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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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Monday, 1 December 2003

Topic: Iraq
Straight Talk from Georgia

Jay Bookman down in Atlanta does see things clearly. A good read.

This war not against terrorists
Jay Bookman, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Monday, December 01, 2003

He opens with this:

From the beginning, the Bush administration's inability to talk straight about its Iraq policy has generated deep and valid suspicion. Good policy doesn't need to be defended by deception; the truth will do just fine.

We didn't get the truth a year ago, when Bush officials implausibly claimed that Saddam Hussein posed a dire threat to U.S. security. We're not getting the truth today, as President Bush and others depict our struggle in Iraq as some sort of defense of the American homeland.

"We are aggressively striking the terrorists in Iraq, defeating them there," Vice President Dick Cheney said a week ago, "so we do not have to face them on the streets of our own cities."

"You are defeating the terrorists in Iraq, so we don't have to face them in our country," President Bush likewise told U.S. troops during his lightning visit to Baghdad.

Such statements are simply false. Our men and women in uniform are not fighting for their lives against international terrorists in Iraq. They are not fighting the people who attacked us on Sept. 11, nor are they fighting allies of those people.

Instead, the guerrillas who are launching mortars at our military bases, attacking our troops on patrol or hiding booby traps on Iraqi highways are native Iraqis who are trying to evict American troops from their country. Despicable and cowardly as their tactics are, the Iraqi resistance is almost entirely Iraqi.

Well, I'm not sure what the counterargument is. It might go that we just had to do this preemptive/preventive/prophylactic war thing. We had to. Saddam was a BAD man. It's good he's gone, right? And we'll build a mighty fine country there now, secular and free-market capitalist, and they'll gladly recognize Israel and peace will break out all over the place. Well, that seems to be the current thinking.

And "they" are attacking simply because they hate us.

They are not attacking us because they hate Americans. They are attacking us because they hate Americans who are occupying their country.

Well, why would they hate us for that? We're there to liberate them! Those idiots!

Here is what the Bush administration does not want to admit to the American people:

We are fighting two different wars today, against two very different enemies. The first war, against international terror, was brought to our shores by the attacks of Sept. 11, and we had no choice but to respond aggressively, with every bit of power we could muster. The invasion of Afghanistan, the toppling of its Taliban government and the destruction of al-Qaida bases in that country were justified and necessary responses, and if anything should have been prosecuted even more aggressively than they were.

The war against Iraq, on the other hand, has been a war of choice, a war of opportunity launched by the Bush administration because the events of Sept. 11 gave it the cover to do so. If Iraq is now "the central front on the war on terror," it is because the Bush administration made it so by invading that country and threatening to turn it into the type of "failed nation" that produces terrorism.

We created this mess? But we had to! Maybe.

The war on Iraq and the war on terror are two different struggles. Tackled separately, either would have taken us years to win. Tackling them simultaneously was tragic foolishness on a very large scale, no matter how much the president claims otherwise.

Yeah, well, will Jay change his tune when Iraq is indistinguishable from ... Arizona?

We shall see.

Posted by Alan at 15:57 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 9 December 2003 13:50 PST home

Topic: Oddities
The oddest strike in France today...

From from l'Agence France-Presse (AFP) by way of International Herald Tribune:
French embassies facing walkouts
Monday, December 01, 2003

Reuters by way of CNN -
French diplomats strike over cuts
Monday, December 1, 2003 Posted: 6:13 AM EST (1113 GMT)

As James Taranto in the Wall Street Journal
commented, how would anyone know?

French embassies and consulates around the world face closure on Monday as diplomats stage a one-day strike to protest budget cuts that recently led the Foreign Ministry in Paris to run out of paper.

The six unions organizing the strike predicted a strong turnout from the ministry's 22,000 permanent and local employees around the world. Although senior staff members are likely to keep premises open, the unions said, many foreign missions will be unable to function as normal.

... In Paris, staff members at the Quai d'Orsay are planning an afternoon demonstration outside the Senate, where the ministry's budget for 2004 - including a 2 percent cut in running costs and 116 job losses - is under debate.

Unions say the squeeze on finances has become acute in the last year, with cultural programs eliminated, allowances and bonuses pared to a minimum, restrictions placed on foreign travel, and basic maintenance work at the ministry and foreign embassies ignored.

... The lack of resources was made embarrassingly clear last month when the company that supplies the ministry with paper refused to make a new delivery until its account was cleared. Staff members were deprived of writing materials for three days, and No?lle Lenoir, the European Affairs minister, had to buy her own notepads.

Ah, one strike I did not expect to see.

Posted by Alan at 15:35 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 9 December 2003 13:51 PST home

Topic: Music
Music Notes (from France)

I see Charles Aznavour has published his memoirs. He has turned eighty. Wow. Read about it here:

Charles Aznavour - S'il n'en reste qu'un
Charles Aznavour publie ses M?moires, sort un nouvel album et revient sur sc?ne pour ses 80 ans
Jean-Luc Wachthausen 01 d?cembre 2003 Le Figaro

And Patricia Kaas has a new album now, Patricia Kaas : ?Sexe fort? (Columbia/Sony)

Patricia Kaas, juste un peu d'amour
Dans l'album ?Sexe fort?, elle ?voque ?l'enfermement des hommes dans leurs sentiments?
Jean-Luc Wachthausen 01 d?cembre 2003 Le Figaro

Et m?me si le titre de l'album est explicite - le sexe fort n'est plus celui qu'on croit -, la c?l?bration du sexe dit faible (Les femmes m?nent la danse) va de pair avec une question insolente, ?O? sont les hommes ??. Des regrets en somme pour les machos, les conqu?rants et les t?m?raires ?

?Davantage que les hommes, r?torque-t-elle, j'?voque plut?t l'Homme, l'?tre humain en g?n?ral, puis le rapport entre l'homme et la femme et cet emprisonnement des sentiments. J'ai l'impression que les hommes s'enferment un peu dans leurs sentiments.?


Posted by Alan at 09:35 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 9 December 2003 13:42 PST home

Topic: Oddities
Now what? The Wright Brothers weren't first? The Arabs invented manned flight? Oh no!

Les Arabes ont invent? l'avion
Culture Confiture at
Lundi 1 D?cembre 2003

A Cordoue alors arabe, en 852, un homme v?tu d'un gigantesque manteau en forme d'ailes sauta du haut d'une tour. L'air s'engouffra dans le manteau et ralentit sa chute. Il se releva avec des blessures l?g?res. Il s'appelait Armen Firman. On sait peu de choses sur lui.

On en sait plus sur Abbas Ibn Firnas, qui l'imita vingt-trois ans apr?s, en mieux. Un ing?nieur, de Cordoue lui aussi, qui avait ?tudi? chimie, physique et astronomie. Inventeur d'un proc?d? de fabrication du verre ? partir du sable, et d'une machine ? mesurer le temps nomm?e Al-Maqata.

Impressionn? par l'exploit de Firman, dont le souvenir se colportait ? Cordoue, Firnas fignola son exp?rience. Il fabriqua une vraie machine volante et, confiant, invita le peuple ? voir un homme voler.

Firnas sauta d'une tour (image), plana sur plus de deux cent m?tres et se crasha ? l'atterrissage. Estropi?, le dos cass?, il analysa son erreur: "Je n'avais pas remarqu? que les oiseaux utilisent leur queue pour atterrir, et j'ai oubli? d'en mettre une sur ma machine."

En sale ?tat, plus jamais Firnas ne revola. Il mourut treize ans plus tard. On peut voir aujourd'hui une statue d'Abbas Ibn Firnas, le premier homme volant, le long de l'auroroute qui m?ne ? l'a?roport de Bagdad.

The photo (image) is at the link. The airplane? What next?

Posted by Alan at 08:34 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 9 December 2003 13:43 PST home

Topic: Oddities
It is now official ...

Rumsfeld Ramble Wins 'Foot in Mouth' Award
LONDON (Reuters, 1 December 2003) -

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's curious statement at a press briefing was named on Monday as the year's most baffling comment by a public figure.

Rumsfeld, usually renowned for his uncompromising tough talking, was awarded the "Foot in Mouth" award for a confusing message which probably left his audience in the dark as to its meaning, Britain's Plain English Campaign said.

"Reports that say something hasn't happened are interesting to me, because as we know, there are known unknowns; there things we know we know," Rumsfeld told the briefing.

"We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns -- the ones we don't know we don't know."

John Lister, spokesman for the campaign which strives to have public information delivered in clear, straightforward English, said: "We think we know what he means. But we don't know if we really know."

Rumsfeld, whose boss President Bush is often singled out by language critics for his sometimes unusual use of English, took the booby prize ahead of a bizarre effort from actor-turned politician Arnold Schwarzenegger.

"I think that gay marriage is something that should be between a man and a woman," was the odd statement from the new California Governor.

Previous holders of the award include U.S. actress Alicia Silverstone and British chancellor Gordon Brown. Last year's winner was actor Richard Gere.

Posted by Alan at 07:38 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 9 December 2003 14:28 PST home

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