31 March 2009

Hitchens in Lebanon

Christopher Hitchens relates how and why he was beaten up during a recent visit to Lebanon (hint: it had something to do with defacing the swastika-sporting flag of a fascist group).

30 March 2009

Two Marines Threaten the President

Two Camp Lejeune marines have been charged with threatening President Obama, but before you get too anxious about the military "turning" on Obama (recall all those rumours about military hostility that dogged Clinton?), consider that one of the men, literally seems to have "lost it" while the other is a criminal whose journals reveal racist sympathies.

The former marine is Nicholas Daniel Hanke, who appears to have suffered some kind of attack after boarding an airplane--once on board and,

"[b]efore the plane’s aircrew had a chance to taxi on the runway, Hanke started shouting there was a bomb on the plane, Gary Broughton, the airport’s director of operations, told the Wilmington Star-News. Hanke allegedly pushed a flight attendant and the captain, and then ran from the plane.

Airport security chased him down and, as they were cuffing him, authorities say Hanke head-butted an officer and shouted more threats, including some against Obama [. . . .] Local authorities charged Hanke with making a bomb threat, resisting arrest, assault and battery, communicating threats, and three counts of assaulting government officials,. (Marine Corps Times)
Paranoia? A panic attack?

The other marine, Kody Brittingham, was "separated from the Corps in early January." In December, he was arrested and charged,
with attempted robbery, breaking and entering, and conspiracy [. . . .] After his arrest, Naval investigators found a journal allegedly written by Brittingham in his barracks room, containing plans on how to kill the president and white supremacist material[. . . .]. (Marine Corps Times)

Neither story "confirms" that the various conspiracy theories targeting the President are prompting people to attack the Commander-in-Chief. Rather, these stories illustrate the madness of paranoia and the ugliness of racism. However, I wouldn't be surprised to discover this story appropriated by the conspiracy theorists to propel their agendas. We all know that some people thrive off of exploiting both madness and hatred.

27 March 2009

The Experts

Nicholas Kristof's latest column,"Learning How to Think," suggests that we find a way to "evaluate" or "regulate" professional "experts": those pundits who espouse on politics or finance and who prove incredibly influential in how people perceive the world. It just may be that we rely far too much on what authoritative folks proclaim as truth rather than sorting it out on our own. Kristof refers to two studies to make his case. One,

found that a president who goes on television to make a case moves public opinion only negligibly, by less than a percentage point. But experts who are trotted out on television can move public opinion by more than 3 percentage points, because they seem to be reliable or impartial authorities. (NYT)

Amazing, isn't it? David Gergen and the rest of CNN's political round table have more sway than the president.

The second study Kristof offers stems from an experiment in which a group of educators attended a presentation by an actor introduced as "Dr. Fox." "Dr. Fox,"
was described as an eminent authority on the application of mathematics tohuman behavior. He then delivered a lecture on “mathematical game theory as applied to physician education” — except that by design it had no point and was completely devoid of substance. However, it was warmly delivered and full of jokes and interesting neologisms.

Afterward, those in attendance were given questionnaires and asked to rate “Dr. Fox.” They were mostly impressed. “Excellent presentation, enjoyedlistening,” wrote one. Another protested: “Too intellectual a presentation.”(NYT)

So we bow to experts, and, apparetly, wo do so even when they're consistently wrong (cf. Cramer, Kristol, etc.). Primarily, this is because we're unaware of when an "expert" is wrong because they highlight their successes and ignore their failures (Kristol acknowledges that he's guilty of such behavior, by the way). Therefore, Kristol argues, a regulating body might not be too bad--it would help us "normal folks" choose who we actually listen to.

This kowtowing to experts--be they proven or self-proclaimed--isn't restricted to the TV watching, 'blogging, and Twittering common rabble; it's not that the general public consists of dummies who can't think for themselves whereas the "elite," the intellectuals, always do. If the "expert" sounds like an authority, if the rhetoric seems smart, anybody can be taken in. As Kristof says, "even very smart people allow themselves to be buffaloed by an apparent “expert” on occasion." I'd add "even people supposed to be the creme of the intellectual elite "can be buffaloed by an apparent 'expert' on occasion." Take, as one example, the following case:

In 1996 a pair of scientists, Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont pwned a group of famous literary and social critics whose intellectual prowess and expertise in postmodern philosophy was unquestionable. Sokal and Bricmont questioned these critics and revealed the hollowness behind their well-received theories. You see, if you stripped away the liberally employed jargon,
what emerged was. . .nonsense.

So how did Sokal and Bricmont manage to frsutrate such esteemed thinkers as Jacques Lacan, Jean Baudrillanrd, Julia Kristeva, Gilles Deleuze, Luce Irigaray, and Paul Virilio? the men submitted a paper, titled "Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity," to the periodical Social Text. One the day that Social Text published their paper, Sokal and Bricmont announced that the paper was a hoax. A parody of then-current postmodern polemics in journals. The point? As Bricmont and Sokal explain in a 1998 article, "What is All the Fuss About,":

We show that famous intellectuals [. . .] have repeatedly abused scientific concepts and terminology: either using scientific ideas totally out of context, without giving the slightest empirical or conceptual justification -- note that we are not against extrapolating concepts from one field to another, but only against extrapolations made without argument -- or throwing around scientific jargon to their non-scientist readers without any regard for its relevance or even its meaning. (Bricmont and
Basically, too many noted intellectuals apply scientific language and theory to their arguments about culture and society when they didn't understand the scientific contexts. They didn't know what they were talking about but, because they were famous, because they used complex language, they were granted an authority that was, perhaps, undeserved.

Sokal and Bricmont's work met with huge hostility; rather than admit, "okay, perhaps that scientific hypothesis doesn't really square with my idea," intellectuals rounded on Sokal and Bricmont and accused them of having any number of ulterior motives (you can read some of the fallout here). But who "won"? Although the intellectuals named by Sokal and Bricmont continue to be famous and cited as experts, it seems that, with the publication of their work, Sokal and Bricmont had a hand in postmodernism's downfall; either that or the men simply represented the late-1990s zeitgeist. According to this chart, pomo has been on the wane ever since the time when Sokal and Bricmont published their 1997 parody.

Aside: Sokal and Bricmont published a book on the entire affair, titled Impostures Intellectuelles (Fashionable Nonsense), in which they revisisted the furor over the paper submitted to Social Text and elaborated upon cultural critics' misappropriation of science's ideas. Sokal and Bricmont also addressed the following:

A secondary target of our book is epistemic relativism, namely the idea -- which is much more widespread in the Anglo-Saxon world than in France -- that modern science is nothing more than a ``myth'', a ``narration'' or a ``social construction'' among many others.(Let us emphasise that our discussion is limited to epistemic/cognitive relativism; we do not address the more difficult issues of moral or aesthetic relativism.) Besides some gross abuses (e.g. Irigaray), we dissect a number of confusions that are rather frequent in postmodernist and cultural-studies circles: for example, abusing ideas from the philosophy of science such as the underdetermination of theory by evidence or the theory-dependence of observation in order to support radical relativism. (Bricmont and Sokal).
Is this an area where the extreme left and the extreme right merge? The suspicion that modern science is a "social construction" or a "myth"?

Further aside: Do visit the Postmodern Generator. After you've been wowed by the author's expertize, be sure to read the material at the bottom of the page.

Penn's a Stooge

Well, according to the AP, anyway.

Sean Penn is set to play Larry in an update of The Three Stooges. I can see the fit, but Benicio Del Toro as Moe? I don't see it.

Aside: I just viewed Milk, and Penn surely deserved that Oscar. Brilliant.

25 March 2009

Howl, Howl, Howl, Howl!

I know it can be hard for many to get all excited about a tragedy by William Shakespeare on hump day, but holy heck--PBS will broadcast The Royal Shakespeare Company's version of King Lear,directed by Trevor Nunn, with Sir Ian McKellen in the title role, tonight. Starting tomorrow, you can view the film in its entirety here.

If you've not seen Lear, one of the true, universal masterpieces of literature, get ready for corruption of the first order: greed, envy, adultery, murder, madness, and a spot of eye-gouging--it's all here, and its examination of human frailty is heartbreaking.

It's on at 9:00 pm local time, and should you choose to miss The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, Nancy Grace, Access Hollywood, etc. etc., Lear is well worth your time.

Also--if you "enjoy" the play (it's hard to say if it's "enjoyable," but catharsis and all that, you know?), If you haven't seen the Royal National Company's version (from 1997), directed by Richard Eyre and featuring Ian Holm as Lear, grab it from Netflix, your local public library, or Amazon. Stark, horrific,mesmerizing, Outstanding.

Anyway, McKellen has received absolutely top reviews for his interpretation of Lear, and I am looking forward to it. Catharsis and all that, you know?

Update: Ah, catharsis. Nunn's Lear was every bit as compelling as I'd hoped. McKellen's Lear touches the heart; his descent into insanity--or, perhaps, senility--strikes a note of authenticity. I was a little dubious about Tom O' Bedlam, but only a little. Kent rocked his northern accent, and Gloucester--ah, what can you say? Goneril and Regan were appropriately demonic in their lust for power and a (pretty darn attractive) Edmund.

All in all, it's a magnificent production, and, if you missed the broadcast, you can watch it online at PBS's website.

24 March 2009

"Bush was Carter II-With Two Full Terms"

Andrew Sullivan whacks the former president and his cheerleaders who are coming to terms with being bamboozled by a "Conservative" who really wasn't. Sullivan proposes that the strange attacks on Obama might be provoked by Conservatives' recognition of what's gone on in the past eight years:
[a]ll that rage at what has actually happened - bottled up by rank partisanship for years - has come bounding out. Hence the bizarre spectacle of a president just two months on the job being treated on the right as if he's already Robert Mugabe. Throw in a little racial and cultural panic, add a world of genuine economic pain ... and you have the Malkin surge. (Sullivan)
Bush as Carter (interesting comparison, isn't it? Worthy of discussion). In realizing that a conservative leader led us into the current mess, its no wonder that Malkin, Glenn Beck, the Birthers, and the newly-converted adherents to the NWO conspiracy theory are kicking up a fuss. They're angry, frustrated--and they want a target. Sadly, they're placing the blame on the wrong guy, but, because Obama is our president, he is the most available target. Becoming crazy folks' kicking post is part of the job.

23 March 2009

Nick Hughes

So saddening. . .
Nicholas Hughes, son of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath, has committed suicide. What a tragedy for the family.

Rest in peace, Nick.

Added: A family friend recalls Plath's suicide and its aftermath.

22 March 2009

Biden's Birther Joke

At the 124th annual Gridion Dinner, Vice President Joe Biden poked fun at the conspiracy theories about President Obama's birth certificate, saying:
You know, I never realized just how much power Dick Cheney had until my first day on the job. I walked into my office, and you know how the outgoing president always leaves the incoming president a note in his desk? I opened my drawer and Dick Cheney had left me Barack Obama’s birth certificate. (Politico)
Looks like the administration is quaking, doesn't it?

Biden's Gridion address is pretty hysterical altogether, so you might want to take a moment to read the transcript here.

On Hole (You Remember. . .Courtney Love's Band)

I thought to add a rather brief musical interlude and talk a little about Hole.
While you might know Hole only as Courtney Love's old band, the one that released an album, Live Through This, the week of Kurt Cobain's death, or 1998's Celebrity Skin, which featured a slim and glossy Love, these are, in my view, lesser works.

Hole's debut album, Pretty on the Inside, came out when I was in my early twenties. I can say in all honesty that it knocked me on my ass with its anger, its pain, and its rawness. That album has stayed with me like few albums have. "Teenage Whore," "Garbageman," "Pretty on the Inside". . .the music articulated my own anger, pain, and loathing of the world around me (what can I say? I was in my twenties. I've mellowed out since). I'd forgive Courtney Love (nearly) anything because she provided a catharsis by expressing all the noise bubbling inside of me. Consider Hole's riotousness in an age of Tori Amos and Suzanne Vega: there was no contest as to who could "do" power rage (as a rape victim, I knew I was supposed to find Amos's "Me and a Gun" cathartic, but I didn't). Sure this was the age of the Riot Grrrl (is that term now antiquated or what?), but in my opinion, nothing by groups like Bikini Kill, L7, Seven Year Bitch and other valuable bands, ever touched Pretty on the Inside.

I'd like to add a bit more, but I'm too lazy at the moment. And I'm supposed to watch Into the Wild with my beloved. Perhaps I'll add to this later; if not, toodles.

Take Only Pictures

In "Wallowing off the Coast of Tristan," Simon Winchester, journalist and author of books including The Professor and the Madman and The Meaning of Everything, reflects on the tourist aphorism, "take only pictures, leave only footprints": 24 years ago, Winchester disclosed a small island community's secret; they've not forgiven him yet.

21 March 2009

The Nowruz that Wasn't

Following President Obama's message to all those celebrating the Persian new year, and, "in particular [. . .] to the people and leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran," David Frum recalls that seven years ago, he tried to talk President Bush into issuing a Nowruz greeting to the Iranian people.

Frum was rebuffed.

Lonely Posey

On 12 March, Representative Bill Posey (R-FLA) introduced a bill--H.R.1503--to require future presidential candidates "to produce copies of their birth certificates and other documentation to prove natural-born citizenship" (Politico).

Representative Posey asserts, through a spokesman, that he only initiated the bill in order to prevent future presidential candidates from being subjected to rumors about their citizenship status (CNN). However, he's a bit evasive when asked about his own thoughts on the President's citizenship, telling the Orlando Sentinel: “I haven’t looked at the evidence. It’s not up to me to look at the evidence … I can’t swear on a stack of Bibles whether he is or isn’t.” I expect you can't blame the man for dancing around a bit: you can't really appeal to conspiracy theorists without looking like one yourself.

On March 20th, after a week of backlash, Representative Posey posted his reasons for introducing the bill at his 'blog.

The irony: Posey's bill proposes that a candidate produce a copy of a birth certificate. President Obama's COLB is just that--a certified copy that, as the document states, "serves as prima facie evidence of the fact of birth in any court proceeding."

Ah--and one week later, Representative Posey has yet to find any co-sponsors for his bill.

Update: One month after introducing his bill, Posey still lacks a co-sponsor. Additionally, he now says:

he has "no reason to question" that Obama — born in Hawaii to an African father and an 18-year-old American mother — is a U.S. citizen. (Orlando Sentinel)
Update Two: Two months later, Representative Robert Goodlatte [R-VA6] signed on as co-sponsor of Posey's bill. Anyone else?

Sorry Birthers.

20 March 2009

Coleman's Attorney Anticipates Loss

You have to feel badly for Norm Coleman.

Although the three judge panel has yet to rule on the Coleman/Franken battle over a Minnesota Senate seat, Coleman's lawyer, Joe Friedberg, acknowledges that Franken will most likely win the court case. Friedman seems to be okay with that because his team designed its strategy with an eye for the appellate court. In a radio interview, Friedberg said:
Our whole argument was that it was a constitutional argument. It's an argument that's really suited for the Minnesota Supreme Court, but not for the trial court. So we'll see whether we were right or not" (MPR).]
In other words, they took a heack of a gamble. Apparently, Friedberg's complaint rests on how the court panel ruled on ballots, asserting that,

the panel changed the vote counting rules in mid-February when it ruled some ballots illegal that the state canvassing board had already counted.

"There were rules on election day and they are desperately different from the rules that you're applying because you're looking at the statute, and on election day, many counties didn't," he said. (MPR).

I'm unsure of what they hope to accomplish by heading to the appellate court: that is, if the court rejcts the panel's ruling, what then? Does the whole mess just head back to the courts, or is Coleman still angling for a new election? If he hopes for the latter, he must worry whether a majority of Minnesotans will happily re-elect Coleman after nearly six months of political and legal drama (the latest of which involves the Coleman campaign's possibly illegal handling of a series of data breaches at the Coleman website; the first data breach occurred in January, but the campaign failed to notify donors until this month--a violation of state law).

It also looks as though interest is stirring in a pair of lawsuits brought against Coleman. He has asked the FEC for permission to use campaign contributions to fight off lawsuits that,

allege that the St. Paul insurance company [where Coleman's wife works] received money meant for Coleman disguised as payments from a Texas firm — Deep Marine Technology — controlled by Coleman friend and benefactor Nasser Kazeminy. (Minnesota Independent)
If there is a new election, you can expect much hay out of Coleman's misfortunes; similarly, you can expect Coleman's campaign, funded by an RNC desperate to prevent the seating of a 59th Senate Democrat, to hit Franken with everything they've got. . .and more. If the court decides against Coleman and he drags this out, it will be ugly.

19 March 2009

Reading Rec

Michael Kazin's article at The Daily Beast, "A Short History of American Outrage," reminds us why populism remains such a potent force in American culture (and why politicans strive to harness it). Timely, because, as I write this, our elected representatives are busy playing the "I'm more outraged than you are" game in the House.

18 March 2009

Natasha Richardson

The Times reports that she has passed on.


I recall seeing, and being impressed by, Richardson in Patty Hearst and The Handmaid's Tale, two standouts amongst the 1980s' plethora of provocative political films. I first saw her in Gothic when it made the HBO 'rounds during high school--ah, time.

Sympathies to her family.

Video: Taitz Questions Chief Justice Roberts

The folks at Politijab have located video of California dentist-cum-lawyer Orly Taitz asking Chief Justice John Roberts about her lawsuits over President Obama's citizenship. she prefaces her question with allegations about dirty dealings at the Supreme Court.

Taitz's questions to Chief Justice Roberts followed his delivery of the University of Idaho's Bellwood Lecture on 13 March; she opened the Q & A session.

You can access the entire video at the University of Idaho's College of Law website (scroll down the page until you encounter "The Bellwood lecture is now available [. . . .] Real Media Player is required"). Taitz appears some 53 minutes in. You can also view the "Birther"-relevant portion of the event, "Orly Taitz, DDS, Esq. Asks Chief Justice Roberts a 'Birther' Question," at Youtube.

Some Good News

The outrage aimed at AIG has drowned out positive, market related items. For example, following last week's burst of gains, the Dow closed up 178 Tuesday and 90.88 Wednesday (today). Granted, it closed seven point down on Monday, but hey. . .it's not looking too bad at the moment, is it?

15 March 2009

Le Show

If you've not had the happy opportunity to encounter Harry Shearer's program Le Show, go here to enjoy some delightful music and gentle snark.

Audio: Taitz Questions Chief Justice Roberts (Update: Video, Too!)

This little item was an "aside" in an earlier post, but it deserves its own little space.

California dentist and lawyer Orly Taitz, an active player in the "Obama eligibility" business, attended a lecture by Chief Justice John Roberts at the University of Idaho (Moscow) on Friday, 13 March.

Dr. Taitz took advantage of a post-lecture Q&A session to ask the Chief Justice about certain lawsuits challenging Obama's eligibility for the presidency. Here's an article describing the event, and here's audio, of Dr. Taitz addressing the Chief Justice.

Draw your own conclusions about the Chief Justice's reaction to Dr. Taitz. The audience's reaction is fairly evident. The laughter can't have been too encouraging.

Update: You can access video of the event here (Taitz appears about 53 minutes in--H/T to Politijab for the video link!).

Next Up: Bilderberg!

Like your conspiracy theories but getting bored hearing about Obama's birth certificate? Take heart! Refreshed interest in the Bilderberg Group is accelerating! Yes indeed, folks are, once again, pointing suspicious fingers at this top-secret cabal--the elites who plot our global destiny.

And if you're not quite ready to surrender your Obama-related theories, you get to double your fun: Obama's cabinet is chock-full of Bilderbergers, and he just can't get enough! The President has recently nominated Kathleen Sebelius for Secretary of Health and Human Services--and she, too, is a Bilderberger! What must this mean? Is the President is in the Group's employ? It's all so peculiar....I'm sure there must be a way to tie everything together.

Aside: Speaking of "birth certificate" and "conspiracy," California dentist and lawyer Orly Taitz, a participant in one (maybe two--I lose track) of the "Obama eligibility" lawsuits, attended a lecture by Chief Justice John Roberts at the University of Idaho the other day. During the Q&A period, she asked the Chief Justice about her lawsuits on the President's eligibility. Here's an article about the event, and here's audio of Taitz's questioning. Enjoy.


Today is the Ides of March--AKA the date of Julius Caesar's assassination in 44 BC.

There you go.

Sunday Blake

"The Divine Image" 

   To Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
   All pray in their distress;
   And to these virtues of delight
   Return their thankfulness.

   For Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
   Is God, our father dear,
   And Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
   Is Man, his child and care.

   For Mercy has a human heart,
   Pity a human face,
   And Love, the human form divine,
   And Peace, the human dress.

   Then every man, of every clime,
   That prays in his distress,
   Prays to the human form divine,
   Love, Mercy, Pity, Peace.

   And all must love the human form,
   In heathen, Turk, or Jew;
   Where Mercy, Love, and Pity dwell
   There God is dwelling too.

William Blake, 1789

Cantor on Meet the Press

Eric Cantor, House Minority Whip, on why he supported massive deficit spending during the Bush years:
"Did we blow it in terms of restoring fiscal sanity? Absolutely," he said, explaining, "We were in a time, I think, when the responsibility then was to make sure we could provide the money for the troops" (Politico).
Huh? Spending money for our troops is one thing, but that fails to justify the massive debt acquired over the past nine years.

On the stimulus plan, Cantor insists that the Republicans did have an alternative, but a media blackout prevented Americans from hearing about it. Interesting, as this suggests that such institutions as Fox News and other right-leaning organizations were in cahoots with the "liberal press."

Aside: Cantor voted "yes" to 46,000 earmarks during the Bush years.

13 March 2009

Springtime is Incumen In

Today was gorgeous in my neck of the woods. A cold, frosty morning developed into a wonderfully warm, sunny day. It's about time--the trees are ready to burst out in leaf. In celebration of spring's approach, here's one of my favorite bits by Robert Frost:

"Nothing Gold Can Stay" (1923)

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

The poem choice has nothing to do with Wall Street's first four day rally since November (even if it is a "bear market rally"), for which I say "hurrah!"

12 March 2009

95% of Banks Avoided FDIC Payments

The FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation), the federal body that guarantees citizens' bank deposits--might be needing a bailout of its own. Why? Well, the FDIC requires Congressional permission to collect insurance premiums from Congress. And Congress failed to grant such permission from 1996 until 2006, because,
Congress believed that the fund was so well-capitalized - and that bank failures were so infrequent - that there was no need to collect the premiums for a decade, according to banking officials and analysts (Boston Globe).
Even though the FDIC had "r[u]n short of funds" during the Savings and Loan crisis just a few years earlier, in 1996 Congress was so optimistic, and so convinced of banks' strength, that 95% of banks did not pay their premiums to the FDIC for a full decade. The FDIC's funds now sit "at its lowest level for 25 years" (Dallas Morning News). Consequently, not only must we bail out the banks themselves, but we must bail out the depositors' safety net.

(this here's a "post and run"--to be revised, but you can read more on this matter at Balloon Juice and Eschaton)

06 March 2009

About that Sarah Obama Tape. . . .

Claims that Sarah Obama, the President's step-grandmother, attended the President's birth--in Kenya--have been floating around for a while.

The allegations stem from a recorded telephone interview Ron McRae conducted, via a translator, with Sarah Obama. The interview has been made available on the internet, but it's been edited to conform to the "eligibility" conspiracy (see this example of an incomplete transcript that seems to confirm the citizenship rumors; in reality, whoever posted the piece failed to include Sarah Obama's clarifying remarks negating the rumors).

The good doctor at Obama Conspiracy has posted a link to an unedited version of the tape as well as a link to an independent transcript of the conversation. Dr. Conspiracy's current post supplements an earlier post on the same topic.

(Seriously--how many tapes, or rumors of tapes, is this now? There was "whitey," there was API, and now this. . . perhaps that's it. Or perhaps there are more--if not now, I'm sure there soon will be).

05 March 2009

Time to Pull Back on Operation Rushbo?

While the recent Democratic ploy to present Rush Limbaugh as the Republican party's leader was effective, and pretty clever, it's heading into overkill. Personally, I think it's just getting boring, and chances are that other people feel the same way.

Suggestion: avoid overdoing this one, folks. It as good while it lasted, but you might want to pull back a little bit before too many people get sick and tired of it.

Besides, Limbaugh is just enjoying this far too much.

The Daily Show & CNBC

Jon Stewart considers CNBC's recent record of Wall Street reportage and financial advice. Excellent summation.

04 March 2009

A Small Plea

A young woman gets laid off from her job as editor. Then she discovers that she has liver cancer. While she's continued to pay toward health insurance since losing her job, it's still expensive (with insurance). Please go here, and if you can help her out, please do.

02 March 2009

Broken Steele

Seriously, this whole battle over who leads the GOP--Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich, or Michael Steele--has reached new heights of silliness.

Michael Steele, the RNC Chair, appeared this weekend on CNN's D. L. Hughley Breaks the News. In talking to Hughley, Steele had the audacity to call Limbaugh "an entertainer" whose show can be "incendiary." Limbaugh tore Steele to bits on his radio program this morning.

And Steele promptly apologized to Limbaugh. Just as Representative Phil Gingrey (R-GA) did
following his own mild critiques of Limbaugh's style of commentary (mind you, Gingrey's criticized Limbaugh while defending his Republican congressional colleagues; he threw over his colleagues to court Limbaugh's favor). And, of course, South Carolina's Republican Governor Mark Sandford. Just who is in control here? Our elected officials, responsible to their audience of 306 million, or the radio broadcaster responsible to his audience of 20 million?

Certainly, Limbaugh can say what he likes. I've no quibble with him speaking his mind. I do wonder, however, that politicians so cravenly seek his approbation. Hello? Backbone?

Update: You can't say the DCCC isn't making hay: "I'm sorry Rush."

01 March 2009

Ben Smith: Meet "the Birthers"

"The Birthers" are in the MSM, and they're not going to like it.

In "Culture of Conspiracy," Politico's Ben Smith takes on "the Birthers," a group of people who claim, in lawsuit after lawsuit, that President Obama is ineligible for his office because, they argue, he is not a "real" citizen. Smith summarizes their arguments and debunks a few rumors (for example, that the state of Hawaii won't confirm Obama's birth, that President Obama is paying millions of dollars to attorneys to block the various Birther lawsuits. Obama's attorney in one case, Fredric Woocher, is working pro bono, and says "[t]here is absolutely no truth to the stories about the untold millions supposedly being paid to us" [Smith]).

Smith also cites some fairly influential conservative folks on how this conspiracy movement is, well, cracked. Michael Medved, for instance, suggests that the Birther movement might simply be a conspiracy designed to undermine/discredit the conservative movement. This does make some sense (and I wouldn't be surprised to discover that some liberals are deliberately stoking the fire) because the conspiracy is so far-fetched and because the movement's spokespeople tend to speak in such outrageous terms (cf. Alan Keyes's recent declamation). The fact that courts continue to dismiss the Birther lawsuits, that the vast majority of legal scholars reject or mock the "evidence" presented by Birthers, suggests that the people driving the movement are motivated by an antipathy for Obama rather than anything else--especially patriotism. How do you otherwise explain their often-expressed wish for civil war or for the military to "do something"? (Yes to Democracy maintains and regularly updates a collection of "the Birthers'" seditious dreams). I've said it before, but I don't recall the most rabid of "Bush derangement" (or even "Clinton-derangement") sufferers plotting to overthrow the country.

Aside: Tom Fitton of Judicial Watch, explains that "he hadn't 'seen any credible evidence Barack Obama is not a U.S. citizen eligible for the presidency'" despite being contacted by "untold numbers of people" (Smith). Let's just say that Judicial Watch hardly qualifies as a liberal organization, and it seems likely that, should they have seen anything resembling "credible evidence," they'd have hopped onto this case months ago. Take away quote by Fitton:
"If people understood better what the law is, I don't think they'd be as concerned as they are."
Update: One of the lawsuits questioning President Obama's eligibility, just got shot down by D. C. District Court Judge James Robertson. Judge Robertson included some choice comments for the plaintiffs. You can read about it here, and the followup comments. . .well, they're a hoot. A little scary at times, but pretty revelatory of the "Birther" following.

The End of the Story

An honest-to-God broadcasting legend passed away today: Paul Harvey has died at 90 years of age.

I began to write something rather sentimental--a tribute to Harvey, or, rather, how I associate The Harvey Report with my childhood and with family members long gone. But nah. Instead, I'll just say, "Good. Day."

On CPAC, Rush, and Reversals

Well, you can't blame him for taking full advantage of an opportunity. Limbaugh was scheduled to speak for 20 minutes at CPAC; his address lasted for an hour and a half. He spent much of it lambasting the majority party, which is fine, but what does that accomplish besides riling up the base? (I refer you again to John Derbyshire's excellent article on talk radio in The American Conservative).

What strikes me funny--and I wonder why them in Washington don't recognize this--is that conservatives are essentially using the same phrases against liberals as liberals have used against conservatives for the past eight years: e.g., the president is: "employing the politics of fear," "amassing debt for which our children will pay," "desecrating the Constitution and trying to remake the country," etc. Turn around is fair play and all that, even if it is as juvenile as some of the Bush-era liberal rhetoric. However, if conservatives found liberals' statements irrational, kneejerk, and misleading, why are they following the liberals' lead? Additionally, I'd like to propose that we do away with each of the above phrases as they have become overused and pretty much emptied of significant meaning--they've become cliches.

One other thing: when liberals spoke of secession and plans to create the"Republic of Cascadia" following George Bush's re-election, I'm pretty sure no one was hoping for, or encouraging, an armed insurrection or a military coup to voice their disapproval of President Bush.

Aside: Sullivan's take on Limbaugh's address.

What S/He Saw at CPAC

Over at NewMajority.Com, an anonymous "Washington Insider" offers "What Did I See at CPAC?" Short answer to a short report? It's not pretty.

Meanwhile, David Frum reconsiders "The Goldwater Myth." Good reading.