Notes on how things seem to me from out here in Hollywood... As seen from Just Above Sunset
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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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Wednesday, 15 June 2005

Topic: Dissent

Book Notes: Hedging Your Bets

As readers here may know, I have a close relative in the Army, now in Iraq. This week he was transferred from Mosul to Baghdad. (His photos from Mosul can be found here - and the last one on the page shows where he's working right now, one of the palaces in the Green Zone.) A graduate of West Point, he an avid reader. A year or more ago his Christmas list included a book by Christopher Hedges – "War is the Force that Gives Us Meaning" – so I found that, gift-wrapped it, and gave it to him. The book was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.

He was surprised by it. Hedges has been a war reporter for fifteen years and doesn't much like what he saw – or he liked it too much, as he explains.

The book puzzled my Army relative.

Then there's this other Hedges book - "What Every Person Should Know About War" (2003) – and I don't think I'll send him that now.

Here's Hedges this month - "We are losing the war in Iraq. We are an isolated and reviled nation. We are pitiless to others weaker than ourselves. We have lost sight of our democratic ideals."

That's from this:

War: Realities and Myths
June 11, 2005, antiwar.com

Key points (with my emphases) -
There is no more candor in Iraq or Afghanistan than there was in Vietnam, but in the age of live satellite feeds the military has perfected the appearance of candor. What we are fed is the myth of war. For the myth of war, the myth of glory and honor sells newspapers and boosts ratings, real war reporting does not. Ask the grieving parents of Pat Tillman. Nearly every embedded war correspondent sees his or her mission as sustaining civilian and army morale. This is what passes for coverage on FOX, MSNBC or CNN.

… This myth, the lie, about war, about ourselves, is imploding our democracy. We shun introspection and self-criticism. We ignore truth, to embrace the strange, disquieting certitude and hubris offered by the radical Christian Right. These radical Christians draw almost exclusively from the book of Revelations, the only time in the Gospels where Jesus sanctions violence, peddling a vision of Christ as the head of a great and murderous army of heavenly avengers. They rarely speak about Christ's message of love, forgiveness and compassion. They relish the cataclysmic destruction that will befall unbelievers, including those such as myself, who they dismiss as 'nominal Christians.' They divide the world between good and evil, between those anointed to act as agents of God and those who act as agents of Satan.

As the war grinds forward, as we sink into a morass of our own creation, as our press and political opposition, and yes even our great research universities, remain complacent and passive, as we refuse to confront the forces that have crippled us outside our gates and are working to cripple us within, the ideology of the Christian Right, so intertwined with intolerance and force, will become the way we speak not only to others but among ourselves.

In war, we always deform ourselves, our essence. We give up individual conscience – maybe even consciousness – for contagion of the crowd, the rush of patriotism, the belief that we must stand together as a nation in moments of extremity. To make a moral choice, to defy war's enticement, to find moral courage, can be self-destructive.

The attacks on the World Trade Center illustrate that those who oppose us, rather than coming from another moral universe, have been schooled well in modern warfare. The dramatic explosions, the fireballs, the victims plummeting to their deaths, the collapse of the towers in Manhattan, were straight out of Hollywood. Where else, but from the industrialized world, did the suicide bombers learn that huge explosions and death above a city skyline are a peculiar and effective form of communication? They have mastered the language we have taught them.

… War is always about... betrayal. It is about the betrayal of the young by the old, idealists by cynics and finally soldiers by politicians. Those who pay the price, those who are maimed forever by war, however, are crumpled up and thrown away. We do not see them. We do not hear them. They are doomed, like wandering spirits, to float around the edges of our consciousness, ignored, even reviled. The message they bring is too painful for us to hear. We prefer the myth of war, the myth of glory, honor, patriotism and heroism, words that in the terror and brutality of combat are empty, meaningless and obscene.

We are losing the war in Iraq. We are an isolated and reviled nation. We are pitiless to others weaker than ourselves. We have lost sight of our democratic ideals. Thucydides wrote of Athens' expanding empire and how this empire led it to become a tyrant abroad and then a tyrant at home. The tyranny Athens imposed on others, it finally imposed on itself. If we do not confront the lies and hubris told to justify the killing and mask the destruction carried out in our name in Iraq, if we do not grasp the moral corrosiveness of empire and occupation, if we continue to allow force and violence to be our primary form of communication, if we do not remove from power our flag-waving, cross-bearing versions of the Taliban, we will not so much defeat dictators such as Saddam Hussein as become them.
My relative serving in Baghdad, has, of course, read Thucydides. But I don't think I’ll send him this.

From our Australian friend in Paris –
Spot on. This kind of thing should be spammed across the American nation for as long as it takes Jesus to return to us.
Ah, yes, and the meek shall inherit the earth? Or carry the day? The next task for the evangelical pro-war Christian right? Proof that Jesus may have SAID that, but he didn't MEAN that. He was a kick-ass kind of guy.

Making this implicitly a holy war may have been a bad idea, and my relative isn't buying into that part of it, as far as I know. Still, he believes in what he is doing, and that what he is doing is good. And maybe it is.

Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta, asks a logical question – where did my relative hear about this first Hedges book, and what did I think he expected it to be?

What did I think he had expected the book to be? Well, when I did some net surfing to see who had it in stock - it was sold out at a lot of stores - I read the reviews. (Actually I had known what the book was about - a war reporter confessing he liked war too much.) I really did wonder why he wanted this one. Frankly, I think he liked the title. He has a habit of skimming lists of new military books. And I figured it would be good for him to read this.

His only comment a few weeks later - "That wasn't what I thought it was."

No kidding.

Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta – "No kidding, indeed, you tricky SOB!"

Who, me?

Hey, no one was ever harmed by reading a book, as they say. Folks should read everything on all sides. And too, when possible, you should get your relatives what they ask for on their Christmas lists.

Posted by Alan at 17:33 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
home


Topic: The Media

News Notes: What to cover is the question…

An exchange with Paris regarding how Just Above Sunset (JAS) covers the news -

Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis -

From Andy Borowitz - June 14, 2005 - POLL: AMERICANS ALREADY MISS JACKSON TRIAL: End of Case Leaves Gaping Hole in People's Lives, Survey Says - "Most importantly, these people need to know that there are other things in their lives to look forward to," he said. "For example, maybe the runaway bride will run away again."

The very one. Just as I missed noticing 3789 conspiracy books, I failed to note what happened to the runaway wife. Did she just disappear or what?

Actually I never saw the beginning of that story either. It just goes to show that JAS doesn't treat all the news equally.

- perplexed in Paris

Hollywood -

JAS has been amiss. The runaway bride was charged with filing false reports with the police and that sort of thing, pled guilty and is doing community service, and paying back some of the costs of the search for her sorry ass. There may or may not be a wedding now, but we won't know as the "big boys" press moved on to Michael Jackson, and now that that is over, to the missing girl in Aruba, and when that is settled Phil Spector's trial is coming up. Did he murder that woman?

JAS obviously has no nose for the news. We're not the big boys in this business.

Ric Erickson -

All's Well That Ends Well. Headline - "Zen and Now: Jackson Back as Lakers' Coach"

Change of ways; only big boys now...

Hollywood -

Yes, Phil Jackson is famous for being a Zen guy - many articles out here about his Zen beliefs. The Christian right forgives him for being such a godless man as he wins - five championships with Michael Jordon and the Bulls, and four with the Lakers. No evangelical boycotts down at Staples Center - yet. The next season will be Phil doing his Zen master thing with Kobe Bryant as his young acolyte - "Yes, Grasshopper, you will learn that...."

Ric Erickson -

From today's New York Times: ''Because of the highly unusual nature of the global war on terror, and because we do not want to detain any person longer than as necessary, we've taken this unprecedented and historic action to establish this process to permit enemy combatants to be heard while conflict is ongoing,'' McGarrah said.

Hollywood -

What?

Posted by Alan at 10:58 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 15 June 2005 20:50 PDT home

Tuesday, 14 June 2005

Topic: World View

France Turns a Bit American: What's Up with That?

Tuesday, June 14, 2005 notes from Paris -

In our coverage of the end of the Michael Jackson trial - Enough Already: Michael Jackson So Over - there's a screen shot of one of the celebrating pro-Jackson demonstrators waving a French flag.

What was THAT about?

Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis, and Our Man in Paris, has some thoughts, as the same image showed up on the television news in Paris -
In one of the posts today there's a mention of a French flag. This showed up in tonight's TV-news, which had a report about MJ getting off. While many fans outside the courthouse looked like they weren't old enough to remember MJ's last hit, there was this French guy waving the bloody tricolor, screaming, "France is behind you, Mikey!" - in French of course. This was probably one of the Johnny Hallyday fans left stranded in Las Vegas from a few years ago. It just goes to show that when it comes to serious looniness the French can hold their own. I mean, there's Johnny Hallyday, isn't there?
Yep, there's him.

But what else is happening in the City of Light?
Well. Of course the world moves on, so Giscard was on the TV too, for the first time since his constitution got the big 'non' here. He said it was like 'Saving Private Ryan,' in the sense that there is no other text and no project to create any. He also mentioned a recent poll in which 65% of the French were for a continuation of the EU, plus the fact that Italy, Spain and Germany, and 7 other countries have voted to ratify the constitution. He's just a poor loser of course.
What? See this:

Giscard puts blame on Chirac
Elaine Sciolino - The New York Times / The International Herald Tribune - Wednesday, June 15, 2005
PARIS - As the architect of the European Union constitution, Valary Giscard d'Estaing, seemed at the top of his game, praised as "the Mozart of politics" and poised to go down in history as the founding father of a new Europe.

Only two months ago, Giscard, the former French president, called the constitution "as perfect as, perhaps less elegant than, the Constitution of the United States of America."

Ratification by member countries was supposed to have been easy, and Giscard, now 79, might even have been asked to become the first president of the entire the 25-country bloc. …
Ah well, he himself is elegant. And a sore loser. And why is "the Mozart of politics" making references to "Saving Private Ryan" of all things?

The French are strange. (And someone who has lived in the middle of Hollywood for fifteen years says that?)

And then, as Ric notes, the Big Brit was in town -
Tony was in town today. Back in prehistoric times Thatcher conned the EU into giving it an annual cheque for 5 billion euros, in return for the UK contributing anything - about 7 billion - to the common EU funds. Apparently it was a deal to balance the fact that UK farmers had been already driven into the Irish Sea and there wasn't anything to subsidize. Now the UK is doing alright Jack, and France - Jacques in fact - is leading the drive to get the UK to forego the cheque.

Tony said, 'not bloody likely!' He said, "Why should the EU spend 60% of its budget to subsidize 2% of the population?"

I hope Jacques said that Tony would starve to death if we don't. I hope he didn't say we could buy cheap wheat from America instead. If Europe didn't squander it on farmers, what else could it waste it on? Mind you, if we can drive the farmers off the land, then we could close all those money-losing rural post offices, town halls, bakeries and village schools.
Oh, that dispute is a dismal business as the BBC notes here (Tuesday, 14 June, 2005, 18:56 GMT 19:56 UK) -
Tony Blair says he cannot see how he can bridge his disagreement with French President Jacques Chirac over the controversial British EU rebate.

The UK premier said his talks with Mr Chirac were "immensely amicable" but there was "sharp disagreement".

Mr Blair earlier flatly rejected a formal plan put forward by Luxembourg to freeze Britain's ?3bn rebate. …
So these were "immensely amicable" talks - but there was "sharp disagreement." Cool. Blair speaks passable French, and he's not Margaret Thatcher, but this is going nowhere.

But Ric reminds me of one of my favorite things about to happen, again -
Upcoming is the weekend of the 24-hour flat-out race at Le Mans. France has its own good old boys and about a quarter million of them go there and drink a lot of six-packs during the race and the weekend. It's supposed to be quite a show, and, since it usually rains floods, it might be disappointing this year if the drunks stay dry.

It's all very appropriate because TV-news just announced that French drivers seem to be losing their fear of the robot radars, as in, speeding has become fashionable again. Average autoroute speeds have risen from 128 kph to 142 kph, and it has been estimated that 94% of drivers are joining the fun. No doubt this prompted the traffic lords to propose 'life-long' license plates, to combat against the tens of thousands circulating with stolen or counterfeit plates. The idea is that a car will get a plate and keep the same one until it goes to the wreckers. They didn't say how this would prevent the stolen plate trick, but the speeding drivers who were photographed by the robot radars while they were home asleep in bed in Perpignan will probably welcome the idea.

All that slow driving was too tedious anyway. Getting to the beaches is going to be fun this year. Or would be, if there were any free parking spaces.
I drove Autoroute A54 et A9 - Arles to Aix – a few years back. Much like driving the freeway out here (same climate, same topography, same flora, and we have beaches too) – when you can, you go fast.

And it would be fun to get to Le Mans one day.

But the license plates? Years ago you'd spot a French car out here with a plate that ended in "75" and know it was from Paris. That system ended a few years ago, and now this. New ugly pan-European currency and no localized license plates on the cars. Things keep changing.

Back to Ric -
Which brings up to the beach report. Many French beaches have been awarded the good housekeeping Europe-wide 'blue' flags for 2005. A local seaside mayor whose resort community didn't get one said that the inspections were too superficial, and didn't take into account polluted ground-water and open-pit garbage dumps just out of sight behind his battery recycling plant. Another town showed its wheelchair route across the sand to the high water, which kind of looked like the edge of the Erie Canal with its gum wrappers and froth of suds. Next thing we'll hear will be from the sanitation inspectors, discovering unfrozen meat lockers full of rotten chicken wings, worms as big as bullsnakes in the lettuce and stinky cheese full of rabid mice. Our paradise has lumps in it, but it's authentic!
Hey, after a heavy rain the beaches out here are just the same!

And Ric adds -
How timely that bacteria no longer infests the oysters. They had to be given a clean bill of health on account of the oyster people burning down police stations and tax offices, and blocking ports with their oyster scows. Now they are waiting for a month with 'r' in it so they can go on the rampage about the price of gas, or is that the wine people?
What? We don't have the scows blocking ports, and no one is burning down anything, but a red tide has shut down most shellfish beds from Maine to Massachusetts. No oysters. On Friday, June 10, the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries expanded the ban to a stretch of federal water (see this) – but no rampage.

Do Americans go on rampages about oysters, or the price of gas, or the price of wine? No – that's a French thing. We don't do rampages. Consider our revolutions back in the eighteenth century. You guys had the guillotine and that Reign of Terror. We had the Boston Tea Party. "Party."

But as Los Angeles moves into the dry season, what Ric says here resonates -
Meanwhile, also causing anxiety, is the lack of rain. One by one departments are being added to those with water restrictions and farmers are watching their tender little green plants shrivel up into ropey brown twists of useless weed, while car washes close down and lawns fry. Meteo France [watch the weather here] says that two out of four weather soothsayers are predicting a summer warmer than usual. The water bomber squadrons are completing their spring training. Paris, mostly immune from all this, will hold its first beach volleyball tournament at the end of July on the Champ de Mars. Unknown - whether there will be sand, and whether they will play beside the Seine. Where there's sand there's …
Hot, no rain, beach volleyball. Polluted beaches, speeders, beer drinking good-old-boys at the car races. And crazed Michael Jackson fans?

As Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta, said earlier - "Omigod! It sounds like the French are turning into... into Americans!"

Posted by Alan at 20:54 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 15 June 2005 17:22 PDT home


Topic: Making Use of History

"Never apologize, son. It's a sign of weakness." – Not Just for Muslims Anymore

Monday, June 13, the Senate voted to issue a formal apology for its repeated failures to pass anti-lynching legislation.

A Senate Apology for History on Lynching
Vote Condemns Past Failure to Act
Avis Thomas-Lester, Washington Post, Tuesday, June 14, 2005; Page A12
The U.S. Senate last night approved a resolution apologizing for its failure to enact federal anti-lynching legislation decades ago, marking the first time the body has apologized for the nation's treatment of African Americans. …
Drawing on the assistance of Assistant Historian of the Senate Betty Koed, Historian of the House of Representatives Robert Remini, Garrison Nelson of the University of Vermont, and Julian Zelizer of Boston University, Daniel Engber here, in the "Explainer" column at SLATE.COM, gives background.

First, the resolution itself can be found here - noting congress ignored hundreds of proposed anti-lynching bills as thousands of African-Americans were killed between 1882 and the 1968. Oops.

Precedents? Engber notes these:
In 1987, the House passed a resolution to apologize for the internment and relocation of Japanese-Americans (and the relocation of Aleuts) during World War II. The Senate passed an equivalent bill the following year.

In 1992, the Senate voted to apologize for the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii. The House followed suit in 1993, and Congress expressed its official regrets to Native Hawaiians.

The House, though, rejected a 1997 proposal to apologize for slavery, and the Senate failed to pass an anti-lynching apology last year. In 2004, some members of Congress also tried unsuccessfully to pass an official declaration of remorse for the treatment of American Indians. (Both houses are again considering an apology for the treatment of Indians.)
So this sort of thing is recent, and rare.

Why?

Engber speculates that "lawmakers might be afraid that an admission of guilt will lead to claims for government reparations, like those offered to the victims of wartime internment. Bills calling for an investigation of reparations for slavery have been introduced again and again over the last few decades. A formal apology for a single injustice done to a single group also might invite demands from other groups."

One must be careful. Engber does note that last Wednesday the Senate passed a bill to recognize the importance of sun safety. And a few months earlier, senators unanimously agreed to commend the men's gymnastics team from the University of Oklahoma for winning the NCAA championship.

Much safer.

As mentioned previously –

Bush urged: 'Never apologize' to Muslims
Administration officials reportedly inspired by classic John Wayne movie
Some members of the Bush administration have taken a cue from a classic John Wayne Western and are advising their boss to take the film's advice – "Never apologize" – when dealing with Muslims, reports geopolitical analyst Jack Wheeler.

In a column on his intelligence website, To the Point, Wheeler explains Wayne's "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon," made in 1948, though lesser known than many of the star's films, includes what's been called one of the top 100 movie quotes of all time.

Wayne's character, Capt. Nathan Brittles, who is facing an Indian attack, advises a junior officer: "Never apologize, son. It's a sign of weakness." …
That – and it can cost big bucks.

And what is the point? Tuesday morning this was in the local paper our here, the Los Angeles Times - one Deborah Crawford, whose great-grandfather was lynched in South Carolina in 1916 after arguing with a white farmer over the price of cottonseed, saying the whole thing was just odd - "I feel that there should be something else, something more than an apology, but I don't know what."

Oh, no one knows what.

By the way, this was a voice vote – so no one had to go on record. That way you don't lose the votes of the red-meat right.

Over at The Daily Kos you can find a list of the initial twenty who 1) refused to co-sponsor the anti-lynching resolution, and 2) refused a roll-call vote so they'd have to put their name on the resolution.

Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
Robert Bennett (R-UT)
Christopher Bond (R-MO)
Jim Bunning (R-KY)
Conrad Burns (R-MT)
Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)
Thad Cochran (R-MS)
John Cornyn (R-TX)
Michael Crapo (R-ID)
Michael Enzi (R-WY)
Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
Judd Gregg (R-NH)
Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
Trent Lott (R-MS)
Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
Richard Shelby (R-AL)
John Sununu (R-NH)
Craig Thomas (R-WY)
George Voinovich (R-OH)
Kent Conrad (D-ND) – but later changed his mind and joined as co-sponsor

What was Howard Dean saying about the Republicans being a monolithic party of white Christians? Everyone, Democrat and Republican alike, was aghast at that remark - except Wesley Clark (See this - "I'm proud of Howard Dean. I'm proud of the Democratic party. And we're going to stand together as a party.")

John Aravosis over at AMERICABlog checks what was coming from the offices of those who didn't want to apologize for anything – the usual "my boss was out of town" stuff. But he points out this -
The vote last night was a voice vote. That means all you need is one guy in the Senate chamber to have it pass (as I understand it, there were some 6 Senators or so there last night). That one guy says something about asking unanimous consent that SRes39 (the resolution) be agreed to. The presiding chair says "all those in favor say aye, all those opposed say no, the ayes appear to have it, the ayes do have it." And bam, it's done. All you need is one Senator sitting there saying aye and it's "unanimous."

A "roll call vote" is when they literally go through each Senator's name and he or she has to vote yes or no. They didn't do that last night, on purpose, so there would be no record of the "no" votes.

What we are talking about, and what we are angry about, is NOT who did or didn't vote for the resolution. In principle, NOBODY voted for the resolution and, at the same time, EVERYBODY did because it was passed "unanimously." What we are upset about is that you ALSO can "cosponsor" legislation before and AFTER it is voted on. Cosponsoring legislation is a way of showing your support the legislation, and usually your intention to vote for it. Apparently this resolution had 84 cosponsors, but 16 Senators refused to cosponsor it.

The question is therefore, why did Senator X refuse to cosponsor legislation, in essence, opposing lynching?

But it gets better. A senator can add themself as a cosponsor even AFTER a resolution is passed. That means the 16 hold-outs can STILL now add themselves as cosponsors of the resolution.

So why don't they?
Kent Conrad (D-ND) did. The others?

Of the nineteen left there are sixteen on the list as of Tuesday night - Orrin Hatch and Trent Lott among them. They know their constituencies. And they watch those John Wayne movies.

Kevin Drum over at the Washington Monthly points to something else happening Monday – the same day as the apology – "The Supreme Court, overturning the murder convictions of a black man in California and another in Texas by nearly all-white juries, warned judges and prosecutors Monday that they must put an end to racial discrimination in the selection of jurors." (Full story here.)

So? His comment -
It's about damn time. There's value in symbolic actions like the Senate apology, but there's a lot more value in recognizing the reality of how racism continues to work today and then doing something about it. Of course lawyers routinely consider race when they pick juries, and most judges know it when they see it. Giving them the authority to exercise their best judgment to put a stop to this helps prevent the modern day equivalent of lynching - which, for my money, is the best way there is to apologize for the actions of the past. …
A quibble – is there value in symbolic actions like the Senate apology? What would it be?

It seems like posturing. Yes, better to work on the nuts and bolts of jury selection.

Do something now.

__

Footnote -

La Shawn Barber, who happens to be black, says this:
"In light of the serious problems we face in the world and our own country, I think this apology is one of the dumbest, emptiest, most politically correct pile of rubbish I've heard in a long time.

... I'm sick of politicians wasting time and money pandering to blacks, treating us like empty-headed children, spoon-feeding us putrid pabulum, and prostrating themselves for every perceived slight. Don't apologize to 'Black People.' Apologize to individual blacks who actually care about this mess."
Hey! There's an idea.

Posted by Alan at 18:44 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 15 June 2005 18:39 PDT home

Monday, 13 June 2005

Topic: World View

Other News: While Fox, CNN, MSNBC and the networks deal with Michael…

Our friend, the stunning Australian woman who has lived and worked in Paris for many years, and who has never visited the United States, does point out there is more to the news than Michael Jackson and his acquittal. (Minor note – on the telephone, Paris to Hollywood, she has that Australian accent, but does she speak French with an Australian accent?)

Her first question?
Isn't it strange that Florence Aubenas the French journalist has suddenly been released in Iraq after five months captivity? [See this statement from UNESCO, Monday, June 13, 2005 – "The Director-General of UNESCO Koichiro Matsuura today welcomed the release from captivity in Iraq of French journalist Florence Aubenas and her Iraqi assistant Hussein Hanoun after five months in captivity in Iraq"]

All the French press seem to have forgotten about the European Constitution, record-breaking French unemployment figures, the ineptness of their new PM and the abysmal uselessness of their President. Ah, but wait - rumor is growing in the national press that Chirac and his cronies negotiated her release. Ah ha! So maybe that is why Chirac is President?

Non? Oui?

[The rumor? See this from The Guardian (UK) - Monday June 13, 2005, 5:46 PM (London) – "France, which denied it paid a ransom to win the release of French journalist held in Iraq, refused Monday to give any details that led to winning freedom for the reporter and her Iraqi guide after five months of captivity. Florence Aubenas and Hussein Hanoun al-Saadi, who were freed Sunday, had been missing since Jan. 5, when they were seen leaving Aubenas' hotel in Baghdad. French officials have never identified the kidnappers, although authorities in both France and Iraq suggested they were probably seeking money rather than pressing a political agenda."]

Or maybe... or maybe the terrorists woke up and realized that France is no longer at the forefront on the global political stage, that France - or what was France - is long gone from this world, that the French today, after years and years of socialism and still counting, are actually too interested in themselves to care about what is going on elsewhere - unless there are any subsidies to be handed out. Quite frankly, I would be a rather embarrassed little terrorist having picked a Frog to try and get my message heard across the world.
Yes, French influence has waned, has it not? In the end, taking a French hostage probably seemed just silly. What was the point?

What else from our Australian friend in Paris?
And on another topic - what the hell is going on in Oz? Thanks to the stupidity of another little weasel in the form of Howard, we have loonies sending little packets of powder willy-nilly and creating havoc in a country where, until Howard decided that his ego wasn't sufficiently taken care of in the world's fifth or sixth largest country (Ok, ok - I know there are more sheep than men, but c'mon - sheep have ears too and make darn fine woolly turtlenecks), and decided to caress the inane smile on Bush's' face, Australia was far removed (quite literally) from what was going on elsewhere in the world - and Aussies spent the time wrestling crocodiles, surfing and drinking till their beer guts exploded (it does get terribly hot in Oz). Ah, those were the days.
No longer. See Powder scare shuts part of Australia parliament (Reuters - 14 Jun 2005 02:06:56 GMT) - "Part of Australia's Parliament House was shut down for the fourth time this month on Tuesday after another packet of white powder was sent to the building, authorities said. The incident comes after similar security scares at six embassies, including the Indonesian, U.S., British and Japanese missions, and the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. All the contents of the packets involved turned out to be harmless. …"

Welcome to Bush's world, where everyone is angry. Australian Prime Minister John Howard long ago threw in his lot with George. Oz is in the big leagues now.

And more?
And one last thing, concerning the young Schapelle Corby and being imprisoned in Indonesia for 20 years for "allegedly" smuggling drugs. As an Aussie, I too understand the dismay and anger of Australians at this sentence - whether she did it or not - as quite frankly it doesn't seem to fit in with the two year sentence the Bali bombers got does it?! Boycott Bali?

Yes, please.
What is our friend talking about?

Background from Radio Australia - updated 13/06/2005, 22:19:08 -
Prosecutors on the Indonesian island of Bali have formally asked for an increase in the sentence for convicted Australian drug smuggler, Schappelle Corby.

They have appealed to the High Court of Denpasar against the leniency of the sentence, saying the 27 year old had been involved in a trans-national crime.

Ms Corby was found with 4.1 kilograms of marijuana in her bag on arrival at Bali Airport last October.

She maintains her innocence, saying the drugs were planted on her.

In just a few pages the prosecution spells out why it is not satisfied with the original verdict of 20 years in jail.

The appeal in part states that drug importation is a great danger to life, the community and the nation.

The defence team is expected to file its appeal Tuesday.

Our Indonesia correspondent, Tim Palmer, says that unless the defence succeeds in its planned request for hearings to be reopened, the appeal could be resolved behind closed doors within a month or so.
And from the attorneys at the US site Talk Left there was this in real time from Friday, May 27, 2005 (one of many posts) -
Time to Boycott Bali.

Indonesia rules out a prisoner transfer to Australia. What Neanderthals they are over there. Schapelle got 20 years. Here's the translator's edited transcript of the verdict and sentencing. Here's the Australian news blog's description of the reaction in the courtroom.

Is this sentence really better than life? I'd say it is a life sentence... Schapelle's life as she knew it is over. And who lives 20 years behind the walls of a foreign prison? We live-blogged the two hour verdict reading (along with Blaghdaddy in the comments) as best we could given the awful audio feed from the courtroom to the Australian media which kept going in and out - and the sporadic translation. ?
There's much more at the Talk Left item, and it's full of links to source material, and photos of the woman. Of course there was next to nothing on this in the mainstream US press.

It seems there is more news that that of Michael Jackson.

From, Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta, one of the founders of CNN -
My friend Phillip says the release of Florence Aubenas is being played over here as a hostage for ransom, not a hostage for a political agenda.

True, although it's being played somewhere on CNN.com down below "King takes Miss Teen Swaziland finalist as 12th wife".

Paris: The French ... are actually too interested in themselves to care about what is going on elsewhere.

Which is to say ...Omigod! It sounds like the French are turning into... into Americans!

Paris: Ok, ok I know there are more sheep than men [in Oz]?

Hey, I thought that was New Zealand! Well, whatever. Pretty much the same accent, as far as I can tell.

And regarding the EU constitution: An issue or so back of "Foreign Affairs" Magazine (before the recent votes) predicted the UK might just vote it down, and what would that mean to European unity, with the article saying the document as being several hundred pages long, and describing in excruciating detail everything short of when people will be allowed to flush the toilet. After learning this, I would have been surprised if it weren't shot out of the water, since the longer and more complex the document, the more various constituencies would find objectionable in it. But what to I know, I live in a country with a Constitution so simple that it allows anyone to read into it pretty much whatever they want.

Regarding the Euro? I suppose the dollar will be seriously threatened by the Euro once the Europeans start buying more doodads from China then we do over here. Unless, of course, that happens to be the case already, I haven't checked, in which case it's only a matter of time before we link the value of the dollar to the Euro. In fact, that might be good for us!
Quibbles? Australian accents to some of us sound quite different than New Zealand ones, and different from those South African white folks [Trevor Denmon out here announcing horse races down at Del Mar]? but then that's a Henry Higgins thing and it really doesn't matter. To Europeans, folks from Texas and Georgia sound alike - but Jimmy Carter doesn't sound at all like George Bush, in so many ways.

But it's only a matter of time before we link the value of the dollar to the Euro? Whoa, Nellie! Where did THAT come from? Something to think about there!

And what exactly did Phillip, not the News Guy but also in Atlanta, say, showing he has woefully neglected the Michael Jackson saga and HAS followed some of this -
Here the release of Florence Aubenas is being played as a hostage for ransom, not a hostage for a political agenda. More of a fundraiser motive than a political statement vehicle.

I'm sorry the European Constitution got snuffed, but that postpones the ability of the Euro to snuff the dollar, or China to cash in their US Treasury notes and buy Euros, which would have hammered our economy. Is it really true, though, that the rejection was over a threat to job security - and over a pretty choice worker entitlement package? The foot has been self-shot.
Well, Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis, and in these pages Our Man in Paris, explained that, yes, the rejection was all mixed up with the threat of that hypothetical "Polish plumber" (See this from April 17, 2005 and from June 5, 2005 - Fallout from the French Kiss of Death) and mixed up with all sorts of fears and resentments.

It is NOT true, as some on the right here have claimed, that the French "non" vote was simply more than half the French people getting fed up and voting for Bush and America ? acknowledging WE are the only superpower, and it is futile and silly to try to form a rival power, and that WE are superior, WE saved their sorry asses in two world wars, and the only thing to do was give it all up and bow down before US, worshipfully.

No. Somehow I think the issues were more local. And Chirac has lost his charm, whatever charm he had.

Ah but there is this -
The only child of a well-to-do businessman, Chirac apparently had a lively youth. He was expelled from school for shooting paper wads at a teacher. He also sold the Communist daily "L'Humanite" on the streets for a brief time, and even worked as a soda jerk at a Howard Johnson's restaurant in the United States, where he reportedly earned a certificate of merit for his outstanding banana splits.
Good to know. That was in 1953 when he was at Harvard (more here). A long time ago.

Now?

No charm.

This from Andy Borowitz (and our columnist Bob Patterson told me to add a "humor warning label" here as some might think this is a real news story) ?

June 12, 2005
ANGRY CHIRAC AGREES WITH BUSH THAT THE FRENCH SUCK
Rare Accord for Two Heads of State
Angered that the French people voted down the European Union's constitution two weeks ago, French President Jacques Chirac announced today that he agreed with President Bush that the French suck.

For the French president, the public acknowledgment that the French suck marked a reversal of his position and a stunning break with centuries-old tradition.

Mr. Chirac took the extraordinary step of flying to Washington to appear side-by-side with U.S. president to express their mutual distaste for the French.

In a Rose Garden ceremony, the French president told reporters, "For years, President Bush has been complaining about the French, and now, Sacre Bleu! I know what he's talking about," adding, "They are annoying."

In a joint communique, the two leaders said they would work together to ridicule the French people, with Mr. Chirac agreeing to import over one thousand anti-French jokes over the next twelve months.

In addition, the French president said he would propose legislation in France that would change the words "pommes frites" on all French restaurant menus to "Freedom Fries."

"Wait 'til those cheese-eating surrender-monkeys get a load of that!" Mr. Chirac said.

For President Bush, the French president's agreement that the French suck was sweet vindication, but Mr. Bush indicated that he was not about to rest on his laurels.

"I will not be satisfied until Gerhard Schroder admits that the Germans suck," Mr. Bush said. ?
Our Australian friend in Paris comments - "Well, is it better to suck - or be wanted dead or alive, as Bush once stated about nobody else in particular in the past?"

Anger there? Now that Michael Jackson is a free man, or free whatever (pixie?), there is much to think about.

Posted by Alan at 21:15 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 14 June 2005 08:35 PDT home

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