Thank You, Stephen Colbert

Daily Kos: “But, listen, let’s review the rules. Here’s how it works: the president makes decisions. He’s the decider. The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Just put ’em through a spell check and go home. Get to know your family again. Make love to your wife. Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration. You know – fiction!”

Savage Hypocrisy

October 17, 2002: Dan Savage writes, “These developments–a Republican administration recognizing that support for dictators in Third World countries is a losing proposition; a commitment to post-WWII-style nation-building in Iraq–are terrific news for people who care about human rights, freedom, and democracy. They also represent an enormous moral victory for the American left….”

2006: Dan Savage creates ITMFA. “Did the world need another anti-Bush slogan? Did we need another anti-Bush website? Instead of launching the campaign, I punted, asking my readers what they thought. Well, they thought we should go for it—and my readers are usually right about this stuff.”

Yo, Dan, step aside, shut the hell up and leave this to the professionals. Believe it or not, some of us have been against Bush and the war from Day One.

(via Atrios)

Well, That Didn’t Go Very Well, Did It?

From this morning’s press conference with President Bush:

THE PRESIDENT: Part of that meant to make sure that we didn’t allow people to provide safe haven to an enemy. And that’s why I went into Iraq — hold on for a second —

Q They didn’t do anything to you, or to our country.

THE PRESIDENT: Look — excuse me for a second, please. Excuse me for a second. They did. The Taliban provided safe haven for al Qaeda. That’s where al Qaeda trained —

Q I’m talking about Iraq —

THE PRESIDENT: Helen, excuse me. That’s where — Afghanistan provided safe haven for al Qaeda. That’s where they trained. That’s where they plotted. That’s where they planned the attacks that killed thousands of innocent Americans.

I also saw a threat in Iraq. I was hoping to solve this problem diplomatically. That’s why I went to the Security Council; that’s why it was important to pass 1441, which was unanimously passed. And the world said, disarm, disclose, or face serious consequences —

Q — go to war —

THE PRESIDENT: — and therefore, we worked with the world, we worked to make sure that Saddam Hussein heard the message of the world. And when he chose to deny inspectors, when he chose not to disclose, then I had the difficult decision to make to remove him. And we did, and the world is safer for it.

Q Thank you, sir. Secretary Rumsfeld — (laughter.)

Other mysteries: 1. Did the hand gestures confuse Bush? 2. Who is “the new guy?” 3. The next time anyone asks me a tough question, can I say “I’ve got lunch with the President of Liberia right now” to get out of it?

Twain & Dubya

Maud Newton has written an article on Mark Twain for the American Prospect. Being a Twain junkie and a regular Maud Newton reader, I of course read this article and tried very hard to believe every word of it.  But I cannot subscribe to one of her assertions. 

For one thing, there is no way that Twain, even with his prodigious imagination, could have anticipated the ascendency, let alone the second-term victory, of such a volatile and ridiculous figure as Geoge W. Bush.  He is, even now in the 21st century, too surreal, incompetent and dangerous a cattleman for even the most cynical of spirits to conjure up. 

During Twain’s time, of course, the high watermark of presidential insanity was Theodore Roosevelt.  As Twain wrote in a letter to the New York Times (March 6, 1908):

Our people have adored this showy charlatan as perhaps no impostor of his brood has been adored since the Golden Calf, so it is to be expected that the Nation will want him back again after he is done hunting other wild animals heroically in Africa, with the safeguard and advertising equipment of a park of artillery and a brass band.

If Twain were alive today, it is likely that he would have blasphemed Bush for similar reasons, but I am not certain if his constitution would have weathered the stunning fear and remarkable self-immolation with which the American public rushed to the ballot boxes a little more than a year ago.

New Orleans — The Abandoned Stepchild

New York Times: “We are about to lose New Orleans. Whether it is a conscious plan to let the city rot until no one is willing to move back or honest paralysis over difficult questions, the moment is upon us when a major American city will die, leaving nothing but a few shells for tourists to visit like a museum. We said this wouldn’t happen. President Bush said it wouldn’t happen. He stood in Jackson Square and said, ‘There is no way to imagine America without New Orleans.’ But it has been over three months since Hurricane Katrina struck and the city is in complete shambles.” (via Ghost in the Machine)

[RELATED LINK: It looks like the New Orleans Public Library is also in serious trouble, with a whole slew of city history threatened. (Thank you, Dan Wickett.)]

Stop the Illegal Marriages in Texas!

The people of Texas have spoken. They have passed Proposition 2, which states:

This state or a political subdivision of this state may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage.

The time has come for Texas to form the Marriage Police to enforce this law. We need to see special forces units bursting into homes and tearing husbands and wives apart. All marriages must be annulled! No more marriages can happen! This is the will of the Texas people and the letter of the law.

Since sodomy was legislated as a misdemeanor (until State v. Morales, 869 S.W. 2d 941 overturned it), and there is a spirit among Texas voters to legislate against any unsual sort of sex outside of marriage, and since, after passing Proposition 2, there is likely a considerable sum of illegal marriages now being practiced among some 20 million Texans, we must therefore conclude that sex within marriage is the only acceptable form that Texas supports. Of course, since Texas can no longer “create or recognize any legal status identical to marriage,” the time has come to arrest any Texan copulating with someone they may identify as “spouse.” There shall no longer be any marriages in Texas and there shall no longer be any fornication outside of marriage. Which means, in short, that there can no longer be any fornication at all!

I trust the majority of the Texas people, who have always been a pigheaded and law-abiding sort, to enforce this law fully, starting of course with George and Laura Bush, who were married on November 5, 1977 at the Glass Chapel of First United Methodist Church in Midland, Texas. Give this “First Lady” her marching orders right now, George. Your Texas marriage is no longer recognized and you are, as a result, living in sin. In the White House no less! Or marry her in another state, if you truly want to preserve the legal status of your marriage.

The Madness of King George

For the first time in Bush’s presidency, the majority of Americans has serious reservations about Dubya. And it only going to get lower. Not Nixon low, but close enough to strike blood. Little George Fauntleroy, of course, believes, “The way you earn credibility with the American people is to set a clear agenda that everybody can understand, an agenda that relates to their lives, and get the job done.”

But that’s just George’s problem. The American people clearly understand the problem and the disapproval is getting close to including just about everybody. This abomination of a leader has kissed so many girls and made them cry that running away only makes him look even more incompetent.

I’m wondering how many more lives or pennies per gallon it will take to get the approval rating down to the twenties. I’m wondering how much demonstratable corruption, dug up by Fitzgerald or the Phase 2 committee, it will take. Of course, it could be as simple as getting both houses back in next year’s midterm election, assuming there’s more Demo spine to stand on.

Music Preview: George Bush, “Exile on Bourbon Street”


1. Let the Niggers Rot in New Orleans
2. It Might Take Years
3. Don’t Need No Aid
4. It’s Always Time for Vacation
5. Wal-Mart Comes First
6. Glad I Never Had to Hack My Way Out of an Attic
7. Nature Ain’t As Bad As a Terrorist
8. Bootstrap Boogie
9. Zero Tolerance
10. It’s Hard Work
11. Flying High at a Press Conference
12. They’ll Forget This Week Next Year

Always. Be. Listening.

We’re in meetings most of the day, but in the meantime:

To paraphrase Alec Baldwin from Glengarry Glen Ross: “The States are weak?” Fucking States are weak? You’re weak. I’ve been a citizen of this nation for thirty-one years. FUCK YOU, that’s my name!! You know why, Mister? ‘Cause you drove your daddy’s oil money to get here tonight, I drove a car that I purchased with my own cash. THAT’S my name! And your name is “you’re wanting.” And you can’t play in a man’s game. You can’t win this war. And you go home and tell your wife your troubles.

The “We Battled Insomnia with Gin Last Night and the Gin Won, But Heaven Help the Fallout” Roundup

  • The fantastic Carrie Frye points to the Word Nerds, a podcast devoted to “the effect of Internet communication” and various language-related issues. I’ll definitely be checking it out, as soon as I finally finish the next installment of my own damn podcast.
  • So according to the Associated Press, the book world “is still searching for this year’s great American novel,” eh? There are endless ways that I can answer this, but for now I’ll point again to Lee Martin’s The Bright Forever and Kirby Gann’s Our Napoleon in Rags as two books that I’ve enjoyed very much this year and, in my view, do indeed cut the mustard. Perhaps the key here is to stop thinking about the big boys and dare to delve into the little ones.
  • Dan Wickett doesn’t read Playboy for the pictures or the articles. No, sir, he’s reading it for the literature. I knew about the four-bunny system for books, because I actually had a Playboy subscription at the age of sixteen, in which I would secretly run to the mailbox and grab the latest issue covered in black plastic. (Remind me sometime to tell you the tale of what happened when I was finally caught and how I talked my way out of it.) The nice thing about this was that it allowed me to outgrow a reliance upon visual prurience and apply my perverted sentiments to everyday discourse without shame and of course evolve my unabated interest in breasts. But if the likes of Robert Coover can be found within Playboy‘s pages, then I may have to pick up a subscription. I have to wonder, however, if Mr. Wickett is secretly on Hefner’s payroll.
  • Dubya actually reads serious books? Apparently, some of the books that he’s taken on a five-week summer sojurn are Mark Kurlansky’s Salt: A World History, Alexander II: The Last Great Tsar (which seems peculiarly apt) and John M. Barry’s The Great Influenza.
  • The Gothamist talks with Foop! author Chris Genoa.
  • Another celebrity reading slacker: Noel Gallagher, who only just started reading fiction with Angels and Demons (“my first ever book. Believe it or not, it is.”). In the same article, Hester Lacey suggests that to dismiss someone who hasn’t read “seems both sweeping and snobbish.” Oh come on, Hester. We’re talking Dan Brown here. If Victoria Beckham has not even read Green Eggs and Ham, should her raison d’etre not be suspect?
  • The new China Miéville short story collection, Looking for Jake, gets an early look at SFF World.
  • What the hell was I thinking with the gin? Head hurts. More later.

Bush to Grow Moustache to Seal Orwell’s Prophecy

“The hallway smelt of boiled cabbage and old rag mats. At one end of it a coloured poster, too large for indoor display, had been tacked to the wall. It depicted simply an enormous face, more than a metre wide: the face of a man of about forty-five, with a heavy black moustache and ruggedly handsome features. Winston made for the stairs. It was no use trying the lift. Even at the best of times it was seldom working, and at present the electric current was cut off during daylight hours. It was part of the economy drive in preparation for Hate Week. The flat was seven flights up, and Winston, who was thirty-nine and had a varicose ulcer above his right ankle, went slowly, resting several times on the way. On each landing, opposite the lift-shaft, the poster with the enormous face gazed from the wall. It was one of those pictures which are so contrived that the eyes follow you about when you move. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, the caption beneath it ran.” — George Orwell, 1984


Primer: Winner of the Sundance Grand Jury Prize and the Alfred P. Sloan Prize. The film was made for $7,000, doesn’t appear to have a distribution deal yet, but somehow manages to involve time travel and ethics in its plot. The intricate story has also caused a lot of people to scratch their heads, which has resulted in several unclaimed ski caps left at theatres.

As if the Whitbread isn’t enough, Mark Haddon has walked away with another award — this time, from the South Bank Show. The British literary community is up in arms about this, trying to convince committees that “enough is enough.” An anonymous Important Literary Person has made calls, noting that, while The Curious Dog is a great book, Haddon has simply won too much praise and that there won’t be enough praise for the rest of the books.

Alexandra Ripley, author of Scarlett, has died. Several publishers, upon hearing the news, have been trying to determine which great Ripley book they can pilfer a sequel out of. Unfortunately, Ripley was no Margaret Mitchell. And no publisher wants to be reminded of how much they backed Ripley’s attempt to cash in, let alone the other stuff she wrote.

Prima facie that the New Yorker is overinfluenced by vapid McSweeney’s-like pop cultural riffs: “Boswell’s Life of Jackson”. (And Menudo is referenced in the first sentence. Oh no.)

James Fallows annotates the State of the Union address.

The Boston Globe interviews Tibor Fischer and Fischer comes across, no surprise, as a smug son of a bitch. Not only does he compare himself to Shakespeare, but he lauds cheapshots: “I’m with Amis, and so although in ‘Voyage’ I do have laughs at the expense of foreigners — so did Shakespeare — I also allow characters for whom English is not their first language to express dismay when someone British doesn’t know an arcane piece of English vocabulary: ‘It’s your language,’ they say.”

And to hell with the Golden Globes. How about a real award? Best Lead In A Rising Up and Rising Down Review: “For the past decade, it seemed Sacramento-based novelist William T. Vollmann was neck and neck in a war of prolificacy with Richard Powers, David Foster Wallace, and anyone else who would take him on. With ‘Rising Up and Rising Down,’ he has put the issue to rest.” And I truly feel sorry for John Freeman, who, like all reviewers, read all 3,500 pages from a CD-ROM.

Lizzie Grubman (not to be confused with this Lizzie) is returning to the social scene. This may be the first time in New York history that first-hand accounts of road rage are discussed over caviar.

At long last, a New York Times I want to see. (via Old Hag, courtesy of Pullquote)

Pynchon’s voice on The Simpsons. He sounds like an angrier Harvey Pekar. (via Chica)

Francis Ford Coppola quotes Wodehouse! (via At Large)

[1/24/06 UPDATE: Primer, as nearly all film geeks know by now, did manage to nab a DVD distribution deal, leading to enthusiasts working out the multiple timelines. As for the McSweeney’s influence upon the New Yorker (and other places), I should note that litblogs, as much as they claim to be anti-Eggers, are guilty practitioners (including this one).]

Remarks from the President

The crazed Dean speech was one thing, but I’m starting to have grave concerns about the President. Here’s a partial transcript:

Remarks by the President to the Press Pool
Plenty O’ Ribs Cafe
Area 51, Roswell, New Mexico

11:25 A.M. MST

THE PRESIDENT: I need some ribs, goddammit.

Q: Mr. President, how are you?

THE PRESIDENT: Shut the fuck up, you gadfly. I’m hungry and I’m going to order some ribs, Laura be damned. I ran six miles today and eviscerated the Bill of Rights a little more. I earned my ribs, don’t you think?

Q: What would you like?

THE PRESIDENT: What do you think I’d like? Ribs. What does a man do in a cafe but order ribs? Do you have any real questions?

Q: Sir, on homeland security, critics say you simply haven’t spent enough to keep this country secure.

THE PRESIDENT: My job is to dry hump this nation. I’m riding bareback, my friend. Who cares about jobs? Who cares about the economy? Who gives a flying fuck about the deficit? We need a space program resembling a really bad Brian De Palma film. But right now I’m here to take somebody’s order. That would be you, Rubber Band Man — what would you like? Stop pestering me with questions and start eating, son. You’re looking a bit thin. Have you been drinking? I drank once, but then daddy bailed me out. Put some of that meager money on the table like a man. This is all about consumer confidence. I don’t care how little they pay you over at the State-Ledger. This is how the economy grows. Max out your credit cards, jeopardize the state budgets. It drives the economy forward. And, no, don’t quote Paul Krugman, you twerp. I’ve had enough of that whiny little bitch. So what would you like to eat?

Q: Right behind you, whatever you order.

THE PRESIDENT: I’m ordering ribs, goddammit. Do you know about unilateral decisions? Well, this is how it works, David, I’m going to order a rib for you and you’re going to eat it. And I’m not going to leave until you nibble that sucker down to the bone.

Q: But, Mr. President —

THE PRESIDENT: No buts, David. This isn’t a press conference. This is about understanding how ribs work. It’s a bad metaphor, but I’m not leaving until you understand it, son. Do you hear?

Quick Quickies

Since it is book-related, Paul O’Neill fesses up that the Iraq plan was in place well before 9/11. The first major blow from an insider.

Updike’s first short story: “The moment his car touched the boulevard heading home, Ace flicked on the radio.”

Anybody have any clues on the Key West Literary Seminar fracas? Moorish Girl (and all of us) wants to know.

Six Bay Area ladies talk mystery writing.

A big Blair-like blowup at USA Today. Jack Kelley has resigned.

The Times gives a lot of space to the image.

And an engineer attempts to deconstruct postmodern literary criticism.

Bush Bonaparte?

From Alan Moorehead’s The Blue Nile, explaining the cultural conditions after Napoleon began his Egypt campaign in 1798:

It was perfectly true that the Mamelukes, in moments of violence, behaved infinitely more cruelly to the Egyptians than the French did. But this was not the point. The Mamelukes were the devil they knew, and Bonaparte was not. His sincerity — and there is no doubt at first his approach to the problems of governing Egypt was both very sincere and very intelligent — was misunderstood. The Egyptians naturally looked for duplicity beneath the apparent altruism.