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Daily Digest: This Year in Personal Politics

BY Nancy Scola | Monday, December 29 2008

  • "Politics is Personal. Politics is Viral. Politics is Individual.": Jose Antonio Vargas has been covering the intersection of politics and technology for the Washington Post since February of last year, and he's got a pre-New Year's wrap up of what he's learned along the way. "Because of technology in general and the Internet in particular," he writes, "politics has become something tangible. Politics is right here. You touch it; it's in your laptop and on your cellphone." One might argue that, while much has indeed change in 'net-powered politics (hey, we wouldn't be here if it hadn't!) much of what Vargas is describing is, in some ways, a return to normal. From the women's movement's "the personal is political" to Tip O'Neill's "all politics is local," American politics has always had a strain of the intimate -- though 2008 no doubt stands as the high-water mark of the role of Vargas's "individual" at the presidential level. Speaking of the personal, Vargas wraps his piece with a nice look at his own evolution as a modern-day political reporter.

  • Digging Conservatism: Some of the digs against Digg, the community-ranking site, is that it's biased against women and weighted in favor of liberals. On the latter, enter #diggcons, an effort under the banner of the conservative #dontgo movement that aims to aggregate the weight of the right-leaning to promote their preferred content on not only Digg, but StumbleUpon as well. Twitter messages marked with the diggcons hashtag will sound the alarm on stories that could use a thumbs up. Will even the amassed voting power of online conservatives be enough to lift conservative content out of the ever-churning cauldron of Digg content? We'll see. But along with Top Conservatives on Twitter, it's another smart attempt to conquer social media from the right -- efforts largely unmatched on the left.

  • MoveOn's Words of Advice for Obama: MoveOn's Eli Pariser is out with a nice Washington Post op-ed laying out the case for why a President Barack Obama will need to tap into the wisdom and passions of the electorate if he's truly going to make transformational change on health care, the Iraq war, and energy policy -- the issues at the top of both his and the American people's agendas. "It's easier to roll out webby gimmicks -- everyone can submit a name for the First Puppy! -- than to," writes Pariser, "serve as organizer in chief." The piece is a straightforward breakdown of the appeal of blending top-down and bottom-up organizing. For inspiration, Pariser notes, Obama can look at his own campaign, the progressive netroots, or a humble little organization called MoveOn. From the looks of the transition and in particular, Pariser isn't telling Obama anything he doesn't know. The big difference, though, is that those groups were advocates for specific ends. Obama is now negotiator in chief, and there are no real models for being truly responsive to the will of Americans while achieving measurable aims.

  • Laying a Tech Foundation for Rebuilding the Party: Saying "It is a hell of a lot easier to learn politics than it is technology," Red State's Erick Erickson argues that as the GOP seeks to rise from the ashes a newly-wired party, it needs to avoid tool fetishism and seek guidance from technologists who have a vision for the way ahead. The full piece is well worth a read, not only for Erickson's defense of RNC chief Mike Duncan on the tech front. Fellow Red Stater Patrick Ruffini offers a hearty second to Erickson's points, arguing that tech is a mindset, a culture, a weltanschauung. And, he suggests, GOP operatives heretofore need to either embrace that world view or, at the least, recognize that it represents the future.

In Case You Missed It...

Colin Delany highlights a recent panel-session moment in which Obama campaign manager David Plouffe discussed using volunteer-generated data to help model where to spend campaign resources. "It makes you enormously agile," said Plouffe. Colin likes: "Grassroots communications isn't just outreach -- do it right, and it helps keep you from stabbing wildly in the dark."

And Matthew Burton argues that a recent proposal for the creation of a "Government Innovation Agency" ignores "the government's cultural opposition to innovation" -- though he gets a bit of pushback from a commenter who makes use of a lovely yoga analogy. And Matt also highlights how a State Department diplomat's Twittering seems to achieving some of its goals.

Transparency and Public Shaming: Pakistan Tackles Tax Evasion

In Pakistan, where only one in 200 citizens files their income tax return, authorities published a directory of taxpayers' details for the first time. Officials explained the decision as an attempt to shame defaulters into paying up.


wednesday >

Facebook Seeks Approval as Financial Service in Ireland. Is the Developing World Next?

On April 13 the Financial Times reported that Facebook is only weeks away from being approved as a financial service in Ireland. Is this foray into e-money motivated by Facebook's desire to conquer the developing world before other corporate Internet giants do? Maybe.


The Rise and Fall of Iran's “Blogestan”

The robust community of Iranian bloggers—sometimes nicknamed “Blogestan”—has shrunk since its heyday between 2002 – 2010. “Whither Blogestan,” a recent report from the University of Pennsylvania's Iran Media Program sought to find out how and why. The researchers performed a web crawling analysis of Blogestan, survey 165 Persian blog users, and conducted 20 interviews with influential bloggers in the Persian community. They found multiple causes of the decline in blogging, including increased social media use and interference from authorities.


tuesday >

Weekly Readings: What the Govt Wants to Know

A roundup of interesting reads and stories from around the web. GO

Russia to Treat Bloggers Like Mass Media Because "the F*cking Journalists Won't Stop Writing"

The worldwide debate over who is and who isn't a journalist has raged since digital media made it much easier for citizen journalists and other “amateurs” to compete with the big guys. In the United States, journalists are entitled to certain protections under the law, such as the right to confidential sources. As such, many argue that blogging should qualify as journalism because independent writers deserve the same legal protections as corporate employees. In Russia, however, earning a place equal to mass media means additional regulations and obligations, which some say will lead to the repression of free speech.


Politics for People: Demanding Transparent and Ethical Lobbying in the EU

Today the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) launched a campaign called Politics for People that asks candidates for the European Parliament to pledge to stand up to secretive industry lobbyists and to advocate for transparency. The Politics for People website connects voters with information about their MEP candidates and encourages them to reach out on Facebook, Twitter or by email to ask them to sign the pledge.


monday >

Security Agencies Given Full Access to Telecom Data Even Though "All Lebanese Can Not Be Suspects"

In late March, Lebanese government ministers granted security agencies unrestricted access to telecommunications data in spite of some ministers objections that it violates privacy rights. Global Voices reports that the policy violates Lebanon's existing surveillance and privacy law, Law 140, but has gotten little coverage from the country's mainstream media.