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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, 16 August 2004

Topic: Bush

No one wants to mention the elephant in the room... but things change...

No one wanted to say it, but someone finally did.

In the last presidential election campaign, four years ago now, we were told that George Bush might have had little experience up to that point, and not much curiosity about anything, and he didn't know about a lot of places and people and things, and that, in fact, he might not be terribly smart - but that didn't matter. Intelligence didn't matter. Character mattered. You could look up all the shallow and stupid things Bush said - and see what he knew nothing about - and then find all the conservatives defending him. Bush would to restore honor and dignity to the White House, they said, and his smart advisors, with their decades of experience in previous administrations, would keep him from stumbling.

We were sold his upright character, and a backup infield of great talent. And we bought it. Gore was too smart by half - but you couldn't trust Gore. Gore was liar who had been second in command to an even bigger liar. Honesty, directness, simplicity - in short, character - matter more than how smart you were, or how clever. We didn't need that.

Now Matthew Yglesias says the obvious - in detail. We did need that. The current guy just isn't up to the job and never was. And it's time to say so.

So this was published today, and is getting a lot of press.

The Brains Thing
Three years of watching Bush makes the point: Intelligence matters more than "character."
Matthew Yglesias. The American Prospect - Issue Date: 09.01.04

Yglesias asks you to remember the narrative at the time -
... With the country enjoying a seemingly endless spell of peace and prosperity, and no apparent daunting challenges facing the next chief executive, the media were finally granted the chance to construct a narrative entirely around personalities. Al Gore, based on a handful of small exaggerations and his association with the occasionally sordid behavior of Bill Clinton, was said to have a character problem. George W. Bush, meanwhile, was haunted by a lack of experience and intelligence.

This left liberals flustered. Most of Gore's "lies" were, in fact, nothing of the sort; he was, upon examination, not the same person as Clinton; and finally, his Vietnam experience -- he enlisted in the Army upon graduation from Harvard -- contrasted favorably with his opponent's. But liberals never figured out how to convert these facts into a character argument on Gore's behalf.

Conservatives, on the other hand, had a ready answer to the charges leveled against their standard-bearer: Intelligence didn't matter. A president, after all, is assisted by a cabinet, White House aides, and a staff that numbers in the thousands. Surely those people could help him out when he needed to know the name of the president of Pakistan or run some numbers on a tax bill. Even George Will, who in August of 1999 fretted about Bush's "lack of gravitas -- a carelessness, perhaps even a recklessness perhaps born of things having gone a bit too easily so far," wrote the following January that he was prepared to have his "doubts about Bush's intellectual weight and steadiness" be alleviated by an appropriate vice-presidential selection. Dick Cheney, he suggested, was just the man for the job, and later that year Will became a happy camper.
Well, Cheney may be a hyper-intelligent, ruthless man, of vast experience, but even he cannot make something out of nothing. As Lucretius said a long, long time ago - Nil posse creari de nilo. You need some raw material to work with, after all. In the case of Bush, well, there was much there there.

So why didn't the Democrats and other liberals make more of a fuss about the fact the guy didn't know squat and didn't want to know squat?

Try this (my emphases) -
Liberals unanimously believed that Bush was not up to the intellectual challenges of the job. But fearful of re-enforcing a stereotype of left-wing elitism, they time and again shied away from pressing the argument. With the point thus conceded, Gore fought things out on the enemy terrain of character. To the Bush campaign's promise to "restore honor and dignity to the White House," Gore had no real reply -- except to put as much distance between himself and the incumbent as possible. Thus the country was treated to the strange sight of a vice president essentially disavowing his popular, rhetorically brilliant, and largely successful predecessor. Joe Lieberman was put on the ticket, and the campaign reached its high point when Gore made things really clear by delivering an ostentatious kiss to Tipper on national television at the convention. This, the campaign said, is a candidate who truly loves his wife, not at all like that other guy. But ultimately, character -- at least as defined by the Republicans and, more important, the media, who happen to be the ones who do the defining -- isn't a point on which a Democrat can win.
Yeah, we all wondered what that stupid long sloppy kiss was about. It was, we see, a character thing.

Well, Gore lost and we got the second George Bush. But that there seemingly endless spell of peace and prosperity was broken with those airplanes taking down both towers of the World Trade Center, smashing into the Pentagon and dropping out of the sky east of Pittsburgh - and three thousand dead - all in one morning.

Yglesias suggests it was then, if we admit it, we knew we were in trouble -
If ever there was a moment when the country might have been called to question whether it was well-served in a time of crisis by a leader with scant knowledge of the relevant issues, it was then. Instead, things merely got worse. Intelligence was off the table entirely, while character became the cult of moral clarity, a transformation well expressed by former Bush speechwriter David Frum in his memoir. After the attacks, he wrote, he realized that "Bush was not a lightweight." Instead he was "a very unfamiliar type of heavyweight. Words often failed him, his memory sometimes betrayed him, but his vision was large and clear. And when he perceived new possibilities, he had the courage to act on them -- a much less common virtue in politics than one might suppose." With the nation reeling from attack, the thirst for a strong leader was palpable, and so the press obliged by constructing Bush into one. Lacking the conventional attributes of a skilled -- or even competent -- chief executive, he became, as Frum put it, an "unfamiliar type of heavyweight."
Yeah, sometimes known as a lightweight, or as someone in way over his head.

But no one would say that. We needed to "come together" and all the rest. One didn't say such things.

Yglesias covers that too - how Frum's view was what we were supposed to say.
... Richard Cohen, part of a small army of liberal commentators who would eventually find themselves following Bush into Baghdad, wrote in his December 18, 2001, column that "I applaud whenever George Bush issues one of his dead-or-alive pronouncements" and denounced those, "invariably on the political left," who "upbraid him for his supposed childishness." Unlike his critics, Bush had a Reagan-like "moral clarity" about the struggle; and that, rather than any childishness, was the important point.

Such was the mood of late 2001. On October 20, The New York Times reported that "many Democrats who once dismissed Mr. Bush as too naive and too dependent on advisers to steer the United States through an international crisis are now praising his and his advisers' performance. Some are even privately expressing satisfaction that Mr. Gore, who tried to make his foreign affairs experience an issue in the campaign, did not win." Gore "may know too much," said one anonymous former Senate Democrat quoted by the Times.
Of course, of course - knowing too much is always a problem. Wouldn't want THAT. When the Democrats are saying such things, we are, indeed, in deep trouble.

Yeah, and praise these advisers' performance - Wolfowitz and Rove and Perle and all the rest. You know, the guys who believed Chalabi. You know, the guys who wanted this war with Iraq that would cost very little and where we, the liberators, would be greeted by folks tossing flowers, and everyone would rally around us and admire us in awe. Right.

Yglesias' money-shot is here -
Three-plus years later we know better, or at least we should. Intelligence matters. The job of the president of the United States is not to love his wife; it's to manage a wide range of complicated issues. That requires character, yes, but not the kind of character measured by private virtues like fidelity to spouse and frequency of quotations from Scripture. Yet it also requires intelligence. It requires intellectual curiosity, an ability to familiarize oneself with a broad range of views, the capacity -- yes -- to grasp nuances, to foresee the potential ramifications of one's decisions, and, simply, to think things through. Four years ago, these were not considered necessary pieces of presidential equipment. Today, they have to be.
And that about sums it up.

Yglesias extends his argument to domestic policy and has a long section, quite depressing, on matters with North Korea. And there is quite a bit on how Bush makes decisions. Click on the link for details. It is all quite detailed.

And then Yglesias turns to the local paper out here to wrap up (my emphases)-
Reviewing Clinton's My Life in the June 24, 2004, Los Angeles Times, neoconservative Max Boot happily concluded that "conservatives like character, liberals like cleverness." He's right. But to state what should be obvious, the president is not your father, your husband, your drinking buddy, or your minister. These are important roles, but they are not the president's. He has a job to do, and it's a difficult one, involving a wide array of complicated issues. His responsibility to manage these issues is a public one, and the capacity to do so in a competent and moral manner is fundamentally unrelated to the private virtues of family, friendship, fidelity, charity, compassion, and all the rest.

For the president to lead an exemplary personal life is surely superior to the alternative. But within obvious limits -- no one would want an alcoholic president, for example -- it doesn't really matter. Clinton's indiscretions caused his family pain and produced awkward moments for the parents of some young children. But Bush's bungling has gotten people killed in Iraq, saddled the nation with enormous debts, and created long-term security problems with which the country has not yet begun to grapple.

That the country should be secured against terrorist attacks, that deadly weapons should be kept out of the hands of our enemies, or that it would be good for a wide slice of the world to enjoy the blessings of freedom and democracy are hardly controversial propositions. But these things are easier said than done. Even a person of goodwill is by no means guaranteed to succeed. Yet succeed we must. And if we are to do so, the question of intelligence must be put back on the table. The issue is not "cleverness" -- some kind of parlor trick or showy mastery of trivia -- but a basic ability to make sense of a complicated, fast-changing world and decide how to confront it. Any leader will depend on the work of his subordinates, but counting on advisers to do the president's heavy lifting for him simply will not do. Unless the chief executive can understand what people are telling him and follow the complicated arguments they may need to make, he will find himself paralyzed at every point of disagreement, or he will adopt the views of the slickest salesman rather than the one who's gotten things right.

The price to be paid for such errors is a high one -- it is, quite literally, a matter of life and death. Already we've paid too much, and the problems confronting the country are growing harder with time. Unless the media, the electorate, and the political culture at large can shift their focus off of trivia and on to things that actually matter, it's a price we may pay again and again.
Okay, someone finally said it. The guy is in way, way, way over his head, and we're paying the price.

But intelligence doesn't matter, character does. Moral clarity is all. Or so we're told. We are supposed to prefer character, clarity and unwavering mindless confidence - even in the face of reality - over competence and coherence.

Digby over at Hullabaloo asks the quite obvious question here -
When Republicans tell me that it doesn't matter if Junior is intelligent I ask them if they think it matters if a doctor is intelligent or a judge or a general and if they think the job of president requires any less of a brain than those jobs do. Then picture George W. Bush doing any of them.
Geez, maybe someone should devise a sort of SAT test for presidential candidates - where one must demonstrate comprehension skills answering questions about difficult hypothetic issues, making sure you don't miss key points and complex interrelationships, and where you'd have to write a coherent essay explaining an idea, and you could throw in a multiple choice section on geography and history so you could show you do know where things are in the world and who might be mad at whom and why.

Nope. Bush hated the academics at Yale and blew off a lot of his classes - so that wouldn't be fair. And it may not be what we really want.

Yglesias perhaps would approve of such a basic qualifying exam. Intellectuals would approve. The rest of the country? No. "Character" will do for them.

Then again, at bottom probably no one believes the leader here should be an actual tweed-wearing wooly intellectual with a briar pipe and all that.

But someone who thinks clearly would be nice. Someone marginally coherent would be nice too. Someone who thinks about the real consequences of one's actions would also be nice. A little curiosity wouldn't hurt either. Who cares if he or she doesn't know anything about Lucretius? Basic competence would be nice.

Posted by Alan at 21:57 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 17 August 2004 11:41 PDT home

Topic: Couldn't be so...

Who do you trust? The New York Times causing trouble again...

First it's Bob Herbert.

Suppress the Vote?
Bob Herbert, The New York Times, Monday, August 16, 2004

The bare bones -
... State police officers have gone into the homes of elderly black voters in Orlando and interrogated them as part of an odd "investigation" that has frightened many voters, intimidated elderly volunteers and thrown a chill over efforts to get out the black vote in November.

The officers, from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which reports to Gov. Jeb Bush, say they are investigating allegations of voter fraud that came up during the Orlando mayoral election in March.

Officials refused to discuss details of the investigation, other than to say that absentee ballots are involved. They said they had no idea when the investigation might end, and acknowledged that it may continue right through the presidential election.

"We did a preliminary inquiry into those allegations and then we concluded that there was enough evidence to follow through with a full criminal investigation," said Geo Morales, a spokesman for the Department of Law Enforcement.

The state police officers, armed and in plain clothes, have questioned dozens of voters in their homes. Some of those questioned have been volunteers in get-out-the-vote campaigns.
This probably simple law enforcement. Yes, Bush cannot win in November without Florida. Yes, elderly blacks in Florida are overwhelmingly Democratic. Yes, Jeb Bush, the governor, is the president's brother and seems to have authorized this. Yes, many of these folks are active in get-out-the-vote activities, stuff like that group the Orlando League of Voters. But this is probably simple law enforcement - which officials refuse to discuss.

Not to worry. You have to trust them.

Then there are lawyers. One lawyer representing the seventy-three-year-old president of the Orlando League of Voters, is getting snooty -
Joseph Egan, an Orlando lawyer who represents Mr. Thomas, said: "The Voters League has workers who go into the community to do voter registration, drive people to the polls and help with absentee ballots. They are elderly women mostly. They get paid like $100 for four or five months' work, just to offset things like the cost of their gas. They see this political activity as an important contribution to their community. Some of the people in the community had never cast a ballot until the league came to their door and encouraged them to vote."

Now, said Mr. Egan, the fear generated by state police officers going into people's homes as part of an ongoing criminal investigation related to voting is threatening to undo much of the good work of the league. He said, "One woman asked me, 'Am I going to go to jail now because I voted by absentee ballot?' "

According to Mr. Egan, "People who have voted by absentee ballot for years are refusing to allow campaign workers to come to their homes. And volunteers who have participated for years in assisting people, particularly the elderly or handicapped, are scared and don't want to risk a criminal investigation."
This probably simple law enforcement - and the secondary effect - scaring the crap out of people who might vote the wrong way thus keeping a troubling demographic away from the voting booths, and afraid to even file an absentee ballot - is probably not what they intended at all. They were just doing their job.

There is an implicit message, sure. If you vote, or help the elderly or handicapped or low-income local black folks to vote, you could be in real trouble. Who needs a criminal investigation?

Actually, this is pretty clever. We have an investigation that cannot be publicly revealed and knocks on the door and lots buzz-cut white guys in suits asking questions - and they cannot tell you why they're asking these questions but can that tell you if you don't answer their questions you could be in deep shit.

Pretty clever. These Bush kids know how to play the game, and use all the available tools. Why don't the Democrats ever think of things like this? This works.

The second item in the Times?

F.B.I. Goes Knocking for Political Troublemakers
Eric Lichtblau, Monday, August 16, 2004

As you recall, the preamble to the Constitution says that one of the purposes of government is to "insure domestic Tranquility." (The eighteenth century was when one capitalized proper nouns, of course.) This seems to mean that it is the responsibility of government to enforce law and to preserve order so that citizens may go about their daily business peaceably and secure in their lives, possessions, and rights. Fair enough.

What Eric reports?
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been questioning political demonstrators across the country, and in rare cases even subpoenaing them, in an aggressive effort to forestall what officials say could be violent and disruptive protests at the Republican National Convention in New York.

F.B.I. officials are urging agents to canvass their communities for information about planned disruptions aimed at the convention and other coming political events, and they say they have developed a list of people who they think may have information about possible violence. They say the inquiries, which began last month before the Democratic convention in Boston, are focused solely on possible crimes, not on dissent, at major political events.

But some people contacted by the F.B.I. say they are mystified by the bureau's interest and felt harassed by questions about their political plans.

"The message I took from it," said Sarah Bardwell, 21, an intern at a Denver antiwar group who was visited by six investigators a few weeks ago, "was that they were trying to intimidate us into not going to any protests and to let us know that, 'hey, we're watching you.' ''

The unusual initiative comes after the Justice Department, in a previously undisclosed legal opinion, gave its blessing to controversial tactics used last year by the F.B.I in urging local police departments to report suspicious activity at political and antiwar demonstrations to counterterrorism squads. The F.B.I. bulletins that relayed the request for help detailed tactics used by demonstrators - everything from violent resistance to Internet fund-raising and recruitment.

In an internal complaint, an F.B.I. employee charged that the bulletins improperly blurred the line between lawfully protected speech and illegal activity. But the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, in a five-page internal analysis obtained by The New York Times, disagreed.

The office, which also made headlines in June in an opinion - since disavowed - that authorized the use of torture against terrorism suspects in some circumstances, said any First Amendment impact posed by the F.B.I.'s monitoring of the political protests was negligible and constitutional.

The opinion said: "Given the limited nature of such public monitoring, any possible 'chilling' effect caused by the bulletins would be quite minimal and substantially outweighed by the public interest in maintaining safety and order during large-scale demonstrations."
Minimal? Well, I guess - if the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel says that the impact here is negligible and constitutional, well, they must know. They are lawyers, reporting to John Ashcroft. You have to trust them.

No you don't.

Bob Harris makes these comments:
The agents usually ask the same three questions. Are you planning violence or other disruptions? Do you know anyone who is? Do you realize it is a crime to withhold such information.

Now as the tales of Martha Stewart and others remind us, it's the third question that looms. Lie to fed, suffer the consequences. And given that the latter investigations fall under the rubric of Stopping Domestic Terrorism, one can't help but suffer the fear, illogical or not, that a small cramped space at GITMO and an Ashcroft press conference awaits you.

The FBI has been urging local police departments to report suspicious activity at political demos. Including a request for details regarding everything from violent resistance to Internet fund-raising and recruitment. An FBI employee filed an internal complaint regarding the latter, charging that it improperly blurred the line between lawfully protected speech and illegal activity.
That's where Ashcroft's Office of Legal Counsel weighed in. No longer content to authorize the use of torture -- okay, it was just an opinion, since disavowed -- the OLC gave the Feebs a hearty thumbs-up.

... yes, I'm willing to admit that there are public safety concerns in play whenever large groups of people gather to demonstrate. It's just that as always, the Ashcroft Justice Department seems to be not only overreacting, but wasting resources as well.

... Rest easy, America. No Denver anti-war group intern is going to push you around!
This probably simple law enforcement - and the secondary effect - scaring the crap out of people who might say things in public that question the motives and actions, and even the intelligence of our current leaders - is probably not what they intended at all. They were just doing their job, insuring domestic tranquility and that sort of thing.

These two Times items suggest that scaring the crap out of people who are troublesome - those who might vote the wrong way and those who might ask the wrong questions - could be the primary intention here. The government can claim the primary intention in both cases is simply enforcing the law, that the secondary effects never occurred to them.

Which is true? It seems to be a matter of how trusting you are.

We trusted the government on that WMD business, and on the obvious ties between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. We trusted them on the idea that cutting taxes on the rich would makes us all rich and make the jobs come back. We trusted them on lots of things. Why not on these two?

Are there only so many times you can go back to that well before you find it's now dry? Maybe so. Or maybe not. We will see about that in November.

Posted by Alan at 19:51 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Sunday, 15 August 2004

Topic: The Culture

Sensitivity and its Limits

The new issue of Just Above Sunset, the parent site to this web log, went online earlier today. That would be Volume 2, Number 32.

Along with extended versions of items that first appeared here, you will find two new photography sections, along with a page of photos that first appeared here. Bob Patterson returns as "The World's Laziest Journalist" of course. And here you will discover the connection between the hard-boiled Chicago writer Nelson Algren and the French feminist icon and friend of John-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir - and their mysterious connection to Mom's Bar and Grill. And they said it couldn't be done.

What follows is an extension of this item - Male Identity: Peri Bathous, or the Art of Sinking to the Profound

This sensitivity business that started last Wednesday or Thursday has been on my mind.

And what would that be?

Cheney criticizes call for `more sensitive' war
Vice president twisting senator's words, Kerry campaign says
The Associated Press - Updated: 12:58 p.m. ET Aug. 12, 2004

The item comes from Dayton, Ohio - home to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the birthplace of Orville and Wilber Wright, and one dull place. Been there - about halfway between Cincinnati and Indianapolis.

But it wasn't dull last week.
Vice President Dick Cheney ridiculed Sen. John Kerry's call for a "more sensitive" war on terrorism Thursday, saying it would not impress the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists or the Islamic militants who had beheaded U.S. citizens.

"America has been in too many wars for any of our wishes, but not a one of them was won by being sensitive," Cheney told supporters in this swing state. "A sensitive war will not destroy the evil men who killed 3,000 Americans. ... The men who beheaded Daniel Pearl and Paul Johnson will not be impressed by our sensitivity."

He was referring to Kerry's statement last week at a minority journalists' convention in which Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee, said: "I believe I can fight a more effective, more thoughtful, more strategic, more proactive, more sensitive war on terror that reaches out to other nations and brings them to our side and lives up to American values in history."

Phil Singer, a spokesman for Kerry, said Thursday that Cheney was being disingenuous and was twisting Kerry's words. Singer noted that President Bush had also used the word "sensitive."

"Dick Cheney's desperate misleading attacks now have him criticizing George Bush's own words, who called for America to be `sensitive about expressing our power and influence,'" Singer said.

"Dick Cheney doesn't understand that arrogance isn't a virtue, especially when our country is in danger. ... If Dick Cheney learned this lesson instead of spending his time distorting John Kerry's words, this country would be a safer place," he added.
Arrogance isn't a virtue?

One could argue that even if it isn't a virtue, it wins votes. (Argued in Playing Fair: The Bad-Boy Vote.)

Cheney's position is this -
"Those who threaten us and kill innocents around the world do not need to be treated more sensitively. They need to be destroyed," he said.

None of the country's military heroes would follow Kerry's advice, he told an audience that included many veterans.

President Abraham Lincoln and Gen. Ulysses Grant "did not wage sensitive wars," Cheney said. "... As our opponents see it, the problem isn't the thugs and murderers that we face, but our attitude. We, the American people, know better."
We do? Speak for yourself, white man!

The idea we can be better thugs and murderers, and be those things but for good ends, than the pitiful thugs and murderers the other side develops for evil ends, is curious.

We need nurture and develop the appropriate kill them all mind-set? I guess.

Then what are we doing in Najaf trying to avoid blowing up the famous shrine where Sadr is holed up? Why not pull back and drop the big one? Are we such pussies we actually care what a bunch of crazy rag-heads would say or do if we did? These guys have their fake, strange (no Jesus!) religion - and we're sensitive to that? This business in Najaf and spreading across Iraq, is, as anyone can see, now a civil war. We have chosen sides. Iran has chosen sides. When Sherman marched across Georgia on our own Civil War, was he picky about what he burned to the ground?

Maybe Cheney is ticked at our own military for being such wimps. It would seem so. We don't need no allies, and we don't need no advice from no experts on Islam or Islamic culture, and we don't need nobody's damned permission - we need to kick some serious ass here.

One might point out that all this has its limitations, and that there might be trouble down the road with actions that follow from this stance. You know, unintended consequences and that sort of thing. What do they call it, nuance? That's a French word isn't it?

But Cheney is a man's man - the kind who folks in Ohio love. He's no wimp.

Well, the Associated Press reports elsewhere that Senator Tom Harkin said this -
"When I hear this coming from Dick Cheney, who was a coward, who would not serve during the Vietnam War, it makes my blood boil," Harkin said. "Those of us who served and those of us who went in the military don't like it when someone like a Dick Cheney comes out and he wants to be tough. Yeah, he'll be tough. He'll be tough with somebody else's blood, somebody else's kids. But not when it was his turn to go."
I guess Tom isn't buying this "man's man" macho business.

Want to avoid all the manly crap? It's hard.

Sunday morning with a decisive thump the multi-pound Los Angeles Times lands on my doorstep. Harriet-the-Cat jumps. I switch on the coffee machine and start to disassemble this Times package. Let's see - this weekend's magazine is the fall fashion issue (sultry models - fur is back, it seems), and many inserts wanting us all to buy the latest back-to-school crap (fancy photos of winsome kids with colorful outfits, looking uncomfortable) - and the slick but stunningly shallow Parade Magazine.

Page two of Parade is always the "personality" page - Walter Scott answers your questions about famous and no longer famous folks - minor celebrity gossip and such. And what does the "personality" page give us this weekend? This -
Q. George W. Bush has occupied the White House for almost four years, yet little is known of his personal preferences. Can you fill in the blanks? -- J. Brinkley, Los Angeles, Calif.

A. He's a man of simple tastes whose favorite foods are peanut butter (creamy, not chunky) and jelly sandwiches and Fritos. According to Ronald Kessler's A Matter of Character: Inside the White House of George W. Bush, just out, the health-conscious President brings his own treadmill and nonallergenic pillows on long trips.
Ah, good to know.

Digby over at Hullabaloo put it best -
The audacity of presenting this election as a choice between an effete French pussy and macho manly man is mind-bending.

Clearly, this election is a choice between a sixty-year-old man and a five-year-old boy.
But the five-year-old boy is so charming? I suppose in his impish way he is.

Oh, it doesn't matter. His kick-ass take-names no-nonsense nasty uncle will run the country for him. Have another Frito, George. Dick will take care of the bad guys.

But what to do with this?

As above, this business in Najaf and spreading across Iraq, is, as anyone can see, now a civil war. We have chosen sides. But on the Knight-Ridder wire it seems the side we're supporting, the good guys, are just as a bunch of "sensitive wimps" too. The Iraqi army that we work for (it's their country now, right?) is refusing to fight, again. Obviously they are just a bunch of girly-men - acting like John Kerry in Vietnam? Well, that Kerry comparison depends on who is lying.

Here's the deal -
"We received a report that a whole battalion (in Najaf) threw down their rifles," said one high-ranking defense ministry official, who didn't want his name published because he's not an official spokesman. "We expected this, and we expect it again and again."

... "I'm ready to fight for my country's independence and for my country's stability," one lieutenant colonel said. "But I won't fight my own people."

"No way," added another officer, who said his brother - a colonel - quit the same day he received orders to serve in the field. "These are my people. Why should I fight someone just because he has a difference in opinion about the future of the country?"

... when [1st Sgt. Khalid] Ali was asked about the number of guardsmen who have quit since al-Sadr's latest uprising, U.S. Army 1st Lt. Vernon Sparkmon cut him off.

"Certain things, you can't discuss," Sparkmon told Ali. "If somebody asks that question, that's, like, classified stuff."
The fellow asks why he should fight someone just because he has a difference in opinion about the future of the country?

To prove you're a man? To prove you're not French? Men fight. Differences in opinion aren't settled by talk. You want a democracy don't you? (The irony is too obvious, isn't it?)

Kevin Drum over at Washington Monthly says these Iraqis just don't seem to be up for an American-backed civil war. Well, they don't have that manly killer instinct.

Work it all out through discussion and compromise, and maybe through, say, voting? Nope. Ask Uncle Dick - that's not the American way.

Time for a tad more scotch now.

Posted by Alan at 22:00 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Sunday, 15 August 2004 22:05 PDT home

Saturday, 14 August 2004

Topic: World View

Paris Notes: A building without a concierge is a building without a soul.

News of the Syndicat National Ind?pendant des Gardiens d'Immeubles, Concierges et Professions Connexes...

I came across this oddity -

Key changes may spell end for the Paris concierge
Jon Henley in Paris, The Guardian (UK) - Thursday August 5, 2004

The concierge is disappearing.
They are as much a part of Paris life as petits caf?s at the comptoir, carnets of violet-tinted tickets for the metro and crottes de chien on the pavement, but their numbers are dwindling and the fate awaiting many is causing concern.

Concierges, the women who wash the doorsteps, scrub the stairs, change the lightbulbs, take out the bins and distribute the post in the capital's apartment blocks, have been in decline since electronic entry code systems were introduced in the 1970s.

But as the older members of a dying profession retire and soaring property prices lead owners to get rid of those who are left, rent out their cramped lodges and use contract cleaners instead, the needs of impoverished ex-concierges are proving hard to meet.

The Paris town hall says up to 2,000 of the 35,000 concierges' jobs in the capital are disappearing each year.
Well, times change.

And it seems largest union of these works, the Syndicat National Ind?pendant des Gardiens d'Immeubles, Concierges et Professions Connexes are getting fed up. Henley says there are many problems: concierges "work for a pittance," retire on minimal pensions, and can be legally evicted from their lodges as soon as they are no longer employed.

He notes that Paris concierges, who since the late forties have almost invariably been Portuguese or Spanish, typically earn ?1,000-1,200 a month before tax and social security, leaving a net pay of about ?600-800. And of course their pensions are much smaller. This too is a fifty hour a week job, or more what with, he notes, are additional tasks - letting workers into the apartments, watering plants, feeding pets, even taking care of schoolchildren for a couple of hours. And of course there is the problem of the residents' attitudes. But Parisians are nutritiously cutting, if not rude - as all non-Parisian French people will tell you. It's kind of like New Yorkers and the rest of us. Henley cites a survey by the union that found verbal abuse or violence had doubled in the past three years. Eighty percent of these concierges surveyed said they had suffered verbal attacks and twenty percent physical assaults. Life is tough.

Then there's this -
To these must be added the determined attempts of some residents' committees to oust them on economic grounds.

"I'm safe, but I've heard of cases where concierges have been given written warnings because of a cobweb," said another concierge. "Or asked to sign contracts that double their workload for the same salary."

Adelina Nunes, who has looked after a 36-flat block in the 10th arrondissement since 1969, is retiring next year.

"My husband has a family home in Portugal," she said. "I'm lucky. But even with somewhere to go, it will be terribly hard after 35 years here, in this building. This is my home. What must it be like for people who have nowhere else?"

Mrs Nunes says she will not be replaced: with her salary and the employers' fees adding up to 12% of the communal charges, a cleaning firm costs less, so her lodge might make way for bikes and pushchairs.

"I understand, I suppose," she said. "But it's sad, don't you think? A building without a concierge is a building without a soul, we say. An electronic entry code isn't going to lend you an umbrella, is it, or take delivery of your mail order shopping?"
Well, times change.

Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis, confirms all this -
Concierges, or gardiennes, are disappearing like snow in August. My building has one of these mysterious contract-cleaning outfits. I haven't heard or seen them for months. Without a concierge, the building management may as well be in Panama.

The question is, when something goes wrong, what are we supposed to do? I don't even know the phone number in Panama. They changed the doorcode last fall without putting a note in the mailboxes. Imagine asking a pizza delivery kid what it is. People coming to - ha-ha - 'water the plants,' ask me what it is.

In the last place I used to chat to the concierge, her kids and her husband. She had two buildings to look after. At least 5 staircases, 8 floors high. The husband did construction work I think. After 20 years here they went back to Portugal in 2002, in their used BMW 530 turbo-diesel, to operate their own bar-restaurant, and live above it - instead of in the shoebox they were in here. I wish I could have gone too.

My last concierge confirmed just about everything that was in this Guardian piece. Tenants are the gardienne's worst enemy. They don't even tip anymore at Christmas - the going rate used to be a 10th of a month's rent. I think they were all glad to go while they were still young enough to have a life in Portugal's sunshine.

You know, Paris has a lot more circuses now, but it's not getting to be a nicer place. Folks are getting ground down. Solidarity is on the wane.

There's a guy in the 17th who gave up his job as an accountant to be a concierge. He tries hard but has said on TV that it's a thankless, uphill job with lots of downside. He organizes fetes in the cour, and some of the sour ones say, 'nobody asked him to do it.' America has no monopoly on pinheads.
My apartment building here in Hollywood has a resident manager - a three hundred pound severe looking Russian woman. And her English isn't good. And she's surly. But things get fixed when they break. That's as close as we get here in Hollywood to having anything like a concierge.

One of my French friends out here has her mother up in Montmartre (rue Lamarck) in a tall building with the standard Portuguese concierge. Mom is in her early eighties now and needs someone around. I wonder if the Portuguese concierge is still there. I shall inquire.

But the world is changing. I fear this Montmartre Portuguese woman is long gone.

Ric says Paris is not getting to be a nicer place. The world is not getting to be a nicer place.

And a photo I found on the net - and will attribute when I figure out where I found it - that shows the Paris of these new times...

Posted by Alan at 13:39 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Friday, 13 August 2004

Topic: The Culture

Racial Identity: Who Gets to be Black?

I'm not sure my friend John is stereotypically African-American or not. We worked together for a few years in Pasadena trying to hold the computer systems for a chain of hospitals together through the Y2K business and lots of real crises, and had a pretty good time. He's a Vietnam veteran about my age, and a pretty good photographer as you can see in Just Above Sunset here and here. But I'm a white guy from Pittsburgh living in Hollywood. What do I know about what is typically African-American?

John recently sent me a note with an attached article that that made me wonder about it all.

The note:
Well, well, well.... It was bound to happen. A new way to be black. Or is it really new? Or does it matter?

How are Black Americans viewed when Bill Cosby makes a comment about some black households or this comment that Obama "is not black in the usual way?"

What do the French say about such comments? Do they ever hear them? How about the Germans or Brits, or Russians?
Barack Obama, running for the open Senate seat in Illinois, is the son of black African exchange student and a white woman, and a bit of an overachiever - as in Harvard Law School and President of the Law Review. His paternal grandfather herded goats in Africa. Beat that story, Horatio Alger! Now he is said to be presidential material - articulate, charismatic, generous, thoughtful, and positive - maybe our first black president somewhere down the road. That is possible. A rising star.

But John was referring to this -

Black Like Whom?
Vanessa Williams, The Washington Post, Thursday, August 5, 2004; Page A19

Williams, the assistant city editor at the Post says she is stumped.
Scott L. Malcomson, writing in Sunday's New York Times, declares that Barack Obama, the Democratic Senate nominee from Illinois, "is not black in the usual way." To bolster his argument, he cited an article in the New Republic by Noam Scheiber, who voiced the opinion that Obama is "not stereotypically African-American."

How is one black "in the usual way"? What does it mean to be "stereotypically African-American"?

Malcomson tried to explain by emphasizing Obama's mixed-race heritage -- his father is a black Kenyan, his mother a white Kansan. He pointed out that Obama was raised by his mother and her parents in Hawaii, as opposed to being brought up in a black household. He argued that Obama's keynote address at the Democratic National Convention last week "did not . . . sound the familiar notes of African-American politics."
Geez, I guess Obama doesn't qualify or something. [His speech in Boston was covered in Just Above Sunset here.]

I think the idea is the Democrats are trying to foist a fake black man on us, those crafty devils!

Williams says -
After noting that Obama identifies himself as a black man, Malcomson seemed to be trying to prove that the Senate candidate is mistaken about his own identity. "[W]hile he is black, he is not the direct product of generations of black life in America: he is not black in the usual way," Malcomson wrote. I wonder: Is there a "usual way" to be white?
Now THAT is a curious question. I'm just doing my best, but I'm not sure I'm doing this white thing right, really.

Well, Williams was covering a Washington "Unity" convention for African American, Asian American, Hispanic and Native American journalists. She says the group lobbies the industry to diversify its newsrooms, but its core mission is to challenge to the media to "improve coverage of people of color by dispelling stereotypes and myths." And I guess it isn't working.
In presenting Obama as some new template for black success, Malcomson offered an analysis as shallow as the one sometimes spouted by discouraged black teenagers (and roundly criticized by the black middle class): that to embrace the values and behaviors that lead to achievement is to "act white." Worse, his reasoning as to why white voters find Obama attractive is reminiscent of color biases many thought had long been retired: that society favors those black people with particular bloodlines, schooling and mannerisms, while seeing the lot of black Americans through almost-cartoonish generalizations from the dark days of Reconstruction and Jim Crow.
Okay, I take it back. The idea wasn't to foist a fake black man on us. The idea is the guy is so popular because he acts white and isn't threatening and is still black, sort of.

Some of us thought he was impressive because he made sense and inspired hope and offered fine ideas and was a good man - a natural leader - and that would have been true even if he were purple or green. Ah but he was black, or something like it.

And we have to have the back-story, as we say out here in Hollywood, and this frustrates Williams -
... the news media for the most part continue to cover black people in America through a narrow prism of extremes. I call it the first and the worst approach, focusing on black people who soar to unprecedented heights (Obama was the first black Harvard Law Review president) or sink to unspeakable lows (see the suspects on your local television station almost any weeknight at 11).

What of the majority of black people whose activities are not good enough or bad enough to attract headlines? How often do the news media include the names, faces and voices of African Americans in stories that are not about "black" issues, such as affirmative action, or that don't reveal the latest social epidemic?
Well in a world where news is entertainment, that's just not good material. It's just real. Where's "the hook?"

We want that hook, but Williams see a problem with this top-bottom no-middle media view of black folks -
The other byproduct of the media's inadequate coverage of African Americans is its creation of "black leaders," who are called upon to speak for all black people, regardless of the subject. In many instances these spokesmen are simply the nearest, loudest and glibbest people.

Some of these quote machines have been speaking for "the black community" for decades, sounding like broken records on a tinny Victrola. Is it too difficult or time-consuming for journalists to go out and find black parents, wage earners and professionals who can speak for themselves?
No, it is not too difficult or time-consuming. It just doesn't boost the ratings.

While Williams points out there are, "like Obama, scores of middle-class black professionals who have mastered the art of peacefully coexisting with - and excelling among - whites" that is of course, boring. That doesn't grab audience share.

And John asks what the French say about such comments? I suspect the French are laughing their asses off at this kind of crap. From Sidney Bechet and Josephine Baker in the twenties to Dexter Gordon and Miles Davis and all the rest - and don't forget the very gay and pretty black James Baldwin - folks just know where they are welcome. Or where these things don't matter as much. Tony Parker of the San Antonio Spurs - the one back Parisian in the NBA - does not spend the off-season in Texas. Why would he?

Are the French laughing their asses off? Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis, has a comment on that -
I don't think so. Sure the French like circuses, they like black comedy, and on rare occasions they'll vote for ultra right-wing Jean-Marie Le Pen for laughs, to 'send a message.' But, generally, people who are educated get respect - I write 'educated' and not 'rich' - so idiotic attacks on John Kerry and Barack Obama are more puzzling than funny.

They are also annoying. It's like the Republicans have drafted the Marx Brothers' 'Animal Crackers' and this is their whole campaign. They are running Jerry Lewis, but everybody here wants Dean Martin to win, because he's the real thing and old Jerry is the house buffoon....

Excuse me for using the Marx Brothers in this context. They would, if still around, be destroying the GOP with ridicule. Or maybe they wouldn't. The GOP is ridiculous, utter nonsense, and they are not doing too badly in the polls. Americans appear to be bamboozled.

No, I don't think the French are laughing.
My advice to John? Don't want to deal with this are your brilliant or a gang-member murderer stuff? Go to Paris. Meet Ric. And why come back? I'll come along. I like the place.

But this business that Barack Obama isn't really black - or is a new kind of black - or something? Okay. Whatever.

But the joke is Alan Keyes - the guy the GOP just decided to run against Barack Obama in Illinois for the open Senate seat - is the real black guy? Whatever.

The joke making the rounds is Bush and his crew couldn't find the WMD in Iraq, and now they couldn't even find a black man in Chicago and had to borrow on from Maryland. A cheap shot, but funny.

Here's the view from The Economist (UK) this week - The politics of tokenism.

The title says it all -
Three weeks ago in Boston, the Democrats witnessed the birth of a new black star in Barack Obama, their candidate for the open Senate seat in Illinois. Now the Republicans have conjured up a black star of their own to do battle with the self-described skinny guy with an odd name. Alan Keyes, talk-show host, holy-roller social conservative, Maryland resident and sometime presidential candidate, will take Mr Obama on.

The thinking behind this is beguiling in its simplicity: the Democrats have a black man who can give a rafter-raising speech, so we had better find a rafter-raising black man too. Beguiling, but stupid. Mr Keyes's Senate run will produce nothing but disaster--humiliation for Mr Keyes, more pie on the face of the already pie-covered Illinois Republican Party, and yet another setback for Republican efforts to woo minority voters.
A stupid mistake? Republicans make stupid mistakes? Couldn't be!

And why is this a mistake?
Mr Keyes's problems start with his personality. The Republicans' new champion is the very opposite of cool. In 1996 he chained himself to the front door of a television station in Atlanta, Georgia, to protest against a decision to exclude him from a presidential debate (he was then mounting the first of his two bids for the presidency). His speeches can certainly be eloquent. But they can also be intemperate and plain weird, particularly on the subject of gays.

Mr Keyes's politics are of a piece with his personality. He is a genuine intellectual, a disciple of the great Allan Bloom, and has a PhD in political science from Harvard. But his intellectualism drives him to take absolutist positions on some of the most divisive subjects in American politics. He doesn't just call for a reduction of taxes; he calls for the complete abolition of the "slave" income tax. He doesn't just want to blur the line between church and state like George Bush; he argues that the division between church and state has no basis in the constitution. He doesn't just disagree with Mr Obama on abortion; he castigates him for holding "the slaveholder's position" on the subject.
Yeah, Keyes has been saying Obama is a tool of the white slave master and a vote for Keyes is a vote for what God wants. Charming.

Oh, everyone has his or her little eccentricities. But the real problem, as The Economist (and everyone else) sees?
The Keyes candidacy ... smacks of tokenism. The candidate routinely denounces affirmative action as a form of racial discrimination. But what other than racial discrimination can explain the Illinois Republican Party's decision to shortlist two blacks for the Illinois slot--and eventually to choose Mr Keyes? He brings no powerful backers or deep pockets, and was thrashed in his two runs for the Senate in Maryland.

... The Illinois Republicans are not just guilty of tokenism. They are guilty of last-minute scraping-the-bottom-of-the-barrel tokenism. The local party has been undergoing a sort of collective mental breakdown ever since Jack Ryan's Senate candidacy collapsed in June over a sordid sex scandal. The party tried a laundry-list of candidates, including two former Illinois governors, two state senators, several wealthy businessmen, a former football coach and, according to Dennis Hastert, "a 70-year-old guy who was a great farm broadcaster in Illinois", before turning at last to Mr Keyes.

To make matters even worse for the Republicans, Mr Keyes's numerous defects as a candidate are only magnified by the comparison with Mr Obama. Mr Obama has spent almost 20 years in Illinois--seven as a state senator--and is married to a woman from the South Side of Chicago. He won an impressive 53% of the Democratic primary vote against six strong opponents. He is optimistic where Mr Keyes preaches Sodom and Gomorrah, and moderate where Mr Keyes is intemperate. He is also a rising national star, with unrivalled support from the national party, while Mr Keyes is a serial failure.

The Republicans' fatal mistake was to think that the best way to counter a black man was with another black man. The point about Mr Obama--as the Republicans might have realised if they had paid greater attention to his speech in Boston--is that he is a post-racial candidate.
Exactly. Obama could be purple or green and it wouldn't matter. What he has done and could do, what he thinks and is willing to consider, are what matter here. A lot of the country would rather have things going better than worry about variations on blackness and all the rest. That's so last century.

Yes, the Republicans have made serious attempts to court blacks. Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell aren't chopped liver - even if their actions can be questioned. But how have to agree the Illinois Republican Party's decision to choose Alan Keyes is not a serious attempt at outreach. The folks at The Economist have it right. It is a ridiculous parody of outreach.

It's just sad. Illinois wanted an election campaign based on issues, or one can assume that. The Republicans think a minstrel show would be more fun. They'll lose this one - and look like pandering fools.


And then there is the matter of Teresa Heinz Kerry. See Just Above Sunset for information - here and here for notes on her background. She was born and raised in Africa.

Rick, The News Guy in Atlanta, this week raise the question - So if Kerry wins, will that mean that Teresa will be this country's first African-American first lady?

My sometimes cynical friend John answered that - If Kerry wins and Teresa is loved by world and she does good things for everyone is showered with respect and admiration, the answer is NO. Otherwise, the answer is YES.

The idea is if she turns out to be a fine first lady, well, she's white. Easier to deal with. Fits the national narrative.

But then we get this odd story of well, a white man who puts on blackface to call John Kerry's wife a fraudulent African-American. Really.

The GOP Minstrel Show
A white tycoon in blackface race-baits Teresa Heinz Kerry.
Timothy Noah - Posted Thursday, Aug. 12, 2004, at 2:26 PM PT at SLATE.COM

Noah comments on the new radio advertisements this week by a nonprofit called People of Color United that rag on Teresa Heinz Kerry - saying she's no African, or at least no African American.

The copy? Here's some of it -
His wife says she's an African American. While technically true, I don't believe a white woman, raised in Africa, surrounded by servants, qualifies.
And there more of it. I heard it all.

The spots run in minority communities of course.

Noah points out the odd part -
What's interesting about this blacker-than-thou statement is that it's underwritten by a white man. People of Color United, although run by a black woman named Virginia Walden-Ford, got nearly half the money for its media buy from a Caucasian insurance tycoon named J. Patrick Rooney. Walden-Ford confirmed ... that Rooney gave the group $30,000 for a series of ads that are running in swing-state urban areas, and that the total ad buy thus far cost $70,000. Rooney, she said, was the group's biggest donor. All its funding information will eventually be public, but the law does not require People of Color United to file with the IRS before the ads go on the air. It will be interesting to learn whether a single person of color has written a check to People of Color United.
Hey, whatever works.

But Noah is angry -
I don't know about you, but when I hear a statement meant to inflame gratuitous resentment of white people, I prefer that it come from a black person. A white man who puts on blackface to call John Kerry's wife a fraudulent African-American is committing so many kinds of bad faith that I scarcely know where to start. Why did he do it?

The answer has nothing to do with the struggle for civil rights. Rooney is a medical-privatization pimp. His former company, Golden Rule Insurance Co., and its successor, Medical Savings Insurance Co., market private savings accounts of the type that Republicans are gradually using to displace health insurance provided by the government under Medicare and Medicaid (most recently in last year's Medicare prescription bill). In pursuit of this goal, Rooney, his family, and his employees have lavished more than $5 million on the GOP. Rooney's latest game, according to a recent story in Business Week, is to mau-mau hospitals into lowering rates for uninsured patients while simultaneously (and much more quietly) securing debt forgiveness for his company.
Well, Rooney claims he goes to an all black church - except for him I guess - and was elected to the church board. He says he's one of them. Really.

So he's got brass balls or bad eyesight - or both.

Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis, shot me a few choice, terse comments.
She was born and raised in Mozambique.

Makes her an African-American, more than the 95 percent of black Americans. It's another case of someone knowing absolutely nothing - about Africa. If Americans whose forefathers came from Africa 300 years ago want to identify themselves with Africa they are making a serious mistake. They aren't 'Africans.' Teresa Heinz Kerry is. Millions of whites in Africa are.

This J. Patrick Rooney guy is a total, evil, witless buffoon.

But what has she got to do with anything? Is somebody putting her on a ballot? It's the kid's stuff again.

If we actually cared about Teresa Heinz Kerry's background in Africa, we might want to ask which side she was on in Mozambique. But let's not. It's old history now and she didn't have any choice when it came to parents.

From people I've met who were born or brought up in Africa, I've learned that they are Africans regardless of color. Isn't the business of saying Teresa is a 'fake' African just another way of saying she's 'not American' - a bit like Canadians are 'nice' because they're 'not American'?
Yeah, I guess that is the argument - she's not one of us. Fear of "the other" works in elections.

But Ric's perspective comes from living most of his adult life in Europe, I'd guess - a much smaller place with many languages and cultural differences all jammed together on a chuck of land less than half the size of the United States. The "other" for Europeans can be a two-hour drive down the road - where everything is different, where people speak a completely different language and eat odd food and all the rest. One shrugs, and tries to get along.

We, on the other hand, have always had the luxury of relative isolation. The exotic was always way far away and safe. Fat men in lederhosen swilling beer and doing that dance where they slap each other, and telling what seem to be jokes in an incomprehensible agglutinated language - that was far, far away - except for some German polka halls in Cleveland, and no one goes to Cleveland. Africa - we know that from "Born Free" and "The Lion King" - and all those old Tarzan movies MGM used to shoot down in Culver City (the back lot is now an apartment complex that still has a few of the little lakes they used for the river scenes - and I used to live there). France we know from that Gene Kelly film with Leslie Caron.

And now Kerry wants to foist this odd woman on us. It is un-American or something.

But was the exotic was always way far away and safe for us? Ric in Paris wonders about that.
It you are ever in New York City an interesting trip is the one in the harbor to Ellis Island, which also includes a stop at the Statue of Liberty.

At one time, say from before the founding of the United States, until the 1960s or 1970s, America was exotic itself. Millions of 'exotic' foreigners were filtered into America via Ellis Island, and the statue was a result of a subscription made by the French.

From what I hear, many Americans are now only 'at home' if they live close to a 'mall' containing cloned shops, that are reproduced endlessly across the land. A narrow, twisty, Paris street evokes no affection or awe - it's too annoyingly complicated.

But to Europeans America is truly exotic. Even your hurricanes are exotic. Imagine - you can't leave the 'safety' of your house being destroyed by water and winds because of all the alligators flying around!

It's time for Americans to recognize the exotic at home. The risks of living in America are real. Coming soon - homemade 'boutique' cheese!
Indeed yes.

But it's not, however, that we're racist (the Obama-Keyes issues) or xenophobic (Teresa Heinz Kerry is too odd and neither black nor white). We're just... what? Careful?

This is one interesting culture here.

Posted by Alan at 21:52 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Saturday, 14 August 2004 10:10 PDT home

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