Obama Offers Things To Kvetch About Before Giving Thanks

Illustration for article titled Obama Offers Things To Kvetch About Before Giving Thanks

Since Thanksgiving is all about gratitude — and Spencer Ackerman and I are not exactly grateful types — it's important to get all the bitching we can out of our system before summoning our most beauteous smiles and eating turkey with our families. This morning, we whine about John Forte's stupid lawyer, major hook-ups and pardon, the stupidity of celebrity interviewers, the continuing interest in Sarah Palin's freaking clothes, and why, although Spencer thinks Obama should have announced a Labor Secretary by now, I think everyone else should stop whining that he hasn't.MEGAN: Morning! How's my favorite sous chef? SPENCER: It was my friend Sommer's birthday yesterday, and at her party I had to field many a question about peeling testicles and hear about how it was priceless the way I gripped my sink in agony when we filmed that. I think my favorite part of that video is how at one point my dog looks at me — I'd like to think that he's concerned for my well-being but in all likelihood he was trying to catch a stray slice of testicle. MEGAN: From what I've heard from other dudes, I'm going to guess that only women asked you that, especially given the use of the word "priceless." SPENCER: No, that's me being hyperbolic. People of both genders practically issued condolences. What's in the news. MEGAN: Anyway, in the balls department, Obama is apparently arguing with everyone about keeping his Blackberry. SPENCER: Do you remember back in 2001 when the New York Times ran a trend piece about how there was a racial difference between BlackBerrys and two-way pagers? It never made sense to me, but now we live in an era of BlackBerry domination. Some might say HEGEMONY. MEGAN: I think they coat the plastic in actual drugs to make it that much more addictive. SPENCER: Interestingly, something the transition might want to think about are the legal ramifications of keeping an online presence as web 2.0 friendly as Obama's has been and even change.gov is. The Presidential Records Act governs preservation of all that sort of stuff, so could you really have something like my.barackobama.com continuing over into the White House without people's personal stories becoming government property preserved at the National Archives? And if not, what happens to this enormous grassroots political network that won the election for Obama? MEGAN: I don't mean to be flip about the privacy aspects, but the reality is, how much privacy does anyone really expect these days with stuff they post online? Google, National Archives, does it matter which one it's housed at? SPENCER: I'm way more concerned about a video of me eating testicles being housed at the National Archives than preserved through GoogleCache. Privacy might not be what it used to be, but a government-owned online cache of people's private moments — even if it's just the stuff they'd embed on a campaign website — is a chilling thing. People's my.barackobama.com pages talk about their personal hardships. What if insurance companies or mortgage brokers or banks or whatever used those government-storehouse records to search for who had what financial or health problem and cross-referenced that with their applicants? That's something you (probably?) can't easily do through GoogleCache. Help me ArsTechnica! This is what I usually rely on my friend Julian Sanchez to inform me about. MEGAN: I guess that's true, although it seems like there would be a way to keep the specific my.barackobama.com stuff that's already up there separate from things that people add? I don't think there's any doubt that the White House website needs a serious overhaul. Even its search function is terrible — though, all of the search functions across all the agency sites suck that bad, too. SPENCER: Which raises the next question: how will such a Mac political organization adjust to the PC nature of government? This question will now launch a year's worth of lazy journalistic cliches and it's all my fault. MEGAN: Hey, there's nothing inherently terrible about a PC, says someone who had to reinstall corrupted MacOS files one at a time on 4 different computers in a previous life But it is interesting because some sort of better web presence seems to be what Obama was hinting at in his Barbara Walters interview last night and the new social secretary, Desirée Rogers said the same thing to the WaPo on Monday. SPENCER: What did they say? I'm not going to watch a Barbara Walters interview. MEGAN:

"One of the things that I'm going to have to work through is how to break through the isolation — the bubble that exists around the president. I'm in the process of negotiating with the Secret Service, with lawyers, with White House staff ... to figure out how can I get information from outside of the 10 or 12 people who surround my office in the White House," he said. Obama said that, on the campaign trail, he had a chance to interact with hundreds of Americans, to hear their stories and connect with them personally. He said the often hermetic environs of the White House sometimes lead presidents to lose touch with their constituents. "One of the worst things I think that could happen to a president is losing touch with what people are going through day to day ... " he said. "I want to make sure that I keep my finger on the pulse of the struggles that people are going through every day."

There's no way he's talking about e-mail from the world. Which means, like too many of us, Obama reads his comments. SPENCER: Nah, he just wants you to think he does. Which means he's just like a blogger after all. Okay, clicking through the link I see that interview was entirely useless. Good thing we don't live in times of massive upheaval or we might consider ourselves poorly served by our cadre of celebrity-journalists MEGAN: Wait, you mean that another story about clothes gifted to Sarah Palin isn't super-important? Man, I wish you'd told me earlier. SPENCER: HAHAHAHA look at their lede!

Will we ever stop talking about Sarah Palin's clothes?

Of course not! You have no power or agency to stop talking about Sarah Palin's clothes. There is no force on earth that can keep you from discussing these clothes. It's the power of Christ that compels you! The power — of Christ — compels you! MEGAN: Luckily, I'm an agnostic! So I am exercising my Free Will to talk about pardons — turkeys or John Forte, it's your call. SPENCER: Wow I have no idea who this guy is. I don't regret my dislike for all post-"Nappy Heads" Fugees. Why can't Bush pardon Slick Rick or get Shyne out from his cell or clear up whether Rick Ross was ever a corrections officer? MEGAN: Slick Rick didn't go to a fancy private school with Carly Simon's son, and Orrin Hatch is, undoubtedly, not on his side. But what I want to know is what kind of shit lawyer John Forte had that he got 14 years. (Also, kids: if your friend asks you to do something illegal for them, seriously consider whether that is really your friend or not. Friends don't let friends go to the pen for 14 years to save their own hides.) SPENCER: Oh I see he's claiming that he was carrying drugs for a friend. Sorry. I'd probably claim the same thing. MEGAN: Yeah, everyone does, it's why it's a crap defense. SPENCER: But can we get a moratorium on the word "besties"? That's a slang term that has to go. MEGAN: I like it better than BFF, so, no. SPENCER: You're like those "Reliable Source" reporters who claim that they have little choice but to report on Palin's clothes! Your options are not limited to "besties" (ugh) or "BFF" (ugh ugh) — create your own terms. This is slang-rap democracy. MEGAN: Perhaps more up your alley, then would be the unions' shock and awe that the Labor Secretary isn't part of Obama's Economic Team, even though he can't pick one because there's too much infighting amongst unions for them to unite behind a guy. SPENCER: Right, Labor Secretary. I have to say I wish it was SEIU's Andy Stern. That's big-labor boss-age we can believe in. But former SEIU dude Patrick Gaspard is going to be White House political director, so there's that. Still, what sort of message does it send to millions of working people and union members that you'd announce an economic team without a secretary of labor? MEGAN: Well, Andy Stern took himself out. But I think it sends the message that the unions don't get to have that much influence on monetary policy (good) and not that much on fiscal policy (probably appropriate) and that the portfolio of the Secretary of Labor will return to overseeing labor conditions and laws in this country, rather than trying to make sure less of us get overtime. Also, I think it's sort of incredibly petty for the unions to criticize Obama for not picking someone yet when all they can do is fight over whether it should be an industrial guy or a services guy and agree that it shouldn't be a politician that might have some actual power and skills at politicking to get stuff done. But that's just me. SPENCER: What, all the different unions have an obligation to unite around one candidate? that's not true for any other cabinet secretaryship. Why do you hate millions of working Americans? MEGAN: I'm just saying that if he had picked one over the other, or announced Sebelius or something, they would be criticizing him for that, which is annoying. I hate when people do that. SPENCER: Life would be more miserable if we didn't complain and criticize.

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Chris Braak

Spencer: you are incorrect. Having personal records housed by the government is much, much safer than having them housed at Google.

Google has a prerogative to make records easy to find and access. The Government is extremely terrible at it. Tossing your testicle-eating videos into the bureaucratic black hole that is government record-keeping is probably the safest thing you can do with it.