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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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Tuesday, 22 August 2006
Impulse, Intuition and Maturity
Topic: Couldn't be so...
Impulse, Intuition and Maturity
Something is up when the Associated Press, on Tuesday, August 22, runs something like this - a discussion of how "informality" is a reflection of President Bush's "style."

Maybe it was a slow news day, but it opens with this -
Stepping outside the boundaries of strict political and diplomatic protocol gets no more attention than when the president of the United States does it. And President Bush has been doing a lot of it recently.

He called Canada's prime minister by his first name, massaged German Chancellor Angela Merkel's shoulders and played tour guide to Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi at Graceland, the Memphis home of Elvis Presley.

His biggest gaffe was that caught-on-tape moment at the G-8 Summit last month with British Prime Minister Tony Blair - the one that featured Bush cursing and talking with his mouth full before a microphone that was supposed to be off. That set off tut-tuts around the globe.
Indeed it did.

But a good guess at what got the ball rolling on the whole issue was this single paragraph in US News and World Reports' "Washington Whispers" column -
Animal House in the West Wing

He loves to cuss, gets a jolly when a mountain biker wipes out trying to keep up with him, and now we're learning that the first frat boy loves flatulence jokes. A top insider let that slip when explaining why President Bush is paranoid around women, always worried about his behavior. But he's still a funny, earthy guy who, for example, can't get enough of fart jokes. He's also known to cut a few for laughs, especially when greeting new young aides, but forget about getting people to gas about that.
There certainly was a lot of comment on that - the president cutting farts in formal settings to shock people. And he likes to see others wipe out when they try too keep up with him on his bicycle - he laughs when they get hurt. So he's informal and competitive, if you're a forgiving sort looking at all this. If you're not the forgiving sort, it's somewhere between embarrassing and alarming.

Digby over at Hullabaloo is not the forgiving sort, one wanting to let this pass (sorry for the pun), as he says this -
The president who claimed he would bring honor and dignity to the White House is apparently known for puerile fart jokes - and even emits them in the office to play jokes on his aides. Me, I much prefer a grown up president who privately has sex in the oval office than one who farts publicly. But that's just me.

But this is the part I find interesting and the little blurb doesn't elaborate at all: "A top insider let that slip when explaining why President Bush is paranoid around women, always worried about his behavior."

Forget the farting. What's with the paranoia around women? (There is apparently a clinical term for it called "gynophobia" which I've never heard of until today.) It's quite clear that he doesn't know how to behave around powerful women he doesn't control, judging from his inappropriate groping of the prime minister of Germany. And I've often wondered about his relationship to Rice, Hughes and Mieres - the office wives. Is he afraid that he's going to accidentally pass gas or use a bad word in front of these women or does he let fly with women he knows and is just paranoid around strange women? I'm genuinely curious. This is very weird for any sixty year old man, much less a highly successful politician.

He is such an immature person that I think it's entirely possible that he's still stuck in that pre-pubescent little boy state where girls are just "yucky." That's how his behavior comes off anyway. There's some frat boy stuff, to be sure, especially in his behavior with other men. But I'm thinking that when it comes to women, he's stuck even further back than that - cub scouts, maybe. Did mommy lock him in the closet or something?
Who knows? But the immaturity seems to have come up as an issue now, when it hasn't been noticed before.

As for the business with German Chancellor Angela Merkel a month ago - sneaking up behind her and giving her a quick shoulder rub - that was just spooky. She practically jumped out of skin - you can watch the video of that here. She tried to be a good sport but this was way out of bounds.

That mid-July trip was disaster in some ways. The president tried to keep things light - Israel has just bombed the Beirut airport and things were looking grim, so he kept talking about how his was looking forward the pig roast that evening. Folks take things so seriously.

Jon Stewart at the time had the key clip and made a comment (video here) -
REPORTER: "Does it concern you that the Beirut airport has been bombed, and do you see a risk of triggering a wider war? And on Iran, they have so far refused to respond. Is it now past the deadline, or do they still have more time to respond?"

PRESIDENT BUSH: "I thought you'd ask about the pig."

JON STEWART: "There you have it. Comedy stylings from President George W. Bush. He'll be playing at the White House in Washington DC for the next two and a half years. I'm sure it's a 200-drink minimum."
And the Merkel massage elicited comments like this -
Well, Dear Leader really showed his true colors at this year's G8 summit. He's like your drunk uncle at the family barbecue; insulting the neighbors, interrupting conversations, tripping over the pets, until finally he's puking loudly and violently in the yucca plant and calling his new wife a stupid bitch for letting him get too wasted.

First came the roast pig. And no, unfortunately, that doesn't mean that John Bolton got a sunburn or set himself on fire with his own overheated rhetoric. It just means that early in the conference, when confronted with a non-softball question about the situation in Israel and Lebanon, Uncle Dubya declared that he'd rather talk about the fact that he gets to carve up the roast pig they're having for dinner.

Watch the video … and pay special attention to the look on German Chancellor Angela Merkel's face. That's what, in my family, we call "smiling through your teeth", also known as "smiling to keep from screaming". Oh, Angela! It's going to get worse for you before it gets, well, even worse.

Then came a little tragedy that I call "Open Mic Night at the Summit", in which Uncle Fucker, not having learned his lesson from that incident where he called New York Times reporter a "major league asshole" while sitting at a live mic, sat chawing away (with his mouth open!) on a buttered roll, talking arrogant smack for ALL THE WORLD TO HEAR while Tony Blair tried in vain to discuss the looming crisis in the ME.

… The thing that strikes me the most about that clip is not the s-word, not his cavalier attitude toward a crisis where hundreds if not thousands of people are suffering and dying, and not his disgusting table manners, but rather his completely fatuous and dismissive body language when speaking to the leader of the only country of import who supported his now-failed invasion of Iraq. He won't even turn and look at Blair. If that was your coworker or business partner acting that way at a conference, wouldn't you seriously start thinking about finding another job? 'Course, that might be just what Tony Blair needs to be doing.

… The piece de la resistance came, however, when Chimpy interrupted a conversation between Chancellor Merkel and Romano Prodi, the new Italian Prime Minister, to give Merkel a rather ham-fisted impromptu shoulder rub, which clearly not only squicked her out, but also managed to piss her off … in which she seems to be giving vent to the same frustration that all Reality-Based Americans currently feel toward this shrugging, mugging, bumbling dickhead we call "Mr. President", i.e., "BACK THE FUCK OFF, YOU FUCKING IDIOT!"

… And of course, just like your shit-heel uncle waking up the day after the barbecue and declaring that it was a GREAT party, you know Resident Bush went back to Washington thinking he really showed those mealy-mouthed furriners who's The Boss, dammit. Who needs them and their stupid summits anyway? They can't even speak English, fer god's sake!

Gawd. Wake me in 2009, somebody. I don't know how much more of this kind of embarrassment and disgust I can take. No wonder our image is plummeting all over the globe! We're being represented and (supposedly) governed by a guy that can't not be a spoiled, childish rube long enough to effectively participate in a meeting of, oh, only the most powerful nations on the planet. That's just great. I am SOOOOO proud to be an American that I could just puke on my shoes. Whooo-hoooo.
And there was this -
Every woman will recognize the guy who sidles up and starts "casually" giving you a backrub without even looking at you, because he wants to preserve deniability in case you freak out. Like any practiced groper, Bush stares right past Merkel as she recoils from his touch.
People were not impressed. And now we have the story of the farting to embarrass people. Oh my.

Still the AP item was very kind, noting that while "four-letter expletives" or a shoulder massage of a co-worker of the opposite sex "could raise eyebrows in many office settings" (in many states you could lose your job, as those of us who have worked in corporate human resources know quite well), the president gets a pass from the big-time etiquette experts.

One is of course, Letitia Baldrige, President Kennedy's social secretary and now the expert on what's proper - "Part of it is he comes from Texas, and they don't stand on a lot of formality in that state - I think you get the Eastern kind of aristocrats, like the old days, they're always going to be more formal, they're always going to have a jacket on." She says it's not much different than Jimmy Carter and Lyndon Johnson - both informal fellows.

Somehow it seems different.

And AP tracks down Paul Frazer, the former Canadian ambassador to the Czech and Slovak Republics, now a consultant in Washington. He's telling Canadians not to make too much of Bush addressing Prime Minister Stephen Harper as "Steve" earlier this summer. But he does say getting too "chummy" can confuse people - Canadians could get the wrong impression and think there's a special relationship. They might think Bush thinks Canada matters in some way. International politics isn't like that. There's the personal stuff. And then there's policy.

AP also talks with P.M. Forni, a professor at Johns Hopkins University and author of "Choosing Civility: The Twenty-five Rules of Considerate Conduct." He has a simple explanation - Bush is a baby boomer who "came of age when respect for authority was plummeting" and that explains it all. And Baldrige agrees, saying Bush is not so much breaking new ground as "echoing the casual mood of the times."

It's not what people expect, the both say, and it jars people.

Okay, maybe it's not a big deal. Maybe it's just a Texas thing - Lyndon Johnson showing reporters his surgery scar, or lifting the beagle up by the ears. The man could be crude. On the other hand he seemed an adult - and mean and ruthless one at time, and crude. But there wasn't the sniggering, nasty kid about him. He was "adult nasty." He twisted arms and made deals and got things done.

Well, we live in a different age and the baby boomers - Clinton and Bush - are sixty or thereabouts. The whole idea of "the gentleman" - quiet dignity and consideration of others, even if calculated - is so thirties and forties. Paul Henreid as Victor Laszlo in Casablanca and all that.

Or maybe that's eighteenth-century, Lord Chesterfield stuff - "Good breeding is the result of good sense, some good nature, and a little self-denial for the sake of others."

Or this - "Horse-play, romping, frequent and loud fits of laughter, jokes, and indiscriminate familiarity, will sink both merit and knowledge into a degree of contempt. They compose at most a merry fellow; and a merry fellow was never yet a respectable man."

Or this - "There is nothing that people bear more impatiently, or forgive less, than contempt: and an injury is much sooner forgotten than an insult."

Ah, those days are gone.

As for Jimmy Carter, he could be informal, but the also had that "Southern Gentleman" thing going for him - and he was no dummy, with his PhD and having commanded a nuclear submarine. He could be gracious and thoughtful, and kind. He just had a problem with being effective.

As for the current "farts are funny" occupant of the White House, none of that applies. Some find all this above funny, some alarming, but it's what we have.

For a deeper analysis of the actual issues that may be at play here, David G. Myers, a social psychologist at Hope College in Michigan, and author of Intuition: Its Powers and Perils, sees what happening as the result of a man who exclusively relies on his intuition, his hunches, his "gut" - and that's the root of all this.

He laid that out in the August 22nd Los Angeles Times here -
Say this much for President Bush: He is not deaf to the inner whispers of his intuition.

"I know there's no evidence that shows the death penalty has a deterrent effect," he reportedly said as Texas governor, "but I just feel in my gut it must be true."

Six years and two wars into his presidency, the president still relies on his gut instincts. His recent fly-in to Baghdad was, he explained to U.S. troops, "to look Prime Minister [Nouri] Maliki in the eyes - to determine whether or not he is as dedicated to a free Iraq as you are." The president's snap assessment? "I believe he is." He told Larry King in an interview last month: "If you make decisions based upon what you believe in your heart of hearts, you stay resolved."
Yep, you stay resolved, even if you're dead wrong.

But here's the deal -
For those disposed to follow their inner guide, today's pop psychology offers books on "intuitive healing," "intuitive learning," "intuitive managing," "intuitive trading" and much more.

So, when hiring and firing, fearing and risking, investing and gambling, should we follow Bush's example and tune down that analytical, linear, left-brained mind? Should we stop obsessing over logic and data and trust the force within?

Today's psychological science documents a vast intuitive mind. More than we realize, our thinking, memory and attitudes operate on two levels - conscious and unconscious - with the larger part operating automatically. We know more than we know we know.

Studies show that as we gain expertise, even reasoned judgments can become automatic. Rather than wend their way through a decision tree, experienced car mechanics and physicians will often, after a quick listen and look, diagnose problems. Chess masters intuitively know the right move. And Japanese chicken sexers use complex pattern recognition to separate newborn pullets and cockerels with near perfect accuracy.

Moreover, we're all experts when it comes to reading people's emotions.

… So, is our president smart to harness the powers of his intuition? Or should he, and we, be subjecting our hunches to scrutiny?
Well, no he's not smart to do that. Scrutiny is rather helpful, really.

Examples offered -
My geographical intuition tells me that Reno is east of Los Angeles and that Rome is south of New York. But I am wrong. "The first principle," said Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman, "is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool." In hundreds of experiments, people have greatly overestimated their eyewitness recollections, their interviewee assessments and their stock-picking talents. It's humbling to realize how often we misjudge and mispredict reality and then display "belief perseverance" when facing disconfirming information.

… Smoking kills 400,000 Americans a year, and carbon dioxide looks to be the biggest weapon of mass destruction, but terrorists frighten us more. We are told, but are unmoved by, statistics showing that the most dangerous part of air travel is the drive to the airport.
And to get to the Pacific you head southeast through the Panama Canal - look at a map. So intuition - automatic, effortless, unreasoned thinking - is more than overrated.

Note also - after meeting Vladimir Putin, Bush felt that he had him sized up - "I looked the man in the eye [and] I was able to get a sense of his soul." Oops. That didn't work out. Bush also told Bob Woodward that intuition was a real key to his decision to launch the Iraq thing - "I'm a gut player. I rely on my instincts."

Right, and now Iraq a mess and his intuition is silent - so we must keep doing what we're doing, or it'd be a bigger mess. And thus each presidential press conference seems to be a textbook display "belief perseverance" when facing disconfirming information. It seems we're all supposed to wait until his gut speaks again, if it will.

Myers' conclusion -
The president, like all of us, should check his intuitions against the facts. He can welcome the creative whispers of the unseen mind, but only as the beginning of inquiry. Smart thinking often begins with hunches but continues as one examines assumptions, evaluates evidence, invites critique and tests conclusions. As Proverbs says: "He who trusts in his own heart is a fool."

Now that wasn't a nice thing to say.

And I'm not sure any of that explains the public farting and the sneak-attack massage.

Well, you do what seems like a good idea at the time, and leave thinking of the actual consequences for the stuffy people who think too much. It's a hell of a way to run things, and now people are noting the damage it has done.

But there's no fixing it, for now.

Bush massages German Chancellor Angela Merkel's shoulders -



Mary Worth reacts -








Additional note from Our Man in Paris, Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis, now in America - in Queens actually -

I am doubtful. Bush farts and suddenly everybody remembers that he was a boobie in Europe - a month ago? He fondled Angela and now the media remembers?

He can fart all he wants but he gets no respect here. He gives, if I may be blunt, nobel farters a bad name. If he keeps doing it we may be forced to stop. It would be a terrible thing but if it annoyed Bush in any way I would try to quit farting and ask everybody I know to quit too. If you want peace quit farting!

Well, we live in a different age and the baby boomers - Clinton and Bush - are sixty or thereabouts. The whole idea of "the gentleman" - quiet dignity and consideration of others, even if calculated - is so thirties and forties. Paul Henreid as Victor Laszlo in Casablanca and all that.

Quiet Dignity

You probably won't believe that I was 'on the spot' again last night in the right place at the right time, but I was. Just thinking of what I did yesterday nearly makes me blush, but about 21:00 I was being 'gentlemanly' for a few minutes in this Latino bar-restaurant in Queens having an outrageously delicious dessert when I noticed the Mets were playing - against the Saint Louis Cardinals? - in Shea Stadium, on a big, wide-screen TV hanging over the bar. It looked bad for the home team. Near the end with the Cards leading and pitchers and batters having ho-hum innings. Yeah, well, there was this little suspense, over just when or who would snap the world's turn out of the routine. Close-up on the pitch, fastball on express, drilling past the batter into the catcher's mitt, the umpire throws out the out fingers. While the telephoto lens is focused there, we see behind home plate, Bill Clinton - this is a true story, exclusive to JAS! - yawning, eyelids at half-mast. Another pitch, another unswung strike, and Bill is sinking deeper into his seat, eyes glazed. Then there is a brief flurry, Mets get a runner on first, bottom of the ninth, one run behind the Cards. Bill Clinton is passed out! Delgado steps up with his moustache and big hard bat, just a little harder than the Card's pitcher and blasts a fast one - that Delgado socks fair and square, right out to some fence - I saw it the other night - some 400 yards from home plate - yeah, so, it knocks the two runs in, Mets win, everybody up leaping, cheering, Bill Clinton completely forgotten - gawd, maybe he's slumped on the floor, covered in peanut shells, hot dog wrappers... in quiet dignity, tuckered out from his busy day as ex-president.

The is exclusive to JAS because Bill snoozing was clipped from the Channel 11 sports news report, shown later on TV-news about 22:50 last night. They showed Bill awake and alert, enjoying the football game.

- Ric
Received in Hollywood Wednesday, August 23, 8:00 am Pacific Time -

Posted by Alan at 20:55 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 23 August 2006 09:17 PDT home

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