This is the website of Abulsme Noibatno Itramne (also known as Sam Minter). Comments here or emails to me at abulsme@abulsme.com are encouraged... or follow me on Twitter as @abulsme.

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Bull on That

Obama lawyers prohibit staff from using instant messaging in the White House
(Faiz Shakir, Think Progress, 18 Jan 2009)

Politico’s Ben Smith reports that Obama lawyers broke some bad news to the incoming White House staff at a briefing Friday morning: they will not be allowed to communicate with each other and the outside world through the use of instant messaging. “They just told us flat out we couldn’t IM in the White House,” complained one senior staffer. The reason? The Presidential Records Act would likely require the disclosure of “instant messages discussing government business.”

This is crap. There are plenty of ways to archive IMs. They could meet the requirements of the act. The problem here is not that the communication can’t be archived, it is that they want these communications to be “off the record”. Well too effin bad. You are in the executive branch, your actions SHOULD be recorded for posterity, and for prosecuting your asses if you get out of line.

If anything, I’d be in favor of strengthening the records act to go beyond the current requirements for retention of written documents (including email and IM) to also require full audio and video recording of *all* executive branch meetings, discussions, etc… at both high and low levels… with a variety of protections regarding when and how they could be released to take into account the sensitive nature of many of those conversations, but never-the-less preserving the events for later historians (and prosecutors if necessary).

Yes, people say that would make people less likely to speak their actual minds in such meetings. My view, if knowing your words would eventually be made public keeps you from recommending (or doing) stupid or illegal things, so much the better.

In any case, a President advocating transparency should not be telling his staff NOT to use IM. He should be telling them to please use IM, as it is efficient and a good way of communicating, but to keep in mind that everything they communicate that way will be permanently archived and eventually made public.

Sam and Inaugurations

So, over the past few months I have been asked a few times if I will be going to the inauguration. Sadly, the answer is no. This is currently upsetting me. So I’ll review the history.

For the first three inaugurations where I had been old enough to vote… 1993, 1997 and 2001 I made the trip to DC and stood in the cold to watch the swearing in and inaugural address on the big jumbo trons along with many thousands of other people, all shivering in the cold. Despite the crowds and bad weather, it was wonderful to be there as a personal witness to history. The peaceful transition of power. The democratic process at its best. I had not voted for either Clinton or Bush. In all three of those elections, I had voted for third parties, not being able to stomach either of the of the major candidates. But I could still appreciate the history being made, and what it represented as the triumph of the process.

My intention at that point was to be sure to attend every inauguration for the rest of my life, or as long as I could manage it. But that ended a lot sooner than I would have liked.

In 2005 the inauguration was mere weeks after we had closed on buying our new house in Florida. We’d expended most available savings on that transaction, and the remaining bits were being used to complete our move and to otherwise take care of getting set up in the new house. In previous cycles I’d lived within easy driving distance of DC. This time I would have to spring for a plane flight. I could probably have done so, it just was not really a responsible use of money at the time. Also, in each of the previous inaugurations I’d gone with a group of people. This time, prior to the election I had looked in vain for someone willing to say they would join me NO MATTER WHO WON THE ELECTION. Everybody was incredibly polarized. They would go if their candidate won, but not if the other guy won. And one person who might have gone with me was just a month from having a baby, so that wasn’t going to work either. If I’d been able to find anybody to go, I might have said screw the financials, I’ll go anyway. But I found no such person. So in the end, quite bitter about it, I did not go in 2005, and watched it on TV instead.

So now fast forward to this election cycle.

Well before the election, back in July, I got my first question from someone asking if I would be going. Still bitter over 2005, I replied this way:

Hmmm. I actually doubt it. You see, I missed last time. The whole thing for me was the completeness of it. That I could say that I had gone to EVERY inauguration since I was old enough to vote. I wanted to keep that going for as long as I could. It turned out it was only 3 inaugurations worth.

I was devastated last time. First nobody else was willing (most people) or able to go really, or people were conditional (I’ll go if Kerry wins, but not if W wins mostly). And second the inauguration was just weeks after I purchased a house and after all the major expenses of moving, etc. We were quite tapped out at that moment. I would have gone alone regardless, but at that time it would have been financially irresponsible for me to have done it. I sat home and watched it on TV, and was just very sad. I wanted to be there, but was not there. And for me, that ended the whole inauguration thing.

Even if I lived across the street from the Capital Mall, at this point I’d probably leave town on inauguration day, because being there would just remind me of my failure. I wouldn’t enjoy it, because all I’d think about would be the “hole” and the gap in my experience. That I’d have seen only 4 out of 5 inaugurations since I was old enough to vote, and not all 5. And that even if I went to every inauguration from now until I was elderly, that hole can never be erased. And that fact would gnaw away at me, and I’d end the day just bitter and upset.

Do I know the above is irrational and stupid? Yes. But I also know myself and know that is how I’d feel. I tried to do the inauguration thing. As of 2004 I failed. That is now over for me. Once I missed one, there just wasn’t any point any more.

And yes, I know I could still potentially say “I’ve been to the first inauguration of every president since I was old enough to vote.” But so far I’m just not feeling that one.

I say that knowing that an Obama inauguration, if it were to happen, is likely to be a huge event with a level of excitement and historical impact not seen in generations and it would be a shame to not be present for it if I could be.

So maybe ask me again in November. :-)

But right now I’m thinking probably not.

Well, the election actually happened, Obama won, and then a few days later someone else asked if I would be coming for the inauguration, offering me a place to stay if I did. This time I said:

I doubt I will be coming to the inauguration. As you know, for many years I had been very committed to ensuring I attended EVERY inauguration since I was old enough to vote. Unfortunately, and I get depressed thinking about it to this day, in 2005 I was unable to make it to Bush’s second inaugural, primarily for financial reasons. It was extremely upsetting for me then, and continues to be now. So with the record broken, attending any further inaugurations would be sort of pointless. Several people have pointed out of course that if I go to this one, I could still say that I’d gone to the FIRST inaugural of every president since I was old enough to vote… plus some extras (namely the second Clinton inaugural). With that they have said that it isn’t too late, and I can still salvage something of this tradition. But that “Extra” messes up the pattern for me and would still bother me, as that was not the original intention. I was supposed to go to ALL of them. Finally, if I was going to have decided to go, I would have needed to do so *BEFORE* the election, so as to ensure that who won the election would not be an influence on my decision. I would have needed to be equally committed to going no matter who won. Going only if the guy you like wins seems to me a corruption of the whole inaugural institution and why I might want to go. It is a historical event worthy of note and interest and attendance no matter who wins or loses. In the only communications I made prior to the election on this subject (which was several months ago, thus not tainted by the election results), I indicated, for the same reasons as I did above, that me going is unlikely. So I will need to stick with that I think. I would hate to decide to go now with an Obama victory, not completely and totally certain that I would also have gone if McCain won. Again, if I’d managed to go in 2005, then going now would be an absolute requirement, but me missing it in 2005 means that even thinking about going now, just makes me upset that I didn’t go in 2005, so with all that… I probably will not come. However, thank you very much for the offer of a place to stay. :-) I will still be upset on inauguration day that I am here watching it on TV instead of there in person, but that damage was already done in 2005. Going now would be a hollow exercise that would probably make me more sad than happy. I think. Dunno.

Could you tell I was still bitter?

Even after that, in December Brandy talked to me about me going. And we thought about it. Yes, this year once again is one where because my company stock is way down from where it was six months ago, we have to really carefully think about money. But if I’d really wanted to do this, I certainly could have bought the plane ticket… especially if I’d done it months ago before the election… back in October, flights to DC for this time period were completely reasonable. Would it have been somewhat a waste of money that could be better spent on other things, yes. But it could have been done. And Brandy had told me that if it was that important she would be OK with it… I didn’t believe it though.

And besides, I was still clinging to the same things I’d said in the two responses above…. plus a few more…

  1. I had missed 2005, so going now would be pointless…
  2. Just going to every president’s FIRST inaugural just wouldn’t be the same…
  3. It was a waste of money…
  4. If I was going to do it, I would have needed to decide to do so BEFORE the election to be sure I would have gone no matter who won.
  5. It is going to be so crowded it will be a complete hell…
  6. The weather is likely to be aweful…
  7. You’ll see it better on TV.

Etc. Every reason possible not to do it.

But now… with about 62 hours until the inauguration, my thought process has shifted entirely.

  1. Seeing the first inauguration of every president since I was old enough to vote would still be pretty cool.
  2. It is indeed still a historic event in many ways.
  3. For the first time since I’ve been old enough to vote, the person being sworn in would actually be someone I’d voted for.
  4. The crowds will suck, but current estimates aren’t nearly as high as they were a month or so ago. They seem to have potentially scared off a lot of people with the reports of how many people were expected and how few porta-pottys there would be.
  5. Yeah, weather will be cold and all, but it always is, and I’ve been in cold weather before.
  6. Yeah, I would see it better on TV, but BEING THERE is different and better for other reasons.
  7. Brandy told me that REALLY she was serious and had always been serious, she would not be upset if I “wasted” money on this because it was so important to me.
  8. I just want to go damn it.

Of course… checking flights that would get me to DC Monday and back to Seattle Wednesday as of right now… less than 2 days before I’d have to be getting on the plane… those are crazy prices now, not the reasonable prices I would have gotten if I’d booked in October… or even November.

So now I’m just mad at myself for being stubborn and bitter earlier and not just booking myself a flight to DC for this week back in September or October.

Now… although theoretically if I was willing to pay the crazy last minute prices, and had already shifted money around to put it in the accounts I actually use rather than the ones I hide from myself to keep me from spending the money there… I could have still perhaps done it as late as a few days ago. But I didn’t.

I’m pretty sure now it is too late.

So no, I will not be going to the inauguration. I will be getting up early Tuesday morning to watch all the festivities on my projector downstairs in my family room, while being bitter that I am not there in person.

Unless of course at that time the TV reports are talking about the massive chaos caused by the huge crowds and how miserable everybody there in person is. If the news concentrates a lot on that, rather than happy excited people, then maybe I’ll feel better. :-)

Oh well. I’ll live.

Although there may have been last minute changes, I know at least a handful of my readers ARE planning on going in person. Please let me know how it goes! Especially if it is a miserable disaster and you regret going! (But also if you have a wonderful time. :-)

Please Do, That’s Just Fine

From Balloon Juice yesterday, John Cole says:

And while I am at it, let me also grump about the experience I had at several stores this morning. I don’t know if this is because everyone is cutting back employees because of the economy, but every store I went to this morning, I had to stand for 15-20 minutes waiting for help. In every case, I stood by a register waiting for someone to show up, in two cases after paging the help, no one showed up, and I said “To hell with it, I will order it on Amazon.”

Crash Video

(LiveLeak via Talking Points Memo)

Nothing happens until just after 2 minutes in when you see the plane come in from the left, seemingly having just hit the water. It comes to a stop and then the video zooms in, mere seconds later, and there are already people climbing onto the wing. And very quickly after that the first ferry arrives. Just how fast people were out, and how quickly the ferries started getting there to pull people to safety is just stunning.

More W Retrospective

(Daily Show via Slog)