Category Archives: Politics

“Lincoln’s Boys” A peak into the making of history

5190p2uQsJL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_From the excerpt I have read of  Lincoln’s Boys: John Hay, John Nicolay, and the War for Lincoln’s Image by Joshua Zeitz in the Smithsonian Magazine it certainly seems like it could be a good book.  More likely a book for people who have a fondness for history and in this case Abraham Lincoln. The excerpt below gives a little taste of it.

It is little wonder that historians consult Hay’s and Nicolay’s writing frequently—their letters and journals provide eyewitness accounts of their White House years. But their major life’s work after the Civil War is a largely forgotten story.

“The boys,” as the president affectionately called them, became Lincoln’s official biographers. Enjoying exclusive access to his papers—which the Lincoln family closed to the public until 1947 (the 21st anniversary of the death of Robert Todd Lincoln)— they undertook a 25-year mission to create a definitive and enduring historical image of their slain leader. The culmination of these efforts—their exhaustive, ten-volume biography, serialized between 1886 and 1890—constituted one of the most successful exercises in revisionism in American history. Writing against the rising currents of Southern apologia, Hay and Nicolay pioneered the “Northern” interpretation of the Civil War—a standard against which every other historian and polemicist had to stake out a position.

via The History of How We Came to Revere Abraham Lincoln | History | Smithsonian.

I think I am likely to get a copy of this when it comes out, but will see.  If you get enjoyment out of learning about history this certainly seems like a book worth checking out.

The Promise of Netflix’s House Of Cards

Given my background in politics, I am naturally excited about a new TV drama that is set in Washington D.C. like Netflix’s House of Cards is.  Add in that Kevin Spacey is the lead actor in it and famed director David Fincher involved it seems like it has potential to be a great show.  The show is a remake of the original UK  version of the same name. I watched the UK version a few years ago on Netflix and will be neat to see how they adapt it to the U.S. setting.

Likely touch on this more in a future post, but it is interesting to see Netflix get into the original content business with House of Cards and the relaunch of Arrested Development.  Instead of Netflix just licensing tv shows and movies made by other companies.  Will be interesting to see how it works out for them here in the long run.

Why you should see the movie “Lincoln”

Two weeks ago I was lucky enough to see a preview screening of the new Steven Spielberg film “Lincoln”.  Possibly because I have an interest in politics and history (my two majors in college) I was already predisposed to like this movie, but I greatly enjoyed the film.  While I have not seen every recent Spielberg film, I think this is one of his better films in a while. Though the movie is not fast paced or action packed, it had enough movement to not make it seem slow to me.

The basic setting of the movie is from January to April of 1865, when Lincoln was trying to pass the thirteenth amendment to the constitution abolishing slavery and the U.S. Civil War was coming to an end. It worked out well that Spielberg chose a small part of Lincoln’s life to make into a movie. If he had not I do not think he would have been as successful as he was with this film.  The time frame that they ended up choosing for the film I think worked well.  They picked a period where there was a lot going on for Lincoln not just with the war exclusively, but also the hard fought battle of one of Lincoln’s bigger legislative fights that he faced with the thirteenth amendment. The time they picked helped to show the continuing cost the Civil War was having not just on Lincoln but the country as well.

For me the cast led by Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln did a great job all around.  Lewis portrayed Lincoln excellently and very convincingly brought him to life I thought, showing the conflict and great stress that the war and the amendment fight brought to Lincoln, along with his family issues he faced. Tommy Lee Jones also did a great job as one of the politicians working for passage of the amendment.  If Daniel Day-Lewis does not get Oscar nomination I would be shocked.

The issue of equality was the great issue that was at stake during the discussion of the thirteenth amendment. I think it is still very relevant to our country today in a different way  at least to me.  Today we are fighting about whether people can marry whom ever they want to marry legally. Having just gone through a tough constitutional amendment fight here in  Minnesota about whether we should ban gay marriage it is a very divisive issue still and bet it will be for a while.  While that connection may not come up for every one who watches this movie, but since I saw this movie before the 2012 election that issue was certainly on my mind.

Overall I think you have a lover of history or Lincoln himself I recommend seeing this film.

The movie is based on Doris Kearns Goodwin‘s biography of Lincoln, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.  Trailer for the film below:

Hollywood’s Idea Of Innovation, Make Buffer Copies Regulated & Licensed.

While SOPA and Protect IP are dead, we still need to be aware of what the next regulation or purposed laws will be.  The cause for concern here is a purposed provision in a leaked version of the  Trans-Pacific Parntership agreement (TPP).  What Hollywood in this case wants to regulate is:

the treaty contemplates requiring licenses for ephemeral copies made in a computer’s buffer. That means that the buffers in your machine could need a separate, negotiated license for every playback of copyrighted works, and buffer designs that the entertainment industry doesn’t like — core technical architectures — would become legally fraught because they’d require millions of license negotiations or they’d put users in danger of lawsuits.  

Via Son-of-ACTA, the TPP, wants to legislate buffers – Boing Boing.

This type of regulation has been purposed before (for more information on that see link above) and has been beaten back before.  In a article, notes how this could present a real challenge to innovation/new services company’s could provide, giving this example as one case:

What the negotiators here are trying to do is to kill off any cloud streaming service (or require it to pay a lot extra). In the US, a few years ago, the 2nd Circuit ruled that Cablevision’s remote DVR was legal. Basically, Cablevision set up a bunch of servers that could act like a standard DVR, but rather than the box being at home, it was in a central data center. The TV networks freaked out about this and insisted that it must be illegal. But, of course, the only real difference between this and a TiVo was how long the cord between the DVR and the TV was. It seems ridiculous to think that the copyright could be impacted by the length of the cable. 

The key, then, to the TV guys’ argument against Cablevision was to show that Cablevision itself was involved in copying works without a license. Since it was the user pushing the button to “record” something that argument wasn’t very strong — so they picked up on a specific piece: that in the process of making this work, Cablevision had to, for an exceptionally brief period of time,buffer the TV streams that it was playing. The crux of the TV networks’ argument against Cablevision was that it was that buffer that violated copyright law. The court laughed this off, and the Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal, leaving the ruling standing.

via The Real Goal Of Regulating Buffer Copies? So Hollywood Can Put A Tollbooth On Innovation | Techdirt.

To me this leaked draft provision of the newest TPP agreement, just shows how companies are more interested in trying to control their content and looking for new ways to put up road blocks to innovation and new ways of doing things that is unless they get their cut every time their content is somehow moved even if that is just transferring on a computer for content that the person has already paid for.  As the article rightly points out, this type of regulation vastly extends beyond just hollywood content, in that it would have an effect really on type of digital file that a buffered copy was created of.  The article goes on to say:

For anyone who knows anything about technology, such a proposal is pure insanity. It’s an attempt to massively expand copyright law in the age of computers, for something that has nothing to do with the intended purpose, nor components, of existing copyright law. It seeks to put a legal liability for a transitional state of content for no reason other than that Hollywood wants to get paid any and every time a piece of content is touched. 

This kind of broad over reach just goes to show how important it is to keep aware of what is going on in these types of new purposed regulations, laws and treaties, to help beat back these type of ideas that are harmful to the future of technology and innovation.

Protect IP/SOPA And The Impact It Could Have On Industries And Jobs


All images come from

When I started to learn about SOPA and the Protect IP Act that were being considered in the House and the Senate, I was saddened to see that both of my Senators Klobuchar and Franken were supporters and co-sponsors of it. I wrote a short letter to Franken about my dislike for Protect IP and I got a letter back from his office which seemed to have as one of the main reasons for his support of it being the protection of American jobs. So in crafting a reply to that argument I did quite a bit of research.  With that research I ended up creating a lengthy reply that I think helps to show while Protect IP may be designed to protect some industries and jobs in them, it also as it is currently written will have quite a negative impact on many other industries and jobs. The results of what I found in my research are below.  If you want to see a PDF of this piece with all the footnotes and bibliography, you can download it here:  PDF

Let me make clear I am not against better enforcement of copyright, as long as it is done in a fair and just way both for the copyright holder and the accused party so that they have reasonable means to contest it if they feel they are wrongfully accused of infringement. Any new bill should balance the need of the copyright holder and potential new business’ ability to innovate without there being overburdened with legal worry.  After looking into SOPA and Protect IP they do not seem to fit into that criteria. Continue reading Protect IP/SOPA And The Impact It Could Have On Industries And Jobs

Osama is dead

Certainly an historic day in American and World history.

“It was nearly 10 years ago that a bright September day was darkened by the worst attack on the American people in our history. The images of 9-11 are seared into our national memory: hijacked planes cutting through a cloudless September sky; the twin towers collapsing to the ground; black smoke billowing up from the Pentagon; the wreckage of Flight 93 in Shanksville, PA, where the actions of heroic citizens saved even more heartbreak and destruction. And yet we know that the worst images are those that were unseen to the world: the empty seat at the dinner table; the children who were forced to grow up without their mother, or their father; parents who would never know the feeling of their child’s embrace… Nearly three thousand citizens taken from us, leaving a gaping hole in our hearts. On September 11 2001, in our time of grief, the American people came together. We offered our neighbors our hand, and we offered the wounded our blood. We reaffirmed our ties to each other, and our love of community and country. On that day, no matter where we came from, what God we prayed to, or what race or ethnicity we were, we were united as one American family.”

President Barack Obama, May 1, 2011, statement on Osama bin Laden’s death [video]

Happy July 4th or maybe happy July 2nd

As a history major/nerd I learned about how July 4th might not be truly the day we need to be celebrating. Was thinking about writing more about this but let it slip and then I thought about it again when I saw this post MinnPost – Happy Second of July

Eric Black lays it out for me:

July 2 — yes second — of 1776 that the Continental Congress adopted a resolution declaring independence from Britain.

No, the Fourth was also not the day they signed the Declaration of Independence (that happened quite a while later and over many days). July 4 was just the day they stopped making changes in the draft of the Declaration and adopted the final edited text of the document justifying to the world the decision they had taken two days earlier on a resolution by Virginian Richard Henry Lee (who, for various reasons, never gets the credit he deserves stating:

“That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.”

Here’s a slightly longer version of the wrong-day-to-shoot-the-firecrackers problem, which notes that no less than John Adams (one of the three main drafters of the Declaration of Independence) wrote home to Abigail on July 3 declaring that for the rest of time, Americans would celebrate July 2 as “the great anniversary festival.”

I can see why July 4th would be celebrated since that is the day of the Declaration of Independence that we have come to know and quote so much, but as Black says it is just laying out and explaining why the July 2nd resolution was made. In the end July 2nd or 4th, Independence Day is still a great reason to celebrate.

Eggs by the dozen to be banned by European Union?

For all the good that government does, stories like this can make it seem like they really don’t do any good at all.

In the article it mentions the possibly that the rule will not go into effect for a year  or so.  Hopefully they can turn this around and reverse this purposed rule.

With this sort of rule I am just perplexed on what they where thinking when writing this rule.  In the article they have a quote saying important to “provided [information] in a way that is meaningful and beneficial to consumers” like saying 12 eggs or 6 rolls is not.. Odd is all I can say..

For the first time, eggs and other products such as oranges and bread rolls will be sold by weight instead of by the number contained in a packet. Until now, Britain has been exempt from EU regulations that forbid the selling of goods by number. But last week MEPs voted to end Britain’s deal despite objections from UK members….Or that a bag of white rolls has 322g inside instead of half a dozen. The rules will not allow both the weight and the quantity to be displayed.

One major food supplier said: ‘This is hindering rather than helping the consumer, taking away one of the key bits of information. If this goes through it would demonstrate how far removed the legislators are from the real world. It’s bonkers.’

via EU to ban selling eggs by the dozen: Shopkeepers’ fury as they are told all food must be weighed and sold by the kilo | Mail Online.

Hat tip (H/T) to No More Buying Eggs By The Dozen in the UK.

Another Casualty of the BP oil spill

I had read one or two shorter stories about this and not surprised at this at all.  The story is the independent gas stations being hurt by the BP oil spill and the ensuing boycotts that have sprung up is not very surprising to me.  This story just brings to light one more area that is being harmed from the huge catastrophe that the oil spill has become.  This information is just something to keep in mind the next time you get gas.

“The biggest hit comes not from lost gas sales but from lost convenience store business. Owners like Juckniess make just pennies on a gallon of gas. But they might make up to 55 cents on a $1 cup of coffee. The margins on candy and chips are about 48 percent and 37 percent, respectively, Jeff Lenard of the National Association of Convenience Stores.

…The boycott’s impact on BP is limited. The company makes most of its money exploring and producing oil in places such as Angola, Egypt, the North Sea and the Gulf of Mexico.

….And even if drivers opt to fill up at an Exxon or 7-Eleven, they still may buy BP gasoline. Because of the way gas is refined and marketed, BP fuel gets supplied to stations other than those with BP brands.”

via As drivers shun BP gas, station owners want full service from BP to help get business back |

Iceland’s version of Jessie Ventura?

Comedian Jon Gnarr from Iceland sounds similar to the type of candidate pro wrestler Jessie Ventura was here in Minnesota when running for Governor in 1998.  Some one very different, outside the norm, and who allowed a way for the voters to vent their frustrations about the parties that are in office regularly.  That description seems like it matches Ventura and Gnarr well.

A polar bear display for the zoo. Free towels at public swimming pools. A “drug-free Parliament by 2020.” Iceland’s Best Party, founded in December by a comedian, Jon Gnarr, to satirize his country’s political system, ran a campaign that was one big joke. Or was it?

via The Saturday Profile – Icelander’s Campaign Is a Joke, Until He’s Elected – Biography –

Gnarr’s party the Best Party ended up gaining 34.7% which was the highest in the Reykjavik city election and his party ended up with 6 of the City Council’s 15 seats.

Mr. Gnarr needed a coalition partner, but ruled out any party whose members had not seen all five seasons of “The Wire.”….The Best Party, whose members include a who’s who of Iceland’s punk rock scene, formed a coalition with the center-left Social Democrats (despite Mr. Gnarr’s suspicion that party leaders had assigned an underling to watch “The Wire” and take notes).


I will have to try to remember to follow up on this story and see how Mr. Gnarr is doing in his new job as Mayor of Reykjavik.

I leave you with an amusing video that the Best Party put together showcasing their ideas.