Klein v. Keachie: spirited political debate

The other day I wrote about how local the “tea party tax” protestors had turned to Facebook to generate support. They plan to march in the July Fourth parade in Grass Valley.

This is another good example of turning to social networking sites to grow grassroots political support.

It sparked a passionate but mostly civil debate between conservative Aaron Klein and liberal Doug Keachie, two smart, local people who participate in the blogosphere.

Their comments came to 35 total, a record for any local media or blog that I know of. (Remember the comments are *signed*).

I encourage you to read the dialogue. It *proves* you can have a spirited but mostly civil and fact-based discussion, with signed names, in a reader forum. No matter what side you take, you can learn something.

Most important, the two ended the conversation by agreeing to disagree. How refreshing.

Aaron’s blog is here. Doug’s blog is here.

Thanks to both of you for participating.

Investment in human services critical here

Despite budget constraints, investment in human services programs is critical to state and local economies, according to a new report now being shared with county supervisors, legislative members and others.

Though not well publicized, the report looks at the impact of the recession on human services programs, counties’ shrinking ability to provide the services and the programs’ benefit to local communities.

“Unfortunately, while demand has increased, funding has not kept up,” according to the California State Association of Counties, which released the report along with the County Welfare Directors Association. “These factors are converging at the same time to affect county’s ability to deliver safety net services.”

For every $1 spent on services such as Food Stamps, CalWORKs and general assistance, an estimated $1.32 in economic activity is generated, according to a study by Beacon Economics, released at the same time.

“That translates into money spent in the local economy by human services recipients on rent, groceries and household goods,” the CSAC said.

As more people are being laid off and unable to find work, demand for county services has sharply increased. Here are figures statewide, from September 2007 to September 2008:

•Food stamps: 15.5 percent increase in caseload, while applications rose 33 percent.

•CalWORKs: 5.9 percent increase; 15.9 percent increase for two-parent families; a 22 percent increase in applications.

•Homeless assistance: approved requests grew 22.2 percent, while applications hit 26 percent.

•Medi-Cal: 5.2 percent increase, applications up 19 percent.

The report can be read here.

‘Twitter quitters’ pose threat to growth

Twitter has grown like gangbusters in recent months, but “twitter quitters” could pose a roadblock to long-term growth, according to a new report.

More than 60 percent of U.S. Twitter users fail to return the following month, Nielson said.

“People are signing up in droves, and Twitter’s unique audience is up over 100 percent in March,” said Nielsen. “But despite the hockey-stick growth chart, Twitter faces an uphill battle in making sure these flocks of new users are enticed to return to the nest.”

Facebook and MySpace had better retention rates when both were emerging networks.

Nielsen is hedging its bets, noting that Twitter is still something of a fledgling.

But it’s a point worth noting: Between Facebook, Twitter, iPods, iPhones and all the rest, it’s hard to get a good night’s sleep.

Organ donor dolls — ‘spiritual’ or ‘spooky’?

090426_foox1April is National Donate Life Month, where people celebrate the generosity of those who have saved lives by becoming organ, tissue, marrow and blood donors and encourage others to follow suit.

•More than 98,000 people are in need of an organ for transplant, according to OrganDonor.gov.

•Each day, about 77 people get an organ transplant, but 17 to 19 others die because they did not receive a transplant.

•More than half the people on the waiting list are racial or ethnic minorities.

While surfing the Web for more information about this, I came across a unusual venture: Organ donor dolls.

The vinyl figures were created to encourage more people to donate their organs.

“Human body parts are interchangeable and as much as we know about the body, there is so much more to learn,” creator David Foox told Newslite.tv. “It is a conceptual way of dealing with our humanity — whether physical or spiritual.”

The Meghan McCain (youth) GOP?

As I wrote on Tuesday, Senator Arlen Specter’s decision to become a Democrat instead of a Republican — a history-making decision — will force the minority party to do some more soul-searching.

As well it should.

Here’s a good blog post from “Pink Elephant Pundit,” a political Web site from a young GOPer, that addresses the issue. It speaks to a lot of what I hear from younger conservatives, including ones in our county:

•Republicans are good at ‘self-destruction.’

•Many people are fed up voting against someone and want to vote *for* someone.

•The GOP’s credibility on “small government” has been blown away.

“I’m a conservative first,” the blog’s author, Tabitha Hale, writes. “I ended up with the GOP simply because, like most conservatives, I tend to vote with a lesser of two evils mentality.”

Check out the blog, too. It’s a good example of the blogs that we like to “reverse publish” for the startup I’m working with. We do “lefty blogs,” too, but it’s harder to find ones like this from Tabitha, who labels herself “unapologetically Christian and Conservative.”

Her bio reads: “I’m shameless. I’m a college grad, who will eventually be recovering from a severe addiction to politics. I love Jesus, my family and friends, my country, and popsicles. I like my government small. I want control of my own health care. I am accountable to my God, not my government. I think ‘stimulating’ the economy with monopoly money is stupid. I loathe Nancy Pelosi.

I’m Tabitha. And I write a lot.”

‘Whipping’ Caltrans when we share the blame

Kept in the dark?
Kept in the dark?
In our small town, we often like to blame the faceless bureaucrats across the county line for our woes. We’re not so good at holding up a mirror and asking, “What could we have done differently”?

A prime example is the detour of big rigs through our county because of Caltrans roadwork on I-80. People are understandably upset — though not all of “Nevada City is fuming,” as the local paper tried to infer Wednesday — just the most vocal ones.

First of all, The Union was well behind in bringing the detour to the public’s attention.

This blog wrote about the issue twice — here and here — before The Union weighed in with its first story.

In addition, the article ran inside the paper — not on the front page where it belonged. The paper also was late in reporting that a Web site getacross80.com was launched to explain the project. Here’s my version that ran two days earlier.

My “newsgathering” came from watching a county supervisors meeting on TV, reading the county’s “Friday memo” and a Caltrans press release — not exactly investigative legwork. I was on the road when I posted the blogs — a benefit of “self publishing.”

In addition, our public officials should have worked more closely with the paper, each other and Caltrans officials to get the word out.

Supervisor Hank Weston and Nevada City Vice Mayor Reinette Senum have both blasted Caltrans. But did they get together to discuss a community-wide communications plan?

Doubtful: The two are polar opposites politically — though we’re supposed to work together on nonpartisan issues such as roadwork. The paper should have asked both of them the same question.

Meanwhile, the bureaucrats of Caltrans — also a favorite “whipping boy” of the editor/publisher in his columns — were more “proactive” than either the paper or the county bureaucrats.

They mailed out brochures to homeowners including our family, as well as launched the Web site. Our family knew what was planned — and we accepted it as the “best of evils.”

For background, here’s how I got the “scoop” on this major story as a “citizen journalist” — not exactly a “Woodward and Bernstein” effort: I watched a county supervisors meeting on television and blogged about it on Friday, March 13.

“I hope the local officials get together with the media to publicize this,” I warned in my blog post. “People will need to be prepared — or wear earplugs when they go on vacation.”

Then I wrote about it the next day after the Rood Center’s Friday memo provided more details: “OMG: 112 nights of detoured truck traffic coming.” I also linked to the Caltrans brochure and map: It generated a lot of traffic.

The Union also gets the “Friday memo” and is free to attend public meetings, but their story didn’t appear until the next week — first as a map online. Readers begged for more.

“Who, what, when, where, how and why,” a reader asked the paper in a comment. “This covers the what and the where, but without knowing who, when, how and why, we might as well be reading about the Lost City of Atlantis.”

In short, the blame for the fallout on this road project needs to be shared by all of us, not just Caltrans. Our reaction shows our provincial mindset.

Arlen Specter: GOP moving too far to the right

Senator Arlen Specter (Pa.) made history Tuesday, becoming the first senator ever to switch directly from the Republican to Democratic party.

The switch is expected to cause more soul-searching in the minority party.

“Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right,” Specter said. “I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans.”

The National Review did not take the news lightly. It already is discussing the possibility of the 79-year-old’s demise.

“I regret having morbid thoughts, but this seems rather relevant,” the National Review blogger said.

He noted that “there is a reasonable possibility Specter will depart this earth before 2016,” before the senator’s next six-year term would end, and his replacement would be appointed.