Farewell to the House

After four years of service as the Press Secretary for Speaker of the House Jase Bolger, my time in the Legislature has come to an end. Due to term limits, my boss could not run for re-election. The new Speaker decided to “go in a different direction” with the next press secretary and so I’m saying farewell to the House.

The last full session day was Thursday, Dec. 18, which went past midnight and so we technically had a bonus session day that went from midnight on Friday, Dec. 19, until about 6:45 a.m.

My wife, Jessi, was around the chamber for most of the night and helped me document my last real session day. (I will be returning to the House floor on Dec. 30 to take part in Sine Die — when the Legislature adjourns “without day” — but that doesn’t really count as a real session day.)

It’s a bittersweet time in my career, when all the crazy hours, incredible social media frustrations and triumphant media relations moments cascade down around me and swirl about among my memories. But that aside, here is a collection of photos and videos shot by Jessi and I during those last hours, with some commentary to help provide context. (You can click on each picture to enlarge it if you so desire.)

Speaker Bolger office

This is the hallway outside the Speaker’s Office. When I got to work on Thursday, Dec. 18, I decided to document a few things that had become routine — something that we all risk no matter where we work. I used to always tell new employees to stop and look around from time to time – that no matter how busy they were, they should take a minute to revel in the amazing building where they were privileged to work.

Speaker Bolger office sign

The main hallway inside the Speaker's Office suite.

The main hallway inside the Speaker’s Office suite.

The actual Speaker's office - the place Jase Bolger always thanked visitors for allowing him to borrow. That sentiment is part of what made him a great public servant. I spent a lot of hours at that big table during strategy meetings.

The actual Speaker’s office – the place Jase Bolger always thanked visitors for allowing him to borrow. That sentiment is part of what made him a great public servant. I spent a lot of hours at that big table during strategy meetings.

The Speaker's desk is at the end by the window; this is an angle shot while standing at the table in the previous photo.

The Speaker’s desk is at the end by the window; this is an angle shot while standing at the table in the previous photo.

This is an old Speaker's chair - at one time it actually sat at the rostrum on the House floor but has since been replaced. Many of us have memories of sitting in this chair waiting to see Speaker Bolger; it seemed a fitting place to pass the time.

This is an old Speaker’s chair – at one time it actually sat at the rostrum on the House floor but has since been replaced. Many of us have memories of sitting in this chair waiting to see Speaker Bolger; it seemed a fitting place to pass the time.

This was the last press conference I helped Speaker Bolger with. He was speaking about the roads deal reached between the legislative leaders and Gov. Snyder. The press conference was held in the Governor's Capitol Office Parlor. If you take the Capitol tour, there are times when this room is open for viewing.

This was the last press conference I helped Speaker Bolger with. He was speaking about the roads deal reached on Thursday between the legislative leaders and Gov. Snyder. The press conference was held in the Governor’s Capitol Office Parlor. If you take the Capitol tour, there are times when this room is open for viewing.

I lost track a long time ago how many times I've gone running up and down these steps before, during and after session. This is the back stairwell that leads up to the House chamber. It's behind a "No Visitors Beyond This  Point" sign in the main Capitol hallway. I guess that will be me now.  :/

I lost track a long time ago how many times I’ve gone running up and down these steps before, during and after session. This is the back stairwell that leads up to the House chamber. It’s behind a “No Visitors Beyond This Point” sign in the main Capitol hallway. I guess that will be me now.

Here is a video of the last time I said the Pledge of Allegiance on the House floor for a regular session, which was shortly after midnight on Dec. 19 when we started a “new” session day. I will always remember saying this for opening every session, but especially when we had a school group in the gallery watching us. Few groups can say the Pledge as loud and proud as a group of elementary schoolkids!

This is a very private place behind the scenes, as it is the House Republican Caucus Room. The House Democrats have one, too. It is a well-heeded rule in our caucus that what is said in this room stays in this room. It's a place where I saw Republicans spend many hours debating policies and issues with fervor but always ending with their friendship and camaraderie intact.

This is a very private place behind the scenes, as it is the House Republican Caucus Room. The House Democrats have one, too. It is a well-heeded rule in our caucus that what is said in this room stays in this room. It’s a place where I saw Republicans spend many hours debating policies and issues with fervor but always ending with their friendship and camaraderie intact.

The House Press Desk, where the Capitol Press Corps sits during session. I spent a lot of hours standing at this desk providing information and cajoling reporters, not to mention taking a few good-natured hits in return.

The House Press Desk, where the Capitol Press Corps sits during session. I spent a lot of hours standing at this desk providing information and cajoling reporters, not to mention taking a few good-natured hits in return.

Jessi took this shot, so I'm not sure what was happening. It appears I was watching a vote go up on the board. She has several shots of me standing like this throughout the night. I never realized how much I cross my arms while observing things!

Jessi took this shot, so I’m not sure what was happening. It appears I was watching a vote go up on the board. She has several shots of me standing like this throughout the night. I never realized how much I cross my arms while observing things!

Jessi took this picture, too, of Rep. Frank Foster, R-Petoskey. I don't know what he was watching or what he was thinking; since he lost his primary election and won't be returning, I can't even imagine it. In his farewell speech, Foster told the House that we need "more politicians who are bad at politics." He is absolutely correct, and will be sorely missed in the GOP Caucus next year.

Jessi took this picture, too, of Rep. Frank Foster, R-Petoskey. I don’t know what he was watching or what he was thinking; since he lost his primary election and won’t be returning, I can’t even imagine it. In his farewell speech, Foster told the House that we need “more politicians who are bad at politics.” He is absolutely correct, and will be sorely missed in the GOP Caucus next year.

The Speaker's job is so intense and so stressful; people have no idea how much a legislative leader and his family must endure. I love this shot that Jessi took though, because it shows Jase Bolger sharing a laugh with a colleague on the floor. Often, no matter how stressful things had gotten, Jase would let others lighten the mood with a joke and then laugh right along with them. It helped us all relieve some stress.

The Speaker’s job is so intense and so stressful; people have no idea how much a legislative leader and his family must endure. I love this shot that Jessi took though, because it shows Jase Bolger sharing a laugh with a colleague on the floor. Often, no matter how stressful things had gotten, Jase would let others lighten the mood with a joke and then laugh right along with them. It helped us all relieve some stress.

This was a chance shot that I took with Google Glass as everyone was leaving the House floor after session adjourned on Friday. I happen to glance over and catch Speaker Bolger wishing Speaker-Elect Kevin Cotter well as he prepares to take over next year.

This was a chance shot that I took with Google Glass as everyone was leaving the House floor after session adjourned on Friday. I happen to glance over and catch Speaker Bolger wishing Speaker-Elect Kevin Cotter well as he prepares to take over next year.

I didn't know Jessi had taken this picture until days later. It was on my last trip down the back stairs after session ended on Friday morning. A classic shot that I'm so glad she took.

I didn’t know Jessi had taken this picture until days later. It was on my last trip down the back stairs after session ended on Friday morning. A classic shot that I’m so glad she took.

It was just after 8 a.m. on Friday and we'd all been at work well over 24 hours. But that didn't stop Speaker Bolger from agreeing to do an interview with Frank Beckman for his radio show. It's a testament to Jase and his willingness to be open with the media right up to the very end. It also documents that even while talking on a phone, he has to use his hands to explain concepts to people. :)

It was just after 8 a.m. on Friday and we’d all been at work well over 24 hours. But that didn’t stop Speaker Bolger from agreeing to do an interview with Frank Beckman for his radio show. It’s a testament to Jase and his willingness to work with the media right up to the end. It also documents that even while talking on a phone, he has to use his hands to explain concepts to people. :)

The previous picture was shot on my Google Glass, and unbeknownst to me, Jessi was taking a picture of me taking that picture! This angle also shows how the Speaker's office was already being torn down and boxed up, but he and I were still working, because there was still work to be done.

The previous picture was shot on my Google Glass, and unbeknownst to me, Jessi was taking a picture of me taking that picture! This angle also shows how the Speaker’s office was already being torn down and boxed up, but he and I were still working, because there was still work to be done.

The last shot of me in my empty Capitol office before I left. Maybe it was best that I ended my work day about 27 hours after it ended, because by then I was ready to leave.

The last shot of me in my empty Capitol office before I left. Maybe it was best that I ended my work day about 27 hours after it started, because by then I was ready to leave!

This is a video I shot on the House floor with my Google Glass. It was of Speaker Bolger’s final time at the rostrum for a regular session day. It includes his farewell to the chamber and the last time he says, “The House will stand at ease at the call of the chair.”

And that’s all folks!

The media’s coverage of low voter turnout is a self-fulfilling prophecy

dickerson columnThe Detroit Free Press’ Brian Dickerson has it mostly wrong in his recent column about why such a small percentage of voters voted in last week’s election.

People who do not vote should not be held up as “the new normal” or the people who are making the best decision because they don’t like the choices they are given. Democracy isn’t meant to be easy and freedom isn’t free. If you fail to show up and vote, you have no right to complain about who got elected. If you fail to fight and try to make a difference in the things you want to see changed, you have no right to complain that things aren’t the way you want them.

Voters today are part of a society driven by Hollywood’s and TV’s interpretation of the world, biased cable TV news networks, bloggers with no professional standards held up as real journalists, and real journalists hog-tied by shrinking budgets and corporate management intent on web clicks and social media likes instead of credibility.

Admittedly, I haven’t done any exhaustive research on this. But when you review the political coverage of the recent elections, I suspect you will find a vastly larger number of articles based on polling results that are questionable at best, a focus on who is funding candidates, reviews of what the latest blistering negative TV ads are spewing, and the supposedly campaign-ending scandals that aren’t nearly as evil as the media and election ads portray them. And, let’s not forget the large number of articles focused on how difficult it supposedly is to vote in the Unites States.

What’s missing is in-depth reporting on candidates, their credentials, the issues they care about, what they would actually do if elected and why people need to vote to have their voices heard. And the rest of the year, when electioneering isn’t driving the news coverage, it would be nice if the media reported on the day-to-day activities of elected officials. The Capitol Press Corps in Michigan has shrunk dramatically over the years, and many reporters have shied away from “process stories,” because editors (in those newsrooms where they still exist) don’t think the public will click on them. But the process is where all the interesting news happens. The final votes taken on the floor of the House and Senate are a very small part of all the work that has gone into a law being crafted. Floor speeches, while great for soundbites for a media driven by sensationalism, rarely have any real impact on how a person’s colleagues will vote. That’s because all the true debate, the hashing out of ideas, and the bipartisan compromise happened weeks and months prior in a committee process deemed “too boring” for the public to be told about.

Is it any wonder then that the public is feeling disenfranchised and wondering why they should bother to vote? Instead of being given a manual on democracy to study they are being fed the equivalent of Cliff’s Notes. In an ever-growing and concerning trend, we may not even receive that version anymore but instead the equivalent of a movie trailer.

My 18-year-old daughter voted in her first general election this year. She texted me one day while reviewing her absentee ballot (provided to her because she is away at college).

“This is difficult. How do you choose? There are so many people and none of their websites make sense. The troubles of a teenage voter.”

I was so proud of her for actually doing research on the candidates and not just listening to her dad’s opinion! I responded with the best advice I could think of that wouldn’t drive her to just do what I suggested.

“Democracy isn’t supposed to be easy and I applaud you for trying to research the candidates!”

If only more voters cared as much as my daughter, post-Election Day news coverage wouldn’t be all about the hand wringing over low voter turn out. And if only more media outlets understood their post-Election Day news coverage is a self-fulfilling prophecy, then we might actually get some true news coverage of government instead of sensationalistic, half-baked reports designed to increase computer clicks instead of voter intellect.

Postal Service fell flat on customer service after tripping itself

I had a complaint to make to the U.S. Postal Service recently about a series of incidents in which my mail was delivered to another house in my neighborhood that’s on a different street but happens to share my house number.

The Postal Service eventually responded to my satisfaction, but not before making me use a frustrating complaint system and sending an automated reply that further infuriated me about the entire situation.

The customer service link is buried on the Postal Service’s website, a huge mistake to begin with. Then, the system walks you through a form that locks you into selecting categories and other information about your complaint. I was eventually forced to choose something as close to my problem as possible and then putting my real complaint in the narrative section of the form.

Already bothered by the initial problem and a frustrating complaint system, the email the Postal Service sent me three days later didn’t help. There was no reference to my complaint or how they were trying to address what I had sent them. Instead, it was a form letter saying my opinion matters and asking me to complete a survey judging their complaint system.

If you’re going to send an automatic reply to your customers, don’t wait three days to do so. (By the way, it was Tuesday to Friday, so an “it was the weekend” excuse doesn’t work.) I wouldn’t have cared if I had instantly received the email that said “Thanks, your  opinion matters, and please let us know what our feedback system is like.” But three days later, it just shows your customers that you’re either incompetent at customer service or apathetic about it. I’m not sure which is worse.

But here’s the big kicker: the local post office called me on that Saturday. The guy called me at home, on a Saturday, and apologized for bothering me on a weekend but said he wanted to get to the bottom of my problem. I was very pleased with the person’s attitude and his answer. I won’t know if my problem is solved until I don’t hear about my mail being delivered to a neighbor’s house for a while. But I at least feel good about someone caring and trying to do what they can to address the issue.

Unfortunately, my first interaction with the Postal Service was abysmal. By the time the local guy called me to talk about my problem, I was not just a disgruntled customer, I was a disgruntled customer who was frustrated by the Postal Service’s lack of customer service up to that point.

In short, the Postal Service fell flat on customer service after tripping itself. They may have thought a speedy reply was better than a quality one, but speed doesn’t always define customer service. I expected it to take about a week before I would hear anything about my complaint. Why was I sent an automated reply that showed up three days later when a personal phone call was coming four days later? Also, if you want customers to give you feedback on how well your system worked, don’t ask them to do so until the issue is resolved. The last thing customers want when they make a request of you is to be ignored and have you make an ask in return.

Have you looked at your organization’s customer service system from the perspective of an unhappy customer? If not, you might want to put that at the top of your To Do list.

Mailbox photo courtesy of Ashley's Flickr stream.

A lowered flag, a morning salute

I went into work early this morning, thinking about all the things I needed to get done today. I stopped on my way out the door to raise the U.S. flag at my house, waited for a moment of silence, and then lowered it in honor of Heath M. Robinson. I was feeling rushed, trying to get the kids to school and was already tired when I got to work. So I decided to grab a cup of coffee at the closest Biggby. While there, I became frustrated that the cellular networks weren’t working properly and I couldn’t check in on Foursquare.

Then, on my way back to the office, I saw this majestic site:

It’s the Michigan State Capitol, with its flags lowered in honor of Heath M. Robinson and the sunrise glinting off its iconic dome. I paused, thinking what a beautiful view it was for me to witness, all alone on a chilly November morning, so I snapped a picture. Then, because I can’t stand cold weather, I hustled inside to get more of my To Do list marked off.

But then it hit me. I should be happy to be overwhelmed by a To Do list. I should be grateful that I can have such a simple life that something as silly as a failed Foursquare check-in can frustrate me. I should embrace the feeling of cold air entering my lungs. And I should value even more the hugs and kisses I got from my kids this morning as I dropped them off at school.

If you’re reading this post, you should value such things in your life, too. Because Heath M. Robinson and too many of his colleagues can no longer do any of those things. I don’t know Heath M. Robinson, and I never will. He was a Navy SEAL from Petoskey and he was killed in action in Afghanistan on Aug. 6. He was 34 years old. Today, he’s a symbol of bravery, strength, and fortitude. His memory should serve to remind all of us of those who have served and are still serving.

So I’m pushing all of my troubles aside this morning and tipping my coffee cup to that lowered flag atop the Capitol. Won’t you join me?

Thank you, Senior Chief Petty Officer Robinson. Rest in peace.

Sincerity, Transparency, Relevancy & Accuracy are key for social media success

Reprinted from Dome Magazine

Social Media S.T.A.R
August 16, 2011

There have been plenty of discussions over the past two years about social networking and how the online outlets are the new grassroots movement. I’ve often said it myself and encouraged politicians and business leaders to get involved and engage if they want to be successful at interacting with their constituents and customers.

I’m often asked about tips and tricks for how to do that in a way that is beneficial for everyone, so I thought I’d share a few hints here. Of course, there is no perfect way to do anything, especially with the fast-growing and even faster-changing world of social media.

One of the most important lessons I often share comes from comedian Bill Cosby, who is credited with saying, “I don’t know the secret to success, but the secret to failure is trying to please everyone.” That statement is great anyway, but in the context of social media, it is vital to remember.

Not only will you not please everyone with what you are doing online, the medium allows “everyone” to give you instant feedback on what’s working and what’s not. That can lead you down a tumultuous path of constantly changing your style and content, to the point where no one really knows what to expect. The downside is they could see that as a reason to stop following you and, therefore, stop listening to you.

So it might help if you remembered some basic rules that I have turned into the acronym S.T.A.R. It stands for Sincerity, Transparency, Accuracy and Relevancy.

Sincerity is about being true to yourself and those who follow you. One of the greatest compliments I can receive is to meet someone in real life who has only known me through social networking, and to have that someone realize I’m the same person in both places. I have the same beliefs, the same sense of humor and the same demeanor in person as I do online.

I don’t use any online tools to make myself seem different or better in some way. If people don’t get enough out of what they see when following you online, they can easily stop following you. But if you show them that you are different in each of your online accounts and in real life, they will soon wonder who the real you really is and doubt what you’re saying in all venues.

Transparency is vital for building trust and for establishing relationships with people. Generally, consumers don’t want to follow a brand, they want to interact with people who happen to work for a brand. It helps us get the feeling of being connected behind the scenes somehow.

Politicians are brands, too, now more than ever. That’s why you must clearly state who is operating the Facebook or Twitter accounts you’ve established for your business or your political office.

If more than one person is adding to the account updates, they can be clearly identified by using the ^ symbol and the writer’s initials. There’s nothing wrong with having staff tweet for an elected official or business owner. But you need to be transparent about it to make sure the brand doesn’t lose the trust of those following it.

Accuracy is important in every aspect of our lives, and that is magnified when you’re online. People are used to getting instant information now and acting upon it very quickly.

Another topic for debate some day will be the desire for all of us lately to know everything right away and take immediate action for or against it, rather than waiting until we have all the facts and developing a well thought out plan. But, in the meantime, if you operate a social networking account, you have to make sure that what you are posting is accurate.

If you find you have made an error, declare so as soon as possible and correct it. Simply deleting your inaccurate post and moving on won’t cut it, because you can never truly delete a post from any account. It often will still exist in someone’s Twitter stream or Facebook news feed, or someone may have made a screen capture that can easily be broadcast to the world to show everyone your error.

People are quite willing to overlook human frailties, and they understand that we all make mistakes sometimes. They do not take kindly to being misled, however, which is what happens when you try to cover up a mistake.

Relevancy means keeping track of who is in your audience and sending them updates that are appropriate. One key to good communication is remembering that communicating is about the recipient more than the sender.

That means you need to post updates that matter to the people who are following you on that particular network. I post regularly to Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Empire Avenue and Foursquare. I rarely cross-post the exact same message to multiple services.

When I do want to share the same information, I often tweak it so that it is written in a way that would be more appealing to that audience. Sure, it means spending a little more time and effort, but if you aren’t willing to spend those on every form of communication, then why bother communicating at all?

There are several third-party programs available that let you send the same message to multiple outlets with a single click. This, however, is not communication, it is robotic shouting.

It’s important to note that doing all the things in STAR requires some time, effort and patience. None of this is easy or free (although, technically, the pure dollar investment is quite minimal). But, as the old saying goes, if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right. These days, we should add “multiple times.”

Be careful not to let your worlds collide

George Costanza

I had an interesting conversation with someone recently about how they used to enjoy my Twitter feed more before I became the spokesman for a politician. It was an eye-opening discussion in a couple of ways.

For a bit of background, my personal Twitter feed is @aribadler, but I also am the primary operator of the Twitter account for my employer, Speaker of the House Jase Bolger. That feed is @SpeakerBolger.

I thought I was doing a good job of keeping the two worlds separate, at least as much as you possibly can when it comes to social media. I have no delusions that what I post to both accounts can and will be used against me personally or in my role as the Speaker’s press secretary. So, I’ve been careful with what I’m posting to @aribadler, to make sure I’m not saying or doing anything that can be twisted on me. Of course, the political ideologues will always find a way to use every utterance out of context, but I’m basing my decisions on what reasonable people would think, not those blinded by political rage.

What I had not really considered was whether what I’m doing at work could impact my personal account. I haven’t done much more political ranting on @aribadler than I had in the past, but I’m sure some stuff has shown up there. I have put links to various news stories that I’ve been in on my Twitter feed and on my Facebook page. They weren’t there so much as a way to spread the message contained within, but rather as a way to show my friends and followers what I’ve been up to as a press secretary.

That’s why the conversation from the other night was so enlightening. I’ve been careful not to let comments from my personal world invade into my professional world, and yet I haven’t been as vigilant in the other direction. As this person said, she’s always enjoyed reading my Twitter stream because it was about a lot of things — some interesting to her and some not, some funny and some not. But, she said, it’s not going to be as enjoyable to follow me if I let too much political messaging seep in.

I’ve scrolled through my feed and haven’t seen too much more political stuff there than I had previously, but it does exist. So, I’m going to put up a better barrier — one that keeps my worlds from colliding not just on the work side, but on the personal side, too. I’m sure George Costanza from Seinfeld would agree that’s really for the best.

A royal mad lib

Back in 1775, with a shot heard ’round the world, the colonial states decided to declare independence from the tyrannical rule of a royal family. Why then, are we so enamored with royalty? The latest case in point is the ridiculous story posted by the Associated Press about Prince William and his bride, Kate Middleton. I might have let this go if I’d stumbled across the story in the entertainment or people-watching section of the AP’s news feed. But, alas, this was brought up on my AP Mobile app under “top U.S. news.” Really?

So, in protest to this “news,” I’ve decided the best way to handle it was to turn the article into a royal mad lib. Have fun filling in the blanks with a friend!

AP Photo

LONDON (AP) – Prince William and Kate Middleton look __________ (adverb), __________ (adjective) and very much in ______ (emotion) in official photos released to mark their engagement.

One of the two images by Mario Testino shows the couple, dressed in __________ (noun) and casual __________ (plural noun), smiling in each others’ __________ (body part). The other, more formal, depicts them standing together in a __________ (room) at St. James’ Palace.

The pictures, released Sunday by the prince’s office, were taken by fashion photographer Testino, a royal family favorite who captured some of the most iconic images of William’s late mother, Princess Diana.

Testino said the couple appeared “in their __________ (adjective) and brimming with __________”(adverb) when he photographed them on Nov. 25.

“I have never felt so much __________ (emotion) as when I see them together,” he said.

The Peruvian photographer, who made his name shooting models like Kate Moss, took a series of glamorous black-and-white images of Diana that were published in Vanity Fair in 1997, shortly before her death in a Paris car crash.

William, who is second in line to the British throne, has inherited his mother’s __________(adjective). In both pictures he and Middleton appear entirely __________ (adjective) with the __________ (noun) and each other.

In the formal photos the couple stands on a __________(color) __________ (noun) in the palace’s Council Chamber – in front of __________(noun) of some of William’s ancestors – smiling toward the __________(noun), as Middleton rests her __________(body part) on her fiance’s __________(body party). He wears a __________(noun) and __________(color) __________(noun) over a __________(color) __________(noun), she a smart __________(color) __________(noun) from Reiss.

The more intimate picture shows the pair __________(verb) broadly as they __________(verb) in front of a __________(noun)at the palace, with William wrapping his __________(body part) around Middleton while she puts her __________(body part) on his __________(body part). Clearly visible is the __________(noun) William gave her – a __________(shape) __________(noun) surrounded by __________(plural noun) that belonged to his mother.

Both wear __________(noun), with Middleton sporting a __________(noun) from mid-market retailer Whistles and William wearing a __________(color) __________(noun) over a __________(color) __________(noun) from traditional tailors Turnbull and Asser.

William and Middleton, both 28, announced last month that they will __________(verb) on April 29 at __________(location) in __________(city).

Testino has often photographed members of the royal family, taking portraits to mark Prince William’s 21st birthday in 2003 and his younger brother Prince Harry’s 20th birthday the next year. He also has photographed their father, Prince Charles, for Vogue magazine.

###

By the way, you can view the original article here.

That’s going to leave a mark

UPDATE — I’m not sure when it actually happened, but as of Monday, Sept. 13, the video has been removed by the Michigan GOP. I can’t say for certain that my blog posts, the media coverage and many people joining me in deriding this ad had an effect, but I’d like to think so. Thanks to all who commented or sent notes of support.
~aba
—————

I’ve had active blog posts before, the kind that get people talking and commenting on the page, via Twitter or in person. To date the largest single day of visits came when my post about President Obama’s handling of the Henry Gates situation was featured on CNN.com for a while. And I’ve had many posts that had more visitors than the one I wrote on Tuesday about a Michigan Republican Party YouTube video that I felt sullied the Lansing community. But the “Pure Crap” post has easily claimed the title for drawing the most attention from mainstream media.

After word started spreading about the video and my post railing against it, I was contacted by several reporters while others simply wrote about the situation without talking to me. Tim Nester read the post on his TalkLansing.net show. I was featured in radio segments on City Pulse On Air and Ebling and You. The City Pulse wrote an article, as did Gongwer News Service. And this morning I was mentioned in a political column in The Detroit News.

Certainly, my post wasn’t that extraordinary. What really got the media interested is that I was writing about disagreeing with a Republican video and I’m a former Republican spokesperson, having been the press secretary for a Michigan Senate majority leader. That’s what makes the whole thing newsworthy. And, hopefully, that’s going to leave a mark on the communications strategies for the state Republican and state Democratic parties. Both have been slinging the mud for so long now that people have come to expect it. But that doesn’t make it right and I needed to say it — regardless of my supposed political loyalty. As I mentioned in several of my interviews, many political operatives I speak with say “negative works,” while the average voters on the street I speak to often complain about the negative messaging.

I’ve also been involved in politics long enough to know I’m probably going to be asked by more than one person what I’ve been smoking. But I felt it was important to speak out and leave my mark. I hope that, even if my efforts don’t change the tactics of political operatives in this state, that I might inspire a few more people to stand up and say something when it needs to be said.

So I’m challenging everyone reading this blog to stand up, speak out and leave their mark. Even if it doesn’t change things immediately, it will make you feel better knowing that you tried. And, just maybe, if enough of us inspire others, we might actually see the power of positive change in Michigan. Who is with me?

Politics in Michigan are Pure Crap

UPDATE — I’m not sure when it actually happened, but as of Monday, Sept. 13, the video has been removed by the Michigan GOP. I can’t say for certain that my blog posts, the media coverage and many people joining me in deriding this ad had an effect, but I’d like to think so. Thanks to all who commented or sent notes of support.

~ aba

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I saw a video yesterday that offended me. I don’t suppose that’s very newsworthy since people are probably offended by things on YouTube every day. But this was a video from a political party who found  a way to misrepresent the community I live in as part of their attempt to smear the record of their candidate’s opponent.

The Lansing I live in is nothing at all like what the Michigan Republican Party has portrayed it as in their video titled Pure Lansing. Unfortunately, both political parties in this state have been racing to the bottom and simply creating a more jaded electorate with their efforts.

I am not going into great detail to rip apart the video I linked to above. Instead, I’m simply going to disagree and practice what I’ve been preaching. I’m going to be positive.

If you want to know what “Pure Lansing” is really like, you can listen to political operatives pandering for votes, or you can listen to the people who live, work and play in a place they are proud to call home.

If you are on Twitter, follow the hashtag #lovelansing. If you are on Facebook, follow the Lansing Breakfast Club or Lansing Happy Hour Club groups.

Or watch this news piece about Ignite Lansing:

Or this news piece about Kiplinger naming Lansing one of the top 10 cities in America for young professionals:

Is everything in Lansing wonderful? Of course not. Is everything perfect in any city? Hardly. But what makes a city a place you want to call home is the community that exists within it. There are so many examples of good things happening in Michigan’s capital city. Visit our capitol or one of the great museums, like Impression 5. Wander around Potter Park Zoo, stroll through Old Town or enjoy one of the many new restaurants peppering the Washington Square area.

Lansing is changing for the better. I wish Michigan politics could do the same.

(Photo courtesy of Brian Forbes.)

Facebook has never violated my privacy as much as Phonebook

The world is awash in the hysterical gnashing of teeth this morning as the BBC reports that a man apparently wasted time compiling a database of the “private information” of 100 million Facebook users and then posted it online. The news media is all over this in the “We don’t really know what happened but it sounds scary so let’s make it the lead” method of modern journalism.

But all this guy really did was gather data that was already available publicly to anyone looking for it! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again and again and again: if you don’t want something about your life published online, then do not publish it there! The guy says he deliberately did not mine for data that contained home addresses or phone numbers. Like that’s a big deal anyway. Has anyone ever heard of a little thing called the phonebook?

How come we’ve never seen this story:

Millions of Home Addresses and Phone Numbers Published for the World to See

By Ima Reporter

A high-ranking source at AT&T has confirmed that millions of home addresses and phone numbers have been published and distributed across the country. There are reportedly thousands of versions of something being referred to as “Phonebook.” The information contained within each Phonebook is apparently limited to a geographic region. It appears customers of AT&T were required to provide this information when they signed up for service. Customers were then told their data would be published unless they paid AT&T a fee to keep it private.

Congressional hearings are expected to be be called within the next few days and executives from AT&T are expected to answer some tough questions about invasion of privacy for their customers.

“Many of these folks needed a phone only for emergencies but now they have had to deal with calls from people they don’t even know trying to sell them products and services. It’s a travesty and we cannot let this continue,” said Congressman Eineed Votes.

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(Photo courtesy of Let Ideas Compete’s Flickr photostream.)