By Al Giordano
Paul Slansky has an interesting Fourth of July proposal up on HuffPo:
Barack Obama, who earlier took some flack for his empty lapel, is on the cover of the latest Rolling Stone with flag pin gleaming. We should follow his lead. Everyone who's voting for Obama -- and especially those who are public figures (i.e. Keith Olbermann, Jack Cafferty, Rachel Maddow) must immediately procure a flag pin and not be seen without it before November 5th. If you can't do it with pride, do it as an act of subversion.
When everyone's wearing the flag it will be neutralized. It will cease to provide cover, and then all those with a need to display their moral superiority will have to find a new symbol to set them apart. A new image to mount on a pin and attach to fabric that says, "I am, in my essence, better than you."
Guess who was making similar proposals a quarter century ago:
"Al taught me the strategy of 'capture the flag,'... Capturing the Flag, implies you are as good an American or better than the Enforcers. It is a strategy essential to winning in the eighties."
And this month, it's more than metaphor. Remember the sport by that name, in which the goal is to raid the rival team's base?
This just in from the Obama campaign:
Senator Obama will kickoff the week by hosting a discussion on economic security for American's families in Charlotte, North Carolina. On Tuesday, he will host a town hall meeting in Atlanta, Georgia. After speaking to LULAC in Washington D.C. also on Tuesday, Senator Obama will wrap up the week by campaigning in Virginia and Ohio.
Next week's campaign swing comes after Obama spent a week campaigning in traditionally red states in the Midwest and Mountain West, including Missouri, Ohio, Colorado, North Dakota and Montana...
That's eight states won by George W. Bush in 2004 where Senator McCain now has to play defense, spend resources he won't be able to allocate elsewhere, and in many cases, where Obama's early raids have already put McCain behind in the polls.
Welcome to the fifty-state strategy. It's really happening.
p.s. Any artists out there want to cook up a design for a Field Hands flag pin to unveil in Austin?
p.p.s. Here's one suggestion...
p.p.p.s. Here's another submission, with the message: "You can print out lapel stickers of these for Netroots Nation, print them out on pages of 20 each for $4.95 a page, and have them shipped overnight by zazzle.com! I'll put in 10 bucks for the first 40, maybe enough others will to give one free to every Netroots Nation attendee":
Update: Readers have donated $160 to make 640 stickers, and there is a request for buttons (ignore the dotted red line at the perimeter, that's just for layout purposes), as well. If we order 100 or more they'll be less than a dollar apiece.
By Al Giordano
It was a set-up from the get-go, choreographed by the Bush administration and eagerly embraced by Colombia's narco-president, Alvaro Uribe. Yesterday's liberation of high-profile hostages in Colombia was merely the gloss for the larger rescue mission: to save Senator John McCain's flagging presidential campaign.
When McCain announced he'd be going to Colombia, and then Mexico (where he is today, more on that in a moment), to preach the "free trade" doctrine, it almost seemed to sabotage the Republican Party's recent decision to target four of the states most hurt by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA): Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin - the latter three of which just lost thousands of auto-worker jobs last month (as the links on those states' names reveal).
Those plant closings are of course related to the new NAFTA fact that Mexican auto workers have been forced to accept reduced pay to lure the auto factories there.
Of all the countries in the world to visit, McCain's trip to Colombia to tout a trade agreement underscores one of his domestic political weaknesses: the rust-belt economy held hostage (year fourteen).
Teamsters Union leader Jimmy Hoffa will tag-team a conference call today with Colombian oil-workers leader Jorge Gamboa to drive the point home:
Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa will hold a press teleconference on Wednesday, July 2 to discuss John McCain's trip to Colombia to push another job-killing trade agreement with a country that continues to turn a blind eye to human rights violations, including an alarming rise in murders of trade unionists.
More than 2,500 trade unionists have been assassinated in Colombia since 1986, more than in any country in the world. Already this year, 27 Colombian trade unionists have been killed.
But now the world can see why McCain chose this week to go to Colombia: to be the beneficiary of a grand simulation and show by President Uribe, who may, by next year, come to regret trying to meddle in US politics on behalf of one candidate against another.
Frank James reports:
The rescue's timing may have merely been coincidental with McCain's visit to Colombia.
But if Colombia's President Alvaro Uribe were going to help one of the presidential candidates, it would likely be McCain more than Sen, Barack Obama since the all-but-official Republican presidential nominee supports the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement while Sen. Barack Obama doesn't.
Upon the hostages release, McCain had a statement all ready to go. This line in it was interesting:
"I'm pleased with the success of this very high-risk operation. Sometimes in the past, the FARC has killed the hostages rather than let them be rescued."
Let me translate that into English: the Colombian Army's meat-cleaver approach to fighting that country's civil war is littered with botched rescue missions and more collateral damage upon civilians than a hurricane can cause. The success of yesterday's raid is how we know that Washington's fingerprints were all over this one.
It was an image-laundering operation, and at that, a two-fer: Uribe gets to look bold and competent and is delivered new talking points to justify his authoritarian reign of terror, and McCain is made to seem as if he's like, well, Bill Richardson or Jesse Jackson, who really have negotiated the release of hostages and prisoners.
In fact, it wasn't McCain who, last month, called upon the Colombian guerrillas to release those hostages. It was Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. McCain only started talking about them after the fix was in.
Three months ago, your reporter noticed the peculiar obsession that President Uribe had with the rise of Senator Obama's candidacy (see Uribe's Attack on Obama, April 3, 2008, Narco News).
The obsession is so extreme that when, in early March, the Colombian government claimed to have seized laptop computers from guerrilla leaders, and then suddenly "discovered" more laptops than it had initially reported seizing, and ones that supposedly implicate Venezuela's Chavez - this reporter is convinced that it was bold fabrication for propaganda purposes - the Colombian State couldn't resist trying to implicate Obama as well:
In a Dec. 11 message to the secretariat, Marquez writes: "If you are in agreement, I can receive Jim and Tucker to hear the proposal of the gringos."
Writing two days before his death, Reyes tells his comrades that "the gringos," working through Ecuador's government, are interested "in talking to us on various issues."
"They say the new president of their country will be (Barack) Obama," he writes, saying Obama rejects both the Bush administration's free trade agreement with Colombia and the current military aid program.
In other words, Obama surely knows that Uribe plays dirty and invents falsehoods, in that case to try to stem the senator's political rise in the United States. And therefore he has to know that the inventions about Chavez - as well as so much of the wartime propaganda emanating from Bogota - were likewise pure fiction.
So for Uribe, having already overplayed his hand with Obama, he absolutely needs McCain to win the White House. Thus, yesterday's media circus and simulation.
As the hostages were freed, McCain was already on his airplane heading toward Mexico. I got on the phone last night with the kinds of sources that know exactly what will happen in Mexico before it happens and asked the obvious question: Will there be a similar media show in Mexico City? Will they capture a narco-kingpin or guerrilla leader to continue McCain's similated winning streak?
My sources all said no. "Calderon isn't as stupid as Uribe," said one. "He's not going to pick sides with McCain when he knows Obama is more likely to win."
And that explained another head-scratcher from yesterday: Why the Obama campaign trotted out some right-wing foreign policy wonks (when it has others much more attuned to ideals like human rights available) to do a conference call that was so effusive in its praise of the illegitimate president of Mexico.
(You can also get a crash course, about 15 minutes into that audio recording, of how I think effective criticism can be waged in a way that limits the elbow room of the "permanent government" types worming their way into the Obama campaign without resorting to Chicken Littling. I understand that those guys are there for show, while brighter lights have to lay low until November.)
In any case, that's the mistério del día. With McCain in El Gran Tenochtitlan today, will Mexico's Calderon step into the same partisan quicksand into which Colombia's Uribe leaped yesterday? The Field predicts that not even he is that desperate.
Update: Bill Conroy has the scoop on how the Colombian hostage rescue really went down.
By Al Giordano
It's a special thing to enjoy one's vocation, more special when it's journalism, and an even better thing to have the privilege of the attention of so many vocal, interesting and generous readers, and it is yet something else altogether when the ham-handed actions and greedy grabs of those of ill will and petty goals do backfire to the degree when their foibles turn a lowly journalist into a cause:
Markos weighs in:
Bottom line, she thought Al was harming her site, so she didn't just pull the plug, but she purged all of his past writings from the site. That's fine, it's her site. Kind of short sighted, since Al's blog was the best marketing possible for her obscure little organization. (Should I ban Saturday Morning Garden Blogging on Daily Kos because it doesn't directly relate to the mission of the site?) But whatever, no one cared much about that.
What was a problem is that Kozikowski essentially stole the money his community had raised to send him to Denver and kept the blogger credential Al earned for herself. When I asked her about it via email, she came up with a bizarre rationalization that she had used her apparently boundless clout within the DNC to pull strings and get those credentials. Total delusions of grandeur, and completely contradicted by emails from her that Al posted on his blog.
Whatever. This post isn't designed to run Kozikowski or her lame organization through the mud. I think they're pretty irrelevant and will stay that way.
This is all to explain and promote an effort by some of Al's readers to get the DNC to issue him a new credential. So if you value Al's work and think he should get credentialed (like me), sign the petition.
Among other benefits of becoming a cause (again: I've been here before so many times with more fun than I ever expected out of being born a worker ant): that's when the invitations to the best parties come rolling in.
Lo' and behold:
Netroots Nation - the convention taking place in two weeks in Austin, Texas - has just invited yours truly to join the panel on The New Orleans Resurgence: Netroots Innovation in the Citizen-Driven Recovery of New Orleans, Saturday, July 19, at 3 p.m. I'll be joining the Rev. Marshall Truehill, Jr., author John M. Barry and community organizer extraordinaire Karen Gadbois at what will surely be ground zero for the growing community organizing sector of the blogosphere's netroots.
Now, just let me huddle with the Texas Field Hands, and we'll soon come up with some other plans for that Austin-tatious weekend, including perhaps a public event or gathering.
If you're heading to Austin from other towns, check in at the Texas Field hands group - or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org - so we can synchronize watches, arm up with James Bond pens and gadgets, and form a posse that would make Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday proud. (Gee: If I don't get my credential by then, which Field Hands want to take part of the great Texas-sized blogger-and-press conference that will ensue?)
Ah, yes... time to put the party back into "The Party," to fire up and ready ‘em to go just as Satchmo and his posse warmed up this stiff crowd at Empress Hall in London with one of our all-time favorite numbers...
Stay tuned for further announcements (more shoes than Imelda Marcos ever had, lining up to drop until justice is done), now that Mackie's back in town.
See you in Texas... and in Denver.
Update: Field Hand Pamela Hilliard's petition to the Democratic National Committee now has more than 1,000 signatures (her goal was 740) toward the goal of securing the credential that is owed. She's given us all a great example of how to organize in an international community. Great job, Pam.
By Al Giordano
Well, you did it (more funds and in far less time than the first attempt: I'd even say "you just drank somebody's milkshake!").
Seriously, though, thanks. It means a lot to me morally as well as materially. My wheezing laptop thanks you, too.
And if my budget-cutting measures work I may even be able to afford one of those James Bond spy pens that Alexa recommended for the trip...
Update: Oh, what's that we hear?
The sound of a shoe about to drop?
Do not stray too far from The Field tonight. You know the drill we recite right before things get even more interesting around here: Fasten yer seatbelts, put your chairs and tray tables in an upright position, the no-smoking sign has been turned off.
Field Hands, what time is it? It's about to be Show Time!
By Al Giordano
Yesterday, in Independence, Missouri, Senator Obama delivered this speech on patriotism, titled "The America We Love":
If you've been sprouting Chicken Little feathers in recent days, gnashing teeth over the nominee's reported "move to the center" (or "to the right"), worrying about whether Wes Clark got pushed - or leaped on his own - under the proverbial bus after his remarks distracted from the message of this speech yesterday (Clark, himself, on Good Morning America today acknowledged, ""I'm very sorry that this has distracted from the message of patriotism that Sen. Obama wants to put out"), I have an interesting homework assignment for you.
Please put aside 28 minutes and 22 seconds today to give your full attention to the video of that speech. And then, if you still feel this nominee is offering more of the same as previous nominees, come back here and make your case at least with the benefit of the full knowledge of what exactly was trampled upon during yesterday's Chicken Little stampede.
...it is worth considering the meaning of patriotism because the question of who is - or is not - a patriot all too often poisons our political debates, in ways that divide us rather than bringing us together. I have come to know this from my own experience on the campaign trail. Throughout my life, I have always taken my deep and abiding love for this country as a given. It was how I was raised; it is what propelled me into public service; it is why I am running for President. And yet, at certain times over the last sixteen months, I have found, for the first time, my patriotism challenged - at times as a result of my own carelessness, more often as a result of the desire by some to score political points and raise fears about who I am and what I stand for.
So let me say at this at outset of my remarks. I will never question the patriotism of others in this campaign. And I will not stand idly by when I hear others question mine.
That last turn of phrase received such great applause from the Missourians in that hall because most people understand that an early skirmish in the general election fight will determine to what extent Republican nominee John McCain - the former prisoner of war in Vietnam - will or will not have the elbow room to impugn Obama's patriotism. McCain and his surrogates have tried to go there so far with limited success. Those words put up a barrier around their ability to do so in deeper ways. Obama's "I will not stand idly by" was a warning shot. The people in the room got it. They know what is at stake in a depth that perhaps not every progressive pundit or blogger does.
I myself relate very intensely to the paradox, cited by Obama yesterday, that it is often the greatest patriots whose patriotism becomes questioned by lesser lights:
...throughout our history, men and women of far greater stature and significance than me have had their patriotism questioned in the midst of momentous debates. Thomas Jefferson was accused by the Federalists of selling out to the French. The anti-Federalists were just as convinced that John Adams was in cahoots with the British and intent on restoring monarchal rule. Likewise, even our wisest Presidents have sought to justify questionable policies on the basis of patriotism. Adams' Alien and Sedition Act, Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus, Roosevelt's internment of Japanese Americans - all were defended as expressions of patriotism, and those who disagreed with their policies were sometimes labeled as unpatriotic.
In other words, the use of patriotism as a political sword or a political shield is as old as the Republic. Still, what is striking about today's patriotism debate is the degree to which it remains rooted in the culture wars of the 1960s - in arguments that go back forty years or more. In the early years of the civil rights movement and opposition to the Vietnam War, defenders of the status quo often accused anybody who questioned the wisdom of government policies of being unpatriotic. Meanwhile, some of those in the so-called counter-culture of the Sixties reacted not merely by criticizing particular government policies, but by attacking the symbols, and in extreme cases, the very idea, of America itself - by burning flags; by blaming America for all that was wrong with the world; and perhaps most tragically, by failing to honor those veterans coming home from Vietnam, something that remains a national shame to this day...
As a writer, I believe that words should be powerful enough to stand on their own no matter who is writing them. Too many voices (at least among those with access to the media) rest on their laurels to claim authority. That's why, here and elsewhere, I try to limit any autobiographical references in my work. But when it comes to the topic of patriotism, since it is such a deeply personal one for me, I'm going to let loose a few snippets today.
Those of you that have known me over the decades know that my life's work has been deeply fed by my own sense that true patriotism requires dissent (and, most importantly, effective dissent; it is not enough to be "correct" if one can't also bring others over to his or her position). It's what caused me to dedicate the most energetic years of my youth to community organizing. It's what led to my arrest on charges of nonviolent civil disobedience 27 times, and long nights in various jails and prisons. It frankly brought me to the extreme of having to move outside the borders of my own country in order for this American dissident to have the wider vista to be able to describe my country as it truly is and the freedom of movement, economic and political, to be able to continue to change it.
The late Marty Jezer's book, Abbie Hoffman: American Rebel (1993, Rutgers University Press), along with others on the same subject, chronicle parts of my story during the decade of the 1980s when I studied and organized at the right hand of that late and often misunderstood patriot. And American patriot he was, maybe the last truly great one of the 20th century. It briefly tells the story of my work as an organizer in New England's anti-nuclear movement in my late teens and early 20s, prior to joining forces with the late Hoffman. Jezer - who was also part of that movement and eyewitness to those events - noted in his book that there was a natural tension between some of the older "60s generation" activists in that movement and me that was provoked by - get this - the small American flag pin that, when organizing, I wore on my shirt during that era.
Halfway across the country during those years, another young man of my own generation was organizing, too, on the South Side of Chicago. When I listened to his words, yesterday, I concluded, again, that he was formed by similar generational challenges:
Most Americans never bought into these simplistic world-views - these caricatures of left and right. Most Americans understood that dissent does not make one unpatriotic, and that there is nothing smart or sophisticated about a cynical disregard for America's traditions and institutions. And yet the anger and turmoil of that period never entirely drained away. All too often our politics still seems trapped in these old, threadbare arguments - a fact most evident during our recent debates about the war in Iraq, when those who opposed administration policy were tagged by some as unpatriotic, and a general providing his best counsel on how to move forward in Iraq was accused of betrayal...
Of course, precisely because America isn't perfect, precisely because our ideals constantly demand more from us, patriotism can never be defined as loyalty to any particular leader or government or policy. As Mark Twain, that greatest of American satirists and proud son of Missouri, once wrote, "Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it." We may hope that our leaders and our government stand up for our ideals, and there are many times in our history when that's occurred. But when our laws, our leaders or our government are out of alignment with our ideals, then the dissent of ordinary Americans may prove to be one of the truest expressions of patriotism....
When was the last time that the United States had a president that understood, on such a clear and elaborated level, that dissent is the essence of patriotism?
No president by the name of Reagan, Bush or Clinton valued, or even understood, that central tenet of democracy.
For the last 28 years, at least, in the USA, the executive branch of government has chipped away at the most American of rights and freedoms, not just through restrictions of individual rights by The State, but especially by fostering the private sector's greater powers over us in the workplace, the marketplace, especially in the realms of ownership and privacy.
The space has closed radically upon patriotic American dissidents, including in, but not limited to, my own field of journalism. More often than not, it's economics that clip our wings. (Who would have thought that in 21st century America, for example, that one could lose his livelihood - and a press pass - simply for mentioning American patriots like Saul Alinsky or Andrew Kopkind? Had I had to pay the high cost of rent and food in the US when that came down last month, would I have enjoyed the time and space to be able to jumpstart this blog anew so rapidly and successfully? Just sayin'. When you factor in economics, the United States as the freest nation on earth ends at a different kind of border today: the one with the toll booth that exists inside national territory where you have to be able to pay to continue to speak freely.)
We have seen, especially post-9/11, hysteria and fear consume the leaders of both major political parties. Not since the McCarthy era has there been so much worry about associations and reputations, and the always-ready-for-a-nasty-witch-hunt "speech cop" mentality plagues the left (in organizations, in academia, in fundraising ventures) as much as, sometimes more than, it does on the right.
Among the baggage from the Clinton era of Democratic Party politics is this narrative about a nominee "moving to the center." I myself have a hard time breaking out of it, even though I know it's generally bullshit, and here's why: I have reported the campaigns of hundreds of candidates in the US and elsewhere, and for a number of years in my reckless youth I worked inside of political campaign staffs. And there's one thing that is evident from that experience: What a candidate says while seeking office has little to no bearing on his or her actions upon obtaining that office.
Too many progressive activists suffer from the illusion that if they leverage a candidate during a campaign that getting him or her to say one thing or another will later translate into policy. Ironically, it was Ralph Nader that pioneered that view of activism and we can all see to where it has naturally led him and some others after the frustration of decades of believing, despite the bad results, in a tactic that did not work. I can find very few examples of that in the campaigns I've covered, and plenty of evidence to the contrary. Candidates that clipped to the right turned out to govern quite progressively. Candidates that tacked to the left governed more conservatively, sometimes to authoritarian extremes. A thousand issue organizations and interest groups tell their members to send them money and portray themselves as those who are policing the politicians and leveraging campaign seasons to do it, but their track record producing results from those politicians is abysmal.
And it's also a popular myth these days in some circles that "moving to the right" is what has hurt previous Democratic nominees. That's exactly the opposite of what happened to Michael Dukakis in 1988, whose 17-point lead in the polls was blown not because he moved to the right (he didn't) but because he was unable to frame his more liberal views in a non-ideological or "post-partisan" manner. From his disastrous debates where he boasted to be "a card carrying member of the ACLU" and his stammering, impersonal response when a CNN moderator asked him whether he would still oppose the death penalty if his wife was raped and murdered, it was clinging to the left side of the divide that brought down that Democratic nominee.
In sum, I don't think that anything that Obama or McCain say during the campaign is going to determine how each of them will govern. If you think otherwise, can you cite an example of when that happened in US presidential politics? (Think of George H. W. Bush's 1988 mantra - "Read my lips: No new taxes!" - and his subsequent raising of taxes on most Americans when president.)
Nor do I particularly mind when I'm told that one of my big issues or heroes has been "thrown under the bus." Heroes are adults and have to take their knocks at times when they phrase things inartfully or get caught in a "gotcha" moment on TV (like happened to General Clark yesterday).
Here's a recent example that is close to home: No US journalist is as associated as much as I am with the reporting that exposed and beat back the attempted 2002 coup in Venezuela. Few have had the opportunity I've had to report, up close, on that country's president Hugo Chavez and to conclude that he is a democrat of policy and soul. When in his Latin American policy speech, Obama offered stern and errant words about Chavez, my response was neither to whine about "Sister Souljah moments" (another unfortunate concept that floated ashore with the debris from the Clinton era) nor to blindly deny that the nominee's view is wrongheaded. The tone that I recommend taking at those moments can be found in that which I took, when writing about the good, the bad and the ugly of what I deeply care about: Obama and the US-Latin America Time Bomb (May 26, 2008, Narco News).
My duty to the causes I care about is not to cry that we've been victimized, or that "the sky is falling," or to play armchair quarterback shouting from the bleachers at the captain on the field that he must make his next play a run or a pass. Nor is it to yell, "I'm taking my money and support and game board and going home." It is, rather, to inform and organize greater public opinion to grow to see the issue as I see it, so that whenever he may take office, he will have to deal with the reality that we have created with or without him.
People that care deeply and legitimately about misunderstood or unpopular issues like abolition of the death penalty for anyone (even for child rapists), or that Israel has to end its terrible treatment of Palestinians, or that there should be no immunity for telecommunications companies that spy on behalf of the government on Americans that communicate abroad, or fill-in-your-pet-issue-here, have to first educate and organize the citizenry to demonstrably agree with them before they can realistically insist that any political candidate stick his neck onto their pet chopping block.
Of much greater priority for me is to organize a network - as we are doing here - that, when the next president takes office on January 20, 2009, will be able to spread the word and frame the public debate in a way that he will have to do the right thing.
I do think it will be much easier and safer to do than it has been in a long, long time if that president is someone that instinctually understands that dissent is patriotism's highest calling: someone that will not attempt to demonize us nor pander to us, but who will at least be open to the conversation. And I opine that anybody that thinks we're seeing just "more of the same" is suffering from a kind of post-presidential-campaign-stress-syndrome and the traumas of campaigns past to a degree that he and she are unable to see what really is different at this moment in history.
Actually, I have to correct myself already: the highest calling of patriotism is not dissent. It is smart dissent, that based not on self-indulgence or the blurting of one's frustration's out in ways that seek to share the panic or the misery, but based on - even sometimes against great odds - building the objective conditions by which we will win the important battles worth fighting. We don't need any candidate's permission or endorsement of our issue or position to do that, and we sure don't have to wait for any politician to begin organizing the people to set him straight once in power. Ironically, we, the people have more leverage - if we organize - after a candidate becomes an official, than we do during the heat of an electoral campaign when he or she is so singularly focused on the goal of getting elected. And if we can use his own campaign as the basis through which to become organized, that much stronger will be our ability to move mountains when and if that campaign is victorious.
By Al Giordano
Two weeks ago, The Field - reporting on the US presidential election - moved to a new location:
It's been quite the ride. The former host, on June 11, censored us, then disappeared six months of archives from public view, then re-routed the site to the wrong forwarding address. Miraculously, tens of thousands of regular readers alerted each other, found our new home on your own initiative, and are now reading and commenting at the new site as vibrantly as ever.
More than $5,000 that readers had sent to RuralVotes to "Send Al to Denver" to report from the Democratic National Convention will reportedly not be allocated to the purpose for which they were solicited. Again, the readers solved the problem, contributing more than $6,000 in the past ten,oh!, five days, to The Fund for Authentic Journalism to that end, and we're on our way.
So far, so great... but there's something still missing: It's the blogger credential awarded to The Field by the Democratic National Committee, based - according to the DNC's own criteria - on the heavy reader traffic the Field demonstrably generated that followed us to the new domain.
Can we still do a fine job of reporting the convention with or without that all-access credential? The answer is definitively "yes, we can." Our Denver Posse will be working out of The Big Tent, co-sponsored by the Daily Kos, near the convention center.
But can we do an even better job of reporting with that credential in our hands? Of course, we can. That's the purpose for which the credential was intended.
There is a matter of principle at stake here that is part of the larger struggle to change the Democratic Party and the country. The Field's credential has been kidnapped and, at that, by an organization, RuralVotes.com, headed by a member of the Democratic National Committee (the group's co-director, Debra Kozikowski). In sum, a DNC member (who, as a superdelegate, already has her own credential) is today making a mockery of the DNC's own criteria for blogger credentials even though - as we will demonstrate convincingly here - her remnant of a website no longer draws sufficient readers to qualify for that credential.
You can draw your own conclusions as to why that is. My only issue is that the credential belongs in the hands of those of us - The Field and its Field Hands - that earned it.
Many hundreds of blogs applied to the DNC for a limited number of 124 convention credentials (one blog from each state and territory, plus 70 or so of us national ones). You can review the credentialed blogs at the DNC page that lists them:
And here is the DNC page explaining the process by which the blogs were awarded credentials.
It's clear from that page that the number of readers and the Technorati.com rating of each blog was central in the decision of which bloggers would receive credentials:
"Bloggers must submit their daily audience and list their authority based on Technorati stats. Bloggers may also provide examples of posts that make their blog stand out as an effective online organizing tool and/or agent of change."
The Field - launched in December, 2007 at a website that previously had, on average, only 300 visits a day, and which by February had clocked more than 90,000 visitors on Tsunami Tuesday, and remained in five figures (a couple of times, breaking 100,000), every day since then (until very quickly after two weeks ago when we crossed the sea into the promised land) - clearly met those standards and more, which was recognized by the DNC with the award of the credential. The Field clearly also meets the DNC's requirement of being "an effective online organizing tool and agent of change."
Beginning in February, Debra Kozikowski (the aforementioned DNC member) of RuralVotes (the ex-host of the ex-Field) began asking me repeatedly to take actions to bring The Field's Technorati rating number into the top 10,000 blogs. Here are verbatim quotations from her emails to me, in chronological order, urging me to do that and cheering me on as I accomplished that mission:
February 25: "BTW, that technorati ranking went up by 1,000 places overnight -- i won't be happy until we're in the top 10,000 at least."
March 3: "we're in the 23,800 range -- up nearly 1,000 spots over the weekend. i'm dying to break into the top 20,000. keep up the great work!"
March 11: "ok so we're at 22, 230-ish in our technorati rankings -- call 'em anything you want (eek, i can't believe i said that) but don't break any legal thresholds on me and get us in the top 20,000 blogs on technorati. LOL"
March 11: "Authority: 245 Rank: 21,736 ...we're almost at the 20,000 mark -- find a hook to make me smile."
March 12: "LOL i can see that technorati rating rising now..."
May 8: "another rise in technorati rating wouldn't hurt either -- i want us to hit the 10,000 rankings vicinity."
May 18: "climbing daily -- just 2852 spots to make the top ten thousand blogs in the universe ... a huge goal and in a slowed down readership (as there is not much exciting at the moment) amazing you keep us climbing. high five anyone?"
May 19: "Hey their link brought us another 100 rankings up the technorati ladder. LOL"
May 23: "your rumor mongering put us 1,092 spots from being ranked in the top 10,000 at technorati. i do not want to encourage another of your vesuvias leaning ego-blasts but ... this sure is interesting. and man - taylor marsh is pissed at you for 'peddling' said rumor."
May 25: "777 spots away from the top 10,000 on technorati"
May 27: "The Field now has a technorati rank of 9,620 with an authority rating of 523 -- that's why I'm happy."
Two days later, Ms. Kozikowski forwarded me the email from Aaron Myers of the Democratic National Committee, awarding us the credential:
From: "Myers, Aaron" <MyersA@demconvention.com>
To: "Myers, Aaron" <MyersA@demconvention.com>
Date: Thu, 29 May 2008 18:15:24 -0600
Subject: Your blog's DemConvention credentials
Congratulations. The Democratic Convention staff has completed its review of blog credential applications and I'm writing to let you know that your blog will be credentialed at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver...
For a few days after that, the ex-host continued to wax ecstatic about the achievement. Here are two more interesting quotations from her subsequent emails:
June 1: "that technorati rating was great! Thank you for exciting that world."
June 5: "we are now 1,402 spots away from the top 5,000 in technorati ranking -- you keep this up and I'll have to temper my tantrums ... that will kill me."
Unfortunately, within a week, the ecstasy had morphed in a most bizarre fashion back into what she categorized as her own "tantrums." I won't rehash the story of the censorship and exodus of The Field and its readers here (those just tuning in now to the story can read about it here and here and here.) But it seemed to me that somebody thought that the award of the credential, and the more than $5,000 readers had contributed to "Send Al to Denver," gave her a petty tyrant's power over my journalistic practice - and me as a human being. (An illusion that has, obviously, since been shattered most splendidly.)
Long story short: The Field moved, and the ex-host lost the overwhelming majority of its readers, a statement we will now demonstrably prove. Even counting the few that return now and then to the ex-host site to view the carnage of the train wreck or out of curiosity over whether they've yet informed all the donors of the right to a refund (move on, nothing to see there: they haven't and here's betting they won't), you can see from the ex-host's own statistics page exactly how much of its readership it has lost in only 18 days since The Field pulled up stakes:
Likewise, on that stats page file, one can also see the top referral blogs to the former host site:
Those top referral sites, the Daily Kos, Andrew Sullivan at The Atlantic, fivethirtyeight.com, John Cole's balloon-juice.com, jedreport.com, James Wolcott of Vanity Fair, etcetera, have since changed their blog rolls and/or links to reflect the new address of The Field at narconews.com. (And I thank them very much for that.) The larger community - the blogosphere and its netroots - widely recognizes The Field's new location as its one and only legitimate home.
Just two weeks old, the new and improved The Field now has, according to Technorati, 84 incoming links from other blogs (added to the 2,424 incoming already into Narco News, and another 892 incoming to The Narcosphere section of the same newspaper, that totals 3,400 and it's quite the alliance). The Field at its former location had 2,129 incoming links - 93 percent of all the 2,285 incoming links to the former host site. In other words, we brought them ten times (on good days, more than 300 times) the traffic they had and will probably ever have again. Another blog at the ex-site of the ex-Field, to which all traffic has been rerouted without explanation, and has been in existence various months, enjoys only 66 incoming links by comparison. How many bloggers applied for convention credentials with better Technorati stats than that but were left empty handed?
I say this not to put down another site because of its low readership - there are many excellent sites across the Internet that do not have a lot of readers but are still of high quality, I read them and link to them frequently - but to make a different point: that, clearly, the DNC awarded its blogger credential to a blog (The Field) in a large part because it had a measurably large readership. It would never have awarded a credential to a site as scarcely read as the one that is trying to maintain an undeserved grip upon the credential that it does not merit.
More importantly than what does or doesn't happen at other sites is that The Field has been reborn with more vitality and readership than before, and in a very short time span since June 14. One can click The Field at its new location - http://www.narconews.com/thefield - at any hour of day or night and see the same ample activity and intelligent comments discussions that existed when it was located at its previous home, whereas the blog on the former host site is a virtual ghost town, with an average of one or two, if any, comments per entry. "I think I saw," one reader commented, "a tumbleweed blowing through there."
Clearly, nobody - other than those trying to benefit from the confusion - is happy with the way that the former hosts kept the $5,000+ our readers donated with the explicit solicitation to "Send Al to Denver." (The ex-hosts have returned some of those funds to some of the small donors that have demanded refunds, while others continue to report problems getting their refund, but the ex-hosts have so far refused to proactively alert the rest of those donors that their donations won't be spent for the purpose solicited and given. Thankfully, our readers have generously, mostly, solved that problem already):
Some readers - quite independently on their own initiative - set up an online petition to the DNC to restore my credentials, which in no time at all, without any major push, has garnered 350 signatures (and this is the first time I've linked to it in a diary post). Here's the link:
The petition states:
We the undersigned readers and supporters of Al Giordano and the blog "The Field" request that Mr. Giordano be awarded credentials for the 2008 Democratic National Convention.
Our request is based on these facts:
1) Al Giordano was awarded credentials through his previous blog host, but the credentials have not been given to him since he was forced to move;
2) Mr. Giordano has thousands of readers and supporters who immediately followed him to his new site, thereby proving that Mr. Giordano was the "draw" to the old site, not the owner of that site;
3) Mr. Giordano will bring a progressive voice to the media coverage of the Democratic National Convention similar to that of his years of journalist experience and printed work; and
4) Mr. Giordano's expenses for the Denver Convention will be almost totally funded through independent small donors who are his readers and supporters.
I wrote to Aaron Myers of the DNC last week, asking him to please update the URL on the credentialed blogs page and to direct future correspondence regarding our credential to our new address. Strangely, he hasn't responded, not to say "yes," not to say "no," not to explain or disclose anything. And the DNC site still links to an ex-Field that no longer exists and is instead rerouted to the different, but virtually empty, blog.
Such non-response so far probably just indicates that the DNC has no idea what to do about this situation. But without addressing it, the uncertainty may grow to create the impression that the DNC wasn't or isn't really serious about awarding blogger credentials based on size of readership. If a single DNC member can successfully sequester a credential for a little-read stump of a website while so many more deserving bloggers will have to do our work without that important tool, what would that say about how the Democratic National Committee has changed, or not, in recent years?
And so I turn to you, kind readers (some of whom are also DNC members that may not agree with how one of their own has kidnapped a credential): Other than telling your own blog readers about the petition drive that The Field's readers have started (I think that's great), what can be done about this unfortunate turn of events?
Should the DNC allow this situation to continue without redress? Should it transfer the credential to The Field, its rightful holder? Should it create a new credential based on the unforeseen circumstances? Or should it let a DNC member hang onto a blogger credential that, if not for the high readership and Technorati rating that my work and its readers, alone, generated, would have never gotten into her hands in the first place?
Oh, that poor, kidnapped credential, tied and bound to a chair where nothing but tumbleweeds blow by, wasting away where it will never be able to be put to truly effective use!
The easy way to resolve this would be for someone in authority at the DNC to contact me immediately at email@example.com so we can work this out in a problem-solving spirit without further ado.
It's already been settled by our readers that - with or without a credential - we'll be reporting from the convention. But everybody would live more happily ever after if somebody upstairs of wisdom, intelligence and common sense at the DNC (there must be a doctor in the house) would take the few minutes it would require to step in and correct a wrong being perpetrated by one of its own.
Update: Field Hand Christi has posted a diary at Daily Kos about this situation. It's her first ever. I will now rec it. If you agree with what she says (I do), please do the same.
Update II: DemConWatch is on the story:
If you haven't followed the story of Al Giordano of The Field and how he's unjustly lost his bloggers' credential, go over to the new location of The Field, and read the latest update. Al has been doing some great blogging this spring, and he deserves to be in Denver.
To quickly summarize, he was awarded a credential for blogging at his first blog, the owners of that blog started to censor him, so he moved to his current blog. But the original blog owners still have the credential, even though the original blog wouldn't come close to qualifying for a credential without the traffic Al brought it.
All the DNCC has to do to fix this is give Al a credential. (They don't even have to take away the old one). This should be an easy one for the DNCC to take care of.