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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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Sunday, 21 December 2003

Topic: Bush

More information...

Wednesday, 10 December 2003 I posted this:
What? The apocalypse scares you? Really? What's your problem?
where I discussed an essay by Robert Jay Lifton
American Apocalypse
The Nation, Posted December 4, 2003, from the December 22 issue, and actually a short peek at his new book.)

DVMD of (see left panel) heard Lifton on the radio and has his new book on the way. She links to Lifton's biography. It's awesome.

Here `tis....

Robert Jay Lifton is Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology at the Graduate School University Center and Director of The Center on Violence and Human Survival at John Jay College of Criminal Justice at The City University of New York. He had previously held the Foundations' Fund Research Professorship of Psychiatry at Yale University for more than two decades. He has been particularly interest in the relationship between individual psychology and historical change, and in problems surrounding the extreme historical situations of our era. He has taken an active part in the formation of the new field of psychohistory.

Dr. Lifton was born in New York City in 1926, attended Cornell University, and received his medical degree from New York Medical College in 1948. Her interned at the Jewish Hospital of Brooklyn in 1948-49, and had his psychiatric residence training at the Downstate Medical Center, Brooklyn, New York in 1949-51. He was an Air Force psychiatrist serving in the United States, Japan, and Korea from 1951-53. He was Research Associate in Psychiatry at Harvard from 1956-61, where he was affiliated with the Center for East Asian Studies; and prior to that was a Member of the Faculty of the Washington School of Psychiatry.

From mid-1995, he has been conducting psychological research on the problem of apocalyptic violence, focusing on Aum Shinrikyo, the extremist Japanese cult which released poison gas in Tokyo subways. His book, Destroying the World to Save It: Aum Shinrikyo, Apocalyptic Violence, and the New Global Terrorism was published by Metropolitan Books in October, 1999.

His writings on Nazi Doctors (on their killing the name of healing) and the problem of genocide; nuclear weapons and their impact on death symbolism; Hiroshima survivors; Chinese thought reform and the Chinese Cultural Revolution; psychological trends in contemporary men and women; and on the Vietnam War experience and Vietnam veterans, have appeared in a variety of professional and popular journals. He has developed a general psychological perspective around the paradigm of death and the continuity of life and a stress upon symbolization and "formative process," and on the malleability of the contemporary self.

Recent books include Hiroshima in America: Fifty Years of Denial, (Putnam and Avon Books, 1995) (with Greg Mitchell) which explores the impact of Hiroshima on our own country; and The Protean Self; Human Resilience in an Age of Fragmentation, (Basic Books, 1993) which describes the contemporary "protean" self and its expressions of fluidity and change as its possible relationship to species consciousness and a "species self" (related importantly to one's connection to humankind).

Other books include:

The Genocidal Mentality: Nazi Holocaust and Nuclear Threat, (with Eric Markusen), (Basic Books, 1990).

The Future of Immortality; and Other Essays for a Nuclear Age (Basic Books, 1987).

The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide (Basic Books, 1986), winner of the 1987 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for history; the 1987 National Jewish Book Award for Holocaust.

Death in Life: Survivors of Hiroshima (Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1991 [1968]), which received the National Book Award in the Sciences, and the Van Wyck Brooks Award for non-fiction, in 1969 The Broken Connection (which received the Martin Luther King Award in England), Harvard University Press, 1984.

Indefensible Weapons: The Political and Psychological Case Against Nuclearism (with Richard Falk), Basic Books, 1991, [1982].

Last Aid: Medical Dimension of Nuclear War (edited with E. Chivian, S. Chivian, and J.E. Mack), Redding, CT: Freeman Press, 1982.

Home From the War: Vietnam Veterans--Neither Victims Nor Executioners, (which was nominated for the National Book Award) Beacon Press, 1992 (with new Preface and Epilogue on the Gulf War [1983, 1968].

The Life of the Self: Toward a New Psychology, Basic Books, 1983 [1976]; Six Lives/Six Deaths; Portraits from Modern Japan (with Shuichi Kato and Michael Reich), Yale University Press, 1979.

Explorations in Psychohistory; The Wellfleet Papers (with Eric Olson), eds., Simon & Schuster, Touchstone Books, 1975.

Living and Dying (with Eric Olson), Praeger, 1974; History and Human Survival: Essays on the Young and the Old, Survivors and the Dead, War and Peace, and on Contemporary Psychohistory, Random House, 1968.

Boundaries: Psychological Man in Revolution, Touchstone, 1976 [1970].

Revolutionary Immortality: Mao Tse-tung and the Chinese Cultural Revolution, Norton Library, 1976 [1986].

Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of "Brainwashing" in China, University of North Carolina Press, 1989 [1961].

Edited The Woman in America, Beacon paperback 1966 [1965]; America and the Asian Revolutions, Transaction Books, 1970; and Crimes of War (with Richard A. Falk and Gabriel Kolko) Vintage, 1971.

He's not George Bush, but perhaps one should take him seriously.

Posted by Alan at 20:07 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Topic: The Culture

Jerry Lewis, Monty Python and ? Le P?re No?l est une Ordure ?
The reason we don't get along with the French? Our sense of humor.

Why can't we all just get along? Maybe it has something to do with our sense of humor being different from that of the Brits, and both being far, far different from that of the French.

Check this out:
Very droll The French have jokes, but do they have a sense of humour?
The Economist, Dec 18th 2003 [UK spelling as stands]

The whole item is quite long and detailed, but here are the main points.

First, this unsigned analysis does give us history:
Does humour exist in France? Before the French revolution of 1789, the word humour was hardly known. People knew esprit (wit), farce (prank), bouffonnerie (drollery) and humeur (a state of mind, or mood), but not humour. Only in 1878 did the French Academy, the institution that stands guard over the French language, accept humoristique as a French word. A year later Edmond de Goncourt used humour without italics as a French word in his novel "Les Fr?res Zemganno", but not until 1932 did the academicians give their approval to the noun humour.

Writers and intellectuals musing about English humour searched for an equivalent in France. Fran?ois Marie Arouet de Voltaire, France's best-known writer in the 18th century, tells the Abbot d'Olivet in a letter in 1762 that the English pronounce humour yumor, and think they are the only ones to have a term to express that state of mind. Madame de Sta?l, the daughter of Jacques Necker, a finance minister of Louis XVI, wrote in a discourse on literature: "The English language created a word, humour, to express a hilarity, which is in the blood almost as much as in the mind ...What the English depict with great talent is bizarre characters, because they have lots of those amongst them."

But things are different now:
One of the fiercest critics of the government, "Les Guignols de l'Info" ("The News Puppets"), a daily television programme similar to Britain's satirical "Spitting Image", is a huge success. "Les Guignols" has become sharper, even crueller, since it started in 1988. Hardly anything is taboo now. Supermenteur ("Superliar"), President Jacques Chirac's alter ego, is a particular favourite. ... "Les Guignols" has felt obliged to apologise only a few times--once to Mr Chirac's wife, Bernadette, whom it had portrayed masturbating with her handbag.
You can watch episodes here or here (the "official" CanalPlus site - click on VIDEOS)

Then there are the magazines:
Le Canard encha?n?, a satirical weekly, is equally feared by politicians and public personalities because of its investigative journalism and trenchant wit. Charlie Hebdo (Charlie Brown of the Peanuts cartoon strip was godfather to the magazine) and Hara-kiri hebdo, two satirical weeklies launched in 1969, are competing on the same ground. Hara-Kiri, which was created in 1960 as a monthly French version of Mad, an American satirical magazine, was twice censored by the government before its relaunch as a weekly. It has absorbed La Grosse Bertha, another satirical magazine that was launched in 1991 during the first Gulf war. Charlie Hebdo went bust in 1981, just after supporting Coluche, a comedian, in his bid for the presidency. It was relaunched ten years later.
But the issue is a different idea of humor.

Consider Jean Plantureux, or Plantu. A satirical cartoon by Plantu has been on the front page of Le Monde most every day for the past 20 years. Since ticking off his editors in 1994 he doesn't get to choose his subjects any longer, but he's pretty good. His comment? "We still have the naivety to believe in certain things. We do not have the detachment that characterizes English humor, we are more militant. If we have a cause to protest, however minor, we tear open our shirts, run into the street and shout `Shoot me!'" Cool.

The Economist give this theory for the whole business:
If the Latin emotions of the French sit uneasily with humour, so does the French logical mind. French children are instilled with Cartesian esprit (here meaning mind) at school and, even more, in the grandes ?coles, the country's elite universities. ... A French Cartesian mind does not know what to make of a nonsensical story, such as this one. "The governor of the Bank of England began an address to an assembly of bankers with these words: `There are three kinds of economists, those who can count and those who can't.'" A joke of this kind would be met with incomprehension by French listeners. It is not logical.

Self-deprecation, another essential ingredient of a "detached" sense of humour, is not the forte of the French. But if France is too emotional, too logical or too unsure of itself for humour, it can at least fall back on farce as a way of releasing the emotions. The French love Jerry Lewis, the American they call le roi du crazy; he has even been awarded the Legion of Honour, the country's highest decoration. And of course France produces its own farces. One of the best-loved of recent years is the at times heavy-handed film "Le P?re No?l est une Ordure" ("Father Christmas is a Shit"), directed by Jean-Marie Poir?. It shows Pierre and Th?r?se, staffers at a charity, manning the telephones on Christmas Eve to help callers in despair. Z?zette, a pregnant woman, arrives at the office, fleeing her violent husband, F?lix, who is close behind her. F?lix, still wearing his working clothes as Father Christmas, is subdued by Pierre and Th?r?se and ends up in hospital. The second visitor at the office is Katia, a manic-depressive transvestite in search of Mr or Miss Right. The ensuing series of catastrophes reaches its climax when F?lix returns with a gun, a lift repairman is killed, Pierre loses his virginity to Th?r?se, and F?lix and Z?zette dispose of the dead repairman.
Yep, I don't get it either.

And then this:
Why do French comic films not travel well when those made in Britain or America - whether by Woody Allen, John Cleese or the Monty Python team - seem to make people laugh all over the world? One answer, perhaps, is that audiences in other countries simply do not have the French fondness of puerile farce. Another, though, may be that the things that make the French laugh involve linguistic somersaults that only work in their own language. Much of French humour is jeux des mots, untranslatable wordplays.
Yes, linguistic somersaults just make my fellow Americans angry. We do plain talk. Think Will Rogers.

Not everyone is just like us, no matter what the neoconservatives tell us.

Posted by Alan at 09:29 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Saturday, 20 December 2003

Topic: Music

Lenin on Beethoven
"Music hath charms to soothe the savage beast."
Not exactly.

"I know of nothing more beautiful than the Appassionata, I could hear it every day. It is marvellous, unearthly music. Every time I hear these notes, I think with pride and perhaps childlike naivete, that it is wonderful what man can accomplish. But I cannot listen to music often, it affects my nerves. I want to say amiable stupidities and stroke the heads of the people who can create such beauty in a filthy hell. But today is not the time to stroke people's heads; today hands descend to split skulls open, split them open ruthlessly, although opposition to all violence is our ultimate ideal--it is a hellishly hard task."

- Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, quoted in Maxim Gorky, Days with Lenin

Posted by Alan at 19:33 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Topic: Iraq

Bitter Brits: They may be our allies, but it seems they really don't share our values, or our insights into causation....

In today's Guardian one finds a bit of a disconnect with our kipper-breakfasting friends.

This is not a big problem as The Guardian has always been a bit outspoken and left of center, thus the Fox News fans and Rush Limbaugh "dittoheads" can say that this particular news source, like the BBC, obviously hates America - and thus wants Saddam to return to power and have everyone eat French cheeses and have everyone actually approve of the silly people who choose to act "gay" and give them legal rights and so on.

Oh well. For what it's worth, the two Saturday items are quite negative.

The first claims executing folks isn't a nice thing to do. This is a very anti-American view.

See Bush wants Saddam to hang, but we must resist
The US president is reflecting his own brutish view of the world
Max Hastings, The Guardian, Saturday December 20, 2003

Max has this to say:
America's wealth and power are inescapable realities. It seems self-indulgent to lavish emotional and intellectual energy on deploring the shortcomings of the world's only superpower. From Tony Blair downwards, all of us must focus on coming to terms with the US, rather than figuratively waving placards to demand that this great nation should be something other than it is.
How generous of Max. He doesn't want to change us at all.

But Max adds:
Yet, it is hard not to hate George Bush. His ignorance and conceit, his professed special relationship with God, invite revulsion. A few weeks ago, I heard a British diplomat observe sagely: "We must not demonise Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz." Why not? The US defence secretary and his assistant have implemented coalition policy in Iraq in a fashion that makes Soviet behaviour in Afghanistan in the 1970s appear dextrous. The British are hapless passengers on the Pentagon's juggernaut.
Hey Max, what the problem?

Here's what Max says:
The president's personal odyssey touched a new low this week, when he asserted publicly that Saddam Hussein should die. After a fair trial, he says, Iraq's former dictator should swing or be shot, though Washington thinks it expedient to delegate Iraqis to do the business.

Max knows Tony Blair will fall in line this, and it bothers him:
There will be no trouble with the British government about this scenario. Downing Street's line suggests a script originally written for Pontius Pilate. Tony Blair declares that what an Iraqi administration chooses to do with Saddam is absolutely no business of Britain's. If the powers-that-will-be in Iraq decide he should take an early bath on the scaffold, then what can Britain's prime minister do, save shrug?

In reality, Bush's eagerness to see Saddam swing reflects not an overarching objection to murderous dictators, but an ad hominem desire to complete the liberation of Iraq with a gesture that fits his own brutish view of the world. The least Blair can do, on Britain's behalf, is to say that we can no more endorse the sponsorship of a hanging carried out by Iraqi stooges of the coalition, than fly out Geoff Hoon to do the job personally.
Max, Tony won't say a thing. Tony sold the UK to us lock stock and barrel - or to put it another way, Tony is George's bitch now.

Get over it.

Then there's this, an item that suggests some things should be connected which Americans simply will not connect, and other things decoupled that Americans connect. Isn't it a bit presumptuous for a Brit to tell us we have facts wrong?

See Only disconnect
It's official: there is no link between cause and effect in our crazy world
Al Kennedy, The Guardian, Saturday December 20, 2003

Well, I haven't read Howard's End in a long time, but I do remember the last line. Be that as it may, Al starts his ironic so-very-British-rant this way:
Just because one event follows another, it doesn't mean one causes the other. Which is why it would be ludicrous to link resistance to the occupation of Iraq with the occupation of Iraq. And we shouldn't link the US throwing its weight around like a drunk sailor at an Amish wedding with turmoil in North Korea, South Korea, Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Bali, the Philippines, Taiwan, Palestine, Israel, Jordan, Russia, Georgia - oh, just pick a name in your atlas, if it's not right now it soon will be.

But there are no links. So the Pentagon suddenly takes an interest in the numbers of dead Iraqi Muslims - so what? There is no connection between the Pentagon and the dead. Take Riad Khalas Abdallah, for example - one minute he was 25 years old and driving along in Kirkuk in an unarmed way, the next he was dead. This had nothing to do with the US troops who shot at him. Muslims die very easily, they are delicate and can blow up at any time - but this isn't because of anything. They're just made that way. You simply have to bulldoze their homes, concentrate them in secured areas and hope. Every Iraqi in Awja is much safer now it's razor wired shut, and look at the long-term joy those walls are bringing Gaza.
Well, everyone makes mistakes. And as for that Gaza reference, well, George Bush has said Ariel Sharon is "a man of peace." Al, who are you going to believe?

The Canadian business was unfortunate perhaps:
When the US secretly deports Canadian citizen Maher Arar to Syria, it's not because prisoners are known to be tortured there. And it's a coincidence when he happens to end up being tortured. And a complete fluke that US companies export "crime control" equipment to regimes known to torture systematically. Torture is not US policy.
Indeed, torture is not our policy. As Donald Rumsfeld is fond of saying, however, democracy is messy and things happen. And we may apologize to Canada - maybe - if they're good.

Anyway, Al's list of things we really should connect is sarcastically listed here:
You also shouldn't link: a) Draconian suppression of US dissent by hardline police chiefs like Miami's John Timoney, the FBI and private security companies with Republican funding; b) "embedding" of Republican journalists with police departments during anti-war demonstrations; c) Cheney and Halliburton kickbacks; d) Perle and Boeing kickbacks; e) the epidemic introduction of dodgy Diebold voting software before the next presidential elections; f) the Universal National Service Act 2003. If you do link them you'll just get this queasy, d?j? vu, Nazi feeling and have to lie down.

And there is no Nazi link with George Bush, grandson of one of the Reich's bankers, now overseeing Operation Iron Hammer - the charming revival of a Luftwaffe codename for the attempted crushing of the Iraqi resistance. And don't link George's famous dodging of national service, the last time it was all the rage, with any trouble he might have relating to (non-Wehrmacht) military types, leading him to defraud them of benefits, put them in the way of death and amputation, disappear their casualties, embarrass them with premature victory banners, jazz up his foreign trips using fake Thanksgiving photo ops involving a "model" turkey dinner - perhaps because a real one would have been too heavy and caused George's arms to shake. Lord knows, that's the kind of heart-breaking distress you wouldn't want to force on anyone.
Look here, Al, we are told these are NOT connected. We're patriots and must agree.

The item ends with this: "Remember - life is chaos. The fewer the links, the greater the joy".

Hey, that's what Fox News is for, patriotic joy.

Ah these Brits, so skeptical!

Posted by Alan at 08:57 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Saturday, 20 December 2003 09:06 PST home

Friday, 19 December 2003

Topic: The Economy

Free Trade: How Airplanes Get Purchased

In today's issue Le Figaro looks at the issue of shrimps for Airbuses...

France wants to sell Airbuses to Thailand but Thailand wants to sell its shrimps to Europe.

Prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra says Thailand will buy Boeings from America unless the French authorities lobby Brussels to ensure that Thai shrimps are given a better chance in Europe.

An anomaly in trade rules means Thai shrimps face a twelve percent import levy in Europe whereas shrimps from Malaysia can be sold to Europe at only a four percent customs charge.

Bring our shrimps into line with Malaysia's, say the Thais, or we'll buy Boeings.

Boeing is in a bit of a slump. They've got a new plane, but no one much wants that new 7E7 "Dreamliner" thing. This could help.

The article is only available for a fee on the net.

La Tha?lande veut faire voler les crevettes
V?ziane de Vezins, le Fiagro, 19 d?cembre 2003

Am?rique, par exemple et au hasard. Bangkok commandera des escadrilles de Boeing aux Etats-Unis qui, eux, se feront un plaisir d'accueillir ? des tarifs pr?f?rentiels les nu?es de...

As for Saturday's issue, you don't even want to know about this one:

Enqu?te sur l'affaire Halliburton
Eric Decouty, le Fiagro, 20 d?cembre 2003

Pour la premi?re fois en France, une information judiciaire a ?t? ouverte pour ?corruption d'agent public ?tranger?. Elle vise notamment la soci?t? fran?aise Technip et l'am?ricaine Halliburton associ?es dans une op?ration au Nigeria. Une telle enqu?te internationale est possible depuis l'adoption en 1997 de la convention de l'OCDE ?sur la lutte contre la corruption d'agents publics ?trangers dans les n?gociations commerciales?, entr?e en vigueur en droit fran?ais depuis 2000. C'est donc dans ce nouveau cadre juridique que le juge Renaud Van Ruymbeke m?ne ses investigations et que le parquet de Paris envisage la mise en cause de l'actuel vice-pr?sident de Etats-Unis, Richard Cheney, en sa qualit? d'ex-PDG de Halliburton... .

You get the idea.

Posted by Alan at 20:35 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 19 December 2003 20:59 PST home

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