Shaving Is Not A Waste of Time

I like writing but I would probably not be a very good journalist.  Why?  Deadlines.  Every day starts with blank paper that has to be filled, and that clock never stops ticking.  Tick, tick, tick . . .  Man, that would drive me nuts.  I prefer to wait for inspiration, but those presses don’t wait.

Anti-Barack Obama demonstrator at an Obama ral...

Image via Wikipedia

Which brings me to today’s Joplin Globe editorial, a short essay of opinion in one of those white spaces that have to be filled.  Every day.  Hmm.  Today’s anonymous editorialist chose to tut-tut over president Obama’s decision to “waste time” by releasing his long-form birth certificate.  He or she felt this was a bad decision for a couple of reasons.  One, waste of presidential time when, “The budget needs fixing . . . our armed forces, on three fronts need backing.”  Second reason, that releasing the form would

encourage other wacko theories such as that Obama is a Muslim, a socialist or an alien from another planet.

I’ll be the first to admit that conspiracy theories are amusing to read about.  But their existence and current ubiquity are disturbing.  When some 40% of conservatives believe the birther nonsense, don’t you have to take it seriously?  It has to be frustrating, it seems to me, for a president who is trying to take his job seriously to know the print and the TV media are being distracted daily by this swill and to know from the polls that it is resonating with the public.  It seems to me that it was more of a waste of time to live with the distraction than to deal with it.

Self-Portrait shaving: mirror reflection

Image via Wikipedia

How much time do you think it took Obama to deal with the birth-certificate decision?  I mean, it’s not like he had to sit down himself and write a letter to Hawaii – he’s got people who do that for him.  If he’s like me, he probably made the decision in his mind while he was shaving.  (I do some of my best thinking while I’m shaving.)  Then, I’m guessing maybe 5 minutes of conversation, or less, with his chief of staff about the decision, and what, 2 or 3 minutes before the TV cameras explaining the obvious, that the birther stuff was a distraction we needed to put behind us, both for his sake and ours.  (Ours?  Yes.  The body politic needs to be thinking about fixing Medicare, not conspiracy theories.)  Was it a distraction for Obama?  It sure would have been for me – the birther stuff was nasty and personal.

What about the idea that releasing the form would encourage other conspiracy theories?  Well, it sure won’t discourage them, but I really don’t think it will encourage them either.  With the “cloud” of the internet we are in new information territory.  I have

Wordle Cloud of the Internet Marketing Blog - ...

Cloud of Internet Marketing, by DavidErickson via Flickr

just finished reading, “The Information” by James Gleick, which left zero doubt in my mind that this is so.  (Absolutely outstanding book, by the way, and destined to be seminal in its field.)  Never before in history has access to information, right, wrong and twisted, been so easy or so fraught with peril.  Nobody knows how this is going to come out, including whether a representative democracy can survive the mixture of information and misinformation that make up the cloud.  It is evolving into something, we know not what, even as we speak.  Distraction is here to stay, but I submit that it was not a waste of time to try to tamp it down.  Now, maybe Obama can think about Hamid Karzai, or whatever, while he’s shaving.

About Jim Wheeler

U. S. Naval Academy, BS, Engineering, 1959; Naval line officer and submariner, 1959 -1981, Commander, USN; The George Washington U., MSA, Management Eng.; Aerospace Engineer, 1981-1999; Resident Gadfly, 1999 - present. Political affiliation: Democratic.
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12 Responses to Shaving Is Not A Waste of Time

  1. ansonburlingame says:


    I hope you give me credit for NOT writing THAT editorial!!

    Now given the demise of the birther conspiracy ( I hope) I do have a new one however to consider. WHY DID HE WAIT SO LONG?

    I believe his delay in settling the issue was in fact a pretty slick political move. He drew out the crazies on the right and made fools out of them for two and a half years to his own poltical advantage.

    Dignity my ass. Right to privacy, Ha. He simply let opponents make fools of themselves and then really “trumped” their crazy ideas rather decisively. He could have done the same thing over the last two and a half years but simply “laid in the weeds”, probably with a smile on his face, then let loose when he choose to do so out of pure poltical calculation.

    Waste of his time, nope. Smart but still dirty politics. And he is, above all else a very GOOD politician. It is his leadership that simply sucks in my view.



    • Jim Wheeler says:

      Dirty politics, Anson, to delay releasing his long-form birth certificate? Dirty politics?

      Are you aware that the long form birth certificate contains enough detailed information that most people consider it an invasion of privacy? It’s true. The president released the short form and the press reported the birth announcement in the Honolulu paper, and it wasn’t enough for Donald Trump and his ilk. So the president finally tires of it, and releases the long form. And thats dirty politics? Really?

      While it might becleverpolitics, I simply can not buy the timing as dirty politics. I believe you are truly paranoid. What next? Are you going to embrace the calls from the lunatic fringe for the release of Obama’s college grades? How about his kindergarten grades? Maybe there’s some clue there about how this sinister takeover plot started, the one that now threatens the Homeland?

      You know, I try to be neutral, but when the president is restrained and the conservative right stoops to this crap, my sympathies go to the man under attack. Crap. You probably think I’m playing right into his evil hands. Hmm. How can one so clever be so sucky at leadership? What a mystery.



  2. ansonburlingame says:


    As you well know I never supported the birther movement. Read my comments long ago when Claire was confronted by local nuts at her town hall meeting.

    But the fact remains that the nuts continued to show their own bloomers until the long form was released. And now that it has been released the issue is even deader than it was before. Only the triple nuts on the right will suggest photo shop manipulation now. And you know as well as I do that as long as the radical right keeps this stuff up they diminish the changes of the reasonable right from defeating Obama in 2012.

    And probably now it will become a report card issue which is also ridiculous as well. Obama’s intelligence is demonstrated on a daily basis, separately from his judgement in very important matters. I don’t doubt his intelligence at all but take strong exception to his judgement which no report card will reveal. Now if he had a jail record??? Na, not to worry or call for such either!

    The left says the birther thing was a long and unnecessary distraction. I agree. So when something distracts you, get rid of it seems the simple ploy. He has now gotten rid of it, gained political points in doing so and comes out looking good in this trial by the media. My only question remains, why he did not do so sooner? Why now instead of two years ago and we could have been less distracted and more focused on things that mattered?

    Private information on the long form! What exactly and if it is there and is in fact a danger to the President’s personal privacy, then why not some effective white out along with an explanation of what exactly was whited out and why, like a SS number which of course he did not have at birth?

    But so what. It is over now. But there will long remain a lingering “stink” on both sides in this sorry affair. Oh yes. Please explain the difference between clever politics and dirty politics. Is such dependent on which side gains political points is such matters?



  3. Jim Wheeler says:


    Only OB knows why he did not reveal his long form sooner, but I would speculate that it’s because of the precedent that prominent officials almost never respond to such nutty requests for fear of encouraging MORE Trump-like behavior. However, this was a special case where the meme was clearly gaining public traction.

    The idea of issuing the long form with white-out spots on it? Sorry, but that’s downright laughable. If you think the crazies were rabid before on the issue, THAT would REALLY inflame them. What’s he trying to hide now? Man, I can just hear them!

    The crazies are legion. Last night in an insomniac episode I tuned across Coast-to-Coast AM, the nut network, and heard the host George Noory saying that people can believe whatever they want, but HE NEVER takes any of those vaccines! (You never know what the sinister government is going to slip into your VEINS!)

    What’s the difference between clever politics and dirty ones? It’s kinda like porn. I know it when I see it. Ha ha.

    I agree that there can be shades of gray in distinguishing the two, but not in this case. Nobody’s political headquarters was broken into. The timing here was neither nefarious nor sinister. If OB had released it early, the right would no doubt be pointing out to everyone how unprecedented that was – just as Trump strutted and puffed up over his great accomplishment in finally achieving that goal. You need to face this fact, Anson: the Radical Right would criticize OB whether he released it early OR late, and that criticism would resonate with their following either way.



  4. ansonburlingame says:


    And now we are in agreement, almost. Yes, the radical right will always attack Obama just like the left always attacked Bush II and now essentially any conservative candidate that dares raise his/her head to challenge Obama.

    Did you really absorb the enormity of Duane’s recent statement that he feared for the future of democracy if Obama is defeated in 2012. He and Gene Lyons write out of the same mold in my view. But then they have the right to be blindly (in my view) partisan.

    Duane, yesterday, posted a blog trying to show that Greenspan now believes the “market” failed and he has to rethink his own personal fundamentals. Maybe and then again maybe not. The clip shown was very short and we all know how Greenspan speaks in double speak. I posted a different view of perhaps why “free markets” have not yet gotten our fat out of the fire this time around. Be interesting to hear how screwed up those views might be from the left but I have not yet read further comments.

    And I hope that you agree that there are as many “crazies” on the left as on the right, maybe 5-10% of the entire left or right that vote, but who knows for sure.

    What does concern me however is that my view that about 80% of voters will support their own crazies by voting with them, regardless of how crazy they might become. Remember that any election with a greater than 55% “win” is today considered a landslide or “decisive victory” at least.

    I reach my limit as I suspect you do in some cases, OB being an example. No way could I vote for him so I took a chance (not really) and voted Democrat in that election. I ALMOST voted for Obama in 2008 and held my nose in voting for McCain.

    And unless something really unexpected happens in 2012 I will repeat that process.

    Frankly I am cynical enough to believe that neither Obama or whomever opposes him will be able to make dramatic differences in our real problem today, debt and deficits. The ONLY way that I see to make dramatic changes is for Dems to sweep both houses, with a filibuster beating majority in the Senate or for Reps (in 2012) to do the same and retake the White House as well. Then in either case we would see really big things become law, for at least two years!!

    And if such a sweeping majority vote occurred regardless of which side won, the other side might well begin taking to the streets with more than placards this time around.

    Look what happened in Wisconsin and put that situation on a national scale. Not a pretty sight in my view.

    But for Duane it seemed to be just fine for unions to take over the house of legislation in Wisconsin. Imagine a loud group of Tea Party supporters doing that in Congress post 2012 results that “put them back in a box”.

    United We Stand, Divided We Fall, seems to be pertinent in today’s politics in America. And my view of what will resolve the issue remains the looming “cliff”. Spending more than one makes over time is such a simple economic law, and when violated produces dire results (bankruptcy, foreclosure, poverty, crime, you name it).

    Yet we remain locked in stalemate to stop doing such either by raising revenue or cutting spending or, which I prefer, doing both rather dramatically. But having said that and written such sentiments for a year or so now NOTHING has changed within these blog pages from left or right.

    Instead, we spend a week denigrating or supporting REL, for Christ’s sake. And why did three grown men do so? Well I was deeply suspicious and remain so that Duane and maybe you really thinks that all conservatives are like slavery supporters in 1861.

    Now go read the left hand comments when I suggest that homelessness almost always is a matter of personal choice, in my view. No not an immediate personal choice on a cold night, but ultimately a personal choice because of bad personal decisions along the way for perhaps years in their “chosen” lifestyle.

    Believe you me I have sat in many rooms for the last 11 years hearing former homeless people say EXACTLY that as they tell their sad personal stories. But in the rooms in which I sit and listen I frequently here “good endings” to those tragic stories and it did not cost anyone a nickel for sad stories to become stories of ultimate triumph.

    So based on such personal and poinant experiences I must usually ask, “If THEY can do it, why not others”? And the answer is ALWAYS because “they” had the guts to roll up their sleeves and just “do it”.

    And I will also note that when anyone “does it” (literally pull themselves up by their own boot straps) they NEVER return to the “streets”. Humble means, yes, but starving, dirty, without shelter, never. And such sentiments are not just applicable to recovery from addiction though that is a big one for sure to relieve social concerns today.



    • Anson,

      You asked Jim, “Did you really absorb the enormity of Duane’s recent statement that he feared for the future of democracy if Obama is defeated in 2012.”

      When I read that, I thought I must have been in a coma or something the last few days. I don’t remember fearing for the future of democracy, should Obama go down to defeat, and I certainly don’t remember writing about it. Then I remembered that you sometimes have trouble reading all the words in a piece, preferring to substitute some of your own.

      Thus, I realized, thankfully, that I was not the one who had been in a coma.



  5. Jim,

    Thanks for writing this piece. I started to write a very similar one, but just couldn’t get motivated to point out the absurdity of blaming Obama for the birther issue, as Anson and others on the Right have done. To say that it was dirty politics is, well, you took care of that one.



  6. I don’t think that the released birth certificate will convince many of the birthers. They’ll mostly dismiss it as a ‘fake’. They’re very emotionally invested in thinking the President is a an alien and nothing will change their mind. I don’t think he should have released the document at this point. During the campaign it might have made some sense, it below the dignity of a sitting president to do this.


  7. ansonburlingame says:

    Jim and Duane,

    First, in a comment on one of his recent blogs Duane indeed expressed grave concern for democracy and the future of America. I will now have to go back and hunt for the exact quote. He also may recall my traditional OMG in response to his written words.

    As for blaming Obama for the birther issue, that is ridiculous. The crazies on the right are to blame. BUT, because it was such a devisive issue for two and a half years I question WHY the President did not end it long ago as he has now done.

    Stringing out a devise issue for years when real proof was available, proof that even crazies cannot dispute is some kind of “bad” politics in my view. Dirty or clever, who cares. BAD politics for ALL Americans it was and I would like to know WHY it was allowed to be perpetuated.

    Dignity, privacy, whatever are not good enough for me. Any president lives in a fishbowl, like it or not. When unjustified personal attacks are launched and the proof to refute them is on hand, then why not just prove them wrong, shake your finger in their faces then move on to something far more important for ALL Americans.



    • Jim Wheeler says:

      Your persistence on pursuing this issue of timing of the birther issue, Anson, prompts me to wonder about a similar issue with Bush II. It was long rumored that Bush II’s academic record was poor, perhaps so poor that he was only graduated from Yale because of his family’s political connections. Do you feel that Bush should have released his academic records in order to quell such rumors?



  8. ansonburlingame says:

    To all,

    Here is what Duane wrote:

    “It’s funny but I have wondered the same thing about the continued existence of a representative democracy in the age of instantly propagatable misinformation. In fact, it scares me greatly to ponder, but hopefully I’m just under the influence of our present age, what with talk radio and Fox and the right-wing nuttery on the Internet (the left-wing nuttery is relatively weak).”

    He then went on to bemoan whether or not the President would be reelected in view of such “right-wing nuttery”. And to suggest that the left wing “nuts” are “weak” need I only point out some of the more famous quotes from the Dem Speaker of the House for several years. He in turn will provide quotes from the current Speaker.

    Then we can argue of who exactly is a “nut”.



  9. ansonburlingame says:

    To all,

    My “persistence”?

    Please note that I have not written a blog, column, proposed editorial, or anything else publicly on this issue of the birth certificate. All that I have “persisted” in doing is responding to ridicule of most things conservative from Duane on this issue.

    And you in your own blog have supporter Duane to a degree. Thus I have persisted in rebutting both of your views. And I have done so ONLY by asking a straight forward question “Why take so long to produce ultimate proof?”

    The only answer I have received is Dignity, privacy, nothing will ever satisfy “nuts”, etc. And now you ask me if I think Bush (or Obama) should release academic records. Need I say NO!

    Can we stick to one simple point first. Why delay with proof in the case of the birth certificate? Of course I have answered by own question. It was pure politics and nothing else to make fools out of people that were already fools.

    You and Duane dispute that view. Fine. And once again left and right stalemate, but in this case a ridiculous issue in the first place.

    I also note that for now two weeks or so these blogs have primarily focused on REL and the birth certificate.

    I wonder what the really important issues affecting America today might be. Whatever they might be I also suspect, as with birth certificates, left and right in these “small” pages in a small city in the Midwest, will ultimately reach yet another stalemate.

    The point of that last paragraph, in case I need to emphasize it, is that such a stalemate reflects the mood of the entire country in anything, trivial or important. Both sides will accuse each other of intranscience, nothing is “agreed” upon to any extent and the energizer bunny just keeps heading for the cliff. Big cliffs make any high tech batteries fail. And sadly that seems to be the only way to quiet both sides down, take out their “batteries”.



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