Archive for July 19th, 2004

Sin City Schcadenfreude


It is not often that the Dowbrigade
feels obliged to defend a
previous posting
. However, our posting of
yesterday concerning Cameron Diaz’s ongoing legal battle to keep
a revealing video off the internet market raised well-intentioned
concern on the part of some readers.

Their arguments were twofold. First,
the posting was in poor taste, featuring as it did gratuitous sex
and celebrity, and second, that even granting that poor taste may
be an indelible stain on our everlasting soul, maybe at least we
could tone it down during the build up to Convention Week, when surely
new readers would be visiting the site as the fleeting and fickle
searchlight of public attention swept briefly over our corner of
the blogosphere.

Let us take these arguments
one at a time. First, quite aside from our second amendment rights
to free sp each and freedom of the press, we find four convincing
reasons this story was post-worthy.

First, it is a real legal case,
not just some celebrity rumor or supermarket tabloid slander. An
injunction has been issued. All sorts of legal terms like "cease and
desist" and
compensatory damage and punitive damages" appear in the narrative,
making it a legitimate story for the legal nature of my current teaching

Second, the central nature of
the legal question is a topic near and dear to the Dowbrigade’s heart,
and in fact, potentially significant in our ability to continue doing
what we are doing right now – linking to primary news sources so
readers have the freedom to follow trails and investigate on their

Third, we have always had a
fascination for the foibles of the rich and famous, which this story
tickles with a strange mixture of schadenfreude, that German word
that means taking delight in the misfortune of
others, American’s worship of celebrity, and a stubborn streak of
Puritan penance, the feeling that bad things will happen to people
who have too good a time.

Finally, it gave us a chance
to spice up this often boring political stuff with some attractively
displayed and photographed female breasts. Frankly, if you
are deeply offended by the sight of an uncovered female breast, you
are reading the wrong blog.

Not that the Dowbrigade News is pornographic
– far from it. All of the naked flesh revealed on these pages
will be chocked full of redeeming social value, social, political
and educational as well as acetic.

Which brings us to the second
point.  We are aware that we will be getting a lot of new readers
in the weeks ahead. Why should be change our style for them? Almost
all of them will move on after the convention is over.  Besides,
it is our inimicable style which got us this far, it would be deceptive
and self-defeating to change in an attempt to attract more readers. It
was never about the readers anyway.

The Dowbrigade News has always
been a combination of political commentary and humor, often in the
same postings. We doubt many people come back for the commentary.
When we first started the blog we were asked what we wanted to get
out of it, and without thinking, we answered, "If we can get our
readers to think a little and laugh a little each day, that’s enough."

We will never out-pundit the
pundits. But when someone laughs, a surprising amount of the
time, thinking follows.

DNC Blowing Blog Horn – Big Letdown Inevitable


NCC Grants Coverage Access to Bloggers

The Democratic National Convention Committee is granting unprecedented
access to the authors of online web logs, more commonly known as
"blogs." The inclusion of bloggers will offer the public unfiltered
access to the energy and excitement that will be created by the 2004
Democratic National Convention.

"The implications are enormous, and it is a very important
first step by the DNC to allow bloggers there," said Blaise Zerega, Managing
Editor of
Wired Magazine, appearing on CNBC’s Bullseye.The credentialing of bloggers
is an exciting new direction in the coverage of political conventions.
"It’s recognition that bloggers are as influential, if not more influential
in many cases, than mainstream media. Bloggers" – because of [the] unedited,
instant opinion [they provide] are breathing fresh air into print journalism,"
Zerega continued.

Blogs provide their readers with a constantly updated analysis of a diverse
spectrum of topics. In the excitement of an election year, many political
blogs are becoming very popular. Zerega notes that blog readers are "passionate
and engaged. [They] go to blogs seeking specific information on specific
subjects that matter to them." He feels that the extraordinary access
given by the DNCC to bloggers will provide new perspective on Convention
The DNCC’s official blogger, Eric Schnure, agrees.

He believes bloggers will give "a fresh perspective that people wouldn’t
get otherwise." Schnure said that on the DNCC blog he intends "to give
people a better idea of what goes into building a Convention"mto give
people a little bit of a flavor of what they don’t get watching normal
of a Convention."

from the official Convention newsletter

Shorenstein Comments Via L.A.


A very interesting article appeared recently in the Los
Angeles Times
written by Alex Jones, director Harvard’s
Shorenstein Center
, a sister
institution to the center of Blogging at Harvard, the Berkman

The Democrats and the Republicans are inviting a limited number of
bloggers – those witty, candid, irreverent, passionate, shrewd and outrageous
Internet chroniclers – to their 2004 conventions. It’s a gesture of respect
for the growing influence of the blogosphere, and if ever there were
events ideally suited to bloggers, the heavily scripted and tensionless
conventions top the list.

Starts out in a laudatory tone, a rhetorical feign as old as the
Greek Athenaeum.

But make no mistake, this moment of blogging legitimization – and temporary
press credentials – doesn’t turn bloggers into journalists.

Understandable professional protectionism – not for nothing is this
guy directing the Sorensen Center for Press, Politics and Public Policy.
Next, after the obligatory nostalgic rehashing of the Trent Lott debacle,
a cautionary note enters the story.

Journalists increasingly read blogs to pick up tips. Blogs have become
a network of capillaries that feed the nation’s veins of information.
For that reason, blogging’s freewheeling, unfettered style makes it a
juicy target for manipulation.

In these early days, blogging still has the charm of guileless transparency,
which in the blogosphere means that everyone – no matter how cranky or hysterical
– is presumed to be speaking his or her mind with sincerity. It is this air of
conviction that makes bloggers such potent advocates.

However, if history is any indicator, such earnestness will attract those who
would exploit it, and they include some canny, inventive people. There is already
talk of bloggers who would consider publishing items for cash and commercial
blogs that tout products.

Hey, cash for stories. You mean actually getting paid for writing?
But, gosh, wouldn’t that make us (gulp) "professionals"? And wouldn’t
that mean we were part of the problem, not the solution. For the Dowbrigade,
the solution may come in the form of untraceable cash, or better yet,
bearer bonds. Delivery instructions to follow.

from the L.A. Times


Another Case of Mistaken Identity


The ever-encouraging
Seth Finkelstein of
writes to suggest that the only reason
the gatekeepers of the Democratic Party Convention superstructure
granted those coveted blogger’s credentials to the Dowbrigade is that
they had confused us with that OTHER Michael
, whose hilariously
funny program "Whadya Know?"
, which is produced by Wisconsin Public Radio and syndicated by National
Public Radio
we have somehow never found the time or opportunity
to listen to.

Not that we are jealous or resentful that he stole our name and
has become rich and famous off of it. We notice he is currently on tour,
selling tickets to his traveling radio show, certainly showing both his popularity
and entrepreneurship, which is French for "between pregnant ships".  But
such is the unrealistically inflated ego of the Dowbrigade that it had
our mind that
the only
we made the Dems A-list of bloggers was that they thought we were he!

Once Seth so kindly pointed this out to us, it was obvious! Whether
this represents the opportunity of a lifetime or some sort of virtual
fraud is a moral question we will probably spend seconds mulling over
on sleepless nights.

In practical terms, however, it opens untold possibilities but begs
a series of crucial questions, to wit:

Is the OTHER Michael Feldman getting all of the essential DNC blogger
email we have been missing, as well as the "spam from the mainstream
press" of which we have been warned by helpful fellow blogger Alden
of Greater Democracy?  If
so, what is he making of it?

In fact, does the OTHER Michael Feldman even know we exist? Has anyone
ever asked him if he was Michael Feldman, the Blogger?

Will he be at the convention? Will our paths cross? Will this cause
the universe to implode from the tautological paradox?

If he’s not there, can we take a room at the Ritz-Carlton and charge
it to Wisconsin Public Radio?