Set the terms of the debate

· The Power of Many

TechPresident, a project of Personal Democracy Forum (which I used to write for), in cooperation with the New York Times and MSNBC, has launched a site called 10 Questions where anyone can suggest a question for the presidential candidates and anyone can vote the suggested questions up or down.
It’s a kind of more open version of the YouTube debate concept or the recent mashup Yahoo! did.
In round one, you ask a video question, you vote on the best questions, the top ten questions get selected.
In round two, the top ten questions are presented to the candidates, candidates post their video answers, and (here’s the beauty part) you decide if they actually answered the questions.
(via Zephyr Teachout, who’s always up to something cool.)

Strategery at the New School?

· long story short

kerrey image nicked from the ObserverSo I’m standing outside of the Parsons (I always knew it as the Parsons School of Design but at some point it got rebranded Parsons The New School for Design in line with all the other New School for… subschools), where we were putting on the IDEA 2007 conference this past week (which is why I haven’t been getting much blogging done although I have been taking a lot of pictures which I’ve been slowly posting to Flickr if you’re interested), trying to get some AT&T reception on my jPhone to return a call when two guys in suits with their arms literally around each other’s shoulders, laughing and schmoozing like the bunch of dyed-in-the-wool politicians I realize they are, as my brain sorts out the distinctions between these are people I recognize from my own personal life and these are people I recognize because the television has emblazoned them on my mind’s eye over the years, come bursting out of the front door.

It’s Chuck Schumer, I notice, the not-Hillary senator from New York and Bob Kerrey, the former senator from Nebraska or was it Kanasas, who is – I suddenly recall – president of the New School and someone about whom I’d recently heard rumors that he might be considering making another go of it in the Senate, despite his admissions of war crimes in Vietnam and his hawkishness on Iraq and Iran.
And I also find myself reflecting on how he used to comb his long receding bangs over his bulgy forehead but that somehow his time in New York had updated his fashion sense so that now he wears his gray hair (or toupe, who can tell?) in a modified Caesar cut, very short bangs brushed forward and it honestly looks much better. He is a handsome man after all.

By now it’s too late to snap a photo of the men, as Kerrey has slipped into a limo and Schumer has hightailed it down toward Sixth Ave and I’m talking on the phone anyway, so it would be kind of rude to put the call on hold just to take photos, but it occurs to me that maybe these guys were talking about said rumored Senate bid and if so was this supposed to be a sort of out-of-the-ways meeting, given that while this is the New School being Parsons and all, it probably isn’t the location of the office of the president of the New School but if so then wouldn’t they be more sneaky and less boisterous and buddy-buddy on their way out the front door?

Oakland for Obama?

· The Power of Many

Obama logoJust got a call from an organizer named Barbara with the local Barack Obama for President campaign, telling me they are opening a new Northern California campaign office in downtown Oakland, and inviting me to a grand opening party for the office on 4136 14th Street (near Broadway) this Sunday, September 30, from 1 to 5 pm.
I’m thinking of going. I haven’t gotten involved in a campaign yet, nor have I picked a candidate, but I do like what I’ve seen of Obama so far, even as I wish he would take a harder line on ending the war in Iraq.
They say the party will have music and they expect the media there so they’re hoping to get the word out, so consider this my first volunteer effort for the campaign, trying to get the word out about this party just a little bit more.

Shining a spotlight on money in politics

· The Power of Many

I’ve written about MAPlight before but from time to time I feel the need to post an update about the amazing work it’s doing. (Disclosure: I am an advisor to this nonprofit, although my direct involvement is limited.)
Since the last time I mentioned MAPlight it’s gone from just documenting donations to California politicians to covering the Federal level as well, at a new site that launched back in May, called Our Congress (“Our Congress tracks every vote and campaign contribution for all U.S. Senators and Representatives”).
That alone is a huge addition to the service it provides. If you’re interested in what Congress is up to, also check out OpenCongress, another project that has received support from the Sunlight Foundation (as has MAPlight).
Then in May, MAPlight won the NetSquared innovation award for “social impact, sustainability, and technical innovation,” taking first prize in a contest based on open voting online, and earning a $25,000 prize grant.
More recently, MAPlight announced a set of customizable widgets “that allow anyone to track presidential fundraising on their own blogs, social media sites, and personal Web sites.”

Bloggers trying to have it both ways with the FEC?

· Music

I read Chris Nolan because she makes me think and she teases out subtleties that ordinarily might escape me. In The Man Behind the Curtain she takes Kos to task for promoting a future in which bloggers have all the exemptions of journalists and all the freedoms of partisan hacks:

The idea of getting money out of politics is one that used to be endorsed by Democrats and reformer, folks who really were progressive, not just mouthing the words to some 1970s Golden Oldie barely remembered from their first 8th Grade co-ed dance. Why? Because those reformer understood that big money – corporate money, union money, rich people’s money – didn’t always go to their side or the aisle. And regardless of where it goes, it can be corrupting. They understood that money will never leave politics; that’s why it has to be watched very, very carefully, as publicly as possible, as openly as possible.

Mike Krempasky does not believe this. And if you think for a minute that Krempasky isn’t trying to use this recent round of FEC hearings and comments to gut the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, which brought many of them into being, you are dreaming. That’s the Great and Powerful Progressive cause. But, of course, it’s being ignored in favor of name calling and mocking a woman who’s both reasonable and polite and who Moulitsas met only a few weeks ago when he sat next to her on a panel (which I moderated in New York) and decried the rising tide of partisan name-calling and bad-mouthing on the Internet.

Now, I don’t agree with Carol Darr’s analysis of what should be done by the FEC. I think the media exemption should be given freely and fully to anyone who asks for it. But I also think people who ask for it shouldn’t take money from campaigns, shouldn’t be involved in fundraising and shouldn’t be endorsing candidates or doing any other sort of political work. Carol Darr sees the same trouble I do:

On its face, the bloggers’ request for rights equal to those of mainstream media seems reasonable. Their online readership, in a few instances, exceeds those of mid-sized daily newspapers, and their influence and legitimacy continues to grow, in some cases exponentially. Last summer, dozens of bloggers were issued press credentials at the two national party conventions, and several of them have been credentialed by the House and Senate Press Galleries. Recently a blogger was given a day pass to the White House Press Room. Some bloggers want it both ways, however. They want to preserve their rights as political activists, donors and even fundraisers — activities regulated by campaign finance laws — yet at the same time enjoy the broad exemption from the campaign finance laws afforded to traditional journalists. As one blogger speculated, “So basically, I can do whatever I want, spending however much money I want (blogTV that has fatband maximized by megamillions) and just call it a blog?” 8 That is exactly right. For thirty years the campaign finance laws have made a fundamental distinction between political activists and the news media, in order to protect a free press while at the same time limiting the influence of big money on federal elections. Until recently, the distinction between the news media and rest of us was clear and uncontroversial…
Bloggers can have it all, but not all at one time, without destroying the two campaign finance statutes or the press exemptions or both. Given the social and political changes ushered in by new communications technologies, it may already be too late for anything but a massive overhaul of the campaign finance statutes.

Food for thought.

TPM Cafe launches

· Music

Josh Marshall’s Talking Points Memo blog has spawned a group weblog experiment called TPM Café. Like other popular political community blogs such as Daily Kos, MyDD, and, TPMCafe runs on Scoop.
For more information about participating, see the site’s Frequently Asked Questions.