Category Archives: News and Politics

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).

Help Haiti

There are a few very simple things you can do to help Haiti:

  • Text the word YELE to 501501 to donate $5 to Yele Haiti.
  • Text the word HAITI to 90999 to donate $10 to International Red Cross.
  • Donate to Partners In Health

If you know other ways to help or have any other suggestions, leave a comment.

Win & Regine of Arcade Fire write:

Haiti needs your help in her darkest hour.

We just got off the phone with our friends at Partners in Health.

Most of the medical infrastructure in Port-au-Prince is down.

Since Partners in Health’s clinics are in situated the surrounding areas and haven’t been damaged, they are mobilizing their resources towards the capital, setting-up field hospitals to treat the injured on the ground.

Also, Paul Farmer (the founder of PIH) is at the UN and has access to the best information on where to direct the money… so for the moment if you want to help, we suggest sending funds to:

Please be generous as time is of the essence.
Win and Regine
these photos convey some of what is going on.

This is simply brilliant.

I think I’ll do this the next time I have to write a letter to someone I don’t like:


(via TechCrunch)

Steele: "This change is being delivered in a teabag!"

Best quote ever.


You know it’s real. You can see it, and you can feel it. This change, my friends, is being delivered in a teabag. And that’s a wonderful thing.

(Via Daily Kos)

How GM can save themselves

GM and the other auto companies are dying because they continue doing business the same they always did and keep building the same kind of cars, which people don’t want to buy.

Meanwhile, Obama is calling for the development of a high speed rail system. Someone will have to build those trains. Why not GM? I’m sure they could re-tool some of their factories to produce trains instead of cars or trucks.

The way for GM (and other car companies) to survive is to re-invent themselves, not as a car company but as a company that builds all kinds of vehicles, including trains and monorails.

Do the Republicans see the irony here?

For a good laugh (or cry), read the Oklahoma Republican platform (or download the PDF).

I fail to understand how they can reconcile their belief in “The sanctity of human life, from the moment of conception to its natural end” with this statement:

We support the death penalty and swift execution of criminals who have exhausted the appeals process.

Elsewhere, they state:

While the objective study of philosophy and religion can be beneficial, public schools should not be endorsing any specific religion or philosophy. We believe that students and teachers should enjoy the right of free exercise of religion.

Yet the very next paragraph says:

We support posting the Ten Commandments and our Nation’s motto, “In God We Trust,” in all public schools in recognition of our religious heritage.

The Republican party isn’t only the Party Of No; they’re also the Party Of Contradictions.

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.