Sunday Morning Gospel: Rank Strangers

(Warning:  if you hate bluegrass, you’ll want to keep on going.)

It’s been a weird couple of days.  My little blog (er…online journal) has been pretty political here the last 36 hours or so.  There are many people who blog about political stuff and most of them can do it far better than I. 

So, it’s Sunday Morning Gospel for me today.  I love old Gospel songs and Rank Strangers holds a special place in my heart.  Given the events of the past few days, it seemed fittin’.

I picked this version over the incomparable Ralph Stanley’s as my small attempt to encourage more people to record it.

Eldridge and Barbie Dolls vs. Doogan and Mudflats: Because Nice Matters

barbie

An Alaskan blogger who goes by the pseudonym AKMuckraker on The Mudflats has had her identity outed by Alaskan State Representative Mike Doogan (D). In short, Doogan got his panties in a tangle when AKMuckraker took him to task on the subject of email etiquette. He is further disgruntled because he seems to feel that AKM has no right to free speech if she speaks anonymously. Doogan, it seems, has never read The Federalist Papers, or Benjamin Franklin, or any of the legendary political writers who wrote anonymously.

 

A tempest in a teapot? A moose in the two-lane? I don’t think so.

 

There are two main issues here – his actions and his response: 1) Doogan outed a private citizen who wished to blog anonymously; and 2) His constituency (and others) are letting him know that they don’t like it and he’s letting them know he doesn’t like their rants and is keeping count.

 

It’s the second issue I want to talk about.

One West Virginia state delegate, Jeff Eldridge, caught all kinds of flack for proposing a law that would ban Barbie dolls in the state of West Virginia. His reasons centered on how the doll damages (maybe) the self-esteem of young girls. I was one of the people who rolled my eyes in disgust.  Although I played with Barbies and think my self-esteem is fine (perhaps even veering toward narcissism), I agree that Barbie possesses the potential to send the wrong signals to young girls. The world is full of wrong signals – more so than when I was young, but that could be the old fart in me talking. BUT. . .but. . .but. . .Rome is burning and Nero wants to ban Barbie dolls. The timing was ill done and the cynical me wondered if it was a smokescreen to sidetrack more important legislation. I didn’t bother to write him.

Even worse, to some extent, is that the national news got hold of it and we were lampooned and lambasted world-wide. I’ve never heard so many toothless Barbie jokes in my life.

While in Charleston during the Barbie fiasco, a friend of mine happened to be staying at the same hotel Eldridge was. She ran into him in the business center. It started as one of those strange conversations that only happen to some of us, but she and he ended up talking. While I wasn’t there, the gist of the conversation was that he was getting thousands of emails and attempting to send a personal answer to each sender – yes, read that again – a personal response to each email. For negative comments, he was responding with something akin to “Thank you for your negative response.” I’m told he explained that often elicited a second email that was much calmer to which he explained his reasoning for proposing a bill that had no chance of success.

My friend was exhausted by the conference she was attending and the full impact of what he was saying didn’t hit her until she was relaying the story to me. During the legislative session, this guy was sitting in the business center of a downtown hotel frantically trying to send personal, polite email to thousands of people of whom, by his reckoning, 80% were furious with him. A great deal of that mail was, no doubt, vitriolic and foul. I’m sure he was called lots of nasty things.

Now let’s talk about what Doogan is doing. Doogan stripped a blogger of her right to privacy without regard for her reasons or her safety. When her supporters, some of them really angry and nasty, emailed him, how has he responded?

Ooooo wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee. He didn’t need to state that he doesn’t believe in any such thing as email etiquette. It’s quite apparent that this guy is far too hot-tempered to be a public servant.  All over the internet, folks are posting their responses from Doogan. Here’s one of my favorites from the comments section of Dawn Teo’s excellent piece on the Doogan fiasco at the Huffington Post: “If you send more than one rant, you mess up my count.”

Doogan is keeping a tab on who sends him email. If you send more than one “rant”, you’re messing up his count.

Yes, folks. Doogan is responding to at least some email. (He didn’t to mine, but I only sent one. I’m sorely tempted to send another.)  Clearly, Doogan has strong convictions which to his mind justifies his actions. Rather than share those convictions, he sends what could be veiled threats – I’m keeping track of you all and you’re messing up my count.

Why, exactly, does he need to keep count?

But back to Eldridge for a moment.

The following day, after a late evening in the business center, Eldridge made a speech on the floor of the legislature and explained his reasons for the Barbie bill. He also apologized for allowing West Virginia to be made the butt of yet more hillbilly jokes. He received a standing ovation from his colleagues. Of course, his intentions were honorable – as were his actions. His email etiquette was impeccable.

Doogan’s situation couldn’t be more different. Doogan made a mistake. Instead of apologizing and explaining his thought processes, he is taking names, keeping a list, and counting AKMuckraker supporters. I doubt anyone in Alaska is going to get an apology.  I hope his colleagues in Alaska stand in ovation when he is reprimanded. I know I will.

My doctor has a sign in her office that reads: because nice matters.

Here’s Doogan’s official contact information again in case you want to be included in the count.

Mike Doogan: CONTACT ME
Ph: (907) 465-4998
Or (800) 689-4998
Fax: (907) 465-4419
doogan@akdemocrats.org
Representative_Mike_Doogan@legis.state.ak.us

First known case of an anonymous blogger being cyber-stalked by a politician?

The following newsletter was sent to the membership of The Mudflats Forum.  It is posted here with permission.   Far more postings have occurred on the ‘net since the newsletter went out.  The links  listed are only a few.–C

Hi everyone,

You may recall that some time ago Rep Mike Doogan was sending some crazy emails to people who emailed him and AKMuckraker was one of the bloggers involved in exposing his craziness.

Apparently this did not sit well with Rep Doogan. He has been trying to find out who AKMuckraker was for several months now and he has finally managed to do it. He then sent out a message to people on his mailing list via his official legislative newsletter, advising them of the real name of AKMuckraker.

Whether or not people support AKMuckrakers opinions, it seems most people support her right to remain anonymous. We feel it is a right that everyone on the internet is entitled to – people make the decision for their own reasons, some because they have been cyber stalked in the past, some to prevent being cyber-stalked in the future.

This may be the first known case of an anonymous blogger being cyber-stalked by a politician determined to find out their real identity and out them, though!

http://www.themudflats.net/2009/03/27/in-exposing-the-identity-of-mudflats-rep-mike-doogan-exposes-himself/

We are not certain at this stage but it is possible that Rep Doogan has broken the law, and there may be legal action that AKMuckraker can take. Whether or not AKMuckraker chooses to do that is another question and one I am sure she will consider this carefully over the coming days.

You can read posts from bloggers on this subject via the following links –
http://progressivealaska.blogspot.com/2009/03/mike-doogan-outs-mudflats.html
http://shannynmoore.wordpress.com/2009/03/27/my-friend-mudflats/
http://theimmoralminority.blogspot.com/2009/03/you-know-difference-between-rep-mike.html
http://mamadance.wordpress.com/2009/03/27/a-sad-day-mudflats-is-changed-forever/
http://palingates.blogspot.com/2009/03/doogan-broke-federal-law-by-outing.html
http://www.thinkalaska.com/2009/03/rep-mike-doogans-missuse-of-legislative.html
http://werenotthatstupid.blogspot.com/2009/03/epic-failmike-doogan-plays-god.html

We also have a thread on this on the forums, where you can feel free to add your comments.

http://www.themudflats.net/forum/index.php/topic,6675.0.html

Updates and possible calls for action will be posted in that thread, so make sure to check it regularly.. We will also try and keep up with links to posts on the subject – and possibly media stories.

You may find it difficult to access the mudflats blog and forums over the next few days – especially if the mainstream media pick up this story – until we move them to a server with a larger capacity. This will cost us around $200 a month but we feel that the demand for accessing the sites over the next few weeks will make it difficult for the usual mudflats readers to keep up to date, so we are biting the bullet and hoping that people will assist with donations.

You can donate to AKMuckraker via the paypal buttons found on both the blog and the forums.

You can also email messages of support to AKMuckraker at akmuckraker@yahoo.com – be aware that a lot of people are doing so at the moment so you may not get a reply but we feel it is important to let AKMuckraker know that she is supported.

Regards,
Snoskred
On behalf of The Mudflats Team.

http://www.themudflats.net/forum/index.php

This email is being sent to all members of The Mudflats forums, even if you have chosen not to receive announcements. We apologise if you did not wish to receive it. We felt this was important news that all would want to be alerted to.

Pear Blossoms

pear-blossom-waterdrop3

The pear tree is blossoming.

Gift of a friend, the stone Buddha sits zazen,
prayer beads clutched in his chubby fingers.
Through snow, icy rain, the riot of spring flowers,
he gazes forward to the city in the distance—always

the same bountiful smile upon his portly face.
Why don’t I share his one-minded happiness?
The pear blossom, the crimson-petaled magnolia,
filling me instead with a mixture of nostalgia

and yearning. He’s laughing at me, isn’t he?
The seasons wheeling despite my photographs
and notes, my desire to make them pause.
Is that the lesson? That stasis, this holding on,

is not life? Now I’m smiling, too—the late cherry,
its soft pink blossoms already beginning to scatter;
the trillium, its three-petaled white flowers
exquisitely tinged with purple as they fall.

Ted Kooser – Poet Laureate (2004-2006)

Alaska State Representative Outs Anonymous Blogger

AKMuckraker, the anonymous blogger who was one of the first to discuss Sarah Palin’s weaknesses as both a governor and a vice-presidential candidate, has been outed by an Alaskan Representative (D), Mike Doogan, in what appears to be an act of revenge.  AKM is a progressive and registered as a Democrat.

You’ll note in the contact information below that Doogan is also a Democrat. AKM calls things as AKM sees them without respect to party. What may have initially wedged Doogan’s britches was criticism about email etiquette. (No. I’m not kidding – as AKM might say – you can’t make this stuff up.)  AKM’s post about email etiquette is here.  AKM has posted initial thoughts on the outing.  There are some difficulties accessing the site due to the high volume of traffic.

As an active participant in The Mudflats community, as a person with strong feelings about the right to express a personal opinion, and as a semi-anonymous blogger, I’m outraged.

Here’s what AKM had to say about posting anonymously in her response to the outing:

It said in my “About” page that I choose to remain anonymous.  I didn’t tell anyone why.  I might be a state employee.  I might not want my children to get grief at school.  I might be fleeing from an ex-partner who was abusive and would rather he not know where I am.  My family might not want to talk to me anymore.  I might alienate my best friend.  Maybe I don’t feel like having a brick thrown through my window.  My spouse might work for the Palin administration.  Maybe I’d just rather people not know where I live or where I work.  Or none of those things may be true.  None of my readers, nor Mike Doogan had any idea what my personal circumstances might be.  But that didn’t seem to matter.

Shannyn Moore, another Alaskan blogger, has expressed her thoughts on the matter .

Please feel free to contact Representative Doogan:

Mike Doogan: CONTACT ME
Ph: (907) 465-4998
Or (800) 689-4998
Fax: (907) 465-4419
doogan@akdemocrats.org
Representative_Mike_Doogan@legis.state.ak.us

Be forewarned, he doesn’t believe there is any such thing as email etiquette. 

In the interest of full disclosure, I should state that I’m one of the volunteer moderators/administrators of The Mudflats Forum which is the community associated with the blog.  I didn’t know who AKM was even though we chat now and again. 

I have lots of reasons for maintaining my anonymity on the ‘net and ain’t nary a one of them anyone’s business, but my own.  This whole thing stinks to high heaven and even more so in consideration of the abuse of power.

W. Va. Fur and Root: edited for clarity and to clean up links.