Archive for the ‘Politics and culture’ Category

The Projection Party, again

Tuesday, May 9th, 2006

Letter I sent to the San Francisco Chronicle:
Editor –
Regarding this letter in the 5/8 edition:

Special privilege?

Editor — Congress must immediately conduct a full investigation regarding Rep. Patrick Kennedy’s 2:30 a.m. automobile accident in the Capitol Thursday morning (“Rep. Kennedy denies he was drinking before crash,” May 5)! His driver’s license should be permanently revoked and he must pay fines and do community service. Lastly, he must step down immediately!

Oh wait, he’s not a Republican. Never mind.

Menlo Park

I gather Lisa Cohen is a member in good standing of the Projection Party. How else to explain her remark?
Let’s not forget that it was the Republicans in Congress who ground the government to a halt a few years back, bleating about “the rule of law” all the while, to nail Bill Clinton to the wall over private behavior that caused no harm and had nothing whatsoever to do with his performance on the job.

We still have a Republican-controlled Congress, and that Congress can’t be bothered to dig into any of the countless crimes against “the rule of law” and common decency itself. Let’s start with the lies that led us to war in Iraq and work our way down the docket, past domestic spying, “signing statements,” the FEMA/Katrina debacle, and so on. Maybe eventually we’ll work our way down to Duke Cunningham’s hookers.

David Gans
UPDATE: The Chronicle published a response from Tom Wood today. An excerpt:

2. Patrick Kennedy recognized there was a problem, admitted his mistakes and took actions to rectify the situation; whereas, Republicans deny problems exists and shirk responsibility up to the moment they’re convicted.

His other points are good, too.

Meme of the month

Saturday, May 6th, 2006

I spotted this in a coffee store here in Oakland, where family values actually have something to do with human values:

“Was it Funny?” is irrelevant

Thursday, May 4th, 2006

My friend Eric Rawlins, quoted here with his permission:

Although I’m not surprised that the right would claim it was “not funny” — they can hardly argue with Colbert’s suggestions on their merit — whether what he did was funny strikes me as completely irrelevant. It’s as if Welch’s “have you no shame” speech had been followed by an extensive media debate on whether his tie was too loud.

Jon Bell’s screen shots of the crowd reaction.

Even still more on the Colbert Thing

Thursday, May 4th, 2006

Email I sent to Richard Cohen of the Washington Post just now:

Sorry, man, but you’re full of shit on this one.

The only other time we know of when Bush had a chance to hear dissenting views was when he invited the former secretaries of state etc. for a visit. He gave ’em the bum’s rush.

You say Colbert is “representative of what too often passes for political courage, not to mention wit, in this country.” I’d say not often enough.

What have you done lately to try to get us out of the mess we’re in thanks to Bush and the fools who let him come to power?

Still more on the Colbert thing

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2006

James Poniewozik in Time:

Colbert wasn’t playing to the room, I suspect, but to the wide audience of people who would later watch on the Internet. If anything, he was playing against the room – part of the frisson of his performance was the discomfort he generated in the audience, akin to the cringe humor of The Ali G Show. (Cringe humor, too, is something probably lost on much of the Washington crowd at the dinner, as their pop-culture tastes tend to be on the square side.) To the audience that would watch Colbert on Comedy Central, the pained, uncomfortable, perhaps-a-little-scared-to-laugh reaction shots were not signs of failure. They were the money shots. They were the whole point.

More on the Colbert thing

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2006

First of all, Daily Kos has a full transcript of the Stephen Colbert speech.
Dan Froomkin, in the Washington Post, says this:

Now the mainstream media is back with its second reaction: Colbert just wasn’t funny.

Yes, it turns out Colbert has brought the White House and its press corps together at long last, creating a sense of solidarity rooted in something they have in common: Neither of them like being criticized.

And this:

Once upon a time, I imagine, there was great value in throwing a party where journalists and politicians could mingle and shmooze and celebrate the things they have in common.

And indeed, if the press and this particular White House had an even moderately functional professional relationship, then a chance to build personal relationships would be a nice bonus.

But it’s not a functional professional relationship. From the president down to the freshest press office intern, this White House seems to delight in not answering even our most basic questions.

So the last thing in the world we need is a big party where the only appropriate mode of communication is sucking up.

Media Matters takes on the disgusting performance by Chris Matthews (aka “Tweety”) on Hardball:

Matthews praised Bush, Wallace, Snow, while he and Time‘s Allen panned Colbert


Later in the show, Matthews contrasted Colbert’s performance with Bush’s “unbelievable self-deprecating” comedy routine. When Allen asserted that Colbert, who skewered Bush and the White House press corps, “went over about as well as David Letterman at the Oscars,” Matthews asked: “Why do you think he was so bad?” Responding to Allen’s claim that “the standard at these dinners is singe, not burn,” Matthews assented: “The president’s our head of state, not just a politician.”

That Media Matters post has video of the Matthews segment. Vile.

Thank you, Stephen Colbert

Monday, May 1st, 2006

Stephen Colbert was the entertainment at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner over the weekend, and he took the opportunity to speak truth to power in a most breathtaking way.
George W. Bush was sitting just a few feet away, and he heard some things that if he’s intelligent enough to understand them should give him pause. But they won’t of course – that dangerously shallow man seems incapable of recognizing the damage he’s done to the countrym the human race, and the planet.
Colbert also took aim at the lapdog press, many of whom must also have done some squirming. And rightly so.
There’s a web site called “Thank You, Stephen Colbert” where you’ll find links to video of the event, plus some news coverage (although most of the mainstream media reports didn’t even mention Colbert!), and a place to sign in and thank Colbert for that he did.
By all means, watch the presentation.
Update:Colbert Rips the President a New One.” An excerpt:

As he walked from the podium the president and First Lady gave Colbert quick nods, unsmiling, and left. E&P’s Joe Strupp, in the crowd, observed that quite a few felt the material was, perhaps, uncomfortably biting.

Wasn’t it last year at the White House Correspondent’s dinner where the President did a HI-LARIOUS bit with some fake home movies showing him looking for those darned elusive WMD’s? And they weren’t there! It was a laff riot! I was laughing all the way to the 2300 odd military funerals!! Giggling as I donted money to help pay for over 10,000 wounded Americans!! Stop me before I piss myself with glee. But Colbert’s bit, that was OUT OF LINE, mister!!


The President was upset? Good. I hope the President was sleepless with rage. At least then he’d know how most of us have been spending every night for the last three years.

Update: Salon has an analysis that’s worth reading. An excerpt:

Then he turned to the president of the United States, who sat tight-lipped just a few feet away. “I stand by this man. I stand by this man because he stands for things. Not only for things, he stands on things. Things like aircraft carriers and rubble and recently flooded city squares. And that sends a strong message, that no matter what happens to America, she will always rebound — with the most powerfully staged photo ops in the world.”

It was Colbert’s crowning moment. His imitation of the quintessential GOP talking head — Bill O’Reilly meets Scott McClellan — uncovered the inner workings of the ever-cheapening discourse that passes for political debate. He reversed and flattened the meaning of the words he spoke. It’s a tactic that the cultural critic Greil Marcus once called the “critical negation that would make it self-evident to everyone
that the world is not as it seems.” Colbert’s jokes attacked not just Bush’s policies, but the whole drama and language of American politics, the phony demonstration of strength, unity and vision….”

Media Matters has more.

“I Hate Bill O’Reilly”: the book

Sunday, April 30th, 2006

There’s a new book, titled Sweet Jesus, I Hate Bill O’Reilly, based on the web site of the same name. These paragraphs cribbed from amazon:

From Booklist
The title says it all. There’s definitely no love lost between O’Reilly, host of the FOX Channel’s The O’Reilly Factor, and Amann and Breuer, founders of a Web site for which this book was named. Fashioned as an intervention to prevent O’Reilly from being any more outraged and outrageous than he already is, Amann and Breuer explore the myriad ways that O’Reilly attacks liberals but denies his conservatism, and disregards civil liberties and the simple truth. O’Reilly’s claim of “no-spin” objectivity is the primary target, as the authors cite numerous excerpts from transcripts of O’Reilly’s show to demonstrate his constant spin, contradiction, and misstatement. “The problem with simply calling Bill a liar is that one has to be aware of one’s lies for them to really be considered lies. We’re not sure Bill qualifies.” The charity ends there as the authors take O’Reilly to task for his sexual appetite (he settled a lawsuit by an associate producer who charged him with sexual harassment), his egomania (he makes constant references to his earnings, his ratings, his book sales versus those of his favorite targets, Al Franken and Hillary Clinton), and his outrageous statements (the nation’s poor should take a lesson from Hurricane Katrina and avoid poverty). Fans of O’Reilly will not be amused, but all other readers will find the book hilarious, though some may find the language occasionally offensive. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Book Description
Bill O’Reilly is a man who believes he is a voice of reason. He calls for boycotting Canada, says Adolf Hitler would have been a card-carrying member of the ACLU, and thinks Hurricane Katrina victims seen carrying televisions should be shot on sight.
Amann and Breuer – the creators of the hugely popular website — take a close look at O’Reilly’s own assertions and arguments — taken from his TV and radio shows, books and columns — to expose him for what he is: a self-righteous boob and a sham newsman. The ongoing themes explored in Sweet Jesus, I Hate Bill O’Reilly are that O’Reilly is a bit crazy, not all that sharp and, as the authors put it, about “as self-aware as a legume.” The result is a hilariously funny book, a great read for anyone who enjoys seeing a puffed-up blowhard taken down a notch or two — whether they’re an O’Reilly hater, fan, or something in between.

Politicians & the gas crisis

Friday, April 28th, 2006

Today’s SF Chronicle has two photos on the front page, with this caption:

House speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., departs in a hydrogen-powered car … after a news conference on gasoline prices in Washington – and then gets out and prepares to climb into a sport utility vehicle powered by gasoline…. Hastert and President Bush have called for an investigation into oil company profits.

The article, by Marc Sandalow, is titled “DRIVE LESS? POLITICIANS WON’T ASK: Republicans and Democrats rail against oil companies for the high price of gasoline — but they don’t dare suggest we change our ways”

“When Fascism comes to America…”

Friday, April 14th, 2006

“When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.” – Sinclair Lewis
This image is also posted on along with a complete collection of Grand Lake Theater marquees.

Stop using Jesus as a political battering ram

Sunday, April 9th, 2006

Garry Wills in today’s New York Times:

THERE is no such thing as a “Christian politics.” If it is a politics, it cannot be Christian. Jesus told Pilate: “My reign is not of this present order. If my reign were of this present order, my supporters would have fought against my being turned over to the Jews. But my reign is not here” (John 18:36). Jesus brought no political message or program.

This is a truth that needs emphasis at a time when some Democrats, fearing that the Republicans have advanced over them by the use of religion, want to respond with a claim that Jesus is really on their side. He is not. He avoided those who would trap him into taking sides for or against the Roman occupation of Judea. He paid his taxes to the occupying power but said only, “Let Caesar have what belongs to him, and God have what belongs to him” (Matthew 22:21). He was the original proponent of a separation of church and state.

Those who want the state to engage in public worship, or even to have prayer in schools, are defying his injunction: “When you pray, be not like the pretenders, who prefer to pray in the synagogues and in the public square, in the sight of others. In truth I tell you, that is all the profit they will have. But you, when you pray, go into your inner chamber and, locking the door, pray there in hiding to your Father, and your Father who sees you in hiding will reward you” (Matthew 6:5-6). He shocked people by his repeated violation of the external holiness code of his time, emphasizing that his religion was an internal matter of the heart.

Saturday, April 8th, 2006 is written by Susan DuQuesnay. Most of the pieces were published in The Fort Bend Star, a weekly newspaper in Tom DeLay’s hometown. According to the front page, “Susan DuQuesnay also maintains a website about Fort Bend politics (Tom’s home district) – and some semi-daily comments about Tom DeLay at”
Here’s a sample entry, from June 1 of last year:

Tom in TeeVee Guide
Tom has been fumin’ like a 200,000 mile pickup truck that the writers of the teevee show Law and Order took his name in vain. There’s laws against that. I’m not sure where those laws are written down but you might start checking stone tablets and mountaintops somewhere.

Law and Order had this teevee show where this detective guy was looking for a crook who shot a federal judge. With no clues or suspects, the detective said, “Maybe we should put out an APB for somebody in a Tom DeLay T-Shirt.” Uh huh, it was humorous. Somebody got paid a lot of money for coming up with that line and – rats! – it should have been me.

In reaction, Tom girded-up his loins and, with a straight face, stomped his foot about the “manipulation of my name.” Oh gosh, that’s gotta be awful for Hot Tub Tom, the Hammer. Can you even imagine someone manipulating his name? I’m mortified, mortified I tell you.

He also called it “a great disservice to public discourse.” No, seriously; he said that. A man who once stood on the House floor and made fun of people “with foreign sounding names” said that.

Rumor has it that instead of suing the writers, Tom has proposed that he write and produce the next show – Law & Order: Filibuster Victim’s Unit.

After checking my TeeVee Guide, I have discovered some more shows featuring Tom this week. Oh, give it up – you knew I would.

Desperate Housewives – Tom DeLay drops by to lecture the floozie housewives on their wicked ways and then gets drunk and nakkid in their hot tub.

Bonanza – In a repeat of a little known episode, Tom DeLay plays a snake oil salesman who fights the Indians by stealing all their food, clothes, and money. Hoss gets pissed-off and calls Sheriff Ronnie Earle.

MASH – War. Go boom! Danger! Ooowies! Tom DeLay nowhere to be found.

Everybody Loves Raymond – except Tom. Tom DeLay hates Raymond because Raymond does not go to church enough.

Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf – Jack Abramoff buys Tom DeLay a trip to the Master’s. DeLay still can’t hit a nine iron straight and keeps referring to Tiger Woods as “The Gentleman from the NAACP.”

FOX News – Tom DeLay good. Liberals bad. Rinse. Repeat.

West Wing – Special guest appearance by Congressman Tom DeLay. He says that he IS the Federal Government and C J Craig punches him out. Cold cocks him. Kicks him. Stomps his butt. Grinds her high heel into his foot. Whacks him upside the head for good measure. She wins an Emmy.

Gilligan Island – in this overlooked episode, Tom DeLay comes to the island and tries to set up sweat shops and a rudimentary sex tourism industry.

The Apprentice – Tom DeLay and Donald Trump get into a self-image contest. Neither wins, but the fallout of ego juice and bad hair-dos covers three states.

Will and Grace – Grace lands a job decorating a major hotel chain. Will must try a case against a really hunky opposing counsel. Jack attempts to date the offensive line of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tom experiences a terrifying lower abdominal tingle.

Judging Amy – and everybody else, the DeLay way! Tom DeLay visits to demonstrate how to slap down a judge. Episode two will be seen on Law and Order.

Hope and Faith – DeLay’s medical care package for America.

The King of Queens – Tom refuses to appear on this type of “activist show”.

Antiques Roadshow – Carlton Pierce III informs Tom that his antiquated political beliefs are worth “not a damn diddle.” His hair, however, is discovered to be a highly sought-after collector’s item.

This week on Star Trek: “I AM THE FEDERATION OF PLANETS!”

Extreme Makeover – Ty’s team gives Tom an extreme makeover by giving him a soul and a heart.

Medium – Tom enlists the help of Patricia Arquette to combat the unholy ghost of LBJ and Barry Bonds.

The Amazing Race – Can Tom outlaw boobies before the Johnson family reach Paris?

The Tony Danza Show – Tom’s appearance is so shocking that I am forbidden to discuss the specifics. I’ll offer three words: Fire, Brimstone, Bacardi

O’Reilly Factor – Loofah, falafel, and hot tubs – tales of latent homosexuality masquerading as insipid male conquests.

Fear Factor – In a moment of primal justice Tom DeLay forced to eat a live bug and a gallon of DDT to keep his House seat.

I just have one thought for the week. Why does Tom make this so easy for me?

Al Franken vs. the Thin White Puke

Thursday, April 6th, 2006

Al Franken’s Midwest Values Pac web site has the transcript of a speech Al gave, sharing the dais with Ann Coulter. An excerpt:

Let me give you an example of Ann lying by omission.

Also in her book Slander, Ann tells her readers that Al Gore had a leg up on George W. Bush when applying to their respective colleges. Harvard and Yale. Ann writes:

“Oddly, it was Bush who was routinely accused of having sailed through life on his father’s name. But the truth was the reverse. The media was manipulating the fact that – many years later – Bush’s father became president. When Bush was admitted to Yale, his father was a little-known congressman on the verge of losing his first Senate race. His father was a Yale alumnus, but so were a lot of other boys’ parents. It was Gore, not Bush, who had a famous father likely to impress college admissions committees.”

What does Ann omit? Well, that Bush’s grandfather Prescott Bush was also a Yale alum and had been Senator from Connecticut, the home state of Yale University. That Prescott Bush had been a trustee of Yale. That Prescott Bush had been the first chair of Yale’s Development Board – the folks who raise the money. That Prescott Bush sat on the Yale Corporation for twelve years. That Prescott Bush, like George W. Bush’s father, George H. W, Bush, had been a member of Skull and Bones. That the first Bush to go to Yale was Bush’s great great grandfather James Bush, who graduated in 1844. That in addition to his father, grandfather, and greatgreatgrandfather, Bush was the legacy of no less than twenty-seven other relatives who preceded him at Yale, including five great great uncles. Seven great uncles. Five uncles, and a number of first cousins.

Now why did Ann leave out these somewhat relevant facts? Ann grew up in Connecticut. Ann, did you really not know that Prescott Bush had been your senator when you were born?

Ann, is it possible that when Prescott’s son George H. W. Bush became president, it totally escaped your notice that his father had represented your state in the United States Senate? Did neither of your parents mention it in passing at the dinner table? Did no one at home in Darien make any comments about the new president’s lineage?

Understand. This isn’t sloppiness. This is deliberate. For Ann’s purposes – to claim that the media that was manipulating facts here – Ann herself had to manipulate facts – in such a shameless way. This is what she does.

Read the full transcript here, and post a comment if you’re so inclined.

But I’m not giving in an inch to fear…

Wednesday, April 5th, 2006

Mark Morford has a great rant in today’s San Francisco Chronicle. His point of departure is a new TV ad for home security systems, but Morford (correctly, in my opinion) recognizes it as another entry in the relentless campaign to Keep America Scared. Fear is good business, as the Republicans in particular and the entire world business culture know so very well. I’m fucking sick of it, and so is Mark Morford:

Jogger watches clean-cut yuppie husband disappear down street, stands up and drops his chin and his eyes turn evil and his face turns shadowy and he immediately pulls a black hoodie up over his head and turns toward yuppie couple’s walkway and begins to RUN FULL SPEED straight at yuppie couple’s front door and KICKS IT IN FULL FORCE OH MY GOD NO!

Ah! But yuppie wife remembered to arm fancy new security system! Alarm sounds! Beep beep beep! Intruder-rapist-jogger stops dead in his tracks! He is bewildered by all this crazy beeping and immediately turns around and runs off before he can get anywhere near blond trophy wife to (presumably) attack her with chain saws and eat her eyeballs and steal her pretty Franck Muller watch and laugh maniacally!

That yuppie utopian all-white dream house? That’s America, silly. Your overpriced security system? The Patriot Act. The “war on terror.” Wiretapping. Rumsfeld’s black and lethal heart. The trillion-dollar destruction of Iraq, a country that had little to do with angry rapist-joggers but who the hell cares because they’re all dark skinned and hateful and Muslim anyway, right? Of course they are.

I am sick, made nauseated, made furious by the relentless plays on phony childish fears. I have had enough of insidious horror movies and schlocky cop dramas and inane TV commercials right along with their ideological brethren in the NRA and the Department of Homeland Security and the sneering GOP, all of whom make hollow attempts to invent more dangers in the world for their own violence-laced agendas.
I am done, furthermore, with a villainous Republican-poisoned government whose sole agenda for the past five years has been to force the bitter cement of counterfeit fear into every joint and cranny of fluid and luminous life, all while brutally ignoring all the genuine problems and woes of the planet (global warming, poverty, abstinence programs, Ashlee Simpson, etc.). They are cretins and ideologues and they deserve a deep sense of shame.

Read the whole column.

TV everywhere

Friday, March 24th, 2006

I walked into the breakfast room at the Holiday In Express. There was one other couple in there, and I asked them if they’d mind if I turned off the TV. It was tuned to the Oxygen chanel, showing a movie, and no one was watching. No problem, said the couple.
As I ate my cereal, a hotel maid walked in, turn on the TV, tuned it to Fox News, and started to walk out of the room. She caught my eye, noted my distress, and – I don’t remember exactly what she said and what I said, but rather than turn it off she switched it to The Weather Channel.
I just wanted to scream, “DO WE HAVE TO LISTEN TO THIS NAZI PROPAGANDA?” She must have seen that on my face anyway.
(I caught a little bit of Fox News Channel in the breakfast room yesterday, too. The anchor-fellator was on w/ Dan Bartlett, and he began his interview by joking that he had asked Helen Thomas to write his hard-hitting questions. Then, of course, he went on to ask Bartlett how these goofy liberals have the nerve to suggest that the president is “dangerously incompetent.”)
It got me to thinking. Is it in thye hotel worker’s job description to turn the fucking TV set on? Does her church or NRA chapter or someone else encourage her to tune the damn TV to Fox News?
Never mind the greater question of why there has to be a fucking TV set on and blaring crap in every public space?