an in-between move

Cool kids read The Bellman.


Don't read this blog!

I mean, thanks for dropping by my little corner of the blogospheric backwaters, but the blog you should be reading is The Bellman. The stuff I post there is much, much less likely to be imbued with dormitive powers.


[German, from zwischen, intermediate + zug, move

Literally an "in-between move". A move in a tactical sequence is called a zwischenzug* when it does not relate directly to the tactical motif in operation. |source|

image copyright TWIC

From this position, black played a zwischenzug: 19…d5
(Linares 2002, 1-0)


about your blogger

David Rowland studies philosophy at the University of Illinois - Urbana / Champaign, where he's an active member of the Graduate Employees Organization. He used to play a lot of chess, but wasn't all that good. He has a blog. And email.



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$zwichenzug$ sell-out zone





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Union Label

Direct Action
Gets the Goods!


some folks I know

Mark Dilley
a daily dose of architecture
Safety Neal
January Girl
mimi jingcha
Hop, Skip, Jump
ambivalent imbroglio
Brooke & Lian


some blogs I read

strip mining for whimsy
It's Matt's World
School of Blog
Fall of the State
Dru Blood
Echidne of the Snakes
Colossal Waste of Bandwidth
Running from the Thought Police
Bionic Octopus


some philosoblogs

Fake Barn Country
Freiheit und Wissen


some labor blogs

Confined Space
Working Life
Dispatches From the Trenches
Labor Blog
Eric Lee


some A-list blogs

This Modern World
Matthew Yglesias
Andrew Sullivan
Political Animal
The Volokh Conspiracy


some other links

Rule 33
This Week in Chess
War Nerd
National Priorities Project
Bible Gateway
Internet Archive
A Weekly Dose of Architecture
Orsinal: Morning Sunshine
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Safety Sign Builder
Get Your War On


some philosoblogging

Six views about reasons
Seidman on reflection and rationality
And another thing
Tiffany's argument for strong internalism
Internalism v. Externalism
What do internalists believe anyway?
Rationalism and internalism
The experimental method in philosophy
Advertising to children
On moral skepticism
A linguistic argument
More on Williams
Williams on reasons
General and particular
Normativity and morality
Political intuitions
What it is, what it was, and what it shall be
Objectivity and morality
Thinking revolution
Abortion and coercion
Moore on torture
On the phenomenology of deliberation
Even more Deliberation Day
more Deliberation Day
Deliberation Day run-down
He made a porch for the throne where he might judge, cont.
He made a porch for the throne where he might judge
Every shepherd is an abomination
Droppin' H-bombs
ad hominem

Thursday, January 29, 2004


I come to bury Caesar...

Here in Illinois we don't have our primary until the middle of March, so I haven't been forced to choose a candidate. Rather than commit before I had to, I've been standing by the side of the road watching the parade go by. Today, just as yesterday, and nearly every day since the beginning of the political season, the best show has been the Dean campaign.

What a disaster. Joe Trippi quits. Roy "Washington Insider" Neel is hired. Ads are pulled in all seven states holding primaries or caucuses next Tuesday. The staff won't be paid. That soft thud you just heard is another Deaniac falling off the bandwagon. The campaign is broke, and in more ways than one.

Salon very professionally understates a key political liability, writing that, "critics are certain to question whether a candidate who could not manage the estimated $40 million he raised last year is capable of managing the world's biggest economy." But nobody says it better than .jasonblog.'s succinct, "Unless it turns out that he spent all that money we sent him on magic beans that are going to grow into a huge beanstalk of electoral might, I'm through with him."

Though I didn't invest in Dean the way a lot of people did, the spectacle of the last ten days has given me pause. For me, the promise of the Dean campaign was twofold. First, it seemed to offer a model a Democratic candidate could use to outflank Bush's fundraising juggernaut. Dean managed to energize a large cadre of donors and activists with a very small investment of organizational time and resources. Second, I thought that Dean raised the level of public debate in the country by turning his web campaign into a new kind of public space. This allowed his campaign to exert control over the national agenda in a way that limited Rove's ability to frame issues. But the promise of the Dean paradigm is, to say the least, threatened by the catastrophic failures in Iowa, New Hampshire, and the Lyndonville Savings Bank.

There are ample explanations available for Dean's troubles, many of which don't have anything to do with the internet campaign model. The press anointed him front-runner and favored him with a scrutiny that exaggerated and invented flaws. Gephardt launched a kamikaze attack. An account draining strategic decision was made to manufacture shock and awe in Iowa and New Hampshire. And, as the scream showed, Dean didn't always do well on TV. All of this is true, and much more besides.

But because the internet model had such promise it's worth giving it another look. It seems to me that Dean's campaign suffered from two serious problems that are directly traceable to the model. One, I think, isn't a deep problem and can be remedied fairly simply. The other, however, strikes me as much more fundamental.

The solvable problem is that Dean's volunteers just weren't very good organizers. This judgment is based partly on anecdotal reports gleaned from the blogosphere and the mainstream press, but mostly on the fact that their voter assessments in Iowa were utterly unconnected to reality. Since most of Dean's volunteers were political neophytes who had never worked on a campaign, this shouldn't be much of a surprise. Organizing is difficult to do well. More than anything else -- more than training, more than enthusiasm, more than being right -- it takes experience. And the experienced political volunteers weren't, by and large, volunteering for Dean.

This problem might have worked itself out if Dean hadn't become the front runner. If third place had been an acceptable result, his core volunteers could have used Iowa and New Hampshire to gain the experience needed for February and March. More importantly, if the online model were generally adopted, its pool of potential volunteers would quickly become much more experienced.

The more serious problem comes from the decentralized meme that the model imposes on the campaign as a whole. Salon reported today that "internal decision-making processes tended to be chaotic, with top supporters getting contradictory marching orders from Trippi and the Burlington staff in the same day." If you're wondering where the money went, ask yourself how budgetary decisions are likely to be made in that environment.

This problem is deep because decentralization is what makes the web campaign tick. By eschewing centralized control, the online model creates a community with a sense of participation and ownership. The vibrancy of this community accounts for the campaign's ability to generate funds and volunteers. Its very existence creates a public space which makes it possible for issues to be discussed in the kind of depth appropriate to a participatory democracy.

Now, it might be possible to marry a decentralized online campaign to a traditional top-down offline campaign. In fact, it looks like this is what the Dean campaign is going to try to do in the next few weeks. But this is a bad fit for several reasons. Most seriously, it undermines the participatory features of the online campaign which make that campaign attractive. For an online campaign just starting up, this would be fatal. For an established campaign like Dean's, it may be possible to change the conditions of the relationship without alienating the online community.

Another possibility is to divorce the web campaign from the candidate. Then, the model would be MoveOn.org instead of the Dean campaign. The online campaign might still support a candidate from time to time, but the virtual community wouldn't be constrained by the needs of a centralized organization.

While I think that communities like the one surrounding MoveOn.org will become increasingly important parts of the political process, those communities are fundamentally unlike the one promised by the Dean campaign's internet model. One practical difference is that candidates wouldn't be able to rely on the community for the kind of fundraising that Dean got from his web presence. But the crucial difference is that the imprimatur of a viable national candidate bestows a special kind of legitimacy on the campaign's online community.

Let me end by gesturing at the importance of this legitimacy by quoting a passage from John Rawls' Political Liberalism. Rawls wrote, "In a democratic society public reason is the reason of equal citizens who, as a collective body, exercise final political and coercive power over one another in enacting laws and amending their constitution." Participants in both MoveOn.org and in Dean's online campaign engage in public reason in something like Rawls' sense. What I am claiming is that participation in a campaign for political office has a special kind of importance because it is a direct exercise of political power, while participation in MoveOn.org is indirect. That difference is enough to affect the seriousness with which participants can and should regard their actions.

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