Things I’ve learned today, the New Year edition – on sleeping late, spam, and partisan hacks

Cheerleader or pundit? Who can tell?1.  Sleeping in late must be a thing of my youth.  Even after a late night and having no alarm set I was awake at 8.  I might need to redefine myself as a morning person at this rate.

2.  Twitter needs a big “don’t do that” button, or something.  I’m still new to using Twitter as a way to network for Ars Skeptica, so I plead ignorance.  I thought it would make good common sense to find other users by way of common interests (followers of users I follow) and follow them.  I’m interested in picking up on news and hearing opinions from all quarters, especially the latter.  By following a diverse mix of users, from individuals to organizations, covering every conceivable angle on nearly anything, I can count on good ole’ serendipity to always show me content in Twitter that’s actually of interest to me.

Also a given is that I will more than occasionally see an opinion that just hits me the wrong way.  This is a good thing.  When that happens I want to know why.  Often, that’s a excellent opportunity for reflection.  Do I have a bias of which I was unaware?  Do I believe what I do based on the evidence and sound reasoning?  Do I have an adequate rebuttal?  If not, how well do I really understand the evidence?  Is my opinion poorly informed? Inspiration often this way lies.

So, to inject a strong does of synchronicity into my feed, as I’ve done before, I found a few things/people I follow and followed a few hundred of their followers based on that common interest. Oops.  Twitter sees that kind of following in bulk (there’s a 2000 user limit until an undefined following/followed parity is reached) as possibly part and parcel of a spam attempt.  In hindsight, I can see that.  Ugh. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to remedy the situation.  If I go back and “bulk unfollow,” that would just reinforce any flags for spam Twitter may have on my account.

So here’s hoping that of the 2000 users I’ve followed, a fair-sized number of them find my tweets worthwhile enough to follow me back.  I’ll unload followed users slowly over time so as to not fully enter the realm of spammers and will exercise more due consideration in the future.

My apologies to anyone who may have been inconvenienced.

3. When I’m in the stands, I like cheerleaders.  When I’m in the choir, I like being preached to.  The problem is that I sit in different sections of different bleachers and hop from choir to choir depending on the issue at hand.  This is challenging for me as a writer who truly enjoys writing the occasional bit of polemic.  It feels good to let a vein and bleed vitriol occasionally.  Even so, I like to think I’m both fairly even-handed and somewhat internally consistent. My goal?  To improve in my writing so much that I need not worry about becoming a partisan hack like this guy comes across as.

While most liberals were stewing at Barack Obama yesterday for his “capitulation” on tax rates, I confess that I was feeling philosophical about it, and even mildly defensive of him. He is negotiating with madmen, and you can’t negotiate with madmen, because they’re, well, mad. I also spent part of yesterday morning re-reading a little history and reminding myself that rascality like this fiscal-cliff business has been going on since the beginning of the republic. So now I’d like to remind you. It’s always the reactionaries holding up the progressives—and usually, needless to say, it’s been the South holding up the North—and always with the same demagogic and dishonest arguments about a tyrannical central government. We’ll never be rid of these paranoid bloviators, and if no other president could stop them I don’t really see why Obama ought to be able to.

Does he eventually provide any useful analysis of the political realities faced by President Obama in the course of negotiation and compromise?  That’s debatable.  But does he make an effective argument either for the deal offered by the Dems or against any particular points of GOP opposition?  No.

Maybe if I were sitting in the right section of the bleachers I would appreciate the article more.  If, on the other hand, I’m interested in reasoned debate on the many and complex issues tidily wrapped in the misnomer “fiscal cliff,” I’ll definitely have to look elsewhere.


Image credit: JMR Photography, licensed under Creative Commons.