Friday, April 10, 2009

Loaded Questions

So I was invited to answer a question on a writing site I occasionally visit. The question was:

"Do lobbyists in Washington represent the interests of the average American or those of corporations, labor unions, associations and other special interests?"
My response is below:

When answering a question, there are a great many things to consider - target audience, factual research, the vernacular of those involved with the subject matter, and many more. What is often overlooked when answering a question - such as the question above - is the inherent bias implanted in one's answer by the phrasing of the question. This process is known as making a "loaded" question.

This question provides an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the loading process at work.

Consider for a moment the possibility of running for office. To win, you must gain the trust and the votes of as many people as possible. Is the easiest way to do this A) appealing to the average American, or B) appealing to small groups of Americans who are only truly concerned about one or two things? There is a fair argument to be made for either answer, so let's ask the real question - when attempting to win the greatest number of votes possible, is it preferable to appear to be working for the average (and consequently most numerous) American, or to appear to be working for small, limited groups with small, limited interests?

The question, you might say, begs the answer.

The truth, as always, is more nuanced, and requires a bit of history. Luckily, this being a representative democracy - the sort which absolutely cannot survive without an educated and activist citizenry - a short history lesson is never truly remiss.

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution is probably the most well known amendment, with the possible and unfortunate exception of the Second Amendment. Most any grade school student would know that the First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of (and from) religion; the better students would probably know it says something about free assembly, too. And the honours students? They could likely tell you that the First Amendment also guarantees you the right "to petition government for a redress of grievances."

This less well known but nonetheless fundamental right ensures that every American citizen is guaranteed access to their elected officials to state their case for how they feel the government should be operating, particularly when the government is not operating in a manner they approve of. Certainly important for any democracy that hopes to be truly representative, and surely effective in the days of gentleman farmers and low population. But how, in today's high-tech, high-powered, high-finance Washington, is the common, average American to get their voice heard and their grievances redressed?

If only there was some method of joining with like-minded citizens and send a representative of your interests to argue your case before Congress...


So do lobbyists in Washington represent the interests of the average American or those of corporations, labor unions, associations and other special interests?The real answer is, of course, that no lobbyist represents every American, but instead represents the special interests of groups of like-minded, hard-working, entirely average Americans like you and me. Don't like abortion? There's a lobbyist to represent you. Against the war in Iraq? Lobbyists are petitioning the government on your behalf. Are there abuses to the system? Sure - any time there's an intersection between capitalism and politics you'll find corruption, something the modern Republican Party has demonstrated with such enthusiasm that I need not even include an example. But when it comes to the issues, you name it - somebody's petitioning about it. And that is as average, and as American, as can be.

Properly understood, even the most loaded question can be disarmed.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

State of Affairs

Sarah Palin's being advised by Scientologists, John McCain's daughter is getting in fights with an increasingly irrelevant Ann Coulter, John Boehner and Eric Cantor released a budget without any numbers in it then, to cover for it, launched an attack on Obama's budget - but used Bush's budget numbers, Fox News stops even trying to pass as a credible news source and reproduces Republican memos complete with typos - and then splices in clips of Joe Biden saying something damning as though he'd just said it, then get busted when it turns out that not only was the video six months old but it was also a clip of him quoting something stupid McCain had just said - and then Mitch McConnell specifically says that Republican congressmen should stop thinking they are legislators and instead focus on playing politics.

Honestly, what happened to you guys? Are you even trying anymore?

Oh, and then there's Glenn Beck and Chuck Norris ::lol::

And now Scott Murphy is about 60 votes ahead of Jim Tedisco in NY Congressional District 20, a district where the registration ratio is 42% R, 26% D, and 24% I (that's over 70,000 more Repubs than Dems), and Republicans outspent Dems 2,097,954 to 1,266,074.

Boehner said last month:

"This election is on March 31st, and it is a giant opportunity for us to let America know that America is on our side."

Of course, at the time Tedisco was up by 21 points in the polls, because he's been Senate Minority Leader for 20 years and Murphy has never run before. Now that he's won, Boehner admits America must not be on their side, right?

In a Tuesday morning news conference, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said the outcome of the election shouldn’t be seen as a referendum on the GOP leadership in Congress.

"It’s between those two candidates in New York,"

Oh, Republicans. Consistency is just so HARD!

It's so bad that Tedisco started suing to say the election was unfair before a single vote had been cast.

The Republican party today is represented by people like "Joe" the "Plumber", a man so stupid he actually said the media shouldn't be reporting on wars, while working for the media reporting on a war... a man so stupid he got laughed off a stage while giving a speech about how "bad" the EFCA bill is - to actual plumbers - when he admitted in the face of questioningthat not only was he not an expert but had actually never even read it. This is a party represented by Sarah Palin, who got flustered when asked hard-nosed questions like "what magazines do you read?" This is a party represented by small-minded people with even smaller-minded ideas.

I'll say it again - what happened?

Listen - American needs you. No democracy can truly stay representative with a one party system. We NEED a good opposition party, and you know what? Conservatives have had good ideas in the past, and they'll have good ideas again. But if your idea of a good plan is a budget without any fucking numbers, and you can't string together more than three words without mentioning how much you hate brown people, and you think that teaching science in science class is somehow ethically wrong, and you can't be bothered to read legislation before deciding you're against because Rush told you to be, you're not fucking helping. You want to talk traitors? Willful ignorance and blind ideology is a rejection of everything America has ever tried to stand for, and to coat yours in fervent, racist patriotism is the most cynical and disgusting way of pretending otherwise that I've ever seen.

Get out of our way or get out of our country, but we're fixing the mess you made of this place, with or without you. You don't have to be part of the solution - but stop being the fucking problem. God didn't barf us into existence 6,000 years ago, Mexico is not invading Texas, the war on drugs isn't working, the war on Iraq was built on lies, torture is NOT ethical, and you DO. NOT. SURROUND. US. You can have your bunkers in the wilderness and your Kansas redoubts, but stop pretending to represent America. You've given us a bad enough name as it is.

Shape up - or shut up.