An article the other day in our local shopper – masquerading as an almost-daily-newspaper – confirmed again that Mitt Romney either lied about an issue or is more ignorant about government than the late Sarah Palin.

Pounding on the President for wanting government needs to hire more fire and police personnel – teachers, too – Romney said “The federal government doesn’t hire firemen, policemen or teachers. Didn’t he (Obama) learn anything from Wisconsin?” That last part about Wisconsin was Romney’s apparent ignorant read of the results of a failed recall election. A two-fer in one shot. I’ll get to Wisconsin in a minute.

Despite Rommey’s claim, the story in our local “shopper” – right there on the front page – rightly said a local fire district had received $1.4 million from the feds to specifically rehire six laid-off firefighters. The feds do that a lot. Pay communities to hire specific people on the public payroll – police and teachers, too. In Massachusetts as well. Feds put up the bucks to hire local people for periods of time to do specific local government work.

For Romney to say the feds don’t hire such professionals tells me he didn’t pay a lot of attention to the four executive budgets he authored while governor of Massachusetts. Or, as the governor who famously – and repeatedly – said he wanted every single federal dollar that could be scrounged up for his state, he played very loose with the truth. Again.

In fairness, the Obama campaign and Democrats have also stretched some things. Republican party, too, of course. But if you want to see political fact warped out of all recognition, check out those Super PAC ads. Hundreds of millions of dollars worth. And a lot of ‘em won’t pass your smell test.

I’m a big fan of Dr. Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. The Center’s most public role is operation of FactCheck, a nonprofit devoted to examining the factual accuracy of political campaign ads. And candidate claims like that B.S. of Mitt’s. (Factcheck.org) She’s written 15 books on such issues and published over 90 academic articles. She knows her stuff. I watched her in an interview the other day. What she said – given her level of expertise – should be heard by every American. It won’t be. That’s a national loss.

The Annenberg Center uses dozens of “fact checkers” to do its work. Dr. Jamieson said she’s had to put on additional people to verify or debunk claims being made in the current campaign season but hasn’t enough resources to cover ‘em all. They need to be covered – every damned one of them – because, she said, there are so many distortions, out-of-context quotes and outright lies being passed off as televised truths.

She cast her expert’s net over all participants – candidates, political parties, and especially the Super PACS. It’s this last category that’s the most dangerous because so many millions of dollars are being spent to create ads for which there is neither accountability nor control. Nobody – repeat – NOBODY behind them can be held responsible for any claim or accusation, no matter how wrong. No matter how false. No matter how deliberate.

Jamieson then pinpointed the worst part of this whole shameful business. The accusations – the wrongs – the lies – that too often eventually work their way into news stories in one form or another. Even if it’s just a reporter detailing how wrong the ad is. The real problem, she said, is most people have no way of knowing what’s real and what’s not. Even if she and her team could fact check and report every distortion and lie, their output would be lost in the sea of campaign stories. And those damned ads. Far more people, she said, will see the misleading ads than will ever see the truth. Or hear more ads than ever hear the factual challenges to them.

The sad fact is, I receive nearly daily proof she’s right. Once in awhile, it’s a friend asking me to check out a campaign or political claim. Or a scurrilous and too often anonymous email. Using FactCheck and other sources I’ve developed, I”m glad to do it.

Then, there’s a second case when a friend supports a claim or candidate with an argument I’ve found to be false but who refuses to accept the truth. Or someone who will accuse me of not accepting his claim of “fact” in something I’ve already checked and found to be untrue.

Here’s a real fact you can go to the bank on. People most often accept a new fact as truth – whatever the source – if it conforms to beliefs they already hold. If the new truth challenges a position or belief previously held, new facts are often rejected.

That is the basis for the popularity – at the moment – of Faux “News.” By accentuating – read distorting – many political negatives in stories it rewrites, “Faux “News” plays to that fact alone. Which is why so many recent studies done, involving Faux viewers, find them unaware of many real facts in current news stories, hold views contrary to proofs and are unable to answer correctly so many questions about current world events.

The work of the Annenberg Center is terribly important. But it’s only one finger in a large, leaky dike. As Dr. Jamieson so correctly puts it, we are being inundated with false claims, half-truths and outright lies in our current political campaign. And that includes hundreds and hundreds of legislative, gubernatorial and local contests as well. Too many candidates, motivated by self-service, are playing to the ignorance of people who may vote but who’ve only a passing knowledge of issues and candidates. If that.

Like the bogus Romney comment about the meaning of the Wisconsin recall election that failed. His take: voters supported union-busting and firing government workers. But actual exit polling showed many folks did NOT so approve, instead voting against the recall itself as wrong regardless of union issues and a majority of those questioned said they’d likely vote for Obama in November. Romney has to know that. But he said what he said and got the applause he wanted. He got the crack all over the national media. Cheap shot. And a lie.

From no less an authority than the director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center – with decades of experience – we’re being warned of a lot of “cheap shots” out there. And lies.

Sometimes this nation pays a steep cost for protections of speech under the first amendment. Our U.S. Supreme Court upped that price outrageously with the tragic Citizens United decision.

Maybe the best admonition for anyone seeking to be an informed voter this year is “caveat emptor.” Buyer be very, very aware.

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