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Cat Mom
05-17-2013, 08:04 AM
I don't know where else to put this, and it seems like potential hijack drift in the General Headlines thread, but there is a LOT of stuff going on right now and I think we need a thread, to discuss?

The Biggest Obama Scandals Are Proven and Ignored (http://theatln.tc/13ASM7G)




Reuters
Prompted by Peggy Noonan's claim in The Wall Street Journal that "we are in the midst of the worst Washington scandal since Watergate," Andrew Sullivan steps forward to defend Pres. Obama's honor. "Can she actually believe this?," he asks incredulously. "Has this president broken the law, lied under oath, or authorized war crimes? Has he traded arms for hostages with Iran? Has he knowingly sent his cabinet out to tell lies about his sex life? Has he sat by idly as an American city was destroyed by a hurricane? Has he started a war with no planning for an occupation? Has he started a war based on a lie, and destroyed the US' credibility and moral standing while he was at it, leaving nothing but a smoldering and now rekindled civil sectarian war?"

An Obama critic, having overplayed her hand, gave Sullivan an opening to respond with what amounts to, "It isn't as bad as Watergate, nor as bad as George W. Bush." Let's concede those points. I don't much care what Obama's Republican critics say about him. The scandals they're presently touting, bad as two of them are, aren't even the worst of Team Obama's transgressions.

I have a stronger critique. Sullivan hasn't internalized the worst of what Obama's done, because his notion of scandal is implicitly constrained by whatever a president's partisan opponents tout as scandalous. If they criticize Obama wrongly, he defends Obama proportionately.

To see what he's forgotten as a result, let's run once more through the first questions in Sullivan's latest Obama apologia.

Has this president broken the law, lied under oath, or authorized war crimes?

Yes, President Obama has broken the law on multiple occasions. Despite clearly stating, in a 2008 questionnaire, that the commander-in-chief is not lawfully empowered to ignore treaties duly ratified by the Senate, Obama has willfully failed to enforce the torture treaty, signed by Ronald Reagan and duly ratified by the Senate, that compels him to investigate and prosecute torture. As Sullivan put it earlier this year, "what Obama and Holder have done (or rather not done) is illegal."

Obama also violated the War Powers Resolution, a law he has specifically proclaimed to be Constitutionally valid, when committing U.S. troops to Libya without Congressional approval. Or as Sullivan put it in 2011, "I'm with Conor. The war in Libya becomes illegal from now on. And the imperial presidency grows even more powerful."

On the subject of war crimes, Sullivan wrote that "Obama and attorney-general Eric Holder have decided to remain in breach of the Geneva Conventions and be complicit themselves in covering up the war crimes of their predecessors - which means, of course, that those of us who fought for Obama's election precisely because we wanted a return to the rule of law were conned." In a separate entry, he went so far as to say that Obama is "a clear and knowing accessory to war crimes, and should at some point face prosecution as well, if the Geneva Conventions mean anything any more." That seems rather farther than Noonan went in her column.

Obama has not, as Sullivan points out, traded arms for hostages with Iran, or started a war with no planning for the inevitable occupation that would follow. But there are different questions that could be asked about Obama that would perhaps be more relevant to his behavior.

Has he ordered the assassination of any American citizens in secret without due process? Did he kill any of their teenage kids without ever explaining how or why that happened?

Has he refused to reveal even the legal reasoning he used to conclude his targeted killing program is lawful?

Has he waged an unprecedented war on whistleblowers?

Has he spied on millions of innocent Americans without a warrant or probable cause?

Does he automatically count dead military-aged males killed by U.S. drones as "militants"?

Did he "sign a bill that enshrines in law the previously merely alleged executive power of indefinite detention without trial of terror suspects"?

There is more, as Sullivan knows, and it all amounts to a scandalous presidency, even if it happens that few Republicans care about the most scandalous behavior, and have instead spent years now obsessing about Benghazi. The IRS scandal and Department of Justice leak-investigation excesses are worrisome, but the biggest scandals definitely go all the way to the top, and are still largely ignored even by commentators who have acknowledged that they're happening. Sullivan has noted the stories as they broke, and seemed, for fleeting moments, to confront their gravity, noting the violation of very serious laws, and even once stating that Obama deserves to be prosecuted! Yet in response to Noonan, he writes, "So far as I can tell, this president has done nothing illegal, unethical or even wrong." How inexplicably they forget.

And Sullivan is hardly alone. At the New York Times, Mother Jones, The New Yorker, and beyond, exceptional journalists take great care to document alarming abuses against the rule of law, the separation of powers, transparency, and human rights perpetrated by the Obama Administration. On a given subject, the coverage leaves me awed and proud to be part of the same profession. But when it comes time for synthesis, bad heuristics take over. Confronted with the opportunism and absurdity of the GOP, Obama's sins are forgiven, as if he should be graded on a curve. His sins are forgotten, as if "this president has done nothing illegal, unethical or even wrong."

Yes. He. Has.

ambergris
05-17-2013, 11:06 AM
Well, the stories that are supposed to be scandals either aren't true (Benghazi) or not the responsibility of the White House (IRS), and the stories that should be scandals aren't, because they either didn't break the law (AP - thanks to the Patriot Act) or noone is willing to turn them into stories (Bush torture program, drones).

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/05/16/the-scandals-are-falling-apart/

Peggy Noonan would rather not (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/04/21/feingold-unloads-on-peggy_n_189473.html) talk about the Bush torture program. Andrew Sullivan would rather not (http://www.theatlantic.com/daily-dish/archive/2010/10/a-response-to-a-roast-a-fifth-column-apology/181356/) talk about the legitimacy about certain wars and Conor Friedersdorf is preparing to make the inevitable argument for why libertarians should vote for Rand Paul, not Hillary Clinton in 2016.

DVYDRNS
05-17-2013, 12:54 PM
Everybody thought Obama would be their savior. and he took advantage of that while he threw everybody under the bus while distracting you with stupid things that shouldnt have been an issue in the first place.

Oh good now Gay People can get married. Thats fine. Doesnt affect me one bit. Doesnt affect you. Unless your gay, So good for you. But overall who cares. Never should have been an issue in the first place. Let people do what they want to do as long as it doesnt negatively affect another person. REGARDLESS of your own beliefs.

But while everyone was up in arms about that, Monsanto got a bill passed that allows them to do whatever the hell they wanted, and cant be held legally responsible for the damage that they cause in the process.. to humans and the environment.

Obama = Bush. Obama just tells your you're pretty when he's bending you over.

Leviathant
05-17-2013, 01:02 PM
Obama = Bush is as absurd as Gore = Bush. I get that your bottom line really is that US Presidents leave very nuanced legacies, no matter which party they're affiliated with. But they're not perfect substitutes for each other. And as disappointing as some of the decisions of this administration is, if Obama was Bush, and you had the choice between Bush and someone even more conservative (Remember, Rick Santorum was the runner up to Mitt Romney), would you vote Bush?

DVYDRNS
05-17-2013, 01:15 PM
Maybe my point was misinterpreted somewhat...

They're all different sides of the same coin. They all don't give a damn about the common people. They are going to do what they want. They are going to go along with the agenda of whoever put them in office.

the difference is, some of them will tell you about what they're doing, and some will hide behind smoke and mirrors and use distraction to get their goals met.

You do get my point tho.

xmd 5a
05-17-2013, 09:14 PM
Sort of off topic, but same sex marriage IS an important issue. Homophobia can affect heterosexual people too. I am straight but was still relentlessly bullied in high school for my perceived homosexuality. If removing institutionalised homophobia by allowing marriage equality goes part of the way towards ending the ostracism and othering of LGBT identifying people (actual or perceived), then it is a major victory.

Cat Mom
05-17-2013, 10:33 PM
Conor Friedersdorf is preparing to make the inevitable argument for why libertarians should vote for Rand Paul, not Hillary Clinton in 2016.
I don't think that's necessarily true; he wrote this last September (http://m.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/09/why-i-refuse-to-vote-for-barack-obama/262861/). Just because you believe in civil liberty doesn't mean you're a Libertarian. (I speak from personal experience, as a former longtime member of the ACLU when I was also a card-carrying member of the Democratic Party.) I have friends who agree with him and voted Green Party last November.

DVYDRNS
05-17-2013, 10:44 PM
Sort of off topic, but same sex marriage IS an important issue. Homophobia can affect heterosexual people too. I am straight but was still relentlessly bullied in high school for my perceived homosexuality. If removing institutionalised homophobia by allowing marriage equality goes part of the way towards ending the ostracism and othering of LGBT identifying people (actual or perceived), then it is a major victory.

I said it shouldn't have been an issue in the first place. As in everybody should be nice to each other and focus on things that are important.

ambergris
05-18-2013, 04:58 AM
I don't think that's necessarily true; he wrote this last September (http://m.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/09/why-i-refuse-to-vote-for-barack-obama/262861/). Just because you believe in civil liberty doesn't mean you're a Libertarian. (I speak from personal experience, as a former longtime member of the ACLU when I was also a card-carrying member of the Democratic Party.) I have friends who agree with him and voted Green Party last November.

I will get back to you on this in two years....
Conor Friedersdorf will never, ever vote green. Many 'official' libertarians are just republicans in different clothing who in the end always find a reason to support the republican party platform. Conor Friedersdorf, Megan McArdle, Peter Suderman, Nick Gillespie, Reason magazine.

Conor Friedersdorf is definitely a Rand Paul fan:
http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/03/rush-limbaugh-stands-with-rand-paul-the-neocons-are-paranoid/273938/
http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/03/cliffs-notes-for-the-filibuster-rand-paul-in-his-own-words/273787/
http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/04/ponder-what-isnt-mocked-as-racially-unenlightened-in-america/274939/
http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/03/how-the-establishment-press-got-rand-paul-wrong/273880/

And here you'll find Conor's priorities: It doesn't matter to him that Rand Paul opposes the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but it matters to him that Rand Paul took a principled stand against the Obama drone program, or in Rand Paul's words: "We're talking about (killing) people eating in a cafe, at home, in a restaurant." He's not opposed to the use of drones in war... he's just voicing a few paranoid concerns.
Using Rush Limbaugh to support your position also doesn't strike me as civil rights-minded.

The Republicans are scared of Hillary Clinton and since she is out of office at the moment, they can't criticize any present actions so they have to rely on Benghazi. I have no idea what they are trying to prove, but it's all they have. The present scandals are obviously a manufactured sequence of events.
The supposedly manipulated White House emails on Benghazi: manufactured by Republicans (http://www.businessinsider.com/benghazi-emails-cbs-abc-republicans-obama-hillary-clinton-2013-5)
The IRS story: planted by Republicans (http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2013/05/steven_miller_scandal_question_plant.php?ref=fpb)

Cat Mom
05-18-2013, 07:07 AM
Okay, I'll give you that: he may very well be a Libertarian. But I sincerely doubt that he'll convert people into Libertarians. Hell, his above-referenced 2012 article didn't stop me from voting for Obama in 2012, even though I agree with some of the article.

But let's get back to the title of this thread (I didn't intend for this thread to focus solely on that author, his article and his views).

Despite the real possibility that a few of these current controversies could have been manufactured by Republicans to kill a Hillary Clinton Presidency in 2016 (which I doubt they can use to sway voters 3 years from now), I still feel disappointed in Obama's performance so far.

I voted for him because he taught Constitutional Law in law school; I really thought he'd uphold the Constitution during his term. But he hasn't attempted to do what he promised with GITMO, and he not only ignored the Patriot Act, he's been using the Patriot Act to do more unconstitutional stuff. Yes yes, McCain would have been worse, Romney would have been worse, but that doesn't make me feel any better about Obama.

This AP stuff bothers me. I don't like it. At all.

it's far too early to give Obama his final Report Card but he just got an F from me for that test.

ambergris
05-18-2013, 07:43 AM
I would also say that the AP story is the worst of the three. And if it turns out that the government acted completely legal, than this should be the real scandal... but it won't be.
And I also agree that criticizing Obama from a civil liberties/good government perspective is the most justified way. It's what Glenn Grennwald occasionally does (when he's not writing ten paragraphs about some lofty ideal that no existing government can be expected to follow...see Bradley Manning).

DigitalChaos
05-18-2013, 12:45 PM
#1 = fucking THANK YOU allegro for making this thread. I have been giving Obama the benefit of the doubt (he had to be better than Bush.. right?) but things are just horrible now. The Obama = Bush claims are becoming fairly accurate at a macro level.



to make the inevitable argument for why libertarians should vote for Rand Paul, not Hillary Clinton in 2016.
As a libertarian, fuck Rand Paul. We were suspicious of his neocon tendencies but listened to him over the months. Last week he threw Libertarians under the bus. I know no remaining Libertarians who like him now.

DigitalChaos
05-18-2013, 02:02 PM
Obama = Bush is as absurd as Gore = Bush.
It's just dishonest to pretend that the list of negatives that are shared between Obama and Bush dont VASTLY outnumber the positive differences. The only major difference is the rhetoric used to justify it.

Obama is still playing world police

Obama is still infringing on Civil Rights through both extending Bush's and creating new. Yea, that actually make him worse than Bush.

Almost all of the 35 Articles of Impeachment presented against Bush in 2008 apply to Obama. Hell, Obama has some that Bush didn't.


And you know... I am just going to stop there. Comparing Obama and Bush is usually only done for two reasons. #1 - To make one side realize their own hypocrisy. This usually falls apart when one side just can't have the same visceral reaction to their own "team" as they did to the opposing team. I dislike them both but have judged them by their own actions. To me, they are equally bad in slightly different ways right now. #2 - To justify the actions of the current guy because the last guy did it too.

Let's just judge Obama for what he has done. If we can't honestly do that, then we are fucked.

DVYDRNS
05-18-2013, 03:39 PM
They're both just as bad as the other in different ways.

Measure all the Bush BS and then measure all the Obama BS. I'd be willing to bet you could fill two huge containers just about equally. Maybe even moreso with Obama.

Bush was just an idiot not allowing people to have rights and starting wars for money. Obama gives you one right and takes ten away. And starts wars for money.

DigitalChaos
05-19-2013, 05:03 PM
The IRS is on a roll! Let's add a bunch of HIPPA violations to the list. They illegally seized 60 million medical records. The lawsuit requests $25k per violation.
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/may/17/irs-sued-seizing-60-million-medical-records/
Any bets on the next thing our administration implodes on?

DigitalChaos
05-19-2013, 10:45 PM
Obama Officials finally get explicit on the War on Terror... Looks like we will be at it for "at least another decade"
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/may/17/endless-war-on-terror-obama

That's definitely one of the worst things from Bush that many thought would change™, right?

Jinsai
05-20-2013, 01:33 AM
Obama Officials finally get explicit on the War on Terror... Looks like we will be at it for "at least another decade"

Cool. If only the libertarians would save us.

DigitalChaos
05-20-2013, 07:02 PM
Cool. If only the libertarians would save us.
By ending the world occupation world police game? That certainly would fix it... along with fixing the debt and tons of other stuff.

Jinsai
05-20-2013, 07:03 PM
By ending the world occupation world police game? That certainly would fix it... along with fixing the debt and tons of other stuff.

Totally. Can't wait till it happens. I'm holding my breath.

DigitalChaos
05-20-2013, 07:13 PM
Jesus. This IRS thing may end up going all the way to election tampering, which would be impeachable.



Fun fact: Nixon used the IRS to conduct discriminatory audits against political opponents. (http://watergate.info/impeachment/articles-of-impeachment) Hillary helped draft a charge against Nixon for it in a very fucking shady way that got her fired (http://www.wnd.com/2013/05/hillary-helped-draft-irs-charge-against-nixon/).




http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SRPgcXbISAw

Cat Mom
05-21-2013, 07:56 AM
The IRS is on a roll! Let's add a bunch of HIPPA violations to the list. They illegally seized 60 million medical records. The lawsuit requests $25k per violation.
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/may/17/irs-sued-seizing-60-million-medical-records/
Ugh wow. Although, this isn't really Obama's direct responsibility and I don't think it should be on his report card.


By ending the world occupation world police game?
Imperialism has been a part of this country's history since its inception. We just like to call it "preserving freedom."

Cat Mom
05-21-2013, 08:04 AM
The Obama Justice Department is using a WWI-era espionage law to criminalize journalism in a way that its authors never intended (http://m.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/05/2-scotus-judges-in-1971-espionage-act-doesnt-apply-to-the-press/276064/)

It is now well known that the Obama justice department has prosecuted more government leakers under the 1917 Espionage Act than all prior administrations combined - in fact, double the number of all such prior prosecutions (http://m.guardiannews.com/commentisfree/2013/may/20/obama-doj-james-rosen-criminality)

ambergris
05-21-2013, 08:56 AM
The IRS is on a roll! Let's add a bunch of HIPPA violations to the list. They illegally seized 60 million medical records. The lawsuit requests $25k per violation.
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/may/17/irs-sued-seizing-60-million-medical-records/
Any bets on the next thing our administration implodes on?

Just out of curiosity, I checked the sources. The Washington Times is a notoriously conservative paper. So the article basically says that an unknown healthcare provider has sued the IRS. And the "Courthouse News Service" says that it's about the Fourth Amendment etc... What's the Courthouse News Service? "Courthouse News Service has a website that publishes articles from the plaintiffs perspective, citing quotes out of the complaint that has been filed. What is missing from their online publication is the answer the the complaint. Also missing is the ability for members of the public, or the defendant to reply to the complaint. So, if the complaint was written with numerous falsehoods, their one-sided writings can trick the public into thinking that the complaint us factual."
Also, their CEO was accused of fraud, theft and child molestation.
http://www.ripoffreport.com/r/courthouse-news-service-bill-girdner/pasadena-california-/courthouse-news-service-bill-girdner-william-girdner-iulia-filip-accused-of-fraud-thef-951667
Courthouse news service has their own wikipedia page that consists of two lines and which is copied entirely into the Washington Times.
http://www.washingtontimes.com/topics/courthouse-news-service/

Cat Mom
05-21-2013, 09:11 AM
What is missing from their online publication is the answer the the complaint.
Very good point.

DigitalChaos
05-21-2013, 01:09 PM
ambergris - You can read the full complaint here: http://global.nationalreview.com/pdf/complaint_051513.pdf Of course, it is an alleged wrongdoing until proven in court. I know nothing about Courthouse News Service but I see nothing that indicates fraud on their part with the complaint. The named lawyer is known for taking civil rights cases.

DigitalChaos
05-21-2013, 01:17 PM
The Obama Justice Department is using a WWI-era espionage law to criminalize journalism in a way that its authors never intended (http://m.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/05/2-scotus-judges-in-1971-espionage-act-doesnt-apply-to-the-press/276064/)

It is now well known that the Obama justice department has prosecuted more government leakers under the 1917 Espionage Act than all prior administrations combined - in fact, double the number of all such prior prosecutions (http://m.guardiannews.com/commentisfree/2013/may/20/obama-doj-james-rosen-criminality)

Let's see if Obama's campaign site is still up where he talks about whistle-blowers....
... yup!

http://change.gov/agenda/ethics_agenda/
Protect Whistleblowers: Often the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government is an existing government employee committed to public integrity and willing to speak out. Such acts of courage and patriotism, which can sometimes save lives and often save taxpayer dollars, should be encouraged rather than stifled. We need to empower federal employees as watchdogs of wrongdoing and partners in performance. Barack Obama will strengthen whistleblower laws to protect federal workers who expose waste, fraud, and abuse of authority in government. Obama will ensure that federal agencies expedite the process for reviewing whistleblower claims and whistleblowers have full access to courts and due process.



Obama has change™ed

ambergris
05-21-2013, 01:31 PM
@ambergris (http://www.echoingthesound.org/community/member.php?u=334) - You can read the full complaint here: http://global.nationalreview.com/pdf/complaint_051513.pdf Of course, it is an alleged wrongdoing until proven in court. I know nothing about Courthouse News Service but I see nothing that indicates fraud on their part with the complaint. The named lawyer is known for taking civil rights cases.

Maybe I am thinking that this is more sinister than it is, but why is "Courthouse News Service" written all over the document? Anyway, my suspicion is that the IRS case has unleashed the right-wing persecution complex and now certain publications see threats to conservatives all over the place (Well, that's no different from usual.). The National Review is, of course, another decidedly conservative magazine. So I wait for the story to break into the mainstream (that's what the story should do if it's real) until I begin to condemn.

Cat Mom
05-21-2013, 01:46 PM
ambergris - You can read the full complaint here: http://global.nationalreview.com/pdf/complaint_051513.pdf Of course, it is an alleged wrongdoing until proven in court. I know nothing about Courthouse News Service but I see nothing that indicates fraud on their part with the complaint. The named lawyer is known for taking civil rights cases.
His point is that a Complaint without the Answer to Complaint is only one side of the story, it's slanted.

There is no Case Number on that Complaint so that is not evidence that it has been filed.

DigitalChaos
05-21-2013, 02:00 PM
Maybe I am thinking that this is more sinister than it is, but why is "Courthouse News Service" written all over the document? Anyway, my suspicion is that the IRS case has unleashed the right-wing persecution complex and now certain publications see threats to conservatives all over the place (Well, that's no different from usual.). The National Review is, of course, another decidedly conservative magazine. So I wait for the story to break into the mainstream (that's what the story should do if it's real) until I begin to condemn.
that's fair

His point is that a Complaint without the Answer to Complaint is only one side of the story, it's slanted.

There is no Case Number on that Complaint so that is not evidence that it has been filed.
Certainly. Except there is a case number: 37-2013-00038750-CU-CR-CTL (http://global.nationalreview.com/pdf/complaint_051513.pdf) (and the "electronically filed Superior Court of CA, San Diego. 3/11/2013") Having this come out 2 months after filing definitely points to it being dug up due to the political attention the IRS is getting right now. Still, if true... it's shitty and SHOULD get attention.

Cat Mom
05-21-2013, 02:06 PM
Except there is a case number: 37-2013-00038750-CU-CR-CTL (http://global.nationalreview.com/pdf/complaint_051513.pdf) (and the "electronically filed Superior Court of CA, San Diego. 3/11/2013") Having this come out 2 months after filing definitely points to it being dug up due to the political attention the IRS is getting right now. Still, if true... it's shitty and SHOULD get attention.
ah, okay. I didn't see that on the Complaint. But, again, a Complaint without an Answer is too soon to tell. Wait to see if the Class Action even stands up in Court past the first hearing date, to see if it's allowed as a Class Action?

I also don't see this as something that should go on Obama's Report Card, sorry.

Cat Mom
05-21-2013, 02:12 PM
It's fair to put it on the IRS' Report Card. They suck so they always fail. :)

DigitalChaos
05-22-2013, 07:37 PM
Looks like the IRS net widens beyond just the AP.

DOJ Monitored Phone Lines of Five Fox News Reporters, Fox News Executives and Family Members of Reporters (http://townhall.com/tipsheet/KatiePavlich/2013/05/22/doj-monitored-phones-lines-of-five-fox-news-reporters-fox-news-executives-and-family-members-of-reporters-n1603273)

There is also a CBS reporter who claims to have had her computer compromised by "a specific entity" (http://www.politico.com/blogs/media/2013/05/sharyl-attkissons-computers-compromised-164456.html) but DOJ is saying it wasn't them.



And techdirt sums up the lameness of Obama pushing the journalist shield law:
"Oh, yeah, you caught us spying on reporters -- here's a bill that we want that wouldn't have stopped that, but if you're really concerned about a pretend level of privacy for journalists and their sources, it's something, sorta." (http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130520/00493523143/ridiculous-timing-obama-administration-responds-to-spying-ap-pushing-journalist-shield-law-that-wouldnt-matter.shtml)

Dra508
05-22-2013, 08:35 PM
From NYT, that liberal bastion of journalism that's real pissed at Obama now, but can still write a timely article.


Why Rational People Buy Into Conspiracy Theories

By MAGGIE KOERTH-BAKER
In the days following the bombings at the Boston Marathon, speculation online regarding the identity and motive of the unknown perpetrator or perpetrators was rampant. And once the Tsarnaev brothers were identified and the manhunt came to a close, the speculation didn’t cease. It took a new form. A sampling: Maybe the brothers Tsarnaev were just patsies, fall guys set up to take the heat for a mysterious Saudi with high-level connections; or maybe they were innocent, but instead of the Saudis, the actual bomber had acted on behalf of a rogue branch of our own government; or what if the Tsarnaevs were behind the attacks, but were secretly working for a larger organization?

Crazy as these theories are, those propagating them are not — they’re quite normal, in fact. But recent scientific research tells us this much: if you think one of the theories above is plausible, you probably feel the same way about the others, even though they contradict one another. And it’s very likely that this isn’t the only news story that makes you feel as if shadowy forces are behind major world events.

“The best predictor of belief in a conspiracy theory is belief in other conspiracy theories,” says Viren Swami, a psychology professor who studies conspiracy belief at the University of Westminster in England. Psychologists say that’s because a conspiracy theory isn’t so much a response to a single event as it is an expression of an overarching worldview.

As Richard Hofstadter wrote in his seminal 1965 book, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” conspiracy theories, especially those involving meddlesome foreigners, are a favorite pastime in this nation. Americans have always had the sneaking suspicion that somebody was out to get us — be it Freemasons, Catholics or communists. But in recent years, it seems as if every tragedy comes with a round of yarn-spinning, as the Web fills with stories about “false flag” attacks and “crisis actors” — not mere theorizing but arguments for the existence of a completely alternate version of reality.

Since Hofstadter’s book was published, our access to information has vastly improved, which you would think would have helped minimize such wild speculation. But according to recent scientific research on the matter, it most likely only serves to make theories more convincing to the public. What’s even more surprising is that this sort of theorizing isn’t limited to those on the margins. Perfectly sane minds possess an incredible capacity for developing narratives, and even some of the wildest conspiracy theories can be grounded in rational thinking, which makes them that much more pernicious. Consider this: 63 percent of registered American voters believe in at least one political conspiracy theory, according to a recent poll conducted by Fairleigh Dickinson University.

While psychologists can’t know exactly what goes on inside our heads, they have, through surveys and laboratory studies, come up with a set of traits that correlate well with conspiracy belief. In 2010, Swami and a co-author summarized this research in The Psychologist, a scientific journal. They found, perhaps surprisingly, that believers are more likely to be cynical about the world in general and politics in particular. Conspiracy theories also seem to be more compelling to those with low self-worth, especially with regard to their sense of agency in the world at large. Conspiracy theories appear to be a way of reacting to uncertainty and powerlessness.

Economic recessions, terrorist attacks and natural disasters are massive, looming threats, but we have little power over when they occur or how or what happens afterward. In these moments of powerlessness and uncertainty, a part of the brain called the amygdala kicks into action. Paul Whalen, a scientist at Dartmouth College who studies the amygdala, says it doesn’t exactly do anything on its own. Instead, the amygdala jump-starts the rest of the brain into analytical overdrive — prompting repeated reassessments of information in an attempt to create a coherent and understandable narrative, to understand what just happened, what threats still exist and what should be done now. This may be a useful way to understand how, writ large, the brain’s capacity for generating new narratives after shocking events can contribute to so much paranoia in this country.

“If you know the truth and others don’t, that’s one way you can reassert feelings of having agency,” Swami says. It can be comforting to do your own research even if that research is flawed. It feels good to be the wise old goat in a flock of sheep.

Surprisingly, Swami’s work has also turned up a correlation between conspiracy theorizing and strong support of democratic principles. But this isn’t quite so strange if you consider the context. Kathryn Olmsted, a historian at the University of California, Davis, says that conspiracy theories wouldn’t exist in a world in which real conspiracies don’t exist. And those conspiracies — Watergate or the Iran-contra Affair — often involve manipulating and circumventing the democratic process. Even people who believe that the Sandy Hook shooting was actually a drama staged by actors couch their arguments in concern for the preservation of the Second Amendment.

Our access to high-quality information has not, unfortunately, ushered in an age in which disagreements of this sort can easily be solved with a quick Google search. In fact, the Internet has made things worse. Confirmation bias — the tendency to pay more attention to evidence that supports what you already believe — is a well-documented and common human failing. People have been writing about it for centuries. In recent years, though, researchers have found that confirmation bias is not easy to overcome. You can’t just drown it in facts.

In 2006, the political scientists Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler identified a phenomenon called the “backfire effect.” They showed that efforts to debunk inaccurate political information can leave people more convinced that false information is true than they would have been otherwise. Nyhan isn’t sure why this happens, but it appears to be more prevalent when the bad information helps bolster a favored worldview or ideology.

In that way, Swami says, the Internet and other media have helped perpetuate paranoia. Not only does more exposure to these alternative narratives help engender belief in conspiracies, he says, but the Internet’s tendency toward tribalism helps reinforce misguided beliefs.

And that’s a problem. Because while believing George W. Bush helped plan the Sept. 11 attacks might make you feel in control, it doesn’t actually make you so. Earlier this year, Karen Douglas, a University of Kent psychologist, along with a student, published research in which they exposed people to conspiracy theories about climate change and the death of Princess Diana. Those who got information supporting the theories but not information debunking them were more likely to withdraw from participation in politics and were less likely to take action to reduce their carbon footprints.

Alex Jones, a syndicated radio host, can build fame as a conspiracy peddler; politicians can hint at conspiracies for votes and leverage; but if conspiracy theories are a tool the average person uses to reclaim his sense of agency and access to democracy, it’s an ineffective tool. It can even have dangerous health implications. For example, research has shown that African-Americans who believe AIDS is a weapon loosed on them by the government (remembering the abuses of the Tuskegee experiment) are less likely to practice protected sex. And if you believe that governments or corporations are hiding evidence that vaccines harm children, you’re less likely to have your children vaccinated. The result: pockets of measles and whooping-cough infections and a few deaths in places with low child-vaccination rates.

Psychologists aren’t sure whether powerlessness causes conspiracy theories or vice versa. Either way, the current scientific thinking suggests these beliefs are nothing more than an extreme form of cynicism, a turning away from politics and traditional media — which only perpetuates the problem.

Maggie Koerth-Baker is science editor at BoingBoing.net and author of “Before the Lights Go Out,” on the future of energy production and consumption.

mfte
05-24-2013, 01:47 PM
So is it irrational to buy into conspiracy theories? or is it irrational to believe that such theories exist?

noun, plural con·spir·a·cies. 1. the act of conspiring (http://www.echoingthesound.org/browse/conspire).

2. an evil, unlawful, treacherous, or surreptitious plan formulated in secret by two or more persons; plot.

3. a combination of persons for a secret, unlawful, or evil purpose: He joined the conspiracy to overthrow the government.

4. Law. an agreement by two or more persons to commit a crime, fraud, or other wrongful act.

5. any concurrence in action; combination in bringing about a given result.

DigitalChaos
05-24-2013, 02:21 PM
I have no goddamned idea how the last two posts relate to Obama's report card but hopefully this can address both posts: http://thelibertarianrepublic.com/video-rachel-maddow-eviscerates-alex-jones-oklahoma-tornado-conspiracies/

DigitalChaos
05-24-2013, 05:19 PM
Welp...
http://i.imgur.com/CfFE2pm.jpg
It's good to see them calling this shit out but... is Obama really going to get a pass on this as if his Attorney General doesn't communicate to him and Obama has no control?

DigitalChaos
05-24-2013, 05:29 PM
Obama in 2007 asking for the AG to step down because he has been a, attorney for the president instead of for the people.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TlUmruKGAAc

aggroculture
06-10-2013, 10:14 AM
http://www.salon.com/2013/06/09/obamas_dirty_wars_and_a_soiled_presidency/

DigitalChaos
12-30-2013, 01:21 PM
I think this one needs to go here.

Obama & Holder fight NAACP, keep thousands in prison under racist 80s crack sentencing.
http://www.blackagendareport.com/content/obama-holder-win-court-case-keep-thouands-prison-under-unfair-80s-crack-sentencing-laws

Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act and Holder backed it. Then they went to court, against the NAACP, to prevent people who were already sentenced from being released. The NAACP neglects to point out who their opponents were in their press release for this case.

Tony Gordon
05-18-2014, 12:28 PM
More right wing bullshit.

Obama is a joke, you all should know that. There is no such thing as 'left wing' in America. He's a conservative at heart and all those rich assholes on Fox News know this. That's why they don't ever attack him for ignoring problems in the work place, cause they can't. Sure they can call him a commie and all this other bullshit but they have nothing else to run on except blind hatred of a man that bends over and kisses their ass at every given second.

I'm glad we have Obama and not Romney or some other rich asshole in power, cause at least I can see a doctor now and get my meds affordable thanks to Obamacare.

Deepvoid
08-28-2014, 12:02 PM
Question for you guys.
If Dems lose the Senate during midterm election, how can a Rep. Congress function properly with a Dem POTUS?
I am assuming that all the bills coming out of Congress will be Rep. sponsored and the Dems won't be able to do much (filibuster maybe?).
Will Obama keep vetoing bills left and right?
How did that work out during Clinton's last mandate?