Monday, January 17, 2011

Everyone's a critic

Your author appears to have been the recent target of a couple of internet critics of late, one sane and one frighteningly unhinged.

Evidently one of the ways that Johnny Goodtimes likes to fill blog space is by reading my blog and linking to it with broad criticism. Generally I don't mind this one bit as it serves as a reminder that people can come play my quizzes on the same weeknights he does his. The claim from some media relations people is that there is no such thing as bad publicity. Send as much traffic as you like.

Not having read Goodtimes' blog with regularity the past couple of years, I note once every few months while checking out the blog traffic stats that one or two posts from his blog are in the top 20 or so drivers to this one. Those posts I do feel compelled to check in upon.

What was exceptionally odd in the stats I reviewed this evening was that a Goodtimes post was the #4 driver of traffic here within the last three months, despite the fact that I did almost no updating of this blog of any sort in that period. What could the hubbub have been?

JG apparently finds it amusing that I've had trouble seating myself for an elective office. He wants, or "they want" (as Johnny uses the royal "we" in the post), to watch the fray with some popcorn. I suggest the large; this might take a while if anyone wants a proper explanation.

Some background: Unlike my critics alluded to here, I am a native of Philadelphia, with multiple generations of my family having resided here since getting off of the proverbial and literal boat. I have lived here almost 40 years, and in that time there have been over 1,200 charges filed against corrupt Philadelphia politicians, those only being the charges prosecutors thought they could make stick.

I have been sickened by both of this city's political parties and their filth troughs, and the resultant decline of living standards that has brought for most Philadelphians to the advantage of a handful of others, unusually high percentages of the former living beneath the poverty line, with little or no substantive education that would allow them to begin to fight City Hall in effective ways when appropriate.

For 12 years I voted at the same South Philly polling place. For most of those 12 years - over 20 times - the Judge of Elections and other polling place officials would coach voters on how to cast their ballots, and would attempt the same with me. Apparently I was the only person ever to complain about this, and the officials were shocked that I would feel it necessary to lodge any complaint over this blatantly illegal activity. Nothing ever happened when I would attempt to report this behavior to any authority.

I should also point out that I was, in my previous professional life, in charge of a polling station in a Bosnian town as an international coordinator and observer. (A normal response from an intelligent, sane person to this fact might range from casual indifference to maybe being slightly impressed... instead my second critic we'll get to below finds this for some reason to be proof that I'm some form of loser.) In other words I have a better grounding in how these things should be done than most, not that the fact that elections officials pushing a candidate or issue as illegal should be anything other than obvious to anyone.

In November 2008 I noticed that no one was running for Minority Inspector of Elections, a polling position that a Democrat can't legally hold according to the City Charter as they are the majority party. Every polling place should have one in order to avoid election day shenanigans. In many divisions the Republicans are too lazy to bother running anyone for the position, and if they decide to fill them - and note these are compensated - the party gets lawyers in the run-up to election time to get court orders to dole out the seats as political favors to party foot soldiers.

Minority Inspectors have the right to assign unfilled Clerk positions to anyone they like. Clerks aren't really necessary truth be told (I believe the Committee of 70 is advocating doing away with the position), and this becomes another way for party loyalists to screw the taxpayer, by getting a relative to sit at a table all day and collect a city check.

As I am registered independently I realized I was eligible for the position, and that I could vote for myself and have the legal right from an elected position to 1) block any Clerk from being appointed and 2) tell any elections official trying to railroad voters to shut their fucking mouth, this time as another elected official who has the specific duty of keeping an eye on them.

At this point, again, a sane and intelligent person might conclude that I'm being a good citizen, trying to clean up one little corner of a dirty city in one fashion. I'm doing it as an individual and I'm trying to save the city and the taxpayer a little bit of money, and maybe lead by example so that other people decide to do the same in their divisions.

When one person does this it's a little difficult quite honestly, and I'm dealing with a lot of people who aren't used to any form of citizen activism forcing them to question the way they do things. Certainly no one is in any way used to someone being elected to this position and taking all of its duties seriously, or for that matter even fully understanding the role. A few dozen more of me doing this for a year or two and the whole culture of (at least this small aspect) of city politics could be turned around permanently.

Instead of this reaction we get a largely inaccurate partial reportage of events, with a few snide comments.  At the very least one would think a good word could be put in for either being clever enough to give myself a legal right to be in the room, or brave enough to face a roomful of hostile people with a court order and zero police protection multiple times on two different days.  (Contrary to what one poster said the police have not been particularly helpful... they are rarely present for any of this for starters, and have actually confiscated a judge's court order from me instead of reading it... one which in fact called for them to enforce my taking the position.)

The claim is made that Goodtimes really wants to know the scoop on what's happening. One way to do that would have been to contact me, seeing as he has ready access to this blog, to my email and my phone number, as well as to people who know me socially. It's not as if I were JD Salinger. Thus the rational person concludes that there was no real desire to do anything other than a drive-by mocking.

For the record, there have been two attempts to dislodge me from an elected position through extralegal means by both of the major parties. One is pissed off that I want to keep a real eye on election activity and the other is pissed off that I'm taking two taxpayer-supported drone jobs away from them when they feel they have a traditional "right" to turn this elected slot into an appointed one.

To this point the city has paid 3 different people who had no right to any position I've described several hundred of your dollars... just at this one polling place.  Multiply this nonsense by a thousand and consider that elections are scheduled twice per year.  This needs to be cleaned up city-wide. I would like to nail some folks to the legal wall for this behavior as a warning to others.

Multiple times I have faced a roomful of screaming people who are furious that I insist on the ones who belong there doing their jobs, and the ones who have no legal right to be in the room leaving.  I have at any given time usually 2 or 3 sheets of paper and a cell phone as back-up.  I have received physical threats and although I hold my ground I have never been "eager" to start any violence.

One newspaper reporter and one TV reporter covering this story told me that they pushed it as seemingly important to their editors, who in both cases refused to run with it precisely because no actual violence has yet occured, and this fails to make the story sufficiently sexy for sales and ratings.

I am working with the Committee of 70 (which, for those who just fell off the turnip truck, is a decades-old non-governmental political watchdog group) right now on making sure this doesn't happen again. They are taking the issue seriously, so maybe, if you don't know any details, you should too. There is also follow-up in motion through the DA's office and with the Pennsylvania Bar (certain lawyers are behaving badly in order to allow this to continue), and I'm hoping to score some real change through these channels. In fact for these reasons I'd just as soon not share certain details on a couple of trivia blogs; what I've said to this point should not harm any process.

Just keep gurgling away all you like about how much fun it is to watch me struggle to do something useful in a city that resists it, and by all means keep doing so from the security of a fake name. It isn't going to slow me down, and it isn't going to amuse anyone worth amusing.

Far more troubling is the case of one of the commenters/cyberstalkers on that post, who is troubled enough to have created a parody site of this blog, solely for the purpose of bitterly mocking me.  I assume this is not time taken out of what could be described as a busy social schedule.

This is clearly the work of Lisa from star quiz team Group W, who I'm sad to say spent a year signing into this and other blogs under a variety of names (i.e. sockpuppetry as web geeks know it) to attempt to 'prove' that I am wrong about Scotland not being a country.

There is a surface driver of this and a more disturbing, deeper driver of this. The surface driver is that after months of wondering why angry Scots were drawn to my blog to argue a simple point with me, I finally figured out that she was signing into under one of her identities to drive angry nationalist traffic to my blog.

Anyone who would like to see her side of this argument comprehensively thrashed once I went to meet her "cyber upstream" can do so here. It seems that right around the hundredth time the lass was found contradicting herself, dodging direct questions, or signing in under a new identity, the parody blog started.  She started that thread with one identity to be inflammatory, and then signed in under a couple of other identities in order to back herself up.

The deeper driver for this is the fact that she clearly resents the fact that I have had a professional career and education in this field, and she has not has had a professional career and education in any field, and my defense of all of that when same was attacked by her as irrelevant (leading to long general screeds against formal education) seems to have triggered a mental condition that has precious little to do with me, nor with Scotland.

As prize-winning geography instructor Matt Rosenberg points out, a lot of the rest of my problem on this front is simply delusional Scottish nationalists. (Interestingly my strongest supporters on this are also Scottish nationalists... ones who are troubled by the consequences of no longer having a country.)

Lisa is so far gone that I suspect that she's both the poster BlizzmasterPilch and the poster FeatherRuffler on the Goodtimes thread... which is sicker than it appears as both make reference to a poster on who I suspect is also Lisa.

It should be pointed out that Lisa is also not from here and I am not aware of any civic improvements that she has spearheaded, although there is abundant time in her day to mock me anonymously.  A particularly repugnant detail is the ripping of my links to Haitian relief efforts, still needed in an ongoing humanitarian crisis.  What sort of person uses that to score cheap larfs?

If I ever get shot in the head Arizona-style, this should be the first and only suspect for the authorities.


JGT said...

I just accused quizmasters in Denver of chaining women to their walls and looking like meth-heads. We're quizmasters, not brain surgeons, so there is a certain degree of entertainment involved in what we do. If that means lobbing a few feather grenades at one another every now and then, I don't think anyone is really hurt by that. And like you said, it doesn't hurt business.

The bottom line is, you are a rather entertaining writer, especially when you get fired up about something. (That said, in this piece you kept it a little too close to the vest for my personal taste.) And, if you can look at the article with any objectivity, you can see that this whole thing was quite amusing for the reader...particularly your line about "Not needing any stinking badges." My point was not to needle you for your civic duty, but to encourage you to write about things from your side, since I enjoy reading your work, and am happy to drive traffic your way when you write an interesting, ranting, or funny piece. Regardless, glad to see you posting again on the blog. Cheers-JGT

QuizMasterChris said...

JG -

Thanks for chiming in.

Since we're on the topic of chaining women to the walls, etc., I will restate that the "motherstabbers and fatherrapers" line is not at all something I came up with, but a reference from "Alice's Restaurant" that I thought was more widely known.

In fact the quiz team Group W took their name from the same scene... the "Group W bench" is for the "fatherstabbers and mother-rapers."