Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Lexiconography
War on Terror

Though she's hardly the first to contest the use of this oxymoronic term, the president's speech last night demands a return to the critique.

Particularly maddening to your cybertrix is the term's acceptance by many in the news media and in the political arena, as if it were the proper name for a conflict.

The term "War on Terror" is a clever construction by Republican rhetoriticians. While nurturing the post-911 fear that lives in so many of us, the phrase paradoxically conveys the idea that we are fighting to stamp out that fear.

Think about it, though. Terror is an emotion--not a fighting force, nor even a battle technique. Terrorism, on the other hand, is a strategy/technique used by the enemy to manipulate outcomes that are essentially political in nature.

War is, by its very nature, terrifying. Hence, a "War on Terror" is a clever bit of newspeak.

By appropriating the administration's sinister rhetoric, the news media do the president's bidding. Wolf Blitzer did it this past Sunday on CNN's "Late Edition," and countless others do it on a daily basis. It's time to put this damaging and linguistically lazy practice to an end. Words do matter.

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Shameless

Given the choice, last night, between jamming with some jazz men or listening to the president offer his latest rationale for why we're in Iraq, your blogstress chose the jam. Which doesn't mean she has nothing to say about the president's speech, if only to remark on the utter shamelessness of the man. While president spun out his latest half-truths about why Americans are dying in the fertile crescent, he was no less craven in his exploitation of 9-11 than was Karl Rove in his slander against Democrats last week.

Yo, prez, the reason we're fighting terrorists in Iraq is because you virtually invited them there. But you know that.

One can only hope that the American people will show themselves to be something better than than the dolts their president apparently thinks them to be.

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Monday, June 27, 2005

Just what are they smoking?

The Supreme Court these days has your blogstress humming a Kinks tune:

Girls will be boys and boys will be girls
It's a mixed-up, tumbled-up, shook-up world


Given the rash of bizarre decisions to emanate from the temple just down the street from your Webwench's Oppo Factory, you've got to wonder, just what are they smokin'?

Livin' with Mary Jane
Beginning with smokin', The New Yorker's Hendrik Hertzberg is a must-read on the high court's pot verdict in the case Gonzales (as in A.G. Alberto) v. Raich (as in pain patient with a doctor's prescription for the offending substance):

To make sense of Gonzales v. Raich, a Supreme Court Decoder Ring, available with three box tops from Original Intent Cereal, would be a valuable accessory.

The decision, which struck down the legal use of marijuana for medical purposes--even in states where the voters had approved such use--was no triumph of the right. Rather it was a victory granted, more or less, by what Hertzberg calls "the four moderate-to-almost-liberal Justices--David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, and John Paul Stevens, who wrote the majority opinion...":

The least muddled opinion was Justice Thomas’s separate dissent, certain passages of which (e.g., “In the early days of the Republic, it would have been unthinkable that Congress could prohibit the local cultivation, possession, and consumption of marijuana”) could have been written by Justice Cheech or Justice Chong.

Yes, your cybertrix knows that it's not exactly fair to be giving away all of Hertzberg's best lines in the territory occupied by her breakaway republic, but she takes comfort in the fact that the piece is a week old. It seems your écrivaine is never quite up to speed with The New Yorker, a publication she prefers to read at a leisurely pace, lolling about the boudior, draped in something fetching, les bon-bons at hand. Yet the busy pace of her nêt-tete lifestyle is getting in the way of such pursuits.

For the actual reasoning behind the decision, your blogstress refers her reader to Hertzberg himself.

Property: not yours, even if you paid for it
In a particularly chilling and mind-numbing decision, the Court's so-called liberals banded together to render a decision permitting municipalities to seize private property and hand it over to their favored real-estate developers. In her search of the Constitution's provisions on property, your cybertrix finds herself flummoxed looking for the clause that says fat cats in collusion with local government have the right to take people's homes from them. In a single decision, the justices have managed to combine the worst attributes of two flawed systems--socialism and capitalism. Now, don't get your Webwench wrong: Whatever the flaws, she is a died-in-the-wool capitalist, which means she thinks that people who pay for the things they own should get to keep them.

The concept of eminent domain has never been one with which your net-tête was entirely comfortable, but at least it is one that resides explicitly within the U.S. Constitution. Eminent domain refers to the government's right to appropriate property for public works necessary for the greater good--the building of highways, for example. But when the government takes land (reimbursing the owner at market value), the land itself becomes the property of the people at large.

In the Court's recent decision, the land goes into the sticky private hands of developers whose projects, sanctioned by government, are projected to bring some state of economic well-being to the public at large. With Nazi references being all the rage these days, your blogstress reluctantly reminds the Court that the Third Reich was characterized by just such an economic system: one in which the will of the state was exercised by corporate privateers. How utterly distressing that it's come to this. One wonders if the lead-laced water on Capitol Hill has taken its toll on the robed sages.

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Thursday, June 23, 2005

It's not assault when they do it

And speaking of the Republican National Convention, Jeralyn Merritt of TalkLeft is blogging about a fascinating trial regarding a protester accused of kicking a security guard at the Republican National Convention. (Your blogstress's readers will recall this as the convention that called for round-ups of protesters who were held at a nasty building on the Chelsea Pier and not charged with anything.)

Jeralyn rightly calls her readers' attention to the incident inside the convention hall, witnessed by many, of a young female protester getting roughed-up inside the convention hall for standing while wearing a garment that featured anti-Bush slogans.

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Terror been berry, berry good
to Karl

Nine-eleven is the best thing that ever happened to Karl Rove, and he apparently knows it.

With the war in Iraq wearing thin on the national morale, Rove, in a speech before the Conservative Party of New York State, chose to launch a weapon of mass distraction by virtually accusing Democrats of treasonous behavior in the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001. Patrick Healy of the New York Times reports:

"Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 in the attacks and prepared for war; liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers," Mr. Rove, the senior political adviser to President Bush, said at a fund-raiser in Midtown for the Conservative Party of New York State.

Then he really got mean:

Let me just put this in fairly simple terms: Al Jazeera now broadcasts the words of Senator Durbin to the Mideast, certainly putting our troops in greater danger. No more needs to be said about the motives of liberals."

While Durbin's comments were over the top, he apologized on the floor of the Senate, which is more than Tom DeLay has done in the House after practically condoning hits on liberal judges. But don't get distracted by the Durbin piece of this; it's the libel on "motives" that takes the cake.

Scott McClellan, spokesman for President Bush, stood by Rove's comments, saying that the latter was only distinguishing between two philosophies.

And what philosophies would they be? Why, patriotism and treason, of course.

Flailing in Iraq and trailing in public opinion polls, Rove thought he'd shore up his man with that winning formula he used so cravenly at the Republican National Convention in New York City last year: If you're scared you won't beat 'em, then just traumatize 'em.

Let's hope the Dems stay disciplined and not issue any Durbinesque rebukes; leave that work to the blogstresses of the world.

So far, so good: Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has called for Rove's resignation, and Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean has, according to the Associated Press...

...called on Bush to ''show some leadership and unequivocally repudiate Rove's divisive and damaging political rhetoric.''

Hillary Clinton used the occasion of a Senate hearing at which Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld testified to offer the Pentagon chief the chance to repudiate Rove's remarks. Not surprising, the not-so-demure secretary demurred.

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Gay-basher, freedom-hater
leads Office of Special Counsel

Hans Johnson's latest column in In These Times is a must-read, especially for anybody who doubts that the most freedom-hating, ideological bunch of thugs to ever staff the executive branch are running amok over the Constitution.

Check out Hans's piece, Scott Bloch’s Sad Saga.

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What's at stake

As a public service, your net-tête here displays the text of the First Amendment. Commit it to memory please, because it soon may be redacted:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

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Constitution burning

Who knew that the First Amendment posed such a threat to the republic so as to require its stamping out in the guise of a burning flag?

Yes, the flag-burning amendment is back, having passed the House yesterday afternoon. Though the passage of such expressions of contempt for the Constitution has been standard-issue in the House for some time, in the past, the Senate could be counted on to do the right thing. Alas, not this year. (Long live Terri Schiavo.)

When it comes to the trampling of rights via the Patriot Act, the rationale is always the need to deter terrorists before they inflict another wound on the order of 9-11. So what is the rationale for stomping the First Amendment at its root, in our nation's founding document? The sacred nature of the flag, we're told. Your blogstress does not recall a single Founder writing of the sanctity of the U.S. flag. In fact, your cybertrix seems to recall that the Framers were extraordinarily careful to avoid words like "God," "Creator" and "sacred" in the text of the Constitution.

The current amendment effort in the Congress has more to do with matters temporal than sacred, of course. It's about the 2006 congressional elections. Republicans love to harangue Democrats for an alleged lack of patriotism during election campaigns. No voice votes on this one--everybody will surely be on the record.

If the Democrats had the guts, they'd be out there haranguing the Republicans for their obvious lack of patriotism. After all, what is more sacred to the American experiment: the flag or the Constitution?

Your Webwench would like to see a protest on the steps of the Capitol whereby 214 copies of the Constitution, one for each year of the Bill of Right's existence, are burned. Because that's just what these craven, power-consolidating fear-mongers in the House are doing--moving us ever nearer the tyranny of which Jefferson warned.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Killen guilty of killings

Hard on the heels of the Senate's apology for its inaction on the once-widespread practice of lynching African-Americans, a Mississippi jury has at last convicted the ringleader of crimes against humanity guilty of killing three civil rights workers in 1964. That the verdict was manslaughter and not murder has evoked a mixture of reactions among even family members of the three martyred men.

Ben Chaney, brother of James Chaney--the one African-American among the three--said that the verdict indicated things were changing in Mississippi, and that he had hope. He also poignantly conveyed the feeling of this 82-year-old mother that the verdict indicated acknowledgment that her son's life "had value..."

On the other hand, Rita Bender, the widow of Michael Schwerner, was having none of it, as quoted in today's New York Times:

"The fact that some members of this jury could have sat through that testimony, indeed could have lived here all these years and could not bring themselves to acknowledge that these were murders, that they were committed with malice, indicates that there are still people unfortunately among you who choose to look aside, who choose to not see the truth," Ms. Bender, who was married to Mr. Schwerner, said after the trial.

The verdict in the Mississippi trial seems of a piece with the Senate's action last week in its cowardly voice vote on a resolution issuing a long-overdue apology for its inaction, for nearly a century, against the then-regular practice of lynching.

Progress is indicated by the fact of the apology, just as it is in Mississippi manslaughter verdict. But both fall short of true justice.

Is partial justice justice at all?

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Tuesday, June 21, 2005

We're so sorry...
(Don't mind the hood.)

Yes, your blogstress knows she has some consistency issues with regular posting. But with a nasty summer bug infecting her upper respiratory tract, and still having to go to that pesky day job, your cybertrix has been a bit short on energy for her numerous extracurricular activities, of which blogging is merely one.

Though it's a bit late for comment, your Webwench has to express her astonishment that, by way of apologizing for having failed to act during the practice's 70-year heyday against the lynching of African-Americans, the Senate could only muster a voice vote in favor of an apology for its criminal negligence. That means that either there were senators who voted for the apology who were afraid to let their constituents know that they did so, or that senators who voted against the measure who were too yellow-bellied to do so before the eyes of the nation. Either way, it's just awful.

Here in Our Nation's Capital, we have a wonderful thing called C-SPAN radio that allows Washingtonians to never miss a scintillating moment of congressional business, even while driving. On Sunday mornings, your écrivane likes to listen in to the call-in portions of C-SPAN's "Washington Journal" show while she tackles such chores as handwashing her spandex finery and painting her dainty toenails.

This past Sunday, as callers sputtered over the anti-lynching measure and former Ku Klux Klan member Senator Robert Byrd's new book, it was clear that there are more than a few spots on the national landscape where race relations could stand a bit of work. Old phrases like "hand-out" spewed from the lips of several angry white folks. It sounded like an ugly argument, circa 1960.

Seems that the ascendance of that white, Christian party has rendered once again acceptable expressions that were, not long ago, deemed no longer suitable for public utterance.

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Thursday, June 16, 2005

Can you do this
in your cave, Mr. Cheney?


photo: Geoff Harper


Your blogstress performs at an undisclosed location.

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Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Capitol queers

Speaking of poets, this just in: the incomparable j. scales (poet, singer, musician, songwriter) has been added to the entertainment line-up for this Saturday's D.C. Dyke March, an annual Gay Pride event that has spread to cities throughout the country since its inception in Our Nation's Capital a dozen years ago.

If you're lucky (or you stuff enough singles in the leg pockets of her cargo pants), j. just might perform her cult hits, "Maybe She Thought" and "Does Yr Mama Know", from her debut CD, "ohm".

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Birth of the cool

E. Ethelbert Miller has an excellent new poem on his blog, E-Notes. Do check it out. And while you're there, your blogstress recommends wandering around the rest of Ethelbert's site, where you will learn about everything from poetry to baseball to jazz to gentrification in Our Nation's Capital.

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Dems with a clue

Perhaps a day late and a dollar short, some Democrats are questioning the compromise of some of their so-called "moderate" peers that was crafted to avert the Republicans' use of the option they've termed "nuclear" on the matter of the filibuster, long a Senate tradition.

In the Washington Post, Charles Babington reports on a protest by the Congressional Black Caucus of the confirmation of the atrocious Janet Rogers Brown to the D.C. circuit court.

"Our problem with the compromise is the price that was paid," Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) said yesterday. She and other Congressional Black Caucus members plan to march into the Senate today to protest the impending confirmation of Janice Rogers Brown.

Note that Norton, despite her office in the House of Representatives, bears the title "Delegate" and not "Representative," because the Congress has deemed the citizens of the District of Columbia--mostly black people and other kinds of Democrats--unworthy of congressional representation. And, yes, we do pay federal taxes--just like you.

In the same story, Joe Biden (D-Del.) turns his attention from bashing the Democratic Party chairman to taking on a right-wing Republican. You go, Joe!

Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) told reporters that Brown is "one of the most extreme nominees that has ever come before the United States Senate in the 32 years I've been a senator."

Speaking of the chairman, he seems unmoved by the admonishments of the senator from the great (if tiny) State of Delaware. Of the G.O.P., Howard Dean today said:

...it's pretty much a white, Christian party.

Hard to argue with that.

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Monday, June 06, 2005

Lexiconography
Wing-nut

Welcome to the debut of your blogstress’s long-promised and eagerly anticipated occasional feature, Lexiconography, wherein your cybertrix examines the rhetoric of the day for its etymology, wit and/or effectiveness, with sporadic suggestions for alternative wording when warranted.

Today’s winning entry warrants no alternative phrasing; it is a true gem of literary insult in its deployment of the unexplainably discarded term "wing-nut" as shorthand for "right-wing nut." (Note the moving hyphen. Check your style guide.) In Michael Tomasky’s excellent piece on right-wing revisionism and selective reporting, he notes, in reference to the trial of Hillary Clinton fundraiser David Rosen, "the galloping accelerando of wing-nut anticipation."

Sweet, n’est-ce pas? Now, get out there and use it!

For the punch line on the Rosen case (the guy was acquitted), click here to read Tomasky at The American Prospect Online.

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Friday, June 03, 2005

It's still about the Constitution

At the risk of sounding like a major fan of "Larry King Live," your blogstress feels compelled to note last night's remarkable show. Dan Rather had been the scheduled guest--reason enough for a journalist to watch, given the circumstances by which the Texan was forced from the CBS News anchor chair. But in the wake of the stunning revelation by Mark Felt's family that their patriarch was the famous Watergate source, Deep Throat, King added an extra hour with Woodward and Bernstein. Most fascinating was both men's insistence that nobody, not even they, truly knows the full scope and details of the Watergate conspiracy.

As noted here yesterday, the timing of the Felt revelation is exquisite, given the administration's vilification of Newsweek for the use of an anonymous source in the Koran-flushing item run in Periscope several weeks ago. Appearing after the first hour of Larry King with Woodward and Bernstein, Rather made note of how the Nixon administration tried to make the Watergate story about the political proclivities of the most troublesome reporters. King showed a clip of Nixon himself on the King show, claiming that he had been targeted by a liberal media because he was a conservative:

RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Oh, no, no. As far as Dan Rather and the -- my other critics in the media, and I have a number of them -- I have a number of friends, as well, as I pointed out in my book, as you note -- I realized that their attitude toward me was due to the fact that they simply disagreed with me. I was a conservative. They were liberal.

Rather responded to King with the money quote:

RATHER: Well, first of all, I don't want to debate the word conservative, but by my definition, a conservative is someone who wants to conserve the Constitution of the United States and the American tradition and law that no one is above the law.

Clearly not the mindset of the 37th president of the United States, who subverted the governing document at every turn.

Today, we are led by a president and cronies with--if it is possible--even greater contempt for the Constitution of the United States. Rather noted that Nixon almost got away with Watergate and, were it not for a couple of courageous "people at the top" of several media organizations, most notably the Washington Post, he would have. In other words, Woodward and Bernstein got to save the country because Katharine Graham and Ben Bradlee sanctioned their work. Likewise, the honchos at CBS News backed Rather as he badgered the president, reporting on the Post's coverage.

Yo, media moguls, time to step up.

NOTE: While admitting mistakes made while reporting the pre-election story about the 43rd president's truant status in the Texas Air National Guard, Rather refused to back off the substance of the story. "The last line of this has yet to be written," he said.

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Thursday, June 02, 2005

The Selectrix and the Shredex

Just how delicious is it that Deep Throat has chosen to reveal his perhaps befuddled self at the very moment when the Bush Administration is trying to slam Newsweek for its use of an unnamed source in its infamous Koran-flushing item?

Scrumptious, mes amis. Absolutely scrumptious.

Now, if the progressive movement had a decent spinmeister in its ranks, s/he'd be out there right now, demonstrating all sorts of parallels between the Nixon and Bush Administrations (penchant for secrecy and invasion of your privacy; political use of the FBI; enemies list--Helen Thomas likely on both lists).

Of course, that would be if the progressive movement had a decent spinmeister in its ranks. In the meantime, your blogstress will have to fill in.

Speaking of your cybertrix (and you know we must), she herself has a dark secret to reveal: back in the days when she was a mere Selectrix (think indestructable IBM product), she performed the critical function of periodically receiving a locked briefcase from Bob Woodward's courier to which only she had the combination. This is absolutely true.

Your blogstress at one time toiled for Mr. Woodward's editor, the fierce and brilliant Alice Mayhew, and a combination of your net-tête's lowly position and intrinsically trustworthy nature won her the task of guarding the treasure (in this case, Mr. Woodward's manuscript for one of his solo projects).

At one point, upon the receipt of an updated version, your écrivaine was given the critical job of shredding the previous one, at which point she found herself kneeling before a machine by Shredex that proudly bore the label: Watergate 1200.

One thing led to another, and your blogstress eventually found herself in the employ of Mr. Woodward's former writing partner, Carl Bernstein, of whom she remains very fond. This much she can reveal: the word "surreal" gained new meaning for her during that tenure. But more, she cannot say.

The revelation of Mark Felt as Deep Throat this week was as much a surprise to your Webwench as to anybody else. One simply doesn't ask such things. And real journalists never tell.

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