Saturday, June 27, 2009

For Sale: Kenyan Birth Certificate and/or Journalistic Integrity.

The latest from WND:

'Proof' of Kenyan birth twice scrubbed by eBay

The first sign of suspicion (after the fact that this is a WND article to begin with) should be the single quote marks in the article title. I've come to learn that that's WND's means of conveying the idea that they're quoting something, but without actually doing so. For instance, nothing in the entire article means "proof" with regard to this eBay listing.

Whereas WND failed to do so, one poster at FreeRepublic had enough foresight to screengrab the entire listing, not just the top of it.

Only two things worth noting here, really, and both have to do with WND's coverage, not the auction itself.

First, the article finally includes this sentence in the second-to-last paragraph about the eBay auction (and before the article moves on to several generic cut-and-paste paragraphs about the "legal challenges"):

"Neither photos nor any verification of the seller's claims are available at this point."

Yep, the auction actually provides ZERO EVIDENCE of a birth certificate actually existing, but that's enough for WND to make it their headlining article for the day. The seller claims that the lack of a scan was to preserve the value of his product against a "flood of facsimiles." Fair enough, but he gives no reason for not providing a redacted version.

Considerably above this detail is a comment from the seller saying that his listing was taken down because birth certificates are forbidden for sale on eBay.

WND doesn't bother to address this, so I will: that's absolutely true. To wit:

Government IDs and licenses, or items that claim to be, or that look similar to, government identification documents are not permitted on eBay...[Including] Birth certificates, driver’s licenses or passports.

So for any purveyors of creative truths out there, take note: WorldNetDaily's journalistic standards are such that they will run news reports about your claims based on nothing more than your unsubstantiated claims. For instance, their articles the other day about the Ark of the Covenant? Totally bogus, because I have the Ark in my attic right now. I'm just a little hesitant to post photos or, y'know, proof. But I'll gladly take money from anyone who believes.

So, WorldNetDaily...where's my story?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

"Obama tied to Ayers ... at age 11"

Even on the weekends, WorldNetDaily does not fail to deliver:

Obama tied to Ayers ... at age 11
Anti-military congregation attended as boy in Hawaii linked to radical's organization

Here's the breakdown: as a youngster in the early 1970s, Obama's family attended First Unitarian Church of Honolulu. First Unitarian was more than a bit of a hippie church, and in the late 1960s, the church accommodated deserters and draft dodgers, including those from the radical leftist group Students for a Democratic Society. Meanwhile, in Michigan, Bill Ayers was a prominent leader of Students for a Democratic Society. That is underlying connection behind the headline "Obama tied to age 11."

WND's source for this story is an article in the Hawaii Free Press.

As that article states, "Contemporary accounts of the SDS Resistance use of First Unitarian and nearby Church of the Crossroads as part of the 1968-70 sanctuary for deserters movement shows why Obama would not have wanted this information exposed." In support of this position, the article cites to a dozen newspaper articles regarding SDS or the church from the late 1960s. All of the articles are from 1968 and 1969. The article gives no specific indication of any relationship between the church and SDS after 1969.

And where was Obama during those years? Indonesia. He and his mother had moved there in 1967, and he did not return to Hawaii until 1971. So everything the Hawaii Free Press article describes happened while Obama was living 4000 miles away. Meanwhile, Ayers was living 4000 miles in the opposite direction. Despite the headline, there has never been such an extended period of time in Obama's life when he and Bill Ayers were more distant from each other.

Naturally, WND isn't quite so obtuse as to not notice these details. So while the headline is outrageous, the article proffers a different argument: "Obama, however, likely learned values during his Sunday school days at the First Unitarian in the early 1970s." And perhaps there's a nugget of truth there, underneath the piles of hyperbole.

But in the course of making this argument, WND falls victim to the common enemy of many a conspiracy theory: consistency. Just last week WND was reminding readers of Obama's extremist Muslim background, including his Muslim upbringing in Indonesia. And here they are stressing his radical Christian upbringing in Hawaii, and focusing on the exact same years of his childhood. When it's convenient to smear him as a Muslim, he's Muslim. When it's convenient to attack him as a left-wing hippie Christian, he's Christian. To the conspiratorialist, convenience trumps consistency.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Defending...Orly Taitz?!?

One of the obstacles faced by someone such as myself in persuading the birther crowd that the conspiracies are unfounded is in establishing my factual neutrality. I believe that being someone who voted *against* Obama in last year's election helps on that front. And now, the opportunity has arisen for me to actually somewhat defend one of the leading Birther conspiracy nuts, Orly Taitz.

On Wednesday, the OC Weekly ran an article about Taitz that included this tidbit:
(In February, for example, the complaint alleges she posted, "The simple fact is that we are long overdue for another Rebellion in this nation, and I heartily endorse the idea of having one again very soon, preferably starting THIS year!")

In a lengthy (surprise!) response to the article, Taitz writes:
"For example, you quoted me as saying that there will be a rebellion, that I support it whole heartedly - I never said that."

Now whether Taitz has ever expressed similar sentiments is beyond the scope of this post. What I want to address here is whether Taitz actually made this specific quoted statement.

The "complaint" referred to is complaint to the California State Bar, alleging violations of the California Rules of Professional Conduct by Taitz. On page 24 of the Complaint appears this allegation:
On February 3, 2009, Taitz proclaimed:

I have reported on thisblog [sic] for quite some time that we here in the United States are heading toward Civil War. Many of you told me I was a nut for thinking that.

The simple fact is that we are long overdue for another Rebellion in this nation and I heartily endorse the idea of having one again very soon; preferably [sic] starting THIS year!

We must stop our federal government dead in its tracks because it is out of control and very dangerous. If stopping them means attacking them and destroying them by force, then so be it."

See "NH Revolution ~Update~," posted by Dr. Orly Taitz at 2/3/2009 5:34 PM, available at (emphasis added).

The website is no longer available online, but much of it was preserved at That specific page was cached here. And as seen there, the quoted 'rebellion' statement comes from a post of Taitz's wherein she quoted a lengthy piece by one Pat Dollard. It was Dollard who originally penned the line "The simple fact is that we are long overdue for another Rebellion in this nation, and I heartily endorse the idea of having one again very soon, preferably starting THIS year!" Taitz did not write it herself; she simply favorably reposted the article that contained it. She also linked to her sources for the article, including the websites of Pat Dollard and Hal Turner.

At the end of her (re-)post, Taitz included a poll that asked readers "What did you think of this [Pat Dollard's] article?" 85.7% of respondents voted that they "Liked" it.

So there you have it. Taitz did not write "The simple fact is that we are long overdue for another Rebellion in this nation, and I heartily endorse the idea of having one again very soon, preferably starting THIS year!" She only quoted it (with proper citation) from a white supremacist's website.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Half of Americans Troubled? Not so much.

WorldNetDaily yesterday touted the results of a survey it had conducted, in an article entitled Shocker! Most Americans know of Obama eligibility questions. The surprisingly chatty and seemingly not-so-disinterested survey conductor, Phil Wenzel, had this to say about the results:

"Our polling shows that the questions surrounding Barack Obama's eligibility to serve as president clearly strike a nerve across America, probably because it is a problem that everybody understands. Every American citizen has a birth certificate, and once in a while we all have to produce them to get a drivers license or gain entrance to school. Everyone understands the simple rules – if you don't produce it, you don't get in. And while Obama did get in to the White House, nearly half the country's adults – 49 percent – are troubled by this issue and still want him to produce his official long-form birth certificate."

I bolded the last sentence because Wenzel is misstating the results of his own survey. 49% of respondents said they were troubled by the issue OR want him to produce all records, including a long-form birth certificate. "OR," not "AND." In fact, only 7.8% of respondents actually said they were "troubled."

Beyond Mr. Wenzel's misrepresentations of his own data, a cursory look at the survey itself shows that it is horribly constructed in more than one way. And it's the second question, "What is your view of those questions about Obama's eligibility to be President?"

First, as the results from the first question show, 49% of respondents said either that they weren't aware of those questions, or where unsure. So you have almost half of the survey-takers admitting a lack of familiarity with the issue. To then turn around and ask them all about their view of questions they're unfamiliar with is bizarre; it automatically means that half of your respondents just gave you an uninformed opinion.

Now if Wenzel had broken down the results for the 51% who said they WERE familiar with the questions, then that might've produced some interesting data. But he didn't. So we're stuck the possibility that a lot of people told their pollster "No, I can't say I'm familiar with those questions. But sure, I think he should release his records."

Second, Wenzel's choice of response categories is inexplicably bad for a professional pollster. For the question "What is your view of those questions about Obama's eligibility to be President?", respondents were given 7 choices:

1. I am not concerned.
2. Questions not valid.
3. Obama has met requirements.
4. Obama has answered all questions.
5. Requirements outdated - should be ignored.
6. I am troubled by these questions.
7. Obama should release all records, incl. long-form birth certificate.

WND and Wenzel trumpet the finding of the number of "troubled" Americans, but if ascertaining that was the purpose of the survey, these options are horrible. You have one response of 'Those questions trouble me,' alongside four virtually synonymous responses that are all essentially 'Those questions don't trouble me' (each one of which garners more respondents than #6). Even #5, that the Constitution's requirements should be ignored, is basically a confession of not being troubled.

And then there's option #7, which was chosen by 41.5% of respondents. If the point was to measure how troubled people are by the questions, this is a downright terrible inclusion. It doesn't fall anywhere on a spectrum of 'troubled'; respondents could be troubled and want to see the records as a result, or they might not be troubled and want to see them merely out of curiosity. Heck, respondents could have chosen #7 on the grounds that they think the questions are total bunk and that Obama should release the records in the hopes of making the conspiracy nuts shut up. The option is simply too vague and unrelated to the other options to be constructive here.

Additionally, given that half of respondents didn't know what the eligibility questions were to start with, it's impossible to say how many of the 41.5% chose this option out of sheer ignorance.

If Wenzel really wanted to include that option, he needed at least two questions, not one. The first question would ask something to the effect of "Are you concerned about whether Obama is Constitutionally eligible to be President," with options ranging from "Very much so" to "Not at all." Then there would be a second question asking "Should Obama be required to provide more proof that he is eligible?" There could even be a third, "Would you like to see Obama release additional records?"

As the old saying goes, there are lies, damned lies, and statistics. And WorldNetDaily, it seems, isn't afraid to use all three.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

WND Lobs a Molotov of Fictional Facts

Now that I'm back, I need something flashy to start off with. Not some mere out-there comment on Berg's site, but something more...substantive. More noteworthy.

Thankfully, WorldNetDaily has come to my rescue with the latest video from its in-house conspiracy auteur Jason "Molotov" Mitchell, entitled "How to force Obama's resignation".

The good stuff starts at 0:48:

These are the facts:

Obama's grandmother says that he was born in Kenya. His elementary school records say that he was an Indonesian citizen. He traveled in and out of Pakistan at a time when American passports were prohibited. And by the way, where are the records that show his name change from Barry Soetoro to Barack Obama? And why has he sealed all records that could indicate his national origin?

...Publicly demand the answers to these questions. Obama will resign. If he doesn't, we know that we are in a dictatorship.

I absolutely love the insane logic of the final claim above. Ask these questions and one of two things will happen: Obama will resign, or Obama will be a dictator! The answers are apparently irrelevant; merely demanding them is enough to instigate a resignation or dictatorship.

Still, perhaps we should pause to consider Mitchell's questions:

These are the facts:

Let's come back to that one, shall we?

Obama's grandmother says that he was born in Kenya.

No, she didn't. Mitchell's very first "fact" is bogus.

He's not off to a good start.

His elementary school records say that he was an Indonesian citizen.

One school registration form, not "records," states that his citizenship was "Indonesian." It also states that he was born in Honolulu. American minors can't lose their citizenship because of anything their parents subsequently do.

So the answer is: the form is in error.

He traveled in and out of Pakistan at a time when American passports were prohibited.

No, they weren't.

And by the way, where are the records that show his name change from Barry Soetoro to Barack Obama?

And where, Jason "Molotov" Mitchell, are the records that show his name change from Barack Obama TO Barry Soetoro?

Wait, what? You don't have any?

**insert not-so-stunned silence**

And why has he sealed all records that could indicate his national origin?

He hasn't.

Oh, and by "all records that could indicate his national origin," I assume you're using the standard unspoken conspiratorialist disclaimer of "all records that could indicate his national origin except all those that have already been made public that contradict my unevidenced conclusions."

So we've asked the questions. We've seen the answers. And what have we learned? That Jason Mitchell is apparently somewhat unclear as to the definition of "fact." And that his questions are disturbingly close in sequence to my own satirical birther dialogue.

Perhaps what Mitchell meant to say was "These are the scurrilous, unfounded, and unsourced rumors and lies." That, ironically, would be more factual.

I'm Back

I've had a few blogs over the years, and during the first month of this year, I posted more often on this one than I ever had on any other. But after the inauguration, I found my verve lacking a bit. The President had taken office, Dr. Conspiracy and the folks over at Yes to Democracy were doing a bang-up job of taking on the conspiracy theories, and I naively thought that the controversy would soon die away.

Plus, given the fact that I'm not actually a political supporter of Obama himself or his policies, I didn't feel much political compulsion to keep writing.

But the rumors haven't ceased, the lawsuits haven't stopped, and the conspiracy-mongering has only grown in the last four months. Fox News' Shepard Smith brought it home to me the other day with this:

With a problem this big, I can't simply sit on the sidelines when there clearly need to be more voices of reason to combat the lies and nonsense that fume and fester around these issues. With thousands of people misinformed, one more spokesman for reason alongside Shepard Smith and Dr. Conspiracy can only help.

I don't do this because I'm a Democrat, because I'm not one. I don't do this because I support Obama's policies, because by and large, I don't. I do it because I'm a patriot, and because I'm a conservative. If conservatism is to have any future in this country, it is not down the road of conspiracies, lies, and a refusal to accept facts and listen to reason.

And in that way, the Birther movement is the opposite of everything conservatism stands for. That is why I do this.