“One of the firmest conclusions of academic research into the behavior of Congress is that what motivates members first and foremost is winning elections. If individual members of Congress have little chance of losing their seats if they fail to compromise, there should be little reason to expect them to do so. Republican leaders like House Speaker John A. Boehner may conclude that there are risks to their party if they fail to reach a compromise, as during the current fiscal negotiations. But as David Frum points out, the individual members of his caucus may bear few of those costs directly.”
“Mr. Bloomberg spoke about the difficulties of leading a city into the future amid a political culture that is often focused on the short term.

The mayor noted that technology, despite its benefits, can add new pitfalls to an already grueling process. “Social media is going to make it even more difficult to make long-term investments” in cities, Mr. Bloomberg said.

“We are basically having a referendum on every single thing that we do every day,” he said. “And it’s very hard for people to stand up to that and say, ‘No, no, this is what we’re going to do,’ when there’s constant criticism, and an election process that you have to look forward to and face periodically.””
“A particular problem is that he [Mitt Romney] betrays little indignation at any of our problems and their causes. He’s always sunny, pleasant, untouched by anger. This leaves people thinking, “Excuse me, but we are in crisis. Financially and culturally we fear our country is going down the drain. This guy doesn’t seem to be feeling it. So why’s he running? Maybe he thinks it’s his personal destiny to be president. But if the animating passion of his candidacy is about him, not us, who needs him?””

Peggy Noonan on Mitt Romney, WSJ

There’s probably a phrasing of this that is equally damning of a certain kind of entrepreneur—the one that is pursuing a project not out of passion but out of a kind of megalomania to be the top dog in their own pony show.

“It appears that Tumblr built in a day or two what no D.C.-based technology supplier could come up with in the last five years.”

The statement above is false. I’m one of the co-founders of Mobile Commons, though I no longer work there. The Mobile Commons technology that Tumblr used to build a very nice graphical interface has been available to any organization for going on five years. In fact, it’s been used by many organizations to lobby for the change that is important to them.

What Tumblr was able to do was remarkable because of the size and scale of it’s userbase and the ability of the Tumblr team to articulate to that userbase why SOPA is a horrible idea. The size and scale of that userbase is the result of years of work by David and the Tumblr team.

One of the issues with online advocacy and politics is to get things happening at web scale—and it’s often disappointing that the web really only rallies around causes that happen to concern the web. At the same time, it’s important. The Internet is a historical anomaly—allowed to grow and flourish because it grew too fast to ever be brought under the auspices of the FCC or anyone else (imagine if launching a site on Wi-Fi was like submitting to the Apple AppStore).

Sean Parker’s been talking quite a bit about how the web should allow us to divorce influence from money in politics. That’s a grand ambition and an important one because when it comes to SOPA, legislators are weighing the perception of votes vs. the pressure exerted on them by lobbyists. While it’s good to get apolitical people motivated en masse, there’s a lot more work that needs to be done for legislators to understand how that fits into voting profiles and their self-interest in being re-elected.

I hope that the success of Tumblr’s call-in campaign was a wake-up call to many web companies that have the technical and design wherewithal to start taking on some of these issues and working together to apply more precise and sustained pressure in Washington.

MediaShift Idea Lab . #DontBreakTheInternet: How The Web Became a Political Force vs. SOPA | PBS (via matthew)

(via matthew)

“Affirmation and confirmation is a metaphorical cognitive carbohydrate. We seek it out because we’re more wired to affirm each other (to keep us in communities, I suspect) than to inform each other.”

Bill Maher and Jane Lynch - The Anthony Wiener Dialogues Read Verbatim

I haven’t paid much attention to the Anthony Wiener proceedings and news and was only ambiently aware of them (this is my general preference for most “major news” stories). My only real interest is whether prurient actions would follow the same cycle in politics as drug use (Bill Clinton: “I didn’t inhale.” to Obama: “Of course, that was the point.”)—I mean, in the future, when everyone has cameras embedded in their eyeballs, everyone will have a sextape. We better get used to this.

On a more serious note: it’s hilarious that a Congressman employs the rhetorical skill of a pornstar and that such lifeless language seems to be par for the course for most dirty talk.

On an actually more serious note: I’m sure this satire is a better news source than anything I could have read on the topic. When people lament that young people look to things like the Daily Show for our news it’s hard to take that argument seriously when our news tries to seriously cover topics like this.

“The Left-versus-Right debate tends to be that the Left argues that the expectations were off because of ruthless lenders who sold a bill of goods to people and pushed all this debt on people, and that it was basically the problem of the creditors. The Right tends to argue that it was a problem with the borrowers, and people were sort of crazy in borrowing all this money. In the Left narrative, it starts with Reagan in the ’80s, when finance became more important. The Right narrative starts in the ’60s when people became more self-indulgent and began to live beyond their means.

My orthogonal take is that the whole thing happened because there was not enough technological innovation. It was not really the fault of the borrowers or the lenders; the problem was that everybody had tremendous expectations that the country was going to be a much wealthier place in 2010 than it was in 1995, and in fact there’s been a lot less progress. The future is fundamentally about technology in an advanced country — it’s about technological progress. So a credit crisis happens when the technological progress is not as good as people expected. That’s not the standard account of the last decades, but that’s the way I would outline it…

Income or wealth inequality is a somewhat different problem… One of the factors that equalized things in the 19th century was that people could move out to the frontier. Now, the geographic frontier has been closed — outerspace is too far away, cyberspace is not quite real, the oceans may still be not quite there. Then there’s the technological frontier; there are some things there, but it’s more limited. So if you wanted to reduce income inequality in a non-confiscatory way, or in a non-redistributionist way, it has to involve opening up a new frontier.”


Leonid Parfyonov’s stunning speech to Russian TV executives at an award ceremony in November was ignored by Russian state television, but you can watch it on YouTube. His black tie audience listened in deadpan shock as a very nervous Parfyonov said out loud what everyone in the audience, and indeed in all of Russia, knew to be the truth: “After real and imagined sins of the 90s, the national television broadcasting has been put under state control at the beginning of this new millennium.”

(via juliangutman-deactivated2014021)

JFK: Made Men, Politics & Media

Election day is a suitable one to disclose that I’ve been obsessed with The Dark Side of Camelot by Sy Hersh for several months. It’s the tale of the rise of JFK, the dark dealings of his father, and how the mob clinched the presidential election for the Kennedy family. More importantly, it’s a book that made me feel naive.

Naiveté is something I experience sometimes, but in the case of this book, it was in seeing the way that all of the pieces fit together: personal charisma, womanizing, great wealth, corruption, a complicit media. Yes, most of us are aware, in the back of our minds about JFK’s relationship with Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra’s connections to the mob—but it’s a different ball game to have all those things exquisitely mapped out for you. It’s sort of like watching The Wire except that all of this stuff actually happened and the players are all American icons (except the ones that history has been rewritten to forget).

Following up on this, I’m interested in any leads on the following:

  • The press was aware of many of JFK’s underhanded dealings, but they never turned on him. At some point, Hersh makes an offhand comment that the press respected privacy up until Watergate. Has there been anything great written about the relationship of the press to people in power with a kind of historical awareness?
  • The Mob: I can create a likely story of the rise of mafia power (immigrants spreading, etc) to a peak in the early 60s when they were able to control the outcome of a Presidential election. But then what happened? They build Las Vegas. I’m interested in a really good history of the American Mafia’s rise and apparent fall from power.

(Source: christmasgorilla.com)

“The error could hardly have been more awkward. Governed by India but claimed by China, Arunachal Pradesh has been a source of rankling dispute between the two nations for decades. Google’s sudden relabeling of the province gave the appearance of a special tip of the hat toward Beijing. Its timing, moreover, was freakishly bad: the press noticed that Google’s servers had started splaying Mandarin place-names all over the state only a few hours before Indian and Chinese negotiating teams sat down for talks in New Delhi to work toward resolving the delicate border issue.”

John Gravois, The Agnostic Cartographer

"It is said that every map is a political statement. But Google, by trying to subvert that truth, may just be intensifying the politics even more."
Alex Webb, people playing volleyball using the border fence between Arizona and Mexico as the net, 1979

  via claytoncubitt

Alex Webb, people playing volleyball using the border fence between Arizona and Mexico as the net, 1979

  via claytoncubitt

“The 1950s was the era of the 90 percent top marginal tax rate, and by the end of that decade live gate receipts for top championship fights were supplemented by the proceeds from closed circuit telecasts to movie theaters. A second fight in one tax year would yield very little additional income, hardly worth the risk of losing the title. And so, the three fights between Floyd Patterson and Ingemar Johansson stretched over three years (1959-1961); the two between Patterson and Sonny Liston over two years (1962-1963), as was also true for the two bouts between Liston and Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) (1964-1965). Then, the Tax Reform Act of 1964 cut the top marginal tax rate to 70 percent effective in 1965. The result: two heavyweight title fights in 1965, and five in 1966.”