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Photos and text, unless otherwise noted, Copyright 2003,2004,2005,2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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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, 5 January 2004

Topic: Iraq

Democracy: Necessary and Sufficient Conditions

Those libertarian guys over at the Cato Institute are tons of fun.

See Can Iraq Be Democratic?
by Patrick Basham, January 5, 2004
Patrick Basham is a senior fellow with the Center for Representative Government of the Cato Institute.

Here's the core of what Pat says:
Is Iraq capable of moving smoothly from dictatorship to democracy? This paper contends that the White House will be gravely disappointed with the result of its effort to establish a stable liberal democracy in Iraq, or any other nation home to a large population of Muslims or Arabs, at least in the short to medium term.
Not good.
The building blocks of a modern democratic political culture are not institutional in nature. The building blocks are not elections, parties, and legislatures. Rather, the building blocks of democracy are supportive cultural values - the long-term survival of democratic institutions requires a particular political culture.

Four cultural factors play an essential, collective role in stimulating and reinforcing a stable democratic political system. The first is political trust. The second factor is social tolerance. The third is a widespread recognition of the importance of basic political liberties. The fourth is popular support for gender equality.
It seems getting a secular, free-market capitalist representative democracy up and running by mid-summer over in those parts might be a stretch.

Heck, it's a getting to be a stretch over here.

Political trust? Not a whole lot of that going around these days here at home.

Social tolerance? We say pretty things about that. And, we really will accept you - heck, we're tolerant of all kinds of folks like you - if you accept Jesus as your personal savior, and you think Britney Spears' twelve-hour marriage was far more moral than any "gay marriage" ever could be, and you think abortion is murder and assassinating doctors who perform them is justified, and you think everyone who uses illegal drugs should be executed, except for Rush Limbaugh, and that Bill Bennett knows how we all should act - just as Martha Stewart knows which chafing dish is correct. Yeah, we're tolerant. As long as you don't talk down George. He knows best.

Basic political liberties? Here? As long as you watch what you say, and where you say it. And as long as you don't get all uppity about you so-called "right to privacy." There's a war on, remember?

Gender equality? As Phyllis Schlafly. Gender equality is code for those anti-Christian New York types who flaunt God's law about women's holy obedience to their male sovereign. She knows about happy marriages. Ask her.

Yep, we're doing fine.

Posted by Alan at 20:55 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Topic: The Law

Your Police State at Work Protecting You. Secret Court Proceedings Make Us All Safe

I came across this at and found it odd. But perhaps it is only of interest to the two lawyers I know who sometimes log on here.

Mohamed Kamel Bellahouel was secretly jailed after the Sept. 11 attacks. His court case was kept secret. It's now before the Supreme Court. According to The Washington Post the Bush Administration has filed a request to continue to keep his case secret. More than 20 media organizations have filed requests to open the proceedings.

According to the Post:
Justices sometimes are asked to keep parts of cases private because of information sensitive for national security or other reasons, but it's unusual for an entire filing to be kept secret.

Lucy A. Dalglish, executive director of The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said she was disappointed by the government's request. "The idea that there is nothing that could be filed publicly is really ridiculous," she said. "It just emphasizes our point that we're living in frightening times. People can be arrested, thrown in jail and have secret court proceedings, and we know absolutely nothing about it."
Behind the Homefront: The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has much more on the case.

The case is The case is M.K.B. v. Warden, 03-6747.

Posted by Alan at 20:15 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Monday, 5 January 2004 21:09 PST home

Topic: Election Notes

Three unrelated items...

Over at Michael Moore's website he runs this daily reminder:
How Long Before Bill O'Reilly Apologizes to the Nation?

In the build up to the war with Iraq, Bill O'Reilly was on television every night backing up Bush's whoppers. Like the White House team, O'Reilly assured us that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. On March 18, 2003, O'Reilly was on ABC's "Good Morning America." He made the following promise about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction:

"If the Americans go in and overthrow Saddam Hussein and it's clean, he has nothing, I will apologize to the nation, and I will not trust the Bush Administration again, all right?"

It's time for Bill O'Reilly to apologize to the nation and tell us that he no longer trusts the Bush Administration. How long must we wait?
Don't hold your breath.


According to radio talk show host Lowell Ponte, Howard Dean, and the members of the Congregationalist church to which he belongs, are not sufficiently Christian: "[T]his week get ready to see Howard Dean with what amounts to his own prefabricated cardboard cutout of Jesus on stage with him as he campaigns for Southern votes in South Carolina. It will be a thin, two-dimensional Jesus, and Dean will declare Christ to be more socialist than savior."

See Howard Dean's Politics of Bad Faith
Lowell Ponte,, December 29, 2003
... So how genuine is former Vermont Governor Howard Dean's newly expressed Christian faith? Jesus, he reportedly recently told editors at the Boston Globe newspaper, was "an important influence" in his life.

"Christ was someone who sought out people who were disenfranchised, people who were left behind," Dean told the Globe editors. "He fought against self-righteousness of people who had everything.... He was a person who set an extraordinary example that has lasted 2000 years, which is pretty inspiring when you think about it."

The Jesus embraced by Howard Dean is a mere liberal social activist, a do-gooder whose "extraordinary example" of helping the poor and downtrodden is "pretty inspiring when you think about it."

What is missing from Dean's picture? To devout Christians, Jesus Christ is infinitely more than a social worker or political activist.
Yes, Jesus kicks ass and punishes bad dudes.


Doug Ireland over at TomPaine.Com reviews a book published last week.

See the review at this link.

Here's a bit of it.
Published the day before 2004 by Random House, An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror bears the signature of two of Washington's most influential ideologues. Richard Perle, known as the "Prince of Darkness", helped put together the now-famous 1999 neocon manifesto (signed by Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, among others) calling for war on Iraq. David Frum is Dubya's former speechwriter, the man who coined "axis of evil" and put it in the president's mouth.

The book proposes harsh action against France--which Perle and Frum say should be treated as an "enemy"--and thunders that "We should force European governments to choose between Paris and Washington."
Yeah, well. That's been coming for a long time. And this?
The book's knee-jerk frog-baiting is mild compared to its call for a military blockade of North Korea, combined with overt preparations for war. The North Koreans, of course, have just accepted an extensive visit by a non-governmental U.S. nuclear inspection team headed by the former director of the Los Alamos labs.

The dangerous duo says that Syria, too, should be put into economic quarantine, its oil supplies cut off and its territory invaded in the search for terrorists.
Threaten war with them all. That's the idea.

Hey, it works! Or one supposes it might work. If not, there is actual war or some way of overthrowing pesky governments.
In Iran, nothing less than a U.S.-sponsored regime change will satisfy Perle and Frum. In their nostalgic fantasy, the United States will finance dissidents to overthrow the current Tehran regime (shades of the CIA coup that overthrew the Mossadegh government a half century ago).
Well, that's out right. They tick us off.

Ireland calls these guys Freon Neocons:
Perle, Frum and their ilk have freon where their blood ought to be: what's more, their chilling willingness to use U.S. military force anytime and anywhere Washington feels like it has now been enshrined in the Bush doctrine of "pre-emptive first strikes" (read: aggressive war). And damn the consequences to the innocents, who are chalked up in a dehumanizing way as so much "collateral damage."

If Bush is re-elected, the Freon Neocons - from their power bases in the Pentagon and Dick Cheney's office - stand an excellent chance of seeing their reckless cowboy imperialisms, codified for all to see in Perle and Frums's book, become reality.

And if I were an Iranian, a Syrian or a North Korean, I'd start building myself a very deep bomb shelter.
Indeed. Who will stop us?

These two fellows are the advisors to George and the rest in power. So this is the new policy thinking: You don't mess with us.

For a country feeling frightened and beat-up, and regarded now by most of the world as a cowardly bully, this is heady stuff. Everyone hates us? Fanatics are trying to kills us? The French lecture us? Fuck `em all. Bomb everyone. We do have the power.

Jacques Chirac could get a visit from some Army Rangers any day and then we'd have Jean-Marie Le Pen running things over there, a fellow Bush could warm to easily.

Posted by Alan at 16:43 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Sunday, 4 January 2004

Topic: The Media

Busy, busy, busy...
No blogging today. Sunday is the day I do final assembly and post the week's new issue of this: Just Above Sunset Magazine.

Check it out. Amazing photos of surreal Hollywood. New and expanded articles. Lots of stuff.

Volume 2, Number 1 - new issue this date...

Posted by Alan at 18:06 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Saturday, 3 January 2004

Topic: Oddities

Intellectual Life Out Here in Los Angeles (Pasadena, actually): Aliens from Outer Space

The California Institute of Technology hosted this:
Aliens Cause Global Warming
A lecture by Michael Crichton, Caltech Michelin Lecture - January 17, 2003

I missed it, but the link will take you to the whole thing. And it's not so outrageous. Here's how it opens.
My topic today sounds humorous but unfortunately I am serious. I am going to argue that extraterrestrials lie behind global warming. Or to speak more precisely, I will argue that a belief in extraterrestrials has paved the way, in a progression of steps, to a belief in global warming. Charting this progression of belief will be my task today.

Let me say at once that I have no desire to discourage anyone from believing in either extraterrestrials or global warming. That would be quite impossible to do. Rather, I want to discuss the history of several widely-publicized beliefs and to point to what I consider an emerging crisis in the whole enterprise of science - namely the increasingly uneasy relationship between hard science and public policy.
What Crichton is getting at is that science should be at odds with public policy, in his view. Or it should be separate from public policy. He reviews the history of extrapolating prediction from scientific findings into government policy. It's kind of sad.

Yes, it is mathematically possible that there are other sentient beings out there in the universe. The math is clear. But do we build expensive arrays of radio telescopes for listening for these folks out there? The math isn't THAT good.

Crichton also reviews predictions of overpopulation and famine, and concludes we really should not be here at all, fat and happy. Even if the math was right, the predictions were wrong, and thus policy based on such prediction is not wise.

He thinks good science is being "used" by folks with other agendas. Perhaps so. He wants to keep science "pure" - so to speak. I think he feels used. And that folks should be more careful.
You tell me you can predict the world of 2100. Tell me it's even worth thinking about. Our models just carry the present into the future. They're bound to be wrong. Everybody who gives a moment's thought knows it.
So, should we do nothing about global warming? He's not saying that. He's saying one doesn't know. But doing something couldn't hurt.

Posted by Alan at 14:55 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

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