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Under Obama, Web Would Be the Way

Shailagh Murray and Matthew Mosk, Washington Post
Unprecedented Online Outreach Expected

Armed with millions of e-mail addresses and a political operation that harnessed the Internet like no campaign before it, Barack Obama will enter the White House with the opportunity to create the first truly “wired” presidency.

Obama aides and allies are preparing a major expansion of the White House communications operation, enabling them to reach out directly to the supporters they have collected over 21 months without having to go through the mainstream media.

Just as John F. Kennedy mastered television as a medium for taking his message to the public, Obama is poised to transform the art of political communication once again, said Joe Trippi, a Democratic strategist who first helped integrate the Internet into campaigning four years ago.
(10 November 2008)

China and the world discuss the environment

China Dialogue
Bi-lingual (Chinese-English) site with articles on energy and the environment.

From About China Dialogue

Our mission

China is growing fast and, as it grows, it is faced with urgent environmental challenges. Environmental costs may account for 10 per cent of China’s GDP and the effects of pollution, desertification and climate change are already beginning to be felt within China and outside her borders. Climate change, species loss, pollution, water scarcity and environment damage are not problems confined to one country: they are challenges that concern all the world’s citizens, but the rise of China gives them a new urgency. Tackling these challenges will require a common effort and common understanding. Here at chinadialogue we aim to promote that common understanding. By establishing the world’s first fully bilingual website devoted to the environment we aim to promote direct dialogue and the search for solutions to our shared environmental challenges.

… Our status is an independent, non-profit organisation based in London, Beijing and San Francisco. It was launched on July 3, 2006. chinadialogue is funded by a range of institutional supporters, including several major charitable foundations and the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. “

… Writing for chinadialogue

chinadialogue publishes in English and Chinese on global environmental issues, with a special focFAdvis on China. We publish articles by experts, policy makers, activists and concerned citizens. We welcome unsolicited submissions so if you would like your article to be considered for publication, please contact us at [email protected]
(November 2008)
I was struck by the graphic used for the story Obama and a new energy future. President-elect Obama is shown in front of a rising sun, a common motif for charismatic Asian leaders.

America the Illiterate

Chris Hedges, Truthdig
We live in two Americas. One America, now the minority, functions in a print-based, literate world. It can cope with complexity and has the intellectual tools to separate illusion from truth. The other America, which constitutes the majority, exists in a non-reality-based belief system. This America, dependent on skillfully manipulated images for information, has severed itself from the literate, print-based culture. It cannot differentiate between lies and truth. It is informed by simplistic, childish narratives and clichés. It is thrown into confusion by ambiguity, nuance and self-reflection. This divide, more than race, class or gender, more than rural or urban, believer or nonbeliever, red state or blue state, has split the country into radically distinct, unbridgeable and antagonistic entities.

… The illiterate rarely vote, and when they do vote they do so without the ability to make decisions based on textual information. American political campaigns, which have learned to speak in the comforting epistemology of images, eschew real ideas and policy for cheap slogans and reassuring personal narratives. Political propaganda now masquerades as ideology. Political campaigns have become an experience. They do not require cognitive or self-critical skills. They are designed to ignite pseudo-religious feelings of euphoria, empowerment and collective salvation. Campaigns that succeed are carefully constructed psychological instruments that manipulate fickle public moods, emotions and impulses, many of which are subliminal. They create a public ecstasy that annuls individuality and fosters a state of mindlessness. They thrust us into an eternal present. They cater to a nation that now lives in a state of permanent amnesia. It is style and story, not content or history or reality, which inform our politics and our lives. We prefer happy illusions. And it works because so much of the American electorate, including those who should know better, blindly cast ballots for slogans, smiles, the cheerful family tableaux, narratives and the perceived sincerity and the attractiveness of candidates. We confuse how we feel with knowledge.

The illiterate and semi-literate, once the campaigns are over, remain powerless. They still cannot protect their children from dysfunctional public schools. They still cannot understand predatory loan deals, the intricacies of mortgage papers, credit card agreements and equity lines of credit that drive them into foreclosures and bankruptcies. They still struggle with the most basic chores of daily life from reading instructions on medicine bottles to filling out bank forms, car loan documents and unemployment benefit and insurance papers. They watch helplessly and without comprehension as hundreds of thousands of jobs are shed.

… The change from a print-based to an image-based society has transformed our nation. Huge segments of our population, especially those who live in the embrace of the Christian right and the consumer culture, are completely unmoored from reality. They lack the capacity to search for truth and cope rationally with our mounting social and economic ills. They seek clarity, entertainment and order. They are willing to use force to impose this clarity on others, especially those who do not speak as they speak and think as they think. All the traditional tools of democracies, including dispassionate scientific and historical truth, facts, news and rational debate, are useless instruments in a world that lacks the capacity to use them.

Chris Hedges is a leading writer on the subjects of religion, war and empire. His critically acclaimed books, such as “American Fascists,” can be found here. Hedges’ Truthdig column appears every Monday.
(10 November 2008)
I wonder if literacy levels have really changed? Similar complaints have been heard throughout history. What certainly has changed is the technology for appealling to the illiterate and semi-literate. The mass media are more pervasive and manipulative than ever before. -BA