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DCUM Weblog

Tuesday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Dec 20, 2023 09:45 AM

The topics with the most engagement yesterday included a court ruling kicking Donald Trump off the ballot in Colorado, men who do nothing, "lived experiences", and a son who is frequently late or absent from school.

The most active thread yesterday was titled, "Colorado case. To keep Trump off ballot" and posted in the "Political Discussion" forum. This thread was started at the beginning of last month when a judge in Colorado allowed an effort to keep former President Donald Trump off the presidential ballot to proceed. Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution bars any individual who has previously taken an oath of office and then engaged in insurrection or rebellion or "given aid or comfort" to those who did from holding office. The original poster asked whether this is a state or federal issue and to where Trump could appeal. This thread languished until a couple of weeks later when the same judge ruled that Trump could remain on the ballot because, she claimed, the Section 3 did not apply to the office of President. This thread was the most active yesterday because that decision was reversed on appeal by the Colorado Supreme Court. That court ruled that Section 3 disqualifies Trump from holding office and, therefore, it would be a "wrongful act" to include him as a candiate for the presidential primary election. There are a number of issues involved in this decision, all of which are disputed in the thread. At the highest level is the question of whether January 6 was an insurrection. Republicans have described that day as involving little more than "tourists"", an inside job provoked by the "deep state" or ANTIFA, or a simple act of protest protected by the 1st Amendment. Nevertheless, courts have ruled countless times against those involved and several participants in the January 6 events have been convicted of sedition. The next question is about Trump's culpability for the events. While Trump is currently on trial due to his involvement, he is yet to be convicted. However, Courts have ruled in other cases that Trump was responsible. Next is whether the 14th Amendment is relevant to primary elections. A court in Minnesota that considered a similar case ruled that political parties have the final say in who appears on primary ballots and, therefore, allowed Trump to remain as a candidate. Most assuredly the Colorado decision will be appealed to the US Supreme Court. The Colorado court withheld its decision from going into effect until January 4th to allow for an appeal and it would likely be stayed during such an appeal. As a result, Trump will likely stay on the primary ballot regardless of this decision. Those posting in this thread are generally pessimistic that the US Supreme Court, dominated by conservatives and including three Trump nominees, will rule against Trump in any event.

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Monday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Dec 19, 2023 10:29 AM

Yesterday's topics with the most engagement included Trump's statements about immigrants, doing things to annoy others, a 68-year-old retired father working as a substitute teacher, and did Kate and William have a fairytale romance or a contrived and arranged relationship?

The most active thread yesterday was titled, "Trump warns that immigrants are poisoning the blood of our country" and posted in the "Political Discussion" forum. The original poster linked to a NBC News article reporting remarks by former President Donald Trump which included a statement that immigrants are "poisoning the blood of our country". The original poster noted that this is very similar to sentiments written by Adolph Hitler in "Mein Kampf". As the first poster to respond noted, Trump and his MAGA followers are selective about which type of immigrants they think might be "poisoning" American blood. Trump, after all, has been married to two immigrants, both mothers of his children, whose blood he presumably does not consider to be "poisoned". Another poster pointed out that Trump referred to "illegal" immigrants. This highlights an inconsistency that frequently comes up in discussions about immigration. Those who cross US borders and immediately request asylum are following the law. If they are then paroled into the country while they wait for an immigration hearing, they are still within legal bounds. It is inaccurate to refer to such individuals as "illegal". Unrelated to that, Trump's speech has come at a time when he and others close to him have been suffering a number of legal setbacks. Trump has routinely used inflammatory rhetoric to distract from other issues. In the case of this thread, posters are busy arguing about distinctions between various types of immigrants, the countries from which undocumented immigrants come, and the precise wording of Trump's statement. This is an 11 page discussion in which posters are not talking about the $148 million judgement against Rudy Giuliani for defaming Georgian election workers, the ruling by an appeals court that Trump does not have presidential immunity, or another immunity-related case that the Supreme Court has agreed to review. As the legal screws tighten on Trump, he is ramping up his incendiary remarks knowing full well that this will distract the media, his followers, and even — as this thread shows — many of his opponents. Trump launched his initial presidential campaign by describing migrants as drug dealers and rapists. He now appears to be planning a repeat performance. Trump does, unfortunately, appear to have found one surprising ally for his immigration position. That is Pennsylvania Senator John Fetterman who recently stated that he "is not a progressive" — despite explicitly running as a progressive — and announced support for stronger immigration controls. Fetterman's wife, Gisele, lived for much of her life as an undocumented immigrant and has often used her life story to garner sympathy for migrants. For her part, Melania Trump, who has her own checkered immigration history, recently spoke at a naturalization ceremony and welcomed new immigrants. Both Trump and Fetterman could do well to listen more to their wives.

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The Most Active Threads over the Weekend

by Jeff Steele last modified Dec 18, 2023 01:48 PM

The topics with the most engagement since my last blog post included sex in a Senate office building, college admissions disappointment, University of Virginia Early Decision results, and the college choices of area high schoolers.

Over the weekend the Gaza war thread was back as the most active thread. However, with less than 400 posts, the thread is seeing half the posts in 3 days that it used to see in a single day. Interest is definitely waning. The next most active thread was titled, "Ben Cardin Staffer Films Gay Porn Video in Senate Hearing Room" and posted in the "Metropolitan DC Local Politics". This thread was provoked by an explicit video circulating on social media showing a staffer for Maryland Senator Ben Cardin engaged in sexual activity inside a hearing room of the Hart Senate Office Building. The immediate reaction of those responding was to speculate about possible political fallout from the incident. That appeared to be limited, however, as no elected officials were involved and Cardin has previously announced his retirement. The staffer was quickly fired. Posters have a range of takes regarding this incident. At one end of the spectrum are posters who think the whole thing is no big deal. Next are posters who agree with that notion as far as the sex is concerned, but argue that it was a horrendous breach of decorum that showed disrespect for the job and the staffer's boss. For these posters, it was the location and the poor judgement to film it that are the issues. Several posters went further and suggested that the staffer is liable for criminal charges and should be prosecuted. Beyond that were posters who displayed obvious homophobia and fixated on the fact that two men were involved. At least one of these posters showed a frame-by-frame knowledge of the video that might be worthy of the Zapruder film. He apparently repeatedly watched the video with rapt intention so that he could adequately explain his disgust. One of the strangest themes in this thread was that gay people are such a protected group that nothing would happen to the staffer. Posters insisted that he would not be fired with one poster continuing to insist even after he had been fired. Earlier, the same staffer had been accused of yelling "Free Palestine" at Congressman Max Miller and many posters speculated that the video may have been leaked as revenge for that incident. This thread is also remarkable for the number of posters compelled to display their own personal obsessions. One poster imagined that the staffer would be an attractive hire for blue state school districts. Another somehow tied him to Harvard President Claudine Gay who, just to be clear, has nothing to do with the staffer or the incident. But, perhaps the most bizarre, was a poster who brought up DC Council Member Charles Allen. Again, Allen had nothing whatsover to do with any of this. But, there seems to be something about graphic gay sex that triggers some poster's own particular fixations.

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Thursday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Dec 15, 2023 11:04 AM

The topics with the most engagement yesterday included Emory University's Early Decision results, conspiracy theories in which posters believe, beauty secrets, and how to anonymously tell a friend important information.

In the blog post that I wrote yesterday, I mentioned that it had been a big day for threads that I had already discussed. Yesterday was just as big. Like yesterday, the thread about the Wizards and Capitals moving to Virginia was the most active, followed by the Gaza war thread. The Maury Elementary thread that was third yesterday finally dropped off the most active list, though I would not be surprised to see it return. The threads about suing Callie Oettinger and raising kids in competitive communities were the other already-covered topics at the top of the most active list. Therefore, like yesterday, the first thread that I will discuss was actually the fifth most active of the day. That thread was titled, "Emory ED is out!" and posted in the "College and University Discussion" forum. For the benefit of those not fluent in college application terms, "ED" refers to "Early Decision" which is a type of college application that is submitted prior to normal applications and requires the applicant to commit to attending the college if accepted. Students are only allowed to make one such application and, as such, it should only be used for the student's top choice. We are currently at the time of the year when ED results are announced and this thread was created to discuss ED decisions by Emory University. The responses include those from excited and happy posters whose children were accepted and some from disappointed posters whose children must deal with rejection. In both cases, posters tended to provide the grade point average, test scores, and other relevant data along with the decision. This led to quite a bit of Monday morning quarterbacking as others tried to draw conclusions from the information. Traditionally on DCUM, one of the first questions asked of those who are accepted is whether or not the student is an underrepresented minority or URM. The more polite might simply inquire about any "hooks". Such questions are often viewed as a way to explain an acceptance which posters might otherwise find surprising. When one of those responding in this thread proactively mentioned that her child was a URM, that caused a number of posters to attack her as a troll. So, I guess, this is another situation in which posters can't win. Before too long, discussion diverged to posts about other universities and how they compared with Emory. In addition, any thread about schools in conservative states tends to attract a poster who makes a fuss about abortion. I am not sure why this poster thinks that those who obsessively research every last detail about universities the way the posters in this thread do would have overlooked a state's abortion policies. But, even if they had, this poster has reminded them several times already. The topic doesn't really need to be discussed in this thread.

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Wednesday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Dec 14, 2023 10:38 AM

The topics with the most engagement yesterday included raising kids in competitive communities, irrational pet peeves, a mother-in-law's dishonesty about a nap, and Oprah Winfrey's weight loss.

Yesterday was a big day for threads that I've already discussed. The leading thread was, not surprisingly, the one about Ted Leonsis moving his teams to Virginia. Next was the Maury Elementary School thread that seems immortal and third was the Gaza war thread. Even yesterday's fourth most active thread, the one about suing Callie Oettinger, is one I covered yesterday. As a result, today I am starting with what was actually yesterday's fifth most active thread. That was titled, "Raising kids in a competitive UMC community? Would you do it all over again?" and posted in the "General Parenting Discussion" forum. The original poster says that she lives in an upper middle class community that has some racial diversity, but almost no socioeconomic diversity. The high school ranks in the top 1% in the nation and houses start at $1.5 million or more. Kids are very involved in extracurricular activities. This experience is much different than what the orignial poster experienced growing up. She was raised in a small middle class town where life was much more leisurely and she didn't experience people with real wealth until she went to college. Her social circle has included people from all economic statuses and a lot of diversity and she feels that she benefited from this. She is considering moving to a second home that her family owns in a rural community and raising her kids in a much simpler lifestyle and wants to hear from others about their experiences. There are several long, detailed, and substantive replies in which posters describe their experiences moving to less competitive areas. Generally, the posters were happy they moved. There are also posts from those who chose not to make such a move due to downsides that they described. As you might expect — and even hope for — on a forum that has its roots in urban Washington, DC, several posters pitch neighborhoods in the District in which less competitive lifestyles can be found. A few posters who describe themselves as being affluent argue that wealth doesn't automatically translate into competitiveness and that less competitive lifestyles can be found among those with money. Another handful of posters actually embraces competitiveness, were glad to have that for themselves, and hope to have it for their children. While a few posters got a little bent out of shape when criticism of communities was a little too close to home for them, this is mostly a polite and substantive thread. Many of the responses are very lengthly and those writing them put in considerable effort. As the result, the thread is pretty useful, but not a quick read.

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Tuesday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Dec 13, 2023 10:59 AM

The topics with the most engagement yesterday included suing Callie Oettinger, Caps and Wizards moving to Alexandria, college professors failing to provide time accommodations, and a white elephant gift that wasn't so funny.

The most notable aspect of yesterday's most active threads is that the Gaza war thread fell all the way to 9th, the lowest it has been since October 7. So, interest in that topic may finally be waning. The most active thread was titled, "Can I sue Callie Oettinger?" and posted in the "Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS)" forum. In early November, one of the threads I covered in this blog was about a breach of Fairfax County Public Schools data security. This was not a hack. Rather, Callie Oettinger, a FCPS parent, had gone to her children's school to examine their records. She was inadvertently provided with a thumb drive that had confidential records of over 170,000 students and employees. Oettinger's reaction was to publish this data which contained private details related to special education services that have been provided to children in partially redacted form. Her redactions were apparently not sufficient as the original poster of this thread is asking whether she can sue Oettinger for wrongfully publishing her child's personal health information. As in the original thread about this topic, most of the discussion focused on the ethics of Oettinger's publishing the data. While posters recognize that the original mistake lies with FCPS, and several hope that there will be accountability for that error, most of those responding are more angry with Oettinger. In their view, an FCPS employee made an error, but Oettinger's decision to publish the data was clearly intentional. Moreover, they are concerned about what else Oettinger may have done with the data and with whom she may have shared it. The overwhelming opinion is that once Oettinger realized that she had been wrongly provided sensitive data, she should have returned it to the school and deleted all copies in her possession. A number of posters express interest in joining legal action against Oettinger. The thread appears to have been started coincidental with letters being sent to the parents of children whose data was wrongly provided to Oettinger. Many of the posts, therefore, are from parents just learning about the disclosure and using the thread as an opportunity to absolutely fume at Oettinger. There are also a number of posts, especially later in the thread, that advocate that instead of directing their anger at Oettinger, those parents focus on ensuring that FCPS implements more effective data and privacy controls. Several posters want to do both. Despite the eagerness among many posters to initiate legal action against Oettinger, a number of posters contend that she has not violated any laws and that there are no valid grounds for a lawsuit.

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Monday's Most Active Posts

by Jeff Steele last modified Dec 12, 2023 10:36 AM

The topics with the most engagement yesterday included the pettiness of the British Royal Family, practical gifts, flirting husbands, and William and Kate's Christmas card.

Yesterday's most active thread was the Gaza war thread which I discussed yesterday. So, I'll skip that one today. I am sorry to say that the next most active thread was about the British Royal Family. Worse even, a second BRF thread is also on the list today. The first of the two was titled, "Petty royal family" and posted in the "Entertainment and Pop Culture" forum. The original poster says that she was reading an article about a lawsuit that Prince Harry is pursuing and was bothered that the government of the United Kingdom had refused to provide security for Harry. In light of the threats Harry faces, the original poster finds this decision to be petty. One issue with this post is that the original poster did not provide any sort of link to help clarify precisely what she is discussing. Moreover, despite the obsession with the Royals that characterizes many participants of these threads, few seem to know much about Harry's security dispute. Even the original poster misstates the facts. The basis of the dispute is the security arrangement established for Harry during his UK visits. Rather than around-the-clock full security such as that provided for full-time working royals, he is provided with security that is tailored to his specific needs and his perceived risk. Harry is appealing that decision in a quest to receive full security protection. In addition, he recently lost a bid to pay for police protection himself. Most of those replying seem to know few of these details. Several posters argue that Harry or King Charles should pay for Harry's security and consider Harry's security to be an unnecessary public expense, especially at a time that the UK is suffering with economic difficulties. A number of posters want government-provided security removed for all royals, forcing family members to pay for security themselves. Those familiar with the details of Harry's security concerns point out the shortcomings of private security such as not being able to carry guns and not having access to police intelligence about threats against him. Other posters point out that under the current arrangment Harry will receive police protection with all that entails when the circumstances require it. Much of this thread is devoted to comparing the type of protection provided to Harry with that provided to other celebrities or politicians. In particular, posters describe the type of security provided to the children of US presidents. All in all, this was not the worst BRF-related thread that I've had to read, but that's probably the best that can be said about it.

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The Most Active Threads Since Friday

by Jeff Steele last modified Dec 11, 2023 04:21 PM

The topics with the most engagement over the weekend included the Gaza war, other's identity quirks that are annoying, the resignation of the president of the University of Pennsylvania, and a Texas woman's ordeal regarding abortion.

The most active thread over the weekend was the thread that I have already discussed about Maury Elementary School. Following that was a thread titled, "Gaza War, Part 3" and posted in the "Political Discussion" forum. When the first Gaza war thread reached 1,000 pages, I locked it and started a second thread. Over the weekend, that one reached 1,000 pages so I locked it and started this thread. While this thread was the second most active over the weekend, the topic is not producing near the same number of posts that it did in the past. Ironically, despite the fact that the topic of the Gaza war has been the most active or nearly most active topic for over 2 months now, this thread started out with a discussion about whether people have stopped paying attention to the situation. It is always strange to me when posters not only read a thread, but post in it, only to declare that they don't really care about the topic. But, that's exactly what happened in this thread. Posters who claim that they don't care and don't have an opinion, cared enough to read and post an opinion. The other thing about which a number of posters were proud of not caring was the massive death toll from which Palestinians are suffering. The first refuge of those defending Israel has been to claim that the numbers of deaths being reported by Gaza's Ministry of Health are not to be trusted due to Hamas' influence on the Ministry. But, that claim is not holding water the way that it used to. So, posters have turned to claiming the deaths are "collateral damage" and while they are sad about innocent civilians being killed, it is a normal function of war. Therefore, it is simply not fair to single out the civilian deaths caused by Israel and may actually be antisemitic. Moreover, these posters claim that Hamas should be held responsible for the deaths of Palestinians rather than Israel. Much of this thread, if not most of it, is devoted to placing blame. The big divide is between those who believe that the atrocities of October 7 justify Israel's actions and those who don't. The first group argues that Israel has the right defend itself and to retaliate against those who attacked it. They claim that the Israeli military is showing concern for civilian safety and not intentionally targeting non-combatants. Any and all blame for Palestinian suffering lies with Hamas. The second group argues that Israel's actions have gone far beyond what could be justified by the October 7 attack. Israel is accused of intentionally trying to ethnically cleanse Gaza and commitiing genocide. Moreover, these posters point to the large number of journalists, academics, and cultural figures who have been killed by Israeli bombs — frequently along with their entire families — and argue that these cannot all be accidental. Rather, they contend, this suggests intentional targeting by Israel.

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Thursday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Dec 16, 2023 03:21 PM

Yesterday's topics with the most engagement included Ivy League University Presidents and antisemitism, a second thread about antisemitism and elite universities, the best known songs of our generation, and what major to choose if planing to go to medical school.

Once again the Gaza war thread led as most active yesterday. That was followed by two threads that are directly related to the war. The first was titled, "Stefanik Ivy Presidentd" and posted in the "Political Discussion" forum. The title, which suffered from both a typo and a lack of clarity, referred to a Congressional hearing during which Republican Representative Elise Stefanik asked a panel of university presidents whether calls for genocide were prohibited on their campuses. To be clear, Stefanik was referring to calls for the genocide of Jews which is a somewhat ironic concern given that something very close to, if not actual, genocide is currently being perpetrated by Israel against the residents of Gaza. Moreover, unpacking what Stefanik means by "calls for genocide" is itself a challenge. The Congresswoman explicitly referred to calls for "intifada" which in Arabic means "to shake off" but generally refers to Palestinian uprisings in the West Bank during which Palestinian teenagers used stones to fight the Israeli military. In no way does "intifada" mean "genocide". Similarly, many in the pro-Israel crowd claim the slogan, "Free Palestine from the River to the Sea" as being a call for genocide. While I have criticized that slogan, it does not refer to genocide. The college presidents, knowing that Stefanik clearly considers calls for genocide to include expressions that are not normally thought to be calls for genocide, were put in a bit of a conundrum and, unfortunately, fumbled their responses. Had they been asked whether a call to "kill all the Jews" violated their speech codes, certainly they all would have answered in the affirmative. But, instead, they were asked whether Stefanik's unorthodox and inaccurate definition of calls for genocide is allowed. That is a more difficult question. Unfortunately, in today's politicalized world, few are interested in doing the intellectual work to understand why what sounded like a simple question was actually much more complex. As a result, the presidents have come under considerable pressure and targeted with severe criticism. At the basis of this controversy is an effort among many in the pro-Israel camp to not only control speech, but to control the very definition of words. They have understandably and commendably made antisemitism unacceptable. But, now there are efforts to go further. Being opposed to Israel is considered antisemitism. Opposing Zionism is defined as antisemitism. Supporting Palestinians is considered anti-Israel and, hence, antisemitic. Slogans such as calling for an "intifada" or "Free Palestine From the River to the Sea" are allowed to be defined, not by those who use them, but by those who oppose their use and labeled as antisemitic. In this manner, pressure is applied to prohibit anything that is against the interests of Israel from being said. It is an effort to suppress pro-Palestinian speech entirely and has little to do with actual antisemitism.

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Wednesday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Dec 07, 2023 04:06 PM

Yesterday's topics with the most engagement included losing a friend because of the Gaza war, short women, Yale and A grades, and anger with a mother-in-law due to holiday arrangements.

The Gaza war thread was back as the most active thread yesterday and the next most active thread was directly related to the war. Titled, "Lost a dear friend over the war", the thread was originally posted in the "Religion" forum. But, after reading it, I moved it to the "Relationship Discussion (non-explicit)" forum because it really didn't have anything to do with religion. Some posters suggested that the thread was most appropriate for the "Political Discussion" forum, which ultimately was probably correct. The original poster says that three couples went to dinner, including one of her oldest and best friends. Two of the couples expressed solidarity with Palestinian civilians who are under Israeli attack in Gaza. The original poster's friend, who is strongly pro-Israel, went on a tirade against the others, jumped up and left the table, and took a ride share car home, even abandoning her husband. Her husband apologized and said that her extreme views have been causing marital problems and problems at their kids' school. The next day, the original poster called her friend and her friend told her never to speak to her again. The original poster asks if others have lost friends over this sort of discourse. When I moved this thread, it had less than a page of posts. But in less than five hours the thread grew to 18 pages. That's more than 250 posts, or more 50 posts an hour. Before the first page was complete, a poster had made a totally-political post that had nothing to do with the estranged relationship. Not only was that post off-topic to the discussion, it didn't even reflect the positions held by either the original poster or her friend, In short, the statement suggested that the poster had not bothered to read the original post. But, that was enough to provoke additional political posts. To be clear, the first three political posts were all from pro-Israel posters criticizing Hamas, a group that the original poster had explicitly rejected. Like the original poster's friend, these posters seem incapable of having a simple, reasonable discussion. While a few posters did address the relationship aspects of the thread, often saying that they too had lost friendships over political issues, the bulk of the discussion consisted of debate over the war. Many posts in this thread reflect why disagreements such as the original poster described can so easily lead to lost friendships. A good number of individuals have adopted the position that any sympathy for Palestinians is support for Hamas and any criticism of Israel is antisemitism. To be sure, many — maybe even most — Jews don't hold such positions and many non-Jewish supporters of Israel also reject those views. But, for those who do have such beliefs, almost any kind of discussion other than fully agreeing with Israel's actions is impossible. As was pointed out in the thread, when encountering such individuals, your choices are to keep silent and preserve relationships or speak up and likely see the relationship ended.

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