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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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Sunday, 25 January 2004

Topic: Bush

Go ahead. Take a satire break. Indulge yourself.

On the web you might have come across the site WHITEHOUSE.ORG - a wildly uneven anti-Bush, or anti-establishment, satire site.

As some of you know, my honors thesis in college, and my work in graduate school, was on the satires of Jonathan Swift. Yep, I was particularly fond of A Tale of a Tub and the famous section "A Digression On Madness." I wrote about that here back in mid-July - "What Jonathan Swift would say about Merrill Lynch were Swift still around...".

In the "Digression" one will find a discussion implying that the world can be divided into "fools" or "knaves" - the only two options. It's quite funny, and nasty. And very cynical. Swift only implies a third alternative - there are fools, and there are knaves, and then there can be total cynics who trust no claim about anything, ever.

I'm working on that third option.

Satire these days isn't so subtle. But you might want to check this out.


Here are my favorite parts:
THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Speaker, Vice President Cheney, fellow Republican CEOs, terrorist-coddling liberals, telegenic colored toddlers, and uniform-wearing military props:

America this evening is a nation whipped into a state of perpetual paranoia over terrorism. And I, your Supreme and Omnipotent Leader, am rising to sustain that. (Applause.)

In short... BE AFRAID. Be very afraid. Be constantly and persistently afraid. Be totally consumed by fear. Be absolutely, shit-in-your-Dockers terrified. To do otherwise is to voluntarily lay your blue-eyed babies at the Muslamian altar of sacrificial murder. Of course, don't be so a'scared that you feel like you can't let your kids play hopscotch on the sidewalk or go about your daily business as if you were living in the 90's. I've got your back. In fact, I'm the only one who knows how to protect this country from the hole dwellers who tried to kill my daddy.

As we gather tonight, America's military is stretched paper-thin across the face of the Earth. The servicemen and women for whom I feign respect are committing suicide and resigning their commissions in droves. Yet by scattering them around like so much disposal bio-confetti, we keep our domestic news media fixated on war, and in so doing continue to pound the enormous bongo drums of fear which buoy my approval ratings so gloriously. (Applause.)

Indeed, hundreds of military grunts are losing their lives so that you and I can secure the SUV juice we need to keep our country running. Who controls the spice... er, "oil," controls the UNIVERSE! And we thank the Hailiburton Corporation for their tax-deductible, pre-war donation of over 100,000 beautifully ornate military tombstones. (Applause.)

After all, our veterans deserve no less. (Applause.)

Tonight, members of this Republican Congress can take pride in having joined me in donning a fabulous star-spangled toga, invoking terror ad nauseum, and successfully imploding six miserable and horrifying decades of misguided legislation designed by evildoers (yes, American evildoers!) to interfere with God's divine plan for our nation's socio-economically inferior. Way to go, boys. (Applause.)

I want to thank the Democrats, in particular, for having purged their skeletons of the unruly vertebrae which might have otherwise prevented me from experiencing the groin-moistening satisfaction of effortless domination. I know that after this speech, Tom Daschle and Nancy Pelosi will stutter through their prepared remarks with all the persuasiveness and gravitas of a Richard Simmons tutorial on eating pussy. And for that, I am doubly thankful. (Applause.)
And this further on:
Moving forward, our nation faces a choice. We can act like a sissy little school girl, and waste a bunch of time thinking and talking about boring, non-terror-related stuff - or we can be a massively studly dude, and stay totally focused on bringing the world's most powerful arsenal to bear upon a few hundred hole-dwelling, lice-bearded boogey men. Now some say I'm thick as a brick, but I'm not blind to the irony there. Whoever would have guessed that Americans could believe that the only way to be "tough" is to twist your panties in a frantic perma-knot over some boxcutter-wielding religious loonies all named Mohammed? Not me, for one. But hey, whatever works! (Applause.)
And this:
Lately though, some whiners have been rudely dwelling on the fact that I sold America on an illegal war by promising to unearth weapons of mass destruction, which I have since failed to do. To them I say, "Who cares! Saddam's out of power, and that's a good thing!" I mean, I just don't get those folks. For instance, if I write a check for a new lawn mower, and the dealer brings me an ice cream truck instead, am I going to complain about it? Hell no! I like ice cream! Well it's the same thing with Iraq. Sure, the transaction may have technically been fraudulent, but ice cream is yummy! You'd think liberals could get that through their thick skulls. I mean, sheesh!
And it goes on, covering gay marriage issues, the Patriot Act and the economy.

I guess it's funny.

The link will take you to the whole thing. It's lame in places, and okay in other places, and rather good here and there. We have no contemporary Swift yet.

Posted by Alan at 22:28 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Topic: Photos

Minimal blogging today, of course.
The new issue of Just Above Sunset Magazine took most of the day.
Check it out.
The link is in the left panel.

Posted by Alan at 17:38 PST | Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink

Saturday, 24 January 2004

Topic: Election Notes

Trouble on the Horizon: The United States is Just Not Ready for THIS!

Let's suppose John Kerry wins the nomination of the Democratic Party to run against George Bush in the fall elections.

Make a real leap and assume he wins the presidency.

I know. That is far-fetched. But just assume it could happen.

Here's the problem. The new First Lady would be real departure from what we usually get.

See Kerry's gold
She's rich, clever, outspoken (in several languages) and she's got money ... lots of it. And if she has anything to do with things, she'll be America's next First Lady, wife of a Democrat President.
Edward Helmore, The Guardian (UK), Sunday January 25, 2004

Read this and you'll understand the problem, and see the line of attack that Karl Rove, Bush's best friend and chief political advisor, will take.

If her spouse of nine years, John Kerry, goes on to win the White House, she will make a First Lady quite unlike any America has seen before. Portuguese by birth, she was raised in Africa and educated in Switzerland. Spontaneous and independent of mind; candid and direct to the point of being impolitic, she is like her husband, a pro-choice Roman Catholic. And she is independently wealthy, to the tune of $550 million, from her first marriage to the late senator John Heinz, heir to the ketchup fortune. She remains a power in her own right as head of the Howard Heinz Endowment and Heinz Family Philanthropies, a charity with a billion-dollar endowment that gives away millions each year to environmental, educational and health causes.

It is a shared passion for the environment that brought John Kerry and Teresa Heinz together. They met at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, where she had been sent as delegate by the first President Bush. That was 12 months after John Heinz, a potential presidential candidate himself, died in a plane crash. She and Kerry subsequently bonded after he recited a prayer - in Latin - at a Mass they both attended.
This Bush team is going to make mincemeat of her on all this. Portuguese! Born in Mozambique! With a BA from the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa! The Bush team is laughing now. Americans won't stand for this.

And Latin? Latin? What's with that?

But wait! It gets worse, or better, depending on your political views. She's been campaigning for her husband:
... On a recent tour of Latino businesses in Manchester, New Hampshire, the French-African owner of a barbershop, who'd been swapping stories with her in French about growing up in Africa, said she hadn't mentioned her husband was running for president. But, said Victor Mbuyi, 'her French was very good'.
Fluent French? The kiss of death! We ALL know about the evil French. French is NOT what they speak in Texas, or anywhere "real Americans" live. And too it does appear she temporarily forget to plug her husband's campaign and kind of got sidetracked into a relaxed, personal conversation. Horrors!

But wait! It gets worse, or better, depending on your political views.
The daughter of a prominent Portuguese doctor, Heinz Kerry, n?e Maria Teresa Thierstein Simoes-Ferreira, grew up in Mozambique. She attended a school run by British nuns, and later studied Romance languages at senior school in South Africa, where she became involved in the nascent anti-apartheid movement of the late 1950s. At university in Geneva, she was a classmate of Kofi Annan at the city's School of Interpreters. Now fluent in five languages, she graduated and went to New York to become an interpreter at the United Nations, before marrying Heinz in 1966.
An old buddy of Kofi Annan? She worked for the United Nations, those folks who wouldn't support our little war to take over Iraq and get rid of Saddam Hussein and all those weapons of mass destruction that Dick Cheney said are really, really there - and he said that TODAY at the World Economic Summit is Davos, Switzerland.

This is going to be GOOD. Rove is sharpening the knives now!

But wait! It gets worse, or better, depending on your political views.
... With the perspective of an admiring foreigner, she often speaks of the demise of America's reputation abroad. 'I understand why so many of our friends around the world are so mad at us,' she said at a recent event. We have let them down. In a democracy, the one thing that cannot be done is to destroy its trust, its hope, its idealism. This administration is the most cynical, the most venal, the most Machiavellian administration in my 32 years in Washington.'
Yipes. She thinks what others think of us matters! Condi Rice is giggling now.

And damn, she uses words like Machiavellian! George doesn't.

But wait! It gets even worse, or even better, depending on your political views.
... asked whether she would take her husband's name, she shot back: 'Politically, it's going to be Teresa Heinz Kerry, but I don't give a shit, you know? There are other things to worry about.' And she added: 'Swearing is a good way to relieve tension'.
That cuts it. She's not a subservient, adoring wife. Horrors. It's enough to make Laura Bush weep bitter tears.

And no good Christian swears! Lest of all a Christian woman! There goes the Bible Belt.

Oh, this is going to be FUN!

Posted by Alan at 21:18 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Saturday, 24 January 2004 21:27 PST home

Topic: The Culture

Saturday News Notes: An Eccentric Collection

I live three blocks from the Chateau Marmont on Sunset Boulevard. That's the famous hotel where John Belushi died of a drug overdose in 1982. The place where James Dean and Sal Mineo stayed while filming Rebel Without a Cause (1955), and apparently fooled around with the director Nicolas Ray.

Yesterday at noon I heard the police sirens, and an LAPD helicopter was making a lot of noise, stationary above the roof here. But one hears these things all the time.

Here's the scoop:

Photographer Helmut Newton Dies in Accident
Anthony Breznican, Associated Press, Saturday, January 24, 2004
LOS ANGELES - Helmut Newton was a trailblazer in the photography world, exploring power, gender roles and an icy sexuality in his pictures.

His work appeared in magazines such as Playboy, Elle and Vogue, but he was best known for his stark, black-and-white nude photos of women. Newton, whose subjects included Paloma Picasso, Pierre Cardin and Naomi Campbell, died Friday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center after a car crash, police said. He was 83.

Newton apparently lost control of his Cadillac while leaving the famed Chateau Marmont hotel and crashed into a wall, said Officer April Harding, a police spokeswoman.

... It was unclear if Newton became ill while driving, authorities said.

The photographer, who was Jewish, was born in Germany to wealthy parents but fled his homeland at age 18 for Singapore in December 1938, a month after Nazi-led persecution programs began. He eventually settled in Australia and became a citizen, where he opened a small photography studio and changed his last name to Newton from Neustaedter.

Eventually he took up residence in Monte Carlo overlooking the Mediterranean, but spent winters in Los Angeles at the hotel.
Everyone should spend their winters in Hollywood, and the rest of the year in Monte Carlo, of course.

And Ann Miller, the famous movie star, known for her tap-dancing (five hundred taps per minute - a record, they say), passed away a few days ago at the same hospital, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center - two miles down the hill from here. She was eighty-one and this was lung cancer.

And yes, Bob Keeshan, known by millions of American children as television's grandfatherly Captain Kangaroo, has died after a long illness. He was seventy-six. But he died in Vermont, not here. All former Marines should be so nice.


And minor business news:

Firms Get Relief From Gulf Drilling Fees
From Reuters - January 24, 2004
The Bush administration said it would give royalty relief of more than $1 billion to energy companies drilling in the Gulf of Mexico to help increase domestic natural gas supplies, reduce consumers' energy bills and create jobs.

U.S. Interior Secretary Gale Norton said the plan would save Americans $570 million a year because of lower energy costs and create up to 26,000 jobs in the next six years.

But the plan also would cost the U.S. government about $1.1 billion in lost royalty fees from energy companies over the next five years, officials say.
Yeah, that's cool. Sigh.

And this:

Tauzin Says No to a Big Movie Role
Louisiana congressman drops out of the running to succeed Valenti as Hollywood's lobbyist.
James Bates, Los Angeles Times, January 24, 2004
Hollywood lost its top candidate to replace its chief lobbyist, Jack Valenti, as Rep. Billy Tauzin rejected the movie-industry job after receiving a lucrative, eleventh-hour offer to represent major drug companies, it was confirmed Friday.

The development deals a setback to the film studios' efforts to replace Valenti, who has said he wants to find a successor after 38 years as head of the Motion Picture Assn. of America. Valenti, 82, had hoped to announce who would fill his shoes as early as this month.

Sen. John Breaux (D-La.) and Rep. David Dreier (R-San Dimas) also have surfaced as potential replacements.
And why should this man turn down the job?
Valenti released a statement Friday saying Tauzin called him Thursday night to tell him he was declining a bid for his services that had been made by the MPAA. Valenti said Tauzin told him "that he was given a very, very generous offer from another enterprise."

Neither the MPAA nor Tauzin's office identified the group. But several sources said it was the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, which represents major drug companies such as Merck & Co. and Johnson & Johnson.

The pharmaceutical group, the sources said, offered Tauzin far more than the $1 million-plus annual salary that the MPAA job has paid Valenti.

... Sources among the major studios said Tauzin had been demanding from the MPAA a rich package with numerous perks, including at one point an apartment in New York, country club membership and fees for the lawyers who negotiated for him.
The job?

One has to oversee the industry's film-rating system, and deal with international trade issues.

So that's what happens when one retires from politics. One gets rich, or richer.

Posted by Alan at 08:08 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Saturday, 24 January 2004 08:50 PST home

Friday, 23 January 2004

Topic: Bush

There is such a thing as honor.

Something has been bothering me about President Bush's State of the Union speech a few days ago. I wasn't sure what it was. Here Colbert King hits on it.

This is the problem.

See Empty Words for the War-Torn
Colbert I. King, Saturday, January 24, 2004; The Washington Post, Page A19

The piece is long but here's the core:
Last Tuesday night was an opportunity for George W. Bush to eulogize the fallen, a chance for him to tell their families what their sacrifices mean to the nation - a time for the president to help heal broken hearts. That didn't happen.

Yes, in his long address to a joint session of Congress, Bush offered a few words of praise for the skill and courage of the men and women in the military. He delivered a line about "sorrow when one is lost," and shared a self-serving recollection of himself landing on the deck of a carrier in the Pacific Ocean and his Thanksgiving Day fly-in to Baghdad.

There was also a pledge to supply the troops with all the resources they need to fight and win. But victims of the Iraq war, as well as their moms, dads, spouses, children, neighbors and friends, deserved more than what they got from the president.

Instead of a moment of silence for those who have paid the ultimate price, they heard presidential pitches for prescription drugs and a new immigration law, and a denunciation of steroids and gay marriage. Instead of hearing the president recognize the preciousness of young lives expended far from home, they got a plea to put Social Security taxes in personal retirement accounts. Instead of telling the country why it should remember what the dead and dying stood for, Americans were given an earful on child tax credits, the death tax and cuts in taxes on capital gains.
That's it.

Perhaps I'm more sensitive to this as I do have a nephew in the Army, a major at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, out near Barstow. He trains the guys who go to Iraq and Afghanistan. And by the way, Wesley Clark used to be in command of the National Training Center at Fort Irwin. Anyway, my nephew deserves better from his Commander In Chief.

Yes, Tuesday was the time to tell U.S. families whose sons and daughters are losing their lives and limbs that their brave sacrifices still make sense. Tuesday was the time to explain why we are still getting hammered by a growing budget deficit, and why the military is stretched to nearly the breaking point. Yes, the families needed "an honest answer as to why young men and women in uniform are expected to fight and die in country dominated by clerics who want our protection as they vie for power and, once they get it, want us gone."

Instead, we got a Bush speech laying the groundwork for his quest for reelection.

King adds this:
This does not come from a Bush hater. He rallied the nation after Sept. 11, 2001, and set the right tone for a military response to al Qaeda. George W. Bush is not the ogre his critics make him out to be. But if ever the country needed a commander in chief who understands the horrors and wastes of war, it's now. That kind of president was not on display Tuesday night.
And that was the problem.

And maybe that does explain the appeal of people like Senators John Kerry and John McCain, retired general and Secretary of State Colin Powell, and retired General Wesley Clark.

King quotes a long passage from Kerry's book about his days in Vietnam. The writers at The Wall Street Journal always refer to Kerry as the "haughty French-looking senator who by the way served in Vietnam." Funny - like his three Purple Hearts for his wounds, and his Bronze Star and the Silver Star for gallantry in action. Real funny.

The passage, describing how a soldier dies, is graphic. Click on the link and read it, or buy the book. The account also appeared in "Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War," by Douglas Brinkley, in the December 2003 issue of Atlantic Monthly.

And yes, a president who has been down in the trenches and seen people die would never have gone up to Capitol Hill in the midst of war and delivered the kind of State of the Union speech that the nation heard Tuesday night.


Posted by Alan at 21:55 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 23 January 2004 22:02 PST home

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