Wednesday, December 14, 2011

PolitiFalse

I know I haven’t written on this thing for a while; but something has gotten me so steamed recently that I feel the need to express it publicly, and I’m frankly shocked no one else has bothered to talk about it.

Last week the Daily Show did one of their better bits in recent years on the War on Christmas. Peppering the usual outraged diatribe with fun-filled facts extracted from a History Channel Special, Jon and Co. asserted that the first Congress considered Christmas so un-sacred that they actually convened on Christmas Day in 1789, and for most of the 67 years after. You can watch the entire clip below:


The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Tree Fighting Ceremony
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The problem? This supposed fact isn’t true (or is it?). A couple days later the so-called PolitiFact posted an article claiming this statement was so false, it was Pants-On-Fire worthy.

Normally, who gives a shit, right? I mean, it’s the Daily Show. They may win Emmys for the quality of their work, but no one is really turning to a comedy show for Congressional trivia…particularly when they’re only referencing trivia from a more reliable source, anyway.

But that’s the point, isn’t it? If PolitiFact is right that Congress didn’t convene on Christmas Day in 1789, why does the History Channel (and multiple other sources) claim that they did?

This is a question no one appears to be asking. On Facebook there are hundreds of comments pointing out that the “lie” wasn’t Stewart’s; it was in fact the History Channel’s, since that was Jon’s source. But no one appears to be questioning whether it is PolitiFact that has its pants on fire.

I’m not a Congressional or Christmas scholar, so I’ll leave it to someone else to eventually determine whether PolitiFact is correct. But I find their reasoning questionable at best. The History Channel should be a relatively reliable source of historical information. Where did they go wrong?

To start, let’s look at PolitiFact’s sources. The first is a phone call to one Donald Ritchie, an historian of the U.S. Senate. Sounds like a good source, right? Don “had his doubts.” Translation: he didn’t actually know the fucking answer. Next.

PolitiFact then proceeded to “dig into the records.” This apparently consisted simply of going to the US Senate’s website to see the start and end dates of the 1789 Congressional session, and then extrapolating from those records. This was followed up by going to ANOTHER website to browse through the congressional journals from that year. I salute that they did some additional research, but this leaves a little bit to be desired before denouncing someone as a liar.

Juxtaposed against this is still the History Channel, who apparently no one ever bothered to call in order to determine from where they acquired their information. There is also the ACLU and numerous other websites (example) making the same proclamation that Congress met on 12.25.1789. Try it yourself!

Perhaps most significant is a quick search at books.google.com, which uncovers multiple published sources asserting Congress met on Christmas Day, 1789. If you are near a local library, maybe you could check out page 288 of The Oxford Handbook of Church and State in the United States by Derek Davis.

Now, here’s a lesson on sources, children. The Senate government website is certainly one of the more reliable websites. But it’s a WEBSITE. Published books and documentaries tend to be written by qualified experts who have to go through a vetting process. When you have to choose between a website and the Oxford Handbook to Anything, you go with the Oxford Handbook.

This basic lesson is lost on some people. In my quest to unearth the truth of the first American Christmas I found this blog, which gleefully chortled “Congress had adjourned its session on September 29, 1789, and did not reconvene until January 4, 1790. That took one click on Wikipedia to confirm. But you know, why bother.” It took all my willpower not to observe that, granted that if you’re a conservative there’s only a 1-in-4 chance you are college educated (Pew Research!), you should still know better than to trust Wikipedia as a reliable font of information. Particularly in the face of more reliable sources.

Which brings us back to the PolitiFact article. Your research is interesting, young Padawan. But it’s hardly conclusive. Certainly not conclusive enough to denounce someone else as a liar.

So why does this matter? BECAUSE no one is questioning PolitiFact. Because they’re becoming guilty of the very thing they pretend to deride. In the conservative blog above one commenter asserts Jon is a liar because he had a willful disregard for the truth, reflexively regurgitating a “fact” without investigating its veracity. Aren’t you guilty of the same thing, trusting a PolitiFact article without questioning its reliability?

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Here At The End Of All Things

I can see a few people still read this thing, so I'm just gonna come out and say it: in a few weeks, I'm shutting this down. I had fun blogging back in law school and tried to keep it going during What Comes After but the truth is I just don't have any interest in this anymore. I had intended to let this just die back in December but a few people wanted to know what was going on between me and C.M. Which is really the point. Blogging about C.M. when she was just a girl at work I had a crush on was one thing. But I think it's sort of inappropriate to be writing about her on the Internet now that we've got an actual relationship going. Also I'd rather save my wittiness for her than you people. If I keep blogging I'll feel obligated to show this to her some day, and the truth is I really don't want to show this to her.

We had some good times, though! Don't be sad.

'At least, dear friends, on the shores of the Sea, we come to the end of our fellowship here in Middle-Earth. Go in peace! I will not say, "Do not weep," for not all tears are an evil.'

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Noob Definitely Made Those Tracks

Here's how CM and I spend our workdays:

A Madlib: On The Trail Of Bigfoot

One Bleached day, our class went hiking along the Duluth River. Like all Beached hikers, we were ready for any emergency. In our backpacks, we carried Whales, Whale-Steak, and one Dominant Male Turkey During Mating Season.

As we walked along the trail, Dr Leo Marvin noticed a(n) Gooey footprint. “Do you think a(n) Noob made these tracks?” Dr Leo Marvin asked.

“No, but let's follow them anyway,” suggested [anonymous coworker].

We Exploded for hours. Then I screamed, “Humbug!! I think I see a huge Appendix.

OMG!” we heard someone say. It was Amanda Hugginkiss.

Amanda Hugginkiss!” we screamed. “We thought you were a huge Appendix!

“Do I look like a huge Appendix? Well, as long as you're all here, you can help me look for Madlibs. There are lots of them here along the Duluth River. We can take them back to school and study them under our microscopes.”

OMG!!” everyone said.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Back By Two People's Demand

I am too lazy to write a post about C.M. Here, however, for your perusal is an email she sent me over the weekend. From it you should be able to figure out how things are proceeding without too much trouble..."provenance," I believe archaeologists (and the French, it you believe etymologists) call it.

You're a really impressive guy, Big Tuna. The last thing I would want is to set up expectations that I cannot ultimately meet. If you want to have a conversation about whatever is going on between us, I think that is a fine idea. I would probably end up telling you that I think the feelings are relatively mutual. When I said I like you "quite a bit," it was more of my way of saying I like you a whole heck of a lot. The problem is that liking someone this much while trying to figure out an engagement is pretty scary for me. For the time being, I don't feel right acting upon it so I guess if that means putting things on hold, then that's probably what we should do. If you want to talk about anything further that's cool with me. You'll still remain the reason I get excited about coming to work!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Phone Conversatoin With My Mother

[As my father hands her the phone] "So, wait, how do I end the call when we're done? I just press End Cal--"

Click.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Story So Far

Oh. Hello. I didn't see you there. How was your weekend? Mine was good. I did some stuff for work, taught myself to play squash left-handed. Oh, and some stuff happened with CM, too. The good news: it's official; she's breaking up with her fiance. O'Doyle rules!

The bad news? She's break up with her fiance, of course! That's a lot of chaos in a person's life, and we've decided to table anything until she feels like she's gotten that part of her life resolved. We didn't discuss it much further than that, but I suspect we'll have to insert a cooling-off period as well. Still, I feel like things are going quite well for me right now. One of you loyal readers sent me an email yesterday suggesting I was in a pickle here, but the truth is this has been about the easiest thing I've ever done. Things are just falling into place. I've never been with someone who made me feel so good about myself for just being myself.

That's the real problem. My gut tells me that things are going great, but my head doesn't trust this. It's too easy, too simple. My head thinks something's afoot. God is setting a trap, and C.M.'s the bait! God wouldn't just LET me be happy after 27 years of working so hard to prevent it.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Picture is Worth 1,000 Whiny Blog Posts

CM doesn't have a facebook page, but here's a picture of her I was able to find. She's the one in the middle?


Awkward Cute Mentee Moment #15

I honestly did not intend to number these so sequentially. Things have not proceeded as I had foreseen.

Today is CM's birthday. Of course I got her a gift! Her favorite quote from The Office is "Bears beats Battlestar Galactica," so I got her:

1. A plush Christmas bear.
2. A beet.
3. A picture of the Battlestar Galactica I downloaded off the Internet.

Now she's been spending the rest of the day emailing me possible recipes we can use for the beet. So far we've discovered recipes for both beet wine and beet ice cream.

By the way, I appreciate the advice, but I think the gainfully-employed Mikhail is getting closest to the mark: I don't think she's engaged anymore. She hasn't worn her ring in a week. She's working on her house by herself. How is she spending her birthday this weekend? We're going to see a movie. C-block successfully deployed. We think.