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Vacation reading... the pro- and anti-Web 2.0, Mitt's dog, and Iraq debates

So one of the great things about my vacations is I get to spend quality time reading newspapers -- one of my real joys and something I don't get to do in my day-to-day life. Yes, I read 'em every day -- we get four of them delivered every day -- but I have to rush through them.

But last week, I got to spend some quality time with the newspapers...and there was much good reading last week. Fortunately or unfortunately, my vacation reading spurs the need for even more reading -- isn't that always how it works?

Of course, I didn't get to read the whole WP Cheney opus given that I was out of town. I'm printing it out -- how 1999 -- and I'll try to read it over the Fourth.

Web 2.0 criticism

Late last week, the NYT ran its review of the book, The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet Is Killing Our Culture, By Andrew Keen.

"The Cult of the Amateur," Web 2.0 has a dark side as well.

Mr. Keen argues that "what the Web 2.0 revolution is really delivering is superficial observations of the world around us rather than deep analysis, shrill opinion rather than considered judgment." In his view Web 2.0 is changing the cultural landscape and not for the better. By undermining mainstream media and intellectual property rights, he says, it is creating a world in which we will "live to see the bulk of our music coming from amateur garage bands, our movies and television from glorified YouTubes, and our news made up of hyperactive celebrity gossip, served up as mere dressing for advertising." This is what happens, he suggests, "when ignorance meets egoism meets bad taste meets mob rule."


As regular readers know, I find this whole Web 2.0 stuff... well, fascinating. The FCW's Spring CIO Summit focused largely on what these Web 2.0 means... and what it can mean for government.

So I have ordered Keen's book -- in fact, I ordered it from my BlackBerry on the road and it was delivered before I was back in the office, thank you very much. It isn't that long. (It was originally based on a Weekly Standard article and then expanded into a book.) I've asked a few folks to do reviews as well.

Friedman on being watched

Just before I read that review that review, I read NYT columnist Thomas Friedman's column, as I often do. Friendman, of course, has become infamous for his book, The World is Flat.

Anyway, in this column, Friedman was talking about how, in this Web 2.0 world, everybody is a publisher.

Three years ago, I was catching a plane at Boston's Logan airport and went to buy some magazines for the flight. As I approached the cash register, a woman coming from another direction got there just behind me — I thought. But when I put my money down to pay, the woman said in a very loud voice: "Excuse me! I was here first!" And then she fixed me with a piercing stare that said: "I know who you are." I said I was very sorry, but I was clearly there first.

If that happened today, I would have had a very different reaction. I would have said: "Miss, I'm so sorry. I am entirely in the wrong. Please, go ahead. And can I buy your magazines for you? May I buy your lunch? Can I shine your shoes?"

Why? Because I'd be thinking there is some chance this woman has a blog or a camera in her cellphone and could, if she so chose, tell the whole world about our encounter — entirely from her perspective — and my utterly rude, boorish, arrogant, thinks-he-can-butt-in-line behavior. Yikes!

When everyone has a blog, a MySpace page or Facebook entry, everyone is a publisher. When everyone has a cellphone with a camera in it, everyone is a paparazzo. When everyone can upload video on YouTube, everyone is filmmaker. When everyone is a publisher, paparazzo or filmmaker, everyone else is a public figure. We're all public figures now. The blogosphere has made the global discussion so much richer — and each of us so much more transparent.

The implications of all this are the subject of a new book by Dov Seidman, founder and C.E.O. of LRN, a business ethics company. His book is simply called "How." Because Seidman's simple thesis is that in this transparent world "how" you live your life and "how" you conduct your business matters more than ever, because so many people can now see into what you do and tell so many other people about it on their own without any editor. To win now, he argues, you have to turn these new conditions to your advantage.


So I have ordered How as well -- just to add to the pile of reading by the side of my bed.

WSJ on the Army's Iraq assessment

A really fascinating story in the WSJ on Friday. (Because it is in the WSJ, you can only get to the story through this link if you pay... but if you don't pay, try this one -- for a limited time only, as they say.)

Critiques of Iraq War Reveal Rifts Among Army Officers
Conflicting theories on the Army's struggles in Iraq reflect growing divisions within the military along generational lines, pitting young officers, exhausted by multiple Iraq tours and eager for change, against more conservative generals.


Read the Armed Forces Journal's piece that spurred the story here.

My guess is there is a tech angle here as well.

Mitt's Seamus problem

Finally, just for fun...when I was in New England, as the WP was doing its Cheney opus, the Boston Globe was doing a Mitt Romney opus -- a seven part series on the man who wants to be president. But Romney has been getting a lot of heat about a section in part four of the series in which Romney attached a dog carrier to the luggage rack atop the family's station wagon, protected by a windshield, and drove with Seamus in the carrier on a 12-hour vacation trip to Ontario in 1983.

Read it for yourself...

Before beginning the drive, Mitt Romney put Seamus, the family's hulking Irish setter, in a dog carrier and attached it to the station wagon's roof rack. He'd built a windshield for the carrier, to make the ride more comfortable for the dog.

Then Romney put his boys on notice: He would be making predetermined stops for gas, and that was it.

The ride was largely what you'd expect with five brothers, ages 13 and under, packed into a wagon they called the ''white whale.''
As the oldest son, Tagg Romney commandeered the way-back of the wagon, keeping his eyes fixed out the rear window, where he glimpsed the first sign of trouble. ''Dad!'' he yelled. ''Gross!'' A brown liquid was dripping down the back window, payback from an Irish setter who'd been riding on the roof in the wind for hours.
As the rest of the boys joined in the howls of disgust, Romney coolly pulled off the highway and into a service station. There, he borrowed a hose, washed down Seamus and the car, then hopped back onto the highway. It was a tiny preview of a trait he would grow famous for in business: emotion-free crisis management.

And it offered his sons a rare unplanned stop.

''Think about it,'' Tagg says, ''a 12-hour drive and the only time we stop is to get gas. When we stop, you can buy your food and go to the bathroom, but that's the only time we're stopping, so you'd better get it all done at once.'' Yet there was one exception to Mitt's nonstop policy. ''As soon as my mom says, 'I think I need to go to the bathroom,' he pulls over instantly, and doesn't complain. 'Anything for you, Ann.'.''

Tagg didn't get it back then, but now at age 37 he finally understands why his father has been willing to suspend his regimented ways when it comes to his wife. ''When they were dating,'' Tagg says, ''he felt like she was way better than him, and he was really lucky to have this catch. He really genuinely still feels that way, thinks, 'I'm so lucky I've got her.' So he puts her on a pedestal.''

He had always treated Ann that way, especially since he'd nearly lost her.


The blogosphere had just gone wild with this. One blog had the headline, Seamus on you, Mitt! (I'm not recommending the blog itself -- I don't know anything about it -- but I think the headline is hysterical.)

In fact, Romney's wife even used the family blog to defend the family -- and Mitt.

Mitt and I love our dogs. Seamus was our first--an Irish setter. When I wasn't at home, Mitt let him sleep on the bed. And usually when he was riding in the car, his head was out the window. Seamus lived to a ripe old age, basking in the affection of a large family.

Surprise, surprise, the media didn't get the dog story right. Our dog Seamus rode in an ENCLOSED kennel, not in the open air. And he loved it. Every time he saw it, he jumped up on the tailgate, walked in, and lay down. It was just like the kennel he curled up in at home.

We are a dog family. Casey was our Bichon, McKenzie our Golden, and Marley our Weimaraner. Marley had 8 puppies, which Mitt delivered all night for her one summer.

When she died last year, she was in Mitt and our arms, and we all cried. Yes, we love our dogs.

Now horses, that's my love too. Mitt rides them--I love them. But that's another blog.


And so it goes...

Posted by Christopher Dorobek on Jul 03, 2007 at 12:16 PM


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