Trump gets four times more support than Hillary – from bots


“Pay no attention to those wires coming out of my pants!”

❝ More than four times as many tweets were made by automated accounts in favour of Donald Trump around the first US presidential debate as by those backing Hillary Clinton, a study says.

The bots exaggerated support for the Republican, it suggests, but Trump would still have won a higher number of supportive tweets even if they had not.

The authors warn such software has the capacity to “manipulate public opinion” and “muddy political issues”…

❝ The investigation was led by Prof Philip Howard, from the University of Oxford, and is part of a wider project exploring “computational propaganda”.

It covered tweets posted on 26 September, the day of the first debate, plus the three days afterwards, and relied on popular hashtags linked to the event.

❝ First, the researchers identified accounts that exclusively posted messages containing hashtags associated with one candidate but not the other…

The researchers then analysed which of these had been posted by bots. They identified an account as such if it had tweeted at least 50 times a day across the period, meaning a minimum of 200 tweets over the four days…

In total, that represented a total of 576,178 tweets benefiting the Republican nominee and 136,639 in support of the Democratic one…

Nice to see serious examination of how technology has changed opinion-shaping. Now, I’m still waiting for pollsters to identify how often their telephone polls still rely on calling folks with landlines. And other fossils.

Romney’s empty “binders full of women”


Facebook page an overnight sensation with almost 300,000 likes by Wednesday morning

Mitt Romney showed up Tuesday night talking about “binders full of women” being brought to him when he was governor. Sounds kind of kinky and certainly not something you want to be touting.

The phrase was part of Romney’s answer to a question from an audience member at the second presidential debate about how he would “rectify the inequalities in the workplace.” Referring to when he took over as Massachusetts governor, he said, “I had the chance to pull together a Cabinet, and all the applicants seemed to be men,” he said. “I went to a number of women’s groups and said, ‘Can you help us find folks?’ and they brought us whole binders full of women.”

The “binders” moment went viral immediately on Twitter, spawning @RomneysBinders and @womaninabinder Twitter handles. As of Wednesday morning, almost 300,000 people had supported a Facebook page about what a politically dumb statement it was. Romney may soon say it was “inelegant” phrasing or he didn’t finish his statement or some other excuse, but the comment shows why voters, especially women, don’t trust him and don’t believe he has their back…

In fairness, “binders” was most likely a slip of the tongue. But Romney said it in an effort to obfuscate and pivot from the issue at hand: equality for women. He avoided the real question, and that, and his remark, spoke volumes.

Even as a slip of the tongue, this odd phrase betrays Romney’s true lack of understanding, knowledge and comfort level on women’s equality.

I’m hard-pressed to understand why anyone trusts Romney. The man is a soft plastic-politician, ready to change his form and substance depending not only according to the crowd he’s talking down to; but, the year, season, and wind direction seem to have substantive effect, too.

As the Republican Party moved further and further to the Right, so did he. That is – in the primaries needed to get him the nomination. Then, he pirouettes to the center and expects the most gullible electorate in the Western world to accept his word — pressing trust beyond belief.

I hope I’m not wrong. I hope I’m not overestimating American voters.

How ’Death Panels’ can prolong life — and should they?

Average life expectancy is one of two statistics commonly used to compare the health-care systems of different nations. (The other is infant mortality.)

One of the puzzles about the U.S. system is that we spend far and away the most money per capita for health care, but we rank 50th in average life expectancy — after Macau, Malta, and Turks and Caicos, among others.

We are all familiar with statistics about how much of health-care spending takes place in the last year of life, and with stories about old people who are tortured with costly treatments they don’t want and which prolong dying but don’t extend life in any meaningful sense.

Certainly, ailing old people should be allowed to die in peace, if that’s what they want, and not be subject to excruciatingly painful surgeries and drugs that will do nothing for them. These are more the fault of lawyers than doctors. In our experience, doctors can be all too cool and rational in their thinking about the end of life. It’s fear of lawsuits (or, in a few cases, trolling for customers) that prevents doctors from behaving rationally when prescribing treatment for the old and terminally ill…

So what do we do about old people who, on balance, would rather get even older — whatever that means in terms of “quality of life” — than give up? This is one of the indelicate, unmentionable questions in the health-care debate…

In short, all the Republican talk during the health-care- reform debate about “death panels” was melodramatic and unfair, but not ridiculous. One way or another, holding down health-care costs will require policies that deny treatment to people who want it. And want it because it will extend their lives.

This goes on already, all the time. Health insurance companies have been known to deny payment for treatments deemed unnecessary. Age limits for organ transplants are another example. All policies that involve denying care because of “quality of life” considerations are, in effect, “death panels.” But no society can afford to give every citizen every possible therapy…

How do you persuade fellow citizens to accept limits on their right to consume health-care resources? The trick, we think, is to ask them when they’re healthy, not when they’re sick. If you think a $200,000 operation is going to give you a few more years to live, it’s going to be hard to convince you that it’s not worth the cost. But before then, when your odds of needing that expensive operation are the same as everybody else’s, you might well choose a system that offers a higher life expectancy, even though it costs less. In fact, why wouldn’t you?

Bloomberg View articles don’t always try to answer the questions they ask. This is one that sort of suggests alternatives; but, the final resolution isn’t settled yet. We’re stuck with politicians, insurance companies, healthcare corporations and their own versions of “death panels” in charge of negotiating with us.

You already know who has the most power in that dialectic – and it ain’t us.

Labour deploys sprinter in a chicken suit in London mayor’s race


 
Two short videos of a person dressed as a chicken chasing a lookalike of Boris Johnson, the incumbent Mayor, have been released on YouTube by the London Labour Party.

One shows the Mayor, sporting a blonde wig, on a Barclays hire bike in front of City Hall, the seat of local Government in London, while the other sees him being pursued down a street. The stunt, dubbed Boris Johns-hen, seeks to highlight how Mr Johnson “has chickened out of debating his opponents and defending his policies”.

The campaign to elect Ken Livingstone says Mr Johnson has in recent months declined to attend hustings with the candidates for the mayoralty hosted by UK Feminista, a womens equality campaign, and the Federation of Small Business.Mr Livingstone has asked Mr Johnson to take part in a televised debate on his proposals to cut Tube fares. A spokesman for the Mayor said he saw “no merit” in the event because Mr Livingstones figures were not credible.

Har.

Who will God vote for in the Republican primaries?

Vote for me or burn in hell. I can’t imagine someone running for office saying that. And yet four candidates — Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum — have said they had a sense that God was leading them to run.

How far can we be from “vote for me or burn in hell” when it seems we’re already comfortable with “vote for me, I’ve been called by God”?

There was a time when if a candidate wanted to inject faith into a campaign he or she would be photographed going to church or shaking the Rev. Billy Graham’s hand.

Now it seems many GOP campaigns aren’t complete without claiming God’s seal of approval, which suggests the other candidates may be running without it. Such a sentiment is an ideological piñata for comedians like Bill Maher and Jon Stewart, but for conservatives trying to secure the GOP nomination, it’s a highly manipulative campaign tool…

But why aren’t we questioning the candidates who make these kinds of statements the same way we would question whether God actually wanted a particular athlete to win a game?

I do believe a person’s faith is personal, but I’m not the one using it to get votes. Four candidates have claimed a level of divine intervention with their campaign, which either means the creator of heaven and Earth is hedging his bets or somebody’s mistaken…

If I could trade places with Anderson Cooper, who is moderating Tuesday’s debate, I would ask, “Now which ones of you were really called by God and which ones are hearing voices in your head?” then let them discuss among themselves.

God-baiting each other is probably something the nutball right-wing does in private, anyway. In public, they save it for the Democrats – who are only a smidge less opportunistic at pulling the same stunt.

The smartest line Obama came up with was the tag he started partway through his campaign for the presidency: “God bless you – and God bless the United States of America.”

You could practically see the Technicolor sunset fade away while WW2 fighter planes passed overhead in a salute to this courageous nation saving the world once again.

Cripes!

Another church moves closer to the 21st Century

A debate that has raged within the Presbyterian Church for more than three decades culminated Tuesday with ratification of a measure allowing the ordination of gay and lesbian ministers and lay leaders, while giving regional church bodies the ability to decide for themselves. Leaving the truly bigoted branches to maintain their backwardness.

With the vote of its regional organization in Minnesota, the Presbyterian Church USA became the fourth mainline Protestant church to allow gay ordination, following the Episcopal and Evangelical Lutheran churches and the United Church of Christ. The Minnesota vote was closely followed by one in Los Angeles.

“This is an important moment in the Christian communion,” said Michael Adee, a Presbyterian elder who heads an organization that fought for gay ordination. “I rejoice that Presbyterians are focusing on what matters most: faith and character, not a person’s marital status or sexual orientation…”

Linda Fleming, an elder and deacon at Knox Presbyterian Church in Ladera Heights, which hosted the Pacific Presbytery meeting, said she was among those who had changed her mind on the issue in recent years.

“I finally decided at the age of 63 that it is inevitable,” she said. “I think it’s like letting black people come to white churches, or letting women become ministers. It’s inevitable.”

Interesting to see the easy understanding between this and other issues of civil rights. Anyone think Congress will come to the same level of understanding anytime, soon?

Reactionaries and bigots aren’t limited to smaller political bodies – like churches. Our “leading” elected political body down in Washington, DC, makes a point of tailing along decades behind the spirit of the land and expanding knowledge.

RTFA for lots of details and history. The mother church, the Free Church of Scotland, must be croaking over this.

Porn stars to take part in Cambridge debate


Shelley’s preferred position – for praying, nowadays

The historic Cambridge University Union has invited adult film stars to take part in an organised debate.

The Cambridge Union Society, which was founded in 1815, is famed for inviting international politicians and academics to its regular debating sessions. But the union is now organising a debate where students will be entertained by guest speakers including three adult film stars.

First on the bill is stripper and pornographic film actor Johnny Anglais, who was suspended from his teaching job after his work as a porn star was revealed.

He will be joined by Anna Arrowsmith, who is the UK’s first female adult movie director and once stood as a Liberal Democrat MP candidate.

US porn actress-turned-chaplain Shelley Lubben will also join the debate and discuss the question: ”This house believes that pornography does a good public service.”

Incoming union president Lauren Davidson told Cambridge student newspaper The Tab that she believes pornography is a ”hot topic” in modern society…

”At the Union this term we’ve got the traditional debates on politics, foreign policy and the media, but I thought it was important to look at the bigger picture and debate a wider range of hot topics.

‘Sexuality is something that everyone is very aware of and I want to create a proper discussion around it…”

The groundbreaking debate will be held on February 17 in the Cambridge Union Society’s historic debating chamber on Bridge street.

Will there be visual aids?