Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Birthers: kinda funny, kinda not

Considering that Obama was running against a legitimate American citizen who was not actually born in America, this whole "where was Obama born? he tain't Amar'kin" thing is funny. The fact that it gets news time on freaking CNN and other supposed News outlets is not. It was debunked BEFORE the election. Conspiracy theorists should be covered by the likes of the Weekly World News, not CNN. When actual evidence only changes the complaint, one needn't even bother. Even so, one aspect that I haven't seen published before, however, is this: regardless of documentation, think about how reasonable it would be from the POV of Obama's mom to travel to Kenya while heavily gravid in 1961. (To be fair, maybe other people have blogged about it, but it's hard to find.)

Remember when everyone thought Angelina Jolie was batshit crazy for flying to Africa to give birth for the first time? [I thought was actually kind of cool, considering her reason of wanting to "equalize" her kids' origins, and her monumental cash resources and UN connections.] And how absurd it was for Palin to fly from Dallas to Alaska within 24 hours of giving birth while claiming to be in labor? [Which is just confusing.]

Now imagine a pregnant teenager in 1961 who is 7 or 8 months pregnant, and she's planning to fly to 1961 Kenya for maternity care and delivery?????? Possible. Not credible. Not probable. Batshit crazy, in fact.

I can think of reasons to travel late in pregnancy:
- you believe you absolutely must have your child born in a certain country or state to gain certain lifelong benefits
- you have been detained somewhere apart from your family and want to be near your family for the birth and they cannot travel to you

Not so much this reason:
- your job has sent you round the world and you want to be home for the birth. Because in this case, my assumption is that someone willing to live and work abroad would also be willing to give birth abroad - for instance, see "Kumquat Cometh" in the sidebar, who was born in Italy to American and Irish parents

And not so much this reason:
- husband's parents live in foreign country and you might think maybe it's a good idea to meet them before you have... oh, never mind.

I've got a question for you moms out there:
- When you had your first baby, did you travel long distance (more than 4 hours) for the birth?
- Did you prefer to have your mother or your Mother-in-Law there? ("Neither one" is also a fair response!)
- Would you have spent over 24 hours in the air, traveling on 3 to 5 planes to get to the MIL you've never met if you were already living near your mom?
- Would you go to a foreign country late in pregnancy to meet your your in laws?
- Would you rather spend money to travel for the delivery or to get your nursery set up?

Consider once again that it was 1961. Remember air travel in 1961? (Neither do I, but I read a lot.) Regular people didn't travel by air often if at all, most certainly not dark skinned minorities and women. Obama's dad must have been hot stuff to justify flying him to America in the first place. It might be something a regular family expected to do once in their lifetime. (Businessmen took to it quite handily when prices dropped heading into the '50s.)

Today, when there are lots of flights leaving almost every day for every destination, it would take:
  • 3.5 hours from Hawaii to San Fran
  • 6.0 hours from San Fran to NYC
  • 5.0 hours from NYC to London (First transatlantic flight w/o refueling, 1957)
  • 9.5 hours from London to Kenya
That's 24 hours, just on the planes. That's 24 hours in a confined space filled with men smoking cigars. Delightful even when not pregnant, I'm sure. Even assuming planes went that fast. Pan Am took 11.5 hours from NYC to Paris with refueling. The flight today, with stops, is a minimum of 30 hours, and easily 46 hours.

Even assuming that 2 of those segments could be combined, that's 2-3 layovers. Back in the day, there might have been a day or a week between scheduled flights to exotic destinations. If you could *get* a flight to Kenya from London.
Sabena planes on Heathrow tarmac in 1960 So plan on at least one overnight in a foreign country.

Now think again about who is paying for this. It costs about $3000 round trip per person to do this today and from other cost estimates I've looked up on the interwebs, likely cost 4 times as much in 1961 relative to today's dollars. So think $12,000 in today's dollars - 25% of the median American income before taxes - for a pregnant college student to fly to somewhere where she doesn't speak the language, to give birth to her first child. Non-stewardess women traveling alone were rare and she wouldn't have gone without her husband. Assuming the airlines even let pregnant women fly. I also looked up 1960s incomes - about $6000/year per household and the tickets then were likely $1000 to $3000 for Kenya so my point holds. Still seeming even remotely viable to spend a year's after tax income to fly two people to Kenya? Who would have paid for it?

And would you still have gone during peak yellow fever season when the vaccination was required to return to the US and was not safe for pregnant women? Yeah, I thought not.

But as always, proof just makes the conspiracy theorists more rabid in their belief that there is somehow other proof being withheld. That being said, anyone who cast even the tiniest of aspersions on Anjelina for going to Africa or France to give birth cannot in any way give credence to this birther nonsense. For that matter, neither can anyone sensible in any way at all.

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