Weekend Bookchat

December 13, 2008

One of the most unlikely offshoots of the government’s efforts to end the Depression and get the American economy up and running again was the Federal Theatre Project, which gave a leg up to Orson Welles, John Houseman, Sinclair Lewis and scores of other actors, writers and artists. That program, and the Republican rage that finally killed it, is the subject of Susan Quinn’s terrific new book  Furious Improvisation: How the WPA and a Cast of Thousands Made High Art Out of Desperate Times. Reviewer Scott Eyman explains:

The reaction to all this on the part of Republicans in Congress can be imagined—”boondoggle” was the most polite word employed—but the virulence spread; Ms. Quinn writes that “bureaucrats at the state level refused to cooperate across state lines, especially in the Midwest.”

And, to be blunt, a lot of the productions had to compromise with despicable local mores; in Jacksonville, a production of Uncle Tom’s Cabin was cast entirely with white people who blacked up when necessary, which sounds like a scene from one of Christopher Guest’s lunatic fancies.

IT WAS THE 1938 Congressional elections that brought the W.P.A to an end, with the Republicans taking 13 governorships and eight senate seats, and doubling their holdings in the House. It was a strong rebuke to Roosevelt’s attempt to pack the Supreme Court—easily the stupidest thing a great politician has ever done. The new Republican majority in Congress went about the long-dreamt-of business of killing the New Deal, with the Federal Theatre Project as collateral damage.

The new Congress brought the elevation of one Martin Dies Jr., a singularly uncharming man who in time would run the House Un-American Activities Committee. Dies was a Texan who praised the Confederacy because it kept the South, he said, from being overrun by “ignorant niggers.” Ms. Quinn thus makes the point that the first victim of the Red Scare was the New Deal.

With the Bush recession crippling the publishing industry and draining sources of arts funding across the board, maybe the Federal Theatre Project is an idea whose time has come — again.

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Wouldn’t you know it? For all the misery yet to come, the Bush recession has produced one benefit for . . . the Bush family! Bushology, the planned tell-all book about the Bush family from the preznit’s former sister-in-law Sharon Bush, has been shelved because of the terrible economic climate and overall drop in book sales. Bush and her agent now hope to cut a deal for a television mini-series.

Meanwhile, anyone looking for good, juicy reading about Duby and his ckan can try The Book on Bush by Eric Alterman and Mark J. Green, The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder by Vincent Bugliosi, The 35 Articles of Impeachment and the Case for Prosecuting George W. Bush by Dennis Kucinich, Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq by Thomas Ricks, American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush by Kevin Phillips, for starters.

Kucinich Rocks

August 27, 2008

Rep. Dennis Kucinich rocked the house at yesterday’s DNC session. Anybody who wants to make smirking jokes about vegans and flying saucers can go stuff it. This guy’s been fighting the good fight and saying things that needed to be said back when most other Democrats were too timid about their poll numbers to raise so much as a squeak against the rampant abuses of the Bush administration.

How cool to think that this guy made a speech in my living room and played peek-a-boo with one of my kids.Watch the speech and remember: Every time you cheer for Dennis Kucinich, you make Dennis Miller cry.

It’s Election Day 2008. We Democrats are giving America a wake-up call. Wake up, America. In 2001, the oil companies, the war contractors and the neo-con artists seized the economy and have added 4 trillion dollars of unproductive spending to the national debt. We now pay four times more for defense, three times more for gasoline and home heating oil and twice what we paid for health care.

Millions of Americans have lost their jobs, their homes, their health care, their pensions. Trillions of dollars for an unnecessary war paid with borrowed money. Tens of billions of dollars in cash and weapons disappeared into thin air, at the cost of the lives of our troops and innocent Iraqis, while all the president’s oilmen are maneuvering to grab Iraq’s oil.

Borrowed money to bomb bridges in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. No money to rebuild bridges in America. Money to start a hot war with Iran. Now we have another cold war with Russia, while the American economy has become a game of Russian roulette.

If there was an Olympics for misleading, mismanaging and misappropriating, this administration would take the gold. World records for violations of national and international laws. They want another four-year term to continue to alienate our allies, spend our children’s inheritance and hollow out our economy.

We can’t afford another Republican administration. Wake up, America. The insurance companies took over health care. Wake up, America. The pharmaceutical companies took over drug pricing.

Wake up, America. The speculators took over Wall Street. Wake up, America. They want to take your Social Security. Wake up, America. Multinational corporations took over our trade policies, factories are closing, good paying jobs lost.

Wake up, America. We went into Iraq for oil. The oil companies want more. War against Iran will mean $10-a-gallon gasoline. The oil administration wants to drill more, into your wallet. Wake up, America. Weapons contractors want more. An Iran war will cost 5 to 10 trillion dollars.

This administration can tap our phones. They can’t tap our creative spirit. They can open our mail. They can’t open economic opportunities. They can track our every move. They lost track of the economy while the cost of food, gasoline and electricity skyrockets. They skillfully played our post-9/11 fears and allowed the few to profit at the expense of the many. Every day we get the color orange, while the oil companies, the insurance companies, the speculators, the war contractors get the color green.

Wake up, America. This is not a call for you to take a new direction from right to left. This is call for you to go from down to up. Up with the rights of workers. Up with wages. Up with fair trade. Up with creating millions of good paying jobs, rebuilding our bridges, ports and water systems. Up with creating millions of sustainable energy jobs to lower the cost of energy, lower carbon emissions and protect the environment.

Up with health care for all. Up with education for all. Up with home ownership. Up with guaranteed retirement benefits. Up with peace. Up with prosperity. Up with the Democratic Party. Up with Obama-Biden.

Wake up, America. Wake up, America. Wake up, America.