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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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Saturday, 27 March 2004

Topic: Political Theory

The uses of history... George Bush as Oliver Cromwell? That is a stretch.

From a senior fellow with the Davenport Institute for Public Policy at Pepperdine University, just up the coast from where I'm sitting. What's his take on the state of American politics today? What we're facing is really Charles I and his Cavaliers versus Oliver Cromwell his Roundheads. Say what?

See Red, Blue and... So 17th Century?
Joel Kotkin, The Washington Post, Sunday, March 28, 2004; Page B01

Here's the opening:

Ideological and theological divisions running deep. Opposing factions so far apart they no longer seem to respect one another. A breakdown in communication. The elites of each side, neither able to appeal to the other, poised like opposing armies ready to do battle.

America 2004? Actually, no. This was the lamentable state of affairs in mid-17th century England, as it teetered on the brink of civil war. But there certainly is something disturbingly familiar about this description of a body politic dividing into two unbreachable camps.

Like England under Charles I, when the Cavaliers -- the royalist supporters of the king -- and the Roundheads -- Puritan upstarts led by Oliver Cromwell -- went at it for seven years of war, the United States today is becoming two nations. This is not merely the age-old split between income groups, as Sen. John Edwards kept suggesting in his unsuccessful campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, but something even more fundamental -- a struggle between contrasting and utterly incompatible worldviews.
Is this a fair comparison?

Well, Kotkin says it's not exact but close enough.

Some describe the conflict as one between the "red" and the "blue" states, the right and the left, conservatives and liberals. But even though no one is about to behead our ruler and overthrow the government, as Cromwell's forces did when they captured Parliament in 1649, I find the parallel of the Cavaliers and the Roundheads to be the most apt. They grew to hate each other so much that they could no longer accommodate a common national vision. "I have heard foul language and desperate quarrelings even between old and entire friends," wrote one Englishman on the eve of conflict. Much the same could be said of us today.
Ah, that's his argument. We are so split on fundamental issues, or moral views, that we cannot, ever, reconcile them.

And then this fellow runs his metaphor. He says America's Roundheads (the puritans) cluster in the South, the Plains and various parts of the West, while the Cavaliers inhabit the coasts, particularly the large metropolitan centers of the Northeast and Pacific Northwest. And "each side has its own views, confirmed by its favored media. Fox TV, most of talk radio, the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Sean Hannity speak for the Roundheads, supporting President Bush and America's global mission. The mainstream media, the universities and the cultural establishment, including most of Hollywood, are the voices of the Cavaliers, whose elites, like many of England's Cavaliers and Charles I's French wife before them, are most concerned with winning over continental opinion and mimicking the European way of life."

Funny guy, isn't he?

But then he really takes off -

As in 17th-century England, where the Roundheads disdained the Cavaliers' embrace of what John Milton called "new-vomited Paganisme," the most obvious divisions between the two groups are contrasting views of moral and religious issues. Our Cavaliers are the secular nation, whose spiritual home is in those places that yearn to join San Francisco at the same-sex-marriage altar. Contemporary Roundheads, like Cromwell's Shakespeare-hating Puritans, possess a fundamentalist sensibility; they seek to stop gay marriage and abortion, and bemoan other manifestations of our secular culture.
And I have to admit, that works out nicely.

He then rings the changes on economic issues and views of the military.

If you click on the link you can read through his detailed analysis. It's clever, but such things have been said before without resorting to belaboring the civil war of the early 1640's in England, the Interregnum that followed, and the Restoration that then followed. Most folks don't care about such things. And Charles the Second returning didn't really fix things. James the Second after him was a flaming queen (in today's parlance) and only when the Scots and Bonnie Prince Charlie got smashed down at Culloden were matters settled. As you recall, in 1745, James's grandson, known as the "Young Pretender" or "Bonnie Prince Charlie", landed in the Hebrides and gathered supporters from all over the Scottish highlands. They entered Edinburgh and began to threaten England. The Duke of Cumberland, son of King George II, led an English army against Bonnie Prince Charlie at Culloden, near Inverness, in April 1746. This was the last battle concerning this business to be fought on British soil. Bonnie Prince Charlie managed to escape, even though a reward of ?30,000 was placed on his head. He went into exile in France and finally died forty years later, sorting of drinking himself to death.

Surely we are not going to repeat all this?

Yes, it seems true that we do not get along well. And this Pepperdine fellow actually does suggest we really don't have to go through all the rigmarole that the British went through.

What should we do to not repeat such history? He suggests "the best thing would be for the political, university and media classes to begin reestablishing a civil dialogue and the kind of politics where debate and tolerance for opposing views are respected. America's strength has been an ability to adapt to changing conditions as a result of such open discussion."

Oh, that sounds so nice. If only it were possible. I think we're past that now.

And anyway, he has his history wrong. He says "gradually, civility and a rational balance were restored to the political system, with results that turned England into the world's most important country and mother to this one. Back in 1688, the English called this return to common sense their Glorious Revolution. May we look forward to our own."

Wait. The Glorious Revolution of 1688, sometimes called the "bloodless revolution" (as all the fighting was done in Ireland, which doesn't count I guess) - brought in William and Mary from Orange in the Netherlands to rule England. Well, good enough - at least they we're Catholics. And the main battle of this Glorious Revolution, at the Boyne River near Belfast, with the Catholics against the Protestants, is still being fought this weekend. That never really ended, did it? As what of the rulers who followed? There was the dull and rather stupid Queen Anne, then the imported German kings who followed her, the first of whom didn't even speak English. One odd George followed the next until the last quite mad George, who is said to have quite often stopped his carriage to step out and chat with a tree he'd noticed, and he lost the colonies over here. Careless fellow.

History can be seen lots of ways. Joel here is clever. But this is silly stuff.

Posted by Alan at 14:54 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Friday, 26 March 2004

Topic: Oddities

Terry Teachout over at About Last Night found some good ones...

"Robespierre and Saint-Just were ready to eliminate violently whole social strata that seemed to them to be made up of parasites and conspirators, in order that they might adjust this actual France to the Sparta of their dreams; so that the Terror was far more than is commonly realized a bucolic episode. It lends color to the assertion that has been made that the last stage of sentimentalism is homicidal mania."

- Irving Babbitt, Democracy and Leadership

In theaters this weekend, Jersey Girl (Miramax) may cause a rash of homicides. Ben Affleck plays a movie publicist who raises a daughter after his wife (Jennifer Lopez in this film, oddly enough) dies in childbirth, then finds romance with video store clerk Liv Tyler. Yep, the elf princess from the Lord of the Rings films. One reviewer (the Philadelphia Inquirer) says "the sap practically oozes from the screen." Yuk. In order that I not turn into a homicidal maniac, I'll pass on this film.

Was the Terror that followed the French revolution really a bucolic episode? That's a cool idea.


Then this -

"I suppose I'm a believer in Original Sin. People are profoundly bad, but irresistibly funny."

- Joe Orton, quoted in the Manchester Guardian (September 19, 1966)

Yep, that Joe Orton, who wrote "What the Butler Saw" - an actual farce, not Feydeau of course, but close enough for Britain in the sixties. The Beatles song "I Heard the News Today" is said to be a comment on Orton's suicide.

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

Thursday, 25 March 2004

Topic: Election Notes

Public Relations and Political Gain - Getting the Tone Right

Last night at the Radio and Television Correspondents Association dinner in Washington, George Bush cracked jokes while the audience was shown supposedly humorous photos of the President and top aides.

The full AP story is here.

Basically you get this:

President Bush poked fun at his staff, his Democratic challenger and himself Wednesday night at a black-tie dinner where he hobnobbed with the news media.

Bush put on a slide show, calling it the "White House Election-Year Album" at the Radio and Television Correspondents' Association 60th annual dinner, showing himself and his staff in some decidedly unflattering poses.

There was Bush looking under furniture in a fruitless, frustrating search. "Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere," he said.
Everyone laughed - well most everyone. I'm not sure I agree with how the Brits here see it.

See Bush jokes about search for WMD, but it's no laughing matter for critics
David Teather in New York, The Guardian (UK), Friday March 26, 2004

Teather says Bush "sparked a political firestorm yesterday after making what many judged a tasteless and ill-judged joke about the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq."

Yes, John Kerry, said the jokes displayed a "stunningly cavalier" attitude.

And Teather pulls together the emails CNN sent in. I saw that covered this morning as I was sipping coffee. They were overwhelmingly angry. Example? "How can a thinking, caring human being joke about the lies that led to body bags and broken young men and women? I was appalled." Yeah well, people love to be outraged. Another? "It was tasteless and childish. It shows the true man - or child in his case."

Later in the day Donald Rumsfeld was asked about these jokes in a news conference. He ducked it - no opinion. "To know what I would think, I would have to be there." Yeah. Right. This from the man who knew exactly where the WMD were and told us all Hans Blix was an obstructionist fool from "Old Europe."

If you hopped on the Drudge Report you find what Matt says is the Kerry press release about this.

If George Bush thinks his deceptive rationale for going to war is a laughing matter, then he's even more out of touch than we thought. Unfortunately for the President, this is not a joke.

585 American soldiers have been killed in Iraq in the last year, 3,354 have been wounded, and there's no end in sight. Bush Turned White House Credibility into a Joke George Bush sold us on going to war with Iraq based on the threat of weapons of mass destruction. But we still haven't found them, and now he thinks that's funny?

"George Bush didn't tell us the truth about the economy, about job loss, about the true cost of his deceptive prescription drug plan, or about the existence of weapons of mass destruction. There's nothing funny about that."
Fine. But there's no such item on the official Kerry site. Over at World Net Daily the same item is quoted. Google shows nothing else. The release might be counterfeit for some reason.

But that doesn't matter. This evening on MSNBC's Hardball, Chris Matthews' show, one of the guests was a young White House spokesman - I didn't get his name and there's no transcript available yet. Matthews, who just did a piece on the kids, our soldiers, he visited at Walter Reed Hospital - some of the more than three thousand amputees and blinded from the war - lit into to this White House flak with a vengeance. Matthews was at that Radio and Television Correspondents Association dinner, and one of the few who didn't laugh. He asked the White House guy if Bush would use the same jokes if he ever got around to visiting the wounded, or to attending a service funeral. It wasn't pretty. The poor fellow from the White House got slammed hard and had little to say. Hey, what's to say?

To put this in perspective, Richard Clarke opened his testimony to the 9-11 commission yesterday by turning the families of September 11 victims in the audience and saying, "... your government failed you... and I failed you. We tried hard but that doesn't matter because we failed and for that failure I would ask, once all the facts are out, for your understanding and for your forgiveness."

Six or seven hours later Bush was making jokes about the reason he told us we had to go to war. Oops. Kind of funny isn't it. Lost your legs? Lost your eyes? Sorry about that soldier. But hey, lighten up!

Well, charitably, the man is tone-deaf.

David Corn is less charitable.

Imagine if Lyndon Johnson had joked about the trumped-up Gulf of Tonkin incident that he deceitfully used as a rationale for U.S. military action in Vietnam: "Who knew that fish had torpedoes?" Or if Ronald Reagan appeared at a correspondents event following the truck-bombing at the Marines barracks in Beirut - which killed over 200 American servicemen - and said, "Guess we forgot to put in a stop light." Or if Clinton had come out after the bombing of Serbia - during which U.S. bombs errantly destroyed the Chinese embassy and killed several people there - and said, "The problem is, those embassies - they all look alike."

Yet there was Bush--apparently having a laugh at his own expense, but actually doing so on the graves of thousands. This was a callous and arrogant display. For Bush, the misinformation - or disinformation - he peddled before the war was no more than material for yucks. ...

Oh well. Bush may apologize.

But I'd guess he won't - not his style. And this will pass. But some of us will remember.

But then the Richard Clarke accusations a few hours ago led to another odd thing that indicates the administration really does need to "calibrate its tone" - as some things like this just look bad.

See White House Asks 9/11 Panel to Meet Rice
JENNIFER LOVEN, Associated Press Writer, Thursday, March 25, 2004

The scoop?

WASHINGTON - The White House on Thursday asked the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to give national security adviser Condoleezza Rice another opportunity to talk privately with panel members.

The White House said, in a letter to the commission chairman and vice chairman from counsel Alberto Gonzales, that such a session would allow her to clear up "a number of mischaracterizations of Dr. Rice's statements and positions."

Rice still would not testify publicly before the panel, as the members and many relatives of victims of the 2001 terrorist attacks want. Gonzales wrote that is important that presidential advisers such as Rice "not be compelled to testify publicly before congressional bodies such as the Commission."
Of course if you read the whole thing you discover the core issue is that Rice adamantly refuses that this meeting be public in any way at all. Heck, perhaps that is politically wise. You don't want to get in any sort of "who looks more credible on camera" thing with that Clarke fellow. You might lose. So keep it private.

But the really curious thing is that Rice is equally adamant that she not by put under oath - as in "Keep that damned Bible away from me!" She won't be held accountable in THAT way. Not her. This is not testimony in some damned courtroom where you swear you're telling the truth. It's just a chat to clear up some misconceptions.

Does Karl Rove, Bush's political advisor, understand how bad this all looks? In the last eighteen hours Clarke makes this stunning apology to the families who lost folks on September 11 - implying those who don't apologize are arrogant bastards who don't understand what real people feel. Then Bush makes his jokes about the missing WMD - a few miles from the hospital where our guys are working on how to live the rest of their lives without a leg or an arm or without their eyes. Hey, he didn't know the WMD weren't there - and it is kind of funny, isn't it? I guess that depends on your perspective.

Then late in the evening the Rice woman says she's changed her mind - she WILL explain herself, but only privately - on not on the record.

Karl, this is not way to make things look good.


Footnote (a new meme is born):

But then again, in the Republican primaries leading up to the 2000 election, Karl Rove saw how John McCain was gaining ground on Bush in South Carolina and suddenly there were all those stories popping up everywhere about how McCain might have fathered a "nigger baby" - and the rest is history. Good move, Karl. And today on CNN's show "Crossfire" Bob Novak did after all imply that Richard Clarke may have more than his points about Bush and the administration being wrong on terrorism. Novak is hinting the real problem is Richard Clarke has a problem with African-American women like Condoleezza Rice. Really - see this. Must be some racial-sexual hang-up.

Or maybe Richard Clarke is just a plain old racist, as Ann Coulter suggests:

Isn't that just like a liberal? The chair-warmer describes Bush as a cowboy and Rumsfeld as his gunslinger -- but the black chick is a dummy. Maybe even as dumb as Clarence Thomas. Perhaps someday liberals could map out the relative intelligence of various black government officials for us.
That would mean anything he says is to be disregarded, as he just doesn't like black folks. Liberals are like that. Don't listen to him.

It should be an interesting campaign.

Posted by Alan at 21:02 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 26 March 2004 07:38 PST home

Topic: Election Notes

As seen from the left?

Here's an interesting perspective. Eric Alterman opens with this today:

Joe Wilson, Valerie Plame, Max Cleland, Paul O'Neill, General Zinni, and Dick Clarke are all unpatriotic liars and weenies right? Has to be true; otherwise, this administration is both incompetent and dishonest. And that's not possible. I mean, on the one hand we have people who have given their entire careers to serving the American people and in many cases, paid dearly for it. On the other, we have a guy who didn't bother to show up for his cushy National Guard service during a war he supported, spent most of his first forty years drinking and carousing, and having been made wealthy by his father's associates, fell into the job of president where he (undeniably) misled his country into a war based on falsified evidence. Gee that's a hard one.

... The Clinton administration is obviously not blameless in failing to pursue Al Qaida as it might have but let's keep in mind that a) the Republicans were impeaching him for lying about sex, and b) when he did try to take action, these same accusers were accusing him of "wagging the dog." Interesting that Iraq hawks like Christopher Hitchens were then taking the Chomsky line that this attempt to attack al-Qaida was a politically-motivated crime against humanity.

You might want to read the whole thing, and follow the links he gives to prove his points.

Posted by Alan at 12:59 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Topic: The Culture

Why we are all wrong about Mel Gibson

See Has `The Passion' caused miracles?
Jeannette Walls with Ashley Pearson, MSNBC "The Scoop", Updated: 2:45 a.m. ET March 25, 2004

Well, here's the scoop -

Some fans of "The Passion of the Christ" claim that the Mel Gibson flick has caused miracles -- and now a documentary is in the works to prove it.

Makers of "Changed Lives: Miracles of the Passion" have been interviewing people who say their lives were turned around after they watched the flick. An online solicitation sent to would-be subjects of the film gives examples of the sort of "miracles" the filmmakers are looking for: "a marriage being rescued, an addict who was set free, a Jew who now accepts Jesus as Messiah, someone who experienced physical or emotional healing, and so on."

A website describing the documentary suggests recording video testimony this way: "Looking right into the camera the entire time, begin speaking as if you're telling your story to a good friend who does not know Jesus and you REALLY want him or her to see the film and be changed like you!"

"We have gone to Web sites where there are in excess of 70,000 stories about how people were touched by this film, so we have plenty to choose from," Executive Producer Jody Eldred tells The Scoop. The documentary isn't affiliated with Mel Gibson's Icon Productions, says Eldred, but he has been working closely with Icon. "They've seen the trailer. They think it's a cool thing. We have their blessings."
I'm not sure what to say.

Since Mel belongs to a dissident Catholic sect that believes everything the Catholic Church has done since the mid-sixties, particularly absolving the Jews from the murder of Jesus and dropping Latin in the mass, I don't suppose he is eligible for beatification. Too bad.

Oh yes, on this day in history -

3/25/1955: U.S. Customs confiscate 520 copies of Allen Ginsberg's 'Howl' as they enter the United States. Customs also seized and destroyed another shipment of Ginsberg's poetry sent from Canada in the 60s.

Posted by Alan at 11:03 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

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