Tentacles of Scoopy

Harper’s disses Bee: In a September Harper’s essay titled “Tentacles of Rage: The Republican propaganda mill, a brief history,” editor Lewis Lapham at one point singles out our own Sacramento Bee along with three other papers (The Washington Times, the San Antonio Light and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) as purveyors of op-ed pieces formulated by right-wing think tanks. The reference is a fleeting one—crammed into the same semicolon-laden paragraph with Bill O’Reilly and Matt Drudge—and Lapham does nothing to back up the claim other than to cite a slide presentation by Rob Stein, a former Democratic National Committee chair adviser. Still, Bites was intrigued. Could it be that Dan Weintraub is actually a plant for the American Enterprise Institute? Inquiring minds wanted to know.

Alas, Bee Editorial Page Editor David Holwerk also was in the dark—even after Bites e-mailed him the passage from Harper’s. “I’m happy to comment on it when I know what sin we’re being accused of,” said Holwerk. During his years at the Bee, he added, “I’m sure we’ve run some op-ed pieces at both ends of the spectrum that people might accuse us of having fallen victim to some sort of propaganda machine.”

Holwerk isn’t the first to be perplexed by Lapham’s essay. Elsewhere in the same piece, Lapham critiques Republican National Convention speeches in the past tense, as if he’d actually heard them, when in reality the issue was published before the event had even taken place. Likewise, Lapham’s critique of the San Antonio Light is oddly timed, given that the paper went out of business more than a decade ago.

So, is the Bee really part of that vast right-wing conspiracy? We may never know. Attempts to contact Stein proved unsuccessful, and Lapham was too busy traveling through time to follow up.

Bites right: Bites was still reeling from George W. Bush’s frivolous-lawsuit gaffe—the one TV news didn’t bother to broadcast, in which he complains about how “too many ob-gyns aren’t able to practice their love with women all across this country” (www.ifilm.com/viralvideo?ifilmid=2649116)—when the downstairs receptionist called up with exciting news. Bites’ California Republican Party 2004 Sustaining Member card had just arrived in the mail. Boasting glowing images of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bush set against the Capitol dome, this nifty bit of political swag elicits gasps of shock and awe from all who see it.

After carefully tearing along the perforated lines, Bites accidentally threw out the attached solicitation to send $100, $500 or $1,000 to help defray the costs of the empire. (Bites learned long ago not to let guilt stand in the way of using those unsolicited Easter Seals and Boys Town address labels.) The California Republican Party 2004 Sustaining Member card is now on permanent display right next to the battered library card in Bites’ wallet, which—coincidentally enough—has been considerably lighter ever since Dubya took office.

Vetoing votes: Speaking of Herr Governator, as of press time, his growing list of vetoes—a minimum-wage increase, big-box legislation, etc.—had yet to encompass one Senate Bill 1438, which would require voter-verified paper ballots by the time the 2006 primaries come around. Although similar legislation has been blocked on a national level by the Republican-controlled Congress, it remains to be seen whether our Republican-controlled governor’s office will follow suit here in California. Come on, Arnold, how about throwing your weight behind free and fair elections, which, after all, are a nonpartisan issue. As a card-carrying 2004 Sustaining Member of the California Republican Party, Bites should know.