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The Billion Dollar Startup: Inside Obama's Campaign Tech

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the devs-we-can-believe-in dept.

Cloud 90

Nerval's Lobster writes "A presidential campaign is many things to many people: a reason to hope in the future, a wellspring of jokes and debate fodder, an annoyance to tune out, a chance to participate in the civic process. But for a couple dozen software engineers and developers involved over the past two years in President Obama's re-election effort, a campaign was something entirely different: a billion-dollar tech startup with an eighteen-month lifespan and a mandate to ship code under extreme pressure. Speaking to a New York City audience, some of Obama for America's leading tech people—those involved in the all-important Dashboard and Narwhal projects, as well as fundraising and DevOps—characterized the experience as 'insane,' filled with unending problems and the knowledge that, at the end of the whole process, nearly everything they worked on would likely end up tossed away. This is the story of what happened, and how technologies on a massive scale can make or break campaigns."

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lol (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42536971)

-A- is shit.

SIGH.... (1, Insightful)

cayenne8 (626475) | about a year ago | (#42537051)

If only someone could have hit their system with some kind of stuxnet type virus/trojan, we might have a brighter future to look forward to.

Re:SIGH.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42537089)

Doesn't change the fact -A- is shit.

Re:SIGH.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42538109)

Agreed! Time to remove democrats from office! They should move to the communist, socialist or islamic country of their choice!

Re:SIGH.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42538195)

Yeah because Mitt the Twit was going to be a masterful president.

Hahahahahahahahahahaha!

Re:SIGH.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42540459)

Your ignorance is exceeded only by your stupidity

Re:SIGH.... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42540773)

Yes, a brighter future... Since Bush left office, the deficit is down, unemployment is down, the economy is up and healthcare costs have gone down (my insurance provider sent me a refund this year, and as a result dropped my premiums. People who tell you they will increase are lying. Obama has pretty much undone the path to complete economic failure that Bush set us up for.

Don't pick a team. Look at the facts and figure things out for yourself. The country as a whole is doing far better than it would have under any current Republican candidate. The current Republicans only care about short-term gains for themselves and their cronies, while the Democrats are actually trying to make things work long-term.

huge amount of money is pretty key (1)

Trepidity (597) | about a year ago | (#42537043)

British parties are looking at Obama's operation very closely [economist.com] to see if they can improve their own using similar techniques. But they don't have nearly the same budgets for this kind of bespoke IT work and corporation-sized infrastructure, so are having trouble figuring out how to adapt any lessons from it.

More like a 10M startup ad brokerage (4, Informative)

Overzeetop (214511) | about a year ago | (#42537203)

Yes, but they don't have to deal with 50 individual, winner-take-all races over several hundred markets with three hundred million voters.

And, to be fair, most of the 1.1 Billion spent by the Obama campaign was spent on advertising slots and ground game (rental, printing). This wasn't really a $1 Billion startup, but rather a conduit for $1B in spending. It's like saying your stock broker is a billion dollar operation because he directs clients 401k money for a 10,000 person corporation.

Re:huge amount of money is pretty key (1)

Captain Splendid (673276) | about a year ago | (#42537847)

But they don't have nearly the same budgets

Well yeah. When you take 5 weeks instead of 18 months to perform a general election, it's usually going to be a lot cheaper.

Re:huge amount of money is pretty key (1)

timeOday (582209) | about a year ago | (#42538061)

they don't have nearly the same budgets for this kind of bespoke IT work and corporation-sized infrastructure, so are having trouble figuring out how to adapt any lessons from it.

Well there you go. From the title I thought this would be a story about Obama's IT team starting an actual startup to provide similar services to other marketing or political campaigns. Work for Obama one week, the NRA the next. No point starting from scratch every time.

Re:huge amount of money is pretty key (1)

cheesybagel (670288) | about a year ago | (#42541519)

FYI when I get targeted spam from a political party in an election I usually avoid to vote for them.

Re:huge amount of money is pretty key (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42541613)

Obama was a symbol because of his race, so his election in 2008 and reelection in 2012 might be one-offs that won't be easily copied either in the US or overseas. Remember there was no Tea Party in America until Obama was elected, then all of a sudden tens of millions of Americans became obsessed with trillion dollar budget deficits ("yeah we know, Bush was bad too."). Both supporters and opponents understood the significance of Obama's re-election: a one-term Presidency is considered a failure, so defeating Obama would be tantamount to rolling back his earlier victory. But it didn't happen, because his supporters were at least as energized as his opponents.

Re:huge amount of money is pretty key (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42543353)

A presidential campaign is many things to many people: a reason to hope in the future, a wellspring of jokes and debate fodder, an annoyance to tune out, a chance to participate in the civic process.

You missed one: A perfect example of the complete hypocrisy of US rhetoric vs actions. The US "democratic" system is so absolutely corrupted with mega-bucks, all semblance of real representation evaporates. Today's presidential elections are like a cross between an auction (with big corps bidding) and televangelism. Most of you probably live in it so you don't realise how despicable it appears from the outside...

"Bespoke" or "custom"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42549723)

I choose "custom".

Content free campaigning (4, Insightful)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year ago | (#42537055)

What bothered me the most about the 2012 campaign was the lack of almost any discussion of actual issues. There was almost no discussion about the fiscal cliff, entitlement reform, gun control, or any other issues that the country is now dealing with. Unfortunately, the lesson seems to be that keeping campaigns content free, and instead focusing on social media, turnout, and the "ground game", is the way to get elected, even if it isn't good for the country.

Re:Content free campaigning (3, Insightful)

cayenne8 (626475) | about a year ago | (#42537091)

What bothered me the most about the 2012 campaign was the lack of almost any discussion of actual issues. There was almost no discussion about the fiscal cliff, entitlement reform, gun control, or any other issues that the country is now dealing with.

Of course not...that wasn't in their best interest.

And the masses would actually have to *think* and try to understand tough things like "issues".

I don't think we've actually had an election where the candidates have actually addressed issues since maybe the early 80's or slightly before.

your comment is content free. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42537387)

n/t

Re:Content free campaigning (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42537401)

Nobody wants to hear how similar real candidates are. They want a football game. Someone to hate and someone to cheer for.

Really it's more like a very long, very complicated chess match with an unequal number of pieces. You take an endorsement from this group, let the other guy take the endorsement from that group. Up the ad budget in these four states and concede these other ones to the other guy. Spend those dollars elsewhere. Say you're pro-choice, but you're for parental notification. That gives up dollars and votes from these people but gets you dollars and votes for these other ones. Everything is negotiable. Not because they're open to changing ideas, because they're open to slightly different, more effective strategies.

Nobody runs for president because they really, really believe in certain things. They just run for president, and use the party with the platform that casually aligns with their own. The rest is bullshit politics.

Re:Content free campaigning (1)

k6mfw (1182893) | about a year ago | (#42539585)

Nobody wants to hear how similar real candidates are. They want a football game.

Exactly as what Europeans perceive American politics and football. There are only two teams on a football game. There are only two parties on a national election. Team and political players gather in close circle to discuss their plan which spectators and voters don't know the specifics, but they can cheer them on as they race towards the goal but don't have much influence on the outcome of the game.

Re:Content free campaigning (0)

mcgrew (92797) | about a year ago | (#42538035)

I don't think we've actually had an election where the candidates have actually addressed issues since maybe the early 80's or slightly before.

I've been voting since Nixon was in office, and I don't remember a single election where the issues that matter to the average man were discussed. Carter won because Ford was appointed by Nixon and had never won a federal election. Reagan won because Carter was the worst President most of us had ever seen. He won again because the Democrats were stupid enough to run carter's VP. Bush won for pretty much the same reason. Clinton won for the same reason Reagan won, although Bush wasn't as bad as Carter.

I never thought I'd see a worse President than Carter, but Shrub proved me wrong. I have no clue how he got re-elected, except for war frenzy.

Obama won for the same reason Reagan and Clinton won (folks finally woke up). He was re-elected because most of us were up in arms about the thieving corporatocracy of Wall Street, and the Republicans were stupid enough to run Mr. WallStreet whose campaign seemed to be "Wall Street and teh rich are all that matter".

Not once did I hear any real issues... hey, Republicans, why doesn't state's rights make it necessary for your party to push for the elimination of federal anti-pot laws, since we now have two states where it's perfectly legal?

Re:Content free campaigning (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42540307)

why doesn't state's rights make it necessary for your party to push for the elimination of federal anti-pot laws, since we now have two states where it's perfectly legal?

It does, of course, but the problem is, States' Rights is a dead platform.

First, the issue was settled by force of arms back in the 19th century. States have no rights that the Federal government does not explicitly grant them.

Second, the ridiculous nature of our political "system" makes it impossible to gain anything by actually supporting States Rights. Drop pot to the States? Sure, that pleases stoners. And pisses off soccer moms and Christian loonies. You can get the Christian loonies back by dropping abortion on the States - as it should be, since it's not a Federal issue. That doesn't necessarily please the Christian loonies (Those poor babies in New York!), while pissing off women in general.

Gun laws? Despite being mandated by the Second (and it's arguable whether States/smaller governments could even legitimately regulate; the only thing certain is that the Federal government cannot) - neither party would ever dare - the NRA would shit bricks if Chicago could ban guns, and the Democrats wouldn't be able to live with Texans having main battle tanks.

And so on and so forth. Neither party would survive the transition to States Rights, and so, neither will actually stand for them when it counts. They should, of course, and this country - despite a period of insanity - would be much better off after the fact, but they won't. Republicans only care about the survival of the Republican party; Democrats only care about the survival of the Democrat party.

Re:Content free campaigning (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about a year ago | (#42556883)

Drop pot to the States? Sure, that pleases stoners. And pisses off soccer moms and Christian loonies.

Good comment, but support for legal pot has gone from 12% in 1969 to over 50% today. I have no idea why Christian "loonies" would be against legalizing pot (although I would characterize anyone who is against its legalization as a loonie), since there's absolutely nothing in the bible against it, and it has been used for thousands of years and was not unknown to the ancients who wrote that tome. The only thing that would keep a Christian from smoking pot is Paul's warning to obey authority.

Re:Content free campaigning (1)

morcego (260031) | about a year ago | (#42537131)

What difference would it have made? They would just lie through their teeth.

I found this to be a more honest campaign, in that regard. Sad, I know.

Always has been, always will be. (3, Insightful)

Overzeetop (214511) | about a year ago | (#42537287)

You're just now getting this? Every election is about the little shit that doesn't really matter much. It's about emotion and flash. It always has been. Look back 100 years and it will be the same thing. Look back 200. Mudslinging, character assassination, out-of-context quotes, outright lies have always been part and parcel of the political election process. Sure, we can do more and make more convincing fakes with technology (autotune the news, anyone?), but it's also easier to fact check.

Contentless politician banter is anything but a recent phenomenon.

Re:Always has been, always will be. (4, Insightful)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year ago | (#42537751)

Every election is about the little shit that doesn't really matter much.

Plenty of elections, even recent elections, have put big issues in front of the voters. Even Obama, in 2008, made health insurance reform an issue in his campaign. This election the only issue seemed to be whether taxes would go up on 1% of the taxpayers or 0%. This campaign was unusually content free.

Look back 100 years and it will be the same thing. Look back 200.

Read some history books. Look at the election of 1864. You think that was content free? "Continued the civil war till victory" vs "peace through negotiated secession" seems like a pretty big issue to me. Big issues were raised in the presidential campaigns in 2008, 2004, 1992, 1980, 1972, 1968, 1964, etc.

Re:Always has been, always will be. (2, Insightful)

datavirtue (1104259) | about a year ago | (#42538201)

Becasue none of the candidates wanted to talk about their "accomplishments" which would have certainly led to their blatant incompetencay and failures. Romney technically was the better choice but no one wants to debate technical merit as has been pointed out. In all seriousness you need a practical business man to head the government becasue their leadership and ability to make decisions has been proven, everything else is but the flip of a coin. Instead we got inbroiled in class warfare which Obama stoked and continues to stoke. This is not leadership, it is devisive and irresponsible. Perception still rules the day--forget facts.

Re:Always has been, always will be. (4, Insightful)

TapeCutter (624760) | about a year ago | (#42540977)

Are you for real? You complain about "class warfare" and in the same paragraph basically claim that a class of people (successful business men) are the only class of people who can be trusted to lead properly. And you don't see a glaring contradiction?

Please don't take the above as an insult, my intention is to be blunt, not insulting. Politics requires "critical thinking skills" more so than science but rarely are they applied with the same rigor. The reason you fall for the "class warfare" bullshit is because your vote with your gut, not your brain. You actually need to use both, know your emotional triggers and question your own basic assumptions, such as the assumption you display in the post that says something like "governments and corporations are very similar", once you accept that assumption as gospel, what do you then do to balance the power that you have handed over to wealthy merchants?

Just remember one fact when people talk about "class warfare" - ALL governments redistribute wealth and they all claim their particular formula is for the "common good", it's not "class warfare" it's their purpose, it is the very definition of civilization itself. Sometimes the wealth piles up in great mounds on the "elite", sometimes it stolen and squandered by corrupt officials or angry mobs, every now and then a "booming middle class" appears as it did in the US after WW2, and is now doing in China after Mao's famines.

Yes, I have an assumption that a "booming middle class" is a GoodThing(TM), but I don't think anyone really knows exactly how to create one (please don't send me newsletters). Truth is, if you take the time to look there are good and bad ideas from all sides, politics should be about shaping society in OUR own image, that image should not be preemptively restricted to the economic heroes of of the day.

Re:Always has been, always will be. (2)

dkf (304284) | about a year ago | (#42541215)

Sometimes the wealth piles up in great mounds on the "elite"

Actually, the place in society where the wealth piles up pretty much defines who is part of the elite. There are many possible reasons for the accumulation to happen (inheritance, business, kleptocracy, all sorts of possibilities) and many people think that the reason for it is terribly important. I'm not so sure it is though: I prefer to abstract all that away and use a thermodynamic model where the basis of economic activity is random exchange of money (totally an approximation!) The amazing thing is that *just that* (and the fact that money isn't infinitely divisible) gives an accumulation of wealth, an elite, and a middle class too. Of course, once you've got a thermodynamic model, you can measure its temperature (with many thanks to Ludwig Boltzmann). What I don't know, but suspect is true, is that healthier economies have higher monetary temperatures, that recessions are when the temperature is falling and booms are when it is rising.

Of course, it's vastly oversimplified. But it is an interesting thought experiment that any true geek ought to appreciate as it is rooted in universal truths and abstracts away from vast amounts of confusing detail. Probably scares the pants off social scientists though...

Re:Always has been, always will be. (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | about a year ago | (#42552637)

Actually, the place in society where the wealth piles up pretty much defines who is part of the elite.

Excellent point and an interesting way of looking at the economy, the "temperature" would probably be directly related to how fast money circulates, the size of the economy would determine it's "thermal inertia".

As for social scientists they would look at this conversation and label us both "technocrats", however I remember the Iron Lady well, a chemist from Oxford I didn't like that much. ;)

Re:Always has been, always will be. (1)

thesandtiger (819476) | about a year ago | (#42541375)

Exactly. We need the people who ran and run Goldman Sachs and Lehman Brothers and the other banks to run the country. After all, they not only managed to make huge profits from their actions, but when the shit hit the fan they also managed to skate away completely unscathed by gaming the system.

Surely you agree - I mean, If success in business is your primary consideration (and obviously it must be since you cited it above all other concerns for a chief executive) you would have to agree.

Or, you know, maybe there's a difference between running a nation and running a business. Maybe the person running a nation should be concerned with more things than just increasing profit.

Naaaaah, that's just crazy.

Re:Always has been, always will be. (1)

s.petry (762400) | about a year ago | (#42538313)

Obviously I disagree or I would not be posting. The last time we had a "real" debate in a Presidential election was when Ross Perot was running. Before that, it was Kennedy. What we saw this year, and even 2008 is nothing but rhetoric. Not just from Obama either.

I searched all over for a platform for either party. I did the obvious, went to Google and typed in "Democratic Platform", and "Republican Platform". I got campaign pages and slogans, no information on a Platform. I asked people that were pro-democrat and pro-republican to get me links to the information. Nothing but jibberish and campaign pages come back.

If there is no information except for what's in the 30-60 second TV commercials, there is nothing. While I agree that there are very real issues, our politicians sure don't discuss them or have a plan to deal with any of them. They don't debate on real issues. They simply say what people want to hear. Historically that is also true to an extent, but not the the levels it's currently at. Look at the last Republican primary. It was a show of dumb and dumber, or maybe "Who will look the most like GWB?". Rules were not followed by moderators or participants in any debate.

I would not say it was "unusually content free", but rather suggest that perhaps you noticed its absence more. Most of us should have, but it continues a trend we have been moving toward for a long time.

Re:Always has been, always will be. (1)

bogjobber (880402) | about a year ago | (#42543301)

Not to mention, lots of big issues that are raised go under the radar. There were some pretty huge things on the table in the 2000 election (changes in foreign policy, medicare part D, environmental issues, financial regulation, No Child Left Behind) that were clearly articulated by Bush's campaign platform, but most voters either ignored or did not realize the significance of these changes.

it was abortion and birth control (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42538893)

Romney acknowledged that for the 47 percent that do not pay taxes, that he logically wouldn't be able to sway them with tax cuts, but that an opponent would be able to sway them with more free stuff.

Romney talked of cranking up military spending, a more aggressive foreign policy, and more aggressive support of the Syrian rebels. Mitt Romney called Russia America's number one enemy. Then in the foreign policy debate, Obama criticized Romney for his support of more expensive wars.

But, no, it was about abortion, and required health care coverage of birth control that turned the election.

Re:Always has been, always will be. (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | about a year ago | (#42539799)

I would say it's more difficult for a politician these days to tell different groups different stories and not have anyone notice. I can't remember which Roman emperor it was but one of them had all these statues of himself erected in public places all over the empire. He wasn't a very handsome man, he was short, bald, and had only one tooth, luckily the statues were all carved on the one day he looked like a young Greek god.

Re:Content free campaigning (0)

ganjadude (952775) | about a year ago | (#42537399)

does it really matter? whatever O wants, O gets. He makes bushes over reach in power look like childs play. Whatever happened to checks and balances?

Re:Content free campaigning (1)

Captain Splendid (673276) | about a year ago | (#42537871)

Whatever happened to checks and balances?

The Constitution of the US. Lots of checks, light on the balance.

Re:Content free campaigning (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42539069)

There's lots of balance!

imbalance...

Re:Content free campaigning (1)

datavirtue (1104259) | about a year ago | (#42538247)

Presidential power has been accumulating over the last 100 years only to culminate during a time where people look more and more to authority heads for the answer to their problems. The future looks rather bleak and gives me a chill as I have seen this play out in my history books. It's hard not to be mad at the masses for letting this happen. Nature loves cycles.

Re:Content free campaigning (2)

jjohnson (62583) | about a year ago | (#42538493)

And yet, the U.S. went over the fiscal cliff, clawing back only at the last second. And only be delaying the debt ceiling fight for several weeks. Do you think that's what O wanted? Of course not. He wanted a grand bargain, and didn't get it. So where's his omnipotence now?

Re:Content free campaigning (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about a year ago | (#42539339)

He didn't get gitmo closed either. Some people would like to think that was on purpose ... but there were plenty of other things that he on purpose didn't want to do, and the way he didn't do them was to ignore them, not have a very public fight with congress.

Re:Content free campaigning (1)

ganjadude (952775) | about a year ago | (#42541805)

everyone knows when you was 10 bucks you ask for 100 bucks, so when you get told no, you ask for 10 bucks and make them think that they won. the truth is thats what you wanted all the time

that is what obama is a master at.

Re:Content free campaigning (1)

jjohnson (62583) | about a year ago | (#42550819)

That's not what you said. You said "whatever O wants, O gets". If that were true, he wouldn't need ninja negotiating moves like "ask for $100, settle for $10". He wouldn't have to negotiate at all. Coming along afterwards and saying "O didn't get what he said he wanted, but what O got, is what he really wanted" is just bullshit.

Haters gonna hate.

Re:Content free campaigning (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42539163)

Overreach is one word, and Obama USES Bush's overreaching tools perhaps - to do the job Bush began to do, which cannot be undone, and won't be by the first black president of the military industrial complex, obviously.

Re:Content free campaigning (2)

Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) | about a year ago | (#42537503)

Yes there was. The republicans relentlessly talked about reforming social benefit programs, Obama relentlessly talked about the need for higher taxes. They didn't mention gun control, though.

Re:Content free campaigning (0)

danbert8 (1024253) | about a year ago | (#42537915)

You are completely right. The Republicans relentlessly advocated higher spending while saying "smaller government!" while Democrats advocated higher spending while saying "Ask the rich to pay a little more".

Re:Content free campaigning (2)

datavirtue (1104259) | about a year ago | (#42538277)

Nice talking point, but we must acknowledge that no matter what we collect from the rich it will never keep up with what the government is spending. Fun fact.

Re:Content free campaigning (1)

jjohnson (62583) | about a year ago | (#42538537)

Gotcha: taxing the rich won't cover spending, so don't tax the rich. That's smrt.

Re:Content free campaigning (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42538849)

Well, That isn't very fun. And it isn't much of a fact. Never is a very long time, and Rich is poorly defined. Change the definition of rich to the top %33 of wage earners and close down the entire military and I think we might come close.

Re:Content free campaigning (1)

mk1004 (2488060) | about a year ago | (#42539047)

Taxes went down from the time Regan took office until the Bush tax cuts, during all administrations. The rates went down for the poor and middle class, but decreased the most for the upper tax bracket--from about 69% to about 35%. Spending didn't decrease. The percentage of the Federal Government's revenue from businesses has also been steadily going down in the last few decades, the 35% business marginal rate not withstanding. But now, according to the far right, we have a spending problem, not a revenue problem. Go figure.

Re:Content free campaigning (1)

thesandtiger (819476) | about a year ago | (#42541465)

Because that alone won't fix the problem we shouldn't do anything, gotcha.

Tax those who can afford it a bit more. Cut where we can cut without causing undue hardship. Stop spending stupid quantities of money on blowing people up (funny thing - it would have been cheaper to build every family in Iraq and Afghanistan a decent home and some infrastructure than it would have been to bomb the fuck out of them for the last 10 years, and generated more goodwill and stability over there). Spend the bomb budget instead on things that can provide a real ROI rather than a bunch of craters and "whoops, we killed a bunch of kids/wedding party" news stories that just get ignored.

I bet if we

Re:Content free campaigning (1)

Azghoul (25786) | about a year ago | (#42544431)

Let us know when your side brings up a single program to cut. Not you personally, we can all claim "cut defense spending!" or "reduce medicare benefits!" depending on which side you're on. But your party will never do it.

Re:Content free campaigning (2)

thesandtiger (819476) | about a year ago | (#42546695)

Well, the first problem I see is the thinking in terms of "sides" - that encourages bullshit grandstanding and that whole rah rah we can't ever say we were wrong about anything because then THE OTHER SIDE wins. It makes us all stupider as a result - we can't ask questions without the other side thinking we're trying to trap them or saying that we're ignorant, we can't admit fault because HOLY SHITBALLS we were wrong about one thing and therefore we must be wrong about EVERYTHING EVER and all that nonsense. Fuck that noise, it's stupid, and we can do better - and I expect people to be better than that.

The good news is that if we're smart we can do small changes that will gently push us onto the right track. The bad news is that we have people who are too fucking stupid to understand any of this, and many of those people are in positions of power. Anyway.

We have 2 parts to this: Raising Revenue and Cutting Spending.

Raising revenue is, by and large, pretty easy: Raise taxes a couple of points, more on people who can afford it, less on those who can't afford it, putting more money in the hands of the people who will most likely spend the money they aren't paying in taxes. I'm not talking about soaking the rich or anything of the sort - a few points, that's it. Also raise revenue for social security by removing the income cap, but still keeping a cap on maximum benefit payout. I know, it's not "fair" to the people who make millions of dollars a year but who will only receive benefits as if they made a hundred k a year or so, but somehow I think they'll be just fine. And no, as long as we don't get stupid ("OMG LOL LETS JUST TAKE EVERYTHING THEY HAVE!!!!!") there won't be some massive "Gone Galt" extravaganza - by and large, living in the US is pretty fucking amazing compared to many other places in the world, and even with higher taxes, living in the US and being rich is HUGELY FUCKING AMAZING compared to many other places in the world. You'll still be able to live the lifestyle you want, and even better you can do so with a slightly lowered risk of being executed by a mob of armed peasants with nothing left to lose. It's a win-win!

But for cuts:

I'm hugely in favor of cutting the fuck out of spending on social programs and defense but we have to do it INTELLIGENTLY. Simply saying "hey, welfare, you have 25% less money to spend, figure it out" is fucking retarded because it winds up being done in the most brutal way - reducing services or cutting some people in need off of services. Simply saying "Hey, DOD, you have 25% less to spend, figure it out" is fucking retarded because there are so many vested interests involved that we would wind up with, like, 3 hot-shit pilots flying the most amazingly expensive fighter jets ever, a couple of billion dollar cigarette boats cruising around the gulf, and I don't know what the fuck else. In any case, I used cuts in my initial comment as a shorthand - and I regret that I did. What I mean to say is that we need to be more efficient in how we spend our money - we need to figure out what mission we want to accomplish with whatever we're spending money on and then really REALLY look at whether or not our dollars are actually contributing to that mission.

One problem we have with many cuts is this: Things that are obviously fucking stupid and can be cut with impunity tend to be actually pretty small portions of any budget. But, yeah - cut them anyway, because it all counts. The things that are REALLY expensive, though, aren't so obvious and easy to cut, and come with trade offs.

Another problem is that so many programs are inextricably linked together, where changes in one have an effect on another. Ex: law enforcement and mental health services. Turns out, if you cut mental health service budgets, you wind up with an increase in crime - many people who are seeking health for substance abuse treatment or depression or other, more serious, issues wind up getting turned away and then committing crimes. It turns out that, when these people commit crimes, it's vastly more expensive (in both financial and human suffering) terms to deal with it through the criminal justice system in both the short term and in the long term (incarceration isn't cheap, and once you're in the CJ system you're pretty much fucked). Some estimates say that a dollar spent on mental health services in areas that need them is worth up to 10 dollars down the road for law enforcement and incarceration. We can't really cut the law enforcement budget because then the people who control the budget will be fired for being SOFT ON CRIME, but nobody except "liberal pussies" gives a fuck about mental illness anyway, so let's just keep cutting that and then making more prisons, and make the cycle even worse.

Another problem is that of vested interests who make money off of the inefficiencies in the government spending process. Nobody (usually) is taking THAT much at any one time directly, but they sure as hell want to encourage budgets to be BIG AND BLOATED so that the stuff they take is essentially a rounding error. The whole system as it is basically winds up being a feedback loop where things keep expanding not as a way to grab control or anything, but just because it's designed inherently to be that way. How to fix that? Beats the fuck out of me. Maybe freeze spending increases and then tell the people running the system that they need to provide the exact same level and scope of services going forward, and let them figure out what inefficiencies need fixing or they get kicked out.

Anyway, we don't need to necessarily cut programs directly - we need to make damn sure that what they are doing is worth doing at all, that they are actually doing it, and that they are doing it efficiently. I think, once we were using a more efficient paradigm and once we can figure out ways to reduce corruption in the system, we would have less need for spending on various programs that are hugely expensive and we can then - hopefully - actually reduce spending.

Re:Content free campaigning (2)

Stiletto (12066) | about a year ago | (#42537665)

Why focus on changing people's minds (difficult) when you can simply focus on voter count (easy). Democrats tend to win when voter turnout is high, and Republicans tend to win when voter turnout is low. So, depending on your party, it's more effective to invest your efforts into Get Out To Vote or into Voter Suppression, than it is to try to change peoples' minds.

Re:Content free campaigning (1)

timeOday (582209) | about a year ago | (#42538101)

Actually I disagree. One huge issue that was effectively resolved was entitlement reform. Romney brought on Ryan who had made a big name for himself in that area. The outcome was, it was an unpopular stance and Romney ended up trying to run to the left of Obama on Medicare. Which is another way of saying, the American People have spoken, and we are still not ready to cry "uncle" on healthcare expenses. Not yet.

Re:Content free campaigning (1)

datavirtue (1104259) | about a year ago | (#42538319)

Popularity contest. Romney was right to bring that debate, but Jane Wineglass doesn't get it--and may never get it. The lack of incentive (people starving) is prohibiting the natural balance brought on by change which is fostered by people who are hungry. Basic economics. We are voting ourselves money--straight to the poor house.

Re:Content free campaigning (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42539161)

Because the people that mattered didn't care about that. Unfortunately the very nature of our electoral process skews the campaign towards niche issues. I live in California and didn't even bother to vote for President, because I am totally disenfranchised as a voter: California would go for Obama and my vote would not make one bit of difference because we're a winner-take-all for our electoral college votes. Obama got 55% of the California vote and therefore won all of the California electoral votes, but not 55% of them.

Both candidates knew this would be the case, so the only time they came to California was to raise money, but never to stump. All the campaigning was in close races and battleground states, so the issues of those states automatically made headlines. Both candidates were tripping over themselves to sell their credentials on coal because Ohio has a decent sized coal industry and Ohio was a battelground state. However neither candidate said anything about shale gas or fracking which has had a much more dramatic impact on the national economy in the last few years and has the potential to be much more substantial than coal in quite some time.

If we had a direct popular vote, or a system where electoral college votes were evenly distributed according to the ratio that they won by in each state, you'd have much more focus on acutal national issues in the campaigns.

Re:Content free campaigning (2)

able1234au (995975) | about a year ago | (#42539759)

The result would be the same with a popular nationwide vote and the plus side is that there is no shrub! But in practice the electoral vote does mean that states that would be ignored in a nationwide vote do get focus. And that focus moves around. Missouri and Indiana one election, Colorado and Ohio this election, Pennsylvania in the next election

I can explain this (1)

rsilvergun (571051) | about a year ago | (#42541551)

True story, Obama had planned to run a hard campaign on the issues, but they did focus groups and found the no one believed Romney would go through with the deep cuts to medicare, social security, welfare, etc along with the huge tax cuts. So Obama abandoned an issues based campaign and focused instead on the Romney's character and 'me-too' politics (like me, only louder).

Re:Content free campaigning (1)

Mr. White (22990) | about a year ago | (#42645205)

How much do you expect to be said in a 30 second commercial?

For anyone actually interested - and not just complaining - they can visit candidate web pages to read their 100 page policy papers on all sorts of issues.

Seems like... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42537061)

everyone wants to be a startup these days

Re:Seems like... (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | about a year ago | (#42537113)

everyone wants to be a startup these days

Of course...it is the 'dream'.

Get in early on ground floor...build it up, bail for a shitload of money, then blissful happiness in early retirement with hookers and blow.

Re:Seems like... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42538107)

I think "internal startups" are becoming because when you operate as a separate entity you're not beholden to the existing power infrastructures inside an organization (Social, political, financial, or otherwise). This of course can be a good or a bad thing, but I've heard endless stories of good ideas, good work, and good people being shot down because of perceived infringement on someone's petty kingdom*.

Startups aren't perfect for everything, but they are a very good way to try fresh new ideas or launch new efforts that are significantly different than your existing operation. Get some good people, give them autonomy, and most importantly give them the ability to tell anyone else in your org to go fuck themselves.

*It's this sort of thing that seems to be killing Microsoft right now. The company is like a kingdom of feuding lords murdering and backstabbing eachother endlessly. ..And the biggest murderer and backstabber of them all is in the CEO's chair.

code re-use (1)

buybuydandavis (644487) | about a year ago | (#42537139)

"and the knowledge that, at the end of the whole process, nearly everything they worked on would likely end up tossed away."

Do they think that's the last election that will ever be held? Or are they just all pretending that all code and documentation was thrown away, so that each of them can sell their "secret backups" at the next gig?

Re:code re-use (1)

PhrostyMcByte (589271) | about a year ago | (#42537261)

If it was all copyrighted to the Obama campaign then yes, it might be excellent code that the owners have no interest in releasing -- regardless of the wishes of the people who engineered it.

Re:code re-use (1)

vlm (69642) | about a year ago | (#42537473)

Well it holds monetary value... I'm not saying they "have" to sell the rights to the code to the R party, but if Biden wanted to run, and pay O $100K for it, why not?

I have seen things in the corporate world where cascading licenses of weird dependencies cause mass confusion. This is one of the best parts of free / open software, if its on Debian Main its by definition DFSG free and I don't need to spend 20 hours of legal tracking down if I can give/sell a bash install script to someone else or whatever.

when the infrastructure and software was complete (5, Funny)

schlachter (862210) | about a year ago | (#42537281)

Obama turned to his team and said..."you didn't build that!"
I keed, I keed.... :)

And when the defeat of Mitt Romney was complete (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42537355)

. . . America turned to the Republican party and said . . . "You did build that!"

Re:when the infrastructure and software was comple (1)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | about a year ago | (#42537539)

Interestingly, it was partially true. Both the Romney and the Obama campaign heavily leveraged Salesforce, for the precise reason they didn't have to build out everything themselves. A good chunk of the infrastructure and the business logic was already built out and ready to go once they signed on the dotted line.

Re:when the infrastructure and software was comple (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42538055)

And paid ridiculously through the nose for it, too.

Re:when the infrastructure and software was comple (1)

RyanK (338502) | about a year ago | (#42570777)

I can't really speak to the Romney campaign's use of salesforce, but I never had to deal with it as I believe that our use was limited to handling inbound contacts from public channels.

The Obama campaign had the distinct advantage of having 18 months to build our technology from the ground up, and that's precisely what we did! Of course, there were still external vendors that handled some functionality and we built systems so that everything was integrated and worked together.

Typically, a Presidential campaign only has 3-4 months between when they secure the nomination and the election to build their campaigns, which is why there are many niche vendors. Romney undoubtedly got an influx of support from the RNC once he had the nomination, but they could have easily have continued building since he never collapsed his organization from his 2008 campaign.

The big difference in my opinion was the choice to bring a dedicated internal term in as opposed to outsourcing to consultants.

Re:when the infrastructure and software was comple (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42538203)

I was at first taken aback when I heard the clip of "You didn't build that". I just had to go youtube the Obama speech that it came from. Wow, he was talking about the infrastructure - roads, post offices, other public services... that all businesses count on to run. His point was that some things are best done by businesses, and other things are best done by Public Sector. For example, what company would take on building and maintaining Interstate highways throughout the US? Funny the statement sounded when taken out of context.

Re:when the infrastructure and software was comple (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42541407)

The public sector doesn't build roads, bridges, sewers or any other engineering works. Private contractors do, some times the bridges are approved after bribing a senator.

The only thing government does is "re-purpose" the resources to build these works at gunpoint. Some times they do this well, some times you get the Boston Big Dig.

Capitalist Democracy (2)

For a Free Internet (1594621) | about a year ago | (#42537553)

In capitalist society, providing it develops under the most favourable conditions, we have a more or less complete democracy in the democratic republic. But this democracy is always hemmed in by the narrow limits set by capitalist exploitation, and consequently always remains, in effect, a democracy for the minority, only for the propertied classes, only for the rich. Freedom in capitalist society always remains about the same as it was in the ancient Greek republics: freedom for the slave-owners. Owing to the conditions of capitalist exploitation, the modern wage slaves are so crushed by want and poverty that "they cannot be bothered with democracy", "cannot be bothered with politics"; in the ordinary, peaceful course of events, the majority of the population is debarred from participation in public and political life....

Democracy for an insignificant minority, democracy for the rich--that is the democracy of capitalist society. If we look more closely into the machinery of capitalist democracy, we see everywhere, in the "petty"--supposedly petty--details of the suffrage (residential qualifications, exclusion of women, etc.), in the technique of the representative institutions, in the actual obstacles to the right of assembly (public buildings are not for "paupers"!), in the purely capitalist organization of the daily press, etc., etc.,--we see restriction after restriction upon democracy. These restrictions, exceptions, exclusions, obstacles for the poor seem slight, especially in the eyes of one who has never known want himself and has never been inclose contact with the oppressed classes in their mass life (and nine out of 10, if not 99 out of 100, bourgeois publicists and politicians come under this category); but in their sum total these restrictions exclude and squeeze out the poor from politics, from active participation in democracy.

Marx grasped this essence of capitalist democracy splendidly when, in analyzing the experience of the Commune, he said that the oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class shall crush and repress them in parliament!

But from this capitalist democracy--that is inevitably narrow and stealthily pushes aside the poor, and is therefore hypocritical and false through and through--forward development does not proceed simply, directly and smoothly, towards "greater and greater democracy", as the liberal professors and petty-bourgeois opportunists would have us believe. No, forward development, i.e., development towards communism, proceeds through the dictatorship of the proletariat, and cannot do otherwise, for the resistance of the capitalist exploiters cannot be broken by anyone else or in any other way.

LENIN WAS RIGHT!

Huge contrast from Republican IT op. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42537659)

The election politicians themselves were boring and predictable. (Well, once the primaries were over. I'm still convinced Herman Cain is actually a comedian who's work rivals that of Andy Kaufmen)

The stories about the IT side of their campaigns was pretty interesting. Obama's crew put together a really interesting and very modern piece of software that scaled up and scaled down in a way pretty much unique to it's purpose. Think about it. You need a piece of software that goes from zero users, to literally nation wide in every corner of every part of the country in a span of a few months.. And then it all ends in one day. How do you do that? How do you pay for that? Well, I remember at one point someone mentioned that it took a significant chunk of the entire EC2 cloud at it's peak usage.

Interviewers with developers made it obvious that these were very competent and enthusiastic engineers. They were involved in campaign ops from day one and the whole op was considered a huge sucess. .. Contrast that from Romney's op. It was clearly a subcontracted piece of software written by an outsourced developer with no little from the campaign. It ran from a single datacenter on a few fixed servers. Very compartmentalized. Very businesslike. And it failed miserably. It was late, crashed under nowhere near it's needed peak load, and left their organizers stranded with no information.

Re:Huge contrast from Republican IT op. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42541023)

I think the way the campaigns managed their IT says a lot; just as I'm glad neither McCain nor Clinton won in 2008 after reading about how badly run their campaigns were internally, I am doubly relieved that Romney lost, considering how little he understood or cared to about how to run a successful campaign.

A billion dollars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42537691)

If people were really paying attention to what goes on in politics they wouldn't be voting. They'd be rioting.
 
Is this really the best we can do for ourselves?

...likely end up tossed away? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42538121)

If the Democratic party were smart about it, they would keep it and bring in consultants to tweak it as needed - then just continue to run it through election cycles large and small.

tsk tsk (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42540285)

If they helped re-elect the obummer, they are terrorists.

Their system really worked (1)

tie_guy_matt (176397) | about a year ago | (#42541085)

I moved from MD (blue state) to PA (toss up to somewhat blue state) right before the election. The DNC knew that we are all registered democrats, and that we had just moved. They sent one person to our house to ask if we were registered in our new state and if we needed help getting to the polls. We said that we were registered and everything was fine so they didn't bother us again. They took their money and resources somewhere else.

The RNC didn't bother us at all -- at first. Early polls showed mit that PA would be a lost cause, so both parties took their money to other states. But then later the RNC actually thought they would win Ohio ... because well they can't add and as we all know science and math have a well known liberal bias. So despite the fact that there is no way we would ever even consider voting for romney they sent in robo call after robo call after robo call. We got calls from Mit, Mit's wife, Clint Eastwood, basically every republican they could think of. Later we learned that they were so sure they would win Ohio that they wanted PA too just to make their margin or victory that much bigger.

Of course on election night we learned that not only were the RNC going to lose Ohio and PA but that Obama had such an electoral college landslide that even those two states didn't matter. The DNC kept the senate and the only reason the RNC kept the house was because republican goveners had screwed up the districts so much that 1 million more votes for democrats still wasn't enough to win the house. The best part was watching Karl Rove argue with the math department at Faux News over their projected results for Ohio. No Karl, they were using real math not republican math.

Re:Their system really worked (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42542799)

The DNC kept the senate and the only reason the RNC kept the house was because...

Juicy. Of course, if you want to play "what if" and hold suppositions as hard evidence, we could also say that the only reason Democrats did as well as they did this last cycle was because they are so successful at class warfare.

You may think that the RNC has a rocky future. You may be right, but I doubt it. You will only be able to buy so many elections with unrealistic promises and a debt burden on your grandchildren. Or children. But you don't believe that, of course. You can't believe that. You believe the nice things you hear from your echo chamber. You believe the "smart" one-liners like "science and math have a well known liberal bias," even though you've never seen any mathematical evidence to really persuade you that this level of spending really is sustainable. Probably, in your gut, you really do understand the obvious truth, that the President is either lying or in a fantasy world when he continues to claim that the US does not have a spending problem. Either way, making those damn rich people pay their "fair share" sounds good in speeches, but of course it only takes a little bit of simple mathematics to determine just how little of an impact it would have on revenue, even if they got every bit of increase they are asking for. You have to believe these things, though. Your pride, and perhaps your moral sanity, depends on it. Otherwise, you would have to be confronted with the reality of the burden you're contributing to, and for what? Bread and circuses.

Re:Their system really worked (2)

coinreturn (617535) | about a year ago | (#42544927)

Juicy. Of course, if you want to play "what if" and hold suppositions as hard evidence, we could also say that the only reason Democrats did as well as they did this last cycle was because they are so successful at class warfare.

Successful class warfare? So nudging upper tax brackets barely above their historic lows is successful class warfare? Successful class warfare is having a salary cap on FICA tax, little or no tax on capital gains, historic-low tax rates, increasing the retirement age, record-high executive pay, bank bailouts on stupid loans, sole-source wartime contracting, pay freezes for civil servants and teachers, etc.

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