Friday, October 06, 2006

Enter The Political Underworld

Enter The Network Of Political Operatives

Deep behind the scenes of the political world lies a network of internal spies, whose sole purpose is to wreak havoc on the opposing party and expose everything they possibly can, real or imagined. Democrats and Republicans alike, live in this world. They are the unnamed sources, the hacks, and the moles that one day hope to receive some kind of reward for their services; and suffice it to say that some of them will do almost anything to get recognition for their meritorious services, at some point down the road.

Gone are the days when a person could show up at a local party office, volunteer to distribute leaflets, make phone calls to prospective voters, and other kinds of legitimate methods of laborious services to get candidates elected. As a matter of fact, gone are the days when being a servant to the people actually meant getting the most votes based on a campaign of competing ideas, visions, and hopes. But, we now must fully understand that the world has changed much over the past couple of decades, much of it due to the rapid boom in technology.

Using the media always has been a tool of the political world. The Federalist Papers is a collection of essays written to newspapers by three men (under the pen name, Publius) to New York newspapers (and later compiled in a book), arguing for the ratification of the U.S. Constitution. Many would argue that Alexander Hamiltion, James Madison, and John Jay were being a bit on the sneaky side by using the same pen name to make their cases. But if only their critics had lived to see this day, then they would see just how far this cloak and dagger process has evolved.

From the use of newspaper editorial sections to weekly periodicals, from radio to television came a golden age of political manipulations, delivered by using the media as a messenger. And although mudslinging is certainly nothing new, the advent of electronic media has helped present more distorted pictures of opposing political candidates and the supporters that back them.

Enter the internet.

With the introduction of the internet, a certain "specialized" clandestine underworld has developed, a world in which anonymity is much better maintained than in any prior form. With the print media, television, and radio there was some measure of accountability. Now, anyone that can afford a cheap computer from Sam's Club can set up a system, get online, and put out their messages for the world to see. These messages are harder to track and harder to pinpoint.

Enter the message boards.

As
message boards (and chat rooms) became the craze, a whole host of people with a reasonable guarantee of anonymity, found an outlet for socialization; and it was something that happened pretty much in real time. Chat rooms were one thing, they were instant. But message boards were something you could post for all to see when you had the time, and others could come around and read it, when they had the time.

In the midterms of 1998 and the Presidential election of 2000, message boards were used as a medium of communications for many political operatives. Democrats and Republicans both used their PCs at home (and at work) to do hatchet jobs on each other, in the forums.

On the political AOL boards (where I first met this medium of communication), there were people with multiple screen names that would post derogatory and accusatory posts against the other side and were often times baseless ad hominem attacks, designed to demoralize (and of course, garner votes in the process). In short, they were paid (and unpaid) hacks that would form alliances based on political party and in some cases ideology. Some knew each other offline beforehand. Many came to know each other online and eventually networked offline, too. Campaign directors saw a golden opportunity to use this as a means of political espionage and thus incorporated this into their strategies and their budgets.


Many of the posts would get personal with the persons behind the screen names. But all would debase the other side with the freedom of knowing that they were in an anonymous world, and the likelihood they would never become known was pretty good, as long as they didn't cross certain lines.

Enter the blogs.

Weblogs and online journals go back to 1994, but the real explosion occurred after 2000. People could have creative control over things. They could write an opinion about something (with or without anonymity) and could have visitors come to the site, read the material, and comment on it if they so desired. Many people would set up family blogs so that fanilies that were scattered across the country (and world) could interact and keep in touch. But others would set up campaign blogs for specific candidates, either pro or con, positive or negative.

As message boards would come and go, the control of the content rested solely with the operators of those boards. Constant complaining from members to the board monitor about the nasty nature of posters became widspread. When it got out of control, sometimes the only thing for them to do was shut down the board altogether. Members would then scatter and have to set up a new existence on other boards.

The blogs became a way for those same operatives to conduct their hatchet jobs, and have creative contol of what topics were to be cussed and discussed. And when bloggers exposed the Rathergate stunt, the media world had officially been put on notice that bloggers were not just a bunch of hacks, anymore.

They reached a pinnacle, a point whereby, they had to be recognized as a group of intelligent people that were tired of having to put up with collusion and bias in the media. People, then, began to recognize that bloggers were becoming a reputable source of information and commentary; and doing it more and more as time went on. In fact, it is so much so that the media has joined in and somewhat conceded to the blogosphere, as is evidenced by the many columnists that now have their own blogs.

Enter the blogosphere.

Many people, like myself, are just average joes that have gotten tired of yelling at the TV, night after night, watching the blatantly biased reporting of the oversensationalizing MSM. (In my opinion, Fox news does the best job overall, but they are not free from spin and often beat the stories into the ground, ad nauseum. They too, miss things, overlook things, ignore things, and overstate things. They too, must be watched and kept honest, as realistically possible. So, they too, must be included into the realm of media criticism.) But not everyone that administrates a blog can be trusted.

Take
this blog for instance. Radar Online has a write up about it that you need to read. It accuses the blog of being bogus, and further asserts that it was set up only after the Foley scandal broke. Now, Foley deserves his constitutional rights should there turn out to be criminal activity involved here, but he doesn't get sympathy from me for his behavior, none whatsoever.

But this isn't just about Foley.

Exactly what the truth is in this case is not yet clear. But it's apparent that he did something. Why would have resigned so quickly, checked himself into an alcohol rehab facility, and come out with the story he had been molested by a clergyman, years ago?

No, this post is about the political underworld that very well could have been responsible for sitting on this information and leaking it out now, just weeks before the election. This is about an underhanded covert world of strategists and consultants that plan and plot to create upheaval. And sometimes that could very well mean sitting on a story, planting bloggers to do dirty work that they don't want to do overtly, and then waiting in the wings for the fallout that is most certainly sure to occur.

The purpose of this post is not to defend Foley, nor is it to criticize the people that exposed the situation. It's purpose is to give you an idea of how sophisticated these hacks are and how the readers of these blogs must be aware that this kind of activity is widespread.

Democrats, being the opposition party (which desperately wants back in control) is the party that is more likely to take risks like this, not only because of the anonymity that is provided, but because they have to go on the attack. They have no choice. They have no plan, they have no vision, they have not set a reasonable platform to run on, with the exception of campaigning against Bush. They, therefore, must rely on dirty tricks and manipulation that is much further devolved than many may realize.

It is about blogs becoming an integral part of major campaign process and the fact that it is here to stay. Peter Daou of the
Daou Report has recently turned over the reins of the blog that bears his name, over to a man by the name of Steve Benen, his co-editor. Why, you ask? So Mr. Daou can be Hillary Clinton's blog advisor. Now, let's get this straight here, there's not a thing wrong with that, in my opinion. It just illustrates just how big this blog craze will be for the remainder of this election, and 2008. (Both Peter and Steve have been kind enough to plug PYY on occasion, and I'd like to say a special thanks for that.)

Enter Photoshopping.

Already, we have seen the alterations of file photos in the TV world. The Rosie O'Donnell and Katie Couric slimdown jobs were subtle manipulations. We've also seen jihadists use Photoshopping for their propaganda needs. But this next job looks like the work of GOP hacks.

The Knox News is carrying a story about a GOP mailout with a photo of Harold Ford Jr. (the Democratic candidate for Senator representing Tennessee), with darker skin.
(HT: Booker Rising)

Enter common sense.

So we see that this is not just Dems that pull this kind of stunt. Both sides are guilty, it's just that one side needs it more than the other. But make no mistake, this is not an isolated instance, for either party. And it's likely to continue for as long as there is an internet or Big Brother tries to shut the blogs down, whichever.

Make no mistake, shutting down blogs is not the answer to these kinds of things, but letting the reader know what's out there and allowing them to judge the works found on these sites for themselves is a much better way to go.

You have heard the phrase buyer beware? Well, reader beware is the key phrase to remember. Reader beware.

Do not allow yourselves to be fooled. Do not get sucked up into this world. By all means, read. But read with skepticism, read with a critical eye. And do not fall for the political trickery that is so pervasive, in the world of politics today. Think long and hard as you read anything.


But above all, think.


17 comments:

A.C. said...

There was a YouTube video a few days ago that was interviewing people who had been hired to help register voters in St Louis but were at the same time shilling for Claire McCaskill. The availability of such online videos makes it harder to cheat, as long as they aren't staged, of course.

Beware is good advice, LA. We really often don't know what we're looking at. Like old journalism it's probably best to have several corraborating sources before believing anything on the web.

Mustang said...

LA:

Consider that all major print media is written at the 8th grade level.

Consider that most HS graduates are at best reading at the 9th grade level.

Consider that a mere 45% of HS graduates comprehend 9th grade level reading material.

Consider that 90% of blogs are written at a much higher level and with a more sophisticated vocabulary than 95% of our population can understand.

Now consider that MOST people in American society do not even read for pleasure anymore, never mind reading for the purpose of gaining knowledge or understanding. Reading history and philosphy? ForGET it . . . although I do understand that PEOPLEMagazine is doing quite well, but then they have lots of pictures.

And now, given all of the above, you're asking people to THINK?

You are a tyrant, young man.

LOL

Un excellent article, mon ami. Continuez la marche, monsieur.

LASunsett said...

AC,

One example of needing one or more additional corraborating sources is Drudge.

Drudge lives on the edge with his breaking news exclusives. Sometime when you live on that edge the way he does, you get it wrong. Sometimes he gets it right, but many times it's wrong.

LASunsett said...

Mustang,

LA The Horrible. I like that. Or does LA The Terrible sound better? I really can't decide. Help me sir, I am a dying cockroach and am not worthy to be a member of the platoon. LOL

Seriously, thank you for your kind words.

L'Amerloque said...

Hi Mustang !

/*/Consider that 90% of blogs are written at a much higher level and with a more sophisticated vocabulary than 95% of our population can understand./*/

Amerloque is immediately reminded of the controversy over the "niggardly" word a while back. (smile) Amerloque's eyes widened in astonishment and dismay. Where has education gone ?!

As the French say On n'est pas sorti de l'auberge !". A rendition in English would be something like "We're not out of the words on this one !" (grin)

Best,
L'Amerloque

LASunsett said...

Hi Amerloque

//Where has education gone ?!//

We have a radio talk show host, who is syndicated out of Atlanta. His name is Neal Boortz.

I have heard him say many times that people should not make such a big deal about a kid that graduates from American government schools, because they are so woeful and the kids are so inadequately prepared. He also says that if they go on to college, THAT"S where their REAL education begins.

The reason is because today's public schools have no competition. You live in a neighborhood which is in a district, you have to go to the school in that district. No competition.

But you get to choose your college. They have to compete, even if they are state colleges or universities. They are in competition with other colleges and universities to attract and keep students.

This is but one example as to why I believe that competition makes a better product, in almost anything.

Here is a commencement speech that I wish we could hear, just once, written by Neal. It's funny, you'll like it.

Mustang said...

La Amerloque: I well remember the incident. It was an African American civil service worker, I believe the director of a department, who used the word "niggardly." Everyone went ape over this and the speaker received an "official counseling" as a result. Perhaps we can understand a group of file clerks not understanding the meaning of the word, but it is disgraceful that the so called "well educated" leaders apparently did not as well.

The American education system is seriously broken. Forget every other statistic about our education system except for these, because they are the truth-tellers:

1. Most high school graduates who elect NOT to attend college are unable to complete a simple job application form for "minimum" wage positions.

2. Only 30% of high school graduates are qualified for college without taking remediation courses.

3. Of the 30% who are qualified to begin college, 70% of those never make it to the sophomore year.

4. Of the 30% of those who continue on to their second year of college, only about 40% actually graduate.

The US education system should stop pushing people to attend college when they are clearly unqualified. There is honorable work for people without having to attend college, and yet the message from American educators is that if you don't attend college, you're a failure. Now the last time I checked, a good auto mechanic makes a hell of a lot more than a college professor, and perhaps twice to three times as much as a typical public school teacher.

Underlying all of this is the dichotemy of a group of very liberal folks who do serious damage (especially among minority populations) when they refuse to offer vocational and technical training. The denial of these opportunities, especially among people who are academically challenged, is to offer them diminished hope for the future. How wrong is that?

Shah Alexander said...

It is a coincidence that you talk about something similar issue to my recent post. Successful use of the Internet, including blogs, is the key to political victory these days. It is quite interesting how this underworld helps further growth of grassroots democracy. This can change the globe into a world of Alexis de Tocqueville.

When I wrote my recent post on John McCain, I referred to your past post. It was very helpful. I appreciate it.

By the way, did you receive my e-mail to your aol.com address?

LASunsett said...

Shah,

I am sorry. I did not receive your post, because I left aol. My new address is the same, except it is @comcast.net, so feel free to re-send it.

ms. miami said...

The reason is because today's public schools have no competition.

lasunsett- i think that this can be one factor, but definitely not the end of the story.

to compare with european schools, the difference is not so much greater competition, but greater standards. if you take a look at the weeks-long exams required to graduate (le bac, das Abitur, A-levels, etc.- and no multiple choice questions either), you can see that their students are really required to produce.

of course, their societies value a certain level of education to begin with (we clearly don't given the levels to which one can rise with a very limited skill set).

that being said, i believe that the situation is generally reversed, for different reasons however, once it comes to universities.

LASunsett said...

Ms Miami,

//i think that this can be one factor, but definitely not the end of the story.//

I agree it's certainly not the whole story. That would increase the performances of the teachers and the other adnimistrative educators, but not the students necessarily, certainly not alone.

But, if the Euro schools are so tough, why do they have better graduation rates? Why do they learn more and perform better on exams? If our schools are so woefully underperforming, with our standards compromised as low as there are at current, why can't our students perform? On the surface, one would think that if our standards were lower, we'd be doing better than we are.

I do not mean these as hostile questions mind you, I am not in education like Mustang was, so I do not have all of the intricate answers.

I am inclined to see Mustang's point in this; at the high school level we do disservices to some kids by not adequately recognizing that certain kids are not going to attend college and thus, we do not prepare them better for a vocation that they are better suited for.

L'Amerloque said...

Hi Mustang !

/*/It was an African American civil service worker, I believe the director of a department, who used the word "niggardly." Everyone went ape over this and the speaker received an "official counseling" as a result. Perhaps we can understand a group of file clerks not understanding the meaning of the word, but it is disgraceful that the so called "well educated" leaders apparently did not as well./*/

Well … Amerloque remembers it as being a white college graduate, assistant to a Mayor in a large American town. He used the word during a budget presentation at a meeting of the City Council, some of whom were black. They took offense at the word; the Mayor put the graduate on leave (and was ready to sack him) while the hounds of political correctness and illiteracy bayed for the kid's blood. Finally someone looked in a dictionary and realized the word came from the Scandinavian and had nothing to do with the N word. (sigh)

/*/The American education system is seriously broken./*/

From what Amerloque saw last time he was in the USA, he agrees. There are serious, horrible problems.

/*/The US education system should stop pushing people to attend college when they are clearly unqualified. /*/

It's happening here, too, and in the UK.

/*/ …/… vocational and technical training./*/

There is quite a bit of this in Germany, and in France it is being re-emphasized …

Best,
L'Amerloque

L'Amerloque said...

Hi LASunsett !

Well, Amerloque finally looked at the recommended Commencement Speech. (grin)

Some of it is cute and humorous, and Amerloque smiled.

Passages such as: "You are about to move from this academic atmosphere where diversity rules, to a workplace and a culture where individual achievement and excellence actually count. No matter what your professors have taught you over the last four years, you are about to learn that diversity is absolutely no replacement for excellence, ability, and individual hard work." and "It's not luck, my friends. It's choice." are ones that Amerloque can sign on to with no hesitation. (smile)

Other parts are simply untrue and/or subject to various degrees of interpretation (ex: what is his definition of "Europe" when he says: 'And please remember this: The average person in this country described as "poor" has a higher standard of living than the average European. Not the average "poor" European, the average European.') Further … if a doctor has studied and graduated from a state school, which is paid for by the taxpayers (and where the tutition paid doesn't even begin to cover the cost of education), should the "doctor" not be required to share, with others, what he has acquired, at the expense of others ? It's a moral point of view that is equally as valid as Boortz's, no ? (grin)

This: "To imply that one person is homeless, destitute, dirty, drunk, spaced out on drugs, unemployable, and generally miserable because he is "less fortunate" is to imply that a successful person - one with a job, a home and a future - is in that position because he or she was "fortunate." The dictionary says that fortunate means "having derived good from an unexpected place." There is nothing unexpected about deriving good from hard work. There is also nothing unexpected about deriving misery from choosing drugs, alcohol, and the street instead of education and personal responsibility." makes no allowance for the fact that drug dependecies and alcoholism are diseases, not "choices".

So he's putting apples and oranges and walnuts in the same fruitbasket and calling some of them pineapples. (grin)

However, it's an interesting example of the right-wing argumentation that "individuals" are invariably better and "freer" than "groups". The Japanese might have quite a few observations about that. (grin)

Too, what happens when the "group" is less than the sum total of the "individuals" composing it, rather than more ? Can this not be a logical outcome ? Can rampant individualism still guarantee that the total will be more than the sum of its parts ? (grin)

The bottom line, of course, is that one is born alone and one dies alone (which is what Amerloque has always told his kids) but … during one's lifetime, one will have to act within a group, like it or not.

Emphasizing the individual without recognizing the advantages of a group in certain situations (warfare, for example) is a surefire recipe for disaster, in Amerloque's view.

That's why he thinks that the Commencement Speech receives a C+ grade for intellecutally coherent content and a B+/A- grade for effort, in Amerloque's so subjective world. (grin)

Best,
L'Amerloque

ms. miami said...

lasunsett- i'm not well-versed enough in the "tracking" aspects which you mention.

let me just say that there is often quite a difference between an american student finishing high school on a 'college prep' track vs. a european student in a similar track. it's a shame, in my opionion, that such students cannot be better prepared once they reach the university level, where much catching-up must happen.

i know that here in florida, the public schools have to spend so much energy teaching to a standardized test in order to keep their funding... (sigh)

(of course, there is much variation among high school students due to our decentralized system in which inequality reigns and those students not lucky enough to live in a "good" district or have parents of means get the short end of the stick)

LASunsett said...

Hi Amerloque,

I thought you'd disagree with some of it, but knew you'd find it amusing just the same. I too do not always agree with Mr. Boortz, but I, as an individual (there's that wordn a again), am not a carbon copy of anyone else in the world. And from I do know about Amerloque (which is only what I have derived from his writings and little else), he is unique too.

With Boortz, you have to listen to him for a while to understand exactly where he is coming from.

// Further … if a doctor has studied and graduated from a state school, which is paid for by the taxpayers (and where the tutition paid doesn't even begin to cover the cost of education), should the "doctor" not be required to share, with others, what he has acquired, at the expense of others ? //

I think that your point on doctors receiving state aid to pay for school has some merit to it. But unfortunately, it's what we call getting cought between a rock and a hard place. I agree with you on moral grounds, but sadly, it's just not that simple.

As you may have derived from my writings, I am a former military man, I served with many doctors that received federal aid and payed that back by doing a three year hitch in the military. I do not find that to be too much to ask.

Many here do pay back to the community here. Many doctors that I know have started out as residents in clinics that take care of low income families, many of them illegal aliens that pay no taxes. Illegals are a huge drain on this system, at present. Trust me, I could write a book on that alone. But I will spare you the lengthy dissertation.

But, at some point, you will have a hard time convincing me that if doctors are not allowed to earn as much money as the market will bear, you will not have many wanting to go into medicine. Therefore, the shortage of physicians will get larger.

If we are going to ask that a person pay their way through medical school (especially through loans that must be paid back) this will be an expensive investment. And it will be an investment whereby, the investor could and should expect a reasonable return on his/her investment. Going to school for 7-8 years and being locked in to say $70,000 a year, would not be, in my view, a reasonable return. Nor would it be an incentive for people to choose medicine as a career.

As I said, I do not know how it is done in France, but grants are not given out like candy here, unless there is a demonstrated need. My son is in college now at a state university. Even at state universities the costs are enormous and I think it's almost obscene to expect me to pay it, and make a living. State schools do receive state and taxpayer aid, but as a citizen I help pay those taxes and I help with the tuition as well. So I get sapped coming and going.

//makes no allowance for the fact that drug dependecies and alcoholism are diseases, not "choices"//

This is where I must respectfully disagree with you. They are not of themselves a disease, they are symptoms of a deeper disease process. Under most chemical dependency cases, there is an underlying depression that is the root cause. The individual suffers pain, he/she takes the drugs or the drinks to numb the pain. He/she does it enough, and it becomes a lifestyle. It then becomes an addiction. But, it starts off as a choice.

I believe that many in academia have looked at addcition as a disease and those that are prone to lean towards social programs as the answer to all of our ills, have bought into it. But there is no scientific medical evidence to prove this is a disease process, unto itself. I may concede that there MAY be a genetic predisposition to become dependent on drugs and alcohol, but that in and of itself, is not a valid indicator.

Thanks for stopping by, come as often as you can. I do enjoy reading your perspective.

LASunsett said...

Ms Miami,

//...it's a shame, in my opionion, that such students cannot be better prepared once they reach the university level, where much catching-up must happen.//

I told my son (currently in his freshman year at college) that this year will be a review and a catching up period. After that, he should be prepared to work on new and more in-depth materials.

I agree with you on standardized testing being tied to funding, too. It's quite the shame.

L'Amerloque said...

Hi LASunsett !

re: doctors and state aid

/*/I think that your point on doctors receiving state aid to pay for school has some merit to it. But unfortunately, it's what we call getting cought between a rock and a hard place. I agree with you on moral grounds, but sadly, it's just not that simple./*/

Of course it's not that simple: if it were, it would be happening ! (grin)

/*/I served with many doctors that received federal aid and payed that back by doing a three year hitch in the military. I do not find that to be too much to ask./*/

This is part of what Amerloque had in mind. This is good, and fair, in Amerloque's view. There are similar schemes in France, for doctors and in many other areas of higher education.

/รน*/Many doctors that I know have started out as residents in clinics that take care of low income families …/…
But, at some point, you will have a hard time convincing me that if doctors are not allowed to earn as much money as the market will bear, you will not have many wanting to go into medicine. /*/

Of course. A lack of doctors would be catastrophic !

However, Amerloque is bothered by the fact that "novice" doctors are "learning" on "poor" people.

Naturally low income families (and legal immigrants) should have access to low cost medical care. Not everyone can be rich, or even wants to devote all that time and effort to becoming so. There are other things than money in this life. (grin)

Amerloque is basically inspired along the lines of what happens in the National Guard. One joins up, one spends whatever number of weekends per year, plus a longer stretch in the summer, for one's entire career in the Guard.

Perhaps doctors who have received federal aid - or who have benefited from artificially low tuition fees at state schools - could be called upon to devote one day per 15 days worked to probono medical activities in community care centers, during their entire career.

In this way even experienced (and perhaps more costly, in civil life !) doctors will be involved in dispensing care to the poor, not just doctors at the beginning of their careers as is apparently the case now. If a doctor gives up one day in 15 (or whatever), that would be better for all concerned, since a continuity of treatment would thus be assured to the patient and the doctor would have more grasp of what he/she were doing, instead of arriving out of the blue for a month's stint in the summer, for example.

Just an idea. Probably could be put into practice at State level. In some states. (grin)

Best,
L'Amerloque