How's Your News, Election 2012: developmentally disabled reporters go to GOP and DNC

Developmentally disabled news reporters cover the weird world of the 2012 RNC and DNC. We interview director Arthur Bradford, and backer Matt Stone (South Park, Book of Mormon).

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Rumble in the Air-Conditioned Auditorium: Jon Stewart and Bill O'Reilly's debate kicked ass

Last night's Bill O'Reilly/Jon Stewart debate, the "Rumble in the Air-Conditioned Auditorium," just crushed it. This is the best 90 minutes of video you're gonna see this month, and is unquestionably the best presidential debate of the season.

Update: In the comments, Patrick McGorrill adds, "Also available from www.therumble2012.com where they're using the Louis CK model. 90 minutes of DRM-free, HD video, for $5." That is a stone bargain.

Here's the Guardian's Amanda Holpuch with a recap:

The economic discussion focused on O'Reilly and Stewart's disagreement on government spending. O'Reilly said he thinks too much money is given to "slackers" who "mooch" off the government through welfare and other subsidies, though he supports social security. Stewart took issue with O'Reilly's determinations of what things are acceptable to be subsidised by the government.

"Why is it if you take advantage of a tax break as a corporation you're a smart businessman, but if you take advantage of a tax break as a person you're a moocher?" Stewart said.

Jon Stewart lays into Bill O'Reilly in presidential debate spoof

68,000 Texans no longer have to prove they're not dead in order to vote

68,000 Texans will no longer have to prove that they aren't dead in order to vote in the next election. The state of Texas has settled a suit brought on behalf of 68,000 "potentially deceased" Texas voters who shared a birthdate and a partial Social Security match with a person appearing on a federal death register. These people will now be able to vote, unless Texas can prove they're dead. Another 12,000 voters will still have to prove that they're not dead before casting a ballot. More from Lowering the Bar:

Under the previous rules, voters were identified as "potentially deceased" if there was at least a "weak match" (such as a birth date plus a partial Social Security number) between their information and the federal death records the state was consulting. The weakly matched dead made up 68,000 of the 80,000 people who received a letter from voting officials telling them they would be removed from the rolls if they didn't speak up. Under the settlement, the burden shifts to officials to prove those people are really dead; the remainder ("strong matches"), who are much more likely to be dead, will still have to prove otherwise if they can.

"Today's order [approving the settlement] is another step toward improving the integrity of the election system," said Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who had unsuccessfully tried to defend the state's original plan. I think it's actually the same step, but 85% smaller.

Texas Settles With Previously Dead Voters

Maine GOP attack-flier condemns Democratic candidate for playing an orc rogue in online game


A flier distributed by the Maine GOP attacks Democratic state senate candidate Colleen Lachowicz for playing an orc assassin rogue in World of Warcraft, using quotes she's made about the virtual violence her imaginary fairy-tale creature gets up to in order to imply that she is unfit for office. Timothy Lee has more on Ars Technica:

"I love poisoning and stabbing! It is fun," the flyer quotes Lachowicz as saying. The candidate is apparently a regular commenter at DailyKos, a liberal blog. And the Maine GOP has mined the site looking for what it regards as damning comments. Most of Lachowicz's remarks were posted in 2009 or 2010, most likely before she began her current campaign for office.

"I can kill stuff without going to jail," she wrote in December 2009. "There are some days when this is more necessary than others." The flyer points voters to a website, called "Colleen's World," that highlights more cases where she describes virtual violence she committed in the online world.

Candidate for Maine State Senate attacked for Warcraft character

TV news programs ignore false claims in the thousands of political ads that pay their bills


Josh Levy from Free Press sez, "My colleague Tim Karr just released a report exposing the billions spent on political ads around the country -- and how that money is pocketed by local TV stations. Are these stations offering any local news coverage to debunk the lies in these ads? Are they exposing the deep-pocketed interests behind the groups buying ad time? The short answer is: No. The local stations we looked at in the report provided no local stories exposing the special interests behind these ads, and only one station among the 20 surveyed devoted even a few minutes to investigating whether these ads told viewers the truth."

Here are some details from our new report, Left in the Dark: Local Coverage in the Age of Big-Money Politics:

* The Super PACs vs. Justin Bieber: The hundreds of hours of local news that aired in the two weeks prior to Wisconsin's June 5 recall election included no stories on the 17 groups most actively buying time on Milwaukee's ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC affiliates. While these stations were ignoring the impact of political ads, they found time to air 53 local news segments on Justin Bieber.

* Fact-Check Fail: The ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC affiliates in Charlotte, Cleveland, Las Vegas and Milwaukee did not once fact-check the claims made in political ads placed locally by the nation's top-spending Super PACs and independent groups, even though these groups had spent tens of millions of dollars on frequently deceptive ads in those markets.

* Hush Money: Cleveland's four affiliate stations provided no coverage of the Koch brothers-funded group Americans for Prosperity, despite airing the group's anti-Obama attack ads more than 500 times. Americans for Prosperity has reportedly spent more than $1.5 million to place ads on Cleveland television stations.

* News Out of Balance: Affiliate stations in Tampa aired on average more than 200 political ads a day throughout August. Yet only one station, WTSP, devoted news time to fact-checking any of the most prominent groups buying these ads. In a single segment running less than three minutes, WTSP rated an Americans for Prosperity ad as false, a finding that didn't stop the station from running the group's anti-Obama ads more than 150 times that month.

TV Stations Accept Political Ad Cash -- and Leave Viewers in the Dark (Thanks, Josh!)

Study: Republican state voting laws "will disenfranchise 10,000,000 Hispanic US citizens"

Today, a civil rights group called Advancement Project will publish a report on the new voting laws passed in 23 Republican-led states. The report (not named in Patricia Zengerle's Reuters article and not yet up on the Advancement Project site) claims that 10,000,000 Hispanic voters will be disenfranchised by the new laws, which place hurdles between voters and the ballot box, such as presenting certain types of ID. The rubric for these laws has been that "everyone" has the types of ID specified in the statutes, and the common refrain in response to critics is "Who doesn't have a [driver's license|passport|non-driver ID|etc]?" The Advancement Project's point appears to be that these specific 10 million citizens, who are otherwise legally entitled to vote, don't have the necessary papers or can't meet the qualifiers imposed by the state governments.

According to Reuters, national polls show 70 percent or more support for Obama among Hispanic voters.

The new laws include purges of people suspected of not being citizens in 16 states that unfairly target Latinos, the civil rights group Advancement Project said in the study to be formally released on Monday.

Laws in effect in one state and pending in two others require proof of citizenship for voter registration. That imposes onerous and sometimes expensive documentation requirements on voters, especially targeting naturalized American citizens, many of whom are Latino, the liberal group said.

Nine states have passed restrictive photo identification laws that impose costs in time and money for millions of Latinos who are citizens but do not yet have the required identification, it said.

Voting laws may disenfranchise 10 million Hispanic U.S. citizens: study (Thanks, Deborah!)

Internet Voter Registration Day: pledge to vote, and get your friends to pledge, and scare the piss out of SOPA-loving DC insiders

Tiffiniy from the SOPA-killing activist group Fight for the Future sez,

Remember when we worked together and beat back internet censorship and SOPA, and changed the world earlier this year? 2012 is a historic year for our basic rights on the web - the year the internet came alive and fought for free speech and freedom. Sites like Boing Boing depend on an open and free web, and so doesn't much of what you love and do on the web.

Unfortunately, Congress still only cares about the opinions of likely voters. If everyone who cares about internet freedom stays at home this election, Congress will bring back SOPA. That's why we've been working on a campaign to turn out a massive number of internet users at the polls, and we're asking people to join us tomorrow for Internet Voter Registration Day, right before a bunch of state deadlines, by pledging that you'll vote, and register if you need to: internetvotes.org.

Washington insiders thought SOPA, PIPA, and CISPA were all 'certain to pass.' How did the internet win against those bills? Because people stood up to protect free speech and the transformative power of the internet in their lives.

Let's dramatically increase the number of people egging each other on to vote, which has shown to get people to the polls. The first thing we're asking people to do is to get our friends to pledge and register to vote starting Tuesday, National Voter Registration Day (right before a bunch of state deadlines with time to send in your forms). Then we'll work together to mobilize millions of internet users to get to the polls. People can use our tools to see which of their friends are voting and registered, mobilize their audiences into voting blocks for their cause, site, or group, get important voting information, and make sure their friends go vote.

Promise to vote for the internet in 2012 (Thanks, Tiffiniy!)

Gawker drops "The Bain Files: Inside Mitt Romney's Tax-Dodging Cayman Schemes"

Today, Gawker (specifically, John Cook) publishes a Wikileaks-style data dump: The Bain Files: Inside Mitt Romney's Tax-Dodging Cayman Schemes. As Dylan Byers at Politico points out, not all of the info is new and "will require a great deal of vetting, but early signs indicate that there are some new, and potentially controversial, details -- starting with that bit at the end about a retirement package investment that was made almost a decade after Romney retired." BusinessInsider is not impressed.

Devo to release single commemorating Mitt Romney's roof-tied dog

Rolling Stone reports that the band DEVO "are set to release a track later this month entitled "Don't Roof Rack Me, Bro! (Remember Seamus)." It is inspired by Mitt Romney's notorious road trip from Massachusetts to Ontario, during which he transported the family dog, Seamus, in a kennel strapped to the roof of his station wagon." More at THR. (thanks, GEF)

Vote against CISPA, SOPA and PIPA in 2012

A reader writes, "The Bill of Rights Defense Committee has a list of candidates who are running for Congress who strongly oppose indefinite detention of American citizens and SOPA/CISPA. The link also mentions current incumbents who are working to defend the Internet." Cory

Anti-Super-PAC Super PAC

George Soros's son Jonathan is running a Super PAC that will run attack ads targeting candidates who oppose abolishing Super PACs. Cory

The science questions Obama and Romney need to answer

During the 2008 election, writer Shawn Otto lead a charge to get the presidential candidates to unambiguously and publicly explain their positions on key questions concerning science and public policy. The questions were chosen through a process that involved the general public, as well as scientists and engineers. Science Debate 2008 was intended to be a televised debate on PBS—but neither Barak Obama nor John McCain would agree to participate. Eventually, after a lot of pressure, the candidates finally answered the 14 questions ... but only in print, online. No follow-ups.

Now Science Debate is trying again, hoping to engage President Obama and Mitt Romney and get them to treat science with at least the kind of seriousness politicians give their religious beliefs. (The Republican primary, for instance, featured debates that were themed solely around the candidates' faiths.)

With the help of concerned citizens, scientists, engineers, and the nation's leading science and engineering organizations, Science Debate has put together a list of 14 questions for the 2012 presidential race.

2. Climate Change. The Earth’s climate is changing and there is concern about the potentially adverse effects of these changes on life on the planet. What is your position on cap-and-trade, carbon taxes, and other policies proposed to address global climate change—and what steps can we take to improve our ability to tackle challenges like climate change that cross national boundaries?

9. The Internet. The Internet plays a central role in both our economy and our society. What role, if any, should the federal government play in managing the Internet to ensure its robust social, scientific, and economic role?

You can read the rest of the questions at ScienceDebate.org. Once you've done that—if you agree this is important—sign the petition calling for the candidates to devote a debate to science and the ways that it will affect their public policy choices. These are important issues. We need to know what the candidates think if we're going to be fully informed voters. It's time to make science part of the political discourse.

ScienceDebate.org

Romney, the NAACP, and tactical booing

Everyone's seen the video of Mitt Romney being booed at an address to the NAACP where he promised to kill "Obamacare" (AKA Romneycare). But did he plan on being booed? "He’s not likely to receive many black votes in any case, and boos would allow him to look principled in the face of opposition and bolster his image with independents and conservatives" Cory

The sad, unintentionally funny history of America's vice presidents

Smithsonian has a fun article on America's top second-banana—the vice presidency—a job that John Adams, the first vice-president, described as "the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived."

Lest you think Dan Quayle was the first VP mocked in the press, or that The Onion's superb (if fictional) coverage of Joe Biden was some uniquely inventive portrayal of what vice presidents do with their time, Tony Horwitz is here to set you straight. The truth is that the vice presidency has a very long history of mediocrity, wackiness, and lack of purpose.

The Constitution also failed to specify the powers and status of vice presidents who assumed the top office. In fact, the second job was such an afterthought that no provision was made for replacing VPs who died or departed before finishing their terms. As a result, the office has been vacant for almost 38 years in the nation’s history.

Until recently, no one much cared. When William R.D. King died in 1853, just 25 days after his swearing-in (last words: “Take the pillow from under my head”), President Pierce gave a speech addressing other matters before concluding “with a brief allusion” to the vice president’s death. Other number-twos were alive but absentee, preferring their own homes or pursuits to an inconsequential role in Washington, where most VPs lived in boardinghouses (they had no official residence until the 1970s). Thomas Jefferson regarded his vice presidency as a “tranquil and unoffending station,” and spent much of it at Monticello. George Dallas (who called his wife “Mrs. Vice”) maintained a lucrative law practice, writing of his official post: “Where is he to go? What has he to do?—no where, nothing.” Daniel Tompkins, a drunken embezzler described as a “degraded sot,” paid so little heed to his duties that Congress docked his salary.

Read the rest of the story at Smithsonianmag.com

How 100-million year old geology affects modern presidential elections

The image above shows the outcome of the 2008 presidential elections in the American South. Counties that swung Republican are in red. Counties that swung Democratic are in blue. The result shows more than just the modern political landscape. In fact, the blue counties trace the outline of an ancient coastline, from a time when much of the South and Central-West parts of North America were inundated with shallow, tropical seas.

I love this article by Dr. M at the Deep Sea News blog, which explains the geologic history of these oceans and explains why an ancient sea would affect modern politics.

During the Cretaceous, 139-65 million years ago, shallow seas covered much of the southern United States. These tropical waters were productive–giving rise to tiny marine plankton with carbonate skeletons which overtime accumulated into massive chalk formations. The chalk, both alkaline and porous, lead to fertile and well-drained soils in a band, mirroring that ancient coastline and stretching across the now much drier South. This arc of rich and dark soils in Alabama has long been known as the Black Belt.

...Over time this rich soil produced an amazingly productive agricultural region, especially for cotton. In 1859 alone a harvest of over 4,000 cotton bales was not uncommon within the belt. And yet, just tens of miles north or south this harvest was rare. Of course this level of cotton production required extensive labor.

Read the rest of the story at Deep Sea News