Notes on how things seem to me from out here in Hollywood... As seen from Just Above Sunset
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Photos and text, unless otherwise noted, Copyright 2003,2004,2005,2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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Consider:

"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"







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Saturday, 28 February 2004

Topic: World View

As seen from Canada...
As seen from the UK...
We here in the United States seem a bit odd.



First, from the Globe and Mail, perhaps one of the dullest newspapers published in North America, comes an item by Rick Salutin.

See The Passion of the Christ and George Bush's America
Friday, February 27, 2004

This starts out as a discussion of Mel Gibson's new film The Passion of the Christ with the now expected comments on its violence and conspicuous lack of much anything else having to do with Christianity. Then Salutin veers off into the ether, suggesting a connection to the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon a few years ago.

I think the idea is that Gibson is providing an emblematic passion play that's really about the folks here south of his border wallowing in their "victim condition" - we suffered and the world changed.

Here's a bit of his reasoning, following the discussion of the details of the film.
... Note that the film's stress is not on inflicting relentless pain; it is on passive, unresisting endurance of it. That is the sense in which I think the film is also a moment in the life of Mr. Bush's America. It is the companion film to Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine, in which he captures the deep tension, fear and anxiety in the lives of many Americans, especially since 9/11, but also before: their endless expectation of danger and the lash about to fall. You see it in myriad small ways: when people are on family holidays at theme parks, looking warily around for terrorists, or drawing too frequently on the hose from the water bottle strapped to mom's waist, lest they all dehydrate. Then it happened -- 9/11 -- everything they anticipated and more. It swiftly became The Passion of America. It had meaning. It was not a disaster akin to other disasters that strike humans all the time, and always will. Rather, as the authorities constantly intoned: The world has changed forever. Not just the United States, the world. You could say exactly that about the passion a la Gibson. In his film, one of the few things Jesus says, in contrast to the endless abuse he suffers, is, "I make all things new."

These are generalizations about America, and subject to the usual qualifications. But the people most likely to make such links, in a conscious or instinctual way, happen to also be the crucial nucleus of the Bush constituency: born-again, fundamentalist Christians. What many of us forget, whether we admire or abhor that regime, is its deep anchorage in fundamentalism. They are the voters he must keep onside, as shown in his proposal this week of a constitutional amendment on marriage. Their support is what he brings to the table. All the rest -- policies, strategy, money -- comes from others. But he brings those believers as the core of his vote, and they recognize him as one of them. Three days after 9/11, speaking basically to them, he said, "Our responsibility before history is already clear: to answer these attacks and rid the world of evil."
Curious. It's almost as if George Bush then is some messianic figure who will avenge those "world-changing" attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon a few years ago. He is the soldier of Christ, sort of, who, although born too late for the Crusades and that effort to win back Jerusalem, and who also seems to have missed the Inquisition, and wasn't around in the late fifteenth century to drive the Jews out of Spain (that was curiously in 1492, the very year Columbus set sail to make our new world) still can order Iraq be flattened and remade into what we think it should be. Praise the Lord!

See the connection? Gibson's film is a paean to noble suffering (and little else) and that is how we like to think of ourselves. We suffered horribly but something good will come of it, if we stay focused and angry. Maybe.

It does seem a stretch. But Salutin tries that leap:
Christian fundamentalists are also the core audience for this movie. They focus on the rewards of the Rapture and Second Coming, which will only occur due to the awful grimness of the passion of Christ. Since, in this worldview, Christ took on the burden of your sin, i.e. your essence, by his death, there is little to do but wait, in unbearable tension, for his return, while gratefully recalling his sacrifice. A passion play embodies this state, and this film is a cinematic passion play.

Grief and rage mount during such a performance until they seek an outlet, which often, in the past, meant pogroms against Jews, villains of the drama. Similarly the passion of 9/11 was endlessly retold, and urgently needed an outlet. If you are the global superpower, outlets are many and prodigious. The deeper the sense as victim, the more justified and excessive the reaction. "God led me to strike at Saddam, which I did," George Bush told Palestinian premier Mahmoud Abbas.
Well, these days we're not going to go out and kill some Jews to avenge the suffering of Christ - as many Jews do vote, and Israel is our ally. But there are always plenty of Muslims.

In short, the argument here is that this film appeared at a propitious time - Gibson's mute and bloody Christ with no message other than "I suffer" becomes the outward and visible sign of our inward and spiritual suffering, an emblem for what so may feel. The world is cruel and our suffering changes everything. Nothing will ever be the same again, just like on Good Friday two thousand years ago. That changed the world. This must. Really?

This whole business seems to puzzle this Canadian and I suspect puzzles many around the world. Everyone knows the world can be cruel and massive numbers of innocents die. Such things happen - there are murderous fanatics in the world. One does what one can to make so they don't do such things again. So?

And why was this attack two years ago so very different? It hardly changed the world. We just joined everyone else in the pool of targets.

Yes, we should fight back. Everyone should, maybe even together - together because we're not so special. We're just joining the club.

On the other hand, it does feel good to know we're the exception, that only people who suffered to change the world.

Yeah, that sounds like bullshit to me too.

[][][]

On the same day this Canadian made his argument, Martin Woollacott across the pond in the UK decided the problems isn't our fixation on our own noble suffering and messianic duty to remake the world, its just we're real good at holding grudges.

See How America's right bears the longest grudge: Attitudes to old conflicts are a key issue in the presidential race
Martin Woollacott, The Guardian (UK), Friday February 27, 2004

Woollacott has a great opening:
Trollope said that, after money in the bank, a grudge is the next best thing. His is an observation that is as true in international affairs as it is in personal life, and the United States is a striking example of it. America rarely overlooks an insult, and never closes the door entirely on a past defeat or humiliation unless the perpetrator has in the meantime been crushed. Thus the "axis of evil" made little sense in its grouping of three very different societies, and even less in its implication that they were somehow allies. But it made eminent sense as a grudge list.

The phrase was used in a speech focused on dangers ahead, but in truth it was as much about the past as it was about pre-emption and the future. All three countries had imposed notable defeats on the United States. North Korea, with the help of China, sent American forces reeling back from the Yalu half a century ago. Iran threw out the Shah, who had retained power in that country with the assistance of Britain and the United States, and brought in a regime that added to America's humility by taking its diplomats hostage. Iraq defied the United States over Kuwait, and Saddam Hussein, against what appeared to be the odds, then recovered control of most of his country, resisted American pressure to disarm and made the United States look ineffective and foolish.

These things rankled with many powerful Americans.
Actually, I never thought about these three troubling nations being just "unfinished business" but perhaps there is an element of that in the air.

But what about Vietnam? We trade with them now. We send tourists. We made them a market. And we didn't exactly do well there. Woollacott doesn't buy that - and claims that's on very recent behavior. He sees us just whomping floks who made us look bad:
The American instinct for revenge, evident also in the treatment of Vietnam, Cuba, Nicaragua and, for many years, China, is more marked than that of other powers. Perhaps America's lack of the experience of defeat on its own continent made reverses in the wider world especially difficult to swallow when they inevitably came.

Other nations have reconciled or compounded with those who had defeated them, as the British did with the Boers and the Irish, or the French with the Algerians. The United States, too, has been capable of magnanimity, as with Germany and Japan, but here a generosity of spirit arose only in the context of a total defeat of those two countries and the rapid transference of hostile feelings to the communist states.
Perhaps this is too harsh. Only Cuba now is a nation we regard is worthy of anything we can do to make life awful there.

Nevertheless this British fellow sees problems with Iraq.
America's historic reluctance to be satisfied with anything less than complete victory is now being tested in Iraq, where it seems inevitable that the full conservative program will not be pushed through, although how far it will fall short of the ambitions of men like Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz has yet to be seen. If, for instance, America does not get the right to base substantial forces in that country indefinitely, and Iraq wobbles off on a more or less independent path, the scene may well be set for another of those "Who lost the war?" dramas that have punctuated American political life since the Chinese communists ousted their nationalist foes in the late 40s. That will be especially so if by that time President Kerry rather than President Bush is in charge.

These arguments have always circled around two propositions. On the right, which at times has included the Democratic right, the proposition has been that if only the United States had exerted its full strength, it would have prevailed. On the left, which has sometimes included Republican realists, the proposition has been that there are objectives that are not morally defensible and others that may be desirable but are not practically possible, and that it behooves a great power to recognize when either of these situations arises.
Gosh, it sound as if we're in a pickle. The choice is smash and grab - slam those who over the long years made us look bad, but only if we can get away with it. and can get some goodies.

Woollacott, after a long discussion of Kerry and Bush and the upcoming election, ends with this:
[The Bush administration] may be prepared to soften its line on disobedient allies such as France and Germany. But its reluctance to give Libya the benefit of the doubt, its closed views on Cuba, its distaste for unavoidable co-operation with Iran, its view of China as a future rival and its crablike approach to negotiations with North Korea, are all indications of how long-lived the American grudge can be.

Apart from the principle that American power should when necessary be exerted to maximum effect on enemies that the US clearly discerns as such, there is something else at work here. That is the idea that if a regime has stood in the way of the US and got away with it, it should sooner or later have to pay for its temerity.
I don't think this guy likes us very much, or, at the very least, he doesn't much like what our leaders do to get even with nations we remember as having done something really, really bad a long time ago.

He probably doesn't "get" the Hatfield and McCoy business either. Some things you just never let go. Immature? Perhaps. But we have our pride.

At least the Canadian fellow only thinks we're a bit daft on religion.

Posted by Alan at 08:05 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
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Friday, 27 February 2004

Topic: Bush

Notes on Ground Zero

Now and then I think about grabbing one of the several daily Jet Blue flights from Long Beach to Newark and visiting my attorney friend in New York. He works in lower Manhattan. He had friends die when the World Trade Center buildings fell. He thinks I should visit what is now called "Ground Zero." But I know I shouldn't make that visit. I would not be welcome there. There is no place for me, the registered Democrat and decades-long member of the ACLU and NAACP. That spot is reserved for Republicans, the patriots who supported the war of vengeance against Iraq, the center of all the effort to kills us all. I don't see it that way. So I will stay here.

Do you think that's silly? Consider this:

UNDER THE DOME
Albert Eisele and Jeff Dufour, The Hill, February 26, 2004
President planning NYC extravaganza
White House goal is unprecedented convention theater
"And now, direct from Ground Zero, heeeeeeere's the president!"

Well, that's not exactly how President Bush is likely to be introduced when he gives his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention on Sept. 2, but it might be something equally dramatic and theatrical.

According to sources privy to convention planners' discussions, the 2004 GOP conclave at New York's Madison Square Garden will be unlike any previous quadrennial gathering of either party. In fact, not all of the main events will be held at the Garden, sources involved in planning the Aug. 31-Sept. 2 convention said.

"The entire format and actual physical setup could be radically different," one GOP insider commented. "They might not even have a podium, or maybe a rotating podium or even a stage that comes up from underground. It would be like a theater in the round, with off-site events that are part of the convention."

The source, a veteran official of past GOP conventions, said the 50,000 delegates, dignitaries and guests would watch off-site events on giant TV screens. "Now, we'll go to the deck of the USS Intrepid as the U.S. Marine Corps Band plays the National Anthem," he said, pretending that he was playing the part of the convention chairman.

"Or, and this is a real possibility, we could see President Bush giving his acceptance speech at Ground Zero," he added. "It's clearly a venue they're considering."
Well, that's what people want to see. I don't.

Perhaps people - widows and such who think the investigation of what happened should go on and not be shut down by the House as was announced this week - will actually become a bit angry that the place where so many died should be used as a campaign symbol by the Bush-Cheney ticket.

But Karl Rove, the president's life-long friend and political advisor, can hardly resist this. It's the perfect "you're with us or you love and support the terrorists" symbolism. Vote for Bush or declare you don't care about all those who died here.

Oh well. What else would you expect?

And on the same topic I was surprised by CNN last night when the cuddly moderate Aaron Brown opened his show "Newsnight" with this.

See CNN NEWSNIGHT AARON BROWN
Broadcast Transcript of Segment Aired February 26, 2004 - 22:30 EST
We admit we don't do causes very well on the program. And I don't do outrage well at all, yet, tonight, a cause and an outrage. The decision by the speaker of the House to deny the independent commission investigating the 9/11 attack on America a 60-day extension -- that's all, 60 days -- to complete its work is unconscionable and indefensible, which, no doubt, explains why neither the speaker, nor any member of the House leadership, nor none of their press secretaries would come on the program to talk about it, despite repeated requests.

The commission itself has gone about its work quietly. It's had to fight tooth and nail to get necessary information. And now this, an arbitrary decision to deny not just the commission -- that's the least of it -- but the country the chance to know all of what happened, how it happened, and how best to prevent it from happening again.

Perhaps, the speaker and his team assume you do not care. I hope they're wrong. I hope you care enough to write them and e-mail them and call them until they relent. Do that. Do it for the victims and their families. Do it for the country that was attacked and for history.
Now that is odd. And Aaron is such a pleasant man.

But we may get the full investigation, at the cost of thousands of jobs and a few potholes in our roads. What? See this:

Highway Bill Embroiled in 9/11 Dispute
Associated Press, February 27, 2004, filed 11:58 a.m. EST

It seems McCain and Lieberman - troublemakers for each of their parties - have a plan.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Nearly 5,000 Transportation Department workers face a furlough on Monday, a possible result of two senators using an expiring highway bill to force House Republicans to accept a two month extension of an independent investigation of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

"We all have a choice here to make,'' said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who along with Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., was using the highway bill as leverage to win an extension for the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, which is scheduled to finish its work on May 27.

He said the choice was between "minor'' disruptions in highway projects and "telling the families of those who died on 9/11 that the commission will not be able to complete its work.''
Well, whatever works.

As far as the commission goes, if they are allowed to wrap up their work, Clinton and Gore will testify. No problem. Bush and Cheney will talk only to the two chairmen, privately, only for an hour and no more, and not under oath. That would be informal and off the record. Condoleezza Rice, our National Security Advisor, announced today that she will not talk to the commission at all, formally or informally, for any amount of time, under any circumstances.

But if the Speaker of the House has the votes to stop the commission now, and he seems to have them, this all is moot. There will be no extension for any of this foolishness.

So look for Bush to make his acceptance speech at Ground Zero in early September. And know that he is challenging you to choose sides and act like a patriot.

Yes, the tone of all this is bitter. Martin's friends didn't die for George Bush.

But maybe they did.

Posted by Alan at 10:33 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
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Thursday, 26 February 2004

Topic: The Culture

Bush Calls for All-Out Cultural War. No One Shows Up.

I'll just never know when a story has legs. The Bush endorsement of an amendment to the constitution to ban gay marriages hit the news early this week and caused all sorts of sound and fury, but it's old news now.

As Markos Moulitsas Z?niga at the "daily kos" website sums up:
This amendment is dead. The votes aren't there in the Senate. They aren't there in the House. The cable news networks were handing the Hate Amendment's Republican backers their asses on a platter....

Legislatively this issue isn't going anywhere. And while we all want to discuss this issue right now, I can guarantee we'll be talking about something else in two weeks. We're going to move on, and so is the country.

Sure, Bush will talk about it in his speeches, to which Democrats should ask, "Well, why aren't the two Republican controlled chambers of Congress introducing the amendment?"

... Civil unions are a given, the battle is now over nomenclature. And it's a battle I am more than happy to cede at this time. But calls for a Constitutional Amendment are a whole different matter.

... Just don't seek to enshrine discrimination, of any kind, in the Constitution.
As of this evening, forty-one senators now oppose the amendment idea - and even if a few change their minds, that's it. Two thirds would have to approve it. If forty-one of the one hundred senators now say this is a monumentally stupid idea, well, perhaps Bush can say something like... "Just kidding."

Of course, since the amendment would require a two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress all Bush can do now is pressure the states to call a constitutional convention on banning gay marriage. Will he? Perhaps. Will most of the states say yes, let's take a break from worrying about budgets and jobs and have a big convention in, say, Dallas? Unlikely.

And the celebrity wedding today was Rosie O'Donnell marrying her female companion is San Francisco. This all is moving fast and becoming a non-issue.

After Bush's announcement Tuesday, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, the Republican former pest control technician from Texas, said it would "take time to gauge the level of support" in Congress for a constitutional amendment. He suggested the difficulty of passing one may cause lawmakers to take a different approach to preserving marriage as a solely man-woman union. "We don't want to do this in haste," as the man said.

Well, it didn't take that much time. Sorry, George.

Republican congressman David Dreier from out here, and a co-chairman of Bush's campaign in California in 2000, said he doesn't support a constitutional amendment. "I believe that this should go through the courts, and I think that we're at a point where it's not necessary," he said.

Damn. And John McCain, the Arizona ex-prisoner-of-war Republican. said the matter should be left to the states, and then the usually far-right congressman also for out here, Jerry Lewis (not the movie guy once loved by the French), said changing the Constitution should be a last resort on almost any issue.

Add to that the Log Cabin Republicans, that gay Republican group, saying they're worried that Bush risks alienating the one million gays and lesbians who voted for him in 2000 by pushing for the constitutional amendment. Mark Mead, the political director of this group, said in an interview with Associated Press Radio, "We believe that this is a move to start a culture war, fueled and pushed by the radical right, that will end up in George Bush's defeat, and defeat for a lot of good Republicans who are with us on equality."

Hey George! What if you called for a war and nobody showed up?

Margaret Cho did get off a good paragraph before we all realized this wasn't really an issue:
If you are not gay, it is still your issue, because if we are to lose this battle, who will be there to defend your rights? If the government is allowed to take freedoms away from a certain group of people, then how much longer will it be until they come for you? We are a much more formidable opponent than anyone would have known. We've never had a chance to grab the brass wedding ring, the symbol of equality, the real civil union - not between us in place of marriage - but the union we have with the rest of the citizens of this nation. How strong is your grip?
Good one. But we actually do know enough to be decent to each other, usually.

Heck, even in Georgia, where the superintendent of schools wanted to forbid teachers from speaking the word "evolution" and make sure the word didn't ever appear in the textbooks anywhere in the state, this is a dead issue. A few hours ago the Georgia House rejected a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage - a surprise. Everyone thought the same-sex marriage question was almost certain to go to Georgia voters this fall. Guess not.

There are other issues - like forty-one million folks without health insurance, and a third or more of the country living in poverty, by our own government's standards. And new applications for unemployment benefits rose again this week, surprising everyone, again. We lost nearly three million jobs in the last three years and there are likely more than nine million out of work, counting in those who just gave up looking.

And there is this:

Number of Mass Layoffs Rose Sharply in January
2,400 Employers Let Go 50 or More
Kirstin Downey, The Washington Post, Thursday, February 26, 2004; Page E02
More than 2,400 employers across the country reported laying off 50 or more workers in January, the third-highest number of so-called mass layoffs since the government became tracking them a decade ago.

Only in December 2000 and December 2002 were the number of large layoffs higher. A total of 239,454 workers lost their jobs in the January layoffs, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported yesterday, based on unemployment insurance claims filed with state employment agencies. Among them were 17,544 temporary workers.

The total jobs lost in January was the most since November 2002, when 240,171 workers were let go in groups of 50 or more. Manufacturing workers, particularly in transportation, food processing and retail jobs, were hardest hit. The large layoffs also included 10,876 government workers, most at the state and local levels.

... The administration tried in late 2002 to cease publication of the mass layoff report, citing its cost. But Congress restored funding after state officials complained.

California, the most populous state, had the most mass layoffs, 576, according to the BLS data. This was followed by 194 in New York, 171 in Michigan and 167 in Pennsylvania. In Virginia, 24 employers laid off 50 or more workers, affecting 3,061 jobs. In Maryland, 19 employers did so, with 2,009 jobs lost.
Yep, Bush says things are getting better.

And the whole world knows we went to war telling everyone Iraq was a danger and the UN weapons inspectors were fools - and got proved wrong. And 549 of our soldiers are dead there so far. Pakistan has been selling nukes to anyone with cash, and we forgive them. We still don't want to talk with North Korea who says they have nukes and could use them on us. Haiti is disintegrating and we're doing nothing much - and today we turned away two large ships full of people trying to get the hell out of there. Sent all two or three hundred back - as they're not Cubans, damn it! We just lifted travel restrictions on Libya so our multinational corporations can go back in and wheel and deal, and today tightened travel restrictions on Cuba so no one much can even visit there.

Add to that the usual - there still are terrorists and some other folks in this world who want us real dead. We need to think about that. On the other hand the Speaker of House just yesterday blocked the 9-11 Commission from getting any more time to investigate what happened more than two years ago - so no one will be embarrassed. And so on and so forth.

Then there are issues with education - state after state is pulling out of Bush's "No Child Left Behind" program. The funding never came through. Just like the money we said we'd spend on AIDS problems in Africa. Never got around to funding that either. But they were good IDEAS!

As for this constitutional amendment idea to keep the perverse gay folks in line, well, maybe later. But probably not.

Posted by Alan at 21:19 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, 26 February 2004 21:27 PST home


Topic: The Culture

A little humor to start the day...

Pacific Views provides a transcript from "The Daily Show" of Monday, February 23, 2004 - and one is to remember this is satire.

On the "Gay Marriage Issue" -
Jon Stewart: For more on the gay marriage controversy, we turn to Daily Show senior moral authority, Steven Colbert. Steven, thanks for joining us, we appreciate you being here. Steven, obviously you're something of an expert on relationships. Having by your own count, been involved in over 300 of them by your, I believe, your 21st birthday.

Steven Colbert: And, 10 more on my 21st birthday, John. It was... it was quite a night.

JS: Steven, why has same sex marriage created such a furor?

SC: John, there's a simple fact here: marriage is a contract between a man and a woman. An often violated, easily broken, eminently disposable contract. Between a man and a woman. The minute we let gays and female gays...

JS: That's uh, that's lesbians.

SC: Them. The minute we let them get married, you're breaking down the last societal barrier between our world and their world.

JS: But, I think that's the point. I think the point is that when you break down those barriers, that's a metaphor for something positive.

SC: Look, Jon, the only reason my wife and I got married in the first place was because it was something gays couldn't do. Our wedding was conceived entirely as a giant homosexual taunt. But now, now the vows I made to my wife seem as shallow and empty as the vows I made to my three previous wives.
Not far off the mark from what I've been reading in the conservative press.

Posted by Alan at 10:46 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
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Wednesday, 25 February 2004

Topic: The Culture

Dead in the streets as the rabble is finally aroused?
No, the cultural war was lost long ago.


Some bloggers use pseudonyms to keep their identities secret, kind of like the pamphleteers in eighteenth-century America. This protects individuals from retaliation for having unpopular views, and it prevents controversial ideas from being suppressed. Heck, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and Mark Twain used pseudonyms. In the McIntyre case, the Supreme Court struck down a law that required pamphleteers to identify themselves, saying there was a right to anonymity in a democracy. (See United States Supreme Court. No. 93-986 - Joseph McIntyre, executor of estate of Margaret McIntyre, deceased, Petitioner v. Ohio Elections Commission. April 19, 1995.)

So I don't know who "Billmon" really is, although I suppose if I looked hard enough I could find out.

He sure has some interesting things to say. This below has to do with the proposed amendment to the constitution to ban "gay marriage" (leaving us only with morose marriages?) that was called for by George Bush this week.

Site Name: Whiskey Bar
Description: Free Thinking in a Dirty Glass
Site URL: http://billmon.org/
Entry URL: http://billmon.org/archives/001111.html

Here's what caught my eye:
Ever since the red-meat style of politics came of age in the early 1980s, the Bushes have kept guys like Lee Atwater and Karl Rove on the payroll to do their dirty work -- just as most wealthy families have servants to take out the garbage and feed the dogs. And all along, they've peddled the same pose: "It's not that we want to pander to the yahoos, but we have no choice. Politics is such a coarse business."

Now this is roughly like the schoolyard bully saying, "I didn't want to smash your face in, but I had no choice. I needed your lunch money." Over the years the Bushes - and their faithful family retainers - have developed a kind of proprietary interest in the White House, to the point where Peggy Noonan could rejoice even before the 2000 election in the family's looming "restoration" -- as if the Bushes were the Bourbons and the Clintonites a rabble from the slums of Paris. Which, come to think of it, isn't too far off the mark...

But the end result is kind of an inverse form of noblesse oblige, in which a familial duty (or compulsion) to public service creates an obligation to do whatever is necessary to hold on to power -- instead of the other way around.

However, the will to power is now leading George II and his ministers into deeper and deeper social waters. Gay marriage ain't the pledge of allegiance, and ACT UP ain't the ACLU. The Rovians, I think, are risking (among other things) some fairly spectacular protests at their convention in New York this summer, which may tax even the NYPD's ability to maintain a speech free zone around Madison Square Garden.

This no doubt, will whip the faithful inside the hall to even higher heights of cultural frenzy. This may be a great tonic for the base. But it could really alienate the rest of the country, especially if it were to turn violent -- just as the 1968 protests in Chicago tagged the Democrats as the party of chaos and conflict.

Would such a display hurt Bush, or ricochet back against the Dems? I don't know. But our Kennebunkport aristocrats may want to reflect on the fact that the Bourbon restoration only lasted a relatively brief 15 years, before that Parisian rabble put their old cockades back on and ran the dynasty out of town -- this time for good.
Well, my friend Ric in Paris will get a kick out of this observation that the Bush dynasty is quite clearly parallel to the Bourbons. I think that may be a stretch, even if Peggy Noonan, who wrote Reagan's speeches and now writes for the Wall Street Journal thinks the Democrats are much like the rabble in Paris who so hated the rightful monarchy of the time.

Yes, George the First (Bush, not the German-speaking Hanoverian one in early eighteenth century England) did have his little cultural war calling for a constitutional amendment to carve out an exception to the first amendment of the Bill of Rights regarding free speech - that is, Bush the First wanted an exception to free speech that would make burning the flag in any protest a federal crime. That didn't fly. Oh well.

Indeed, our George the Second has decided to plunge into deep social waters, as this fellow points out. This time it is another "carve out." But this time a specific group of citizens would be told certain rights will not ever be granted to them, by any legislation or regulation or fiat. The "meta-law" - the constitution - would be changed. It would be changed to exclude this class of people from certain rights. One would be hard-pressed to recall any previous change in the constitution that called for specific exclusion from rights and privileges, as previously on matters of race and the rights of women, the change were for inclusion. How odd.

Well, this is a cultural war, isn't it? And Bush the Second says he is a "war president." It fits.

This much more specific that saying you cannot burn the flag when you get grumpy, and yes, could well provoke some unruliness in New York at the Republican Convention this fall. That would be interesting. Mayor Bloomberg is not likely to do what Richard Daley the Elder did in 1968 in Chicago - send in the police to smash some heads. I suspect he knows better.

Yet something is in the air. Violence?

Out here in California our governor has something like that in mind. On Sunday, Arnold Schwarzenegger said he was worried about the potential for violence because of the controversial marriages. "All of a sudden we see riots and we see protests and we see people clashing. The next thing we know is there's injured or there's dead people," he said on NBC's Meet the Press.

Since nothing like that is happening one assumes such statements are offered to make something like that happening more likely. Consider it a suggestion from Arnold to his conservative base. Dead people. He's asking his conservative base to think about it.

Well, Bush is saying he really didn't want to do this "amend the constitution" thing, but he was forced to by events in San Francisco (with that uppity bobo, pretty boy mayor) - and events in Massachusetts (with those "activist judges" who think the constitution trumps the will of all the people so appalled by perversity being rewarded with the rights and privileges of marriage).

Damned bobo (bourgeois bohemian) liberals! See Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There (Simon and Schuster, May 2000) by the conservative columnist David Brooks, of course, for that.

Anyway, the younger Bush wanted his war with Iraq and he got it - not nicely and at the cost of now being called a fraud about his public reasons for it, and at the cost of the good will of most of the nations of the world, and at the cost of our dead and maimed, and the thousands and thousands of Iraqi folks who had to die. Just so he wants his four more years in office, and if that means cultural war to punish the gay folks, so be it. And just so with the economy - tax cuts for the wealthy and reductions for those in need, as with today's call for reductions in social security payments to the elderly to finance ongoing tax cuts. And just so with the environment too.

The monarchy gets what it wants.

We have nothing akin to the Parisian rabble that lopped off the heads of the Bourbons. Our "rabble" is sedated - quiescent, passive, happy in their SUV's and then home in front of the television watching the last episode of "Sex in the City" on HBO. Well, the maybe the word for our rabble is "moribund."

Oh yes, the concluding episode of "Sex and the City" that the whole country was buzzing about? Carrie has run off to Paris but ends up rejecting Aleksandr - the self-centered Euroweenie artist played by Mikhail Baryshnikov. Her first true beau, the ultra rich businessman Mister Big, flies over from New York and they meet fortuitously in the lobby of the Plaza Ath?n?e (h?tel de prestige, Paris 8e. Situ? avenue Montaigne) - and with the obligatory long shots of the sparkling Eiffel Tower he proposes to her on the Pont des Arts, (view south to the dome of L'Institute de France) - and then they fly back to Manhattan to connubial bliss, one supposes. No revolutionary rabble to be seen anywhere.

Nope, the cultural war was lost long ago.

Posted by Alan at 22:02 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 25 February 2004 22:43 PST home

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