Sour grapes of wrath at the Texas State Board of Education

March 10, 2010

A couple of months can make a big difference.  Can.

A difference which way?

Two months ago the Texas State Board of Education suspended its revamping of social studies standards — the efforts to grind the standards into a right-wing crutch were so controversial that hearings, discussion and amending proposed standards took up more time than allotted.  SBOE delayed final votes until March 10.


Last week Texas voted in primary elections.  Several board members’ terms are up.  Two incumbents lost primary challenges, Don McLeroy, the Boss Tweed of the right wing cultural war ring, and Geraldine Miller, a long-term veteran from Dallas, whose very conservative views cast her as a moderate among SBOE members.  Both are Republicans.

How will those primary losses affect them and their work on the board?

In addition, other members of the culture war ring are retiring, including Cynthia Dunbar. Will the lame ducks be content to vote up the changes urged by history and economic professionals and professional educators, or will they do as McLeroy suggested they need to do earlier, and fight against the recommendations of experts?

How will the lame ducks walk and quack?

Stakes are high.  New York Times Magazine featured the culture wars on the cover on Valentine’s Day (you should read the article)Texas Monthly weighed in against the culture wars, too — a surprise to many Texans.

Cynicism is difficult to swim against.  I expect McLeroy to try as best he can to make social studies standards a monument to right wing bigotry and craziness.  We’ve already seen SBOE vote to delete a wonderful children’s book from even being mentioned because the text author shares a name with a guy who wrote a book on socialism earlier.

Most of us watching from outside of Austin (somebody has to stay back and grade the papers and teach to the test . . .) expect embarrassments.  On English and science standards before, the culture war ring tactics were to make a flurry of last-minute, unprinted and undiscussed, unannounced amendments apparently conspired to gut the standards of accuracy (which would not make the right wing political statements they want) and, too often, rigor.  Moderates on the board have not had the support mechanisms to combat these tactics successfully — secret e-mail and telephone-available friends standing by to lend advice and language on amendments.  In at least two votes opponents of the culture war voted with the ring, not knowing that innocent-sounding amendments came loaded.

In a test of the No True Scotsman argument, religious people will be praying for Texas kids and Texas education.  Meanwhile, culture warriors at SBOE will work to frustrate those prayers.


Thomas Jefferson toyed with the idea of amendment the U.S. Constitution to provide a formal role for the federal government in guaranteeing education, which he regarded as the cornerstone of freedom and a free, democratic-style republic.  Instead, American primary and secondary education are governed by more than 15,000 locally-elected school boards with no guidance from the national government on what should be taught.  Alone among the industrial and free nations of  the world, the U.S. has no mechanism for rigorous national standards on what should be taught.

For well over a century a combined commitment to educating kids better than their parents helped keep standards high and achievement rising.  Public education got the nation through two world wars, and created a workforce that could perform without peer on Earth in producing a vibrant and strong economy.

That shared commitment to quality education now appears lost.  Instead we have culture warriors hammering teachers and administrators, insisting that inaccurate views of Jefferson and history be taught to children, perhaps to prevent them from ever understanding what the drive for education meant to freedom, but surely to end Jeffersonian-style influences in the future.

Texas’s SBOE may make the case today that states cannot be trusted with our children’s future, and that we need a national body to create academic rigor to preserve our freedom.  Or they will do the right thing.

Voters last week expressed their views that SBOE can’t be trusted to do the right thing.  We’re only waiting to see how hard McLeroy is willing to work to put his thumb in the eye of Big Tex.


More schools jump on “no-recess” recess bandwagon

January 29, 2010

How long will the madness persist?

Via Lenore Skenazy at Free-Range Kids comes word that MommaLou has a meeting to find out why her kid’s school wants the kids to spend recess time engaged in something other than recess.

Excuse me?

They aim to “change the perception of recess from free time away from learning to a valuable learning experience that will teach them and will help them cope in all social settings and environments. When children view recess as “free time” they have a tendency to act in a less responsible manner and push the limits of irresponsible behavior. In order to change the perception of recess, children must see that its content is respected and valued.”

The absolute best memories I have of my childhood consisted of me and my sister on the loose in our backyard making mud pies and playing “lost kids”. When I was in college studying early childhood education, I spent countless hours in classrooms learning about how kids learn. Kids learn through play. They just need the resources. The tools. And time.

Well, yeah, that’s what recess is all about, isn’t it?

Kids need recess to stay healthy, the studies show. Recess keeps them healthy.  In my corporate consulting, we counseled managers to provide recess.  Creativity and corporate problem solving experts, like Dr. Perry W. Buffington, recommend business people take a recess and get away from work for a while when things get tense, or when problem solvers get dense.  In one session I watched with Buffington, one manager didn’t get it and kept coming up with all sorts of things to do to avoid taking a recess.  Buffington finally spelled it out for him:  Get away from the office; make sure that the activity is AWAY from the building . . .

Heck, do they have an “organizational health” survey at that school?  The teachers need recess for the kids, too.

Recall these resources from my earlier post:

Nota bene: Even just a little movement worksIt works for adults, too.


  • PEDIATRICS Vol. 123 No. 2 February 2009, pp. 431-436 (doi:10.1542/peds.2007-2825) (subscription required for full text),  “School Recess and Group Classroom Behavior,” Romina M. Barros, MD, Ellen J. Silver, PhD and Ruth E. K. Stein, MD, Department of Pediatrics, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Children’s Hospital at Montefiore and Rose F. Kennedy Center, Bronx, New York

    OBJECTIVES. This study examines the amount of recess that children 8 to 9 years of age receive in the United States and compares the group classroom behavior of children receiving daily recess with that of children not receiving daily recess.

  • See this year-old post at The Elementary Educator
  • Post in agreement from the venerable Trust for Public Lands, one of the best and best respected non-profits in America

Also, be sure to see this post from Ms. Cornelius at A Shrewdness of Apes.  If you’re having difficulty telling the difference between school and a prison — or if your school kid is having that difficulty, it’s time to act.

Cartoon - lawyers still get recess.  Andertoons

Via See, and buy it for your newsletter.

Crankery under the microscope: Denialism as pathology

June 10, 2009

You can see it in this little-noted blog.  Someone drops by to tell me I’m in error, that Rachel Carson really did plot with Pol Pot to murder millions, and then they also show up in the creationism threads defending the view that dinosaurs never existed, or in a tangentially-related note on climate change, perhaps arguing that ocean levels rising are either not a problem, or the product of Atlantis’s rising from the depths (and therefore no problem, since the denizens of that city had better science than we do and will be able to fix things, never mind their being dead for 5,000 years).  [That last description is mostly fictional – mostly.]

What is it that makes one person deny reality on so many different fronts?

Mark Hoofnagle hit the research journals, listing results at denialism blog, demonstrating that crankery can be studied.  This raises in my mind the interesting little question of whether such crankery is a pathology, and perhaps treatable or curable.

Our recent discussions of HIV/AIDS denial and in particular Seth Kalichman’s book “Denying AIDS” has got me thinking more about the psychology of those who are susceptible to pseudoscientific belief. It’s an interesting topic, and Kalichman studies it briefly in his book mentioning the “suspicious minds”:

At its very core, denialism is deeply embedded in a sense of mistrust. Most obviously, we see suspicion in denialist conspiracy theories. Most conspiracy theories grow out of suspicions about corruptions in government, industry, science, and medicine, all working together in some grand sinister plot. Psychologically, suspicion is the central feature of paranoid personality, and it is not overreaching to say that some denialists demonstrate this extreme. Suspicious thinking can be understood as a filter through which the world is interpreted, where attention is driven towards those ideas and isolated anecdotes that confirm one’s preconceived notions of wrong doing. Suspicious thinkers are predisposed to see themselves as special or to hold some special knowledge. Psychotherapist David Shpairo in his classic book Neurotic Styles describes the suspicious thinker. Just as wee see in denialism, suspiciousness is not easily penetrated by facts or evidence that counter individuals’ preconceived worldview. Just as Shapiro describes in the suspicious personality, the denialist selectively attends to information that bolsters his or her own beliefs. Denialists exhibit suspicious thinking when they manipulate objective reality to fit within their beliefs. It is true that all people are prone to fit the world into their sense of reality, but the suspicious person distorts reality and does so with an uncommon rigidity. The parallel between the suspicious personality style and denialism is really quite compelling.

Go read it at denialism.

Denialism may be a little greater problem than is generally acknowledged, in my opinion.  When it infects policy makers it causes legislative and executive crackups, like Oklahoma’s Sen. Tom Coburn, who held up the naming of the Rachel Carson Post Office for a year under the bizarre misconception that she played a role in spreading malaria (ditto for Utah Rep. Rob Bishop, who shared the view but was unable to stop the bill in the House), or like the Bush administration officials at the U.S. Agency for International Development who kept refusing to authorize spending for pesticides in Africa, claiming environmental groups would oppose them while the environmental groups were lobbying the agency to spend the money on those pesticides.

Former South Africa President Thabo Mbeki denied that HIV causes AIDS.  Mbeki’s refusal to act on the best science available may have led to as many as 350,000 deaths, some accounts say.  Ashley Montagu told the story of Adolf Hitler’s odd views of heritage being spread by blood transfusions — to avoid any possibility of his soldiers’ being turned Jewish by a blood transfusion, Hitler forbade the use of blood banks.  Tens of thousands of German soldiers died unnecessarily from lack of blood for transfusing during World War II.  Partisans and scientists still debate whether  and how much Ronald Reagan’s belief that AIDS was a syndrome caused by sin rather than a virus early in the AIDS crisis created a cascade of actions that still frustrates the development of a vaccination or cure.

Denialism in high school students is interesting, but most often a classroom problem.  When kids take great issue with the course material the class can get derailed.  Even when a teacher is able to keep the class on track, the denialist student may feel marginalized.  A colleague reported a student had informed that historians now concur that George Washington was African-American.  She could not be dissuaded from the view.  I had a student who insisted well into the second semester than Adolf Hitler was a great leader, smart and humanitarian, framed for war crimes of the British and Americans.  Unfortunately, I could not put him in contact with the earlier student who believed Hitler had been framed by the Soviet Union, and that the Americans and British were victims of the cruel hoax.

As the nominal head of public relations in the old (Pleistocene?) office of Sen. Orrin Hatch, my crew and I got the brunt of denialists and crazies.  We had one woman in Salt Lake City, “Mrs. B,” who regularly called the Salt Lake office to complain about Hatch’s actions and what she assumed his beliefs must be.  For a while she complained that, as someone born outside of Utah, he could never appreciate the views of the Latter-day Saints in Utah.  When at last we persuaded her that he was also a Mormon, she began complaining that he ignored Utah’s non-Mormon population.  Her ability to switch sides in an argument so as always to remain on the opposite side of Sen. Hatch got noticed.

Near the end of a summer session just before the recess the Senate had a lot of late-night meetings.  The news of these sessions did not always make the morning papers.  On one issue of some Utah import, Hatch had suggested he would probably vote one way, because of some issue of agency direction that had him concerned.  In the end the agency agreed to amendments that assuaged all of Hatch’s concerns and he was happy to support the bill (I forget what it was — the issue is absolutely irrelevant to the story).

I had caught a late-night flight to Salt Lake, and arrived at the SLC office early enough to catch our Utah problem solver Jack Martin explaining to Mrs. B that Hatch did indeed care about Utah . . .   Jack and I could carry on a conversation with only his occasional remarks to Mrs. B keeping her going, a scene out of a Cary Grant comedy, perhaps.  “Yes, Mrs. B . . .  No, Mrs. B  . . . I think I see your point.”  What he said was unimportant.  I could hear her rant on the telephone, while I was on the other side of the room.  I finally asked Jack what her issue was, and he explained it was the bill that Hatch had reveresed his position on.  She was complaining at great length about his original position.  I explained to Jack that an accommodation had been reached and that Hatch changed his vote in the final tally.

Jack smiled broadly as he handed me the phone.  “You tell her!”  It took a long time to get her to stop talking so I could explain who I was and that I had new information.  Finally she fell silent and I explained that she should be happy because Hatch had come around to her position.  There was a silence of a few more seconds, and she started in again:  “Hatch is an idiot!  Only a fool would vote that way.”  And she was off again on a rant against Hatch, eviscerating the views that she herself had held less than a  minute earlier.

The issue wasn’t important to her.  Hatch was wrong, whatever he did, even when he supported her views.

That’s denialism in full force, a raw, unmitigated power of nature.

Hoofnagle concludes at denialism:

So what do these studies mean for our understanding of cranks? Well, in addition to providing explanations for crank magnetism, and cognitive deficits we see daily in our comments from cranks, it suggests the possibility that crankery and denialism may be preventable by better explanation of statistics. Much of what we’re dealing with is likely the development of shoddy intellectual shortcuts, and teaching people to avoid these shortcuts might go a long way towards the development and fixation on absurd conspiracy theories or paranormal beliefs.

Wouldn’t you love to see that study replicated on readers of Watt’s Up With That?, Texas Darlin’ , Junk Science, or one of the antivaxxer blogs?

You may also want to read:

Cargo cults in global warming, and Arthur Robinson

March 14, 2009

Cargo cult science has deep roots among those who deny global warming or who allow that warming is occurring, but claim we can do nothing about it.  So, it’s no surprise that, at the voodoo science 2nd International Conference on Climate Change, somebody would trot out the old falsehoods about DDT.

According to Traditional Catholic Reflections (you can tell its traditional Catholic because it brooks no comments — you can’t correct an error there):

Speaking at the conference hosted by the Heartland Institute in New York City,[Dr. Arthur Robinson, Director of the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine] said, “There is a current example of genocide by the removal of technology, and that is the ban on DDT, and that has resulted in the deaths of 30 to 40 million people and has left half a billion infected with malaria.”

It’s malaria that kills people, not a lack of DDT.  The removal of DDT from spraying cotton crops  in Texas and California did absolutely nothing to promote malaria in Africa.  Dr. Robinson needs a basic geography course.  Mosquitoes do not migrate from the U.S. to Africa or Asia.

Stopping the spraying of DDT in the U.S. in 1972 wasn’t a factor in the cessation of usage of DDT in Africa seven years earlier, either.  Dr. Robinson could use some basic math sequencing and calendar reading remediation, too.

Dr. Robinson could use some history and public policy instruction, too.  DDT was never banned in Africa, nor was it banned in India or China which together now produce almost all the DDT used in the world, which is a lot.  There’s no ban on DDT in Uganda, where Dr. Robinson’s friends in the business world are suing to stop the spraying of DDT in huts in affected regions — because they are afraid it will harm their tobacco business.

It’s a heckuva lot easier to throw darts at health care workers and disease fighters than it is to talk about real solutions with these guys.

If Robinson is dead wrong on a one-liner about DDT, how wrong do you think he is in the rest of his presentation on climate change?

Is there any crackpot “scientist” who was not at the Heartland Institute’s wing-ding?

Encore post: Feynman and the inconceivable nature of nature

March 14, 2009

[This is an Encore Post, from August 2007 — just as it appeared then.  See especially the links on textbook selection processes, and “cargo cult” science, at the bottom.]

NOVA had a couple of good programs on Richard Feynman that I wish I had — it had never occurred to me to look at YouTube to see what people might have uploaded.

I ran into this one:

Richard Feynman struck my consciousness with the publication of his quite humorous autobiography, Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman. I thought it was a wonderful book, full of good character portraits of scientists as I saw them in my undergraduate days, only more famous ones. He followed that with What Do You Care What Other People Think?

By then, of course, Feynman was one of my heroes. His stories are useful in dozens of situations — his story of joining the samba bands in Rio testify to the joy of living, and the need for doing new things. Brazil was also the place he confronted the dangers of rote learning, when students could work equations perfectly for examples in the book — which they had memorized — but they couldn’t understand real world applications, such as describing how the sunlight coming off the ocean at Ipanema was so beautiful.

Feynman wrote about creationism, and about the dangers of voodoo science, in his now-famous essay on “Cargo cult science” — it’s so famous one has difficulty tracking down the facts to confirm the story.

Feynman’s stories of his wife, and her illness, and his love for her, were also great inspirations. Romance always gets me.

I failed to track him closely enough. During the run of the President’s Commission on Americans Outdoors, we had the misfortune of having scheduled a hearing in Orlando on January 30 (or maybe 29), 1986. We had hoped that the coincidental launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger on January 28 might boost our press response. Of course, the Challenger exploded. Our hearing went on as planned (we had a tough schedule to meet). The disaster affected our staff a lot, those who were in Florida, and the rest of us in Washington where many of us had been on the phone to Florida when the disaster occurred.

Feynman’s appointment to the commission studying the disaster was a brilliant move, I thought. Our schedule, unfortunately, kept me tied up on almost every day the Challenger commission met. So I never did walk the three blocks down the street to meet Feynman, thinking there would be other opportunities. He was already fatally ill. He died on February 15, 1988. I missed a chance of a lifetime.

We still have Feynman’s writings. We read the book aloud to our kids when they were younger. James, our youngest and a senior this year, read Surely You’re Joking again this summer, sort of a warmup to AP physics and his search for a college.  [2009 Update:  James is studying physics in the wilds of Wisconsin, finals week at Lawrence University next week — study hard, and good luck, James!]

And we still have audio and video. Remembering Feynman makes even the most avidly atheist hope for an afterlife, just to get a chance to hear Feynman explain what life was really all about, and how the universe really works.

Other notes:

Tip of the old scrub brush to Charismatic Megafauna.

Fighting cargo cult science

March 13, 2009

Creationism is not taught at any major university, as science.  It’s difficult to find creationism taught in any curriculum, including theology schools, because it’s not a part of the theology of most Christian sects.  And yet, creationism continues to pose hurdles to good science education in almost every state (especially Texas).

The hard work of spreading creationism is long entrenched, and continuing, though largely out of the view of most observers of cultural and scientific trends.

For example, consider this blog by a guy who teaches creationism at Bryan College.  It’s been discovered by supporters of science education — but what can anybody do about it?  P. Z. Myers at Pharyngula noted the non-scientific contents of the stuff being taught.  That’s not really enough.

We need to more aggressively promote good science teaching in public schools.

Here’s one thing we might do, as I noted in the comments at Pharyngula.  We need to create institutions to aggressively promote good, powerful science teaching.  Here is what I wrote there, essentially.

Notice that this is Bryan College that Todd Wood preaches at, the college set up to honor William Jennings Bryan, the creationist prosecutor from the Scopes trial. This is part of the evidence that scientists and other lovers of science and good education slept too long on some of these issues (“While Science Slept” might be a good essay somewhere).

Remember Scopes lost his case, and was fined; the overturning on appeal was due to a technical error in the fine, not due to other obviously major flaws in the law (which was signed and promoted by Gov. Austin Peay, who also has a college named after him).  The law against teaching human evolution remained effective in Tennessee until after 1967, and the Supreme Court’s decision in Epperson v. Arkansas — which finally persuaded the Tennessee legislature to repeal the act.

Some people thought H. L. Mencken’s mocking judgment on the Scopes trial was final. Not creationists. While the rest of the world went on, fundamentalists developed a powerful, out-of-the-major-media network to spread and promote their ideas. Part of this network was the establishment of Bryan College, and to some degree, I think Austin Peay State University (though, as a state university with serious intentions on educating people, APSU is in the evolution camp in curricula).

Why is there no Clarence Darrow College? Why is there no John T. Scopes Institute for Teachers (say, at the University of Chicago, where Scopes went back for his advanced degree)?

Unless we get out there and fight in the trenches of education and religion and culture, evolution will continue to face silly opposition. Feynman warned us of the dangers of cargo cult science. (Honestly, though, Wood’s stuff looks like cargo cult cargo cultism, it’s so far removed from real science — doesn’t it?)

In the end it’s odd that a progressive-on-most-issues guy like Bryan would be memorialized by naming a college after him to preserve his most profound errors. It’s effective propaganda. I’d be willing to wager Bryan would have come around to evolution with the evidence stacked as it is now. His error was emotional and theological, I think. Education can prevent and correct such error.  Bryan College doesn’t do that in evolution — something else needs to be done to fight what Bryan College does.

The John T. Scopes Institute for Teachers could run in the summer months, it should have a thousand teachers of science from primary and secondary education in every session, and it should emphasize the best methods for teaching the best science we have. We really need such an agency — or agencies — now. Our children lose interest in science between fourth grade and graduation, their achievement in science plunges in comparison to other nations.

Our economy suffers as a result.

Creationists have Bryan College to help them spread their versions of cargo cult science, with that mission specifically in mind. We can fight fire with fire, but we have to fight ignorance with education. And, my friends in science education, we are behind.

I get e-mail from DDT cranks . . .

January 3, 2009

I noted the errors in a post at Reformed Musings.  Then I noodled around Mr. Mattes’s site,  and I dropped this note into his “about” thread, frustrated that I couldn’t just politely note the errors at his posts, where he’s disabled comments.

I said:

I wish you’d take comments on your posts. For example, you’ve got a couple of errors dealing with DDT in your post on climate change. It looks as though you’re hoping to sneak them past readers, rather than get the science right. I hope that’s not so.  By: Ed Darrell on December 31, 2008 at 7:41 pm

Mattes held that comment in moderation (afraid to let his other readers see it?), but responded in sort by diving deeper into wankery, with a post defending the more crackpot ideas of Michael Crichton, and straying much farther from the science in his claims about DDT and environmenta protection.  Heck, he even trotted out errors about Paul Ehrlich’s writing, apparently not content to be wrong about only DDT and global warming.

So, noting Mattes’s aggravation of his errors, I wrote again on his blog, a bit more sternly:

Shame on you. If you really think DDT is safe and that there was no science behind its “ban,” open comments, let us discuss.

But to compound your errors, and then to fail to approve comments from those who offer you correct information — well, reformation only goes so far, I guess.  By: Ed Darrell on January 2, 2009 at 11:56 am

Rather than open comments to discuss, and rather than respond to the post at the Bathtub, he sent me e-mail:

Shame on me? Excuse me, but I’m a bit amazed at your arrogance. You’ll offer correct information? Why, because others have a different opinion than you they have to be wrong? What are your technical qualifications and applicable experience, besides having a blog and a keyboard? Have you been to Africa? I have. Is racial eugenics your thing? Is that why third-world inhabitants are expendable to you?

Whatever you think you know, DDT is being successfully employed in Africa and elsewhere to save lives every day. No bad effects evident.  None. Their public health officials are literally begging for more. But then, their only agenda is survival. Selective and misleading reporting doesn’t interest them, only results.

Did Mattes miss many of the Tinfoil Hat Brigade’s concerns?

For the record, I don’t share Mattes’s fascination with eugenics as applied to race (and I’ll wager Mattes has no record fighting it); that tends to be a concern of the anti-science, historical revisionists (wrong about history, too).  I said nothing disparaging about third world peoples, and there are a dozen or more posts here to confirm my concerns about health in the third world, in contrast to only the junk science, “Let’s poison the hell out of Africa” attitude from Mattes.

In his second paragraph, he contradicts one of the main points of his first post. He says DDT is being used successfully in Africa — while his first post complained that environmentalists had successfully stopped it from being used.

That’s rather the mark of the true DDT sycophant, someone who suffers seriously from internet DDT poisoning:  The only reason they mention DDT is to find a cudgel to use against brave and smart women like Rachel Carson, or otherwise to criticize people who call for an end to pollution, or the preservation of water, air, trees or animals.  Unanchored by any fact or any need or desire to be accurate, they attack environmenalists, damn the inconsistency of the attacks.


He’s followed up today with a new post that assaults science at every turn, claiming to follow science journals, but instead citing the chemical industry supporters like Richard Tren, opposing the Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization.  While complaining about “eco-socialism,” he approvingly cites the experts of Lyndon Larouche, the late Dr. Gordon Edwards, in all of his errors and all of the political wankery of Larouche.

Mattes has gone back to the false claims that Edmund Sweeney exhonerated DDT, and that “evil” William Ruckelshaus banned DDT anyway — completely murdering Sweeney’s analysis and the law behind it, and completely avoiding the law, the court cases, and the history behind Ruckleshaus’s actions.

In his frantic, apoplectic dance to avoid discussing whether he might be in error, Mattes has dived so deeply into the depths of tinfoil hat sourcery (no, it’s spelled as I intended it) that in the end, he’s not jus twrong, he’s not even wrong.

If someone criticized any translation of the Bible as carelessly and wildly as Mattes criticizes science, he’d be out recruiting neighbors with pitchforks and torches to march.

Mattes claims he’s done with the issue.  We can only hope.  To continue in his current trend, he’d need to deny gravity (both Newton and Einstein), atomic theory, and Linneaus.  But I also suppose it means he’ll never check here to see the facts.  Just when we thought we were making progress . . .

The real story about DDT, a few of the posts at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub:

The real story, elsewhere:

At Bug Girl’s Blog:

At Deltoid:


Obama’s birth certificate: Astrologers bring sound reason

November 30, 2008

Texas Darlin‘ and the bevy of sites who contest the authenticity of Barack Obama’s birth certificate need to come up for air once in a while.  When astrologers start using better science, logic and reason than those obsessed with Obama’s birth certificate, it’s time for those so obsessed to change their ways, don’t you think?

See also the six ways the arguments against Obama’s birth certificate fail.

6 ways challenges to Obama’s citizenship fail

November 27, 2008

Enough already.  Somebody’s putting LSD into the water conservatives and other wackoes are drinking — that’s the only rational explanation for continued complaints about Barack Obama’s birth eligibility for the presidency.

First, here’s the rational view of the issue, from, “Born in the USA.”

Here are a few of the sites that seem to have lost all touch with reality, and continue to whine that Obama might somehow be ineligible for the presidency:

Conservatives expert advisor Leo C. Denofrio, from his seat at a Caesars Palace poker table

Do you trust your nation's future to this man? - Conservatives' expert advisor Leo C. Denofrio, from his seat at a Caesar's Palace poker table

Weird enough, irrational enough yet?  As odd as these sites are, sometimes the comments get even odder.  It doesn’t help the rationality quotient that so many of these bloggers block out or strike down comments that present an alternative case or rational answers.

And in fact, it’s partly because of Texas Darlin’s anti-rational-comment pose that I put this post up.  Somebody, somewhere, needs to suggest the rational foundations, and inject them into the discussion.

A commenter named Carlyle states the basic case of the birth-certificate-obsessed people (BCOs).  It’s a nutty case, ungrounded in fact or logic, but Texas Darlin’ won’t allow responses.  So, here are some of the things these people are not thinking about as they fold ever-thicker tinfoil hats.

Carlyle said:

But let me back up for a moment and lay out the two great truths. These are the things that are known without doubt and far above speculation.

1. FACT – Obama has never provided admissable auditible citizenship documentation to anybody. No complete birth certificate, no passport, no selective service registration, nothing, zero, nada, zippo. Nobody can produce any of this stuff – not DNC, FEC, DOJ, State SecStates, electors – nobody.

No, actually Carlyle is doing a lot of speculation there (as are other BCOs).  Almost all of these rants are based on speculation, wild speculation far outside of what is known.  The key questions would revolve around what sorts of evidence would be admissible as evidence in a court of law in the U.S.  Very few of these anti-Obama rants ever bother to touch ground on those issues.  The birth certificate issued by the State of Hawaii, posted by the Obama campaign for months, is the legally-admissible document.  The ranters have to ignore that to get on to the rest of their complaints.

Beyond the legally-admissible, there are logical cascades of events to which we can point, which strongly suggest the ranters are truly full of sound and fury signifying nothing.

First, in order to obtain a passport, for one example, one must provide “admissible, auditable citizenship documentation” to the U.S. Department of State. We know Obama has held a passport for many years, so we can be reasonably certain he provided that information originally (Do you have a passport?  How did you get it without a birth certificate?  I got a diplomatic speedy process, and I still had to provide a birth certificate . . .).

Propagandist-and-self-promoter-for-hire Jerome Corsi claims Obama didn’t travel on a U.S. passport, claiming results from an impossible Freedom of Information Act request to the U.S. State Department.

Obama’s passport is a matter of record (though privacy laws do not allow release of the passport itself, generally).  Without evidence to the contrary, this presents a rebuttable presumption that Obama is a citizen. Does anyone else have information that the birth certificate Obama gave State was wrong?  Obviously not — the BCOs don’t appear to have been aware such a thing was even required.

Second, one of the things State checked for when I applied for a passport (when I worked in the Senate) was my Selective Service Status.  Hypothetically, they don’t want to grant a passport to someone who is not registered.  Again, under the rules of civil procedure, we have a rebuttable presumption that Obama’s draft registration was fine when he traveled as a student.  If it was fine then, absent a showing from anyone that there was a later event that made the draft registration invalid, we should assume that State did their job.  As a pragmatic matter, the draft ended in the early 1970s, so there could be almost no issue that could have caused Obama’s draft status to change.  It’s pretty clear that his draft registration is valid.

Third, Obama is a lawyer.  In order to get a license to practice law, applicants must provide a certified copy of a birth certificate to the National Conference of Bar Examiners, in order to be eligible to take the bar exam. The National Conference then does a background investigation on all candidates, generally an investigation more thorough than the FBI’s checking for most federal appointees.  In the past, the Conference has reported issues like minor drug use, preventing people from becoming lawyers in several states.  Absent a showing by someone that the National Conference granted special waivers, or a showing of other irregularities, the fact that Obama held a license to practice law presents a rebuttable presumption that his birth certificate is valid exactly as he alleges, and that his draft status is legal. Obviously, the BCOs have no information to indicate any irregularity, since they were unaware of this check.  We should assume, therefore, that Obama has a valid birth certificate and draft registration, since the Illinois Bar got a recommendation from the National Conference of Bar Examiners that Obama was morally fit to be a lawyer.

Fourth, Obama is a U.S. Senator.  As a matter of standard operating procedure, the FBI does a thorough background check on every elected Member of Congress, to certify that they are eligible for top secret clearance, since every member will be seeing national secrets.  Occasionally these checks produce questions, which are usually resolved by the Rules Committee of each house.  There is no record of any proceeding dealing with any irregularity in the background check for Sen. Obama.  This means that there is a rebuttable presumption that the FBI was satisfied with Obama’s citizenship status, as well as his patriotism and ability to keep state secrets.

Furthermore, for members of the Armed Services, Intelligence oversight, and Foreign Relations Committees, there is a more thorough background check by the FBI, since many of these members will be seeing a lot of secrets, and many of them will be talking with foreign dignitaries and visiting foreign nations, and in other ways would have opportunities to pass state secrets to non-allies and even enemies of the U.S.  The simple fact that Obama sat on the Foreign Relations Committee and was, in fact, chairman of the NATO subcommittee (which deals with secrets of many of the allies of the U.S.), creates a fourth rebuttable presumption that Obama’s citizenship status, draft status, patriotism and ability to wave the flag and sing the “Star-Spangled Banner” are above reproach.

Obviously, BCOs don’t have any information to suggest there is any problem with this tougher security clearance, and in fact appear to be wholly unaware that such an investigation had been done, or could be done.

Fifth, since the November 4 election, Sen. Obama has been getting the daily National Security briefiing that President Bush gets.  This briefing includes our nation’s most precious secrets, and cannot be done, even for the president, without the CIA and Homeland Security verifying that the man is who he says he is.

BCOs have no information to overcome the several rebuttable presumptions that Obama’s credentials are in order, evidenced by their total lack of awareness that such procedures even exist.

So, in five ways, we have assurances that Obama is wholly legal and qualified to hold the office of the presidency.  Neither TD’s commenter Carlyle nor any other BCO has any basis to question these federal and state agencies, nor have they suggested any irregularity in any one of these processes which would lead to the irrational conclusion that Obama is not a natural-born U.S. citizen, or not eligible to be president.

Sixth, Obama posted his birth certificate in June, on-line [archived version here]. Are these people Google impaired?

2. FACT – Against numerous attempts by journalists and courts to ask for such information, Obama has uniformaly resisted. One might even say beligerently so.

One might say that, but one would be prevaricating, belligerently.  As noted above, Obama’s birth certificate is available on-line.  So much for resistance.   So far as we know, every reporter who asked was able to view the actual certificate with it’s stamp of authority from the State of Hawaii.  Such analyses have been done, written about, and posted on-line.  Are they Google AND Yahoo impaired?

Do the BCOs have any serious evidence of any problems that the U.S. State Department, the FBI, the National Conference of Bar Examiners, the State Bar of Illinois, the FBI again, the Rules Committee of the U.S. Senate, the CIA and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security missed?  What is their evidence?

We challenge them to be specific.  If they are claiming something like an aged grandmother’s testimony that Obama was born in Kenya, they should have the good sense not to waste the court’s time about such folderol unless unless have a sworn affidavit from the woman, taken down by a court reporter, and corroborating evidence (Corsi did not even bother to get statements, let alone sworn statements under oath, I understand — he’s asking a Supreme Court hearing for inadmissible hearsay).

And Joseph Farah, here’s my challenge to you:  Provide corroboration for your charges, provide affidavits where they would be required, provide evidence of error on the parts of these federal and state agencies, or shut up about it. Even scandal-sheet journalists have some responsibility to at least try to look like they care about accuracy.  Farah owes it to his readers to get things right.  He’s not living up to the duty he owes.

What do they have?

Why must we entertain cargo cultists in their dances?  We have two wars and a crashing economy to fix.  Can we get on with the transition, please?

Barack Obamas birth certificate, showing the states stamp of authenticity, from

Barack Obama's birth certificate, showing the state's stamp of authenticity, from

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