Archive for the 'Politics' Category

Who will be the first presidential candidate to link to the competition?

Saturday, January 20th, 2007

I know it’s still way early, but so far I can’t make out any signs of cross-campaign linking (not among the Democratic contenders, at least).

To me, this is such an obvious thing to do for any 2007 campaign that’s serious about dialogue, conversation, and social media. As a candidate, what you should be saying is:

“Look, here’s me, I’m a candidate. Hopefully, I’ll be your candidate. I’m willing and able to run for office, and here’s what qualifies me. As much as I can, I will provide you, the voter, with the information and the tools you need to find out about me and where I stand on the issues. As a courtesy, I will consistently provide you with links to the other candidates, as I would like you to learn about them and their ideas as well. In fact, I would like to urge you, the citizen, to follow all the campaigns and all the candidates and make up your own mind about who you think is best suited for the job and deserves your vote.”

Oh well…

Hilary Clinton: “I’m in” — Enters race for 2008 White House with call for “national conversation”

Saturday, January 20th, 2007

Read the announcement on her website (emphasis mine):

I’m in. And I’m in to win.

Today I am announcing that I will form an exploratory committee to run for president.

And I want you to join me not just for the campaign but for a conversation about the future of our country — about the bold but practical changes we need to overcome six years of Bush administration failures.

I am going to take this conversation directly to the people of America, and I’m starting by inviting all of you to join me in a series of web chats over the next few days.

The stakes will be high when America chooses a new president in 2008.

As a senator, I will spend two years doing everything in my power to limit the damage George W. Bush can do. But only a new president will be able to undo Bush’s mistakes and restore our hope and optimism.

Only a new president can renew the promise of America — the idea that if you work hard you can count on the health care, education, and retirement security that you need to raise your family. These are the basic values of America that are under attack from this administration every day.

And only a new president can regain America’s position as a respected leader in the world.

I believe that change is coming November 4, 2008. And I am forming my exploratory committee because I believe that together we can bring the leadership that this country needs. I’m going to start this campaign with a national conversation about how we can work to get our country back on track.

This is a big election with some very big questions. How do we bring the war in Iraq to the right end? How can we make sure every American has access to adequate health care? How will we ensure our children inherit a clean environment and energy independence? How can we reduce the deficits that threaten Social Security and Medicare?

No matter where you live, no matter what your political views, I want you to be a part of this important conversation right at the start. So to begin, I’m going to spend the next several days answering your questions in a series of live video web discussions. Starting Monday, January 22, at 7 p.m. EST for three nights in a row, I’ll sit down to answer your questions about how we can work together for a better future. And you can participate live at my website. Sign up to join the conversation here.

[...]

I need you to be a part of this campaign, and I hope you’ll start by joining me in this national conversation.

As we campaign to win the White House, we will make history and remake our future. We can only break barriers if we dare to confront them, and if we have the determined and committed support of others.

This campaign is our moment, our chance to stand up for the principles and values that we cherish; to bring new ideas, energy, and leadership to a uniquely challenging time. It’s our chance to say “we can” and “we will.”

Let’s go to work. America’s future is calling us.

Conversation is almost always a good thing. The question is, do we have the right tools in place yet that will enable us to really scale to the national level? Is social media ready to take on this challenge?

While Clinton’s blog is not up and running yet, she’s adding a nice twist to it by crowdsourcing the first entry (emphasis mine):

Soon we’ll launch the official blog of HillaryClinton.com, a crucial part of our exciting national conversation about the direction of our country and the place to go to learn more about Hillary.

We know our readers are going to have a lot to say, so we want to give you the first word.

We’re looking for your ideas on how we can work together for change. If you’d like to write the very first guest post on the HillaryClinton.com blog, submit your entry in the form below. And if you already have your own blog or other website, please post your entry there and let us know about it. We’ll select one entry as the first guest post on our blog.

Here’s my transcript of her video announcement (again, emphasis mine):

I announced today that I’m forming a presidential exploratory committee. I’m not just starting a campaign, though, I’m beginning a conversation — with you, with America.

Because we all need to be part of the discussion if we’re all going to be part of the solution. And all of us have to be part of the solution.

Let’s talk about how to bring the right end to the war in Iraq and to restore respect for America around the world. How to make us energy-independent and free of foreign oil. How to end the deficits that threaten social security and medicare. And let’s definitely talk about how every American can have quality, affordable healthcare.

You know, after six years of George Bush, it is time to renew the promise of America. Our basic bargain that no matter who you are of where you live, if you work hard and play by the rules you can build a good life for yourself and your family.

I grew up in a middle-class family in the middle of America and we believed in that promise. I still do. I’ve spent my entire life trying to make good on it. Whether it was fighting for women’s basic rights or children’s basic healthcare, protecting our social security or protecting our soldiers. It’s a kind of basic bargain, and we’ve got to keep up our end.

So let’s talk, let’s chat. Let’s start a dialogue about your ideas and mine. Because the conversation in Washington has been just a little one-sided lately, don’t you think? And we can all see how well that works.

And while I can’t visit everyone’s living room, I can try. And with a little help from modern technology I’ll be holding live online video chats this week starting Monday.

So let the conversation begin! I have a feeling it’s going to be very interesting.

It will be interesting indeed to watch just how the Clinton campaign (as well as the other contenders) will use the web for rolling out and managing that conversation and what listening skills they will show.

Because dialogue is all about listening.

Via Blog the Campaign in 08: Hillary is in….and with a blog writing competition!

Wikileaks

Tuesday, January 16th, 2007

Another large-scale wiki project:

Wikileaks is developing an uncensorable Wikipedia for untraceable mass document leaking and analysis. Our primary interests are oppressive regimes in Asia, the former Soviet bloc, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, but we also expect to be of assistance to those in the west who wish to reveal unethical behavior in their own governments and corporations. We aim for maximum political impact; this means our interface is identical to Wikipedia and usable by non-technical people. We have received over 1.2 million documents so far from dissident communities and anonymous sources.

We believe that transparency in government activities leads to reduced corruption, better government and stronger democracies. Many governments would benefit from increased scrutiny by the world community, as well as their own people. We believe this scrutiny requires information. Historically that information has been costly - in terms of human life and human rights. Wikileaks will facilitate safety in the ethical leaking movement.

Wikileaks opens leaked documents up to a much more exacting scrutiny than any media organization or intelligence agency could provide. Wikileaks will provide a forum for the entire global community to examine any document for credibility, plausibility, veracity and falsifiability. They will be able to interpret documents and explain their relevance to the public. If a document comes from the Chinese government, the entire Chinese dissident community can freely scrutinize and discuss it; if a document arrives from Iran, the entire Farsi community can analyze it and put it in context.

Who is behind Wikileaks?

Wikileaks was founded by Chinese dissidents, mathematicians and startup company technologists, from the US, Taiwan, Europe, Australia and South Africa.

Our advisory board, which is still forming, includes representatives from expatriate Russian and Tibetan refugee communities, reporters, a former US intelligence analyst and cryptographers.

There are currently 22 people directly involved in the project and counting.

Via SmartMobs: Freedom of Information, the Wiki Way

US foreign policy in bad shape

Friday, January 12th, 2007

Special comment by MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann last night: Bush’s legacy: The president who cried wolf

Most importantly, perhaps, Mr. Bush, the plan fails because it still depends on your credibility.

[...]

In fact, when you briefed news correspondents off-the-record before the speech, they were told, once again, “if you knew what we knew … if you saw what we saw … ”

“If you knew what we knew” was how we got into this morass in Iraq in the first place.

The problem arose when it turned out that the question wasn’t whether we knew what you knew, but whether you knew what you knew.

You, sir, have become the president who cried wolf.

All that you say about Iraq now could be gospel.

All that you say about Iran and Syria now could be prescient and essential.

We no longer have a clue, sir.

We have heard too many stories.

[...]

Also worth reading is this recent article in the Washington Post by the former national coordinator for counterterrorism, Richard A. Clarke: While You Were at War . . .

Without the distraction of the Iraq war, the administration would have spent this past year — indeed, every year since Sept. 11, 2001 — focused on al-Qaeda. But beyond al-Qaeda and the broader struggle for peaceful coexistence with (and within) Islam, seven key “fires in the in-box” national security issues remain unattended, deteriorating and threatening, all while Washington’s grown-up 7-year-olds play herd ball with Iraq.

The “fires in the in-box”, in his view, are:

  • Global warming
  • Russian revanchism
  • Latin America’s leftist lurch
  • Africa at war
  • Arms control freeze
  • Transnational crime
  • The Pakistani-Afghan border

Not to mention the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, where it seems the US has also taken a hands-off approach and pretty much nothing has been achieved over the past six years. That’s very little when you consider that this may well be the root cause for a plethora of other problems in the region and in the world today. The same goes for the conflict between Syria and Israel, or between Syria and Lebanon, or within Lebanon.

That part of the world is a complete mess (at least politically), but the US is not excerting the kind of leadership that’s needed to turn things around.

And in another article in the Washington Post, former national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski notes Five Flaws in the President’s Plan (via Before Decisions):

  • The decision to escalate the level of the U.S. military involvement while imposing “benchmarks” on the “sovereign” Iraqi regime, and to emphasize the external threat posed by Syria and Iran, leaves the administration with two options once it becomes clear — as it almost certainly will — that the benchmarks are not being met. One option is to adopt the policy of “blame and run”: i.e., to withdraw because the Iraqi government failed to deliver. That would not provide a remedy for the dubious “falling dominoes” scenario, which the president so often has outlined as the inevitable, horrific consequence of U.S. withdrawal. The other alternative, perhaps already lurking in the back of Bush’s mind, is to widen the conflict by taking military action against Syria or Iran. It is a safe bet that some of the neocons around the president and outside the White House will be pushing for that. Others, such as Sen. Joseph Lieberman, may also favor it.
  • The speech did not explore even the possibility of developing a framework for an eventual political solution. The search for a political solution would require a serious dialogue about a joint American-Iraqi decision regarding the eventual date of a U.S. withdrawal with all genuine Iraqi political leaders who command respect and wield physical power. The majority of the Iraqi people, opinion polls show, favor such a withdrawal within a relatively short period. A jointly set date would facilitate an effort to engage all of Iraq’s neighbors in a serious discussion about regional security and stability. The U.S. refusal to explore the possibility of talks with Iran and Syria is a policy of self-ostracism that fits well into the administration’s diplomatic style of relying on sloganeering as a substitute for strategizing.
  • The speech reflects a profound misunderstanding of our era. America is acting like a colonial power in Iraq. But the age of colonialism is over. Waging a colonial war in the post-colonial age is self-defeating. That is the fatal flaw of Bush’s policy

Lots of potential for a lot of improvement for the next administration.

Who is Chris Dodd?

Thursday, January 11th, 2007

Chris Dodd is a Democratic US Senator from Connecticut. As of today, he’s running for president.

Is there social media? Yes, there is:

Here’s a full-length quote from the initial blog post:

Never before has there been a presidential campaign with so many candidates attempting to recruit and mobilize supporters from within the netroots. Almost all will have blogs looking for their own niche in a crowded field. Some will focus on the wonkish policy details, some will encourage suggestions while providing opportunities for meaningful participation, and some will copy and paste favorable news articles into the body of posts and call it day.

We’ll do all of those things here too.

But at its best, we will provide the kind of “window” into a presidential campaign never seen before while serving as a robust vehicle for two-way communication between Senator Dodd, the campaign, supporters, undecideds and even critics.

That means lots of video — especially the kind of stuff you won’t catch in 30 second clips on the nightly news. It means lots of voices — starting with our internet team, but it also means you will hear directly from Senator Dodd, campaign staff, interns, volunteers, supporters, and again, critics from across the country.

Ultimately, our goals for the campaign blog rely heavily on citizen participation. Of course, comment on the site and upload your photos to the Flickr Group. But we encourage everyone to step outside the box and into the (You)Tubes to add video … both as “reporters” from events nationwide, and also as part of the ongoing “start the conversation” program with Senator Dodd.

That said, take a moment to add the blog’s RSS Feed to your Reader. We look forward to having you check back in and participate often.

Tim Cullen

P.S.: We’ll turn on comments for the blog later today. We promise!

Did I say the 2008 race will be interesting? Oh yeah, baby!

Obama ‘12

Sunday, January 7th, 2007

Has Barack Obama announced his 2008 candidacy for president yet? You gotta admit, he comes across as a very positive, down-to-earth guy in TV interviews.

Don’t know what his chances are in 2008, but maybe a run in 2012? He would be 51 by then.

Btw, while he seems to have a Facebook profile (as of now, there are 2252 “wall posts”, or personal comments by other Facebook users), I can’t find a blog on his campaign website yet.

Anyway, the 2008 race will be fun to watch in many ways, especially with the use of social media and all.

Seriously now, what do you know about Bulgaria or Romania?

Sunday, December 31st, 2006

Not a whole lot, if you’re like me (heck, I’m still trying to catch up on Africa).

But as of today (tomorrow, if you’re in the US), both countries are the newest two members of the European Union, bringing the total to 27 member states.

Btw, is this a golden age for translators and interpreters, or what.

Anyway, Romania, Bulgaria — welcome! Happy New Year! Hope all your wishes come true. And I look forward to your contributions. Just one request, though: please help move Europe forward! It’s gotten awfully hard lately to get things done with all those additions.

Via Das E-Business Weblog: Willkommen!

Execution 2.0

Saturday, December 30th, 2006

Man, these cameraphones are everywhere nowadays. Michelle Malkin’s Hot Air brings you Video: Saddam’s execution uncut.

The Telegraph has a few interesting bits of information about Saddam’s final hours: Saddam’s end: tormented as his death loomed

Saddam rejected an offer of dinner, a cooked chicken, and asked only for a copy of the Koran. By 1am, all he wanted to do was sleep.

But his guards, all members of the dominant Shia Sciri party, had other ideas. One in particular, nicknamed Ali the Butcher, intended to make a hell of Saddam’s last night on earth. “They were making jokes about Saddam,” another guard who spoke to those on duty told The Sunday Telegraph. “Ali the Butcher had the rope they would hang him with, and he was telling Saddam ‘It’s waiting for you, it’s waiting for you’.

“The guards were dancing in front of him. When Saddam tried to sleep, they were going in, every 30 minutes. They said, ‘We didn’t let him sleep. We destroyed his personality’.”

Due process, Iraqy style? Growing pains of a young democracy? Or maybe it’s just the fact that we’re dealing with a foreign culture here with foreign customs?

ABC News’ Terry McCarthy has this commentary: Saddam’s Hanging — Uncut

However, the impact of this video could be quite significant. First, it may reinforce Sunni suspicions that the execution of Saddam was merely an act of Shiite revenge for decades of repression under Saddam. The building where the execution took place was expressly chosen because it was once used as a detention center by a division of Saddam’s secret police that was focused on the Shiite Dawa party. Some of the witnesses whom the government invited to the execution had themselves once been tortured in that same building. Indeed, Prime Minister Maliki, who signed the execution order the day before the hanging, is a long-term member of the Dawa party and had himself been sentenced to death by Saddam back in 1980 before fleeing the country.

Worse, it may also reinforce the fears of Sunnis that Maliki’s government is beholden to the Mahdi army, Moqtada’s militia. Executions are generally expected to be solemn affairs –- certainly not opportunities for thugs to score some final sectarian points before the “enemy” is disposed of. The video itself seems quite distasteful –- but it is informative to the extent that it reveals the political baggage that the current government carries on its shoulders. It does not add up to a pretty picture.

Somehow I’m not so sure the way this affair has been handled will set the right tone in Iraq, let alone help build “a democracy that can govern, sustain, and defend itself, and be an ally in the War on Terror.”

Mission accomplished

Saturday, December 30th, 2006

Another day, another milestone: former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has been executed.

Though things may have seemed a tad bit rushed towards the end (at least to the untrained European eye), this proves Iraq now has a justice system that can, well, execute people. No better way to kick-start the process of national healing!

It’s all good, though. I’m convinced this was what’s been needed all along to really turn things around, and the rest will simply fall into place now. It just gotta. I’m sure the warring factions would agree.

President Bush seems to think along the same lines:

Today, Saddam Hussein was executed after receiving a fair trial — the kind of justice he denied the victims of his brutal regime.

Fair trials were unimaginable under Saddam Hussein’s tyrannical rule. It is a testament to the Iraqi people’s resolve to move forward after decades of oppression that, despite his terrible crimes against his own people, Saddam Hussein received a fair trial. This would not have been possible without the Iraqi people’s determination to create a society governed by the rule of law.

Saddam Hussein’s execution comes at the end of a difficult year for the Iraqi people and for our troops. Bringing Saddam Hussein to justice will not end the violence in Iraq, but it is an important milestone on Iraq’s course to becoming a democracy that can govern, sustain, and defend itself, and be an ally in the War on Terror.

Like I say, mission accomplished!

Phil Nobel on online politics in Europe

Wednesday, December 6th, 2006

Nicole just did a nice pre-conference interview with Phil Noble, founder of Politics Online. He has some pretty interesting things to say about citizens, politics, and the internet in Europe and elsewhere:

Nicole: When you look at Europe (and from your experience), what is most astonishing to you that politicians don’t do because it would be so easy to do today. What would you give as advice to somebody who wants to use the internet today?

Phil: Well, it’s really not too surprising to me that the politicians haven’t adopted the internet as aggressively as they could have. What has surprised me is that there hasn’t been more independent citizen organizations, more independent online organizations.

And again, I think that goes back to the political culture and tradition. In this country, politics is very entrepreneurial in the sense that if I decide I wanna run for governor of South Carolina I walked out my front door, call five reporters and say “I’m running for governor of South Carolina.” And if I can raise enough money and run an effective campaign, I win! And I don’t even have to — you know, other than paying my $5,000 to put my name on the ballot — I don’t even have to talk to the Democratic party establishment. And so we are very entrepreneurial.

And France and Europe in general you’re much more bureaucratic, your party structure is much more rigid. And what surprises me is that there’re not more online organizations and structures and campaigns created by individuals totally outside of that party structure. That’s what surprises me most about Europe.

Nicole: Loïc said he could imagine that for the next European election there might actually be a party of bloggers or internet-savvy people who could run as a party and try to change things. And the more I look at how Europe is structured or the European government is structured, I actually believe there could be a chance for it.

For the moment, I think most people don’t really see European government as something which is important (the national elections are much more important than that). But more and more, Europe is taking over, you have government decisions from Europe which have to be transported into national law and everything.

So it would actually be a good idea to have somebody running as independent and writing in English about what’s happening in the European Union itself to get more information, to get more unbiased information as well. But so far, I don’t see that coming.

Phil: I think that’s right. I used to do some work for the party of European Socialists in the European Parliament back in the late ’90s. And it has been something that has surprised me as to why some of the European parties have not moved aggressively to use the internet to really reach out to individual citizens.

And again, I think it goes back to the European tradition. The party of European Socialists or the EPP, or whatever, all these things, they are a creation of national parties. And so, you know, they are most concerned about being responsive to and trying to be directed by the parties — but not the individuals, not individual citizens.

And so I think that’s what’s really missing is that we haven’t had in Europe political organizations that have been interested in bypassing their party structures and empowering and linking and creating a real citizen movement. And I think it could happen. I think it’s more likely to happen on the extremes, you know, some of the, um, on the far right or the far left — I think they are more likely to use it effectively in the short term.

Although I must admit, for example, David Cameron in the UK: I’m very impressed with what he’s trying to do online. You know, I think in Germany, what Angela Merkel… I think she shows that she has some understanding of it, you know. And I think obviously the most intersting one right now is Ségolène Royal. I mean, what is she gonna do with it? I think she has the potential to be a real breakthrough in Europe because she has used her blog and internet in a way that nobody else has. And I think she may be the first real online European politician.

Citizen-centric politics? Citzen-centric parties, even? Smart use of online tools? Empowering citizens? Sounds like a recipe for success for whomever wants to get in (or stay in) the game.

I’ve been on the Politics Online newsletter for almost a decade now (Electofix, one little project of mine, even scored a mention as HotSite of the week last August). If things work out as planned, I hope to get to go to Washington D.C. next March for the Politics Online Conference 2007 (Upcoming).