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Friday, April 30, 2004

As we have no official record of yesterday's Bush/Cheney Oval Office bob-and-weave, we must rely instead on the participant's public accounts of the session. The president made a quick statement aferward saying he "enjoyed the experience," and statements from various 9/11 Commmission members indicate that the session was "candid," "marvelous," "friendly and relaxed." By all accounts, the session was helpful. The top headlines immediately following the session proclaimed that Bush "answered every question" as though that were something to be proud of, which, considering his press conference a few weeks back where he hardly answered any questions, is quite an accomplishment I guess. When he was asked yet again why he insisted on testifying jointly with the vice president, Bush defended the decision testily, saying, "Look, if we had something to hide we wouldn't have met with them in the first place." The problem is, they did refuse to meet with the commission in the first place... and the second place, third place and fourth place. See yesterday's posting for more.

That beacon of objectionable journalism, the New York Post, chose to shine the spotlight on the fact that two Democrats on the Commission ducked out of the session prematurely. In this angry editorial titled "National Disgrace", the Post says "Imagine the furor had the White House declined to participate." Again, see below - they did refuse.

Also in today's Post, the "newspaper" toots it's own horn with a big story on growing circulation of Murdoch's rag titled "Real Sales, Real Growth." We'd like to amend this headline to "Real Sales, Real Growth, Fake News."

Thursday, April 29, 2004

The Puppet Show
The President of the United States, Dick Cheney, is testifying before the 9/11 Commission alongside his 'little buddy', George W. Bush this morning. The Bergen-McCarthy show in the Oval Office is only open to a limited audience, namely, the ten-member 9/11 Commission, a handful of White House lawyers and most likely a phalanx of imposing secret service agents modeled after the Matrix's Agent Smith. The nearly-unprecedented appearance of the nation’s Chief Executive before a commission of this nature has drawn a lot of attention, mostly in the form of criticism.

After initially resisting the creation of the commission, apparently under the reasoning that it’s really not that important to find out what happened on 9/11 and why, the secret society known as the Bush administration finally relented. Of course, they then continued to stonewall the commission they never wanted by resisting a request for National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice to appear, because how important is she to the War on Terror really? Condy eventually had to appear, and did a stellar job of pretending to know nothing. Then, when the request for the president to appear came through the White House doors, the administration said “no way.” After some pressure, they said, “ok, but only for an hour.” After yet more pressure they said, “ok, but only with the chairman and vice-chairman of the commission.” While all of those conditions were eventually denied, the one that stuck was the oddest of them all: that the president would appear with vice president Dick Cheney; a reasonable explanation for this requirement has not yet been provided. And some still wonder why the majority of the country doesn’t trust these guys.

In addition to the buddy-system stipulation, commission members were given a strict set of guidelines to adhere to:

1. The session will not be open to the public.
2. The session will not be recorded by video or audio means.
3. The session will not be attended by a stenographer.
4. Cheney and Bush will not be under oath. (why you ask? because born-agains can’t lie under oath silly...)
5. The session will take place in the Oval Office. (home-court advantage)
6. No commission member is allowed to look Cheney directly in the eyes.
7. When Cheney is drinking a glass of water, no questions are to be asked.
8. Bush is allowed to use the restroom as many times as he would like... and bring his notes with him.
9. Cheney is allowed to bitch-slap any commission member he feels crosses a ‘certain line’.
10. Pretzels will not be served.

Bush and Cheney have apparently spent all week practicing for today’s appearance. A third of their prep time was focused on the correct pronunciation of commission member Richard Ben-Veniste’s name, (‘no sir, it’s not acceptable to refer to him as Mr. Douchebag.’). Another third of the time was spent trying to explain to Mr. Bush that commission member Bob Kerrey and Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry are not the same person.

Yesterday, White House press secretary Scott McLellan assured the press corps and the nation that despite the lack of oath-taking on the president and vice president’s behalf, the duo would “tell exactly how it happened” on 9/11. This means that the truth about the president’s actions on that day will finally come out, thank god. It will be good for the country to finally realize that if it weren’t for Bush’s heroic actions on that day, Disneyworld in Orlando would’ve been obliterated by the terrorists, as well as the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, the Mall of America in Minneapolis and Jennifer Lopez’s ass – George W. Bush saved them all, and now the country will finally know. Hallelujah.

George W. Bush: Strong on Evasion.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Poly Sci 101
Last week, I was reminded of a political science class I took in college, Global Diplomacy I think it was. In this class we were given an international situation/crisis to investigate, in this case, it was the Zapatista rebels rising up in Mexico’s southern Chiapas region. Each student was assigned a specific role to play in a mock American presidential administration. I was appointed the role of White House press secretary. For the next six weeks, the class was tasked with managing this crisis, each of us playing our roles and working together to solve problems as they arose. A week or two into the class, I was called on to conduct a press conference to address mounting violence in the region and potential US involvement. I tell this story because as I watched President Bush’s primetime press conference last week I was eerily reminded of that day in class, a frightening exercise in which I completely froze up when presented with tough questions. I stumbled over each and every query and projected such an air of uncertainty and ignorance of the situation that I was quickly demoted and given a ‘less public’ role in the administration. As I watched in disbelief last week while Bush stood before the press and the nation completely befuddled by just about every question, I wondered, ‘can we demote this guy?’ Seriously, can we? Not only was W's performance void of any substance, he also managed to piss off millions of crazed American Idol viewers by pre-empting last week's live broadcast.

We now know why the president doesn’t do press conferences very often: he absolutely sucks at it. The performance was far from presidential. He fumbled just about every question thrown his way, falling back on the same empty rhetoric of ‘stay the course’ and ‘America’s duty.’ The guy simply cannot think on his feet. In fact, he said so himself in the midst of the press conference: "you just put me under the spot here and maybe I'm not as quick on my feet as I should be in coming up with one (an answer)." If it’s not in the script, he has no clue what to say. He seemed even more confused than Ronald Reagan ever did, even after the Alzheimer’s set in. After watching this performance, one has to wonder who, if anyone, is coaching this guy. But God is on the president’s side, so everything is going to be all right I’m sure.

Bush fans of course saw a completely different press conference than I did, as evidenced by Sen. Elizabeth Dole’s (R-N.C.) comments afterward. She said she thought Bush "showed he was a leader in every sense of the word," and said he "outlined and justified a bold and ambitious plan to combat terror around the world. He's telling Americans and the world that when the United States president says something, he means it." My answer to that? “But he didn’t say anything!” The Washington Post’s Tom Shales had a similar reaction, as documented here.

Another good recap of the president’s bumblefest was offered up by the New York Observer’s Joe Hagan, while the New York Daily News took the hardline approach and focused on the president’s tie.

A Matter of Hearts
A month or so ago, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry was caught on microphone uttering what he truly thinks about the Bush administration. Speaking to a supporter after a rally, he muttered something to the effect of, “this is the biggest, most crooked group of liars ever…” After catching heat from the Bush camp, Kerry explained that he was referring to the ‘Republican Attack Machine,’ not the Bush White House (aren’t they one and the same?). This oft-cited ‘Attack Machine,’ seeds of which I believe can be found in Hillary’s “vast, right-wing conspiracy,” has been in overdrive lately. The latest attack is on, of all things, John Kerry’s military record. Last week, the right-wing media (Rush, Hannity, et al) began to publicly question the validity of the injuries Kerry endured in Vietnam to earn his three Purple Hearts.

They’ve got to be kidding, right? Seriously, how in the hell can someone who fought the Vietnam War from Texas and Alabama, beer in hand, ask a question like that? The simple fact that Kerry even has Purple Hearts to ask questions about should make this line of attack null and void. It’s unbelievable.

The machine wants to paint Kerry as a flip-flopping, tax-raising, elitist liberal who’s weak on defense. Former NYPD Commissioner Bernard Kerik joined the weak-on-defense fight yesterday by insinuating that if Kerry were elected, another 9/11 would happen. This on the same day President Bush said a terror attack on the scale of 9/11 was likely to happen in the next several months, so we’re pretty much screwed either way then, right? If there’s one thing the Bush administration has learned, it’s how to cover their collective asses. Seriously, it’s astonishing to me that a sitting president who’s presided over possibly two of the worst intelligence failures in history – 9/11 and Iraq’s WMD – can claim to be stronger on defense than his opponent. What’s even more astonishing is the fact that people believe him! It must be all the tough talk and the furrowed brow, I don’t understand why else people would buy this claim. Syndicated columnist Richard Cohen explores the phenomenon further here.

The Republicans are also trying to make Kerry out to be some sort of smartass elitist snob who can’t relate to real Americans. While this is actually true – the senator’s yacht is bigger than my entire neighborhood – I’d still rather have a pretentious smartass than a pretentious dumbass as my president. But what we really need in the White House is a Slurpee-loving former wrestler, now we're talking!

Yes, this is going to be a seriously long and dirty campaign full of personal attacks, scandals, denials and spin – but the Daily News’ Denis Hamill doesn’t believe it’s dirty enough yet. He thinks the candidates need to take a few pointers from Yankees and Red Sox fans, who bring the term ‘heated rivalry’ to an entirely new level. Go here for his hilarious breakdown.

Just Give Me Some Truth
Mr. President, I want answers. Iraq is a mess, plain and simple. To deny that fact is to deny the truth. American kids are dying every day*. Innocent Iraqis are dying every day. And you tell us we have to be resolute. Fine. But what's the fucking plan? Why are we there? And how do we get out? What's the goddam plan?? And don't give me bullshit rhetoric about our higher calling, tell us why we're there.

I trusted you once you bastard. Sure, I was skeptical, but at least part of me believed, or at least wanted to believe, that maybe you were right... ‘surely, they can't be making this up’ I thought. ‘It must be based on something.’ But I thought it was based on more than George Tenet leaping out of his chair to shout "it’s a slam dunk!" (When is that fucker going to be fired anyway??)

You all wanted to have your war and you know it. Cheney led the charge, Rumsfeld right behind him, bouncing up and down all giddy with excitement at the prospect of bombing somebody, anybody. Condy Rice marching right alongside, trying to remember what she'd told the president the day before. Even Saudi Arabia's Prince Bandar was there, his arm draped around Condy while he sucked down another mojito. And Paul Wolfowitz brought up the rear, a maniacal look in his eye as he pounded his fist into his hand in repetition - “War. War. War! We gotta get our war on!” And then, suddenly, the cabal stops in mid-march: "Colin? Where's Colin? Shit. We forgot to tell Colin." Is this any way to prosecute a war? Is this any way to run a country?

This administration honestly believed its own bullshit, and they still do I think – they kind of have to now I suppose. They believed we’d be hailed as heroes by the Iraqi people, and I’m sure by most accounts we are. But how could they not have foreseen the resistance we’d face? Any simpleton would’ve at least prepared for rogue elements of fierce resistance. It frightens me to death that Bush and his cronies truly believed this would be a cakewalk. And when Bush plopped himself down on that aircraft carrier a year ago, he really must’ve believed that the Mission had been Accomplished.

But what's really been accomplished? Since Bush's Top Gun moment in May of last year, 635 US soldiers have been killed in Iraq. In July, when the resistance began to pick up in Iraq, Bush swaggered out in front of the cameras and shouted, “Bring It On!” to the insurgents. Since that ill-advised show of machismo, nearly 500 soldiers have been murdered – it’s surely been brought’n Mr. President, you got what you asked for. In December, Saddam was finally dug out of his hole and hopes that the resistance would diminish as a result filled the air; since then, 265 soldiers have been killed. In total, more than 700 US soldiers have been killed thanks to your misguided Iraqi adventure. No weapons of mass destruction have been found. No link to 9/11 has been uncovered. The world hates us more than ever. The faux-coalition you ‘created’ is crumbling. There’s even talk of the military draft being reinstated. And Osama is still taunting us from his cave.

How did you get us into this mess? More importantly, how are you going to get us out? I agree that we can't "cut and run" now, but that's your fault for getting us into this pickle in the first place, so what do we do now? And why are we there again? If the mission was to spread freedom throughout the world, how come we were told that the mission was to prevent a mushroom cloud from rising over our cities? We want answers, and we want them now. Give us some truth.

* this photo, which first appeared in the Seattle Times last Sunday, has sparked quite a controversy since it was printed. The woman who took the photo worked for Maytag Aircraft, a firm contracted by the US military to work in Kuwait. Because the administration does not want Americans to see the results and reality of its policies, these types of photos are forbidden. The woman lost her job yesterday as a result.

Ready, Ames, Bonfire!
One would think that with the escalating emergence of shady dealings in the White House and the spiraling chaos in Iraq, the youth of America would be up in arms. With all this talk of Iraq becoming Vietnam, I’ve been waiting for massive student marches, at least on traditional liberal campuses like Berkeley and NYU. Finally, last weekend, the first sign of this revolution redux seemed to be taking place, in Ames, Iowa. Yep, students on the campus of Iowa St. University rose up in protest. They marched against authority, they chanted slogans, they lit fires. And what were they protesting? The war in Iraq? The erosion of civil liberties? Regressive environmental policies? No, they were apparently protesting, uh, spring. Yes, this was more a riot than a protest, and was sparked by the annual springtime Veishea Festival. That, and a lot of alcohol. Good to know the youth is still fully engaged in the country's political discourse. Power (and beer) to the People!

Delivery for a Mr. Heston?
Earlier this week, Italian customs agents seized more than 8,000 Kalashnikov rifles headed for the United States. Italian officials seized the weapons because of discrepancies in the custom forms. There was no immediate claim of ownership, but Days believes there’s nothing to worry about - we’re pretty certain the rifles we’re ordered by vice president Dick Cheney. (check out Cheney in that photo… he looks like he’s about to make love to that thing in his hand. Scary.)

Catfish Are Jumpin'
There has to be some good news this week, doesn’t there? I guess we can look toward the weather. We’ve had an early dose of summer here in New York City, which only seems fair considering that it was still snowing only a few short weeks ago. Yes, all through last weekend, skies were clear and temperatures rose into the 70s. Sitting out on my fire escape last weekend, soaking in the sun, taking in the harbor, I spotted my first fire hydrant cap-busting of the season… the kids were frolicking and playing as the yellow-brownish water splashed all over them, ahhhhh, springtime in Brooklyn. And on Monday, the mercury hit 85 here in the city, which prompted two visiting Canadians to take an illegal dip in the Central Park Reservoir, as the Daily News reported:

The women, still stylish in jeans and hats after their afternoon swim, were charged with trespassing. At least one of the women had been staying at a backpacker-friendly hostel on Amsterdam Ave. before checking out yesterday, a clerk said.

Now come on, stylish? Canadian? Gimme some truth Daily News!

"What I say goes!"
More late-breaking, Central Park, springtime mayhem... when a transgender up a tree asks for a Diet Vanilla Pepsi, he/she MEANS it!

A Higher Calling
We finish today’s Days with the story of Richard Arko, a Roman Catholic priest from Akron, Ohio recently sentenced to two years probation for growing marijuana inside the rectory. Upon his sentencing, Arko apologized to the court and to his parish and said he probably won’t be able to continue as a priest. “I hope to move on in my life and continue to serve others,” he said. Serve others? Does that mean he’s going to start dealing now?

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Ahhh, 'tis the annual ritual of Tax Day. All across the land, citizens scramble to pay their dues to the government. The majority of you probably submitted your 1040s several weeks ago, but for some of us, April 15 is like the final seconds of the NCAA Championship, the 18th hole at Augusta. Yes, I delay. I procrastinate. I do it because I like it. Yep, I enjoy the frantic energy, the panicked rush. We relish in it. The clock ticks all day, faster and faster. We slide between our work and our taxes – what a rush. Yes, I enjoy being that guy at the main Post Office just before midnight. The last one in line, sweating out every last second. I’m that asshole you see on the local news, ten seconds before the clock strikes 12, shrugging his shoulders as he approaches the dropbox, “I don’t know, I just got distracted I guess. But they’re in ain’t they? Yep. And not a moment to soon.”

Monday, April 05, 2004

The Boys of BALCO
Despite the frigid temperatures here in New York this week, springtime officially reared its welcome head as baseball teams across the country took the field Monday to mark Opening Day 2004. Or was opening day last week in Tokyo? Or was it Sunday night in Baltimore? To some, the tradition of Opening Day was forever besmirched when the Yankees and Devil Rays kicked things off last week at the Tokyo Dome, but traditionalists be damned – baseball is here, and that’s all that really matters.

Baseball has been through a difficult offseason, lowlighted by the spiraling accusations of steroid abuse amongst its premiere players. Not to be deterred by all the scandal talk, a pumped up, hairless and somewhat effeminate-sounding Barry Bonds promised to hit 217 homeruns this year – by the All Star break. While MLB may eventually have to slap many an asterisk on the plethora of records set in recent years, it will continue to thrive as America’s favorite pastime. The game has survived scandals aplenty during its 150-year history: The Black Sox of 1919. Gaylord Perry’s spitball. George Brett’s Pine Tar. Pete Rose. The '94 Strike. Sammy’s cork. The 1962 Mets. Despite these difficult times, baseball has always emerged to recapture the imagination of the American public, and it will this time too.

The baseball season officially began last week with a 5 a.m. first pitch in Tokyo. The Spankees, with all their superstars and ego, landed in the Land of the Rising Sun carrying with them the immense expectations their endless legion of fans places upon their shoulders every year. Yankee fans are spoiled, everybody knows that. Expectations are always high. If the season doesn’t end with a pinstripe pileup celebrating a World Series victory then the season is a failure. That’s how it is around here, year in and year out, but particularly this year. With the addition of the game’s flashiest, wealthiest and perhaps best player Alex Rodriguez, Yankee fans expect big things.

The local press illustrated this fact perfectly after the Yankees dropped the first game of the season to the lowly Tampa Bay Devil Rays in Tokyo. Panic set in. Yankee fans were visibly worried. Red Sox nation was ecstatic. The papers looked to The Boss, Yankee owner George Steinbrenner, for reassurance. Surprisingly, George didn’t fire anyone. He put on a bold face and pretended as though he hadn’t expected his team to go 162-0 on the season, but he was still clearly irked. Game 2 of the Tokyo series was crucial. The next day, the Yankees righted the ship and beat the D-Rays on native son Hideki Matsui’s homerun. The Daily News headline the next morning read: Matsui Magic Saves Season. Yankee fans exhaled. Joe Torre held on to his job. And The Boss purchased the entire Japanese League for insurance. Only 160 more must-win games to go boys, breathe easy.

Baseball stateside kicked off Sunday as the Red Sox were unable to erase the bitter taste left in their mouths last year courtesy of the hated Yankees, losing 7-2 to the Orioles in Baltimore. In the second inning, all of New England could be heard universally screaming, “pull Pedro now!” Monday, 18 teams hit the dirt with all the pomp and circumstance Opening Day deserves. In St. Louis, President George W. Bush threw out the first pitch; St. Louis then proceeded to lose to Milwaukee. In Cincinnati, W’s #2 Dick Cheney threw out the first pitch; Cincinnati lost to the Cubs. Man, does everything these guys touch turn to disaster?

My beloved Mariners open Tuesday against Anaheim. As usual, my heart trumps my head and tells me the M’s are going all the way. That’s the beauty of baseball – in April, everyone has a shot to win it all. Hell, even the Tigers are in first place. Play Ball!

Condy, Come on Down!
Yep, this week we will finally see Condoleeza Rice address the 9/11 Commission in Washington. In honor of Condy’s much-anticipated appearance, the Maxim Magazine website named Rice its "Girlfriend of the Day" last week, a high honor indeed. So, as horny teenage boys searched for the latest photos of Britney Spears riding a mechanical bull in a thong, they were greeted instead with the hotness that is our esteemed National Security Adviser. Oh baby. While many an adolescent boy was probably left disappointingly clutching his dry Kleenex that day, they should remember to be thankful that Madeline Albright isn’t still in the White House.

Going Out In Style
You don’t read many stories about people falling from airplanes that elicit a giggle, but last week in El Cajon, California 88-year-old Joseph Frost, recently diagnosed with a brain tumor, went out with a thud. Apparently not content with passing peacefully in a hospital bed hooked up to tubes and wires, Frost celebrated his 88th birthday by renting and then leaping from a vintage biplane. I know it must’ve been horrifying to watch, but you gotta salute a guy who goes out on his own terms. Grandpa Frost certainly did. I am still the only one giggling?

There’s Gold On That There Rock!
A territorial dispute erupted last week between Canada and Denmark as both countries claimed sovereignty over tiny Hans Island, a small, frozen rock in the Arctic Circle. Both countries claimed ownership of the island, with an official from Denmark’s Foreign Ministry saying, “in our opinion Hans Island is part of Danish territory, but the Canadiens seem to hold the view the island is theirs.” The reason for the dispute? Both countries see the remote island as a potential bounty of natural resources, particularly oil. Upon hearing this, President George W. Bush quickly called for the, ahem, "liberation" of Hans Island. Begin bombing immediately.

Can You Feel My Love Buzz?
Ten years ago this week, I came home to my college apartment in Pullman, Washington after a long, hard day of skipping classes and was stopped cold by none other than Kurt Loder. Kurt Loder? Yes, Kurt Loder. The MTV “newsman” stunned me, my roommates and my generation with news that Kurt Cobain, lead singer of seminal Seattle grunge band Nirvana had been found at his Seattle home, face-up on his greenhouse floor with one too many holes in his head. Cobain pumped himself full of heroin and then said goodbye to the world with a shotgun blast to the face. It was enough to make me drop my bong. This was tragic. We listened to Nirvana every day. This was huge. This was Lennon. It's been repeated so often it's become almost cliche, but Kurt Cobain was a twisted genius and Nirvana was a legendary band. They really did do everything the writers wax poetic about. They were a powerful band. They changed the landscape. Prior to Nirvana, the music charts had been overtaken by r&b pop artists like Whitney Houston and hair bands like Poison and Warrant. Sadly, I too was a casual, misguided music listener in the early-90s. At the time, my most prized CD had been the soundtrack to The Bodyguard (Whitney, Lisa Stansfield, Kenny G -- I shudder at the thought). And then, one night, packed into the back of a van with a bunch of friends, I heard Smells Like Teen Spirit come through the radio. It was electric and raw, it was catchy, infectious. Shortly after that, Even Flow by Pearl Jam. I never looked back. Today, I still have that first copy of Nevermind sitting on my shelf, and Whitney is nowhere to be found. Thank you Kurt... (no, not you Loder). Thank you Kurt Cobain, you sick, fucked up bastard you. Smells Like Digital Nirvana.

Speaking of Music…Check out great bands in NYC this month!
This Thursday, get your Cusack on with The Cooper Vane at Acme Underground!
On the 22nd, check out Nikki & Dara at Acme Underground.
And every Sunday in April, enjoy Kate Fenner at the Living Room.
Catch them all on Harris Radio!

Fly the Partisan Skies! Check out this hilarious Op-Ed by David Brooks at the New York Times. Don't worry, he manages to skewer left and right equally.

Friday, April 02, 2004

Bush's Effect on the Youth of America, from Letterman earlier this week. If you haven't seen this yet, go now -- it's hilarious. By the way, the kid will be on Letterman's show tonight... hope he can stay awake!

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