Monthly Archives: April 2009

When Is Enough Enough?

A few weeks ago, Bamos, a regular blogger at Daily Kos, posted an entry detailing a “social experiment” he’d conducted on Twitter. During the height of the ARRA legislation debate, when feelings were running strongest, he opened a Twitter account with the user name InTheStimulus.

His intention was to post a series of false “facts” about the stimulus bill and watch the reaction of the conservatives who were following him. His early tweets were fairly plausible but as time went on, they became increasingly outrageous. Judging from his post, his apparent motivation was to illustrate the stupidity of conservatives and he and the people who commented on the post were duly scornful and self-congratulatory. The story came to the attention of some Conservative tweeters and eventually to me, as I was one of the tweeps caught in the sting operation, as I detailed here.

Bamos’ blog post appeared to be the end of InTheStimulus; a search of Twitter returned an error. Bamos, however, was unwilling to drop his game. Rather than deleting the InTheStimulus account, he had simply deleted all the updates and changed his user name to TheAngryRighty. TheAngryRighty differed from InTheStimulus as there seemed to be no real attempt to deceive anyone. The updates were silly and TheAngryRighty was obviously a caricature created by someone with a fairly low opinion of conservatives’ capacity for rational thought.

Eventually TheAngryRighty stopped posting updates. That could and should have been the end of the story, but Bamos resurfaced. While his motive remained the same – to scam conservatives – his tactic was far less benign.

This time, rather than selecting an anonymous persona, Bamos chose to  impersonate GOP Representative Don Young of Alaska. At first, the updates were designed merely to portray Representative Young as a tech-ignorant buffoon but eventually an update was posted that started to generate some buzz.

Just received a memo from the White House: either I sign a loyalty oath to Obama, or "my life will be difficult". Insane. (I won’t!)

Reactions ranges from outrage over the request to dismay at the refusal to sign. In any event, it seemed like a prudent time to call foul. Quite aside from the fact that identity fraud is a crime, there’s no reason to think that Representative Young is anything other than a decent human being who’s chosen a life of public service. He deserves better.

As for Bamos, well, I guess he just doesn’t know when to leave well enough alone. Rather than learn something from his original experiment, he and his readers chose to cling to their prejudices, confident in their own superiority.

Enough, I say.

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In Which Michael Steele Miraculously Discovers His Spine

Upon news of Senator Arlen Specter’s abandonment of the GOP, Michael Steele had the following to say:

Let’s be honest-Senator Specter didn’t leave the GOP based on principles of any kind. He left to further his personal political interests because he knew that he was going to lose a Republican primary due to his left-wing voting record.

Then, in an e-mail sent yesterday afternoon:

I hope Arlen Specter’s party change outrages you. It should for two reasons:

First–Specter claimed it was philosophical–and pointed his finger of blame at Republicans all over America for his defection to the Democrats. He told us all to go jump in the lake today.

I’m sorry, but I don’t believe a word he said.

Arlen Specter committed a purely political and self-serving act today. He simply believes he has a better chance of saving his political hide and his job as a Democrat. He loves the title of Senator more than he loves the party–and the principles–that elected him and nurtured him.

He goes on:

Facing defeat in Pennsylvania’s 2010 Republican primary due to his left-wing voting record, and an end to his 30 year career in the U.S. Senate, he has peddled his services–and his vote–to the leftist Obama Democrats who aim to remake America with their leftist plan.

As recently as April 9th, Senator Specter said he would run in the Pennsylvania primary next year as a Republican. Why the sudden change of heart? Clearly, this was an act based on political expediency by a craven politician desperate to keep his Washington power base–not the act of a statesman.

This is stronger language than I would have expected from Steele and, frankly, based on some of the bizarre statements he’s made since becoming RNC Chair, I might have expected him to apologize to Specter for making the GOP such a small tent.

So congratulations, Chairman Steele, and here’s to hoping we’ll see more of the new you in the future.

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Excuse Me? Twitter Is Fueling Panic?

In a self-serving piece, CNN makes the case that Twitter is fueling unnecessary panic over the swine flu.

The swine flu outbreak is spawning debate about how people get information during health emergencies — especially at a time when news sources are becoming less centralized.

Buzz about swine flu on Twitter is stirring conversations about how people get health news. Some observers say Twitter — a micro-blogging site where users post 140-character messages — has become a hotbed of unnecessary hype and misinformation about the outbreak, which is thought to have claimed more than 100 lives in Mexico.

“This is a good example of why [Twitter is] headed in that wrong direction, because it’s just propagating fear amongst people as opposed to seeking actual solutions or key information,” said Brennon Slattery, a contributing writer for PC World. “The swine flu thing came really at the crux of a media revolution.”

Twitter’s popularity has exploded in recent months, and Slattery said it’s a new development that a wide number of people would turn to the site in search of information during an emergency.

Setting aside fears about swine flu, the reporter, John D. Sutter, leaves no doubts about CNN’s fears, stating that the controversy comes as news sources are becoming less centralized. As their market share continues to drop, any indication that people are turning elsewhere for primary news sources has to be discouraging and must be the reason Sutter chose to set the tone of the story based on Brennon Slattery’s input. Slattery, a writer for PC World, makes the claim that Twitter is propagating fear.

Maybe it’s just me, but a contributing writer for PC World isn’t where I’d turn to determine if a news source – any news source – was fueling panic in matters relating to public health. I might turn to the CDC. Oh! And look what they have to say.

A spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, however, said that the online buzz about swine flu is a good sign. It means people are talking about the issue, and that’s the first step toward learning how to reasonably protect yourself.

“I think it’s generally a useful development, but I would encourage people to look to other sources, especially established, recognized medical authorities,” said Glen Nowak, chief of media relations at the CDC. “It shows that people are engaged and they care and that it’s caught their attention — and those all are good things.”

How about that, the health experts at the CDC say, the online buzz about swine flu is a good sign and it’s generally a useful development. But that’s not really the focus of CNN’s story.

Even so, my sense is that panic may be rising, but, seriously, with congress investigating the outbreak, President Barack Obama requesting $1.5 billion to respond to the outbreak, and the World Health Organization raising the pandemic alert level from three to four (out of six), why blame Twitter for fueling panic?

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You Say Yes, I Say No

But does that mean we can’t respect each other? For some people, the answer, apparently, is “yes.”

I had an exchange on Twitter today with @X* which came about as a result of my declaration that I love Dick Cheney. I do. I can’t help it. I think his treatment by the press has been spectacularly unfair.

Here’s what followed:

@X: wow , I lost so much respect

@itsonlywords: Why, because I like Dick Cheney?

@X: yes, to the rest of the world, the man is a criminal

@itsonlywords: I’m sorry you feel that way.

No response. I couldn’t leave it alone, so I looked around for a stick with which to poke @X.

@itsonlywords: I’m curious. What is it exactly that you don’t like about Dick Cheney?

At this point @X could have responded with a list of reasons he doesn’t like the former VP, along with links to support his position. Or even a list with no backup. Then again, maybe not.

@X: if you have to ask, there is no use discussing it. We live in a different reality and world. Hes a criminal. I hope he rots

I believe in second (and even third and fourth!) chances, so I wasn’t ready to give up just yet.

@itsonlywords: No, seriously. List his crimes, I want to understand your position.

Apparently that question was so offensive that, not only did I not receive a response, @X blocked me. For those of you not familiar with Twitter, blocking a person prevents their updates from appearing to you.

Think about this. @X feels so strongly about Dick Cheney, it causes him to lose respect for another individual, yet when asked he can’t give even one reason why. Instead, he resorts to personal attacks, saying “if you have to ask, there is no use discussing it” (i.e., you’re too stupid to understand) and “we live in a different reality and world” (i.e., you seem to be a little off balance…are you off your meds?); he then repeats the claim that Cheney is a criminal, as though the mere fact of repetition makes it true. He feels so strongly about Dick Cheney that he calls him a criminal and hopes he rots, but can’t list a single crime.

Yet this belief, so passionately held, is apparently so fragile that it can’t withstand even the hint of a challenge. @X could simply have ignored my update about Dick Cheney; it was directed to another person, so no response was required from @X.

I found this exchange to be quite discouraging. I’ve been having great conversations via Twitter with people all across the political spectrum and this is the first time it’s ended badly. Obviously we all hold some opinions that are rooted in something other than fact. My high opinion of Dick Cheney, for example is based on my impression of him after listening to him speak and reading a few things he’s written. It may well be supported by facts, but I wouldn’t be able to cite them. Accordingly, I wouldn’t presume to challenge someone holding an opposing belief.

That a person can hold a belief so passionately with apparently so little factual basis for that belief and act so swiftly and decisively, with so little debate, leaves me without much hope for a return to civility in the public forum.

*@X’s name has been changed to protect his identity. In fairness, the possibility exists that @X could have defended is position with facts but chose not to do so; however it seems unlikely to me that a passionately held belief would not be defended if it were possible to do so.

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More Corruption In King County

From the Seattle Times on Saturday, April 11:

“An eight-member jury ruled in U.S. District Court in Seattle Wednesday that Roads Division Manager Linda Dougherty and Roads Planning Section Manager Jennifer Lindwall took action against [Ho-Chuan Chen and Hossein Barahimi] in retaliation for their dissent.”

Washington residents will find nothing unusual in yet another tale of corruption in King County, but the rest of the country may be interested as King County Executive, Ron Sims, is on his way to that other Washington to serve in the Obama Administration as the #2 in command of HUD. (Full Article)

The Times article is incredibly sketchy coverage of an important story; to remedy that, Mike Costello has written an excellent piece for his blog, The Squeaky Wheel. Please read this piece and forward the link to readers around the country.

Dory Monson, a local talk show host, also covered the story on his show.

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The AP Maintains Their Journalistic Reputation

Hey, writing like this is why they get paid the big bucks while I work for free, right?

Several years ago, a crew member of a Taiwanese fishing boat hijacked for six months was killed by pirates, but no reason was given but it appeared to be an isolated incident, according to Noel Choong, who heads the International Maritime Bureau’s piracy reporting center in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. No reason was given but it appeared to be an isolated incident, he said.

(Unfortunately, the full article is no longer available.)

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Jesus Conquered The Grave

Everyone needs compassion
A love that’s never failing
Let mercy fall on me,
Everyone needs forgiveness
The kindness of a saviour,
The hope of nations.

Saviour, He can move the mountains,
My GOD is mighty to save, He is mighty to save,
Forever, author of salvation,
He rose and conquered the grave,
Jesus conquered the grave.

So take me as you find me,
All my fears and failures,
Fill my life again.
I give my life to follow, Everything I believe in,
Now I surrender,
Yes, I surrender

Saviour, He can move the mountains,
My GOD is mighty to save, He is mighty to save,
Forever, author of salvation,
He rose and conquered the grave.

Shine your light and let the whole world see,
We’re singing for the glory of the risen King, Jesus,
Shine your light and let the whole world see,
We’re singing for the glory of the risen King.

Saviour, He can move the mountain,
My GOD is mighty to save, He is mighty to save,
Forever, author of salvation,
He rose and conquered the grave.
Jesus conquered the grave!

You’re my saviour, You can move the mountains,
GOD, You are mighty to save, You are mighty to save,
Forever, author of salvation,
You rose and conquered the grave,
Yes, you conquered the grave.

~Ben Fielding & Ruben Morgan

More Easter posts:

Once, For All

Oh, Mighty Cross

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