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President Obama's official portrait: the first ever taken with a digital camera

You're now gazing at President Barack Obama's just-released official portrait -- the first of a U.S. president ever taken with a digital camera. That means we can peek at the EXIF data -- this fine specimen of portraiture was snapped with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II on January 13th, 2009 at 5:38 pm with no flash, using a 105mm lens stopped to f/10 at a 1/125 exposure, with an ISO of 100 by newly crowned official White House photographer Pete Souza. Nice work, Souza -- but we think it could use a few lens flares.

[Thanks, Penny]

Obama harnessed the grass-roots power of the Web to get elected. How will he use that power now ?

Barack Obama is the first major politician who really "gets" the Internet. Sure, Howard Dean used the Web to raise money. But Obama used it to build an army. And now, that army of digital kids expects to stick around and help him govern. Crowd-sourced online brainstorming sessions? Web sites where regular folks hash out policy ideas and vote yea or nay online? A new government computer infrastructure that lets people get a look into the workings of Washington, including where the money flows and how decisions get made? Yes to all those and more. "This was not just an election—this was a social movement," says Don Tapscott, author of "Grown Up Digital," which chronicles the lives of 20-somethings raised on computers and the Web. "I'm convinced," Tapscott says, "that we're in the early days of fundamental change in the nature of democracy itself."

Call it Government 2.0. Instead of a one-way system in which government hands down laws and provides services to citizens, why not use the Internet to let citizens, corporations and civil organizations work together with elected officials to develop solutions? That kind of open-source collaboration is second nature to the Net-gen kids who supported Obama and to technologists from Silicon Valley who are advising him. "An open system means more voices; more voices mean more discussion, which leads to a better decision," Google CEO and Obama adviser Eric Schmidt told a roomful of policy thinkers in Washington last week, gathered for a discussion on the role technology will play in government. "A community will always make a better decision than an individual."

Obama's transition team is already building an organization to carry on the Internet efforts begun during the campaign. On the stump, Obama laid out plans for a technology czar in his administration—a senior-level, or even cabinet-level, post that he promised would make his White House transparent and ultra-efficient. Obama has talked about streaming portions of cabinet meetings live on the Internet in order to reach more people, and not long after his election he gave one of his first "radio" addresses in video form on YouTube. He's also asked that candidates for jobs in his administration submit their information online, so more than just Washington insiders would be considered.

"New media will be at the center of the action, helping the entire executive branch run faster," says Thomas Gensemer, managing partner of Blue State Digital, the Washington, D.C., tech strategy firm that built the Obama campaign's social networking site, Gensemer expects the fired-up Obama army to stay committed to the cause. "If anything, with Obama now in office, they'll want to participate more, not less, and take part in the governing process," he says. (That's not the case for some of the young turks who helped Obama build his Web campaign. Joe Rospars, who ran Obama's Internet team, is returning to Blue State Digital, which he cofounded in 2004. Other top staff expressed privately that the bigger opportunities and money will be found in dotcom, not dotgov.)

Continuing the Internet efforts of the campaign raises some tricky legal questions. One challenge is figuring out how to keep using the personal data gathered from more than 10 million supporters during the campaign. Federal election rules prohibit President Obama from interacting with supporters in the same way as Candidate Obama did. When he becomes everybody's president, the law says he can't communicate only with the people who voted for him. Like his recent predecessors, he'll have to use the Web site to make sure everyone's included. Transition officials are looking for ways to sidestep the rules. One maneuver they're considering involves setting up a nonprofit organization that would purchase the Obama supporter lists (names, phone numbers, e-mail addresses) from the campaign, says Steve Hildebrand, former deputy manager of the campaign. The nonprofit would serve as a conduit, letting the administration maintain indirect contact with supporters. The nonprofit, likely to be set up as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, could encourage supporters to push legislators on policy issues by, say, flooding a Senate office with phone calls and e-mails, or arranging demonstrations via Facebook to push for universal health care.

Federal disclosure laws could further limit Obama's participation in all this new Internet activity. Statutes say that any official correspondence from the president becomes property of the office, not the man in it. The rules were drafted at a time when the president's sole communication was on paper, and there wasn't that much of it. But now, with things like e-mail and instant messaging, the most mundane messages from or to Obama would become government property, and much of it would eventually be accessible to the public under the Freedom of Information Act. For this reason, Obama earlier this month started to wean himself from his BlackBerry. If he wanted to, he could choose to keep it. But if he did, he'd have to acknowledge that a historian decades from now could study just how much time the president spent bantering with pals or gushing about the White Sox. "He'll be restricted by how much information about him will become public property," says Lawrence Lessig, founder of the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford. "This is an area where the statutes are far out of date for the current technology." Security officials also worry about Obama using the device for official business, fearing a hacker could gain access to internal deliberations.


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Member Comments

  • Posted By: doingdemocracy @ 12/10/2008 5:05:38 PM
    It seems that while the IDEA is a good one, the execution is reminiscent of the previous (Bush) administration. The top rated item was summarily deleted. The alleged reason was that it was "backward looking". The issue is that there has not been a credible account offered for the 911 Terrorist attacks. No one has been brought to justice, no one has been censured or demoted for alleged "failures". The specter of further terrorist attacks has been and continues to be USED politically in an ongoing way to promote violations of our Constitution, human rights, and the common good. This is not a dead issue. Given the reported threats of new and even more devastating attacks, it is timely to get to the bottom of the matter. The Zelikow 911 Whitewash Commission Report has been discredited. Unless Change.Org changes its ways and begins to function in an above board manner, we have to see it as a continuation of business as usual and cover-up.

    Please let me know what you, as journalists, plan to do about this "bait and switch" travesty.

    Fred Cook
    San Francisco, CA

  • Posted By: Neoconvict @ 12/10/2008 4:23:06 PM

    Former Pakistani Intelligence Chief Calls Mumbai and 9-11 an Inside Job: Maybe Obama will finally appoint an independent panel of architects and engineers to look into 9-11. Millions of people have been killed in the Neocon genocide. Abundant evidence exists that the official story is a load of hooey. And yet Newsweek and the rest of the US Media buys into it unquestioningly. Investigation 101: who benefits? The Neocons benefited from 9-11. Fulls top., That makes them the prime suspects. Visit for unimpeachable real evidence that the 3 WTC buildings were brought down by controlled detonations. And then for God's sake, Newsweek, do your damn jobs and follow the money.

  • Posted By: iluvdan @ 12/10/2008 4:20:35 PM
    Thank you for educating me Dan. Here I was thinking that Newt Gingrich and the RNC had used Web 2.0 technology to coordinate multiple campaigns across multiple states and sweep house and senate on the heals of Clintons historically low ratings and the strength of the "Contract with America." I must have dreamed that. I know that even though your article is diametrically opposed to reality, what you have said "must" be true since you research so thouroughly and carefully. Obama "must" be the first major politician to get it.

    After all, you would never just spew out somebody's PR without bothering to fact check it. *I* know that. But help me devise a way to convince those FREETARDS its not so. They are convinced you've done it again and again through either stupidity, laziness, or lack or principle. But I know my hero Dan "I'm Still Credible" Lyons would *never* produce shoddy hyperbolic underresearched work. Never mind SCO, Yahoo, Tesla, and everything you've ever written on Linux being examples... *we* know there is a good explanation in every case.




Obama's first foreign trip as president: Canada

But he'll meet with Mexico's president on Monday

updated 9:54 p.m. ET Jan. 10, 2009

WASHINGTON - Barack Obama plans to take his first international trip as president to Canada.

Transition aides said Saturday that Obama picked the United States' northern neighbor as his first venture outside the country as president. Aides say they could not discuss the date for the trip or its agenda.

A transition official says aides to the president-elect and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper discussed the trip in recent days. But the official says Obama and Harper themselves have not directly discussed the trip.

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Obama meets Monday with Mexican President Felipe Calderon, his first in-person meeting with a world leader since winning election.

U.S. presidents typically use Canada as their first international trip.

"It's good news, a sign of the importance of this relationship to both countries. We look forward to hosting the new president," Kory Teneycke, Harper's press secretary, said from Ottawa. "The fact remains that our two countries are very important trading partners to one another, that we are friends and allies."

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

774 hours ago
What Should President Obama Do First?

President Barack Obama
President Barack Obama

I've been standing on Constitution Avenue since about 4AM, thinking about what our new President will do for America's battered housing market once he moves into HIS new house.

Apparently a lot of others are thinking the same.

As I waded into the crowd with our minicam, my first question to each reveler I stopped was: "What should President Obama do first?" Hands down the answers were, “Stop the job losses and help us pay our mortgages.” Of course the two are intertwined.

So far the Obama plan appears to be to leave the housing mess to Congress and the bills already being floated to either have bankruptcy judges modify loans or use TARP money to buy and then modify loans.

His huge economic plan has no mortgage rescue component.

But one man I spoke with who bought his home just a year ago said, "I hope he pays attention to the folks who ARE paying their loans on time, who are doing all they can to be responsible with their finances."

Given the huge scope of the housing crisis, and its devastating effect on the credit markets and the greater economy, a bailout has become a necessary evil. While many people will lose their homes, some people will inevitably be rewarded for their fiscal irresponsibility.

There is a lot of hope on this National Mall today, a lot of faith in one man to suddenly make our economy right again.

I personally hope that the solutions in housing don't wipe away the hard lessons of the last few years, that they make things right while instilling a clear sense of what went wrong. So many Americans forgot that a home, while a solid long term investment, is first and foremost a place to hang your hat, not a pricey gamble where you can lose your shirt.

Let the solution teach the lesson: Never again.

Questions? Comments?

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