Tuesday, October 09, 2012

7 Web Resources for Election Season

It’s mud-slinging season in the United States, and this one’s a doozy. Same-sex marriage advocates speak louder and with larger platforms than ever before. Pro-lifers continue to debate pro-choicers. Bankers and CEOs lean to the right; universities and tech companies lean to the left. Tea parties have been held; Wall street has been occupied, and everyone, everywhere seems to be hollering about something.

To make matters worse, the internet has opened up a floodgate of information. Every day, between my email in-box, my twitter feed and my facebook account, I get inundated with political messages, sent by hundreds of friends who have inadvertently become activists. They text. The internet delivers. I get overwhelmed.

How am I supposed to know who is right? If I want to make an informed vote based on reliable, unbiased information, where can I go?

The good news: The internet has some answers; we just need to know where to look.

1. WWJD: What Would Jesus Do?
The Bible contains over 30,000 verses, many of which can speak to any situation we face — whether political or everyday. Finding the answer may be as easy as reading the Bible, and to help with that, here are a couple of great Bible web sites:

Bible.cc - search multiple versions by scripture or a phrase, see results for multiple versions and/or languages at once — quick and easy! Includes maps, commentaries and word study tools.

BibleGateway.com - includes some modern translations that bible.cc doesn’t carry (e.g. The Amplified Bible, The Message).

2. Fact or Fiction?

The optimist in me wants to believe everything; the pessimist in me wants to doubt everything, but the realist in me uses sites like these:

FactCheck.org - this site consistently wins the Webby award for the best political site on the internet. FactCheck.org monitors political debates, speeches and articles and then, if errors are made, FactCheck lists the errors and points to the accurate information.

PolitiFact.com - like factcheck.org, but features a “truth-o-meter” ranking statements as true, mostly true, half-true, mostly-false, false, or “liar-liar pants on fire.”

Snopes.com - Any time I get an email or read a facebook message asking me to “pass this on to everybody I know”, I simply don’t. I never pass anything on. I do, however, check the statement against snopes.com — the “definitive Internet reference source for urban legends, folklore, myths, rumors, and misinformation”. I even check things that say “verified by snopes.com” because many things say they’re verified, but they’re actually not.

3. Follow the MoneyTo be elected, it takes money, a “war chest”, but few politicians are rich enough to pay for their own campaigns. They have to recruit supporters, often making agreements that say, “if you help me get elected, I promise I will....” So the questions for voters are: Who’s buying whom? And at what cost? These sites have the answers:
OpenSecrets.org - ran by the Center for Responsible Politics, this bi-partisan site monitors political contributions and expenditures and shows exactly where the money’s coming from and where it’s going.

MapLight.org - this site cross-references the data from opensecrets.org with legislative data from govtrack.us to show how contributions from big corporations and political action committees (PACs) are influencing current legislation.

4. Mud-Slinging on TV? Use This!
If you’re watching a political ad on TV or YouTube and you want to know immediately who’s behind the ad, how much they paid, and whether the claims are fact-based or not, the answer could be as close as the cell phone or tablet in your hand. Android and iPhone apps can listen to ads while they play, match the audio against a database, and provide details in about 30 seconds.

AdHawk.sunlightfoundation.com - For iPhone and Android, Ad Hawk shows who’s behind the ads and how much they spent.

SuperPACApp.org - For the iPhone/iPad only, the Super PAC app also shows what claims are being made and whether the claims are factual or not.

5. Straight From the Horse’s Elephant’s/Donkey’s Mouth
Instead of relying on what someone tells you about a party’s platform, you can go straight to the source and read the party platform yourself. The web sites for the Republican, Democratic and Libertarian parties have downloadable copies of their 2012 platforms.

Republicans: www.gopconvention2012.com/media-portal
Democrats: my.democrats.org/platform
Libertarians: www.lp.org/platform

6. Foreign News Sources

News businesses are businesses — entities that make money by selling news. The more news they sell (or the larger the audience), the more they make. Conservative outlets bias their news to conservative audiences, because that’s where they make their money; likewise, liberal outlets bias to liberal audiences. One way to eliminate some of the conservative/liberal (or republican/democrat) bias is to see what a disinterested party has to say, which is where these foreign news sources come in handy:

rt.com - Moscow, Russia
jpost.com - Jerusalem, Israel
bbc.co.uk - Great Britain

Note: While foreign news sources may be unpolluted by American bias, they still speak with worldly wisdom, which, according to James 3:15, can be earthly, sensual [self-centered] and demonic. No matter where you get your news, always seek the wisdom which is from above (James 3:17).

7. Something for Sunday Morning
All of this web-based information is nice, but what about the pastor who wants to put resources right in the hands of their congregation?

iVoteValues.org - provides resources just for churches and pastors, including:
  • Legal Do’s and Don’ts [worth reading just for this!]
  • Videos
  • Print-ready advertising materials
  • Voter registration materials
  • Presidential voter guides

Sunday, January 01, 2012

The Concerns of a Mouse

From the CyberSalt Digest (www.cybersalt.org):

"What food might this contain?," the mouse wondered. He was devastated to discover it was a mousetrap.

Retreating to the farmyard, the mouse proclaimed this warning:

"There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!"

The chicken clucked and scratched, raised her head and said, "Mr. Mouse, I can tell this is a grave concern to you, but it is of no consequence to me. I cannot be bothered by it."

The mouse turned to the pig and told him, "There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!"

The pig sympathized, but said, "I am so very sorry, Mr. Mouse, but there is nothing I can do about it."

The mouse turned to the cow and said, "There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!"

The cow said, "Wow, Mr. Mouse. I'm sorry for you, but it's no skin off my nose."

So, the mouse returned to the house, head down and dejected, to face the farmer's mousetrap . . . alone.

That very night a sound was heard throughout the house - the sound of a mousetrap catching its prey.

The farmer's wife rushed to see what was caught.

In the darkness, she did not see it.

It was a venomous snake whose tail was caught in the trap.

The snake bit the farmer's wife.

The farmer rushed her to the hospital. When she returned home she still had a fever.

Everyone knows you treat a fever with fresh chicken soup. So the farmer took his hatchet to the farmyard for the soup's main ingredient:

But his wife's sickness continued.

Friends and neighbors came to sit with her around the clock. To feed them, the farmer butchered the pig.

But, alas, the farmer's wife did not get well . . . she died.

So many people came for her funeral that the farmer had the cow slaughtered to provide enough meat for all of them for the
funeral luncheon..

And the mouse looked upon it all from his crack in the wall with great sadness.

So, the next time you hear someone is facing a problem and you think it doesn't concern you, remember: When one of us is threatened, we are all at risk. We are all involved in this journey called life. We must keep an eye out for one another and make an extra effort to encourage one another…