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Obama smear author D’Souza indicted

imageI only touched briefly on Dinesh D’Souza in an article mainly about Joel Gilbert. D’Souza wrote two anti-Obama books, the The Roots of Obama’s Rage and a 2012 follow-up, 2016: Obama’s America. The latter is also the title of a film that earned $33 million in 2012. The books claim Obama has some anti-colonial rage inherited from Kenyan roots that drives him to do everything possible to destroy the country. From the book description at Amazon.com:

Obama came into office with an eight-year plan for America, argues D’Souza. In almost four years, he’s crippled our economy, healthcare system, and global stature through invasive big-government policies. If he’s re-elected in 2012, he will be able to finish the job, and destroy America’s future.

A federal grand jury in New York indicted D’Souza last week charging that he used straw donors to funnel money to a US Senate candidate Wendy Long in violation of campaign finance laws.

  • Count 1 charges a violation of Title 2 USC Sections 441f and 437g(d)(1)(D) and Title 18 USC Section 2 by reimbursing others to make political contributions in the amount of $20,000. If I read the statute correctly, the maximum penalty for this count is 2 years imprisonment and a fine of 3 times the amount of the contribution (in this case $60,000).
  • Count 2 charges a violation of 18 USC Sections 1001(a) and 2 by causing the submission of false representations to the FEC by a campaign committee. Violation of this section carries a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment.

D’Souza was released on $500,000 bond and asked to surrender his passport and agree to travel restrictions.

Under the “too good to be true” category, D’Souza is scheduled to debate none other than Bill Ayers this week on the topic “What’s So Great About America?” at Dartmouth College. The debate is at 7: 30 PM EST and will stream live.

For information and a trailer from D’Souza’s film, America, scheduled for release this July 4, visit the Hollywood Reporter.

This is the first shoe to drop.

Woodman writes retrospective

John Woodman, computer guy, author, and birther forgery debunker extraordinaire retired a year ago to devote himself to his family and his real job. Woodman’s book Is Barack Obama’s Birth Certificate a Fraud? remains the seminal work documenting and debunking the twists and turns of the birther mind trying to find an excuse to deny the evidence of President Obama’s birth certificate.

An important event in forgery debunking happened in 2013 with the publication of evidence that the White House birth certificate was scanned on a Xerox WorkCenter 7655 office machine and then rotated with Preview on a Mac, and thereby explaining pretty much the whole birther forgery “evidence.”

Now John Woodman has published a year-end “Epilog” to the forgery debunking saga, summarizing the old and new evidence, and putting the last nail (just kidding) in the birther certificate forgery coffin. Now that the nail is in, birthers wishing to revitalize the corpse of their theories must obtain one of these before moving the goalposts.

Alinsky v birthers

Photo of Saul AlinskyI haven’t read Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals, and in fact I had never heard of it before some right-wing type accused someone else of using “Alinsky tactics” online. I was reminded of it again by one of the birthers at Birther Report listing the rules (according to the Wikipedia article correctly). What I thought I would do here is take each rule and think about how it has been used, or might be used in the birther context. Some of the rules I think are good ones to follow, and some I do not.

The Rules

image“Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have."

That’s certainly true. I can go as far back as the story of Gideon in the Bible for an example. This is a poor rule to start off with, because I don’t see much application to birtherism. I suppose that the birthers do overestimate the power of their opponents (that the entire government, courts and media are all against them), but their actions don’t appear to be dampened by that belief and call into question how genuine it is.

At the beginning, I suppose I overestimated the potential for birtherism to reach a tipping point, but that proved not to be the case and I don’t think any anti-birther today is concerned about any future birther ascendancy. We think that birthers are toothless.

“Never go outside the expertise of your people.”

This is wonderful advice for everyone, and everyone is guilty of violating it at least sometimes. Birthers, however, build their entire world view on crank experts from their own ranks. Not following this rule is their greatest weakness.

“Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy.”

This is an anti-birther tactic, and it is easy to employ because the birthers themselves are so utterly inexpert—from the pathetic legal briefs of Orly Taitz, to crank image analysts too laborious to list. Using this tactic is not a conscious anti-birther choice, but it is rather forced on us—birther expertise is so tiny that it is hard not to go outside it.

“Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.”

If birthers have any rules, I haven’t been able to discover them. Their tactics, such as making stuff up, claiming false expertise, and invalid argument are definitely not consistent enough to make a birther live up to them. Sometimes we do point out the hypocrisy of a birther asking for proof from Obama that they wouldn’t ask of another president, but we have never had success at making birthers be consistent.

“Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.”

Pretty much any time you hear Alinsky invoked as a counterargument (i.e. a diversion) it is in relation to this rule. I would point out that the Alinsky defense against ridicule is itself ridicule. I personally think that ridicule can be overdone. I regularly use phrases like “nonsense” (fairly and accurately), but I reserve “complete idiot” for special cases.

One tactic I have use against the particularly vulgar commenters at Birther Report is to say “does your mother know you talk like that.” It is often effective at ending a thread. A tactic that I want to try to use more is the whining defense, something like:

Anti-birther: That’s a stupid thing to say.

Birther: You’re using Alinsky tactics.

Anti-birther: Stop whining.

“A good tactic is one your people enjoy.”

I don’t know what birthers enjoy except saying degrading things about Barack Obama. I like figuring out rigorous refutations of birther theories; debunking is a tactic I enjoy, as do I think many others on the anti-birther side. I also think a number of anti-birthers enjoy the ridicule tactic.

“A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.”

The birther tactic of appealing to future evidence is certainly one that has  been over used and has worn thin, with even the birthers becoming frustrated with it. The lawsuit as political theater tactic has also lost its luster. I don’t think debunking the one thousand and first birther claim has much impact either.

“Keep the pressure on. Never let up.”

Photo of may carrying signThe birthers have certainly followed this rule well. Some birther blogs have closed down, but most of the main characters are still birthin’. Birther Report publishes multiple articles per day, even though many of them are old, or repeats of recent articles. I remember the blog, The Steady Drip, as having a title exemplifying this principle. The Cold Case Posse (more on that later) also uses this tactic, and the continuing meritless lawsuits against Obama and others falls under this category.

One must give the birthers credit for taking an unsubstantiated remark on a right-wing blog and convincing a majority of Republicans that it was true, and for rebounding magnificently after the hit caused by the release of President Obama’s long form birth certificate. Clearly steady pressure has had an effect, but not on the people that matter (the electoral majority).

“The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.”

Birthers do not use this to effect. For example, I get threats all the time that I am being investigated or that I will be tried for treason. For a threat to be believed, it has to have some grain of truth behind it, and these threats do not.  I think very few consider anything the birthers do a threat. Birthers use threats to motivate other birthers to more effect, creating anxiety about the destruction of the country, marshal (sic) law, economic collapse and dictatorship. (Note: the subtle ridicule in the previous sentence).

"The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition."

Birther organizations don’t seem to have been effective—birthers don’t play well together. Conspiracy theorists are by nature loners in the first place. The only organizations that hold together in birtherism are a few online communities, such as this blog, The Fogbow, the Free Republic and Birther Report. The problem with those operations is that they don’t really maintain any pressure upon the opposition.

The closest thing that the birthers have to an operational tactic is the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Cold Case Posse, that attempts to maintain pressure through press releases and lobbying Congress. The problem with the CCP is that its pressure is ineffectual.

I would draw a sharp contrast between the success of the Tea Party and the failure of the birthers. This alone speaks strongly against birthers having the kind of funding and resources that the Tea Party did.

“If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive.”

This was explained by Austin Cline saying:

You can’t win every battle, but you also need to avoid admitting to having lost any battles. Losing can breed an attitude that you’re losers; winning can breed the attitude that your winners. So, whatever happens, you need to find ways to turn losses into victories.

Birthers are big on not admitting that they have lost. The Cold Case Posse has made so many stupid mistakes that I’ve lost count. There is an entire Facebook group dedicated to the lies of Mike Zullo and Carl Gallups. Still Zullo has never, ever, admitted a mistake. Birthers in general never admit defeat in arguments—they just advance to the next talking point.

On the other hand, folks like myself, regularly admit when they are wrong (fortunately it doesn’t happen all that often). And when we do that, the birthers are instantly on the offensive, to divert from their own failures that they do not admit to the failures of others who do admit them.

Birthers operate more in an excuse making mode than pressing negatives; birthers who lose lawsuits blame it on the judge or technicalities.

The best example I can think of for turning a loss into a victory was when Donald Trump, after the humiliating refutation of his crank claims by the release of President Obama’s birth certificate, declared victory for clearing the issue up by forcing the President’s hand. President Obama countered with ridicule a few days later at the White House Correspondents Association dinner when he said:

Now, I know that he’s taken some flak lately but no one is prouder to put this birth certificate matter to rest than the Donald. And that’s because he can finally get back to focusing on the issues that matter, like, “Did we fake the moon landing?’” “What really happened on Roswell?” And “Where are Biggie and Tupac?’”

“The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.”

Birthers will never have a “successful attack” so they really don’t need to find a constructive alternative. Their goal is destruction and they do not see beyond that.1 The anti-birther alternative is the 2016 presidential election.

“Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.”

I think that both sides use this tactic. A number of folks have tried to “out” their opponents, to publicly identify anonymous persons with an opposing viewpoint. Especially the birthers tend to go to extremes to make up wild accusations about the persons they personalize.

Conclusion

I haven’t detected anyone consciously basing their strategy on Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals. Maybe someone like Sam Sewell thinks about it, but I don’t know. The only principles that I have made any attempt to follow beyond basic integrity are the occasional reference to a chart on correcting misinformation that I have taped up next to my monitor.


1When I wrote that, I was reminded of the ending of Bernard Malamud’s novel, The Fixer. The protagonist had been unjustly accused of a crime by the anti-Semitic Russian authorities and mercilessly badgered by the police. At the very end, he is being conveyed to court and somebody throws a bomb that I suppose was part of a revolutionary plot. (The story is based on a historical event.) The book (as I recall) ends at the point of violence, not the redress of the wrong.

Our Friend Barry

I’ve not spent much time on the subject of Barack Obama in Hawaii, and that’s my loss. Because of the recent birther flurry over Mia Marie Pope’s interviews, claiming that she met Obama during two or three summers1 when she and her parents stayed in a hotel in Honolulu. She described Obama as a “pathological liar,” a homosexual and a coke head, I’ve spent some time looking back at Obama in Hawaii, and contrary to what Pastor Manning said, there is a wealth of information coming from Obama’s actual classmates.

Photo of Punahou School buildingOne source is the excellent film, “Barack Obama Made in Hawaii.” Another is a book from 2008 titled, Our Friend Barry: Classmates’ Recollections of Barack Obama and Punahou School, edited by Obama classmate Constance F. Ramos. I started going through the book specifically to refute Mia Marie Pope, and I found plenty of source material for that. Clearly the President was known as Barry Obama and not Barry Soetoro as Pope claims. Pope also said that it was impossible to get in Punahou school unless you started there in kindergarten. Most of the classmates in the book started later.

But once I got past the debunking, there were some insights about Obama. Punahou was an elite school, and Obama rubbed shoulders with doctors’ kids and the children of bank presidents. But there were other kids from two-income families an some, like Obama on financial aid. The poorer kids were conscious of their clothes. Most people in Hawaii are mixed race and Obama did not grow up in the atmosphere of racial prejudice that he would have experienced had he been raised on the mainland. In Hawaii, the racial distinction was between Asian and non-Asian.

Some remembered Barry as “genuine and grounded in himself” others that he was a leader. There’s a neat story about a tuna sandwich.

Somehow these recollections make everything so much more real and human. It’s nice.


1The exact time is fuzzy. Pope always says 1977, but sometimes she says she was aged 13-14 and sometimes 14-15.

New revelation: Obama finds his birth certificate

A new book Double Down: Game Change 2012 by authors Mark Halperin and John Heilemann provides previously unpublished details of the release of Barack Obama’s long-form birth certificate in 2011. The authors of say that in April of 2011, the “most persistent distraction Obama was facing” was not Osama Bin Laden, or the face-off with Republicans over the debt ceiling, but Donald Trump and his “crackpot conspiracy theory.”

Photo of Kapi'olani Keepsake birth certificate

The book explains the mystery of exactly what Obama body man Reggie Love was talking about (reported here last August) when he said that President Obama found his birth certificate among some old papers:

imageDunham had died seven years earlier, but Obama hadn’t sorted through all her things. Now, alone in his old house for just the third night since he’d become president, he started rummaging through the boxes, digging, digging, until suddenly he found it: a small, four-paneled paper booklet the world had never seen before. On the front was an ink drawing of Kapi‘olani Maternity and Gynecological Hospital, in Honolulu. On the back was a picture of a Hawaiian queen. On one inside page were his name, his mother’s name, and his date of birth; on the other were his infant footprints.

The book tells us that Obama, after finding the hospital souvenir booklet, was motivated to release some documentation, and showed the booklet to his chief legal advisor, Robert Bauer. “White House Counsel Bob Bauer took one look at the booklet in Obama’s hand and knew it wasn’t the birth certificate. It was just a commemorative keepsake.” The book details the internal debate over releasing more birth documentation leading to an approach to the State of Hawaii for a copy of his original certificate. Nine days later, Bauer had the official certificate from Hawaii in his hand at the April 27 press conference.

The book has considerable background information, not published before about Obama’s following the right-wing echo chamber.  It also has some inside bits about what Donald Trump was thinking. Fascinating stuff.

One of the first reports of the birther content of this new book was on the NBC Today show. Orly Taitz is demanding equal time:

The public is asked to contact NBC and demand equal time, demand to invite Attorney Orly Taitz to “Today” show, which aired this piece and provide documents and evidence showing that not only Obama does not have a valid birth certificate, he does not have any valid IDs and he stole the US presidency by virtue of fraud and with fabricated IDs.

Read more:

Sock Puppets Pro

When commenting on the Internet, have you ever been accused of being a pro-Obama propagandist paid for by George Soros? I have, lots. Here’s an example from ORYR:

You are deliberately spreading propaganda, deception, lies & misinformation. You are exposed as a paid Soros & Obama obot & fraud. Dr. C’s intentional propaganda, deception, lies & misinformation = -100 Truth & Facts = + 100. You always are a loser with your paid propaganda lies, misinformation, deception you promote.

I’ve been among the anti-birther community for approaching 5 years now, and I have never found any reason to suspect that any of the regular anti-birther cast has any connection for Soros, or gets paid for their online activity, quite the contrary, and I don’t have any evidence that this is the case with the birther side either, but …

In a new book NPR media reporter David Folkenflik discloses that Fox News’ paid PR staffers did write pseudonymous blog posts to counter negative or even neutral comments about Fox News on Internet blogs. They used various techniques to erase links back to Fox, including using untraceable broadband Internet connections and even resorted to an AOL dial-up connection to obscure their multiple accounts. A former Fox News staffer disclosed that they had personally used 100 fake accounts to plant Fox-friendly commentary.

Read more: