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 ( 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'.

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:

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: 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

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
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 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: 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.


"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.


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 (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

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:, and here is the link to the article as posted on his web site:

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

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Beck and Limbaugh, like Terrorists, Prefer Soft Targets.

In most of the conservative media world, I submit that if anyone has a really, really good argument that they don't like, they will simply ignore it. It seems very worthwhile to test this:

The test case has to do with some old news. The strongest arguments against waterboarding and like interrogation techniques were made by Matthew Alexander, who using typical law enforcement interrogation techniques as seen on The Wire or Prime Suspect found and helped destroy Abu Musab al Zarqawi, who was for a while the most wanted man in Iraq -- the genius of "Al Qaeda in Iraq" who dreamed up decapitating people on webcam, as well as Robert Baer, a veteran CIA operative in the mideast who is so not soft on terrorism and general middle east badness that he was almost put on trial in Washington for almost coordinating a plot to kill Saddam Hussein by anti-Saddam Iraqis back in the Clinton Administration. It would be hard to find two people more passionately critical of the trashing of Geneva conventions - why? because they almost lead to losing the war in Iraq and certainly lead to escalating the violence to the tune of several thousand dead.

But it's so much easier to pick on Al Gore or Jeremiah Wright or Sean Penn.

Using google Advanced Search: (add "")

  • Wright "God Damn America" ==> 13 hits
  • Alexander "how to break a terrorist" ==> 0 hits
  • "al gore" "global warming" ==> 1350 hits (far fewer if "climate change substituted; only 1 I think with "climategate")
  • "al gore" "global warming" ==> 192
  • "al gore" "climate change" ==> 127
  • "al gore" "climategate" ==> 19
  • wright "god damn america" ==> 6
  • alexander "how to break a terrorist" ==> 0
NO mention of "robert baer" on or

Some more searches:

  • "Robert Baer" ==> 9
  • "Jeremiah Wright" ==> 788
  • "Matthew Alexander" ==> 0
  • "How to Break a Terrorist" ==> 0
  • Alexander "How to Break a Terrorist" ==> 0
  • Wright "god damn america ==> 789
  • "Robert Baer" ==> 13
  • "Jeremiah Wright" ==> 968
  • Robert Baer ==> 1 (in followup comment by subscriber)
  • "Jeremiah Wright" ==> 445
  • Wright "God Damn AMerica" ==> 1180
  • Alexander "How to Break a Terrorist" ==> 0

Epistemic closure

Did you hear the one about epistemic closure?

I find this little introduction, in the NYTimes online at

"The phrase is being used as shorthand by some prominent conservatives for a kind of closed-mindedness in the movement, a development they see as debasing modern conservatism’s proud intellectual history. First used in this context by Julian Sanchez of the libertarian Cato Institute, the phrase “epistemic closure” has been ricocheting among conservative publications and blogs as a high-toned abbreviation for ideological intolerance and misinformation.
Conservative media, Mr. Sanchez wrote at — referring to outlets like Fox News and National Review and to talk-show stars like Rush Limbaugh, Mark R. Levin and Glenn Beck — have “become worryingly untethered from reality as the impetus to satisfy the demand for red meat overtakes any motivation to report accurately.” (Mr. Sanchez said he probably fished “epistemic closure” out of his subconscious from an undergraduate course in philosophy"
Funny they should mention the National Review, where you can read a critique of Epistemic closure as represented (according to the reviewer) in "Mark Levin’s massive bestseller Liberty and Tyranny". But then, "Many of Mr. Manzi’s colleagues attacked him for his takedown of Mr. Levin." (says the NYTimes review).

The NR "The Corner" review is at

The Echo Chamber Effect

Well, this has been discussed for years at least, but I'm just catching up on some of that discussion:

See, e.g.:

The 'Vulture' starts off with 'The echo chamber effect is hardly a recent phenomenon. In what perhaps may be an apocryphal quote, Pauline Kael is supposed to have said regarding the landslide victory of Richard Nixon over George McGovern in 1972, "I can't believe Nixon won. I don't know anybody who voted for him".'

This guy says he's a "Libertarian Christian", which is far from what I am, but part of the point of a "Truth Project", in my view (See rationalle for calling this blog "The Real Truth Project" - by the way, there are probably more "Real Truth Projects" than "Truth Projects", but I still like it because it reminds me of a childish "did not" / "did so" / "so are you" sort of argument which is the level we often get to in the epistemology business).

Um, I started a sentence didn't I, ... Part of the point of a "Truth Project" is the hope that people on both sides of many issues - those who aren't active and conscious propagandists at least, really would want to know the truth if it turned out that everything they think is wrong ... if they'd even consider the possibility.

Here's a guy with an attitude I like: where he writes things like:
"Make yourself uncomfortable. I don’t do it often enough, but whenever I step outside my comfort zone – I grow."

OK, so is the blogosphere an echo chamber? No, it's lots and lots of echo chambers. There is the right wing blog echochamber and its many sub-echo chambers, there are liberal echo chambers populated by people who don't know, or don't think they know a single Tea-partier, and there are the various racial echo chambers (which functioned very well way before there was an internet). Religious cults like the Jim Jones one, and the Branch Davidians are super compact echo chambers. There are the online Islamic extremist echo chambers, and the brick and morter ones (certain mosques, madrassas, the Al Quaeda training camp), and there are the mega churches, and the Christian publishing business which can provide you with Christian romance novels, Christian diet books, Christian Yoga books ... hey you never have to go outside ... There is my beloved community of historians who don't know anyone who voted for George Bush ...

But there is something a little special about the internet. If you have to find books and magazines in libraries and bookstores (unless you only go to Islamic bookstores / Christian bookstores / "Radical" bookstores ...) you go to a store and you have to at least walk by books and magazines with other points of view. On the internet, you can go to your favorite blog, and never go anywhere except via links from that blog (or from your other favorite blog).

And before the internet there was the explosion of broadcast bandwidth and turning half the AM radio spectrum over to extreme angry talk. And now we can go to WNYC singles events, and whether we like it or not, we can live in a political district that always votes for one party or the other.

And why, why why are we like this? Well what's the alternative? Listen to every point of view and then the world will seem to have no coherence?

Here's a theory -- suppose you live the way humans did for a few tens of thousands of years -- before this strange period of literacy and "civilization". You know a few hundred people tops, and you will probably never know anyone else -- hey the people on the other side of the hill don't even speak the same language. Your societal worldview is limited to what a few hundred people can keep in their memories. You will never have an accurate view of the world by modern standards. What you need is a theory, a narrative, that gives some reasonable account of things, tells you what to eat and what not to eat. What men do and what women do, and for a select few, what a shaman does maybe. and so on. It seems we're driven to expand our set of explanations til they reach certain bounds. We seem to always want to have a theory of when and how the world was created (whatever we mean by "the world"). Once we have theories we typically are repulsed by alternative theories. If it weren't that way, we and those few hundred other people we know would have a coherent world view to which new (minor) facts could stick.

OK, in the immortal words of Ian Shoales "I gotta go".