Privacy and the Past

July 20, 2018

Twitter, Privacy and the Past


              Twitter is an excellent place to circulate an idea, but a very poor place to try to discuss an idea.  There are two reasons for this.  The lesser reason is that posts are limited to 280 characters, which obviously is not sufficient to explain a complex concept.  That’s not actually that much of a problem, because (a) you can post as often as you want to, and (b) it is good for us, in discussing ideas, to discipline ourselves to state the essence of our argument in a limited number of words.

              The bigger problem with trying to debate ideas on twitter is that anyone can join in, so  discussions run all over the map.  A productive discussion pushes toward understanding of an issue.  A twitter discussion jumps from one issue to a related issue to a related issue to another, the fourth idea having no relevance at all to the first.   Different people pull the discussion in different directions, so no progress is made in any one direction, and the heart of the discussion is almost instantly torn to shreds by the competing efforts to move it in different directions.   All discussions on Twitter are drawn and quartered, and then the quarters are drawn and quartered, and then the smithereens are drawn and quartered. 

              People who dislike Twitter because it is this way are missing the point; it is what it is—in many ways a wonderful thing.  We have the same problem on Bill James Online, actually; I try to develop an idea, but readers whack it over the head and kidnap it, trying to make my idea the servant of their hobby horse,  leading to the quick destruction of the discussion I had hoped to have.  That’s frustrating, too, but the more people you have in a discussion, the more quickly the discussion is destroyed.  I have 40,000 Twitter followers.  Organized, productive discussions last seconds.  

              So anyway, I was trying to start a discussion on Twitter the other day, which is foolish but sometimes you can’t help yourself.  My initial post was a poll question:


Bill James Online‏ @billjamesonline Jul 11


I think The Law has made a terrible mistake in requiring the preservation of documents. Sifting through old documents looking for evidence of your opponents' wrong-doing--whether it is Hillary's e-mail's or Kavanaugh's old recommendations--is a venal and destructive process.



              And then I posted an "Agree/Disagree" poll.  2,191 people responded to the poll, of whom 86% disagreed with me, and 14% agreed, which actually was much better than I would have guessed; I would have guessed that I would get 5-10% agreement.  


              We have started posting my Twitter Feed on the front page of Bill James Online.   My idea in doing this was to try to carry the . . ..

              Discussions on Twitter, by the nature of Twitter, play themselves out very quickly and almost always in an unsatisfactory way.  My idea was to move some of those discussions over to BJOL and see if we can advance the ball a little further.  I didn’t expect people on Twitter to agree with me; nonetheless I still think I am right, and Twitter is not the place to try to explain why. 

              When people are rude to me on Twitter I just Block them; I don’t argue with them first and then Block them, I just Block them.  I think that’s the right way to handle it.  If someone insults you today they will insult you again tomorrow or next week; why would I want to have a relationship with such a person? 

              One of the common responses to my post was along the lines of "Bill James is in his decline phase."  (I would quote someone specifically, but I blocked them all so the tweets no longer show up.)  But when you think about it. . .did I get to be who I am by making arguments that most people would agree with?   When I argued in the late 1970s that won-lost records for pitchers often had little to do how well the pitcher had pitched, did people agree with that?   When I argued that a .240 hitter could be better than a .300 hitter sometimes, did people agree with that?  People thought I was nuts.   90, 95% of the baseball establishment thought I was an ignorant jackass with crazy opinions.   I’m in the decline phase now because I believe things that most people don’t?   That’s just who I am.  If I am to be condemned now for having opinions that everyone knows to be false, let me at least say that this is not a new failing for me. 

              The world is much more complicated than the human mind, billions of times more complicated—and yet we desperately want to understand things.  When we don’t understand something, we feel that we are adrift, that we are in danger because we are lost.  We simplify the world in order to give us a sense of understanding.   We simplify things by leaving out elements of each problem, and this causes us to form conclusions based on careless thought, but which nonetheless almost everybody agrees with.   When facing the darkness of my own mind, I find safety in huddling with others.  I don’t see how anyone could doubt that this is true, because we should all be able to remember hundreds of assumptions about the world that dominated American thinking in the 1960s, but which we now see to have been completely wrong. 

As a society we have a predominant belief about everything, and the predominant belief about each thing is ALWAYS wrong in some ways, because it always leaves out elements of the problem.  As the world changes, as the world adjusts, very often the predominant belief becomes not only wrong in some regard, but wrong in the main.  

This is what has happened to the assumption that we must preserve every kind of document. . . .businesses must preserve all the records of their creation of a new product, in case the product fails in some horrible way and a lawsuit results.   You must preserve your financial records in case the IRS wants to look at them in six years, and if you are involved in some lawsuit and a friend e-mails you about the case and you delete the e-mail, you may well have violated the law.   These laws made some sense when we adopted them in the 1970s.   They’re out of control now, and they are causing far worse problems than they are helping to solve.  

I should stress that most of the 86% who disagreed with me on Twitter were respectful and made clear, logical points, and I’ll get to those in a little bit.  By far the most common argument was that we need to preserve records  for the benefit of historians.   As one genius put it, "Cap Anson agrees with you."  What, do we only know about Cap Anson’s misdeeds because he was legally required to save his e-mails?   Not e-mails, then. . . .letters or contracts or documents.   Was he legally required to save any of that?   Did that make any difference?  Did he escape the scrutiny of history because he was not legally required to save the information that would condemn him?  

"And this man calls himself a historian!" one man tweeted.   Well, no, I don’t; I never self-identify as a historian, although I probably have done so some time in the fairly distant past, but whenever anyone describes me as a historian or introduces me as a historian, I always try to say "No, I am not a historian."  To me, a historian is a person who has a PhD in history and writes about historical issues as his primary calling.  I don’t have the historical education or the command of research methods that I would think a historian should have, and I do a lot of different things other than write about history. 

But let us suppose for the sake of argument that I DID consider myself a historian.   Would it follow then that I must believe that we as a society should always do what is best for historians?  As a historian, am I forbidden from saying that what is in the best interests of historians is not always in the best interests of society?   As a historian, am I required to believe that when the needs of historians conflict with the interests of good government, we must do what is best for the historians?

I think that not only am I not required to believe that, but that it unethical to believe that, even though most people do think that way.   Bankers think that what society should do is whatever is best for the bankers.  What is good for General Motors is good for the country.  

We then proceed to the question:  is the essential effect of these legal requirements to preserve everything in case there is a dispute. . . .is the essential effect of that policy to benefit historians?

Obviously that is NOT the essential effect.  The essential effect of the policies that everything must be preserved is to warehouse weapons for political and legal conflict.  The White House is required to produce documents that Judge Kavanaugh created in his twenties, on the theory that he may have said something that was in some way related to the legal definition of Torture, or even, God forbid, shudder, cross your heart, kiss your crucifix, to "Roe vs. Wade".   Not just those; why, he may have said something stupid and inappropriate about any of a thousand subjects.  Inquiring minds want to know.  We will read every word he has written in his adult lifetime for failings that he may accidentally have revealed.

This is not "history"; this is political warfare.   Peter Strzok and the semi-attractive woman that he was Strzoking must produce every e-mail of their professional lives and their torrid passions, in case there is "evidence of bias" in there somewhere.   This is not "history"; this is political warfare.  Hilary Clinton should have been indicted, so we are told, because she carefully deleted and meticulously destroyed her backlog of a few million e-mails.  This is not "history"; this is political warfare.

The government requires you to keep your tax records for seven years and to produce them on demand.   Is this for historians?  If you are in business and you are sued, the law will require you to produce every e-mail, every record associated with the allegedly faulty product.   This is not "history"; it is an effort by the lawyers to bring businesses more under the control of the lawyers. 

Defending these burdensome laws because they are necessary for historians is disingenuous; this is not about historians.  That is not the essential effect of these rules, nor is it their purpose.  It’s about having weapons for combat.  The law requires that you preserve a record of your failings as a weapon of some vaguely anticipated conflict. 

But is that a good idea? Certainly some of my twitter followers think that it is a good idea.  "Bill, this is a lifetime appointment," said one follower, as if it was self-evident that this type of combat was a good idea because it was a major appointment.  "There could be evidence in there about torture," said another.   The importance of the seat, in the minds of many, justifies whatever is done to fight about it. 

As a nation, we have wandered into a horrible place in terms of political cooperation leading to good government. I am not suggesting that this policy of forcing people to retain records which may embarrass them is wholly responsible for that—but it sure as hell is not helping.  It is contributing to the problem in a very major way.

What is "the problem"?   The problem is that our political leaders, having divided themselves sharply along idealogical lines, would rather fight than govern.  The main motivation is no longer to pass legislation that helps the American people nor to supervise its implementation; it is now to gain more power by embarrassing one’s political opponents.   This is not right.  It’s sick.  It’s perverted.   It is a perversion of the responsibilities of political leadership.  

These rules, that one must preserve a record of one’s actions in the event there is a mistake, are a product of that mindset.  I can see that, looking at it from the standpoint of a world in which such regulations did not exist—the world of 1970--that it might seem like there would be great benefits to having access to a full record.   In practice, it has not only not been a great benefit; it has been a great disaster.   All we do is fight about what was done wrong before.  The idea that we join hands across the aisle, that we trust one another and move forward. . . .it’s gone. 

Judge Kavanaugh, in seeking confirmation to the Supreme Court, will attempt to put his best foot forward.  He will attempt to look his best.  This is a normal thing.   A man or a woman, going on a first date, will try to look his or her best—which means, not the way that one "normally" looks.  Is this wrong?  A person going on a job interview, or a person meeting the potential in-laws for the first time, or a person invited to a party among those he does not know well, will attempt to present their best image. 

I can hear the response shouting in my internal chamber:  THIS IS NOT A BLIND DATE!   THIS IS A LIFETIME APPOINTMENT TO AN IMMENSELY POWERFUL POSITION!   Yes, of course, but some principles apply regardless of the specifics.  There are certain questions you do not ask on a first date.   Have you ever been a slut?  Have you had any disastrous relationships in the past?  Have you ever been in jail?  Do you have a drug habit?  How much money do you make?  You don’t ask these things, if you are trying to build a relationship of trust and co-operation.  The woman or man will tell you these things when it is the appropriate time to tell you; if he doesn’t, you might want to get out of the relationship.  That’s up to you; it’s choice.  

The point is, coercion is antithetical to cooperation.  If you use coercion, you will not have cooperation.  Period. 

And this principle is the same, whether in politics or personal relationships:  If you depend upon coercion for understanding, you will not have cooperation.  What we most need in politics is to rebuild trust among the various wings of the political establishment.   This crazy, asinine business of forcing people to retain private records and then searching through them for embarrassing failures is enormously destructive of potential cooperation.  

This is only one of four reasons that it is not a good policy.   There are four others:

1)       It is wasteful,

2)      It erodes and destroys privacy,

3)      It inhibits frank and productive discussion, and

4)      It reduces our ability to outgrow our mistakes.   


It is wasteful on a grand scale.   It isn’t wasting millions of dollars in the economy every year; it is wasting billions.  No one really knows how many billions, but no one would argue that it isn’t billions.  It clearly is. 

I had many stupid opinions when I was younger.  You did, too, although you may not have recognized them, but you did.  It is a better world in which we can quietly move away from these.  It was a better world when people did not have to produce a record of the stupid opinions they had when they were younger. 

So I lost the argument, on Twitter, and I will lose the argument here, but I still know that I was right.   Historians can survive without private e-mails.  There is a line that Carlyle wrote in The French Revolution, to the effect that countless words about the French revolution are now rotting in libraries all over the world.   They must rot, he said, and then the history of these events can be written.  I feel the same about these private documents:  they must rot before history can be written.

What we are doing, as a society, is wasteful and destructive, and it interferes with the work of historians, and in time, people will begin to see that this is true.  In the 1960s there was a single state legislator, in Nebraska, who would argue that college athletes were professionals in fact and should be paid.  He would introduce legislation to this effect, to require the Nebraska football team to pay their players, and he would lose by a vote of however many it was to one, and then the next year he would re-introduce the same legislation.   As far as I know, he was the only person in the country who saw where this was headed and was trying to get there ahead of the curve. 

I am not the only person who sees the problems that we have created for ourselves with unnecessary, compulsory record-keeping; I got 14% in the poll.   I’ll open this up for comments tomorrow. 


COMMENTS (30 Comments, most recent shown first)

Well, Bill threw this out here for input and drifted off, but as someone that has paid for a lot of corporate and political polling, I'll reiterate what I said below: the wording of his poll guaranteed the result.

Aside from the fact that twits are twits on constitutional issues (well less than half could name the three branches of government) the question was a scramble. Had it been (without any political spin lead-in):

"Do you think everyone should be able to read every single private message you have sent in your life in social media, email and texts?" the numbers would probably flip.

Except for the 10 percent of twits who poke themselves in the eye trying to left click.

1:32 PM Jul 27th
Marc Schneider
David Kaiser,

I agree almost 100% with you, including what the Democrats need to do. One problem with all the confirmation nonsense and one that is perpetuated by the media, I think, is that any nominee to the Supreme Court who is "qualified" needs to be confirmed. I think that's wrong. The Constitution is a political, not a legal document and it's interpretation is much more a matter of philosophy than it is of legal analysis. There are lots of people who are qualified to be justices; Merrick Garland was qualified. The point is, we need to stop looking at reasons to cast aspersions on a nominee's character or qualifications and just say, as David does, I don't want this person on the Court because I don't like his or her philosophy. I don't see anything wrong with that., especially since an appointment may have ramifications for decades. Let's fight it out over whether we want Roe v. Wade to stand, not over what Kavanaugh thinks about it, which is rather obvious.

As for Bill's diatribe about privacy, I'm not sure I agree with the specifics about Kavanugh's writings, but I do agree with the notion that we have lost any ability to get past our mistakes. Look at Josh Hader, the Milwaukee pitcher, who posted very offensive things on Facebook when he was 17. He has recanted those comments and claims never to have been that type of person. Maybe so, maybe not, but shouldn't he be given a chance to try? The idea that he should be punished (which some have suggested) for something he wrote when he was 17 and not in any way affiliated with MLB bothers me. Any mistake you make today, no matter how young you were, seemingly stays with you for the rest of your life, especially if you become prominent and someone with an ax to grind can dig up dirt to use against you. It used to be someone did something stupid when they were young and people would say, well, he was just a kid. Now, it's an unforgiveable sin.

3:52 PM Jul 26th
In this case, while I cannot quite agree with Bill on the specifics, I think we share some views on the Kavanagh situation as well as the current state of our politics. Nor do I think this post represents a decline on his part.

Being an historian, I am biased towards preserving records. I have to point something out: Bill talks about the research skills of historians, but very few historians are trained in serious research skills any more, or have the patience to go through really large volumes of data. Nor are they required to--they simply need a minimum of data to show that they can toe the proper ideological line. But that's a digression.

I would not vote to confirm Judge Kavanagh if I had a vote, just as I would not have voted to confirm Gorsuch, Clarence Thomas, Roberts, or Alioto. The reason couldn't be simpler: I know I won't agree (as I did with those others) with lots of decisions he is going to hand down. But by any reasonable standard, he is qualified. Moreover, his views are completely mainstream within the Republican Party, which happens to have won control of the other two branches of the federal government just now. What so many liberal Democrats (of which I am one) don't seem to grasp is that under those circumstances, the appointment--and confirmation--of some one like Kavanagh is totally logical and we have no excuse for arguing that it is in some sense out of bounds, just because we have very different views. And I agree with Bill that trying to read every word he has ever written is a distraction from this rather obvious issue.

Rather than insist upon an endless search of every word Kavanagh has ever uttered or written to find a "gotcha," the job of Democrats right now is to figure out how we've managed to lose touch with so many of our fellow citizens, get organized, and do better.

More broadly, the problem of partisanship won't be solved until we reach some kind of new consensus, as we did after 1789 (in 1801) or after 1865 (in 1877 or so.) How that is to be done this time, I don't know, but it's the only way.

David Kaiser
3:27 PM Jul 25th
The problem isn’t the folks who pander to extremism, it’s the society that elects them. They reflect the world we live in - angry, divided, shallow thinking, reactive, more activated by hate of the other side than belief in their own. Good on Bill for just blocking them. This is the only place I can read the comments without seeing things that make me ashamed to be human.

Oh, wait, my own comments make me feel that way....
5:45 PM Jul 24th
I agree with Bill that in our hyperpartisan world that the information that we store gets misused and that such misuse is a problem. That said, I don't think the rules requiring saving that information are the real problem. The information is a tool. It can be used to learn from and avoid mistakes, or it can be abused as a bludgeon on opponents. Similarly, a hammer can be used to build things or to beat someone to death. In both cases, it isn't the availability of the information or the hammer that's the real problem when one is misused. Both are available for legitimate, beneficial purposes. It's the fact someone chooses to misuse it that is the real problem.

In the case of the information, it's the existence of the warring camp mentality of partisanship that's the real problem. Bill once wrote that a key problem in politics was that (I think I'm getting the percentages right) both sides had a point about 70% of the time and the other 30% was BS. Worse yet, the 30% that was BS got in the way of the parts where legitimate points were being made. I don't know if the percentages need a little adjustment, but the situation now (using that 70-30 split) is that the 30% is now a roadblock to cooperation.

The cure to this isn't sexy: it's to punish at the ballot box the folks who pander to this extremism. It sure as hell is a hard one to execute in our world--but that's the only way to treat the disease. I'm convinced Bill's suggestion is a mistaken way to treat a symptom of that disease.
10:47 AM Jul 24th
I don't know if it's symptomatic of a decline phase, but:

" When people are rude to me on Twitter I just Block them; I don’t argue with them first and then Block them, I just Block them. I think that’s the right way to handle it. If someone insults you today they will insult you again tomorrow or next week; why would I want to have a relationship with such a person?"

Bill, if you can't take it, don't dish it out.
4:41 AM Jul 24th
Nobody’s gonna know about that Nebraska legislator when you’re gone unless somebody writes it down and somebody keeps it.
10:43 PM Jul 23rd
Nobody’s gonna know about that Nebraska legislator when you’re gone unless somebody writes it down and somebody keeps it.
10:43 PM Jul 23rd
I think that those who side on all facebook/twitter/emails have to be saved should also demand that all people carry cell phones/notebooks/ipads that are on all the time, recording everything that a person says, hears or sees. That way CNN, MSNBC will have all the data they need to cull pieces for desired narrative. And the historians will have nearly infinite data to peruse later. Along these lines we can save all data from any public/private cameras. All data from Google, Facebook, Amazon has to be saved and made public. All bars, strip joints, casinos have to tape customers and save the data.......

As for Bill James decline phase (haha) I don't see it. But then I am in my 60s and the start of my decline phase was so long ago that when I look back I can't see my peak.........​
2:51 PM Jul 23rd
I am surprised that none of us have stepped up to address the the real issue in the article, the decline phase of Bill James.??????
12:03 PM Jul 23rd
I think there's a lot of good sense in Bill's article.

There's a well-known TV critic named Todd VanDerWerff who coincidentally has been musing on his Twitter feed about possibly deleting some of his old tweets, mainly because some of them are a little juvenile and it's not "fair" to hold his current, more mature self hostage to them, even if the stakes are super small. You might find some interest in his thoughts on the subject, Bill.
10:46 AM Jul 23rd
"This is only one of four reasons that it is not a good policy. There are four others:
1) It is wasteful,
2) It erodes and destroys privacy,
3) It inhibits frank and productive discussion, and
4) It reduces our ability to outgrow our mistakes."

1) It is wasteful in an absolute sense, but information storage is becoming increasingly automated and cheaper all the time. However the general concept is absolutely true.

2) it can destroy privacy, and it does, as most people do not separate their information into categories based on their privacy. In the world of Fox News and Brietbart and Infowars, who are never afraid to quote out of context and incomplete quotes, you need to be careful about what you want out there and the actual sequence of words so they cant be quoted incompletely. However, people themselves have ruined their own privacy, see Facebook, etc.

3) Correct. An email chain now is the most common way to have a discussion, and even a hypothetical can make it into public domain as a statement of beliefs. This isn't the problem of the information itself, its the problem of the reader who will not read the entire email chain to follow the topic. This happens all the time. I disagree with Rand Paul and his factually wrong on many things, however he also has many ideas that are worthy of exploration and discussion. They usually come about 10 minutes after the quotes you hear that are newsworthy.

4) Of course, I would think that is obvious. But unfortunately it isn't. Look, Fox News is still circulating Hilary Clinton's out of context quotes from a court case in the early 70's, that's irrelevant today. Trumps quotes from 40 years ago when he was a millionaire playboy have no relationship to his positions today.

However, they can show in some cases that a person positions have not evolved, that the person can not or will not adapt to a changing environment. More importantly, as a lawyer I naturally listen for this, is the contradictions that most people claim they never had. Listen to your friends, very few will say, "I used to believe this but after I thought about it I realized I was wrong." Or even a simple "Hey, times change and so did I." Somehow stubbornness has become a virtue. This is somewhat related to storage of information, especially for public figures.

I am not opposed to the storage of information in general, or even the accurate with context explained retelling of same, but that is almost never the case. It is sadly the case in this (probably misquote) "When the legend becomes fact, you print the legend."
10:20 AM Jul 23rd
I won’t assume the Josh Hader story had something to do with this article but I will post a link to one person’s reaction to it.
9:19 AM Jul 23rd
As a lawyer, I would point out that there is a Rule of Evidence that if a party is known to have "spoiled" evidence (spoliation of evidence is the intentional, reckless or negligent withholding, hiding, altering, fabricating or DESTROYING of evidence relevant to a legal proceeding), "the finder of fact can review all evidence uncovered in as strong a light as possible against the spoliator and in favor of the opposing party.". That Rule of Evidence is certainly applicable to Tom Brady's case for instance, and probably Hillary Clinton's as well. The legal reasoning is simple, if we allow parties to a case (or more relevantly to our discussion), individuals or corporations who reasonably could be a party to a case in the future, destroy their own records in an effort to cover up their malfeasance without some recourse to punish them for doing so, I am pretty sure the tobacco companies, as well the car companies in a previous example, and lots of other potential defendants, will be covering their tracks by destroying evidence quite a bit more often than they actually do (which is too much as it is). This is obviously different than the case of Judge Kavanaugh or Josh Hader, who are not reasonably parties to a case, and therefore, that Rule doesn't apply, but I do think we have to recognize that potential defendants are and should be subject to such a rule about their records.
9:08 AM Jul 23rd
Applying Bill's reasoning to his chosen field, why do we bother to keep extensive records of old baseball games? It embarrasses those players who performed poorly and would prefer to claim they performed well. A lot of history is just speculation because evidence is ambiguous. Tax returns, emails, unburned love letters etc. are evidence.
5:20 AM Jul 23rd
We are better to own our mistakes and take the blame for them (or defend them where appropriate) than to be able to deny they ever happened. You're always found to have people making unfounded charges about your past and it's frustrating not to be able to defend yourself against false charges. I keep extensive email records going back years because students are constantly claiming I set one policy when actually I set another. Without the emails I sent it would be their word against mine.
4:51 AM Jul 23rd
addendum: given how these electronic data are stored, historians in the future may not have a Rosetta stone that let's them interpret these data. Who's gonna preserve the 'key' describing all the emoticons, abbreviations, etc. And the change in preservation media: look how we've gone from floppies to the 'cloud'. And, electronic media have their own expiration date - the data fades away as the media loose the 'magnetic' imprint. Way back in the day stone carvings, lambskin, canvass, kept the information readable for a long time. Even these fade, I think the original Constitution is very faded from too much light exposure .... so saving all these electronic missives may be a moot point for future historians, unless there is an effort to continually copy/restore these data to new media.
1:05 AM Jul 23rd
Good points. Of course most of our on-line communications are crap and should not be preserved. Nor, if saved, should these brief, often ill-thought missives be used as cudgels 20 years hence. Hell, look at Josh Hader. If your communications are required by law to be retained then the writer has to be careful of what they wrote - and even in these cases there should be a statute of limitations and these data destroyed after some amount of years..... I think even this will evolve as people learn what not to put in an email. Many workplaces now have rules that if the writer is discussing company work words like 'failure', 'mistake', etc. should not be used since these words may be used in later lawsuits. For example, let's pretend its 1965 and you are an engineer at Ford and you write: "I know its an added cost, but its a mistake to not put in seatbelts, even if there is no demand by customers". Or an engineer at Boeing: you'd better not write that "we need lighter seats to reduce fuel usage/cost even if it means the seats may break loose during severe incidents". These examples I just made up but I'm sure the above would violate current guidelines. As for history: the masses of data from this era will have to be greatly winnowed by future historians to extract any conclusions.​
12:53 AM Jul 23rd
Just wanted to say that, while my knee-jerk reaction was "that's ridiculous," the more I think about Bill's point the more I'm convinced he's right.

This is the level of careful and original argument that leads me to support Bill, and this site.

10:40 PM Jul 22nd
The way I would put it is that Twitter is a good medium for assertions and a bad medium for arguments. I mean arguments both in the sense of presenting an argument and in arguing. Another thing I would say is that Twitter is a biker bar. If you want to go in peace you have to be careful not to antagonize the bikers. Whoever the proprietor is, the place belongs to them.

(Initially posted to Hey Bill by mistake.)
4:22 PM Jul 22nd
Isn't "oppo research" a quasi-industry? My understanding is that quite a few firms in and around D.C. get much of their business from scouring old documents of nominees and political candidates, looking for incriminating material. As OldBackstop says, there's a pretty powerful set of interests that want to keep playing the gotcha game.
3:53 PM Jul 22nd
Is the preservation of documents a cause of the problem (the lack of cooperation between the GOP and the Dems) or is it a symptom? I think it's a symptom. Should we treat the symptoms or the causes?
12:55 PM Jul 22nd
The question, as in all things polling, is where the rubber hit the road. Bill attempts "balance" by using Hillary's emails and Kavanaugh's background, but that tactic fails fabulously in the political world. If you added up the number of Republicans who want Hillary pounded for hiding her email, and add to that the number of lefties desperate to dig back into Kavanaugh history looking for dirt.....if you are going to take the favorite toy away from both the left AND the right in a single question....hell yeah, 86 percent are going to disagree.

9:32 AM Jul 22nd
Re: Les’s comment. Yes. The issue isn’t what is in the emails. It is that she was required to srote them on a government server and to preserve them. Instead she had them on a private server where she wiped them. Should she have had to keep them? Well, that is what the discussion here is about, and I have my doubts. But it was the policy and she clearly violated it, and seems to have done so in a premeditated fashion, making sure she had control of them and then selectively wiping them.

But she has sort of paid the price for that, no?
9:27 AM Jul 22nd
I see your point but Clinton’s emails are government property.
9:08 AM Jul 22nd
Bravo, Bill.

6:58 AM Jul 22nd
I'm with Nettles. Records are neutral. Sometimes people will use them to attack, sometimes to show an attack is flawed. Sometimes the records show a record that a person can/will use as we do a resume, a record that shows one's capabilities.

As to joining hands across the aisle, much of the time those joined hands have pummelled the weak and protected the strong from responsibility. ​
12:17 AM Jul 22nd
I don't see this as a significant problem. Of course it's unfair to dredge up old tweets and emails to tar and feather someone, but we will all eventually recognize that peoples opinions evolve or at least change. Specifically regarding Kavanaugh, surely people will ask him about some of his views as stated in 2006 or whatever...why not? He can then defend those views or say he has changed his mind.

I like that we keep records and it's not difficult to do, especially in the ever advancing age of electronic communications. People will misuse by accident or design, people will learn to to use it properly and to also defend against accidental or intentional misuse.

Final thought: it's here to stay (extremely likely), so we better learn to deal with it.
12:12 AM Jul 22nd
You are right. If, at 60, my getting a job required me to defend what I said in my 20s, I would not hire myself. Sadly, the same may be said of what I said in my 50s, but that is a different issue.

Government has become all about opposing the other side. When an idea changes sides, like protectionism say, both sides can deftly change arguments without flinching. Congress has become a body of pundits instead of a body of lawmakers.

The mass of stored communications just become grist for the politics of opposition and personal destruction. Surely there is better, less trivial way to evaluate someone if the job is really that important.
10:59 PM Jul 21st
This is not the fault of the law... it’s a fault in some people’s interpretation of the law. I agree there are times when it’s hurtful to have an assessment of someone and/or something today directly with the thoughts and actions of yesterday. The missing link, at times, between yesterday and today is consideration. To me, no historical record-keeping is detrimental. Neither is it helpful. It is both detrimental and helpful— not in its existence but in its usage.

It’s not always the law, doctrine, principle, idea, concept and/or philosophy that is a dangerous weapon... it’s sometimes becomes this way with the interpretation and actions of those who wield it.
10:05 PM Jul 21st
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