Sunday, September 30, 2007

Gingrich to sit out 2008 presidential race

WASHINGTON -- Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker and conservative leader, said Saturday that he had decided not to seek the 2008 Republican presidential nomination.
Gingrich exists in a parallel universe to Al Gore. These two may be the most influential (behind the scenes or in front of the screens) actors today in American politics. I expect Gingrich will play an important role in an eventual Republican Party make-over. We are still waiting for the news that Gore is in fact, also, definitely, for sure, absolutely not running. But, there may be a small window which has yet to completely close. It is widely assumed that if Gore does announce his intentions it will be mid October (when he is expected to win the Nobel Peace Prize). Both Edwards and Obama are seemingly stagnating (which is were his supporters are) so there is a little window he could jump through. I just don't think so.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Democrats, look West

"A new breed of 'progressives' is shifting the party's center of gravity from the South and Northeast.

This new progressive movement, which now exerts a strong gravitational pull on the direction of Democratic politics, is a national phenomenon, but much of its financing and intellectual energy comes from the West."

I think Bai is spot on with this last statement. Much of the "new progressivism" has emerged from a very tech savvy online community which has much of its roots on the West Coast. I've always considered that the early (1980's) online communities and ideologies represented two distinct traditions; libertarian and communitarian. Much of those early online political and cultural values have shaped the modern online progressive activist ideology.
Bai writes;
"Because West Coast progressives were among the earliest innovators in the new technologies of the Digital Age, it's not surprising that their movement champions interactivity and the use of the Internet as a tool for organizing and messaging."

One of the foundational principals of the online progressive community is transparency. This explains, at least in part, why the online Left is so far ahead of the Right. The principals of transparency, open source, and collaboration fundamentally open up online activism for greater democratic participation and political innovation.
"The goal of this new movement, to the extent that it can be readily distilled, is to create a Democratic Party that is more responsive to its disaffected liberal base rather than to just single-issue groups and undecided voters."

Last December, I worked on a project for Vibeke's class on American Patriotism titled, Electronic Dissent and the American Left.This was the crux of my main argument;
"The struggle for equality and justice in American history can be seen through attempts of the Left to define and create communities capable of enriching people’s lives and providing political power. However, a major theme in American political thinking since the emergence of the New Left in the 1960’s has revolved around the disconnect of leftist political philosophy from translating into any meaningful or lasting political action. Today there is a real and substantial reconnect, but its not being led by the old guard academic Left, its coming directly from the people, enabled with new and powerful communication technologies which are revolutionizing our understanding of community and the basis of political power."

Bai goes on to write;
"Understanding this seismic shift in Democratic politics, from a party dominated by a tired, receding East-South establishment to one defined by an East-West alliance, and especially by the influence of technology-savvy Western progressives, will be critical to making sense of the coming campaign."

I think overall Bai makes some great points which follow my line of reasoning. I wouldn't place all the focus on the Netroots however. Absolutely, anyone who doesn't understand this very unique and growing constintuency within the Democratic party may not be able to fully grasp the changing social and political environment. However, demographics are also comming into play as many of the Western Mountain States turn blue, or at least purple. This is brought on by the large out migrations of tech industry folks from California. Furthermore, the disparity between working and middle classes and the wealthy has been increasing for 30 years. This combined with the overall dissatisfaction of the Bush presidency and the disilussionment of "compassionate conservatism" bodes very well for Democrats. However, the Netroots goal is not merely Democratic victories, but a transformation of the soul of the Democratic party. The Netroots are claiming the "intelectual" mantle from the "New Left", stressing solidarity over single issue driven politics. The Academic Left seems to be following the lead of the Netroots, which do not represent academia, yet for the most part are middle-class, educated, professional citizen activists. By no means is the Netroots monolithic. Already fractures and disputes are occurring from within the ranks of some of the leading online voices. Perhaps the "Netroots will fracture and/or become co-opted by traditonal Democratic power structures. Maybe unions and other grass roots organizations will become more adept at messaging and activism within the new media paradigm. So far, the Online Left has not made any real meaningful organizational alliances with labor. I think this is more the fault of Progressives than Labor, but both groups are the worse off for it. Finally, one must always consider the possibility of government regulation which could ultimately hamper the current open and egalitarian structure of the internet. One thing is for sure however. Online is where the action is today. It may be yet too soon to claim the American Frontier is closed.

Monday, September 24, 2007


Michael Hirschorn argues that, "by bringing order to the Web, Facebook could become as important to us as Google"

At the moment, Facebook is the site that, in my experience, comes closest to fulfilling the promise of social media. In so doing, it raises some bigger questions about how we’re going to be using the Web in the future and whether some of the received wisdom about the Internet—that we’re headed inexorably toward a digital universe of chaotic, endlessly shifting interactivity—is true.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Friday Morning Music Cafe

Billie Holiday - Strange Fruit

Jim Crow and the Jena 6

The lives of six young black men are being ruined by Jim Crow justice in Jena, Louisiana.

The District Attorney has refused to protect the rights of Jena's Black population and has turned the police and courts into instruments of intimidation and oppression.
The New York Times has the story here.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

President John F. Kennedy's September 12, 1962 address on the decision to go to the moon.

I came across this JFK speech and wanted to share it here. Here he makes his argument that America should lead in space exploration and be the first to the moon. What's also interesting is that Kennedy maps out Western and American technological history which is reminiscent of Abraham Lincoln’s “Lectures on Discoveries and Inventions.” He also echoes Vannevar Bush’s “As We May Think” talking about the difficulties of information overload. This is a truly great speech.

Kennedy was also a skillful politician. In response to critics who ask, "why the moon?" Kennedy poses the rhetorical question, "Why does Rice play Texas?" (The University of Texas). This gets a huge roar from the crowd. Rice is a small, elite private university in Houston, and UT is and was one of the powerhouses of Texas football.

This is the part 1 of the speach
Part 2

First MTV/MySpace Presidential Dialogue

"In another sign that the upcoming presidential election is truly the first of the digital age, MTV and MySpace are teaming up to present the first-ever presidential debate to feature real time, one-on-one dialogues between candidates and voters."

"The first hour-long town-hall style dialogue will take place on September 27 with former Sen. John Edwards in the early primary state of New Hampshire. MTV viewers and and MySpace users will be able to submit questions for the events through MySpaceIM, mobile devices and e-mail while they watch the live webcast. At the same time, online viewer reaction will be monitored through live polling on both and"

In the spirit of user-generated content, which is what's driving this new political format, I've uploaded this Youtube video which does a great job of highlighting the important points about the Myspace and Youtube forums.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Images of the American Road and Semiotic Theories

I came across this semiotic analysis of the above image while surfing the web this evening.

In The Economist scenario, on the other hand, it's as if the left (in a freak act of nature, in the form of a wannabe-storm cloud) is conspiring not just to high jack the country but to drive it off into the wilderness.
What initially caught my attention was the familiar open yet empty American road. Miles Orvell will be giving his lecture next week, "WESTWARD THE COURSE OF EMPIRE: Revisiting the Road in American Culture"

I just wanted to add that the finger pointing left is also crooked. Which also suggests that the "forces of the left" are in someway sinister, sick, or handicapped.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Times to End Charges on Web Site

The New York Times will stop charging for access to parts of its Web site, effective at midnight Tuesday night, reflecting a growing view in the industry that subscription fees cannot outweigh the potential ad revenue from increased traffic on a free site.
This is great news for the Times and for us. The new internet model employed by the lilkes of Google etc... is completely altering the way news and other media will operate. This model was developed early on for independent blogs. Just a year ago, the "establishment press" was bemoaning the upstart blogs. Today, it appears those uppity bloggers are in part generating much of the indirect traffic which has promted their new open access policy.

Wesley Clark Endorses Hillary Clinton

NEW YORK (AP) — Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton was endorsed Saturday by retired Gen. Wesley Clark, who sought the party's nomination in 2004 and whose sterling military credentials could bolster her bid to be the first female commander in chief.

Clark, the former supreme allied commander of NATO, praised the New York senator as "a remarkable person" with the skills and experience to be president.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Supreme Court Phalanx

"The revolution that many commentators predicted when President Bush appointed two ultra-right-wing Supreme Court justices is proceeding with breathtaking impatience, and it is a revolution Jacobin in its disdain for tradition and precedent. Bush's choices, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, have joined the two previously most right-wing justices, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, in an unbreakable phalanx bent on remaking constitutional law by overruling, most often by stealth, the central constitutional doctrines that generations of past justices, conservative as well as liberal, had constructed."

Al Gore wins Emmy award

"We are trying to open up the television medium so that viewers can help them make television and join the conversation of democracy and reclaim American democracy by talking about the choices we have to make"

McCain: Democrat move on Iraq 'unconstitutional'

"Where in the Constitution of the United States does it say that the Congress decides how long people will spend on tours of duty and how long they will spend back in the United States? It's blatantly unconstitutional," McCain said. "The Constitution of the United States said Congress will declare wars and fund wars."
Blatantly unconstitutional? McCain's convoluted argument fits well with the theory of the "unitary executive." Once congress (read the people's representatives) grants authorization, the president can do whatever and for how ever long he/she deems necessary? Anyone who has taken a basic legal history or US constitutional law course understands that interpretation is always in flux. However, this sort of argument, which overwhelmingly favors the power of the executive over the legislature (and the judicial), defies any reasonable interpretation.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Articles of faith

"When two eminent US scholars wrote about the 'Israel lobby' they were vilified by colleagues and the Washington Post. This week Barack Obama joined the attack. Ed Pilkington hears their story"

Saturday September 15, 2007
The Guardian

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Friday Morning Music Café

Friday Morning Music Café with Al Green
Al Green-Let's stay together

Al Green-Take Me to the River

Bonus Track;

Talking Heads - Live in Rome 1980

Transatlantic Trends

WASHINGTON, DC, & BRUSSELS (September 6, 2007) - A survey released today shows that, despite new leaders in Great Britain, France, and Germany pledging to work with the United States, public expectations for a renewed transatlantic partnership continue to lag behind leaders' rhetoric.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Democratic Dark Horse

by Stuart Noble
John Edwards is my dark horse of the 2008 presidential elections. I may be going out on a limb here, but there's a real progressive current moving through the US. Several western and mountain states are turning blue. Democrats are in a strong position to not only pick up the presidency but also increase their majorities in both chambers of the congress. Democrat does not necassarilly equate to progressive, liberal or green. Edwards however has been out front as the most progressive populist candidate and his message is gaining traction.

Of course, the United Transportation Union endorsed Clinton. The pundits and the Edwards campaign really expected that endorsement to go to Edwards. The UTU is primarilly based in New York and I imagine there was some pretty heavy back room dealing by the Clinton team to pick up that endorsement.

Edwards now leads the field with overall union endorsements, both in size and numbers.

Senator Edwards now has the largest bloc of union support of any of the presidential candidates!

Four major unions have endorsed Senator Edwards, over this past week:

*The Steelworkers, who represent 1.2 million active members and retirees
*The Mine Workers, representing 105,000 active members and retirees.
*The Transport Workers Union, who represent 200,000 members and retirees.
*The Brotherhood of Carpenters Union
Here is a pretty good recap by a citizen journalist on Edwards' labor day rally with the carpenters union.

The SEIU, Service Employees International Union, is due to announce their support for a candidate. The New York Times reports the following;
"Union officials say former Senator John Edwards has mounted a full-court press to persuade the S.E.I.U.’s top officials to endorse him, but Hillary Clinton’s camp and Barack Obama’s camp are maneuvering vigorously to try to deny Mr. Edwards the organization’s backing."
The Times doesn't mention that Edwards has been heavily envolved with the SEIU for several years. The SEIU is a major player in Nevada, which is another early primary state. If any candidate should pick up this endorsement it's Edwards. This would be a huge pick-up but one can never be sure.

None the less, Edwards still leads in Iowa (which is still the first state to caucus or primary) and is holding steady thus far in New Hamshire. Edwards needs to keep up the Union endorsements to gain momentum in other early states like Michican.

Also, "Edwards tops Texas Democrats' straw poll." This should add momentum to the recent campaign strategy of hammering the electibility argument. Edwards claims to be the most electable candidate in a general election.

More importantly, he is clearly running on a truly populist platform. The progressive political blogosphere has yet to really back Edwards (or any candidate). I believe it's a reflection of the growing influence and institutionalization within Democratic politics that has caused such hesitation. 2007 thus far does not resemble "Crashing the Gates."

The ultimate question may be whether the Edwards campaign manages to utilize the internet as a means to disintermediate the dominant mainstream media narratives which disparage the populist progressive movement. The "progressive netroots" may not be the expected ally. Can the Edwards' campaign find new and inovative ways around both the MSM and a subdued "progressive blogosphere?" Perhaps the "new media" won't, at the end of the day, matter much.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Madeleine L’Engle, Author of "A Wrinkle in Time," Dies at 88

"Madeleine L’Engle, who in writing more than 60 books, including childhood fables, religious meditations and science fiction, weaved emotional tapestries transcending genre and generation, died Thursday in Connecticut. She was 88."
"A Wrinkle in Time" was one of my favorite books as a young boy. It's been years since I've thought about the book, almost forgoten it completely until L'Engle's death comes through the news wires. I'm ordering a copy now for my son. Check out the NY Times piece above. NPR has an entertaining interview with astronaut Janice Voss about the impact of L'Engle's book here.

Clinton proves favourite across the Atlantic

"Europeans overwhelmingly support Hillary Clinton in her bid to become the next US president, according to a poll published today."
This pretty much falls right in line with what I'm hearing from the Danes. I haven't done any formalized polling but everyone I've spoken with here in Denmark seems to support Hillary.

What I find most interesting is the Danish media coverage of the race. It's completely presented in a binary format. Clinton v Obama, Democrats v Republicans, conservative v liberal, etc... Of course, the US media prays at the alter of "the two sided coin". However, Danish, and European politics are multi-representational, multi-partied, multi-ideas affairs. That is also reflected in the European media.

Why does the European media follow the American binary media framing of American politics? Is this journalistic apathy which simply regurgitates dominant US media narratives? Do Europeans believe that America is somehow truly unique, representing the world's only two-diminsional society.

Politically, Hillary Clinton falls somewhere slightly to the right of Denmark's current "right" leaning ruling coalition. One would be hard pressed to find European support among the Republican field. However, if people had more information about the Democratic field, I doubt support for Hillary would be so strong.

Perhaps none of this matters. Europeans don't vote in US elections.

As an American, the relatively open and objective coverage by the European media on European politics is both refreshing and encouraging. However, the short-sided and narrow portrayal of US politics from the main stream European media is most puzzling.

What gives?

Friday, September 07, 2007

Friday Morning Music Café with Miles Davis

Here's Miles Davis performing "No Blues"

...and "Footprints"

Monday, September 03, 2007

How a cult hijacked American politics.

Flight of the Wingnuts

by Jonathan Chait

At that moment, there were a few points that Cheney might have made in response. First, he could have noted that the Laffer Curve was not, strictly speaking, correct. Yes, a zero tax rate would obviously produce zero revenue, but the assumption that a 100-percent tax rate would also produce zero revenue was, just as obviously, false. Surely Cheney was familiar with communist states such as the Soviet Union, with its 100 percent tax rate. The Soviet revenue scheme may not have represented the cutting edge in economic efficiency, but it nonetheless managed to collect enough revenue to maintain an enormous military, enslave Eastern Europe, fund ambitious projects such as Sputnik, and so on. Second, Cheney could have pointed out that, even if the Laffer Curve was correct in theory, there was no evidence that the U.S. income tax was on the downward slope of the curve--that is, that rates were then high enough that tax cuts would produce higher revenue.

The significance of the evening was not the conversion of Cheney but the creation of a powerful symbol that could spread the word of supply-side economics. If you try to discuss economic theory with most politicians, their eyes will glaze over. But the Curve explained it all. There in that sloping parabola was the magical promise of that elusive politician's nirvana, a cost-free path to prosperity: lower taxes, higher revenues. It was beautiful, irresistible.
Read entire article here.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

American Dreamer

American Dreamer
by Paul Goldberger September 2007

If Lauren's vision of America was invented out of whole cloth—no pun intended—that hardly matters. Today, his odes to American style are American style to the rest of the world. Polo Ralph Lauren is the one American brand that has a significant international presence, on a par with Prada, Gucci, Chanel, and Louis Vuitton. The only American name that comes close to Lauren as a global luxury icon is Tiffany, and it doesn't make clothes. Ralph Lauren makes pretty much everything, and you can buy his products as easily on New Bond Street, in London, and in the Ginza, in Tokyo, as in Chicago and Dallas. Lauren's stores in Jidda, Riyadh, Kuwait City, Dubai, and Tel Aviv—not to mention Munich, Athens, and Shanghai—are the best advertisements for America that you could ask for. Ralph Lauren should get an award from the State Department, since he has done more for this country's image than the Voice of America. When you walk into the Polo Ralph Lauren shop on Place de la Madeleine, in Paris, you don't think of the United States as the country that invaded Iraq. You think of it as the country that made it possible for everyone to be rich, or at least to have some of the trappings of the good life.

Peter Daou,THE TRIANGLE: Limits of Blog Power:

"Looking at the political landscape, one proposition seems unambiguous: blog power on both the right and left is a function of the relationship of the netroots to the media and the political establishment. Forming a triangle of blogs, media, and the political establishment is an essential step…"

2008 will be a great election for Democrats in the Senate.

Red Dawn
by John B. Judis
Only at TNR Online | Post date 08.31.07

verall, the Democrats will have an advantage in 2008 in having to defend far fewer seats than the Republicans. Only twelve seats held by Democrats will be up compared to 22 for Republicans. And several of those Republicans were elected during the peculiar post-9/11 circumstances of the 2002 election, when President Bush used his immense popularity and the threat of a terrorist attack to boost the chances of several Republican underdogs.

Going, going, Gonzales

The Economist provides a nice concise recap on the AG resignation and related issues.

The battle over Mr Gonzales was one of the most bitter of Mr Bush's second term, inflaming relations between Congress and the White House, eating up weeks of congressional time and leaving the Department of Justice a dysfunctional shell, with several of its top posts empty and the professional staff more demoralised than at any time since Watergate.

Captain America

In his first major newspaper interview since arriving in the US, David Beckham talks about life in the celebrity circus and his mission to make America fall in love with football

Tom Watt
Sunday September 2, 2007
Observer Sport Monthly

It is a Tuesday evening at the end of July. The Galaxy are playing Pachuca in Superliga, a fledgling tournament based loosely on the Champions League, with four teams each from the States and Mexico. It is, in part, an obvious attempt to connect with what should be a natural audience for the game in the US. The whole country is becoming more Hispanic as immigration from Central America, in particular, continues. More people now speak Spanish as a first language in Los Angeles than speak English. The migrant population bring a traditional football culture with them, though they are yet to be convinced by MLS.

The week that followed was, if anything, more intense: the build-up to Beckham's first scheduled appearance in a Galaxy shirt, a friendly against Chelsea on 21 July. The stadium was sold out; celebrities such as Sharon Stone and Arnold Schwarzenegger squeezed into pitchside seats and executive boxes all round the ground. Photographers fixed their lenses on the substitutes' bench, where Beckham, nursing an ankle injury, sat watching his new team-mates until making an appearance with 13 minutes left in his new team's 1-0 defeat. An overflow press box had to be set up to accommodate the sports journalists and gossip writers. The host broadcaster, ESPN, used an unprecedented 19 cameras to cover an event that rewarded their investment with the best-ever viewing figures for a game involving an MLS club.

But for all the season tickets sold - there were 5,000 new registrations within two days of Beckham's move being confirmed - he believes the HDC crowd around us represents a unique opportunity within the local community. 'It's always been said football can bring people together all around the world. I think something special can go on in this stadium and in this city as well. Look around tonight: there's people from everywhere: black, white; Mexican, South American, Korean, Chinese, European. People from all the different communities, all the different neighbourhoods, they're all here together for the football.'