Oxford don offered $10,000 for proof terrorist penned Obama memoir
Philosophy, computing, and Republican desperation
USA '08 In a last-ditch attempt to spook credulous Americans into voting for John McCain, a Republican congressman and his brother-in-law have offered $10,000 to a software-wielding Oxford don, asking for proof that Barack Obama's memoir was written by former domestic terrorist William Ayers.
As first reported by The Sunday Times, Dr. Peter Millican - a philosophy professor at Hertford College, Oxford - recently received an "urgent call" from a California businessman named Robert Fox, brother-in-law of Republican lawmaker Chris Cannon. According to Millican, Fox offered him $10,000 - about £6,200 - to prove alleged similarities between Obama's 1995 bestseller Dreams from My Father and Ayer's 2001 memoir Fugitive Days.
Millican has developed software that compares prose styles as a means of determining whether works were written by the same author.
"On Sunday 26th October 2008, just nine days before what promised to be an historic US Presidential election, I received an urgent call from Bob, a man close to a Republican Congressman in the American West," Millican writes on his website, Philosophy and Computing.
"He wanted to enlist my services in an effort to prove a scandalous allegation against Barack Obama, which - if justified - would surely impact on his prospects in that election. Namely, that his famous 1995 memoir, Dreams from My Father, on which so much of his reputation was built, was in fact authored largely by Bill Ayers."
For months, right-wing media outlets and various Republican party members - including presidential candidate John McCain and running-mate Sarah Palin - have played up past meetings between Obama and Ayers, who once lived in the same Chicago neighborhood and worked together on local education reform and anti-poverty initiatives.
Ayers co-founded the Weather Underground, the radical anti-war organization famous for bombing public buildings in the 1960s and 70s. He's now a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Efforts to contact Fox and Cannon were unsuccessful. But in speaking with The Sunday Times, each said the other had initiated the offer to Millican. After receiving the call from Fox, Millican look a cursory look at the two memoirs and determined it was "very implausible" they were written by the same person. A deal was struck for additional analysis, but according to Millican, Fox and Cannon soon got cold feet.
Apparently, if the tests turned up negative, Fox didn't like the idea of Millican making them public. And Cannon didn't want the world to think the tests were funded by the Republicans.
Ah, but the tests have turned up negative. And Millican has made them public. In a new post to his website, the Oxford professor says he's "totally confident" that the allegations about the two memoirs are false.
"In view of what I have found, and the intrinsic unlikelihood of the hypothesis, I would be astonished if anything came to light to reverse this verdict," he writes. "I hope that interested visitors to this site, whether Democrat or Republican or indeed entirely independent of American politics, will be pleased to discover that the probable next leader of the free world did not get his impressive first book written by Bill Ayers." ®
@Matt, yes it is too much to ask
"Is it too much to ask that the the Reg, a technical website, sticks to technical matters? "
Yes. it is too much to ask. We are all techies, true, but we are also - first and foremost - citizens, of our nation and ultimately of the world.
As Donne said: "No man is an island, entire of itself, every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main ...any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind", for those that don't speak deathless prose that means that the current situation in the US matters to all of us. Its not quite a battle between good and evil, but its certainly one between a reality based government and something else.
"If the Reg was posting political articles in a balanced manner"
Fair and Balanced? Like Fox News? I don't think so. This is El Reg, not some Rupert Murdoch rag. I'll stick with reality thanks, as reported by The Register, which is rarely fair and never balanced, but always a lot more interesting.
"I might just ignore it, but when Cade and Co post their twaddle it's like a visit to Daily Kos (and if you have never visited Daily Kos, don't bother unless you enjoy the muterrings of the seriously paranoid and deluded). "
So, you don't like Daily Kos. OK. Its a matter of taste and I often find the pages too schmaltzy and American (lots of stories about people crying - often in hospital car parks because they can't afford medicine, that kind of thing.). Conversely I'd imagine that you find the analysis hard to understand. They use lots of words and numbers.
That said, Daily Kos does do rather well, both in terms of readers with around 2.5million pages impressions a day and as political activists. They raised about $2m for the US election, so if they are seriously paranoid and deluded - normally conditions that stop people being successful - they are doing remarkably well.
For those that don't know the Daily Kos are led by a former Republican, Markos Moulitsas Zúniga. Daily Kos was founded because "Kos", a former soldier, was appalled at the way that his former comrades were being thrown into unwinnable wars. Reg-regular Lewis Page might have a grimace of recognition here.
"If I want political comment I go look at the Fox, CNN, BBC, Washington Post, Times, etc, etc. "
Fox, and the Times are Murdoch-owned, so tend to be very right wing. In the case of Fox its very, very far-right wing. BBC is independent, but offers almost no real political commentary as it has no official viewpoint - in short the BBC is pretty bland.
The Washington Post, although called "liberal" in the US (well, by Richard Nixon) is, in reality, centre-to-far-right; the Washington Post employs noted Neo-Con Charles Krauthammer and it still rabidly supports the US invasion of Iraq and privatisation of social security - hardly centrist positions.
"If I want to know the latest rabid whinings of the left here in the UK I go to Indymedia (and laugh for hours). "
You laugh for hours at stories like the current Indymedia front page of the anniversary of the massacres at Safsaf, al-Dawayima and Kafr Qasim villages? That seems a little odd. Even Israel apologised for the Kafr Qasim massacre (in 2007). Maybe its just a bad choice of day to say that... I'm sure that protesting causes you concern, which is fine. Still, where do you stand on the murder of anti-abortion doctors by American fundamentalists? Better or worse than protesting a new road? Its purely a question, intended to make you think a bit.
Actually Matt... I have to ask... you are aware that you've already been taken apart by a half dozen commentators for not knowing what you are talking about, or comprehending a fairly simple report that you yourself were examining? Boasting about your ability to read at this stage seems a little arrogant.
"I'd rather the Reg stayed true to its original readership and stuck to technical and industry news. To be honest, Cade Metz can get on his bike and go back to San Francisco."
I think that sticking to technical news when there are other more important stories would be suicidal for The Reg. Following this advice would lead it ultimately to a dead end - people read zdnet or slashdot, but no one cares about them.
The Reg's coverage of the US election has been challenging, cynical, grumpy, backbiting and occasionally wise. Its been everything we would expect from them. To the Reg team, well done.
RE: Andy Bright
"....But no, this website comes from the UK. We have something called a free press...." EXACTLY! I read this website for the technical news and opinions, and I don't see why there should be used as a vehicle for Democrat propaganda by Cade Metz and his ilk. Is it too much to ask that the the Reg, a technical website, sticks to technical matters? If the Reg was posting political articles in a balanced manner I might just ignore it, but when Cade and Co post their twaddle it's like a visit to Daily Kos (and if you have never visited Daily Kos, don't bother unless you enjoy the muterrings of the seriously paranoid and deluded). If I want political comment I go look at the Fox, CNN, BBC, Washington Post, Times, etc, etc. If I want to know the latest rabid whinings of the left here in the UK I go to Indymedia (and laugh for hours). I'd rather the Reg stayed true to its original readership and stuck to technical and industry news. To be honest, Cade Metz can get on his bike and go back to San Francisco.
what way's the wind blowing?
Bill Ayers for President!