What Else Is In Scott's Head?

The blog site for writer Scott C. Smith. Some observations on the world we live in and life in general. And maybe some politics.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Media Matters For America

If you're a Bill O'Reilly fan (or forced to watch his horrible program), you'll no doubt recall that Bill O'Reilly is no fan of the media watchdog group, Media Matters For America. He'll get paranoid every so often to complain that MMFA is on a jihad against him. O'Reilly seems to think that everyone who disagrees with him is on some sort of jihad.

It goes without saying that I'm a big fan of MMFA.

I like that the group has sections devoted to Bill O'Reilly and The O'Reilly Factor, so if you're looking for the latest bullshit spewed from O'Reilly's lips, Media Matters is the web site to visit. Because you get the best of O'Reilly in one convenient location. Here's a fun item: O'Reilly claiming to have saved Spongebob Squarepants from the James Dobson group Focus on The Family. You may recall the controversy when Focus on The Family complained about a video produced by the We Are Family Foundation, in which popular characters from children's programming promoted a message of tolerance.

Damn those liberals and their message of tolerance!

Back to O'Reilly. For some reason, O'Reilly believes he saved Spongebob from Dobson's gaydar...or something like that. O'Reilly, Feb. 16, 2005, speaking to guest Robert J. Johnson, head of Syracuse University's center for the study of popular television:

THOMPSON: Buster does not get any more explicit than someone she would see outside of the house. And here's the rub on all of this: the people who are making the most complaints about this -- it's kind of the same mentality of the people who are complaining -- you know, speculating that SpongeBob SquarePants is gay. It's corrupting what was this kind of innocent little TV show: SpongeBob, Buster, Teletubbies --

O'REILLY: OK, but wait. There's one big, big fallacy in your argument, with all due respect. I agree with you on SpongeBob, and we mocked that, and, as soon as we did that, it went away -- and people say to me, "O'Reilly, you do X, Y, and Z" -- I saved SpongeBob single-handedly. All right? As soon as I ran it on [FOX News'] The [O'Reilly] Factor [on January 24], Dobson and his crew shut it down. Did you notice that, doctor?

THOMPSON: No, I didn't notice that direct correlation --

O'REILLY: It was over the next day. Believe me, all right? I saved SpongeBob's reputation. SpongeBob's my best friend now.

Well, we know that a loofa sponge was a favorite of O'Reilly in the past, so maybe Bill just has a soft spot in his heart for cartoon characters accused of being gay.

Media Matters doesn't stop with Bill O'Reilly. If you hate Sean Hannity as I do, you'll find plenty of material about Hannity. You know, when he lies and misleads his audience in order to make a point about Democrats. That sort of thing.

Check in out -- you'll find something entertaining at MMFA.

Friday, February 25, 2005

A Quick Note

I wanted to take a moment to say I'm sorry for the lack of updates. The computer that I do all of my work on picked today to up and die, so I've been scrabling to get a second machine. In between hardware troubles, life, school, and an inner-ear infection that causes the world to spin in a very unpleasant way whenever I move my head, I haven't had time for daily updates here. I'm hoping to be back on a regular posting schedule in the next couple of days. Thanks in advance for your patience.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

The George W. Bush Guide to Screwing Veterans

If you believe the right-wing propaganda, it is conservatives who really care about the health and well being of our military, while liberals hate the military and their supposed hatred of the military undermines our war effort. Blah, blah blah.

Now for a question: if a group of former POWs sued the country that held them captive, and the POWs won, would the Bush administration be on the side of the veterans, or the nation where the POWs were held and tortured?

Give yourself a cookie if you guessed "against the veterans."

Here's the background: a group of pilots were held as POWs right at the start of Desert Storm in 1991. If you watched CNN's coverage of that war, you may remember seeing the POWs paraded around by their Iraqi captors. The men were beaten and tortured.

Fast-forward to 1996, when Congress passed a law allowing POWs to sue nations that were on the United State's list of nations that sponsored terrorists.

In 2003, the 17 former POWs sued Iraq and the U.S. District Court in Washington ruled in favor of the pilots, awarding $653 million in compensatory damages and $306 million in punitive damages for the abuse. At the time, the United States had frozen $1.7 billion dollars of Iraqi assets.

Now for the twist: the men are not entitled to any money, the Bush administration argues, because Iraq is no longer on the list of nations that supports terrorists.

Take that, POWs.

In one of those funny coincidences of life, some of the men were tortured at Abu Ghraib prison.

Oh, and it gets worse. On May 9, 2004, Donald Rumsfeld appeared before Senate Armed Services Committe, where he supported compensating the Iraqi prisoners abused by the United States at Abu Ghraib.

"I am seeking a way to provide appropriate compensation to those detainees who suffered grievous and brutal abuse and cruelty at the hands of a few members of the U.S. military. It is the right thing to do," Rumsfeld said in his testimony.

Yes, that's right, the Iraqi prisoners abused by our military at Abu Ghraib are entitled to compensation, but our own troops are not because of a legal loophole.

The case has been appealed to the Supreme Court.

The Bush Administration: looking out for the U.S. military since never.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Our Democratic Society

Let's talk about Ward Churchill.

In case you haven't been watching Fox News or listening to conservative talk radio, you may not know who Ward Churchill is or why conservative talk radio is interested in him.

Churchill is a professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado. He wrote an essay about the terrorist attack of Sept. 11, 2001 the day of the attack. It's a lengthy essay, but the part that fueled the ire of conservatives was this line in the essay, regarding the victims of 9/11:

"If there was a better, more effective, or in fact any other way of visiting some penalty befitting their participation upon the little Eichmanns inhabiting the sterile sanctuary of the twin towers, I'd really be interested in hearing about it."

The current controversy erupted following a Jan. 28, 2005 segment on Fox's The O'Reilly Factor about Churchill. Before you could say "freedom of speech" conservatives were calling for Churchill's resignation.

However, this being the United States of America, people should be free to say what they like without being punished for it. Sometimes free speech is ugly, often outrageous and offensive. You don't have to agree with it.

There are situations where there are consequences for certain kids of speech. You cannot threaten the President of the United States. Your employer may impose restrictions on certain kinds of speech. Beyond those exceptions, people should be free to say whatever they like, and Churchill shouldn't lose his job because of his remarks.

Does this mean I agree with Churchill's Sept. 11 essay? I do not. But I support his right to express himself, even if what he says is offensive. Supporting our freedoms means we're not always going to agree with the free exercise of those freedoms. That's our system. This is not Saudi Arabia, where the exercise of free speech can land you in jail. This is America.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Protecting The Oscars

Ah, finally! The transcript from the Feb. 14 Hannity and Colmes where they interview Matt "accuracy" Drudge about Chris Rock, and comments he made about the Oscars.

Let's go to the transcript. We join the conversation following a question from Alan Colmes about why Drudge rarely gives TV interviews:

MATT DRUDGE, DRUDGEREPORT.COM: Well, you know, I do most of my business on that dirty Internet that you were just talking about, where I find there is a lot of freedom to report exactly what I want. And this is what I did this weekend. It's just not the comments in Entertainment Weekly that Chris Rock is running up against here. He was quoted in one of his acts — and we're not sure if he was playing a character, if he's playing Chris Rock or what he's playing here — "Abortion, it's beautiful. It's beautiful abortion is legal. I love going to abortion rallies to pick up women, because you know they are blanking."

Here's a little tip regarding the basic tenets of journalism: if you cannot get the answer to the question of why something happened or why someone said something, you don't have a story. Since Matt Drudge never studied journalism, he can get away with not asking important questions on issues he reports. Such as, was Chris Rock playing a character when he made the abortion comments? Getting that answer would really clarify things.

Actually, all you really need to know about Matt Drudge is summed up nicely in this part of the conversation with Sean "I love Hollywood" Hannity:

HANNITY: Did you talk to Chris Rock for this story? Did you get in touch with him?

DRUDGE: No, because there is simply enough out there, there is enough audio. I've spent weeks going through the audio clips and everything.

Again, I know it's a comedy act. The problem is, it's also social commentary. I don't know if Chris Rock thinks abortion is beautiful. We don't know these things. He has said that publicly.

There you have it. Drudge, in preparing his report, did not bother to talk to Chris Rock to get his side of the story. After all, that would require actual work, instead of just cutting and pasting together pieces of e-mail to post as an "exclusive" report.

Note that Drudge says "I don't know if Chris Rock thinks abortion is beautiful. We don't know these things." Hey Matt, here's a suggestion for you: ASK CHRIS ROCK IF HE THINKS ABORTION IS BEAUTIFUL. That would pretty much sort things out.

Here's what I don't understand about this non-issue: why would someone like Sean Hannity care who is hosting the Oscars and what they might say? I thought Hannity hated Hollywood liberals. And now he wants to defend the honor of a ceremony where the Hollywood liberals he hates are recognized for their work and awarded for it? What kind of sense does that make?

As I predicted, Hannity makes the comparison to conservatives:

HANNITY: What if a conservative, Matt, what if you, what if Rush, were to make derogatory statements about gays? I mean, clearly, very derogatory statements that he made in that case, the "F" word every 35 minutes. You know, what is America going to think when they hear the statement, "Abortion is beautiful. Abortion is legal. I go to abortion rallies to pick up women because I know they blank."
Is there no line for Hollywood? Does not Hollywood say that this is it? At this point, we don't go any further, or...

Oh, please. Gee, Sean, how about if YOU do some research? You know, figure out the context of Rock's remarks, which I think you'll find are a part of his standup routine. Get one of your producers to contact Rock and ask him about the remarks. Although I can see how it's easier to just take pieces of Rock's material and then complain about what he says, as if he was saying those things outside the context of being a comedian.

Also, as far as offensive statements go, I don't recall Sean Hannity getting upset when his good friend Ann Coulter said the following in her column on Sept. 12, 2001, about Muslims:

We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity. We weren't punctilious about locating and punishing only Hitler and his top officers. We carpet-bombed German cities; we killed civilians. That's war. And this is war.

No, Chris Rock joking that he wanted to pick up women at an abortion clinic is much worse. Say, maybe Sean can go and rent the movie Dogma, where he'll find the same joke. He can get director Kevin Smith to appear as a guest and ask him what he thinks about abortion.

I like this part of the conversation where Sean Hannity kisses Drudge's ass:

HANNITY: What's the reaction, though, to this story? And, look, you have built your reputation. And I think one of the reasons you are so popular is you take on these institutions single-handedly on just about every major story as it related to President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. You were breaking all of those stories. And you were being attacked daily for it.

Drudge's reputation. Huh. Does Hannity mean Drudge's reputation for printing unverified gossip? Such as this piece of "news" from Feb. 12, 2004:

**World Exclusive****Must Credit the DRUDGE REPORT**

A frantic behind-the-scenes drama is unfolding around Sen. John Kerry and his quest to lockup the Democratic nomination for president, the DRUDGE REPORT can reveal.Intrigue surrounds a woman who recently fled the country, reportedly at the prodding of Kerry, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned. A serious investigation of the woman and the nature of her relationship with Sen. John Kerry has been underway at TIME magazine, ABC NEWS, the WASHINGTON POST, THE HILL and the ASSOCIATED PRESS, where the woman in question once worked.

As it turned out, the story wasn't what we journalists call "true" or "accurate" or "factual" and, in fact, the woman at the heart of the "affair" denied having one with Kerry. In a statement released on Feb. 17, 2004, she said:

"I have never had a relationship with Senator Kerry, and the rumors in the press are completely false. Whoever is spreading these rumors and allegations does not know me, but should know the pain they have caused me and my family. I am in Kenya with my fiance visiting his family, and we ask that the press respect our privacy and leave all of us alone."

Which brings us full-circle. Matt Drudge is not a reporter and doesn't even differentiate between facts and innuendo. It's no wonder Sean Hannity likes him so much.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Jeff Gannon, Male Prostitute

I was thinking of writing up something on the whole Jeff Gannon story, not because it's particularly newsworthy, but because it's pretty entertaining. Instead, I'll direct you to the Media Matters web site, which has an extensive collection of articles on Gannon.

My apologies for not updating on a daily you probably know, I'm currently going to college part-time, and most of my energy gets eaten up there, because it's a been a bit of a challenge for me. In a good way. I'm trying to stay current on the crazy world of politics, but I have to also juggle things like homework and writing papers for class, plus quality time with the family.

That said, I did make the mistake of turning on Hannity and Colmes tonight. I keep telling myself to stop doing that, but I get drawn heroin (I guess) or maybe an addiction to Oxycontin (right, Rush). Part of tonight's debate focused on comments Howard Dean made last week at a speech before the Congressional Black Caucus. Here's the comment that has offended Lt. Gov. Michael Steele of Maryland:

"You think the Republican National Committee could get this many people of color in a single room? Only if they had the hotel staff in here."

Mr. Steele is Maryland's first black Lt. Gov. In response, Steele said in an interview that the remarks were "racially insensitive and intolerable."

So...does this make Howard Dean a racist? No, it doesn't. Probably not the smartest thing to say. I couldn't find any comments by the Congressional Black Caucus calling for Dean to apologize for his remarks.

Still, if it had been a Republican making the remarks, the media reaction would have been the same.

Finally...a bit of closure to the whole Chris Rock "controversy" that was generated by "journalist" Matt Drudge, in posting some comments Rock had made about the Oscars at his award-winning Drudge Report site, claiming some academy members had taken offense to comments Rock had made (you can find those comments in my Monday entry). Well, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Gil Cates, the producer for this year's ceremony, said in a statement, "Chris' comments over the past few weeks are meant to be humorous digs at a show that some people, obviously including Chris himself, think may be a bit too stuffy...The academy has heard no grumbling from its members and has no intention of even suggesting that Chris step aside."

There you have it, yet another Drudge "exclusive" debunked as bullshit. Big surprise, huh?

Monday, February 14, 2005

The Drudge Guide to Chris Rock

If you've read my column about Matt Drudge, you know I'm not a fan of the guy. For some reason, Fox News loves him (especially that fair and balanced debate show, Hannity and Colmes) and puts him on the air whenever they can. You know, so he can wow us with a bit of gossip someone passed his way.

There was a big playup tonight on Fox for H&C and their guest, Matt Drudge, who was going to talk about, among other things, some comments made by Chris Rock regarding the Oscars.

Just so we're clear about Chris Rock: Chris is a stand-up comic (one of the best, in my opinion) and actor. He was on Saturday Night Live a few seasons and hosted his own award-winning show on HBO.

Chris is a big fan of, shall we say, colorful language. In other words, rated 'M' for mature.

That being said, Matt Drudge has an "exclusive" item on his web page: Chris Rock made jokes about the Oscars! And he said only gay people watch them! DAMN THAT CRAZY BLACK MAN!

Here's a link to the Drudge story on Chris Rock. Reading it, I'm almost 100% convinced that Matt Drudge has never heard a single second of any of Chris' stand-up concerts. Otherwise, he'd realize that Chris was probably saying shit to be funny.

Take this paragraph:

"Veteran members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have grown concerned over the choice of Chris Rock as host of this month's awards show, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned. Concern deepened after Rock claimed only gays watch the Oscars! "I never watched the Oscars. Come on, it's a fashion show," Rock recently declared. "What straight black man sits there and watches the Oscars? Show me one!" Rock added: "Awards for art are f---ing idiotic."

You know, I'm with Chris on this one here. Awards for art are fucking idiotic. Art is art. How can you say that something is the best kind of art? "And the Oscar for the best renaissance painting goes to...Botticelli's Birth of Venus!!"

As Drudge has not provided a context to Chris' statements, I'm going to take a wild stab and guess they were made as part of his stand-up act. Or within the context of Chris Rock saying shit to be funny, such as part of an interview.

Here's another thing: Drudge does not say when Chris said the things Drudge says he said. That's a typical Drudge motif: failure to perform basic fact checking. Drudge just says "Rock recently declared." What is recently? A week ago? Last year? Two months ago? Who knows. Drudge doesn't. Although it would make sense that the remarks were made months ago. The Drudge touch that means so much.

The article goes on about how Academy members are "concerned" about Rock being the host. They just now realized that Chris Rock is a comedian? Did they pull his name out of a hat and say "Chris Rock? Who is he? Dunno, let's make him the host for the Oscars!"

I can't wait for the Hannity and Colmes transcript for tonight's show to become available. Sean probably got all upset: "And if this had been a conservative saying what he said, the liberal media would be all over it!" And they'd cut to Drudge (wearing that stupid-ass Fedora) and he'd make some vague statements about anonymous Academy members worrying that Rock was hosting. Back to Sean babbling on and on and on how a conservative wouldn't get away with it and how the liberal media would be all over it. And they probably went on for two straight hours. In fact, they're probably still talking about it. And then it probably will take life on conservative message boards.

Conservatives: offering predictable behavior since 1913.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

I Have a Fever, And The Only Prescription is More Cowbell

Oy vey. I've been sick with the flu all week and it's been hard to post, dear reader, as my mind is frequently clouded with DayQuil. You know, if you haven't gotten a flu shot, now would be a good time (if available), because this flu that seems to be going around everywhere will knock you on your ass, much like Mister T knocked Rocky on his ass in Rocky III. Say, speaking of the Rocky movies, how come no one ever blocks punches? It's like all offense in the ring. Ah, never mind. Oh, wait, maybe this is a better comparison: the flu will knock you on your ass, much like when the karate punks knocked Daniel LaRusso on his ass in The Karate Kid (right before Mr. Miyagi knocked the karate punks on their collective asses).

One bit of political news from the weekend was the announcement that Howard Dean had been elected to head the Democratic National Committee. I haven't made the rounds to the right-wing sites, but I suspect they're all laughing it up over Dean winning the vote to head the DNC. And I'd be willing to bet that they all make a reference to the Howard Dean "scream" from last year (this is an interesting bit of video that shows how the audience heard the Dean "scream" -- television viewers heard it because of Dean's microphone, but if you were in the audience, you could not hear it at all as the crowd was cheering loudly).

So, what to make of Howard Dean heading the DNC? Well, I'm not sure what to think right now. Early in his campaign Dean had a lot of momentum, thanks in large part to the grassroots efforts adopted by Dean, utilizing the Internet to connect supporters with the candidate. We know that the momentum eventually fizzled out when John Kerry took the lead. So, what to expect from Dean as leader of the Democratic Party? I'm hoping that he helps (if he can) fine-tune the Democratic platform. We can't just be a party that is in opposition to the Republicans. We have to stand for something, something specific. It shouldn't be about reacting to the "red states" but instead uniting everyone to a common set of goals and positions. I would also hope our candidates would stand firm on issues of importance to Democrats. Republicans seem for the most part pretty focused on their core issues, but Democrats are less focused. I don't know if Howard Dean can pull off reorganizing the DNC, but here's hoping he does.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Sweet, Sweet Democracy

Short entry today as I'm still sick and my ability to concentrate or think clearly has been impacted.

Before I continue, I have to plug a great website, called Television Without Pity. They offer up hilarious reviews of your favorite television shows, although as far as I can tell there are not a lot of television programs they enjoy. If you need a good laugh, head on over to TWOP.

Now, on to sweet, sweet democracy...

Elections were held in Saudi Arabia on Feb. 10, and democracy has triumphed. The voter turnout was 65%.

Er, one thing: women were not allowed to vote.

Women, of course, are second-class citizens in a country that is known for decades of human rights violations. But hey, Saudi Arabia is a staunch ally of the United States, and we buy a lot of oil from them, so we sort of look the other way when they do something like mass public executions. You know, when the government takes a group of prisoners to a public square and executes them, sometimes by beheadings, or firing squads.

Women who walk alone are often arrested as suspected prostitutes. In fact, women cannot even travel without written authorization from a male relative, usually a husband or father. And, in some cases, they have to be accompanied.

Isn't democracy great?

Oh, and forget about driving. Yeah, women aren't allowed to do that. And, if their husbands beat them, there is no legal recourse.

Also, no freedom of speech, for anyone.

Good thing they have so much oil.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

I Hate The Flu

My wife and step-son have been sick with the flu for the last week. After several days of not coming down with the flu, I thought my immune system would kill any flu bugs if they attempted to infiltrate my body.

Damn useless immune system. Now I'm sick with this friggin' flu. But, dear reader, I'm here to provide my usual commentary, despite the flu AND the fact that I'm hopped up on Dayquil.

I'm not sure what to make of the news that Karl "Bush's Brain" Rove had been promoted to Deputy White House Chief of Staff. Which sort of makes him the unofficial President of the United States.

Here's a heartwarming story of a young Karl Rove. In 1970, he snuck into the campaign headquarters of Alan Dixon, a Democrat running for Illinois State Treasurer. Rove got a hold of campaign letterhead and distributed them to soup kitchens and red-light districts. One thousand campaign "invitations" were distributed with the message to come to Dixon campaign headquarters for "free beer, free food, and a good time for nothing."

That's a fun story, isn't it?

Finally today: Could it be that some members of the Washington Press Corps (the ones that ask the "tough" questions about the Bush administration) are not really journalists? Well, in one case, it looks like it. The Boston Globe reported on Feb. 2 that a "reporter" by the name of Jeff Gannon somehow ended up with press corps credentials, although his background in journalism seems to be his contributions to a right-wing news site, Talon News, a site possibly created by a GOP group, and not a group of journalists. Gannon was a favorite with White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, who frequently called on Gannon for questions, which in most cases were of the sort to make Bush look good and Democrats to look bad. Or something like that. Media Matters has collected a number of hard-hitting questions posed by Gannon. Conservative bias in the news? You bet.

You can read more about Talon News at Media Matters. Good stuff.

Posted to Gannon's web site is the message, "Because of the attention being paid to me I find it is no longer possible to effectively be a reporter for Talon News. In consideration of the welfare of me and my family I have decided to return to private life. Thank you to all those who supported me."

You know, I'm pretty sure most journalists like attention. I do. And I don't care if it's good or bad. I've received many nasty e-mails from crazed right-wing weirdos, and it always was a pleasure to read them. So, crazed right-wing weirdos: go ahead and drop me a line. If it's a good e-mail, I'll post it to my hate mail section. So, send those e-mails! Scott at scottcsmith dot net.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Fun (Not) With Medicine

My wife and step-son have been pretty sick the last week, and so far I've been lucky in not catching their flu. On Monday my wife was feeling pretty bad, with a bad migraine and sharp pain in her neck and joints, so it was off to see her doctor.

It was a short visit; the doctor told us we should go to the emergency room.

That was when the fun began.

We arrived at 1:45 or so, and was told we'd have a 45-minute wait. And it's weird to sit in an emergency room packed with people, some cradling injured limbs as they pace the floor, waiting to be called. Portland is Oregon's biggest city, with a population of about 1.5 million, but it still has a small city feel to it. There are plenty of hospitals, but of course our insurance company wants us to go to a specific hospital's emergency room, which also happens to be one of the busiest hospitals in the area.

So, we waited, first for 45 minutes, which soon became 90 minutes. As we waited an older man wandered around, his arm in a sling (broke or sprained), his leg bleeding (he was wearing shorts), and he had waited almost as long as me and my wife before he was called in to see a doctor.

Finally, it was our turn, and we headed for one of the small treatment rooms. By then it was somewhere around 3:30. I'm not sure when the doctor arrived, but it may have been at 4:00. My wife told him her symptoms and he was a little worried as her symptoms were the classic symptoms of meningitis. There's viral meningitis, which is treatable, and bacterial meningitis, which can lead to death if not treated. So, we decided to have the spinal tap procedure done on my wife to test for meningitis. Luckily, the tests were negative, so the diagnosis was just a strain of flu.

In our nine hours at the hospital, the actual time spent treating my wife was about 45 minutes, probably less. I guess that's the reality of modern medicine: lots of waiting.

As we left at 9:45 p.m., the emergency room was still filled with people, and more checking in to be seen.

Anyway, that's why I didn't post anything on Monday. Rest assured I will resume my anti-American, Bush-bashing posts soon.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Conservative Double Standards

If you listen to enough conservative pundits -- and, by extension, conservative columnists and conservative bloggers -- you'll begin to notice they all say the same things. Sometimes using the same exact words as other pundits. Such is the power of talking points. Talking points are usually a single-page document with suggestions of themes and topics that conservatives should talk about if they're on, say, Hannity and Colmes. Liberals also get talking points. As this blog is more interested in what conservatives say and do, you can turn to the conservative bloggers (they're out there, in droves) and get their perspective.

On Feb. 2, George W. Bush delivered his State of the Union address (scroll down to my Feb. 2 entry if you want to read the transcript and my reaction to the speech). When Bush reached the point where he started to talk about Social Security, he was greeted with loud boos. Following the State of the Union, the pundits where all aghast at the Democrats: how dare they boo President Bush! The bastards! Ad naseum. Also, some of the pundits suggested that no one had ever booed a president during a State of the Union address. Some reactions:

Ted Koppel, ABC News, on Nightline, Feb. 2: "When the president talked about the bankruptcy of Social Security, there were clearly some Democrats on the floor who thought that that was taking it too far. And they did something that, apparently, no one at this table (former Bush adviser Mary Matalin, former Reagan chief of staff Ken Duberstein, and former Clinton speechwriter Michael Waldmanhas ever heard before. They booed."

Joe Scarborough, MSNBC, on Hardball with Chris Matthews, Feb. 2: "After the Democrats booed and hissed, Republicans were on the floor saying, you know, we never once did that to Clinton. So every time he would talk about Social Security, the roars got a little louder. And they got behind their president."

Former Rep. Bob Barr, CNN, on Inside Edition, Feb. 3: "It will be a very, very difficult battle as we saw by the unprecedented and, I think, highly improper virtual booing of the president when he simply said that the system is going to be bankrupt and the time is now to fix it."

So, listening to the pundits, you'd come away thinking Republicans never resorted to disrespectful behavior during a Bill Clinton State of the Union address. You'd be wrong.

From Roll Call, Jan. 29, 1998: "As Democrats cheered President Clinton Tuesday night and most Republicans maintained decorum despite allegations of misconduct swirling around him, signs of impending trouble were visible in the faces of three California Republicans: John Doolittle, Richard Pombo, and Frank Riggs. Sitting in the far right of the chamber, the three staunch conservatives refused to join in the bipartisan ovation for First Lady Hillary Clinton. When the President entered the chamber, Pombo didn't turn to acknowledge him. As the entire audience dutifully rose to its feet for President Clinton, the three Republicans remained glued to their seats." Rep. Dana Rohrbacher showed his disdain for the president by pretending to clap. "I want to be courteous, but that doesn't mean supportive," Rohrbacher said.

Or this, from the Washington Times, Jan. 29, 1998, quoting Amy Ridenour of the the National Center for Public Policy Research: "And, although this has scarcely been mentioned by the national press, about half of the congressional Republicans didn't show up at all. A member of Congress attending the speech counted members, and found about half of the Republicans absent from the speech. Another Republican member of Congress reported: 'I went for two minutes, to demonstrate respect for the office of the president. Then I left.'"

This from the Los Angeles Times, Jan. 5, 1997: "Only once did they unmistakably and collectively show their disapproval -- when Clinton spoke disparagingly of a GOP-sponsored constitutional amendment to balance the budget. Many Republicans hissed and some booed."

See? Everyone acts the same. Republicans, for some reason, refuse to acknowledge that they behave in the same ways they accuse Democrats of behaving. Listening to Sean Hannity, you'd never think that anyone had ever criticized the President of the United States until George W. Bush took office. Of course, looking through transcripts from Hannity and Colmes quickly shows that Hannity frequently criticized Bill Clinton, and did so when we had troops in harms way. And there you have it, the Republican double-standard: point out the moral failings of Democrats, but never acknowledge the moral failings within your own party. Bill Clinton has an affair: Republicans criticize Clinton's lack of morals. Newt Gingrich has an affair: Republicans criticize Clinton's lack of morals.

Ah, the circle of life, as it goes round and round.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Friday Ponderings

Ah, Friday! Finally. And I'm not going to do anything today, except for writing, and getting drunk. Just kidding on the writing part. No, wait. Ah, never mind.

My column is now up at The Smirking Chimp. If you've never been to The Chimp, you should check them out. They, along with my friends at CounterBias, provide a wide variety of commentary and news pieces about life and politics from some great writers.

There was one interesting bit of news from the last couple of days: the revelation that Donald Rumsfeld had tried to resign, twice (over Abu Ghraib), but President Bush didn't let him.


What does this say about Bush? I mean, does he reflect back on what happened at Abu Ghraib (and no, it wasn't just humiliation of prisoners, read the Taguba report for the real story, not the bullshit version Fox News spews out) and think, "Ah, what happened wasn't so bad. What's wrong with some terrorists being photographed naked?" Good lord. And for anyone who thinks Abu Ghraib was an isolated incident, the army has investigated dozens of abuse cases.

But no, Georgie loves Rummy. And, of course, since the presidential election was the "accountability moment" for Bush, no member of his cabinet has to take the blame for managing the war in Iraq. I watched Hannity and Colmes a few weeks back (I know, bad idea), and Hannity was shouting and pounding his chest and drooling and mumbling something about some liberal needing to take responsibility for something that angered Hannity -- which could have been anything -- and Hannity yelling at the liberal to "stop passing the buck." Well, Sean, why don't you ask George W. Bush why his administration has been playing "pass the buck" for years now. Harry Truman is turning in his grave, unless the grave has been robbed or if Truman is either in Heaven or Hell, in which case he may not be in a position to do any spinning. But you get what I mean.

I got off track about Friday. I attend classes at Portland Community College Monday - Thursday. It's a short schedule so I can work my way up to full-time. Just like when I was working, at the end of the week I'm tired from the work of the week, but this time the feeling doesn't have any negative connotations. The school week is stressful, but not in a bad way. School is a blast. So, kids, if you're thinking of putting off college: don't! Believe me, it will be much more difficult if you wait until you're 36 to go. Not impossible, of course, just hard. But easier if you've recently graduated from high school. I graduated from high school in 1986, which means the last math class I took was in 1985, so math is not one of my strong areas, and re-learning it all is difficult but I'm finding that I'm remembering more and more from my high school days, so hopefully by the time I move on to the next level in math, I'll be ready.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to return to doing nothing.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Quick Take Headline: My New Column

Short entry for now. My new column is up at CounterBias. It examines the Right's continued, and strange, obsession with Bill Clinton (and, to a lesser extent, Hillary Clinton). Good lord, the man has been out of office for years, but conservatives have some sort of deep-rooted obsession with the Clintons. The irony is, as they claim that Bill Clinton will do anything to stay in the spotlight, it is their efforts which puts Clinton into the spotlight. Sean Hannity invokes his name on a regular basis. Same with Limbaugh. If Bill Clinton were to pass away tomorrow, conservative pundits and politicians would find a huge, empty place in their black hearts. Without an easy target like Bill Clinton, what would conservatives do? They'd have to find someone new to obsess over. Roger Clinton?

Anyway, if you read the column, drop me a line and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

State of the Union 2005

The State of The Union 2005

I feel kinda stupid writing this entry, because I forgot to take notes during tonight's state of the union address. But I'm supposed to provide instant feedback as one of my blogger duties, so I'll give it my best shot. I will, unfortunately, be incredibly inaccurate due to my lack of notes. I know, I could have read the transcript, but at MSNBC, the thing is in several parts! I don't have the attention span to read one part. In fact, I'm not even paying attention while I write this, that's how out of the loop I am.

Okay, I'll start with the good, at least the good I remember:

-- Bush introduces Safia Taleb al-Suhail, an Iraqi woman who voted for the first time yesterday. Good for her, and I'm glad Mr. Bush honored her in his speech. Iraqis literally took their lives in their hands when they voted, what with the threat of insurgents around every corner. Could you head off to your local polling station if you thought someone might be up in a tree with a sniper rifle or ready to blow up the polling station with a car bomb? I don't think I could.

-- Bush honors the memory of Marine Corps Sgt. Byron Norwood and his parents, Janet and Bill Norwood. A very moving moment, especially when Mrs. Norwood gave her son's dog tags to Safia Taleb al-Shuail.

The odd: what point did asbestos lawsuit become a problem? Bush: " Justice is distorted, and our economy is held back, by irresponsible class actions and frivolous asbestos claims — and I urge Congress to pass legal reforms this year. "

If I had the time (or interest) I'd do some research on this whole asbestos issue. Because, frankly, it kind of took me by surprise.

Oh, wait, I just saw something at CBS News. So it looks like the elimination or reduction of frivolous asbestos claims is a really important part of Bush's agenda. Which is disappointing, as I was contemplating filing a number of lawsuits related to frivolous asbestos claims. Actually, I don't even know what asbestos is. Isn't that the stuff Chinese restaurants put on food? I dunno.

Finally...the bad. Democrats booed Bush as he was laying out some sort of plan about something (Social Security?) and there was a lot of booing but, unfortunately, no shoving matches between Democrats and Republicans.

Bush did explain -- a little -- about the priviatization plan for Social Security. And it wasn't free choice, like I thought it was going to be; it sounded, in fact, like the government setting up several types of accounts based on stocks and/or bonds and/or mutual funds and letting the individual choose which plan to put the money into. I had always thought the idea was to let people take a small percentage of the money that would have gone into Social Security and invest it as the individual saw fit. Let me know if I'm wrong on this one, because I was drunk for most of the speech. Just kidding. I was hopped up on paint fumes.

Finally, part two: I didn't even know there was going to be a Democratic response to the speech, so my lack of writing utensils also served to undermine the fact that I wasn't paying attention. It was Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. And they said some stuff. Not sure what. Asbestos, maybe? Sorry, gang, I really dropped the ball on this posting.

And, I'm not 100% sure of this, but didn't Bush sort of say that Syria had WMDs? I thought they only had hamsters. Learn something new every day.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Everybody Loves Bill (Clinton)

I'll let you in on a little secret: as I surf the blogsphere, I happen to enjoy the conservative blogs I encounter.

Okay, that's a lie. I hate them all. Really, really, fucking hate them. Folks, in this case, more cow bell is not the prescription for my fever (I'll leave you to ponder that, dear reader).

What's more, the conservative bloggers are obsessed with Bill and Hillary Clinton. And they have stupid nicknames for the Clintons. And they just can't get enough on the Clintons. Hell, even here at my biased liberal blog, you'll read less about Bill Clinton than you would at one of those conservative blogs. Conservatives like to say it is Democrats who are obsessed with the Clintons, but then again, conservatives also like to lie. (Such as the time when George W. Bush was asked about Ken Lay in 2002 and Bush lied by saying he first met Lay in 1994, when in reality he had known Lay since the 1980s) or the time when George W. Bush was asked if he had ever been arrested and he said no (leaving out the fact he had been arrested for drunk driving at the age of 30).

So now conservatives are bitching about Clinton being named as the top U.N. envoy for relief and recovery efforts for the nations affected by the December tsunamis that struck the Indian Ocean. Who cares? If conservatives hate the U.N. so much, why should they care if Clinton has decided to help out? They say Clinton wants to be in the spotlight. And? Most politicians like to be in the spotlight. Why is it any different with the Clintons?

Conservatives can become awfully paranoid when it comes to Bill Clinton. Remember Jesse Helms? Yeah, I know, I didn't, either. Oh, wait, I do remember Helms. He said something in 1996 to the effect that if Clinton was going to visit military installations in North Carolina, he should bring bodyguards. That fucking nut. The AP obtained a copy of a letter Helms sent to supporters, which said, of Clinton and the U.N.: "I'm sure you might agree that putting a left-wing, undisciplined and ethically challenged former President of the United States into a position of such power would be a tragic mistake,'' Helms whined bitterly (I added the "whined bitterly" part). The letter also contained a petition for President Bush to "...rebuke all efforts by Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, and every other liberal in Congress to push for Bill Clinton to become Secretary-General of the United Nations."

See? Crazy. Or is it crazy like a fox? I dunno. Something to think about. Well, okay, not really.