May 13, 2010

On the American Power Act

First, let me say, it's got a nice title: It's pithy, has a strong nationalistic tone, but with a wink and a nod to greens that it's really about saving the planet -- much like the bill itself. If the Senate can get this bill done this year, then the APA -- along with the ACA (Affordable Care Act) -- will be two of the pillars of President Obama's legacy.

But of course, that's a big if. There's about 50 different ways that progress on the bill could go awry (and has gone awry already), and only about one way it can go right: If you can get both the staunchly anti-offshore drilling Senators like Bill Nelson and the staunchly pro-drilling Senators like Mary Landrieu on the same page; and you can convince enough coal-state and farm-state Democrats not to bail; and you can convince liberals, not only in the Senate, but in the House, that this is a bill worth passing; and you can bring back Lindsey Graham and a few other Republicans to the table; then maybe you can get it out of the Senate. Then you have to merge that bill with the House bill, pass that in both chambers again, and get the President's signature -- all before the midterm elections in which Democrats are expected to get obliterated. If the Senate didn't have FinReg, immigration, and confirming Elena Kagan to the bench on its plate, getting this done wouldn't be so formidable; but it does, so it is.

May 11, 2010

The Facebook Revolt

Everyone, it seems, now has a problem with Facebook, Laura McGann's kiss-off to the site being the latest example. Besides being a sieve when it comes to personal information (and a G-rated porn site to boot), Facebook's ubiquity has, ironically, taken the luster off its value as a social network. A while back, Matt Frost wrote that he gave up on Facebook because seeing the daily online activity of people he knew long ago ruined his appreciation for them. No one is a hero to his valet, and, it seems, no one is a fondly remembered long-lost pal to his Facebook friends.

I'm not ready to give up on Facebook just yet -- although my inability to fully delete information from my profile made me almost delete it out of frustration. (Fortunately, Facebook's strategic use of emotional blackmail kept me around.) I have some friends I keep up with on Facebook that aren't on Twitter -- which with Gmail is where I spend most of my online life -- and having even a placeholder Facebook account is something of a necessity for managing your online reputation. Perhaps just as important is the fact that Facebook is quickly becoming the de facto universal login key: Unlike OpenID, which was supposed to have fulfilled this function, a Facebook ID already has value to the user, and so it's easy to move from that to using it to log in to other websites. Of course, Twitter can also serve that function, but not nearly as many websites offer login through Twitter as they do through Facebook; hopefully, that will change.