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      One of the great crimes and tragedies of our world is how we treat the animals we eat (or whose milk or eggs or other products we eat and use.) Factory farming keeps them in tiny enclosures, feeds them monotonous foods, and then when they’re slaughtered it’s a terrible experience: they’re terrified and die in […]
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Post SOTU Open Thread

So what did you think? Did President Obama say anything that gave you any hope? Did he say anything that could be true? How many lies did you hear?

Liveblog: President’s State of the Union Address

This time he's serious.

All you non-recovering Conflucians can get a little tipsy while you watch TOTUS and POTUS put their best feet forward for the SOTU. I have to watch it stone cold sober. Here are a couple of places to watch the speech and listen for your trigger words or phrases:

CNN Live

C-Span coverage

Unfortunately, the POTUS has no plan and is afraid to commit to one anyway. Will the Democrats leap to their feet for multiple standing O’s for O anyway? Or will they sit on their hands? Will President Obama say even one thing of substance? We’ll soon find out.

If you can’t stand to listen to the voice of “The One,” here are a couple of good articles to read while following the comments of those of us who force ourselves to watch and/or listen.

Robert Scheer: The Sorry State of the Union

The state of the union is just miserable, no matter how President Obama sugarcoats it. He will claim that progress has been made in stabilizing the markets, increasing national security and advancing toward meaningful health care reform, but he will be wrong on all three counts.

A Duped President’s Wasted Year

The fatal complacency of the Obama White House and Democratic Party leadership concerning last week’s Massachusetts senatorial election outcome, together with that upset’s probable consequences for health insurance reform legislation, produced a drama in which the president has never seemed a player. He has seemed to have never himself known the reforms he actually wanted, leaving it to Congress and the lobbies to fight over whatever legislation they, undirected, might be able to produce….the president recently told Time magazine that he “overestimated our ability to persuade (Israelis and Palestinians to agree to ‘meaningful conversation’) when their politics ran contrary to that.”

This astounding statement by a president of the United States, after nearly 40 years of futile U.S. efforts to convince Israelis and Palestinians to agree—from the time of Henry Kissinger’s “shuttle diplomacy” in the 1970s to the useless 2009 missions to Palestinians and Israelis by George Mitchell—alone disqualifies President Obama as a maker of American Middle Eastern policy.

Ezra Klein: Waiting for Barack

Every Hill office I’ve spoken to in the past week has had the same complaint. “Where,” they ask, “is the White House?”

There’s been no clear message on the way forward for health-care reform. No clear articulation of preferences. No public leadership to speak of. The administration is taking temperatures rather than twisting arms. The White House press team is blasting out speeches where the president says he’ll never stop fighting on health care but pointedly refuses to throw a punch. The president is giving interviews where he seems to endorse paring the bill back and also seems to argue against doing anything of the kind. The daily message has run from banks to freezes, and early leaks suggest that tonight’s speech will focus on education.

According to multiple sources, there’s an easy answer for the confusion: The White House is confused.

And for a change of pace, I was able to find one blog post that put a positive spin on Obama’s first year. You guessed it–at the Cheeto, where there are still a few half-hearted Koolaid drinkers:

Keeping the Faith

Have at it. Document the atrocities….

Technical Corner – The iPad hype edition

There has been so much hype over Apple’s forthcoming tablet offering that I thought it was worth a look. Not just because it may or may not be an interesting product, after all other tablets have been on the market for a while, but how it might effect things we’re interested in including print journalism and book publishing and blogging. Well, that and it might be a nice distraction from the SOTU speech. Oh, and this is my first post. I really meant to do something political first, but time just got away from me. Hope you like it.

Background/Rumors

Rumors of a tablet from Apple have been around for a long time. Since 1983 in fact. A really nice timeline and summary of events can be found in this Engadget article. Some of the speculation and wild Apple fandom has been a bit weird. Walt Mossberg is a technical reviewer at the WSJ and has gained some fame for his reviews. Here is a great spoof of a muppet version of him reviewing the Apple iPad (here called iSlate):

Publishing/Journalism

What I think is interesting though relates to what’s been happening to print journalism and to the book publishing world of late. As we’ve seen, a number of companies are pursuing e-book products from web based for the desktop to small handheld devices like Amazon’s Kindle. In addition, the boom of smart phones have also included e-book capabilities.

There are a number of interesting factors involved with the various offerings that have been worth watching. One is the store model. It would appear from Amazon’s recent changes, followed by Googles, that the iTunes store model has won out. This is a model where there is little in the way between the original creator (of music, applications, books, periodicals, etc.) and the user. And the ratio of 70% to the creator and 30% to the store is shared by most now. There are still music publishers and book publishers in the middle of many offerings, but independents in those areas are gaining ground. And interestingly what I think has made that possible, given the zillions of competing products, is social networking. More specifically it’s the advent of Crowd Sourcing which is one way to manage and make sense of too many offerings. But of course a stores own editorial staff providing reviews and featuring products is probably still a major factor.

The other area that makes a lot of difference in usability is the means of displaying the material on the screen. There are a number of competing screen technologies, and many of these are just emerging. The choice of technology here also depends on what you want  your device to do. If it’s only about reading text, then the current electronic ink based approaches are pretty nice. These e-ink systems require no backlighting and so are easier on the eyes. However if you want a multi-purpose device, then e-ink as it is won’t work because it is too slow at refreshing for complex graphics. There are newer technologies that can function like normal LCD screens, but then can switch to e-ink type screens. This appears to be the most promising for multi-purpose devices, but has a ways to go.

Now back to print publishing and journalism. As we all know, newspapers seem to be dying in the US. They offer their papers for free online using an ad based model for revenue. That is wildly popular. But to the detriment of print subscriptions. And unfortunately many newspaper businesses aren’t set up for an online only business. Previous attempts to charge for online papers has failed. WSJ being the main exception. In the textbook realm, Terry McGraw, McGraw-Hill CEO, Tuesday on CNBC said the following:

Yeah, Very exciting. Yes, they’ll make their announcement tomorrow on this one. We have worked with Apple for quite a while. And the Tablet is going to be based on the iPhone operating system and so it will be transferable. So what you are going to be able to do now is we have a consortium of e-books. And we have 95% of all our materials that are in e-book format on that one. So now with the tablet you’re going to open up the higher education market, the professional market. The tablet is going to be just really terrific.

As much as newspapers might get a boost with this technology, I think e-books is where the action will be. Time will tell though.

Product Review

Today Apple introduced their “latest creation” the iPad:

The new iPad

iPad showing NYT

iPad Contacts Book

iPad Showing Contacts Book

It looks like they’ve done a nice job. We have a new slick gadget to be sure. They’ve nicely integrated audiobooks, music, video, TV/Movies, apps, etc. It has the benefits of mobile platforms which in the end will be the critical thing I think. It has 10 hours of battery life, which is pretty nifty. And similar to other efforts, it’s very green. But what’s interesting now is the e-book application and integration with the newspaper, magazine, and book publishing worlds. (Note: images above thanks to Engadget).

The New York Times has developed an application for the iPad. They’ve made quite a nice interface that, well, makes it really nice to navigate through sections and articles. And they’ve nicely integrated embedded video. They appear to be working with other newspaper publishers to do the same. The question not answered is what the business model will be for NYT. I suspect it will be free for basic stuff and subscription for additional functions like archives, etc. And like current online papers, the ad model will be used.

In the e-book world, they have initial deals with Penguin, HarperCollins, Simon&Schuster, Macmillan, Hachett among others. The iPad has a bookshelf store, iBookStore (of course). And they have a book reader built in, iBooks (of course) that acts as a book reader and book library. Clearly the book and magazine world is where they’ve put most of their effort. Sorry newspapers. The current library of books seem to be in the range of $5 to $15. There is a big effort for educational/text books, so expect to see more there. This appears to be the biggest deal for the show today.

But to me, a big issue is that they’ve added creation related software since the device is powerful enough. So their iWorks product is available for the device. Which means you can use it for blogging, writing, etc. And you can get a hardware keyboard accessory if you like. There were lots of other applications demoed. I quite liked the Brushes demo which allows you to use the device as an art tablet.

And now the requisite price info:

WiFi (only): 16GB – $499, 32GB – $599; 64GB – $699 (available in 60 days)

3G (and WiFi): 16GB – $629, 32GB – $729, 64GB – $829 (available in 90 days, contract with AT&T)

End of the show shows a street sign showing Technology (street) and Liberal Arts (street) and Steve saying they’ve always tried to be at the intersection of technology and liberal arts. OK, completely cheesy. In fact it was a laugh out loud bit.

What does it all mean?

A nice gadget. Perhaps a big deal in the e-book business. Perhaps not. Time will tell. Will it change the world? No. To me though, it’s symbolic of our creativity, ingenuity, and innovation in the face of a horrible economy and seemingly the end of our country as we know it. Unlike our administration and congress, it gives me a bit of hope. But then again, it’s just a gadget, and I’m clearly biased about cool techy gadgets. Tell me what you think.

Update

Just adding a photo that shows off the e-book aspect (the real winner I think):

iBooks on the iPad

Obama to focus on jobs? Right. If we’re lucky, maybe he’ll focus on Jobs’ tablet.

If ever there was a photo that captured the "professorial" Obama, RELATIONSHIPS BUILT ON SELF INTEREST is that photo. All that is missing are two bubbles to the left of CORP & BANKS that read "MEDIA" & "EMPTY SUITS."

January 27th. Big news day.

We’ve got the State of the Union address of course, in which our obfuscator-in-chief will tell us he’s focusing on jobs while blowing smoke about freezing domestic spending. With all that hot and cold, the president may as well skip that pesky lip service on climate change.

If this is the O-ministration’s idea of getting in touch with its more populist side, pray tell what BHO and his advisers say about all us rubes behind our backs. Oh, that’s right. Once upon a time Obama told his fundraisers that small town Democratic primary voters who weren’t voting for him were too bitter and clingy and xenophobic to appreciate his magnificence. Nobody could have predicted that there was no there there. Certainly not any of the bitter clingy people who chose Hillary over him. Speaking of things announced in San Francisco…

Today is also the unveiling of Steve Jobs’ new Apple tablet. Maybe Obama should take notes. Change is not about changing the candy’s wrapper. Marketing is not enough. A brand that outlasts the trends needs to put out a product that works, and putting out good product requires leadership:

In Jobs’s favor is his track record creating popular, easy- to-use devices in product categories already crowded with competitors. Digital music players were on the market for more than three years before Apple introduced the iPod. It is now the U.S. market leader, with more than a 70 percent share, according to NPD Group Inc. In 2007, the iPhone entered a smartphone market dominated by Research In Motion Ltd., Palm Inc. and Motorola Inc. The iPhone was ranked No. 2 in smartphone sales in the U.S. behind RIM in the third quarter, NPD said.

“It takes somebody with leadership characteristics to ignite the market,” said Trip Hawkins, the founder of game maker Electronic Arts Inc. and one of the first 100 employees at Apple. “When Apple talks, consumers listen.”

[…]

“To fill high expectations, it has to be an awesome device,” said First Empire’s Obuchowski. “Not to disappoint anybody will be virtually impossible.”

Obama really ought to take note of that last part. He and his inner circle can keep saying that they are not going “small-bore like Clinton” all they want, but Obama promising people the moon, failing to deliver, and yet still trying to sell himself as all things to all people instead of trying to use what little capital he has left to start rebuilding trust— that is not the vision of a “transformational figure, looming large on history’s stage,” no matter how much the romantics around Obama want it to be. There is no pleasing everybody all of the time, especially not through the powers of speechifying alone. In that much reviled-by-DC “soap opera” called The Nineties we saw 22 million new jobs, a balanced budget, and a surplus. Bill Clinton did not please everybody, but he drew lines in the sand, governed competently in a hostile environment, showed people that government can work FOR the people, and left office with a 68% approval rating for it. Speaking of working for the people…

Tavis and Secretary Clinton walking through the Capitol Building on the way to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing. (photo:"Tavis Smiley Reports")

Hillary is away in London and Paris for diplomatic talks from January 26th to the 29th, so she will not be at the SOTU to do the stand-up-and-clap theater. Lucky her, and I for one am glad I will be spared the sight of her clapping for Barack Hoover Obama’s domestic mess. Over on PBS, though, at 8/7 pm central, served up as the first installment of Tavis Smiley Reports is a one-on-one with Secretary Clinton. Lucky us! Tavis has this quote up from the interview featured on his website:

“I’m honored to serve…but it’s a 24/7 job, and I think at some point, I will be very happy to pass it on to someone else.” Secretary Clinton in a conversation with Tavis

It is a good thing Hillary’s interview will be airing BEFORE the SOTU instead of after. Otherwise, I might have been too sleepy to watch it in real time. Either from drinking every time Obama persists in the delusion that he’s a Washington outsider. Or, from the monotony of his voice going back and forth from prompter to prompter, like a set of windshield wipers, whilst the clothes with no emperor try their best to impersonate their hero Ronnie Raygun. We stupid bitter clingy low-info Clintonistas tried to sound the warning signal so many times during 2008, but progressives were too busy calling people raycist to pay attention to what was happening right in front of them: