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Surf-veying the Progressive Web

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This article is the first in a series honoring Web sites other than OpEdNews that fall under categories such as progressive, liberal, or Net roots. The left end of the Web will never move in lock-step like the hard right does (or did until they saw Bush was leading them over a cliff). But site's been good about linking to and granting reposting rights to each other. We need to hold fast to that camaraderie because once the hard right regroups, it will haul out the heavy guns again. Before proceeding, just a reminder not to heed those charges, frequently directed at the progressive media, of "preaching to the choir." It's the same approach that the hard right uses under another name: "rallying the base." It was, of course, critical to their rise to power. Besides, however important the undecideds, disaffected with Iraq, were to the elections this year, remember: They're undecided because they don't follow politics. Since they're not listening, it's senseless to dilute your message to reach them. In our survey, we'll be looking at sites from aggregators, or portals, to magazines to newspapers to multi-media sites to blogs. Our purpose isn't to evaluate, since we're only choosing the best, but to pay tribute and promote. Minor reservations, however, will be expressed. Our first choice is one of the most crucial -- and classiest -- sites on the left end of the Web: If you're one of the few progressives who haven't seen it, Cursor, based in Minneapolis, links to articles, blogs, and videos that its founders, Rob Levine and Mike Tronnes, deem indispensable. The links, ranging from The Christian Science Monitor to the World Socialist Web Site, are incorporated into concise blurbs. Presumably because it takes time to distill the day's events, it only posts once a day. Like some people rely on The New York Times to decide what's most important on any given day, Cursor is one of the most authoritative sources for progressives. Next, we'd like to acknowledge Its official title is One Thousand Reasons: Documenting the Failures of the Bush Administration "The Best National, International, and Alternative News & Opinion." It fills much the same function as Cursor. But instead of encapsulating what it links to in blurbs, Thousand Reasons simply posts the title, subhead, and first few sentences of an article and, often, a picture. Upon your initial visit to Thousand Reasons, you're struck with two first impressions. 1. If Cursor is classy, Thousand Reasons is elegant -- it's artfully designed. 2. Why, you wonder, so many articles from The New York Times and The Washington Post, about which many progressives have reservations? Those papers, however irritating, remain tremendous resources. In fact, we owe a debt of gratitude to Thousand Reasons founder Phil Tate for doing the dirty work and trawling through them for articles we might never have seen because of an ingrained bias against the papers. Thousand Reasons also fills a vacuum left by Cursor and another top portal -- As opposed to Cursor, Thousand Reasons refreshes itself throughout the day. Also, it's easier to use than Cursor, which often highlights words or phrases that don't make clear what the link in. Though perhaps it's intentional, there's a lot of opening sites you don't expect. Buzzflash, much as we love it, suffers from a more daunting frustration quotient. You know what we're talking about -- those links to fund-raising premiums interspersed with their news links. Ganging them up in the lead, left column seems almost self-defeating. Not only do exasperated readers skip over them, but some are driven away. Relegate your premiums to their rightful place, Buzzflash -- the margins. In other words, marginalize yourself before your readers do. Finally, we'd like to pay tribute to the man who may have done more to bring respectability to blogging than anybody -- He's a former reporter who now churns out financial reports for a corporation to fund his regular American lifestyle. We're not sure if the title of his blog, "Whiskey Bar," is fitting because he exhibits none of the crankiness or bitterness of a heavy drinker. He does, at times, though, surrender to despair. What most distinguishes him is both his masterful grasp of American politics and foreign policy and his ability to churn out long treatises with what appears to be the utmost ease. Such as this: "As a nation, we may be so desensitized to violence, and so inured to mechanized carnage on a grand scale, that we're psychologically capable of tolerating genocidal warfare against any one who can successfully be labeled a "terrorist." Or at least, a sizable enough fraction of the American public may be willing to tolerate it, or applaud it, to make the costs politically bearable." And he does it for free! Presumably out of deference to his day job and his responsibilities to his family, he maintains his anonymity (sort of -- a quick search reveals his name) and doesn't write books. Therein lays his only drawback. Billmon periodically disappears from the Web for agonizing stretches -- like for the last month. "Is this the end?" his readers wonder. One pictures his wife: "You have to choose -- the blog or us." He's back now, but for those periods when Billmon is out of action, try The Rootless Cosmopolitan: Visit these blogs, and, if possible, donate to Cursor and Thousand Reasons -- as well as OpEdNews -- to ensure their solvency.
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Russ Wellen is the nuclear deproliferation editor for OpEdNews. He's also on the staffs of Freezerbox and Scholars & Rogues.

"It's hard to tell people not to smoke when you have (more...)

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