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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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Friday, 15 July 2005

Topic: In these times...

End of the Week Wrap-Up

Karl Rove and All That

Friday, July 15, the New York Times (here) and the Washington Post (here) both run stories suggesting that Karl Rove only knew about Valerie Plame because a reporter had told him about her. By the end of the day it may be two reporters, the other perhaps Judith Miller. If true then Rove is guilty only of passing along information from one reporter to another, and calls for Rove's resignation were premature.

Or not. There's a ton of commentary all over.

One of the best is from Tim Noah at SLATE.COM in his Rove Death Watch series, where he agues this really doesn't help Rove a whole lot:
These accounts almost certainly come mainly from Rove or his lawyer, and they don't make a lot of sense to me. We learn that Rove learned Valerie Plame's name from Novak; he already knew "from other journalists" that Joe Wilson's wife worked for the CIA. But if Novak told Rove Plame's name, why didn't Rove repeat the name in his subsequent conversation with Matt Cooper of Time? (If Rove had named her to Cooper, presumably Cooper would have included her name in his memo to his bureau chief. But he didn't.) Also, according to this version of events, Rove was one of two unnamed government sources Novak used to confirm that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA. But if all Rove did was say he'd heard the same rumor from other reporters - which, I agree, would render Rove innocent of wrongdoing - that would hardly count as confirmation. Is it possible that Novak's sourcing methods are this sloppy? An alternative, more plausible scenario is that Novak asked Rove about it, Rove said he'd heard the same thing, and then Rove made inquiries to someone in the government and confirmed the information for Novak. That would be a firing offense.

Here's a bigger problem I have with the new accounts: Cooper's e-mail nowhere says that other news organizations are onto the Plame story. If Rove had told Cooper what he'd presumably told Novak - that he'd heard about this "from other journalists" (including, at this point, Novak) - then you can bet Cooper would have told his bureau chief that they were in competition with other news organizations to get this information into print. News organizations - even newsmagazines - don't like to be scooped. But perhaps Rove didn't tell Cooper that he'd gotten his information from other news organizations. Perhaps he didn't even tell Novak that he'd gotten his information this way. Perhaps he just stated it as fact to one or both of them. Then wouldn't that suggest that Rove had confirmed the information by consulting somebody in the government? He works in the White House, for Pete's sake! If he did confirm with a government official what he'd heard "from other journalists," that's a firing offense.

To believe that Rove is innocent of any wrongdoing, you have to believe that Rove had all these conversations with journalists about Wilson's wife being a CIA employee, and then, over a course of several days, never asked anyone in the government whether what the journalists were telling him was true. I suppose anything is possible. But that stretches credulity to the breaking point.
Ah, it all makes one's head hurt. Best to wait.

Ending the Social Security Program

One can see here that chairmen Grassley of the Senate Finance Committee and Thomas of the House Ways and Means Committee have decided to postpone consideration of Social Security "reform" until September. It really is hard to see how a proposal with private accounts can be salvaged in this session "if the responsible committees punt until after the summer."

So much for that.

Sorry About the Racist Stuff

RNC Chief to Say It Was 'Wrong' to Exploit Racial Conflict for Votes
Mike Allen, The Washington Post Thursday, July 14, 2005; Page A04

They send in a lieutenant to apologize for Republicans being an all-white party -
It was called "the southern strategy," started under Richard M. Nixon in 1968, and described Republican efforts to use race as a wedge issue - on matters such as desegregation and busing - to appeal to white southern voters.

Ken Mehlman, the Republican National Committee chairman, this morning will tell the NAACP national convention in Milwaukee that it was "wrong"

... "Some Republicans gave up on winning the African American vote, looking the other way or trying to benefit politically from racial polarization. I am here today as the Republican chairman to tell you we were wrong."
Yeah, well, okay. Note this from CNN in January of 2000 -
As the nation honored the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday, thousands of people gathered here to demand that lawmakers remove the Confederate battle flag from atop South Carolina's Statehouse.

... "I think that the flag should be removed from the state Capitol," Vice President Al Gore said Sunday. "That's my position and I think that Governor Bush has avoided taking a position or has ducked the issue."

GOP front-runner George W. Bush has denied avoiding the issue.

"I haven't waffled from day one when I've been asked the question," Bush told CNN's "Late Edition on Sunday. "That's a decision for the people of South Carolina to make."
Bill Montgomery has the quotes nicely formatted facing each other here.

Bruce Reed's comment here - and he was President Clinton's domestic policy adviser and is president of the Democratic Leadership Council ? putting things in perspective:
Even in what is fast becoming the sorriest year in American politics, Mehlman's apology may be the most galling. If not for its Southern strategy, Ken Mehlman would be stuck in Baltimore and the modern Republican Party simply would not exist.

From 1880 to 1948, when Dixiecrat Strom Thurmond invented the Southern strategy he would take with him to the GOP, Democrats won every Southern electoral vote in every presidential election except 1928, when they nominated Al Smith, a Catholic. In 2000 and 2004, Al Gore and John Kerry didn't win a single electoral vote in the South.

In 1964, when LBJ courageously signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Democrats controlled both houses of Congress because of the solid South. Today, Republicans control both houses of Congress and all three branches of government because the South is in their column.

... Racial polarization is no longer the reason Republicans win in the South. But for two decades, the race card was the GOP's loss leader. If not for his father's divisive 1988 campaign and Willie Horton ad, we would never have heard of George W. Bush.

The President deserves credit for changing the Republican Party's tone on immigration and education. Mehlman deserves credit for recruiting African-American and Latino candidates.

But if we've learned anything from the GOP's Southern strategy, it's that cynicism and expedience are themselves a form of evil. In the 1970s and '80s, the GOP turned crime and welfare into racial code words, but did nothing about either underlying problem. Republicans raised the specter of racial quotas to win middle-class votes, while their agenda offered opportunity only for the wealthy.

The GOP's Southern strategy collapsed in the 1990s, when Bill Clinton gave Democrats a better one: take the race card out of politics by giving African-Americans, Latinos, and whites what they wanted all along - real progress on wedge issues like crime and welfare. Immigrant-bashing, a California cousin of the Southern strategy, collapsed after Pete Wilson's Prop 187 helped Clinton win 72% of the Latino vote in 1996.

... The reason Republicans are abandoning the race card isn't that they've changed their mind on civil rights or affirmative action. Mehlman and Rove have just made a business decision that in an increasingly diverse nation, they can no longer build a majority on racial wedge issues. In his speech, Mehlman comes right out and says as much: "If my party benefited from racial polarization in the past, it is the Democratic Party that benefits from it today."
And he goes on.

On the other side, Rush Limbaugh, who always refers to the NAACP as the "NAALCP," which he explains stands for the "National Association for the Advancement of Liberal Colored People," says this:
President Bush skipping this week's annual NAALCP convention for the fifth straight year, but that's not preventing the White House and the Republican Party from waging a drive to woo African-American voters. Ken Mehlman of the RNC is going to the NAALCP convention, and he is basically going to tell them how the Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln lost its way with African-American voters over the years and how determined the party is to get them back. He said, "We can't call ourselves a true majority unless we reach out to African-Americans and make it the party of Lincoln. There was a time when African-American support turned Democrat, and we didn't do enough to retain it. Now we want to build on the gains we made in the last election."

Know what he's going to do? He's going to go down there and basically apologize for what has come to be known as the Southern Strategy, popularized in the Nixon administration. He's going to go down there and apologize for it. In the midst of all of this, in the midst of all that's going on, once again, Republicans are going to go bend over and grab the ankles.

They're going to the NAALCP. This is like going into Hyannisport and apologizing to [Sen.] Ted Kennedy [D-MA] for whatever and expecting him to become a supporter. It's like showing up at the [Sen.] Chuck Schumer [D-NY]-Joe Wilson press conference in 20 minutes and saying, "Okay, Ambassador Wilson, we apologize. We hope you'll support us. We can't become a majority party until people like you are voting for us." It is just - it's absolutely absurd.
No apologies to the uppity darkies? Guess not. And perhaps one can conclude something from his anal rape imagery, but why belabor the obvious?

Limbaugh must understand his party just wants to get more votes. He's more interested in purity. And he knows Mehlman didn't get the interoffice memo - see this in these pages from June 19: 'Never apologize, son. It's a sign of weakness.'

Boston - Center of Evil

Perhaps you noted this item in the news:
Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, the third-ranking Republican in the Senate, refused yesterday to back off on his earlier statements connecting Boston's "liberalism" with the Roman Catholic Church pedophile scandal, saying that the city's "sexual license" and "sexual freedom" nurtured an environment where sexual abuse would occur.

"The basic liberal attitude in that area ... has an impact on people's behavior," Santorum said in an interview yesterday at the Capitol.

"If you have a world view that I'm describing [about Boston] ... that affirms alternative views of sexuality, that can lead to a lot of people taking it the wrong way," Santorum said.
A groups that calls itself the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests shoots back
-
Abusive clergy and complicit bishops are liberal and conservative. The crimes they commit have nothing to do with political philosophy. It is reckless and dangerous to misdiagnose the causes of this horrific crisis by trying to blame any group of individuals, especially using false assumptions and self-serving ideological blinders. This is a deeply-rooted, long-standing, cultural and structural problem within the church and affects Catholics across the globe. To suggest anything less is deceptive or ignorant.

It is very hurtful when a politician tries to minimize the extent of the clergy sex abuse scandal. It is also very hurtful when a politician implies that some vague, larger societal defects somehow caused priests, nuns and bishops to assault innocent children and vulnerable adults, and then to work hard at keeping the crimes hidden.
Senator Kennedy from Massachusetts adds this:
Rick Santorum owes an immediate apology to the tragic, long-suffering victims of sexual abuse and their families in Boston, in Massachusetts, in Pennsylvania and around this country. His outrageous and offensive comments - which he had the indecency to repeat yesterday - blamed the people of Boston for the depraved behavior of sick individuals who stole the innocence of children in the most horrible way imaginable.

Senator Santorum has shown a deep and callous insensitivity to the victims and their suffering in an apparent attempt to score political points with some of the most extreme members of the fringe right wing of his Party. Boston bashing might be in vogue with some Republicans, but Rick Santorum's statements are beyond the pale.
Yeah, so they are, but what is one to make of this? Rick Santorum's Communications Director confirms to PageOne he is gay, stands behind Senator - and the guy is black too.

Santorum is far behind in the polls. He may not be reelected. The natives are restless and he really is a little creepy:
He and his wife, Karen, have seven children - including, as Santorum puts it, "the one in Heaven." Their fourth baby, Gabriel Michael, died in 1996, two hours after an emergency delivery in Karen Santorum's 20th week of pregnancy. The couple took Gabriel's body home to let their three other young children see and hold the baby before burying him, according to Karen Santorum's book of the ordeal, "Letters to Gabriel."
Passing around the baby's corpse to his other children? Bet they don't to THAT in Boston.

Santorum is from Penn Hills, just north of Pittsburgh, just a few miles from where I grew up (Penn Hills was one of our big rivals in football). I left the area forty years ago when I left for college. The big high school reunion is coming up. I think I'll stay here in Hollywood, where things are normal.

Posted by Alan at 19:07 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 15 July 2005 19:18 PDT home

Thursday, 14 July 2005

Topic: NOW WHAT?

Regarding l'affaire Rove at Mid-Week

It's hard to come by a good outline of the real story, but this one will do:
In his op-ed on July 6th, 2003, Wilson gave a straightforward account of who he is and why he went on this fact-finding trip to Niger. He says, "I was informed by officials at the Central Intelligence Agency that Vice President Dick Cheney's office had questions about a particular intelligence report." He does not say that Cheney had sent him personally on the mission. He reports that he found no evidence that Saddam had tried to buy uranium from Niger.

He says that he assumes from working in the government for many years that his report had been forwarded through channels. When he heard the president use the claim about African uranium in the SOTU [the State of the Union Address], he became alarmed and asked the State department about it. He accepted that the president might have been talking about a different African country than Niger until he later learned that Niger was specifically mentioned quite recently in official documents. He concludes at this time, based upon the fact that he had personally been involved in debunking this claim, that the administration had been "fixing" intelligence.

The administration was now for the first time explicitly and openly being accused of knowingly using false information to sell the war. And since Wilson had specifically named the vice president as having been the one to request additional information that led to his trip, the White House was involved at a very high level. The administration claims that this was not true, that in spite of a series of mishaps, there was no concerted or conscious effort to mislead the country about the intelligence. And whatever mistakes were made were the result of shoddy intelligence work, not the "fixing" or "sexing up" of the evidence. When the Niger episode became public, they decided that it was time for George Tenet to admit that he had screwed this particular case up and they arranged for him to make a public statement to that effect.

The White House response to Wilson's piece is that Cheney never asked for the information in the first place. And they said they had no idea about Wilson's evidence because his trip was a low level nepotistic boondoggle arranged by his wife, a CIA "employee." Karl Rove and others spoke to several reporters to that effect (They now claim, since Matthew Cooper's e-mail was leaked that it was only in order to "warn them off" taking Wilson seriously.) Robert Novak - an extremely unlikely columnist for the white house to feel they had to warn off Wilson - was the first to put this into print on July 13th.

When it came out, exposing Valerie Plame as an undercover operative, Wilson believed that it was an act of retaliation and a signal to anyone else who might be thinking of coming forward. Novak was quoted shortly after the column ran saying: "I didn't dig it out, it was given to me. They thought it was significant, they gave me the name and I used it." (He has since said that he used the term "operative" inappropriately, although he has used that word very precisely throughout his career to mean "undercover.") In the days after the column appeared there were reports that the administration was actively pushing the column, claiming that Wilson's wife was "fair game."
The conclusion of Wilson's piece that started this whole thing:
I was convinced before the war that the threat of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Saddam Hussein required a vigorous and sustained international response to disarm him. Iraq possessed and had used chemical weapons; it had an active biological weapons program and quite possibly a nuclear research program - all of which were in violation of United Nations resolutions. Having encountered Mr. Hussein and his thugs in the run-up to the Persian Gulf War of 1991, I was only too aware of the dangers he posed.

But were these dangers the same ones the administration told us about? We have to find out. America's foreign policy depends on the sanctity of its information. For this reason, questioning the selective use of intelligence to justify the war in Iraq is neither idle sniping nor "revisionist history," as Mr. Bush has suggested. The act of war is the last option of a democracy, taken when there is a grave threat to our national security. More than 200 American soldiers have lost their lives in Iraq already. We have a duty to ensure that their sacrifice came for the right reasons.
Source documents:

1.) Joe Wilson's op-ed of July 6, 2003
2.) Bob Novak's column of July 13, 2003

Clear enough?

Motive? See Howard Fineman from 2003 - the leak was really an attempt to smear Wilson and his wife as being part of a "pro-Saddam" CIA cabal.
I am told by what I regard as a very reliable source inside the White House that aides there did, in fact, try to peddle the identity of Joe Wilson's wife to several reporters. But the motive wasn't revenge or intimidation so much as a desire to explain why, in their view, Wilson wasn't a neutral investigator, but, a member of the CIA?s leave-Saddam-in-place team.
It was paranoia about those opposing them?

Here's one view of that, as seen by Digby over at Hullabaloo
Since they never adjust to changing circumstances or admit any new evidence that doesn't fit their preconceived notions, this was still the framework they were working from when bin Laden came on the scene. It's why the neocon nutcase Laurie Mylroie was able to convince people in the highest reaches of the Republican intelligentsia that Saddam had something to do with bin Laden, even though there was never a scintilla of evidence to back it up. They simply could not, and cannot to this day, come to grips with the fact that their view of how terrorism works - through "rogue states" and totalitarian sponsorship - is simply wrong.

When Clare Sterling's book came out CIA director William Casey was said to have told his people, "read Claire Sterling's book and forget this mush. I paid $13.95 for this and it told me more than you bastards who I pay $50,000 a year." Wolfowitz and Feith are said to have told their staff in the Pentagon to read Laurie Mylroie's book about Saddam and al Qaeda. Richard Clarke, in "Against All Enemies" quotes Wolfowitz as saying: "You give Bin Laden too much credit. He could not do all these things like the 1993 attack on New York, not without a state sponsor. Just because FBI and CIA have failed to find the linkages does not mean they don't exist."

This, then, is simply how they think. It's as Rob Cordry says, "the facts are biased." (That's the state of mind that led neocon Judith Miller to make her bizarre incomprehensible comment "I was proved fucking right!") They truly believe that even though they have been completely wrong about everything for the past thirty years that it just can't be so.

And no matter what, in their minds the CIA is always trying to screw them.

So the political environment in which Valeria Plame was outed was virtually hallucinogenic. There may have really been some part of certain members of the Bush administration's dysfunctional lizard brains that really thought in July of 2003 that the CIA had been trying to set them up and used Joe Wilson to do it.

But it's not July of 2003 now, is it? It's two years later and we know for a fact that the analysts, including Wilson, who said the Niger deal was bullshit were right and we know that the analysts who doubted the evidence about Saddam's WMD were right too.

Not that this will stop the Team B neocons from insisting that "they were proved fucking right." They really are delusional and they always have been.

Karl Rove, however, is a lot of things, but delusional isn't one of them. He just put out the hit on Plame and Wilson to shut down the questions Wilson was raising. He was taking care of business. But others in the administration may have made a good case, at least in their own beautiful minds, that they were the victims. God knows these people love to be victims.

I don't know if you saw Wilson on the Today show, but I thought he acquitted himself very well - mainly because he kept on the topic of the larger Iraq lies. I really think this is a key to making people understand this story.

There is a confluence of events right now with the bad news on the ground in Iraq, the Downing Street memos, the London bombings and Rovegate flaring up that are beginning to filter into the body politic. A new conventional wisdom is being written. I think that people are putting these things together - which is why you are seeing the precipitous dip in the president's approval ratings. It's not that people know, or even want to know, the details. Only junkies like me (and you) get this into it. But the ground has shifted and people are understanding that something went terribly wrong.

The president's right hand man exposing a covert CIA agent for political purposes perfectly symbolizes the entire fetid mess.
Pretty good, but as noted elsewhere, the idea now is that Rove is the hero for exposing Wilson's anti-war bias (see From the Other Side: Different Perspectives on Karl Rove, Harry Potter and Tom Cruise).

Mike O'Hare, who teaches public management at UCLA out here, is confused by saying exposing this undercover agent, working on stopping the spread of WMD, is thus okay -
How might this be OK?

Well, sometimes it's OK to do a bad thing to accomplish much better things. In this case, the better thing was to suppress a truth that might have interfered with a war against the wrong party, that hasn't come out as predicted by anyone who advocated it, that's ruined our military capacity to deal with anything else that might come up (like North Korean or Iranian nukes), that so far shows little sign of having helped the Iraqis, who are still dying at our and each others' hands by the thousands, and that put our fiscal national security in the hands of Asian creditors.

It does seem to have helped W with some psychological issues related to his dad.

I give up. I guess the utilitarian justification is sort of a bad joke.

Sometimes a bad thing has trivial consequences, like running a red light and not hitting anyone.

Perhaps Plame's assets were already dead, or maybe not very nice people anyway, or their secret police are of the redemptive/rehabilitative, rather than the thumbscrew, type (Putin's liberal democrats, Mr. Rove?) or Plame had already discovered all the WMD's in the world so she had nothing more useful to do in that line of work. It's true that no one has shown us a single hard fact that Plame would have turned up but now can't. Perhaps we have to believe this one, but why have Rove's defenders completely missed this line of argument?

The best I can do here is to see the Republican defense of Rove as part of a larger pattern redefining "good performance" in government and management to comprise "anything not (provably) criminal." The idea that just doing a lousy job is not grounds for dismissal, or even criticism, is quite novel and almost certainly a bad one, but there seems to be a lot of it around (though the sheriff down in Fulton County isn't buying). [See this.] If you can't indict, pin a medal? (That makes sense of Tenet's Medal of Freedom.) Bizarre, but maybe we'll like it when we get used to it.

What remains puzzling to me is that the boss is so paralyzed regarding his numbers 2, 3,...n that he needs Patrick Fitzgerald to find out if any of them did something. I've had many bosses, all of whom had no trouble asking me, "Hey, O'Hare, did you talk to Smith about this? What did you tell him?"

It must be some high-level phone thing: sometimes I've arranged to be away from my phone or busy when the boss called, and I guess when you're Karl Rove defending freedom and the American Way, that can happen for two years.

But Rove was right in the room yesterday, on TV, not busy with anything, when Bush was saying he just didn't know what to say until Fitzgerald told him. That would have been a great time to turn around and ask Rove.

It's too deep for me. All I can say is that I'm glad we have distinguished and highly trained patriotic grownups handling these things for us.
Of course, "anything not (provably) criminal" is the problem here. Rove may have committed a crime.

If he deliberately exposed an undercover agent, for whatever reason, he's dead meat. If he did so inadvertently, he's a dangerous fool. That he was messing around with such information may possibly expose him to charges of violating the espionage act and treason (argued convincingly here).

Oh crap. But Digby argues after looking at the two source documents Rove was defending someone else: "... it's so absurd that they tried to make these questions about Joe Wilson's wife so central to the story. The story is about Dick Cheney. And they knew it. If he hadn't defaulted to his patented South Carolina smear tactics, Karl would be in a much safer place today."

He was the man who really pushed for this war in all the agencies.

How this will all come out? Rove in trouble? Cheney in trouble? Did John Bolton set this all up? (Quite possible - see this.) Was Jeff Gannon, the gay male escort (ah, those full-frontal nude photos on the web) that the White House planted as a fake news reporter, involved? (Quite possible - see this.)

Events swirl on.

What of Bob Novak - still a big star on CNN and the subject of no investigations at all?

"The artist, like the God of the creation, remains within or behind or beyond or above his handiwork, invisible, refined out of existence, indifferent, paring his fingernails." - James Joyce (1882-1941), "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man," Chapter 5 (1916).

Posted by Alan at 23:29 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, 14 July 2005 23:44 PDT home


Topic: God and US

Sequels: The Triumph of Hope Over Experience

Readers may perhaps recall "Justice Sunday" organized by the Family Research Council the evening of April 24 - organized to end the Senate tradition of the filibuster as it was keeping good Christians off the Supreme Court - "The filibuster was once abused to protect racial bias, and it is now being used against people of faith." Bill Frist, majority leader in the Senate, spoke.

The rally, or revival meeting, or whatever it was, was covered in these pages: April 17: I love the smell of theocratic McCarthyism in the morning..., April 24: The Christians are going after the Christians as to who are the real Christians..., and May 1: The Oppressed Minority - Christians in America and Conservative Republicans.

Thought you were done with the Christian evangelicals arguing the courts had to be taken back from man for God? Well, they were blindsided the last time when a bunch of moderates decided compromise was a pretty good idea (making Bill Frist look bad), but with Sandra Day O'Conner retiring and Rehnquist so ill, they're back.
Two Rivers Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee will host Family Research Council's simulcast television program, "Justice Sunday II - God Save the United States and this Honorable Court" Sunday, August 14. Justice Sunday II, the follow-up to "Justice Sunday - Stopping the Filibuster Against People of Faith," will broadcast live in churches across the nation in addition to being carried on hundreds of radio stations, via satellite and webcast on this site.
Well, much to their disappointment, late in the evening on Thursday, July 14, Rehnquist threw in another monkey wrench, or as the Brits say, a spanner in the works. He's not going to retire.

One suspects they'll have the event anyway.

Scheduled to speak? Senator Zell Miller, and of course James Dobson of Focus on the Family - and Chuck Colson of the Prison Fellowship Ministries (remember him from Watergate?) - and Bill Donohue of the Catholic League, along with Phyllis Schlafly of Eagle Forum. No word on whether Bill Frist will make a return appearance.

Perhaps we won't cover the event this time. They wouldn't let us in anyway: "Important: Members of the media must register for FRC media credentials prior to the event."

Whatever.

And Frist has other worries: Frist rebuts complaint, denies he hid $1.44M loan - Cox News, The Tennessean

Oops.

Maybe this time they could get the Republican governor of California to join in.

But Arnold Shwarzenegger has other problems: Gov. to Be Paid $8 Million by Fitness Magazines: The publications rely heavily on advertising for dietary supplements. Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill that would have regulated their use.

Oops. These publications derive much of their profit from advertisements for nutritional supplements. Last year, Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill seeking to crack down on the use of performance-enhancing substances in high school sports. The bill's sponsor, Democratic state Senator Jackie Speier, called on Schwarzenegger to sever his ties with the publisher. "The governor of the state of California makes some important decisions every day. Today, he has to make a decision about a conflict of interest - his own," Speier said during a Capitol news conference.

Damn.

So the superhero is unavailable. And things have been going dreadfully for him. His approval ratings have tanked - worse than the guy he replaced in the recall election a few years ago. And when his advisor's notes were leaked, that hurt - as the plan was to paint the teachers, police and firemen out here as greedy bastards who were out to stay rich and hurt the common man what with their unions and all. But it seems folks still think teachers, police and firemen are underpaid and pretty good folks. That's not going well, and then there are the photos of Arnold tooling around in one of his fleet of Hummers and smoking big cigars.

Ah, the Family Research Council doesn't need the grief.

Oh, they'll rope in a few more speakers, but this time around no one much will care. As we know out here in Hollywood, few sequels are as good as the original show. Coming soon to theater near you (July 6), The Dukes of Hazzard - feature film based on a fourth-rate television show. Jessica Simpson as Daisy Duke, Burt Reynolds as Boss Hogg. Huh? But I like Joe Don Baker a lot. Lynda Carter (once Wonder Woman) is Pauline and Willie Nelson is Uncle Jesse.

But sequels? Who cares?

Posted by Alan at 21:59 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
home


Topic: World View

Common Decency is so Overrated

Tom Watson, over at The Huffington Post, as James Wolcott notes, discusses the difference between how the folks in Britain mourned our losses on September 11th and how the leader of the free world breezed out of the summit after their losses over there last week. He titles it Bush's Flight From Terror: God Save the Queen -
On the morning of September 13th, 2001, the officer in charge of the Coldstream Guards Band and 1st Battalion Scots Guards received a call from Buckingham Palace. Banish tradition. The music accompanying that day's tourist-swathed ceremony at the changing would be different. That day, the band played The Star-Spangled Banner. The Brits were with us.

Four years later, still firmly at the side of the United States in general, and this administration specifically, the British felt the domestic blow of what most Americans and Britons agree is a common enemy - even if we disagree on the prosecution of the struggle against that enemy.

Our President, George W. Bush, was actually in the United Kingdom when terror struck London. He was in Scotland, a two-hour flight from Heathrow. Understandably, he and the other leaders completed the G8 summit, unbowed by the carnage in the London transit system.

And then our President came home.

And in doing so, he knowingly cast a gob of bitter spittle in the face of our constant ally, and disgraced the United States of America.

Why didn't President Bush visit London? Why didn't he walk the streets, take a few questions from the press, show the power of his office to Londoners? Stand at the side of Tony Blair and Ken Livingstone?
Wolcott's answer?
Because, to repeat myself, he just couldn't be bothered.

But it is unfair to single out Bush. The Bush/Rush/Fox News/Ann Coulter/National Review mindless blare of American exceptionalism and entitlement has helped enlist millions of Americans into the ranks of selfish bastards. "We are all Britons" blogtalk is cheap, like wearing another one of those goddam colored wristbands to signal that you nominally support a cause (sympathy as kitsch). Yet again the American eagle has exposed its chicken feathers and rubber beak in the face of adversity.
And Wolcott points to Simeon Jenkins writing at the same site from London -
Can anyone on your side help? Five days after we had four bombs explode on the London Tube and with everyone saying, stay calm and stay normal, US Air Force officials ordered personnel in Britain to avoid London, whether or not in uniform and including their families. The order has since been rescinded, but the damage is done.

London must be one of the safest cities on Earth. The only conceivable purchase the terrorists can get is by sowing fear, a fear which is statistically irrational - Americans are more at risk on the roads round their bases than in the capital. Yet Washington handed Al-Qaeda a free publicity coup on a plate. It incidentally had every front page and every pub bar ranting about cowardly Americans, jeering at the US Marines 'We are not afraid' website, which adds 'We stand with our British brothers and sisters.'
Well if you haven't been following that see this from CNN or this from the BBC. I think the idea was that London was now a bombed-out ruin of a city, just a shell of what it one was, and full of mad bombers who would kill Americans with roadside bombs at the drop of a hat. It seems we got it confused with Baghdad, Mosul or Fallujah. Oops. Well, we lifted the ban. But the ban didn't go unnoticed - Thursday night Google shows 230 news stories about it from around the world.

Wolcott comments -
We are quite willing to stand by our British brothers and sisters, as long as we can stand a good safe distance and still do our shopping.

To me, the greatest insult to the British and their losses was delivered today, all the more insulting because it was thoughtless and unintentional.

I was watching the news of the two minutes of silence held for the victims of the London bombings, a silent vigil held not just in London but across Europe.
Britain's Queen Elizabeth stood in silence at Buckingham Palace. In London's Trafalgar Square, a giant banner declared 'One City, One World.'

Taxis and buses pulled over, workers left their offices to stand in the street and financial markets paused to remember the dead.

In Italy, government offices, railway stations and airports paused while television stations cut into normal broadcasting to honour the London dead.

In Paris, President Jacques Chirac's annual Bastille Day television address was put back so the French could mark the moment. Chirac stood silent on the steps of the Elysee Palace.
Has the United States or even simply Washington, DC held a silent moment for the victims of the London bombings? Has any national gesture of solidarity been proposed?

If so, I haven't seen or heard of it. We're just going about our business while insisting that the world perpetually acknowledge our scars and trauma from September 11th as our justification to wage whatever aggressive action we deem necessary to ensure it never happens again.

For months, we've been hearing and reading that Brits no longer discriminate between average Americans and the policies of our government - that the reelection of Bush has made them hold us in something of the same contempt they hold him. Well, they have good reason, and we keep furnishing them with better reasons all the time.
Yeah, well, we're special. They're not.

No good will come of this.

It used to be Americans abroad were seen as bumbling loud fools, kind of eternal children and a bit embarrassing - but everyone knew, really, all that could be forgiven as we were, at bottom, absurdly generous and always willing to help, and were the kind of folks you could count on. We came late to the two big World Wars, but we came, and did our best. We got things done. At bottom people recognized a common decency.

Now? Now we do torture-lite and we're proud of it. And we laugh at treaties. And sneer at such things as any international court. Bolton will, eventually, go to the UN to slap those folks around. And so on and so forth.

The ridiculously empathetic Clinton has been replaced by the we-look-out-for-only-us Bush. In London, every front page and every pub bar ranting about cowardly Americans, jeering at the US Marines 'We are not afraid' website? Great.

Well, we elected the man. He got more votes than the other guy, really, because of his attitude. We liked the swagger. It represented how we wanted to feel.

And if we want to walk away from the community of man? Fine. Screw 'em.

And we'll live with the consequences. Of course we will.

Posted by Alan at 20:12 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, 14 July 2005 20:14 PDT home

Wednesday, 13 July 2005

Topic: World View

Our Man in Paris: Bastille Day (Eve)

Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis, reports on the Bastille Day celebrations, which are traditionally the night before. At his site you would find this:
Big Scene, Bastille - this year Brazil's Minister of Culture, Gilberto Gil, is the star performer at this popular 'bal' to be held at the Bastille on the evening of Wednesday, 13. July. Expect a really big show here, perhaps all night long.
And his report from the scene? This came to Hollywood, Wednesday, July 13, 2005, at 4:35 PM Pacific Time - just after midnight on Bastille Day in Paris -
It was a warm night in Paris, summer living room temperature, and the mayor invited all of us to the Bastille for a bit of Brazilian fun. On arrival the band wasn't tuning up, it was playing. It kept on playing, ah, that Brazilian sound, sounding so much better live and amplified than – anywhere else. Hit of the evening, Brazil's minister of culture Gilberto Gil, after several evenings of rehearsals and a full day of diplo receptions - doing his hits and the crowd goes - bump, arms in the air, Latin boogie - and just after 10 pm there's the mayor, old Bertie with his pal Lula, and he does the interpreting and the crowd cheers whatever Lula says, including viva Francia y viva Brazilia!! They are going to be there all night, grooving. Class act for a change.
And here's a photo from on the scene:



















Over at Ric's site you'll find what else is on for Bastille Day -
Les Sapeurs - Pompiers - have a tradition of turning their firehalls into dancehalls for the Fête de la Bastille. The 'bals' will be held on the evenings of Wednesday, 13 July and Thursday, 14 July. At various locations in Paris and throughout France. These 'bals' are popular so you are advised to arrive early. Some feature live music, others have DJs. Initially held in 1937, the first 'bal' lasted until the afternoon of the next day, and everyone at it missed the Champs?Elys?es parade.

Mairie of the 3rd - in addition to the firemen some city halls stage Bastille Day fêtes too, such as this one to be held on Wednesday, 13 July, from 21:30 until 02:00. At Rue Eugène Spuller, Paris 3, this is also part of the Festival Soirs d'Eté program.

Bastille Day Parade - this always takes place on the whole Champs?Elysées, from Etoile to the Place de la Concorde. The parade begins at 10:00 and will last until about 11:30. This is a rain or shine affair, so be prepared. To be on Thursday, 14 July. The official viewing stand is usually set up at the Place de la Concorde. Paris 8. Métros - count on the Métro stops at Etoile, George V, Franklin Roosevelt, Clemenceau and Concorde being closed. Plan to arrive by foot or from the next nearest ones. This is also the day that Paris plays host to the military, so buy that sailor a drink!

Fireworks - fans will have their night on Thursday, 14. July, beginning about 22:30. The rockets will be fired off from the Trocadéro's gardens, so the best place to be is across the Seine on the Champ de Mars, with possibly 350,000 other Fête Nationale fans. Another good viewpoint is the Pont de Bir Hakeim, for early arrivals. The show usually lasts about 40 minutes, and is held rain or shine. Paris 7. Métros ? Alma-Marceau, Ecole Militaire, Bir Hakeim or La Motte-Picquet-Grenelle - also the RER 'C' line stops of Pont de l'Alma and Champ de Mars.
Got it?

Out here in Los Angeles, Leslie Brenner, married to a French person, says this in the Los Angeles Times food section:
Thursday is Bastille Day - or le 14 Juillet, as it's known in France. For me, that's cause to think about French food. And to bemoan the fact that my husband and son and I won't be going to France this summer as usual to visit my in-laws, who are obsessed with the stuff.
And then she reminisces about the French language -
Their love for food is equal only to their love for slang, and French slang, to an amazing degree, is food related.

Spend some time speaking French with French people, and you'll hear things like "Regardez ce quart de Brie" - meaning "look at that quarter-wheel of Brie." That's a favorite phrase of my husband, and it refers not to cheese but to someone with a huge nose. (And in southwest France, where my in-laws live, there's no shortage of those.)

If my mother-in-law remarks that her niece is pedaling in the sauerkraut (elle pédale dans la choucroute), that means she doesn't understand diddly squat.

And if your rear end is surrounded by noodles (le cul bordé de nouilles), that means you're extremely lucky.

Lately, missing France and reflecting on how deeply the French obsession with food is embedded in the language, I was prompted to compile a list of these expressions. Some are predictable, like "bon comme du bon pain" (good like good bread) or "maigre comme un haricot" (skinny as a string bean); "faire du blé" (to make money) is close to the English "earn some dough."

Others are much more colorful.
And she lists her favorites:
Some serious sorrel (de l'oseille): Plenty of money.

I could eat a parish priest rubbed with garlic (Je pourrais manger un curé frotté d'ail): I could eat a horse.

Oh, mashed potatoes! (Oh purée!): Darn it!

I can eat my soup on your head (Je peux manger ma soupe sur ta tête): I'm a head taller than you.

Zucchini (courgette): Head.

Coffeepot (cafetière): Head.

She's working from her coffeepot (Elle travaille de la cafetière): She's a bit out of it.

Worry about your own onions (Occupe-toi de tes oignons): Mind your own business.

Onions (oignons): Buttocks.

Make fried marlin eyes (Faire des yeux de merlans frits): Make goo-goo eyes.

Your rear end is surrounded by noodles (Tu as le cul bordé de nouilles): You're extremely lucky.

Go ahead, tall unhooker of sausages! (Va donc, grand dépendeur d'andouilles!): Go ahead, you big lug! (The guy who unhooks the andouilles from the ceiling must be very tall and not very smart.)

You're turning my blood into blood sausage (Tu me fais tourner le sang en boudin): You're worrying me.

To have two eggs on the plate (avoir deux oeufs sur le plat): To be flat-chested.

She has the banana (Elle a la banane): She's got a big smile.

That puts the butter in the spinach (?a met du beurre dans les épinards): That's icing on the cake.

You want the butter and the money of the butter (Tu veux le beurre et l'argent du beurre): You can't have your cake and eat it too.

He's sugaring his strawberries (Il sucre les fraises): He's old and senile, one foot in the grave.

Fall in the apples (tomber dans les pommes): To faint.

To be a cooking oil (être une huile): To be high-ranked, a big cheese.

Land a peach (mettre une pêche): Punch someone in the face.

Ears like cauliflowers (des oreilles en chou-fleur): Big ears.

Make some salads (faire des salades): Tell tales out of school.

A veal (un veau): A sluggish car.

Push on the mushroom (Appuie sur le champignon): Step on the gas.

Make a total cheese (en faire tout un fromage): Make a big deal out of something.

She pedals in the sauerkraut (Elle pédale dans la choucroute): She doesn't understand diddly squat.

A noodle (une nouille): An idiot.

Right in the pear (en pleine poire): Right in the face.

Make the leek (faire le poireau/poireauter): Wait impatiently for someone.

Send the sauce (envoyez la sauce): Make an effort.

He has some brioche (Il a de la brioche): He has a potbelly.

She has the heart of an artichoke, she has an artichoke heart (Elle a le coeur d'artichaut): She's sentimental.

A big asparagus (grande asperge): A tall person.

Spitting in the soup (cracher dans la soupe): Being overly critical or ungrateful.

Send a chestnut (envoyer un marron): Punch someone in the face.

That's turning to vinegar (?a tourne au vinaigre): The situation's out of hand/going badly.

He's not in his plate (Il n'est pas dans son assiette): He's not himself.

The carrots are cooked (Les carottes sont cuites): It's too late to do anything about it.

The end of the string beans (la fin des haricots): The biggest deal possible, in a catastrophic way.
And so on and so forth.

Happy Bastille Day.

If you want to see what the Bastille Day Parade in Paris was like, TF1 has pictures - Le défilé du 14 juillet en images - and if you click on the video tab you can watch the event.

Reader reactions to the Los Angeles Times item on French sayings? From our expatriate friend in Paris, or is it Belgium?
I've only consciously heard a few of these, but they aren't really in popular usage. You tend to hear them from older people in the country.

My personal favorite is « Il n'ai inventé pas la fil qui couper la beurre ? » - "He didn't invent the wire that cuts butter!" - i.e. he isn't that smart.

As for Bastille Day, I won't be celebrating it as I've become a royalist. Let the monarchs do with the little froggies what they will. Perhaps that will whip them into shape and sweep away the post socialist malaise, non?
Our columnist Bob Patterson recalls, as do well all, the term of endearment - calling someone your little chou chou - little cabbage (or Brussels spout). And that prompts this from our French-Canadian friend in London (Ontario) -
My folks used that one once in a while. (And on the subject of cabbage, there's that 8mm film of me and my sister at about age four, kneeling on the floor and looking like chickens... actually we were singing a kids song about planting cabbage with your nose!) Animals were popular terms of endearment... my father also called me a young wolf, a young veal and a muskrat... jeune loup, jeune veau and rat musque.

But my favorite food-related saying that my dad used if one was getting out of control or overly mad or excited was « Tu ferais mieux de mettre un peu d'eau dans ton vin » - You'd best put a little water in your wine...

And if you didn't, you might end up "eating a slap"... manger une claque.
As for eating a slap, as it were, note these also from Bastille Day:

France Sees Bastille Day Car-Burning, Violence (AFP)
Chirac Combative In Key Bastille Day Address (AFP)
Sarkozy ridicules Chirac's 'pointless' Bastille Day speech (The Independent UK)
Eat French Food, Live Longer, Says Chirac (AFP)

And of course, Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis, had his regular Thursday Club Metropole meeting on Bastille Day, on the Right Bank, with some notes on the event.





























The oddest news on Bastille Day from Paris, via AFP? Do You Speak Harry Potter? Book Craze Has French Kids Reading English - which speaks volumes to the decline of France.


__

FOOTNOTE ON FRENCH RESTAURANTS IN LOS ANGELES:

Also from the Los Angeles Times see this:
Bastide's Ludovic Lefebvre is among the chefs sneaking soda pop and popcorn into the dining room. Just look at the poulard on his summer menu.

The plumped chicken is marinated in Pepsi for about 48 hours, then braised. How American is that? Very, says the Burgundy-born chef. "In America, I always see people eating chicken and drinking Coke," he says.

"I love using popcorn too," adds Lefebvre, who pairs the poulard with a mixture of fresh corn, polenta, popcorn and salted butter.

A couple of other carbonated dishes pop up at the Melrose Place restaurant, both made with orange-flavored Nehi soda. Order the poached lobster with udon noodles and, tableside, a waiter will spritz the lobster with a blend of Nehi, sake and fresh orange juice. For dessert, a touch of mad soda science: Lefebvre freezes Nehi with liquid nitrogen to make a creamy topping for a hot chocolate souffl?.

Also fizzing things up is pastry chef Tim Butler of Providence, the stylish new seafood place on Melrose Avenue. He freezes Brandenburg ginger ale to make a granité (the French version of granita) and pairs it with diced elephant heart plums or pluots as a palate cleanser between the cheese and dessert courses.

Over at Beechwood in Venice, chef Brooke Williamson's into carbonation chemistry. She uses Coke to marinate the skirt steak and to braise the short ribs featured on the bar menu.

"It tenderizes the meat," she says, and "breaks down the fibrous tissue that makes the meat tough. Also, it adds a nice, sweet, caramelizing flavor. It's used a lot in Korean barbecue marinades. That's where I learned it."

When Williamson's not pouring Coke, she's popping corn for garnish. She adorns a peanut butter truffle tart with homemade Cracker Jack and tops puréed corn soup with popcorn.

A few blocks away at Joe's, soft-shell crab is enrobed in coarsely ground popcorn and tempura batter before hitting the deep fryer. The popcorn, says chef-owner Joe Miller, "adds a little extra so it's really puffy."

Customers "may not know it's popcorn," he says. "But it would definitely stick out as 'What is that?' "

But for those of you who prefer popcorn simply buttered and salted, and your soda straight up, see you at the movies.
Whatever.

Posted by Alan at 18:57 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, 14 July 2005 19:22 PDT home

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