Continuing the #dontgo discussion

My blog post yesterday about #dontgo and how to generate a meaningful discussion about the issues that our country addresses brought a wide range of responses. Rob Neppell wrote to say that their efforts were to block people who were clearly attempting to disrupt the discussion with potty jokes and insults. He noted that my post had remained up.

For those curious, I use Twitter feed to post the title of my blog entries to Twitter, and since my title had #dontgo in it, it was picked up by the #dontgo site. In addition, a few other people retweated my posts.

I complimented Rob on his approach in my comments to the post as well as on Twitter. There are many ways to shutdown discussions. Deleting posts you disagree with is one way. Another way is to disrupt a discussion with potty jokes and insults.

Another person attempted to make a similar comment, but included so many insults, so much offensive language, and so much belittlement of opponents, that I deleted the comment. I sent an email to the offender and asked them to reconsider posting. An anonymous poster came back, making essentially the same points as the original attempted to make, with the offensive comments removed, the vitriol toned down a little bit and denials that they had used such offensive comments in the original post. I did let this one stand, since the offensive content was removed, and responded in part, there.

The writer did bring up some important issues concerning the role of money in politics and whether or not congress should be reconvened. I will address these issues, because I believe they are important. Beyond that, I won’t bother responding to most of the content in the post, because the writer says that they “didn’t come to discuss energy policy”.

Concerning the money issues. It is right to note that Democrats have received their share of money from large oil companies. I won’t defend that any more than I would defend the vast amounts Sen. McCain has received from large oil companies. I defend the right of anyone to contribute to political campaigns, but I do believe that the system is significantly broken. Sen. McCain worked hard on campaign finance reform, yet he appears to be benefiting from loopholes.

One example that is worth noting is reported in the Los Angeles Times,

Most Hess donors were company attorneys, vice presidents or, like John Hess, board members. But one, Alice Rocchio, listed her job as office manager, and she gave $28,500, as did her husband, Amtrak foreman Pasquale Rocchio.

The information emerged in a Campaign Money Watch report last week, followed by an item Monday on Talking Points Memo, which wondered how they could afford to give $57,000 to a political campaign. Alice Rocchio told TPM that McCain was her favorite candidate and the money was the Rocchios' to give.

Yet could big money from big oil end up hurting more than it helps? Greg Sargent at Talking Points Memo suggests that may be the case in his article about Rep. David Davis losing his seat in the Republican Primary in Tennessee. His opponent, Johnson City Mayor Phil Roe, narrowly defeated Rep. Davis after aggressively attacking Davis for being too closely tied to big oil.

All of this takes me back to a panel that I was on a couple of years ago with Richard Viguerie. Viguerie did his spiel about the dangers of Big Government and then it was my turn. I pointed out to him that in many ways, true conservatives many not be that different from true progressives. Conservatives like Viguerie don’t trust Big Government. Progressives don’t trust Big Business. Perhaps the common ground is that both groups believe in the power of individuals working together to address the issues that face our country, and that large organizations where individuals do not have any say are a big part of the problem.

One of the issues of offshore drilling is that it isn’t something that small groups of people can easily do. It takes vast sums of money to explore for oil and a long time. On the other hand, many of the renewable alternatives are much more people oriented. People can put solar cells, windmills, or even small hydroelectric on their land. They can change their energy consumption habits and save themselves money, while at the same time helping reduce dependence on large corporations and on foreign oil.

Yet this should not be seen as an either-or proposition. It may well be that in some cases, the United States could benefit from additional offshore drilling at the same time as individuals help change the energy production and consumption landscape. This gets to my concern about the calls for a ‘straight up & down vote’ which would ‘determine I f there need be any further discussion on energy alternatives’.

This is black and white thinking, either-or propositions, that has, I believe, severely damaged discourse, and probably policy as well, in our country. I don’t think any one would suggest that we don’t need further discussion on energy alternatives. The questions include, when is the right time for such discussions and what is the right venue for such discussions. What are the appropriate rules to be used to keep such discussions productive instead of becoming simply pre-election grandstanding?

To carry the dangers of black and white thinking even further, I believe that this is related to inappropriate attacks on politicians, on either side of the aisle, as being flip-floppers. Different bills have different nuances, and a person can easily be for offshore drilling as part of one bill and opposed to it as part of another bill because of all the other aspects going into how we make sure that any offshore drilling could, in fact, be good for our country.

So, I salute Rob for his efforts to make sure that an open, honest and friendly discussion can take place around energy policy, and I invite others to try and get beyond the soundbite, the black and white thinking and the vitriol to work together to find policies that helps all Americans.

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#dontgo shutting down discourse

When a small handful or Republican Congressmen staged a political stunt on the floor of the House of Representatives to draw attention to the issue of offshore drilling, they may well have hit the law of unintended consequences and created an online space where serious debate about U.S. energy policy could take place.

In 2001, the National Energy Policy Development Group (NEPDG), lead by Vice President Cheney to “develop a national energy policy designed to help the private sector, and, as necessary and appropriate, State and local governments, promote dependable, affordable, and environmentally sound production and distribution of energy for the future."

This task force met in secret and still has not disclosed information about its activities, despite Freedom of Information Act requests and other efforts by congress. Since then, energy has become a much larger issue as energy prices have soared and it has affected other parts of our economy.

In response to current concerns about energy, a small group of Republican Congressmen staged a pep rally on the floor of the House of Representatives to call for expanded off-shore drilling in the United States. To promote this, they used Twitter to get their message out.

In Twitter, you can aggregate content by using hashtags. A hashtag is a word or abbreviation in a twitter message, that starts with a hashmark, #. Various sites will aggregate all of the messages with the same hashtag.

The message was of these Representatives was to call on Congress not to go on home without voting on off shore drilling. So, they started tagging their twitter messages with the hashtag, #dontgo. They even set up a website,

Progressive activists felt that this activity on Twitter was little more than astrotruf. Astroturf is a derogatory term for an effort that is manufactured to look like a grassroots movement. So, they responded with a real grassroots effort and started posting their own messages with #dontgo in it. Some of these messages were meant to be humorous, finding ways of putting the phrase #dontgo into a completely unrelated topic.

However, other people saw this as an opportunity to engage in a serious discussion about U.S. Energy policy, an opportunity that they felt had been denied them by the NEPDG. They note it would take 10 to 12 years from the ban being lifted on offshore drilling to actual oil flowing. They have noted to shortage of ships available for offshore drilling. Existing ships are already booked solid for the next five years. They site the business article in the New York Times about the shortage of ships.

They note that the United States consumes 21 million barrels of oil a day, yet only produces 6 million barrels per day. At our current rate of consumption, offshore oil would last for around ten years.

However, an open discussion about energy policy seems not to be of interest to the operatives behind the dontgo website. They set up a ‘NEW SPAM FREE #dontgo TWITTER STREAM’. Apparently, any efforts to have a serious discussion about energy policy is as repellent to the Republican operatives behind dontgo as it was to Vice President Cheney.

Nonetheless, people continue to use dontgo as a space where energy policy can be discussed.

Recent ma.noglia bookmarks

Here are pages I've recently bookmarked with ma.gnolia:

Technical security experts: DNC vulnerable to cyber attacks - Colorado Independent - News you can't find anywhere else

Technical security experts: DNC vulnerable to cyber attacks - Colorado Independent - News you can't find anywhere else

Interesting article about the DNC convention and data security. Various thoughts. First, I think so security firms are trying to sell their warez. Second, I disagree about delegates bringing laptops to the convention. Probably need to write a blog pos

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Quick Notes

I wrote an article for SLNN which I had hoped would be up by now and I could cross post. It isn't up yet, so I figured I would write a quick post, so I could have something other than an automated post from ma.gnolia up today.

Besides writing the SLNN post, I have started reading a pre-release copy of Stephen Mansfield's book, The Faith of Barack Obama.

Mansfield also wrote The Faith Of George W. Bush.

It will be interesting to contrast the two books. In other news, we had a tornado warning here in Connecticut around dinner time and on Saturday I will be going to a SocialMediaBBQ.

Update: I had the wrong link for the book about President Bush's faith. Here is the correct link:

The Faith Of George W. Bush

Wordless Wednesday

The Turtle, originally uploaded by Aldon.

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