Fouad Ajami, in the Wall Street Journal, comments on the recent dissolution of the illusion.
The current troubles of the Obama presidency can be read back into its beginnings. Rule by personal charisma has met its proper fate. The spell has been broken, and the magician stands exposed. We need no pollsters to tell us of the loss of faith in Mr. Obama’s policies—and, more significantly, in the man himself. Charisma is like that. Crowds come together and they project their needs onto an imagined redeemer. The redeemer leaves the crowd to its imagination: For as long as the charismatic moment lasts—a year, an era—the redeemer is above and beyond judgment. He glides through crises, he knits together groups of varied, often clashing, interests. Always there is that magical moment, and its beauty, as a reference point. ...
Forgive the personal reference, but from the very beginning of Mr. Obama’s astonishing rise, I felt that I was witnessing something old and familiar. My advantage owed nothing to any mastery of American political history. I was guided by my immersion in the political history of the Arab world and of a life studying Third World societies.
In 2008, seeing the Obama crowds in Portland, Denver and St. Louis spurred memories of the spectacles that had attended the rise and fall of Arab political pretenders. I had lived through the era of the Egyptian leader Gamal Abdul Nasser. He had emerged from a military cabal to become a demigod, immune to judgment. His followers clung to him even as he led the Arabs to a catastrophic military defeat in the Six Day War of 1967. He issued a kind of apology for his performance. But his reign was never about policies and performance. It was about political magic.
In trying to grapple with, and write about, the Obama phenomenon, I found guidance in a book of breathtaking erudition, “Crowds and Power” (1962) by the Nobel laureate Elias Canetti. Born in Bulgaria in 1905 and educated in Vienna and Britain, Canetti was unmatched in his understanding of the passions, and the delusions, of crowds. The crowd is a “mysterious and universal phenomenon,” he writes. It forms where there was nothing before. There comes a moment when “all who belong to the crowd get rid of their difference and feel equal.” Density gives the illusion of equality, a blessed moment when “no one is greater or better than another.” But the crowd also has a presentiment of its own disintegration, a time when those who belong to the crowd “creep back under their private burdens.”
The Day the Magic Died
(Lines inspired by the WSJ headline “When the Obama Magic Died.”)
A long, long time ago
I can still remember how that magic used to make ‘em smile
And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And maybe they’d be happy for a while
But October made me shiver
With every paper they delivered
Bad news on the doorstep
I couldn’t take one more step
I can’t remember if I cried
When the papers said I lied
But something touched me deep inside
The day the magic died
And while I read a book of Marx
The party gathered in the park
And we sang dirges in the dark
The day the magic died
So bye-bye, my Obamacare
Took my browser to the website, but the website was bare
And them good old boys were losin’ all their health care,
Singin’ “This’ll be the way that I die
This’ll be the way that I die”
CNN Money describes the problems and quotes technicians about what it will take to fix it.
Experts say the major problems with the Obamacare website can’t reasonably be solved before the end of 2013, and the best fix would be to start over from scratch.
After assessing the website, Dave Kennedy, the CEO of information-security company Trusted Sec, estimates that about 20% of Healthcare.gov needs to be rewritten. With a whopping 500 million lines of code, according to a recent New York Times report, Kennedy believes fixing the site would probably take six months to a year.
But would-be Obamacare enrollees only have until Dec. 15 to sign up for coverage starting at the beginning of 2014. Nish Bhalla, CEO of information-security firm Security Compass, said it “does not sound realistic at all” that Healthcare.gov will be fully operational before that point.
“We don’t even know where all of the problems lie, so how can we solve them?” Bhalla said. “It’s like a drive-by shooting: You’re going fast and you might hit it, you might miss it. But you can’t fix what you can’t identify.”
Several computer engineers said it would likely be easier to rebuild Healthcare.gov than to fix the issues in the current system. But it’s unlikely that the government would toss out more than $300 million worth of work.
The sheer size of Healthcare.gov is indicative of a major rush job. Rolling the site out too quickly likely increased the number of errors, and that makes the fixes more difficult to implement.
“Projects that are done rapidly usually have a lot of [repetitive] code,” said Arron Kallenberg, a software engineer and tech entrepreneur. “So when you have a problem, instead of debugging something in a single location, you’re tracking it down all through the code base.”
To put 500 million lines of code into perspective, it took just 500,000 lines of code to send the Curiosity rover to Mars. Microsoft’s (MSFT, Fortune 500) Windows 8 operating system reportedly has about 80 million lines of code. And an online banking system might feature between 75 million and 100 million lines. A “more normal range” for a project like Healthcare.gov is about 25 million to 50 million lines of code, Kennedy said.
“The [500 million lines of code] says right off the bat that something is egregiously wrong,” said Kennedy. “I jumped back when I read that figure. It’s just so excessive.” ...
..The New York Times report said five million lines of code need to be replaced just so the site can run properly.
But the Obamacare website has bigger problems than simply getting people registered for health care. The code is also riddled with security holes, according to Kennedy, who outlined his cybersecurity concerns on Trusted Sec’s company blog.
“If someone can’t register, that’s obviously bad—but if the information gets hacked, you’re talking about one of the biggest breaches in American history,” Kennedy said. “I think security is an afterthought at this point.”
I went looking at property lines with my surveyor on a used Polaris Ranger I recently bought. I couldn’t restart it after I accidentally turned the engine off by throttling down while we were deciding which way to go around an obstacle. We pushed it a little ways, then rolled it down a slope to where my surveyor could walk through a neighbor’s field for assistance. My neighbor drove out and gave us a jump.
We were worried about coming back through the deep woods so we decided to motor down the road to an entrance to my farm that would give us a shorter route back. Thereupon, Ooops! we ran out of gas.
Another neighbor came by with a five-gallon can of gas and the first neighbor jumped our battery again.
We made another half a mile before the battery again completely died. A third neighbor towed the Polaris into his garage with his pickup trick, then gave us a lift home.
There are obvious problems with relying on unfamiliar used vehicles for transportation.
Shot two days ago by members of the Assumption Parish Office of Emergency Preparedness in Louisiana, an entire stand of trees is suddenly swallowed by an underwater sinkhole above a collapsing salt mine. The sinkhole is part of an ongoing environmental disaster in Bayou Corne, and efforts are underway to prevent it from spreading, however it has already forced the evacuation of an entire town.
Those London firemen must have stopped for a cup of tea before arriving to extinguish the fire.
They only made 764 Miuras between 1968 and 1972. This one was a P400SV, probably made after 1970.
British sports cars were notorious for a wilingness to rust, and for every kind of electrical problem. (Famous joke: “Why do the British drink warm beer? Because Lucas made the refrigerators.”) But members of the exclusive club rich enough to own an Italian exotic car could apparently get with it really exotic issues… like a propensity to catch fire at idle(!).
Lamborghini [Miura]’s use[d] Weber 40 IDL 3C1 carburetors which were designed exclusively for racing applications and weren’t suitable for road use. The problem occurred when the car sat idling (e.g. at a stoplight), the area above the throttles filled with fuel which often ignited when the car accelerated away from the stop.
———————————————————— Peter Orosz was allowed to examine and sit in one at a collectible car company, and he was moved to rhapsodize:
There is a menacing beauty to the Miura up close. The roofline is so low the car would be inadequate to cover the private parts of a man were he to approach it naked. The cute eyelashes of the ventilation ducts surrounding the headlights begin to look like alien claws. As you make your way into the snug cabin, the velocity trumpets of that great engine tower over your head, mere inches away. If not for the thin plate of glass between you and the six carburetors, a blip of the gas pedal would send loose strands of your hair down their throats, ready to combine with gasoline. And burn.
My girlfriend Natalie, described the driving position as “basically perfect”, quite a surprise when you consider the monkey-boy ergonomics of most Italian cars. The cabin is simple yet full of gorgeous detail, a combination of fine materials and charming reminders of low-volume handmade production.
But said perfection combines with much imperfection: The Miura has an annoying tendency to catch on fire at idle. The front end tends to lose traction at speed. And its spotty relationship with reliability is most likely a direct function of being an Italian car, built in a small factory almost half a century ago.
Still, being up close to one makes it more desirable to me than ever. No matter how many times I see a Miura—and I haven’t seen many, and this is the first one I’ve actually sat in—I am always in awe of its impeccable proportions, its wonderful punk history, and its sheer sense of speed and style. Inside, you dream of gently twisting motorways with no speed limits, and no traffic. Of mountain roads and plains and electric blue lakes. Of tunnels to amplify the shriek of that V12. Driving a Miura is one of life’s great petrolhead fantasies. But to enjoy it, you don’t even have to drive. Just climb inside, close your eyes, and dream your merry automotive dreams.
The America’s Cup race is a match between a defending and a challenging sailing yacht, each representing an organized yachting club. Larry Ellison, the notoriously abrasive and egomanaical CEO of Oracle, early in the 2000s developed a yen to compete for the Cup, and needed a yacht club to represent.
Larry naturally first approached San Francisco’s venerable and aristocratic St. Francis Yacht Club. The St. Francis folks were initially happy with the idea of Larry Ellison flying their club pennon and competing in their name, but when Larry informed the St. Francis Club that he expected them to surrender majority control of the club’s governing board to him as part of the deal, the St. Francis Club demurred.
Larry responded by going down to road to a more modest and considerably more desperate organization, the Golden Gate Yacht Club, a much smaller, ordinary middle-class club, the sort of club a SF fisherman’s family (like Joe DiMaggio’s) might belong to, at the time in the process of going broke. Golden Gate welcomed Larry Ellison (and an additional 100 minions and lackeys) as new members, whose waterfall of dues wiped out the club’s deficit, and in return surrendered board control to King Larry, who does not, it seems, really bother to visit this latest small outpost of his personal empire. When the Golden Gate Club requires Larry Ellison’s attention, they come humbly to his door.
The chaps standing around the bar at St. Francis are doubtless having a good laugh today. Larry Ellison’s crew lost it on a turn on Tuesday and pitchpoled (overturned so that the stern pitched forward over the bow) his $8-million 72-foot Oracle Team catamaran.
The results were not pretty. One wing was basically shattered in fragments, and an ebb tide was sweeping the whole mess through the Golden Gate out to sea. Most of what was left was salvaged and dragged back to the dock, but Larry Ellison will be writing a very large check after this accident.
Marc A. Thiessen discusses the differences in result between democrat and Republican Supreme Court appointments and speculates on just why Republican appointments produce such ideologically unreliable results.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.’s decision to side with the court’s liberal bloc and uphold Obamacare raises an important question for conservatives: Why are Republicans so awful at picking Supreme Court justices? Democrats have been virtually flawless in appointing reliable liberals to the court. Yet Republicans, more often than not, appoint justices who vote with the other side on critical decisions.
Just compare the records over the last three decades. Democrats have appointed four justices — Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Stephen G. Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor. All have been consistent liberals on the bench. Republicans, by contrast, have picked seven justices. Of Ronald Reagan’s three appointees (Sandra Day O’Connor, Antonin Scalia and Anthony M. Kennedy) only Scalia has been a consistent conservative. George H.W. Bush appointed one solid conservative (Clarence Thomas) and one disastrous liberal (David Souter). With George W. Bush’s appointments of Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Roberts, conservatives thought finally they had broken the mold and put two rock-ribbed conservatives on the bench — until last week, that is, when Roberts broke with the conservatives and cast the deciding vote to uphold the largest expansion of federal power in decades.
So Democrats are four-for-four — a perfect record. Republicans are not even batting .500.
Yesterday afternoon, when the earthquake hit, I was two steps up a rickety flight of stairs in an old warehouse in Remington, Virginia where we’re storing some of the many books we cannot fit into the charming, antique Virginia farmhouse we are currently inhabiting.
I thought someone must be opening an exceptionally violent garage door on the other side of the wall, then began guessing someone was running some piece of heavy machinery nearby in the building. The vibration stopped, and I proceeded upstairs.
I only learned that it was an earthquake when I got back to the car and turned on the radio.
WMAL, 63 AM, the station I listen to El Rushbo on, switched over to full-time broadcasting about this major news event. Sean Hannity never even came on. Instead, Conservative talk radio host Chris Plante was dragged out a pizzeria, where he had been lunching, back to the studio to cover what was essentially a non-event.
Chris and his associates interviewed all sorts of ordinary people, who testified to all of their personal earthquake experiences (typically just as interesting as mine).
My blood ran cold when Chris Plante, the conservative, proceeded in Pavlovian journalistic manner to interview a state legislator from Prince George County about “government’s response.” I would have said, in his position: “Response? What response? There was no actual damage. No injuries. There wasn’t anything anyone needed to do.” But, no. The politico happily bloviated on and on about how each and every level of government bureaucracy, all the “first responders” in particular, turned on every flashing light and siren, and spun their wheels vigorously. Our rulers, guardians, supervisors, and protectors had to justify their existence by seeming to take control, and keeping the rest of us alerted and informed, even if there was nothing in particular to alert us about, beyond potential heavy traffic resulting from government offices releasing their personnel to commute home early.
Even a conservative commentator, like Chris Plante, can be found to behave as a true product of the culture of journalism and officialdom, when push comes shove (even in the case of a minor 5.9 push), the journalist Plante goes running to Big Brother to participate in, and to cover with canine respect, the charade of official expertise gravely protecting us, the helpless public, from all perils and vissiscitudes, even in an instance where there is nothing but the empty semblance of a real event.
Being engaged in something, kind of, sort of, resembling journalism myself, as you can see, I, too, felt obliged to cover the terrible earthquake of 2011, and here from BuzzFeed are 20 photographs of some of the worst damage.