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Monday, December 01, 2008

Politik Kills

This post has been a long time in coming, but the time for writing it has now come. It pains me to report that the Oregon PERS Discussion Group (OPDG) is on its last legs. It is suffering from a terminal illness described in this post's title. The group began in late 2003 by Dana Jackson. It took off slowly, but eventually became *the* group for news and discussion about Oregon PERS and all the issues surrounding it. It was a perfect addition to my blog, which began as a web site in early 2002. For the first four years of its existence, OPDG retained its focus and participation was high. It seemed that everyone wanted to know about PERS and since several of us with access to good sources of information posted there regularly, its membership grew. When Martha Sartain died in mid 2007, the group began to atomize. It seems that Martha's wisdom, her ability to "tell it like it is" and her stature as the face of the PERS litigation (Sartain v PERS remains one of the few landmark decisions in the consolidated Strunk cases at the Oregon Supreme Court), seemed to make people feel that she had an insider's knowledge of what was really going on at the legal level.

It is not really possible to pinpoint the precise point at which OPDG began its long downhill slide into irrelevancy, bickering, and petty sniping. It has been at least a year, possibly more, since there has been any spirited discussion of a significant PERS topic. Yes, there have been discussions of PERS-related matters, but the old fire simply isn't there. Earlier this year, I made the decision that I could not tolerate the level of politicization of the Board and its hostile takeover by the extreme political right. I resigned as a moderator, and after many entreaties, started my own Yahoo newsgroup that *is* devoted exclusively to PERS and retirement-related issues. Once the political candidates were known, OPDG began on the relentless path to irrelevancy. There was a constant drumbeat of anti-Obama rhetoric, and attempts to crush and intimidate any opposing viewpoint (especially those who actually supported Obama). This has not abated with Obama's election, the financial crisis, and the end of George Bush's presidency. If anything, the hostility has grown in much the same way that talk radio seems to inflate by the appearance of political opposition.

The irony of this is that OPDG's charter actually warns new members about the very things that are tearing at the fiber of OPDG. Uncivil discussions, name-calling, ad hominem arguments, censoring posts for no obvious reason, etc. The reality is that there are only now four or five regular posters and a few drive-by shooters - mostly from the political far right, and a couple who have tried to defend the more moderate or left wing of politics. The left has no chance on OPDG, because the moderation team is composed primarily of those with opposing viewpoints. In short, for those of us who are celebrating the beginning of a new era in politics, OPDG is like the polar-bear club, with waterboarding.

Because I have no desire to subject *my* readers to the abysmal and unpleasant discussions over at OPDG, I am today removing the link for OPDG from my blog, and from my newsgroup. I will no longer reference any discussion on OPDG and will, in all likelihood, completely discontinue any participation in that group. Its members will still have access to the same news as both this blog and my newsgroup (see left to PERS Oregon Discussion) are completely open, unlike OPDG.

Contrary to the belief of many, there is still plenty of PERS news to report. It won't be daily; it may not be weekly. There is a legislative session coming in about 7 weeks, and with the financial crisis still ongoing, there will be many discussions about PERS and its financial health. It would not surprise me to find that PERS benefits show up again in discussions. Whether this will result in any changes or not, remains to be seen. But you can be assured that I and many others will be watching, listening, and reporting on relevant PERS news. You can be certain to find out here and on our sister-newsgroup (PERS_Oregon_Discussion).

And to the owner of OPDG, I wish you well competing in the political world. There are many other discussion groups on the web you can compete with. But if you wish to become the FOX news archive on the web, I'm afraid that FOX news has its own archive and anyone interested in seeing the views presented on that network can go there. You would be wise to heed the advice of Manu Chao who said it best when he wrote: "Politik Kills". Your group has a substantial membership, but the question you need to ask is how many readers do you actually have. How many have tuned out because the group has lost focus and lost direction. OPDG is becoming like the legendary foo bird. If you don't know that legend, Google is your friend.


MollyNCharlie said...

Yep, I agree. I stopped posting at OPDG because it was clear they were not interested. It was about a month later I stopped reading there, too. I get all the PERS information I want here and at POD and by attending as many PERS events (board meetings, hearings, etc.) as I can. Marc, thanks again for giving us an alternative. I will always be thankful for OPDG because it was the first thing I found when I started searching for help dealing with PERS. In my early months at OPDG it was a lifeline. It is hard to see an old friend become hidebound.


mrfearless47 said...

Thanks Peg. I hope POD continues to grow and to flourish. PERS is most definitely going to remain in the news as the fallout from the current financial crises begin to ramify across the entire economy. OPDG has had its chance, but it chose the wrong path, in my opinion. Politics has been the death of many sites, including far too many that I've followed. It is amazing to me how small incursions can turn into major wars; how quiet people can be turned into bullies whenever a political topic arises. I long ago learned that if you want to lose friends quickly, bring up religion or politics. OPDG manages to do both, to the detriment of all participants.

Richard said...

Dear Marc: I agree 100%. I stopped using OPDG about 4 months ago. Once in a while I drive by to see if the group has made a course correction. Since the OT postings of far right has turned a useful site into BIZARRO world I don't waste my time. I was a member from the start...no more. I am sadden by demise of an old friend...

Thank you Marc for creating an alternative that is focused on PERS and other retirement issues. I am eagerly awaiting my pint of Guinness at the end of the rainbow.

Richard (RSVPMV)

GU said...

Have already said this on to the POD group but want to reiterate here how disappointed I am that OPDG chose the path of destruction-POLITICS. Thanks, Marc, for giving us back a site in which we can get/give PERS & retirement related information.