I'm Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics at UNC Chapel Hill. My interests are broad and my politics rather more progressive than most.
Stephen Colbert delivers a mock tribute to President Bush at the 2006 White House Correspondents' Dinner Political Humor Stephen Colbert at the White House Correspondents' Dinner Transcript of Colbert's Presidential Smackdown Following is the transcript of Stephen Colbert's comedy routine at the 2006 White House Correspondents' Dinner (video available here): Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. Before I begin, I've been asked to make an announcement. Whoever parked 14 black bulletproof SUVs out front, could you please move them? They are blocking in 14 other black bulletproof SUVs, and they need to get out. Wow! Wow, what an honor! The White House Correspondents' dinner. To actually -- to sit here at the same table with my hero, George W. Bush, to be this close to the man. I feel like I'm dreaming. Somebody pinch me. You know what? I'm a pretty sound sleeper; that may not be enough. Somebody shoot me in the face. Is he really not here tonight? Damn it! The one guy who could have helped. By the way, before I get started, if anybody needs anything else at their tables, just speak slowly and clearly into your table numbers. Someone from the NSA will be right over with a cocktail. Mark Smith, ladies and gentlemen of the press corps, Madame First Lady, Mr. President, my name is Stephen Colbert, and tonight it is my privilege to celebrate this president, ‘cause we're not so different, he and I. We both get it. Guys like us, we're not some brainiacs on the nerd patrol. We're not members of the factinista. We go straight from the gut. Right, sir? That's where the truth lies, right down here in the gut. Do you know you have more nerve endings in your gut than you have in your head? You can look it up. Now, I know some of you are going to say, "I did look it up, and that's not true." That's 'cause you looked it up in a book. Next time, look it up in your gut. I did. My gut tells me that's how our nervous system works. Every night on my show, The Colbert Report, I speak straight from the gut, okay? I give people the truth, unfiltered by rational argument. I call it the "No Fact Zone." FOX News, I hold a copyright on that term. I'm a simple man with a simple mind. I hold a simple set of beliefs that I live by. Number one, I believe in America. I believe it exists. My gut tells me I live there. I feel that it extends from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and I strongly believe it has 50 states, and I cannot wait to see how the Washington Post spins that one tomorrow. I believe in democracy. I believe democracy is our greatest export. At least until China figures out a way to stamp it out of plastic for three cents a unit. As a matter of fact, Ambassador Zhou Wenzhong, welcome. Your great country makes our Happy Meals possible. I said it's a celebration. I believe the government that governs best is the government that governs least. And by these standards, we have set up a fabulous government in Iraq. I believe in pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps. I believe it is possible. I saw this guy do it once in Cirque du Soleil. It was magical! And though I am a committed Christian, I believe that everyone has the right to their own religion, be you Hindu, Jewish or Muslim. I believe there are infinite paths to accepting Jesus Christ as your personal savior. Ladies and gentlemen, I believe it's yogurt. But I refuse to believe it's not butter. Most of all, I believe in this president. Now, I know there are some polls out there saying that this man has a 32% approval rating.1/12/08 7:41 PM Loading “Colbert Bush Roast Transcript - Stephen Colbert Bush Transcript” Page 2 of 2 http://politicalhumor.about.com/od/stephencolbert/a/colbertbush.htm?p=1 But guys like us, we don't pay attention to the polls. We know that polls are just a collection of statistics that reflect what people are thinking in "reality." And reality has a well-known liberal bias. So, Mr. President, please, please, pay no attention to the people that say the glass is half full. 32% means the glass -- important to set up your jokes properly, sir. Sir, pay no attention to the people who say the glass is half empty, because 32% means it's 2/3 empty. There's still some liquid in that glass is my point, but I wouldn't drink it. The last third is usually backwash. Okay. Look, folks, my point is that I don't believe this is a low point in this presidency. I believe it is just a lull before a comeback. I mean, it's like the movie Rocky. Alright? The President, in this case, is Rocky Balboa, and Apollo Creed is everything else in the world. It's the tenth round. He's bloodied. His corner man, Mick, who in this case, I guess, would be the Vice President, he's yelling, "Cut me, Dick, cut me!" And every time he falls, everyone says, "Stay down, Rocky! Stay down!" But does he stay down? No. Like Rocky, he gets back up, and in the end he -- actually loses in the first movie. Okay, doesn't matter. Doesn’t matter. The point is it is the heart-warming story of a man who was repeatedly punched in the face, so don't pay attention to the approval ratings that say that 68% of Americans disapprove of the job this man is doing. I ask you this, does that not also logically mean that 68% approve of the job he's not doing? Think about it. I haven't... This About.com page has been optimized for print. To view this page in its original form, please visit: http://politicalhumor.about.com/od/stephencolbert/a/colbertbush.htm ©2007 About.com, Inc., a part of The New York Times Company. All rights reserved.
January 13, 2008, New York TimesSay What You WillBy JEFFREY ROSENFREEDOM FOR THE THOUGHT THAT WE HATEA Biography of the First Amendment.By Anthony Lewis.221 pp. Basic Books. $25.Throughout his long career as an author and a reporter and columnist for The New York Times, Anthony Lewis has been one of the most inspiring advocates of a heroic view of the American judiciary. Each year I read aloud to my criminal procedure students the final paragraphs of “Gideon’s Trumpet,” Lewis’s definitive account of the 1963 Supreme Court case that recognized a constitutional right to court-appointed counsel. They never fail to bring a lump to the throat — at least to mine. In his new book, “Freedom for the Thought That We Hate,” Lewis offers a similarly heroic account of how courageous judges in the 20th century created the modern First Amendment by prohibiting the government from banning offensive speech, except to prevent a threat of serious and imminent harm. “Many of the great advances in the quality — the decency — of American society were initiated by judges,” he writes. “The truth is that bold judicial decisions have made the country what it is.”It’s easy to see why Lewis came to view judges as brave protectors of First Amendment rights: he covered the Supreme Court during the Warren era, when the modern First Amendment took shape, and he recalls Justice Felix Frankfurter’s showing him an eloquent 1929 dissent by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. that defended the free speech rights of Quakers and pacifists and that inspired the title of this book. “When I came to the final paragraph,” Lewis says, “I felt the hair rise on the back of my neck.” But this is not a comprehensive narrative history of the development of the modern First Amendment; Lewis already provided that in his 1991 book, “Make No Law.” Instead, it is a passionate if discursive essay that ranges across a variety of free speech controversies — from sedition and obscenity to hate speech and secret wiretapping. This may seem like winner’s history, but the victories Lewis celebrates remain controversial. There are persistent voices, in Europe and America, that continue to argue for suppressing hate speech on university campuses, for example; Lewis rightly applauds the fact that American courts have rejected their arguments.Still, the most surprising and provocative occasions are those when Lewis himself departs from civil libertarian free speech orthodoxy. He is not, it turns out, a fan of an unqualified federal shield law that would protect reporters from the obligation to reveal their anonymous sources in criminal cases. The press “is not always the good guy,” he writes, citing its support for the unjust prosecution of the atomic scientist Wen Ho Lee, and he praises judges who balance the costs and benefits of protecting anonymous sources in each case. He criticizes the Supreme Court for extending its most stringent protections in libel suits not only to government officials but also to movie stars and other temporary celebrities. He would allow citizens to recover damages for certain invasions of privacy when editors and reporters are “negligent in making their mistakes, rather than what is harder to prove,” when “their falsification was deliberate or reckless.” And, in the wake of the London bombings of July 2005, he would allow the prosecution of “speech that urges terrorist violence to an audience some of whose members are ready to act on the urging” — without the need to prove a risk of imminent danger, as current United States law requires.All of Lewis’s proposals reflect his faith that the judiciary is well equipped to balance the value of free speech against other values (like privacy and national security) in a thoughtful and independent way. But is he too optimistic? There is a competing, decidedly less heroic account of First Amendment history, which holds that judges have always tended to reflect the public’s prejudices about unpopular speakers, and that most advances for free speech have been initiated not by judges, as Lewis argues, but by political activism. It was abolitionists, in the 1830s, who first argued that Southern states shouldn’t be able to ban antislavery tracts because of the remote possibility they might provoke an insurrection; the Supreme Court took another 130 years to enshrine the underlying principle into law. Similarly, the court began to protect political dissidents like Communists and Ku Klux Klan members in the late 1960s, not in the 1920s and 1950s — that is, only when they were no longer perceived as a serious threat by national majorities.Lewis’s faith in judges also presumes that free speech controversies will take the same form in the future as they have in the past — namely, as legal battles between an overreaching government and the institutional press, with the judiciary as a neutral arbiter. But is this really likely? The rise of new technologies suggests that the free speech battles of the future may instead pit telecom corporations against private speakers, leaving judges on the sidelines. Consider Verizon’s recent decision to block abortion rights text messages by Naral Pro-Choice America from its mobile networks. (Under pressure, Verizon rescinded the decision but stood by its position that it can decide which messages to transmit.) As several scholars have argued, the solution to this problem of corporate censorship — open-access rules of “net neutrality” that would require telecom operators to make their services available to all speakers on equal terms — is in the hands of Congress and the Federal Communications Commission rather than the courts. No matter how heroic our judges, they’re not well positioned to make regulatory policy.Moreover, as the traditional news media continue to be challenged by the Internet, the privacy and libel battles of the future won’t be the lopsided affairs Lewis describes — for example, Life magazine and its corporate power versus invasion-of-privacy victims who had no other outlets in which they could set the record straight. Instead, now that everyone with a modem is a potential journalist, we may see more cases in which individual bloggers or small publications attack one another over what are essentially differences of factual nuance. In Britain, which does not require libel plaintiffs to show deliberate falsehood, the lively journal LM (formerly Living Marxism) was bankrupted and forced to close in 2000 after being successfully sued by Independent Television News, which objected to an article charging it had sensationalized its coverage of a Bosnian detention camp. In the age of the blogosphere, inaccurate or intrusive attacks may be better shrugged off as the equivalent of snarky dinner-party gossip than treated as the occasion for lawsuits. But as more material is posted without editors, public discourse is likely to become more brutal and invasive at the same time that it becomes less amenable to judicial oversight.In the 21st century, the heroic First Amendment tradition may seem like a noble vision from a distant era, in which heroes and villains were easier to identify. But that doesn’t diminish the inspiring achievements of First Amendment heroism. Conservative as well as liberal judges now agree that even speech we hate must be protected, and that is one of the glories of the American constitutional tradition. Anthony Lewis is right to celebrate it.Jeffrey Rosen is a law professor at George Washington University. His book “The Supreme Court: The Personalities and Rivalries That Defined America” has just been published in paperback.
Taxi to the Dark Side interview on NPR:http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/fairgame/local-fairgame-665828.mp3
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