Dear World ...

Sorry Everybody.

Go to their "Gallery."

What Did They Expect?

Deputy Chief Resigns From CIA

Concession Democrat Senators voted to confirm Bush's far-right partisan ideologue to head the CIA. And what a surprise, the Right is now purging the CIA of anyone who won't be loyal to their takeover of the country. WHAT DID THEY EXPECT?

But don't worry, the CIA doesn't have anything else to do anyway these days:
"The disruption comes as the CIA is trying to stay abreast of a worldwide terrorist threat from al Qaeda, a growing insurgency in Iraq, the return of the Taliban in Afghanistan and congressional proposals to reorganize the intelligence agencies. "
Both of California's so-called "Democratic" Senators voted for this.

Concession Democrats will tell you they voted for this because the CIA needed leadership during perilous times. The agency is supposed to be keeping an eye out for threats. But this is certainly not what the agency is doing now! The agency is being torn apart and molded into an arm of The Party! These Concession Democrats just did not understand what they were voting for. This is why they keep caving in and caving in, allowing the Right to infiltrate and seize control by placing their ideologues in the CIA, the courts, and the other formerly-independent agencies and institutions that protect us. Even the churches!

If you live in a state with any Concession Democrat Senators, give them a call and ask them if they understand that the Right has an agenda that might not be in the best interests of the rest of us. Ask them why they did not understand that voting for a right-wing partisan to head the CIA was not in the country's interest.


Back to business

So they won the election on fear and phony piety. But it doesn't take them long to get back to the real agenda -- in this case the never-ending pursuit of cheap labor, regardless of consequences.

And if you think it's just the repugs, don't be naive. All too many dems have their hands out to the cheap labor lobby, too. So, today, use the "Take Action Now" gizmo at the FAIRUS link above and let your representatives know that you will do your best to destroy their careers if they continue to destroy yours.

I just used the FAIRUS web site to send a fax to Pelosi, Boxer and Feinstein. It took about 90 seconds. Maybe I saved your job. Pass it on.

I'll Try Logic

AARP Opposes Bush Plan to Replace Social Security With Private Accounts.

Don't let Republican words fool you. See the Forest. We already HAVE private accounts. We have IRAs, 401Ks, and bank accounts. Replacing Social Security with private accounts when you already have private accounts is not replacing or reforming Social Security, it is removing it.

Here's the logic. When you have objects type A and objects type B, and you "replace" your objects type B with object types A, what you are left with is objects type A. Start with Objects type A and B, end up with only type A, what you have done is remove objects type B. Start with retirement accounts AND Social Security, end up with only retirement accounts, Social Security gone.

There is no "Social Security crisis." That is a lie. Repeat this over and over until the idea that there is a "Social Security crisis" starts to work its way out of your brain. It got in your brain through repetition of a lie so get it back out with repetition of the truth.

In the year 2018 Social Security stops running a surplus. That is the "crisis." In fact, they say it happens in 2018 based on calculations that assume very slow growth. If growth is normal that date moves WAY out. And if other things happen, like raising the minimum wage, that date moves out because that would mean more people paying more into the system.

The so-called crisis is not that Social Security runs out of money. The "crisis" is that the government has to stop borrowing from your retirement savings. It has been borrowing from your retirement savings in order to provide huge tax cuts for the corporations and the rich. YOU pay a tax that corporations and the rich do not pay and THAT is what they have been living on! They are supposed to start paying you back and they are telling you that is a "crisis" that will require cutting your retirement checks.

Do. Not. Let. Them. Get. Away. With. It!


skippy the bush kangaroo

Just to give you all some comfort, skippy the bush kangaroo reports: "the cleveland plain dealer reports that lawyers from john kerry's campaign are overseeing the counting of votes in ohio."

Alternative View

The other day I wrote about "Concession Democrats." MyDD has an alternative view in What You Don't Get About Kerry's Actions 11/3.

To be clear, I was saying that by holding out for a few days he would be making the point to the public that this was a very close election instead of setting the stage for Bush to say he had a Man Date.

What The Words Really Mean

Privatizing Social Security now in Bush's cross hairs:
"Bush envisions a framework that would partially privatize Social Security with personal investment accounts similar to 401(k) plans."
But we already HAVE 401K plans, and IRAs and even banks. So when you already HAVE these savings plans, and he says he will change Social Security into one of these, it MEANS that he is saying he is getting rid of Social Security.

Make no mistake about it, there is no "Social Security crisis." That is a lie, repeated so often that people believe it is true.

In 2018 Social Security stops running a surplus. That means that the government has to start paying back money it has borrowed from our retirement fund. THAT is the "crisis." Not that Social Security runs out of money, but that the money is gone out to tax cuts for the rich!

When your car payment is due, and you have spent the money on ice cream, does the bank allow you to say that the car payment needs to be restructured? Or do they say you need to find the money? Bush needs to find the money, from where it went.

Hello, Portland, Oregon

I'm still on hiatus, but if there's anyone out there in the Portland, Oregon area who's sharp on computer-type stuff, please email emersonj at easystreet dot com. I'm having trouble setting up my new computer.

Problem solved. Thanks to two STF readers who pitched in.


Never Mind

That whole terrorism/fear thing? Never mind. Election's over - no need for it now.

Financial sector threat level lowered

Officials reopen sidewalk in front of White House

In his resignation letter, Ashcroft wrote, "The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved."


Already Been Back

Well this is certainly going to get things stirred up in JesusLand.


You Wanna Piece Of Me?

Blah3.com - Gotta love Craig's List...
"I would like to fight a Bush supporter to vent my anger. "


Here's what I think about the issue of election fraud: We failed. 40% of eligible voters did not vote. That means that MOST Americans did not show up to vote against Bus and abu Grahib and the other things Bush has been doing.

If they sole four million votes, the election should not have been within four million votes.

Now, if later it turns out that they can absolutely prove that the election should have gone another way, that is another story, and Kerry will become President. And it will be looked into. Don't worry about that, we will know if that is the case.

Until then, fageddaboutit. There's nothing you can do and it isn't doing you any good to spend time on it. We have other work to do.

And remember, I'm the guy who told you about the voting machines in the first place.


From The Independent Institute, Fear for the Future of the Republic:
"The Bush administration has been able to get away with badly distorting reality because the public doesn't have as much personal experience with foreign policy and security issues as they do with issues such as education, health care, the economy, etc. In addition, many people were unnerved by the 9/11 attacks and their residual fear prevented them from taking a chance on an unknown quantity such as John Kerry. Unbelievably, despite gross incompetence by the administration in fighting the "war on terror" and the conflict in Iraq, the public, by wide margins, rated Bush as better able to fight both of them than Kerry."
This is by Ivan Eland, Senior Fellow and Director of the Center on Peace & Liberty at The Independent Institute in Oakland, California.

I'm pointing to this because this institute has been sending me great stuff lately, and I think they deserve a bit of attention.

PIPA (Program on International Policy Attitudes) Poll: Bush supporters out of touch with reality.

I reference this in a posting below, but I believe the PIPA poll deserves to be highlighted on its own. This poll reveals the defining characteristic of this election, and of the divide in the country: it is between people in contact with reality, vs. those with a stunning indifference to it.

Here are the first two paragraphs of their release:

Even after the final report of Charles Duelfer to Congress saying that Iraq did not have a significant WMD program, 72% of Bush supporters continue to believe that Iraq had actual WMD (47%) or a major program for developing them (25%). Fifty-six percent assume that most experts believe Iraq had actual WMD and 57% also assume, incorrectly, that Duelfer concluded Iraq had at least a major WMD program. Kerry supporters hold opposite beliefs on all these points.

Similarly, 75% of Bush supporters continue to believe that Iraq was providing substantial support to al Qaeda, and 63% believe that clear evidence of this support has been found. Sixty percent of Bush supporters assume that this is also the conclusion of most experts, and 55% assume, incorrectly, that this was the conclusion of the 9/11 Commission. Here again, large majorities of Kerry supporters have exactly opposite perceptions.

... why do these people continue to maintain these mistaken beliefs, in spite of all evidence to the contrary?

"To support the president and to accept that he took the US to war based on mistaken assumptions likely creates substantial cognitive dissonance, and leads Bush supporters to suppress awareness of unsettling information about prewar Iraq." --Steven Kull, director of PIPA

It isn't just Iraq, though... they hold mistaken views about whether or not the world supports the war in Iraq, whether or not the world supported Bush's re-election... they have no grasp of what Bush's positions on the issues are, in stark contrast to Kerry supporters, who are "much more accurate in their perceptions of his positions".

"The roots of the Bush supporters' resistance to information," according to Steven Kull, "very likely lie in the traumatic experience of 9/11 and equally in the near pitch-perfect leadership that President Bush showed in its immediate wake. This appears to have created a powerful bond between Bush and his supporters--and an idealized image of the President that makes it difficult for his supporters to imagine that he could have made incorrect judgments before the war, that world public opinion could be critical of his policies or that the President could hold foreign policy positions that are at odds with his supporters."

To me, this says it all. Until the other half of the country wakes up and regains contact with reality, there isn't a damn thing we can do to change things. All the "facts", all the "information", all the daily stunners we come up with, the evidence of corruption, of lies and mis-information being spread... none of it matters, because it simply won't be processed. :(

--Thomas Leavitt

DAILY STUNNER: Fines for "trading with the enemy" DROP after 9/11

[I guess this is now a series... although I don't promise to actually post daily.

Nowadays, it seems like every time I open up the San Francisco Chronicle, I read something that just blows my mind.

Here's the latest - according to an AP analysis, "average penalties for violating the embargoes fell for every terrorism-sponsoring country after the attacks". This appears to have been picked up by quite a few newspapers (probably because it is an AP Wire store)... the Houston Chronicle even created a nice little graph representing the changes and labeled it "Precipitous Drop".

How this translates to being "tough on terror", rather than "soft on corporate crime" or "easy on corporate traitors", is beyond me... but I guess the Bush's have a history of trading with the enemy (Cheney's Haliburton too), don't they, so it makes sense that they're "understanding" and "sensitive" to the issues involved. -Thomas]

AP Enterprise: Average fine for dealing with terrorist nations plunged after Sept. 11
- MATT KELLEY, Associated Press Writer
Sunday, November 7, 2004

(11-07) 09:12 PST WASHINGTON (AP) --

Despite the Bush administration's pledge to battle terrorist financing, the government's average penalty against companies doing business with countries listed as terrorist-sponsoring states fell sharply after the Sept. 11 attacks, an Associated Press analysis of federal records shows.

The average penalty for a company doing business with Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Sudan or Libya dropped nearly threefold, from more than $50,000 in the five years before the 2001 attacks to about $18,700 afterward, according to a computer-assisted analysis of federal records.


Penalties for prohibited business involving Iran were nearly twice as high before the attacks. The pre-attack average penalty for an Iran transaction was more than $33,500; the post-attack average fine was about $17,300.

Fines for trading with Iraq while Saddam was in power averaged more than $101,000 before the September 11 attacks, then fell by more than a third to about $74,800 afterward.

Companies accused of dealing with Libya paid fines averaging more than $41,000 before the attacks, a figure more than three times higher than the postattack average of about $12,800.

[... complete article at URL above ...]

--Thomas Leavitt

Old news... creationism dominant belief of Americans.

The Chronicle ran an article today on a lawsuit filed by the parents and teachers (with the support of the ACLU) over warning labels put on biology textbooks in Cobb County, Georgia.

The labels read: "This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material shouuld be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered."

The warning label was put on the books after parents complained they contained nothing about rival "theories" about the origin of life, i.e. creationism, sometimes termed "intelligent design".

That's not what caught my attention, however... it was the handy dandy little graphic illustration that accompanied it, showing that 48% of Americans believe in creationism and 9% "lean" towards it, as opposed to 28% who believe in evolution, and 5% who "lean" towards it. The source, a 2001 Gallup poll (the link is hard to read, but the source material isn't available otherwise).

Even harder to take was the fact that, for some godforsaken reason, the illustrator choose to represent the two sets of opinions in color: red and blue. Guess which side was which? You got it. A subtle editorial comment? Unconscious hangover from the election? Who knows? ...but it was really the last thing I needed to start the day out with--concrete evidence that over half of my fellow citizens simply don't share the same bedrock assumptions about reality that I do.

I don't know what that struck me so hard, given what the recent PIPA (Program on International Policy Attitudes) poll revealed -- that Bush supporters have a "tendency to ignore dissonant information" if it would tend to indicate that an opinion they hold is in error -- in light of this, their support for Bush--who appears to operate on the same basis--makes sense.

That poll, more than anything else, sums up this election for me, and the divide in the country... reality vs. illusion... illusion that refuses to be shaken by any fact, no matter how direct or tangible or indesputable (such as whether world opinino supports the war in Iraq or Bush's re-election).

We not only don't live on the same planet, we don't live in the same universe.

--Thomas Leavitt


Compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness

Howard Zinn:

We don't have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world. Even when we don't "win," there is fun and fulfillment in the fact that we have been involved, with other good people, in something worthwhile. We need hope. An optimist isn't necessarily a blithe, slightly sappy whistler in the dark of our time. To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places-and there are so many-where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don't have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.

Liberal Oasis on Concession Democrats

In his Sunday Talkshow Breakdown Bill at Liberal Oasis compares the Republican reaction to Clinton's 1992 victory with the Concession Democrats' reaction to Bush's.
On Nov. 4, 1992, the day after Bill Clinton beat George H.W. Bush by 5 percentage points and 202 electoral votes, this was the first thing out of Sen. Bob Dole's mouth:

"57 percent of the Americans who voted in the presidential election voted against Bill Clinton, and I intend to represent that majority on the floor of the US Senate."

He finished his remarks with:

"I think [Clinton] got some good news and some bad news last night...

...The good news is that he's getting a honeymoon in Washington. The bad news is that Bob Dole is going to be chaperone."

With that fighting attitude, the GOP stymied the centerpiece of Clinton's agenda, health care, and took over Congress in two years.

Compare that attitude with what was displayed by the lone Dem on the Sunday shows, Sen.-elect Barack Obama. From NBC's Meet The Press:

"...one of the things I told the president was that we all have a stake in seeing him have a successful presidency.

I don't think that the Democrats succeed by rooting against the president in office.

But we have to be honest where we disagree with him and he's got to make his case where he's presenting issues that we're skeptical about."

It's not just Obama showing softness. This is the party line.
Concession Democrats wonder why the public perceives Republicans as "leaders" who are "strong." I don't wonder. Bill doesn't wonder. It's because they don't roll over on their backs and whimper, "Please like me." Instead they fight for their constituents.

That was MY vote that Kerry conceded, setting the stage for Bush to come out and claim a mandate to get rid of Social Security, etc.


Here We Go! China Selling Dollars!

China Says It Will Pursue a `More Flexible' Currency. And this, Dollar expected to fall amid China's rumoured selling

If true, this almost certainly means the long-expected "realignment" of the dollar is beginning. And this means the United States, and everyone in it, is going to have to reduce their borrowing.

We have been running a huge trade deficit, which accumulates. We buy more stuff than we sell, so the rest of the world keeps receiving more and more dollars. They are not sending the dollars back to us by buying things we make. When you have a whole lot of something the way you get rid of it is to lower its price. Because we have been borrowing to buy things from the rest of the world, the rest of the world has a whole, whole lot of dollars. And when you hear about the dollar "dropping" it means that others are lowering its price. Where they were selling dollar for a Euro a couple of years ago, now they're selling them for .77 Euros each. And still no one has been buying, so in a few weeks they'll be trying maybe half a Euro each.

What does this mean? It means everything that we import is going to cost a lot more. Things that cost a Euro before will cost two. Take a look at everything in your house that is made in China or somewhere like that, and think about that. But it also means everything we make will be in demand, which means more jobs - after a while.

But there's something else it means. Trade is not the only place we have a deficit. We also borrow hundreds of billions of dollars every year to run our government. THAT is where those extra dollars have been going -- they have been loaning them back to us. And now they are not going to be so inclined to do that. And that means that the government has two choices. One is to stop borrowing so much money. The other is to offer enough incentive that people will continue to loan them money. Incentive in this case means interest rates, and that means the end of the housing bubble and of easy credit and a lot of other things.

Cutting the deficit means raising taxes and/or cutting spending. There is a lot of room to raise taxes at the top - Clinton did this and it led to years of prosperity - but very little room to raise them on anyone else. And there is a fat chance less than zero of THIS government raising taxes on the rich! So that means cutting spending. There is even less of a fat chance that they will cut military spending, so it means cutting health care, education, criminal justice -- there just isn't much money outside of military spending so it's all going to be cut deeply...

If China and others really are finally ready to let the price of the dollar drop, it means big changes in store of all of us. The public does not realize the extent to which our standard of living has depended on our borrowing. And our borrowing might just be about to hit a wall.

Taking a break

I've said I was going to do this before, but I really need to take a break now and get my own life together. During my 2 1/2 years as a political blogger, I've let a lot of things slide, and I hope to get back to them. (One of these will be a new, less-political blog where I can develop my many other interests.)

I am not doing this out of hopelessness, though the election was a serious blow. I had hoped that with Kerry in office, the pressure would be relieved by now. That was not to be, so we're in for the long haul. But there's less urgency now than there was before the election, and this is probably the time for a vacation. I plan to be back, perhaps posting less, at some point not too far in the future.

Contrary to many, I think that there should be a battle for the soul of the Democratic Party. I've mostly quit asking the Democrats to be more liberal, but I think that they absolutely have to be more effectual. One example of ineffectuality especially galls me. The fraudulent Swift Boat attacks really did hurt Kerry, and the Democratic response was initially very weak. I saw this kind of thing coming, and in February and March I spent most of a month starting a webpage to catalogue and respond to internet smears. My page attracted very little interest, from the blogosphere or anyone else, and I stopped updating it in April. I assumed then that it was just me, and that the Kerry people had someone else on the job, but I don't really think that that was true. (The one blogger who was definitely interested, Hesiod of Theogeny, apparently was rebuffed in his own attempts to work with the Democrats, and he has closed down his site. I have been told that one high official in the Kerry campaign actually told the staff to stay away from blogs entirely.)

I think that the Democratic Party is dominated by a group which is more successful at winning intraparty fights than they are at winning elections. I also suspect that they really don't suffer much when the Democrats are defeated, and are thus lacking any incentive. I even suspect that some of them, a la Martin Peretz, are so hostile to the left wing of the party that they'd rather lose with a centrist than win with a liberal [/paranoia]. Gore actually did better when he was taking a more populist approach, but his pros put the kibosh on that. I have read that Shrum explained, even before the results were in, that the message of this election is that the Democrats have to be more militaristic.

What I think that the Democrats have to do is put together a coherent message, present it effectively, and keep hitting at Bush. They do not need to move further to the right.

My recent posts have been of two types: the normal "What should the Democrats do now?" type, and the more alarmist "Watch for fascism" type. I would be glad to find out that the latter type of post is mistaken, but let's just keep our eyes open. We know that Bush and his crew are going to do everything legal or semi-legal they can to marginalize the Democrats entirely, and we should also keep a lookout for illegal and police-state actions. As the Middle East War heats up, we should expect the first people to be attacked to be the anti-war activists.

As I understand it, Bush is sure to have some combination of military and fiscal crisis during his term, and how he deals with the resistance when that happens will tell us a lot. People are talking as if he'll go quietly once the shit hits the fan, but that's what we really don't know.

Gay Marriage

There's been a lot of discussion about the sixth of the electorate which voted for Bush on the basis of "moral values". While various issues can be lumped under "moral values", I think that it is correct to assume that this phrase is a code for opposition to abortion and gay marriage. There are also questions as to whether this year was any different than 2000 or earlier years – i.e., whether the new issue of gay marriage specifically had any important effect.

One thing to remember is that the Republican noise machine will always be able to find something. In the most egregious case, in 2002 they succeeded in convincing a certain number of voters that the Wellstone funeral was virtually a Nuremburg rally. Likewise, when they needed to, the party of homophobia was able to whip up a bunch of phony concern over's Kerry's mention of Cheney's lesbian daughter. In both cases, the specific issue wasn't important. Before the 2002 election, and right after the third debate, the slime machine needed something to work with, and they didn't really care what it was.

After a first flurry of reports, many spokespeople on both sides are now denying that gay marriage was a decisive issue. However, I'm not convinced. Republicans have two reasons for denying that it gay marriage was important. First, many hip Republicans want to deny the degree to which homophobia was an key part of the Republican campaign. Second, cynical Republicans do not want the Democrats to distance themselves from gay marriage. Among Democrats, many seem to be denying that gay marriage was an important issue this year because they also do not want Democrats to distance themselves from gay issues.

Now, in my travels around the blogosphere, I find many Democrats for whom the social issues (abortion and gay rights) are the most important and almost absolute. This bothers me, because my main issues are war and peace on the one hand, and economic democracy on the other, and I sometimes find that social-issues Democrats are far too willing to cut deals with the Republicans on my issues. (As far as war and peace goes, Kerry himself was careful not to sound dovish either on Iraq or Israel. He just said that he would run the Iraq war more effectively).

Politics consists of making deals, and I'm willing to deal. However, if I suggest, as I'm now doing, that gay issues be soft-pedaled a little, and that my own issues be stressed a little more, I run the risk of being declared a homophobe. In other words, other people's issues are absolute, and mine are not.

Andy Sullivan is a beautiful case in point. For about ten years now, he's hurt the Democrats as much as he's been able to. He absolutely disagrees with me about almost everything. But about two weeks before the election, having finally figured out that the Republican Party just plain hates him, he finally came over to the Kerry camp.

That would have been worth one vote, if Sullivan were a citizen. But this was an indication that -- yes indeed -- the Democratic Party is the party of gay marriage. And so what Sullivan gave us was just a nice albatross around our neck. Thanks, Andy!

As it turned out, despite everything 23% of the GLB vote -- which is 4% of the total -- went to Bush. In other words, we traded 17% of the vote for 3%. There's a lot more involved here than just numbers, of course, but from a cold-blooded that really doesn't look like a good deal at all.

Clinton suggested that Kerry should support one of the anti-gay-marriage initiatives. Nobody likes Clinton's opportunism, but he is a guy who has a track record of winning. What would have happened if Kerry had taken Clinton's advice?

To begin with, all of the initiatives passed anyway, so nothing would have changed in that respect. As for the Presidential race, we can't be sure that Kerry would have won if he had supported the initiatives, but by clearly dissociating himself from gay marriage he would have neutralized that issue.

Ans based on my own small-town experience, I can assure you that there are lot of people who are otherwise Democrats but homophobic. One high school friend has a gay sister, but please don't tell him that. My mom has a gay cousin whom she dearly loves, but she doesn't want to hear about that either. My mom remains a strong Democrat, but I can't be sure about the highschool friend.

So is everyone opposed to gay marriage a homophobe and a bigot? There are many who accept domestic partnerships, but not gay marriage. How much is the difference between domestic partnership and gay marriage worth? (Even for most GLB's, gay marriage and related issues are seldom the most important political issues; war and peace, prosperity and stagnation, and social security "reform" affect everyone). There's been enormous progress on gay issues over the last 30 or 40 years. Do we really need to push it this one step farther?

Marriage is an ancient religious institution, and historically gay marriage is very rare indeed. To my mind there's a lot of weirdness involved in traditional marriage, but on the other hand it's central to a lot of people's lives. (Some families spend a whole year planning for weddings, virtually bankrupting themselves.) Maybe it's not a good idea to poke them in the ribs and tell them that marriage is something different than they thought it was. Let marriage be their thing.

As it is, we've lost everything, including gay marriage. For four years Bush is going to be able to do whatever he wants. Speaking for myself, I wish that this issue had never come up at all.

Poll results (thanks to Sisyphus Shrugged)

Blogging as News/Analysis Marketplace

This is reposted because Blogger seems to have eaten the previous posting!

Last week I worked at MSNBC as a "Hardblogger" and assisting with election coverage. This summer I was one of the bloggers invited to the Democratic Convention in Boston. Working with "the media" was an eye-opening experience. Usually my blogging day involves reading news sources and blogs online, and watching news and whatever-that's-called on cable TV. But at the convention I found myself "inside the bubble" that professional media people live in. From the time I got up I was working, talking to important people, blogging what I was seeing, etc. After a couple of days of this I realized I knew nothing about what had been going on out in the world, and was depending on second-hand sources for quick "bullet-point" summaries of major events. In other words I learned that news people are BUSY. And when you are that BUSY you are not able to read the news, cruise the blogs, make connections, etc.

We live in a world where information overload results in people having less information, not more.

In one of my brilliant post-convention posts, A Role for Bloggers After All - Part II, I wrote about this information isolation, and how bloggers are part of a solution:
"This is not like my usual blogging environment, with time to read the morning news and several other blogs. I grab some news off of the internet. I get information from talking to other bloggers. This is significant.

A LOT of what I usually write about comes from detailed following what's in the media ... There was almost no opportunity for any of that at the convention, and I can see how in the Washington or New York top-level journalist life there is little opportunity either.

So - special role of Blogging #2: we bring important stories to the attention of the readers, and our readers include media and political circles.
Here's why I think blogging plays a role as a reasonable, although partial, solution to the news process. Blogs function as an almost perfect marketplace for information and ideas.

Let me explain. Someone told me that now there are something like four million bloggers. Almost of all of them have a least a few readers, many of whom are also bloggers. When a blogger sees something interesting, the blogger links to it -- that's a big part of what blogging is. As soon as that link appears on the next blog, then you have the bloggers who read that blog exposed to the story/idea. And if they like it THEY link to it, and the bloggers who read THEM link to it. One post can rapidly move to two to four to eight to sixteen to two hundred fifty six blogs, and so on. Think of it as a chain reaction. One post can quickly become a subject for the entire blogosphere.

Some of these blogs have lots of non-blogging readers. So important stories, insightful comments and good ideas can very quickly come to the attention of a very large number of people. This is an information marketplace, and it is filtered in a near-perfect way. Blogging is a process where, over time, information that is interesting or important to numbers of people forces its way to widespread attention.

This blogging market process is also what economists would call a "rapid-clearing" market. This means that it takes very little time for the market forces to act and bring the market to its equilibrium. In other words, at the end of a day or two every blogger that is going to notice the posts and decide whether to add their "vote" and link to them will have had the chance to act or not.

It is not a completely perfect market, because blog readership is not perfectly distributed. There are a few weblogs that have the huge lion's share of readers. (Sort of like the distribution of Bush's tax cuts.) So important stories/ideas have to break through individual gatekeepers. One way around this is to make a habit of reading more than just a few weblogs. Another way is for those weblogs with lots of readers to make a point of bringing less-known weblogs to the attention of readers. Like guitar cases stickers that say, "Real musicians have day jobs," you can recognize which weblogs are still "real bloggers" by the number of other weblogs on their blogroll.

So I think this is an important role for bloggers, and it exists independently of individual bloggers. It doesn't matter who initially posts, and it doesn't matter on an individual level who decides to link or not, because of all the other bloggers. No individual or group can block a story from spreading. (Influential bloggers can certainly cause a story to spread more rapidly.) It is a "natural process." It serves to bring important or interesting news/stories/ideas/analysis to broad public attention in a hurry. This can serve as a filter for "big media," tipping them off to things they should bring out of the blogosphere to their own, wider audience.

Bloggered Again Again

I posted a piece about blogging as a marketplace for info. it was up for a few hours today, and pepole left comments, and now it is gone. It has simply disappeared. (Maybe it will mysteriously return?)

Bloggered again. I'll move away from Blogger as soon as I can. Sorry.



What difference does it make?

Escalate the Ridicule

One of the silliest explanations of the Bush victory is Dave Brooks' idea that Red State people voted for Bush because their feelings had been hurt by the elitist ridicule being sent their way by liberals. Brooks is a virtuoso of silly pop-psychology explanations, and this is one of his best. I'm sure that stupid people don't like being called stupid, but they vote the way they do because they believe what they've been told, not because their feelings have been hurt.

For example, one thing we do know is that Bush voters were about three times more likely than Kerry voters to believe the erroneous Bush cover story about the Second Iraq War, and we also know that the reason that they do so is that they've been ill-served by the media. And lo! -- who is it that's been asking us to have more respect for misinformed people? It's the media people who have been keeping the Red States misinformed!

Similiarly, George Will, whose worship of the dollar is well-attested both in his personal life and in his political positions, is very proud of the noble people in Kansas and elsewhere who do not vote their economic interest. George loves those guys, because he's got them voting his economic interest instead of their own. Quite a triumph for George!

One of the messages we're being sent here is "Don't mess with our dumb followers". A guy I know has an athletic, semi-retarded 250-lb. friend who's surprisingly quick with his fists. This guy gets a lot of respect, and it's no mystery why. The Republicans are telling us that their dupes may be dumb, but there are a lot of them, and they're tougher than we are. Will, Brooks, and the rest actually have no more respect for the Moral Majority than Woody Allen does, but they know better than to let that out.

There's a second reason why they want us to avoid ridicule. Brooks and a hundred other national and local columnists got their jobs as affirmative-action, hire-the-handicapped conservatives. Repeating conservative talking points is basically part of their job description. As it happens, a lot of these talking points are stupid and are directed primarily at stupid people. So when we ridicule the talking points, it's as if we're saying that Brooks himself is stupid.

So fine, David. You're not stupid. Neither is George Will. Neither is George Bush. You're a bunch of pimps, making your livings keeping the Silent Majority misinformed. Happy now?

So I say, escalate the ridicule. That won't help us win the election, but we can't be on duty all the time, and it's sort of fun to see if the oily Mr. Brooks has any threshold of embarassment at all.

P.S. I have never understood what was wrong with cursing the darkness, either. I mean, Eleanor Roosevelt was a wonderful person, but really -- fuck the darkness.

(Un) Civil War

After the devastation of November 2nd… what? I think both solace and challenge are necessary. Lately I have found the most solace in the reflection that destruction is in the nature of things, and always gives rise to the unexpected and to renewal in some form. Let’s say Rove is successful in his nefarious scheme to deprive the Democrats of a base, by crushing all the prosperous groups that make up that base – trial lawyers, for example. Let’s say we as Democrats are crushed all the way down to the level of the common people – by that I mean that no major industry could advance its interests by backing our candidates, or giving us money. Such a disaster would give the party tremendous clarity about where its political interests and heart really lie. From that disaster a new pro-labor, pro-social welfare, stripped down, lean and mean fighting machine party would arise.

Now to the challenge.

The day after the defeat I read on Andrew Sullivan: “…the most fundamental fact of this campaign – and one of the reasons that it has been so bitter – is that we are at war. Our opponents at home are not our enemies.”

Ah… not our enemies? By one definition, my enemy is one who tries to deprive me of life, liberty, or my pursuit of happiness. To enlarge the circle, my enemy is one who tries to wreck my future and the future of my family and community.

I posted a couple of weeks ago about the Natl. Science Foundation study that found that 18,000 Americans die every year because they lack health insurance. Most of us are one or two layoffs away from such a loss. By whose ‘moral values’ is the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans over a decade unimportant? In addition we are facing the bankrupting of the Federal Government at the hands of the Rethuglicans, whose congress is nothing more than a looting machine for the special interests. (So much for conservatism, southern style!) What impact on the blue states will such policies have? How many citizens who are not represented in this government will die? How many will have their futures devastated?

I was talking to a friend about the possible bankrupting of social security and she said, “Don’t think it can’t happen. I was in Argentina when the streets filled with eighty year olds banging on pots because they didn’t have anything to eat.” In the Rethuglican Congress, social security is on the block because the same crew that brought us free market health care and the California debacle of energy deregulation wants to play with the retirement funds of millions of working Americans. This is an attack on we-the-people. It must be fought.

There has been much talk about how Democrats should work up an appeal to red states that caters to red state concern for moral values. I think there is much to be said for clarifying, strengthening, and developing a rhetoric for our values. We need to bring poetry and passion into our politics. But we should not be pandering to those who have chosen to sell out their future and the future of their children by kissing the ass of the ruling class. If this is ‘values’ let them have it.

Our situation demands honesty as a first principle, not pandering. The red states are by and large centers of poverty, not entrepreneurial culture, higher education, science and the arts. Our blue state tax dollars support their failures. Now they are going to try to drive the country down to the economic and cultural level of Alabama and East Texas, and they can do this because rural areas are over-represented at the Federal level.

I think the Rethuglican voters – neighbors, friends, relatives – need to know how we feel. We need to begin Democratic soul-searching with a fearless embrace of our interests. We must put our families and communities first. Liberal politics has been saturated with guilt and a lack of confidence that comes from striving to be good yet having doubt about what that means. This era, I suspect, will fade, because it is not our ‘goodness’ that is at stake, but indeed our survival.