“Osama Obama” Redux

CNN has apologized over and over for the following graphic that ran over a story about the search for Osama Bin Laden. The words on screen made reference to the name of a Democrat Senator and possible presidential candidate, and not the world’s most wanted man:

A “bad typographical error,” CNN called it. That is a bad and coincidental error. The “B” and the “S” are separated by a few keys — at least on my keyboard, but hey, at least it’s time that somebody got even for the “X” over the video of Dick Cheney.

What’s the big deal? Ted Kennedy called the Illinois Senator “Osama Obama” months ago, and nobody made him apologize (YouTube video of the Admiral in the Olds Navy here).

On second thought, maybe this CNN “slip up” is in fact a subliminal ad for the “Obama for President” campaign. Somebody, specifically Hillary, should check the McCain/Feingold rules to see if we can charge CNN for the Obama promotion.

Pay Raise for Federal Judges? First, A Performance Evaluation Is In Order

Say it ain’t so! Chief Justice John Roberts has said that low pay is “threatening the judiciary.” From CNN.com:

Roberts said the judiciary will not properly serve its constitutional role if it is restricted to people so wealthy that they can afford to be indifferent to the level of judicial compensation, or to people for whom the judicial salary represents a pay increase.

Issuing an eight-page message devoted exclusively to salaries, Roberts says the 678 full-time U.S. District Court judges, the backbone of the federal judiciary, are paid about half that of deans and senior law professors at top schools.

Federal district court judges are paid $165,200 annually; appeals court judges make $175,100; associate justices of the Supreme Court earn $203,000; the chief justice gets $212,100.

The issue of pay, says Roberts, “has now reached the level of a constitutional crisis.”

Federal judges only get about 50% of the salary of deans and senior law professors at top schools? The answer is clear — cut the salaries of deans and law professors in half! Hey, that would be the liberals answer if you replaced “deans and law professors” in that sentence with “corporate CEOs” wouldn’t it?

How come it takes the issue of a Federal paycheck to get us to notice a “constitutional crisis”? What is a “constitutional crisis” are some of the rulings that come from the Federal bench.

Since those of us in our regular “real world” jobs could never think of asking for our pay to double without one hell of a performance evaluation, lets approach this request on that level.

Sorry, Mr. Roberts, but I don’t want another penny of our tax money going to leftist whiffle-heads like the judges on California’s Ninth Appellate, whose rulings make me wonder if they are the love children of Michael Moore and Noam Chomsky, conceived after a torrid affair on the Isle of Numbskull and subsequently sent to law school.

I don’t want people like Detroit U.S. District Court judge Anna Diggs Taylor – who rule essentially on the side of terrorists out of grief-stricken concern for their “rights” while stripping Americans of theirs — to get so much more money that she doesn’t seek employment elsewhere. I’ll bet a months pay that Taylor’s next colonoscopy turns up a benign polyp and six members of the ACLU.

Consider Roberts’ Supreme Court. Cases like Kelo v. New London, which danced on the grave of private property rights, and many, many other rulings, should tempt us to look at Roberts’ pay raise request for Federal judges and laugh out loud (or “lol” for you kids).

I don’t want to give any money, let alone more money, to “Librarian from Hades,” Ruth Bader Ginsburg; John Paul Stevens, who was nominated to the Court by Gerald Ford, (I wanted to include a joke here about Stevens’ nomination being due to Ford falling down and hitting his head on the steps of Air Force One, but I won’t use it out of respect for Ford); mamma’s boy and Stan Laurel ringer, David Souter; another stain left on the black robe of the Court by Bill Clinton alongside the Bader Ginsburg discharge — Stephen Breyer; and Anthony Kennedy, can prove that even Reagan made mistakes.

Nope, I don’t care if they go off to find other work. Sorry.

Lets also consider who in Congress is for dramatic pay raises for the Federal judiciary. Last year, a bill was introduced to do just that — it was introduced by Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California, Patrick Leahy of Vermont and John Kerry of Massachusetts — three people so liberal that Ward Churchill refers to them as f#%@*%g hippies.

Gee, why are these liberal Senators so very concerned about raising the pay of Federal judges so they don’t leave? For the answer to that question, re-read the first few paragraphs of this commentary.

Sorry, Justice Roberts. Yes, there are good judges out there who actually have read the constitution and believe in following it to the letter, and you may well be one yourself, but the overall performance evaluation of the Federal bench is horrendous. I’ll put it this way, if the Constitution were their boss, the next time they arrived for work they’d find all the stuff from their desks in a cardboard boxes by the curb, and that the access code to the buildings had been changed.

Another thing; it can be a lifetime appointment — it doesn’t say anywhere that it has to be. If some of the judges mentioned above, and dozens of others, really want to serve America, let ’em get a job waiting tables.

With Democrat congressional control, however, Federal judges can look forward to a major raise in the coming months or years. Hey, somebody wake up Ruth Bader Ginsberg and tell her the good news!

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Saddam Copycats

I’ve heard of drinking the same brand of soda your favorite sports hero drinks, but this is a bit much:

A young boy who tried to copy hanging scenes from the execution video of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein died in central Pakistan, said police on Monday.

Mubashar Ali, 9, hanged himself, while re-enacting Hussein’s hanging with the help of elder sister, 10, after tying a rope to a ceiling fan and his neck in his home in Rahim Yar Khan district on Sunday, said a local police official.

The sad part is that a kid emulated how Hussein was executed. How long until somebody gets it in his head to emulate why he was executed?

At Large with a Medium: A Visit With Psychic John Edward

The following occurred in August of this past summer, and due to other projects, I’ve just now gotten around to writing about it. Draw your own conclusions, and have a great 2007!

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“How does this guy sleep at night?” Glenn Beck shot out a rhetorical question concerning psychic John Edward, as my wife and I sat in his radio studio. We were on the air discussing our private “reading” by the famous medium who appears regularly on a program entitled “Cross Country” on Women’s Entertainment Network, the network from which, as luck would have it, I happened to have won a free reading in a contest on the WE website.

While in New York we dropped in to visit Beck and his staff, as I do some writing for his magazine, Fusion. Glenn was interested in the story of our reading, so he asked if we’d like to discuss it on the air.

Winning the contest, which included a trip to New York, the “reading,” dinners, and other goodies, was a stroke of luck, as I’ve always wanted to be “read” but have never been willing to pay for it.

I’ve always been a fan of magic and magicians. I’ve learned a few amateur magic tricks myself along the way, and have gotten a little better over the years at being able to tell how certain tricks are done. This even applies to psychic mediums.

I’ve read plenty about how Houdini would visit mediums and later expose how they did their “tricks,” but much of this was physical in nature, i.e. raising tables, “mysterious” sounds, etc. That’s the easy part. The hard part is appearing to be “dead on” with a psychic read while simply using a logical albeit quick process of elimination along with a general knowledge of human nature and the law of averages. Those of us who think the field of psychic mediums is an entirely phony endeavor call this a “cold reading.”

First, the skeptics. I’ve read a lot of material written by magician James Randi and many others about John Edward in particular (here’s a piece by Randi debunking Edward’s appearance on Beck’s TV show).

Other common debunking theories are things like, “He must have the studio bugged somehow,” “you can learn almost anything about anybody on the Internet,” “there’s a questionnaire you fill out and that’s how they get a lot of that stuff” are some of the common claims. “Cold reading” is the other technique often described.

Before we left the house for the airport, I asked my wife what we’d need to hear to convince us that Edwards wasn’t just going through a cold reading. “What would convince us that he wasn’t just your average hokey psychic?” We agreed that a hand print that hangs on a French door leading into the living room would be a telling sign of something beyond a cold reading. The print belongs to our daughter Molly, who died of a rare disease in 1996 just before her 4th birthday.

The hand print falls to the floor once in a while, and we often say something along the line of “Molly, cut that out!” It’s become kind of a joke in the house, since there are other things on the door, and they never fall. Most importantly, nobody else, outside my wife and me, knows about this and I’ve never written about it.

We also talked about what would be less than compelling “psychic” information. Things you can discover on Google, for instance. “You’re a writer,” for example, would have been a dead giveaway.

We arrived at the office where Edwards does his private readings. It was a little out of the way small building in a semi-rural area near Huntington Station on Long Island. The interior reminded me of a small town dentists office without the 1992 Field and Stream magazine and an issue of “People” with Leif Garrett on the cover on a coffee table.

Almost as soon as we entered, a woman emerged and I simply gave her my name and she said “John will be with you in a few minutes.”

We sat down and waited.

The skeptic in me was a little disappointed. Strike one. We weren’t asked to fill out any forms, or asked any questions about anything whatsoever. We weren’t frisked to make sure we had any recording equipment, which is something I’ve read in skeptic books and websites. “On his TV show, they edit it down so there are more ‘hits,’ and they don’t want anybody recording it and later using it to prove how many times he missed” is another common claim. Strike two.

The door opened and a woman asked us into another area of the building. The room we entered looked like an un-lived in living room. White leather couches and chairs, a couple of desks, some pillows and a lamp. This was another welcome surprise. There was none of the stereotypical psychic pomp and circumstance. Nobody ever came through the room waving a canister of incense smoke around, there were no beads, no candles, no creepy after-life sounding music emanating from a stereo — nothing.

After a short time, a blue-jean, gray t-shirt clad Edward walked into the room. We introduced ourselves and sat down directly across from him. Just the three of us were in the room.

The reading began.

The first thing Edward said, after encouraging a healthy skepticism and for us to not try to lead him where we might want him to go, was, “I’m getting a dominant energy coming through… did you lose a son?”

In our best poker faces, one of us, I think it was me, replied, “No.” I was doing my best to give up no more information than was absolutely necessary. I was determined to approach the reading like a court deposition.

Edward persisted. “A daughter?”

The skeptic in me thought this was fishing, but still, I’m 40, and my wife looks younger than her 37 years, so to assume we’d lost a child would have been a big leap to take on the first try.

Edward said he interprets dominant energies as male, but that can be wrong if the female is a dominant personality. The skeptic in me was still wavering. Sure, our daughter had a very powerful and strong personality, but I was determined to remain completely neutral — the Sweden of psychic read-ees. We sat and waited for more.

This was followed by a few words about my grandmother, “a ‘D’ connection… a ‘D’ name” Edward said. My grandmother’s name was Donna. Edward said our daughter was bringing my grandmother through with her. At this point I was more than a little worried that Edwards would follow up with something along the line of, “your grandmother’s telling me to tell you to knock off that thing you do in the shower,” but thankfully that didn’t happen. Whew!

The “‘insert letter here’ connection” thing Edward does to bring forth a first name has always been less than compelling to me, as I could pick almost any initial and you might know somebody whose name begins with that, but we rolled with it.

Edward then looked at my wife and said, “Has your father passed?”

“No” my wife replied.

“Then who’s ‘Joe’?” Edward wanted to know.

“My brother’s name is Joe, and my father’s name is Joe, and his father’s name is Joe” she explained, “And my brother died.”

Edward continued speaking to my wife. “You and your brother were not close.” This time it was a statement, not a question, and my wife confirmed that indeed was the case.

“He’s telling me that you have another brother who you like more than him.” This was so accurate that it was as if my wife’s brother had jumped into Edward’s body and taken his mouth hostage.

Everybody knows a “Joe,” but in this context, there seemed to be a little more to it than a simple name association game. If he’d have just blurted out “do you know a ‘Joe’?” I’d have probably left to make it back to the city in time for happy hour.

We moved into many other areas, some of what I would consider big “hits,” and a few things that didn’t seem to make sense. At some point in the future, maybe I’ll go into them in greater detail.

All in all, Edward’s percentage was pretty good and resembled what happens on his television programs, which leads me to believe that those who have faith in Edward’s psychic ability aren’t drawn to that conclusion due to an overworked tape editor.

The close of the reading was the goose-bump inducer for us. The last thing Edward said was, “your daughter is taking credit for the picture or portrait that falls off the wall.”

So needless to say I spent the ensuing days searching for the electronic bug in my house.

Is it common for pictures of deceased loved ones to fall and for it to be blamed on said loved one? I wouldn’t doubt it. Would the “psychic” know this is a common occurrance? Absolutely. Do they say it in every reading? Not in the ones I’ve seen. Take it for what it’s worth, but it did add some spice to the reading.

All I can say about the reading of this skeptic and his wife is this: if John Edward is a total phony, he’s the best I’ve seen. He had just enough “hits” of things you couldn’t discover via Internet search or background check, and just enough “misses” to lead us to believe that a fraud who had done homework on us wouldn’t have gotten those things wrong. Or, is that part of the psychic’s intentional game?

Skeptics simply say this is playing the odds, and they could be right. My kids have a little electronic game called “20 Questions” where you pick an object, living or inanimate, and the game asks you 20 questions, never making it appear obvious it’s heading in the direction of your object of choice. Then it guesses. The game is almost always correct, and the first reaction of users is often “how’d it do that?” Some psychics are like the 20 Questions game.

That said, I’d defy any skeptic/magician who says he can duplicate what can be done by any good cold-reader to be at least as convincing as Edward. If any would like to try, I’m game. Edward had a shot to convince me, and now it’s only fair to give a skeptic a chance.

Many of us hit our knees every night and ask God, Jesus, or the entity of our choosing, for favors, healing, help, and plenty of other things, but if somebody else says they can “talk to the dead,” we call them kooks and/or frauds. I never wanted to be that type of person, since the hypocrisy would be overwhelming.

I never wanted to approach the study of psychic mediums with the assumption that “talking to the dead” is impossible, since investigating a topic based on a preconceived notion isn’t bound to harvest sound and unbiased results, and that’s what I think has happened whenever I listen to the “conclusions” of many skeptics.

As for John Edward, what I witnessed from this particular medium was in contradiction to reports I’ve read from many skeptics of “what happens” before, during and after a reading. I’m not over my skepticism of psychics, but as a result of our reading with John Edward, I’ve also developed a healthier skepticism of the skeptics — which is, all the way around, as it should be.

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Monday's Column: John Edwards' Vision for America

It’s 2007 already, but most importantly it’s Monday, which means it’s time once again for the “official” weekly column.

Today’s offering has to do with John Edwards, who last week announced that he’s once again seeking the Democrats’ nomination for president. The announcement was made in New Orleans, and for good reason. The devastated city is emblamatic of everything Edwards hopes will carry him into the White House.

Read “John Edwards milks Katrina raw” for the story.

Monday’s Column: John Edwards’ Vision for America

It’s 2007 already, but most importantly it’s Monday, which means it’s time once again for the “official” weekly column.

Today’s offering has to do with John Edwards, who last week announced that he’s once again seeking the Democrats’ nomination for president. The announcement was made in New Orleans, and for good reason. The devastated city is emblamatic of everything Edwards hopes will carry him into the White House.

Read “John Edwards milks Katrina raw” for the story.