Are our internet giants allowed to have political agendas?

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While the internet is indeed a place full of an infinite number of diverse and opposed opinions, it has come to represent a space in the world free of standards for political prerogative. In acting as a housing place for so many agendas the internet itself has generally been held as a bastion of the ideals of a free society. Free web stalwarts – such as Google, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, WordPress, Tumblr, Blogspot, and countless others – those generally having come into existence in the last ten years, have been so successful partly because they are indiscriminate.

They, however, are not free from discrimination themselves, as demonstrated by two pieces of legislation that have garnered huge amounts of attention and almost as huge amounts of protest in the past months. The Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act – SOPA and PIPA respectively – are aimed at diminishing the rights of internet companies to display content freely and installing punishments for non-compliance with the law. This, in and of itself, is not disagreeable; the bills are aimed reducing copyright infringement and piracy, acts that harm the intellectual properties and economic well-beings of corporations and individuals. But the bills are widely seen to take cumbersome and inefficient paths to addressing the problem, paths that threaten the open nature of the internet.

By this time, most internet users likely know this. They know this because the problem has been combated by the internet giants themselves. In the past weeks there have been numerous attempts at bringing attention to this fight, and these attempts have culminated today into a widespread day of planned online protest. Anyone who has been to Google or Wikipedia – the two sites most prominent in the fight – have seen the messages. Google has censored it’s famous logo, while Wikipedia has censored it’s entire site, not allowing any users to access any information. On Facebook, a message posted by Founder Mark Zuckerburg just an hour ago has already received over a quarter of a million likes, and likely millions more views. On Tumblr, users have been given the option to censor their own blogs for the day as an act of solidarity and awareness. On WordPress, where I’m now writing this, articles are being shown censored on the homepage that all users see when they first access the site. Of course, nearly all news outlets are covering this story. Already congressmen have backed off from their commitment to these bills, as a testament to the political power of these organizations. A political message is today being broadcast in a way likely more effective than any ever before it.

These services have mass appeal in that they have something to provide to anyone with a voice, regardless of what that voice is saying. While this commonly culminates in the worry that a flood of babble and static will standardize society in a negative way, what is more readily observed is that people are capable of using and developing their unique voices unlike ever before within a spectrum of voices far vaster than any before. The job, then, of those that house this spectrum is to guard it while staying reasonably silent to any one voice within it.

In one sense this is what we are witnessing today: the protection of an open market of expression. It is being protected, however, through the exercising of a voice by those meant to be silent. A unitary political agenda is being broadcast by those meant to protect all political agendas. It’s a strange situation that the internet has fallen into, one with no clear right answer, especially when you throw into the mix the end goal of SOPA and PIPA, the protection of legitimacy in this system.

It is likely that neither SOPA nor PIPA will make it into law, in large part because of what has happened today. Even the current detached Congress will likely receive the message. While this will be an important win for internet freedom, it will not be the takeaway point of this battle. The widespread broadcast of the political agenda we have witnessed is unprecedented and creates two very mixed emotions. On one hand, the power of the internet to protect what is right must be properly appreciated. Conversely, however, it must be watched. A shift from neutrality towards the bearing of a charged message does not work in just one direction. Those strongly in favor of SOPA and PIPA must find themselves entirely horrified at today’s events. Where most see a championed message, they see an immense and systematic attack at a legitimate belief. This type of attack is not limited and any standpoint can conceivably find itself the target. The fears associated with the amount of holding these anonymous faces have in all of our lives should be working at full steam today.

Digesting the New Hampshire Numbers

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The polls have been closed for 19 hours now, the winner was long ago announced, 100% of the precincts are reporting, and the exit polls have been compiled. Here are some of the most interesting numbers from yesterday’s GOP New Hampshire Primary:

From the official primary results: 

244,864: The total Republican Primary voter turnout in New Hampshire, roughly 5,000 more than turned out in 2008. While this is technically an increase, it has to be considered that in New Hampshire independents can vote in either party’s primary, meaning inevitably some who voted in last night’s GOP primary voted in the democratic primary in 2008. While it would be very difficult to know just how many enumerate this group, but it is perfectly conceivable that voter turnout was actually down from 2008, a very surprising find. While political fervor is usually down  during election cycles involving an incumbent president and this could explain the decline, it is impossible to deny that this has been an entirely unique campaign cycle following an entirely unique 3 years. Thus perhaps the decline could be a nod towards the way New Hampshire’s vote will go in November.

97,532: The number of votes casts by New Hampshire voters for Mitt Romney, the uncontested winner of the evening. This number encompassed 39% of the total vote. In 2008, Romney captured 31% of the vote while winner John McCain took 37%. Looking at those two numbers and taking into account McCain’s recent endorsement of Romney it is a little surprising that Romney received only 39% this year, but with a very unique field there are explanations out there. Disregarding this it’s hard to deny that Romney took command in New Hampshire. This isn’t surprising; taking into account his political roots in New England as the former Governor of Massachusetts and Romney’s stake as the GOP front runner, it was all along his race for the taking.

16%: The gap between Romney and second place finisher Ron Paul. Hugely different than the 8 vote gap between Romney and second place finisher in Iowa, Rick Santorum, although Paul’s 23% is impressive and beyond expectations for the conservative-libertarian stalwart.  Romney needed a big result that proved him as a strong and electable GOP candidate to the Republican core and this was it. It is also notable that from the exit polls Romney took nearly 50% of the vote from registered Republicans. These will be key as he moves forward in the primary season to states with less vocal and decisive independent voters than New Hampshire. It must be taken into account with this, however, that by Party ID voters that identified as Democrats most often went for Jon Huntsman, while voters that identified as Independents rallied around Ron Paul. In the general election Romney will need to swing over the Independents and Democrats that put Obama in office, and so far it appears that he has not been able to do this. With more speeches like the one he had last night – the first in which he looked like a legitimate general election candidate – he may be able to begin chipping away at these Americans.

170: The number of events that candidate Jon Huntsman did over 72 days in New Hampshire giving him a disappointing 17% percent of the NH vote. While Huntsman took this and his third place finish in NH as a positive, saying in his speech last night that he now has his “ticket to ride”, it’s hard to deny that it wasn’t quite the result Huntsman was hoping for. He put all of his stakes in the New England state with the hope that the Independent heavy, policy-focused state would launch him into the midst of the field of contenders but was beat out by Ron Paul – who spent far less time and focus on the state –  for second place and for the majority of the Independent support. Huntsman asserts that he will continue on to South Carolina and Florida, but it’s impossible to imagine that he will give the performance to stay in for the long-term in either state. It doesn’t help that even comedian Stephen Colbert is polling better than Huntsman in South Carolina.

23,411: The number of votes cast for former Speaker Newt Gingrich, giving him 10% of the New Hampshire vote, and nearly tying him with far more conservative candidate Rick Santorum. This is undoubtedly a disappointing result to the candidate who was just weeks ago leading the pack. This is also a hint that Gingrich’s shift towards highly negative campaigning, largely against winner Mitt Romney, is not working and likely severing Gingrich’s support. Despite this, Gingrich seems adamant to continue with this campaign tactic, even as he denounces negative campaigning on the part of other candidates. Gingrich opened his campaign with promises to stay positive and focused on the issues throughout the race, but desperation has turned him into the politician that was seen earlier in his career: one defined by intellectual harshness, political pandering, dysfunctional hypocrisy.

More interesting numbers from CNN’s exit polling: 

18-29: The only age bracket that opted to vote for a non-Romney candidate, instead opting towards Ron Paul. Paul’s success is largely dependent on these voters who are often also first time independent voters. Paul – the oldest candidate in the field at 76 –  received a commanding 46% of the vote from this demographic, although as voters got older they tended to vote less for Paul. An opposite trend was seen with all other candidates that received large portions of the vote.

39%: The percentage of both college educated and non-college educated voters that voted for Mitt Romney. The Harvard Business and Law educated candidate is often criticized as an elite businessman who is out of touch with real Americans but this result shows the opposite. It is important to note, however, that 87% of voters had a college education, a very large portion in a state more educated than the norm. But…

$200K: Voters who earn $200K a year or more voted for Mitt Romney at a rate of 52%. Compared to this, voters who earn less that $30K voted for him at a rate of 31% while they voted for Ron Paul at 35%. This shows an opposite trend as above, and proves that Romney does indeed have some work to do in getting in touch with average voters. It does not help that in recent days Romney has been blasted by fellow candidate for comments that show him as economically privileged and out of touch.

That’s all for now. 10 days until South Carolina!

Huntsman’s Moment of Truth

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In just a few hours we’ll find out the results of New Hampshire Republican Primary. In other words, we’ll find out by what margin Mitt Romney managed to beat out the rest of the field, and we’ll find out what the New Hampshire voters made of the rest of the candidates jockeying for runner-up honors. While Rick Perry is little more than a non-factor in the state, Newt Gingrich and his attack-based, hypocritical campaign is floundering at a rate that is making Gingrich visibly desperate, and Rick Santorum has found himself declining in progressive state even despite his impressive performance in Iowa, two unconventional candidates – Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman – are currently in very attractive positions on the coattails of young, independent voters. No one, except for perhaps Ron Paul, expected the eccentric libertarian candidate to be in this position going into primary season, but his off kilter stances have found resonance among those most frustrated with business as usual politics. Despite this, it’s hard to imagine that Paul will remain relevant deep into the race with his views on foreign policy, drugs, and the economy. Jon Huntsman, on the other hand, is performing well in New Hampshire largely because his campaign has focused almost exclusively on the state. The former Governor of Utah and Ambassador to China under President Obama is the most progressive candidate in the race, and based on his recent campaign messages and in the views of his supporters, he is the most likely to seriously challenge Obama in the general election because he has the best ability to swing independents and some Democrats that voted from Obama in 2008.

Huntsman has found himself under attack from other candidates for working under a Democratic president, although in the last few day before New Hampshire he has been able to swing these facts in his favor (just watch this exchange with Mitt Romney, or find it below). He also has had great trouble finding the resources and momentum to make a wide campaign congruent to that of his fellow candidates. Huntsman has his time in the last weeks exclusively in New Hampshire because it is the only state in the early stages of the primaries where he can find the voter sympathy to launch a surge towards Super Tuesday. What Iowa was to Rick Santorum, New Hampshire could be at an even bigger scale to Jon Huntsman, for the reason that Jon Huntsman could find national support across the political spectrum where Santorum never could.

It’s unfortunate then, that Jon Huntsman will likely not find the results he needs to be a staying factor in Republican field. At worst Huntsman performs worse than expected tonight in New Hampshire and quickly and silently bows out of the race; at best he performs better than expected and finds a needed surge in resources and support to remain a candidate for conceivably into the the second phase of the primary process. It just simply cannot be denied that Mitt Romney has run an impressive race thus far, and with his narrow win in Iowa, his likely win tonight in New Hampshire, and a very conceivable win on the 21st in South Carolina, he will have the Republican candidacy all but locked up. Jon Huntsman, as a candidate that garners less media attention than anyone else in the field, simply will not compete with Romney in the long term.

It remains important, however, for Huntsman to compete in the short-term. A short-term surge by Huntsman, similar to those seen by every other candidate in the race, will put intelligent, moderate, and important opinions at the forefront of a Republican primary that has been dominated by half-baked policies proposed by politicians that would be fringe at best during any typical election cycle. It would force voters to contemplate the importance of crossing the party border for the sake of the nation, something vitally important in the wake of three years of dysfunctional partisan gridlock. Important for Huntsman’s career, it would put him at the forefront of candidates for political appointments under both an Obama or Romney administration. It is foreseeable that under either administrations the gridlock and dysfunction witnessed in recent years will remain an issue. Huntsman has campaigned on a platform including moderate ideology, political reform, and foreign policy experience. Put in a prominent executive position, possibly even Secretary of State (even in an Obama administration the position will need to be filled in the absence of Hillary Clinton) based on his prior experience in the State Department, would be a statement by either side of a wish to end politics as usual. Furthermore, it would be the job of a lifetime for Huntsman, and it would be a perfect launching point for the young politician’s possible presidential candidacy in 2016 or 2020. In many ways, however, this future is in the hands of mere thousands of New Hampshire voters that will decide whether to snuff out Huntsman’s dreams or put him temporarily into the limelight.

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Cain supporters shift to Gingrich

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After Herman Cain announced on Saturday that he is “suspending” his presidential campaign due to the increasing distractions of sexual accusations, the biggest question that came from it (besides, perhaps, did he do it?) was where his sizable and boisterous crowd of followers would inevitably end up. This election cycle has seemed particularly long and increasingly cutthroat, and the 16% of republicans he can claim as his supporters (this share was realistically much smaller on December 3rd, but this 16% is drawn from the Nov. 13-17 Gallup Poll) could turn the tide of the republican race at a highly crucial point: less than a month away from the first Republican primary, the Iowa Caucuses.

Today, with the release of a new Gallup poll, it seems we have our answer. Gallup reports that former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich now leads Mitt Romney 37% to 22%, a mammoth lead in terms of this election season. This 15% lead seems even more extraordinary when considering that in the Nov 13-17 poll Gingrich lead Romney just 22% to 21%, while still-present Herman Cain held 16% of the votes. It seems, then, that today’s 15% Gingrich wave can be attributed nearly entirely to Herman Cain dropping out of the race. While of course there are many other scenarios for where the shifts can be accounted from, it seems like there is little change among the rest of the candidates. The only big movers are Cain, going from 16% to 0%, and Gingrich, going from 22% to 37%. It is also interesting to view these shifts in the context of the next two charts. The first shows preferences based on political ideology from November 13-17 with Cain present while the second shows the same from December 1-5 without Cain.

Cain with 18% of conservatives, Newt with 23%, and Romney with 20%.

With Cain absent after previously holding 18% Gingrich climbs 18% with conservatives while Romney stays the same. While I’m certainly no statistician, this seems almost too good to be true. It’s amazing to me that Romney has not been able to capitalize at any point and consume the rest of the GOP field. It seems that of those who have sat at the top he’s the only one with any serious blunders (this time around at least). While I still predict that Romney will inevitably capture the nomination, it’s becoming much harder to do so. I’m beginning to wonder if this prediction is coming more from insight or from hopefulness for a candidate I could self-respectively vote for, depending on their performance against Obama in the real race of course.

And now, A poll that I decided to put in mostly because I wanted to see how the poll function worked:

New Fleet Foxes video for “The Shrine/An Argument”

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Not going to lie, I’ve been going a bit wild for this video from Fleet Foxes for their song “The Shrine/An Argument” off of their album Helplessness Blues, which was released all the way back in May. I’m not sure how exactly this animation was done but it’s something stellar (I’m told by a good source that a program called Dragonframe was used; I’m clueless about this tech-art stuff.) It was directed, written, and animated by Sean Peckfold, brother of Fleet Foxes frontman Robin Peckfold, as well as a team of artists. I’m dying now for them to turn it into a feature-length film. The story is both gripping and trippy, although I’m still attempting to unravel it. It certainly does something emotionally for me though. Enjoy the video below or here on Vimeo:

The Shrine / An Argument from Sean Pecknold on Vimeo.

Is Herman Cain admitting guilt?

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Just where has that finger been? (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

Sitting in class this morning I got a text from CNN Breaking News that stated that Herman Cain is reassessing his 2012 presidential bid after an alleged 13-year affair with a woman in Atlanta.

With all that has been in the media in the last month concerning Herman Cain and the consistent allegations against him, I couldn’t help to feel shocked that Cain was all of a sudden considering dropping the campaign. I admit I didn’t know much about the latest allegations – I had heard of them however at this point any allegation against Cain seems like more of a hiccup than a heart attack – but on reviewing the latest news on the situation it seems like that there is something really fascinating going on.

 Everyone had their own ideas on whether Cain was innocent or guilty before these latest revelations. Not too shockingly, these are primarily based on liberal and conservative party biases which are evident in the polling graph below:

(An aside: this image is taken from a really interesting NYT blog post that contrasts differing results from polls on whether people believed Cain. That article can be found here.)

And while Cain has clearly has taken a dive in the polls since all of these sexual allegation scandals have arisen, the fact that core conservatives have not abandoned the Cain Train suggests that he could likely ride out the rest of the election cycle with at the very least his dignity, marketability, and presumed innocence intact (although the nomination and presidency are highly unlikely). He’s pretty much assured all of the book deals, TV appearances, and interviews he can get his hands on for the next few years. That is without these latest allegations and especially without his announcement that he is reassessing his presidential bid.

This is not to say I don’t agree that he should be taking a good hard look at his campaign and his personal morality because I wholeheartedly feel that he has no business conducting himself like a respectable candidate amidst this firestorm. The point isn’t that I would like to see Cain drop out of the race or even come out admitting that these allegations are indeed true, because it’s impossible for me to deny that these feelings of mine come from a place of liberal bias. The point is, however, that it seems, based on available facts and disregarding bias, that Herman Cain doesn’t need to reassess anything to remain a legitimate and noteworthy candidate. In seems in fact that Cain could even be harming his own campaign immensely by even releasing information about even the tiniest reassessment tied to these strings of allegations, doing more harm than all of his insensitive political gaffes, or even than bumbling along for 5-minutes on a subject he was clearly not prepared to speak about.

The reason this is so harmful is because of the suggestion of guilt. It seems that no candidate who knows they are innocent would give a thought of reassessment to another allegation that they know is false. There’s also the way that Cain chose to respond to it altogether. When the story was first broken and before any details were announced Cain refused to respond until he know exactly what was in the report. Why does he have to know the particulars to know whether he’s innocent? If you were accused of murder would you really have to know the who-what-when-and-where to say whether you did it or not? There’s also the really interesting case of the text messages and phone calls:

“The station said that Ms. White produced cellphone bills that included 61 phone calls or text messages to and from a number she said was for Mr. Cain’s private cellphone. When the station sent a text message to the number, Mr. Cain called back and acknowledged knowing Ms. White.” (Quoted article here.)

I don’t want to point any fingers, but this all seems to me like a monstrous revelation in the Cain sexual scandal, and it seems to me that there is something hidden here that is about to come out very soon. Whether it’s an admission of guilt, Cain dropping out of the race, or something completely unforeseen, we’ll just have to wait and listen.

…Because the world needed just one more person who thinks their voice is important.

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Kanye West at the Vanity Fair kickoff part for...

Image via Wikipedia

I don’t want to talk about myself, but naturally I’m going to. Just this once though.

That’s going to end up being a lie.

But still, I’ve been mulling over making this blog for a while now. This isn’t going to be one of those sappy, my emotions matter and I want you to know about them ordeals. That’s never pretty. In my mind, opinions are at least one step higher up on the pecking order than emotions are, so those won’t matter much either. But that’s what I’m here for, it’s why I’m doing this. I want to inform you how I feel about the news, about politics, about music, about movies, about entertainment, about all the other hilarious crap that happens in the world in general. Humor me at the least.

Somewhere in my twisted subconscious I got the idea that my opinions matter. I recently got some feedback about this on an article I wrote for my college newspaper from a kind and devoted reader. In response to a review of the latest Coldplay album, I received this:

“You’ve wasted your time with this article. Just saying. People have lives, and I think you should get one. By the way, the article was too damn long, so I didn’t read the shit…Do you really think anyone gives a shit about what you have to say here? If you think so, you’re in need of a reality check.”

They’re right about at least one thing, I probably do need a reality check. But until that comes, I’ll be here. Writing. Spewing nonsense. Whatever lets me sleep at night. I’d love to hear what you have to say about everything that comes after this. I’d love for you to tell me what I should write about. I’d love it if you came to this page now and then, at the very least to make me feel like I have friends.

In the words of Kanye West, grab my hand and baby we’ll live a hell of a life.

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