October 2008

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Say Hear is page that patches together voice messages from people who want to say why they’ve voting for whom. Interesting to click around.

I just wrote in my vote for Obama. Somewhere back early this year I explained why I favored Obama. I liked what I said then, but can’t find it now.

What Colin Powell said about Obama being a “transformative figure” comes close.

What Martin Luther King said in his I Have a Dream speech comes closer, and perhaps says all that needs to be said. This is the line:

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

If Obama wins on Tuesday, that dream will have come true.

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Rich Sands posts Cluetrain Derailed? I respond here.

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Several days ago I posted RIP, Sidekick, which lamented the passing of our favorite section of the Boston Globe. As part of the Globe’s redesign, it got rid of Sidekick and added a new section — a tabloid insert like Sidekick had been — called “G”.

As I had recalled, Sidekick was localized. After reading Ron Newman’s comment to that post, which asked gently “Are you sure…?” I have to say that I’m not. I just checked with my wife, who said that the things she liked best about the Sidekick were its features and format; and that it was not localized, but addressed all of Boston.

Yet I still recall some localization. But again, I don’t know.

A search of Globe archives for “Sidekick” yields results that suggest it was. The first result is titled “News in brief: Brookline, Cambridge, and Somerville news in brief“. Most of the stuff that follows, however, is Boston regional, rather than addressed to those of us north of the Charles. Several of the pieces are by Meredith Goldstein, who is still writing for the paper.

So I’m sending her an email to ask the same question I’ll put to the rest of ya’ll who live around Boston and pay attention to these things: What went away with Sidekick? Or did nothing go away, and can the pieces still be found in G or elsewhere in the paper? Also, What has the Globe done to increase or decrease local coverage? By local I mean regions within the paper’s coverage area. As Ron points out, there is still a “Northwest” section that runs twice per week. I don’t believe that’s changed, but I also don’t know.

And, as I re-discover (while wiping egg off my face), knowing beats believing: Journalism 101.

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FORWARD WITH FIBER: An Infrastructure Investment Plan for the New Administration is my second essay at the Publius Project. The first was FRAMING THE NET.

This one is a bold proposal: putting $300 billion into bringing fiber to every possible premise in America. Unlike other proposals of this sort, this one goes out of its way to embrace rather than to exclude the phone and cable companies. It challenges them to look past “triple play”, toward supporting an infinitude of businesses and opportunities that will open up when we all break free of telecom’s regulatory boat-anchors and conceptual blinders, and start thinking about wide open connectivity and capacity as a new frontier: the 21st Century equivalent of the Louisiana Purchase. And about as cheap.

Against all the ways it might not work — expectations of government incompetence and industry provincialism correctly run high — the idea is easy to dismiss as naive. But I still think it’s worth considering.

The problem isn’t what’s wrong with the current system. It’s what’s not right with it yet. That’s where we need to start looking for solutions. And that’s the direction I’m pointing here.

Interesting to read the “18 conservatives, libertarians, and independent thinkers” gathered bu The American Conservative. The current cover, The Right Choice, begins,

This election offers particularly dismal prospects for conservatives: the Senate’s most liberal member versus a Republican who combines the worst policies of George W. Bush with an erratic temper and a thinly veiled contempt for the Right. No third-party candidate has been able to break past the margins to mount an insurgent campaign.
Given these impoverished alternatives, no easy consensus emerges…

Then, the roster, how they will vote, and some excerpts –

Peter Brimelow, Nobody:
I would write in Baldwin, except that most states make that almost as difficult as getting on the ballot and don’t always count write-in votes anyway.
Oh, and Obama and Whatshisname? I’m indifferent. I don’t think President Obama will dare push an amnesty through because the Republicans would oppose it, whereas enough stupid Republicans will fall in line behind a McCain amnesty to give the Democrats bipartisan cover. But at least a McCain presidency would make it clear even to Republican loyalists what Pat Buchanan concluded in 2000: there is no solution for America but a new party.
Reid Buckley, McCain:
Loyalty, I suppose…
I am plenty mad at the Republican Party and would enjoy watching the entire double-talking leadership and its unctuous apparatus throughout the states fried in oil. I still disagree with maverick McCain plenty on the issues, and every time he says “my friends,” I wince almost as wretchedly as when George W. Bush ends his sentences with that awful moue of his upper lip, producing a smirk which in turn suggests a revolting fullness of self-satisfaction…
Barack Obama, on the other hand, for all his muddy shifting with the political winds, has made his vision clear, and it is doctrinaire Democratic left-wing socialism and therefore too depressing for words. I hew to the belief that he is also a decent man and probably politically more savvy than John McCain. He may learn. He may be knocked off his horse on the way to Damascus. But I can’t vote for the prospect of Obama’s education. So I vote McCain. Unlike the Beltway snobs (an insular pathology that now defines the East Coast from Bangor, Maine to Key West), I place my trust in Sarah Palin. Dadgummit, by golly, she speaks the American language of the plains and the frontier. I trust it, and her.
John Patrick Diggins, Obama:
Republicans have no trouble losing a war and calling it a victory, and some of them are voting for McCain for that reason. Obama, in contrast, is stuck with a war he opposed, and politics may force him to stay the course. Still, I prefer the professor to the warrior. McCain claims he is thinking only about the good of the country, then chooses as his running mate a gun-happy huntress who supported the Alaskan independence movement, which advocates secession from the United States. No wonder she is idolized by those who disdain the very federal government that built the Alaskan Highway. As Orwell observed, those receiving benefits always hate the benefactor.
Rod Dreher, Nobody:
As both a conservative and a Republican, I confess that we deserve to lose this year. We have governed badly and have earned the wrath of voters, who will learn in due course how inadequate the nostrums of liberal Democrats are to the crisis of our times. If I cannot in good faith cast a vote against the Bush years by voting for Obama, I can at least do so by withholding my vote from McCain.
Francis Fukayama, Obama:
I’m voting for Barack Obama this November for a very simple reason. It is hard to imagine a more disastrous presidency than that of George W. Bush. It was bad enough that he launched an unnecessary war and undermined the standing of the United States throughout the world in his first term. But in the waning days of his administration, he is presiding over a collapse of the American financial system and broader economy that will have consequences for years to come. As a general rule, democracies don’t work well if voters do not hold political parties accountable for failure. While John McCain is trying desperately to pretend that he never had anything to do with the Republican Party, I think it would a travesty to reward the Republicans for failure on such a grand scale.
Kara Hopkins, McCain:
When John McCain appears on screen, all vacant grin and Eeyore cadence, I reach for the mute button. I hate his wars. I don’t trust his maverick pose. When he says “my friends,” he doesn’t mean me. But I am voting for him.
Call it damage control.
Elizabeth Lasch-Quinn, Obama:
Without doubt, my decision to vote for Barack Obama for president began when I watched his televised speech to the Democratic Convention in 2004. Today on the cold page of the computer printout, it loses something. Outside of the electrifying moment of his delivery, the speech contains less than I remembered. But what is there explains the reverberations in so many parts of my inherited mental and moral universe.
Leonard Liggio, Barr:
In the presidential contest, the Libertarian Party is the clear choice for opponents of the Paulson plan and the government policies that precipitated the crash.
Daniel McCarthy, Paul:
I’m writing in Ron Paul for president and Barry Goldwater Jr. for vice president. Why agonize over whether Barr or Baldwin is the better constitutionalist, when you can cast your ballot for the very best? A vote for Paul is an endorsement of all he has accomplished (and might yet achieve) and a rejection of the often honorable but never effective course of the third parties.
Scott McConnell, Obama:
I’m voting for Obama. While he doesn’t inspire me, he does impress. His two-year campaign has been disciplined and intelligent. He has surrounded himself with the mainstream liberal types who staffed the Clinton administration. Like countless social democratic leaders before him, he probably was more left-wing when he was younger. Circumstance and ambition have pushed him to the center. If elected, he will inherit an office burdened with massive financial and foreign-policy problems. Unlike John McCain, he won’t try to bomb his way out of the mess.
Declan McCullagh, Nobody:
I am not voting for president in 2008.
This was not an easy decision, but all the candidates are flawed, at least if you believe in limited government, civil liberties, free markets, and a foreign policy far less bellicose than what we have today.
Robert A. Pape, Obama:
I strongly support Barack Obama for president. In the past, I have supported both Republicans and Democrats, choosing the candidate with the leadership qualities and foreign-policy principles most likely to advance the national security of the United States. Of course, we have no crystal balls, but leaders with sound judgment on core policies and courage to look beyond political winds of the moment greatly improve the odds of long-term success. Obama scores uncommonly high on the “judgment-courage” index, qualities that will be needed as our next president seeks to repair the damage from the triple train wreck of our overstretched military, underperforming economy, and floundering international reputation that is now undermining our national security.
Llewellyn H. Rockwell Jr., Nobody:
Nonparticipation sends a message that we no longer believe in the racket they have cooked up for us, and we want no part of it.
You might say that this is ineffective. But what effect does voting have? It gives them what they need most: a mandate. Nonparticipation helps deny that to them. It makes them, just on the margin, a bit more fearful that they are ruling us without our consent. This is all to the good. The government should fear the people. Not voting is a good beginning toward instilling that fear.
This year especially there is no lesser of two evils. There is socialism or fascism. The true American spirit should guide every voter to have no part of either.
Gerald J. Russello, Nobody:
In this election, we face choosing between a “maverick” with a penchant for militarism who has been part of the Washington power structure for over two decades, and an inexperienced figure who wants to save us from ourselves, or, as my friend Gene Healy puts it, “the Messiah vs. the prophet of doom.” The only thing they agree on is that Washington is where the power is. Add to that a supine Congress busy giving away its war-making power to the executive, what’s left of the economy to the Treasury secretary, and the decision over any controversial issue to the courts. It is hard to see why voting for one rather than the other would make any discernible difference.
Steve Sailer, Connerly:
Thus, I intend to do in 2008 what I did during the Bush-Kerry whoop-tee-doo: write in the name of a public figure who is actually trying to solve a major, long-term problem, my friend Ward Connerly. Just as Social Security can’t afford too many retirees per worker, America won’t be able to afford its affirmative-action system when the racial ratio of minority beneficiaries per white benefactor reaches excessive levels. As America becomes majority minority (by 2042, by latest Census projection), the cost of affirmative action will become crippling. By helping get government racial preferences banned by voter initiative in California, Washington, and Michigan, Ward has made the future a little less grim.

Total: Obama, 5; Nobody, 4; McCain, 2; Barr, 1; Paul, 1; Baldwin,1; Connerly, 1.

Bonus quote, from Andrew Sullivan: “If the GOP decides that Palin is the future of their party, the GOP won’t have a future.”

Our favorite section of the Boston Globe is no more. It was called “Sidekick”, and it featured local news and events in our corner of the metro: the one called “Northwest”.* It had local restaurant reviews, club, theater, school and museum notices, plus other graces that made the paper especially relevant to our family.

Well, now the paper has “improved” itself cosmetically while diminishing itself substantially. Sidekick is gone. In its place is “G”, a new “magazine style section” that covers the whole metro and includes a bunch of other stuff, such as TV listings and funnies in color, neither of which interest us. The Globe explains,

Our new magazine-style section will be called “g” — for Globe — and it reflects what you, our readers, have been telling us about how you prefer to receive your reviews, previews, profiles and arts, culture and features coverage.

You want to find stories of interest quickly and easily. You want it in a format that can be carried easily as you move about town — while on the train or on a lunch break.

Every day, “g” will highlight things to do around town.

Problem is, “town” is Boston. While we love Boston, and go there more than a lot of folks who live north of the Charles, we don’t live there. Did readers really tell the Globe to cut out the local stuff? I kinda doubt it.*

Last weekend we were in Baltimore visiting relatives. I was surprised that they didn’t get the Baltimore Sun, which I recall used to be a good newspaper. So, while we were out at a local Starbucks I bought a Sunday Sun $1.88 ($2 with tax). While we waited for our drinks to be made, I field-stripped out the advertising inserts, and read pretty much everything that interested me. There just wasn’t much there. Very disappointing. Back at the ranch my son-in-law told me that the Sun had laid off over half their editorial staff, and made up the difference with bigger pictures. That’s the main reason they don’t subscribe.

I don’t know if the Globe is going through the same thing, but I suspect it is. The shame for them is that the Sidekick was our main reason for keeping the paper, our morning connection to the neighborhood, and what made the Globe most relevant to us. Now it’s gone.

“All politics is local,” Tip O’Neill famously said. Same goes for newspapers. Alas, the Globe seems to have forgotten that.

* Ron Newman, in a comment below, asks if I’m sure about this. I was, but now I’m not. As I say in the follow-up comment, I made some assumptions in this post that may not be true. So I’m following up with a new post that will ask for facts and make no assumptions. Meanwhile, my apologies.

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Somewhere between Barry Goldwater and Sarah Palin, conservatism changed from a philosophical anchor — what Goldwater called a “conscience” — into a pure partisanship, defined at least as much by what and who it’s against (Liberals, Democrats, Hillary, Obama) as by what it’s for. The latter now includes a list of causes (opposition to abortion and gay marriage, religiously-defined “family values”) that bear no resemblance to Goldwater’s essentially Libertarian philosophy.

I was raised by Republicans who voted enthusiastically for Goldwater (who lost resoundingly to Lyndon Johnson) in 1964. I read The Conscience of a Conservative (which was published in 1960) as a teenager and felt its influence even as I became an active opponent of the Vietnam War in college (I was in the Class of ’69) and became a hard-core Democrat through my 20s and 30s.

In the first chapter, of Conscience, Goldwater writes, “for the American Conservative, there is no difficulty in identifying the day’s overriding political challenge: it is to preserve and extend freedom. As he surveys the various attitudes and institutions and laws that currently prevail in America, many questions will occur to him, but the Conservative’s first concern will always be: Are we maximizing freedom?

Is that what conservatism is about today? Hard to tell. It’s certainly not from what I hear and see from Rush, Fox News, Dobson, Hewitt and most of Republican broadcasting’s amen corner.

For those who care to separate the partisan wheat from the philosophical chaff, David Frum’s latest is required reading. In it he points to this Stanley Greenberg poll, which shows how isolated Republican partisanship has become, and how far it has drifted from the mainstream of the American electorate’s sensibilities — the same electorate that gave us Reagan, both Bushes and Bill Clinton (who offended the Right’s moral sensibilities even while he governed as a centrist making plenty of rightward decisions — especially in respect to social welfare and the economy).

Right after the 1994 “Republican Revolution”, I found myself at a party in San Diego, talking to Milton Friedman. This wasn’t the famous economist, but rather a former speechwriter for Gerald Ford and other notables. He told me that this revolution was doomed to fail in the long run, because it brought together two value systems — one economic and the other religious — that were in conflict.

What held them together so long was pure partisanship.

That’s coming to an end. The split has opened. Rush, Hannity and Dobson are proving to be a branch, not a trunk. The roots in Goldwater and William F. Buckley still hold, and the branch is breaking away. For more about that, read Christopher Buckley’s How Limbaugh tried (and failed) to replace my dad. Pretty much nails it.

I have no idea if I’ll ever vote for a Republican again. Haven’t for a long time. Haven’t voted for all that many Democrats, either. Many of my votes have been for None of the Above, which has often been the Libertarian. (For what it’s worth, I voted for Gore and Kerry, because I thought we needed not to elect George W. Bush. I don’t believe I voted for Clinton either time, but I don’t remember. And I’ll vote for Obama this time, not just for the candidate but to oppose McCain, and especially .) But I’ll be watching to see if the Grand Old Party rediscovers its roots — in personal freedom, minimal government, responsible economic policies and other solid sensibilities.

Hope it does. After Obama gets elected, we’ll need those people to hold him in check. Not the nyah-sayers on Fox News and AM radio.

Last may I wrote Reunion.com spam alert, which ended this way:

  I am among the least litigious people on Earth. But I can’t help but wonder … Could I (or we) sue these bastards for false representation? Invasion of privacy?

I’m still getting comments there, I guess because (I just discovered), my post is the lucky top result in searches for reunion.com spam. The total number of results is 374,000.

It’s obvious from recent comments that Reunion.com is still behaving badly. At this point, however, I have no interest in suing or otherwise going after the company.

For those interested, I suggest reading the Wikipedia article on Reunion.com, especially the sections Privacy, E-mail Spoofing and Better Business Bureau. The Los Angeles branch of the latter gives Reunion.com a “D.” I’d vote for an “F,” but any bad grade is better than none.

[Note... Not sure what's wrong here, but the last few sentences of this post aren't appearing, and somehow the next post is screwed up too. No time to fix right now. Sorry about that. Suffice to say that the problem here is MoveOn and not the Obama campaign. Still, it's Obama's problem. - DS]

So I just got an email that goes like this:

Dear Doc,

Your friend _______ sent you the following video from CNNBC: “Obama’s Loss Traced To Doc Searls”

Watch it here.

The first time I saw one of these was when a likely Obama voter pointed it out to me. They were royally pissed, confused and offended.

I’m technically savvy enough to know that this is a fill-in-the-blank video, generated by a robotic process. But less technical voters might not know that. This same person told me it looked like somebody had invaded their personal records somehow. It felt like an invasion of privacy, even though the source of the video was actually a friend — as it was for me. Worse for Obama, it made this person want to vote for McCain.

After showing the video, “CNNBC” says,

Doc, It’s Your Turn To Customize This Video For Your Friends

Don’t let any of your friends be that one missing vote on Election Day. Enter their names and email addresses below to send them each a personalized version of this video with their name in it.

And don’t worry—after your friends watch their videos, we won’t email them again. And we’ll never sell or distribute your email address or your friends’ email addresses.

I’m not worried about that. I’m worried it’ll backfire on the Obama campaign.

I don’t know what the connection is between “cnnbc” and the Obama campaign, if any. (Somebody at one campaign office just told me there is none.) But it’s in the interest of the campaign to discourage it.

Update: I just ran whois on http://www.cnnbcvideo.com, and got this:

Registrant: MoveOn.org
Political Action
PO Box 9218
Berkeley, California 94709
United States

Small print at the bottom of the page to which that URL redirects (the one where you put the names off all your friends in boxes) says this:

Paid for by MoveOn.org Political Action, http://pol.moveon.org/. Not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee. Co-sponsored by TrueMajority PAC.

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Interesting NY Times piece on the emergence of the blog-based op-ed business, courtesy of Ariana Huffington and Tina Brown.

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