There's nothing wrong with belief. Absolutely nothing. In fact, belief can be a very good thing. And on some level, we all benefit from a certain level of belief. For example, you believe that everything around you is real, and not a dream. But it's quite possible that all of this is imagined, and that what you consider to be your measly little life is actually a complete fraud, and that you're in a coma somewhere about to have your plug pulled.
Or maybe this is all God's dream, and he's about to sneeze so hard that he forgets about us and wipes us clean out of existence. You don't know. But god forbid that you actually use such theories as the basis for your reality. It's possible that they're real and I'm not, but it's best to have a little faith in what you see, and play the game as if it's for real.
And your teachers. You use a certain amount of faith in believing that they're telling you the truth. And how do you know they're telling you the truth? Because you compare it with the other things that you've been taught and it adds up. Everything fits like a puzzle. And sometimes they're not telling you the truth. Maybe they're lying. Maybe they were taught falsely. And how do you know that the new info is true? Again, a certain amount of faith is required in everything. But whenever we use faith, we must verify. And the more faith we have, the more verification we need.
Because there is such a thing as truth, and we're all stumbling around trying to find it. We accept certain things on faith, and try our best to get as much proof as is possible. And that's just how it's supposed to work. You can't verify everything, but we try to verify as much as we can. You have no conclusive proof that the sun really is as big or far away as they say; but it makes the most sense, so we go with it.
And so there's nothing wrong with belief. Unless, of course, we mistake belief for fact; and accept the things that we believe as being things that we know. That's a problem which must be avoided, as beliefs feel stronger than facts.
Belief As Fact
And too many of us do that. We make certain assumptions, or see certain correlations, or are misled or whatever, and we wrongly accept guesses and beliefs as answers and proofs. And sometimes, all of the pieces of the puzzle can seemingly come together, but still be completely wrong. And that just messes us all up. Sometimes, puzzle pieces only fit because we so desperately want them to fit.
And we see that all the time. Too many religious people do that. They have this certain feeling that they must be right, and they translate that into something that the rest of us are supposed to believe. And there's nothing wrong with believing in God or Allah or whatever. But the emphasis should always be on belief, and not proof. They have no proof of these things, nor can they; if we take their beliefs seriously. As I've mentioned before, if their god's test is supposed to be belief, then there cannot be proof. Because, if you had proof, you'd be a knower, not a believer. Anyone can know a fact; only special people can believe in it. And that's the basis for the major religions.
And I have no problem with that...as long as they don't think that it's supposed to apply to me. And as long as they don't think that their belief gives them authority to change laws that affect me. And if anything, that should upset their god. After all, if he's just testing us, then aren't the evangelist-types totally fucking up his system by putting God's morals into law? Because if they're law, it's no longer about freewill and belief. It's about avoiding punishment. And what amounts to a secular, materialistic punishment, at that. And so these people are trying to circumvent their god's design; thus undermining the whole system He set-up. Not smart, if you ask me.
Again, belief is not bad. But thinking that beliefs are supposed to bind anyone else; that is bad.
What a Fool Believes
And I'm not here to talk about religion. That was just an example that most liberal-types should understand. In fact, as far as religious beliefs go, I think I'm far more tolerant than most liberals. Most liberals will refer to believers as morons and kooks; which is generally just an over-reaction to overbearing Christians who try to force their beliefs on us. So they're a tad bitter. Not me. I think belief can be a good thing. And if someone's belief in their god makes them happier, than I'm happy for them. I like happiness. I just don't want others thinking that their beliefs serve as some sort of evidence which trumps my beliefs and, more importantly, the known facts.
And what am I getting at? Election fraud. I'm sick of hearing about it. And I've been sick of it since about a week or so after the election; once it seemed as if we'd never get any real proof of it.
I was reminded of it again from one of Atrios' substitutes, Avedon, who was posting today about election fraud and voting machines. And I'm sorry, but I just don't want to hear it. As I've commented over at Atrios' before, I just don't see it as doing any good, and I think it could do us a lot of harm (as I'll detail below). So I just don't think we should continue to carp on this subject. Let's talk about better voting machines, and improved voter registration, and whatnot, but let's drop the conspiracy stuff. It's a go-nowhere idea which might drag us down.
And before you get too many ideas and start sending me hate-mail, let me lay-out exactly what I believe. I do believe that the 2004 election was probably stolen from us. There were a lot of fishy things going on, and it's the kind of thing the Republicans would do.
Partly, they'd do it because many of them believe that we do it to them, which they use to rationalize doing it against us. But partly, they think that they're above the law because their beliefs are so solid and pure. Ends justify the means, dontcha know. And again, if there really was a god, and that god wanted them to do these things (as well as wanting us to join them), then they'd be absolute and complete fools for not doing it. As would we be. But that brings us back to the beliefs versus proof thing I mentioned earlier.
And how do I think the Republicans stole the election? I think voter machine fraud might have been involved; just outright changing Kerry votes to Bush votes or perhaps Anyone But Kerry votes. The software's complicated, and it really wouldn't be that difficult to slip in a little extra coding.
But I think that the biggest fraud, if there was any, was due to the more outright problems. Not enough voting booths in Democratic strongholds; thus Democrats being driven off by long lines. And then there were real efforts to thwart voters from getting to their polling places or having their registration challenged. And efforts to invalidate voter registration cards. That certainly happened. And to me, these were the biggest problems. Not crooked machines, but old-fashioned low-tech means to disenfranchise Democrats.
And it's quite possible this wasn't conspiracy, but just basic economics. I don't know enough about how this works, but it seems quite possible that inner-city Democratic strongholds might have less funds than richer Republican areas. And poor Republicans live in rural areas which wouldn't have such long lines or need as many machines. So maybe this wasn't conspiratorial, but a structural flaw (which conspiracy talk would do little to remedy). I just don't know.
And maybe there were crooked machines. There is certainly evidence which can point us in that direction. I heard of voter oddities in my old hometown of Austin Texas, where apparently people who voted straight-ticket Democrat, but who failed to vote in a local referendum had their Kerry vote cast as a Bush vote. That sounds suspicious. Of course, there was no chance that Bush could lose Texas, so it's a bit odd that anyone would bother changing votes there, so maybe it really was just a mistake.
And I heard of several other suspicious occurrences nationwide. And who knows how much fraud happened without anyone even knowing about it? Most likely, even the guilty people don't know how much fraud they might have perpetrated. Assuming it happened at all. But I do believe that it happened.
And so if that's my attitude, how can I possibly be against this talk of voter fraud? Easy. Because I have no proof. Not anything that I'd stake my reputation on. You see, I'm a fairly cautious person and I absolutely hate to be wrong. I really really hate it. And that's why I'm so right all the damn time; because I only stick to known-knowns when discussing facts. My speculation is generally labeled as speculation, and I generally assume that I don't need to prove much of this stuff to you guys. Because you're already believers. And this blog isn't about telling you the truth about stories you haven't heard, but about showing you how it all fits together and what you should do with it.
But convincing people of uncertain things requires proof. And I have a high standard for proof. And I do that because truth is all I've got going for me. Without truth, I'm just a dumb schmuck like everyone else. I'm not a clever person. I'm not very good with words. And I'm really kind of an asshole. So all I've got is the truth. Well, I'm also tall, built like an NFL quarterback, and have hair that JFK Jr. would have been envious of; but that doesn't translate so well in blogland. So I stick to the truth-telling gig. If you're trying to show how the puzzle pieces fit together, you've got to make sure that they really do fit.
So while I believe that some election fraud happened, I have no proof of it. Or at least, not the kind of proof that I'd be willing to repeat. So I keep my mouth shut and my eye on the prize: 2006. We already have enough crap on Bush, Delay, and the rest of those con-artists, so I see no reason why we need to get into unproven conspiracies.
And what do I mean by "proof". Many of the election conspiracy people insist they have proof. And certainly, they have some level of proof. But not the certain kind; not the stuff that convinces non-believers. Not even close. They have some oddities and some suspicious events and statistics. But nothing more. Nothing that could convince the unconvinced.
When I think of "proof", I think of something that could convince a hypothetical jury. Beyond a reasonable doubt kind of proof. The kind of thing that I'd put hard money on. I'm not a gambling man, so if I'm willing to put money on something, you know it's not just a belief. Like confessions from a few of the conspirators; even ones who only spoke anonymously (assuming the journalist they told was trustworthy). Or like a verified email from Karl Rove to the Diebold company telling them which counties to put the rigged machines in; and hopefully a note from Diebold saying that they'd do it. Or a taped conversation between Bush, Rove, and Mr. Diebold in which they discussed everything; ala Watergate. Something like that.
Not possible coincidences, or even things that could be written off as an honest mistake. But something that would convince me that Democrats had rigged an election, had the situation been reversed.
And let's talk about proof. But this time, of proof that liberals rejected: Proof of WMD's.
Did Bush and the neo-cons have proof that Saddam had WMD's? Certainly. We know that Saddam had them before the first Gulf War. And apparently he had them even as late as 1998, or at least I think that's where the truth is still solid on this. And not everything that we were supposed to find had been found. The inspectors had proof that Saddam had more WMD material than we had found. So it's not so unreasonable to assume that he still had them. That proof was based on some speculation, but it was reasonable speculation by well-meaning people (I mean the inspectors, not the neo-cons).
And we know that Saddam wanted them. And he was so secretive. He kicked out the inspectors in 1998 (sort of). He wouldn't let us talk freely with his scientists. There were secret places that we weren't allowed to go. And so everything was suspicious and we had good reasons to not trust Saddam. And that's certainly proof of something.
And then there were eyewitnesses. Great guys like Curveball, who said things which got repeated by our President, even though our intel guys couldn't even question him directly. And there were lots of others. And they all said the same things. And so, this isn't just statistical stuff or anecdotes. This was fairly solid. And sure the CIA doubted much of this testimony, but so what? Are we really going to accept the CIA as infallible, just because we want to believe what they say? Their doubts were enough to make us doubt, but it's not enough proof to be certain that the WMD's weren't real.
So, was there proof of WMD's? Of course. Lots of it. Was it conclusive? No. Was it at least solid enough that you'd want to risk billions and billions and declare preemptive war? Most liberals would say not. Because there's proof; and then there's conclusive proof. And Bush had no conclusive proof. Just lots of little things which were supposed to add up to the big things. Bush had his beliefs, and must have thought that his beliefs would be justified. But the real proof just wasn't there; nor could it be, because the WMD's weren't there.
And should we have had conclusive proof before going to war? Of course. This was a huge thing. And so it wasn't enough to trust our beliefs, and trust "informants" who were obviously biased. And almost all liberals feel this way. We saw the proof. Or at least of what they'd show us. And we didn't think it was enough. Not even close.
And so we couldn't believe. In fact, the proof was so weak, that many of us openly disbelieved in the WMD's. But other people could look at these same facts and be utterly convinced; and think that the liberals were traitors for denying such strong proof. Almost all of our "liberal" media believed. And many conservative pundits were staking their reputations on the idea that they'd turn up. Hell, even now, many people are still certain that they'll turn up. In Syria, or in some giant underground bunker somewhere. And worst of all are those who believe that we really did find the WMD's. Quite shameful, what belief will do to some people.
And so why is it that we could all see the same proof, yet some people believe, while others can't? Because it was all based upon what we wanted to believe. We believed whatever was necessary to confirm what we wanted to see. And it's not necessarily a liberal/conservative thing; though it largely is. But if you were the type who wanted to be convinced by that kind of proof, then you would be. And if not, then you wouldn't be.
And can't you just see what the problem is? Any kind of proof that is based upon preconceived belief just isn't any kind of proof at all. Just like how some religious people can see childbirth or a flower grow, and swear that that's proof enough of God or Allah's existence. So us libs were in the right for denying it. Not because we denied. But because we could reasonably deny it. There certainly was proof. But it wasn't certain proof. It was so weak and so uncertain and shakey, that it didn't overwhelm us. A reasonable person could see the proof and not be convinced.
And afterall, my whole anti-war, anti-WMD stance never had to do with believing that the WMD's weren't real. I always thought that they might show-up, and always cautioned fellow libs to not base our arguments on their non-existence. While I always referred to Bush as a liar, it wasn't because he said they were real. He must have believed that they were real, or he wouldn't have gambled so much. And is it really a lie if you believe it to be true? Maybe. But we had something more solid on him.
His lie was that he overstated the proof that he had, in an attempt to deceive us. He was given guesses, assumptions, and biased testimony and repeated them as if they were solid facts and unimpeachable testimony. And some of that stuff was just outright wrong, and his staff knew it. But they didn't care, because their beliefs told them that it would all be justified.
His lie wasn't in stating his beliefs. But rather in overstating his beliefs; thus turning them into a pseudo-reality. So even if the WMD's turned out to be real, my point was still correct. Even if Bush was right, he was still a liar. Because he didn't have the proof necessary to make the claims that he was making.
And thus, he violated the principle of beliefs I laid out before. He presented his beliefs as reality. Again, there's nothing wrong with beliefs, just as long as you don't try to force them onto other people. Bush violated that, and tricked a nation into fighting a war for which we had no reasonable evidence that we should have fought. The power of belief is too strong to be trusted.
And that's what our problem with this election fraud stuff is. Not because there is no proof. There is proof. And not because the "liberal" media or conservatives ignore it. Because they might always ignore it. But because it couldn't convince a reasonable person who wasn't already biased. It's enough for someone to say "that's suspicious", maybe we should dig a little deeper. But it's not enough to convince anyone to do anything...unless they were already convinced of it. And it's certainly not enough to pretend as if Bush's re-election was definitely a fraud.
And nobody can honestly believe that our proof is of the Beyond a Reasonable Doubt type. Because to believe that would require belief that our entire system is corrupt and fraudulent, because the conspiracy would have to involve lots of important Democrats and district attorneys and lawyers and judges and all kinds of people. If enough of these people felt like this was actionable evidence, they'd be all over this like smell on shit. And so it's unreasonable to believe that our evidence is solid.
And I can say that without even contemplating the evidence. I'll tell you upfront that I haven't even seen most of this proof. Nor do I need to. Because I have enough faith in our system to know that any real proof would be acted upon. And if the system is that corrupt, then election fraud is the least of our concerns. So there is no point in researching this further.
And so all we have is belief. And again, there's nothing wrong with that. Nothing. Unless we try to impose our beliefs on other people and try to make our beliefs trump the beliefs of others, or even the facts. The religious do that, and it's wrong. Bush did that, and got us into this dangerous and expensive war. And it's wrong when we do it.
Because, here's the thing. Even if Bush was right, and Saddam really did have WMD's; Bush was still a liar. And even if the Christians are right, and there is a God; they shouldn't force their morals on us. Because they don't have the proof required to do such things. And even if Republicans did rig voting machines and steal the election, we don't have the necessary proof of this, and are only hurting our cause by focusing on it.
Converting the Converted
And here's how it hurts us. First off, it's a waste of time. If you want to keep digging into this, go for it. I pray that you find the proof that we need to nail these bastards, and I'll thank every last one of you. You'll be heros. Woodward and Bernstein type heros, but even bigger. So I don't want to put anyone off of their quest. I won't apologize, as I've done nothing wrong. Empiricism is essential, not immoral. But I support any private quests to search out the truth.
But shouting about it won't do anything. And calling Bush the "Commander-in-Thief" won't serve any real purpose. It might make you feel better. But you won't even convince one person. Not one. And if anything, you'll piss off a lot of people. And you'll scare off people who might sympathize with us. Because without the proof, we just sound like loonies. And even I'm obviously pissed about it, because the election fraudsters have insulted me for not believing in their mission. They think I'm a fool, just like all the conservatives believed I was a fool for doubting that Saddam had WMD's. And just like Christians think I'm a fool for denying God's existence and "choosing Hell". But I'm not a fool. I just like proof. And to believers, that's the greatest offense of them all.
And so what's the point? If you're not convincing people, and only the believers believe, then why do it? If someone could explain what the gameplan is on this, I might even support it. But unless there's something more to this than calling attention to unverified accusations, it just sounds like a lot of noise and bitterness.
And secondly, it marginalizes us, and makes election reform seem like an idea for conspiracy nuts. It doesn't matter if it's true or not. Unless we can prove that the fraud was real, we just look crazy. As it is with all conspiracy nuts. And unless we have the proof, that's all we are. And even worse, it can backfire and make even less people willing to look at real facts which might come out.
Here's a conspiracy we all know and love: Watergate. When Woodward and Bernstein first started on the story, they just thought it was some low-level, minor story. They weren't trying to uncover anything. They were just doing their job and reporting facts. But then they started uncovering more and more. And quickly the story took shape. They were onto the conspiracy. But they were largely ignored. The story was often viewed as a vendetta by the Washington Post against the President. And some of their biggest scoops didn't even make it into other newspapers.
But even then, they only stuck with the verified facts. Occasionally, they printed more than they should have, and got burned; and their sources dried up. And despite all of their great research and digging, the story would never have been completely broken without the discovery of Nixon's taping system, which had recorded many juicy details. And Woodward and Bernstein weren't even directly involved with that discovery. It wouldn't have happened had W&B not pressed the story, but the biggest scoop in Watergate didn't involve either of them.
And it was a conspiracy. Nixon and his men were running a corrupt Whitehouse, and then stifled the investigation of their corruption. It was a conspiracy. But that still didn't warrant going beyond the facts. They could only print what other people would tell them, and nothing more. It didn't matter that they believed it went further. They had to get others to verify the story, or they had nothing. And this was necessary, not because they were reporters; but because that's the way that proof works. You either have the proof, or you don't. And if you make accusations that you can't prove, you'll eventually get burned.
Take the Newsweek/Koran story. Newsweek had a source for the Koran story, and made it sound better established than it really was. Then the source retracted what he had said. But did things go back to square one? No. That retraction was used to severely tarnish Newsweek's image AND was used to deceive people into thinking that the Koran story was more retracted than it really was. The Bush Admin even wanted Newsweek to state publicly in Muslim counties that the entire story was false. And the irony now is that the Bush Admin claims of innocence of this seem to be backfiring, and now more of the story is coming out. Because the Bush Admin went beyond the known facts and started making up stuff that made them look better. And now they're getting burned.
Or Dan Rather and "Rathergate". Again, he had proof that he trusted. He didn't make up the proof, but he believed it without enough verification. Because he and his producer wanted to believe it, because it was such a great scoop. And it seriously tarnished his credibility and career. But more than that, it put Bush's Guard service off-limits to the media. Many people accepted the outcome of this as a vindication for Bush. So again, we're worse off than when we started. Anyone who tries to go on about Bush's guard service is laughed at, not because it's not true; but because Rather's unverified memo set the story back. Any proof that comes out now will require even more verification than normal; and will still be unlikely to be considered a real news story.
Truth Versus Proof
And that's the thing. Most likely, the Rathergate memo did represent the truth; even if it was forged. And we're fairly certain that Korans were abused and quite possibly flushed. So it wasn't the truth that was the problem. It was the verification of the truth that was lacking. And making claims without verification can set back your cause much further than if you hadn't made the claims at all. Because anything can be true. But the only way that you know that it's true is if you have verification. That is the only way.
And that goes for everything, including Bush's dishonest WMD claims. He burned a lot of his followers with that stuff, and while many of them are still followers, they would like him a lot more had he not betrayed their trust. And it gave his opponents tons of ammunition. I know, it doesn't seem like his followers feel betrayed, or that we're making good use of that ammo. But I can guarantee you that Bush and Rove feel the pain.
And that's why we need to drop this stuff. Because without convincing proof, we cannot convince anyone. Nor should we be able to. And we only serve to marginalize this story and make it sound like a nutty vendetta against the President. And frankly, I'm not so sure that it's not. I'm still a little bitter about the 2004 election. It hurt. It really did. And I honestly can't tell you how much of my election fraud belief is based upon facts and how much is based on that bitterness.
And because it doesn't make a difference, I'd rather just drop it. We've got bigger fish to fry, and go-nowhere conspiracy stories are not going to win us the next election. We've got serious known-issues with our election system. So let's not bog down the discussion with bitter accusations which cannot be verified. If you've got the facts, great. Otherwise, shut up and let us win back our Congress.
And again, if we allow our beliefs and wishes to overwhelm our reality, we are no better than they are. There's nothing wrong with believing things. You just have to keep a good eye on where the facts end and your beliefs begin. Please don't make us revoke your membership in the reality-based community.
And I'm sorry to all you non-believers out there, who had to put up with my "you think this stuff"; that's just the way I write. I'm not suggesting that all of you are like this. I hope you're not, anyway. I'd like to think that the Biobrain readers are a little better educated about this stuff. Don't prove me wrong. I hate to be wrong.