Doing my part to undermine Rick Santorum. You can too!

When you Google for "Santorum," this is the top search result. (Click to enlarge - but only if you're not too squeamish.) You can help keep this brilliant effort working.

It’s time to use my power for good.

Yesterday NPR reported on how the batshit crazy social conservative former US senator Rick Santorum is pulling ahead in Republican polls for the presidential race.

Santorum has always annoyed and amused me. But with this, he’s officially scaring me.

Today, Marketplace Tech Report reminded me about Rick Santorum’s Google problem — so I decided to take action.

So here I am linking to SpreadingSantorum.com, a Google bombing page that writer Dan Savage set up in 2003.

Furthermore I encourage everyone else to do likewise.  Especially if you’ve had your own web site or blog under its own domain name for several years. But even if your only online presence is via a third-party service like Facebook, WordPress.com, or Tumblr (where you don’t have your own domain), I still encourage you to post a link to SpreadingSantorum.com.

Talk about a long-term investment in search visibility that is REALLY paying off! Here’s how it works…

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Mobile/social media and politics: Why news organizations should care

Recently the Pew Internet and American Life project published two reports about how Americans are using new digital communication tools to learn about, discuss, and engage in politics — particularly around the Nov. 2010 elections.

I wrote two posts for the Knight Digital Media Center at USC explaining how news organizations can use this information to create more effective ways to engage and grow the audiences for their political coverage — and why they shouldn’t wait for the next election season to do this:

Windy Citizen Uses Cool Tools to Cover Blagojevich

As the ripples spread from Chicago’s latest corruption drama, the community news site Windy Citizen is trying some innovative, fun approaches to online coverage and commentary. They did this using free online tools that anyone can use.

Here’s what one of these tools can create:

More about what Windy Citizen is doing on this front…
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Envirovote.us: Keeping important context visible

Earlier today on Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits I wrote about Envirovote.us, a new site that aims to show the potential environmental impact of to tonight’s Congressional elections. They show tonight’s winners in context of envl group endorsements, plus previous races for those seats.

They’re updating stats on the site as those races get called. It’s getting interesting. Check it out.

Boulder Naked Pumpkin Runners = Sex Offenders? COME ON!

Scene of Boulder’s 2008 Naked Pumpkin Run busts, plus two nearby real (violent) crimes earlier that same day.

UPDATE NOV 4. The names of the 12 busted streakers have been published, so I’m following up on this case via local courts

On Halloween, as I wrote earlier, I went down to Boulder, CO’s Pearl St. pedestrian mall to check out the costumes — which are always spectacular — and to see the annual Naked Pumpkin Run. (Note: that link above goes to my blog post which includes a video containing nudity.) This loosely organized event has a lot of local fans.

The Naked Pumpkin Run is nothing more than that — sometime around 9-10 pm on Halloween, a bunch of people get naked, put jack-o-lanterns on their heads, and run en masse down the Pearl St. Mall. It’s not sexual, violent, dangerous, or threatening. It’s just silly. It’s unique. It’s fun. It’s exuberant. It’s positive and life-affirming.

And: It’s illegal.

Unlike in previous years, the Boulder police were out in force for this event, where they ticketed several runners for indecent exposure. Consequently, several fun-loving local folks may end up suffering life-altering public stigma as registered sex offenders.

No kidding.

The Colorado Daily posted this video of the event, including some footage of the busts:

Need some irony? All this happened less than 24 hours after two remarkably violent assaults, which occurred just a half-mile from the scene of the Naked Pumpkin Run busts.

Here are the details, as best as I’ve been able to gather them so far… Continue reading

Being a Citizen Shouldn’t Be So Hard! Part 2: Beyond Government

NOTE: This is part 2 of a multipart series. See the series intro. More to come over the next few days.

This series is a work in process. I’m counting on Contentious.com readers and others to help me sharpen this discussion so I can present it more formally for the Knight Commission to consider.

So please comment below or e-mail me to share your thoughts and questions. Thanks!

To compensate for our government’s human-unfriendly info systems, some people have developed civic info-filtering backup systems: news organizations, activists, advocacy groups, think tanks, etc.

In my opinion, ordinary Americans have come to rely too heavily on these third parties to function as our “democracy radar.” We’ve largely shifted to their shoulders most responsibility to clue us in when something is brewing in government, tell us how we can exercise influence (if at all), and gauge the results of civic and government action.

Taken together, these backup systems generally have worked well enough — but they also have significant (and occasional dangerous) flaws. They’ve got too many blind spots, too many hidden agendas, insufficient transparency, and too little support for timely, effective citizen participation…

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Being a Citizen Shouldn’t Be So Hard! Part 1: Human Nature

NOTE: This is part 1 of a multipart series. More to come over the next few days. See Part 2.

This series is a work in process. I’m counting on Contentious.com readers and others to help me sharpen this discussion so I can present it more formally for the Knight Commission to consider.

So please comment below or e-mail me to share your thoughts and questions. Thanks!

If you want to strengthen communities, it helps to ask: What defines a community, really? Is it mostly a matter of “where” (geography)?

Last week I got into an interesting discussion with some folks at the Knight Foundation and elsewhere about whether “local” is the only (or most important) defining characteristic of a community. This was sparked by an event held last week by the new Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy — an effort to recommend both public and private measures that would help US communities better meet their information needs.

From the time I first heard of this project, I thought it was an excellent idea. It bothers me deeply that many (perhaps most) Americans routinely “tune out” to issues of law, regulation, and government that not only affect them, but also that they can influence — at least to some extent. (I say this fully aware that I often fall into the “democratically tuned out” category on several fronts.)

The problem then becomes, of course, that when citizens don’t participate, their interests are easy to ignore or trample.

Why do so many Americans abdicate their power as citizens in a democracy? It seems to me that many are too quick to “blame the victim,” pointing to widespread apathy, ignorance, or a prevailing sense of helplessness as common democracy cop-outs.

I think there’s a different answer: The way our democracy attempts to engage citizens actively opposes human nature. That is, it just doesn’t mesh well with how human beings function cognitively or emotionally.

Fighting human nature is almost always a losing battle — especially if you want people to participate and cooperate….

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