Tag Archives: political emails

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Political Emails: Sign this Petition! It Will Save the Country!

A while back, I posted an article on the general subject of “political emails”.

There are people who do a lot of forwarding of the email messages they receive, many of which have been forwarded to them. Too many remind me of the old-fashioned chain mail letters that used to circulate before the advent of personal computer usage. Unlike the sending of a chain mail letter, which required more effort and expense (going out to make copies somewhere, envelopes, and postage), it is just so very easy to hit “forward”. So, rather than seeing one of these chain mail letters showing up in the mail infrequently, email inboxes can fill with a multitude of the stuff if one has friends who are politically interested and/or involved. Outside of the chain-mail like character, this email forwarding reminds a great deal of the party game “telephone”.  Since the messages are forwarded, re-forwarded, and re-re-forwarded, and so on, sometimes things get lost in translation. Who knows what is going to come out the other end?

Since I don’t see any decrease in the volume of these kinds of messages, I decided to start writing about them. In my first round, I covered the general problem and admitted, likely, this whole exercise will only serve as an outlet by which I can personally vent. So be it…*sigh*. Maybe, just maybe, though something I put forward will have a tiny impact. In reviewing what I wrote on the first round, it occurs to me that there were several basic points it might be helpful to highlight.

Problems with the forwarding phenomenon for those interested in having some impact on important issues:

  • It creates a lot of noise. All of these forwards piling up in peoples’ email boxes mean IF there are any really good pieces of information sitting there, they are less likely to be seen, read, and/or acted upon.
  • Substantive, effective information and solid recommendations for actions that can be taken are the exception, not the rule.
  • Too many of the messages have no real basis in fact, or at best, have a grain of truth running through them that is often obscured by the “Chicken Little” style in which they’re written. While I have not done a scientific, statistical analysis, my experience tells me fewer than half include links to the original information source or any supporting documentation.
  • The majority of forwarded messages I see are nationally focused; federal government problems, politicians, etc. rule the information, not state or local, which is where people are more likely to have success. How much can we do to impact Washington, D.C.? Meanwhile, “back at the ranch” your state and local officials are selling state sovereignty down the river to suck up federal funds as fast as they can, implementing the health care law, and doing everything they can to avoid making necessary cuts to state budgets drowning in red ink.

Now to my biggest pet peeve…

Nearly-panic stricken urgings to “sign” some petition.

Such petition appeals, in my opinion, are problematic for a lot of reasons. I have included just one of many examples of petition appeal emails that has been forwarded to me. The example I’ve provided is the email in its entirety, outside of necessary editing to remove the name of the entity and any links. I did the editing not because any “innocents” need protecting, but because I’m not going to give the organization sending it any particular attention…they don’t deserve it.

The email was sent to all of the “members” of an online site which is comprised of many different sub-groups, both geographically and issue-based.

“The House will vote on repealing ObamaCare in less than a week. We want to present 100,000 “Repeal ObamaCare” petitions to Speaker Boehner before the scheduled House vote. Go here to sign and see below for more information:

[This bit was followed by a link to the petition, which I have removed]

The results from our CITIZEN MANDATE were startling…

Ninety-seven percent of  [the group membership] listed Repealing ObamaCare as an important issue. Even more telling was the fact that repealing ObamaCare was far and away the single most important issue to [all of the members] — more than twice as important as any other issue!”

In fact, when you completed your Citizen Mandate, you told us that “Repealing ObamaCare” was one of your important issues…

Now with the House preparing to vote on the “Repealing the Job-Killing Healh Care Law Act” on January 12, [the group] has launched a “Repeal ObamaCare” petition to give citizens an opportunity to voice their opinion on the repeal effort.

In fact, when you completed your Citizen Mandate, you told us that “Repealing ObamaCare” was your single most important issue…

We have less than one week to gather and deliver Repeal ObamaCare petitions. Take a moment right now to be part of this delivery by clicking below and using our exclusive QUICK SIGN feature to add your name to our “Repeal ObamaCare” petition:

[another link to the petition...removed]

In addition to demanding a Repeal of ObamaCare, this petition also calls on Congress to Defund all aspects of the ObamaCare  legislation until it is purged from our laws.

Obama can’t fund his socialist health care plan if he doesn’t have the money!

That’s why this delivery is so important!

[our] members have spoken on the issue. You have said that Repealing ObamaCare is your #1 issue. Now we want to send Congress a strong, unwavering message on your behalf.

But we have less than a week to make it happen! Because time is SO LIMITED, we are counting on you to sound the alarm and rally your friends and family to join with you.

Forward this message DIRECTLY to 30-40 conservative friends and family urging them to sign our petition in time to be included in our upcoming delivery on January 11.

Have them click here to sign our petition:

[yet another link to the petition...removed]

We want to overwhelm Speaker Boehner, and other members of Congress as they prepare to cast their votes. We want them to understand clearly that the American people don’t want the federal government involved in their healthcare decisions!

We also want our petitions to serve as a reminder to every member of Congress that the repealing of ObamaCare is a MANDATE from the American people!

But as is so often the case, we are dependent on your actions over these next several days.

Don’t delay. Take a moment to sign our petition by using our QUICK SIGN feature by clicking below:

[and amazingly, yet another link to the petition...removed]

Then use the remaining time to alert and rally your friends!

This is an important first step in the restoration of our nation. Thank you for letting your voice be heard.

Your friends at [name of entity removed]

P.S. Again, after signing our petition, forward this message to 30-40 friends alerting them to our petition delivery to Speaker Boehner’s office the day before the January 12, House vote to repeal ObamaCare. Encourage them to be a part of this important vote by clicking here now:

[yes, believe it or not...another link...removed]

end of message…

________________________

Wow! Where DO I start?

Substance of the issue…

  • Did the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, seem “weak-kneed” regarding whether or not there would be a vote on repealing the health care law? The “membership” is CLEARLY on board, Speaker Boehner and company, clearly on record regarding taking the action noted. Is this a necessary effort or just an opportunistic way to get some attention by members AND most importantly, get them to forward the thing to non-members so the group can get their contact information?
  • Is this the only way to “stop Obamacare”? Is it even a viable way to stop implementation of the health care law at this time? I support the idea of the House vote – the political point did need to get made. BUT, did the House vote stand any chance of resulting in actual repeal? NO. Does the petition encourage any action regarding the set up of insurance exchanges in your home state? Vast expansion of your home state’s Medicaid program (a huge element of “Obamacare”)? Grant monies requested by your state’s Governor to implement the law? Address the medical records technology and “comparative effectiveness council” in the February 2009 Stimulus bill which affects ALL Americans? (Click HERE for more.)

Insulting the intelligence of the reader…oh, let me count the ways…

  • Just how many times does one need the link to be presented? There is less repetition in a kindergarten class memorizing nursery rhymes. Why? Clearly, the group / organization wants to get signers, even if they bail out from their reading early on.
  • THE GROUP / ORGANIZATION is NECESSARY…you, the reader, needs to interact with this group…THEY are going to deliver this petition ON YOUR BEHALF.  Would you have a voice WITHOUT THEM? If the point is truly to encourage people to in turn, encourage Speaker Boehner to carry on with the vote…why not just give his contact information and request that people contact him themselves?

Food for thought on petition drives:

More than shades of populism…

Should the passion of any given moment drive the decisions of elected representatives?

Isn’t momentary public passion an element of democracy?

Is democracy a good thing?

Are we a democracy or a representative republic?

Should opinion polls and petitions be important factors in public policy decisions or should the electoral process, fact gathering, and deliberation?

(Jonah Goldberg wrote an article in 2006 about populism that gets right to the point in paragraph one. Important note…Goldberg needs a refresher on what the Founders thought about democracy.)

Effectiveness:

  • Is there evidence that this sort of populism has done much to affect the what happens in our government? I’ll get to a good example of such a petition drive effort that did accomplish a number of things, none of which were associated with affecting public policy, momentarily.
  • Consider the no to yes call ratios going into Congress during the fall of 2008 associated with the bailout bill. I’ve heard a minimum of 9 to 1 against. Did that stop the people in Washington from carrying out their bailout? NO.
  • Nebraskans inundated Senator Ben Nelson with calls, emails, letters, and ad campaigns urging him to vote against cloture on the health care law. Public opinion polls conducted within the State clearly indicated his constituents did not support the bill. Did it stop him from voting to allow the bill to go to the Senate floor for a vote?
  • Do we really want to have government that means whoever can pull off the most phone calls, emails, or letters (not to mention TV, radio, mailers, and newspapers ads) wins the issue of the day? Should elected officials be so easily swayed? Should we have to hover over our representatives to this extent? Or should we be considering many more factors before we vote for them?
  • What are the most appropriate circumstances under which making contact with elected officials makes sense? Ideally, it is an elected officials’ constituents giving feedback to the person representing them that is most appropriate.

When contact is appropriate…

What do you think is more effective? Individual emails, letters, and phone calls from constituents written in their own words and sent directly to an elected official, or a petition collected by a single online entity, with unverifiable information as to the participants? (Regarding online groups;  do group members have anonymous usernames?)

Entities can be easily pigeon-holed in an instant. Large number of individuals taking time to make contact in their own words are much more difficult to dismiss.

The largest effort I can recall in the past couple of years is a perfect example of “petition populism”…

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich conducted a full-court press for his American Solutions “Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less” petition drive in 2008. In fact, the effort is ongoing, and yes, the entity is continuing to disseminate information about oil prices and drilling. To date, American Solutions has collected 1.5 million+ plus petition signatures. In late summer 2008, Gingrich did present the original petition, in some form, to members of Congress.

Question: Did that petition drive change anything whatsoever about American oil drilling policy?

Answer: No.

Here’s what it did accomplish…

Gingrich managed to collect approximately 1.2 million Americans’ information. That number has risen by about 300,000 since. That’s a HUGE contact database. It might be really handy for something like a presidential campaign.

I have questions…

  • Just what information collected was given to Congress? Who has it now…anyone?
  • Where else might the information be sent?
  • Does American Solutions rent or sell its list to other groups, organizations, or individuals as a means by which to generate revenue?

Petition drives… UNLESS they are limited to putting a bond issue, constitutional amendment, law, or candidate on a ballot…

  • Are nothing more than list building marketing tools
  • Provide a potential revenue stream (through renting or selling of the list)
  • Encourage people to give their information away indiscriminately
  • Potentially provide opposition with a list of people who oppose them
  • Condition people to believe they are doing something effective about an issue when history proves otherwise
  • Allow groups and organizations to claim large numbers of “members”, increasing their own influence and profile
  • Fill people’s email boxes with junk
  • Encourage populism and small “d” democracy, not republican government

Image found on Michael Hyland’s Tumblr.

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Political Emails: WHY Do People Forward This Stuff?

It’s difficult to be heard above all the “noise” when trying to get out information discovered about what’s happening in government. One big part of “the noise” is a whole lot of email. Obviously, there are many types of email; what I’m referencing here is of a very particular kind. It’s associated with the explosion in political activism that began with the tea party movement in February 2009. While email marketing in the political arena necessitates its own article, for the moment, I’m going to stick only with the messages that individuals send out to their friends, family, acquaintances, and others who they apparently think agree with them politically. Unbelievably in some cases, the recipients are their entire address book.

After two years of running a group and receiving the same kinds of messages over and over and over again, it appears addressing the issue would at minimum, provide me with the opportunity to vent. What I need to vent about, specifically are messages that are absurd, conspiratorial absent any supporting facts, that are ridiculously partisan, and those that actually result in blunting substantive efforts to bring about the very thing the majority of these people signaled in some way or other, that they actually want.

I’m going to be pulling out some of the messages I’ve received and address them, one by one. Perhaps, the exercise will provide more than an outlet for my venting. If nothing else, I’ll have provided myself with some handy cut and paste responses. But maybe, just maybe, one of my dissections of one of these messages will constitute something helpful enough to others that it is truly forward-worthy. Note that I am setting a very high standard for myself here, I don’t hit that forward button very often.

What a convenient segue: the “noise” emails I’m referencing are almost always the results of forwarding. Quite often, the same people who are addicted to the “forward” button in their email program send several such gems per day.

Of course, among the many forwards I receive, I’m used to receiving my share of cute pet and baby pictures with clever sayings (some are political, some not). If there is a cute pet or baby email that has circulated online, I’ve likely seen it twice. Don’t get me wrong, cute pets are fun and I adore cute babies. When I have a bit of spare time, however, I’d rather pet one of my real-live dogs or talk with one of my teenagers (and remember what they looked like as cute babies).

Pet and kid pics aside, I have actually been disturbed by the fact that way too many Americans really will believe almost anything they see on their computer screen, and often follow directions included, if it is speaking to their biases, preconceived notions, general philosophy or coming from someone who says they’re on the same team.

Of course 98% of the email I receive comes from people who are opposed to big government, however they might define it. Beyond that, a good many of these folks have purposefully attended some kind of conference, seminar, or study group about the Constitution and/or limited government and follow news on at least a semi-regular basis.

I now cease to be surprised regarding what is sent, however, and I’m just left wondering what, if anything can be done about it. I think of the time people are putting into reading and sending this stuff and wonder how it might be put to better use.

I have received the email, below, twice in the past few weeks. I would label this one “How to contradict your own stated philosophy and totally obscure your own point”. Honestly, on this one, I’ve wondered if some big-government liberal type put this one together and sent it to a bunch of tea partiers to see how many would take the bait…

“We’re BROKE AMERICAN’S!!

We’re “broke” & can’t help our own Seniors, Veterans, Orphans,Homeless etc………..

In the last months we have provided aid to Haiti , Chile , and Turkey .

Our retired seniors living on a ‘fixed income’ receive no aid or get any breaks while our government and religious organizations pour Hundreds of Millions of $$$$$’s and Tons of Food into Foreign Countries!

We have hundreds of adoptable children who are shoved aside to make room for the adoption of foreign orphans.

USA, a country where we have homeless without shelter, children going to bed hungry, elderly going without ‘needed’ meds, and mentally ill without treatment – etc,etc…

YET……………….

They give money to 150 nations in the world and to the United Nations.

Imagine if the *GOVERNMENT* gave ‘us’ the same support they give to other countries.

Sad isn’t it?

99% of people won’t have the guts to forward this.

I Just Did”

Wow! Where DO I start?

We’re BROKE AMERICAN’S!!

Ok – fair enough. With a $14 trillion stated deficit and 100+ trillion in unfunded obligations, this is indeed, accurate. (I am trying to ignore the typo that persisted through multiple forwards. I said I was trying.)

We’re “broke” & can’t help our own Seniors, Veterans, Orphans,Homeless etc………..

Excuse me?

We don’t help our Seniors?

It’s called Social Security and Medicare, including prescription drug coverage. That $100+ trillion in unfunded obligations includes these programs. Are they good programs? No. Would a lot of seniors have more money now if they had invested in their own retirement? Yes.

Veterans

We could do a much better job with their medical care. And they don’t get paid nearly enough for what they do, particularly if they serve in combat. But, besides that, there are many benefits provided. Some of them, like the mortgage benefit, can literally last a lifetime.  There are also a lot of programs aimed at doing things for soldiers and families through many, many private groups.

Orphans

I thought there was a shortage of adoptable babies. Yes, we do have a lot of children in foster care, which is a real can of worms that I’m not going to get into right now. I don’t see a lot of orphans roaming the streets of America, however.

Homeless

Why do we have homeless? While I don’t agree with a good amount of the spin in this Wikipedia article, it does provide some good background regarding the history of homelessness in America. There was a marked uptick in the number of homeless people following policy changes regarding how mentally ill individuals were handled and treated, and of course, there is a correlation between substance abuse and homelessness. Aren’t there myriad efforts to help the homeless, both public and private? (Here’s just one example from my local newspaper.)

In the last months we have provided aid to Haiti , Chile , and Turkey .

I have a sneaking suspicion, this might be the actual point of the email, but it is oh-so-difficult-to-determine. If it is, WHERE IS the supporting information?

Our retired seniors living on a ‘fixed income’ receive no aid or get any breaks while our government and religious organizations pour Hundreds of Millions of $$$$$’s and Tons of Food into Foreign Countries!

Again…seniors? No aid? Breaks?…ever heard of senior discounts? Again, if too much foreign aid by government is the point, why tear down religious organizations for doing it? Don’t we want to promote PRIVATE charity? Is the point of this email about how government spends its money or how money is spent in general? I can’t quite figure this out, either.

We have hundreds of adoptable children who are shoved aside to make room for the adoption of foreign orphans.

Actually, I believe there are many thousands of adoptable children, but there are not as many infants as parents who wish to adopt them.  It turns out that the number of foreign adoptions has drastically dropped due to an international agreement in 2008. The largest number of adoptable children are in the foster care system, and is that not caused by a variety of social factors? Is the lack of adoption of these children caused by the failure of government intervention? It’s a challenge to adopt older children, so is it any wonder they are harder to place?

USA, a country where we have homeless without shelter, children going to bed hungry, elderly going without ‘needed’ meds, and mentally ill without treatment – etc,etc…

Is it lack of government programs that has caused ANY of these problems? Lack of concern?

ARE the mentally ill going without treatment?

WHERE are the statistics to back up any of this?

Hungry children? Ever heard of the reduced-price and free breakfast and lunch programs delivered at the schools (not to mention that some schools now serve dinner)? In addition to school lunches, there is food stamps and WIC. Beyond that, there is a program that sends backpacks of food home on weekends that run by local food banks and from what I can discover, is funded locally with private dollars. There is even a video about this program.

YET……………….

They give money to 150 nations in the world and to the United Nations.

Too much foreign aid and membership in the United Nations has been poor policy, it’s true. But once again, was THIS email the way to make the point?

Imagine if the *GOVERNMENT* gave ‘us’ the same support they give to other countries.

I don’t want the government to give “us” anything; through some of the information I’ve provided, it seems fairly clear that we don’t have to “imagine” government giving to “us” at all. It’s giving, giving, giving, and giving. And that brings me to another point; the government does not just “give”. In order to give, it has to take from someone else. All of this giving, however is not  government’s job. For a refresher, please see Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution.

Sad isn’t it?

Yes, but not for the reason the author or forwarder thinks.

99% of people won’t have the guts to forward this.

This is not a question of guts, it’s a question of good sense.

I Just Did”

Yes! I’m well aware…otherwise…how could I have received it?

On the next round, I’m going to tackle my all-time favorite…the petition appeal along the lines of… “Go sign this petition now! The country depends upon it!”