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Wednesday, June 30, 2004

You can almost imagine the scene Monday morning as Paul Bremer sneaks into Iraqi interim prime minister Iyad Allawi's bedroom, gently waking him with a tap to the shoulder, "Pssssst, wake up Iyad, it's your turn... I'm outta here." And faster than you could say Mission Accomplished, Iraq was symbolically in charge of its own fate.

Naturally, the Bush administration began touting the two-days-early handover as another (or is it the first?) victory in Iraq. While it is no doubt a positive sign that things are moving forward, don't be fooled by all the gusto coming out of the White House. For one, the early handover had nothing to do with Iraq being in a position of readiness earlier than expected; in fact, it has more to do with the fact that they are not. Because the security situation in Iraq is so unstable and has been so poorly managed, the ceremony was moved up a few days and took place in the near-dead of night so as to avoid being rocked by another suicide bombing.

There is no way the Neocon architects of this Iraqi adventure envisioned that the situation would be so uncertain, so fragile and so increasingly dire when they launched this initiative so many months ago. But handing power over on time, regardless of the readiness of the new Iraqi government or its people, was an important milestone for the Bush team to meet, particularly with a presidential election right around the corner. And so, ready or not, Iraq is now sovereign. Hooray. But remember, the only American who left the desert Monday morning was Paul Bremer, leaving behind 140,000 young American men and women to clean up the mess.

Robert Orr, an outside expert sent to Iraq last summer to oversee reconstruction efforts, painted a real picture of what Monday's quiet ceremony represented in this quote to the New York Times:
"The loss of control makes the job even tougher. We have the same number of targets on the ground today as we did yesterday, but less control over the politics. The reality is that we are as engaged in Iraq as we have ever been."
Columnist Richard Cohen added his two dinars about the reality of Monday's transfer here.
And just to clarify, despite what the Bush apologists and cheerleaders would have you think, we on the left are not hoping for continued chaos and violence in Iraq. We are not hoping for failure. We don't cheer when we hear of another roadside bomb or downed helicopter. Even those of us who opposed the war are hoping for the best now that we're sunk in so deep, but we will never forget who got us into this mess in the first place.

Finally, for the sake of levity, and because we at Days love her to death, we add political cyber-kitten and fellow blogger Wonkette's take on this headline's unintended double entendre, hilariously titling her entry "Premature Iraqulation". Keep it "up" Wonkette.

Throughout my Days I've made my opinion about the New York Yankees pretty clear - pure evil, plague on humanity, devil incarnate, etc. But as much as I hate the Yankees, I've always maintained that their fans are probably the most knowledgeable in the country. Last night they proved that once again when a packed Yankee Stadium of 60,000 serenaded visiting vice president Dick Cheney with a good ol' fashion Bronx Cheer. For once Yankee fans, we're on the same side.

Cheney: "How do you say 'go fuck yourself' in Japanese?"

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Fans of Irish Hollywood heartthrob Colin Farrell are crying in their Guiness today after learning that the reported full frontal nudity scene showing off the hunky leprechaun's 'Lucky Charm' has been cut from the forthcoming drama, "A Home at the End of the World." Farrell's publicist must be even better than his character in "Phone Booth" because initial reports claimed the scene had been cut because the size and girth of Sir Colin's schlong shocked test audiences into distraction and over-excitement, taking away from the story. Subsequent reports have toned down initial claims of Colin's gargantuan manhood, some even suggesting that the offending member was cleverly CGIed after Farrell was unhappy with the real deal's appearance. Who knows what the truth is, and who really cares - all I know is that I want Colin's publicist working for me! You all shoulda seen the original cut of this blog - it was massive!

Vice President Dick Cheney offered up a preview of the tactics he'll use when he faces off with whomever John Kerry's VP selection is (John Edwards) when he told Senator Pat Leahy (D-VT) to "go fu*k himself" on the floor of the Senate today. The heated exchange between the two began with a "hello" from Leahy, continued with a "lay off my Halliburton connections" retort from Cheney, a "quit calling me a bad Catholic" rebut from Leahy, and ultimately ended with the F-Bomb from our distinguished Vice Potty-Mouth. Leahy told CNN after the exchange that while he was surprised to hear such language, he suspects the Vice President was simply "having a bad day." That's an understatement; "having a bad term" is more like it. Careful Pat, we all know Cheney is probably one more outburst away from popping another artery, and while I'm not sure of the succession lines, I think that may put Rumsfeld into the VP slot and you know what that means: Everyone who disagrees with the administration's views would be required to strip and jump into a big 'ol pile of naked man flesh.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Sad news out of Hollywood this morning as one-half of the $300 million Olsen Twins has apparently checked herself into a clinic to treat an eating disorder. Our hearts go out to Mary-Kate, as does an offer to take her and her sister (aka, the 'fat one') out to dinner every night once she checks out, just to make sure she's eating regularly. At least the media is taking the illness seriously and treating it with respect. Entertainment Tonight's website only used an exclamation point twice in it's report on the news, ("Watch ET for more on her condition!!"). Glad to see they're tamping down their excitement a bit. I do think that today's news merits a demotion for Mary-Kate: The duo should now be referred to as Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen. I mean, the less troubled teen twin deserves some kind of a reward for eating lunch once in a while, doesn't she? This is your chance Ashley, take it!

The Right must be going nuts. After a week-long Reaganthon Orgy (see previous entry), the Left has struck back with a week of Bubba Love culminating with yesterday's book-signing here in Manhattan. Clinton's publicity junket began at the White House last week when he and Hillary's portraits were unveiled at the White House, she standing proudly in her trademark pantsuit, he prone on the couch with a cheeseburger, a cigar and a copy of Leaves of Grass tucked under his arm. In the week since, the former president's Teflon mug has been splashed across the covers of every major news magazine and newspaper, and he's made appearances on every major news and talk show, including yesterday's sit-down with Oprah. You'd think the 937 page tome would satiate just about everyone's appetite, but many are already complaining that the book lacks salacious details of the former President's promiscuous peccadilloes with our beloved Portly Pepperpot. But didn't we already get our presidential porn fix in the guise of the Starr Report?

After the weeklong Clinton lovefest, the Right now has to deal with Michael Moore's unflattering and very public look at the Bush administration. While I'm excited to see Fahrenheit 9/11, I do fear that Michael Moore's caustic, humiliating approach will not only further galvanize the Right but will also turn off some fence-sitting voters rather than swing them toward Kerry. I agree with just about everything Michael Moore stands for, and I'm thrilled that someone is finally shining the light on many of the unbelievable actions and policies of this president and his administration, but sometimes his propagandistic approach can blow up in all our faces. While entertaining, his stunts can sometimes seem childish and petty, provide an easy target for the Right, and lend credence to the 'Loony Left' argument. Opponents of the film are already claiming that Moore is simply distorting the truth and twisting facts to fit his own biases; these criticisms of course coming from such beacons of unbiased commentary as Bill O'Reilly and Joe Scarborough. All concern and controversy aside, the trailer does look awesome. The Bushies should be nervous, and that makes me happy.

Have the tabloids taking it too far when there gossip pages gossip about other gossip rags gossip pages? That's what's been happening the last few days here in New York as the Daily News' gossip column, Lowdown, dished some dirt on the Rupert Murdoch-owned New York Post's Page Six reporter Ian Spiegelman which ultimately got him fired. The subject of the gossip really doesn't matter, it's the reactions of the parties involved that's really entertaining, but the back-story is this: According to an article appearing in next week's New York Press penned by Douglas Dechert, a 47-year-old literary agent, Spiegelman made a play for Dechert's 19-year-old girlfriend and author of "Bad Girl: Confessions of a Teenage Delinquent," Abigail Vona. Dechert goes off on Spiegelman, referring to him as an "amorously intentioned midget". In response, Spiegelman fired off an angry e-mail to Dechert:

"If I wanted to take your girl out, I would," Spiegelman wrote in his profanity-laced message. "You have nothing I can't take away from you, you non-man. Doug, you little tiny fairy ... I will break your back over my knee in the press and I will push your face inside-out in private or public."
The e-mail got Spiegelman promptly canned from the right-leaning tabloid, to which he responded thusly:

"I'm not going to miss being associated with the Post's parent company," Spiegelman said. "It's been a hard year to work for people who want to reelect somebody who talks to Jesus on a regular basis."
Amen Ian. We hear Michael Moore is looking for a personal assistant if you're interested.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

A few weeks back Days pondered the declining crime rate in New York City, pleading for the return of the good 'ol days of random acts of violence and a Gotham that outsiders would truly fear once again. In doing so, we asked the rhetorical question, "Son of Sam, Where are you?" Well, we're happy to report that Son of Sam (aka David Berkowitz) now has a blog of his own, allowing the infamous murderer a forum for his rantings of forgiveness without having to leave the cushy walls of his prison cell. It's good to know that we here at Days are in good bloggin' company.

It is also heartening to see that a new generation of criminals is being harvested right here in New York City. As an example, see this story about a pair of kiddie bandits in Harlem last week. Yes, the children are our future.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

My god, is it over yet? No disrespect, but the week-long Reagan orgy needs to end. News of the former president's passing has trumped all other news this week, including that of J.Lo's fourth wedding, (I guess we should be thankful for that one). But frankly, I'm sick and tired of it.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not some left-wing nut who's unwilling to recognize the accomplishments of Mr. Reagan, but I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that the Republicans and Conservatives have gotten a bit carried away in their deification of the Gipper. In the wake of Reagan's death, Republican senator Mitch McConnell has introduced a measure in Congress to boot founding father Alexander Hamilton off the $10 bill and replace him with Reagan's grinning mug. Other proposals this week have included efforts to replace JFK on the 50-cent piece and Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill, as well as sculpting Ron's bust alongside Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson and Teddy Roosevelt on Mt. Rushmore. Even before his death, Republicans had pushed to have Reagan knock FDR off the dime. Seriously, I think these fanatics even believe that the opening line to the Lord's Prayer, "Our Father who art in heaven...", refers directly to Ronnie.

But I'll give credit where credit is due. Reagan, the father of the modern conservative movement, did lead the charge in defeating Communism and winning the Cold War, a significant achievement indeed. But in order to do this his administration illegally funded guerilla wars in South America by selling arms to Iran, a founding member of W's Axis of Evil. His administration also propped up Saddam Hussein by turing a blind eye to his atrocities and providing him with the very same WMD we recently went to war over. His heavy-handed policies led to destructive wars all across South and Central America - Grenada, El Salvador, Nicaragua, the list goes on and on. I do understand that in order to prevail in something as significant as the Cold War sacrifices need to be made, but to vault the star of Bedtime for Bonzo into the same realm as Lincoln and Jefferson is just ridiculous.

I liked Reagan growing up as a kid, I really did, but that was before I actually started paying attention to policy and politics. I was into image, not substance. Reagan was very good at making people feel good. He was the great communicator. He was optimistic. He seemed liked everyone's grandfather, and how could anyone hate their grandfather? But his infectious smile and outward humility were masks for some of the less-then-honorable things he was responsible for. Aside from his foreign policy achievements, clearly his strongest suit, Reagan is also remembered for crushing the union movement, ignoring the AIDS crisis, stalling civil rights and believing that ketchup is a vegetable. With all that in mind, let's wait a little while before we go so far as to rename ourselves the United States of Ronald Reagan, god rest his soul.

Perhaps, as Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle proposed this week, Reagan's legacy should live on by ramping up efforts to find a cure for the disease that took his life, Alzheimers. If our current president would listen to former first lady Nancy Reagan's request to lift his restrictions on stem-cell research, maybe that work could begin.

Friday, June 04, 2004

No, no, no... we said fire RUMSFELD, not Tenet!

I can't say Tenet's resignation was much of a surprise. Tenet said yesterday that he is resigning for "personal reasons". Uh yeah, like being personally responsibile for two of the most massive intelligence failures our nation has ever seen, 9/11 and Iraq's missing WMDs. As Jon Stewart expressed a few weeks back, "How does this guy (Tenet) still have a job? I've been fired for being late to work!"

Somewhat related, Dave Pell at Electablog had an interesting observation a few weeks ago about the CIA's unique position and ability to create discomfort for the once untouchable Bush administration. Could Tenet's "resignation" be a result of all this infighting? Makes sense, no?

Everyone knows New York is an expensive city, but this is ridiculous. Two weeks ago, insurance executive Mitchell Blaser stumbled out of the infamous Manhattan strip club Scores with a credit card receipt totalling $28,000. He later filed a lawsuit against the club claming there was no way he could've spent that much. In response, Scores spokesman Lonnie Hanover appropriately said, "If you want to party like a [movie star] you can, but it is going to cost you." According to the Daily News, Hanover said Blaser charged $7,000 worth of Diamond Dollars - the club's currency - and he doled them out like candy for $20 lap dances. "At $7,000, he had a dozen girls hanging on to his words for several hours." At least Blaser didn't head to Le Parker Meridien for an omelette, otherwise his tab for the night would've hit $29,000.

This week however, Blaser's tab was bested - in a BIG way - by Tauhidul Chaudhury, husband of a Bangladeshi diplomat. Chaudhury racked up an astounding bill of $129,626. Chaudhury too has filed a lawsuit against the club, but his excuse is rather flimsy: He was too drunk to remember signing the credit card bill. I have a feeling that excuse won't fly in a court of law. But Mr. Chaudhury, you defnitely take the pasties for being Strip Club Boob Numero Uno, congratulations. How do you say Dumbass in Bangladeshi?

There are lessons aplenty to be learned from these stories, but the most important in my opinion is to be sure not to head to the club on the same night these guys go out to party. I know for a fact that the $35.16 in my bank account isn't going to lure any of "the talent" away from the Bangladeshi with the $100,000 bill clutched between his teeth.

BRING IT... yawn.
The Kerry campaign thus far has been quite the snoozefest, no one can argue that. His speeches haven't necessarily ignited much excitement. Luckily for Kerry, the hatred for the White House's current occupant is so great across much of the country he may not have to be an engaging, exciting campaigner - he just needs to keep breathing. Newsweek has dubbed this the Sock Puppet Strategy, after Seattle resident David Haldeman said at a Kerry rally last week, "my dislike of George Bush overrides everything at this point. You can put a sock puppet next to Bush and I would vote for it."

Because of this, Kerry hasn't done much to stoke the fires - he hasn't needed to, the fires are already stoked. What this means unfortunately is that his campaign is an absolute bore to watch. The most exciting thing to focus on at this point is speculation about whom Kerry will select as a running mate. McSweeney's recently compiled a hilarious list of the Pros and Cons for 20 potentinal VP candidates. A few highlights:

4. Bill Clinton, former President
Pro: Oh man, that would be awesome—could you imagine? He'd be all like Yeah, I'm back, so suck on this, y'all and everyone would be all No way and he'd be all Way
Con: None
17. Ashton Kutcher, actor, California
Pro: Could "punk" Bush campaign with crazy pranks, make them think their president plane got stoled, and then he could yell "Punk'd!" and it would be funny
Con: Sucks
For the full list, go here.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

President Bush is making his way to Europe over the weekend, (uh oh, there goes the neighborhood!). Yep, W is headed to Italy and France to mark the 60th anniversary of D-Day, at least that's the public reasoning for the trip. In reality, Bush's trip represents a fence-mending mission with the very same world leaders he shunned in his run-up to war with Iraq. Undoubtedly, all involved parties will put on a happy face, but not everyone is thrilled with the president's plans to hop the pond and set his imperialist boots onto European soil. His first stop is Italy, where he's scheduled to meet with Premier Silvio Berlusconi, the most crooked Western leader since, well, George W. Bush.

Since the eviction of Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar and the tumultous firestorm surrounding Tony Blair, Mr. Berlusconi has become W's staunchest European ally in the War on Terror. But the widespread majority of the Italian public is opposed to its government's involvement in the Iraqi misadventure, and the intensity of protest expected in Rome during Bush's visit is extreme. In fact, several prominent public figures, including former President Francesco Cossiga, have questioned why Bush is visiting in the first place. His drop-in on Rome has prompted the "militarization of the capital", according to la Repubblica newspaper. The November murder of 19 Italian soldiers and the recent Italian hostage episode has only inflamed hatred for the US president. Luca Casarini, a well-known Italian anti-globalization figure, commented, "If a criminal of the caliber of Bush is given the red carpet treatment, then rage is the right reaction." A Roman Holiday indeed Mr. Bush. Good luck.

While he's in Italy, the devout W will also pay a visit to the Pope. His pontiffness was a vocal opponent of Mr. Bush's war, and so the meeting should be interesting to say the least. I'm sure Bush will deliver some pleasantries and perhaps recite a Psalm or two to impress John Paul II, but the Pope may have some harsh words - in between drooling spats - for the president. Aside from his disparaging remarks about Bush's run-up to Shock and Awe, JP2 is particularly unhappy with the American value system, commenting last week that America has become a "soulless" wasteland of materialism (yeah? what of it motherfucker?!). The Pope suggested to visiting American bishops last week that they needed to "study contemporary culture to find a way to appeal to youths." Apparently, the Catholic Church is finally abandoning its policy of appealing to youth through communal molestation and groping.

Seems like there is a new 'crucial juncture' just about every week in Iraq, doesn't it? But yesterday's news that the Iraqi Governing Council had dissolved itself and appointed interim leaders is a welcome development. I've argued long and hard that my problem with this administration lies in the execution, not necessarily the theory. Clearly, terrorism is a significant threat that needs to be dealt with, no one is arguing against that. My problem has been in how the threat has been dealt with: brute force, intimidation, and an arrogant, holier-than-thou, God-is-on-our-side attitude. But the appointment of Sunni tribal leader Ghazi Mashal Ajil al-Yawar, a frequent critic of the American occupation, as interim president is an encouraging sign and represents a slight departure from that attitude. I will give credit where credit is due, but credit is not necessarily due to the Bush administration, which has made the transition even more difficult than it was already destined to be. The administration certainly didn't want Mr. Ajil al-Yawar to assume the post, but yesterday they relented, finally, and allowed him to take the podium as president, and I'll give them credit for that.

This 'credit' in no way diminishes the fact that invading Iraq on false pretenses has done more to harm the war on terrorism than to help it. Iraq is only the central front in the war on terror because Bush made it so. There are/were smarter ways to fight this scourge of terrorism. This pre-emptive invasion and resulting, mis-managed occupation have only inflamed the massive hatred of America across the globe, which is not a good way to stamp out terrorism. But now that we've sunk our teeth in, there's really no turning back, and so any progress in Iraq is welcome, and yesterday's news represented progress.

Of course, as the new president was being sworn in, rocket attacks and suicide bombs continued to rock Baghdad, so we'll have to take a wait-and-see approach over the next several months. But Bush seemed upbeat yesterday during his impromptu press conference commenting on the transition. When asked about the mood of the Iraqi people, Bush replied that people who have been in Iraq report that things are better than the American media have portrayed them to be, that, in fact, "They report people have got a sparkle in their eye." No, no Mr. President, that's not a sparkle, that's shrapnel.

There's a lot of work to be done, no doubt. My question remains: Did it have to come to this?

So, Democrats say that the economy has fallen into recession on George W's watch, citing as primary evidence spiraling unemployment figures, continued corporate malfeasance and the current need to take out a personal loan in order to fill up the gas tank. But hold on a minute Dems, the economy is on the upswing... in certain sectors. Check out what the Bush administration did for Alliant Techsystems of Missouri, the nation's leading manufacturer of ammunition:

Dan Murphy, chief executive at bullet supplier Alliant Techsystems Inc., said the company's Army ammunition plant in Missouri has gone through its fastest increase in production since the Vietnam War. It has hired 1,000 workers in the past three years, and some production lines are running around the clock.
Or how about Certified Safety Manufacturing, a small, family-owned business who supplies field dressings to all those wounded American men and women in Iraq. If it weren't for George W's hard-headed determination, Certified Safety wouldn't have been able to add 24 positions to its payroll. Every flesh-ripping gunshot wound to an American soldier equals profits for this mom-and-pop operation, just listen to Pam Gerson, daughter of the founder:

"A lot of people are benefiting from the situation. That also causes negativity, in that war is no fun," says Ms Gerson. "Everything here is based around business. That's what the war is about. Unfortunately, for some it doesn't come out so sweet. But for others, it does."
See, War is "sweet" for some.

And what about Halliburton? If it weren't for the Cheney administration, the Houston-based corporate monolith would've actually had to compete with other companies for its big fat Iraqi reconstruction contract. And just because Dick Cheney says, "I have absolutely no influence of, involvement of, knowledge of in any way, shape or form of contracts led by the Corps of Engineers or anybody else in the federal government," it was his influence of, involvement in and knowledge of the contracts led by the Corps of Engineers that greased the wheels for Halliburton to secure its sweetheart reconstruction contract -- and profit magnificently from it, as was proven in the e-mail recently uncovered by Time Magazine.

So you see, this administration is good for the economy. War is good for the economy! These guys are brilliant!

Of course, outside of industries directly supplying the war effort, times are not so good. In April of 2003, President Bush used the Timken Co., a Canton, Ohio-based ball-bearing manufacturer, as the backdrop for a speech on economic recovery. Standing proudly in front of a "Jobs and Growth" banner, Bush told thousands of workers gathered at the plant that the "greatest strength of the American economy is found right here, right in this room, found in the pride and skill of the American work force." Last month, Timken Co. announced that it was closing its three manufacturing facilities in Canton and laying off 1,300 workers, many of whom undoubtedly were right there in that room.

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