Sometimes it’s relaxing to chill out with a good podcast. Granted, there are a lot more bad ones than good ones, but I feel safe steering you to one Alec Baldwin does for a public radio station in New York City. “Here’s The Thing” is the quintessential bare-bones audio undertaking; two terse talkers and a microphone.
Baldwin is the big surprise. Lionized as a figure of fun for playing Jack Donaghy on 30 Rock, he reveals himself on the podcast as a first-rate wordslinger. Well-informed on a variety of topics, he has mastered the difficult interviewing skill of knowing when not to talk. He also relishes throwing in unexpected queries to syncopate the customary serve-and-volley rhythm of broadcast conversations. If you listen to only one, I recommend Baldwin’s colloquy with David Letterman, hands down the best-ever interview of the reclusive late-night czar.
The podcast’s guest list has skewed toward Baldwin’s acquaintances from Hollywood and the Hamptons (Michael Douglas, Billy Joel and the like), but Baldwin excels in drawing out less prominent guests, such as trumpeter Herb Alpert, pediatric endocrinologist Dr. Robert Lustig and writer Erica Jong. No doubt there’s a slew of editing involved in boiling down so much lively chat, but the end result goes down good.
The one that caught my ear this week was a double-header with documentary filmmakers Anthony Baxter and Dylan Avery. Baxter is a Scot who examined American economic imperialism in You’ve Been Trumped, concerning a certain oddly-coiffed Manhattan financier anxious to build garish golf resorts where the game was invented. Avery is the auteur behind Loose Change, heralded as the Gone With The Wind of the “truther” movement, an aggregation that believes the events of September 11, 2001, were a government plot.
Now, I like a good conspiracy theory as well as the next guy, assuming the next guy is not Jason Bourne. I can’t be sure Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone and still wonder what Edwin Stanton really knew about the Lincoln hit. However, it stretches even my credulity to accept that the double-top-secret minions of Bush and Cheney could put their shoes on the right feet consistently, let alone orchestrate the elaborate mechanism of 9/11. That a provocateur blew up the Maine in 1898 or set up the Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1965, sure, maybe. That the number of people required to coordinate a covert implosion of the World Trade Center would not be noticed in a union town like NYC, not so much.
At any rate, Baldwin’s talk with Avery did what a good interview should, and that was to provoke examination of the product. Readily available for viewing online or through Netflix, Loose Change seemed to have pretty decent production values, and it raised quite a few questions about the physics of planes blowing up in skyscrapers.
Ultimately, though, I found the arguments less persuasive than some I read recently in a blog post concerned with another popular conspiracy theory: Who’s out to get Don Siegelman?
The former governor was hauled before the bar of justice yet again this month for sentencing, after a lengthy appeal of his 2006 conviction in federal court. Siegelman was given 78 months in the hoosegow for his wrongdoing and he apologized for his actions.
Worth examining, though, is the magistrate who handed out the time, federal judge Mark Fuller, and right now you can read a fascinating account by an author with the pen name “Publius IX” on the Wanted: Alabama Democrats blog. The conclusion the writer reaches is a drastic one, namely, that Mark Fuller deserves to be impeached.
In the tradition of journalist I.F. Stone, Publius constructs a meticulously researched and footnoted brief that deserves reading all the way through, but to pique your interest, perhaps a synopsis is in order. You may remember that Governor Don was gung-ho for an education lottery referendum in 1999, and hospital magnate Richard Scrushy was one of many businessmen who contributed to that campaign initiative, ponying up $250,000. (He would add another quarter-million to the kitty subsequently to help Siegelman pay down campaign debt.)
After the governor appointed the hospital mogul to a state hospital regulatory board, federal prosecutors of the Republican persuasion indicted Scrushy, Siegelman and two others for bribery and mail fraud, saying that the money had led to the appointment. Scrushy, in fact, had served on the board before under Republican governors Hunt and James, but even conservative columnist George Will acknowledged that the tradition of politicians showing tangible gratitude to fat-cat donors is not bribery, but politics as usual, especially in the present money-driven electoral climate.
Judge Fuller’s motivations, according to Publius, may have been a bit darker. He suggests, among other misdeeds, that Fuller’s rulings during the trial were uniformly in favor of the prosecution and that he did not inform the defense team of potential hanky-panky by a female juror.
Publius also asserts that Fuller should have recused himself altogether because of his multi-million dollar holdings in Doss Aviation. “Doss Aviation is extremely, if not exclusively, dependent on government contracts, many of them no-bid, that can disappear if the Air Force — or the administration in power —decides it isn’t happy with, say, the rulings of a leading shareholder,” Publius wrote. “The conflict of interest is obvious to even a layman.”
Publius even reveals that one of the prosecutors was a colonel in the Air Force JAG Corps, in a unit that routinely reviewed Doss Aviation contracts. The entire essay is troubling stuff, leading Publius to appeal for a congressional investigation, saying, “Fuller is so dirty, that whoever comes after him first is going to look like a cross between Mother Freaking Teresa and Clarence Darrow.”
Don Siegelman is scheduled to report to the penitentiary September 11. If you’re interested in conspiring to plot some justice, you’ll want to give the work of Publius IX a good, hard look.
Courtney Haden is a Weld columnist. Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.