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President Obama may differ from his immediate predecessor on a variety of policy issues, but one they share is the singular pardon of a turkey for Thanksgiving.
Obama pardoned the lucky bird with these words: “There are certain days that remind me of why I ran for this office. And then there are moments like this where I pardon a turkey and send it to Disneyland.”
UPDATE 11/20: Please see the updated Psalm 109:8 post. Thanks, all, for your civil input on this heated topic.
Over the last 10 years, we at CafePress have become accustomed to the T-shirt being a springboard for people to express their views – including those that are political, religious and various combinations of the two. The discussions that result from these designs can initiate healthy political dialogue or debate and, sometimes, strong criticism.
The past couple of days have illustrated this point rather clearly, as user-designed merchandise with “Pray for Obama – Psalm 109:8” has come to public attention.
When folks started talking about the Obama Psalm 109:8 merchandise, we weren’t particularly shocked to find that a T-shirt had caused heated political discourse. What did catch our attention, though, were the folks claiming that Psalm 109:8 was being used to advocate Barack Obama’s assassination.
We take our Content Usage policy seriously here, and no content that advocates the harming of any human being is acceptable. But is that what Psalm 109:8 is trying to convey in the context of a T-shirt?
Psalm 109:8 states: Let his days be few; Let another take his office.
To date we have treated these designs much in the same way we took the “No W” and “Impeach Bush” merchandise. But does it mean something more?
As the leaders in User Generated Commerce we strive to manage our content in a way that protects self-expression and free speech, while also making sure that we’re not allowing the promotion of violence.
Sometimes, though, iconography and words can take on new meaning over time – and this is often as a result of public discourse. If we see that the overall public discourse has determined that the meaning of this use of Psalm 109:8 goes beyond it’s literal meaning, and is being construed as threatening to the President, we will revisit our decision to allow the designs.
We’d love for you to weigh in on the Psalm 109:8 designs:
To see how experts – including representatives from the ACLU and the Anti Defamation League – have weighed in on the subject, check out this article.
In a decision that surprised many (including Obama himself), the President received this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. The Nobel committee noted that their decision to award the prize to a President just 10 months into office was based on his efforts to boost diplomacy and co-operation.
Said the Norwegian committee, “Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future. His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world’s population.”
Obama, for his part, seemed humbled by the award and expressed that this prize is a call-to-action, saying “I know that throughout history the Nobel Peace Prize has not just been used to honor specific achievements. It’s also been used as a means to give momentum to a set of causes. And that is why I will accept this award as a call to action, a call for all nations to confront the common challenges of the 21st Century.”
The merchandise being designed thus far is more celebratory than derogatory, which isn’t a surprise; Obama was from the beginning a candidate that inspired a lot of peace-themed T-shirts.
And so we congratulate the President today on bringing American leadership to recognition on the world stage, and award him a Fantasy T-Wearer Award with the Obama Peace Sign T-shirt, seen above at right.
This time the public apology came from ABC, source of the leaked audio clip and employer of reporter Terry Moran, who Tweeted the comment despite the President noting clearly that it was off the record. (The tweeted comment has since been removed from Moran’s timeline, but his million followers means that the comment wasn’t exactly a lone tree falling in a deserted forest.)
The incident has provoked a lot of debate about journalism ethics, what off the record means, and Twitter’s impact on journalism. Funnily enough, the incident has not provoked debate about whether or not the President’s assertion was true or appropriate, making this one of of the few Obama utterances of late that seems to be embraced by all Americans.
And so we acknowledge Kanye West today for doing what lately has proven difficult: providing America with bipartisan fodder that has allowed folks of disparate political viewpoints to reach across the aisle, slap a high five of agreement and chat it up merrily at the water cooler. To that end, Kanye receives his second Fantasy T-Wearer Award this week with the “Proud Jackass” T-shirt, above. Wear it with pride, sir. If only the healthcare debate were this easy.
There’s been a lot of talk lately about the anti-Obama T-shirts in our catalogue, all made by folks who are getting something off their minds and onto their chests (and the chests of those around them). It would seem that a T-shirt is worth 1,000 polls…
One of the more discussed designs is the Obama/Joker design, which went viral both online and as a subversive poster campaign in the real world. This image was the first real iconography to catch on in the anti-Obama movement, and it certainly got some attention from the Left. Some decried it as “racist,” (these folks apparently aren’t big Batman or circus fans), while others went on record to doubt the intelligence of the design itself.
Perhaps, under a new administration, the collective memory slate that once held notes of political outrage has been wiped clean. Indeed, those decrying the Obama/Joker image seem to have forgotten that President Bush earned himself similar artistic… er, tributes. A simple search for “Bush” reminds us that the process of Presidential policy critique via the almighty T-shirt isn’t remotely reserved for the Right.
The trend of anti-Obama merchandise is to be expected. This is, after all, the artistic cycle of political opposition; those opposed to a specific candidate spend the majority of their pre-election energies on promoting their candidate of choice, not focusing on The Other Guy (or Girl). In fact, the only candidate we’ve seen garner a big anti-following well before holding the Presidential office is Hillary Clinton, who started the whole retro communist/socialist propaganda art theme long before Obama was the target.
Which is to say that all the folks making McCain ’08 merchandise should be expected to join the new political dialogue, and that dialogue centers around President Obama and his policies. Those who made the pro-Obama T-shirts have, already, done their jobs: their candidate was elected, their merchandise is still – for the most part – relevant in supporting him.
For those interested in the trend, here’s some factoids for you:
Sales of pro vs. anti are fairly evenly split, though anti can spike if there’s a good, T-worthy catch phrase or policy that comes up (like the Great Stupidly Debate & Happy Hour)
The anti-Obama sentiments post-election tend to focus on policy issues – socialism is a big theme, as well as generalized “I told you so” messaging. Pre-election, the anti-Obama sentiments trended more towards a generalized answer to the ubiquitous Hope/Change messaging, with “Nope” being a main theme.
Overall, the anti-Obama merchandise is, in its infancy, displaying much the same pattern as the anti-Bush merchandise. One big difference: anti-Obama merch tends to be almost exclusively about what Obama does; anti-Bush merchandise had a lot of content specifically related to what Bush said. The “acting stupidly” remark was the first Obama public gaffe to make its way as a trend to ring-spun cotton, so we’ll just have to wait it out to determine whether or not the Obama administration will go the way of Bush, inspiring designers with “Obamisms” or some such.
A guy inviting two pals over to his house for a beer to settle a squabble isn’t all that unusual, but Obama keeping the guest list short seems to be a point of great fascination. The media isn’t allowed at this event, and like all kids who didn’t get invited to the cool party they’re now obsessesd with talking about it. Naming the meeting the 2009 “Beer Summit,” the press unfortunately just has to wait it out to determine important reporting facts like what kind of beer they’ll be drinking (latest reports state Bud Light, which was most likely chosen over Miller Lite to prevent Gates and Crowley from arguing anew over whether it’s less filling or tastes great. We might have suggested Lagunitas’ Hop Stoopid Ale to serve as a theme-appropriate icebreaker, but it does have more calories), who’s the best at beer pong, and of course which one of them looks best in Obama’s favorite drinking hat.
But the media isn’t the only faction whose input is being ignored by the party planning committee. Turns out the Baptists aren’t happy, either.
Representatives from Pray at the Pump are taking time-out from their gas station prayer vigils to join some members of the Rising Sun Baptist Church of Baltimore for a good old-fashioned protest in front of the White House. Their point of contention: that the Beer Summit involves beer.
Both groups would prefer that the President serve lemonade in order that his display of wanton frothy indulgence not be a bad influence on America’s youth. Additionally, it may be noted that lemonade might serve a symbolic purpose, what with both Gates and Crowley having been given the proverbial life’s lemons in the past week.
Whether a compromise may be reached by serving Hefeweisenwith lemons has, as far as we know, thus far been unexplored.
Update 7/31: with the media pressing their noses up against the virtual glass from several yards away, the beer summit happened with Obama playing mediator. The President described the conversation as friendly and thoughtful, and noted his hopes that all had drawn a positive lesson from the incident.
Obama’s $1 trillion health care reform plan is, according to the President, “closer than ever” – but seven Blue Dog Democrats (the fiscal conservatives) aren’t buying it. House of Representatives Democratic leader Steny Hoyer also noted that there are “concerns” from other parts of the party.
With Obama lacking support in his own party, a vote by the Energy and Commerce Committee was postponed. This Committee is the only with jurisdiction over health care that hasn’t finished its audit and rewrite of the bill.
From our end the T-shirts show an equally contentious mix of pros and cons, though a quick eyeball seems to indicate that there’s more objection than support for the plan.
Next week is the last that the House is in session before September, so if Obama can’t line up the votes the bill will likely be stalled until the next session.
The Obama administration’s 100th day in office has hit, and while 14 weeks + 2 days might seem like an arbitrary time to review the President, hey: this is America. We like round numbers. And we like ratings and reviews and grades and polls, too.
On our end, we like using products as our own cultural barometer. Since all the merchandise in our system is user-created, and since we have a couple hundred million things for sale, it means that we get a pretty good idea of the zeitgeist using the mighty T-shirt as our guide.
The Left, for its part, has stayed consistent with the pro-Obama messaging that was adopted throughout the election. With not much to rail against, the biggest shift in post-Bush liberal merchandise is the lack of anti-anything sentiments.
Whatever your take on the new administration, one thing’s for certain: the Obama administration has given voice to a new generation of American patriots. Some of them are celebrating with cheers; the others are throwing tea parties.
American journalists were given a post-April-Fool’s-Day surprise on Thursday when they tried to conference into a call with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and National Security Advisor James Jones at the G20 conference in London – and were instead met with a sultry voice asking if they felt like “getting nasty.”
(No, it was not Hillary Clinton.)
The White House apparently sent an e-mail to the journalists containing an 800 number that behaved a lot more like a 900 number. The reporters were subsequently able to get through to their slightly less racy call by dialing a second international number.
Accidentally dialing a phone-sex hotline when you’re expecting Hillary Clinton might give most people a bit of a chuckle, but “most people” apparently do not include the White House spokespeople. Thomas Vietor dismissed questions about the number with a “Lots of important issues to cover today!” and then noted that he hadn’t called it, and that those asking about it should “call such numbers on your free time!” Deputy White House Press Secretary Bill Burton was a little more direct: “A corrected phone number on a press release is probably one of the stupider things FOX News has covered lately.”
You might wonder how such a mistake might be made and why a toll-free number would be a sex hotline in the first place, and on that we have some accidental insight. Those of you who saw the CafePress-o-Pedia video may have noticed an ordering slate at the end that contains a toll-free number. That number is in fact our Customer Service number, but that’s not the original number that we had there. In fact, the original number was a made-up number that spelled something to indicate that the video was an April Fool’s joke, and we did dial it to make sure that nothing was on the other end of it.
Apparently, we misdialed that number the first time. And be “we” I mean… er, “I.”
On March 31st, we re-dialed the number just to be sure and were shocked to hear a woman’s voice that had some messaging very similar to what White House reporters got yesterday. It seems that sex hotline folks are getting crafty, and are grabbing 800 numbers to hijack hapless mis-dialers and direct them to paid 900 numbers. Which is to say that the 800 numbers are advertising the paid numbers.
In any case, unlike the White House we caught the error and did a quick edit.
And that is why we today thank our elementary school teachers and Santa Claus for reminding us to check our work. Twice.
President Obama outlined his plans to improve the nation’s education system, a promise and mandate he’s made throughout his campaign and in his recent address to Congress. In a speech to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Washington, he noted that “The relative decline of American education is untenable for our economy, unsustainable for our democracy and unacceptable for our children, and we cannot afford to let it continue.”
One of the more controversial points in his plan is performance-based pay for teachers. Bucking the Democratic stand-by of backing the unions, Obama called out his party with this statement: “Too many supporters of my party have resisted the idea of rewarding excellence in teaching with extra pay, even though we know it can make a difference in the classroom.” He also stated that it’s high time we reward good teachers, rather than continuing to make excuses for bad ones.
Similarly, he announced that it’s time to revisit standardized testing and to stop lowering standards for specific communities. Invoking President Bush’s call to end “the soft bigotry of low expectations,” Obama noted that tougher, clearer standards across the board and testing that measures modern-day success metrics like creativity and entrepreneurship are essential for a successful education revamp.
In order to help achieve those goals, Obama is also suggesting that the funds of No Child Left Behind, one of President Bush’s main initiatives, is tied to results. One of the main criticisms of the program in the past has been its dependency on standardized testing, which could theoretically incent teachers to lower standards and teach specifically for student success on those tests. How Obama envisions a program results methodology that ensures quality learning across the board, however, has yet to be outlined. But perhaps we can all agree that President Bush would be pleased that a new administration is in fact putting a major focus on the important question as to whether our children is learning.
How these mandates will shake out in the day-to-day of the American educational system is still unknown, but you can track the stimulus money going toward education at the Recovery.gov website.