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The Key to Winning the 2012 Election

The problem with losing a political campaign is that everyone points to the winners as being smarter, that every single detail (latest technology) of their campaign was perfect, and those who executed the winning plan are geniuses.   On the other hand, pundits cast the losers as dumb, behind the times and totally worthless.  Nobody calls you up, if you lose.

Garrett M. Graff

Neither one is true.  There is no one magic formula for winning.  Running a political campaign is like setting up a medium sized business for a short time, hoping to make a profit (winning) and closing it after the election ends.  It’s the campaign that makes the fewest mistakes that wins.

Campaign tools/ electronic gadgets are available to all sides.  You only have to go down to the corner pub on Capitol Hill to find out what your opponent is doing. 

What wins – organization and implementing your plan?  At 5:45 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2008, at a grade school in Ladue, Mo, an affluent suburb of St. Louis which votes heavily Republican, three Obama workers were already there with yard signs in place handing out literature.  Republicans had one worker and no yard signs.  Although McCain ended up barely winning Missouri after a two-week recount, Obama won in heavily Republican areas of St. Louis County.

As Michael Silberman writes in “Welcome to the New Media campaign of 2012,” the Obama campaign was very good at mobilizing and communicating with their volunteers through text messaging as well as online messages to recruit and funnel volunteers. 

Social media served them well, but in the end it was the old fashioned person-to-person, standing at the polls, going door-to-door that grassroots “get-out-the-vote” that wins.  Those poll workers in Missouri were part of the campaign’s “Project Houdini,” described by Silberman.

So how will globalization and technology change the landscape of future campaigns?

Dick Morris talks about the “Electronic Precinct” where any individual can influence an election. In his new book, “2010-Take Back America,” Morris writes that each person should be their own campaign media guru, strategist and manager.  “Make a list of your constituents and go talk to each of them by e-mail, by Twitter, by YouTube, by Facebook and by phone.   Craft a strategy for each person on your list. Send a video about a candidate or one of his speeches. Be your own publisher and spread the word. To win in 2010, we need to have hundreds of thousands of electronic precincts across the U. S.”  Already the Democratic National Committee has released a campaign video of President Obama urging his supporters to vote for Democrats in November.

 What about the “gotcha” politics online?  Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal writes about how, “the veil was ripped from the true cost of government” by the internet.  “Before the Internet in Washington, California, New York, New Jersey—who knew what the pols were spending? The Democrats (and their Republican pilot fish) could get away with this. Not now. Email lists, 24/7 newspapers, blogs, TV and talk radio—the spending beast is running naked.”

A new kind of political campaign

It’s pretty obvious that the new technologies, Facebook, YouTube, e-mail, Twitter, will play a big part in the 2012 election.  But in the end, it takes people showing up at the polls, just like the Obama campaign of 2008 proved.  The electronic tools communicated to the volunteers and voters to show up. When they got to the polls, it’s that gut feeling people have about a candidate that translates into a yes vote. The image of Obama, young, energetic and using the latest technology was a powerful image of change. As Garrett Graff wrote for a cover story in Infonomics.  “Even the candidate himself was a techie: Obama famously cherishes his BlackBerry, and on the campaign trail he regularly zoned out with his iPod

Michael Lind talks about “The Boring Age” in Time Magazine’s March 22, 2010 claiming the “times they aren’t a-changin’ and though we want to believe technological innovation is proceeding at a rate with no parallel in all of human history, the truth is we are living in a period of stagnation.”  He asks, “Is the combination of a phone, video screen and keyboard really as revolutionary as the original telephone, the original television set or the original typewriter was?”

In the end, will people be too busy running their lives to know what’s going on?  Or, will social media cure that?


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Vogue Versus The Blogs

It must be nice being Anna Wintour, long-time editor-in-chief of Vogue Magazine.  It must be nice at least until now.   Although social media/ internet have gained wide acceptance across the world, Vogue and Wintour are struggling on how to use social media and not be threatened by the new phenomenon of fashion blogger. The struggle could result in the glossy, slick magazine being just as “out” as last season’s clothes.

Anna Wintour

Wintour seemed not as dismissive recently on her opinion of bloggers when she said:  “We love as much coverage of fashion as possible. We don’t care at all where it comes from, and we embrace bloggers and video and social networking, and anyone that’s talking about fashion is a good thing. And we now have our own website that incorporates all of that. But I think what’s interesting to us with this new phenomenon that ‘everyone’s a fashion editor, everyone’s a fashion writer’ is that all of that actually helps Vogue, because we have access and the understanding of fashion that, forgive me, but maybe some bloggers and some of the newcomers to this world have a little bit less experience of, but as I said, the more the merrier. We embrace it.

Is “The Cluetrain Manifesto” lost on Wintour?  “Markets are conversations” – “people are sharing information at blinding speed,” and there’s a reshaping of power.    Her comment “we have the understanding of fashion,” implies that fashion bloggers do not.  It’s clear that she hasn’t read the tea leaves.  Anna Wintour believes that she and Vogue still rule.  Even one of her assistant editors admits “not being that wild about fashion bloggers such as teen fashion blogger Tavi Gevinson.”

On April 22, 2010, Wintour was inducted into the American Society of National Magazine Editors Hall of Fame – it’s called the Ellies and is the Oscars for magazines.  At the same ceremony, Wired Magazine was honored as well as Glamour Magazine for the best use of both print and digital media.   

At the gala, the Wall Street Journal asked Wintour about her plans for the Ipad. Her response was vague, something about “plans on the drawing board,” but she did say Vogue was in the process of redoing its Website, making part of it interactive, which would launch in August.  

 Maybe the subject (or villain) of “The Devil Wears Prada” can still get on board.  In the May 2010 issue of Vogue she features Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, in a glowing article.  As a prognosticator for fashion, who tells us what to wear 10 months ahead of time, Wintour ought to be looking to the future (technology) instead of the past (print).  Her future and that of Vogue’s might depend on it.

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Wikipedia versus Drudge Weekly #8

Georgetown University Professor Garrett Graff proclaimed last week that “Wikipedia is the best source of current information.” This was shocking news. As an avid fan of the Drudge Report, a Web Site which links to major news stories from the United States and international mainstream media, I decided to find out if this were true, to compare the credibility of Wikipedia to Drudge, particularly when it comes to breaking news?

To begin the comparison, I checked the coverage of the April 5, 2010, West Virginia mine explosion and was immediately surprised that Wikipedia had an extensive amount of information on this Massey Energy Disaster. Wikipedia provided information on the explosion, rescue, safety violations and allegations of corruption, reactions and references without bylines of reporters or legitimate news organizations.

Drudge, on the other hand, posted three articles from two newspapers and one online Web site.  One article by three reporters ran in the Charleston, West Virginia Gazette newspaper.  Drudge also linked to The Wall Street Journal which had a major feature, cand a Reuter’s wire service story was posted on

 Both Wikipedia and Drudge had an exhaustive amount of information on this disaster. As far as I could tell both had reliable information but Wikipedia had no journalist’s bylines on its writings. You had to take it at face value. Drudge information was bylined in every media source.

Dan Gillmor, a noted American technology writer, who teaches and writes about the future of journalism, believes in citizen journalists and democratization of the media.

Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, said at a media summit in the United Kingdom last month professional journalists face change due to citizen journalism but “Everyone tells jokes but we still have professional comedians.”
Wales says that” Wikipedia has an advantage over news organizations because it tells the whole story, updated, whereas news organizations tell of the latest developments. People want broader summaries and context to their news. His key quote on what newspapers do: ‘Selling stale bread while giving fresh bread away free.”

Thirty years ago when breaking news occurred we turned on the radio to find out the latest updates. Today, we immediately click on the internet and Drudge. For most people, Wikipedia still has some catching up to do.

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One Shining Moment

What is it about that song played at the beginning and end of the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament? It’s hard to get the tune out of your head. Whether you’re a basketball player or an average Joe, the song makes you think you are “King of the World.”

That song – “One Shining Moment” – has been called the “anthem of college basketball.” This year Oscar and Grammy winner Jennifer Hudson is singing the song written by David Barrett who said he wrote it after Indiana beat Syracuse in the 1979 tournament. Barrett gave it to a friend in 1986. CBS used it in 1987. It has been featured every year since.

CBS analyst Jim Nantz says it’s as much a part of the tournament as the Duke Blue Devils.

To quote some of the all-inspiring lyrics:
“The ball is tipped, and there you are, you’re running for your life, you’re a shooting star. And all the years, no one knows, just how hard you worked but now it shows. In One Shining Moment it’s all on the line, One Shining Moment, there frozen in time.”

What a shining moment it has been for the cities where the tournament is played. The just concluded Midwest Regional Basketball tournament in St. Louis had an estimated economic impact on the bi-state (Missouri-Illinois) area of $16 million. For the final four tournament in Indianapolis April 3 and 5th, it’s even higher, an estimated $50 million impact on the local economy.

Mike Kryzsewski, long-time coach at Duke who has one of the highest graduation rates of his players of any college coach, notes in his book Five Point Play, “Every year, at the Final Four, CBS puts clips of the championship team’s performance to the song “One Shining Moment’ — and shows it to conclude their television broadcast.”
Kryzsewski coached the American Olympic Basketball team in 2008 to win the Gold Medal in Beijing. He said the shining moment for him – his family arriving in Beijing – “when a career is truly shared, a family never feels like it has to compete.” He describes the moment they won – “it was a time of pure joy, knowing we had accomplished our goal.”

Even the President of U. S., who fills out tournament brackets guessing who will win, shares in the shining moment when he welcomes the winning team to the South Lawn of the White House where they are honored with a ceremony. The team, in return, usually presents the President with a team jersey.

No matter if the Butler Bulldogs win or not in the final game, its tale has been uplifting and inspiring. Butler, the long shot and underdog, has had this incredible journey to the national championship game, while all along making the little guy in America feel good. It’s as if we all count for something, as if we are all champions. Our hearts will be beating, we’ll feel so alive. The sky’s the limit. We can reach for the stars.
“One Shining Moment you reached deep inside. One Shining Moment you knew you were alive.”

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Which is more trustworthy – A published encyclopedia or Wikipedia? Weekly #7

Embarrassing incidents, contributors who falsify their names and make changes and edits to articles without checks and balances. It’s easy to guess that these words describe – Wikipedia, of course.

The New York Times says Wikipedia operates under the philosophy that anyone can be an editor, and that all information should be public. But the magic of Wikipedia is its quick and easy access to information. Why worry about research or reading, or accuracy when Wikipedia will be able to provide you with half truths, fuzzy research? In today’s world, who cares about the truth. It’s all truthiness.

I remember my parents buying me a complete set of World Book Encyclopedia in elementary school. I used it to write reports through upper elementary, middle and high school. Each year we paid for a one-volume update. These beautiful books, whose pages smelled so good and felt slick to the touch, were a prized position. Displaying World Book on our bookshelf provided us with a certain “educated status.” It meant we were going places, were serious about learning and headed on to college. Many years later my daughter received the gold edition of Encyclopedia Britannica from an older friend who, although well meaning with such a generous gift, was certainly not up with the times. It was already too late. I can never remember her using these books even one time but they looked classy on the bookshelf.

Forget the editors, fact checkers and all that work that went into the old-fashioned encyclopedia books. As Microsoft said “people were beginning to get their information in other ways.”

Is Wikipedia reckless and unworthy of our attention? Why else would comedian Stephen Colbert tell his viewers to edit the elephant entry on Wikipedia saying that the population of elephants had tripled recently? It’s all fun and games. Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has said Wikipedia is ” self-policing and self-cleaning which ensures its articles are accurate.” However, many contributors to Wikipedia say they don’t recognize their articles after about a week because of changes, edits by others. As the old saying goes, “People believe what they want to believe.” Thinking in these terms plays into the success of Wikipedia.

A democratic society depends on the truth, not half truths or “truthiness.” Call me old-fashioned but I vote for a published encyclopedia.

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Second Life Needs To Clean Up Its Language – Weekly # 6

I first heard about gaming when a friend’s son was accepted in 2003 to a top University where he announced his major – gaming. A straight “A” student, I felt sorry for his father that all that brain power was going to waste. Wrong. Fast forward to 2010, online gaming is big business generating millions of dollars.
When I logged on to it took so long, I was afraid I would be in my second life before I got to play the game. It turned out the program did not like the first name submitted for my avatar- Taylor – and refused to give her a last name. After starting over with a new first name it promptly listed several last names. Maybe too many “Taylors” running around in Second Life.

Entering this imaginary place was exciting for about 20 seconds. Right away things went sour. As my Avatar walked around this virtual world, she was immediately asked to chat. Being new to the game, she didn’t respond. That’s when the foul language began. I couldn’t believe it. When the question was asked “I wish you would say something” that should have been the end of it. One assumes that the questioner knew she was a first-time participant but the R rated language continued. So my Avatar quickly learned how to fly away. The R-rated language in the freewheeling Second Life needs to be cleaned up.

When my Avatar came down to the imaginary earth, she was chased by a character who looked like Casper the Ghost. Running away for a second time, I taught my Avatar to chuckle, shrug, say thank you, etc. We purchased clothes which turned out to be all white. (Not certain why other colors were not available.) After about one hour of playing in this virtual world, my eyes were watering so much that I needed to close the program. On a subsequent visit to Second Life, my Avatar visited Spain. Since she couldn’t understand the language it was much more enjoyable. This world seemed calm and friendly.

I also tried but after downloading the free demonstration program, I was never able to enter that world. As part of the research, I also visited Farm ville on Facebook. Here there was no vulgar language but it was a much slower paced game. Farm Ville only welcomes invited guests.

Online games can be important for people who want to escape to a fantasy world for a time. It’s a marvelous training tool for the U. S. Army and its online war games or a global company could use it to strategize about new products.So what’s the point or message of all this? Online gaming is an escape, entertaining and fun but the real world is a much more unbelievable place.

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Real America – Outside the Beltway – Personal Blog #2

On Spring break this year, we flew from Washington D.C. Dulles Airport to Salt Lake City, Utah, and drove five hours to the remote yet spectacular mountains and forests of Sun Valley, Idaho.  This snow skier’s paradise, which lives up to its first name with abundant sunshine, is 2,334 miles from our nation’s Capitol.  In reality, it’s on the other side of the world.  Here we found real America, hard working, friendly, kind to their neighbors, strong sense of community and full of the volunteer spirit.

At the Sun Valley Lodge, we saw many experienced skiers volunteering for the Sun Valley Adaptive Sports program.  Severely injured service members (active duty and veterans) who served in the Iraq  and Afghanistan Wars, and are still being treated for unimaginable injuries suffered while they defended our Country, arrive at Sun Valley to ski, snowboard, snowshoe, ice skate and enjoy the outdoors.    I was struck by the patience and skill of the volunteer skiers and the real joy of accomplishment on the faces of the injured war veterans as they came down the slopes. The program opens new worlds to people with disabilities building confidence and independence. The program is highly praised and nationally recognized by the Department of Defense, military hospitals, military care units, VAs, and veteran service organizations around the country as a leading adaptive sports organization serving “wounded warriors.”

We also saw lots of individual acts of kindness.  My friend Gail Wray, a former “inside the beltway Fed,” helps other people every day of her life.  One morning she encouraged a woman with three DWI’s to attend her first Alcoholics Anonymous group meeting.  If she didn’t go the woman was going to lose her drivers license and my friend was intent on that not happening.  Gail also is working to preserve Idaho’s natural beauty.

Alexis de Tocqueville traveled through America in 1831 – 1832 – Tocqueville saw how “liberty could be channeled by widespread participation in public life to prevent a potentially volatile ‘tyranny of the majority’ from spilling over into anarchy or despotism.”  In the widely read and highly praised first volume of Democracy in America (1835), Tocqueville showed how boisterous local associations and a decentralized political system moderated the fractiousness of democratic life. “Nothing, in my opinion, is more deserving of our attention than the intellectual and moral associations of America,” he wrote.

They say in Sun Valley that doctors still make house calls. On a Spring break trip to Sun Valley, Idaho, our family found this kind of America Tocqueville talked about hundreds of years ago.  It gives us hope for the future.

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