Steven Hyden

If ever there was a period in modern American history that deserved to be described in Dickensian terms, it was November 2008. If you voted for Barack Obama (or just appreciated the historical significance of our country electing a black president) it was the best of times, the age of wisdom, the epoch of belief, the season of light, and the spring of hope. But if you paid any attention to the financial news pages (or simply owned a house that was now worth a year’s pay less than what you paid for it) it also seemed like the worst of times, the age of foolishness, the epoch of incredulity, the season of darkness, and the winter of despair.

Whether it was the best of times or the worst of times might have depended on your point of view, but it was more likely that these states existed concurrently, with the former masking the latter, but never completely. It was a period when change promised deliverance from steep pitfalls that appeared to be widening and deepening all the time. But the desire—nay, the need—to believe that idealism was enough couldn’t really stave off the void that was opening up below.

-Steven Hyden in, of all things, a review of Kanye West’s 808s and Heartbreak

Missing the Point of Public Domain?

Rooftop Security
I've got some beef with the White House's Policy

The Whitehouse has been posting the official photographer’s photos on flickr at .  They each have the following written in the description:

This official White House photograph is being made available for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way or used in materials, advertisements, products, or promotions that in any way suggest approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.

I know there may be some exceptions based on the Copyright page the photos link to, but I thought everything (not falling under an exception) published by the US Government was released into the public domain.  I first looked on Wikipedia to get background info.  I started with the Public Domain page.  Then I moved on to the Works of the US Government Page.  So far, my suspicions seemed to be correct.  This Cornell page backed the information up.

Obama and Hillary discussing how this photo is in the public domain and therefore I can do whatever I want with it, including make up captions that have nothing to do with the photo.  (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Obama and Hillary discussing how this photo is in the public domain and therefore I can do whatever I want with it, including make up captions that have nothing to do with the photo. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

So if works created by the US government are in the public domain (in the US), then there are no copyright protections.  And if there are no copyright protections, no one owns the rights to the work.  Therefore, how can it be that the photos may not be manipulated in any way?  Any work that’s in the public domain is free to remixed in any way possible.  In fact, it can be combined with anything for any reason, including advertisement.  So is this just a matter of the government trying to exert control based on the assumption that most people will be too lazy to look up that government works are in the public domain?  Or am I missing something here?

"Why Yes, Eric, you can use this wonderful photo of me taken by Official White House Photo Pete Souza to demonstrate that you can do as you wish with a public domain work"
"Why Yes, Eric, you can use this wonderful photo of me taken by Official White House Photo Pete Souza to demonstrate that you can do as you wish with a public domain work"

Obama is an Oreo?

This year has been an incredibly racist year from people being afraid to vote for Barack Obama because they believe he’s a secret Muslim (so? Any American-born person should be allowed to run for president) to people who say he’s too black or not black enough. Now this old guy claims that Obama’s an Oreo and it’s unfair for him to reap the rewards of the Civil Rights battles of the previous generations.

I think this is outrageous. It’s bad enough that children in lower income areas accuse their classmates who are doing well of “acting white”, but now to hear this guy saying the same thing is just beyond words. We need to be proud of the fact that Obama might be the first mulatto president and not criticize him for acting white. After all, would anyone vote for a ghetto president? I think not….

The Myth of Race

My first daylight pictures of the Whitehouse 2

Obama will not be the first African-American President of the United States. Barack Obama will be the first mulatto President of the United States of America. This is the myth of race in the USA. Apparently because Barack is half-black, he’s the first African-American President. But if he’s half-black then he’s also half-white. So why isn’t he just the 40-somethingith white President of the US? I don’t understand, if one half is valid, why isn’t the other?

In a way, however, I think the fact that Obama will be the first mulatto President of the USA is a more significant event. There was actually a time in the USA when people of two races could not legally marry. Even after that legal restriction was lifted, many people faced hurdles in life for being biracial. However, with more and more people mixing it up, as it were, I think Obama’s candidate signals a turning point in our country’s history. It’s not historic for him being a black President (because he isn’t) it’s historic because he symbolizes the true and logical conclusion of a melting pot society.

Up until now, the US has been more like a salad bowl than a melting pot. People came from all over the world to the US and then settled in racial enclaves – Chinatown, Little Havana, Little Italy, etc So they were Americans, but had separate experiences from other Americans. But now more and more people are choosing partners based on all of their qualities other than race. And we find ourselves in a true melting pot where children will learn about one set of grandparents from an ancient empire and another set of parents from the newer nations of Europe or South America.

So I view Obama’s (probable) election as marking the point where race ceased to be relevant. When we’re all every race, then there isn’t race anymore. Sure, all the old people who run the news networks can’t see it yet. They’re seeing everything through their generation’s eyes. Obama’s got some black blood in him, so he must be a black candidate. But historians will look back and say, this is the point where America truly became a melting pot and truly began to be wholly different from all the other homogeneous nations in the old world.

This makes me happy because racism is really the only type of -cism that can be enacted on just by looking at someone. Classism is hard in the US because our clothes aren’t so different between the classes as they were in the Victorian Age. When I see a female in jeans, I have no idea if they are designer jeans or $20 Walmart jeans. Additionally, some people with money choose to purposely dress innocuously to avoid attention from criminals. Agism, to whatever extent it exists, can be cheated by plastic surgery. Sexism is hard to do on a large scale (at least given where we are now as a society) because we’re roughly 50/50 so I think men (or women) will have a hard time convincing women (or men) to go back to 2nd class status. But with racism, it’s the worst right now. Look at the World War Two time period. It was easy to round up the Asians and send them to internment camps because you just had to look for “asian eyes” and other such features. But when everyone is mixed together you won’t be able to say, “watch out, there goes a black guy” or see an Asian and make fun of their language.

And that’s why I’m excited about Obama’s potential win.

The Kind of Racist Remarks You Don’t Expect on the Nightly News

On Hardball on MSNBC they were talking about Barack Obama’s poor bowling performance during his campaigning in Pennsylvania.  One of their political commentators quipped, “Perhaps he should have stuck to shooting hoops.”  I absolutely couldn’t believe they would say something like that on the news.  And it wasn’t some random yahoo, it was someone that I’ve seen on MSNBC making political commentary in the past.  If it matters in how you think of this, this commentator was white.

Now, I have no idea about whether Barack is awesome at basketball; perhaps he is.  However, if I had been working on this piece for MSNBC I would have erred on the side of not appearing racist.  But then again, this entire political season has been one excuse after another to talk about all kinds of borderline racist stuff.  I remember when Barack was dancing on The Ellen Show and CNN had reporter Moost asking people if he was dancing as well as a black guy should.  What kind of a question is that?