Monday, December 01, 2008

Taking a Page, Closing a Tab

I think this post will qualify as a genuine shotgun blast of information as I'm very tired.

First off is this excellent link provided by the near and dear Miss Information. It's along the lines of something I think college professors should do at the beginning of class or at least when the opportunity presents itself: pronounce the names of key figures in the class literature. I always have to spell out the name of a philosopher highly influential to me, Ludwig Wittgenstein (the 'w' is pronounced as a 'v') and I still don't know how to say Hegel's name properly yet. So finally there's a site that provides those pronunciations. About fucking time.

Next is a post from Ezra Klein linking to another blogger who makes a point about the raft of Obama appointees and their informal name as "Clinton staffers". The point is it seems the mainstream media and particularly the rightist punditry refer to "any Democrat under about fifty or fifty-five years of age who has had work experience in the executive branch of the federal government." This generally puts said Democrat in the Clinton administration but doesn't necessarily make them a Clinton appointee. Both Klein and Hertzberg think this isn't a problem in the first place but look to clarify the difference between President Clinton's appointments, President Bush's first term appointments and President-Elect Obama's appointments. The key differences are: a) President-Elect Obama has avoided the "no Carter people" or "no Johnson people" of the Clinton and Carter presidencies respectively based on his desire to collect the best people to do the jobs he wants done; and b) most of the Democrats with any executive experience naturally come from the Clinton administration since that was the last time the Democrats held that branch of government. So calling an appointee from the 90s a Clinton person does refer to someone but that reference is pretty meaningless since it doesn't really tell you anything about the person. More to the point, by calling on such people President-Elect Obama is looking to avoid the learning curve of White House staffing.

The final tab to close comes from Andrew Sullivan (naturally) who links to a review of Clay Shirky's book Here Comes Everybody that described both the advantages and drawbacks to distributed, or cloud, actions on the Interwibble. Where you have Flickr providing the first pictures of the 2005 London bus bombings that no news organization could have gotten you also have cloud organizations for Holocaust deniers (re: future lead pipe victims) or even terrorist cells. Shirky, through reviewer and tech security guru Bruce Schneier, speaks about the Interweb's ability to allow loose collections of people to form informal organizations with near zero financial costs and a wide latitude for collaboration and potential action. Personally, I think there's some over-stating of the matter. Loose collections of people don't necessarily evolve into informal structures and informal structures don't necessarily do anything.