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As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Friday, June 25, 2004

Go fuck yourself

Who said this? Michael Moore? Some right-wing radio host? No, actually, it was your Vice President:

Typically a break from partisan warfare, this year's Senate class photo turned smiles into snarls as Vice President Dick Cheney reportedly used profanity toward one senior Democrat, sources said.

Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, who was on the receiving end of Cheney's ire, confirmed that the vice president used profanity during Tuesday's class photo.

"I think he was just having a bad day," said Leahy, "and I was kind of shocked to hear that kind of language on the floor."


He wasn't having a bad day, he's having a bad year.

Kevin Kellems, a spokesman for the vice president, said, "That doesn't sound like the kind of language that the vice president would use, but I can confirm that there was a frank exchange of views."

Apparently telling someone to go fuck themselves now classifies as a "frank exchange of views." There's an line in this story that using profanity while Senate is in session is against the rules, which I frankly find a little odd. But see, that's my viewpoint. I didn't say "Fuck that law!" That would be considered exchanging that viewpoint.

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Thursday, June 24, 2004

Breaking News: US Government Is Above The Law

Today's ruling by the Supreme Court sending the case against Vice President Cheney's secret energy task force back to the lower courts until after the election is the lastest example of how widespread the culture of secrecy is in Washington. Much like the recent "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance decision, The Court again sidestepped actually making a potentially embarrassing ruling, instead sending the case back on procedural grounds.

The administration used a very rare procedural motion to appeal the usual process of exchanging documents - called discovery - before a trial begins. A federal district court had ordered Cheney to turn over records, but the vice president refused. When an appeals court agreed with the lower court, Cheney asked the Supreme Court to get involved.

The justices on Thursday overruled the appeals court, saying it must consider the administration's concerns more carefully. Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said that while the president wasn't above the law, "the judiciary must afford presidential confidentiality the greatest possible protection."

"Special considerations control when the executive branch's interests in maintaining the autonomy of its office and safeguarding the confidentiality of its communications are implicated," Kennedy wrote.


In other words, Presidents and Vice Presidents aren't subject to, you know, laws. I wonder what Republicans would've thought of this ruling if it was used to suppress Whitewater information.

By the way, this was the case from which Justice Antonin "DuckBuddy" Scalia refused to recuse himself, despite being personal friends with the defendant. In case you're fainting from the anticipation, yes, Scalia sided with Cheney. Scalia was a Reagan appointee, by the way, add that to his legacy.

This is the part of the case that kills me:

Even if the appeals court were to hear the case again this summer and reach a decision, either side could appeal that ruling back to the Supreme Court, which wouldn't be able to reconsider the case before November.

So a case about government secrecy was sent back to a lower court on a procedural ruling, and will therefore be kept secret until after the Presidential election. Ya gotta admit, these bastards are sharp as tacks.

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Scaredy Cats

According to Deputy moron Paul Wolfowitz, the problem in Iraq is not that it's so dangerous nobody can leave their house, but that journalists are a bunch of cowards:

Here's what the deputy secretary of defense had to say this week on Capitol Hill:

"Frankly, part of our problem is a lot of the press are afraid to travel very much, so they sit in Baghdad and they publish rumors."


Rumors that explode in government buildings and police stations all over the country, killing 89 and wounding 318. Those kinds of rumors. Tell you what, Edward R. Wolfowitz, why don't you stand out on the front lines with a mike and a camera crew and start reporting? The problem isn't that the press is afraid to travel, you dolt, the problem is that EVERYONE is afraid to travel! Because they risk being beheaded or blown to bits. Due to an insurgency you practically created.

Sometimes I choke on the bile that rises in my throat at these times. I need a moment.

UPDATE: Apparently those scaredy cat journalists are doing something Wolfowitz and the chickenhawks aren't doing: dying for their country.

JOURNALIST DEATHS

Iraq is currently the most dangerous place in the world to work as a journalist. The total number of international media workers killed in Iraq is 30, including 8 who worked for U.S. companies. Of the total, 21 have been killed since President Bush formally declared the end of the war in May 2003. U.S. forces are responsible for at least nine deaths, including employees from the BBC, Reuters, ITN, U.S. ABC network, Arab TV stations al-Arabiya and al-Jazeera and Spanish station Telecinco. In addition, the United States has put journalists in danger by conducting strikes against known media locations. Another level of threat to journalists has come from insurgents who appear to be systematically targeting foreigners, including journalists, and Iraqis who work for them.


It must be hard for all those journalists to get killed while their hiding in their hotel rooms. Hmm. Those showers must be dangerous.

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Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Mea Minima Culpa

Why are so many of us beating the drum about getting out to see "Fahrenheit 9/11?" Perhaps because despite the constant media coverage of events in the Middle East in the mainstream media, no one is having an easy time figuring out what the hell is going on. The link will pop you over to a recent story at the BBC's website that explains how UK coverage of Middle Eastern affairs is leaving Brits with a shaky understanding of the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian crisis. The survey conducted by Glasgow University found that "there was very little discussion of the nature of the relationship between the two sides - that one [the Palestinians] was subject to military control by the other [Israel]." Journalists blamed the lack of time to present background information to the public, intimidation, and the "breaking news" style of broadcast as severely limiting their ability to fully present the context in which events occur. Language differences (English-speaking Israelis are easier to grab sound bites from) and the choice of wording (Israeli's "responding" to Palestinian action) are giving a skewed picture of what occurs and who is to "blame" for events.

I am not going to connect any dots from Palestine to the war on terror, although terrorists constantly connect their actions with Western support of Israel. But it's not hard to see that the same difficulties skew the view of what is happening in the war on terror and the situation in Iraq. Cheney recently said the media was to blame for connecting the response to 9/11 with the war in Iraq. While this is clearly untrue, the media did nothing to sort out the picture to the average Joe following both stories at home. And the media clearly has a huge role to play in both safequarding our liberties and keeping administrations honest. Monday, the State Department admitted that its April report on terror was incorrect, in that it stated that acts of terror had decreased, when in actuality they had increased. Obviously, with election time approaching, it was a very convenient mistake to make, whether the books were cooked or it was an honest mistake.

That's why films like "Fahrenheit 9/11" are so crucial in filling in the gaps and giving contexts to events. Documentaries of this kind are by their nature wholly biased, no matter what one might say, indeed their strength is in their ability to convince the viewer of the accuracy of the argument presented (just like all those thesis statements you grind out in college). It is necessary to of course weigh the facts, but it is just as important to have access to information that provides some shape and larger understanding to the stories that zip by at lightning speed on the nightly news.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Harry Clinton and the Penis of Azkaban

This week's media trip down memory lane concerns Slick Willie's new book My Life. Just like the earlier Reagan nostalgia stroll, the media is focusing on Clinton's popularity, his optimism, his economic revolution, his presiding over peace and prosperity for eight years. Right? No, wait, they're focusing on his dick.

This was an actual exchange on the abhorrent Wolf Blitzer program "News from CNN" yesterday morning. He had Katrina vanden Heuvel of The Nation and Jonah Goldberg of The National Review on the show. But he probably should have had Dr. Drew and Annie Sprinkle. Just read this, I'm still shaking my head:

-------------------------------------------------
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: To me, the whole battle was a badge of honor. I don't see it as a great stain because it was illegitimate. On the day I die I'll still be glad I fought him, and I'll still be glad that I beat him. And I'll still believe that it was a bogus, phony deal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Bill Clinton speaking to Dan Rather on "60 Minutes" last night. Let's return to our discussion about the former president on the eve of the public sale of his memoir, "My Life"...

When I heard him say "I don't see it as a great stain," the word "stain" jumped out at me, Katrina, for obvious reasons, remembering the single piece of evidence that got Bill Clinton into deep trouble was that stain on Monica Lewinsky's blue dress. Was this a coincidence that he used this word as precise as Bill Clinton is, or was it not?

VANDEN HEUVEL: I hadn't thought of that, Wolf, until you brought it up. You know, when I thought of "stain" -- and I thought this is a Rorschach test, this whole kind of nightmarish time warp we're reliving here, I thought of different stains.
-------------------------------------------------

You're kidding, right, Wolf? You have two journalists on and you're seriously asking about semen? I'm not Bill Clinton's biggest fan, but that has to do with substantive policy differences. But apparently the media cannot stop obsessing over porn enough to even notice those policies. And to those who think this is what America wants to hear, bullshit. This is what media thinks America wants to hear, rejected by Clinton's immense popularity in the face of impeachment back in 1999.

I wonder if Wolf and the rest of the voyeurs will get just as freaked out by Illinois Republican Senate candidate Jack Ryan's taste for the bizarre:

Actress Jeri Ryan accused ex-husband Jack Ryan of insisting she go to "explicit sex clubs" in New York, New Orleans and Paris during their marriage - including "a bizarre club with cages, whips and other apparatus hanging from the ceiling."

Jeri Ryan alleged, "he took me to a sex club in Paris, without telling me where we were going. I told him I thought it was out of his system. I told him he had promised me we would never go. People were having sex everywhere. I cried, I was physically ill. [He] became very upset with me, and said it was not a "turn on" for me to cry.


Of course, Ryan's Republican, and this was his wife at the time, so this is obviously an example of "family values." It's when you go outside the marriage, like Clinton... and Henry Hyde, and Bob Livingston, and Dan Burton, and Bob Packwood, and Helen Chenowith, and... oh, never mind.

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Monday, June 21, 2004

The Wider War

One of the major arguments against the war in Iraq is that it could destabilize the entire Middle East region. Now, it's hard to believe that a region beset at all sides with brutal regimes, occupations, and suicide bombings on an almost hourly basis could get worse. However, that's exactly what looks to be happening. The great Seymour Hersh has the latest story on Israel's forays into Iraq.

Officials told me that by the end of last year Israel had concluded that the Bush Administration would not be able to bring stability or democracy to Iraq, and that Israel needed other options. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s government decided, I was told, to minimize the damage that the war was causing to Israel’s strategic position by expanding its long-standing relationship with Iraq’s Kurds and establishing a significant presence on the ground in the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan.

Israeli intelligence and military operatives are now quietly at work in Kurdistan, providing training for Kurdish commando units and, most important in Israel’s view, running covert operations inside Kurdish areas of Iran and Syria.


This is about as close to WWIII as its gonna get, folks. Israel and Kurdistan in a marriage of convenience, fighting against Iran, Syria, and Iraq. Kurdistan predictably is pushing for its own sovereignty, and instead of just wanting to lop off itself from Iraq, they want to draw new ethnic boundaries, taking pieces out of Iran, Syria, and Turkey. I'm sure they won't mind. What was that line from The Princess Bride, "Never start a land war in Asia?"

Let's add to this growing cauldron the seizure of 3 British seagoing vessels today by the Iranians, and Iran's announcement over the weekend that they will resume the production of nuclear-related material (but only for energy production, they allege). And while we're at it, we can throw in the literally dozens of terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia in recent weeks, including Friday's beheading of Lockheed Martin employee Paul Johnson, and the attacks on Saudi oil refineries.

This is the Wider War that everybody was fearing. Tension has begot more tension, and Bush's ineptitude has created a tinderbox where all of this can happen. Who knows if we can turn it around before yet another Great War.

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Returned

From Spivey's Corner, North Carolina, home on the third Saturday every June to the National Hollerin' Contest. It's more of a folk art that just a bunch of rednecks screamin' and yellin', actually. Interesting to note that they're still selling freedom fries out there in the sticks. If we have to change the name of every food from every country that hates us right now, we won't have any food left...
"What about bratwurst?"
"They're from Germany, make it liberty meat."
"Okay, and shish kebabs?"
"Hmm... liberty meat 2."
"Turkey?"
"No, they wouldn't let us use their bases. Don't even order that anymore!"

I'll post more in a little bit.

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Sunday, June 20, 2004

Boobs, Babies and the Truth

This month's issue of Harper's Magazine features an excerpt from an interview with Omar Bakri Muhammad, leader of the radical London-based Islamic group Al Muhajiroun, and a suspected member and open supporter of Al Qaeda. Amongst his assertions that the 9/11 attacks were legitimate, and that "terror is the language of the twenty-first century," he states that it would be easy to convert Westerners to Islam because "Western culture is nothing more than entertainment."

Aside from the fact that Muhammad's brand of Islam shouldn't be confused with Muslim practice everywhere, and that Muslims have every right to seek new conversions should they wish it, his statement concerning entertainment gave me pause. As my roommate's homepage loaded upon start-up today, I found that the most popular searches on Yahoo! Search are Jessica Simpson, Baby Names, EURO 2004, FAFSA and... Fahrenheit 9/11.

The top searches seem to neatly outline America's great obsessions: beauty and celebrity, family, sports, and other forms of entertainment (I will assume full responsibilty for dismissing the FAFSA search as an unfortunate sign of the times rather than an obsession. The current slashes in education and the typical indifference of a Republican government to domestic affairs have would-be students desperate for relief). Go up to any magazine stand and flip through a celebrity rag and try not to find Simpson's Barbie-like cypher of a face staring back at you. Take a spin around the neighborhood and count the "family-sized" SUV's that zip past. Women will just have to take my word for the fact (unless you'd like to mount a fact-finding mission) that if you walk into any corporate mens' restroom, the possibility of finding the sports section (and ONLY the sports section) of the newspaper in a stall is about 3 in 4. Nah, let's make it 7 in 8. So what on earth is Fahrenheit 9/11 doing here, occupying my "other entertainment" category, with the summer movie blitz already in full swing? Where the hell is that delightful "Harry Potter" character (whose popularity in the book business is already being enlisted in comparison with the excitement over the release of Bill Clinton's memoirs)?

Despite roadblocks by Disney on the way to distribution (which only helped garner media attention), enthusiasm for the new doc has gathered constant momentum, with Michael Moore appearing this week on David Letterman, favorable mention given of it on "The View," and its assumption of the number 3 slot in Moviefone's Top 5 Most Requested films (just behind "The Terminal," but ahead of "Spider-man 2."

This summer we've already got "The Corporation," "Control Room" and "Thirst," amongst other big docs, in a "genre" of entertainment that used to previously seem to be the sole playing field of Errol Morris with the occassional "Brother's Keeper" or "Paradise Lost" to spice up the mix. So why are "Spellbound" and "Winged Migration" competing for dollars that previously would have been spent on Star Trek flicks or summer "events?" The popularity of "Fahrenheit 9/11" clearly can't be attributed solely to some art house crowd or urban hipsters- people across the U.S. clearly want to see this movie.

Could it be that despite the major networks' efforts to make the news "entertaining," and despite the deluge of glossy print, videogame distraction and Britney stage glitz, people really want to understand what's happening in the world? And if this information is delivered as just another commodity, doing what the West according to Muhammad does best, could it be that this isn't such a bad thing? (See Friday's "No Blog" for Moore's own take on working within the system)

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