I think the birther issue is good for the country. A modern republic needs some simple and unimportant issues to keep its citizens invested in the process. The important issues of our time are far too complicated for the average person, and I count myself in that group. We need a few simple issues so we can be part of the political conversation without hurting anything. The last thing our system of government needs is regular citizens getting involved in Middle East strategy, healthcare reform, the budget, climate change, or anything else that might matter.

I'm entirely serious. It's healthy that we average citizens have some sort of topic in the political realm that will keep us engaged while also siphoning off some of our activist energy. It reminds us that we have a role in government. It reminds us that we have a constitution. It reminds us that we're in charge, sort of. And it gives the news media something to talk about on slow news days, which is important for keeping that vital institution in business.

Most citizens would lose all interest in government if there were no issues they could grasp. In a perfect world, the largely clueless citizenry, including me, would feel as if we're part of the system while having no power to break anything important. The birther issue is sort of like letting your toddler have a toy steering wheel in his car seat. He feels as if he's doing something useful and you don't have to rely on him to keep you out of the ravine.

The birther issue also feeds our healthy sense of distrust. My view is that President Obama was born in Hawaii. But it's an objective fact that presidents in my lifetime have been involved in covering up substantial lies. It's good to keep that sort of mistrust in the fronts of our minds. What could be worse than a republic in which no one imagines that the president could be a crook?

The birther issue is educational too, as are many of the so-called distracting issues. The birther distraction teaches us that a president has to be a natural-born citizen. Readers of this blog already knew that, but I'll bet a third of the country learned it recently with the birther issue. And Monica Lewinsky taught us a thing or two about impeachment.

Imagine a media that has no topics that can be understood at a sixth-grade level of reading comprehension. That's the sweet spot for clear writing regardless of the reader's education. As soon as you go above the sixth-grade level, you lose about two-thirds of the country, maybe more. The high end of the news industry couldn't stay in business if it only reported on issues that require a high school level of reading comprehension to follow along. We need a well-financed news media to act as watchdogs for the government. Bloggers aren't going to do it.

Now the media is beginning to focus on the issue of President Obama's academic record. This is the very best situation that a healthy republic could hope for. I can't imagine anything more useful than focusing on the educational achievements of the President. And when this issue gets old I propose we focus on the question of whether President Obama is still sneaking a cigarette now and then.

I feel sorry for the serious journalists that feel obliged to cover stories about the birther situation. Perhaps a healthy compromise is to label such issues as "citizen engagement" issues and acknowledge that they have an important role in educating voters and keeping people interested in the system.

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May 16, 2011
I think this is just to make stupid people feel justified. But I am probably one of them. I do like the birther issue if only to think other people are stupid. Just like I can think nobody should give Palin the time of day but love to talk about her stupid twitters. So that probably makes me average, instead of what I believe myself to be (above average). And you know you all think you are above average too!
May 16, 2011
Ehhh, I think it is a convenient distraction. Just because he is not old, has an African father and more or less 100% white we are suddenly questioning where he was born? This is dumber than the obsession with details of Clinton's relations with Monica Lewinski and far less interesting. People who use closer to 10% of their brain than the rest of the population knew better and were bored years ago.
May 6, 2011
I think one of the reason the birther story resonants with people is that there are a lot of twists and turns to BHO life. Like it or not one of the constistutional requirements for the office of President is that the person be a natural citizen of the United States.

People get supious when they don't get straigt answers. For example 5 or 6 years ago John Kerry promished to release his entire service record to show he was not hiding anything, and here we are years later and the records have never been released. BHO could have released the long-form certificate 3 years ago, but for some reason did not what to. But somehow I'm a racist for wanting to see proof of his citizenship. Especially when most of his childhood photos show him growing up in Indonesia.

It like we can't ask people for photo ID's to vote. Almost everything else we do we have to show ID for from buying beer and cigarettes to flying on planes. But somehow doing something to prevent voter fraud is going to offend someone.
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
May 2, 2011
What the world needs is a universal law that prevents lawyers from becoming politicians.

That's how we've gotten endless weaselly loopholes in things like income tax law that allow the clever lawyers to pay no tax (and their uber-wealthy clients such as banks and stock brokerages likewise) while the rest of us poor boobs get busted for forgetting that we got a $500 bonus six years ago and now owe $56 344 in interest and penalties.

Just a random example.
Apr 30, 2011
Hi Scott;

[1] The category you chose for the post was spot on: "General Nonsense"

[2] Here is a screen-scrape of results of pasting in the content of the post into the URL "http://www.addedbytes.com/lab/readability-score/". You missed 6.0 by a full 4.2 years.

Grade - Readability Formula
09.20 - Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level (Wikipedia)
12.40 - Gunning-Fog Score (Wikipedia)
11.20 - Coleman-Liau Index (Wikipedia)
09.50 - SMOG Index (Wikipedia)
08.70 - Automated Readability Index (Wikipedia)
10.20 - Average Grade Level

[3] I do enjoy your posts, and this one too, and your comic strips.

[4] Many of your cartoons are posted on our office walls ... We have a theory that you must have some secret camera trained on us ... and that is where you get many of your ideas for the comic strips.

[5] When I compare the content of your comic strips with your blog posts I do think I understand how you think a little better. I think a new number one entry in the O.E.D. under "Sarcastic Cynic" should list ... Scott Adams.

Apr 29, 2011
It is interesting that the media and the White House are both stating that the birth certificate issue was taking up too much time.

If the media chose not to press on it, it doesn't take up very much time at all.

It is interesting that the media and White House both stated the issue was silly and trivial.

So who exactly was spending so much time on it, very belatedly in my mind, and is it not possible to have given the matter the little time due it and handle more than one issue at a time.

If the President, who created this mess, is now to chastise others for diverting him from his very busy schedule, and the need for civility, can someone explain the incivility of the those criticisms the lack of the birth certificate to be produced, and how much time did this issue take from Obama's time?

Did it take away from his party nights at the White House? Did it take away from him flying to Oprah for a taping after making these comments and then going to NY for fundraising? Did it take away from his golf games? Did it take away from his Hawaiian vacations, or NY City date night, or birthday party in Chicago when his wife was with friends in Spain?

Just wondering.

But then I remembered, he is a lawyer, and usually when a lawyer moves their lips, it is how you tell if that lawyer is lying.
Apr 29, 2011
FYI - For the 2/3rd or more of the population - This blog entry is sarcasm at its peak.
Apr 29, 2011
I am all for average joe be engaged with a silly distraction, because the real problems are incomprehensible to frame ... but I guess there needs to be a quality control on the kind of distractions. You throwing weight behind the birther issue is quite disingenuous and I feel you do not mean it so much as recognizing the necessity for distractions ...

for someone who harps on the "importance of context" every second day, this is disappointing to see that you are advocating that the birther issue is any sense good ... which suffers from the context of the election season and a black president after 3 years in his term ...

watch your conniving wordplay :

"My view is that President Obama was born in Hawaii. But it's an objective fact that presidents in my lifetime have been involved in covering up substantial lies. It's good to keep that sort of mistrust in the fronts of our minds. What could be worse than a republic in which no one imagines that the president could be a crook?"

I admit that we all should be suspicious of our presidents but we shouldn't assume that the president is stupid enough to "substantially lie" at something this obvious. isn't it ?
Apr 29, 2011
I think most things in politics are really simpler than they appear save for things based on hard science. Its about power and the people who want to keep power try to make things more complicated than necessary. If they make things overcomplicated, they can say things like, trust us, we the elites are the ones who'll fix the problem as we are the only ones who can understand it.

Plus making things confusing makes it easier for them to sneak things in that you normally wouldn't let them do without noticing it.
Apr 29, 2011
I concur, thanks for getting rid of the spam!
Apr 29, 2011
Totally off topic. Any advice or help in starting a rumor that Prince Harry and Pippa will marry next?
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 29, 2011
This seems a bit different to your previous opinions - in many of your other posts, you argued generally for greater access to information so that voters can make informed choices - websites that fully explain political issues, independent economists assessing presidential candidates' financial plans, politicians forced to substantiate their statements or change their opinions when new information becomes available. Is this an opinion change, or a different approach to the same issue?

Anyway, none of that is really all that important. Scott! We have to do something about this blog spam! It so far seems that our current strategy is just to delete/ban spam accounts, but efficiency-loving people such as ourselves must know there's a better way! Remember that of all the blogs/forums I go to, this is the only one that has a spam problem. Have you thought about Catchpa or something to filter the spam?

I'd much prefer you spent more time writing provocative posts that get taken out of context by interest groups, then just spending your time deleting spam!
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 28, 2011
I wish you would clean up the spam Scott.
But thanks for the laugh. I needed it.
Apr 28, 2011
>My view is that President Obama was born in Hawaii.

I suspect that is nearly everyone's view now, now that the original certificate has been published. You call this issue unimportant. But what if the birther allegations had been true, and it had been proved he was born in Kenya? Would he be allowed to run for a second term? Would legislation he signed into law still be valid? What would we do with his two Justices on the Court? We averted a huge constitutional crisis here. And I'm glad for it. Obama did the right thing. But I certainly wouldn't call this an "unimportant" issue.
Apr 28, 2011
Lewinsky proved Clinton to be what JFK was not (a sex maniac). The build up against Obama is what will help the powers that be to easily remove him from office once they're done with him.

They're looking for his birth certificate instead of the X trillions of Wall Street bailout money, weapons of mass destruction, and legitimate excuses to invade Libya. Maybe they'll discover that Obama is actually WHITE and therefore wouldn't need a birth certificate...
Apr 28, 2011
Some soft posts recently, Scott. I think it's ripe for you to tackle some really fun issues, and not completely unrelated---

Bilderberg Group
Trilateral Commission
Council for Foreign Relations

For which blue blood cliques Obama is just the front man. Somewhere mixed in the terrifying reality that the US Federal Reserve is a private bank with the power to tax and issue currency. Blog about that!
Apr 28, 2011
Another elitist comment about the electorate by a man who doesn't vote. Yawn.

Your post would have been much better had you bemoaned the poor state of civics education in America. But instead you treated the election of the most powerful person in the world (at least until 2016 if you believe the IMF and Obama gets re-elected) as though it's the final episode of American Idol.

If the electorate is ignorant, it's because that's how the government wants them. We have a federal government that is virtually unchecked in its power over us, and your major worry is that not everyone understands the importance of being a "natural born citizen."

There is also a considerable body of law that argues that a "natural born citizen" must, besides being born in the US, also be born to two parents who owe no allegiance to any foreign government. Barack Obama senior, the president's father, was subject to the British Crown due to his birth in the then-British colony (later the country of) Kenya.

Regardless, it would take an act of God to have any court (which, according to the Constitution - did you know this? - would have to be a state court) decide that the President was not natural-born.

But that is beside your main point, to wit: how ignorant all them dummies are out there in the great unwashed. I dare propose that if you went out to "fly-over country" you might be surprised at how conversant the regular folks are in such topics. But it's a lot more fun to make broad, sweeping accusations and then sit back on your butt and ignore your civic responsibilities.

You might want to consider the inanity of having so much knowledge about the workings of our system of government and yet sitting on the sidelines snipping at those who do get involved.

Apr 28, 2011
And I quote: "the largely clueless citizenry, including me"
Says the "certified genius."
Sorry, Scott, I just had to point that out.
(cue massive amounts of negative votes)
Apr 28, 2011
Loved the idea of the toy steering wheel!
Ask dilbert to build a voting machine to do a simple moron test before letting people vote.
When a moron goes to vote, the machine discovers it with simple questions and then let him vote, but secretly ignores it.
Without clueless votes, the quality of the politicians chosen would improve a lot.
Apr 28, 2011
I meant to introduce the 2nd part of my previous comment because I think that's what the birthing issue is all about, not the actual birth certificate. If not, there really are a lot of dumb people in this country!
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