# It's Not Over: We are "the change we need."

Like a lot of people, I was feeling a bit of post-partum letdown after the election. Those of us who were really engaged, following the polls, making calls to undecided voters, arguing out the merits of the candidates, experienced a bit of a vacuum after the election. Doonesbury summed it up pretty well: “I’ve been on a constant news drip all year and I can’t shut it off.”

But of course, the idea that it’s over till the next election is, well, “so 20th century.” As Barack Obama said in his presidential acceptance speech:

“What began twenty-one months ago in the depths of winter must not end on this autumn night. This victory alone is not the change we seek – it is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It cannot happen without you.”

The question, of course, is the right way to get involved. What do we do next?

There are four biggies for the tech community:

1. Actually apply for one of the jobs in the new administration. If there’s going to be any substance to the incoming administration’s plans for change, there will be a need for people with clue from outside the beltway to join in. And this doesn’t just mean more lawyers. There are great technical people who’ve been working from the outside on government transparency. I’m thinking of folks behind initiatives like the Sunlight Foundation, or Everyblock, or public.resource.org. Heck, I’d even reach out to the geniuses behind <a href=http://www.mysociety.orgmysociety.org in the UK. You do a great job of showing what’s possible. I’m wondering whether some of you ought to be on the inside, helping to implement “the change we need.” Seeing Kevin Werbach and Susan Crawford as the FCC transition team leads was an awesome wakeup call. Hey, these aren’t Washington insiders or telecom lobbyists! They are our peeps from the internet community!

2. Whether inside or out, the tech community can continue to lead by example. I’m imagining legions of bureaucrats saying “it can’t be done” countered by demonstration projects that show that “yes we can.” I’m remembering Carl Malamud‘s heroic work putting SEC data online in 1993. The project started with activism by Jamie Love – “you guys ought to do this.” Told by the SEC that it would take many years and tens of millions of dollars, Carl got a small team together, built an online database in a few months, and showed them how to do it. After Carl operated the service for two years as a non-profit, the SEC took it over.

I have a feeling we’ll need a lot more of that kind of technology activism by example, as the usual suspects seek to dip into “the great money river” of government spending, driving up the cost, extending the timelines, and reducing the possible impact of the new administration’s initiatives.

3. Identifying specific proposals for best practices and points of leverage. We held an open government summit at O’Reilly at the end of last year, and came up with some guiding principles for open data, but we need to identify specific government data sets that could be opened up, specific channels for citizen involvement and oversight, and concrete actions that we can take together to make change. Hopefully, change.gov will become a platform for independent citizen efforts, in the same way that mybarackobama.com was a platform for self-organizing campaign efforts.

4. We really need to weigh in on the issues that matter. From climate change, to open spectrum, to education policy, to investments in science and technology, we need to make our voices heard. There’s a lot of discussion on the net, but we need to remember to channel it to the people who are actually making the decisions. If it gets loud enough, maybe they will hear it on their own, but it’s good if we can make concerted efforts to bring our suggestions to them via the channels they’ve provided. Let’s give change.gov a chance!

There was a great example of this recently on twitter. Like a lot of people, I was tweeting about things that ought to be done, when @thesethings wrote:

all these points re: GM, rails, etc are great. We’re submitting all this to change.gov, right?

Duh. They are opening a channel. We think that one person’s voice might be lost. But there are great social networking tools that could be used to aggregate voices, amplifying the signal even before it gets to change.gov. But if we don’t direct the messages there, it’s less likely to be heard. (Lazyweb call: a hashtag service on twitter that aggregates stuff hashed #change.gov and submits it automagically to change.gov. We also need change.gov to show what’s submitted, so it’s a conversation, not a combination soapbox/suggestion box. Hopefully, that will come.)

The weekend after the election, my wife and I held a party at our house, which included an old-fashioned barn dance, complete with fiddler and caller for square dancing. What happened was a great metaphor for how we need to keep each other involved. The nice thing about a square dance is that if you don’t have the right number of people, no one can dance. So we’d need two more for a square, and would call out to the people chatting outside: “We need two more!” We’d get three or four. And then, by gum, we’d have to call out, “We’ve got another square. Now we need six more!” And before long, we had just about everyone dancing. And even people who thought they didn’t like to dance, and most certainly not something as old-fashioned as a square dance, had a great time.

We are “the change we need.” Step up and join the dance.

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• http://www.yellowstoneinternational.com Shelli Johnson

great post. Being from Wyoming, the square dance at barn dance metaphor resonates ;)One of the things that most struck me about Obama’s victory speech was that instead of hooping & hollering, it was very clear in his demeanor and words the weight and extent of hard work and challenges that face us as a nation.
Signs of a true leader to be sure.
Now the hard work begins for everyone. We all will be called to make sacrifices for the greater good.
Thx again

• John Galt

Just follow me to the mountains, while these folks wind the motor down. Taking from the creative class and redistributing it to those who aren’t is not the path to prosperity.

• http://brooksjordan.name Brooks Jordan

“We also need change.gov to show what’s submitted, so it’s a conversation . . .”

Yes, I made a suggestion on change.gov this morning about the auto industry and thought that very thing – we need to be able to see everyone’s suggestions.

Although, I have loved how people on the Obama team are posting back and sharing many of them.

But both would be best.

Salesforce.com should build them a Dell-like Idea Storm.

Tim, great post. And something we’ve been thinking about too. How can people get involved and sustain momentum for meaningful change, rather than see it pass by and eventually dissipate? What feels different to me this time around is that I don’t think people are going to find it sufficient to simply pass on the mandate for change to a small group of individuals. I hope everyone feels some ability to contribute. The challenge is finding out exactly how to contribute. I like that you’ve outlined some specific activities for technologists.

It can be harder at times for people like me – without technical (or tangible) skills to know what to do. But I think your 4th point speaks to this well.

A colleague of mine, Mike Wing, wrote a really insightful blog post about this issue… how citizens and employees, rather than just presidents and CEOs, can help bring about change. It feels very much in the same spirit: http://www.asmarterplanet.com/blog/2008/11/the-individual.html

• Peter

Tim,

I wholeheartedly agree with you on the majority of your post.

When I look at the new cabinet Obama has picked so far I see people from the past. When I look at Congress I see people who are inept and not interested in doing the people’s business only their own. That’s on both sides. As for Obama’s cabinet – they are not in yet and so I have to give them a chance. I’m hoping but not moved yet. As for Congress – they’ve shown that there not a source of leadership or intelligence or action – at all.

The change.gov site represents not a change for me but a website built by people in the beltway. We don’t need another site from the government. The site doesn’t really add anything new at this point in time. Everyone has the exact same capabilities as they did before with other government websites. Change.gov in my humble opinion is very much 1.0. Obama’s videos on You tube have comments turned off. The list goes on and I am at this moment not seeing the added value. It’s not at all a true collaboration at this point in time.

Give it a chance? I’ll try, but the technology is already there, it can be implemented quickly and easily already, but the switch hasn’t been turned on yet and I’m wondering why. It can be switched on right now so there is no excuse not to – right now. As you say there are peeps from the internet community right now there.

That’s why I agree with you tremendously on the need for Americans like Carl Malamud and people from the Sunlight Foundation, heck every individual American to make the effort to do what no government can – make change happen from the outside.

There’s a good argument for not having these and others join the inside – they become what’s been the problem all along – part of the beltway.

As Obama said – It cannot happen without you. I take that to mean that we have to change government – not government hiring people from inside the beltway and putting up a Web 1.0 site with some fancy PR.

I’m hoping that individuals and not government will be the change.

• bowerbird

> They are our peeps from the internet community!

um, tim… :+)

the kids say if you _really_ want to
say something like this, it would be
“these be our peeps…”

but aren’t we just a wee bit old to
toss around ebonics lingo casually?

stick with a square-dance mentality.

-bowerbird

• http://www.mymeemz.com Alex Tolley

You’re talking about a sort of “thousand points of light”, but pointed at government to make it work better and more responsive to the electorate. I like it, a lot.

• http://www.obamacto.org Mike Mathieu

Last night we expanded the ObamaCTO site to include additional topics beyond just the priorities for the new CTO, and to let people suggest ideas for more. The transparency it provides in the ideas, discussions, and voting is very different than Change.gov’s 1-way submission system and the email surveys I’ve received from the transition team. We’d be happy to have the new administration adopt ObamaCTO (or for that matter) a la the SEC, or increase the transparency of Change.gov.

• Jim Williams

Amazing

Do you really think there is going to be change. No way he is already bringing in washington insiders and is backing away from many of the things he said he would do immediately.

We all need to realize we were sold a bill of goods. He has backed away from abolishing don’t ask don’t tell. Turning his back on the gay and lesbian community.

He is bringing people into the federal reserve that are long time fed leaders, thats not change

The social policies like the universal health care is already under major fire as not being obtainable due to the price.

Many Americans that voted for him fail to realize that the democratic controlled congress and house of representatives are largely responsible for this financial meltdown with their demands to freddie and fanny to make loans available to people who should have never received them.

Just like the new video on YouTube shows most that voted for him did not have a clue on how politics work in America. Change you can count on is a pipe dream im afraid.

Whats even more sickening is that most people I talk to are scared to death of his presidency becoming another Jimmy Carter era of failed policy.

• http://tim.oreilly.com/ Tim O'Reilly

Jim, your reference to “the Democratic congress…largel responsible for this financial meltdown” shows both your bias and your lack of homework. It makes it hard to take the rest of your comments seriously.

I know some of the people involved in the transition, and I can tell you that this is not business as usual.

I do imagine that there will be compromises that make everyone uncomfortable, but I do believe that there will be real change.

• http://www.sunvalleyonline.com Dave Chase

With all of the talk this past week about the Big 3 automakers, the thought occurred to me that we need this to be “Detroit’s Katrina”. By that I mean that Katrina destroyed many of the schools in New Orleans and if a school system could have declared bankruptcy, New Orleans would be it. As a result, there was openness to a radical overhaul and reformers from outside the community have flocked to New Orleans to implement various models of education that hopefully will improve things.

Now we have Detroit. A metaphorical Katrina is in the process of wiping out some companies with flawed business models and a legacy that is putting them at competitive disadvantage (e.g., the cost of retirees healthcare add $2000 to each car). As a part of a planned bankruptcy, they need to somehow unshackle themselves from that boat anchor. Having spent many years in the healthcare system (on the biz side), h/c needs serious reform. Perhaps government’s role in this is to take on the retirees health plan and implement some of the best aspects of h/c reforms to this group of people. In the process, they won’t get screwed by whatever happens to the Big 3. It is truly “change we need”. • http://sharememe.com Ahson Wardak Great inspirational article about continuing the process of change in America. You really hit the nail on the head with the idea of post-partum depression with the Obama election to President. It also adds to it with the selection of Clintonistas, but we, normal people, have to keep the momentum going hand-in-hand with the new Obama regime. Thanks for the great post and commentary. • http://zoho.com Sridhar Vembu Tim, I am afraid you have too much faith in the government’s abilities here. Government is the problem, not the solution. After all, it was intentional Federal Reserve policy that got the whole world hooked on debt. I don’t see how pushing more debt, both public sector (massive stimulus) and private sector (bail out loans) is part of the solution. Ron Paul has the right vision, in my opinion, but in the prevailing intellectual climate, he is a marginal figure. I would wish Obama well, but I am pessimistic about his economic program. • http://cottoncandypink.blogspot.com m I’m all for involvement but one thing I’d really liked to have been involved in? The square dancing. Sounds fun, and I haven’t done it since middle school gym cass (yes, we “studied” square dancing, and ballroom dancing, among other things that year). Great metaphor, great post. • http://www.wiserearth.org Mike K What I’d like to see is Obama asking the netroots to nominate people for positions within his administration (i.e, Netroots liason?). Or maybe we can just start the nomination process ourselves, and hope the snowball gets big enough to get his attention. It’d be like election season all over again! • E Good post, but I always have to speak up when I see people joke around about serious mental health problems. “A bit of post-partum letdown”? Hope no one you love ever suffers from it. • http://www.FloatingBones.com FloatingBones Tim, you may view Jim’s claim that “the Democratic congress…largely responsible for this financial meltdown” as biased and a failure to do one’s homework. On the other hand, Jim could claim exactly the same for your posting. If you want Jim to do his homework, where do you recommend he look? If there is a white paper that exonerates the Democratic congress of the last two years for taking no action to mitigate/eliminate the financial meltdown, I have yet to see it. Congressmen in general — and Senators in particular — are notorious for providing commentary about something they think may be risky in the future. If the risk never pans out, the speech will fade into obscurity; if something bad happens, they can then note, “See! I told you this was going to be a problem! I spoke about that […]” Senator Barack Obama always had the ability to champion legislation to remedy some risk he noticed in our financial system. For a Senator, simply talking about a risk and doing nothing is not change — it’s politics as usual. • NotDrinkingCoolaid I’m sorry, but Jim Williams does have it right! Those that voted for Obama have been sold a bill of goods. Many of them were obviously swept up in the hype and celebrity status of Obama and were not well-informed (as demonstrated by recent videos of Obama voters). Those that were well-informed and still voted for him believe that America is great because of its government, not it’s people. One of two things will now occur: 1) Obama will face the reality that he has to disregard many of his original promises (tax the evil rich, share the wealth, etc). He will realize (if he hasn’t known this all along) that those are foolish ideas that will drive our nation further into recession. This is the actually best possible scenario and it will prove that he can actually make the correct decisions and govern this nation. Of course it also makes him a liar to the millions of voters that thought he was the ultimate solution to all of their problems. 2) Obama will keep his promises and move this nation toward socialism and ruin. He will use the current economic problems as an excuse to expand the size and scope of government far beyond what is necessary to maintain the security of this nation (which is all it really should do). His wealth redistribution plan will stall any chance for growth and jobs in the private sector. His private storm-trooper army, made up of idolizing young citizens in his mandatory civilian security force will ensure that everyone follows the new party line. All hail the almighty Obama. • http://tim.oreilly.com Tim O'Reilly FloatingBones - It seems the height of shallow partisanship to try to pin the excesses of subprime lending on democratic efforts to increase homeownership. This crisis is about unregulated derivatives, not subprime mortgages. Otherwise, how do you explain how a 15% mortgage default rate could trigger such a massive reaction? If it were mortgage losses that were the problem, we’d be seeing a relatively containable problem. But I really don’t want to get into debates with people who would rather hope for an Obama failure than step up to try to make things better. If you really want failure, you can work to get what you wish for. I’d suggest instead that you listen to Tom Evslin, who didn’t vote for Obama, but agrees with my prescription. The title of his blog post says it all: We are all part of the change we need. Please restrict yourselves to constructive comments, not catcalls. How can we, the tech community, contribute to making a difference, whether we are full of hope, or full of misgivings? • Peter Tim, As I said in my original post that I will give Obama a chance. I want to find the solution to the current economic problem for all not just the few. We need to understand the past from a complete and brutally honest objectivity so we do not repeat it in the future. That brutal objectivity starts with an examination of cause and effect. These unregulated derivatives are an effect of the cause. The ROOT cause of this whole fiasco started back with the Community Reinvestment Act – the Carter years. It continued with the creation of Fannie and Freddie, the strengthening of the CRA – the Clinton years. Banks were forced to give loans to people who had no business getting a loan in the first place. I’m not talking about just this past real estate boom cycle. I am talking about decades of this occuring. Now those are cold hard facts and I’m sorry but it was the democratic party and affiliates that pursued and enacted these actions. Additionally it was both the democrats and the republicans in both the house and the senate that have been spending increasingly since 1968. The republicans and Pres. Bush didn’t help any these past 8 years by allowing and participating in the spending to spiral out of control. So now what are we doing – spending more of what we don’t have. How ludicrous is this current bailout scheme? I like to break things down to a base so that everyone can see the problem from a level view so that we can come up with sound solutions. I’ll use this very simplistic analogy - I’m selling a house right now and my asking price is$500,000. In reality the TRUE value of this house is only $50,000. As the seller I’m coming to you the buyer and TELLING you that not only are you buying this house but that you are going to spend 90% more than what the value of the house is worth. This is the problem we as Americans face – we’re being told by the government that WE ARE going to buy toxic and bad assets with very little value and that things will stay the same. So the solution in my eyes is to STOP spending and bailing out. Yes you’ll get the fear mongering of it being the worst economic time since the depression, that if we don’t do this armaggedon will happen. Well here’s a solution – tell government to stop spending period. FREEZE IT. Let the banks,Big 3 Auto,etc go into bankruptcy. Bankruptcy is there because it works. Next and immediately the government announces a DRASTIC CUT in the business tax rates as well as a DRASTIC CUT in the capital gains tax. Combine this with SMART regulation, not oppressive regulation for businesses. Now I might get the “you don’t know what you’re talking about” spiel. That there’s too much bad debt out there, etc. Well – too bad. They people that played now have to pay. Sorry but reality is real and stupid past decisions means paying the piper to right the wrong. Yeah, we will have to go through some tough times – near term. I can pretty much guarantee though that with a solution like the one I outlined above the following: We’ll (the American people and businesses) will generate 2.5 million jobs and more without bloated government programs. We’ll right the wrongs in our financial system much faster than the current track we’re on. The American people will have a foundation for solid economic growth that will be based in solid fundamentals for the long term. (For our children, ourselves, and our parents). So I’m not hoping for an Obama failure or a success. What I want and hope for is an American success for the people and by the people. • Jay Tim, I am sad to see you use phrases such as “the height of shallow partisanship” and “people who would rather hope for an Obama failure than step up to try to make things better” to describe those posting opposing points of view here. As a Republican I’ve had to endure years of liberals reveling in blaming Bush and Republicans for everything. What have liberals done but hope for Bush’s failure? Isn’t it the goal of the cartoon you quote, Doonesbury, to mock Republicans and cast them in the worst possible light? The problem with your idea of change, Tim, is that you have attached your political party to it. It is a partisan venture and therefore excludes half of the country including me. If you want people with conservative values to hope Obama to succeed as you put it, you are asking us to view liberal ideas in the best possible light and consider that there might be some merit to them. Can liberals do this for conservative ideas? The last 8 years show they can’t. Perhaps there are some who can, but I don’t think they would enjoy Doonesbury. Jay • http://tim.oreilly.com Tim O'Reilly Jay – the Doonesbury cartoon I referred to was not a partisan cartoon. But I take your point – it is important to be careful about old wounds. But I ask you: Are you really against more transparent, responsive government? I hear that you don’t believe that is what Obama will bring us, but what do you lose by giving it a shot? Are you really against his expressed hope of getting beyond the partisanship of the past eight years? Can you be specific about what is wrong with what I suggested we all do here? The kinds of suggestions I made are not partisan suggestions. P.S. Did you read Tom Evslin’s post? • Jay Tim, Thank you for the response. My answer to your questions: Are you really against more transparent, responsive government? Of course I’m for this, but the question is how? I believe you are proposing access to government data, but for this to be effective someone will need to interpret and report to the public. I see this as the greater weakness. Are you really against his expressed hope of getting beyond the partisanship of the past eight years? To get beyond partisanship we all have to quit the emotional attacks and try to understand the other side’s point of view better. Obama has done nothing to appeal to conservative viewpoints. Can you be specific about what is wrong with what I suggested we all do here? The kinds of suggestions I made are not partisan suggestions. Granted, but as an honest Obama supporter I expect that you will use any data to further a Democratic agenda, not because you don’t have good intentions, just that you see the world differently than I do. For data to be useful I need to interpret it myself or by someone I trust. You believe our financial crisis is about unregulated derivatives. You might be right and you might have a mound of data to back that up but I am unmoved because you have not earned my trust. I know the point of the discussion should be how technology can be used to promote positive change, so I ask, how can technology be used to earn my trust? If anything I argue that technology is working against us because it is so impersonal. I think people routinely post hateful and thoughtless garbage because they are not held accountable for its value or accuracy. This is not a technology problem, it is a culture problem. Did you read Tom Evslin’s post? I did. The relevant quote for me was “Those of us who didn’t support Obama have an equal obligation: we can’t sulk; we can’t work for the failure of the Obama administration; we have to work for the success of the country no matter who gets the credit if for it and regardless of future elections.” I only wish this had been the policy of the vocal anti-Bush crowd the last 8 years. Jay • http://grandcanyonhiker.com Ken McNamara Our prosperity is based on our ethics. If you don’t believe this, ask yourself how long an unethical business can retain your business. If you want to know the cause of our current economic problems – you don’t have to look any further than banks making unethical loans and people accepting them. As for change you can believe in, President Elect Obama promised to take public campaign financing and didn’t. Four years from now when each part raises a$1 billion war chest for the next election – ask yourself if that’s a change you wanted.

Our prosperity will return when we return to our ethics. Until then, capitalist or socialist, it will be a rough ride.

• http://tim.oreilly.com Tim O'Reilly

Ken -

Not sure I consider changing his mind on whether or not to take public campaign financing is a matter of ethics. Have you never changed your mind?

Misrepresenting intelligence data or lying about an affair while in Office (the last two presidents) are matters of ethics. Changing a policy for which there was no obligation doesn’t hit that hot button for me.

When John McCain said he might skip the last debate, would that have been a matter of ethics too, if he’d done so?

Sounds to me like you have an axe to grind, and are looking for the nearest grindstone.

I’m sure that Obama will disappoint many people over the next four years (including me) – it’s hard to lead while pleasing everyone. But let’s save the accusations of ethical improprieties until and unless they are needed.

• http://www.FloatingBones.com FLoatingBones

It seems the height of shallow partisanship to try to pin the excesses of subprime lending on democratic efforts to increase homeownership. We could have a long debate about whether or not the government should have been coercing private institutions to fund loans that failed to serve either the borrower or the lender, but this is not the place to have that debate.

My point was somewhat different. You accused Jim of not doing his homework; I asked you where he should have gone to understand your point of view. You still haven’t addressed that question. If you’re not willing to have that debate — or at least point readers to a source showing how you came to your conclusions — I think you’d have been better off not responding at all.

This crisis is about unregulated derivatives, not subprime mortgages. With all due respect, it’s about both. Social experiments by our government can have massive and unintended consequences. For example, our huge subsidies of ethanol from corn caused food prices to skyrocket around the world.

Otherwise, how do you explain how a 15% mortgage default rate could trigger such a massive reaction? The risk model for the aggregate subprime loan packages was wrong, and nobody realized it. The WSJ had an article about that 2-3 weeks ago. Would you like a reference?

There was indeed a positive feedback loop between those securities and the credit default swaps. And the mark-to-market rules became another destabilizing factor in the system: they forced all the banks to revalue their assets when one bank sold a similar asset at fire-sale prices. Was that a fair price for the asset? We don’t know — but the law required that they value them with those exceedingly pessimistic rules. Creating a cascade of failures was never ever the intent of those SOX rules.

If it were mortgage losses that were the problem, we’d be seeing a relatively containable problem.

This is way too simplified. It was a synergistic effect between the credit default swaps and the mortgages. For certain, the claim that “lack of regulation” caused the problem was another gross oversimplification. I hate that that debate got reduced to a sound-bite in the election.

But I really don’t want to get into debates with people who would rather hope for an Obama failure than step up to try to make things better. That sounds like a catcall. And it begs the question: have liberals been hoping for our President to be successful for the past eight years? Were there any blog posts here about empowering GW Bush after the 2004 election?

If you really want failure, you can work to get what you wish for. Exactly. That rule should apply no matter what party is in the White House.

Please restrict yourselves to constructive comments, not catcalls. Claiming that Jim hadn’t done his homework was a catcall. I’m interested in learning why you have your particular point of view — I’m especially interested in learning from bright and thoughtful people who have a different point of view than me. OTOH, a sentence or two is insufficient to explain the dynamics; that’s why I asked for a pointer to a longer document than that. If you have something, I’d appreciate if you could send me a reference.

Have a happy Thanksgiving.

• http://tim.oreilly.com Tim O'Reilly

FloatingBones -

Clearly there are complex causes to all of the current problems. And there’s no doubt that the Democrats eventually added to the problems. But that’s a long way from saying that they caused them, when the philosophy of deregulation was the starting point. And yes, I will admit that in some cases, ill-considered regulation (e.g. mark to market) made things worse.

A good popular (and IMO balanced) view of what happened is This American Life’s episode, The Great Pool of Money. (Transcript is at http://www.thislife.org/extras/radio/355_transcript.pdf)

I don’t have links for some of my sources because they were in-person conversations with folks like Nouriel Roubini, Bill Janeway, and David Leinweber in connection with our Money:Tech conference last year, where these events were on the agenda before they unfolded in full this year.

I would disagree, though, that there’s an analogy between all the ill-wishing towards Obama, before he’s even started the job, and the criticism of Bush actual actions and policies during the past eight years. Yes, it was often hostile and partisan, but it was a discussion about specifics.

And there were many of us who opposed Bush’s policies but still hoped and worked for the best (following Tom Evslin’s advice.) For example, I opposed the Iraq invasion, but once it was done, I expressed hopes that I was wrong, and that the neocons had it right. When it became clear that they weren’t, it seems entirely appropriate to call for change.

And when the government does things that are reprehensible, as we’ve seen with Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, it is the responsibility of citizens to protest.

What I mean by “catcalls” are statements like “Those that voted for Obama have been sold a bill of goods….His private storm-trooper army, made up of idolizing young citizens in his mandatory civilian security force will ensure that everyone follows the new party line. All hail the almighty Obama.”

If Obama screws up, I will be glad to say so. But let’s give him a chance. So far, I still like what I see (though I’m as mixed about a GM bailout as I was about an Iraq invasion, with the same response: if he does it, I’ll want to give it a chance, in hopes he’s made the right call.)

I hope that helps clarify.

Meanwhile, I really would love this discussion to move towards specifics. See my later post, Put Change.gov under Revision Control.

• http://tim.oreilly.com Tim O'Reilly

Relevant tweet from @MParekh:

Thoughtful reminder that balance is required in Government interventions at some time: http://tinyurl.com/6h783u

Time columnist at the end of that link has it right. Either approach (govt regulation vs unregulated free market) works for a while, gets out of whack, then needs correction.

• http://tim.oreilly.com Tim O'Reilly

Good piece from Paul Krugman about what needs to be done about the financial crisis. Not what you’re looking for in the way of historical data, @FloatingBones, but definitely describes the situation as I understand it:

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/22151

“”We have magneto trouble,” said John Maynard Keynes at the start of the Great Depression: most of the economic engine was in good shape, but a crucial component, the financial system, wasn’t working. He also said this: “We have involved ourselves in a colossal muddle, having blundered in the control of a delicate machine, the working of which we do not understand.” Both statements are as true now as they were then.

How did this second great colossal muddle arise? In the aftermath of the Great Depression, we redesigned the machine so that we did understand it, well enough at any rate to avoid big disasters. Banks, the piece of the system that malfunctioned so badly in the 1930s, were placed under tight regulation and supported by a strong safety net. Meanwhile, international movements of capital, which played a disruptive role in the 1930s, were also limited. The financial system became a little boring but much safer.

Then things got interesting and dangerous again. Growing international capital flows set the stage for devastating currency crises in the 1990s and for a globalized financial crisis in 2008. The growth of the shadow banking system, without any corresponding extension of regulation, set the stage for latter-day bank runs on a massive scale. These runs involved frantic mouse clicks rather than frantic mobs outside locked bank doors, but they were no less devastating.

What we’re going to have to do, clearly, is relearn the lessons our grandfathers were taught by the Great Depression. I won’t try to lay out the details of a new regulatory regime, but the basic principle should be clear: anything that has to be rescued during a financial crisis, because it plays an essential role in the financial mechanism, should be regulated when there isn’t a crisis so that it doesn’t take excessive risks. Since the 1930s commercial banks have been required to have adequate capital, hold reserves of liquid assets that can be quickly converted into cash, and limit the types of investments they make, all in return for federal guarantees when things go wrong. Now that we’ve seen a wide range of non-bank institutions create what amounts to a banking crisis, comparable regulation has to be extended to a much larger part of the system.”

Krugman goes on:

As readers may have gathered, I believe not only that we’re living in a new era of depression economics, but also that John Maynard Keynes—the economist who made sense of the Great Depression—is now more relevant than ever. Keynes concluded his masterwork, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, with a famous disquisition on the importance of economic ideas: “Soon or late, it is ideas, not vested interests, which are dangerous for good or evil.”

We can argue about whether that’s always true, but in times like these, it definitely is. The quintessential economic sentence is supposed to be “There is no free lunch”; it says that there are limited resources, that to have more of one thing you must accept less of another, that there is no gain without pain. Depression economics, however, is the study of situations where there is a free lunch, if we can only figure out how to get our hands on it, because there are unemployed resources that could be put to work. The true scarcity in Keynes’s world—and ours—was therefore not of resources, or even of virtue, but of understanding.

We will not achieve the understanding we need, however, unless we are willing to think clearly about our problems and to follow those thoughts wherever they lead. Some people say that our economic problems are structural, with no quick cure available; but I believe that the only important structural obstacles to world prosperity are the obsolete doctrines that clutter the minds of men.

• Burt

Tim,

I happened upon your post, and its responses, and felt compelled to respond.

As a software engineer, I followed most of your posts, listening to your analysis and points of view on technical stategy, but this was the first overt political one that I’ve read from you.

Respectfully, I found your call to action for the tech community disingenous at worst and misguided at best.

If the core premise of your post is the “the change we need”, then I guess I found Obama’s promise to the American people to participate in public campaign financing, and then breaking it, and in the process destroy public financing reform in his quest for the White House, not the change that I was looking for or needed.

That you overlook this fact and ridicule fellow posters (Ken) about this issue is perplexing. After all, its only the highest office in the land.

Yet, you exort the tech community to expend thier time and skill set in supporting this type of change.

There are many other things disturbing concerning Obama, but let’s keep it relevant to your post.

I’m trying to understand your points:

> 1. Actually apply for one of the jobs in the new administration.
No thanks Tim. I would not want to be associated with people that do not keep thier word.

> 2. Whether inside or out, the tech community can continue to lead by example
My point exactly Tim. Leading by example is the only way. I prefer to be truthful, honest, and hold my self accountable. I’m afraid I haven’t seen the same. Yet you ask us to support your agenda.

> 3. …in the same way that mybarackobama.com was a platform for self-organizing campaign efforts.
I do not understand the corollation your trying to draw.

> 4. …channel it to the people who are actually making the decisions.
Well, thanks to Obama’s efforts, the people making those decisions, are the people who can gather the most money, buy saying and doing anything. The person with the most money wins.

> We are “the change we need.” Step up and join the dance.
No thank you Tim.

Here’s what I’m getting at Tim. If your pursuing a liberal agenda then that’s fine by me. But if your pursuing this agenda and asking for the tech communities involvement in the guise of ‘government transparency’ and other initiatives, then I just don’t think that’s right.

Additionally, you don’t help your case with Bush bashing to the other posters in the guise of ‘hoping I was wrong’. Actually, you were quite wrong.

> For example, I opposed the Iraq invasion, but once it was done, I expressed hopes that I was wrong, and that the neocons had it right. When it became clear that they weren’t, it seems entirely appropriate to call for change.

I guess I still don’t understand why anyone would oppose the liberation of 50 million people, so that they can (however haphazardly and painfully) enjoy freedom and democracy, whatever side your on.

I regretfully found your post quite disappointing.

Putting this on a wiki would be a great idea, but why do we need them to do it, we could lead the way: http://aboutus.org/Change.gov

• http://www.wesaveourchildrenwesaveamerica.com David W. Johnson, Jr.

UNITY NOT SEPARATION
by: David W. Johnson, Jr.

In today’s society, together we could achieve great progress
Far greater lives for our children and ourselves we can build
Instead, we seem to enjoy failures much more than success
Dr. King wanted us to have dreams and see them fulfilled

There is absolutely no gratification for us robbing and raping
Elderly person getting off a bus, thug snatch their pocketbook
Time we stop destroying our communities and start reshaping
The destructive things we are doing we better take a good look

There were those times when others, were our worse enemies
These days we are dong more to destroy ourselves than anyone
We find more pleasure in prison numbers than college degrees
Shooting, robbing, selling drugs, molesting children like its fun

In wars, enemies destroy one another but we destroy ourselves
So-called men getting two and three women pregnant at a time
Then they ignore the babies as though they were dolls on shelves
Calling themselves men when they are no more than filthy slime

Sad thing about it, those of us in position to change things are not
Sure, they complain and blame but they will not do anything to help
Adults, we would not have made it without help or have you forgot
Face facts, children has always needed adults along with self-help

Our adults today are good at talking about doing but very slow to act
School systems, churches, after school programs could all use support
Americans are becoming disappointments to their children that is a fact
Due to those disappointment too many children thinking killing is a sport

Adults spend more time ignoring problems and less working on solutions
We all know the key to success has never been crime but a good education
Dr. King, showed us, working together could bring about some resolutions
With President Obama, America will finally face, “Unity Not Separation”

Let’s Make 2009 The Year We Unite