Monday, October 6, 2008

My VP debate BS meter

In this blog I will attempt to rate the depth of the BS delivered by each of the VP candidates during last Thursday's debate. I will use a scale where 1 represents just a mild distortion of the truth and 3 is a full load of crap. A running total will provide a gauge of who stunk the most by the end.

PALIN: Iraq troop levels are back to pre-surge numbers.

TRUTH – Although the numbers are going down, there are currently 10,000 more troops in Iraq then there were when the surge began. If the current withdrawal rate continues, troop numbers will not be back to pre-surge levels until some time next year.

RATING: 1 – this is not true, but it is close, and she did say "That's where we can be" immediately after, but I think this still stands as an exaggeration of the truth.

BIDEN – McCain voted the same way as Obama on a troop funding bill.

TRUTH – McCain voted the opposite way from Obama on the bill in question. McCain supported a funding bill that did not include a timeline, while Obama supported a funding bill that included a timeline.

RATING: 2 – While this would otherwise get a 3 for being the complete opposite of the truth, the point Biden was trying (rather poorly) to make was that the disagreement was over the timeline, not the funding. Obama accurately pointed this out during his first debate with McCain, and unlike Biden, he managed to do it without telling a lie of his own.



Obama voted to increase taxes on families making $42,000 per year

TRUTH – Obama voted to increase taxes on individuals making $42,000 per year, not families.

RATING – 2 – While it's a somewhat minor distortion of the truth, the misleading impression it gives makes it a 2

BIDEN: McCain voted the same way as Obama on the bill to raise taxes on individuals making $42,000 per year.

TRUTH – McCain did not vote on this bill.

RATING – 2 – Biden may want us to think that a non vote is the same as a no vote, but if that's the case he'd better be careful due to the number of "present" votes given by his running mate.



PALIN – Obama voted 94 times to increase taxes.

TRUTH – That number includes some bills that raised taxes on some groups while lowing it for others.

RATING – 1 – it is a minor distortion of the truth.

BIDEN – McCain refused to meet with the government of Spain

TRUTH – McCain made no commitment one way or the other.

RATING – 2 – just as in the previous Biden lie, no position is not the same as a "no" position.



BIDEN: McCain wanted to deregulate the healthcare industry just as had been done for the banking industry.

TRUTH – McCain does not propose deregulation, only increased competition across state lines. He also supported reforming of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

RATING – 2 – Increased competition does not equal total deregulation

PALIN – McCain's healthcare plan would be budget-neutral

TRUTH – While it would cost less than Obama's plan, McCain's healthcare plan would still cost the government billions of dollars.

RATING – 3 – Any government-funded healthcare program is going to be very expensive, so Palin's claim here is simply complete BS.



PALIN – Millions of small businesses would see increased taxes under Obama's plan

TRUTH – Hundreds of thousands of small businesses would see increased taxes under Obama's plan, but certainly not millions.

RATING – 1 – Her number is an exaggeration, but her point that a great many small businesses would see increased taxes is valid.

BIDEN – McCain's tax plan would give oil companies a $4 billion tax cut.

TRUTH – McCain's tax plan would change the corporate tax rate from %35 to %25. There is no special treatment for oil companies, and the $4 billion figure is the total of one particular (liberal-biased) organization's estimated value of this change to the five largest oil companies combined.

RATING – 2 – It could possibly become true, but probably not, and the way Biden presented it as special treatment for just oil companies was grossly misleading.



BIDEN: – Iraq has an $80 billion surplus

TRUTH – Iraq has $29 billion- total - in the bank

RATING – 1 – It is an exaggeration of the truth.

PALIN - We're circulating about $700 billion a year into foreign countries for oil

TRUTH – The actual number is about $493 billion.

RATING – 1 – Another exaggeration



PALIN – Obama voted for the 2005 energy bill, which is what gave oil companies big tax breaks.

TRUTH – There were some big tax breaks and other big tax increases, but the net result was actually a slight tax increase.

RATING – 3 – Complete opposite of the truth

BIDEN – McCain voted 20 times against alternative energy

TRUTH – McCain voted 11 times against alternative energy. Many of McCain's votes were not against alternative energy, but rather the MANDATORY use of alternative energy.

RATING – 2 – An exaggeration... and a very misleading one



BIDEN: Obama never said he would have an unconditional meeting with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran.

TRUTH – During the primary debates, Obama replied to a YouTube submitted question by saying that he would have unconditional meetings with leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela and North Korea.

RATING – 3 – The Obama Campaign is trying to make it seem that Obama was talking about Iran leadership other than Ahmadinejad, but the video that accompanied the question showed a picture of Ahmadinejad when Iran was mentioned, and everyone at the debate knew that the question to referred to him.

PALIN – called US commander in Afghanistan, David McKiernan "McClellan."

RATING – 0 – Although she said it more than once, this is probably nothing more than an unintentional slip.



PALIN - General McKiernan supports "surge principles" in Afghanistan

BIDEN - General McKiernan does not support "surge principles" in Afghanistan

RESULT – INCONCLUSIVE - Who was lying depends on what they were talking about when referring to "surge principles." While General McKiernan said he would not use the word "surge," he did suggest that Afghanistan would need an infusion of US troops quickly.



BIDEN - "...all you have to do is go down Union Street with me in Wilmington or go to Katie's Restaurant or walk into Home Depot with me where I spend a lot of time and you ask anybody in there whether or not the economic and foreign policy of this administration has made them better off in the last eight years."

TRUTH – Katie's Restaurant closed in the 1980s, so its closing had nothing to do with the Bush administration.

RATING – 2 - This was an obvious, phony attempt to make himself appear as "Average Joe" Biden, when the truth is that it shows he is out of touch.

PALIN - "Barack Obama had said that all we're doing in Afghanistan is air-raiding villages and killing civilians"

TRUTH – The full quote from Obama: "We've got to get the job done there and that requires us to have enough troops so that we're not just air-raiding villages and killing civilians, which is causing enormous problems there." At the time Obama said this (August 2007), US troops were killing more civilians than insurgents. Although if you take Obama's words literally he did say that this is all we were doing, it is pretty safe to say that Obama was exaggerating to get his point across at the time.

RATING – 2 – A gross misrepresentation of the original statement



PALIN - " was John McCain who pushed so hard with the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac reform measures..."

TRUTH – While it could be said that Republicans including McCain were in favor of reform while Democrats were against it (see this video), saying that McCain stands out as pushing hard is an exaggeration.

RATING – 1 – A mild distortion

BIDEN - "When we kicked -- along with France, we kicked Hezbollah out of Lebanon, I said and Barack said, 'Move NATO forces in there. Fill the vacuum, because if you don't know -- if you don't, Hezbollah will control it.' Now what's happened? Hezbollah is a legitimate part of the government in the country immediately to the north of Israel." (video clip including this statement)

RATING – 9 – A complete, utter, pulled-it-out-of-an-unseen-orifice fabrication. This event never occurred on planet Earth. Biden was making up a total fairytale... and he is supposed to be the foreign policy expert? Such a bald-face lie is inexcusable, and if Sarah Palin had said something so outrageous the McCain campaign would probably be finished. This massive lie is worth three complete loads of BS at least.




Summary: Both candidates mangled the facts, but Biden did a better job at burying us in piles of BS. As for who won the debate, I'd say Biden was more convincing, and Palin was more personable. However, this debate was all about Palin. Biden has been in the Senate since before I was born, so his record speaks for itself. However, in the week leading up to the debate Liberal talkers had started really picking apart the Katie Couric interview, so Thursday all eyes were on Palin. I think she proved her worth, but it probably won't make any difference in poll numbers.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Why I am voting for John McCain

Why I'm voting for John McCain:



Both candidates will increase the national debt, but the McCain plan is centered around keeping taxes low across the board and cutting out wasteful spending, something that I believe is critical when the economy is in a slump. Unlike Obama, McCain has a strong record of voting against earmarks and other wasteful spending in Washington. McCain would keep the Bush tax cuts permanent, as well as dramatically lower the estate tax and create other high-level tax breaks. This is in line with my philosophy that allowing people who control the most money do more with it stimulates the economy far more than giving tax breaks to people who contribute very little to begin with. Obama's plan reduces taxes for the lowest income-earners and increases taxes on the upper income-earners. My problem with Obama's philosophy is that the bottom 75% of income-earners only pay 14% of the total tax as it is. Therefore, adjusting their already small contribution is not going to do much to stimulate the economy. Meanwhile, Obama would place an even greater tax burden on the people who already contribute the lion's share, placing more restrictions on the people who have the greatest impact on the economy. Another portion of Obama's economic plan that seems backwards to me is his proposed windfall tax on energy companies. This would increase the burden on the entities who are already finding it difficult to keep up with the demand, and will simply result in the increased costs being passed on to the consumers while doing nothing to address the real problem of supply vs. demand.

During his acceptance speech, Obama claimed that he would pay for "every dime" of his massive government spending proposals by "closing corporate loopholes and tax havens." However, Obama cannot possibly pay for all of his proposals without a dramatic increase in taxes. Obama continually claims that 95% of Americans would see their taxes decrease under his plan. The 95% number actually refers only to families with children. At best, the number is closer to 80% of American households, but regardless of the actual number, it doesn't tell the whole story. Obama plans to drastically increase taxes on upper-income individuals as well as increase taxes on capital gains and dividends. Therefore, chances are good that your employer will see an increased tax burden under the Obama plan, and much like the windfall energy taxes being passed down to the people at the pump, if your boss has an increased financial load it is unrealistic to expect that you will suffer no ill effects from it. Therefore, you personally may qualify for a tax cut under the Obama plan, but you will probably still be indirectly affected by Obama's other tax increases. Another example: Obama plans to tax interest as ordinary income, so even if you get a tax cut, you will still be indirectly taxed through your savings account. No matter how Obama tries to sell it, his plan would be one of the largest single-year tax increases since World War II, and history shows that dramatically increasing the tax burden during economic slowdown does not have a positive effect on the economy.

In short, Obama's plan is philosophically similar to a redistribution of wealth. While a lot of people will like his plan because they feel like they are getting something out of it, I disagree with this because it could discourage economic growth. Obama's promise for tax breaks to 95% of the people sounds good and appeals to our selfish nature, but we have to look beyond the immediate gain to the long-term impact of taking from the rich to give to the poor. Most of the wealthy people in the country are rich because they know how to make money work for them. If we continue to hinder their ability to do this and distribute their gains to people who are less inclined to chase such large financial dreams, eventually there won't be any more rich people to tax. McCain's plan is to encourage those people who already enjoy working with big budgets to continue to do just that. This philosophy trusts that people who have earned a fortune know what they are doing, and can continue to grow indefinitely provided they are given the freedom to do so. In order to continue to grow financially, they need to reinvest their money, and that process has a much deeper and longer lasting economic benefit for people across all economic classes.

Most people who get angry with the "tax breaks for the rich" line do so purely out of envy. However, a point I often make is this: If you take more money from the rich and give it to the poor, the poor might be able to buy a little more, but the price of those goods are going to go up because it will cost more to produce them. On the other hand, when a fabulously rich person buys a ridiculously lavish yacht, he puts a whole crowd of people to work and injects a massive amount of money into the economy. The more tax breaks that go to the rich, the more money gets reinvested and the more people get jobs.

I see Obama vs. McCain on taxes as Obama wanting to level the playing field by bringing those at the top down, while McCain wants to lift them up, and my belief is that a higher water line raises all of the boats.

To be fair, Obama does have some good ideas about closing loopholes and getting rid of tax shelters and other shady practices, and it would be nice if McCain would address these issues more thoroughly. However, I strongly disagree with the ideas surrounding socialism, and Obama's plan contains too much of this for me, so my economic vote goes to McCain.


Lately, Obama has been trying to make himself appear somewhat more enlightened when it comes to Iraq than what I believe is actually the case. These days he portrays himself as bravely standing up against the Iraq war from the beginning and cautioning against dropping the ball in Afghanistan. The truth is that Obama was not yet in the US Senate at the time the war began, and he certainly wasn't a voice in the wilderness in his district when it came to opposing the war. Further, he made no mention of Afghanistan when he spoke against the war in 2002.

Obama tries to portray himself as possessing better judgment than McCain, which he wants us to believe is a stronger trait than McCain's real world experience. However, even if we say for the sake of argument that Obama was right about not going into Iraq in the first place (which I don't necessarily believe is true) he has shown very poor judgment on Iraq-related issues since then. Rather than support any efforts at victory once the war was underway, his proposals have all centered solely around various forms of troop withdrawal (currently a 16-month timeline for pulling out active-combat troops). He has stuck with this philosophy despite continued warnings from people such as Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen, who has said that setting a fixed withdrawal timeline could be "very dangerous."

Further, Obama was opposed to the "surge" strategy that has resulted in great success in Iraq, which to me also shows poor judgment on his part. In my mind, Obama's statements about meeting unconditionally with Iran also show poor judgment. He has also shown poor judgment in somewhat less serious matters. The infamous Jeremiah Wright is a prime example. Although he finally distanced himself when it became politically necessary to do so, the fact remains that he was a member of that church for 20 years and had plenty of opportunity to do the right thing and chose not to. The "lipstick on a pig" comment also shows poor judgment. While I certainly don't think that it was intended as a derogatory comment toward Sarah Palin as some McCain supporters have suggested, I certainly do think that it was a particularly bad choice of words given Palin's joke about Pit Bulls and lipstick just days before.

Back to Iraq, Obama's platform has been mostly stagnant since 2002, and he continually relies solely on his position that we shouldn't have gone there in the first place. Whether or not we should have gone to Iraq is no longer an issue. The fact is that we are there now, and I want someone in charge who has the understanding of how to appropriately handle the current situation without making things worse, not someone who keeps saying, "I told you so." McCain supported the surge while Obama kept trying to undo the past.


While both candidates support development of new alternative energy sources, Obama proposes to accomplish this through large taxpayer-funded government programs, while McCain proposes to accomplish it through tax incentives for energy companies. Obama has promised to deliver oil independence in ten years. Even if he could somehow manage that, his plan would leave a huge economic hole where the energy industry used to be. Obama's campaign ads vaguely promise to "fast-track alternative energy" as the solution. However, when you look more closely, you see that this refers to a ten-year government fund to develop new energy technology. I think we can all agree that any viable petroleum-free energy industry is easily ten years away. To people paying high gas prices, ten years probably doesn't seem all that fast, and Obama's reluctance to pursue domestic oil drilling or nuclear power doesn't provide me any confidence that he will appropriately address the current energy problem.

On the other hand, McCain plans to provide tax incentives to energy companies who develop new energy sources. To me this makes much more sense because it will keep the energy industry viable even after oil is no longer a primary energy source. Further, McCain's plans address the short-term problem through increased emphasis on nuclear power as well as increased domestic oil drilling, which I believe is the only solution to provide any real relief while we work on long-term oil independence.


Even those who oppose him have to admit that John McCain is a genuine American hero. The horrors that he endured during the Vietnam war are thankfully unimaginable to most of us. After returning home, he took command of a large Navy training squadron and turned around what was considered a somewhat poorly performing unit and won the squadron its first-ever Meritorious Unit Commendation. He won election to the US senate in 1987. During his time in the senate he has earned a reputation as a spending hawk, becoming one of only a handful of senators who consistently rejects bills based on wasteful spending. He has also become known as a "maverick" by going against his own party when he believes they are wrong and "reaching across the isle" to work with Democrats when he believes they are right. Despite criticism from Republicans about his straying from the party, McCain's political record is strongly conservative. McCain has demonstrated how much importance he places on these values by choosing a person to run with him who has also earned a reputation for independently standing up against her own party. Additionally, Sarah Palin is the only candidate with any genuine executive experience, something which I feel is important when filling the office of both President and Vice President.

No one should deny that Barack Obama has had an impressive success story so far. After graduating from Harvard Law School in 1991 he worked as a civil rights attorney and community organizer before being elected to the Illinois senate in 1997, and then to the US senate in 2004. A great deal of his time since then has been spent campaigning for the office of President, which is ironic given that he himself stated in November 2004 that this would be a primary reason for him to NOT run for the office of President. Obama does not have much history in the US Senate, but despite his reputation for voting "present" instead of "yes" or "no," his voting record shows that he typically votes along the Democratic party line. Although his quick rise to fame is worthy of accolades, it does not provide much background from which we can judge his capabilities as a potential President. In choosing Joe Biden, who has been in the US senate since 1972, as his running mate, I believe Obama is trying to make up for his obvious lack of experience. Biden brings a great deal of foreign policy knowledge with him, but it seems to me that this goes somewhat against Obama's "change" motto, since Biden is one of the deepest rooted Washington insiders currently in the Senate.

There is a line attributed to former US Representative J.C. Watts about character: "Character is doing the right thing when nobody's looking." While all politicians are somewhat guilty of reinventing themselves to suit the public image, I have seen more of this in Obama than McCain, and perhaps part of it is due to Obama still finding his legs as a senator. While years of experience can help someone be a better politician, they can also be a burden, especially in a year such as this when we are awaiting the departure of an unpopular President and the general mood of the public toward government is pessimistic. One of the primary reasons Obama supporters I know are behind him is they feel he will be something different and be a change from the old politics that have brought us to today. In that respect, Obama's short time in the Senate works for him, because he can claim to not have been involved in the system so long as to be corrupted by it, and that might very well be true. However, for people who are pessimistic about government, a man who plans to deliver a larger, more powerful government with more control over individuals and more of the people's money in their pockets is not delivering change for the better. If it comes to more of the same vs. a change toward socialism, I will pick more of the same.

Obama has repeatedly stated that McCain's presidency would represent more of the "failed policies of the past" and in support of that he points out that McCain has voted in agreement with Bush 90% of the time. Based on voting records, this is true, but based on Obama's voting record, he agrees with the Democratic party 97% of the time. That means that while McCain could be called 90% Bush, Obama can be called 97% Pelosi, and while Bush is currently very unpopular (his rating is currently about 27% in favor), the approval rating of congress under the control of Nancy Pelosi is currently even worse at 17%! Therefore, the change Obama wants to bring to Washington is a change from bad to worse: A change from the policies that have earned Bush his dismal approval ratings to the even less popular policies and practices of the Democrats.

Obama has also suggested that McCain is running for Bush's third term. In response, McCain says that Obama is running for Carter's second term. In many respects, McCain is right. There are several similarities, but the most striking to me is that Carter also experienced an energy crisis under his watch, and his solution was to increase taxes on the energy companies, just like Obama wants to do today. Carter's tax increases had a negative impact on our domestic oil industry and resulted in increased importing of oil... something we are still having to deal with today.

"Change" is not the same as "improvement," and I would definitely prefer the failed policies of the Bush administration over the failed policies of the Carter administration. However, John McCain is not another George Bush, and he is in fact more likely to break away from the old left vs. right politics than is Barack Obama. While certainly conservative, McCain's record clearly shows that his reputation as a maverick is well-deserved. On the other side, although Obama's record is somewhat scant, from what he has accomplished so far it appears that he is a down-the-party-line liberal. To borrow a line from his campaign, that is not the change we need.

Amongst all of this, one thing continues to pop up in my head, and that is the fact that Obama himself stated that he would not be qualified to be President in 2008:

------- Barack Obama - November 2004 -------



I keep wondering what changed his mind. Nothing so far has changed mine. Barring some unforeseen event, on November 4th I will vote for John McCain.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Something worth considering about Barack Obama

Something worth considering about Barack Obama

Several times during recent months I have received emails concerning Barack Obama such as this one:

I have felt for sometime now that Obama is the one person that "Frightens Me". I believe the Bible has warned us that "A man will come from the East that will be charismatic in nature and have proposed solutions for all our problems and his rhetoric will attract will many supporters!"

When will our pathetic Nation quit turning their back on God and understand that this man is "A Muslim"....First, Last and always....and we are AT WAR with the Muslim Nation, whether our bleeding-heart, secular, Liberal friends believe it or not. This man fits every description f rom the Bible of the "Anti-Christ"!

I’m just glad to know that there are others that are frightened by this man!

Who is Barack Obama?

Probable U. S. presidential candidate, Barack Hussein Obam a was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, to Barack Hussein Obama, Sr., a black MUSLIM from Nyangoma-Kogel, Kenya and Ann Dunham, a white ATHEIST from Wichita , Kansas.

Obama’s parents met at the University of Hawaii.

When Obama was two years old, his parents divorced. His father returned to Kenya. His mother then married Lolo Soetoro, a RADICAL Muslim from Indonesia.

When Obama was 6 years old, the family relocate to Indonesia. Obama attended a MUSLIM school in Jakarta.

Obama takes great care to conceal the fact that he is a Muslim. He is quick to point out that, "He was once a Muslim, but that he also attended Catholic school."

Obama’s political handlers are attempting to make it appear that that he is not a radical.

Obama’s introduction to Islam came via his father, and that this influence was temporary at best. In reality, the senior Obama returned to Kenya soon after the divorce, and never again had any direct influence over his son’s education.

Lolo Soetoro, the second husband of Obama’s mother, Ann Dunham, introduced his stepson to Islam. Obama was enrolled in a Wahabi school in Jakarta. Wahabism is the RADICAL teaching that is followed by the Muslim terrorists who are now waging Jihad against the western world. Since it is politically expedient to be a CHRISTIAN when seeking major public office in the United States, Barack Hussein Obama has joined the United Church of Christ in an attempt to downplay his Muslim background. ALSO, keep in mind that when he was sworn into office he DID NOT use the Holy Bible, but instead the Koran.

Barack Hussein Obama will NOT recite the Pledge of Allegiance nor will he show any reverence for our flag. While others place their hands over their hearts, Obama turns his back to the flag and slouches. Do you want someone like this as your PRESIDENT?

Let us all remain alert concerning Obama’s expected presidential candidacy.The Muslims have said they plan on destroying the US from the inside out, what better way to start than at the highest level - through the President of the United States, one of their own!

Most of this message is nothing other than irrational fear of Muslims, much like the fear of Japanese during WWII or fear of communism during McCarthyism.

Snopes has details debunking most of the points in this email on their site here:

Barack Obama is not a Muslim, and even if he were, that does not mean he is sympathetic toward the radical fringe Muslims who are currently involved in Jihad against the US. However, the truth is that for more than 20 years, Obama has been a member of the Trinity United Church of Christ (1). I think instead of spreading false accusations about Obama the radical Muslim, what people should be doing is focusing on the truth about Obama the radical Christian.

For most of Obama’s time as a member, the Trinity United Church of Christ has been led by pastor Jeremiah Wright. Obama has called Reverend Wright his spiritual mentor and "one of the greatest preachers in the country."(2) Barack and Michelle Obama’s wedding ceremony was performed by Reverend Wright and a sermon written by Wright was the inspiration for the title of Obama’s book The Audacity of Hope (3).

Here is a video of Jeremiah Wright at the pulpit:



Of course he is wrong about several things. First, I don’t think there is a significant amount of "hatin’ on Barack Obama." It seems to me that he is doing better than Clinton in the primaries and is in fact one of the reasons there has been record turnout in many of the elections. He has also won several so-called "white" states. While race may be a factor in some voters’ minds, it works both ways (some might vote against Obama because he is black, but some will also vote for him because of that). The reason he is doing well has much less to do with race than it does the fact that he is a charismatic politician. Wright is also wrong on several points he makes about Obama personally. Obama isn’t white, but he isn’t black either. He had a black father and a white mother, which makes him at most only 50% of either race. He also didn’t grow up in a single-parent house. Additionally, being a Harvard graduate, attorney, senator and best-selling author, he certainly is both rich and privileged. However, putting all of this aside, the most important aspect of this video to me is the racist feel of the whole thing: are white people "the enemy?"

Here is another video showing some of Wright’s sermons:




God Damn the U.S. of KKK A....... is this the kind of thinking with which the President of the United States should be associated?

Something else worth noting is that in December 2007, the church bestowed its highest social achievement award to Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, a man with obvious hatred of whites, Jews and America in general. Personally, I don’t care if Farrakhan hates America. He is entitled to his opinions and beliefs, but at the same time I don’t think our President should be a member of a group who honors him.

While the actions of his church don’t have any direct relation to Obama, what concerns me is that for more than 20 years, Barack Obama has been a member of this church run by a pastor whose sermons frequently have an odor of racism and anti-Americanism. Obama has tried to dismiss the radical messages spread by Wright by comparing him to an uncle who sometimes says things with which he doesn’t agree. However, there are many other churches out there he could attend, but for more than 20 years he has stuck with this one. Why? If Obama really disagrees with the anti-American rhetoric of Reverend Wright, then why didn’t he leave the church and find one that better suits him? Given the great multitude of alternatives, why would he continue to attend a church like this for 20 years unless he agreed with the agenda of its leader?

Of course there is no direct proof that the beliefs held by Wright represent those held by Obama. I’m sure many of us have some associates who might hold some racial or social beliefs contrary to our own and it would be inaccurate to label us guilty by association. On the other hand, if I were campaigning for public office, I would make a conscious effort to clarify that I do not agree with or support the views of these folks. It would be a simple matter to hold a conference and expressly denounce any rhetoric from those people. The only reason not to do it would be if the ties I had to those people and their message were more important to me than the office I was seeking. Obama does have close ties to Wright, and thus far he has done nothing to distance himself from him, which makes me wonder about his priorities.

Unless Obama can provide a convincing reason for his continued support and membership of the Trinity United Church of Christ, then I think it’s important to consider whether or not Americans should elect a person who supports anti-American beliefs as the leader of our country. Barack Obama is a member of a group who gives their highest praise to Louis Farrakhan and holds weekly meetings where they applaud messages of hatred toward "rich white people" and hatred toward the United States of America in general......and he wants to be our president...there are some clear red flags here.

Obama has a very short political history in the US senate and he consistently avoids specifics in his speeches. We simply don’t know all that much about what he might do if elected. On the other hand, Hillary Clinton is more qualified than Barack Obama on nearly every level. She has more experience dealing with foreign countries and she has been intimately close to the internal workings at the highest level. Perhaps most importantly, unlike Obama, she is not involved in a radical religious group that holds allegience to Africa higher than allegience to the USA. I think anyone who votes for Obama simply because "Clinton is a bitch" is making a serious mistake.


  1. Trinity United Church of Christ official web site

  2. Obama calls Wright "one of the greatest preachers in the country" (Real Player required)

  3. Inspiration for "The Audacity of Hope"

Monday, January 7, 2008

What the Bleep do We Know!?

The following are my thoughts on the movie "What the Bleep do We Know!?"

The phrase, "down the rabbit hole" originated in Lewis Carroll's book "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland," a work of fiction that is traditionally categorized as "nonsense literature." Therefore, it seems appropriate that many 9/11 conspiracy theorists use this phrase when delving deeply into their convoluted theories that will "blow your mind" and, unfortunately, the same seems to be true for the inclusion of the phrase in the subtitle for the 2004 film "What the Bleep do we know!?"

The general theme of the film appears to be a scientific affirmation of a certain mystical philosophy, and it is bookended with statements alluding to a forthcoming merger between science and religion. Unfortunately, the science presented as evidence of this throughout the film is more speculative fantasy than scientific reality.

The basis for the thesis (or at least the closest thing to one that the film gets) presented in the film is that quantum mechanics proves that the effect of an observer being present is a necessary part of the equation. As evidence they present the results of the "double-slit experiment"

where the results of single photons passing though two slits changed from a wave-like pattern to a particle-like pattern when the path of the photons passing through the slits was being monitored. The philosophy presented in the film is that when no observer is present, there only exists infinite possibilities, and it's only when a conscious observer e
nters the equation that a specific reality exists. The filmmakers postulate that if a conscious observer is necessary for reality to exist, then humans literally create reality with thoughts. I have two big problems in buying this philosophical idea:

  1. Anyone familiar with the "double-slit experiment" knows that the effect of the measurement itself is only one of many possibilities scientists have formulated to explain the results they were seeing; it is not a legitimate scientific theory because it cannot be falsified. Attempting to prove or disprove it involves a Catch-22: One cannot prove that an object behaves differently when not being observed without observing the behavior of the object.
  2. Quantum mechanics deals in the sub-atomic world, where Netwon's laws of physics do not apply. In fact, at one point, a talking head in the film specifically states that the sub-atomic world is "a fantasy created by mad physicists trying to figure out what the heck is going on when they do these little experiments." In other words, the theoretical sub-atomic world has no connection with the rules of physical reality. It is, by definition, theoretical. Yet, this film pulls the observer factor from the theoretical world of quantum mechanics and applies it directly to the physical world in which we move.

So we have a film presenting philosophical views that cannot be proven true or false by legitimate scientific methods. That sounds a lot like religion to me, but there's more to it than that.

The filmmakers literally make a quantum leap from the theoretical sub-atomic world to the tangible physical world, and there is no bridge between them. The closest the film gets to making some sort of connection is to classify human cells as conscious observers.

The point where the film really started to lose me is when they refer to a series of water experiments where human intentions projected into water droplets apparently affected the formation of crystals when the water was frozen. The evidence is so clearly skewed to fit the mold of the film that it just simply cannot be trusted. The "peaceful" crystals are shown in blue while the "angry" crystals are shown in red. Without the color difference both formations would look equally beautiful to me. Further, these are just single crystals in a drop of water. There is no evidence that EVERY crystal in the drop of water formed in a similar way.

When first viewing this film, I was immediately frustrated by the lack of identification of any of the talking heads. Any decent documentary shows the qualifications of the person speaking as they are doing so. If someone is explaining how human thought has the ability to literally create reality, I think it would be helpful to know whether this person has some legitimate qualifications in the field about which they are speaking, or if they are a Burger King employee who was struck with a life-altering revelation while changing the French-fry oil. Throughout the duration of the film, "What the Bleep" never gives so much as these people's names… least not until the credits roll…. And then it's a real eye-opener.

One of the talking heads in particular caused my brow to furrow more than once. She is a blond wearing a somewhat unusual red outfit, and is filmed from a slightly uncomfortable level of close-up (much closer than the rest of the experts on camera). She speaks in somewhat fragmented sentences with a vague accent that seems to come and go depending on what she is saying at the time… and she gets a lot of screen time throughout the film. When the credits come to identifying her, they read as follows:

Master Teacher – Ramtha School of Enlightenment
Channeled by JZ Knight

When I read this I had to immediately stop the film and do a Google search on JZ Knight and Ramtha. It turns out that although I thought I was simply listening to a mysterious woman with an unusual method of speaking, in reality I was hearing the voice of Ramtha, a warrior spirit from Atlantis who lived some 35,000 years ago, being channeled by Judy Zebra Knight. The more I read about JZ Knight and Ramtha the more I came to see this film less as actual science and more as propaganda for Knight's new-age religion.

This feeling deepened when I discovered that the three filmmakers, William Arntz, Betsy Chasse and Mark Vicente, are also all members of the Ramtha School of Enlightenment, as are several of the experts they interviewed. Among the other experts we have a chiropractor who has discovered the ability to create his own reality, an anesthesiologist, and a few people who actually happen to be some form of scientist.

David Albert is among the legitimate scientists presented in the film, and is the first one presented in the extended interviews on the reverse of the DVD. After watching the interview and then viewing the movie a second time it is clear that in no way does he endorse the message of the film. In fact, since the film's release, Albert stated:

"I was edited in such a way as to completely suppress my actual views about the matters the movie discusses. I am, indeed, profoundly unsympathetic to attempts at linking quantum mechanics with consciousness. Moreover, I explained all that, at great length, on camera, to the producers of the film ... Had I known that I would have been so radically misrepresented in the movie, I would certainly not have agreed to be filmed."

Another of the talking heads in the film with actual scientific knowledge is John Hagelin, but he has some unusual credentials. The school at which he teaches is the Maharishi International University, founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, creator of the Transcendental Meditation technique. There's nothing particularly wrong with that, but if the principals discussed in "What the Bleep" had actual scientific merit, one would think that a more mainstream source could be found to confirm them.

Another of the legit scientists, Jeffrey Satinover, is author of "The Gay Gene" and claims to have the ability to "cure" homosexuals.

Michael Ledwith is one of the main people in the film making a connection between scientific and religious concepts. He is a former Catholic priest, who resigned his position amid controversy surrounding statements about Jesus's twin brother and accusations of child molestation, but by the time "What the Bleep" was made, he had found a position teaching at the -- you guessed it – Ramtha School of Enlightenment.

Fred Alan Wolf is probably the closest to an actual legitimate scientist who represents the views presented in "What the Bleep," and despite his wild, wavy white hair, he appears to me as the least crazy person in the film as well as its most endearing character. It is important to recognize that his official title is "theoretical physicist," and he is the one who explains the subject matter in which he deals as a "fantasy created by mad physicists." It is also important to emphasize that none of the legitimate scientists shown in this film suggest that actions in the quantum world have any bearing on actions in the physical world (such as people creating their own reality). The science presented in "What the Bleep" is fallacy, but it does match identically the teachings presented as fact by the Ramtha School of Enlightenment.

In actuality, "What the Bleep" is a marketing tool for JZ Knight and her "school." It's basically her equivalent of sending a Jehovah's witness to your door. Of course that does not necessarily make it a dangerous or even bad thing. The basic message of the film, in essence: "Think positively and you will change your life for the better," is not destructive in casual use. Of course, when taken to an extreme it could be dangerous. For example Knight's ex husband apparently sued her for delaying his treatment for HIV claiming that she could cure him on her own. To be fair, almost anything taken to an extreme is dangerous and I think that there is nothing essentially wrong with the message that this film delivers. What is dangerous is the deception involved. I doubt that many people viewing "What the Bleep" are aware that it is not so much science as pseudoscience. It is, in fact, a work of fiction, much like The Celestine Prophecy (a book written in 1993 that also predicted a merger of science and religion), but it presents itself as a genuine look at quantum mechanics.

While both the Celestine Prophecy and "What the Bleep" provide some interesting food for thought, anyone who bases a religious philosophy on these fantasies is certainly no better off than a member of any traditional religion.

My theory on the current state of scientific knowledge is that it is the equivalent of an early stage in a role-playing computer game where you are presented with a primarily black map and are only able to see the area immediately around you. As your characters explore the world, more of the map is illuminated and you know more about your world. Of course as our sphere of knowledge increases, so does our awareness that there is more out there that we do not understand. The larger the circle becomes, the larger the perimeter between the known and unknown is and our list of unanswered questions grows.... and we have no idea how large the black area actually is. I believe that building a religion on what is currently known to scientists (or in the case of atheists, what is unknown to scientists) is a mistake.

At the end of Lewis Carroll's story it is revealed that the entire sequence of events is an illusion. It's seems immensely ironic when wide-eyed conspiracy theorists lay out a trail of nonsensical paranoia in front of me and then ask me how far down the rabbit hole I want to go.

When looking at these people, who are typically shifty folks with nervous twitches and rapidly shifting eyes living in an underground bunker somewhere, I often think that if this is what it's like to be awake and enlightened, then I'd rather just hit the snooze button.

Andrew Meyer, the University of Florida student who earned his 15 minutes of fame with the catch phrase, "Don't taze me, bro!" is well on his way to becoming one of these people. Because of his delusional view of reality, he behaves irrationally at events like the John Kerry Q&A, which brings on things like the "tazing" which further deepens his paranoia. He is being sucked down the rabbit hole, and the conspiracy book he's clutching is a poor substitute for a Saint Christopher Medal.

Instead of a bleary-eyed college student, "What the Bleep" has a young boy with a basketball, but regardless of what entrance you take into the rabbit hole, it's a good idea to not be too cavalier about jumping into the darkness. One should always view whatever they see in a rabbit hole with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Both 'What the Bleep" and the 9/11 conspiracy film "Loose Change" very convincing if you approach them with naive trust. However, if the viewer exercises a little critical thinking, does some fact checking, and pays particular attention to who exactly is making the claims presented, they should not fall victim to any deception.

Most 9/11 conspiracy films contain people claiming to be "experts" such as "civil engineers" who explain how the collapse of the World Trade Center towers could only have been accomplished through the intentional detonation of explosives in the buildings. Of course they hide their true credentials. One prominent Civil Engineer in the 9/11 truth movement is in fact a golf course manager. The 9/11 Truth movement is full of people who happen to have the word "engineer" in their title speaking outside of their realm of expertise. There are dentists, water testers, architects and so on... but not a single qualified structural engineer supports their theories.

"What the Bleep" is very similar. It too contains footage of people speaking outside their level of expertise, such as a chiropractor explaining how the neural network of your brain functions. While this particular doctor of chiropractic medicine may in fact have extraordinary knowledge about neural networks, if the theories he is presenting had much merit there would surely be some legitimate neural experts whom the filmmakers could use instead to give the argument more credibility. As it stands, "What the Bleep" is extremely lacking in that department.


You can read my review of 9/11 conspiracy film "Loose Change" via the archive on my myspace blog - The Loose Change blog was posted on myspace 03/12/06