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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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Wednesday, 3 December 2003

Topic: Bush

Is the President a Pathological Liar? Define "Pathological."

Well, the answer is no. Or it's a little more complicated than that.

I recommend this item.

Bush's unhealthy relationship with reality
by David Corn, L.A. Weekly, DECEMBER 5 - 11, 2003

As for the pathology involved, Corn is still reconsidering matters.
What forced this reconsideration was a speech Bush delivered in late November to several thousand troops at Butts Army Air Field in Fort Carson, Colorado. On this occasion, Bush served up the usual rah-rah about the war on terrorism. But as he was hailing the U.S. military, he remarked, "Working with a fine coalition, our military went to Afghanistan, destroyed the training camps of al Qaeda and put the Taliban out of business forever."

Out of business forever?

That was a false statement.

... What then could account for Bush's truth-defying assertion about the Taliban? After all, it was a statement ridiculously easy to disprove. (The Bush bashers of immediately sent out a mass e-mail citing this remark as further evidence that Bush is a misleader.) Was Bush really trying to hornswoggle the troops and the American people? In a way. I assume that had he bothered to think about this line, he probably would have realized that it was inaccurate and that there was no reason to claim the Taliban was stone-cold dead when he could have truthfully declared that the U.S. military (under his command) and its Afghan allies had routed the Taliban. It was not as if Bush said to himself, Aha! I know what I'll do. I will boast that I eliminated the Taliban -- even though anyone who follows this stuff knows a Taliban resurgence is under way -- and fool people into believing I am winning the war on terrorism.

Bush was more likely engaged in the deceit of triumphalism -- ignoring facts and saying whatever sounds good to juice up the public. It was hype, extreme rhetoric, utterly divorced from events on the ground. This statement was a report from Planet Bush, not the world as it exists - a demonstration of Bush's penchant to embrace (and peddle) self-serving fantasy over the obvious truth.
Yep, we all see that.

But after reviewing many other items Corn's conclusion is this:
So Bush tells us the ongoing war in Iraq is a strike against the forces that hit America on 9/11 and would do so again (were it not for the invasion of Iraq), and he proclaims the Taliban extinct. None of this is supported by the readily available information provided by the media or Bush's own military. Making such melodramatic and misleading claims may or may not be pathological, but it certainly isn't a sign that Bush has a healthy relationship with reality.
Is this a problem? Read the whole thing. It won't make you feel better.

Posted by Alan at 21:08 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 9 December 2003 13:43 PST home

Topic: Local Issues

"All Politics is Local" Yeah, yeah.
Out here national politics are having a local impact.
The Republicans in Washington punish Southern California...

GOP guts projects by local Dems
Los Angeles Daily News, article published Tuesday, December 02, 2003 - 11:45:40 PM PST
By Lisa Friedman, Washington Bureau

The head:
If a congressional Democrat asked for it, Southern California won't be getting it.

In one of the year's ugliest political battles, Republican lawmakers have rejected almost every request made by a Democrat for a local education, job or health program.

The reason: retaliation. Earlier this year, Democrats voted en masse against a federal spending bill. Now it's payback time, and local programs such as nearly $3 million in educational and community programs in San Fernando and Lake Balboa and at California State University, Northridge, can kiss federal funding goodbye.

Local GOP lawmakers said they are standing behind their party, despite losses to local communities.

"I support the decision of the cardinals on this," Rep. David Dreier, R-Glendora said, alluding to powerful House appropriation leaders. "I have no choice."

Democrats, however, are fuming and calling the move an abuse of power by Republicans.
Well, this is how the game is played.

Denied: $750,000 for High Tech High at Birmingham High School in the San Fernando Valley community of Lake Balboa and $1 million to help Cal State Northridge pay for its aquatic center for students with disabilities. Also cut was $1 million earmarked for a community health education center at Mission Community Hospital's San Fernando Campus, and a $3 million request Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Pasadena, made for Huntington Memorial Hospital's trauma center. Add the $600,000 request to renovate a health clinic in Azusa and the $400,000 request for the construction of the East Valley Community Health Clinic in West Covina. No way. Gone. Along with $240,000 for the city of Pomona to establish an after-school program. Ain't gonna happen.

Schiff didn't like the cuts in the federal education budget. He voted against the cuts. Bad move, Adam!

"Why should Huntington Memorial Hospital suffer the loss of funding for its trauma center because Democratic members feel the president should fully fund education?" Schiff said. Calling the cuts "close to the line of ethical propriety," Schiff charged, "This means health care in our community will suffer."

Well, you could have voted with the Bush folks more often. People may die because you didn't.
The engineer behind all this political retribution is Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Ohio, chairman of the subcommittee that controls spending on education, health and job programs. Regula astonished lawmakers earlier this year when he announced that Democrats who voted against the spending bill July 10 would not see their "earmarks" -- sometimes called pork -- included in the compromise final version of the bill.
And so it goes. The man in Ohio punishes the folks out here in Los Angeles for voting against the Bush team.

This all is a pretty good argument to vote straight Republican from now on. It is too dangerous not to.

Posted by Alan at 20:19 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 9 December 2003 13:44 PST home

Topic: The Media

In the age of transparency who needs newsmen? A curious idea here .

Jeff Jarvis is former TV critic for TV Guide and People, creator of Entertainment Weekly, Sunday Editor of the NY Daily News, and a columnist on the San Francisco Examiner. He is now president and creative director of - and this is from his personal site
In this age of transparency - of constant cable news and C-Span's unblinking eye and instant online wire reports and mobile alerts and full transcripts online and more video here and weblog links to coverage everywhere and automated Google news searches and, in sum, the commoditization of news - the role of the newsman has utterly changed ... but that news hasn't caught up to the newsmen yet.

It used to be, we depended on them to tell us what is happening (and some prided themselves on doing it better than others). Those days are over. Toast. "What happened" is the commodity; we can find out what happened anywhere anytime....

We can all see all the news and judge for ourselves what's news and what isn't, what's real and what isn't, what's important and what isn't, and often what's true and what isn't.

Do reporters and editors still have a role in the news we can all see (as opposed to the news they dig up)? Don't know yet, do we?
We don't need to be told what happened? We can all find that out ourselves? We thus actually only need interpretation and "attitude"?

No. It seems to me most people don't do the digging. Most people don't have the time or energy to review the daily facts about the world. CNN will sum it up for them, or if you don't trust CNN, Fox News will. Or TF1 for you folks in Paris, or BBC for you Brits.

What's not in the summary is the problem.

Those of us who blog (an odd verb) do so to flesh out the news with what is overlooked or deemphasized. And no one reads my blog, as far as I can tell. I do it for myself, because much seems to be missing on CNN and Fox.

Were I still part of the workforce I would not have the time. And I'd feel stupid and uninformed, in spite of my twenty-two minutes each evening with CNN or Fox, or with what I hear on NPR riding to work and from work on the freeway, dodging SUV's and slow-poke tourists in rental sedans reading maps.

I don't like feeling stupid. I want to know everything about everything. Yes, a personality disorder....

Posted by Alan at 19:43 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 9 December 2003 13:44 PST home

Topic: Oddities

Cheese as metaphor ...

Click on the link for a rather long review of the fascinating book Camembert: A National Myth by Pierre Boisard, translated by Richard Miller. Say what? Really.

Cheese as metaphor.

Here cheese is discussed, and more importantly the modern world becoming much the same everywhere. That KFC in Hong Kong, that Starbucks in Bali - the implications of globalization are really startling.

The blurb from the Guardian:

Steven Shapin muses on what the transformation of Camembert cheese, from Norman specialty to international supermarket staple, can tell us about authenticity in a globalized world. Steven Shapin, who teaches sociology of science at the University of California, San Diego, was raised on cheese and baloney sandwiches.

Breaking the mould
Monday December 1, 2003, The Guardian (UK)

Camembert: A National Myth by Pierre Boisard, translated by Richard Miller. California, 254 pp., ?19.95, June, 0 520 22550 3

Excerpts, to whet your appetite, so to speak...
In 1999, when the French peasant leader Jos? Bov? trashed a McDonald's under construction near Montpellier, so becoming a national and, soon, international resistance hero, one motive for his virtuous vandalism was cheese. The Americans had unilaterally imposed trade restrictions on the excellent local Roquefort, and, if there was going to be no Roquefort in the US, there was no reason to tolerate the "McMerde" double bacon cheeseburger in France.

American multinational muck was malbouffe: bad to eat, bad for the peasant farmers in la France profonde who produced the proper stuff, bad for France. The sentiment was popular, and that's why Bov? spent only six weeks in jail, and why Lionel Jospin called his action "just": the defence of fine French food against American anti-cuisine was recognised as a moral act.

Invited by Ralph Nader later that year to the demonstrations against the World Trade Organisation in Seattle, Bov? underlined the point, smuggling some unpasteurised Roquefort past American customs officers and posing for the cameras eating a Roquefort sandwich in front of a local McDonald's, which was duly vandalised in its turn. "You are what you eat," Bov? said, "where you live and what you do. We are peasants and citizens, not shareholders, not servile slaves at the mercy of agribusiness." The peasant-shepherd - the Ast?rixian champion of local food - has become world-famous, and you can download his dicta in defence of localism from that least local of media, the world wide web.

So here's a way into the tensions and paradoxes of the way we eat now: globalised food has secured its spread across the dietary landscape by managing two tricks at once. First, as it has become globalised, so it has become homogenised: it is the same everywhere, or, more accurately, widely believed to be the same everywhere. The natural home for a McDonald's is the international airport lounge, and the Economist can find no better way of assessing the real value of world currencies than comparing the local price of a Big Mac against a US standard.
Yep, everything is getting to be the same, everywhere. A good thing? Predictability is often good. But there is a problem -
... the homogeneity of the globalised product is necessarily a relative matter, and belief in its stability may not be supported in reality. Though it is evidently a great secret, I'm told that McDonald's buns have a lot more sugar in Britain than they do in the States; there is, of course, no beef (Hindu sensibilities) or pork (Muslim) in the Indian "Maharaja Mac"; the mayonnaise has no egg in it (for vegans); and, when Bov? did his splendid work on the Montpellier McDonald's, the local company representative was at tactical pains to stress difference, assuring the demonstrators that the burgers were an authentically local product, containing only French beef "from the farm".

Second, globalised products such as the Big Mac and Coke have secured their spread across the world by travelling in the special channels carved out by American power, capital and culture. While Big Macs are now everywhere - you can avoid them in Bhutan and Afghanistan, but that's a high price to pay - it would be impossible to explain their global distribution without attending to those channels and to their identification with the powerful idea of America. Just as Ch?teau Lynch-Bages has a Pauillac Appellation d'Origine Contr?l?e, so the Big Mac is AOC USA. You can't account for why so many people throughout the world want to eat it - or, indeed, why so many others use it as a reference for globalised abominations - without understanding their ideas about the place called America.

In these respects Camembert is a lot more like the McMerde burger than you might suppose. ...
Read here the long history of Camembert. The author and a few folks he interviews say the modern industrial product is, frankly, crap.

But it travels well. Foodies should read the whole thing.

Posted by Alan at 16:26 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 9 December 2003 13:45 PST home

Topic: Bush

Schrodinger's Cat, Quantum Mechanics and Symbolic Logic
The philosophic answer to the question of the missing Weapons of Mass Destruction

David Raitt explains it all:

George Bush said some quite interesting things recently at a fund-raiser in New Jersey.
Not breaking any ground, Bush highlighted the accomplishments of his administration, saying he had eliminated the terror threat from Afghanistan and weapons of mass destruction from Iraq and ensured that Medicare will remain solvent.
Many commentators seem to be of the opinion that the claim that Bush eliminated WMD's from Iraq is laughable.

Yet they fail to grasp the president's deep understanding of modern physics. In fact, prior to the invasion, the weapons both existed and didn't exist simultaneously, not unlike Schrodinger's Cat. The invasion and subsequent search brought in observers and collapsed the wave function to one of non-existence. Thus the President was speaking nothing but the truth.

This kind of misunderestimating one's opponents has really got to stop!
I agree.

Posted by Alan at 14:01 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 9 December 2003 13:45 PST home

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