Friday, December 19, 2008

Speaking of idiots

Haven't been on FactCheck or PolitiFact in quite some time. Ruminating on The Recount made me think of them, so I hit them both out of curiosity to see where they are, post-election. Found this sad, sad article on FactCheck. Man.

Our Disinformed Electorate
by Kathleen Hall Jamieson and Brooks Jackson

We saw more aggressive fact-checking by journalists in this election than ever before. Unfortunately, as a post-election Annenberg Public Policy Center poll confirms, millions of voters were bamboozled anyway.
  • More than half of U.S. adults (52 percent) said the claim that Sen. Barack Obama’s tax plan would raise taxes on most small businesses is truthful, when in fact only a small percentage would see any increase.
  • More than two in five (42.3 percent) found truth in the claim that Sen. John McCain planned to "cut more than 800 billion dollars in Medicare payments and cut benefits," even though McCain made clear he had no intent to cut benefits.
The first falsehood was peddled to voters by McCain throughout his campaign, and the second was made in a pair of ads run heavily in the final weeks of the campaign by Obama.

These aren’t isolated examples. One in four (25.6 percent) of those who earned too little to have seen any tax increase under Obama's plan nevertheless believed that he intended to "increase your own federal income taxes," accepting McCain's repeated claims that "painful" tax hikes were being proposed on "families." Nearly two in five (39.8 percent) thought McCain had said he would keep troops in combat in Iraq for up to 100 years, though he’d actually spoken of a peacetime presence such as that in Japan or South Korea. Close to one in three (31 percent) believed widely disseminated claims that Obama would give Social Security or health care benefits to illegal immigrants, when in fact he would do neither.

We’re not surprised. As we wrote in "unSpun: finding facts in a world of disinformation," the same thing happened in 2004 when majorities of voters believed untrue things that had been fed to them by the Bush and Kerry campaigns.

One reason is obvious: Political ads run thousands of times and reach far more people than articles on On our best day, we were read by 462,678 visitors. By contrast, the Obama campaign aired two ads claiming that McCain planned to cut Medicare benefits a total of 17,614 times at a cost estimated to be more than $7 million – which is several times more than's entire annual budget.

There are deeper reasons as well. We humans all have a basic disposition to embrace our side's arguments and reject or ignore those offered by an opponent. Our polling reflects that. After taking differences in age, race, gender and education into account, Republicans were still 4.4 times more likely than Democrats to believe that Obama would raise taxes on most small businesses, and Democrats were 3.2 times more likely than Republicans to believe that McCain would cut Medicare benefits. Simply put, partisanship trumps evidence.

This also helps explain why so many people accept the most preposterous claims circulated by chain e-mail messages and ignorant or irresponsible bloggers. Our poll found nearly one in five (19 percent) falsely think Obama is a Muslim, and even more (22 percent) find truth in the claim that he’s nearly half Arab. Republicans were 2.8 times more likely than Democrats to buy the Muslim claim, and just over twice as likely to swallow the half-Arab notion.

This is "group think" in action. We humans tend to marry, date, befriend and talk with people who already agree with us, and hence are less likely to say, "Wait a minute – that’s just not true."

Consultants also dupe us by exploiting our partisan preconceptions. People tend to believe Democrats are more likely than Republicans to raise taxes, so McCain was pushing on an open door when he repeatedly claimed Obama would raise taxes on ordinary voters, and not just the most affluent. By the same token, Obama found it easy to sell his bogus claim that McCain planned to cut Medicare benefits by 22 percent, because Republicans have a reputation as opponents of social programs.

Voters aren’t highly knowledgeable about government to begin with. Our poll shows that nearly one in three (31 percent) think Congress or the president, not the Supreme Court, have the final call on whether laws are constitutional. Nearly one in 10 (9.9 percent) think Republicans still control the House of Representatives, even though they’ve had two years to catch up on results of the 2006 elections.

And voters, once deceived, tend to stay that way despite all evidence. Nearly half in our poll (46 percent) agreed that Saddam Hussein played a role in the attacks of September 11, even though no solid evidence has ever emerged to support this notion.

None of this bodes well for the future, in our view. Spending hundreds of millions of dollars on campaigns that systematically disinform the public can only make the task of governing harder for the eventual winner. But are we discouraged that our efforts didn’t prevent this? Not at all. If we hadn’t tried, it might have been worse.

Kathleen Hall Jamieson is director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center. Brooks Jackson is director of the APPC project They are co-authors of "unSpun, finding facts in a world of disinformation."

The Annenberg post-election poll was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, which interviewed 3,008 adults in the continental United States by telephone from Nov. 5 through Nov. 18, 2008. The margin of sampling error for the complete set of weighted data is ±2.3 percent.

Idiots on parade

Jay Weiner of MinnPost had this description of the recount process today:

"That’s what happens when you diligently examine 500 ballots filled out by people who are older than 18 but, for reasons known only to them, can’t fill in an oval with their pens."

I believe this is so far my favorite.

Well, then, Weiner also had this to say. This is a close 2nd:

" when the chief justice of the Supreme Court examines a ballot filled with scribbles, seemingly by a third-grader, but by an adult from Plymouth, Ward 4, Precinct 20."

Wow. Some people are just plain dumb. Dumb. It almost makes a person wonder if maybe a basic intelligence test should be required for voting. IQ must be above _ _ _ to enter here.

Would almost guarantee that certain political parties would never elect anyone ever again.

Ooo... did I just type that out loud? *grin*

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Participatory Democracy

All hail Dr. Robert Adler, the inventor of the 1956 Zenith Space Command wireless remote; the inventor of the mute button. I cannot wait until Wednesday, November 5th. It makes me long for the days of annoying Subway commercials. It's literally one 30 second long vicious political attack after another - roughly 8 minutes of hell per 1/2 hour. It's making me a bit nostalgic for George III.

In slightly scarier news, I had a neighbor ask me today where we voted. I believe she's lived here longer than I have. WTH has she been doing these last couple of years? I never understood the old Federalist concept (assuming I am remembering correctly that this idea comes from the Federalists) that the people can't necessarily be trusted to elect their own government, but the more idiots I see, the smarter John Adams becomes. I surely wish people would educate themselves. It's not like it's hard.

The fact that people actually believe what they see in TV ads. Talk about a WTH.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Latest annoyance

I am heartily tired of the StarTribune having pop-ups come up whenever you click on stories like some cheesy crap site.

That is all.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Do not go gentle into that good night
Old age should burn and rave at close of day
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.


I'm beat. Been a slave for animals of the two legged and four legged persuasion for 12 hours straight, including over lunch. Adding getting ready this morning (more slaving - 4 legged), it's about 14 on my feet and running. This is the first time I've had to myself all day.

Taking care of the cats of some neighbors while they're out of town. They (the cats) are runners, so I've got a contraption set up in front of the door so they at least have to leap before they can get out. It looks ridiculous, but has worked so far. They (the neighbors) are... interesting... *sigh* I'm calling it my corporeal work of mercy. Sometimes spiritual. Depending. Anyway, they're nice cats, and it's fairly little fuss. Just time. Between that and feeding and changing the litter of my own two, it's been a long day.

Very late at work tonight. About 4 hours overtime. 'Cepting I don't get paid overtime. Anyway. I just couldn't get anything to work. Printed some stuff and it took me an hour to get it, between the printer being out of paper and people needing me. Couldn't get the laptop to work, then couldn't get the wireless to work. Couldn't eat, drink, hit the restroom due to people asking questions, needing to speak with me, etc. Man. Luckily I was able to leave 2 hours earlier than I was supposed to. My colleagues are there as we speak. Something to be said for exchange time.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Short term memory problems

I just cut my inbox size in half! Terribly exciting. Granted, this still means I have over 100 messages. In one of five e-mail accounts I have. But the biggest one has been sliced.

I've also updated three of the four blogs I maintain today. Another positive. ;)

Decided to change poems. That first one was too much. OK, so I'm typing from memory here... the punctuation might not be accurate...

Edna St. Vincent Millay

My candle burns at both ends
It will not last the night
But ah, my foes and oh, my friends
It gives a lovely light.

So one down, anyway. Think I'm going to go for a longer one next:

Do not go gentle into that good night
old age something something raving something
Rage, rage against something...

Aw, heck.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Poem #1

Ah yes - didn't I say I needed to get around to memorizing some poems? Gotta get on that.

For Whom the Bell Tolls
John Donne

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manner of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

Decisions, decisions

In my always awesome life, I just got updated on my Quicken enough to determine that increases in taxes and health insurance have adjusted my cost-of-living raise to the point where I am making a grand total of $0.18 more per month. Am, obviously, pumped beyond all telling, especially due to my incredible new workload and the 2-4 hours per day I put in of overtime. I am not certain yet towards what I will put this increase of $2.16 per year... perhaps gas for my yacht. Half a gallon of milk? A pound of butter (on sale)? One sock? Half a shirt sleeve? Hmm....

Luckily, I will have time to think as I will need to save up for this huge purchase. Wouldn't want to waste my raise.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Doggie paddling

Spent much of this evening creating a "to-do" list. You know you have too much when... Anyway, it does fit on one page. In 8 point font, 'tis true, but it is on one page. So at least there's a direction to my frantic splashing as I go down for the third time.

I did get gas for $2.83 this afternoon, though, so that was a mighty big plus.