Thursday, September 25, 2008

Election Help

As election day nears, citizens across this vast land are doing some last minute research on candidates and their policies. While deciding who to vote for is hard enough for some people, the most difficult part of the entire process may be sorting through all the information available to the public. The internet has helped and hindered this process because political websites are smeared with lies, rumors and slander. Fortunately, thanks to the following four websites, individuals are able to check the facts and gain knowledge without such downfalls.

PolitiFact, a service of the St. Petersburg Times, is an incredibly helpful website when it comes to separating fact from fiction. The site examines rumors, things candidates are saying about each other and what candidates are saying about their policies and then determines the validity of the information. My two favorite features of the site are the "truth-o-meter" and the "flip-o-meter." The former is a gauge that indicates how true a statement is, while the former determines whether or not a candidate changed positions on an issue. Both meters include detailed articles and references clearly explaining why a candidate lied or changed their stance. Also, the site categorizes the results so readers can read through a particular ruling. In addition to these meters, the site also features articles, thus making it a very comprehensive source for political news. Of the four sites, this one is by far the most entertaining and informative.

Maintained by the Washington Post, this database is the place to go if you want to find out anything members of Congress and how they voted. Every member of the Senate and House of Representatives is accounted for, and on their individual pages you can see their voting records and other pertinent information, such as biographies and roles in Congress. You can also find financial disclosure reports, late night votes (which are considered shady by many) and which members missed votes. From a sheer information standpoint, this database is an invaluable resource. Anything you could ever want to know about members of the House and Senate can be found here. My only complaint about the site, and it's a minor one, is that it isn't very aesthetically pleasing. It looks like a very bare-bones operation and for someone not interested in this subject matter, it makes the site quite a bore. is operated by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, and is very similar to PolitiFact. FactCheck analyzes issues, accusation and rumors and then analyzes their validity. I like how they break down the anaylisis of each issue. They began by explaining what the issues is and then they thoroughly analyze it using things like previous speeches and official documents. This is a very aesthetically pleasing site, and they do a good job of integrating photos and videos within the site. It appears to be very multimedia savvy. The FactCheck Wire is a blog the site provides, and it serves as a nice supplement to the other information on this solid website.

Much like the Congress Votes Database, Project Vote Smart does a great job of providing citizens with straight information. Think of it as a cheat sheet of sorts when it comes to figuring out who you're going to vote for. This site also features voting records and biographies, and I really like how it includes interest group ratings, campaign finance information and other political resources. Their 2008 Voter's Self Defense Manual provides all of these services in print form, and is available free to those who want to learn as much as they care to know about politics.

Thanks to these four sites, voters should have no problem factually determining who they want to vote for. It's hard to rely on a lot of the information out there, but these sites are clear indications of the fact that political junkies are trying to take care of those dying for as much news and information as they can handle.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

My Favorite Blogs

I spend entirely too much time on the internet. It's quite possible that I'm addicted to it, and much of the time I spend surfing the web involves me perusing through a multitude of blogs. I enjoy reading blogs ranging from sports to media to music, but these are the three blogs I would take with me if I was stranded on a deserted island and somehow had access to three blogs!

SportsJustice by Richard Justice

Justice is a Houston Chronicle sports columnist who can frequently be seen as a contributor on ESPN's Pardon the Interruption. Being from Houston, I spend copious amounts of time trying to acquire Houston sports news and opinions, and Justice's blog allows me to obtain both of those things quickly. His knowledge is impeccable and his commentary often echoes the thoughts of Houston fans. Most recently, Justice let it be known that he, like most Astros fans, felt that the decision to move the recent Astros-Cubs series to Milwaukee, a city 90 miles away from Chicago, was a poor decision following Hurricane Ike's strike on Houston. He writes:

This game never should have been played at this location. No way. No how. I don't want to hear how it was the only available venue. Bull. If this is the best MLB could do, they should have called the whole thing off.
Justice later revealed that he shared those feelings with Commissioner Bud Selig. Unlike many columnists today, it appears Richard Justice truly believes what he writes.

Uni Watch by Paul Lukas

This blog makes fashion as masculine as it will ever get! Lukas' blog deals with uniforms in professional and collegiate athletics, and it keeps the reader up to date on everything from minor color changes on a baseball uniform to the color of a face mask on a football helmet. Some of the details pointed out by Lukas may border on the absurd to the average sports fan, but it's observations like these that thrill anyone interested in what he calls "athletics aesthetics." Lukas wrote this in response to a report that C.C. Sabathia, a Milwaukee Brewers pitcher, was forced to modify a pair of shows by coloring them black on a night when the Brew Crew wore retro uniforms:

The Brewers normally wear black cleats. They also wear black cleats with their Friday throwbacks. So why would Sabathia need a different pair of cleats on Friday than for any other Brewers game? But let’s assume for a moment that he does need “retro cleats” for Friday home games. That leads us to the next question: Sabathia pitched on August 8th —a Friday home game — so what did he wear then?
I know many of you have lost hours of sleep trying to determine that same thing. Paul Lukas feels your pain.

Bruce Blog by Stan Goldstein

Bruce Springsteen has some of the most faithful fans in all of music, and I proudly consider myself part of that rabid group. During Bruce's recent world tour, I routinely found myself on Goldstein's blog, which can be found as part of Goldstein's blog features setlist updates, news from the road, and Bruce sightings that only the biggest of fans (stalkers) would care about. If you were curious as to where Springsteen and his wife, Patti Scialfa, were seated during a recent Bob Dylan show in Asbury Park, Goldstein has you covered. Goldstein states:

They were watching the show from the left side of the stage, behind a black curtain an d walked out the side door when the house lights came on at the end of the show.

Unfortunately, Goldstein doesn't report how many times The Boss got up to use the restroom during the show.

So, there are my three favorite blogs. If you're ever on that deserted island with me and you're curious as to what's happening in the world of Houston sports, how that new color scheme impacted your favorite team's jersey, or whether or not Bruce Springsteen broke out "Incident on 57th Street" at a recent show,well, my friend, you are in luck!