Respectful Insolence

How I’m like Barack Obama

I realize this story is a week old, but it’s something I wanted to do a quick blog post on, and what better excuse than to get it done before tomorrow’s Skeptics’ Circle? Looking at a list of The 50 facts you might not know about Barack Obama, I found out that I share quite a few interests with our President-Elect. For example:

He collects Spider-Man and Conan the Barbarian comics

I find it way cool that our new President collects comics. Until recently, I collected Spider-Man comics too; that is, until the writers decided to ruin the comic with a Brand New Day storyline that “rebooted” the series in a way that I most definitely did not like. I still collect Conan the Barbarian, as well as the resurrected Thor comic and Fantastic Four.

He has read every Harry Potter book

GrrlScientist ought to be happy about this one. In any case, I’ve read every Harry Potter book, too.

He says his worst habit is constantly checking his BlackBerry

Change it to iPhone, and I totally sympathize. In fact, I totally sympathize with the fact that, as President he’s going to have to give up his BlackBerry:

But before he arrives at the White House, he will probably be forced to sign off. In addition to concerns about e-mail security, he faces the Presidential Records Act, which puts his correspondence in the official record and ultimately up for public review, and the threat of subpoenas. A decision has not been made on whether he could become the first e-mailing president, but aides said that seemed doubtful.

I’m not sure being President is worth at least four and possibly as many as eight years with no e-mail.

Here’s the last way I’m like Barack Obama:

He uses an Apple Mac laptop

Well, all right! Whatever my quibbles about him, at least Obama’s a Mac user.

Comments

  1. #1 Miko
    November 20, 2008

    Whatever happened to all of the pre-election talk about how “open” his administration would be? E-mailing is such a basic and ubiquitous tool these days that it paints a grim picture when a president is willing to go to such lengths in order to prevent the public from seeing/reviewing his official correspondence.

  2. #2 Orac
    November 20, 2008

    Read the NYT article I linked to. It’s apparently open access laws. Anything that’s sent by e-mail is fair game for disclosure. In my hometown of Detroit, we found out what happens when text messages and e-mails are suddenly made public like that. True, I doubt Obama would be stupid enough or arrogant enough to think he could send text messages to a mistress and not get caught (as Detroit’s former mayor did) or that he’d be writing stupid things, but apparently under current law there are real constraints on a President’s use e-mail. Heck, even think of Sarah Palin. During the campaign, it came out that she would use her private home e-mail address for various government business in order (or so she thought) to get around such laws that make e-mail with her governor’s e-mail address public record.

    One concern is is security; namely that it would be easy to spoof the President’s e-mail address and send out messages with orders that don’t originate from him. True, there are technological solutions, such as dual key encryption, but it’s still a pain. Security concerns are not unreasonable, given that there are so many more points of attack to intercept an electronic communication over the Internet than a physical message on paper. In any case, apparently neither Bill Clinton nor George Bush were sufficiently motivated to want to overcome these legal and security concerns over the Presidential use of e-mail. Maybe Obama, Crackberry and e-mail addict that he clearly is, will be.

  3. #3 Blake Stacey
    November 20, 2008

    Why can’t he just, you know, not say secret crap in e-mail?

  4. #4 Sullivan
    November 20, 2008

    But,

    can he still comment on your blog using a pseudonym?

  5. #5 Greta Christina
    November 20, 2008

    Hey, whaddya know! My father was also a senior economist for the Kenyan government!

    What an amazing coincidence!

    No, really. Why are you all looking at me that way?

  6. #6 Abel Pharmboy
    November 20, 2008

    Damn it, Sullivan! You were a few hours ahead of me!

  7. #7 Jud
    November 20, 2008

    I saved X-Men from the very first issues.

    My Mom threw them out with other “junk” when I was away at college.

  8. #8 Tracy W
    November 20, 2008

    Blake: there is also the happy prospect of misconstruction of emails.

    I once, when working for the government, wrote a reply to a letter from a member of the public, where I said, amongst other things, “Private banks cannot create credit like a central bank can”, and went on to explain the difference between a central bank printing money and a private bank loaning out money they already have. This got quoted as the government saying “Private banks cannot create credit … “, which of course sounds totally different.
    Politics is nasty.

  9. #9 Orac
    November 20, 2008

    can he still comment on your blog using a pseudonym?

    Don’t know. I’ve never seen a comment coming from the whitehouse.gov domain…

  10. #10 Ranson
    November 20, 2008

    Conan, huh? I’ve been getting the current Dark Horse run since it started. It’s a good interpretation of Howard, though the art varies in quality. I’m wondering how they’re going to de-racist Solomon Kane (my shop forgot to order the first ones for me. Grr.).

  11. #11 Rev Matt
    November 20, 2008

    The refraining from email/crackberry/whatever isn’t necessarily to prevent him from writing something stupid, it’s also because anything any idiot sends him becomes subject to open access laws. If you’re President, how confident are you that everyone you’ve ever interacted with is wise enough to know what they should and should not write in an email to you?

  12. #12 DPSisler
    November 20, 2008

    It would not be the whitehouse.gov domain. It originates from the Executive Office of the President.

  13. #13 Roy
    November 20, 2008

    What I like is that he is purportedly a Star Trek fan. I think that someone who can appreciate the idealistic future painted in Trek is better for it. :0

  14. #14 Orac
    November 20, 2008

    Yikes. How could I have forgotten to mention that I’m a Star Trek fan. True, I’ve drifted away over the last several years, mainly due to my not particularly having liked Voyager or Enterprise, not to mention the last two Trek movies, but I’m pretty jazzed to see the new Trek movie coming out in the spring.

  15. #15 Jud
    November 20, 2008

    I’ve drifted away over the last several years, mainly due to my not particularly having liked Voyager or Enterprise

    Should I take this to mean you did like DS9? Of all the series other than the original, it was by far my favorite. IMO it had a darkness and atmosphere of political intrigue that gave it a depth other editions lack.

    I exclude the original because of its iconic status, and because I loved it when I was a kid but find it almost embarrassingly simplistic in reruns, so I don’t know quite what to think of it any more.

  16. #16 Ranson
    November 20, 2008

    I’ll agree with Jud on DS9 — it was by far my favorite. Not everything was nice and clean, the characters were well fleshed-out, and there was a lot of diversity in the characters that worked together without necessarily liking each other. Casablanca in space, if you will.

    Also, Klingon assault on DS9? Best space battle, ever!

  17. #17 Jim
    November 20, 2008

    just had a bit of a dust up in Missouri when the governors staff was advised they could not delete email. They solved the problem by firing the messenger. Suprise, someone was able to recover the mail anyway that showed they were lying about related events.

  18. #18 cm
    November 20, 2008

    I think its a very smart idea to have a 100% ban the Prez from using email. Email is:

    a) Incredibly insecure (though .gov spooks could secure it)
    b) Fake-able in either direction (*from* Prez or *to* Prez!)
    c) Somehow more easily misconstrued than a paper letter.
    d) Too easy to fire off without thinking about it.
    e) Too easy to cc to people you didn’t intend to send it to.
    f) A huge time waster.
    g) Harder to know whether recipient received it.
    h) More easily lost by sender/receiver.
    i) Not taken seriously anymore by most people
    j) Sullied as a medium by the ever-presence of SPAM.
    k) Cached forever in who-knows-what databases.
    l) Easy to “forward” a completely faked email “from the
    President” to voters to try to influence them.
    m) Harder to manage when the Prez and his staffers can
    respond to the same emails, in the sense that a reply
    can be sent before staffers have weighed in on it, etc.

    It’s just clear thinking to lock down the Prez on this one and say, “It’s back to pen and paper for you, buddy.”

  19. #19 Phil
    November 20, 2008

    That reminds me, my local comic book store is on sale this weekend.

  20. #20 Andrew S.
    November 20, 2008

    I think I must be the only person who liked Voyager (well, after the TERRIBLE first season or two) and hated DS9.

  21. #21 Jennifer
    November 20, 2008

    Of the 50 things in your link, it is said: “He would have liked to have been an architect if he were not a politician.”

    Here’s another angle.

    “Obama also revelead that, backstage as they were listening to the show, he told his wife: “The reason I’m running for president is because I can’t be Bruce Springsteen.” ”

    http://www.backstreets.com/newsarchive26.html

  22. #22 DuWayne
    November 21, 2008

    I am terribly excited by the notion that our next pres is a total geek. Assuming of course, that this isn’t just a shameless pander to bring in the geek voting block in four years…..

  23. #23 william e emba
    November 21, 2008

    Let’s compare. On the one hand, I have oodles of Conan the Barbarian comics going back to the 70s, plus King Conan and the over the top Savage Sword of Conan, plus I’ve got the entire Dark Horse run.

    On the other hand, I gave up on Marvel pretty much forever in the 90s. In particular, no Spider-Man, not even the movies. Also, I have never tried dog meat, snake meat, nor roasted grasshopper. Of course, I have never had a pet ape named Tata. That’s practically Yiddish for “father”, and that would just be too disrespectful.

  24. #24 Alan Kellogg
    November 23, 2008

    Re Email and Internet Security

    The GENI Project has a FAQ page about what it’s about.

  25. #25 Luna_the_cat
    November 24, 2008

    Jud:
    I saved X-Men from the very first issues.

    My Mom threw them out with other “junk” when I was away at college.

    Here’s my indrawn sympathetic “Hhhhnnnnn!

    Gah. That’s awful. I would have wanted to kill her, Mom or not. (Actually mine did something similar with several boxes of my belongings. I was not happy.)

  26. #26 Ranson
    November 24, 2008

    I remember showing my mom an Overstreet price guide waaaaay back when. I pointed out the ludicrous market values on some of the books tossed from my older brother’s collection. She never tried to throw out any of my stuff after that.

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