May 272006

The pdf version of my e-tech talk “slides” — a rather clumsy power point presentation — can now be downloaded.
(This is my talk “The Real Nature of the Emerging Attention Economy,” including the metaphor of economies as massively multiplayer interactive games a “keynote” delivered at the O’reilly “Emerging Technology Conference” San Diego, March 8, 2006)

download e-tech talk pdf

May 252006

I didn’t know my paper was famous, so it is a great compliment for the attention-getting DeLong to say so. Here’s how he quotes me and comments:
DeLong: The Transformation from Feudalism to Capitalism to Attentionalism
The end of Goldhaber’s famous “attention economy” essay:
[what I wrote:]
The Attention Economy: The Natural Economy of the Net: At the end of the feudal period, the pomp and display of the nobility reached a level never before attained; the most gorgeous armor, the most magnificent tournaments of knights, the most elaborate ceremonies between rival nobles, the most brilliant marriages, the greatest interest in noble lineage. But by then it had lost all real function or importance. So today, when the stock market goes up and up, when money wealth itself seems a source of fame more than ever, when being number one on Forbes 400 list seems the height of perfection, when every basketball superstar wants a contract that is at least a million more than the last record one, we seem to be more dazzled by money than ever, just as we seem to be more intrigued by material goods than ever. But these interests are superficial and faddish. They are signs of decadence not of a glorious future for the money economy. Even in themselves they speak to the growing desire for attention, the need for it as well. Money is now little more numbers, one number among many, and as a source of lasting attention it can fade in an instant. The attention economy is already here, and more completely so every day…
[DeLong’s comment:]
Goldhaber misses, I think, one important thing. The feudal system was about command and control and fealty but also about money. Fealty to your lord was a two way street: you fought for him and he fed you and give you presents. It’s not the “money economy” that will be made obsolete by the “attention economy,” it’s a particular fraction of today’s money economy.
Posted by Brad DeLong on May 16, 2006 at 09:26 AM in Economic History, Economics, Economics: Growth, History, Internet, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)
It may be foolhardy to take issue with such a sure-footed and self-confident economist and economic historian as Brad DeLong. But I still think he is mistaken, if he is talking about pure feudalism.

The history is of course complex. Furthermore, feudalism remains controversial since it was carried on largely by illiterates, especially at its height. But the reason feudalism is called feudalism has to do with the awarding of feoffs (or feuds) rather than other sorts of wealth to knights in return for their loyalty and military and other services. Feoffs were estates that the knights had no right to alienate, say by selling — although a knight who had several feoffs could in turn assign some to other knights in return for their own fealty. On a feoff usually lived a number of peasant families who worked some of the land for their own and their families’ benefit and gave some of the proceeds to the knight in charge, while also performing some services for the knight, his family, and possibly for his knightly entourage, if any. At the height of pure feudalism, say in the eleventh century, this generally involved no exchange of money at all. Nor was it barter in the usual sense. Feudalism was an economy based on loyalty, fighting, and, a little later marriage and inheritance, with feoffs as the reward. Successful knights, over the years, managed to accumulate several or even many feoffs, and often to amalgamate them into larger holdings. Although money was in use before, during the height of the Roman Empire, for instance, and certainly after, for most purposes money was virtually non-existent in the part of Europe where feudalism existed most purely.

(As far as I can discern from the economic historical literature I have looked into, this has been obscured in part because most economic historians take it for granted that economic history is largely the history of prices and money. Where these cannot be found in the record, nothing, it seems can be said. Wherever these are found, they dominate the discourse undeservedly.)

This is all still oversimplification, of course, but I think it suggests several truths:

1. There are very different kinds of economies possible besides the one that now seems familiar, which is (or was?) based on money, markets and industrial production of standardized goods.

2. Thus, it is unwarranted to believe that the money economy or, indeed any economy based primarily on money is going to survive forever.

3. Feudalism eventually more or less succeeded in its implicit goal of providing security from Viking, “Saracen” and Magyar raiders, and later from the maraudings of different knights themselves. The more it succeeded, the more it left openings for different needs and a different kind of economy to emerge, in a largely internal evolution that eventually gave rise to the money, market, industrial system in which the economic profession grew up and has taken to be the norm.

4. Similarly, the money, market, industrial economy has met most material needs for a comfortable swath of the influential middle class in the advanced countries at least, and in this sense has certainly succeeded. That leaves openings for a new economy to evolve.

The attention economy in the sense I mean the term has a structure different from that of the money economy, as well as encouraging different and in some sense opposed systems of values. Therefore, it will be hard to participate in both economies for too long.

We are already in a period in which money mostly tracks attention, in that the more attention one gets, more or less, the more money one can get, and without attention one generally earns quite little money. If you just have money wealth, even a lot, but without having much attention, in whatever form the money is, you are in significant danger of losing it; without having enough attention, there is nothing you can do about that. On the other hand, if you have attention but no money, you can fairly easily get some of the latter.

Without going into further details, I will close with the thought that it is therefore plausible — if by no means certain — that the lure of money will fade quite substantially within a couple of generations. Traces of the money economy might indeed persist, but without generating the passions and the resultant responses that are commonplace today.

For more, see other articles on my website — now in the process of a large-scale update.

May 122006

Thursday, May 11, 2006
Invited paper (by MHG): FM10 Openness: Code, Science and Content
Presented by First Monday

As with other kinds of human decisions and actions, any of the various choices and instantiations of policies of openness can stem from several different motivations at the same time. One may choose openness out of a philanthropic desire to aid the most people, out of an enjoyment in being part of a community, out of a sense that openness is the best way to get an interesting puzzle solved or curiosity satisfied, a dislike of privacy or holding on to secrets, or perhaps simply from throwing all caution to the winds and just putting out there whatever one thinks with no thought as to consequences.

Yet I want to argue that acting from any or all these different sorts of motivations may also be self-interested action of a particular type, namely action that makes sense in terms of the existence of an Attention Economy, in which one’s primary motive of action is to increase one’s supply, not of money or material goods, but of a very different, but intrinsically scarce entity, namely the attention of other human beings.

I have argued previously that the attention economy is the natural economy of the net. In my view, this economy, while in certain ways very old, is now moving to be the dominant economy, replacing, not merely transforming, the economy based on money, on the market, and on the industrialized exchange, distribution and production of standardized material goods. The new economy I think cannot simply co-exist with with the market economy permanently, because each demands its own social structures, its own mindsets, its own modes of life, and its own values.

All these differences come out in a consideration of the kinds of openness this conference is dedicated to discussing, as well as some other categories of openness perhaps less to be discussed here.

Before explaining that, I want to try to offer a clearer understanding of what attention is, or, more specifically, what it means for one person to pay attention to another. First of all, one pays attention not merely to another person standing there, but by paying attention to that person’s actions and expressions.

Suppose you are at a tennis tournament, watching a singles match. As you focus on one of the players, you begin to recognize what the player is doing through the action of certain nerve connections or neuron chains in your own brain, probably especially in your frontal cortex. If you see the player raise the racquet over her head, you recognize the action through activating exactly the neuron chain of your own that would cause your own arm to lift over your own head. You activate the chain – that is, the nerves fire — but, unless you are quite abnormal, you actually move either not at all or only very slightly. This is the phenomenon called neural mirroring.

It was originally discovered in Milan, Italy, about 1991 when a graduate student walked into a lab where rhesus monkeys were being studied with an usual apparatus. The lab’s neuroscientists had managed to wire up the chain of neurons activated each time one rhesus monkey lifted a peanut to its mouth; they then connected the wire not only to some sort of recorder, but to a loudspeaker, so they could easily note every time the chain fired, so as to be able to observe what the monkey was up to when this happened. The graduate student walked in licking an ice cream cone; the loudspeaker went off. But the monkey was doing nothing except staring at the student.

Subsequent mirror neuron experiments less invasively set up have been done on humans. Humans respond the same way as the monkeys, but in much finer detail. For instance different neurons in your brain would fire if you observed someone picking up a glass in order to drink from it than would if the intent were to put the dirty glass in the sink.

To return to our tennis player, left suspended in mid-motion on the court — you don’t just mirror the motions, you most probably also mirror the intent, namely to win the point, and also the emotions that go with the desire to win. All this binds you to that particular player. You probably cannot switch the feelings of wanting this player to win as fast as the ball goes over the net, so you can’t pay attention in quite the same way to the opposing player. To some minimal extent, just by watching you become a fan. If this player stays active, seeing her name or her face will reactivate some of the feeling so loyalty you developed while watching her play the first time. The more you watch her, the more she takes over your mind (albeit not completely for all time) and the more you want her to win or simply come to want whatever she wants.

The simplicity of the mirror neuron process in connection with athletic motions probably helps explain why sports are much attended to, but we know from the work of George Lakoff and Mark Johnson that all thought has a certain muscular, bodily quality. In following an argument, for example, we are engaged in mental motions that to some extent must mirror the implicit motions of the person arguing the thought.

To pay attention to anyone, we activate certain chains in our own brains, and each time we do, it becomes easier to activate similar processes from similar viewpoints, the next time we encounter that same thinker — which is to say the same person, whether a philosopher, a country music singer, a software programmer whose program we adopt or try to so study, a scientist, or whoever.

I only learned of mirror neurons this past January. Prior to that, I was loathe to use terms referring to brains, and in some ways I am still wary of it. I explained paying attention in terms of reshaping one’s mind to the thoughts, viewpoints, mental processes and emotions of the person one is paying attention to. Think of the shape-shifter toy that was popular among five-year-olds a few years ago. To pay attention to any particular person you do your best —however temporarily — to reshape your mind to hers. You think their thoughts, you feel their feelings, you want what they want, or you are not paying attention. Of course, by the time you are an adult, if not long before, you have also developed certain resistances, certain critical faculties that allow you to get out of the total mindset, to perhaps to see some of the train of thought as mistaken, false, against your deeper interests, or even evil. But that takes additional effort, additional self-centeredness, and still may leave you partially willing to shape your mind and intentions according to that of whomever you are paying attention to. And whomever it is, you will be laying down memories that will again make it easier and more natural to turn your attention to that same person later on .

I’ve so far focused strictly on what paying attention is about. What about getting attention? As I’ve already indicated, to some degree an audience full of people paying attention to you will want whatever it is you want. They are implicitly on your side. They are also thinking your thoughts, enlarging, as it were, the size and scope of your own mind. They can keep paying attention, through remembering and recalling past experiences to mind, or through reading a text of yours over or looking at an old video or v-log or whatever, even in principle long after you are dead. Since your own mental processes recur to a substantial degree in their minds as they do this, having attention can make your mind live again, in a way. It is perhaps the closest humans can come to life after death, as well as to an expanded life while still living.

Here are some conclusions about the economics of attention that follow from what I have said;

1) Attention wealth is in the minds of the beholders, not in any bank; because memories persist, that wealth survives and can be drawn upon in various ways much later on ;

2) Attention is not the same as reputation. It might be possible to look up in some list, say, that you have a reputation for repaying your loans on time, without having any real idea about who you are or what your thoughts are. Even if you in some way choose to remain anonymous, putting out your thoughts to the world allows other people to think them, which enlarges you. Even with some degree of anonymity, if your are canny, say, in your use of the internet, you may draw on this attention as well.
3) At the same time, to activate others’ attention it helps to present as much of yourself as possible, so as to increase the number of associations that will connect various memories to you, so as to reawaken attention, etc.

4) The more people pay attention to you, the more they want what you want, whether this is something for the good of the world or something personal.

5) Paying attention slips easily into heeding, serving, waiting on, waiting for, satisfying, taking care of, etc. It is through that adaptability that having enough attention can guarantee you whatever you want, with or without converting attention into money.

6) Again, you don’t have to be consciously focused on yourself to want attention, yet the attention you get is still taken from the essentially scarce supply. Think of Chicken Little. To the extent that any conscious or even unconscious reflection goes on in the mind of this human-like chicken, it would have to include something like the following line of reasoning. “Something fell on me; I think it was the sky; I am frightened that the sky is falling; my thoughts and fears matter (because I matter); I need help: because I need help and my thoughts and feelings matter, and, ultimately, because I matter, it is quite all right for me not to keep my fears to myself but to go around screaming, ‘the sky is falling, the sky is falling;’ if I do that enough, and enough people — or animals — pay attention, maybe someone will help me by keeping the sky from falling.” Whether one views this as wanting and feeling one deserves attention for oneself or simply feeling that one’s thoughts or feelings deserve attention on their own, it pretty much amounts to the same thing.

And when Henny Penny takes up the cry, the same things apply. Henny is thinking Chicken Little’s thoughts, but they now are also her own thoughts. So it is that the motive for seeking attention for certain thoughts or facts or ideas can seem perfectly philanthropic, but only via the implicit belief that one’s own entertaining of those thoughts and so on amount to a reason that others ought to entertain them as well.

7) Still, chicken Little will have an easier time getting people (or animals) to pay attention to her thoughts about the sky if she has already entered their attention before, the more easily, the wider their prior experiencing of reshaping their minds to hers, or their knowing her appearance, name, etc. Thus to get attention for your thoughts on some future occasion it helps to have gotten attention for various aspects of yourself earlier.

All this suggests that there are various desirable forms of openness:
1. Open access —having your thoughts, expressions, etc. as available and accessible as possible, with as few barriers as possible. Obviously, charging money for access is one such highly limiting barrier. If such a barrier were easily enforceable, it would be even worse in limiting the attention you can get.

2. Self-revealing — the more aspects of yourself that express who you are the more opportunities for people to open their mind to you, and the richer the accumulation of attention you can get. Let me add it may not pay a software programmer to also put sex videos on the Internet, especially if it turns out the programmers are especially squeamish about such videos or even worse, totally oblivious. It may also be too personally painful, of course, to contemplate doing that.

3. Claiming priority by putting out your thoughts in their most preliminary forms. Since “waiting for” is one form that attention certainly takes, early hints can be successful and tantalizing.

May 102006

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Reflections on Values without Religion
Religious people may argue over what values are important, but they can argue there is authority in the scriptures that go with their religion for whatever values they do take seriously. Typically, it is taken to be true that these scriptures were dictated by god or at least by the founder of the religion, a semi-divine personage lost in the mists of time. Since these scriptures also form the basis of regular services and rituals, they have a built-in status that texts that are clearly not taken as divine do not possess.

Thus those of us who are not religious, though we may adhere as strongly to values, have a less direct means to assert the truth of these values or to “derive” them for those who don’t necessarily yet agree with them. It doesn’t matter if, say, some philosopher has worked out a moral system, because there is seemingly no imperative for anyone who disagrees with the system to take the philosopher to be correct. (Of course, it is also true that religious people don’t agree on moral matters; some self-styled Christians are hung up on certain prohibitions found in the Old Testament, whereas others like the New Testament’s Sermon on the Mount much more. Still it seems many people find their position strengthened if they can somehow locate it in Scriptures of ancient lineage, rather than in modern secular works.)

Some non-believers still look to religious traditions to justify the values they hold, on the basis, apparently, that these values have stood the test of time. But this must be a highly selective process. After all values commonly accepted today, such as the evil of slavery or women’s rights, are quite new compared to the lifetimes of most religious traditions. Other traditions of great lineage, such as burning heretics at the stake, are equally rejected by most people today.

What these simple reflections force me to conclude is that religion by itself is not the source of currently held values, even for religious people. If we could ascertain the real source or sources, why could we not derive our values from them directly?

Religious people sometimes take the view that a scientific approach, including evolutionary theory, leaves us with the notion that life simply emerged accidentally and therefore is without meaning. That ignores the fact that human actions are normally meaningful. How did meaning arrive in a random sort of world? Quite simply, humans or proto-humans invented meaning, just as we invented gods.

We didn’t invent meaning all in one fell swoop; rather, as social forms change, new kinds of meaning can be invented. Thus, in a hierarchical pre-market economy, it was possible to accept inequality. But because a money-based market economy is fundamentally associated with a notion of equality in the marketplace, the equal status of all humans seems to arise as a clear corollary, at least for some people. Later on the notion of equality itself became a powerful corrective to the market economy that perhaps gave rise to this ideal. Hence such notions as opposition to slavery, feminism, rights for the propertyless, and even socialism may have emerged from the very nature of capitalist markets.

But that story is probably incomplete. Equality as a notion takes more than the existence of markets. One has to recognize that humans are all basically alike. Where does that come from? I think it derives from the experience that different people can understand one another, in other words from the experience of empathy resulting from the ability to translate between different languages, as well as between different conditions in the same culture. The notion of consumer sovereignty that capitalism potentially implies works with the emergence of widespread travel, bi-lingual dictionaries, print, and also notions of biological connection, as well as experiences of empathy between members of close-knit communities to create a broader empathic sense. From that greater empathy, values that previously were confined to narrow communities, such as prohibitions against killing, can now be applied more broadly.

Having started with the assertion that religious people have an easier time asserting values than non-religious ones because they can seemingly derive those values from readings of scripture, I now must assert something in stark contradiction. Values that supposedly arise from scripture actually come from social, technological and scientific developments. Scriptures are red herrings that cannot actually teach values from scratch, because by themselves they could teach absolutely anything.

For what it may be worth, my own remembered story may be an example of this. As a small child, I was read the Ten Commandments. One of them struck me with especial force: “Thou shalt not kill.” Because I liked that one so much, I felt an allegiance to all the rest. But the commandments themselves don’t explain why I liked that particular one so much. Opposition to killing already resonated deeply for me. I would have to say this was partly a result of having been born during WWII and hearing very early about the Holocaust, but also out of some very basic sense of empathy. Anyway, this Commandment always seemed much more important to me than any of the others; it led me to pacifism and opposition to capital punishment, values that have endured far longer than any general allegiance to the other commandments.

If empathy remains the basis of worthwhile values, then what is important is instilling empathy, not instilling religion per se. Bible stories told to small children might help do that under the right circumstances, but other stories and other media are potentially still more potent. Even news stories such as those of the Indian Ocean tsunami can have a very powerful effect.

Empathy is not everything. Religion is very often called upon for providing strength for dealing with major turning points in life, especially with the most final one — dying. The fundamental horror of death is, I think, the sense of an abrupt end. Many religions attempt to ease that fear by suggesting that there is no end, that life somehow endures in some other plane. But a similar sense of continuity can be gained by reflecting on the fact that we live in a world of shared meanings and empathy, which implies that our minds interpenetrate; to some degree we each continue to live in the minds of others. That awareness can be a balm as much as the notion of an afterlife lived in some weird other world, or even in weird reincarnation in this one.

For now, I will end these reflections. They are highly incomplete, but still I think they point to the possibility of a renewed and strong pride in a non-religious source of values.

# posted by Michael @ 11:30 PM 3 comments
Saturday, January 29, 2005

This is my web site, with a number of texts plus other links.

# posted by Michael @ 5:15 PM 0 comments

Acheulean Hand Axes Ought to Tell Us Something, But What?
An ultimate issue for understanding ourselves is explaining sources of cultural change and how culture is transmitted and organized between people. This makes what archeologists of pre-history say about the so-called Acheulean hand axes so interesting. (I re-developed this interest recently through reading Matt Ridley’s provocative and fascinating Nature via Nurture.) These chipped stone tools apparently were made by proto-humans for well over a million years; then more complex tool sets appeared, and the hand axe was soon no more.

A look at representative hand axes suggest that they may have been altered a bit over this tremendously long time period. But two things seem remarkable. In evolutionary time, a million years is extremely long; most species don’t last so long, and one would imagine culture by its nature (so to speak) to be more variable than biology. In fact, it does seem that quite different proto-human species continued the hand-axe culture. So the sheer survival value apparently imparted by the possession of this one simple tool must have been enormous.

And yet, if this one invention was so valuable, why were creatures who were able to develop it not able fairly soon to go further, to invent more specialized versions?
Some possible explanations:

1. The hand-axe users were not capable of the level of social cooperation that would have made more specialized tools work better.

2. The hand-axe users were very limited in their ability to learn new skills, so that in effect, to develop new tools would require giving up old ones. This seems unlikely since hand-axe users in fact seemed to flourish in a variety of different environments which would have required some specialized learning, though perhaps of a different kind than tool-making.

3. The hand-axe users had a very limited capability of passing on skills. This could have been partly due to cultural limitations, and partly due to genetic limitations. Thus a cultural limitation would simply mean that better modes of cultural transmission, while biologically feasible, simply hadn’t been invented yet. One such limitation might have been that fathers, though nearby during the raising of their offspring, had not yet gotten involved in teaching anything to them, or in effect being directly responsible at all for raising them, except possibly by offering protection and perhaps some nourishment, perhaps indirectly. (Sorry for all the qualifications, which wouldn’t be here if I had more recently in mind what our apish relatives do and what the fossil records might show. Evidently, orangutan males play little role at all in raising the young; male gorillas, from my own zoo observations, do little also, and from what I remember of Jane Goodall’s work, male chimps also do little. On the other hand, also from my own zoo observation, male siamangs seem to play a role equal to that of females in raising their young. Thus it is certainly not beyond the general ape pattern for human males to be involved in raising their young, and in so doing, to pass on culture if any, but it seems very possible that until quite late among proto-humans, this didn’t happen.

4. It is also possible that while the proto-humans in question could have invented more techniques – that is that their brains were complex enough to handle this easily — a kind of conservatism about preserving existing behaviors and not diluting them with new ones prevailed. We know that a strong degree of conservatism prevails among most humans today, and is particularly marked among children of about four(?), at least in certain matters, such as rules of games, gender roles, or eating patterns. And then again among many old people. It could be that the intermediate period of exploration and adventuresomeness was a later development for proto-humans. That would raise the question of how the hand-axe revolution happened in the first place, but one can imagine scenarios in which, for a small group, conservatism broke down, the revolution in tool-making took place, and then through contact or interbreeding with a larger group, the prevailing conservatism was re-established, but now with the hand axe as an exception.

5. But perhaps most likely is that once the hand axe was in use, further innovation would have required a denser population, to permit the necessary division of labor, on the one hand, and on the other to allow enough innovation to occur and be passed on successfully to enough “early adopters.”

I shall return in future to the question this raises about why population might have stayed below the innovation limit for so long.

# posted by Michael @ 5:03 PM 0 comments

A Coloring Book Theory of Modern War
New on my website “A Coloring Book Theory of Modern War” to be published in kritikos in Feb. 2005

# posted by Michael @ 3:59 PM 0 comments
Saturday, January 22, 2005

FREEDOM!!! (or bureacracy, or just office buildings?)
According to NPR, W said the word “freedom” 27 times in his 21-minute inaugural speech yesterday — an excellent example of misleading framing.

Even worse, he spoke again of the 9/11 attack as being an attack on “freedom.” This is utterly absurd.

What was attacked were two of the world’s largest office buildings, both, incidentally, built by government, not “free” enterprise. (The Pentagon is obvious, and the WTC was built by the NY Port Authority.) We are usually told the fourth plane was to be aimed at the White House or the Capitol, but for all I know one of the huge office buildings in Washington could have been the target –or maybe another side of the Pentagon was. The previous major al Qaeda attacks were also on government office buildings, at the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam.
The other attacks were on US military targets.

I don’t know why bin Laden has it in for office buildings, but since he cut his teeth in the guerilla war against the soviets in Afghanistan, and since he has made it clear he believes he brought down the USSR through that, it’s quite clear he has now focussed on the remaining “western” superpower. Would Bush say bin Laden attacked the USSR because of opposition to freedom? As for the office-building fetish, possibly bin Laden and his group did attack Soviet office buildings in Kabul or elsewhere in Afghanistan; maybe that even stuck in his mind as a source of success.

Of course 9/11 was heinous, but it was an evil attack on office buildings, not freedom. Let’s reclaim that important fact.

( I have previously speculated that al Qaeda was interested in attacking the World Trade Center because they were confused by the name, and thought that, rather than being rented out with difficulty mainly as back offices for Wall Street, it was, indeed, the center of world trade. If so, this again shows that we should be careful what we name things.)

# posted by Michael @ 1:01 AM 0 comments
Wednesday, January 19, 2005

The 2004 election
Let’s start with the bad news, of which there is plenty:

•The Democratic Party is at a SEVENTY-year low ebb, having now lost the Presidency and both houses of Congress twice in a row.

•The country is sharply divided politically on red-blue lines that begin to look permanent,

• The smaller red states, with their disproportionate share of electoral votes and Congressional representation, suggest a long-term edge for the right.

•The Democratic Party organization hardly exists in much of the old South, and is in decay in many other places.

•Democrats used to vie with Republicans for corporate campaign funds, but now almost all go to Republicans.

•Our all-out efforts with groups like ACT and Move-on were not enough to turn things around.

•The Rumsfeld crew is still in power in the Pentagon.

•American military might has been shown to fail against new capacities for resistance, however gruesome.

•Republicans are presiding over an unprecedented dissipation of American prestige and economic strength.

•The only category of American exports that is rising is trash, scrap and waste.

Each bit of that bad news at least holds out better prospects down the road, for us progressive Democrats —— at least if we have enough vision, imagination, and courage to ride it somewhere good.

First, of course, we did come quite close, even with a lousy candidate, in unseating the slickest, dirtiest Republican machine ever, and in wartime, even after the US mainland itself was attacked for the first time in almost two centuries.

Second, the blue-red tensions keep politics exciting and visible, and make it harder for issues to fade into the background. That makes new, inventive alliances possible, a new form for our old republic.

Third, for anything that goes wrong, at home, in Iraq, or elsewhere, Republican rightists will now be obviously to blame.

Fourth, with Democrats nearly out of the picture, the media, just to remain interesting, have to start scrutinizing Republican missteps more intensely, and have already started

Fifth, without corporate funds to pander for, it will be easier for Democrats to back progressive causes and to stick with them.

Sixth, Where Democratic organizations have fallen apart, there is room for new, more progressive ones to grow up.

Seventh, ACT and Moveon etc. have kinks that need working out, but they’ve gotten off to awfully good starts. We need to help build deeper , better vote-getting strategies, to be activated in still wider regions of the land.

Eighth, while the old world of, say, 1970’s liberal dominance won’t return, as America’s exceptional status in the world diminishes, there will be new opportunities to build a politics that recognizes the humanity we share with all on earth.

# posted by Michael @ 1:31 AM