Sunday, September 28, 2008

Looking for Good Information about Candidates

Our family watched some of the debate on Friday night. I was not impressed by either candidate. On the other hand, neither candidate really came across as disturbing to me. McCain has been one of my favorite Republicans on the national scene (there aren't many I like in Washington), although he is no Richard Lugar, that's for sure. Obama is one of my favorite Democrats, so it's always nice to see him take a stand. I think that both candidates said some misleading things, and I can't stand to watch people spew bad information. As a scholar, good information is what I want, and I look at bad information the way some people look at spiders or snakes. It makes me uncomfortable. And so, after about an hour of the debate, we turned off the television and turned on a DVD player to watch an episode of Deep Space Nine.

But, what to do about politics? We need to stay informed.
In watching politics, I like to recommend the neutral fact-checking websites.

These are:
Fact Check (The Annenberg Foundation )
Pros and Cons
Fact Checker (Michael Dobbs at the Washington Post), and
PolitiFact (St. Petersburg Times and the Congressional Quarterly)
Health Care 2008 (Kaiser Family Foundation)

Another useful tool is the Project Vote Smart site.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


Yesterday was constitution day, and so our university had a panel discussion of the first amendment and freedom of the press. The experts discussed election coverage a bit, and this inspired me to consider how much I know about the platforms of the three major parties in the U.S. (The Green Party is a major party in Illinois, where they received over 10% of the vote for governor in the last election). From the media I know a great deal about campaign strategies and opinion polls and political advertising, but I don't know details about about what the candidates are actually proposing to do.

I look for about 20 minutes online to find basic summaries from neutral analysts, but I couldn't find any decent comparative coverage of actual positions on issues. It seems the candidates have not responded to the Project Vote Smart surveys, so that wasn't available.

I at last turned to the official websites of the campaigns. I've collected what the official websites say (and the Green Party shares a draft of their party platform, but not a final draft yet). I've put it all into a 29-page Microsoft Word document using a table with three columns, one for each party, and rows for each issue. I haven't done any editing, I've just copied and pasted what the parties say they want.

You can download the party platform information from this link to the paper [Word doc, 398 KB].