Saturday, May 30, 2015

New poll shows social conservatives in decline

Polling released over the past few weeks has revealed what may be seismic shifts in American morality. On virtually every issue, American public opinion has shifted to the left. The most recent polling, released today by Gallup, show that the country has moved left on abortion and approval of out-of-wedlock births.

Today, a poll on attitudes about abortion showed that half of Americans consider themselves pro-choice for the first time since 2012. The Gallup poll showed that the percentage of Americans who identify as pro-life has declined to 44 percent, its lowest point since 2008. 2009 was the first year in which pro-life polled higher than pro-choice. Attitudes on abortion are still much more divided than they were in the 1990s.

The poll does not define pro-choice and pro-life, but 29 percent of respondents indicated that abortion should be legal in all circumstances. The plurality, 36 percent, said that abortion, should be legal in only a few circumstances.

Another Gallup poll released today revealed increasingly divergent attitudes on out-of-wedlock births. Sixty-one percent now believe that it is morally acceptable to have a baby outside of marriage. Only 35 percent call out-of-wedlock births immoral. Opinions on extramarital births have diverged widely since 2002, the last year that a majority called them immoral.

The shift has come as the percentage of out-of-wedlock births has increased dramatically. In 2014, the Washington Post reported that Census figures show that less than 60 percent of first-time births are to married couples. The Census report noted that “women with a nonmarital [sic] first birth are both less likely to ever marry and less likely to remain married if they do marry” and also links unmarried births to higher risks of poverty, lower educational attainment and family instability.

Today’s polling comes on the heels of increased support for doctor-assisted suicide, also from Gallup. Sixty-eight percent of respondents now support a right to die when a person has an incurable disease and is in severe pain. Only 28 percent are opposed. After remaining close for years, opinion on doctor-assisted euthanasia has diverged since 2013.

The biggest shift in public opinion is related to homosexuality and gay marriage. Gallup reports that a record high of 60 percent now supports gay marriage. Only 37 percent disagree. As recently as 1999, the numbers were almost completely reversed with 62 percent opposed and 35 percent in favor of redefining marriage.

Likewise, by 51 – 30 percent, most Americans now believe that homosexuals are born gay, not created by upbringing or environment. On this issue, Gallup’s numbers have also reversed since the 1990s. In reality, scientific proof that homosexuality is inherited genetically has been hard to find. It is even harder to find a genetic explanation for bisexuals, which make up approximately half of the gay and lesbian community.

On a similar issue, Gallup found that respondents greatly overestimated the number of gays in the US. Only 3.8 percent self-identify as gay or lesbian, but poll respondents believed that 23 percent of Americans were gay.

In general, the recent Gallup polling shows that social liberals are now equal in number with social conservatives in the United States. Since 1999, the percentage of social conservatives has declined while social liberals have increased. Both factions now stand equal at 31 percent.

The polling shows that the sample trended more liberal on virtually every issue since 2001. The largest shifts occurred on gay and lesbian relations (considered moral by 23 percent more in 2015 than in 2001), extramarital births (16 percent more), extramarital sex (15 percent more), divorce (12 percent more) and stem cell research using human embryos (12 percent more). Other issues with a large shift included polygamy (nine percent increase) and cloning humans (eight percent).

Some issues are considered less moral today than 14 years ago. Support for the death penalty declined by three percent, but a majority (60 percent) still approve. Support for medical testing on animals declined by nine percent to 56 percent approval.

Some of the shift in public opinion may be explained by the sample. The poll was conducted from May 6-10, 2015 with 1,024 adults, aged 18 or older, living in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Since all of the findings stem from the same poll, if there is an error in providing an accurate sample or weighting the responses, the findings could have been skewed to the left. Nevertheless, these findings do support other polling that shows social attitudes moving to the left on several issues. 

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Monday, May 18, 2015

Jade Helm Walmart investigation at Midland, Texas

20150517_140121_resized - CopyMidland, Texas is in the heart of the Texas oil country. Founded in 1881 as the halfway point on the railroad between Fort Worth and El Paso, Midland was originally a cattle town. In 1923, oil was discovered there and the town boomed. Many of the downtown buildings still reflect the art deco construction of the 1920s and 1930s. The city gained fame in the early 2000s as the hometown of President George W. Bush. Today, Midland is feeling the effects of the most recent oil bust, but is even more famous for something else: a closed Walmart.

Until recently Midland was a two Walmart town. One store was located on the north side of town and another the south. That changed in April when the retailer suddenly closed the north side store along with other stores in Livingston, Texas, Pico Rivera, Calif., Tulsa, Okla., and Brandon, Fla. The Midland store closing included layoffs for most of the 456 employees according to the Dallas Morning News. The Midland Reporter-Telegram notes that the store will be closed for approximately six months. Other area businesses are concerned because they benefit from the customers that Walmart draws to the area.

Almost immediately, conspiracy theorists linked the sudden store closings to an upcoming military exercise, Jade Helm 15, set to take place in the southwestern states this summer. The conspiracy theorists fear that the exercise is a cover for the Obama Administration to implement martial law. This theory is based on a map in a military briefing that designates Texas as “hostile” for the purposes of the exercise.

The tie-in to Walmart stems from the company’s claim that the stores were closed because of plumbing problems. A Walmart statement said, “Each of these five locations had more than 100 plumbing problems reported over the last two years, the most out of our more than 5,000 stores in the U.S.” according to the Dallas Morning News.

An employee group disputes the plumbing claim. OUR Walmart filed a dispute with the National Labor Relations Board claiming that the stores were closed because of labor activism, noting that the Pico Rivera store was the first store where workers protested the company. The Dallas Morning News reports that the group is seeking an injunction to force Walmart to rehire the workers.

Last month, Examiner sent an investigative team to the Livingston, Texas Walmart to investigate reports of a military buildup in the store in conjunction with Jade Helm. Yesterday, the same team was sent to investigate the Midland store.

The closed Midland Walmart, like many Walmarts around the country, is in a high traffic area. The store is in a busy shopping area and several restaurants are adjacent to the parking lot. Another shopping center and more restaurants are across the street. A road runs along the back side of the Walmart and a gas station sits at the back corner of the store’s lot. The loading docks are easily visible to passersby. Any suspicious activity would be quickly noticed by the multitudes of diners and shoppers in the area.

Also unlike the Livingston Walmart, the Murphy Express gas station in Midland was still open for business. Most of the entrances to the Walmart parking lot were roped off, but there was still access from two sides. This allowed a steady stream of cars to purchase the Murphy Express’s cheap gasoline.

Unlike the Livingston Walmart, the Midland store is locked down and deserted. There were no cars or employees except for a solitary private security guard. When first glimpsed by the Examiner team, she was outside her truck, seemingly dozing on a shaded bench on the warm, Sunday afternoon.

When approached by the Examiner team, the guard said that she had not seen any suspicious activity and that there had been no sign of any military vehicles or personnel. She said that there had been quite a few civilians who were curious about the store closings and the conspiracy claims. She said that some of the other guards who had worked the night shift had reported suspicious civilians trying to find out what was inside the store.

The guard did not patrol inside the store, but said that, in the weeks after the closing, there had been many employees working inside to “take everything out,” presumably unsold stock as well as shelves and furnishings. More recently, there had been no activity at the store at all.

“It gets really boring,” she said.

Examiner was able to take photographs of every side of the store. There was no evidence of any other guards or activity. There were no military vehicles, either trucks or aircraft.

Previous reports of military vehicles and aircraft around the Midland Walmart, if not totally fabricated, may be easily explained. First, Walmart stores often allow trucks and recreational vehicles to park overnight. The large – now empty – parking lots with numerous restaurants in the proximity might also make an attractive stopping point for military convoys, especially since many Walmarts, including those in Livingston and Midland, are close to interstate highways.

In Midland, the presence of military aircraft can be explained by the proximity to Midland International Airport (KMAF). The map in the slide show shows that the closed Walmart is located about five miles from Midland International and under a common flight path for arriving aircraft. It would not be unusual to see both military and civilian aircraft flying low in this area. There do not seem to be any reports of military aircraft actually landing at the Walmart.

Texas is home to a multitude of military bases. Army vehicles and helicopters around Midland may well be traveling to or from Fort Hood, a large base some 200 miles away that is home to 1st Cavalry Division as well as other units.

As with the Livingston Walmart, the Examiner team saw no reason to believe that there was any suspicious activity, military or otherwise, at the Midland Walmart. Differences in activity between Midland and Livingston may well reflect different stages in the process of removing items from the store and readying the buildings for renovation.

See the slideshow here.

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Saturday, May 16, 2015

The climate change conspiracy

Today we don our tinfoil hat to look at the issue of climate change. While climate change, previously referred as global warming, isn’t usually considered a conspiracy theory, it does share many conspiracy characteristics.

One obvious parallel between climate change and conspiracies is that proponents of climate change have made numerous predictions about the effects of climate change. Like predictions about martial law and FEMA camps, very few of these predictions have come true.

The numerous doomsday predictions of climate scientists are well-documented, although few media sources compare the actual climate events to the sensational headlines from between 10 and 30 years ago. Partial lists can be found in sources as varied as the Washington Times,, and Daily Tech. A more complete list can be found on These failed predictions include:

· In 1989, a senior UN climate scientist said that nations could be destroyed by climate change by the year 2000.

· In the late 1980s, Dr. James Hansen of NASA predicted that New York’s West Side Highway would be underwater in 20-30 years and that severe droughts would lead restaurants to serve water by request only.

· In 2000, Dr. David Viner said that snow would soon be “a very rare and exciting event” and that “children just aren’t going to know what snow is.” Recent winters in both the UK and the US have set records for snowfall and low temperatures.

· In 2005, the UN warned that there would be 50 million climate refugees by 2010.

· In 2007, scientists feared that Arctic ice would be entirely gone by 2013. Yet less than a decade later, ice coverage in the Arctic has dramatically increased in both thickness and area.

· In 2006, Al Gore predicted in “An Inconvenient Truth” that sea levels would rise enough to threaten Pacific island nations. This was merely one of many fallacies in Gore’s movie.

· In 2006, Al Gore said that we had “10 years” to act on global warming.

Like proponents of other conspiracy theories, global warming alarmists are undaunted when their predictions fail. Like believers in martial law and FEMA concentration camps, global warming proponents simply revise their theory to explain the delay and change the dates on their predictions.

Perhaps because of the inaccuracy of these predictions, the term “global warming” has largely been replaced by the more ambiguous term “climate change.” Climate change can be blamed for a number of weather phenomena that global warming cannot. While denying that cold weather is proof against global warming, proponents simultaneously blame both hot and cold weather on climate change. The Daily Caller and the Daily Signal have both compiled lists of things that alarmists attribute to climate change. As other conspiracy theorists twist news stories to fit their theory, climate change proponents also frequently find a climatological angle to events of the day. Some of the things attributed to global warming include droughts, Ebola, rape, and the Syrian civil war.

The term “climate change” probably also entered the vernacular because global warming apparently stopped about 20 years ago in the late 1990s. Climate scientists who disagreed with the “consensus” wrote as early as 2006 that warming had plateaued. No computer models predicted this pause in warming and climate change theorists initially did not even admit that it was occurring. Today the response ranges from denial that there is a global warming hiatus to adjusting theories to fit the new facts. Revising theories is true to the scientific method, but climatic computer models should be taken with a grain of salt until they can accurately predict future climate changes, rather than simply explaining what has already happened.

Recent revelations that 2014 was the “hottest year in recorded history” often fail to note that recorded climate observations only go back to 1880, notes Robert Tracinski in The Federalist. Also missing from the stories is that the increase in 2014 was 0.02 degrees Celsius, which is far less than the margin of error of 0.10 degrees Celsius. Rising sea levels can be explained by the fact that sea levels have been rising since before the 20th century. In fact, a NASA graph shows that sea levels have been rising since the last glacial maximum 25,000 years ago. Rising temperatures and rising seas are both far less than predicted by global warming alarmists.

Although warming proponents widely believe that humans are contributing to climate change, they do not claim that this is being done purposefully to destroy the world. Where is the conspiracy that turns the theory of climate change into a conspiracy theory?

Alarmists might argue that the conspiracy comes from a conspiracy of oil companies to undercut climate change activists, presumably selling out the world’s future for short-term oil profits. To the alarmists, this excuses ad hominem attacks against skeptics, commonly derided as “deniers.”

The reality is that there is a proven conspiracy to silence climate change skeptics. In 2009, a hacker stole 1,000 emails and 3,000 documents from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia and posted them online. Another 5,000 emails were hacked and released in 2011. As James Taylor wrote in Forbes, the emails show that many scientists who contribute to IPCC reports engaged in deception and tried to conceal how weak the data supporting manmade climate change really was. Additionally, the emails showed that researchers were at a loss to explain both the recent global warming hiatus and the Medieval Warm Period, a 400 year period from the 9th to the 13th centuries when the Earth was warmer than it is today.

Alarmists use several methods to stifle dissent. A popular claim is that there is a strong scientific consensus on global warming and that 97 percent of scientists are in agreement. Joseph Bast and Dr. Roy Spencer found the 97 percent claim baseless when they examined it in a 2014 op-ed for the Wall Street Journal. In 2013, Forbes reported that a peer-reviewed study of earth scientists, engineers, and meteorologists found that only 36 percent considered global warming a crisis. The majority believed that global warming was a natural phenomenon and/or not a serious problem.

Many scientists may not want to publicly identify as skeptics. There are numerous reports of harassment of scientists and public figures who are skeptical of climate change alarmism. As far back as 2005, there were indications that skeptical papers were not being published in the prestigious, peer-reviewed scientific journals. The bias against skeptical papers may well explain the small number of papers published by skeptical scientists. Earlier this year, NPR reported on harassment of skeptics by Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.). Some, such as Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., have called skepticism “treason” and called for skeptics to be jailed. In another recent case, Western Washington University students tried to have the college degree of self-proclaimed “climate agnostic” Doug Erickson, a state senator from Washington, revoked by the university.

The bottom line of the debate may be whether climate alarmists put their money where their mouths are. There seems to have been no exodus of wealthy, liberal, climate refugees from low-lying coastal cities such as New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco to higher ground in “flyover country.” In fact, in 2010 Al Gore purchased an ocean-view mansion in California. In Florida, people will learn about climate change – and irony - at the new Frost Museum of Science, a $300 million facility located in Miami at about eight feet above sea level.


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Saturday, May 2, 2015

Baltimore riot conspiracies debunked

After every national tragedy, conspiracy theorists rush to fit the facts into their pet theories. The Baltimore riots are no exception. Among the many questions and claims being put forward on conspiracy sites are claims that the riots may be linked to Jade Helm 15 in preparing America for martial law. This in spite of the fact that Maryland is across the country from Jade Helm exercise area.

These theories hold that the riots in Baltimore are meant to instill fear and panic of a race war throughout the country. A posting sent in by a reader (tip of the tinfoil hat to Jason Doolin of Florida) seems representative of the conspiracy claims. “In case you missed it,” the post begins, “media focused on the few areas in Bmore [sic] where rioting took place and made it look like ww3 [sic] throughout the city. Meanwhile their ratings went through the roof and they paraded interviewees in front of the audience begging for the govt. to enact martial law in order to save them. This is known as PSYOPS aka conditioning.” The posting concludes, “Now the headline is martial law saved the city.”

Examining the claims, we find that the conspiracy is wrong on almost all counts. In many cases, it is true that media coverage of a small area can give the perception that devastation is much larger than it actually is. In the case of the Baltimore riots, however, a map published by the Baltimore Sun showing the violence of the first day of rioting shows that incidents occurred over a widespread area. According to the Sun, the violence began near Mondawmin Mall, located in the northwest section of the city, and spread towards downtown. The violence was worst on the west side of town, but there were a number of scattered incidents in eastern Baltimore as well.

None of the conspiracy sites seem to have an example of anyone “begging” for the government to enact martial law. Examples of black leaders inciting the riot, another claim in some articles, are easier to find. A frequently cited example is Malik Shabazz, president of Black Lawyers for Justice, who was quoted in the New York Times on Saturday, April 25 as telling protesters to “Shut it down if you want to! Shut it down!” Shabazz said he was encouraging civil disobedience, not violence.

Others were more direct. On Monday, April 27, Marc Lamont Hill, a professor at Morehouse College, said on CNN, “There shouldn’t be calm tonight.” He added, “I think there can be resistance to oppression

In one infamous piece on Salon, Benji Hart wrote, “It is crucial that we see non-violence as a tactic, not a philosophy” and argued against the “slandering of protesters in Baltimore this weekend for not remaining peaceful.” Hart’s words were published on Tuesday, however, as the riot was already in full swing.

Some conspiracy sites claim that martial law was declared in Baltimore and that the National Guard was used to restore order. Indeed, a New York Times article with the headline “Martial law enforced in Baltimore” comes up in Google searches. Upon closer inspection, the dateline is April 23, several days before the start of the riots. Even closer inspection reveals that the year is 1861. The article is part of the Times online archives and refers to President Lincoln’s imposition of martial law to prevent Maryland’s secession at the onset of the Civil War.

In 2015, martial law was never declared. On Monday, April 27, Maryland governor Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency on the request of Baltimore mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake according to CBS Baltimore.

Gen. Linda Singh, commander of Maryland’s National Guard told Real Clear Politics Monday night that “this is not martial law.” Singh went on to say that the National Guard troops were being deployed “in support of the police department, and are taking our direction from the police department….”

A Baltimore Sun report from Tuesday, April 28, indicated that 1,700 Guardsmen were deployed around the city. Some were in supporting roles while others provided backup for police responding to calls. At this point, there is no evidence that the Guard was involved in combat with looters and rioters, but their presence, as noted by Gizmodo, was clearly intended to intimidate the rioters and quell the violence.

It is worth noting here that the National Guard is not under the control of President Obama and the federal government. As noted on, in peacetime the National Guard answers to the civilian leadership of its state, not the president. The president can mobilize the National Guard and call them up for duty in wartime or an emergency. This makes the National Guard an unlikely component of a federal plan for illegal martial law.

There is also no evidence of headlines saying that the military response saved the city. Instead, the big story seems to be the inept response of Baltimore’s mayor, which is generating conspiracy claims of its own. A widely circulated quote by Mayor Rawlings-Blake purports to show that she purposely allowed the violence. On Saturday, April 25, the first day of the riots, she said, “We also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well.”

On the surface, the quote seems damning, but when viewed in full context, her words take on a different meaning. Politifact provides her full remarks:

“We’ve had these kinds of conversations before, and I made it very clear that I work with the police and instructed them to do everything that they could to make sure that the protesters were able to exercise their right to free speech. It’s a very delicate balancing act. Because while we try to make sure that they were protected from the cars and the other things that were going on, we also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well. And we worked very hard to keep that balance and to put ourselves in the best position to de-escalate and that’s what you saw this evening.”

Mayor Rawlings-Blake was actually describing the unfortunate result of her attempt to protect the First Amendment right of peaceful protesters, not an intent to allow violent demonstrators to engage in destruction of property.

Another conspiracy blog points to a Fox News article that states that “between 20 and 50 social media accounts in Baltimore [were also] linked to the violence in Ferguson, Mo.” The article goes on to say that there was “a spike in message traffic in Washington D.C., Philadelphia and New York City, with ‘protesters’ trying to get rides to Baltimore for Tuesday night.”

Rather than a government attempt at martial law, this social media traffic is more readily explained as “professional” protesters and outside agitators on the left. A number of protesters arrested in Ferguson last year were from distant liberal meccas like New York and Chicago according to USA Today. The social media traffic would seem to indicate that many militant leftists from neighboring cities were stoking the fires of Baltimore as well.

The argument that the riots were conditioning Americans to accept martial also seems questionable. The inability of the government to protect its citizens and their property for several days likely did little to inspire the confidence of most Americans in federal authority.

In reality, the aftermath of riots often inspires citizens to arm themselves. Last year’s riots in Ferguson led to dramatic increases in gun sales at nearby stores according to the Washington Post. Similarly, the Los Angeles riots of 1992 led to record-breaking gun sales noted the Los Angeles Times. If the government were truly planning to implement martial law, it would probably want to lull its citizens into a false sense of security, not send them scurrying to the gun store.

The conspiracy theorists did get one thing right. The riot coverage was a boon to television news networks. Variety reported that the top networks were CNN and Fox News, as is usually the case with breaking news. Even a blind squirrel can find a nut occasionally.


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