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G. U. T.

The holy grail of physics is the Grand Unification Theory, an all-encompassing theory about the forces in the universe. In the same vein, my holy grail is a unifying theory of the birthers.

A sample conspiracy theory

Let’s take a very abbreviated walk through conspiracy thinking. Here’s a sample question: war brings misery; why do it? One approach to explaining war is to ask “who benefits?” One answer is the arms merchants. Both conspiracy theories and popular fiction expand on that theme. Conspiracy theorists who seek to explain war in terms of the secret machinations of the arms merchants will collect bits of information and interpret them to support that theory. The theories are based on real events and real evidence – only the conspiracy aspect is speculative.

Stupidity

Birtherism asks this initial question: Barack Obama is a despicable person; how can he be elected President? Their answer is that he can’t and that he wasn’t. Birthers collect bits of information and interpret them to support that theory.

The difference between our sample and the birthers is that the evidence the birthers collect is stupid. Their birth certificate analysis is inept and/or deceptive, their legal theories are crank, their supporting documents are fake, they misquote and misrepresent their sources, and of course the initial premise in their question is false. It’s really a pretty sorry mess.

This leads us to the first unifying principle: stupidity.

Demonization

I won’t take the time to repeat examples of what everybody already knows: birthers hate Barack Obama. They believe that he’s willfully destroying the country – something that the vast majority of Americans haven’t noticed. The reasons for the hatred may be several: envy, racism, religion, internationalism, liberalism or regionalism. In each case, the birther identifies Obama as different and foreign.

Our second unifying principle: demonization.

A Theory

My theory is not very well developed at this point. Demonization of the Other is a very powerful primitive emotion and the question is whether or not this plus simple stupidity along with the catalyst of the Internet is sufficient to explain birtherism. Is it also necessary to add a conspiracy theory about a powerful cabal of wealthy conservatives acting through covert political operatives to explain how the hatred and the stupidity came together to form the birther movement?

58 Responses to G. U. T.

  1. avatar
    Tarrant July 5, 2011 at 10:49 am #

    I am always stunned by the people that say things like “Obama’s goal is to destroy the nation.” I saw an article this morning linked to Rush Limbaugh talking about how the goal of the Democratic Party is to take over and shut down ALL PRIVATE BUSINESSES in the nation. Seriously? No wonder political discussion is practically dead in this country.

    McCain was demonized by some in his party for actually stating that while he disagreed with then-candidate Obama on policies he believed that both of them wanted the best for America – just disagreed on what that was. That shocks me. How can a nation be governed effectively when one side feels not only that the other advocates different policies, but that the other side is dedicated to destruction?

  2. avatar
    Rickey July 5, 2011 at 10:59 am #

    Tarrant:
    How can a nation be governed effectively when one side feels not only that the other advocates different policies, but that the other side is dedicated to destruction?

    And it is impossible to reason with people who feel that way.

    Yesterday I saw a post on Facebook in which someone said that the Obama administration is dragging its feet on a controversial proposed oil pipeline from Canada to the U.S. The poster said that Obama is delaying the project because he wants gasoline prices to rise.

    How do you reason with someone who thinks that way? Didn’t Obama just announce a release of oil from the strategic reserve in order to bring oil prices down?

    Of course, a big part of the problem is the fact that the echo chamber is much larger than it used to be, so there is a lot of reinforcement for crazy ideas.

  3. avatar
    J.Potter July 5, 2011 at 11:03 am #

    Nah, the wealthy cabal shouldn’t be necessary, tho it may be there. Recall tales of the Tea Party’s founding. It seems to be an extension of a web of alternative media engaged in collective storytelling: lots of voices todding out “ideas”, points that strike others as witty or powerful get picked up and repeated elsewhere in various forms of media. Some voices are louder than others. Once a talking gets repeated enough, it’s generally accepted and becomes part of “the truth”. High-tech version of the rumor game, and the same mode of storytelling seen in “conservative” newsletters, then radio, now blogs and online forums.

    Of course, other groups operate this way as well, storytelling is human, the difference is how easily new talking are accepted. When accepted blindly and without examination, collective delusion ensues.

  4. avatar
    Lupin July 5, 2011 at 11:20 am #

    I agree with the Doc but I wpuld use different terms:

    1) IGNORANCE instead of stupidity

    For example, I saw a survey a couple of days ago that said that 20% of Americans failed to identify England as the country you seceded from, and that percentage rises to 32% in the South.

    2) TRIBALISM instead of demonization

    All politics are tribals to some extent, but tribalism as a tool for control has been exacerbated by right-wing media in the pockets of of wealthy business interest who are anything but tribal.

    In Tsarist Russia, jews (& other non-white russian people) were singled out to reinforce russian tribalism, provide scapegoats and bolster the power of the aristocracy.

    Beyond the birther issue, one might argue that the result of the combination of ignorance and tribalism on such a scale have already fostered a de facto one-party-system in the U.S. (like Russia) where there is but one rational party, the democrats, who are pro-business and pro-status quo, against a lunatic party (the republicans) which is increasingly disconnected from the people on issues (as most polls confirm). There is therefore no true alternative.

  5. avatar
    Thrifty July 5, 2011 at 11:44 am #

    Lisa, I don’t know what is the greater disappointment. My inability to form a Unified Field Theory….. or you.

  6. avatar
    G July 5, 2011 at 11:48 am #

    Sadly, this is so chillingly and disturbingly true at this point in US History. I really don’t think we can get beyond that dynamic until the lunatic faction self-immolates and implodes upon itself.

    …I just worry about how much additional collateral damage they’ll do in the process…

    Lupin: Beyond the birther issue, one might argue that the result of the combination of ignorance and tribalism on such a scale have already fostered a de facto one-party-system in the U.S. (like Russia) where there is but one rational party, the democrats, who are pro-business and pro-status quo, against a lunatic party (the republicans) which is increasingly disconnected from the people on issues (as most polls confirm). There is therefore no true alternative.

  7. avatar
    G July 5, 2011 at 11:55 am #

    Sadly, yes. This is the greatest dilemma in being able to solve anything. When you are dealing with a loud faction that is completely incoherent, irrational and wholly unreasonable, there is no ability to progress or find commonality with them.

    This ugly mentality from that lunatic fringe is its own bizarre form of Godwin’s Law in effect, with a replacement of Nazism with other extremely hyperbolic and caustic references that utterly shut down the ability to have any meaningful conversation. Depressingly, I seriously worry that those employing such extreme tactics do so fully intending that effect, as they only wish to destroy “opposition” to their views, not actually solve nor fix anything.

    Rickey: And it is impossible to reason with people who feel that way.

  8. avatar
    G July 5, 2011 at 11:58 am #

    I’m assuming this is a quote from something, but I’m failing to grasp the reference. Regardless, I’m failing to grasp the context of this reference/retort or who Lisa is…

    Thrifty:
    Lisa, I don’t know what is the greater disappointment.My inability to form a Unified Field Theory….. or you.

  9. avatar
    Thrifty July 5, 2011 at 12:30 pm #

    G: I’m assuming this is a quote from something, but I’m failing to grasp the reference. Regardless, I’m failing to grasp the context of this reference/retort or who Lisa is…

    It was Stephen Hawking speaking to Lisa Simpson. Lisa had joined Mensa and along with a few other members of the Springfield chapter of Mensa, they took over Springfield. After their reforms, the town still lapsed into chaos until the old mayor took over again. This was Hawking’s line as that was happening.

  10. avatar
    G July 5, 2011 at 12:34 pm #

    LOL! Thanks for clarifying that reference. I actually did see that episode when it originally aired, but did not remember any of the specific dialogue well enough to make the connection.

    Thrifty: It was Stephen Hawking speaking to Lisa Simpson.Lisa had joined Mensa and along with a few other members of the Springfield chapter of Mensa, they took over Springfield.After their reforms, the town still lapsed into chaos until the old mayor took over again.This was Hawking’s line as that was happening.

  11. avatar
    G July 5, 2011 at 12:46 pm #

    There is a good article out today that I think dovetails into this conversation and topic:

    http://www.salon.com/news/politics/war_room/2011/07/05/lind_three_fundamentalisms

    Here’s an excerpt from it:

    The rise of triple fundamentalism on the American right creates a crisis of political discourse in the United States. Back when conservatism was orthodox and traditional, rather than fundamentalist and counter-revolutionary, conservatives could engage in friendly debates with liberals, and minds on both sides could now and then be changed. But if your sect alone understands the True Religion and the True Constitution and the Laws of the Market, then there is no point in debate. All those who disagree with you are heretics, to be defeated, whether or not they are converted.

    For their part, progressives have no idea of how to respond to the emergent right’s triple fundamentalism. Today it is the left, not the right, that is Burkean in America. Modern American liberalism is disillusioned, to the point of defeatism, by the frustration of the utopian hopes of 1960s liberalism in the Age of Reagan that followed and has not yet ended. Today it is liberals, not conservatives, who tend to be cautious and incremental and skeptical to a fault about the prospects for reform, while it is the right that wants to blow up the U.S. economy and start all over, on the basis of the doctrines of two Austrian professors and a Russian émigré novelist. Barack Obama, who would have flourished in an age when conservatives and liberals shared a common Burkean sensibility, finds himself as baffled and flustered by the tribunes of the Tea Party as Edmund Burke would have been by the young Marjoe Gortner.

    The era of triple fundamentalism on the American right is bound to come to an end. Sooner or later, dogmatism and reality will collide, and it is not reality that will crumple like tinfoil. The only question is how much damage will be done to the American polity before the revolution of the saints fizzles out.

  12. avatar
    G July 5, 2011 at 12:56 pm #

    This other article out today offers additional discouraging evidence of the extremist viewpoints being propped up and tolerated on the lunatic side of the equation:

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/07/04/white-supremacists-running-for-political-office-in-2012-in-growing-numbers.html

    I posit that the disturbing trends discussed in these 2 articles I’ve posted most definitely tie into any G.U.T. to explain where Birtherism comes from and why…

  13. avatar
    aarrgghh July 5, 2011 at 12:59 pm #

    i think the “obama wants to destroy america” meme owes its growing strength to the fact the “war on terror” and related “muslims want to destroy america” memes have not only outlived their usefulness, but were never powerful enough to adequately replace the “commies want to destroy america” meme which collapsed after the breakup of the soviet union (but which still shows up in incoherent accusations against the domestic targets of our Daily Two Minutes’ Hate).

    the supply of existential demons has grown thin and their potency diminished, but the extremists of this country are addicted to hate; they must have and will have their fix. so for now theyare making do with the “obama/democrats/liberals want to destroy america” meme — at least until the reptilians arrive.

  14. avatar
    Slartibartfast July 5, 2011 at 1:09 pm #

    Doc,

    I don’t think that a wealthy conservative cabal is the catalyst you’re looking for – I think the con artists like Joseph Farah (plus stupidity/idiocy and tribalism – the true believers) are sufficient to explain how birtherstan got up and running. Some greedy and ethically challenged people saw the first true believers mounting their soap boxes and realized that there was money to be made – this provided the infusion of competence (at building a movement of fools who could then be separated from their money) and continuity that propelled the birthers beyond being a sad little group of cranks that no one ever noticed.

  15. avatar
    aarrgghh July 5, 2011 at 1:10 pm #

    i’m reminded of orwell, who implied that more than dogmatism would suffer:

    “we are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.”

    G:
    http://www.salon.com/news/politics/war_room/2011/07/05/lind_three_fundamentalisms

    “Sooner or later, dogmatism and reality will collide, and it is not reality that will crumple like tinfoil.”

  16. avatar
    aarrgghh July 5, 2011 at 1:17 pm #

    no revolution or pseudo-revolution comes without its profiteers.

    Slartibartfast:
    Doc,

    Some greedy and ethically challenged people saw the first true believers mounting their soap boxes and realized that there was money to be made …

  17. avatar
    Slartibartfast July 5, 2011 at 1:31 pm #

    I think that this pseudo-revolution was created (or at least pushed to self-sufficiency) by its profiteers. It wouldn’t be the first time…

    aarrgghh:
    no revolution or pseudo-revolution comes without its profiteers.

  18. avatar
    Majority Will July 5, 2011 at 1:41 pm #

    Thrifty:
    Lisa, I don’t know what is the greater disappointment.My inability to form a Unified Field Theory….. or you.

    Thrifty, FTW.

  19. avatar
    Thrifty July 5, 2011 at 1:47 pm #

    I hate it when a discussion turns toward “The Republican party has gone so crazy-right that the American people are gonna start hating it and they’re going to lose power soon!”

    I find the assertion faulty. First off, didn’t the Republicans make sizable gains in last year’s midterm elections?

    Secondly, it makes the assumption that the majority of moderate Americans (who make up the majority of the voting public), are paying as much attention to this as the more politically engaged and informed people who do things like discuss politics on the Internet. In my experience, they aren’t. Most people just care about the stuff that’s most apparent to them. Gas prices and job creation look to be the hot issues nowadays.

    No, I don’t see the situation changing any time soon.

  20. avatar
    J.Potter July 5, 2011 at 2:15 pm #

    Because of the dysfunction, the ball bonces back and forth, red and blue. THe public wants instant gratification, which neither party can provide. Both parties have their monoliths, but the republican party has become a monolith. So little dissent in the ranks, and almost always instantly shot down. Improvement will come if and when that breaks up. You would think the party members would feel straitjacketed, and that would lead to a revolt. But maybe they are satisfied with just riding the party line so long as it works. I also hope the public would get tired of these symbolic stands, but unfortunately that seems to continue to sell well.

    Thrifty:

    No, I don’t see the situation changing any time soon.

  21. avatar
    G July 5, 2011 at 2:22 pm #

    Of course, we’ve seen that some of them believe the repitilans are already here. ;)

    aarrgghh: the supply of existential demons has grown thin and their potency diminished, but the extremists of this country are addicted to hate; they must have and will have their fix. so for now theyare making do with the “obama/democrats/liberals want to destroy america” meme — at least until the reptilians arrive.

    I am reminded of Orwell just about every time I hear something from the RW these days – whether it is Birthers, the TP or even the GOP…

    aarrgghh: i’m reminded of orwell, who implied that more than dogmatism would suffer:

    I think you’re on to something there. Although I’d lump it into a bigger con/grift game than just financial profiteering… political gainsmanship profiteering attempts as well.

    Slartibartfast: I think that this pseudo-revolution was created (or at least pushed to self-sufficiency) by its profiteers. It wouldn’t be the first time…

    You make a very valid point about a majority of people not paying attention to what is happening in politics – at least until an election is truly impending…and even then a whole lot still don’t pay attention. Some of this is that a lot of folks simply have legitimate and more important things in their lives keeping them too busy to follow this stuff. Some of it is ignorance.

    I understand that we cannot accurately predict what will happen in the 2012 election or to the GOP until those things actually happen and that trends can swing one way or another. I do think it is clear that there is an ever increasing ideological extremism battle and “purity testing” taking place on the GOP side of the aisle, and all of these fringe movements such as TP, Birtherism, Birchers, etc. are part and parcel of that.

    I would argue that such increasing levels of extremism are not sustainable in any long term. If they do end up dominating and “winning out”…economic decline continues and the end result eventually leads to either totalitarianism or anarchy if left unchecked.

    Thrifty: Secondly, it makes the assumption that the majority of moderate Americans (who make up the majority of the voting public), are paying as much attention to this as the more politically engaged and informed people who do things like discuss politics on the Internet. In my experience, they aren’t. Most people just care about the stuff that’s most apparent to them. Gas prices and job creation look to be the hot issues nowadays.

  22. avatar
    G July 5, 2011 at 2:28 pm #

    Bouncing back and forth is one thing, as long as the ability to still solve problems and (to some extent) work together is retained.

    Once you have only opposition and no real progress, you are already on a downward spiral towards eventual decline. Problems cannot be kicked down the road forever and ignored. That usually only results in increasing the difficulty and cost of an eventual solution (or more realistically, even a step in the right direction). Everything breaks down eventually if it isn’t properly maintained. Therefore an irrational and dysfunctional opposition strategy is simply not sustainable in the long term, unless your sole agenda is spite and destruction. If so, that’s a pretty hollow and pyrric model of victory.

    J.Potter: Because of the dysfunction, the ball bonces back and forth, red and blue. THe public wants instant gratification, which neither party can provide.

  23. avatar
    J.Potter July 5, 2011 at 2:49 pm #

    Your second paragraph sounds like an excellent description of the Legislative and Executive since 1994; or also of the build up to the Civil War! Governing takes compromise. But compromise depends on a majority of reasonable parties. A sprinkling of extremists and footdraggers is fine, even expected, but in a two party system, if one half says they are playing anymore, and continues to resort to blackmail, and demonstrate a fundamentalist mindset …. what appears to be a pyrrhic victory may well be to them the inevitable apocalypse. In the true sense of the original Greek. A cold hard revealing look at the real consequences of the (in)actions taken. Hopefully no civil war this time, just a crippled economy. No biggie, right?

    G:
    Bouncing back and forth is one thing, as long as the ability to still solve problems and (to some extent) work together is retained.

    Once you have only opposition and no real progress, you are already on a downward spiral towards eventual decline.Problems cannot be kicked down the road forever and ignored.That usually only results in increasing the difficulty and cost of an eventual solution (or more realistically, even a step in the right direction).Everything breaks down eventually if it isn’t properly maintained.Therefore an irrational and dysfunctional opposition strategy is simply not sustainable in the long term, unless your sole agenda is spite and destruction.If so, that’s a pretty hollow and pyrric model of victory.

  24. avatar
    Lucas D. Smith July 5, 2011 at 2:59 pm #

    Dear friends!

    I have new, July 5th, blog report up today.

    “Pesky numeric date formats on birth certificates and Western Union receipts.”

    http://www.WasObamaBornInKenya.com/blog

    Feel free to comment. I welcome all thoughts. I don’t like censorship.

  25. avatar
    aarrgghh July 5, 2011 at 3:07 pm #

    i believe g is correct: in this case the initial profiteers were of the political kind (pumas), who were ahead of the simple grifters (wnd, etc).

    for example: wnd didn’t jump on the birfer bandwagon until a few weeks after the election, when it launched its online petition for the birth certificate wnd had validated only three months earlier:

    “a separate WND investigation into obama’s birth certificate utilizing forgery experts also found the document to be authentic.”

    example two: he, lucas daniel smith — if that’s even his name, and who can’t seem to stay out of prison — and his jen-yoo-wine kenyan birth certificate, didn’t materialize on the birfer scene until late june 2009 — on ebay.

    G:
    I think you’re on to something there.Although I’d lump it into a bigger con/grift game than just financial profiteering… political gainsmanship profiteering attempts as well.

    Slartibartfast:
    I think that this pseudo-revolution was created (or at least pushed to self-sufficiency) by its profiteers.It wouldn’t be the first time…

  26. avatar
    Slartibartfast July 5, 2011 at 3:40 pm #

    I think you and G are right, the PUMA profiteers seized on the true believers (who arose from amongst the ranks of the PUMAs) and the grifters jumped on board shortly thereafter.

    aarrgghh: i believe g is correct: in this case the initial profiteers were of the political kind (pumas), who were ahead of the simple grifters (wnd, etc).

  27. avatar
    JD Reed July 5, 2011 at 4:54 pm #

    aarrgghh,

    I was struck by how the quote of Orwell you cited echoes that of a contemporary Brit, C.S. Lewis,
    From God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics, chapter titled Horrid Red Things:
    “A historian who has based his work on the misreading of a document may afterwards (when his mistake has been exposed) exercise great ingenuity in showing that his account of a certain battle can still be reconciled with what the document records. But the point is that none of these ingenious exlanations would ever have come into existence if he had read his documents correctly at the outset. They are therefore really a waste of labor; it would be manlier of him to admit his mistake and begin all over again.”
    Can you cite the work where the Orwell quote is found?

  28. avatar
    aarrgghh July 5, 2011 at 8:33 pm #

    “in front of your nose”
    london tribune, march 22, 1946

    JD Reed:
    Can you cite the work where the Orwell quote is found?

  29. avatar
    aarrgghh July 5, 2011 at 8:47 pm #

    good luck finding a modern conservative who’d agree with that.

    JD Reed:
    C.S. Lewis: “… it would be manlier of him to admit his mistake and begin all over again.”

  30. avatar
    G July 5, 2011 at 11:27 pm #

    Yeah, I totally hear what you’re saying. Congress has definitely become ever increasingly disfunctional and I think you’ve pinned the start of this current decline in cooperatin to 1994 (which Newt Gingrich deserves a big part of the blame for building that obstacle based anti-compromise mindset). You are also right about the parallels to the periods in the mid 1800s, leading up to the Civil War. Sadly, we see on many Birther blogs (and other extreme RW fetish sites) an increasing reference and desire to have another one. I think the reality of such occuring again on a comparible scale are actually slim in our modern US, but I don’t doubt that small acts of civil unrest could be wreaked by those with such a mindset. So I forsee the increasing danger of more Waco / Ruby Ridge and even Oklahoma City actions along with various bouts of vandalism and small scale domestic terrorism being possible, but I don’t think it can get beyond that. The Civil War and its aftermath really did settle the legal issue of seccession and any officials that would take steps to do that would likely be arrested and stopped before any such action could be officially undertaken. One of the advantages of our modern communications structure is that any such intent would be known almost immediately. While excessively and increasingly disfunctional, we still have a strong Constitution, legal system and modern government. This is no banana republic that can be taken by coup by a small band of the disgruntled.

    J.Potter: Your second paragraph sounds like an excellent description of the Legislative and Executive since 1994; or also of the build up to the Civil War! Governing takes compromise. But compromise depends on a majority of reasonable parties. A sprinkling of extremists and footdraggers is fine, even expected, but in a two party system, if one half says they are playing anymore, and continues to resort to blackmail, and demonstrate a fundamentalist mindset …. what appears to be a pyrrhic victory may well be to them the inevitable apocalypse. In the true sense of the original Greek. A cold hard revealing look at the real consequences of the (in)actions taken. Hopefully no civil war this time, just a crippled economy. No biggie, right?

  31. avatar
    G July 5, 2011 at 11:31 pm #

    Thanks Lucas. I read your latest. My favorite parts of your new site are still the lovely family pictures. I found it amusing that you seem to see “conspiracy thinking” on what you call the “Obot” side of things. Of course, I view that as completely opposite to reality. But hey, you’ve given a good shout out to a lot of the anti-Birther blogs out there, so that’s good advertisement.

    Lucas D. Smith:
    Dear friends!

    I have new, July 5th, blog report up today.

    “Pesky numeric date formats on birth certificates and Western Union receipts.”


    http://www.WasObamaBornInKenya.com/blog

    Feel free to comment. I welcome all thoughts. I don’t like censorship.

  32. avatar
    G July 5, 2011 at 11:36 pm #

    If you haven’t had a chance to read it (or its been awhile), I of course also recommend his classic “1984” and look at the brainwashing techniques and language used to control and placate the masses into being complicit against their own best interests. To me, way too reminiscent to some of the propaganda we see every day from the far right and even outlets such as FNC…

    aarrgghh: “in front of your nose”
    london tribune, march 22, 1946

    JD Reed:
    Can you cite the work where the Orwell quote is found?

  33. avatar
    Lucas D. Smith July 6, 2011 at 11:24 am #

    G: If you haven’t had a chance to read it (or its been awhile), I of course also recommend his classic “1984‘ and look at the brainwashing techniques and language used to control and placate the masses into being complicit against their own best interests. To me, way too reminiscent to some of the propaganda we see every day from the far right and even outlets such as FNC…

    Hi G,

    I enjoyed ‘1984’, as well. George Bush admin, Barack Obama admin and just all of the mainstream media have used ‘1984’ style techniques.

    If you’d liked ‘1984’ you should read, or maybe you already have, ‘Brave New World’ by Aldous Huxley. The book also deals with the future, from back then, of biology and bioengineering. One of my favorite books. I like it much more than 1984.

    Lastly, there is another similar book in the style of 1984 and Brave New World. The book is ‘The Tomorrow File‘ and was written by Lawrence Sanders. The book was published in the 1970s. The author, and just about all of his books, uses a lot of strange (or unique) sexual language, I even struggled to read some the strange stuff (I love freedom of speech, especially in book form), which might make the book a difficult read for some people. Most of his other books are detective novels and that is how I came across him about 10 or so years ago.

    Lastly, thank you G for sharing some about you and your family.

  34. avatar
    aarrgghh July 6, 2011 at 2:31 pm #

    yes, i have read both “1984” and “brave new world” and yes, that was a long time ago. but what most totalitarians don’t realize (or most likely, don’t care about), is that often the best interrogation technique is a shower, a meal and a cigarette. (are you reading this, mr cheney?)

  35. avatar
    G July 6, 2011 at 6:06 pm #

    I am a huge fan of Huxley’s “Brave New World”. I too enjoy that even more than 1984. Thanks for the new reference of “The Tomorrow File”. I will have to check it out! In that context. I also enjoyed Orwell’s Animal Farm and its dystopian allegory as well. I know there are some other good allegorical dystopian fiction I enjoyed from my past, but I can’t think of them on hand.

    Lucas D. Smith: Hi G,

    I enjoyed ’1984′, as well. George Bush admin, Barack Obama admin and just all of the mainstream media have used ’1984′ style techniques.

    If you’d liked ’1984′ you should read, or maybe you already have, Brave New World’ by Aldous Huxley.The book also deals with the future, from back then, of biology and bioengineering. One of my favorite books.I like it much more than 1984.

    Lastly, there is another similar book in the style of 1984 and Brave New World. The book is The Tomorrow File‘and was written by Lawrence Sanders.The book was published in the 1970s. The author, and just about all of his books, uses a lot of strange (or unique) sexual language, I even struggled to read some the strange stuff (I love freedom of speech, especially in book form), which might make the book a difficult read for some people.Most of his other books are detective novels and that is how I came across him about 10 or so years ago.

    Lastly, thank you G for sharing some about you and your family.

  36. avatar
    G July 6, 2011 at 6:11 pm #

    Agreed. As the old saying goes, you can catch a lot more flies with honey…

    America is always much better when we set and hold to an example of ethical conduct and lead by example. I consider this value to be very important in how we treat prisoners of war. Sinking to the level of the enemy’s tactics takes away that important moral high ground advantage and just feeds into their excuses to continue to behave badly and hate us. I’m for raising as many up as possible instead of tearing everything down to the basest common denominator. To me, that is the only way for civilization to grow and mature instead of fall backwards.

    aarrgghh: but what most totalitarians don’t realize (or most likely, don’t care about), is that often the best interrogation technique is a shower, a meal and a cigarette. (are you reading this, mr cheney?)

  37. avatar
    Paul Pieniezny July 6, 2011 at 6:15 pm #

    Lucas D. Smith: The author, and just about all of his books, uses a lot of strange (or unique) sexual language, I even struggled to read some the strange stuff (I love freedom of speech, especially in book form), which might make the book a difficult read for some people.

    Wait, you are pushing a book where natural born citizens (Obsos) are treated as dirt. Lucas, you are playing with fire and you forgot to pay your insurance (yes, that is a quote too). If you really want to have a normal talk with anybody, you will have to tell us until you tell me:

    1) what is the reason Iowa State kept you much longer at their facilities than the average for the state? Are you sure they did not want to be sure that they were releasing the correct guy?

    2) How are your Dutch language lessons going?

    2) how are your

  38. avatar
    Keith July 7, 2011 at 9:37 am #

    Something else to factor into your G.U.T perhaps…

    Remember this story from back in February : UPDATED: The HB Gary Email That Should Concern Us All?

    Ever notice how just as one birther fades away, another pops up to take their place, each with the same base material, but just enough difference to each other that they appear at first glance to be different? Sometimes a second joins in to provide distraction.

    I am quite convinced that many of these trools are sockpuppets . I know that Doc can track the IP addresses, but it is trivially easy to mask the IP address through a proxy switcher.

    According to an embedded MS Word document found in one of the HBGary emails, it involves creating an army of sockpuppets, with sophisticated “persona management” software that allows a small team of only a few people to appear to be many, while keeping the personas from accidentally cross-contaminating each other. Then, to top it off, the team can actually automate some functions so one persona can appear to be an entire Brooks Brothers riot online.

    Persona management entails not just the deconfliction of persona artifacts such as names, email addresses, landing pages, and associated content. It also requires providing the human actors technology that takes the decision process out of the loop when using a specific persona. For this purpose we custom developed either virtual machines or thumb drives for each persona. This allowed the human actor to open a virtual machine or thumb drive with an associated persona and have all the appropriate email accounts, associations, web pages, social media accounts, etc. pre-established and configured with visual cues to remind the actor which persona he/she is using so as not to accidentally cross-contaminate personas during use.

    And all of this is for the purposes of infiltration, data mining, and (here’s the one that really worries me) ganging up on bloggers, commenters and otherwise “real” people to smear enemies and distort the truth.

  39. avatar
    Horus July 7, 2011 at 10:20 am #

    “The holy grail of physics is the Grand Unification Theory, an all-encompassing theory about the forces in the universe. In the same vein, my holy grail is a unifying theory of the birthers.”

    As a scientist I cannot pass up the opportunity to expound my unifying theory.

    Gravity = Magnetism

    It will come to pass that Gravity and Magnetism are one-in-the-same, and not 2 separate forces as is still widely believed.

  40. avatar
    Majority Will July 7, 2011 at 11:02 am #

    “The holy grail of physics is the Grand Unification Theory, an all-encompassing theory about the forces in the universe.”

    But this time the Bridge of Death is a Möbius strip and the questions three are all self-referential contradictions.

    Good luck on your journey.

  41. avatar
    Lucas D. Smith July 7, 2011 at 1:03 pm #

    Paul Pieniezny: Wait, you are pushing a book where natural born citizens (Obsos) are treated as dirt. Lucas, you are playing with fire and you forgot to pay your insurance (yes, that is a quote too). If you really want to have a normal talk with anybody, you will have to tell us until you tell me:1) what is the reason Iowa State kept you much longer at their facilities than the average for the state? Are you sure they did not want to be sure that they were releasing the correct guy?2) How are your Dutch language lessons going?2) how are your

    1. Prisoners serving a five year sentence in the state of Iowa are eligible for parole after 8 months. That doesn’t imply that you will automatically receive parole at that time.

    In Iowa prison sentences are handed out in the following terms, or combinations any of these terms:

    2 years, 5 years, 10 years, 25 years, 50 years, life without parole (you leave when you die). Also, once in a while, though I’ve never seen it, a judge will sentence a person to a year and one day because anything above a year cannot be served in the county jails. However, and this is why you dont see it hardly ever, one year and a day in prison is about 1000 times better than one year in the county jail. County jail is like a dog kennel and there is nothing to do in there. Prisons and pentintiaries are like small cities with walls or fences around them. You can make a life for yourself in there. And, maybe more importantly, one year in prison is usually dicharged in less than 6 months while one year in the county jail means one year in the county jail.

    A 5 year prison sentence in Iowa is sometime a strange one. For one thing it means that you’ve just barely earned the right to be able to tell anyone that you are ‘doing time’ or whatever you want to call it. Anytrhing less than 5 years you should just keep your mouth shut and because people in their dont want to hear your everyday talk about how you getting in 90 days and all that. The short timers have a problem with talking about that sort of thing, like every 5 minutes of the day and night. They often have to get punched in the face a few time before they learn to keep quiet.

    The other strange thing about a 5 year prison sentence in Iowa is that the parole board reviews your case in 8 months. 8 months is often not enough time to get settled in, take criminal thinking classes, earn a good rapport with counslers, et cetera. While some people are granted parole at 8 months I’d say that the overwhelming majority is denied parole. The parole board can set a special hearing for another 4 or 6 or 8 months or whatever they want. If not, they just come once a year after that. Thats what happened to me, they sent me a letter once a year saying, lay down til next year. They only really see you in person if there’s a chance that they are going to let you out.

    A prisoner serving a 10 year sentence in Iowa sees the parole board for the first time on their one year mark. A lot of them get parole at that time. At the same time that they are getting parole they prisoner that is serving 5 years is still in prison waiting to see the parole board for a second time, which might be another 8 months away. Very strange indeed. I guess its the curse of the 5 year prison sentence in Iowa. However, I’d still never trade a 5 year sentence for a 10 year sentence! Getting out of prison is contingent upon your behavior (or not getting caught for bad behavior) and taking criminal thinking or treatment classes and making your couselor believe that you are a new man.

    At any rate, I’d say that most prisoners serving 5 years in Iowa are out by the 18 month mark.

    The reason that I never got parole or halfway house is because I got into a fight and the prison judge (not a reall judge but rather an administartive law judge, ALJ) sentenced me to 365 days (one year) in the ‘hole’ (solitary confinment, known in euphimism as ‘disciplinary detention’). That judge also took all, every single day, of my ‘good time’ or ‘earned time’ (the terminology changed while I was serving my prison sentence). The prison also contacted the local county attorney (Jasper county) and pushed for criminal charges to be filed. I was charged, in criminal court, with ‘Wilful Injury’, a class ‘C’ Felony which carries 10 years in Iowa and also a special stipulation of 85%. That means that you must serve 8.5 years on the 10 years before you can get parole.

    I took the ‘Willful Injury’ case to trial and beat the case. Charges were dismissed in that the ‘evidence supported self defense‘.

    Back at prison the prison judge, and the prison staff, didn’t like that too much at all. That’s why they stuck me with one year in the hole and loss of all good time (was like maybe 700 days that point). Also, I’d been in the hole already for eight months while going to trial. The fake prison judge informed that those 8 months didnt count against my ‘hole’ time of one year because those eight months were ‘admin segregation’ and not ‘disciplinary detention’. Truth is that they are the SAME EXACT THING. The only differnce was that DD time has a green colored name tag on your cell while AS time has a white colored name tag on your cell.

    ‘Good time’ was (prior to sometime in 2001) day for day. That means that everyday you served you got an extra day cut off of your time. 5 years became 2.5 years. But the ALJ can always pick away at that. Usually they will sanction you to loss of 15 days or 30 days or something like that.

    ‘Earned time’ (effective sometime in 2001 thru present day) is 1.2 day for every day. So, every day that you serve you get and extra day and also .2 of day cut off your sentences. 5 years becomes something like 2 years and 2 months or something like that.

    At rate I filed, in the real court (not prison admin court) what is known as a ‘disciplinary post conviction’. These ask the Courts to review prison admin sanctions that prisoner believe are unconstititional or againts state regulation. Btw, before you can file this you must exhuast your appeals to the warden and also to the Director of the Department of Corrections. So it takes a few montsh for those appeals first. I of course lost those admin appeals.

    But, a not long after I files my post conviction relief in the real Court I was very happy when the assistant Attorney General of the State of Iowa started calling me on the telephone wanting to make a deal. I remember I was in sitting in the ‘hole’ and all of the sudden the correctional officer were dragging a long telephone cord down to me cell. They said that the Attorney General was on the phone.

    She wanted to make a deal and she wanted to come and meet me.

    Long story short, I got back A LOT, a whole bunch, of ‘good time’ and ‘earned time’ and also the warden let me out of the ‘hole’ on the week of my one year mark in the ‘hole’. Served one year and one week in the hole. They also agreed to discharge me from prison on the day of…….CHRISTMAS 2002!!!!!

    In return for all of this I had to sign a voluntary dismissal of the case. And I did.

    I’ve been writing a book about the whole and I plan to publish sometime before the end of 2011.

    I hope that my above sysnopsis helped answer your question.

  42. avatar
    Slartibartfast July 7, 2011 at 1:09 pm #

    I doubt that any birther has access to persona management software, but even if they don’t, they wouldn’t leave obvious traces of sock puppetry unless they are careless (and there have been several cases where Doc has outed carless banned posters trying to sneak back in). I think that the best way to ferret out puppet masters is to identify authors through textual analysis. If I wanted to catch those %#!$ers like HB Gary, that’s how I’d do it…

    Keith:
    Something else to factor into your G.U.T perhaps…

    Remember this story from back in February : UPDATED: The HB Gary Email That Should Concern Us All?

    Ever notice how just as one birther fades away, another pops up to take their place, each with the same base material, but just enough difference to each other that they appear at first glance to be different? Sometimes a second joins in to provide distraction.

    I am quite convinced that many of these trools are sockpuppets . I know that Doc can track the IP addresses, but it is trivially easy to mask the IP address through a proxy switcher.

  43. avatar
    Slartibartfast July 7, 2011 at 1:34 pm #

    Lucas,

    I notice a very significant difference between this comment* (which was very interesting, by the way – thanks) and accounts you’ve given of your trip to Kenya. Why is that?

    *and your description of your extradition as well

    Lucas D. Smith: [Long detailed explanation of the Iowa penal system which oozes veracity…]

  44. avatar
    G July 7, 2011 at 1:49 pm #

    I found your account and details a very interesting read. I think it also shows that our legal, sentencing and prison sysems are more complex than most of us realize and are rife with examples of where they could be tweaked, improved or changed. I understand the legal reason for punishing bad behavior and also the societal value of removing dangerous people from society. However, in terms of punishment where the (theoretical goal) is so that someone can learn from their mistakes and then return to society “reformed” seems to be the biggest area of failure and need of a total change in how things are done. Sounds like too much of just gaming the system and no real motivation for sincere and real improvement. We throw people in and then just let them out as more cynical, manipulative and angry than before and with a much lesser chance of being able to get a real job and move to becoming a productive and happy part of society. Sadly, it almost seems that most sentencing just reinforces both criminal behaviors (mind set) and also limits earning ability to get beyond that…

    Lucas D. Smith:
    I hope that my above sysnopsis helped answer your question.

  45. avatar
    aarrgghh July 7, 2011 at 2:23 pm #

    the convicted criminal is one of society’s completely voiceless members — after all, we take away their right to vote. so what politician is going to expend one iota of his capital speaking up for them them? thanks to “tough on crime” demagoguery, the electorate see prison only as retributive punishment and refuses to spend taxpayer dollars on rehabilitation. the result is, g points out, not a reformed citizen but a more improved and more bitter criminal, intent on punishing the rest of us for our callousness.

    G:
    I found your account and details a very interesting read.I think it also shows that our legal, sentencing and prison sysems are more complex than most of us realize and are rife with examples of where they could be tweaked, improved or changed.I understand the legal reason for punishing bad behavior and also the societal value of removing dangerous people from society.However, in terms of punishment where the (theoretical goal) is so that someone can learn from their mistakes and then return to society “reformed” seems to be the biggest area of failure and need of a total change in how things are done.Sounds like too much of just gaming the system and no real motivation for sincere and real improvement.We throw people in and then just let them out as more cynical, manipulative and angry than before and with a much lesser chance of being able to get a real job and move to becoming a productive and happy part of society.Sadly, it almost seems that most sentencing just reinforces both criminal behaviors (mind set) and also limits earning ability to get beyond that…

  46. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy July 7, 2011 at 6:19 pm #

    One argument against this is the fact that we’ve never been ganged up on by any significant number of birthers at one time. If they wanted to force open discussion to shut down, they could easily do it and force the blog into moderation by overwhelming my ability to supervise the discussion. Maybe some birther tries to slip back in from time to time, but the notable bans typically are tripped up by IP address. So I am taking a random-process explanation for the appearance of birthers on this blog rather than a conspiracy theory.

    Keith: I am quite convinced that many of these trools are sockpuppets . I know that Doc can track the IP addresses, but it is trivially easy to mask the IP address through a proxy switcher

  47. avatar
    aarrgghh July 7, 2011 at 6:43 pm #

    G:
    On a personal level, I’m very much for being “tough on crime” …

    … which underscores the importance of an impartial judicial system.

  48. avatar
    Slartibartfast July 7, 2011 at 8:08 pm #

    That seems like a pretty persuasive argument to me – if the same people were returning under multiple IP/email addresses, then I would expect to see patterns in their posting (as well as textual similarities – I doubt that most birthers are good enough writers to disguise their writing style). Is that a characteristic of conspiracy theorists in general? To work solo instead of in groups? (more than just the lack of birther war parties, I don’t recall even seeing a pair of birthers deliberately working together here – most of the time, they barely acknowledge each other…) Or is it a tactic dictated by the venue?

    As far as a denial-of-service type attack against your moderation, I don’t think that fits into the birther narrative – in their minds, they are able to best any obot in a fair debate. If they actively stifle debate on opposition sites then the dupes might start to question the narrative.

    Dr. Conspiracy:
    One argument against this is the fact that we’ve never been ganged up on by any significant number of birthers at one time. If they wanted to force open discussion to shut down, they could easily do it and force the blog into moderation by overwhelming my ability to supervise the discussion. Maybe some birther tries to slip back in from time to time, but the notable bans typically are tripped up by IP address. So I am taking a random-process explanation for the appearance of birthers on this blog rather than a conspiracy theory.

  49. avatar
    G July 7, 2011 at 9:49 pm #

    True to an extent. As the old saying goes, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink”. Some people will not chose to improve themselves or make the right choice. But others just want to be respected and have a decent life if they can only have a fair chance at redemption and starting over. The problem with our current system is that we don’t even “lead the horse to water”. We give them sand or a cesspool to drink from and then wonder why they are still crazed with thirst or ill from the fetid water we threw in front of them.

    Randy: This whole discussion on the criminal justice system misses the whole purpose. Nobody can rehabilitate anyone, only punish.

  50. avatar
    Slartibartfast July 7, 2011 at 10:23 pm #

    Nicely said.

    G:
    True to an extent.As the old saying goes, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink”.Some people will not chose to improve themselves or make the right choice.But others just want to be respected and have a decent life if they can only have a fair chance at redemption and starting over.The problem with our current system is that we don’t even “lead the horse to water”.We give them sand or a cesspool to drink from and then wonder why they are still crazed with thirst or ill from the fetid water we threw in front of them.

  51. avatar
    ralph July 9, 2011 at 12:57 pm #

    O’s first act in office was to seal his records…no conspiracy,FACT.In his own words,”the only people who avoid the truth are people with something to hide”.His birth cert,SS card, selective service registration,and passport data are all corrupt.The Ds sued to get GW’s flight records..wtf are the Rs waiting for? Robbing_hood is taking from the poor to give to the rich.The ones who voted for O are getting hurt the worst…and they are too stupid to see it.

  52. avatar
    Slartibartfast July 9, 2011 at 1:37 pm #

    ralph:
    O’s first act in office was to seal his records…

    Actually, it was to make records of prior administrations more easily available – it overturned a more restrictive EO issued by the Bush administration in favor of the standard established by President Reagan.

    no conspiracy,FACT.

    If by “FACT” you mean the opposite of the normally understood meaning, sure.

    In his own words,”the only people who avoid the truth are people with something to hide”.

    So what were the other 42 presidents hiding? Not one of them has been as open as President Obama with regards to his birth certificate.

    His birth cert,SS card, selective service registration,and passport data are all corrupt.

    Any evidence, or just standard birther squawking points? (I will note that whomever obtained his selective service form did, in fact, commit a crime…)

    The Ds sued to get GW’s flight records..wtf are the Rs waiting for?

    At a guess, hell to freeze over. The Republicans know that there is absolutely no merit in birther claims and realize that what happened to Trump will happen to anyone who raises the birther banner – justified mocking and ridicule.

    Robbing_hood is taking from the poor to give to the rich.The ones who voted for O are getting hurt the worst…and they are too stupid to see it.

    It’s off-topic, but this is as full of misinformation as the rest of your comment.

  53. avatar
    Northland10 July 9, 2011 at 5:25 pm #

    ralph: O’s first act in office was to seal his records…no conspiracy,FACT.In his own words,

    Just once, I would love to see a troll actual try to pretend they actual read the order. Of course, if they did, they would not be making these comments and thus, not a troll.

    For those, unlike Ralph, who may care about actual facts:

    http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Executive_Order_13489

    and compare to Reagan’s (what was he hiding)

    http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Executive_Order_12667

  54. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy July 9, 2011 at 8:09 pm #

    Not fact.

    http://www.obamaconspiracy.org/2009/08/more-faux-record-hiding/

    ralph: O’s first act in office was to seal his records…no conspiracy,FACT.

  55. avatar
    Thrifty July 10, 2011 at 8:51 pm #

    ralph: Robbing_hood is taking from the poor to give to the rich.The ones who voted for O are getting hurt the worst…and they are too stupid to see it.

    I voted for Barack Obama, will do so again in 2012, and thanks to him, I now have health insurance.

    My job does not provide health insurance, just straight hourly pay. At several times since my childhood, I have been in treatment (counseling and drugs) for clinical depression. Prior to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, I had applied for independent health insurance 6 different times at several different companies. Every time I was told “We cannot insure you due to your pre-existing condition of depression.”

    This is for a PSYCHIATRIC AILMENT. Because I had been sick and received treatment, I was blackballed from insurance for the rest of my life, unless I was fortunate enough to get a job that provided group coverage. That was until recently. 6 months after the passage of the PPaACA, a national high risk pool was set up specifically for people like me. I had to apply for regular insurance again and get rejected to qualify (I submitted the rejection letter as evidence). Now, for $163 a month, I don’t have to choose between death and bankruptcy if I get sick.

    So no. I am not getting hurt by my decision, despite your belief that if you say something wrong with sufficient arrogance that it becomes right.

  56. avatar
    Keith July 10, 2011 at 10:57 pm #

    Thrifty: thanks to him, I now have health insurance.

    Far out! That is the kind of story I like to hear. It is good to find real stories of actual benefit to offset the scaremongering bullpucky but the naysayers.

    That must be a real load off your mind. I bet it even contributes to your ongoing good health!

  57. avatar
    Thrifty July 11, 2011 at 7:02 am #

    Keith: Far out! That is the kind of story I like to hear. It is good to find real stories of actual benefit to offset the scaremongering bullpucky but the naysayers.

    That must be a real load off your mind. I bet it even contributes to your ongoing good health!

    Well thankfully I was already a pretty healthy guy, physically. Being relatively young (30) helps too. Yeah I was overweight, but have been working on that since March of 2009. It’s slow going (lost 70 pounds out of 100), but I don’t have any major physical ailments. I know that the conventional wisdom says you should get annual physical checkups. I haven’t been very good on that.

    Really the best part is that it’s insurance. If I have some quirk on the body that seems unusual, I don’t have to worry financially that it’s something serious. I’m not a hypochondriac, so I don’t tend to go skittering to the doctor at every sore and pock mark. But it’s nice to know that I could if, say, that rash doesn’t clear up after a week.

    I don’t know what constitutes good insurance. Looking at the plan details, it says some of the following high points:

    $2000 deductible
    20% coinsurance
    $5950 out of pocket maximum for catastrophic incidents (whatever that means)
    20% I pay for inpatient hospital care and outpatient surgery
    $25 copay on office visits

    The cost was $271 a month, though after a few months they lowered the premium to $163 a month. Maybe because I hadn’t filed a lot of claims and I’d paid the premiums on time each month.

    Looks like it’s generally 20% across the board. Anyone know this stuff better and know what it means to me? I heard a story on The Moth podcast about an uninsured guy who’s appendix burst. For treatment and 7 days hospital stay he ended up owing $45,000. I guess with my plan, that would be down to $2000 deductible + $8600 coinsurance for a total of 10,600? Or does it stop at that $5950 out-of-pocket maximum?

    The most curious thing here is that I write my checks to the Department of Agriculture….

  58. avatar
    Expelliarmus July 11, 2011 at 4:33 pm #

    Based on what you posted, a similar incident for you would be the $5950 out of pocket maximum, but that is a per-year maximum. So in the hypothetical, hit-by-a-bus, hospitalized for 10 days type of scenario, you end up owing $5950– assuming you are at a hospital that is under the plan and agree to accept the fees set by the insurance company.

    But if you were to develop a chronic illness requiring continual treatment over the years, then you would have continuing obligations.

    If you have a reasonably good income and are on a high deductible plan, look at a health savings plan — those have the benefit of the same lower premiums, but also have a sheltered bank account you can set up for yourself to build up some savings that can be used for medical expenses. You can use that account to pay for your deductible & out-of-pocket, and you can also use that account to pay for medical expenses that might not be covered by insurance for whatever reason — for example, vision & dental, or to see a specialist who doesn’t accept your plan. You might also be able to use the HSA to pay for expenses related to your weight loss plan, depending on circumstances. And you would be able to use that to pay the cost of mental health counseling, if that is not fully covered by your new plan. Any money you don’t use can be banked for the following year, in an interest bearing account — and is sheltered in the same way as an IRA.