And So It Seems To Go
Calton Bolick, American Ex-Pat in Japan, Rants and Raves About the Political Scene Back Home
Friday, February 27, 2004

The Myth of St. Ralph
As Nader embarks upon his fourth protest run against the Democrats in as many elections, there is something slightly ridiculous about the shock of his liberal critics. They still don't know who they're dealing with. Nader is not a heroic figure tragically overcome by his own flaws; he is a selfish, destructive maniac who, for a brief historical period, happened upon a useful role.
   - Jonathan Chait in "Make You Ralph: The Myth of the Good Nader" inThe New Republic

Strong words, but Chait backs them up, puncturing the myth of St. Ralph with example after example from Ralph Nader's history. As Chait says in his prelude: "The qualities that liberals have observed in him of late--the monomania, the vindictiveness, the rage against pragmatic liberalism--have been present all along. Indeed, an un-blinkered look at Nader's public life shows that his presidential campaigns represent not a betrayal of his earlier career but its apotheosis."

Clearly what needs to be done is the equivalent of saying to him, "Thank you, Ralph, here's your gold watch for your fine service, now get the fuck out of public life before you screw things up more.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Ambitious Goals
The rule of law, the very foundation for a free society, has been under assault, not only by criminals from the ground up, but also from the top down. An administration that lives by evasion, coverup, stonewalling, and duplicity has given us a totally discredited Department of Justice.

    - From the Republican National Committee's "Party Platform", approved 8/31/00

The only difference between the RNC's claim of yesteryear and the reality of today is the Bush Administration's goal seems tio be not merely discrediting one department, but the entire government from top to bottom. Well, nobody ever said that the Republicans weren't ambitious.

Saturday, February 21, 2004

How to Lie With Statistics
Somewhere around here, I have a copy of that classic book How to Lie With Statistics. Any updated version is going to have to include a chapter on the Bush Administration, as economist Brad DeLong shows:

Let's get George W. Bush a copy of the 2004 Economic Report of the President!

IHT: Bush backs off a jobs forecast: "Bush said Wednesday that the economy was growing and getting stronger, and he cited figures showing that the economy has created 366,000 jobs since last summer.

If we got him a copy, he could read p. 94: "Because the labor force is constantly expanding, employment must be growing moderately just to keep the unemployment rate steady. For example, if the labor force is growing at the same rate as the population (about 1 percent per year), employment would have to rise 110,000 a month just to keep the unemployment rate stable, and larger job gains would be necessary (and are expected) to induce a downward trend in the unemployment rate."
And then he could divide 366,000 jobs since last summer by five months, and discover that it is 72,000 jobs per month--which is less than 110,000.

Using his own economic report as a source, it appears that the number of NET new jobs is actually shrinking by about 30-40,000 a month over that period. "Bringing integrity back to the White House", indeed.

Top 12 Reasons Why Gay People Shouldn't Marry Each Other
Courtesy of the Gator Gay-Straight Alliance:

1. Homosexuality is not natural, much like eyeglasses, polyester, and birth control.

2. Heterosexual marriages are valid because they produce children. Infertile couples and old people can't legally get married because the world needs more children.

3. Obviously, gay parents will raise gay children, since straight parents only raise straight children.

4. Straight marriage will be less meaningful if Gay marriage is allowed, since Britney Spears' 55-hour just-for-fun marriage was meaningful.

5. Heterosexual marriage has been around a long time and hasn't changed at all; women are property, blacks can't marry whites, and divorce is illegal.

6. Gay marriage should be decided by people, not the courts, because the majority-elected legislatures, not courts, have historically protected the rights of the minorities.

7. Gay marriage is not supported by religion. In a theocracy like ours, the values of one religion are imposed on the entire country. That's why we have only one religion in America.

8. Gay marriage will encourage people to be gay, in the same way that hanging around tall people will make you tall.

9. Legalizing gay marriage will open the door to all kinds of crazy behavior. People may even wish to marry their pets because a dog has legal standing and can sign a marriage contract.

10. Children can never succeed without a male and a female role model at home. That's why single parents are forbidden to raise children.

11. Gay marriage will change the foundation of society. Heterosexual marriage has been around for a long time, and we could never adapt to new social norms because we haven't adapted to things like cars or longer lifespan.

12. Civil unions, providing most of the same benefits as marriage with a different name are better, because a "separate but equal" institution is always constitutional. Separate schools for African-Americans worked just as well as separate marriages for gays and lesbians will.

Friday, February 20, 2004

Military Comparisons
John Kerry = Silver Star
George Bush = Gold Brick

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Colin Powell's Memory Problem
I particularly condemn the way our political leaders supplied the manpower for [the Vietnam] war. The policies determining who would be drafted and who would be deferred, who would serve and who would escape, who would die and who would live, were an anti-democratic disgrace.

I am angry that so many sons of the powerful and well-placed managed to wangle slots in Reserve and National Guard units. Of the many tragedies of Vietnam, this raw class discrimination strikes me as the most damaging to the ideal that all Americans are created equal and owe equal alliegance to our country.

    -- Colin Powell, from his 1995 memoir My American Journey (page 144 of the Ballantine edition), quoted by Daniel Schorr on NPR this evening.

I was not prepared to shoot my eardrum out with a shotgun in order to get a deferment. Nor was I willing to go to Canada. So I chose to better myself by
learning how to fly airplanes.

   -- George Bush on his Texas Air National Guard stint, to the Houston Chronicle, May 1984

So, remind me again where Colin Powell's reputation as an upright and moral person came from?

P.S.: Whenever I've gone to Amazon today, their Recommendation engine keeps pushing a book called The Leadership Secrets of Colin Powell by Oren Harari at me. From the title, I assume it's one of those shallow management self-help books that gullible business people fill their office bookshelves with. Seems to me that they could save themselves some money by just remembering one guiding principle to Colin Powell's success, as his time in the Bush Administration seems to demonstrate: Know what to kiss--and when.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Wardrobe Malfunction-Related Activity
It's Reuben Bolling's Tom the Dancing Bug:

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Squirm squirm squirm, part 1
The Daily Show has a crack at the Bush/Air National Guard story, and the in-over-his-head press secretary Scott McClellan


Squirm squirm squirm, part 2
The line between political reporting and comedy gets blurred again: witness this exchange as White House spokesman Sott McClellan tries to stick to his talking points:

Q: The President, in his interview on Sunday, was asked the first question about possible release of records, the first question about possible release. He was asked, when there were questions about Senator John McCain's record, Wesley Clark's record, they authorized the release of their entire file. The President was asked, would he do that? And he replied, "Yeah." So why is the President reneging on that pledge?

MR. McCLELLAN: John, do you want to continue on and go through the rest of that questioning?

Q: Because that was the first question to which he answered in the affirmative -- don't try to parse it out.

MR. McCLELLAN: John, here's the question, quote from Tim Russert. "But you will allow pay stubs, tax records" --

Q: Let's go with the first question. You're parsing.

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I think you are, because the issue that Tim Russert raised was whether or not he had served while he was in Alabama.

Q: Read the first question, Scott.

MR. McCLELLAN: "But you will allow pay stubs, tax records, anything to show that you were serving during that period." "Yes. If we still have them." We have provided you with that information, and we will continue to.

Q: Read the first question.

MR. McCLELLAN: I just -- you read the first question. I read this question. It was the --

Q: Right. It was the very first question --

MR. McCLELLAN: The context of this discussion --

Q: The very first question, when he said, "entire record," the President said, "Yeah."

MR. McCLELLAN: Oh, John, let's look at the context of the discussion. The context of the discussion was clear about whether or not he had served while he was in Alabama. It was very clear.

Q: The first question was about entire --

MR. McCLELLAN: We can agree to disagree on this issue, but I think it was very --

Q: We're going to end up on The Daily Show again with this one.

Blog Problems
My regular readers (all three of you) may be wondering what happened to my Salon blog. Well, the software I was using--Radio Userland*, for which I paid $40 a year for the privilege--failed me, and I was unable to post. My attempt to fix the problem, trying find answers in the inadequate and badly designed documentation resulted in my deleting the contents, and although I backed-up the relevant data files (which for some reason must be kept on the local computer), nothing I've found within the piss-poor documentation has helped me restore it, including the "Restore/Back-up Weblog" page that allegedly tells me how to restore things.

There is an active user-discussion forum on Userland's website, I'm told, but when I asked for help, I got a couple of social retards telling me that I should RTFM. The active Radio user support community so far, based on the those two, seems to be composed of self-absorbed wankers, JUST what I wanted to confront after struggling all Sunday afternoon with the goddamned thing. Problem-solving by begging for help from the socially inept is not my idea of a good time--or good user support.

Not even Mail-to-Blog function wasn't working (even in that case, God help me if I made an error or forgot to close marked-up text, because I couldn't fix what I posted if I were able). In the meantime, until some grownups appear on the user-discussion to offer actual help on solving my problem, I'll be experimenting with other blog software and sites. One or more of these might be permanent, if I give up on the "innovative"** Radio Userland software. Some experimental sites, using the non-Japan political posts I've been writing over the last month or two. The content of the two are essentially identical, and when I have the time I'll try migrating the Japan stuff I have the text files for. If you have any opinions about the layout, formatting, or other issues, please let me know. You can find the other blog at TypePad, which uses MovableType. The one you're reading now uses Blogger .

*"Radio UserLand is a powerful and easy-to-use weblog tool that automatically builds your site, organizes and archives your posts, publishes your content, and aggregates your news -- without your needing any knowledge of HTML, FTP, or graphic design to accomplish all this." Pretty much all a lie, really.

**Innovative is what Scott Rosenberg calls Radio Userland. Not useful, accessible, or helpful, I notice.

Friday, February 13, 2004

Where was George?
Courtesy of Kevin Drum at Calpundit, it looks like some guys at the Alabama Air National Guard in 1972 do remember George Bush, kinda sorta...

FedEx Pilot Bob Mintz, backed up by a Carolina colleague, recalls no Dubya at Dannelly AFB in 1972.
JACKSON BAKER | 2/13/2004

Copyright 2004 The Memphis Flyer

MEMPHIS – Two members of the Air National Guard unit that President George W. Bush allegedly served with as a young Guard flyer in 1972 had been told to expect him and were on the lookout for him. He never showed, however; of that both Bob Mintz and Paul Bishop are certain.

The question of Bush’s presence in 1972 at Dannelly Air National Guard base in Montgomery, Alabama – or the lack of it – has become an issue in the 2004 presidential campaign.

Recalls Memphian Mintz, now 63: “I remember that I heard someone was coming to drill with us from Texas. And it was implied that it was somebody with political influence. I was a young bachelor then. I was looking for somebody to prowl around with.” But, says Mintz, that “somebody” -- better known to the world now as the president of the United States -- never showed up at Dannelly in 1972. Nor in 1973, nor at any time that Mintz, a FedEx pilot now and an Eastern Airlines pilot then, when he was a reserve first lieutenant at Dannelly, can remember.

“And I was looking for him,” repeated Mintz, who said that he assumed that Bush “changed his mind and went somewhere else” to do his substitute drill. It was not “somewhere else,” however, but the 187th Air National Guard Tactical squadron at Dannelly to which the young Texas flyer had requested transfer from his regular Texas unit – the reason being Bush’s wish to work in Alabama on the ultimately unsuccessful U.S. Senate campaign of family friend Winton "Red" Blount.

This keeps getting better and better.

Republicans Accuse Kerry of Planning Dirty Campaign

By Steve Holland

WASHINGTON - The head of President Bush's Republican Party accused Democrat John Kerry's campaign on Thursday of planning the "dirtiest campaign in modern presidential politics" in a scorched-earth bid to oust Bush in November.

  - - lede from a Reuters story, Thursday, February 12, 2004

"God I hope so. After all we are at war, and all's fair," is how the person who brought this story of pre-emptive Republican smearing put it.

The chutzpah here is breathtaking. These are the same amoral smear artists who said in a sleazy campaign ad that said Georgia Senator Max Cleland was soft on defending America and that he lacked the "courage to lead" -- a Vietnam War vet who lost three limbs in battle serving his country -- all in support of a draft-dodging chickenhawk named Saxby Chamblis, who skipped Vietnam because of bad knees (although those bad knees, weirdly, don't seem to have stopped his being a runner). Also immediately popping into mind are the whispering campaign against John McCain in the South Carolina primary in 2000, the infamous "Willie Horton" ad, and Lee Atwater's work in general.

Hell, I could have simply said two words and stopped there: Richard Nixon. 'Nuf said.

Even better, of course, is the pre-emptive nature of the Republican smear: the campaign hasn't even started yet. How do they know what Kerry and the Democratic National Committee have planned or intend?

Hmm, the Nixon reference I just made makes me think that DNC ought run a sweep for bugs at their headquarters.

Clearly, the whole RNC line of attack is an attempt to plant the notion that any criticism of Bush is a priori hate, part of an attempt by the Evil Democrats. As Paul Krugman put it in a November 2003 column, "All this fuss about civility, then, is an attempt to bully critics into unilaterally disarming — into being demure and respectful of the president, even while his campaign chairman declares that the 2004 election will be a choice 'between victory in Iraq and insecurity in America.'"

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Dogs and Demons
Information is unreliable, knowledge of new techniques used abroad scarce, and public funds distributed not to the sectors that need them but to those who pay bureaucrats the most--in this dim twilight world, Japanese officials are losing touch with reality
   - Alex Kerr, from Dogs and Demons (2001)

A co-worker leaving Japan just gave me his copy of Alex Kerr's Dogs and Demons, his look at the dark side of Japan's economic miracle and slide. It's a book that's been on my purchase shortlist for some time now, and was referenced by writer Barry Eisler as a strong background source for his Japan-based thrillers about corruption and a hired assassin with qualms, Rain Fall and Hard Rain.

As the publisher's description on Amazon puts it:

Kerr ([author of ]Lost Japan), a 35-year resident of Japan and the first foreigner to win that country's Shincho literary prize, contends that the Japanese miracle has become a Japanese mess. Once admired, and perhaps feared, for its spectacular economic successes, Japan, Kerr claims, has become a land of "ravaged mountains and rivers, endemic pollution, tenement cities, and skyrocketing debts." What happened? He says that ideology and bureaucracy are to blame. Japan is in effect managed by an autonomous and corrupt government bureaucracy, driven by an ethos of economic growth at any cost and a mania for control. Everywhere Japan's natural beauty is being destroyed by useless construction projects, as nature must be controlled and construction companies rewarded. The great ancient cities too representative of old, underdeveloped Japan are being replaced by monuments and hotels that are concrete monstrosities. Japan's banking system has failed, yet no one really knows the extent of the damage, as the bureaucracy keeps accurate information hidden. Meanwhile, the bureaucracy continues to pour money into older industries, while Japan falls dangerously behind in the development of new information technologies. There is popular discontent, but protest is hard to come by, because the bureaucratically controlled educational system emphasizes obedience above all else. Japan is stuck, concludes Kerr, and he sees no easy way out. While perhaps alarmist in his message, Kerr fascinates with detailed descriptions of Japan's dilemma and offers a surprising, if controversial, vision of a land in trouble.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Future Reading
Coming up on my reading list soon, I hope, is Charlie Wilson's War by George Crile, due out in paperback this April.

Also on the list: Pattern Recognition
by William Gibson.

Monday, February 09, 2004

Report from Tokyo
Looks like I don't have to write a thing about the Democrats Abroad Japan caucus, now that the New York Times has done a story on the event.

Democratic Caucus
Spent much of the afternoon yesterday at the Democrats Abroad Japan presidential caucus at the Foreign Correspondents Club. Far too hectic for me to describe coherently right now. Maybe later.

Friday, February 06, 2004

Turn on the Wayback Machine, Part 2
Index: (n) A statistical measure of the changes in a portfolio of stocks representing a portion of the overall market.
   - from Baystreet.ca

Another observation about my recently unearthed copy of Wired magazine from June of 2000 ("THE NEW ECONOMY IS HOTTER THAN EVER/The Wired Index: 40 Companies Driving the Future").

A quick Web check shows that most of the companies that were on the so-called Wired Index (25 out of 40, including Enron and MCI Worldcom) are no longer on it, which makes me wonder what the hell the point of calling it an "index" was. Clearly, even the kool-aid sellers at Wired finally figured it, since they've changed the name to THE WIRED 40. Of course, given how frequently they swapped companies in and out of the so-called index, it's utterly worthless as a financial indicator or metric: I'm tempted to use Patrick Hayden Neilsen's "goalposts" comment from below to describe it.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Turn on the Wayback Machine, Part 1
I was cleaning my locker at my old office last night, when at the very bottom I found a few old magazines, including National Geographic, MacWorld--and the June 2000 issue of Wired magazine.

It would have been hard to miss, its cover having enough day-Glo orange ink on it to signal passing rescue planes. The image was a garish, Illustrator-produced depiction of a chrome-plated V-8 automobile engine, with chrome wings, tilted slightly upward as it rockets up, up, and away. The framing and angle made me think of it as a kind of robotic Socialist Realist painting (you know, the old Soviet or Red Chinese paintings of heroic tractor farmers and locomotive builders, giving their all for The Revolution). Ironically enough, though, the fantasy flying engine resembles the grill of a Ford Edsel, an association I have to wonder if no one notice or no one cared. The cover reads:


The Wired Index

40 Companies Driving the Future

Yes, it is to laugh.

When I find the time, I think I'll page through this artifact and admire the wreckage: page after page of hype, breathless speculation, and financial corpses from the days when people drank the Kool-aid and were really trying hard to sell it to everyone else.

Al Sharpton, Republican Hand Puppet
SharptonTag.jpgI posted some grudgingly admiring remarks about Al Sharpton the other day, and I meant them: I was beginning to respect him somewhat more.

It wasn't too difficult for him to improve in my eyes, since I have considered him an amoral and sleazy huckster since his disgusting--and unrepentant--role in the Tawana Brawley fraud, and it could hardly get worse than that, no could it? However, Sharpton has once again slid (or perhaps I should say slithered) down, if even a quarter of what is revealed in this Village Voice story by Wayne Barrett*.

Anybody remember the bussed-in mob that shut down the Miami-Dade County recount and helped make George W. Bush president in 2000? Remember the organizer of that mob, Roger Stone, a longtime Republican dirty-tricks operative?

Guess who's advising, orchestrating, staffing, and essentially financing the the presidential campaign of the allegedly Reverend Al Sharpton? Three guesses, and the first two don't count.

So now it turns out that Sharpton is a Republican hand-puppet, and it's Roger Stone's hand up his ass. I guess there really are no dirty tricks that Republicans won't stoop to.

*with special reporting by Adam Hutton and Christine Lagorio, and additional research from Andrew Burtless, Cristi Hegranes, Brian O'Connor, Abigail Roberts, Catherine Shu, and Jennifer Suh. Gotta give credit where it's due.

He's Got Joe Money! He's Got Joe Friends! He's Got Joe Chance!

I don't really like William Saletan of Slate, but I was amused by his recent Joebituary.


Money is the Mother's Milk of Politics
The day, I bitched about how much money Howard Dean has spent, to such little effect, in what I characterized as his dot-bomb of a presidential campaign. Thanks to OpenSecrets.org website, run by the Center for Responsive Politics, I was able to find out how much: as of January 31st, $31.4 million.

Since Dean shows receipts of about $41 million, he's spent 76.5% of his money so far. While I think it's a pretty high proportion of spending, it turns out, when you crunch the numbers, that Dean is doing best on a percentage basis (at least as of January 31st) among all the Democratic candidates, whose spending-to-cash-receipts percentages range from 85.9% (for Edwards) to 98.2% (for Sharpton). I stress that I am NOT an accountant, campaign wonk, or professional number-cruncher, so my math may be completely pointless.

In any case, the real shock for me is that Dean has NOT been the top spender in this presidential campaign. The top spender so far is, well, George W. Bush, who has spent $31.7 million dollars running essentially unopposed.

So what the hell has the Bush campaign spent nearly $32 million of their money on?

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Rocket Ship Machiavelli
I've been a big believer in space exploration since I was a kid. I watched the Apollo moon landings (and launches) on TV, visited the Kennedy Space Center, even drank Tang because that's what the astronauts drank. I believe that man's destiny is in space and in exploring the universe around us. I know it sounds starry-eyed (pardon the expression), maybe even laughably adolescent, but that's my view.

So I should be behind Bush's spanking new space inititiative, right? The Moon and Mars, to infinity and beyond?

Patrick Hayden Neilsen, science fiction editor and proprietor of the Electrolite blog, says it better than I could in Rocket Ship Machiavelli:

Still, it's been hard to avoid the suspicion that the whole thing is little more than a fairly shameless piece of political performance art, a stab at the old Vision Thing, particularly when "unnamed Administration sources" more or less blatantly say so. As 5,271,009 bloggers have already remarked, the money isn't even a sliver of what a real moonbase or Mars mission would cost, and the actual goals are comfortably far to the future of any plausible second Bush administration. Meanwhile, though, it definitely looks like the initiative's immediate effects include cutting a lot of actual space science (never popular with this crowd) and handing off more bags of cash to politically friendly construction companies and aerospace firms.

...I just have the sinking feeling that this Administration is unlikely to do a good job at this, certainly not if it turns out to involve spending any political capital at all. ...The phrase that summed up my reaction to Bush's grandiloquent announcement last week: I felt
trifled with. I wanted to say, this is stuff that matters, you lying sack of shit.

Pretty much says it all, for me.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

George Learns a Lesson from Tony
So President Bush has announced a forthcoming "independent investigation into intelligence failures" regarding the Saddam Hussein's still-unfound weapons of mass destruction. I notice that he did so within days of the release of the notoriously stilted Hutton Report (which pronounced Tony Blair's government clear of wrongdoing in the "sexed-up" Iraqi intelligence dossier affair--a report I'm told gave every benefit of the doubt to the UK government and none whatsoever to the BBC.

Apparently Tony Blair has taught Bush the lesson that whitewashing works, and given how easily Bush and his cronies can stack the deck for the so-called independent investigation by the limiting its boundaries (Will the investigators be allowed to see what the White House did with intelligence? Will they be allowed to ask about the widely-reported pressure on the career analysts? Will their charter be restricted to "the CIA and NSA screwed up, and we're here to find out why"? As Scott Rosenberg of Salon.com put it:

Before the war, Bush's Iraq hawks, dissatisfied with the weasely intel they were receiving suggesting that Saddam Hussein was not an imminent threat, browbeat the CIA and zeroed in on a passel of dubious reports that indicated the dictator in fact possessed weapons of mass destruction. All indications suggest that the intelligence agency's best people looked on in horror as their procedures for vetting and verifying information were ignored by the war-or-bust crowd, and impossible-to-verify accounts were touted as gospel. (Seymour Hersh's New Yorker pieces on "stovepiping" provide the most thorough background here.)

The Hutton Report seems to be saying that whitewashing is better than stonewalling. Seems like Bush is capable of learning. Gee, thanks, Tony.

Monday, February 02, 2004

Eating Your Own
I'm not a member of any organized political party, I'm a Democrat.
   - Will Rogers

Now here's stupidity in action: certain political activists, who despise George Bush and his ruinous policies, rising up to support and work for Howard Dean for President--and if their boy doesn't win the nomination, threatening to vote for George Bush.

Don't believe me? Check out this forum from DeanforAmerica.com. Apparently, John Kerry and the others are insufficiently ideologically pure for them, and they'd prefer--actually try to bring about--even more damage, rather than sully themselves by voting for someone who's not 100% congruent with their beliefs.

So we get, like with the self-absorbed Naderites, voting as a form of therapy, self-expression, or temper tantrum. Cripes, no wonder the Republicans keep winning.

Back-pedaling-related program activities
"Weapons of mass destruction-related program activities."

I just wanted to hear that again.

"Weapons of mass destruction-related program activities."

Smoking gun-related activity program initiative!

Conclusive evidence-related involvement postulation enterprise!

This isn't just moving the goalposts, it's attaching the goalposts to a booster rocket and shooting them into the Sun. Look, a revitalized space program after all!

   - from Patrick Hayden Neilsen's Electrolite blog.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

The Dean Balloon Deflates, Part 2
DeanTag.jpgDismal results have lifted the fog of hype. The visionary founder who until a few weeks ago was heralded as a revolutionary genius who would forever change the way business is done is out, replaced by an "old economy" suit who must try to turn around the floundering enterprise. Staff members have been asked to forgo pay, and advertising has been suspended to slow the organization's cash "burn rate." Haven't we seen this tale before?
   - Andrés Martinez, "Will We Remember 2004 as the Year of the Dean Bubble?" in the New York Times.

Clearly, I'm not the only one he thinks of the Dean campaign as a failed dot-com, as a whole lot of overblown hype that crashed like the Hindenburg and now requires the services of grown-ups to bail out, as the above example of Andrés Martinez of Times Editorial Board demonstrates.

However, Scott Rosenberg of Salon.com disagrees, at least in part with this assessment ("Dean: More than a political sock-puppet")

...The collapse of the dot-com stock bubble was a disaster for many investors, but it never invalidated the fundamental accuracy of the insight that fueled it -- that the Internet would spark powerful changes in the way the world does business. Those changes have proceeded apace, even as the dot-com era recedes into memory as a spasmodic folly: Online sales boom. Internet use eats away at network TV viewing. Broadband and wireless extend their reach. New possibilities for self-expression beckon. Many dot-coms flamed out -- but the Internet is still reshaping the world.


At a time when too much of the Democratic party, and too many of its candidates, lay supine before the travesty of President Bush's policies, Dean used the Internet to punch a hole through the big-media blockade and get the true opposition message out: That Bush and his administration lied to America to start an unnecessary war, a war that has hurt rather then enhanced the nation's security. While other candidates hedged their bets, Dean spoke the truth, and when the mainstream media tried to marginalize his voice, the Net allowed the breadth and depth of the support for his message to be felt. Today, every Democratic candidate, including frontrunner John Kerry, embraces this position: They are all Deaniacs now.

Internet enthusiasts had long theorized that the Net could help route around the broadcast media's headlock on both the electoral process and the broader definition of the acceptable boundaries of political discourse; Dean and his supporters made it happen. Whether Dean's campaign somehow manages a comeback or, more likely, fades in coming weeks is utterly irrelevant to this accomplishment.

Dean supporters, like dot-com true believers, can take solace in this: The horse they backed may lose the race, but thanks to their efforts, it's a whole different race, on a transformed track

Despite the starry-eyed-vision-of-the-future view that seems to have lifted from the pages of Wired magazine, he might have a point--though I'd like to know where he got his alternative-history time machine enabling him to say that it's only because of Dean that the other candidates (with the obvious and grotesque exception of Lieberman) are criticizing the The Great Bush Iraqi Misadventure (or, as The Daily Show with Jon Stewart calls it, "Mess-O-Potamia"). The blood price of over 500 American dead might tend to attract some notice among discerning opposition candidates, don't you think?

In any case, Scott Rosenberg has a bit of a credibility problem when it comes to talking about the power of the Internet, considering his big participation in the dot-com bubble: Salon.com was supposed to change the face of journalism, and through a lot of hard work and effort burned through millions of dollars to try to do so, to limited actual effect. Instead, its stock price tanked (it's now sold OTC) and it's on life-support, kept alive by occasional infusions of cash. So Rosenberg has a bit of a disincentive to dis his own experience and play up the possibilities of dot-coms like his. Maybe he has a point, but consider the source.


Will We Remember 2004 as the Year of the Dean Bubble?. Howard Dean's implosion calls to mind the fate of too many high-flying dot-com companies in the wake of the 2000-2001 crash. By Andrés Martinez. [New York Times: Opinion]

Dean: More than a political sock-puppet Whatever happens now to the Dean campaign, it already achieved a great purpose. [Scott Rosenberg's Links & Comment]


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