Statistics 101: Cluster analysis of the US Senate

reposted from dailyKos
How do the senators line up?  Are there groups of Senators with similar records (other than the obvious Dem vs. Rep?)

There’s a statistical tool to answer questions like this: It’s called cluster analysis.  It takes a group of subjects (here Senators) and some method of saying how similar they are (here, ratings from various groups) and tries to put the subjects into groups.

There are LOTS of subtleties, some of them (along with results) are below the fold

here are several key questions to answer in a cluster analysis:

  1. How to measure similarity

  2. How to link a person to a cluster

  3. How to figure out how many groups there are

But all cluster methods are about finding, well….. clusters.

OK, let’s take these three one at a time:
1) How to measure similarity:
  Here, I took ratings on each Senator from 10 groups, as collected by the Almanac of American Politics 2006.  The ten groups each rate each senator for 0 to 100.  The groups:
  Americans for Democratic Action: A general, liberal group
  Am. Civil Liberties Union: In favor of individual rights and civil liberties
  AFSCME – A large union of public employees.
  League of Conservation voters – pro-environment
  ITIC – a group of information technology providers – mostly toward the conservative end
  Nat’l Taxpayers’ Union – For lower taxes
  Chamber of Commerce of the USA – pro-business
  Am. Conservative Union – general conservative group
  Nat’l Tax-limitation Commission – for lower taxes
  Christian coalition – well, you know

Then, a measure of similarity is the correlation between their scores. Two senators with identical ratings will have correlation = 1, with completely opposite ratings, -1. 

2.  How to link people

Linking two people is easy: We start by linking the two who are closest to each other.  But how do you measure the closeness of groups? There are a number of methods.  In single linkage, you measure the shortest distance – that is, the shortest distance between anyone in the two groups.  In complete linkage, you count the longest distance.  In average linkage, it’s the average distance.  Average distance is often a good choice.

Another method, which I use below, is k-means clustering, where we specify a number of clusters, and the computer finds the ‘best’ solution for that number of groups
3. Number of groups

Here, intuition plays a role.  We can look at multiple numbers of groups and see what patterns emerge.

Before all that, though, let’s explore a bit.

I include all the people who were senators in 2004 and weren’t newly elected.  Later, we can look at who got kicked out.  There are 95 such senators.

There were (get this) 43 Dems and 56 Repubs and 1 indep. in total  TIMES HAVE CHANGED!  Among the 95, there were 42, 52 and 1. 

The 10 organizations all ranged in rating from 0 to 100
Group Mean  Std Dev
ADA 59.8 38.9
ACLU 39.1 32.5
AFS 51.2 44.0
LCV 45.5 44.24
ITIC 80.1 22.7
NTU 45.3 28.6
COC 75.9 23.5
ACU 53.0 41.0
NTLC 53.2 40.3
CHC 55.3 45.78

when you seen std. deviations almost as big as means, and you know that the minimum is 0 and max 100, you suspect bimodality:

Density plot of ratings

This is a density plot of each groups ratings, and, indeed, a lot of them are bimodal: A lot of senators get low ratings, and a lot get high ratings, with few in-between.

OK.  First, let’s try a two cluster solution.  This splits nearly perfectly along party lines, cluster 1 was 42 Dems, 1 Indep (Jeffords) and 1 Repub.  Cluster 2 was 51 Repubs

Who’s the one Republican in with the Democrats? Lincoln Chafee

Seems that cluster is at least working, even if it’s not revealed anything too surprising.

We can also plot the scores on each of the groups, by cluster. 


Here, cluster 1 is all the Dems, one Indep (Jeffords) and Chafee.
Cluster 2 is just the Repubs.

What about 3 clusters?

Three clusters

In this analysis, cluster 1 has 6 Dems and 3 Repubs, cluster 2 has 49 Repubs, and cluster 3 has 36 Dems and Jeffords.

Who’s in that first, mixed cluster?

Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Mark Pryor (D-AR), Evan Bayh (D-IN), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Snowe (R-ME), Collins (R-ME), Baucus (D-MT), Ben Nelson (D-NE), and Lincoln Chafee (R-RI)

A four cluster solution was not that useful, but it did put John Kerry (D-MA) in a cluster by himself. Otherwise, it was identical to the three cluster method

A five cluster solution, however, is interesting:

five cluster

Clusters 2 and 4 (red and blue) are all Republican, clusters 1 and 3 (black and green) are all Dem. (plus Jeffords) and cluster 5 is 1 Dem and 4 Repub. 

Let’s try clustering within party

These two clusters were quite similar on most scores, but cluster 2 is lower on several: ITIC, COC, NTIC, CHC.  Cluster 1 (moderate-conservative Dems) has Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Mark Pryor (D-AR), Evan Bayh (D-IN), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Baucus (D-MT), Ben Nelson (D-NE), Lieberman (D-CT), Carper (D-DE), Stabenow (D-MI), Schumer (D-NY), Murray (D-WA) and Cantwell (D-WA).

And on the other side?

There was a rabid right wing cluster, and a more moderate cluster (with only 5 people): Snowe and Collins of ME, McCain, Specter (PA) and Chafee.

[poll id=”



Statistics 101: Nature nurture nonsense

reposted, with changes, from dailyKos

Over at daily Kos, feemus wrote a very good diary about the Bell Curve (the book, that is).  That led to a discussion of nature and nurture.  All such discussions are silly.  To see why, go below the fold.  (Oh, and the Bell Curve is nonsense masquerading as science, as feemus and nearly all the commentators knew)

Take a human trait.  Almost any human trait.  Some of that trait is almost certainly caused by nature – by one’s genes.  Some of that trait is almost certainly caused by nurture – by one’s environment. 

Let’s take a trait that we understand well: Phenylketonuria.  It’s 100% environmental AND 100% genetic.  How’s that again?  Well, for details, see the wiki page.  But for those who don’t want details, it’s a disorder that is caused by a defect in a chromosone that leads to an absence of a certain enzyme.  As a result, the body can’t metabolize a certain amino acid and there are dire consequences, including early death. 

OK…’s all nature.  If you have this defect, you have the disease.

But….if you avoid the amino acid that your body can’t process, there are no symptoms.  So, it’s 100% environment.

The reason for such nonsensical statements being nonetheless true is that, in PKU, as in many traits, genes and environment interact.  That’s a statistical term.  I’ll explain.

Suppose you have one variable – we’ll call it DV – (here, dying from PKU) that is affected by two other variables – we’ll call them IVs –  (here, having the faulty chromosone and eating the amino acid).  An interaction occurs when the effect of one IV on the DV is different at different levels of the other IV.  Here, if you don’t have the gene, the food doesn’t matter, and if you don’t have the food, the gene doesn’t matter.

When there is an interaction, the main effects are meaningless on their own.  What’s the effect of the food on dying?  Impossible to say.  It depends on the gene.  What’s the effect of the gene on dying? Impossible to say, it depends on the food.

OK, now let’s take another trait, one we understand less well.  Let’s take a personality trait like being a bully.  I haven’t done any research on bullying, but I’d bet that there are genetic causes. And I’d bet that there are environmental ones.  And I’d bet they interact.  Level of adrenaline is probably related to bullying behavior, and that is, in turn, partly caused by genetic factors.  But I’d be stunned if parenting didn’t affect bullying, and I’d be stunned if other environmental factors didn’t also affect it.  How might an interaction work?

Well, the effect of parenting on bullying probably depends on the personality of the child.  If the parent and the child ‘match’ in some sense, all may be well.  But the same parenting style with a different child might be terrible.  A father who is, say, a former marine who is into football and Nascar might be a great match for a child who likes similar things, but might have trouble with a child who is interested in art and poetry and hates physical activity.  That could lead to bullying.

So, that’s ONE reason nature nurture is nonsense.

There are others.

To determine how much of something is something, we need to be able to MEASUREE the things.  If we say, for example, that 40% of women are under 5’6″ (I have no idea) then we can get a bunch of women and measure them and see if we are right.  If we say that each inch of height in an adult male human is related to 3 pounds more weight (I have no idea) we can test that by measuring males’ heights and weights.  We know how to measure height and weight.

But…..if we take bullying.  Well, we don’t really know how to measure it very well.  And we don’t know how to measure environment at all.  And we don’t REALLY know how to measure the genes (single genes – fine.  Most human traits depend on lots of genes, and we rarely know which ones).

So we are saying that there is a relatinship between X, Y and Z, when we don’t know how to measure X or Y or Z.  Hmmmmm…… we might be able to say that there IS a relationship.  But determining the relative importance of X and Y on Z is not possible.

There’s YET ANOTHER reason why it’s nonsense.  Take the studies of twins reared apart.  Then you can say that there is NO genetic difference.  So, any difference in the trait MUST be due to environment.  But….well, sorry, it’s more problematic.  First, identical twins reared TOGETHER aren’t the same (damn humans messing up these nice theories).  Second, we don’t know how to tell how different the different environments are.  When children are raised by people other than their biological parents, it if often by people who are similar in various ways to their parents.  But how do we tell how different two homes are? We don’t know what to measure!

Nature is important
Nurture is important

The rest is nonsense

Four at Four

This is an OPEN THREAD. Here are four stories in the news at 4 o’clock to get you started. A path and a gateway have no meaning, once the objective is in sight.

  1. The Washington Post reports of an emboldened Taliban is carrying out more attacks with greater reach. Some of the Taliban’s attacks have been in the provinces ringing Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital and the headquarters of international troops. The U.S. and Afghan officials disagree with assessments that these attacks indicate a Taliban major military resurgence. “The Afghanistan NGO Safety Office, a project funded by the European Commission…, found “a significant monthly escalation in conflict” in the first half of the year. Attacks by armed opposition groups increased from 139 in January to 405 in July” and “every month there’s a 20 to 25 percent increase in offensive activity”. Attacks in June and July were more than 80 percent higher than the same period last year. “U.S. Army Gen. Dan K. McNeill, the top NATO commander in Afghanistan, said much of the activity attributed to the Taliban and other militant groups probably was not part of the anti-government insurgency, but more likely was related to criminal activity, narcotics trafficking and tribal disputes. And in some cases, he said, levels of conflict are up because more NATO, U.S. and Afghan forces are pushing into areas of the country where they had never operated. There are an estimated 50,000 international troops here, about half of them American. ‘Logic tells you the number of incidents you report are going to be increased,’ he said.” McNeill also acknowledged difficulty with fighting and holding ground. “We’re not all the force we should be, both in size and capability,” he said. Who are you going to believe? Me or your lying eyes?

  2. In the column, Betrayal by Blackwater, for GulfNews, Mayada Al Askari writes, “So who does Blackwater USA do business with? The US State Department, with contracts reaching $715 million in Iraq. ¶ Can Condoleezza Rice be wanting a private army for her State Department now? Well, as almost everyone has a mini militia in Iraq today, staying in vogue is very tempting. ¶ US troops in Iraq make anywhere between $28,000-$40,000 annually, while Blackwater USA boys make the sum monthly, tax exempted.” Askari goes on to ask what laws actually do apply to Blackwater (none) and then recounts George W. Bush being asked about it in 2006:

    President George W. Bush spoke at the South Asian Studies Organisation on April 10, 2006 marking the third anniversary of Iraqi freedom. On that memorable day, one student asked Bush: “The Uniform Code of Military Justice does not apply to Private Military Contractors in Iraq, I asked your Secretary of Defence Mr Rumsfeld what law governs their actions?”

    To which Bush replies, half jokingly,: “I’m gonna ask him… help”.

    The student laughs with everyone else and goes on with her question: “I was hoping for a more specific answer here, Mr Rumsfeld said Iraq had its own domestic laws which he assumed applied to these PMCs, however, Iraq is clearly unable to enforce its laws, much less over our PMCs, I would surmise to you that in this case privatisation is not a solution. How do you propose to bring PMCs under a system of law?”

    Bush smiles and says: “I was not kidding [needless to say the house went down with laughter] I’m a gonna pick up the phone – I am not dodging the question, it’s very convenient, but I will really call him and ask.”

    This is one example of how the Blackwater shootout is being written about in the Mid-East press. (The White House transcript of Bush’s remarks is available.) Maybe someone in the D.C. press corp should ask Bush the same question again?

    Spiegel gives a rundown of how the shootout unfolded in ‘Blackwater’s Hail of Gunfire‘ and how other security contractors go about their jobs in Baghdad.

    Big vehicles, loud sirens, visible weapons, helicopters — Blackwater favors anything that can be used to keep potential enemies at bay. The aggressive attitude of the firm’s security details has earned its employees the nickname “testosterone monsters.” Employees from other security contractors are often happy to get past a Blackwater-run convoy in one piece.

    Some other firms — mostly British and Canadian — prefer to take a lower profile approach on the streets of Baghdad. Although they also drive armor-plated cars, their vehicles are much more inconspicuous than Blackwater’s SUVs. Most are BMW or Mercedes models from the 1980s which have been stripped of conspicuous accessories and which are deliberately left unwashed so as to blend in better on the streets of Baghdad. The drivers wear checkered short-sleeve shirts over their bulletproof vests so as to look like average Iraqi men. Some even go as far as dyeing their blond hair black and wearing dark contact lenses to look more like the locals… However, that doesn’t mean they are guaranteed safe passage around the city.

    The AP reports that this ‘Cowboy’ aggression works for Blackwater. “Not one diplomat has died while being guarded by employees of the politically connected company based in the swamplands of northeastern North Carolina. Experts say that success — combined with the murky legal world in which Blackwater operates and its strong ties to Republicans — has allowed the company to operate with impunity… ¶ Blackwater’s ties to the GOP run deep. Company founder and former Navy Seal Erik Prince has given more than $200,000 to Republican causes, a pattern of donation followed by other top Blackwater executives. The company’s vice chairman is Cofer Black, a former CIA counterterrorism official who is serving as a senior adviser to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. ¶ Members of Blackwater’s legal team have included former Whitewater prosecutor Kenneth Starr and current White House Counsel Fred Fielding.”

    The AP story notes that Rep. David Price (D-NC) has urged Congress “to regulate the private security industry and increase congressional oversight” for years. Maybe after the massacre, some of the Democrats in Congress may have finally taken notice. The Hill reports Sen. Obama presses Bush on Blackwater. “Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) has proposed clarifying that private contractors accused of misconduct can be tried under U.S. law and urging the Pentagon to pursue such civilian prosecution. Following a Sept. 16 shooting that infuriated the Iraqi government and got the contracting firm Blackwater USA briefly barred from the country, Senate aides are working on adding parts of Obama’s plan to the defense authorization bill… Obama told Bush he was ‘disturbed’ by the Blackwater episode, which ‘raises larger questions about the role of private security contractors.'” The Los Angeles Times reports that back in Baghdad, a new Iraqi law would end U.S. firms’ legal immunity. “A draft law that would strip local and foreign security companies of their immunity from prosecution in Iraq has been submitted to a state committee for legal vetting after a deadly shooting involving the firm that protects the U.S. Embassy and its staff, an Iraqi official said today… If approved by the State Shura Council, which vets the legal language of draft bills, the measure would still require the approval of the Cabinet and parliament to become law.” If Iraq’s softening stance on the eviction of Blackwater is any indication, then it may be a long, long time before the new bill becomes law in Iraq and even then, who will enforce it?

  3. The Denver Post brings news of a new study showing farm runoff causes hideously deformed frogs published in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “Biologists have known for several years that trematode [a type of flatworm] parasites can infect young frogs and cause severe deformities, but no one had figured out just why parasite levels have been on the rise.” University of Colorado “biologist Pieter Johnson and his colleagues discovered that nutrient pollution – agricultural runoff rich in nitrogen and phosphorous – can trigger a biological chain reaction in lakes and ponds, starting with algae and ending up with frogs that cannot hop.” Reuters also reports on the study. “We continue to see malformed amphibians all over the place and yet very little is being done to address those questions or even understand them,” Johnson said. “You can get five or six extra limbs. You can get no hind limbs. You can get all kinds of really bizarre, sick and twisted stuff,” he said.

  4. BBC News reports Germany is set to build a maglev railway. “The Bavarian state government said it had signed an agreement with rail operator Deutsche Bahn and industrial consortium Transrapid that includes the developers of the train – Siemens and ThyssenKrupp.” The new line will run from Munich city centre to its airport. The project, which had funding problems before the annoucement, is estimated to cost €1.85 billion ($2.6 bn) to build. According to the AP, the German federal government will pay for half the cost, providing some €925 million ($1.3 billion). Bavarian Governor Edmund Stoiber said the maglev train would be “a beacon for high technology ‘made in Germany.'” Currently the only running maglev train service is in Shanghai, China. Spiegel reports Germany developed the Transrapid monorail ‘magnetic levitation’ train decades ago but couldn’t decide whether to use it. “The deal was announced on Tuesday by the Bavarian government and is a parting gift from Bavarian premier Edmund Stoiber, who is retiring on October 9. Scheduled for completion by 2014, the Transrapid will cut the journey time for the 40-kilometer route from the airport to the Bavarian capital to around 10 minutes from the current 40 minutes. ¶ German engineers have been refining the technology since they first developed it in the 1960s. The train is propelled at high speeds by a frictionless electromagnetic system. It was developed by Transrapid International, a joint venture between Siemens AG and ThyssenKrup.”

There’s one more story below the fold…

  1. The Los Angeles Times notes a change along the border between Pakistan and India.

    Six decades of mistrust have kept trucks from crossing the divide, and provided work for about 1,300 Indian porters and hundreds of Pakistanis who shuffle back and forth through a virtual no-man’s-land loading and unloading goods.

    But starting Oct. 1, many of those jobs will be in jeopardy. The Indian and Pakistani governments have agreed to allow trucks to go through the Wagah border crossing and exchange contents directly on the other side, cutting out the need for large numbers of middlemen such as Singh.

    Officials hail the new arrangement as a sign of slowly improving ties between two nuclear-armed countries that have fought three wars, along with another armed conflict less than a decade ago. Critics and analysts aren’t so sure, noting that hardly any progress has been made on the most important sticking point, the fate of the Himalayan region of Kashmir.

    Either way, opening Wagah’s gates to truck traffic is a bane, not a boon, for the burly porters who toil on either side, the Indians in their sweat-stained blue tunics, the Pakistanis in red.

    Here is a scene from the daily India-Pakistan border closing ceremony from Himalaya with Micheal Palin and the porters in action the next day.

    The border closing ceremony is fascinating in the choreographed display of aggression and anger. From the reactions of the spectators watching, it is crowd pleaser too.

So, what else is happening?

Don’t Panic. Stop and Think.

(FP’ed 3 AM EDT, September 26, 2007. – promoted by exmearden)

‘Let’s Stop and Think. Who do we ask when we don’t know where to go? The Map. That’s right.’ – Ancient and Wise Philosopher Dora the Explorer.

So I’ve been reading a fair bit of gloom and doom economic analysis on the web lately.  As your Friendly Neighborhood Economic Centrist Blogger (patent pending and Armando, I used it first) who thinks our economic system is so far off ‘center’ it ain’t even funny, I thought I would add my own opinions to the mix. (more)

Caveat 1: These opinions plus $1 leave you well short of a cup of coffee at Starbucks. Amazing, but true.

Caveat 2: These opinions are based off of reading many articles on the subject from various publications over the past few years. I have no definitive links to offer.

Without further ado…

Things I think Will Happen:

Our debt is too high. Our international trade imbalance is insane. Hedge funds have helped to pump up liquidity in the housing market (and therefore house prices) beyond sustainable levels. We have reached or are near reaching peak oil. The dollar is weakening. And yet employment is pretty strong. We are not (yet) in a recession. Other countries have a strong vested interest in avoiding a US recession. Other countries DO NOT want to see our economy collapse. They want to keep their access to our powerful spending habits.

All this leads me to some general conclusions about what I believe will happen:

1) The collapse in house prices will continue for a long time. Interest rate cuts will not be enough to offset the lack of liquidity that has just arrived to the mortgage markets. I expect prices to remain down for 10-15 years. Japan has just exited a very similar situation, and their down market lasted for almost 10 years. I think ours will be longer because of the extreme (historic after adjusted for inflation) highs reached before the sh!t hit the fan.

2) The dollar will continue its current downward trend. This one won’t last as long, but expect to see more sellers than buyers for a few years at least. Note: this isn’t necessarily all bad.

3) Don’t expect the stock market to do much for a few years at least. This could last as long as the housing downturn.

4) We will likely see a recession soon, but it will be relatively short lived (see below for why).

5) Fuel and energy costs will continue to rise. Well duh.

6) Our deficits will force tax increases. There is no avoiding it. Expect these to start in 2009. The only question is who will be hit. PS – Elect a Democrat and it may not be you. This is not a promise based on recent trends, however.

7) Our deficits will force spending cuts or spending freezes for many programs. The weak dollar will force politicians to act on overall spending. They will have no choice.

Deficits do matter. If you look at our total public debt, it is approaching the levels (per capita) seen by Canada and Great Britain in the Reagan years. Back then, the US kept total debt per citizen much lower than many other countries. But when it hit a certain level, other countries saw currency and economic hardships we are now starting to experience. This will lead to government having ‘no choice’ but to enact tax increases and spending freezes mentioned above.

But the weak dollar / high fuel cost / responsible government mix will lead to at least one likely benefit. US manufacturing will become more cost competitive. Business decisions made today to manufacture offshore will not look so smart a few short years from now. International shipping rates will help push the cost / benefit equation back to local manufacturing in many industries. Expect at least a mini-rebound in the manufacturing base. This will shorten any upcoming recession.

And lower housing prices will have some benefits too. People who have been left behind in the equation might have a chance to catch up, if they are lucky. Most importantly, people who keep their wits about them will see opportunities to improve their financial situation, if they are patient and smart.

Things I think Will Not Happen:

The current economic troubles are not indicative of the impending collapse of the US Economy. It is simply too big to die so quickly. As an empire, we may have reached our peak, but we are a long way away from irrelevancy. History supports this assertion. The Egyptian Empire lasted 4,000 years. We are a young (but starting to wrinkle prematurely) 231.

So I do not expect to see:

1) A mass exodus of cash to other markets will not occur. Other countries will balance their future investments, but they will not abandon the US. Why would they? We are still by far the largest consumer population on the globe.

2) Other countries will not boycott US made products or brands. Goodness knows if they haven’t started in the Bush years so far, they aren’t about to start now.

3) Other countries will not avoid feeling the pain of a US Economic slowdown. If you think you can avoid things by moving, think again. Canada in particular is likely to face at least as many problems as the US in the next decade.

As usual, keeping your head in a crisis situation is the best way to go.

OK, that’s all I got. If this information helps you think about opportunities coming your way or at least calms your nerves, then my work is done.

Of course, if I’m wrong, don’t stand in my way during the mad rush for the exits. I have my escape route all planned out.


The pre-pre-Progressive Manifesto….updated

One of the top ten Bash Democrats Constructions is ….The Democrats don’t stand for anything.

THE top problem with being a progressive is…..Wtf is a Progressive.

So as the Mainstream Democrats sail off once again to Never Never get elected Land and leave their base behind…it has become obvious that We The People have to take it upon ourselves to bring about the changes we want to see.

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In order to do that, the first step is to define who WE are. Of course we cannot describe who we are, because Progressivism is an idea, a way of thinking that cuts across all demographic boundaries. There are progressives of every description….and that is around the world, as well, not just in America.

No, Progressivism is an idea, a world view, a philosophy. So Progressivism can only be described by what it stands for, by what it wants, by what WE want….this world and our nation to be.

In the comments to my recent essay The Big Picture Vol. 1 many folks pointed out that before we can move forward as Progressives we need a manifesto as an organizing principle to define us and to rally around. Go ahead and click that link and scroll down a bit for a list and links to notable manifestos of the past, and some present ones. The list starts with the Declaration of Independence. If I wanted to get grandiose I could say that a new Declaration of Independence is indeed what we need. I think it is safe to say that whatever we end up with as a Progressive Manifesto….enacting it would indeed be revolutionary.

I thought first of writing some poor effort myself and putting it up for criticism and wiki-ing and additions and modifications. But then I realized that the way to go about it was a method more true to the progressive ideal. To have ALL of us writing it from the get go. To have as much input as possible and then start a winnowing effort to get us down to a VERY basic statement….a true distillation. From there we can expand again and add detail as needed so non-Progressives can understand in a deeper fashion, and also add any neato flowery language we want, hahaha.

So here is the idea. We start out with as many folks as possible (This Means YOU!) submitting lists of THEIR top priorities, then through discussion and simple collation (taking the items that appear in the most list and moving them to the top of the discussion agenda) we start to distill. We take as many rounds of distillation as needed until we get down to something that we are reasonably agreed upon. Voila, a manifesto.

This is exactly the kind of long term worthwhile project that gets lost and forgotten at DK in the spray of the firehose. Here we can make it a blog wide long term project, and take our time and hone it well. And THEN submit it over there to get lots of eyeballs, MORE comments and suggestions….and go to the next round of refining. I’ll be putting up a short essay on DK and other sites letting them know what we are up to so no one is excluded and we get the maximum input possible.

Getting started: Since this is the pre-pre-manifeto, lol….this is the time and place to talk about the general idea, the general form (important!) and to discuss all the meta-implications etc. I would also urge everyone again to read kid oakland’s piece on where we are right now. We ARE truly at a crossroads and ready to enter a new era. We can help to shape that through this effort.

There are two general categories that very much intertwine and overlap, Principles…..and Issues. How to deal with these two categories is something we need to discuss too, as far as form especially. To get us all started here are some lists I have found, one dealing more with principles…one more with issues. And I will add some of my own as well.

Simplify made a list

Individual liberty – self-determination.

Equality before the law, and equality of opportunity.

The consent of the governed.
The rule of law under a social contract (the Constitution).
Better ten guilty men go free than one innocent man go to jail.
Innocent until proven guilty.
Separation of powers among legislative, executive, and judicial branches.
Freedom and independence of the press.
Government transparency, for a well-informed citizenry.
Open, fair elections for lawmakers.
Accountability to the citizens for political power and economic power alike.
Clear limits on the powers of government officials.

TheRef has one too, nicely tongue in cheek.
# Broad-based increase in taxes, equitable redistribution of the tax burden to all people / corporations.
# Defunding the troops in Iraq.
# Complete, immediate, unconditional withdrawal from Iraq.
# Abolishment of the current health care system and substitution of a single-payer, government provided health care system for everyone.
# Continuation of the current social security system.
# Registration / control of guns.
# Empathy for illegal aliens currently in the country.
# Discontinuance of spying on Americans without a court order.
# Truthfulness in government, political and corporate leaders.
# Rebuilding of our international relationships; political, economic, trade, cultural, etc.
# Public funding of elections.
# Non-ideological, secular judges for the Courts.
# Term limits for all elected offices.
# Shorter election cycles, primary seasons.
# Equal rights, under the Constitution, to all.
# A home for every individual.
# Freedom from hunger.
# An education (to the heights of one’s desires and ability) for everyone.
# Opportunity for each to attain his/her dreams.
# A livable environment for ourselves and all succeeding generations.
# A boy named Dick, a girl named Jane and a dog named Spot for every home.

(for the record, I would go with Fido)

My List, partial, of course.

Climate Change needs to be the paradigm for all planning.

Which leads to, the immediate need for a program akin to the Space Program of JFK to develop Alternative Energy and severely reduce dependence on foreign oil and oil in general.

Which leads to ending the war in Iraq so we have money to spend on that program. (just think what we could have done with the Trillion dollars spent to get control of Iraqi oil!)

Which leads to Alternative Energy as a National Defense issue.

Public Financing of Elections…….an absolute , imo.

Voting and election reform; paper trails etc.

Transparency in government ….and transparency in the transparency process. A citizen oversight committee? Combined with/started as….

A Truth and Justice-like commission to investigate the excesses of the Bush Administration, and government in general.

Lobbyist reform.

Health Care reform.

Education reform. Including reforming financing for college education.

As I say, a partial list. All of us I think see the need for the Netroots to do a better job organizing using the tools we have. Armando is talking about what the Netroots can and should be, aek has just put up a VERY worthy essay on the overall process, ANKOSS is talking about fighting corporatism. I think we all feel it, I think we all are realizing the need for a deep and fundamental change in the way things are done….and I think we all see the Net as a HUGE tool in STARTING to accomplish the changes we all want to see, the changes we all know we need.

Use whatever form or format is comfortable for you, and remember we also need to talk about HOW to do this and the process itself, etc.

It is a long journey!

Let’s get started!


In a couple of days I will publish again on this….get YOUR list together for that essay!!!

Healthcare – Moving beyond the converted

I posted the following as a response to a diary on Universal Health Care by rjones2818, which can be found here. The essay didn’t get much response, unfortunately, so my comment failed to generate any discussion. I want some thoughts on this issue, so I thought I would re-post as a short diary.

rjones2818 asserted that a primary component of the debates between General Motors and the UAW was health care and it’s associated costs. And, that the issue would have been greatly simplified if we simply had Universal Health Care for ALL in this country. An excellent point, no doubt. Below the fold are my thoughts (with limited editing):

You’re preaching to the choir on this one. Thank you very much for presenting this info, as the more it is heard by more people the more likely it is to become a mainstream idea.

But, you are reiterating support for an idea that, I dare say, most people here already support. Your poll seems to back me up (albeit with limited results – 5 votes – so far).

What we need to do is make change inevitable. We must follow the path that leads to more of the general populace addressing this change as one that will occur in short order. A foregone conclusion. To do this we need everyone here plus a huge number of the disaffected masses, as well as a good number of engaged moderates and some republicans too.

Even if it happens, it’s all for naught if the traditional media ignores it. This issue must be OJ. It must be Paris and Lindsay. It must be in the public’s face constantly. ONLY THEN, when our elected officials recognize that they ignore this issue at their peril,  will the next step in the process occur.

So, what’s the plan?

Well, like many people here, I wrote my Senators and representative informing them of my expectation that they will support HR 676. One of my Senators (G. Voinovich) was kind enough to send me a form letter in reply, saying how “important” this issue is, and how his plan will fix the problem. Guess what? It falls short of what we truly need. Luckily, my other Senator is Sherrod Brown – a true champion for Universal Health Care. My Representative is another republican, and I hold out zero hope for his support of HR 676.

This means I’m barking up the wrong tree. Perhaps others here live in a state or district where their Congressmen/women are “on the fence” and can be swayed. Otherwise, your letter/e-mail/phone call makes little difference.

What we must do is make it commonplace to hear the following a statement uttered in public: “Everyone wants universal health care. Everyone thinks it’s a good idea”. Now you’re smart enough to know that anytime you hear “everyone says this”, or “everyone does that”, you are hearing an unsubstantiated claim that is based solely on hearsay and anecdotal evidence. But, the beauty is that it still serves to strengthen the assertion. Think: republican talking points.

The target of our attack should be the traditional media. If the networks are convinced that people are behind this issue, they will report on it. If they report on it, more people will talk about it. It is a vicious cycle/feedback loop that benefits our cause.

The key is making the issue sensational enough that it can break through the programming mantra “if it bleeds it leads”. You’ve touch on one way to do that. The GM strike stands to heavily impact the economy of our country and, therefore, every person operating within it. This at a time when all indicators but the Dow say we’re heading into the toilet. Talk about a human interest story. We could have partially avoided a “perfect storm” of problems (housing collapse, weakening dollar, GM strike) affecting our economy, if we had only covered the health care of these UAW workers, along with the rest of the country. This opens the opportunity to discuss the cost reductions and other benefits to American citizens and businesses that would come with an overhaul of our health care system. This is simply an example of the type of story that might get a foot in the door of the networks.

In the end, anything that gets a story on the “news” will have a net positive benefit in this regard. In my opinion, anyone who has had a negative experience with our current system should let their local network affiliate know about it. On a slow news day, they may choose to follow-up on the lead you’ve provided. If you can organize a local group who have had similar problems, that’s even better. The larger the group yelling to be on camera, the more likely the people with the cameras will pay attention.

So, rj, sorry for the…um…lengthy comment. This issue is an important one for me. Not because it directly affects me or any loved ones…yet. Plain and simple, universal health care is based on a recognition of the humanity of our brothers and sisters. If We The People are reminded that we matter, perhaps we’ll stand up for other rights we’ve let fall by the wayside. It’s the domino theory of progress, perhaps.

Keep fighting the good fight. Peace.

This is my first addition to the collection of diaries on Docudharma. I recognize I’m not breaking any ground with my thoughts, but I’m very interested in getting some feedback. It’s the discussion that matters. Do you think this is the best way to affect change? If not in this way, then how? It’s time for a change, how do we effectively do more than simply convince each other of this fact?

Project Management Processes for the Netroots

Armando, Buhdy and ANKOSS are all speaking to leadership and the netroots. While Armando is coming at it from the perspective of questioning leadership failures, and Buhdy is addressing the role of blogs in the netroots development and influence, ANKOSS is taking a critical look at the role of corporations in oppressing the populace, of which the netroots is a subset.

I’d like to throw up out another idea.  The netroots is a subset of the progressive movement, and it is a work-in-early-progress. To that end, here’s a project management proposal for meta netroots leadership, management and organizational development.  With any project management process, it’s akin to herding chickens, cats – or even libertarians! *g* Use this as recipe ingredients – subject to change to meet the tastes and preferences of the chef and the diners. Throw out what doesn’t work, innovate where that helps the process to move forward, and savor the contributions of the ingredients.

Cavest:  I am dyslexic, arthritic and myopic – the -Icks sometimes interfere with the cleanness of the writing, and so I re-read, continually edit and post essays that are works-in-progress.  Where commenters contribute, I try to incorporate those contributions into the essay and attribute accordingly.


Identify the members.


All bloggers who address progressive values, issues and politics.
Readers and commenters of blogs deemed “progressive”.
Policy blogs, bloggers, readers and commenters who address policy from a progressive point of view.
Non-internet voters who are influenced by activities secondary to the output of blogs and internet progressive activities. (ex. contributors to who watch television ads and act on the message)
Traditional voters who are actually or potentially influenced by progressive activity.

Mission, Vision, Values

This is the most critical piece of the whole shebang.  Get the mission right, and the movement, well – MOVES!  Make the mission and vision overly complicated, obtuse and tortuous, and the progress will be halting, if it happens at all. This is the one time to get as many influentials and grassroots members to the table and hash out and distill the essence of just what the progressive movement/netroots movement IS!  Yes, you must know what the meaning of the word is, IS!*g*

Qualities of strong mission statements are clarity, brevity and uniqueness. A mission statement answers the question of WHY this entity exists.

Next comes the all powerful vision statement. It answers the question of the future WHAT?  What is the ultimate iteration or goal of the progressive netroots?  What does it look like?  What does it do?  Who does it include? Where is it?

Then the statement of values.  Again, this is the time for brutal honesty.  What are the most important and relevant elements for the progressive netroots?

That’s the foundational and preliminary work which must be done in some form before any of the actual process can occur.

So instead of moving into the process piece, let’s take a moment and figure out how to get this essential work done.

What?  Venue to bring the essential people together? What resources are needed to support the completion and progress of the work? 

How?  How will these resources be obtained and apportioned?

Where?  Does this get held in real world settings, such as at a convention, or can it be a hybridized and larger process, a la using CurrentTV, YouTube, live blogging and real time interactive media as an adjunct or a replacement for a conventional convention setting?

Who?  Who are the essential contributors and influentials who need to do this work?

When?  I’m always impatient and use the sooner-the-better framework, but in reality, a lot of planning needs to go into this in order to have the resources, tools and supports ready for the participants.

Why?  To date, the progressive netroots has mostly been a free form and free-for-all movement.  it has generated several bloggers with strong internet presences, and who exhibit varying degrees of influence relative to campaign contributions, voting preferences and campaign agendas. it has also generated different internet-based issues organizations, such as Armando’s fearsome foe of But there has been no consensus-building to any large degree, and there has been no formal mechanism of coalescing and growing the progressive netroots movement to any large extent. 

The Return On Investment (ROI)

Using a project management approach to formalizing a structure and moving forward using a consensus-driven process has the goals of building support, building resources, building presence, building political influence and building societal change.

In the beginning, there was darkness upon the earth.

In the growth and development of organizations, the progressive netroots has been in the earliest “primordial soup” phase.  Exploring the world.  Serendipitously meeting and collaborating with other entities.  Trying on ideas.  Testing boundaries. Determining limits.  Exploring the environment. Acting in a mostly disorganized and random fashion. And beginning to find advantages for working collectively and morphing into a different organism.

Let there be light!

If you like this process and care to continue to discuss using process management tools, I’ll be happy to write more, as I’m able.

Pony (Tea) Party

So I told pfiore8 last week that I’d take a couple Pony Parties for her, and I just now got around to reading the FAQ — and what’s this?

Be prepared, this is NOT a tea party!

Hey Budhy, what if I want it to be a tea party?!?

Please do not recommend a Pony Party when you see one.  There will be another along in a few hours.

We can have ponies at my tea party…
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But I can see potential for problems. For those who “enjoy vigorous debate,” we may need to provide substitute china (that stuff can get expensive)…
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and we’ll have to make sure the tea isn’t too hot, to make sure no one gets hurt … but no ice cubes in the iced tea, because ouch. Come to think of it, maybe plastic cups are too risky…

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That’ll work!

(This is an open thread. Although I’ll talk tea, if you want…)

Subduing the Corporations: Part I – Infernal Machines

(Checking in from beautiful south of France and bon soire… couldn’t help but notice this essay so had to promote… – promoted by pfiore8)

This has been a long time coming, and it is here now. — Cormack McCarthy, “The Road”

Powerful corporations now dominate the governments of the world. Their global empires extend across all continents and supersede all nominal forms of government. Although most people believe them to be marvelous cornucopia of enticing goods and services, there is a growing understanding among informed individuals that something has gone badly wrong. The collective activity of the multinational corporations is not bringing us an earthly paradise. Instead, it is bringing us environmental devastation, growing inequality, endless war, and the curtailment of freedoms.

This essay explains the necessity of subduing the corporations and returning them to a politically subservient role in which their efficiencies can be harnessed to the public good rather than pernicious institutional aggrandizement. In my view, the struggle between the networked people of the world and ruthless, malignant corporations will be the defining conflict of this century. Part I of the essay states the case for action.


Why shouldn’t corporations run the world? After all, businesses excel in the management of resources in countless industries, and they have avoided many of the pitfalls of despotic and inefficient governments. Privatization and Globalization are at the height of their worldwide popularity. Why not give more political power to these ostensibly successful institutions. Here is why:

1. Corporations have no morals. Corporations have neither the interest nor the ability to order the affairs of mankind according to ethical principles. Their primary motivation is to maximize economic returns, and they will do this by any means that provides the highest risk-adjusted net present value, even if this involves the construction of slave ships, crematoria, or cluster munitions. They will bribe government officials, blackmail critics, punish whistle-blowers, and poison their customers, if those are necessary paths toward attaining their goals. They are cold-blooded, remorseless profit machines, yet their extraordinary mastery of modern propaganda enables them to project a beneficent image that belies these ugly traits.

2. Corporations externalize costs. Because the accounting measures for profitability of a corporation are narrow in scope and short-term in time span, corporations have powerful incentives to shift costs from themselves to society. Dumping toxic wastes, polluting the air, pumping out CO2, injuring workers, and endangering customers are all costs that corporations may choose to export to the people of the World.

3. Corporations cannot manage conflicts. Although corporations often compete keenly within their own industries, they have no means of resolving political conflicts among segments of society. With growth and profitability as their only metrics of success, they have no mechanisms for addressing disputes pertaining to justice, liberty, or environmental sustainability. Indeed the concept of the “common good” is entirely beyond the charter of a corporation.

4. Corporations reward destructive character traits. Most corporations are authoritarian hierarchies that award power to individuals that bring an obsessive-compulsive mission focus and energy to their jobs. In any other social context, this degree of OCD behavior would be considered pathological, but in the modern corporation, it is considered exemplary. The ideal corporate “workaholic” will sacrifice everything to complete his assignment: family, friends, health, and ethics. Indeed, a key criterion for promotion of managers in most corporations is discreet confirmation of the candidate’s willingness to sacrifice to achieve corporate goals. An institution that rewards sociopathic behavior develops a sociopathic character, and this has been dramatically displayed in the conduct of corporations like Enron and Halliburton.

5. Corporations have tunnel vision. The narrow focus and obsessive concentration of the corporation’s “mission” blinds it to broader concerns. Moreover, ferocious dedication to achieving a profit goal often leads to deliberate disregard of more important principles. The arms industry, for example, benefits directly from promoting aggressive and militaristic behavior among governments.

6. Corporations have succession problems. Like most authoritarian institutions, corporations often stumble when a competent leader is replaced by a less capable successor. The unprincipled and jungle-like internal politics of most corporations favors the emergence of leaders who win power by any means necessary, and these individuals are not always the most skillful managers. They are often simply the survivors of bitter and ruthless political struggles. When such ruthless people assume control, they typically aggravate the malignant tendencies of the corporation.

Malignant global corporations are enormous infernal machines, institutional time bombs concealing the deadly potential for societal disruption, war, and environmental ruin. Yet these institutions have been increasingly successful in immunizing themselves from governmental and societal constraints. The evils of unchecked corporate dominance of World society are increasingly evident with each new revelation of their misconduct. How much more damage must the people of the World withstand before we confront this growing danger? The next part of this essay describes how a growing revolt against malignant corporations is taking shape on the Internet, and how this Netrevolt can disarm and reprogram these infernal machines.

Faux Fights and Leadership [UPDATED]

Since so many essayists and commenters are interested in the activities and consequences of people espousing ideology of false patriotism, dominionism, fundamentalism and other -isms, I thought I’d play with the principles a bit and explore what can be done to counteract the effects.

The framework of a preferred paradigm that I’m using is that of embracing the classic Roman virtues. Don’t remember them?  You’re not alone.

While there are many systems and classifications of virtues, I am going to refer solely to the Roman-defined virtues to avoid an overly lengthy and needlessly complicated presentation.  However, as far as I have been able to ascertain, any well-defined listing of socioculturally significant virtues is applicable to the following relationship of using virtues as a criteria by which to evaluate leadership attributes.

A caveat for those of you who aren’t familiar with my posts:  I am very dyslexic, myopic, and arthritic.  I re-read my posts and most often continue to edit them for wrong words, poor grammar and unclear sentences after I post. I appreciate it when readers point out errors, and I do my best to make posts works-in-progress which reflect commenters’ participation and contributions.

There are many scholarly texts which outline characteristics of cults and attributes of members. This isn’t a post to regurgitate or criticize those foundational works. I include them here to distinguish between genuine leadership and subliminal and detrimental group influence which morphs into group-speak, propaganda, social behavior norms and voter behavior.

Essentially, the things that most people look to cults to fill are factors of socialization:

  • Clear rules of membership
  • Delineation of US and OTHERS
  • Reward system for compliance
  • Punishment and threat of shunning/ostracism for noncompliance
  • Clear normative values

This post originally was going to compare the attributes of cults with today’s two major political parties in how they court voters, but I’m now going to hijack my own essay and speak to leadership values. Keep the attributes of cults handy in looking at attributes NOT to reward, enable or use in selecting political candidates.

My own education and academic career – what little of it there is – revolves around the study of leadership, albeit confined to that in healthcare settings.

I am going to generalize some of the qualities to that of the concept of leadership per se.  Your mileage will vary, so please take away what is useful, and save the rest as bird cage liner or fodder to ponder another day.

I come at leadership characteristics and qualities from a pragmatic point of view.  If a leader can only lead in the abstract sense, then I don’t tend to find it useful.

Some of the characteristics of effective leaders – those who are able to affect the targeted and desired changes with the least amount of resistance or impediment, are those who demonstrate the following:

Consistency:  they don’t act in unpredictable and surprising ways, unless that is their usual mode of operation.

Congruency:  they act according to the values they espouse, and the target behaviors they set for others

Visibility and Accessibility or MBWA:  the old management by walking around style is always in evidence.  They seek out members of the group they lead – either all of them or representative samples.  They listen, they ask questions, depending on the work, they may try it, they solicit feedback, and they communicate in accessible face to face venues.

Honesty and Transparency: they deliver progress reports which include negative information.  They deliver news accurately, in context and comprehensively.

Reward desired behaviors liberally:  there is a little cognitive psychology in evidence.  Behaviors, acts and benchmarks that move toward the desired targets are praised, rewarded and highlighted.  Negative behavior and active resistance is ignored.

Value contributions:  they actively seek out and pay attention to the contributions of their team members/constituents/followers

Own Failures and Limitations/Give Away Successes:  they take full responsibility for failures and setbacks, and they give full credit to others for successes.

External appearances are deceiving:  they rarely present self-conscious fashionable or glamorous appearances.  They tend to be the work horses in organizations.  They show up, listen, take note, contribute to the success of the organization, and they work diligently by placing the success of the organization ahead of their own personal gain.

It’s this last that is being lost in the US.  Those people now are often shunted aside for the younger/wealthier-appearing/smoother-talking/connected person.  And it’s showing in the treatment of workers, in the quality of work overall, and in the falling behind in competition of US centered businesses.

What’s the point?

You can use these qualities to rate the presidential candidates for leadership attributes and likely leadership in the White House. You can use them to evaluate candidates for any position of responsibility and leadership. You can use them to work on your own progress as a leader.

If you used a Likert scale of 0 = does not exhibit, 3 = sometimes exhibits, and 5 = consistently exhibits to measure each of the candidates, who takes top honors?

Apply the criteria to Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Powell, etc. See any patterns emerging?

One ready reference that uses many of these characteristics is Jim Collins in his work, Good to Great.

One concept that he emphasizes is getting the core values right.  What are they?

In the case of the office of president of the US, they are simple: supporting and defending the Constitution. It’s critical that you can say what the core values are of any activity that is important to you: work, school, hobby, elected representative, civic group, social group, entertainment, spirituality, commerce, etc. When you do something, “just because” or you allow yourself to make an uninformed choice, you run much higher risks – whether it’s in something small, as in the flavor of your coffee, or something huge, as in the course of cancer treatment or whether or not to choose resuscitation in the case of your heart stopping. And if it isn’t already obvious, it also applies to group choices, as in the selection of a president – for a country or for a local parent teachers association.


If you don’t know what qualities are important to you for a given situation, you cannot choose a leader who emulates and supports those values, even when the leader is yourself.

Take Aways

To evaluate any candidate for leadership, use the following criteria to rate on a scale from never exhibits to consistently exhibits:

  • Consistency
  • Congruency
  • Visibility and Accessibility
  • Honestly and Transparency
  • Reward desired behaviors liberally
  • Value Contributions
  • Own failures and limitations
  • Share/Give away successes
  • Outward appearances are deceiving

Use the criteria in your individual lives.  Evaluate people by these leadership characteristics in all situations other than crises. (Crisis management calls for very different skill sets used for very short term purposes – say, for example, evacuating everyone in immediate danger from a fire.) Use them to select your candidate of choice at the voting booth. Use them to help move the progressive values system forward.  Use them to highlight the failures and limitations of the current occupants of the White House.

And now back to my original post – about using the classic virtues to fight against fighting faux values that the Republicans espouse: the definition of marriage, the criminalization of women’s health choices, the criminalization of everything that fringe dominionist fundamentalists oppose, etc. When you use the attributes of genuine leadership, the faux issues are exposed as being flase to fundamental values and virtues.  They don’t have applicability or relevance.  You can use a classification of virtues by which to evaluate the importance and relevance of a political party’s espoused values. 

For example, family values can be defined as those which support the growth, development of its members and which support the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Where a platform or an agenda item interferes with these fundamental attributes for constituents, it fails the test of relevance, genuineness and necessity. And that’s the public message – the sole message – which progressives can use to defeat the propaganda of the right wing machine.

It fails the test.

Gay marriage bans fails the test of equal right.

Abortion limits fail the test of individual health choices and the recognition of the professional and confidential nature of the physician patient relationship.

Sanctions on anyone based on a sexual orientation or gender orientation fails the test of equal opportunity and equal rights.

And so on.  Once a clear barometer of acceptability and failure is established and used consistently, the progressive agenda will be easier to establish, will be a clear territory claim, and will be easier to advance as well as to defend.

Pre-emptive war and aggression fails the test (OK Armando and other experts, take it from here).

It passes the test.

Place the progressive agenda items here. TBD, as academics love to proclaim.

Classical virtues

First a definition from The Free Dictionary:

1. cardinal virtue – one of the seven preeminent virtues
virtue – a particular moral excellence
natural virtue – (scholasticism) one of the four virtues (prudence, justice,  fortitude, and temperance) derived from nature
supernatural virtue, theological virtue – according to Christian ethics: one of the three virtues (faith, hope, and charity) created by God to round out the natural virtues


  •   Auctoritas – “Spiritual Authority” – The sense of one’s social standing, built  up  through experience, Pietas, and Industria.
  •   Comitas – “Humour” – Ease of manner, courtesy, openness, and friendliness.
  •   Clementia – “Mercy” – Mildness and gentleness.
  •   Dignitas – “Dignity” – A sense of self-worth, personal pride.
  •   Firmitas – “Tenacity” – Strength of mind, the ability to stick to one’s purpose.
  •   Frugalitas – “Frugalness” – Economy and simplicity of style, without being miserly.
  •   Gravitas – “Gravity” – A sense of the importance of the matter at hand, responsibility and earnestness.
  •   Honestas – “Respectability” – The image that one presents as a respectable member of society.
  •   Humanitas – “Humanity” – Refinement, civilization, learning, and being cultured.
  •   Industria – “Industriousness” – Hard work.
  •   Pietas – “Dutifulness” – More than religious piety; a respect for the natural order socially, politically, and religiously. Includes the ideas of patriotism and devotion to others.
  •   Prudentia – “Prudence” – Foresight, wisdom, and personal discretion.
  •   Salubritas – “Wholesomeness” – Health and cleanliness.
  •   Severitas – “Sternness” – Gravity, self-control.
  •   Veritas – “Truthfulness” – Honesty in dealing with others.

Notice, though, that this is merely a listing of classic Roman virtues.

There are many other notable systems of prescribed and proscribed virtues. But for utility, I am limiting the discussion to these, as many are referenced in the qualities and characteristics of leadership above.

If we as a society used this framework of preferred or desired characteristics by which to measure our elected representatives, the congruence of legislation with the Constitution, and used the classic virtues to measure the overall “meta” success of US society, would this not be more useful than continuing on the current path of divisiveness, class separation, socioeconomic disparity and faux morality being used as a disguise to install theocracy in government?

Iraq: The Failure Of Activist and Netroots Leadership

Chris Bowers writes:

If our vote totals on key pieces of legislation are actually going backward in Congress, then no one in the Democratic field is successfully leading on Iraq in Congress. Good leadership isn’t just about proposing legislation (which all current members of Congress have done), sending out press releases announcing how you will vote beforehand (which a couple of candidates did this time), exhorting your colleagues in Congress to vote a certain way (which at least Dodd has done among current members of Congress running for President), and then casting the right votes (which pretty much everyone does now, even though none of the Senators running for President did so last year). Successful leadership is actually causing the debate to bend in your direction, and gathering support where none previously existed. According to this criteria, when it comes to the impact of the 2008 Presidential field on the Iraq fight in Congress, no one has done that. To varying degrees, they all have tried-or at least made it look like they were trying-but no one has succeeded.

I think that is a fair criteria for all of us. And by that criteria, I think it is fair to say that the leaders of the Netroots have utterly failed. It is ironic that Bowers criticizes people like Chris Dodd (for his post is really a pushback against Dodd’s little surge in the Daily Kos straw poll while his preferred candidate, Bill Richardson, had a meltdown) for their efforts in Congress without even considering his own failures and that of the other leading Netroots lights, like Move On. Interesting use of blinders there. More.

Over at daily kos, the top rated diary says:

The MoveOn ad worked. It worked very well, indeed.  That’s what has them so scared and angry.

Let’s look at the results that accomplished with their ad. MoveOn says that their $142,000+ expenditure yielded them something on the order ofb $500,000 in contributions in just one day.  Measured simply on the financials, the ad was a good move by

It was a good move FOR Move On apparently. Played for suckers yet again. As for Move On’s success in the Iraq debate in Congress, see Bowers. Move On’s support for the Iraq Capitulation bill in the Spring and its strategy of ratcheting up the pressure on REPUBLICANS in the Summer have been abject failures. But no matter, it ran a stupid ad, became fodder for the GOP, and then raised a lot of money. Very successful, in its way, has been Move On. Barnum knew what he was talking about.

Consider however, if the activists had joined Feingold, Reid, Dodd and the Out of Iraq Caucus in adopting and agitating for the only strategy that can work on Iraq – the not funding strategy. Suppose we had jointly and tirelessly urged our representatives, from the begining of the year, to sign the pledge?

Dear Mr. President:

We are writing to inform you that we will only support appropriating additional funds for U.S. military operations in Iraq during Fiscal Year 2008 and beyond for the protection and safe redeployment of all our troops out of Iraq before you leave office.

More than 3,600 of our brave soldiers have died in Iraq. More than 26,000 have been seriously wounded. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been killed or injured in the hostilities and more than 4 million have been displaced from their homes. Furthermore, this conflict has degenerated into a sectarian civil war and U.S. taxpayers have paid more than $500 billion, despite assurances that you and your key advisors gave our nation at the time you ordered the invasion in March, 2003 that this military intervention would cost far less and be paid from Iraqi oil revenues.

We agree with a clear and growing majority of the American people who are opposed to continued, open-ended U.S. military operations in Iraq, and believe it is unwise and unacceptable for you to continue to unilaterally impose these staggering costs and the soaring debt on Americans currently and for generations to come. . .

Where might we be on this fight? Sadly, we did not. We have not led on this issue. The Netroots has been an utter failure this year.

Pony Party, the Piano

Animation:  The Piano

Pootie:  The Piano

Mozart:  The Piano Sonata C Major K.330 3rd Movement

Please don’t feed the ponies…

Without further ado, the floor is yours.


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