Beware of nonsense – political and otherwise

Get ready, it is the last weekend in August, which means the campaigns are about to begin in earnest. Estimates of how much super-PAC money alone will be spent between Labor Day and Nov. 6 on television commercials, nearly all of them negative, starting at $500 million. Because of this bombardment, I have decided to severely limit my commercial TV watching from Labor Day to Nov. 6.

Don’t get me wrong. This is probably the most important campaign of my lifetime, certainly the one with the starkest differences between the two parties on the most important issues the country faces. I’m going to follow developments and arguments carefully, but in print media, and – most of all – on the Internet.

If you know where and how to look, there is no better way to find out and analyze the differences between the candidates. You will certainly learn more from reputable Internet news sources and the official websites of the candidates than you will sitting in front of your television set.

Of course, sitting at your computer desk has its own dangers. Do you get some of the emails I do? I got this recently from a good friend:

“No one has been able to explain to me why young men and women serve in the U.S. Military for 20 years, risking their lives protecting freedom, and only get 50 percent of their pay on retirement. While Politicians hold their political positions in the safe confines of the capital, protected by these same men and women, and receive full-pay retirement after serving one term. It just does not make any sense.”

I emailed back to my friend it really does not make any sense because it isn’t true. Members of Congress do not receive full pay retirement. They are part of the same contributing retirement plan as other civilian federal employees.

Or take this one, suggesting what to do if you are connected to a customer service telephone representative from outside the U.S.:

“After you connect and you realize that the customer service representative is not from the USA (you can always ask if you are not sure about the accent), please, very politely (this is not about trashing other cultures) say, ‘I’d like to speak to a customer service representative in the United States of America.’ The rep might suggest talking to his/her manager, but, again, politely say, ‘Thank you, but I’d like to speak to a customer service representative in the USA.’ YOU WILL BE IMMEDIATELY BE CONNECTED TO A REP IN THE USA. That’s the rule and the LAW. It takes less than one minute to have your call re-directed to the USA.”

Wrong again. As you will be told if you check this email out on, there have been bills introduced in Congress concerning foreign call centers, but none have become law.

What gets me about these phony chain emails is they seem to live on and on. I got this next one last week, but I know it was sent to me at least two or three other times as far back as 2009. The headline is “What Nancy Pelosi didn’t want us to know until the healthcare bill was passed.”

It lists item by item, 48 “egregious” provisions of HB 3200. The health care bill that actually became law, HB 3590, was a very different one, but that’s hardly the main problem. According to, a Project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, the 48 claims include 26 that are false, 18 that are misleading and 4 that are true.

All I mean to suggest is, no matter how close a friend your email sender is, remember that nonsense travels just as rapidly over the Internet as anything else. The two sites mentioned above are among the good places to check on the accuracy of your emails.

Getting back to using the Internet as your primary source of campaign information, if you are willing to spend the time and often double-check your sources, you will find everything you need to be an informed voter.

As for me, when I get campaign fatigue and leave the chair in front of my computer, I’ll be watching movies and TV shows from Netflix. If I haven’t persuaded you to do the same, good luck maintaining your sanity as you watch television over the next 72 days.

Originally published 25 August 2012 on