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Theories about where anti-Obama Conspiracy Theories come from

Birther COINTELPRO

If you’re not familiar with COINTELPRO, a program of the Federal Government back in the 1960’s, it might be well worth your time to read up on it. The Wikipedia says:

COINTELPRO (an acronym for COunter INTELligence PROgram) was a series of covert, and at times illegal, projects conducted by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) aimed at surveying, infiltrating, discrediting, and disrupting domestic political organizations.

Remarkably, the program begun in 1956 remained secret until 1971 when a group calling itself  The Citizens Committee to Investigate the FBI burgled an FBI office and got evidence of the program that it leaked to the Press. CONINTELPRO, among other things,  planted covert agents in targeted organizations to mislead them to do things that would discredit the organization, and the planted ideas of distrust between organizations. The four main tactics of COINTELPRO were:

  1. Infiltration
  2. Psychological warfare
  3. Legal harassment
  4. Illegal force

Putting hard facts aside, and folding up Occam’s Razor, let’s see if we can use this tale to understand the birther movement.

Certainly one of the things that has drawn me to study the birther movement is my desire to make sense of the world around me. Birthers fall under the extreme fringe of behavior I don’t understand. One way to make sense of bizarre behavior is to consider it an act, a false display, and there are several reasons a person might do that, to defraud others, for performance art, or for the purposes of discrediting a movement.

Could it be that those birthers who make up the most bizarre alternate histories for the President, are agent provocateurs set in the birther movement to make the “true believers” look even more crazy? Could many of the nuisance lawsuits, those dismissed before the ink dried, have been filed just to run up the numbers of failed litigation? One of the tools of the historical COINTELPRO was to seed distrust among the leadership or organizations. How many birther “cat fights” have we seen? Was Orly Taitz seduced to make her less popular with the religious right, a significant faction in birtherism, or is that story a clever lie? Is the homoerotic1 and excretory fetish commentary on birther web sites really a ploy to keep decent people away? Are the incompetent law enforcement activities of the Cold Case Posse intentionally designed to keep legitimate law enforcement at a distance? Have the total crank birther image analysts put themselves forward so as to immunize the public against any report by a real expert, or to so befoul the subject that no legitimate expert will enter the discussion—which indeed seems to be the case?

Is writing, designed to increase the level of paranoia about the government infiltration of the birther movement, also part of a government COINTELPRO operation?


1This is not to say that homoerotic commentary is any more or less appropriate than heteroerotic commentary—just that the former is what I find on birther web sites.

The mysterious Mr. Hudson

Chatter on the limited-access Obot News Service1 (ONS) has been high today with various Obot stations2 reporting odd telephone calls from someone who identified himself as “Lane Hudson” and who said that he was writing an article about anti-birthers. The only Lane Hudson I know of is a former Democratic Party campaign worker and blogger. The South Carolina native was the one that brought to light the Mark Foley scandal, and now works in England for a global communications firm, and isn’t the person who called.

I didn’t personally receive one of these calls, but others who did report that the caller said he wanted to do an interview. Now James Johnson (aka JimBot)3 warned about an imminent birther impersonation operation4 that the White House had uncovered through its anti-terrorist surveillance program5, and so the cover story, that the Obots are independent bloggers who write about what they believe in, and who receive no support or direction from the President or others6 was quickly deployed. A quick check of the caller’s phone number from Caller ID with the FBI7 determined that the caller was one Walter Fitzpatrick.

So I’ll leave it with that, and those who received calls can talk about their particular experiences.


1There is no Obot News Service.

2There are no Obot stations.

3Former Fannie Mae chairman James Johnson is not JimBot.

4The warning described here never happened.

5I have no knowledge of any White House surveillance of birthers.

6The cover story is true.

7The Fogbow Bureau of Investigation

The Arpaio conspiracy

I get some of my stranger ideas mowing the grass, which I did this afternoon. During that enforced period of “no computer screen,” connections that have been stewing in the back of my mind sometimes coalesce into a picture.

It’s been speculated in the media that Sheriff Arpaio conducted his “investigation” of Barack Obama’s documents to divert attention from his own legal problems. Another report described it as “the politics of revenge.” After some thought, I wrote that Arpaio might be trying to save his own life. If the grand jury investigating Arpaio were to indict him and he were to be convicted and get jail time, Arpaio has a lot to worry about. His reputation for the mistreatment and humiliation of prisoners is going to make it dangerous for Arpaio in prison. Perhaps Arpaio hoped that his alliance with WorldNetDaily would help defeat Obama in November and bring in a more Arpaio-friendly federal administration.

That’s where the thought lay until this afternoon when I realized: Sheriff Arpaio may have already cut a deal when he met with Rick Santorum and the two of them discussed what Sheriff Arpaio intended to say at the Press Conference. Santorum reportedly gave Arpaio the “go ahead” for his press conference. Was there also a promise of muzzled federal prosecutor, or even a pardon?

Obots occupy Wall Street

I don’t visit Twitter often, and when I do I instinctively avoid looking at the tweets from one person I’m following, NobamaNetwork. Today I looked and found these:

Obama’s class warfare and his organized protests for it in NY are really starting to piss me off. Ob using NY idiots for his reelection

Obama has proven he is willing to use or destroy anyone to get re-elected. Now Obs "us against the rich protests" in NY are turning violent.

OccupyWallSt is a result of Obama’s class warfare. How long before the protest turns into a riot. Hey Ob, this is the harm of class warfare

I would consider the view that Obama is behind the Occupy Wall Street movement a conspiracy theory. I guess the view that the Koch brothers are pulling the Tea Party’s strings is another. In any case, I can justify writing the article.

The Nobama Network is an aggregator for all sorts of anti-Obama web sites, including some birther sites. According to Wonkette, the person behind Nobama Network is a “hot porn guru.” I won’t mention any names, but you can read it at Wonkette. Thus begins the tenuous birther – porn connection. Time to start connecting dots. And what are these P.U.M.A. hookers?

The birther chip

You may have noticed that I haven’t been publishing as many articles this week as usual. This is for a couple reasons. First, I’ve been upset by a rather traumatic experience that I’ll relate below, and second I’ve been involved in some extremely tedious technical research.

It starts simply enough. I was driving on nearby US Highway 29 and as I sometimes do, I snap pictures of interesting vehicular subjects with a point-and-shoot camera I keep in the glove compartment for just such occasions. I saw this bumper sticker and grabbed the camera:

HonkBirther

I was mostly looking at the camera to see if I got the picture when the light turned green and the SUV shot forward into the intersection. I didn’t see the collision, but I heard it, and when I looked up a truck had rammed the SUV in the drivers side, apparently after it barreled through the red light. I jumped out of the car but there was no way I could get near the driver in that mess of metal. However, the clearly visible trauma to the driver’s head made it pretty obvious that he didn’t survive. All I could do was call 911. The hospital is only a few blocks from there and the ambulance arrived quickly along with the fire trucks, then the police. It was over an hour before they had the intersection cleared and I was allowed to continue.

After they took away the body, there was still a long wait while the police (and by this time there were no less than 8 cruisers on the scene) questioned me and the other witnesses, made their notations and took their pictures. I was just walking around, still pretty dazed, when in the road I spotted a piece of blood-smeared glass and in what I can only describe as morbid curiosity, I bent over to look at it (I’ve clearly been watching too much CSI). That’s when I saw it stuck to the glass: a tuft of hair and the chip. I don’t understand what possessed me, but I took the thing and put it in my shirt pocket.

I cleaned up the chip when I got home. Here’s a photo I took. I worked repairing watches when I was in college and still have a few tools that were helpful in handling this tiny thing.

IMG_1042

I wanted to figure out what the chip was, so I Googled a part number on the chip, but  didn’t find it. I did find that chips of this form factor were used the receiver circuitry for cochlear implants, medical devices placed in the inner ear of profoundly hearing impaired persons. Here’s a diagram:

image

Just for the heck of it, I put the chip in a test bed and applied power to it according to the diagram for other chips with that form factor. Nothing caught fire. I had something else to do, so I turned everything off and left it.

Then things got weird. When I got back to my PC, there were alerts from my firewall: there had been an attempted intrusion on my home wireless network. (I got a bit paranoid when I caught a former neighbor of mine leaching pirated music over my wireless network, so I watch this pretty carefully.) When I checked the firewall logs, the intrusion attempt was at about the same time that I was tinkering with the chip. What was that?

To make an extremely long and tedious story short, I added the MAC address of the intruder to the firewall whitelist and powered up the chip again, this time with a packet sniffer on the network. What I found was that the chip was actually a self-contained Wi-fi device that when powered up connects to any nearby open wireless access point. I traced the packets to an IP address in an address block belonging to a commercial Internet provider in Reston, Virginia. The actual protocol was SSL, so I had no chance of reading the encrypted content; however, I found that the IP address was on the same subnet as a prominent birther web site with which you are no doubt familiar.

IMG_1045

I turned to the actual output of the chip, looking at the electrical patterns on my Philips PM3065 oscilloscope. What I found was patterns remarkably similar to delta wave EEG patterns associated with sleep in humans only a little distorted. When I turned off the wireless router, the chip output stopped. So the best I can tell is that the remote Internet site is feeding information that the chip converts to delta wave electrical patterns. Disrupted delta wave patterns have been associated with depression, anxiety and schizophrenia.

I think I found out something that I really wasn’t supposed to find out. You know that I have spent a lot of time and effort wrestling with the question of how birthers could be made to believe this crazy stuff. In this terrible tragedy perhaps I have found out the answer.

Is the “birther movement” a liberal plot?

It’s a thought raised by conservative talk show host host Michael Medved, complaining that the birther movement and allied “crazy nutburgers” were making the conservatives appear “weird and crazy”.

That from a new editorial in the Bangor Daily News (Maine) that also talks about how the Internet makes spreading such outlandish rumors easier. Perhaps some comfort can be found in the fact that:

Belief in obscure, outlandish theories is nothing new. A recent survey found that 34 percent of the American public believes in UFOs and 24 percent believes in witches….

The solution is good, straight thinking in an era of hard times, cultural upheavals and terrorist threats. No need to get paranoid about paranoia in others. We’ve been through such things before, and we will again.