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September 23, 2003

#1 ::: Scifantasy ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2003, 09:55 AM:

We need more people like Al Franken.

#2 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2003, 10:49 AM:

And fewer like Bush. I keep saying that we actually know next to nothing about that man.

#3 ::: Brianna ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2003, 12:06 PM:

I have to admit that I have never taken the chance to get to know anything about the man. It's difficult to pay attention to words, or follow his actions, when all I see when looking at him is the face of a constipated baby (seriously, it's in every photo taken).

He speaks as if he's hearing voices in his head--be it from an ear piece or form of insanity--which only makes him appear as if he has no idea what he's talking about. He very well may not, but I honestly don't care. Perhaps I should... ?

#4 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2003, 12:08 PM:

[weary to the bone sarcasm]
Gee, what do you mean? There was a big long interview with Our President and Laura on TV just the other day. Right in the White House. And dang if they're just like plain folks.

And Laura is such a good First Lady, being quiet and obedient and all.
[/weary to the bone sarcasm]

#5 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2003, 12:18 PM:

One of the things I dislike so about party politics is that so many discussions or interviews seem to devolve into "we rock, you suck" anthems for the left or right. While Franken is by no means exempt from this, he doesn't come off as stridently fanatic as either Coulter or Moore do for their respective poles.

I liked the bit about Acts and the nature of Christianity and the nature of Bush's "Christian" presidency. Although it made me realize how very little I remember about that part of the Bible myself. (And I had four years of LDS seminary too.)

#6 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2003, 12:50 PM:

The first Q&A on page 3 is an absolute gem. I can't believe I've never heard anyone point that out before.

#7 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2003, 01:22 PM:

While I have substantiative comments, I have to say that I have not read Franken's book yet so the whole section about Jerry Falwell, Marvin Hamlisch and the Anti-Christ was new. It can be hard to explain to your co-workers why you are mopping a latte off your laptop . . .

Simply brilliant.

#8 ::: Adam Rice ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2003, 01:29 PM:

I've had the dubious pleasure of living under Bush longer than most of you folks, since I live in Austin. I was chatting with a reporter from the local rag, who had been assigned to cover GW on the campaign trail--this was actually during the campaign. I said to him that I had the impression there wasn't anything there--not just that he was shallow, but that once you scratched the surface, you confronted emptiness. He pretty much agreed with that.

With such a person, how can you ever know much about him?

#9 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2003, 01:39 PM:

"emptiness"

If you've made the decision to run a figurehead for office, it's probably a smart thing to choose one who is as lightweight as possible, with no personal history beyond that that can be erased with a little sen-sen, a Dust Buster, and some milspec WhiteOut.

#10 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2003, 02:34 PM:

TNH: I keep saying that we actually know next to nothing about that man.

Adam: . . . I had the impression there wasn't anything there--not just that he was shallow, but that once you scratched the surface, you confronted emptiness.

I think these comments cut to the heart of our situation. Bush, like Reagan, but unlike his own father, is a sphinx -- what you see in him has more to do with you than with him. Some conservatives need to see him a strong wartime leader, so they do. Others need to see him as a deeply religious man, so they do. Some of us need to see him as a mendacious smirking chimp, so we do. This "teflon personality", the ability to not leave a trail, to be anything to anyone has become a very useful thing in politics these days. You don't have to work nearly as hard tailoring your image when your audience will do it for you.

The problem is that, at least in my own experience, real spiritual growth requires trying to find out who you really are, while breaking down all the false fronts we learn to put up, the false selves we construct. You have to learn how not to be a chameleon, and how to be, in a sense, transparent. Bush is emotionaly opaque, reflective -- I wonder if many people close to him feel like they really know him.

So much of what has gone on concerning Iraq bears this out. With Clinton, there were always a lot of opinions around, but you never had any doubt that he had his own opinion firmly held, even if he hid it for political reasons. I think that Bush largely reflects the opinions of those around him -- Rove, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell -- depending on who is close by at the time. When things did not go as planned (or dreamed), nobody in or around the White House could figure out how to take responsibility for anything going on. These policies and decisions don't seem to be his -- they are just "content" to be presented.

The picure that carefully reconstructed timelines of 9/11 does not show is not of a decisive president, someone with a clear idea of where to lead a country. He is passive, wiating for his aides to decide when it is time to leave an elementary school while the towers burn.

This is very dangerous, if true.

#11 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2003, 02:36 PM:

Excuse please (actually no excuse when you have preview) . . .

The previous should read:

The picure that carefully reconstructed timelines of 9/11 does not show is a decisive president, someone with a clear idea of where to lead a country. He is passive, wiating for his aides to decide when it is time to leave an elementary school while the towers burn.

#12 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2003, 04:17 PM:

Two comments --

T, when I hit this topic on "recent comments" it takes me to the original story, not to the comment thread. As I use "recent comments" a lot to figure what to see next, this is a bit annoying. Is there a simple fix at your end to prevent this? I'm using various versions, relatively current, of Internet Explorer.

Second, GWB is a clear example of what it takes to be electable in this country -- Clinton wasn't flawless, but seems to have a lot more character in retrospect.... Presidents _are_ figureheads, overall. Some of them have a desire to control where the ship is heading, but most have some trouble doing that -- herding cats without a can-opener springs to mind as a metaphor. Anyone in an executive position probably has less power than you think, because of having to please various constituencies. Been there, done that, in a minor form.

All that said, I'm as angry at Bush's comments at the UN this morning as I've ever been at him -- so little perspective! So much arrogance! Talking about people who kill others without any mercy, and having no idea that that phrase might be applied to him....

Good thing I had a telephone meeting and couldn't listen to all his remarks, or I'd be livid.

Cheers,
Tom

#13 ::: Rob Tomshany ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2003, 05:00 PM:

To get back on the Franken book for a little bit--I just finished reading it the other day, and really, really, really liked it a lot. (I seem to be on a reading streak of liberal political books lately; not long ago I finished the new ones by Joe Conason and Paul Krugman--and I loved both of those too--have a copy of Danny Goldberg's Dispatches from the Culture Wars: How the Left Lost Teen spirit waiting for me at the local library, in addition to having reserved the new books from Ivins, Greider, Hightower, Stephenson, Bujold, Pratchett, and Lethem....) (Note: the last four books deal only marginally with the current political situation.)

There is danger in reading so many of these books all at once, especially if they tend to reinforce one's beliefs and suspicions as much as they do mine. Simply, they can lose their function as critiques and prescriptions and become mere anodynes, or worse, the left-wing version of "political pornography" (Franken's characterization of Coulter-style lib-baiting literature). There's nothing wrong with feeling good about one's beliefs--it beats the alternative, anyway--but you don't want to let it distract you from trying to find out for youself what's really going on, or to stop you from hearing what people less devoted to the True Faith of Liberalism might have to say about it. Enjoy Lies and the Lying Liars etc., by all means, but take it with a grain of salt or two.

Oh, and I hope everyone made sure to follow the link on beliefnet to "The Gospel of Supply Side Jesus", one of the two best parts of Lies. (The other is Franken's account of the Wellstone memorial and its aftermath.)

#14 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2003, 05:04 PM:

I used to hang out on the Independent discussion boards, where there were a fair number of evangelical Christians dedicated to supporting Israel (there were a fair number of every kind of wacko, in fact, which is one reason why I no longer hang out there) and that's where I first heard the theory behind the Q&A on page 3 - from someone neither an evangelical Christian nor nutty about Israel, needless to say.

#15 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2003, 05:36 PM:

I read Franken's book this weekend and was struck by how sober and controlled it is. It's being talked up largely as "a liberal comedian makes funny/unfunny jokes about other people" when it's more than that. His research looks, feels, tastes, and smells impeccable -- countering Coulter's at every step -- and Franken's uranium core of serious, mindful, passionate concern radiates through the yuks that are his stock in trade. Recommended with enthusiasm.

As for Bush's U.N. speech, this came to mind when Drudge pulled a quote for the top headline:

"Let us move forward." -- G.W. Bush, 9/22/03

"The politics of failure has failed! And I say we must move forward, not backward! Upward, not forward! And always twirling, twirling, TWIRLING toward freedom!" -- Kodos, Evil Alien Replicon From Beyond the Moon (disguised as Bob Dole), THE SIMPSONS

#16 ::: Dylan O'Donnell ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2003, 06:31 PM:

Tom: To get to the thread from "Recent Comments" when Teresa has made the title of a post a link, click on the commenter's name, not the title.

#17 ::: Stuart Dimond ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2003, 09:18 PM:

This is why I lament the general American cultural ignorance of the bible. Back during the campaign when Bush cited the bible as a major influence on his life and thought nobody had the necessary smidgen of knowledge required to say "Oh! Is that so? Would you talk about some specific verses that have influenced you?" It would have been the quickest way to reveal how bogus the Shrub is.

Our culture has been shaped in a major way by the Bible. We all owe it to ourselves to be conversant with it so we can identify and respond to the slanted interpretations that have become such a part of public discourse.

The average fundamentalist doesn't know that much about the bible. The bible study that Franken mentions Bush having attended sounds very like most of what passes for bible study in American churches. I'm not surprised, and find it quite believable, that after two years of study the participants didn't know what they had studied.

When Franklin Graham gave the commencement address to my daughter's graduating class at Wheaton, she came away muttering about the poor quality of his scriptural exegesis and he is typical.

This is a text worthy of study as literature and as a bonus for Fantasy and Science Fiction fans, it is filled with good stories set in alien cultures.

#18 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2003, 11:57 PM:

Stuart, the Shrub doesn't take surprise questions.

I'm surprised that more people don't read the Bible. There's no better ammunition for dealing with fundies and pseudo-religious bullies. Many of their most obnoxious beliefs are only marginally supported by scripture, if they're supported at all; and those Old Testament rules they're so fond of citing are almost always nestled in the midst of a bunch of other rules they aren't observing. I figure anyone who isn't burning sacrificial animals to Yahweh should think twice, maybe three times, before citing obscure bits of Leviticus or Deuteronomy in support of his own uncharitable homophobia.

Now, my idea of examining scripture till it squirms is to wonder whether Lazarus, when ordered to come forth, came out hopping like a bunny rabbit.

Time for bed.

#19 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2003, 02:39 AM:

I figure anyone who isn't burning sacrificial animals to Yahweh should think twice [...]

In what temple?

#20 ::: DM SHERWOOD ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2003, 06:06 AM:

V Little to say that has not been said bettewr by others. Its a real flaw in modern democrasy that it throws up 'hoolw men' Whatever you think of your Founding fathers theuy were strong opinionated men and took it for granted that they would be followed by such

#21 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2003, 07:30 AM:

Oh, it's not just American cultural ignorance. I've noticed this myself in the (many) arguments I've had with fundies: they claim to believe every word in the Bible is literally true, and they achieve this by carefully only reading selected extracts from the Bible.

#22 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2003, 08:27 AM:

Avram, building their own temples would be well within the latitutde of interpretation they've used on other passages. In the meantime, it definitely says you're supposed to be burning animals to Yahweh.

#23 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2003, 09:08 AM:

Barbecue . . . it's not just a good idea, it's the law!

Hmmm. Maybe God is from Texas. Or Kansas City or Memphis . . .

#24 ::: Daniel Martin ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2003, 10:39 AM:

More specifically (I assume you're refering to Lev. 17, since chapters 17-26 are really one unit and 18:22 and 20:13 are the two Leviticus verses trotted out most often to condemn homosexuality), if you kill an ox, lamb, or goat, you need to bring some of it to the temple so that the priest can burn the fat as a fragrant offering. Making a burnt offering by yourself gets you cut off from the people. (so no backyard barbecues) After all, you might be making the offering to goat demons.

For more Leviticus fun, check out the list of near kin whose nakedness you're not supposed to uncover (Lev. 18:7-16). Now, construct a small imaginary family tree and note the conspicuous absence of a certain immediate family member from that list. (Ok, it's sort of implied that you're not supposed to in 18:17, but not because this person is near kin to the person being instructed)

I was just reading the Holiness Code (Lev. 17-26) on Monday for a bible study my church is doing. (May I take this opportunity to plug Kerygma as a company that publishes bible studies that cause people to think?) A suggestion to all: do not attempt to read Leviticus from a bible that has been stored in the same small space as chamomile herbs. Especially late at night; I had to restart three times, and still wound up skimming the last bit.

#25 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2003, 11:31 AM:

Avram, building their own temples would be well within the latitutde of interpretation they've used on other passages. In the meantime, it definitely says you're supposed to be burning animals to Yahweh.


Barbecue . . . it's not just a good idea, it's the law!

Hmmm. Maybe God is from Texas. Or Kansas City or Memphis . . .


Time for a careful reading of the sauce code.

#26 ::: Greg Morrow ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2003, 12:24 PM:

My favorite part of Franken's book was Operation: Ignore. Carefully documented, thorough piling on of example after example after example of Bush's White House failing to move forward on anti-terrorism and missing opportunities to do something about terrorism before 11 Sep.

If we had real investigative media in this country, Bush's pre-11 Sep security indolence would have led to a Democratic takeover of Congress in 2002.

#27 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2003, 12:31 PM:

Wow such synchronicity. As some of you may know, Bravo is re-running all of the West Wing in order, Mon-Thurs. (7pm and 11pm locally). Last night was the one where in addressing the talk radio hosts President Bartlet took on the Doctor Laura figure with references to certain strictures from Leviticus. It was one of those extremely well constructed speeches Sorkin gives his characters from time to time. Lots of fun to watch.

MKK

#28 ::: Kellie ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2003, 12:45 PM:

Mary Kay - That's one of the reasons I was so bummed to learn Sorkin no longer writes for the show. And now excuse me while I rant and rave in a corner that my cable company chooses to air the Hallmark Channel in place of Bravo.

#29 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2003, 01:01 PM:

I'm surprised that more people don't read the Bible. There's no better ammunition for dealing with fundies and pseudo-religious bullies. Many of their most obnoxious beliefs are only marginally supported by scripture, if they're supported at all;

This reminds me of my mother (who is not actually a fundie weirdo--in fact, she's rather nice. But.) Every time we talk she wants to know if I'm reading the Scriptures and the Ensign (a Mormon magazine), and I tell her, "Yes, Mom, I am." In fact, I probably read more about the Mormon church, from its own sources, than I ever read before. And I can only come to the conclusion that a lot of people who are supposedly reading the exact same stuff I am reading aren't actually paying attention to what it says.

One of my favourite scriptures is Ecclesiastes 7:16. Man, does it throw people for a loop. "Do not become righteous overmuch, nor show yourself excessively wise. Why should you cause desolation to yourself?"

Least favourite scriptures: Leviticus. I went on a tear while I was attending college scripture study and we were studying Leviticus. I just happened to be menstruating at the time.

#30 ::: spacewaitress ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2003, 01:38 PM:

My favorite scripture passage is the one in Matthew where Jesus tells people they shouldn't pray loudly in the streets and make a big show of their piety, but rather should pray in a closet.

I also like the one that begins, "observe the lilies of the field..."

I really need to learn my Bible. My religious beliefs are pretty unformed, but every time I am reminded of how basic to our culture and language the Bible is, I feel like I need to read it.

And yes, it does provide great ammo for arguing with fundamentalists.

#31 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2003, 03:41 PM:

Claude - Your thought that we project what we need to see onto GWB is very interesting, and very similar to what the Sanrio people will tell you about Hello Kitty.

Hello Kitty has no mouth so you can project your own emotions onto her, so she becomes what you need her to be at any given time.

Now, and forever forward, everytime I see the Shrubster, I'm goint to see Hello Kitty instead of a smirking chimp, or a banty rooster who needs a pop in the nose (which is what my grandmother said of him.)

Thanks. (I think.)

#32 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2003, 04:36 PM:

My favorite description of Leviticus: "The book of dumb rules nobody remembers anymore except for the gay thing."

Last time my wife and I were in a hotel, we got out the Gideon's and performed McKellen's Revision. Very satisfying, even to a bred-in-the-bone bibliophile like myself.

#33 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2003, 04:43 PM:

spacewaitress, I've told the story on here, I think, about how some people took that literally (using the modern meaning of the word 'closet' instead of the KJ meaning of 'a private space')?

This is why text fundamentalism is flawed in its very concept. The language has changed, while the text stays the same; if you take it literally without interpreting, you will be consistently wrong.

#34 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2003, 04:56 PM:

Last night was the one where in addressing the talk radio hosts President Bartlet took on the Doctor Laura figure with references to certain strictures from Leviticus. It was one of those extremely well constructed speeches Sorkin gives his characters from time to time.

Except that Sorkin didn't write it. The source was a persistently-forwarded e-mail that's been bouncing round the Net quite a while before that episode of the West Wing.

And you know, I think Aaron Sorkin is a good enough writer, and there's enough basic material in Leviticus, to make fun of fundamentalist preachers like Dr. Laura and Jerry Whatsisname without needing to steal material from spam.

#35 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2003, 06:00 PM:

Hey, Yonmei, a little slack here!

Almost all TV shows use some current thought, at least partially as a way to make themselves Relevant. Sorkin _chose_ to use these arguments, in part because they're pretty darn good -- they fit Bartlett's character, and they say something that doesn't get a whole lot of space on television. How is this different from [I could pull out a dozen ANGEL/BUFFY references to pop culture, but you really seem smart enough to get the idea without incredibly specific references and I'm not PopCultLiterate enough to find examples elsewhere].

And the e-mail wasn't _strictly_ spam -- there was no commercial intent in it. There is, as far as I know, no word for meme-spreading-email-without-commercial-content-that-becomes-pervasive (see the Go Look thread, on which you've posted, for another example). Calling these spam does the same kind of linguistic disservice that PNH called me on around the concept of "verbal violence" (and I still think we need a good phrase that carries the emotional weight that serious "verbal violence" can carry to describe what happens there...).

In general, I like your posts a lot. This one seems oddly wrongheaded.

Cheers,
Tom

#36 ::: Janet Croft ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2003, 06:02 PM:

My favorite scripture passage is the one in Matthew where Jesus tells people they shouldn't pray loudly in the streets and make a big show of their piety, but rather should pray in a closet.

**spacewaitress, that's my favorite too. And one so thoroughly ignored... I also like, though I can't cite the source, the direction that your charity should be private, too. It doesn't count if it has your name all over it.

#37 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2003, 06:08 PM:

"...that once you scratched the surface, you confronted emptiness."

"The Devil is strong in Nothing."

But I think the truth of the matter is that whatever Something is there was long ago overwhelmed by his father and brothers.

#38 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2003, 06:24 PM:

Mmm, okay, I withdraw "spam" from that bouncing let's-take-Leviticus-literally e-mail.

But not the accusation of inoriginality. If Sorkin had taken the idea of countering the "Scripture literalists" from the bouncing e-mail, I would have applauded. But he took the whole damn thing. If we assume that this e-mail was bouncing around the Internet in the West Wing universe, too, then what it reads like is that Bartlett had read that bouncing e-mail and was quoting it verbatim to the "Dr Laura" figure. That would actually have been a cute piece of characterisation for Jed, and a nice pop culture reference - but it would have needed to be set up by some kind of dialogue about this bouncing e-mail.

What it actually reads like is that Sorkin couldn't be arsed to do his own thinking and pick out some good examples for Bartlet to draw out to their literal conclusion.

#40 ::: Mr Ripley ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2003, 11:35 PM:

Randolph--
. . . . and his mom. If there's one thing I was persuaded of by Franken's book, it's that Babs Bush and her beautiful mind do not conform to the persistent myth that she's the nice one in the family.

#41 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2003, 12:34 AM:

Yonmei, that episode, and that speech, was hailed by an entire mailing list I belong to, when it was first run. We all knew the e-folklore mailing it derived from . We didn't care. It gave us great joy.

Spacewaitress: They toil not, neither do they spin; yet Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed as these.

Did I get it right? I haven't looked.

#42 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2003, 03:40 AM:

Teresa, remember, I'm Toby Ziegler. "When you use pop culture references, the speech has a shelf life of twelve minutes." When you saw it, evidently it was inside the twelve minute limit. By the time I saw it, over a year later, the twelve minutes were long gone and it stank. "This is why you have a reputation as a pain in the ass." / "I cultivated that reputation."

#43 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2003, 04:32 AM:

I disagree. I think it worked on its own merits. That piece of e-folklore went around because people liked the idea.

#44 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2003, 05:22 AM:

Well, for you it worked: for me it didn't work. Doubtless we could both come up with a list of WW fans for whom it did and didn't work (there are probably WW fans out there who liked Isaac and Ishmael) but that would be silly.

I was disappointed because I wanted a real Bartlett tirade, outrage and anger and terrific rhetoric and what I got was a rehash of a tired e-mail that I'd been sent a dozen times already at least. You cannot wish my disappointment away by telling me you weren't disappointed, and I suspect that the reason why you weren't disappointed is because at the time you saw it the "Dr Laura" e-mail wasn't quite so tired - or you hadn't been sent it quite so often.

#45 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2003, 05:23 AM:

I apologise for the missing comma in my previous post.

#46 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2003, 08:00 AM:

Yonmei, I had seen the email thing before I saw the WW episode. While Sorkin may have taken the idea from that bit of email, he wrote the speech he put in Bartlet's mouth himself. Which is where I thought he demonstrated artistry. After all, Shakespeare took his plots from other writers and popular history, but his artistry took them to another level.

MKK

#47 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2003, 08:47 AM:

While Sorkin may have taken the idea from that bit of email, he wrote the speech he put in Bartlet's mouth himself.

Well, he wrote parts of it himself. Other parts he copied verbatim. Here's a transcript of the WW scene: here's a link to the letter Martin Sheen did a lovely job of delivering it, but, as I pointed out to Teresa, you cannot make me think I enjoyed stale fish by assuring me that it tasted fine to you when it was fresh.

#48 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2003, 08:48 AM:

Had a brief, unsettling vision of what Shakespeare might have made out of spam.

"Faith, he'll since have put thy capital/ To goodly use; even in such kind/ As do the honest finance ministers/ Of dark Nigeria."

#49 ::: Kellie ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2003, 09:53 AM:

Yonmei, you said you had been reading the email for a year after the episode originally aired and before you saw it, correct? Is there a chance that the email was on a second life that had ripped off Sorkin by the time you saw it? Just curious, as I saw the episode and had not heard anything about the email until I was trying to track down a transcript of the tirade a year or more later.

Dan, this could be way too much fun. "What's in a name brand? That which we call Prozac / By any other name would work as well; So Generic would, were it not Generic called."

#50 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2003, 10:16 AM:

Kellie, quite likely it was, which is yet another good reason why Sorkin shouldn't have used it as source material.

Dan, this is eeevil. ’Tis no less, I tell you; for the bawdy hand of the dial is now upon the prick of noon. Out upon you! what a man are you! With this pill you can be twice the man you are!

#51 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2003, 11:06 AM:

Well according to Television Without Pity (one of my favourite reading spots, Yonmei) the West Wing episode in question aired October of 2000. And according to several sites, it was running amok on the internet around May 2000. The author's attribution varies, and while I googled some sources to see if I could find a definitive answer, it seemed that most people agree it was a chap called Kent Ashcroft.

I have to say that I remember first reading the letter sometime in 2000. Also I don't remember hearing the West Wing connection until just now, which I would have thought more likely, if the West Wing was the originator of the letter. I do think it's irresponsible of the show's writers to use an unattributed piece though--just because nobody knows who wrote it doesn't mean that it's public domain. It also irks me when I run into people using urban legends directly or other people's blonde jokes or what-have-you in TV shows. The first episode I ever watched of Coupling (British version, not the new NBC version) was a play on the old urban legend about a guy who thinks his secretary or boss is trying to seduce him, so he strips naked for her, but it turns out she's trying to arrange a surprise party. While very funny, I just couldn't enjoy it as much since I didn't think that they did much to expand upon the original idea. I think you can certainly re-use ideas and old memes but there should be some new twist or re-interpretation.

#52 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2003, 11:41 AM:

These several airy unnamed messengers
Do daily cram my inbox bursting full;
And with a battery of promises
(Of manhood's lengthening, safe and natural;
Of sites whereat strange couplings may be seen,
Or beauties nubile as the law allows;
Of meetings with old schoolmates, none of whom
I've spared a brace of thoughts for these ten years)
Make sifting out my correspondences
A passing trial. O, take care, my friends!
The rambling jest you send has like been seen
Ten times, forwarded by some jackanapes;
And sooth, I'll not contribute to a chain
But risk the lapse in fortunes an I don't.
Of all conveniences, these are most meet:
The Bulk folder, "Select All," and "Delete."

#53 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2003, 12:13 PM:

We don't know who wrote the original piece of e-folklore, but I'd be amazed to hear that the studio didn't make a good-faith effort to track down its author and secure rights. Having the thing be in circulation on the net is no guarantee that it isn't someone's copyrighted work, and bad things happen when you make lucrative commercial use of a work you don't own. If you broadcast it or go into print with it before you've secured rights, the copyright holder has you by the short hairs.

#54 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2003, 05:50 PM:

According to the westwing.bewarne.com website, Sorkin admitted on 26 October 2000 "he lifted the diatribe from a much forwarded anonymous email.... Sorkin, who hoped to give credit, says they 'cast a fairly wide net, but we didn't find the author.'"

#55 ::: spacewaitress ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2003, 09:28 PM:

Dan Layman-Kennedy:

That made me laugh out loud and clap my hands. Did you write that? It's brilliant. It scans nice, too. I always appreciate that.

#56 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2003, 10:09 PM:

harking back, Time for a careful reading of the sauce code made me laugh.

#57 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2003, 12:26 AM:

I'm rather afraid I did. I'm in the middle of directing THE TEMPEST. I don't know if that excuses me or not. :)

But thanks muchly. To quote words put into Marlowe's mouth: "At least it scans."

We now return to the actual thread topic already in progress.

#58 ::: Gareth Wilson ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2003, 05:24 PM:

I didn't mind that Sorkin got the speech from anonymous e-mail. What I did mind was Bartlet's behaviour. The Dr. Laura character was invited to the White House and then ranted at for 90 seconds and then ordered to stand up in the presence of the President. Because, you know, the President is a figure of such dignity and worthy of such respect. I kept trying to come up with responses "Dr. Laura" could have made. I suspect the best would have been to stay silent but _keep sitting down_....

Gareth Wilson

#59 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2003, 09:04 PM:

Formally speaking, Gareth, propriety was on his side, not hers. Also, I saw the episode once, a long time ago, but I believe she was there with some group. She's still a guest of sorts, but it's not like inviting her to dinner to yell at her. Propriety would be on his side either way. And I have real trouble dredging up sympathy for the tender feelings of "Dr. Laura", whose real-world avatar uses the Bible as a convenient authority for her scummy prejudices. She makes her money peddling calumny and hate. Whatever else you can say about doing that, it's not polite.

Anyway, that's not the point. The scene isn't about who wins the battle of wills. It's about moral anger, and suborning religion for base purposes. It's also about the difference between using the Bible, and caring about what it says. Bartlett wins that one because he knows far more about it than she does.

Yes, the scene was a bit hackneyed and unrealistic. I loved it anyway.

#60 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2003, 04:14 AM:

It's also about the difference between using the Bible, and caring about what it says. Bartlett wins that one because he knows far more about it than she does.

Teresa, you've put your finger exactly on the point of why that scene didn't work. Bartlett should have sounded like he was winning because he knew far more about the Bible than "Dr. Laura" did. Instead, he sounded like he was regurgitating an e-mail that had been running round the Internet for months. The effect of an angry man who takes his religion seriously and knows his Bible was spoiled.

Again, obviously not if the e-mail was still fresh and new, since it worked for you. But, as my avatar Toby Ziegler said: "When you use pop culture references, the speech has a shelf life of twelve minutes."

#61 ::: George ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2003, 02:41 PM:

Do you realize that Dr. Laura does not believe the Bible? So how come she is so good at quoting it? She's an Atheist, and I know that you can not believe the Bible and still quote it, but without its supposedly divine backing, it's just a bunch of words. She might as well make up her own book, intead of quoting that one.

I forget exactly how it goes, but there's a line in the Bible about embracing a religion, "but denying the power thereof."

#62 ::: spacewaitress ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2003, 10:30 PM:

Dr. Laura is an atheist??!? I thought she was Jewish. Like, Orthodox. I really don't know anything about her, though.

#63 ::: Jim Meadows ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2003, 06:58 PM:

Concerning to George's statement that Dr. Laura Schlessinger is an atheist:

I did a quick websearch, and the materials I found point to her being a former atheist who found a belief in God about five years ago, through Orthodox Judaism. More recently, she has announced that while she still identifies herself as Jewish, she is no longer an observent Orthodox Jew, and has found herself attracted to Christianity. I found an atheist website where a writer had heard a snippet of this, and speculated that Schlessinger might be giving up her belief in God, but I haven't seen any declarations by her to that effect.

Of course, I don't actually know Dr. Laura, so I wouldn't want to jump to conclusions about her personal beliefs, even if she does have a highly visible public personality.

#64 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2003, 10:38 PM:

Jim, you can't get any clue about her personal beliefs even by listening to her talk. Or even if you did know her. She's not what I'd call an honest person.

My favorite "you don't take this literally" passage in the bible is 1 Thessalonians 5:6, where it says "Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober." A sect that took that literally would die out but quick!

People who claim to take the Bible literally sometimes claim that not only was the Bible itself inspired by God, but so were all the translations. This does show their ignorance of both history and linguistics, but never mind...such a person would be bound to consider the KJV passage above a "Biblical prohibition against sleep."

Sleep no more! King James hath murdered sleep!

#65 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2003, 11:50 PM:

Xopher, that passage in Thessalonians is obviously meant metaphorically; it comes right after the bit about Jesus returning "like a thief in the night".

That Dr. Laura email message looks like it's not about the metaphorical bits being taken literally, but about the literal bits that are just plain ignored by people who say they're living according to the Bible.

And whoever wrote it didn't read very closely. That bit in Leviticus 21 about people with defects in their sight not being allowed to approach the alter? That's addressed to the sons of Aaron -- it's a restriction on the priesthood. Priests are supposed to be without any of a list of physical flaws.

#67 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2003, 06:24 PM:

Avram, my point is that what's "obviously meant metaphorically" to you and me really ISN'T to them. Do you know that some of them take the parables literally?

I know the Dr. Laura one is about something different.

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