No, Print Isn’t Dead. It’s Even Growing.


There’s a lot to despair, it would seem, for people in the newspaper industry. Classifieds, obituaries, the reporting of news itself, all once solidly in the newspaper publisher’s wheelhouse, have gone digital. Articles about the death of newspapers are far from new or original anymore, and from the perspective of newspaper reporters and contributors the fears expressed in those articles are well warranted. Investors have been pulling money out of newspapers for years, and even though the industry is stabilizing as newspapers make new revenue putting their digital content behind paywalls and the like, the print format of those papers is slowly going under, at least according to conventional wisdom. And of course it is. As a news media consumer, I now have two options for purchasing a subscription to a local or national paper. I can do it the old-fashioned way, wait for a truck to cruise by my house at five in the morning and wake me up by slapping a paper against my front door, walk out to get that paper at six to read a small portion of it before either taking it with me on the train or leaving it behind and driving to work, or I can just have the same paper delivered to my inbox every morning at the same time and read it whenever I get to my desk in the morning, minimizing the tab with my news on it when another task comes up. Put that way there’s really no contest.

But print as a media format isn’t limited to news. And outside of the news world, it’s still thriving. Even digital companies are pushing print and more traditional media distribution centers today. Amazon just opened its first brick and mortar store (follow the link to see what the store looks like inside) in Seattle. The store carries thousands of print books sold at the same prices as on the website. This follows a trend Amazon has been on for a while of incorporating print into its media empire rather than trying to extinguish it. Authors who publish their novels or nonfiction books as ebooks on the website have for years had on-demand print options available to them and their customers through Amazon. Now those authors have a shot at getting their books in Amazon stores (hopefully without having to sacrifice royalties to do so).

And it was very prescient of Amazon to recognize the strength of print media and incorporate it into their brand. Print is still a place to put your money if you’re the kind of person to invest in these things. Between 2009 and 2014, despite the Great Recession’s drag on the economy, the number of small, independent book stores in the states has jumped at least twenty percent. This, too, could be because of companies like Amazon; the idea of independent book stores thriving as a counter to giant retailers in the same way craft breweries exploded as a counter to domestic super-brewers is not at all implausible.


But other reasons could be behind the continued survival and growth of print. Maryanne Wolf suggests that the distraction-free nature of print media in a modern world full of nothing but distractions can’t be underestimated. “The basic message of working on screen is you are on call,” Wolf says of digital media. “It’s not that you can’t do deep reading on a screen, we’re talking about the ease of how you get into it. The emphases are different. Amid all the interruptions on a screen, we are actually diminishing the amount of words we really take in when we read.”

It may not be easy to prove the reason why, but the fact is print continues to do well, somehow. In addition to Amazon’s investment, there are examples of public support for print books even through Kickstarter campaigns like this one. This is as true in business it seems as with literature. Ironically, the prevalence of digital design tools and formats seems to be contributing to a four billion dollar growth of the inkjet market in four years. The ability to print technology onto things like paper and textiles seems to be contributing as well.

This of course could be an overly optimistic assessment. There are hundreds of articles to refute the hundreds of articles out there arguing that print is surviving and even thriving well into the digital age. But in many ways the fates of digital and print media seem inexorably linked; digital formats exist increasingly not only as independent media of their own but as a way to make something look and feel as pretty as possible on a piece of paper. Access to literature and news in both formats has never been easier for humanity in general, and maybe print is simply being propped up by overflow consumers in an age of digital enlightenment. But my hunch is it’s managed to market itself as a real alternative, and until a Kindle can feel as good in the hand as a book, print will be around for a while.

No, Print Isn’t Dead. It’s Even Growing.

Newsflash to Democrats: Winning is Important


By a lot of accounts, the Democratic Party has become increasingly divided over the last year or two. This has been highlighted, underscored and circled in red pen by the way the presidential primary is going for Democrats so far, but there’s at least some evidence to suggest this has been going on for a while. The Atlantic pointed two years ago to economic inequality and what to do about it as the central point at which the Democratic party is divided. They backed this up with the now familiar bullet points of millenials moving the electorate to the left and the electoral victories of Democrats like Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts and Bill de Blasio in New York as signalling a return to liberalism. In doing so, they identify millenials as really, really young New Deal liberals and older more “establishment” Democrats as centrists who are centrists specifically because they want to win elections.

More then just in the general sense, the Democrats have allowed themselves to become divided on specific issues as well. They’re divided on the Syrian refugee issue. They’re divided on the historic nuclear deal the president made with Iran (for the record it astounds me how anyone could oppose that deal, but that’s a matter for a different post). They were divided over whether Joe Biden should run for president (as if a candidate needed the electorate’s permission to enter a race). They’re deeply divided over whether to take an interventionist or isolationist approach to fighting terror in the Middle East.

There’s an argument out there that division among a political party is a good thing, that it allows for open and honest discussion about the direction a political party should take, the ideology it should embrace and the degree to which it should embrace that ideology, etc. And there’s an argument out there that this is a good time (relatively speaking) for the Democrats to be divided because the Republicans are divided, too. I mean come on. Just look at all the Republicans running for president, right?

But the huge and telling difference that can’t be repeated enough is that Republicans aren’t actually divided on being Republicans. They might disagree on who they want to lead the party, but they don’t disagree that they’re a part of the party and that it’s a good thing for them if the party wins elections. That is why no matter how much Republicans may denounce Donald Trump, they have publicly gone on record stating they will support the nominee whoever it happens to be. That might be a level of cognitive dissonance that’s hard for most people to understand, but the logic behind it is incredibly simple. Political parties exist to win elections. Standing behind your party’s candidate during an election is the best way to ensure that candidate wins. If enough candidates win, the political party has a major seat at the table when it comes to running the actual country. The GOP has drifted way to the right recently, and it will likely eventually drift back towards the center, but regardless its major figures will continue to fully support the candidates the party nominates for office.

It is simply not that way for Democrats, or for the left in general, especially in recent history. The infamous PUMAs of 2008 were ready to bring down the Democratic Party because Barack Obama became the eventual nominee for president and the Hillary camp for whatever reason simply would not concede. Many of them accused party leadership of rigging the nomination process in favor of Obama. At the time of this writing there’s an active Bernie or Bust pledge where Sanders supports swear they won’t vote for anyone but the Vermont Senator under any circumstances, even if that means employing a write-in vote. Many of them have accused party leadership of rigging the nomination process in favor of Mrs. Clinton.

You may notice a pattern there, but it doesn’t just exist in the US. In the UK, the Labour party went through a similar, albeit at the time much more pronounced, divide over ideology between left, center-left and centrist factions. It became so bad some of them splintered off and formed their own political party (which has since vanished) and Labour was crushed in 1983 when it remained divided right through the election itself. The same thing happened in 2015; Labour’s focus on ideology and ambivalence about actually winning cost it an election it should have won.

Returning to the US, what’s surprising is that there isn’t much structurally speaking within the political parties themselves to explain the different ways Republicans and Democrats view the roles of their parties. Republicans see the Republican Party as an organization dedicated to winning elections so they can control the political agenda and the levers of power needed to execute that agenda. Democrats view their party as a standing representative of the collective principles of those members, and elections as constant tests of those principles. Going by that definition, no wonder Democrats don’t care as much about their party; it’s because they don’t care as much about winning elections. They care about abstract stances on political issues instead.


Well my opinion is, and there’s no nice way to say this, that’s a really fucking stupid way of looking at politics, and it’s going to lead to nothing except the prolonged suffering and oppression of the disenfranchised and marginalized groups most Democrats claim to represent. This isn’t just a flippant accusation; there are progressive Democrats actually saying letting Republicans win and Americans suffer is some necessary cathartic moment that will “wake up” the country. These are progressives, claiming to fight for the oppressed of this country, wanting those oppressed people to suffer at the hands of a right-wing administration because they apparently need to learn some kind of lesson.

Let me be crystal clear: that’s straight-up deluded, and proof positive that calling yourself a progressive and adopting radical positions simply for the sake of being radical doesn’t make you any smarter, any more prescient, any more “awake” then anyone else in this country. And if you’re willing to throw an election because you think doing so will lead to mass suffering, and that mass suffering is required in order for the country to adopt your positions, it’s your positions that are wrong, not the country’s.

It’s fine to be divided, but you should be divided on tactics and strategy, not on whether or not winning is necessary. Newsflash to Democrats: Winning is important. Your collective belief it isn’t is one of the primary reasons you are where you are right now and why the US is being mismanaged by the league of drunken uncles that calls itself the Republican party. The people you claim to represent are counting on you not just to speak for them but to actually win. Maybe try focusing more energy there, and less on whether your constituents need to suffer to understand your increasingly deluded mentality.


Newsflash to Democrats: Winning is Important

Let’s Break Down this Data Breach “Scandal”




Let’s take a moment and look a little closer at the data breach scandal that has clumsily thrown the Democratic party into some kind of Mexican standoff between supporters of its two front-running presidential candidates. It’s hard to find anything like an unbiased article to link to, but in case you haven’t heard the DNC’s voter file has been compromised.   Several (what could only be senior level) staffers from the Sanders campaign may have been able to view voter data from the rival Clinton campaign for anywhere from a few moments to a couple of hours on Friday. According to USA Today this is because “a vendor’s firewall failed”, which made Clinton voter data available to rival campaigns for the brief window. The crux of all this is this isn’t free data. The firm that collects, stores, and sells this data to campaigns is called NGP/VAN, and is the single most essential modern organizing tool for political organizers and operatives on the Democratic side of the aisle. So when data is made available to those who didn’t pay for it or other wise request access to it, it’s a major issue. It’s a major issue not only because the Democratic party has a contract with the vendor and therefore needs the company to be able to trust them with sensitive data about millions of voters, but also because the company has a reputation to uphold as well. Both are put at risk when this sort of thing happens.

The details around the actual data breach are hazy at best. Depending on what sources one goes to, the Sanders campaign either maliciously tried to gain access to their rival’s files or was set up by the DNC in order to bring their campaign down. What we do know is the Sanders campaign fired Josh Uretsky, its national data director over the incident. Shortly after that, Sander’s campaign manager Robby Mook held a press conference specifically to lay into the DNC and present the campaign’s version of events. “We are particularly disturbed right now that they [the DNC/Clinton campaign, presumably] are using the fact that they stole data as a reason to raise money for their campaign,” Mook told reporters. Jeff Weaver, also identified by the Associated Press as a/the Sanders campaign manager, said  “Clearly, in thise case, they [the DNC] are trying to help the Clinton campaign.”

The judgment and collective outrage of the progressive community was swift. The collective decision has already been made that the DNC is a shill for the establishment candidate and the system is rigged against the progressive candidate. Popular progressive blog Crooks and Liars veered dangerously close to Gamergate territory with an article entitled The DNC Data Breach-It’s the Cover Up! In it they alleged “the DNC was out there employing the great smoke and mirrors of politics.” Their opinion is that Sanders is just the fall guy in a DNC attempt to cover up a massive security breach that would have undermined the relationship between them and the vendor that maintains their database. And that was just the most benevolent critique of the DNC from the progressive blogosphere. Reverbpress argues the data breach is just an excuse to punish an insurgent campaign. Because the breach was described as “inadvertent” (the actual quote, misrepresented by the article, is that all users were “inadvertently able to access some data belonging to other campaigns for a brief window”) by the DNC communications director, according to Reverb, the Sanders campaign was unfairly punished when it was temporarily suspended from accessing voter files with NGP/VAN. Consistently outraged Russia Today apparently agrees, going so far as to call it “our data.”


But the evidence suggests that this breach wasn’t just something Uretsky happened to stumble upon alone one night while going over campaign data. Multiple sources with presumably some level of inside knowledge of the incident have apparently told reporters that four NGP/VAN user accounts tied to the Sanders campaign had run searches of the data at the time it was compromised. And yesterday the Sanders campaign suspended two more staffers who were likely involved in the incident. So far, it seems like no one’s telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth about what happened here.

And that’s probably because no one knows what happened here for sure. That is what annoys me most about progressives’ reactions to this. Usually it’s bloggers and internet trolls on the right that react prematurely to events and spin conspiracy theories like yarn at will. Usually it’s the Brietbarts and Limbaughs of the world that see cover-ups at every turn. But this is the first nationally significant news story in quite a while where virtually the entire American progressive left has thrown itself into the deep end without knowing virtually anything about the data breach incident. Even Snopes doesn’t know what happened. But despite that, and despite the story being unresolved and barely 72 hours old, the verdict is in. The DNC chair, Hillary, etc. must hang. They have been lying to and instilling fear in “movement progressives” (are there non-movement progressives?) for too long and must hang for it.

As for me, before I don the black hood and walk Hillary up the creaky wooden ramp to the gallows, I want to at least take a look at other possible explanations, particularly ones that don’t contain the accusation of malice on the part of one of the two leading campaigns in the primary. Because if we look at the facts, there’s no evidence of malice; incompetence, maybe, but no malice. After sifting through the countless articles on the breach, I find this take from the always thorough David Phillips to be the most compelling (the key portion of his article quoted below):

“So here we have a situation where people now behave like fans instead of citizens and supporters. More than one thing can be true at a time. You can think Hillary Clinton is a less than savory candidate (no argument from me). You can think Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is shitty at her job and favors Clinton (I certainly believe both of those things), you can believe the DNC is a hot mess and I won’t argue with that either.

What I will say is when you are faced with good liberal reporting that tells you this breach not only occurred, but involved multiple staffers and the collection of data, AND there is empirical digital data that proves that, AND the guy who did it flat-out confessed that all these things are true, AND you still want to defend the behavior of the campaign or even worse, deny that it happened at all, well, now you’ve become something akin to a republican denying that climate change is man-made, or even is a thing.”

That’s about it, folks. Facts are stubborn things. And the facts simply do not support a grand anti-Sanders conspiracy surrounding a data breach that several of his staffers may (or may not) have behaved less then ethically during. Not all the facts have come out yet, but so far the conspiracy theory just doesn’t look plausible. What’s more likely is simply the result of an insurgent campaign hiring staffers driven by ideology more then experience. In other words, some of Sanders’s staffers may never have experienced a high-pressure situation where one must tread incredibly lightly to remain ethical, and a few of them choked. As of this time, that’s about it.

Let’s Break Down this Data Breach “Scandal”

Agreement Reached in COP 21 Summit



The COP 21 climate conference has wrapped up in Paris, and will likely go down in history as a historic moment for the international community and climate change; the question is what kind of turning point COP 21 will be. Barack Obama has said as much about the agreement, calling it a turning point for the world. China and India praised the deal, which is a major milestone in and of itself as they are set to become the world’s biggest polluters if trends continue in their economies. CNN even attempted to praise the agreement calling it “hailed as a milestone in the battle to keep Earth hospitable to human life.”

But there is plenty of skepticism over whether the agreement reached in Paris is going to truly be a step forward in “the battle to keep Earth hospitable to human life,” a battle too many are still mind-bogglingly against fighting. The big sticking point for most is that the agreement, while mandating bottom-up a system cutting of greenhouse gas emissions across the world over time, doesn’t contain any strong provisions for punishing member states who fail to abide by those emissions cuts. That may or may not be a fair criticism; there is no supranational legal body responsible for forcing sovereign nations to agree to the terms of treaties and if there was it would be less progressive and more Orwellian.

The rest of the media’s and various politicians’ opining on the agreement boils down to differing degrees of optimism on a single number. The Paris agreement is designed to curb global warming and keep it under 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. In short some think that is possible and some think it is not. Combined with the constantly evolving politics over climate aid to developing nations it’s a recipe for the kind of relatively information-free disagreement that the internet and mass-media were made for. For example Nick Dearden, director of what could be called for better or worse an international eco-socialist activist group called Global Justice Now, has said of the agreement, “It’s outrageous that the deal that’s on the table is being spun as a success when it undermines the rights of the world’s most vulnerable communities and has almost nothing binding to ensure a safe and liveable climate for future generations,” arguing that the agreement is simply not going to be held up by developed nations.

But even business groups in those developed nations are treating this agreement as something different. WBCSD, a sustainable business advocacy group, tweeted that “the transition to a low carbon economy is unstoppable.” If global warming to some degree is unstoppable, one can only hope so are its proposed solutions.

DSW staff are analyzing the details of the agreement reached and will continue to comment on this, the most significant development to date in our lifetimes in the battle to keep earth habitable.


Agreement Reached in COP 21 Summit

2-Week Climate Talks Begin in Paris



Described by NPR as a mission to produce “a short simple agreement–maybe a dozen pages–that will satisfy nearly 200 nations”, the U.N. Climate Change conference , a two-week convention of world leaders on the subject, has just kicked off only a few weeks after the terrorist attacks in the same city. The conference has been framed in controversy even before it started, as 200 citizens were arrested in Paris during climate change protests. The state of emergency in the city since the terrorist attacks prohibits open public assemblies regardless of the reasons for them.

The talks, which officially started Monday and run through December 11th, are already being treated by some media outlets with more optimism then previous climate talks in the last decade. NPR has said of the independent plans world leaders have submitted before the conference, “Independent experts have calculated that if the world is currently on track for warming of about 4.5 degrees Celsius, these pledges would reduce that to about 2.7 to 3.7 degrees — which is real progress, before the Paris summit even starts.”

But there’s plenty of healthy skepticism to go around, too. Many are arguing that unless something changes, these talks may fall far short of producing the kind of consensus needed to begin the reversal of exponentially increasing global warming trends. has already noted that “Of the 183 countries [who have submitted plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions], only two — Ethiopia and Morocco — have plans that Climate Action Tracker (a consortium of research organizations) rated as “sufficient” to meet climate goals.” The U.N. itself has even stated out of desperation that these talks are one of the last chances the world has to deal with climate change.

Still, the consensus at this point, that these talks will be different, meaningful even, is growing. This conference is seeing more international media focus then any similar climate meeting before. The fact that virtually every government on the planet has submitted plans for the reduction of greenhouse emissions before the conference has even started is alone a huge step forward. Even the Vatican has commented on how important the Paris conference is to the future of the planet. There are still scores of things that could go wrong; Murphy’s Law is not affected in any way by climate change. But the level of goodwill among governments and people going in to this conference is unprecedented. DSW will be covering the talks as they go ward from now through December 11th.



2-Week Climate Talks Begin in Paris

An American Thanksgiving



Please, internet, forgive me for posting what amounts to an unsolicited rant on the internet right before Thanksgiving. It’s the most inappropriate time for such things; indeed, Thanksgiving has become the holiday of unsolicited ranting. If it isn’t a rant from your right-wing uncle about how groups of systematically oppressed people are ruining this country by politely asking not to be shot, it’s your overly nutritionally conscious guest going on the warpath for their favorite dish not being gluten-free. Or it’s the organized bevy of relatives constantly asking when you’re getting married, or if you’re married when you’re having kids, or if you have kids when they’re going to college, and once they’re in college it’s time for them to produce of course.

So there’s enough ranting on Thanksgiving, so forgive me, but this rant is about Thanksgiving. It deserves its own rant. It’s a holiday in many ways unique to the United States, though its central (modern) theme is simply about being grateful everyone made it through the year in one piece with their health, and about celebrating that with the family and inner circle of friends and acquaintances. There’s plenty of political commentary to be had about what Thanksgiving means to different groups of people, but this post is not about that. At least not expressly.

This post is about the great Thanksgiving irony, the vacuum of cognitive dissonance created over these fifty states late every November that might, one day, actually drag us to our deaths like a black hole. It’s the irony of millions of people who have so much, many of them greedily clawing onto it with bloodied fingers, being grateful for what they have without being willing to share what they have with others. It’s an irony that threatens to completely rend the human condition in half.

Think about it for a second, ignore the uncomfortable feelings you get thinking about it and just think about what Americans have. As an American myself, I feel qualified to speak of what we have. We live in a country where most of us have access to pocket-sized smart phones powered by minerals thousands of child soldiers have died in Africa over the right to sell to phone providers for pennies on the dollar. We live in a country where civil war is unheard of except in a history class. Most astonishingly, we live in a country where even a Dunkin running out of dark roast is pretty unheard of.

And yet somehow, in that sea of excess, millions of Americans who are literally choking in luxury, who are literally so satiated and well-provided for they die of over-consumption, outright refuse to offer the simplest pf help to the less fortunate, whether those less fortunate be Americans or not. They recoil at the idea of the welfare state, they joke about panhandlers being con-artists living in million-dollar homes, they laugh at raising the minimum wage, they balk at paying a minimal portion of their income in taxes to fund unemployment benefit or community centers for poor children or tuition subsidies.

These same people will gather around tables across the country on Thursday and pronounce how grateful they are for what they’ve successfully horded to themselves. But no matter how loudly they acclaim their thanks they can’t escape the reality that Thanksgiving is a holiday the very premise of which strikes at the heart of their opulent and imperialistic worldviews.

Thanksgiving is about being grateful for one’s family, for one’s health, for the countless immaterial things that separate us from the animals. But one cannot feel grateful without understanding, appreciating, and grieving for the suffering of others. Thanksgiving is not a holiday for those who have never had to struggle. And may it forever stay that way.

An American Thanksgiving

On Paris: What We Don’t Know



There’s a lot we still don’t know about the attacks in Paris that left 130 dead. There’s a lot we don’t know about the future after these attacks, or what’s going to happen in France or around the world as a result of ISIS demonstrating it can attack western targets once in a while if it chooses to do so (though now that even may not be true).

In this brave new media world where instant response and analysis is required in the face of events that used to shock the world into silence, many people have instead declared as loudly as possible what they do know. In many cases what they know are that according to them, Muslims are scary. That and clinical insanity can be the only reason behind Donald Trump wanting to tag every Muslim in the United States so he can then herd them and treat them as animals if elected president. In a less Hitlery but no less cowardly display, the GOP House, joined by almost fifty Democrats, passed a bill effectively banning helpless refugees (because apparently they’re also scary) from entry into the US. They even went so far as to surround and intimidate one of their own caucus members in a likely futile attempt to get a veto-proof majority.

But the fact is there’s still a lot that we don’t know. French authorities are still capturing some of the attackers; borders were closed due to the attacks until Thursday and may be closed longer. The French Senate is so unsure of what might happen next it extended the country’s state of emergency for three months. There’s no particular guarantee that will help anything.

The fact is it has only been a week since these attacks. Emotions are still raw, information is incredibly limited, and analyses are deeply flawed.

The fact is that by spreading fear and panic the media around the world is doing a gross disservice to humanity.

Analysis is one thing, and as we get it we will do our best to report it here on DSW. But for the rest of it, the fear mongering and the direct selling of emotional terror to the general public for political gain and holistic alternatives to Viagra for white male politicians in the US, enough. Shut up already.


On Paris: What We Don’t Know