S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Leadership revisited

on the issue of domestic surveillance is emerging from a number of public sectors. Information is power. The best leaders operate with correct information. Two major east coast newspapers, the New York Times and the Washington Post, are continuing to fully report the story.
My S/SW blogpost of yesterday focused on the news coming from the U.S. heartland. Today, from the west coast, comes the blistering editorial (title linked above) against the current administration's domestic spying operations. Parenthetically, in the midst of this, and perhaps because of the revelations, the Patriot Act has not been renewed. That is because a number of leading legislators stepped in to block it.
Many more bloggers are posting both fact and opinion on the story that probably will not go away very soon. They are exercising leadership within that "curious animal," the blogosphere.
Here is some interesting information on "the animal" itself:

Kevin Drum wrote an interesting story June 2 of last year on the blogosphere. To quote Drum (his links),

So here are six ways in which the political blogosphere is very, very different
from the real world in which we live:

  1. Less than 10% of political bloggers are women. This compares to about 50% in the real world.
  2. Approximately 20% of blog readers are women. Once again, this compares to about 50% in the real world.
  3. If Josh Marshall and Andrew Sullivan are typical — and I suspect they aren't too far off the mark — the blogosphere is incredibly elite. About 90% of blog readers have college degrees and an astonishing 50% have advanced degrees. Among top bloggers, my personal count indicates that the top six have advanced degrees (Instapundit, Marshall, Kos, Atrios, Sullivan, Volokh) and nearly all of the top 30-40 have at least an undergraduate degree.
  4. 11% of blog readers are libertarian. What's more, nearly all major "conservative" blogs are more accurately described as libertarian than truly conservative. This probably has something to do with the blogosphere's roots in the heavily libertarian tech world — read Paulina Borsook's Cyberselfish
    if you're interested in learning more about the history of high-tech
    libertarianism — but in any case it means that true conservatism is heavily
    underrepresented in the blogosphere.
  5. However, using the blog version of conservative as our guide, conservatives are still heavily overrepresented in the blogosphere despite the hype that liberal blogs have received lately. It's true that there are four liberal blogs among the top ten (Atrios, Kos, Marshall, and PA), but if you take a look at the next 20 it's about 80% conservative.
  6. And now for the truly shocking news: California dominates the top of the political blogosphere. Among the top dozen bloggers, half are Californians (Kos, Volokh, LGF, Kaus, Den Beste, and PA). And of those, five are from Southern California.

Blogs, according to the January 2005 Pew/Internet study (PDF 4 pgs.), have, to quote,

established themselves as a key part of the internet culture. Blog readership shoots up 58% in 2004 6 million Americans get news and information fed to them through RSS aggregators But 62% of online Americans do not know what a blog is

Bloggers are playing a leading role in keeping people informed. This Toronto study of blogging's abstract summarizes the 27 page PDF file,

Weblogs occupy an increasingly important place in American politics. Their influence presents a puzzle: given the disparity in resources and organization vis-à-vis other actors, how can a collection of decentralized, nonprofit, contrarian, and discordant
websites exercise any influence over political and policy outputs? This paper answers that question by focusing on two important aspects of the “blogosphere”: the distribution of readers across the array of blogs, and the interactions between significant blogs and traditional media outlets. Under specific circumstances – when key weblogs focus on a new or neglected issue – blogs can socially construct an agenda or interpretive frame that acts as a focal point for mainstream media, shaping and constraining the larger political debate.

This 6/17/05 article, in the Washington Buzz by Harry Jaffe, discusses in some detail what seem to be the favorites in political blogs. This Washington Times story focuses on conservative vs liberal blogs. It opens with this lead,

Liberal activist Web loggers have made major advances on the Internet, but they
remain far behind their conservative adversaries among the top 250 political blogs, according to a study by a Democratic think tank.
In a detailed report on the political power being wielded by bloggers, who have become a potent force in national and state campaigns, the study found that while liberals have "a decided advantage" over conservatives among the top 40 blogs (24-16), "conservatives hold a whopping 133 to 77 advantage" among the next 210 blogs. The study said this was "a serious problem that progressives must confront," if they are going to overcome the conservatives' advantage at the local level.
"An edge among small, local political blogs also means an edge in small, local, political races. While progressives may have a marked advantage in overall blogosphere discourse, it could also be argued that conservatives are taking a decisive lead in the sort of targeted blogging that will provide them with real, tangible benefits ...," the report says.
If liberal activists "do not invest time, energy and resources building a local blog infrastructure superior to that currently possessed by conservatives, the comparative advantage of progressives' overall traffic lead will be significantly reduced."

One last thought on leadership. Many bloggers are savvy, young and energetic, so-called "Generation X'rs." David Gergen, writing for U.S. News and World Report, discussed the emerging leadership style of members of the so-called Generation X.

Idealism gave way to irony, realism, and pragmatism. Little was expected of them.
But a striking feature of gen X-ers in their young adulthood is how often they have shattered expectations. They made the most of growing up with computers and video games, becoming a generation of entrepreneurs and fueling an economic boom in the 1990s. They created the first great new brands, Google and eBay, of the 21st century. The United States has more billionaires under 40 than at any other time in history, and author Bruce Tulgan estimates that gen X-ers create 4 out of every 5 new enterprises.
Unexpectedly, generation X is bringing that same entrepreneurial, pragmatic spirit to social ills, creating an array of nonprofit and for-profit organizations to tackle problems. So these past years have brought forth a cadre of new, gen X leaders who have founded promising new ventures.
Whether enough of these gen X-ers will also become political leaders is not yet clear. Certainly, some are trying. Republicans point to Bobby Jindal, 34, a congressman from Louisiana who promises to be a healthcare innovator. Democrats cite Rep. Harold Ford, 35, who could become the first black senator from Tennessee. His plan to provide every child a $500 savings account at birth has fans among conservatives and liberals alike.


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