Saturday, July 31, 2004

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Bad Blogger:
You're outta here, pal
Or perhaps not

I mentioned on my Wednesday dispatch from Boston about the little forum I attended on the role of blogging in the political process (see below). I also noted that the forum didn't do that much for me, since three of the four panelists and the moderator all blog for campaigns or organizations (the one exception being Markos Moulitsas ZĂșniga, better know as Kos of the Daily Kos).

While I appreciate the place that organizational and campaign blogs have in the blogosphere, they are by their very nature constrained in what they can say and the terrain that they cover. As a result, they don't have the juice that good independent blogs do.

Those constraints often become brutally visible when the blogger steps beyond the boundaries of the organization's group-think.

I'm quoting here from the July 29 Convention Nightly edition of the National Journal (I tried, and I can't find this online. If anybody stumbles upon the link, let me know and I'll post it).

Bloggers are known for their fierce independence, but one who was true to the tradition lost his slot on the official blog of the Democratic National Convention Committee this week because of critical comment he posted elsewhere.

Matt Stoller's position as blog community coordinator ended after he unfavorably compared the convention's keynote speaker, state Sen. Barack Obama, to Sen. John Edwards, the Democratic candidate vor vice president.

"To be honest, I don't get the big deal," Stoller wrote Monday, after hearing Obama speak at a blogger's breakfast. "He seems very charismatic, but I have yet to cross that bridge with him where I feel like he's saying anything really interesting or useful. He's a lot like Edwards -- charismatic and demographically useful for the Democrats. But is there there there?"

Stoller's critique was posted at the Blogging of the President site that he edits, not on the DNCC site. Eric Schnure, a communications consultant and the official DNCC blogger, said he removed Stoller from his position to make sure readers of his post did not think Stoller was speaking for the party.

Stoller retained his convention credentials and continues to blog on his personal site.
For the record, Stoller has what appears to be a clarification of the situation on the BOPNews site:
I am a volunteer and I didn't get fired. We decided that after the Convention started I wouldn't post to the DNCC blog (I had been using it somewhat to help coordinate the blogging component) so that I could post freely to my own. I'm a bit puzzled by the whole story, actually because we still have a great relationship and I'm still helping out the credentialled bloggers. Or as I said in the article:

"I just didn't want any confusion between what I say and what the DNCC says," he said in an interview. He added that the DNCC "wants bloggers to say whatever they want to say. The difference was that I was associated with the DNCC."
I guess the bottom line here is that, if a blogger chooses to go blog for a campaign or organization, that will likely mean giving up whatever freedom of expression that blogger previously enjoyed elsewhere. All you young bloggers ought to keep that in mind.

"The line it is drawn and the curse it is cast"

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Back Home
and road weary

Hi folks. I'm back and tidying up a bit around here. I've done my best to correct the numerous typos fromt the Boston bloggings. Also added links where they should have been.

Once I get the airport grunge washed off and the airport food flushed out of my system, I'll add some closing remarks about the convention.

Thanks for putting up with the technical difficulties I encountered, and for your patience as they were gradually overcome.

Boston was nice, but it's good to be back in good old Wolf Hole again.


Thursday, July 29, 2004

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Thursday Convention Report
from the Internet Cafe in Boston

Thought I'd share a few good quotes that I've heard in the last 24 hours. Pretty much all of these are paraphrased, since I wasn't taping them, but I strive to retain their intended spirit.

I'm not a big Al Sharpton fan, but he gave a scorcher of a speech last night. This was my favorite line: Government shouldn't be looking at what people are doing in their bedroom, it should be making sure there's enough food to eat in the kitchen.

Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright: They've got a roadmap for peace in the Middle East, and they've never taken it out of the glove compartment.

Vice Presidential Candidate John Edwards: We're going to say No to the idea that there should be families in America where both parents work and they're still living in poverty. We're going to say Not in America -- Not in America -- Not in America!

Former Texas Governor Ann Richards: Lot of people don't realize that George Washington was born in Texas. Oh yeah. In fact, one day when he was a little boy he took his little hatchet and chopped down his family's mesquite tree. Well his father came out and saw that little George had just cut down the only shade for miles around. So he asked little George what happened and George replied that he could not tell a lie, that he had chopped down the mesquite tree. Well, George's father announced that they would have to move to Virginia. George couldn't figure out why just cutting down a tree would cause such family shame that they would have to move. His father explained, "Son, if you're not willing to lie, you have no future in Texas politics."

There are so many media people running around at the convention you wouldn't believe it. And some people are really in to getting themselves on TV or getting their picture and maybe a quote in some paper somewhere. It's a little like the TV show Let's Make a Deal where people used to dress up in these outlandish costumes in hopes of being chosen from the audiance to be up on the stage and in the game. So here at the convention you see people wearing cheese-head hats and flag hats and all manner of other stupid hats. Last night in a bar I heard a delegate lamenting that it was impossible to get on TV now without wearing a stupid hat. Once it was clear that people's interest in the convention had degenerated that far, I knew it was time to finish my drink and head back to the hotel.

One more wild party report -- this one before I've even been to it. I got a ticket to a party that the Utah delegation is going to be attending. Think about it -- Utah Democrats. These have got to be the most repressed people in the country, and here they are 2,000 miles from home and it's party time in Boston. I'm thinking it could be fun just to watch them. But who knows, maybe I'll meet somebody from Moab and we can swap river stories or something. Rig for the flip.


Wednesday, July 28, 2004

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Wednesday Convention Dispatch
from the Internet Cafe in Boston

Don't know why, but the Macs that they have here for some reason don't provide any of the usual buttons from the Blogger Dashboard. Maybe it's some kind of Java thing. What that means is that I can't easily change the type face, even for easy stuff like bold or italics. Likewise, no automatic hyperlinks. So this is going to be pretty rustic (as you may have notices from the posts below). Ah well.

Just came out of a semi-interesting little forum on the impact of blogs on the political process. Much to my dismay, I was not one of the featured presenters. They included Jesse who rights the Kicking Ass blog for the DNC, Aldon who writes Greater Democracy, Rick who does the blog for the Barack Obama campaign, and the famous Markos of Daily Kos fame. It was moderated by Nita Chaudhary, who also contributes to Kicking Ass.

While it might have been informative for folks who don't know much about blogs, I didn't find it particularly facinating. Part of the reason is that everybody but Kos writes for an organizational or campaign blog. While they have their role in the blogosphere, I don't spend a lot of time reading them (as you probably know if you've looked at the Rain Storm blog roll).

But you take what you can get at these things. Kos' comments were probably the most relevant. He pointed out that the blogosphere is unique in the media world in that we don't really compete. In fact, the fact that we all link to one another tends to encourage cooperation, it is what really makes the whole thing work so well. He also mentioned that, if an advertizer comes to him and he doesn't have space for the ad, he'll recommend another blog that would be a good fit with the message of the ad. As he pointed out, that never happens in print media.

Being true to my word, here is my wild convention party report. Best one I found was hosted by the American Assn of Registered Nurses. They rented a small, two-floor bar called The Alley for the evening are provided free food, drink, and oldies rock and roll.

Women outnumbered the men about 3 - 1, and at least at first, the women were the only ones on the dance floor. Eventually, perhaps after enough liquid lubrication, a few men got the courage to get out there and boogie along with the women. So there we were, a bunch of 40 and 50 somethings be-bopping to the sounds of Run Around Sue and Brown Eyed Girl.

Unfortunately, the T (that's the subway in Boston, which is how I've been getting around) stops running at 12:30, so I didn't stay until the 2 a.m. closing time. Who knows what wild things went on after I left? My guess is they had to wake people up an tell them it was time to go home.

I will give a plug here for the Nurses Association. They are pushing for a single-payer health care system in the U.S., and I support that effort completely. It's really the only way to level the playing field, not only for everyday working families, but also for emplyers all across the country who are having a harder and harder time giving their employees good health care coverage. Just another reason to vote in November (as if you didn't already have enough).

Great session with James Carville yesterday. Here are a few quotes (though it's hard to capture the flavor of the Ragin' Cajun over the keyboard -- use your imagination): John Kerry isn't just a better candidate than George Bush. He's a better man than George Bush, plain and simple. But since we're running a positive campaign, I guess I should say something nice about George Bush. Well I can't really say anything nice about the kind of president he's been. But I will say this. George Bush is an outstanding civics teacher. Remember all those civics classes you had in school about Democracy and how important it is to vote. Nobody ever cared about that. But thanks to George Bush, nobody ever again will think it doesn't matter who the president is. Now we know exactly how much that really matters.

Don't know if you caught Barack Obama's keynote speech at the convention last night. Lots of people, including me, are saying it was the best convention keynote speech in decades. He had the crown on fire -- even more than Bill or Hillary, both of whom gave great speeches the night before.

Now a number of bloggers, from Kos to That Colored Fella, have been talking about Obama for several months. Well now everybody got the chance to see this young man and hear what he has to say. Wow. He is definately the Democratic Party's next superstar. After his speech last night, his web site got so many hits it crashed twice. Around 800 positive comments made it through, despite the 2 crashes. That's something. According to a piece in The National Journal Convention Nightly (hard copy only), nearly $60,000 had come in via Obama's web site by 11 a.m. on Wednesday. That's really something!

Howard Dean got a very warm and enthusiastic reception when he came out to speak last night. I think the delegation really wanted to acknowledge that he was instrumental, not only in bringing both people and energy into the campaign, but also in helping the other candidates find the courage to challenge the Bush administration on the ugly and stupid things it has done.

I heard Dean talk again today. He stressed the need for everybody who cares about the country to get involved in campaigns in whatever way they can, whether that's contributing financially, volunteering a few hours a week for a campaign, or running for office. As he says, "We need people to run for everything from Congress to the local library board. Think about it. We want people on the library board who like to read books, not people who like to burn books." There it is. Find a way to get involved.

I want to say a word about Democratic GAIN. It's an organization that is conducting training here on all aspects of running a political campaign. It was created as both a training ground for new political professionals, and as a support system for them. In addition to training, they have set up a comprehensive job board/recruitment system to match people wanting to work in campaigns with campaigns that need them. Since campaign workers tend to be sort of gypsy-like, moving from state to state and campaign to campaing, GAIN is also working on setting up things like group health insurance and retirement plans for its members. What a great idea! Check out their web site at www.DemocraticGAIN.org.

That's all for now. Mas manana. Thanks for stopping by.


Tuesday, July 27, 2004

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First Night of the Big Convention
(another frantic post from an internet cafe in Boston)

The first thing that struck me (besides getting through the intense security that surrounds the Fleet Center) was that it was kind of surreal to see all the 50-something delegates dancing on the floor to the sounds of Everyday People, We Are Family, and Dancin' in the Streets. But let's face it, Sweet 16 turned 41 a long time ago, the Woodstock generation has a Touch of Gray, and we still like the music. Certainly older delegates didn't dance like that on the convention floor when I was a kid. But we do now. There it is.

Al Gore gave a great speech, even if it was later overshadowed by both of the Clintons. And he certainly doesn't seem stiff and wooden anymore.

Al was greeted by the delegates with such warmth and enthusiasm when he came out to speak, it felt like we were trying to make up for not doing quite enough for him four years ago. If we could have won just one more state, counted just a few more votes, or, as it finally came down, changed just one vote, albeit on the Supreme Court, he would have been speaking as the President seeking re-election.

Wes Clark, Max Cleland, and James Carville spoke at a moving and powerful Veteran's Caucus meeting yesterday. The General gives a hell of a speech. It's good to have him on the team.

That's all for now. Gotta run to the next event.


Monday, July 26, 2004

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Laptop Crashed and Burned
Blogging is going to be hard

This just a quick update from an internet cafe in Boston. Something in the journey to Boston must have mangled the brains of the laptop I brought with me. It won't boot up. It won't even power up. Murphy lives in Boston.

I was at a big Veteran's Caucus meeting today. It was huge. The large auditorium was overflowing.

Both James Carville and Gen Wesley Clark spoke, and they were outstanding. On stage were the crew members from John Kerry's Swift Boats who have come to be known as the Band of Brothers in this campaign. Jim Rassmann was also there. He was the young Special Forces officer who, 35 years ago, Kerry pulled out of the river, saving his life. Max Cleland also spoke very eloquently about the need to elect a President who not only appreciates those who serve their country, but will never send them to fight an unnecessary war.

It was all very moving -- the highlight of the convention, so far.

More when I get to get back on line. Thanks for your patience.


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