Wednesday, March 31, 2004
I Think Maybe They Want Us to Leave

Iraqis Drag U.S. Corpses Through Streets

March 31, 2004 | FALLUJAH, Iraq (AP) -- Jubilant residents dragged the charred corpses of four foreigners -- one a woman, at least one an American -- through the streets Wednesday and hanged them from the bridge spanning the Euphrates River. Five American troops died in a roadside bombing nearby.

(...)

Chanting "Fallujah is the graveyard of Americans," residents cheered after the grisly assault on two four-wheel-drive civilian vehicles, which left both in flames. Others chanted, "We sacrifice our blood and souls for Islam."


Okay, I know... it's not as simple as just pulling out and abandoning the country. I'm not suggesting we simply drop Iraq and pretend nothing ever happened; the country remains finely balanced on the brink of civil war, and the complete withdrawal of any international presence would almost certainly herald the start of mass slaughter. But it would be so simple to give up a little of our pride (okay, George W. Bush's pride, a commodity that's already devalued), let the UN take over completely, and let the international community try to make the best of an awful situation.

None of which absolves us of responsibility... I'd be all for setting up some reparations to the people of Iraq. I think, however, to be fair, that anyone who can prove they were against this fucking war from the outset should be exempt. Y'all wanted the war... you pay for it. And whatever happens, may Ahmed Chalabi get everything he deserves.

From the same article:

"There are some that are doing everything they can to try to prevent" a June 30 transfer of sovereignty to an Iraqi government, White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters.

More words of genius from Mr. McClellan. If by "prevent a June 30 transfer of power" he means "by way of encouraging us to take our leave well before then if possible," he just might be right. As for assertions that the people who are doing this are Ba'athist holdouts... Saddam's sitting in a jail cell giggling insanely to himself, d'ya really think this is still about him?

Maybe they really want us to leave because we're essentially an invading force in their eyes. Maybe they want us to leave because the brand of "democracy" we've brought them has so far left the people almost no say in what kind of government they live under. Maybe they want us to leave because we have a bad habit of, at best squelching, and at worst killing, anyone who openly disagrees with us in Iraq. Maybe they want us to leave 'cause they're just a little bit sore over the 10,000+ Iraqi civilians who've been killed, directly or indirectly, by our war. But I definitely think they do want us to leave.

And if we don't leave? Well... I think we can probably expect more of this, sadly. This is what war really looks like: charred, dismembered corpses hanging from bridges. We here in the United States have had to see almost none of the results of our bombs, rockets, and bullets; we're not even allowed to see the funerals of the now 600 young American men and women who've been killed in Iraq. You can't bomb people into being peaceful; you can't intimidate them into liking you. The neocons and their supporters wanted a war... well, it looks like they've got one.

Addendum: For a bit of background on why Fallujah is such an ugly, violent place to be now (for both Americans and Iraqis), take a few minutes to read this article from last June. If this kind of thing has been going on for nearly a year, I'm surprised we haven't seen this kind of scene before now.
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The Dawning Golden Age of Liberal Radio

Don't forget that at noon today, Air America Radio begins broadcasting in six cities, on satellite radio, and via streaming audio. First up is the O'Franken Factor; Janeane Garofalo's up later in the day, and apparently Blog Gods Atrios and Kos are both going to be guests. Lots of other bitchen folks lined up there, too; have a listen and piss off your conservative co-workers (they've got it coming.)

Still seems to be somebody missing, though. Check out the White Rose Society archives for a sample of what you missed. Nobody's better than Mike.

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Tuesday, March 30, 2004
Now We Just Sit Back and Wait for the Punchline

I knew they'd do it... they had to eventually. Condi's gonna testify, under oath, in public. Good! It's nice to see the Bush administration finally doing something not because they look guiltier than Nixon if they don't, but because it's Good for the American People (wink, wink).

Of course, it's not without a couple of strings attached... this IS still the Bush administration. The White House has traded Condi's testimony (under oath, remember... I particularly like that bit, and I'll explain why in a moment) for an agreement that Congress will not take it to set a precedent, and for an exemption from having any other White House officials testify.

The "precedent" thing, like the separation-of-powers argument that heralded it, is pure bullshit. Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo explains better than I can... read his latest few entries while you're there. This isn't about not setting precedents, this is about continuing to pretend that the arguments the White House proffered against Condi testifying ever had any merit at all. And as Mr. Marshall also points out, what good does it do us to have her testify and contradict everything Clarke said, if we can no longer ask anyone else from the administration for clarification?

But there may yet be hope: Condi is a well-documented liar, prone to self-contradiction and, as we saw on the last edition of 60 Minutes, not always good at coping with the glare of television lights. If she buggers up just once, we've got at least a month's worth of pester-ammunition.

Addendum: Elsewhere, several people have suggested that perhaps this is really a case of the Bush administration expecting Condi to fall on her sword. Thinking back to a recent hint that Condi might have already been intending/expecting to leave her post at the end of the year, this is certainly a real possibility. Stay tuned.
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My New GAY Hero

If there's one thing that clearly points to the differences between the modern American right and left wings, this is it: we on the left are fighting for the recognition of GLBT folks' intrinsic humanity, and they on the right are still using homosexuality as a snicker-inducing playground perjorative. Just when you think the smear campaign against Dick Clarke can't go any lower, we discover that the administration is seriously considering using the implication that he might possibly be gay as a method of discrediting him.

BLITZER: Well, John, I get the sense not only what Dr. Rice just said to you and other reporters at the White House, but what administration officials have been saying since the weekend, basically that Richard Clarke from their vantage point was a disgruntled former government official, angry because he didn't get a certain promotion. He's got a hot new book out now that he wants to promote. He wants to make a few bucks, and that his own personal life, they're also suggesting that there are some weird aspects in his life as well, that they don't know what made this guy come forward and make these accusations against the president.

Is that the sense that you're getting, speaking to a wide range of officials?

KING: None of the senior officials I have spoken to here talked about Mr. Clarke's personal life in any way.
via Atrios

Never mind that, if indeed Clarke is gay (and since the assertion is coming from the Republican party, there's no reason to believe that it's true), this Gay Counter-Terrorism Expert is about as Republican as gay men come. And never mind that in spite of his potential homosexuality, he was good enough to serve under four different presidents, three of them Republican. And never mind that he may be making good and necessary points that could hugely benefit the American people... he's gay, so obviously he can't be trusted and every word he says is wrong.

Fuck you, Bush; if it turns out Richard Clarke is gay, that'll only make me like him MORE.
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Monday, March 29, 2004
And Speaking of Christians...

Do I think faith will be an important part of being a good president? Yes, I do.

George W. Bush, 6 December 99

I've heard the call. I believe God wants me to run for president.

George W. Bush, September '00

Our priorities is our faith.

George W. Bush, 10 October '00

God told me to strike at al Qaida and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East. If you help me I will act, and if not, the elections will come and I will have to focus on them.

George W. Bush, 27 June 03

But wait...
The Scriptures say, what does it profit, my brother, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? ... When we look at what is happening in America today, where are the works of compassion?

John F. Kerry, 28 March 04
source

[Kerry's comment] was beyond the bounds of acceptable discourse and a sad exploitation of Scripture for a political attack.

Steve Schmidt, Bush campaign spokesman, 28 March 04

Mm-hmmmm.
Tyrants and dictators will accept no other gods before them. They require disobedience to the First Commandment. They seek absolute control and are threatened by faith in God. They fear only the power they cannot possess -- the power of truth. So they resent the living example of the devout, especially the devotion of a unique people chosen by God.

George W. Bush, 19 April 01


Well said, George. At last, something we can agree on.
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Sunday, March 28, 2004
Crazy Fundies

Redundant, I know. I want to say this, though: it's not a dig against Christians... the real kind, I mean, the ones who actually try to live by genuine Christian principles like acceptance, kindness, generosity, and love for one's neighbors. And my distate for fundamentalists extends to all religions and non-religions: I dislike muslim fundamentalists and atheist fundamentalists every bit as much as the Christian ones. Because only a fundamentalist would do something like this:

Texas Woman Who Stoned Sons Set for Trial

TYLER, Texas (AP) - Psychiatric experts for both the defense and prosecution agree that Deanna Laney, scheduled to go on trial Monday, was mentally ill last Mother's Day weekend when she stoned two of her sons to death and severely injured a third.

(...)

Laney, 39, a deeply religious woman who home-schooled her children in the tiny town of New Chapel Hill, 100 miles southeast of Dallas, called 911 just after midnight on May 10 and told a dispatcher: "I've just killed my boys."

She said God ordered her to do it.

Deputies found 8-year-old Joshua and 6-year-old Luke lying in the yard in their underwear, their skulls smashed and stones the size of dinner plates lying on their lifeless bodies. Their 14-month-old brother, Aaron, was found in his crib, alive but bleeding from a fractured skull, a pillow over his face. He is recovering.
source

But I'm sure the boys were raised in a good, Christian home right up until the day their mother stoned them to death.


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My New Hero

GOD this guy is good. If you missed it, this morning on All Things Considered Dick Clarke not only embraced the White House's request to declassify his testimony from 2002, he suggested -- nay, dared them -- to declassify everything.

As Pandagon points out, if Frist's implication that Clarke contraidicted himself under oath is the tactical equivalent of a thermonuclear bomb (as many bloggers have stated it), then Clarke's response would require us to extend the analogy into the world of comicbook Evil Geniuses. Coupled with the continued refusal of the White House to allow Condoleezza Rice to testify publicly, the Bush administration is looking incredibly furtive and guilty right now.

Just the way I like 'em.

Update: See, this is what I'm talking about.

Rice Rejects Public Testimony to 9/11 Panel

Rice has refused to appear before the independent panel in public and under oath to answer charges from former White House counterterrorism official Richard Clarke that the Bush administration neglected the threat from al Qaeda. The White House has asked for a second private session for Rice.

I don't know whether Condi can refute Clarke's claims or not. Perhaps she can... but by refusing to do so publicly (and there is not, contrary to administration assertions, any constitutional reason why she can't), it looks for all the world like there's something she and her bosses really, really don't want us to know, and that in turn makes Clarke's willingness to speak out and thus expose himself to the administration's abuse appear all the more heroic. I expect the White House knows that... which tells me that whatever it is they're hiding, it's gotta be waaaaay bad. Can't wait to find out what it is.

Update pt. 2: Oh man. Looks like they picked on the wrong guy this time...
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Friday, March 26, 2004
Mistakes Were Made

And who the fuck needs Clarke anyway when we've got the administration's old statements to prove how far their collective head was lodged up their collective ass?

White House, 4/01: Focus on Bin Laden "A Mistake"

A previously forgotten report from April 2001 (four months before 9/11) shows that the Bush Administration officially declared it "a mistake" to focus "so much energy on Osama bin Laden." The report directly contradicts the White House's continued assertion that fighting terrorism was its "top priority" before the 9/11 attacks1.

Specifically, on April 30, 2001, CNN reported that the Bush Administration's release of the government's annual terrorism report contained a serious change: "there was no extensive mention of alleged terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden" as there had been in previous years. When asked why the Administration had reduced the focus, "a senior Bush State Department official told CNN the U.S. government made a mistake in focusing so much energy on bin Laden."2.
From the Daily Mis-Lead

Excellent.
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Rant Round-up, Vol. 2

Before I talk about any of this other stuff, I gotta tell you about my dream last night. It's not (I hope) a prophetic dream, but it's an interesting dream... and I stand by that assertion.

The setting: Election night, 2004, at what appears to be the Election Party That Matters. Everybody is here: Bush himself, all his people, Kerry and his people, and unidentified but apparently significant folks from both parties. In addition, there are many fairly average people, including myself and a few of the people from the Co-op. I have no idea how we got invited, but it doesn't matter.

My friends and I are sitting on the floor, leaning against the back wall of the room, waiting impatiently for the early results. Now, as with any dream, some elements of this story are slightly... odd. The first odd thing in this particular vision is the small point that, normally, Big Bi-Partisan Election Parties don't take place in Midtown Memphis (at the approximate site of the Bank of America at Cooper and Young), if indeed they are held at all. But odder still, most normal elections aren't decided by 300 or so individuals weilding two flavors of muffins (at least, I hope not.) And yet -- I swear, this is exactly how I dreamed it -- that's what I found here: everybody in the room had two muffins -- a chocolate muffin and a plain yellow muffin -- and as baskets were passed around, they'd place one muffin inside to represent their vote. Chocolate muffins were for Kerry, and yellow muffins were for Bush. The muffin/vote baskets were kept covered by tasteful linen tea towels, but I took the liberty of peeking under the towel covering the basket closest to me, and counted 13 chocolate muffins and 27 yellow muffins. I returned to my companions and said, "it doesn't look good according to that basket."

A brief aside: some of you, being mostly friends of mine, may be worried about my mental state when I get to the point that I'm actually dreaming about the 2004 election. I understand your concern; I find it diconcerting myself. But so far it's just a one-time thing. If I have another one, I promise I'll take a week off from stewing about politics. Okay? Okay.

Back at the party, my friends and I decide we all need a drink, so we head downstairs to an open bar where most of the average people are hanging around. I have the distinct feeling that none of these guys ever got a muffin to vote with -- in fact, I'm pretty sure I didn't, either. And as we order our drinks and start introducing ourselves, word comes down: Bush has just won the election. A wave of anger washes over the room, half-full drink glasses are thrown againt walls, and despair sets in. My friends and I sit on a small staircase and begin to count the many ways in which this development Sucks Major Ass... our friends will be drafted; the war will continue; none of us will ever find good jobs; my mother will gloat; my troubled relationship with my native country will no longer be salvageable. We all begin a little game, going around the room, each person taking a turn naming a country they would rather be living in. "I wish I was in England." "I wish I was in Australia." "I wish I was in Japan." etc. You lose when you can't name another country that you'd rather be in... okay, so I possess some subconscious anti-American sentiment, so sue me.

After a few minutes of this, we get up and leave our new friends and head up a ramp into a small art gallery. We're still grumbling and bitching -- how could this have happened? what are we gonna do now? -- when we hear agitated, angry shouting coming from somewhere above us. There's a rumor that mass electoral fraud has been discovered. We all look at each other, silently sharing the insight that perhaps all is not lost after all, although it does us little good at the moment. I reflect briefly on the potential for committing electoral fraud with muffins -- did someone eat all the chocolate ones, or what? -- and ascend through a back exit out onto Cooper Avenue. The group disbands, and I volunteer to drive Morgan home -- which is silly, because in reality he lives like a block from there.

And that's it. Post thoughts and interpretations -- especially about the muffin thing -- in the comment thread.

Anyway, getting back to reality, there is way too much stuff going on to possibly cover now:

Is it just me, or are things kinda tense? Not for me, of course, I'm enjoying it; I'm talking about the parties. Kerry remains on vacation and thus mostly silent -- probably a good thing, but I do hope he says something before long -- but everyone else is going all-out crazy-ass apeshit. Especially the Republicans... Jeebus H. Christ, there is NO fucking fury like a Republican administraton scorned.

Case in point:

Republicans seek to declassify 2002 Clarke testimony
WASHINGTON -- In a highly unusual move, key Republicans in Congress are seeking to declassify testimony that former White House terrorism adviser Richard Clarke gave in 2002 about the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said Friday.

Frist said the intent was to determine whether Clarke lied under oath -- either in 2002 or this week -- when he appeared before a bipartisan Sept. 11 commission and sharply criticized President Bush's handling of the war on terror.

"Until you have him under oath both times you don't know," Frist said while vivsecting a shelter kitten.
source

Italicized words my addition.

When I first read this, my first two thoughts were, "uh-oh," and "holy shit, they are pissed. Presumably, "uh-oh" is exactly the reaction this move is intended to inspire, while the second is more complicated and not beneficial to this administration. It's possible that the "uh-oh" is all they want... it's only a request, after all, and one that likely as not won't be fulfilled. But "uh-oh" in and of itself has value if the purpose is to plant seeds of doubt, and let the voter's imagination take them where it will. Sometimes "uh-oh" is all you really need.

And in this particular case, I'd argue that the risks involved in moving beyond "uh-oh" are pretty goddamn big. I mean, c'mon... does this administration really want to start playing with classified documents? 'Cause I'm guessing there are some pretty interesting classified documents the Democrats might want to see as long as we're at it...

In any case, if push came to shove, what does it benefit them, even if they can find a discrepancy? Clarke already said in his testimony that some of his past statements were not entirely reflective of the whole truth (so to speak) because that's what the administration told him to say.

Use occam's razor:

1. Clarke lied in earlier statements because the Bush administration instructed him to do so.
2. Clarke lied on Tuesday out of pure spite.

If there's a discrepancy, then one of these has to be true. Looking at the available evidence -- including, but not limited to, the absolute refusal of Condi Rice to testify publicly under oath even though she's been blabbing non-stop for days on any TV news show that would have her, the refusals of many other administration insiders to testify, and the growing number of former staffers who have confirmed Clarke's allegations -- I'm guessing it's the first one.

I can't really see many ways in which the fulfillment of this request can benefit the White House, but I can see a whole lot of ways that it could lead to their ultimate destruction. Which is why I hope they do declassify the damn thing. The angrier they get, the closer I know we are to The Actual Goddamn Truth, and It's About Time You Assholes.

The Guardian has a good summary of the situation.

A quick run down of everything else, so we can all get on with our lives; I reserve the right to expand on these topics later.

Passage of "fetal protection bill" : complicated, but not good. Potentially very bad.

Condi Rice wants another private meeting with 9/11 Commission: please, by all means.

Alleged al-Zawahri tape urging Pakistanis to overthrow their government: seriously bad, but not unexpected. It would follow completely from everything that's gone before.

Kerry's plan to cut corporate taxes in return for getting rid of incentives to move overseas: errrr... not sure. Maybe. Uncomfortable with it, though.

Georgia House including piercing in a bill outlawing genital mutilation in women, and only women: insert slack-jawed bafflement here .

And since it's Friday, we can look forward to something important being dropped sometime this evening. Drip, drip, drip...

Update: Is this all they've got?

While gutting a cute, furry little orphan kitten with a scalpel,[Frist] quoted Clarke as telling Congress behind closed doors, "the administration actively sought to address the threat posed by al Qaeda during its first 11 months in office."
via this "Hammer" fellow

Again, the words in italics are my own editorial addition.

First... that's a hell of a big ruckus for that stupid little detail. Second... seeing as how the document hasn't been declassified yet, what's the deal with revealing classified information? Huh, big guy? Mr. Kitten Killer? What gives?

Heh... keep diggin', boys. China's down there somewhere.

Clarification: for those wondering what's up with the cat thing, click here. We kid because we love.
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Thursday, March 25, 2004
Okay, So It's Not Ha-Ha Funny...

I admit that my taste in humor tends to be rather black. I'm very polite around people I don't know, but once I've gotten comfortable with someone, it's usually not long before the jokes about dead babies and people having sex with animals start up... I consider it a way to get closer to my new friend.

But -- and here's the point -- I know when to keep my mouth shut, I know when I'm possibly about to touch on a too-sensitive subject, and I can take responsibility for myself when I offend people.

Let's hope our Fratboy-In-Chief can do the same...

Bush pokes fun at himself over missing WMD

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush poked fun at his staff, his Democratic challenger and himself Wednesday night at a black-tie dinner where he hobnobbed with the news media.

Bush put on a slide show, calling it the "White House Election-Year Album" at the Radio and Television Correspondents' Association 60th annual dinner, showing himself and his staff in some decidedly unflattering poses.

There was Bush looking under furniture in a fruitless, frustrating search. "Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere," he said.
source

In other news, three more US soldiers were killed today as part of the search for Bush's WMDs, bringing the total of dead WMD-searching soldiers to 589. Available reports do not confirm whether furniture was involved.

Three US soldiers killed in ambushes in Iraq

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Wednesday, March 24, 2004
Still More on Clarke

For anyone who, like me, didn't get to watch Richard Clarke's testimony today, the Agonist has thoughtfully posted a transcript:

9/11 Testimony for March 24, 2004

I'm going to peruse this tonight, and if I have anything to say about it, I'll do so in the morning (okay, afternoon... morning for me.) Til' then, you can head on over to the Whiskey Bar for a helping of Billmon's always-insightful commentary.
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Yeah, let's see how you fuckers like it...

Oregon county bans all marriages

PORTLAND, Oregon - In a new twist in the battle over same-sex marriage roiling the United States, a county in Oregon has banned all marriages -- gay and heterosexual -- until the state decides who can and who cannot wed.

(...)

"It may seem odd," Benton County Commissioner Linda Modrell told Reuters in a telephone interview, but "we need to treat everyone in our county equally."

State Attorney General Hardy Myers said in a statement that he was "very pleased" with Benton County's decision. "It is my sincere hope that legal process will provide clarity for each of Oregon's counties."

It's such a simple concept: people need families. The right to establish and maintain a family is a god-given human right. Without them, we cannot be sane, we cannot be productive, and we likely won't survive intact. I expect it's doubly important for the many gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people in the world who have been rejected by their native families... to tell these people that their own hard-won families are somehow less important or less "real" than our own is a form of emotional violence... it denies them their very humanity.

And like it or not, in most cultures and societies the concept of family is inextricably bound up with marriage. You need the laws, yes, but you also need the social recognition, the acknowledgement from the rest of your society that the bond you've formed is valid and meaningful and beneficial to all of us.

Now I'm not entirely naive; I don't actually expect marriage to instantly bring respect and recognition from some of these bigoted assholes. But I believe that there is value in the recognition from society as a whole that gays are indeed the perfect and holy children of God just like the rest of us, and thus are entitled to the same rights we straight folks take for granted.

I want to see this Oregon county's initiative blaze across the entire US, catching fire in every single state until people finally fucking get it. It's a brilliant bit of protest... all the state attorney generals in the world can't touch this. Likewise, I'd like to start seeing straight couples refusing to wed in solidarity with their gay and lesbian counterparts. If enough anxious would-be mothers-in-law get this one thrown in their faces, I assure you things will change eventually... hell, probably by June.


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There Are Tapes?!

Please please please... oh, god, let it be true...

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More On Clarke

If I find the time tonight (time seems to be in short supply for me this week), I hope to write a bit more about Clarke's testimony today, once it's finished and a transcript has been posted.

But in the meantime, if you're wondering about the WH's attacks on the man's credibility and haven't read this article yet... go, read. Now.

Dick Clarke Is Telling the Truth

Like the article? Then read the cartoon. (Novelization, major motion picture, and Broadway musical still in development.)

PS... That's why we call 'em the Flying Monkey Right.
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It's the Lying That Hurts Us the Most

At last, somebody with the balls to say plainly what has been all-too-obvious for some time.
Your government failed you. Those entrusted with protecting you failed you. I failed you. We tried hard, but we failed you...I ask for your understanding, and your forgiveness.

Richard Clarke, 9/11 Commission testimony

I await the day when politicians come to understand that this, really, is all we want... don't spin us, don't manipulate us, just tell us you fucked up. We might hold you responsible, but we won't hold it against you.

Well... okay, we might hold it against you. But not nearly as much as if you lie about it, too.

Addendum: But what's really at stake when this administration lies about how badly it fell short that day? Whom does it hurt? This is politics... who cares about the truth anymore?

Victims do.

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Go Get 'Em, Dick

FYI, there's a really excellent interview with Richard Clarke over in today's Salon.

Richard Clarke terrorizes the White House

If you're not a subscriber, you'll have to watch a brief ad before you can get to the article, but once you have you can read that and anything else on the site for the rest of the day. This interview alone justifies the 15 seconds.
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Tuesday, March 23, 2004
You Are Cordially Invited, RSVP

I've in the middle of preparing for a long talk on film history at the Co-op tonight, so I won't have time to hit this subject thoroughly until afterwards. But a few brief thoughts, because I just can't contain myself:

First, regarding this story:

9/11 panel cites Clinton, Bush inaction

March 23, 2004 | WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Clinton and Bush administrations' failure to pursue military action against al-Qaida operatives allowed the Sept. 11 terrorists to elude capture despite warning signs years before the attacks, a federal panel said Tuesday.

(...)

Bush officials, meanwhile, failed to act immediately on increasing intelligence chatter and urgent warnings in early 2001 by its counterterrorism adviser, Richard A. Clarke, to take out al-Qaida targets, according to preliminary findings by the commission reviewing the attacks.
source

I've been wondering how this one was going to work out. A tiny bit of background: the members of the 9/11 commission were all selected by the White House, and thus are all relatively friendly to Bush. I think it's fair to presuppose that the administration was somewhat taken aback when they actually started, y'know, investigating. But there was also always this sense that, while they might ultimately prove willing to reveal Bush's failures, they wouldn't do it without trying to draw some Democratic blood as well. The implication? Yeah, Bush buggered it up, but then so did Clinton. (Considering most Republicans regard the Clenis as the doom of democracy and a traitor to all that is good and decent, I can't imagine that the standard is one they'd accept in their own Republican president... but then, these guys routinely let me down in the integrity department.)

Second, this little tidbit:

President Bush said Tuesday he would have acted quicker against al Qaeda if he had information before Sept. 11, 2001, that a terror attack against New York City was imminent.
source

"If we had specific information that on the morning of September 11, four planes would be hijacked, 2 would be flown into the world trade center, 1 into the Pentagon, and 1 into an unknown target, then we would have acted..."

So lemme make sure I've understood you correctly. You only act on terrorist threats when the terrorists have sent you a memo telling you exactly when and where the attack is going to take place?

He's waiting for a fucking invitation. Figures.

Anyway, more later...
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Visions of Indictments Danced in Their Heads

Officials Before 9/11 Panel on Threat Handling

Secretary of State Colin Powell and his predecessor Madeleine Albright, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his predecessor William Cohen will testify before the national commission investigating the 2001 hijacked plane attacks that killed about 3,000 people.

Oh man... I can't wait to see what 9/11-Commission Claus leaves in our collective stocking tomorrow!
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Monday, March 22, 2004
Still Gonna Run on 9/11, Georgie?

I'm not going to go into great length about the 60 Minutes/Clarke interview myself... there are a ton of great analyses of all that was said (and not said) already floating around the blogosphere.

A few of the choicest ones:

Talking Points Memo

Political Animal

Sadly, No!

And if you're out of range of 60 Minutes and want to check the full interview out for yourself, Sadly, No! has furnished us with a rough-n-ready transcript.

Predictably, the Rove Slime Machine is barrelling ahead with its non-denial denials and insinuations about Clarke's bitterness at having "been fired" (he quit). And the most popular denunciation of Clarke thus far? Obviously, it's Clinton's fault... Clarke was one of Clinton's guys, and so he's patently unreliable.

That, of course, completely overlooks the fact that a) Clinton's counter-terrorism efforts, had they been maintained after Bush took office, might well have prevented the WTC attacks; and b) Clarke also worked in both the Reagan and Bush I administrations from day fucking one. That means that Clarke was dealing with terrorism back when Dubya was still just another failed businessman with a coke habit and a drinking problem.

But while feathers have been ruffled and Cheney has already been dispatched to Rush's studio to make with the spin, nobody seems to be coming up with anything substantial to use against him.

Seeking to turn Mr. Clarke's government experience against him, Mr. Cheney noted that Mr. Clarke was in the government at the time of the first attack on the World Trade Center, in 1993; when American embassies were attacked in Africa in 1998; and when the warship Cole was attacked in 2000.
source

Dude, it takes some big-ass balls to say that when your boy was reading a story about a pet goat even after he was told about the second tower.

Anyway, while they've responded with much sound and fury, the substance of their rebuttals has basically amounted to "he's one of Clinton's" and "he's wrong." No specific instances of how exactly he's wrong, no hard evidence proffered to back the statement up. Just wrong. Period. How dare you question this administration? And why do you hate America?

The problem for Bush's boy's boys, however, is that even their own telling of the story over time gives a lot more creedence to Clarke's version (as if he needed the additional credibility) than it does to the version that ends with Dubya becoming a national hero. Not so much in that they acknowledge the administration's shortcomings, but in that they just don't manage to jive with each other. They can't even keep their own story straight. (Damn you, WSJ, for not giving me a clear link.)

And then there's that little reality problem.
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Resurrected Or Merely Undead?

I don't really have much to say about this one; I'm just sitting here enjoying the joke that dares not speak its name...

Undead nudge Mel off top spot in US

Or as the MiniTru might say: Jesus is doubleplusundead!
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Read Me a Bedtime Story

One quick note before I head off to bed (yeah, it's 3 AM... you wanna make somethin' of it?) There might be one bit of good news in what seems to be shaping up to be a bad day: the major media outlets seem to be picking up the Richard Clarke story. The Yassin story might yet bump it out of the way, but so far things look promising. (CNN remains hesitant to hit the story squarely... so much for liberal media bias.)

I used to say that I wouldn't be satisfied until we had hearings. Fuck that. The only thing that'll make me happy now is a tribunal.
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Sunday, March 21, 2004
The Infinite Retch

Okay... so let me get all this straight.

1. The current government of Afghanistan (such as it is) is wobbly:

Fighting erupts in Herat after Afghan cabinet minister slain; up to 100 dead

2. The Palestinians are likely to be a bit upset after this:

Leader of Hamas reported dead after Israeli raid

3. And -- oh, joy! -- al-Qaeda says they have nukes.

al-Qaida No. 2: We Have Briefcase Nukes

And by the way...

U.S. Will Celebrate Pakistan as a 'Major Non-NATO Ally'

Pakistan? You mean, nuke-plan-selling, bin-Laden-ignoring Pakistan? THAT Pakistan?

Oh well... I suppose it makes about as much sense as us invading Iraq while shrugging off the fact that much of al-Qaeda's forces come from Saudi Arabia. And still -- STILL -- Bush wants us to re-elect him because he's "tough on terror," and wants to bring "stability and democracy" to the Middle East.

My disgust is infinite.


(Say... d'ya think a missile defense system works against briefcase nukes?)

UPDATE: That didn't take long...



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A Dead Girl or a Live Boy, Indeed...

"I kept thinking of the words from 'Apocalypse Now,' the whispered words of Marlon Brando, when he thought about Vietnam. 'The horror. The horror.' Because we knew what was going on in New York. We knew about the bodies flying out of the windows. People falling through the air. We knew that Osama bin Laden had succeeded in bringing horror to the streets of America,"

"Rumsfeld was saying that we needed to bomb Iraq... and we all said ... no, no. Al-Qaeda is in Afghanistan. We need to bomb Afghanistan. And Rumsfeld said there aren't any good targets in Afghanistan. And there are lots of good targets in Iraq. I said, 'Well, there are lots of good targets in lots of places, but Iraq had nothing to do with it.

"Initially, I thought when he said, 'There aren't enough targets in-- in Afghanistan,' I thought he was joking.

"I think they wanted to believe that there was a connection, but the CIA was sitting there, the FBI was sitting there, I was sitting there saying we've looked at this issue for years. For years we've looked and there's just no connection."

"The president dragged me into a room with a couple of other people, shut the door, and said, 'I want you to find whether Iraq did this.' Now he never said, 'Make it up.' But the entire conversation left me in absolutely no doubt that George Bush wanted me to come back with a report that said Iraq did this.

"I said, 'Mr. President. We've done this before. We have been looking at this. We looked at it with an open mind. There's no connection.'

"He came back at me and said, "Iraq! Saddam! Find out if there's a connection.' And in a very intimidating way. I mean that we should come back with that answer. We wrote a report."

"It was a serious look. We got together all the FBI experts, all the CIA experts. We wrote the report. We sent the report out to CIA and found FBI and said, 'Will you sign this report?' They all cleared the report. And we sent it up to the president and it got bounced by the National Security Advisor or Deputy. It got bounced and sent back saying, 'Wrong answer. ... Do it again.'

"I have no idea, to this day, if the president saw it, because after we did it again, it came to the same conclusion. And frankly, I don't think the people around the president show him memos like that. I don't think he sees memos that he doesn't-- wouldn't like the answer."

--Richard Clarke, former WH counter-terrorism advisor
source

Why aren't we impeaching these assholes yet?

By the way, Billmon has written an excellent piece on Clarke and his part in all this over at the Whiskey Bar.
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Friday, March 19, 2004
Unhappy Anniversary

And so, we enter the second year of the second war in Iraq.

Coalition fatalities: 677*

US armed forces fatalities: 576*

US armed forces combat casualties: 3300*

Total US armed forces casualties: 9000+**

Estimated number of Iraqi civilian fatalities: 10,000***

Iraqi civilian fatalities adjusted to US population: 100,000

Number of terrorist attacks equivalent to those at the World Trade Center and Pentagon required to create 100,000 fatalities: 29

Average number of Coalition deaths per day: 1.85

Average number of Iraqi deaths per day: 27.4

Cost of Iraq war so far: $107 billion and counting****

Weapons of Mass Destruction found: 0

Bush lied US into War.
We can honor those, who've been sacrificed,
If we swear, upon our lives,
Never again, war made from lies.
Never again, war made from lies.

uncredited

*source
**source
***source 1, source 2
****source
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Think this ever happened to Erasmus?

I weep for mankind.

Couple arrested after 'Passion' fight

Statesboro, Georgia (AP) -- A couple who got into a dispute over a theological point after watching "The Passion of the Christ" were arrested after the argument turned violent.

The two left the movie theater debating whether God the Father in the Holy Trinity was human or symbolic, and the argument heated up when they got home, Melissa Davidson said.

(...)

According to a police report, Melissa Davidson suffered injuries on her arm and face, while her husband had a scissors stab wound on his hand and his shirt was ripped off. He also allegedly punched a hole in a wall.

"Really, it was kind of a pitiful thing, to go to a movie like that and fight about it. I think they missed the point," said Gene McDaniel, chief sheriff's deputy.
source

See, I don't think they missed the point. I mean, they missed the point of Jesus, sure, but then so did Mel Gibson...

Seriously, if you produce a religious film that's made up mostly of 100+ minutes of torture and blood and violence and gore, y'know... a few people are gonna get "carried away with the spirit" and start stabbing each other.

I've been waiting for the inevitable rash of Power Rangers-style injuries among children; it never even occured to me to look at the adults.
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Thursday, March 18, 2004
Rant Round-up

My first instinct here is to mention the big blow-up at the Mount Lebanon Hotel in Baghdad yesterday. "Happy anniversary" and all that... find some clever dark irony with which to express my bitterness. But I'm afraid I just haven't been able to muster up any enthusiasm for dark irony today -- regular, unrelated darkness and irony seem to be in plentiful supply at the moment, thus negating any need for me to attempt to produce some more. And frankly, I just don't know what else to say on the subject. Terrorists blew up a hotel, many innocent people were hurt or killed, there was much fire and confusion, and the world moves on.

I spent yesterday evening over at Mat 'n' Heidi's, and we (including, but not limited to, Mat, Morgan, Heidi, Joe, Ken, and myself) sat on the front porch for an hour or two as the evening wound down, attempting to discuss matters of import while tolerating the regular punctuation of FedEx planes passing rather low overhead. We talked about the upcoming election and our hopes and fears for its validity; we talked about conspiracy theories (and not-so-conspiracy theories), the potential for a draft or martial law, the motivation behind Spain's rejection of its pro-Bush government, the likely chances for Bush's other buddies who face an upcoming election, and the imminent demise of "America," by one means or another. (I still favor death by nostalgia, but that's just me.)

It was posited by one that perhaps Bush and al Qaeda have a closer connection than we have been told. A position that, while not my own, was certainly bolstered by the appearance of this:

An unrelated videotape of a man describing himself as al Qaeda's European military spokesman also claimed responsibility for the Madrid bombing, saying it was in retaliation for outgoing Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar's domestically-unpopular support for the U.S.-led Iraq war. ...

The statement said it supported President Bush in his reelection campaign, and would prefer him to win in November rather than the Democratic candidate John Kerry, as it was not possible to find a leader "more foolish than you (Bush), who deals with matters by force rather than with wisdom."

In comments addressed to Bush, the group said:

"Kerry will kill our nation while it sleeps because he and the Democrats have the cunning to embellish blasphemy and present it to the Arab and Muslim nation as civilization."

"Because of this we desire you (Bush) to be elected."
source

Al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper quoted extensively from the statement, which said the group was planning further attacks, but would not target the US for fear of damaging President George W. Bush's re-election chances.
source

That's right, folks... al Qaeda supports Bush's re-election campaign. Thank you, merciful Allah, for giving us something to throw back in the Republicans' faces when they say that voting for Kerry is the same as voting for bin Laden.

In local news... do y'all remember the Scopes Monkey Trial? Y'know, the one where the first Darren from Bewitched got in trouble for teaching evolution in a rural Tennessee public school in the 20s, and Spencer Tracy managed to kinda-sorta get him off the hook while a few hundred women in gingham dresses waved signs and sang "Old Time Religion?"

Well, the good folks who brought you that infamous case (and rather good film) are at it again:

Tenn. County Wants to Charge Homosexuals

Associated Press

DAYTON, Tenn. - The county that was the site of the Scopes "Monkey Trial" over the teaching of evolution is asking lawmakers to amend state law so the county can charge homosexuals with crimes against nature.

The Rhea County commissioners approved the request 8-0 Tuesday.

Commissioner J.C. Fugate, who introduced the measure, also asked the county attorney to find a way to enact an ordinance banning homosexuals from living in the county.

"We need to keep them out of here," Fugate said.

The vote was denounced by Matt Nevels, president of the Chattanooga chapter of Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.

"That is the most farfetched idea put forth by any kind of public official," Nevels said. "I'm outraged."

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Texas' sodomy laws as a violation of adults' privacy.

Rhea County is one of the most conservative counties in Tennessee. It holds an annual festival commemorating the 1925 trial at which John T. Scopes was convicted of teaching evolution. The verdict was thrown out on a technicality. The trial became the subject of the play and movie "Inherit the Wind."

In 2002, a federal judge ruled unconstitutional the teaching of a Bible class in the public schools.
source

I fully expect somebody to suggest forcibly sending gays and lesbians to "re-education camps" any day now.

I mean, seriously... "crimes against nature?" Wanting to criminalize homosexuals for even living near you? Are they fucking shitting us?

What is it with some people that they think they own the copyright to God's Rulebook, and are thus absolute, definitive authorities on what "natural" means? Who are they that they think they can dictate to 10% of the populace where they can and cannot live? Granted, I doubt there are many gays and lesbians lining up to live in Dayton fucking Tennessee -- although I would genuinely relish seeing Rhea County suddenly inundated with butch dykes and leather dudes bearing bridal bouquets -- but there are few other instances I can think of in recent history when one group of people decided that the very presence of another group of people was not merely distasteful to them, but criminal and prosecuteable. And most of those instances quickly devolved to mass murder on one level or another.

Which is to say, I disagree with Rhea County commissioners. Strongly.

A friend and associate of mine told us yesterday that he had been grabbed by the lesbian partner of our benefactor church's pastor (take that, Rhea County commissioners) and was asked to be a witness at a wedding ceremony that was taking place upstairs. The couple being married -- congratulations and best wishes to them -- were notable in that one of them had at some point in her personal history once been a man. A lesbian couple, one of them transsexual, were being married by a lesbian pastor. God bless America. Even better, the ceremony was completely legally binding, and the resulting marriage would be recognized as valid by the City of Memphis and the State of Tennessee because -- here comes the good part -- one of the two brides still had a penis.

The religious right: supporting the right of transsexual lesbians to marry since 1984. (At least that's one thing we can agree on.)


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Tuesday, March 16, 2004

One-Stop Shopping on Iraq Lies

Rep. Henry Waxman of California has done the Democratic party, and indeed all honest-thinking people, a great service. He has compiled a detailed report and a searchable database of the Bush administration's lies on Iraq... never be at a loss for incriminating quotes again.

Iraq On The Record: The Bush Administration's Public Statements on Iraq

For example, a quick search on "Donald Rumsfeld" and "Urgent Threat" yielded five results.

"With each passing day, Saddam Hussein advances his arsenal of weapons of mass destruction and could pass them along to terrorists. If he is allowed to do so, the result could be the deaths not of 3,000 people, as on September 11th, but of 30,000, or 300,000 or more innocent people."

Source: Donald H. Rumsfeld Delivers Remarks to American Troops, Defense Department (3/20/2003).

Explanation: This statement was misleading because it suggested that Iraq posed an imminent threat despite the fact that the U.S. intelligence community had deep divisions and divergent points of view regarding Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. As Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet noted in February 2004, "Let me be clear: analysts differed on several important aspects of these programs and those debates were spelled out in the Estimate. They never said there was an 'imminent' threat."


Pretty cool, eh?
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Low Visibility

Each year, I have the opportunity to work at a pretty significant documentary film festival in Arkansas, and in the process to steep myself in documentary films for three full weeks. Last year, my prediction to anyone who would listen was that Andrew Jarecki's Capturing the Friedmans would easily win the Best Documentary Feature category at the Oscars that year.

That, of course, was a few months before the eventual winner, Errol Morris' The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara was released. In my defense, I will say that while boosting Jarecki's film, I was simultaneously recommending strongly to the festival director that Errol Morris was far and away the juiciest score for the 2004 festival guest of honor. (Hopefully next time I make a statement like that, they'll remember how accurate I was this time.)

I've been a student of Morris' work since around 1994, when I first saw an early film of his, Vernon, Florida, in high school. I frequently hold him up (along with Albert Maysles) as one of the leading lights of the documentary film genre, and have been known to coerce people into watching his films, sometimes repeatedly. I have only now finally gotten to see his latest work, and my first thought upon coming out of the theater was this:

I'm not really sure what any of that actually meant.

There are a few things that I should probably point out. The Vietnam war ended, for Americans at least, on April 30, 1975. I was not born until December of that year. Thus, Vietnam is mostly an academic subject for me... until I was in college, I knew it mostly as the subject of movies and as a chapter in high school history books that we never seemed to reach. I have always found it a confusing episode in history, although given the current state of the world, I am more than open to any parallels that might exist between the Vietnam war and the second Iraq war.

Going into this film, I was hopeful -- expectant, even -- that I would find some insight, some kernel of wisdom that might help me comprehend the dangers of our current war. I'm sure, for those who know the material well enough, that those do exist in the film. I, however, managed to find only vague gestures in the general direction of real insight, shadows of some truth that I can only assume is there, but am not personally equipped to perceive as of yet.

What I did come away with is this: war is bad, difficult to control, and inevitably tragic; those who conduct it rarely take responsibility for the destruction they authorize and execute; and the Bush administration almost certainly lacks even the wisdom possessed by the men who brought us Vietnam. Important conclusions? Sure, I guess... although nothing I didn't already know.

So, so much for that.

As a documentary, the thing that most struck me is that Morris seems to have finally met his match in the interview. Morris is highly respected for his ability to wring small truths and telling admissions from his interview subjects, not through the hack's technique of badgering, but through an almost superhuman ability to use the uncomfortable silence to his own benefit. He conducts his interviews through a complex arrangement of monitors, mirrors, and cameras (dubbed "The Interrotron"), which leaves his subjects isolated in a separate room, faced only with a bank of equipment and Morris' face on a video monitor. This seemingly-dehumanizing barrier, however, also permits (actually forces) his subjects to maintain direct eye contact with the viewer at all times, creating a highly sympathetic, human bond between the perceiver and that which is being perceived. It's almost impossible to view one of Morris' subjects as anything other than a living, thinking, feeling human being, exactly like oneself. And this, in turn, leaves the viewer open to ideas and identifications, and thus to the reality of the world in which the subject lives, in a way that is almost the essence of documentary film.

But unlike Morris' past subjects, McNamara has spent the best part of 60 years having his opinions and motivations probed before the public. He knows what's at stake, he knows what the results of any statement can be, and he's nobody's easy mark: this is a man who knows how to deal with a question, and with an uncomfortable silence. Watching the interview unfold, it seemed to me that Morris, for once, was almost intimidated by his subject's control over the situation, and at the very least was deeply respectful of McNamara as a "worthy opponent" if not as an architect of war.

Morris' being slightly at a loss as to how to handle McNamara is evidenced in the film by the unusual (for Morris) inclusion of his own questions in addition to McNamara's answers. Normally, Morris can extract sufficient narrative from his interviewees to enable him to blend into the background as an interviewer; only a few times in the past have we heard his voice intrude onto the soundtrack. Not so this time: Morris is audible, to varying degrees, throughout the film. Furthermore, for the first time that I can ever remember in an Errol Morris documentary, we hear McNamara plainly refuse to broach certain subjects. The fact that Morris includes these refusals in the film again points to his respect for McNamara as a subject: McNamara has the upper hand here, and Morris isn't too ego-driven to admit it.

I have to wonder exactly why Morris decided to take on McNamara as a subject. He lacks the obsessive weirdness of Morris' typical subjects; he's immune to Morris' particular genius as a documentarian; and the obvious subject matter, while particularly interesting at this point in time, is not an easy fit with Morris' filmmaking style. Vietnam -- especially in the context of the Iraq war -- seems to demand judgement, and Morris has never been a judgemental documentarian. He has opinions, certainly, but he strictly refrains from imposing them onto his films... this is one of his major strengths. He allows his subjects to be the flawed human beings they are, and he allows us to appreciate their humanity, where perhaps we were blind to it before. I have heard many others express dismay at Morris' unwillingness to challenge McNamara; my response has been that this is simply not Morris' interest. He lets his subjects speak for themselves, and allows us to make of that what we will.

But at a time when so many human lives are being lost on a daily basis in an active, ongoing war, is the recognition of an elderly engineer of war's humanity really helpful, or even appropriate? On the one hand, I believe that the recognition and acceptance of human frailty is always appropriate. On the other, my anger at this purveyor of war, and at all those who are doing his work today, perceives no justice in the recognition of the humanity of one who has refused to recognize the humanity of so many others. There may be a time for reconciliation and understanding, but right now, I am too frustrated by an ongoing war to accept that this is the right time for this particular film.

Perhaps that's Morris' shortfalling; perhaps it's mine.

Otherwise, Morris' work is, as always, of a high standard. He never ceases to amaze me with his ability to shoot reel-to-reel tape recorders in visually interesting, even beautiful ways... and I say that with tongue only halfway in cheek. He does some amazing work with vintage film, bringing old images up to date by way of interesting visual effects. The Phillip Glass score was perhaps slightly too similar to his score for "Mr. Death," but basically worked. (It's not as if Glass doesn't always sound pretty much the same, in any case.)

The film's Oscar was certainly well deserved; Errol Morris is such an extraordinarily gifted documentarian that even this misfire ranks among the finest documentary work of the year. But for the first time, I find myself thinking that the very quality that I most admire in Morris' work -- his hesitance to take sides -- has gotten in the way of making a really effective film. Hopefully the passage of time will point out the error in my thinking.
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Friday, March 12, 2004
Solipsism on Parade

I thought it would be good to start things off with a self-indulgent, solipsistic meme. Just seemed like the right thing to do, y'know?

100 Things About Me


1. I am vigorously liberal these days. Prior to 2000 I was, as I preferred to call myself, "a-political": didn't know much, didn't much care. I hope that one day I'll have the luxury of being able to take a relaxed attitude towards politics again.

2. In spite of being a liberal and an erstwhile documentarian, I've got some serious misgivings about Michael Moore. I mean, he's fine and all... but I think some folks let him get away with way too much. Let's face it: sometimes the guy is full of shit.

3. My favorite haiku:

If we had some ham,
we could have some ham and eggs.
If we had some eggs.


That always makes me happy.

4. I'm a Sagittarius, with a Scorpio ascendent and moon in Capricorn. Don't ask how I know that. In theory, this would mean that I'm pretty accepting of people's little flaws, and while slow to warm up to new people, prone to forming intense affection and loyalty for those I decide I like. I would not, however, generally make a big display of it; some folks might never even know.

As it happens, all of these things are generally true.

Oh, I'm also 28.

5. I'm immensely commitment-phobic. The older I get, the more true this seems to become.

6. I've almost gotten married thr... okay, two and a half times. I was always the reticent one (at least in my memory... others may differ), and at this point I'm pretty cynical about the whole "love" thing. It strikes me as being awfully similar to anarchy... most favored by the young, and while great in theory, it never stands up to the rigors of real life.


7. I identify strongly with dogs. Not in the cat-shit-eating, dead-animal-rolling way; more in that enthusiastically accepting way. Y'know how a dog, when he sees you coming, will wag his tail furiously and shake with joy at seeing you? And he'll look at you as if he knows you're a complete asshole, but likes you anyway, damn what everyone else thinks. I admit I'm not demonstrative about this, but it's an apt portrayal of how I feel about a lot of people, including many who have no idea I feel that way about them.

8. I'm going gray. Or more accurately, I'm going white. You can't really tell yet -- the white hairs are mostly buried, underneath and in the back -- but they're there. I know they're there.

9. I am distantly related to Jayne Mansfield. But only by way of her first marriage.

10. If you wanna find out what really, really bothers me, figure out what I'm cracking jokes about. The darker the joke, the more distressed I probably am.

11. I drive slightly too fast; if I'm doing less than 70, I feel a bit stifled. But as I learned through painful experience, it's not the going fast that hurts... it's the stopping.

12. I have a bad case of Catholic-envy. It sometimes seems as if every friend I've got is Catholic, and I figure that must mean something. Ever since I was a child in a half-assed, high-church Episcopalian family (Catholicism without the good parts), I've been jealous of Catholicism; I can't really describe why... it's probably partly the ritual (I'm a sucker for a good ritual), partly the vaguely primitive physicality and sensuality of it, and partly because I had an early crush on an altar boy. Dunno. But it's some potent shit.

13. I share a birthday with Walt Disney, Little Richard, Otto Preminger, and General George Armstrong Custer.

14. Periodically, I have very visual dreams that come eerily close to true.

15. I still miss you guys, sometimes painfully. You know who you are.

16. I drink only rarely, but when I do, I adore a good margarita. Caipirinhas are nice, too. Anything with limes, really.

17. Some days, when the weather is nice and I'm feeling restless, I go for long drives through the delta. There is a certain inexpressible elation that comes from hurtling along those straight, elevated roads across the flat terrain, watching an isolated treeline approaching from the horizon. Invariably, in that clump of trees lies a tiny little town of sharecroppers' descendents, always named something like "Itta Bena," or "Belzoni," or "Little Yazoo." If you pass through during the right time of year, say, late September through mid-October, the sides of the road will be littered with dirty white cotton bolls, which the breeze piles up into a respectable, if small, impression of a snowbank.

18. I actually quite like being a Southerner. However, I like it a lot more when I'm not in the South. The same holds true for being an American.

19. On my mother's side, I am descended from a rather eccentric clan of fallen Texas aristocracy (my maternal grandfather claims to have traced our family lineage clear back to Joseph of Arimathea.) My father's side is, to be blunt, solidly hillbilly, mostly Scots-Irish and Cherokee. They're the salt of the wildly-dysfunctional earth.

20. They say solitude is a hard-won ally. I'm pleased to say that she and I are old childhood friends; she has stuck by me better than most.

21. I am really cranky first thing in the morning. Nothing pisses me off like people making me talk before I'm damn well good and ready to talk.

22. I'm a total sucker for Art Nouveau. Particularly Gaudi.

23. In spite of being a Serious Film Person (TM), I have (shamefully) never been able to drag myself all the way through The Godfather. I honestly just don't give a shit about gangsters. I have, however, seen My Dinner With Andre, in its entirety, at least once a year since I was 12.

24. My Meyers-Briggs personality type is INFP. For whatever that's worth.

25. In 1994, I was proud to become one of only two National Merit Semi-Finalists in the entire US to drop out of high school (according to my guidance counsellor at the time.) It's kind of a long story. Didn't get in the way of my MA, though.

26. I have, in my life thus far, formally studied four additional languages: Spanish, French, Russian, and Latin. Latin was a complete waste of time... I remember nothing (except for the word "agricola," which means "farmer" and is masculine in spite of the fact that it ends with an 'A'), and was absolutely no fun to boot. Russian was more fun, but again, nothing stuck. I do feel, however, that having to learn how to read all over again was a beneficial excerise. Spanish came pretty naturally; I would hardly call myself fluent, but I have enough to get around when I need to. And French... French is my favorite. You can make any statement, no matter how dull, sound completely obscene in French.

27. I adore James Joyce's Ulysses. I first read it in college, under an accomplished senior (and very promising Joyce scholar... I wonder what ever happened to him), and immediately knew that I'd read it again. The key, I find, is not to force it... you'll likely never catch everything no matter how intensely you concentrate, but if you try too hard you will kill much of the joy and humor that the book has to offer. It's best just to lie back and let Mr. Joyce have his way with you. (He ain't half bad for a dead Irishman.)

28. Mostly, though, I'm big into magazines. Harper's, Mother Jones, Viz, The Door, Utne Reader (when there's something good), Wired, Funny Times, and massive stacks of film magazines. (My favorites are The Independent, Total Film, Premiere, and Documentary International. Res used to be good, but it's gotten awfully patchy lately... all slicky-slicky, no substance.)

29. I have a fetish for stationery and office supplies. Pens, blank books, legal pads, five-subject notebooks, you name it: I love them all. Satisfaction is 300 sheets of clean, college-ruled smoothness.

30. As of this writing I have not gotten even so much as a buzz on in over a year. There's a party coming up this weekend, though, so I hope to be able to remedy this situation.

31. Sometimes I wonder if things are ever going to work out. I feel like nothing is moving, nothing is progressing; but I'm not sure which things to change, and which to leave alone.

32. Sometimes I wonder if relationships are more trouble than they're worth. It's been a while since I've been involved with someone, mostly because when I'm on my own, I can find my balance. Love/lust is fun, but it sure does take it out of you... I mean, if I were with someone, I wonder if I would miss those things that I miss about being alone, more than I currently miss the things I miss about being with someone. If that makes any sense.

33. Sometimes I wonder if I should've just stuck to academia instead of trying to go into film.


Naaahhhhh...

34. I really, really, really want a dog. I've never gotten one because I'm afraid I wouldn't be able to provide for it adequately... and what with my propensity for moving around frequently and keeping an odd schedule, it's true it might be hard on the poor mutt. But I really would like to have one.

35. I'm happiest at night. The world is peaceful then... people don't scurry around so much.

36. I almost never raise my voice, and definitely never in anger. In fact, I find it physically difficult to speak loudly or yell... so the more pissed-off I am, the quieter I become. (And when I'm really livid, I sometimes don't talk at all.)

37. And not only am I quiet, I have a tendency to stoicism as well. Y'know how I always play tough, deny that I'm uncomfortable or unhappy? Here's some advice: don't fucking believe it for a minute. Your persistent protection in the face of my tough act will win you my undying affection.

38. As far as I'm concerned, freedom of speech and expression is absolute and unassailable. For me, it outranks all the other amendments in our Bill of Rights... which isn't to lessen the others, but simply to demonstrate my dedication to the First. Without expression, ideas falter; without ideas, spiritual death approaches. Thought and expression are Life.

39. A strange thing: I hate jazz, I hate poetry, and I had pretentious artsy people. And yet, I love the Beats.

40. Okay, so I don't really hate poetry... I just hate 98% of poetry. If it ain't Whitman or Ginsberg or the equivalent thereof, don't waste my time with your ceaseless prattle. (The fact that you prattle in an over-archingly dramatic way does not fool me, so don't bother.)

41. I do, however, hate jazz. I can see the value in it... I understand why people love Miles Davis and Etta Fitzgerald. I just don't happen to enjoy that particular groove myself. So what, exactly, do I hate about jazz?

The sound. The sound made by jazz performers manipulating jazz instruments for the delight of jazz respondents. I think of it as musical barf.

-- Bruce McCullough, The Kids in the Hall


42. And as for hating pretentious artsy people... look, I wear mostly black, my primary work at the moment is unpaid, education-for-the-community stuff on behalf of a filmmaking co-operative, and 75% of my current friends are either vegetarian or gay.

Sometimes we most despise that which we recognize in ourselves, eh?

43. Strangely, I also hate both cucmbers and vinegar... and yet I like pickles. Especially garlicky kosher dills. Weird.

44. I hate telephones. Not in a phobic kinda way, I just resent their existence and avoid answering them whenever possible. I think I acquired this habit as a teenager, when my mother was very, very poor and having trouble with bill collectors. I learned that nothing good ever comes from an unexpected phone call... and I figure, fuck it, it's my goddamn phone, I don't gotta answer it if I don't wanna. That's what answering machines are for.

45. Text messaging is cool, though.

46. I'm really, really bad at chess.

47. I have always gotten along well with with sex workers. Strippers, prostitutes, S&M club mavens... practically every one I've ever met has been just incredibly cool as a person. And they tell great stories.

48. When I was about 16 years old, my father refused to buy me a paperback copy of the Marquis de Sade's 1000 Days of Sodom. Not that it mattered... I snuck back to the bookstore during a trip on which I was supposed to buy a new bra, and bought it anyway. I don't know what all the fuss was about... it was nasty, yeah, but there was nothing going on I didn't already know about, and let's face it -- it doesn't exactly make you want to go out and try it yourself, y'know? (Honestly it's just kinda silly.)

49. My dad also forbade me from delving into his collection of Maledicta journals, but to no avail... by the time I was nine, I was already hip deep in Japanese scatological slang and scholarly analyses of dirty limmericks. I've always thought it was actually a very beneficial experience... what better way to be introduced to the world of vulgar language than by taking a measured, academic approach from a linguistic and anthropological perspective?

50. I am so broke right now.

51. The single most valuable thing I own is my Canon XL1s digital video camera. It's worth more than my laptop, even worth more than my car. It is my darling.

52. I'm extremely intimdated by woodworking equipment. I took a woodworking class in college to a) provide an outlet for my manual creativity, and b) to attempt to get past this fear. It didn't work, and I ended up spending the semester carving abstract globular shapes by hand.

53. I also don't care much for heights, or for being upside-down. And pursuing any sport where my feet can potentially go in a different direction than the rest of me is generally a bad idea.

54. Except for this one time... it was Russell Hartman's birthday party, along about the third grade, and it was being held at a swish suburban roller rink with a video screen at one end. It had a parquet floor -- unlike the polyurethane job at the rink at which my school always held its Halloween parties -- and had a low wall all the way around. For some reason, that day -- between stopping to watch (then current) Michael Jackson videos for "Beat It" and "Thriller" -- I could roller skate like crazy. I'd never been able to before, and I've never been able to again since that day.

55. As a girl, I had an enviable Star Wars toy collection. I'm sure there are guys my age out there that could top it... but I haven't met one of 'em yet.

56. I detest Emeril Lagasse... he reminds me of my slightly creepy landlord in London. The next time somebody tells me they're going to "kick things up a notch," I'm gonna fuckin' kick something up their notch. You are warned.

57. Believe it or not, I really like Mississippi, where I currently reside. Which isn't to say that I really like residing here; only that I like the state itself more than one might expect. I have a theory that the location of Memphis is Tennessee was a tragic error that left both Memphis and Mississippi unable to realize their true potential. Memphis belongs in Mississippi, even Faulkner thought so... it doesn't make any sense as part of Tennessee. It's continually overlooked, relegated to second-class status behind Nashville... it's the second largest city in the state, and yet it doesn't even have a major undergrad branch of the state university. And people wonder why the state's cultural life is still stuck in the 50s...

In some parallel universe, Mississippi is not the poverty-stricken, gutted state that we know; but rather is an oasis of culture and social progress in the south, and Memphis is the jewel in its crown.

58. In reality, though, I have yet to find a place that feels like "home." Maybe this is because I never had a home that felt truly secure growing up... I have very little family, and can't locate any one place as "my hometown." And that's okay, there were parts of my nomadic childhood and adolescence that I really enjoyed, and I wouldn't want to exchange that for a calm, staid life. But it does leave me restless and rootless, and unable, it seems, to be completely comfortable anywhere.

59. So far, I have lived in:

Waukesha, Wisconsin
Tyler, Texas
Houston, Texas
Richardson, Texas
Hot Springs, Arkansas
Anchorage, Alaska
Memphis, Tennessee
Brattleboro, Vermont
London, UK
... and finally, here in DeSoto County, Mississippi. Some of those moves were repeated; all in all I suppose my longest tenure is in Memphis, where I've lived -- with significant gaps -- for more than a decade. I expect I'll be back in Vermont in the next year or two, and after that, I couldn't say. Hopefully not here, though.

60. Why'd I move so much? That's a good question, although not one that's easily answered. My usual clever response is, "because my mom had bad taste in men," but that's not the whole story. (Anyway, the guy she's married to now treats her very well, and I kept moving after she settled down.)

I suppose the real answer is, because I don't know how to live in just one place.

61. I have no brothers, nor any sisters. I always wanted a big brother, though.

62. I don't watch much television. When I do watch, I invariably have a magazine and/or a book open in my lap at the same time, to help fill the time during the commercials. Must have more input!

63. 2004 is the first election to which I've actually paid really close attention throughout the process. I was one of those sad, sorry souls watching the results from the Iowa caucuses come in... and yeah, I was hoping Dean would win, but oh well. Like many other people, I found the 2000 election disappointing -- I watched that one from overseas, although I did vote in it, for whatever an absentee ballot might do in a blood-red rural Mississippi county. But I never expected to see such grim consequences. So like other people, I suddenly became far more engaged with the process than I have ever been before... I take this shit seriously now.

64. I hate children.

65. Ha! Nah, just kidding... I love kids! (Especially broiled and served with garlic butter.)

66. No, no... really, kids are great. Really. Okay... in small groups, they're great. Small groups being no more than one at a time.

67. I dunno about the baby thing, though. I've never really known what the big deal about babies is... but then, babies tend to make me nervous anyway. I'm a rational being, capable of expressing myself in complex, subtle ways... what the hell do I know about relating to babies? My mother says it'll all be different when I have one of my own. Frankly, I've spent most of my life treating the idea of pregnancy in much the same way that I treat the idea of major head trauma, so I'm not sure exactly how I'm supposed to suddenly start feeling maternal and looking to get knocked up. Which is to say, I remain unconvinced by that argument. But I guess she'd know better than me.

68. I have recently become oddly enthusiastic about peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. This is odd for several reasons: one, I haven't even thought about PB&J since I was nine years old; and two, I didn't actually like it much even then. But one night a few weeks ago, I was suddenly hit by desire, and since then I've been eating one every few days or so. I can only speculate that, since I've been trying to cut back on the amount of meat in my diet, this is some unexpected expression of a need for protein.

69. "Need for protein"... I know what you're thinking. Get your mind out of the gutter.

70. One of my greatest challenges is a notable degree of introversion. Considering my chosen field is one in which the ability to go out and hustle is pretty important, actually doing this is something I find hugely exhausting. That has to be the thing I like least about this work, although from my perspective, the rest makes up for it easily. But being a quiet, reserved type is not generally a big help in any kind of film work.

71. Having said that, it's not like I'd trade up to extroversion if I had the opportunity... being someone who observes (and I do observe, oh yes) rather than acts can have immense benefits for a filmmaker, especially a documentarian.

72. If you know me personally, and if we've spent any amount of time together socially (alone or in groups)... believe me, I picked up on more about you than you think.

(That should unnerve a few folks, eh?)

73. I'm particularly good at remembering birthdays. Not always so good at remembering to send cards or what have you, but good at remembering the actual dates. It's sort of a specialty.

74. I'm not a big shopper... that is to say, I'm not terribly preocupied with "stuff." I do, however, have a definite propensity for buying things which aid in transferring information and ideas: books (big-time), magazines, newspapers, music, and any electronic gadgets that are useful in communication (computers, cameras, sound recording equipment, etc.) I will happily spend money on these things, as well as on education and travel.

75. I'll eat almost anything that once had feathers, most things that once had hooves, some things that once had fins, and absolutely nothing that once had paws.

76. Last year, I did finally go to Graceland with my mother. It was... underwhelming. When we finally got to the end of the tour -- and christ almighty did it drag -- and stood by Elvis' grave, the only thing I could think about was Spinal Tap.

77. I adore bagels. The best bagels I've ever had came from a tiny shop just outside the entrance to the Manor House tube station in London... they were small, faintly sweet, chewy, and you could buy seven for a pound. Heaven.

78. I spent most of my life vehemently rejecting those things about myself which I thought resembled my father. And I admit that I'm still uneasy about them... but I'm learning to deal with it a bit better and simply enjoy what I enjoy, regardless of some eerie similarities between his taste and my own.

79. I get along with my mom really well, though; she's great. At least, as long as we avoid talking about politics. (I can't help tweaking her about it sometimes, though... she's just such a colossal Nixonite these days, I can't resist.)

80. I really dig Gabriel Garcia Marquez.I especially love his short story, "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings".

81. I love Bill Hicks, God rest his soul. I often wish I could be as angry as he was... he had that pure anger, that righteous rage that comes not from fear or hatred, but from genuine (if brutally honest) love. Occasionally I feel it, too, although I'm not good at expressing it. Most of the time I'm pretty laid-back in spite of my own worst intentions. But then... if the world needs some angry people, it needs some laid-back folks, too. One to rouse us to better things, and the other to accept us, as flawed as we are.

82. On the flip side of that coin, I also love Harpo Marx. If Bill was responding to what the world is, then Harpo was, in my opinion, a model of what the world should be. Silent, irrepressibly happy, kind to kids and animals, and more interested in playing music, pulling a few gags, procuring some chow, and running after potential conquests like a satyr in the woods than in accruing power or prestige. That, friends and neighbors, is how we were all meant to live our lives.

83. Oh, and Andy... we can't forget Andy. I love him, too. He's from Hollywood.

84. For a couple of years when I was, oh, say 11 and 12, I attended a ranch camp in central Texas. I went because of the horses; I was slightly horse-mad, and this place essentially gave you a horse for two weeks. The downside, though, was that this camp was run by very rigid fundamentalist Christians. Even though I'd gone to a private religious school since kindergarten, I had never yet run across a real Jesus Crispie before, and I found the experience unnerving. They made us participate in daily prayer session, they forbade us to sing anything but Christian songs, and they instructed us to carry these little potmetal crosses around in our pockets at all times. Whenever a girl fell off her horse or skinned a knee, the lady who ran the camp would always blame it on the fact that she wasn't carrying her cross at the time. (In reality, we were all reticent about carrying them, but it was mostly because in a pocket, the little corners tended to dig into your flesh as you rode your horse. Not so fun.)

Anyway, the second year I went there, I became a self-proclaimed agnostic. I didn't interfere with anything, but outside of the owner's earshot I'd express my new-found opinions freely. Since that time, I've learned to see the difference between genuine religion and fundie weirdness, and I trust fundamentalists (of any stripe) even less now than I did then. Alas, I still remember those fucking Christian campfire songs, too. Ho-ho-ho-hosanna, ha-ha-ha-hallelujah...

85. Going back to the subject of hookers... I firmly believe that, if there is such a thing as a series previous lives, I have been a prostitute in most of mine. I've always identified with the figure of the whore, and in all honesty I can't imagine how I could possibly have survived in most past eras without taking up the sex trade, given that it was generally the only occupation that gave a woman some hope of attaining self-determination and autonomy. But if this belief is true -- and I'm not saying it is, but, for the sake of argument, if it were -- that would probably explain why, this time around...

86. I'm such a good girl. I mean, a nice girl, completely in spite of myself. I certainly have it in me to be a very, very bad girl... don't get me wrong, this isn't prudishness talking, not by a long shot. It's just that, for whatever reason, I'm slow to make a move. (Although once I do, the speed with which I move can be quite dramatic.)

Anyway, I'm such a good girl that most often I don't even catch on that somebody's come onto me until hours after the fact. More than once I've been talking to a guy, and he'll say something sorta suggestive -- something that any other woman would recognize as a line -- and I'll chuckle it off like he made a bad joke... "heh, good one, smartass." (Seriously, this is a recurring pattern in my life.) Some hours later, the light bulb will invariably come on over my head... "Shit! Did he? Nawwwww... that's stupid... but... did he?" When recounting these events to friends later on, they usually roll their eyes and infer that I'm completely hopeless. They may be right.

Thus do I keep my honor and reputation intact.

87. Hell, by now it's been so long, I might as well be a virgin again. I'm sure I'll be as suprised the next time as I was the first time.

88. I do much better in a cold climate than in these hot southern latitudes. I can shrug off bitter cold all day long, but heat will knock me out in minutes. When I first moved to Vermont almost ten years ago, I found that I'm much happier with deep snow and long nights. Sure, it can be a drag after a while -- anything can be -- but I've always liked coats and jackets and big boots and flannel, but there's never any call for it down here.

89. Screw it... time for the Daily Show. I'll be back after.

90. Heh heh... "chum guzzlers"... excellent. (In reference to gay penguins... never mind, guess you had to be there.)

91. I don't trust anyone who dresses too well. The person who presents a dishevelled face to the world is someone who doesn't mind you knowing what they're thinking.

92. I've got to get out of Memphis... after a while in this place, my drive and my aspriations start to become dried-out and brittle. It seems as though every tiny step forward requires ten times the normal amount of effort, and I get so tired, so apathetic. It's getting to be time to pack up again and leave. Maybe north again.

93. You detest George W. Bush, too? Cool... always nice to meet another sane person.

94. The #1 reason I don't want Dubya to be re-elected: two of my cousins, Ian and Chris. Both are around 19 years old right now, both of 'em fine young men. Chris, once he fills out a bit, has the potential to become movie-star good looking; he's got those deep brown George Clooney eyes. And he's not an asshole, like most too-attractive young men... not even a little! Ian is intelligent and good-natured and sweet, unafraid to be his own man, a damn fine bass player, and so gentle. Neither of these guys deserve to be picked up and shipped off to go fight for Dick Cheney's cash cow. They are of more use to humanity here, undamaged. I want them to stay that way.

95. I've been reading over some other random "100 Things..." lists, and I'm struck by the number of people who state somewhere therein that the exercise has been "sooo deep and enlightening" (or words to that effect.) Dude, seriously... if this is what passes for a profound journey of self-discovery in your life, you really need to try a little harder. Me, reading back over this, I just think I'm a little too verbose, and maybe somewhat more of an asshole than I thought I was. Not exactly profound, y'know?

96. I have a little-known side interest in theology. At one point, I seriously considered studying it formally; had I not gone to film school, it was probably my next choice.

97. I'm getting so fed up with this... fuck it, from here on out, the rest is just filler.

98. Favorite authors, including but by no means limited to: James Joyce, William S. Burroughs, Annie Dillard, Anne Lamott, Angela Carter, Douglas Adams, Willie Morris, H. L. Mencken.

99. Favorite bands: Mr. Bungle, the Pixies, Ween, Barenaked Ladies (I'm not proud), Dead Kennedys, Nirvana by virtue of my grunge roots. I know exactly fuck-all about music, so bear that in mind when you judge me.

100. I hereby claim this blog for Spain.
2:21 AM ::
Amy :: permalink
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Thursday, March 04, 2004

Love All the People

Why the fuck do I have to go all the way to England to find new Bill Hicks releases?

Even now, ten years after his death, the vast majority of the American people have still never heard of the man who was -- and is -- our best hope for sanity. He was all peace and love and solidly in favor of kicking the asses of bovine America. And he's more relevant now than ever.

I'm still here waiting patiently for your next incarnation, Brother Bill.

5:59 PM ::
Amy :: permalink
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Monday, March 01, 2004

Howdy.

There will be a blog here shortly, I promise you.

Until then, might I suggest:

Zombo.com

(Best seen drunk and/or stoned.)

10:55 PM ::
Amy :: permalink
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