Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Dog for Outside

A fierce debate has gripped the nation, ever since Barack Obama made the following public promise to his daughters on election night: "Sasha and Malia, I love you both more than you can imagine. You have earned the puppy that is coming with us."

Clearly, the Obama White House is aware that this will be a high profile pooch. A slide show of past presidential pets on establishes the importance of historical precedent long before this particular pup is paper trained. As the Christian Science Monitor reports, "The competition is fierce – among animal rescue advocates who see a public relations bonanza for the broad animal adoption movement which struggles to save 4 million stray and unwanted dogs nationwide each year, not to mention a windfall for their own shelters and agencies if their dog is The One."

Some have suggested that the Obamas could solve this potential public relations problem and still have the less politically correct choice of hypo-allergenic and cuddly canine, which the kids might favor, by choosing two dogs: one for inside and one for outside.

The idea of trying to do the two-dog approach makes me think about the sometimes too close relationship that Obama has with software corporate executives and the ways that this coziness with proprietary and potentially monopolistic companies irks digital rights activists and consumer and privacy advocates. In many ways I'm sympathetic to Obama's difficulty breaking up with Google. I try to use free and open source software whenever I can in my teaching, but I still use Microsoft products for office business, Google for searching, and Adobe for digital design.

But today's story in the Los Angeles Times, "Google ready to pursue its agenda in Washington," might make many wonder: "Which is the dog for outside, intended to satisfy calls for political correctness and doing the right thing? And which is the dog for inside, intended to be part of the family and a source of comfort and familiarity?"

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