Saturday, June 26, 2004

Bush/Cheney Unveil New Campaign Slogan: “Go Fuck Yourself Kerry!”

From Today’s Washington Post:

Cheney said he "probably" used an obscenity in an argument Tuesday on the Senate floor with Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) and added that he had no regrets. "I expressed myself rather forcefully, felt better after I had done it," Cheney told Neil Cavuto of Fox News. The vice president said those who heard the putdown agreed with him. "I think that a lot of my colleagues felt that what I had said badly needed to be said, that it was long overdue."

I adore this line of reasoning, I really do. It’s okay because everybody else said it was. And it felt good. Ahh, there’s such sweet satisfaction in the vulgarity expressed of necessity! Next time I hope he sucker punches Leahy.

And now let’s turn our attention to Mr. Go Fuck Yourself’s continued assertions of an al Qaeda-Iraq connection. The Administration has quietly confessed that there was no al Qaeda-Iraq connection in regards to 9/11 because to make any bigger deal of it, to have unequivocally confessed that they’ve been conflating things, would run the risk of bringing untimely truths to those 69 percent of the public (according to a recent Harris poll) who believe Saddam Hussein was supporting the terrorist organization al Qaeda, which attacked the United States on September 11, 2001.

The administration is now making a new and desperate attempt to show a “collaborative relationship” between the two. Not directly related to 9/11, of course, but a relationship to that great and all ecompassing amorphous: terror. Al Qaeda and Iraq were, no doubt, planning other (9/11) things, other (9/11) acts of terror. And should you choose to believe otherwise, even after Cheney mentions 9/11 in sentences both before and after making such assertions, then you've misunderstood him. Unfortunately, those pesky bastards over at the 9/11 Commission recently released a report, after reviewing all the information given to them, and were unable to find any evidence of a "collaborative relationship." So Mr. Go Fuck Yourself and his 'lil buddy had this to say:

This administration never said that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated between Saddam and Al Qaeda. We did say there were numerous contacts between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. For example, Iraqi intelligence officers met with bin Laden, the head of Al Qaeda, in the Sudan. There's numerous contacts between the two.

Ah, yes, "contacts." They’ve met. They had tea. But what about the actual levels of coooperation? Meeting is one thing. Meeting and then actually cooperating is yet another. But for Bush and Cheney, the validity of their pre-emptive war against Iraq (Iraq=the central front of the war against terror) now hinges on this "collaborative relationship." Saddam Hussein was, we're to believe, busy contacting al Qaeda and the two were planning horrific acts that would have eventually, had we not intervened with overwhelming force, led to acts of terror against us the likes of which not even 9/11 would compare.

Here’s Cheney on Fox from the other night:

CAVUTO: So, in your eyes, as well there is an unmistakable link between Al Qaeda and Iraq?
CHENEY: Absolutely.
CAVUTO: That seems to be — the vice president (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and John Kerry has been saying that has not been proven.
CHENEY: Well, they're wrong. And the fact is, if you go look at George Tenet's testimony before the Senate intel committee in the fall of '02, he talks about a relationship going back 10 years, to the early '90s.
There's a story on the front page of The New York Times this morning that talks about a link between Iraq and al Qaeda when Saddam Hussein was operating in the Sudan, which he did for many years before and moved to Afghanistan. We have the whole case of Zarqawi, who is today probably the biggest terrorist operating in Iraq, and the ongoing conflict there.
He originally was Jordanian. He was an associate, an al Qaeda associate. He was operating training camps in Afghanistan. He fled to Baghdad after we took Afghanistan.
Saddam Hussein knew he was in Baghdad because we arranged to have that information passed to — to a third country intelligence service. In Baghdad, he ran the poisons facility, largest poisons facility we've ever found that al Qaeda was operating up in northeastern Iraq. He had about two dozen associates with him in Baghdad from an outfit called Egyptian Islamic Jihad, which had merged with al Qaeda.

First, let’s take a look at that New York Times article Cheney mentions and draws from. He’s using the Times and its status as “the paper of record” to continue to bolster the Administration’s conflation/distortion campaign of an al-Qaeda-Iraq-9/11 collusion- hey, if the Times says this, its gotta be true! But the information source Cheney is really drawing from (and the Times article is reporting on) actually comes from a document obtained by the Iraqi National Congress, the organization led by neo-conservative favorite Ahmad Chalabi and "part of a trove that the group gathered after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s government last year." It’s important to note here that much of the information passed on to us by the Iraqi National Congress has since been discredited and that the organization, with all its links to the Administration’s neo-conservative wing, has dramatically fallen from favor and was recently raided with the help of US forces. Cheney wants this information to seem like its a revelation, something the 9/11 commission, for whatever reason, wasn’t privy to. But the Times article goes on to say that the IRC document Cheney is drawing from seems to have already been reviewed by the 9/11 Commission and their conclusion, in regards to the al Qaeda-Iraqi meeting, was that no collaborative relationship resulted. Tom Shanker, the author of the Times article, writes:

The document provides evidence of communications between Mr. bin Laden and Iraqi intelligence, similar to that described in the Sept. 11 staff report released last week.
"Bin Laden also explored possible cooperation with Iraq during his time in Sudan, despite his opposition to Hussein's secular regime," the Sept. 11 commission report stated.
The Sudanese government, the commission report added, "arranged for contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda."
"A senior Iraqi intelligence officer reportedly made three visits to Sudan," it said, "finally meeting bin Laden in 1994. Bin Laden is said to have requested space to establish training camps, as well as assistance in procuring weapons, but Iraq apparently never responded."
The Sept. 11 commission statement said there were reports of further contacts with Iraqi intelligence in Afghanistan after Mr. bin Laden's departure from Sudan, "but they do not appear to have resulted in a collaborative relationship," it added.
It is not clear whether the commission knew of this document. After its report was released, Mr. Cheney said he might have been privy to more information than the commission had; it is not known whether any further information has changed hands.

Cheney, in the Fox interview quoted above, then breathlessly moves on to Zarqawi, who now seems to be the Administration’s new number one evil guy. Hell, with over 100,000 troops operating in Iraq, there’s even a good chance we’re going to kill him soon, so it’s wonderfully expedient to inflate him into “probably the biggest terrorist operating in Iraq,” and make sure everybody knows it. But as Peter Bergan points out in an editorial in today’s Times:

The central question the administration has failed to answer is: Was there guidance or direction from the Al Qaeda leadership to Zarqawi?" Mr. Cressey, the former counterterrorism official, told me. "The evidence presented so far is there was not." At a briefing on June 17, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld seemed to agree with that assessment, saying of Mr. Zarqawi that "someone could legitimately say he's not Al Qaeda."

And what about that poisons factory Cheney mentions?

What Mr. Cheney described as the "poisons factory"Mr. Zarqawi ran was actually in the Kurdish area of northern Iraq, an area protected by American jets since 1991. Mr. Rumsfeld had more control than Saddam Hussein over that part of Iraq.

And when Zarqawi was in Baghdad?

As for the medical treatment Mr. Zarqawi supposedly received in Baghdad, for some time American officials thought it was a leg amputation. However, the footage of Mr. Zarqawi in the video of Mr. Berg's execution seems to show a man in possession of both limbs. And last week Mr. Zarqawi released an audiotape on a jihadist Web site containing a blistering critique of Saddam Hussein, whom he described as a "devil" who "killed the innocent."

If all else fails, you can always shroud your sources in secrecy.

Asked if he knows information that the 9/11 commission does not know, Cheney replied, "Probably."

And so it goes.
Seven of Nine Assimilates Ryan

Could there be other, more fantastical reasons why Ryan had to step down yesterday? By this I mean a certain cybernetic life-form originating in the Delta Quadrant. The man was previously and disastrously married to a Borg! He’s clearly been assimilated. Long live Obama!

Friday, June 25, 2004

More Polemical Slops, Please!

Cathy scored some free tickets for showing of Fahrenheit 9/11 last night. Working for Ritchie has its perks! The film has the big buzz right now, with all sorts of press being generated from a variety of angles. The best review of Moore’s documentary I’ve read over the past few days is Ray Pride’s. I also enjoyed, as I usually do, Jonathan Rosenbaum’s review. He writes:

Of course, objectivity in a documentary (or a film review) is not only impossible but undesirable. The merit of Fahrenheit 9/11 lies in its ability to enrage you- or conversely, to clarify some of the rage you already feel- without abandoning the capacity to entertain that has always been Moore’s trump card. As a popular entertainment, it provides the kind of emotional and conceptual counter-myth we sorely need to replace the Bush administration’s crumbling version of reality.

Right on, my man.

Does Moore undermine himself? Yes, a number of times. Do you take it with a grain of salt? Of course you do. The opening half hour and its inquiry into Bush family/House of Saud relations is a sprawling mess. There's truth there, no doubt, but the manipulative mechanisms of Moore's bias are never more transparent then here. Does his sense of righteousness grate? Yeah, but I figure that’s mostly ‘cause it’s such a reflection of my own. We/I, and it seems large swaths of the rest of the world, know we’re right. This administration is a creepy as fuck disaster. Does the film have more then a few poignant moments? Sure does. Do we get to see things our mainstream media have all but refused to show, write or talk about? Yes, and it’s heartbreaking. Is it a masterpiece? Not even close, Moore is still a sloppy documentary maker. Is the outrage valid? Damn straight. It’s the best piece of agitprop Moore has accomplished yet. Why not go see it and judge for yourself.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Turns Summers In My Mind

There has been an embarrassment of musical riches of late, not the least of which was my first MP3 CD, put together by my Akwaabian brother, Joe, and including an incredible batch of new and interesting musical biscuits, much of which happens to be crumbly and delicious. It includes the stunning track I’m currently listening to, Usman Achmad and Diswansoni’s Strambul Naturil from the compilation Indoesian Gutars (Music of Indonesia). Based on this track alone, Usman Achmad & Diswansoni are the Sea and Cake of Indonesia. More importantly for our dancing shoes, this song is practically begging for housification!

The mix also includes Johnny Dyani’s album, Afrika off of which I’m particularly enjoying the track, Grandmother’s Teaching Take 1. What immediately demands attention here is the marvelously assertive bass riff and earthenware groove that lay down a nice introductory groove for the first couple of minutes. Around the 2:10 mark things suddenly cool off. There’s a brief pause before the bass reasserts itself, even bolder and more opinioned this time. The groove really begins to sway now, with more swagger and discipline, but still loose. There are saxophones that come on like an angry Grandma Greek chorus. Steel drums keep popping up and doing nice Steve Reich like pirouettes and it’s eventually what piques my interest most. Around 10:39 everything else recedes except the steel drums and the bass. Perfect. The bass comes back ‘round again to its opening riff. The horns return for one more finger shaking and I figure they simply gotta be Grandma’s Teachings, whatever they be, if only due to the authority of their command and the discipline with which they oversee the closing proceedings. The whole thing ends with an obligatory cacophonous sigh.

In other news:

The new Harry Potter film is 10 times more fun then the first two combined. It’s the difference between Home Alone and Y Tu Mama Tambien, isn’t it? More grit in all the fairytale dust. More poetry, too. Chris Columbus took the first couple books and carefully, ploddingly replicated them on the big screen using the burger flipping franchise techniques he picked up crafting all those John Hughes scripts into proven systems of operation. There was so little that was wide-eyed in those films because every aspect, every detail was chipped and worn down into something numbingly safe and within the market tested boundaries of audiences expectations. Cuaron, however, dishes up both product and delight. He sidesteps plastic charm and revels in something far more mature and fulfilling. It goes down well with popcorn and Cherry Coke.

It is now Summer. We have our soundtrack.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Stately, Plump Buck Mulligan...

Happy Bloomsday! It was 100 years ago today that Joyce met Nora and Leopold Bloom took his everyman walk through the streets of Dublin.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Indulge Us

Could it be? Could the rain be on hiatus? Are my knees, encircled with an inscrutable pain my doctor can only raise her eyebrow at and suggest yet another doctor whose phone rings and rings and nobody ever picks up, be ready for the ride? I fear not but let’s see.

Should I take a moment to glow and gloat in the fact that we’ve come into 55 inches of surround sound television? That’s how fortuitous things have been of late. Once I was in a long tunnel that was, like most tunnels, dark and musty and seemingly without exit and suddenly I’m manic with contingencies despite dragging my heels around the outskirts of even more options. Like- do I want to return to the syllabus and if so, what in the world do I want to chew on? How long will this question be around? It’s in my back pocket- little notes that Cathy takes out before doing the laundry. It’s scattered and congealed and melted down and poured and weighed on scales and offers this then that. It’s on the burner then it’s off. My friends in the rarified world of grad school are remiss to offer definitives as to just what exactly they’ll be doing with their public policy degrees when they’re done. They’re just hungry to have a better grasp on how to mop up what the fuck up and his crew are currently sloshing about. They want to pick up the baton that somebody fumbled years ago, if ever. I kick that one around. I kick around teaching those kids whose struggles with their paralyzing bundles of hyper self-awareness and academic “deficiencies” reflect too brightly in my eyes. I mix in a lot of pragmatism ‘cause I don’t want to spend 2 years immersed in the amorphous. Nope. I Gotta have tangibles at this point. Something that travels well and ages gracefully. How long can I get away with a sigh and a “We’ll see?” If the window is currently open, I’m not entirely sure how or if I even want to go through it.

For now, however, there’s my bike and the lake trail and the sun. For now there is the interstice. I’ve unpacked most of the rocks and sand and I feel sweetness and light returning and I need more time to explore the rooms I had to seal off. Did you know (because I had forgotten) that there are all sorts of ways to recover and share the prospects? I’m always conjuring and hoping. I tell myself the most brilliant stories. I keep the grandeur of it all to myself but I want to share. I’m the most extroverted introvert I know.

But is it me or is just the caffeine? Is it me or is it just the Bill Evans Trio? Silly. It’s all of that and then some. My bike beckons. I hope to see you on the trail. Come on knees!

Monday, June 14, 2004

Jazz By Citrinella Light

Everything else may slow down, but the octogenarian fingers on display last night at Ravinia were in fine form.

Dave Brubeck is 83 and Marian McPartland (to whom the adjective saucy can be applied liberally) is 86 but when they played they cast off the mortal coil. Ramsey Lewis was the youthful upstart of the evening at 69. After the sun had set and the wine filled my glass the third or fourth time, I happily reclined in my collapsible chair and savored the buzz. The weathermen had been overzealous in their predictions for evening thunderstorms as not a cloud was in the sky to obscure the dusting of stars introduced throughout the evening.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Your Silent Face

One of my all-time favorite songs, New Order’s sublimely evocitive Your Silent Face still makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up each time I hear it. Hundreds of butterflies beat their wings against my stomach and the world seems to slow down. It’s terribly dramatic and coolly elegant, this song, and it along with so much of New Order’s catalog has had a huge and entirely positive influence on me.

Recently I have been absolutely overwhelmed by their 1991 (or is it 2001?) Radio One version of the song. It’s a couple things. First there’s the big new sub-bass that comes in at 1:03 and ads a gloriously funky propulsion to the track. More importantly is what happens at 4:04, when Morris’s drums suddenly crash the song and OH MY GOD! Sumner and Hook weave their garlands and for two minutes I am completely lost in June, July and August’s past and present and to come. I feel the blood coursing through my veins and the wind through my hair and the drama of it all makes me ache and swoon and it’s almost bursting with too muchness.

I want to cry.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

More Sugar With Your Ending?

Have you seen Nancy Meyers’s Somethings Gotta Give? It’s a decent enough little romantic film, certainly an improvement over her last one, What Women Want, where Mel Gibson got to prance around in stockings and listen to women’s thoughts before he moved on to his good works and made his snuf film for the faithful.

What was nice about the film was seeing Diane Keaton acting her ass off. She’s superbly multifarious. She’s loopy, sexy, wary, bitter, hopeful, sad, haunted- there’s even a scene where she encompasses all of this in a matter of seconds and it practically knocks the wind out of you. And she looks fantastic. She and Nicholson spar with loose aplomb and they’re amusing as hell to watch together. And not surprisingly, they take even the daftest of Meyers dialogue, polish it, and offer something that sparkles. It’s the gift of supremely talented actors- the intuitive alchemy of turning shit into gold.

But what I would have given had the movie ended with Nicholson’s Harry on the Pont-Neuf just after his run in with Keaton and her younger man (a muted Keanu Reeves) saying, “Look who gets to be the girl.” Oh, if the only the screen had faded out and that tidal wave of high fructose hadn’t arrived so perfectly on cue. Oh, well.

Lost In Sudan

This is my new wife for President Bush. May God grant him many fertile women with firm bodies and an election victory without problems in Florida.

-As quoted in a recent Economist by a young warrior (only his first name, Thuapon, is given) in southern Sudan, where George Bush is seen, according to The Economist, as the primary architect of peace between the battling factions of the north and the south . I’m humbled by how little I know about Sudan, Africa’s largest country. Even more distressing is what little I do now know about the country has come by way of the current humanitarian crisis (see Samantha Powers’ excellent New York Times op-ed piece here) currently ravaging the country, where over a million black Africans have been displaced or trapped (without basic resources) and over 30,000 slaughtered in the region of Dafar. It’s pretty complex and, as the Economist article points out, little understood given the countries inaccessibility and intense poverty. And the current slaughter in Sudan is one of “two separate but related civil wars” pitting Arabs against Christians (hence America’s interest) and pagans in one war and Muslim against Muslim in the other.

But the real question is this: What does it mean now that I am informed with this information? The simple answer, though one that leaves me feeling somewhat helpless, is to write my representatives and echo some of the things Powers offers in her piece. Seems like as good as place as any to start.

May God grant George Bush an election landslide defeat the likes of which this country has never seen. May CNN gain access to that list of 47,000 felons who are to be purged from voter roles in Florida, too.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

Lyrics Like Crickets and Elis Regina

So Dennis and I brainstormed over a bottle of some wine Cathy picked up from Sams while out on her “12 Bottles Under $10 Tour.” Equally revelatory,Dennis decided that slow motion could potentially be used to depict Taylor smiling. I had asked him something like, “If you were going to make a video essay about your life and wanted it to be like 45 minutes or so and thought that using slow motion a couple times during that time had the potential to really be, well, you know, moving…what scene would you choose?” Taylor smiling, he had responded.

The wine, we both decided, was excellent.

I thank Dennis’s patient ears for listening to so much tonight. Fresh ears for my corn and fountains of crazy-ass ideas are welcome. We occasionally broke out into song this evening.

My album is tentatively titled Cool It On the Boom Booms. There must be singing in abundance and we won't exactly be rejoicing except on the rarest of occasions. Or maybe not. A lyric tonight involved the woes of George Tenet, but we both walked away feeling feeling like it was probably too creepy. There is no rejoicing in the woes of George Tenet.

Lyrics have yet to make sense. I’d rather it the other way, though. I’d like to come into some finely tuned lyrics that evoke thunderstorms and the cool wet feel of a Grape Shasta just pulled from a Styrofoam cooler after a Cub Scout softball game. I want lyrics that conjure up waking up to the smell of freshly cut grass from some weekday July afternoon from long ago when the day awaiting me involved, for the most part, the building of violent spaceships out of oversized Tinker Toys, numerous and tremendously satisfying games of Uno and exploratory sleepovers where me and a buddy challenged the earth’s early morning hours hopped up on candy bar nougat and 2 liters of Cola that we attempted to drink in their entireties.

Cathy is in Boston. We give thanks to Kevin for his tremendous efforts over the years in the often times late night nether zones of family airport retrieval.

Tomorrow I clean. There are boxes to be broken down and horribly neglected miscellaneous crap to be sorted, filed and pushed to the side. For one, I'll be cleaning out the muffin tins Cathy used to bake her astounding feats of zucchiniliciousness.

That being said, we bid you goodnight.