Ryan J. Davis: The Disgraceful Mr. Dobbs

Pressure is building for CNN to do something about their resident conspiracy-theorist-in-chief Lou Dobbs. His nightly "reporting" on Obama's birth certificate drew fire today from the Southern Poverty Law Center, which called on CNN to take Dobbs off the air for "fanning the flames of racism." None of this should be surprising; for years, Dobbs has used his program to spread misinformation and paranoia.

In 2006, Dobbs ran several segments on the Amero, an imaginary currency that he believes will be shared by North America and replace the U.S. dollar. That same year he called for a new Sept. 11 investigation, vaguely citing the many "9/11 lies" told to Americans. Another favorite myth Dobbs reported on in 2008 is the NAFTA Superhighway, which (according to Lou's reporting) would extend from Mexico to Canada. None of these stories had a factual basis, and CNN repeatedly failed to exercise any editorial judgment.

Lou Dobbs has even appeared as a guest on leading Sept. 11 Truther and "Birther" Alex Jones's radio program and was sympathetic to Alex's rants. Knowing Lou, he probably believes the pressure to fire him is coming from the Illuminati and the New World Order. CNN needs to move quickly and remove Dobbs from their lineup to prevent further embarrassment. It's been a long time coming.

Originally posted on The Hill's Pundit Blog. Visit Ryan's Blog.

Obama Beer Summit: President “Fascinated With The Fascination” (VIDEO)

At Thursday's press briefing, the evening's "beer summit" was once again discussed in detail.

Harvard professor Henry Gates, Cambridge Police Sgt. James Crowley, and President Barack Obama plan to sit down for a drink at the White House on Thursday night. The when, where and how of the event has been a subject of great interest for the press.

Press Secretary Robert Gibbs spoke of the intense speculation about the event.

"I don't think the president has outsized expectations that one cold beer at one table here is going to change massively the course of human history," he said. But, he added, Obama was hoping the get-together would inspire better discussion than his past words on the arrest of Professor Gates.

"I think that that kind of dialogue has to happen in every level of society ... if we're going to make progress on issues that we've been dealing with for quite some time," he said.

More technically, Gibbs discussed the logistics of the meeting.

Obama himself has rejected the "summit" label.

"It's a clever term, but this is not a summit, guys," he told the press Thursday afternoon.

Instead, it's three folks "having a drink at the end of the day," and giving themselves a chance to "listen to each other." The goal is to lower the temperature on an event that has become "so hyped and so symbolic," try to reduce the "anger and hyperbole," and promote "self-reflection."

He said he is "fascinated with the fascination about this evening."

Intense scrutiny of the event is likely to continue, but the media won't be able to report every detail: press won't be invited.

Get HuffPost Politics On Facebook and Twitter!

Carter Phipps: The Good, the Bad, & the Mediated

Mediated, by Thomas de Zengotita

A few years ago, sometime in 2003, friend and colleague Dr. Don Beck, cofounder of Spiral Dynamics, turned the editors of EnlightenNext on to an article he had recently read in Harper's magazine. The article, which he felt was indicative of a change in cultural values and attitudes, was by media theorist and scholar Thomas de Zengotita and it was titled "Common ground: Finding Our Way Back to the Enlightenment." A fantastic article, it was an analysis of the way in which the fundamental ideals of the Western Enlightenment were essential for the formation of postmodern values, even though it's become popular in progressive circles to denigrate those same ideals. That was our first exposure to the work of de Zengotita. It's not that I perfectly agreed with de Zengotita point by point, but the article was quite an achievement--thought-provoking, incisive, and philosophically stimulating, while also clear enough for a lay reader to grasp. And it addressed cultural issues at the level of deep values and worldview, which is, of course, a big part of what EnlightenNext magazine is all about. And de Zengotita didn't exactly pull his punches. He writes: Continue reading "Carter Phipps: The Good, the Bad, & the Mediated"

Zachary Wagman: What’s So Funny?

This summer has been a particularly strong one for funny movies. The Hangover, Bruno, The Proposal (yeah, I saw it - so what?). And hopefully Judd Apatow's latest, Funny People, will be just as good as Knocked Up and The 40-Year Old Virgin.

So I've walked out of the theater with a huge grin on my face and my cheeks sore from smiling multiple times this summer. I've been thinking, though, that in the same span, how many times have I closed a book feeling the same way? For some reason, coming up with a list of funny books is harder than coming up with a list of funny movies. Maybe it's because movies can do things books can't: watching someone slip on a banana peel is a lot funnier than reading "He slipped on a banana peel." And let's face it, a comedic actor like Will Ferrell brings a lot to the table that a simple line of dialogue in a book just can't. But there are tons of funny books out there! I thought it'd be fun to classify some of my favorites to get the list going. (For the purposes of this post, I'm going to keep it limited to fiction.) Here's what I came up with:

The Laugh Out Loud: This is the book that makes you squeal, howl, and guffaw with laughter. For me, it's THEN WE CAME TO THE END by Joshua Ferris. This is one of my favorite books of the last few years. It's an office comedy - similar to The Office or Office Space - but it's narrated by the collective employees (the first line is "We were fractious and overpaid."). The best part comes in the middle when he deftly steers the novel from simple farce to something deeper.

The So-Funny-It's-Good-For-You: A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES by John Kennedy Toole - a classic! Amazon describes it as "a tragicomic tale" but I think it's intelligent, comedic fiction at its finest. I could have read about Ignatius J. Reilly for another few hundred pages. It won the Pulitzer, too. So it's funny AND important.

The Low-Brow: Philip Roth's PORTNOY'S COMPLAINT has so many funny things going on at once: the overbearing mother; the shiksa girlfriend; the illicit acts with frozen meat; and, despite itself, the great one-liner at the end.

The Crime Comedy: Don Winslow is one of the most criminally unknown authors writing today. His novel, THE DAWN PATROL, is about a surf bum/private eye who is getting ready for the perfect wave when he's hired to find a missing girl. It's worth reading for the names alone: Boone Daniels is the PI and his surfing buddies are Dave the Love God, Hang Twelve, Johnny Banzai, Sunny Day, and High Tide. It's not really a laugh-out loud kind of book, but I definitely read the whole thing with a smile on my face.

The Adventure Comedy: THE HOTHOUSE FLOWER AND THE NINE PLANTS OF DESIRE by Margot Berwin is a debut novel about a disaffected single woman who gets wrapped up in the exotic world of rare plants. Think Carrie Bradshaw meets Indiana Jones. It's goofy and sometimes silly, but it's a total hoot and perfect for the beach.

(For the record, the company I work for publishes Portnoy's Complaint, The Dawn Patrol, and The Hothouse Flower, though I haven't personally worked on them.)

In the end, it's probably not fair to compare the visceral experience of watching a movie to the intellectual experience of reading a book. For all of those books above, I find myself saying, "This book is funny and..." Poignant, clever, gross, sad, silly, etc. In other words: a movie can be just four dudes with a hangover; a book has to be a lot more.

(I'm sure I missed many many funny novels so please comment and let me know!)

Michael Wolff: I Understand Lou Dobbs

Does Lou Dobbs feel sheepish about finding himself the troglodyte of American broadcasting?

That is a rhetorical question. To be the troglodyte of American broadcasting -- TAB -- is to have broken through to the sweetest spot in the media business. You've reached the heights of the form. You're going for immortality in your profession.

Curiously, it looks easy. Any Neanderthal, it seems, could do it. You don't have to be smart, you have to be stupid. Just let all your bias and anger hang out. Don't filter.

Actually, reasonableness and nuance are easy, conflict is hard. The TAB is that person, on radio or television, who, through mind-numbing repetition, is able to articulate and represent a point of bitter conflict in American life. Making this more difficult, the TAB has got to do this before America knows it's a point of bitter conflict. The TAB has got to become one of the main characters of this conflict.

Continue reading on newser.com

Eric Alterman: Think Again: Why Does Barack Obama Hate America? (Hint: Blame ACORN)

Crossposted with the Center for American Progress.

The United States is fighting two wars, has nearly 50 million people uninsured, and has unemployment that is approaching double digits. Yet the media world remains focused on the bizarre events that took place inside the home of a Harvard professor on July 16 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I am too, alas, and I share the consensus view that Barack Obama made a serious mistake when he momentarily lost his legendary self-discipline and weighed in on the Skip Gates contretemps in a press conference last Wednesday, endorsing Gates' view that the incident shared some relevance to the genuine problem of racial profiling. It did not, which is not to say it was justifiable--only that it had nothing to do with race.

By endorsing a racial reading of the incident, the president--as almost all commentators have pointed out--ended up burying the arguments he had made for the previous hour regarding health care and much else for the time being. That's conventional wisdom, of course, but what is going unremarked is the degree to which Obama's comments have demonstrated the dismal quality of conservative commentary these days, which in many ways appears to mirror the fortunes of a movement with someone like Sarah Palin as its titular head.

I could start almost anywhere, but take a look at the piece put up by National Review's Mona Charen. She complained that the president's response to what she foolishly calls "Gatesgate"--in a nod to conservatives' decades-long campaign to trivialize Richard Nixon's Watergate crimes--"actually sheds a lot of light on his approach to health care and other issues, for this reason: Obama adopts his positions before knowing what he is talking about. How could he not have known all the facts? Press Secretary Robert Gibbs mentioned on 'Fox News Sunday' that the Gates matter was one of the issues the White House press operation had briefed the president on before the press conference. Numerous accounts of the imbroglio were available online--though the president need only pick up the phone to get all the information he wants. This is worth bearing in mind as the country takes a good, hard look at the president's plans for health care reform. He didn't want information. He preferred his comfortable, prejudiced view."

The stupidity of the above criticism comes pretty close to Onion-like self-parody. Plenty of people may disagree with President Obama's priorities, but virtually no one thinks he does not do his policy-related homework. After all, the rap on the health care presser was that it was too wonkish, too bogged down in detail, and insufficiently inspirational. And recall, Obama had no way of knowing he was going to get a question about Gates--why should he have?--at a time when almost no one, including Gates himself, had all the information. (No one but the cops knew at the time, for instance, that the 911 caller, Lucia Whalen, never mentioned race to the responding police officer.)

So the idea that Obama did not know everything about something he could not have known everything about and had no particular reason to know in the first place--and therefore should not be trusted with a health care plan, which, by the way, is being written in Congress, not the White House--is really too ridiculous even to merit a response. And yet believe it or not, it's actually among the more coherent right-wing attacks on Obama one sees when one invites these folks to bring race into the equation.

Some of the others I've come across include:

* On Fox, Limbaugh says of Obama's Gates answer: "President Obama is black. And I think he's got a chip on his shoulder."
* Also on Fox, Glenn Beck claimed that Obama's response demonstrated "'a deep-seated hatred for white people.'"

Media Matters noticed a particularly interesting theme regarding Limbaugh and Beck that involved ACORN, the largest grassroots community organization of low- and moderate-income people in the United States:

* Rush Limbaugh. During the July 24 broadcast of his radio show, Limbaugh stated that Obama's response was "the reaction of a community agitator. We got the reaction of a community organizer. We got the reaction of an ACORN leader."

* Glenn Beck. On the July 24 broadcast of his radio show, Beck said that "the only thing you really need to know about this guy is that he's a community organizer" and that Obama was attempting to "[o]verwhelm the system." He added: "[W]hen we go on the air and I, you know, rip apart the guy from ACORN, especially if he's black. ... [I]t allows them to take that videotape and say, 'See? It's the white man against the black man.' It helps them"....

You can read the rest of Eric Alterman's analysis in his recent article, "
Think Again: Why Does Barack Obama Hate America? (Hint: Blame ACORN)

Eric Alterman is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and a Distinguished Professor of English at Brooklyn College. He is also a Nation columnist and a professor of journalism at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. His seventh book, Why We're Liberals: A Handbook for Restoring America's Most Important Ideals was recently published in paperback. He occasionally blogs at http://www.thenation.com/blogs/altercation.

Greg Lukianoff: Dave Barry on Campus Free Speech (VIDEO)

Today, my organization, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), released a new video featuring Pulitzer Prize-winning humor columnist Dave Barry. In the video, Dave discusses the importance of freedom of expression, the state of free speech on college campuses, and the culture of censorship. He also talks about an amazing FIRE case that he was a part of in 2006 when Marquette University in Wisconsin actually censored one of his quotes:

At the end of the video, FIRE Vice President Robert Shibley mentions three other almost unbelievable cases. You can watch videos on our YouTube page about the student who was expelled for a collage, the student found guilty of harassment for silently reading a book, and the major state university that required students to disclose their sexual preferences.