A lot of noise is filling the Twittersphere about the "UniteBlue" idea.  I've posed some questions, as have others, and @eileenLeft has alleged some skulduggery about @SayethSimon.  

As usual, #p2 trolls, whacks and  just people not particularly fair minded have jumped on any new criticism of anything they have decided to like as if someone just shot their pony through the nutsack.  Such people don't serve progressive interests well, in my view, but others find them interesting and entertaining, so in the name of diversity, I ignore most of their incessant blithering and bleating.  I am sure this post will be like chum in the water for the hatriots and acrimony trolls. But then, almost anything I say, write or tweet usually is. So there's that.

Anyway, as he should have, UniteBlue's founder Zach Green responded to some of this dust-up with some much needed clarification about UniteBlue. This was all good. Unfortunately, he also went on to mischaracterize some valid criticism, questions, and observations about connections to his past clients as  "smears." They were not. At least none that I saw were. If discussing your lack of apparent lack transparency, or some of your past commercial clients is "smearing" you, you're just in the wrong line of work.  I sincerely hope he will update his post and soften some of that criticism of his critics. That tone may play well to his membership faithful, but it won't to too many others, nor to future commercial or nonprofit clients. They can be very senstive about appearances.

 

What follows is my reply to Zach Green's  post. I don't know if he'll post it, but from what I've seen of his character thus far, I think that he will.

Update:  He never published this, nor did he publish the comments of most other critics. So net net, his post was a puff piece meant to bullshit everyone and make excuses for an unethical launch using other people's work. I was disappointed. I expected more. 

Note: there are a few grammatical edits and typo edits made here that were not in the original comment.


Zach, thank you for finally making a public statement about this. And FAQ was long overdue, in my view. I don’t assume you are speaking directly to me in your post, but as you touch on many things I did in our tweet exchange, let me respond as if you had.

As I tweeted to you the other day, respectful responses to criticism and questions only make you and your projects stronger. I am adamant about fairness, and if things said about you and/or UniteBlue (UB) are untrue, I’ll be the first to help set the record straight. I have before, and I will again.

As it stands now, this statement from you serves as a public record, and you have made numerous assertions that can and will be checked out by people much smarter than me.  I assume they will check-out as you have represented them. In the meantime, permit me a few responses and comments to your words. 

To begin with, regardless of how this all pans out, your rather cavalier response to questions  like “Are you making money?" read as if such questions are of trivial  consequence, a tone which just does not serve you well. If you were building a better word processor for progressives, no one would much care.  But the buzz you are generating (and nurturing) about UB is much more aspirational in tone.  

Both you and your more engaged members speak almost reverentially of  UB as a nascent "movement" with clear political goals, objectives, and implications for Progressives. Goals and objectives which you admitted to me are not all that clearly articulated, nor yet presented anywhere coherently. A marketing-oriented “About” document on your site is not the best way to describe a serious idea aimed at social change. In fact, this FAQ, written as a defensive instrument, is the clearest discussion of the questions and issues that your project presents which I, or anyone else I have spoken with has yet seen. 

When any commercial business aspires to be an instrument of social change, it gets into territory that it often didn’t initially prepare for. Only the naive or delusional would suggest that motives, money, credibility,  and veracity are unimportant to a fledgling political project of the sort that UB purports to become.  Not being prepared, nor having good answers for obvious questions can and has been a fatal mistake for many efforts of this sort.  Change.org and other success stories were armed and ready for such questions from their very first press release and yet even they still run afoul of many people who feel deceived by the shifting ground on which their business model was based. UB does not have their backstory, players, or resources. It has to be even more careful. 

Had it been me, I would have formed a non-profit, built a solid board of advisors, and fully disclosed that it had a favored-nations agreement with 140dev.com to use its technology. That’s just how it’s done in the major leagues, these days. Your project would then be at least partially accountable to people outside your immediate business interests.

So yes, UB should have been more careful about its launch posture, in my opinion, but what’s done is done—at least thus far. Even so, I think more discussion of what I see as unforced errors may be instructive here.  

You repeat again in your FAQ that your boilerplate “privacy” document has some particular illuminative value that shines some light on your veracity and credibility with respect to your downstream ambitions. It does not. You admit it was acquired from the web, yet when I showed you what was in it, you didn’t even know it permitted precisely the use of email addresses which  you implied that it did not. I asked you directly, not if you would ‘rent’ your email lists to anyone, but rather, whether you would send product or service mailings that were of interest to your clients (a very big distinction). 

As I noted in my tweets to you, your privacy  document clearly said you reserve the right to do just that. You have yet to clarify explicitly what you will and won’t do with your access to your members, either via the twitter API, or the emails and other information you are acquiring.  You need to do that, and be much less evasive about such questions in the future or they can come back to haunt you.

As for your overall operational model, I wish you had reached out to more of the Twitter community 8 months ago. As a long standing member of the #p2 community,  I have watched many ideas for community sites, filters and directories come and go. I have seen almost your exact model in several forms proposed, and expressed the same qualms about them that Karoli has in her blog post which I will cite here:

http://www.drumsnwhistles.com/2013/02/26/this-uniteblue-scuffle-is-twitters-fault-and-they-could-fix-it-if-they-felt-like-it/

Who is UniteBlue,  many have a right to ask, to rule on who is and isn’t a “top progressive?” By itself, the idea is offensive to many, but as Karoli implicitly suggests, you also take on the role of arbiter of who is not one, and even who is not a progressive at all.  It would probably take me about one day to embed a dozen or more conservative trolls into your “validated progressives list, and you would have absolutely no way to prevent it.  You’ve already found many already, but they were just fails in your software, and not the work of professional false flag operatives,or other kinds of black-op thugs, goons, spies and trolls.

Since you provide absolutely no insight into your magical process for verification, I can only assume you would be fully prepared to explain why it failed so miserably once I—or someone else—proved that it did. 

And what about your liability? What if one of your validated progressives turns out to be one of the many paid political operatives on the right that I, and my many Progressive friends have been battling with for years?  They would skillfully plant disinformation or outright lies into your streams and it would be a daily struggle to discover, stop, or counteract  them.  As it stands now, they still have to work pretty hard to run such propaganda operations.  Your “validated lists” would make it so simple, they’d take turns doing it daily. I haven’t checked, but I’d bet they already are. 

The @uniteblueLOL account shows they are already well aware of you, and I will bet real money that a lot of them are already busy creating clever ways to game you and your membership. It’s what they do, and it’s why such focused identity groups (and avatar campaigns) like UB have been rejected time and time again by many others.  It’s also why you will have a very hard time getting notable Progressives and celebrities to join you. They aren’t going to risk their cred by taking a flyer on yours, or your super-duper, deluxe progressive identification algorithms.

Now, as to your statements about @ConnectTheLeft and  @SayethSimon, they  are just not supported by any evidence, and are directly contradicted by her version of events; by several witnesses to CTL conference calls; by CTL team members, and by the massive public record called Topsy.com seaches.  

Clearly, someone is lying, and I don’t think it is EileenLeft—or you.  Eileen's well known passion, efforts, and trademarks for CTL would certainly seem to put the burden of evidence on Simon to show that it is she who is lying.  There are virtually no meaningful facts to be found in his “statement of truth”.  There are unsubstantiated claims; claims that seem to project everything Eileen’s team knew to be true about Simon, onto her.  The record indicates otherwise, as far as I’ve been able to tell.

Other people are at work debunking his missive (which I assume will soon be posted here), so I won’t steal their thunder, but when all the smoke dissipates, Simon says  little beyond providing a connnecttheleft.com receipt, which no one contests was his, a @connecttheleft Twitter account  receipt  and some assertions that team members will defend him (but he doesn’t name them). Perhaps he and Eileen should hash this out in a Google hangout to clear the air for good.We can all watch.

Simon’s posturing is not helped by the fact that I asked him several times in private if he did what Eileen had alleged. He took hours to not respond.   A simple "no" would have sufficed. Instead,  we got him claiming credit for something that thousands watched @eileenleft doing every day. His name has rarely if ever publicly came up in connection with CTL, beyond someone enthusiastically supporting it, as many did.

Eileen’s  story is that his only involvement was to rapidly squat on the connecttheleft.com URL, a fact he confirms in his letter, some fervent tweets, and a few drunken conference call rants about his legendary music industry accomplishments. I found this amusing, as to me, he claimed to have been an aspiring web designer. Music never came up. Ever. I don't know him well enough to know what is true and what isn't. But perhaps you do. 

Regardless, whatever Simon said to you about CTL’s origins is in no way an indictment of you or UB. What he allegedly did, if true, as I believe it is based on evidence I have seen is simply disgusting. But you may have felt everything he represented was true, and bear no blame for believing what he claimed was true. Does admitting that  muss UB’s hair a bit? Sure. But so what?  A worthy  project can overcome that. Just say you didn’t know, apologize for lending any credence to his smear, thank her for her contributions, and everyone moves on. 

Finally, having seen many posts and postures, I don’t think either I, nor anyone else has been engaged in “smearing” you or your efforts. They have asked questions, discussed issues, questioned assumptions, and reacted to your tweets and various revelations about a very popular progressive alleging harm to her. That’s just the price anyone pays for conducting their business in the social sphere. It can all be resolved civily and in good faith through public exchanges like these.

As I have said, I don’t agree that UB, as currently constructed, is a very good idea. But progressives often disagree with each other and I am certainly not going to expend any time or bullets attacking you or UB over a difference of opinion. It may well morph into something I could enthusiastically embrace. I’d welcome that. 

Regards,
Matt(a.k.a. Shoq)

Related

You have probably heard by now, that the Republicans, under the leadership of the ethically-challenged Reince Priebus, are actively "investigating" a plan to subvert our democracy by rigging the Electoral College in their favor. In a nutshell, the idea is to allocate electoral votes in key battleground states by congressional district. This means that all those little rural red districts, which outnumber the far fewer blue districts (with all the big cities and people in them), would get far more votes.

Thus, had this rigged system been in place in 2012, Mitt Romney would have just been sworn in as our president. And if it's put in place for the 2016 election, there is no almost no way a Democrat could ever garner enough electoral votes to win the White House. It would be game over for Democrats, and likely the same for the progressive agenda that Barack Obamas has finally advanced after decades of inaction. 

Unfortunately, Article II of the U.S, Constitution would let the Republicans do this, and get away with it, if they chose to do it. While legal challenges would surely result, the constitutional foundation of the ploy would probably be upheld by the Supreme Court. 

We now know that once again, the pure evil  @Alec_states is the organization behind the curtain that has been promoting  this really bad idea, and have been slowly cultivating it for a long time. I am not exactly surprised. 

As I see it, about the only way to stop them is a massive public outcry that rattles House members to their core, and makes them think the perception of election rigging would cost them their seats. Thus, they would pressure key votes in their respective state legislatures to back away from this vulgar manipulation of the process. Hopefully, Democrats will regain the House in the 2014 midterms, and some kind of legistlative action, short of a constitutional amendment, could create future obstacles to this national-level gerrymandering. But I don't have much hope of that. The best course is to make Republicans feel the pain, pre-emptively, and encourage them to seek the White House the old fashioned way: by winning elections fairly.

I won't waste more words trying to summarize this mess any further. It's best to read those bloggers and journalists following the matter day-by-day. Start here, with Maddow's first "wake up call" broadcast. Then read the key details of this plot from @crooksandliars/@Karoli, and a larger analysis by The Nation's John Nichols. Then proceed down the list of of all the other links below to fully understand the danger, and how few options we seem to have to prevent it. I will be updating this post as more information becomes available.

Please pass this post to friends so they'll have an easier time time grasping this pending crisis. If you have new references you think should be included, please use my contact link at the top of this blog.

The most important thing you can do is make noise about it. Let Republicans know there will be hell to pay for attempting this, beyond their first phase in Virginia, which is already poised to go foward (as discussed below). This is not the sort of thing we can easily undo later. We cannot wait until it's a forgone conclusion. We must act—and soon.

Explainers

The Early Wake Up Calls

Overviews

Detailed Analysis

Obstacles to Their Plan

Other Media About the Issue

Take Action

See Also

Who Broke America’s Jobs Machine? – Barry C. Lynn and Phillip Longman

Every thinking American, and certainly every progressive should read this.  Hell, even some of you vapid wingnuts should read it. You might even realize that things aren’t quite what you were told they were.

Barry Lynn is the author of “Cornered: The New Monopoly Capitalism and the Economics of Destruction,” and much of this article is a simplified glimpse of just some of what he covers in it.  It gets to the heart of what his larger work does: that monopolies are a gruesome monster under our national bed, and we’re doing nothing to slay the beast.

Get your friends and family to read it too.  Perhaps if enough of us grasp just what a beast has taken hold of us, perhaps we can figure out how to break free of it and reverse some of the damage it’s done.

Some excerpts:

But while the mystery of what killed the great American jobs machine has yielded no shortage of debatable answers, one of the more compelling potential explanations has been conspicuously absent from the national conversation: monopolization.

But at least the plethora of different brands vying for your attention on the store shelves suggests a healthy, competitive marketplace, right? Well, let’s take a closer look.

In the health aisle, the vast array of toothpaste options on display is mostly the work of two companies: Colgate-Palmolive and Procter & Gamble, which split nearly 70 percent of the U.S. market and control even such seemingly independent brands as Tom’s of Maine. And in many stores the competition between most brands is mostly choreographed anyway. Under a system known as “category management,” retailers like Wal-Mart and their largest suppliers openly cooperate in determining everything from price to product placement.

Over in the cold case we find an even greater array of beer options, designed to satisfy almost any taste. We can choose among the old standbys like Budweiser, Coors, and Miller Lite. Or from a cornucopia of smaller brands, imports and specialty brews like Stella Artois, Redbridge, Rolling Rock, Beck’s, Blue Moon, and Stone Mill Pale Ale. But all these brands—indeed more than 80 percent of all beers in America—are controlled by two companies, Anheuser-Busch Inbev and MillerCoors.

Another way that monopolization can inhibit the creation of new jobs is the practice of entrenched corporations using their power to buy up, and sometimes stash away, new technologies, rather than building them themselves.

Beginning in Reagan’s first term, antitrust enforcement all but ended. Throughout the 1980s, the opponents of antitrust sometimes buttressed their arguments by stoking fears about the supposed dangers posed to American manufacturers by their Japanese rivals. But for the most part such arguments proved unnecessary, as the government had already largely retired from the field, leaving corporations largely to their own devices. By the time Reagan left office, laissez faire had become conventional wisdom.

There is so much more in this brief work. You will come away knowing a lot more than you knew going in about just how successful radical conservatism has been at changing all of our rules, and breaking most of what had been working in America for rather well. Then the Chicago school and Ronald Reagan broke it.

Read the article