Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

Obama’s Remarks At UMD: Good But Not Profound

Photo Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Photo Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Allow me to be somewhat cynical.

Last night I was driving home from a weekend out in Pittsburgh, the four hour trek gave me a lot of time to think and to catch up on podcasts and other pieces of audio. I loaded my iPod with a couple of recent speeches that President Obama delivered: the recent address to the joint-session of Congress and his speech at The University of Maryland from last Thursday.

I wanted to make sure I had a chance to hear both speeches, the joint session address has been newsworthy thanks to a certain impromptu comment from Representative Joe Wilson. It was almost Kanyesque the way he interrupted Obama’s remarks. I also wanted to hear his speech at UMD because someone at work told me it was one of the best speeches he delivered to the young audiences and it made The Pumpernickel say, “Whatever you may think about the health care debate, the man can give a speech. Not only that; he has the ability to inspire people.”

Sounds like a hell of a speech.

So I was listening to the UMD speech as I was cruising down I-76, and it consisted mostly of the same health care message points delivered in the joint-session address I heard previously. It doesn’t come at too much of a surprise, Obama is hard on the trail spreading his message and pleading his case so one could expect to hear a lot of the same points he spoke a week earlier in Congress. He did work his message to make more of an impact to the younger crowd; my ears perked up when he said, “under my plan, if your parents have health insurance and you’re currently on their policy, you will automatically be able to keep your coverage until you’re 26 years old.” As a quarter-lifer I know how health insurance becomes a sudden worry when you graduate from college.

It’s just that I thought I was going to hear something inspiring, the buzz around me led me to expect another profound, mind changing oration. While the speech was well delivered and Obama did a great job in speaking with the young audience (always cool to acknowledge the teeny-bopper that says, “I love you Obama!”), it’s the same message he’ll say at his next stop on the health-care reform trail.

Now I’m an Obama supporter and I  somewhat understand the idea and plans Obama’s putting forth, I just didn’t think that his particular speech is going to be in his Top-5 greatest spoken word moments as I personally come to expect. I’ll say that since I’ve been somewhat isolated from the political scene recently the expectations were mine alone, built up by the people around me. I’m sure to most others the speech was nothing more than the 24-hour news story of the day.

Barack Obama is a great speaker, I thought the best moment in his UMD speech was at the end when he retold the origins of his, “fired up” slogan/chant. He is an impassioned orator who’s complete body of work should inspire all of us around the country. I guess I am just not as super-enthused like The Pumpernickel who ended her post with, “I feel blessed to be living in Washington, DC at this time in our nation’s history, and to be part the American future President Obama says I will help him to create.”

Am I proud to be living in our Nation’s Capital? Hell ya (especially after spending the weekend in Pittsburgh!) Do I believe we are living in a historic time of change? Absolutely.

I hope however people look past the rockstar appeal Obama has and actually listen to what our President has to say after they are done snapping photos of him. Health care is a very important issue in this country and I hope young Americans pay attention to it.

I feel blessed to be living in Washington, DC at this time in our nation’s history, and to be part the American future President Obama says I will help him to create.

Psst! Need a Ticket? ‘Skins Scalp Seats in Secondary Market

scalper3

It’s an amazing testament to the NFL’s drawing power that a team like the Redskins still have the following they do.  Since 1997, the ‘Skins have posted just three winning seasons, signed ineffective, aging former superstars to contracts for ungodly amounts of money, sued fans, tried to stop you from walking to the stadium, or at least made you pay for parking even if you didn’t drive, and have supported the nuttiness that is Daniel F. Snyder.

None of which has dissuaded the Redskins faithful.  It is still one of the most profitable sports franchises in the world, potentially racist logo and all, despite the many missteps of the past twelve years. Still they show up, not just paying the overly expensive face value for a ticket, but often paying 2-3 times that through the “secondary” market.  “Oh well” you’re thinking, “If this is what the market demands…”

But maybe it doesn’t.

Unfortunately, it looks like the ticket sales for the ‘Skins aren’t all they are cracked up to be-and it probably cost you a lot of extra dough to boot.  The Post reported today that the people in the Redskins ticket sales office sold lots and lots of tickets to brokers (which, as Deadspin points out, is a fancy way to say “scalper”) directly.  You know, rather than to fans who wanted to go to the game.

So guess what-if you bought a ticket from Stub Hub, or (like I did) Ebay and you paid more than face value for those tickets last year, there is a chance you got hosed.  Not just by the scalper, but by the Redskins as well.  Honestly, of all the anti-consumer, disloyal, unfriendly and just bad things you can do-this takes the cake.  In most states there are laws that prevent the sale of tickets directly to brokers to protect consumers from being over charged for the value of the ticket.  Creating a scarcity of tickets by not making them available directly to fans is abhorrent, and I’m kind of glad I’m not already a fan-because this wold be something that might put me over the edge.  The idea that I could have maybe bought my tickets for a fair price but couldn’t because the team I spend hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars a year on was complicit in this act?  Unconscionable!

The official story is that this was the act of rogue employees who have been “dealt with” (whatever the heck that means!) and that Snyder was shocked and outraged-but I remain skeptical.  Especially since the one broker who spoke with the post said he was offered the lower seats only if he bought more expensive ones as well.  It seems very possible that this was just an easier way to sell tickets, and create a demand around a franchise that, frankly, hasn’t been good for a long time.

Between the ‘Skins’ excuse that it was actually only a small portion of the actual tickets sold, and the “Broker’s” opinion that without him it would be really hard to get tickets I am about to lose the coffee I had for lunch.  This isn’t a case of someone buying a bunch of tickets to lift a TV ban so that folks can see the game-this is a case of the company you support actively ripping you off.

And it won’t matter.  Fans won’t see one dime of that money back, and the organization will continue to think of the next way to squeeze a dollar out them for, at best, a mediocre product.  And DC will just keep showing up.  Maybe the Nationals should triple their ticket prices and sell them exclusively on the secondary market-demand might go up.  Hopefully a team that is performing, like the Caps, will engender this kind of blind loyalty when they fall on bad times and under perform.  There is a lot mediocrity in DC sports, but the ‘Skins seem to be the only ones going out of their way to treat their fans like garbage.

Does Beck Really Think Obama Is A Racist?

foxandfriends_glenn.flv.jpgIt’s tough enough being the President of the United States, but President Barack Obama has been facing recent battles that have ranged from his fashion choices at baseball games to his status as an American citizen. The latest firestorm deals with his reaction to the Henry Louis Gates arrest in my home state of Massachusetts. While some people are taking sides on whether it was right or wrong for him to say that the Cambridge officiers acted stupidly,” others are having fun that he offered both sides to talk it out over beer.

The latest twist in the Gates story (can we call it Gates-gate?) started with a recent comment from Glenn Beck on Fox and Friends:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ndc2LX2u98[/youtube]

Glenn Beck’s accusation of Barack Obama being a racist quickly made a splash and the Morning Joe crew had a lot to say on it this morning.

After hearing Glenn Beck and the reaction I asked myself the question, why would Glenn Beck say such a thing? Does he really think Obama is a racist?

The answer for me is probably not…as much.

You have to realize that Beck is a media pundit one who’s profile has risen in the punditry world. He has a daily Television show, a radio show, books, magazines, and a blog. His growing media outlets would certainly impress Martha Stewart (Glenn Beck should just rename his site to Beck Omnimedia.) All he needs is a towel line and a recipe for tuna casserole.

Beck’s commodity are his opinions and thoughts, which he is certainly entitled to have, and he’s never been to trade with it.

What is he trading for? A little attention? Does this mean he’s just spouting shock and awe to boost his ratings? To an extent yes but not entirely so.

Remember this is the same man who’s also hinted that Obama is a communist, so this isn’t the first time he’s slammed Obama. Beck is a man with many bullhorns and only has so much to feed into each of them. I think Beck does think what he says but he knows he has to go over the top with it because in the world of punditry: the bigger the opinion the better.

What do you think- is Glenn Beck really serious when he accuses Obama of being a racist?

"Tin whiskers" sound harmless, don’t they?

I got a cold chill as I read this article yesterday on the Metro crash investigation:

“In the aftermath of the crash on the Red Line between the Takoma and Fort Totten stations, Metro officials analyzed track circuit data and found that one circuit in the crash area intermittently lost its ability to detect a train. The circuit would report the presence of a train one moment, then a few seconds later the train would “disappear,” only to return again.”

It sounded to me like the same problems that have been encountered on the Space Shuttle, nuclear power plants, and various military systems. And that problem is tin whiskers.

The backstory:  When people first started building electric circuits, they used tin metal to solder the interconnections between the copper bits.  It wasn’t long before they noticed the tin would get “furry”, growing spiky whiskers as the part was used.  These spikes could grow long enough to short out the circuits, and then were so weak that they would break off right after doing so.  A smart metallurgist figured out that adding a small amount of lead to the tin alloy stopped this behavior.  And so the electronics industry grew, and electronic circuits got so small and fast and reliable that they ended up in nearly every control system – with a bit of solder in every one of them.

In the early 2000′s two things happened:  Europe passed legislation that prohibited lead in consumer products, and at the same time, the production of interconnection technologies went global.  So even though only European markets mandated this change, producers all over the world had to comply.  And that means that consumers all over the world were getting lead-free electronics, many times without knowing it.  Many times the same part number started showing up with lead-free solder, making this trend very hard to track.

So yesterday, I dropped a note to one of my expert friends, who agreed with me that the circuitry in the Metro replacement part, more likely than not, contained lead-free solder.  And then, he pointed out the likelihood that the latest Airbus crashes had lead-free solder components in their flight controls.

Hence the cold chills.

Yes, it’s a bad thing to have lead where kids might put it in their mouths (especially drinking water).  Yet the activists admit that the amount of lead in electronics isn’t at dangerous levels; they say their ultimate goal is to shut down lead production entirely.   (In the interest of full disclosure, I facilitated a study back in 2005 that predicted this, and only now is the military starting to address those findings.) 

Hey, guys, maybe technology might need to trump politics for once?

The Real World DC: Rumor On Cast Arrival, DC Freaks Out

zn4jygExcitement and disgust.

Those are the simultaneous feelings I had when I heard the Real World DC cast had arrived at Regan National Airport.

First I was excited to hear that things are starting up and soon the stories of the debauchery at clubs and bars will keep me entertained all summer long. However when I saw the degree people have become obsessive of it makes me wanna puke.

Read these tweets.

“Jeep and crew just left, door by patio is open. Basement looks nice. No guards, 4 construction workers.”

Are we planning a covert mission here!?!? I can see the next tweet in my head:  “no guards, construction workers gone, Bravo team in position.” I wonder if any other city has had this problem before, are we going to see an episode next year where they have to explain how a mob of fans coordinated a stalk attack through twitter?

Check out #rwdc and #rwdcwatch for even more ridiculous stalkers.

Now I’m excited to have The Real World in DC and to be living in the same place they are filming the show. I will eventually take a walk down to the house to see it and say I was there- but I’m not holding my own stakeout to see people that aren’t even scandalous famous yet.

We live in the same city as The President of the United States, yet we have people stalking a bunch of quarter-life aged adults as they get drunk on basic cable.

Seriously DC calm down, I think I’m going to have more fun watching the show next season if there wasn’t paparazzi like crowds in every shot.

UPDATE (8:04)

Again another reason why we shouldn’t freak out- it appears that today’s news was only a drill. It is now uncertain if the cast is actually here or not- but it looks like it was all a false alarm to me. Today’s rumors and excitement  shows the power of groupthink that Twitter can exacerbate. I mentioned it last week in regards to the Metro Crash, early on there was a lot of mis-information being spread around through Twitter- and this is another reason why  we should all just calm down. Once they are here they are here for six months, we’ll get tired of them sooner than you think.

Watermain Break in Bullet Points

  • If you have to have a huge underground pipe break in your neighborhood, a warm spring morning is not the worst day for it.  If you live below grade, it’s still pretty traumatic.
  • I didn’t know pavement could do that.
  • The overall response from the City workers was great; the sad thing is that they’ve done this so often that they have it all down pat.   I wanted to kiss them for working through the 4-hour downpour that evening that I’m sure kept it from getting any worse.
  • The contractors were out in force; we had 3 business cards for specialists in water damage in our mail slot within 8 hours. 
  • Now I know what rush hour sounds like without traffic on Florida Avenue.   And that articulated Metro buses can back up very, very long distances.   
  • Life goes back to normal pretty quickly, all things considered.   Until the next one breaks…

Metro UPDATE: Retail on the Way!?

food-fast

Okay, well I’m glad somebody at WMATA is reading my posts-now if they’d only give me some credit!

NBC Washington is reporting that as early as this fall Metro might feature retail stores at 12 Metrorail stops.  Everything from dry cleaning to food will be available if things go according to plan. 

A plan they clearly got from my post a few weeks ago.  Okay-maybe we just had the same idea, but I’ll take credit for it until someone shows me different.

Here it is though, commuters of DC;  there isn’t much separation between selling food and drinks and being able consume them on the trains.  My opinion was made pretty clear in my last post, but just to restate it-I think the eating and drinking ban was pretty ridiculous anyway and at least Metro will see some money out of it.  Sadly, my gut says that it won’t bring a reduction in fares-but maybe it will keep prices from going up any time soon.

The  idea will be brought to the Metro Board later this month and, if approved, proposals for retail shops will be solicited in June.  Shops could start as early as late this fall.

Nats Park: No More Sunset Wheat??!?!

Now maybe I should have realized this at some point during the first month of baseball, but I was too busy watching the Nats lose/get rained out.  I went to yesterday’s Cinco De Mayo businessmanperson special between the Nationals and the Astros (what were you doing at 12:35 that was so important?).  I put on my new T-shirt:

0505_cincodemayo_tshirt

My New Favorite Shirt!

and saddled myself up to the Red Porch Rooftop and ordered my summer beer standby-Sunset Wheat.

(more…)

Not Easy Being Green: Earth Day

Thanks, NASA!

Thanks, NASA!

Of all the zillions of 86 Earth Day events in DC and zillions of 175 million helpful posts on Easy! Ways! To! Be! Green!… this one is FULL OF WIN.  (Also, the most irreverent. Just sayin’.)

Not Easy Being Green: Air

sunset

props to Jonathan Hoff on flickr

The thing about air, you see, is that there is a lot of it.  And it’s free — there’s no “DC Department of Air” that delivers clean, tested stuff to your door.  Then again, a lot of things (that we don’t pay for) affect our air quality.  In the city, it’s mostly heavy and off-road vehicles — trucks, buses, earthmovers – and that coal-burning power plant on Capitol Hill.  But regular cars and light trucks, heating, ventilatilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, manufacturing, and even human and animal digestion — all affect the air we breathe, as well as do sun, wind, and heat.  Air is both chaotic and complex, two things that make a system very difficult to model using our limited tools of mathematics and computer science. 

The upshot is that we don’t understand it very well.  We mostly know there is a problem with the air and that the changing composition means the air is overall a titch warmer than it used to be.  And we mostly agree that this is a result of people using the air.  And we mostly think this warming trend is Not Good.  What nobody knows very well is what to do about it. 

In a situation like this, looking at history is always interesting to me; I like the example of the government’s well-meant efforts to make cars more efficient by regulating the corporate average fuel economy (CAFE).  Instead of resulting in more small cars on the road, the car industry figured out how to sell us trucks (ie, SUVs) that weren’t covered by the rule.  These larger vehicles will finally be regulated in 2011, more than 35 years after the law was enacted.  This is a great example of unintended consequences and the need to reckon with clever capitalists.  Well-meaning people regulated lead of out gasoline back then, too.  Lead is pretty awful stuff when it ends up in drinking water and the easiest way to keep kids safe is not to use it at all.  But recent speculation points to lower lead levels as a precursor to global warming (thanks to @2020science for the links!). 

Unfortunately, eliminating lead also means none of those kids can use their XBOX 360s, but those consequences, they just keep coming.  And now we mean well when we talk about limiting carbon emissions.  I fear the unintended consequences.  Who knows, we could be stuck with a lot of boring sunsets…

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