January 23, 2012

"The right to petition your government is guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution."

"We the People provides a new way to petition the Obama Administration to take action on a range of important issues facing our country. We created We the People because we want to hear from you. If a petition gets enough support, White House staff will review it, ensure it’s sent to the appropriate policy experts, and issue an official response."

This is an interesting part of the official White House website, which I noticed for the first time last night when I was blogging about Christopher Dodd and discovered the petition demanding an investigation of his lobbying activities on behalf of the movie industry. (Is "lobbying" the wrong word?)

There were 10,378 signatures on the petition when I put the post up, and there are 16,459 now. (I'm not claiming credit for the increase.) 25,000 signatures are needed to force the White House staff to review it and respond. Note that you have to "create an account" on the White House site to sign, and if you sign your first name and last name initial, along with the name of your city, will be posted on the site. So that's something of a deterrent to signing. It's a bit of a test of how much you trust government.

When fascism comes to America, it will be with a smiley face (as George Carlin famously said (and Jonah Goldberg turned into a book cover)).

The White House will have your information, correlated to the petitions you've signed. You can see the subject matter of the currently open petitions. Click on filter by issue to get a sense of the issues raised by the people who trust the website with their information (and believe there's some point in petitioning this White House). That seems to explain why there are 0 petitions in the category "Firearms," but 15 in "Civil Rights and Liberties" and 13 in "Human Rights."

You can also filter by the number of signatures, and at the moment, the petition with the most signatures says: "Actually take these petitions seriously instead of just using them as an excuse to pretend you are listening." Well, naturally... what did you expect? How seriously should the government take 25,000 signatures?

But this is one way the internet is working now, for what it's worth. Check out the video they used to announce the new petition function. (This came out last August, and I didn't notice.) I am amused by the effort — by the White House! — to display youthful innocence and enthusiasm. Very smiley face:

"It's an official way to make your voice heard.... And if your petition is among the most popular, a group of White House policy officials..." Video frame suddenly widens to show 9 young people in suits sitting around a White House table. They smile and wave at us. "... like this good-looking bunch, will review it, make sure it gets to the right people in the Obama administration, and craft an official response."

The right people in the Obama administration? But will they be a good-looking bunch? Because I want good-looking bunches crafting a response. An official response. Because it's an official way to make my voice heard. And policy officials will be reviewing my official petition to give an official response. Are you sure all this is official? And is everybody good-looking? Okay, then. Start crafting responses. Because after you've given me this official way to blow off steam, what will help me reach closure in this process is a well-crafted response. Official response. Official and well-crafted.

Thank you, President Obama and your good-looking bunch of officials. Thank you for this official outlet for all our frustrations with government.


Jay said...

How about we get a petition on stopping the failed economic policies?

Americans' satisfaction with the state of the nation's economy has dropped by 23 percentage points since January 2008 to 13%, according to a Jan. 5-8 Gallup poll. These figures represent both the lowest rate of satisfaction and the biggest decline seen for any of 24 issues measured in the survey.

And if we're lucky, the "Policy Expert" reviewing our petition will be a former Wall Streeter!

X said...

I'm going to start one to set the maximum tax rate at 15%. Thanks Obama!

Bob Ellison said...

It seems like a good-faith effort to encourage communication between the WH and the electorate, and to focus attention on issues that matter to the electorate. I've little patience for the privacy argument. George Carlin was funny, but in this pretty safe and non-fascist country, if you're afraid to sign your name or show your face when you think something's amiss, you're a coward.

Ralph L said...

They're also young and smiling, so they couldn't possibly do us any harm.

prairie wind said...

Official? How could petitions like this be considered official? Is this what the Constitution is talking about?

Nothing from this White House feels like a good faith effort. Nothing. Not even the vegetable garden.

F said...


What? No "sarcasm" tag?

wv: treld. An elderly trend.

Old Navy said...

Bob - tell that to those who were confronted or lost their jobs over the Prop 8 issue in CA.

" if you're afraid to sign your name or show your face when you think something's amiss, you're a coward."

Chip S. said...

Hi. I'm gruppenf├╝hrer Jennifer. How can I help you?

Paddy O said...

Yes, it will be signing an internet petition on the White House site that finally gives the government my information.

Sure, they also know who I vote for, where I live, where I work, how much I make, what I buy, what kind of bulb goes into my lamps, what kind of car I drive, how much I drive, my fingerprints, what I'm bringing in my suitcase when I fly, everything they might find out from my blog, my facebook, my browsing habits, et.c and so on.

So, if their surprised by the fact I don't like Chris Dodd and think he deserves as much punishment as possible for his pervasive corruption, then I'm happy for them to learn that too.

After all, this country was founded by a group of Americans who boldly put their names on a most declarative act of resistance against the State.

Henry said...

Bad money drives out good.

In a perverse variant of Gresham's law we see the right to petition the government swamped by PR gambits. The Obama administrations Potemkin Village of Free Speech is akin to the Occupy crowd's messaging operation. I was going to write that, idiotic as they are, at least Occupy isn't an "official way to make your voice heard" but then I realize that they are just a rumpled version of the Obama happy faces: a movement who's "petitioning" is entirely about public relations. In both cases the target for the program is the media.

Contrast to the tea party, who really has worked through "official" channels to petition the government. They pressured their representatives. They caucused, ran candidates, and voted. Good money drove out bad.

Triangle Man said...

if you're afraid to sign your name or show your face when you think something's amiss, you're a coward.

Realistically, one weighs the potential benefits of backing an issue publicly against the potential personal cost. Since these are unknowable quantities, you have to go with your gut. My gut, for example, says that whatever benefit comes from posting comments on Althouse is not worth more personal cost than the time it takes to read the blog and post a comment. Hence the pseudonym.

Bob said...

This reminds me of what some bosses do with a complaining employee. "Just write your comments down and send them to me, and I'll review them when I get a chance". It's obviously just a way to make the pest employee go away. I can just see a lounge-full of managers laughing at how some impertinent worker bee dared to speak up. The fool!

Henry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Henry said...

@Bob Ellison -- To follow up on your excellent points, I don't think the Obama Petition Forum is an especially good-faith effort to encourage communication. I think it is an anodyne PR gambit.

I do agree with you entirely that "this is a pretty safe and non-fascist country" and the vague paranoia about giving the White House your name and city is bizarre on several levels (see Paddy O's comment).

If you're going to make change, you need to speak up. Sign that glorified White House guest book! Interview those idiot protesters on video. Challenge the smug on bloggingheads! That's the model!

EDH said...

A strong indicator of sentiment, the highest vote total I found was for the following proposition...

Actually take these petitions seriously instead of just using them as an excuse to pretend you are listening

32,039 Signatures
Find out more

MayBee said...

"Jake, I understand you and Ed Henry keep asking me about that, but the online petition about it isn't even in the top ten petitions. You are pushing an issue nobody cares about.

Ok, next question..."

-Future Jay Carney

edutcher said...

In WWII (Godwin alert), (on steroids) when the Germans invaded a country, the first question they asked people as they lined up to get "their papers" was, "Do you know of any Jews (homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, etc.) in the area?".

Boy, nothing ever changes.

And they say Nixon kept an enemies list.

All GodZero needs now are the camps and the Zyklon-B. He's working on the Einsatzgruppen.

William said...

More a marketing gimmick than an incremental step towards totalitarianism. How do you come up with a marketing gimmick to market that crowd which considers itself hip and savvy about marketing gimmicks? This is not the way, but they will keep trying and someday they will succeed.

Paddy O said...

By the by, signing these things is definitely about weighing risks and benefits. I don't see too much of either, to be honest.

At the same time, a lot of power of lobbyists comes in their ability to sell their product. If Dodd is increasingly seen as a liability, whose very name causes bipartisan opposition, then that's a good thing.

This is a very low-level push back against Dodd's position, undermining his reputation among those who don't really care about honor but do care about power. A bit of a metaphorical tarring and feathering going on wherever he goes is a good thing.

DADvocate said...

Smart Screen filter is reporting Althouse has an unsafe web site. I wonder why? Could this be some sort of retaliation for the petition against Dodd or other Althouse posts?

Chip S. said...

Smart Screen filter is reporting Althouse has an unsafe web site. I wonder why?

Cruel neutrality?

Rusty said...

25,000 people who are going to have their taxes audited for the last 10 years.


Too cynical?

Synova said...

"George Carlin was funny, but in this pretty safe and non-fascist country, if you're afraid to sign your name or show your face when you think something's amiss, you're a coward."

Except that people have been harassed and hounded for publicly signing to political opinions and causes. And it's not paranoid to think that perhaps someone in government might single you out for tax audits.

Human nature is what it is and the nature of government is what it is. I'd rather not rely on the kindness of government, or even rely on being lost in the noise (which is the only privacy we've really got anymore). *Will* the government use gun permit licenses to confiscate firearms? Maybe not. CAN they? Yes they can. Might, might-not, but they CAN. Will the info on WhiteHouse.gov be used to identify people with dangerous political views? (Unlike taxes, you are pairing your identity with political views there.) Probably not. But if they don't it's just because they don't want to, because they can.

Maybe it's a bit of paranoia, but what I don't get is how those who want to scare us with the treat of impending theocracies and internment camps for gays (DTL was always on about those) figure that there's no reason to be cautious. If it's a right/left sort of thing. I'm not sure that it is.

But one thing about giving the government all that information and all that potential power that you've got to simply trust they'll never want to use is... elections get to be life and death matters. The power is there simply waiting for someone who is willing to use it since limits on that power and on the intrusion into our lives has been laughed away.

ricpic said...

Straight from Young Pioneer to White House policy wonk. What could possibly go wrong, comrade?

Rusty said...

"this is a pretty safe and non-fascist country"

Uhhuh. "Gotta pass it to know whats in it", sound very democratic to you?

Indigo Red said...

Oh, sure! It's paranoia until the black helicopters show up.

GetReal said...

I wonder: do Republicans ever want to see some kind of information that would verify that signatures on a petition are legitimate in order to determine whether action is warranted?

This is tough...could somebody in Wisconsin help me out with the answer on this?

GetReal said...

By the way, has anybody else noticed that Anne's posts have been getting more and more delusional? For example, there was that post the other day about how requiring people to attend a training program when they apply for a concealed carry permit (I'll tell you that I, for one, was outraged when I had to attend both a hunter's safety class AND driver's ed), and now, this one. Is Anne working up a few new Looney Tunes episodes?

Amartel said...

I'll bet the legalize marijuana petition has the most signatures.

Amartel said...

Ooooh. The government has put up a suggestion box.

wildswan said...

There is a new kind of cookie called a Flash cookie using the Flash app. It tracks all the websites you go to so as to be able to send you ads that target your interests. Pointed out to me by a nephew. And when I was erasing them I found that whitehouse.gov was one. The only time I went near that site was when I was making comments about Attack Watch. Just saying.

Penny said...

"The government has put up a suggestion box."

Not exactly. But this did make me laugh.

Suggestion boxes often result in some impressive solutions to some serious problems. Thing is, usually there is some financial reward offered to entice people to participate in the first place. People just LOVE to win something!

The reason I laughed was because it's way to easy to see the government bureaucracy that would "RISE UP!" to administer fairness in the distribution of $50 rewards.

But, first things first. We need to hire a "Suggestion Box Czar"!

R. Chatt said...

Actually take these petitions seriously instead of just using them as an excuse to pretend you are listening"
32,512 signatures

It's a warm and fuzzy govt. except when it's not.

Amartel said...

Deeply disappointed by the lack of a "Legalize It (peace sign)" petition. However, there are three pot-related petitions (legalize growing industrial hemp, end War on Drugs, and release prisoners convicted of any cannabis related crime). So there's that.

There are two petitions about the Patriot Act: End the Patriot Act and Repeal the Patriot Act. I think there should be a third option to Stomp on the Patriot Act and Call it Naughty Names.

Only 3000 signatures on the Close Guantanamo Now petition. So I guess priorities have changed. Change you can believe in.

Penny said...

I hear ya, Chatt.

SERIOUSLY. I hear ya.

Carnifex said...

Bob Ellison--"George Carlin was funny, but in this pretty safe and non-fascist country, if you're afraid to sign your name or show your face when you think something's amiss, you're a coward."

I assume you would use the same tone with the family of the survivors of Ruby Ridge? You know, where they shot a woman in the head while she held her baby.

And her son, a boy trying to defend his dog when Federal agents under the auspices of our great "Liberal" government and Janet Reno, who changed the rules of engagement, to "shoot on sight."

Or maybe to the millions of people that don't want to buy health insurance?

Or maybe you'd like to tell it to the American citizen, executed by hell fire missile, while driving down a road in a foreign country. Or the Tuskegee subjects, or the people who can now be arrested at will, just on the say so of the president.(but he promises not to.)

Or maybe the 80 yo grandmother in La., when during Katrina, the cops took away her only method of self-protection, her hand gun. (they threw her to the ground while doing it, those 80 yo's fight like tigers) Which has never been returned. In fact, none of the guns, confiscated illegally, have ever been returned, and I'll bet never will.

So you morons keep thinking the government by its nature is beneficent, and I'll keep thinking governments are infested with people more concerned with their own power, and self-aggrandizement, and when the economy collapses, and the cops are protecting their masters homes ('cause they know who pays the bills),and the wolves are at your door, I hope your Big Brother government remembers what a good little apparatchik you were...because I will.

Carnifex said...

I must apologize to Mr. Ellison, my last sentence reads like a threat, and I did not mean it as such, I am sorry for that Mr Ellison. I meant that when you come calling for help when the SHTF, your past naivete will not weigh in your favor. Again, I am sorry for the earlier clumsy verbage.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

The "investigate Chris Dodd" one was over 25K signatures when I looked just now.

Joe Schmoe said...

The secret ballot is the linchpin to a functional democracy. Why do you think unions always want to have open ballots? Because they know if someone's livelihood is threatened, they can be forced to vote a certain way if their vote is public.

And Paddy O, the government doesn't know who you vote for, contrary to your statement. We all vote in anonymity with unsigned secret ballots. The only way they'll know is if you tell them. Regarding all that other 'govt info' on you, it's all in disparate locations. There is no single 'Paddy O' file on Obama's iPad. I don't think it should be easy for a govt. to pull up so much personal information on someone so quickly.

Hey, if you're comfortable giving your information to someone, then you're tacitly saying I don't feel like this is a threat to my life or livelihood. Bully for you. I haven't said don't do it. All I've said is I'm not going to do it. Yours is a bravado of convenience, because if there was a scintilla of a chance that this would directly affect your livelihood then you wouldn't do it. Ann is a tenured professor at a state school and as a result she's likely a union employee. She's bulletproof, thank God. I'm not.

For the lefties, usually they're the first to cry "McCarthyism!" when it comes to the govt. compiling lists. I know that changes depending on the WH occupant, so now it's okay.

I was out yesterday, but I wanted to add to this thread/topic. Not that anyone's reading now.