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“Where do you get your political news?”

when reading blogs, make a point to get a range of perspectives, starting with those that are shut out from the mainstream news.

Reviewing an earlier draft of Allies in the blogosphere, one of my friends asked me for more details on this. Rather than bury it in an comment, I figured that it was worth a thread of its own — because that’ll also give me a chance to ask others the same question.

As an experiment, for the last year I’ve been getting virtually all of my political news online, mostly avoiding newspapers, magazines, and TV. At first I’d start out each day by checking Google News, the New York Times, and a few blogs on specific topics, like Juan Cole’s Informed Comment on Iraq. Then I added Yahoo! News (which gets feeds from Huffington Post and Real Clear Politics as well as CNN). This gave me some different perspectives and a few more stories but it was still pretty limited.

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When I’m right, I’m right: Geraldine Ferraro and “The day after”

Geraldine FerraroThe Obama campaign’s response to Geraldine Ferraro’s attack perfectly illustrates several things I talked about last week in The day after. Campaign strategist David Axelrod emphasizes the pattern:

Axelrod said Ferraro’s comments were part of a “pattern” of negative attacks aimed at Obama. He pointed to Clinton’s former New Hampshire co-chairman Bill Shaheen, who questioned whether Obama ever sold drugs; supporter Rober Johnsen, the founder of Black Entertainment Television, who raised the specter of Obama’s past drug use; and Clinton’s own “unwillingness” to “definitively” shoot down rumors that Obama was Muslim in an interview this month.

[All of these, and others, are documented on the Clinton attacks Obama wiki. See, I knew it would be important :-)]

Susan Rice brings up a variant of the “reject and denounce” standard:

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The day after: a work in progress on “narrative through the lens of strategy

A few teasers:

With aid of what they describe as “the kitchen sink,” the Clinton campaign came out tactically slightly ahead: somewhere between four and ten delegates out of the 370 in play. Kudos to them. Even so, yesterday’s results are almost exactly what the Obama campaign had projected a month ago, a likely +3 or +4 over projections in Texas balanced by a likely -2 or -3 in Ohio. The Obama campaign continues to have a huge cushion: 120 pledged delegates over their early-February projections. With less time for a Clinton turnaround, Obama’s strategic advantage has grown … guess they were prepared for the kitchen sink, or something like it.

The Clinton campaign’s potential role in the Obama-in-Somali-garb photo will call attention to the earlier “Obama is a Muslim” email from Clinton staffers, the series of racially charged attacks documented on the Clinton attacks Obama wiki and elsewhere, and the Clinton campaign’s earlier “playing along” with Drudge. At the same time, the “denounce and reject” standard she proposed in the debate will get continued attention thanks to McCain and Lieberman’s welcoming of virulently anti-Catholic anti-LGBT anti-New Orleans anti-Palestinian (and anti-so-much-more) John Hagee’s support. How many volunteers, staffers, supporters will the Clinton campaign “denounce”? How many contributions will they reject?

From a strategy perspective, the Clinton campaign in desperation threw everything they could into March 4. (You can only align with Drudge, Limbaugh, O’Reilly and McCain so many times before voters and superdelegates start to ask whether this is good for the party — and there aren’t a lot of other friendly foreign governments they can call on these days.) At the cost of substantially damaging their campaign as well as their individual reputations, they managed to claw their way to an inconsequential and Pyrrhic “victory”. Mathematically, they’re now very close to elimination. Not a good result for the Clintons at all.

So, while it’s not over and anything can happen, once all the hard work is done and the votes are counted, I predict that March 4 will be seen as the day that the voters in Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Vermont — and the grassroots volunteers for Obama all around the country and the world — virtually assured Barack Obama’s nomination as Democratic party’s candidate for President of the United States of America.

Read on for the full essay. Feedback and discussion welcome!

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What democracy looks like in the US, February 2008

Update, March 6: democracy largely (albeit imperfectly) prevailed in the LA County mess; 47,153 “double bubble” votes were counted in Los Angeles County. What about Ohio? We shall see …

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“An experiment in community information gathering”

I thought the Clinton Attacks Obama wiki was a great idea the first time I heard about it, and it’s steadily grown since then.  Here’s the welcome message:

This is an experiment in community information gathering. My name is Baratunde Thurston. I’m a comedian, writer and social media junkie. As a contributor for Jack & Jill Politics, I’ve seen the strong black community reaction to what looks like a pattern of race-themed attacks against Obama by Bill, Hillary and other members of her campaign. As folks have questioned the number and validity of these incidents, I thought I’d put together a place to keep track of them.

Blog posts are not good places to keep a running list, and I’m too busy to do it all by myself, so like a multinational corporation, I’m outsourcing this bad boy.

Not only does opening it up to the community means that sources any one person would miss keep flowing in, it’s an excellent use of the automatic list generation features available on most wikis, too.  Seeing the list of race-themed attacks that are being flung around really highlights how extensive the pattern is.  Baratunde’s also the Jack of Jack and Jill Politics (blogging as Jack Turner), and his The Clintons, Black folks, and America — a Reckoning gives some great perspectives that don’t usually make it into mainstream coverage.

The wiki’s starting to get some press attention and this’ll probably steadily increase, no matter whether or not the attacks stop.   And deservedly so: the general technique is something that supporters of candidates from any party can use to surface repeated uses of code words or images as part of smear campaigns.   Swiftboating will be a lot harder this year …

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Kos gets one very, very, right

On the heels of posts by Matthew Yglesias and Ezra Klein yesterday, Kos has an excellent short post highlighting how Bill Clinton and Edwards both completely distorted Obama’s quote about Reagan as a transformative politician.

Huh. I didn’t see the part where Obama said the GOP’s ideas were “all the good” ones.

In fact, Obama isn’t saying anything that couldn’t come straight out of Crashing the Gate — that the GOP build a Vast Right Wing Conspiracy that used its think tanks to create ideas, a media machine to sell those ideas, and a modernized campaign operation to win elections on those ideas. Yes, the GOP was the party of ideas. They were crappy ideas. But they were “ideas”.

I can see why people such as Melissa McEwan at Shakesville are offended that Obama would refer to Reagan without explicitly criticizing his ideas (although as Greg Sargent points out on TPM, he has been a lot clearer in the past); and of course I can see why Clinton wouldn’t much care for the notion that Reagan was more transformational president than he was (although for what it’s worth, I agree 100%). However, that doesn’t give license to distort his statements — and this mischaracterization has been floating around both the progressive blogosphere and the mainstream media. Good on Kos for calling it out so clearly.

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THREAT LEVEL’s year in review

The group blog THREAT LEVEL is one of my favorite things about wired, and Kevin Poulsen’s year-end roundup is a great example of why:

It was a year of soul searching at THREAT LEVEL, every day a fresh challenge to our fundamental beliefs and convictions: Alberto Gonzales made us pine for John Ashcroft; Google made us love roving surveillance cams; and Jammie Thomas’ internet spoofing defense was enough to make us secretly root for the RIAA.

As if that’s not enough, Kim Zetter’s combo of World’s Top Surveillance Societies (covering PrivacyInternational’s report) and FBI Building Vast Database of Iris, Face and Fingerprint Scans highlights why the US is classified as an “endemic surveillance” society along with China, Russia, the U.K. and others.   And Sarah Lai Stirland’s Will push polling become a factor in the early states? rounds up a bunch of stories on a popular social-engineering approach to electoral fraud.

Talk about an end-of-year bonanza!

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More (negative) attention to Facebook’s privacy practices

With a two-part series on TPM Cafe’s Table for One, an article in the Mercury News on Christmas Day, and the recent settlement of a suit on text messaging, Facebook continues to become a focus for discussion of privacy issues. To some extent this is a consequence of their size and success: they’re a high-profile target. Behind this, though, lurks a pattern of Facebook unilaterally making decisions that compromise user privacy, apologizing, addressing the most egregious aspects while leaving the rest in place — and then repeating.

The TPM Cafe piece is by Ari Melber of The Nation, and starts out

When one of America’s largest electronic surveillance systems was launched in Palo Alto a year ago, it sparked an immediate national uproar. The new system tracked roughly 9 million Americans, broadcasting their photographs and personal information on the Internet; 700,000 web-savvy young people organized online protests in just days. Time declared it “Gen Y’s first official revolution,” while a Nation blogger lauded students for taking privacy activism to “a mass scale.” Yet today, the activism has waned, and the surveillance continues largely unabated.

He goes on to discuss the Beacon fiasco in terms of Facebook’s past behavior, quotes some of my faves (danah boyd and a CMU study that I believe is by Alessandro Acquisti), and in his follow-on post ties Facebook — and web services more generally — to a national surveillance state. People familiar with the privacy space won’t see anything new here; what’s significant is that this is another example of Facebook privacy making the jump out of the tech ghetto to the national political scene: TPMCafe’s the extension of Joshua Micah Marshall’s Talking Points Memo, a DC-based progressive political blog that sees itself as a muckraker in the positive sense of the word and has been very active in helping uncover and publicize recent political scandals.

The lawsuit settlement specifically relates to Facebook continuing to send text messages to cellphone numbers after they had been recycled. Facebook didn’t admit any wrongdoing, but did agree to “make it easier for recipients of text messages to block future messages originating from the social network” and “work more closely with mobile phone carriers to monitor the lists of recycled numbers and reduce the frequency of unwanted text messages.” The fact that people had to resort to a lawsuit to get action on these basic business practices paints a rather unflattering picture of the company’s arrogant attitude towards its users — and to the non-users who got the recycled numbers and then were billed for the messages.

Elise Ackerman’s Facebook alarms privacy advocates again talks about a Facebook signup icon showing up on smartphones without the owners permission. This is privacy in the classic sense of “the right to be left alone”, not being tracked; and of course this is something that phone companies do routinely, viewing phones’ “screen real estate” as a spot for advertising and product placement … so “alarm” seems somewhat overstated. Still, given the pattern above, Jeffrey Chester (of the Center for Digital Democracy) sounds on-target to me when he says “It illustrates a basic problem over at Facebook, which is their need to fatten their bank account is confounding their need to protect the privacy of their members.”

And not to sound like a broken record or anything: this kind of attention augurs well for proposals like the national “do-not-track” mechanism — and increases the probabilities that populist-oriented politicians in any party will seize on privacy as a chance to differentiate themselves this upcoming election year.

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Can Led Zeppelin still rock?

CNN’s Peter-Sorel Cameron asks the sixty-four thousand dollar question and really goes out on a limb with his conclusion: “No one really knows what to expect, apart from three legends of heavy rock playing some of the best music in the genre.”   Headline numbers include the 11,000,000 people signed up for a chance for tickets, and average age of band-members: 61 ,
still less than the Stones’ mean age [his term not mine] of 63.25 and Dylan’s “turning 67 in 2008”.

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Two articles on Obama and one on Hillary from the Atlantic

There were a couple of interesting articles about this year’s presidential election in this month’s Atlantic.

Andrew Sullivan suggests in Goodbye to all that that Obama’s real significance is that “unlike any of the other candidates, he could take America—finally—past the debilitating, self-perpetuating family quarrel of the Baby Boom generation that has long engulfed all of us.” Putting aside for the moment the question of why Atlantic isn’t embarrassed to be paying and promoting Sullivan, it’s an article well worth reading for many reasons.

In the first section think Sullivan does an excellent job describing several dimensions of divisiveness and the general sense by the vast majority that we’re ready to get beyond that — I remember dignitarian Robert Fuller saying a similar thing after his All Rise book tour over a year ago and so it’s nice to see that it’s now getting accepted even by the testosterone crowd.

For me it started to go off the rails for a bunch of reasons at the paragraph starting with “of the viable national candidates…” Who is Sullivan to be judging who’s “viable”? What affect does his restriction to “Obama and possibly McCain” have on the rest of the discussion? At this stage, how could anybody possibly view McCain as a transformational candidate of healing? And so on. By the time we get to “What does he offer? First and foremost: his face.” — laid out at the top of a page, no less, to highlight its importance — it’s unusually revealing: of Sullivan’s blinders, and of how deeply cultural norms frame our discourse. Too bad there wasn’t discussion of the very challenging intersectional issues related to race and orientation; I would have thought progress here is key to getting beyond our divides, and Sullivan apparently not only doesn’t see it that way, but doesn’t think it’s worth mentioning.  Revealing indeed.

Hey, I said it was worth reading, I didn’t say I thought it was a good article.

Marc Ambinder’s subscriber’s-only Teacher and Apprentice by contrast is a great piece, fully living up to its billing as a “story of nasty surprises, dueling war rooms, and the Drudge Report.” I thought the author did a great job of presenting both perspectives, putting the question of media coverage squarely on the table, and highlighting the challenge Obama faces trying to go the (relatively) high road. How to defend onesself against unfair accusations and framing, how to call out your opponents spin and sometimes outright lies, without looking like you’re “going negative” yourself? How to get real discussion of this in a situation where most media is either co-opted, colluding, racist, or hostile?

The idea of Drudge and the Clintons, together again for the first time, is well worth calling out in the subhead. Do the Clintons really believe this kind of alliance is good either for the causes they believe in, or the party they claim to care so much about? And it’s a nice tie between the articles by illustrating Obama’s transformational bridge-building possibilities: these enemies and ideologically-opposed men and women who have fought so bitterly in the past have indeed joined forces in response to him. Yay! Let’s all hold hands, sing folk songs, and go negative — just like Matt used to do to you!

And at the meta-level, it’s really disappointing to see Sullivan’s (intellectually shoddy, blatantly racist, from a conservative standpoint) piece being freely-available, while Ambinder’s (well-thought-out, noticeably more conscious, from a neutral-to-progressive standpoint) article is locked behind subscriber’s-only walls. Oh well. At least it’s an unusually stark example of how restricting IP invariably leads to a situation where views and people favoring the entrenched power base get preferential treatments to dissenting views.

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