The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Posts Tagged ‘Hussein’

Addressing Birthers: Turning the Tables and Outright Mockery

Posted by mattusmaximus on May 24, 2012

In the last few days, the political process in the great state of Arizona has been made a mockery of by one of its own highest elected officials, Arizona secretary of state Ken Bennett.  That’s because Bennett mentioned last week in an interview that due to “outstanding questions” regarding President Obama’s citizenship, he might have to withold Obama from the Arizona ballot in November’s presidential election.  He stated that while he personally believed that Obama is a U.S. citizen, he also had a duty to “investigate” because he kept getting emails (about 1200 of them) demanding proof of Obama’s citizenship.  Essentially, a bunch of birther conspiracy theorists pestered Bennett, and he went off on this fool’s errand as a way of appeasing these nutbags in the base of his own Republican party.

But the joke’s on Bennett, because not only did the state of Hawaii address his concerns (by providing solid evidence, yet again, that proves Obama was born in the U.S.), but it did so by turning the tables on Bennett and his fellow birthers:

Hawaii’s Now Asking Birthers to Prove Who They Are

Ken Bennett, Arizona’s secretary of state, is the latest person to question the President’s birthplace, although he’s doing it the way people do when they want to call it into question but don’t want to seem like a loon. Bennett, a Republican who perhaps coincidentally is planning to run for governor in 2014, said on a radio show last week that he’s looking into the issue, and that it’s “possible” he might keep Obama off the Arizona ballot in 2012, not because he thinks the President isn’t a “natural-born citizen” but because some other people say they think that and so he’s gotta look into it. …

… In the meantime, though, he’s just waiting (apart from his other secretarial duties) for Hawaii officials to provide verification. He said on the show that he was puzzled it took them eight weeks to respond to his request, and when they did respond they still didn’t give him what he wanted.

Instead, they asked him to prove who he was:

On Thursday, Bennett said he sent his request to Hawaii officials eight weeks ago but has yet to get the proof he was hoping for…. In the weeks since then, Bennett said, Hawaii officials have forced him to provide proof that he is who he says he is. They asked him to send them copies of the Arizona laws that prove the secretary of state really is the person in charge of handling the ballots. Admittedly, Bennett said they told him they were “tired of all the requests.” But he is continuing anyway.

Oh my, that’s embarrassing!

This is why, whenever I get into a discussion with birthers, I first insist that they prove – to my satisfaction – that they are citizens of the United States by giving me a copy of their birth certificate.  You can just imagine how happy they are to hear their own stupid arguments turned back at them :)

But it gets even better.  Apparently, Bennett was using the fact that he received so many requests (about 1200 or so via email) about President Obama’s citizenship as justification for this colossal waste of time and resources.  So how can one respond to such a wimpy excuse for backpeddling out of such a dumb position?  Answer: outright mockery…

Mitt Romney: Is He a Unicorn? More Than 17,000 People Want Ken Bennett to Find Out

Is GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney a businessman? Or is he really a unicorn?
At the time of this post, more than 17,000 people would like Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett to find out.
In response to the 1,200 “birthers” who asked Bennett to verify with the state of Hawaii — yet again — that President Obama has a birth certificate there, the left-wingers would also like Bennett to check out their conspiracy theory.
“I understand you are considering kicking President Obama off the ballot because some people continue to raise questions about his birth,” the petition to Bennett says. “Well, I believe it cannot be proven conclusively that Mitt Romney is *not* a unicorn. A unicorn would not be qualified to be president. Thus, I hope you will apply the same standard to Romney, and investigate the unicorn question.”
Indeed, Romney has never denied being a unicorn, and the left-wingers say it’s possible Romney’s hair could be covering up a unicorn horn. …

Ridiculous?  Of course it is – but that’s the whole point!  Once you have set the bar so low by trying to kowtow to the level of birther conspiracy mongering, you might as well open the door to ludicrous inquiries such as that above about the Romney-Unicorn.

Congratulations, Mr. Bennett!  You’ve earned this:

Posted in conspiracy theories, politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Putting “Birther” Stupidity Into Context: President Obama Gets Osama Bin Laden

Posted by mattusmaximus on May 2, 2011

This image, which seems to be getting spread around the Internet, puts the entire stupidity of the conspiracy-mongering “birther” movement into context…

‘Nuff said :)

Posted in conspiracy theories, humor, politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Laughing at Birther Conspiracy Theorists: Stephen Colbert Combines Humor & Skepticism

Posted by mattusmaximus on April 30, 2011

In a hilarious example of calling the bluff of the conspiracy-mongering, reality-challenged, walking hairpiece that is Donald Trump (along with all of his “birther” buddies), President Obama produced his long-form birth certificate.  Of course, Obama’s U.S. citizenship was solidly established long, long ago (as clearly outlined at this Snopes.com link), but the birthers kept on moving the goalposts and making ever-more crazy demands for evidence.

Now that President Obama has provided his long-form birth certificate, you can expect the birthers to move the goalposts once again and go even further down the rabbit-hole (in true conspiracy theorist fashion).  In fact, to give you a sense of what is likely to come, satirist Stephen Colbert quite effectively skewers Donald Trump & the entire birther movement – enjoy! :)

**Follow-up: In an astonishing example of moving the goalposts & special pleading, like I mentioned above, take a look at what the “Queen of the Birthers” – Orly Taitz – has to say to journalist Lawrence O’Donnell when he directly challenges her on the fact that President Obama produced the very birth certificate she has for so long demanded.  This is utterly amazing, and it gives a clear view into the twisted mind of a dedicated, true-believing conspiracy theorist.  Wow…

Posted in conspiracy theories, humor, politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Donald Trump & Birtherism: How to Argue with Birthers?

Posted by mattusmaximus on April 12, 2011

Lately, billionaire & bad-hair aficionado Donald Trump has been getting a lot of press by going around the talk show circuit and making references to the supposedly “questionable status” of President Obama’s U.S. citizenship.  In case you didn’t know, there is a name for this particular brand of reality-denying conspiracy mongering: birtherism. (And, just for the record in case you didn’t know, President Obama is a natural born U.S. citizen ;) )

And, yes, it seems that – for whatever reason – Donald Trump has jumped aboard the birther crazy train.  I don’t know if this is for him to gain traction among the hardcore conservative base of the Republican party (a whopping 51% of whom believe President Obama wasn’t born in the United States!) before announcing a bid for the presidency or if it could all just be a publicity stunt in order to get Trump more face-time with the media (and therefore, more money).  Whatever the reason, one thing is clear: the media has swallowed Trump’s line of codswallop hook, line, and sinker.

And there’s the rub, folks.  By the mere fact that the media is giving all of this attention to Trump in the first place, in a sick sort of way it gives him (and, by extension, his nutty “birther” claims) a kind of validity.  The best thing the media could do is to simply ignore this kind of nonsense; there should be no “fair & balanced” reporting on this issue, because those who continue to peddle this stupid conspiracy theory are dead, flat wrong.  To steal a phrase from Christopher Hitchens, Trump and his birther buddies are not the kind of people that should be taken seriously at all; in fact, they’re the kind of people who should be spouting their lunacy out on the streets while they sell pencils from a tin cup!

So the best thing the media could do, if they were interested in covering real news stories instead of sensationalistic garbage, is to tell Trump to take a hike.

Now, if you are confronted by a birther and there is no way to avoid the conversation with them, how should you engage them?  I have one piece of advice on this, and – thus far – it has never failed me.  Tell them that in order for them to have a valid opinion on the issue of President Obama’s citizenship, they must first prove, using their own standards of evidence, their own status as a natural born U.S. citizen.  In short, they must provide to you the following:

1.  Their original birth certificate.
2. A newspaper clipping that highlights their birth.
3. Records proving that their mother was present in America at the time of birth.
4. Investigations from multiple fact-checking organizations that have held the documents with their own hands to verify that the documents from #1-3 exist and are authentic.
5. A press release by at least two officials within the state of birth, verifying that these records are on file.

After the birther has provided said evidence, which seems to sum up the current standard of evidence which they demand that President Obama provide, then tell them they can go on and spin their claims all they want.

Every time I have confronted a birther with this line of argumentation, the result is universally the same: they either ignore the challenge, get angry about you questioning their “patriotism”, or they scuttle away to hide under the nearest rock.  And if they get offended and/or try to run away or change the subject, hit them with this one: “Why won’t you provide this evidence?  What are you hiding?!!” (cue spooky music :) )

Try it sometime.  You’ll find the results very revealing somewhat entertaining, too.  Perhaps the next time Donald Trump is on television, the next media personality to interview him will have some real balls and ask him to put up or shut up.

Posted in conspiracy theories, media woo, politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

The Shooting of Congresswoman Giffords & Skepticism When It’s Needed Most

Posted by mattusmaximus on January 12, 2011

I’ve waited a few days before making this post, partly because I wanted to give myself some time to reflect and partly because I wanted to see if cooler & more rational heads would prevail.  Of course, from the title, you can see that I’m making some remarks concerning the horrific shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Arizona this past Saturday.  As we all know by now, the shooter – Jared Loughner – not only shot Giffords point-blank in the head, severely wounding her, but others were killed (including a 9 year-old girl & a federal judge) and many more were wounded.

Events moved fast on Saturday, and – in some cases – the media moved even faster, sometimes to the point of even getting major parts of the story wrong in a misguided effort to “get it first.”  For example, you can see how some outlets, such as National Public Radio, mistakenly reported that Rep. Giffords had died in the attack. But that isn’t the most unnerving thing…

Like many, I was shocked & dismayed when I heard the news, and I immediately went to the Internet to read more… and what I read shocked & dismayed me even more.  Within an hour of the reporting of the event, I saw all manner of accusations being slung around.  This pointing of fingers had a decidedly political slant on it, with some liberals blaming the Tea Party rhetoric and “loose gun laws” for the actions of the shooter, while some conservatives insisted that the killer “must have been an illegal immigrant” or that it “had to be a set up to make Republicans look bad.”  Not only that, but I saw that conspiracy theories were being spun faster than you could say “9/11 coverup”.

I decided to go to one of my favorite skeptical online forums – the JREF Forum – to discuss the situation, and I was sadly disappointed to find that the behavior among many of my so-called skeptical colleagues was no better than that which I saw elsewhere online.  Take a look at the JREF thread on the topic, and you’ll see what I mean.

One of the things which seemed lacking during the chaos of my Saturday afternoon, much of which was spent in online discourse & surfing the Web for news of the incident, was a willingness to step back, apply some basic critical thinking, and wait for reliable information from the proper authorities to come to light.  It was, and still is in many ways, a time of great fear, anxiety, and uncertainty, and – unfortunately – in such times all too many of us will succumb to extraordinary arguments from ignorance in an attempt to fill in the gaps in our knowledge.  I lost my cool a bit and said some pretty rough things, some of which I share here:

… Especially in this politically charged environment, the last thing we need to go doing right now is jumping to conclusions, pointing fingers at “the other side”, and basically engaging in rampant & irresponsible confirmation bias. From what I’ve seen on this thread so far, there are way too many so-called skeptics displaying blatant irrationality in this regard – you should be better than that. …

In addition to other criticisms, some people mentioned a very dubious argument in response.  They stated something to the effect that “when a politician gets shot, what reason for it is there besides politics?”  Of course, facts can be stubborn things, and I responded with a very important fact: that when President Reagan was shot in 1981 by John Hinckley, Jr., Hinckley’s motivation wasn’t political; instead, he was attempting to assassinate the President as a way of gaining the attention of actress Jodie Foster, with whom he was disturbingly obsessed.  Therefore, it is well within the realm of possibility that what motivated Jared Loughner’s actions is entirely non-political.

What this shows is, in my view, the fact that there is nothing inherently special about those who label themselves as “skeptics”.  We are irrational & emotional creatures just like the rest of humanity, and in times of great stress we also feel the sometimes overwhelming pressure to dismiss our better, more rational natures in a desperate attempt to grab onto something, anything which seems like it might provide us with some measure of comfort.  But, as we skeptics are wont to say, simply because something feels right doesn’t mean it’s real.  And thus, simply because there are those who view the world through an overly-political lens doesn’t mean that reality conforms to that view.

And now, as I write these words, it seems that we still don’t have any idea exactly why it is that Jared Loughner went on a rampage, spilling blood and scaring a nation.  The suspect himself isn’t talking, early indications from the investigation point to Loughner having some kind of mental instability.  Unfortunately, without more information, we may never really know why he did what he did.

In closing, I want to share with you some very important words from Jon Stewart of The Daily Show regarding this tragedy and how people are reacting to it. These are the most mature, rational, and – yes – skeptical words I’ve heard uttered on the matter, and I hope that we all take them to heart:

Posted in politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Birthers Plan to Target GOP Congress-Critters

Posted by mattusmaximus on August 2, 2009

I recently posted about how the birther conspiracy theorists have started to gain a higher profile in the media. In that post I also lamented about how such a group of hardcore rightwing conspiracy mongers could threaten to push the Republican party into dangerously extreme territory and how that would be bad for the United States as a nation.

Well, it seems that my fears were at least somewhat founded, because during the August recess the birthers are planning to target GOP Congressmen & women in their nutty campaign…

GOP headache: The birther issue

As GOP Rep. Mike Castle learned the hard way back home in Delaware this month, there’s no easy way to deal with the small but vocal crowd of right-wing activists who refuse to believe that President Barack Obama was born in the United States.

At a town hall meeting in Georgetown, a woman demanded to know why Castle and his colleagues were “ignoring” questions about Obama’s birth certificate — questions that have been put to rest repeatedly by state officials in Hawaii, where the birth certificate and all other credible evidence show that Obama was born in Honolulu on Aug. 4, 1961.

When Castle countered that Obama is, in fact, “a citizen of the United States,” the crowd erupted in boos, the woman seized control of the gathering and led a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. The video went viral; by Sunday, it had been viewed on YouTube more than half a million times.

And birthers say members should expect more of the same in the coming weeks.

“Absolutely,” says California resident Orly Taitz, the Russian-born attorney/dentist who has become a kind of ringleader for the movement. “It is a very important issue, one that politicians should have taken up a long time ago.”

Moments after speaking with POLITICO Saturday, Taitz posted a call to arms on her blog:

“I believe it is a serious concern and I hope that each and every decent American comes to town hall meetings with a video camera and demands action,” she wrote.

So there you have it.  While the country struggles with all manner of big problems: two wars, an ailing economy, high unemployment, and highly complex healthcare reform – these birthers are attempting to hijack one of the two major political parties with a near fundamentalist religious zeal.

I don’t know about you, but I’m going to be watching Youtube closely over the next few weeks.  This is going to get interesting, folks – like watching a train wreck in slow motion…

Posted in conspiracy theories, politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Birther’s Continue Their Conspiracy Mongering of Obama’s Citizenship

Posted by mattusmaximus on July 27, 2009

One thing that’s true of most conspiracy theories is that they never die – they may be buried for awhile, but the hardcore true believers will insure that they don’t ever quite go away.  Case in point: the ludicrous “birther” conspiracy theory that President Obama isn’t a U.S. citizen.

Recently, new life got breathed into the birther CT because of an incident which took place a couple of weeks ago at a town hall meeting with Congressman Mike Castle (R) in Delaware.  The town hall was supposed to be about health care reform, but right in the middle of it a woman derailed the entire thing as she spewed the usual birther nonsense…

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in conspiracy theories, politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

 
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