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The State of the Union

The President will deliver his State of the Union address to Congress on Tuesday. My interest was piqued by a line from pre-address coverage at The Hill saying:

President Obama hopes to push the reset button on his second term Tuesday when he delivers the State of the Union address to Congress and a primetime television audience.

If there were to be a birther rebuttal to the State of the Union, it might well have the theme of pushing the reset button on Obama’s first term. But that’s not going to happen and as far as I am concerned, whatever birther relevance there was ended with the re-election of Barack Obama last year. A news article mentioning “birther” today is more likely to be about Ted Cruz or someone else, than about Barack Obama.

While the state of the birthers today is abysmal, irrational right-wing beliefs about Barack Obama, and world affairs in general, are strong, and this should be no surprise. The most successful news organization in the country is the Fox News Channel, and it is run by a man who believes that Barack Obama is a socialist and that climate change is a hoax spread by foreign countries to try to get an advantage over the United States. Roger Ailes1, President of Fox News Channel, was instrumental in the presidential campaigns of Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H. W. Bush. His message of fear and division is not only on home television screens, but in many restaurants and medical waiting rooms in this area. The Colbert Report this week had a piece on a recent court decision about “net neutrality” and gave three clips from three news organizations, highlighting by comparison Fox News fear mongering:

CBS: The way we use the Internet could change after a federal appeals court struck down “net neutrality” rules.

PBS: The fallout over a big decision may change now the web works and the future of so-called “net neutrality”

Fox News: We could be witnessing the end of the Internet as we know it.

Some furor has arisen after a recent series remarks by a Republican House candidate Joshua Black from Florida who said on Twitter of Barack Obama:

I’m past impeachment. It’s time to arrest and hang him high.


He should be executed for treason. I think the appropriate punishment is death. They killed Benedict Arnold.2 (Obama) shouldn’t be allowed to kill Americans without a trial.

The liberal web site Politicus USA wrote of this incident:

The real issue isn’t the mental health issues of Joshua Black, but the fact that so many Republicans agree with him.

But look at right-wing news coverage that leads to this kind of thinking:

  • Obama Care Exemption – None Dare Call it Treason (Washington Times)
  • Treason Season at the State Department (Fox News)
  • Cheney: Obama Giving ‘Aid and Comfort to the Enemy’ (Fox News)
  • ‘Fast and Furious’ an Act of Treason? (Fox News)
  • Romney supporters mock Obama, Call Him Treasonous (Newsmax)

If one wonders why so many people believe something as crazy as Barack Obama being a socialist doing everything he can to destroy the country, it is because they belong to a community where this belief is the norm, lead by a powerful persuader who actually believes it. Folks like me do not understand the seeming insanity of extreme conservatives because we do not live in the world as it is portrayed to them by Fox News and its kindred.

A nation only survives when it shares some basic level consensus and good will, so I conclude that the State of the Union is precarious so long as divisive voices have such professional skill and reach. Only time will tell. I will leave you with this quotation from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

1There’s a lot on the Internet this month about Roger Ailes due to the publication of a new biography of him: The Loudest Voice in the Room: How the Brilliant, Bombastic Roger Ailes Built Fox News—and Divided a Country by Gabriel Sherman.

2Actually Benedict Arnold went to England where he eventually died of natural causes.

Obama’s draft registration: conspiracies simmer

In a big article authored by Alan Jones at the Washington Times Communities web site, further discussion of Barack Obama’s Selective Service System registration appears. The article is far too long and filled with WND-style innuendo and re-hashing of old grievances; however, there are two points I would like to single out for comment.

First, the author says:

Review of official documents posted on the websites of the Government Printing Office, NARA, and the Selective Service System confirms that if Obama registered for selective service in 1980, the original paper card would have likely been destroyed, but only after being transferred into original microfilm records, microfilm record copies, and computer storage systems.

Birthers seem to be averse to providing hyperlinks to government documents, but it wasn’t too hard to find and this information shows that demands to see original paper documents by various birthers are moot and in particular that Sheriff “Clueless Joe” Arpaio asked SSS director Romo to produce the original form.

The question then is reduced to whether the copy of the FOIA microfilm image of Obama’s registration issued by the Selective Service System in 2008 under the Bush Administration, is actually on the microfilm with all the other 1980 registrations.

The second point is an allegation/innuendo that the government changed the rules to allow it to destroy evidence. The article says:

The Selective Service System’s new privacy rules were published in the Federal Register on Tuesday, September 20, 2011, four days after the September 16 announcement by World Net Daily that the Maricopa County (Arizona) Sheriff’s Office “Cold Case Posse” was opening an inquiry with full subpoena power into alleged forgery of several documents concerning Obama’s birth and draft registration.

The obvious response to this nonsense is that if the Cold Case Posse had the authority to subpoena Selective Service records, why didn’t they? They have no such authority. Further, folks had been spreading rumors about Obama’s draft registration since 2008! No one knew, when Sheriff Joe announced his investigation, that an issue that had been debunked two years before was going to be dusted off as a main character in the result.

The article claims that the status of microfilm copies of Selective Service applications has changed, that copies that once were required to be retained can now be destroyed. Copies that must be kept are “record” copies and those that may be destroyed are “non-record” copies. What I see in Jones’ article is the typical birther inability to read. The original microfilm record must be retained until the registrant reaches age 85. The change in the regulation simply clarifies that copies of the original microfilm are non-record copies (it didn’t say before whether they were record or non-record).

The article is full of information; the conclusions are just wrong.