News & Culture & Politics & Privacy & Punditry08 May 2006 05:32 pm

Here are tonight’s news items that I’ll be talking about on when I join my friend, David Lawrence, for my weekly segment on his radio show, The David Lawrence Show:

Congress Considering Mandatory ISP Snooping

IBM Introduces Privacy-Friendly RFID Tag

FTC Joins the Cellphone Records Lawsuit Frenzy

Tiger Woods Settles “Privacy” Privacy Lawsuit

News & Culture & Politics05 May 2006 02:26 am

[I sent this letter via email today to Washington Post Columnist Richard Cohen.]

Mr. Cohen:

I read with great bewilderment your May 4 column, So Not Funny, about Stephen Colbert’s appearance at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner.


All I can say is Wow! You really don’t get Colbert, do you?

“[O]n his show he appeals to a self-selected audience that reminds him often of his greatness…”?!?! The humor of the character he portrays is in its absurdity, and in the inherent satire of self-important boobs like O’Reilly and Limbaugh who are themselves a kind of self-caricature. His victory laps through his studio audience are part of the joke — a joke you don’t seem to get.

I agree that, as you point out, the dinner was an opportunity to tell the president things that it would be good for him to hear. In fact, what I heard Colbert doing was exactly that: giving him an opportunity to hear the administration’s cheerleaders, apologists, and “yes-men” in a new light. The humor of Colbert is in the way he takes the absurdity of the right-wing media to the next level, breaking down the pretense of objectivity and dispensing with the onion-skin veneer of facts that the president’s apologists pretend to rely upon.

On the issue of speaking truth to power requiring consequences, it seems to me there were significant consequences for him, in the form of being all but run out of the dinner on a rail and being attacked by the right-wing media machine (and their left-wing media counterparts who don’t get uppity for fear Karl Rove won’t return their calls).

But in all the media outrage at the “meanness” of Stephen Colbert, I think the deafening silence about the other target of his humor — the hapless Washington press corps — is most intriguing. Perhaps Colbert’s greatest sin was speaking truth to the assembled “journalists” who have proven themselves time and again to be little more than stenographers for this administration’s pablum. If reporters found Colbert’s barbs insulting and rude, all I can offer is the old cliché: “if the shoe fits…”

I’m sorry that you either don’t understand Colbert’s style of humor, or that you’ve let the right-wing version of “political correctness” (e.g., thou shalt never offend the Glorious Leader) make you oblivious to the humor inherent in this mockery of the absurd.

By the way, when you spoke at my high school graduation a couple of decades ago, you weren’t funny.

-Ray Everett-Church

News & Culture & Politics29 Apr 2006 05:37 pm

I love the show Commander In Chief. Really, I do. Despite how badly it’s sucking. Unfortunately, ABC has so badly handled the show, and the writers have so badly mangled the stories, that it’s getting harder and harder to watch. And now the stupidity of the writers has gotten the show accused of racism.

First, they managed to assemble a great cast. It took a little while to warm up to everybody, but the quality of the acting talent on the show is first-rate. The doe-eyed naïveté of some of the characters — who apparently fell off turnip trucks and bounced into the highest levels of government — has quickly passed. The battles between the Speaker and the President are pretty contrived, and the idea that everything is happily resolved in each show is awfully trite. But these are some of the problems that The West Wing had in its first season, so I’ve been willing to give it some room to grow.

It’s also great to see Matt Lanter — my choice to be winner of Manhunt — doing some big-time Hollywood acting. His character needs much more development, as does that of his whiny twin sister, but that too is the fault of the idiot writers. Still, he’s pretty to look at. =P~

My biggest problem comes with the morons at ABC who pushed CIC into hiatus just as it was hitting its stride. These are the same nitwits who apparently squandered the fan base of Lost by putting it in endless summer reruns just when people were hungering for more. (I must admit, I’ve only seen a couple episodes of Lost and didn’t find it at all engaging.)

My next problem comes with the dumb-ass writers who not only don’t appear to know anything about politics, but couldn’t be bothered to get basic facts correct about Washington, DC geography, much less the mechanics of how the White House works. The show’s directors, producers, and editors are to blame on this score as well. For example, they keep showing scenes clearly shot in LA, not realizing that there are no skyscrapers in DC. They also make many references to streets and places in DC that are glaringly inaccurate to anyone who has spent any time in DC.

In one recent episode, they showed what was supposed to be Air Force One taking off over DC! and didn’t bother to care that, a) the plane shown had the unmistakable T-tail of an MD-80, a plane about one-third the size of the president’s 747; b) “Air Force One” is stationed at Andrews AFB, about 15 miles to the southeast of DC, so far away that takeoffs DO NOT climb over the Lincoln Memorial; and c) National Airport (which I refuse to call “Reagan”, but that’s another rant), where the MD-80 stock footage was shot, probably couldn’t launch the president’s 747 if it had to! Speaking of stock footage, if I have to see another establishing shot of DC with the Washington Monument surrounded in scaffolding, circa 1997?, I’m going to vomit.

For what it’s worth, The West Wing has almost always gotten the geography and imagery of DC much better. Most of the time they’re careful to not show skyscrapers, mountains, or other clearly inappropriate backdrops in scenes. And because they have people with actual political, foreign policy, and military knowledge advising them, their story lines are actually plausible in many cases, rather than grating on the nerves of anyone who, for example, ever watched C-SPAN.

But then again, West Wing’s creator Aaron Sorkin did a pretty decent job even in the movie The American President — except for one notable howler that still makes me cringe. (“You got caught in traffic at Dupont Circle? What were you doing up on the Hill?”) Aiiigh!!!!

But now the lack of attention to detail and accuracy has come back to bite the CIC writers but good. In a recent episode, they portrayed Prince George’s County, which borders DC to the east, as a chitlin’ lovin’ drug-infested African-American ghetto. The reality, of course, is that PG County is one of the many affluent suburbs of DC, containing many beautiful and expensive neighborhoods and having little of the squalor that was featured in the story line.

Message for the writers and producers of Commander in Chief: try learning something about your subject before you put pen to paper or film to camera. You might actually produce a better product, and embarrass yourselves a tad less. That is if your brain-dead masters at ABC don’t smother the show through their own stupidity first.

News & Culture & Politics & Religion17 Apr 2006 03:26 pm

If so-called “good” Christians, the ones who claim to believe that every word of the Bible is divinely given and infallible, are honest to their beliefs, then Leviticus once again comes to the rescue and this time settles the immigration debate.

Leviticus 19:33-34 says:

When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.

Now that that’s settled, the “good” Christians can go back to hating gays, killing those who eat shellfish, stoning their mouthy children, and selling their no-good bitch daughers into slavery, just as Leviticus demands.

Gay Rights & News & Culture & Politics & Punditry11 Apr 2006 04:22 pm

Back to my usual Tuesday night, here are tonight’s items from The David Lawrence Show:

Identity Thief Uses iPod

Justice Department Adds Privacy Panel

Iowa House approves prescription database” peace activists, religious groups

Memphis Suburb Deploys GPS to City Vehicles

Update: David wanted me to comment on this outrageous story…
Christians Sue for Right to Ignore School’s Tolerance Policy

News & Culture & Politics31 Mar 2006 12:10 pm

This week I heard Senator Bill Frist, Rep. Tom Tancredo, Pat Buchannan, and other Republicans suggesting that we should round up and deport the estimated 11 million “illegals” in the US and deport them back to Mexico.

Forgetting for a moment that our economy can’t cope with removing 11 million people from the workforce, and neither can our tax revenues, and setting aside that they’re not all *FROM* Mexico in the first place… How do you handle the logistics of corralling and deporting 11 million people?

As I listened to one news commentator say what a colossal logistical nightmare such a task would be, it occured to me that the answer is simple enough: Godwin’s Law.

Roughly stated, Godwin’s Law says that the longer an argument continues, the chances of somebody invoking Hitler or Nazis approaches 100%. Unfortunately, for too many of this administration’s activities, the parallels to the Third Reich don’t have to wait to the end of the debate — they start there!

So, luckily for Frist, Tancredo, and Buchannan, many of the blueprints, train tables, and staffing projections for handling that process are in the evidence files for the Nuremburg Tribunals. Who’d have guessed those would come in handy again!

It’s not “illegals” that threaten America, it’s stupidity.

Politics & Privacy20 Mar 2006 03:11 am

Arianna Huffington’s new article highlighted something fascinating. Apparently privacy problem-child ChoicePoint has hired John Ashcroft’s new firm to lobby for the company.

The same John Ashcroft who awarded them a $67 Million no-bid citizen profiling contract when he was Attorney General.

According to Arianna:

ChoicePoint, a company that sells consumer data, recently hired Ashcroft to help it add to the mega-buck, war-on-terror-related contracts the firm had landed from the Justice Department while Ashcroft was still in charge. According to a ChoicePoint spokesman: “The Ashcroft Group contacted us and we initiated a relationship.” How cozy.

The quote comes from a New York Times article which notes:

One of Mr. Ashcroft’s newest clients is ChoicePoint, a broker of consumer data that is increasingly being used by the government to keep tabs on people within the United States. The company received millions of dollars in contracts from the Justice Department under Mr. Ashcroft as part of the war on terror and has now hired him to find more.

“The Ashcroft Group contacted us and we initiated a relationship,” said Chuck Jones, a ChoicePoint spokesman. “He’s got a lot of knowledge that could benefit ChoicePoint.”

It’s nice that Ashcroft has found work… he has to find some way to pay for all that Holy Oil with which he anoints himself before big occasions.

Politics20 Nov 2005 02:48 pm

A friend of mine, John Levine, sent me a quote that he recently ran across.

The quote is from President Dwight D. Eisenhower, in a letter he sent to his brother Edgar in 1954, which was found among his papers at the Eisenhower Library.

Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.


Law & Politics11 Oct 2005 09:58 pm

Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary says:

obsequious (&b-‘sE-kwE-&s), (adj.): marked by or exhibiting a fawning attentiveness

For example:

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — U.S. Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers told George W. Bush in a 1997 birthday card that he was “the best governor ever” and, in a separate note to her boss, said she hoped his twin daughters recognize their parents are “cool.”

Law & Politics06 Oct 2005 06:20 pm

In Federalist Paper # 76, Alexander Hamilton (writing as “Publius”) discusses the Senate confirmation process and how it serves as a check on unrestrained presidential power. In doing so, he explains:

To what purpose then require the co-operation of the Senate? [ . . . ] It would be an excellent check upon a spirit of favoritism in the President, and would tend greatly to prevent the appointment of unfit characters from State prejudice, from family connection, from personal attachment, or from a view to popularity. [ . . . ] He would be both ashamed and afraid to bring forward, for the most distinguished or lucrative stations, candidates who had no other merit than that of coming from the same State to which he particularly belonged, or of being in some way or other personally allied to him, or of possessing the necessary insignificance and pliancy to render them the obsequious instruments of his pleasure. [emphasis added]

Unfortunately, President Bush has shown that he feels no shame when doing the most blatantly self-indulgent and ill-advised things. But Hamilton and the other framers saw forward to the kind of corrupt leadership that could arise and wrote decisively some 217 years ago that Bush should “be both ashamed and afraid” to nominate his unqualified former personal lawyer to the highest court in the land. And any Senators who vote for her should be similarly ashamed.

Nothing against her personally… I’m sure she’s a nice lady and she may even be a competent corporate lawyer. But the court needs constitutional scholars, not people who are, in Hamilton’s words, “personally allied to” the president, who lack the personal experience and gravitas necessary to prevent them from becoming “the obsequious instruments of his pleasure.”

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