April 29, 2011

It's about time: Obama releases the damn document

I got into a long back-and-forth exchange with a guy who blogs for the local fishwrap about Obama's long-overdue release of the long-form birth certificate.

He posted:

The local people that pushed conspiracies about Barack Obama and his Mom should be embarrassed. Not just because they were wrong. Not because they pushed a hoax that was easily disproven. Not because of what it revealed about them. But because they mislead people and distracted us from serious problems. Now, can we debate Libya, the budget, and education reform?

Me: If you believe that the nation was misled, that serious issues have languished -- a proposition that is risible inasmuch as very few people have spent much time obsessing on this issue and debate has been raging all across the land on many serious subjects -- why do you so easily overlook the fact that Obama could have ended this more than three years ago by doing what he did today?

But then again, nothing really demonstrates Obama's seriousness of purpose like his appearing on Oprah today to discuss the birth certificate and yuck it up with the host.

Him: Mike, your premise is that he ended it. Yet birthers haven't given up after this latest release. No document will stop them from pushing this stuff. He released a government issued birth certificate before and birth announcements were in two papers. Are you saying it was logical to think all of that was faked?

Me: I notice you haven't answered my question. Inasmuch as you started off by asking, "Now, can we debate Libya, the budget, and education reform?", it's obvious that you believe the debate can now turn to those subjects because Obama released the document. If you believe that Obama has finally provided definitive proof that the so-called Birthers were wrong, then why didn't he release the document years ago?

If there's nothing there, what was to be gained from withholding it for so long? To the extent (if any) that the issue's been a distraction, it's only because it suited Obama to have it serve as such, or else he'd have released it long ago.

Him: Mike, do you believe this was a settled issue before Hawaii released the original? Is it a settled issue now?

Me: You're answering a question with a question. You're the one who posted that people have a reason to be ashamed for allowing this issue to mislead and distract everyone from important issues; that we can now turn to things that really matter. I've asked you twice whether or not this issue could have been dealt with years ago if only Obama had been transparent and open and simply released the damn document.

I can only conclude that you don't want to admit that this has become the issue it is in large measure because Obama acted like someone with something to hide. Political candidates for office routinely release all manner of information that the rest of us wouldn't want out there, including transcripts and tax information.

Obama has not done this, which led many Americans to wonder. It doesn't take an advanced degree in political science -- or life -- to know that one who appears to be hiding something, who appears to be evasive, doesn't allay suspicions; he increases them.

Journalists are like hounds after a fox when they sense that a politician being evasive -- or they used to be.

So, once again, I'd argue that this issue has grown in importance to some portion of the American electorate because Obama has so strenuously resisted releasing a document that appears to contain nothing controversial, the release of which years ago would have served to quiet -- but not satisfy all -- doubts.

Him: Mike, I did answer. He released a government issued document proving his birth before. His birth was in two newspapers published at the time. It was an obvious fact he was born here but that didn't stop people like Donald Trump and Tea Party activists. As proof this latest release has not stopped many of them. if he had it in his power this latest release would have stopped them but it did not.

Was he allowing right wingers to embarrass other conservatives on purpose? Maybe.

That said could you answer my questions from earlier? Was it obviously a settled issue before? Is it clearly settled now?...

Me: You're dissembling; the issue has always been his refusal to release the long-form birth certificate. He's kept the issue alive. Not those questioning his reluctance to release the information -- him.

As to your question, I've no idea what it all means. As I've said, if Obama wanted to allay suspicions, he'd have released the document years ago. I tend to subscribe to Occam's Razor; those who act as if they have something to hide generally are, in fact, hiding something.

So, I suppose my answer is that I'd prefer to consider the matter closed, but Obama has done everything in his power to make this prosecutor extremely suspicious of his actions -- or inactions.

That's on him, bub, not me. He's the politician; it's up to him to act in a way that inspires trust and confidence. What I'm left with is Obama's supporters simply telling the American people that they should just shut the hell up and stop pestering him for more information, that the first birth notice was good enough.

Hell, that's what you just did. But, as I've pointed out time and again, the long form contained nothing embarrassing or controversial, making his refusal to release simply mystifying. And if, as you concede, he delayed to allow his political opponents to "embarrass other conservatives on purpose," that strikes me as shameful behavior too, far beneath what we expect of a president.

Him: Occam's razor is defined as the simplest explanation being the most likely. He released a government issued birth certificate and his birth announcement was published in two papers. The other side was claiming an 18 year old girl flew from Hawaii to give birth in a Kenyan hospital without explanation of why she would want to do that. Their explanation was much more complicated.

The facts were obvious to most rational people he was born in America. But a celebrity tv star was using his power to grab media attention to distract us from other issues. That's why he had Hawaii waive the law and release the original birth certificate. The document Donald Trump's political advisor is now claiming is forged.

Me: Applying Occam's Razor, how then do you explain Obama spending by some estimates $1 million fighting in court to prevent the release of this innocuous document?

Him: He didn't have it, the state of Hawaii did. Being that it is now released do you see anything at all suspicious on it?

Me: The State of Hawaii may have been the official custodian of records, but they could not be released without Obama's permission. Given your unwillingness to engage on the substantive points I've raised, it's hard to believe you're actually interested in anything other than keeping the Birthers-Are-Nuts meme going.

If we'd been in court, I'd have leapt to my feet and said, "Objection! Non-responsive! Please direct the witness to answer my question!" It seemed that the only thing my debate partner truly wanted to know is whether I thought the elusive paperwork was bona fide or bogus.

While my avid Obama-supporting correspondent didn't see much merit in my perspective, it turns out I have a rather unlikely ally: Lefty blogger Andrew Sullivan.

As it turns out, Sullivan agrees with my take on Obama's part in this "distraction."

Money quotes:

[Obama] had the power to get this into the public eye and yet resisted until the country's polity was almost paralyzed with distraction.

[A] president has to put his public responsibilities before his pride and his privacy. That's the price of the job - to defuse or debunk conspiracy theorists or just skeptics with all the relevant information you have.

It's also the job of the media always to press for more information, not less. But so many spent their energy arguing that Obama need do no more and piling on the Birthers. They still seem to think they are gatekeepers, possessors of the power to decide what is or is not legitimate for citizens to ask of their public officials.

Get over yourselves, MSM. And do your job - not defending the right of people in power to protect themselves, but scrutinizing them relentlessly, with every fact and document you can get.

I couldn't have said it better -- even if I said it first.

Posted by Mike Lief at 12:13 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 24, 2011

Congressional Research Service just came out with a report saying that the United States has the most energy reserves in the world, by far -- more than Saudi Arabia, more than Russia, more than anybody.

Obama keeps going out there talking about windmills and solar, even though we don't run our cars on windmills and solar, we run them on oil.

We're the only country in the world that doess not exploit our mineral and oil reserves in a serious way, we're supposed to be leading the world as a role model, and yet no one's following us, everyone would laugh if we tried to tell them "don't develop your oil," and meanwhile Obama a couple of weeks ago is out there telling Brazil, "Go ahead and do your offshore drilling." It is a bizarre position for him to be in.

Posted by Mike Lief at 09:42 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 22, 2011

Want to know where your taxes went?

The creator of the logically-named website Where did my tax dollars go? has provided an award-winning way of presenting data in visual form, a series of pie charts that allow you to burrow down into federal budget, to see (what else?) where your tax dollars went in the FY 2010 budget.

It's incredibly detailed, which also means it's almost indescribably infuriating, too, a window into the waste that occurs when money is harvested, shorn from a docile public, and then given away as if it materialized out of the ether, grew on trees, the pot of gold at the end of an endless, money-producing rainbow.

The debt crisis we're in is existential, a product of out-of-control spending and not a failure to tax rich people enough. If we taxed them at 100 percent, took every last cent of their annual earnings, turned the so-called wealthy into slaves, the confiscated cash wouldn't begin to close the hole in the budget.

I defy you to start sorting through these charts and avoid finding entire areas of government that ought to be shuttered, boarded up and immediately eliminated. We simply cannot spend money we don't have, and we can't tax our way out of this mess.

Posted by Mike Lief at 07:22 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 20, 2011

University of Iowa professor demonstrates current state of tolerance on campus

University of Iowa Professor Ellen Lewin apparently didn't get the message about tolerance and civility preached by our Liberal Overlords after the Arizona shootings in January.

Lewin, who "teaches" Anthropology and Gender, Women’s & Sexuality Studies in the Department of Gender, Women’s & Sexuality Studies, received a campus-wide email (approved for distribution by the university administration) from College Republicans announcing their Conservative Coming Out Week event; she was not amused.

Lewin put her PhD to work, using her superior intellect and evolved moral stature to write an appropriate response, via her University of Iowa email account.


The university went into damage control mode, and Lewin offered a half-hearted apology in her first emailed follow-up, which was then diminished by her next email, wherein she essentially took the apology back, complaining (unironically) that the head of the College Republicans hadn't shown her the proper deference and respect when referring to her as "Ellen," instead of Professor F.U.

My favorite comment is from a parent, who posted this on the linked blog:

Hey Ellen, I am not a student. I am, however, the parent of a student at Iowa. I am paying full tuition right out of my pocket. My daughter was in one of your classes. She fell into it during her freshman year as a necessity. Gen Ed requirements you know; kind of your bread and butter, huh? She filled me in regarding the jackassery you teach. We had some good laughs. You gave my daughter a good grade and never even knew she regarded you a rather worthless, dried up old scrunt.

You did provide her an education, however, but not as you intended. I told my daughter that it is part of her education to learn how the other side thinks. She is to observe you and understand you. She is Jane Goodall watching the chimps of Tanzania through the forest. She is there to observe your behavior, to learn the way you think and act. She isn’t there to attempt to change you; you can’t be changed. She is to watch and learn so that she can deal with people like you in her life and career.

You made an OUTSTANDING subject for her to observe and study. In learning about how you think, she learned how you and the intellectual corruption you represent will be defeated.

I love the Jane Goodall reference, conservative students observing whackjob academic loons in their natural habitat.

What a marvelous example of academic freedom and tolerance for intellectual diversity. Ellen Lewin, you are quite a prize. Congratulations.The University of Iowa must be so proud.

Posted by Mike Lief at 11:33 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Letterman anti-gun rant bombs

Strange days, indeed. David Letterman's first guest tonight was CBS newsreader Katie Couric, and the two soon turned from war in Iraq, war -- er, kinetic military action -- in Libya, the tsunami and nuclear disaster last month in Japan, to a topic far more important and galvanizing to them: the January shooting of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, and how we ought to be pushing for more gun control.

Letterman sounded even more uninformed than usual, proclaiming that hunting is the only legitimate reason to own a firearm. The Second Amendment is clearly something he's neither read, nor read about, and the nationwide spread of legal concealed carry to nearly forty states, along with a recent Supreme Court decision, hasn't penetrated his consciousness, either.

The host put on his most earnest face as he railed against "automatic 9 millimeters with 52-round clips," while Couric tried to furrow her Botoxed-brow in concern and agreement, mentioning "loopholes," "political hot potatos," and the dreaded, all powerful NRA.

This is all unsurprising, given the location -- the most anti-gun city in the U.S. -- and the players involved: a liberal comic hosting a liberal celebrity talking-head.

But here's where it gets interesting: the audience was silent. I'm talking crickets. Ordinarily, the audiences at these shows are like putty in the host's hands, clapping, hooting and hollering at whatever leftist claptrap or anti-conservative diatribe spews forth from a disdainful Bill Maher, or a snarky Stewart or Colbert.

But this Manhattan audience didn't make a sound; not a clap, not a "Whoo!" or a "Yeah, man!" and it seemed to take Letterman by surprise, too.

I'm assuming the audience wasn't filled with NRA members attending a convention, which means that even those folks most likely to want to see Letterman live -- a demographic not typically comprised of many conservatives or Second Amendment supporters -- has no appetite for reviving the gun control debate; has no interest in spinning the act of a madman for political advantage; and just might be sympathetic to the idea that the Second Amendment is about more than hunting.

Strange days, indeed.

Posted by Mike Lief at 12:10 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 15, 2011

Asia is odd, Korean edition

There's no end to the odd way Asians use various bits of Western culture, from Chinese toothpaste bearing grinning, bug-eyed depictions of American blacks, to this latest example provided by the Koreans.

My friend Grace, currently living in Seoul, spotted these shoes on a blog, where their name is translated as "Hitler Walkers." She laments:

Oh Korea ... I keep trying to find a non-Nazi related explanation of why they're called 히틀러 shoes, but haven't succeeded. Trying to give them the benefit of doubt ....

What I find almost as odd as the idea that it's apparently a good marketing practice to name a product for the progenitor of the Holocaust -- and a racist who wasn't particularly fond of Asians, except when it suited his military plans -- is that the blogger doesn't seem to find it at all unusual that the shoes are named for the second biggest mass-murderer of all time -- and neither do the commenters discussing the footwear.

Perhaps the next logical step is a diet called "The Stalin Purge."

Posted by Mike Lief at 07:08 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 12, 2011

The most annoying song in the world

There is a "charity" that advertises on some Los Angeles-area radio stations, asking listeners to donate their old cars "for kids." It features perhaps the most annoying song in the history of advertising.

How annoying is it?

I'm glad you asked.

The "song" is so annoying (the very definition of "earworm") that it makes me want to donate my car to anyone other than that group; it makes me want to destroy my car -- blow it up, push it off a cliff -- rather than donate it to them. I'd rather sell it and take the money from the sale, pile it up and burn it, rather than donate it to those people.

That's how much I hate that song.

Of course it's a scam, too, which makes it a perfect storm of suck.

I think I hate it even more now than I did when I typed the previous sentence.

Go ahead, give it a listen, I dare you.

Posted by Mike Lief at 12:57 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 03, 2011

It's not about "burning a 'holy' book"


SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: You know I wish we could find some way to-- to-- to hold people accountable. Free speech is a great idea but we’re in a war. During World War II, you had limits on what you could say if it would inspire the enemy. So burning a Koran is a terrible thing. But it doesn’t justify killing someone. Burning a bible would be a terrible thing but it doesn’t justify murder. But having said that, any time we can push back here in America against actions like this that put our troops at risk we ought to do it. So I look forward to working with Senator Kerry and Reid and others to condemn this, condemn violence all over the world based in the name of religion. But General Petraeus understands better than anybody else in America what happens when something like this is done in our country. And he was right to condemn it. And I think Congress would be right to reinforce what General Petraeus said.

Posted by Mike Lief at 08:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack