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Graham: birther critic running for president

imageNews reports say that my senator, Lindsey Graham, is running for president, and will officially announce his candidacy June 1 in Central, SC. Wow, just wow!

I’m no fan of his, except for his stand on one important issue: birthers. Graham is a double threat to them. First he said, on video, that people who think Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States are crazy. These are his exact words:

The people who are doing unfair and unkind things to the President, it says more about them than it does the Republican Party. What the Republican Party has to do … We have to say “that’s crazy.” So I’m here to tell you that those who think that the President was born somewhere other than Hawaii are crazy.

But not only is he critical of original birtherism; he is also critical of the crank view that U. S. Presidents must be born in the United States to two U. S. citizen parents. He said in a 2008 letter to constituents: “Every child born in the United States is a natural-born United States citizen except for the children of diplomats.”


Hacked again

My status site ( got hacked. It’s not as bad as having your house broken into, but you just don’t feel safe any more. Thanks to a commenter here, I learned about the problem and was able to fix it. That was last week.

Today the status site suffered a brute force login attack from Thailand. New security plug-ins detected and blocked access from that IP address. The brute-force attempt was doomed to fail for two reasons: the default WordPress administrator account being used doesn’t exist on that site, and the password to the real administrator account is a very long random thing.


A new species?

No, I’m not proposing homo birtherus, even though sapiens does sound like a counterintuitive label for this bunch. I think that just as chimps and humans share most of the same DNA, birthers are not all that different from the rest of us, varying only in the orientation of their biases, and in the degree that they exhibit some errors in thinking common to us all.

Street scene showing Lymanfest vendorsThe local village festival, Lymanfest, was held yesterday and for the first time I was in town and able to attend. At such events various groups set up tents and distribute literature. We stopped by one that looked civic minded, but I soon found myself confronted with a climate change denialist. This is not a topic I know a lot about (invoking the Dunning-Kruger effect, I probably know more than I think) and I’m not prepared to go head to head on the street against a practiced partisan without my friend Google to back me up. I said I had seen retreating glaciers in the Andes, and he said the amount of ice in the world was increasing (it isn’t). I moved on.

Previously I mentioned the idea that if someone believes that the government always lies to them, then they will believe anything. Reflecting on my Lymanfest experience, I thought about another excuse to abandon reason: technical complexity. I’m not a climatologist, and neither are most of us. I cannot get deeply into the weeds of the climate change debate. I’m afraid that when some people confront technical complexity that is beyond their training and ability, they take that as a license to believe whatever they want.

This error in thinking is something that I’m not immune to. As for climate change, I have watched the Cosmos documentary episode, “The World Set Free” and was able to follow its argument in favor of climate change. I’ve read NOAA web pages on the topic. I think I’ve been a reasonably responsible thinker on the topic. Still PBS documentaries are part of my automatic comfort zone and my bias. (As I wrote that last bit I was reminded of an article I wrote way back in 1997, “A FAQ about Facts.” I’ve worried about my own bias for along time.) I believe, although I can’t provide any evidence in support, that at least being aware of the errors in thinking we make leads us to make fewer errors.

Readers might, as a diversion, come up with their own proposals for a genus and species for birthers.


Carl Gallups makes clear association between “earth shattering information” and confidential informant Montgomery

imageAn extremely interesting and revealing audio clip from the Freedom Friday with Carl Gallups show today has been posted on YouTube. In the clip, Gallups talks specifically about an ABC 15 news story, titled “Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s investigation was intended to discredit, judge says.”

Gallups says in no uncertain terms that the “earth shattering” information that he and Zullo were talking about is specifically the information provided Arpaio by the confidential informant, Dennis Montgomery, information that Sheriff Arpaio agreed in testimony last month was “junk.”

Here’s the transcript of what Gallups said:

Carl Gallups Freedom Friday May 15, 2015

I’m gonna keep my promise. Listen folks: Write some of this stuff down, listen to this, go back and get the podcast if you can’t write it if you’re driving. I told you I’d give you a quick Sheriff Arpaio/Zullo investigation update, and here’s the deal—here you’re gonna have to listen.

If you’re intelligent, and 99.8% of our folks that listen to this show are very intelligent. The ones that don’t fit that category are usually the Obamabots who are listening to every little word that drops off my mouth so that can twist it, pervert it, and jack it around all over the Internet. They are not so intelligent. … They help to keep me honest as well. But the rest of you are gonna have to kind of listen carefully, kind of read in between the lines [1:00]. But here’s the deal: I haven’t had time to post this yet because all this kind of came to me before we went on the air, but just go to Google and you can put in these words, “sheriff joe arpaio investigation was intended to discredit judge says.” That’s the headline with an article right out ABC 15 Arizona. “Sheriff Arpaio’s investigation was intended to discredit, a judge says.” Continue Reading →


Arpaio contempt case: evidence turning bad for him

imageThe exposure of the Cold Case Posse’s so-called deep, dark turn, provides some sense of Sheriff Joe’s misdeeds coming around to bite him. For me, the Dennis Montgomery sideshow was nothing more than one con man conning another; however, media reports coming out of Thursday’s status conference in Melendres v. Arpaio put it in a more troubling light for Sheriff Joe.

The Houston Chronicle has one of those reports, titled “Judge: Sheriff’s investigation was intended to discredit him.” This report is based on comments from Judge G. Murray Snow in court last Thursday, and those comments came after reading seized MSCO documents passed on to him by the court-appointed monitor who is pouring over the material. Judge Snow called the investigations focus, that he was in collusion with the Department of Justice against Arpaio, a “bogus conspiracy theory.”

In testimony last April, Arpaio put a very different spin on things, saying that the Montgomery investigation was triggered by reports of the CIA hacking bank accounts and tapping phones; any involvement the investigation had with Judge G. Murray Snow was incidental—just part of emails involving several judges. The Chronicle writes:

The judge said the documents show that Dennis Montgomery, a computer consultant who has done work for the U.S. military and worked as a confidential informant in Arpaio’s secret investigation, told the sheriff’s office he could help them figure out what Snow and the Justice Department had been talking about.

Public radio station KJZZ said:

U.S. District Judge Murray Snow said documents he reviewed suggest the sheriff’s office hired a paid confidential informant to expose an alleged conspiracy between the judge and the U.S. Department of Justice to collude against Arpaio.

This is more in the steady drip of articles that spell bad news for the embattled Arizona Sheriff and indicates a very negative turn for Sheriff Joe.

Read more:


Image conspiracy debunking

I received an email yesterday asking for some help debunking claims that a number of Obama family photos are fake. I didn’t have much to offer.

Obama fake photo stories make the rounds periodically, and Birther Report has an article right now. Generally these fake photo claims involve something that looks odd, and then a leap from “odd” to “fake.” In order to be valid, drawing such a conclusion requires an expert opinion, and that is where the birthers fall down in everything they do.

Lack of expertise is enough for me to set aside the claims as unproven, and not requiring an answer. That may not be enough for everybody, and so the topic of debunking arises. The problem with debunking photo claims is that it requires:

  • An exert opinion
  • Discovering an obvious flaw or fakery in the birther analysis
  • A counterexample

I am not an expert on film photography, and I don’t know anyone who is. Counterexamples are hard to come by, as they require recreating of complicated photo shoot details. The result is that, as far as I can tell, there is not much debunking of Obama fake photo claims.

I took a shot at debunking an image conspiracy once back in 2012, in my article, “They all look alike,” but there is very little else here. Fake photo claim debunking is an underserved area.