As the presidential campaign heats up, intense efforts are underway to debunk rumors and misinformation. Nearly all these efforts rest on the assumption that good information is the antidote to misinformation.
But a series of new experiments show that misinformation can exercise a ghostly influence on people's minds after it has been debunked -- even among people who recognize it as misinformation. In some cases, correcting misinformation serves to increase the power of bad information.
What's interesting about this data is that so-called "high-information" voters - these are the Republicans who read the newspaper, watch cable news and can identify their representatives in Congress - weren't better informed than "low-information" voters. (The sole exception was Republicans who are ranked in the top 10 percent in terms of political information. As Bartels notes, it's only among these people that "the pull of objective reality begins to become apparent.") These citizens According to Bartels, the reason knowing more about politics doesn't erase partisan bias is that voters tend to only assimilate those facts that confirm what they already believe. If a piece of information doesn't follow Republican talking points - and Clinton's deficit reduction didn't fit the "tax and spend liberal" stereotype - then the information is conveniently ignored. "Voters think that they're thinking," Bartels says, "but what they're really doing is inventing facts or ignoring facts so that they can rationalize decisions they've already made." Once we identify with a political party, the world is edited so that it fits with our ideology.
My comment: 'High-information' is a quantitative statement: how "much" information they posses. It is not a qualitative statement: is that information worth the paper it's written on. Thus, there is a difference between being 'high-information' (which can also be badly misinformed) and 'educated' voters.
But the fact that conservative base believes lies MORE if they are refuted, is the basis of current GOP strategy to blatantly lie and provoke the press to call them on it. Remember that McCain still stands poorly with the base. He needs every hard-core conservative to donate money, GOTV and vote. More the press calls them out on their preposterous statements, more the base will believe those same statements.
The problem for McCain is that his base may not be big enough to win in the key states. The independents, who used to like him, do respond to the media accounts of lies positively and will go away from McCain.
More under the fold:
Finally, the most important reason we should pay attention to our political leaders' attitudes toward science is that they affect the nation's attitude toward science. When the government of the United States does not like the political and economic implications of climate change, it could just say that it prefers Hummers to polar bears and we could vote on that. But rather than being honest about the choices that have to be made, it wants to pretend that we don't have to choose, we can have it all and be happy. It does that by misrepresenting the process of science, it muddies science by, for example, willfully misconstruing words like "uncertainty." When the president of the country says he believes children should be taught the "controversy" between evolution and creationism, he is profoundly misleading the public about what science is, how it works, and what it can and cannot say. Scientists know that a good scientist should always be skeptical but, while skepticism within science is powerful and healthy, skepticism about science will destroy, not just the technological machinery of our economy, but the rational tradition of modern society. It will discourage intelligent students from pursuing science, it will misinform a generation of voters about what science is, it addles our brains and makes us stupid. This is the most important reason to consider a politician's attitudes toward science when you pull the lever.
And he's right, the Obama campaign should be making a bigger deal about this. Maybe if McCain would stop these idiotic "lipstick on a pig" diversionary attacks, the media - and thus the public - can hear about such actual policy disputes.
In other words, a journalism of verification means zip to the McCain camp. This raises a defining dilemma for journalists: if you lay out the facts and the politician doesn't care or change, what's your next act? Are you prepared to call the politician out in a direct way, ala pundits? Are you prepared to do what the press did not do as a president moved the nation toward a war of choice? Or will U.S. news organizations throw up their hands and pass the buck, saying that they've done all that a journalism of objectivity allows?
Please, don't go there. Not again. The news media have a profound responsibility to state, unequivocally, what is true and what is not--and in a visible fashion. There are many ways to do this, here's just one suggestion: let's have a truth-o-meter on Page 1, every day, in which editorial boards speak with authority.
My view is not a partisan one; it's a democratic one. Whether it's Obama or McCain or whoever else making the claims, Americans need a strong, independent press that holds leaders accountable. I still believe in that kind of journalism. I know my students do. Are today's journalists willing to fight for it?
This does not mean people are stupid or irrational. But it means that one set of people will be receptive to arguments that look ridiculous, contradictory, or paranoid to party opponents. Becuase just as the base want to believe, the other side wants to hate everything you say. But this can be turned to an advanatge by causing the other side to react with equal predictability. The other side will not recognize the potency of issues, and can be manuevered into reactions that your own base will want to judge negatively, because the base deeply wants to believe.
This is why McCain and crew have siezed on this "lipstick" nonesense. It was not siezing an opportunity. The Passion and Martydom of Sarah Palin was an integral part of the strategy in selecting her. It was not, as most folks say, to stiffle criticsm. That is thinking way too small. The Rs always understood that they could manufacture an "attack" to drive identification and sympathy becuase the base want to believe. No matter how ridiculous to the disinterested -- indignant Clintonites wondering how their sisters can "fall for this crap" take note -- the Rs could always claim Palin was attacked and make it stick enough with the people they want to keep pumped. Because those who identify with Palin as a woman struggling, or who are "not ready to vote for a black man" or who want to vote Republican but spent the last 8 years learning to hate John McCain expect Palin to be attacked, they want to beleive the spin given it by the campaign because they identify with her and it confirms what they want to believe.
And even if they don't believe this "attack," there will be another attack, and another, and another - because you can always manufacture something into an attack. And if not from Obama or Biden, you can keep reaching until you find someone, a staffer a blogger or past friend or companion, whose statements can be credited to Obama by association. This ensures that those who identify with Palin and feel she shares her values come to believe she is under constant attack, even if any specific "attack" seems too much of a reach for any given person.
This is also why the Swift Boat attacks worked so well, despite all evidence to the contrary. People looking to support Bush despite their doubts wanted to have a reason they could discard Kerry's military experience and ignore Bush's lack of same. It was not even necessary for them to believe the Swift Boat attacks. It was enough to create a way to rationalize the obvious inconsistency. It is why Elliot Spitzer's moral failings show how corrupt the Democratic Party is, but similar failings by Jim Vitter deserve sympathy and don't apply to the party generally. Or vice versa if you are a Democrat and not and Republican.
For the conservative noise machine, it is possible to drive this through the news cycle because the news cycle has become both consolidated and predictable. One can plot the vectors with almost mathematical precision. As the conservative noise machine cranks up the volume in the blogosphere, it engenders a predictable response in the progressive blogosphere. It becomes the focus of trade journals and specialty outlets that cover campaign controversies and issues, or who cover the subject matter (here, Oprah). When Fox is ready to move on it, they have an adequate basis to point to the controversy that "justifies" their treatment and allows them to castigate the "liberal media" for its "failure" to cover the "controversy." This, of course, drives the cable networks -- which have their own stable of conservative pundits able to equally drive the agenda.
Now the non-conservative pundits are in a bind. Ignore it, and you provide substantiation that you are "favoring Obama" by "ignoring the controversy around Oprah favoring Obama." Criticize it as a trivial distraction and you again provide an emotional attack to those invested in it who think it is a big deal -- or at least noteworthy. Cover it as a "he said/she said" and you add legitimacy.
Or, in other words, by the time it reaches the mainstream media, it is too late for the Obama campaign to do anything other than limited damage control. Which makes the Obama campaign look weak for "not fighting back" and being wrong no matter what it does. Because when you reach this point, the attack cycle has done its work on the target demographic. By the time the Obama campaign is addressing this attack, the proactive conservative machine has the next atatck already germinating -- based on focus groups and polling data in response to the previous attack which show which emotionaly arguments resonated best.
Most commentators identified that picking Palin was a way fo neutralizing criticism. What they failed to understand was that it would always be possible to make something look like an attack. This would require coverage of the "attack" by more neutral media sources, who can be driven with the same certainty as sheep. The stability of the media environment gaurantees that if you can control timing and content you can control MSM response and the response of your opponents as precisely as a well calibrated dental drill. Reaching a specific stage will trigger a desired defensive response, which will be respun to confirm the emotional expectation that has been steadily building for the last week or two.
In this case, the effort to attack this as trivial or obviously false or obviously manufactured has no impact on the target demographic, because they have already bought into the emotional storyline and anticipate precisely this response. The response itself therefore confirms what they already believe. Because what the Obama partisans believe is irrefutable proof, the Palin partisans will interpret as confirming the opposite.
Which is why the independents will be turned off by the whole thing. Because the evidence in the chain is subject to multiple interpretations and the matter is absurdly trivial to those without an emotional investment. Which, again, is one of the critical elements in voter suppression.
Finally, the ineffectiveness of the Dems in anticipating and countering the strategy helps dishearten the Obama base (by convincing them the conservatives are undefeatable). Or, as the spies who explored the Land of Canaan told Moses and the Children of Israel, "as grasshoppers we must have appeared unto them." And, believing themselves grasshoppers, they become grasshoppers and are squished.
Palin says Alaska supplies 20 percent of U.S. energy. Not true. Not even close.
John McCain may be trying to sell himself as a "maverick" and a "straight talker" who will tell the truth no matter the consequences, but independent, non-partisan watchdog groups aren't buying it. But, since he wrapped up his party's nomination, John McCain has offered more of the same false attacks and smears. To date, independent, nonpartisan fact checkers have published more than 50 fact checks debunking John McCain's lies and distortions.
To hold John McCain accountable to his own standard, the Democratic National Committee will count and chronicle the lies here on the McCainPedia's "Count the Lies" page.
Jewish voters in Florida and at least one other state are being targeted by a telephone survey tying Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama to Palestinian causes, an advocacy group alleged Monday. The Jewish Council for Education in Research says at least two women in separate states were push polled, or asked questions intended to influence voters while pretending to take a poll, on Sunday afternoon from a caller who said he was from Research Strategies.
I think in their hearts Americans know that electing a President who was like the rest of us was a mistake. We need someone who is an over-achiever, not just curious, but a sponge for ideas, information, perspectives. Someone who can't stop reading and asking other people what they think. I think in the end we're going to do the right thing, and I stick by my belief that the Palin choice will start to smell really soon, not just to us elites with health insurance and education, but to the people in our country who desperately need those things for themselves and their families.
"She scares me," said Bess. "She's Jerry Falwell with a pretty face.
"At this point, people in this country don't grasp what this person is all about. The key to understanding Sarah Palin is understanding her radical theology."
The Federal Emergency Management Agency came under fire Sunday as emergency workers were left undernourished and dozens of trucks of water and food had yet to be set up at distribution centers around Houston and surrounding communities.
And no sooner had the agency -- widely condemned for its glacial response to suffering after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 -- drawn sharp criticism as its leaders and spokesmen began to say it was someone else's fault.
Iowa Lt-Gov Patty Judge:
"Sarah knows how to field-dress a moose. I know how to castrate a calf. Neither of those things has anything at all to do with this election. But since we know so much about Sarah's special skills, I wanted to make sure you knew about mine too," she said.
It's been noted on many previous occasions that, no matter how bad the news arising from Republican mismanagement of the economy, or the war, or policy in general, the media find ways to explain how it's going to "be good for Republicans."
However, it may be hard to see how today's news about the freefall on Wall Street and the looming collapse of the American economy -- all the product, as Barack Obama correctly notes, of Republican policies and mismanagement -- will be good for Republicans. Especially with John McCain still running about insisting that "the fundamentals are strong." Could anyone be more clueless?
On the other hand, the GOP does have a knack for making sandwiches out of shitpiles, and no doubt they'll find a way to do it here.
And this is the interesting thing about this particular election cycle. I'm not suggesting that distortion and lying are new to this presidential election cycle (it goes back to at least the 1800 election, when Adams and Jefferson teed off on each other), and I'm not suggesting the Obama campaign is comprised of innocent does who would (gasp!) never stretch a truth for political gain. I am suggesting the McCain campaign is the first campaign, certainly in modern political history, that has decided that truth is entirely optional, and isn't afraid to come right out and say it. And it's working -- and might well work all the way to the steps of the White House.
If it does, that will be an interesting political lesson for the GOP. It will be confirmation of the actual "Bush Doctrine" of "do and say whatever the hell you want, because no one has the will to stop you." When there is no real-world penalty for lying, distorting and demonizing, then the only thing to stop you is your own moral compunctions. However, if McCain actually had any moral compunctions on this point, he wouldn't be running the campaign he's running now. And I would suggest that a man who shows no moral compunction in pursuit of power is not a man who will suddenly find those compunctions once he has power. An election is a job interview, people. If someone lies to you during a job interview, and says to you "yes, I'm lying, what of it?" when you catch them in the lie, and you hire them anyway, well. You shouldn't be surprised at what comes next.
"So the Republicans have decided to run against themselves. The bums have tiptoed out the back door and circled around to the front and started yelling, "Throw the bums out! Garrison Keillor
Yesterday in a local report on KTRK-TV in Houston, TX, reporter Wayne Dolcefino revealed that media have been blocked from covering Hurricane Ike's devastation. In a press conference, Dolcefino pressed Gov. Rick Perry on why media aren't even allowed to fly over parts of Galveston Island, noting that media access was far better in Mississippi and Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. Perry tried to brush off Dolcefino's concerns, but eventually passed blame to federal officials:
During a campaign stop today in Orlando, FL, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) attempted to defend his repeated claims that the "fundamentals of our economy are strong" by redefining those fundamentals as "workers and small businesses." "The American worker and their innovation and their entrepreneurship, the small business, those are the fundamentals of America and I think they're strong," he said.-------As Atrios writes, McCain is now arguing that "if you suggest something is wrong with the economy, you're insulting workers. This follows the Bush strategy of saying that criticizing his Iraq policies is insulting the troops."
With Fox News and Karl Rove both going after John McCain for lying about everything that crosses his mind, there's a nice bit of irony at work here. Republicans and Republican organs are actually gaining independence from the Republican Party's sleazy methods by attacking the maverick whose entire appeal is talking about how much he distanced himself from the Republican Party's sleazy methods. The Maverick has become the path to Maverickdom, and Republicans can now safely attack him to divorce themselves from what the GOP is churning out.
Of course, there is zero speculation about whether there might be unrest not because Obama loses, but we experience another presidential election where voting machines "lose" thousands of Dem votes in key states, or voters are caged or deterred by broken machines and administrative hoohah.
I am really scared for this country. Yeah, I'm sure most of these losers are just mouthing off, but how many Jim Atkissons do you think are out there?
Yet again another example of the people that McCain and Palin pay to speak for them saying things they don't agree with in any way, shape or form. It's too bad that employment laws in this backwards country of ours don't allow you to terminate people from your employ for apparent gross incompetence. Alas, they're simply stuck with people who only know how to say "POW", "sexist" and "holy frijoles, atsa spicy meatball" until the campaign disbands. It's gonna be a hell of a spin room.
As Kamiya outlines, culture wars are not about positive things. Culture warriors aren't voting for something---they're voting against enemies established for them by fundamentalist preachers and right wing talk radio. If the Republicans truly feared that they couldn't get the minions out to keep a black man out of office (and let's not forget---racial hierarchies are critical to the culture warriors), especially one with a funny name that culture warriors believe is a sign that he's a secret Muslim (who they've deemed the Satanic enemy that must be defeated to bring Jesus back). Isn't voting out of fear and loathing for Barack Obama enough for them? I would think yes. And so I'm feeling more persuaded that the post-Palin jump in the polls is temporary.
Palin's hawkish turn is likely due to the influence of neoconservatives who have made Palin their new pet project. A former Republican White House official, who now works at the American Enterprise Institute, proudly declared Palin to be "a blank page. She's going places and it's worth going there with her." Asked if he sees her as a "project", the former official said: "Your word, not mine, but I wouldn't disagree with the sentiment."
All of us at the office were agape at this Fox News segment this morning. McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds was on, one-on-one, with host Megyn Kelly for what looked like it ought to be a softball. But it seems that McCain's habit of constantly lying about everything under the sun has gotten so out of control that even Fox News can't entirely ignore it. Check it out -- Kelly gives Bounds the sort of grilling you thought you'd never see on Fox:
There is no such organisation as 'Al Qaeda'. The spooks know this, Cabinet Ministers know this and so do the 'security correspondents' who so readily trot out the spooks' point of view on our broadcasting networks.
Of course, there are terrorists, and there are also fantasists, fanatics, low-lifes and camp followers who plot and attempt horrible things. Some of them even call themselves 'Al Qaeda' these days because they have learned that this is a good way to scare us.
But, while they are a menace, they are not as big or as organised a menace as the Government likes to make out.
The sexist act is in believing that a large number of women in this country are so stupid and beaten down by the nation's innate sexism that they'll vote for a woman, no matter who she is or what she believes, as long as she seems "like them." It's sexist because if Sarah Palin had a penis (and, frankly, with all the lies coming from the McCain camp, even that's up for discussion) we'd only be talking about her if we lived in Alaska or were getting upset about her Mussolini-like way of leading her state.
What's sexist is that Palin is being used because of her sex. There are plenty of men McCain could have chosen to shore up the base, most of whom would have sucked it up and voted for him anyways as long as he didn't go all Jewy and pro-choice. Palin is nothing more than the eye candy a con artist uses to distract the marks while he robs them blind. So it's not sexist to go after the woman who will set things back for women in horrific ways. The bottom line is that there's a responsibility to take her down, incumbent upon the media, to proclaim that she's not only a garden variety Republican hypocrite, but a barely educated ideologue who wants to reign with an idiot's understanding of the world.
Palin exists as a candidate to offer another narrative in order to take the focus off Obama as insurgent. As a cyncial political move, as the Rude Pundit's said, it's rather brilliant. And it shows a depth of powermongering in John McCain that'd make Attila the Hun go, "Whoa, there, old man, that's a bit too far." Because even barbarians know that you don't do shit that'll come back and bite you in the ass. Palin is Frankenstein's monster in a JC Penney executive skirt. Obama has to stop trying to reclaim the old narrative and create a new one.
We've begun to hear the refrain that Sarah Palin is someone women (and men) want to have a beer with, the kind of shit we heard with Bush. But you know what? At the end of the night, whoever the Rude Pundit has had a beer with, he'd rather the designated driver take him home.
Former Bush Secretary of State Colin Powell said Monday that he has not yet decided which candidate to back in this year's presidential race.
The election of an African-American president "would be electrifying," Powell told a George Washington University audience, "but at the same time [I have to] make a judgment here on which would be best for America.
"I have been watching both individuals, I know them both extremely well, and I have not decided who I am going to vote for. And I'm interested to see what the debates are going to be like because we have to get off of this 'lipstick on a pig' stuff and get into issues," he said.
Many observers have suggested the 2008 presidential campaign was the first internet election, in which campaigns and citizens would make extensive use of the Web for organizing, fund-raising, networking, and announcing news.
With roughly seven weeks left until Election Day, how are the campaigns using the Web? How developed are their Web campaigns? Which candidate has the edge online, and how so?
A new study by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism finds both campaigns' official sites are now quite advanced beyond anything we saw in previous years. For much of the campaign, Obama enjoyed a clear advantage in the new medium. Yet in the last few weeks, even as the presidential polls have tightened, the McCain campaign has narrowed the gap online, adding features and content since his nomination at the Republican convention. New features, such as a social networking component, now rival Obama's. Nonetheless, entering the last turn in the race, Obama's online social network of registered users is more than five times larger than McCain's, according to the sites' own accounting, and his site draws almost three times as many unique visitors each week.
His running mate may be raising the ire of scientists with her positions on creationism and wildlife conservation, but Republican presidential nominee John McCain is touting his tech cred. In a page out of the Al Gore playbook, McCain boasts that "under my guiding hand, Congress developed a wireless spectrum policy that spurred the rapid rise of mobile phones and Wi-Fi technology."
McCain's remark today was in response to 14 science-policy questions posed to him and Democratic opponent Barack Obama. The Arizona senator's replies are published online by Science Debate 2008, a group of science and business leaders. (Obama answered the group's queries about three weeks ago.)
Gore, of course, famously contended that he "took the initiative in creating the Internet" -- a comment mocked 'round the world. Now, McCain says he's "uniquely qualified to lead" America in technology because of his work with scientists and engineers during his Navy service from 1959 - 1981. In addition to his role in the wi-fi/cell phone revolution, McCain chaired the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation (from 1997-2001 and again from 2003-2005) when Republicans controlled Congress.
McCain's campaign didn't immediately respond to an email seeking clarification on what wireless policy the senator is referring to, or his role in it.
There is a good reason why John McCain's campaign is having some trouble with truthiness these days.
McCain's claim to be a "maverick" rests on the liberal positions he took during the days when he openly fought with Republican leaders and the party's conservative base.
Because he cannot very well motivate Republicans by reminding them of the times he and they have quarreled, he has to distract and dissemble.
" But now suddenly, John McCain says he is about change, too. He even started using some of my lines. Suddenly he says he wants 'to turn the page.' He had an ad today that he started running that he and Gov. Palin would bring the change that we need. He had this in an advertisement. Sound familiar? Let me tell you something, instead of borrowing my lines he needs to borrow our ideas "
- Barack Obama, Seprtember 15, 2008
He followed up with a dig at lobbyists, saying "if you think those lobbyists are working day and night for John McCain just to put themselves out of business, well then I've got a bridge to sell you up in Alaska."
Finally, the Obama campaign has articulated the winning message to counterpunch the shameless lying from McCain-Palin. They have raised the issue of McCain's (lack of) honor.
Following Senator Claire McCaskill's catchy "Honor comes with honesty" rhetoric on ABC's This Week, Obama has released an excellent new ad titled "Honor" that explicitly quotes The Washington Post on McCain's "disgraceful and dishonorable campaign."
You'll know that Obama is serious about winning if he and Biden, their surrogates, and their ads use this devastating line of attack on McCain's dishonorable campaign over and over again, including the debates, through November. I would especially urge all of team Obama to memorize and repeat McCaskill's memorable attack lines whenever they debate a McCain surrogate, like Carly Fiorina, who repeats the various lies about Palin or Obama:
"This is a good example of what I'm talking about. You know, honor is talked about a lot in this campaign. Honor comes with honesty. And you've got to be honest about the facts."
This attack on McCain's honor is the winning narrative because it has so many different benefits for Obama. First and foremost, it allows Obama to turn all of the ongoing lies by and about Palin -- which are presumably designed to goad the Obama campaign to go after her, rather than McCain -- into a character attack against McCain.
Everyone knows what Obama should do to win, me too.
If you do something that McCain doesn't like, do more of it.
I would say try to ignore McCain if possible or as much as possible. Let the surrogates trash him. Let bloggers like me trash him. See the next bit for an idea why you should not be down in the mud yourself on this.
For Joe Biden, John McCain is NOT YOUR FRIEND and stop saying he is and stop calling him JOHN. We're really tired of all you guys playing inside baseball with each other. John McCain is not a friend of mine. If he called me up to go cross the country I'd tell him to fuck off.
For all Democrats, it's time to stop saying John McCain is a hero who loves his country. I didn't like it when you said it repeatedly at the convention. You can say that after you win the election if it makes you feel better, but I don't think you're going to want to.
Facebook's new design has been hotly debated, with users either loving or hating it. I personally like it. However, no matter your feelings on the design it is probably here to stay. There is a bright side though. The new Facebook design could actually be better for political campaigns.
The McCain campaign has spent the last couple weeks making claims and accusations of dubious accuracy, mocking independent fact checkers, and telling everyone who will listen that the "media filter" doesn't matter.
They better hope they're right, because they're getting a lot of pushback:
But whatever it was that the Bush administration was doing in spying on Americans for years prior to March, 2004 was so extreme, so patently illegal, so unconscionable that even these right-wing DOJ Bush appointees, who approved of the ultimate warrantless eavesdropping program, were ready to resign en masse if those spying activities continued. Here is how Gellman, in his book, describes the March, 2004 "compromise" that resulted in the "less illegal" and less extreme NSA spying program that the DOJ officials approved:
Still, this claim that "bloggers" (and isn't Tumulty one of those now?) simply spout off with whatever thoughts enter their brain without any need for proof, while "reporters" are subject to stringent requirements to have evidence and the like, is as common as it is self-serving and wrong (here's the Bush-appointed U.S. attorney in Denver this week arguing the same thing: that "faceless bloggers" are reckless and irresponsible and only "mainstream journalists" can save us all by re-imposing standards of truth and responsible reporting). Need I identify all of the profoundly false, mindlessly subservient claims which Tumulty's profession (and her magazine specifically) have recklessly and/or deliberately spread over the last several years -- far beyond just the Judy Millers of the world? In light of the recent history of American journalism, it never ceases to be baffling how people like Karen Tumulty can continue to make claims about the oh-so-stringent evidentiary burdens under which reporters diligently labor. If only that were true.
In the heat of a campaign, Schmidt understood that outrage could cut through the news clutter like a buzz saw. It didn't matter much if the outrage was fueled by fact -- better if it was fueled by emotion, which would tweak the fury of his base, leading to exciting exchanges on cable television and fresh chatter around the water cooler. Unlike healthcare or foreign policy, the emotional charge of outrage has a magnetic effect; voters are forced to take sides and respond, shifting the debate.
It's not baseball, it's politics, but there's still a lot of ball to play. Think about that in early November and try to come back then and read this blog and make a list of all the stuff that happened. It's kind of scary when you think of it that way.
McCain and Obama want to change the bottom-line effects of the tax code. Here's a dollars-and-cents breakdown of what their plans could mean for you.
Did they hypnotize her, or was that unnecessary?
Sarah Palin refuses to recognize several of the most severe threats facing wildlife and in particular, birds. The bottom line is that she has a history of giving priority to business interests at the expense of wildlife in almost every case. In fact, I could not find one positive thing Palin has ever done that benefitted wildlife. As Vice President, Palin would likely continue with her record of ignoring environmental impacts and scientific studies, similar to the current administration. She may even be a step backwards for conservation as many of her positions seem more extreme than the current administrations. Sarah Palin would be a disaster for the environment and by extension, birds. Let's hope it never comes to that.
As the days go by, more and more brave and principled people are standing up and speaking out. Every time someone does, it involves some measure of courage. Alaska is a small town, and opinions that go against the powers that be are not always welcomed. Everyone in that room last night recognized that suddenly, speaking out about Sarah Palin has become an act of sobering and great importance.
I remember when Barack Obama gave this speech back in March 2008 (and a similar one on NASDAQ back in September 2007) while the country was busy focused on other trivial issues as usual. It got relatively little media coverage. He discussed the relations between Wall Street and Main Street and outlined six principles guiding his economic approach. It is striking to re-read it in light of recent developments with Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers, and Merrill Lynch.
One of Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin's First Actions as Alaska Governor Was to Equip the State Building with a Tanning Bed
Why does McCain insist on running such a mendacious campaign? There is plenty an honest conservative might say in opposition to Obama: He's wrong about Iraq. He's wrong about Iran. He's wrong about offshore oil drilling. He wants to raise taxes. He favors abortion on demand. He would appoint liberal judges. He would impede school reform.
But McCain has concluded that a fact-based case about Obama isn't enough to prevail in November. So he has chosen to smear his opponent with ridiculous claims that he thinks the American people are gullible enough to believe.
He has charged repeatedly that his opponent is willing to lose a war to win an election. What's McCain willing to lose to become president? Nothing so consequential as a war. Just his soul.
So why is it, do you think, that "Despite the governor's pro-family image, public safety experts and advocates for women and children struggled when asked to explain how Palin's leadership has helped address the crisis" and why is it that "an ambitious, multi-million-dollar initiative to seriously tackle sex crimes in the state" was put on hold in July by Palin's office?
It all leads back to Troopergate. Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan was the chief proponent and champion of the initiative--and, within days of the project being shelved, he was fired after declining to re-open an old investigation against State Trooper Mike Wooten, who was at the time immersed in a bitter divorce and custody battle with Palin's sister Molly McCann.
Now let's see if we can wrap our heads around this expansive irony: Palin punished Monegan by firing him and tanking his anti-sex crime and violence initiative because he refused to re-open an investigation of a man alleged to be a threat to her own sister.
"Steve, April Fool's Day is seven months off. You want me to say Obama is too old to be president and I'm not?"
"I'm younger than Obama?"
"Not younger, exactly. More youthful. You have more, um, youthiness. What is 72? That's just a numeral. Same two digits as 27. It's ink on a driver's license. You have the adventurous spirit of youth. You're the innovator, the reformer. You may be older in years. You're older technically. But you're younger in qualifications. That's the age that really matters. Qualificationswise, you're entering your prime, and you have the experience to prove it. You're like Reagan, although you're even younger, though not technically.
"Whereas your opponent? Tired ideas. 'Bitter.' Same old fresh face as in 2004. His best days are already behind him and he never accomplished anything. Peel back the public-relations front and the media hype, and he's over the hill."
"Steve. This is preposterous. You can't honestly ask this head of white hair to go out there and say I'm younger than Barack Obama. I'm a grandparent."
"So is Sarah, in a few months. Grandparents aren't old anymore. They're the new aunts and uncles. Especially in Alaska. Look, let me give you some context--why I think we have a good shot here."
"I'm all ears."
As a general point, I think blog posts are an incredibly ineffective way of changing people's minds. But as far as I can tell, e-mail forwards are just the opposite. They come from acquaintances rather than media professionals, are written to convince actual people rather than win the ratings game, and thus bypass our natural filters in ways that polemics and advertisements don't. Which is sort of a long way of saying that if you wanted to grab this list and forward it to some friends, an angel will get its wings. Also, you might want to add something about how if you don't forward this to five people, an august investment bank will collapse beneath the subprime mortgage crisis, and also your dog will die. People love that sort of thing.
The McCain campaign is getting more absurd by the minute. Now they're claiming that when he said "the fundamentals of the economy are strong," he was referring to "the American worker and their innovation and their entrepreneurship, the small business." Not to GDP growth or stock market earnings or inflation or median wages. But to the indomitable spirit of the proletariat. Atrios parses John McCain and admired what is a fairly novel formulation: "If you suggest something is wrong with the economy, you're insulting workers."
The right response to all this came in Biden's speech from earlier today. Want to know what's an insult to American workers? Voting against increases in the minimum wage 19 times. If McCain's voting record had prevailed, the minimum wage would be at $3.35 an hour. Another insult: Getting your economic advice from a guy who calls the recession a mental disorder. Another insult: Voting to privatize Social Security and toss workers at the mercy of a financial sector that you admit was insufficiently regulated. These are the fundamentals of John McCain's economic record. They are not strong.
In a sign of just how nervous senior Democrats are about Barack Obama's situation, top Democratic Party operatives are privately urging the party's major donors to get serious about putting big money into outside groups looking to attack John McCain in key battleground states.
How to handle the fury brought on by this election? Register voters, hit the streets, pray. Stop talking about her. Talk about Obama.
John McCain returned to the campaign trail on Monday, only this time without his popular vice presidential pick, Sarah Palin. The results were somewhat less than enthusiastic. As reported by MSNBC's First Read, the Republican presidential nominee addressed a crowd of roughly 3,000 people in a stadium that seats 16,000.
The pictures, however, tell many more words. The Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena where McCain spoke had large swaths of sections entirely empty, an American flag draped over the seats.
Sen. John McCain's career was almost felled by accusations of cheating, and it may soon be ended by conviction for lying. McCain was cleared of wrongdoing in the Keating Five, though admonished for bad judgment, but no one will clear him of the brazen set of lies his campaign is launching with increasing frequency in the homestretch of the general election. Nothing will stop McCain's deceit, as The Nation's Ari Berman explains, so the big question is whether the truth will out in time. The Atlantic's Andrew Sullivan breaks it down today, worth quoting extensively:
What we are seeing on Wall Street today is the result of an ideology gone amok. There was call to loosen and change the antiquated regulations governing investment back in 1980. But the Republican era has seen that loosening go to the point of near-cataclysm. Banks are failing, markets dropping. We are in the midst of a slow-motion economic crash. What happens next is an economic contraction: loans aren't available, so businesses can't expand. A crash comes at the beginning of a period of economic trouble.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Sen. Barack Obama will attend "two ultra-rich Beverly Hills fund-raisers" tomorrow and could raise as much as $9 million at the events setting a one day fundraising record.
Reading the "press" in this surreal climate right now, one is tempted to despair. I'm not giving in to it, because I still believe that the actual truth matters in the world. If propaganda could win in the end against truth, then Bush's approval ratings would be somewhere in the high 80s. They are in the lower 30s. In the end, the American people are not fools. And facts are facts. Right now, we are being subjected to an absolutely disorienting blizzard of lies and absurdities (Palin is a lying absurdity) from the McCain campaign. The idea is to so disorient people, to throw so many new concepts, brands, lies, images, marketing and distortions at them that they will not be able to focus on the issues in this election, and the real choices serious people have to make.
Because they already do. That ship has sailed. When facts are used to discredit Sarah Palin, emotion trumps facts. The instinct is to defend against the facts. Consider: you meet someone and like him or her on a gut level. A stranger - someone who doesn't have built-up personal credibility with you - gives you a list of reasons not to like that person. How do you react?
On an emotional level, you want them to be wrong, and you will take every possible favorable inference on the likable person's behalf. Using facts is pushing a big rock uphill. You might get it to the top with a few voters, but you're going to expend a lot of energy for only a little return.
The problem with the lies, as anyone familiar with dealing with creationists knows, is that it takes so much boring detail to explain why and how they are lies that people get bored with the truth. McCain's handlers know this.
Unfortunately there already exists a tried and trusted method that dissuades republican voters from supporting McCain, however the only people sleazy enough to use it are currently working for him.
We get the kind of government we are willing to stand for. If we'd rather be lied to, and knowingly accept it because otherwise we'd have to deal with the word as it is, then we should read up on our Ottoman, late Byzantine, and medieval Chinese history. None of those were democracies - do we want to be the first to destroy our place in the world so effectively?
Tat's what I like about science - we know we still have to deal with the world, and learn from our mistakes.
In my 30-something life, I've never seen a contender for high office in a western country lie as much in such a short period of time as Sarah Palin. If American voters let the McCain campaign get away with her crap, the "lying eyes" strategy will soon be adopted by start-up demagogues around the globe, with ugly consequences for our political cultures.
Mike #1: I've heard this problem neatly described as "They can shit faster than we can shovel."