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June 26, 2004

F#@& Yourself

So you heard that Dick Cheney told Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy to F#@& himself the other day, right? Yeah, that's right:

A brief argument between Vice President Cheney and a senior Democratic senator led Cheney to utter a big-time obscenity on the Senate floor this week.

On Tuesday, Cheney, serving in his role as president of the Senate, appeared in the chamber for a photo session. A chance meeting with Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.), the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, became an argument about Cheney's ties to Halliburton Co., an international energy services corporation, and President Bush's judicial nominees. The exchange ended when Cheney offered some crass advice.

"Fuck yourself," said the man who is a heartbeat from the presidency.

Hm. Interesting. Even better, Cheney said yesterday he has no regrets:

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

So just so I can get this straight: Janet Jackson's boob on tv is cause for huge concern, but the Vice President of the United States stands on the Senate Floor and tells a United States Senator to f#@& himself, and it's "not an issue"? Nice. (Note: I just saw Musclehead pointed this out first. I'm always late to the party.)

Apparently, Leahy had touched one of the Veep's nerves—he doesn't like people pointing out his cozy connections to the administration's number one defense contractor pal:

Cheney said yesterday he was in no mood to exchange pleasantries with Leahy because Leahy had "challenged my integrity" by making charges of cronyism between Cheney and his former firm, Halliburton Co. Leahy on Monday had a conference call to kick off the Democratic National Committee's "Halliburton Week" focusing on Cheney, the company, "and the millions of dollars they've cost taxpayers," the party said.

"I didn't like the fact that after he had done so, then he wanted to act like, you know, everything's peaches and cream," Cheney said. "And I informed him of my view of his conduct in no uncertain terms. And as I say, I felt better afterwards."

The Washington Post calls this "conduct unbecoming" to a Vice President, but really, I appreciate Cheney's candor. Perhaps this is part of a new strategy of honesty. For example, the Bush/Cheney campaign is also using images of Adolf Hitler in its official campaign videos. Perhaps we're finally getting to see Bush/Cheney in all their crass, hateful, and antisocial glory. It's really very refreshing. After all, we've all known that "f#@& yourself" has been the basic attitude of the Bush administration since day one. A few of the most obvious examples of this:

Bush/Cheney to America's public schoolkids, their parents, and local school boards: F#@& yourself. Of course, Bush/Cheney didn't say that exactly; instead, they said something about "No Child Left Behind."

Bush/Cheney to the environment, environmental activists, the Kyoto Protocol, and experts in global warming: F#@& yourself. But again, Bush/Cheney didn't say that exactly; instead, they said something about "Clean Skies and Healthy Forests" and voluntary pollution-reduction programs, etc.

Bush/Cheney to dozens of world governments and the people (if not always the leaders) of Great Britain, Germany, France, Spain and others: F#@& yourself. Of course, Bush/Cheney said something about "weapons of mass destruction" and "terrorism" and "liberating Iraq."

I could go on, but I think you get the idea. See, isn't candor great? I can just see the t-shirts and bumper stickers now:

"Vote Bush/Cheney '04. And F#@& Yourself."

Posted 08:13 PM | Comments (7) | election 2004

We Sure Do Need Some Water*

We saw "Fahrenheit 9/11" last night and it was ... a great film! (I know you're all shocked that I liked it. You can pick your jaws up off the floor now.) In many ways, typical Moore. In at least one way, not quite so typical—he wasn't in it that much (except as narrator and commentator throughout, of course). After seeing it, one thing seems certain: The barrage of pundits speaking out against the film (and Moore personally) in the last 1-2 weeks were designed to do one thing: Make people decide in advance they don't want to see the film. I say that because I think almost anyone who sees this movie—all but the most Republican partisans—will have to think very very seriously about voting for Bush this November. You may find much to quibble with in the film, but its most damning underlying argument is pretty unassailable. Therefore, the Republicans' best hope to reduce the damage the film might do to Bush's chances is just to go all out to try to keep people from seeing it at all. And I'm not talking censorship. The strategy is to make those who haven't seen the film think Moore is a crazed lunatic and perhaps a traitor, and to make the film seem like one big fat lie.

There's just one problem with that, Moore's not crazy, and, while the film's analysis of recent history might be hyperbolic or facile at times, in its biggest theme, it does not lie. Despite that, the "don't see it!" strategy may be working. One of my co-workers yesterday declared she has no desire to see the film because Moore's a crazy liar, and at least one other person I know (who is a dedicated Fox "news" watcher) has decided he won't be seeing it either, for the same reason.

<snark> It's a good thing people make up their own minds in this country, don't you think? </snark>

I don't want to spoil the film for those who haven't seen it yet, although I'm not sure I could even if I wanted to; if you've been following any coverage of it, you know what it's about already. It seemed to have a prologue and two parts. The prologue how Bush was appointed president by the Supreme Court after thousands of voters were disenfranchised in Florida. Part one is about September 11, 2001 and the immediate response to it—the fact that leading up to it the Bush administration seemed not very interested in Bin Laden or Al Quaeda or terrorism, the fact that Bush just sat in a schoolroom in in Florida for seven minutes after he was told that America was "under attack" (Moore's critics seem to really dislike what he does with this), the fact that the Bush administration helped 142 Saudi Arabian nationals—including many members of the Bin Laden family—leave the country on charter flights w/out being asked any questions, etc. (Moore's also been challenged on this, since the 9/11 Commission said that, in hindsight, it looks like none of the Saudis who were allowed to leave were likely terrorists or anything. This misses the point, which is simply: Why were these people, of all people, given special treatment? No one is saying they were terrorists, only that it was improper to give them any advantages over anyone else at that time.)

There's a lot packed into the first half of the movie, including interesting little details about the deep connections between the Bush family and Saudi Arabian oil bigshots and royalty. I'm sure Moore's critics are busily explaining away all those little details in their arguments that they all add up to nothing. The big point here was not incredibly clear to me. It's definitely not that Saudi Arabians are secretly running U.S. foreign and domestic policy or anything like that. Part one simply points out that there's deep ties between the Bush family (and others in the Bush administration), and Saudi interests, and that there's big money involved, and that that Saudi interests have received very good treatment from the U.S. for some time.

Part two was, for me, more effective. Part two is more about the buildup to Bush's invasion and occupation of Iraq, all the lies that went into getting Americans and the world to buy that debacle, who is getting rich off the war (e.g., the Carlyle Group and Halliburton) and who is paying the price for Bush's lies. I'm sure many people are trying, but just can't imagine how anyone could argue that Moore is wrong here. The companies and people profiting from the war can't deny that they're doing so. They can argue that "somebody's gotta do it," but that's no excuse; no one would have had to do it if Bush hadn't invaded in the first place. Also, how can Bush and Co. defend the fact that ten times more taxpayer dollars go to a private Halliburton-employed truck driver than to a member of the U.S. armed forces who's basically doing the same job? I don't see the defense, the logic, the argument. The war was unnecessary, and now it's created countless opportunities for corporations to steal from American taxpayers with the blessing and active assistance of the U.S. government. Hooray.

And that's Moore's biggest and strongest argument, as I see it: The big losers in the America created by the Bush administration are those with the least to begin with—the poor and marginalized Americans who are losing social services because so much of the federal budget has to go to Iraq, and who are losing their lives because they are the people who make up the vast majority of the U.S. armed forces. It's not a fun message. In fact, it's very very sad. But it's true.

And in this respect, I 'd argue that "Fahrenheit 9/11" is a great film. I disagree with Moore's critics, those who try to dismiss him as a lunatic who "rewrites history" or reduces it to simple a black/white binaries. In "Fahrenheit 9/11" and "Bowling for Columbine," Moore attempts to connect current American problems of poverty, racism, and other social inequalities with American history in an attempt to understand -- and to help viewers understand -- how we might have come to where we find ourselves today. No, he can't resist the facile jab here and there that tends to reduce his larger analysis to a simple theory of cause and effect. For example, in "BFC" he says that the NRA was founded the same day the KKK was officially disbanded. This implies that the NRA is just a front for the KKK -- he never says that in "BFC," but he juxtaposes those two facts in a way that makes suggests the connection and encourages viewers to make it for themselves. Is something like this mere coincidence? Perhaps. And if so, if there's nothing to it, then Moore comes off looking like he's reducing a complex history to a bunch of simple comparisons, connecting things that just aren't connected. But his larger points don't depend on such coincidences; instead, they're based on a reading of the factual record that is not usually flattering to the wealthy and powerful in the U.S., but which is, nevertheless, true.

That's my take, anyway. As always, I look forward to hearing what others think.

See also:

* The title of this post responds to one of the song's on the soundtrack to "Fahrenheit 9/11." The soundtrack is great, by the way—a brilliant use of popular music as social satire.

Posted 07:46 PM | Comments (11) | ai movies election 2004

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