Obama is open for questions

President Barack Obama continues to want to engage “folks” online, this time with a new service called Open For Questions:

Despite continued criticism of the bailouts, it takes a brave guy to still want to “experiment” and reach out to so many angry people.

As of this writing, 7,451 people submitted 7,706 questions and cast 261,052 votes.

Some random ones:

“Mr. President, my husband and I are on the verge of losing our home to foreclosure due to no work for over a year. Why is there absolutely NO help for those of us who have little to no income but are good people who want to stay in our homes??”
Yvette, Vermont

“You say ‘I am as angry as anybody’ about AIG bonuses & ‘we are all in this together’. Why is money being loaned to huge corporations rather than to small biz citizens? I don’t understand how we are all in this together. I’m sacrificing, they’re not.”
Darla B, Los Angeles CA

“I bought my first new home a year ago. I did not over-reach and bought a sensible home within my means. I was recently laid off and my home is now worth less than I paid if I were to try to sell. What options are available to folks like me?”
David L., Maineville, OH

“Why don’t you let the economy crash and then we can start rebuilding it, why are you putting these billions of dollars into the economy and just prolonging the inevitable?”
kevinmaks, chatsworth, CA

Obama’s speech crafted by 27-year-old in Starbucks

From the Guardian:

Jon Favreau, 27, is, as Obama himself puts it, the president’s mind reader. He is the youngest chief speechwriter on record in the White House, and, despite such youth, was at the centre of discussions of the content of today’s speech, one which has so much riding on it.

In composing the high notes of the speech, Obama has leant on Favreau, whom he discovered almost by chance four years ago when the younger man was working on John Kerry’s failed presidential bid. “Favs” has since studied Obama’s speech patterns and cadences with the intensity of a stalker. He memorised the 2004 speech to the Democratic national convention which first brought Obama into the limelight. He is said to carry Obama’s autobiography, Dreams From My Father, wherever he goes. As a result, last November when Favreau sat down to write the first draft of the inaugural address, he could conjure up his master’s voice as if an accomplished impersonator.

That skill had been put to almost daily use in the 18 months of brutal campaigning on the presidential trail. Favreau would be up most nights until 3am, honing the next day’s stump speeches in a caffeine haze of espressos and Red Bull energy drinks, taking breaks to play the video game Rock Band. He coined a phrase for this late-night deadline surfing: “crashing”.

He crashed his way through all Obama’s most memorable speeches. He wrote the draft of one that helped to turn Iowa for Obama while closeted in a coffee shop in Des Moines. For the presidential election, he wrote two speeches: one for a victory, one for defeat. When the result came through, he emailed his best friend: “Dude, we won. Oh my God.”

The tension between such youthful outbursts and his onerous role has sometimes cost the 27-year-old. In December, pictures of him and a friend mocking a cardboard cut-out of Hillary Clinton at a party, Favreau’s hand on her breast, were posted on Facebook to his huge embarrassment.

Obama is an accomplished writer in his own right, and the process of drafting with his mind reader is collaborative. The inaugural speech has shuttled between them four or five times, following an initial hour-long meeting in which the president-elect spoke about his vision for the address, and Favreau took notes on his computer.

Favreau then went away and spent weeks on research. His team interviewed historians and speech writers, studied periods of crisis, and listened to past inaugural orations. When ready, he took up residence in Starbucks in Washington and wrote the first draft. The end result will be uttered on the steps of the Capitol.

Obama’s mind reader has crashed his way through yet another deadline.


Speech excerpt:

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real, they are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this America: They will be met.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less.

It has not been the path for the faint-hearted, for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame.

Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things — some celebrated, but more often men and women obscure in their labor — who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life. For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West, endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died in places Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.

Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed.

Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

Full transcript of inauguration speech of Barack Obama, 44th president of the United States.

Multimedia President: 10 tech reasons why Obama won

In 1992, James Carville said, ‘It’s the economy, stupid.’ This year, it was the network, stupid!” Joe Trippi

β€œIn particular, the Senator was personally interested in the rise of social networking, Facebook, Youtube, and user-generated content, and casually but persistently grilled us on what we thought the next generation of social media would be and how social networking might affect politics β€” with no staff present, no prepared materials, no notes. He already knew a fair amount about the topic but was very curious to actually learn more,” Marc Andreesen, the co-founder of Netscape, recalls when he met Senator Barack Obama in early 2007.

Barack Obama’s ascendancy to the highest office in America is attributed to various factors: one lame-duck president, two unpopular wars, trillions in deficits, foreclosures galore and the quintessential coolness of the man.

But the 2008 campaign will be remembered in my mind for one thing: Obama’s seeming omnipresence. Print, radio, TV, web, mobile and games – he was everywhere.

New media fed off old media in an endless but consistent recycling of the message of Hope and Change. It was this willingness to engage online and harness the Yes We Can-ness of the many that has ushered in America’s first Multimedia President.

The shiny digital machine in the Obama’s powerhouse campaign was My.BarackObama.com or affectionately called MyBO by fans (and now possibly to be succeeded by Change.gov).

Commandeered by new media advocacy company Blue State Digital, comprising four alumni of Howard Dean’s failed but praised 2004 online campaign, the skills of 24-year-old Chris Hughes, co-founder of Facebook, and the genius of strategist David Plouffe, MyBO showed the way on how to organize voters and raise money online.

Such was its success that all future presidential hopefuls must look to MyBO if they even want to get a whiff of the Oval office.

For the net generation, McCain’s, Palin’s and even Hillary’s early accusations about their opponent’s “inexperience” was incongruent with the mature way Obama’s campaign conducted itself online.

McCain’s admission that he doesn’t use email, and his inability to articulate his plans for the Internet generation, didn’t endear him to the wired and the wireless. Both young and old, including a 106-year-old, found him wanting online.

The “generational shift” was clearly evident in Obama’s multi-pronged, multimedia approach.

The campaign’s viral videos, text messages, email blasts and online advertising, organizing and solicitation for funding was unprecedented.

Grassroots fans added to the mix through mashed videos, blog posts, wall posts and twitter updates echoing in the cyber chamber of the Obamania lovefest.

Obama girl

Even Obama girl (above) claims credit and wants an invite to the inauguration.

Here are 10 ways new tech trumped old-school campaigning:

1. Viral videos: The Obama campaign uploaded over 1,821 videos on their YouTube channel over the course of two years with views upwards of 18. 4 m and subscribers at 114,559 by Nov 4 compared to 329 videos on McCain’s channel and with 2m views and a paltry 28,419 subscribers. (Source: Jeremy Owyang).

Among the more popular Obama videos were: A More Perfect Union speech (when he denounced Rev Jeremy Wright), Yes We Can speech in New Hampshire, Dancing with Ellen and the Iowa Caucus victory speech.

Hot videos from the Obama fan-base were embedded on blogs and Facebook walls and enjoyed healthy circulation including will.i.am’s Yes We Can (21.4 m views, Source: Viral Video Chart), I’ve Got a Crush on Obama by Obama Girl (11.3m views) and the Hillary-Apple 1984 mashup (6.3m views).

Derrick Ashong enjoyed his 5-minutes of fame (1.08m views) when he was picked out in a street interview as the “Clueless Black Guy” and stunned the arrogant reporter with his articulate replies. Ashong then went on to expand his views online and even scored an interview with the New York Times.

2. Raising Money Online: The Obama campaign’s bottom-up strategy raised US$650 million from some 3.1 million donors. Nearly half of that sum were from those who gave less than US$200 compared to 34 percent for McCain. Blue Digital estimates that by July 2008, the campaign had raised more than US$200 million from more than a million online donors.

Obama’s online fundraising, with its constant email prodding of small donors, was a game changer. It gave the campaign enough confidence to forgo the federal funding cap of US$84.1m which McCain’s campaign took and was crippled by. In September alone, Obama raised a record US$150m – a figure Palin’s makeover specialist might have salivated over.

3. Social Networks: The tools on MyBarackObama.com was based on rebuilt versions of those created for the Howard Dean’s 2004 campaign. But four years had changed the social networking landscape with millions more familiar with blogs, MySpace, Facebook, Friendster, Meetup.com and various online activism tools.

MyBO not only enabled supporters to donate money and distribute media but it empowered them to find, convince and canvas other registered voters among their neighbours.

Truth-o-meter 4. Fighting Smears: Accused of being a socialist, a closet Muslim, an Arab and “palling around with terrorists”, Obama’s campaign launched its own FightTheSmears.com site, not unlike Coca-Cola’s Facts and Myths. But a vigilant press, perhaps still smarting from missing WMDs and the 2004 Swift Boat Veterans debacle, fact-checked every claim.

The St Petersburg Times’ website PolitiFacts.com and its Truth-O-Meter and Flip-O-Meter kept popular graphical scorecards of the specific candidate attacks and rated them accordingly. Eg: A chain email accusing Michelle Obama of ordering US$400 worth of lobster and caviar at the Waldorf Astoria complete with receipt was given its lowest rating: Pants on Fire.

5. Online Coverage: Websites such as The Huffiington Post, Talking Points Memo, Daily Kos and Politico.com came into their own, feeding off old media but providing juicy bits to counter the MSM.

6. ObamaMobile on the iPhone and text messaging:

Although it reached only a few, the app may be the harbinger of the future. ObamaMobile allowed users to take a look through their contacts, and organize them by key battleground states, making it fast and easy to reach friends during the campaign. It also anonymously reported how those calls initiated in the app and relayed the info back to the Obama campaign.

“Get Involved” utilized the location capabilities of the iPhone to provide the address of the closest Obama HQ, complete with a link to Google Maps, while “Local Events” informed users of events they could participate in.

The Obama campaign also sent out an SMS to 2.9m mobile users who signed up to be the first to know of his VP selection. It instantly created a mobile phone database that the campaign could exploit.

(Source: MobileSlate)

7. Twitter updates: Twitter is quickly becoming the defacto 140-character news alert tool for media companies. Twitter updates were rife during the elections with 122,000 followers @barackobama alone. The constant stream provided at election.twitter.com was addictive suggesting a live microblogging platform may be a mainstay in the future.

8. Tech plan: Unlike McCain, Obama had a clear blueprint on his plans for technology in both video and PDF format at his campaign website. Although tech hardly came up as an issue in the campaign, Obama collected US$1.44 million in donations from employees at the 20 largest Silicon Valley companies.

His tech policy promises pandered to the Google-loving crowd and included: Net neutrality, broadband access for all, doubling the federal funds in basic research, re-establishing the National Aeronautics and Space Council scrapped by Bush, creating a technology-based curriculum for schools, and increasing H-1B non-immigrant visas needed to recruit foreign guest workers.

It seems likelier that some of these ideas may come to fruition if Obama stays for a second term.

9.New voters: A voter registration boom through Vote For Change, Rock The Vote, various online registration websites, and celebrity get-out-and-vote videos may have favoured Obama.

10.Media Coverage: CNN’s John King and his Magic Wall, a Perceptive Pixel multi-touch device first demo-ed by Jeff Han at the TED Talks may not have persuaded voters to swing red or blue, but the tech for tech sake showcasing by various broadcast media had its appeal for those listening to the Change mantra.

On election night, CNN’s Holograms and Virtual White House definitely scored points for those wanting flashier 3D visualizations and who grew up on either Star Trek, Star Wars or The Matrix. It seemed fitting that the choice of beaming will.i.am, a black singer onto a stage predominantly filled with white analysts, would shortly herald the United States of America’s first digitally-savvy president of colour.

New Yorker mag cover controversy

Pictured left is the latest cover of New Yorker magazine which shows Barack Obama dressed in traditional garb and his wife Michelle dressed as an afro-haired militant in combat boots and assault rifle.

The illustration by artist Barry Blitt depicts them in the Oval Office with a portrait of Osama in the background and a burning American flag in the fireplace.

The cover comes in the wake of a well-Digged top ten list of controversial covers last week, which included the naked Dixie Chicks, Hitler in a 1939 Time cover and an arrow-pierced Muhammad Ali.


Will Smith is all ears for Barack Obama

A little digression today. Will Smith tells the BBC, it’s all in the ears: "He has the ears, we both share the ears. People dig the ears."

Smith adds: "I travel around the world a lot, and I was kind of used to people being happy when the Americans showed up. That sort of changed over the last eight years. So I’m excited about the new possibilities of hope and change that Barack is bringing."

Side-by-side, the Spockish resemblance is uncanny. As pointed out by Faded Youth Blog, Obama said the same in February when asked by Entertainment Tonight who he would choose to play him: “Will Smith and I have talked about this, because he has the ears. He’s better looking than me, but we both have those.”

Face readers suggest that Ears That Stick Out "shows you are a non-conformist, an independent thinker, a scholar and a quick thinker but you are also stubborn." whereas Pointy Ears reveal "you are not as kind-hearted and reliable as you like to make out but on the positive side, you are original and inventive."

Hmmm. Spock quote for reflection: “[Spoken softly] Those who cannot hear an angry shout may strain to hear a whisper.”

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