James Fallows

James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.
  • SOTU followup

    1) Annotated version of Obama's first State of the Union address now online here. I wrote it today on the jouncing Bolt Bus from NY to DC -- story of its own, stay tuned -- with numerous little oddities that I will fix tomorrow when I learn how to get into the annotation file. For the moment, sincere thanks to the Atlantic's Sage Stossel and Jennie Rothenberg Gritz for getting this complex construction on line.

    2) Charlie Rose show discussion from last night now online here.

    3) ABC Australian Radio discussion of the speech, with Eleanor Hall of 'The World Today' program, now online here. It's the last nine minutes of this show, but all of the show is interesting!

  • Annotated State of the Union text

    Text below is the “as delivered” version, from the official White House.gov web site, here.

    Introductory themes:

    Before the speech, we knew that it would be another in the impressively-long series of “make or break” rhetorical performances for Barack Obama. The speech that first got him national attention, at the Democratic Convention in Boston in 2004, obviously made a huge difference for him but was not high-stakes in quite the same sense. No one outside Illinois had heard of Barack Obama at that point, and he was cruising to victory in the Senate race anyway, so if the speech had gone badly the only difference it would have made is … well, he wouldn’t be president now. But apart from that, he didn’t have much to lose.

    But in the sequence that probably began with his late-night speech at the Jefferson-Jackson day dinner in Iowa, when it wasn’t clear that he could win the caucuses there; to his famous speech on race in Philadelphia in March, 2008, that rescued him from the Rev. Wright “God Damn America!” controversy; to his debate performance against John McCain in the summer of 2008, when McCain appeared to have made a shrewd choice by picking Sarah Palin; to his Joint-Session address about health care last fall that, for a while, reversed the poll numbers on his health plan – in that sequence, this was the next important entry. The previous two months and especially the previous two weeks had been very bad for Obama. Was it conceivable that, one more time, he could say something in a speech that would again get him (re-)started and give his initiatives another chance? Just on probabilities, weren’t we due for the big rhetorical flop, which would compound the “White House in crisis” / “What was all this ‘Yes we can!’ nonsense about anyway?” round of talk shows?

    My reaction in real time was that he had done it again – pretty much. As a document, this State of the Union text is not likely to be studied for its conceptual or literary qualities – unlike, say, his “A More Perfect Union” race speech (link here) or even his Nobel Prize address (link here – or in Norwegian, here!) That is in the nature of State of the Union addresses. Few are ever memorable except for isolated lines – “axis of evil” (GW Bush, 2002), “the era of big government is over” (WJ Clinton, 1996) – and they are necessarily more like corporate annual reports than normal speeches, since they’re forced to cover the waterfront of domestic and international issues. Indeed, as we’ll see below, this one was almost “daring” in being as telegrammatic as it was in the world-affairs part of the discussion.

    Still, by the test that usually matters about SOTU addresses – how they come across in real time, during the largest built-in TV audience a president usually has in the course of the year – I thought Obama did a good job. Details below, but in summary:

    1. He answered the threshold question of, “Is this man beaten? Is he shrinking before our eyes,” less by his explicit answers – “I will not quit,” etc – than with his calmly confident manner, from word one of the speech;

    2. He answered another question – what would a “populist” or “angry” or “fighting” Obama look like? – in the only way that could work in the long run, which was being “angry” on his own terms. A tremendous and underappreciated advantage for Obama, in my view, is that he is always the same guy. Things look good, things look bad, he’s provoked, he’s successful – but his tone on the stump and airwaves rarely varies more than 10 degrees in any direction. Some of his partisans complain about this when he doesn’t seem committed enough, fiery enough, etc. I think it’s the only way that an out-of-nowhere candidate, not to mention the first non-white candidate with a serious chance at the presidency, made himself seem “familiar” enough to win. It’s hard to think that there’s some “real” Obama we’re not seeing, when every view we ever have is of the same temperament. What this means in this speech: if he had sounded like John Edwards (at one time that would have been a compliment) about “two Americas” or like Bill Clinton in lay-it-on-thick pain-feeling, it would have rung phony.

    3. He gave his side talking-points for what they’ve tried to do, and still have to do, on the enmeshed questions of jobs/stimulus/health care/reform. In the eight days since Scott Brown’s victory gave Republicans their 41-seat “majority” in the Senate it was an open question of whether Obama would simply declare the health fight over for now. He re-told the strongest side of his case – if we don’t do anything, things will get worse – and laid down a marker for challenging Republicans to act as part of the responsible government again.

    4. He went on very long – at 70 minutes, about 10 minutes too long to my taste (will suggest specific cuts below) – but past experience suggests that audiences are more patient for SOTU detail than the pundit class generally assumes. AND:

    5. He did well on the minor stagecraft of the SOTU, including the always-amusing game of tricking the opposition into standing and clapping when they don’t really want to, or leaving them sitting in stony disapproval in ways that don’t look good. Details below.

    6. Three bonus stagecraft points: 1) No explicit “Lenny Skutnik” moment – calling out the citizens sitting in the First Lady’s box as exemplars of American virtue. The exemplars were there, but he didn’t name them. 2) Great dramatic moment with the Supreme Court, about which more later; 3) On the “purple” question, I am in the “it had to be on purpose” camp. Purple tie on Biden; purple outfit for Pelosi; purple dress for Michelle Obama. Just by accident they all have the color that melds red + blue? I don’t think so…..

    What didn’t he do? Apart from some points of lax craftsmanship, noted as they occur, Obama played in three ways into the Fox News/GOP/Tea Party narrative. If you didn’t like these things about Obama before the speech, you probably like them less even now:

    1. “It’s always all about me.” A SOTU is institutional celebration of the presidency and by definition is all about the president, his standing, and his plans. A big Fox/Tea theme is that Obama is a narcissist. Simply by his bearing he conveyed the “I will fight” message. He didn’t have to say it that bluntly as often as he did.

    2. “It’s never my fault.” Whenever I point out, for instance, that America’s problems in Afghanistan have roots that reach back further even than Obama’s inauguration 12 months ago – or that the economy wasn’t so great as of January 20, 2009 -- I get mail from people who say how sick and tired they are of Obama’s “habit” of “blaming everything on Bush and Cheney” and the press’s complicity in that act of evasion. Obama laid out this background yet again, as he had to. Just pointing out the built-in dismissal mechanism from the other side. (So as not to interfere with the scientific purity of my results here, have avoided reading other people’s reactions to the speeches. But I can’t resist this exchange between two of my British-born colleagues on the “blame” topic. I am on the Sullivan rather than the Crook side of this disagreement.]

    3. “OK, so we know he can talk.” The more often Obama “saves himself” with a big speech, the more he conditions his opponents to dismiss that very achievement. “Well, of course he’s put on the big rhetorical show again. What else do you expect? But..” I heard this from someone watching the speech last night. I guess Obama should think: if you’ve got to have a problem, it’s the right kind to have.

    On to the speech!

    [Click highlighted text to read commentary.]

    For Immediate Release
    January 27, 2010

    Remarks by the President in State of the Union Address

    9:11 P.M. EST

    THE PRESIDENT: Madam Speaker, Vice President Biden, members of Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow Americans:

    Our Constitution declares that from time to time, the President shall give to Congress information about the state of our union. For 220 years, our leaders have fulfilled this duty. They've done so during periods of prosperity and tranquility. And they've done so in the midst of war and depression; at moments of great strife and great struggle.

    It's tempting to look back on these moments and assume that our progress was inevitable -- that America was always destined to succeed. But when the Union was turned back at Bull Run, and the Allies first landed at Omaha Beach, victory was very much in doubt. When the market crashed on Black Tuesday, and civil rights marchers were beaten on Bloody Sunday, the future was anything but certain. These were the times that tested the courage of our convictions, and the strength of our union. And despite all our divisions and disagreements, our hesitations and our fears, America prevailed because we chose to move forward as one nation, as one people.

    Again, we are tested. And again, we must answer history's call.

    One year ago, I took office amid two wars, an economy rocked by a severe recession, a financial system on the verge of collapse, and a government deeply in debt. Experts from across the political spectrum warned that if we did not act, we might face a second depression. So we acted -- immediately and aggressively. And one year later, the worst of the storm has passed. One in 10 Americans still cannot find work. Many businesses have shuttered. Home values have declined. Small towns and rural communities have been hit especially hard. And for those who'd already known poverty, life has become that much harder.

    But the devastation remains.

    This recession has also compounded the burdens that America's families have been dealing with for decades -- the burden of working harder and longer for less; of being unable to save enough to retire or help kids with college.

    So I know the anxieties that are out there right now. They're not new. These struggles are the reason I ran for President. These struggles are what I've witnessed for years in places like Elkhart, Indiana; Galesburg, Illinois. I hear about them in the letters that I read each night. The toughest to read are those written by children -- asking why they have to move from their home, asking when their mom or dad will be able to go back to work.

    For these Americans and so many others, change has not come fast enough. Some are frustrated; some are angry. They don't understand why it seems like bad behavior on Wall Street is rewarded, but hard work on Main Street isn't; or why Washington has been unable or unwilling to solve any of our problems. They're tired of the partisanship and the shouting and the pettiness. They know we can't afford it. Not now.

    So we face big and difficult challenges. And what the American people hope -- what they deserve -- is for all of us, Democrats and Republicans, to work through our differences; to overcome the numbing weight of our politics. For while the people who sent us here have different backgrounds, different stories, different beliefs, the anxieties they face are the same. The aspirations they hold are shared: a job that pays the bills; a chance to get ahead; most of all, the ability to give their children a better life.

    You know what else they share? They share a stubborn resilience in the face of adversity. After one of the most difficult years in our history, they remain busy building cars and teaching kids, starting businesses and going back to school. They're coaching Little League and helping their neighbors. One woman wrote to me and said, "We are strained but hopeful, struggling but encouraged."

    It's because of this spirit -- this great decency and great strength -- that I have never been more hopeful about America's future than I am tonight. (Applause.) Despite our hardships, our union is strong. We do not give up. We do not quit. We do not allow fear or division to break our spirit. In this new decade, it's time the American people get a government that matches their decency; that embodies their strength. (Applause.)
    And tonight, tonight I'd like to talk about how together we can deliver on that promise.

    It begins with our economy.

    Our most urgent task upon taking office was to shore up the same banks that helped cause this crisis. It was not easy to do. And if there's one thing that has unified Democrats and Republicans, and everybody in between, it's that we all hated the bank bailout. I hated it -- (applause.) I hated it. You hated it. It was about as popular as a root canal. (Laughter.)

    But when I ran for President, I promised I wouldn't just do what was popular -- I would do what was necessary. And if we had allowed the meltdown of the financial system, unemployment might be double what it is today. More businesses would certainly have closed. More homes would have surely been lost.

    So I supported the last administration's efforts to create the financial rescue program. And when we took that program over, we made it more transparent and more accountable. And as a result, the markets are now stabilized, and we've recovered most of the money we spent on the banks. (Applause.) Most but not all.

    To recover the rest, I've proposed a fee on the biggest banks. (Applause.) Now, I know Wall Street isn't keen on this idea. But if these firms can afford to hand out big bonuses again, they can afford a modest fee to pay back the taxpayers who rescued them in their time of need. (Applause.)

    Now, as we stabilized the financial system, we also took steps to get our economy growing again, save as many jobs as possible, and help Americans who had become unemployed.

    That's why we extended or increased unemployment benefits for more than 18 million Americans; made health insurance 65 percent cheaper for families who get their coverage through COBRA; and passed 25 different tax cuts.

    Now, let me repeat: We cut taxes. We cut taxes for 95 percent of working families. (Applause.) We cut taxes for small businesses. We cut taxes for first-time homebuyers. We cut taxes for parents trying to care for their children. We cut taxes for 8 million Americans paying for college. (Applause.)

    I thought I'd get some applause on that one. (Laughter and applause.)

    As a result, millions of Americans had more to spend on gas and food and other necessities, all of which helped businesses keep more workers. And we haven't raised income taxes by a single dime on a single person. Not a single dime. (Applause.)

    Because of the steps we took, there are about two million Americans working right now who would otherwise be unemployed. (Applause.) Two hundred thousand work in construction and clean energy; 300,000 are teachers and other education workers. Tens of thousands are cops, firefighters, correctional officers, first responders. (Applause.) And we're on track to add another one and a half million jobs to this total by the end of the year.

    The plan that has made all of this possible, from the tax cuts to the jobs, is the Recovery Act. (Applause.) That's right -- the Recovery Act, also known as the stimulus bill. (Applause.) Economists on the left and the right say this bill has helped save jobs and avert disaster. But you don't have to take their word for it. Talk to the small business in Phoenix that will triple its workforce because of the Recovery Act. Talk to the window manufacturer in Philadelphia who said he used to be skeptical about the Recovery Act, until he had to add two more work shifts just because of the business it created. Talk to the single teacher raising two kids who was told by her principal in the last week of school that because of the Recovery Act, she wouldn't be laid off after all.

    There are stories like this all across America. And after two years of recession, the economy is growing again. Retirement funds have started to gain back some of their value. Businesses are beginning to invest again, and slowly some are starting to hire again.

    But I realize that for every success story, there are other stories, of men and women who wake up with the anguish of not knowing where their next paycheck will come from; who send out resumes week after week and hear nothing in response. That is why jobs must be our number-one focus in 2010, and that's why I'm calling for a new jobs bill tonight. (Applause.)

    Now, the true engine of job creation in this country will always be America's businesses. (Applause.) But government can create the conditions necessary for businesses to expand and hire more workers.

    We should start where most new jobs do -- in small businesses, companies that begin when -- (applause) -- companies that begin when an entrepreneur -- when an entrepreneur takes a chance on a dream, or a worker decides it's time she became her own boss. Through sheer grit and determination, these companies have weathered the recession and they're ready to grow. But when you talk to small businessowners in places like Allentown, Pennsylvania, or Elyria, Ohio, you find out that even though banks on Wall Street are lending again, they're mostly lending to bigger companies. Financing remains difficult for small businessowners across the country, even those that are making a profit.

    So tonight, I'm proposing that we take $30 billion of the money Wall Street banks have repaid and use it to help community banks give small businesses the credit they need to stay afloat. (Applause.) I'm also proposing a new small business tax credit
    -- one that will go to over one million small businesses who hire new workers or raise wages. (Applause.) While we're at it, let's also eliminate all capital gains taxes on small business investment, and provide a tax incentive for all large businesses and all small businesses to invest in new plants and equipment. (Applause.)

    Next, we can put Americans to work today building the infrastructure of tomorrow. (Applause.) From the first railroads to the Interstate Highway System, our nation has always been built to compete. There's no reason Europe or China should have the fastest trains, or the new factories that manufacture clean energy products.

    Tomorrow, I'll visit Tampa, Florida, where workers will soon break ground on a new high-speed railroad funded by the Recovery Act. (Applause.) There are projects like that all across this country that will create jobs and help move our nation's goods, services, and information. (Applause.)

    We should put more Americans to work building clean energy facilities -- (applause) -- and give rebates to Americans who make their homes more energy-efficient, which supports clean energy jobs. (Applause.) And to encourage these and other businesses to stay within our borders, it is time to finally slash the tax breaks for companies that ship our jobs overseas, and give those tax breaks to companies that create jobs right here in the United States of America. (Applause.)

    Now, the House has passed a jobs bill that includes some of these steps. (Applause.) As the first order of business this year, I urge the Senate to do the same, and I know they will. (Applause.) They will. (Applause.) People are out of work. They're hurting. They need our help. And I want a jobs bill on my desk without delay. (Applause.)

    But the truth is, these steps won't make up for the seven million jobs that we've lost over the last two years. The only way to move to full employment is to lay a new foundation for long-term economic growth, and finally address the problems that America's families have confronted for years.

    We can't afford another so-called economic "expansion" like the one from the last decade -- what some call the "lost decade" -- where jobs grew more slowly than during any prior expansion; where the income of the average American household declined while the cost of health care and tuition reached record highs; where prosperity was built on a housing bubble and financial speculation.

    From the day I took office, I've been told that addressing our larger challenges is too ambitious; such an effort would be too contentious. I've been told that our political system is too gridlocked, and that we should just put things on hold for a while.

    For those who make these claims, I have one simple question: How long should we wait? How long should America put its future on hold? (Applause.)

    You see, Washington has been telling us to wait for decades, even as the problems have grown worse. Meanwhile, China is not waiting to revamp its economy. Germany is not waiting. India is not waiting. These nations -- they're not standing still. These nations aren't playing for second place. They're putting more emphasis on math and science. They're rebuilding their infrastructure. They're making serious investments in clean energy because they want those jobs. Well, I do not accept second place for the United States of America. (Applause.)

    As hard as it may be, as uncomfortable and contentious as the debates may become, it's time to get serious about fixing the problems that are hampering our growth.

    Now, one place to start is serious financial reform. Look, I am not interested in punishing banks. I'm interested in protecting our economy. A strong, healthy financial market makes it possible for businesses to access credit and create new jobs. It channels the savings of families into investments that raise incomes. But that can only happen if we guard against the same recklessness that nearly brought down our entire economy.

    We need to make sure consumers and middle-class families have the information they need to make financial decisions. (Applause.) We can't allow financial institutions, including those that take your deposits, to take risks that threaten the whole economy.

    Now, the House has already passed financial reform with many of these changes. (Applause.) And the lobbyists are trying to kill it. But we cannot let them win this fight. (Applause.) And if the bill that ends up on my desk does not meet the test of real reform, I will send it back until we get it right. We've got to get it right. (Applause.)

    Next, we need to encourage American innovation. Last year, we made the largest investment in basic research funding in history -- (applause) -- an investment that could lead to the world's cheapest solar cells or treatment that kills cancer cells but leaves healthy ones untouched. And no area is more ripe for such innovation than energy. You can see the results of last year's investments in clean energy -- in the North Carolina company that will create 1,200 jobs nationwide helping to make advanced batteries; or in the California business that will put a thousand people to work making solar panels.

    But to create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives. And that means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country. (Applause.) It means making tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development. (Applause.) It means continued investment in advanced biofuels and clean coal technologies. (Applause.) And, yes, it means passing a comprehensive energy and climate bill with incentives that will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America. (Applause.)

    I am grateful to the House for passing such a bill last year. (Applause.) And this year I'm eager to help advance the bipartisan effort in the Senate. (Applause.)

    I know there have been questions about whether we can afford such changes in a tough economy. I know that there are those who disagree with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change. But here's the thing -- even if you doubt the evidence, providing incentives for energy-efficiency and clean energy are the right thing to do for our future -- because the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy. And America must be that nation. (Applause.)

    Third, we need to export more of our goods. (Applause.) Because the more products we make and sell to other countries, the more jobs we support right here in America. (Applause.) So tonight, we set a new goal: We will double our exports over the next five years, an increase that will support two million jobs in America. (Applause.) To help meet this goal, we're launching a National Export Initiative that will help farmers and small businesses increase their exports, and reform export controls consistent with national security. (Applause.)

    We have to seek new markets aggressively, just as our competitors are. If America sits on the sidelines while other nations sign trade deals, we will lose the chance to create jobs on our shores. (Applause.) But realizing those benefits also means enforcing those agreements so our trading partners play by the rules. (Applause.) And that's why we'll continue to shape a Doha trade agreement that opens global markets, and why we will strengthen our trade relations in Asia and with key partners like South Korea and Panama and Colombia. (Applause.)

    Fourth, we need to invest in the skills and education of our people. (Applause.)

    Now, this year, we've broken through the stalemate between left and right by launching a national competition to improve our schools. And the idea here is simple: Instead of rewarding failure, we only reward success. Instead of funding the status quo, we only invest in reform -- reform that raises student achievement; inspires students to excel in math and science; and turns around failing schools that steal the future of too many young Americans, from rural communities to the inner city. In the 21st century, the best anti-poverty program around is a world-class education. (Applause.) And in this country, the success of our children cannot depend more on where they live than on their potential.

    When we renew the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, we will work with Congress to expand these reforms to all 50 states. Still, in this economy, a high school diploma no longer guarantees a good job. That's why I urge the Senate to follow the House and pass a bill that will revitalize our community colleges, which are a career pathway to the children of so many working families. (Applause.)

    To make college more affordable, this bill will finally end the unwarranted taxpayer subsidies that go to banks for student loans. (Applause.) Instead, let's take that money and give families a $10,000 tax credit for four years of college and increase Pell Grants. (Applause.) And let's tell another one million students that when they graduate, they will be required to pay only 10 percent of their income on student loans, and all of their debt will be forgiven after 20 years -- and forgiven after 10 years if they choose a career in public service, because in the United States of America, no one should go broke because they chose to go to college. (Applause.)

    And by the way, it's time for colleges and universities to get serious about cutting their own costs -- (applause) -- because they, too, have a responsibility to help solve this problem.

    Now, the price of college tuition is just one of the burdens facing the middle class. That's why last year I asked Vice President Biden to chair a task force on middle-class families. That's why we're nearly doubling the child care tax credit, and making it easier to save for retirement by giving access to every worker a retirement account and expanding the tax credit for those who start a nest egg. That's why we're working to lift the value of a family's single largest investment -- their home. The steps we took last year to shore up the housing market have allowed millions of Americans to take out new loans and save an average of $1,500 on mortgage payments.

    This year, we will step up refinancing so that homeowners can move into more affordable mortgages. (Applause.) And it is precisely to relieve the burden on middle-class families that we still need health insurance reform. (Applause.) Yes, we do. (Applause.)

    Now, let's clear a few things up. (Laughter.) I didn't choose to tackle this issue to get some legislative victory under my belt. And by now it should be fairly obvious that I didn't take on health care because it was good politics. (Laughter.) I took on health care because of the stories I've heard from Americans with preexisting conditions whose lives depend on getting coverage; patients who've been denied coverage; families -- even those with insurance -- who are just one illness away from financial ruin.

    After nearly a century of trying -- Democratic administrations, Republican administrations -- we are closer than ever to bringing more security to the lives of so many Americans. The approach we've taken would protect every American from the worst practices of the insurance industry. It would give small businesses and uninsured Americans a chance to choose an affordable health care plan in a competitive market. It would require every insurance plan to cover preventive care.

    And by the way, I want to acknowledge our First Lady, Michelle Obama, who this year is creating a national movement to tackle the epidemic of childhood obesity and make kids healthier. (Applause.) Thank you. She gets embarrassed. (Laughter.)

    Our approach would preserve the right of Americans who have insurance to keep their doctor and their plan. It would reduce costs and premiums for millions of families and businesses. And according to the Congressional Budget Office -- the independent organization that both parties have cited as the official scorekeeper for Congress -- our approach would bring down the deficit by as much as $1 trillion over the next two decades. (Applause.)

    Still, this is a complex issue, and the longer it was debated, the more skeptical people became. I take my share of the blame for not explaining it more clearly to the American people. And I know that with all the lobbying and horse-trading, the process left most Americans wondering, "What's in it for me?"

    But I also know this problem is not going away. By the time I'm finished speaking tonight, more Americans will have lost their health insurance. Millions will lose it this year. Our deficit will grow. Premiums will go up. Patients will be denied the care they need. Small business owners will continue to drop coverage altogether. I will not walk away from these Americans, and neither should the people in this chamber. (Applause.)

    So, as temperatures cool, I want everyone to take another look at the plan we've proposed. There's a reason why many doctors, nurses, and health care experts who know our system best consider this approach a vast improvement over the status quo. But if anyone from either party has a better approach that will bring down premiums, bring down the deficit, cover the uninsured, strengthen Medicare for seniors, and stop insurance company abuses, let me know. (Applause.) Let me know. Let me know. (Applause.) I'm eager to see it.

    Here's what I ask Congress, though: Don't walk away from reform. Not now. Not when we are so close. Let us find a way to come together and finish the job for the American people. (Applause.) Let's get it done. Let's get it done. (Applause.)

    Now, even as health care reform would reduce our deficit, it's not enough to dig us out of a massive fiscal hole in which we find ourselves. It's a challenge that makes all others that much harder to solve, and one that's been subject to a lot of political posturing. So let me start the discussion of government spending by setting the record straight.

    At the beginning of the last decade, the year 2000, America had a budget surplus of over $200 billion. (Applause.) By the time I took office, we had a one-year deficit of over $1 trillion and projected deficits of $8 trillion over the next decade. Most of this was the result of not paying for two wars, two tax cuts, and an expensive prescription drug program. On top of that, the effects of the recession put a $3 trillion hole in our budget. All this was before I walked in the door. (Laughter and applause.)

    Now -- just stating the facts. Now, if we had taken office in ordinary times, I would have liked nothing more than to start bringing down the deficit. But we took office amid a crisis. And our efforts to prevent a second depression have added another $1 trillion to our national debt. That, too, is a fact.

    I'm absolutely convinced that was the right thing to do. But families across the country are tightening their belts and making tough decisions. The federal government should do the same. (Applause.) So tonight, I'm proposing specific steps to pay for the trillion dollars that it took to rescue the economy last year.

    Starting in 2011, we are prepared to freeze government spending for three years. (Applause.) Spending related to our national security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will not be affected. But all other discretionary government programs will. Like any cash-strapped family, we will work within a budget to invest in what we need and sacrifice what we don't. And if I have to enforce this discipline by veto, I will. (Applause.)

    We will continue to go through the budget, line by line, page by page, to eliminate programs that we can't afford and don't work. We've already identified $20 billion in savings for next year. To help working families, we'll extend our middle-class tax cuts. But at a time of record deficits, we will not continue tax cuts for oil companies, for investment fund managers, and for those making over $250,000 a year. We just can't afford it. (Applause.)

    Now, even after paying for what we spent on my watch, we'll still face the massive deficit we had when I took office. More importantly, the cost of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will continue to skyrocket. That's why I've called for a bipartisan fiscal commission, modeled on a proposal by Republican Judd Gregg and Democrat Kent Conrad. (Applause.) This can't be one of those Washington gimmicks that lets us pretend we solved a problem. The commission will have to provide a specific set of solutions by a certain deadline.

    Now, yesterday, the Senate blocked a bill that would have created this commission. So I'll issue an executive order that will allow us to go forward, because I refuse to pass this problem on to another generation of Americans. (Applause.) And when the vote comes tomorrow, the Senate should restore the pay-as-you-go law that was a big reason for why we had record surpluses in the 1990s. (Applause.)

    Now, I know that some in my own party will argue that we can't address the deficit or freeze government spending when so many are still hurting. And I agree -- which is why this freeze won't take effect until next year -- (laughter) -- when the economy is stronger. That's how budgeting works. (Laughter and applause.) But understand -- understand if we don't take meaningful steps to rein in our debt, it could damage our markets, increase the cost of borrowing, and jeopardize our recovery -- all of which would have an even worse effect on our job growth and family incomes.

    From some on the right, I expect we'll hear a different argument -- that if we just make fewer investments in our people, extend tax cuts including those for the wealthier Americans, eliminate more regulations, maintain the status quo on health care, our deficits will go away. The problem is that's what we did for eight years. (Applause.) That's what helped us into this crisis. It's what helped lead to these deficits. We can't do it again.

    Rather than fight the same tired battles that have dominated Washington for decades, it's time to try something new. Let's invest in our people without leaving them a mountain of debt. Let's meet our responsibility to the citizens who sent us here. Let's try common sense. (Laughter.) A novel concept.

    To do that, we have to recognize that we face more than a deficit of dollars right now. We face a deficit of trust -- deep and corrosive doubts about how Washington works that have been growing for years. To close that credibility gap we have to take action on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue -- to end the outsized influence of lobbyists; to do our work openly; to give our people the government they deserve. (Applause.)

    That's what I came to Washington to do. That's why -- for the first time in history -- my administration posts on our White House visitors online. That's why we've excluded lobbyists from policymaking jobs, or seats on federal boards and commissions.

    But we can't stop there. It's time to require lobbyists to disclose each contact they make on behalf of a client with my administration or with Congress. It's time to put strict limits on the contributions that lobbyists give to candidates for federal office.

    With all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests -- including foreign corporations -- to spend without limit in our elections. (Applause.) I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. (Applause.) They should be decided by the American people. And I'd urge Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to correct some of these problems.

    I'm also calling on Congress to continue down the path of earmark reform. Applause.) Democrats and Republicans. (Applause.) Democrats and Republicans. You've trimmed some of this spending, you've embraced some meaningful change. But restoring the public trust demands more. For example, some members of Congress post some earmark requests online. (Applause.) Tonight, I'm calling on Congress to publish all earmark requests on a single Web site before there's a vote, so that the American people can see how their money is being spent. (Applause.)

    Of course, none of these reforms will even happen if we don't also reform how we work with one another. Now, I'm not naïve. I never thought that the mere fact of my election would usher in peace and harmony -- (laughter) -- and some post-partisan era. I knew that both parties have fed divisions that are deeply entrenched. And on some issues, there are simply philosophical differences that will always cause us to part ways. These disagreements, about the role of government in our lives, about our national priorities and our national security, they've been taking place for over 200 years. They're the very essence of our democracy.

    But what frustrates the American people is a Washington where every day is Election Day. We can't wage a perpetual campaign where the only goal is to see who can get the most embarrassing headlines about the other side -- a belief that if you lose, I win. Neither party should delay or obstruct every single bill just because they can. The confirmation of -- (applause) -- I'm speaking to both parties now. The confirmation of well-qualified public servants shouldn't be held hostage to the pet projects or grudges of a few individual senators. (Applause.)

    Washington may think that saying anything about the other side, no matter how false, no matter how malicious, is just part of the game. But it's precisely such politics that has stopped either party from helping the American people. Worse yet, it's sowing further division among our citizens, further distrust in our government.

    So, no, I will not give up on trying to change the tone of our politics. I know it's an election year. And after last week, it's clear that campaign fever has come even earlier than usual. But we still need to govern.

    To Democrats, I would remind you that we still have the largest majority in decades, and the people expect us to solve problems, not run for the hills. (Applause.) And if the Republican leadership is going to insist that 60 votes in the Senate are required to do any business at all in this town -- a supermajority -- then the responsibility to govern is now yours as well. (Applause.) Just saying no to everything may be good short-term politics, but it's not leadership. We were sent here to serve our citizens, not our ambitions. (Applause.) So let's show the American people that we can do it together. (Applause.)

    This week, I'll be addressing a meeting of the House Republicans. I'd like to begin monthly meetings with both Democratic and Republican leadership. I know you can't wait. (Laughter.)

    Throughout our history, no issue has united this country more than our security. Sadly, some of the unity we felt after 9/11 has dissipated. We can argue all we want about who's to blame for this, but I'm not interested in re-litigating the past. I know that all of us love this country. All of us are committed to its defense. So let's put aside the schoolyard taunts about who's tough. Let's reject the false choice between protecting our people and upholding our values. Let's leave behind the fear and division, and do what it takes to defend our nation and forge a more hopeful future -- for America and for the world. (Applause.)

    That's the work we began last year. Since the day I took office, we've renewed our focus on the terrorists who threaten our nation. We've made substantial investments in our homeland security and disrupted plots that threatened to take American lives. We are filling unacceptable gaps revealed by the failed Christmas attack, with better airline security and swifter action on our intelligence. We've prohibited torture and strengthened partnerships from the Pacific to South Asia to the Arabian Peninsula. And in the last year, hundreds of al Qaeda's fighters and affiliates, including many senior leaders, have been captured or killed -- far more than in 2008.

    And in Afghanistan, we're increasing our troops and training Afghan security forces so they can begin to take the lead in July of 2011, and our troops can begin to come home. (Applause.) We will reward good governance, work to reduce corruption, and support the rights of all Afghans -- men and women alike. (Applause.) We're joined by allies and partners who have increased their own commitments, and who will come together tomorrow in London to reaffirm our common purpose. There will be difficult days ahead. But I am absolutely confident we will succeed.

    As we take the fight to al Qaeda, we are responsibly leaving Iraq to its people. As a candidate, I promised that I would end this war, and that is what I am doing as President. We will have all of our combat troops out of Iraq by the end of this August. (Applause.) We will support the Iraqi government -- we will support the Iraqi government as they hold elections, and we will continue to partner with the Iraqi people to promote regional peace and prosperity. But make no mistake: This war is ending, and all of our troops are coming home. (Applause.)

    Tonight, all of our men and women in uniform -- in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and around the world -- they have to know that we -- that they have our respect, our gratitude, our full support. And just as they must have the resources they need in war, we all have a responsibility to support them when they come home. (Applause.) That's why we made the largest increase in investments for veterans in decades -- last year. (Applause.) That's why we're building a 21st century VA. And that's why Michelle has joined with Jill Biden to forge a national commitment to support military families. (Applause.)

    Now, even as we prosecute two wars, we're also confronting perhaps the greatest danger to the American people -- the threat of nuclear weapons. I've embraced the vision of John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan through a strategy that reverses the spread of these weapons and seeks a world without them. To reduce our stockpiles and launchers, while ensuring our deterrent, the United States and Russia are completing negotiations on the farthest-reaching arms control treaty in nearly two decades. (Applause.) And at April's Nuclear Security Summit, we will bring 44 nations together here in Washington, D.C. behind a clear goal: securing all vulnerable nuclear materials around the world in four years, so that they never fall into the hands of terrorists. (Applause.)

    Now, these diplomatic efforts have also strengthened our hand in dealing with those nations that insist on violating international agreements in pursuit of nuclear weapons. That's why North Korea now faces increased isolation, and stronger sanctions -- sanctions that are being vigorously enforced. That's why the international community is more united, and the Islamic Republic of Iran is more isolated. And as Iran's leaders continue to ignore their obligations, there should be no doubt: They, too, will face growing consequences. That is a promise. (Applause.)

    That's the leadership that we are providing -- engagement that advances the common security and prosperity of all people. We're working through the G20 to sustain a lasting global recovery. We're working with Muslim communities around the world to promote science and education and innovation. We have gone from a bystander to a leader in the fight against climate change. We're helping developing countries to feed themselves, and continuing the fight against HIV/AIDS. And we are launching a new initiative that will give us the capacity to respond faster and more effectively to bioterrorism or an infectious disease -- a plan that will counter threats at home and strengthen public health abroad.

    As we have for over 60 years, America takes these actions because our destiny is connected to those beyond our shores. But we also do it because it is right. That's why, as we meet here tonight, over 10,000 Americans are working with many nations to help the people of Haiti recover and rebuild. (Applause.) That's why we stand with the girl who yearns to go to school in Afghanistan; why we support the human rights of the women marching through the streets of Iran; why we advocate for the young man denied a job by corruption in Guinea. For America must always stand on the side of freedom and human dignity. (Applause.) Always. (Applause.)

    Abroad, America's greatest source of strength has always been our ideals. The same is true at home. We find unity in our incredible diversity, drawing on the promise enshrined in our Constitution: the notion that we're all created equal; that no matter who you are or what you look like, if you abide by the law you should be protected by it; if you adhere to our common values you should be treated no different than anyone else.

    We must continually renew this promise. My administration has a Civil Rights Division that is once again prosecuting civil rights violations and employment discrimination. (Applause.) We finally strengthened our laws to protect against crimes driven by hate. (Applause.) This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. (Applause.) It's the right thing to do. (Applause.)

    We're going to crack down on violations of equal pay laws -- so that women get equal pay for an equal day's work. (Applause.) And we should continue the work of fixing our broken immigration system -- to secure our borders and enforce our laws, and ensure that everyone who plays by the rules can contribute to our economy and enrich our nation. (Applause.)

    In the end, it's our ideals, our values that built America -- values that allowed us to forge a nation made up of immigrants from every corner of the globe; values that drive our citizens still. Every day, Americans meet their responsibilities to their families and their employers. Time and again, they lend a hand to their neighbors and give back to their country. They take pride in their labor, and are generous in spirit. These aren't Republican values or Democratic values that they're living by; business values or labor values. They're American values.

    Unfortunately, too many of our citizens have lost faith that our biggest institutions -- our corporations, our media, and, yes, our government -- still reflect these same values. Each of these institutions are full of honorable men and women doing important work that helps our country prosper. But each time a CEO rewards himself for failure, or a banker puts the rest of us at risk for his own selfish gain, people's doubts grow. Each time lobbyists game the system or politicians tear each other down instead of lifting this country up, we lose faith. The more that TV pundits reduce serious debates to silly arguments, big issues into sound bites, our citizens turn away.

    No wonder there's so much cynicism out there. No wonder there's so much disappointment.

    I campaigned on the promise of change -- change we can believe in, the slogan went. And right now, I know there are many Americans who aren't sure if they still believe we can change -- or that I can deliver it.

    But remember this -- I never suggested that change would be easy, or that I could do it alone. Democracy in a nation of 300 million people can be noisy and messy and complicated. And when you try to do big things and make big changes, it stirs passions and controversy. That's just how it is.

    Those of us in public office can respond to this reality by playing it safe and avoid telling hard truths and pointing fingers. We can do what's necessary to keep our poll numbers high, and get through the next election instead of doing what's best for the next generation.

    But I also know this: If people had made that decision 50 years ago, or 100 years ago, or 200 years ago, we wouldn't be here tonight. The only reason we are here is because generations of Americans were unafraid to do what was hard; to do what was needed even when success was uncertain; to do what it took to keep the dream of this nation alive for their children and their grandchildren.

    Our administration has had some political setbacks this year, and some of them were deserved. But I wake up every day knowing that they are nothing compared to the setbacks that families all across this country have faced this year. And what keeps me going -- what keeps me fighting -- is that despite all these setbacks, that spirit of determination and optimism, that fundamental decency that has always been at the core of the American people, that lives on.

    It lives on in the struggling small business owner who wrote to me of his company, "None of us," he said, "...are willing to consider, even slightly, that we might fail."

    It lives on in the woman who said that even though she and her neighbors have felt the pain of recession, "We are strong. We are resilient. We are American."

    It lives on in the 8-year-old boy in Louisiana, who just sent me his allowance and asked if I would give it to the people of Haiti.

    And it lives on in all the Americans who've dropped everything to go someplace they've never been and pull people they've never known from the rubble, prompting chants of "U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A!" when another life was saved.

    The spirit that has sustained this nation for more than two centuries lives on in you, its people. We have finished a difficult year. We have come through a difficult decade. But a new year has come. A new decade stretches before us. We don't quit. I don't quit. (Applause.) Let's seize this moment -- to start anew, to carry the dream forward, and to strengthen our union once more. (Applause.)

    Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)

  • Annotated SOTU coming sometime Thursday

    I thought this was -- yet again -- a "surprisingly" effective Big Speech by Obama, though with a very few revealing lapses. Will take my time on doing the Full Annotated Version tomorrow, ideally by early afternoon. Meanwhile, as I've just discovered, my Atlantic colleagues have been Live Blogging the whole thing, here. (I also just was on a panel about the speech on the Charlie Rose show, not yet online.) One moment when I couldn't believe what I was seeing: the Roberts-led stare whatsis? Supreme Court sitting directly in front of the President and being equally-directly dressed down by him, while the politicians right next to them in the chamber leapt up and cheered. Don't recall any moment quite like that before. More manana. 

  • Vindication at last! (Running-style dept)

    For lo these many decades of several-times-per-week running, I have favored the "land on the front of your feet" policy. This is the way you naturally run if you're sprinting -- up on the balls of the feet -- and it is the way that has always felt most comfortable to me. But it is at odds with prevailing "heel-strike" practice, and it makes me wonder about standard running shoes, with their enormous multi-inch layers of padding at the back, under the heel, where I need it least. My shoes typically wear out when the area at the front of the shoe, under the balls of my feet, is all abraded away, and the big, thick rear cushions still look new.

    Now, science weighs in to say that I've been doing it right all along! Or, more specifically Nature weighs in, with a report today here saying that fore-foot running, which also turns out to be the way people naturally run if they're barefoot, is fundamentally much easier on your joints and bones and therefore easier to bear over the years. There's a six-minute video on the topic here, which has a variety of "actual scientific" stress-diagrams, like the ones below, showing how the decelerative shock of landing is buffered and spread out over time by fore-foot landings.

    Observe the sharp, vertical impact spike from a heel landing (straight-up line with two red circles):

    Versus the more gradual curve of impact when absorbed by the fronts of the feet (and the chain of muscles, tendons, etc that also momentarily disperse the shock):


    If science nature says so, I'm convinced! Perhaps this is why, although I've had all sorts of other maladies over the years -- most often Achilles-tendon related -- I've never (yet) had a knee problem. Now it turns out that "I've been running scientifically all my life," and didn't even know it. Check it out. (All this in the "let's not think about politics for a minute" spirit.)
  • SOTU annotation coming tomorrow

    Over the past decade, I've produced an "Annotated Version" of most State of the Union speeches soon after they were delivered. The 2008 version and links to a number of others here. Because of Atlantic speech-related events this evening, I won't do one tonight but will in this space by tomorrow morning. Just for the record.

    Obama's big speech this evening is like several other of his high-stakes appearances in apparently needing to be a home-run in order to reverse his fortunes. So it was with his post-Rev. Wright speech about race relations in March, 2008, when he was on the verge of being forced out of the campaign; similarly with his first debate appearance against John McCain in August 2008, when McCain's prospects seemed to be rising; and similarly last September with his address about health care to a Joint Session of Congress, when the summer-long "death panel" / "tea party" rhetoric had built great opposition to his plan. And so even it seemed to be in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, the circumstances of which practically guaranteed a falling-short-of-expectations result. In each of those cases, his performance exceeded expectations, improved his prospects, and reversed negative momentum.

    Tonight? We'll see. I will say that the main pre-speech leak, about the "spending freeze," is different from his previous high-stakes appearances and is not very encouraging. If he doesn't mean it -- if this is a gimmick to claim "discipline" when much of the budget will still grow -- it's out of character precisely in its gimmickry. (Remember the campaign-era Obama's contempt for the gas-tax-holiday gimmick eagerly embraced by McCain and Hillary Clinton.) If he does mean it, it's at odds with the whole post-Great Depression logic (not to mention post-Obama inauguration policy) about the danger of cutting back on public "stimulus" spending too early during an economic contraction. Another reason to watch tonight.

  • Map crazy!

    Following the recent series of thought-experiment maps about how America's internal borders should be withdrawn, this note from a reader in Shanghai:

    "I always enjoy the maps by Danny Dorling at the University of Sheffield, resizing areas based on all sorts of variables, including wealth, life expectancy, etc.  http://www.worldmapper.org/
    "Sobering "income animation" here.  It certainly lives up the its tagline "The world as you've never seen it before".

    From the income animation -- first, how the display looks when showing countries "sized by people living on less than $2 per day":

    And when sized by those living on more than $200 a day:

    I won't go on forever with alternative maps -- though this a good occasion to re-mention Toby Lester's wonderful book on the history of maps, The Fourth Part of the World -- but they are useful jogs to conventional thinking. And, a further note on the "what New England" should be called question, from a one-time resident of our smallest state:
    "As a native Rhode Islander, I have to note that our state is the Ocean State, and it seems too proprietary to apply to all of Southern New England. Also, while I'm not a sports fan, the Red Sox are mighty popular here in RI and southern Mass and CT, so moving that northward doesn't make sense either. How about just Southern New England, which is used a lot anyway, at least by our weathermen, and the Northeast Kingdom?"
  • Moving .PST files into Gmail: you can try this at home!

    Challenge was announced last week, here: how to get many years' worth of email stored in old Outlook .PST files into an online Gmail account.

    Main reason for change: wanting to have email archives searchable and available from any computer, rather than worrying about which .PST is on which machine. They'd also be searchable and usable from mobile devices with Gmail apps -- which I know first-hand includes BlackBerry and Android/Nexus One, and which I believe now includes iPhone and SideKick. Other motives discussed in the original post.

    Promising-sounding solution that's not right for me: 
    Google offers its own "Google Email Uploader" (left) available for free download here. Uploader.pngIt sounds as if it exactly fills the bill: "It uploads email and contacts from desktop email programs (like Microsoft Outlook® ) into your Google Apps mailbox. It preserves information such as sent dates and sender/recipient data, as well as the folder structure used by email programs." Unfortunately, it doesn't work with normal, free Gmail accounts. It requires a different "Google Apps" account. These cost $50 per year (details here), and while that's hardly prohibitive, for the same money I could buy 200 GB of online storage from Google (see here). And this approach would defeat my purpose of concentrating my mail in one, main, existing Gmail account.

    Conceptual basis of the real solution. It involves IMAP accounts. If everything about IMAP and POP3 is already obvious to you, skip to the step-by-step list further down. If not, read the next paragraph.

    Outlook (and other email handlers) can interact with online email services, like Gmail or Hotmail, in two main ways, via POP3 or IMAP. (There are others, which we'll ignore for now.) Fundamentally, POP3 is a way of collecting messages from Gmail or Hotmail and transferring them to your computer, whereas IMAP is a way of mirroring what's in your online account on your own computer. Here's the practical difference: With a POP3 account, what you do to messages on your own computer has no direct effect on the versions of those messages stored online. You can collect all your Gmail message into Outlook and save or delete them there, but the originals will still be sitting in your Gmail account. But if you've set up an IMAP connection between Outlook and Gmail, what happens to a message in either place affects it in both. If you delete a message in Outlook, it also disappears from Gmail. And if you add a message to an IMAPed Outlook folder, it will also be added to the corresponding Gmail account. That's the key to the .PST -> Gmail transfer.
    Step-by-step procedure: This is all you have to do. It's easier than it looks. If you have a lot of messages, the full transfer takes some time -- but it's mainly "the computer is thinking" time, rather than "you have to pay attention" time.
    1. Load Outlook, and create a "New Email Account." Procedures vary with different releases of Outlook. For instance, in Outlook 2007 it's Tools / Account Settings / E-mail / New. Give this new account the settings (user name / pw) of the Gmail account in which you want to store your old .PST messages.

    2. When setting up this new account, specify it as an IMAP account, not a POP3 account. (That's the choice Outlook will give you.) Note: this can be the same Gmail account that you're already using with Outlook, via a POP3 connection. There's no problem with Outlook having two of its own email accounts addressing the same Gmail account. For years I've collected my Gmail messages into Outlook via POP3. For the transfer, I just created a new IMAP connection to that same account. Outlook happily keeps both of those open at the same time.

    3. Follow very carefully the configuration instructions here and here for your new IMAP account. They're easy, but you have to get the details right. The first step is to enable IMAP within Gmail (see the first link); the second is to configure your new Outlook IMAP account, as explained in the second link. Mine didn't work until I was sure to put in the "993" / "587" port settings, below, on the "Advanced" tab:

    4) Open Outlook, where you will find a new folder that is IMAP'd (mirrored) to your Gmail account. Whatever is new and unread in your Gmail inbox will look the same way in Outlook. Here is the way the new account looks in my Outlook right now:
    It has the name "Gmail IMAP" because that's the one I chose -- you can call it anything. The important point to note here is the folder structure of this new email account. I didn't create any of the subfolders shown here -- Inbox, &Answer, etc. Those are all automatically created, as part of the IMAP process, based on labels in Gmail. A label in Gmail is exactly equivalent to a subfolder in an IMAP Outlook account. We'll see why this matters in the next step.

    5) Create a new label in your Gmail account -- let's call it "Transfer." OR, create a new subfolder in your Outlook IMAP account, like "Transfer."  Right-click on your Outlook account and choose "Update Folder List," and labels in Gmail will be synchronized with the subfolders in Outlook. You're almost there.

    6) Using Outlook, open the .PST file whose messages you would like to transfer to Gmail. Drag-and-drop those messages over to your new "Transfer" folder. You can mass-select a lot of messages and do this at one time. It may take Outlook a little while to get them all transferred, but it will happen.

    7) Go do something else.

    8) When you come back to the computer, all the messages that you added to your "Transfer" folder will now be in Gmail.  They will all have a Gmail label corresponding to the folder you created -- "Transfer," etc.  What I have done is to set up these folders by year. "Transfer 2003" etc. Once they're over in Gmail, you can do with them whatever you want. Remove those labels; add new ones; archive; and of course search. From any of your computers or mobile devices, you can rummage through whatever you've stored in your Gmail account.

    What comes next. For a future installment, what to do after you've gotten everything you care about transferred across to Gmail storage. One immediate step is to close that IMAP account you used for the transfers. In my experience, Outlook bogs down considerably when it is handling all the synchronization needed for an IMAP account. (That is worth it when you're making the transfer, but not as a standard practice.) Should you erase those old .PST files? No way! More backups are better. (But now you don't have to copy them machine-to-machine.) Should you still use Outlook as a mail-handler? If you want -- but without worrying about where or whether you've copied its archive of old files.

    More details on other fronts when I regain energy for this topic. (For instance: what about finding old messages in Gmail when you're off line? And how should you feel about having all your correspondence in this one new basket? Much more to discuss.) In the meantime, thanks and promised rewards soon on the way to those who were early on recommending IMAP.

  • While we're talking imaginary maps....

    Previously here. From one disgruntled reader:

    "I know they're not your names, but North New England and South New England are just terrible. I recommend "Ocean State" for the southern portion and "Red Sox Nation" for the northern portion."

    And from another, a reminder that this exercise has been carried out before -- including in an oddball (IMHO) suggestion in the 1970s for dividing the nation into 38 states of more or less equal territory -- though obviously not equal population. (Compare the 10+ million in teeming "San Gabriel" or "Hudson," on one extreme, with the scant ranks in "Seward" or "Bighorn," on the other.) The idea was that it would lead to efficiencies in governance, as explained here. Click for larger version.


    A reader's note introducing this map:
    "I thought I would bring to your attention a feature in Slate from November 2009 about the book Strange Maps by Frank Jacobs.  The article has a slide show that features a map by C. Etzel Pearcy created in the 1970s that redrew the United States into 38 regions...

    "The maps by Neil Freeman use at least six of the same names contained in the Pearcy map for very similar locations - Susquehanna, Wabash, Chesapeake, Cumberland, Bitterroot, and Erie (OH in the Pearcy map while upstate NY in the Freeman map)  It appears the Freeman maps may have been inspired by the Pearcy map. ["Inspired" in the positive rather than derivative sense of the term, I think -- JF.] I received Strange Maps as a Christmas gift and it is an entertaining cartographic adventure."
  • .PST -> Gmail solution revealed ... soon!

    A week ago I solicited help, and offered a reward, for the easiest way to move many years' worth of old Outlook .PST files over to Gmail. The reasons for wanting to do so were spelled out in that earlier post.

    I got a lot of good suggestions, and have had time to try them out. Handy instructions later tonight (or at least I so intend), plus a discussion of a few cautions or pitfalls. Thanks to all who contributed. UPDATE: Actually, tomorrow. "Real" work for the moment...

  • Update on the "thought experiment" state map

    The wonderful imaginary map from FakeIsTheNewReal, showing how state boundaries might look if they were drawn to have more or less equal population (while retaining as much coherence as possible), that I mentioned two days ago here is up now in a new version. The site is the same, but some of the borders have been tweaked, the names of some new "states" have been changed, and the colors are a little different. For instance, "Rocky Mountain High" has become "Bitterroot," and "Washlaska" has become "Olympia." Compare-and-contrast versions below; in each case, click for larger.

    Previous version:

    Current version:

    I mention this because I have gotten some puzzled (and two huffy/accusatory) messages from people asking why I "altered" the state names and layouts from what is on the FakeIs.. site. Hey, I'm just a neutral reporter! The thing changed when I wasn't looking! Both versions, by Neil Freeman, are very nice and a public service.

  • Today's filibuster update

    In two parts. First, a useful Wikipedia chart showing how recent and a-historical the current Senate practice of filibusters for everything really is. The blue line, on the top, is the significant one: it is a gauge of how often bills or nominations were subjected to the need for a "supermajority" vote, rather than a regular Constitutional majority. The goldish line, on the bottom, indicates how often the supermajority prevailed -- how often they "broke the filibuster." As a reminder, there is nothing in the Constitution about this practice. (Supermajorities for certain situations, like impeachment or ratifying treaties or passing Constitutional Amendments, yes; as a general practice, no.) Click on graph for larger view.


    Also, my On the Media interview on this topic, with Bob Garfield, here. (Previously about filibusters here and passim. Very good omnibus piece by Tim Noah in Slate, here. To round things out, yesterday's All Things Considered discussion with Guy Raz, though not about filibusters, here.)
  • Are professors born pinkos? A new way to test

    Patricia Cohen's article in the New York Times last week got a lot of attention, because of its explanation of why academics generally had liberal political views. University life didn't make them that way, according to evidence discussed in the article; they were that way before they arrived. Ie, according to this theory nascent liberals start out* more interested in academics than young conservatives are, so the professoriat naturally ends up on the left.
    A reader originally from China who now teaches at a major US university wrote about a way to test this "born not made" claim:

    "While I can agree that some conservatives are turned away by the notion of a liberal academia, it seems to me that this hypothesis can be tested out on foreign nationals studying in the US. For example, many Chinese nationals have become professors in the U.S. Few of them had serious exposure to western liberalism before coming to the U.S., and certainly few of them chose academia because of its alleged left leaning ideology. Many of them, while studying as graduate students in science and engineering, probably cared little about ideology and politics. Therefore it would make sense to study this group, especially those who are just beginning their academic careers.

    "My bet is that the outcome of the study will show that most of them are not conservative in the Fox News sense. I believe that overwhelmingly people who can think more critically are not conservatives in the Fox News sense. It is very hard for me to imagine someone who can think critically could be enamored with Sarah Palin and view her as a serious presidential candidate, for example. For the very same reason I do not believe Jesse Jackson has much support in academia either. The problem in the current political environment is that almost anything not religious right is viewed as left."

    Yet another reason to keep welcoming in those foreign graduate students! A reason apart from my long-standing pitch that they are part of America's biggest advantage over the rest of the world (that we can attract a disproportionate share of the world's talent). Now we learn that, as a bonus, they provide a control group for our socio/political experiments.
    * Whether or not it applies in academia, I am sure this is true of journalism. People drawn to this line of work aren't mainly interested in maximizing their "net worth" -- the ones who are, soon realize their mistake! Though we're all happy to earn as much as we can, and I feel grateful every day to be making a good living -- really, to have stayed employed -- doing something I love.

  • Ec 101 versus the real world, ctd.

    In response to this post about the exchange in which Chief Justice John "l'etat la loi, c'est moi" Roberts asked whether it wasn't "extraordinarily paternalistic" to think "that shareholders are too stupid to keep track of what their corporations are doing," and therefore the market would correct any excessive corporate involvement in political affairs, one reader asks:

    "Didn't we just learn that most investors are 'too stupid' to know about their investments BECAUSE there were many and completely hidden risk- taking ventures going on??????  And weren't some people also duped into ridiculous mortgage arrangements when there was no follow up to their ridiculous applications that showed no or insufficient income????"

    Another reader writes:

    "Regarding your comments on John Roberts's view resembling 'the idiot-savant faith in flawless markets that we all recall from Introductory Ec class.' I am a 38-year-old who is now in law school after pursuing a career in the arts, and I find that the Roberts/Econ view is (shockingly, to me) presented as dogma by law professors and barely questioned by law students. In my first year, a torts professor explained to our class how you could price the value of a lost child by seeing how much the parents spent on safety equipment and discounting by the percentage the equipment would save the child's life, with no ancillary discussion of how parents are pressured by marketers, wealthy parents are more able to buy silly pseudo-safety devices, or the conspicuous consumption issue. Seeing how lawyers are trained to look at the world, I am not in any way surprised at Roberts's view. He is a very smart man who has been institutionally taught that the world of theoretical economics ("assume a can opener") is a good model for the real world. It is sobering to see, but not surprising."

    These offered for the record.

  • Thought experiment

    What states might look like if, as with Congressional districts, their borders were periodically redrawn to reflect population changes. Click for larger version.

    This map is by Neil Freeman from FakeIsTheNewReal.org. It's based on a division of the country into 50 state units with more-or-less equal population -- 5 to 6 million apiece -- and preserving existing boundaries where possible. (As with the new state of "Missouri.") I love many of the other state names -- Lincoln, Joaquin, Tombigbee. My childhood home would have been along the border of Coronado and Mojave. In a reapportioned Senate each of these units would have two votes.

    In the same spirit of "zero-based governance," also consider H. Res. 1018, introduced this week in the House of Representatives, calling on the Senate -- please! -- to drop the recent aberrational practice of applying the filibuster to all legislation, and instead to reserve it for rare, emergency use. Or, as its authors put it, "Requesting the Senate to adjust its rules to reflect the intent of the framers of the Constitution by amending the Senate's filibuster rule, Rule 22, to facilitate the consideration of bills and amendments." Worth a shot!

    UPDATE: Please see follow-ups here and here
  • Impressive journalism

    For a "let's look on the bright side" moment, here are several items I've noticed in the last two days that have nothing in common except illustrating what journalism can do. Having been complaining about many things on many fronts recently, I wanted to distribute some compliments.

    - "Bail Burden" special on NPR. Late yesterday afternoon I was trapped in traffic, but I barely noticed while listening to an absolutely riveting 20-minute (!) segment on All Things Considered, by Laura Sullivan, about abuses in the bail-bond system. This is an issue I had never spent one minute thinking about before, let alone 20. I will certainly think about it from now on. It's the first of a three-part series; based on part one, it's a combination of reporting and analysis applied in a very effective way. If there is any justice in the world (separate question), it will make a difference in law and policy.

    - "The Listener," by the Atlantic's own Tim Lavin in our current issue (subscribe!). The issue is full of historical and analytical pieces, which are part of our bread-and-butter and, I think, work out well as a collection. But for as long as the magazine has been around, it has also featured the lovingly-detailed narrative about a person or development that is, just, interesting, and this profile of the successor to Art Bell as king of the overnight airways is a wonderful illustration. By the time you get to the part about the hotshot physicist Brian Greene appearing on the show, you'll know just what I mean.

    - A news-analysis piece by Alec MacGillis in yesterday's Washington Post, about Senator-elect Scott Brown's actual views on health care reform. The phenomenon MacGillis had to explain was this contradiction: Brown had campaigned against all Obama proposals including health care reform, but as a state senator he had voted for the Romney plan that is very similar to Obama's, and one reason he opposed Obama's plan is that Massachusetts people don't need it, since they already have something similar. The standard newsroom way to handle this issue is the "sources say" approach -- quoting people who point out the tension between the views. Instead, the story clearly explained the complication and what it might mean for Brown's future positions. It was way inside the paper but was next to another very good explanatory story, by Steve Mufson in Beijing, about the non-obvious effects of internet censorship in China.

    - "System Failure," by Christopher Hayes in the Nation last week. His perspective in this story -- political, generational, journalistic -- is obviously different from mine, but I felt this was the missing cousin to my own effort to answer the "Is America Going to Hell?" question in the current issue of the Atlantic. Again given the difference in starting perspectives, I was struck that we ended up in a very similar place on the "what is to be done?" front. Last month Hayes also did a very good, non-credulous story after his first trip to China.

    Meta point: there is lots of value that "crowd sourcing" and spontaneous citizen journalism bring to the world. But I think each of these works illustrates the value of trained observers and analysts who can get their views out through existing channels -- and therefore illustrates the value of keeping these channels alive. Read, listen, enjoy.


A Stop-Motion Tour of New York City

A filmmaker animated hundreds of still photographs to create this Big Apple flip book


The Absurd Psychology of Restaurant Menus

Would people eat healthier if celery was called "cool celery?"


This Japanese Inn Has Been Open For 1,300 Years

It's one of the oldest family businesses in the world.


What Happens Inside a Dying Mind?

Science cannot fully explain near-death experiences.



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