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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Sunday, 8 August 2004

Topic: Couldn't be so...

Political Discourse - New Factors

Here is the curious trigger -

International team to monitor presidential election
Observers will be part of OSCE's human rights office
David de Sola - CNN Sunday, August 8, 2004 Posted: 8:22 PM EDT (0022 GMT)

And the bare bones of the story?
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A team of international observers will monitor the presidential election in November, according to the U.S. State Department.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe was invited to monitor the election by the State Department. The observers will come from the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.

It will be the first time such a team has been present for a U.S. presidential election.

"The U.S. is obliged to invite us, as all OSCE countries should," spokeswoman Urdur Gunnarsdottir said. "It's not legally binding, but it's a political commitment. They signed a document 10 years ago to ask OSCE to observe elections."

Thirteen Democratic members of the House of Representatives, raising the specter of possible civil rights violations that they said took place in Florida and elsewhere in the 2000 election, wrote to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in July, asking him to send observers.

After Annan rejected their request, saying the administration must make the application, the Democrats asked Secretary of State Colin Powell to do so.

The issue was hotly debated in the House, and Republicans got an amendment to a foreign aid bill that barred federal funds from being used for the United Nations to monitor U.S. elections, The Associated Press reported.

In a letter dated July 30 and released last week, Assistant Secretary of State Paul Kelly told the Democrats about the invitation to OSCE, without mentioning the U.N. issue.

"I am pleased that Secretary Powell is as committed as I am to a fair and democratic process," said Democratic Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas, who spearheaded the effort to get U.N. observers.

"The presence of monitors will assure Americans that America cares about their votes and it cares about its standing in the world," she said in a news release.
And the item goes on in more detail about the process.

And what reaction did this announcement trigger?

Needless to say, some folks are angry with this. The folks at Free Republic, one of the somewhat right of center websites out there, suggest that this calls for armed defense of our country. See a UN inspector? Shoot him (or her) dead. This is what you do when a foreign force invades your country.

Here are some of the comments -
If I see one BLUE HELMET ... No threat - just a promise! They do not have to be wearing the helmets or uniforms (then they are illegal agents) either.

I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic ... SO HELP ME GOD.

Just let me see the blue helmet at my polling district. The person that's wearing it will not be harmed but don't count on that "Petty Blue" thing surviving.

I wonder how many of them have been paid by George Soros to pass themselves off as Democrats and vote.

This is bull-shiite! I'll be wearing my Sig P239 in full view. And the wife with her Walther PPKS. If a blue helmet peers behind the curtain there will be a reaction... Confrontation! This is a slap at AMERICA's face.

It is totally and 100 percent against everything I was taught about America and why I FOUGHT for this country and, yes, I even have three Purple Hearts of my own to go with it, but a hell of a lot of scars to go with them. I will continue to fight to the DEATH (theirs) to keep my family, my friends, and my country free. As the unofficial USMC motto states: I am not here to die for my country - I am here to make that other son-of-a-bitch DIE for his!
You get the idea. The UN dudes will be in some danger. Folks are ticked off by this item.

Colin Powell and Assistant Secretary of State Paul Kelly better watch their backs too.

Curiously, when it comes to the shooting part, the somewhat left of center folks do have a problem. They favor gun control laws, and probably don't have any guns handy. Oh well.

Personal Note: A few years ago I was dating a woman who taught French at UCLA, and one evening while driving down Sunset, near La Cienega as I recall, with the top down on the car, she asked me if I had a gun. Convertibles can, I suppose, make one feel vulnerable. She was amazed I didn't keep one handy in the car and another at home. I told her packing heat never occurred to me. Well, it hadn't. At first she just snorted derisively, but as we talked that derision soon turned to deep anger. How could I be so careless with my safety, and so cavalier with her safety? Ah, maybe she had a point, given how things are heating up these days. Needless to say that relationship didn't last long.

Posted by Alan at 21:22 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Monday, 9 August 2004 07:17 PDT home


Topic: Photos

Heads Up!

The new issue of the virtual magazine (the webzine), the parent to this weblog, Just Above Sunset - Volume 2, Number 31 - was posted to the net a few hours ago. Blogging here resumes later.

Special this week - a new piece from Phillip Raines, on the Boogie in the Georgia mountains. Musicians? Heads up!

Ric Erickson in Paris reports, with photos, on Friday night - rollerblade madness - and on Saturday night dancing on the quai. But what was that fellow doing performing "Hotel California" under the bridge - and why were all those Parisians singing along?

Bob Patterson gets his own section with three new columns, and the one on voting scams is scary.

Should Elvis be on a bumper sticker making fun of conservatives? No? Then submit your own ideas. See Rehabilitating the word LIBERAL - and Elvis? for that.

There is much more - and the first item in the photography section will give you a good idea about life in Hollywood.

What appeared here - as much more modest items - is extended - as the weekend items clarify points, add new detail, and incorporate comments from readers around the world.

Current Events

Political Discourse: There seem to be some disagreements on methodology...

The L-Word: Rehabilitating the word LIBERAL - and Elvis?

Words: The president once again says something really dumb, which is a Freudian slip or not, or...

Election Notes: Tough Times for the Third Man (Ralph Nader not Orson Welles)

High Finance: You can't touch me! Ha! (Cheney and Halliburton)

History: It's always the French, isn't it? The Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798

UK Notes: They do wonder about us...

The Law: Ignorance of the law is no excuse... an odd little item here...

Odds and Ends: Oklahoma and Los Angeles - Details, details, details...

Sidebar: Realism from the Right?

Features

Gig Chronicles: The Boogie (Phillip Raines plays North Georgia)

Paris Weekly: Friday night - La rando du vendredi ? Paris... and dancing Saturday night (text and photos from our man in Paris)

Quotes: Useful Pithy Observations... Immanuel Fichte and Erica Jong together at last

Bob Patterson

WLJ Weekly: The World's Laziest Journalist - Fresno, Tigers, the Deprong Mori, and Penn State

Election Trick Extra: A voter problem that may not register with the major media...

Book Wrangler: If there are ghosts, writers and awards then we must ask: Are there awards for ghostwriters?

Photography

Photography: Two Eyes on Los Angeles

__

Bob Patterson captures this bit of Hollywood...



Posted by Alan at 18:41 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
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Saturday, 7 August 2004

Topic: Election Notes

Sidebar: Realism from the Right?

Last weekend in Just Above Sunset I mentioned that the New York Times columnist David Brooks was being pretty clear about how we got this War on Terror idea a bit backwards. See What to Make of the 9/11 Commission's Report for that. He suggests that we need to start emphasizing ideology instead of terror - because that is what we a fighting. Military actions have their limitations.

Brooks was also discussed here - June 20, 2004 - David Brooks: "Isn't it pretty to think so?" - reviewing his writing. He is the author of the best seller Bobos in Paradise and its new follow-up On Paradise Drive. Brooks has been the younger of the two token conservative columnists at the Times (the other is the senior William Safire) since September 2003 - after being the moderate, reasonable guy at the neoconservative pro-war Weekly Standard.

His column in this weekend's Times caught my eye. It seemed awfully reasonable - or at least ground in the here and now.

Selling the Sizzle
The New York Times, Saturday, August 07, 2004

He basically suggests the presidential campaign is all empty gesture on both sides -
We've got 43 million people without health insurance. We're relying on energy sources that are politically dangerous and economically unsustainable. Wage growth is not what it should be, and yesterday's jobs numbers suggest that strong economic growth may not be producing strong job growth. Would it be illegal in these circumstances for at least one presidential candidate to propose policies remotely in proportion to the problems that confront us?

Apparently so. John Kerry and the Democrats spent their convention talking about broad values like unity and military service and almost no time talking about specific proposals. And if you peek in at a Bush campaign event, it's like a traveling road show of proper emotions. Bush will remind the crowd of the feelings we all experienced on Sept. 11. Then there will be several paragraphs on the importance of loving thy neighbor, and several minutes spent reciting the accomplishments of Term 1.

No offense, but where's the beef?

Kerry at least has a reputation for caution. It's not surprising that his policies are orthodox Democratic ideas. Bush's hallmark is boldness, but when it comes to laying out an agenda for the second term, he has been remarkably timid.

He's dropped hints over the past eight months that he is about to unveil a second-term agenda (for those of us waiting, this has been the longest striptease act in human history). But even the ideas that are bandied about are mostly small.

Yes, community colleges should get a little more help. Yes, flextime is a good idea. Yes, high schools should be held accountable. But this is not exactly the New Deal or the New Frontier. It's more like the New Minor Modifications of Existing Programs.
Couldn't have said it better myself. But the rest is about an essay Michael Porter and Elizabeth Olmsted Teisberg wrote in the June Harvard Business Review on healthcare. Read it whole thing if that interests you.

Rick, The News Guy in Atlanta, takes issue -
Once again, I find myself on the other side from David Brooks.

I was beginning to get annoyed with all that Republican sniping in Boston that Kerry was not giving us much by way of specific policy proposals. Yes, it's nice to hear some examples here and there, mostly because it gives us an idea of the big picture of what the guy wants to do. But that's really about it. Otherwise, we just get a long list of campaign promises that later we can accuse the candidate of breaking once he gets into office. I personally would rather give him more leeway to deal with real situations when he gets to the White House.

After all, I'm not voting for a policy, I'm voting for a person who will put together a team to do the sorts of things that I would like to see get done.
Fair enough. Specifics can cripple you. We do vote for the general approach of one guy or the other.

But I reminded Rick of Brooks' parting shot. "People used to complain that selling a president was like selling a bar of soap. But when you buy soap, at least you get the soap. In this campaign you just get two guys telling you that they really value cleanliness."

Rick's response? "Now that sentiment is something I can almost endorse."

Ah yes, but as cleanliness is next to godliness, as they say, I'm afraid this campaign will be fought along those lines, with Bush, the man of God exercising His wishes, scolding the not-Catholic-enough Kerry. Each will need to claim both cleanliness and godliness. A soft-soap campaign? Something like that.

Posted by Alan at 12:23 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
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Friday, 6 August 2004

Topic: Photos

Friday night: La rando du vendredi ? Paris

Ric Erickson drops a line from Paris -

With all the publicity I've been giving Paris Plage in the sunshine and yesterday's rain - it seems only fair to mention that the year-round Paris Friday night roller rando carries on, rolls on, rolls around Paris for 3 hours every Friday night. Attached photo taken on Avenue du Maine, shortly after 22:00 start tonight from the Gare Montparnasse. Some liberal things never change.





















Paris Plage? - Ric's photo and text at Eighteen More Days of Paris Plage from 31 July.

And there is this general explanation.
In was back in 2002 that this brave project was launched to turn two miles of the Right Bank of the Seine (near the Pont Neuf and Hotel de Ville) into a beach, complete with white sand, palm trees, sunbeds and parasols, for the summer season. It has returned every year since - welcome to the Paris Plage. The ?1 million initiative, branded by the Socialist mayor Bertrand Delanoe, as "a bit crazy", has become a permanent annual event. The Parisians literally took to the beach and showed what a good idea they thought it was! In addition to lounging on the sunbeds, visitors can take part in a range of free sporting activities, including petanque and volleyball, and dance in the old-time dance cafes, known as ginguettes.
A beach with palm trees in Paris? Why not? Everyone needs a little beach time.

Ric also mentions the word liberal because the posting here - Words, words, words... - on that term - has generated a lot of comment that will be incorporated in a much longer version of same in this Sunday's issue of Just Above Sunset - the weekly parent to this web log. Parisians are liberals, of course. And John Kerry speaks French.

I sent this back to Ric -
I wish I could capture the rumble as the hoard approaches - and I do remember the first time I heard that low rumble in the distance. As an L.A. guy my first thought was - Shit, another damned earthquake! - but then I got it, and they rounded the corner from rue des Rennes and right onto boulevard St-Germain under my hotel window and off toward the Odeon. Cool.
Ric shot this back -
Apropos 'rumble' - the patience of held-up automobilistas is astonishing. While the horde passes, somewhat slowly if there's a lot of them, the conducteurs cool their Friday night heels with nary a beep from a klaxon. With traffic stopped, yes, you can hear the rollers - but it's more of a swishing sound. So, as they traverse Paris the first thing you notice is the fall-off of traffic noise. Why did it get quiet? Then this wagon train of party people on little wheelies comes along, passes for ten to twenty minutes, and the end is swept up by six police vans and a couple of SAMU ambulances with the twinkling blue lights.
Yes, they pass in a swish - but you hear a distant rumble first.

So Paris has this thing on Friday evenings when thousands of rollerbladers take to the streets en masse. It is odd, no?

Every Friday evening of the year, from ten (22h00) to one in the morning (01h00) and the route for 8 August (Le parcours du 06/08/2004) is here:























And the website is pari-roller.com (click on the little UK flag for the English version) -
You can watch or join a group at Friday Night Fever starting from Gare Montparnasse. At 22h00 (that's ten at night) rollerbladers take off for an eighteen mile tour around the city (with police escort). If in town, give a call for details - Rollerbladers Association: Loi 1901 23-5 Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau Tel 01 44549442
But I think you can just go join in.

Ric sort of did once - see Paris:- Friday, 30. July 1999: The Friday Night Roller 'Rando' for the real deal.

But at ten at night here in Hollywood on any Friday it is already seven the next Saturday morning in Paris. Ah. Over. Missed it.

Posted by Alan at 18:15 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
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Topic: Bush

The president once again says something really dumb, which is a Freudian slip or not, a sign of incompetence or not, or just shows he's a causal kind of guy but has really strong convictions....

This topic has been around along time.

In this - July 27, 2003 Mail - you will find these remarks by the President - who was standing next to United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan in a photo opportunity, as documented by a White House Press Release on July 14, 2003 2:11 P.M. EDT
The fundamental question is, did Saddam Hussein have a weapons program? And the answer is, absolutely. And we gave him a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn't let them in. And, therefore, after a reasonable request, we decided to remove him from power, along with other nations, so as to make sure he was not a threat to the United States and our friends and allies in the region. I firmly believe the decisions we made will make America more secure and the world more peaceful.
There was a lot of argument as to what was going on here. Was Bush detached from reality and actually believed this - or was he lying to make a point, thinking we would all buy the lie?

Rick, The News Guy in Atlanta, commented -
Was this a Bush "lie" or a Bush "goof"? An argument can be made for both sides. Technically, he's obviously wrong, UN inspectors did obviously go in and then leave shortly before the bombing started. On the other hand, he was probably thinking of that time before the UN resolution when Iraq actually was refusing to allow the inspectors in, at least unconditionally.

As for the question of what the media is to do about Bush's comments: Nothing much.

Although people think journalists are always there, ready to jump all over slips like this, that's pretty much a misconception. Think about it. Although you may think you do, you actually rarely see news media, on their own authority, running around pointing out the lies of public officials. What you actually see is news media running around reporting on some political opponents' claims about the other guy's lies. Try as it might, objective journalism has yet to find a way to independently expose what may or may not be "lies" and even just "goofs" without appearing, maybe with some justification, like they're just pimping for some special interest or political ideology. ...
So we let such things pass.

See November 2, 2003 Other Mail for a general discussion of the president's use of language, and a note on Jacob Weisberg of SLATE, the online magazine, where for the last several years he has been publishing quotes from president Bush under the heading Bushism of the Day. These are direct, puzzling quotations from Bush. In fact Weisberg has two books of these in print - "George W. Bushisms: The Slate Book of The Accidental Wit and Wisdom of our 43rd President" along with "More George W. Bushisms: More of Slate's Accidental Wit and Wisdom of Our 43rd President" - both published by Fireside Press.

Also see March 14, 2004: Medical science is just catching up with George Bush? for a discussion of this language problem perhaps being the result of an undiagnosed language and hearing disability.

And here we go again.

This week (on August 5th) the president said this - "Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."

Ouch. Bummer. He didn't really mean that.

Rick, The News Guy in Atlanta, fired off an email to me saying he had just heard about this from someone at ABC who insisted it was taken directly off the wires, and that he is not making it up. And no one in Bush's audience of military brass or Pentagon chiefs reacted.

And I responded.
Yeah, I saw the actual video clip on Judy Woodruff's "Inside Politics" on CNN - and she just looked depressed, and followed up quoting White House spokesman Scott McClellan - saying that Bush's misstatement "just shows even the most straightforward and plain-spoken people misspeak. But the American people know this president speaks with clarity and conviction, and the terrorists know by his actions he means it."

Your friend from ABC is not making up stuff. This is accurate. No one made it up. The White House even responded. (The McClellan quote is from the AP wire.)

The shorter McClellan: "Who cares about words? Actions matter. Get over it."

As you have often said, everyone knew what he meant and the press should not ever make too much of this. And I really don't think this is a Freudian slip revealing that Bush does mean to harm America - there is no plot to screw us all over. He not smart enough for that - mean enough, but not smart enough. On the other hand, that he is a not terribly coherent speaker and nearing pure buffoon-dom (the near Platonic ideal of the buffoon) is not reassuring. Yeah, you know what he meant. And he sincerely means to "get the bad guys." I don't doubt his sincerity, really. He just wanted to display conviction, but has a tin ear and did not pay attention to what the actual words really meant in the order he said them.

That he seldom pays attention to what the actual words really mean in the order he says them, is, I think, quite dangerous in the world of diplomacy for some and war for others. This slip is of no significance in and of itself. None at all. That he generally doesn't PAY ATTENTION - and just goes for the "close enough" broad idea - is why this is really, really dangerous. That can get people killed - and, as we know, has. It may get my nephew killed.

Yeah well, I think words matter, and think detail matters. Of course those who think that hate America and want the terrorists to win. Sigh.

Oh well, it's a frat-boy cool thing. Calling him out on it makes you prissy nerd. That is SO uncool. Everyone knows what he meant. And details don't matter - the BIG CONCEPT does. Close-enough got Bush through Yale, and close-enough got Bush through forty years of a constant alcohol buzz and failing in business after business before he found Jesus when Laura threatened to leave him. Close-enough has always worked for him. He's not going to change.

Four more years of this?
And now that I think of it, that no one in Bush's audience of military brass or Pentagon chiefs reacted is a sign that they all know words don't matter, and, what the heck, they'll clean up after George - as everyone has for him all his life.

But should the press clean up after George? Does this merit some serious attention?

Rick clarifies his old comments (above) on where the press should make something of this verbal incompetence - or not -
I think what I was saying, of course, is that since most viewers won't see this as a smoking gun and will not be swayed either way by this kind of gaffe -- I'm pretty sure, for example, that this was not that "tipping-point" that decided you, Alan, to not vote for the guy -- then making too much for it would open them up to the accurate accusation that they are trying to rally voters against Bush.

Personally, I hope a few swing voters will be swayed against him after hearing this. But that's just me, the citizen, not me, the sometimes-journalist.
Okay, agreed. And that is a useful distinction.

And Rick reviews what was said by Brian Montopoli at Campaign Desk - the daily web log of the Columbia Journalism Review:
This morning, President Bush made a beaut of a verbal gaffe. Speaking at the signing of a defense appropriations act, he said the following:

"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."

After CNN ran the clip of this portion of Bush's remarks, the network cut to a deadpan Jill Doherty, who didn't bother to react to, or even mention, the president's verbal faux pas. (Instead, she seamlessly transitioned to a report on where the campaign was headed next.)

The segment left us scratching our heads for a variety of reasons. (Bush appeared to be reading his comments, after all.) But, as media critics, we were left to ponder: Why on earth did CNN play this particular clip? If they wanted to bring attention to the president's blunder, they should have acknowledged it, instead of treating the words as just another sound bite. And if they just wanted to show a portion of the president's speech, surely they could have found a section in which the president doesn't assert that he doesn't ever "stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people."

We're often told that folks in the news business grow weary of candidate's speeches, and tune out more often then they'd like to admit. So maybe CNN simply didn't notice the gaffe, and some producer just queued up the tape, oblivious to the president's accidental declaration of war on his own people. But, na?fs that we are, we would have thought that someone at the network was paying a little bit more attention than that.
No, they were paying attention. The just decided not to say anything.

Rick says he would have posted this comment if he didn't have to register as a member to do so:
Brian:

What?!?

When news happens, CNN brings it to you, but without necessarily attaching all the spin that the various partisans would prefer they attach.

I suppose some Republicans would want Jill Doherty to add that it was obviously a harmless slip of the tongue that means nothing and that he's still the best man for the job, while some Democrats would want her to point out that Bush is a bumbling buffoon who has finally fallen victim to his own melodramatic demagoguery and is unfit for the office. I don't know what you, Brian, would have her say, but wonder how closely it lines up with one of the above.

But a principle that seems to be slowly getting lost in our democracy is that the main job of the news media is to inform the world, not reform it. Armed with the information that you, the citizen, get from them, the media, it's up to you to decide how (and even if) you want to make the world a better place.

This clip of the latest Bush gaffe stands or falls on its own merits and really doesn't require a comment from an anchor or reporter. They might choose to tag it with a comment, or they could decide not to; there really is no deeper significance to whichever road they take.

If, on the other hand, you insist on having someone decide for you, instead of report to you, you should probably be watching Fox News Channel, where they famously claim they don't do that sort of thing but are widely understood to do it all the time.

Rick
And here, I actually agree with Rick.

CNN cannot comment either way. It really isn't their job to do that.

Arguing that someone whose use of language is vague and who only gets the general idea of things - and who thinks close-enough is good-enough in running this country and its foreign affairs and in committing us to war - arguing that this sort of person is unfit for the office, and so far has caused us all enormous damage - well, arguing that is actually the job of those who work on having someone else replace him, someone detail-oriented and who recognizes complexity, and who is careful and precise in what he or she says. And that might be someone who might even read books and be curious about the world and listen carefully to all sides of things.

The job of saying it doesn't matter, that everyone gets the general idea when Bush speaks, that nuance and precision are for wimps and sissies? That's for Bush's political supporters. They can argue strong conviction is a far more important thing to show the county and to show the rest of the world - far more important than coherence and competence. We have to appear resolute - and so on and so forth. "It's very simple, really...."

CNN and all of the actual journalists can report on what each side is saying. And actually they do. Fox News Channel will take sides. But that's another matter.

___

By the way, the next day Bush said this -
We actually misnamed the war on terror, it ought to be the struggle against ideological extremists who do not believe in free societies who happen to use terror as a weapon to try to shake the conscience of the free world.
He's working on it.

There is a curious use of the phrase "a weapon to try to shake the conscience of the free world" and one assumes he meant confidence, not conscience. But maybe not - maybe he understands that terrorist acts do make us examine our conscience, as we think about what grievances might give rise to such suicidal madness. We wonder about what we might have done to make folks behave like that - if we played any part in this. Such acts start us thinking and wondering and doing some research and reading and....

No, Bush couldn't mean that. Not Bush. He's said all along such grievances are unimportant - as they are evil and we are good. "It's very simple, really...."

But note he is working on a bit more nuance. The sentence is longer, and much closer to being coherent. And too, this statement is the first time Bush has publicly acknowledged that a War on Terror may be a bit broad and need some more precision... or nuance. It's a start.

Posted by Alan at 15:09 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
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