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Open For Questions
March 25, 2009 11:06 AM   Subscribe

Open For Questions. Metafilter's Own™ box and klangklangston "skim the White House's Open For Questions, posting the best and brightest queries the American public can manage." [via mefi projects]

NB: "Best and brightest" may be used facetiously.
posted by dersins (69 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
I feel really, really, really guilty for laughing at people openly asking questions of our government.
posted by Plutor at 11:17 AM on March 25, 2009


Holy crap, Plutor, that's something else.
posted by joe lisboa at 11:21 AM on March 25, 2009


Props on generating such an impressive amount of output this fast, you two, but this would be better served with a little bit of culling. There are plenty of actual idiot questions in the lot, but some of yours are just snarky, half-funny responses to legit questions.

But again, for this quick of a turnaround, bang-up job.
posted by SpiffyRob at 11:22 AM on March 25, 2009


It used to be that Canadians and Europeans made fun of Americans. Now we just seem mean. Someone please reconcile American prosperity with Joe Sixpack's room-temperature IQ for me please.
posted by GuyZero at 11:24 AM on March 25, 2009


I imagine Obama telling Rahm Emanuel "best 5 bucks I've spent so far" on reading this...
posted by DreamerFi at 11:24 AM on March 25, 2009 [5 favorites]


I feel really, really, really guilty for laughing at people openly asking questions of our government.

I wish that guy would kindly leave North Carolina out of this.

*goes back to taking pictures for Waste Disposal*
posted by solipsophistocracy at 11:31 AM on March 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


I caught this last night on projects. I like.
posted by ob at 11:35 AM on March 25, 2009


ugh. These public-input projects never make me feel better about the state of our (my?) nation. Excepting the rare honest intelligent question, what comes to mind is Churchill's quote: "The best argument against democracy is a five minute discussion with the average voter."
posted by TomStampy at 11:36 AM on March 25, 2009 [5 favorites]


No, man, u super.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:38 AM on March 25, 2009


This is awesome.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:41 AM on March 25, 2009


Having had to sort this kind of correspondence before, I don't envy the editing job. Kudos on the awesome idea, though.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 11:41 AM on March 25, 2009


and they thought the reporter's questions where lame....
posted by edgeways at 11:42 AM on March 25, 2009


It was mean of klangklangston to issue disposable cameras to all those garbagemen in North Carolina.
posted by ardgedee at 11:43 AM on March 25, 2009


This is an example of why I prefer a good book to most people.
posted by gottabefunky at 11:44 AM on March 25, 2009


This is great.
posted by mudpuppie at 11:45 AM on March 25, 2009


The average voter isn't particularly sophisticated on macroeconomics, foreign policy, etc., and it shows. The value of OFQ is that is helps the administration get a read on the concerns & preoccupations of the electorate at large. It also provides great PR for the administration and supports its stated mission of creating transparent, or at least less opaque, government.

And let us not neglect the important role OFQ plays in improving morale–even the most embittered among us find the corners of our mouths upturned by tales of Waste Management and its nefarious Carolina Nude Blackmail Photography Division.
posted by Mister_A at 11:47 AM on March 25, 2009


This is why Obama's budget include ever increasing amounts of money for education. I'm in the same boat as plutor, laughing but kinda worried about what that says about me at the same time.
posted by boo_radley at 11:48 AM on March 25, 2009


I kept reaching for the favorite button.
posted by greekphilosophy at 11:52 AM on March 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


Dear President Obama.

What's up, man? How's things?

Cool. Cool. Catch you later, duder.

Sincerely,
shmegegge
posted by shmegegge at 11:56 AM on March 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


See, if Sarah Palin had been asked these questions, rather than the tricky ones that Katie Couric asked her, she would now be the undisputed Queen of America, on her way to making a single currency for use in Alaska, Canada, and Russia.
posted by The World Famous at 11:57 AM on March 25, 2009


More! I want more!
posted by PuppyCat at 12:12 PM on March 25, 2009


For certain values of good
"If Marijuana was legal, would it not put money into good people's hands rather than drug dealers in the streets?"
Rick, Boston,MA


Hahaha yeah that's so, it's... wait that's a perfectly valid point, why is that on there? Oh, because apparently any question about the legalization of pot is silly. Sigh.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:25 PM on March 25, 2009 [11 favorites]


Dear President Obama.

Have you invited Bill Bradley over for one-on-one yet?

Sincerely,
jonmc

See, if Sarah Palin had been asked these questions, rather than the tricky ones that Katie Couric asked her, she would now be the undisputed Queen of America, on her way to making a single currency for use in Alaska, Canada, and Russia.

the scruble?
posted by jonmc at 12:27 PM on March 25, 2009


bahahaha!
posted by yeoja at 12:28 PM on March 25, 2009


I hope this will lead to a congressional inquiry into how babby is formed.
posted by dr_dank at 12:28 PM on March 25, 2009 [13 favorites]


apparently any question about the legalization of pot is silly.

More generally, by highlighting the dumb stuff, this blog lowers the discourse and provides more fodder for the perspective that when you involve the public in government, you get stupidness. I.e., elitism. By throwing anything they disagree with into the mix, they can also tar any issue they want with the surrounding dumbness.

Yawn.
posted by DU at 12:29 PM on March 25, 2009 [6 favorites]


"If Marijuana was legal, would it not put money into good people's hands rather than drug dealers in the streets?"
Hahaha yeah that's so, it's... wait that's a perfectly valid point


Really? It is? You think tobacco and pharmaceutical companies are "good people?" Because who exactly do you think would be controlling the sale and distribution of legalized marijuana in this stoner utopia of yours?
posted by dersins at 12:39 PM on March 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


Hahaha yeah that's so, it's... wait that's a perfectly valid point, why is that on there? Oh, because apparently any question about the legalization of pot is silly. Sigh.

I don't want to speak for klang and box, but my impression going through that list of pot questions is that they're all kinda dumb for reasons other than being pot related.

for example: the one you quoted is stupid because if you decriminalize pot, dealers on the street will still make money. further, it's questionable that the sets of "good people" and "dealers on the street" don't overlap.

but I could be wrong. not knowing everything that goes through their minds, I'd say it's still possible that they just think decriminalization of pot is stupid.
posted by shmegegge at 12:40 PM on March 25, 2009


also, what dersins said (though perhaps less stridently).
posted by shmegegge at 12:41 PM on March 25, 2009


Because who exactly do you think would be controlling the sale and distribution of legalized marijuana in this stoner utopia of yours?

Seagram's
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:49 PM on March 25, 2009 [4 favorites]


1. Look some of my best friends are drug dealers but the stoner question still has a good essential point: there are some shady evil motherfuckers dealing drugs, and tobacco companies pay taxes. Does that make them "good" and drug dealers bad? Yes, in a certain light it does. Also you can sue them when they dust you.

2. Whether you agree with the intent of the question or not, it seems like an appropriate question that doesn't deserve to get made fun of because of its poor grammar. Just the fact that we can disagree about its validity means it's not especially funny unless you think just saying the word Pot is funny.

I'm certainly not against making fun of babbyfrommer queries in general but the picker/chooser MeFite guys here seem to be doing it with too much deafness to whether the question they make fun of is an honest attempt to find out the new administration's take on an issue important to the asker or just hilariously retarded. The maryjane issue seems like a joke to many, but as a non-smoker who thinks it's one of the most grievous economic and civil rights problems in our society, I prefer even poorly phrased inquiries to ignorance and belittlement.

Look if DU and I actually agree about something it's probably true--this isn't a bad idea, but the result comes across as mean-spirited and crass. Sorry y'all.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:58 PM on March 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


I kinda didn't expect this to pop up so soon, though Box and I have been on a bit of a tear.

(OMG THIS WILL BLOW YOUR MINDS BUT I WAS KINDA HIGH FOR POSTING LAST NIGHT!)
posted by klangklangston at 1:04 PM on March 25, 2009


"I WAS KINDA HIGH FOR POSTING"

"it's not especially funny unless you think just saying the word Pot is funny."

lol well my bad.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:08 PM on March 25, 2009


Whether you agree with the intent of the question or not, it seems like an appropriate question that doesn't deserve to get made fun of because of its poor grammar.

I hope you can see that this is essentially saying "I care about this issue too much to take it in stride when someone gets made fun on a silly website."

for real, you know as well as I do that many serious topics can be handled badly and will get made fun of on the internet when that happens. Just because I love video games and hate the current trend toward legislating their content doesn't mean that I'm going to get up in arms when a fellow gamer gets made fun for writing a comment on a blog entirely in l33t.
posted by shmegegge at 1:08 PM on March 25, 2009


Dear President Obama,

Given the current economic crisis and the difficulties undergoing the travel industry, particularly in regard to airlines, I was wondering; would it be possible to catch a lift on Air Force 1? I'm thinking "weekend trip to Vegas".
posted by quin at 1:25 PM on March 25, 2009


I'm don't know if you guys noticed or not but you can 'skip' to the end of the lists by modifying the URL of the inner frame. For example the 'last' page of healthcare can be accessed here:

http://moderator.whitehouse.gov/ask/?embed#15/e=55f8&t=697a&o=990 The 'o' parameter is the one you need to modify.

That's how I managed to find this jem in the 'veterans' section:
"Mr. President, will you please rescind your invitation to Hamas and other Gaza people to migrate to the United States? We don't need extra terrorists with links to Al Qaida & other terrorist organizations. You are against terrorism, right?"
Mary Ann, Berryton, Kansas
In the budget section the top seven questions are all pot related.
posted by delmoi at 1:34 PM on March 25, 2009


In the budget section the top seven questions are all pot related.

And there are pot related questions in the top five in at least four of the categories. Interesting.
posted by Big_B at 1:54 PM on March 25, 2009


This is great.
posted by fixedgear at 2:25 PM on March 25, 2009


Interesting idea to round up the questions, but good gawd, more snarksnarksnark, "We are funnee on the Internet. Hur Hur Hur."

Because there's so few half-assed, mediocre attempts at mockery on the Internet and it's so damned original.
posted by ambient2 at 2:32 PM on March 25, 2009


"Because there's so few half-assed, mediocre attempts at mockery on the Internet and it's so damned original."

Sure, we're overleveraged on Credit Default Snark, but don't you see that failing to make fun of other citizens could cause the whole system to pitch into chaos? Much better to pay us our bonuses and let us continue the gentle winding-down of internet humor.
posted by klangklangston at 2:56 PM on March 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


Dear Mister President,

Can I have some of your fries?

td, QLD, Australia
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:59 PM on March 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


In the budget section the top seven questions are all pot related.

And there are pot related questions in the top five in at least four of the categories.


That's a joke, right?

*checks link*

Jesus Christ.

I couldn't care less about decriminalization but...get some priorities, people, my god.
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:02 PM on March 25, 2009


I laughed... until I nearly began weeping and wanting to blow my fucking brains out.

God damn. Reading stuff like that only depresses the shit out of me. I mean suddenly begin thinking "So, why is Eugenics bad again?"
posted by tkchrist at 4:35 PM on March 25, 2009


Try working on Capitol Hill and reading constituent letters for a while, tkchrist. It will take you to the next level, which is surrender to the madness.
posted by The World Famous at 4:39 PM on March 25, 2009


This is not funny at all - it's mean-spirited and low (and the comments are even less funny).

Also, a LOT of people asked questions of the government - of course you're going to be able to find questions that are poorly written. Even many of the ones that oh-so-sophisticated university-educated you laugh at because of poor spelling and formatting are heart-felt question that some honest, not-too-bright person was worried about - and some of them are obvious schizophrenics or psychotics, do you really find that funny?

Here's one, right from the front page: ""WHEN I WAS DISCHARGED IN 89 ANOTHER MARINE WAS GIVEN FULL RETIREMENT FOR HAVING A FOOT OF BOWL REMOVED HE GOT A JOB IN THE AERONAUTICS INDUSTRY I COULD HARDLY WALK ONLY GOT 10% AND THE VA SAYS MY INJURIES AREN'T SERVICE RELATED,"

Do you really think making fun of some poorly-educated, unemployed cripple is funny?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 5:37 PM on March 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


"CHEM TRAILS - sky pollution -- US gov planes - aerosol spraying program of white grid lines that become white haze - not from commercial jets! Barium and aluminium being sprayed -why? Affects solar panels, water. See YouTube 'Toxic Sky"

Conspiracy goons never write in complete sentences - they're either missing the subject or the verb. That's how you know they're crazy. You'll see.
posted by zinfandel at 6:27 PM on March 25, 2009


I couldn't care less about decriminalization but...get some priorities, people, my god.

What does that even mean? Did you somehow fail to notice how many people we incarcerate in this country for marijuana possession and distribution? Or how much that is costing the American public? Or the way that the laws benefit certain key interests/people while perpetuating a racist war on the poor?

I'd say marijuana legislation is and should be a big freaking priority.
posted by lunit at 6:35 PM on March 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Drug legalization is huge, legitimate issue when it comes to the economy and the amount of money we spend on enforcement and incarceration. I'm not sure it needs seven questions though, or that it belongs in all of the categories. I would put it as a national priority, though, and not because of any personal fears of incarceration.
posted by wildcrdj at 6:49 PM on March 25, 2009


Do you really think making fun of some poorly-educated, unemployed cripple is funny?

He didn't say he is unemployed. He also didn't say whether he currently can "hardly walk," or what he even meant by that. What was his medical condition in 1989 that made it so he could "hardly walk?" What was the cause of that condition? He refers to it as "injuries," but what does that mean? He seems to be attributing his colleague's getting a job in the aeronautics industry to having a foot of bowel removed - what on earth? That doesn't even make sense. The person who asked that question may or may not have a legitimate gripe. Maybe he's disabled. Maybe he's not. He doesn't say he is, but only insinuates that he was in 1989.

You're assuming he's poorly educated. You're assuming he's unemployed. You're assuming he's a "cripple." (Really, you called him a "cripple?") The thing is, that writer doesn't even seem to actually be a crazy person. Maybe the system has failed him like it fails numerous others. Or, maybe he's just a jerk who has been blaming people for his failures his whole life. Who knows?

What we do know is that he didn't ask a question at all. Instead, he hit the caps lock key and gave the President of the United States an unspecific rant about who knows what, leaving out pretty much every key piece of information that could help to figure out what, exactly, he's talking about.
posted by The World Famous at 6:53 PM on March 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Many Americans are eating "beans and 'taters" due to job loss.

I am confident that Obama can overthink those beans so thoroghly that Metafilter will become useless, and that he and he alone knows what 'taters' means.
posted by The World Famous at 6:58 PM on March 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Drug legalization is huge, legitimate issue when it comes to the economy and the amount of money we spend on enforcement and incarceration. I'm not sure it needs seven questions though, or that it belongs in all of the categories. I would put it as a national priority, though, and not because of any personal fears of incarceration.

It would be nice if there was a section for those of questions, but there isn't really any sensible place.
posted by delmoi at 8:09 PM on March 25, 2009


"Has your administration considered ending direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertising on TV? Pharmaceutical companies are profiting enormously from television advertising. Meanwhile, prescription costs skyrocket."
Libby, Seattle

Psst, Libby.... It's not "direct to consumer" if you have to go through a doctor.


Enjoy the site but are you guys really picking nits over dangling modifiers here? Because if not, it's you two that come off as obtuse with this one.
posted by drpynchon at 8:37 PM on March 25, 2009


Grammar is the biggest challenge facing Obama today.
posted by klangklangston at 9:01 PM on March 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


just snarky, half-funny responses

How is that different from what they do here? I think I will save a mouseclick.

MetaZing!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:55 PM on March 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Try working on Capitol Hill and reading constituent letters for a while, tkchrist. It will take you to the next level, which is surrender to the madness.

Ever read the responses from Capitol Hill?

They are form letters that MIGHT be related to your communication.

Ever ask your representative to explain WHY they are a co-sponsor to a bill? The response I've gotten is silence. That's right. Nothing.

But do go ahead, explain to us all how each response is important - what with your work on The Hill.
posted by rough ashlar at 1:26 AM on March 26, 2009


Do you really think making fun of some poorly-educated, unemployed cripple is funny?

*takes the Fifth*
posted by dersins at 8:47 AM on March 26, 2009


God Bless America. I fucking love you!
posted by Duke999R at 8:47 AM on March 26, 2009


It would be nice if there was a section for those of questions, but there isn't really any sensible place.

I think that was the point: to push all the pot questions to the top so he couldn't avoid at least mentioning them.

Unfortunately, all he did was make a snarky crack about potheads and dismiss the issue with no reason or explanation. But he did mention it, so I guess that's progress.
posted by bink at 10:39 AM on March 26, 2009


a snarky crack about potheads

I always knew Obama was one of us.
posted by dersins at 10:52 AM on March 26, 2009


Ever read the responses from Capitol Hill?

Though it was never my primary job (I was never an "LC"), I wrote some of them. I always tried to directly address the issues raised by the constituents, though. And I rarely got involved with responding to the crazies.

But do go ahead, explain to us all how each response is important - what with your work on The Hill.

Each response from whom to what? Responses to constituent mail and the frank are one of the most frivolous expenditures in all of American government.

I actually have a list of reforms that I would implement if I were in charge of a complete overhaul of Congress (I'm a geek, I know). That list starts with 1) Eliminate the frank; and 2) Make it illegal to respond in any way to constituent mail - that way, no constituent could get offended when no response came, and consituent mail could actually be useful to the members as an indication of what their constituents think.

(I won't reproduce the whole list here, but other highlights are 3) Members are only allowed to vote on legislation if they were present on the Senate or House floor for the entire debate on that legislation and sign a sworn statement upon voting attesting that they have read the entire bill; and 4) Congressional staff is limited to two people in addition to the member, one of whom must be an attorney licensed to practice law in the member's state.)

Ever ask your representative to explain WHY they are a co-sponsor to a bill?

Of course not. I took Poli. Sci. 101 and I know why members of congress co-sponsor bills (the Poli. Sci. 101 explanation proved accurate when I witnessed the process firsthand).

When a constituent demands a response to mail sent to his/her member of congress, what they are actually doing is demanding that the government spend money on them. Why would anyone demand that the government spend money on such a useless thing?

If we want to know what members of congress are doing and why they are doing it, the worst possible way to find out is to send them a letter and ask them. They'll only tell us what they think we want to hear or what they think will get them elected. Sometimes that results in a thoughtful, detailed response (but only if they think that's warranted). Usually it does not. Finding out what members are doing and why they are doing it is the job of the Press. But these days, the Press is too busy with commentary and infotainment to bother doing any actual investigative journalism. This is driven in part by market forces, obviously, which create a monetary incentive for the press not to spend lots of time digging for the dirty and very complicated truth about the legislative process, but instead to spend very little time paying a panel of blowhards to opine and speculate while shouting at each other on TV or writing speculative op-ed pieces.
posted by The World Famous at 11:12 AM on March 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Obama: I don't know what this says about the online audience...

It says, Mr President, that the online audience - or rather, the online participants, who voiced and moderated over one hundred thousand questions in good faith, so that you could answer four - is not the same thing as a tuned choir that claps to a metronome. It says that walling the viewer in with a backdrop of perfect demographic resonance - better than starfleet standards, for sure - is not the same thing as actively identifying with your audience. Moreover, it says that if openness and authenticity might have elevated this little affair beyond textbook PR 2.0, they'd have come from a willingness to meet the definitions of those words, and not from the internets per se, magical with beanstalks though they are.
posted by kid ichorous at 11:25 AM on March 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is that the same online community that raised a record-shattering amount of money and put him in the White House? It's pretty ungracious for President Obama to disparage the same community that's largely responsible for getting him elected. (I was part of that online community and I'm still a supporter, but his quip was rude.)
posted by kirkaracha at 12:40 PM on March 26, 2009


I was actually surprised they brought it up at all (and I still haven't heard 'the quip' because the headphones I have here at work are broken. Sigh)

It says, Mr President, that the online audience - or rather, the online participants, who voiced and moderated over one hundred thousand questions in good faith, so that you could answer four - is not the same thing as a tuned choir that claps to a metronome.

That seems to be the way they treated online community on change.gov. They would invite people to participate, then cherry pick comments that fit with their talking points. The questions people were most interested in online were those that had pretty much already been answered anyway.

I won't reproduce the whole list here, but other highlights are 3) Members are only allowed to vote on legislation if they were present on the Senate or House floor for the entire debate on that legislation and sign a sworn statement upon voting attesting that they have read the entire bill

That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard. Nothing would ever get done, which is great if you're Grover Norquest. The work of reading the bills can be broken up and people will find and raise issues over objectionable parts of the bills. What's more, individual congresspersons may not even realize the ramifications of parts of the bill that deal with things they're not familiar with anyway.
posted by delmoi at 1:05 PM on March 26, 2009


That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard. Nothing would ever get done, which is great if you're Grover Norquest. The work of reading the bills can be broken up and people will find and raise issues over objectionable parts of the bills.

Hey, you're welcome to disagree with my plan for Revolution all you want. But "stupidest thing [you've] ever heard?" Aside from the fact that, not only is it brilliant and not stupid at all, you're just being insulting. I know what I'm talking about. Maybe you do, too, and we just disagree. But don't call me stupid, please.
posted by The World Famous at 1:30 PM on March 26, 2009


You only get to say that last line if you use Kevin Kline's voice, and leave off the 'please.'
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:29 PM on March 26, 2009


Because who exactly do you think would be controlling the sale and distribution of legalized marijuana in this stoner utopia of yours?

Er... the same people that are controlling the sale and distribution of liquour? The same people that are controlling the sale and distribution at farmer's markets? Probably one or the other. It seems to work just fine for vegetables, wine, and beer. Or the same people controlling my garden, which is to say no one.

Legalisation does not have to be done stupidly.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:56 PM on March 26, 2009


Obama: There was one question that voted on that ranked fairly high and that was whether legalizing marijuana would improve the economy and job creation. [various laughter from the audience behind him] No.

Criminalization is a mortal gut-wound to society.

Obama chose to answer a stupid question about legalization, instead of answering one of the more challenging questions. Obviously marijuana isn't going to save the economy.

Ending alcohol prohibition made one helluva lot of difference in people's quality of life. It improved hell out of America. We look back now and say "Good god, how could they have been so stupid as to make alcohol illegal?" It's boggles the mind that we're being so stupidly slow on the uptake the second time around.

It's time for politicians to grow a pair.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:22 PM on March 26, 2009


"Has your administration considered ending direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertising on TV? Pharmaceutical companies are profiting enormously from television advertising. Meanwhile, prescription costs skyrocket."
Libby, Seattle

Psst, Libby.... It's not "direct to consumer" if you have to go through a doctor.

Yeahh...except it actually is direct-to-consumer advertising, and that's a perfectly reasonable question.
posted by little e at 7:07 AM on March 27, 2009


Obviously marijuana isn't going to save the economy.

You obviously don't work in the snack food industry.
posted by jonmc at 5:08 PM on March 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


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