Thursday, December 08, 2005

Of Breasts and Benedict Arnolds

[[M I S C.]] * Worth feeling sorry for: Jennifer Aniston, who’s suing Los Angeles paparazzo Peter Brandt for invading her rapidly diminishing privacy by taking photographs of her sunbathing topless at her L.A. home. The suit contends that Brandt, using “a high-powered telephoto lens,” snapped shots of Aniston (“topless or in the act of taking off or putting on her top”) from a mile or more away from her residence, the location of which goes conveniently unreported. Brandt insists that he didn’t snap the fetching former Friends star from any mile’s distance (that would be impossible, he scoffs, “unless you have something from NASA”), nor did he trespass on her property; he says he captured the topless treasures from a “public street.” Furthermore, Brandt says he wasn’t anticipating selling the photos, but that they just happened--happened!--to be included them in a batch of images of Aniston and actor Vince Vaughn that he mailed around to magazine editors. (“Uh-huh,” notes the TV Squad blog with lifted eyebrows. “Because boobies are forgettable.”) And the paparazzo goes so far as to blame Aniston for not putting up a higher fence around her property, to prevent such peeping-tomism.

This isn’t the first time that the 34-year-old actress has sued over shots of her bonny breasts; as the L.A. Times recalls, two years ago she settled a lawsuit against a photographer who’d scaled a neighbor’s eight-foot-tall fence in order to, again, shoot her topless. Nor is it the first time she’s had to stave off other sorts of privacy invasion that seemed beyond the pale. Remember last summer’s case of a former boyfriend, lawyer Michael Baroni, who was peddling Aniston-related memorabilia, including an impromptu birthday card written on toilet paper, via eBay? (The auction was eventually abandoned.) Sheesh! Even in our celebrity-obsessed age, don’t we owe the people who work so hard to entertain us some time out of the spotlight?

* * *

Not worth feeling sorry for: U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut. I had my doubts about Lieberman when former Vice President Al Gore picked him as his presidential running mate back in 2000. He struck me as a nice enough guy, but overly sanctimonious--especially for his refusal to help man the barricades against Republicans who were intent on carrying out their coup against President Bill Clinton in 1998-99. (Lieberman played right into the radical right’s hands by saying that he was “deeply disappointed and angered by this President’s conduct.”) But I respected Gore, and I trusted that he knew what was right for the country in a veep. So I went along.

However, Lieberman has done little but annoy me ever since, trying to play a conciliation game with Republicans--and in the process, pissing off his fellow Democrats. His support of Bush’s war in Iraq has done nothing to help Dems craft an essential plan to get the United States out of the bloody mess the prez has gotten us into half a world away, and his chiding of other Dems for giving voice to widespread public displeasure with the war and Bush’s mishandling of it (“We undermine the president’s credibility at our nation’s peril,” he told The Hartford Courant) has been interpreted as a turncoat maneuver. Recent speculation that Lieberman might replace Donald Rumsfeld as Bush’s secretary of defense has further eroded his Democratic support, in one of the five states where Dubya is most unpopular.

Now, former Connecticut Governor Lowell Weicker, a Republican maverick turned Independent, is making noises about challenging Lieberman for his Senate seat in 2006. As Weicker told The New York Times, “When you’ve become the president’s best friend on the war in Iraq, you should not be in office, especially if you’re in the opposing party. I’m going to do everything I can to see that Joe Lieberman does not get a free pass.” Weicker’s former GOP credentials might make Democratic stalwarts hesitant to embrace him; but then, on the other hand, during the 2004 presidential contest, he supported former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, a liberal Democrat, over GOP conservative Bush. ( has even suggested it might be willing to endorse Weicker instead of Lieberman next year.) Ol’ Joe might want to rethink his knee-jerk tendency to appease and compromise with Republicans, if he hopes to keep his prestigious job on Capitol Hill.

READ MORE:Our Jennifer Fixation,” by Rebecca Traister (Salon); “Joe Republican?: Why President Bush Loves Sen. Lieberman,” by John Dickerson (Slate); “Lieberman’s Iraq Stance Brings Widening Split With His Party,” by Raymond Hernandez and William Yardley (The New York Times); “Speculation That Lieberman Will Replace Rumsfeld Increases,” by Joe Gandelman (The Moderate Voice).

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