2008 Elections: Candidate YouTube Videos

I’ve actually found the CNN/YouTube Debate to be an interesting step forward in terms of citizen participation in the debates process. To be certain, the weirder YouTube questions were selected out by CNN, but the ones that made it through were pretty interesting. I also think my wife’s Favorite Reporter (Anderson Cooper) did a pretty fair job in putting pressure on the candidates to Answer the Damn Question (!), though he wasn’t entirely successful. Check out the video of the debate here.

What’s gotten less attention in this CNN/YouTube debate buzz are some of the response videos posted by the candidates themselves. This video, for example, is a response by the Edwards campaign to “HairGate”:


Now I could personally give a $#@!^& about whether or not John Edwards received a $400 haircut. He’s rich, and a $400 haircut to him is nothing. And it’s not like there’s anything wrong with being rich. Where Republicans have gotten this idea that liberals aren’t allowed to be rich and talk about poverty, I don’t understand. What, only poor people can talk about poverty now? I think it fundamentally conflicts with their ideas that Liberal Democrats are all Socialists, and that ipso facto a rich Democrat is an oxymoron. Understand – Edwards isn’t saying everyone’s wealth should be equal. He’s just saying that we are wealthy enough as a country to work together to ensure that every American has access to healthcare, enough to eat and a warm bed to sleep in at night. It doesn’t mean that no one will be wealthy anymore – just that the poorest of the poor won’t be neglected and treated as subhuman by society. Is that a goal or a concept that’s so difficult to get behind?

<AHEM> But I digress…

Anyway, I thought Edwards’ response video manages to be humorous while turning the conversation back to topics that really matter. And in the world of Web 2.0 Politics, that’s an important skill to have. Obama Girl, Hot4Hil and the Obama “1984” ad are just fluff or old media retreads. At any rate, the Hair video is certainly miles ahead of the Hillary Sopranos video:


Open Left and other progressive blogs

I just wanted to give a shout-out to a new Progressive blog, Open Left. Open Left was started by Chris Bowers and Matt Stoller, formerly of MyDD. According to Chris and Matt, they left MyDD to start a site that would be focused less on party politics and elections, and more on building a broad progressive movement and , eventually, governing majority. Chris wrote an excellent article on the site here. I highly recommend the site for daily reading. It’s become one of my must-read feeds over the last week or so.

I’ve grown really bored with a lot of progressive and liberal blogs recently. Daily Kos, frankly, bores the hell out of me, and when Bill O’Reilly decides to take you on, you know that you’re not really subversive or relevant anymore. Bill only takes on the easy targets. Daily Kos, as a site, feels kind of fat, lazy and upper middle-class right now. I also get the feeling that Kos is spending more time on the new sports blogs network than Daily Kos itself. but, hey, that’s his prerogative, and I’m sure as hell not going to begrudge him the money.

I enjoy Eschaton regularly, but I sometimes feel as if Duncan has grown bored with it all. I don’t want to piss him off by suggesting what he should write about (one of his big peeves – about which, generally, he is Very Correct), but I just don’t feel the energy there. Huffington Post is nice, as is the increasingly excellent Talking Points Memo, but they just don’t feel very, well…bloggy. They’re Official News Sites now. Firedoglake is really exciting right now, and Digby’s Hullabaloo is always great for the commentary. But Open Left, as a combo activism and blog site…well, it just really grabs me right now.

Maybe I’m just picky, but I feel like it’s time for Progressive Blogosphere 2.0, with fresh names and approaches.

I’ll blog about Kentucky politics blogs tomorrow. Then I’ll really feel like hanging myself. Come back, Mark Nickolas, come back!

Dan Pink on Choosing a Major

I wish all of my students, especially my Freshmen and Sophomores, would watch this video when thinking about choosing a major. I think a lot of fellow faculty members would benefit from incorporating the “whole-brain” skills Pink mentions at the end of the video into their course design and assignments.


The Fuzzy Tail; or, the End of Disciplinarity

 [slideshare id=75651&doc=the-fuzzy-tail2082&w=425]

Ran across this presentation on the front page of Slideshare today. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the application of Long Tail thinking to being an educator and a Political Scientist lately, and also what it means for political activism and campaigns. This is one reason why I’ve been reading Nassim Taleb’s The Black Swan – to think through the implications of what John Robb has referred to as the Gaussian-Paretian Thinking Debate.

At any rate, I find this presentation on “Fuzzy Tail” thinking to be a nice corollary to The Long Tail. The university is still operating on a 19th century model of how to organize knowledge, which was reinforced by a drive for a certification process beginning in the late 19th-early 20th century. This is old thinking, a vestigial stump about as valuable as an appendix, I think. David Weinberg’s excellent Everything is Miscellaneous really illuminates why we may not need to break things down in such a fashion anymore, so long as we pay careful attention to the metadata.

And if disciplinarity is breaking down, then the importance of becoming a generalist, especially one practicing what Dan Pink would call “whole-minded thinking,” becomes ever more important. I’ve tried to practice this in my own career, moving from Ph.D. student who skirted the research-activism border to Research Director at a university research center, to applied work at an economic development non-profit, and now back to a college Lecturer. In my teaching I’ve tried to “acquire” a variety of courses (American Government, Intro to Political Theory, Kentucky Politics, Appalachian Politics, Culture and Politics in the Third World, and soon American Political Thought) which may seem to be disconnected on the surface and structure them so that if you take all of these courses with me, they add up to a larger line of inquiry and thought. Even moreso within the classes I teach, I’ve tried to blur methodological and epistemological boundaries – using odd research techniques, critical sources, non-traditional texts (online readings, comic books, now video games) to really shake up what it means to be a student of politics. In a sense, acting as a multi-disciplinary/multi-media Political Scientist helping his students to prepare for a post-Political Science/post-disciplinary world. but it can be tough to build the future in a structure overdetermined by the past. However, this is the call of Long Tail, and “Fuzzy Tail” thinking.

Isn’t that what being an engaged academic is all about? Not political indoctrination or careerism, but building the intellectual infrastructure of the future and watching what patterns emerge?

Dead Media and the Flavour of Cities

This is an excellent presentation, and well worth going to slideshare.net to see the author’s annotations. Nice design, as well as an interesting take on viewing cities as a text shaped by media flows and technologies.

[slideshare id=70662&doc=dead-media-the-flavour-of-cities3744&w=425]


The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Taleb.

This is one of those books that I have a feeling will have a massive impact on many disciplines, though it will take a while for it to get under the skin of enough young scholars and practitioners to do so. For my part, I am fascinated by the implications for the discipline of Political Science, which has traditionally focused on Gaussian thinking, as opposed to Long Tail, Paretian thinking. John Robb has an excellent post on what this might mean for political practitioners at his excellent Global Guerrillas blog here.

Over the coming weeks, I’ll be posting my thoughts chapter by chapter as I work through the book.

PS, Taleb had me at the mention of Eco’s “antilibrary.”

“There’s nothing that’s wrong with Kentucky politics that can’t be fixed by what’s right about it.”

Sadly, Mark Nickolas (of BluegrassReport.org) is leaving our fair state at the end of the month. As one of the pioneers of political blogging in Kentucky, I have to say his voice will be sorely missed. In a post earlier today, Mark had this to say about Kentucky politics:

There’s nothing that’s wrong with Kentucky politics that can’t be fixed by what’s right about it. Democrats should feel good about the big first step they took on Tuesday night. There’s much to be hopeful about, but we always need to ask the tough questions, demand accountability from all of our leaders, and never stop shining light on every nook and cranny of our government and political system, regardless of their attempts to silence dissent or intimidate critics. Keep your chin up and keep fighting. Sometimes it feels like you’re climbing Mt. Everest without supplemental oxygen, but usually you’ll be shocked by the impact a single person can have over time.

There’s a revolution going on, if you hadn’t noticed. We can’t afford to simply stand on the sidelines and watch. There is too much at stake.

Truer words were never spoken. For an interesting take on the evolution of Kentucky politics and political blogging in Kentucky over the last few years, read the entire post. You’ll be glad you did. So long, Mark, and thanks for all the fish…

Globalization and Homogenization

I was over at Warren Ellis‘ website this morning and came across this video of a Spider Jerusalem rant from Transmetropolitan (which I’m using again for PS 240 this fall). I’m teaching PS 212 Culture and Politics of the Third World this summer, and as I prepare for the globalization portion of that course, this rant seemed particularly apt.

“Now let’s all go out and celebrate by buying the same burger!” Indeed.