June 2006

C’mon Ken, be honest…

How many requests were there, really?

Ken: By Request Only

So, I’ll jump on the bandwagon to encourage people to vote for the Seven Daysie Best Blog award.

Here’s the thing…

Philip Baruth’s Vermont Daily Briefing is what inspired me to start this blog.

Bill Simmon is an old friend and birth cohort who does a great job with Candleblog (and I’ve participated in a Friday Coffeeblogging session, too).

I really admire what John Odum’s done to create a Vermont-focused netroots hub with Green Mountain Daily.

And even though Cathy Resmer’s 802 Online is almost certainly not eligible, it has had the greatest impact on drawing attention to the work of Vermont bloggers.

So, take your pick. And go here to vote online.

Today, I officially drop Vermonters First from the blogroll. No posts in a month gets you dropped. I hope it returns…

And I’m adding what may be the most fun for me, the Burlington Free Press political blog, vt.Buzz.

And already I have something to work with…

In the “trading playbooks” post from yesterday, they (who, I’m not really sure) write…

Democratic congressional candidate Peter Welch took a page out of Republican Martha Rainville’s playbook Tuesday. Not wanting to yield that issue to the former head of the Vermont National Guard, Welch held a news conference on the topic of homeland security.

With the Montpelier Fire Department as a backdrop, Welch called for more federal money for first responders. Since Sept. 11, 2001, local first responders have had more responsibilities, he said, while the Bush administration has put the resources into the war in Iraq.

Excuse me folks, but national security is not a Republican issue. Specifically support for first responders!

And, please don’t forget that one of John Kerry’s stump speech points was exactly this…

UPDATE: I’m also dropping Peter Daou’s The Grit, which is now on haitus due to his new role in Hillary Clinton’s organization.

Somerby really lays it down

…We’d guess that the press corps’ problem with Dems is, in large part, a matter of class. Human beings have always been tribal, and our modern, tribal national politics is largely a tribalism of class. We haven’t discussed this matter before, and we won’t be skilled in our descriptions. But it’s fairly clear that tribal connections have long defined our two major parties, and have done so more and more since the time of the GOP “Southern Strategy.”

Increasingly, the GOP is the tribe of the upper-class, older American order—and the Democrats are the tribe of everyone else. Everyone who doesn’t fit in the old order has found their way to the Dem coalition. The Dems are the party of The Other—of the “lower-class;” of racial minorities; of gays; of uppity women. The Republicans are the party of the traditional upper-class ideal—and of all those who will swear allegiance to that orders’ values. This does not mean that Dems are always right—or that Reps are always wrong—about issues involving class and race. It does mean that the parties represent two different tribes—and that many people align themselves based on tribal impulses.

To which tribe do our millionaire pundits belong? Please. In some ways, Tim Russert defines this group’s class membership; he flies to a multimillion-dollar home on Nantucket to write a book about living in Buffalo. (This doesn’t mean that he’s not a nice person.) Consciously or otherwise, we’d guess that modern scribes “see” themselves as what they are—as part of a fatuous millionaire class. Clinton never belonged to that class; Gore was more or less a class traitor.

Modern reporters worship at the alter of fame and financial success. For them, reporting has become “fun,” “entertainment” and “sport”—even if, as in Carlson’s presentation to Imus, they happen to know someone who needs major help from a government program. But in many cases, these people have stopped caring about—or identifying with—the people who still form the Dem coalition. The press corps adores upper-class blacks; Rice and Powell are their greatest untouchables. But to all appearances, they no longer identify with major figures, like Clinton and Gore, who have tended to stick with The Others.

We humans have always stuck with Our Own—and have been inclined to look down on The Other. In The Iliad, at the moment of truth, Nestor tells the roiling troops about the important of tribal loyalty—of loyalty to the hearth, to the clan:

Lost to the clan,
lost to the hearth, lost to the old ways, that one
who lusts for the horror of war with his own people…

To the extent that Major Dems like Clinton and Gore speak for “the people, not the powerful”—to the extent that they “feel the pain” of working people—they have declared themselves “lost to the clan.” The modern upper-class tribal consensus is embarrassed by—and uninterested in—the problems of people who may need Medicare, or Medicaid, or Social Security. Ruling classes have always tended to look down on the needs of the great unwashed. And, by virtue of their vast salaries, opinion leaders in the modern press corps are now part of a high ruling class. That doesn’t make them bad people—though some of them may be. But human nature remains unchanged—and their salaries are vast.

Back from vacation and it has been a hopping few days in mediawatchdogsylvania, especially with the news that Peter Daou is now working for Hillary Clinton

I have been offered – and accepted – what I believe is a unique opportunity to help close the triangle: joining Senator Clinton’s team as a blog advisor to facilitate and expand her relationship with the netroots. There are endless possibilities for Clinton-netroots collaborations, from Net Neutrality to the Privacy Bill of Rights to voting reform to so many others critical issues. Digby, one of the progressive blog world’s sharpest writers, said this: “Last week Hillary introduced what I think should be a primary plank of the Democratic Party: A Privacy Bill Of Rights…. Hillary said in her speech the other day: ‘privacy is synonymous with liberty.’ This is correct. We give it up far too thoughtlessly in our culture and its going to come back to bite us if we don’t wake to the fact that big powerful forces are poking into our lives in unprecedented ways and will use the information they get to force us into little boxes they design.”

The past few months have been a challenging period in the growth of the blogosphere, with the YearlyKos convention marking the “arrival” of the blogs as a political force (at least in the eyes of many mainstream reporters and political operatives). But YearlyKos has also touched off a series of harsh attacks against the netroots and specifically Daily Kos and its founder Markos Moulitsas. As blog influence continues to grow, we can expect more intense fire directed at the blogosphere by those who have a vested interest in undermining it.

One of the standard practices of blog detractors is to use the comments of the anonymous few to tarnish the genuine passion and sincerity of the many millions who log on to express their views and to connect with other denizens of the Internet. The “angry left” is a stereotype used to pigeonhole left-leaning bloggers, but the truth is that far from being a bastion of ideological rigidity, the blog world is a hard-hitting and free-wheeling discussion among Americans of all political stripes. These attacks won’t weaken the community; on the contrary, this nascent power base is only beginning to make its presence felt. It will reach fuller potential with the participation of Democratic leaders and responsible reporters.

As a true believer in the importance of the medium, I’m thrilled about Senator Clinton’s interest in building this bridge with the online community and I intend to do everything I can to make it as productive as possible. And as a New Yorker, I look forward to aiding Senator Clinton’s re-election efforts this November.

Going on vacation, but I don’t want to disappoint my loyal reader(s?)…

So, you get the album cover two days early…

christian crusaders with al davis

The world of the media watchdogosphere has really been amped up of late. So much so that I don’t have time to summarize what’s going on…

But there seems to be a bit of rational panic driving the famous players to ramp up their efforts, as if they can feel the narrative that could create a Democratic landslide in November slip through their fingers.

In Jamison Foser’s latest, he lets us know what we can do (and I’m happy to say I link to pretty much all of Foser’s suggestions in the sidebar)…

FAIR has been doing important work for decades. It recently released an excellent look back at “the Iraq War’s Pollyanna pundits.” Think Progress doesn’t focus strictly on the media, but it does post criticism of media coverage of politics and policy nearly every day. Many progressive weblogs do the same. Some, such as News Hounds, who “watch Fox so you don’t have to” (unfortunately, we still have to) are dedicated to monitoring and critiquing specific media outlets. Others, like Bob Somerby’s Daily Howler blog, do valuable work chronicling and debunking the media-created storylines that shape our understanding of the political process. Alterman, author of the landmark What Liberal Media? (Basic Books, 2003) continues to provide excellent insight and analysis through his blog, Altercation, and regular columns for The Nation and the Center for American Progress. Greg Sargent of The American Prospect and New York magazine writes a new blog for the prospect called The Horses Mouth, which focuses on the political news media and often includes excellent original reporting. Huffington Post recently introduced “Eat the Press,” a section that promotes progressive media voices and highlights conservative outrages.
Peter Daou, founder and editor of the Daou Report (and, in the interest of full disclosure, currently a consultant to Media Matters) is a frequent, and forceful, advocate for real change in the media landscape. Rolling Stone contributing editor Eric Boehlert’s new book, Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush (Simon & Schuster, May 2006), like his previous writing for Salon and the Huffington Post, is an absolute must-read for anyone interested in how the media have distorted our understanding of politics and public policy.

All of them — among others — are worthy of your time and support. They aren’t all for everybody; find the ones you like. Share their work with family, friends, and coworkers. Buy their books.

There’s a modified excerpt from Eric Boehlert’s Lapdogs at Washington Monthly about how “high school” the Note is…

In the spring of 2005, a story came along that was so important, so history-altering that it threatened to revive a killer press instinct that had been dormant for the previous four years. Of course, it helped that it was a Clinton-flavored scandal: That May, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s former campaign finance director, David Rosen, went on trial for his handling of a 2000 fundraiser staged in Hollywood to benefit Clinton’s campaign for the U.S. Senate. Rosen was accused of hiding, or underreporting, $800,000 worth of costs. At the time, CNN political editor John Mercurio suggested that Rosen’s funny money trial “reminds people of Whitewater” and the “sleazy side of the Clinton administration that [Hillary] and the president are both trying to forget.”

Taking the lead in trumpeting the importance of the Rosen trial was ABC’s The Note. An inside-baseball daily tip sheet for a readership it has dubbed the “Gang of 500″ (politicians, lobbyists, consultants, and journalists who help shape the Beltway’s public agenda), The Note is posted online every weekday morning and is widely viewed as the agenda-setter for the political class. On 14 different days between May 2 and 27, The Note posted cumulatively nearly forty links to Rosen-related articles, calling them “must-read.” A typical Note entry came on May 10, highlighting “The opening and closing paragraphs in Dick Morris’ New York Post column–perfectly explaining why the David Rosen story is going to be with us for a while.”

On the day before the Rosen verdict, The Note listed “Waiting for the Rosen verdict” as the number-one priority among the Gang of 500. The next day, a federal jury acquitted Rosen of any wrongdoing. How did The Note handle this news about the trial it had hyped? By ignoring it. The next edition of The Note included a long round-up of must-reads from the Memorial Day weekend. Rosen’s not-guilty verdict was not among them.

We may be a little nervous, but it seems to be bringing all who care about these media issues to a new kind of organized front.

The Dark Side, the Frontline special that was on last night covered mostly familiar territory, but had some details I’d never quite heard before.

The most damning was the suggestion that Rumsfeld held off on sending U.S. troops into Afghanistan to get bin Laden because of political infighting with George Tenet. Oy.

Dan Froomkin writes a follow-up about “The One Percent Doctrine” that was highlighted in the Frontline special…

Barton Gellman writes in a Washington Post book review that Suskind “tells some jaw-dropping stories we haven’t heard before.” Among them, the story of the capture of Abu Zubaydah in Pakistan in March 2002. Described as al-Qaeda’s chief of operations, he turned out to be mentally ill and nothing like the pivotal figure he was alleged to be.

Writes Gellman: “Abu Zubaydah also appeared to know nothing about terrorist operations; rather, he was al-Qaeda’s go-to guy for minor logistics — travel for wives and children and the like. That judgment was ‘echoed at the top of CIA and was, of course, briefed to the President and Vice President,’ Suskind writes. And yet somehow, in a speech delivered two weeks later, President Bush portrayed Abu Zubaydah as ‘one of the top operatives plotting and planning death and destruction on the United States.’ And over the months to come, under White House and Justice Department direction, the CIA would make him its first test subject for harsh interrogation techniques. . . .

” ‘I said he was important,’ Bush reportedly told [then-CIA director George] Tenet at one of their daily meetings. ‘You’re not going to let me lose face on this, are you?’ ‘No sir, Mr. President,’ Tenet replied. Bush ‘was fixated on how to get Zubaydah to tell us the truth,’ Suskind writes, and he asked one briefer, ‘Do some of these harsh methods really work?’ Interrogators did their best to find out, Suskind reports. They strapped Abu Zubaydah to a water-board, which reproduces the agony of drowning. They threatened him with certain death. They withheld medication. They bombarded him with deafening noise and harsh lights, depriving him of sleep. Under that duress, he began to speak of plots of every variety — against shopping malls, banks, supermarkets, water systems, nuclear plants, apartment buildings, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty. With each new tale, ‘thousands of uniformed men and women raced in a panic to each . . . target.’ And so, Suskind writes, ‘the United States would torture a mentally disturbed man and then leap, screaming, at every word he uttered.’ ”

Gellman asks the right question: “How could this have happened? Why are we learning about it only now?”

I really don’t know what to say…


John Bult: Julie's Sixteenth Birthday

Ken Picard writes up an interview with David Sirota, one-time press secretary for Bernie Sanders, in the latest issue of Seven Days.

Sirota will be appearing at Borders in Burlington on Saturday, June 17 at 6 p.m. for a talk and book signing for Hostile Takeover: How Big Money & Corruption Conquered Our Government — and How We Take It Back.


David Sirota is a rare breed among political strategists — a successful idealist. Capitol Hill is rife with ambitious, young wonks with overachiever resumes and public-policy degrees from elite institutions like Harvard, Georgetown and the LBJ School. But few are able to convert their elite academic pedigrees into careers of national prominence, while still remaining true to their populist roots.Sirota, a former press secretary for Congressman Bernie Sanders, has earned his populist credentials and his whiz-kid reputation — at age 30, he’s already considered a veteran campaign operative, nationally acclaimed commentator, blogger and now bestselling author. Like his former boss in Vermont, Sirota is also known as a straight-shooting iconoclast who isn’t afraid to call bullshit on Washington’s powerful movers and shakers who suckle at the corporate teat. His first book, Hostile Takeover: How Big Money & Corruption Conquered Our Government — and How We Take It Back, may be the most scathing indictment yet of how both political parties have been hijacked by Big Money.

“Just as the mom-and-pop store in your town was bought out by the big corporate conglomerate, so has our government been the victim of a hostile takeover,” Sirota writes. “Over the last 30 years, Corporate America has applied its most effective business tactics to the task of purchasing the one commodity that’s not supposed to be for sale: American democracy.”

Today on the Rachel Maddow show, Staff Director at the Senate Democrats Communications Center, Andy Fois, summed up Yearly Kos by saying…

~Everyone had a pocket protector so it was a great event.~

This combined with yet another dopey Ana Marie Cox article (via Tapped > via Eschaton) just demonstrates perfectly that the D.C. establishment is often concerned with nothing more than high school-style popularity contests.


David Sirota writes a report of a conversation with Barack Obama

From the Nation…

Obama carefully answered the question about how he wants to define himself: “The amount of publicity I have received…means that I’ve got to be more sensitive in some ways to not step on my colleagues.” For those who see him as a bold challenger of the system, this may be disappointing. After all, it oozes deference to the Senate clubbiness that has killed many a populist cause. And Obama has defended that club from outside pressure not only in his rhetoric but in his actions. For instance, last year he posted a long article on the blog Daily Kos criticizing attacks against lawmakers who voted for right-wing Supreme Court nominee John Roberts–even though Obama himself voted against Roberts. And in January Obama publicly criticized a fledgling effort to filibuster nominee Samuel Alito. Obama actually voted for the filibuster, but his statements helped take the steam out of that effort.

True, Obama did show a rare flash of defiance when he unsuccessfully pushed legislation this year to create an Office of Public Integrity, which would have enforced anti-corruption laws. But that kind of power-challenging move, which was met with strong resistance from both parties, was an exception. At the same time that he was ruffling feathers with that bill, he was one of the many Democratic senators who fled from Russell Feingold’s motion to censure Bush over the White House’s refusal to seek court orders for domestic wiretapping. Though polls showed that roughly half of Americans supported censure, it was shunned by the Senate club as too confrontational, and Obama seemed to agree.

UPDATE: I didn’t have time to add this last night, but this part was particularly apt, I thought, and represents the deep disconnect Obama has with the netroots (my emphasis)…

Obama is telling the truth–he’s not opposed to structural changes at all. However, he appears to be interested in fighting only for those changes that fit within the existing boundaries of what’s considered mainstream in Washington, instead of using his platform to redefine those boundaries. This posture comes even as polls consistently show that Washington’s definition of mainstream is divorced from the rest of the country’s (for example, politicians’ refusal to debate the war even as polls show that Americans want the troops home).

This exactly what I took away from Obama’s exchange on Daily Kos (Also, referred to in this Daou essay)…

Barack Obama seems content to allow the conventional wisdom to define what is acceptable to discuss, instead of using his stature to try to change the conventional wisdom.

Democrats need to start admitting to themselves that the Republicans do a much better job about creating their own storylines and working the Refs. And to continue with this losing strategy will be… um… to continue using a losing strategy.

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