Category Archives: Political Blather

One Last Bit of Election Stuff

I’m fascinated by behind-the-scenes information about political campaigns, which is part of what made The War Room so interesting to me. Now Newsweek is starting to release information from their Special Elections Project. “How He Did It, 2008” is an “inside, behind-the-scenes account of the presidential election produced by a special team of reporters working for more than a year on an embargoed basis and detached from the weekly magazine and Newsweek.com.” There’s tidbits on how the candidates reacted to debates (they unsettled both McCain and Obama), and the boundaries McCain set for personal attacks (“no Jeremiah Wright; no attacking Michelle Obama; no attacking Obama for not serving in the military”).

UPDATE: Here’s part one of “How He Did It”.

The Expected Public Service Announcement

To my fellow US citizens: go vote.

Unless you’re going to vote for candidates I don’t approve of, in which case, stay home.

And for those who live in Alabama, go vote for all of the constitutional amendments. True, our constitution is already the longest in-use constitution in the world. Yes, it’s been amended to let officials dispose of dead animals and dig up human graves, to get rid of the boll weevil, and to forbid dead officials from drawing a salary. But we can’t rest on our laurels. We’re up to Amendment 799, which was an amendment of Amendment 756. By 2012 I want us to break the 900-amendment barrier!

So did you vote?

Future So Bright, I Gotta Be Gay

Focus on the Family, James Dobson’s conservative evangelical Christian group, is dabbling in near-future science fiction. They’ve sent out a letter from 2012, four years after Obama becomes President. They have looked into the future, and it’s gays as far as their eyes can see. Same-sex marriage, first graders forced to learn about homosexuality, churches required to marry gays, the Boy Scouts disbanding rather than let gays be Scoutmasters, and special bonuses for gays who enlist in the military. Also, just so you know, in the grim future of 2012, it’s “almost impossible to keep children from seeing pornography”.

All Focus on the Family can see is sex, Sex, SEX! Everywhere! Mostly gay sex! Why, if Obama wins, someone may kick down my front door and force Misty and me to divorce so that we can enter into gay marriage. I guess I’d better start looking for an Adam to my Steve.

The bonus on gays in the military is a nice touch. What does Focus on the Family think, is going to happen? Pink beret groups who have fabulous fighting skills and well-tailored camo? Come to think of it, that’s probably who’s going to bust into my house.

Yes, science fiction can be viewed as fantasies of political agency. I know writing near-future SF can be hard, especially if all you do is inflate your bĂȘte noire to comical proportions. But really, Focus on the Family? Your effort is the kind of sweaty paranoid fantasy I’d expect to see self-published on Lulu.com and with a bad Poser-rendered cover.

NPR Wants You To Help Fact-Check the Debate

Here’s something interesting: NPR wants you to help them fact-check the debate tonight, and they want you to use Twitter to do so. Make a Tweet that includes the hashtag “#factcheck” and has a primary source rebutting one of Palin’s or Biden’s claims, and NPR will take a look. You can follow along using a tool like Tweet Scan.

This is fascinating on a number of levels. One, it’s taking Twitter and turning it into an information-gathering source. NPR isn’t the first to do so: during the recent gas crunch in Atlanta, residents started Tweeting the location of gas stations that had gas and tagging them with “#atlgas” so others could find the information. Twitter wasn’t designed for this, but hey, when have we ever stuck with using a tool the way it was meant? Two, it’s letting a news organization’s audience help with the journalism. Again, this isn’t new, as Josh Marshall’s Talking Points Memo has been doing collaborative journalism for years. But mix collaborative journalism with the ease of commenting via Twitter and you’ve got an interesting combination.

There are a lot of ways this can turn to mud. If you were an ass, you could flood the channel with noise, creating lots of accounts to post random junk with the #factcheck label. Or you could post erroneous information knowingly, using this as another channel for candidate-driven disinformation. NPR — or at least its poor interns — will have to cull through the chaff to get to the wheat, and even then NPR could cherry-pick the data to slant their eventual story. But the raw data is still there for anyone to see.

(Given more time, I’d love to slurp down that data and correlate it eight different ways. Tag the information NPR uses versus what other sites do (assuming they do so). With what frequency did the same information get posted? How soon after a candidate said something questionable did the rebuttal show up on #factcheck?)

I’ll have a better idea by tomorrow how well it worked, at least in my mind. And it’ll be fun to monitor during the debate.

Also, He’s Not Here to Make Friends

It turns out it’s not just Top Design contestants spouting alternafacts about history. Here’s VP candidate Joe Biden on the current economic crisis.

“Part of what being a leader does is to instill confidence is to demonstrate what he or she knows what they are talking about and to communicating to people … this is how we can fix this,” Biden said. “When the stock market crashed, Franklin Roosevelt got on the television and didn’t just talk about the princes of greed. He said, ‘look, here’s what happened.'”

And at that moment Philo Farnsworth shouted, “Who is this guy, and where the hell is President Hoover?” This is like one of those “world history according to schoolchildren” compilations, only created by adults who really should know better.

If It’s My Fault, Where’s My Pile of Filthy Lucre?

“Wall Street has rocket scientists creating securities…. A scientist sort of in the back room with lots of test tubes and bunsen burners–they’ve created monsters. They’ve created these securities that no one has a handle on.”
Nancy Kimmelman, former Wall Street economist

That’s right, it’s all our fault. We’re done creating V-2 rockets to rain down poorly-aimed destruction on England and Peacekeeper ICBMs with MIRV warheads bearing 200 times the destructive power of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. No longer are we content with splicing genes until we have glow-in-the-dark bunnies. Now we’re taking over the financial systems of the world! Mua ha ha ha!