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GOP/Tea Party Holding U.S. Government Hostage Over Title X

Posted by Sandi on Apr 8, 2011 in Political Thoughts, Women's Rights

As I’m sure you’ve all heard, its extremely likely that the U.S. Federal Government will be shut down if Congress does not agree upon and vote on a budget (H.R. 1) for the fiscal year. All throughout the day I’ve been getting news alerts saying they are close to a compromise . . . I’m sure you are wondering what is holding things up? Is it a disagreement on how much should be cut?

All I can say is that the disagreement over spending cuts has been settled for hours now, in fact the Dems met the GOP request of $30+ billion in spending cuts, but then the GOP decided to change their mind because the Tea Party wants more. And then there is the fact that Republicans attached more than 80 riders to their initial funding bill, including several that actually increase federal spending. As Senator Reid explained, ”The two main issues that are holding this matter up are the choice of women, reproductive rights, and clean air.” Thats right – the GOP/Tea Party is going to shut down the U.S. Government because ideological policy issues that will only hurt low income and middle class Americans. More so it appears that the Tea Party conservatives are launching a “War on Women.” As evidenced by the riders that include: eliminating Title X Family Planning funds for low income women (Planned Parenthood), not allowing women to purchase health coverage with their own money if it includes abortion services, redefining rape as “forcible rape,” allow hospitals to refuse to provide abortions/medical care even to victims of rape or incest, eliminate funding for programs like Head Start and WIC and limit the EPA from being able to set regulations for carbon emissions, etc (learn more about these riders here).  And as Speaker Boehner explained: ”We will continue to insist that the policy riders passed in H.R. 1 are on the table. It’s just as important to many of our members as the spending cuts themselves.” It appears that compromise is not in the GOP/Tea Party vocabulary.

Here is the thing, It may be important to freshman Tea-Party members to infringe on my rights and access to safe affordable reproductive healthcare, but it is insanely irresponsible to put ideology before your primary responsibility, which is to keep our country and government running. GOP get your people in line and stop letting your freshman members act like children who really want their dessert before dinner. Because at this point dinner may not be served on the tables of many working families. There are those families who are struggling to put food on the table because our economy has yet to begin producing enough jobs to get our country back on track — and then there are those who will not be allowed to report to work or be paid because of a government shutdown. Your attempts to hold the U.S. Government and American people hostage because of extreme ideological views is childish and if you can’t put the country’s interests ahead of your own you don’t deserve to be there.

*Images from this post are from the Rally for Women’s Health and Lobby Day in Washington, DC on April 7th 2011 (organized by NARAL Pro-Choice America & Planned Parenthood). Thousands of women came to the Capital from around the country via car, bus, plane or train to tell their representatives in the U.S. Government that their bodies and access to basic reproductive healthcare are not to be toyed with. Millions of women (and men) utilize the comprehensive health services Planned Parenthood provides which include cancer screening (breast & uterine), access to preventative contraception, STI/HIV testing, etc. Attendees met with Congressional staffers and Members of Congress to explain the importance of access to reproductive and preventative family planing care that is covered by Title X funds.

While some staff members from either side of the aisle were welcoming and willing to listen, others (Nan Hayworth, M.D. R-NY – I’m talking to you) were not! Congresswoman Hayworth has said publicly that she is both pro-choice and supports access to reproductive healthcare, but actually voted in favor of cutting Title X funding to Planned Parenthood. You see where we might find issue with that? Her staff had 20 of us stand in the hallway (we “couldn’t fit in the office”), looked as if we were torturing him (its not hard to just smile and nod, even if you disagree) and refused to explain her rationale for voting no despite her public statements. When he finally stated that for “fiscal reasons” she voted to cut Title X – a staff member from Planned Parenthood pointed out to him that for every $1 cut from Title X funds that Medicaid spending would actually increase by $3. A statistic which the staffer of course never wrote down. So here is to hoping that the Congresswoman gets her views and numbers straight in time to vote for the best interests of her constituents who utilized Planned Parenthood’s services.

For additional information about the GOP H.R. 1 riders which would greatly effect women, please read my post titled “It’s All About Jobs, Stupid! Not My Uterus!”

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A Politician’s Role in the Twitterverse: Popularity vs. Influence

Posted by Sandi on Dec 29, 2010 in Political Thoughts, Social Media

It all began with a tweet from a college friend – and so began our Twitter discussion on the role politicians should play within the greater Twitterverse, and how they may view their own roles as part of the greater community.

Politicians are just like other tweeters, are they not? They use Twitter to share and disseminate information, while also striving to stay current and absorb additional news. Twitter is also a new way to hear from district and national constituents on specific issues that are being discussed. The real issue is that every politician approaches their use of Twitter differently, some don’t even utilize it at all.

PART II – Popularity vs. Influence

The number of followers one has on Twitter is often seen as  a badge of honor, especially for an individual who isn’t  necessarily a celebrity to begin with. It means that people  find that particular user’s tweets interesting and worthy of  following and this increases the number of people they are  able to reach and therefore influence.  For TV & movie  celebrities or politicians, much of their Twitter popularity  isn’t as genuine. They often don’t need to go through a  “worthiness litmus test” and tend to generate a following based on their already large base of fans.

According the Economist’s blog, a study was recently done by Social Computing Lab at Hewlett-Packard that analyzed twenty-two million tweets and developed an algorithem to determine if popularity and influence on Twitter are related to one another. They found it it was fairly easy to measure popularity by observing the number of followers per user, while they determined that influence was reflected by the amount of tweets that had been shared or “retweeted.”  Only 1 out of every 138 messages on Twitter that contain a link are actually “retweeted,” which shows the limited amount of tweets that are shared and users which garner influence.

They found that the most influencial American politician on Twitter is not John McCain (who has 1.7 million followers), but actually Nancy Pelosi (with only 15,964). This is due to the fact that Pelosi’s tweets are “retweeted” more and therefore more influential on the greater Twitter community. Even so, HP’s Social Computing Lab found rather good news for the Republicans: 70 of the 100 most influential members of Congress on Twitter are from the GOP. This means the Democrats have a lot of catching up to do.

Some politicians will use their Twitter accounts to tweet their daily schedules and feelings: “Happy to be here at . . .” or “Very POed at my colleagues who are not acting to pass the 9/11 Healthcare Bill. Our first-responders deserve better! #911actnow.” While it is great to show the public that you are working and involved in the community this alone isn’t going to necessarily have a real impact. A mix of good information, personal tweets, and community engagement is the ideal. A common mistake made by some politicians is to only post one style of tweet and not vary or include information that would likely be retweeted by followers. Take Congressman Ballentin’s (R-SC) latest post, one of 7 in the day: after 1,000 pieces of Lego ‘construction’, I tend to get a little cranky.”

While the Congressman posts frequently, most of his posts are personal in nature – that being said he does engage the community by responding to his Twitter followers. It doesn’t matter how loud or how often you shout, unless what it is you are putting out there is remembered and shared. Most importantly you need to understand your audience. So if a politician is only tweeting once a month, you want to make it count and ensure that you are posting information that is helpful, interesting, insightful or just funny. Ideally, a politician (or staffer) should be tweeting at least once or twice a day.

On a side note: The greater media is picking up stories from blogs and Twitter everyday. This year, a staffer was found to have accidentally tweeted “U love torturing me w this shit” on Senator Chris Dodd’s Twitter account – causing a 5 minute media firestorm. Around the same time, former Boston Mayoral candidate, Michael Flaherty was assailed by the Boston Herald for having followed “@BostonEscorts” and “@BostonSexClub.” As was mentioned in the first segment of this series, “it shouldn’t take too much time to simply see if the follower is interesting enough or worthy of following back.” This was a case of a politician simply “friending” or following back every person who followed him, or a really idiotic staffer following anything and everything that had “Boston” in its Twitter username.  Politicians are always in the watchful eye of the media, and in a 24/7 news cycle its important to double check anything and everything that is released under your name – even if its only 140 characters.

Next in the this series of posts is —  ”A Politician’s Role in the Twitterverse: Megaphone vs. Telephone”

This series of posts on “A Politician’s Role in the Twitterverse” was a joint collaboration between Sandi Fox, Smart As A Fox Consulting (@smartasafox) and Sean Hurley, Hear Forward (@seanphurley).

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