Some stories are just so silly that it is hard to resist repeating them for the sake of amusement. The big political “scandal” today is that the possible Republican opponent to Democratic Lt. Gov. John Walsh, who might become a candidate for the Senate, got a screen grab showing that Walsh liked this Facebook page: Breasts. Proof men can multitask2. Walsh claims that clicking “like” was a mistake and the “like” was removed.
This sure seems tame compared to the sex scandals which recent candidates such as Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer got involved in (especially considering Facebook’s prohibition against the display of bare breasts). Besides, considering the amount of homophobia in the Republican Party, not to mention the overall popularity of breasts, I wonder if it was really necessary for John Walsh to distance himself from breasts.
The religious version of the Get Out Of Jail Free card is indulgences to reduce one’s time spent in purgatory. In the middle ages some from the church would sell this for large sums of money. The Vatican is now trying to be more modern:
In its latest attempt to keep up with the times the Vatican has married one of its oldest traditions to the world of social media by offering “indulgences” to followers of Pope Francis’ tweets.
The church’s granted indulgences reduce the time Catholics believe they will have to spend in purgatory after they have confessed and been absolved of their sins.
The Vatican isn’t stopping with Twitter. They plan to use other social media such as having a Facebook page and using Pinterest. How much time off from purgatory does one get for being Pope Francis’ Facebook friend? Are their rewards for posting pictures of the Pope on Pinterest?
Michigan Republican National Committeeman Dave Agema has obtained a lot of attention recently, even alienating some Republicans, with his extreme views on homosexuality. He is comparing gays to alcoholics when talking about getting them to give up their lifestyle. MLive reports:
“What I’d like to have the homosexual community know is I don’t hate them,” he said. “As a matter of fact when Jesus caught a woman in the act of adultery when they brought her to him he said I don’t condemn you but go and sin no more. That ought to be the church’s goal here. We ought to be saying to these people, ‘Hey, we don’t agree with your lifestyle and we’ll help you get out of it, but we want you to know the facts of what’s going to happen to you if you stay in this lifestyle.’”
The former state representative from West Michigan entered the national debate on gay marriage two weeks ago by sharing an article on Facebook titled “Everyone Should Know These Statistics on Homosexuality,” which began with a warning to parents that their children could be “indoctrinated” at public schools.
Agema repeated that claim on Wednesday, saying that school kids are already being conditioned to accept homosexuality and that “the next thing that will occur is your kids will come home and say, ‘I think this is a good thing and I think I want to be one.’”
The article also described various health problems associated with “the lifestyle,” citing various sources from 1978 to 1994, including a non-practicing chiropractor with ties to white supremacist and anti-Semitic groups. Agema has since updated the “traditional marriage” section of his personal website with links to additional sources, including the Family Research Council.
“If you really love someone, if you really were concerned about someone, if you saw your friend for example dying of alcoholism would you just stand quietly by and watch it happen?” Agema said on the radio program. “Or would you speak up and say hey I want to help you. That’s what we should be doing.”
As noted above, he recently shared an article with his Facebook friends expressing anti-gay bigotry:
The article, written by a “Frank Joseph, M.D.,” purports homosexuals are promiscuous, riddled with sexually transmitted diseases and by and large are substance abusers.
It also alleges gay people are responsible for the spread of the AIDS virus in America, that “many homosexuals admit they are pedophiles” and that they are 100 times more likely to be murdered than “the average person.”
The outrage against this post also included protests by some Republicans. While they do not go along with Agema’s extreme statements, I wonder how many of these Republicans would be willing to support legal change to reverse laws which discriminate against homosexuals.
Having arguments brought before the Supreme Court on same sex marriage has highlighted the division in this country over social issues. While liberals respect the rights of individuals to live their lives as they choose, social conservatives demonstrate the fiction of conservative support for small government or individual liberty. It is conservatives who support the use of big government to impose their views upon others.
Differing from conservative views, the posts showing up on my Facebook page are covered with graphics supporting marriage equality, with many people changing their profile pictures to ones such as above and below:
There is no rational argument to support using the government to impose one’s religious views upon others. The Founding Fathers certainly frowned upon this when they developed a secular government with separation of church and state. The modern conservative movement, which is both morally bankrupt and out of touch with reality, sees things differently. Here’s the dumb conservative question of the day from The Brody File: Are Evangelicals Now More Scorned than Homosexuals? Of course Evangelicals who seek to impose their religious views upon others should be scorned. Why does the religious right believe there is a reason that homosexuals should be scorned.
With growing majorities supporting marriage equality, there is even speculation that the Republican Party will give up on this issue. Others will continue to fight modern times and reality. Mike Huckabee responded to the prospect of Republicans supporting same sex marriage: “if they do, they’re going to lose a large part of their base because evangelicals will take a walk.” Of course this would hasten the demise of the Republicans as a national political party.
Some conservatives are supporting continued discrimination based upon biblical reasons, which have no place in our system of government. I’ve even seen some claim that it is their freedom of religion which is being infringed upon. To the religious right, freedom of religion means the “freedom” to impose their religious views upon others.
Google announced today that they will be shutting down Google Reader as of July 1, 2013. I am sad to see it go both for the convenience and blog traffic.
With social media and magazine-style aggregators taking over the web, RSS readers have fallen in use. For those of us who want to regularly scan a large number of web sites, RSS readers are more complete than the random suggestions from Facebook friends and from tweets. Of course these are not mutually exclusive. A good old fashioned RSS feed will not have the pretty graphics of programs such as Flipbook, but they allow for getting at much more actual text information. Google Reader also allows me to read a feed on any computer (including phone or tablet) and keep what I have or have not read synchronized.
Starring items of interest makes for an easy way to go back to web sites if I don’t have time to read when going through the RSS feed when the article or blog post isn’t important enough to save to Pocket, Instapaper, or Evernote, but I do want to look at it later. It is also how I keep track of material I intend to reference in upcoming blog posts. Between now and July I will also have to go through the items I have starred, assuming they will always be available in Google Reader, and save those which are still worth saving.
RSS readers have also been important for bloggers. Back when they were more commonly used, this blog had over 8000 subscribers through RSS feeds. Now this has fallen to around 800. Over the years there have been abrupt drops as each major online RSS reading site was discontinued. There were probably also less obvious declines as people stopped using their computer-based RSS readers. Of course some of the loss has been made up from social media which provides a large audience for the posts. My followers on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ are comparable in number to the old RSS reader subscribers. I do bet that a far lower percentage of Facebook friends read a copy of a blog post than subscribers in RSS feeds did. (Another effect of social media has been to replace blog comments with discussion of posts on social media).
Hopefully there will be enough outrage at Google shutting down Google Reader that they will reconsider now that they are the only major on line RSS reader left. There is a petition to Google to keep it alive. After enjoying the convenience of on-line synchronization, I could not go back to the desktop-based readers I used in the past. While far fewer people are using RSS readers, I do think there are enough of us left to support at least one site. Digg and other sites are looking into providing an alternative. I hope at least one of them resists the temptation to be too fancy and just copies Google Reader with minimal enhancements.
Know-nothing conservative politicians have little to fear from getting voted out of office. There are plenty of jobs for them at places such as Fox. Sarah Palin even quit her job as governor to make more money displaying her ignorance to even more ignorant conservatives. It looks like even a job at Fox isn’t guaranteed to be forever with Palin not accepting a renewal of a contract with Fox:
After a three-year run as a paid contributor to the nation’s highest-rated cable news channel, Sarah Palin and FOX News have cut ties, according to a source close to the former Alaska governor.
“It’s my understanding that Gov. Palin was offered a contract by FOX, and she decided not to renew the arrangement,” the source close to Palin told RCP. “She remains focused on broadening her message of common-sense conservatism across the country and will be expanding her voice in the national discussion.”
The source declined to say whether Palin would pursue a television contract with another news network, such as CNN.
It is hard to see Palin at CNN or MSNBC. She might find a spot on talk radio, and I’m sure she will still make a good living giving talks to conservative groups.
There is speculation, considering how rocky things have been between Palin and Fox, that Palin was not offered a new contract which she was happy with. Doug Mataconis summarized the relationship:
This isn’t entirely surprising. There have been signs for quite some time that FNC, or to be more specific Roger Ailes, was souring on Palin. Her appearances on the network have become increasingly rare, which was odd considering the fact that the network went through the effort and expense of constructing a remote studio in her home thousands of miles away form the network’s home office. Additionally, there were reports way back in 2011 that Ailes was not entirely pleased with Palin both because of the fact that she chose to announce her Presidential intentions on a talk radio show and because of her reaction to the criticism she unfairly received after the Gabby Giffords shooting. Last year, the speculation about the status of her relationship was put into further doubt when she took to her Facebook page to complain about the fact that the network did not utilize her during the Republican National Convention. So, perhaps, this was a long time in coming.
After the inspirational campaign of 2008, the Obama reelection campaign was a let down. Considering the dire consequence of a Romney victory to the nation, Obama supporters generally tolerated the campaign based upon attacking Romney as long as it was working, but it was not the type of campaign most of us really wanted to see. Few people were going to second guess the campaign as long as Obama had a secure lead, but it seemed like Obama should be doing more to respond to the Republican attacks and doing more to say why voters should vote for him as opposed to against Romney. Now that we are in the final two weeks with Obama clinging on to a slim lead in the battleground states, the campaign has begun to do these things:
Over the weekend, after seeing yet another ad blaming Obama for the economic conditions created by the Republicans, I suggested on Facebook that the Obama campaign should run an ad with “Bill Clinton placing the blame on Bush for crashing the economy, the GOP House for obstructing recovery, and crediting Obama for keeping us out of a full fledged depression.”
“The stuff some folks are saying about President Obama sound kind of familiar. The same people said my ideas destroyed jobs—they called me every name in the book.”
“Well we created 22 million new jobs and turned deficits into surpluses.”
“President Obama’s got it right. We should invest in the middle class, education and innovation. And pay down our debt with spending restraint and asking the wealthy to pay a little more. Sound familiar?”
They did this slightly different, tying Clinton’s ad into another ad released this week, spelling out Obama’s plan for the economy, but they did see the value in having Clinton do such an ad. Of course there is no reason why Clinton couldn’t do additional ads now that he has backed Obama’s policies.
The ad above reiterates what Obama has already been saying, but putting it together in one place helps counter Romney’s claim that Obama does not have a plan for his second term. The new ad was accompanied by a booklet on Obama’s Blueprint for America’s Future.
In the final two weeks, the ground game is receiving more attention. Molly Boll described how this gives Obama an advantage. The Field-Office Gap is far more important than the Bayonet-Gap of the third debate.
While Obama’s office in Sterling is one of more than 800 across the country — concentrated, of course, in the swing states — Romney commands less than half that number, about 300 locations. In the swing states, the gap is stark. Here’s the numerical comparison in what are generally considered the top three swing states — Ohio, Florida and Virginia:
But the difference isn’t just quantitative, it’s qualitative. I visited Obama and Romney field offices in three swing states — Ohio, Colorado and Virginia — dropping in unannounced at random times to see what I could see. There were some consistent, and telling, differences.
Obama’s office suite in Sterling was in an office park next to a dentist’s office. The front window was plastered with Obama-Biden signs, the door was propped open, and the stink bugs that plague Virginia in the fall crawled over stacks of literature — fliers for Senate candidate Tim Kaine, Obama bumper stickers — piled on a table near the front reception desk. In rooms in front and back, volunteers made calls on cell phones, while in the interior, field staffers hunched over computers. One wall was covered with a sheet of paper where people had scrawled responses to the prompt, “I Support the President Because…”, while another wall held a precinct-by-precinct list of neighborhood team leaders’ email addresses.
Only about a mile down the road was the Republican office, a cavernous, unfinished space on the back side of a strip mall next to a Sleepy’s mattress outlet. On one side of the room, under a Gadsden flag (“Don’t tread on me”) and a poster of Sarah Palin on a horse, two long tables of land-line telephones were arrayed. Most of the signs, literature, and buttons on display were for the local Republican congressman, Frank Wolf. A volunteer in a Wolf for Congress T-shirt was directing traffic, sort of — no one really seemed to be in charge and there were no paid staff present, though there were several elderly volunteers wandering in and out. The man in the T-shirt allowed me to survey the room but not walk around, and was unable to refer me to anyone from the Romney campaign or coordinated party effort.
These basic characteristics were repeated in all the offices I visited: The Obama offices were devoted almost entirely to the president’s reelection; the Republican offices were devoted almost entirely to local candidates, with little presence for Romney. In Greenwood Village, Colorado, I walked in past a handwritten sign reading “WE ARE OUT OF ROMNEY YARD SIGNS,” then had a nice chat with a staffer for Rep. Mike Coffman. In Canton, Ohio, the small GOP storefront was dominated by “Win With Jim!” signs for Rep. Jim Renacci. Obama’s nearest offices in both places were all Obama. In Canton, a clutch of yard signs for Sen. Sherrod Brown leaned against a wall, but table after table was filled with Obama lit — Veterans for Obama, Women for Obama, Latinos for Obama, and so on. The Obama campaign uses cell phones exclusively, while the Republicans use Internet-based land line phones programmed to make voter calls. Every Obama office has an “I Support the President Because…” wall, covered with earnest paeans to Obamacare and the like.
Even many Republicans realize they are at a disadvantage:
Some Republicans admit that the ground game is a weakness for the party. In Colorado, one top GOP consultant who has worked on presidential campaigns told me he mentally added 2 to 4 points to Obama’s polls in the state based on superior organization.
David Gergen also sees the ground game as an advantage for Obama:
Coming into a 14-day scramble, Obama can now rely upon an additional weapon in his arsenal: a strong ground game. Because it drove away any potential challengers in the Democratic primaries, his Chicago team not only got the jump on the GOP in advertising this past summer, but also constructed what appears to be a superior field organization.
In the pivotal state of Ohio, for example, the Obama campaign has three times as many offices, often captained by experienced young people. By contrast, a major Republican figure in the state, throwing up his hands, told me that the Romney field team looked like a high school civics class. The Romney team heartily disagrees, of course; we’ll just have to wait and see.
The latest Reuters/Ipsos tracking poll finds President Obama had a lead of 53% to 42% among the 17% of the surveyed registered voters who said they had already cast their vote.
In the crucial swing state of Ohio, a new Time poll finds Obama holds a two-to-one lead over Romney among those who have voted early, 60% to 30%.
Ads and the ground game should dominate the final two weeks. Interviews are less likely to play a part. It looks like Romney might not give further interviews (but BuzzFeed did reveal how Romney looks so tan). Even Obama was initially reluctant to release the content of his interview with the Des Moines Register, but did ultimately release the transcript. Obama started with the same message in the ad and booklet mentioned above:
Obviously, I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished over the last four years. A lot of it was responding to the most severe economic emergency we’ve had since the Great Depression. And whether it was saving the auto industry, stabilizing the financial system, making sure that we got into a growth mode again and started putting people back to work, we have made real progress.
But people are obviously still hurting in a lot of parts of the country. And that’s why last night I tried to reiterate a very specific plan that we’ve put forward to make sure that the economy is growing, we’re bringing down our deficit, and we’re creating jobs.
So, number one, I’m very interested in continuing to build on the work that we did not just in the auto industry but some of the other industrial sectors, bringing manufacturing back to our shores; changing our tax code to reward companies that are investing here. There is a real sense that companies are starting to make decisions about insourcing, and some modest incentives I think can make a real difference in terms of us seeing continued manufacturing growth, which obviously has huge ramifications throughout the economy, including in the service sector of the economy.
Number two, education, which has obviously been a priority for us over the last four years — I want to build on what we’ve done with Race to the Top, but really focus on STEM education — math, science, technology, computer science. And part of that is helping states to hire teachers with the highest standards and training in these subjects so we can start making sure that our kids are catching up to some of the other industrialized world.
Two million more slots in community colleges that allows our workers to retrain, but also young people who may not want to go to a four-year college, making sure that the training they’re receiving is actually for jobs that are out there right now. And we want to continue to work — building on the progress we’ve done over the last four years — to keep tuition low for those who do attend either a two-year or a four-year college.
Number three, controlling our own energy. This obviously is of interest to Iowa. Our support of biofuels, our support of wind energy has created thousands of jobs in Iowa. But even more importantly, this is going to be the race to the future. The country that controls new sources of energy, not just the traditional sources, is going to have a huge competitive advantage 10 years from now, 20 years from now, 30 years from now.
So in addition to doubling our fuel-efficiency standards on cars and trucks, what we want to do is make sure that we’re producing new technologies here — long-lasting batteries, making sure that we are developing the wind and solar and other energy sources that may provide us a breakthrough. In the meantime, we’re still producing oil and natural gas at a record pace, but we’ve got to start preparing for the future. And as I said, it creates jobs right now in Iowa.
Number four, I want to reduce our deficit. It’s got to be done in a balanced way. I’ve already cut a trillion dollars’ worth of spending. I’m willing to do more. I’m willing to cut more, and I’m willing to work with Democrats and Republicans when it comes to making some adjustments that bring down the cost of our health care programs, which obviously are the biggest drivers of our deficit.
But nobody who looks at the numbers thinks it’s realistic for us to actually reduce our deficit in a serious way without also having some revenue. And we’ve identified tax rates going up to the Clinton rates for income above $250,000; making some adjustments in terms of the corporate tax side that could actually bring down the corporate tax overall, but broaden the base and close some loopholes. That would be good for our economy, and it would be good for reducing our deficit.
And finally, using some of the war savings to put people back to work on infrastructure — roads, bridges. We’ve fallen behind in that area. And we can — this deferred maintenance, we can put people to work, back, right now, and at the same time make sure that our economy is more competitive over the long term.
So that’s sort of a summary of the things I want to accomplish to create jobs and economic growth. Obviously, there are other items on the agenda. We need to get immigration reform done, and I’m fully committed to doing that. I think there’s still more work on the energy efficiency side that we can do — helping to retrofit our buildings, schools, hospitals, so that they’re energy efficient — because if we achieved efficiencies at the level of, let’s say, Japan, we could actually cut our power bill by about 20-25 percent, and that would have the added benefit of taking a whole bunch of carbon out of the atmosphere.
So there are some things that we can do, but obviously the key focus is making sure that the economy is growing. That will facilitate all the other work that we do.
The final debate is about to begin. It is questionable as to how much effect this debate will have. Obviously if Obama should sleep through this one like in the first he will be in serious trouble, but that is unlikely to happen. We already saw that it was a fiasco when Romney went overseas. He further embarrassed himself by repeating the right wing talking points on Libya, which happen, as is generally the case with right wing talking points, to be false.
While the election is unlikely to be decided on foreign policy, Romney could do serious harm to his chances if he fails to show he is competent to become Commander in Chief. There is also the possibility that a nation which has been at war far too long will reject a candidate who appears too likely to stumble into further wars.
I think it is safe to predict that Obama will mentioned somewhere along the way that he gave the order to kill Osama bin Laden.
As with the earlier debates, I will be commenting throughout the debate on Facebook and Twitter.
Binders full of women has become the most quoted line from last night’s debate, now with its own web site and Facebook page. Maybe this is actually some sort of Mormon euphemism, because it is just outright false that Romney has ever shown any concern for hiring more women. Here’s the story behind this latest Romney lie and where the binder really came from:
What actually happened was that in 2002 — prior to the election, not even knowing yet whether it would be a Republican or Democratic administration — a bipartisan group of women in Massachusetts formed MassGAP to address the problem of few women in senior leadership positions in state government. There were more than 40 organizations involved with the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus (also bipartisan) as the lead sponsor.
They did the research and put together the binder full of women qualified for all the different cabinet positions, agency heads, and authorities and commissions. They presented this binder to Governor Romney when he was elected.
I have written about this before, in various contexts; tonight I’ve checked with several people directly involved in the MassGAP effort who confirm that this history as I’ve just presented it is correct — and that Romney’s claim tonight, that he asked for such a study, is false.
I will write more about this later, but for tonight let me just make a few quick additional points. First of all, according to MassGAP and MWPC, Romney did appoint 14 women out of his first 33 senior-level appointments, which is a reasonably impressive 42 percent. However, as I have reported before, those were almost all to head departments and agencies that he didn’t care about — and in some cases, that he quite specifically wanted to not really do anything. None of the senior positions Romney cared about — budget, business development, etc. — went to women.
Secondly, a UMass-Boston study found that the percentage of senior-level appointed positions held by women actually declined throughout the Romney administration, from 30.0% prior to his taking office, to 29.7% in July 2004, to 27.6% near the end of his term in November 2006. (It then began rapidly rising when Deval Patrick took office.)
Third, note that in Romney’s story as he tells it, this man who had led and consulted for businesses for 25 years didn’t know any qualified women, or know where to find any qualified women. So what does that say?
Well, one reason Romney did not know where to find qualified women is that Bain and the private equity field were male-dominated.His record in Massachusetts was not very good, with “a University of Massachusetts study showing that by November of 2006, the level of women as a percentage of senior level positions had dropped to lower than it was when Romney took office.”
Obama made a passing reference Wednesday to the remark still buzzing with memes and snarky comments in the Twitterverse after last night’s match-up.
“We don’t have to collect a bunch of binders to find qualified, talented, driven young women ready to learn and teach in these fields right now,” Obama said to supporters in Mount Vernon, Iowa.
He continued: “When young women graduate, they should get equal pay for equal work. That should be a simple question to answer.”
We can’t get a straight answer from Mitt Romney on this, and many other, issues. He has been opposed to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act from the start, even if unwilling to answer the question last night.
More Romney distortions from the debate can be found here, his obfuscations on birth control and abortion here, and still more on why Romney’s policies are bad for womenhere.
Barack Obama showed up for tonight’s debate and achieved a decisive, and necessary, victory after his poor showing two weeks ago. Romney was often incoherent as he avoided answering questions. He set a new record for flip-flopping as he contradicted himself on jobs in the same debate. Romney argued both that the government doesn’t create jobs and claimed he would create jobs. His stock answer to many questions was “I know how to do that” without ever saying how. He later gave a variation, claiming he has done things for the economy in Massachusetts. If that is the case, why was he a one-term governor, and why is he trailing Obama by over twenty points in Massachusetts?
Romney outright avoided answering questions such as whether he supported equal pay for equal work (in the past opposing this). He hid from his past positions opposing reproductive rights. Candy Crowley chastised Romney for failing to answer the question about assault weapons. Romney thought he was going in for the kill, repeating the right wing spin on Libya. Unfortunately for Romney, Crowley was in the Rose Garden when Obama did mention terrorism the day after the attack. Obama demonstrated that Romney has adopted views far to the right of George Bush, and Romney even gave him the opening to challenge Romney on his 47 percent comment.
My Facebook comments and tweets from during the debate follow. From very early, it was clear that this would be a totally different debate from the first:
Yes, Obama is fighting back this time, exposing Romney lies.
How many are so gullible as to fail to realize that Romney’s cuts on capital gains and dividends is a break for people like him?
John Kerry doing a great job of tearing apart all of Romney’s arguments on CNN right now.
The big question is the degree to which this turns things around. Obama appeared to have a sure victory going into the first debate. The combination of a poor debate style and repeated news reports of his loss gave considerable momentum to Romney over the past two weeks. I fear that the poor impression from the first debate will still cost Obama some votes, but the second debate should shore up Obama’s lead in key states such as Ohio. The Democratic candidates have now won two out of three debates, with one left to go.
The plug-in which allows sharing of blog posts with Facebook and multiple other social networking sites malfunctioned upon updating and I have deactivated it. While there are multiple possible solutions, I don’t have the time today to bother with this. Completing this week’s installment of SciFi Weekend is more important, and then I’ll get back to all the extra work created this week due to going live with an EMR (Electronic Medical Record). Besides, there is always the hope that the authors of the plug-in might provide an upgrade which fixes this if I do nothing.
For now there remains an icon to share posts via Twitter. Later in the week, as time allows, I’ll either see about fixing the plug-in for additional sites, reverting to the old version, or replacing the plug-in with an alternative. I appreciate all the shares of posts on sites such as Facebook, but I trust that most users will have no problem pasting in links to share until I get this fixed.
Update: Sharing icons have successful been restored
Yesterday I noted a story about someone who criticized President Obama and wound up being interviewed by the Secret Service. The person has signs up at his business with fallacious criticism, and has criticized Obama on Facebook. He was acting within his First Amendment rights, regardless of how absurd his claims are. Unless there is more to this story than I am aware of, such as statements promoting violence, there was no reason for any law enforcement agencies to get involved. Reportedly his statements made it to the Secret Service who interviewed him and laughed off the incident.
A Kansas teenager is in trouble after mocking Gov. Sam Brownback during a mock legislative assembly for high school students.
Emma Sullivan, a senior at Shawnee Mission East High School in Prairie Village, was in Topeka on Monday as part of Kansas Youth in Government, a program for students interested in politics and government.
During the session, in which Brownback addressed the group, Sullivan posted on her personal Twitter page:
“Just made mean comments at gov brownback and told him he sucked, in person #heblowsalot”
On Tuesday, Sullivan was called to her principal’s office and told that the tweet had been flagged by someone on Brownback’s staff and reported to organizers of the Youth in Government program…
Brownback spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag said her office had forwarded a copy of Sullivan’s tweet to organizers of the school-sponsored event “so that they were aware what their students were saying in regards to the governor’s appearance.
“We monitor social media so we can see what Kansans are thinking and saying about the governor and his policies,” Jones-Sontag said.
“We just felt it was appropriate for the organizers to be aware … because of what was said in the tweet.”
Sullivan, 18, said she posted the comment because she doesn’t agree with Brownback’s policies, particularly recent cuts in state aid to schools. She is a registered Democrat.
“Some of my friends were joking about what they’d really like to say (to Brownback), so I just took out my phone” and tweeted, she said. “I guess it was kind of a heat-of-the-moment thing.”
This sounds like a quite clear violation of First Amendment rights, with both Governor Brownback’s office and the school principal acting inappropriately.
Update: I did receive this link from a reader who says that the person in the first incident was a member of right wing militias and had threatened the president. If that is the case, then the Secret Service was right to interview him. It is the principle as opposed to the specifics of this particular case which is most important–merely criticizing a government official, regardless of party and regardless of the validity of the criticism, should not lead to retaliation from any unit of government.
…when Barack Obama got into power, you’d have expected that traffic on the Right side of the blogosphere would have surged just as it did on the Left side of the blogosphere in the early Bush years.
That didn’t happen.
Hawkins has five explanations which I’ll condense from the longer discussions in the full post:
The right has more avenues for people to get involved with, such as talk radio and the Tea Parties. (He apparently is putting aside the common view on the right that people on the left are all getting involved with dangerous organizations such as ACORN, the New Black Panthers, and NPR.)
Social networking has taken off and people are spending more time on Facebook and Twitter. I’ll discuss this point more later.
The market has become more mature, and people are more likely to read the big blogs such as Michelle Malkin or Instapundit as opposed to a small brand new blog.
The market has become more professional, making it harder for someone who is not known to compete with names like Ann Coulter or the big blogs with large staffs.
Bloggers are poor at marketing, and eventually have difficulty putting in long hours for a project which they are not likely to make money off of.
Other than the first, which claims that structural differences on the right are responsible, each of these other arguments are more general statements about the difficulties of a small, independent blog, regardless of ideology. If the right is withering more than the left, it must be for other reasons–perhaps such as the weakness of their viewpoints. If conservative bloggers are getting depressed by all of this, I will point out that a good Republican primary battle followed by a general election will do wonders to increase blog readership.
The argument based upon social networks is partially true, but also misses an important point. My interest is in using the internet to promote pro-freedom liberal values to counter the authoritarian right, and to promote reason over the anti-science view of the right. This does not have to be limited to blogs, and social networking has become a useful tool.
Facebook has pretty much killed off the discussion section here, but does it matter? There is often more discussion of blog posts when posted on Facebook than there was here on the blog. Facebook adds many additional readers. Less people might come directly to the blog, but there are many new readers who read the posts directly on Facebook. Sharing of the posts provides links which attract additional readers. Twitter also provides a number of comments, as well as additional links to the posts.
If the goal is to compete with the bigger blogs or to make lots of money, small independent bloggers will be disappointed. Small bloggers can still get their views out before a significant number of people–and effectively utilizing social networks will help to increase this number.