Last night I met John Edwards, the senator from North Carolina and presidential aspirant. I told him two things: thanks for that speech in which you criticized the Bush administration's "gratuitous unilaterlism," and, You should get a weblog. He didn't know what a weblog was, so I described it to him. Then I spent a long time evangelizing weblogs to his press secretary, Mike Briggs. I have a long bet of sorts with Dave Winer -- he has said all politicians will have weblogs someday, I think many politicians never should and never will-- but a guy as articulate and ambitious as Edwards should definitely give it a try.
The News & Record ran its campaign preview article this morning on the Howard Coble-Tara Grubb race (article not yet posted online). Grubb was given equal space in the article, and her views were presented seriously.
Tara Grubb's weblog was discussed high in the story, which was headlined "Grubb's 'hits' don't faze Coble." The lede: "If Internet page views were votes, US Rep. Howard Coble might be quaking in his loafers." The top of the article dwells on Grubb's "innovative use of the Web." Grubb's opposition to the P2P bill is discussed, as is Coble's concern for copyright protection.
There is no doubt that the publicity Tara has received for and through her weblog caused the dominant regional daily to give this neophyte Libertarian equal billing in an article about her race with a nine-term GOP incumbent. Otherwise, we would have gotten an article about Coble being pretty much unopposed.
This point can't be emphasized enough: Grubb's weblog is the reason she got all that ink today. Certainly some of the attention to the weblog was driven by her status as the first congressional candidate with a campaign blog, not just by the content of the weblog itself, but the fact is that for whatever combination of reasons, Tara Grubb's weblog has paid off big as a political tool.
The article, by the capable N&R reporter Taft Wireback, notes that Grubb's weblog has been the subject of news coverage across the country, but does not explain why the News & Record has not reported on it until today.
Policlicks.com has added a third-party area and posted its first statement from a Libertarian candidate. So far, local and state Republicans seem hipper to the possibilities of this online forum, although US 12th district incumbent Mel Watt seems likely to add a link soon and county commissioner Jeff Thigpen is already using Policlicks to his advantage.
The site is nonpartisan but it grew out of a project for the VFW, the state chapter of which just endorsed Liddy Dole. The VFW connection also gave Policlicks an early association with Howard Coble, who allowed the site to run a non-political spot he had recorded to support the renaming of Pope Air Force Base after a local WW II ace, George Preddy. That background may have helped attract GOP candidates early, and perhaps to give some Democrats pause about appearing on the site. Or maybe the Demos are just slow on the uptake.
Policlicks is working today to get links to candidate spots and debates forwarded via email by the parties.
Where Have You Gone, Joe DiMaggio, And Could You Please Take Barry Bonds With You?
I didn't watch a full inning of baseball all season. I watched about five minutes of last night's Game 7 of the World Series. It just never caught my attention--and I'm a sports fan, living in a house with an 11-year-old sports freak. It didn't help that the marquee player in this series was an asshole. But the sad truth is that I'm not angry at baseball, I'm over it.
Calling off the Series a few years ago and threatening to do it again this year uncoupled my connection to the sport. Why should I care when they don't? This wasn't a decision on my part, it was a change in feeling, like falling out of love. I still follow baseball more closely than non-fans, and a more compelling match-up (especially one that fires Elijah up) will no doubt bring me back to the tube more often in years to come. But it was just a score to check in this morning's paper. I didn't even read the article, just the headline and the caption, then moved on to important things like football and basketball.
We spent a great day with MarkDiSuvero, who was in Greensboro for the dedication of one of his works, "To Be," at the Weatherspoon Museum. He spoke for an hour or so to a packed auditorium about the way he creates his sculpture, linking art to science, religion, and dreams. Meanwhile, Mark and Kate's daughter, Veri, played nerf football with Sydney and Elijah in the museum courtyard.
The News & Record finally mentions Tara Grubb, if only as part of an article on the enormous amount of cash wielded by her opponent, Howard Coble. "This year, Coble faces Libertarian Tara Sue Grubb, whose campaign relies on fliers, a free Web site and a 1979 Volkswagen van to get visibility. Grubb says her grass-roots effort has raised about $4,000 so far. Meanwhile, Coble has 200 times that figure in the bank, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission. So far, Coble has spent $285,972 on his campaign, including $87,000 diverted to fellow Republican candidates, in part, to secure his leadership bid in the House." Coble gets tons of money from the recording industry, which he repays by pushing the noxious P2P/corporate hacking bill. According the article, he uses the money to scare off opponents and to buy influence in the House. Democracy, ain't it grand?
People react to the puppy in different ways. There are benders, who lean down to tousle her fur. There are kneelers, who have to come down to her level to play. And there are cradlers, who can't let it go with a kneel and come up holding the dog in their arms like a baby. I saw a woman in a nice white sweater kneel and cradle the other day--a rainy day, no less. There are also people who don't interact at all with the dog, but the less said of them the better. Today is an office day for Luna. At lunch she and I walked up South Elm to the historical marker across from Blumenthal's that shows where Jefferson Davis held a cabinet meeting while fleeing south ahead of the Yankees in 1865 (there was a story that Confederate gold was buried here, but there are probably stories like that everywhere south of Richmond). Then we drove to Osaka's -- Mark, the co-owner, is a cradler -- and picked up lunch. Luna likes shumai.
The launch of Policlicks.com's first virtual debate last night was a success. The site held up fine and the candidates made it interesting. Cofounder Ross Myers is going to the forum for NC Senate candidates Kay Hagan and Mark McDaniel tonight (Temple Emanuel on Jefferson Rd., Greensboro, 7 PM), hoping to get Hagan to say she'll tape some debate segments--McDaniel has alread agreed to do his.
Ross was telling me this morning that the same platform Policlicks uses for political content could easily support a video weblog, or vidlog--text and author-created video combined in a personal journal format. Mass adoption of broadband can't come quickly enough for Ross.
I am sitting at the Major George E. Preddy Jr. VFW post (#2087) near downtown Greensboro, watching the guys at Policlicks.com get ready to go live with their first online debate at 8 PM tonight. Ben Duell, the systems administrator, has been working 16-hour days this week, and now he's cranking video onto the server at a rapid pace. Yes, he'll have a cup of coffee, he just told Policlicks cofounder Ross Myers. Ben's brother, Rob, a managing partner at the new political forum, seems confident that the next hour and a half will lead to a successful launch of the site's debate room function. Rob is also having coffee; it's old and strong and he likes it. Doug Potocki, another partner, is off setting up a candidate interview. Wait, here he comes, with Cynthia his girlfriend and his kids and poodle. Also, the young company's lawyer, Ralph Gorrell, has arrived. The debate tonight will feature video clips of two candidates for the Guilford County Commission, Jonathan Wagstaff and Jeff Thigpen. Policlicks learned today that it may be able to feature an online video debate between Liddy Dole and Erskine Bowles, our Senatorial candidates.
One of the odd little sideshows to the ongoing DC sniper drama is the argument that he's not a real sniper--he isn't using the right weapon, hasn't had the right training, etc., to merit the name "sniper." Dictionary.com does have the military definition of sniper first, but definition two is this: "One who shoots at other people from a concealed place." So with no disrespect to military snipers, this guy is clearly a sniper. It reminds me a little of the folks who can't accept that "hacker" is a perjoritive term meaning "computer criminal" in colloquial American English, no matter how many emails they write to say the proper term is "cracker" (which can itself be a loaded word).
Steve MacLaughlin trots out the Dow Jones industrials from 1916 in response to a Microsoftophobic piece by Dan Gillmor. They're both right. Way back in the '80s when I worked on the Forbes 400 I loved those grand old dead companies that had spawned huge fortunes, fortunes that were by the time I came along falling off the list as their aged heiresses finally expired.
The Dog Ate My Dignity
My sister says that the puppy has robbed me of all dignity, because I now spend a lot of time lying on the kitchen floor speaking gibberish. It's nice to know that someone who has known me for my whole entire life thought I had dignity to lose.
In this morning's NY Times magazine, Paul Krugman details the rise of the superrich at the expense of the middle class. It's convincing stuff, worth the extra cup of coffee it took me to wade through the whole thing. One of the targets Krugman sees fit to destroy is a phony argument by Instapundit Glenn Reynolds, who blogged a spurious comparison between the economic topography of Sweden and Mississippi (Reynolds gets his on page 7 of the online version).
I've added a picture of myself to the bottom of the page--a miniaturization of a painting done by my friend Jack McCook, who played lead on my favorite Superchunk song and now works for an alternative newspaper at which he is something of an alternative presence.
Policlicks.com, the website offering political ads, went live this week. So far, this Greensboro-based business offers only local content, but the potential is national and even global. The ability to see candidates side by side is a powerful thing--contrast the rich content of Jeff Thigpen's message with the empty sloganeering of his opponent, Jon Wagstaff, and the race doesn't seem like a fair fight. Thigpen is a guy who really should have a weblog.
The Perils of a Monopoly Press
Greensboro has one daily newspaper, the dominant print organ for a region of several hundred thousand people. What a terrible situation. The political coverage is totally insufficient, with each local race getting one summary write-up. The more important the race, the later in the campaign its coverage--so that Tara Grubb's challenge to Howard Coble, for example, has received precisely NO ink so far, except in my opinion column. Grubb's weblog made national news, but the News & Record ignores it, as it has ignored the weblogs of Jim Capo and Jennifer Medlock. The cookie-cutter coverage is inadequate and serves the interests of entrenched power. Weblogs will help route around this obstacle, but it will take time.
Disclosure rules for webloggers who are also professional journalists have been much discussed by Doc Searls and manyothers. My two cents: When I'm doing my day job, I have a code to follow if I am to maintain credibility--no travel paid for by possible subjects, no freebies above the value of typical convention schwag, etc.
Do the same rules apply to me as a weblogger? That's a tougher issue. The benchmark established by the first round of criticism over Doc's trip to Mobius is that as long as I disclose that I'm getting compensated for attending an event sponsored by, say, Microsoft--a player in the enterprise computing business I cover for Baseline--I should be OK. But in real life, it's not that simple. What if bloggin' Ed gets comped and schwagged by Microsoft (or Oracle, Siebel, et al), then magazine Ed favors that company over a competitor in an article six months later? My disclosure at EdCone.com doesn't pull the arrow out of the disgruntled competitor's quiver.
The situation for a professional journalist with a weblog is very close to the situation facing a politician with a weblog, as I discussed last month: "Is there a difference between a campaign weblog and the personal weblog of a candidate? In theory, yes. In practice, no." That's the hardline view, but when your reputation is on the line, the hard line may be the one to take.
I Am Your Dog
I love you I love you I love you I love you. But this business of cheering for me when I take a crap is a little humiliating, don't you think?
Steve MacLaughlin's equation for the new Kmart logo is right on the money. Fix the stores and the systems, and the signs will not matter too much.
A long cab ride to LaGuardia, complete with detailed discussion of the driver's prostate problems, followed by an attempt by US Airways to bump me due to overcrowding caused by the furniture market -- and still I made it home in time to put Elijah and Sydney to bed.
The Baseline retreat was worthwhile, probably even the parts I tuned out while checking my email on SeanGallagher's laptop. I sat next to Sean both days, creating what had to have been one of the most formidable arrays of blogging talent ever assembled in the basement of the Ziff Davis building on 28th Street. After bloviating during the bubble about new companies that would never make a dime, it's fun to work on a mag that delivers some real value for tech and business. Any magazine led by the mad genius is going to deliver the goods.
KGB on Fourth St. was packed on Sunday night as Tom Barbash read from his new novel. A good group from Haverford and Bryn Mawr days turned out to hear Tom deliver the goods, then went out to dinner to celebrate. The other guy who read, Mark Winegardner, was also very good. The Sunday fiction series at KGB is organized by a Publisher's Weekly editor named Emily Chenoweth, who deserves to get rich from this labor of love. Emily was very nice even though she went to Swarthmore, Haverford's alleged arch-rival.
In my newspaper column, I'm back on baseball--the question being where Greensboro's new minor league park should go. This could be a critical moment in the revitalization of our downtown, but politics as usual could limit the scope and the benefits of the project.
Back Pretty Soon
I'm off to NY for a Baseline staff meeting. No blogging til Ziff Davis tech support fixes my poor laptop--but I'll be back live by Tuesday evening at the latest. Drinks tonight with my uncle Terry at his apartment in Tribeca, then to the reading with LaChanze as referenced below.
A rambling tale from bloggin' candidate Jim Capo, in which we learn that Howard Coble is doing an online ad via a site called policlicks.com, which will supposedly go live next week. Policlicks, founded by some appealingly ragtag local entrepreneurs, will run online political advertising. One note to Capo's post: unless these guys are working for a ghost or flying to Montana, they aren't doing any painting for my grandmother, as my local grandmother, Isabel Frank Cone, departed this life in 1992.
Elijah and I went to the UNC-NCSU football game. The better team won, unfortunately. When Carolina scored to go up 17-7 in the third quarter, I told Elijah that they needed to hold State on the next possession to win the game. They didn't. The Woofpack marched right down the field for a touchdown, then right back into the end zone again after a UNC fumble, and the momentum had changed and the better team proved itself.
It was still great to be in Kenan Stadium on a sunny afternoon, eating overpriced Chick-fil-A sandwiches and seeing some old friends in the crowd. I remember my first football game in Chapel Hill--a big win over VMI in 1970, and I hope Elijah is building some good memories, too.
The race to succeed Jesse Helms was supposed to come through Greensboro this month for a debate at Guilford College. Now the college has pulled the plug because the candidates are playing games. "'It is clear to Guilford that the two candidates are manipulating a well-crafted debate plan ... for their own purposes and have circumvented a process that would have produced a first-rate, authentic political debate,' the college said in a statement Friday." Either candidate should be an improvement on Jesse, but Bowles might be better for Greensboro because he grew up here. Dole of course grew up in Salisbury but has lived in Kansas and DC for most of her adult life.
The early-stage web page of the actress LaChanze, announcing her upcoming cabaret at Lincoln Center's Kaplan Penthouse. On Sunday night, LaChanze is supposed to meet me at a bar called KGB, where our friend Tom Barbash will be reading from his new novel. I'll be in NY for a staff meeting at Baseline.
Go Tar Heels
Elijah and I are going to Chapel Hill tomorrow for the UNC-NC State football game. The team we are rooting for will be wearing blue and white and is expected to lose.
This article in Slate explains that sex brought death to the immortal inhabitants of Earth. "Only when sex entered the picture did death become inescapable." In that way it reminds me of another story that I read long ago. And on a related topic, I enjoyed this feature from the Onion's AV Club.
I've taken Luna to my office a couple of times, and I would do it every day if I could. Having her there sleeping at my feet just makes me happy, and I think I get more done, too. And so far, a puppy in our household has resulted in us spending more time together as a family, walking her and just sitting on the floor after dinner playing with her. Today she goes to the vet for the last of her shots.
Bloggin' candidate for the NC Senate Jim Capo posts his proposal for waiving state taxes on public school employees (he needs to link to it from the main page of his weblog) (here is a shorter version of the proposal). Capo's idea is interesting, but his presentation is far too dense--he needs a very simple summary at the top, leaving out references to other bad bills etc. and getting right to the mechanics of his proposal.
I have a couple of questions about his idea as worded: he says it saves $70 million per year in state taxes that go to Washington--but doesn't it save the money for individual NC taxpayers, not the state? Also, is the $70 million in savings to NC in the form of lower wages a net number after the reduction in tax revenue caused by the waiver, or a gross number before factoring in that reduced tax revenue? If gross, what is the net?
The last thing I think he needs to address is the reduction in retirement pay caused by his plan. It's not enough to blithely state that the trust fund is fictional, people still count on it--maybe there could be some mechanism to help teachers invest that extra take-home pay at low cost to make up for the reduction.
It's an interesting idea, this tax waiver, and fits well with Capo's general plans to make NC a competitve state in terms of tax rates. And unlike a lot of the inside-baseball stuff that Libertarians throw around, it could have some visceral appeal to voters. First, though, it needs to be firmed up, rigorously fact-checked, and simply presented.
UPDATE: per the comments below, Jim has made a few changes to his wording, and the links should all work now.
Tara Grubb's weblog is hitting its stride she provides actualglimpses of the campaign in progress. The narrative of her life as a candidate and mom is getting exciting as November approaches--it's become a good read, not just an experiment.
"The Bi-Lo on Alamance Church Road alone expects to sell more than 10,000 pounds [of chitlins] in the two weeks before the game." The News & Record does a feature story on the popularity of chitlins before the NC A&T homecoming game. Although I grew up in the South and am generally willing to eat new and disgusting things, boiled pig intestines have never crossed my lips. Maybe this week...
Bush's speech on Monday night addressed many of the questions I asked in the my column the day before, but didn't provide the specifics I was looking for about Iraq's putative support for terrorism. It did raise another question that drove Elijah and Sydney nuts: how can the President of the United States mispronounce "nuclear" so many times? My only answer: he's saying "nuke-you-ler" on purpose. That leads to yet another query: Why?
In her own inimitable style, Tara Grubb goes for the abortion rights vote. I must say that the second comment under her post makes sense to me, ie, Tara's semi-spacey meditation seems to leave the door open to some radical interpretations that nobody would really want, but once again she is willing to take a stand on a major issue that others often try to avoid, and props to her for that. There is something powerful about a young, dedicated mother defending the right of women to choose on reproductive rights.
Wow, somebody I voted for said something I wanted him to say. My junior senator made me proud to be a North Carolinian today. John Edwards may be getting ahead of himself in his plans for the White House, but he showed some courage and common sense in a speech questioning the rush to war in Iraq--while maintaining his credibility as a believer in the rational use of military force.
Not all the medical advances of the last generation involved smart drugs or laser surgery. Remember the old plaster casts that used to go on broken limbs? Now they use fiberglass casts in funky colors. The one Sydney brought home for the doctor's office today, for example, is a nice lime green. She fell off a trampoline at our neighbor's house yesterday, toughed it out last night, and this morning said it still hurt a lot. A quick x-ray showed a hairline crack near the wrist. Syd is one tough 8-year-old, but she is seriously bummed about missing the rest of the soccer season and not being able to ride horses til Thanksgiving.
A discussion of what a Libertarian legislator might actually do, in a series of comments on Jennifer Medlock's campaign weblog, and in comments on my weblog that started out discussing the evolution of weblog software but ended up in political debate. I admire Jennifer's energy and willingness to mix it up, but I think she and Tara Grubb both need to be more specific about what they would actually try to accomplish if elected. We are just weeks away from the election, it's time to tone down the philosophizing and talk turkey on politics.
Both of these young women have the zeal of converts, but that often leads them to talk down to potential voters, as if we have never thought about the issues that they are apparently just discovering. Jennifer, quit assigning us books to read, quit throwing around vague references and suspect statistics, and get to the point of what you would do in office. You have an actual chance to win against your much-loathed opponent, but your weblog and comments could be your worst enemies if you are not careful--pining for the good old days of no child labor laws is probably not the best way to get votes.
Meanwhile, Jim Capo has not updated his weblog in almost two weeks, so I've dropped his permalink. And in Montana, a Libertarian candidate shows his true colors. Most of the serious candidates with libertarian leanings are still choosing to operate as Democrats or Republicans. I wish one of them would get a weblog.
We watched Changing Lanes last night. It would have been a much better movie if Ben Affleck was a much better actor.
Forbes shuts Forbes ASAP. Oy. They did some good stuff over the years, a little blustery at times, never quite the level of Wired on a consistent basis. Maybe enough journalists have left the profession since losing their jobs that these folks will all find work soon.
With some extensive hand-holding from Userland support, I've gotten the comments function working again after switching computers. Radio's help function is still way too technical for the average non-coding user. Telling me to insert a macro is not very useful if I don't know how to write a macro. The other big problem I have with Radio, the lack of portability from one machine to another, has also been vexing in the last few days. And while I'm complaining, uploading and manipulating images could be easier, too. Fixing these areas will help make Radio more of a mass-market product--and take a lot of the burden off the support staff. Userland knows about all these issues, and seems to be working toward fixes.
Slate editor-at-large Jack Shafer takes a less hagiographic look at the late Walter Annenberg than was found in the major dailies. His proposed headline: "Billionaire Son of Mobster, Enemy of Journalism, and Nixon Toady Exits for Hell--Forced To Leave Picassos and van Goghs at Metropolitan Museum."
A New War to Get On
Back for Iraq, it's a fresh Get Your War On: "Oh my God, this War On Saddam Hussein is gonna rule!
Tara Grubb: "I have filled out several candidate info forms. I would consider them an application for employment if it weren't for one question--Religion?...My religion is none of their business..." She might not get many votes for that one here in the Bible belt, but damn, she says what she thinks.
My laptop ate something poisonous. After a few days of throwing up, it died. My weblog, ie, my Radio software, lived on that computer. With the help of Userland, I was able to salvage my work of the last six months and reopen for business on my desktop at home. This is a workable setup for the short term, but it will change my blogging schedule somewhat for the near future. It has been a long night.
Chico Sabbah Update
Bad news for Chico Sabbah, the secretive philanthropist I profiled for Forbes last month. The reporter--a very talented woman named Margaret Banks--overemphasizes the role of my story in yesterday's court proceedings, I think--it was really just a prop for the lawyer--but the negatives for Sabbah and his partner are very real.
Humor is a Powerful Weapon
The Onion is making fun of the RIAA this week--more proof that people are waking up to the problems of bad bills like the Berman-Coble proposal.