Concerted Effort To Discredit Honest Questions.

I realise that the politically savvy view things like this as a “political hobby horse”, and that we should therefore stop embarrassing them, so they can continue to fight the battle they’d no doubt be winning, if it wasn’t for us “hyper-conservatives”. (whew, had to get that off my chest, back to the hobby horse).

It’s pretty plain to see that leftists are engaged in painting anyone with an honest question they want answered as a political fringe loon. Unfortunately, the politically savvy right also wants to dismiss those with legitimate questions, as “voters don’t care”, or whatnot. (Okay, maybe it wasn’t off my chest yet).

Someone asked for a specific example of the red herring fact checking that goes along with these fact checking sites. I’m reluctant to talk about it, ‘cuz, hey, I might embarrass the…, anyway I’m reluctant to talk about it on facebook, because, hey, the goal of the alleged leftist effort is, after all, to shut people up.

So, here’s how it works:

I ask you this question: “I’ve heard there’s an unusual discrepency with the President’s social security number, is that true?”

Being the great niece or nephew you are, you quickly fire off a link to Snopes, with the comment, “that’s been thoroughly debunked. quit forwarding me this stuff!”

So I click the link, and being the kind of guy who looks at the url, I notice the word “birthers” in the address. Hmm, I wonder. I was just wondering if it was true if there was anything anamoulous about the social security number, that seems kind of rude. So, I browse the headline, and get onto the meat of the thing, and I notice something: Nowhere in the article does it dispel the rumour I’m trying to confirm, in fact, it seems to confirm that there is a discrepency. I didn’t ask anything about anyone else having shared the same number.

So, I don’t know who shared the email about the number once belonging to someone else, but what my well-intentioned niece or nephew just did was a) lump me in a group that is almost universally derided, and b) make me question their reading comprehension. actually, that was probably c), but it came to mind, so I wrote it down. So, b) didn’t answer my question.

“The man who used to have that social security number” is the red herring. The answer to the question I asked was “yes, there is something out of the ordinary”, and the response I got was “oh, those crazy birthers”.

Cartoon Superheroines

A few weeks ago, I saw a pHd lady on a talk news show. While I disagreed with her, I thought she seemed smart, and had the word “doctor” in her title, so did a little research to see if there was anything of value in what she had to say that I might want to consider. I no longer recall what the original topic was, but learned that her doctorate was some kind of liberal arts women’s studies or some thing. What really struck me is an article she’d published that just had some rather vulgar language for someone touting themself as a pHd. I guess linking to a blog that highlighted women’s depictions in cartoons wasn’t entirely off thesis, but I still found it strange that a pHd would link to something like that in what I’d hoped would be a bit more “scholarly” of an article. I had wanted to write an article somehow addressing some of the issues, but really didn’t feel someone with such nasty habits of speech was worth calling attention to. Anyway, one of the issues she addressed was on the objectification of women in comic books. It was something I thought I might write about, but still haven’t really come up with anything to say about it. It’s not like comics are typically realistic. They’re meant to sell comics, and I imagine the exaggerated proportions and physiology-defying poses are what appeal to the audience. I think part of the physiology-defying aspects are often an attempt to show movement in action scenes, but that’s just a part of it, there’s no doubt the artists want to highlight as many curves in a frame as they can get away with.

Anyway, it’s just something that crossed my mind, that I never followed up on, so I figured I’d at least scribble it down, and move on to other things, or perhaps develop it more later.

About those Emails your aunts and uncles send and you reply with snopes

Are you getting a lot of emails from the older generation with some crazy rumours? So you send them to snopes to show that the rumour’s been debunked? Well, don’t. You’re part of the problem if you blindly accept the facts from a site that cites biased blogs and newspapers.

This is the important part. Many of the people circulating those emails remember two generations fighting 2 wars to stop the spread of communism around the globe. after a relatively quiet couple decades, all of a sudden we have a generation of kids growing up with a president with easily verifiable connections to the radical communist activists of the 1960s, as well as growing up under the same religion that led to 9/11.

There’d be something wrong if they didn’t seem concerned. The better question might be, why aren’t you more concerned, instead of unquestionably spreading whatever snopes says on any given matter. Why not give your critical thinking a little exercise, instead?

edit: someone asked me to provide a specific claim as to what I find misleading about snopes. I found one example. There is no question that Obama’s social security has an anomalous first 3 digits. I have no idea what is true, although I’ve read many speculations. As the case is going before the supreme court, it’s come up again. In any event, the thing about snopes is, the rumour they “debunked” includes something about someone previously holding that particular social security. That isn’t the rumour I heard. The rumour I heard is just that there is something anomalous about the social security number’s geographic code, which hasn’t been fully explained. It’s a perfectly legitimate and reasonable thing to wonder about. But snopes, as usual, flies to the defense. It’s a pretty blatant bias, if you’ve ever looked at it. Here’s an article filled with a bunch more speculation as to what the heck is going on with that unusual number. I’m not endorsing the speculation, I’m just pointing out, there is something unusual that someone might reasonably be curious about.

That’s a lot of coincidences

Found this via this

update: incidentally, I think there’s a lot of easily verifiable information in that “coincidences” article, but by putting one obviously untrue “coincidence” in, it pretty much voids the whole rest of a pretty good description of how well connected he is. (it has to do with that red haired fellow from Detroit, who died in 1965, if you’re wondering).

The Full Weight Of Government Prosecution

I probably should apologise for seeming a little unsympathetic at the news about the suicide of Aaron Swartz last week. But, really, why should I be the one to apologise. When Kurt Cobain killed himself, I was also unsympathetic. Here’s a guy who a lot of people idolized, and he just sent a crap message. As for Aaron, I hadn’t really heard of him before the news of his suicide, but the news came from someone in the tech circles, and I had heard of this Lessig fellow, also through the same source.

In reading about the various aspects of the events leading to the suicide, the one thing I felt I might have in common with Swartz is knowing how profound and traumatic facing an aggressive prosecution can be. Who knows if Swartz would’ve listened to a nobody like me, but it appears he listened to Mr. Lessig quite a bit over the last 10-12 years.

If I’m not mistaken, Mr. Lessig is something of an online political activist for progressive causes. I apologise for writing this without reviewing what he’s written in the years since I last heard of him, so I may have this all wrong. But what his two blog posts about Swartz’s suicide reveal is a deep bitterness toward the prosecutors who did what prosecutors every where do: They applied the most heinous charges they could, knowing that something would likely stick, and giving themselves leverage for plea-bargaining. I don’t know much about Mr. Lessig’s life before becoming a Law professor and online activist, but he must know that is how courts operate. He’s right to be bitter, but he’s wrong to single out the prosecutor’s in his friend’s case.

It appears to me that what progressives want is an expansive role of government in individual’s everyday life. When that government then turns on a friend, Lessig says, “the prosecutors don’t deserve the power of the government behind them”. Lessig firmly seems to believe in the power of the government to wield it’s full weight on other faceless individuals, but not to the powerful people in his circle. What I would hope progressives would learn from this is “the government shouldn’t have that kind of power to begin with”. If it wasn’t the prosecutors in his friend’s case, it would’ve been some other prosecutors. The point is, any individual in a position of power might be tempted to abuse it, and the only solution is to limit the government-backed power of any individual.

Lessig is a well-known and influential person. He may well get his distorted sense of justice and see powerful government-backed people fire the powerful government-backed prosecutors. They may even pass an Aaron’s law designed to limit prosecutorial discretion. But I’m doubtful it will do much to change the fundamental nature of putting too much power in the hands of people, who by nature, and history bears this out, have a tendency to occasional abuse.

I’ll add some notes and links later, I just wanted to jot this down to get it off my chest, as it’s made several iterations as I’ve thought it over.

Orin Kerr has a pretty good analysis of the legal aspects of the Swartz case, which I suppose is at the root of this, if not the exact subject of.