"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"
Friday, 2 January 2004
Topic: Iraq This is a GOOD war and we all should feel exhilarated! Back on Wednesday, 17 December 2003 I posted Baghdad now, Algiers way back when... The kind of folks we Americans are - sort of French, actually - a continuing discussion of an event of Wednesday, the 27th of August, when the Command of Special Operations in the Pentagon held a screening of The Battle of Algiers, Gillo Pontecorvo's 1965 film about a rather famous urban terrorist insurgency, the conflict between Algerian nationalist insurgents and French colonial forces in the late nineteen-fifties. In mid-December Philip Gourevitch in The New Yorker had discussed it again, as it is now coming into general release at small theaters around the country.
Well, it gets more press today. Christopher Hitchens in Slate has a few things to say.
Hitchens used to be a bit left, and knows he knows more than anyone else about most everything and isn't afraid to say so. And he loves this war and thinks George Bush is doing wonderful things, in spite of his personal misgivings about the man. He welcomed the WTC and Pentagon attacks. As he put it in Front Page Magazine
Watching the towers fall in New York, with civilians incinerated on the planes and in the buildings, I felt something that I couldn't analyze at first and didn't fully grasp (partly because I was far from my family in Washington, who had a very grueling day) until the day itself was nearly over. I am only slightly embarrassed to tell you that this was a feeling of exhilaration. Here we are then, I was thinking, in a war to the finish between everything I love and everything I hate. Fine. We will win and they will lose. A pity that we let them pick the time and place of the challenge, but we can and we will make up for that.
Yep, he hates those towel-heads. Bring 'em on.
Today he's upset that no one knows as much as he does about Algeria and that Pontecorvo film. It teaches us nothing about anything.
See Guerrillas in the Mist Why the war in Iraq is nothing like The Battle of Algiers. Christopher Hitchens, Slate, Posted Friday, Jan. 2, 2004, at 10:57 AM PT
He thinks we'll all get it wrong. First we get his credentials:
Unless I am wrong, this event will lead to a torrent of pseudo-knowing piffle from the armchair guerrillas (well, there ought to be a word for this group). I myself cherished the dream of being something more than an armchair revolutionary when I first saw this electrifying movie. It was at a volunteer work-camp for internationalists, in Cuba in the summer of 1968. Che Guevara had only been dead for a few months, the Tet rising in Vietnam was still a fresh and vivid memory, and in Portuguese Africa the revolution was on the upswing. I went to the screening not knowing what to expect and was so mesmerized that when it was over I sat there until they showed it again. I was astounded to discover, sometime later on, that Gillo Pontecorvo had employed no documentary footage in the shooting of the film: It looked and felt like revolutionary reality projected straight onto the screen.
When I next saw it, in Bleecker Street in the Village in the early 1970s, it didn't have quite the same shattering effect. Moreover, in the audience (as in that Cuban camp, as I later found out) there were some idiots who fancied the idea of trying "urban guerrilla" warfare inside the West itself. The film had a potently toxic effect on Black Panthers, Weathermen, Baader-Meinhof, and Red Brigade types. All that needs to be said about that "moment" of the Left is that its practitioners ended up dead or in prison, having advanced the cause of humanity by not one millimeter.
Well, I saw the film in Ohio. Not with Che's friends in Cuba. Not with the lefties in the Village. I think I was sitting next to a farmer named Dwayne. Obviously I have no standing here. No one has Hitchens' experience.
But I thought there was some reason to think about the film now.
The folks at the Pentagon thought so. Most critics think so.
Here's Hitchens on why we're all completely and stupidly wrong:
Those making a facile comparison between the Algerian revolution depicted in the film and today's Iraq draw an equally flawed analogy. Let me mention just the most salient differences.
1.) Algeria in 1956--the "real time" date of the film--was not just a colony of France. It was a department of metropolitan France. The slogan of the French Right was Alg?rie Fran?aise. A huge population of French settlers lived in the country, mainly concentrated in the coastal towns. The French had exploited and misgoverned this province for more than a century and were seeking to retain it as an exclusive possession.
2.) In 1956, the era of French and British rule in the Middle East had already in effect come to an end. With the refusal by President Eisenhower to countenance the Anglo-French-Israeli attack on Egypt at Suez in November of that year, the death-knell of European colonialism had struck. There was no military tactic that could have exempted a near-bankrupt France from this verdict. General Massu in Algiers could have won any military victory he liked and it would have changed nothing. Frenchmen as conservative as Charles de Gaulle and Raymond Aron were swift to recognize this state of affairs. Today, it is Arab nationalism that is in crisis, while the political and economic and military power of the United States is virtually unchallengeable. But the comparison of historical context, while decisive, is not the only way in which the Iraq analogy collapses.
The French could not claim to have removed a tyrannical and detested leader. They could not accuse the Algerian nationalists of sponsoring international terrorism (indeed, they blamed Gamal Abdel Nasser in Egypt for fomenting the FLN in Algiers itself). They could not make any case that Algerian nationalism would violate the Non-Proliferation Treaty or even threaten to do so. Thus, French conscripts - not volunteers - and Algerian rebels were sacrificed for no cause except the lost and futile one of French reaction. The right-wing generals of the Algeria campaign, and some of the extreme settlers, actually did conduct an urban guerrilla rearguard action of their own, in Paris as well as Algeria, and did try to bring off a military coup against de Gaulle, but they had been defeated and isolated by 1968.
I would challenge anybody to find a single intelligent point of comparison between any of these events and the present state of affairs in Iraq.
I guess we should all give up. Hitchens wins. Everyone else is wrong.
So maybe he's right about the war too. We should have all been "exhilarated" watching our friends and countrymen die. The good war had finally started that day.
Topic: Photos Happy New Year, from Hollywood and Paris Happy New Year. And no political issues today, as this is the annual deal with the hangover day. Not a bad one, actually. It was a only a nice California chardonnay. You see, for last night's guest I roasted a chicken, which I had stuffed with chunks of cut-up fresh oranges, then covered in bacon and garlic and cracked pepper - and somehow rosemary was involved. The chardonnay worked fine with that, and the other stuff. It was the cognac after dinner that was the killer. Kevin and Kathryn had brought me a bottle of very fine cognac from their recent trip to Paris, and there it was, and there was the balloon glass, and well, this fine cognac made Dick Clark seem young again. But I paid the price today. Oh well.
I did receive an email from Paris this morning, from Ric Erickson of MetropoleParis - a fellow I correspond with now and then. We trade web notes. He tells me things about HTML tables. And about Paris.
Ric sent a response to yesterday's posting here - Franco-American Relations: The Diplomatic War Intensifies... It's not going to be pretty. - where I commented:
One gets the feeling our government is edging toward revoking the right of Air France to land anywhere in this country. The whole thing with the cancelled Air France flights from Paris to Los Angeles last week seems to many a political set up - we told them bad guys were going to be on those flights, and urged them to cancel the flights, which they willingly did, and then they could find none of these bad guys, because they never showed up at CDG and perhaps never were going to show up. Then we called them incompetent and berated them for announcing they were canceling the flights when we obviously wanted to catch the bad guys boarding the airplanes in Paris. A `no win' set-up of the French government. Cool. We got them good. We made them look real bad.
Ric today wrote:
In an another strange year, canceling a few Air France flights to LA doesn't seem to merit the attention. I haven't read the papers here, but it was worth one item on one edition of France-2 TV-news. France played the game the American authorities asked for. The Tunisian guy turned out to be home in Tunisia, watching France-2 TV-news.
Given less mention on TV-news here is the systematic harassment of European - and Australian - reporters arriving at LAX. Word is out for journalists to enter the USA as ordinary tourists, so they don't end up being shackled, deprived of food and sleep, and ultimately deported by the INS at LAX.
Last night's TV-news showed immense amounts of fireworks being pulverized at Sydney, Hong Kong and Beijing. Followed by immense amounts of police guarding the fireworks-less Champs-Elys?es, from hooligans. Out of a crowd of a measly 400,000, 40 arrests were made. Of course, police getting ready for the big apple to drop in Times Square was shown too - proving that as shit-scared as Americans may be, they will still brave New York's finest just to be in `THE' place. Paris timid by comparison. But a `public' New Years Eve has never been big here.
What Jacques said on TV last night is not worth repeating. Smoke tax up, unemployment up, benefits down, longer working before retirement, etc. The `good news' is omitted because there wasn't any.
Perhaps the biggest real news is a light snowfall in Paris on Thursday, 1. January 2004. This, and the year's first meeting of the Cafe Metropole Club today. Brr, I have to go out in the mess outside.
I wrote back and mentioned that I thought that snow in Paris for the new year was nice, and he replied, "Weak snow; but nasty weather."
Trois cent vingt-quatre v?hicules ont ?t? incendi?s durant la nuit du Nouvel An en France, soit une cinquantaine de moins que l'an pass?, a indiqu? jeudi le minist?re de l'Int?rieuront.
Parmi ces incendies volontaires de v?hicules, commis dans 70 villes diff?rentes, 145 l'ont ?t? dans 57 villes relevant de la S?curit? publique et 18 dans 13 villes plac?es en zone de Gendarmerie nationale, selon la m?me source. ...
You see, out here in Hollywood it's not a tradition to set cars on fire on New Years Eve.
Obviously a quiet New Years Eve. Fifty less than last year. The folks have lost their revolutionary pep.
As usual, the torched cars belonged to the neighbors. It's not as if they want to go a long ways to have their fun. No bankers' cars were barbequed. Or Euro deputies'.
What cars got burnt in which towns is irrelevant. It's the same minister of the interior, Nicolas Sarkozy's fault.
Haven't seen the official `score' on France-2 TV-news yet. Coming up soon.
Perhaps later this evening I watch the France-2 TV-news for the official score. You too can watch here - or not.
Anyway, if you visit Rick's site, here, reprinted without his his permission, but in hopes of increasing his internet traffic to his site, is the very empty Rue de Rivoli today, before the impending 'Soldes d'Hiver.' (Those are the annual winter sales, when clothing prices are slashed up to seventy percent throughout France, beginning this year on January 7.) Perhaps the French too were all at home today dealing with their own hangovers. And from his site archives, from 1996, this second photo of what snow in Paris looks like. It's fairly rare.
Here in Hollywood it was a bit over sixty with high clouds - which I think some of you saw if you watched the Rose Bowl Parade or the game which followed. The sun broke out now and then, but not often.
Topic: World View Franco-American Relations: The Diplomatic War Intensifies
It's not going to be pretty.
On Friday, 19 December 2003 in these pages I mentioned an item that was being published the next day in le Fiagro that was most curious.
Here's the passage (no longer available on the net):
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... .
Yet another sordid chapter in the murky annals of Halliburton might well lead to the indictment of Dick Cheney by a French court on charges of bribery, money-laundering and misuse of corporate assets.
At the heart of the matter is a $6 billion gas liquification factory built in Nigeria on behalf of oil mammoth Shell by Halliburton - the company Cheney headed before becoming Vice President - in partnership with a large French petroengineering company, Technip. Nigeria has been rated by the anticorruption watchdog Transparency International as the second-most corrupt country in the world, surpassed only by Bangladesh.
One of France's best-known investigating magistrates, Judge Renaud van Ruymbeke - who came to fame by unearthing major French campaign finance scandals in the 1990s that led to a raft of indictments - has been conducting a probe of the Nigeria deal since October. And, three days before Christmas, the Paris daily Le Figaro front-paged the news that Judge van Ruymbeke had notified the Justice Ministry that Cheney might be among those eventually indicted as a result of his investigation.
According to accounts in the French press, Judge van Ruymbeke believes that some or all of $180 million in so-called secret "retrocommissions" paid by Halliburton and Technip were, in fact, bribes given to Nigerian officials and others to grease the wheels for the refinery's construction.
These reports say van Ruymbeke has fingered as the bagman in the operation a 55-year-old London lawyer, Jeffrey Tesler, who has worked for Halliburton for some thirty years. It was Tesler who was paid the $180 million as a "commercial consultant" through a Gibraltar-based front company he set up called TriStar. TriStar, in turn, got the money from a consortium set up for the Nigeria deal by Halliburton and Technip and registered in Madeira, the Portuguese offshore island where taxes don't apply. According to Agence France-Presse, a former top Technip official, Georges Krammer, has testified that the Madeira-based consortium was a "slush fund" controlled by Halliburton - through its subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root - and Technip. Krammer, who is cooperating with the investigation, also swore that Tesler was imposed as the intermediary by Halliburton over the objections of Technip.
Cool. Uncle Dick may be in trouble.
And the questions come up.
The suspected bribe money was mostly ladled out between 1995 and 2000, when Cheney was Halliburton's CEO. The Journal du Dimanche reported on December 21 that "it is probable that some of the 'retrocommissions' found their way back to the United States" and asked, did this money go "to Halliburton's officials? To officials of the Republican Party?" These questions have so far gone unasked by America's media, which have completely ignored the explosive Le Figaro headline revealing the targeting of Cheney. It will be interesting to see if the US press looks seriously into this ticking time-bomb of a scandal before the November elections.
Now wait a minute! Who ignored the story? Not MY readers!
It seems as if the new year is shaping up as a real political donnybrook between France and the United States.
One gets the feeling our government is edging toward revoking the right of Air France to land anywhere in this country. The whole thing with the cancelled Air France flights from Paris to Los Angeles last week seems to many a political set up - we told them bad guys were going to be on those flights, and urged them to cancel the flights, which they willingly did, and then they could find none of these bad guys, because they never showed up at CDG and perhaps never were going to show up. Then we called them incompetent and berated them for announcing they were canceling the flights when we obviously wanted to catch the bad guys boarding the airplanes in Paris. A "no win" set-up of the French government. Cool. We got them good. We made them look real bad.
But now they may indict Cheney. Touch?.
This is not going to be nice.
By the way, I have flown that Air France non-stop from CDG to LAX twice, Flight 68, and the last time was the morning after Richard Reid was caught trying to blow up his funky sneakers on that American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami. Quite safe - but a long, boring December flight leaving CDG in the late morning, climbing northwest over London then Belfast then Greenland and up over the arctic circle, where the sun drops below the horizon and it's night again, and then rises for a second time as the fight drops down over the back end of Canada, over Montana then Las Vegas and into Los Angeles. Two sunrises in one day. The sun also rises? This is not what Hemingway had in mind.
Topic: Election Notes Election Notes: Bush Will Win Because Real Men Are Angry Much has been said in political circles since Howard Dean mentioned he would seek the "Bubba Vote" - those guys in the pick-up trucks with the gun racks and a Confederate flag in the window. People said Dean was insulting the South, that he was reinforcing vile stereotypes, and that he was out of touch with this or that. And Dean backed off a bit.
I don't agree. Dean, and all who run against Bush, need to consider these guys. I must have come across fifty articles in the last few weeks asserting, in one way or another, that Bush would win the next election because he had the "white male vote" tied up. They were his, whether they were called NASCAR dads or Bubbas or anything else. Any opponent of Bush needs to figure out a way to get some of this vote.
Is it possible? No. Not at all.
Here's a fellow who disagrees with me. Then I disagree with him.
Allen Snyder is an instructor of Philosophy and Ethics. He can be reached at email@example.com. This article is copyright by Allen Snyder and originally published by opednews.com but permission is granted for reprint in print, email, blog, or web media so long as this credit is attached.
Fine. I've done my duty.
First, defining terms:
'Bubba', you may recall, is the generic name for the guy Democratic presidential contender Howard Dean appealed to; the blue-collar white guy with the pick-up, Confederate Flag (if he's a Southerner - the North has its Bubbas, too), gun rack, spit cup, NASCAR ball cap, 'I Pledge to One Nation Under God' bumper sticker, and big chip on his shoulder.
This now being out of the way, here are Snyder's main points:
At least rich Bubbas have an excuse for voting Republican. They have lotsa money and Republicans love helping rich people get richer, especially if they can get poor Bubbas and their yet-to-be-born children to foot the humungous bill, thank 'em for it, and ask for more.
But what's Poor Bubba's excuse? He doesn't have a pot to piss in. He's living paycheck to paycheck and up to his eyeballs in debt. Meanwhile, GOP hucksters ram through labor, middle, and lower-class unfriendly legislation that screws him over both economically and politically. Rather than punishing them, poor Bubbas from Savannah to El Paso to Knoxville line up every election to vote for more Republicans.
What's happened here? It's trivial to say there's one and only one cause for Bubba's changing attitudes, but the reasons aren't as complicated as you'd think. What attracts Bubba to the GOP is their not-so-closet intolerance, pumping testosterone, and defiant machismo.
You see, Bubba don't like too many people. He's got a 'problem' with Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Asians, Europeans (especially the French), the camel jockeys, towel-heads, fags, Jews, Catholics, atheists, tree-huggers, liberals, commies, and the ACLU. But what he really hates is blacks and women, especially those with power. All Bubbas are dangerously narrow-minded and are either racists, sexists, or homophobes, a combination of these, or in extreme, but not entirely rare instances, a heady mix of all of them (think Senator Santorum - Yikes!).
Bubba tends to like other Confederate flag waving God-fearing Protestants, have a 'nuke 'em all to hell' mentality, trust the government without question (unless it's full of Goddamn bleedin' heart liberal Democrats), hate dissenters, like his womenfolk figuratively barefoot/pregnant and literally submissive, and his blacks in their place.
He lives vicariously through military action, a testosterone-fest if ever there was one, imaginarily killing and maiming his way to world dominance.
Pacifists are pussies, the ends justify the means, if you want something - take it, and the USA is #1!
Bubba idolizes Rush and O'Reilly, and thinks Ann Coulter often 'makes some good points'. They get it. They know him, are him, and feel his pain (they say). They fan his anger and frustration, directing it toward the evil liberals, peaceniks, and Democrats responsible for this national cultural nightmare. They willingly enable his various 'isms', phobias, and fears.
Bubba's afraid he's lost control, lost power, become a minority in his own country. He's the victim of an evil liberal plot to de-white the country.
Everybody wants to take him down, make him pay, and the only ones who care are Republicans. 'It's OK to hate women, fags, and blacks', the GOP happily says, 'we don't like 'em, either - and we run the government!'
Well, all perhaps a bit over the top. But I know some of these guys. There's enough truth here to consider the implications. Would that this had been put in a more measured, scholarly fashion.
Of course, as Snyder points out, Democrats, on the other hand, are the party of Civil Rights, blacks, gays, feminism, the environment, international cooperation, and world peace - all things Bubba thinks the world would be better without. "Bubba wants and needs the security of being in charge, being top dog, and BushCo's GOP-sponsored plan for world domination through oppressive fear, bullying intimidation, and manly war neatly fits the bill."
Yep, a problem. So, how can the Democratic Party get votes from these guys?
Democrats have to stick to the issues; they can't let themselves get too tangled up in taking sides in the 'cultural war' questions of the day. They can't get any real mileage out of affirmative action, the pledge of allegiance, and gay marriage, 'cause the right sings Bubba's tune on those issues.
But what Bubba doesn't know is how much he's been lied to about things he actually cares about - war and the economy. Bubba's dying in Iraq and being sucked dry at home. The left needs to do more than simply confront Bubba with BushCo's destructive policies and their hideous consequences. They need to show Bubba how badly BushCo lies about everything and do so unceasingly.
'Cause if there's one thing Bubba hates more than being out of beer on game day, it's being made a fool of.
I think Snyder is wrong. These votes will never come back.
I suspect the voter bloc he identifies admires crafty liars. This bloc no doubt knows it has been lied to. So what? The cultural issues identified here carry far more weight.
How can you argue with the obvious - with a whole bloc of voters who pretty much tell you "Bush may be a liar, but he's our kind of liar, and he puts uppity folks in their place."
These guys will gladly be "economically exploited" if in return they can feel some cultural control, a feel a part of the power that rules the world.