Politics

It’s hard to be the guy trying to do the right thingĀ 

This WaPo article on James Comey’s testimony before the Senate both chides the FBI director and acknowledges that the details in the chain of events leading up to Comey’s decision to announce that the investigation into Secy. Hillary Clinton’s emails mattered. 

My first thought is, “C’mon, man! It’s hard being the guy making the decisions. It’s easy to criticize after the fact and when you’re not that guy!” But I also recognize that when you take on such a role, you accept that your decisions will be criticized, even when there were no good options. 

I need someone to convince me, though, that there were no better options for Director Comey. Could he not have center-staged himself and the look into Secy. Clinton’s emails – when he opened, when he closed, when he re-opened the investigation? He’s stayed low-key with the investigations into the Trump campaign’s possible connections to Russian leadership. Hasn’t he? 

I truly don’t believe he wanted to sway the election. But, as my Daddy used to say when I defended my mistakes by saying “I wasn’t trying to!”: “sometimes you have to try not to.”

Uncategorized

Echoless Chamber: a Twitter list to help you combat algorithm bias in your newsfeeds

The idea here is not to provide you with bias-free news sources, though. The idea is that all sources are biased, to varying degrees and in varying ways – and so are the people reading them (and that means you). 

Read everything, and read everything as a primary source – as situated at some particular perspective you only know little or nothing about. 
And wrestle with your own biases. Try to convince yourself that your understanding is wrong. 

This doesn’t mean alternative facts are facts. They’re not. It just means that you have the ability to discern facts – and will be better able to understand and support your own views – if you take in varying perspectives and recognize them all as being framed in some way. 

Check out EcholessChamber by @krissa_swain: https://twitter.com/krissa_swain/lists/echolesschamber?s=09

Civics

The Critical Thinking Skills Infographic from globaldigitalcitizen.orgĀ 

This is a cheatsheet even grownups can use to think through what they’re reading or seeing and interpret the information. Essentially, it reminds us of how to read everything as a primary source while at the same time interrogating our own values about it. I wish it placed more emphasis on sorting out viable sources from non-viable and useful information from noise, but I think it has the right goal: to prompt us to do the work of thinking for ourselves. 

https://globaldigitalcitizen.org/critical-thinking-skills-cheatsheet-infographic

Knoxville, Politics

This month’s primaries: what they aren’t telling you

The Knoxville News-Sentinel's article about today's primary election leaves out more than it tells. Here's what you need to know. Get out your glasses-cleaning kit and be sure to have a soft cloth handy . . .

According to Hayes Hickman's article, "Turmoil still surrounds the primary election – one of the most complex and confusing in Knox County." Perhaps. But the Knoxville News-Sentinal is at least partly to blame for the confusion, if not the complexity. It's not alone, though. Rather than spending the last few critical weeks explaining how things got to be so confusing, why it happened, and what voters need to know to fix it, both the News-Sentinel and the local news channels have published exclamations and complaints about how confusing it is.

The current article continues the pattern. In addition to still-unanswered questions about term limits for various city and county officers and the fact that a number of ineligible candidates for county commission appear on the ballot while an even larger number of eligible candidates do not appear on the ballot, we find that we still are left with

persistent questions from some voters over how to forgo the voting machines in favor of a write-in ballot. Where do you get one? Who are the candidates? Why do the poll workers ask whether you're a Republican or a Democrat? Will my vote count?

Well, what are the answers? Doesn't the News-Sentinel know? OK – to be fair I should say that some of the answers are given in the sidebar on the right of the online article, "Write-in Ballot Refresher," so, Knoxville voters, be sure to check there. There, you find out what to do if you go to the polls planning to fill out a paper ballot. Let me assure you, though, this is not the hard part. I did it, and it was easy. I didn't even have a list of the possible write-in candidates available to me. I had to memorize four people's names and had my eleven-year-old daughter with me, asking questions the whole time, and still I managed it without any troubles.

Here are the really important questions and my attempts to answer them.

Why would I want a paper ballot? Why would I even bother to vote in the primary anyway?
First of all, you need to know that party matters in today's election. Whether you are a Democrat or a Republican will determine how and perhaps even whether you vote.

If you are a Republican, especially one living in the ultra-conservative 5th district, you can probably just relax and go about your business. Just in case, though, you might want to go in and make a vote. Do you need a paper ballot? Only if there is a contested commission or school board spot in your district and your candidate is not on the official ballot.

If you are a Democrat, do you need one? Only if you don't mind having a county commissioner chosen for you by the Republican party. If no new candidate is chosen by vote and the commissioner in your district is determined to be ineligible due to an expired term limit, as he almost certainly will be, that is exactly what will happen: the Republicans will get to choose your commissioner for you just as they have done for the last however many years.

Who are the candidates? Don't you find it amazing that the KNS doesn't feel obligated to provide that information in this article? Look in the Metro Pulse or on the website of your party's local organization. That's where you'll find it.

How did this happen? That is an entirely different story. It has a lot to do with the popular will being thwarted by cronyism and Mike Moyers bottling up the term limits issue — mandated by Knoxvillian's overwhelming majority vote years ago — so that it couldn't go to the state supreme court until — well, it hasn't gotten there yet.

How do we get out of this mess? Vote. Ask for a paper ballot. And pay attention, Knoxville. We've got to understand what's going on with our government.

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History, Politics

LensCleaner of the Day Award goes to Salon.com and a runner-up

I’m conflicted about this. I’m not linking directly to Salon’s article because I found the pictures revolting and I’m sorry that I saw them. You can go find them on your own. There’s part of me that feels as if every time another person views the photos, the men are brutalized all over again.

And yet . . . we can’t turn away. No progress is ever made toward righting wrongs that stay hidden, ignored, or denied. It was Sinclair Lewis’s vivid descriptions of the 19th century meat industry and the immigrant workers who were exploited by it that won Americans over to the idea that government should protect its citizens from threats to their health. Until news cameras captured Bull Connor’s police force turning firehoses and attack dogs on peaceful protestors in Birmingham, 1963, Americans didn’t believe that civil rights deserved and required legal enforcement.
Mike Treder gets runner up for giving us a little perspective on this thing by first quoting the Salon article, which observes that:

“It is noteworthy that some of the CID documents refer to CIA personnel as interrogators of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. But no CIA officers have been prosecuted for any crimes that occurred within the prison, despite the death of at least one Iraqi during a CIA interrogation there. . .”

and then offering his own observation, which will be decried as outlandish but which, even in 1963, would have been considered a proper one considering the unethical nature of what’s gone on under the Bush Administration:

“This is disgusting, repulsive, and tragic. The appropriate response would be the immediate resignations of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Vice President Dick Cheney, and President George Bush. An inquiry also should be conducted to determine whether any of those men may have committed crimes and should be indicted.”

So, LensCleaning isn’t always pleasant. People, be Americans like we should be and make it so this doesn’t happen again.