Wednesday, December 15, 2010

On Death and "Death Taxes"

By my reading of history, it is very hard to know what strategic move will have the best impact, but, having said that, I don't think I'd mind seeing the tax bill rejected.

I'm much more concerned with framing the issues accurately. George Lakoff excited me at one time, but he needs a shot of James Carville's adreneline or something. As it is, he is putting people to sleep, so let me give it a try.

The inheritance tax is double taxation IF AND ONLY IF we are a nation of dynasties rather than individuals. The basic philosophy of our tax system is that money is taxed when it changes hands in a meaningful way. Taxing the dead is of course meaningless; no individual is being taxed twice; it is only the dynasty that gets taxed twice. From the point of view of a nation if individuals equal before tha law, the inheritance tax is a tax on having a big pot of money fall into your lap; NOT a tax on dying. To abolish the death tax (and to a lesser extent to drastically weaken it) is to put ourselves on the road to a dynasty based society; i.e. plain old 18th century aristocracy, if we weren't pretty far down that road already.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Great Harold Lewis Resignation Non-Event.

I followed the global warming discussions, back when it was a true controversy among climatologists, probably from about 1980 to some time in the 90s -- casually, not being invested one way or the other -- picking up Scientific American in the doctor's office or when I was in a library.  Like other scientific debates it went from "Hey, some people think this and have this evidence" to "Looks rather convincing" to Yeah, but ..." to "Yeah, it's probably true" to "Everybody who can read the literature is convinced". It was a normal scientific debate, it went from speculations to apparent solidity much the same way the continental drift debate went a couple of decades earlier. Now I did, just the other day, see a guy in a ballcap that "Stop Plate Tectonics", but I suspect he was being ironic. Climate change didn't seem particularly political back then. When did it turn into the supposed giant conspiracy?

Hal Lewis may be quite competent for an ex-physics professor of no great distinction who's been retired probably 20 years, or he may be losing his marbles. It's not uncommon at that age for even truly brilliant people to get somewhat obsessed with how bizarrely different the world looks from when they were young and think it's all going to Hell in a hand-basket. Hell it's hard for me to think about "hooking up", and it pains me to hear someone say "one of the only" -- an expression people didn't use 15-20 years ago (It is tending to replace "One of the few").

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Detailed Thoughts on Possibility of Unmasking Phoney-Folksy (and full of clever deception) Emails:

This is an email to Timothy Jost, who appeared on NPR Morning Edition to discuss how "Death Panel" and other wild myths got spread about the healthcare reform act.

(Emails from an unsuccessful attempt in 9/2010 at some anti-propaganda action.)

                                                                                        Sat, 4 Sep 2010
I listened with interest to what you had to say with Julie Rovner on Morning Edition, 9/3. I'm glad you are looking into this matter, but I don't think it is as simple as "People combing the Web found these microchips and saw this implantable medical device registry as an attempt to implant microchips in people," Jost says. "And then the rumor expanded to say that all people who signed up for the public plan that was in that bill would have to have a microchip implanted."

My belief, based on what I've seen, is that these wild rumors get much, and possibly most of their strength from carefully planted disinformation which looks to people like "Email from a friend of a friend". I am 58 years old and have never seen such wide belief in preposterous claims (nearly all of which seem aimed at bringing down the Obama presidency and/or Democrat majority in Congress).

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Latest in Email "News" Madness

Over the last months, I have tried to shed some light on photographic "proofs" that
(1) the President will not salute or make any gesture when the National Anthem is Played
(2) Gaza Palestinians held a mass marraige of 450 grown men to girls under the age of 10, and
(3) a couple of Texas Muslim Shopkeepers Posted notice on their store window that they were taking the day off to celebrate the martyrdom on one of the 9/11 suicide hijackers
(named "Imam Ali" -- who actually died in the 8th century, not on 9/11/2001).

So what's the latest? Well, there is this claim that "President Obama's finance team and Nancy Pelosi are recommending a 1% transaction tax on all financial transactions.". This is prefaced with
"I checked this out on www.truthorfiction.com and it is mostly TRUE!! This is just astonishing! When are we going to get this IDIOT out ..."
Actually, what "TruthOrFiction" Reports is that there is such a proposal -- NOT that it is being pushed by the Obama Team or Pelosi, but rather "The bill was sponsored (and introduced on 2/23/2010) by Democratic Congressional Representative Chaka Fattah of Pennsylvania and says that it is to "establish a fee on transactions which would eliminate the national debt and replace the income tax on individuals.". So the truth is that there is one crackpot Democrat (the bill has only one sponsor) who thinks putting a 1% tax on each and every financial transaction (ATM withdraways, checks, any sale whatsovever ...) will pay off the national debt while allowing income tax to be abolished, which actually, if it were true, would be good news. Nancy Pelosi may have said, back in December 2009 (before it was introduced?) that it "had some merit -- This, according to "Real Clear Politics". If this was introduced in February 2010, and has gone nowhere, why are we hearing about it now? Because it's been so long since it was last floated about that most email recipients will have forgotten about it by now. This is a common tactic. We get links to YouTube videos with no date, denouncing some immigration bill. Why no date? Because it was introduced in 2007 and supported by Bush, and has nothing to do with the present and President Obama.

I should say something about the "Sic-ing the UN or poor Arizona". Yes, the US is complying with a UN resolution for nations to submit statements about their human rights records. Try actually reading the "29-page Universal Periodic Review". It is mostly full of how wonderful American freedoms are. E.g.:

... the most enduring contribution of the United States has been as a political experiment. The principles that all are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights were translated into promises and, with time, encoded into law. These simple but powerful principles have been the foundation upon which we have built the institutions of a modern state that is accountable to its citizens and whose laws are both legitimated by and limited by an enduring commitment to respect the rights of individuals. It is our political system that enables our economy and undergirds our global influence. As President Obama wrote in the preface to the recently published National Security Strategy, "democracy does not merely represent our better angels, it stands in opposition to aggression and injustice, and our support for universal rights is both fundamental to American leadership and a source of our strength in the world."...
Somewhere, it mentions Arizona:
A recent Arizona law, S.B. 1070, has generated significant attention and debate at home and around the world. The issue is being addressed in a court action that argues that the federal government has the authority to set and enforce immigration law. That action is ongoing; parts of the law are currently enjoined.
This is the sole reference to the Arizona Law -- a far cry from inviting the UN to send attack helicoptors to Arizona.
More to come, probably, but I have to stop for now and try to make a living.

Link

Friday, October 1, 2010

"Obama Crotch Salute": Lies, Damned Lies and Right WIng Forwards

A recent posting on this blog:
"Mass Muslim Marriage in Gaza 450 Grooms Wed GIRLS Under Ten In Gaza"(http://therealtruthproject.blogspot.com/2010/07/re-mass-muslim-marriage-in-gaza-450.html) illustrated how real news photos can be used to illustrate totally made up stories.

I use the expression "Right Wing Forward" to refer to a phenomenon I explained inMy Not-Really Right-Wing Mom and her Adventures in Email-Land
Of course not all misleading forwarded emails come from right wing, or whatever you would call it, sources.

NPR's "On the Media" radio magazine did a story on false rumor-mongering emails, and (bending over backwards to be "fair-minded", IMHO), they only mentioned a spate of email slurs against Sarah Palin. Such slurs were very much in the news just after the Palin nomination.  Still, if there is a well-oiled machine for putting out patently untrue Left Wing attack emails by the hundreds, please show me some evidence.

Re the use of the term "Right Wingers"-- to me, whoever is responsible these emails (not to mention the more extreme blogs) behave more like 60s/70s "Yippees", and they want to tear down existing institutions and traditions, so I am unable to call them conservatives. Frankly, conservativism is something we could use, but there are precious few real conservatives left -- certainly very few to be found in the Republican party.

Anyway, I wanted to show another example of the tactic used in a whole class of emails, of pairing real news photos with made-up stories to which too many people have the reaction"Pictures don't lie" and accept the whole story.

The most recent "Crotch Salute" email consisted of a picture and a one-paragraph preface:
At the Ft. Hood Memorial Service.
The Crotch Salute Returns.....
I'm sorry folks, but is this the turkey that was elected President of our
country? You know, the United States of America ? I do believe that
saluting the flag goes with that, and also to honor the servicemen who died, or
is he above that? Shower us all with flowery words and dazzle us with B.S.
but actions speak louder.
This stinks!!!

and it claims to illustrate the myth that Obama pointedly fails to salute or cross his heart when the national anthem is played.

Supposedly, it shows Obama at the Fort Hood shooting memorial service, but it is the same picture used earlier to make the same claim about a Veterans' Day, 2009 ceremony.

In the previous use of the same picture, the text says:
Subject: Picture from last week's Veterans Day Ceremony
Check out this latest picture from Veterans Day Ceremony, 11/11/09, Arlington National Cemetery. It may be the National Anthem or the Flag being presented, but EVERYBODY in the picture is either saluting or has his hand over the HEART ... except ONE.
You form your own opinion.
The picture has been traced to newsreel footage of Obama standing with his hands folded in front of him (hence "crotch salute"), while as one can tell by viewing the full footage, "Hail to the Chief" is being played, and 3 officers on the stand are saluting and one civilian has his hand over his heart.

Feel free to dispute what is really going on in the picture, but I offer a couple of refutations of the claims in the emails:

http://urbanlegends.about.com/library/bl_obama_non_salute.htm

and

http://www.sodahead.com/united-states/the-crotch-salute-returns/blog-312535/

"Sodahead", which seems to be if anything anti-Obama, had presented one variant of this email with no comment, implying agreement with its message, but tucked in among the many expressions of outrage at the "disrespectful" president, was this comment, presented in full:

I have to interject, not because I support BHO (Obama) , but because there are so many real things to be upset about. The left can ignore the REAL issues when false rumors are spread that have been discredited by snopes, urbanlegends, and ever other fact checking site (and backed up by actual video of the events). It gives them ammunition and could lend credence to libs who argue that those opposed to Obama are just extremists who will 1. lie to manipulate the public and 2. say and believe anything.It doesn't help the cause and makes us seem like loons.

The pictures were taken at the Wreath Laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Memorial Day, 2009. It was taken as Hail to the Chief was playing just as he took his place on the stage. They were saluting him, and whether we like it or not, it's not appropriate for
him to salute himself. You can verify this yourself if you fast forward to 11minutes into the ceremony: video of the whole ceremony is at http://www.sodahead.com/unite...

Again, whether we like it or not (and I think we all can agree that we SHOULD like it when the president behaves appropriately), he saluted at all the right points and put his hand over his heart during the national anthem. He did this both at the Memorial day ceremony AND at
the Ft Hood ceremony (video of that is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?... and on Fox).

We need to cross check and double check everything before we post. Although I believed it too when I first saw the photos, I realize that the more honest and forthright we are, the better our own moral standing when it comes to fighting the things that are truly wrong and devastating to our country.

In case you think I'm just making up a random defense, please watch the videos and search the internet for keywords: "ft hood" obama salute (you can add "hoax" or "snopes" to see related videos and to see photos of moments before and this one was taken.

Please don't flame me...I believe that the number one hope for America right now is that people are willing to research claims and discover the truth. I just want what they read from us to be 100% true, in contrast to the lies they may discover when they research things 'political leaders' have said or even what they hear from the mainstream media.

I've already sent a correction out to everyone I forwarded this to (and I forwarded the email I got to my entire mailing list!!). I think it'd be a good idea for us all to do that, because when they discover someone lied about the date and the events, some people will assume we're liars, will shut down, and won't listen to anything else.
If I thought this kind of thing was being turned out by an uncoordinated set of individuals misunderstanding the news, or it could be explained by the "telephone effect" -- each time you retell a story it is likely to get embellished until it bears no resemblance to the original -- I'd say it's sad but what can we do?
Granted, I believe many anti-liberal emails are indeed written by regular people exorcizing their outrage and displaying their cleverness -- e.g. Obama in a beret which is actually a giant acorn cap.  But I think it takes a different sort of person to turn out such cleverly constructed deceptions.
But I have just seen far too many such emails full of deliberate deceptions and lies which are uniformly well written with no spelling errors and the deceptions are very clever. Emails like this are not the work of amateurs.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Why Would a Right Wing Source Make Up a Phoney 'Charles Krauthammer' Speech? And What Might This Say About Right Wing Forwards?

I started this blog with far broader, and more exploratory and less argumentative aims than just trying to combat "Right Wing Forwards" and their misinformation. But I suspect their effect is far beyond what most people imagine, and there is a near-total lack of media focus on them.
I've recently noticed a subclass of the Right Wing Forward which may shed some light on them. Many of them seek, in one way or another, an air of legitimacy through putting outrages statements in the mouths of people who never said them. But one type of RMF makes up whole speeches or editorials by right wing celebrities. Why not let these people speak for themselves?

There is an email centered on a purported intimate speech by Charles Krauthammer (the original that I received is at http://www.panix.com/~hal/RWF/counterfeit-krauthammer.txt), which is shown to be made-up at:
http://www.truthorfiction.com/rumors/k/Charles-Krauthammer.htm

Summary of the eRumor:
A forwarded email with comments by journalist, Pulitzer Prize winner and Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer about President Obama.
The Truth:
Charles Krauthammer has issued a statement about this eRumor saying it is "neither accurate nor authoritative."

He said the email is "somebody putting his own ideological stamp on and spin on my views."

Krauthammer said, "One giveaway of the superimposition of someone else's views on mine is the rather amusing use of phrases that I never use. To take just a few examples randomly: 'God forbid,' 'far left secular progressive,' 'this is the first president ever who has chastised our allies and appeased our enemies!' 'no country had ever spent themselves into prosperity,' and, the real doozy, 'states rights.'"

He said his views are clearly spelled out in a series of columns that can
be found on his web site.
My mother was rather impressed with the email. One clue to why someone faked a Krauthammer speech is one of her comments that she'd read some of his articles but "always found it a little confusing what side he was on".

So it seems like Krauthammer for people who don't read Krauthammer and wouldn't, because they'd find him too abstract or something. But they've heard of him as a great intellectual, and are primed to be impressed by his thoughts if they can understand them.


From a 2007 Christopher Hayes article in The Nation titled "The New Right Wing Smear Machine":
For a certain kind of conservative, these e-mails, along with talk-radio, are an informational staple, a means of getting the real stories that the mainstream media ignore. "I get a million of them!" says Gerald DeSimone, a 74-year-old veteran from Ridgewood, New Jersey, who describes his politics as "to the right of Attila the Hun." "If I forwarded every one on, everyone would hate me.... I'm trying to cut back. I try to send no more than two or three a day. I must get thirty or forty a day."
I think part of the key may be the need for volume: what seems to be effective is such a constant high-volume flow of these messages that people will (1) come to rely on them as an alternative news source (for stories that the mainstream media is "suppressing", like that Obama is a Muslim), and (2) even to those who are somewhat skeptical, there is just so much, and it seems to be stuff that friends of friends of friends simply transposed from some source, that some of it is bound to be true.

The web site MyRightWingDad.blogspot.com has archived, by my count of some weeks ago, 1285 emails of this general type. I believe somebody has a need to crank out a lot of stuff to make this work, so all sorts of shortcuts are taken. It helps that they are mostly false, because if they were true, they wouldn't be "adding" to the general public knowledge. All sorts of articles, speechs, chopped scrambled, or just collections of thoughts that someone thinks a celebrity might have said -- Jokes about Obama that Jay Leno never actually made, have to be thrown into the mix. If Obama is accused of having committed some outrageous behavior (with "photographic proof") on Memorial Day 2009, the same picture and context (except some details) will reappear on Labor Day, 2010.

[to be continued??]

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Comments on another "Proof" that Obama is a Muslim

Owing to my extreme lack of free time, I am posting an email to my "not really right-wing Mom", essentially unedited. The email that she found alarming follows my comments

It's hard to deal with on a point by point basis. To find any stats on how often wives accompany husband heads of state on state visits is difficult. I suspect they frequently don't. It's not clear what she'd do there -- probably be kept out of public sight as are all women in Saudi Arabia.

There are a lot of dubious "facts" that I find very difficult to check on, but why is it believable that Obama is a Muslim? If he was, there would be much more solid
evidence than this coming out. Why does a Muslim attend a Christian church for a decade or 2? Are there scads of stories of his refusing pork on campaign stops? No, and there are stories of him sampling exotic ham in a New York food shop. It seems to me you have to believe Obama was invented just to become the U.S. president and do all the terrible things some people imagine he will do. That sort of thing just doesn't work except in thriller novels and movies He's been in the U.S. since he was a young boy, but they can't find a couple of dozen credible people to say they saw him perform this or that Muslim activity? The very fact that they have to resort to such convoluted logic to "prove" he's a Muslim is practically a proof that he's not.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Overview of "Right Wing Forwards"


Am I nuts to see these right-wing anonymous emails as a major source of the insanity that permeates our politics today -- the labeling of anybody who'd consider a return to 40% tax brackets for multimillionaires as Marxists or at the least "dangerous ideologues" never mind the 90% rates still current in Eisenhower's day?

In the 1st Spring and Summer of the Obama administration, I started getting these things forwarded from my parents, who were always Republican, but never inclined to this sort of extremism, and my mother, at least seemed totally taken in by them, and this was exactly when "tea partiers" started going to congressman's "Town Hall" meetings to discuss the issues of health care, and drowning out any voice but their own.

My strong impression is that there is quite a consistency to a large number of these messages that indicates someone is churning them out regularly -- someone who absolutely knows he or they are spreading lies, and I am trying to come up with tactics for exposing it en masse, but nothing will happen unless first my intuition can be confirmed that this having a tremendous impact, and may well be a sine qua non of the Tea Party movement.

I think this tool is being wielded like one of those utterly brilliant on-the-cheap tactics, that when nobody suspects their existence can turn the world upside down -- like, say, getting suicidally inclined fanatics to learn how to pilot an airliner, taking over planes with a handful of men with boxknives -- too little metal to trip the old metal detectors, and you know the rest.

Yes, it's an extreme comparison, but frankly if Americans lose all ability to think clearly and govern this country sanely, the results can be (or have they already been?) far greater than the damage done by all the terrorists in the world.

I have a notion of how to test the hypothesis fairly cheaply (beyond my means, but cheap as polling studies go), which I've tried to share with various parties.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

"Epistemology of Consensus"

This is from very early in my blogging

This is still very sketchy and evolving, but I'm putting it out just in case someone stumbles upon it and has a reaction.

I wanted to explore the phrase "Epistemology of Consensus". Has it inspired any serious philosophical current?
At the time I posted this, I found just seven google hits for the phrase.

Here is some exploration of the idea which may seem like wild ravings, but I post it in case someone stumbles across it who sees some kind of sense in it, especially if they will send me their thoughts.

I think as a practical matter, the way we decide what we think we know in our everyday lives is very much a matter of epistemology of consensus.
Also, another posting http://therealtruthproject.blogspot.com/2010/07/atheism-agnosticism-and-lock-in-clause.html
suggests that in early stages of human development we relied on quite a PURE epistemology of consensus.

The Enlightenment helped spawn a "meme" (not, I think, a gratuitous use of that overused word) that is quite the opposite of Epistemology of Consensus. Now Enlightenment philosophers had good reason for attaching the consensus of their time, but this has become a sort of cliche, and frequently in my opinion, applied inappropriately -- the idea of the lonely genius who alone understands how it works -- surrounded by nattering idiots. This is often how the Glenn Becks of the world seem to see themselves (They think they're Galileos!!).

Daniel J. Boorstin however gave an accessible alternative view of the Enlightenment in The Discoverers, when he gave institutions, like first scientific journal, the Journal of the Royal Society, the salon movement, and other institutional constructs a central role.

Summary of the Seven Google Hits I Found (on 8/9/2010):
+ http://www.jstor.org/pss/2706493 (Human Nature and Truth as World Order Issues by Miriam Steiner).
+ {VERY LONG URL}
+ ASTRO.TEMPLE.EDU/~msolomon/cv.doc (Miriam Solomon CV):
+ www.springerlink.com/index/p445753171j4g376.pdf (Article or chapter:
"From New Technological Infrastructures to Curricular Activity ...
Contained in book Designs for Learning Environments of the Future
2010, 233-262, DOI: 10.1007/978-0-387-88279-6_9 (Springer-Verlag).
+ http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&docId=26348438
(Excerpt from _Natural Law Theory: Contemporary Essays_,
Russell Hittinger 1992
If there exists a law of nature, it presumably exists
independent of our theories about it. But our theories about it
have so drastically restricted the meaning of 'nature' in human
actions to a political epistemology of consensus about basic good
or needs, that discourse about the role of the virtues, as comple-
tions rather than mere recognitions of needs, will have to find a
language other than that of modern natural law theory.

+ http://hidinginyourcupboard.blogspot.com/2008/03/dont-believe-everything-you-read-about.html
+ existenceisidentity.blogs.ie/category/philosophy/
(Uses "Epistemology of Consensus" as an epithet directed at Paul Krugman).


MY THOUGHTS: The hits probably represent several different people's independent coining of the phrase. Not surprisingly, it occurs as a term of abuse in
HTTP://existenceisidentity.blogs.ie/category/philosophy/ written by a Von Mises-ian pseudo-skeptic who is "skeptical" about the consensus of the scientific community, but swallows the "Oregon Petition" whole.
NOTE: I've been toying with this phrase pseudo-skeptic, as it seems so many people from the Glenn Beckians to new-Agers (and there are indeed New Age - Glenn Beckian - NRA members -- like some friends of ours who edit a "Metaphysical newsletter", where by metaphysics I think they mean what I would call "Weird shit").
Anyway, the pseudoskeptic, as I look at him, tends to be skeptical about "mainstream" sources of news, theories, or wisdom, while latching onto some collection of arbitrary sources with far less claim to rigor than the sources they are so skeptical about. (Not to say the mainstream is beyond criticism)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Codevilla's "Ruling Class" Really the New Scapegoat Class?

Well, the Spectator, proud purveyor of "The Largest Selection of Liberal-baiting Merchandise on the Net! (their words, not mine)" is at it again. I have to say something about this piece of schlock entitled "America's Ruling Class -- And the Perils of Revolution" by Angelo Codevilla, even if I can only eke out a half hour to do it in. It worked to call all liberals and people with some sense of history "elites", so why not move on to the next level. Next, let's say they have "Protocols" for taking over and enslaving the world. Meanwhile, pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.

Personally, I'm more concerned about the people with the money to buy and sell politicians, or just buy their own way into office, or finance Propaganda Tanks and other organizations that pick a key election, with an insufficiently obedient Republican or a Democrat on shaky ground, and determine its result. I'm concerned about the multi millionaires who welcomed George W. Bush into their ranks with do-nothing board memberships and made him a member of the "Junior Billionaire Club (price of admission, only a few million)" before he became president, and those, as we know, showering the Clinton's with money.  When power/wealth disparity reaches some level, not only is force usually not necessary, neither is "tit for tat" bribery. I'm concerned about Bernie Madoff who blew up enough of other people's money to run the Russian government for a year, and I'm worried that the "legitimate" game is not so different from his.

Sure, some of these people went to the same schools as Obama or whoever, but Codevilla is just using that to confuse matters. He really isn't focused on the galloping concentration of wealth and real power; he wants to put down the person who can say "I've worked all my life trying to understand this (aspect of history say), and I think that should count for something". Glenn Beck can tell you all about it in 10 minutes. It almost sounds like we're warming up for a Cultural Revolution, or, since we all like hyperbole these days, a genocide of the well educated, as in Cambodia.

Stop looking for scapegoats. Let's try to find the real keys to power. Most revolutions look like a few power geniuses stampeding a big chunk of the population into lynching the people who provide what stability there is, and it sometimes looks to me like the Tea Party movement could be taken in that direction.

Yes, there are "Perils of Revolution", as Mr Codevilla says, but for the 2 or 3 decades, nearly all the revolutions have been managed by Chicago School style economists who want to put unlimited power in the hands of whoever can make the most money by whatever means; who naively believe that whoever has the most money must have produced the most value. This has been going on from Chile to Argentina to Russia, and now, I'm afraid that revolutionary campaign has its hands around the throat of America.

We don't need "politics of resentment" broadcast by either the left or right. The world is what it is, and there's nobody but us to try to make it better. I like the title of a self-published book I once read "There's No Justice, Just Us".

Some thoughts on JournOlist and the teapot calling the kettle racist (and any other term of abuse t

Some thoughts I posted on http://voices.washingtonpost.com/ezra-klein, but I think they got pretty much buried in the avalanche of abuse. Quite a few ideas I've expressed before, but I can't hold a candle to some people when it comes to being repetitious.

Ezra,
The best argument for a closed list is what an open list discussion looks like **THIS**.
"Racist, Racist, I dare you to call me a racist you racist".
Maybe the right has closed lists. Maybe they need them less because they can outshout anybody, and never tire of saying the same things over and over again. I'm sure some groups of operatives do because they *truly* don't want people to know what they're saying. Now they're going to dare you to open your full archives, to provide 100 times as much fodder to be SHERRODed (I don't think it will catch on, but the right can talk about "Borking").

I'll wager that right wing journalists don't need anything like Journolist -- even the conspiratorial Journolist of their wild imaginations because they (right wing journalists) are an integral part of the whole right wing movement, with its conferences and other venues in which tactics for pushing this agenda or smearing this or that person are discussed openly.



I think there is a huge unexamined side of the right wing noise machine is ripe for journalistic investigation: the emails that try to look like they are from a friend of a friend.
A year ago I started getting emails my parents' friends had forwarded to them. There would be lists showing who had previously forwarded the item to the friend, and so on, but it was never clear who put it together.
My parents have always been pretty mainstream Republicans. My Mom still has some admiration for FDR and Truman, and feels Nixon got what he deserved, and they are far from ready for the revisionism that says we were "stabbed in the back" by liberals over Vietnam. She has just gotten through reading 3 Cups of Tea and loved it.
They live in a wealthy retirement community with mostly college educated people (ages generally 60-80 and up) who've run small to middle sized businesses and the like.
And they and their friends were getting, and believing in the emails with the links to YouTube videos proving Obama deliberately failed to salute the flag when generals and cabinet members around him were saluting. My mother is distressed and saying "What can you say to defend a man like that?" Actually they were saluting the president while "Hail to the Chief" was played. The email was called "The Crotch Salute" because of the awkward position of Obama's hands. Googling "crotch salute" I get 11,400 hits so it has gotten around and precious few of the hits have anyone debunking it.
They get "parables" in which Obama is portrayed as a smooth Marxist/Mafia thug. And other parables with simplistic economic implications.
They contain bits like "what if I were to tell you that Obama wants to dismantle conservative talk radio through the imposition of a new "Fairness Doctrine. that he wants to curtail the First Amendment rights of those who may disagree with his policies via internet blogs..."
Would you say, "C'mon, that will never happen in America ." (this one is a sort of 12 part call-and response thing).
They received a tirade against Obama by Gene Iacocca which was really a 3 year old anti-Bush screed with selective omissions and just one addition.
Some of them have gotten clever enough to say "Approved by Snopes" when in fact Snopes called them a fraud.
They take an essay from a right wing crazy site and call it an "article" (they never distinguish between "article" and op-ed) from the prestigious WSJ.
It seems the right wing propaganda apparat has 3 parts: (1) The Emails where everything EVERYTHING I've seen has been full of blatant lies. (2) wild bloggers who deal in stuff that has a shred of something to back it up (they can't help it if some pure and simple lies get into their comments section (http://eisenhowersocialist.blogspot.com/2010/05/climate-change-and-energy-policy.html)
(3) Finally the stars, who avoid sue-able libel, and deal in interpretations rooted in millions of under the radar words that THEY don't have to risk saying.


Assuming I'm right about the right wing emails, etc., how can the lies and their sources be exposed?
I think first of all, people are vastly underestimating the impact. I'd propose ongoing polling. Watch them as they emerge and circulate. http://myrightwingdad.blogspot.com/ can help with that, and just poll 1000 (maybe less would do) people soon after something emerges to ask whether they believe whatever is being stated. No need, I think, to say anything about where they would have gotten the idea.
Another course of action without the big cost of polling is, don't let Rush and Glenn off the hook. Call and ask "What do you think of Obama's refusal to salute the flag". (http://therealtruthproject.blogspot.com/2010/07/get-email-with-extreme-anti-obama.html) I believe their hope, and certainly what serves them best, is for these things to remain invisible to all but their partisans, and certainly not make publicity for them to get publically debunked.
If 10% of people are believing a ludicrous lie that is important news. If one can find out where the lies are coming from (there is too much similarity in style for me to believe they come from random "concerned citizens"), that is even more important news.
As for the "anything goes" blogs, I think they need to be taken seriously too. Here, unlike with the right wing emails, there is nothing secret to unmask. One way to take them seriously is to try to determine the size of their readership - some of them no doubt advertize their 'hit rates'. Also, the idea of polling applies equally well to them. And likewise putting more visible right wing (which I say because "Radical Conservative" is an oxymoron) commentators on the spot.
For an example of Rush&co studiously ignoring the "Final nail in the coffin of the global warming hoax", see http://eisenhowersocialist.blogspot.com/2010/05/climate-change-and-energy-policy.html

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

RE: "Mass Muslim Marriage in Gaza 450 Grooms Wed GIRLS Under Ten In Gaza"

This is a brief analysis of an email -- one of those urging that you to forward them to at least 10 other people, which claimed to describe a mass marriage of Muslim men to child brides of "under 10 year old".

LINK: Mass Muslim Marriage in Gaza 450 Grooms Wed GIRLS Under Ten In Gaza
IMAGES: http://www.panix.com/~hal/RWF/MCB.d/
  • Images 1-4 are supposedly of the "Child Brides". The rest though linked to this email, are unrelated -- showing some Muslim fanatics holding stupid inflamatory signs.

It is typical of many such deliberately dishonest emails, which I discuss in detail in "My Not-Really Right-Wing Mom and her Adventures in Email-Land", and in particular uses the same sort of "real picture -- made-up story" approach used in the "Obama Crotch Salute" story.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Mystique of Faith and the Lock-in Clause

I’m convinced that there is something in human societies, starting with the most primitive ones, that works inexorably towards a theory of everything (or at least of everything that matters), and towards the visceral rejection of competing theories of everything.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Corollary to the Big Lie Theory

Once you get a group of True Believers sufficiently attached to a set of lies about critically important issues, then any person or institution trying to report the truth becomes discredited in their eyes.  If research, educational, journalistic, governmental groups, and NGOs become alarmed and continue to repeat the "discredited" claims, their protests only reinforce the certainty of True Believers that academic researchers, educators, etc. are lying scumbags.

This, in my opinion, is the main usefulness to the right of calling Global Warming a hoax -- it becomes a constant source of ridicule, generated by people who work enthusiastically for free, of the "MSM" (or Main Stream Media), the scientific community, etc.  The more alarmed and emotional they get about it, the more they get written off as "alarmists".  The parties responsible for the original deception can stand back and watch, without expending energy, or putting their fingerprints on the stream of abuse against their rival institutions.

While big oil like Exxon-Mobile have backed off from the memeplex they helped create (excepting the Kochs), right-coalition in general has become a huge beneficiary of this stream of abuse of sources frequently allied with liberals.  Hence they would have far too much to lose if they ever gave up their attacks on anything connected with Global Warming (esp. Al Gore, whom they would have to invent if he didn't exist).  Hence support for measures to mitigate climate change have become a third rail for Republican politicians -- grounds for organizations to place a well funded opponent in their next primary, while good soldiers who toe the party line, even if they lose, will get a nice sinecure at some think tank, if they need it.

There are some exceptions among the less automatically propagandistic elements of the right, like this National Review article.

Get an email with extreme anti-Obama claims? Call up Rush or Glenn. See if they can confirm it.

I have a suggestion for the next time you receive an email forwarded by a friend, that seems to have been written by some "concerned citizen" that says the president will make $85 Million from insider trading on the BP oil spill, or that the CO2 level in the atmosphere has been essentially static for the last hundred years (which would mean the vast majority of climate scientists -- essentially a complete community of hard (not social) scientists have been living on lies).

Call up Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck and ask them, and don't accept a vague answer, say "Come on Rush, this is the biggest challenge to the Global Warming hoax ever. You've got to have heard of it, and what do you think. Has Wolfgang Knorr really proved the CO2 level hasn't risen in 100 years or hasn't he? Did Obama really get all his schooling in a Muslim madrassa when he lived in Indonesia or not? To the best of your knowlege of course."

The point is, there is a huge class of right wing rumor mongering that their "star" commentators know better than to go anywhere near. Let them stay under the radar so they will never be refuted in any very public way (yes, there are mediamatters.com and snopes.com and the like, but those are so much ignored by the targets of these email campaigns that they often start off with "I couldn't believe it so I checked with snopes.com and it's true" even when snopes.com is calling it a lie.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Examination of a claim that Obama knew about the BP disaster in advance, and used it to gain $85 million dollars from insider trading

Here is the item, as it was forwarded to me by a certain very intelligent person (no sarcasm - it's true):

On Wed, 23 Jun 2010, ____________ wrote:

 From ______: Thought you should know: Obama is personally standing to earn $85 million or more from the BP oil spill...

Goldman Sachs wasn't alone either in its seeming 'foreknowledge' of the collapse of BP's stock value due to the Gulf disaster as BP's own chief executive, Tony Hayward, sold about one-third of his shares weeks before this catastrophe began unfolding too.

 But according to a report by the Financial Stability Board (financialstabilityboard.org) the largest seller of BP stock in the weeks before this disaster occurred was the American investment company known as Vanguard, which through two of their financial arms (Vanguard Windsor II Investor and Vanguard Windsor Investor) unloaded over 1.5 million shares of BP stock saving their investors hundreds of millions of dollars, chief among them President Obama.

President Obama holds all of his wealth in just two Vanguard funds, Vanguard 500 Index Fund where he has 3 accounts and the Vanguard
FTSE Social Index Fund where he holds another 3 accounts, all six of
which the FSB estimates will earn Obama nearly $8.5 million a year and which over 10 years will equal the staggering sum of $85 million.

The FSB further estimates in this report that through Obama's 3 accounts in the Vanguard 500 Index Fund he stands to make another $100 million over the next 10 years as their largest stock holding is in the energy giant Exxon Mobil they believe will eventually acquire BP and all of their assets for what will be essentially a 'rock bottom' price and which very predictably BP has hired Goldman Sachs to advise them on.

 Important to note is that none of this wealth Obama, Goldman Sachs, and others are acquiring would be possible without this disaster. How did Goldman and Vanguard (among others) 'somehow' know what was going to happen before it actually did, including the US energy giant Halliburton which 2 weeks prior to this disaster just happened to purchase the World's largest oil disaster service company. Boots & Coots'.
 Hmmmm...............

Yes Hmmmmm... -- I wonder what, if anything, in this article is true. Here is what I came up with (I got the gist of it in about 20 minutes and then spent an hour or 2 putting it down on "paper"):

 I'm not sure, but I think this "Adam Dobson" blog is the primary source for the claim I'm responding to:
http://stream.adamdodson.org/items/view/2802.

There is an "evidence" link in the article (look for the text):
" [President Obama] holds all of his wealth"

which connects to a PDF of a document labeled "Executive Branch Personnel PUBLIC FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE REPORT". This government form would conveniently discourage almost anyone from trying to read it. The only
thing I can easily make out is that it applies to Obama, and the largest identified asset appears to be "U.S. Treasury Bonds" (see below).

Sandi Berns evidently put more work into reading the "evidence" on the Adam Dobson web page. She posted the 1st comment I see (by the time you look it may be several pages down the list) ON the Adam Dobson web page, and she apparently enjoys Moderator status on the Dobson site:

"Sandi Behrns [Moderator] 2 days ago

Stupid, stupid, stupid. The actual documents cited & provided through links indicate that the President holds nearly ALL HIS WEALTH in US Treasury bills, NOT in Vanguard funds. As far as those Vanguard funds go, they are highly diversified funds, not large holdings of individual stocks (this is the reason Obama opted to not use a blind trust - because the transparency is there & a conflict cannot be found.)

As for this "FSB report" that supposedly states that Obama will reap $85M off these funds over 10 years - no link at all is provided. Hmmm.... that would be an incredible return for retirement accounts currently totaling at most $303,003 (yes that's ALL 6 accounts.) I know this site is not the original author of this piece, but really - you should at least review the purported evidence before posting."

She mentions an "FSB report" to which Adam Dobson provides no links.


Another source did supply this link: financialstabilityboard.org. The site looks fairly intimidating to explore, and it looks to me like they only do very high level reports; a newsflash on Obama's illicit stock gains would look VERY out of place (not to mention I don't see one).

Now, if Rush Limbaugh doesn't mention this, we will know that it is a lie.
If he does, I'll take a 2nd look.

If none of the high visibility right wing commentators has the decency to point out that such lies are being widely distributed[**] targeted to their own audience, it will just confirm my impression that they are pure "ends justifies the means" propagandists with no journalistic ethics.

I have seen this happen before with a hoax based on a misreading of a scientific paper as claiming C02 content in the atmosphere had not significantly grown in the last 100 or so years. If true, it would of course be one of the biggest pieces of news EVER in support of the anti-Admin people's position. But the big guys (i.e. those with visibility and somethiing to lose) never touched it. If they had, all of their audience would have been exposed to the refutations, and that would not be a good thing for THE CAUSE. The result:
generally, the readers of such items NEVER see the miriad refutations or at least not by anyone they trust, so millions continue to believe long refuted claims with no merit whatsover.

I concluded after this that the strategy of the BIG right wing commentators is to let such "throwaway" claims circulate (the Mainstream Media never even notices them) and whether by design or otherwise, they add powerful (though untrue) support to the claims by Limbaugh &c that Obama is a corrupt ideologic fanatic who doesn't believe in anything, who always voted for the most left wing bill (and also always voted "present" on every bill), and a Marxist/Fascist.

Finally, I suspect the claim that Goldman-Sachs acted as if they knew about the impending doom to BP Stocks may also be made up. Such claims often are, to add the credibility of something "everybody knows" to the main thing they are claiming.

[**] "widely distributed": There are 755 quite diverse looking hits on
GOOGLE{obama bp "$85 million" "to earn" goldman-sachs} with very few apparent accidental matches)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Response to Real WSJ Editorial "Alien in the White House"

For another systematic critique, see http://mediamatters.org/research/201006090031

I'm going the skip the early parts that seem to express some kind of gut feeling that I don't share, and try to deal with what more or less substantial claims Ms. Rabinowitz makes -- Except, I have to say the title is pretty striking. True, "Barack Obama" would have made a good name for an alien on a Star Trek episode, and except for the lack of the odd walnut-like pattern to the head and forehead and of bushy eyebrows, he does look a bit Klingon. Anyway, I think there is a widespread sense, disturbing to many, that he doesn't look like one of us or just doesn't look like a president, or something. I can't make a head to head comparison with how other presidents have been treated -- partly the media landscape has shifter so drastically, but in anti-Obama venues, it seems to me they just love to show his face, kind of like "doesn't this just say it all?" and they will run the same often doctored Obama image from issue to issue or day to day -- it becomes sort of a trademark of a publication - Michelle Malkin presenting him as a vampire; a great number of them presenting the same grinning idiot caricature, with or without doctor's gown and cap. And for a while at least, they liked to paint his face -- put him in green-face, say, looking like Batman's Joker, or some other clown with a mouth like a gash which sometimes reminded me of a lynched black man with a mutilated face that I saw pictured one time. I know, I know, "Lighten up".

OK, let me address particular parts of the editorial:
A great part of America now understands that this president's sense of identification lies elsewhere, and is in profound ways unlike theirs. He is hard put to sound convincingly like the leader of the nation
Again, there is this sort of "he doesn't look like one of us -- I can't quite put my finger on why." But she does say:
because he is, at heart and by instinct, the voice mainly of his ideological class.
What is an ideological class? And I thought it was Marxists who like to explain everything in terms of class. That was (is?) one of their worst and most destructive traits. They consistently raised the spectre of an alien class -- so intransigently and violently opposed to us, the good class, that there is really nothing to do but exterminate them or send them to prisons or reeducation camps. For graphic examples, read about the Chinese "Cultural Revolution".
One of his first reforms was to rid the White House of the bust of Winston Churchill—a gift from Tony Blair—by packing it back off to 10 Downing Street. A cloudlet of mystery has surrounded the subject ever since, but the central fact stands clear. The new administration had apparently found no place in our national house of many rooms for the British leader who lives on so vividly in the American mind. Churchill, face of our shared wartime struggle, dauntless rallier of his nation who continues, so remarkably, to speak to ours. For a president to whom such associations are alien, ridding the White House of Churchill would, of course, have raised no second thoughts.
Apparently there is one kernel of truth in all this. Bush was given a present or loan of a bust of Churchill to put in a special place in the Oval Office. I think perhaps they both shared the vision of Bush as lonely sentinal, trying to turn back the evil doers while the most rest of the world was saying "Come on, it's not really that bad".
Obama happens to find more inspiration in Abraham Lincoln, so Lincoln's bust was put in that special place, and I believe the bust was sent back to Tony Blair. Quite natural if it was a loan to GWB, or if it was a gift, why didn't Bush take it with him? Maybe I'm wrong, but I really don't think it was a grand nation to nation gift, like the Statue of Liberty, but was something Blair thought would have particular meaning for Bush. If someone knows something to the contrary, I'd be interested to hear it.
Far greater strangeness has since flowed steadily from Washington. The president's appointees, transmitters of policy, go forth with singular passion week after week, delivering the latest inversion of reality. Their work is not easy, focused as it is on a current prime preoccupation of this White House—that is, finding ways to avoid any public mention of the indisputable Islamist identity of the enemy at war with us. No small trick that, but their efforts go forward in public spectacles matchless in their absurdity—unnerving in what they confirm about our current guardians of law and national security.
OK, so it sounds kind of like the greatest preoccupation of the White House is "to avoid any public mention of the indisputable Islamist identity of the enemy at war with us". This is much more important to the White House than pushing the Taliban out of Kandihar, or steadily decimating the Al Qaeda and Taliban leadership holed up in the mountain areas between Afghanistan and Pakistan. And Obama's emphasis on regaining lost ground finishing the job in Afghanistan and pulling that country and Pakistan back from an advanced slide into anarchy -- that was all hiding "the indisputable Islamist identity of the enemy at war with us". Obama has prosecuted the two wars far more energetically than the core of his base supporters would have liked -- and I think at some expense to the prospects of his Health Care agenda which very nearly failed. Could that possibly be about doing the right thing as he sees it?
Consider the hapless Eric Holder, America's attorney general, confronting the question put to him by Rep. Lamar Smith (R., Texas) of the House Judicary Committee on May 13.
Did Mr. Holder think that in the last three terrorist attempts on this soil, one of them successful (Maj. Nidal Hasan's murder of 13 soldiers at Fort Hood, preceded by his shout of "Allahu Akbar!"), that radical Islam might have played any role at all? Mr. Holder seemed puzzled by the question. "People have different reasons" he finally answered—a response he repeated three times. He didn't want "to say anything negative about any religion."
Numerous anti-administration sites and other venues have made headline news out of saying Holder refuses to say the phrase radical Islam. Perhaps not that exact phrase, but he was quoted saying "I certainly think that it's possible that people who espouse a radical version of Islam have had an ability to have an impact on people like Mr. Shahzad (the Fort Hood killer)." He also refers specifically Shahzad's apparent mentor: "I'm saying that a person like Anwar Awlaki, for instance, who has a version of Islam that is not consistent with the teachings of it and who espouses a radical version". The Rabinowitz editorial, like so many like minded sources is in serious spin mode when they fail to mention that while Holder avoided the phrase radical Islam, he did speak of a radical version of Islam. No doubt many anti-administration people consider this "pussy footing", and that the phrase "version of Islam that is not consistent with the teachings of it" is even more ludicrous, or "PC". But if the White House has studied the matter and concluded that some phrases, when translated (and keep in mind translation is tricky) seem to moderate Muslims to be sticking a thumb in their eye as well as that of the radicals, and given that whatever Holder says before Congress will be heard all over the world, what is the problem? Regarding the clearly carefully worded phrase "version of Islam that is not consistent with the teachings of it", that happens to be something I addressed in the blog article When Someone says Islam *IS* based on Tolerance, Charity, ... [It Really MIGHT depend on the meaning of IS, part II]. In a nutshell, I say that Islam, like Christianity is very largely what its self proclaimed practitioners say it is, and if if the majority of Muslims say Islam is not about Jihad and killing Infidels, etc., etc., then we had damn well better give them some credit for that. There are some who are saying this sort of thing in bad faith - Yassar Arafat was, I suspect, one example, but for the most part I believe Jihadists want to tell people what they are (except for a few on covert missions), and the vast majority of Muslims who say Islam isn't like that mean it, and by meaning it, they help to make it so. If you can't believe this, try reading something about Muslims who are trying to live normal lives. Read Three Cups of Tea, or Mohammed Yunnus' Banker to the Poor.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
(Here are the rest of Rabinowitz' words, to be dealt with later:)
And who can forget the exhortations on jihad by John Brennan, Mr. Obama's chief adviser on counterterrorism? Mr. Brennan has in the past charged that Americans lack sensitivity to the Muslim world, and that we have particularly failed to credit its peace-loving disposition. In a May 26 speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Mr. Brennan held forth fervently, if not quite comprehensibly, on who our enemy was not: "Our enemy is not terrorism because terrorism is just a tactic. Our enemy is not terror because terror is a state of mind, and as Americans we refuse to live in fear."
He went on to announce, sternly, that we do not refer to our enemies as Islamists or jihadists because jihad is a holy struggle, a legitimate tenet of Islam. How then might we be permitted to describe our enemies? One hint comes from another of Mr. Brennan's pronouncements in that speech: That "violent extremists are victims of political, economic and social forces."
Oh hell, if you care, just read what Brennan said at csis.org/files/attachments/100526_csis-brennan.pdf
and if you think the paragraphs above are fair and accurate, then please don't contact me.

Detailed responses to Fake "Wall Street Journal Article"

NOTE: This goes back to June 2010, a time leading up to the last off-year election.  Presently (7/2014) I am getting a huge flood of hits on it -- it's probably being circulated again with all new dates to make it seem current.

Dear Mom, (this is a followup to:

To My Not Really Right Wing Mom in response to the Forwarded Email "Wall Street Journal Sizes Up Obama - WOW)

Here are my long overdue comments on the fake "Wall Street Journal" article. As I showed in the previous email(post), the perpetrator deliberately lies in order to assume the authority of the WSJ. You might think it's an honest mistake, but when you've closely examined enough of these things, you can see they are not just thrown together by some concerned citizen agitated by something he/she saw on the web or elsewhere.

You (or someone else reading this) may wonder why take so much trouble. I've suggested to a fellow blogger to raise the level of dialogue, "Don't go looking for idiots to argue with". This writer though, isn't an idiot, but quite an effective propagandist, and taken paragraph by paragraph, this "email forward" is made up of claims that can be found echoing all over the world of anti-Obama blogging and radio commentary.

Lest you think I'm picking out the weakest arguments to respond to, I'm replying to every single word, and there is at most one halfway legitimate point in the whole thing. Since so many of the claims are slippery, it takes some work to definitively nail them down. That makes this a very long posting.



"Article from the Wall Street Journal - by Eddie Sessions:" There is, apparently, no such person, and no such article ever appeared in the WSJ.
 "I have this theory about Barack Obama. I think he's led a kind of make-believe life in which money was provided and doors were opened because at some point early on somebody or some group took a look at this tall, good looking, half-white, half-black, young man with an exotic African/Muslim name and concluded he could be guided toward a life in politics where his facile speaking skills could even put him in the White House."

This is a typical paranoid fantasy - the idea that some shadowy figure picks out a nobody and invisibly guides them all the way to the white house.
Unfortunately it is too vague for counter-arguments.

In a very real way, he has been a young man in a very big hurry. Who else do you know has written two memoirs before the age of 45? "Dreams of My Father" was published in 1995 when he was only 34 years old. The "Audacity of Hope" followed in 2006. If, indeed, he did write them himself. There are some who think that his mentor and friend, Bill Ayers, a man who calls himself a "communist with a small 'c'" was the real author.


No merit has been found in the claim that Obama did not write "Dreams from
(not 'of') my Father. I read the article making this claim. The writer seems, to have submitted no more than two sentences from each book (Obama's and Ayers') to a computer program used for authorship analysis (but not intended to be used on only 2 sentences) I can say for certain that no experts in such matters confirmed the claim, although a couple of such experts were asked but told the amateur text analyst he had no case whatsoever.

W.r.t. the outrageousness of the very fact of his writing a memoir:

Browsing Amazon.com to Books-->Biographies_&_Memoirs I get the impression that maybe 20% or more of memoirs are written by people 30-something or younger.

Some Examples:
* The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls
* Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
* Nomad: From Islam to America: A Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations by Ayaan Hirsi Ali (oh yeah, that's 2 for her)
* Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
* Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust by Immaculee Ilibagiza
* Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Dana
* Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau
* Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave Written By Himself
* It's Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life by Lance Armstrong

As to why Obama wrote his memoir, as I understand it, "In 1990, Barack Obama was elected Harvard Law Review president over 18 others", and when he graduated, some people thought he had an interesting story, and ability to express himself, and encouraged him to write a memoir.

His political skills consisted of rarely voting on anything that might be deemed controversial..

DOUBTFUL (examples taken from Wikipedia):
In the Illinois Senate, Obama supported Republican Governor Ryan's payday loan regulations and predatory mortgage lending regulations aimed at averting home foreclosures.

He sponsored and led unanimous, bipartisan passage of legislation to monitor racial profiling by requiring police to record the race of drivers they detained, and legislation making Illinois the first state to mandate
videotaping of homicide interrogations.
Moreover he was one of very few Democratic presidential candidates who took a stand against the invasion of Iraq. He didn't have national office at the time, but does this sound like someone who always ducks controversy? What if, as many of us hoped, it had succeeded, with minimal American losses, in planting a vibrant democracy in the middle of the Middle East?  If he was thinking of the presidency, that might well have spiked his chances.  But he judged correctly that it was a bad idea, unlike most Democrats in Congress.

He was in the U.S. Senate so briefly that his bid for the presidency was either an act of astonishing self-confidence or part of some greater game plan that had been determined before he first stepped foot in the Capital. How, many must wonder, was he selected to be a 2004 keynote speaker at the Democrat convention that nominated John Kerry when virtually no one had ever even heard of him before?

In 2004 when selected to give the democratic convention speech, he was a young black man with a Harvard Law degree about to be elected U.S. senator - something Democrats might well look on as a good omen in a very difficult year. Moreover, someone must have noticed he was a very good speaker. At any rate, the speech made him well known instantly.

Parlaying 4 years in the senate to the presidency is certainly unusual, though not as unusual as the path of another Illinois State Senator named Abraham Lincoln who served in the House of Representatives only 2 years from 1848-1850, and went back to private law practice for the 10 years just before he ran for president.

I also don't see how George W. Bush's resume was any more impressive when he was elected president, being a governor for a few years of a state which gives the governor relatively weak authority.

On the other hand, 8 years in the Illinois Senate doesn't sound that much like an egomaniacal "man in a hurry" being propelled by mysterious and powerful forces. To me it sounds more like someone without excessive aspirations who wants to make a difference. Though clearly at some point, he came to believe he was capable of more.

I think a good source for understanding why Obama surprised himself and everyone else by gaining the presidency in 2008 is the book The Audacity to Win: The Inside Story and Lessons of Barack Obama's Historic Victory (Hardcover) by David Plouffe. He had achieved some fame by being perhaps the brightest spot for the Democrats in the 2004 presidential campaign with his convention speech. In 2006 he was doing book tours for his 2nd book, "The Audacity of Hope" - a bestseller and a very complete presentation of his views (useful for those who've been told he's a Marxist). On the book tour he was being told by many people he should run for president. He was the kind of person who, hard as it is for anti-Obamaists to imagine, struck many as the smartest person they ever met. I think the book The Audacity to Win gives a lot of insight into WHY many people saw Obama as extraordinarily gifted, in a way that any book written by Obama himself could never convey.


He outmaneuvered Hillary Clinton in primaries. He took Iowa by storm. A charming young man, an anomaly in the state with a very small black population, he oozed "cool" in a place where agriculture was the antithesis of cool.

"Oozed"? "Agriculture is the antithesis of cool?" What does any of this mean -- this sounds like someone in the middle of an argument coming up with phrases off the top of his head.

He dazzled the locals. And he had an army of volunteers drawn to a charisma that hid any real substance.

Substantially, there is nothing bad about this, except that "dazzled" tends to insinuate a sort of cheap appeal, and the unsupported phrase "charisma that hid any real substance".

And then he had the great good fortune of having the Republicans select one of the most inept candidates for the presidency since Bob Dole. And then John McCain did something crazy. He picked Sarah Palin, an unknown female governor from the very distant state of Alaska. It was a ticket that was reminiscent of 1984's Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro and they went down to defeat.

I agree Palin was a crazy choice which helped bring a number of strong Republicans around to supporting Obama, but she did electrify a lot of people and indeed woke up a tired campaign, and for a couple of years had one of the best "after" careers of any defeated vice presidential candidate, who are typically never heard of again. It is also not clear to me who would have done better against Obama -- someone LESS easy to associate with Bush?
The mainstream political media fell in love with him. It was a schoolgirl crush with febrile commentators like Chris Mathews swooning then and now over the man.

TRANSLATION: A whole lot of people were more impressed with Obama than with any recent democratic candidate for the president. You can use words like "swoon" and "schoolgirl crush", but that is pure spin.
The venom directed against McCain and, in particular, Palin, was extraordinary.
I just don't get this. Palin was treated harshly because she simply appalled so many people, including many shocked Conservatives. It was pretty spontaneous -- Obama didn't control Christopher Buckley or Colin Powell -- and didn't the writer just say Palin was a crazy choice?  I was also turned off by Palin's own venom starting with her acceptance speech.

Now, nearly a full year into his first term, all of those gilded years leading up to the White House have left him unprepared to be President.
I see very little justification for "gilded years". He started out at a so-so college, worked hard enough to get to Columbia, and with more hard work was able to get into Harvard Law school where he graduated with distinction. Back in Chicago, he also taught at the University of Chicago, not the purist of liberal bastions, since it is most famous for the "Chicago School of Economics" of Milton Friedman.

Left to his own instincts, he has a talent for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.

I can't think of much evidence of this, and think it is being claimed just to support the next statement:
It swiftly became a joke that he could not deliver even the briefest of statements without the ever-present Tele-Prompters.
Yes, it became a joke. Obama seems to be an odd mix of super caution and audacity and his heavy reliance on teleprompters reflects, I think, his cautious side.

But if you don't believe Obama CAN speak without a prompter, watch his
discussion / debate with the whole Republican caucus on their own ground (or see transcript if you'd rather read)

Far worse, however, is his capacity to want to "wish away" some terrible realities, not the least of which is the Islamist intention to destroy America and enslave the West. Any student of history knows how swiftly Islam initially spread. It knocked on the doors of Europe, having gained a foothold in Spain.

"Islamist intention to destroy America and enslave the West" seems pretty hysterical and not within the realm of possibility -- and if it could conceivably grow into a possibility in a few decades, I think Obama's approach has a better chance of heading that off than Bush's.

The next sentence ("Any student of history knows ...") seems like another "off the top of his head" bit. Yes, Islam spread incredibly quickly for a couple of centuries but it didn't continue that rate of expansion and was largely stagnant or declining in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Besides which, Obama has been in my opinion doing an extremely capable job
of moving two wars towards completion, NOT wishing them away.

The great crowds that greeted him at home or on his campaign "world tour" were no substitute for having even the slightest grasp of history and the reality of a world filled with really bad people with really bad intentions.

This seems like just a very spurious and arbitrary way of making Obama's appeal to the rest of the world seem like a bad thing. The elimination of massive terrorism and the facing down of Iran and North Korea won't be accomplished without very tight discipline and cooperation among the world's more or less sane nations. Our adventure in Iraq did nothing but embolden these other two members of the "Axis of Evil" AND esp. w.r.t. Iran, cut off at the knees anyone NOT in favor of Islamic fanaticism and a strenuous military posture.

Meanwhile, North Korea under Bush, cut the seals on their nuclear works, sent the inspectors packing, and went full speed ahead with its nuclear program, AND built a clone of their own nuclear facilities in Syria while America hardly seemed to notice.

Teddy Roosevelt said "Speak softly and carry a big stick". The Bush policy was to yell and bellow and if you have a big stick, beat it to splinters against a convenient boulder because that will show people how serious you are. Sorry, but that's truly how it seems to me.

Take Iran and North Korea, two nations with more than a streak of self-image as heroic martyr nations -- declare these 2 nations part of an "Axis of Evil" -- along with a 3rd, weaker nation that you attack and destroy while basically leaving Iran and N.Korea alone, and what can you expect to get? A mess that will take a very long time to sort out is what I would expect. And maybe the conclusion that a nuclear program, as costly as it might be, is the best way to avoid being crushed.

Getting back to the "problem" of those cheering crowds around the world: Yes, Obama may be getting some traction with the international community, getting Russia and China to come on board the effort to isolate Iran.

The approach of leading and coordinating more and more international pressure is ridiculed by the anti-Obamists, but what's the alternative?

Our track record in Iraq makes the idea of invading Iran, maybe 3 times as strong as an Iraq beaten down by the loss of one war and 10 years of sanctions -- makes such an invasion seem ludicrous - indeed we would have commanded much more fear and respect in the world if we'd stopped with Afghanistan, and then really, permanently transformed that nation.

Right after the invasion of Afghanistan, especially if we hadn't told most of the world "we don't want you as allies", the U.S. could have gotten more response out of Iran by raising an eyebrow than we can now.

And my impression is that experts on Iran are very doubtful of our ability to surgically take out all nuclear facilities should Iran build them. Also a strong attack on Iran of any sort might just make double or quadruple the appeal and size of Al Qaeda type groups, which with determined collaboration from an Iran with nothing left to lose, might just pull off the very sorts of WMD based terror attacks we've been dreading.

You can attack a nation, and even destroy most of its infrastructure, but unless you can occupy and control them, they may fight you with increasing effectiveness for years if not decades to come. The trouble with WMD terrorism is if there is one rogue nation or failed state or country like Afghanistan or one country like Pakistan with ungovernable provinces left -- and we've done nothing effective to prevent that -- that is all it might take for assembling a "dirty bomb" based on an AWOL Russian missile warhead.

Oddly and perhaps even inevitably, his political experience, a cakewalk, has positioned him to destroy the Democrat Party's hold on power in Congress because in the end it was never about the Party.

More free association it seems to me. Cakewalk? Maybe read "The Audacity to Win" to see what a cakewalk the run for president was. And was being trounced in his first run for national office (The House of Representatives) a cakewalk?

And what is this phrase "Oddly and perhaps even inevitably"? The strange juxtaposition of "oddly" and "inevitably" might make it seem like deep analysis but I can see no justification for it -- just a sort of oracularly paradoxical tone.

It was always about his communist ideology, learned at an early age from family, mentors, college professors, and extreme leftist friends and colleagues.

This is just nonsense. If you really want to get Obama's ideology, pick up "The Audacity of Hope". If that book lies about his true sentiments then what has he done or said to get a crucial mass of "extreme leftists" behind him. By keeping on the previous secretary of defense and top general and continuing in a workmanlike way to wind up some very unsuccessful and damaging business that politically he would have done well to disown and label the failure of the Bush presidency -- is that his way of courting "extreme leftists"?

And if he doesn't have that kind of extremist popular mass behind him, who is going to put him in the dictator's seat? The Army?

Obama is a man who could deliver a snap judgment about a Boston police officer who arrested an "obstreperous" Harvard professor-friend,

Obama for once said what came to mind spontaneously when he heard about a famous black historian being arrested, handcuffed, and "taken in" because he lost his key and was trying to break into his own house. The professor was
60-70 years old, possibly older, and required a cane to get around. Ones impulse would be to think "surely the police could have confirmed his identity and that he lived in that house. Would they have been afraid to enter his house to see the pictures of him on the mantle? Would the same have happened with an elderly white gentleman? OK, on the other hand, Prof. Gates reacted to the situation, or did he react to some rudeness on the part of the policeman? He became "obstreperous". On the other hand, he had just completed a very long flight, as I understand, and probably an hour or two between what you have to do in the airport, and probably a taxi drive (I'm assuming he didn't have to fetch his own car from long term parking and drive through the heavy Boston traffic himself). He was exhausted and dying to get into his house and flop on the bed, I suspect, and may have not had the most thoughtful perspective on the situation.

When Obama grasped the complexity of the situation he made a sort of public apology and invited the two participants in the drama to meet and talk "over a beer". It wasn't staged well, and may not have lead to much improved understanding between the policeman and the professor, but I can understand the impulse, and it is consistent with his (in my opinion very important) "race speech" given at the height of the Jeremiah Wright "God damn America"
business. He said there, and in other places, that many blacks need to get over a lot of automatic resentment of authorities, and do the best they can in their current situation whatever it may be. It was a remarkable thing for a black political leader to have said.

... but would warn Americans against "jumping to conclusions" about a mass murderer at Fort Hood who shouted "Allahu Akbar." The absurdity of that was lost on no one.

How is not jumping to conclusions absurd? He was speaking at a time when he'd probably just been given a 5 minute briefing -- it was the very first announcement most people heard of the thing. Well, if you make up ridiculous versions of what sort of conclusions he meant, like another commentator: "Could we say that some Muslims are willing to kill and maim just about anyone that isn't Muslim in the name of God? Is that too harsh for anyone? Insulting, insensitive perhaps? What are we risking here, political correctness, someones feelings". But there were other conclusions that some people did jump to, like that there was more than one gunman, or there was an Islamic terror cell at Fort Hood. At worst, "don't jump to conclusions" is a cliche -- words many a District Attorney on a TV cop show has mouthed. And have we never jumped to conclusions? E.g. when a handful of anthrax infected letters got shipped -- that had to be part of the Al Qaeda plot against America. Or when another crazy Muslim man and his young accomplice went around shooting people at random in the Washington area -- that must have been part of the great coordinated conspiracy whereas it was in fact one sick Muslim man who maybe took 9/11 as some kind of signal that the apocalyptic showdown between Allah and the Infidel world had come to America.

He has since compounded this by calling the Christmas bomber "an isolated extremist" only to have to admit a day or two later that he was part of an al Qaeda plot.

So I went to the speech in which he said the phrase "isolated extremist" conveniently given at conservative news site: http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/59115 with the headline "Obama Describes Nigerian As 'Isolated Extremist' Despite Ties to Yemen". Yet Obama also said in that speech: "we will not rest until we find all who were involved and hold them accountable". This clearly contradicts the idea that Obama had jumped to the wild conclusion that the man was an "isolated extremist". But he did use that phrase, didn't he?

Finally, look at the full sentence containing the offending phrase. Congratulating the passengers on the plane who physically prevented an explosion, he said it "demonstrates that an alert and courageous citizenry are far more resilient than an isolated extremist". It is not a statement of policy that the man was not part of any plot -- but just that a single terrorist. certainly isolated for the moment, on a plane can be vulnerable to several Americans who rise to the occasion.

He is a man who could strive to close down our detention facility at Guantanamo even though those released were known to have returned to the battlefield against America.

Guantanamo has for years been a potent symbol of the U.S. finding a legal no-man's land in which to ignore both U.S. law and international agreements, and it has been shown that a large percentage of the prisoners were random individuals grabbed and turned in for the princely (for most Afghans) rewards being offered. A couple of Guantanamo inmates were turned in by stooges of a Mullah whom they had ridiculed.

He could even instruct his Attorney General to afford the perpetrator of 9/11 a civil trial when no one else would ever even consider such an obscenity.

The attempt to try KSM in New York was, I think a mistake but that doesn't change the fact that 95% of the criticisms in the article have no merit at all. I also think it was a mistake to simply hold him several years without any sort of legal closure until people no longer remember when he was captured.

 And he is a man who could wait three days before having anything to say about the perpetrator of yet another terrorist attack on Americans and then have to elaborate on his remarks the following day because his first statement was so lame.

Sorry, but does anyone know what this refers to?

The pattern repeats itself. He either blames any problem on the Bush administration or he naively seeks to wish away the truth.
Knock, knock. Anyone home? Anyone there? Barack Obama exists only as the sock puppet of his handlers, of the people who have maneuvered and manufactured this pathetic individual's life.

Mostly no substance, so no comment, except I think he has been sparing in putting responsibility for current problems on the Bush Administration and has vigorously worked to deal with them in the present, and it is my opinion that Obama did in fact inherit the biggest mess of the kind since Buchanan handed over the presidency to Lincoln.

When anyone else would quickly and easily produce a birth certificate, this man has spent over a million dollars to deny access to his. Most other documents, the paper trail we all leave in our wake, have been sequestered from review. He has lived a make-believe life whose true facts remain hidden.

A birth certificate has been produced and posted to the internet. Moreover, his birth was announced in two Hawaiian newspapers at the time he was being born, and these announcements are available on microfilm. If they are forged, that should be easily provable, and unless you think the conspiracy behind his presidency goes back to before he was born, that really should stop the argument.

RE THE NEWSPAPER ANNOUNCEMENTS OF OBAMA'S BIRTH MADE AT THE TIME OF HIS BIRTH:
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barack_Obama_citizenship_conspiracy_theories).

"A birth notice for Barack Obama was published in both the Honolulu Advertiser and the Honolulu Star-Bulletin on August 13 and August 14, 1961, respectively, listing the home address of Obama's parents as 6085 Kalanianaole Highway in Honolulu.[17][36] On August 3, 2009, in response to the growing controversy, the Advertiser posted on its Web site a screenshot of the announcement taken from its microfilmed archives. Such notices were sent to newspapers routinely by the Hawaii Department of Health.[36]


In an editorial published on July 29, 2009, the Star-Bulletin pointed out that both newspapers' vital-statistics columns are available on microfilm in the main state library. "Were the Hawaiian Department of Health and Obama's parents really in cahoots to give false information to the newspapers, perhaps intending to clear the way for the baby to someday be elected president of the United States?" the newspaper asked sarcastically."

Has Obama really "spent over a million dollars to deny access" to more conclusive document than the one is out there for the world to see? I see several references to claims like this on the Internet, but on the anti-Obama blogs, once something has been said, it will be quoted forever without any sort of citation, so I'm highly skeptical.


We laugh at the ventriloquist's dummy, but what do you do when the dummy is President of the United States of America ?"

No substance, so I have no comment.

Friday, June 11, 2010

To My Not Really Right Wing Mom in response to the Forwarded Email "Wall Street Journal Sizes Up Obama - WOW"

NOTE: This goes back to June 2010, a time leading up to the last off-year election.  Presently (7/2014) I am getting a huge flood of hits on it -- it's probably being circulated again with all new dates to make it seem current.

This is a kind of general response to the kind of thing I think that email represents. I use the phrase "Not Really Right Wing Mom" to draw a connection with the web site "My Right Wing Dad" which has made a sort of database of such emails. Aside from the generalities it also addresses the way it is made to look like it came from a highly respected source -- a typical technique of such emails. One actually took a scathing anti-Bush tirade that was part of a book written by Gene Iacocca (the ex Chrysler CEO) a few years ago, eliminated all references to Bush and put in one small implied reference to Obama -- just enough, and passed it off as Iacocca's warning to the nation about Obama.

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Dear Mom,

I can only say so much about the article with a couple of minutes research, but will take a closer look at it later [as you can see I went on for more than a
couple of minutes, but still haven't dealt with the article point by point, but I'll get to that].

To me it extremely upsetting and somewhat frightening that good people who once saw politics in a fairly level headed way are up to their eyeballs in material that is so systematically dishonest.

I really think the reason things look so bad to so many people in America is to a big extent because this avalance of propaganda and twisting facts and seeing things one-sidedly is like nothing we've ever seen before. These forwarded emails are the worst. They are full of lies and there is nobody to track down and try to expose for the liars that they are. They make a constant racket of claims that public people like Rush Limbaugh would never touch because it would destroy their reputations, but these wild claims prepare people for Rush Limbaugh and others with their less wild but complementary assertions and their general conclusions..

The internet is a great thing potentially, but it has disoriented a lot of people. It gives every worldview however extreme a place to meet and build up steam. Not just "Tea Partiers", but people who believe 9/11 was a hoax and that really the Bush government blew up the World Trade Center; and a similar group in Britain says the blowing up of trains there was staged by the government. Not to mention it is the main way terrorists are recruited and promote themselves, and spread new techniques, like IEDs (Improvised explosive devices) and technologies for suicide bombers.

People no longer have to get in a room with people with different leanings, and discuss things, and arrive at a plausible view of things. There is no pull toward the center the way there was when we had 3 TV networks that have to give "equal time" to the counter-argument if they put on something that was blatantly political.

If you search for the supposed author of the "Wall Street Journal Article", named "Eddie Sessions" on online.wsj.com (Wall Street Journal Web page), you find nothing - I'm really don't know if there is any such person. WSJ wasn't the first place I went, and after what I learned so far, I was hoping to find an explanation. There are many links to analyses of this article on the web, one is

http://www.snopes.com/politics/soapbox/makebelieve.asp

This Snopes website is a major source for information on hoaxes. It does not seem all that purely liberal. At least, it (Snopes) runs ads like:
* "Barack Obama Video Jokes Watch Jokes made of Barack Obama."
* "Ann Coulter - Free Get weekly email alerts on the latest from Ann Coulter - Free!"

Anyway, about the article, the bottom line for Snopes was:

This piece was actually penned by Alan Caruba, who posted it to his "Warning Signs" blog on 2 January 2010.

There is some speculation that maybe, just maybe, it appeared as the blog equivalent of a "letter to the editor" on a WSJ blog, but it never appeared as an article, or even an editorial in the Wall Street journal.

Note that it isn't just innocently credited to the WSJ. The intro part of that email referred to the WSJ as "the most widely circulated newspaper in America". It bothers me to see editorial features called "articles" -- the WSJ has a very high reputation for journalistic integrity, but their editorial page can be quite propagandistic -- but this as I hope I've made clear goes way beyond that.

(Alan Caruba's -- the real author -- general info: http://www.blogger.com/profile/10901162110385985193, and here is the link to the article as posted on his web site:
http://factsnotfantasy.blogspot.com/2010/01/obamas-make-believe-life.html)

I think the U.S. is probably essentially further from socialism than it was in the 1950s when some people had 90+% marginal income brackets, and Interstate Highways were starting to replace state roads and state or privately owned turnpikes and bridges for getting around the country. The post office had a monopoly on shipping packages; there were no Fedex or UPS. The "Phone company" was another monopoly that was called private, but was so tightly controlled and supported by the government that it didn't act like a normal private company). Bell Labs (the research and development part of AT&T) was more like a giant university than like any part of any business that exists today, and we have them to thank for the transister, integrated circuits, and lasers, the foundation of the whole top level of modern technology.

Broadcasting networks were governed by the "fairness doctrine" (so Fox news would not have been possible). The state and federal park system was being built up -- compare it to the tacky private tourist destinations that are mostly a thing of the past now -- the little museums and zoos, the wax museums, the cave tours, etc. They were "free market" but somehow didn't provide such a satisfying experience.

It is debatable whether all of these things are good or not, but what is not debatable is that we were far and away the most successful nation in the world at that time, and the middle class was stronger than ever before or since, and expanding. So the idea that, after 3 decades of mostly moving to the right -- towards deregulation in every area including financial products and oil drilling and coal mining standards -- that after all this rightward movement, the government might take on a new responsibilities, or taxes might rise back to where they were during the Reagan years -- that some movement back to the "left" will mean a rapid slide to Stalinism -- and that that could happen with half the fear and loathing that has been drummed up towards Obama -- it just doesn't hold water.

As technology and the business environment evolve, some things will seem to be best managed by government that never were before (or maybe never existed before) and some things that were government concerns get "spun off" to the private sector, or regulated businesses become deregulated, so they really behave like private business matters. All kinds of communication and transportation are far more "private" than they used to be. Meanwhile the environment and esp. the quality of the air and water became much more public matters, and while there was a cost to the private sector, the Great Lakes and many other bodies of water stopped turning into sewers.

Well, I could keep working on this for days, but had better stop for now and try to get some work done.

Love, Hal

Link to the fake 'WSJ' article with detailed comments