NDN Blog

Obama's time in IL State Senate gives clues

The WSJ has an interesting article about how the Illinois Senate taught Barack Obama the ways of bi-partisanship as well as the difficulties of politics.

For more information on NDN's coverage of the 2008 Presidential election, click here.

Vilsack dropping out

According to this article in the DesMoines Register, Tom Vilsack is planning to withdraw from the 2008 presidential race in a "major campaign announcement" scheduled for 11am.

For more information on NDN's coverage of the 2008 Presidential election, click here.

Emerging strategies for the Middle East

The Post reports this morning on some new, interesting thinking by Senator Biden and other Senate Democrats to revisit the original Congressional authorization of our war in Iraq. 

While I think there is a lot of merit in this emerging approach, I am not convinced that describing what is happening in Iraq as a "civil war," or "sectarian violence" is the most accurate way to be describing the complexity of what is happening there today.  For example, the importance of rising regional tensions between Sunnis and Shiites - a major new dynamic in the Middle East, and one that I'm not convinced we have come to terms with yet - is captured yet again in this story in the Times.  

The Times also features an op-ed today by Abbas Milani that lays out a very plausible path forward for our policy towards Iran.  It concludes with this strong graph:

War and peace with Iran are both possible today. With prudence, backed by power but guided by the wisdom to recognize the new signals coming from Tehran, the United States can today achieve a principled solution to the nuclear crisis. Congress, vigilant American citizens and a resolute policy from America’s European allies can ensure that this principled peace is given a chance.

Wherever we go from here, I am proud of those leaders in both parties who have not accepted the failed approach of the Administration, and working, diligently, to chart a better course for our policy in the Middle East.

With Growth Slowing and Inflation Rising, What’s the Administration’s Plan?

For the last several years, with the economy growing more than 3 percent a year, job creation has been slow and most people’s wages and incomes have hardly gained at all.  So, what can we expect now, with the overall economy slowing down?  Industrial production is falling, so business investment is likely to lag; retail sales are flat, so consumer demand and spending will also slow; and home construction has plummeted.  It looks like we’re in for a spell of much slower overall growth -- 1.5 to 2 percent growth is a good guess. And that will mean even slower job gains and, in all likelihood, lower real incomes for average families.  What does the administration propose to do about it?  In a word, nothing.

A second shoe is also dropping: Inflation is up, even with energy prices generally behaving themselves.  A lot of it is fast-rising health-care costs, which again this administration has ignored for six years.  Some of it is the impact of last year’s higher energy prices now making their way through the economy – for which, again, this administration has no answer.  Some of it is food prices, driven up by bad weather and the unintended effect of government-directed demand for ethanol, which drives up the price of corn that goes into animal feeds and sweeteners, as well as the price of other gains as farm businesses shift from them to corn.  And some of it is higher import prices from last year’s weakening dollar.

The upshot of this inflation that even as growth slows, the Fed can’t cut interest rates – which means no relief from the slowing growth.

If the administration won’t take this seriously, Congress can do so.  Let’s not wait for the next election to see those who would be president submit real plans to contain rising health care costs, reduce our economy’s fossil-fuel dependence, and increase opportunities for average workers to improve their IT skills. 

Simon in Ellen Goodman's Piece "The Perils of Cyberbaggage"

From nationally syndicated columnist Ellen Goodman:

The Perils of Cyberbaggage
Posted on Feb 21, 2007
By Ellen Goodman

BOSTON—I suppose you could describe these two women as cybertrailblazers. But their cybertrails, alas, followed them from a checkered past, not to the glorious future. And the blaze they created was a bit more like a flameout.

Bloggers Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan came in from the heady environment of the blogosphere to the more staid climate of presidential politics, to work for John Edwards.

The political cyberspace where they were known as Pandagon and Shakespeare’s Sister is usually described with euphemisms such as raucous and freewheeling. On that terrain, no weasel wordsmiths need apply. You win attention with controversy and get hits with an over-the-top persona and a vivid vocabulary. A campaign, on the other hand, no matter how much it wants netroots, is, well, controversy-averse.

Marcotte’s blog style was described by Time magazine as “issues-based but not above snark and a healthy dose of profanity.” McEwan describes herself as a “firebrand” opponent of theocracy: “I am, however, vulgar. And I am trash-talking.”

I doubt these descriptions were in their job interviews with the Edwards campaign, but it didn’t take long for a conservative watchdog to glean through the 24/7 postings of the two bloggers and come up with the sort of sound bites that leave teeth marks on a campaign. There was McEwan’s description of Bush’s “wingnut Christofascist base.” There was Marcotte’s slam on the Catholic prohibition on birth control as a way to force women to “bear more tithing Catholics.” Within days, the two women resigned from the campaign and returned to the briar patch of their blogs.

This may be the first certifiable staff flameout of the 2008 campaign. But it’s also about a clash between two cultures and two languages.

We are living now in both the blogosphere and the mainstream. One is ironic and edgy, challenging and partisan. The other is cautious and modulated. Marcotte’s and McEwan’s fate raises the question about whether it’s possible to move from the world of AnkleBitingPundits to presidential politics without every word sticking to your shoe.

We already know that in the digital world, the past is never past. As Simon Rosenberg of NDN, a progressive advocacy group bridging these two worlds, says, “All of us are going to be living every moment of our past lives. People are living with things they did and said in their youths in a way they never did before.”

President Bush once famously said, “When I was young, I did a lot of foolish things.” Bill Clinton said he smoked marijuana but didn’t inhale. Barack Obama admitted doing “a little blow.” But we didn’t have postings of the partying George, the smoking Bill or the snorting Barack.

These days politicians are one “macaca” away from videotaped disaster. If you don’t believe it, see Rudy Giuliani as a drag queen flirting with Donald Trump on YouTube.

Meanwhile, the cybertrail doesn’t just track bloggers. Five million college students use Facebook. When Bob Corker was running for the Senate, voters in Tennessee were treated to his daughter kissing a girl on Facebook. California Rep. Brian Bilbray’s underage daughter Briana posted a picture of herself on MySpace with a cooler of Miller High Life.

Postings come down but never really disappear. They sit, like land mines, in the digital archives.

Last year, a college administrator in Boston sent out a campuswide warning: “Digital Dirt May Hurt.” But how many students working on their grade point average think that an employer may also be checking their booty calls and keg parties? Will recruiters get the joke when they see Bill Frist’s son Jonathan in Facebook claiming membership in a group where there were “No Jews Allowed. Just Kidding. No seriously’’?

“The culture is going to be confronting this,” says Rosenberg. “Can you have youthful indiscretions? Can you evolve, grow up? In recent years the culture has been more forgiving of youthful indiscretions. Will it continue?’’ Which culture will decide?

I have no fear for Shakespeare’s Sister or Pandagon, who are both up and writing with great energy. But as Marcotte has written, “even the more even-keeled bloggers are likely to have something in their archives that could be taken out of context and bandied about on the cable news networks.” It will be a loss if only the most buttoned-up bloggers can make the transition from uncompromising critic to campaign staff or even candidate.

As for young people who are increasingly on the Internet side of this cultural divide? Parents, it’s 11 p.m. Do you know where on the Internet your children are—and what they are doing to mess up their résumé? Follow the cybertrail.

NDN announces dates for Annual Meeting: May 21-22

NDN is pleased to announce that our Annual Meeting will be held May 21-22, 2007 at the Capitol Hilton here in Washington, DC. We'll be sharing more details with you soon. For now, please mark the dates on your calendar and we hope to see you in May.

    NDN Annual Meeting
    Capitol Hilton
    1001 16th Street, NW
    May 21-22, 2007
    Washington, DC

You can stay up to date on the annual meeting by visiting our website. If you have any ideas/suggestions on who we should invite to speak, please feel free to leave a comment here on the blog.


The changing advertising landscape, continued

The Times has a good story today looking at how the internet is changing traditional advertising practices:

IF the 20th century was known in marketing circles as the advertising century, the 21st may be the advertising measurement century.

Marketers are increasingly focused on the effectiveness of their pitches, trying to figure out the return on investment for ad spending. That is spurring most of the major media — along with many large research companies like Arbitron, Nielsen and Taylor Nelson Sofres — to improve the methods by which they measure audiences.

The ability of newer digital media to provide more precise data has also led traditional media like television, radio, magazines and newspapers to try upgrading the ways they count consumers.

“There’s a little something called the Internet, something that all other media are trying to get as accountable as,” said Jon Mandel, chief executive at the NielsenConnect unit of the Nielsen Company in New York, which brings together data from various Nielsen divisions.

For more on our thinking about the emergence of a 21st century media, follow this blog and visit www.newpolitics.net, the home of our think tank for politics, the New Politics Institute. 

Update: Obama on Facebook

The Facebook group "Barack Obama (One Million Strong for Barack)", which we first posted on four weeks and three days ago, now has 294,875 members, an increase of 178,627 people. NPI Fellow Joe Trippi recognized the mobilizing potential of mediums like Facebook in the Washington Post, saying:

"It took [the Dean for President] campaign six months to get 139,000 people on an e-mail list," Trippi said. "It took one Facebook group, what, barely a month to get 200,000? That's astronomical."

For more information on NDN's coverage of the 2008 Presidential election, click here.

Restoring habeas corpus

At the end of the last Congress Senator John McCain successfully led the fight to pass something called the Military Tribunal Bill.  Among other things, it stripped anyone in the US who is not a current citizen of their habeas corpus rights. 

Practically what this means is the President can now detain non-US citizens indefinitely, even those here legally, without judicial review.  If this sounds extraordinary, it is. 

The Times weighs in with a strong editorial, American Liberty at the Precipice, calling for these fundamental rights to be restored.  Jeffrey Smith, a former CIA general counsel, also weighs in on this issue and other issues related to Military Tribunals, torture and rendition.   Both should be read to gain a better understanding of this important legislative opportunity this year. 

I strongly believe that the coalitions working to improve our immigration system need to take up this effort too.  There should be little doubt that unless this remarkable legislative overreach is fixed, it will deter future immigration to the US, and may even cause current, legal immigrants to leave. 

I've been a little suprized that those businesses heavily dependent on foreign workers have not been more vocal in their opposition to what Senator McCain and the President have done.  It not only is a betrayal of America's historic commitment to liberty and the rule of law, but in the modern global economy, it will undermine the business model of many of our fastest growing and most important companies.

Additional note - As a friend just wrote in, there is a deep irony behind this.  While Senator McCain may be working to grant legal status to 11 milliion undocument workers in the US today through is strong leadership on comprehensive immigration reform, his Military Tribunal Bill ensures that when they become legal they will still lack one of the most fundamental rights guarenteed to previous immigrants since the founding of our country.   

Fighting Misinformation in this Out-of-Control World

One of the beauties, and the dangers, of the new wide open world of the people-powered, bottom-up internet is that it’s out of anybody’s control. Politics,  which has long been about control from the center, has to radically adapt to this new reality.

There’s a whole argument that this trend ultimately benefits progressives, since conservatives have long prided themselves on their highly organized, highly controlled, highly packaged political campaigns that won’t work anymore. Progressives, on the other hand, are much more used to the art of herding cats.

Anyway, there is a bottom-up tool that helps combat the persistent false rumors and misinformation that so easily arise on the internet. It’s Snopes.com, which does about as good a job as can be done in chasing down urban legends and other wild viral  email chains.

Someone recently pointed out the page that has to do with misinformation about the political issue of Immigration. It’s worth checking it out as an example of where to look the next time some progressive is  swift-boated.

Peter Leyden   

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