Blogs > In The Mix

Reporter Shaun Byron and Video Editor Andrew DuPont sound-off on whatever is on their minds, from politics to pop-culture, from movies to the main stream media. Local, national, world-wide? If it's in the media mix, these two are sure to have an opinion on it.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Game Over for the Birther movement

Following the fringe group known as the Birthers has been very amusing to me, but it looks like their time in the spotlight is coming to a quick end.

Yesterday, the last case filed by Orly Taitz, Captain Pamela Barnett v. Barack Hussein Obama was dismissed in federal court. This is the case mentioned in a previous entry that Taitz has been smugly referring to in recent interviews because 3 weeks ago the judge declined to make an initial ruling on the matter and set a potential trial date for January 2010. Though Judge Carter was just following legal protocol, Taitz and her supports took this as a success and began bragging that they have forced President Obama to stand trial. As I previously indicated, the delay in a ruling did not in any way imply the judge supported their efforts and if anything, was the equivalent of not saying "get lost" immediately.

Well, now he's told them to get lost. The full opinion can be read here, but in short: Carter said the filings by Taitz on behalf her clients (who included former Presidential candidate Alan Keyes) showed a fundamental misunderstanding of the US Constitution and, in the case of Taitz, legal proceedings. Even with extended deadlines and the legal equivalent of coddling, Taitz frequently failed to properly follow court procedures or even file the proper paperwork. The patience on the part of the judge should dismiss any argument that Taitz was treated unfairly, but she's almost certainly make the case anyway should anyone care to interview her at this point.

One line in the opinion that is certainly the most damning for Taitz and her followers:

"Additionally, the Court has received several sworn affidavits that Taitz asked potential witnesses that she planned to call before this Court to perjure themselves."

That's the game ender. And to be sure, this is a game to them. Up to this point, Taitz has used a legal system she clearly does not understand to push a political agenda based in conspiracy theories and to get attention for herself. She has already faced financial sanctions and has complaints lodged against her to the California Bar Association. Now, sworn affidavits that Taitz has no problem breaking the law and is encouraging others to help her do so. She already presented a bogus Kenyan birth certificate in a past court case, which was quickly and mercilessly debunked. Taitz claimed she was duped by people trying to hurt her credibility but I think most people feel she's done quite a good enough job of that on her own.

She's refused to pay her financial sanctions, all her cases have been dismissed, and she may face charges of some kind. Cetainly she will be disbarred in the near future.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Like it or not, Home Depot had every right to fire employee for God button

The story about Trevor Keezer, a 20-year-old man from West Palm Beach, Florida caused quite a bit of commotion yesterday after Keezer sued his former employer Home Depot. Keezer was fired on Oct. 23 for wearing a pin that said "One nation, under God, individsible."

Read the full article for more information. 

Keezer said he feels like he is being punished for loving his country, which may be how he actually feels, but it seems he knows that's not really the case. The fact that they offered him a different "patriotic" pin and he refused is pretty much going to ruin any chance he has in court. By refusing any pin that did not mention God, he made it clear it's not an issue of patriotism, it's an issue of religious freedom to him. Unfortunately for Keezer, private companies don't have to employ anyone that refuses to follow the rules, even if they are doing so to express religious beliefs.  It's not like they suddenly fired him out of the blue either. They brought up the issue, offered a comprimise and he refused.

The lawyer for Home Depot made it pretty clear when he said "we have a blanket policy, which is long-standing and well-communicated to our associates, that only company-provided pins and badges can be worn on our aprons.” That's pretty much the end of the story as far as the law is concerned. Sure, that won't satisfy a lot of people, but hurt feelings don't change the law. A commenter on succinctly stated it: "Having to adhere to your employer's policy on dress code is not the same as being punished for your beliefs. There are plenty of other ways to share your faith."

In the past, when a large corporation is getting sued for something embarrassing, I'm used to seeing their high-priced attorneys say they can't comment on pending litigation. This time though, they had plenty to say, and it seems pretty clear why: they're not worried about losing this case.

Now, Keezer claims he wore the pin for over a year and nobody said anything to him. While the sudden change of heart is unusual and interesting to people on a personal level, it's not legally relevant. If he was violating the company dress code and they let it slide for a year, lucky for him, but it doesn't make the policy void should they choose to enforce it.  Home Depot is a private company and they set the rules for working for them. I can't think of a company I've ever worked for that didn't have some kind of dress code policy. The only reason this made headlines is because this guy wouldn't follow the policy. Odds are any other retail store he wants to work at will have a similar one.

Comments on the story have readers debating the issue as though it's an issue of athiests vs. Christians, but it's not. This is a simple matter of company policy. Some people are suggesting boycotts or protests, and they have every right to do so. However, I'm skeptical if any real action will be taken and  doubt it will have much, if any, impact. They are welcome to try and prove me wrong though. I'm sure there will be outrage from some Christians who feel this is someone being persecuted for his beliefs, but they will have a hard time arguing why a private company has to allow this.

It doesn't matter if the pin said "Under God," "Jesus Saves," "Shabbat Shalom," "Praise Allah," "Darwin was right" or "Satan is my homeboy" though I imagine those making this out to be an issue of religious freedom wouldn't have a problem with anyone wearing a pin that said any of those things... right?


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Worst Halloween Costumes for 2009

Well, it's been a while since I've posted a list like this but with Halloween only 5 days away there's no time like the present.  As I said last year, fly-by-night costume shops pop up all over the place, and there are numerous quality websites making it easier than ever to find the perfect costume for a party or trick-or-treating.

Not all costumes are created equally however, and I'm not talking about the quality of material used. It would seem in an effort to fill more shelves, some costume makers will mass produce any idea suggested to them.

For the second year in a row, I have found a few of the worst mass-produced costume ideas out there. Yes, there are certainly worse, more offensive, tasteless, or downright poor quality costumes out there, but many I have come across are home-made or one-of-a-kind and not likely to be available at a Halloween USA.

There are certainly other costumes that could be on this list, but in keeping with a top five, I had to pick only one from each of the follow categories: adult male, adult female, youth male, youth female, infant.

Adult Male: Michael Jackson

Last year it was Heath Ledger's Joker, this year it's Michael Jackson. When a celebrity dies, apparently everyone thinks the best way to reflect on their life is to dress up like them for Halloween. Not surprisingly there have been a huge number of Michael Jackson costumes being made this year, with a vast majority of them being related to his Thriller costume. Really? You want to dress up like Jackson when he was dancing with the undead? This may have been a semi-creative costume idea to wear last year, but now it's about as unoriginal as you can get.

Adult Female: Kate Gosselin

Beside an ugly wig, your "costume" is basically an act... one that requires you to be an obnoxious attention seeker who nags all the men at the party all night. What better way to be the life of the party? There's not much else to say about this costume other than it's not even remotely fun or funny.

Youth Male: Balloon Boy

Yes, this is a real costume. You knew someone was going to rush to capitalize on this story before the hype fades. were the ones to do it, just as people have stopped caring. Besides not being funny, there's nothing in this costume that requires you to spend a lot of money:

A cardboard box... free.
A name tag...  $3.00 for a pack of 40
A silver mylar balloon turned sideways... $1
If you want to be more accurate, you can take a strip of cardboard from your free cardboard box, tape it into a circle, spray paint it silver and tape that to the bottom of the balloon... $5 (for the paint)
Or... you can pay $19.99 for the same stuff (not assembled) from Microflight plus express shipping to get it here in time for Halloween.

You read that right... they are charging you $20 + shipping to ship you a deflated balloon and a cardboard box inside another cardboard box.

Youth Female: The TRAVELOCITY Gnome

There are a lot of bad costumes out there for kids, but this one is just downright confusing.  In the end, this was the worst choice for a few reasons:

1) It's a corporate mascot for a travel plan company
2) The entire concept of the roaming gnome is not their idea but the costume is branded with Travelocity.
3) The costume is being marketed to girls for some reason

What girl doesn't dream of dressing up like a male gnome and promoting price guarantees? What's that? None of them do? Oh, then I guess you must work for Travelocity and got this costume as SWAG.

Infant: Air Freshener

Odds are your baby doesn't smell pine fresh and won't enjoy being carried around inside this monstrosity. Even the kid they used for the ad looks miserable. This costume screams: "My mommy went shopping this afternoon and this was all that was left." For goodness sake there are more creative costumes for dogs out there than this.


Friday, October 23, 2009

Would you pay for Hulu?

Executives at News Corp. are hoping you will. It was announced yesterday that starting sometime in 2010 the ultra-popular video site will begin charging users a subscription fee, though the details were not made clear. Instant feedback shows most people are not happy about it, with 70% of people responding to a poll by Entertainment Weekly saying they will not pay for Hulu.

I'm sure execs knew making the jump from a free service to pay service would be difficult, but this mught just be impossible. Despite featuring ads in all their videos, Hulu has not been able to make a profit. However, a subscription fee isn't likely to fix that. While Hulu currently offers a great service, the FREE part was what made it great. In the internet age, they should by now if they won't offer their content for free, someone else will.

Despite the legal restrictions on posting copyrighted video on free video services, popular TV shows and movies are still easy to find on YouTube and other free video sites. If Hulu removes all their free content, I'm sure there are countless other sites anxious to take their place. While nowhere near the same level in popularity, is already building a following and will be the most likely site to try and step in to fill the void in a legit way. When Napster became a pay service, countless clones sprung up to take over. I have no doubt the same will happen with Hulu.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A World War II vet speaks about the freedoms he fought for

I'll let him speak for himself:


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Snake Oil doesn't cure H1N1

A friend sent me a YouTube video featuring alternative medicinal advice from Dr. Joseph Mercola regarding how to fight the H1N1 flu virus. I could explain everything he said, but it's best you hear it straight from the source:

This video concerns me because I'm certain a lot of people take it seriously. While I'm sure Dr. Mecola is serious, his advice is at best misguided and at worse, potentially detrimental to your health. Sure, there are a lot of everyday things people can do to help stay healthy during the flu season like washing your hands, but to suggest that flu vaccines are a scam and that all you need is vitamin D is very, very bad advice.

First off, saying that people get the flu but actually die of pneumonia is like saying people get HIV but actually die of AIDS. The flu virus attacks the lungs and causes pneumonia. How is this an argument against getting vaccinated? Would you tell a woman she shouldn't be vaccinated against HPV because people who get it actually die from cervical cancer, not the virus itself?

Naturally there are some strange theories from supporters of this type of alternative medicine, ranging from the insane (the government creates clouds to block the sun so our bodies won't produce Vitamin D naturally) to the common (vaccines cause autism.)

The vaccines/autism debate is too lengthy to get into now, but suffice to say there are mountains of evidence against any connection between the two. However, Dr. Mercola does bring it up in the video, building on misguided fears. It's easy to throw out numbers to back up your argument, but saying the EPA and CDC report vaccines are only safe for people 550 lbs or heavier is just plain wrong.  A vaccine that contains about 50 micrograms of thimerosal (a mercury-based preservative used in vaccines) only contains about 25 micrograms of mercury. Meanwhile, studies suggest, on average, people ingest between 8.3 and 8.6 micrograms of mercury daily in their food.  So a vaccine contains less mercury than you get through dietary sources over the span of 4 days (less if you are a big fish eater.) This information comes from a report by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, an agency of the US Department of Health, just like those CDC guys Mercola claims say this is toxic to anyone who isn't morbidly obese. Of course, Mercola suggests everyone do the research themselves, and so do I, which is why I provided the links.

Mercola also states that ethylene glycol (aka "antifreeze") is present in the H1N1 vaccines which is just not true. It is used in the manufacturing process, a big difference that experts like Mercola and Jenny McCarthy seem to gloss over. So please... do the research yourself, especially on the numbers.

I'm sure it's not a coincidence that  Dr. Mecola sells vitamin D supplements and books about Vitamin D on his website (only $14.95 for a months supply). Of course, he doesn't just say Vitamin D can cure H1N1, he lists a whole variety of things it's needed for with the implication being you should be taking his supplements year round for the bargain price of $180 plus shipping. But why stop there when Dr. Mecola also sells his own TANNING BEDS (only $3,000 a piece) to boost your body's natural Vitamin D production?

Obviously I'm not suggesting that vitamins are a waste of time. Our bodies use vitamin D for a lot of things, but saying it will stop a flu pandemic is going too far. You shouldn't be taking my opinion any more seriously than Dr. Mecola's though. You should see a doctor. My concern with seeing a video like this go viral is that if someone shows signs of the flu, this might cause them to head for a tanning salon over a doctor's office.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Not the smartest way to protest

As I mentioned yesterday, conservative websites immediately went on the attack against Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine for her yes vote to move one version of the health care reform bill out of committee. Some of the attacks are pretty vicious, but this one is just plain silly:

Here is the full post:

Olympia Snowe has sold out the country. Having been banished to our world after Aslan chased her out of Narnia, Snowe is intent on corrupting this place too.
So we should melt her.
What melts snow? Rock salt.
I’m going to ship this 5 pound bag of rock salt to her office in Maine. It’s only $3.00. You should join me.
It is a visible demonstration of our contempt for her. First she votes for the stimulus. Now this.
It’s time to melt Snowe. ORDER YOUR BAG HERE.
The mailing address is:
3 Canal Plaza
Suite 601
Portland, ME 04101
Main: (207) 874-0883

This is perhaps the most poorly thought-out symbolic attack plan I have seen for two extremely obvious reasons:

- Rock salt is not used to melt snow, it's used to melt ice. You use shovels to remove snow. If you're trying to be clever in your protest you need to at least get the symbolism correct.

- Maine, like Michigan, will likely use a lot of rock salt this winter. So go ahead, buy and send a ton of rock salt to her. I'm sure she'll be happy to give away the free bags to her constituents or use the dozen or so bags she'll probably get to keep the sidewalks around her office clear.

Hopefully they will decide to protest me next. I could use the rock salt.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Do Republicans really want a "Maverick?"

It seemed liked a good selling point during the last election. Bush's approval numbers were so low the only chance McCain/Palin had was to distance themselves from what they perceived as the standard Republican way. Of course, neither McCain nor Palin were doing anything that actually distanced themselves from Bush in any radical way. Even the phrase "Going Rouge" which Palin is now using as the title of her upcoming book, was not really describing any political differences between Palin and her party, but rather her inability/refusal to work within the confines McCain's campaign managers wanted her to. The strategy obviously didn't pay off for either of them, unless of course Palin's plan all along was to ride her newfound popularity out of politics and into her current job of punditry.

Sure, the idea of someone not walking lockstep with their party line is a nice idea and both parties love to tout they're the ones who do it. However, reaction to the yesterday's senate finance committee vote suggests Republicans are not really looking for someone like that. Meet Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine. If you haven't heard about her, you will very soon. Snowe has been gaining media attention for a few months now, but as of yesterday she is in the center of the spotlight because she was the only Republican to vote in favor of the health care bill in committee yesterday.  This vote doesn't put the health care bill into effect, it just gets it out of committee, which Snowe said was the major reason she voted for it.  Snowe said after the vote that she does not like many things in the current form of the bill but believes the people want action. In essence, she said her "yes" vote was intended to move the bill into the next stage of the process so more things can be worked out. Hardly a huge vote of confidence for Obama, but nevertheless, the backlash came quickly against Snowe from a party claiming it doesn't walk in lockstep. She's a RINO (Republican in Name Only), she's a traitor, she needs to be removed from office immediately. These are some of the more kindly-worded attacks aimed at Snowe to appear on conservative websites in the last 24 hours.

That being said, Snowe's vote should not have come as that big of a surprise to people. The American Conservative Union gives Snowe a lifetime rating of 49.12 for her voting history and The Washington Post rates her at 58 for the current congress.  Those numbers indicate the percentage of times Snowe has voted the same as her Republican colleages. In comparison, John McCain has a lifetime rating of 81.43 from the ACU and some people still weren't happy with the times he crossed the isle on issues.

Clearly one is more "mavericky" than the other, and since Snowe has held her Senate seat for 14 years it's strange that suddenly now her moderate stance is such a shocking problem for some. Despite the immediate and angry calls to push her out of office, such an outcome is unlikely. Snowe has kept her seat in a state that has leaned heavily in favor of Democrats for the last 20 years likey because she is a moderate and does not vote straight along party lines.

Let's be honest, this one vote does not make Snowe a radical champion of health care reform to democrats nor a two-faced traitor to her own party. She's a moderate Republican who would rather work within the system on a solution than stubbornly argue endlessly about ideology. If a maverick is someone who doesn't walk the party line then Snowe fits the definition much better than McCain or Palin, but it seems that's not what people want... at least not in the big picture. Now before anyone says I'm only harping on Republicans, the way Joe Lieberman was treated by Democrats during the 2008 election cycle shows they're not really looking for someone to step outside the lines either. However, they weren't the ones touting such a trait as their biggest strength while simultaneously attacking those who actually did it.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Birther Queen one step closer to a straight jacket

The "Birther" movement seems to have lost some steam in the last month or so. My initial thought on the sudden surge in the movement was a lot of people unhappy with Obama's election saw it as an attempt to undo the 2008 election results, regardless if they bought into the conspiracy or not. As we quickly approach the one year mark, however, it seems attention has shifted to getting "payback" in the 2010 election instead.

One person, however, remains vigilant in her quest to unseat Obama despite a few setbacks from reality. Orly Taitz, lawyer/dentist/real estate agent, was fined $20,000 this morning for misconduct by Judge Clay Land of the U.S. District Court in the Middle District Of Georgia. Land already dismissed Taitz's frivolous attempts to use the court system to further her political agenda, and Taitz responded the way any rational person would: she accused the judge of treason and incorporated him into her ever-growing conspiracy.

Taitz's claims have been dismissed at nearly every turn (see below), several clients have cut legal ties with her, and her refusal to back down is causing the courts to further the punishment. Taitz has already said she will not pay the fine, meaning the courts will likely put a lien on her property. Another attorney has filed a complaint with the California Bar Association saying Taitz behavior and her comments toward Clay are reason for sanctions and possible disbarment.

It's unlikely Taitz would be disbarred at this point, but if she continues down the path she has been on for nearly a year now, the courts may find themselves with no other option.

But Taitz is pushing on, encouraged by what she considers "a major victory" when U.S. District Court Judge David Carter decided to delay his ruling on whether or not to dismiss a case filed by Taitz on behalf of former Southern Baptist Convention second vice president Wiley Drake. Drake sought the vice presidential seat with Alan Keyes for the American Independent Party presidential nomination in the 2008 election. After a 3-hour hearing on October 5 Carter stated he wanted more time to review arguments on both sides. So for Taitz, not being told to get lost immediately is a victory. And she wonders why some of her clients (including Drake) no longer want to be represented by her.

The constant setbacks for Taitz are likely leading to the slowdown in the "birther"
movement. While most "birthers" are probably content to slap bumper stickers on their car and wallow in their own anger, Taitz is pushing as hard as possible to accomplish her goals, and being slapped down for it. Seeing the queen bee getting punished is likely discouraging the rest of the hive from acting up.

Soon this whole discredited "movement" will likely be a faint memory, but what will happen to Taitz? If she is stripped of her legal powers, will she fade into obscurity or will she continue screaming her messages until they have to throw on a straight jacket and take her away? Or worse yet... will she make an infomercial?


Friday, October 9, 2009

Obama's Nobel Prize seems, at best, premature

Well, I certainly wasn't expecting this. President Obama was awarded a Noble Peace Prize in a move that was "designed to encourage his initiatives to reduce nuclear arms, ease tensions with the Muslim world and stress diplomacy and cooperation rather than unilateralism."

While I support these initiatives, I've always thought prizes were awarded for accomplishments, not to encourage these accomplishments. If this trend catches on, will we be giving the Detroit Lions a Super Bowl trophy to encourage them to be a better team?

Back when Arizona State refused to give Obama an honorary degree because he hasn't accomplished anything yet, I felt they were being overdramatic about the whole thing. It is, after all, Arizona State, and an honorary degree at that. Did they think he was going to abuse it to beef up his resume?

This time, however, it seems like a fair criticism. After all, Obama has only pledged to do these things. While he has shown to be following up on those pledges, there is a loooooooooooooooooooooooong way to go towards nuclear arms reductions and easing tensions with the Muslim world before he can say "mission accomplished." When there is tanginable evidence that he is following up on these initiatives, I would fully support such an award. Now it just seems like a premature gesture given for good intentions.


CNN is now fact-checking satire?

It must be hard to fill 24 hours of programming, but CNN is now dedicating their time to fact-checking.... Saturday Night Live?

Normally, I get the impression that conservatives are the ones that can't take a joke, but in this case, CNN has really made liberals seem like thin-skinned whiners. Come on guys, I know SNL isn't funny most of the time, but you have to realize they are still in the business of satire. You didn't see fact-checks on Tina Fey's Palin impressions or any of Will Ferrell's Bush spoofs, so why start now? If CNN was trying to dissuade anyone of the persistent liberal media rumors... this didn't help.

There just has to be something more important they can be doing with their time...

...okay, maybe not.

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Friday, October 2, 2009

Letterman knows how to handle a scandal

Twice now in just a few months, David Letterman has been involved with some sort of scandal. The first time was for a very poorly worded joke about Sarah Palin's family. Dave apologized and moved on despite continued criticism from some, which is probably the only thing he should have done. Palin tried to make it a bigger deal than it was, but that's not surprising considering it was her family that was insulted. Nevertheless, it was a joke, regardless of who found it funny, and a single apology was all that was needed.

That's not the case this time. In case you missed it, here is what happened in Dave's own words:

Needless to say Dave is not going to come out clean from this one. Even though he did not outright state it, it seemed implied and I think most people will assume Letterman cheated on his wife. He will have egg on his face for a while for sure, but in the big picture Letterman played the whole situation perfectly. Today's headlines are about how someone was trying to extort him, not his affairs. Even Dave's mea culpa ended up being more of a story about how the man who wanted 2 million from him was arrested and now faces charges. Letterman will undoubtedly get ratings boost from this, and he not only helped catch the man allegedly trying to extort him, but, by publicly admitting his mistakes, he obliterated any chance anyone else had of making money off it. For those not wanting to watch the video, the man was allegedly threatening to write a book and screenplay about the affairs unless Letterman gave him $2 million. Either way, it appears he was looking to make a buck off of Letterman's secrets. Now they're not secrets anymore, and the only thing the guy is likely to get for his alleged efforts is a few years in jail.