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Daily Digest: From Local Gadfly to Internationally Known

BY Nancy Scola | Wednesday, October 1 2008

The Web on the Candidates

  • The Email Heard 'Round the World: The LA Times' Erika Hayasaki has the back story on Anne Kilkenny. Anne Kil-who? Oh, you know, the Alaskan who wrote an email critiquing her fellow Wasillan Sarah Palin that landed in your inbox at least one thousand times just after the Palin pick was announced. The LA Times brands Kilkenny a "gadfly" who was a regular at local political meetings when even the town's political reporter wouldn't show. And some on the local political scene, it seems, aren't too happy with Kilkenny's standing as a "Palin expert" these days. But she's a gadfly whose opinion on a major new American political figure whose missive went, for whatever reason, entirely viral. Beats waiting for open mic night down at town hall. #

  • Deconstructing Voiceover-Gate: Media Matters senior fellow Eric Boehlert is slamming right-leaning bloggers for their quixotic campaign to tie an anti-Palin YouTube clip to the Obama campaign, despite, well, the total lack of evidence -- unless, that is, voiceovers that kinda sound like other voiceovers counts. Eric's piece is a gleeful no-holds-barred tearing apart of the right's blogosphere, sure. But somewhere in there there's also an interesting dissection of how this particular "story" started with a kernel of truth, warped into an ungrounded political mission, and ultimately fizzled out. #

  • Man Down!: Bad news for ActBlue: The Democratic fundraising hub went down yesterday afternoon for at least two hours. Even badder news: The snafu happened right in the middle of the very final moments of the fundraising quarter. The panicked emails coming out of campaigns and allies yesterday were a testament to how ActBlue, which has raised more than $68 million online since 2004, has become a cornerstone of the progressive infrastructure. That's especially true for smaller campaigns, where it can function like an outsourced finance team. The site was back up and running by early evening. And in an email, ActBlue called the downtime "unacceptable" and offered to help hand-process contributions that had piled up in the meantime. No official word yet on what went wrong. #

  • Picking up the Schleppin' Tab: If this were still the '90s we'd be calling it synergy. But since it's 2008, we'll go with calling it a mashup. ObamaTravel is a volunteer-run grassroots organization that partners potential volunteers with people who have cash to spare, that quite naturally, grew out of the 2004 Dancers for Democracy movement. The Great Schlep is a Sarah Silverman-fronted effort to get Jewish folks to visit their grandmas and grandpas in Florida to convince them to vote for Obama. Put 'em together, and you've got a way to new pay for that plane ticket down to South Florida. #

The Candidates on the Web

  • Taking to the Blogs to Condemn McCainCare: The Obama campaign has taken heat for supposedly giving short shrift to progressive bloggers. Now, one of their own has tried to reach out. With McCain and Obama's back-and-forth during the first debate over the Republican's health care plan causing more confusion than it erased, David Blumenthal, one of the Obama campaign's top health care advisers, penned a lengthy early morning post on Daily Kos condemning McCain's health care plan for its "blind embrace of de-regulated free markets." Crickets, my friends, crickets. David's post produced only 11 comments and 9 recommendations, and questions posed to the advisor in the comments went unanswered. By way of comparison, a diary from an unknown Alaskan on "Creating Candidate Palin" has attracted 276 responses and garnered too many recommendations to bothering counting. #

TechCongress and Beyond

  • Version Tracking the Big Bill: Software develop ors working collaboratively often use revision control tools that help to keep track of changes in complex projects. Inspired by the idea, GovTrack has launched a rough version tracking of the evolving Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, a.k.a H.R. 3997, a.k.a. the bailout-out bill, a.k.a. the economic rescue plan. Here, for example, is a side-by-side comparison of Thursday and Sunday's drafts, with the differences highlighted. "Why is this so ugly?," asks GovTrack's Josh Tauberer (rhetorically, as he built the thing). Because while Congress loves that sense of resolute finality that PDFs provide, converting PDFs more user-friendly format can be problematic. "If you think the public should be able to do this better, tell your representative to support The Open House Project report recommendations," suggests Josh -- in particular, we'll note, the part about setting government data free in a wonderfully structured format like XML, so that the rest of us can easily make use of it. #

  • Dennis Kucinich's Video Recommendations: The liberal Democratic congressman from Ohio not surprisingly voted no Monday on the $700 billion bailout measure. Calling this "a teachable moment," yesterday he sent around an email attempting to explain the U.S.'s so-called fractional reserve system. But, with admirable self-awareness that his economics lesson might have fallen flat, Kucinich said 'just go an watch this Google video instead.' Called "Money is Debt," it's a somewhat quirky 47-minute animated take on modern banking that was created by a Canadian artist in partnership with the American Monetary Institute. (Here's the entirely interesting "Producer's Comments" on how the video came into being.) And no, it's not every congressperson who sends around links to obscure explanatory web videos he or she had nothing to do with. #

In Case You Missed It...

With an eye on the many state-wide ballot initiatives up for a vote this election, Nancy Scola has your mini guide to navigating direct democracy, as well as a look at how the House of Representatives has resorted to turning back emails in a bid to keep its IT infrastructure up and running.