Take that, realism!
July 29, 2009 1:54 PM   Subscribe

Is Barack Obama An American Citizen? "...because Obama’s claim to American citizenship is only supported by evidence and logic, he must not be an American citizen."
posted by anotherpanacea (243 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
It was mildly amusing satire until...
Another metaphysical possibility demonstrating that Obama is not a citizen is Norse Mythology. Prominent in Norse myth is the God Loki, who is a trickster god associated with fire and magic. Loki, like other gods, has enormous power over the universe. Indeed, in the Marvel Comics saga Ultimates 2, it was revealed that Loki has the power to shuffle the very fabric of space and time itself, making things disappear from perception.
...this pretty much hit me in the funny bone.
posted by muddgirl at 1:58 PM on July 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Before people barrage this post with flags: this is NOT A BIRTHER POST. The article is taking more of a "what is reality, anyway?" approach.

As you were.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:58 PM on July 29, 2009


Stephen Colbert gets to the bottom of things once and for all in his War Nursery.

USA only, sorry
posted by Servo5678 at 1:59 PM on July 29, 2009


Smells like a birther post.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:59 PM on July 29, 2009


Of course, Obama's citizenship isn't really the question here. It is whether or not he is a "natural born" citizen of the U.S. Which McCain may not be, BTW.

All I know is that these losers are getting clubbed with this over and over again and looking like fools. Just like Rush as the head of the GOP, they can't help but be tied to their nut job right wing. For years it was their strength--now it is an anvil dragging them down.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:59 PM on July 29, 2009


Smells like a birther crap post.
posted by desjardins at 2:01 PM on July 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


Goddamn it I am so tired of these tiresome birther posts. Barack Hussein Obama came to earth in a big mirror thing along with General Zod and a hot leather chick. End of story.
posted by Mister_A at 2:02 PM on July 29, 2009 [30 favorites]


I just realized that, philosophically speaking, I can't prove that I'm a citizen either.

Or even alive.
posted by Avenger at 2:04 PM on July 29, 2009


Even satire gives these morans more attention than they deserve. Really, can we just ignore these people?
posted by GuyZero at 2:05 PM on July 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


This is one of those college sort of "what if the reality we all agree is real isn't really real, y'know?" articles. Like, I understand their point, but it's a little too serious to be funny -- Birthers are a serious pain in the ass -- and a little too funny to be serious -- ha ha impeachment. Plus every time I read about The Secret I get blinded by anger, so I could not read the end of the article because I was blind.
posted by jessamyn at 2:05 PM on July 29, 2009 [19 favorites]


That was cute. Very cute indeed.
posted by elwoodwiles at 2:05 PM on July 29, 2009


Colbert's interview with that crazy broad was brilliant. Connecticut vampire.
...still, what if he is one? I mean look at his teeth. And he is charismatic, like a vampire.

What the birther movement needs is a huge "yes, and" ... which would be great to do with other groups like neo-nazis, but they can get violent, so it's better to get some big dudes and dress like clowns and follow them around mocking them...but I digress...

What I'd love to do is ask Obama surreal questions like that "Mr. President, since you've submitted your birth certificate for public viewing, isn't it possible that the pod people can now clone you?"
I'm sure I could think of some weirder stuff....
posted by Smedleyman at 2:05 PM on July 29, 2009 [6 favorites]


Clearly, Loki could have used his powers to change the fabric of space-time in order to make it appear that Obama was born in Hawaii when he, in fact, wasn’t. But why would Loki do such a thing?

But by putting up that appearance, we can then observe the birth certificate, thus collapsing the probability of whether it exists or not into reality, therefore making Obama a U.S. citizen. Sure, it other universes, he might not be, but in this one the man rules.

Still not sure about the kittens though.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:06 PM on July 29, 2009


Why haven't I learned yet, that I shouldn't read the comments on anything online except Metafilter?
posted by specialagentwebb at 2:06 PM on July 29, 2009 [7 favorites]


Plus every time I read about The Secret I get blinded by anger, so I could not read the end of the article because I was blind.

You should really stop asking the universe to send you blindness.
posted by Drastic at 2:06 PM on July 29, 2009 [59 favorites]


"The question here" depends on which species of birther we're talking about. Like any "good" conspiracy theory, there are several different facets under contention that could lead to several different conclusions. Some birthers do contend that Obama is not a US citizen. For example, if Obama was born outside of the US he would not be a US citizen because his mother had not lived in the US for 5 years after the age of 14.

The Wikipedia article on Natural Born Citizens has an interesting list of former Presidents who were in the same boat as Mr. O.
posted by muddgirl at 2:07 PM on July 29, 2009


Anyone who thinks this article took itself seriously at all didn't finish reading the damned article.
posted by muddgirl at 2:08 PM on July 29, 2009


This whole thing was so odd in the campaign, given the fact that McCain was born in Panama.
posted by delmoi at 2:10 PM on July 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


For years it was their strength--now it is an anvil dragging them down.

It may be dragging them down, but they're sure getting all the attention that they could have ever dreamed out of it, and more.

Colbert had Orly Taitz, "lawyer, dentist, realtor," on his show last night, and she was so out there that he had no idea how to interact with her. That was truly the first time I've ever seen Colbert flummoxed.
posted by blucevalo at 2:10 PM on July 29, 2009 [6 favorites]


The one comment on that site that struck me as particularly worrying was the birther email purported to be widely circulating within the US military. It's not fun to think about, but I think a widespread disbelief in the legitimacy of President Obama among our armed forces could easily become a threat to democracy.
posted by Avenger at 2:11 PM on July 29, 2009


This whole thing was so odd in the campaign, given the fact that McCain was born in Panama.

McCain isn't black, and he doesn't have a "foreign" name.
posted by Mister_A at 2:12 PM on July 29, 2009 [11 favorites]




I think I would like Obama even more if he came out into the White House Rose Garden one day dressed in full chieftan paint and garb, flanked by Masai Warriors and admitted that in fact he was born in Africa and now claims this country as the repatriation place for all *American-born* Africans who moved to Liberia and Freetown, Sierra Leone. "If you don't like it, Billy Bob, come and get me." Thus begins the race war prophesied by Loki/Dwight Eisenhower, as a way to revive the US economy via the military-industrial complex.
posted by mattbucher at 2:15 PM on July 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


if Obama was born outside of the US he would not be a US citizen because his mother had not lived in the US for 5 years after the age of 14.

Right because she was 17, even though she'd lived her whole life in Hawaii. So obviously they rushed back to give birth in Hawaii so he could get elected president 45 years later. Reminds me of this letter TPM posted the other day:
Just to let TPM know, I just retroactively snuck in a couple of ads in several local French newspapers announcing the birth of my son in FRANCE. In 46 years, when he is president of France... who will have the last laugh? Me, that's who.
posted by delmoi at 2:15 PM on July 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


> USA only, sorry

Comedycentral isn't US only, it's the whole world except Canada (or something like that). They don't block the Netherlands at least.
posted by bjrn at 2:15 PM on July 29, 2009


The Loki part is what really got me. The way it was explained in the article, about how Loki made it possible for Obama to be elected, so he could legistate in the conditions necessary to bring about the end fo the world? I finally understand!
posted by sandraregina at 2:16 PM on July 29, 2009


I, too, wish it were even more harshly satirical, so I could feel like it was really finally worth it to read about the birth certificate thing just one more time.
posted by Miko at 2:19 PM on July 29, 2009


muddgirl: Like any "good" conspiracy theory, there are several different facets under contention that could lead to several different conclusions.

Right, like there are the insane people who contend that the short-form certificate can be gotten by anyone regardless of place of birth, but then there are the crazy people who contend that the short-form document is a forgery.

My personal favorites are the crazy insane people who contend both, that (although they wouldn't put it this way) the Evil Obama Conspiracy went to a great deal of trouble to forge a document that isn't even evidence that he was born in Hawaii.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:20 PM on July 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Plus every time I read about The Secret I get blinded by anger, so I could not read the end of the article because I was blind.

You fool! Now I know your superhero weakness!

*pre-pends every new off-topic AsKme snark with the phrase, "As demonstrated in The Secret...

1) Know exactly what you want.
2) Ask the universe for it.
3) Feel, behave and know as if the object of your desire is already yours (visualize).
4) Be open to receive it and let go of (the attachment to) the outcome.
5) Send me all your money."*
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:20 PM on July 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


omigod you guys are so LAST WEEK with this birther nonsense. plus, there is NO PROOF that he's not a citizen.

on the other hand, ancient texts have REVEALED that wherever he was born, BARACK OBAMMA is actually, according to JEsus, the one and only SATEN.
posted by billysumday at 2:21 PM on July 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Really, can we just ignore these people?

If Lou Dobbs would stop obsessing over this thing ("Oh whyyyy won't he just produce a birth certificate?") then I would happily ignore it. As it is, a "Birther" sounds like a terrifying slimy alien which has somehow gotten pregnant inside of my belly.
posted by naju at 2:22 PM on July 29, 2009


The nature of arguments like those between those who have doubts about the President's citizenship and everyone else preclude anyone being satisfied at the end, if there ever is an end.

The people who believe that we didn't land on the moon, or that 9/11 was an inside job, are not interested in the arguments of anyone else. They have their media, their trusted sources, their informers and leaders and disseminators. They go in defensively, seeking not justification but reaffirmation. And why shouldn't they? They've seen that plenty of far-fetched ideas have been proven to actually be true through the work of investigatory journalism, exposés, and sleuthing.

And we eat it up! We watch the "debates", hear the "balanced discussions", don't believe an argument is "fair" unless "all sides" are represented. So there is no "resolution", the "jury is out", even after the truth, whatever that may be, is well-established and accepted by most scholars.

Even for events of huge magnitude that affected millions of people, like the Holocaust, a group of vocal (and, obviously, wrong) people spend decades seeking to prove that either the event was a footnote or a fiction. What drives these people? I have no idea - but I have a suspicion that we'd hear a lot less from them without an all-encompassing, omnipresent media. The more people who hear their "message", the longer the fiction survives - at least that's what they may tell themselves. When the people their message has reached raise their children, or talk to their peers later on, will that nugget of doubt about the event's reality be totally gone? Probably not, unless the arguments of "the other side" have made a stronger impression, tamped down all possible doubt, and asserted their absolute prominence.

History is not just the story of who we were - based on which versions of it we are raised with, perhaps it's also the story of who we will become.
posted by mdonley at 2:24 PM on July 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


I got the part about The Secret before laughing uncontrollably. Everyone in the coffee shop is giving odd looks. Cheers for the fun read.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:27 PM on July 29, 2009


"Birthers" has got to be one of the stupidest names for a collection of single-issue like-minded individuals ever. It sounds like a Midwife club. Sheesh. Carry on.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 2:30 PM on July 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Really, can we just ignore these people?

Not until my name for these folks — dingbats — enters the popular vernacular. At which point we can all safely return to our day-to-day drudgery.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:31 PM on July 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


And we eat it up!

I saw my mom kind of nail this phenomenon on another message board. She noted that there's another level of activity going on that's not sheer idiocy: it's sheer idiots being knowingly manipulated and kept wound up by more established interests seeking to use racism, jingoism, and fear to undermine the perception of Presdential authority. It's a sideshow, but a sideshow with a purpose, and the performers largely may not even realize they're the ones on display, not the directors.
posted by Miko at 2:32 PM on July 29, 2009 [14 favorites]


Wait a second Miko–there's another message board?
posted by Mister_A at 2:33 PM on July 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


The Wikipedia article on Natural Born Citizens has an interesting list of former Presidents who were in the same boat as Mr. O.

It's a pretty weird boat, since the other guys on that list were actually born outside the U.S. (though perhaps in U.S. territory, sort of, apparently). But Hawaii is indisputably a state of these United States, and had been for two years before Obama's birth. He's only in that weird boat because a bunch of freaks (and the assholes running the media show around this) refuse to accept reality.
posted by rtha at 2:34 PM on July 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Why not? Most religions are based on "truths" that are absolutely unprovable (or else it's not "faith") and often provably impossible (or else they're not "miracles"). So it's a small step to commit yourself to a Conspiracy Theory that is an absolute malicious LIE. America's political Right Wing has been committed to malicious lying ever since Nixon. (Before I was old enough to vote, I volunteered with Nixon's '72 re-election campaign where I 'telemarketed' the candidate with a script that everyone in the campaign office knew was full of intentional falsehoods about his opponent - and we were instructed how to respond to being confronted with true facts. That was the beginning of my political education.)

You know what the biggest lie they tell is? "The Democrats do the same thing." They do plenty of other sleazy things, and often work hard to avoid difficult or unpleasant truths, but they do not commit themselves to the promotion of Lies the way the GOP does every chance they get.
posted by wendell at 2:36 PM on July 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


rtha - I was mostly looking at the first entry, Chester A. Arthur, who was accused of being born in Canada by some political opponents. So really not so much a list of Former Presidents in the same boat... more of a "list with one former president who is in a similar kind of boat, only older."
posted by muddgirl at 2:38 PM on July 29, 2009


Metafilter: I saw my mom kind of nail this phenomenon on another message board.
posted by blue_beetle at 2:38 PM on July 29, 2009 [8 favorites]


Between jessamyn's send up of "[...] every time I read about The Secret I get blinded by anger, so I could not read the end of the article because I was blind." and Drastic's "You should really stop asking the universe to send you blindness.", you BOTH owe me a new keyboard. Just saying.
posted by cavalier at 2:39 PM on July 29, 2009


Miko: And we eat it up!

I saw my mom kind of nail this phenomenon on another message board.


I actually know far more about this subject than I think you can imagine.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:44 PM on July 29, 2009 [18 favorites]


Barack Hussein Obama came to earth in a big mirror thing along with General Zod and a hot leather chick.

Okay, so he's not Zod. And he's not the hot leather chick, Ursa.

So you're saying Obama is secretly Non?

Hrrrrrrb. Okay. In one hand I've got a dead crab, and in the other I've got some Whizzo butter. Which is which?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:48 PM on July 29, 2009


"Birther" isn't the preferred nomenclature, Dude. I prefer, "Person who gives a shit about where a baby was when it slid out of a vagina."
posted by pardonyou? at 2:50 PM on July 29, 2009


Andrew Sullivan:
The whole birth certificate issue gets weirder still:
"I, Dr. Chiyome Fukino, director of the Hawaii State Department of Health, have seen the original vital records maintained on file by the Hawaii State Department of Health verifying Barack Hussein Obama was born in Hawaii and is a natural-born American citizen. I have nothing further to add to this statement or my original statement issued in October 2008 over eight months ago...."
But why are we supposed to rely on the testimony of Dr Fukino, whom I believe entirely. It is not my job as a journalist or yours as a citizen to take public officials on trust. They are not to be trusted, whoever they are. It is our job to demand all the evidence we want or need. I know the electronic record is legit. I have no doubt that Obama has every constitutional right to be president. I think the Birthers are nuts. But there is no reason on earth that the original cannot be retrieved and shown.
Sullivan has a bit of a track record in crazytown when it comes to birth certificates, but I do wonder why they don't release them and be done with it. I guess there's some advantage in giving nutjob Republicans something stupid to waste their time and credibility on.
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 2:51 PM on July 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Barack Hussein Obama came to earth in a big mirror thing along with General Zod and a hot leather chick. End of story.

Actually, I'd have been much more likely to vote for him had this been the case.

Woulda been cool.
posted by spirit72 at 2:55 PM on July 29, 2009


What are you supposed to do with the original? If you show it on TV, some people will claim the video feeds were manipulated, they want an independent analysis of the paper, etc., claim that the document was placed inside the state archives at the last minute, etc. Why do you need more proof that what you'd use for a job, or a passport or what have you, if asked, and would work fine for that purpose? All I have is a copy--a certified copy, but a copy all the same. It gets the job done, as it should. For god's sake.
posted by raysmj at 2:58 PM on July 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Frickin' pundits. Andrew Sullivan is, whatever else you may say about him good or ill, still a goddamned pundit.
posted by raysmj at 2:59 PM on July 29, 2009


...but I do wonder why they don't release them and be done with it

Well, a couple thoughts:

1) Sane idea: Neither Obama nor his family has the original birth certificate. The state of Hawaii only releases the Certificate of Live Birth now, not this so-called "Long Form". So, in other words, they can't release what they don't have. Or, to put it another way, the Certificate of Live Birth IS a birth certificate. It has already been released.

2) Insane Conspiracy Theorist's idea: The Obamas are trying to hide the fact that Obama's father was not actually Barack Obama Sr., but was instead one of several other black (but American) men.
posted by muddgirl at 3:03 PM on July 29, 2009


Sullivan has a bit of a track record in crazytown when it comes to birth certificates, but I do wonder why they don't release them and be done with it.

Why clear up the mystery and quiet all those crazy Republicans?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:03 PM on July 29, 2009


When my mother died we discovered a copy of he birth certificate showing that she was actually born 3 days PRIOR to the day we celebrated her birthday, meaning she was born on a boat flying the Greek flag, so she probably wasn't actually a citizen...um wait never mind! What's this I hear about Barack Obama?
posted by nax at 3:06 PM on July 29, 2009


Nothing is going to quiet these people. It's like the 9/11 Truthers - whatever document you produce will be seen as fake and evidence of an ever larger conspiracy.
posted by CunningLinguist at 3:07 PM on July 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


Nothing is going to quiet these people

Fire?
posted by lumpenprole at 3:10 PM on July 29, 2009


FWIW, even Bill Oreilly has been repeatedly stating on his show recently that Obama's citizenship is a resolved non-issue. Despite emails from his followers wondering why he's falling for Obama's ruse.
posted by jsonic at 3:13 PM on July 29, 2009


Afte the madness on health reform coming out of the Congeress, I am not so sure I am proud to be a citizen any longer.

ps: did Bush ever show us his real military record?
posted by Postroad at 3:15 PM on July 29, 2009


Why clear up the mystery and quiet all those crazy Republicans?

Right, and normally I would be happy to keep an idiot in suspense (as the joke goes), but anything that ratchets up the level of crazy with some of these people makes me a bit nervous. There is a weird sort of tease to a statement like "I have seen the original" (but you can't see it).
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 3:15 PM on July 29, 2009


This whole thing was so odd in the campaign, given the fact that McCain was born in Panama.

That explains why, during some of the debates, he seemed to be running a little bit hot that night. You could barely seen the stage, from the heat coming off.
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:15 PM on July 29, 2009 [12 favorites]


I for one, appreciate this Birther stuff; I allows me to easily identify someone with poor logic skills, irrationality and, normally, bad manners.

I mentally tag their ears and move on.
posted by Dagobert at 3:15 PM on July 29, 2009 [7 favorites]


Good analogy, CL. I was thinking more along the lines of Tax Deniers - I am personally acquainted with several. They base their opinions on dodgy or misinterpreted case law. They point out irrelevant evidence and ignore relevant data. For terms like "voluntary" or "natural born", they favor modern definitions and exclude historical ones, even if those historical definitions are backed by primary source documents.
posted by muddgirl at 3:16 PM on July 29, 2009


Nothing is going to quiet these people

Fire?


We already had our Reichstag. Republicans are so greedy.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:23 PM on July 29, 2009


more of a "list with one former president who is in a similar kind of boat, only older."

muddgirl - gotcha.
posted by rtha at 3:24 PM on July 29, 2009


The first natural born American in-vitro baby will be 35 in December 2016.. Birthers, on your mark.
posted by acro at 3:24 PM on July 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/229691/july-28-2009/womb-raiders---orly-taitz
posted by Postroad at 3:26 PM on July 29, 2009


George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson were not natural born citizens of the United States of America.
posted by Devils Rancher at 3:28 PM on July 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


They were however citizens of the US at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, which is also acceptable.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:32 PM on July 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


I actually know far more about this subject than I think you can imagine.

Your intent isn't clear from your comment and I'm unsure how to read it. But if you're implying that I am pretending to know more than I do, I'm not. I pretty much gave you the extent of her comment, and believe you me, I was as surprised as anyone to be all "That's my mom! Hey, she has a point!"

There are plenty of established interest groups who are very much interested in sowing seeds of resistance to Obama's policy initiatives. Devoting attention to the birthers and their questions is an excellent way to fan the flames of doubt and suspicion about the very legitimacy of his Presidency.
posted by Miko at 3:33 PM on July 29, 2009


Is there a video documentary of that first in-vitro baby's originating sperm and egg meeting? Is there a picture of them holding a NY Times with the date showing? Are they standing in front of the Grand Canyon? Is there a 'Made in USA' label on them? No? Then yer not an American!
posted by jamstigator at 3:33 PM on July 29, 2009


> Plus every time I read about The Secret I get blinded by anger, so I could not read the end of the article because I was blind.

As a public librarian, I am professionally required to maintain a strict neutrality when it comes to the worth of any given book located within the collection. That said, I had to bite down harder on the impulse to say "no" when people asked me to put The Secret on hold than I've had to for any other book. A close second: anything by Tim LaHaye.
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:33 PM on July 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


As a non american, i'm curious, is it ever discussed that the idea that the president has to be not just a citizen, but born in the us, is kind of ridiculous? It suggests that a mere citizen on some level, isn't considered a real citizen unless they were actually born in the US.
posted by compound eye at 3:33 PM on July 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


I love that this issue is out there and Fox News is out there harping on it. Nobody fucking cares except crazy people who would never vote for him or any other democrat.
posted by empath at 3:34 PM on July 29, 2009


I saw my mom kind of nail this phenomenon on another message board. She noted that there's another level of activity going on that's not sheer idiocy: it's sheer idiots being knowingly manipulated and kept wound up by more established interests seeking to use racism, jingoism, and fear to undermine the perception of Presdential authority. It's a sideshow, but a sideshow with a purpose, and the performers largely may not even realize they're the ones on display, not the directors.

Wow, the conspiracy behind the conspiracies...

*zoom in on sinister look*

Narrator: "But who is controlling the controllers? And to what purpose?

*cue ominous music*
posted by Avelwood at 3:35 PM on July 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I want to see the video. I want to know the settings you used, any editing programs you might have used, and will send evidence to geologists re the Grand Canyon thing to see if that was indeed the Grand Canyon. Or maybe I'll have that info examined by civil engineers or economists or something who claim to know all about the Grand Canyon, a la the 9/11 truth "experts."
posted by raysmj at 3:37 PM on July 29, 2009


As a non american, i'm curious, is it ever discussed that the idea that the president has to be not just a citizen, but born in the us, is kind of ridiculous?

I think they were concerned about British citizens coming to the US and getting elected to office and tying us back to the empire. That's why officeholders can't have titles from foreign countries, either.
posted by empath at 3:39 PM on July 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Birthers on the Hill: Republican congresspeople run away from a reporter asking them if president Obama is an American citizen. Why? Because if they say yes, they'll offend their birther wingnut base. If they say no, they'll be seen as birther winguts. So away they run.
posted by mattdidthat at 3:41 PM on July 29, 2009 [5 favorites]




No, you're all wrong. Obama is clearly a pedophile.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 3:44 PM on July 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


My point is this: What issues are we not talking about? For one thing, right now, there's a very important Obama initiative out there in the form of a health care bill in the works. It's a big deal. There's a lot of opposition from industry as well as from various political sectors. But we don't even have to debate the philosophy and content of this bill as long as everyone's busily asking themselves whether this arrogant Socialist even has the right to be President.

Similarly, the NRA has been encouraging the raising of eyebrows as subtly as it can, weighing in on Sotomayor's nomination by telling Republican Senators they "will remember" who supported her nomination or not. The "Obama gun boom" has been a boon to the munitions industry, and real dollars are being made, along with political gains, because of fears arising as a direct reaction to this Presidency. Keeping the gun nuts wound up about whether Obama even deserves to be in office, and what he plans to do to your gun rights if he isn't challenged, is definitely an outrage-fueler.

Stuff like that.
posted by Miko at 3:44 PM on July 29, 2009 [6 favorites]


Republican congresspeople run away from a reporter asking them if president Obama is an American citizen.

Rep. Roy Blunt: ‘I don’t believe’ Obama has produced a birth certificate.
posted by ericb at 3:46 PM on July 29, 2009


I think the Birthers are nuts. But there is no reason on earth that the original cannot be retrieved and shown.

Oh for chrissakes. Andrew Sullivan should sit down and shut up. When I applied for a new passport, and later, a replacement social security card, neither agency asked to see my original birth certificate. A certified copy - from Hawaii, yet! - was perfectly acceptable, since it's, you know, certified.
posted by rtha at 3:48 PM on July 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


In Canada our prime minister was born in Ontario (completely normal for a Canadian PM) but claims he comes from Calgary, which is just crazy. Prime Ministers don't come from Alberta.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:49 PM on July 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


but they do not commit themselves to the promotion of Lies the way the GOP does every chance they get.

Well, what the hell would you do if your very core beliefs were anathema to the majority of voters? Tell 'em like they are? I think not. Your only recourse is to invent plausible lies that lead to the same ends and hope that no one notices you're lying.
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:49 PM on July 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


a sage driving instructor once said, "look where you want to go, not where you don't."

the reality-based part of america consistently ignores this advice and the republicans are masters at exploiting that ignorance. it's why they'll always win, even when they lose.
posted by klanawa at 3:51 PM on July 29, 2009 [10 favorites]


is it ever discussed that the idea that the president has to be not just a citizen, but born in the us, is kind of ridiculous?

Yes, specifically when people float the ideas of the presidency of certain governors, like Jennifer Granholm of Michigan (born in Canada) or Arnold Schwarzeneggar (born in Austria). But seeing as it would require a constitutional amendment to change - a monumentally-difficult thing to do - it's not on the front-burner, so to speak.

I imagine that in a few decades, when the country is more diverse in its origins than it is now, and the children of current immigrants are seeking political office, that this will come up for much more discussion.
posted by mdonley at 3:55 PM on July 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


also, this article expresses why i think the popular liberal sentiment, "live your truth" is bullshit.
posted by klanawa at 3:59 PM on July 29, 2009


I actually think we should bar Natural Born US Citizens from the presidency.

If you don't love America enough to leave your homeland and renounce your citizenship, and spend several years preparing for and working towards US citizenship, then you don't deserve to be president.
posted by empath at 4:01 PM on July 29, 2009 [8 favorites]


Andrew Sullivan should sit down and shut up.

He's just showing his true colors.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:01 PM on July 29, 2009


it's sheer idiots being knowingly manipulated and kept wound up by more established interests seeking to use racism, jingoism, and fear to undermine the perception of Presdential authority. It's a sideshow, but a sideshow with a purpose,

and thus it should be ridiculed with as much eviscerating venom as good humor can conjure. in other words, I laughed until I stopped.
posted by philip-random at 4:04 PM on July 29, 2009


Laughing is great, but I think that those who oppose letting this song and dance provide a distraction from the legislative agenda should laugh and then turn their attention, and conversation, and news consumption, to the current issues that are actually going to impact every American, like it or not, and talk about those. Because as laughable as it is, it's also serious, in that this discussion takes the place of the more mundane ones that make up the actual actions of government.

As long as wingnuts are the story of the day, the attention and energy of the general public is being distracted away from discussing, or even noticing, the importance of the actual legislative agenda currently on the table.
posted by Miko at 4:13 PM on July 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


In Canada our prime minister was born in Ontario (completely normal for a Canadian PM)

Really? Campbell was born in BC, Turner in England, Clark in Alberta (ha!) but the last non-loser PM born in Ontario was Pearson. Before that it was common, but there hasn't been an Ontario PM for 40 years.

Also: we're had a non-native-born head of government and several foreign-born heads of state! More examples of Canada as the modern day Sodom and Gomorrah.
posted by GuyZero at 4:17 PM on July 29, 2009


Miko: I think you're awesome and whenever I see your byline I perk up and take notice, but I think you're overreacting here. Did you read the part about Loki?

It in no way hampers health care reform. It's mid-summer and they're probably not going to get a bill passed until after the recess. A lot of us have talked reform to death and we're getting to the point where more talking is actually divisive. We need a break. Meanwhile, let's have a chuckle.
posted by anotherpanacea at 4:18 PM on July 29, 2009


"I actually know far more about this subject than I think you can imagine."

Your intent isn't clear from your comment and I'm unsure how to read it. But if you're implying that I am pretending to know more than I do, I'm not.


Miko, I think shakespeherian was (possibly too) subtly referencing the whole jakeelala kerfuffle (Meta).
posted by gemmy at 4:27 PM on July 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Brandon Blatcher: "Sure, it other universes, he might not be, but in this one the man rules."

Governs. The man governs.
posted by boo_radley at 4:29 PM on July 29, 2009


You know the really depressing thing? These are the people we're having a hard time trouncing in a debate about health care. The single biggest expense many in the middle class have (and the biggest thing anybody lower than that can't even afford) and Democrats can't shout loud enough to be heard over the morans and their corporate media enablers.
posted by DU at 4:33 PM on July 29, 2009 [9 favorites]


But Hawaii is indisputably a state of these United States

You're not giving them enough credit! Some of the tax protesters argue that Ohio is not a state. If they can dispute Ohio's statehood, surely they can dispute Hawaii's with one hand tied behind their backs.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 4:34 PM on July 29, 2009




I'm sorry if it looks like I'm overreacting. I'm not actually feeling particularly reactive. I'm just worn out on this game. It's tiresome. I know that no health care reform bill is going to pass between now and September 8th, but that's one reason it bothers me: in these days in which the early drafts will be sitting around, ripe for discussion and analysis and debate, and in which those who want it to pass are actively campaigning for Americans to get in touch with their representatives to voice strong support for health care reform, we're spending time discussing this nonsense, and reporters are spending time reporting on this nonsense and asking legislators about this nonsense. It's irritating. And the eagerness of so many to step aside from debating specific issues by alleging that the President is a usurper is tremendously disheartening.

You know the really depressing thing? These are the people we're having a hard time trouncing in a debate about health care.

My point exactly.
posted by Miko at 4:41 PM on July 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


Also:

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH
posted by boo_radley at 4:42 PM on July 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is Obama a US Citizen?

That link tried to place something on my computer.
posted by Bookhouse at 4:43 PM on July 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


>You're not giving them enough credit! Some of the tax protesters argue that Ohio is not a state.

That's just crazy.

West Virginia, on the other hand...
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 4:47 PM on July 29, 2009


On last night's Colbert Report, he interviewed the lawyer/dentist/real estate agent who has made a name for herself among the birthers. One of the things that she said was that the Social Security Number "most used" by Obama belongs to a 119 year old from Connecticut.

I'm curious as to what on earth she could possibly be talking about, so I googled a bit. Unfortunately, the sites that came up in the results all had a freeper vibe to them, with the Google summaries saying that this grand new evidence will be what finally causes the American people to wake up and throw off the shackles of slavery, or some such. I am not interested in giving such sites traffic, so I didn't click on them; besides, I'm really more interested in reading the inevitable debunkings of this ... theory.

Does anyone know of a site that deals with this? "We read freerepublic so you don't have to" kind of thing?

I also gathered, from the Google summaries, that she's additionally claiming that Obama has used something like 39 Social Security Numbers. I'm interested in reading debunkings of that, too.
posted by Flunkie at 4:53 PM on July 29, 2009


Flunkie: ""We read freerepublic so you don't have to" kind of thing?"

If you're a goon, or don't mind something awful, check here. The thread started off last November, and it's guaranteed to give you a giant fucking headache if you're at all familiar with reality-based reality.
posted by boo_radley at 5:20 PM on July 29, 2009


These are the people we're having a hard time trouncing in a debate about health care.

Actually, I take that back. 70+% of Americans want the Democratic plan already. The debate is already won. The difficulties are getting the news out (thanks to corporate media) and getting the key players to work for humans rather than the insurance industry.
posted by DU at 5:30 PM on July 29, 2009


Thanks boo_radley, but I mean more specifically regarding the two claims "Obama's SSN is for a 119 year old from Connecticut" and "Obama has used 39 SSNs".
posted by Flunkie at 5:35 PM on July 29, 2009


Really, can we just ignore these people?

Anyone with any sense can. However, it seems that many don't and that is alarming.
posted by juiceCake at 5:44 PM on July 29, 2009


Andrew Sullivan must have written like a hundred blog posts whining about Sarah Palin's kid. With all the other stuff about her, those posts just made him seem totally nuts, and really discredited the other stuff.

This "Why doesn't he release the original" thing is also somewhat nonsensical. One guy says he's seen it, but the president of CNN says all the paper certificates were destroyed when they went digital. I doubt you could just go and request it, and at this point it would only be a historical document, not a legal one. I doubt the certificates have been under lock and key if they do exist, and anyone could have slipped in another or whatever. There's no "chain of custody" like you need for real courtroom evidence. So they'll never be satisfied.

Just like it was never clear what, exactly, Sullivan thought Sarah Palin should do to "prove" her kid was hers. I suppose she could take a DNA test, but really. No "Palin Birther" would ever vote for her, just like no "Birther" would ever vote for Obama. Plus for both of them (but especially Palin, because she loves to play the victim) having your most vocal opponents appear absolutely insane just makes you look good.

And of course Sullivan is a "Conservative" who is fed up with the Republican Party. He was a big supporter of Bush and the Iraq war. Maybe those people, even after conversion from republicanism, still have some residual crazy that never goes away.

On last night's Colbert Report, he interviewed the lawyer/dentist/real agent who has made a name for herself among the birthers.

Don't forget her second degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do.
posted by delmoi at 5:48 PM on July 29, 2009


Anyone with any sense can. However, it seems that many don't and that is alarming.

Ignore the brownshirts and their masters at (y)our peril.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:57 PM on July 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Colbert rules: http://www.robertgibbsisthezodiackiller.com/.
posted by boo_radley at 5:57 PM on July 29, 2009


No, you're all wrong. Obama is clearly a pedophile.

Obscene
Boys
And
Men
Association

Coincidence?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:02 PM on July 29, 2009


70+% of Americans want the Democratic plan already. The debate is already won.

Poll Shows Obama’s Clout on Health Care Is Eroding
President Obama’s ability to shape the debate on health care appears to be eroding as opponents aggressively portray the effort as a government-takeover that could limit Americans’ ability to choose their doctor and course of treatment, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

...The poll was taken at a moment of extreme fluidity, both in terms of the complicated negotiations going on in the House and the Senate as legislators and the administration sort out the substance and politics of competing proposals, as well as efforts by both sides to define the stakes of the health care debate for the public.

With Congress now almost certain to adjourn for the rest of the summer without floor votes on any specific plan, the next month or two is likely to see a vigorous advertising and grass roots effort to shift public opinion, and the poll offers hope to both sides.

The changes in the public’s attitude over the past month, even if not huge, suggest the reason why Mr. Obama sought so hard to get Congress to vote on some versions of an overhaul before heading home.
The birthers, coverage of the birthers, healthcare, coverage of healthcare, the recess, return to home districts, advertising in home districts: all related, even if only in the muddy mind of the undecided, 'low-information' moderate.
posted by Miko at 6:17 PM on July 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Birthers are so last week. Allow me to introduce the deathers.
posted by ND¢ at 6:22 PM on July 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Birthers
Schoolers
Workers
Deathers

--The Godfathersers
posted by Ron Thanagar at 6:29 PM on July 29, 2009 [8 favorites]


Birthers are so last week. Allow me to introduce the deathers.

Ah, crap: I was so hoping that this would be people who claimed that Obama was actually dead. "Play his last speech backwards, man, and it says 'Obama is a Walrus Called Paul!'"
posted by yoink at 6:32 PM on July 29, 2009 [6 favorites]


Everybody knows Obama wasn't born in Hawaii... NASA faked his birth on a soundstage in the Arizona desert.
posted by arto at 7:11 PM on July 29, 2009


I just want to point out that I didn't know what "Birther" meant until this post.

Thank you. I think I'm ready now.
posted by philip-random at 7:14 PM on July 29, 2009


Birthers.

Motherfuckers talk shit, I say punch 'em in the dick.
posted by cazoo at 7:17 PM on July 29, 2009


That "Law of Attraction" thing sounds like some pretty strong mojo:

1. Know what you want and ask the universe for it.
2. Feel and behave as if the object of your desire is on its way.
3. Be open to receiving it.

How could that not work?

On the other hand, it has been pretty warm. A little Fimbulvetr sounds pretty good right about now.

Hey, why not both!

1. Dear universe, please send some fimbulvetr my way
2. You'll recognize me by my winter coat and thermal underwear
3. Open? Does that mean...like...the front door or would a bathroom window do?
posted by Cats' Concert at 7:33 PM on July 29, 2009


I'm an undeader myself. I think Obama's secretly a zombie and he's using his newfound powers to create zombie banks, because where else is a zombie gonna do his banking.
posted by jamstigator at 7:41 PM on July 29, 2009


Its we afterbirthers who always get ignored by the MSM, though. But WAKE UP SHEEPLE! We can't judge if he's a Natural Born American until we SEE the AFTERBIRTH!!
posted by yoink at 7:45 PM on July 29, 2009


The one comment on that site that struck me as particularly worrying was the birther email purported to be widely circulating within the US military. It's not fun to think about, but I think a widespread disbelief in the legitimacy of President Obama among our armed forces could easily become a threat to democracy.

Newsflash: Democracy has a long list of problems that come before "military overthrow".
posted by odinsdream at 7:49 PM on July 29, 2009


Miko: "
There are plenty of established interest groups who are very much interested in sowing seeds of resistance to Obama's policy initiatives. Devoting attention to the birthers and their questions is an excellent way to fan the flames of doubt and suspicion about the very legitimacy of his Presidency.
"

Actually, they've been doing this for some time now. They've been doing it because it works. It's just become a little more obvious lately.

It's not going to stop working until it becomes a lot more obvious, so I'm all in favor of paying attention to the Birthers, so long as it's in the context of HA HA LOOK STUPID. Gratefully, I think that's beginning to happen.

In the long run, the ascendency of Karl Rove may be seen as having been good for America, if only because his persistent, often successful attempts to hack the culture forced it to become a lot more critical of idiots. (That is, assuming it DOES become a lot more critical. If it doesn't, I might as well buy stock in Brawndo.)
posted by JHarris at 7:57 PM on July 29, 2009


That is, assuming it DOES become a lot more critical.

I hope you're right. From what I've seen on the ground over the last few weeks, though, I think that the jury is most definitely still out.
posted by Miko at 8:08 PM on July 29, 2009


The deathers thing has me sitting with my mouth hanging open.
posted by agregoli at 8:34 PM on July 29, 2009


I hope you're right. From what I've seen on the ground over the last few weeks, though, I think that the jury is most definitely still out.

Miko is right. You hear that sound? That chomping noise? That is precious cultural bandwidth being eaten up by millions of morons. It's not a conspiracy. It's deliberate. It's right there in the open.

I just got back from Small Town America in Idaho and the midwest. Sigh. There is no end to these people. And they are loud. I'd say at least half of our relatives eat this shit up on one level or another. With most of them it's pretty easy to calmly disassemble the poor logic and lack of facts and they sort of come around. But their information band width totally eaten up by this birther bullshit. Health care reform? They have no fucking clue. Even though they want it they have no idea what the hell is happening in DC on the real issues. No clue at all.
posted by tkchrist at 8:59 PM on July 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


gemmy: Miko, I think shakespeherian was (possibly too) subtly referencing the whole jakeelala kerfuffle (Meta).

Yeah, thanks gemmy. Sorry for the misunderstanding, Miko. Hearts all around.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:12 PM on July 29, 2009


It's not fun to think about, but I think a widespread disbelief in the legitimacy of President Obama among our armed forces could easily become a threat to democracy.

Standing armies are always a threat to democracy.
posted by IvoShandor at 9:25 PM on July 29, 2009 [1 favorite]




If you've ever seen the documentary They Live, you would know that forged birth certificates are the least of our problems when the sheeple finally wake up and find out the truth about Barack Hussein Obama.
posted by cmonkey at 12:23 AM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Charlie Pierce's "Three Great Premises:"
1. Any theory is valid if it sells books, soaks up ratings or otherwise moves units.
2. Anything can be true if someone says it loudly enough.
3. Fact is that which enough people believe. Truth is determined by how fervently they believe it.
posted by nax at 4:58 AM on July 30, 2009


Devoting attention to the birthers and their questions is an excellent way to fan the flames of doubt and suspicion about the very legitimacy of his Presidency.

This is simply untrue, and paranoid to boot. As a nation, we'd be much better off if this sort of conspiracy thinking was rejected by intelligent folks like you. This is the ideological methodology generally associated with Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and Glenn Beck, just translated into a liberal idiom.
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:57 AM on July 30, 2009


Or, to put it another way, the Certificate of Live Birth IS a birth certificate.

Right -- can anyone explain to me exactly why in the bloody blue poppycock anyone would believe otherwise? I mean -- the words "Birth" and "Certificate" are IN the title "Certificate Of Live Birth". The very concept OF a Birth Certificate is that it is a certificate testifying that a birth took place, which is what a "Certificate of Live Birth" is doing, I mean it says so on the g-darn tin, so what exactly is the logic behind the claims that a "Certificate of Live Birth" is not a Birth Certificate, and why don't these people realize that they sound like they're arguing about the difference between "The People's Front of Judea" and "The Judean People's Front"?


(takes pill)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:04 AM on July 30, 2009


All I have is a copy--a certified copy, but a copy all the same. It gets the job done, as it should. For god's sake.

Hell, there's no definitively personally identifiable information associated with old birth certificates anyway--no fingerprints, no photos, no DNA. Even if the birth certificate were shown, they'd just say, but how can we be sure it's really his, that he really was the child the certificate was issued for?

There was a time when people in America weren't so frickin' crazy and paranoid. Now we are.

I suspect outside agitators are at least playing a role in fueling the paranoia, in various blow-back responses to the CIA's various disinfo and social destabilization campaigns around the world over the last 50 years or so (we're not the only nation in the world who does covert ops, after all). But then maybe that's just my paranoia.

Either way, there's no appeal to reason that can lead people out of irrational positions.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:17 AM on July 30, 2009


so what exactly is the logic behind the claims that a "Certificate of Live Birth" is not a Birth Certificate

Logic?

It's actually Certification of Live Birth, not that it matters.
posted by dirigibleman at 7:18 AM on July 30, 2009


This is the ideological methodology generally associated with Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and Glenn Beck, just translated into a liberal idiom.

No, it's not. It's a realistic assessment of how opinion formation can be influenced across the political spectrum.

Much as we tend to think that opinions form at the grassroots and rise up, it works in the other direction too, especially when such large amounts of money and the nation's economic future is at stake. Think tanks and their associated corporations develop the agenda they believe will benefit their constituent groups. They begin outlining concepts and talking points, issue press releases and position papers and foundation statements. They lay the groundwork by generating the intellectual structure and main points of argument for or against whatever policy they're dealing with.

Those arguments make their way through the media, first in the form of the more intellectually-perceived columnists and op-ed writers who are reading (and in some cases working for) those institutes. From there, they make their way through the talk-radio, talking-head-TV outlets, and finally they work their way down to the 'grassroots' groups in their meetings and on their blogs and websites. Those people continue to relay the talking points at a local level.

And I don't mean to imply this is a conservative-only phenomenon. This is the state of debate in our democracy, and at the level of policy discussion outside of an electoral situation, it's very highly shaped by policy institutes. That's definite, though by the time we hear the arguments coming from one another in local papers and at meetings, the arguments have become fairly distant from the source. meaning that the ultimate chain of reasoning is not always all that evident.

In this case, it happens to be opposition to healthcare reform that's fueling the fire, and it's coming into open conflict with the many pro-healthcare interests, like unions, liberal-leaning think tanks, and certain business ownership sectors.

This isn't paranoid. It's just a significant part of the political system in place in the U.S. And you don't need a conspiracy to get there: you just need capitalism plus representative democracy. To some extent, it's true that all of us, and our opinions, are game pieces to be moved around in the contest between large corporate interest sectors for the most favorable policy outcome for their stakeholders. That's not an out-there, tinfoil-hat way of thinking: it's a fair perception of how things happen these days in our country. I don't believe it all comes down to that, but I'd be insanely naive to think that there are trillions of dollars to be gained or lost as a result of healthcare reform, and that organizations in a position to be affected by that are going to work very hard to get messages out there that will influence public opinion in ways that contain harm for their sectors. Having worked for newspapers, I've seen the policy papers from think tanks, packaged in the form of articles and op-eds, come across the desks of editors, I know that this is one of the major sources of the facts, arguments, and positions that the citizenship then uses and adopts in debate.

Last night, in my town, our local Organizing for America healthcare coalition group held a public forum on healthcare reform. While many people who attended expressed support for healthcare reform and asked pragmatic questions about what structure is proposed, there were some other opinions expressed:

* A leader of our local Republican committee asserted that the healthcare plan would "require euthanization of old people."

* In response to the notice that we have one of the highest rates of infant mortality in the Western world, one person responde "But that's because of all the abortions."

* A local group protesting healthcare reform asserted that the hosting group was actually ACORN.

The Family Research Council is running ads which say that there is an "abortion mandate" in HR 3200, and will require people to agree to euthanasia. From the article:
he commercial opens with an aging couple sitting at their kitchen table, plaintive piano music playing in the background.

"They won't pay for my surgery, but we're forced to pay for abortions," says the miffed husband in the new spot produced by the pro-life Family Research Council.

It ends with this warning from the narrator: "Our greatest generation denied care. Our future generation denied life. Call your senator. Stop the government takeover of health care."

"Congress would make it mandatory, absolutely require, that every five years, people in Medicare have a required counselling session that will tell them how to end their life sooner," Betsy McCaughey, a former lieutenant governor of New York State and a vocal critic of health-care reform, said in a recent interview.
In As Congress Debates Healthcare Reform, Industry Groups Push Agendas, McClatchy
reports:
"The old saying is: All politics is local. And that is true," said Greg Griggs, executive vice president of the N.C. Academy of Family Physicians. The statewide group of 2,700 doctors is supplementing the lobbying efforts of its national organization because it has decided that the stakes in Washington are too high for the group to sit to the sidelines.

Some local groups are running ads or sponsoring Web sites to communicate directly with the public — a tried-and-true way to influence Congress. A commercial sponsored by a national insurance group featuring fictitious couple Harry and Louise is widely credited with helping to derail the Clinton administration's efforts to remake health care.

In addition to large sums traditionally spent on lobbying by some companies and organizations, here are other recent efforts to influence the debate:

• North Carolina's drug industry is running full-page newspaper ads that say it supports health-care reform but not "policies that harm biopharmaceutical research."

• Pharmaceutical maker GlaxoSmithKline and Blue Cross Blue Shield, the state's largest health insurer, have started Web sites that explain their stances on universal health coverage.

• The N.C. Medical Society has disseminated information, such as its "guiding principles" on reform, to its 12,000 physician members so they will be prepped to discuss the issue with patients. One of the many principles: "Reform the tort system to prevent non-meritorious lawsuits."
Investors Business Daily today offered an Op-ed Monday suggesting that healthcare reform was actually Obama's attempt at providing reparations for slavery. Glenn Beck has been tooting that horn also this week, along with assertions that Obama has a "hatred of white people."

Yes: the idea that Obama is not legitimately President is crazy. The idea that healthcare reform is reparations for slavery is crazy. The idea that healthcare reform is going to create an 'abortion mandate' is crazy. The idea that healthcare reform is going to make you put Grandma down is crazy. Yet all of these ideas have the same effect: influencing the thoughts and actions of a certain segment of voters. Therefore, as long as that's working, all these are valid strategies and worthwhile tactics.

The message from conservative think tanks and corporations: healthcare reform must be defeated. The marching orders for pundits and talking heads: any strategy goes, including exploiting the non-reality-based sectors of society to get up in arms about anything that might cast doubt upon the President's ability to plan and lead Congress in the development of a public option for healthcare. Wingnuttery gets the go-ahead as long as the backlash isn't too strong, or is confined to the hard left; once moderates start to object to it, it will be dropped as counterproductive. What's definite is that when regular citizens play in the healthcare arena, we're on an Olympic-size field with some serious power contenders. What's coming at us in the front line has a lot of coaching behind it. The same is true on both sides, the difference being that the pro-healthcare reform group also has a lot of evidence in the form of other nation's experiences of positive outcomes with public management of healthcare.
posted by Miko at 7:29 AM on July 30, 2009 [10 favorites]


so what exactly is the logic behind the claims that a "Certificate of Live Birth" is not a Birth Certificate

Logic?

It's actually Certification of Live Birth, not that it matters.


What the what--? That's like the morons who keep saying Congress didn't declare war after 9-11 because they called the war act an "authorization of the use of military force consistent with the war powers act" rather than calling it a "declaration of war." Focusing on the specific form of the language used to refer to a thing while ignoring the substantive, denotative meaning of the words can be a symptom of schizophrenia at worst, but at best, it's sloppy, immature thinking.

My Florida-issued birth certificate, too, is labeled "Certificate of Live Birth," and the only copy I've ever had or needed is a grainy, mimeographed copy that was stamped as a certified copy (if I'm not mistaken, it's actually even a second-generation copy of a stamped, certified copy). And that's all I've ever needed to establish my identity, get a driver's license, passport, etc.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:07 AM on July 30, 2009


Miko's right. This stuff doesn't just go away when it's ignored, nor does it go away when you dismiss those who advocate it as nutty ol' fruit bats. You can't win 'em over with appeals to pure reason though. They have to be persuaded, not beaten down. Many of them really don't have any clue how these opinion manipulators operate, appealing to people's deepest emotional responses to bypass their critical faculties.

Miko's comment reminded me of this passage from a recent truthout article (I know--not exactly an independent source, but the factual claims about how the machinery works have all been verified a million times over by various outside and inside sources and in meticulously vetted investigative reports):
As my friend and colleague Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks pointed out in a Daily Kos blog recently, billionaire Rupert Murdoch loses $50 million a year on the NY Post, billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife loses $2 to $3 million a year on the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, billionaire Philip Anschutz loses around $5 million a year on The Weekly Standard, and billionaire Sun Myung Moon has lost $2 to $3 billion on The Washington Times.

Why are these guys willing to lose so much money funding "conservative" media? Why do they bulk-buy every right-wing book that comes out to throw it to the top of the NY Times Bestseller list and then give away the copies to "subscribers" to their websites and publications? Why do they fund to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars a year money-hole "think tanks" like Heritage and Cato?

The answer is pretty straightforward. They do it because it buys them respectability, and gets their con job out there.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:19 AM on July 30, 2009


All the Birthers that think Obama is a Kenyan are THINKING SMALL.

WAKE UP, SHEEPLE!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:24 AM on July 30, 2009


!

The Sullivan piece is... disquieting.

The birthers seem to be uniformly raving idiots or evil creature. But what's the point behind the announcement that "I, Dr. Chiyome Fukino, director of the Hawaii State Department of Health, have seen the original vital records maintained on file by the Hawaii State Department of Health verifying Barack Hussein Obama was born in Hawaii and is a natural-born American citizen"? Who could possibly find it reassuring?

I never even thought of questioning the existence of the records. I mean, come on, newspaper records from 47 years ago! I'm still 100% convinced that Obama was born in Hawaii and was eligible for his current job.

But now we're getting a line like, "Yes, my friend here saw the records too," my knee-jerk response is to say, "OK, show them to me then - since these are public records."

What's the point? I can only see two reasons why they're doing this.

Reason 1: some piece of evidence has honestly been lost and they're covering it up to avoid huge, spurious crap from the mentally-ill Republicans.

Reason 2: they're doing it to sap the energy of their opponents by keeping them punching at a spot that is actually strongly reinforced.

(Actually, reason 0 is, "They're stupid and don't have a good reason at all". Unfortunately, this seems to be a very popular reason amongst people in general.)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:31 AM on July 30, 2009


Well, lupus, when you consider that birth records are typically kept and preserved in small, underfunded county offices that literally only keep a single paper copy of the damn things in filing cabinets full of every other birth certificate ever issued in that county, then who knows, maybe it did get lost. I doubt it though.

The officials in Hawaii probably just think this is a stupid non issue and don't want to be bothered with the enormous pains it takes to track down the originals. But who knows.

I had an exchange with officials in Frankfurt over my having possibly held a German passport as a child, and I was informed all their local records for that time frame had been destroyed in some kind of accident (not sure if it was flooding or fire). It's not like that kind of thing doesn't happen. In fact it's probably a lot more common than we like to think.

Ultimately, none of us could ever prove beyond a doubt that we're citizens. At best we could prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. The problem is everybody feels free to define "reasonable" however best suits their political agenda nowadays.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:46 AM on July 30, 2009


...the only copy I've ever had or needed is a grainy, mimeographed copy that was stamped as a certified copy...

Mine's worse. It has erasures and retypes on the city of birth field and mothers maiden name field, but still has the embossed stamp certifying it. It's worked just fine (so far).
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:47 AM on July 30, 2009


There was a time when people in America weren't so frickin' crazy and paranoid.

I don't think that's ever been true, although we can credit mass media and the internet for allowing crazy and paranoid people a platform for their opinions. Remember Protocols of the Elders of Zion? Way crazier stuff in there than would be published nowadays.
posted by muddgirl at 8:48 AM on July 30, 2009


But now we're getting a line like, "Yes, my friend here saw the records too," my knee-jerk response is to say, "OK, show them to me then - since these are public records." What's the point? I can only see two reasons why they're doing this.

Reason 1: some piece of evidence has honestly been lost and they're covering it up to avoid huge, spurious crap from the mentally-ill Republicans.

Reason 2: they're doing it to sap the energy of their opponents by keeping them punching at a spot that is actually strongly reinforced.


How about:

Reason 3: the actual, physical, tangible original record is in an archive box in the sub-basement of the capital and the only way you can even get down there is if you wake up an 80-year-old janitor named Sid who periodically tries to unlock the door with the keys to an Edsel he hasn't driven since that one time in '76 when he got a little too tipsy and tried to hydroplane with it on a puddle left behind by some antifreeze; and even if you do get Sid to let you down there the archive room looks like that big records room at the end of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK and the box itself is the size of a refrigerator, and you need three hours to go through the files because the day that they were placed into the archive box, they were being filed by a temp who was filing everything incorrectly because she left her glasses at home that day because she had a date after work with a guy who she once heard quote that Dorothy Parker poem about passes and girls with glasses and so she frequently mixed up P's with D's and Q's with O's and so you're never sure if you should be looking for OBAMA after O'BALLON or QABANA, or even with CABANA because of that one typewriter they had once in the records office that made O's look like C's sometimes, and so that's why they have the reprints on mircofiche, because it takes so long.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:55 AM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm working on a new approach to birthers; I'm calling it "point and laugh then walk away".

It's too early to say for certain, but so far the evidence suggest that they do not like it.
posted by quin at 8:55 AM on July 30, 2009


That's true muddgirl. But on an interpersonal level, people didn't just go around suspecting their neighbors of being evil until the red scare--oh wait. Witch hunts. Right. Never mind. I guess we've always kind of sucked.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:58 AM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Actually, there may be some truth to your reason 3, EmpressCallipygos; on the other hand, if it were considered a priority, a team of 200 archivists could reorganize the whole place. I'm just thinking that the Hawaiian government doesn't actually want to mess around with what's so obviously a partisan dispute.

My original birth certificate has been missing for some time; I just recently got a reprint in the mail. I totally could not run for president.
posted by roll truck roll at 9:22 AM on July 30, 2009


According to the Honolulu Advertiser, there's some doubt as to whether or not it is legal for anybody to release the original.
posted by yoink at 9:40 AM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


on the other hand, if it were considered a priority, a team of 200 archivists could reorganize the whole place.

I'm not so sure about that. On a recent temp assignment, I became the FOURTH person to attempt to bring order to a series of four file drawers, containing at most a couple hundred contracts, and I'm still not sure I helped very much because the system had initially been created by a person who was using what a friend of mine used to call "insane troll logic." I brought it closer to a state of workability, but I'm not comfortable that it was entirely fixed.

Records can be scary sometimes.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:41 AM on July 30, 2009


ha. just realized i probably totally misread dirigibleman's pithy one-liner. oops. sorry about that.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:41 AM on July 30, 2009


If it were possible for someone to order the release of a certified copy of their original birth records, wouldn't the internet be full of examples from right wing Hawaiians saying "see, look, I did it; why doesn't Mr. Obama?"?
posted by yoink at 9:42 AM on July 30, 2009


lupus_yonderboy:

But now we're getting a line like, "Yes, my friend here saw the records too," my knee-jerk response is to say, "OK, show them to me then - since these are public records."


Actually the long-form birth certificate in Hawaii is not a matter of public record. It can only be requested by Obama or a close member of his family.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:51 AM on July 30, 2009


I've never met (to my knowledge) a "birther" in person; certainly no one has ever brought it up, face to face, to me. But if I did I would be sorely tempted to ask whether they could prove their own citizenship.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:16 AM on July 30, 2009


The message from conservative think tanks and corporations: healthcare reform must be defeated.

It's not, actually. Single-payer, maybe, but that's always been off the agenda: Obama never supported it. The Republicans and conservatives want reform too. All the players are at the table, and all the players want change. The real goal is to hang the expense of the needed reform around Obama so that they can campaign on it.

You wrote at length and eloquently about various confusions in your community. You mentioned some ways that various stakeholders have tried to shape the debate. But none of that has anything to do with the Birther movement, so it's all a red herring.

If you really believed what you seem to, that all fringe theories are the tools of someone's propaganda, then you'd have to believe that the 9/11 Truthers were just as much a leftist conspiracy as the Birthers are a rightist conspiracy. But it's absurd to claim that last year's paranoids were "really" motivated by a desire to delegitimate President Bush and undermine the war of terrorism. Limbaugh and others might like to make such claims... but you and I both know that when idiots got up and "proved" that the World Trade Center was deliberately demolished, no one benefited. It didn't help the antiwar movement, it didn't prevent massive tax cuts for the rich, and it didn't keep Bush from engaging in domestic spying. It was just superstition and paranoia. Like the Birthers, such insanity could be ignored, laughed at, or debunked, but it never helped anyone to be scared of it.
posted by anotherpanacea at 11:09 AM on July 30, 2009


You wrote at length and eloquently about various confusions in your community. You mentioned some ways that various stakeholders have tried to shape the debate. But none of that has anything to do with the Birther movement, so it's all a red herring.

I think that was precisely the point -- that all the talk about Obama's certificate is actually a bait-and-switch, sleight-of-hand distraction that some people are intentionally foisting upon us.

I can't prove it, but I've always been very suspicious of the timing of Bush's declaring war in Iraq -- largely because the issue that was occupying the news BEFORE Bush started talking about Iraq was whether or not Cheney could claim executive privilege when it came to keeping his records sealed. I distinctly remember that a Senate Committee had JUST found that Cheney ultimately didn't have the rights to secrecy that he was claiming he had, and that the FOIA was JUST about to go back to Cheney and request some records from him -- and THATS' when Bush suddenly started talking about "omg weapons of mass destruction located in Iraq oh no what do we do" and nearly everyone got distracted enough to drop the Cheney issue.

I think the argument is that this is trying to be the same thing.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:16 AM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


So let's see:

Drug companies:PhRMA supports health care reform.
Doctors: American Medical Assocation supports health care reform.
Hospitals support health care reform.
HMOS: So long as there's a mandate attached and no public option, even insurance companies support health care reform!

Who's in this conspiracy, again?
posted by anotherpanacea at 11:26 AM on July 30, 2009


If you really believed what you seem to, that all fringe theories are the tools of someone's propaganda,

No, I don't believe that. I believe that this particular fringe theory is connected to and being exploited along with others to attack the healthcare reform bill. This point does not expand indefinitely to cover all fringe theories; that would be a nutty thing to say.
posted by Miko at 11:27 AM on July 30, 2009


I believe that this particular fringe theory is connected to and being exploited along with others to attack the healthcare reform bill.

Well then, you have to prove it.
posted by anotherpanacea at 11:31 AM on July 30, 2009


Right, anotherpanacea, but "healthcare reform" is a vague term - nobody doesn't support it, because our system right now sucks for almost everyone, but what they mean when they say they support "healthcare" isn't exactly the Democratic-initiatied healthcare reform now before Congress. They are not all supporting HR 3200. And even a brief read of your links shows that they have important philosophical differences with the structure of the bill as proposed.

For instance, read the PhRMA platform for what they support as healthcare reform: they are arguing that public programs should merely support existing private plans through tax credits and subsidies, and that the only expansion should be through MedicAID and S-CHIP. That's not what 3200 is proposing.

AS for the AMA, they were indicating support for a plan - still vague on July 16 - that included a public option - not specific support for HR 3200. Also:
The AMA has long believed any health system reform can be achieved by revamping private health insurance plans. It fought the creation of Medicare and succeeded in delaying its debut decades ago. That was when it had more clout; its membership has dwindled to include barely one-fourth of the nation's doctors.
For the hospitals, as reported on July 9:
"We have agreements on specific points, and the understanding is that if those points materialize, that's great," said Rich Umbdenstock, who heads the American Hospital Assn. "If they don't, we're back in discussions."
These are qualified statements made with reservations. That there will be change is certain; how the change is shaped, and whether the change is made through the present bill, according to the parameters Obama has demanded, is what's up for grabs here.
posted by Miko at 11:36 AM on July 30, 2009


anotherpanacea, I'm not sure what would constitute the proof you demand. To return to the thread topic by a roundabout course. It's politics 101, the manipulation and influence of public opinion. No smoking gun required.
posted by Miko at 11:38 AM on July 30, 2009


MOS: So long as there's a mandate attached and no public option, even insurance companies support health care reform!

Wait, private insurance companies are in favor of the government forcing everyone to buy health insurance from private insurance companies? No way!
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 11:38 AM on July 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's politics 101, the manipulation and influence of public opinion. No smoking gun required.

No smoking gun required? You can just make accusations and not prove them? Now why does that sound familiar?

PhRMA came out this morning in support of the Senate bill. They don't really care how it happens, so long as we don't buy drugs from Canada.
posted by anotherpanacea at 11:49 AM on July 30, 2009


Will the Birthers Kill Healthcare Reform?:
The long-standing high-traffic conservative website World Net Daily regularly leads its front page with the latest Birther news, but that is directly followed by the latest "socialized medicine" news.

Beneath its Birther fever swamp, World Net Daily offers the "Breaking News" that Congress plans mandatory "counseling" for seniors that will "attempt to convince seniors to die," (the latest smear job from the discredited Betsy McCaughey) and the "Exclusive" that congressional members have exempted themselves from the public plan option (it's so "exclusive" to WND because the opposite is true.)

And at that infamous town hall for (non-Birther) Rep. Michael Castle, the loud Birther crowd also gave cheers and applause to an audience member who ranted: "if we let the government bring in socialized medicine, it will destroy this thing faster than the twin towers came down."
Birther Congressman Says Healthcare Reform is "Nuts"

Salon: Is GOP Using Race to Block Obama Agenda? You Think?
Obama's poll numbers are dropping on healthcare, and I took the opportunity to point our that there's a connection between the organized campaign to label him some kind of racist alien socialist who's ineligible to be president, and his difficulties getting his social and economic agenda passed...There is one main reason the U.S. doesn't have the social democratic traditions and programs enjoyed by most Western democracies -- we are the only such nation without some kind of universal healthcare -- and that reason is our history of ethnic, racial and class strife.
New America Media: The Birther Movement Won't Go Away: And for Good Reason:
The birthers got an open boost from GOP ultra-conservatives, led by House Representative John Campbell, who are pushing for a bill that requires all future presidential candidates to produce their original birth certificates. That, of course, would apply to Obama as well when he presumably runs for reelection in 2012. The real value of the birther movement is that it’s a tailored backdoor movement that can be used to destabilize the Obama administration. At the very least, it keeps the president off balance on policy initiatives he’s pushing on health care, the economy, and a softer foreign policy outreach -- all policies fiercely opposed by ultra-conservatives.

...While legions of Web sites continue to recycle the rumor line about his birth certificate, and whether the birth certificate that Hawaii produced is legitimate, more than two dozen lawsuits or petitions have been filed in various state courts contesting Obama’s U.S. citizenship. (One of them was filed by political gadfly Alan Keyes.)

The Supreme Court’s refusal to demand that Obama pony up his birth certificate has done absolutely nothing to take any steam out of the movement. If anything, it probably added some vapor to it, by convincing more people that the courts are in cahoots with the Obama White House to keep the real “truth” about his imagined foreign birth secret from the American people.

The worst thing about the controversy over Obama’s birth certificate is not that CNN’s Lou Dobbs has latched onto the issue for ratings and to make mischief against Obama. Or that others in the media have even dignified the controversy by treating it as if it’s a legitimate issue. The worst thing is that none have connected the dots and seen the birthers as the shock troops to torpedo Obama’s political agenda.

Their hope is that by sowing enough conspiracy paranoia about him, they can do just that.
It's nice to see that I'm not alone in my reading of this bizarre fascination and its seemingly mysterious simultaneous origin in the many separate minds of individual wingnuts.
posted by Miko at 11:50 AM on July 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


You can just make accusations and not prove them?

Can you be specific about what accusations you are asking me to prove?
posted by Miko at 11:51 AM on July 30, 2009


God, this site is amazing.
posted by Miko at 11:55 AM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Are you alone? No. But without proof, you're just as much in the fringe as the Birthers are.

You've maintained that the Birthers are a part of a conspiracy by "conservative think tanks and corporations" to destroy health care reform. That the view is held by some who identify as conservatives or work for corporations I will not dispute. However, you need to prove it is a conscious strategy built to the purpose of derailing health care reform.

I can find people who both opposed the war and believed that the World Trade Center was demolished. (Please don't make me find cites. That stuff icks me out: I was there.) Does that prove that the 9/11 Truth folks were part of a conscious strategy built to derail the Global War on Terror?

By the way, here's a cite on the PhRMA support for the Senate bill.
posted by anotherpanacea at 11:59 AM on July 30, 2009


John Campbell, the birther congressman. Case study.

Among John Cambell's campaign donors in this election cycle only:

Edwards Lifesciences, a World Leader in Advanced Cardiovascular Technologies - $6,000

American Career College - Medical Career Education - $4800

Insurance Industries - combined gift total - $10,500

Pharmaceuticals/Health Products - $9,900

Health Professionals - $2,250

Miscelleaneous Health - $1000
posted by Miko at 12:03 PM on July 30, 2009


You've maintained that the Birthers are a part of a conspiracy by "conservative think tanks and corporations" to destroy health care reform.

No, I haven't maintained that. Those are your words. I definitely said I did not think it was a conspiracy, I think it's the way politics operates. It's routine, so generally true that it would be ridiculous to try to cite it. And I didn't assert that they wanted to "destroy health care reform," but that the agenda among some is to defeat the current Obama-driven health care package on the table. You're inflating these claims into a straw man and then opposing them.

I think it's pretty loony, or maybe just naive, to imagine that no large corporate interests or conservative think tanks give a whit one way or the other about health care reform, and are content to let the American people dither it out on their own without adding influence. Do you believe that?
posted by Miko at 12:06 PM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Another panacea, your link doesn't say that PhRMA supports the Senate bill. It says they are active "behind the scenes" and are "keep[ing] their hand in." I've no doubt that they want to be part of the structuring process, since it's so likely to pass. But this wasn't their initial favored platform. It's more than possible for companies to have agents working with politicians on crafting the bill at the same time they campaign against the bill's philosophy and work with other politicians to shape or oppose it. Here's an interesting quanitification on the drug lobby.
posted by Miko at 12:13 PM on July 30, 2009


This is older, but here is some other stuf PhRMA has done in the past:
PhRMA's battle plan includes a Calendar of Events for January and February, as well as other documents, revealing that the industry's strategy is to work in a highly coordinated way with allied organizations and "front" groups. Their activities include releasing reports, conducting a major grassroots public relations and lobbying campaign, initiating state media tours to challenge increased publicity about how much cheaper drugs are in Canada, and opposing the "Allen" bill (H.R. 664/S. 731), which is the most popular Medicare prescription drug bill in Congress.
posted by Miko at 12:15 PM on July 30, 2009


My complaint is that you insisted on making a thread about an amusing article on metaphysics into a discussion of health care reform. I guess you win on that front: we're not talking about cognitive relativism, anymore.

I definitely said I did not think it was a conspiracy....

Here's what you wrote:

The message from conservative think tanks and corporations: healthcare reform must be defeated. The marching orders for pundits and talking heads: any strategy goes, including exploiting the non-reality-based sectors of society to get up in arms about anything that might cast doubt upon the President's ability to plan and lead Congress in the development of a public option for healthcare

Are you retracting your claims?

All the parties are participating in the deliberations. They've been welcome at the table since the beginning. They've got no reason to oppose this reform: many of them see it as necessary and they stand a good chance of profiting. They don't need to fund or promote crazy fringe theories, and they don't fund or promote crazy fringe theories.

Unfortunately, a small part of the Republican base is obsessed with these theories, and populists like Representative Campbell need the loony right vote in order to stay in office. A few journalists smell a cover-up and some ratings (crazy people watch commercials, too) and have kept the story alive. This isn't a 'wag the dog' situation, what we're seeing is an authentic American dog wagging it's sincerely-believed tail like the miseducated electorate that it is.

If corporations and conservatives were half as powerful as some liberals believe, we'd all be arguing about President McCain cutting Social Security and nuking Iran right now.
posted by anotherpanacea at 12:44 PM on July 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


You've maintained that the Birthers are a part of a conspiracy by "conservative think tanks and corporations" to destroy health care reform.

No, I haven't maintained that.


That's not how it works. It's not about involving everyone in a big conspiracy; it's about political agitation. Of course the real "birthers" (if these odd birds actually do exist) are mostly sincere and straightforward in their beliefs and intentions (well, at least to the extent they're being honest with themselves about the perception coloring effects of their own personal presentiments and petty biases)--that's what makes them so easy to manipulate.

Politics from Machiavelli on has always been about the art of manipulating the public, not about leading them. Agitation and insinuation are by far the most frequently used tools in the politician's and power broker's tool bag.

The evidence for the assertion that most if not all the so-called "independent think-tanks" are in fact glorified PR advocates for various business and partisan political interests is overwhelming and indisputable (and numerous former employees of these outfits have conceded as much on the record), and yet, on every major policy issue covered in the media, virtually the only even superficially meaningful policy analysis we ever get in some way originates in these sources.

That's not conspiracy. It's just good old fashioned perception management in an age of high speed information exchange--the same rumor mill politicians have exploited for years, only now beefed-up on steroids.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:02 PM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


All the parties are participating in the deliberations. They've been welcome at the table since the beginning. They've got no reason to oppose this reform: many of them see it as necessary and they stand a good chance of profiting.

Huh? I thought this was just ObamaCare? What other parties?

This is all bull. The only way the health insurance industry profits is if there's no public option or other real price control mechanisms in place in the final plan that will cut into their profits over the long term.

Think about it. Shareholders in private companies demand increased profits every quarter. HMOs have to provide them, or there share values drop. Since a lot of executives are compensated in stock holdings and declining stock values can damage a company in other ways, HMOs are committed to increasing the costs of health care over the long term. It's literally got to be their business model. Population growth doesn't increase profits because the costs of providing service per each new person covered are always enough to offset any new revenue on a percentage basis. In other words, without somehow finding ways to keep more money for themselves every year, year after year, indefinitely into the future, HMOs are screwed.

As noted upthread, those in the industry who claim to support health care reform have said they do so only on the condition that the plan exclude a public option. That's because they think they can turn any such plan into a net profit maker for themselves over the long term. But that's not the kind of plan Obama proposed, and it's really no plan at all. From the very beginning, Obama's plan included a public option--even when Clinton's didn't. I pointed this out around here citing specific language to that effect on Obama's campaign site back during campaign time, and was studiously ignored by Clinton loyalists. But it's critical.

No public option is not an option.

And yes, the health industry and every other enemy Obama's got is doing everything they can to fuel the birther madness--did you not see the Fox News montage Jon Stewart mocked on the Daily Show in which various pundits outright accused Obama of being a racist who claims America is now a Muslim nation.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:18 PM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


there --> their (god only knows how many typos I made) /ranting
posted by saulgoodman at 1:19 PM on July 30, 2009




This isn't a 'wag the dog' situation, what we're seeing is an authentic American dog wagging it's sincerely-believed tail like the miseducated electorate that it is.

Funny. That it's FOX and right wing media outlets wagging the fastest and loudest. 24-7.

Look. It's not a conspiracy. That would imply it's secret. Which it isn't. And it's not just to torpedo health care reform. It's to torpedo and de-legitimize Obama in every conceivable way. And it absoulutely is a top-down right wing tactic. They right wing corporate media saw a domestic fringe wedge issue and threw it at the wing-nut wall about forty billion times to see if it stuck. And, ,lo, it has.
posted by tkchrist at 2:05 PM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, I think this helps explain birthers (and deathers, etc) to some degree.

While that is obviously true, it's the particular fact of Obama's father being Kenyan that really opens the door to the Birther nuttiness. That is, if Obama were the son of a black man from Chicago and a white woman from Kansas, this particular lunacy would never have got the momentum it has (though such a person would, I think, have had a harder time getting elected than Obama).

It's interesting to speculate as to whether a white non-US father could have become as much of a liability. You could certainly imagine a similar narrative playing out on the right with a white latino father/white US mother--it would hit all the Minuteman panic buttons. Could one imagine, though, anything similar for, say, someone with a white French father and a white US mother? Probably not, I think.
posted by yoink at 2:06 PM on July 30, 2009


They right wing corporate media saw a domestic fringe wedge issue and threw it at the wing-nut wall about forty billion times to see if it stuck

I may be misreading you here, but I don't think that that quite describes what happened. That is, I don't think Fox et al. needed to "throw this" at the wing-nut wall; the wing-nuts have been working themselves into a lather about this since before the election. They have lived and died with every failed court case on the issue over the last several months, have passed around the same tired lies and distortions like relics of the true cross. All Fox did was decide to give them a platform; it didn't throw anything to them that they didn't already have.

Personally I think it's likely to backfire. I think the broad middle of the American public would be very easily persuaded that there is something fundamentally disreputable and disloyal about spreading false rumors that the President is not an American. The problem is that the US left isn't very good at playing the "how dare you spit on the flag our forefathers fought and died for" game. This is a case, though, where I think I would work, and would leave the Republicans feeling very stupid indeed.
posted by yoink at 2:13 PM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


yoink: Could one imagine, though, anything similar for, say, someone with a white French father and a white US mother? Probably not, I think.

French? Yes. British or German or Scandinavian? No.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:29 PM on July 30, 2009




All Fox did was decide to give them a platform; it didn't throw anything to them that they didn't already have

You are incorrect. Very incorrect.

Not one of my relative brought this up before the election. What was a laughable fringe internet chain email now is being discussed on all major media outlets in prime time. It has grown by leaps and bounds.

Where it stuck was with the MSM. Christ, these morons were on the morning news shows for like a week. There it eats up bandwidth and chokes out other stories or at the very least demands time
posted by tkchrist at 3:12 PM on July 30, 2009


Also, this is too precious not to share (WND article trying to spin some old birther geezer closing down his birther website due to lack of money as a big conspiracy). Talk about irony and its obvious state of post-mortem decay (emphasis mine):
"I'm disappointed," he said, explaining he lives on Social Security and a small amount of retirement money. "I just am tired of doing what I'm doing, and I get 50 e-mails a day telling me I'm a great patriot and they're praying for me. I don't want to hear it. Just send me $10."

Shannon says he spent 60 to 70 hours a week on his efforts and received only $240 in the entire two years despite displaying prominent donation buttons. The home page now just has a logo and the words, "Closed. Lack of support."

"There was no warning. This is freaky scary. " said Tony Licursi of Kennesaw, Ga., of the sudden shutdown. "There was more info there than [Roman historian] Tacitus could've ever dreamed."
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:17 PM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


You are incorrect. Very incorrect.

Not one of my relative brought this up before the election.


Well, all I can do is match anecdote against anecdote, and in the end it probably all comes down to how you define "wing nuts." All I can say is that on those websites that I've watched people argue this back and forth for months, you don't suddenly see any people changing sides on the issue. It isn't like watching the argument about, say, the Iraq war slowly moving from majority support to majority opposition. You just have the same trolls and Freepers screaming the same old lies and the vast majority saying what a pack of nonsense it is; the conversations are just happening a lot more often.

I wonder if anyone's done any actual polling on this?
posted by yoink at 3:58 PM on July 30, 2009


I had this idea recently of going on to right wing blogs and making comments that are just SLIGHTLY more crazy than their normal comments, and see how far I can make them go.
posted by empath at 4:54 PM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I had this idea recently of going on to right wing blogs and making comments that are just SLIGHTLY more crazy than their normal comments, and see how far I can make them go.

On this issue it's simply impossible. I can't remember another issue in my lifetime where the balls-out lunacy of one side was so unequivocal. I mean, we compare these guys to the Truthers (and God knows they're a bunch of loons), but there's at least a kind of "well, yeah, I can see how you could make a movie in which I could at least try to suspend my disbelief about this" quality to the least loony reaches of that swamp. But this? I mean, you just have to shut your eyes to the fact that you've been given all the evidence you asked for before you even begin to sign on.

Once you enter the realm of the Birthers, you might as well bring in the reverse-vampires and Time Cube; you can't make it any nuttier.
posted by yoink at 5:11 PM on July 30, 2009


Are you retracting your claims?

If what you're calling my 'claim' is what you quoted, then absolutely not. It's true.

I don't necessarily think these groups have total power, as you seem to think I think. I just think there's a ton of money and fame at stake, and they're certainly trying.

My read on this situation is reasonable and well supported. Short of finding some think tank memo headed "Re: EXPLOIT BIRTHER WINGNUTS TO OPPOSE OBAMACARE" I'm not going to be able to draw a direct chain of causation for you. But contrary to how you seem to be reading my comments, I'm not even asserting that such a direct chain of causation exists (though it's reasonable to suspect it does).

Instead, what I'm saying is that policy institutions are engaged in the manipulation of public opinion, that right-wing and business sector institutes are particularly engaged on the health care issue right now, and that the mishmosh of ideas being currently traded among the birther groups has been influenced by research institutes and corporate PR centers who develop arguments and talking points for the right. In other words, ideas don't come from nowhere, and they don't continue to live if totally unsupported by other, similar ideas, even where facts are absent.

I've been a very reluctant observer of the birther phenomenon here in NH and ME, because my boyfriend is involved as a local community organizer for the public-option plan. As a result, I've been exposed to these folks much more than I'd wish to be through their anti-"Obamacare" rallies and protests, through the dialogue they're conducting in local newspaper op-eds and letters to the editor, and on on community radio, and through their websites and blogs, which we've visited to review their recent activities. As evidenced not only from the broader national conversation but from my direct personal experience, the "birth" issue is not some unrelated sideline. It's tightly interwoven, in much of the argumentation from healthcare opponents, with other and more general attacks on Obama: creeping Obama-led socialism, liberal fascism, , anti-immigration and xenophobic sentiment, Obama and his administration and initiatives as racist Sotomayor, "healthcare bill is racist," Gates incident); the "cult of the Presidency," and so on. These sorts of blogs and sites are daily reads for conservative media pundits and writers and activists. The ideas employed in opposition to healthcare and all Obama initiatives have a common source for careful development and widespread dissemination - the blogs, op-eds, issue papers and commentary by influential organizations. (The same is true on the left, don't get me wrong; TPM and Huffington and the like certainly read policy papers too). They filter down to meet whatever the rising populist sentiment is at the time, to be further developed through grassroots networks, and the rubber begins to hit the road. This is how it's worked, as saulgoodman noted, since (at least) Machiavelli. But politics is an activity as old as humanity, common to all people, and this is probably how it's worked as long as there have been social classes in most societies.

The ideas don't come from nowhere. The birther's idea is definitely wingnutty and not worth entertaining. But that doesn't make a difference to the fact that it dovetails very nearly with the set of ideas being offered to conservatives to broadly delegitimize Obama's authority and his policy efforts, and is being used by people in positions of organizing the opposition to advance the cause. It will continue to be used as long as it has traction, and will be discarded if it begins to backfire, as it might now.
posted by Miko at 7:23 AM on July 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Politico is reporting that there's a dailykos/research2000 poll that indicates that only 42% of republicans believe that Obama is was born in the United States.
posted by rdr at 7:29 AM on July 31, 2009


Politico is reporting that there's a dailykos/research2000 poll that indicates that only 42% of republicans believe that Obama is was born in the United States.

Holy crap. tkchrist, I stand corrected.
posted by yoink at 8:32 AM on July 31, 2009


From the Politico link given by rdr.
Surprise, surprise: Birther sentiment was strongest in the South and among the 60-plus crowd - presumably because seniors can't log on to the Internet and rely on rumor, word of mouth and right-wing talk radio.
This. This is why we need to get everyone access to the Intertubes.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:04 AM on July 31, 2009


If you've ever seen the documentary They Live, you would know that forged birth certificates are the least of our problems when the sheeple finally wake up and find out the truth about Barack Hussein Obama.

You ain't kiddin'.
posted by EarBucket at 10:05 AM on July 31, 2009


Short of finding some think tank memo headed "Re: EXPLOIT BIRTHER WINGNUTS TO OPPOSE OBAMACARE" I'm not going to be able to draw a direct chain of causation for you.

Miko, as I said at the outset, I think you're great. However, I think you're wrong here, and as you've slowly backed away from your initial claims and tried to broaden this to just be about the way that some people don't like that there's a black man in the White House, I'm happy to just let it drop. But I do need to say this: if there have to be sides in this world, if there has to be an 'us' and a 'them', can we please, right now, decide to be on the side that never, ever makes claims or hold beliefs without evidence or contrary to evidence?

I want to be on your side. I do. But I want our side to be the reality-based side. And if that means that occasionally we don't get to make a satisfying crack because there's absolutely no proof, I think we should just buckle down and deal with the disappointment.

There is absolutely no proof that "conservatives or corporations" are fostering this particular brand of crazy to derail health care reform. You've said as much. If anything, Republican party leaders are scared shitless of the fact that their base is going off the deep end on this, and their representatives are trying to find a way not to get creamed on it. Crazy fringe folks are bad for business (cf the fringe leftists) and they're especially bad for business when they make up the majority of your supporters: it means you'll never be able to satisfy both your base and the large mass of independents who don't want to be associated with radicals of either stripe.

Of course, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe there really were 'marching orders.' But let's wait until these documents show up to start making accusations. That delay-until-evidence-is-found strategy? That's what separates "us" from "them."
posted by anotherpanacea at 11:46 AM on July 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm not backing away from any claims. But I still think you don't understand what my 'claims' are. What I'm doing is advancing a reasonable theory of the many influential factors underlying and interacting with the birther phenomenon, many of them, as I've shown, originating in and finding expression in powerful organizations and the communications channels they routinely use.

If anything, Republican party leaders are scared shitless of the fact that their base is going off the deep end on this, and their representatives are trying to find a way not to get creamed on it. Crazy fringe folks are bad for business (cf the fringe leftists) and they're especially bad for business when they make up the majority of your supporters: it means you'll never be able to satisfy both your base and the large mass of independents who don't want to be associated with radicals of either stripe.

That's true, as well. Strategies are useful until they begin to backfire or to alienate potential supporters and are no longer as useful - as we saw with aggressive rhetoric around gay marriage in 2004, which was essentially dropped during the last election cycle because it began to feel distasteful to many more Americans.

But let's wait until these documents show up to start making accusations. That delay-until-evidence-is-found strategy? That's what separates "us" from "them."


Again, I don't have accusations, just clear observations. And I don't think anything really separates "us" from "them" aside from disparate visions of what good government is. Politics, unfortunately, isn't an intellectual, evidence-based exercise, it's a rhetorical contest for hearts and minds and will.
posted by Miko at 11:52 AM on July 31, 2009


I think for us to continue having this conversation, we'd have to start talking about the truth conditions of collective responsibility propositions, i.e. "what does it mean to attribute an action to a group?" or "what kinds of groups are capable of collective agency?" "If 'conservatives' are such a group, are 'African-Americans'? What about 'corporations'?" "Are collective acts defeasible by members of the collectivity?" Some people argue that I have to intend an act in order to be responsible for it: others say that some forms of negligence ('willful blindness') might make me responsible regardless of my knowledge or intentions.

For instance, can we be collectively 'responsible' for decisions made by President Bush even though we voted against him and think many of his actions were wrong? Can Republicans be 'responsible' for what some people who are Republicans say, when they don't agree and believe that the acts of some of their number will ultimately harm the whole? The way that most people think about responsibility and collective action, it doesn't generally make sense to attribute responsibility to such diverse groups, especially when there's not institutional accountability. So, like it or not, we're on the hook for the war in Iraq, but Republicans probably can't be blamed for not properly muzzling their village idiots.

There's also the possibility that this story is actually be bolstered as a Democratic stratagem. After all, keeping the opposition crazy and divided is part of how you preserve your power. Republicans did this masterfully by highlighting the craziness among leftists in the year or two after 9/11. Maybe you'd have better luck finding the evidence you need at liberal think tanks!
posted by anotherpanacea at 12:12 PM on July 31, 2009


Here's a quite different take on the phenomenon. Coverage of birthers is lulz for lefties.
posted by Miko at 12:12 PM on July 31, 2009


I think for us to continue having this conversation, we'd have to start talking about the truth conditions of collective responsibility propositions

No, I don't think so.

You're wilfully missing my point, again and again and again, so I don't think we're going to get anywhere.
posted by Miko at 12:13 PM on July 31, 2009


...the side that never, ever makes claims or hold beliefs without evidence or contrary to evidence?

I agree with your principle, but there are subtleties and the two are not the same. Holding beliefs (or claiming to) that are contrary to strong evidence is called lying, either to yourself or to others. Making claims for which there is insufficient evidence, but without strong contrary evidence, is often necessary to make headway in a political context. For example, we might not know that a single-payer system would reduce costs in the USA. We believe that the experience of other countries supports the assertion, but it is far from proof. The only real evidence requires that we actually implement such a system and compare the rate of growth of costs projected under the current regime and the actual costs under single-payer. But we won't get to do that experiment unless we assert that single-payer is better (or a softer version, saying it's likely to be better).

Similarly, to assert that there is a concerted effort to promote the birther movement is not a huge leap from the evidence we do have at hand regarding a) the behavior of the right-wing media and its funding sources, and b) previous issues that have been inflamed similarly (e.g., tea parties). There is also a strong inferential argument, in that the Truthers don't have nearly the media play that the Birthers do, even though they enjoy similar tilts at the windmills of contradicting evidence. You might claim this is simply a matter of serendipity, but it is clear that Truthers have no natural political constituency, whereas the Birthers feed right into the agenda of a politically powerful group backed by a lot of media dollars. Yes, it might be a coincidence and there is no smoking gun memo, but it is consistent with well documented practices of that side and has all the hallmarks. Quacking like a duck, it is.

My 2¢.
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:22 PM on July 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


You're wilfully missing my point, again and again and again, so I don't think we're going to get anywhere.

You just posted an article that makes the same point I'm making. Maybe I'm missing your point (though I don't think so: I've read my Chomsky) but I think you're definitely not paying much attention to what I've been saying. That saddens me.
posted by anotherpanacea at 12:34 PM on July 31, 2009


Republicans did this masterfully by highlighting the craziness among leftists in the year or two after 9/11.

But the "crazy lefties" did not hold one-tenth as much influence on the Democratic Party as the "crazy-righties" do to the GOP today. The DKos poll shows that acceptance of the "Birthers' position" may be necessary for Republican politicians to win their party's nomination but is a very effective wedge to use AGAINST them in the General Election.

One more thing about the way the Media is treating the GOP. They obsess over the "process" and the "horserace" elements of political news. A "horserace" requires more than one horse. The focus on Hillary for weeks after Obama effectively clinched the nomination in 2008 is evidence enough of that practice. If they reported the truth that the GOP horse has gone lame and will never even finish the 2010 race, a lot of people will lose interest and stop reading the papers, watching the shows and going to the websites. Seriously, the Republican Party is dead, but it's refusing to admit it. And if this zombie party wins back the Congress or White House, it will only be because America is dead too.
posted by wendell at 12:44 PM on July 31, 2009




You just posted an article that makes the same point I'm making.

Contradictory evidence, my foot. That article ignores the fact that the Birther nonsense is being pushed in the standard conservative blogosphere. Other than that, his reasoning is sound.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:14 PM on July 31, 2009


is being pushed in the standard conservative blogosphere

World Net Daily isn't your standard conservative anything, and Free Republic is a community weblog: surely not everything that appears here on Metafilter counts as the considered opinion of the members, let alone the Democratic Party. LGF... well, here's what he write: "the poll was commissioned by Daily Kos (because they want to exploit the Nirther craziness as much as possible, and I can’t blame them)." In another post he lists it as "debunked." So that's not quite the same thing as pushing the meme: he's trying to talk his readers out of it.
posted by anotherpanacea at 1:20 PM on July 31, 2009


You know why I believe the "Birthers" could NOT eventually cause real problems? Because Bill Maher is running out of jokes about them. His being able to buy a house in Bel Air on the money he made joking about the Clinton scandals was part of the problem. And the extreme stretch the Birthers are making show that they have NOTHING ELSE. Clinton's infidelity was used against him in the 92 campaign, forcing Hillary into her "stand by my man" embarrassment and the only reason it didn't die was because Bill was too arrogant to quit after he was in the White House and too arrogant to not play games with the asshole investigators. Obama is not that arrogant. (And also, if they couldn't find a serious scandal in his years associating with Chicago politicians by now, beyond falling asleep during church and not hearing his pastor's inflammatory sermons, he must be the most virtuous politician in US history)
posted by wendell at 1:21 PM on July 31, 2009


World Net Daily isn't your standard conservative anything, and Free Republic is a community weblog: surely not everything that appears here on Metafilter counts as the considered opinion of the members, let alone the Democratic Party.

The point is, these are not Birther websites, they are sites frequented by conservatives, unlike, say, the Truther websites. Capiche?
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:38 PM on July 31, 2009


I think you're definitely not paying much attention to what I've been saying. That saddens me.

Don't be sad, it's not personal. I understand the words that you're saying, but you're focusing on narrow points rather than on my general argument that the birther discourse is most likely being knowingly used in some sectors to further entrench opposition to Obama's healthcare plan. You're just arguing separate points, and/or perhaps trying to develop my argument into a direct accusation to specific perpetrators and actors and arguing against that, while ignoring the fact that those are specific allegationswhich I haven't made. I've outlined the likelihood that it's been happening, though, based on past actions and strategies, which Mental Wimp underlined quite simply.

I can see that other people seem to understand my posts, so I don't think I'm speaking gibberish here, nor do I think Chomsky is going to shed any additional light on it for anyone. I'm at a loss to explain more clearly. Yes, I just posted a link that coincides with a point you made: that liberal organizations can also find a way to spin the birther concept to their advantage. However, that is also my point - that the game of political rhetoric is one of suggesting narratives that apply to and attempt to explain observable events. It can be - is - played on both sides. Message discipline on the right has been much better than that on the left in recent history; it definitely began breaking down during the 2008 election, but we know that throughout the past decade to twenty years, it was fairly easy to trace the messaging from the thought centers outward to the media and then the populace. That's not paranoid conspiracy theory. That's how politics is done. That's what it is. My point in the thread is this: when observing a social phenomenon that seeks to deligitimize the president, at a time when he's advancing a profoundly controversial policy platform that is philosophically opposed by the center and hard right, and which seems to not die despite its lack of validity, expect horses.
posted by Miko at 1:43 PM on July 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, and did I mention there are conservative Republican members of Congress who embrace Birther notions? Oh, yeah, that was mentioned from the start. Carry on.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:43 PM on July 31, 2009


I'm at a loss to explain more clearly.

I never accused you of gibberish or unclarity, but I think you've retreated to exactly that. "expect horses"?

You're being overly cynical about the political process. If everything is a "message," if everything is rhetoric, than there's no reason to listen to the opposition or consider alternatives. By accusing reasonable folks of being in league with unreasonable and basically racist arguments, you're denying that they are honorable or worth considering as equals. You're acting as if there aren't any non-evil or non-crazy reasons to have doubts about certain brands of health care reform, like single payer. It's a kind of strawman argument: ignore the smart, considerate people, and just go after the crazies who share their policy commitments. If public deliberation is pure power struggle, we're not collectively engaged in civil dialog, we're always being manipulated, every argument has a hidden agenda.

I maintain that you are wrong, and speaking with undeserved certitude. You're certainly not alone, but I think you're too smart to settle for this kind of simplicity. Not everything is a power struggle: sometimes, especially in democratic deliberations about complex institutional reforms, people argue because they actually want to get it right. The exception to this rule are people like the Birthers, who start with a conclusion and then pick whatever evidence, or lack of evidence, suits those conclusions.
posted by anotherpanacea at 2:09 PM on July 31, 2009


You're being overly cynical about the political process.

Impossible.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:35 PM on July 31, 2009


The same poll also asked respondents if they believe that America and Africa were once part of the same continent. Only 42% said yes.
posted by EarBucket at 3:11 PM on July 31, 2009


By accusing reasonable folks of being in league with unreasonable and basically racist arguments, you're denying that they are honorable or worth considering as equals.

I think some people whose ideas may seem "reasonable" but are unpopular are unable to further those ideas without resorting to unreasonable lies and racist arguments and are, in fact, happy to promote them if they can create plausible deniability. Lee Atwater, Karl Rove, and their acolytes frankly promoted these tactics in training sessions for their minions. They looked at them as basically pranks, but somehow the whole thing seems to have escaped their control and this is what we have now - Birthers, tea-parties, and barely concealed racism being promoted by the Frankenstein's monster they created. To the extent that "honorable" people merely "tsk, tsk" but continue to reap the benefits, they are not honorable.

I guess this account of the progress of social conservatism in the US isn't believable to some. I don't know what else to say.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:38 AM on August 1, 2009


I don't deny that such folks exist, or that they have had a major impact on politics in this country. I'm not daft. But there's a difference between noting the influence of tactical partisans and allowing all political deliberation to be subsumed by it.
posted by anotherpanacea at 10:42 AM on August 1, 2009


Bill Maher on the Birthers.
posted by ericb at 11:14 AM on August 1, 2009


You're being overly cynical about the political process.

Oh, definitely not. I sure wish I were, but I'm definitely not.

If everything is a "message," if everything is rhetoric, than there's no reason to listen to the opposition or consider alternatives.


Everything isn't rhetoric, but the process getting laws passed and people elected involves, requires, and depends upon rhetoric.

By accusing reasonable folks of being in league with unreasonable and basically racist arguments, you're denying that they are honorable or worth considering as equals.


One doesn't follow from the other. Some reasonable people, who stand to benefit from the product of a racist argument, may sit quietly by and watch the argument be made while not distancing themselves vocally from it. Some reasonable people will distance themselves vocally. Some people become so committed to a purpose, ideologically or professionally, that their actions are unreasonable. People aren't always reasonable, especially in politics. I'm not making a sweeping statement about reasonable people. Reasonable people do a lot of different things, including acting irrationally sometimes.

You're acting as if there aren't any non-evil or non-crazy reasons to have doubts about certain brands of health care reform, like single payer.

No, I'm not. There certainly is a legitimate debate about the specifics of health care reform. However, there is also a lot of inflamed political rhetoric, highly biased business interest, and personal confusion about it as well.

I want gay marriage to pass across the states. Many hardline, old-school conservatives and Libertarians do as well (one reason it passed in NH) - many of them would say that is an instance where the state is outside its rights to authorize marriage contracts. That doesn't mean there's not legitimate debate about gay marriage. There is. But it also doesn't mean that I support the rest of the Libertarian or hardline conservative agenda. Nor does it mean that when they leverage their networks to defeat defense-of-marriage legislation, that I'm going to oppose them just because we have a different ideology. We agree on ends. I'm happy to stand by when they attack such legislation and let them do some of the hard work of vocal opposition, even if others think they're wingnuts, too. So what I'm suggesting is that it's possible for reasonable people (like myself) to be content when the actions of other people, unreasonable though they may be, forward the ends we commonly desire.

It's a kind of strawman argument: ignore the smart, considerate people, and just go after the crazies who share their policy commitments. If public deliberation is pure power struggle, we're not collectively engaged in civil dialog, we're always being manipulated, every argument has a hidden agenda.

Manipulation is always a force that's present in our political lives. It doesn't mean we can't be aware of it, or that we have to always act in ways our manipulators would like us to. but it's true that our civic dialogue is inextricable from what you call the "power struggle" among contending economic and political ideologies and the institutions in which they are maintained and cultivated - corporations, institutions, parties, and grassroots groups. That is not separate from our public dialogue, it's part of our public dialogue, and it can't be escaped. We don't come into this world with our political outlooks intact. Ultimately, we all are still responsible for ourselves, and at some level we do choose to accept, reject, or modify the narratives that we're offered. The degree of thinking different people do about those narratives, and the quality of the critical thinking skills they use to judge those narratives, varies tremendously.

Look, I understand that some people are reasonable and some people are wingnuts. But we're all in the policy discussion together. To believe as I do is definitely not a reflection of being too cynical about politics. If anything, if I am reasonable, I should probably be more cycnical: I still vote and campaign for candidates I support, and I still believe the people have an important voice in the system. In the eyes of many in political careers, that makes me pretty naive. And they have a strong case. I've read too much political analysis and history in my life to think that we're all in a big friendly grassroots debate, citizen to citizen, and that institutionalized messaging, huge vats of money, complex alliances, corporate and institutional interests, and established social networks don't play an important part in policy formation and ultimately, legislation.
posted by Miko at 12:20 PM on August 1, 2009


Oh, and also, I'm not for ignoring the smart, reasonable people. The whole reason I began talking about the utility of the birther thing is that it is a distraction from what could be smart, reasonable dialogue about the demerits and merits of health care reform as it's proposed. It's just that that debate takes place not separate from, but alongside, the battle for public opinion, in which all weapons are allowed.
posted by Miko at 12:23 PM on August 1, 2009


I like much of what you say here, Miko. I guess neither of us is going to persuade the other about the particular relationship between the Birthers and conservatives in general, but I'm glad we can agree that the goal of political deliberation should be getting the right policy, and that there is room for respect for our political opponents.

In my view, it's one of the best things about President Obama, actually: that he tries to understand his opponents, that he takes their objections seriously.

Thanks for sticking it out with me.
posted by anotherpanacea at 2:34 PM on August 1, 2009


Superman is a Super Muslim!
posted by EarBucket at 4:42 PM on August 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Trolling in the real world? A lot of the disruptions in town hall style meetings are being planned ahead of time:
The memo, authored by Robert MacGuffie, who runs the website rightprinciples.com, suggests that tea partiers should "pack the hall... spread out" to make their numbers seem more significant, and to "rock-the-boat early in the Rep's presentation...to yell out and challenge the Rep's statements early.... to rattle him, get him off his prepared script and agenda...stand up and shout and sit right back down."

MacGuffie is a volunteer for FreedomWorks, the industry funded group that helps organize and support the tea party protests. But he denies that his small group has any direct affiliation with FreedomWorks. "We are recommending with that memo that other grassroots groups that share our view should go to the townhalls of their members and use the strategy that we did," MacGuffie told me, confirming the memo's authenticity. "We are trying to get into that town halls to make them understand that they do not have the unanimous support from people in their communities."
I know many of you aren't just interested in this as an online discussion about health care reform: you're planning to *participate* in these debates. Be aware that many more disruptive, non-deliberative strategies are being planned to derail the real-world discussions during Congressional recess.
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:44 AM on August 4, 2009


MSNBC's Interview With Obama "Birther Queen" Orly Taitz.

Hoo-boy, Watch this "nutter."
posted by ericb at 9:36 AM on August 4, 2009


Her reax to the TV debacle and the exposure of the fake birth certificate is awesome:

"...(snip)....

5. Bomford report was created to try to discredit my efforts

6.lastly, I am not supposed to waste my time and money on this issue, Obama us the one who is supposed to provide evidence of legitimacy

7. Kenyan BC provides more info than the piece of garbage Obama posted on the n et, which doesn’t have the name of the hospital, name of the doctor or signatures.

8. Chioumi Fukino and Obama and all their Nazi Brown Shirts in the main stream media need to give it a rest and provide an original hospital BC and the corresponding big thick hospital Birthing file from the Kapiolani hospital. If they don’t have such a file, all of them need to resign immediately or they will be prosecuted for massive fraud and treason to this Nation. (in case you didn’t know, treason carries punishment of life in prison or death penalty)."


My fave part is the "lastly," being followed by two more bullet points. Also, that now she is demanding a "big thick birthing file."

Despite how entertaining she is, you really have to wonder why she gets on TV.
posted by CunningLinguist at 11:52 AM on August 4, 2009


"big thick birthing file."

Headline: "Big Thick Woman Demands Big Thick Birthing File."
posted by yoink at 12:02 PM on August 4, 2009


More thoughts on planned'n'funded healthcare protest hijinks:

Rick Scott on CNN

On Marketplace tonight, a mention of how the funding of 'grassroots' group actions does not have to be reported, though some strategists think that up to 2/3 of grassroots activists disrupting meetings and Congressional appearances are managed by paid agitators who rally local tea-party type groups. They won't post today's show until later, but here's the site so you can check tonight or tomorrow for the story.

Michele Malkin's thoughts, if you can stand them, on "grassroots vs. astroturf" - the "double standard."

(Interestingly, though there is a big push from the conservative side right now, I know this is also true on the left - many of the activists my SO works with are employed by SEIU, and as with a political campaign, the local team is frequently visited and organized by regional and national-level directors who host orientations and trainings and share talking sheets. It's partly because I see it on the left that I feel so sure it's equally well, if not better, organized on the right. On both sides, there are strong lobbies.)
posted by Miko at 3:37 PM on August 6, 2009


Krugman today:
Yes, well-heeled interest groups are helping to organize the town hall mobs. Key organizers include two Astroturf (fake grass-roots) organizations: FreedomWorks, run by the former House majority leader Dick Armey, and a new organization called Conservatives for Patients’ Rights.

There was a telling incident at a town hall held by Representative Gene Green, D-Tex. An activist turned to his fellow attendees and asked if they “oppose any form of socialized or government-run health care.” Nearly all did. Then Representative Green asked how many of those present were on Medicare. Almost half raised their hands.

Now, people who don’t know that Medicare is a government program probably aren’t reacting to what President Obama is actually proposing. They may believe some of the disinformation opponents of health care reform are spreading, like the claim that the Obama plan will lead to euthanasia for the elderly. (That particular claim is coming straight from House Republican leaders.) But they’re probably reacting less to what Mr. Obama is doing, or even to what they’ve heard about what he’s doing, than to who he is.

That is, the driving force behind the town hall mobs is probably the same cultural and racial anxiety that’s behind the “birther” movement, which denies Mr. Obama’s citizenship. Senator Dick Durbin has suggested that the birthers and the health care protesters are one and the same; we don’t know how many of the protesters are birthers, but it wouldn’t be surprising if it’s a substantial fraction.

And cynical political operators are exploiting that anxiety to further the economic interests of their backers.

Does this sound familiar? It should: it’s a strategy that has played a central role in American politics ever since Richard Nixon realized that he could advance Republican fortunes by appealing to the racial fears of working-class whites.
posted by Miko at 9:46 AM on August 7, 2009


Krugman is a really smart guy, and I don't have any particular gripe with Dick Durbin, but they both say "probably" and "we don't know." One anecdote is not proof of anything. Old folks don't oppose health care because they're racists, but rather because they know that sharing with younger folks will likely lead to a cut in their benefits. They like being first in line and they don't want to have to fight with sick kids for funding, because they know they'll lose. (As they ought to, by the way... but that's not an issue they want to face.)

The other problem here is that activists are ignorant. I work on this professionally, and the data is clear. They know their talking points, but they don't understand the counter-arguments. And in study after study, the more reasons a person can think of for the alternative view, the more friends she has that disagree with her, the less likely she is to be an activist. Knowledge is moderating, and activism requires extreme passions.

How many anti-war activists believed that George W. Bush lost in Florida in 2000, i.e. that the election was 'stolen'? (By all standards under consideration, including the one Gore's legal team fought for, Bush won.) It's the same story: activists tend to hold a constellation of extreme views, and to avoid cross-cutting interactions with folks of other political ideologies who might correct their misapprehensions.
posted by anotherpanacea at 10:33 AM on August 7, 2009


Birthers and Republicans

(By all standards under consideration, including the one Gore's legal team fought for, Bush won.)

Huh?
The story/the spin

The study's key result: When the consortium tried to simulate a recount of all uncounted ballots statewide using six different standards for what constituted a vote, under each scenario they found enough new votes to have narrowly given the Florida election--and by extension the presidency--to Al Gore. Under three models that attempted to duplicate the various partial recounts that were asked for by Gore or ordered by the Florida Supreme Court, however, Bush maintained a slight margin of victory.
Perhaps you mean to say the three scenarios at the end went for Bush. Otherwise, the vote goes to Gore.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:58 AM on August 7, 2009


Sorry, yes: a statewide recount would have led to Bush's victory. But since that was never under consideration, and in fact was thought by Gore to be unnecessary, Bush would have won.

Put another way: if Gore had won the Supreme Court case Bush v. Gore, Bush would still have won the election.

The tendency to spin the statewide recount numbers as a Gore win or a stolen election is an example of this kind of ideological thinking. It doesn't matter that it was never an option: activists are confirmation bias junkies.
posted by anotherpanacea at 11:14 AM on August 7, 2009


Put another way: if Gore had won the Supreme Court case Bush v. Gore, Bush would still have won the election..

And if Bush had won in the Florida Supreme Court case, Gore would have won. But if we're talking about, ahem, the will of the people, sounds like Gore won, no? Or are we just playing games?
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:59 AM on August 7, 2009


One anecdote is not proof of anything.

No (though I've linked to more than one, and there is an increasing amount of reporting and opinion writing on this topc). But the standards for a truth test - something you seem to be arguing to apply to the possibility that 'birther' activity is being supported by an anti-health-care-reform lobby - are different from the standards needed to make an argument based on history, experience, and likelihood. It's overwhelmingly, enormously likely that lobbying dollars are supporting groups which include and use birther rhetoric - on that point I still stand.
posted by Miko at 12:12 PM on August 7, 2009


Thank you for demonstrating my point, Mental Wimp: arguing about "the will of the people" in Florida has the same status as arguing about the difference between a "Certification of Live Birth" and a "Birth Certificate." Non-activists try to figure out what's likely true, while activists start with a result and look for evidence in their favor. (Gore would have lost on the probable versions of the statewide recount, as well.) That doesn't make activists wrong or ordinary folks right: it's just a difference in style.

My initial point was simply that there's a reason that Republican activists also hold the most extreme version of the ideology. But let's add to that. Republican identification is very low. A Washington Post poll found only 21% of Americans who would call themselves Republicans. There are still lots of conservatives out there, but they identify as independents. As a consequence, polling numbers about Republicans that show that 58% of Republicans doubt Obama's birth is really only a poll about 12% of Americans, which is a pretty small fringe.
posted by anotherpanacea at 12:25 PM on August 7, 2009


It's overwhelmingly, enormously likely that lobbying dollars are supporting groups which include and use birther rhetoric....

A Democrat's op-ed does not constitute evidence of this sort, Miko. Paul Krugman's an economist, but he's not tracking contributions when he claims that the connection is "probable." He's just writing his ungrounded opinion. Groups like Freedom Works, which are definitely behind the anti-health care reform activism, don't explicitly endorse Birther theories.

Democrats have been doing a pretty good strategic job creating strong associations between the Republican party and various fringe folks: Rush Limbaugh, the Birther conspirators, the more obnoxious commentators on Fox, etc. This is a conscious strategy to force the Republicans to choose between their base and the larger pool of independents that they actually need to win elections. As a strategy, it’s been extraordinarily effective, but personally I much prefer a strong, sane minority party and so in this crazification of the Republicans I think a Democratic victory is not so good for us citizens.
posted by anotherpanacea at 12:32 PM on August 7, 2009




A Democrat's op-ed does not constitute evidence of this sort, Miko

I'm not relying on that. I have the feeling you haven't read/listened to any of the links. And I'm also noting that when funding sources for these groups don't have to be disclosed, the kind of direct evidence is not easily going to be found.

Groups like Freedom Works, which are definitely behind the anti-health care reform activism, don't explicitly endorse Birther theories.


They don't need to. They network locally with groups who do promote birther theories. There's one in my town - I am a witness to the interaction. Most of the conservative groups (Americans for Prosperity is another one, funding bus tours that take willing groups to congressmen's offices and town halls) are certainly careful in their public communications, and yet on the ground they corral and shepherd the birthers and anti-Socialists along in their agenda to defeat the public option. .
posted by Miko at 12:37 PM on August 7, 2009


I much prefer a strong, sane minority party

Me, too. It would be interesting to see the strong, sane conservatives form one.
posted by Miko at 12:38 PM on August 7, 2009


Oy.
posted by Miko at 12:42 PM on August 7, 2009


No, I'm not arguing that Gore "really won," because Bush "really won" by the Supreme Court declaring he "really won". What I am saying is that more folks in Florida voted for Gore than for Bush under a number of rational projections based on a non-partisan research group's calculations contained in a peer-reviewed scientific publication (pdf). This is in response to your claim that Gore lost in, how did you put it, "all standards under consideration". You then apologized with a comment and then immediately veered off into a hypothetical, which seemed to me to challenge your own apology, so I gave another hypothetical in response, and noted that (if we're into hypotheticals) Gore most likely won the popular vote in Florida. Then is when I guess you chose to compare me to birthers. But, please, spare me the comparison to birthers, unless you're just trying to be insulting.
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:45 PM on August 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


At an Americans for Prosperity rally, a sign read “Your Health Bill is as phony as your Birth Certificate." That group accepts corporate donations to create 'grassroots' opposition.
posted by Miko at 12:46 PM on August 7, 2009


Democrats have been doing a pretty good strategic job creating strong associations between the Republican party and various fringe folks: Rush Limbaugh, the Birther conspirators, the more obnoxious commentators on Fox, etc. This is a conscious strategy to force the Republicans to choose between their base and the larger pool of independents that they actually need to win elections...

Note that in the same sentence you claim the Democrats are forcing an identification with "various fringe folks" and in the next sentence call them the Republican base. Are you confused?
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:52 PM on August 7, 2009


That doesn't make activists wrong or ordinary folks right: it's just a difference in style.

Well, if that's all you want to point out, you've got no argument. I just find it naive to ignore the funding chain that supports grassroots activism and to imagine that despite the routine practice in politics of paying to manipulate people with fringe agendas to address a larger issue that it couldn't be assumed that was likely to happen again. As I said, I recognize that it happens on both sides, and I recognize that the Democrats have found utility in focusing on this phenomenon, but so has the right, and which side public opinion will fall on is unsure yet. But I'd consider myself a fool if I didn't expect that the energy and agenda of the birthers, teabaggers, and anti-socialists was finding a useful place on the frontline of the anti-healthcare-reform battle. As I said, I've got a nice closeup view locally. They're woven in.
posted by Miko at 12:55 PM on August 7, 2009


on the ground they corral and shepherd the birthers and anti-Socialists along in their agenda to defeat the public option

Sure: cf. my earlier point about activists generally holding a constellation of extreme views. That's why it's important to distinguish organizers and members.

I have the feeling you haven't read/listened to any of the links.

I have read everything posted, but I didn't listen to the Marketplace link: could you deep link to the piece you mentioned? I couldn't find it.

I think the Media Matters article you just linked is more evidence of this kind of sloppy correlation-as-conspiracy thinking: people like Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity can generally be found to have said stupid stuff supporting every single view held by ordinary activists. That's their job: they throw every possible talking point at the wall in order to see what sticks. In any case, the correlation in protest techniques makes sense because the activists are the same. Organizers learn from participants all the time: "You want to stand up and shout in a public meeting? Great, let's do that... but could you shout about something useful, like health care, rather than this nutty birth certificate stuff?"

(I think Lou Dobbs is a bit of a special case, but it seems possible to me that he actually does believe in there's a conspiracy of some sort. He's pretty crazy.)

As an aside, did Gibbs really call Obama "President 46"? AWK-WARD.

It would be interesting to see the strong, sane conservatives form one.

For now, it seems like they've all become Democrats. In a first-past-the-post system, they've got no other choice.
posted by anotherpanacea at 12:58 PM on August 7, 2009


http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=113851103434

And who will suffer the most when they ration care? The sick, the elderly, and the disabled, of course. The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s “death panel” so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their “level of productivity in society,” whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.
posted by EarBucket at 6:32 AM on August 8, 2009


A parallel can be made between the tactics of the health care disruptors and distributed denial of service attacks - in both cases, the risk-reward calculations are heavily tilted in favor of the attackers. Who says the Republican Party can't do web 2.0!
posted by acro at 7:10 AM on August 8, 2009


It's people! IT'S PEOPLE!
posted by EarBucket at 10:16 AM on August 8, 2009


Wow... that Palin piece is absurd!

Publius:
But that said, Palin is sort of right on one point -- there are people who weigh whether children like Trig are worthy of insurance. They're called insurance companies, and they have decided that these children are not in fact worthy of coverage. That's because Down Syndrome is a "pre-existing condition."
This is the sort of loss of message discipline that absolutely destroys resistance to a policy. Conservatives now have to turn around and say: "Umm.... Ms. Palin? Stop. YOU'RE HURTING US."
posted by anotherpanacea at 2:30 PM on August 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I support an Executive Order retroactively granting citizenship to anyone elected President of the United States.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:50 AM on August 11, 2009




Check out PPP's new North Carolina poll (pdf): Only 27% of McCain voters believe Obama was born in the US. On the other hand, 7% of McCain voters don't believe Hawaii is part of the US, so this isn't the brightest crowd we're talking about here.
posted by EarBucket at 6:59 AM on August 12, 2009




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