Friday, October 31, 2008 134 Comments

Another interpretation of Obama at Columbia

[Update: an intrepid UR reader behind the firewall managed to track down a few papers by Michael Baron, the seminar teacher who claimed to remember Obama. Baron, who got his PhD from Columbia in 1980 and left academia shortly thereafter, seems to have been a specialist in China, and his views seem to follow the liberal rather than Maoist/Chomsky/SDS line. To my mind, this makes it considerably less probable that he's a shill and considerably more probable that Obama's wallflower story is true. Activists are pretty strict about ideological discipline, or at least were in those days. And see also my last comment.]

This one is less incendiary, but probably more realistic. It is in response to the suggestion of free_thinker in the previous comments.

Perhaps Obama, as an activist at Columbia, was a little like a football player on scholarship. He is not ever seen in class, because he is not ever in class. It is generally understood, at least among the staff, that he has other things to be doing. And it might even be that someone else is doing his homework.

In other words, he might have been an intern/catamite/etc in some parallel, opaque world of activist politics. The goal is to have a capable young man for a couple of years who will do all kinds of odd jobs for you, while in exchange receiving a Columbia degree.

Note the extreme reticence, for example, in the interviews of people like the chairman of Obama's political-science department, Professor Chalmers. He says as little as possible. He says: "I don't remember Obama." He doesn't say: "I don't remember Obama! Now isn't that interesting? I suppose he must have been there at the time! Now isn't that odd? Why don't I call up some of my old colleagues, and see if they remember the 6'2 mulatto with the Afro, who was such a promising young man and is now the leading candidate for president? Why, how odd!"

Wouldn't you like to have that discussion? As Carlyle likes to put it, Satan's Invisible World Displayed...

What I think is going on is that, in 1968, there were three classes of professor: those who were willing to tussle with the activists, those who were neutral, and those who were on the activists' side. Obviously, the activists won. The first class was purged, the second was tolerated, and the third was promoted. Today, being with the Movement is basically a requirement for advancing one's career in any nonmathematical academic field. I suspect it is increasingly helpful (perhaps in the form of increased funding to "green" subjects) in science and engineering.

Therefore, Chalmers is like a professor at a state college who is caught between the football coach, the dean of arts and sciences, and the local capital's muckraking correspondent. He doesn't want to lie and say the kid was in his class, but he doesn't exactly want to make a big fuss about the issue, either. If the press is in its full carnivorous attack mode, anything goes, including him. If not, he's not going to go around dripping blood in the water.

So I am confident that Obama was working for something when he was in NY in 81-83. And whatever that something is, it (a) has some pull with the Columbia political science department, and (b) doesn't want this story to become news. And I am pretty confident that something relates, in some sense or part, to the New York radical community. Wouldn't you say this might be a bit larger, more stratified, complex and socially elite than, say, the local bowling club, Renne Faire, or what have you?

Because I am 100% sure that if Barack Obama was in a bunch of political-science classes at Columbia in 1981-83, he would have been widely noticed and remembered. If only because of his unusual name and unusual looks. A poli-sci program is not a civil-engineering department: it attracts people who are interested in people. And a Barack Obama who was not interested in school would not have gotten good grades - as I suspect he didn't at Occidental, either, where he is remembered as a party animal and soi-disant revolutionary. Not exactly the invisible man, in other words.

If the picture at Zombie's is accurate, there were at most, say, 40 black students per class at Columbia in the early '80s. Each one of these individuals either knows Barack or doesn't. Ted Rall says he saw Barack going in and out of the BSO occasionally, and that's our best observation of Obama at Columbia. I repeat: each of these people remembers Barack or doesn't. If they do, why aren't they talking? If they don't, how can a black student community of 40 possibly fail to notice a new black face on campus?

And, while I am convinced that Senator Obama is talented, I am not convinced that he is talented enough to get a political-science degree from Columbia without ever coming to class. Especially not since he was such a star student in Michael Baron's class - whose other six members, not counting Michael Wolf, also have ample opportunity to tell their stories, and dismiss this scurrilous smear. (Is there a way to submit a smear to Fight the Smears? Please help, Mr. Smears! Tell me all about these bad thoughts I've been thinking about our dear President-to-be, Senator Obama.)

Update: there are a lot of good comments, but here is one that adds some detail:
So if he did attend Columbia College at Columbia University, he would have taken the 4 Core Curriculum seminars, and there would have been a total of roughly 50 other students who sat with Barack Obama in small, discussion heavy seminars in which the articulate Barack Obama is likely to have been the only black student. And he would have spent two full semesters with half these students for about 4 hours a week.

The only 6'2" Afro sporting, well spoken, East African featured, unusually named, black student.

I find it highly unlikely that nobody out of this pool of seminar classmates would remember him.

It's a very small subset out of the larger class, but if he was a loner and monk as he describes himself, living off campus and not participating in clubs/orgs/social scene at Columbia, these people would most likely have the greatest contact with him and remember him.

Also the two year long seminars Literature Humanities and Contemporary Civ are taken during Freshman and Sophomore years, respectively. As a transfer, Barack would have either taken both of these during his Junior year, or Lit Hum during his Junior year and Cont. Civ during his Senior year, or both during his Senior year (least likely; Columbia usually pressures transfers to get started on the Core ASAP). This means his seminar classmates would not be members of the class of '83, but of '85, and/or '84, possibly '86.
I like the theory that the press should have pursued the classes of '84 and '85, not '83, because Obama would have been taking the core curriculum as a transfer. While not hugely compelling (surely Wayne Allyn Root's social network extends downward, for instance), it is by far the most innocuous explanation I can find.

I think the theory that Obama transferred to General Studies, not Columbia College, can be ruled out. The Columbia spokesman said Columbia College, and he knows the difference.

(He also mentions, or seems to mention - the Sun correspondent is not quite clear on the source - the mysterious graduation-ceremony brochure. Which, once one gets suspicious, seems like a very odd bit of corroborating evidence. Not the sort of thing one would mention if one was completely sure about the matter. Can we imagine a Naval Academy spokesman bothering to confirm that McCain was mentioned in the graduation brochure?)

Also, could we please have no further discussion of Lee Harvey Oswald on this thread? I may be a nut, or even a tar baby, but I'm not that kind of a nut. (And, as a racist, talk of "tar babies" makes me a little nervous. What is a tar baby, anyway? Is it what I think it is?)

And for comparative purposes, here is the LA Times on Obama at Occidental. This is the kind of story a reporter gets when he tries to track down someone who actually did go to the college he says he went to. The difference is quite conspicuous, I'd say.

134 Comments:

Anonymous David Gross said...

I gotta say, I still think you're way over on the losing edge of Occam's Razor on this one.

The evidence against your positions you dismiss as the work of a conspiratorial evidence-tampering plot; the witnesses who testify against your position are either liars or they fail to convince you because they aren't emphatic enough in their mediated quotes for your tastes. You demand evidence from a clear blue sky without seeming to have done much to pursue it (who are these other students you say should be coming forward to refute claims that, unless they read your blog, they would have no reason to believe aren't too preposterous to occupy human minds. Do they have email addresses?)

The story that Obama didn't make much of a splash on campus, at least among people who are willing to be subject to a full-bore wingnut assault after being named in the media, just seems much easier to swallow.

This all just shows too much resemblance to the other paranoid fantasies about Obama -- his birth certificate was faked! he's secretly a Muslim! he's Malcolm X's love child! -- to take seriously.

"The One" has managed to attract -- before even taking office -- the sort of grand mal hysterical hallucinogenic paranoid dudgeon that it took Bill Clinton six years to accumulate. And now you've fallen victim. It's going to be a long four years.

October 31, 2008 at 4:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"'The One" has managed to attract -- before even taking office -- the sort of grand mal hysterical hallucinogenic paranoid dudgeon that it took Bill Clinton six years to accumulate. And now you've fallen victim. It's going to be a long four years."

Turns out Clinton is a racist. Who'd a thunk it?

October 31, 2008 at 5:00 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

What I find fascinating is the partisan right's hesitance to make more of this issue (I know why the media/left isn't!). I'm certainly no expert on what's ringing in the echo-chambers of the right, but I've heard very, very little about this -- far less, for example, than complaints about Wright, Ayers, (crypto?) Socialism, etc. It seems to me that this is a perfect opportunity to ask for objective answers about what was going on with Obama during a crucial point in his development without resorting to bizarre conspiracy theories about birth certificates / being the love child of Malcolm X. Furthermore, I think questions like this would have real traction with the left, who obviously have a great deal of respect for ... the Cathedral and its processes. As fabulous as a sinecure for a gifted activist might sound to the remote left, more moderate types would, I believe, be put off by such a revelation.

October 31, 2008 at 5:59 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

David,

Come on. Obama is a 6'2 mulatto with an Afro. He has been a public figure for several years. And no one remembers him? And no one knows what he did for two years? And no one is even talking about it?

Can you name any presidential candidate in American history with a comparable biography gap? Come on - justify your Clinton analogy. With any candidate in any year.

Obama has a close personal connection to a man who seriously proposed murdering 25 million Americans. The latter was very likely his professional mentor? And this isn't important? How many would-be mass murderers did Bill Clinton work for?

Do you think the New York Times is over the losing edge, too? I remind you that they "repeatedly" tried to find evidence that Obama was at Columbia. What evidence-gathering capabilities should I have that the NYT lacks?

Either they don't think Obama's connections to murderous madmen really matter, or they really couldn't turn up anything. Until, of course, Obama's people realized that the optics were bad and supplied the mysterious Baron and Wolf.

Which of these options do you believe? Does the NYT not care? Does Fox News, also, not care?

Or does it really not matter? Can you supply an equally mysterious biographic gap, or equally clear connections to murderous political criminals, for Bill Clinton? Perhaps he knew someone in the KKK?

Don't forget, you're speaking for a faction which exiled a Senate majority leader to permanent oblivion because he once made a complimentary joke about Strom Thurmond. Who was a US senator and a viable presidential candidate, and who I don't believe planted any bombs or planned any mass murders.

You know, recently there was a study of political psychology which actually turned up something interesting: it showed that conservatives are more sensitive to fear. This is exactly the case. I am not endorsing the conservative message, exactly, but conservatives are generally swimming away from the anglerfish, whereas liberals are swimming toward it.

The case of Ayers demonstrates this effect of political anesthesia perfectly. Imagine if McCain had organizational ties to Randall Terry, Eric Rudolph, or Timothy McVeigh. Or even to George Wallace, Curtis LeMay or Charles Lindbergh. Hypocrisies, like lies, often go over more smoothly as they grow more brazen.

Have you read much Russian literature from the last 50 years, say, of the Czarist era? The Russian bourgeois intellectual class, too, loved to toy idly with the evil dreams that would destroy their world.

The root problem in your thinking is that you have one standard for communists and socialists, and another for racists and fascists. I am confident that if Ayers were a Confederate fascist racist, you'd get the picture in no time.

October 31, 2008 at 6:31 PM  
Blogger werouious said...

great post, interesting topic, nice to see you putting this out there in what i think is an honest attempt at shining light into dimly-lit corners.

especially cool to see ted rall get mentioned. that guy is funny!

October 31, 2008 at 7:01 PM  
Anonymous m said...

Mencius, where should I emigrate to? I need to get out of this soon-to-be balkanized - or even worse, Zimbabwe'd or South African'd - hellhole. If only I had enough money to emigrate. And if only the rest of the world wasn't a total shithole. Sigh.

October 31, 2008 at 7:30 PM  
Anonymous Libra said...

I'm with david on this one.

My last year in college, I was working on a startup full time. As a result, I skipped most of my classes. The lectures I did attend, I sat in the back row, hacking away on my laptop. And even with the smaller sections and seminars I had to attend, I do not remember the name of a single classmate nor the professor.

I'd also note that in general I'd only remember the names of classmates if I also had interaction with them outside of class. College acquaintances are not found in the classroom, but in the dorms, dining halls and organizations. If Barack was living off campus, he could have been cut off from that whole world.

If you're living off campus and not engaged in campus life, it's really easy to just pass through without anyone noticing. Occam's razor suggests this is a far more likely scenario than the story that his file was forged, several people are lying, and no one vetting him has found out the truth.

October 31, 2008 at 10:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I graduated from Columbia College at Columbia University a few years ago.

I wonder if Barack transferred into the College or into the School of General Studies.

If he was in the College, I believe he would've had to take Columbia's required and extensive Core Curriculum, which consists of 2 year-long seminars (Literature Humanities & Contemporary Civilization) that you have with about 12 students. Each of these two seminars is 2 semesters long, and you're stuck with pretty much the same group of 12 students for both semesters. They're also heavy discussion classes in which everyone is pretty much forced to participate. They meet twice a week and are actually longer than other classes, at around 1 hour 45 min. So if he did take these classes, it would be hard for nobody from these classes to remember him.

There's also 2 one-semester seminars (Art Humanities & Music Humanities) that he would've had to take, which are pretty much the same deal as above.

The other required courses in the Core Curriculum are a slew of writing, foreign language, foreign culture courses that he may have been able to avoid through earlier coursework at Occidental.

However, he shouldn't have been able to avoid the 4 seminars of Literature Humanities, Contemporary Civilization, Art Humanities, and Music Humanities. Columbia is pretty strict on this and all transfers must take these, as did all the transfers I knew while attending.

Columbia has had this Core Curriculum since 1919, and all 4 seminars were required when Barack attended.

Also, these seminars are not like the large lecture classes that make up a lot of college classes, where you only have to attend twice a semester (to take the midterm and final exams). Missing more than 4 classes results in automatically failing the class I believe.

If he was constantly absent from these seminars, he actually would've been more memorable to his seminar classmates, as "that guy who never came."

He may have attended the School of General Studies, which also awards the B.A. degree. The School of General Studies is for non-traditional students, who are usually older, have unfinished degrees, etc. It is similar to Harvard's Extension School.

The School of General Studies doesn't require the Core Curriculum nor any seminars, so Barack would've been more under the radar here.

It would seem more plausible that Barack transferred into General Studies. It's also much easier to get into than Columbia College, which is difficult to transfer into even for a minority.

Yet he is specified as a Columbia College grad in a couple places, such as in a profile in the Columbia College alumni magazine (which only profiles College grads, not School of General Studies), and on a Columbia website.

http://www.college.columbia.edu/cct_archive/jan05/cover.php

http://c250.columbia.edu/c250_celebrates/your_columbians/barack_obama.html

October 31, 2008 at 10:59 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

anon, the CC/GS thing is very interesting. It's kind of shocking that we don't even know that.

Libra, I am one who knows what it is to be a computer geek. But if the NYT, Fox News, and the Observer went to your CS department and tried to find someone, anyone, who remembered you, they'd fail? Pick the most connected, social person in the class, the equivalent of Wayne Allyn Root - that person wouldn't remember your existence? Also, I take it you're not a 6'2 half-Luo, and you don't wear an Afro.

Remember, Ted Rall recalls Obama just by appearance, having seen him pop into the BSO a few times. This is not a forgettable young man.

And what, exactly, accounts for his failure to network at Columbia? Not just living off campus, surely. At Occidental, Obama isn't hiding behind his laptop or in the library - he's a party animal. At Columbia, he's a monk. Geekery is nowhere in sight. Stoner may be a more likely guess.

Why do you transfer to Columbia, if not to form social networks with the people who are at Columbia? Was it his sudden interest in Nietzsche, Melville and Toni Morrison? (Yes, Obama actually cited these three authors as the people he spent a lot of time reading. What a combo.)

And so the US is about to elect a president who is entirely unremembered at his purported alma mater. This doesn't want to make you pinch yourself, just a little bit?

October 31, 2008 at 11:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also, if Barack did attend the College and was in those seminars, he would have likely been the only black student in the class, with a phenotype different from the black norm in America, making him even more memorable to other students.

He would likely have been the only black in the seminar because there just aren't that many black students there, and he wouldn't have been able to coordinate with a bunch of black students to get into a section of the seminar.

As mandatory courses with student limits for each seminar section, it's pretty much impossible to get into the section you want, let alone arrange with your friends to get into the same section. You're basically randomly assigned.

And no, there are no all black sections that were won as a result of black student agitation.

So if he did attend Columbia College at Columbia University, he would have taken the 4 Core Curriculum seminars, and there would have been a total of roughly 50 other students who sat with Barack Obama in small, discussion heavy seminars in which the articulate Barack Obama is likely to have been the only black student. And he would have spent two full semesters with half these students for about 4 hours a week.

The only 6'2" Afro sporting, well spoken, East African featured, unusually named, black student.

I find it highly unlikely that nobody out of this pool of seminar classmates would remember him.

It's a very small subset out of the larger class, but if he was a loner and monk as he describes himself, living off campus and not participating in clubs/orgs/social scene at Columbia, these people would most likely have the greatest contact with him and remember him.

Also the two year long seminars Literature Humanities and Contemporary Civ are taken during Freshman and Sophomore years, respectively. As a transfer, Barack would have either taken both of these during his Junior year, or Lit Hum during his Junior year and Cont. Civ during his Senior year, or both during his Senior year (least likely; Columbia usually pressures transfers to get started on the Core ASAP). This means his seminar classmates would not be members of the class of '83, but of '85, and/or '84, possibly '86.

November 1, 2008 at 1:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems that the media focused on contacting members of the class of '83 to find people who remembered Obama.

If the students most likely to remember Obama were those in his core curriculum seminars as indicated above, then the media should've sought out the class of '85 and '84.

The more I think about it though, the more I'm inclined to believe that Obama was at the School of General Studies. He seems to fit the profile of what I remember about GS students.

The fact that I'm even thinking about and questioning this is indicative of how sketchy this dude is.......I mean I'm not even an Obama hater or paranoid nut or anything. But I graduated from Columbia undergrad just a few years ago, and I'm not even 100% sure if this guy actually did attend, and if he did, what part of it he actually attended.

Dude's a total sketchball.

November 1, 2008 at 1:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mencius is softening, which leaves me suspicious.

You see, as Mencius no doubt knows, Obama is in fact a shape shifting alien sent to take over the planet for his race.

There was a documentary made on the subject in 1996 called The Arrival. To make a long story short, these aliens require a warm environment so they are causing global warming. They can be exposed by bringing them to a cold environment.

Now, as Mencius ably describes vis a vis Columbia, not one person has come forward to say they saw Obama in a cold environment. This is even though he's lived in Chicago for a while! Not one person to testify to that! Think about it.

I am starting to suspect the Mencius is also an alien conspiring with Obama and that these uncharateristic posts are designed to throw us off the trail. This is important because it's not merely 25 million that they threaten - it's the whole human race!

Folks, we need to do something - stat!

November 1, 2008 at 2:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mencius, I recall an exchange you had with with Richard Kline over at Naked Capitalism in which he seemed to fly off the handle and described you as an intellectual tar baby (among other things.)

I was quite puzzled at the time as to what would set him of like that, but I'm starting to get a sense of it.

It really is a shame. Oh well.

November 1, 2008 at 2:44 AM  
Anonymous Lawful Neutral said...

You're off the edge of the map here, MM. If Ayers and his organization really had been passing out phony Ivy League degrees (which strikes me as plausible), someone by now would have exposed it. Conspiracy members get jealous, disillusioned, greedy, or careless, and something slips out. Groups of people just can't keep these kind of secrets for long. From where I sit, Occam's Razor cuts against you here.

"When people stop believing in God, they don't believe in nothing -- they believe in anything." Maybe we should replace "God" with "the mainstream press." This is a little ominous, as so far you've managed to convince me the mainstream press is part of a sinister system, and is anything but trustworthy on many subjects. How long until I'm lining my headwear with aluminum foil and raving about chemtrails?

November 1, 2008 at 4:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If, as Ted Rall claims, Obama was part of the Black Student Organisation, then why isn't Obama pictured in ANY of the yearbook photos from the BSO?

And why is it that the former vice president of the BSO, at the time Obama was supposedly there, also doesn't remember Obama and was shocked to learn that he was part of the organisation? Surely, SURELY, the vice president of that organisation would have remembered Obama more than Obama's fellow students in his normal classes.

I mean seriously, people are giving Mencius the short shrift here, but a lot of this doesn't add up.

November 1, 2008 at 4:02 AM  
Anonymous Lawful Neutral said...

Anon, if you were the head of an elite revolutionary vanguard, and you had the capability to hand able supporters a pass to status, power, and respect, wouldn't you use it an awful lot? I know I would. If Ayers could mint Ivy League degrees, he would have gone back to that well as often as he thought he could get away with it, dozens of times at the least. Of all these hypothetical phony degree holders, not one has found Jesus, confided too much in an unstable lover, tried to blackmail someone, or spilled the beans for any other reason? Doubtful.

November 1, 2008 at 4:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Conspiracy members get jealous, disillusioned, greedy, or careless, and something slips out. Groups of people just can't keep these kind of secrets for long. From where I sit, Occam's Razor cuts against you here."

Ah, yes I forgot how simplistic and reductionist the world can be when Occam's Razor is applied to that most complex of human affairs: politics and power. All human affairs can be reduced to just two positions: left and right ... AMIRITE?

Oh, and the typical line of thinking that is passed again, again, AND AGAIN, that conspiracies cannot be kept secret for too long is lunacy and goes against the historical nature of conspiracies. I tend to think that this line of thinking I see over and over on blogs and the net comes from the compsci and infosec crowd who believe that because information security and the secrets it guards are always discovered that this holds true also in politics (and that everything is so simple).

No. No it doesn't. As someone who worked in the black world for a bit (engineers will know what I'm talking about) I can tell you right now that there are things out there that CAN be kept secret for a long, long time. The military have these long-term deception operations down pat: hide the true signals through counter-intel and security while producing false signals with deception, psyops etc.

Earth-shattering events in history often come about from conspiracies. They are the black swans of history. Our most recent (before the economic debacle) is 9/11. A number of Islamic extremists funded by Saudi billionaires and Princes, with an official USGOV report that censored the part about the Saudis. Nothing to see here of course. Too many people would have known right? Too many people in Saudi Arabia and the US intelligence community would have come out by now and given us the lowdown on the Saudi-Bush-9/11 connection. Instead its left for muckraking journos to discover ...

Let's take another conspiracy that fails by todays standards of "Occam's ever-so-simple razor" and the impossibility of keeping things secret: JFK.

JFK was assasinated by a U.S. marine, who defected to the Soviet Union, was allowed to defect back, had ties to both Castro and the anti-Castro Cubans, wasn’t a particularly good shot, and he was killed by bar owner with ties to the mob in a police station afterwards, and the next U.S. President said that he thought Castro had something to do with the assasination, and a Congressional committee later reported that there was a second gunman. Again, this is the official account. Yet it fails the typical line of thinking of simplistic and insecure conspiracies.

Let us go with another conspiracy, this time from the fringe left: A U.S. President was assassinated by a member of an international terrorist movement. A movement that in the same decade murdered a French President,
the King of Italy, and the Queen of Hungary, started a
bloody riot in Chicago, and went on to become the catalyst for the first world war. Nothing to see here though, cause it is WAAAAY to complex and would have been discovered BY SOMEONE.

Oh, and don't get me started on World War 1, of which one catalyst was the fruition of assassination plans from a secret society.

All of this doesn't imply that the existence of conspiracies means there is a conspiracy this case. More info must be gathered, but the typical idiotic line that "OMG, IF IT WERE A CONSPIRACY TOO MANY PEOPLE WOULD KNOW!!!!1" is one of the stupidest, self-defeating memes on the internet.

There are people out there who work in secret to change society. How more simplistic can you get?

November 1, 2008 at 4:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That connection between the anarchists and the first world war is incorrect and was me jumping the gun for the next paragraph rant.

Next time I'll know to check my own writing before hitting submit.

November 1, 2008 at 5:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

lawful neutral, incorrect. The academic community frowns on your conclusion.

Your example of the leakage of conspiracy within a social network goes against actual social science into conspiratorial networks by social network theorists like Wayne Baker. Baker found that secretive social networks, like crime syndicates, can operate in secret without other people in the outer reams of the social network knowing the intents and actions of the core cadre.

November 1, 2008 at 5:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From page 7-8 of Baker's paper:

"Illegal networks differ from legal networks in important ways. Unlike participants in legal networks, conspirators must conceal their activities in secret. They must conceal the conspiracy from outside "guardians of trust" (Shapiro 1987), from their customers, from nonparticipants inside their own companies, and from internal company watchdogs (corporate legal staff). In general, the "secret society" is organized to conceal itself and protect its members from detection (Simmel 1950, pp345-76). When a secret society works properly, the larger society remains unaware of its existence. If a secret society is discovered and investigated its organizational structure should offer protection by making it difficult to unravel the conspiracy.

Various practices and organizational devices are used to protect a secret society. Members may conceal the secret society and theri involvement in it by limiting face-to-face interaction. Leaders, for example, may be unknown to ordinary members (Simmel 1950, pp 371-72). Members can increase protection by minimizing the channels of communication (Goffman 1970, p78; Fitzgerald 1973, p260). Impersonal communication procedures and decision rules may be used as a substitute for direct personal communication and negotiation. Organizational buffers can seal off different leves or groups. For example, a graduated division of labour -- hierarchy -- may separate members of a secret society (Simmel 1950, pp 356-58; Goffman 1970, p78; Shapiro 1984, pp84-85). Top managers may approve or direct activities, but delegate implementation to lower level operations. Decentralization or "compartmental insulation" (Goffman 1970, p78) limits its exposure, making it difficult to uncover an entire network, particularly its leaders. Subverse political movements, for example, are organized into decentralized cells (Selznick 1952; Fitzgerald 1973, pp235-63; Simmell 1950, p357)."

That crazy Baker, little does he know that popular wisdom refutes his silly academic study!

November 1, 2008 at 5:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I forgot to add, before someone points out the obvious, all these conspiracies above were either partially unravelled, still murky, or fully blown open.

However, there is an epistemic, and evidential, difference between saying:

1. "A conspiracy cannot exist right now, as someone would talk" and;

2. "A conspiracy cannot exist right now, as conspiracies in the past have been discovered or carried out."

A person who asserts point one assumes that point two also backs up assertion one, but point one is a continuum, while point two is an event. They are two completely different things and the ability to discover conspiracies occurring right at this moment is often beyond mere mortals like myself, you, and Mencius. They are left to historians, pundits, and conspiracy theorists to provide narrative fallacies AFTER the conspiracy occurs or is unravelled.

November 1, 2008 at 6:37 AM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

MM,

The only source I have for Obama's appearance in the 83 graduation program is the NY Sun, which is of course in the GOP's pocket:

Federal law limits the information that Columbia can release about Mr. Obama's time there. A spokesman for the university, Brian Connolly, confirmed that Mr. Obama spent two years at Columbia College and graduated in 1983 with a major in political science. He did not receive honors, Mr. Connolly said, though specific information on his grades is sealed. A program from the 1983 graduation ceremony lists him as a graduate.

And don't be disingenuous. You know the second Obama released a transcript, the right would be all over his professors, classmates, etc. ZOMG Muslims and Palestinians and black people and librul activists!

November 1, 2008 at 7:34 AM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

JA,

See the update at the end of the post. (And I'm afraid the vast right-wing conspiracy isn't as organized as you think - the Sun, for instance, is out of business...)

If we believe the brochure story as sourced by Brian Connolly, the conclusion is that Obama must have been added to the rolls by 1983. Under what circumstances, we don't know. I've emailed Connolly to ask for some clarifications.

As for the transcript: JA, perhaps you've heard the phrase "if you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen..."

November 1, 2008 at 7:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And don't be disingenuous. You know the second Obama released a transcript, the right would be all over his professors, classmates, etc. ZOMG Muslims and Palestinians and black people and librul activists!

The Obama campaign, under pressure, released Michelle Obama's Princeton thesis, which, quite frankly, was embarrassing in parts. Why not release Obama's thesis from Columbia?

November 1, 2008 at 8:19 AM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

As for the transcript: JA, perhaps you've heard the phrase "if you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen..."

WTF? If you want to run for president, you should hand your opponent fodder for guilt-by-association attacks?

November 1, 2008 at 8:26 AM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

Why not release Obama's thesis from Columbia?

What does he have to gain? He's going to win in a landslide right now. The only thing he has to do is not fuck up before Tuesday.

November 1, 2008 at 8:27 AM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

JA, it's called "scrutiny."

What do you know about Barack Obama? Who is this person? What has he done?

His entire political career consists of reading scripts written by David Axelrod and the like. Trying to know who Barack Obama, the person, is, or what he thinks about anything, by listening to "his" speeches or reading "his" positions is not unlike trying to learn who Daniel Craig is by watching James Bond films.

Behind this, though, we have an actual individual who is about to be appointed to a position of generally overstated, but not insignificant, importance.

And we know nothing at all about him. The last point at which we can reasonably say we know the real Barack Obama is as a party animal at Occidental College.

Beyond that, all we have is a resume. It's not a bad resume, even if it does include a lot of promotions based on skin color. But is the resume accurate? Don't you even think it's worth wondering?

November 1, 2008 at 8:44 AM  
Anonymous David Gross said...

I miss the Moldbug who would say that the reason Obama is sinister is that he is more-or-less exactly what he seems to be: one more point right in the middle of the mainstream of whiggery, the conventional wisdom personified, just one more stepping stone on the path to hell.

Now we're confronted with a Moldbug who insists that Obama is sinister because of secret things that are only known within a sinister, underground conspiracy, carefully hidden from an unknowing and unsuspecting public, but hinted to those of us unafraid to read between the lines. What did he do between the time when he was debating the priests in the temple and when he began collecting disciples? We don't know at all, but what we don't know is entirely consistent with him spending that time in a cave in Tibet learning the mysteries of the lamas! And if you read the gospels carefully, you'll find they make no effort to contradict this. Don't you wonder why? Doesn't that make you think?

November 1, 2008 at 10:28 AM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

MM:

Let's not shift the argument into a general referendum about Obama's life history. You made a ridiculous post hypothesizing that Obama never attended Columbia. Rather than admitting you were wrong and moving on, you're backing off of it in this post, and now in the comments are trying to make it sound like you just want to know more about his past.

November 1, 2008 at 10:51 AM  
Blogger Chris Phoenix said...

It's a standard GOP tactic: If one of your candidates is weak in an area, accuse the opposing candidate of weakness in that area - no matter how ridiculous.

MM, you hit the nail on the head when you said we were likely to elect someone about whom little is known.

Who does that describe even more than Obama? Palin, of course.

The GOP put the meme out there, and you bit.

I wish you'd spend some attention on the phenomenon of Palin. In a few months, she goes from little-known governor of a little-populated state to the future of the Republican party. Why? How?

Who is Palin, really?

November 1, 2008 at 11:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who is Palin, really?

Do you mean to suggest she's really not a moose-hunting hockey mom? Come on. Be serious.

Obama claims to be an Ivy League graduate. Let's see some proof that he actually went to class! We're not asking much.

November 1, 2008 at 11:27 AM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

JA, I'm not backing off in the slightest. You asked a question, I answered it.

I repeat: if Barack Obama had taken two years worth of classes at Columbia College, someone would remember him, as they do at Occidental. What I have no idea of is how the issue was finessed. I'm sure many more alternative theories could be constructed.

David, you'll note that at the end of my first post I said I don't think Obama has any real convictions. I don't think this story tells us a lot about who he is. I think it does tell us a lot about the Orwellian nature of the world we live in.

What matters, in other words, is not that Obama's background is sinister and mysterious, but that the American electorate can be persuaded to elect a man whose background is sinister and mysterious. As I've said repeatedly, I support Obama - I don't think an Obama administration can do all that much damage, and I think it will be very educational.

But this question has an answer. Barack Obama was not on Mars from 1981 to 1983. Fox News, let's say, could easily find every member - or even every other member - of the Black Students' Organization at Columbia in the early '80s, and ask if they remembered Barack or Barry. They called 400 people as it was. Why didn't they follow that up? Never mind the watchdogs of the left - where are the watchdogs of the right?

The problem is a systematic complacency, which infects both right and left, about the accuracy of contemporary history.

Based on the statement of a Columbia spokesman who looked at a piece of paper which has not been disclosed for public scrutiny, two belated testimonials which were obviously furnished to the NYT by the Obama campaign and neither of which has been followed up in any way, and Ted Rall's statement (the most credible of the three) that he saw Obama a few times on campus, you believe the patently implausible proposition that a future president studied at a college where no one can be found who remembers him.

There is much, much stronger evidence for UFOs and Bigfoot than for the proposition that Obama went to Columbia College. I don't believe in UFOs and I am very skeptical about Bigfoot. This is because my standards of evidence are strong, and yours are weak.

November 1, 2008 at 11:32 AM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

Chris,

Sarah Palin is a moose-hunting, Jesus-loving hockey mom with the IQ of a fencepost. She went to a bunch of freshwater colleges where she studied nothing in particular, worked as a sports anchorwoman, got knocked up and had to marry a roughneck.

She was elected mayor and then governor because she looks good on TV, and middle Americans often have the perverse desire to vote for someone who they feel they can trust, because that person is like them.

Is there any mystery in this? Does she not shoot her own moose, or something? Or is her daughter really her granddaughter? I certainly wouldn't rule it out. But I note that most people don't put their reproductive history on their resumes.

November 1, 2008 at 11:40 AM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

BTW, Chris, if you want to know my initial views on the Palin selection, they're here.

November 1, 2008 at 11:45 AM  
Blogger drank said...

MM,
This is not at all up to your usual standards. A multi-decade conspiracy is almost impossible to bring off.

I'll buy that Obama probably regarded himself as an Activist first and a student second during his time in New York. That's consistent with what he himself says about the time. And it's possible he first crossed paths with Ayers and friends during these years, since they were all involved in anti-Apartheid protests.

But none of that is inconsistent with him living off-campus, taking the General Studies curriculum (so he's not in small classes with heavy participation) and being an unremarkable student who skipped a lot of classes and got indifferent grades. Why would students or professors remember the guy who only showed up half the time, sat in the back of the room and got a C?

I just don't think it's hard to pull this trick off at a school with 20K students. I saw people with a similar MO at my school, and I probably wouldn't remember any of them if they suddenly turned up as a political candidate.

November 1, 2008 at 12:46 PM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

MM,

JA, I'm not backing off in the slightest. You asked a question, I answered it.

You originally asked "Was Obama ever a student at Columbia?" You then implied that post was not that realistic when you said this one is probably more realistic.

I repeat: if Barack Obama had taken two years worth of classes at Columbia College, someone would remember him, as they do at Occidental. What I have no idea of is how the issue was finessed. I'm sure many more alternative theories could be constructed.

And now you're reduced to the hypothesis that Obama cut class a lot. Big freakin' deal.

I also transferred into a school after two years and skipped a lot of classes. I guarantee you 99% of my classmates wouldn't remember me. And I even lived on campus part of the time.

Now it's true I'm not 6'2" and black, but I can't imagine Columbia students would have been SO shocked by the sight of Barack Obama that his image would have been seared into their memories for 30 years.

So maybe Obama didn't go to class much, and didn't hang out with his classmates. Your own star witness says that the whites never hung out with the blacks:

That's the era. I mean, when I went to Columbia, the black kids were all at like tables going "Black Power!" We used to walk by and go, "What the hell are they talking about." And they didn't associate with us and we didn't associate with them. So if you track down a couple of black students, they'll probably know him. But nobody white's ever heard of this guy. It's quite amazing. Nobody remembers him. They don't remember him sitting in class.

Within hours of you posting your loony hypothesis, we get an actual classmate of his who shows up and says, uh I remember seeing him around. To this you react not by saying, oh, guess I was wrong about this stuff, but by coming up with some other theory based on nothing.

November 1, 2008 at 12:47 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

drank, according to the Columbia spokesman, Obama is as a graduate of Columbia College, which means he had to have taken the 12-person seminars described. If you don't believe him, why believe anything?

JA, I've had it up to here with your deceptive arguing tactics. I didn't say, "Obama cut class a lot." (Note also that the above seminars could not be cut.) I said: Obama was a student only for the purposes of the record.

Ted Rall didn't say: he saw Obama in class. He said: he saw Obama on campus. I said: I believe you, Ted. Now go and find some friends of yours who took classes with Obama. Have said friends shown up?

You intentionally obscure these differences to make your polemical point. Enough with you.

November 1, 2008 at 12:54 PM  
Blogger mtraven said...

The wingnutosphere is putting out that Obama is a Luciferian mesmerist and Malcolm X's love child, not to mention the more ordinary smears that he is a Muslim black nationalist socialist terrorist America-hating redistributionist fist-bumper, and the best you can come up with is a purported hole in his college life? Weak tea, my friends. And not particularly original since this stuff is all over the usual right-wing sites, like here.

But since you are all about plausiblity, doesn't it seem strange that since there are well-funded professional news organizations devoted to ferreting out dirt on Obama, that this particular item hasn't gotten any more traction than it has? Since the reasoning standards here seem to justify taking absence of evidence as evidence of absence, I take the absence of this story in the right-wing press (Fox News, Washington Times, WSJ) as evidence that there is nothing to it.

November 1, 2008 at 12:55 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

Also, if anyone wants to suggest an explanation of how Obama could have gone to Columbia College when neither the chairman of the political science department, the macher and president of the class reunion, nor any of his friends, nor the VP of the Black Students Organization, remember him, the floor is open.

I postulate alternatives because this is the only way to deal with the impossible: consider improbables. A good example of this is the recent disclosure that a US pilot in 1957 was ordered to shoot down a UFO "which looked like a flying aircraft carrier" on his radar.

Do I believe in UFOs, as in, alien spaceships? No. So my suspicion is: it was some kind of electronic warfare experiment gone awry (as mentioned in the story), or the pilot's radar was on the blink, or - something. Do I have any evidence for any of these somethings? No. But I believe any of them is more plausible than the suggestion that an alien spaceship was visiting Britain in 1957.

November 1, 2008 at 1:02 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

mtraven,

The problem is exactly that: there's no dirt. A hole is the absence of dirt. No one remembers Obama. If someone remembered him holding tribal black Communist Muslim gay orgies in the cafeteria, I'm sure Fox News would be all over it.

But they simply are not going to question Columbia's records. What we see here is the limit of their rebelliousness, in the context of their general deference to the Cathedral.

You, as a good progressive, are trivially convinced that something funny might be going on at Lehman Brothers or Enron or Halliburton, but the idea that something funny could have gone on at Columbia is completely outside your philosophy. And, for all their bluster, it is also outside Fox News's philosophy. If Columbia's file says he went to Columbia, he went to Columbia - even though they called 400 people and can't find anyone who remembers him. And nor can anyone else.

You see, thinking about this issue requires actual critical historical thought. For that reason, it is not at all suitable for influencing democratic politics.

Consider this: Adolf Hitler's associations and past were certainly at least as sordid as Obama's. Yet there is no gap in Hitler's life which is anywhere near as undocumented as Obama's in 1981-1983. This despite the fact that everyone in the era is now dead.

Read the LA Times article about Obama at Occidental. This is normal. This is as expected. This is the dog barking in the night. Fox News isn't smart enough to ask why the dog didn't bark at Columbia, and nor perhaps are its viewers. But you are.

November 1, 2008 at 1:14 PM  
Blogger drank said...

drank, according to the Columbia spokesman, Obama is as a graduate of Columbia College, which means he had to have taken the 12-person seminars described. If you don't believe him, why believe anything?

You're assuming facts not in evidence. Neither you nor I have any idea what classes Obama took or did not take.

I hold a BA in Political Science (not from Columbia), but I was able to skip the small-class seminars that are normally required for the degree. I added the major in my senior year and my adviser cut a deal with the department to let me take senior-level classes instead.

None of us know what arrangements Obama made when he transfered to Columbia. But Occam's Razor tells me it's more likely that he negotiated something that allowed him to graduate without the usual coursework, than that there was a conspiracy wherein unknown parties falsified his transcript and Bill Ayers fabricated an Ivy League diploma as a reward for services rendered.

November 1, 2008 at 1:21 PM  
Anonymous dearieme said...

Can I get some perspective here? We know that J F Kennedy had someone else write his undergraduate thesis for him. We know that Edward Kennedy was expelled from Harvard for sending someone else to take an exam for him. We know the lousy grades that W and Al Gore got at Yale and Harvard respectively. We know that Gore failed three (was it?) attempts to get a Masters degree and that Hellary failed her bar exams. We know that John McCain was at the bottom of his class at the Naval Academy and that Sarah Palin trailed around to find a degree course easy enough for her to graduate in. And you're saying that it's not even clear whether Obama went to Columbia? What the hell is the Press doing?

November 1, 2008 at 1:22 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

drank,

I hold a BA in Political Science (not from Columbia), but I was able to skip the small-class seminars that are normally required for the degree. I added the major in my senior year and my adviser cut a deal with the department to let me take senior-level classes instead.

As the poster who knows Columbia told us, the seminars are not major requirements - they are core requirements for Columbia College, since 1919. And the administration seems pretty serious about them:

Also the two year long seminars Literature Humanities and Contemporary Civ are taken during Freshman and Sophomore years, respectively. As a transfer, Barack would have either taken both of these during his Junior year, or Lit Hum during his Junior year and Cont. Civ during his Senior year, or both during his Senior year (least likely; Columbia usually pressures transfers to get started on the Core ASAP).

None of us know what arrangements Obama made when he transfered to Columbia. But Occam's Razor tells me it's more likely that he negotiated something that allowed him to graduate without the usual coursework, than that there was a conspiracy wherein unknown parties falsified his transcript and Bill Ayers fabricated an Ivy League diploma as a reward for services rendered.

I transferred to Brown. I don't recall any forms for negotiating anything. As I recall, they accepted me or they didn't.

And once you're in "something that allowed him to graduate without the usual coursework," you're already halfway to my second alternative. I am indeed pretty confident that there was something that allowed him to graduate without the usual coursework. I have no idea what that something was, but I don't think it is anything that would stand public scrutiny.

November 1, 2008 at 1:31 PM  
Anonymous Self-Immolation is Hip! said...

"A multi-decade conspiracy is almost impossible to bring off."

Depends on what counts as success. If only people who skim the evidence believe you're innocent, that is a success if most people just skim. Most people who criticize Obama will be called racist. Here we have someone who criticizes (and, incidentally, has endorsed) Obama making it quite clear he doesn't mind being called a racist. But you don't have to criticize Obama's weird academic record - don't HAVE to get called a racist - if you make sure you only skim the evidence.

Also, depends on how many people it takes to make a conspiracy. Obama obviously hung out around Columbia with the activist set and made some friends with radicals who were generally not students. (There are multiple reasons a radical leftist would want to hang out near a college campus, mainly involving the potential to target students; I've known quite a few people like this (not at Columbia).) Obama's friends cheered when a pregnant actress was butchered. Maybe someone in the file room either agreed with or was cowed by terrorist violence ... hasn't that been known to happen once or twice?

moldbug's arguments are better than those of his opponents, plain and simple. Most of you have come up with nothing to explain why only two people in this close-knit, people-oriented department on this compact campus could remember in him class. You just say abstract moralistic stuff like "This is beneath you", which moldbug's lefty readers have been saying for his last few dozen posts (apparently the lefties really liked his "ultra-calvinism" stuff?) Someone please, make a complete explanation.

Barry Obama was a bookish, gregarious, highly political monk with a stylish haircut who spent all his time in the library and giving speeches where no one could notice him. His activism caused his grades to suffer, so he's sensibly shy about them, but his bookishness caused half of the people who saw him in class (i.e., one) to give him an A. He went on to join a church he liked because it's members weren't upwardly mobile, and failed to notice that the pastor bragged about hating America. Then he got elected to the US Senate, and no one noticed that he voted for the Patriot Act renewal but authored no significant legislation.

We're equally screwed whether or not the above explanation is true.

November 1, 2008 at 1:32 PM  
Anonymous Libra said...

But if the NYT, Fox News, and the Observer went to your CS department and tried to find someone, anyone, who remembered you, they'd fail? Pick the most connected, social person in the class, the equivalent of Wayne Allyn Root - that person wouldn't remember your existence? Also, I take it you're not a 6'2 half-Luo, and you don't wear an Afro.

If those news organizations went looking for a person who knew me only from my senior year classes ( ie, who didn't already know me from prior years, organizations, or from dorm life) I highly doubt they would find a single person. The only person they might find is my senior thesis advisor, but I doubt he'll remember me 20 years from now. Also note that Obama's thesis adviser actually does remember him.

People grow sick of being a party animal. They also grow sick of speaking out in class. It's not uncommon for people to go from party animal freshman year to monk senior year, especially when switching schools. Early in my college days I was very active in classes. But by senior year, I was sick of the BS and just wanted the piece of paper. I did the minimum possible to pass. Perhaps the same happened with Obama. Seems to me that is by far the more likely story.

November 1, 2008 at 1:47 PM  
Blogger mtraven said...

mencius,

Fox News is the one making charges that Obama is a Satanist (based on his link with Saul Alinsky, who dedicated one of his books to Lucifer). If they throw up that kind of stuff, do your really think they are showing "deference to the Cathedral"? I can't even imagine what that means any more, unless "the Cathedral" means "minmum journalistic standards of evidence".

It is entirely possible that "something funny" went on at Columbia. However, you haven't made a convincing demonstration of it. Sorry.

More fundamentally, who cares? Let's say your worst hypotheses are true. Obama spent his New York years hooking up with black revolutionary cells and Bill Ayers, who will be made Secretary of Education in his new administration. I'd still vote for him over McCain/Palin without hesitation. Ayers at his worst couldn't do half the damage to the country that the last eight years have inflicted on it, and there is no indication that McCain would be any different. Turns out electing morons to high office has consequences.

Obama has been endorsed by Nature, and here's a physicist registering his opinion:

Obama is very far away from being an infallible political savior, and if he wins I’m sure there will be times when he does the wrong thing. But... he thinks like an academic in the best sense of the word. He listens, and considers what he hears critically and analytically, and then comes to a conclusion and deals with the consequences. Even if I don’t always agree with the conclusions, it will be an unambiguous blessing to at long last have a President with that cast of mind.

I mention this because it's clear that anybody who puts any value at all on the intellect has to come down in the Obama camp. McCain knows nothing and cares nothing for the realities of the world, and Palin is worse. We've had eight years of Republican postmodernism; it's time to put the reality-based community back in charge.

November 1, 2008 at 1:50 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

mtraven,

The reality-based community? You mean, the people who gave us this?

You're ignoring two things. One, you're ignoring the fact that the "reality-based community" has been in charge of public policy since 1933, regardless of symbolic offices like the Presidency. Two, you're ignoring the fact that progressivism is a communicable disease, and stupidity provides immunity. The smarter you are, the more ways you have to fall for one of its little Jedi mind tricks.

I should have waited until after the election to post my questions about Obama and Columbia. I think a McCain victory would sustain the present disastrous state of the polity, whereas an Obama administration, through sheer comical awfulness, might provide an opportunity for America to unite against the regime that has misgoverned it for so long.

As for Saul Alinsky and Satan, I invite you: please, read Rules for Radicals. I have. If you think Alinsky was joking when he dedicated his book to Satan, you couldn't be more wrong. What will it take to convince you people that evil really, actually does exist? I suppose this can't hurt...

November 1, 2008 at 2:08 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

Also, as for Nature, I invite you to spend a good long time here. Don't make up your mind all at once. Take your time. Suffice it to say, I trust Nature about as far as I can throw it.

How is it, exactly, that Nature, physicists, Columbia University, etc, command so much intrinsic credibility in your mind? Is it just because they're smart? Bobby Fischer was smart, too, and he thought the world was run by the Jews. I take it you don't agree.

Think about it this way: if there was an adaptive fiction that wanted to corrupt your epistemology, which host would it head for first? The Wasilla Assemblies of God? Or Nature?

November 1, 2008 at 2:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd still vote for him over McCain/Palin without hesitation. Ayers at his worst couldn't do half the damage to the country that the last eight years have inflicted on it...

I once heard someone describe conservatism as the belief that "things can always get worse."

November 1, 2008 at 2:18 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

libra,

The only person they might find is my senior thesis advisor, but I doubt he'll remember me 20 years from now. Also note that Obama's thesis adviser actually does remember him.

Actually, Columbia doesn't have undergraduate theses. When Obama said he wrote a thesis, they had to spin that one real fast. He also mis-described his "concentration." Do you misuse academic terminology from your alma mater?

People grow sick of being a party animal. They also grow sick of speaking out in class. It's not uncommon for people to go from party animal freshman year to monk senior year, especially when switching schools.

Obama was at Columbia as a junior and senior, and no one at any other point in his life has remembered him as one who hid his light under a bushel.

Wayne Root, CU poli-sci '83, has never met anyone who met Obama. His explanation: Obama spent all his time hanging out with the blacks.

But the blacks don't remember him, either. Mark Attiah remembers thinking, at the 25-year reunion, "wouldn't it be funny if Obama walked in the door right now."

Why would that be funny? What could possibly be funny about someone coming to his own class reunion? Only that no one in the class remembers him, and everyone knows it.

If we're wondering, surely the issue has made the rounds of the Columbia '80s social network. Surely, in fact, it was a considerable topic of conversation at the aforementioned reunion. And, yes, that would have made Senator Obama's appearance pretty funny. Who would he talk to? With whom would he swap reminiscences of the good old days on Morningside Heights? Clearly, Mark Attiah was wondering...

November 1, 2008 at 2:29 PM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

MM:

JA, I've had it up to here with your deceptive arguing tactics.

If it matters, I assure you I'm arguing in good faith. I honestly think your original insinuation that Obama never went to Columbia is ridiculously unlikely.

You also seem to rely pretty heavily on the claim that FOX contacted 400 classmates and didn't find anyone to recognize him. Personally, I find THAT statement pretty hard to swallow. How did they do this? Did they just mass-email 400 people and not receive any replies? Did they call 400 phone numbers and talk to 400 actual students? Where's the record of all this, outside of the WSJ editorial page mentioning it almost in passing?

November 1, 2008 at 2:46 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

If it matters, I assure you I'm arguing in good faith.

I never accused you of playing devil's advocate. I accused you of misrepresenting my argument.

I honestly think your original insinuation that Obama never went to Columbia is ridiculously unlikely.

Try learning to say "suggestion" rather than "insinuation." You'll sleep better at night.

What you're saying is that the proposition that Obama attended classes as a normal student at Columbia College is almost certainly true. Since you, personally, did not see Obama at Columbia, you are taking someone's word for this.

Whose? Whose words are so convincing to you? Is it (a) the Columbia spokesman, (b) Michael Baron and Michael Wolf, (c) Ted Rall, (d) Obama himself, or (e) all five of the above? What motivation can you possibly have for delegating your trust so absolutely to these people?

When I read about Obama's two years at Occidental, I see universal consensus that a bright, engaging young man named Barack Obama was present in that place and time in 1979-81. I see no more reason to dispute this consensus than I see to dispute the reality of World War I or the existence of gravity.

And you don't see any categorical difference between the story of Barry Obama at Occidental, and the mystery of Obama at Columbia? I simply don't see a consensus that Obama was a student at Columbia. Am I certain that he wasn't? Not nearly as certain as you are that he was. So what is the source of this certainty?

November 1, 2008 at 3:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From the official Columbia transfer FAQ website:

http://www.studentaffairs.columbia.edu/admissions/applications/transfer_faq.php#24

"Do I have to take the Core curriculum, even if I’ve already taken similar courses at my current college/university?"
"The Core is the cornerstone of undergraduate academic life at Columbia. Even those transferring in with advanced credit should expect to take elements of the Core, if not all of it. Students are VERY RARELY EXEMPT from Core classes like Literature Humanities, Contemporary Civilization, Art Humanities and Music Humanities."

As I've explained before, the Columbia College admin and faculty are hardcore about the Core Curriculum. They get hard ons just thinking about the classic works of Western Civ. And I imagine they were even more strict back in the 80's. It wasn't until the 90's the administration slightly caved in to multi-culti demands and included works such as the Koran and those by Virginia Woolf to the list of dead white European males that are read. And the foreign cultures requirements (which are classes in addition to the 4 seminars) weren't added until the latter half of the 90's I believe.

I was friends with quite a few transfers into the College. None of them were able to get out of any one the 4 seminars. In fact, some of them had to stay an additional year because of the required seminars.

November 1, 2008 at 3:30 PM  
Blogger mtraven said...

How is it, exactly, that Nature, physicists, Columbia University, etc, command so much intrinsic credibility in your mind?

A very good question! How, indeed, do we decide who to trust? We trust consensus facts all the time. For instance, I believe that there is a large range of mountains between India and China, although I have not verified this personally. I choose to trust the professional reliability of geographers and cartographers, although it is certainly possible that they are all engaged in a conspiracy to pull the wool over my eyes. I trust that most humans have 46 chromosomes, although I've not counted any of them personally, and that there are 6 protons in a carbon nucleus, even though nobody has actually seen those, except in a most indirect fashion. I trust that the Pope is Catholic and bears shit in the woods. Oddly, although I used to believe that Grant was buried in Grant's tomb, I recently learned that this is not the case. So even consensus beliefs need to be revisited and revised on occasion.

Physicists have credibility (about physics) because they have professional standards, they have on occasion demonstrated the truth and efficacy of their theories, and they have high social status. Nature also is known for enforcing a fairly tough set of standards, and thus reinforcing the social status of itself and people who publish there. "Credible" does not mean "100% right in all circumstances", of course. But it's just a fact of life that Nature is more credible than some dude with a website. Is this unfair? Of course. Is it possible that the establishment scientific consensus is wrong and some dude is right? Of course, happens all the time -- Einstein himself was some dude at the Swiss patent office. One nice thing about science is that it seems more capable than most human institutions of eventually recognizing truth, even when it comes outside the established channels.

Of course, the political opinions of physicists and Nature do not carry the same weight of credibility as their science. But they still carry more than Joe the Plumber's, or that of a random dude on the internet, at least with me. Your mileage may vary.

But let me turn the question around. I have a rather boring epistemological rule: my default is trust the scientific consensus unless there is some very powerful reason to believe otherwise. You seem to have some different standard. What is it? That is, why do you choose to give more credibility to climateaudit.org rather than Nature, the IPCC, and the general consensus of the scientific community?

November 1, 2008 at 3:48 PM  
Anonymous Libra said...

Do you misuse academic terminology from your alma mater?

Yes. I just checked my college's web site, and it turns out, technically I did a "senior essay" not a senior thesis.

no one at any other point in his life has remembered him as one who hid his light under a bushel.

Except for those folks at Business International. But now we're arguing in circles.

The Root story and the Attiah accounts are interesting. It's pretty clear from the evidence you present that he had no friends from Columbia. So if he did attend, he would have had to spend 95% of his time off campus. He would have done only the bare minimum to meet graduation requirements. He would have treated the Core seminars like a day job. In class he would have been an anonymous wallflower, daydreaming about radical politics rather than speaking out in class. He would have spent most of his time involved with activist groups outside of Columbia.

This all seems highly unusual, but it is not impossible. It's a lot easier to go through the formality of getting a degree, than it is to plant a forged transcript, get your name printed on the graduation brochure, and find people to lie for you.

In all, I'm giving your story about a 10% chance of being true. If someone uncovers a graduation program and his name is missing, then I'll seriously reconsider.

November 1, 2008 at 4:04 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

mtraven,

You ask:

But let me turn the question around. I have a rather boring epistemological rule: my default is trust the scientific consensus unless there is some very powerful reason to believe otherwise. You seem to have some different standard. What is it? That is, why do you choose to give more credibility to climateaudit.org rather than Nature, the IPCC, and the general consensus of the scientific community?

An excellent question.

Basically, the answer is that I've actually looked into the subject. There's really no other way to decide who's right. If you think Piltdown Man is a human skull and an ape jaw, look at it and decide that it's a human skull and an ape jaw. If you spend all your time considering the relative institutional credibility of Dawson, Woodward and Keith versus
Oakley, you're wasting it.

Also, I have personal experience with the whole climate movement, because my mother worked at DoE in renewables in the '90s, when this whole thing was getting started. The level of unscrupulousness she had to deal with on a regular basis literally almost drove her to tears.

But the largest reason is that I have personal experience with the way science and its funding work in the second half of the 20th century. The "scientific consensus" today is by no means a collection of independent actors. What it is is a very large endeavor funded by USG. It is subject entirely to the bureaucratic imperatives and needs of USG, just as it would be if it was funded by ExxonMobil.

So, for example, in the 19th century, a scientist like Michael Mann would have left the field in ridicule after the exposure of his quasifraudulent work. This is the normal operation of a scientific consensus, which expels anything that smells like error - operating out of self-interest, because no one wants to be associated with a quack.

But instead what we see is a consensus which actually behaves more like a corporation, a single unit. And instead of discovering its error and expelling the miscreant, it circles the wagons, stonewalls, protects and promotes him. The worse the fraud, the more it has to be cosseted, and the more the whistleblowers must be reviled.

This is something entirely new under the sun - at least, in the Western world. In the Soviet bloc it was standard operating procedure. As the iron grip of progressivism grows stronger, we are starting to see these kinds of phenomena pop up. We'll see more. The "people's democracies" were, indeed, well in advance of us.

November 1, 2008 at 4:10 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

libra,

Yes. I just checked my college's web site, and it turns out, technically I did a "senior essay" not a senior thesis.

Heh. I'll give you that one. (It doesn't seem that Columbia had anything of the sort, though - basically, Barack seems to just be saying he wrote a long paper in his senior year. Which was about either North-South trade or nuclear disarmament.)

It's pretty clear from the evidence you present that he had no friends from Columbia. So if he did attend, he would have had to spend 95% of his time off campus. He would have done only the bare minimum to meet graduation requirements. He would have treated the Core seminars like a day job. In class he would have been an anonymous wallflower, daydreaming about radical politics rather than speaking out in class.

The trouble is that this just doesn't sound like Obama. It's easy to picture for us, maybe, because we're geeks. Obama is an intensely charismatic and noticeable person who's been a grade-A networker all his life. And even for an activist, being a Columbia student is a huge advantage - you're in the power elite.

This all seems highly unusual, but it is not impossible. It's a lot easier to go through the formality of getting a degree, than it is to plant a forged transcript, get your name printed on the graduation brochure, and find people to lie for you.

That's why I prefer the second option: that he was a student only pro forma, but in reality was involved with some activist organization with connections in the administration. Colleges are full of these kinds of odd relationships, although this would be considerably outside the norm. But what we don't know about the internal politics of the American university system would fill a whole stack of encyclopedias.

And I wouldn't at all rule out some sort of more brazen con. Con men succeed because people think no one would ever forge a check, an ID, a transcript, or the like. In reality, it happens.

I wouldn't even rule out the possibility that Obama just plain lied about having gone to Columbia, and at a certain point in his career he realized that the gap would be a problem and managed to make a deal with the administration.

Nobody has disclosed anything. All we have is the word of some flack. And the "yes, he's in the graduation brochure" bit is really quite suspiciously defensive.

November 1, 2008 at 4:25 PM  
Blogger William A. Sigler said...

Mencius has done some forensic detection work worthy of Sherlock Holmes here, offering something new to the public discourse in the process, and what does he get for his trouble but the pummellings of people who seem to gain their entire grasp of how the world works from newspapers. And waving the red flag of tin foil hats to boot, as to prove unequivocally they have do not have an actual defensible argument.

I did a little research on this myself, and would like to add a more obvious candidate for mentorship during the Columbia lost years--his chief foreign policy advisor, who the Economist magazine calls "Obama's brain," Zbig Brzezinski, who not only was a Columbia professor in the area Barack supposedly graduated in-International Relations, he was unquestionably powerful enough (as National Security Advisor and co-founder of the Trilateral Commission) to shepherd young Barry through to Harvard on the skimpiest of credentials (it would be hard to argue, even with the superior brain of Mencius, that a marginal figure like Ayers -- or even Rashid Khalidi -- would have this power no matter how badly universities wanted to sever the hands of the foundations that fed them).

If you want to apply Occam's razor to this, compare what Obama actually says with the opinions of Ayers and Brzezinski--it's 100% Brzezinski, 0% Ayers--even going to the point of repeating the baldfaced lie that Russia invaded Georgia.

You can find a quite interesting critique of Obama from the left at this link:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/3929459/Obama-The-Postmodern-Coup-Making-of-a-Manchurian-Candidate

You can't say you haven't been warned.

November 1, 2008 at 4:53 PM  
Anonymous gemsa said...

The progressives on this thread have forgotten one important thing: judge someone in politics by their actions, not by what they say.

Everyone is judging him on surface aspects: how smart he is, how eloquent he is etc.

Yet the actions of his campaign bespeak a completely different, and highly dangerous, aspect: there is an immense amount of secrecy surrounding him. Obama's aunt, who was found in a Boston ghetto for godsakes (a second Obama family member found in total poverty ...), was told to shut up till after the election.

She wasn't allowed to answer any questions.

Also think about progressive ideals and their actual actions for a second. If progressivism is for women's rights and respect for women, then why has the democrat machine ruthlessly attacked two female candidates in Hillary and Palin? "Aw shucks ... it's just politics, its the real world, deal with it ..." I'd hear progressive apologists say.

Ah yes, change we can believe in ...

A side note: Yes, the republicans are destructive, we know this, but we are talking about progressives and Obama. Perhaps you should google the term "Tu Quoque fallacy" before you mention McCain or Palin again.

November 1, 2008 at 5:09 PM  
Anonymous mlr said...

The link that William Sigler provided is proving to be a fascinating read. I'd love to hear MM's thought on even the introduction.

November 1, 2008 at 6:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too would like someone intelligent and well-read to make a comment about William Sigler's link. It sounds like utter nonsense to me, but I am not well-read enough in conspiracy theory to know who all the players are much less if the motives imputed to them are plausible.

It is natural to be suspicious about Obama because we are not being told all there is to know about him, but I am reluctant to make the attempt to understand a conspiracy theory which seems to be coming from a parallel universe.

November 1, 2008 at 7:23 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

mlr,

All I can say is that it's very interesting to live in a world where anyone can write whatever he wants, and post it on the Internet.

The general problem with most loosely dubbed "conspiracy theories" is that they assume too much central coordination on too wide a scale. In general coordination is rightist and disorganization is leftist - ie, rightists form militaristic hierarchies whereas leftists bond over shared passions. One of the reasons for the failure of the American anti-Communist movement was its focus on the tiny subset of American progressivism which was actually coordinated by the KGB and GRU. This was (a) the tip of the iceberg, and (b) mostly gone by 1950.

When I speculate that some group may have allowed Obama to get a pro forma Columbia College degree while really being a full-time activist, I'm thinking of a "conspiracy" that might involve, say, fifty people at most. All of whom are tightly committed to the cause, natch. Anything much larger wouldn't really scale. The SDS itself never scaled - it was constantly splintering and splintering.

So I think the general mistake the author makes is to treat the American mainstream left as if it were a fundamentally conspiratorial and centrally coordinated network, very like the Nazi Party. Whereas really it is a loose web of connections and patron-client relationships organized around the various status positions, sinecures, etc, offered by the universities, the publishing industry and the press.

With that caveat, yes. The Obama campaign has a lot in common with the color revolutions. But this is just because both are run by bright, energetic, university-programmed young idealists who are 100% confident that they're doing the right thing.

These people just cannot conceive of a world in which they are wrong, and the Sarah Palin troglodytes are right. Unfortunately, democracy is a terribly efficient mechanism for making bad ideas fashionable. This means the good ideas tend to be unfashionable, although not all the unfashionable ideas are necessarily good. Understanding this principle is what makes one a reactionary.

November 1, 2008 at 7:26 PM  
Blogger Scott said...

I was also a transfer student. If I weren't in a small, tribal field (physics), I'm absolutely certain nobody would have remembered me either. Most people's social connections in college are formed in the first two years, which is why people remember him at Occidental and not at Columbia. Looking at my linkedin connections, I have 0 from my transfer school, and 3 from the school where we were all froshes together. The numbers don't lie.

I'd still like to know more about Obama's years in NYC, but it's not that mysterious that we don't.

November 1, 2008 at 7:53 PM  
Anonymous mlr said...

Yes, I agree that when the author (Tarpley) goes into his conspiratorial rantings, he loses me. You've described, though, how 'demotism' can descend into a fascist, the-state-is-everything madness, and were that to happen to the US, I can see Obama accelerating that process in ways that Bush never could.

For example, Tarpley points out on page 34 how Bush asked Americans to go shopping after 9/11, while Obama can be expected to ask (or, as Michelle Obama is quoted as putting it a little later on pg 35, 'demand') that Americans sacrifice and accept austerity measures to show devotion to the new Dear Leader and the mystical 'community.' It reminded me of your earlier descriptions of fascist states that require it's citizens to "have an opinion (the correct opinion) on everything;" where the state seeps into your soul. Creepy. And I don't think Bush could, then and certainly not now, ask for those (creepy) sacrifices of people, but that Obama certainly could be expected to.

Will demotism in America take the next step toward Zimbabwean fascist madness under Obama? The kind of slide your models of demotism suggest? We understand demotism is unstable - will Obama be an effective catalyst to push it further? The re-introduction of the draft? Conflict with the states you identify as being currently outside the Progessive/Cathedral sphere-of-influence (China/Russia), to promote micro states along the lines of extreme identity-politics? Environmental activists engaging in organized "Green Shirt" thuggery to 'save the planet' in a new Calvinist push for cleanliness and purity, with Gore as a 21Cent. Calvin/Himmler? Those are the questions the Tarpley article brought up for me.

November 1, 2008 at 7:56 PM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

MM:

I think you and I are starting with different prior probabilities, to get a little Bayesian. You seem to be assuming that it's just as likely Obama made the whole thing up with help from powerful friends as it is that he legitimately graduated. I'm starting from the assumption that a brilliant man who got into Harvard Law after Columbia and has maintained for 30 years that he went to Columbia with nobody disputing that until recently probably went to Columbia. It's just the simplest explanation.

Now if there were some good evidence that he did not legitimately graduate, I could be convinced. But I'm not seeing any good evidence. I'm seeing one guy who says he never saw him and none of his white friends saw him but they didn't hang out with the blacks anyway. And we know Obama lived off campus and he claimed before any of these allegations came about that he was "like a monk" during that time. I'm seeing second-hand claims that Fox news called 400 classmates and found nothing and inexplicably did not run that story. There's just no way Fox doesn't run that story if that's what really happened.

I also know that the right has been throwing all kinds of crazy shit at Obama in the hopes that something sticks. I saw a ridiculous campaign to claim that he was not born in America. I saw a claim that there was a tape of Michelle going off about "whitey." I heard he was a Muslim.

I've also seen exactly this kind of thing happen every four years. Hillary was supposedly a disciple of Alinksy too. The Clintons killed Vince Foster. The Clintons killed 20-something other people who got in their way. Etc. I know that several of the Swift Boat guys outright lied and that they forged the names of others to make their group look bigger. I know that O'Neill said nobody went to Cambodia after having said decades ago TO NIXON that he himself had been in Cambodia. I saw allegations that Bill Ayers ghost-wrote Obama's book. Etc. etc. etc.

I just don't find your hypothesis that Obama wasn't really a student at Columbia credible. I find your earlier hypothesis that he never went there at all to be so incredible as to be ridiculous.

Is that really so unreasonable?

November 1, 2008 at 8:26 PM  
Anonymous mlr said...

Dear JA,

Yes, yes it is. It's really, typically, unreasonable of you.

And I'll explain why, after pointing out that you are, again, (and rudely, I might add) misrepresenting MM's argument, something you've already been asked, by our host, to stop. MM never said in an "...earlier hypothesis that he never went there at all...", he asked why we are sure he attended classes there.

As for the rest of your unreasonableness, MM has already spoken at lenght about people who surrender their brain to Bayesianism. I can't speak for MM, but when choosing a starting point to decide how credible an American politician is, I'm much more likely to assume that someone pursuing the kind of power the US presidency confers must be a bit psycho, and certainly capable of nasty things. So there. Obama and Bayes may give you orgasms, but I reserve the right to think for myself, thanks.

Really, JA, you're not bringing much to this conversation.

November 1, 2008 at 8:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Didn't Steve Sailer conclude that Obama had suffered from depression at some point? Maybe he became depressed after moving to NYC, didn't make many friends, and didn't participate in class much. Maybe he even missed a lot of classes.

A depressive episode could account for a change from a party animal to a withdrawn, nonsocial person.

November 1, 2008 at 9:18 PM  
Blogger Aaron Davies said...

Obama is very far away from being an infallible political savior, and if he wins I’m sure there will be times when he does the wrong thing. But... he thinks like an academic in the best sense of the word. He listens, and considers what he hears critically and analytically, and then comes to a conclusion and deals with the consequences. Even if I don’t always agree with the conclusions, it will be an unambiguous blessing to at long last have a President with that cast of mind.

The last serious academic in the White House was Wilson. But then you probably approve of him too…

November 1, 2008 at 9:27 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

JA,

First of all, I have one word for you: macaca. I also have a name for you: Trent Lott. Use Google if you don't know what I mean.

What the right does when it tries to "smear" a leftist figure is to reproduce, without the aid of the Cathedral (press and universities), the mechanism that the Cathedral itself uses to excommunicate public figures.

For example, did you ever wonder why the American right ceased to exist in the 1930s - even to the extent that a Democrat, Wendell Willkie, was the Republican nominee in 1940 - and had to be reconstructed from scratch by Buckley in the '50s? Because it was completely "discredited," using these effective techniques for guiding public opinion.

So, for example, I asked earlier what would happen to McCain if he had the same kind of connections to anti-abortion terrorists that Obama has to the Weathermen. The answer is that you would never have heard of McCain. Why did the McCain team decide not to use Jeremiah Wright in this campaign? Not because it wouldn't be effective, because the Cathedral would turn up its immune system by 1000%. McCain has spent his entire political career kowtowing to these people, and of course they're destroying him as it is. But this is nothing compared to what they did to, say, George Wallace.

The most effective populist attacks in this campaign, probably the most effective we've seen since Nixon and Wallace, came from Hillary late in the race. She caught the machine by surprise a little bit. If the press allowed politicians to campaign this way on a regular basis, all the black people in America would be wearing striped uniforms and tracking devices.

So this is what a "smear" is: an attack that's not approved by the Cathedral. Naturally, this almost never works, and less and less each year. It used to work a bit in the '50s, the heyday of anticommunism, but the anesthesia has been turned way up since then. Americans have learned that it's just wrong to fear. Ah, morphine.

So when evaluating a "smear," how do you know whether it's true or not? You don't. You have to actually evaluate it.

Furthermore, an excellent way of hacking an epistemology such as yours is to give prominent airplay to any "smears" that happen to be demonstrably untrue. For example: Obama is a secret Muslim.

This is clearly untrue. On the other hand, due to mere arrogance and stupidity, the Obama campaign has declared to everyone that Obama "is not, and never was raised as, a Muslim." One click will tell you that this claim is at best unprovable, and at worst clearly false.

But your epistemic filter, primed full of all the false smears, picks up the true statement and discards it erroneously as false.

The basic error you're making is not that you put your faith absolutely in the Cathedral - the Times, Columbia, etc - but that you believe that any force which can correct it must have a lower error rate.

In fact, if you learn to use it properly, the rightosphere does indeed have a lower error rate than the leftosphere. But it is much, much more difficult to use. With the Times, you simply latch on and suck. There is one story. The same story comes to you from everywhere. Usually it's true - only, sometimes, it's not.

The rightosphere has no error-correcting mechanisms. Anyone can post anything, and say that Zbigniew Brezinski is trying to take over the world, or whatever. There are no training wheels. The neocons display certain kinds of systematic errors. The paleocons display certain kinds of systematic errors. The libertarians, racists, and so forth, all have their follies. If you can learn to integrate these stories properly, you can get something very accurate. If you just stick your head into Fox News or Free Republic and suck, on the other hand, you're sucking on a sewer.

So, for example, I learned relevant about Obama on Free Republic (through a Google search) the other day. I learned that Obama claims not to speak any foreign languages, and Columbia has a foreign-language requirement. Would I read Freep regularly in search of this sort of information? Of course not - it's garbage.

So: here you are talking about the Swift Boats again. I already lectured you on this subject. You clearly didn't follow the links. This is because your truth filter is broken, hacked, contaminated, pwned. You simply don't know how to evaluate a controversial statement unless it's made by the New York Times, in which case it's true.

Here is a fun exercise for you, if you care: go to the site I linked to (The Obama File), read the whole thing, and separate the false or misleading claims it makes from the true ones. I'm sure there are at least a few. Write up a little essay telling us what the site is lying about, versus what you learned from it that you didn't already know, and post it on your blog.

November 1, 2008 at 9:32 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

anon,

Yeah, depression is Steve's explanation for the missing Columbia years. I'm not sure it's any more (or less) plausible than any of mine. You have to use your own judgment.

I find it a little tough to believe - Obama strikes me as the kind of depressive, if he is one at all, whose extroversion is on 24/7. Even when he's feeling like a turd inside.

This is my problem with all the "Obama as shy wallflower" theories (including yours, scott). Obama is not and never has been a geek. Everywhere he's been, except for his day job at BI, he stood out.

November 1, 2008 at 9:37 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

mlr,

The reason I don't see Obama as particularly dangerous is not that I don't think he could be a lethal apparatchik in a truly malignant state. I am quite confident that he could be. It's that I see Washington itself as so sclerotic, so incapable of change, that even becoming truly malignant is beyond it.

Andropov in the '80s would have loved to turn the Soviet Union back into a lean, mean Chekist state. But there was no way. Entropy does not reverse.

I think what we'll see with Obama is that he'll make some moves toward becoming Caracas on the Potomac, they'll be simply comical and ineffective, and his supporters will be dispirited and frustrated, while his enemies cackle with glee. Meanwhile, the country will go to hell - very slowly. But that's what it's doing anyway.

Note that the Obama people, who are smart, already have a plan for this. But it won't be enough.

November 1, 2008 at 9:44 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

JA,

Similarly, as for allegations that Ayers ghost-wrote Obama's book: we know (a) that Obama was a friend of Ayers at the time, (b) that Ayers helped other friends in his circle (such as Rashid Khalidi) with their books, (c) that Obama had trouble delivering on his book contract, and (d) that the prose of Dreams sounds a heck of a lot like Ayers (for instance, including many nautical metaphors - Ayers is a former seaman).

So, since you raise the issue: which exactly of (a), (b), (c), (d) is incorrect or implausible? Or is there some other reason that the suggestion that Ayers ghostwrote Dreams is laughable?

I'm afraid I'm going to have to an insist on an answer on this point. I really do want to know what your thinking is - I think a lot of people share your epistemic reflexes, and I'd like to know exactly where the bugs are.

My guess is that it's the usual: you just don't trust the source. Note how easily this can be hacked - all you have to do is persuade an untrustworthy source to utter a true statement.

If the "Obama File" is too hefty a nut for you to crack, I suggest you track down this story and try to make up your own mind about it. You're a big boy - you can think for yourself.

November 1, 2008 at 9:51 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

mtraven,

Aaron quoted a piece of your last message that I thought deserved a separate response:

But... he thinks like an academic in the best sense of the word. He listens, and considers what he hears critically and analytically, and then comes to a conclusion and deals with the consequences.

How do you know this?

Have you ever seen Obama think? Have you ever been in a meeting with him, for example? You want to hire him for a job - have you interviewed him?

This is the Daniel Craig/James Bond phenomenon all over again. We know that James Bond can ski down a mountain. Can Daniel Craig? Of course I have no idea at all.

What you've seen on TV and read about in the newspapers is not Barack Obama the person. It is "Barack Obama" the reality-show character. "Barack Obama" is certainly portrayed as thinking in exactly the way you describe.

How does Barack Obama think? What are his opinions about anything? I haven't the slightest idea, and I don't think you do, either. Which is why tracking down the details of his actual life kind of matters.

Probably the most favorable comment I've seen on the real Obama is this one by Bradford Berenson (scroll down), on his time at the HLR. It confirms my impression that he's a basically weak person who tends to go with the flow, but is pretty good at picking the most advantageous flow to go with.

On the other hand, if you scroll up to the top, you get Ryan Lizza saying "It's all about power." And he means it in a complimentary way, which is exactly what's so freakin' creepy about the Left.

November 1, 2008 at 10:03 PM  
Anonymous call me ishmael said...

Well, we know at Occidental, to avoid being mistaken for a sellout, Obama chose his friends carefully. "The more politically active black students. The foreign students. The Chicanos. The Marxist Professors and structural feminists and punk-rock performance poets." I think it's safe to assume that Obama chose to transfer to Columbia in order to study under Edward Said, whose influence is quite apparent on Obama's thinking.

To return to the original thesis of this particular blog entry, was Said's influence at Columbia comparable to Bear Bryant's at Alabama or Adolph Rupp's at Kenucky? Within certain academic circles, yes.

November 1, 2008 at 10:41 PM  
Blogger Black Sea said...

Well, as the saying (or cliche) goes, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

MM raises an interesting question, but I've been trying to apply it to my own rather unstellar undergraduate experience. I transferred to a university in my seond year, and graduated three years later. Several people whom I met through mutual friends would remember me being around (at parties mostly) but who would remember me actually being in class? Only one person I could count on, with whom I took a physics class, and who happened to be my next door neighbor and a close friends. Beyond that, I wouldn't be surprised if no other student remembered me. Of course, I haven't gone on to become the presumptive next president of the United States (yet!!!).

"I see Washington itself as so sclerotic, so incapable of change, that even becoming truly malignant is beyond it."

I'd like to see you write more about this. I tend to agree, though our sclerotic empire does significant damage in its senescense, rather like an 84 year old who won't stop driving and winds up running over several kids playing in the street.

"Stuff happens."
-D. Rumsfeld

November 2, 2008 at 12:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mencius,

Michael Wolf is from Columbia's class of '84.

The WikiCU page says that Wolf remembers Obama as a brilliant student and active participant in seminars.

As I commented earlier, Obama would've taken the Core seminars with the class of '84 and '85.

Though it's unclear what classes or seminars are being referred to on WikiCU.

If Obama was as brilliant and active in class as claimed by Wolf and if he was in one of the core seminars with Wolf, then there must be others out of the group of roughly 50 that remember him.

November 2, 2008 at 1:06 AM  
Blogger Chris Phoenix said...

I really like what Method just said. Most Americans know a lot less than they think they do about how our government works. And yes, they have this completely unrealistic desire for saints, as well as discomfort with categories that are not binary. And therefore, the Democratic machine will *of course* have to blur perception of Obama - just as the Republican machine has to blur perception of McCain.

And MM, yes, you definitely should have waited until after the election.

Chris

November 2, 2008 at 1:14 AM  
Blogger method said...

"On the other hand, if you scroll up to the top, you get Ryan Lizza saying "It's all about power." And he means it in a complimentary way, which is exactly what's so freakin' creepy about the Left."

Huh? Don't you believe this as well? Doesn't anyone who cares about the truth?

Anyway, these two posts have disturbed me. I have UR in my feedreader because I think of MM as an intellectual, esoteric and structuralist David Brooks: the conservative liberals care to listen to (if not progressives). Or as a talented and fertile theorist, like Phillip Rieff, somebody who provides ideas but not sentiment or direction.

But then this, and my reaction has been similar to JA's (I imagine). I'm prejudicially resistant on several fronts and annoyed that I have to think about this at all. I have to say, though, that as a result of following all the links I've come to see Obama as a much darker and more interesting character than I had previously. I just hadn't realized what a weird background BO has. I didn't know about the Indonesian step-siblings and Indonesian schooling. There absolutely has been a filter on his presentation, but I think it's a cognitive or social filter: there aren't publicly traded categories in America for what Obama is. He crosses several boundaries of American "normality", but Americans can only see at most two or three boundaries, and BO has been very good at shading these.

I like your idea that BO was the equivalent of the jock who is protected from school as a possibility for explaining something that might not actually have to be explained (what if we're just talking about crappy journalism?), but I'm not sure that you're on solid footing with the idea that he's the man without qualities. This statement goes beyond probabilities talk, but isn't it more likely that somebody with as complex a background experience as him is actually intensely internal, no matter how outwardly social he is? Don't you think that somebody who grows up in Indonesia until he's 10, moves to Hawaii and lives with his grandparents until he's 18, then moves to the mainland to approach his African-American identity for the first time-- don't you think that's a deep person? Different perhaps even from an army brat experience (totally extrapolating here) because there's no "real life" deferred there, just this wacky layered on hybrid identity. The "he's not a geek" theory relies on the premise that Obama isn't that well-built person, the jock-thinker-politician, an aristo. But to all appearances and by all accounts he is, so he probably is.

So it's possible (and just possible) that BO did enter into some secret, uncertified corridor of learning and power at Columbia. What's so bad about this, though? Isn't that what you would want to happen to the best, the brightest and the most interesting? This is where I think you, MM, need to decide whether you're devoted to true cynicism or to the cynicism that is waiting on the arrival of the ideal. That is, are you speaking from within the narrative or out of it? Because within our present (very stupid) American discourse there's no room for acknowledgment of the fact that it takes a special training for someone to lead a country well. This is a training in wordliness, the use and abuse of power, the scope of privilege, etc., and lastly, how to relate to common folk and project "qualities" such as humility, understanding, forthrightness. In other words, to become president you only actually need the last trait, while to be a good president you have to have had a sentimental education that will include periods of dissolution and periods of wandering in the desert ideologically. By turning the lights up too much, by imposing arbitrary and erratic filters on acceptability (even whether a 45-year-old senator with a terminal law degree took the normal route through his undergraduate education), we just select for cokehead cheerleaders and other guys who got their positions through old-fashioned hereditary entitlement (like McCain III, who didn't need a "hole" to get strings pulled for him at the Air Force Academy and elsewhere).

I bet you Obama did his time at Columbia. I bet you he spent a lot of his time as a scary activist against such wholesome and American institutions as South African apartheid. I'm sure BO doesn't want Americans to dwell on him as an "activist" (which is a new swear word, apparently) and if there was anything "disturbing" about him at that time it's very possible that there would be enough uniform liberalism at Columbia to cover for him.

Clearly, I'm saying that as long as BO turns out to be a good president I'll forgive anything in his past. My real point is that America has a bigger problem than the possibility that BO pulled strings (even egregiously) so he could go be an activist. America's real problem is that it can't bear to see the scoundrel in the saint, so all we get are fake saints who turn out to be scoundrels. Because there's too much truth, distributed inequitably (this thing about conservatives being victims of unfair frames is partial BS; conservatives just have to not be too racist and too creepily religious / liberals have to not be liberal). The idea that in the past people were better, more interested in the truth seems false and unhistorical to me.

As for being an historian, the time for writing history is after the main events, or it should be. Incidentally, this makes for better stories.

November 2, 2008 at 1:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

http://justoneminute.typepad.com/main/2008/10/why-obamas-colu.html

1. From Dreams From My Father and other sources we know that Obama was interested in South Africa divestment in the early 80's. For example, he had a moment of awakening at Occidental College when he gave a brief but well-received speech to kick off an anti-apartheid demonstration. Other sources indicate he maintained that interest while at Columbia.

2. A major focal point of the anti-apartheid movement in the fall of 1981 was the Springboks rugby tour - they were an integrated South African rugby team on a "goodwill" tour of the US, creating controversy and drawing protests everywhere. Some of the protests were violent, including one at John F. Kennedy Airport (from whence the team departed, I believe), and bombs were exploded.

3. Did I say "bombs"? Yes, and here is the jaw-dropping connection - the Weather Underground was involved in some fashion and the Brinks robbery which left two police officers and a security guard dead was apparently undertaken to finance activities such as the Springboks bombings. A flavor from the Times:

The police said they had several links between the robbery suspects and other people associated with radical activities in the past. Federal officials said they were looking into possible links between the holdup gang and the Black Liberation Army, which, like the Weather Underground of years ago, has been linked more recently to bombings, attacks on police officers and other violence aimed at toppling ''the establishment.'' Getaway Car Recovered

A yellow Honda used as one of the getaway cars, for example, was recovered and found to have been registered to Eve S. Rosahn, who was a Barnard College student in the late 1960's and was arrested in radical demonstrations at Columbia University then and more recently at a New York City airport demonstration against the Springboks, the South African rugby team.

These are just dots and it may be impossible to connect them, but we have Barack Obama at Columbia working on South African divestment (as were many peaceful protestors) while other radical elements with a Weather Underground flavor are setting bombs, killing cops, and working on South African divestment. As a bonus, Bill Ayers is studying at Bank Street College a quarter mile from Columbia towards his Masters in Education and Kathy Boudin, one of the Brinks getaway drivers, was working at a progressive Upper West Side School. Eventually Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn raised Kathy's child while she was in jail, so it seems a fair guess that they were close.

A small, small world in which Obama never met any of these people despite their shared passion for justice in South Africa. Never heard them speak at a rally, never heard anyone describe the Weather Underground to him, and felt comfortable assuming that Bill Ayers had been rehabilitated by 1995. In fact, a world so small that Obama won't talk about it now.

For clarity, let me emphasize that I am not alleging that Obama was making bombs with Kathy Boudin. I am wondering how he manged to be active on South African divestment without ever encountering these radicals, I am wondering why he won't talk about his Columbia years, and I am wondering why he and his campaign have consistently provided misinformation when asked about Bill Ayers.

Three more weeks to keep the lid on.

FROM THE TIMES LOOK AT COLUMBIA:

When the Times peered into Obama's Columbia past they found this:

In a long profile of Mr. Obama in a Columbia alumni magazine in 2005, in which his Columbia years occupied just two paragraphs, he called that time “an intense period of study.”

“I spent a lot of time in the library. I didn’t socialize that much. I was like a monk,” he was quoted as saying.

He said he was somewhat involved with the Black Student Organization and anti-apartheid activities, though, in recent interviews, several prominent student leaders said they did not remember his playing a role.

Odd. Here was a guy who had spent his life hanging with radicals and seeking out causes. Now, at what was practically Ground Zero for campus activists, he decides to hide in the library.

November 2, 2008 at 2:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

After Long Absence, Obama, CC ’83, Speaks At Alma Mater

http://www.columbiaspectator.com/node/55531

"A young man with a red backpack often lingered outside the International Affairs Building. He was a commuter student, so he typically arrived early, but the door to his Modern Political Movements class was always locked until the last minute."

"His classmate, Michael Ackerman, CC ’84, always forgot whether his name was Barry or Barack. He knew that “Barak” means “thunder” in Hebrew, but Ackerman didn’t think he looked Jewish. Ackerman said he found his fellow political science major “charming,” but the two remained only casual acquaintances."

"Barack Obama, CC ’83, was “almost chameleon-like, spy-like, slipped in and out,” Ackerman recalled. “He tried to keep to himself.”"

"Obama transferred to Columbia from Occidental College in Los Angeles in search of a change of pace and intellectual atmosphere, he has said in his books and interviews. The experience of living off campus in the early 1980s may have estranged him from the student community inside the gates."

"“Columbia is a hard place to be as a transfer. I can imagine he wasn’t quite as integrated because of where he lived,” said Vice President for Arts and Sciences Nicholas Dirks, who arrived at Columbia in 1992."

"According to Ackerman, who is now a lawyer in California, Obama sometimes played pick-up games of basketball and went to a few meetings of the Black Students Organization, but “he didn’t really hang out much” and kept his nose in the books."

“At that time, a lot of commuters at Columbia weren’t as involved as people who lived on campus,” Ackerman said.

"In the fall of 1982, Obama enrolled in a two-semester senior seminar of about eight students that was taught by Michael Barron, GSAS ’80."

"Of Obama, Barron said, “He was a very bright student. Articulate, as many were in the class ... He wasn’t the only one. I’d say he was one of the best one or two students in the class. But everyone in the class was oriented to doing something more with their lives.”

"Barron said Obama got an A in the class."

"And though Obama “wasn’t the guy who really stood out” in Ackerman’s memory, he made an impression that proved favorable enough to earn Ackerman’s support for his candidacy."

“Looking at him now, and looking at him then, he was a straight guy,” said Barron, who contributed to Obama’s campaign and reacquainted with him at a fundraiser. “Seeing him, and seeing him up close now, the personal traits that I remember are not—he hasn’t changed in that regard. From being a straight talker, very honest, upright kind of guy. A straight shooter. That was my impression then and it’s my impression that he’s still that kind of person. Very genuine, ... very grounded.”"

November 2, 2008 at 2:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Obama's Schoolwork: Verily, a Mystery

http://www.bwog.net/articles/obama_s_schoolwork_verily_a_mystery

"But Baron (over on the left) doesn't have the thesis either, apparently it was lost in a move or some such thing eight years ago."

"What he does have is all the juicy details: "My recollection is that the paper was an analysis of the evolution of the arms reduction negotiations between the Soviet Union and the United States. At that time, a hot topic in foreign policy circles was finding a way in which each country could safely reduce the large arsenal of nuclear weapons pointed at the other [...] For U.S. policy makers in both political parties, the aim was not disarmament, but achieving deep reductions in the Soviet nuclear arsenal and keeping a substantial and permanent American advantage. As I remember it, the paper was about those negotiations, their tactics and chances for success. Barack got an A." "

-So Baron lost the paper, but after 25 years remembers what it was about and what Barack got on it...

November 2, 2008 at 2:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The Bwog" is a blog of a literary magazine at Columbia called the "Blue and White."

The Columbia students who write for the Bwog are typical liberal college kids who love Obama, and even they acknowledge that something is up and strange regarding Barack and his time at Columbia:

"We like to bitch and moan about Barack Obama's weird reticence toward his time here at Columbia"

http://www.bwog.net/articles/a_corner_confluence

November 2, 2008 at 2:43 AM  
Blogger Chris Phoenix said...

Oh, good grief.

During my university days, I attended a presentation by Earth First where I bought a copy of Ecodefense (a manual on many forms of vandalism), and engaged in a variety of protests, some of which embarrass me now.

So let's say Obama attended Columbia, and while he was there, he was attracted by some of the radical stuff that was going on. Let's say he got to know some people that he now wishes he hadn't.

That would certainly be sufficient reason for him to say as little as possible about his time there. Any name he mentioned might direct the media to someone who'd remember seeing him in the company of a terrorist.

And let's make the assumption that Obama's friends were, in general, smart and politically savvy, and retained these qualities. Someone with these qualities would probably decide that they could help Obama more by their silence.

After all, let's get some perspective here. This Obama-skipped-Columbia thing is a fringe rumor, of which there are many. Only a few people will find it credible, and they won't vote for him anyway. But a tie to a terrorist, no matter how insubstantial the tie - that would be a major talking point.

So the presence at Columbia of WU-related people, which means that the young Obama would likely have had casual-but-damaging connections with them, provides a simple explanation of why Obama's handlers and friends are saying as little as possible about Columbia.

Any theory more Byzantine than that is needlessly multiplying entities. Can we please get back to economics?

November 2, 2008 at 3:47 AM  
Anonymous P.M.Lawrence said...

Did anyone follow the link to the article about Occidental? It includes "Anne Howells, a retired English professor, said she wrote Obama a recommendation for his Columbia transfer".

However, I am struck by something even more suspicious. Has anyone noticed that Mencius Moldbug is participating in these discussions, and participated in threads some while back, but not in the range of discussion on economic and meta-political matters in the threads of most of the last few months? Did Mencius Moldbug really post those, or was he absent? We have no evidence, to be sure, but anybody could have posted them for him, and after all, "your tears say more than real evidence ever can" (The Simpsons).

"I trust that the Pope is Catholic and bears shit in the woods"? While I trust the former, I doubt that the Pope bears shit anywhere.

November 2, 2008 at 4:26 AM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

MM:

If I had to track down every claim by myself, it'd be a full-time job. I'm afraid I have to rely in general on sources that have shown themselves to be reliable to my satisfaction -- tempered by an instinctive skepticism and a reasonably well-tuned bullshit meter.

We have a few facts which are undisputed about Obama's time at Columbia:

- Columbia University says he graduated.
- His professor says he was a good student.
- A classmate remembers him well.
- Another classmate remembers seeing him around campus.
- He got into Harvard law, where he excelled.
- He lived off-campus.
- He has previously described himself during that time as a "monk."

You and I are not disagreeing about those facts -- it's just a matter of interpretation. This isn't about trusting the NYT or the Freepers or anybody. It's what we think is plausible, given the facts.

To me, the idea that Obama went to Columbia and didn't interact much with his fellow students is more plausible than the idea that a few activist professors gave him a degree for nothing and have been covering it up for 30 years.

Could Obama have been hanging out with activists? Of course. Could he have maybe written some papers to get out of a class or two? Possibly. Could he have been using drugs at the time? Could be.

He could have been working for the CIA, too. Or maybe he converted to Judaism and snuck off to Israel for a few months, and the Jews at Columbia got him that degree. Or maybe he had a homosexual love affair with one of the deans, and got his degree that way.

The point is, you can speculate about anything and come up with all kinds of conspiracy theories, but the burden of proof is on you, not on people who hear hoof beats and think horses.

November 2, 2008 at 6:35 AM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

Has anyone noticed that Mencius Moldbug is participating in these discussions, and participated in threads some while back, but not in the range of discussion on economic and meta-political matters in the threads of most of the last few months?

I did notice that and I concluded that it's because he knows deep down that these posts are weak and need his defense.

November 2, 2008 at 6:36 AM  
Blogger mtraven said...

But... he thinks like an academic in the best sense of the word. He listens, and considers what he hears critically and analytically, and then comes to a conclusion and deals with the consequences.

How do you know this?

First, those words are not mine but Sean Carroll's (an actual academic).

I wouldn't express my own opinion in exactly that way, but it is completely obvious that Obama is a thoughtful person who values intelligence, projects intelligence, and has some respect for the intelligence of his audience. This is not to say he is some kind of genius, it just means he's got a fucking brain and is not afraid to use it. Contrast this with the personas of McCain/Palin or Bush.

Have you ever seen Obama think? Have you ever been in a meeting with him, for example? You want to hire him for a job - have you interviewed him?

This is the Daniel Craig/James Bond phenomenon all over again. We know that James Bond can ski down a mountain. Can Daniel Craig? Of course I have no idea at all.

What you've seen on TV and read about in the newspapers is not Barack Obama the person. It is "Barack Obama" the reality-show character. "Barack Obama" is certainly portrayed as thinking in exactly the way you describe.


I've watched appeareances where he is debating or being interviewed (that is, not merelyhreading canned speeches). The guy obviously projects thoughtfulness and judiciousness. You seem to be implying that this is some sort of act. I don't know what you think he's hiding. Is he faking the judiciousness? Ie, he's really smart but more like Huey Newton? After the inauguration, the dashikis, berets, and machine guns come out?

Or are you claiming he's faking the thoughtfulness part? That is a neat trick. It's not that hard for a smart person to act dumb (some claim this is what Bush does), but for a dumb person to act smart -- well, if that's what Obama is doing, maybe he deserves to be elected for this unique capability.

Everybody's public persona is an act, those of politicians, even more so. What is it about Barack Obama's act that is more phony, sinister, or threatening than that of McCain, Bush, Clinton, or anybody elses? You are just trying to use his somewhat exotic background and race to create an image of something unknown, dark, and threatening. You're just acting as another repeater in the right-wing smear machine, which is disappointing, because we expect more original ideas from you.

How does Barack Obama think? What are his opinions about anything? I haven't the slightest idea, and I don't think you do, either.

He's got two books out, and his web site lays out his positions quite clearly. Granted, these may not reveal the innermost yearnings of his soul. I'm not sure why any book by a politician is supposed to meet that standard.

On the other hand, if you scroll up to the top, you get Ryan Lizza saying "It's all about power." And he means it in a complimentary way, which is exactly what's so freakin' creepy about the Left.

As opposed to the Right, which is all about egoless service to humanity.

November 2, 2008 at 7:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is not to say he is some kind of genius, it just means he's got a fucking brain and is not afraid to use it. Contrast this with the personas of McCain/Palin or Bush.

Obama and McCain debated three times and appeared jointly at the Saddleback Church in Orange County and the Al Smith Dinner in New York. You'd have to be a complete partisan hack -- or cult member -- to believe that Obama demonstrated a superior fucking brain to McCain based on those joint performances. Obama's poor showing against a man who finished near the bottom of his class at Annapolis is reason enough to question whether he really attended classes at a supposed elite university.

November 2, 2008 at 8:46 AM  
Blogger mtraven said...

BTW, here's a collection of white supremacists for Obama! And a black nationalist for McCain.

You guys just aren't thinking out of the box.

November 2, 2008 at 9:43 AM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

With the Columbia Spectator article, which adds another witness (Michael Ackerman - is there some reason why all three of the people who remember Obama at Columbia are named Michael?) and fills in more detail, plus one reader's research on Michael Baron (see update at top), I'll throw in the towel and agree that the Obama as wallflower story is most probable.

You guys raise a number of other interesting points, but since you're probably right I should let you have the last word.

As a point of administrivia, though, the reason I don't participate in the 'normal' UR comment threads is that the role of cult leader/professor is not one I enjoy, and besides it takes way too much time. Here we're trying to track down actual facts about an actual mystery - it is a matter of details, not as usual of interpretation - and it would be irresponsible not to participate. Right-wing smear machine, etc.

November 2, 2008 at 10:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When Barry Became Barack
Newseek

http://www.newsweek.com/id/128633/page/5

"He cites as an example Obama's speech during a rally of the Black Student Alliance and other groups concerning divestment from South Africa. The rally was staged near the president's office. In Moore's mind, the students were running a risk doing this. They could get in trouble, or even expelled. He was nervous and jittery, in part because he was also speaking at the event. Then he saw Obama take the stage. He seemed so calm. People slowed down to listen. "He had this booming voice," Moore says. "It helped that people knew who he was [because he was popular on campus], but he also had this commanding presence." Moore says he was reminded of that moment when Obama gave his breakout speech to the Democratic National Convention in 2004. "I remember calling friends, saying, 'Are you watching this? That's our boy from school'.""

-The popular Barack Obama gives an impressive speech on South Africa divestment at a rally next to the president's office, risking expulsion. The cautious, steady Barack Obama risks expulsion.


Obama the ambitious, studious, grade grubber? (from the same link)

"In one instance, he politely confronted his professor over lunch at a local sandwich shop called The Cooler. "He'd gotten a grade he was disappointed in," Boesche recalls. "I told him he was really smart, but he wasn't working hard enough." Other students might have backed off at that point. But not Obama. He politely told Boesche he should have gotten a better grade. Even today, Obama recalls the demeaning mark. He told journalist David Mendell, author of a recent book called "Obama, From Promise to Power," that he "was pissed" about it because he thought he was being graded "on a different curve." Boesche still insists he gave him the grade he deserved."

"Obama told him he was planning to transfer to Columbia University. "I remember trying to convince him to stay at Oxy," Moore says. But Obama had made up his mind that he wanted to move to a more urban, intense and polyglot place. "He said something to the effect that he needed a bigger and more stimulating environment intellectually.""

-Was he just a power hungry, ambitious student that just wanted a better college on his resume?

-Or did his impressive speechmaking on SA Divestment attract the eyes of the leadership in the Northeast, leading them to bring him over to New York for re-education?

November 2, 2008 at 11:15 AM  
Blogger Chris Phoenix said...

Is there a reason why two of the most talked-about people in the Abu Ghraib scandal had last names of England and Israel? Talk about bad luck(?)

Chris

November 2, 2008 at 1:28 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

I gave my opinion on this matter here. I don't think Ayers had the clout to dictate things at Columbia. I went to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and we had low regard for the sister branch in Chicago (not the University of Chicago or "Chicago School"), Ayers' employer. The people I knew that went there were burnouts. And he's a professor of education, whose students have among the lowest standardized test scores. As with state senator Tom Hayden, I'm not impressed with the status movement-membership brings. I debated the morality of Ayers and McCain's use of violence here.

Obama's first employer, Business International, was linked to the anti-Weathermen (Ogelsby) wing of the SDS.

November 2, 2008 at 3:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this might shed some light:

http://volokh.com/archives/archive_2008_11_02-2008_11_08.shtml#1225663950

November 2, 2008 at 11:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you came to me and said: "Hey, you went to Penn at the same time that (Black Guy who is running for President) claims to have been there, do you remember him?"

I'd probably say no. Even if I did.

Because national politics are fucking evil. If I say yes, next thing I know, some asshole bloggers will be dredging up every bad thing I ever did, in an attempt to then link me to some guy they hate, and who I maybe went to a class or two with.

Let's be frank, if you aren't already a public figure, giving an answer on something like this makes you one. And who the fuck wants that?

November 2, 2008 at 11:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A second point: I'm currently working on my second master's level degree.

I doubt that I could find a single witness to my presence, if I exclude my current semester.

Unlike my life in undergrad, I don't screw around, don't socialize, and generally just put my head down and work.

The fact that you think this is so unusual that you find a mass conspiracy likely.... well...

take some fucking medication.

p.s. thanks for saving me some time on my RSS feeds. You're gone. I thought you were interesting, but it's clear you're just a fucking idiot.

November 2, 2008 at 11:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To previous anon poster,

I have to defend MM here.

Sure, coming up with an elaborate theory of how Barack was awarded with a Columbia degree in exchange for being an activist/catamite/bitch/waterboy for Bill Ayers/SDS/Weatherman/Al Qaeda/Opus Dei/Jefferson Airplane is probably taking it too far, but it's perfectly reasonable to speculate about Barack's time at Columbia and presume that there was probably more to his time there than he reveals.

Barack's entire campaign has been about the obfuscation of his past and deceiving middle America into thinking that he's a moderate, that as a mulatto, being moderate is at the core, essence of his being and that he embodies the resolution of America's War of (Black & White) Roses.

This is basically what Steve Sailer has been hammering at for the past several months. Barack would have you believe that he was raised with good values from the Kansas heartland, that he studied hard, graduated from college, and then worked at a "consulting house" for a year but then resisted the temptation of good "Wall Street" jobs to move to Chicago to organize blue collar guys with names like "Brokowski." But simply reading his book and looking deeper into his past shows a much different picture. He may end up being a moderate, reasonable, practical president. But in his past he was far from moderate, far from being "post-racial."

Now one thing there is a general consensus on is that Barack is strangely reticent about his Columbia years. MSM news articles, Columbia's own Blue and White magazine, all point this out. So MM doesn't seem to be acting nutty in finding something odd about Barack's silence, and then going a step further to speculate about his time in New York.

Steve Sailer's explanation of Barack's Columbia years is that Barack had a classic depressive episode (2 years) from which he emerged stronger. Steve's reasoning can be basically summed up as: "Cuz, ya know, he's a good writer...and writers are artists...and you know artists are angst-ridden, always depressed, kinda kooky..." I love Steve, and his recent book on Barack is great, but this explanation is rather weak. I mean he's speculating on his mental state at a specific point in his past essentially based on his writing ability. Diagnosing the popular, pot smoking, athletic Barack with depression for a specific 2 year interval 25 years ago based on the fact that he writes decent prose seems as legitimate as, well, taking Barack's word for it that he was just a reclusive, studious, monk, when it's clear that he's been deceptive about other things in his past. He may write good prose, but I've read his poetry, and it's pretty awful. Based on the fact that he's a bad poet, I'll submit that Barack had a vicious case of OCD for 6 months when he was a 3L at Harvard Law.

There's a lot we don't know about this man. What we know for damn sure is that he's a politician, that he wants to be president, and that he's intelligent, ruthless, cautious, and calculating. And that he's been deceptive about his past.

So why would you simply take Barack for his word on his time at Columbia?

And why do you attack MM for taking some shots as to what he might've been up to?

Your points are pretty lame. I mean, "Because national politics are fucking evil", come one.

I guess it should be expected coming from someone foolish enough to waste time at Penn on a second master's level degree (unless it's from Wharton).

November 3, 2008 at 2:01 AM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

MM:

I'll throw in the towel and agree that the Obama as wallflower story is most probable.

Kudos for giving in when the evidence dictated it.

November 3, 2008 at 4:42 AM  
Blogger TGGP said...

Apparently this theory wasn't as unique as MM thought it was. But hey, maybe there's some hope in the Obama ain't his father's son rumor!

November 3, 2008 at 5:40 AM  
Blogger drank said...

Kudos for giving in when the evidence dictated it.

Amen. The first rule of being an honest commentator, rather than a partisan hack, is to change your mind when the facts so dictate. MM did it here.

November 3, 2008 at 8:52 AM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

These speculations about Obama's academic history are interesting. It is hard to believe that someone who attended a private college numbering some 4000 students, within a university having total attendance of 20,000, would not be better remembered by at least some fellow students and teachers. I attended a private college of similar size, and although I did not distinguish myself there in any way, except perhaps for wasting time, hear with some regularity from people who were my classmates forty years ago. Whatever may have been the case, the Obama record in this instance, as in other and more recent situations, seems simply opaque. Details are unavailable, and when they are refused or simply not provided, "investigative journalists" unaccountably accept it with an equanimity bordering upon indifference. Obama's public remarks have been confined to glittering generalities and talk about "change." After all this time there is not much we really know about him.

Here's an example of an unanswered question that is much more recent and (I should argue) of much more relevance to Mr. Obama's presidential campaign - what is his relationship with Franklin Raines and James A. Johnson, former CEOs of Fannie Mae - the GSE that, together with Freddie Mac, had a principal role in blowing up the real estate bubble with sub-prime and Alt-A mortgages?

According to Wikipedia, "On July 16 2008 The Washington Post reported that Franklin Raines had 'taken calls from Barack Obama's presidential campaign seeking his advice on mortgage and housing policy matters.' Also, in an editorial on August 27, 2008 titled 'Tough Decision Coming,' the Washington Post editorial staff wrote that 'Two members of Mr. Obama's political circle, James A. Johnson and Franklin D. Raines, are former chief executives of Fannie Mae.' On September 18, 2008, John McCain's campaign published a campaign ad that quoted the Washington Post regarding Raines and Obama. The ad also notes that 'Raines made millions and then left Fannie Mae while it was under investigation for accounting irregularities.'

"Neither Raines nor the Obama campaign had disputed the Post's reporting before the ad. The text in question consisted of one sentence in each article. After McCain's attack ad however, both denied that Raines was or had been a provider of advice to Obama or the Obama campaign.

"In later commentary the Washington Post (the original source) described McCain's attempts to connect Obama with Franklin Raines based on their reporting as 'a stretch' and said all reporting they did about the matter actually stems from a single conversation a reporter had with Raines in which she recalls Raines said he 'had gotten a couple of calls from the Obama campaign.' When the reporter queried Raines to the nature of the calls he said, 'oh, general housing, economy issues.' "

The pattern is familiar. Ayers was 'just a neighbor.' Obama never heard Wright damning his country, despite claiming to have attended his church regularly for twenty years. Now a report made on the authority of the Washington Post - hardly an organ of the vast right-wing conspiracy - linking Obama to the nexus of the current financial collapse, is casually denied by his campaign. And the Post backs off, blaming its own reporter! Does not all of this seem passing strange?

November 3, 2008 at 11:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kudos for giving in when the evidence dictated it.

Meh. I'm not at all convinced the evidence doesn't support his original theory.

November 3, 2008 at 3:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

LOL@the anonymous@1151pm who stated:

"The fact that you think this is so unusual that you find a mass conspiracy likely.... well...

take some fucking medication.

p.s. thanks for saving me some time on my RSS feeds. You're gone. I thought you were interesting, but it's clear you're just a fucking idiot."


LMAO

Wow, you sure do take the Internet seriously champ. OMG, I'M JUST SO ANGRY AND PISSED OFF THAT SOMEONE DIDN'T LIVE UP TO MY PATHETIC ASPIRATIONS, NOW I SHALL PURGE THEE FROM MY GOOGLE READER.

What are you? Ten years old?

November 3, 2008 at 5:06 PM  
Blogger Gerard said...

More grist:
===
If you worked for Business International in the 1980s, feel free to leave comments here.

UPDATE: In researching the background for this post, I discovered that most online timelines of Obama's employment history are incorrect. Obama began working for Business International in 1984, not 1983. His resume doesn't list anything for the 6-7 months after his probable graduation date, which if he graduated at the usual time would probably have been in May or June of 1983.
===
at the Volkoh Conspiracy

http://www.volokh.com/archives/archive_2008_11_02-2008_11_08.shtml#1225663950

November 3, 2008 at 5:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

@p.m.lawrence:

A post on this blog dated Friday 26th September is titled "UR will return on Thursday, November 6".

In true Moldbug style, I'd say this casts reasonable doubt not only on the supposed attribution of this post and associated comments, but also on the integrity of this entire blog.

November 3, 2008 at 8:01 PM  
Anonymous thehorsemanwithoutahorse said...

Brzezinski. Soros. And a
strange financial crash.
I'm afraid we'll have
four years to unravel it.
See you in Guantanamo.
Patriot Act's finally going
to get some use. Obama -
sinister? That's what left
means. But only symptomatic
of descent. Twilight
of the dark age began in
1939. Which place is safe
from the tiger's teeth?

November 3, 2008 at 10:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

http://www.cashill.com/intellect_fraud/yavelow.htm

"Yavelow Study Confirms Ayers Hand
In Obama's "Dreams""

November 4, 2008 at 1:12 AM  
Blogger Mitchell said...

Since I am being incautious in comments today, I want to bring up another aspect of Mencist epistemology. mtraven asks MM, why do you believe Climate Audit over Nature, and MM replies,

"I've actually looked into the subject... I have personal experience with the whole climate movement, because my mother worked at DoE in renewables in the '90s... I have personal experience with the way science and its funding work in the second half of the 20th century."

I have also looked into the subject of climate change, and I came away with the opposite impression. The turning point for me was the issue of "climate sensitivity". This quantifies the temperature response of the atmosphere to an increase in energetic flux ("radiative forcing"). The historical and paleoclimate data suggests that it's big enough to be disastrous.

So if you can, for a moment, entertain the notion of a world where the Cathedral got this right and Moldbug got it wrong, it makes me wonder: where does that leave the thesis that a democratic society becomes intellectually dysfunctional? In retrospect, the most interesting feature of this blog was that it made the alternatives to democracy seem conceivably OK. Perhaps democracy is not a necessary virtue; one can do all right without it.

But the argument from institutional dysfunction is looking rather weak at this point. If the rightosphere's alternative climate science is to be considered as representative of the intellectual achievements to be expected under something other than democracy, it begins to look like a miracle and a fortunate thing that we have that archipelago of semi-state-funded universities, with all their arrogant elitism - because if we just had private R&D, it looks like we might not have noticed global warming in a big way until, say, 2030.

Indeed, what about the other big issue which is canvassed here as an episode of scientific dysfunction, "human biodiversity", which mostly refers to racial differences in average intelligence? The standard heterodox view is that whites are smarter than blacks, and Asians a little smarter than whites, and Ashkenazi Jews smarter than everybody. Should I even be questioning that as well? I find it hard to believe that the Ashkenazi are not a whole lot smarter genetically, that their "overachievement" is only due to culture; but I admit I have wondered to what extent the supposed superior intelligence of whites is actually due to the contributions of Jews in their midst...

November 4, 2008 at 2:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I worked at the Columbia University Bookstore in the early 1980s. I remember Obama coming in to the bookstore and browsing in the late afternoons. Why do I remember him? There were VERY FEW young black men who came into the bookstore regularly just to browse.

November 4, 2008 at 5:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So if you can, for a moment, entertain the notion of a world where the Cathedral got this right and Moldbug got it wrong, it makes me wonder: where does that leave the thesis that a democratic society becomes intellectually dysfunctional?

Um, it leaves it nowhere, unless you insist that MM must be right about all other subjects, major and minor, before the rightness of his theories on democracy can be evaluated. Sensible folk would say that MM's claims about democracy must stand or fall of their own weight, without reference to his views on climate change or human intelligence.

November 4, 2008 at 12:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have also looked into the subject of climate change, and I came away with the opposite impression. The turning point for me was the issue of "climate sensitivity". This quantifies the temperature response of the atmosphere to an increase in energetic flux ("radiative forcing"). The historical and paleoclimate data suggests that it's big enough to be disastrous.

What is that data?

http://www.coalcandothat.com/pdf/2%20WhatConsensus.pdf

The central question is this: By how much will global temperature increase in response to any foreseeable increase in the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide? On that question, which the bureaucrats call the “climate sensitivity question”, there is no consensus whatsoever among the scientific community.

We have seen how Hansen’s initial attempt at prediction, albeit using one of the largest computer models of the climate on the planet, turned out to contain an unfortunate element of exaggeration. It is inevitably the extreme scenarios that attract the attention of politicians and the media. The UN’s own attempts to reach “consensus” on the climate sensitivity question demonstrate all too clearly not only that it cannot perform simple additions credibly but also that it does not even agree with itself. The internal inconsistencies in the UN’s documents are numerous and growing. We have already seen how it has changed its mind on sea level, as well as performing incorrect addition sums for what appears to have been a political purpose. On the climate sensitivity question, too, the IPCC does not agree with itself. In 2001, it said that the sum of the major climate “forcings” that contribute to temperature change was approximately 2.4 watts per square meter. Now it has decided that the “forcing” from carbon dioxide is largely canceled out by the negative “forcing”
from the pollution that accompanies fossil-fuel burning, particularly in China and India, preventing sunlight from reaching the Earth.

Likewise, if one aggregates up the UN’s central estimates of the contributions of all climate “forcings” and temperature “feedbacks” to the projected warming from increased greenhouse gases, the total comes to just half the UN’s published central estimate of a 3.2C temperature increase in response to a doubling of the atmospheric CO2 concentration. Once again, a large exaggeration is evident, right at the heart of the
alarmist case. If the UN’s documents do not even agree with themselves, how can any kind of “consensus” be claimed?

November 4, 2008 at 12:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are black panthers at polling booths: http://voices.kansascity.com/node/2670

See the video on that page. The guy is carrying around a freaking night stick.

It's begun people. Welcome to the coming glorious left-wing utopia.

November 4, 2008 at 3:09 PM  
Blogger Mitchell said...

Anonymous @ 12.11pm, Nov. 4 said:

"Sensible folk would say that MM's claims about democracy must stand or fall of their own weight, without reference to his views on climate change or human intelligence."

But those are part of the evidence! A significant part of the argument is that democracy has corrupted the intellectual process, not only in those areas but also in financial economics and postcolonial history.

Anonymous @ 12.17pm, Nov. 4 asked, what is the "historical and paleoclimate data" which suggested to me that climate sensitivity is "big enough to be disastrous". You can find it at Wikipedia; see the two "sample calculations". They are merely indicative - simple enough that you can see the arithmetic - but the point is that they don't derive from complicated computer models of uncertain validity. When I looked into the history of how we got the consensus value of three degrees for climate sensitivity, I found my way to a 1979 paper in which two computer models were considered, one with a value of 2 degrees, one with a value of 4, and 3 was just the average. That sounded very dodgy! And there is some work by Pat Frank and Ross McKitrick which shows that there may well be some "theory bias" in the computer models, i.e. a tendency towards reinforcing the 3-degree value. So it was rather important to discover these simpler empirical arguments. Climate sensitivity may not be 3 degrees exactly, but it looks to be positive rather than negative, and several degrees rather than a fraction of a degree, and that is enough to make anthropogenic global warming a significant future reality, rather than a phantom concern.

November 4, 2008 at 6:02 PM  
Anonymous a young curmudgeon said...

I think I now agree with MM's earlier opinion. Obama won't change anything, and only hasten the chance for a real reactionary revolution.

November 4, 2008 at 11:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Obama won't change anything, and only hasten the chance for a real reactionary revolution.

Guess we're gonna find out.

Hope you're right.

November 5, 2008 at 3:43 AM  
Blogger method said...

Umm, guys? A reactionary revolution has to fit into the narrow parking space between fascism and theocracy. How about a new, positive ideology? Libertarian Technocracy or Eco-stable Anarchy or Internet Hivemind, or something?

November 5, 2008 at 7:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lawmakers Impeach Iranian Cabinet Minister
Support for President, Who Had Backed Ousted Interior Official, Seen as Waning
By Thomas Erdbrink
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, November 5, 2008; Page A09

Iran's parliament voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to impeach a cabinet minister who has been a close ally of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a political setback that reflects growing opposition among lawmakers to the president's policies.

Ahmadinejad faces heavy criticism for his backing of former interior minister Ali Kordan, who was impeached for having falsely claimed to hold an honorary law degree from Oxford University.


Alrighty then, Congress will undoubtedly impeach Obama for his false claim of having attended Columbia! America has higher standards than Iran, after all.

November 5, 2008 at 8:11 AM  
Anonymous mother of the corn said...

Well, all, here's to a brave new future!

Serious question, though: have there been any black political leaders who have NOT loused things up in a spectacular way? Please tell me there have been some decent ones.

I've read ancient articles praising Kwame Kilpatrick to the skies; the journalistic similarities kind of make me panicky here, as much as I would LIKE to believe that the Presidency is more symbolic power than actual power.

November 5, 2008 at 10:48 AM  
Anonymous quercus said...

Serious question, though: have there been any black political leaders who have NOT loused things up in a spectacular way? Please tell me there have been some decent ones.

Tom Bradley, LA mayor from '73 to '93, may be a candidate. Can any Angelenos comment?

November 5, 2008 at 12:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, how things change overnight.

For people who still arn't convinced that progressives are delusional I suggest you visit your favorite progressive blog or forum and ask them what they think of Bill Ayers.

The opinion of Ayers has magically changed overnight. Well, their opinion probably hasn't changed, but their willingness to share it with everyone has. Case in point is this thread at Metafilter: http://www.metafilter.com/76268/Obama-Didnt-Need-a-Weatherman

Several individuals are now vocally supporting Ayers, as someone who reads that blog from time to time it was definitely not the case that so many supported him in the past. One even hopes he gets a presidential appointment, as it would be 'hilarious'.

November 5, 2008 at 3:56 PM  
Blogger mtraven said...

Anyone still trying to use Ayers as a stick to beat Obama with is a political moron. It was put out there by the McCain campaign and nobody gave a shit, because there are about a million more important considerations to choosing a president, and even the American electorate, not previously known for its rationality, could see this.

Your side lost, suck it up and at least try to find a new tactic rather than repeating your failures.

November 5, 2008 at 4:46 PM  
Anonymous nazgulnarsil said...

nobody lost. nobody wins. am i the only human being in the world who realizes that none of this is a fucking game?!
as MM has said:
bad government is the number one cause of misery and death in the world today. we're not playing for points. we face an enemy who would rape and murder us, and then dig up dirt on us posthumously to discredit the accusations of our loved ones. these problems aren't something that can be fixed by replacing this or that official. The problem is systemic. The masses have legitimized a system that rapes and murders, at least in the past people knew that it was wrong when the king murdered peasants.

November 6, 2008 at 2:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

LOL@mtraven

Yeah man, Ayers is just a political point AMIRITE? According to that link above other progressives are now very vocally supportive of him (though it would appear there are some who arn't either). They are being vocally supportive of a guy who wanted to murder millions of Americans. Perhaps they too should just forget about him and move on, but ... it seems they aren't forgetting ... funny that.

November 6, 2008 at 4:08 AM  
Anonymous Curve of Freedom said...

The McCain campaign rolled the dice a bit with Ayers. They wanted to tie Obama to radicals without saying too much about his pastor. I suppose they thought if people looked up Obama's ties to Ayers, and found they were too weak, they'd eventually find his extremely close ties to Wright, and that would turn them off from voting for Obama.

Of course it didn't work, because people in general don't look stuff up. Most of them don't know that Obama is on record describing himself as an instrument of god. On the basis of his rhetoric, he is a typical secular gnostic trying tear down quite the same demiurge the gnostics have been trying to obliterate since whatever BC.

But others say he's indecisive and non-ideological. Maybe. I'll just call him another Lyndon Johnson and call it good.

November 6, 2008 at 1:28 PM  
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November 6, 2008 at 5:38 PM  
Blogger J said...

There is no doubt that Obama represents the revolutionary, black, far left of the Democratic Party. He was constantly helped by affirmative action privileges and the ¨black revolutionary¨ ambience of those times. The environment of Columbia in the eighties was such that it is totally believable that a unusually intelligent, tall black man with a big afro got through with little actual work. I went to a few lectures in those time in Columbia, and I took a look at those blacks posing as revolutionaries. Obama, for a change, was serious.

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February 12, 2009 at 1:32 AM  
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March 2, 2009 at 10:28 PM  
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March 17, 2009 at 2:50 PM  

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