"Undermining my electoral viability since 2001."

Dean Profile in NYT Mag

There's a profile of my man Howard Dean in this weekend's NY Times Magazine. I'm starting to hate the times, with their limp-wristed editorial support for the war, their idiotic pay-per-view archives and their insipidly elitist yuppie bullshit television ads. If it weren't for Krugman and a few other voices there, I'd stop checking it on any kind of basis. The war was enough to stop me from going there for daily news (and forget cnn.com... havn't seen that bitch in months), I now rely on various meta-filters to tell me what's up in the world.

Anyway, the profile is crappy, a lot of the same old misconceptions that Dean can't win, that Dean's a protest candidate, that Dean's a moderate in liberal clothing, that Dean's a liberal in moderate clothing. I'm also waiting for my girlfriend to wake up and call me so I can see her for the first time in a week, so I'm in a cranky mood too. I wrote a letter to the editor of course, and then I went looking online for some solace. I happened upon this gem in the dean2004.blogspot.com comments. By "Eric":

Bai [the author of the profile] was right about one thing--many Democrats weren't happy with Clinton and perhaps some of those same people are now supporting Dean. For a few, the discomfort with Clinton derived from policy disagreements. But most disliked Clinton for the same reason Republicans hated him: He used (sometimes hokey) personal charm to avoid taking a clear position time after time--and co-opted Republican policies in the name of "winning" as he went. Without Clinton's force of personality, this approach (now apparently favored among other Democratic candidates) comes across as either lame or blatantly disingenuous. And in hindsight, it's not at all clear that Clinton's unwillingness to, say, pursue campaign finance reform or scrutinize padded Pentagon contracts did the party or the electorate much good.

So what many Democrats see in Dean is someone with conventional values who isn't afraid to tells it like it is. After Clinton's triangulation and Gore's awkward evasiveness, how can this be anything but a breath of fresh air? You have to be completely bollixed up in rationalizing one of the weirdest, scariest periods in American history to see Dean's blunt declamations of common sense as anything but mainstream. At this particular moment in history, when so much has been so recklessly put at risk by a cadre of radical right-wingers making it up as they go along, we need someone like Dean more than most of us realize. It's been a very long time since the Democrats had, to quote Rob Reiner, a "tough mother" as a candidate. He'll need that backbone to confront fearful pseudo-Democrats almost as much as he'll need it to battle Bush in 2004.

This pretty much summs it up for me. One last link: One Father For Dean and his response to intellectually weak conservatives at his school reunion. And now I've gotten the phone call and I'm off to brunch.

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I'm looking at the future in friendster.com. A few friends of mine had sent me invited, and last night Julia gave me a little nudge, so I invested thee 15 minutes to get it up and running. It's social software with a brain, the personal flip side to biz-networking sites like Ryze and it's ilk. These are all attempts to use the net to leverage the six-degrees effect for a wide range of people. Some time in the future, this will all be integrated with blogs, solid digital ID and e-commerce and we'll have another economic boom. Myabe it will be enough to keep us limping along until the Hydrogen Economy let's us grow wealthier by using less.

It's almost frightening how well this works. It asks you for your favorite TV show. One thing I put on was the PBS news hour. Sutably obscure, so out of curiosity I clicked on it and found a number of other people with similar interests. Then I clicked one photo at (attractive dame) random. Turns out she lives on Statin Island and is connected to me through two people I do not know. Same for another DJ/producer chick who shares my taste in books. It seems to be pervasive among online-ish youth here in NY. I also found a few people I used to date. Wonder if they're friends or not. Social stuff can be awkward too.

Anyway, the people behind this are going to be rich like Saudi princes if they play their cards right. They're building meta-community and letting the people fill in the roots and making it work: they might have 2 million users or more, but it still feels friendly and personal because you find people the social way. I was talking to alex in our long discussion on the "Dean Dollop" thread below about how the internet doesn't really disintermediate everything, it just makes your relationships more effective, transparent, safe, powerful, useful, and (maybe most importantly) diverse.

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Can someone tell me if this is sincere or sarcastic? I can't tell anymore. Found it through various Home Star Runner anthropology. Interesting stops along the way: fhqwhgads, easter eggs, a high-school grad's blog, flag day in strongbadia. Man, the internet isn't quite like I remember. There was a time when you could sort of know everything important that was going on out here, or at least live under that illusion. It's becoming increasingly obvious that even a general comprehensive knowledge of the content available online is beyond individual human understanding. I think that's kind of exciting in a way.

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The Good Life

Well, I got dick done today work-wise, but I did a lot of decent writing and made a few more Dean connections. I'm seriously thinking that my dream future would be to work on that campaign. I aught to start asking around. If he get's the nomination they're bound to open a NY office. Right now I'm sitting in my back yard listening to the wind move the trees and loving just about everything. There's some lively discussion about information-age economics in the "Dean Dollop" post below and I'm about to back it in, have a beer and read some more Hunter S. Thomson in the open air.

Oh, and I found another tech-meister for Dean (friend of the other doc I respect), who wants to get Searls and Lessig to deliver the technorati endorsement, and presumable the whole slashdot bloc. Geek politics ascendant, I hope. He also has a backdoor into the formerly(?) pay-only "Dean.com" article in the New Republic. Feeling groovy. Zywiec in hand and the sun on my face.

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The WMD Lie

Billmon: What a Tangled Web We Weave when first we practice to deceive, an eye-opening collection of quotes from Team Bush on the question of Iraqi WMD's. It kind of tells a story, starting with:

  • "Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons." - George W. Bush, September 12, 2002
  • "Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent." - George W. Bush, January 28, 2003

And going all the way through:

  • "I just don't know whether it was all destroyed years ago -- I mean, there's no question that there were chemical weapons years ago." - Maj. Gen. David Petraeus, Commander 101st Airborne, May 13, 2003
  • "They may have had time to destroy them, and I don't know the answer." - Donald Rumsfeld, May 27, 2003
  • "For bureaucratic reasons, we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction (as justification for invading Iraq) because it was the one reason everyone could agree on." - Paul Wolfowitz, May 28, 2003

Here's my commentary:

Number of Weapons of Mass Destruction Found in Iraq: Zero


  1. Gross Incompetence: Weapons were allowed to be moved to more terrorist-friendly nations. The destruction of the expected volumes of WMD would leave large and telltale traces, similar to a toxic waste dump cleanup.
  2. Intentional Deception: The Bush Administration willfully misled the public about the size and nature of Iraq's WMD program in order to scare people into supporting the war.

Most Likely Truth:
A little bit of both. We know that nuclear and other weapons sites were looted in the aftermath of major conflict, along with museums, schools, hospitals, banks and just about everything else. However, taking into account the CIA's protests that its intelligence was ignored and that the Pentagon admits it was running it's own in-house intel operation that produced only friendly results, it seems clear that there was also some deception going on.

The Bottom Line: Bush Lied, People Died.

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Dean Dollop

On the heels of my recent declaration that Howard Dean is the Internet Candidate, I saw a post over on Daily Kos which suggested that one of Dean's favorite movies was Bullworth. I don't know the veracity of that report, but I like the idea of Dean as the Bullworth candidate too. In addition to laughing a lot -- and being temporarily blinded by Hallie Barry's thong strap -- I was genuinely excited by the prospect which that movie set forth: a politician who gets turned-on by hip-hop and stops speaking in the vernacular of bullshit. I actually found it quite exciting.

Someone call Mos Def and see if he wants to issue an endorsement, or we could go corporate and go after Puffy, Russel Simmons and Jay-Z. They're taking their business seriously; it's only a matter of time before they start being players in national politics. The hip-hop vote cuts across racial and class lines, and it would be a peach to get some tight beats behind the doctor. Maybe Al Sharpton can broker something later on down the line.

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Holy Crap!

Both Sasha and my Sister had been telling me about some web toon called Home Star Runner. So tonight was the night I actually visited. F'ing brilliant! It's the first on-line sitcom. At first I thought it was bullshit and stupid-cute, just some jackass "story" about a king and his sheep. And then I hit the "commentary" section and met Stong Bad. To understand this will take you about 15 minutes: approxomately the same time as it would to get you into a situation comedy.

Consider the universe of programming out here. We've got ROMP.com our own (NC-17) version of 90210 -- or Girls Gone Wild, depending on what level of sarcasm you can deal with. And there's Broken Saints, the long-running flash-toon dark/sci-fi saga. Plus a million smaller, one-off or small-run gigs. For instance the delightful Strindburg and Helium, who will be at Cannes along with iconic Odd Todd. There's an ever growing world of content out here. Someday it could rival TV.

So there are maybe a few hours total of prime-time-ready content, great, but the most amazing thing is that it's almost all free-range shit. No well-known corporate players. No congolmorate-financed weekly-updated series for $2 a month. Enjoy it while it lasts, because there's money to be made out here. As usual, sex is first, but soon others will arrive. Commercials. Product placement. Interactive interweaving of content and advertising. Brave new world; could go either way at this point.

But good or evil, it's the new medium people. The new medium will accept what you know, but it demands flexibilty of form for success. Your art will evolve. Your culture will evolve. Your customs will evolve. Your business will evolve. Your politics will evolve. You will evolve or else you will fall behind those who do. Not to say that all this is dark or orwellian. We don't need to be crap-hungry consumerists living in ever growing metropolises. We can still go back to the trees. But if we do we're taking the internet -- and most importantly the idea of the internet -- with us.

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I found some old performance text I'd not posted yet. Velocity High was the last collaboration I did with fun-loving Vermonter Johnny Nichols, who helped me develop The Best I Can, which is one of my more proud creations. He didn't actually play guitar with me, but he helped me work on it, and I think wrote a song based on the text later on when he was living up in Platsburg. Wonder what become of him...

I was about to post something about the new face of fascism in America (and apologists for McCarthy's inquisition to boot), but then dear old Capodice sent me this from McSweeny's. Lost audio commentary by Howard Zinn and Noam Chompsky on The Lord of the Rings. Chuckles all around. Eggers may be a pretentious ass, but he's got a good eye for good writing.

Finally, the USA Flag Balloon team emailed me again [context], this time with a long and kindly letter. Better than I deserved, in truth. I'm working on responding in kind. Maybe some useful dialogue is possible.

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Freak Power

I wrote in my little private paper journal a while back, writhing in a fit of angst and doubt about whether We will turn It around, "...and where's the Hunter S. Thomson of my generation? Probably off somewhere blogging..." I long ago fell under the sway of the Duke's particular brand of morality and truth-telling. He gets at the secret bloody crevaces of the human condition, sinking into the stinking realm of sweat and violence and fear. He's a dowager for the good kind of righteousness, a human divining rod for peace and honesty. He's an old man now, and probably too tired and burnt to take another tour on the front lines -- though God love him he's sure to try. Hence my intuative sense that these times demand a new incisive firebrand of Personal Truth and The Best Way Of Living, someone decidedly outside the fucking box and committed to driving forward like a scandalous addled cannonball. Sigh.

Hunter S. Thompson's latest, Kingdom of Fear, is a semi-auto-biography that blends little-known tales of the Gonzo Doctor's upbringing with current (circa summer 2002) observations and well-loved recollections from everywhere in between. There's something to be said about Hunter, something that's often lost in the lurid honesty about sex and drugs and power, and that's that the man can turn a phrase. His style is easily recognized, in truth even formulaic at times, but anyone who trots out the line that he's "become a parody" of himself if just player-hating. More than any of the excesses or eccentricities of his life, Thompson is a widely known and loved public figure because he has got game with words and ideas and the human spirit. If he were less of a Freak, he'd probably still be a best-selling novelist (or perhaps a successful politician). Instead he's what every lefty blogger wishes they were, someone who took the notion of first-person reportage to the limit and emerged with shining gems of quality and insight.

I take to heart Thompson's words about, "not endorsing my lifestyle for anyone else." I've seen many people who went after the HST tao of chemestry. It's not all that difficult. All you need are a few underworld connections and some ready cash; ask around at your local bar and someone will know someone who can hook you up. There's a phone number to be shared for whatever you're in the market for. What's far more rare are his mastery of language, heart-rending frankness and committment to personal ethics. These are his sources of value, not LSD or anything else.

It's common wisdom now that we're headed into another radical period, and in many ways the Establishment (The Man) is far more thuggish and well-equipped than last time around. Hew to the ethos.

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Image Overload

Here's a thought: everyone can tell you that JFK was the first TV-elected president. Without those debates and Nixon looking like shit while Kennedy shone like a god-child, it would have been a very different election. That was back when television was our symbol of progress. Today, the use of TV trickery has been mastered to its utmost by the Bush administration, but there's a new thing brewing. The TV is on it's way out, and the net is on it's way in.

The growing adoption of personal publishing via the internet is leading to a substantial shift in how people make decisions. Bullshit it harder to pass off, whether you're a corporation trying to cook the books or a politician trying to pull a fast one. Too many people are watching, pointing out the man behind the curtain. Mark my words, the net is going to have as much impact on American politics as TV did, and it should be a very good thing. I don't know how this election will go -- though since my man Howard Dean is the internet candidate, I hope this is the year the net breaks through -- but when today's teenage bloggers and community-makers are taking up the reins of state, the political landscape will be vastly different than it is today.

Hopefully the bi-directional and participatory nature of the internet will have an invigorating effect on civic life. Hopefully the core tennants of transparency, open-source and best-practice standards will penetrate the collective consciousness, replacing the current paradigm of stagecraft, chicanery and celebrity-worship. Hopefully we're going to see a positive, global, people-centric information revolution and not a feudal, big brother info-lockdown in the future. A lot of that depends on which direction this country is led over the next decade. Total information awareness or total information freedom. It's also about the soul of the political process: when you've consistantly got less than 60% voter turnout, democracy is ailing as a viable system.

There's a strong sense of purpose about these things.

Serindipity! As I post this, I find my original internet role-model Justin Hall is also piqued by Dean. Something big is going to happen. Radiohead says it in the best song on their new album, so at some point the kids are going to believe. "We don't want a monster taking over." Indeed.

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