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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, 1 March 2004

Topic: World View

Just in from the UK - an item indicating Bush is lucky folks here are not really that angry with him...

Bush has had a rocky few weeks, but poor Tony Blair.

Bush may have told us we were all going to die unless we took out Saddam Hussein and eliminated those weapons of mass destruction - and they weren't there, and never were. And we were going to be welcomed in Iraq as liberators, and loved and admired - and it didn't exactly work out that way. Yep, the mission wasn't exactly accomplished. Heck, we keep getting new after-the-fact explanations of what the mission REALLY was every few weeks. So maybe the mission really was accomplished. One never knows.

But Saddam Hussein gone from power would mean things would be better - opposition to our occupation would dissolve? Well, that depends on what the word "better" means. And "dissolve" is a verb, a process, right? It could happen, I guess. Oh, so many other things.... We were going to actually fund AIDS programs in Africa, and check out which of our schools here were not performing well and make them better by funding improvements. And there was making sure everyone who earned over three hundred thousand a year got, at the very least, a sixty-two grand tax break - and that would obviously create millions of new jobs. Oh well. The ideas were fine. They just didn't work out.

I suspect the persistent harping on Bush's somewhat casual service in the Texas Air National Guard in the early seventies is motivated by a nagging sense that Bush tends to live in a world he wants to be one way, and the rest of us know isn't quite the way as he sees it. Folks want to pin down what makes them uncomfortable with seeing him on the deck of an aircraft carrier in a combat flight suit crowing about the war we just sort of won, maybe. So we're always doing these reality checks - "He said what?"

But we love him anyway. He's amusing, like the goofy kid in the back of the classroom who, when forced, innocently gives some really wild dumb-ass answer to the teacher's question, one he really thinks, or hopes, might be the right answer - and it's so off the wall teacher rolls her eyes while all the other students snigger. Then everyone starts laughing. And he says, "What'd I say? What'd I say?" And then he gets angry and stamps his feet and stammers that he knows he's right and everyone else should just shut up and not make fun of him. Then everyone smiles and the class moves on with the business at hand. It's like that.

He's kind of our national joke. We move on.

But over in the UK it seems no one wants to treat Tony Blair so graciously.

See Extreme measures: The only way to bring down Blair and change the political context is to take direct action
George Monbiot, The Guardian (UK), Tuesday March 2, 2004

Here's George's take on Tony:
So now what happens? Our prime minister is up to his neck in it. His attorney general appears to have changed his advice about the legality of the war a few days before it began. Blair refuses to release either version, apparently for fear that he will be exposed as a liar and a war criminal. His government seems to have been complicit in the illegal bugging of friendly foreign powers and the United Nations. It went to war on the grounds of a threat which was both imaginary and known to be imaginary. Now the opposition has withdrawn from his fake inquiry. Seldom has a prime minister been so exposed and remained in office. Surely Blair will fall?

Not by himself, he won't. If we have learned anything about him over the past few months, it's that he would rather stroll naked round Parliament Square than resign before he has to. The press has a short attention span, Iraq is a long way away and the opposition is listless and unpopular. He has everything to gain by sweating it out.
Yep, reminds me of the hypothetical goofy student in the back of the classroom mentioned above.

But this guy doesn't want to let Tony off the hook.

Of course, he thinks getting anything done may be difficult:
British people know that our legal system stinks. Over the past week, the attorney general's conflicts of interest have been exposed three times. First we discover he instructed that a prosecution be dropped when the case threatened to reveal his own advice to the prime minister. Then we discover that he took his decision in consultation with the government. The "Shawcross principle" he invoked in the House of Lords (ministers shall be consulted over a decision to prosecute) sounds very grand. What it means, of course, is that the law is applied only when it is politically convenient. Thirdly we find that he changed his professional opinion about the legality of the war to suit Blair's political needs.

We also know that our MPs are weak and frightened, that the civil service remains in the grip of the upper middle classes and that the press is run by multimillionaires, whose single purpose is to make this a better world for multimillionaires. Yet somehow we continue to trust that all these twisted instruments will deliver us from evil, that the sound chaps in the system will ultimately do the decent thing. How we reconcile our understanding with our belief is a mystery, but this mystery is a perennial feature of British political life. As a result, we now wait for the establishment to bring Blair down. We could be waiting forever.
Well, Monbiot, welcome to the club. It's not that much different on this side of the pond.

Of course this Monbiot fellow suggest for the Brits something we never do, or haven't done much since the sixties:
... nothing happens now unless we get off our butts and make it happen. This means abandoning that very British habit of expecting someone else to act on our behalf. Worse still, it means recognising that, for all the complexities and evasions of a modern political system, the motive force of politics is still the people, and the people remain responsible for what is done in their name.

The formula for making things happen is simple and has never changed. If you wish to alter a policy or depose a prime minister between elections, you must take to the streets. Without the poll tax riots, Mrs Thatcher might have contested the 1992 election. If GM crops hadn't been ripped up, they would be in commercial cultivation in Britain today. In the 1990s, protesters forced the government to cut its road-building budget by 80%. Most of the cities where roads were occupied by Reclaim the Streets have introduced major traffic-calming or traffic-reduction schemes. Gordon Brown stopped increasing fuel tax in response to the truckers' blockades.

Direct action, in other words, works.
It does? Perhaps we should try it.

This fellow claims it works because it "ensures that the issue stays in the public eye, and therefore exposes the government to continued questioning." I guess. The idea is that if the campaign is well organized and popular, the issue becomes a liability, and politicians seek to protect themselves by dumping either the policy, or the author of the policy. Monbiot says in this case it's too late to dump the policy. The idea is to dump Blair.

And he adds this:
If we depose the prime minister through direct action, he will doubtless be succeeded by someone almost as bad, but the political context in which that someone operates will have changed. He will be forced to govern with one eye on the people, and to demonstrate that his policies differ from those of his predecessor.

... To become a civilised, moderate, responsible nation, in other words, we must first become a nation of extremists.
Oh my. Didn't I just hear the ghost of Barry Goldwater say something about extremism?

In any event, over here, one doesn't "take to the streets." That's so sixties. And anyway out here the streets are clogged with Hummers and Excursions and Escalades - so it's too dangerous. Thus Bush gets a pass. But poor Tony....

Posted by Alan at 20:45 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Topic: Election Notes

Thanks, but no thanks.

Over at Time Magazine Andrew Sullivan has an essay that will appear in the March 8th edition. In it he articulates what has always seemed to me to be a winning strategy for whomever it is the Democrats run against Bush in the fall. Many of us have been suggesting this since last summer. I've floated it to my email discussion group - my salon - and might have mentioned in it my magazine, Just Above Sunset. It's a way to cut Bush's feet out from under him while appearing magnanimous and gracious, and only just a bit condescending.

See If It Could Happen to Churchill...
Could it befall Bush? Why a wartime leader's success can be his downfall...
Time Magazine, Monday, March 08, 2004

Here's the core:
Here's what a really smart Democratic contender could say to the President this fall: "Thank you, Mr. President, for your leadership in difficult times. You made some tough decisions, and we are safer as a result. But the very qualities that made you a perfect pick for the war so far are the very ones that make you less effective from now on. You are too polarizing a figure to bring real peace to Iraq. You are too unpopular overseas to allow European governments to cooperate fully in the attempt to hunt down terrorists. And your deep unpopularity in half the country makes it impossible for you to make the necessary compromises that the country needs domestically. Thanks for all you've done, but bye-bye."
What's he going to do? Cry?

Pat him on the head and send him on his way. Heck, give him a shiny medal. He'll like that.

Posted by Alan at 19:34 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Topic: Election Notes

Fringe Candidates, an update....

Lyndon Larouche bought some airtime out here over the weekend and made his pitch that he - not Edwards or Kerry or anyone else - should be the Democratic nominee this fall. I missed the broadcast. I was busy trying to fix matters with my ISP hosting service.

Matthew Yglesias, however, did listen and provide this commentary.
So Lyndon Larouche went and bought a lot of airtime on the local ABC affiliate to broadcast a speech of his. I'd always known he was crazy, but he's way crazier than I thought. He's going on and on about the French Revolution. Danton and Marat were British agents? The evidence for this is that they were influenced by the ideas of Jeremy Bentham who, apparently, was in cahoots with British intelligence. Bentham's successor, Lord Palmerston, was "running" Giuseppe Mazzini who, we're told, was in league with Karl Marx.

Other British agents include presidents Jackson, Van Buren, Polk, and Buchanan.

The Marquis de Lafayette, John Quincy Adams, and Abraham Lincoln, on the other hand, were all opponents of the vast Anglo/Masonic conspiracy to control the 19th century. But Andrew Johnson "who was a disaster" allowed the "Anglo-Dutch liberals" to come back to power. Edward VII "created the federal reserve system in the United States" through his "agents" Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson before causing world war one. It goes on and on.
I'm sorry I missed this. It would have cheered me up.

Posted by Alan at 08:00 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Sunday, 29 February 2004

Topic: World View

Jerry Lewis, not Mel Gibson

Let's see here. It seems the French won't soon see Mel Gibson's new movie, "The Passion of the Christ." They seem to think Mel's a bit strange. One of the French national newspapers, Lib?ration, described Gibson's faith as "a Shi'ite version of Christianity ... imbibed with blood and pain" which "reduces the message of Christ to his death by torture". According to Lib?ration the film legitimized anti-Semitism. "The cult of the martyr is a dangerous combustible in which fanatics burn. It can feed intolerances and religious wars."

See L'Evangile selon saint Mel Gibson
Malgr? sa violence, le film de l'acteur int?griste bat des records aux Etats-Unis.
Par Fabrice ROUSSELOT, vendredi 27 f?vrier 2004

Or Machine ? convertir pour ?vang?liques
Le film est une aubaine pour ces protestants tr?s pros?lytes en vogue aux Etats-Unis.
Par Pascal RICHE, vendredi 27 f?vrier 2004

And so far the director Luc Besson is the only significant figure in the French industry to express interest in getting the film screened.

No wonder true, patriotic Americans hate the French. Not only were we forced to rename those deep-fried, salted potato sticks, well now it seems they hate sweet Jesus and the devout and humble Mel Gibson.

Here's the scoop.

See French cinemas refuse to screen The Passion
By Kim Willsher in Paris, The Sunday Telegraph, February 29, 2004

The basics:
French cinema chains are refusing to distribute or screen Mel Gibson's controversial film The Passion of the Christ because of fears that it will spark a new outbreak of anti-Semitism.

France is the only European country where there is still no distribution deal for the film, which depicts the last days of Jesus Christ in graphic detail and is accused by critics of stoking anti-Jewish sentiment.

The film was released in America last week but French distributors are wary of its impact on audiences and want to gauge its reception elsewhere in Europe, where it is due to open next month.

A veteran film industry figure said: "We don't want to be on the side of those who support such anti-Semitism. When we distributed It's a Beautiful Life by Benigni we were worried about the risk of making a comedy about the Holocaust, but that was different. There's enough anti-Semitic stuff circulating here already without us throwing oil on the fire."
In short, Gibson would call them moral cowards.

The Telegraph does note that debate over the film is highly sensitive in France, where a spate of fire-bombings of synagogues and Jewish schools and attacks on rabbis over the past year has led Israel to denounce it as the most anti-Semitic country in Europe.

And the Telegraph does note that there is a lot anger with Israel among France's large and growing Muslim population - might be that business with the big wall around the Palestinian folks - and this combined with the strength of Right-wing parties in some French districts has contributed to create "an atmosphere which has alarmed political and Jewish leaders."

No doubt. And yes, last year Paris police were forced to set up a dedicated unit to deal with anti-Semitic crimes.

It's hot.
Now a string of major distributors have signalled they are not interested in the film. "We could have asked to see it but we haven't," said Jean-Claude Borde, director of Pathe Distribution. "The subject doesn't interest us. Usually we acquire the rights to a film well in advance after reading the screenplay, but with Gibson it's not our cup of tea."

Other companies have either dismissed the film as "rubbish" or voiced anxiety over its content. "I didn't even stay until the end of The Passion. It's rubbish, nothing but a huge marketing operation.

"There are already enough bad films in France," said one French distributor who saw an early screening in the US. The industry is acutely aware of the capacity of film to stir popular passions after its experience of violent demonstrations and attacks on French cinemas following the release of Martin Scorsese's Last Temptation of Christ in 1988.
So they'll watch Jerry Lewis but don't want two see Gibson's Jesus-splatter-film.

Well, France is, nominally, a Catholic country but the real problem may not be there.
A group of traditional Catholics has formed a pressure group to attempt to force a French distributor to take up the film. Daniel Hamiche, a publisher and journalist, who has founded Pro-Passion, a supporters group, said: "France, the older son of the Church, is the only country in Europe where still today the film hasn't found a distributor. At first I believed they wanted to see how the film would do at the box office. Now, with the success of the film in America, I don't really understand why they are not snapping up - unless it's self-censorship."

... M Hamiche remains disgusted by what he regards as his countrymen's perfidious approach to The Passion.

"I do understand that the distributors and the Jewish community might be worried about possible attacks, but I don't believe the film is anti-Semitic and I think they are being over sensitive."
After Hitler and the trains heading east to the ovens, well, they might be a bit sensitive, don't you think?

Then the oddest thing of all - against these Catholics who want the Gibson film distributed we find the Committee Representing Jewish Institutions in France. And they seem to think a previous Pope did just fine.
French Jews fear that if M Hamiche's campaign is successful, anti-Semitic beliefs will spread. Patrick Klugman of the Committee Representing Jewish Institutions in France said: "The most important progress made against anti-Semitism in the 20th Century was achieved at Vatican II when the reference to the responsibility of the Jewish People in the catechisms was repealed.

"It's a shame that this film challenges this decision
Yes, in 1965 the Second Vatican Council, during the papacy of Paul VI, the church decided that while some Jewish leaders and their followers had pressed for the death of Jesus, "still, what happened in his passion cannot be charged against all Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today."

So the populist back-to-the-traditional Catholics side with Gibson, who broke from the Catholic Church because of Vatican II, and the Jews of France are busy defending Pope Paul VI and what he was up to in the mid-sixties, being forgiving and inclusive and all those sorts of things - that stuff Gibson hates.

It's a strange world. Religion is nothing but trouble.

Posted by Alan at 22:47 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Monday, 1 March 2004 05:31 PST home

Technical Difficulties

For the second week in a row, the parent magazine of this web log, Just Above Sunset will not publish on time. I will be sending the following message to my hosting service, Lycos-Tripod.
For the second week in a row I cannot publish my weekly magazine. On top of the three week outage in December, now this.

I reach "site builder" and when I clink on my URL - - I receive this message. "An error has interrupted communication between your browser and the web site server. Internal errors can have many causes."

Nothing I can do, logging on again, numerous reboots, warm and cold, fixes this. I cannot publish, again. And I am paying a monthly fee for your "professional" package and have upgraded for addition disk space and bandwidth.


I am about the send a broadcast email to my hundreds of subscribers asking, of those that are attorneys, if any of them would help me take legal action against Lycos-Tripod. This is totally unacceptable.

The total incompetence of Lycos is something I will broadcast to my readers around the country and in Europe. And I dare you to countersue me for my actions.
Of course I cannot send this until Monday morning, when their support staff reactivates the links that accept messages.

I urge any readers of this web log to never, under any circumstances, have any dealings with Tripod, Lycos or its trademark holder, Carnegie-Mellon University. Avoid any site associated with any of them.

I will be spending the rest of this evening trying to find workarounds for their problems.

If I do not find any solutions I will consider the parent magazine of this web log, Just Above Sunset to be dead. I will purchase a new URL and publish under a different name for the magazine with another hosting service.

Posted by Alan at 18:47 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

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