Kevin Drum

Google Woes

| Tue Jan. 20, 2009 7:33 PM PST

GOOGLE WOES....What's going on with Google? Anyone know? It used to be that the search page came up instantly when I clicked on it, but then a while back it suddenly slowed down. Not a lot, but enough to be annoying. Maybe a second or two.

And YouTube has slowed down too. I can't remember the last time I played a YouTube video all the way through without interruption. These days I'm lucky for videos to play 20 seconds before they stop to rebuffer.

And Google Alerts used to be great too. It was a perfect tool for getting notified whenever someone responded to a blog post I'd written. But now? About 80% of the alerts I get are for posts from blogs where I just happen to be on the blogroll.

All this stuff started a couple of months ago or so. Is it just me? Has anyone else noticed the same thing? What happened? And can Barack Obama fix it?

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Inauguration 7

| Tue Jan. 20, 2009 4:03 PM PST

INAUGURATION 7....I'm pretty much aligned with conventional wisdom on Obama's inauguration speech: It was OK, but not great. The somberness wasn't the problem. For the most part, that was appropriate. But with a few exceptions, it struck me as a little bit too utilitarian and themeless, sort of a stripped down State of the Union, or even a campaign stump speech. There was nothing badly wrong with it, but neither was it very memorable.

The thing that struck me the most as I was listening to it, though, was the number of shout outs he gave to conservatives. The main thrust of the speech was liberal — building roads, providing healthcare, rejuvenating global alliances, etc. — but there were quite a few spots that seemed specifically crafted to appeal to conservative ears. For example:

For us, they fought and died in places Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.

The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works....Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched.

We will not apologize for our way of life nor will we waver in its defense. And for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that, "Our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken. You cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you."

To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict or blame their society's ills on the West, know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy.

To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

Those values upon which our success depends, honesty and hard work, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism — these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history.

I don't know how long it will last, but so far Obama has spared no opportunity to reach out to conservatives in ways cultural, rhetorical, and political — which shouldn't be a surprise. After all, it's exactly what he said he was going to do during the campaign. I wish him luck on this.

Then, after the speech, there was the inaugural poem: Elizabeth Alexander's "Praise Song for the Day." Adam Kirsch calls it a perfect specimen of "bureaucratic verse," and I can't argue with that. I thought it felt forced and self-conscious throughout. But even worse, it felt like a poem meant to be read, not spoken. The age of thunderous civic verse is long gone, of course, but still: an occasional poem is meant to be heard, not merely studied on a page. This one wasn't.

Auto Bailout Watch

| Tue Jan. 20, 2009 11:39 AM PST

AUTO BAILOUT WATCH....The French government plans to bail out Renault and Peugeot-Citroen to the tune of $7-8 billion or so. By the time this is all over, will there be a car company in the world that hasn't hoovered up a few billion taxpayer dollars?

Quote of the Day - 01.20.09

| Tue Jan. 20, 2009 11:06 AM PST

QUOTE OF THE DAY....From Barack Obama, signing the papers to put himself on the government payroll:

"I'm a lefty. Get used to it."

That's for my sister. Though, honestly, after 20 years of lefties in the past 28 years there's not much to get used to, is there?

Inauguration 6

| Tue Jan. 20, 2009 10:58 AM PST

INAUGURATION 6....I know this isn't quite in keeping with our shiny new postpartisan spirit, but watching Marine Executive One take off almost brought tears to my eyes.

Inauguration 5

| Tue Jan. 20, 2009 10:28 AM PST

INAUGURATION 5....Light glints off Barack Obama's lapel pin as he delivers his inaugural address.

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Inauguration 3

| Tue Jan. 20, 2009 9:50 AM PST

INAUGURATION 3....In Washington DC, Barack Obama takes the stage. In Irvine, California, I watch on my TV.

Inauguration 2

| Tue Jan. 20, 2009 9:42 AM PST

INAUGURATION 2....From Josh Marshall:

As some of you have seen, Vice President Cheney is getting pushed around today in a wheelchair. Thankfully, it's no serious medical issue. He hurt his back lugging books while moving out of the old digs. But it's iconic. There's no escaping the symbolism of the tired and enfeebled old guard hobbling off the stage. On so many fronts the stage setting, the unpredictable coincidences, perhaps just the fates seem to be conspiring to give us a dose of hyper-reality, not just the truth of the moment but a scaffolding of trappings and symbolic exclamation points to make sure we're paying attention.

Feeling It

| Tue Jan. 20, 2009 9:13 AM PST

FEELING IT....Even though Barack Obama is a liberal, Jonah Goldberg says today that conservatives ought to celebrate the election of our first African-American president. "Any political movement that is joyless about what this represents risks succumbing to bitter political crankery," he warns. Then he gets down to cases:

For instance, you will not soon see a German chancellor of Turkish descent. Nor will a child of North African immigrants soon take the reins of power in France. It will be a long time before a Pakistani or Indian last name appears on the mailbox at 10 Downing St. And yet these countries bubble over with haughty finger-waggers eager to lecture backward and provincial America about race and tolerance. Why not enjoy rubbing Barack Obama in their faces?

Can you feel the joy?

Fiat and Chrysler

| Mon Jan. 19, 2009 7:57 PM PST

FIAT AND CHRYSLER....Today's news reports say that Fiat is planning to establish a "partnership" with Chrysler:

Under terms of a pact that is being hammered out, Fiat is likely to take a 35% stake in Chrysler by the middle of this year. It would have the option of increasing that to as much as 55%, these people said.

Fiat wouldn't immediately put cash into Chrysler, but would obtain its stake mainly in exchange for covering the cost of retooling a Chrysler plant to produce one or more Fiat models to be sold in the U.S., these people said. Fiat would also provide engine and transmission technology to help Chrysler introduce new, fuel-efficient small cars, they said.

My first thought when I read this was, how did Chrysler manage to find someone dumb enough to want a stake in their company? But then I read a little more closely. Fiat isn't actually buying anything. Chrysler is apparently going to fork over a 35% stake to them in return for Fiat taking over one of its factories. It's true that that 35% stake is probably worth nothing, but unless I'm reading this wrong, Fiat is basically getting the use of a Chrysler plant for free. I guess that's not a bad deal for them.

And for Chrysler? Beats me. It's hard to believe they're really all that desperate for Fiat's engine and transmission technology, but maybe it's worth it to them just to save themselves the cost of shuttering a plant. Or something. But in any case, nobody would be dumb enough to actually invest in Chrysler, would they?