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Archive | July, 2014

A waste of money

So Orly Taitz wrote in an article yesterday [link to Taitz web site] that she had appealed Taitz v. Colvin to the 4th Circuit. I ran a search on PACER to find the case, wasting ten cents on getting no results as of close of business today. Taitz, no doubt, wasted a lot more filing a case that has zero chance of going anywhere. We’ll just have to wait for the text.

As I was writing this article, my browser rested on the Taitz site and some of those dodgy download messages started appearing.  I thought about adding a sidebar feature, a Taitz web site threat alert level, but that wouldn’t be good unless it was always up to date. Here is today’s alert anyway:


I’ve been impressed by the various judicial opinion’s I’ve read in the course of writing about Obama conspiracy stories. It’s sort of a mini legal education. I can’t read Judge Hollander’s decision in Taitz v. Colvin without hearing in the background, “See? This is how to frame a legal argument!”


The judge was not impressed

Plaintiff [Orly Taitz] can rest assured that if any reasonable grounds existed for me to recuse myself from this case, I would have done so, if for no other reason than to avoid spending precious time on such frivolous filings. But, my responsibilities require me to handle dutifully the cases assigned to me.

— Federal Judge Ellen L. Hollander
Taitz v. Colvin

And so Orly Taitz’s motion for reconsideration and recusal of the judge was summarily rejected in a 7-page memorandum. Judge Hollander makes it clear that she is quite familiar with who Orly Taitz is, and her litigation history on behalf of the “’birther’ movement.” Judge Hollander points out that the time limit provided by statute had already passed, when Taitz filed her motion.

Judge Hollander notes:

Ms. Taitz has not provided any legal authority for the proposition that, if the President were removed from office, this judge or the hundreds of other executive and judicial branch appointees selected by him and then confirmed by the Senate would also become disqualified from their offices.

Nor has any other birther cited any legal authority for this widely-birther-held theory.


Contemplating Orly

When I saw this statue, I immediately thought of Orly Taitz.

DC and  Statue

Maybe it was the eyes.

Orly has always been a difficult character to relate to, not really helped by my having an extended phone conversation with her. I have a moral imperative to view and speak of my neighbor in the best possible light; most people I have known throughout the years have been decent people. Orly strains that attitude.

All conspiracy theorists (and here I only include unreasonable theories) are working from a disadvantage. My understanding of them comes from Michael Shermer’s book, The  Believing Brain, and I see the conspiracist mindset as coming from a low-functioning nonsense filter. So I don’t think that being a conspiracy theorists makes someone a bad person, or even a stupid one. Indeed, my criticisms of Orly Taitz are only tangentially related to her being a conspiracy theorist. Here are some of them:

  • Incompetence. Orly Taitz is a lawyer and a very bad one. She has been repeatedly lectured by judges that she doesn’t follow procedures and that she doesn’t understand the law. She repeatedly violated court rules by failing to redact social-security numbers. She has bungled service in almost every case. She was sanctioned 3 times.
  • Lack of regard for others. At various times, Orly has solicited clients and then represented them badly, doing things that were in Orly’s interest, but not that of her clients. Connie Rhodes had to write the Court to tell them that the things Orly was filing were not on her behalf. She has blatantly violated the privacy of individuals by publishing their names, addresses, social-security numbers, and even birth certificates. She even egged on her readers to investigate the deaths of newborns who had nothing whatever top do with any public issue.
  • Dishonesty. The most recent instance of this was when Orly presented a petition to the Court claiming “new evidence” that she had known about for at least 6 months. I believe she lied to me when she claimed that she had public records of other names associated with Obama’s social-security number before the number was published on the Internet.
  • Bigotry. I have seen Orly demonize illegal immigrant children on her web site. Orly likes to seek sympathy because she is a mother, but she doesn’t seem to be very motherly towards other people’s children.
  • Immorality. This assumes the truth of reports of her having an extramarital affair. I take a dim view of adultery.

I recognize that everyone has their bad points; nevertheless, I can chose those people I like, and those I don’t. There are people I get along with, and those I would rather stay away from. Orly Taitz is just someone I don’t like.


Attack of the liberal Ted Cruz birthers

I am always offended by conservatives excusing themselves with the excuse that “liberals do it too.” On the Ann Coulter discussion forum, there is a thread on liberal Ted Cruz birthers. It doesn’t matter if a million conservatives and one liberal does it—the smear works just as well. The Coulter discussion sprang from an article at Tea Party News Network, “Liberal Birthers Beginning their Attacks on Ted Cruz.”

The iconic liberal in the story is Representative Alan Grayson (D-FL), who is quoted as saying on MSNBC:

When discussing 2016 presidential prospects, Rep. Grayson stated, “Since Ted Cruz is a Canadian, and our Constitution requires that an American win, I’m pretty sure that it’s not going to be Ted Cruz.”

In fact, according to a recent YouGov poll, only 30% of Americans think someone like Cruz (born overseas to only one US Citizen parent) is eligible to be president. One can debate the Constitutional validity of that opinion, but as long as it stands, Cruz in not electable.


Birther Trek: Concepts


In our five-year mission to seek out comprehension of the Birther Universe (BirtherVerse), I have come across quite a number of interesting concepts. In this late-stage retrospective, I’ll reprise some of them.

One of the most useful of the concepts I learned studying the birthers is the Dunning-Kruger Effect. In the simplest terms, the less someone knows, the more they think they know (and vice versa). This error in valuation of expertise underlies much of a birther’s view of evidence, and explains why someone with no experience in forensic document examination, or electronic file analysis, thinks that they are competent to render an 100% certain opinion on Barack Obama’s birth certificate. This human foible is not unique to birthers, and I find myself fighting it every day. I think that knowing how one makes mistakes helps reduce the number of them.

Another fun concept is the Crazification Factor, an observation that a significant number of people (sometimes set at 27%) just say crazy things. I was going to say that it explains really odd polling results, but I don’t think it actually explains anything. It is just an observation, and because of it, the numbers of birthers shouldn’t be seen as surprising. Human beings are just less rational than they seem on the surface.

Another idea that I found helpful was the influence of community. Birthers who believe crazy things seem deluded. Delusions have three characteristics: 1) they are believed with certainty, 2) they do not respond to counterargument, and 3) they are patently untrue. A clinical diagnosis of delusion has an exception, and that is when the delusion is held by one’s community or sub-culture, such as birther Internet social networks. (I think sub-culture is useful in understanding the bizarre comments at Birther Reports that would be socially unacceptable in general.) On that same line, historian Richard Hofstadter describes a “paranoid style” of thinking that is not actually clinically paranoid. Paranoid style thinking differs from paranoid thinking in that the subject thinks that the conspiracy is out to get everybody, not just him.

I suppose no discussion of birthers would be complete without mentioning confirmation bias. Put simply people tend to more readily accept information that is in line with what they already believe, and to reject information to the contrary. Again, this is a weakness we all have to some degree and being aware of it can help avoid mistakes.