Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Post Election Post Mortem

Now that another election has passed, I have some followup on a post I did last major election season two years ago (see link below).

I’ll start with an oddity I discovered this morning that I’m trying to resolve. Last time I noted that we lived just 9 houses in to a district run by a politician I called “Porky”, and that distance away from a district run by Daniel Webster, a rather genteel politician whose district we would have preferred to be in. Much to our surprise, we found that for 2012, Webster was on the ballot as the option for our US rep, against a Democratic challenger who likely would have been only slightly less effective. It was a much nicer race than Webster vs Grayson, to be sure, and we likely would have been happy with either of them winning.

But wait a minute. I checked our political map this morning, the one right from the US Government website…and it says we’re still part of Porky’s district.

Uh – what?

I’m hoping this simply means the Government website hasn’t been updated after redistricting yet. I’d hate to start another political scandal here in Florida.

More seriously, although I won’t discuss politics in depth here, I will offer some observations relevant to one of our themes here -- that of the ease of spreading misinformation.

Like many of you, especially in swing states, we got the obligatory pile of junk mail begging for our vote. (Not even the candidates who claim to be friendly to the environment seem to be able to stop sending those.) One of these concerned Webster, and was sent by what I assume was a PAC; it was not from his opponents’ campaign. It featured a picture of an SUV driving over Florida’s state line, and arrows labeled with things like “assault rifle” and “ammo for rifle,” etc. The charge on the flyer said, in effect, Daniel Webster supported a bill to allow violent criminals and sexual offenders to bring dangerous weapons like these into Florida.

From this, you might think they mean someone actually posted and sponsored a bill that directly said, “Bill to Allow Convicted Criminals to Bring Assault Rifles From Other States” and that Webster voted for it. That seemed way out of line, as did many such claims on these flyers, but just for fun, and knowing that something of that nature would be far out of character for what we knew of Webster, I decided to check it out.

Rather brazenly, the flyer included a bill reference – which I can tell they didn’t expect people to look up. Why? Because once you did so, it became clear even to someone as ignorant as a fundy atheist that the bill said no such thing.
Rather, the bill was (generally speaking) a proposal that Florida allow those who have guns in other states to be able to observe the laws of their home state concerning guns while they were in Florida. 

Now, arguably, it could be said, that MIGHT mean that if there were another state with much less strict gun laws (say, where a convicted criminal was allowed to have an assault rifle legally!), this MIGHT allow said criminal to bring in his rifle, and as a result of this permissive attitude (we assume) start firing away at innocent citizens. I’ll pare that down further by noting that technically, this only matters if said state that said criminal comes from or through is either Georgia or Alabama – which alone border on Florida. And then we have to ask why either GA or AL is allowing felons to have assault rifles in the first place.

Now, let me make this clear – on the surface, I’m not sure I’d support such a law anyway, even as stated. I’d have to do some serious research (if I were a US representative) before deciding on that. The point here has to do with the  brazen assumption by the distributors of this flyer that they can so easily get away with such a remarkable “spin”.

Of course they can. In the Wikipedia Age, they can rightly expect that less than 1 percent of those who receive the flyer will look up that reference. (Which is not always insignificant, of course – as in this case, where Webster won his race 52-48 percent.) And why not, when the same thing can be said of nonsense claims made by everyone from Acharya S to Jack Chick? Hardly anyone looks up the claims of these wackos. They either dismiss it or swallow it, and on we go.

Just one more reason why every election season, I’m sorely tempted to write in “Donald Duck” as a candidate for every post.




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