Why I'm an Acolyte of the Cult of Dean

Normally I'll have nothing to do with any sort of organized religion, as almost every one has an aggressive branch of proselytism. It's interesting, though; I've never been averse to being spiritual, to having faith in things, etc.

Howard Dean's found a way to proselytise without being rude: provide an open forum for people to congregate, and never waver from what's in his heart. I think this method works for anybody, but I've never seen anyone with the power to go for President realize this; it sounds like JFK might have been the last.

Interestingly, those are some of the core principles that we're discovering at the roots of this whole "blogging" thing; you cannot waver from the guidance of your heart, you must be honest and direct. The technological implementation of blogging is where we find the community-building, though; some provide comments, some provide forums, some link to others, some quote others.

The root principle is the same, though. He's following the course that's true to his beliefs, and inviting those who wish to walk with him to talk. He's actively trying to communicate, by doing whatever it takes to let people talk. In addition to the traditional press releases, he's tapping into every means of communication he can find in order to allow people to talk -- and that shows a respect for something higher than some campaign.

Given the reaction of the people (and myself) to Dean, it seems evident that a need has been growing for a certain kind of leader: someone who knows how to both speak and listen, with their heart for guidance. While the world of blogs has an incredible surfeit of these people, American society has very, very few. Dean has demonstrated that it's possible to make it in politics without allowing the corruption in; his campaign reminds the citizens in the trenches that it is possible, after all, for good people to succeed in politics without corruption.

Link: Garance Franke-Ruta wrote a wonderful article about how Dean is awaking in his followers a long-dead sense of faith; it's the trigger for this article; definitely worth reading.

Six Degrees of Dean

Dean's campaign seems to be learning to take advantage of social networking. Last night's meetup included a directive from the official campaign to "bring a friend" to the meeting on November 5th. Coincidentally, I read "Emergence" this week; it seems as though the campaign is taking a leaf from emergent network theory to build a base of voters.

There's currently more than 100,000 people (120,167, right now) participating in the Meetup system; by asking each of them to bring a friend to the next meeting, there's huge potential for growth. If 15% of the people bring one friend to each meetup, each month, the population of the meetup could more than double. If 30% bring one friend, the population reaches close to 500,000 people. If 50% bring one friend, the population grows to a million people in six months, in meetup alone.

Maciej Ceglowski's girlfriend had dinner with Dean earlier this week, and seems to be heavily involved in Meetup. Maciej's been working with directed networks and search technology; it's eerie that a week later, Dean's campaign introduced activities evidencing a clear knowledge of network theory.

One of the videos shown at the meeting was Dean with a group of GenDean members, asking them to get people involved to vote; not for him, necessarily, but simply to get them on the rolls and in the booths.

First he stumps for participation, then he taps the Internet with meetup, and now he taps social networks. Dean's tapping the power of people to take action, when guided; at this rate of growth, he could very well develop a force to contend with the entrenched lobbyists, businesses, and religious conservatives.


If you are a disillusioned Republican, please drop me a line at editor AT moderaterepublican.net. Let's organize. Keep watching this space for more blogs.

A few Republican dissidents are defecting to Dean, using blogs. This time around, everyone can have a voice, and we all have a lot to say about how things are. Perhaps now things will start to be different; there's only so much further down we can slide, as a nation. It's time for the party system to come back in line with the people's interests, instead of its own.

Peer-to-peer subpoenas

The RIAA's subpoenas are so prolific that the U.S. District Court in Washington, already suffering staff shortages, has been forced to reassign employees from elsewhere in the clerk's office to help process paperwork, said Angela Caesar-Mobley, the clerk's operations manager.

In their efforts to scare people away from swapping music online, the RIAA has filed close to a thousand lawsuits, nearly shutting down the US District Court in Washington. I'm bothered that, to do this, they have to drain excessive resources from the government.

On the other hand, at least all that tax money is going to good use: trying to take money from citizens and give it back to the corporation that deserves it in the first place. After all, music swapping (which increased 10% in popularity after the RIAA announced their lawsuits) isn't just a form of social protest against draconian restrictions and pricing — it's illegal, too.

The RIAA has also, by filing these lawsuits, set themselves up for attack under frivolous suit laws; if the government can somehow be persuaded that the RIAA is using the legal system to harass individuals beyond what is necessary to enforce the laws, the RIAA could find themselves floundering where they're sitting happily today. One can dream.

I'd like to see scans of each of the 817 subpoenas show up on the file trading network; it'd be beautifully ironic.

Enforcing a balance

It burns in my heart that we spent on any offensive military action what we could have spent in education instead. Many former students of the current system come out doubtful of the current political system's ability to ever help them, permanently disillusioned in their leaders' ability to care about the people.

I have found a voice to describe how I feel about Iraq, in 20 days in spring (thanks). The budgets for next year's students are traded for the costs of humanity elsewhere — but how can we help others when we're so unable to help ourselves? The world has no further desire for our form of help, now, so perhaps we'll be left to heal our broken country instead.

I propose a budgetary enforcement that military spending not exceed human services spending, per year. There must be an equal and fair allocation of these resource, something that seems to be lacking in today's dwindling school budgets and world-spanning military. An amendment, of sorts, designed to enforce that which we hold dear: the people of the country itself.

I feel that it's urgently time to take care of ourselves, to reduce our military action, and to work on repairing some of the flaws within our society: the trend towards a lack of emotional intelligence, the lack of interest in a damaged education system, hanging on a thread near collapse with no budget in sight.

America's dwindling renewable resource: participation.

A number of indicators suggest that there has been a sharp decline in social capital in the United States since the mid-1960s. After rising for most of the first two thirds of the 19TH century, formal membership and participation in civic organizations, levels of trust, and charitable giving have all seen sharp declines. There is a strong relationship, across American states, between measures of social capital and educational performance, health, tax evasion and self-assessed welfare. Although this pattern still needs far more detailed analysis, it is pronounced enough to justify further attention to social capital and its potentially powerful implications for a range of public policy issues.

The author of Bowling Alone has written an eerily accurate statistical analysis of citizen participation in communities, here in the states; he uses the phrase "social capital".  It's frightening, if you think about it: the next generation will participate even less than the previous one, by the current trend, and that's a scary thought.  We're already having problems with voter turnout, for instance (40% turnout at the last presidential election, if I trust these numbers).  If 80 million people voted, that's another 150 million who didn't.

150 million people who aren't participating in the democracy.  Of those, I suspect that the highest demographic would be people from my generation: 18-24.  If I stir in Roger's observations, that the younger you are these days, the less likely you are to participate, it becomes clear why Bush had a chance of being elected in the first place.

60% of Americans registered to vote, didn't.  Who are those 60%?

If you're reading this post, and you didn't vote, I'd like to know why not.  Anonymous posting is enabled, so you don't have to provide fake or unreal information.  You can email me, if you like; anonymity presumed unless otherwise stated.

I'm also welcome to ideas as to why 60% of the voters didn't vote, so if you voted and have an insight, or even if you're not a citizen here, I'd like to hear ideas.

How much could the 18-24 generation swing the vote if it participated at the levels that people were seeing in the 1960's?  What if MoveOn.org swarmed the capital once a day, five days a week, for a month? We aren't powerless to change this country, so why does everyone think that?

If you can answer these questions, you can change the world — starting with America.

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