ResistBot, Tallies, and other forms of Congressional Bias

To the Honorable Congressman X:
 
Please be aware that much of the anti-Trump sentiment you may be receiving these days is fake, auto-generated babble produced by a program called, “ResistBot.” When someone wants to send you their negative comment or position about President Trump, but are either too lazy to or incapable of sitting down and composing an actual letter (or person-to-person phone call) using their own brain, complete with a premise supported by relevant facts and a summary conclusion), all they need do is use ResisBot. This phone app begins with, “Hi, I’m ResistBot and I’m going to help you write your officials. First, what name would you like to use to sign your letters?”
 
The app’s next question is more chilling: “Welcome to the resistance Kate. Nice to meet you. Will you tell me your zip code so I can look up who represents you in Congress?”
 
The final result looks like a formally typed letter, but with a fairly short message from the young liberal:
 
“As a young freelance journalist with few opportunities to get healthcare through work, I urge you to keep the ACA intact.”
 
I’m sure you can see the horrendous problem this represents, Congressman X. Now, instead of receiving self-directed input from those constituents who have taken the time and energy to actually craft their inputs to you, with apps like ResisBot, you’re now being inundated by volumes of 20-second thought-bytes which have not been thought out at all.
This is why I am strongly encouraging you to resist ResistBot.  It gives you the illusion of reality while strongly and grossly distorting input from your constituents.
 
The fact is that most people rarely bother to call or write their representatives and senators who oppose their political point of view. That has already created huge diversity of input, with liberal members of Congress thinking all their constituents are liberal and the same for conservatives. Any good statistician can easily solve the problem. They simply require all input sent to all members of Congress before they systematically adjust the numbers based on constituent demographics throughout the nation, including which members from which party are more or less likely to voice their opinions. Quite frankly, this is one of the major reasons why “all the polls” indicated Hillary was going to win. It’s caused by a mix of biases, including confirmation, ingroup, neglecting probability, observational selection, negativity, the current moment, and anchoring.
 
Quite frankly, Congressman X, your office, as are all offices of all government officials, are besieged by bias, and ResistBot has already begun making that much, much worse. It’s creator even says, “What staffers need are tallies,” and it’s entire aim is to screw up your tallies.  Now you will be flooded by input from those constituents who think nothing of grossly distorting your picture of your constituents, so long as they get their way.
If all you’re doing is conducting a simple count of issues and a pro/con/dk tally, you have already succumbed to these biases.
 
At least for now, ResistBot works by sending electronic faxes, making those inputs appear legit, as if sent from older people who may still be using outmoded fax technology.  The solution is obvious: Simply block the number(s) of ResistBot’s fax server farms. Very soon, however, they may migrate to sending e-mails, at which point you’ll have to screen your inputs by IP address, return e-mail, sent from e-mail, and a number of other means used by spammers.
 
What are you going to do, Congressman X, when it morphs yet again, to the point where this computer application can call your office directly, and upon detecting a human voice, simply say, “I’m in a bit of a rush, but I just wanted to let you know that I support keeping the ACA alive, thank you, and good-bye…” Are your staffers going to dutifully check the “ACA – pro” box on some tally sheet, thereby giving you the false impression that this was even a real person at all? Or worse, causing you (or many in Congress) to vote one way on an important issue when you should have voted another?
 
The fundamental problem is that the very act of creating tallies is itself already grossly biased, and while there are ways of partially mitigating some of these biases, many will remain, giving you a false picture of your constituents’ actual positions on various issues across the board. A periodic poll crafted by experts in statistical researchers and analysts would be far more informative, and it would also weed out the opinions of those who refuse to take the time to participate in our Republican government process.
 
Another good way is to have faith in your voters, that they voted for you because of your historic positions on the issues, and trust you to represent them on that basis alone. They trust you to be smart enough so as not to be swayed by the faxes generated by ResistBot and similar leftist apps, and to instead examine each issue on its own merits and make decisions that are best for our nation as a whole, commensurate with the U.S. Constitution and all lawful legislation following therefrom.
 
Sincerely…

Solving America’s Problems Requires Clear Thinking

Yesterday I stumbled across a rather insightful editorial by Bart Hinkle at the Richmond Times.  He demonstrated such clear thinking that I wrote the author a letter, presented here with minor corrections for spelling, punctuation, and grammar:

I found your recent article to be very insightful.  It is a fascinating look at what ails America today. It boils down to dereliction of duty to “support and defend the Constitution” at ALL levels of government.

I concur with you that Congress has failed to do its duty to “support and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic,” almost certainly because the loyalty of many Congressman to their party or various idealistic excursions has increasingly eclipsed their loyalty to the proven reality of the Constitution.  Sadly, we see the same thing in the Supreme Court, which should never be the case.  With respect to the points you made in your article, I believe additional factors have come into play, including the increasing fear of being labeled politically incorrect, and the corresponding unwillingness to take necessary and more permanent actions against elected officials who refuse to abide by “the supreme Law of the Land.”

Shortly after retiring from my career as an Air Force officer, I began working to educate people on the dangers facing our nation, particularly from the erosion of the absolute moral base our Founding Fathers cautioned was essential to the long-term health of our nation.  With such a moral base, even an imperfect Constitution and its resulting society would survive, as leaders would retain the same principles, precepts, and moral values held by the framers.  The resolution of unanticipated issues would naturally incline towards the time-tested precepts which have served our nation so well for so long.  Without such a moral base, even a perfect Constitution would eventually fail.  A nation lacking proper morals would be increasingly opposed to Constitutional principles and values, until its leaders began ignoring increasingly larger portions of the Constitution, eventually leaving it behind altogether.

Our Founding Fathers did a miraculous job crafting our Constitution.  It is extremely difficult, however, if not impossible, to create a legal foundation capable of fighting the erosion of society when that society’s elected and appointed leaders, either out of ignorance or willful malice, fail to follow the written legal foundation.

In light of this perspective, I submit to you three additional avenues of failure, along with some proposals for amendments that might be able to stem the flow of our nation’s life-blood, even restore proper function in the presence of decreasing loyalty to the Constitution:

Failure 1:  Education of the people:  Sadly, too many Americans are voting for government officials at all levels not because of what a candidate can do for their country, but because of what a candidate can do for them.  This self-seeking behavior and failure to delay gratification ultimately results in poorer results.  Candidates are rarely able to deliver on their campaign promises.  When a person believes rhetoric promising him or her a better life, and votes for that candidate, they wind up doing little to work hard and secure that life for themselves.  Instead, they wait around for the candidate to make their lives better.  When that fails, they become embittered at the “other guy” their candidate blames as the problem, or they become embittered with the system itself.

The Department of Education and liberal school systems has been largely complicit in this area of demise by lowering and even eliminating the bar in vital areas like civics and history while cluttering the educational landscape with requirements that eclipse a child’s opportunity to obtain a full, well-rounded education suitable for understanding how human society really works.  This is really the root problem of what’s going on in America.  If the people stopped electing those who are undermining our Republic, the problem would largely disappear.  Our Republic would be preserved.  Sadly, many people are no longer capable of correctly assessing the worth of a candidate, or envisioning the long-term effects of electing a candidate.

Possible solutions:  Eliminate the Department of Education and use those funds at the state level to provide for a more graduated pay scale for teachers instead of the current rise and cap pay curves; raise standards required of teachers; ensure those standards reflect the requirements addressed as outlined above.

Failure 2:  Personification of the corporate:  No serious student of the Constitution would ever conclude that our Founding Fathers meant to give business the same access to our government as We the People, much less a 1000% greater influence over Congressional decision-making.  The fallout from this decision has lead to increasingly darker decisions being made by Congress, ones that treat citizens as cattle to be mined for their ability to be skimmed for a fat, corporate/federal profit, instead of the rightful rulers of our once-great nation.

Possible solution:  Check Citizens United with an amendment that declares corporate anthropomorphization to be verboten.  Ensure it reaffirms the Constitution’s focus on We the People under sovereign States as the rightful owners of our own country.

Failure 3:  Senators and Representatives are too similar.  This arose as a result of the 17th Amendment.  Article I, Section 3, which used to read:  “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof…”  The Amendment now reads:  “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof…”  While I understand this was an attempt to solve problems involving legislative corruption and deadlocks, I do not agree it was the best solution.  For all intents and purposes, what we now have are a House and a Senate that look very similar.  Even dividing Congress into two houses makes little sense when the people elect one Representative from their district and two more to represent the State as a whole.  Why not instead simply elect “general Congressmen,” and scrap the two-house system?

Possible solution:  Repeal the 17th Amendment.  The original issue is that “There was a sense that senatorial elections were ‘bought and sold’, changing hands for favors and sums of money rather than because of the competence of the candidate.”  That sounds the same as it is today, so what problem was actually solved?  If none, then that’s strike one against the 17th Amendment.  As far as electoral deadlocks, the solution is simple:  Require states to provide for a tiebreaker, much as we have for the Supreme Court and the Senate.  An example might be, “In case of tie, the Assistant Governor will cast the tie-breaking vote.”  They could also flip a coin, roll die, or spin a wheel.  States could choose whatever method they want, so long as it’s expedient.  To help deter delays in breaking such ties, simply stipulate that if the states fail to provide two Senators, those positions will simply remain unfilled and the State will be underrepresented in Congress, something no State wants to face.  Our Constitution set the precedence for that by requiring percentage votes of “members present” for many things, including very important things, such as treaties and impeachment.

Bart, I thoroughly enjoyed your article and have bookmarked you in the hopes of reading many more to come!

Sincerely…

Here is Bart’s response:

Thank you for the note. You raise some very interesting points.

All the best,
B.

It was my pleasure.