Newsweek has run a debunking article about claims being made in the Anne Kilkenny email, and other "fact" sheets being circulated around the internet about Governor Palin. A few of the salient points:
"Palin did not cut funding for special needs education in Alaska by 62 percent. She didn't cut it at all. In fact, she tripled per-pupil funding over just three years."
"She did not demand that books be banned from the Wasilla library. Some of the books on a widely circulated list were not even in print at the time."
"She was never a member of the Alaskan Independence Party, a group that wants Alaskans to vote on whether they wish to secede from the United States. She's been registered as a Republican since May 1982."
"Palin never endorsed or supported Pat Buchanan for president. She once wore a Buchanan button as a "courtesy" when he visited Wasilla, but shortly afterward she was appointed to co-chair of the campaign of Steve Forbes in the state."
"Palin has not pushed for teaching creationism in Alaska's schools. She has said that students should be allowed to "debate both sides" of the evolution question, but she also said creationism "doesn't have to be part of the curriculum.""
I'm proposing that we UU bloggers set a new standard on the internet. Let's all try to fact-check our posts before posting. Most of the ones above, like the DK diaries that caused the initial firestorm needed only a Google to correct. Here's some tip-offs that should alert you to something that needs a fact-check:
"So and so slashed funding for such and such". This is a trick both parties use, at all levels of government. The way it works is to first pass a ridiculously large increase in your pet program; then, when the Mayor or Governor or President does the responsible thing and cuts it back to a reasonable number, you can claim he "slashed the budget". This is easy to debunk- just compare the previous budget to the current one. Virtually any time money is mentioned in a political ad, some such trick has been pulled. For example, both President Clinton and the then newly elected Republican Congress tried to claim credit for a balanced budget. They were both lying. When you look closely, you'll notice that the national debt increased during those years- and if you have a balanced budget, which includes your loan payments, your debt load does not go up.
A corollary to the above is to claim that someone has "cut standards" or "eliminated safeguards". It works the same way; establish some ludicrous regulation, then castigate them for changing it to a realistic number. Since lay people don't know what the reasonable standards should be, it's very effective.
Big numbers being thrown around without explanation or definition. For example, an editorial in the local paper spoke of the thousands of acres being lost to urban sprawl in Indiana every year. Alarmed, I looked it up- there are 640 acres per square mile, and 35,870 square miles of land in Indiana, for a total of 22,956,800 acres. I breathed a little easier. Or when Mitch Snyder, the homeless advocate, claimed that 45 homeless people die per second. That was repeated a number of times in the news before someone actually picked up a pocket calculator and figured out that would mean 1.4 billion dead per year!
Any claim of fact that doesn't reference a publicly available source to cross check.