Tweet on This, Congress
President Obama is asking his supporters to tweet at Congress to pass his jobs proposal. His campaign website has a tool that matches your ZIP code to your Members of Congress and provides a ready to tweet message directed at those Members. Just click and tweet.
Obama's Tweet Congress tool is one of three recent efforts by the White House and the campaign to mobilize citizens to influence Congress. First Obama asked people to call Congress in a televised speech and now his campaign is asking us to tweet Congress.
Together with the recently launched White House: We the People petition site, the Tweet Congress tool represents the President's move to embrace social advocacy as a means to outflank Congress. Social advocacy is using social media to deliver grassroots advocacy messages to lawmakers. Because the messages are delivered via public social media sites, the level of public exposure and accountability far exceeds advocacy when people call, email or write letters to Congress.
I have spent the past few years developing, implementing and training other people to use social advocacy strategies as part of their advocacy programs. Innovators like Jim Gilliam have built some incredible social advocacy tools: the Twitter petition tool Act.ly and the campaign website platform NationBuilder.com. And organizations, like the ENOUGH Project have used the strategy to get unlikely laws passed.
In response to the Obama campaign launching its Tweet Congress tool, bogus complaints from some right-wing blogs decry the effort a SPAM. As I said, these accusations are bogus. First, on a technical point, political speech is not SPAM. The CAN SPAM act outlaws commercial SPAM. But political messages are protected by the First Amendment (it always cracks me up when "defenders of the Constitution so grossly misunderstand the document).
Leaving aside the issue of constitutional rights, the idea that this is SPAM misses the point entirely. SPAM is when one marketer floods a gazillion email boxes with unsolicited advertisements. Or, on Twitter, when a marketer hijacks someone's followers list to send unsolicited direct messages. Obama's Tweet Congress tool facilitates citizens making a conscious choice to send a single public tweet at a Member of Congress.
Each person who uses the Tweet Congress tool chooses to enter their ZIP code in order to identify their Senators and Representative so they can send them a specific message from their own Twitter account. And, to ensure that the tweet is authentic and from the constituent, each person gets to read and edit the tweet BEFORE they send it.
That is not SPAM, that is real citizens exercising two of their key First Amendment rights: free speech and petitioning the government with grievances (most people don't seem to remember this one).
So rather than decry Obama for this effort, we should applaud him. Instead of asserting that the people support his jobs proposal, he is asking the people to provide proof that they support it.
That sounds very democratic to me.
And if you doubt Obama's commitment to listening to the people, note that he also added the We the People petition site to the official White House website. Any petition garnering 25,000 or more signatures WILL be addressed/answered by the president.
These steps are key for improving Americans' sense of political efficacy. Too many of us do not believe that the government cares about our ideas. These tools make our ideas known to our government. How our elected leaders respond to these messages will be a measure of how much they really do care about what we want. If they care, our democracy will be all the healthier for it.
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We take fewer mental pictures per second.
- Recent memories run in our brains like sped-up old movies.
- In childhood, we capture images in our memory much more quickly.
- The complexities of grownup neural pathways are no match for the direct routes of young brains.
A consortium of scientists and engineers have proposed that the U.S. and Mexico build a series of guarded solar, wind, natural gas and desalination facilities along the entirety of the border.
- The proposal was recently presented to several U.S. members of Congress.
- The plan still calls for border security, considering all of the facilities along the border would be guarded and connected by physical barriers.
- It's undoubtedly an expensive and complicated proposal, but the team argues that border regions are ideal spots for wind and solar energy, and that they could use the jobs and fresh water the energy park would create.
Melting ice is turning up bodies on Mt. Everest. This isn't as shocking as you'd think.
- Mt. Everest is the final resting place of about 200 climbers who never made it down.
- Recent glacial melting, caused by global warming, has made many of the bodies previously hidden by ice and snow visible again.
- While many bodies are quite visible and well known, others are renowned for being lost for decades.
The bodies that remain in view are often used as waypoints for the living. Some of them are well-known markers that have earned nicknames.
For instance, the image above is of "Green Boots," the unidentified corpse named for its neon footwear. Widely believed to be the body of Tsewang Paljor, the remains are well known as a guide point for passing mountaineers. Perhaps it is too well known, as the climber David Sharp died next to Green Boots while dozens of people walked past him- many presuming he was the famous corpse.
A large area below the summit has earned the discordant nickname "rainbow valley" for being filled with the bright and colorfully dressed corpses of maintainers who never made it back down. The sight of a frozen hand or foot sticking out of the snow is so common that Tshering Pandey Bhote, vice president of Nepal National Mountain Guides Association claimed: "most climbers are mentally prepared to come across such a sight."
Other bodies are famous for not having been found yet. Sandy Irvine, the partner of George Mallory, may have been one of the first two people to reach the summit of Everest a full thirty years before Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay did it. Since they never made it back down, nobody knows just how close to the top they made it.
Mallory's frozen body was found by chance in the nineties without the Kodak cameras he brought up to record the climb with. It has been speculated that Irvine might have them and Kodak says they could still develop the film if the cameras turn up. Circumstantial evidence suggests that they died on the way back down from the summit, Mallory had his goggles off and a photo of his wife he said he'd put at the peak wasn't in his coat. If Irving is found with that camera, history books might need rewriting.
As Everest's glaciers melt its morbid history comes into clearer view. Will the melting cause old bodies to become new landmarks? Will Sandy Irvine be found? Only time will tell.
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