Monday, August 29, 2011

Truth Among Friends

The Weekly Sift has moved. Check our our new digs at

Though we love both the truth and our friends, piety requires us to honor the truth first.

-- Aristotle

In this week's sift:

  • Barack, Can We Talk? I can live with the budget compromises, even if I don't like them. But we need you to build a Democratic brand and defend a progressive view of reality. When you start repeating deceptive Republican rhetoric -- that's just wrong.
  • A Primary Issues Guide. As the Republican presidential campaign gets national attention, any misinformation the major candidates agree on is going to get a big boost. Let's try to head that off.
  • Irene and Uncle Sam, and other short notes. Natural disasters underline the importance of government, unless you're Ron Paul.
  • Last week's most popular post. Traffic went crazy last week. Why I Am Not a Libertarian is about to pass 17,000 hits. The previous week's One Word Turns the Tea Party Around picked up a second wind on Thursday and had over 4,000 hits this week, pushing it above 6,000. (About 400 came from a link on this knitting blog. Thanks, Norma.) Both totals are higher than any previous post in the Weekly Sift's 3 1/2 year history.
  • This week's challenge. Add a comment to an article on a news web site. (At some sites you might have to register, but it's easy and free.) Short comments hit hardest, and there are some simple comparisons worth making: Our Libya intervention was so much smarter than our Iraq intervention. And Irene got handled a lot better than Katrina.

Monday, August 22, 2011


As long as the world shall last there will be wrongs, and if no man objected and no man rebelled, those wrongs would last forever.

-- Clarence Darrow

In this week's Sift:

  • Why I Am Not a Libertarian. I still remember the points I found so convincing when I was a 19-year-old Libertarian. But 35 years later the world looks very different to me.
  • Horse Race 2012. In general the corporate media over-covers the presidential horserace, and I hate to compound the problem. But they also cover it badly, so now-and-then I feel like I have to comment.
  • The Great Flabbergasting and other short notes. Rachel Maddow coined an amusing term for a head-shaking phenomenon: Republicans turn against their own ideas as soon as President Obama adopts them. Meanwhile, Jon Stewart confronts ideas that billionaire Warren Buffett is a socialist and that the poor should have their taxes raised before the rich.
  • Last week's most popular post. Last week was something of a break-out for the Weekly Sift. One Word Turns the Tea Party Around just passed 1900 hits on the blog, in addition to the via email or RSS. And when I cross-posted it on Daily Kos, it drew over 800 recommendations and 224 comments. What's more, these blog visitors showed some signs of hanging around: The second-most-popular post last week was the Who Am I and Why I Started the Weekly Sift post that is always up. The popular posts of previous weeks have been driven by Reddit; One Word was driven by Facebook. Thanks to all of you who linked and liked and otherwise helped get it out there.
  • This week's challenge. When you hand your money to a big corporation, chances are a slice of it will go to ALEC or the Chamber of Commerce and be used to promote corporate rights over human rights. In the economy as it currently exists, you can't avoid corporations completely unless you're ready to live like the Amish. But chances are you can find some way to give them less of your money. This week, investigate whether a credit union could serve you better than a bank. Or patronize a locally-owned shop or restaurant, a farmer's market, or some other human-scale business rather than a national chain.

The Weekly Sift has moved to

    Monday, August 15, 2011

    Turn Back

    Turn back, O Man.
    Forswear thy foolish ways

    Clifford Bax (1919)

    In this week's Sift:

    • One Word Turns the Tea Party Around. Want to transform annoying Tea Party rhetoric into motivating Progressive rhetoric? It's easy: Just replace all occurrences of government withcorporations. Who knew that Rand Paul, Ayn Rand, and Ronald Reagan could make so much sense?
    • Building the Rioters of the Future. Pundits tried very hard to stuff the British riots into some simple box: a crime spree, a revolution, bad parenting, mass insanity. When that failed, they proclaimed the violence a great mystery. But is it really so hard to understand why people with little to lose would loot or burn?
    • After Wisconsin. Tuesday, Wisconsin Democrats picked up two seats in staunch Republican districts, but fell short of re-taking the state senate. So was that a win or a loss? And now we move on to Ohio.
    • Noah's Dinosaurs and other short notes. Should a Bible theme park get tax breaks? Is it OK for a county board to begin its meetings by praying to Jesus? How the Republican 2012 field looks after the Ames Straw poll. Global warming in one graphic. Mitt Romney embraces corporate personhood, and the DNC strikes back. What countries are still AAA? Socialist ones, mostly.
    • Last week's most popular post.Voter Suppression 101 had 464 views at last count. Last week's most-clicked link backed up my claim (in Voter Suppression) that the League of Women Voters has stopped registering voters in Florida in response to a voter-suppression law there.
    • This Week's Challenge is only a little self-serving: Figure out how you can draw more attention to the kinds of things you like. If you've mostly been a passive user of social media, figure out how to Like or Link or Retweet. Or sign up at Reddit or Digg or StumbleUpon and start trying to influence the wisdom of crowds.


    The Weekly Sift has moved to

      Monday, August 8, 2011

      The People Repelled

      The discussion shows that are supposed to add to public understanding may actually reduce it, by hammering home the message that "issues" don't matter except as items for politicians to squabble about. ... The press, which in the long run cannot survive if people lose interest in politics, is acting as if its purpose was to guarantee that people are repelled by public life.

      James Fallows, Breaking the News (1995)

      In this week's sift:

      • Voter Suppression 101. Imagine you are a politician who serves only the top 1%. What's your plan for getting enough votes to win?
      • Tea By Any Other Name. After the disastrous end of the Bush administration, conservatives used their money and media power to ditch the wounded Republican label and rebrand themselves as the new (and therefore blameless) Tea Party. Now that the Tea Party's public image is tanking, how long before they try the same trick again?
      • A Week of Down. Bad as it looked, the debt-ceiling deal was supposed to keep the stock market from crashing and the ratings agencies from downgrading our bonds. Funny how that worked out.
      • The Solar Oil Field and Other Short Notes. Oman uses solar to bring up more oil. Protesting Obama's 50th birthday. Sponge Bob, propagandist. The E-Trade baby loses everything. Matt Damon sticks up for teachers. The EPA saves money. And a manufactured snub of Easter.
      • Last week's most popular post. At last count Confessions of a Centrist in Exile had received 240 views on the blog. The most-clicked-link was the solar-powered bikini.
      • This week's challenge. Six Republican state senators face recall elections in Wisconsin tomorrow. If three of them lose, the state Senate flips to the Democrats. This would send a powerful message to state governments around the country about union-busting and favoring corporations over people. It's too late for your money to do much good, but they need people to make get-out-the-vote phone calls and you can do it from home.

      A special note to RSS subscribers. If you read the Sift via Google Reader or some other RSS reader, you've probably noticed all the out-of-date posts you're getting. Here's what's happening: When I moved the Sift to a few weeks ago, the archived posts didn't transfer perfectly. So I've been fixing them little by little. Unfortunately, those fixes have been showing up in the RSS feed as if they were "updates". I'm not sure what to do about this other than just get the fixes done as fast as possible. Any Weekly Sift post that shows up on anything other than a Monday is the result of this glitch. My apologies.

      Monday, August 1, 2011

      Not Going Home

      The Weekly Sift has moved to
      You should adjust your bookmarks and RSS subscriptions accordingly.
      In the meantime, I'll continue posting weekly summaries here that will link to the new blog.

      Home is a name, a word, it is a strong one; stronger than magician ever spoke, or spirit ever answered to, in the strongest conjuration.

      -- Charles Dickens, Martin Chuzzlewit (1844)

      In this week's Sift:

      • Confessions of a Centrist in Exile. My natural home is in the Center, not the Left. But I can't go back there now, and I don't know if I ever will.
      • The Mosler Proposals. If you believed (as Warren Mosler does) that in the current economy government spending cannot create any kind of problem -- short term or long -- what would you do?
      • Short Notes. Obama surrenders to the Tea Party. Even the Tooth Fairy is cutting benefits. Solar-powered bikinis. Apple is the new boss, same as the old boss. How much of a nuisance is it to get a voter ID? Southampton University prints an airplane. Why not let environmentalists bid on oil rights? Good ratings didn't save Cenk Uygur. If the victim is Planned Parenthood, it's not terrorism. Perry is the new Republican favorite. And Jon Stewart takes on conservative delusions of victimization.
      • Last week's most popular post. The Dog Whistle Defined got 360 views.
      • This week's challenge. This week's challenge is to keep your spirits up. The news has been relentlessly negative for some while, and that's probably going to continue this week. Breathe. Look at the sky. Find somebody young enough to get excited when you propose playing a silly game. Things change, and it won't be long until you feel like changing them yourself.