Our Long National Nightmare is Over...and now...

Tuesday night we were all fixated to the polls. We all cried (or at least I know I did - it was John Lewis that broke my dam on that front). I even cried yesterday, and I wasn't the only one. Here in Blue Connecticut there were many tear stained faces, many relieved looks, even a pervasive, genuine happiness.

I bought the paper with Obama's picture on it and the caption, "Mr. President" at the grocery store. The young woman ringing me up said, "I'm really glad he won yesterday."

Obama's remade the electoral map. Now it is time for us to remake our ideological maps - or specifically, I would advocate, completely rip those maps into shreds and start over.

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GOP Registration Dropping, Democratic Increasing

Crossposted at DKOS and MyBO

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We are in the fourth year of an unprecedented change in political registration.  Never before has there been as sustained a pattern of decrease in one party's registration and increase in the other's.

Jennifer Steinhauer today in the New York Times discusses this significant trend.

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Don't Let the Perfect be the Enemy of the Good [Updated - Made my donation!]

I'm going to pony up and make another donation to the Obama campaign this evening.  It will be small (I'm not exactly awash in cash), but it will matter.  I am going to chip in again because I want a small slice of ownership in our future.  Senator Obama opted out of the public finance system because he had faith in us.  Well, I still have faith in him.

And in all of us.  Please read on...

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Winning the Big Game is What Matters

Reading Reaper0bot0's diary tonight reminded me very much of all the Internet Security debates I have been involved with since the early nineties.  I invented one of the early firewalls (BorderWare), and since that time it has been my mixed pleasure and angst to engage in heated debates that are very very similar to this one.

The people who know a lot about Internet security are by and large very smart technical geeks who spend all their time thinking and worrying about keeping bad folks from doing nasty things.  We get really passionate about it - if we screw up people are harmed.  In some areas of our profession like Critical Infrastructure (which I focused on 2005-2007), when we screw up, people die.

Tempers get very sharp about the specific things we should do, and how we can do them.  The worst part?  I never know whether what I believe to be the right thing to do is not horribly wrong, and may lead to horrible consequences. But since the alternative is doing nothing, I have to do the best I can and live with the results.

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"The Internet and the Election: There is Something Happening Here"

To say that Americans have had a love affair with technology is the most humdrum of cliches. The idea that new technologies will not only make life easier for us, but will help bring us together as a people, is not new theme in American folklore. Long before there was the Web, or the radio, or even a developed telephone network, American philosophers and social critics dreamed of how new technologies might transform us, make us into a community in all of our diversity. In 1892, as a relatively young man, George Herbert Mead, a pragmatic philosopher in the American grain, wrote a letter to his wife's parents. It's worth quoting.

"But it seems to me clearer every day that the telegraph and locomotive are the great spiritualizers of society because they bind man and man so close together that the interest of the individual must be more completely the interest of all day by day. And America in pushing this spiritualizing of nature is doing more than all in bringing the day when every man will be my neighbor and all life shall be saturated with the divine life." (See, Gary A. Cook, George Herbert Mead, The Making of a Social Pragmatist, p. 31)

This relatively youthful Mead thought that the locomotive and the telegraph would bring us closer together. And so they did in their own ways. Now the Internet appears to be doing so in a qualitatively different fashion. But before moving on to discuss the Internet's place in the current election, it's worth reminding ourselves about the dark side of our commitment to technology. For example, we have recently been promised nearly bloodless wars in which burnished flying machines, decked out with starship instrumentation, will seek out and destroy our enemies. The Iraq nightmare began with the promise that high tech would produce "Shock and Awe," and a quick end to war.

But in this election, the prospect of utilizing technology to make Americans feel as if they are part of a national political community, is no longer merely a fantasy of the early devotees of Apple computers. Although it has been said many times and in many ways, and in ways that were suspect, it does seem that the Internet has finally come of age. No doubt Obama would not be where he is today without his campaign's creative use of Internet technologies and software. (See, Joshua Green's piece, "The Amazing Money Machine"<http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200806/obama-finance> and Marc Ambinder's "His Space" in The Atlantic http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200806/am binder-obama

Yet technology by itself is blind. Obama's experience as a community organizer has let him frame how the technology could be used. He and his people have pioneered paths for merging the virtual and the real worlds, for moving from on-line communities to real world communities and back. What happens on the Web doesn't just stay on the Web. However, it's worth keeping in mind that Obama is part of an older American tradition, one that supported the development of technology without worshiping it. And one that spoke a great deal about community and social responsibility. Mead was part of this camp. And so was his good friend John Dewey. They were called progressives in the early 20th century. They were on the non-Marxist Left. (Yes, we once had a vital non-Marxist Left.) Sometimes we forget that this tradition preceded New Deal Liberalism.

What is happening is not just about Obama and his campaign. It is about words: their profusion, polyphony, and heartfeltness. People are writing to each other, again and again. And not just to friends (or one's wife's parents), but to strangers. Have Americans ever written so much in such a short space of time? Do all the words in all of the (paper) letters that Americans have written since the Declaration of Independence equal 1/10 of the words on the Web in the last five years? (No doubt, someone, somewhere, has made a calculation.) Commentaries abound from people who never had a voice in the mainstream media. They talk, argue, commiserate, plan, plot, comment, organize, and vent. Yes, a lot of junk, some hate, but also speaking and listening. Will this conversation resolve economic inequalities and racial divides? Of course not. As a matter of fact, we will have to work to make sure that new technologies don't increase class divisions or centralize power in unimagined ways. Yet, all in all, we are engaged in an impressive conversation. It may not be the New England Town Hall, but for a country of 300 million, it's an interesting way to help promote political communities and community.

For more on this and related topics, http://msa4.wordpress.com/

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