‘Dog on the Roof!’ book pokes fun at Romney, SF

Dog on the RoofI received today a copy of “Dog on the Roof! On the Road with Mitt & The Mutt,” a political satire novelty picture book by Bruce Kluger and David Slavin.

The small book lampoons Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s now infamous family vacation, a cross-country road-trip for which they put their dog, Seamus, in a carrier on the roof of the car.

The book follows the Romneys through various American cities, with heavily doctored photo illustrations accompanied by verse. As we’re a Bay Area news organization, I thought I might share the San Francisco section:

(from Romney)

Now, boys, close your eyes,
for we’ve hit rock bottom –
a city that’s ruled
by Gomorrah and Sodom.

A village of sinners
who clamor for booty,
and bow at the altar
of Liza and Judy.

Don’t mean to be prissy,
don’t want to disparage –
they’re free to cut hair,
but they’ll never have marriage!

(and, from Seamus)

These people love Broadway,
so how ‘bout a spoof?
Instead of a fiddler –
a dog on the roof!

I’m am not anticipating that this will be a National Book Award recipient.


Election overload? Go read a book.

You can’t turn on your television or radio without seeing and hearing political ads. Your phone is ringing off the hook with political robocalls. Your mailbox is stuffed with political mailers. Maybe some political precinct-walker is knocking at your door even now.

Ah, election season. What better time to get away from it all with a book?

A political book, of course. Here are a few that’ve crossed my desk recently:

JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters” by James W. Douglass (Touchstone, $16.99)

JFK and the UnspeakableNow in paperback with a new afterword by the author, this book asserts that Kennedy’s turn away from Cold War dogma led the military and intelligence communities to mark him as a threat to their power and influence, and to mark him for death. “Did this suspicion and rage lead directly to his murder by agents of those institutions, as Douglass concludes?” asks Berkeley’s Daniel Ellsberg, famed for leaking the Pentagon Papers on decision-making in the Vietnam War in 1971. “Many readers who are not yet convinced of this ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ by Douglass’ prosecutorial indictment will find themselves, perhaps – like myself – for the first time, compelled to call for an authoritative criminal investigation.”

She’s the Boss: The Disturbing Truth About Nancy Pelosi” by Rochelle Schweizer (Sentinel, $25.95)

She's the BossRepublicans from coast to coast have no more favorite punching bag in these midterm elections than the House Speaker from San Francisco. This book purports to pull together “the extensive evidence of the Speaker’s ruthlessness, patronage, and hypocrisy … thereby thoroughly debunking Pelosi’s carefully cultivated image as a caring, maternal champion of the public good,” according to the publicity notes. “Pelosi has instilled within Congress a tyrannical system predicated upon pretense, corruption, and uninhibited behavior that will inevitably have devastating effects on our country if she isn’t stopped.”

Restoring the American Dream: The Defining Voice in the Movement for Liberty” by Robert Ringer (Wiley, $27.95)

Restoring the American DreamA revised and updated edition of his 1979 bestseller, Ringer’s book takes aim at what he says are unconstitutional government polices that are wrecking our economy and liberty. “With Washington growing bigger and bigger by the day and distancing itself further and further from our precious Constitution and founding principles, the timing could not be better for Robert Ringer’s classic ‘Restoring the American Dream,’” says Rep. Michelle Bachmann, R-Minn. “What a gift this important work is to a nation yearning for liberty and freedom.”

California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It” by Joe Mathews and Mark Paul (University of California Press, $19.95)

California CrackupMathews – a freelance journalist, Daily Beast columnist and New America Foundation senior fellow – and Paul – a former deputy state treasurer and Sacramento Bee deputy editorial page editor now also at the New America Foundation – trace the Golden State’s governance woes and offer up solutions to let Californians debate their choices, hold elected officials accountable and choose again if something doesn’t work. “It cuts through the familiar tangle of diagnoses and quick-fix solutions to provide a comprehensive and persuasive analysis of California’s dysfunctional governmental system,” says former Sac Bee columnist and author Peter Schrag. “It is the best discussion of the issue I’ve seen in over three decades.”


On the bookshelves…

A few recent books for the politically minded…

A New American Tea Party: The Counterrevolution Against Bailouts, Handouts, Reckless Spending and More Taxes” by John M. O’Hara (Wiley, $24.95)

A New American Tea PartyThe spokesman for the conservative Heartland Institute tees off on the tea party movement, presenting “the voices behind the growing discontent among everyday citizens with increased government spending, taxation, and intervention into both the private sector and our private lives.” After a foreword by grenade-hurler Michelle Malkin, O’Hara walks readers through the movement’s genesis (the financial bailout, disdain from the liberal-biased media and Obama Administration, the health care debate) before presenting a “Tea Party Manifesto” and “Rules for Counterradicals.”

It’s pretty much as you’d expect: The feel-good hit of the late winter for those who spent the late summer shouting down members of Congress in town-hall meetings. Among the author’s thoughts:

“Anyone who attended or watched the tea parties knows that the events were not about race and that any assertions to the contrary are sad attempts at hurting a strong movement many on the left fear.” – p. 84

“ACORN calls the tea parties partisan because it does not want Americans to believe that social change can occur in nonradical ways.” – p.148

“Most Americans believe that you have the right to work hard and keep as much of your earnings as possible to do with what you see fit. The Left is different. Theirs is a philosophy of entitlement. People on the Left don’t believe you are free to pursue happiness as you please (except in matters of sexual conduct). Rather, they believe you are entitled to the happiness that they determine is best for you.” – p. 229

Footnotes in Gaza” by Joe Sacco (Metropolitan Books, $29.95)

Footnotes in GazaThe renowned journalist/cartoonist delivers 50 years of Gaza Strip history, starting from two late-1956 incidents in which Israeli troops killed masses of Palestinian civilians and tracing the reverberations through today’s sorry state of affairs. Supporters of Israel may ask why Sacco didn’t draw and write about victims of Palestinian suicide bombers; be that as it may, Sacco’s interviews and research are detailed and extensive, and his art is compelling. Like Art Spiegelman (“Maus,” “In the Shadow of No Towers”) and Marjane Satrapi (“Persepolis”), Sacco must be considered among the world’s foremost graphic chroniclers of the (in)human condition. If you’re a fan of journalism and/or graphic novels (and I’m both), you should check it out.

More after the jump…
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Books for the already-convinced

Inside Obama's BrainTwo new titles crossed my desk this week: “Inside Obama’s Brain” (Portfolio, $24.95) by Sasha Abramsky, and “Going Rouge – Sarah Palin: An American Nightmare,” (Health Communications, $15.95) edited by Richard Kim and Betsy Reed. Both are likely to please the people who are likely to buy them.

Abramsky – a Sacramento-based freelance journalist and senior fellow at Demos who reports on political personalities and cultural trends for outlets such as the Atlantic Monthly, the Huffington Post, Mother Jones and the Nation, among others – interviewed almost 100 of President Obama’s current and former friends, colleagues, classmates, staff, fellow activists, neighbors and so on. He introduces his book thus:

In a very real way, we want answered the question, “what makes Obama tick?” That core question is what Inside Obama’s Brain sets out to answer. To do so, one has to ask a host of smaller questions: How does he approach problems? What ideas and intellectual theories make up his political credo? How does he communicate with friends and foes? How do his many skills play out in his chosen fields, the worlds of writing, organizing, law and politics? And why is it that so many people not just in the United States but around the world are so seduced – and so willing to be seduced – by his words and his presence?

The responses, provided by relatives, friends and colleagues from the many layers of Obama’s extraordinary life, and by his own words – put forth in his books and essays, in media interviews spanning more than a decade, and in numerous campaign speeches and political meetings – reveal the complexity of a man who has become something of a mythical figure in his own lifetime.

Although well-researched and generously footnoted, this book starts from the premise that President Obama is an inspirational figure, transformative for the better; it wraps up by calling him “a living legend.” Those who disagree with the President politically aren’t likely to think much of this book.

Going RougeSimilarly, “Going Rouge” – edited by two senior editors at the Nation – is meant as rebuttal to Palin’s bestselling memoir, “Going Rogue” (HarperCollins, $28.99) right down to the portrait on the cover: Instead of Palin wearing red in front of a cloud-dappled blue sky, it’s Palin wearing red in front of storm clouds and a lightning bolt.

And in this case you can judge a book by its cover. “Going Rouge” collects essays from liberal writers including Jim Hightower, Katha Pollitt, Gloria Steinem, Tom Frank and many others seeking to deconstruct Palin’s “maverick” political persona and policies, casting her as “a Christian fundamentalist opposed to the teaching of honest sex education in schools and in favor of teaching creationism alongside evolution, a climate-change-denier and government-basher alarmingly ignorant of the world and totally unprepared to be president.” It reviews all her gaffes and her conservative policy statements from last year and since, and contemplates “the nightmarish prospect of her continuing to dominate the nation’s political scene.”

Like Abramsky’s book, this one isn’t likely to change any minds, just to reassure those who’ve already made their minds up.


Some recent political books for holiday reading

No, I’ve not read Palin’s book. Or Plouffe’s.

Intimate Lives of the Founding FathersBut I’ve very much enjoyed Thomas Fleming’s “The Intimate Lives of the Founding Fathers” (Smithsonian Books, $27.99), which examines the women behind the men who launched our nation. A young George Washington was head-over-heels for his half-brother’s wife’s hot, young, married sister-in-law long before he met the wealthy widow with whom he would share his life; Benjamin Franklin, while undeniably randy in his youth, was not nearly the elderly horndog his detractors made him out to be; John Adams, while constantly obsessing over perceived slights and his own historical legacy, couldn’t imagine being without Abigail yet endured years apart from her. We’re quick to deify these men, quick to forget they were real people with real lives that helped define the birth of our nation; this very engaging book offers a window into who they really were, and the vital roles their life partners played in making history.

O is for ObamaFar less exciting is “O is for Obama: An Irreverent A-to-Z Guide to Washington and Beltway Politics” (Triumph, $16.95), written by the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank and illustrated by Mark Anderson. “D is for Drudge, who, like Limbaugh and Hannity/Believes that Obama is causing calamity.” It’s just not as light and clever as it clearly had hoped to be, although the illustrations by Anderson – whose work has appeared in publications including Time, The New Yorker and the Wall Street journal – are undeniably delightful.

Among other titles that’ve crossed my desk lately:

California’s Golden Years: When Government Worked and Why” (Berkeley Public Policy Press) – William Bagley, a moderate Republican lawmaker (1960-74) from the North Bay who later served on the California Public Utilities Commission, the California Transportation Commission and the University of California Board of Regents, shares “an insider’s explanation for why politics seemed to work better then than now.”

The Insecure American: How We Got Here & What We Should Do About It” (University of California Press, $24.95) – George Mason University Anthropology Professor Hugh Gusterson and Colby College Anthropology Professor Catherine Besteman edit essays from 19 leading ethnographers “to create a unique portrait of an anxious country and to furnish valuable insights into the nation’s possible future,” touching upon issues including the economy, terrorism, the “war on drugs,” racial resentment, a fraying social safety net, immigration, health care and more. Features a forward by Barbara Ehrenreich.


Helen Thomas to speak at Mills College

Iconic White House reporter Helen Thomas will speak at Mills College in Oakland on Oct. 12 with Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland.

Thomas is promoting her new book, “Listen Up, Mr. President: Everything You Always Wanted Your President To Know and Do.”

The free event is open to the public. Here are the details per the college’s press release:

Helen Thomas, the dean of the White House press corps will join Congresswoman and Mills College alumna Barbara Lee (Class of 1973) on Oct. 12 in a conversation to discuss Thomas’ 60 years of covering presidential politics. All members of the public are invited to this free event from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm at the Littlefield Concert Hall at Mills College.
In her latest book, “Listen Up, Mr. President: Everything You Always Wanted Your President to Know and Do” (Scribner, 2009), Thomas and her co-author Craig Crawford, offer their observations of the most powerful role in the country and advice to presidents and the public who vote for them.
Gleamed from her years of covering John F. Kennedy’s presidency to the current Obama administration, longer than any journalist working today, Thomas has collected valuable lessons to impart to future presidents. Part history and part practical advice with examples from the first presidency through the forty-fourth, the book reveals the qualities, attitudes, and political and personal choices that make for the most successful leaders.
“Why not share what we think with all future presidents, and in the process help voters understand a little more about what to look for when picking someone for the most powerful and challenging job in the world?” Thomas said.
Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) is chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus. Lee’s political experience began in Oakland in the early 1970s when she was president of the Mills’ Black Student Union and campaigned for Shirley St. Hill Chisholm, who became the first African American woman elected to Congress in 1968. Chisholm also ran for president in 1972.
The Barbara Lee Distinguished Chair in Women’s Leadership at Mills College, an endowed teaching position, was established in her honor for her leadership in human rights and social justice. Lee studied psychology at Mills College and has a master of social work from UC Berkeley. Mills awarded her an honorary doctor of laws degree in 1999.
Copies of Thomas’ book and Lee’s book, “Renegade for Peace and Justice,” will be available for purchase and signing following the presentation.
Nestled in the foothills of Oakland, California, Mills College is a nationally renowned, independent liberal arts college offering a dynamic progressive education that fosters leadership, social responsibility, and creativity to approximately 950 undergraduate women and 550 graduate women and men. Since 2000, applications to Mills College have more than doubled. The College is named one of the top colleges in the West by U.S. News & World Report, and ranks as one of the Best 371 Colleges by the Princeton Review. Forbes.com ranked Mills 55th among America’s best colleges and named it a “Top Ten: Best of the All-Women’s Colleges.” Visit us at www.mills.edu.