Russell's Blog

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Why YouTube Matters

Posted by Russell on October 29, 2006 at 6:19 p.m.
Originality is what we do with what we did not originate.
--- Eric Hoffer

One of the most fundamental tools available to the scholar is the quotation. Without it, the scholar would be forced to derive everything from first principles, or to rely on her audience to examine and absorb the material from cited works. Citation, for obvious reasons, is only useful of the audience has access to the cited works in the first place. Much of academic discourse would be impossible without the ability of scholars to quote one another.

The same is true in any area where ideas are currency. It is difficult to formulate a coherent critique of anything that does not dissect specific passages. This is perhaps the principle factor that has propelled blogs into the mainstream political arena; blogs routinely quote lengthy passages from their sources, whereas newspapers do not. They quote television transcripts, speeches, newspaper articles, radio broadcasts, other blogs, books, pamphlets, magazine articles, private emails and public records. The medium trivializes the process required to include very lengthy quotes and to quote sources in entirety. This is the main advantage blogs have over other media; they can provide the most complete communication of the referenced material with the least effort on the part of the author and the audience.

The defining characteristic of a blog is not the cost of publication, or immediacy, or any of the other oft-discussed advantages of blogs. On the contrary: Television and radio will always have the upper hand on immediacy, and newspaper websites can match blogs on that as well. The cost of publication is only small if you happen to be very unpopular. A large blog like DailyKos requires a financial commitment the same or larger than the websites of many nationally respected newspapers. Blogs are important because the content is different from other media, and the most significant difference is the use of quoted material. In style, length and in the quality of the writing, a blog post may most closely resemble a hastily composed personal email, but in structure and form, the heavy use of quotations in support of arguments strongly resembles scholarly writing. Blogs are casual scholarship.

This is why it is critically important for sites like YouTube to be allowed to re-publish copyrighted material. Quotation is an essential tool for critical analysis. The nature of the broadcast and distribution systems for television, movies and radio make it cost prohibitive or even impossible for the audience to obtain and comprehend the cited work. It is insufficient to say, "what Keith Olberman said seven minutes and sixteen seconds into the broadcast of last Tuesday's edition of his show." To impose such limitations on scholarship, casual or otherwise, is to prohibit discussion.

The right to use copyrighted material, without permission, in original work is a well-established aspect of fair use. Children across the country are taught how to go to the library and extract and cite quotes for their assignments. Thousands of journals publish articles riddled with quotations from copyrighted works every month. The standards of plagiarism and academic honesty are appropriate for this sort of work, the standards of theft and property ownership are not. The practice of "quoting" video clips is a practice frequently used by television producers themselves. There is a double standard in operation here: Comedy Central asserts that bloggers do not have the right to display clips of Jon Stewart's Daily Show, yet Jon Stewart's Daily Show may display clips of CNN, CBS, NBC and ABC broadcasts.

Clearly, the law grants the owners of the cited works some exclusive rights to those works. However, it is just as important to protect the rights of the public to use those works in original work. It is inappropriate to apply standards that require a person to belong to a particular community ("serious" academics or "serious" news broadcasters) in order to be granted the right to quote copyrighted material.

Google is wrong to excise clips from YouTube without requiring the copyright owners to demonstrate that the clips are not being used as legitimate quotations in original works.

Of course, I can't be the only, or even the first person to come to this conclusion. As Abraham Lincoln said, "Books serve to show a man that those original thoughts of his aren't very new at all."

The Wrong Data

Posted by Russell on October 26, 2006 at 11:38 p.m.
I tracked down the problem that had been mucking up the unity-beta results from Ophidian. Either Pierre or I accidentally checked in a version of CUBE into the repository that wrote the output file data tables in the output in a different order. So, all this time I had thought it was a logic bug, or worse, a math error, turns out to be the result of importing the wrong table.

The weird thing is that it somehow passed my integrity tests. It was the right length, it had the right precision, it had the right boundary conditions, and it had an inflection point.

Er, it had lots of inflection points. I guess I should add a test for the entropy before I pass imported data to the rest of my code. These are all supposed to be nice, smooth, differentiable functions. I don't even use the data in this table -- I think it has something to do with benchmarking the convergence cycle. Maybe it's a poorly calculated magnetic shear. Maybe it's some sort of error distribution. All I know about it is that the values came out of a vector burried somewhere in the solver, and that it's labled "s".

That's the trouble with computers. You leave one thing out of place, and before you know it, they go stomping all over the place. Sooner or later, you will find yourself the victim of your own Techno Trousers. Anyway, here my plot from last week, but without the garbage.

No, I'm not going to explain what it means. You'll just have to wait for the paper.

Asshats

Posted by Russell on October 26, 2006 at 4:08 p.m.
I remind Rush Limbaugh apologists that Parkinson's disease is degenerative and ultimately fatal. Michal J. Fox is in the process of dying. He has decided to let America watch him die in the hopes that we might learn something.

This isn't some cheap political stunt. This is a man's life. Whatever your position on stem cell research, at least have the decency to respect Mr. Fox's effort to die a meaningful death. He is doing these commercials because he hopes, as most people do, that stem cell research may one day lead to treatments that help people suffering from Parkinson's disease (as well as other injuries and conditions).

It's too late for Mr. Fox. He's doing this to help other people.

I suppose Rush would have said Christopher Reeves was exaggerating the way in which he just lay there in his chair, or deliberately let his sentences get cut off when his respirator whistled and clicked. You know, for dramatic effect. He was an actor, after all, and worse yet, a liberal Hollywood type. He'd do anything for attention. Sadly, it seems empathy is beyond the ken of some people.

The horrible truth of the matter is that someday soon, Michal J. Fox will die. Parkinson's disease does not usually allow a photogenic death, but given his bravery thus far, it would not surprise me if Mr. Fox keeps working until the bitter end. Then Mr. Limbaugh can talk about how "shameless" it was for Mr. Fox to exaggerate the pain and misery of his own death to push his "agenda."

Like most liberal types, I support stem cell research, and I'm proud to have Marty McFly, Superman and the great state of California on my side.

Goodby, OS X

Posted by Russell on October 25, 2006 at 10:37 p.m.
I finally broke down and installed Ubuntu Edgy Eft on my iMac at work, and I can't believe I didn't do it sooner. There are a lot of things to like about OS X, but for my personal taste, there is just so much more to like about Ubuntu. It's snappier and it does more of what I want and less of what I don't.

The biggest plus so far has been the ability to simply copy things off of my iPod and into my music library just by dragging them. This is something that iTunes was designed to prevent you from doing. Rhythmbox just does what you'd expect. So, it has finally happened; Rhythmbox is now better than iTunes.

Not that this has very much to do with Rhythmbox, mind you. It's just that Apple's latest iTunes, released into the world in much the same way as a turd, is so magnificently hideous that I can hardly stand looking at it. Not only is it a turd floating in the swimming pool of great Apple applications, but it actively prevents me from doing simple, obvious and useful things. Keep my music files on the hard drive of a computer with a 1000base-T connection directly to MAE-WEST? No problem! Allow me to move my files from one computer to another by hand-carrying them on my aged iPod? No, that would promote piracy!

And then, there was the issue with my iPod Shuffle. iTunes has this thing where it sort of gloms onto your Shuffle, urinates all over its poor little filesystem, and tells all the other Macs that might encounter it that, "This is my Shuffle! You can't put any music here!" So, my sister copied some of her new music (yes, actually hers, as in she is the artist) onto my Shuffle. Her iTunes claimed my Shuffle. When I want to put any other music on it, it will insist on deleting everything she put on there. I can't copy her music into my library, because that would be naughty.

There are an assortment of tools and tricks that one can use to defeat these "features" of iTunes, but that just seems stupid. Anything that requires a work-around is, in my opinion, a bug. So, despite crashing all the time, Rhythmbox actually has fewer serious usability bugs than iTunes.

My only compliant for Ubuntu is that they need to detect the right modules to load to keep Apple's Gigantic Fans of Doom from levitating the computer from my desk. Evidently, loading the very well named windfarm_cpufreq_clamp makes everything happy.

Other than that, my only complaint goes to Apple for putting a crappy nVidia chip in this thing, and to nVidia, for their stupid closed-source drivers.

More broken crap

Posted by Russell on October 20, 2006 at 8:07 p.m.
Sometimes I just want to throw my computer against the wall. Yet another weird-ass numerical bug raises its ugly head.

I guess it's time to set this aside for a little while. I can't afford a new laptop.

War

Posted by Russell on October 20, 2006 at 5:26 p.m.
I agree with Atrios --
Wars are failures. A primary purpose of sensible foreign policy is to stop them. When wars happen, our foreign policy has failed. That isn't to say there's never a point when they're necessary or justified, but that point is simply an acknowledgment that the people in charge failed.
This is a point that the Talking Head Corps seems to be unable to grasp. Supporting a war isn't courageous. Actually fighting in a war probably is courageous, but getting on television and gushing about the necessity of a war is not brave.

To quote Issac Asimov, "Violence is the last resort of the incompetent."

Making New Friends

Posted by Russell on October 20, 2006 at 3:37 a.m.
It's finally starting to happen -- the so-called "chamber of commerce" conservatives are throwing up their hands and walking away from the Republican party. They've finally started to realize that their interests don't align with the Republican party. The Democratic Party is going to find itself swelling with refugees fleeing the GOP meltdown. These folks aren't liberal by any stretch of the imagination, but somehow the Democratic Party is going to have to figure out what to do with them. They've never been part of the Democratic coalition before, but they are going to be, like it or not.

To emphasize how important this is going to be, look at it this way. For the first time, Union and Management are going to find themselves in the same party. How is that going to work? This isn't an abstract question. If the Democrats regain control of the government, they are going to have to write and pass legislation. If they are going to govern effectively (and stay in power), they are going to have to figure out how to write legislation that keeps both Union and Management constituencies happy. How?

It will not be possible to avoid the issue. Business conservatives are showing up at our doorstep with suitcases of issues that have been ignored under the Republican reign. The enforcement agencies that police financial markets have been allowed to rot, and as a result corruption is mushrooming. What enforcement actions are undertaken are often seen as political haymaking, not effective market supervision. In spite of decades of pandering to small business owners, the GOP tax cuts have done little to ease their tax burden. The collapse of public education in many communities has made it more difficult to hire competent workers. The intolerance and bigotry of the extreme right wing of the Republican party has alienated many people that business conservatives would rather keep as friends. "Who cares if they're gay? They're paying customers," such people might say.

On the other hand, working folks have been getting screwed since the '70s, and things are starting to get desperate. After the women's rights movement in the '60s allowed women who wanted careers to take their place in the workforce, the rising cost of living in the '70s forced the rest of them to find work. The average age of retirement has continued to climb, so that when most people are ready to start families, their parents are still working. Changes in the job market have made a college degree nearly mandatory, so children can't start working until many years after reaching adulthood. Nevertheless, the cost of living is still rising faster than wages, and unless we repeal the child labor laws, families have no one left to send to work.

The one issue where I think Union and Management would agree is this: Health care costs too much. This doesn't automatically mean that the solution is a nationalized health care system, but it does mean that the Democrats are going to have to do something about this issue. The strong presence of liberals and conservatives in the party that will likely write and pass the resulting legislation will, I hope, lead to a plan that avoids the hereditary mistakes of both camps. The new conservative Democrats will push for a plan that is simple, cost effective, limited in scope, and flexible. The liberal Democratic old-guard will push for a plan that is universal, progressive, generous, and fair. What America actually needs is a plan that is all of those things at once.

There are other issues where business conservatives and labor Democrats will be able to find common ground. After a decade of outsourcing manufacturing jobs to China, American businesses are starting to wake up to discover that their offshoring partners are now offshore competitors. Competitors that receive billions of dollars of subsidies (I mean "investments") from their respective governments. When their former partners start selling products on their own, the American company finds itself without a factory and competing with its own products. Their once proud enterprises in ruins, American manufacturing executives and American union bosses have shuffled into the same dusty saloon. Hopefully, the newcomers won't be too offended when union Democrats answer their complaints with, "Told you so."

Clearly, America has to get its dependence on Chinese manufacturing under control. We need to rebuild our manufacturing sector and reinitialize the cycle of investment and innovation. The traditional solution offered by union Democrats is import tariffs. This is probably a dumb idea. Hopefully business conservatives will bring some new ideas to the table.

There will probably be a lot of fighting. Culturally, there is a huge gulf between "chamber of commerce" conservatives and the rest of the Democratic party. Some of that animosity has been around since before the Civil War. If this coalition is going to work, Democrats are going to have to work extremely hard. If it is successful, it would be a turning point in America's history. Bringing commercial interests into harmony with labor, environmental and progressive social interests would unleash a great dancing, happy monster into the world.

Bill Clinton at UCLA

Posted by Russell on October 13, 2006 at 8:07 p.m.
I went to see Bill Clinton speak at the sculpture garden at UCLA today. The rally was for California Proposition 87. The speech was not one of Clinton's best, not was it really appropriate for the venue. I'm sure everyone cares that exposure to air pollution increases the risks of developing asthma, and the parents should be very worried about their children. However, the audience consisted almost completely of undergraduate college students. "Think about your children!" isn't the most appropriate way to frame the argument.

Despite miscalculating a bit on the appropriate tone given the audience, did make some very good points. First of all, and perhaps most importantly, the proposal isn't any kind of innovation. It is simply an implementation of an extraction tax, which is a revenue vehicle used in many US states -- Arkansas is one of them. Texas also collects drilling fees. The impact of the extraction tax on gasoline prices in Arkansas and Texas is non-existent, since the price for crude is set by the market, and is not dependent on local variations in the cost of extraction. So, the tax might raise oil prices in general, but only to the extent that the price of California oil figures into the global market for oil (which is to say, not very much).

Unlike extraction taxes in most other places, Prop 87 would set aside the money specifically for funding research in alternative energy. The research would be conducted here in California. In that respect, it has a bit in common with the stem cell research fund created by California voters when they approved Proposition 71 in 2004.

Clinton concluded by pointing out that the gasoline-powered internal combustion engine has remained pretty much the same for the last hundred years, despite the existence of less problematic technologies. He wrapped up the speech by saying that in the 20th century, California has usually lead the nation (and the world) in the generation of new technologies, and that this proposal would continue that tradition.

Sounds good to me.

Quantum

Posted by Russell on October 12, 2006 at 3:45 a.m.
This is the Runge-Lenz vector. In classical gravitation or coulomb problems (anything with potential that follows the inverse square law), it points towards the aphelion.

The Runge-Lenz vector and I do not get along very well. If I didn't know for a fact that the damn thing was going to come up again when we do the hydrogen atom, I would curse it forever. However, since I know that it'll be back, that wouldn't be productive.

I've got my eye on you, Runge-Lenz. Next time, you're going down.

Miserable Failure

Posted by Russell on October 09, 2006 at 4:24 a.m.
North Korea evidently tested a nuclear weapon today. USGS reports a magnitude 4.2 earthquake today at +41° 18' 41.04", +129° 6' 51.84". So much for George Bush's "muscular" foreign policy.

People have been worrying about the consequences of a nuclear North Korea for a very long time. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists will probably have to move the Doomsday Clock back to two minutes from midnight, where it was in 1953. From a diplomacy point of view, this is a d disaster of the first order.

If this were the only example of the failure of our "muscular" foreign policy, it would be bad enough. But the North Korea's acquisition of nuclear weapons is far from the only disaster precipitated by George Bush's cognitive dwarfism. The Bush Doctrine has provoked Iran into reactivating its own nuclear weapons program. Likewise, the official policy of openly promoting regime change via a "Velvet Revolution" in Iran has triggered a brutal crackdown on the very groups that were meant to lead this revolution. For Time Magazine, Adadeh Moaveni writes from Tehran:

To be fair, it needs to be said that the Iranian theocracy is plenty paranoid and repressive on its own. It bullied its opposition long before the United States unveiled its regime change intentions. But really, what were the clerics expected to do when informed that the US had opened up a listening post in Dubai, and called it the "21st century equivalent" of a station in Latvia that monitored the Soviet Union in the 1930s? Start issuing permits for independent newspapers and releasing political prisoners?

I don't know a single Iranian scholar, intellectual, organizer, or journalist whose life and pursuits have not been dampened by this current U.S. policy. Who is it actually benefiting? From where I sit, freedom has never seemed so remote.

Iran, whose demographics had been quietly eroding the foundation of totalitarian clerical rule, has now crushed the very forces the Bush Doctrine was counting on to champion Iran's transition from tyranny. In Iran, "muscular" foreign policy has reinvigorated tyranny and terror and placed both on the fast track to nuclear weapons.

It would appear that the lessons being dealt our military and diplomatic establishment are simply not being learned. George Bush presided today at the christening of the 6-billion-dollar nuclear powered Nimitz aircraft carrier, named in honor of his father, George H.W. Bush. At one fifth of a mile long, the Nimitz class aircraft carriers are indeed the greatest warships ever built. And now we have ten of them :

  • USS Nimitz
  • USS Dwight D. Eisenhower
  • USS Carl Vinson
  • USS Theodore Roosevelt
  • USS Abraham Lincoln
  • USS George Washington
  • USS John C. Stennis
  • USS Harry S. Truman
  • USS Ronald Reagan
  • USS George H. W. Bush
Why do we need ten of them? Nuclear aircraft carriers are profoundly unsutable for combating the non-state threats with whom we are supposedly locked in mortal combat. Even if you set aside the inherent sillyness of fighting a "war" with an abstract concept like "terrorism," exactly what use do we have for a nuclear powered aircraft carrier? Under which doctrine was the decision made that we need ten? The Doctrine of Maximum Cost for Minimum Benefit? What new and exciting countries do we need to bomb into submission -- or, since this is the real world, bomb into eternal bitterness and resentment?

And of course, Iraq. There is always Iraq. For three years, George Bush has left our military there to rot. We will probably have to rebuild it from the ground up. We will need to expand and reform the V.A. to take care of the tens of thousands of maimed and debilitated (not to mention the thousands of abandoned Vietnam War veterans). We will have to re-train the officer corps so that they will know how to avoid the mistakes that led to Abu Ghraib. The role defense contractors play in our armed forces has grown to resemble that of maggots feeding on a barely living creature. Extracting the parasites, excising the dead tissue and and healing the wounds left behind will be a generation-long process. Iraq has demonstrated that a small, mobile and coordinated army is an effective destroyer of nations. We have none of the appropriate tools for building nations (or, more likely, rebuilding them). We will have to re-imagine the enlistment process and bulk up the ranks. Six billion dollar Nimitz class aircraft carriers will not help.

The whole idea of muscular foreign policy stems from a failure to think beyond the reach of one's own actions. It only makes sense if the response of the rest of the world was predictably linear with our application of force. We need a certain amount of bend, so we push with a certain force, and the world responds as expected. The world is essentially static, and need only push and pull it to achieve our desired results. Unfortunately, this view fails to recognize that the rest of the world has people in it. People resist when you push them. They fight when you challenge them. They attack when you provoke them. Applying the concept of muscular foreign policy is a bit like playing chess without realizing that your opponent gets to move their pieces too.

Then again, if the world were a chess game, George Bush has demonstrated repeatedly that he's never figured out how the horsey moves.

Khaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan!!!

Posted by Russell on October 08, 2006 at 6:42 a.m.
The Mongolian embassy is looking into the possibility of placing a statue of Genghis Khan on city land in Washington D.C. in the hopes that it would it would help Mongolians and Americans get to know one another.

I hope they get to build it. I hope that they put the statue at street-level, and he will be riding a foaming-at-the-mouth galloping war horse, drawing a bow with the arrow angled such that it scares the shit out of people as they walk around the corner, because that would be awesome. Sadly, it is hoped that the statue will help remind people that the whole conquest of the known world shtick wasn't the only thing noteworthy about Genghis Khan. After all, Alexander the Great did the same thing.

Really, I suppose it is a little surprising that embassies everywhere don't have a little shrine to Genghis Khan. As the inventor of diplomatic immunity, he saves them millions of dollars on parking tickets every year.

Gadgets!

Posted by Russell on October 05, 2006 at 2:05 a.m.
I thought I'd play around with Google Gadgets. Here is a gadget that counts down to the November elections :

Nifty, huh?

Six weeks left

Posted by Russell on October 03, 2006 at 4:10 p.m.
So let me see if I have this right. The Republicans are going into the midterm elections offering the following things as accomplishments :
  • A bill that allows agents of the executive branch to secretly arrest Americans and hold them, indefinitely, without access to the courts. Recall that the legal term for this practice is "kidnapping." And, since that just isn't tough enough, the bill also grants the executive the power to extract confessions and denouncements under torture.
  • A bill that outlaws online gambling.
  • A failed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.
  • A nine billion dollar fence along the border with Mexico.
  • More wiretapping!

And... that's it. I don't see how any of that can really be positive, even for ultra-conservatives. Maybe the fence on the Mexican border might have a sort of appeal to the racist asshole caucus, but the other side of that coin is, "Why should we have to pay for it?" I again remind the reader that this thing is will cost nine billion dollars, an it won't even go the whole way. The rest of the 2006 legislative buffet table is a few platters of pathetic failure and vat after bubbling vat of unmitigated disaster.

There hasn't even been a debate about our plans in Iraq or Afghanistan. The Republican leadership is beginning to consider inviting the Taliban to join the Afghan government. Since the president seems to be obsessed with inappropriate World War II comparisons, this is a bit like halting the Nuremberg trials half way through to allow the surviving Nazi war criminals to resume their posts in government.

QALAT, Afghanistan U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said Monday that the Afghan guerrilla war can never be won militarily and called for efforts to bring the Taliban and their supporters into the Afghan government.

The Tennessee Republican said he had learned from briefings that Taliban fighters were too numerous and had too much popular support to be defeated by military means.

"You need to bring them into a more transparent type of government," Frist said during a brief visit to a U.S. and Romanian military base in the southern Taliban stronghold of Qalat. "And if that's accomplished we'll be successful."

We've been in Afghanistan for five years. The fact that we can still refer to the Taliban as an extant political entity represents a grave failure. The president has tried to fight the war in Afghanistan with a few handfuls Special Forces and the occasional air strike. I'm sure they are the best soldiers in the world. We all know that an American soldier is as effective as a whole squad of troops from pretty much anywhere. But why would you send so few if you actually wanted them to succeed? This isn't a movie plot; the situation is not improved if the protagonists must overcome enormous odds. I can understand that in 2001, there probably weren't enough Special Forces to go around, and the Afghanistan conflict probably requires that sort of expertise. But we've had five years. That was plenty of time to train more Special Forces. The Taliban shouldn't be able to find a rock to piss behind without one of our guys popping out from behind it. The president opted for a Hollywood B-movie script instead of a battle plan, and he's sticking to it.

And then there is Iraq. History will probably call it The Unnecessary War. The strategy there seems to be to simply allow the insurgents to slowly kill every last one of our soldiers as they scramble around the country trying to slow down the slide into chaos. As in Afghanistan, there are far too few troops. They were sent in without enough training or proper equipment (has the DoD even managed to buy modern body armor for them yet?). The Army is loosing billions of dollars of equipment, and is scrambling to replace it. It is possible that there weren't enough troops to go around in 2003. But we've had three years, and there hasn't been any significant effort to recruit and train more soldiers. In 2004 or 2005, the president might have been able to withdraw and declare victory. We would be very, very lucky if we could withdraw and declare nothing in particular.

So, this is what the Republicans are offering? The Democrats are notorious for campaigning on fluff and feel-good slogans, but this is running a campaign on rotting offal. They aren't offering any serious policy changes. There are no overtures to improve the economy. There are no calls to change our foreign trade policies. There are no proposals to fix any of the various failing federal programs (there are always a few, imagined or actual). They can't muster the energy to debate our strategy in Iraq or Afghanistan. They still haven't gotten New Orleans up and running, and they aren't even discussing how to get the tens of thousands of refugees to move back. No one even talks about once-lauded Balanced Budget Amendment, one of the most intriguing ideas to come out of conservative movement in my lifetime (which is different from saying it was a good idea, but at least it was an idea). There are no reform proposals to be found. There was a fucking pedophile in their congressional caucus, and they couldn't even muster the wherewithal to toss him out when they found his obscene emails and instant messages. Instead, they opted for the "discreet" approach, evidently modeled on the Catholic Church's wildly successful policy on pedophiles in the priesthood, copying the policy right down to the Catholic Church's inability to distinguish between pedophiles and gay people.

They don't even seem to have the energy to cook up a tax cut.

I think the Conservative Movement has finally run out of steam. They've worked for this moment for 20 years, and now they've tuckered out. Congressional Democrats, who are only just starting to realize that they lost the 1994 congressional elections, are dusting off their old PoliSci notes from their college days and trying to remember how to campaign. This is an interesting thing; no one has bothered to mount a reform-based progressive national campaign since 1932. It hasn't been necessary in all that time. A liberal-minded candidate didn't have to explain why it might be a good idea to have a federal policy for reducing poverty. They could take it for granted that Americans knew the argument, and that the vast majority approved of it in a general sense. It was simply a matter of convincing people that you could figure out the grubby little details, and that you wouldn't fuck it up too badly.

Our national media industry, which seems to specialize mainly in binge-drinking and hawking advertising spots, cannot seem to mention the word "Democrats" without also tossing in phrases like "divided" and "no message." Hopefully by 2008, Democrats will realize that journalists can barely remember what happened this morning, and so it doesn't make any sense to expect them to remember what happened in the 1950s. Democrats have to explain to journalists what liberalism actually means, and that it must be done in the same way one must explain to a person with a very bad hangover how their car ended up at the bottom of the neighbor's pool.

In fact, that's probably a good general rule: If you cannot explain your idea to someone who is falling-down-drunk, then you can't explain it to a journalist.