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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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Friday, 20 August 2004

Topic: The Culture


As most everyone knows, that famous woman from Pasadena, Julia Child, passed away this week. I still have my late mother's old copy of The Art of French Cooking somewhere or other, although I hardly ever open it. Like most guys, I work from intuition and improvise - although I have consulted that book from time to time on things that puzzled me. But Julia Child was one fine woman.


Someone I know, Louisa KL Chu, on her website Movable Feast: Diary of an Itinerant Chef has a funny story of what it was like to interview Julia Child. You might check it out here. Louisa, by the way, holds Le Grand Dipl?me from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris (2003) and then staged at Restaurant Alain Ducasse au Plaza Ath?n?? also in Paris. And she will be staging at El Bulli in September until the end of the season 2004 - think foam, of course. She is contracted with Les Ambassadeurs at the H?tel de Crillon in Paris after that, but her French work visa is pending. I believe bureaucracy is a French word - they invented the concept - and I wish her luck. Anyway, Louisa's interview will give a good sense of Julia Child.

And you might want to check out this appreciation. It hits the mark.

Julia Child's Lessons in Living
She combined a Puritan work ethic with a love of life.
Amy Finnerty - Opinion Journal (in The Wall Street Journal), Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Some nuggets from Finnerty?

Julia Child as subversive of the American ethic -
She addressed one glaring flaw in the American ethic--our aversion to actually enjoying what we've labored for. In this she shifted the focus of pride at American tables away from the heartland clich? - that of "plenty," the visible fruits of labor" - toward an emphasis on quality, and the senses. A purring palate was more important than a piled-up platter.

Many food trends have come and gone since she became famous, and she remained unmoved, deriding the anti-butterfat lobby and other bores. Health-food zealots were a baffling irritation to Ms. Child, and she delivered a consistent message over the decades: Ignore them. No wonder our feelings about her are still so passionate, several decades after her most oft-cited accomplishment (bringing coq au vin to Peoria).

Food was the medium, but the message amounted to a philosophy of life. She did something more important than teach us to cook; she taught us to eat, and some of us in the new Atkins World Order could still use a few lessons. She knew how to indulge, in moderation: food of all kinds (in normal portions); drink (but not drunkenness); smoking (until she did the mature thing and quit); and the company of men (she was a happily married flirt).
That about sums it up. Lighten-up and relax - and enjoy life. Fine by me.

And had she not been involved with food?
... she might have found greatness in other ways, through her ability to subvert Americans' love of suffering.
What? America's love of suffering?

Well, surveying the week in politics, watching the not-quite-hard-bodies staggering out of Crunch Gym down on the corner, where aerobic suffering is a specialty, listening to the din of coverage of the trials of Scott (murder) and Kobe (rape) and Micheal (child molestation)... this Finnerty woman has nailed it there too. We do love suffering. It ennobles us, and entertains us.

Crunch Gym stands on the spot where Schwab's Drugstore used to be - where Lana Turner was discovered - a pretty young teenager in a tight cashmere sweater sipping a high-carb, real-sugar soda many decades ago. Times have changed. The sweet young things on that corner now, exhausted from their workouts, looking grim and a bit mean, could easily toss any Hollywood agent who gets too fresh through a plate-glass window - and they sip cold no-carb coffee-like stuff at Buzz Coffee on the plaza outside the gym - and you don't want to mess with them.

Julia Child would just not get it.


One other -

The American poet Donald Justice died August 6th after a long illness. He was extraordinary. One of my favorites.

Here is a quick bio -listing all the awards and such.

And everyone is quoting his most famous poem -
Counting the Mad

This one was put in a jacket,
This one was sent home,
This one was given bread and meat
But would eat none,
And this one cried No No No No
All day long.

This one looked at the window
As though it were a wall,
This one saw things that were not there,
And this one cried No No No No
All day long.

This one thought himself a bird,
This one a dog,
And this one thought himself a man,
An ordinary man,
And cried and cried No No No No
All day long.
Short and to the point.

William Carlos Williams, another American poet (Patterson, New Jersey in fact - but he was in Paris with Hemingway and Gertrude Stein and the rest of course), said this - "It is difficult to get the news from poems yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there."

Yep. And I think Julia Child knew something similar about food.

Slow down. Enjoy. Drink it all in.

Posted by Alan at 17:35 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Thursday, 19 August 2004

Topic: Couldn't be so...

From the department of Oops! - Need some spin here, and some damage control....

Three items - sex, soccer and religion....


Markos Moulitsas Z?niga (known as Kos) points out an event here - the Bush administration's "point man" charged with getting Catholics to vote for Bush, and get the Church to deny Kerry communion and maybe get him excommunicated, has just resigned. The fellow's name is Deal Hudson. It seems he fondled two underage students and engaged in public sex with a third, all in one night.

This qualifies as an Oops. And how did he get that first name Deal?

Kos points to the Catholic Reporter here - they broke the story.

The matter-of-fact New York Times item is here.

He also points to commentary here in the Revealer arguing the Times underplayed it.
... we think it should be huge on the front page. Not because Hudson turns out to be a hypocrite [...] but because of what even a perfunctory investigation reveals about the administration's approach to the Catholic vote. "'If you wanted to get something to the top inner circles of the White House from a Catholic perspective, you could contact Deal Hudson and it was delivered.'"
Maybe so. But this is not a big deal. There's war on, after all. And everyone is trying to figure out whether John Kerry faked his service in Vietnam and is really a cowardly wimp and secretly French and all that.
Kos himself says this -
... Hudson hardly represents mainstream American Catholicism. As readers of his magazine, Crisis -- or his frequent email blasts -- know, he's the Ann Coulter of Catholicism, a profoundly angry writer who expresses his faith via vitriolic denunciations not just of liberals, but of anyone within the Catholic Church who doesn't conform to Hudson's rulings. He's a punisher.
It's easy to see why he fit in nicely in the Bush administration.
Ah, but he's left the Bush administration. It seems good Catholics have these problems with sex, even the priests (or especially the priests). There is a reason all of us guys in high school loved those girls from the Catholic schools, in those cute uniforms with the tiny skirts. Such conflict and guilt meant action. It is all most curious.

For background on the Bush administration's efforts to turn the Catholic vote from Kerry, a Catholic, to Bush, a born-again evangelical Methodist, see Just Above Sunset:
April 25, 2004 - The Vatican Rag
May 9, 2004 - On your knees, America!
July 4, 2004: Heresy - In the Specific Religious (and Los Angeles) Meaning of the Term


Just out in Sports Illustrated (part of Time-Warner, the parent company to CNN and all that) we find this -

Iraqi soccer players angered by Bush campaign ads

Say what?

Well, if you click here you can see the television ad the Bush folks have been running concerning the Iraqi soccer teams tearing up at the Olympics. Yep, the really are winning big. In the ad you see the flags of Iraq and Afghanistan. The voice-over - deep and resonant and male - intones, "At this Olympics there will be two more free nations - and two fewer terrorist regimes." Bully for our side. Bully for Bush.

Many of us have seen the spot here and there on the major networks.

But the Iraqi players are ticked off.

From the Sports Illustrated interviews -

Iraqi midfielder Salih Sadir - "Iraq as a team does not want Mr. Bush to use us for the presidential campaign. He can find another way to advertise himself." And this: "I want the violence and the war to go away from the city. We don't wish for the presence of Americans in our country. We want them to go away"

Ahmed Manajid, who played as a midfielder on Wednesday - "How will he meet his god having slaughtered so many men and women? He has committed so many crimes." And this - as he is from the city of Fallujah. He says coalition forces killed a cousin, who was fighting as an insurgent, and several of his friends, and adds tha if he were not playing soccer he would "for sure" be fighting as part of the resistance. "I want to defend my home. If a stranger invades America and the people resist, does that mean they are terrorists? Everyone [in Fallujah] has been labeled a terrorist. These are all lies. Fallujah people are some of the best people in Iraq."

Iraqi soccer coach Adnan Hamad - "My problems are not with the American people. They are with what America has done in Iraq: destroy everything. The American army has killed so many people in Iraq. What is freedom when I go to the [national] stadium and there are shootings on the road?"

Scott Stanzel, a spokesperson for Bush's campaign - "The ad simply talks about President Bush's optimism and how democracy has triumphed over terror. Twenty-five million people in Iraq are free as a result of the actions of the coalition."

Free, perhaps. But not exactly happy.


Lieutenant General William G. Boykin has come up before in Just Above Sunset - see November 23, 2003: Why We Fight.

He's the fellow who gave all those speeches in churches, in uniform, that said this was a religious war. Our God against theirs. My favorite? Why we won the first war so easily and the second war so quickly - when he directed the battle against this enemy "I knew my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol.''

Boykin also said the enemy in the war on terror was Satan and that God had put President Bush in the White House.

By the way, Boykin is deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence - no small irony there, and he works closely with his boss, Douglas Feith - one of the most famous neoconservatives. (Many believe the Abu Ghraib business and our torture-as-policy comes from these two guys)

Cool. And for additional detail check out David Corn in The Nation on November 24th last year - Ann Coulter's Religious War - Republicans and conservatives say the darnest things - as it's kind of funny.

But the Associated Press is reporting this -

Probe Examines General's Remarks on Terror
August 19, 2004

A Pentagon investigation has concluded that a senior military intelligence officer violated regulations by failing to make clear he was not speaking in an official capacity when he made church speeches casting the war on terrorism in religious terms, a senior defense official said Thursday.

... The Boykin investigation report has not been publicly released. Its findings were described Thursday by a senior defense official who is familiar with its conclusions. The official spoke only on condition of anonymity because the report has not been acted upon yet by acting Army Secretary Les Brownlee.

... The Washington Post, which first reported the conclusion of the inspector general's investigation in its Thursday editions, said the probe determined that Boykin discussed his involvement in the war on terrorism at 23 religious-oriented events since January 2002 and that he wore his uniform while speaking at all but two. He spoke mostly at Baptist or Pentecostal churches.

The Post also reported that the investigation concluded that Boykin violated a regulation by failing to report reimbursement of travel costs from one of the sponsoring religious groups.

After the controversy erupted, Boykin later issued a written statement apologizing to those who were offended and saying he did not mean to insult Islam. He has remained at his intelligence post during the investigation.
Ah, fudging the expense reports and saying things that inflame our enemies and enrage those of our friends who haven't yet found Jesus?

Well, he said he's sorry. But he's still on the job.

Dick Cheney this week said, "Those who threaten us and kill innocents around the world do not need to be treated more sensitively. They need to be destroyed."

Boykin is safe.

Posted by Alan at 18:31 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 20 August 2004 06:08 PDT home

Topic: Election Notes

Listen to the Women: Points to Consider

Dahlia Lithwick, the attorney who writes a column for Slate on legal issues and provides insider views of the give and take at sessions of the Supreme Court, and who now and then appears on the news show as an expert on legal matters, is doing a turn as a guest columnist at the New York Times. Yes, a few of the regular Times columnists do take summer vacations.

Here she takes to task critics who portray George Bush as a kind of child, or, shall we say, as a childish frat-boy.

Babies and Bath Water
Dahlia Lithwick, The New York Times, August 19, 2004

Her point is that we should not be framing a national conversation about the president this way, as it doesn't do his opponents any good at all.

What she's talking about?
It cannot have escaped anyone's notice that much of the current Bush-bashing aims to infantilize him. The most devastating segment in Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11," for instance, features the president - just after he learned of the second attack on the World Trade Center - perched on a chair in a Florida classroom, looking glazed and confused as he listens to a reading of "The Pet Goat." Mr. Bush's aide might well have whispered the news to one of the assembled students to greater effect, and the implication is inescapable: for seven long minutes, the president was Not a Man.

A glance at the top 150 ads selected by for its recent political advertising contest, "Bush in 30 Seconds," similarly reveals the extent to which childishness is woven into the current Bush-bashing. While children have long been used in political ads to represent the future, many of the MoveOn entries use them to satirize the actual candidate. Several of the proposed anti-Bush commercials use kids to condemn the president for unsophisticated thinking, for an infantile worldview, for the fact that his daddy purchased his every big break and for the fact that he is desperately beholden to the wealthy and powerful grown-ups surrounding him. The clear message is that Bush is more a child than an adult.
Ah, guilty as charged here.

But Lithwick says that thinking of Bushas a not-particularly-smart third grader make me look bad. Why? Because "it plays to every stereotype of liberals as snotty know-it-alls who think everyone in a red state is anti-intellectual or simple-minded. It answers name-calling from the right with name-calling from the left."

That is perhaps true.

And Lithwick also points out that this is an implicit insult to anyone who voted for Bush last time around. Those who maintain this Bush-as-petulant-child view are just sneering, as she says, and saying a little under half of all voters last time around "voted for a kid - and a dumb kid at that."

Well, if the shoe fits....

Then Lithwick discusses this in relation to the Bush-Gore debates four years ago and suggests Gore's behavior - the deep sighs and the eye rolling and all that - shows how dangerous such a view is. Gore came off badly.

[The media watchdog Bob Somerby here suggests this was not the case at all.]

Be that as it may, she says there is a bigger problem than Bush opponents of this sort coming off as arrogant, smug, condescending twits -
... the campaign to cast Mr. Bush as a bumbling child ignores the very grown-up machine that stands behind him. Infantilizing the president shifts the focus away from the Cheneys, Rumsfelds, Ashcrofts and Wolfowitzes. These are the men who promised us short, easy wars and painless little suspensions of the Geneva Conventions. These are the men of the secret energy-policy meetings. They aren't a bunch of rowdy juveniles. They represent one of the most secretive, powerful administrations in recent memory. Whether the president could outscore your kids on the SAT is a distraction from that fact.
Oh yeah, those guys, the old white men who run the country. Almost forgot about them.

The she lays another one out there - the psychological consequences of pointing out that the president is, perhaps in fact, an incurious frat-boy.
With each attempt to cast Mr. Bush as a baby, we craft excuses for his childish behaviors. If Mr. Bush misled us into a war in Iraq, it's because children have trouble telling the truth. If Mr. Bush sees the world in too-stark terms, it's because nuanced reasoning isn't easy for children. With each comparison between the president and a youngster, we subtly lower national expectations and exonerate bad behavior.
Hey, who said anything about exoneration?

Yes, jokes may not be useful, and she cites the one about Laura Bush tying the president's shoes each morning before she points him toward the Oval Office. But the "child" thing may be absolutely true, and at the same time, no one is excusing anything here.

Jeff Popovich here says he agrees with most of the Times essay, but says what's wrong is the implication is that the portrayal of Bush "as a dope" is strictly the screeching of the left. He suggests the Bush team is using this image carefully.
I myself waver between thinking 43 is a mindless puppet or an evil political genius. Whether one or the other or somewhere in between, what seems clear to me is that someone in Bushco understands the dynamic that Lithwick presents and has deliberately courted the Bush as dope portrayal. Hence the demonization of the word "nuance" and its sneering use in describing Kerry's positions, as if having grown-up, sophisticated thought processes is a sign of weakness. The left may call 43 a child, but Bushco calls Kerry much worse: an adult. Bushco is making the comparison.
Curious. Our Bush may be a spoiled, nasty child, just as you say, but your Kerry is an old man and wimp?

That may be a successful ploy. Energy, however mindless and destructive, is always more interesting than plodding and dull thoughtfulness. And that thought comes to you from out here in Hollywood. It is the first law of the box office - just basic marketing.


Molly Ivins, the Texas liberal (a strange species) has a slightly different take. She takes us back to Thucydides writing about the day when the leaders in Athens watched their fleet leave port to go off and conquer Sicily. That would be 2,419 years ago, if you keep track of such things. And of course, the Greeks got trounced - they lost the whole fleet. Oops.

Thucydides had this to say -

"To think of the future and wait was merely another way of saying one was a coward; any idea of moderation was just another attempt to disguise one's unmanly character; ability to understand the question from all sides meant that one was totally unfitted for action; fanatical enthusiasm was the mark of a real man... Anyone who held violent opinions could always be trusted, and anyone who objected to them became a suspect."

Nothing much changes, does it? Ivins runs with that idea.

What. A. Mess.
Molly Ivins - Creators Syndicate 08.19.04 -

She sets the stage thusly -
Remember what it was like just before the war? Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction -- Colin Powell told us to the pound how many tons of this, that and the other -- Saddam had a reconstituted nuclear program, he had numerous ties to Al Qaeda, and he was an imminent threat.

As the president put it, we couldn't afford to wait until the smoking gun was a mushroom cloud.
Well, she goes on to explain that her gripe is that Kerry is running such a cautious campaign that Bush can get away with falsely claiming that Kerry would have supported the war even if he had known then what he knows today.

And she thinks this is just painful, given how things are going in Iraq - thus the title of her essay.

But what to do now?
What we need to figure out is why so many of us then became so invested in this awful enterprise. As the president says, fool me once, shame on, uh, somebody or other. John Kerry isn't going to remind any of us we were wrong -- that would be rude. (Sooner or later, someone is going to ask Kerry the question he so famously asked about Vietnam: "How do you ask someone to be the last man to die for a mistake?" He'd better have an answer ready.) The reason Kerry won't "blame America first," as the Rush Limbaughs would put it, is not just because none of us likes to have our nose rubbed in our mistakes, it's a political calculation. In case you hadn't noticed, John Kerry is winning this presidential race -- that's why he's running such a cautious campaign.

... Wretched excess always accompanies war fever -- in World War I, "patriots" used to go around kicking dachshunds on the grounds that they were "German dogs." As I have noted elsewhere, people like that do not go around kicking German shepherds.

Some of that bullying, swaggering tone remains with us, in our politics. To treat with contempt any effort at "nuance" or "sensitivity" -- in one of the most fraught and sensitive situations we've ever been in -- is just ugly know-nothingism. As Republicans used to say to Democrats abut the election debacle in Florida last time, "Get over it."
It seems she is counseling Kerry and his folks to flaunt this "nuance" or "sensitivity" business, just as the other side flaunts the opposites. And let the people decide which approach will get us out of this mess.

Lithwick and Ivins? We need more such women.

Posted by Alan at 11:04 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Wednesday, 18 August 2004

Topic: Election Notes

George Bush has read Immanuel Kant - What's really going on here?

The job of the President of the United States is to forcefully emote the conscious and unconscious will of the American People? He is not the commander-in-chief? He is the Happy Warrior? He is the Priest-Avatar of the State?

Say what?

Over at the site Fafblog the Medium Lobster explains it all -
Stephen Richards asks:

I seek your enlightenment on the question of how much knowledge a true citizen should need before an election. In particular I am curious to whether the candidates - if deemed elected - would invade Iran to protect us all from the forces of evil. ...

However I am unsure if the press should even ask such a question. How much truth is too much truth for the American voter in a war for truth in the world? Should America be allowed to know where both candidates stand on this issue - before November? ...

Ah, Stephen. The larger issue - should America invade Iran? - is a serious one, and will surely be addressed by the Medium Lobster in the days to follow. But your question - should the press ask George Bush and John Kerry if they support an invasion of Iran? - is even more crucial, for it goes to the very heart of the nature of the Presidency itself.

No, Stephen, the media should not press a candidate - or an elected President, for that matter - on his wartime plans. Not because the public does not have a right to know - although this is questionable indeed - but because it is not the job of the President to invade Iran, or conduct a war, or decide matters of policy in general. No, Stephen, the President does not exist to make petty decisions such as these, to muddy his hands in the tedious affairs of state. He exists not to guide the nation to where it should be. He exists to project an image of what it wants to be.

America doesn't need a President to lead them; America needs a President who projects leadership. America doesn't need a President who's honest with his country; America needs a President who's honest with his wife. America doesn't need a President with a firm grasp of policy and a commitment to serving his country; America needs a President with the appearance of irrepressible optimism and Wholesome Heartland Values. America doesn't need a capable wartime President; America needs a President who makes himself look like war.

And President Bush has done a magnificent job of that. Indeed, he's even started a couple of them. Remember, it's not the President's job to finish or win wars - that falls into the lower realm of policy. But within the realm of Strength - or the appearance of Strength - it is the Strong Leader who charges boldly into wars, undaunted by the humdrum webs of "post-war planning" and laborious "coalition-building" called for by "sensitive" policy-makers.

The job of the President of the United States is to forcefully emote the conscious and unconscious will of the American People. He is not the commander-in-chief. He is the Happy Warrior. He is the Priest-Avatar of the State.

As Colorado Governor Bill Owens said when defending President Bush's supposedly-infamous seven minutes sitting before schoolchildren on September 11th, "A lot of what governors and presidents have to do is project a level of confidence and a level of calmness." Indeed, and that is exactly what the President did on that terrible day: when America needed to be protected, George Bush was projecting an aura of protectedness; when America needed to be safe, George Bush was looking like safety; when America needed to be strong, George Bush was exuding something like strength. When you watch that clip again, in Michael Moore's detestable piece of propaganda or elsewhere, remind yourself, This is what a President is for: projecting, smiling, posing, waving, doing nothing.
Ah, if only this were not true. But it is. Or at least the seems to be what we are being told.

My friend in upstate New York just has this to say to the Medium Lobster -
You make just want to cry - and get a new tattoo of MOM and APPLE PIE and the FLAG, and Bart Simpson.
I like the idea of the tattoo. Bart Simpson... and the Bart Simpson tattoo would read UNDERACHIEVER AND PROUD OF IT, I guess. A guy I used to work for at Hughes-Raytheon one "casual Friday" wore a t-shirt to work that had that message and a picture of Bart on it. They made Dennis go home and change. These days I suppose they sell those shirts at all Bush campaign events. They must be available in all the gift shops on the Yale campus. Times change. The frat-boys won.

And, as the Medium Lobster notes, the style of the general concept has become the thing in and of itself. That'll do.

Anyone who runs for office knows you sell the image, and substance doesn't matter that much to the voters. You sell the sizzle, not the steak? Something like that. And most people vote on the personality of the candidate - how they feel about him or her. Issues and policy positions give most people a headache, or bore them. Bush works that angle. So does Kerry. So does Ralph Nader. They all do. Each wants you to vote on their style of leadership.

Rick, The News Guy in Atlanta, put it differently -
I was beginning to get annoyed with all that Republican sniping in Boston that Kerry was not giving us much by way of specific policy proposals. Yes, it's nice to hear some examples here and there, mostly because it gives us an idea of the big picture of what the guy wants to do. But that's really about it. Otherwise, we just get a long list of campaign promises that later we can accuse the candidate of breaking once he gets into office. I personally would rather give him more leeway to deal with real situations when he gets to the White House.

After all, I'm not voting for a policy, I'm voting for a person who will put together a team to do the sorts of things that I would like to see get done.
Fair enough. Specifics can cripple you. We do vote for the general approach of one guy or the other.

Or do we just vote for style? Maybe that is all we can do.

Of course Immanuel Kant said we can never actually know the thing in and of itself. There really is no empirical object. Was ist die Sache in sich? Beats me.

If we continue to fervently believe the shadow is the real thing? No, that's Plato. But we do seem to be too satisfied with the shadow on the wall of the cave. The folks who support Bush are.

Posted by Alan at 21:37 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, 19 August 2004 12:12 PDT home

Topic: Political Theory

Conspiracy Theories: Assuming Competence on Scant Evidence

Rick, The News Guy in Atlanta, asked an interesting question in the August 8th issue of Just Above Sunset -
Lately I've been wondering if there isn't a way to launch a campaign to bring the word "liberal" back into the mainstream where it belongs. Maybe in the process, also find a way to demonize the word "conservative"?
See Rehabilitating the word LIBERAL - and Elvis? for the discussion that followed. Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis, even suggested we pull in Elvis as a token liberal, or a real one.

And just now I received a query from a friend in Rochester, in upstate New York -
Do you know at exactly what point the Democrats let the Republicans succeed in making Liberal a dirty word?

I remember hints of it with Goldwater, but not with any real emphasis, and the same with Nixon. I do not remember it as anathema until Reagan. And how did they successfully spin economics so that "tax and spend" is Satan's work but borrow and spend (usually more, plus financing) is God's work?
And curiously, within a few minutes I received a similar query from a friend in Montreal -
I too ask the same question...

It seems to me that the Clinton (Democratic) years, and correspondently, the Jean Chr?tien, now Paul Martin (Liberal) era was wildly successful. To have liberal governments with balanced budgets and generous military spending, riding large down the center two-lanes of the political highway, they seemed unstoppable.

Anything Republican and conservative looked fundamentalists and extremist in those days.
Now suddenly liberal is bad. How did American Republicanism succeed in being the voice of America?

What happened?
Well, I do have an answer, or maybe a non-answer.

It is an interesting question.

I suspect this happened slowly and there was no meeting in Dallas or Washington where any such thing was decided. Folks on the dark side just talked to their audiences and some wording seemed to work, and thus they used what worked. Think random mutations leading to the evolution of what works surviving - except these guys don't believe in evolution. Maybe it's more like throwing lot of various kinds of mud against a wall and they found out, by dint of a whole lot of throwing, what particular mud sticks.

I don't much believe this was something some group of planners carefully chose to do, but rather one more thing that was tried, and glorious day, over the years they discovered that this particular wording worked for them.

I wrote the following to a friend recently, a fellow who I think falls too easily into conspiracy theories of life.
My natural tendency is to assume incompetence, not malevolence. That's how I look at the world. And that's where we part ways. In the world I know the bumblers outnumber the cunning by tens of thousands to one. The cunning and intelligence and careful attention to detail that goes into even a half-assed conspiracy is beyond most folks. Cheney is smart enough - and maybe a CEO here and there like Ken Lay. But they are rare, thank goodness. And Jeb Bush and his Florida crew? Well, they're just pathetic. Stuff comes out fast - the press is far smarter than they are - and they just look like fools. Hell, if you're going to conspire to rig an election you don't get caught so easily doing such stupid, obvious things. Amateurs! And Jeb is the smarter brother? Please.

Where we really do part ways is that you make this assumption that people always plan what they end up doing. I think you give people far too much credit. Most folks don't think that carefully, and act on regrettable impulse most of the time, and generally make it up as they go along. Then, sometimes, comes the oops and the regret. Then they backfill with rationales that are often just silly - like Bush and his war to rid us of Saddam Hussein's WMD that morphed into this reason then that reason then another. WMD program related activities? Gave me a break!

Why did we do that, really? Because Bush wanted to do that. But he just wasn't thinking it through. That's the kind of guy he is. And everyone has always cleaned up his messes for him before, so he saw no reason not to launch the war in Iraq. The thought of there being any downside to such a war just never crossed his mind.

Did he lie to us about the WMD - and have other hidden reasons? No. He's just not that smart.

In short, your opinion of folks is, to my mind, too high. But maybe my opinion of folks is too low. Who knows?
The liberal is evil business? It just happened.

Posted by Alan at 20:24 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

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