Skepchick Quickies, 6.21


Jen is a writer and web designer/developer in Columbus, Ohio. She spends too much time on Twitter at @antiheroine.

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  1. The whole thing about political mudslinging would be fixed if they would simply make it illegal to lie or knowingly repeat a lie during a campaign. It’s simple. If you’re saying something about your opponent (or about yourself for that matter) and it turns out to be not true and you either knew it to not be true or didn’t investigate to find out, you GO TO JAIL.

    And if you lie while actually IN office, then something worse happens to you… like you’re forced to listen to a duet between Barry Manilow and Yoko Ono or something….

  2. South Carolina is like a weird political Wario World. It is the only state that can make me want a Tea Partier to win an election just to spite the racists and religious fundamentalists. What a world!

  3. @swordsbane: I don’t know about this case specifically, but generally mud slinging lies don’t come from the campaign itself but are spread by “supporters” with a wink and a nod from the campaign. Just look at the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth back in the 2004 campaign.

    The cuckoldry data is interesting. I have to admit that I previously thought that pretty much everyone was cheating on each other all the time. My guess would be that now that people wait until they’re older to get married or don’t get married at all, there will be less incidence of infidelity.

  4. I am guessing that the canyon created by the flood will be fodder for the creationists. They will tout this for their young earth theory. sigh.

    I agree with Swordsbane – there should be harsh punishments to any public servant who breaks the public trust by criminal acts.
    There should be immediate removal (permanently) of any public servant who lies, or who knowingly or not, insinuates any lie about anyone.
    There should be a 20 ban of any campaign worker from participating in campaigns if they do any of the above.
    The Randall case springs to mind in particular. He didn’t even try to hide behind the rumor mill of his campaign workers with his blatant insinuations.

  5. @Non Believer: Indeed, the YECs will tout this out, but they will fail to realize that it actually debunks their claims even further. Fast carved canyons are straight. Slow carved canyons like the Grand Canyon are very meandering. Of course, try telling that to a YEC and you’ll want to pull out your hair.

  6. Hi there!

    From the “cuckoldry” article: “Yes, I’m making a normative assumption here that if you’re male you should be displeased if you find out that children whom you assumed were your biological offspring turn out not to be. If, on the other hand, you think it’s fun and adds more zest to your life, you’re just kind of weird”.

    Why does it seem like scientific studies have gone out of their way to mention ME specifically??

    (But then, I don’t actually have kids. I just think it would be kind of exciting to be cuckolded) :D

  7. I know I shouldn’t but I’m loving the SC campaign. It is great fun to watch two hateful bigots trying to be the more conservative.

    I take the same pleasure from this that I do when the idiot in the giant pickup truck cuts me off in traffic and speeds off down the highway and then gets pulled over for a speeding ticket.

    On the cheating woman thing. It bothers me that the implication is that you would reject a child because it wasn’t your sperm. What? I find out years later that I didn’t contribute the male dna so now I don’t love my child anymore? Fuck that. I love my kids no matter if it was my cum or not.

  8. @banyan: I’m talking about press conferences and debates and the web sites of the candidates… Blatant lying is all over… from the mouths of the politicians themselves. We have slander and libel laws, but apparently they aren’t enforced in an election when saying or writing things about your opponent (or yourself) can actually have dire consequences, not only for them but for the country (ie getting the wrong guy elected) I mean I’m all for freedom of speech and all, but there’s got to be a difference between speaking your mind and actively trying to mislead people for your own gain. I thought that we called that fraud and sent people to jail for it.

  9. @Zapski: I would include news programs, at least the one’s who claim to be news agencies (although there would be trouble with Fox News which seems to make the claim only when it suits them and then deny it other times) The particular bias of a media outlet isn’t nearly as important as simply whether or not they get their facts straight. They should be bound like a witness in court, sworn to tell the whole truth and nothing but or be charged with perjury (or an equivalent). They have the resources to check their facts better than you and I can hope to, yet frequently anyone with an internet connection and a passing familiarity with Google seems to do a much better job. I’m willing to cut them SOME slack, but the way things stand now is ridiculous.

    The news media is supposed to INFORM us, not tell us what opinion we should have, get only the facts that support that opinion and then even distort THOSE facts.

  10. The reality is that some truly huge and amazing land formations, canyons and displaced rock and earth can occur from floods. However these are generally catastrophic and happened in the Ice Age. The breaching of Lake Missoula a number of times many thousands of years ago did some big deep canyon stuff in central Washington that if you have not seen you would think it was CGI for an off planet SciFi movie. The new canyon in Texas is really small potatoes compared to Dry Falls and the canyons created by the Missoula floods. Here are some pictures of what a big flood can do.

  11. @Gabrielbrawley: I think, in part, it would depend on when you learned. At any point, I think learning that the child being attributed to you was not yours would lead to anger at the mother, and it would be natural (not correct, but natural) for some of that anger to spill over onto the child. If the child is older, and you’ve built a relationship with them, I think it is less likely that anger at the mom will carry over to the child.

  12. @swordsbane:

    The trouble with that, I would think, is establishing a legal standard for a lie. Say I’m reading a speech and misstate a statistic. Was that a lie or did I just misremember? If a politician says “I will support this bill!” and later decides not to, did he or she lie, or were they just changing their mind based on new information? What if a politician says “I’m Catholic”, but they’re pro-choice (which is in opposition to official church doctrine)? Is that a lie?

    Also, I could say something like “there’s evidence that global warming is not happening”, which is ambiguous enough to not be false, but it’s still a statement intended to deceive.

    I agree with the gut sentiment that politicians should have to pay for their lies, I just don’t think it’s practical to legally hold them accountable. It would spawn frivolous lawsuits galore, and compel politicians to speak in (even more) vague platitudes so that they can’t be pinned down to any position on anything in order to avoid prosecution under such laws.

  13. @swordsbane: When a new law comes on the books, it’s useful to ask yourself, “If I were a corrupt politician, how could I abuse this law?” For example, is there a way you could use this law to get your opponent thrown in jail? Say, something like, arrange for false information about yourself to be leaked to your opponent’s campaign then, after they publish it, have your campaign expose the lie. Or something like that.

  14. @jtradke: I’m talking about the obvious things, not simply things that can be attributed to a slip of the tongue or a change of mind, but for instance in this last election, does the phrase “Obama is a Muslim” ring a bell? How about “I never voted for that bill.” ?? Or maybe “I have always voted against special interest.”?? “I never said that.”

    It may not be practical to make them scrupulously honest, but when they say something in a press conference or a debate, or even in an interview, then they have an obligation to either make sure it’s true or say they don’t know. They need to be at least partially responsible in a legal sense for making sure they are telling the truth. They should NOT be allowed to say anything they want to and not be held (yes, legally) to a standard that is at least slightly above the rest of us. It’s not against the law for the rest of us to lie…. unless we’re in court. I just want to place the same constraints on candidates (and sitting politicians) when they’re in front of the cameras, a microphone or writing an email, with the force of law behind it so that they have a reason to take the truth seriously.

    @Steve D : I use that method all the time, which is why I usually vote against everything. When in doubt, vote “no” is my motto, but again, I’m talking about the obvious things, the kind of stuff that shows up on FactCheck.org. The kind of stuff that all it takes is for someone to actually CHECK the friggen public record. There is absolutely no excuse for any politician getting those things wrong. That is past the point where you can get away with “I misspoke” or “I didn’t know.” We’re talking about the potential leaders of the country here. They’re SUPPOSED to know truth from lies. At the very least, the easy ones. Otherwise, what the hell are we electing them for?

    Maybe if we started throwing them in jail for playing dirty, they wouldn’t try so hard to play dirty, and if one of them finds a loophole to get his opponent into trouble, he’s got to know it can happen to him. I lived under Mutually Assured Destruction for twenty years. Maybe it’s about time they lived with it for a while. The worst that happens is that we have to throw a hundred or so crooked people into jail. I don’t see the downside. Last I heard, running for office was voluntary. It shouldn’t be a prize. It should be a job, and a hard one.

  15. The timing of the cuckoldry article is bananas. Just last night I was reading through my notes from Biomedical Ethics at a program at Cambridge University, and the 10% mistaken paternity stat was mentioned (50% in rural communities*).

    This coincidence must be fate! Skepchick and my life are inherently linked!

    *Year 2002 me didn’t take very detailed notes, so I have no references, no definition of ‘rural community,’ nor do I know if these stats are UK or global.

  16. This “make it illegal to lie” bit is perhaps the worst idea regarding politics I have ever heard. For one thing, yeah, the whole “how do you define a lie” bit. Sometimes people go out and tell huge whoppers that everyone knows is true but other times there are things that could be called lies – even stupid things like “Obama was born in Kenya” – that, if coded into law, would have a chilling effect on free speech.

    And then on top of that it does nothing to solve our biggest issue with politicians, which is that we’ve made politics into such a media circus that the only people who ever want to become politicians are full-on idealists who don’t care how badly their own name is damaged as long as they can foist their beliefs off on others and flat-out corrupt folks who accept all the character damage as part of the game. If anything, the “lies send you to jail” law would make it *less* likely for normal people to want to seek office. Normal people occasionally make comments that turn out not to be true, either because they were misinformed or they thought they could get away with it or some other reason. When a politician does this, people sometimes go absolutely insane about this and the person is forever branded a big fat liar about everything, extending into their personal lives. And you want to add jail time to this?

    Take Al Gore for instance. In 2000 his campaign, however better or worse it was outside of this, was hammered by his GIANT LIE OMG about “creating the Internet” (which itself would have been a true statement if he used “helped to create” instead of “created” and added “as we know it today” at the end, because he and Newt Gingrich really did sit at the vanguard for much of the funding for research in the late 80s that helped to put together the World Wide Web… but anyway) and the LIE OMGOMGOMG about him and Tipper being the inspiration for “Love Story” (itself also partially true; the untrue part was Tipper’s side, not Al’s). You know why I bring this up? Whether or not Al Gore invented the Internet with his bare hands and whether or not he was the inspiration for a crappy movie from the 70s HAS NO BEARING ON HIS ABILITY TO BE PRESIDENT. GUH.

    *That* is the real scandal here, folks. We allow and even encourage our political figures to send out emotionally charged but ultimately useless character attacks in the name of politics and, what is worse, we seem to use them to pick who to elect. And who are we going to throw in jail for *that*? The politicians, who are just doing what’s popular, or the American public, who is loving every minute of this BS as we transform our entire election structure into one long episode of “The Real World”? Well, we can’t throw 100 million people into jail so instead we need to all be a bit more proactive about now allowing stupid character shit to infect our voting patterns.

  17. “For one thing, yeah, the whole “how do you define a lie” bit. Sometimes people go out and tell huge whoppers that everyone knows is true but other times there are things that could be called lies – even stupid things like “Obama was born in Kenya” – that, if coded into law, would have a chilling effect on free speech.”

    What do you mean “How do you define a lie?” Have we sunk that low that we can’t tell anymore? We can’t stop all of them, and we shouldn’t. It is impossible to know what they believe verses what they know is untrue, but we can (and should) make them responsible for knowing certain truths.

    Like I said, use the public record. Make them responsible for knowing the public record and if they say anything that is contradicted by the public record throw them in jail. Using your example, saying Obama was born in Kenya would be a punishable offense because the damned birth certificate is ON RECORD. It’s not a matter of opinion. You have a document that is a legal birth certificate that is on file where anyone can look at it and has been examined by a crap-load of people who say it’s real. Less than a minute with Google will tell you all of this, so tell me… how do YOU define a “lie”. If a candidate said it before the birth certificate was produced, then it would not be a punishable offense because there is nothing on record to contradict that statement. Where’s the “chilling effect” there? If it takes me all of five minutes to find out that what McCain just said in a press conference isn’t true, then it counts as a lie. It is either something he knows is not true, or if he doesn’t know it’s not true then he should know, so why the hell should he be able to get away with saying it??

    I’m not talking about making it illegal to tell any lie and I’m not talking about applying this law to everyone. This is not about free speech. This encourages politicians, candidates and the news media to TELL THE TRUTH or at as much of the truth as can be verified. It is hardly the “worst idea regarding politics” and it’s depressing that anyone would call it that.

  18. And arguing that it is the voting public that is the real problem is beside the point. If that’s true, then legislation like this wouldn’t make it into law. If it isn’t true, then arguing it is is silly. It’s our job to come up with ideas and then convince people that they are good ideas to MAKE them popular, not argue about whether or not they ARE popular.

  19. I am of the opinion that if people are that concerned about the shape of some lady’s lady-lips, then they should stick to Photoshopping it rather than requiring said lady to have the ‘offending’ area physically trimmed!

    And I would like to add that I have no issue with my willy, thank you, and am heartily happy that my parents left me whole in that department!

  20. No, sorry, it’s not that easy to define a lie. If Obama promised to get the oil spill cleaned by July 1 and the day passed, is that a lie? If a politician in Alabama says he thinks that dinosaurs are fake, is he lying or is he just misguided? If that dude from Connecticut says he served in the Nam again, was that a flat-out lie in terms of being intentionally malicious, or did he just make a slip of the tongue and not correct it because he was in front of a crowd at the time?

    That’s not a road I want to go down, no thanks.

    Also, to the specific example of the Birthers, why in fuck’s name would you want them arrested? Do you not see that by doing so, all you’re doing is martyring them whereas by allowing them to say all the stupid crap they want they make everyone around them look like Grade A idiots? From a pragmatic standpoint, even before we get into talk about how freedom of speech isn’t just the freedom to tell the truth, wack-jobs do the world much more good when they’re allowed to talk then when they’re silenced.

    People who hate politicians lying, in addition to being incredibly naive, are in my experience wanting someone to do the heavy lifting for them. Wah. Politicians lie. You know who else lies? Every freaking one of us. Why do you think you have to polish your BS detector when it comes to deciding whether or not to take vitamins (hint: no) or drink water with the essence of a baby in it to terminate your unwanted pregnancy (hint: if that is your thinking, GET AN ABORTION NOW), whether that person who refuses to vaccinate their child is mentally retarded or just plain evil, or what aspects of global warming are true and/or something we can do something about, and *not* what politicians say? We live in a world that requires critical thinking. Yelling “LIAR! GO TO JAIL DUE TO FLAMING PANTS” does not change that fact.

  21. @Johnny Slick: Nice try, but we already put people in jail for lying, so arguing against this as a free-speech issue doesn’t work. I’m just trying to apply the same rules we apply to perjury to the political world. Isn’t politics AT LEAST as important as a court of law? I’m not trying to put people into jail for speaking untruths. I want to put them in jail for LYING!!!!! And I said over and over that I don’t want to put them in jail for ALL lying, and I don’t want to apply this to supporters or even PACs. I want to apply it to the politicians and candidates themselves and (possibly to a lesser degree) News agencies. It would not apply to creationism because that is an opinion (unless they lie about the details of evolution). A broken promise is not a lie (at least not necessarily) and is usually it’s own reward, even saying that Obama wasn’t born in the US isn’t a lie (as is saying that his birth certificate is a fake without evidence), but saying that he isn’t a natural born United States citizen IS a lie. And although breaking a promise isn’t a lie, saying that you DIDN’T break your promise later would be. As for someone lying about his service record why wouldn’t he correct himself? Why shouldn’t he correct himself? and why shouldn’t he suffer the consequences if he lies, has a chance to take it back and doesn’t?

    Sorry… you can argue free-speech all you want, but I’m not buying it.

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