skepticism vs. propagandism and the obama golf habit

Es­ti­mated reading time is 6 min­utes.

WE DON’T WATCH TV! That is, we have no cable ac­cess and never turn on the local chan­nels. Our set is strictly for watching videos, all of which we pull from the King County Li­brary System. This does not mean that we do not see tele­vi­sion shows: if enough people rec­om­mend a given se­ries, we get the first season and watch. (And what a way to begin an ar­ticle on the Obama golf habit, heyna?)

This has al­lowed us to see many fine shows. Our re­cent faves in­clude House, M.D. (with Hugh Laurie im­i­tating Neal Umphred) and Bothers & Sis­ters (where Sally Field and Cal­ista Flock­hart are the main stars, but where Rachel Grif­fiths fi­nally got the crit­ical at­ten­tion she has de­served for a long time).


RachelGriffiths sitting 999

Just taking this op­por­tu­nity to plug a fa­vorite ac­tress, Rachel Grif­fiths, who is also the fea­tured image at the top of this page. Check out Brothers & Sisters.

A critical analyses of pop phenomenon

And then there is The News­room, of which we have only seen the first season. Jeff Daniels has been a fa­vorite of mine since at least The Purple Rose Of Cairo, and he shines here as a Re­pub­lican news an­chor who be­comes the target of the tea party types and fights back.

In a couple of episodes, he takes those true be­lievers apart for their falling for the rightwing pro­pa­ganda that Obama somehow man­aged to rack up billions—BILLIONS!—of dol­lars in travel expenses.

At tax­payers’ expense.

Of course.

Never hap­pened.

Of course.

And so I segue on over to a re­cent web­site that I came across while re­searching an ar­ticle. Au­thored by an ad­mitted skeptic, the site  ad­dresses a wide range of topics looking for the facts, just the facts. It’s called Skep­toid, which its host Brian Dun­ning de­scribes as a “crit­ical analyses of pop phenomenon.”

I sub­scribed to his email newsletter immediately!

Of course.

Some of the is­sues he tackles are political—or in the case below,  pseudo-political. Howz­about the one where all the righties rag on and on and on about Obama playing “too much” golf, more than any other president.


To find this image on­line, I typed “obama golf” into Google and the first entry on the first page was this: “Obama golf game leads to dis­rupted wed­ding.” Al­most all of the photos that I could choose from were on right-of-center sites, the righties being ob­sessed with the Most Im­por­tant Man in the World’s need for a little R&R.The second Google listing is a rightwing site called The Obama Golf Counter. Sorta proves the point, nyet?

The Obama golf habit means what?

In a novel ap­proach to this topic, Skep­toid re­cently ran an ar­ticle ti­tled “Barack Obama and Golf” by con­trib­utor Mike Roth­schild on the Obama golf game. In it, the au­thor an­a­lyzed the golfing habits of var­ious pres­i­dents, but NOT by total rounds played—which tells us little, un­less we also know how many years he was in office—but by rounds played per month in of­fice. Here are Mr. Rothschild’s find­ings (and all em­phasis added and brack­eted state­ments are by me):

“The pres­i­dent [any pres­i­dent] is ex­pected to project an image of phys­ical health and love of ac­tivity, meaning golf and the pres­i­dency are in­ter­twined! Four­teen out of sev­en­teen pres­i­dents played golf during their time in the White House. I took FDR out of the mix due to his phys­ical limitations.

En­joy­ment of the game is shared be­tween both par­ties, taking place during peace­time and war, good eco­nomic times and bad. Of the two staunchest golfers, Wilson and Eisen­hower, one was a De­mo­crat and the other a Republican.

When we have data avail­able for how many rounds they played, Obama’s golf habit is in the middle of the pres­i­den­tial spec­trum, higher than Reagan and Bush 43 but lower than Wilson, Eisen­hower, and Clinton. If we had data avail­able for the other pres­i­dents, Obama would prob­ably re­main right in the middle.

Whether you agree or dis­agree with these crit­i­cisms is en­tirely up to you. But the math is clear: many pres­i­dents be­fore Obama played golf, with some playing much more and some playing much less. As a hobby goes, this one is about as typ­ical as you can get.”

As the au­thor stated, your po­lit­ical pref­er­ence and you’re your ab­hor­rence for Obama has NOTHING to do with how much gold has been played by the chief of the ex­ec­u­tive branch. The above are jus facts and you can’t have an opinion about a fact. It just is.

Es­sen­tially, this is an­other non-issue issue that the vast rightwing media con­spir­a­tors waste every­one’s time on when we could be dis­cussing real is­sues, like why il­legal aliens are de­sired by cer­tain seg­ments of US busi­ness be­cause they ex­pand the labor pool at the bottom and drag wages down for 90% of the work­force while in­creasing profits for the other 10%.

Oh bol­locks, that’s a waste, too! Let’s dis­cuss some meaty is­sues like cre­ationism in text­books, gay mar­riage, and Oba­ma’s highly pub­li­cized va­ca­tions are ac­tu­ally cam­ou­flage for his se­cret in­ves­ti­ga­tion into MJ’s whitening process (at tax­pay­er’s ex­pense, of course).



An essential component for truth

Many people think of skep­ti­cism as some variant on pes­simism or even cyn­i­cism. The former is de­fined as “a ten­dency to stress the neg­a­tive or un­fa­vor­able, or to take the gloomiest pos­sible view” or, sec­on­darily, “the doc­trine or be­lief that this is the worst of all pos­sible worlds and that all things ul­ti­mately tend to­ward evil.” (Oddly, that second de­f­i­n­i­tion is not too far from the at­ti­tude that seems so preva­lent among modern ‘con­ser­v­a­tives.’)

The latter is de­fined as “an at­ti­tude of scornful or jaded neg­a­tivity, es­pe­cially a gen­eral dis­trust of the in­tegrity or pro­fessed mo­tives of others:” (Ditto.)

Alas, nei­ther is close to the meaning of skepticism—while both pes­simism and cyn­i­cism are at­ti­tudes sup­pos­edly built upon be­lief and or ex­pe­ri­ence, skep­ti­cism is best de­fined a s a process, a means of ar­riving at a truth through the ob­ser­va­tion of ac­tual facts.

The same dic­tio­nary (the Free Dic­tio­nary) as above has three meaning for skep­ti­cism as a philosophy:

a. The an­cient school of Pyrrho of Elis that stressed the un­cer­tainty of our be­liefs in order to op­pose dogmatism.

b. The doc­trine that ab­solute knowl­edge is im­pos­sible, ei­ther in a par­tic­ular do­main or in general.

c. A method­ology based on an as­sump­tion of doubt with the aim of ac­quiring ap­prox­i­mate or rel­a­tive certainty.

But here in three para­graphs is a much better ex­pla­na­tion of skep­ti­cism as a day-to-day process of dealing with the ‘facts’ and fig­ures that present them­selves to us in print, on the air, and on the internet:

“The true meaning of the word skep­ti­cism has nothing to do with doubt, dis­be­lief, or neg­a­tivity. Skep­ti­cism is the process of ap­plying reason and crit­ical thinking to de­ter­mine va­lidity. It’s the process of finding a sup­ported con­clu­sion, not the jus­ti­fi­ca­tion of a pre­con­ceived conclusion.

Skep­ti­cism is about redi­recting at­ten­tion, in­flu­ence, and funding away from worth­less su­per­sti­tions and to­ward projects and ideas that are ev­i­denced to be ben­e­fi­cial to hu­manity and to the world.

The sci­en­tific method is cen­tral to skep­ti­cism. The sci­en­tific method re­quires ev­i­dence, prefer­ably de­rived from val­i­dated testing. Anec­dotal ev­i­dence and per­sonal tes­ti­monies gen­er­ally don’t meet the qual­i­fi­ca­tions for sci­en­tific ev­i­dence, and thus won’t often be ac­cepted by a re­spon­sible skeptic; which often ex­plains why skep­tics get such a bad rap for being neg­a­tive or dis­be­lieving people. They’re simply fol­lowing the sci­en­tific method.” 

The above para­graphs are adapted from Brian Dunning’s brief ar­ticle, “What is skep­ti­cism?” on Skeptoid.



De­spite Mike Love’s open flir­ta­tion with Reagan-era Rep*blicanism, the most “po­lit­ical” Beach Boy was he of the an­gelic voice, Carl Wilson. During the height of the Vietnam War, the younger Wilson brother de­clared him­self a con­sci­en­tious ob­jector and re­fused to be drafted, causing years of legal and moral bat­tles. He won.  Wilson even­tu­ally be­came an or­dained min­ister in the Move­ment of Spir­i­tual Inner Aware­ness.

Do not do no dumb here, okay?

Re­cently I joined a con­ver­sa­tion on fellow record col­lector, Beach Boys fan, and oth­er­wise like-minded (“do not dumb here”) racon­teur Rob Norberg’s Face­book page, The thread con­cerned the on­going “de­bate” about the President’s sup­pos­edly ex­cess number of va­ca­tion days—yet an­other non-issue issue from the rightwing media and pun­ditry that so easily cap­tures the at­ten­tion deficit dis­or­dered imag­i­na­tion (sic) of Re­pub­lican voters.

This is the first of two es­says re­garding the thread, the dis­cus­sion, and an­other person’s blog and book. The second part is “so what has pres­i­dent obama done for you lately? (be­sides play golf and pursue heroic whistle-blowers) and fol­lows this post.


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Thanks for fi­nally talking about the “Obama golf
habit is greater than the Bushes.” Liked it!

I’d like to thank you for the ef­forts you’ve put in pen­ning this website.

I re­ally hope to view the same high-grade con­tent by you later on as well.
In truth, your cre­ative writing abil­i­ties has en­cour­aged me to get my own, per­sonal site now ;)