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Over the past year or so, I have had email conversations with a fellow whom I will call Ted.  We are both baby boomers.  Ted has a bachelor's degree in engineering and runs a small consulting firm that his father had founded.  Ted and I have occasionally had clients in common.

Ted is registered as a Democrat.  I guess he could best be termed a Reagan Democrat.  He is very right-wing.

Our conversations have wandered into politics because Ted put me on his email distribution list.  He gets email messages from other people with a right-wing slant, and passes them on.  These messages are typically about the outrage du jour as hyped by Fox News, Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and the like.

I have spent a fair amount of time responding to these, trying to show Ted that these stories are either very inaccurate or so heavily distorted as to be essentially lies.

Recently, I thought I was making some headway.  He actually sent out a link I had sent him that pointed to an article debunking the $16-muffin Department of Justice story.  He had passed on a message decrying the (alleged) price of said muffins some time before.  I also sent him an article about what really caused the financial crisis and debunking the lie that it was all due to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac making loans to poor people to buy houses they couldn't afford.  He passed that one on, too.

Ted has passed on a lot of messages about the supposed scandal involving the Department of Energy loan guarantee involving the Solyndra company.  I've replied to those also.

On Monday, I got a message from Ted with the subject header:
Here's Your Change - you are good at fact checking.
It read as follows:

THE PRESIDENCY

SOME WILL APPRECIATE THIS AND SOME WILL NOT.

HOWEVER, ALL OF IT IS TRUE.

After two years of Obama ...

Here's your change!

January 2009

TODAY

% chg

Source

Avg. Retail price/gallon gas in U.S.

$1.83

$3.44

84%

1

[More statistics about the prices of commodities, the unemployment rate, etc., as of January 2009 and today]

Just take this last item:

In the last two years we have accumulated national debt at a rate more than 27 times as fast as during the rest of our entire nation's history.
Over 27 times as fast. Metaphorically speaking, if you are driving in the right lane doing 65 MPH and a car rockets past you in the left lane.
27 times faster, it would be doing 7,555 MPH!

Sources:
(1) U.S. Energy Information Administration;(2) Wall Street Journal; (3) Bureau of Labor Statistics; (4) Census Bureau; (5) USDA; (6) U.S. Dept. Of Labor;
(7) FHFA; (8) Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller; (9) RealtyTrac; (10) Heritage Foundation and WSJ; (11) The Conference Board; (12) FDIC;
(13) Federal Reserve; (14) U.S. Treasury

So, tell me again, what is it about Obama that makes him so brilliant and impressive? Can't think of anything? Don't worry. He's done all this in 29 months -- so you'll have one year and five months to come up with an answer.

Every statement in this email is factual and directly attributable to

Barrack Hussein Obama.

Every bumble is a matter of record and completely verifiable.

EVERYONE SHOULD READ THIS.

I responded to Ted as follows:

[Ted] wrote:

THE PRESIDENCY

SOME WILL APPRECIATE THIS AND SOME WILL NOT.

HOWEVER, ALL OF IT IS TRUE.

After two years of Obama ...

Here's your change!

Remember that old saying about lies, damned lies, and statistics?

I have not verified the numbers, but for the sake of discussion, I will assume that they are accurate.

The problem with this presentation is that it assumes (and explicitly states) that there is a causal connection between the data.  Let's take just one item, e.g., the retail price of gasoline.

Datum One: In January 2009, George Walker Bush was the President of the U.S.

Datum Two: In January 2009, the retail price of gasoline was $1.83./gallon

Datum Three: In November 2011, Barack Hussein Obama II is the President of the U.S.

Datum Four: In November 2011, the retail price of gasoline is $3.44/gallon

Based on these raw data, we are to conclude that BHO is responsible for an 84% increase in the retail price of gasoline.

What is the basis for this conclusion?  The answer is that there is none.

The retail price of gasoline is determined by factors essentially outside any President's purview.  These include the price of crude oil and speculation in the unregulated commodities futures market.  About the only direct leverage that any President has on the price of gasoline is release of crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.  But that Reserve is there primarily to help us deal with a cut-off in oil imports.

Tapping the SPR to get a short-term decrease in the spot-market price of crude oil and the retail price of gasoline could lead to real problems in the event if an international crisis, e.g. Iran decides to try to cut off shipments from the Persian Gulf by attacking oil tankers with torpedoes from PT boats or suicide missions like the one against the U.S.S. Cole in October 2000 (when Bill Clinton was President).

So, tapping the SPR should only be done under the most compelling circumstances.

According to this analysis:
http://tinyurl.com/...

"... without the influence of large-scale speculative trading on oil in the commodities futures market, the average price of gasoline at the pump in May would have been $3.13 rather than $3.96. This means that the average U.S. consumer paid a 83-cent-per-gallon premium in May for their gasoline purchases due to the huge rise in the speculative futures market for oil."

So, should the commodities market be regulated?

==

What the compilation of raw data also fails to take into account is that GWB handed off to BHO an economy that was in the toilet, and there is a lot of hysteresis in the economy even when Congress is cooperative (which it presently is not).

===

On January 16, 2009 (the last trading day while GWB was still in office):

-- the Dow-Jones Industrial Index stood at 8281.22;
-- the NASDAQ Index stood at 1529.33; and
-- the Standard & Poors 500 Index stood at 850.09.

On November 11, 2011 (the last trading day before today):

-- the Dow-Jones Industrial Index stood at 12,153.68;
-- the NASDAQ Index stood at 2678.75; and
-- the S&P 500 stood at 1263.85.

So, since BHO became President:

-- the Dow is up 146.8%;
-- NASDAQ is up 175.2%; and
--  the S&P 500 is up 148.7%.

If you are willing to blame BHO for increases in the price of gasoline and other commodities, are you also willing to give him credit for a (roughly) 150% improvement in the stock market?

Ted responded:

Agreed - I had already decided not to send this on.

And I replied:

Agreed - I had already decided not to send this on.

WTF??? So then **why the Hell* did you send it to me???  ;-)

Seriously, I ask you to do two things.

1.  Spare me such tripe unless you are going to first cull the rant, research the facts, and subject the allegations to some critical reasoning.

2.  Ask the people who send you such tripe to spare you such tripe, unless they are going to first cull the rant, research the facts, and subject the allegations to some critical reasoning.

As you know, the old saying has it that a lie is half way around the world before the truth has a chance to get out of bed and put its pants on.  That saying is true.

But, in this case, because of our professional relationship, and my personal regards, I spent time to provide you with accurate facts and cogent reasoning to show you that the message is essentially a lie.

The facts set forth in the first part of the message are apparently true.  However, the statement at the end that the changes in the prices of the various commodities are the fault of BHO is untrue.  In other words, it's a lie.

Do you like it when people lie to you?  Do you like it when people deliberately push your hot buttons?

I sure as hell don't.  I'd be surprised if you do, either.

You and the people who send you this stuff are being constantly lied to by the mighty RW Spin Machine that we know as talk radio, the Fox News Channel, RedState, FreeRepublic, the Washington Times, and many other outlets.  Its sole purpose is to get us to react, especially on a gut level, in ways that divide us, and to get us to vote (or not vote at all) in a way that further enriches the top 1% at the expense of all of the rest of us.

In terms of getting us not to vote, consider this: http://www.youtube.com/...

And as just one example of the lying, watch this:
http://www.youtube.com/...

You're a great guy, but I cannot spend x hours every time to provide you with accurate and counterbalancing information and critical reasoning; especially if the response is, essentially, "Oh, well what about this? (followed by another shitload of lies for me to disprove)"

So, I'm going to ask you to do what I have written above.  If you want to run something by me along the lines of, hey, my buddy sent me this message, here are the facts that I've come up with on my own, and putting it all together, here's what I propose to send back to him, that's one thing.  If I have the time, I'll read it and send a reply.

You're no dummy.  I know that you have the grey cells necessary to do this.

Otherwise, I'm really not interested in reading what ill-informed, people who are being cynically manipulated are swallowing whole, and sending to you, for you to get worked up about and to pass on to others who will get similarly worked up and who will then pass the stuff on to yet others....  I've got other things to do with my time, and I see enough of the misinformation in the media already.

Best,
[Me]

So yesterday, I get another message from Ted.

Subject: Another Energy Company  $1.6 B
To: {Me]

http://www.maggiesnotebook.com/...

http://biggovernment.com/...

http://www.laobserved.com/...

New Commerce secretary was Chairman of Brighrsource
http://www.pv-tech.org/...

http://www.brightsourceenergy.com/...

10/2/2010 - Obama mentions  Brightsource
http://www.brightsourceenergy.com/...

From: bob
To: Ted
Sent: 11/16/2011 12:53:12 P.M. Eastern Standard Time
Subj: You ain't gonna believe this

Begin forwarded message:

http://biggovernment.com/...

I responded:

Hi, Ted.

Apparently, you did not get, or did not read, or did not take to heart, a message that I sent you on Monday.  I'll quote the pertinent part.

====

Seriously, I ask you to do two things.

1.  Spare me such tripe unless you are going to first cull the rant, research the facts, and subject the allegations to some critical reasoning.

2.  Ask the people who send you such tripe to spare you such tripe, unless they are going to first cull the rant, research the facts, and subject the allegations to some critical reasoning.

As you know, the old saying has it that a lie is half way around the world before the truth has a chance to get out of bed and put its pants on.  That saying is true.

But, in this case, because of our professional relationship, and my personal regards, I spent time to provide you with accurate facts and cogent reasoning to show you that the message is essentially a lie.

[....]

You're a great guy, but I cannot spend x hours every time you send me stuff to provide you with accurate and counterbalancing information and critical reasoning; especially if the response is, essentially, "Oh, well, what about this? (followed by another shît-load of lies for me to disprove)"

So, I'm going to ask you to do what I have written above.  If you want to run something by me along the lines of, hey, my buddy sent me this message, here are the facts that I've come up with on my own, and putting it all together, here's what I propose to send back to him, that's one thing.  If I have the time, I'll read it and send a reply.

You're no dummy.  I know that you have the grey cells necessary to do this.

Otherwise, I'm really not interested in reading what ill-informed people who are being cynically manipulated are swallowing whole, and sending to you, for you to get worked up about and to pass on to others, who will get similarly worked up, and who will then pass the stuff on to yet others....

I've got other things to do with my time, and I see enough of the misinformation in the media already.

===

With respect to the message about Brightsource, did you do any research of you own before sending the message to me?

If so, what did you find out?

If not, why not?

If you have done research, you will have found out that Brightsource Energy has been around for some time, and that Robert Kennedy, Jr. has gotten involved only in recent years.  It appears that at least part of the reason that the company formed a retainer relationship with him is because he is an environmental-law attorney, and environmentalists had raised concerned about the project's effect on rare animal and plant species.  It appears that the Bureau of Land Management placed a hold on construction pending resolution of the environmental issues.

You will also have found out that the construction is being done by the Bechtel Corporation, which is hardly a bunch of bleeding-heart liberals.  E.g., George  P. Shultz  was the President and has been a Board member of the Bechtel Corporation.  He was also Secretary of Labor, and then Secretary of the Treasury in the Nixon Administration.  He was then Secretary of State in the Reagan Administration.  He continued to be a strategist for the Republican Party and was an advisor to G.W. Bush's 2000 Campaign.  He played an important role in the development of the foreign policy of the GWB Administration, including the Bush Doctrine of preemptive war.

You will also have found out that among the investors in Brightsource, which has its origins in an Israeli solar-energy-development company called Luz International, are Alstom (France's equivalent of our Bechtel, or Germany's Siemens), Morgan Stanley, CalSTRS (the California State Teachers' Retirement System), DBL Investors (an SF Bay-area venture capital firm), Draper Fisher Jurvetson (another SF Bay-area venture capital firm), Chevron Technology Ventures, Google, BP Alternative Energy, StatoilHydro Venture (a division of the Norwegian energy conglomerate Statoil, of which the government of Norway is the largest shareholder, and which Forbes ranks as  the world's 13th largest oil and gas company, and the largest company in the Nordic region by revenue, profit, and market capitalization), and Black River Asset Management LLC, a subsidiary of Cargill, Incorporated.

You will also have found out that the company has signed purchase agreements with Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison to deliver 2.6 GigaWatts of power and that it plans to build more than twelve plants by 2017 to fulfill those contracts.  One of those plants  is the Hidden Hills Solar Electric Generating System, to be built on private land 40 miles south of Ivanpah.

You will also have found out that Brightsource's technology employs mirrors (heliostats) to train sunlight on a central collector to generate steam, which will drive turbines, as opposed to using photovoltaic cells to generate dc which is then converted to ac.

You will also have found out that the economics of power generation from solar has been in a great state of flux, particularly do to price drops in production (mainly in Communist China) and the ambitious installation of PV arrays in Europe, due to European government subsidies.  Given the dynamic nature of the environment, whether Brightsource's approach will turn out to be a better bet than PV arrays remains to be seen.  But that is the nature of start-ups, especially in technology-reliant industries.

Governments have played large roles over the years, not only in North America, but also in Europe and Asia, in getting new industries off the ground.... industries that have since become mainstays, but that took some time to start generating profits.  E.g., the Transcontinental Railroads.   As just one component of that effort, the U.S. bought a slice of territory the size of Pennsylvania from Mexico in 1852.  This was the Gadsden Purchase.  We bought that land because the civil engineering associated with the Southern Transcontinental Railroad (what we now know as the Southern Pacific) was going to be a lot easier if the route ran through that area.  We paid $10 million for a strip of land totalling 45,535 square miles... what is now the most southerly portions of Arizona and New Mexico.

(By contrast, four years before, we paid the Mexicans only $5 million more... $15 million... for 200,000 square miles -- what became the States of California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, and most of Arizona and New Mexico -- and assumed responsibility for paying $3,000,000 in claims that American citizens had lodged against the Mexican Government.  The Mexicans also gave up their claim to Texas as part of that 1848 treaty.)

So, government investments in alternative energy sources is just the latest chapter in governments providing for infrastructure and industries that future generations consider absolute necessities.  There is nothing scandalous about the concept.

Do you expect start-up corporations whose plants involve significant physical construction.. which in turn requires significant capital investment... to show a profit from day one?  Do you expect every start-up to succeed?  If you do, you have unrealistic expectations.

Even when investing in established industries, the key is diversification.  Some investments will yield big returns, others will go bust.  Diversification is also important in funding new technologies and new industries.  Yes, money should not be thrown around.  Technological evaluations should be made, and decisions whether or not to subsidize or to invest in new ventures should be made on the technical and economic merits, but these will nearly always be educated guesses, and some of the guesses may turn out to have been wrong ones.

Apparently, it is too soon to tell whether the decision to provide a load guarantee to Brightsource was a good one or a mistake.  But is there any whiff of scandal here?  I don't see one, based on what you have provided.  If you think that I'm missing something here, feel free to point out what you think that I am missing.

I've spent a fair amount of time writing this message.  I hope that I have gotten through to you.  It's my last attempt.  Please do not send such messages to me in the future without first checking them out, and without providing your own analysis.

Sincerely,
[Me]

So, Ted writes back:

WTF does it have to do with a 1.6 billion dollar loan to a company that is 1.8 billion in debt.

Kennedy is involved and a former employee goes to work for the Department of Energy. The appearance on impropriety is there.

*

On Newt representing Fredie or Fannie
It is no different than a lawyer representing Osama Bin Laden to assure he gets a fair trial.

To which I replied:

WTF does it have to do with a 1.6 billion dollar loan to a company that is 1.8 billion in debt.

First of all, it's not a loan, it is a loan guarantee.

Secondly, I haven't reviewed the company's balance sheet, have you?  What is the structure of the debt?  How much of it is short-term, and how much of it is long-term?

What is the income-generating potential of the plants in question?  What effect would that income have on servicing whatever preexisting debt exists, and any debt taken on in the construction of this plant?

Kennedy is involved and a former employee goes to work for the Department of Energy. The appearance on impropriety is there.

Give me an effing break.  You're saying that the appearance on impropriety is there, but you supply no evidence.   Decisions in this world should be based on hard facts, not on beliefs or on predispositions.

What evidence is there that the former employee has had any involvement in DoE decisions concerning this company?

Don't you want people in government who have had real-world experience in private industry?

What evidence is there that RFK Jr. has had any role in securing the loan guarantee?

You're only hearing about this particular loan guarantee because someone wants to get a lot of people worked up. "Bobby Kennedy" is being invoked because someone wants juices flowing.  In your case, that someone has succeeded.

The DoE makes thousands of decisions every day.  You and I only hear about a tiny fraction of them, and what we often hear is incomplete at best.

Fox News and Breitbart and the RW Spin Machine have decided that investments in and subsidies of alternative energy are somehow a matter of scandal.   They don't seem to think that subsidies of already highly profitable oil and coal companies, and of nuclear energy, are scandalous.  Ask yourself why that is.  But as far as I am concerned, the question is rhetorical.  See my last paragraph, below.

On Newt representing Fredie or Fannie
It is no different than a lawyer representing Osama Bin Laden to assure he gets a fair trial.

That is a false and ridiculous comparison.  The problem with Newt is that in public he is excoriating F/F, but in private taking lots of money from F to make life easier with the Republicans in Congress.  Gross hypocrisy.  Insider politics, crony capitalism.  Exactly the things that he says he is against.

===

Look, [Ted], up until this message, I have tried to be diplomatic.  Now, I'm done.  I'm not going to discuss the above matters, or any other politics, further.  If you feel the need to have the last word on the above, go ahead, but I'm really done.  Please do not send me any more messages on new topics concerning politics and the like.

Sincerely,
[Me]

To which Ted replied:

You continue to see the world as the Big Bad Rs against the much better Ds.

Obama said he would operate with transparency.  I have yet to see any.
I am sure that other Presidents have lied similarly.  But the only way Obama
got elected was making promises to the 47% that were basically lies.
Hope & Change.

So the $1.6 billion to Brightsource with its obvious Political connections
should have been justified or documented as to why them.
I don't care if it was actual money loaned or just a guarantee.
It not about Obama - its about transparancey - Apple Pie & the American Way.

Why has Congress not passed a budget for the past few years not even when
the Ds had control.

My point is that many people like myself are sick & tired of both sides. Politicians routinely lie, cheat & steal from the American public. The insider trading is simply "legal" stealing - given they write the laws-exemptions. The Feds knowingly took money from the SS Trust Fund to feed their spending habits - I said Feds not just Republicans or just Democrats. The States are no better - they have raided the Highway Transportation Funds. Just look at our roads & bridges - now they want more money to fix them - BS.

While you claim to be a Republican no one who talks with you would ever agree.
Your Presidential voting history is certainly not Republican and not very Democratic either. You appear to vote for the anti-establishment candidate.  Maybe they are the best qualified candidate but they have never won an election.  So while symbolic, it is a wasted vote.

You are extremely well read, I will give you that.  I cannot hold a candle to you debating skills. But I do not believe that I am at the bottom of the voter pool, either.

Our country is on life support and will soon cease to exist as we know it. A government cannot tax a country into prosperity and it cannot provide everything to everyone.  It can only "give" to someone what it has "taken" from someone else.  How do we have a death tax - inheritance tax.

Granted, not all of the 47% are there by choice.  But many are there forever. They feel "entitled".  That is BS.  Once 47% grows to 51% the country is totally Fuked. The more babies they produce the more they are entitled to. They receive money vouchers which can buy a large variety of items. Not just the basic necessities of life.  Unlike a lot of workers, they do not have to take a drug test to continue receiving benefits.

Shit, when I was on active duty, if called, I had 30 minutes to report and pee into a cup while someone watched me - eyeball to dick.  The military has significantly fewer civil liberties than the 47% and because of the low pay many qualify for benefits as well as the 47%.  In what other profession, can your employer make you work 24 hours a day, with no extra pay, no holidays and can knowingly put your life at great risk.

A felon loses their right to vote.  People younger than 18 are not permitted to vote.
Hell, if you are under 21 you can't drink but they can certainly die for their country.
If you are under age 35 (?) you can't be elected President.

So why are the 47% given full voting rights.  After x years of receiving benefits their voting rights should be limited.

Israel  has a nifty plan - everyone does 2 years (?) in either the Military or some other public service.  But a community organizer does not count.

***********
Take the Washington Post article.
http://www.goall.com/...

Why did anyone ever think Obama was qualified to be President ?
He ran against McCain and he at least had a record.  You may not have liked his record but to vote for the man with no record  was illogical - President is not the place for - On The Job Training.

I admit - that for lower offices I quite often vote against the incumbent UNLESS I know something good about his record.  But I have never voted for the Man with No record.

Convince me  
What Fortune 500 company would have hired Obama
as it CEO-Chairman-President based upon his massive record & experience in 2008 ? (his race & who he is running against is not an acceptable reason)

Remember, he was given the Nobel Peace Prize based upon what he was going to do but not what he had already done.

You are right, we are wasting each other's time debating Political matters.

[Mention of the death of a person we both knew omitted.]

I responded by changing the subject header, quoting only the portion that referred to the death of the person whom we both knew, and said that I had heard of the person's passing.

In one sense, I regret pulling the plug, but every time it looked like I was making progress, Ted would have a relapse.  I reluctantly came to the conclusion that it was hopeless and that further efforts to get Ted to see the bigger picture, to not accept chain email messages and "news" stories at web sites at face value, and to research the contents and to engage in some critical thinking before passing such messages and such links on would be futile and a waste of my time.

Did I make a mistake?  Should I have persevered?

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Comment Preferences

  •  I feel your pain.... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rashaverak, Calamity Jean
  •  i admire your effort (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rashaverak

    it has been my experience, that the people i repeatedly try to communicate with in a logical reasonable manner, to no avail are; sociopaths. Unfortunately this personality disorder is not curable and the APA suggests contact with such individuals be terminated, for ones own sanity.

  •  I do not think you made a mistake. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rashaverak, Calamity Jean

    I know from experience some people will constantly shift gears in a passive aggressive attempt at control.

    Some people's cognitive dissonance can not be overcome and you just have to accept that they are that way and move on. To waste your time arguing with someone who just wants to needle and argue only frustrates you.

    Let it be and let him languish in his chosen ignorance which he probably convinces himself is evidence of his own cleverness.

    -6.38, -6.21: Lamented and assured to the lights and towns below, Faster than the speed of sound, Faster than we thought we'd go, Beneath the sound of hope...

    by Vayle on Fri Nov 18, 2011 at 09:18:54 AM PST

  •  I should note (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Calamity Jean

    that Ted's statement that I claim to be a Republican is based on stale information.

    I recently changed my party registration from R. to D.  I simply could no longer in good conscience be affiliated with that party, even if only nominally.

    I do not recall whether I told Ted that I had made the change.

    I had been meaning to make the change for some time.  My wallet got stolen, so I needed to get a replacement driver's license.  While it was at the licensing office, the helpful staffer asked me if I wanted to make any changes to my voting info.  I said "yes, as a matter of conscience, I need to change my party affiliation.  The Republicans have gotten too crazy and obnoxious for me."  The staffer tried to suppress a smile, but really didn't succeed.

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