Saturday, December 5, 2009

Another Self-Serving MAMZ Biography Has Obvious Holes

Difference between Markos C.Alberto Moulitsas Zúñiga and U.S. Rep. Barney Frank

The following is a pseudo-biography of Markos C. Alberto Moulitsas Zúñiga that I encountered today at Today's Profile.

Atty. Francis L. Holland says, "Since this biography does not mention that MAMZ told an audience at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco on June 2, 2006 that he had spent two years training with the CIA between 2001 and 2003, while he was starting DailyKos, I would not rely on or believe any assertion made in the biography below without independently verifying the facts first."

Did MAMZ really train at the CIA? If he did then, in the minds of many true leftists, he is per se unreliable as a member of the Left, much less as a leader of the Left. If he did not trained for two years at the CIA as he contended he had in a public interview on June 2, 2006, then he must be a pathological liar and sociopath who can tell the most outrageous lies in public and then feel no subsequent need to tell the public what the truth is.

Since MAMZ has had over two years to disavow his statements at the Commonwealth Club, and over a million blog posts and other online discussions have addressed these statements, mostly drawing negative conclusions, I think we have to assume that the statements are true until MAMZ disavows them. The corollary is that if we assume that MAMZ's statements were false, then we have to conclude that anybody who would lie about two years' training at the CIA would lie about just about anything.

My experience with these biographies of MAMZ that are based on interviews with him is that he tells a lot of tales that make no sense and/or are easily disproved with some Google research.

Based on my experience editing the Truth About Kos blog, there is a strong likelihood that research into the information below will turn up fatal inconsistencies, unverifiable assertions, and will be found to lack significant information. Surely, there are important facts missing and what "facts" there are, particularly about his advocacy for Latinos in Boston, deserve to be independently verified or refuted.

In fact, I challenge readers to try to independently verify or refute any detail below, and report the facts that you uncover -- with sources -- in the comments.

Biography Reference BankMoulitsas Zuniga, Markos

Moulitsas Zuniga, Markos
Sep. 11, 1971- Blogger; social activist; writer

2007 Biograph from Current Biography

For four days in June 2006, a group of highly important figures in the Democratic Party gathered at a convention in Las Vegas, Nevada, to meet with a group of their most influential constituents. Harry Reid, then the U.S. Senate minority leader, and Mark Warner, a former governor of Virginia and potential presidential candidate, were the first to confirm their presence on the list of attendees, and other big names soon followed. General Wesley Clark, a former--and possibly future--presidential candidate, Iowa governor and potential presidential candidate Tom Vilsack, U.S. senator Barbara Boxer of California, New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, and Howard Dean, a former presidential candidate and currently the Democratic National Committee chairman, were all in attendance.

The politicians had not come to meet with a labor union, environmental group, or other traditionally influential segment of voters. They were in Las Vegas to meet 900 left-wing bloggers, all of whom had descended on the city at the urging of one man, Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, the creator of the most widely read political blog in the country, Daily Kos.

Currently boasting up to 600,000 Internet visits per day, Daily Kos is at the forefront of a movement to reorganize the Democratic Party, and politics in general, by moving a measure of power away from the seat of national government, in Washington, D.C., and spreading it across the country through the Web. "The whole phenomenon has overturned the traditional understanding of how groups organize themselves to affect politicians," Ryan Lizza wrote for the New Republic (June 26, 2006).

As the de facto leader of this phenomenon, christened the "netroots movement," Moulitsas has risen to a position of enormous political influence in just a few years--using only a computer. In its current form, Daily Kos, an interactive Web site, allows anyone with Internet access to post a "diary" on the site; readers rate the diaries, and those with the highest recommendations appear most prominently. Daily Kos bloggers who support particular politicians can reach up to 600,000 people per day with their endorsements, making it worth the Democrats' while to put in personal appearances at conventions such as the one in Las Vegas.

While other left-wing political blogs also hold sway, Daily Kos is by far the most influential in the netroots movement. "I don't have any illusions that I'm a great writer," Moulitsas said to Current Biography, explaining his success. "The skill that I do have is being able to organize communities, and that's why Daily Kos has crushed any other political blog out there."
Blogs--short for "Web logs"--are a relatively new medium.

The veteran journalist Mickey Kaus is widely credited with inventing the blog in 1999, when he began a political diary posted on the on-line magazine Slate. The form soon took off, with people creating blogs on topics from politics to home improvement to motherhood. Blogs and bloggers are part of a culture separate from journalism or other forms of more traditional media: the language is more casual, the effects are more immediate, and, most importantly in the political realm, the blogger is not expected to conform to standards of objectivity.

As a leader in that increasingly influential field, Moulitsas has gained legions of followers as well as his share of critics. He is known for a polarizing personality that has made him a multitude of enemies among both Republicans and the mainstream media. In an article for the New York Times (September 26, 2004), Matthew Klam described Moulitsas as "cruel and superior," and while Benjamin Wallace-Wells noted in the Washington Monthly (January-February 2006) that Moulitsas is "extremely smart," he also went on to call the blogger "intense and high-strung" as well as "irascible, self-contradictory, often petty, always difficult."

Those within the blog world itself, however, tend to speak favorably of Moulitsas. "Kos is the platonic ideal of a blogger; he posts all the time, he interacts with his readers," Ana Marie Cox, formerly a political blogger, told Klam. Alex S. Jones, director of Harvard University's Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy, expressed a theory about the level of examination now leveled at Moulitsas, one that has little to do with his personality and everything to do with the revolutionary changes in blogging over the past couple of years.

"The blogosphere has always been mainly about scrutinizing everybody else and expressing violent opinions about them," Jones told Michael Grynbaum for the Boston Globe (July 6, 2006). "Kos is a very powerful blog, so in that sense it's taken on the vulnerability of one of the [political] leaders."

Markos Moulitsas Zuniga was born September 11, 1971 in Chicago, Illinois, to Markos Moulitsas, an ethnic Greek, and Maria Zuniga, who came from El Salvador. (In keeping with Spanish custom, his first name is followed by his father's surname--by which Moulitsas is known--and then his mother's surname.) His father was a furniture salesman, his mother a secretary. Moulitsas has a younger brother, Alexander, who is a graphic designer.

In 1975, the year Alexander was born, the family moved to El Salvador during that country's brutal civil war, in which anti-Communist government forces had the backing of the United States. Living in an environment where gunshots and explosions were everyday occurrences deeply affected Moulitsas's views on war--and on recent U.S. policy regarding armed conflict.

In the U.S., "war is a video game," he told Kara Platoni for the East Bay Express (December 15, 2004). "I've seen firsthand the ravages of war and the hatred, and just the notion that politics can be a life or death issue." In 1980, when Moulitsas was nine years old, his parents received an envelope containing photographs of him and his brother boarding a bus to school, a threatening gesture from the rebel troops who wanted to use the Moulitsases' house as headquarters. The family left El Salvador soon afterward and returned to the Chicago area, this time to Schaumburg, a suburb of the city.

After nine years of speaking mostly Spanish, and five years in a war-torn country, Moulitsas found the transition to life in the U.S. to be difficult. For the first two years after his family's return, Moulitsas attended a bilingual program at Schaumburg Elementary School. In fourth grade he switched to an all-English curriculum at another school, Thomas Dooley.

He described his time there--and, subsequently, at Robert Frost Junior High School and Schaumburg High School--to Current Biography: "What was tough for me, of course, was I had the funny accent, and I looked younger [than] my age." Those years, he added, were "pretty miserable." While in high school Moulitsas began taking piano lessons; playing the piano became a passion that provided an escape from the challenges of school and led him to consider a career as a professional musician. His ambitions were not limited to music, though. "I wanted to be everything when I grew up," he told Current Biography. "I wanted to be president of the United States."

In 1989, when he was 17 years old and weighed 118 pounds, Moulitsas joined the U.S. Army, an experience he has cited as the turning point in his life. "I would not be the person I am today without my military service," he told Tim Russert in an interview for CNBC News (June 3, 2006, on-line). "I'm extremely proud of it." He said to Platoni, "It was the Army, basically, that gave me the cocky arrogance I carry these days."

For Moulitsas, who came from a lower-middle-class family, entering the military seemed a good way to obtain a college education. In addition, Moulitsas, who planned to run for elective office in the future, felt that military service would benefit him in the long term. [Emphasis added.]

Francis L. Holland says, "I have always suspected and said that MAMZ was preparing to run for elective office. This idea was ridiculed at DailyKos, but MAMZ seems to have confirmed my suspicion in this interview with H.W. Wilson."

"I thought if I was ever in a position to send people to war, it would be hypocritical for me to do so if I myself had not served in the army," he told Current Biography. During basic training in Oklahoma, Moulitsas managed--despite his considerably smaller build--to finish with the lead group in a grueling, 16-mile road march, the first in a series of confidence-building experiences he underwent in the army. He spent most of his service as a fire-direction specialist for a missile unit in the small town of Bamburg, Germany.

After the Persian Gulf War of 1991 was launched, Moulitsas's unit was scheduled to be deployed to Saudi Arabia. The war ended, however, before they could be called into action. Moulitsas returned to the U.S. with a newfound confidence, the nickname "Kos," and, perhaps most importantly, a radically altered set of political beliefs. When Moulitsas entered the army, he had been a fervent Republican, largely because of the Republican president Ronald Reagan's support for the Salvadoran government.

"I didn't know any better," he told Current Biography. But the communal nature of his experiences in the army made him think differently about what he described as the Republicans' "selfish" approach to government. In 1992, while still casting a vote for the Republican candidate--George H. W. Bush that year--in the presidential race, he voted for Democrats in many statewide races.

"It was hard for me to make a transition because I spent all my formative years as a Republican, and a pretty hardcore one," he told Current Biography. "It's always difficult when you believe in something so long, to admit to yourself that you were wrong." By 1996, however, Moulitsas had become what he called a "straight ticket Democrat," completely embracing a liberal agenda.

Upon his return to the U.S., in 1992, Moulitsas enrolled at Northern Illinois University, in DeKalb, where he planned to major in music, with the hope of making a living composing film scores. His focus changed after he read a negative column about Mexican-American students in the school newspaper, the Northern Star. Moulitsas felt the need to write a column of his own in response; a few semesters later, he not only had a regular column but was also the editor in chief of the paper, while also freelancing for the Chicago Tribune.
Francis L. Holland says, "I can't find any evidence in the archives of the Northern Star student newspaper that MAMZ ever did write and publish a letter, column or article "of his own in response" to an article attacking Mexican Americans. If anyone can find this article in the archives of the Northern Star, I would be very much interested in reading it."

Of course there is a difference between asserting that he "
felt the need to write a column of his own in response" and saying that he actually did write such a column. I can't find the column so I ask readers to search Northern Illinois University's Northern Star students newspaper archives and see if there is any record of any such article, or any record that Moulitsas ever used his position as editor of the student newspaper to advocate for Latinos.

He seems to have written a column about "racism" on campus and then publicly disavowed any real interest in the topic in an article that ran shortly afterward.
Under his direction, the Northern Star became one of the first college newspapers to be posted on the Internet, in 1995, in the very earliest days of the Web.

"It's always been a point of pride of mine, that I'm always on the cutting edge of technology everywhere I go," he told Current Biography. He dropped his music major and graduated in 1996 with two degrees--one in philosophy, the other in political science and journalism. Also in 1996, several years before the term "blog" was coined, Moulitsas started the Hispanic-Latino News Service, a Web site to which he devoted three hours each day, sifting through and uploading news stories from around the U.S. and entering all the programming code manually.
Francis L. Holland says, "This is very curious. I read everything I could find on the Internet about MAMZ leading up to the August 19, 2007 publication of " The Indictment of Markos C. Alberto Moulitsas ZÚÑIGA by Justice and History (Updated with Additional Information and Counts). Although the above finds corroboration in a 1999 document by "Susan A. Vega Garcia" of Bowdoin College, I simply have no recollection of this document being available on the Internet in 2007. I wonder why it is available now?
During that period he also served as a quality-assurance tester for a number of software firms, work that helped him remain afloat financially and stay abreast of the continuing innovations in computer technology.

After completing his law degree, in 1999, Moulitsas was offered a job by the Latino Web site and moved to San Francisco, California, in the midst of the "dot-com" boom, to join the new company. PicoSito soon went out of business, but Moulitsas managed to get a job at a Web-development company across the hall. His work there allowed him to stay aware of the latest technology. He has also credited the company with teaching him how to create a distinct product brand, one of Daily Kos's greatest strengths.
The 2002 midterm elections, in which Republicans expanded their control of the House of Representatives and regained control of the Senate, were demoralizing for the Democratic Party and for Democratic supporters including Moulitsas. Moulitsas had been reading and occasionally posting entries on the political blog, founded in 2001. ("MDD"originally stood for "My Due Diligence"; the site was renamed "My Direct Democracy" in 2006.) Inspired by and its founder, Jerome Armstrong, in 2002 Moulitsas created his own blog, calling it Daily Kos, after his army nickname. "When I started, I had no illusions that anyone would ever read it," he recalled to Current Biography, explaining that he created the blog as simply a means of venting his feelings about the election results and the state of the Democratic Party. The blog immediately began attracting a readership that extended beyond his family and friends, the only people Moulitsas had expected to be interested in it.

Soon after Daily Kos's launch, Joe Trippi, the campaign manager for the 2004 presidential candidate Howard Dean, recruited Moulitsas and Armstrong as technology advisers to the Dean campaign. The pair formed a consulting firm, Armstrong-Zuniga, suggesting such then-radical ideas as using Web sites for fund-raising and enlisting the activist site to organize Dean supporters in their respective locales. Armstrong stopped blogging for the duration of the campaign, moving to Dean's headquarters in Burlington, Vermont.

Moulitsas continued blogging, disclosing his work as a consultant to Dean on Daily Kos the day after the deal was made. He would be criticized often for endorsing Dean while receiving a salary from the campaign, but ultimately, because of his full disclosure, his reputation did not suffer serious damage. Dean dropped out of the race on February 18, 2004; John Kerry later became the Democratic presidential nominee.

As the 2004 election drew closer, Daily Kos grew more and more popular, and Moulitsas's passionate, often harshly worded postings came under greater scrutiny. In April 2004 Moulitsas posted a controversial statement about the killings of four private military contractors in Fallujah, Iraq. He wrote, "I feel nothing over the death of mercenaries. They aren't in Iraq because of orders, or because they are trying to help the people make Iraq a better place. They are there to wage war for profit. Screw them." The immediate reaction to his posting was decidedly negative, with Kerry's official Web site removing its link to Daily Kos. Moulitsas later apologized, explaining that he was angry that the contractors' deaths had received much more media attention than the deaths of five marines on the same day. Still, he was not wholly repentant, defending his actions to Martin Bashir for ABC's Nightline (July 24, 2006, on-line). "The blogs are a raw, emotional medium . . . ," he said. "They're not measured conversation. They're not edited. They're raw."

Whether despite or because of that episode, readership of Daily Kos continued to grow. Moulitsas used the site's increasing popularity to start a fund-raising campaign for 15 Democratic candidates for various offices around the country, those he had identified as being most in need of funding in the 2004 elections. Readers donated approximately $500,000 to Moulitsas's picks, often giving money to candidates who were not even running for office in the donors' home states. All 15 candidates lost their races, much to the delight of Moulitsas's growing number of critics.

Moulitsas, however, said that he still considered the effort a success, as he and his readers had forced several incumbent Republican candidates to spend their time and money campaigning for their previously safe seats, instead of traveling the country to stump for other candidates. The Daily Kos's fund-raising campaign also was one of the earliest examples of a movement christened "netroots," driven by an increasingly recognized group of on-line Democratic activists. By rallying his readers around specific candidates, Moulitsas nationalized what would have been, in many cases, races of purely local interest.

With the Democrats' widespread defeat in 2004, most notably Kerry's loss to the incumbent George W. Bush, Moulitsas furthered his efforts to mobilize the party. He and Armstrong wrote a book, published in 2006 as Crashing the Gate: Netroots, Grassroots, and the Rise of People-Powered Politics. "This book was really written for those of us--and there's a lot of us--who really thought John Kerry was going to win the election . . . ," Moulitsas told Russert. "When election night came and went, we lost the election, we decided to set out and find out why we lost and what we could do to change that in the future."

The "gate" of the title refers to Washington, D.C., and what Armstrong and Moulitsas see as the insularity of national politics--a quality they believe can be eliminated, at least partially, through the Internet. "What we're saying is that people now are empowered by technology to take an active role in their government, take an active role in the media and not let D.C. dictate what happens and what doesn't happen in this country anymore," he told Russert.

In an assessment for the New York Times Book Review (March 26, 2006), Peter Beinart called the book "persuasive" and an "insightful guide to how the Democratic Party can retake power." Lee Drutman similarly praised the book in the Los Angeles Times (May 30, 2006). "Crashing the Gate is brash and infuriating, as it should be . . . ," she wrote. "It commands attention."

Moulitsas commanded even more attention through the convention he organized in June of that year. Dubbed "Yearly Kos," the conference drew more than 1,000 attendees: 900 bloggers (calling themselves "Kossacks"), 100 reporters covering the conference, and a dozen politicians trying to win the bloggers' support. Widely heralded in news reports as a turning point for the netroots movement, the conference demonstrated a new level of power and influence on the part of the bloggers. As Ronald Brownstein observed in the Los Angeles Times (June 11, 2006), the Yearly Kos "may have marked a milestone in the evolution of the online liberal community from scruffy insurgents to an institutionalized force within the Democratic Party."

Lizza viewed the scene differently, noting the $50,000 party thrown by former governor Warner, the open-bar party at the Hard Rock Casino hosted by General Clark, and the breakfast function organized by Governor Richardson. "Las Vegas could be the beginning of a new era of blogger influence and authority," Lizza wrote. "Or it might just be the weekend they all sold out."

For his part, Moulitsas assured the bloggers that they still represented a movement separate from the political establishment. In his keynote address at the convention, he asserted the need for bloggers and other ordinary citizens to take action. "The media elite has failed us; the political elite, both parties, has failed us--Republicans have failed us because they can't govern; Democrats have failed us because they can't get elected. So now it's our turn," he said, as quoted by Brownstein. "We have arrived," he added, as quoted by the National Review (July 5, 2006). "There's no doubt we're turning the political world upside down."

Indeed, the netroots movement wielded considerably more power in the 2006 mid-term elections than it had only two years earlier. Moulitsas's endorsement on Daily Kos was a major factor in Ned Lamont's primary victory over the incumbent Democratic U.S. senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut. (Lieberman went on to run as an Independent and defeat Lamont in the general election, thanks to the large numbers of Republicans who voted for him.) As in the 2004 elections, Moulitsas picked a roster of candidates to support on-line. This time, a number of them--most notably the U.S. Senate candidates Jon Tester of Montana and Jim Webb of Virginia--won, helping to give control of both the Senate and the House of Representatives to the Democrats for the first time in 12 years.

Regarding those results, Moulitsas told Current Biography, "I'm focused, really, on building a long-term movement. So I don't get too disappointed about losing . . . and I don't get too excited about winning." He said that he is looking ahead to the elections of 2016, the year he predicts the Democrats will be competitive with the Republicans in terms of party infrastructure.
Along with the increased influence and popularity of his site has come an increased scrutiny of Moulitsas himself. Although he fully disclosed his work for Dean, Moulitsas consulted in 2004 for a number of other political candidates whose names he refused to reveal, leading many news outlets to speculate that he was being paid to endorse certain candidates on his blog. "While the Daily Kos is a community site, it is hardly a democracy," Brian Reich wrote for the Web site Personal Democracy Forum, as quoted by Platoni. "Make no mistake, it is Kos' world, and his readers are all just playing into it." Others continue to criticize Moulitsas for the tone of his blog. "The liberal blogosphere are a group of people who feel incredibly disenfranchised," Franklin Foer, the editor of the New Republic, told Grynbaum. "They feel their country's been hijacked and they're essentially powerless and the only way to stop it is to scream as loudly as you can." Moulitsas is not particularly bothered by his critics. "Clearly, I make a living throwing stones, so I'm going to take some incoming," he told Current Biography. He also sees little need to defend himself against criticism of his use of Daily Kos to endorse candidates. "My site is my site," he told Platoni. "You can start your own site. That's the whole point: Anybody can do this."
Moulitsas is currently at work on his second book, tentatively titled "The Libertarian Democrat."

He is also working on a redesign of the Daily Kos site that would allow for considerably more traffic; that project is slated for completion in 2008. In 2004 Daily Kos launched, an encyclopedia of more than 7,000 political articles written and compiled by members of the Daily Kos community. In January 2005 Moulitsas began to post SB Nation, a network of sports blogs. Both and SB Nation are active and expanding.

Moulitsas lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife, Elisa Batista, a former reporter for Wired News, and their son, Aristotle, who is three years old, and daughter, Elisa, born in April 2007. In 2003 Moulitsas devoted an additional blog,, to the travails of fatherhood, and Batista now contributes to, a blog about parenting.


Suggested Reading: Newsweek p34+ July 3, 2006; New York Review of Books (on-line) Apr. 27, 2006; New York Times IV p12 June 25, 2006; San Francisco Chronicle A p1+ Apr. 5, 2006; Washington Monthly p18+ Jan./Feb. 2006

Copyright (c) by The H. W. Wilson Company. All rights reserved.

No comments: