Consider what things you should hire out instead of doing yourself. You can learn anything, but maybe a one time expense for professional graphic design job will make your site really stand out.
The zen theming engine is much easier to work with than the native themes. Out of the box it gives you more flexibility in layout (sidebars, headers, etc), but the important thing is it separates the layout CSS from the text & fonts CSS. Rearranging the layout is much more difficult than swapping in your own graphics and changing font colors and styles. Zen purists claim you should never touch the layout CSS... yeah, right.
You can do a MAMP install on your Macbook which will give you an integrated MySQL, Apache and PHP for a local backup or testbed.
For your host environment, I've been extremely happy with cpanel, which allows you to manage your databases, files, installs, etc.
There are five or ten important third party modules, depending on your needs. These might include:
- login toboggan (email or username logins)
- Captcha/Recaptcha (security),
- TinyMCE (wysiwyg or gui for your HTML comments),
- ed_readmore (essential for teaser management),
- nodequeue (managing recommended diaries)
- Pathauto/nodewords/taxonomy_menu (tags and keywords)
- CCK and views (customizing your content entry and display... but this path is not for the faint of heart)
There are a few other modules useful for a specialized blog site, like blog ad modules, but I don't know so much about those.
All this illustrates how much value you get from a turnkey solution. $15/month is cheap... evidently too cheap.
We can have technical arguments about the best this or the worst that, but the customer is the owner of the blog. I suggest that ease of entry, ease of setting up, ease of use, and cost are primary, not which software or which platform to use.
The recent problems at SoapBlox require the technical people to point out that robustness and quality hosting should be given higher priority, even if that adds cost. I think the users get that, now.
But, for the priesthood to suggest that blog owners sacrifice ease of use, and easy entry would be the height of arrogance.
(PHP is very similar to PERL with optimizations for database hooks and html layout. A PERL programmer finds it a pretty easy switch. Not that different from Oraperl, or Oracle's procedural SQL, for that matter, which was the platform for the first US-national Internet yellowpages in 1996... I should know.)
I've worked with WordPress, Drupal, Zen and CiviCRM... These tools are really cool; Man! the places you can go and the things you can do. For Drupal see PopSci.com or TheOilDrum.com. But, Drupal takes a good web programmer to design, build, set-up and manage a site. Hosting and updating the core software requires a lot more than average web layout skills.
Once a year or so you get a major upgrade, and then you have to jump through some major design and programming hoops to keep up. Oops, your favorite module didn't make the upgrade. Popular science had a several person team and several months of design. Read about it here.
SoapBlox succeeded because it was a simple, out of the box solution, optimized for these political blogs. Paul made a turn-key system and charged low prices. Low overhead and low cost democratizes the blog invention process.
I'm really pissed at the 2 or 3 open-source demagogues over at DailyKos who repeatedly dissed Paul. Moral purity is one thing; the practical needs of a new blog are another. And for christ's sakes, stop dumping on the progressive guy who made a lot of good happen. Sounds like jealousy and purer-than-thou ideologues to me. The trolls never actually offered helpful suggestions... just dumped repeatedly on SoapBlox and Paul.
Yes, given that the SoapBlox sites make up a significant portion of the progressive blogosphere, it is time for a more robust system. Yes, this necessarily means more expensive hosting and personnel. Maybe this means transitioning to a new platform.
But, certainly, these 100 or so blogs require immediate solutions for their near-term needs.
Drupal has matured a lot in the last couple of years. It would be interesting to see if a subset of key Blog enhancement modules (whatever they are) could be maintained together, so that all the key features would be released at the same time the Drupal core gets an upgrade. CiviCRM has a separate development team that (tries to) keep current with Drupal. Of course, open source is notorious for release slippage. (Closed source releases slip also, but you know who to burn in effigy.... Bill Gates or Paul, in this case.)
I know it's a funny name, but the correct spelling Hickenlooper.
As the popular Mayor of Denver, Hickenlooper is well-placed for more "executive" type positions like Governor. It is unclear but unlikely that he wants to be Senator. That said, Hick has great credentials as a liberal and in the business community. I think he prefers living in Denver (wife, kids, house, etc).
John Salazar is well suited for his relatively Conservative CO-03 District (Mountains, Grand Junction and Pueblo), but unlikely as a state-wide candidate.
More likely Senate appointees come from the following names:
- Ed Perlmutter (CO-07, North and East Suburbs of Denver),
- Diana De Gette (the senior member of the House delegation representing CO-01, Denver)
- Andrew Romanoff, term-limited State-house majority leader.
This Colorado Pols diary is a good reference. They keep their ear to the ground, although I disagree with their emphasis on Perlmutter. From my lay perspective he is relatively low-profile. I mean, I follow politics fairly closely, but I never see him mentioned in the Newspaper or on the blogs. What has he actually done? Does anyone outside his district or Democratic insiders know who he is.
Diana De Gette gets written off, although (perhaps because) she is probably the most progressive of the batch.
It's the governor's call, but my best hunch is Romanoff as he is well-liked, within the party base and establishment. Also, his position as House Majority leader gave him a lot higher name recognition across the state. Finally, he is the main, high-profile Democrat at loose ends for a job, and the Senate seat is a reasonable next step for him. (The other is Ken Gordon, State Senate Majority leader, who would be good, but apparently has fewer friends in the Party establishment.)
For what it's worth, the ColoradoPols readers' poll has Romanoff on top. He also wins the ProgressNow readers' poll.
As for the Republicans... They will likely choose a religious, libertarian or a corporate wack-job in 2010. Tom Tancredo his his atavist/nativist following, but it is beyond stupid to spend money polling him, as he is way out of the money.
Cutting interest rates doesn't do any good if nobody's borrowing. I think Krugman has called it "pushing on a string".
A lot of rich people and banks just have money sitting in the bank. Why build a new building or mini mall or factory when they are already sitting vacant?
How about some demand side stimulus: Tax the rich and/or use government borrowing and give more to the poor and middle class. In the infinite wisdom of the market place, they'll start spending, causing those factories to sell more widgets.
Obama already has some of these ideas on the books: infrastructure projects (mass transit?), health care, alternative energy. Some of these projects are in already place, waiting for funding. Here in Denver we have a major light rail expansion underway. Due to declines in the tax base and high cost of materials, these projects have been delayed. That would be reversed by a federal infusion.
Most progressives fault Salazar as a Conservative for his votes on the Iraq War, Bankruptcy, FISA, but Ken Salazar at Interior does make sense in terms of his Western and rural credentials. He could continue the Democratic inroads in the Mountain States. On farm, water, natural resources policy he would be better than any Republican.
I wouldn't put Ken's brother John Salazar at the top of the short list, as he doesn't have as much name-recognition, wit and style as Ken, plus his district is moderately Republican and John seems well-positioned to keep it. Instead, I'd look at a few other Democratic politicians with big names. ColoradoPols.com throws out a few. Most likely: Andrew Romanoff (retired by term limits from House Majority leader), or Ed Perlmutter (CO-07). CO-07 is not at all likely to flip to the GOP (despite commentary at ColoradoPols).
The other perennial name mentioned for higher office in Colorado is Mayor Hickenlooper, who has very high name recognition and popularity; higher certainly than Ed Perlmutter.
Don't expect a big Progressive-Liberal appointee. All the state-wide Democratic politicians, or those capable of winning a Senate race are more moderate and pragmatic than progressive. Udall is about as Liberal as you will find. They will talk a nice Liberal line, but are not fence-shakers or boat rockers. They'll vote more or less the way Ken Salazar did. Ironically, that's why I liked Ken... he doesn't pretend to be something he isn't.
The party registration breakdown is somewhere around 1/3-1/3-1/3.
Colorado has very conservative Republicans and very liberal Democrats, which goes a long way to explaining Salazar's less-than-stellar popularity ratings: lose 66% of the Republicans and 33% of the rest, and you've explained most of the disapproval.
Tancredo is a whack-job with support only among the Republican right, so he'll go nowhere in his campaign. It isn't even worth doing any polling on him.
The rest of the Republican possibilities are viewed as either too new or too used-up. There are virtually no Republicans holding state-wide positions. The Party elders have mostly lost favor and elections. Ex-SOS and new CO-06 Representative Mike Coffman is perhaps the highest profile Republican in office.
What will happen?
I can't see the Republican Party in Colorado come out from under the dominance of the Religious Right (mostly), and the anti-Government, Corporate Cons (somewhat). The winger litmus test makes it difficult for the Party to change.
In fact, a lot of heavyweight conservatives support Salazar.
That said, Ken Salazar is smart and principled. I'd prefer someone more progressive, but he is well within the realm of reasonable for a Colorado state-wide politician.
After Udall, Polis and De Gette most of the big-name Colorado Democrats are cautious rather than particularly progressive. Jared Polis basically ran against the Party establishment
The Republicans are putting their eggs in the presidential basket. They are in a weaker position then the Democrats in Senate and House races, but have some kind of shot at winning the presidential election. From their perspective, both Clinton and Obama have vulnerabilities.
GHWB with his signing statements, disciplined coaching and supporting national media has pushed a strong president model. This has been aided by a timid Democratic Congress. If McCain should win, we would certainly see this model continue.
Despite the Democratic lack of spine to date, if the worst were to happen, we'd have no choice but to push for a more ideological and more confrontational Congress.
The Denver Post, one of the two main daily papers in Denver, has had an extensive, in-depth series of articles. The Post has readership with voters across the state. And the other paper, The Rocky Mountain News is also carrying the story. Even if people just read the headlines, it looks bad for Schaffer.
Nobody in Colorado really cares about Abramoff.
The real problem, which is well-covered by the paper, is Schaffer's efforts as an apologist for the work conditions, including the sweat-shop conditions, the forced abortions and the prohibition against workers attending church. Schaffer compounded the problem by suggesting the Mariana factories would make a good model for handling guest workers.
That's goes beyond political stupidity; it's political suicide. Even "macaca" Wadhams, Schaffer's campaign manager can't pull his butt out of this.
We're blue in the occasional, recent and hopeful senses, but it depends a lot on the Independents. Luckily, Independents in Colorado are fairly liberal (libertarian and environmentalist). Also luckily, the Republican Party has gone way over to the Christianists, meaning that the old-school "reasonable" Republicans are sometimes voting Democrat.
Schaffer is very conservative. To the extent that the voters can be educated or reminded of this, he should have a low likelihood of winning. Udall is from CO-02, the second most liberal district in the state, and he has been building a moderate voting record. I would prefer he run liberal to highlight Schaffer's conservatism, but who am I to say; the moderate line has had proven success in state-wide elections in Colorado.
The other option? 'Rock Obama and his post-partisan appeal goes over well with Colorado Independents and even some of those "reasonable" Republicans. This plus that anti-Bush environment could provide coattails that would benefit Udall.
Folding your numbers into the election-day cross-tabs we get the following percentages showing the ballot box consequences of the evangelical vote:
% of the Evangelical Bush Vote coming from each group:
- 0.10 Progressives
- 0.21 Moderates
- 0.44 Conservative
% of the Evangelical Dem Vote coming from each group:
- 0.10 Progressives
- 0.12 Moderates
- 0.06 Conservative
A "persuasion voter-targetting strategy" aims to convince certain demographics or "clusters" of voters to shift their support to your candidates. I assume that Progressive Evangelicals are easier to persuade than the Conservatives.
What happens at election time if we convince the Progressive Evangelicals to go from 48% Bush to 38%, and the Moderates to go from 64% to 59% (a shift of 10% & 5% respectively)? Each of these shifts results in a 2% shift in the Evangelical vote counts from Republican to Democrat. If 2% of the Conservatives give up in disgust over Bush, that is another 2% shift, for a total of 6%.
Across the country, white evangelicals are 25% of the electorate, however this percentage is highly variable from state to state, ranging from under 15% on the West coast and Northeast, 40% in the Midwest and Southeast, and above 50% in much of the deep South. (Can't find my reference).
The upshot: small shifts in the Republican base can have a significant consequence in districts that are closely divided. In states or districts with 50% evangelical, maybe we see a 3% change. That doesn't sound like a lot, but it is in line with voting shifts from 2004 to 2006.