On "We the People" and Token Participation

We the People, the White House's new website dedicated to "[providing] a new way to petition the Obama Administration to take action on a range of important issues facing our country," has been around long enough now to actually send out responses to many of the initial petitions set up on the site - 26 official responses have been uploaded to the site and emailed to the signers of the petitions they were replying to. 

And they have, to a one, been useless, campaign-speak restatements of the Administration's official positions on the issues the petitions covered.  Not a single one has actually offered commitment to action.  All they have done is reaffirm the Administration's positions on things and offer detailed justification for why they hold the positions they hold.

For example, the response to the petitions which asked for removal of the phrase "In God We Trust" from the currency and removal of "Under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance, we (I had signed both of these, go figure) received a patronizing restatement of the Obama campaign's usual "God is in the mix" platitudes, echoing right-wing talking points about how such "generic" (HA!) references to religion are simply recognizing the "important role religion plays" in this country and therefore, fuck you, we don't really care what you think.  The petition to retain 6-day mail delivery from the USPS received an in-depth explanation (and possibly spin job, I don't know this issue well enough to gauge the accuracy of the statements they make), titled "A Balanced Approach to Reforming the Postal Service" (oh, goody, more artificial "balance", gods know we don't get enough of that in the President's usual speeches), of how insolvent the USPS apparently is and exactly how they'll be transitioning down to 5-day delivery in 2013, because fuck you, we don't really care what you think.  And just a few days ago I received by email the Administration's response to a petition to abolish the TSA and spend their budget on homeland security measures that *actually work*, citing their 70% undercover-test failure rate and its Constitutional abuses of American citizens; it was a long, useless bullet-pointed list that could be summarized as, in essence, "BUT THE TERRORISTS WOULD WIN!", because fuck your Constitutional rights, we don't care what you think.  Check out the "responses" page for more useless replies (each links back to its originating petition(s) at the bottom of the response as well) if you want to have some frustrating fun with it.

Allow me to go on a personal tangent here.  For about five months while I was living in Tennessee, my then-girlfriend got me a job working with her at an inbound call center.  It was a shitty job, but the reason this silliness with the We the People site is bringing it to mind is because it absolutely epitomized the cold, sanitized, vaguely-ironic feeling of Corporate Cares (or rather, wants its automatons to think it cares) so well.  There was the monthly "employee appreciation day" for those of us in the call center, which you would think was a nice thing, right?  Except it consisted of the designated HR drone pushing a cart up and down the aisles of cubicles, giving each of us some cheap plastic trinket - keychains or some other nonsense - and allowing us to pick a piece of candy from the bowl on the cart.  We all rolled our eyes about it, and one day she - who was studying industrial-organizational psychology in college at the time, and who would often explain to me the principles of her classes as applied to our shared workplace - explained to me how shitty token rewards like that, as opposed to gaining even a meager token amount of loyalty from the employees in return, actually do more harm than good.  Because calling something a "reward" or "bonus", then having the reward in question be something painfully token, is not only insufficient as a reward, it's insulting, because it's basically rubbing their nose in how little you think of them. 

The We the People website?  Is a cheap mass-produced plastic sandal on a keyring and a stale miniature Twix.  It makes grand claims and promises about the First Amendment and the right of the people to petition the government for a redress of grievances, saying "We created We the People because we want to hear from you."  But when you actually try to participate, they send you away with a patronizing pat on the head and a "There, there, dear, run along now." Which is worse than if they'd never made the offer of petitioning and being heard, offering us a reward that turns out to be no reward at all.

I'm not the only one who's noticed, either.  One of the newest petitions on the site is a petition to "Remove the word "petition" from this website as it is misleading and untruthful. Instead, use, "Request an Explanation."

If you happen to be in the US, I highly recommend signing it.  We all know what the response will be, but I think it would be deliciously meta to have their "response" to this particular "petition" be yet another explanation.


B for Brouhaha

Dear Obama Campaign: Why do you keep sending me emails requesting my support, while making it exceedingly clear that you are not interested in or willing to support me in turn?  Remember my outrage at your "women for Obama" message a few weeks ago, and how frustrated I was at being appealed to "as a woman" even as women's health issues had taken a backseat/been actively thrown under the bus by this administration multiple high-profile times in the past three years?

Consider that frustration cranked up to 11, after the HHS overrode the FDA's decision to allow Plan B to be purchased without restriction, out on store shelves, and you explicitly supported the move, even to the point of using your daughters as justification for a blatantly political election-year ploy.  Remember when you promised that the decisions of your administration would be based on sound science, evidence, and fact - with the implied comparison to ideologically-driven right-wingers?  I certainly do.  So do these Senators.  And I'm genuinely curious what bullshit y'all are going to pull out of your ass to justify your decision to go against what the experts decided based on actual science and research.

Much has been said about The Eleven-Year-Old, and the use of this fear-and-emotion-based appeal has been thoroughly deconstructed already, so I won't say much - only that if you would rather see a child forced to bear a child than allow her a modicum of control over her circumstances, your priorities are seriously fucked up.  Actual abortion or bearing a child at that age are both far more physically difficult/dangerous than a medication which studies have shown to be quite safe, anyway.

The thing is, this overruling doesn't just affect The Eleven-Year-Old.  It also affects teens as old as fifteen, sixteen, and seventeen.  Are you seriously telling me that a sixteen-year-old is mature enough to drive a car - hundreds of pounds of metal moving at high speed, quite capable of killing and maiming if misused or mistakes are made! - but not mature enough to take a medication properly, whether it's because of a broken condom or to protect themself after being raped?  What the fuck kind of logic is that?

And then there's the much-less-mentioned half of the overruling.  The part that would have moved Plan B out from behind the pharmacy counter and onto the shelves.

Allow me to rephrase that: it would have moved Plan B out from behind the gatekeeping of pharmacists, many of whom are anti-choice, and, in some places, legally protected in their choice to deny people access to certain medications because it upsets their delicate fee-fees.  A grown-ass person can be in need of emergency contraception and still be told "No" simply because the pharmacist doesn't like it - and depending on where they are, there may not be a damn thing to be done about it.  Allowing Plan B to be stocked on regular shelves with other medications would have removed this (gigantic, horrible) barrier between grown people and the medication they need, much less teens or children.  That's the other thing y'all chose to block.  You not only told young people "We don't think you should be allowed to control your reproduction without the okay of the adults around you", you also told pregnancy-capable people everywhere "We don't think your need to access emergency contraception is important enough to make it available to you without going through a gatekeeper." 

Well, Obama administration, don't say you weren't warned when your core base gets tired of you pulling shenanigans like this and refuses to come out and vote for you next year.  When your percentages are dropping among blocs like women and pro-choicers, core Dem constituencies...you have only yourselves to blame.


If you can't beat them, take credit for what they forced you to do!

Via Calitics, it seems Anthem Blue Cross (one of the health-insurance giants) is running an ad touting "100% free annual checkups" that they "offer".

A full-page ad from a magazine, showing a smiling doctor using a stethoscope on his patient; text reads "Anthem Blue Cross Free Annual Checkups" with further copy below explaining how "annual checkups help keep you healthy and that's why Anthem Blue Cross covers them at 'no extra cost to you'."

Well, this is awkward.  Because those free checkups that they're talking about like it's some kind of magnanimous caring gesture on their part to take care of their customers?  It's actually a requirement, part of one of the more popular provisions in Obama's health insurance reform bill that requires insurance companies to cover preventative care with no copay or other upfront cost to the patient.  And it's a requirement that the insurance companies, including Blue Cross, fought viciously against

Which makes it more than a little duplicitous to, once it turns out to be very popular with the unwashed masses, run big ol' ads saying "HEY LOOK HOW NICE WE ARE TO COVER THIS PREVENTATIVE CARE FOR YOU please ignore the fact that we had to be dragged kicking and screaming into doing so".

But I suppose, in this era of Faux News and Tea Party absurdity, it's perfectly logical to attempt to reap public goodwill by pretending it was your idea all along.  After all, depending on where people get their news, all they know about "Obamacare" is that it's for commies and something about death panels.

Of course, we all know the "liberal media" won't bother to call them out on it.  And thus, the cycle of misinformation continues...


Apologies for my absence, but LOOK IT'S AN ADORABLE KITTY!

Sorry I've been away, dearloves!  It's a bit of a long story, but the short version is, I enlisted my mom's help to do some massive decluttering and housecleaning, which took a full week of working every day at least half the day, starting the day after Thanksgiving and going through the next weekend (I swear, I think we hauled at least two dozen black trash bags of stuff out of this place, between trash and Goodwill donations!).  The reason?  Ozz and I decided to get a kitty, talked to our landlord about altering our no-pets lease, and the end result of all this work (the house needed to be made safe for a kitteh; there was far too much clutter and junk in corners that a cat could get into trouble with and which could've hid spiders or other nasties) came home with us Wednesday night:
She-Who-Has-Not-Yet-Been-Named, a mostly-white calico cat w/orange-brown and grey tabby patches, curled up on the bed with her front paws over her tiny little face
She's almost a year old but still quite petite, with a purr like a good-sized motor that starts up as soon as you touch her or sometimes even talk to her.  She's a snuggler, too:
SWHNYBN laying on her back across my lap, sleeping with her head pillowed on my arm and a paw resting on my laptop while I tried to work around her

My fiance Ozz, laying down and smiling at the camera with SWHNYBN draped across his chest looking half-asleep
So!  There's my excuse for being gone the past couple weeks.  And a very cute little excuse she is, too.  As she settles in and my routine re-stabilizes, expect to start hearing from me again - I have Things To Say about Obama's Plan B fuckery, the bullying of a Pagan child by his teachers, and a potential "atheist license plate tax" in Georgia, among other things.  Hope everyone's holiday season (if you are celebrating anything this time of year, anyway) is going well thus far! 

PS: I am perfectly open to doing regular or semi-regular Doses of Cute, now that I have a subject, but I don't want to spam y'all with cat pictures if you're not interested.  Would you be interested?  Let me know in comments!


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