DFA Night School

The first ever political training I ever attended was last summer. It was a Democracy for America training on campaign management. I figured since I've been volunteering for over 10 years, it was probably time to formally learn something in the field.

It was a bit disconcerting that the presenters were closer to half my age. It was also energizing that there were so many younger people involved and passionate about politics.

Earlier this week, I took part in another training offered by DFA in their Night School. This one was on blogging and building an online community. There were some interesting items, though some were not cited, unfortunately.

Did you know that in 1996, only 4% of the General public went online to get news or information about an election? In 2004, that number jumped to 29%. Granted, 29% is still a relatively smaller segment of the population, but the jump is considerable. With the rapid expansion of broadband, it'll be interesting to see how much faster that grows.

Of Internet users, 22% in 1996 went online while in 2004, 52% did so. Over half, which depending on the demographics can be a significant number.

But, The Pew Center, which conducted the study, found that in 2004, 62% of Americans did not knows what a blog was.

Only 2% of Americans say they get their news from the blogs.

Now I understand why so many people feel the need to develop multiple personality disorder each with the love the sound of their own typing. With so few people paying attention, any loud noise, however fake, appears to be a bigger projection. Shakespeare could have been talking about those bloggers when he said "It was a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

Political blogging also shows interesting trends.

Left-leaning blogs number about twice the size of Right-leaning ones. And this, in one way, translates into financial support for candidates. Rightroots, a Republican online fundraising site, has raised a grand total of $32,477.06. Act Blue, the Democratic counterpart, has raised $7,057,608. Locally, that gives $914.00 to Ray Meier and $8,836.16 to Michael Arcuri (numbers as of Aug 3, 2006).
Hey, while I'm on the topic, do me a favor and go to my Act Blue site for Michael Arcuri and drop him some financial support, please? 10 bucks or 4000 or anything in between will make a difference.
Another very striking difference in the blogs is the community-mindedness of the two sides. One aspect struck me as soon as I started looking at blogs. Left-side blogs invite comment and dialogue. They might moderate comments, but they allow commenting and publish critical comments. The goose-stepping Right-side does not.

There's also a tendency of Left-side bloggers to claim what they post. Real names are not hidden or avoided. As many of you have seen in my comment area, that's not the case on the other side. Not only do they feel OK with slinging comments while hiding, but, very often, their pseudonyms are just down-right creepy.

Other things in the training didn't sit comfortably with me. They recommended that pieces be no longer than 500 words. Now, I'm in a district where the one newspaper around does print letters to the editors. But, they only print 3 a day (4 if we're lucky). And each letter is no more than 150 words.

Think about that. How many cooking recipes have less than 150 words to them? And we're supposed to somehow discuss serious problems with too few words. Think back to the last time you had a moving, meaningful conversation with a friend. Did you stop speaking at the 151st word? Did your friend stop listening at word 151?

We're living already in a ADHD fostering culture and I'm not living my life or thinking my thoughts in sound bites. Clear, reasonable, critical and thought-filled dialogue is the sound of heaven.

Another tool they stressed was networking. And I had to laugh about that one. Utica's a pretty small town. It's more like 3 degrees of separation here. But it turns out it's not just the geography of the town. I was accompanying Michael Arcuri as he went door-to-door in another part of the district and when the 3rd or 4th door he went to turned out to be relatives of a Utica friend, I could only laugh. This week, I had a comment left for me here by someone I hadn't seen in years, but she found my site when we crossed paths on another site. When you're from Utica, not only is Utica a small town, but so too are New York and the Internet!



The Debate (second half)

Ann C turns Bill gay

OK, this has nothing to do with the debate, but it was just too funny to not share.

Also, my blog no longer seems to show up on Google searches along with the other ones that are by supporters of Michael Arcuri. My rule of thumb is 2 things happening is a coincidence. 3 or more and something's happening. I can only assume that some idiots feel the free speech is only good for themselves.

So, back to the Debate...

Question 8: Please comment on the current situation in the Middle East
MA: Israel has the right to protect itself and we should be assisting a peace process
RM: Hezbollah is part of the Lebanese government and Syria and Iran have ties with Hezbollah. Iran and Syria need to be made to stand down.
(Well, he's already mouthing the Badministration line for the next state of the War on Terror and he's not even there yet.)

Question 9: Please comment on Student Aid
RM: tried to expand student aid in NYS. Good student aid would help economy and it should be available for lifetime learning. Unemployment could be tied with relearning
MA: the worst thing this government has done is cut student aid. While economic competitiveness is becoming more and more important, we're making it harder and harder for students to learn. We should be making it easier.

Question 10: Is homosexuality a choice or inborn and would you support a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage?
MA: This is another issue that's used to divide Americans. The Federal government shouldn't be in the business of defining marriage.
RM: Doesn't know, but scientists seem to be tending to think that it's inborn. States should decide what the definition of marriage is, and historically it's only been between men and women. However, if some states try to make other states accept their definitions, then the federal government would need to do something and in that case, I would support the Constitutional amendment.

Question 11: Does big business/special interest money like drug, tobacco and oil impact campaigns?
RM: look at the FEC filings
MA: will not accept donations from drug, tobacco or oil companies. Wouldn't expect that he'd get any anyway, but after his press conference on Medicare, a drug company called to offer a donation. He declined the offer.

Question 12: How can we reduce our dependence on foreign oil?
MA: We need to reduce the dependence not just of foreign oil, but oil which is a finite resource.
RM: This administration has only done what the last 8 administrations have done. We need to make a serious commitment to conservation and private industry will be able to develop alternative fuels.
Moderator follow-up: would you support drilling in ANWR? [Alaska]
RM: yes, with appropriate safeguards to protect it
MA: no.

Question 13: Abortion
RM: I am pro-life
MA: Women have the right to choose. Abortions should be rare, safe and legal

Question 14: Would you support government assisted health care?
MA: It's unbelievable that we're the leading country on the planet and we don't offer it. It would be the right thing to do. The Citizen Action plan has merit.
RM: would not support a single-payer plan. If we did that, where would the Canadians go if they needed heart surgery?

The candidates ended with closing statements, but I took very few notes, for some reason. Meier again spoke of having a civil discourse and I again listened incredulously. I recommend getting hip boots soon. It's gonna get muddy.