Defending Elisabeth Hasselbeck just this once: Listen and decide for yourself

By now you’ve probably seen articles and posts about this interview in which Dr. Anthony Fauci of the CDC supposedly “schools” Elisabeth Hasselbeck for asking what we are to assume are ignorant questions intended to gin up the general level of panic over the Ebola virus. I read the transcribed portions of the interview that have been circulating along with the video and then decided to watch the footage for myself. What I discovered was that the “transcription” has been heavily edited to make Fauci’s responses seem curt and dismissive, when in fact he takes a long time to answer and acknowledges that her questions are “understandable.”

What I see in this video is neither a public humiliation of Hasselbeck nor a failed attempt at a “gotcha” interview on her part, but rather, a respectful conversation about a serious issue with a level of civility and detail rare on television news these days.

I appreciate the questions she asks him, and I find his answers reassuring, reasoned, and humane. Perhaps another, more sophisticated interviewer would have hesitated to ask these questions for fear of seeming ignorant or maybe insensitive to people in West Africa.

There are three kinds of stupid questions: a) the ones that don’t get asked b) the inflammatory ones that Fox personalities invent for the purpose of spreading fear and hatred, such as the “specusation” Laura Ingraham tossed out about President Obama’s “familial ties to Africa” making him reluctant to impose restrictions on travel and c) the ones Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly ask guests only to interrupt, insult and ultimately silence them before they can respond. Hasselbeck did none of these things.

Fox News may be responsible for generating panic and misinformation about Ebola in general, but this interview with Hasselbeck provided Fauci with a forum for putting some of the myths and misinformation to bed.

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Not the Onion: turns White House security breach into bizarre “angry first lady” story

Michelle Obama

Look how angry she is.

Imagine that while you are out of town, a gunman shoots into a window of your house with your children and mother at home and the “news” about the shooting is the fact that you are angry that it happened and that law enforcement bungled its response. This is exactly what did to First Lady Michelle Obama this weekend in an online article on a Washington Post investigation into the Secret Service handling of the incident.

In the piece, interpretive journalist Rebecca Kaplan informs us that the First Lady was “taking a nap after returning from Hawaii” when a housekeeper discovered a broken window and chunk of concrete on the floor and realized that something was amiss. At the time of the shooting, the Secret Service officers charged with protecting the first family heard the shots and were told by their commander that it was a car engine backfiring and ordered to “stand down.”

Kaplan’s online piece does not mention that the first daughters and their grandmother were home at the time of the shooting. Instead, the 302-word article repeatedly states that the first lady was “furious” (3x) and “angry” (2x)  and that when discussing the incident with then-Secret Service director Mark Sullivan her “voice could be heard through the closed door.” The story also implies that then-Chief of Staff William Daley was so frightened of Michelle Obama’s rage that he was “planning to tell the president and let him tell his wife.”

The original Post article mentions the first lady’s reaction several paragraphs in, but the focus of the story is the shocking breach of security and the chaos that ensued on the streets of Washington, DC as a passenger in a cab Tweeted about a “crazy man” shooting at the White House. Meanwhile, reporter Rebecca Kaplan and her editors at CBS concluded that what their readers would find newsworthy was the fact that the First Lady was angry at being awakened from her post-vacation nap to learn that her house had been fired upon.

What is the point of such a story? Never mind: we all know what the point is.

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Sheldon Whitehouse speaking truth to stupid on climate change

Whitehouse knocks it out of the park rebutting Infhofe’s claim that government agencies are “colluding” with the president in warning that there is climate change:

If you want to ignore the federal government, if you live in a world in which you think the federal government colludes with itself to make up things that aren’t true, okay. But look at the property casualty insurance and reinsurance industry. They’re the people with the biggest bet on this. They have billions of dollars riding on getting it right, and they say climate change is real, carbon pollution is causing it, we’ve got to do something about it. So does the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, because they care about the poor and the effect this will have on the people who have the least. So does every major U.S. scientific society. Every single one.

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Mediaite Misfires Trying to Create Fake Outrage over Chris Matthews’s Obama Quote

Update, 4:50 p.m. The Mediaite post referenced below has been taken down. But it’s already out there on YouTube. This is what the original article said:

Earlier today, Mediaite posted a story on the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington claiming that Chris Matthews called an Obama inaugural speech “the second greatest” in U.S. history. Snarky comments followed on the site, calling Matthews a sycophant, egotist, etc, mocking Obama. But listen to what Matthews actually said. Granted, he is a fast-talker, but it’s clear that he was talking about Martin Luther King, Jr. and not President Obama:
Here is what he said to MLK III:

The president has a tough act to follow, to put it lightly. He’s got to stand on those steps where your dad stood and gave, I think, after the second inaugural of Lincoln, the second greatest American speech ever given.”

I left a comment on the site a few minutes ago pointing this out. It was moderated and published briefly, but now I can’t find it. And the article is still up in its original, incorrect form. I’ve listened to the clip several times, and I can understand how a first listen could confuse people, especially if they are eager to take down Matthews or Obama or both, but in this case they are just plain wrong.

Listen to the clip.

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Podcast Episode #7 – Maryland Delegate Heather Mizeur


Delegate Heather Mizeur talks about being an out lesbian and champion for marriage equality in the Maryland General Assembly, reconciling her sexual orientation and politics with her Catholic faith, and eyeing a run for governor.

Delegate Heather Mizeur could become the nation's first openly gay governor

Delegate Heather Mizeur could become the nation’s first openly gay governor

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Podcast episode #6 Helping to Heal the Workplace: Melissa Kessler Talks about the Field of Organization Development

Melissa Kessler discusses her master's program and residency in organization development

Melissa Kessler discusses her master’s program and residency in organization development

Podcast Episode #6 – Melissa Kessler talks about Organization Development

Have you ever had a job that felt like a dysfunctional family?

Have ever you wondered what you could accomplish at work if all of the smart and talented people around you could communicate and get along with one another?

There is a discipline within the broad field of workplace consulting called organization development (OD) that has been around since the postwar era with roots that go back even further. OD consultants look at the organization from many different angles – interpersonal, structural, intercultural and even unconscious – in order to help the organization get out of its own way.

My guest, Melissa George Kessler, is a student in American University’s master’s program in OD, and she is preparing to graduate in just a few weeks. She sat down with me to discuss the program a trip to South Africa during which she and fellow students got to practice their OD chops on an actual client.

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Maddow calls out ABC News over Benghazi lies: “You have to fix this”

“Republican congressional offices shopped a false dossier as if it was White House emails.”

Rachel Maddow, pointing her finger and looking directly into the camera, challenged her peers at ABC News to say who in Congress peddled fake emails with false information on the White House role in the Benghazi “talking points” controversy.

“Someone in Congress or a staffer concocted a big lie to try to make the White House look very desperately bad on this Benghazi scandal that they otherwise have not been able to get traction with. Who told the lie?”… If your source lied to you they are not actually a source. They are a con artist and you are their victim. It means you don’t have to protect them anymore….Their lie to you is itself news and you can report that news.”

“Republican congressional offices shopped a false dossier as if it was White House emails. That is a story. The office and the staffers and the members of Congress who did that? That is news. And if you know who it is, you can say so.”

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Why I hate the term “Conspiracy Theorist”

I am disappointed in Rachel Maddow and her guest tonight, Alice Hoagland, the mother of Mark Bingham, who was killed on Flight 93 on 9-11-2001, for using the term “conspiracy theorist” and for labeling people who hold to such theories as “kooks.”

I assume the 9-11 Truth activists they referred to in this dismissive manner know who the current president is, know what day it is and can probably hold down a job. However misguided, stubborn or misinformed Maddow and Hoagland consider these people to be, chances are they are no more or less mentally ill than any other sample of society.

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The term “conspiracy theorist” bothers me because the way in which people use it is dangerously circular: If you believe in a “conspiracy theory,” you are crazy. Therefore, any explanation of a world event other than the official story espoused by elected officials is to be dismissed because only conspiracy theorists believe in such nonsense, and they are crazy.

How much actual wrongdoing goes uninvestigated and unreported by those who fear being shunned by society by being labeled “conspiracy theorists?”

What bothers me almost as much as people who label government skeptics conspiracy theorists are those at the other end of the conspiracy spectrum; that is, people who are never going to believe the official story simply because it is the official story, who believe that The Governnment is a monolithic Superpower that is always lying to us and is motivated only by the desire to deceive and enslave us, steal our money, harvest our organs, and poison whatever remains of our dessicated husks.

The Government is just people. It’s us. People who work in government, including elected officials, are motivated by the same forces that propel all behavior: ambition, compassion, duty, pity, lust, competitiveness, territoriality, fear, laziness, generosity, honor, spitefulness, love, resignation, compulsiveness, perfectionism, and habit. People in government commit noble, selfless acts at work. They also engage in petty, sometimes unscrupulous behavior. Sometimes the same person behaves both appallingly and heroically during the course of a government career.

Some of the biggest sins committed in government are sins of omission, such as the failure to blow the whistle on incompetent, illegal and immoral behavior. What is the primary cause of such failure to act? Fear. Fear of being fired, ostracized, labeled a crank, a cook, a Conspiracy Theorist.

Here is a web site with several conspiracies that really took place, including the Gunpowder Plot, the Tuskegee Experiments and, my favorite, the CIA’s horrifying MK-ULTRA project.

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Two intellectuals have a rational discussion about pornography

Why can’t more talk radio and talk television be like this? Like Jian Ghomeshi of CBC, David Pakman pushes the conversation to a new level by being polite and persistent. It doesn’t hurt to have an articulate guest who’s equally devoted to truth and fairness. For a longer interview with Nica Noelle, check out the interview I did with her a few years ago right here on this podcast. Whoopi Goldberg and Elisabeth Hasselbeck, take note.

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Two conservatives have a rational discussion on same-sex marriage

One of the aims of this website is to improve the conversation by focusing on the way in which we discuss the issues, and nothing makes me happier than watching a conversation like this. In this video two conservatives on Fox News discuss same-sex marriage based on its merits and on procedural and legal matters pertinent to the Supreme Court. The results may surprise you.

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