Saturday, February 24, 2007

It's All Just Hunky-Dory

by Sara
The Bush Administration (and a few of our commenters) point to some happy-happy economic news -- Dow up, unemployment down, yadda yadda -- to support the idea that America's economic prospects are Not Really All That Bad. (The very fact that "not that bad" has become an acceptable benchmark should, right there, serve as a warning never to elect a C student to the White House again. Remember when America used to be run by the A students, and nothing less than Excellent was considered acceptable?)

But I'll stand by my assertion that no country can be considered financially sound as long as it's in hock up to the withers to another rising empire that will soon view it as a rival; as long as its consumption is being fueled by consumer debt rather than strong wages and investments; and as long as its entire way of life is utterly dependent on resources that are a) provided by nations that are openly hostile to it and b) rapidly rendering large swaths of the globe uninhabitable.

You can't run a sustainable household that way. You can't run a sustainable nation that way, either.

And now there's this story from McClatchy's Tony Pugh, bearing sobering news that the number of severely poor Americans -- the poorest of us all -- is up over 25% since Bush seized office. Since this is the bottom rung of the economic ladder, it follows that many of those who've landed here in the past five years are former members of the working and middle class who've run on hard times. Pugh writes:
The plight of the severely poor is a distressing sidebar to an unusual economic expansion. Worker productivity has increased dramatically since the brief recession of 2001, but wages and job growth have lagged behind. At the same time, the share of national income going to corporate profits has dwarfed the amount going to wages and salaries. That helps explain why the median household income of working-age families, adjusted for inflation, has fallen for five straight years.
Pugh doesn't mention it, but the two largest categories of people who fall into poverty are women left with kids after a divorce, and people who lose their jobs and access to medical care due to illness or injury. In other words: You can thank "welfare reform" and the world-class disaster that is our health care system for much of this.

And "world-class" pretty much sums up the magnitude of our failures in this area. Pugh writes:
Over the last two decades, America has had the highest or near-highest poverty rates for children, individual adults and families among 31 developed countries, according to the Luxembourg Income Study, a 23-year project that compares poverty and income data from 31 industrial nations.

"It's shameful," said Timothy Smeeding, the former director of the study and the current head of the Center for Policy Research at Syracuse University. "We've been the worst performer every year since we've been doing this study."

With the exception of Mexico and Russia, the U.S. devotes the smallest portion of its gross domestic product to federal anti-poverty programs, and those programs are among the least effective at reducing poverty, the study found. Again, only Russia and Mexico do worse jobs.
The economy may be growing; but for the last 30 years, virtually all of the gains have gone to the top quintile of the economy. This is important because, as Kevin Phillips has been arging for the past 25 years or so, all modern empires require a thriving middle class to survive. Our real prosperity doesn't have much to do with how well the top quintile is doing; but it lives and dies on health of the second, third, and fourth ones. About five years ago, Phillips started warning us that we were hitting the tipping point: America has now passed the wealth inequality levels that prevailed in Spain, the Netherlands, and England when they began to topple. (For the full argument, I refer you to his excellent Wealth and Democracy). That's an important set of statistics, and it reveals yet another deep riptide flowing under the shiny happy surface of the administration's sunny economics reports.

This is a deep structural problem that's not going to be fixed by another wave of home refis and another million Wal-Mart jobs. Paul Krugman wrote that "the concentration of income at the top is a key reason that the United States, for all its economic achievements, has more poverty and lower life expectancy than any other major advanced nation. Above all, the growing concentration of wealth has reshaped our political system: it is at the root both of a general shift to the right and of an extreme polarization of our politics."

If we want a liberal government and a sustainable economy, we have to start by equalizing wealth distribution and restoring the middle class. Until that happens, America is living on borrowed money, borrowed stability, and borrowed time.

The First Annual Liberal Pride Parade

by Sara

It's been fun watching the twists and turns of the comments and links discussing the "Why Protests Don't Work" post. There seems to be dawning consensus that the best way to revive the dying art of demonstration is to return to the first principles of direct action. We need to go out and be the change we seek, rather than plead with someone else to create it for us. Proactively seizing a bad situation and re-creating it to suit your ends evokes a self-sufficiency that strikes me as essentially American. There's also a decent argument to be made that when things get out of whack, this is exactly what the founders intended for us to do.

That's all good -- but, toward the end of that post, I threw out a small idea that's been looming larger in my head over the past day or so. I somewhat dismissively referred to the business-as-usual big street demonstrations that have become our banal protest norm as "Liberal Pride Parades," inferring a similarity to the Gay Pride events which are now held by the hundreds all around the world. The more I play with this idea, the more obvious it seems to me that inaugurating our own tradition of Liberal Pride festivals might really enrich our re-emerging progressive culture.

Nobody could deny the role Pride parades have been played in the development of the gay movement as a cultural force. At first, it was the simple power of merely being both literally and metaphorically out together in public - we're here, we're queer, get used to it. It was a street party; but it also put the community's growing institutional strength on display each year, established a forum for the sharing of energy and ideas, and educated millions of straight people (who, in turn, educated others). Doing this year after year gave local gay communities a reason to get organized, and stay organized -- so when trouble came calling, they could organize to fight it without a moment of confusion or hesitation.

Could it be time to adapt the idea, and start a national movement of Liberal Pride celebrations? Consider the potential benefits:

Building New Community -- There are a lot of corners of the country where the progressive spirit is just starting to stir again after 25 years or more of hibernation. Especially in small or very conservative towns, people who hew left of center are likely to feel pretty isolated. MoveOn, meetups, the growing network of Democratic 50-state organizers are all doing their part to fix this; but an annual Liberal Pride Day could accelerate the process exponentially. Even if the first one is just two dozen people having a barbecue in the city park, getting everyone together face-to-face is the first step toward creating a tangible liberal presence in an area. And, as the event repeats over the years, that presence will grow.

Showing The Flag-- Stepping out into the sunshine once a year will put the smug Republican burghers of middle America on notice that their efforts to make us cower in silence no longer work. We're new. We're blue. Get used to it. And if you try to defund the women's shelter, teach creationism at the high school, or sic the cops on the local minorities, you'll see us all together again at those meetings, too. They may find us annoying and cranky as individuals, but they're going to find out that we can be downright insistent in groups. (But civil. Always civil.)

A Marketplace of Ideas -- Even those of us who live in the big blue coastal cities don't often know about all the groups that are working in our own areas. For us, it's often not that we're so few, but that we are so many -- and doing so many different things that it's hard to keep track of it all. Just once a year, it would be great to get everybody together in one place where we can all see what's going on, and who's doing what.

Take Back Our Name -- It will rehabilitate the long-denigrated L-word in no time flat. Liberal pride. Say it loud, live it proud.

Joy and Hope -- These events should be massively, wildly, unapologetically fun; and fabulous PR for the cause. Without the Seriousness of Purpose required by a demonstration, a Liberal Pride festival can just loosen up and relax. It's a celebration of all things progressive -- and we do it right, the Biggest Asshole Rule kicks in when everyone in town realizes that compared to us, the conservatives are bunch of uptight, self-righteous stuffed shirts who couldn't throw a decent party if Reagan's resurrection depended on it.

And where there's fun, there's hope. People, we have gotten pretty dismal over the past 30 years. And I hate to break it to you -- but, as desperate as this nation is, nobody follows pessimists. We are not going to get our political mojo back for good until we remember how to find joy in this work again. Pride celebrations could be a place to start rediscovering the lost art of raising hell and having fun.

Stepping Up For Our Own -- There are a lot of big businesses now that depend heavily on progressives as the core of their market. Whole Foods, Working Assets, REI -- corporations like this have healthy event sponsorship budgets, and we might as well be getting our share of that resource. It's beyond time for progressive businesses to invest in their community as eagerly as conservative businesses have always bankrolled the communities on their side. And it's always good for local activists to know who the money people are: you never know when you might need other favors from them.

Restoring the Work/Play Balance -- Having an annual just-for-fun day would enable us to offload this social function from demonstrations and protests. It seems like a lot of people turn out for demonstrations because they enjoy the street party, and the sense of connection with the larger left community. Unfortunately, as I noted below, this diverse and celebratory atmosphere usually works against the intent of the protest, too often diluting the focus and message into utter incoherence and making any kind of real paradigm-busting direct action damned near impossible.

If we have annual events specifically dedicated diversity and celebration and scratching that street party itch, it might liberate our protests to evolve into other more creative, focused, and effective forms. Like King Bertram, when we work, we'll really work. And when we play, we'll really play. Both will be vastly better when we stop trying to conflate the two into the same events.

In Times of Trouble -- Probably the most important function of all: These events increase our security. In an era when eliminationist rhetoric against liberals apparently knows no limits, we shouldn't wait around for trouble to arrive to find out who our friends are and what they're capable of. An annual gathering of the local tribe would maintain the networks we'll depend on, giving us far more power to mount a fast, strong, effective defense if the right's inflammatory words should ever finally ignite into action.

Liberal Pride. Am I right about this? Is it an idea whose time has come?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Other Nightmare

by Sara

Dave's been saying for four years now that we're just one catastrophe away from turning into a full-on authoritarian state.

Most people have assumed that it would take another terror attack to trigger a mass flight toward fascism. But I've had another, far more tangible nightmare in mind -- and it's disturbingly similar to the one Mike Whitney at The Smirking Chimp tells us is occuring right now.

The Fundamentalist tide has been ebbing a bit over the past year, even as the various right-wing fascist factions have been enjoying one of their periodic resurgences. Both are still plenty strong enough to grab hold of an economic meltdown and ride it to power.

And this one is looking less like "if" and more like "when" -- where the value of "when" is defined as "soon."

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Why Protests Don't Work...And Why They Do

by Sara

Way back last May (yes, I realize I'm coming very late to this party, but bear with me here), Barbara at Mahablog wrote a post on Protesting 101 that was so plangent it's still being discussed here and there, even now. In it, she provided six basic rules for demonstrations that should be tattooed on the foreheads of activists everywhere:
1. Be Serious.
2. Be unified of purpose.
3. Good protesting is good PR.
4. Size matters.
5. Be sure your opposition is uglier/more hateful/snottier than you are.
6. Demonstrations are not enough.
I've been musing about these rules for the past few weeks, ever since a long discussion over in the comments at the News Blog got me thinking about my mixed feelings about demonstrations. Having spent most of my adult life in the Bay Area -- a corner of the country perhaps more given to taking to the streets than any other -- I've seen my share, and have come to a place that I generally find most of them generic, ignorable, predictable, and pointless.

And yet, and Barbara and many others have pointed out, there have been demonstrations in the past that were, quite obviously, not pointless. Somehow, once in a while, someone stages a bit of civic theater that crashes through the collective wall of unreality and rearranges our perspective, becoming a landmark event after which nothing else is ever the same. There are few Americans who don't carry their own mental pictures of the Montgomery bus strike, the Woolworth lunch counter sit-ins, the crowd on the Edmund Pettis bridge, the first Earth Day events, the Battle in Seattle, or the shining sea of brown people in white shirts at last year's immigration rallies. Unforgettable moments, all.

Why are these events are still so resonant -- some of them still echoing down through 50 years and more -- while other, often bigger, demonstrations fail to change a thing? I got to thinking about it, and I think I've come up with some core answers that I'd like to set out for discussion.

Too many protest organizers work from the assumption that a demonstration is a parade, a media event, or a public party. The game is scored by bodies in the street, and the size of the crowd photo on the six o'clock news. The problem, of course, is that this focus on the numbers often leads to a lack of focus in the message; and if the police undercount the numbers (which they do), or the media decide to put their focus elsewhere (which they do), then you've just turned out 100,000 people for nothing. And when all that effort changes nothing, it adds to the general sense that protests are a waste of time and nobody should bother.

The demonstrations that break out of the box have not always been parades. Only a few looked like a public party. However, they do all have one essential quality in common: They were well-executed guerilla attacks on our cultural assumptions, carefully designed to smash the dominant paradigms, re-shape the way we reckon the possibilities, and change the terms of the conversation forever. And in every case, their success in achieving that goal stood on four solid principles -- all of which seem to be necessary for a really effective demonstration to occur.

Reality Hacking
First, every effective protest is a paradigm-buster. It takes an unthinkable, unimaginable idea -- gay couples by the hundreds, grinning in their gowns and tuxes on the steps of City Hall as they clutch their newly minted-marriage licenses, for example -- and suddenly, stunningly, turns it into a concrete, here-and-now reality. And once that reality has been brought into existence, even if only for a few hours, days, or weeks, it's like releasing a genie that can never be stuffed back in the bottle. The terms of the conversation shift forever. The old structures are broken. Reality finds itself scooting over to make room for the new order.

And so it happened that Southerners who couldn't feature sitting next to a black person at a lunch counter, eating tuna sandwiches and drinking sweet tea, saw it happening with their own eyes -- and realized they'd survive it. And The Powers That Be who tried to gather for a simple WTO meeting in Seattle were forced to accept the impossible idea there would be no meetings held, there or anywhere, until they gave a seat at the table to The Power That Is Us. And those of us whose comfortable lives depend on an host of invisible, silent, legally non-existent angels who clean our houses and mow our lawns and pick our crops woke up one day to see them gathered all together on the streets, half a million strong and shining in their innocent white, ending the silence with a single roaring voice -- and were finally forced to reckon with their existence as human beings among us.

These were all protests (and you can, no doubt, think of others) that grabbed some element of the present and yanked it sharply and unexpectedly toward a very different future. Reality hacking is the magic that made them work. It's also the missing ingredient that makes so may other protests fail.

If you're not sure your protest qualifies as a paradigm-buster, just ask yourself: "How much trouble do we stand to cause with this?" Breaking paradigms is almost always transgressive. If the order you're out to change is enshrined in cultural assumptions, unspoken or formal agreements, or unjust laws, then your protest (if you're doing it right) will deliberately confront and challenge those assumptions, gleefully shatter those agreements, or outright break those laws. The protests we remember all picked out one lone sacred cow, and butted up against it hard enough to put participants at serious risk. It's not work for the faint of heart; and it doesn’t always (or even usually) look like a party.

Second: You can't lead people into change until you first win their trust. And, to do that, you need to look like you know what you're doing, present a strong vision for where you're going, and behave in ways that people find inspiring. There should be joy -- change-makers from Mother Jones to Molly Ivins have always told us that raising hell is joyful work -- but even joy takes a back seat to confidence and clear focus when you're trying to get people to embrace your vision of change.

The beauty of trust is the effect is has not just on followers, but also on fence-sitters. People who resist change fear loss (and the fear of losing the structures that support one's culture or identity is often more terrifying than the prospect of economic loss). But once the unthinkable has happened -- even if only for a day -- resistance can begin to soften. OK, that happened. And hey, look! The world didn't end! Besides, the people who are backing this seem to be the decent sort. Maybe we can talk to them. Maybe they know what they're doing. Maybe this change can go ahead and happen, after all; and we'll still be all right when it's over. When people start having these conversations with themselves and each other, you're on the way to winning the battle for hearts and minds.

Barbara's first three rules -- the ones about seriousness, unity of purpose, and attention to PR -- go right to the heart of creating this kind of trust. She writes:
I know they’re called “protests,” but your central purpose is to win support for your cause. You want people looking on to be favorably impressed. You want them to think, wow, I like these people. They’re not crazy. They’re not scary. I think I will take them seriously….That means you should try not to be visibly angry, because angry people are scary. Anger is not good PR. Grossing people out is not good PR. Yelling at people that they’re stupid for not listening to you is not good PR. Screaming the F word at television camera crews is not good PR.
I'd add that inviting everybody and their St. Bernard to your protest just to get the numbers up is not always good PR, either, if the price you have to pay is the dilution of clarity, consistency, focus, and the chance to create that trust. A hundred thousand people representing 47 different causes isn't a meaningful attempt at social change. TV images of half-naked weirdos do not build trust. In the end, it's just another street parade, with all the usual suspects. You can't blame the media for not bothering to cover it; after all, it's not particularly serious or credible, and it's not saying anything new.

Which brings us to the third principle.

Size Doesn't Matter -- But Planning Does
It's often noted that Rosa Parks was part of a vast, well-organized, and extremely focused movement that had been planning its protest for months, if not years. Yet, came the day, their well-built cultural bomb was detonated by just one woman, one bus, one action -- which was then backed up by the rippling effects of the subsequent bus strike, which included the efforts of thousands.

Barbara's fourth rule is that size matters, but there are abundant examples proving that that's not always the case. Some of the greatest moments in protest history involved just one person, or a small group of people -- always backed up by a solid organization that stood by to seize the moment, and run with it. Planning matters. Good execution matters. Staying on message matters. Being able to back up your single actors with immediate, well-organized, meaningful action matters. The number of people you can turn into the streets matters sometimes, too -- but only if it's in the service of a larger goal, like stopping the WTO representatives from getting to their meetings, or (in the case of last year's immigration rallies, or the early Gay Pride parades) providing incontrovertible proof that that you exist. Without that kind of tangible, overarching goal, it's just another party.

The Bigger Asshole Rule
Barbara's fifth rule is also my fourth one:
Be sure your opposition is uglier/more hateful/snottier than you are…. I think Cindy Sheehan’s encampment in Crawford last August, although a relatively small group, was such a success because of the contrast between Sheehan and the Snot-in-Chief cruising by in his motorcade without so much as a how d’you do. Truly, if Bush had invited the Sheehan crew over for lemonade and a handshake, the show would’ve been over. But he didn’t…
…You don’t win support by being assholes. You win support by showing the world that your opponents are assholes.
This is, of course, why Gandhi and King were so insistent on teaching people the arts of non-violent confrontation -- a skill set whose entire purpose is to make your opposition look like the bigger asshole. Anybody who puts you at risk of losing your cherished position on the moral high ground needs to be immediately excused from your protest. As Barbara noted, a high-profile, high-risk attack on consensus reality is no time to indulge individual egos in "look at me look at me look at me" attention grabs.

And Finally
This isn’t intended as a criticism of street parades organized around events like ending the war, supporting abortion rights, and so on. A lot of us really enjoy attending these events. They're like Liberal Pride Parades, showcasing the diversity and glory that is Us. It's healthy to be out on the streets together, seeing each other, exchanging ideas and energy, and affirming things we believe in. They're educational: you can bring the kids, and introduce skeptical friends. They're opportunities for creative self-expression. They're community-building. They're sanity-inducing. These are good and important goals on their own, and they deserve to be supported.

But most of us have long since realized that the Liberal Pride Parade style of protest invariably disappoints as a vehicle for creating immediate, direct, and lasting social change. For that, I think we need a different kind of event -- one that's built around a visionary, paradigm-shattering reality hack that's courageously transgressive, designed to inspire other people's confidence in the change process, well-organized to seize both the moment and the moral high ground, and determined not let go until the desired change happens.

When we understand what lies at the beating heart of a truly history-making demonstration, we'll be on our way out of the numbers-game trap -- and back on track toward creating innovative forms of protest that successfully crack open the consensus reality, and let a little light of new possibility shine through.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Taking a break

by Dave

I'm leaving early tomorrow morning for a weeklong, long-planned family trip to the Yucatan, where we'll be mostly touring the archeological sites. I briefly contemplated taking my laptop along, but then realized that most of the trip will be in places where Internet connectivity is unlikely at best and at the least a complication I won't need.

I will be doing some reporting while I'm down there -- mostly trying to get a sense for the Mayan reaction to Mel Gibson's film about them, Apocalypto. But I won't be able to file anything until I return.

In the meantime, I'll leave you in Sara's more than capable hands. I think she has some special posts in store for the coming week.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Bigotry and subversion

by Dave
Bill Donohue's "gook joke," from back in September of 2003, has been making the rounds lately:
DONOHUE: Look, just hold on here. You had your time. Look, the kid's a phony and here's why. I dealt with him earlier today on an MSNBC show, and I said we could hypothesize that there'd be a Columbia University ping-pong team made of Asians, and somebody goes out there and says "All gooks go home." So I — I asked him about my gook joke. And guess what? Andy's — Andy's sense of humor just collapsed. He found that offensive. You see what you are? You're a phony. You're a typical Ivy League little brat who thinks it's OK to dump on Catholics, but you don't like my gook joke. Now, what's wrong with a gook joke?

HAO: Can I respond?


HAO: All right. Here's the thing. I mean, first of all, it's completely a false analogy.

DONOHUE: No, it isn't! You attacked my religion!

A lot of commenters have observed, naturally, how this incident is a prime example of the highly selective claims of bigotry that have been part of Donohue's modus operandi for many years now. But if you examine it a little more carefully, you can see how Donohue and the Catholic League's larger argument rests upon a logical fallacy -- namely, he equates subversion with bigotry, when in truth subversion is more often than not a weapon against bigotry.

Let's be clear: There is such a thing as anti-Catholic bigotry, and there is a history of it in America. Most notoriously, the Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s was in fact only incidentally anti-black and anti-Semitic, its chief attributes today; back then, it was first and foremost violently anti-Catholic.

These events occurred in a context in which, in fact, Catholics were an "out group" minority, often Irish immigrants against whom British-style bigotry was a commonhood beginning in the mid-19th century. The Klan and other nativistg bigots were fond of raising conspiratorial fears about the "papists" who, it was argued, served at the behest of the Vatican and were therefore unfit Americans. It was in response to this kind of bigotry, in fact, that the Catholic League was originally formed.

It is the nature of bigotry, in fact, that it represents the cultural majority's assertion of dominance over minorities, particularly those minorities that might undermine or subvert that dominance. And it typically does so in crude and violent ways. It is in the nature of bigotry not only that it unleashes the worst of human nature -- the viciousness of the bully as he victimizes the "little guy" -- but that it is profoundly damaging to a healthy democratic society.

However, there is an even broader context involved here -- namely, the Catholic Church's long history as a bigoted force itself, related to its centuries-long status as the dominant cultural and political force in Western Civilization. This includes its history of persecution of certain minorities in the name of ostensible religious beliefs, as well as its suppression of women and their roles in and out of the church. These range from pogroms against Jews dating back to the Crusades to the persecution of Protestants in various regions of Europe in later ages, and has continued well into the current age -- from Father Coughlin's rampant anti-Semitism earlier in the 20th century to its ongoing discrimination against homosexuals and suppression of women's reproductive rights.

Over the centuries, the Church's dogma and doctrine, as well as its behavior, have been criticized on many grounds, most especially because of their larger social harm -- embodied, perhaps, by the backwardness inherent in its various wars against the advance of science. Most of the time, this criticism has been a form of subversion -- the polar opposite of bigotry.

Whereas bigotry is always about the bullying majority inflicting itself upon the "little guys", subversion is about the individual working to undermine majoritarian oppression. Most critics of the Catholic Church throughout history have been opposed to bigotry and in favor of individual freedom -- and often suffered persecution for it.

Somehow, Donohue has managed a neat trick: converting subversion into bigotry, pretending that subversive criticism of Church doctrine, intended to fight oppression, is actually a form of bigotry, also a form oppression. Simultaneously, he openly practices bigotry -- and pretends that it's just an expression of his individual freedom.

It is a classic case of Newspeak -- twisting language to convert the real meaning of words into their near-opposite, thereby rendering them meaningless. When it comes to obvious bigots like Donohue, the motivation for rendering a concept like "bigotry" meaningless couldn't be more clear.

The sole reason to be glad Al Gore did not win in 2000

Joe Lieberman would be vice president today.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Moving On From MoveOn

by Sara

I canceled my membership in this week. And since I can't tell them why (which, in fact, factors largely into the decision), I thought I'd at least use my soapbox here to let the rest of you know why.

Three years ago last month, I moved from a small town near San Francisco to Vancouver, BC. At the time I moved, I dutifully went to the website and notified them of my address change -- giving them my new US address in northwestern Washington State. MoveOn events, I figured, would be a great way of getting to meet likeminded people closer to my new home.

Four months later, the address change still hadn't registered. I was still getting invitations to events in San Mateo, CA; but nothing about gatherings in Bellingham, WA. So I pinged them again.

A year later. Two years later. Three years later. The California event notices just kept coming (and the Bellingham events, assuming there were any, just kept getting missed.) I've gone to that damned website at least half a dozen times to try to put through an effective address change. When that failed, I hunted through the website to find the contact page (it's completely buried -- always a warning sign that a siteowner does not want to hear from you), and then tried to send them e-mail directly, in the fond hope somebody on their end would take pity on me and fix it manually. No luck: You can send MoveOn an e-mail, but nobody will ever, ever read it.

Last Tuesday -- 37 months after my move -- I got yet another invitation to another event near my old house. At which point, I simply gave up.

I liked being part of MoveOn. I was among their first 100,000 members, since founder Wes Boyd is an old friend a of my older brother's going back to the days when Wes was still building After Dark. Wes and Joan were pioneers. Tech futurists were talking about how the Web would change democracy; they went out and gave us the first serious proof of that concept.

In that sense, joining up was a family thing. I hosted MoveOn events in my old house, gave a lot of money, believed in what they were doing.

Last week, though, it finally hit me that any organization that's too brain-dead and unresponsive to process a simple address change request for three full years-- and, furthermore, has surrounded itself with a such a high Chinese Wall that its own members have utterly no way to contact it to rectify mistakes -- should not be trusted with any amount of money. Furthermore: any group working for greater political transparency shouldn't be so incommunicado that it can't even manage simple housekeeping tasks. If they have no functional way to correct even this most kind of basic error, you have to wonder about any claims they make about the quality of their member data.

So, regretfully, I've moved on. We've got other options now anyway, so perhaps its time is simply past.

Updated with corrections