Tag Archives: politics

Music for an international mixer: “Une americaine a Paris” by Rupa & the April Fishes

With leaders of the twenty largest economies, their assistants and entourages, worldwide news media, and demonstrators and protesters of all stripes converging this week on Pittsburgh, life in this region has begun to feel a wee bit tense.

OK, more than a wee bit. So far there have been people hanging banners from bridges, march permit applications ignored or revoked, windows boarded over, Pittsburgh businesses and schools closed for the rest of the week, personal friends of mine pre-emptively called up from the reserves to help quell any violence, and lots and lots of people looking anxiously about.

I wish and hope that whatever happens could end up like this video.

Une americaine a Paris

The band is Rupa & the April Fishes. This song nicely fits the description of their music being an “enchanting mix of chic French nouvelle vague, rousing Latin alternative grooves, energetic Gypsy swing, and dreamy Indian ragas.” That’s something we’d like to see in Pittsburgh this week I think.

Qu’est-ce tu pense, qu’est-ce tu pense?
C’est histoire.

Turning Technology and Innovation from Words into Jobs (bloggers and podcasters welcome)

An announcement from Carnegie Mellon Students for Barack Obama:

Turning Technology & Innovation from Words into Jobs

The student organization Carnegie Mellon Students for Barack Obama is hosting a dynamic event showcasing Senator Obama’s progressive policies on innovation, technology, the Internet, and how these policies mean more jobs for Pennsylvanians.

Barack Obama has made innovation a cornerstone of his vision for America. Pittsburgh has also embraced advanced technologies, forward-looking innovators, and a trained workforce to rebuild after steel’s collapse.

Pittsburgh’s leaders will discuss their triumphs and challenges, what innovation means for the region, and how more economic growth would be possible under President Obama.

When: Tuesday, September 23 at 7:00 pm
Where: Alumni Concert Hall in the College of Fine Arts, Carnegie Mellon University

Speakers include:

  • Marge Krueger, Communications Workers of America
  • Mark Kryder, Carnegie Mellon Professor and former CTO of Seagate
  • Nathan Martin, CEO of Deep Local
  • Sean McDonald, CEO of Precision Therapeutics

Moderator:  Jon Peha, Professor at Carnegie Mellon University

The most important speaker is you.  All members of the audience will have the opportunity to record a short video clip to share their views. CMU Students for Barack Obama will send the videos to the campaign.

More details are available at this Facebook event page.

The group is very interested in involving bloggers and podcasters. They will have a blogger room with snacks and power before the event, and if you RSVP ahead of time to cvl at andrew dot cmu dot edu, you’ll be put on a reserved seating list — no waiting in line for seats.

Arnie Barnett explains how to improve the U.S. electoral process

One of my favorite professors at MIT was Arnie Barnett. He’s the George Eastman Professor of Management Science, but more to the point he’s a wizard of statistics, able to make statistics understandable (and dryly funny to boot — as tired as I might be, I always made a point of attending his lectures).

He most frequently talks about aviation safety (he’s “[w]idely considered the nation’s leading expert on aviation safety“), but in this election year he’s been engaged in discussing ways to predict elections and, more significantly, how to improve the voting process so that it reflects the will of the populace more accurately.

On the MIT Sloan Newsroom Podcast page, there’s an interview with him that I invite you to hear. Right now, it’s about a third of the way down the page. Search for “Intellectual Capital: Arnie Barnett finds safety in numbers.”

Not a knee-jerk, just a jerk

At the end of this Post-Gazette quickie story summing up voting results so far, there’s a quote from a guy I’d like to to have a little heart-to-heart with:

Dave Price, 65, a Republican in Bellevue, cast a vote early today
for Mr. McCain. But he said that’s not necessarily the way he will go
in the November general election.

“If Obama runs, I’ll be very interested in taking a look,” said Mr. Price, a retiree.

“The change theme gets me,” Mr. Price said. “I’m a Republican but not a knee-jerk Republican.”

All the candidates ran on a platform of change, but if the race comes down to Clinton versus McCain, there’s no need to consider the possibility of voting for the Democratic candidate? Why might that be?

Important for one day

Pennsylvania Welcome Sign

Pennsylvania Welcome Sign, originally uploaded by WestendRaider.

Today I had this email exchange with a friend who lives in San Francisco:

San Fran Friend: So how does it feel to be the center of the country’s attention?

MBM: I love it. I’m going to be so bummed Thursday when everyone starts ignoring us again.

I really expected at least one of the candidates to come to Butler. They did visit towns in Butler County, and I got invitations to attend some events, but no one came to the city of Butler. Hillary didn’t even send Bill to talk to us.

I saw Hillary Clinton in the lobby of the Omni William Penn one morning though. Walked within a few feet of her. Expected to be blocked by security but they seemed unconcerned. I don’t think I look like I pose much of a threat.

How does PA look from the outside today? Bitter? Full of itself?

SFF: regardless what I might think, I would never say anything bad about PA…you never know when a bitter gun-crazy god-fanatic might take it the wrong way.

seriously though, it’s kind of cool that PA is getting all the attention given that they didn’t play the "move up the primary" game.

what does hillary seem like in person? who in your family has been designated to meet Chelsea? you seem to be hitting the entire family.

MBM: Apparently Barack Obama has been a Steelers fan all along. Who knew?

You make an interesting point about PA mattering a lot now precisely because the primary date wasn’t changed. Take that, Michigan and Florida!

For the few seconds when I saw Hillary, she looked a bit too alert and very eager to seem interested. It was 9am on a Saturday, and she was on her way to walk with the mayor and gang in the St. Patrick’s Day parade. I assume she had been stopped by a random passerby and was talking with her, and that’s why she was smiling so much. She looked exhausted, frankly, but unwilling to let tiredness stop her. I think ability to go without sleep will turn out to be the most important asset of presidential candidates from here out.

I had assumed that Chelsea would call me up to go for a drink by now. She probably couldn’t get through on my phone because all the state and local campaign candidates were tying up the line.

As much attention as everyone inside and outside of Pennsylvania is paying to the Democratic primary voting, other campaigns will probably have a greater effect on our day-to-day lives. Today I voted for candidates for State Senate, Congress, State Treasurer, and a couple other posts.

Sadly, I was not given the chance to vote on who should head the PLCB. If that were an elected post, you can bet I would run for it.

Also today, I found this interesting map graphic showing how much news is reported around the U.S. (thanks to the ever-interesting Coudal Blended Feed). It makes very clear how much less attention news media pay to the flyover states; it’s not that we have so much less going on, but that they don’t bother to cover it. Brad King at The Modern Journalist has already written a nice, to-the-point rant on the topic, so I’ll settle for a simple "pffffffft" to all y’all who think news only happens in NYC, D.C. and Los Angeles.

And now I’ll go work on making my hyperlocal news/community content site a force to reckon with.


Making sense of the superdelegates

"Anti-democratic elements are everywhere in our political system. The presidential veto is undemocratic. The rules governing filibusters and the closing off of debate are undemocratic. The procedural devices by means of which floor leaders or committee chairmen can prevent issues from coming to a vote are undemocratic. The fact that Rhode Island and California have two senators each is undemocratic. The appointment of senators by governors in the wake of a death or a resignation is undemocratic. The presidential line of succession is undemocratic. The fact that a vice president who has not been elected to the senate presides over it and can cast a deciding vote is undemocratic. Judicial review – the practice by which the Supreme Court invalidates laws passed by the people’s representatives – is undemocratic. (Legal theorists call it the “counter-majoritarian difficulty.”)

"So whatever your view of the superdelegates may be – whether you regard them as counterweights to popular frenzy or as a paternalistic imposition by a bunch of old guys (and gals) – it can’t be said that their very existence is an affront to the workings of democracy, for large parts of this democracy work in just the way the superdelegates were intended to."

Memo to the Superdelegates: No Principles, Please – Stanley Fish – Think Again – Opinion – New York Times Blog — The clearest explanation I’ve yet read about the U.S. superdelegates and their role in the presidential election process. 

This machine kills Fascists


this_machine_kills_fascists, originally uploaded by ivalladt.

Strange coincidence:

On Wednesday, on his terrific blog about arts and culture in Venango County, Dittman posted a link to a t-shirt with a graphic of a guitar and the words "This machine kills fascists."

I thought, "Neat graphic. Don’t know what it means, but interesting."

Meanwhile: I subscribe to the New Yorker. Usually I get through each issue within two weeks of receiving it, but a few years ago I fell behind and a big pile built up. I’m gradually getting through them.

So it happened that today, I was reading — an article about Woody Guthrie.

Here’s the paragraph that connected the dots for me:

Once Hitler ventured into the Soviet Union and Stalin joined forces with the Allied powers, Guthrie became patriotic; he supported the United States’ involvement in the Second World War and pasted a hand-painted sign onto the front of his guitar: "This Machine Kills Fascists." He kept it there after the war, in reference to another target: the cultural power brokers who, in his view, oppressed folk artists by rewarding sleek professionalism.

I’ll guess that most people who reference this slogan — especially those who buy the t-shirt — are unaware of either of these meanings that Guthrie ascribed to it. To people today, it seems to mean that music can be a tool for striking back against the powers-that-be, especially governments but also corporations.

It’s good to remember what Guthrie originally meant when he painted this on his guitar, and to see the layers of meaning he and other people have added to it over the years.

Not worth the paper it’s printed on


remnants, originally uploaded by shortfatkid.

In today’s Salon, Jay Rosen provides a thorough and excellent analysis of "Why campaign coverage sucks." Factors include the herd mentality of otherwise-intelligent journalists and the need to fill pages and airtime while waiting for the voters to make the actual decisions.

He also makes a point about what journalists could — and should — be doing instead:

Journalists ought to be bringing new knowledge into the system, as Charlie Savage and the Boston Globe did in December. They gave the presidential candidates a detailed questionnaire on the limits of executive branch power and nine candidates responded. This is a major issue that any candidate for president should have to address, given the massive build-up of presidential power engineered by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. We desperately need to know what the contenders for the presidency intend to do — continue the build-up or roll it back? — but we won’t know unless the issue is injected into the campaign.

It used to be, for example, that TV coverage of political campaigns was poor because the time available was so limited — only a few minutes in each newscast. Now, with round-the-clock programming and an endless army of talking heads providing opinions, coverage is worse than ever, focusing on opinions about how the race can and "will" be won instead of what the candidates stand for.