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"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, 6 January 2006

Topic: World View

Our Man in Paris: Music Near Alesia
From Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis - this is Friday night in Paris. On the topic of accordions, also see this from Ric, a photo essay on Paris Accordéon, 80, rue Daguerre.

Café Insolite

Paris, Friday, January 6, 2006 –

Folks are digesting New Years or maybe watching television. It's cold and breath fogs but wild youth is on its way to somewhere with cast iron stomachs. What else are they doing in the streets? I got a call that the accordion is at the Café Insolite tonight so I went over to the marché and the avenue and found the Rue Couédic around the corner from the Café d'Orléans. Not far away but a place I never noticed before. Inside the usual gang hogging tables and Dany and Nini doing the accordion, with local civilians hanging off the bar that seems to be serving mussels to the whole world. Dany and Nini have strong lungs, pumped up from years of practice in cafés and bars with a loud joker lurched off the bar. French songs that go with accordions all have a thousand words, twenty choruses, and require big voices, much louder than any jukebox. Some folks dance, everybody claps, more mussels are spread around and the joker keeps on rattling away. Nini asks me to tell them if the photos are good so they can add prints to their 'book.' Dany tells me she lives in my building, on the ground floor where the concierge used to be. I didn't recognize her, not for three years, without her accordion. On the way back three basket boys are harassing the old hermit who lives on a homemade sofa on the avenue. The kind of basketheads the guy eats I think.

The accordion night is once a month and Dennis told me the place is usually packed, but it's cold and January.

Text and Photo Copyright © 2005 - Ric Erickson, MetropoleParis

Note on principal translations: insolite

- adj - out of the ordinary, strange (étrange), bizarre

Additionally - as masculine noun - unfamiliarity (étrangeté)

Posted by Alan at 17:26 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 6 January 2006 17:27 PST home

Friday, 30 December 2005

Topic: World View

Our Man in Paris - This is Snow?
From Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis - an account of snow in Paris. Here in Hollywood it's in the middle sixties, just a few clouds and milky haze all day, and palm trees and all that.

This Is Snow?

PARIS, Friday, December 30, 2005 -

This morning I planned to go to Etoile to shoot the traditional, if rare, view of the Arc de Triomphe blotted out by a Parisian blizzard. As part of the preparation I turned on radio France-Info to get the weather forecast. It said snow in Brittany was coming here, to be followed later in the afternoon by freezing rain. Hotcha, hotcha, get the photo!

One New Years Eve in the late '70s a freezing rain descended on Paris in the late afternoon and froze the whole city. Only the Métros kept running. Drivers, who had been taking in movies to while away their idle hours before the fête, emerged to find that they were frozen out of their cars. The whole place was a big skidbahn. Just about everybody went nowhere that New Years Eve and the leftover booze lasted until Valentine's Day.

I looked out the window and the Tour Montparnasse was gone, lost in the murk. The street below was rapidly covered and the four black lines left by car tires turned gray as the snow thickened. Well and fine, but not quite a blizzard. Need to wait a bit more to see if it's going to be a true blitz.

So I went out for supplies; cigarettes and money. The snow seemed to have stopped, but my head was immediately wet. Hours in advance, despite France-Info, the freezing rain was here. It felt like icy needles, especially when pushed by the breeze from the south. Ghastly is the best word for it. If this keeps up the whole city will be glassed, slicker than the ice rink at the Hôtel be Ville. It's not weather for sending enemies out for a bit of fun.

Not only this but freezing rain doesn't show well in photos. I could go out there and end up in the emergency ward with a broken leg, cohabiting with the bent scooter drivers and other hapless victims too foolhardy to stay in.

If the freezing rain is earlier than expected, maybe we'll have the predicted thaw by nightfall. And before you know it Paris Plage will be beckoning with its wavering palms, grass skirts and Hawaiian guitars. It's a sure thing, eventually.

Text and Photo Copyright © 2005 - Ric Erickson, MetropoleParis

See also -

Parisians Venture Out Into the Snow
Snow disrupts Europe as temperatures plummet
Europe Hammered By A Second Snowstorm

Posted by Alan at 14:14 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Tuesday, 27 December 2005

Topic: World View

A matter of perspective...

Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis, whose "Our Man in Paris" columns appear each week in Just Above Sunset, seems to be amused by what he sees in the European press that seems to all point back to California, and maybe Hollywood specifically, as the center of some sort of madness. People always think that of Hollywood, but they may be onto something.

Tuesday, December 27th, Ric pointed me to the exploits of an extremely wealthy car dealer, Robert Holmes Tuttle, whose father, Holmes Tuttle, ran a group of dealerships in and around Beverly Hills. The son expanded that. Until recently he was managing partner of the Tuttle-Click Automotive Group down in Irvine, in ultra-conservative Orange County, home of the John Birch society and all that. This Tuttle-Click Automotive Group is one of the largest chains of dealers in the country - they're all over California and Arizona. But Robert Holmes Tuttle doesn't do that any longer. He's now our ambassador to Saint James Court, or, if you will, our ambassador to Great Britain. He's been there since the middle this year, putting his foot in his mouth.

Selling cars is something he could do. International diplomacy seems a bit more difficult for him. As with Michael Brown, who made the transition from the American Arabian Horse Society, where he was in-house council, to running FEMA, presidential appointments can make you feel real good about yourself, even if you have no qualifications for the job. But then things can turn to dust real fast.

So what's up with the fellow Ric calls "Tuttle, Hometown Hollywood Boy" these days?

Well, there's this -
- US Embassy Close to Admitting Syria Rendition Flight
- Statement Contradicts Ambassador's Interview
- Correction Could Leave Britain Open to Challenge
That's from The Guardian (UK), as it seems our embassy there was forced to correct a claim by ambassador Tuttle, that there is "no evidence ... that there have been any renditions carried out in the country of Syria."

There is. And now he's put the Brits in an awkward position. He claimed we would never fly suspected terrorists to Syria. Syria has one of the worst torture records in the Middle East. But a clarifying statement acknowledged media reports of a suspect taken from the United States to Syria.

Yep, he's got that administration problem. Say it simply never happened, discover it's all over the press and there's pretty good evidence it did happen, then say perhaps it might be true but we should all be patient until all the facts are in. Then get rid of the damned facts, if you can. The obvious two lessons to be learned here are clear. Say very little - don't ever issue blanket denials - and read the papers, or at least have someone coach you on current events.

Like he'd never heard of Maher Arar, that Canadian software engineer whose family long ago immigrated to Canada from Syria? He was arrested in New York three years ago and transferred to Jordan, then to Syria, where he said he was tortured. He first came up in these pages here (December 2003) and five other times (most recently here last August). This was big deal and all over the press, particularly in Canada of course. It's not like no one knew of such a thing.

So what does this glorified car salesman say in his BBC interview? This - "I don't think there is any evidence that there have been any renditions carried out in the country of Syria. There is no evidence of that. And I think we have to take what the secretary [Condoleezza Rice] says at face value. It is something very important, it is done very carefully and she has said we do not authorize, condone torture in any way, shape or form."

Trust Condi. We'd never do such a thing. But then our embassy spokeswoman two days later says the ambassador "recognized that there had been a media report of a rendition to Syria but reiterated that the United States is not in a position to comment on specific allegations of intelligence activities that appear in the press."

That fits the pattern mentioned above.

Perhaps someone should offer to provide Tuttle a press summary every few days, a briefing on what's happening in the world, and quiz him to make sure he gets the basics, kind of like the White House staff preparing that CD of news stories for the president three days after Hurricane Katrina, so he could catch up on the news - "There was a big Hurricane, sir, and perhaps you should be briefed." Someone should have told Tuttle about the Arar thing. Maybe someone should start briefing him on current issues in the world of diplomacy. Then he might have not stepped into a flat denial but been a little more, say, diplomatic.

But now the spokeswoman had to say things regarding the reports the CIA used British airports to refuel for rendition flights, which would contravene British law - "We take our actions in the fight against terrorism with full respect for our international obligations and with full respect for the sovereignty of our partners."

She covered for him, but he came pretty close to an admission of at least one flight to Syria refueling in the UK. When asked if he knew whether we had sought permission from Britain, Tuttle said Rice had maintained that rendition would respect each country's sovereignty. His reply would seem to imply we had sought permission, possibly leaving the British government open to challenge. They're sweating now.

Such things happen when you send a Beverly Hills car salesman in to do a job international diplomacy. The item notes also last month Tuttle "vigorously denied British media reports that American forces used white phosphorus as a weapon in Iraq," only to be undercut by an admission from the Pentagon the next day.

This guy needs to get in the loop. He needs a quick primer on what's going on. Someone must have told him that wasn't necessary. He was misinformed.

So who is he? The official blurb on him, from the embassy is here - Stanford and an MBA from USC, and a successful businessman and all that. And the unofficial version is here -
A managing partner of the Tuttle-Click Automotive Group, Tuttle also worked as director of presidential personnel in the Reagan White House. His father, Holmes, earned a footnote in the history books in 1946 when he sold a car to an out-of-work actor named Ronald Reagan.

Tuttle and his immediate family made at least $201,725 in political contributions during the 2000, 2002 and 2004 election cycles, none of which went to Democrats. That figure includes $8,000 to the Bush campaign, $25,000 to Bush's second inaugural committee and $5,000 to the Bush-Cheney recount fund established after the 2000 election. Separately, Tuttle's automotive company donated $100,000 to the president's first inaugural committee. Tuttle was also listed as a Pioneer for Bush's 2004 reelection campaign for having raised more than $100,000 in contributions for the president.
You get the idea. He paid his dues. He got the gig. No one told him he had to do anything. Typical.

So what else did Ric in Paris notice?

This in the December 27th New York Times from Richard Bernstein - Hometown Snubs Schwarzenegger Over Death Penalty. Parisians would see that in the International Herald Tribune, the Times' European paper. And of course that got bigger play there than here. As one of the few countries in the world that still executes criminals, we are seen there as somewhat barbaric for insisting governments have the right to kill their own citizens. France dropped that in the eighties. There is no death penalty in Europe. They do think it barbaric.

Here in California, two-thirds of the population doesn't. Schwarzenegger knows that. Here the story was a joke on the news shows.

From the Times -
For years the quaint Austrian town of Graz trumpeted its special relationship with its outsize native son, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Born in a village nearby and schooled in Graz, Mr. Schwarzenegger was an honorary citizen and holder of the town's Ring of Honor. Most conspicuously, the local sports stadium was named after him.

But early on Monday, under cover of darkness, his name was removed from the arena in a sort of uncontested divorce between the California governor and the town council, which had been horrified that he rejected pleas to spare the life of Stanley Tookie Williams, former leader of the Crips gang, who was executed by the state of California two weeks ago.

The 15,000-seat stadium had been named after Mr. Schwarzenegger in 1997 as an act of both self-promotion and fealty toward the poor farmer's son and international celebrity, who has always identified Graz as his native place.

But when he declined to commute Mr. Williams's death penalty, the reaction was swift and angry in Graz, which, like most places in Europe, sees the death penalty as a medieval atrocity.

"I submitted a petition to the City Council to remove his name from the stadium, and to take away his status as an honorary citizen," Sigrid Binder, the leader of the Green Party, said in a recent interview. "The petition was accepted by a majority on the council."
The Williams execution was covered in these pages, in detail, here, but what's going on with Graz is a whole different thing. Schwarzenegger had already sent back the town's Ring of Honor, and tried to preempt these folks by telling them to take his name off everything there.

Why? He's in deep trouble out here. He's up for reelection next year, and running at thirty-six percent approval ratings. His special election to change the rules went down in flames - all six of his initiatives were defeated. He told everyone the public employees unions were all greedy bastards, and then the folks rallied behind the police and teachers and firemen. He had said he'd never consult and work with the state legislature on tax issues and state funding - they were all "economic girly-men." It was his way or nothing. Now he can't get anything done.

All that backfired.

And then the people of Graz did him a favor. Folks out her really like executions. Now he has leverage. He told these wimps to stuff it. He gets points out here for that. It's something.

Ric in Paris also sent along this from The Guardian from March 2003 -
The United States is conducting a secret 'dirty tricks' campaign against UN Security Council delegations in New York as part of its battle to win votes in favour of war against Iraq.

Details of the aggressive surveillance operation, which involves interception of the home and office telephones and the emails of UN delegates in New York, are revealed in a document leaked to The Observer.

The disclosures were made in a memorandum written by a top official at the National Security Agency - the US body which intercepts communications around the world - and circulated to both senior agents in his organisation and to a friendly foreign intelligence agency asking for its input.
This of course ties into the current issue here, Bush authorizing the NSA to spy on American citizens without any warrants, telling the NSA to ignore the clear law in the matter, and saying the law did not apply to anything he ordered, as he was the president.

Why did Ric send this now? Perhaps because of this - Rice Authorized National Security Agency To Spy On UN Security Council In Run-Up To War, Former Officials Say (Jason Leopold, Tuesday, December 27, 2005, Raw Story) -
President Bush and other top officials in his administration used the National Security Agency to secretly wiretap the home and office telephones and monitor private email accounts of members of the United Nations Security Council in early 2003 to determine how foreign delegates would vote on a U.N. resolution that paved the way for the U.S.-led war in Iraq, NSA documents show.

Two former NSA officials familiar with the agency's campaign to spy on U.N. members say then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice authorized the plan at the request of President Bush, who wanted to know how delegates were going to vote. Rice did not immediately return a call for comment.

The former officials said Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld also participated in discussions about the plan, which involved "stepping up" efforts to eavesdrop on diplomats.
The "news" (this is old stuff) was that even though Bush says all this massive scanning of telephone conversations and emails was to protect us from terrorism, it was too good a source of information to pass up in other matters.

This news of the NSA spying on the UN received some coverage in newspapers at the time, but now we're talking about using the NSA intercepts for political purposes too, not just tracking down communications regarding potential terrorist threats. The old story becomes new again.

We were wiretapping Hans Blix, and the home phones of diplomats to see how they'd vote and why. Eavesdropping on UN diplomats is authorized under the US Foreign Intelligence Services Act, even if it's still considered a violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

But the lie is the problem. The tool to uncover potential terrorist threats is really useful. The administration says they only use it for that purpose. But that doesn't seem so.

So what else was it used for, or on whom? John Kerry? Patrick Fitzgerald? Ex-wives? One never knows.

Oddly, though, for some of us the worrisome thing is not in these "big brother" issues.

There's something even more troubling than the government sweeping all electronic communication and consolidating its power by spying on everyone.

Of course Robert Steinback in the Miami Herald covers that and other matters here -
If, back in 2001, anyone had told me that four years after bin Laden's attack our president would admit that he broke U.S. law against domestic spying and ignored the Constitution - and then expect the American people to congratulate him for it - I would have presumed the girders of our very Republic had crumbled.

Had anyone said our president would invade a country and kill 30,000 of its people claiming a threat that never, in fact, existed, then admit he would have invaded even if he had known there was no threat - and expect America to be pleased by this - I would have thought our nation's sensibilities and honor had been eviscerated.

If I had been informed that our nation's leaders would embrace torture as a legitimate tool of warfare, hold prisoners for years without charges and operate secret prisons overseas - and call such procedures necessary for the nation's security - I would have laughed at the folly of protecting human rights by destroying them.

If someone had predicted the president's staff would out a CIA agent as revenge against a critic, defy a law against domestic propaganda by bankrolling supposedly independent journalists and commentators, and ridicule a 37-year Marie Corps veteran for questioning U.S. military policy - and that the populace would be more interested in whether Angelina is about to make Brad a daddy - I would have called the prediction an absurd fantasy.
But that is where we are. The president has thrown down the gauntlet. He is changing things, and this is a direct challenge. He broke the law, and will continue breaking it. This changes how the country is run, and the question is, are there enough people who will congratulate him for the change, so he can become something like "dictator for life," or will enough folks say no.

The man likes big gambles - like the preemptive war based on thin evidence of a justifiable threat. That's the way he thinks. Grab for what you want, and see what happens.

This is the biggest gamble. Has he read the situation right? Is this the moment he can take ultimate power? Maybe so.

In any event, that issue is what Ric in Paris inadvertently raised in the third item. Ric should send even more news nuggets. They get you thinking, even if that's alarming at times.

Posted by Alan at 20:49 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 27 December 2005 20:56 PST home

Wednesday, 7 December 2005

Topic: World View

Our Man in Paris: Howling Sirens
If it's Wednesday it must be Paris, and here, Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis, reports on the scene, politically (fallout from the riots, which we're really riots) and culturally (cool photos).

Howling Sirens

PARIS - Wednesday, December 7 -

I could tell it was the first Wednesday in the month and it was noon because the air raid sirens were howling. Twelve months a year, and next spring will make 30 years, which adds up to 720 times - because they hoot them twice to make sure. In my next life I will live through the Blitz to get it over with quickly.

Then radio France-Info polluted my breakfast air with updates to old news. It told me that Nicolas Sarkozy, France's short minister of civic troubles, had canceled a trip to Guadeloupe and Martinique.

Another bulletin, somewhat related, said that France's spooks of the interior have composed a confidential report that concluded the urban riots that Sarkozy set off were not caused by nefarious troublemakers, organized bad guys, the CIA, or religious fanatics trying to start a holy war. The kids were insulted by Sarkozy, although the report does not say so - Sarkozy is not a foreign terrorist group after all - they simply rioted for three weeks on their own steam until they got tired.

Then there was another report which I probably garbled on account of eating too loudly, about the CIA flights that landed at Bourget and some other airfield, flights from Iceland and Oslo - both unnotorious Islamic terrorist hotbeds. France denies these happened, or if it does not, wants to ask the CIA a couple of questions.

After breakfast I felt much better. So much so that it occurred to me that nobody wants to read about our exceptional riots or read one more word about Sarkozy, and it's all old news anyway.
Naw! Instead I decided to take myself out and trot down to Sèvres-Babylon to the Bon Marché, the Left Bank's only department store, and capture its Christmas lights. On the way, after stopping in Montparnasse to watch them smooth the ice on the rink for the fast kids on blades, it occurred to me that the Bon March?'s lights are never lit when I go there.

They weren't for the past two years, and both times it was really cold. Today it was not, so I kept on my guided path. And for those of little faith, let me say that perseverance pays off - with just enough skylight to mix with the store's lights, and enough sunset to give the camera problems.

With that little chore in the digital film can I took up my customary position in front of the TV for tonight's news, first on France-3, and who do I see immediately, but Sarkozy. Looking in the camera lens so sincerely, with so much white below his ball-bearing eyeballs that they looked like gull's eggs with black yolks.

He says he's not going to Guadeloupe and Martinique and it has noting to do with the stink he caused by saying Napoléon is wonderful - last week on the anniversary of Austerlitz, but also the anniversary of Napoléon reintroducing slavery. "Which 'official' history does France want to have?" he wants to know.

Well, in the islands, they are the descendants of the free people Napoléon decided were slaves, so there are all on strike and they are organized and waiting for the minister of the interior to show up, and now he's decided not to go, but that's not the reason. He did go to Corsica, didn't he? "I don't want to give the extreme left a reason to protest," he says on TV. The last French politician the folks in the Antilles didn't want to see was Jean-Marie Le Pen.

Then the very brown newslady went on to the 'confidential' report put together by the Renseignements généraux - spooks of the interior - which concluded that the disturbances were a form of 'unorganized insurrection, a kind of popular revolt, without a leader or a program.'

She didn't get a chance to say all this because Sarkozy persisted - and 'signed' - with his own interpretation. "I call hooligans hooligans when they are hooligans," with the whites under his eyeballs increasing, "we were facing organized bands - what about the 800 we arrested? Hooligans and delinquents create terror," he added, running on about domination of the suburbs by 'mafias' and 'drug dealers.' But never saying why his guys don't catch them, because nobody asks.

Besides being uninvited to the Antilles the short minister took another blow today when a court commission in Pontoise recommended against deporting a young rioter. He has lived in France since he was three, has correct papers, and no previous offenses on record. The commission was also skeptical about the facts of the case. Another court at Bobigny, at the very center of the disturbances, noted that few of the arrested had police records. Hardly the stuff mafias are made of.

It must not be forgotten that the minister of the interior is a busy man, as president of the wealthy Hauts-de-Seine department and president of the UMP, as well as self-proclaimed candidate for president of France. The UMP had a congress or meeting of some sort last week, when they gathered to decide to either hold a primary to chose a candidate, or decided not to.

As it is, Sarkozy is high in the polls, but Jacques Chirac's man, the prime minister Dominique de Villepin, is rising fast. Nobody can figure out who the polling people talk to, giving Sarkozy high scores. Socialists don't like him, the right wing UDFs don't trust him, the Communists, Verts and Anarchists can't stand him, he's got no friends in the Radical Left, and even some members of the UMP think he's a bit hairy.

It leaves a core of support within the right-right of the UMP, and the usual 10 percent of the ultra retros in the Front National. Does Nicolas Sarkozy want Jean-Marie Le Pen's job? The other way around is hardly credible.



Down by Sèvres-Babylon, the Bon Marché - one of the Hollywood editor's favorite places to buy stuffed toys at Christmas to haul back to the tykes out here in Southern California -

Shall we meet "At the Smoking Dog" with its cool neon sign? Note in the lower right, a Mini Cooper twin of the white Just Above Sunset staff car out here in Hollywood, next to a svelte Twingo (none of those out here) -

A classic Paris dive -

In lieu of a Los Angeles 7-11, this Paris "Superette" -

Text and Photos, Copyright © 2005 - Ric Erickson, MetropoleParis

Posted by Alan at 17:40 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 7 December 2005 17:51 PST home

Friday, 2 December 2005

Topic: World View

Hard Rice: Dominatrix Diplomacy

Well, we're doing a good job ticking off everyone around the world.

Our new UN ambassador - a recess appointment because the senate had a bit of trouble confirming a fellow who often said the organization was totally useless, we should pull out and let it die, and the place should be leveled - seems now to be coordinating his work at the UN with James Dobson, head of the Christian evangelical "Focus on the Family" group (see this for details). Of course - it is a problem that some of those countries at the UN aren't even Christian folk, like normal people. What should we do? James knows.

Bolton too has already ticked off the Brits, big time, by threatening to shut down all UN spending, which the Brits see as somewhat bonkers, and they were willing to disagree with our King George on the matter.

But it's important we get our way, isn't it? We cannot be seen as wimps. And what kind of religion do they have over there, anyway? The pope wasn't good enough for them so they came up with that Catholicism-lite Anglican stuff. Screw 'em.

But Bolton cannot offend everyone on his own. His boss, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, is joining in the fun.

Reuters has a late Friday afternoon scoop here (Friday, December 2nd, 3:30 PM Eastern), on how we plan to respond to the allegations we hold prisoners in secret in Eastern Europe - incommunicado and in violation of local and EU laws - and seem to have transported these "detainees" through small airports (and some large ones) to our "black sites" where we practice "enhanced interrogation" (seems like torture but we say it isn't).

For a month we've been refusing to deny or confirm media reports about whether we do this or not. The European public and various parliaments don't seem to want to participate in potential human rights violations, and some don't like their own laws being violated. One EU commissioner, Franco Frattini, said Monday he would propose the suspension of voting rights for any nation found to have hosted a secret detention center. Spain has been upset about us using their airports for stops on the way to oblivion and pain for those we think may be bad guys, or may know something about bad guys, or may know someone who knows something about bad guys. And Friday, December 2nd, the French figured out we've been using their airports - one on the coast and Orly - as refueling stops for the flights of those we are "disappearing." There's a bit of grumbling.

The Rice solution, if Reuters's sources are good, is that we're going to tell the effete fussbudget European wimps to just "back off." Rice is going to remind these "allies" they themselves have been cooperating in our anti-terror operations - and they should simply "do more to win over their publics."

In short, yeah, we do this, and the message will be clear to the leaders of the European nations - it's your jobs, not ours, to explain to your people that all this is just fine. It's necessary. And you know it.

This is said to be what Rice and the administration decided was the best way "to deflect criticism directed at the United States." In short, it's not our problem - it's yours.

A little detail from Reuters -
"It's very clear they want European governments to stop pushing on this," said a European diplomat, who had contact with U.S. officials over the handling of the scandals. "They were stuck on the defensive for weeks, but suddenly the line has toughened up incredibly," the diplomat said.

Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern said Rice told him in Washington she expected allies to trust that America does not allow rights abuses - a sign she will avoid giving Europe a detailed response on U.S. intelligence work.

And she refused to give Ahern a personal assurance Ireland has not been used for secret prisoner transfers, saying he had already heard that denial from the U.S. ambassador, a senior State Department official said.
That seems to be a clear "fuck you" to the Irish - we're doing this and there's nothing you can do about it, so tell your people we're the good guys, no matter what you think.

Ah, diplomacy!

And Reuters understands Rice will deliver just about the same message in private meetings with officials in Germany and at the EU headquarters in Brussels. This "in your face" trip starts Monday - and, to top it off, this excursion includes a stop in Romania. Romania denies the accusations it hosts a secret prison, but the evidence is pretty clear they do. Rice is sending a message here.

Will this work? Ahern said he accepts our word on matters from here on out. The Irish are no dummies - you don't mess with the bully.

"Germany, whose foreign minister also pressed Rice this week during a visit, said it would wait patiently for a US response."

Yeah, but the new chancellor, Merkle, will fall in line. The we-think-for-ourselves former chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, is gone. The new Iron Lady wants to be one the side of the Big Dog. She's no dummy.

The whole thing is a bit of theater - Rice will say, in public, that "Washington does not violate allies' sovereignty or break international law," and she will say in her speeches that there's no issue - all governments "are cooperating in a fight against militants who have bombed commuters in Madrid and London." There's nothing to see here, folks - move on. Behind the scenes she'll crack the whip (note the boots) - telling these folks to get in line and get their press and public under control.

And within an hour of the Reuters story, Associated Press ran this on the wire - White House Defends Human Rights Record.

Listen up -
The White House said Friday that the United States is the world leader on human rights, despite outrage in Europe over reports of secret CIA prisons where terrorism detainees may have been mistreated.

The administration has refused to address the question of whether it operated secret sites that may be illegal under European law, citing the constraints of classified information. Secret prisons and many harsh methods of interrogation would be illegal on U.S. soil.

"The president had made it very clear that we do not torture, he would never condone torture or authorize the use of torture," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said. "If someone doesn't abide by our laws, they're held accountable. That's the difference between us and others."
We do this stuff, but prosecute the low-level people actually involved in the physical act, so we're clean. In fact, that makes us good guys.

Well, that one way of looking at it.
"When it comes to human rights, there is no greater leader than the United States of America, and we show that by holding people accountable when they break the law or violate human rights, and we show that by supporting the advance of freedom and democracy and supporting those in countries that are having their human rights denied or violated, like North Korea," McClellan said.

"We show that by liberating people in Afghanistan and Iraq - some 50 million people. No one has done more when it comes to human rights than the United States of America. I think the American people understand."
Yeah, yeah - we do understand, sort of.

AP notes that Europe may be harder to persuade. The European Union's justice commissioner said that secret prisons would violate European law. That's something we need to work around.

And we see that these European lawmakers accused European Union countries Thursday of "failing to address allegations about CIA prisons and flights across the continent."

This should be interesting.

Sarah Ludford, a British member of the European Parliament's civil liberties committee -
I am not at all reassured that there is sufficient determination by (member states) to get to the bottom of this and establish the truth.

The allegations are now beyond speculation. We now have sufficient evidence involving CIA flights. We need to know who was on those flights, where they went.
Sarah and Condoleezza need to talk. Condi will set her straight, and make her shut up.

We will get our way. Maybe. And maybe not.

Posted by Alan at 18:50 PST | Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 2 December 2005 18:56 PST home

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