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March 31, 2005

Bankruptcy as Debt Slavery

Posted by tunesmith at 01:18 PM

Slavery is a strong word because of the history it evokes that bankruptcy could never compare to. But when you're talking about being beaten down by a system that prevents upward mobility, places corporate profits ahead of personal livelihood, can be stumbled into from plain bad luck, and is just about impossible to escape once entered... the system is the enemy of personal freedom.

The Black Commentator has an article describing the bankruptcy bill, which the House will vote on next week.

The bill that is coming up for a vote in the House would create a new means test that would forbid making any such distinctions.  It would even forbid comparing what someone actually earns with what they actually have to pay for rent and basic expenses.  A court would be forced to use standard government figures for expenses, regardless of what you're actually having to pay.  It would base your income on your last six months of income, even if you just got laid off.  If your income is below the median, it would spare you the means test but require that you purchase credit counseling, even if you have no money to pay for it and it isn't offered anywhere near your home.  It would also require significant new legal expenses and paperwork.

The article is written by the creators of DebtSlavery.org, another effort to oppose the bankruptcy bill.

Schiavo Appeal Denied

Posted by tunesmith at 02:04 AM

Just in case no one caught this, the latest appeal denial angrily states that Congress sought to actually assert control over the judiciary branch. In other words, this was basically an attempt at a judicial coup, an intentional subversion of the Constitution itself.

... Because these provisions constitute legislative dictation of how a federal court should excercise its judicial functions (known as a "rule of decision"), the Act invades the province of the judiciary and violates the separation of powers principle. [...] By aggrogating vital judicial functions to itself in the passage of the provisions of Section 2 of the Act, Congress violated core constitutional separation principles, it prescribed a "rule of decision" and acted unconstitutionally. [...] when the fervor of political passions moves the Executive and the Legislative branches to act in ways inimical to basic constitutional principles, it is the duty of the judiciary to intervene. If sacrifices to the independence of the judiciary are permitted today, precedent is established to the constitutional transgressions of tomorrow.

Emphasis theirs. It also includes some withering commentary about the hypocrisy of Congress's "activist judges" rhetoric. For anyone interested in blistering judicial opinions, read the opinion (pdf). The language is classic and timeless.

Update: NY Times has coverage on this issue.

March 29, 2005

M.G.M. / Grokster Oral Arguments

Posted by tunesmith at 02:26 PM

Oral arguments happened today in the case of M.G.M. v. Grokster. Strange bedfellows all around on this - you'll see established recording artists like Henley and Sheryl Crow against independent artists like Brian Eno and Chuck D. Here's some wire coverage. Some other coverage. SCOTUSBlog has in-depth coverage.

I enjoyed this part of the msnbc coverage:

Justice Antonin Scalia maintained that a ruling for entertainment companies could mean that if “I’m a new inventor, I’m going to get sued right away.”

Update: Salon has feature coverage.

Graphing Social Security

Posted by tunesmith at 02:16 AM

For those that want a prettier graphical view of Social Security's outlook, here is social security's surplus/deficit. Historical since 1970, 2005 projections through 2050, as a percentage of taxable payroll:

Note that we have gone into deficit before, for a many-year period.

Here is the trust fund ratio - assets over expenditures, same time range.

It clearly shows we've drawn from the trust fund successfully in the past, and it worked fine.

That's an interesting dip they've projected from 2004 to 2005 in the most recent Trustee Report.

These graphs are generated dynamically from data I've collected from the SSA Trustee reports. Clicking on the graphs will take you to the site that wrote the base software package. I've written scripts to get parts of the data, but there are plenty of more possible graphs to draw - the "High Cost" or "Low Cost" assumptions, different year ranges, prior year projections, etc. For instance, here is the current projection of the deficit date, compared to projections in some prior years, zoomed to 1996-2020.

Note that the projected date will improve significantly as soon as we begin our next recession. Whaa...?

I'm working on a tool to allow people to select data sources and generate their own graphs through a web form. These are flash files, so you can't copy the images. But you can link to this blog entry, or you can crop screenshots. Watch Politology for more features.

March 28, 2005

M.G.M. v. Grokster

Posted by tunesmith at 08:37 PM

There's a big day tomorrow in the technology world. Oral arguments are happening at the Supreme Court for M.G.M. v. Grokster. The basic question is whether companies that develop filesharing software can be held liable for the behavior of its users when they don't respect copyright.

This a highly unfortunate wedge issue on all sides because it is confusing. But this is very much a case of the little guy versus the big guy. Technology is an enabler, and it develops quickly. This means that there can often be "awkward adolescent stages", such as when very exciting developments in technology can lead to a surge in what had always been seen as criminal behavior.

But the absolute wrong thing to do is to limit the ability to create new technologies, and that is basically what this case is about.

M.G.M. is on the regulation side, and Grokster is on the free market side. But this is a case where the free market advantages the little guy, and regulation advantages the big corporation. In this case, you've got free market AND the little guy - it should be a no brainer as to which side should be the winner.

I am a musician. I'm licensed with ASCAP as a writer and a publisher, and I care about copyright. But the way to deal with this exciting technology is to leverage it to enable more marketing and distribution paths for the independent artist, not to clamp down on technology so that all marketing and distribution paths are gateways controlled by those who have the most legislative influence.

Legislators who have proven they've been willing to consider this issue thoughtfully include Rick Boucher (D), Chris Cannon (R), and Orrin Hatch (R). Many Democrats that have lobbying relationships with the entertainment industry have been on the wrong side of this issue. This is one of those cases where everything is topsy-turvy and "Democrats versus Republicans" does not apply.

TalkLeft appears to be on the wrong side. Atrios seems to have it correct.

And check out what Mark Cuban has to say when he discloses that he financed EFF's effort against M.G.M. It should be required reading for those on the fence.

It wont be a good day when high school entrepreneurs have to get a fairness opinion from a technology oriented law firm to confirm that big music or movie studios wont sue you because they can come up with an angle that makes a judge believe the technology might impact the music business. It will be a sad day when American corporations start to hold their US digital innovations and inventions overseas to protect them from the RIAA, moving important jobs overseas with them. [...] Its about our ability to use future innovations to compete vs their ability to use the courts to shut down our ability to compete. its that simple.

Myself? I think America is in trouble because of accumulating debt, and I believe our best chance to beat it is to innovate our way out of it. That means pro-technology, pro-innovation, pro-small business, patent reform, copyright reform - all to enable freedom of movement for small businesses, inventors, innovators, and entrepreneurs. We have been on the opposite road for a while now, and have departed from what Jefferson intended. If you care about small business, innovation, and the little guy, root for Grokster.

Foreign Policy Of The Phallus

Posted by tunesmith at 02:23 AM

I don't often link to Atrios, but he has a doozy:

I don't actually disagree with the general proposition that the Democrats need a bit of piss and vinegar in their foreign policy, but they have to figure out where to aim that piss. Peter Beinart and Joe Biden and the rest of the gang didn't aim their piss, they let George Bush grab their dicks and point them towards Baghdad. And, now, two years later, they want to lecture the rest of us on how to be perceived as "strong."

The way to be perceived as strong isn't to let George W. Bush tell you where to point your dick.


Bankruptcy Action Items: Final Week

Posted by tunesmith at 12:04 AM

This is the final week of recess before the House returns to vote on H.R. 685, the Bankruptcy Bill. This is the right time to call your congresscritters and tell them to vote No, or ask them to defend their intended Yes vote.

The House is so far gone that it's not realistic to expect that the bill will be stopped. But Congress is unprincipled on this matter. They know it is a bad bill and are only passing it because of the lack of opposition. Registering your opposition is important.

Refer to the sidebar for the appropriate list. If you get any interesting information, leave a note and it will be incorporated into the list.

Also, I wrote about protest ideas in the past. There is a new site named Plastic Revolution that tracks efforts to mail credit card applications back to to the credit card companies. Check it out.

March 27, 2005

Reality, Delusion

Posted by tunesmith at 01:47 PM

Speaking of reality returning: "You are not speaking for our family."

March 26, 2005

David Brooks On Morality And Relativism

Posted by tunesmith at 08:34 PM

David Brooks makes stuff up in his latest column.

First, he's saying that on the conservative side, the Schiavo argument is about life needing protection no matter what, and that people in vegetative states need to be kept alive because of the sanctity of life.

I don't see how that squares with all the arguments the Schindler supporters are making that she's not really in a vegetative state. If it were as Brooks says, why would they bother?

Second, he says that on the liberal side, the argument is about avoiding the moral subject of "sanctity of life" and talking about process instead.

It's not true. I've seen focus on process when the subject has been about kicking it back to court, which is also about process. It's unnecessary to kick it back to court when the grounds of the new lawsuits have already been settled in previous courts. But, there's also a sanctity of grieving, and of privacy, and of closure. There's the difficult choice of refusing medical treatment, and the reality that it is morally defensible. Those are all moral points the left is making. And even many of the Schindler supporters don't contest that last point. They're not all saying it's immoral to unhook someone from life support. They're saying she can get better.

I understand a lot of the general split between left and right. The right places more emphasis on values, even if they can't make their actions measure up. The left places more value on integrity; aligning one's actions and values. The right too easily screams "relativism!" when a liberal challenges their values in an attempt to evolve. The left too easily screams "hypocrisy!" when a conservative stumbles.

But this case isn't about morality versus relativism. You've got people trying to bring glasses of water to a woman that is physically unable to swallow. Doctors proclaiming diagnoses of consciousness when they have never met her in person. Accusations of "judicial terrorism" when the judicial history has been so consistent. There's an element of incompetence here. When one so doggedly insists on a path that is not even possible, you can admire them for their persistence, but it doesn't mean they set a good example to follow. That's the difference between what is happening here, and true "values". They could argue an immorality of disconnecting any PVS patient, but they aren't. They could argue an immorality of disconnecting a particular PVS patient that has clear indication of a misdiagnosis, but they don't even have that.

Moderates and compromisers can try to find balance points all they want, but the point here is the elephant they are refusing to see: denial. The driving force here is that this became a cause. Causes self-justify. It spread, even to people who were hazy about the backstory. The defense of the cause became the cause, more than representing Terry. And in the process, the people adopting the cause became divorced from reality.

Reality returns, sooner or later. Reality must be accepted, whether you are liberal or conservative. A conviction not based in reality, no matter how passionately expressed, is not a "value" or a "moral". It's a denial and a delusion. Arguing reality in response is not relativism or "process". It's sanity.

Update: MajikThise points out more inconsistencies.

Reconciling Differences On Schiavo

Posted by tunesmith at 07:06 PM

I was reading Olbermann's interview with the man who was appointed to reconcile the differences with the Schiavo case. I was struck by the following exchange:

OLBERMANN: Ultimately, when you were involved in this case, what were your recommendations to Governor Bush and would you give the same recommendations under these circumstances today?

WOLFSON:  My recommendations were that additional swallowing tests and neurological tests should be performed for the purpose of resolving the dispute between the parties.  Because the legal process and the medical process, I felt, had been competent and had met the standards of proof. But only if the parties agreed in advance as to how the results of those tests could be used. 

If you'll look at my final report, we had a draft agreement.  And we almost got there.  At 11:50 p.m. on the 30th of November, Sunday night, before my report was due on the first, all of us were pretty much agreeing to walk into that room and talk about how we would do that. 

Mr. Felos called me at 11:50, Michael's attorney.  And he said, "Jay, I can't do it.  I can't do it, because I'm challenging the law that appointed you, the constitutionality of it.  And if I accept anything that you're proposing, then I am diluting my legal and constitutional challenge.  I can't."

He was right in doing that legally.  And as you know, the law was deemed unconstitutional and then everything I did was technically moot. 

That's a shame. He was right, legally, but it sounds like it might have been a real opportunity for a peaceful resolution. (Although no one could have planned for the hysteria that actually has happened.) And I don't see why it would have been impossible to move forward with that process while still opposing the constitutionality of the law. Did he just feel like it would dilute his standing, or was it actually true in a legal sense?

March 25, 2005

Lack of Judicial Activism

Posted by tunesmith at 02:32 AM

Is it just me, or is this whole Schiavo thing really just about moving pawns on the board in preparation for Rehnquist's retirement? The Republicans (and many Dems) were completely out of step with the American public on this issue. Seems like the smart play would be for the Dems to make the point - over and over and over again - that that moderate judiciary was the only thing left that was powerful enough to represent and protect the public will, and that that is why the public should oppose "going nuclear".

March 23, 2005

Social Security: Earlier Deficit, But Healthier

Posted by tunesmith at 07:03 PM

I thought this graph was pretty illustrative (click to enlarge):

Iv Lrest Ivb5

(via Bradford Plumer)

Update: Yes, obviously both benchmarks are splitting hairs. When's the next CBO estimate?

Bankruptcy Bill: Letter-Signers Get Defensive

Posted by tunesmith at 01:25 PM

Atrios and AmericaBlog have details on the Democratic letter-signers getting a bit defensive. Here's why:

John Podesta, president of the progressive Center for American Progress (CAP), faced pointed questions from lawmakers at last Thursday’s New Democrat Coalition (NDC) meeting about an inflammatory e-mail his organization sent to liberal activists and bloggers.

In a March 9 e-mail, David Sirota, a fellow at CAP, accused 16 pro-business Democrats of supporting bankruptcy-reform legislation because they received political contributions from the commercial banks and credit-card companies that stand to benefit if the legislation becomes law.

Check the full article here.

I'd love to see them get even more defensive. I'd love to see even one of them back down. Here in Oregon, both Wu and Hooley signed the letter.

Find all the letter-signers here.

March 22, 2005

Bankruptcy Bill: Ongoing Action Items

Posted by tunesmith at 09:51 PM

According to GovTrack.us, the House is due to meet again the week of April 4th. The bill has already escaped committee, so it will be subject to full debate, and then a vote.

At this point the best option is to contact your representative, no matter who it is, tell them not to vote for the bill, and ask them how they are going to vote.

Here in Oregon, I'd like to hear the results of people talking to Wu and Hooley. Hooley is a cosponsor, and Wu signed a letter asking for fast scheduling. You can see all cosponsors and letter-signers by looking at the sidebar on the right, which will remain until this is over. Click on names to find contact information.

You can also use this page to fill out an email form and have the letter automatically sent to your Senators and Representative.

If you have anything interesting to report, please do so - I will have the capability to update the congress-tracking lists on the right to track how people are voting.

Tools To Track Government

Posted by tunesmith at 01:08 PM

I've written previously about some new systems that would have to be widely used to better encourage people to take action online. One such system is a bill tracker that is better than Thomas.

There's a site that is making major strides in improving upon Thomas, and it's called GovTrack.us. Go check it out.

You can:


  • Look up any congresscritter, bill, or subcommittee
  • Subscribe to any of the above
  • Be notified by email of any changes from a bill or a vote
  • Have your blog posts syndicated on bill's page
  • Syndicate feeds from the site on your own weblog

I currently have monitors set up for both S.256 and H.R. 685.

Its main flaw is that the data isn't live, because it depends on Thomas data, which is usually out of date by about two days. So for true breaking news, it isn't useful. But for data tracking of legislation, it works great. It also has a development group. Its data set is even downloadable.

Project Vote Smart also has congress-tracking data, but it's more about actual candidates than legislation.

For those wanting to get more involved in the actual development of governmental data exchange systems, there is an online working group called OGDEX that has launched recently.

Contacting the Media

Posted by tunesmith at 02:26 AM

Congress.org seems to have a tool that makes it very easy to contact your local media organizations. I asked about this about a week ago and I just stumbled across it tonight. Here's the page for Oregon.

Political Tools

Posted by tunesmith at 12:09 AM

Adina Levin of SocialText comments (here, here) on my earlier post, Activism on Weblogs.

I had mentioned the many political organizations sending out "action alerts" that compete for our attention. Levin notes rightly that this could be cobbled together through a mixture of RSS feeds.

This is correct, however there is a larger challenge about action items that would remain unresolved. When people have an urge to volunteer, it's usually abstract and not very targeted. We usually just go and sign up. In a sense, a bombarding mailing list is the perfect match for that, because it's similarly untargeted.

So there remains the problem of the nonspecific nature of the action alerts - sending money, signing a petition. That needs to be solved from the requesting side.

Nevertheless, if you are an online political organization, it is a very good idea to create a feed of your action alerts. If you're a subscriber, request it from anyone who sends out these emails. People could then subscribe to individual feeds, or intermediary services could aggregate them.

Yochai Benkler's classic "Coase's Penguin" theorizes that "peer production" will arise where there is a vast supply of decentralized skills, low transaction costs, and low communication costs. It stands to reason that these dynamics will come into play with political action as well.

In the political blogosphere, we've definitely got the first and third. If I define the "transaction cost" as being the distance between feeling "someone's gotta do something!" and ranting about it on a weblog, and then actually figuring out how to do that something, then that's where we have to make progress.

Here's how one such system would look:

It would start as a discussion site, probably more like Scoop than a normal weblog. The site would have to be membership-driven. I believe the pages would have to be promoted from within, but using user-defined trust metrics. But at any rate, the site would have to start with discussion - the motivation to do things starts with discussion and identifying need. Then, at any point, someone might identify an action item.

At that point, they could create a project. The project would be closely tied into the discussion site. It would be similar to a bug-tracking system, except more freeform. They could identify an objective, and then brainstorm about it through a related forum and/or wiki with other members interested in the project. The entire project could be made public or private.

The project would yield tasks that could be linked together in a variety of ways. The tasks could be assigned to particular members - if no one is available, the task would be advertised as a form of job opening that would advertised on the site for the community.

Tasks and projects could be "tagged" with many tags, labels, or categories. And so could users. At any point, a user could search for projects that match their interests or skills. A project manager could also search for users that match the tags of their project. At any point, these users could approach each other to explore a potential match. (Users would undoubtedly also search for users for other side-benefit purposes.)

Beyond that, it's just a matter of adding gear. You could create reports, you could find projects with common objectives, you could create very pretty flowcharts with technologies such as dot and graphviz. And all of it would be driven by an active community that first enjoys blogging and discussing together, but second is interested in going further by taking action. That is where the critical mass would come from.

The online action community is very small and young. Even now, when people determine they need to take action, there is very little understanding in the blogosphere of how to do it. Even with the bankruptcy bill, there weren't a lot of ideas that didn't require somehow inspiring a massive sea change of public opinion within days. With greater maturity and sophistication, the community will be able to identify actions that are actually doable with the resources they have. With more powerful tools, we'll be able to increase our resources dramatically.

The question is, which publishing toolkit is closest to this combination of features? The two that I know of are Scoop and Drupal/Civicspace. There are also plenty of CMS systems I know less about. I could write one from scratch in perl or php but it would take hundreds of hours.
March 21, 2005

Schiavo and Oxygen

Posted by tunesmith at 04:12 PM

This isn't really an entry about Schiavo, so bear with me if your eyes are already glazing over.

So, the Schiavo issue has pretty much sucked all the oxygen out of other issues - bankruptcy, judicial nominees, the budget, the environment, even social security.

I don't have much to say about Schiavo. It's very sad. The poor woman has had her feeding tube detached and multiple times by now, and it's just cruel. Being a bit closer to politics than most people, I can identify with the need we feel to express an opinion and act from it. But I just don't have one on this matter, other than a general sense that Congress should just mind their own damn business.

Oxygen, however, is another matter. Political Oxygen. It's all tied in to framing, marketing, and tipping points. To put it simply, the ability to affect change is related to the amount of available oxygen there is.

It's a great metaphor, if a bit abstract. I like to think of three common ways to deal with this kind of oxygen:

  • Conserving Air: People do this when they make a judgment of how much oxygen there is for an issue - how much appetite there is for change, and how much room there is to maneuver. They treat it as a fixed space. They'll take limited steps to affect change, and reject the prospect of doing more, on the grounds that just because something should be possible doesn't mean it is. These are the pragmatists that reject idealism.
  • Huffing and Puffing: People do this when they completely deny the oxygen that is available to them, and insist on filling the limited space with their own need to bloviate. They're not actually increasing the likelihood of change happening, because there still isn't the oxygen for it. They're just sucking the air away from everyone else. They believe that something being impossible is irrelevant, because it should be possible. These are the idealists that reject pragmatism.
  • Creating New Oxygen: People do this when they recognize that change is needed, and when they also see that there isn't the oxygen for that change. They then take the steps needed to actually create more space for it. They find that something should be possible, and then they actually work to make it possible. These are the pragmatic idealists.

When you look at it that way, it's obvious which category is the one we should aim for. However, what we tend to see far too often are people in the first two categories. And too many people see it as a binary choice; you're either one or the other.

It's interesting to go through each of the categories and decide who in the political sphere is in each category. I'd say that most congresscritters, especially weak-spined ones, are in the Air-Conserving category. They too often reject that they can actually create more oxygen. I'd put folks like many radio hosts - and many bloggers - in the Huffing and Puffing category. Nader, too - I can't express how frustrated I was to see Nader offered up as an alternative to the first category.

And, I'm sure many would disagree, but I'd definitely put Michael Moore in the third category. He definitely makes me roll my eyes at times, but that guy's just got a knack for changing the topic of conversation, and creating new interest. He's definitely not a voice crying out alone into the wildnerness. I also think a lot of the movers and shakers from the hard right in the third category. I don't agree with their ideals, but they've definitely taken pragmatic steps to increase their own power.

Credit Card Protests

Posted by tunesmith at 12:46 PM

There's been a fair amount of talk about things people could do to protest against the credit card companies.

Consumer protests can be problematic, because they often require a massive critical mass to make any difference whatsoever. But, if they're fun in the meantime, who cares?

First, don't confuse "protesting" with "shooting yourself in the foot". Protesting the credit card companies by refusing to pay your credit card bill kind of... misses the point. You want to cost them money, not make them money.

So, here are some ideas and inspiration materials:

  • Does anyone really check the signatures on credit card receipts? According to Zug, there's a lot of opportunity for mischief here. Go check it out, it's hilarious. They've got a sequel here. Doesn't seem like anything seriously bad can happen if you replace your signature with an anti-Congress screed.
  • Lots of credit card applications have "postage paid" envelopes on them. I've seen a lot of suggestions to just stuff the envelopes with the rest of the mailing material (or with heavier materials) and drop them off in the mail.
  • Or, you can simply forward the applications, or your bills, or your old credit cards (minus sensitive information) to your local Yea-voting congresscritter. Everyone could do it on one day. Back in college, I was part of a group that decided to all anonymously mail coconuts to David Letterman on the same day from different parts of the nation. Over 100, I think. (What can I say... there's a time and a place for everything, and it's called college.) I think we got mentioned on the top ten list, so, uh, that means it works!

Now, the legality of stuff like that is probably questionable. If you really want to hurt the credit card companies, you really just have to do things that are a bit more boring.

  • If you're at a college, tear down any credit card marketing materials you see that are posted on bulletin boards or at other public places.
  • Cancel/close almost all your credit cards. If you want to keep one for emergency purposes, freeze it in a block of ice in your freezer. If you want to use it, you have to wait for the ice to melt - no more impulse buying.
  • Pay your balance every month. The credit industry calls these people "freeloaders". They hate them. Make them hate you.

Incidentally, you don't want to throw your credit cards away entirely. I got myself out of a lot of debt a few years ago - and had stellar credit because of all that debt. I spent two years on debit cards, and then I promptly almost had my mortgage declined for "lack of recent credit history". I had to accept a higher interest rate. Since then I've forced myself to use a credit card sparingly, but I just had a refi declined for the same reason - lack of enough credit history. It's completely backwards.

By the way, the brief rules of debt management everyone should know, step-by-step:


  1. Renegotiate your credit card interest rates. Demand lower rates, claim a competitor is offering the lower rate (even if they aren't).
  2. Fund the company-matched portion of your 401k first. It's free money.
  3. Pay minimum payments on all credit card bills except for highest-rate bill.
  4. Fund rest of 401k or IRA if possible
  5. Pay maximum amount you can to your highest-rate credit card bill.
  6. When paid off, transfer same amount of money to your next-highest-rate bill.

I would usually keep student loans fairly low priority in the chain because you can ask for allowances on them if you get in financial trouble.

March 19, 2005

Exit Poll Echoes

Posted by tunesmith at 02:59 PM

Given that this weblog is about politics and technology, we'll occasionally be delving into polling matters. Your author took a fairly active part in the exit poll and vote counting controversy over at DailyKos. My main schtick was to doggedly try and manage expectations. Among my main points:

  1. The exit poll controversy was hardly the rock-solid proof of vote fraud that many progressives were claiming it to be.
  2. The election results reflected pre-election polling more than many progressives wanted to admit.
  3. Kerry's chances of getting Ohio from a recount were lower than many progressives wanted to believe.

Needless to say, my arguments were unpopular, but I was coming to the debate as a fellow progressive, and tried to back up my views with evidence. Also, I tried to show respect - I had no interest in mocking the people that disagreed with me, because these are causes that people invest their lives in.

The debates in the election aftermath seemed to follow a common theme, though. Generally, conclusions were outpacing fact-gathering. Conviction was outpacing education. And there was frankly a huge emotional component to it that would take a psychologist to unlace responsibly. Suffice it to say that people were, at times, replacing their grieving process with misplaced activism. This was very frustrating, even thought everyone on the progressive side was very disappointed with the results.

It didn't help that we were trying to wrestle with fairly dense subject material, like the techniques behind exit polling. My own arguments were regularly wrong, but I think they also tended to be closer to the truth than a lot of the theories out there.

Which brings us to some recent news regarding the exit polling controversy, courtesy of MyDD, Ruy Teixeira, and DemFromCT:


First, the Social Science Resource Council (SSRC) has released a summary of the exit poll controversy named A Review of Recent Controversies Concerning the 2004 Presidential Election Exit Polls (pdf). It's informative, only 18 pages, and does not take sides - an excellent summary. It's a great way to avoid the monstrosity (pdf, 77 pages) that is Edison/Mitofsky's report on the same matter.

For those that want a super-brief summary, here is my take:


  • The leaked exit poll data did not mean what the blogosphere thought it meant.
  • Aside from that, the leaked exit poll data was flawed anyway.
  • Edison/Mitofsky's response to the flaw was to say, "Well, it could have been because of different shyness levels among question respondents...".
  • Edison/Mitofsky did not address fraud as a possibility.
  • Fraud remains a viable hypothesis (nothing more).
  • The hypothesis could be tested with the release of the raw exit poll data.
  • Edison/Mitofsky is refusing to do so, on the grounds that doing so could reduce the effectiveness of future exit polling - this is a valid point, but it's arguable that it's valid enough to counterbalance the need to test the fraud hypothesis.

I personally support the release of the raw exit poll data. I wouldn't know what the hell to do with it, and I cringe at the thought of some of the self-professed statistical "experts" going through it, but I believe it would be worth it and would increase the public trust in our elections.

Second, many of you may remember a raging controversy among the progressive polling crowd, regarding the "weighting of Democrats versus Republicans". Polls would routinely come out showing Bush ahead of Kerry, and the criticism was constantly that the polling outfits simply asked too many Republicans what they thought, and not enough Democrats - which would inflate Bush's support and deflate Kerry's.

The problem is that some of the polling outfits would not release the party breakdown of their polls. That is changing. Mystery Pollster received this notice from Gallup:


As far as I know, Gallup has no history over the last 70 years of routinely posting the party ID composition of each survey we conduct, just as we routinely don't report ideology and a lot of other measures regularly asked in each survey. As noted, we send the party ID composition percentages to anyone who is interested (actually, we really don't get that many requests for them). But since this seems to be an area in which there is perhaps bourgeoning interest, we'll probably start posting them on our website for each survey, along with rolling trends and some explanations of how Gallup measures party ID and what it's significance is.

And this notice from Pew:


Given the evolution of the dialogue on the subject - for which MysteryPollster deserves a lot of credit -- and the greater understanding among political observers regarding the perils of weighting party ID to an arbitrary parameter (clearly illustrated by the party ID distribution on Election Day 2004), we will begin posting party ID and its trend in our toplines in future survey releases.

What's the irony about all this? Progressives were angry that the pollsters were not weighting their polls to historical Democrat/Republican percentages, where Democrats outnumbered Republicans. And then on Election Day, the breakdowns ended up being much more Republican than they were historically. So, before Election Day, the "Bush-biased" polls, while still biased towards Bush, were closer to the truth than we thought, anyway.

At any rate, the extra transparency is a good thing.

Bankruptcy Bill Talking Points

Posted by tunesmith at 12:51 PM

Tom over at BizzyBlog has a great summary of talking points against the bankruptcy bill. They're supported by a thorough rebuttal against Todd Zywicki's arguments for the bill. BizzyBlog has done a ton of great research about this bill - it would be a good idea to review his thoughts and then use the talking points on your rep.

March 18, 2005

Bankruptcy Bill Leaves Committee

Posted by tunesmith at 02:03 PM

The NY Times has coverage on the bankruptcy bill - it left committee yesterday on a party-line vote, and will be scheduled for a full vote.

On a party-line vote of 22-13, the House Judiciary Committee approved the bill, which would make it harder for people to wipe away debts in bankruptcy. A lone Democrat, Rep. Rick Boucher of Virginia, joined the majority Republicans to support the legislation.

Earlier in a daylong session, committee Democrats lost in a series of partisan votes when they proposed amendments to the bill.

Talking Points Memo's bankruptcy blog has the details on the failed amendments:

  • An amendment by John Conyers (D-MI) protecting military personnel from predatory payday lenders;
  • An amendment by Mel Watt (D-NC) exempting tuition costs from the expense calculation in the means test;
  • An amendment by Adam Schiff (D-CA) protecting people whose bankruptcy is due to identity theft;
  • An amendment by Howard Berman (D-CA) protecting bankruptcy filers who file due to medical crises;
  • An amendment by Jerry Nadler (D-NY) which would make debts arising from civil rights violations non-dischargable in bankruptcy.

You can watch a webcast of the proceedings.

Bankruptcy: Town Hall Talking Points

Posted by tunesmith at 01:08 PM

An email is circulating by a "Marc Stern" with some ideas on how to deal with any upcoming town halls. The email is directed to bankruptcy attorneys, but most of it is relevant to any concerned citizen.

Congress is in recess.  Our Representatives are coming home to campaign, hold Town Meetings and talk, they think, about Social Security Reform, with their constituents.  They view their vote on BARF as a "free vote," i.e. there is no future debtors lobby so that can give a special interest a gift with little or no consequence.

It is time to let them know that there will be a downside to their support of the bill.  Take some clients.  Don't talk about the means test.  Everyone thinks that debtors who legitimately can pay their bills, should.  They are ready to talk about responsibility and it sounds good.  Don't let them derail the discussion with talk about how people should file Chapter 13.  Even though most of think that it will not work, there is little or nothing to be gained on this issue.

There are other things tucked in the bill that can be extremely hard to defend and they should be put on the spot.  For instance:

Why should investment bankers be exempt from conflict of interest laws? (The Leahy Sarbanes Warner amendment)

Why should some creditors who file frivolous and vexatious motions be immune from 9011 sanctions? Section 102 of the bill dealing with "small businesses" that sound like debt buyers and collection agencies?

Some Representatives have never heard of the "universal default clause" that allows a credit card company to increase your interest rate because you were late on another bill, not theirs.  It is time that they found out.

The attorney liability stuff, especially the debt relief agency materials are another example.

Representatives are not used to being questioned and are not certainly not used to being held accountable.  The time is now.  Even if this thing passes, as we start trying to figure out how or if we are going to practice under the new order, it will be a source of some relief to remember how they couldn't explain it and how embarrassed they were that they did not even know that some of this stuff was in the bill.   More information can be found here:

http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/bankruptcy/

Go out, visit your Representative and ask them.  It might be enlightening, it will almost certainly be fun, and maybe it will do some good.


Bankruptcy Lists

Posted by tunesmith at 03:29 AM

You'll see we've added the following list to the sidebar:

Bankruptcy Lists

It will be there for the duration of the bankruptcy campaign.

I've updated some status - I put Sensenbrenner in the "Definite Yea" category because he's the bill's sponsor, and Conyers in the "Definite Nay" category because he was seen railing against the bill on the House Floor on C-Span.

It's never too early to harangue your congresscritter. From an earlier action post:

Action: Click the above links to find the representatives, and then click their names to get their contact information. This tool makes it very easy to contact them.

Then, tell us what you find out. It is not sufficient to simply give them a piece of your mind. Make your case, and then ask where they stand. If they are one on of the lists, ask them if they will withdraw. Ask them how they are going to vote, and let us know if they are voting yes, no, or are thinking about it. I will then be able to go to the pages for the campaigns and update the status for the representatives in question.

Make your calls. Change some minds. Report back.

Bankruptcy: Warren vs. Zywicki

Posted by tunesmith at 01:02 AM

Trey Jackson has the video of Elizabeth Warren debating Todd Zywicki.

Good stuff. Warren gets the nod on this one. Zywicki implied that since bankruptcies increased while the economy improved, it by definition meant the increase was because of fraud. This is one of the central dishonest arguments for the bill.

Remember, from the pdf I mentioned before:

The bankruptcy filing rate is a symptom. It is not the disease. Some people do abuse the bankruptcy system, but the overwhelming majority of people in bankruptcy are in financial distress as a result of job loss, medical expense, divorce, or a combination of those causes. In our view, the fundamental change over the last ten years has been the way that credit is marketed to consumers. Credit card lenders have become more aggressive in marketing their products, and a large, very profitable, market has emerged in subprime lending. Increased risk is part of the business model. Therefore, it should not come as a surprise that as credit is extended to riskier and riskier borrowers, a greater number default when faced with a financial reversal. Nonetheless, consumer lending remains highly profitable, even under current law.

But even more maddening is the assertion that the increased bankruptcy filing rate is a problem. Yes, of course it's a problem. But who is it afflicting? The profitable credit card companies with the financial models that already take the bankruptcy filing rate into account? Or the individuals and families that are experiencing such hardship that they are finding it more necessary to declare bankruptcy? Congress believes that it's the credit card companies that deserve the rescuing.

By the way, to dismiss with a canard - no one is arguing that poor people should not have access to credit. It's fine to use a credit card for emergency funds or short term expenses that will be paid off. But the credit card companies are marketing their product as extra disposable income. Their financial interests are to put people in long term debt at high interest rates. Their job is to create the demand. They are very, very good at it. Personal responsibility doesn't mean we're required to accept the presence of temptation.

March 17, 2005

Bankruptcy News Coverage

Posted by tunesmith at 11:21 PM

There was some news coverage opposing the bankruptcy bill on Thursday. The SF Examiner has this editoral by Darrell Salomon. The SF Chronicle ran Robert Scheer's Tutorial In Greed. The Chronicle had a front page story that is quite good, and another editorial by conservative columnist Debra Saunders.


I am ashamed to note that every Republican senator in Washington voted for this special-interest bonanza. These so-called conservatives should believe in the market and chastise irresponsible lenders.

In addition, 18 Democratic and one independent senator voted yes. "Many Democrats and Republicans saw this as what is seen in Washington as a free vote," Plunkett noted. That is, important interests wanted a "yes" vote, and there was little opposition. "There's no lobby for future debtors," Plunkett added.

As it turns out, the negative media attention has turned up the heat. Yet Plunkett sees a "very, very slim chance" of defeating the bill.

March 16, 2005

Activism On Weblogs

Posted by tunesmith at 01:01 PM

Think. Say. Do. That's the basic cycle we all go through when we want to make big changes.

Think: It could merely be a growing sense that something ain't right. That something needs to change. You might not know exactly what yet, or maybe you're considering possibilities.

Say: This is where we enter active negotiation with ourselves, and identify exactly what it is that is wrong. Rather than simply mulling the matter in the background, we tackle it head-on. Cynicism and self-defeatism shrinks.

Do: Finally, we take action to cause the change.

This happens with communities and nations, too. The rise of populism is always related to this process in a large population.

Our political system is overdue for a reshuffling. Congress has been too split apart from the interests of the public for too long. The bankruptcy bill is a perfect illustration of that.

How does the blogosphere fit into this cycle?


The blogosphere has thus far mostly been about "Say". As people get more engaged, they start sharing their opinions and discussing them online - they reinforce each other's views, pile on to causes, and start engaging in that dangerous practice - idealism. The blogosphere is perfectly built for this because it is so easy to find someone else with the same whacked-out crazy mix of interests. Hundreds of thousands of small ponds, with all of us as big fish.

So far, however, the blogosphere has not been a great fit for "Do". There are a myriad of cynical ways to say it - pajama-clad bloggers agreeing that something needs to be done, and then not doing anything - but the truth is simply that there is often still a long distance between "Say" and "Do".

However, the blogosphere broke down the barriers for "Say" already. Anyone can go to blogger.com to create a free weblog, and there are clear upgrade paths.

Similarly, it's just a matter of time before more barriers are broken down for "Do". All it takes is the creation of more tools. The tools that will work best are the ones that can easily be dropped in to a person's existing weblog, regardless of platform. This requires open standards. Eventually all weblogs could have a spruced up open "plugin API" that supports more functionality than simply posting to a weblog.

In order to break down the "Do" barrier, here are some possible tools we could see:

  • A congress tracking system: Thomas sucks. There should be a system where any bill can be readable as text, annotated by the public, with discussion underneath. It should be hooked up to a congressperson-tracking system so we can track how they have been contacted by the public, what they think of the bill, and how they are likely to vote. It should be easy to look up a congressperson's complete vote history.
  • A public issue-tracking system: These have existed for software developers for a while - bugzilla; mantis - but they're so obtuse that only geeks get into them. Plus, they tend to only be for actual bugfixing of existing issues. There needs to be a new system where a community can
    1. Identify an objective
    2. Start working to publicly create tasks supporting that objective
    3. Assign those tasks to willing community members
    4. Track progress and make reports
    It's similar to bugtracking, but instead for public use and activism.
  • A better "volunteer tracking" system. A marketplace for matching up projects with specialized needs, with people that have specialized skills. Someone who needs a thirty-second music soundtrack for their political ad, or a large tab-delimited text file of precinct data put into a mysql database, should be able to define those needs somewhere for someone else to snap up. I can do either of those things, but no one would know it without that service.
  • An action aggregator: Right now we're being bombarded with tasks to call about this or that, and it's like they are competing with each other. It's nonsense - a service could be created to let people subscribe to daily missives for all the causes they care about.

Many of these tools are in development, and some are further off into the future. There are some closed systems like CivicSpace that require a certain weblog platform to take advantage of their tools, and many other standalone tools that can be dropped right in to any weblog. In addition, the blogosphere always jumps around in strange directions - will we be seeing a blog-driven public lobbying organization with paid lobbyists? An actual blog-driven shadow democracy with elections and office-holders?

Politology will be tracking these developments and analyzing how they are affecting politics. We'll also be actually working on developing some new tools; write if you want to be part of a development team.

Bankruptcy: Wednesday Action Items

Posted by tunesmith at 03:14 AM

Today is House-targeting day, and we have a very cool tool to help us.

Congresstrack.org has developed a tool to enable groups to track where congresscritters stand on particular issues. CongressTrack's creator is allowing the tool to be used by anyone (whether conservative, liberal, or anything else) for the bankruptcy bill.

I've set up three trackers for groups of representatives in the House. I have several categories for the representatives, and they are all currently in the "Uncontacted" category.

The first group is The Cosponsors. It would be a real accomplishment to get someone to unsponsor, the sort of thing that could start feeding on itself. If you go through the list, you might find some real surprises. I am personally very surprised to see Rick Boucher (D-WA) on that list; one of his specialties is internet law and he's always been on the side of the little guy in those battles. There are six other Democrats on the list.

The second group is The House Judiciary Committee. It's likely that many of these are definitely voting against the bill, but they need to be contacted to make sure.

The third group is The Democratic Letter Signers. I just don't understand these people; many of them are asking for a quick turnaround, but have not endorsed the bill. It would be progress if we can get any of these folks to promise to vote No.

Action: Click the above links to find the representatives, and then click their names to get their contact information. This tool makes it very easy to contact them.

Then, tell us what you find out. It is not sufficient to simply give them a piece of your mind. Make your case, and then ask where they stand. If they are one on of the lists, ask them if they will withdraw. Ask them how they are going to vote, and let us know if they are voting yes, no, or are thinking about it. I will then be able to go to the pages for the campaigns and update the status for the representatives in question.

I'll be out part of the day - I have a weekly trip to Seattle to take a film orchestration class - but will keep tabs on comments and status. On Thursday, we'll catch up with the state of things around the blogosphere.

March 15, 2005

Bankruptcy: Tuesday Action Items

Posted by tunesmith at 01:33 AM

Today's action items are to continue with Monday's unresolved items.

We're hearing hints that the House vote may be after Easter recess, the week of April 4th. If that's true, how should we fill the time?

The main ideas I have on my list and have not implemented are:

  • Implementing a Congress tracking tool that someone wrote me about - it allows a group to easily track the positions of a group of congresscritters on an issue. If you call yours, you would update the tool with what they say. We'd probably do this for the judiciary committee members.
  • Identifying a list of hometown newspapers of representatives, and the addresses for letters to the editor.

Other loose ends: I know of interest in South Dakota to put together a delegation to visit Stephanie Herseth, but they need more people. Contact me if you'd like to be put in touch.

There is also an effort to visit reps in Illinois to certain representatives to unsponsor.

Here in Oregon, Wu and Hooley both deserve a visit.

Keep checking out BizzyBlog, which has some great coverage about the effects of this bill, including a rebuttal to Todd Zywicki's recent defense of the bill.

Some posts not about bankruptcy will probably show up here and there, as this blog was originally formed to be about "Politics and Technology in the United States".

March 14, 2005

Bankruptcy: Senator Reid's Statement

Posted by tunesmith at 04:16 PM

Thanks to Nathan, following is the text of Senator Reid's statement about his "Yea" vote on the bankruptcy bill:

People who have the ability to repay their debts should be required to do so. I support this bill because it puts that principle into law and prevents the abuse of bankruptcy laws.

The bill is flawed in several ways. It does not do enough to protect people who declared bankruptcy due to medical emergencies or military service. It does not do enough to protect the employees of corporations like Enron and Worldcom that declare bankruptcy. And it allows people who engage in unlawful projects to avoid accountability. Democrats offered amendments to address each of these flaws, but they were rejected by the Republican majority. I hope the Congress returns to these important issues in the future.

But even with these flaws, the bill is an improvement over current law and merits my support.

How so??

Note that this had to be transcribed by someone who called in and asked for the statement, as Reid's office is refusing to release it through normal public channels or post it on their website.

What an odd statement. List a bunch of specific flaws, speak ambiguously about unidentified benefits, and then defend the bill? Refer to the recent pdf from bankruptcy-law professors, or the awesome video of Dave Ramsey to gather up counterpoints.

Dave Ramsey On Bankruptcy Bill

Posted by tunesmith at 11:31 AM

There's a phenomenal video making the rounds of Dave Ramsey slamming the bankruptcy bill. Check it out.

Bankruptcy: Monday Action Items

Posted by tunesmith at 12:11 AM

Your assignment - work on at least one of the sections below. Make progress today, and report any meaningful news, either through comments or private notes. Enlist your contacts and link freely.

Bookmark Politology. (RSS feed)

House

Here is the summary. The House bill number is H.R. 685. Go to that page and then click "Cosponsors" to view the 83 cosponsors - you might be surprised. (Darlene Hooley in Oregon?)

The bill has been referred to committee. According to Thomas, it has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee (some think the Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law) and the Committee on Financial Services.

Finally, a group of twenty Democrats have written a letter to Hastert asking for quick movement on the bill, saying, "It is our hope that the House of Representatives will consider this important piece of legislation in an expedited manner." In a way this is worse than being a cosponsor because one gets the sense they are worried about the political cost of due consideration. (Note the signatures that are not on the cosponsor list.) It's a cynical dismissal of their duties as our representatives. Check the bottom of this post for the letter and the list of representatives that signed.

There are a lot of implicit action items in that chunk of information, so let me spell them out.

  • If there is a cosponsor on this bill that has no business being a cosponsor, contact them immediately and tell them to withdraw. Note that many of these reps cosponsored en masse on 2/9 - they might not have been paying attention. Getting someone to unsponsor would be a major coup.
  • It is still not clear where the bill is and where it could be frozen. Find out exactly what subcommittee(s) the bill is in (if any), and report back.
  • Go ahead and start contacting the representatives that are in the full Judiciary and Financial committees to apply pressure.
  • For liberals - contact the letter-signing Dems that are frightened of due consideration, and tell them to vote Nay.
  • Enlist your contacts.

Email is okay - if you'd rather simply contact your assigned Senators and Rep, you can use our tool (information). Calling is better. Google a rep's name to find their (206) phone number. From the comments:


Also effective are postal letters to their district (non-DC) offices, letters to the editor, and prepared questions at in-district 'town hall' meetings (call the district offices and ask about the schedule).

Fax your postal letters to get around the delivery delay.

Senate

Keep telling the "Yea" voters what you think of their votes. I really think there is mileage to be won here. Joe Biden has already written a defensive-sounding letter (bugmenot) to the Los Angeles Times defending his vote, so they are feeling heat. Turn it up. Among Biden's points:


In 2001, a similar bill passed the Senate 82 to 16. The provisions affecting consumer bankruptcy were identical to those Chait criticizes.

Someone needs to inform Biden that just because something was wrong yesterday doesn't mean it is right today.

I'm also curious what Reid's statement will say. Keep asking.

Check here for the list of Senators that voted Yea, and check here if you only want to see the ones who are up for re-election in 2006.

What would be ideal is turning a Senator; getting them to admit they misjudged the opposition and join the call to oppose the bill's movement. So, don't be so rude that you undermine that objective.

Media

I need information on a tool that will enable us to easily send Letters to the Editor to certain targeted newspapers. Barring that, when we identify the correct subcommittees, we will need information on the hometown newspapers of representatives, and the address to write or email to.

Conservatives, call Rush and gently register your opposition to the bill while making clear that you are not a plant. Liberals, do NOT call Rush, it's just counterproductive.

Contacting Lou Dobbs is definitely worthwhile as he is already talking about the "assault on the middle class". Getting him to mention politology and the coalition could help build more momentum.

Finally, keep letting us know of visible media mentions of this effort.

Medium Term

I would love to hear about people putting together personal lobbying visits to the offices of their Representatives. From the comments:

Time-consuming but powerful are personal lobbying delegations with the Congressperson -- four to six constituents, ideally people with some weight in the community, even better if they are active in the Rep's party. This will require persistent letter and phone work with the Congressperson's scheduler (see congress.org), as well as recruiting and preparation of the group. They can happen in the DC office or at a district office.

The public doesn't really have a lobbying organization, so it's up to average citizens to set up meetings. Here in Oregon, Wu and Hooley definitely need to be paid a visit, and I'd love to hear of the results.

There are also some interesting musings from a legal perspective about this bill. First, Just One Minute has an idea about a "killer amendment" for the bill. I don't know who to contact in the House about ideas such as these, but I will link to and track efforts from people who want to follow up.

Second, via a private note:


There is one large legal flaw in the bill no one seems to have noticed. The means testing provision separates people by state. Simply put, there's no equal protection under the law. A different standard is applied to citizens from different states. That appears unconstitutional from the start.

I don't know if that is inconsistent with equal protection or not, but it's worth considering.

Support Materials

Here is the text of the letter that twenty Democrats sent to Hastert. See the bottom for their names. Contact them to tell them what you think.


The Honorable J. Dennis Hastert
Speaker
U.S. House of Representatives
H-232, The Capitol
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Mr. Speaker:

We write to encourage you to bring bankruptcy reform legislation to the House floor as soon as the Senate completes its consideration of the bill. The New Democrat Coalition has backed common sense bankruptcy reform in the past and helped in passing the bankruptcy reform bill by overwhelming margins in the House of Representatives during the 108th Congress.

Over the last several years, we have worked to advance reasonable and balanced legislation that would require individuals who have the ability to repay their debts to do so, while preserving the important safety net of bankruptcy under Chapter 7 for those who truly need it. We believe that responsible bankruptcy reform embodies the New Democrat principle of personal responsibility, while at the same time adding important new consumer protections such as requiring enhanced credit card disclosure information and encouraging participation in consumer credit counseling.

It is our hope that the House of Representatives will consider this important piece of legislation in an expedited manner. We stand ready to work with you and our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass bankruptcy reform into law.

Sincerely,

Rep. Ellen O. Tauscher
Rep. Adam Smith
Rep. Ron Kind
Rep. Artur Davis
Rep. Carolyn McCarthy
Rep. John Larson
Rep. Stephanie Herseth
Rep. Dennis Moore
Rep. Mike McIntyre
Rep. Joe Crowley
Rep. Jay Israel
Rep. David Wu
Rep. Diane Hooley
Rep. Melissa Bean
Rep. Jim Davis
Rep. Harold E. Ford, Jr.
Rep. Ed Case
Rep. Jay Inslee
Rep. Shelley Berkeley
Rep. Gregory W. Meeks

Bankruptcy: Write Your Congresscritters

Posted by tunesmith at 12:01 AM

Thanks to The People's Email Network, we now have a tool up to easily allow you to write your Congresscritters from Politology.

Visit our Write Your Congresscritters page to send emails. You will type in your address and your message, and the message about the bankruptcy bill will automatically go to your own Senators and your own Representative.

In addition, PEN will be giving updates to members of the House Judiciary Committee about the level of opposition to this bill.

Note - it's viral. You can include email addresses to contacts that you want to enlist, and they will be sent information.

March 13, 2005

Bankruptcy: Bipartisan Letter To The House

Posted by tunesmith at 10:15 PM

A large, bipartisan group of law professors who teach bankruptcy law have drafted a letter (pdf) to be sent to the House Judiciary committee, where the bill currently resides. They strongly oppose the bill - it's worth a read if you want a methodical outline of the case against this bill.

The bankruptcy filing rate is a symptom. It is not the disease. Some people do abuse the bankruptcy system, but the overwhelming majority of people in bankruptcy are in financial distress as a result of job loss, medical expense, divorce, or a combination of those causes. In our view, the fundamental change over the last ten years has been the way that credit is marketed to consumers. Credit card lenders have become more aggressive in marketing their products, and a large, very profitable, market has emerged in subprime lending. Increased risk is part of the business model. Therefore, it should not come as a surprise that as credit is extended to riskier and riskier borrowers, a greater number default when faced with a financial reversal. Nonetheless, consumer lending remains highly profitable, even under current law.

The added risk of Chapter 7 bankruptcies is already built into their financial models. This bill rescues no one.

March 12, 2005

Bankruptcy: Weekend Action Items

Posted by tunesmith at 05:34 PM

This weekend is mostly about researching and preparing for the House. We're need to identify where the bankruptcy bill will begin - it appears it is the House Judiciary Committee or a subcommittee - and identify their members. There's already some work being done to that end in the comments. Please weigh in. Rep. Cannon appears to have a key role. From my limited impression of him, he's not devoid of reason. We also need to know the bill number, if it exists yet.

If anyone is willing to do some typesetting work or marketing writing, I'd love to host a pdf flyer that we can print out and drop off in public places. Cribbing the main statement from the original entry is fine. I don't care whether it is politology-branded or not, but it should have directions on where to go to participate. In that vein, if a graphic designer could come up with a badge, brand, or 150x200 box that other blogs could host on their weblog to express support, that would help as well.

I would like pointers to whatever tools there are these days that allow easy creation of Letters to Editor, to focus on local media.

Finally, I'd like more thoughts on exactly how to target a couple of media opinion leaders or PACs; ones that we have a good shot at affecting. I want instructions on how to call into Rush's show, when he's on, and whether he could be convinced to weigh in against this bill with enough prodding from conservative listeners. Any other such organization that could release a statement of opposition after some prodding would be good to target, but we shouldn't get spread out too thin.

This will take us through Sunday. In the meantime, use the comments and private notes to help come up with action items for the first few days of the week.

Bankruptcy Coalition: How This Will Work

Posted by tunesmith at 01:30 AM

We're doing a good job at sticking to this so far. We didn't have major A-list "new links" on Friday, but traffic actually rose from the previous day, so the site is proving sticky. Keep up the interest.

The "coalition" so far has meant many, many blogs linking to this site and expressing support. There are a lot of otherwise-partisan bloggers that are positively thrilled to be working with their counterparts on this issue. This is obviously newsworthy by itself.

But the other newsworthy aspect is that there is a lot more latent opposition to this bill that everyone first thought. We need to work fast for it to have any affect.

This means putting the coalition to work. Here's what we will do:

I will be creating "Action" posts, hopefully one per weekday and weekend. I do not have a mailing list set up to send out Action Items by email - I always thought that was fairly lame, anyway. Instead, this effort will need to rely on weblogs continuing to read the site, and passing on the links to the Action entries. Bookmark the site, or subscribe to its RSS Feed.

The content of the Action posts will basically be determined by reader input. So, send ideas, either in comments, or through private notes.

At this point, it looks like a four-point effort:

The Senate

Yes, the Senate voted. But I'm coming more to the belief that there is real potential here. There was gross cynicism in that 74-25 vote. Expedience was not appropriate in this matter, and we could make it play into our hands. If we are of the belief that we could have changed the Senate vote if we had had more time, then let's use that time to make them regret it. I don't mean that as hyperbole, I mean to actually elicit statements from Senators, forcing them to defend their votes. I'm going to look more into a congress tracking tool over the weekend so we can track what they say.

The House

There will first be committees to focus on. Then it will be the House in general. Evidently, there are several Democrats that wrote an anxious letter asking for quick passage on the Bill (anyone have a link?); it could be beneficial to target them especially. (One of them, Wu, is right here in Portland.)

The Media

Targeting the politicians directly isn't enough. It might be possible to peel off a couple of Republicans, but in general, the Republican majority is far too disciplined - they vote as a bloc. The only way to turn the Republicans is to push them to a critical mass where they found a politically feasible way to change their approach. Their tipping point is invisible, so it's a matter of finding as many different pressure points as possible.

I am thinking: target local media. And also try to turn conservative opinion makers. Just One Minute had earlier asked if Rush could be turned. It's worth exploring. I already saw Lou Dobbs talking about the "assault on the middle class".

There's a separate part to this - PACs. There are a ton of conservative PACs that could possibly be convinced to share public reservations on the bill. And maybe MoveOn can be convinced to reconsider their stance.

The Offline World

I think this needs an offline component. I do not know how effective visits to Congressional offices are when the Congresscritters are in Washington. Interested in opinions here. We also need something that can be printed out and dropped off in public places. I am not a graphic designer, so if you have graphic design or marketing-writing skills, please volunteer with some publication materials. It would be beneficial if they were written from a centrist or conservative perspective. Finally, some have expressed interest in things like marches or boycotts or mass protests. Those sorts of things need far broader support to be meaningful, but I will highlight those with proven momentum.


I recognize that 95% of us are interested in being given assignments so we can get to work. But, I do need help from those that are interested in actually designing tactics and strategy and fashioning an action plan that has a chance at leading to results with the resources we have. Contact me if you can help in that regard. (Please show your hand; if you write with "I can help come up with ideas, sign me up!" you've missed the point entirely. :-) )

Weekend Action Items coming soon.

March 11, 2005

Bankruptcy: Comment Follow-up

Posted by tunesmith at 07:09 PM

We've had some great participation today in the comments and in private notes.

First, Scott Lewis has done some great research comparing the votes of the various Senators to the campaign contributions they got from the credit card companies. One such stat: "Yea" votes got $26,389 in their peak years. "Nay" votes got $14,888. The spread was greater among Democrats alone. Go read.

There's a lot of anger and embarrssment on the Democratic side about Reid's "Yea" vote. He did not set a good example to his colleagues. From the comments:

I just got off the phone with Senator Reid's office. I asked why he voted for the bankruptcy bill. The woman who answered said that the senator has a statement that will be going up on his site. [...] Long and short, she eventually checked with the press office and told me that the statement may go up later today or tomorrow or Monday. She also said that it might not go up at all. I told her that it would be more efficient for the senator to post the statement, rather than have folks keep calling to about this bill. She said, "well I guess people are going to have to continue calling." I think we need to have the phones ring off the hook at his office before we will see any statement. Please ask anyone you know who cares about this to call Senator Reid.
And, a comment from Fact-esque:
I talked to his office too. The line that got me was "It's an improvement over current law. " Yeah? Prove that, Harry.

Among the left, there's been some curiousness about the blogs linking to this site - specifically, a lot of popular conservative blogs, a lot of smaller liberal blogs, and almost no A-list liberal blogs (aside from the public-driven Recommended List over at daily kos). I basically attribute this to there not being an extremely popular liberal blog that enjoys regularly linking to folks outside its immediate network. (Update: I spoke too soon, and missed the support from Talking Points Memo. Wonderful!)

Continue checking out BizzyBlog for more details on how the bill will impact consumers. BizzyBlog makes the point that the companies that will be advantaging from this bill are the same ones that are proving so incompetent in protecting our personal, private information from identity theft.

This is not the only left/right coalition out there. We'll link to other such "orthogonal politics" sites. The Online Coalition is about the FEC. More blogs want to inhabit translator roles; this new blog expressed such a desire in the comments.

Since Chapter 13 doesn't mean low fees, it would hurt the economy:

When you have people paying outrageously high fees and outrageously high interest on their credit card debt, you drain money away from productive portions of the economy. When people fall behind in their bills it is not rare nowdays for credit card companies to charge interest rates on the order of 30%, plus high late fees, plus overlimit fees.

Finally, taking a suggestion from Simian Brain, here is the same table as before, limited by the Senators that are up for re-election in 2006.

AZKyl (R): (202) 224-4521
DECarper (D): (202) 224-2441
FLNelson (D): (202) 224-5274
INLugar (R): (202) 224-4814
MESnowe (R): (202) 224-5344
MIStabenow (D): (202) 224-4822
MOTalent (R): (202) 224-6154
MSLott (R): (202) 224-6253
MTBurns (R): (202) 224-2644
NDConrad (D): (202) 224-2043
NENelson (D): (202) 224-6551
NMBingaman (D): (202) 224-5521
NVEnsign (R): (202) 224-6244
OHDeWine (R): (202) 224-2315
PASantorum (R): (202) 224-6324
RIChafee (R): (202) 224-2921
TXHutchison (R): (202) 224-5922
UTHatch (R): (202) 224-5251
VAAllen (R): (202) 224-4024
VTJeffords (I): (202) 224-5141
WIKohl (D): (202) 224-5653
WVByrd (D): (202) 224-3954
WYThomas (R): (202) 224-6441

Also, Lieberman and Feinstein deserve mention, because despite their "Nay" vote, Lieberman voted for cloture, and Feinstein voted it out of committee.

Wall Street Journal on Bankruptcy Bill

Posted by tunesmith at 06:04 PM

There's an article over at Daily Kos that talks about Wall Street Radio's recent feature on the bankruptcy bill. There are evidently concerns about it being quoted out of context, so I won't excerpt it, but go give it a skim if you're looking for more reinforcement.

March 10, 2005

Bankruptcy: Friday Action

Posted by tunesmith at 08:43 PM

Update: Please check the main weblog regularly to keep up on new action items! Bookmark or subscribe to the rss feed.

House efforts will happen next week. I'll be working on this a bit over the weekend. If you have ideas for a good web tool that would help with this, let me know. Or if you have perl/php/mysql skills to donate.

For Friday - express your displeasure to the Senators who voted yes. Up to you as to how, but phone calls are better than email. No, this doesn't exactly make a difference in the vote, but it's Friday, and it's a good way to vent and reset for next week. Plus, it might do some good.

Here's the table of the Senators who voted yes, and their phone numbers. Note: you do not have an ethical obligation to limit yourself to your own party! Make the point this is a bipartisan issue to the public. If they live in your state, call them, even if they aren't of your party. (Use your judgment on calling an out of state Senator.)

AKMurkowski (R): (202) 224-6665
Stevens (R): (202) 224-3004
ALSessions (R): (202) 224-4124
Shelby (R): (202) 224-5744
ARLincoln (D): (202) 224-4843
Pryor (D): (202) 224-2353
AZKyl (R): (202) 224-4521
McCain (R): (202) 224-2235
COAllard (R): (202) 224-5941
Salazar (D): (202) 224-5852
DEBiden (D): (202) 224-5042
Carper (D): (202) 224-2441
FLMartinez (R): (202) 224-3041
Nelson (D): (202) 224-5274
GAChambliss (R): (202) 224-3521
Isakson (R): (202) 224-3643
HIInouye (D): (202) 224-3934
IAGrassley (R): (202) 224-3744
IDCraig (R): (202) 224-2752
Crapo (R): (202) 224-6142
INBayh (D): (202) 224-5623
Lugar (R): (202) 224-4814
KSBrownback (R): (202) 224-6521
Roberts (R): (202) 224-4774
KYBunning (R): (202) 224-4343
McConnell (R): (202) 224-2541
LALandrieu (D): (202) 224-5824
Vitter (R): (202) 224-4623
MECollins (R): (202) 224-2523
Snowe (R): (202) 224-5344
MIStabenow (D): (202) 224-4822
MNColeman (R): (202) 224-5641
MOBond (R): (202) 224-5721
Talent (R): (202) 224-6154
MSCochran (R): (202) 224-5054
Lott (R): (202) 224-6253
MTBaucus (D): (202) 224-2651
Burns (R): (202) 224-2644
NCBurr (R): (202) 224-3154
Dole (R): (202) 224-6342
NDConrad (D): (202) 224-2043
NEHagel (R): (202) 224-4224
Nelson (D): (202) 224-6551
NHGregg (R): (202) 224-3324
Sununu (R): (202) 224-2841
NMBingaman (D): (202) 224-5521
Domenici (R): (202) 224-6621
NVEnsign (R): (202) 224-6244
Reid (D): (202) 224-3542
OHDeWine (R): (202) 224-2315
Voinovich (R): (202) 224-3353
OKCoburn (R): (202) 224-5754
Inhofe (R): (202) 224-4721
ORSmith (R): (202) 224-3753
PASantorum (R): (202) 224-6324
Specter (R): (202) 224-4254
RIChafee (R): (202) 224-2921
SCDeMint (R): (202) 224-6121
Graham (R): (202) 224-5972
SDJohnson (D): (202) 224-5842
Thune (R): (202) 224-2321
TNAlexander (R): (202) 224-4944
Frist (R): (202) 224-3344
TXCornyn (R): (202) 224-2934
Hutchison (R): (202) 224-5922
UTBennett (R): (202) 224-5444
Hatch (R): (202) 224-5251
VAAllen (R): (202) 224-4024
Warner (R): (202) 224-2023
VTJeffords (I): (202) 224-5141
WIKohl (D): (202) 224-5653
WVByrd (D): (202) 224-3954
WYEnzi (R): (202) 224-3424
Thomas (R): (202) 224-6441

Update: Politology had its first programming bug. ;-) There will be many, many more. My perl script (not me!) confused the phone numbers for Senators Nelson. Apologies, corrected, and thanks for letting me know.

On The MultiPartisan Blogosphere

Posted by tunesmith at 07:32 PM

Excuse a "meta" post before we get back to the bankruptcy action. It's been a pretty active day - this weblog didn't exist a few days ago, and today it was mentioned live on two cable tv shows and a radio show (that I know of). I don't even have blogads up yet.

There's been an odd pulse to this bankruptcy issue. There's been a bit of swagger and confidence lately in the blogosphere because of all the coverage of Rather, Guckert, and Eason. I don't exactly think it was about overconfidence, but realizing that the blogosphere kind of missed the boat on the Senate bankruptcy vote elicited a collective feeling that ran counter to that swagger. It didn't jibe.

And I think it just bugged a lot of us. Others have written about why we didn't affect the process as much as we think we could have. My own theory is that thus far, the blogosphere has a lot of the same qualities as the open source community. It's the sexy things that get the attention. Programmers will write fancy desktop software for free no problem. But they haven't come up with open source tax software.

The bankruptcy bill just wasn't sexy. It took us a while to look at it voluntarily. It was civic duty alone that revved us up, and it took us a while to get around to it.

I think there's some collective realizations to be made here. First is that the blogosphere is, in a sense, representatives of the public. We are the citizens that somehow, as a group, can get Congress's ear without having to go through a PAC. We're elected by our readers, and the elected positions we hold change all the time as our popularity rises and ebbs. It's very much the kind of "emergent democracy" that Joi Ito writes about all the time.

And, the second - again, just my opinion - is that this isn't as free a game as it first seems. It's not as simple as just choosing to focus on what we want to focus on. Make fun of me for alluding to Spider-Man, but we manage to gain a bit of power, and with that power comes responsibility. There's a civic duty we have to keep tabs and do research, on behalf of others. We have some responsibility to protect the public's interest, and in cases like the bankruptcy bill, we're more trusted than Congress. I think knowing this helps explain why there's been such appetite to form a coalition, even while we hurl so much poison at each other on other days.

It's of course impossible to force or create a direction towards which the entire blogosphere will flow, but I wonder if we'll be seeing more of a push to identify more blogs that are guardians of the public trust for particular issues, or more blog-funded nonpartisan research. There's a lot of different possible forms, but the point is that if there is a growing recognition that: Congress isn't there for the public, that someone has to be, and that blogs can be... then, that demand will be met somehow. I imagine we'll be seeing cross-blogosphere coalitions more often.

This weblog will continue to be about the intersection of politics and technology, which will often involve nonpartisan subjects, of interest to both (all) sides of the political blogosphere. I invite you to check in regularly.

Bankruptcy Bill Passes Senate 74-25

Posted by tunesmith at 03:43 PM

At the last minute several Senators made what they judged to be an expedient choice, and voted "Yes". Senator Clinton abstained due to her husband's surgery. I'll defer to others to capture the ridiculousness of today's vote in their ventings, and perhaps quote some of them here.

We knew that it was late enough that we probably wouldn't be able to affect the Senate vote - we knew that this was more about Taking Names than Kicking Ass. Gear up for the next step. At this point there looks to be more reward in targeting the media than targeting the House, but both should be done.

The media, the house, the committee, and the President. Feel free to suggest ideas.

Update: Here's the roll call.

MSNBC Connected on Politology

Posted by tunesmith at 02:30 PM

Thanks to Jeff Jarvis and MSNBC Connected for the mention (video) today.

We can talk about left versus right until we're red (or blue) in the face, but there are some matters that are about the politicians versus the public. The blogosphere is on the side of the public.

Contact your Senators offices right NOW (they are still debating) to register your disapproval to this bill. There are many Senators making a political judgment that a "YES" vote is a safe vote, and they need to be warned that they may be in for a rude surprise.

The bill's passage needs to at least be delayed so there is more room for public comment.

The Motley Fool on Bankruptcy

Posted by tunesmith at 01:53 PM

The Motley Fool has an article on the bankruptcy bill, as well. They've always struck me as nonpartisan, but are coming out against this bill.

Bankruptcy Bill: Statements of Opposition

Posted by tunesmith at 01:46 PM

From the comments:

As a conservative GOP bankruptcy lawyer, I oppose the proposed changes. However they are couched, they are based upon reactionary social attitudes we haven't heard since the 1920s: that it's somehow "dishonest" and "immoral" for consumers to file bankruptcy. The idea that our entrepreneurial and credit-happy economic system encourages taking risks and borrowing on credit, and that some risk-takers will fail, or credit card holders overextend themselves, is the foundation of the bankruptcy system. If an honest debtor goes into debt to take an economic risk, whether wisely or foolishly, and fails, he or she can get a bankruptcy discharge, and a fresh start in life. The fresh start is not cost-free: the debtor must surrender all assets (except for homestead and exempt property) to the bankruptcy trustee. Among the mean-spirited aspects of the legislation is its attack on bankruptcy lawyers, with requirements that we certify that our clients are telling the truth on their bankruptcy schedules. Clients already swear that their schedules are true under penalty of perjury; lawyers generally lack the resources to audit their indigent clients' books and records for accuracy. Under the current bankruptcy system, creditors willing to pay for audits can do so. Requiring routine audits, and shifting the costs of those audits to indigent consumer debtors and their lawyers adds an additional and cruel economic cost to bankruptcy filings without any real corresponding benefit, a result clearly contemplated by this legislation. Creating the potential to set lawyer against client is only one reason these proposed amendments are offensive.

And the other side of the legal aisle:

The Stinging Nettle is in full support.

Thanks for doing this. I am a Bankruptcy practitioner, usually representing creditors. This law is horrible.


Bankruptcy: The Cost of a Yes Vote

Posted by tunesmith at 12:24 PM

The Senate is still debating this turkey. Our best hope for the Senate right now is to convince them to delay passage. They need to be told that there is significant, late-breaking opposition to this bill.

Congress needs to understand that there is a cost to ramming a bill through so quickly. Some are voting on strong views, but many congresscritters are going to vote Yes on this because they have made a political judgment that it is a safe vote. They need to understand that it could very be very dangerous in hindsight. Threats of supporting a primary opponent might have weight.

If any of the conservative high-traffic blogs want to try and whip up some phone opposition to conservative Senators, it'd be interesting to see what happens.

March 09, 2005

Bankruptcy Protest: A Coalition

Posted by tunesmith at 11:40 PM
Be sure to bookmark or blogroll Politology.US to keep track. Read the main blog for new entries!
Next Action: here.
Bill Passes, 75-24: Remarks here
2:24 PM PST: This coalition was featured on MSNBC Connected's "blog roundup" today - thanks to Jeff Jarvis for the mention. Here's the video. Brief mention on CNN too (video).

The opposition against the bankruptcy bill crosses party lines, among the grassroots.

The support for the bankruptcy bill crosses party lines among Congress.

This is clearly an example where the interests of Congress are divorced from the interests of the public. This bill is about politicians and lobbyists, not the American public.

So we should call them - a lot. Let your congresscritters know that you do not support the bill, that it does nothing for American citizens, and that if the politicians let the credit card companies dictate their vote, we will hold them responsible.

There's appetite for a blogosphere-wide effort against the bankruptcy bill. I will be including a list of conservative and liberal weblogs that are signed on to this effort. All you need to do is leave a comment, preferably a trackback (now enabled), or drop an email, and endorse the effort on your own weblog.

The final Senate vote is expected for today, March 10th. Call your Senator's office today. The House battle is coming soon. For more details, click "Continue Reading".

Updates:

BuzzMachine will be discussing the emerging opposition.

Read this weblog for future updates on the same subject. Bookmark, rss feed...

Instapundit links to the effort.

JustOneMinute has good ideas:

Folks who plan to fight on (don't rush me) ought to check something - where is Rush Limbaugh positioned on this bill?  Could he be re-positioned? (...) Last point - I am not going to instruct activists in how to boil water for coffee, but - is there a House committee this bill needs to clear?  Are there Congressman who might be swayed by phone calls, e-mail, and a letter campaign to their home-town newspapers?  Who are the targets?

Tacitus and Redstate have front-page action alerts on the bill:

The bankruptcy bill before the Congress is bad law, bad practice, and an example of bad faith with the common people whom elected officials presumably serve.

Other sites linking up:
PowerPundit
Think Progress
Heretical Ideas
Centerfield
Insane Troll Logic
Pinko Feminist Hellcat (heh)
(links taken from Technorati)

Here is some of what conservative bloggers are saying about the bankruptcy bill:

Instapundit says:

I'm deeply skeptical of the bankruptcy bill in front of Congress now, and this report on credit-card industry practices goes a long way toward explaining why. Credit extended to people who can't handle it, absurd hidden fees, high interest rates, etc.: There's a lot of scamming here. The argument, of course, is that people who sign up for credit card accounts ought to know what they're getting into. But shouldn't the companies that extend credit to people who obviously can't handle it be held to the same standard?

bizzyblog has a rundown of cross-blogosphere opposition.

RedState has a discussion that shows a lot of conservative opposition to the bill.

Free Republic has opposition to the bill.

Here are the top ten states in terms of bankruptcies - meaning, the states that will be hit hardest by this bill:

1 Utah
2 Tennessee
3 Georgia
4 Nevada
5 Indiana
6 Alabama
7 Arkansas
8 Ohio
9 Mississippi
10 Idaho

Leave comments for more examples of bipartisan grassroots opposition to this turkey, and suggestions for a unified action we could take. Right now the best suggestion is a branded "call-in" day.

Garrett Article at Daily Kos

Posted by tunesmith at 03:37 PM

I wrote an expanded article on Laurie Garrett over at Daily Kos. Read and discuss.

March 08, 2005

Laurie Garrett quits

Posted by tunesmith at 11:36 PM

Daily Kos has an article about journalist Laurie Garrett quitting the profession after sharing some doom and gloom about journalism in general. There are a lot of fans of Laurie Garrett, it appears; she seems to be one of the "good guys".

And yet, you may recall that Laurie Garrett was the main character of a rather interesting dust-up a couple of years ago. Seems she had attended the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland and sent her off-the-record thoughts to some friends. Those thoughts promptly got forwarded throughout the entire net.

Here is the article that describes the entire saga. But I was especially struck by this rant she sent along to the online crowd that became passionately involved with the matter:

Do you imagine for a moment that the participants in the WEF - whether they be the CEOs of Amoco an IBM of the leaders of Amnesty International and OXFAM - waste their time with Internet chat rooms and discussions such as this? Do you actually believe, as you type your random thoughts in such Internet settings, that you are participating in Civilization? In Democracy? In changing your world?

I remember this moment. For those participating, it was one of the watershed moments of the then-young blogosphere gaining access to "privileged information". It was huge, an emergent realization of what kind of power the new community could possibly have. And I imagine that for some, Laurie's vent was probably met with an internal, steely resolve to prove she didn't know what the hell she was talking about.

Bankruptcy Fallout

Posted by tunesmith at 11:09 PM

It's hard to be sure, but I believe March 8th, 2005 will end up a key date for the 2006 and 2008 elections. But it may have even more of an impact on the blogging community.

First, let's define terms. Blogging is going to end up much bigger that people writing entries in reverse chronological order and commenting on them. The blogging community refers both to those who are doing that in the present day, as well as those who participate in what we evolve to be.

Today was a key day for the bankruptcy bill. I'll tell you, I don't know a lot about the bankruptcy bill. A lot of us don't. That's part of the problem. But we all do know that there is something very, very wrong with it. You can just tell by the stench from Washington.

We did what we knew how to do. Josh Marshall set up a Bankruptcy page, but only a couple of days before the key votes. Atrios hosted a "bankruptcy day" where participants were to call and nag various congresscritters. And there were a handful of diaries over at Daily Kos, as always.

It wasn't even close to enough. And today, the blogosphere got a big dose of reality. We're alone in this, and we do not yet have near the amount of power we need to do things right.

First, here is the list of Senators who voted for cloture, which did away with the filibuster threat:

Biden (D-DE)
Byrd (D-WV)
Carper (D-DE)
Conrad (D-ND)
Johnson (D-SD)
Kohl (D-WI)
Landrieu (D-LA)
Lieberman (D-CT)
Lincoln (D-AR)
Nelson (D-FL)
Nelson (D-NE)
Pryor (D-AR)
Salazar (D-CO)
Stabenow (D-MI)

In addition, Feinstein (D-CA) voted to let it proceed from committee.

On a purely political level, some of these Senators made the right play. But some of them miscalculated. It's too early to tell who's who yet, but the hints of fallout have already began. There is not a lot of Democratic cheerleading going on in the online community today, and to many, a line was drawn by people with long memories. Atrios and Max have predictions of Senators who will never be President because of this.

It's a fair criticism to say that the bloggers are just being dramatic at this point. But I think it's whistling past a graveyard to dismiss it too quickly. We fueled the transition of financing from big corporations to grassroots this election cycle. And the influence of our opinion leaders isn't exactly shrinking. We are the future fundraisers, technology leaders, and PR folks of future campaigns. At the same time that we're forced to accept the lack of power we have now, one gets the sense that the community has recommitted to taking more power in the future.

Now, what caused this failure? We'll explore this in a future post.

Welcome to Politology

Posted by tunesmith at 01:59 PM

First, an apology is in order to language purists. "Politology" is actually a word simply meaning the study of policy - other countries use the word to mean the same thing that we mean by "political science".

But this weblog is specifically about both politics and technology, including (but not limited to) the intersection between the two subjects. Politics is where some of the most exciting web development is happening, and we only scratched the surface with the Dean campaign. This site will very much be about politics and technology in the United States. The word fits.

I'll be your host, and we'll also have regular and semi-regular guest authors to weigh in on subjects they care about.

In addition, we'll be using this site specifically to launch new political technology media. Whether it is animations, interactive web applications, graphics, offline publications, or even games, it's likely to pop up on these pages at one time or another.

If you are a skilled writer that is passionate about politics and also experienced in a technology field such as graphic design, information architecture, programming, database design, or flash development, please enquire within. The aim for this site is to become a full-on political media group, not just a blog.

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