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    • Seven Rules for Running a Real Left-Wing Government
      (Back to the top, this one was fundamental and needs some more time.) So, we have had a right-wing coup in Brazil. In Venezuela, the left still controls the Presidency, but has lost control of parliament. In Argentina, the right has won the election. I have been asked how to stop right-wing reversals. First it’s […]
  • Top Posts

PUMAs crash blogstalker convention

Several pairs of Underoos were permanently stained.  Oh!  The humanity!

This is an open thread.  What mischief are you up to tonight?

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How Brilliant is Obama?

leonardoHow brilliant is Obama? (H/T to dakinikat, for sharing this with me) Is he a genius or is he a beneficiary of affirmative action placement? Frankly, apart from hyperbole, there is not much information to go on. Furthermore, the ways he’s chosen to govern his life, outside of his academic endeavors, do not lend to easy associations with intelligence. For example, his sensible choice to be physically active says little about intellectual acuity. Accordingly, it is hard to judge what his high end might be. Notwithstanding, I think his low end is relatively easy to discern. It is a good place to start. (NOTE: This topic is necessarily subjective.  This post is nowhere close to being definitive. It is an attempt to come to a reasonable judgment.)  [IQ is not under consideration because its’ standards for the high end are too low.]

We do not need access to Obama’s grades at Harvard to know he has intellectual chops. It is true that he was not in the top tier of Harvard Law students as he did not graduate summa cum laude, but magna cum laude is the next highest standing, and it appears this places him in at least the top 30% of the class, if not the top 10%.

Maria_Gaetana_AgnesiIt is true that an affirmative action push, due to a heated political climate at the time, played a role in his selection as president of the Harvard Law Review, but the fact that he was not in the top tier does not alter the counterfact that many of his editorial peers also graduated magna cum laude.

Unfortunately, if Obama did write for the law review, his work was unsigned. His choice to avoid publication is odd because the purpose of the position is to “peacock” one’s chops. It is unfortunate, for the purpose of this exercise, that he left this void. If he had written, his peers would be able to tell us where he ranks. It is best to infer nothing about his intellect from this void.  Notwithstanding, academic selection committees would take the lack of publications to indicate some type of academic weakness.

What does his Harvard performance say about his base level intelligence? My sense is that a law degree is similar to a Masters Degree in one of the more rigorous social science disciplines. It certainly does not touch a Ph.D. It stands slightly lower than an M.A. in Philosophy, but it likely ranks higher than sociology, and it destroys an M.B.A., which is essentially a compilation of undergraduate courses. Continue reading

Book Review: The Bloggers on the Bus

I was delighted to be sent an advance copy of this book about a month ago and then promptly fell headlong into a combination of blog burnout and exercise exhaustion.  What I thought was going to be a short primary season when I started this blog in January 2008 stretched into a mega marathon of almost continuous political commentary that has carried long past the election results.  The reasons for this are obvious: the party itself changed last year and we at The Confluence were there to witness that change, document it, comment on it and have felt the full effects of it.

In his book The Bloggers on the Bus, Eric Boehlert takes a survey of what will go down in history as one of the most important elections of our lifetimes and the effect, if any, that the blogosphere had on it.  The book is well written and fairly well balanced.  Boehlert profiles many well known bloggers on the left such as Big Tent Democrat, Jane Hamsher and Digby as well as some friends of ours like Alegre of Alegre’s Corner.  Through these profiles, Boehlert traces the emergence of the left blogosphere from the depths of the darkest days of the Bush Administration.  Then he follows the trajectory of commentary through the 2007-2008 election season and documents how that blogophere’s good intentions ended with a whimper.

The Confluence doesn’t have a starring role in this book but we are mentioned at several points.  Boehlert seems to not quite know what to do with us.  We were pro-Clinton bloggers but although we continued to advocate for Hillary until the convention, since the RBC hearing we had advocated for ourselves, the disenfranchised voters of the Democratic party.  At one point during the discussion of sexism, he refers to us as “parisan”, by which I think he means advocating strongly for one faction.  But he lumps us in with Taylor Marsh whose 180 degree switch from Clinton to Obama was dizzying and disconcerting to her readers.  We stayed faithful to our Democratic principles while those who were labeled partisan along with us swung with the wind. How did we end up in the same category?

PUMA he touches on hardly at all.  I understand he had to cut out quite a bit of material but the grassroots PUMA movement, which was virtually an online phenomenon  (pun intended), did have a small but significant impact.  However, PUMA was a viral movement and there are many incarnations of it, some of which did not reflect the intentions of the originators.  The unParty, as I like to call it, was bound to change and evolve after the election, but our goals are still to advocate for accountability, enfranchisment, Democratic principles and the election of more women to political office.  I can understand Boehlert’s sin of omission with respect to PUMA.  It’s difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff.  The lines were blurred, sometimes deliberately, and without sounding too conspiratorial, perhaps by forces we don’t even know. Better to just not mention it at all.

What many readers will find fascinating about this book is the section dealing with the blog wars of 2008 and the response of the blogs to the overt sexism and misogyny of the high profile bloggers.  I don’t like the term “A-list” bloggers because some of these blogs have abandoned their former principles in pursuit of the Machiavellian goal of pushing their candidate over the finish line by any means necessary.  Oh, sure, it worked all right.  But the trail of destruction that it left behind in the party is going to take a long time to heal.  The effect on the left blogosphere is even more profound.  Boehlert does an admirable job in underscoring the parties responsible for the demise of Progressive Blogosphere 1.0 when he concludes this chapter with a quote from Paul Krugman who insinuates that he will never trust Markos Moulitsas again.

At some point in the book, Boehlert says that no one saw the ferocity and emotionalism coming.  I beg to differ.  I was present at the candidate’s forum sponsored by YearlyKos in 2007 in Chicago.  I went to the convention an Edwards supporter and left  a committed Hillary supporter.  I’ve documented before how impressed I was by the depth and breadth of her responses at her breakout session.  But what really nailed it for me was my observation of how John Edwards was able to manipulate the crowd during the forum itself.  It dawned on me at that moment, while the bloggers around me were booing and jeering everything Clinton said while mindlessly applauding everything Edwards said, that DailyKos and other blogs like it had become the equivalent of a giant focus group, one that the Edwards’ campaign, and subsequently the Obama campaign, data mined relentlessly for the words that would trigger the desired response.  Edwards struck me as a one-trick pony, insincere and unscrupulous.  What I witnessed was no less than the priming of a mob.  The next day at the breakfast open mic, I brought up my concerns and cautioned my fellow bloggers to be careful of people who appealed to the emotion.  It’s too easy to lose your sense and ability to think rationally when you’re in the midst of passion.  Kos, McJoan and the others squirmed uncomfortably in their chairs on the dais while I spoke.  I’m sure they got the point but they didn’t intend to act on it.  You can look it up, Eric.  I’m sure the session was taped for posterity.

Other blogs have commented on Digby’s admission that she was “chicken shit” at fighting off the tsunami of Obamamania that headed her way in 2008.  It wouldn’t be fair to single her out.  I’ve always thought Digby was one of the best writers the progressive blogosphere ever had.  But she had an opportunity to lead last year and she blew it.  That goes for Jane Hamsher as well.  Those of us who were caught up in the madness and escaped to stake a claim on new, remote asteroids of the blogosphere can state with confidence that being out here in no-man’s land wasn’t so bad.  The rejected found each other and rallied.  We didn’t give up our principles.  We understand why Digby did it, or, shall I say, we understand the excuse.  Yes, the misogyny was intense, but I have always maintained that blogging is the perfect medium for women.  Those mean, misogynistic comments are nothing but black dots on a monitor.  They can not hurt you.

They *can* hurt your ad revenue though.  This, I think, is one of the reasons why the blogosphere fell apart last year.  When someone else has control of your livelihood, it’s much harder to take a principled stand.  We saw what happened to Josh Marshall.  At one point during his kidnapping, all of his blogs were plastered with Obama campaign ads.  Obama paid for the TPM music and it, in turn, played what Obama had written.  Who could blame Josh?  He had two toddlers and college to think about.

DailyKos was another story altogether.  The blog format was too easily manipulated and the administrators took a hands-off approach to settling disputes.  I take that back.  They settled disputes by purging the site of Clinton supporters, yours truly included.  One of the reasons this blog doesn’t have a ratings system is because we have seen how easily people can become addicted to reward and praise for saying the right thing.  Conversion diaries dominated the recommended list and the newly converted were love bombed with recognition.  Those who didn’t fall into line were threatened with expulsion from the fold.  Those of us who grew up in fundamentalist religious families recognize these cultlike behaviors for what they are- emotional manipulation.  When we saw it happening to our blog homes, like DailyKos, MyDD and DU, we were right to be concerned.

But we are not at all suprised by Boehlert’s conclusions.  The progressive blogs have become feckless.  The left blogosphere was co-opted by the Obama campaign.  It would be incorrect to say that Obama didn’t reach out to the blogosphere.  It most certainly did, with relentless astroturfing, paid trolls and sophisticated psychological tricks that I recognized as being lifted directly from the manuals of the Personal Power courses that I have taken at work.  Boehlert and his colleagues at Media Matters have employment security in the future.  They now have to split their time between watching traditional media as well as the propagation and dissemination of propaganda through the reshaped progressive blogosphere.  This book is a good start at getting a grip on where it all went wrong.

Highly recommended.


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Your Breakfast Read, Served By The Confluence

  • Never Forget
  • At a Holocaust Site, Obama Calls Denial ‘Hateful

    President Obama on Friday intensified his pledge to unlock the Middle East stalemate, sending an envoy next week to pursue his call for a two-state solution, as he toured a former concentration camp that he said served as a lesson to “be ever-vigilant about the spread of evil in our own time.”

    ‘These Sights Have Lost None of their Horror’


  • D-Day
  • Sacrifice and the Greatest Generation

    These are the young Americans who went thousands of miles and defeated the mightiest military empires ever unleashed against us

    D-Day+ 65 years: Obama set to make Normandy landing


  • Spygate
  • State Dept. Retiree Accused of Spying

    A former State Department official with top-secret security clearance and his wife have been charged with spying for Cuba over the past three decades, passing information by shortwave radio and correspondence exchanged in local grocery stores, federal prosecutors said.


  • Anti-Choice Terrorism
  • Colleagues say Tiller knew something was coming

    Two weeks before Wichita abortion doctor George Tiller was gunned down in his church, he called colleague Susan Hill in North Carolina.

    Tiller wanted her to send pictures of activists who’d recently been threatening Hill and her staff. He said he was seeing new anti-abortion protesters outside his clinic and wondered if they were traveling around.

    Paying tribute to Dr. George Tiller

    For the last 20 years, Dr. George Tiller and I were close colleagues and friends, members of a too-small community of physicians who say aloud that we perform abortions. Now he is gone, and I am furious.

    But I refuse to let my anger become despair: We must turn George’s terrifying end into the beginning of a new era when doctors can save lives without risking their own.

    O’Reilly’s Words Have Consequences

    Words have consequences — a lesson I’ve learned, and relearned, after nearly 20 years of editorial and column writing.

    Which makes Fox News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly all the more unbelievable when he holds himself harmless in creating the atmosphere that helped diminish the humanity of George Tiller, the Kansas doctor who performed late-term abortions.

    O’Reilly used his show, “The O’Reilly Factor,” to demonize Tiller.

    Why I Will Perform Abortions

    I’m a third-year medical student at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. I plan to become an obstetrician-gynecologist. I dream of delivering healthy babies, working with families and supporting midwifery. But as part of my practice, I also envision providing abortions to women who need them.


  • Credit When Deserved
  • House Dems Push Back on Obama Over Blocking Detainnee Photos

    [T]he provision would block the release of any “photograph that was taken between September 11, 2001 and January 22, 2009 relating to the treatment of individuals engaged, captured, or detained after September 11, 2001, by the Armed Forces of the United States in operations outside of the United States.” The provision is sponsored by Sen. Lindsey Graham [R, SC] and Sen. Joe Lieberman [I, CT], and supported by President Obama.

    Now liberal House Democrats are threatening to block the bill – and funding for the wars – unless the photo suppression provision is taken out

    Kennedy Readies Health-Care Bill

    As expected, the ailing chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and his staff have crafted comprehensive legislation that would guarantee health coverage for every American — but would require the vast majority to contribute to the cost, according to a draft of the bill obtained last night by The Washington Post. Some small businesses and low-income workers would be eligible for subsidies.
    […]
    Perhaps its most controversial element is the creation of a new government-sponsored health insurance plan that would compete with private insurers.

    For geeks, the here’s the entire bill.


  • Economy Watch
  • Will Government Motors do better than General Motors?
    (A debate between Daniel J. Ikenson of Cato Institute and Howard Wial of Brookings)

    Jobs: Even Less Is ‘Made in America’

    While job losses slowed in most sectors, manufacturing lost more jobs in May than in April. The outlook for the sector and its workers is dark


  • Massacre At The Polls
  • Labour suffers wipeout in its worst local election results

    A PM on the verge of a breakdown


  • Coming Down To Earth
  • Is Obama Starting To Take On Water?

    Time will tell whether this becomes a long term trend, or is merely a blip. But for the first time since the stimulus debate, we’re starting to get some signs that events are wearing away some of Obama’s glow.

    Jeremy Scahill: “it’s time to take off the Obama t-shirts.” (The interview is must-see TV, h/t Dr BostonBoomer)

    This is a man who’s in charge of the most powerful country on earth. The media in this country, we have an obligation to treat him the way we treated Bush in terms of being critical of him. And, yet, I feel like many Democrats have had their spines surgically removed these days, as have a lot of journalists.

    Obama’s Flip-Flops for the Public Good

    President Obama has been shifting gears, and reversing some of his policies, at a remarkable rate. But so far, he hasn’t paid much of a political price for it, a testament to his popularity and the willingness of Americans to give him a chance to get results.


  • Good Luck Terry
  • Terry McAuliffe has been working relentlessly for the Democratic Party for more than 25 years, pro bono. He deserves none of the hatred and the smears he has encountered from a good part of the “progressive” movement, people who themselves are barely Democrats and whpo have done nothing but enrich themselves on the back of the Party. For these people, Terry is evil: He is friend with the Clintons and he was chairman of the Hillary-for-President campaign (Quelle horreur!).

    Democrats’ Rainmaker Aims to Hold Virginia

    One of the most prolific fund-raisers in Democrats’ history is trying to help the party hold on to its newfound power in Virginia.

    Terry McAuliffe, the 52-year-old former chairman of the Democratic National Committee and longtime Clinton insider, is running for governor of Virginia, a race that is shaping up as one of the hottest — and costliest — electoral battles of 2009.

    Top Democrats come to Terry McAuliffe’s aid

    Virginia gubernatorial hopeful Terry McAuliffe on Friday rolled out the endorsements of Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, and Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, chairman of the nonpartisan National Governors Association.


  • We Finally Understand
  • Why White Men Get Paid More

    Despite advances in parity in recent decades, white men in America on average still get paid more than women and minorities for doing the same work, by some accounts about 20 to 25 percent more.


  • Watch Out iPhone!
  • The Palm Pre: iPhone Killer?

    Why the new smart phone may be better at luring technophobes into the market than Apple or BlackBerry.


  • #8. Not Bad
  • America’s Top 10 Safest Cities


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