Thursday, August 6, 2009

Sounds "fishy" to me!

An official request has come from the White House, asking American citizens to send any "fishy" e-mails or Web postings on health-care reform to

This is interesting to me, since just today I was interacting with my own "fishy" email regarding some of the unbelievable components of the proposed Health Care plan.

A week or so ago, I received an email, complete with the attendant hype and drama that sometimes accompanies outlandish emails. It had obviously been sent to everyone in my friend's address book, and one of his rude friends hailing from across the aisle had felt compelled to "reply to all" and blast him in front of all of us for his dissemination of inaccurate and outlandish "Repulican b*llsh*t."

I had sighed and cringed and pressed delete, assuming that most of the incredible assertions in the email were, in fact, urban legend rubbish that makes otherwise intelligent people believe insanity. (There is plenty of that these days, you know, especially among people my parents' ages. They're just getting into the email thing, they're retired with a little too much time on their hands, and they're forwarding things around to each other daily by the dozens, I think.)

Anyway, today I received another such email, this time attributed to respected scholar and Dean of Liberty University law school, Mathew Staver. I quickly checked Snopes and other Urban Legends sites, finding nothing one way or another on this particular email and its contents. Certain I was looking at a classic case of urban legend hype, I quickly wrote the following letter to the Liberty University School of Law:

RE: Dean Staver's association with circulating email

The following is being circulated (I received it this morning in an email) and attributed to Dr. Staver. If it was not authored by him (which I suspect it may not have been), quick action to get it onto and some other Urban Legends sites is likely in order. (Even if he did author it - which I don't believe he did - validating it as true on these sites would also be a good idea. As it stands now, there is no way for folks to check the credibility of the claim that he authored it.)

My experience has been that well-meaning but ignorant folks get emails like this and then forward them all around and/or post them on their Blogs; rather quickly, there will be hundreds of Google entries with Dr. Staver's name in them as this document gains a web presence.

I just figured I'd make you aware of it, if you were not already.

I signed it with my name, identifying myself also as a "citizen interested in intelligent public debate."

Within the hour, I had received the following reply from Beverly Smith, Executive Assistant to the Dean:

Dean Staver is, in fact, involved with the material in this email and has agreed to its circulation. For more information, please visit for full text of the HR 3200 document and other information that has recently been distributed via press releases and news bulletins. Thank you for you inquiry.

I recognize that many, many people will discredit anything authored by Mat Staver as right-wing wacko craziness because of his association with Liberty University and the Jerry Falwell shadow under which it exists. However, I know of Dr. Staver as an intelligent, respected scholar, author, and legal analyst, and the fact that he has associated his name with the claims in this email gives me great pause.

That and the fact that 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is scrambling in any way it can to try to gather and discredit such emails. "Methinks he doth protest too much*," I'd say!

The following is taken from a Focus on the Family CitizenLink newsletter:

Gary McCaleb, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, said the unusual request hearkens back to the Cold War.

"We have an administration in America taking a page out of a playbook that was written by the Khrushchev types in the 1950s," he said. "Why is the government asking neighbor to report on neighbor like the Russians asked their children to report on their parents?"

"There are only two reasons why the government would do this," he continued. "Either to outfox the American public, or to find a way to suppress the American public."

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, wrote a letter to President Barack Obama laying out his concerns about such a request and asking for "assurances that this program is being carried out in a manner consistent with the First Amendment and America's tradition of free speech and public discourse."

"It seems inevitable that the names, e-mail addresses, IP addresses and private speech of U.S. citizens will be reported to the White House," he said.

In response, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said, "Nobody is collecting names."

The administration's blog entry cited as an example of "fishy" video a clip in which the president appears to support a single-payer health-care system. The blog offered video clips of the president appearing to say that he does not.

But Cornyn pointed out that in 2003 Obama said in plain language: "I happen to be a proponent of a single-payer universal health-care plan." Cornyn said he wondered if a direct quote counted as "disinformation."


*This is a variation on a quotation from Shakespeare's Hamlet, allowing variance for the obvious gender difference between our President and Queen Gertrude. The original quotation is, 'She doth protest too much, methinks.'

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