrayed her. And although she fought valiantly, endured the pain and chemotherapy with grace and good humor to the very end, more than once I saw fear flash across her eyes. More than fear of pain or fear of the unknown, it was the sheer loneliness of death that frightened her, I think.

Clearly this was emotionally charged stuff, and while it's possible to get angry at cancer, cancer itself doesn't make a very good bad guy. Insurance companies make excellent bad guys. Here's what he said during the campaign in Dayton, Ohio, October 9, 2008:

This issue is personal for me. My mother died of ovarian cancer at the age of 53, and I'll never forget how she spent the final months of her life lying in a hospital bed, fighting with her insurance company because they claimed that her cancer was a pre-existing condition and didn't want to pay for treatment. If I am president, I will make sure those insurance companies can never do that again.

Think about that as you look at that picture above. To whom is his gaze rising?

He hasn't mentioned his mother in the speeches from recent days that I've seen, but I can see her looking at him in everything that he is doing, using the tools that movies have to pull off such things. And him looking back.

Consider this passage taken from his remarks the day before the final vote: "Every once in a while a moment comes where you have a chance to vindicate all those best hopes that you had about yourself." Sure, we all have good hopes for ourselves, but nobody has higher hopes for us than our mothers. I think President Obama swore to fight back against those who dashed the hopes of his mother and made her suffer with such indignity. And he did.

Look, I'm not saying this was a giant Oedipal play, or that President Obama has an unhealthy grudge. Remember, the best movies become great when the hero does something that saves the world AND rescues the girl or saves his family at the same time.

There are dozens of examples, but Field of Dreams comes to mind for me. Remember watching that for the first time? You had no idea that Ray Kinsella was saving his relationship with his dad until it suddenly became clear that of course he was saving his relationship with his dad, and saving the reputation of Shoeless Joe and, by the way, Following Your Dreams, Farming and America's Love Affair With Baseball to boot. 

Remember? Remember near the end when Shoeless Joe tells Ray, "If you build it, he..." nodding toward the catcher "...will come." Ray stands up, and says, "Oh, my God" and tells his wife that it is his father. You can see the lump rising in his throat. (I felt it rising in my own throat, I still do just writing about it.)

Ray then says a line that baseball fans can all appreciate for its profundity, even though he is so choked up he can barely whisper it: "Say it ain't so, Joe."

Joe responds, "I'm afraid it is, kid." Ray then quotes one of the lines from the corn that moved him to build the field, "Ease his pain" and begins to understand that it wasn't Joe's pain, but his father's pain. Joe then says, sounding a lot like The Voice in the final command from the field, "Go the distance."

Then the clip below picks up, but the part that's most related to President Obama is above. 

He went the distance, and eased her pain.

What a movie!


The Future of the Future

A few months ago I wrote about some of what I was up to. It helps in a few ways to do that, I think, so here's the latest.

The two biggest bits of news are that I am writing a book, and I've been accepted to the Founder Institute.

First the book...

The American Water Works Association has been wanting to do a book for while that looks forward to all the changes coming over the next few decades in the world of water. So, the people there created a team of Steve Maxwell and me. Steve knows the water business inside and out, and AWWA is not just an association of water providers, it really is the authoritative resource on safe water. I bring to the team my skills at making complicated topics accessible.

One thing I know for sure already: The way we think about water will be changing -- radically -- over the next 30-50 years. You probably don't really think about water much right now. Most people don't. The ways that we've handled water over the last 50 years, however, just won't work over the next 50, and that's why so many radical changes are coming.

I'll work hard to make sure this will not be a depressing book, but it should be eye-opening.

So watch this space for an announcement about when you'll be able to pick up your own copy of The Future of Water. If all goes well, it should hit bookshelves this fall.

Next, the Founder Institute...

The institute is sort of like the awesome TechStars, or a few others, but instead of asking participants to to quit whatever they are doing and subsist on pizza and Red Bull for six months, it allows people to keep their day jobs while a new company gets rolling.

They are launching a Denver version, and I've been accepted as a founder. (I'm guessing I'll be older than the average student, and have founded two companies already, but I like the concept of this school so I will be participating gladly. I look at it a bit like continuing education, with a bunch of great potential side benefits depending on the kind of company I decide to start.)

I'm sure I'll have much more to report about that in the months to come.

In addition to those two big things, I'm also fiddling around with some other concepts:

  • I'm working with an excellent Denver web design shop on an idea that has the potential to substantially improve the employer-employee relationship around the world. Can't say more now, but it could be revolutionary, and a great thing for workers and manager everywhere. Stay tuned.
  • I created an easy to use Applicant Tracking System. A lot of businesses just get flooded with resumes when they post a job, and they don't have a way to handle all of the applications. Many of them just use a spreadsheet. So, I invented a quick and easy way to keep track of all the applications. I've never created a page and tried to have it ad supported, so this is my small experiment with that.
  • I may have a small but explosively cool new application emerging in time for Earth Day. That one will be fun.

There are a few other projects in the works. By my next report three months from now, I'll tell you all about them!


Those who don't watch West Wing are doomed to repeat it?

Maybe this will become an ongoing series of life just being better on the show the West Wing as opposed to the real world of the West Wing. Here's my first entry on pardoning turkeys.

This one is more subtle, but watch at about 4 minutes into this video. With the polite tone that is befitting the setting, Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen delivered a stunning rebuke of a question posed by a senator.



Here's the better version. The sound quality is rotten, but it's the only one I could find on YouTube:




"The problem is that's what they were saying about me 50 years ago. It would disrupt the unit. You know what? It did disrupt the unit. The unit got over it. The unit changed."

If only Fitzwallace could have been there to smack down the senators.


Won't I get a reputation for being soft on turkeys?

I think President Obama gave some nice remarks, and delivered his laugh lines well, and was cute with his daughters. For all the blather, it's clear that the president is a truly decent guy.

And his remarks about how Thanksgiving started during the depths of the Civil War really resonate in this year, with so many people struggling and so many troops overseas. He just put it all in perspective.

But there's really no better turkey-pardoning bit of drama than this one:


Douthat's Ignoble Nobel Blunder

I try not to comment about the New York Times, but for some reason I tripped across this story from Ross Douthat with the unfortunate headline: Heckuva Job, Barack. The first thing any conservative needs to know is that comparing President Obama to the guy who so badly mishandled hurricane recovery in New Orleans is only going to set your argument back.

Maybe some liberal copy editor slipped that headline past him.

Douthat based a his whole column on the notion that President Obama should have somehow managed to reject the Nobel.

Now I understand that the president is very powerful, but if he could swing largely symbolic European things his way he would have convinced the IOC to bring the Olympics to Chicago.

The Nobel is even less substantial, and I'm sure there's no way that he could have talked his way out of it.

One of my favorite books is from Richard Feynman, the physicist who's work spanned from Einstein to the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion. 

IN that book, he wrote that he wished he could have gotten out of accepting the Nobel, but learned there was no way to do it.

(He wrote about that here, but the preview is missing the page that talks specifically about how he wanted to reject the prize. He discussed the idea of that with a reporter, and that reporter explained to him (in a phone call just after he learned he got the prize at 3:30 a.m.) that it would be a bigger deal to reject it than to get it. So he accepted the prize and spent much of the rest of his life making elaborate plans so that nobody would ever know that a Nobel-winner was going to be making a speech about physics.)

The Nobel prize has made it harder for the president to get his agenda done in the US, and anyone who knows 10 cents worth of domestic politics would have predicted that. The Nobel committee may be great at picking out really good books that I won't be reading, but they only have about a nickel's worth of sense about politics in the US.


Drudge Goes Down an Ugly Path

OK, I've gone on and on about Drudge, but it needs to be said: The guy has turned almost pathologically against President Obama.

Drudge-chicago

Nobody anywhere was connecting that Chicago crime -- which by big-city standards was really only notable because of the nearby cameras, to the effort to bring the Olympics to Chicago.

Nobody but Drudge.

Now, Drudge has been out in front on stories before, and then quickly gets followed by lots of other media outlets. The guy had a nose for big stories.

But now he's just getting mean, connecting dots that just aren't there.

Maybe he knows, as some smart guys do, that getting the Olympics in Obama's adopted home town could be huge for the Democratic party. And if he does know that, maybe he wants to prevent that from happening.

I had a hunch that Drudge was losing it earlier in the summer. Check out this screen grab:

Drudge-michelle-miracle-grow

Somehow he's trying to make the case that you can't possibly grow lettuce in three months. That's the kind of thinking that comes from someone who used to be the night manager of a convenience store.

But I still read Drudge, and I still keep the DrudgeWidget on my blog. What Drudge needs to hear, however, is that he's in danger of becoming the worst thing of all in the web world: Boring.


Gibbs Needs to Grow Up

Robert Gibbs is the first male presidential spokesman who is younger than me, so naturally I resent the hell out of him. (For some reason the lack of years of George W. Bush's Dana Perino never bothered me, maybe because she's a Colorado native.)

I've finally figured out why Gibbs rubs me the wrong way: He doesn't know when to shut up. Watch this to see what I mean...

You see that? Secretary Sebelius made a funny, appropriate joke. Gibbs should have just shut up, but instead he drains the humor out of the joke by explaining it, and making the whole matter seem snide and patronizing.

Typical mistake by young punks like Gibbs. He's got "spokesman" in his title, but sometimes the best thing to do is just shut up. President Obama would be better served if Gibbs talked half as much.


When is it OK to Lie?

Never. It's never OK to tell a lie.

8666_1
But I do think I've found one situation where it would be awfully tempting.

Gawker has the inside scoop on how members of the White House Press Corps were all totally willing to give up on what they do -- reporting -- just to get a ticket to watch fireworks at the White House.

Here is what the email from the White House to about 30 of the White House press corps read:

"You are being invited to attend this event as a guest. Blogging, Twittering or otherwise reporting on this event is not permitted. If you feel that you cannot agree to abide by these ground rules, please don't claim a ticket."

Every single one of them agreed to this rule.

Now here's the thing: I have immense respect for President Obama, and for his desire to keep his family out of the media spotlight. If I was invited, I would certainly not report that Malia spilled mustard on her shirt, or whatever.

But I absolutely would report about the other reporters there, what the general talk was, etc. I would just spill it all as if I was anywhere else in my life. Everybody else is reporting on everything else, how is this somehow different?

Why not lie, take the ticket, then report away?

I'm reminded of two analogous situations. 

First, of course, is Sharon Stone, saying, "What are you going to do? Arrest me for smoking?"

Second is Mike Arrington, who runs TechCrunch, announcing that he will agree to all embargoes (when PR companies give you the news early but insist you don't run with it until an agreed-on time) but then he will break that agreement and run the news whenever he damn well feels like it.

Now I realize that by taking the ticket and the reporting on the fireworks party I would be urinating in the punch bowl, and then the press office might decide not to invite any media to the private affairs. Well, that's OK with me, too. If the Obamas want private family time, they can do it without 30 reporters hanging around. If they want to make the reporters feel special, they are just going to have to find some other way to do it.

The world is changing, and those 30 people just aren't as special as they used to be. The White House Press Office needs to figure that out.



Fourth of July Duds

OK, I know this is sacrilege, but I just don't get why fireworks are so popular.


When I see that the economy forced the cancellation of a bunch of shows, well, I have trouble getting upset about it.

It's not that I don't like fireworks, it's just that I can't see why everyone else does like them.

I mean, they are kind of cool from the perspective of fire and explosions and pretty colors, etc. And nobody has more love for our country than me of the history of the Declaration of Independence, the patriots at Fort McHenry, and all of the others before that and since.

But after that... meh.

I mean, even the most boring baseball game still has its unknowns, its surprise endings, its character development.

Fireworks have no narrative arc, no plot twists, nothing.

Last evening we went to the fireworks Rockies game, and got discounted tickets because they had an obstructed view of the fireworks. During the singing of the National Anthem, the crews cleverly shot off one firework that exploded just as we all sung "Bombs bursting in air."

That was perfect. I enjoyed the fireworks as a form of punctuation.

So when my son said he wanted to go home after we sang the song about the peanuts and cracker jacks, I said, "You bet, I think we've seen enough fireworks already this evening."

Be Nice To Reporters

I always try to be helpful to reporters. I used to be one, so there's that. There's also the whole dying-industry thing, which I did NOT bring up when they called.


But I felt a bit useless today with them on the phone. They called to get my reaction to Amendment 50 in Colorado, which passed last November.

I was a leader of the opposition, such as it was. Truth be told it was one other guy and me. We created a blog, and sort of assembled a rag-tag coalition of people that never met but came out against it. The "coalition" was the strangest of bedfellows, as the Boulder County Democrats came out against it, as did Focus on the Family. Nearly a million people voted no, but a bit more than a million voted yes.

So the election was last November, and tomorrow the changes kick into place. I think the reporters were hoping that I'd be organizing some kind of mass sit-in, maybe chaining myself to a slot machine or something.

Truth is I'd mostly forgotten about it. I'm not a big anti-gambling activist. I just thought Amendment 50 went too far, and that it would create little Las Vegas zones in those three mountain towns. I was also worried about the sociological problems associated with the Indian Casinos near Durango, where I lived and worked as a reporter, often detailing very sad stories from the reservations there, the Ute Mountain Utes and the Souther Utes.

But elections have consequences. The Nevada gambling corporations wanted to change the Colorado Constitution, so they spent $7 million to tailor it to their liking. They got what they wanted. I don't like it, but the election is over so now I'll just continue to avoid those towns.

And if any more reporters call, I'll try to come up with some better quotes.

Drudge, Hypochondria, and the President

I'm convinced that Drudge is a total hypochondriac. He's got about 20 stories about the swine flu up right now.


Not that there's anything wrong with that, but he is leaning a bit too far in the panic direction.

On the other side is TechCrunch, which has a story up, saying that "panic" is being spread over the web

I disagree. I think these types of flu are a bit scary, and with the federal government now working on it, it's a legitimate news story.

(I bet we find, eventually, that like the last big scare of the bird flu, that this is not just some random thing, that there is a big-picture story that caused this. It turns out the avian flu was caused by chicken farmers in China giving Tamiflu and other antivirals to their chickens. It didn't work, surprise surprise, but what did happen is that they helped create a flu bug that did not get better when you took Tamiflu. This is something I learned about from a doctor because it hurt me directly: I got the flu and couldn't take Tamiflu to get better.)

The thing that worries, me, however, is that Drudge has such animus toward Obama.

I don't know if there's anything to the story that Obama met and shook hands with a man in Mexico City who died the next day from the swine flu, but I do know that if it happened to President Bush that Drudge would have had that story front and center.

Gay Marriage, Marijuana, and the march of time...

Several quick odds and ends before my next post, which will be a big and very positive review of The Unlikely Disciple...

  • Two excellent posts in a row from the FiveThirtyEight guys, showing how gay marriage and marijuana are on an almost inevitable march toward legalization. Those guys nailed it during the election, and they are still finding their footing now with no election to talk about, but with those two posts I expect to learn a lot from them in the coming years.
  • In the marijuana post, it points out -- without comment -- that my generation (X) smoked less pot than either the boomers or the millennials. Doesn't really surprise me... even at NYU in the 80s, I saw very little pot smoking. Maybe I just ran with a nerdier crowd. I'm not advocating for or against legalization here, but I will say that I think smoking pot in general is somewhat narcissistic, which is why it makes so much sense that both the boomers and the millennials toke up. 
  • My post from April Fool's Day was, mostly, a joke. I am not crowdsourceing my life. I have to say, however, the idea was posted as a joke but the more I thought about it the more it grew on me. I guess I want it both ways: I don't want to do it right now, but I do want to be thought of as the first person to ever crowdsource his own life. Hmmmmm.
  • Baseball is back. Ahhhhhhhhh.

Sam Cassidy for House District 3 in Colorado

I grew up just about a mile or so from where I live now, and I actually remember our state representative coming to our door, and chatting with him for a while. He was very nice, very engaging, a bit nerdy.


His name was Wayne Knox, and he was the representative there forever, and did a great job.

After he retired Jennifer Veiga was elected. I didn't live in the district while she was there, but she's done well for herself, moving up into the Senate where she is highly regarded. When she was in the House, I was a reporter, and we talked several times about where I grew up. House members always know their neighborhoods very well.

Now we have another representative who is leaving, but doesn't want to wait until her term is up. My hunch is she wants to run for something bigger, and wants to be able to raise money now. Whatever. I'm horribly parochial about these matters, and I'm looking forward to our next representative in the Colorado House.

So, I just about choked on my breakfast cereal when I read one of the names floated to fill in the position: Sam Cassidy. The reporter gave some identification to a few of the other candidates, but just left his name alone in the story.

(Are there no good reporters left? The writer couldn't have somehow spent a few seconds to figure out that the candidate was none other than a former Lt. Governor of Colorado???)

I covered Sam when he lived in Pagosa Springs, down in Southwestern Colorado. We've stayed in touch through the years, and I knew he was a neighbor of mine, having pretty much created the Ethics in Business program at DU, bringing it up to be one of the best in the nation.

But I had no idea he would think about running. Anyway, he is. I hope some members of the vacancy committee read this, and contact me to ask me about him. Be prepared, though, for me to go on and on. 

Sam would instantly turn HD3 into a district that has real influence in Colorado. If you are on that committee, vote for someone who can make the biggest splash in the shortest amount of time.

Nobody Messes with Joe?

President Obama made it clear that he has great trust that the recovery money will be spent wisely, and he believes that because he has his vice president watching over the money. "Nobody messes with Joe," he says.

And then Joe himself goes on the tee vee the next morning and makes it totally clear that he has an iron grip on the details of what's going on.


"Do you know the website number?" he asks.

OK, so basically nobody messes with Joe, unless they happen to know the website number when he doesn't.

Suuuuuuuper. Just great. Awesome. I feel so safe now.

McCain in Durango. Uh-Oh.

Many people have their equivalent of Paris in the '20s. I actually have two: New York in the '80s and Durango in the '90s.


Durango was my first real journalism job. The pay was rotten, but I made a bunch of great, lifelong friends and did some outstanding journalism for a paper with a circulation under 10,000.

I was there during the '92 campaign, Clinton-Gore vs. Bush-Quayle. Dan Quayle himself made an appearance in Durango at the airport, and then got in a motorcade and drove down to Farmington, N.M. Both states were in play, much like this year.

Through a combination of dogged pursuit and dumb luck, I was able to get an exclusive interview with the sitting vice-president of the United States while he drove from Durango to Farmington. It was a lot of fun, and he was a gracious host in the back of his limo for more than half an hour.

But it was clear in his eyes and in his tone that he knew that if he was spending time in towns like Durango and Farmington, the effort to stay in office must be in trouble. It was.

So here we are in 2008 and McCain himself made a campaign stop in Durango before heading to New Mexico.

Uh-oh.

Well, I hope the people in Durango enjoyed it. People in Durango seem to enjoy just about everything, so I bet they did.

Obamacon watch does not include President Bush

I've been writing about and telling friends about the Obamacons for months, those conservatives who support Senator Obama.

I haven't written about it lately because, well, it's not even interesting any more there are so many. It was shameful that Christopher Buckley got fired from the magazine his dad started.

But when I saw this story, "Bush Not an Obamacon!" I had to pause.


Somehow "Obamacon" has become so popular of a word that it's losing it's original meaning. The "con" part is for "conservative."

I'm not one of those who takes part in the whole Bush Hatred, but I take exception to the notion that President Bush is somehow conservative. I'm not sure what word history will assign to his particular style of governing, but it for sure won't be "conservative."

Drudge let's me down a second time

The first time Drudge let me down, I figured he just had a bad source. He announced to the world that Evan Bayh would be Obama's Veep.


This time, though, he's really shooting himself in the foot.

Comeback Through headlines and pictures, he's trying to create the illusion that McCain is making a big comeback. He's not

(And remember, I like Drudge. With a friend, I invented the Drudge Widget!)

There's also some noise that he may or may not come out with a big new plan to help the economy.

The problem is that McCain is in a trap that Obama has laid down. He did this with the Clintons, which was masterful. Now he's done it with McCain without even breaking a sweat.

The trap? He's made the case that McCain is "erratic." So, now if McCain sticks to his same (losing) strategy he'll lose, and if he tries to make a big change, well, he'll just be more erratic. McCain really may never know what hit him.

I'm certainly glad to see, by the way, that McCain has started in small ways to tamp down some of the anger out there. I've been banned from talking on this blog about anything that could be perceived as a threat by anyone against any potential new president. I'm not allowed to talk about it, but let's just say that I'm really really glad that McCain is saying that Obama is a good, decent, family man and a citizen.

Hey, speaking of family man, I think all those people that are so afraid of Obama are mostly older, and they have a lot of fear about the economy, and just change in general. Change is scary! All of those who are scared should look to none other than the heartthrob of Wasilla, Levi Johnston. There's a guy who should be scared. He's a high school drop-out with a pregnant girlfriend, and a mother-in-law-to-be who is a lifelong NRA member and has a lot of guns and may, in fact, be crazy. (She certainly is delusional.)

But is he afraid? Doesn't sound like it to me:

"We're up for it. I'm excited to have my first kid. It's going to be a lot of hard work but we can handle it."...


What about Johnston's politics?

The young man said he wasn't an expert on politics by any stretch. Asked about Barack Obama, he replied: "I don't know anything about him. He seems like a good guy. I like him."


Sure, he says he will be voting for the Republicans. I would be to, if I was him; having the Palins several thousand miles away probably sounds like a good idea!


Fat Lady is warming up

I've been telling conservative friends of mine since about June that they need to mentally prepare themselves for the fact that we are going to have a Democrat as president in January.

Most of them have been in some form of denial about this, and a few still are.

I knew back during the crazy days of the summer that it was over for one reason: Anyone who can beat the Clinton's is unstoppable. The way that he won that race will be studied for decades. The way that Obama will beat McCain is unremarkable, and will go down in history as a repeating of what's happened several times in the past: throwing out a war-time president's party.

A true conservative might have had a chance. Someone who didn't start off a debate, as McCain did last night, by promising a new program so immense and liberal that even solidly conservative journalists called it "insane."

So, McCain is not a conservative, and is really just not that good of a guy. This bit of reporting for me seems to ring awfully true. This is part of a story about McCain quoting one of McCain's fellow POWs, and recounts a story from after the war:

On the grounds between the two brick colleges, the chitchat between the scion of four-star admirals and the son of a prizefighter turns to their academic travels; both colleges sponsor a trip abroad for young officers to network with military and political leaders in a distant corner of the globe.

"I'm going to the Middle East," Dramesi says. "Turkey, Kuwait, Lebanon, Iran."

"Why are you going to the Middle East?" McCain asks, dismissively.

"It's a place we're probably going to have some problems," Dramesi says.

"Why? Where are you going to, John?"

"Oh, I'm going to Rio."

"What the hell are you going to Rio for?"

McCain, a married father of three, shrugs.

"I got a better chance of getting laid."

Dramesi, who went on to serve as chief war planner for U.S. Air Forces in Europe and commander of a wing of the Strategic Air Command, was not surprised. "McCain says his life changed while he was in Vietnam, and he is now a different man," Dramesi says today. "But he's still the undisciplined, spoiled brat that he was when he went in."

For me, the final nail in the coffin about McCain was this exchange of letters between Obama and McCain from before either of them announced for president.

I won't even try to quote from them, you have to read the three of them to get the idea. I've gotten some similarly bizarre, mean and counter-productive letters in my life, and I wish I'd had the grace that Obama had in responding.

So, now in my mind the presidential race is boring. It's over. The best analysis of polls is actually now wondering if it's possible for Obama to get any higher in the polls. So, now there are two questions, one big and one smaller but still important. The first big question is starting to get talked about more loudly, for instance here: What will conservatism do now.

This is something Sullivan has been exploring a lot out loud, and the rest of the pundits on the right will be catching up soon enough.

The second question for me is less well known. Will Colorado Amendment 50 die the horrible death it deserves?

I don't have answers for either, but I'll enjoy agitating against Amendment 50 for the next couple of weeks, and for true conservatism in the months and years to come. Can't wait!


Is the media fair to Sarah Palin?

Watching this clip, that question comes to mind:


I mean, when you ask one person if they disagree with any SCOTUS opinions and that person tells you about the law that he wrote that got overturned, well, it's just not fair to expect the same level of response from someone who's only been a governor.

On the other hand, even I, who am not an elected official -- even if I do play like one on TV -- can think of a few opinions that I disagree with. I've even blogged about one in which I thought the court should have taken a stronger stand for freedom of speech. Sitting there with the pressure on, would I have remembered the name of the case? (Probably not, but I would have remembered the "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" sign that sparked the case.) 

But would I have remembered any case? Even one? I'd like to think that I would have, and I sure like to think that in my preparations for interviews I would have gone over a couple just so that I could speak about it in ways that don't inspire people to make a video comparing me to the pride of South Carolina.

But is it a fair question? Yes, it is. This is not gotcha journalism, this is journalism. At this point anyone saying that Palin isn't getting a fair shake is just grasping at straws.

Behind the scenes video from Treasury of how they came up with $700 billion


You think I'm kidding, right?

In fact, some of the most basic details, including the $700 billion figure Treasury would use to buy up bad debt, are fuzzy.


"It's not based on any particular data point," a Treasury spokeswoman told Forbes.com Tuesday. "We just wanted to choose a really large number." - Forbes.com


I think this is a slightly different take on the old saying. In this case, the first time was comedy, the second is tragedy.

On The Road

246652498_5a0b047d6a Like any political junky, I've been watching the polls. My new favorite poll watching site is put together by a couple of baseball stat freaks who have turned into political stat freaks. (They are liberal, and want Obama to be elected but they treat politics like baseball in that they have favorite teams, but they really just love the game and the stats.)


They do lots of great analysis of all the polls, having recently helped debunk the whole myth of the Bradley Effect. I love a blog that's not afraid to use terms like "regression analysis."

One of the writers has started doing something that big newspapers used to do back when they had decent size reporting staffs and travel budgets. He's hit the road.

In true blogger style, he's doing it while quoting Jack Kerouac plenty. I read yesterday that he was going to be in Denver, so after doing some politicking of my own last night (more on that later) I went over to the bar where Kerouac would go to celebrate stealing cars with Neal Cassady, My Brother's Bar. 

(You know, I never thought about this, but the bar is called My Brother's Bar and it was Cassady's brother who was a bartender there. Did the bar have the same name then? I better head back there and ask!)

So I figured that if the 538 guy is in Denver, and he's a Kerouac fan, he's gotta be there, right? Well, if he was, I missed him. I did run into an old friend I hadn't seen in years, though, so that made it a great night. 


An unfunny post about our unfunny candidates.

As a fan of humor and politics, I had high hopes for a McCain-Obama matchup. Both seem naturally funny, even if McCain had a bit of a hard edge to his humor, like the time he told a high school student who asked about McCain's age: "Thanks for the question, you little jerk. You’re drafted."

But it hasn't really worked out to be a funny race, as evidenced by these totally humor-free clips:



My old boss and the smartest guy I've ever known personally, Kurt Andersen, had much the same complaint.
Then two things happened that gave me some hope. 

First was Obama responding to the notion that his fifth-grade daughter might find out some about boys in her new class:"What!" Obama exclaimed in mock horror, as the audience laughed. "Hold on a sec. Maybe that home-schooling is all right. One reason I have to win here is so that I've got Secret Service around my girls at all times. They carry guns."

Then McCain gave us the biggest possible injection of humor, Sarah Palin. She may be asking people to pray for pipelines, but I was praying for humor, and now we have it. Thanks, God!

The only one who hasn't gotten the memo, apparently, is Joe Biden, who seems to want to be humorless to the end, even when he's trying to be funny. "There's a gigantic difference" between him and Palin, he says. "She's good looking."

SFX: Crickets.

Wait, isn't that the same thing he said about Obama back when he was running against him? That he was "good looking"? Please, someone get Biden a joke writer!

Biden our time

17269942 Drudge did me wrong. So many times I've learned things first from Drudge, and I know why he went with the story he went with, but anyway it turned out to be wrong, and that's OK with me. That guy's hair really is weird, and I'd never be able to get the IM handle BayhCurious out of my head.


Biden is a slightly better pick than Bayh, but he's so tone-deaf on racial issues. Remember, Biden came closer than any of the other candidates to calling him "boy." He didn't, but it felt awfully close to me.


And then there was this:


All of which makes me wonder if that's part of why Obama picked him. Obama wanted someone who is still essentially in the old patrician model of race relations to help assuage voters who are still stuck in the old ways of thinking about race. He brought the guy along that -- of the real contenders -- probably needs the most work on entering a post-racial world. Obama wants to use him first to get elected, and then to help bring him, and so many of those in his generation, into the new world.


I'm reading Dreams from my Father now. Obama's personal story really is remarkable, and does give me hope that we are moving into a really post-racial society, but the pick of Biden essentially to me means that election of Obama would be a big -- but not huge -- step forward.


Wall St. Journal Imitates the Onion

Over on the right of this page there is a link to my contributions to James Taranto's "Best of the Web Today" column from the Wall St. Journal.


I haven't made as many lately, I've just been busy, but one of his best ongoing jokes is "Life Imitates The Onion." It's when the Onion is funniest, when actual headlines prove prescient, such as this pairing:

  • "Estate Sale Proves Everything Man Worked For in Life Worth $5,235.78"--headline, Onion, May 17, 2006
  • "Man Auctions Life, but Disappointed at Bid Price"--headline, Associated Press, June 30, 2008

    Normally I might clip this article about Barack Obama being too skinny to be president and send it to Taranto urging that he put it in his column paired with the video below, but because the article was actually in the Wall St. Journal, I'm guessing that just isn't going to happen.



    As Obese Population Rises, More Candidates Courting The Fat Vote 


  • Blond Ambition

    Way back when the Clintons were still technically in the race, they tried to turn Hillary's lack of big crowds into some kind of positive. She openly mocked Obama for giving great speeches and having lots of people show up to hear them.





    Even those that like McCain describe ads like this as "Childish."


    The McCain campaign needs to somehow convince independent voters only vaguely paying attention that they should vote for a guy. How are they going to do that with an ad that spends about 20 seconds of a 30-second spot showing the other guy in flattering pictures with crowds chanting his name? To those just kinda-sorta paying attention, it's going to look a lot like an Obama ad.

    Left Turn

    Maybe Obama should just edit that ad a little and use it. It would be better than the ads he is running.

    The question in this post hit me like a brick: "Close your eyes, jog your memory, and try to recall a single Obama ad from the campaign thus far. Can you do it? I can’t."

    Now, before you say something about that "Yes we can" video or the "1984" spot, remember that those were not from the campaign.

    Agree with Obama or not, any professional politician will tell you that Obama has run an amazing campaign, executing flawlessly on difficult operational issues like the Iowa caucus system, fundraising or the delegate rules. The advertising, however has, been a flop. All that money he's collecting is largely going to put boring, ineffective ads on the tee-vee. 

    Obama is a big-government guy. I have to hope that he demands more in efficacy from government programs than he does from his advertising!

    George W. Bush, I think, probably agrees with most people on this...

    StayTheCourse.159104948_std

    The polls are clear that President Bush has very low approval ratings, down around 30 percent or something. 

    To me what's important to remember there is that there are still 30 percent who support him. That is, if you go into a restaurant, just look around; if there are 100 people in the restaurant, 30 of them would tell you that they support George W. Bush.

    However, if you asked those 30 people if they think he should be able to have a third term, I think then the numbers go way down.

    In fact, if George W. Bush was one of those people, he himself would say that he's really ready for some time off. He'd probably like to go back to Texas, where he can wipe his nose with his hand and say, "Yo, Harper, you ever meet..." without the "Harper" being the leader of a country, and without video of that gesture making it on the news around the world.

    Can't say as I blame him.


    That's my name, don't wear it out

    Bhojeffswensengetty

    One of my favorite blogs is the “blog” of “unnecessary” quotation marks. They have lots of fun with a seemingly endless stream of signs with quote marks put in by people who -- in general -- think that quotes denote emphasis rather than a quotation.

    The standard meme of the blog is that when a city government, for instance, puts up a sign that asks to keep the "dogs" off the grass, they are putting it in quotes because the government does not mean dogs at all.

    The blog stays generally apolitical, so it's my duty to post the picture above from West Virginia. Clearly most people looking at that picture will find only clear racism accompanied -- as it so often is -- by a lack of understanding of English.

    Maybe there's another explanation. Maybe he doesn't think Barack really does have the same name as the ex-despot, and he's trying to get Hillary's attention and tell her, "Hey, Hillary, do NOT become a genocidal tyrant!"

    Ummmm. Maybe not.

    How is it that the 20th century skipped over West Virginia?


    Death of a President

    There's been a lot of lip flapping lately that Obama should pick Hillary to be his VP.

    This is an exceptionally bad idea. Why? The Clintons absolutely positively would kill him.

    I think if they were offered (they being Bill and Hill) the VP slot they would at first say no, and then they would go home and mull over the phrase "one heartbeat away" and then in the morning they would accept.

    It's like something out of a novel!

    The Clintons are laying the groundwork right now to get people thinking about guns and Obama.

    Remember, the image you see here comes not from Republicans, or from the NRA, but from the Clintons.

    Obamagun2

    Do not sign his death warrant, do not let HRC be the VP.

    (Just to be clear, this post is written with no ironic detachment.)


    Are sour grapes bitter?

    Hillary is now trying to turn her lack of popularity into a plus:

    "This is such an important election," Clinton said, against a backdrop of US flags and fire trucks, as a crowd of about 400 people basked in spring sunshine.

    "I didn't want to just show up and give one of these woop-de-doo speeches, just kind of get everybody whipped up ... I want everybody thinking about what we have to do."

    She spoke after Obama packed 35,000 people into downtown Philadelphia on Friday night, firing off his trademark soaring rhetoric in a bid for a come-from-behind victory which would be a hammer blow for her campaign.

    So, essentially what she's saying is that she's a better candidate exactly because so few people show up for her events and she can't speak in a way that inspires.

    Look, I don't know much about much, but there's just no way that someone who wants a lot of people to vote one way can be happy about having a crowd that's 87 times larger show up for the other side.


    Little Goebbels?

    So, someone from Team Clinton said Obama's use of a picture of a middle class family was just as outrageous as the image of Nazis in Skokie, Ill.

    Ummm. Middle class families - Nazis. Nice work. A key advisor on the all-important health care issue becomes as irrelevant as some lurker in the message boards of a site. He becomes the essence of Godwin's Law.

    It brought to mind for me Colorado's own Ward Churchill, who managed to get himself fired from a tenured job because he called the 9/11 victims "Little Eichmanns."

    Here comes a theory you won't read about anywhere else...

    I think the reason that Ward Churchill created such a fuss, and got fired, is that he called those victims "Little Eichmanns" and not just Nazis. If he had done that, he would have fallen into Godwin's Law and been ignored.

    What's the difference? Specificity.

    In the excellent book Made to Stick, the authors point out that specificity is important to making ideas that "stick."

    Calling someone a Nazi, as Godwin's Law illustrates, has become so generic as to become nearly meaningless. "Little Eichmanns" was sticky.


    Of Course McCain is telling the truth

    Am I the only one to notice this? I think McCain is lying about a few things. Hell, it's hard to believe much from any of these candidates. But I think McCain has a small verbal tic to let us know when he's doing it. He prefaces the lie with "Of course."

    "I have never, ever supported a specific timetable" for withdrawing troops, Romney said. McCain's accusation on the eve of Tuesday's primary, he said, "sort of falls into the dirty tricks that I think Ronald Reagan would have found reprehensible." ... McCain stuck to his guns, saying, "of course he said he wanted a timetable" for a withdrawal.

    Here's another:

    But, look, I voted -- I voted on the tax cuts because I knew that unless we had spending control, we were going to face a disaster. We let spending get completely out of control. Of course, those tax cuts have to remain permanent.

    Here's one that the Freudians out there will love, especially because he said this after his mother besmirched all those in his party:

    I want to thank my wife, Cindy, the best campaigner in the family, and my daughters Meghan and Sidney, who are with us tonight, as well as my son, Doug, and our children who could not be here, and of course, my dear mother, Roberta McCain.

    I suppose this is helpful. If you like all the stuff McCain says that is NOT prefaced by "of course" then you might be comfortable voting for him.


    Lobbyists acting within the law?!?!? Stop the presses!

    USA Today makes a big splash about how how lobbyists are spending money on legislators.

    Despite a strict new ban on gifts to lawmakers, lobbyists routinely use these prime locations to legally wine and dine members of Congress while helping them to raise money, campaign records show. The lawmakers get a venue that is often free or low-cost, a short jaunt from the Capitol. The lobbyists get precious uninterrupted moments with lawmakers — the sort of money-fueled proximity the new lobbying law was designed to curtail. The public seldom learns what happens there because the law doesn't always require fundraising details to be reported.

    I had to put the emphasis on the word legally. The paper had to throw that in there because what they are doing is legal. The emphasis of the story is that something pernicious is going on. It's an old journalism trick, when you want to make something look bad, you throw in a lot of "Real Estate records show that..."

    I know it is fashionable to bash the lobbyists, especially in an election year, but Congress does make laws that have an impact on businesses, and so it's OK with me if all the hardware stores in the country pitch in a few bucks to hire someone to represent their views in Washington so that their business doesn't get creamed.

    Of course, the people in congress know that the laws they pass have a real impact. After all, they wrote the "lobby reform" that allows the money to be spent in the way it now is, in spite of what they may have said about it during some press conference. I don't think they are quite as shocked as USA Today wants all of us to be that money is still being spent on lobbying.