This is why I love the President

I’ve avoided writing about politics here because I get far too worked up about it. As anyone who lives near me knows, I scream & curse at the TV any time I see a republican or tea partier railing against the president.

Although I’m an agnostic and believe we should maintain even-handed neutrality in the middle east, I’m still culturally Jewish. Although the Republicans have always claimed to be pro-Jewish, leave it to Obama to be the first president to actually have a seder in the White House:

When Passover begins at sunset on Monday evening, Mr. Obama and about 20 others will gather for a ritual that neither the rabbinic sages nor the founding fathers would recognize.

In the Old Family Dining Room, under sparkling chandeliers and portraits of former first ladies, the mostly Jewish and African-American guests will recite prayers and retell the biblical story of slavery and liberation, ending with the traditional declaration “Next year in Jerusalem.” (Never mind the current chill in the administration’s relationship with Israel.)

If last year is any guide, Malia and Sasha Obama will take on the duties of Jewish children, asking four questions about the night’s purpose — along with a few of their own — and scrambling to find matzo hidden in the gleaming antique furniture.

That event was the first presidential Seder, and also probably “the first time in history that gefilte fish had been placed on White House dishware,” said Eric Lesser, the former baggage handler, who organizes each year’s ritual.

As in many Jewish households, the Obama Seder seems to take on new meaning each year, depending on what is happening in the world and in participants’ lives (for this group, the former is often the same as the latter).

True openness in government

Aaron Swartz notes that the stimulus bill requires that each government agency report the money they give out with Atom or RSS.

For each of the near term reporting requirements (major communications, formula block grant allocations, weekly reports) agencies are required to provide a feed (preferred: Atom 1.0, acceptable: RSS) of the information so that content can be delivered via subscription.

Furthermore, the website is based on Drupal.

New openness at

The new web site embodies the openness and accessibility of Obama’s administration. There’s now an official white house blog, displayed prominently on the home page. The blog doesn’t allow comments, but that’s understandable, since it would be a huge target for comment spammers and would require constant monitoring.

In addition to the blog RSS feed, there are also RSS feeds for agenda articles, press office, photo gallery, and videos.

Unlike the old site, the new white house site is now open to search engines. Codeulate analyzes the robots.txt file. The current robots.txt consists of two lines, allowing search engines to visit the entire site, except the include directory containing the CSS & javascript code:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /includes/

The Bush-era robots.txt was over 2300 lines long, blocking search engines from almost all of the site.

President Obama!

Since I couldn’t make it to Washington D.C. for the inauguration, I went to a viewing party in downtown Fort Lauderdale. Unfortunately it didn’t go as smoothly as I had hoped. We were supposed to watch it on a large screen projection TV, but the projector didn’t arrive until after 11AM. When the projector finally did arrive, they couldn’t get it to work using the cable converter box, so they tried a few other things and finally got it to work just in time for the ceremonies to begin at 11:30. There was no wi-fi in the room, so I wasn’t able to watch with UStream on my iPhone.

I had invited a friend to come along and notified the host last week. When she wasn’t able to make it, I still had to pay for her lunch, which I’m not happy about it.

When the ceremony began, all was forgotten. I totally lost it when Barack Obama took the oath of office.

I had my Nikon Coolpix L5, since I didn’t want to carry the D90, so I was only able to get blurry photos of the low contrast TV screen.

Obama takes the oath of office

The obligatory photo of me standing next to a life-size Obama cutout.


Lots more pictures here. will become

According to Federal Computer Week, at 12:01PM Tuesday when Barack Obama is sworn in as the 44th president, Obama’s site will become the new

This is huge. Until now has been a one-way static site for dispensing information, announcements, and press releases with little or no interaction and no way to get involved. It’s also a very dull and old-fashioned looking.

Picture 1.png, on the other hand is highly interactive and encourages participation. It’s a clean modern-looking Web 2.0 site that has been described as a bold experiment in interactive government or “open source democracy”.

Picture 2.png

This is one change I can believe in.

Election wrapup

This is my final election post for 2008. North Carolina was finally called, bringing Obama’s electoral votes to 364. He did a lot better than I predicted (only 331 electoral votes), which was a very pleasant surprise.

I really did want to move to Vancouver, but with the country finally headed in the right direction, it doesn’t feel right to move out of the country at this time. I would still like to move there eventually (or maybe someplace else in the Pacific Northwest).

These pictures from Callie Shell’s wonderful gallery sum up what I like about Obama. He’s genuinely humble. He cleans up after himself. Instead of buying new shoes, he re-soles his old shoes. He doesn’t have his staff pampering him. He’s about as far as you can get from the “elitist” the Republicans labeled him.



More importantly, Obama is popular outside the US. We’re already starting to rebuild the world’s respect and support after George W. Bush alienated even our allies like France. We need to have most of the world on our side, as we did immediately following 9/11 before Bush blew it. Even enemies like Iran are softening towards us. We’re no longer seen as the world’s bully.

Canvassing Today

I did two shifts of canvassing today. This morning I went out alone on a route that covered a fairly small area just off 26th street. Most of the people weren’t home. Out of about 40 I only contacted 4 people. A lot of them seem to have moved & some of the houses looked abandoned.

This afternoon I went out with a few other people to cover a much larger area of over 100 houses. A lot of them weren’t home, but there was a lot of enthusiasm for Obama. Kids started chanting “Obama! Obama! Obama!” when they saw our t-shirts and door hangers.

My Prediction

Since everyone else is doing it, here’s my prediction for tomorrow from CNN’s electoral map calculator. This isn’t an especially optimistic prediction, since I’ve been looking at worst cases with my current gloomy attitude. Starting with the 2004 results, I added Nevada, Colorado, and New Mexico, which seem likely to go to Obama. Even with only those states, Obama will win with 271 electoral votes. Add Virginia and he’s up to 284. Even without Florida & Ohio, which are most likely to have vote stealing shenanigans, he could still win, but with those states he’s up to 331.

My Prediction
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Politics is bullsh1t

A really great video.

The Republicans’ politics of hate is toxic to this country. Saying that some parts of the country are un-patriotic and not “real” is not only hurtful, but comes dangerously close to inciting another civil war. When mentioning the name of an American city like San Francisco evokes boos from the crowd, something is very wrong with our country. We need someone who will bridge those divides, not purposely incite hate and divisiveness. That’s why I support Obama.