Tom Delay Joins the Birthers

Yup, Tom Delay is still crazy. He's as crazy as a birther. Wait, no, he is a birther. Appearing on Hardball with Chris Matthews on MSNBC today, former House Majority Leader Tom Delay (R - TX, out of his mind) talked about dancing with stars, shoes, guns, and well, demanded to see the President's birth certificate:

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The Dunning-Kruger Effect: Why the uninformed scream the loudest

Technically speaking, I'm a weekend frontpager - but here it is 8:30pm with only four posts today and Jerome busy at Netroots Nation, so I feel it's my duty to step up to the plate. ;) Cross-posted from Blue Moose Democrat.

Now here's an interesting theory that may help explain not just the town hall disruptions but the birther movement and the anti-science crowd too.

We've all seen the clips from yesterday's three most disturbing town hall meetings. Arlen Specter's has gotten a lot of play, and there were several threats of violence outside Obama's New Hampshire meeting (though fortunately everything inside went smoothly). Getting slightly less attention was Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), who I thought did a pretty good job of handling things.

There's another video of how McCaskill handled things after the police had to escort a protestor out of the room, but I think the money quote is from the video above: "I don't understand this rudeness... Do you all think that you're persuading people when you shout out like that?" That's a good question, and one I asked a few weeks ago about abortion protestors. How can anyone possibly think that shouting is more intellectual or effective than reasoning? "I'm sorry, you almost won the vote, but you were two decibels shy!"

A relative of mine showed me a science blog that suggests the answer is the Dunning-Kruger effect, defined by Wikipedia as

an example of cognitive bias in which "...people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it". They therefore suffer an illusory superiority, rating their own ability as above average. This leads to a perverse result where people with less competence will rate their ability more highly than people with relatively more competence. It also explains why competence may weaken the projection of confidence because competent individuals falsely assume others are of equivalent understanding. "Thus, the miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others."

In other words, people who can't get it think they actually get it better than everone else and people who do get it think everyone else can too. It is the affliction of those whose arguments have been completely destroyed and are left with no evidence, and yet think they won the debate anyway - like the birthers. It is also why the smart ones don't understand the failure to communicate and keep pressing. If this theory sounds overly simplistic or arrogant, it's worth pointing out that it's based on a study by two Cornell professors called "Unskilled and Unaware of it." It certainly explains a lot about the national discourse.

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NC-Sen: Is Richard Burr a Birther Like His Base?

"Birther" has entered the parlance as someone who doubts or flat-out denies President Obama's natural born citizenship.  It turns out that a sizable chunk of southern Republicans are birthers.

Public Policy Polling tested North Carolina voters to find out how prevalent the birther phenomenon was in the Tar Heel State.  As for the results, wow:

Only 54% of North Carolina voters say with certainty that they believe Barack Obama was born in the United States, with 26% saying they think he was not, and 20% unsure. ...

47% of Republicans in the state think Obama was not born in the US, with 29% unsure, and just 24% stating that they think he was.

Almost half of North Carolina Republicans think President Obama is not a natural born citizen and more than a quarter aren't sure.  All told, 76% of North Carolina Republicans - seventy-six percent - qualify as birthers!  It also turns out that some of these folks are utter morons:

We also threw in a question about whether people considered Hawaii to be part of the United States, and 8% of respondents either said they did not or that they were unsure.

A prominent subsection of North Carolina birthers doesn't think Hawaii is part of the United States or isn't sure.  Wow.  Just... wow.  But back to Richard Burr.  Public Policy Polling also shares this statistical tidbit (emphasis added by me):

I'd be interested to see someone in our North Carolina Press Corps get Richard Burr's take on the birthers. I'm guessing he thinks it's a crackpot theory, but our poll found that 38% of voters who approve of his job performance think Obama was not born in the US while only 35% think he was, so he risks antagonizing his base if he goes too far.

A plurality of those who approve of Burr's job performance are birthers.  In other words, the birthers are Burr's base.  (Feel free to make a "Burrther" joke here.)  This rightly begs the question (that Public Policy Polling thinks should be asked by the North Carolina media, and I wholeheartedly agree): Where does Richard Burr stand on the birther issue?  Does Burr think that President Obama is a natural born citizen?  Is he not sure?

If Richard Burr agrees with the birthers, then he is a crackpot, too.  If Richard Burr agrees with common sense, he risks alienating his birther base.  And if Richard Burr gives an "I'm not sure" halfway response, he'll alienate both his birther base and those with common sense.

Do you want a fun little project?  Give Burr's Senate offices a call (Asheville: 828-350-2437; Rocky Mount: 252-977-9522; Winston-Salem: 336-631-5125; Gastonia: 704-833-0854; Wilmington: 910-251-1058; Washington DC: 202-224-3154) and note that a vast majority of North Carolina Republicans question whether or not President Obama was born in the United States and very politely ask if Burr also questions whether or not President Obama was born in the United States.  Share what you find out in the comments.

For daily news and updates on the U.S. Senate races around the country, regularly read Senate Guru.

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Dear Orly

Dear Ms. Orly Taitz,

I am Barrister Lee H. Fogiv a member of Kenya Bar Association (KBA).Your contact reached me through the World PUMA Encyclopaedia.Hence,I made up my mind to introduce this business to you in confidence for the mutual benefit of both of us.

The sum of USD48M (Forty eight Million United States) and a Certificate of Live burf for Muslin babby with name Barrie Hussien O'Bama was lodged into one of the leading private Bank here in the Country by the late Head of State (E.A. Presley) this money was lodged in security vaults / boxes.

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Republicans are going to the loonies - part 583

This latest poll really emphasizes that Republicans are going to the loonies (as if we didn't already know).  Only 42% of Republicans in the DKoss poll think that the President is a U.S. citizen!  And 30% "don't know"!

Their tent gets smaller and smaller every day.  While the breakdowns aren't there in this summary story, since 77% overall think he is (with only 11% dissenting) I guess the opinions of Democrats and Independents must be nearly unanimous.

Republican's inability to kill this nonsense is emblematic of their total disarray. 7/31/fewer_than_half_of_republicans_thin k_obama_is_a_citizen.html

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