Of Birth Certificates and Snipes

Over at Ace of Spades HQ, proprietor Ace has been fighting a rear-guard action[*1] against a renewed assault upon the gates by those who insist that There Is Something Going On with Obama’s birth certificate.

Here’s my position:

It’s a snipe hunt. (Credit to AoSHQ commenter Full Moon for the first reference to “snipe hunting.”)

Let’s break this down to the quark level of comprehension so I can demonstrate where I’m coming from. You see, I don’t know if Obama was born in Honolulu or not. By that I mean I do not have first-hand personal knowledge of the event. Therefore, I must depend on the reports of others to either confirm or deny that this event occurred.

Everybody with me so far? The consensus opinion and belief (let’s call this the null hypothesis) is that yes, indeed, Obama was born on August 4, 1964 in Honolulu, Hawaii. This is supported by contemporaneous newspaper reports[*2] in addition to certain documents (the authenticity of which have been disputed by some.)

The alternate hypothesis is that Obama was born somewhere else.

Everybody still with me? Because I’m about to pivot a bit.

Now, there are actually two issues involved here: what is actually true, and what people believe is true. These two things are not the same thing.

Between the two, the thing which is important in the world of politics is what people believe is true. Belief is supported by, but not dependent on facts. This statement is what pretty much all of religious thought is based on–the power of belief. Belief is very, very powerful.

(Please note that both “Obama was born in Honolulu” and “Obama was not born in Honolulu” are beliefs for almost everybody who discusses the issue–very, very few people have first-hand knowledge of the event. I am talking about both beliefs here.)

Once a belief is accepted by people, it is very hard to change. People do not like to admit mistakes in any circumstance. And once a mistaken belief becomes a part of someone’s core view of the world, it becomes especially hard to dislodge–indeed, it becomes almost impossible to disabuse a person of a mistaken belief that has been internalized to the point of being a primary part of their personality.

(Still with me, I hope, although you’re starting to get nervous, aren’t you?)

Now, how do you go about changing a belief? There are two main ways in history that this has occurred: conversion by the sword, and the displacement of the belief by overwhelming contrary evidence.

I think we can all agree that conversion by the sword is probably not a road any reasonable person wants to go down.

That leaves the method of overwhelming contrary evidence, as the only available method of displacing a mistaken belief.

Now, let’s assume for the moment that the alternate hypothesis above is true, that Obama was not in fact born in Honolulu. We are faced with the fact that most people still hold the contrary belief, in the face of a determined campaign by the advocates of the alternate hypothesis to convince them. So, the question becomes: what will constitute sufficient contrary evidence to disprove the null hypothesis and accept the alternate hypothesis as true?

This is not a question that people who already accept the alternate hypothesis are well positioned to answer. But let’s try to narrow down what might constitute that sufficient contrary evidence.

First, we must recognize that some people will remain “true believers” in the null hypothesis, despite any contrary evidence. There is nothing that anyone can say which will convince them that they have been mistaken in their belief. Obama is “their guy” and they will stick with him to the very end.

My guess is that many reasonable people who currently accept the null hypothesis would change their belief to the alternate hypothesis if a doctor came forward–let’s say from Vancouver, B.C., with a certified Canadian birth certificate in hand–testifying with documentation that Obama was in fact born outside the U.S.

The gray area is between those two poles. Long form? Short form? Certificate of Live Birth vs. Birth Certificate? Detailed forensic examination of Powerpoint images of the foregoing? Where is the “smoking gun?” Is there an “event horizon” where enough people flip their beliefs, such that the null hypothesis becomes the alternate hypothesis and vice versa–where a majority of people believe that Obama was not in fact born in Hawaii?

And what happens then?

If you demonstrate that he wasn’t born in Hawaii without conclusively demonstrating an alternate location, what have you achieved, exactly? You’ve demonstrated that Obama is a liar. But he’s been lying for a very long time about a lot of things, so the revelation that he’s lied about his backstory would not really tell us anything new about him, would it?

Meanwhile, what would this additional confirmation of Obama’s dishonesty cost?

This very post is a demonstration of the cost.

Time. And effort.

Time and effort that could be spent educating people–not on the subtleties of Obama’s documents, but on exactly how and why this country has painted itself into a fiscal corner from which the extraction will be incredibly painful, but not as painful as letting things continue to go down the “progressive” path that has led us to this state.

There are so very, very many things that people believe that are not true.

That the value of something is associated with how much work you put into it (the value of something is nothing more or less than what somebody else will give you in trade for it.)

That the rich (in the United States, anyway) got that way primarily by stealing from the poor. (They get that way by producing things other people value–see above.)

That the poor are that way primarily because the rich exploit them. (They are poor because they can’t or won’t produce enough things that other people value–see above.)

That you can spend your way out of debt.

That “profit” is bad. (Profit is the indication that you have produced something that other people value. Its other name is “wealth.”)

That governments are capable of “investing.” (Investments are expenditures made the purpose of generating profit. It is a vile abuse of language to call government expenditures “investments.”)

That a central bureau can more efficiently distribute society’s resources than the organic, self-correcting market. (This is the “information problem.” No person can assign the value that others put on any good or service–people are individuals and everybody values everything just a bit differently. These differences must necessarily be ignored in any attempt to direct economic activity from “on high,” and that attempt instantaneously results in a permanent loss of economic efficiency and the total wealth of the individuals in society.)

That government interventions in market economies are not the single largest factor in causing “market failures”–specifically, that the Federal Reserve and government policies did not cause and deepen the Great Depression, and that the current economic troubles were not fueled and exacerbated by government policies to encourage people to buy houses who could not afford to do so. (See above, the Information Problem, and the automatic introduction of inefficiencies by government interventions in market activities.)

That health care is a “right.” (Which implies that other people have an obligation to serve your needs–there is a word for this. The word is “slavery.” Anybody who says “health care is a right” is advocating involuntary servitude, something which Americans have already fought one Civil War to end in this country.)

I could go on, but you get the idea. The correct understanding of how humans interact with one another to create an “economy” is far, far, far more important and will create a far more lasting impact on human happiness and well-being than the dogged pursuit of “the real story” of Obama’s origin.

A snipe is a bird. They really exist. You can hunt them, if you really want to.

But a snipe hunt is something different. Ace of Spades HQ commenter ErikW accurately described what a snipe hunt usually consists of:

Snipe hunts are a rite of passage in my neck of the woods.

When boys reach puberty, the old guys set up a big night for the Snipe Hunt! A big bonfire is lit and good food is BBQ’d.

You are given a flashlight and a brown paper bag. To catch the snipe, you have to run through the woods yelling, “SNIPE, SNIPE!” because that’s what lures them to you. At that point, you pounce on them with the paper bag.

Of course that never happens and the old guys who have been drinking beer are laughing their ass off when you come back pissed off and realize that you’ve been had.

Just like it doesn’t really matter that there actually are birds called snipes, it really doesn’t matter if Obama’s birth certificate is forged or not. Advocates of birth certificate theories need to ponder the fact that Obama is fond of discussing “distractions” to his agenda. In fact, almost everything that his opponents say is immediately branded a “distraction.”

Now, notice exactly who it is who is keeping the birth certificate issue in the public eye.

It is not the “right-wing” Fox News. More than any other network, it is hard-left MSNBC. MSNBC, which has been documented to be coordinating closely with the Obama Administration on its reporting. Why do you suppose that would be?

Every day, the Democrats wake up and begin thinking of more ways to try and make their political opponents look like fools. They are vulnerable on the facts regarding the economy, and they know it. Their “progressive” policies do not work. They have never worked. They only appeared to work all through the 20th Century because we were so wealthy that it masked how utterly wrong-headed and contrary to simple common sense “progressivism” really is. They have no honest intellectual arguments left to support their position. All they have left is invective, intimidation, and misdirection. That’s what a snipe hunt is–misdirection. A distraction. Something to make their opponents appear foolish to the great middle of the population who really aren’t paying that much attention.

You are not required to play along with their snipe hunt, however.

Consider Sun Tsu:

Cause division among them.

The important thing in a military operation is victory, not persistence.

Those who know when to fight and when not to fight are victorious. . . Those whose upper and lower ranks have the same desire are victorious.

To unfailingly take what you attack, attack where there is no defense. For unfailingly secure defense, defend where there is no attack.

Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent’s fate.

If you do not know the plans of your competitors, you cannot make informed alliances.

Therefore the considerations of the intelligent always include both benefit and harm. As they consider benefit, their work can expand, as they consider harm, their troubles can be resolved.

Those who come seeking peace without a treaty are plotting.

When you can go but have a hard time getting back, you are said to be hung up. On this type of terrain, if the opponent is unprepared, you will prevail if you go forth, but if the enemy is prepared, if you go forth and do not prevail you will have a hard time getting back, to your disadvantage.

When you traverse mountain forests, steep defiles, marshes, or any route difficult to travel, this is called bad ground.

If your ultimate goal is the defeat of the “progressive” agenda, then you must answer the question: does the advocacy of the birth certificate issue advance that goal as much as any other alternate activity you might be pursuing? What would Sun Tsu counsel?

Look, it’s a Snipe! Hey, Snipe! Snipe! Snipe! Snipe!

ERRATA: changed “EricW” to “ErikW”.

More on that “fairness” thing

From Veronique de Rugy at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center[*1] , who apparently had some time on her hands this weekend. Two graphs:

So, tell me again how the richest Americans somehow aren’t paying “their fair share?” The top 20% of taxpayers are already the only segment of Americans who paying more by percentage in income taxes than they’re making in income. They’re already paying 67% of the bills, but only make 53% of the money.

The “progressives” are right. This isn’t fair. But not the way that they want you to believe.

The rich pay more. That makes everybody else, to some extent, freeloaders, riding in the big wagon of the U.S. economy but not pulling their weight by paying taxes equivalent to what they’re earning.

Unless “fair” somehow doesn’t mean that everyone should pay for our government according to their ability to pay. Strange how “progressives”/Democrats don’t even believe in the classic Marxist saying “from each according to their ability, to each according to their need.” They apparently believe only in the second half of that construction, and to hell with the part about “from each according to their ability.”

“Mission Accomplished: 2016”

China’s economy will surpass the U.S. in 2016[*1]

According to the IMF (International Monetary Fund–filbert) forecast, whomever is elected U.S. president next year — Obama? Mitt Romney? Donald Trump? — will be the last to preside over the world’s largest economy.

Most people aren’t prepared for this. They aren’t even aware it’s that close. Listen to experts of various stripes, and they will tell you this moment is decades away. The most bearish will put the figure in the mid-2020s.

Considering that China has 1,200 million people and the USA has 320 million or thereabouts, on the face of it, that China’s domestic economy would at some point exceed the American economy is not itself unthinkable.

But what we see is that China, despite the shackles, impediments and restrictions imposed by their authoritarian government, is totally committed to economic growth, while the current American government shows over and over again that what it is totally committed to is feathering the nests of their cronies, and protecting the political fiefdoms and special government benefits of their special interest groups. The one thing that the current regime in Washington is NOT focused on is national economic growth.

Despite what some overeducated East Coast deep-thinkers may deeply think, this is not evidence of the quintessential superiority of the Chinese neo-Communist command-economy dictatorship “model.” It is evidence of the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of the American “progressive” elites.

But, in 2016, the globalist/internationalists in the “progressive” left, lead by their standard-bearer, Obama, can declare “Mission Accomplished.” They have finally achieved their decades-long goal of bringing America back into the “community of nations.”

Reward them appropriately in November, 2012. And in every subsequent election thereafter until they disabuse themselves of the “progressive” fantasy–or they fantasize themselves to historical oblivion.

How does $67,200 a year sound?

That’s how much we are spending on welfare programs, based on a family of four–$16,800 per person. That was in 2008, according to the Heritage Institute, as reported in the Forbes Magazine[*1] . We’re spending more now.

What’s that you say? Poor people aren’t anywhere near that much money? Well, no, I guess they’re not. Where’s all that money going then, if it’s not getting to the people we’re supposed to be helping?

Is there maybe a reason why Washington, DC is the richest metropolitan area in the country[*2] ?

Maybe it would make more sense to eliminate all of the dizzying number of government giveaway programs, and just institute a Department Of Cutting Checks To Poor People, and be done with it. It would be cheaper for the productive people, the poor would wind up getting more money. The only people such a move would hurt would be the government bureaucrats–and the politicians who live by taking money from people then turning around and buying their votes with it.

Re-focus society on using religious and charitable organizations to assist people–this strengthens those organizations, this strengthens the people they help, this strengthens all of society by binding us together in a way government can never, ever do.

The old, “progressive” ways do not work. That is obvious now to anyone with eyes to see. We need to start finding a new way.

An Easter Conversation

Hillbuzz[*1] asked for suggestions about how to discuss politics at the table, this Easter holiday. Here’s my suggestion:

You: “Wow, everything seems like such a mess. What are we going to do to fix things?”

Other Person: “I dunno. Make the rich pay their fair share.”

You: “Well, yeah, you’re right, everybody should pull their own weight. But that brings up the next question–what’s fair? According to information released by the IRS (and compiled by the Tax Foundation),[*2] the top 1% of American taxpayers earn 20% of the money but pay nearly 40% of the taxes. The top 5% earn 35% of all earned income, but pay 58% of all income taxes. The top 50% of all earners earn 87% of the income, and pay 97% of the taxes, which means the bottom 50% earns 13% of the income but only pay 3% of the taxes.

“The three biggest government programs other than national defense–Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, mostly benefit the poorer people, because the richer people don’t usually need them. So, poor people pay the least and get the most, and rich people pay the most and get the least. So, you know, we get back to the question–what’s fair?”

Other Person: “Well, all that’s well and good, but the rich are getting richer!”

You: “Actually, no, they’re not, according to the latest statistics from the Treasury Bureau,[*3] they took a hit just like everybody else in the country–since 1996, the median household income of the very top earners went down, not up. But even it it were true that the rich were getting richer, is that really a bad thing? It’s not like Monopoly–the rich getting richer doesn’t mean that everybody else is getting poorer. It’s not a zero-sum game. What do you suppose the rich do with their money? They want to earn more money, usually, which for almost all rich people means that they invest it in for-profit companies–companies that make things, companies that give people jobs, companies that will make more money for the rich people. When you take money away from rich people, you make it harder for them to invest and harder for them to give people jobs. That doesn’t sound very compassionate to me, and I know you’re a pretty nice person, so you wouldn’t want to make it harder to make jobs, would you?”

Other Person: *sputters, probably goes negative/emotional on you* -or, if somewhat rational, comes back with- “Well, then, what do YOU think we should do?”

You: Well, it would be nice if we could start giving incentives to people to invest in companies, to go to work, to really improve themselves, rather than paying off political cronies and politically-correct companies, and bailing out failing companies–let them fail!–and start working on getting our government programs working on preparing people to find something they’re good at and getting them doing that, earning their own way, being productive. There will always be those who we’ll have to help, but we need to be realistic about it. People have to pull their own weight–rich people and everybody else.”

(From here on out, you’re on your own)

The Whip, April 16, 2011

I’m going to (attempt to, once again) shut down the daily drip-drip-drip of the political/economic/world news, including and especially the daily recitation of the fundamental stupidity of Obama and the Washington Democrats. That stupidity is readily apparent to any rational, thinking person who bothers to pay attention, and it is useless to try to reach people who are not paying attention, who are irrational, and who do not choose to think. I have little patience with such people even when I am in the best of moods, anyway.

So, I’m going to focus future Whips more on descriptions and apologia for classical liberalism, along with links to sports, science/science fiction/writing, and other miscellaneous articles I come across that amuse me for one reason or another.

I’ve said all I really need to say about the political situation here. Additionally, author Larry Correla expands and extends many of my thoughts, perhaps more coherently and slightly less angrily than my post does. That’s why this post is:


. . .I’d like to talk about our nation’s current budget issues. You see, we face difficult times, and our noble president says that we are just going to need to give up just a little more.


Government can’t balance a checkbook. They’re idiots. I know finance math. I do it for a living. And when I look at the numbers involved here, (and the interest!) it makes my head swim. Okay, for you non-accountants, when they start bandying numbers about on the news of 4 trillion such and such, and a hundred billion this and that, I know that your eyes glaze over. You think to yourself, “Oh, it is just the same old same old, bunch of politicians spending too much money, blah blah blah.”


Saying that this is the same old same old, is like saying that gophers digging up your lawn is the same level of disaster as Krakatoa. Over the last couple of years we’ve reached a whole new level of crazy. Our spending has gone insane. We’re spending more money, faster, than all of mankind, throughout all of recorded human history. Economists aren’t sure what’s going to happen, because this has never happened before. Ever. On Earth. We’ve strayed into strange new territory here and there are many possible outcomes if we don’t stray the hell back out. And don’t for a second think that any of those possible outcomes are remotely good. No. They range somewhere between the Great Depression and Mad Max.

Bee Stung [*2] — Most people will do as little as possible in order to get by. This is human nature. This is also why people vote for Democrats. This is also why all of the Democrats’ social policy schemes are doomed to failure. Eventually–and sometimes it takes quite a while–you run out of other people’s money.

Big Blog on Campus [*3] — I find it interesting that of the six academnid blogs profiled by the New York Times, most could easily be considered essentially classical-liberal in outlook.

Wealth Is What You Save, Not What You Spend [*4]

Letters From An Ohio Farmer— A series of articles in the spirit of the Federalist Papers:A Constitutional Conversation [*5]
An Experiment in Self-Government [*6]
Civility and Powers [*7]

Reconstitutionalizing America [*8]

A Boundless Field of Power [*9]

Capacities of Mankind [*10]

America and the World [*11]

“A Republican Form of Government” [*12]

Selected Excerpts from Letters From An Ohio Farmer:

This constitution in our American souls expressed itself in a small way recently in our expectation and gratification that members of Congress should take an oath to uphold the Constitution. This is an oath of fidelity to the Constitution, and not to us, the people. Our high regard for this oath, it seems to me, is the sovereign people’s way of telling our representatives that we expect you to be somewhat independent of us, that we think good government depends upon it.

Put simply, in our Constitution the branches are separate, but they are not equal: the vast preponderance of federal authority is delegated to Congress, which is without question the preeminent branch under the Constitution. One reason this may not be as obvious as it should be just by reading the Constitution is that, over the last fifty years, the separation of powers has tilted a bit out of constitutional balance. The presidential and judicial branches have become assertive and bold in articulating the national agenda, and Congress has largely deferred to this (or to the bureaucracy), sometimes in an effort to avoid difficult or potentially unpopular actions.

(Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s) rhetorical question—“Are you serious?”—was, of course, meant not to begin but to end conversation. Such contemptuous dismissal of citizens’ serious concern about constitutionality made many voters indignant last November, and they carried their well justified indignation with them to the ballot box. The arrogant contempt continued in the sniffing dismissals that greeted the new Congress’s show of respect for the Constitution. This arrogance comes from a belief that is held to be unquestionable. This is the belief that the New Deal irrevocably transformed America into a country whose central government has the authority to address any social or economic problem, and to mandate or proscribe any individual conduct plausibly related to alleviating that problem. To the former Speaker and those who agree with her, it is preposterous—mind-boggling—that any 21st century American should presume to question this article of faith. The same arrogant incredulity struts and postures angrily in Wisconsin and Ohio and other states where public employee unions and their advocates in the media assert a right to collective bargaining that is somehow supposed to be regarded as sacred and beyond question.

It is true, as I remarked in my last letter, that with the entrenching and expanding of the New Deal and the Great Society, America has reached a point where “the federal government can do just about anything it wants, and can do it just about any way it wants.” Our progressive politicians and intellectuals insist that this condition is irreversible—beyond serious question. The movement of American politics over the past two years seems to be proving that this is not the case. And so the progressive insistence that the question is closed gets louder and more desperate. Just opening the question is a significant achievement, though it leaves much statesman’s work still to do—as Hamilton and Jefferson teach us. We can learn much from both of them as we continue to recover the kind of constitutional reasoning these letters hope to help restore to governing in our country.

Proclaiming that all men everywhere and at all times possess by nature equal rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, the American founders undertook the historic effort to secure these rights, so far as they thought they could then be secured, to a small people at a particular place and time. They were acutely conscious of the limits of their ability to secure these rights. When they were able to establish a “more perfect union” they understood full well how far from perfection they remained. It was all the new republic could do in the first century of its existence to keep the American experiment in freedom from failing miserably at home while other less fortunate experiments struggled to give birth to freedom in other parts of the world.

In the course of its history, the American people have many times fallen beneath the high standards they set for themselves at the beginning. They have strayed from those principles, and they have forgotten them, and become confused about them, and allowed misunderstood self-interest to obscure them. Our own experience has confirmed for us that democracy requires more of its citizens than any other form of government and that it is no accident that history provides so few examples of successful and enduring democracies.

Our deliberations will be well served by reflecting that the American founders thought the best thing Americans could do for the rest of the world was to succeed in our own experiment in freedom. As the founders thought of it, the American cause—the cause of liberty— is the cause of mankind. If we could show by the success of our experiment that free government could be good government, this would be the greatest gift Americans could give to their fellow human beings—our own political well being would be a constant act of philanthropy. America’s success would be cause for all men to rejoice. By the same token, failure of the American experiment in freedom would “deserve to be considered as the general misfortune of mankind.”

Madison argued that the great danger was a faction comprising a majority of the electorate – whether united by a sectional, commercial, or religious interest – because it could operate democratically, winning a series of free and fair elections, even while disdaining the concerns and curtailing the rights of all citizens not belonging to that faction. He was more sanguine about a faction comprising a minority of the citizenry, because, he thought, the majority would be able to “defeat its sinister views by regular vote,” rendering the faction “unable to execute and mask its violence under the forms of the Constitution.”

Here Madison may have been too optimistic. The lessons of recent American politics suggest that minority factions can be more dangerous than he imagined. The modern phenomenon he failed to anticipate was a government entrusted with so many responsibilities, and so much power and money, that it becomes a faction unto itself, with its own passions and interests adverse to the rights of other citizens.

The number and complexity of the issues being managed by government, at all levels, reach a point where the regular vote of the majority no longer prevails against the government faction.

Government employees, protected by strong unions and formidable civil service rules, have become an especially powerful and, in many cases, especially dangerous faction.

Guaranteeing every state a republican form of government appears to be one of the Constitution’s less difficult assignments. The harder part is to make sure that American government at every level is republican not just in form but in content. Are the people’s elected representatives in charge of the government, or do life-tenured civil servants constitute a permanent government, one that can humor voters and legislators with token concessions, knowing it has all the expertise and time needed to out-maneuver and out-last intrusive voters and their representatives?

We know from the relentless demonstrations in the streets of the Wisconsin city named after James Madison that the permanent government will go to great lengths to defend its prerogatives. Will the citizenry do what is necessary to reclaim its sovereign control over the res publica – the matters that properly belong to the public?

Jackrabbit softball adds three [*13]

Royals hang on to beat Mariners 6-5 [*14]

A Hero Returns To The Skies [*15]

Science fiction belongs to all nations of the world [*16]

China bans time travel for television [*17]

Is steampunk running out of puff? [*18]

10 Science Fiction and Fantasy Books That Should Be Movies[*19]

47 Years of Doctor Who in 6 Minutes [*20]

The Roots of Racism: Will we ever get beyond the notion of racial identity? [*21]