(I might as well use the old name if I’m going over everything. Also, there are some bad words in this because I’m directly quoting people here.)
The show began with Bill Maher and Melissa Rivers performing a parody of the “red carpet” segment of the Academy Awards, which was hosted by Dubai Ports World. Rivers said it was “the first Oscars owned and operated by DPW,” and Maher immediately said, “Whoa, hold on there Melissa. The president said the Oscars are just being ‘managed’ by DPW.” The joke was that the attendees (including Charlize Theron and Angelina Jolie) paraded by fully covered in burkas with Arabic men hurrying them along, while Maher exclaimed, “my don’t they look great. I’d love to investigate your port operations, Angelina,” while Rivers elbowed Maher. Someone supposed to be Dakota Fanning walked by also – a little girl completely covered also. Finally, someone supposed to be Madonna walked by wearing a full burka with a “merry widow” on the outside, and when Rivers asked her to come over and say a few words, the man hit her with a cane a couple of times to move her along faster. Maher said, “Didn’t Madonna look great, with that little number from the line of anti-Christian Dior.”
In the monologue, Maher said that all of Hollywood was gripped with “Oscar fever,” and the show was “so gay, that the seat fillers were actual seat fillers” (you had to be there, I guess). “Geez, gay cowboys, a gay writer, transsexuals…if the Oscars were any gayer, they’d be the Tonys.” Maher then noted the AP videotape that appeared that week of Bush being told Katrina will hit, and he doesn’t ask a single question, adding that, “it’s a shame his performance was too late for this year’s Oscars, because usually when you play a retarded guy, you win.” Of course, in response, the White House “counter punched” in response to the criticism and released a tape from 2002 "that clearly showed several moments going by without Bush fucking anything up."
Yep, it was another tough week for Dubya, as Maher said. “After skulking into Afghanistan, he did the same thing with Pakistan. Air Force One landed after dark with the lights off and shades drawn, and then bin Laden gave a speech and said ‘Bush can run, but he can’t hide’.” Also, “Karl Rove said that if Bush’s approval ratings dip any lower, he’ll have to arrive home the same way.” Maher then said that Bush, “gave a speech and said that Pakistan was a force for freedom in the Arab world. The only problem is that Pakistan isn’t free and it isn’t an Arab country” (God almighty…as Molly Ivins once asked, are there any adults in this administration?). That’s OK, Maher said, because earlier in the week, “Bush referred to the Indians as ‘native Americans” (that could be a serious remark, coming from him). Yep, “Bush isn’t sophisticated…in India, he saw a woman with a red dot on her head and he thought she had been hunting with Cheney – he was greeted in India by thousands of people waving American flags. The only problem is that they were on fire.” Maher also pointed out how good it is that Bush took this trip to “soothe tensions…if Pakistan nuked India, we’d lose a huge section of the American work force.” Returning to this country, Maher said that rapper Lil’ Kim was desperately seeking medical attention, worried that her breast implants are leaking, and today President Bush said that no one could have anticipated the breach of the titty bags.”
This actually led into the first satellite interview which Maher had with former FEMA director Mike “Horsey Time” Brown, and I have to admit that it took me a few seconds to recover from the shock of witnessing Maher talking to him. Maher said, “I saw the tape of Bush getting punked. Why did it come out now?” and I don’t think Brown really knew based on his answer (why am I surprised?), though I believe the AP had requested the footage under the Freedom of Information Act, and the request was recently granted (not sure, though). Maher asked Brown, “Do you feel vindicated?,” and Brown said that he “just wanted the truth to come out.” Maher asked, “Do you see a pattern with this president (in terms of not handling situations like this)…9/11, Katrina, Iraq?” (prefacing the question by acknowledging that he understood why Brown might not want to take a shot at Bush), and Brown said that he “saw overconfidence in Katrina; despite entreaties, I was still getting pillaged and I was expected to pull a rabbit out of my hat.” Maher then asked, in surprisingly blunt fashion I thought, “were you a crony?” Brown replied that “I got the job because I was friends with Joe Allbaugh, but he thought I was qualified.” Maher then asked, “what were your qualifications?” and Brown said that he’d worked in state and local government for a third of his career, and the rest of the time he’d worked as a lawyer with the Arabian Horse Association, brought in to clean up ethical problems, and he “was brought onboard FEMA to do the same thing and then worked his way up.” Maher, who kept mentioning refrigerators in trees as a symbol of the fact that much of New Orleans was still a mess, asked “How different would everything be if you were in charge?” and Brown said, “we would’ve cleaned it up in record time and under budget like we did with Manhattan after 9/11.” Maher then asked, “does FEMA have a plan for what to do if aliens attacked?” and Brown, quick on the uptake, said “I’d have to kill you if I told you.”
I will admit that Mike Brown had a good week last week. I saw the video; he looked like he was in charge and handling things, Bush looked like a pinecone, and Mike (“City Of Louisiana”) Chertoff was absent. In other words, I’m sure it was just another typical day for the Bush Administration.
However, Brown is still the guy who was nowhere to be found at a time when he was needed to coordinate the disaster relief effort, and when he was found, it was discovered that he was sending Emails back and forth to his administrative assistant concerning his dinner attire. Brown is STILL the guy who was responsible for that truck filled with ice that, due to myriad FEMA screwups, ended up driving the mileage of about halfway around the world before it finally arrived at a destination that would accept its shipment. I’m not going to bother to try and catalogue all of Brown’s other glorious moments such as those.
As Atrios and others have pointed out, the unpreparedness for Katrina and mismanagement of the relief effort represents a failure on every level of government, and as far as I’m concerned, it is the consequence of thinking and acting in accordance of Repug propaganda that we’ve been force fed over approximately 30 years telling us that “government isn’t the solution, it’s the problem” (click here to debunk that nonsense once and for all). When you put people who don’t like government IN government, what magically happens is that they end up doing a bad job of governing. As nearly as I can tell, Bushco has “plenty of chiefs, but not enough Indians,” so to speak (and I DO mean native Americans in this context). Given all of that, I see NO REASON for Mike Brown or anyone else in this bunch to be treated with kid gloves. They merit all of the ridicule that they deserve, partly because shame and contrition absolutely do not exist in these people (with the exception of Richard Clarke, who I always thought was too honorable a man to really be considered as a member of this bunch anyway).
Maher then spoke with Harry Anderson via satellite about New Orleans, and this segment might have been the funniest that I’ve ever seen in all of the times I’ve watched this show (got me out of my consternation from watching Brown). Maher asked Anderson (who was in New Orleans when Katrina hit) what the storm was like, and Anderson said “well, we found new ways for plasma TVs to fit through storefront windows” (I think that’s close to what he said…I have to admit that I was laughing so hard that I didn’t quite get everything). Maher said, “Dubya is Mr. Open Checkbook. Can’t he get some money to help get the refrigerators out of the trees?” (coming back to that again) and Anderson said, “Maybe he’s counting on Power Ball winnings to do that.” In response to a question about Mardi Gras, Anderson said, “It was like somebody slipped the whole city a ruffee – we haven’t gotten the shit cleaned up. We need to raise money. We have to add two bucks to a pack of cigarettes. We have to add a quarter to a beer. We have to get some money going here and stop looking like a kid with a bowl that Sally Struthers is pitching. We have to clean it up ourselves and not wait for the idiots from the top down.” Maher asked if the French Quarter was OK, and Anderson said it basically was, adding that “If God was trying to wipe out New Orleans, then He’s got terrible aim.” Anderson then said, “The upcoming election will look like ‘rock, paper, scissors’ – we have to start acting like grownups; drunk grownups, but grownups.” Maher asked, “Who do you blame?” and Anderson said, “The federal response was fucking tragic. Blanco is running around like Ms. Pac Man without the looks (oh man…). And Nagin? What can I say that he hasn’t said already? We need to clean house and not act like we’re on Mars.”
The panel discussion began with Graydon Carter of Vanity Fair magazine, Dana Priest of the Washington Post, and actor/comedian D. L. Hughley. Maher asked, “When Katrina was happening, shouldn’t this have been the last straw? Bush’s approval rating is at 34 percent. Would these guys still win?” and D.L. Hughley (who had a lot of good lines) said, “More people believe that Elvis is still alive. (Bush) can’t believe there are refugees in America. He’s failed the country on every level, and people who voted for him got what they deserved” (YES!). Maher said, “Even Cheney has a higher approval rating,” and Hughley said, “he’d better, or he’ll shoot you.” Maher then lamented that, “the Democrats should be making hay of this. The Republicans throw down the gauntlet and the Democrats do nothing.” Dana Priest said that “probably only six Democrats on the senate side actually read the pre-war intelligence report on Iraq” (coming from her, I’d believe that pathetic statement). Hughley then said, “Bush at least has the courage of his convictions, even though they’re wrong.” Graydon Carter noted that "he (Bush) speaks to the audience as if they're idiots. I think the reason he does that is because that's the way these issues were explained to him." Maher said that, "Bush didn't really win on his popularity last time. He won on scaring people that Kerry might do something stupid like, I don't know, sell the ports to the Arabs.”
Dana Priest then asked what I think is the $64K question, which is this: “what do the Democrats really believe?” Carter said, “the Democrats in Washington are trained to speak out of both sides of the issue,” citing Hillary Clinton on Iraq when Carter asked her, “why can’t you just say that you made a mistake on voting for the war?” Priest said, “She’s playing both sides – maybe she doesn’t believe anything…there are no easy solutions.” Maher said, “But she won’t even admit that she’s angry. The Republicans say, ‘Boy, Hillary Clinton sure is angry,’ and she should say, ‘You’re damn right I’m angry (when I see what’s going on in this country)’.” The Democrats should take their lumps and stand up for things, stand by their principles.”
(Note to Howard Dean: Contact the producers of “Real Time” and ask them for a verbatim transcript of what I just summarized in the preceding paragraph, then distribute it to every Democratic member of Congress as well as every party candidate running for office and make them READ IT ALOUD EVERY SINGLE DAY SO THEY NEVER FORGET THIS!!).
Graydon Carter then said that he thought Al Gore was an example of what everyone was talking about (re: a Democrat standing up for his or her convictions), mentioning that Gore has been “making the rounds on global warming…if we found a way to replace the internal combustion engine, say in three years, we could fix a lot of problems” (an interesting possibility that we’ll probably never see, though Carter is right). Hughley said “the Republicans have spent the last five years making people ignorant and afraid…J.J. in ‘Good Times’ could have run the country better.” Maher then said, “Yeah, but Gore used to talk to us like we were in third grade” (Really? I never felt that way, but maybe that’s just me. And how is that worse than Dubya even if it’s true?). Priest then mentioned the “health care plan of Hillary’s” as an example of the Dems “giving up and staying on the sidelines,” in Carter’s words (in addition to the Democrats caving, you can thank that obnoxious blowhard Newt Gingrich for carrying on and scuttling it, making sure the Democrats got credit for absolutely nothing). Maher then said that the Democrats “are fishing in the Republican pond. Why don’t they fish in the pond of 79 million voters in this country who don’t have good jobs or adequate health care…try to address THEIR issues.” There was some cross talk, and then Maher mentioned that “Bush plays the ‘faith’ card,” to which Hughley said, “If I hear one more time about this guy’s faith, I’ll lose my fucking mind! I watch these people do really vile things, and that’s Christianity?”
After some more discussion, it was mentioned by Priest that Bushco “is ‘reclassifying’ history in the National Archive under the excuse of ‘national security,” basically saying that they’re rewriting history. This is typically despicable on the part of our government, but it didn’t surprise me, unfortunately. A week or so ago, I posted something about what some historians considered to be the top 10 presidential mistakes, and I linked to the White House bio on Andrew Johnson, our president after Lincoln, and if you had read that, you would KNOW that stuff like that is getting changed by Bushco, because most of that was fiction skewed to the red state “base.”
Maher then picked up his “Oscar fever” theme once more, and said that, “when it comes to Hollywood, if you play a person afflicted in any way, you’re ‘gold’,” tying back to what he said earlier about Bush and listing a ton of movies that qualified: “Rain Man,” “My Left Foot,” “I Am Sam,” and others. He then led into a comedy bit with marquees for the phony movies “The Quadfather” and “Mr. Holland’s Lupus,” among others.
Maher then spoke via satellite with Bob Baer, the former CIA officer who wrote the book “Sleeping With The Devil” that was the basis for the movie “Syrianna.” Maher said, “As much as I can tell, the movie’s about oil,” and Baer said, “no doubt about it. Maher asked Baer if the CIA was the “enabler” (for our dependency), and Baer agreed, mentioning Saudi Arabia and its affluence and pointing out the now-familiar fact that “15 of the 9/11 hijackers came from there, we still don’t know who recruited them, and we still don’t know what’s going on in that country, but the CIA is still indicting Saddam Hussein over that 2002 national intelligence estimate. What’s going on?” Maher said, “Why doesn’t Bush just admit that we’re there for the oil?” which to me is an excellent question that should have been asked about three years ago before this mess got started, and Baer said, “I honestly don’t think the neocons knew what they were doing…I think they were clueless. They really didn’t know what they were doing when they got into Iraq, and there’s nobody to replace (Hussein) in the military. Maher then asked, “How serious a possibility is it to bring back Saddam?,” a question I really wish Maher wouldn’t ask any more because it really does amplify the ultimate pointlessness of all of this and thus creates more heartache for the families and loved ones of our dead and injured service people – I’m sorry, but that’s the way I feel. Baer said, “(Hussein) or someone like him had been running that place for 300 years, and Democracy won’t work. That’s the bad news" (I don’t recall that Baer had any “good” news behind that).
To point out how undemocratic that area of the world is generally, Maher said that “Bush is in Pakistan with Musharraf, who didn’t get his job from answering a want ad. He got in through a coup, but I guess we like him,” and Baer said, “We don’t support democracy ever in that area, including Dubai. All Arab sheikdoms are tyranny in a sense.” (Baer then also mentioned the 16 people killed in Pakistan when we attacked, ostensibly trying to get bin Laden, and said that we would never put up with that ourselves; that’s true, but I missed the context on that one.) Maher then said, “You must be pissed that Clooney put on 20 pounds to play you in the movie,” and Baer said, “I could have used the fact that Clooney played me as a pickup line back then, but not now.” Maher then mentioned the fact that Valerie Plame’s outing also blew the cover of something called Brewster Jennings, which I guess was supposed to be some kind of a front company (I think Maher joked that he had a 401(k) there), and Maher asked Baer, “how pissed are you about that?” Baer said, “It’s like blaming the CIA for the war, saying ‘we don’t care about you, only politics and money'.”
Returning to the panel, Maher said to Priest, as a follow up from Baer, that “a lot of what you wrote in the Post about CIA ‘black sites’ was classified. Do you think you did any harm?,” and Priest said, “we tried to be responsible…this government is cracking down on the press (re: the New York Times and the NSA spying story). Everything according to Bush damages national security,” adding that, “Since they have such a low opinion of the enemy, maybe that’s why they’ve never captured bin Laden” (yep, that figures for me too). Carter then said (tellingly, I thought) that “if you took an American from 2000 (who hadn’t been here since then) and then brought them back, they wouldn’t recognize this country. The devastation after 9/11 (is as bad as what happened on that day)”…some may consider that a bit of a stretch, but I don’t think it is by much.
Returning to the Oscars, Maher said “I think ‘Brokeback Mountain’ will win (you ‘bit it’ on that one, Bill)…is this really a ‘gay’ movie, since (the two male leads) are only together once a year on a fishing trip?” D.L. Hughley said, “Some people call it a love story, but porno is a love story to me,” with someone mentioning that it’s the only movie “where the hero gets it in the end” (ba-dump). Maher said, “Don’t the red staters believe that the gays control Hollywood?” to which Hughley asked, “Aren’t these guys red staters?” Graydon Carter said, “it’s very much like a 50s movie with Sidney Poitier…unfulfilled love and all that,” to which Hughley asked “A gay ‘Raisin’ In The Sun’?” Maher asked, “Is it easier to be famous now,” and Carter said, “If that person from 2000 returned now and saw that Paris Hilton is the most famous woman in the country, they’d be shocked.”
At that point, it was time for New Rules. Once again, it was nice to have watched a show without right-wing propaganda, though I’m sure that will change this week with the appearance of National Review commentator Ramesh Ponnuru.
Oh well, it was nice while it lasted.