Intolerably Obnoxious

The owners of BlueNC are committed to sustaining a forum that fosters free and open exchange. Indeed, our simple standard for engagement is that members refrain from writing anything that is intolerably obnoxious. In the two years since that guideline was put in place, we have not banned a single user based on this standard.

Recently we received word from two long-time members that they no longer participate at BlueNC because of the hostility they've found at the site.

Please consider this a friendly reminder.

In-tol-er-a-ble, adj., unable to be endured

Ob-nox-ious, adj., extremely unpleasant

BlueNC is going to experience a large growth spurt in the months ahead as we pursue new initiatives and move into the general election frenzy. We want BlueNC to be a welcoming venue. Please keep that in mind as you write your blog posts and comments.

Thank you,

Betsy and James

Comments

Thanks for posting this

I am taking it as a personal reminder to myself to chill out on a few fronts. I need this kind of nudge toward civility from time to time.

I'm also reminded how much I miss Lance, one of the original architects of the "IO" rule. It has served us well.

I should probably be grateful for this,

because my obnoxiousness has risen to barely tolerable status on numerous occasions, but this observation:

In the two years since that guideline was put in place, we have not banned a single user based on this standard.

actually produces more questions (in my mind) than were there before. But...I don't want to push the limits of...something I don't know the limit of, just so I can...better grasp the limits...*sigh*

We've come close ...

but have occasionally held our collective breaths hoping for things to moderate. That seems to have worked pretty well so far. As more and more people come to the site, I feel myself recalibrating the interpretation of "IO" in a slightly more conservative direction. That's why I personally have toned things down, though I know I backslide some.

What I'm wondering is,

how do we know setting such a high bar (we don't even know what it is, yet) to reach the Intolerably Obnoxious level is good or bad for the site itself?

I mean, we can work from the basic assumption that, especially for liberals, censorship is generally a bad thing, and should only be exercised in cases of the extreme.

But this is also (at its core) a medium of communication, right? So if the volume/diversity of communication is somehow stifled or limited, due to an overwhelming aversion to censorship fostering an intolerable social atmosphere, how would we even know? I'm not saying this is what (has) happened, I'm just saying we likely wouldn't know if it did.

I'm just glad I don't have to decide these things, 'cause I'd be lost. Shortly after I got banned from a previous site (it wasn't my fault, I swear), I wrote this off-on-a-tangent comment elsewhere:

These days everybody has a website. Even my fish Jack has a website, though it mainly deals with water temperature, the PH level myth, the psychological impact of unnaturally colored rocks, real vs fake plants, etc. He even had a link to a messageboard he moderated, but he had to shut it down. It seems a Tiger Barb kept posting threats to the other fish(es), and, due to a brazen and poorly thought-out claim "No fish shall be banned", he found himself in an untenable situation.

Dayum you like to complicate things

Basically, someone is intolerably obnoxious if they have no other mode than "attack" mode, rarely offer a voice of dissent without ridicule or insult, use their right to "question authority" simply as a cover for being rude and seem to create an atmosphere that stifles discussion rather than encourage it.

It isn't doing it once. It isn't doing it once or twice a month. We can tolerate a little bit of obnoxious....if we couldn't well.....we would have shut down a long time ago.



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Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

Okay, this is something tangible

Basically, someone is intolerably obnoxious if they have no other mode than "attack" mode, rarely offer a voice of dissent without ridicule or insult, use their right to "question authority" simply as a cover for being rude and seem to create an atmosphere that stifles discussion rather than encourage it.

and descriptive that members can use to gauge their (and others') behavior. I think it would make a fine addition to the FAQ page, where it might keep people from complicating things in the future. :)

I think the main thing

is that we (front page team) need to be able to be as consistent as possible - and the best way that I can think of to do that is to have some simple "Don't be evil" rules.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi
Pointing at Naked Emperors

One thing I look at is....

whether the comments/attacks are directed at another community member. Many/most of us have lost our temper or had a knee-jerk reaction to something. It's going to happen. It's when it becomes standard operating procedure that we need to address it.



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Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

As we get closer to the convention, especially,

and have coverage of that, I think that we will need to have a good plan in place to be sure that there are regulars and front pagers around. I think we'll have unprecedented traffic, and with that traffic will come some of the internet's underbelly. I see it in Grace's work all the time. We may have to be willing to delete comments that are unnecessarily inflammatory, attacking a person directly, or using racial or other epithets.

Just my opinion. I think a tighter hand will be called for during that particular time - not to stifle discussion, but to enhance it.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi
Pointing at Naked Emperors

The underbelly isn't furry...

And you can't scratch it like a puppy's either.

You definitely will have your hands full come convention and then election time. As a whole, from what I see each day, you will always have a few who will not follow rules. Especially online, where they never have to be fully held accountable for their actions. No matter how stringent or loose the guidelines are, you will have couch jumpers. (That's my term for those who constantly test the limits. You said not to jump on the bed. You never said I couldn't jump on the couch!) But the amazing thing about online community is the general willingness to follow whatever rules are set out and the ability to self-police.

That said, I think you would benefit from setting some solid dos and don'ts as well as some type of accountability factor, like email verification. Yes, people can create new email addresses in a matter of minutes. However, they will only do it a few times before they tire of the process. (Also, you might be surprised at the general lack of creativity out there. If problem user SlimeMouth has rattlesnake@yahoobie.com and gets booted, there is a good chance the next email account they make is rattlesnake1@yahoobie.com.)

Ok. Unsolicited advice over. Shutting up now.

Thanks.

With our expanded team in place, I'm confident we'll have coverage. I'm also certain we'll screw stuff up and upset some apple carts.

One mechanism we do now have is the ability to flag comments for approval before allowing them to be posted for general viewing. It puts a burden on the FPs, but it's a good tool to have when things start heating up.

Well James,

If you didn't upset apple carts, this site wouldn't be what it is! It's certainly not about keeping things stagnant! It's all part of growth.

Unsolicited advice is welcome!

I do plan to beef up the FAQ to clarify rules we already have in place. We will probably have a few more unwritten rules. (In other words, things for the mods/admins/fp'ers to use to determine when a comment/post should be unpublished for further review.) The more rules you have written down the more couch jumpers it seems you have(speaking in general terms).....and I LOVE your couch jumpers description. It's perfect.

The AP has started going after blogs and bloggers that link to and quote their breaking news items. Since we aren't lawyers we don't want to get too much into the business of trying to define fair use for other writers, but I'm not planning on spending my summer juggling cease and desist orders. I'm inclined to simply start deleting posts that are copy/paste of articles from other media sources...including other blogs. However, that's another post for another day.



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Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

A safe substitute..

Posting a snippet with a link and credit is acceptable. As long as you aren't taking traffic away from them, they don't get too upset. That's standard usage for all of the clients I handle.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? ;-)

I ♥ NC General Statute § 163‑211.

I always wanted to be the avenging cowboy hero—that lone voice in the wilderness, fighting corruption and evil wherever I found it, and standing for freedom, truth and justice. - Bill Hicks

Obviously..

The same vetters who vet the vetters!

Ow. My head exploded on that one.

That would be you.

Plus a few thousand other participants.

You can rest assured we get plenty of feedback when we step out of line, which may explain all the apologizing I've had to do over the past couple of years.

James

PS Though you'll have to come around a lot more often than you have lately if you want to be one of the watchmen.

Non-starter

Especially once the firm starts up, the potential for conflict of interest would be too great.

I ♥ NC General Statute § 163‑211.

I always wanted to be the avenging cowboy hero—that lone voice in the wilderness, fighting corruption and evil wherever I found it, and standing for freedom, truth and justice. - Bill Hicks

Looking forward to the future.

One cannot be a sub-contractor, an operative, or a lone wolf forever.

I always wanted to be the avenging cowboy hero—that lone voice in the wilderness, fighting corruption and evil wherever I found it, and standing for freedom, truth and justice. - Bill Hicks

Good luck, Sam.

What ever the future holds, I hope it's bright.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi
Pointing at Naked Emperors

Thanks for the support

:-)

I always wanted to be the avenging cowboy hero—that lone voice in the wilderness, fighting corruption and evil wherever I found it, and standing for freedom, truth and justice. - Bill Hicks

You do

apologize, and I have apologized, and Betsy has just admitted to sometimes going over the line intentionally (which is what I meant, Betsy, when I said you had acted like a jerk), which is all well and good, but the search for an objective standard is futile if the persons who are going to make the calls are unable to model the standards.

That's why I'm wondering whether what's actually going on isn't more about finding a mechanism for working out a personal grudge than it is an effort to improve the atmosphere.

Betsy's insistence, for example, that one can spot "intolerably obnoxious" by someone's using his/her right to challenge authority as an excuse for being rude is a mystifying guidepost. You can't really know what someone's motive is. You can judge what a person says but you can't *know* what is in someone else's heart and soul. Steve tried to work this one out by reference to long-time observation of a given poster (Steve, I hope I'm not misrepresenting your effort, but that's my nutshell version), but by definition a standard isn't objective if you are using your impression of a person's personality to make the call.

You, James, and I have both been accused of meaning something other than what we have each insisted (and *I* believe us) we meant. Betsy has also been accused of meaning something she didn't, and, as I recall, was pretty indignant that her meaning wasn't understood.

As one who surfs many blogs, I suggest that
1) standards have to be modeled by those who would enforce them, and 2) there isn't any such thing as an objective impression.

Thus I would suggest that a standard would be something akin to what RTB does on the Dome (no profanity), and/or that you could draw the line at direct personal insult.

But if you're going to talk about a perceived attitude, well geez, on that count, I'd say some of the most tried and true among the multiple hosts have been really, really ATTITUDE-FUL, so to speak, in fairly recent posts.

Someone recently got his head bit off for being "cute," when surely he didn't intend to offend by that.

My effort here has been to address the issues, but given the ATMOSPHERE here recently, I'll say for the record, I acknowledge that I might not think the way whomever is sitting next to me or reading this post at the moment thinks, but I do not post these questions or raise these issues for the sake of poking sticks or tweaking noses.

I'll keep this short, Brunette

You need to admit that there is a difference between casually obnoxious and intolerably obnoxious. You need to admit that there is a difference between crossing the line once in a while and crossing the line in almost every exchange with other community members.

What you've suggested is that James and I need to be perfect or we can't point out when others have crossed the line. Well, we aren't perfect. We've both admitted it. We will be pointing out when others are being intolerably obnoxious to the point that long-time members won't comment because it isn't worth the time and trouble to be attacked by certain members of the community.



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Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

Admissions, Confessions and Mea Culpas

No one is asking for perfection. But yes, of course a person who is going to enforce the rule should demonstrate that s/he follows the rules.

I have yet to see anyone on this blog who crosses the line "in almost every exchange" with other community members.

Maybe it's the use of that kind of hyperbole that causes me to think the objectivity factor is a problem here. Are you distinguishing between the "attack" of an idea and a person?

I have no problem with the concept that there are rules on a site. The people who run/own the site get to make the rules, and people who join the site do so on that understanding.

But I also think it still fair to point out that to date, the persons who are ostensibly in charge of enforcing these rules (to squelch this dreadful menace that has been frightening the villagers) have frequently "crossed the lines" that they claim they will now be vigilant about patrolling.

Ok. I know, and I suspect you do, too, that this campaign had less to do with a menace to the village's well being than it does the "authorities" being miffed about being called on their own b.s.

If this is really about standards and concern about "atmosphere," that shouldn't be a problem.

It is that type of response

that is unproductive. If it is our goal to grow the site, then we will be guided by our bottom line - new registrations and new member participation. If you find us intolerably obnoxious you are more than welcome to delete your account. Honestly, I'm not in the mood for cutesy tonight.



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Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

This kind of response

from a moderator is the kind that will discourage new users. Just sayin'.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi
Pointing at Naked Emperors

As long as it discourages

Sam..... then so be it. Hopefully new users will understand that since they are new, they aren't aware of histories that might have developed between long-time users. Sam being one of those. At least every other word wasn't fuck and I didn't call him names like others are prone to do, right?

I'm not going to be perfect and I'm not going to try. When I step over the line I won't delete it to protect myself. Um, just sayin'.



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Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

My son and I talked about this

over lunch today, and he basically read me the Riot Act about the need for rules and guidelines as far as behavior is concerned. He said something like:

"Everybody knows what's right and what's wrong. They're not children anymore. The only people who really need such guidelines are the same ones who will ignore them anyway, or craftily try to circumvent them."

For the next two or three hours

you are hereby authorized to speak for me....or wait...your son is authorized to speak for me. That's pretty much how I feel when prompted for a list of guidelines. We know when we've stepped over the line. I know when I have. Sometimes, it is even intentional.

The problem here is this has turned into just pointing out when people are mildly obnoxious or sarcastic and that is such a far cry from "intolerably obnoxious".

Happy Father's Day tomorrow. I hope it's a beautiful day for you.

...oh...and...Thank you for forgiving me.



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Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

I'll ignore the attacks.

Because it's not about who is obnoxious or not - and I certainly don't find James or the moderators in general obnoxious. Conversely, I admire how James advances honorably in the face of a faux pas, and would hope that we encourage that standard even if we can't moderate it.

The central question, which has since been addressed in this thread, was not as much about enforcement as it is about legislation. There has been this one standard, but perhaps it is time for new ones; hence the Latin phrase. The question posed by the phrase in its modern usage is one regarding separation of powers. I would hope for more public input in the standards themselves, since the enforcement hasn't really been an issue. While some may leave BlueNC due to perceived hostility, I don't think that's the only reason for blogger fatigue. I may post less due to professional concerns, but I read less because I don't feel that I have to read it as often. And, again, while you can't legislate the immediacy of posts, or enforce topics, I think some of us might be able to come up with standards to make the site better, even if we have no desire to be watchmen.

I always wanted to be the avenging cowboy hero—that lone voice in the wilderness, fighting corruption and evil wherever I found it, and standing for freedom, truth and justice. - Bill Hicks

Well said.

Truth be told, we're all figuring this out together. By definition, there will be missteps. The measure of success lies in how graciously and quickly we can move past them.

Intolerably Obnoxious

is such a subjective thing. Might I suggest that while it worked when BlueNC was a small local blog, with few posters and members, the standard no longer fits our needs.

We need some defined - but flexible - boundaries. It's only fair.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi
Pointing at Naked Emperors

I don't know that we need to expand on it....

When there are solid guidelines too many people will push that limit. It will bring out the couch jumpers. (Thank you, Grace!)

We are all adults here. Most of us are intelligent. If we can't figure out how to treat each other without having it spelled out, then we need to just shut the site down. If you will read up thread to my response to Steve you will see about as much definition as I'm willing to give to our standard. James might be willing to add a bit.



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Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

It's so hard to qualify obnoxious.

See, I can't abide Adam Sandler anywhere on film for example, yet he continues to rake in the movie dough.

I think mostly obnoxious will just wander off to another blog eventually if we just ignore it. After all, trying to control things rarely works out as you had planned.

Progressive Democrats of North Carolina

Good advice.

Maybe the real test of our enlightenment lies in the ability to ignore stuff.

Right now I read every post and comment at BlueNC. That's partly my OCD acting, but it's also out of a sense of responsibility, misplaced though it may be.

Maybe I should give that up.

In fact, I think I will.

That does work for the most part

until obnoxious doesn't wander off but other people do.

Oh...and I agree with you on Adam Sandler. I have really tried to enjoy his movies. I guess I just don't appreciate his brand of humor or something about him. Apparently, I'm in the minority.

Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.



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Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

The fact that it's hard to quantify obnoxious is exactly why

BlueNC, as the large community it has become, needs to have objective standards as to when to use the big stick of "you'd better watch out or you'll be banned."

All large communities must have objective standards, or they become oligarchies, and eventually crumble from within.

Healthy, growing communities recognize the need for standards that can be applied objectively to anyone in the community.

It's time for BlueNC to choose which it will become.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi
Pointing at Naked Emperors

Check out others on the list of top 100

that Max mentioned.

That might be a good way to proceed.

But I'm not familiar with any of them that have crumbled from within. Maybe there are some folks who know good examples.

Meanwhile, the ones that seem to be thriving are host to a lot of snap, crackle and pop, so to speak. I'm sure that among those there have been community members who prefer a cooler kitchen -- and yet the readership grows.

Some of the ones cited and apparently read by respected commentators/pundits (Paul Krugman cited Talkingpointsmemo as one he follows)do seem to encourage a level of dignity. On those higher profile sites, you don't, for example, see a lot of people seeking to make political points by distorting politician's names.

Kind of hard for me to see the mist of evil that some seem to think has permeated this site, but I suppose one person's anti-mosquito fogger is another person's evil mist.

I'm actually talking about being prepared for an influx

of new posters that I expect will find their way here via our convention coverage. Out there on the interweb, on message boards that are not nearly as civil as this one, Barack Obama has been called all kinds of names, as have his supporters. Hillary Clinton has been called all kinds of names, as have her supporters. Having in black and white that it's not okay to use racist language (for instance) can make it a lot easier to point out to newbies that they have crossed the line, rather than saying "you've been intolerably obnoxious", which is, as I've said so many times, very subjective. loftT's example of Adam Sandler movies is a great example. I find them intolerable. My son adores them. There is nothing wrong with that - it's a subjective opinion.

As for a mist of evil rising from this site, I think that's an over-reaction, on all sides.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi
Pointing at Naked Emperors

Sites that have tens of thousands of members

can handle more divisiveness than a site with only a few thousand and a handful of regular contributors.



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Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

The fact that in two and a half years

we have not banned anyone for reaching the level of "intolerably obnoxious" probably shows that we are pretty safe with that as our standard and that the powers that be can be trusted to be flexible and fair. The fact that we are even having this conversation shows that we care about this community.

If we write down guidelines I can guarantee that we will have more users banned under those guidelines. Most adults should have an understanding of when they've attacked someone or otherwise reached a point of being so obnoxious that people no longer engage them in conversations more than a time or two.

Technically, I guess BlueNC is an oligarchy - which basically means that a small group is making the decisions and/or wielding the power. That does not change with a set of written rules. Healthy communities also need flexibility and forgiveness. With a broad standard like "intolerably obnoxious" we are probably far more tolerant of certain behaviors than we would be if they were specifically banned. If we have a list of behaviors that get someone banned then we have the problem of coming up with a formula for how many times or how many different behavioral mishaps it takes to get banned. I don't know anyone around here who has time to keep a spreadsheet or a running tally. We are still faced with how much is too much from any one person. Are we going to continue to be flexible or will it only take one offense? If we're flexible, how can we be sure we apply that equally? (I can see it now - one person claims that we let another person break rule #1 four times when they only broke it two times, even though they broke rule #5 quite a few times......and they got banned, but the other person didn't and it's just not fair because two years ago Betsy said this and James did that and they aren't fit to be moderators.)

The fact that we have not banned a community member yet under our broad standard, I think, speaks to the fact that we have not only been flexible, but we have applied that standard in a fair and equitable way. It's also probably an indication that our judgment can be trusted in this regard. If you don't want to trust our judgment that is your prerogative.



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Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

Do not mistake my point

I haven't said and did not intend to imply that you or James aren't "fit" to be moderators.

My point is that in light of what I've observed in the short while I've been here, it should not be inappropriate to ask that the hosts be mindful of their own example when chastizing others.

I suppose the conversation wouldn't be this complicated if you had not prefaced by indicating that the spur to this action is that two people left because of a "hostile atmosphere." It just seems to me that this was, perhaps, a bit of passive aggressiveness. And, given what I've seen, I'm pretty sure that the implied accusation stems from something other than a real problem that actually threatens the stability of the site.

I covered my reasons for coming to this conclusion pretty well earlier in the post you didn't address. And that's fine.

Anyway, while I don't disagree that every blog has to have standards, the phrase "intolerably obnoxious" is quite broad and quite subjective.

I believe that Linda has some suggestions for an alternative set of standards that might be less confusing.

I find your response quite interesting.

If you don't want to trust our judgment that is your prerogative.

You appear to be taking my suggestion of a less subjective standard as an attack on your judgment, and it isn't. I'm suggesting that objective standards be put in place by the time we reach the convention and get rolling with the general election.

I am getting the sense that you are somehow threatened by the idea of simple standards, like "racial epithets will not be tolerated." I don't see why defining what is and isn't intolerable is a bad thing. But if the consensus is to leave it subjective, that's fine with me.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi
Pointing at Naked Emperors

Well can we at least see 'em?

Linda,

Would you mind posting your suggestions?

I'm hopeful that recent articulations don't reflect the best the site is capable of.

Bru'

Nope...not threatened

...but we've repeatedly declined the suggestion that we spell things out on different threads. Please accept that we don't see eye-to-eye on this.

We should not have to spell out using racial epithets (gay bashing, male bashing, misogyny, etc.) as a community rule, nor will we. The very people who plan to register, drop a steaming pile 'o poo and then leave are going to do it no matter how many rules we have. They haven't joined in order to become a part of this community and James and I have no problem banning IP addresses of the spammers and trolls who behave in this way. It bears repeating that a list of rules isn't going to stop these folks and I will also note that being fair and flexible doesn't come into play in these situations.



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Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

I do accept that we see a lot of things differently, Betsy.

That's part of what makes this an interesting place: none of us see things exactly the same way.

Other sites similar to ours have found it necessary to have guidelines posted - and it doesn't seem to have hurt them in the least. BlueJersey, Blue Hampshire, BurntOrange(Texas), and Pam's House Blend all have specific codes of conduct posted. They still give the moderators of the site the flexibility to throw their weight around should they want to, but the terms are there in black and white.

I particularly like BlueJersey's Rules.

Blue Jersey is a community and, as in any community, there will be people with whom you agree and people with whom you disagree. As with any other community, we can all manage to get along reasonably well if we just observe some simple, common sense rules for our interactions. Blue Jersey has no objection to heated discussion or disagreement and we welcome impassioned discussion, but there are lines that your common sense should be enough to keep you from crossing. These are our rules:

1. Don't be an ass. This should be enough for most people, but if you need clarification, keep reading.

2. Racism, bigotry, threats of violence and other hate-filled language is strictly prohibited.

3. No personal attacks or revealing of private information is tolerated. This is grounds for immediate banning.

4. No comment spam. Advertising an unrelated site by posting a comment or diary is not tolerated. If it's not relevant to the blog, don't link it.

5. Stay on topic. When responding to a diary or comment, don't hijack the diary with random issues. Respond to the topic being discussed, or write your own diary.

6. Troll ratings are for trolls, not people you disagree with. They play an important role in the community self-moderating itself, so use the ratings appropriately.

Rule #1 is the most important, basically covers everything and is obviously up for interpretation (ours). If you're here just to pick a fight or start trouble, it's pretty easy to tell, but for most people, these rules are common sense and shouldn't be any problem.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi
Pointing at Naked Emperors

I think these standards are excellent

Thanks for passing these on, Linda.

I hope that others will agree that they are clear and helpful.

Oh my....

1. Define what it means to not be an ass. That's very subjective.

2. The people who are going to participate in this will do so whether it is a rule or not.

3. Already stated in our FAQ and "personal attacks" is also apparently subjective to some.

4. Not necessary and will be violated by those who want to whether there is a rule or not.

5. Stifles open discussion. Every person here hijacks threads. Linda, you do this all the time. (I do too.) I am not about to be put in the position to remind people on every single thread to stay on topic. There are certain threads where we ask that folks stay on topic (live-blogs, especially) but as a rule it stifles the open forum.

6. We don't have troll ratings.

Rule #1 is the most important, basically covers everything and is obviously up for interpretation (ours).

Um...you honestly see "Don't be an ass." as substantially different from "Don't be intolerably obnoxious"? And seriously.....that whole, "and is obviously up for interpretation (ours)" bit is exactly what we're saying here and yet you post it as an example.

Here is our rule:

1. Don't be intolerably obnoxious. This basically covers everything and is obviously up for interpretation (ours).

We also have others listed in the FAQ already - not exposing someone's identity, no sock puppets or astroturfing for those who care to read it.



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Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

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