Friday, December 23, 2011


I make no apologies for being a liberal. I also think it quite healthy and normal that in a democracy people disagree and have different philosophies about the way to solve our problems. Disagreement is good! Up with partisanship! So nothing irritates me quite as much as the faux-centrist, view-from-nowhere reporting of our current media (Fox News, god bless their little misleading souls, gets a pass for only pretending to be objective, a veneer that fools only those that wish to be fooled.) It obscures whatever viewpoint the conveyer of information actually has and leaves the consumer, almost without exception, with a set of differing opinions and no attempt to discern the truth that lies behind them. It is a fundamental failure of our media to treat all sides of a story equally and abandon their primary responsibility: discover and report the truth.

But perhaps nobody is quite as bad in this swamp of he-said / she-said reporting than Politifact. In a perfect world, a fact checking organization would not even be needed because that is actually what journalists should be doing. But in an imperfect world, Politifact and their brethren could serve a purpose, checking actual factual claims by politicians and reporters. Instead, they have a sliding scale of truth (from True to Pant on Fire with multiple stops in between) and they weigh in on matters that are matters of opinion and interpretation that cannot be rated as true or false. Their 2011 Lie of the Year is only the latest example of this.

But what I really want to highlight is this, from Bill Adair, editor of Politifact. In his piece, defending their choice for Lie of the Year from criticism he states:

Others portrayed it as a case of false balance where we put our thumb on the scale for a Democratic falsehood. This, too, is a sad byproduct of our polarized discourse, from people who are sure their side is always right.
The stunning lack of self-awareness of the second sentence tells you all you need to know about the product you will get from Politifact. They have assumed that any criticism of their work is because you "...are sure [your] side is always right." In one simple step, they have neutered all criticism of their work and revealed the attitude that in their mind, their side is always right.

"But," Politifact will claim, "we do not have a side. There is right and there is left and we are objective determiners of the truth." But, of course, this is bullshit. They have a side. It is the side of their importance and power in the political discourse. They have a viewpoint, and it is one they are desperate to prove: Partisanship is bad and both sides lie.

And if you question them, silly bloggers, well you just do not understand the important work they do and how much effort it takes to make these judgements of politi-fact or politi-lie.

It's patronizing, it's arrogant, and it's wrong.

Friday, December 2, 2011

An English-Language Look at the Second Amendment

Hello, Internet! I’m Rosie, the aforementioned AP Government student. I’m socially liberal and fiscally a bit clueless, but I’m learning. I like history, politics, and English, and I especially like combining them, which is where this little essay on the Second Amendment comes from.

The Second Amendment looks a little bit like this:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

My first reaction, when I read the whole thing through the first time in AP Gov class this year, was “What? Is that even a sentence?”. After we got our pocket Constitutions, I would occasionally take it out, read the amendment over again, and attempt to puzzle it out in terms of the English language. It stumped me for over a month. I would read it aloud to myself while doing AP Gov homework, trying to puzzle out the placement of the commas and how to include the first two phrases to make it a grammatically correct sentence. I completely understood why there was so much debate over its meaning, because I couldn't for the life of me figure out what it was actually saying.

I don’t think James Madison meant to confuse later generations when he penned the Bill of Rights– the Constitution is full of oddly constructed sentences and extraneous commas, because that was the accepted writing style of the time. Unfortunately, however, because of that somewhat-archaic grammar, the Second Amendment has become a widely debated area. But if you ask me, it doesn’t have to be, and all the problems with the Second Amendment can be solved by turning it into a proper English-language sentence. Which is easier than it sounds: take out two commas, and it turns into this:

A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.

I can’t remember exactly why or when I figured that out, but I was pretty ecstatic when I did. All of a sudden, it was grammatically correct!

The first two phrases have been condensed into one clause. That’s the really important part of this alteration. I took the last comma out mostly for reasons of clarity– plus, it keeps the whole thing a little more modern, adding to consistency. Now that we’ve condensed the first two phrases, let’s take a look at the first clause:

A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State

It’s the word “being” that set off the little metaphorical lightbulbs over my head. “Being”, along with “because”, “therefore”, “due to”, and a host of other words, indicates a dependent clause. For example, in the sentence, “I started a blog because I like to write about politics”, the “because” indicates that the starting of the blog is dependent on the speaker’s like for writing about politics.

“Being” serves a similar purpose. It indicates that the second clause, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed, is dependent upon the first one. In other words, the people’s right to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed because a well-regulated militia is necessary to the country’s security.

And, if you ask me, that’s all the controversy over the Second Amendment neatly solved. Never underestimate the power of proper grammar.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Beginning

AP Politika is a new blog dedicated to politics as a joint project between a teen interested in politics (who is currently studying for the AP Government exam) and her bitter, politics loving father. Count on cynicism, liberalism, fact based posts and cats. Also, lots and lots of media criticism. Welcome.