Posts Tagged ‘Blogging’

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Blog Swap: Guest Blogging on 2011 Next-Action Steps

12.21.10

While I have less than a year and a half to continue doing so, I’m currently a member of 20 Something Bloggers — a website that I, honestly, rarely find value in that is a community of… yup, twenty-something bloggers.

For whatever reason, though, when I got one of their emails talking about a blog swap, I jumped at the opportunity.  I’m very interested in guest blogging; cross-pollination — collaboration amongst bloggers, where we write posts for each other.  The idea being that we get to post on a forum for an audience that most likely doesn’t know about us yet.  It’s a win-win for both of us.

The topic they offered was nothing exciting, sadly, but it gets the ball rolling: “Action. What will you do next year that you’ve been putting off for too long?”

You can catch my post over at http://oh.so-very.me.  And here is guest blogger Jenny’s post for the swap:

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The new year is coming and there will be lots of people making resolutions for 2011. I on the other hand never really make any kind of resolution to stick to. I probably should though (stick to them I mean). But I have been able to make and keep one from this year and it will continue into the new year. And that is to cut down on the soda and take in more water.

I get bladder infections a lot :( No idea why. It’s probably due to my lack of water intake. I don’t really like water though, since ours is awful and tastes yucky like iron or something. I said once it tasted like blood and people just looked at me funny xD And the whole Crystal Light thing isn’t working out so I have decided to just (possibly) buy the bottled stuff and drink that. Or talk my husband into getting a water filter, which would save money. He likes when we do that ;P

So that’s my resolution. More water. Less bladder infections. Hope I can stick to it. I really do. :)

By Jenny

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How to Start Blogging: Read Andrew Sullivan’s The Daily Dish

10.12.10

Andrew Sullivan’s political commentary blog, The Daily Dish, has just celebrated its 10-year anniversary of existence.

Why is this a big deal?

Well, for me, my own year-plus of blogging here on Agree to Disagree started in large part because of Sullivan’s writing.  His and John August’s eponymous blog are the two blogs that I’ve read since I knew what a blog was (honestly: I can’t remember the first time that I started reading either, it’s been so long) that I never fail to read on a consistent basis — it used to be daily, but now it’s more like every two or three days when I get the chance to catch up on everything, which takes a while since Sullivan is nothing if not prolific.  (Seriously, this guy blogs a TON.)

Why do I read Sullivan (almost) daily?

He’s a phenomenal writer and he has integrity.  He’s one of the few out there in the political realm who is willing to admit he’s wrong and change his mind on something if the facts present a different view than he originally saw. Sure, it helps that I see eye-to-eye with him on many levels — gay rights, Sarah Palin being insane, the intellectual dishonesty of the GOP, the appalling stances on the legality of torture, the legalization of marijuana — just to name a few.

On the other hand, he is a classic conservative while I consider myself a liberal; whatever that means.  If it’s one thing that I’ve learned over the years of reading Sullivan, it’s that those labels mean much less than the actual stances one takes on specific subjects and policies.

I’ve always had trouble with people generalizing and being overzealous about casting aside an entire group of people — whether based on religion, race, sexual or political orientation, etc. —  and Sullivan helped me realize that neither “conservative” nor “liberal” nor “moderate” can truly describe the thoughts and feelings of a person — many in the conservative community don’t even consider Sullivan one of their own.

I don’t mean to give him such high praise as if he’s perfect and unerring.  Far from it, just like the rest of us.  But, the candid quality of his writing is immediately relatable and inspiring — even when I disagree with him — because I know it’s coming from an honest place.  He doesn’t take a stance just for the sake of being sensational.

It’s because it’s how he feels.  It’s because it’s what he thinks.

What does this mean for you?

Probably nothing.

Other than that you read me (thank you!) and probably have seen me quoting Sullivan frequently or giving him hat tips for providing source material for my own blogs.  He’s been a huge inspiration to me and it’s blatantly evident in how I write in these posts. I have no shame.  Might as well learn (read: imitate) from the best.

Here’s to you, Andrew and the team at The Dish: many thanks for your continued excellence in adding quality content to the blogosphere.  I hope to one day hold a candle to what you’re able to do.

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How to Turn the Political Tide: Reward Rational Thought

06.26.10

From the blatant lies passed off as truths by Arizona’s governor to the Rolling Stone reporter whose article ultimately led to Gen. McChrystal’s forced resignation, the question raised by The Economist, Andrew Sullivan, and others seems more relevant than ever now: do intelligent arguments make a difference?

With so much of the blogosphere ripe with deeply partisan, harsh opinionators, and the populist movement in full force across the country, playing toward people’s emotions has seemed to trump rational arguments.  We’re living in a time when a journalist has to defend his reporting because it’s so vastly different from what gets passed off as news and journalism with outlets like Fox News, MSNBC, and the Washington Post dangerously blurring the lines:

“Look, I went into journalism to do journalism, not advertising. My views are critical but that shouldn’t be mistaken for hostile – I’m just not a stenographer. There is a body of work that shows how I view these issues but that was hard-earned through experience, not something I learned going to a cocktail party on fucking K Street. That’s what reporters are supposed to do, report the story.” – Michael Hastings

In a debate with other gubernatorial candidate, Matt Jette, who said that a lot of undocumented workers “are just trying to feed their family… They just want to work,” Arizona Governor Jan Brewer responded with:

“We are a nation of laws. And they are coming across our border illegally. And the majority of them in my opinion and I think in the opinion of law enforcement is that they are not coming here to work. They are coming here and they’re bringing drugs. And they’re doing drop houses and they’re extorting people and they’re terrorizing the families. That is the truth, Matt. That is the truth…”

Notice how her argument is based on her opinion, which at the end, she passes off as truth, as fact.  In her argument, there is no difference between what she believes and what is real.

Now, let’s just say for the sake of argument that she’s right: the majority of illegal immigrants are coming across the border to sell drugs and terrorize Americans.  If that’s the case, and the numbers (because there have to be numbers to prove something like this which is calculable) show this to be the case, then there’s no need to even bring up one’s opinion, or allude to the possible opinion of some third party.  There’s no my feelings versus your feelings; it’s just these numbers show this is happening, plain and simple.

The obvious reason that Gov. Brewer didn’t handle the argument in this manner is most likely two-fold:

  1. The numbers weren’t in her favor.  There are more than double the number of Border Patrol agents on the border now than six years ago, and the crime rates in border towns in Arizona haven’t changed much at all in the past decade.
  2. The masses aren’t interested in numbers.  Not to say that people are stupid, but when in large groups, it’s easy to play to emotions.  And emotions run high these days with nearly two years of unemployment near 10%, the housing market crashing, and broad anger toward those who are supposed to be the ones who can do something about it all.

To look outside of Arizona, let’s take the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.  Outrage slowly built after the initial oil rig explosion when people realized just how grave the situation was and how difficult it was going to be to fix it.  That outrage initially went right at BP, for good reason; but, as the weeks flew by with oil churning out of the earth, blame shifted to President Obama and the government — he should be doing more; he hasn’t done enough; he hasn’t been putting enough pressure on BP; he hasn’t even met with BP’s then-CEO Tony Hayward.

When you ask people what they expect Obama to do that hasn’t yet been done, no one can give an answer.  And no one has an answer because no one has the answer.  The only actual fix seems to always have been the relief wells that are currently being dug and won’t be finished until August; everything else has been done on a wing and a prayer.  Not to say that the different methods of stopping the leak shouldn’t have been attempted, only that the probability of their effectiveness was never all that high — the “top kill” method only had an admitted 60-70 percent chance of working, and that was being optimistic since it had never even been attempted at that depth before.

People don’t like feeling helpless.  It might be the worst feeling, up there with guilt and shame.  We don’t take it well when we’re told “there’s nothing you can do.”  Usually you see this happen in a movie, in a hospital, when someone is told that there’s nothing more anyone can do to save someone who is dying and they demand, hysterically and angrily, that the doctor do something, that there must be another option, something else they can try.  The raw facts of the situation won’t change the emotional response of the poor soul dealing with the reality of his futility.

This feeling of futility seems to be the source of the growing populist movement of broad, unfocused anger toward the establishment.  There must be a way to fix the economy, create jobs, solve the undocumented worker issue, stop global warming without it costing us a cent, find an everlasting geyser of oil, and plug the gaping hole in the Gulf — we just haven’t found it yet, haven’t tried hard enough yet.  And indeed there must be.  But the only way will be to look at the facts with a rational eye.  It won’t be quick.  It won’t be easy.  And there will have to be sacrifices.

It’s easy to throw tantrums, point fingers, and react with our emotions, but there’s a reason why that didn’t work as kids, and why we need to be strong now and realize why it can’t help now that we’re adults.  Rational arguments can make a difference.  But it means having to face reality, as difficult as it may be, and rewarding those who give logical explanations for ways to solve problems and dismissing the ones who don’t.  It’s up to us.

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Political Blogging: The Power of the Premises

06.19.10

What’s more important to an argument — a solid set of premises leading up to a logical conclusion, or the conclusion itself?

The political blogosphere is mainly just opinion writing, most often by non-professionals — myself included.  People take a stance on a law, bill, event, political figure – anything at all, really – and have an opinion on the matter.  So they then write a blog post explaining why they feel that way and why that way is the right way to feel about the topic.  Opinion writing is argumentative writing.  And yes, we’re all entitled to our own opinions; but, when it comes to arguments, there are sound arguments and there are unsound arguments.

A recent comment from one of my older posts began a conversation about this very topic that I thought it was worthy of its own post.  This notion of arguments and logic is something that I find extremely interesting and will be exploring even more in-depth on a consistent basis with a new project of mine coming soon (shameless teaser, I know — but get ready for it).

Something I always try to do with this blog is present my opinions as thought-out arguments, not merely rhetoric spewed onto the page to either rile up those who already agree with me or to infuriate those who don’t see things quite the same way.  There’s enough of that out there already.  I’ve definitely had moments of weakness and failure in this aim, to be sure; and I’m sure that looking back through my archives, I’d find those moments happened more frequently when I began.  And while I know that I will write both solid and weak arguments going forward, they will all be written from the perspective and intention of providing logical rationale to support my conclusion.

Many people read blogs that already cater to their tastes.  If you’re liberal, you probably don’t read Andrew Breitbart.  If you’re conservative, doubtful you frequent the Huffington Post.  (Although, it’s become trendy for some to follow those with whom they disagree just so they can leave extreme comments announcing their disgust through name-calling and other pointless commentary.)  In fact, many with opposing viewpoints are not welcome in the comments section of some blogs — not always by the bloggers themselves, but as evident from the response by the fellow commenters.

Perhaps it’s this chasm between the liberal and conservative blogs and their readership that causes most bloggers to not feel the pressure of forming logical arguments for their opinions — they don’t need them because they have the power of their already-devoted followers to lend their support to any dissenters, should any happen by.  Regardless — we have enough of those blogs out there that merely mimic the thoughts of their political faction and treat dissent without any intellectual respect whatsoever.  I’d like to hold myself to a higher standard and think that we should all demand the same from those bloggers we follow.

It’s true that one can accidentally arrive at the right conclusion despite having a total mess of inaccuracy in the preceding premises.  But that doesn’t lend much confidence to the one behind that opinion.  The commenter on my previous post that got this whole thing started brought up the notion that if one’s conclusion was “2+2 = 4,” it wouldn’t matter what kind of nonsense made this person arrive at that answer because it’s a true statement.  For that I have two rebuttals:  one, the premises do matter, as I recall from my days in high school algebra.  If you happened upon the right answer but didn’t get their the correct way, you lost points.  It’s not always about the answer; it’s also about how you get there.  And secondly, political discourse lives in the gray area and doesn’t always have a right or wrong answer like arithmetic — which makes your supporting evidence that much more important.

I’d argue that the basis for your opinion is more important than your opinion itself.  Think about it.  When someone gives you their opinion, the first thing you most likely will ask is: “Why?”  This invites the person to explain the reasoning behind their opinion.  Unless you blindly follow someone else’s stance on everything without a second thought (and I strongly recommend not doing this), you’re going to want to hear more than a response of: “Just because.”

So, the lesson to be learned from all of this is that we should take care to note the argument’s premises – if there are any – the next time you’re reading an opinion blog rather than only focusing on the conclusion.   You might be surprised.  You might find that while you thought you agreed wholeheartedly with the opinion at first,  after seeing the support being mainly comprised of empty rhetoric and other meandering opinion instead of rational evidence, you’re not so sure after all.

It’s always nice to read something that completely validates how you’re feeling — but it’s even better when you can be sure that you have a factual leg to stand on when people question your opinion and you can respond with more than “just because.”

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The Total Irrelevance of Beauty Pageants

05.20.10

Rima Fakih, an Arab-American woman from Dearborn, Michigan, won the Miss USA contest this week so naturally, right-wing bloggers cry foul, some suggesting that she won because there’s an unwritten form of affirmative action taking place in these beauty pageants, while others go much further, claiming that Fakih is a Hezbollah propagandist.

I really don’t understand why anyone cares about this.  These are beauty pageants, not senatorial primaries (which just happened yesterday, by the way).  Other than Carrie Prejean — who gained notoriety not for winning the Miss USA pageant (she came in second), but rather for her response to her stance on gay marriage posited to her by Perez Hilton — name another recent beauty pageant winner without Googling it.

Uh, um.  Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Prejean became infinitely more famous than the 2009 Miss USA winner (who, according to Wikipedia, is Kristen Dalton and will never be heard from again), licking her wounds by speaking at the Values Voters Summit 2009, appearing on cable news shows, and even writing a book!  Looks like losing Miss USA was probably the best thing that could’ve ever happened to her.

So, if the most recognizable recent beauty pageant winner is actually last year’s first loser, I’d say that the only reason we even remotely recognize the name Rima Fakih is because a bunch of Islamophobes decided to throw a temper tantrum over someone with dark skin beating out someone with white skin.  In what year are these whiners living, anyway — 1970?  Welcome to 2010, where five Muslims winning beauty pageants from around the world shouldn’t come as much of a surprise when 25% of humans on this planet are Muslim.

If anything, this development only supports the fact that most Muslims are assimilating into mainstream American culture, going so far as to take part in the uber-American spectacle of the Miss USA beauty pageant, which is about as far removed from the strict hardline lifestyle imposed by the Hezbollah as one can get.

Right-wingers should be rejoicing.

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Obama Shockingly Out of Touch with Technology and Social Media

05.10.10

These latest comments from President Obama seem rather odd considering he blasts the very media that helped spread his hugely successful grassroots, Web 2.0 campaign that got him elected less than two years ago.

President Obama:

“With iPods and iPads and Xboxes and PlayStations, — none of which I know how to work — information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation.”

First off, lumping together iPads in with PlayStations shows the kind of ignorance that I don’t expect to see with him.  Especially not from a president whose administration spends so much time tweeting, blogging, vlogging, and reaching out to the masses through all of the social media networks.  While Xboxes and PlayStations remain predominantly video game consoles – although, more and more connectivity to the web and social media channels happens constantly, like being able to stream video from Netflix and YouTube – the iPod and iPad are much more than mere distraction devices.

This brings me to my next issue.  Perhaps if Obama himself knew how any of these devices – which is rather pathetic to admit that he doesn’t since he’s collecting income on all of the e-books he sells of The Audacity of Hope via iTunes – he’d know that just because newspaper circulation is plummeting, the subscriptions to newspaper and blog feeds are skyrocketing.  And where do people read those online newspapers and blogs?  Yup: on their iPods and iPads.  It’s one thing to not yet come to terms with the fact that Facebook isn’t just for teenagers to gossip anymore; it’s quite another to think that the iPod is just the modern-day Walkman.  I doubt colleges would be providing iPads to students instead of email accounts if they were only useful for dispensing entertainment.

It seems that Obama’s central argument is that there’s too much misinformation out there and the root of this is the proliferation of outlets for anyone with a voice (or fingers to type, most likely) to be read by the whole world.  I agree with him that there is far too much unsubstantiated opinion passed off as fact out there in the news-ish realm of blogs and the mainstream media; the insane necessity for balance has caused the misunderstanding that every position on an issue has validity simply because it provides counterbalance to the other positions to which it opposes.  Our media has forgotten that some positions are just wrong.

Where Obama and I differ is that I don’t think this misinformation problem lies in our modes of technology.  The problem is the widespread lies that people eat up as facts, not the way they happen upon those lies.

Despite this lack of awareness (how do you promote education yet admit knowing nothing about the very devices you blast — especially ones that are as ubiquitous as iPods), I agree with Obama’s conclusion that a strong education is the prime form of combating this misinformation.  And instead of blaming the increased democratization of information, perhaps we ought to focus our efforts on teaching people how to sift through the mounds of non-facts to find the basic truths of issues.  Those basics might not direct us all to the same conclusions, but at least we should arrive at them from an objective foundation rather than a disparate array of opinions.

I just don’t see how having unprecedented ease of access to both up-to-the-moment news as well as classic tomes of literature and everything in between could impede education.  Like NBC’s public service announcement slogan goes: the more you know.  There’s a reason it’s not “the more you believe.”

Image courtesy of DayLife/Getty Images
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Three Months of Agreeing to Disagree

04.30.09

MulletMan

Hard to believe, but I’ve been ranting and raving on this blog for over three months now.  My first official post was on January 23rd, 2009.  Lo and behold, here we are marking the end of April 2009 and the third full month of blogging.

For my three monthiversary, I’d like to say thanks to everyone for reading.  And special thanks to those who contribute to the discussion.  As much as this ends up being a one-sided verbal assault, I truly enjoy the comments and some honest dialogue.  Feel free to contribute at any time.

Here’s hoping the second quarter of ought-nine continues to be as rant-filled and exciting as the first.  Thanks for the support.

And thanks to Mullet Man.  He’s super stoked.  Just like me.