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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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Thursday, 26 August 2004

Topic: Bush

Follow-Up: The Meme Gathers Momentum

Last weekend, in Fitness for Command: No one wants to mention the elephant in the room, but things change, you will find a discussion of a new meme, or maybe an old meme returning.

Yes, 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 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.

And that was followed by a discussion of this.

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

And now we get this.

It's the IQ, stupid
His supposed intellectual failings are the butt of countless jokes, but so far the question of George Bush's brainpower hasn't hampered his electoral prospects. Why not? In the latest of his dispatches for G2, former New York Times editor Howell Raines asks how important intelligence really is in an American president
The Guardian (UK), Friday August 27, 2004

Of course Howell Raines was the follow who had been Editor-in-Chief at the New York Times and resigned over the Jayson Blair scandal and all that faked reporting. Or he resigned because it seemed everyone who worked at the Times just hated him and his management style, and his favorite, Blair, filing false stories and getting them printed without question, provided a rather convenient lever to dump Raines. Whatever.

Here in the British press (maybe the Times won't print him) he drops in an essay that carries the Bush-is-unfit-for-command-because-he's-dumb-as-a-post meme a bit further. [Note this item was simultaneously printed in the Washington Post, Friday, August 27, 2004; Page A21.]

Raines covers much of the same ground Yglesias covers - the same quotes and facts - but adds a comment about this business with the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (emphases in bold are mine and the British spelling isn't) -
Happily for the White House, this contrived debate over Kerry's war record diverts voters from a truly important national-security question related to the intellectual capability of the incumbent. Was George W dumb enough to be talked into adopting a flawed strategy for a phoney war by Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney? The facts and authorship of these blunders are beyond dispute. Cheney and neo-conservative theorists wanted to make war on Iraq, not al-Qaida. Rumsfeld wanted to do it with a much smaller force than the military needed. What we don't know is why Bush went along.

Bush's former press secretary, Karen Hughes, in her awkwardly named book Ten Minutes from Normal, assures us that what "Bush does best of all" is "ask questions that bore to the heart of the matter". She says that during the 2000 campaign, she and a "brilliant" issues staff "never once succeeded" in anticipating all of Bush's penetrating questions. "He has a laserlike ability," Hughes writes, "to reduce an issue to its core."
And that's the meme in its new mutation. We went to war because Bush was too dumb to think it through. People may want to believe people like Karen Hughes must be right, but it's getting to be harder and harder to believe this laser vision crap.

Raines too finds an old source - Richard Brookhiser -
The millions of us who did not witness this and other potentially laserlike interactions must rely on speculation as to how Bush's mind works. The most informative writing I've seen on that score was an essay published over a year ago in the Atlantic Monthly by Richard Brookhiser, the historian and conservative columnist sympathetic to Bush. "Bush has intelligence, energy and humility," he writes, "but does he have imagination?"

Brookhiser goes on to worry that Bush's limited information "habitat" could cut him off from the ideas necessary to feed presidential creativity in activities like running a major war. ("Habitat" is a wonderfully chosen word in that it invokes the territoriality of White House advisers in general. Can we imagine Rumsfeld, the alpha-male advocate of hi-tech warfare, inviting the commander of an armoured division into the cabinet room to tell the president why it's stupid not to take more tanks to Iraq?)

Brookhiser goes on to speak of Bush's reliance on "instinct" and the fact that Bush's religious "faith means that he does not tolerate, or even recognise, ambiguity".
That's sympathetic?

Raines too thinks back to the Reagan campaigns and what the cartoonist Garry Trudeau called "the search for Reagan's brain." I remember that.

And Raines adds more.
Trudeau's meaning, of course, was that Reagan didn't have one, but these days the phrase is to me more evocative of the journalistic gropings of the White House press corps to explain what, if anything, was going on inside that big, smiling, glossy-haired head. In a filing cabinet I had not opened in over 20 years, I found my own attempt - a 6,000-word draft of "reflections" on "Reagan's mind". I had never turned the piece in to my editors at the New York Times because I felt I had not solved the mystery as to the quality of Reagan's intellect.

I was not the first, nor will I be the last writer to break his pick on that stone. But in reviewing what I wrote in 1982 after two years of close observation of Reagan on the campaign trail and in the White House, I saw a couple of points that seemed worth revisiting as Reagan's self-appointed heir seeks a second term. I characterised Reagan as a "political primitive" who valued "beliefs over knowledge" based on verifiable facts. The White House spin was that this was a positive in that it represented "rawbone American thinking". I also noted that Reagan had a "high tolerance for ambiguity" as to the outcome of policies that proceeded from such rough-hewn thought.
But Bush is no Reagan. And that bothers Raines, as he argues Bush is quite different in that Bush doesn't recognize, as Raines puts it, the mere existence of ambiguity. He says what we get in George Bush is a shadowy version of Reagan's strengths and an exaggerated version of his intellectual weaknesses.

And then we get an insider story - and you have to love those -
In 1982, at the height of my journalistic desire to explain Reagan's brain, I went to see David Gergen, then a presidential assistant in charge of communications. His was not an easy job, since it included such tasks as explaining Reagan's decision to throw thousands of the most disabled Americans off social security assistance. We're not talking "welfare queens" here. We're talking blind people in wheelchairs.

I told Gergen I wanted to write a piece for the sophisticated reader about exactly how Reagan's mind worked. With a twinkle in his eye, Gergen said, "It will be a long, long time before we can have that conversation."

It hardly seems worth the trouble now. Reagan is in the pantheon, and the American nation and its allies and adversaries escaped mutual assured destruction. Now the US is at war in Iraq in a conflict that could yet metastasise into regional strife or global terrorism. We'll never know how much Reagan thought and how much he gambled in regard to security and economics. My guess is the answer would be pretty scary. So for the 150,000 US troops in Iraq, for the 99% of taxpayers who will not get a five-figure windfall, for the millions of urbanites unsettled by talk of suitcase nukes, it's still worth asking how Bush's mind really works.
How it works? Try if it works.

By the way, in the opening of Raines' piece he refers to this - the official icon of the reborn meme. And this has been on the web distributed so widely and for so long it is probably in public domain now. It's not mine. (Someone will sue me?)

Posted by Alan at 21:49 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, 26 August 2004 22:05 PDT home

Topic: World View

UK Notes: Blair Does Not Have the Political Skills of Bush (or maybe he does)

Just a note -

MPs plan to impeach Blair over Iraq war record
David Hencke, Westminster correspondent, The Guardian (UK), Thursday August 26, 2004

It seems some Members of Parliament are getting frisky -
MPs are planning to impeach Tony Blair for "high crimes and misdemeanours" in taking Britain to war against Iraq, reviving an ancient practice last used against Lord Palmerston more than 150 years ago.

Eleven MPs led by Adam Price, Plaid Cymru MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, are to table a motion when parliament returns that will force the prime minister to appear before the Commons to defend his record in the run-up to the war.

... The MPs' decision follows the commissioning of a 100-page report which lays out the case for impeaching Mr Blair and the precedents for action, including arguments laid down in Erskine May, the parliamentary bible, on impeachments dating back to medieval times.

... Under the ancient right, which has never been repealed, it takes only one MP to move a motion and the Speaker has to grant a debate on the impeachment. This means, at the least, Mr Blair will have to face a fresh debate on his personal handling of the war and there will have to be a vote in parliament on whether to institute impeachment proceedings.

In effect, impeachments were discontinued after Lord Palmerston, accused of concluding a secret treaty with Russia, survived an impeachment debate in 1848. The proceedings were replaced with a convention on ministerial responsibility, with ministers being forced to resign if they misled parliament. The last two cases involved the Home Office minister Beverley Hughes, over immigration clearances in Romania and Bulgaria, and Peter Mandelson over the Hinduja passports affair.

Mr Price said he believed the case was compelling. "To dust off Victorian constitutional histories and examine precedents from the time of Charles I and Chaucer may seem bizarre. But the conduct of the prime minister has left people and parliament with no alternative if we are to preserve the very basis of democracy."
Cool. It takes only one member of parliament to get the ball rolling on this? How quaint. On this side of the pond we need a House committee hearing to see if the issue should even be raised - the House has to form a committee that itself then has to vote to then ask the full House of Representatives to vote to recommend that the Senate then consider acts of impeachment, which the Senate then has to consider, nor not.

Poor Tony. Things are a bit looser over there in the Mother Country.

And then this convention on ministerial responsibility where ministers are forced to resign if they misled parliament? What's up with that? What an odd concept. Powell and Rumsfeld would be in big trouble if we believed in ministerial responsibility. And Bush?

We don't do responsibility that way. Here every four years the general population gets a shot.

So Blair will be on the hot seat, maybe. I bet he wishes he were even more of an American.

Or maybe not.

Blair snubs Bush's war honour invite
Exclusive by Paul Gilfeather Political Editor, The Sunday Mirror (UK), August 22, 2004

Blair is no dummy -
TONY Blair has snubbed George Bush's pleas to fly to the US and pick up his "war medal" ahead of the Presidential elections.

The US President knows the PM, who is massively popular in the States, would provide his flagging re-election campaign with a much-needed boost.

And he is putting huge pressure on Mr Blair to pick up the Congressional Medal of Honor, awarded by America for his unswerving support in Afghanistan and Iraq.

But Mr Blair's closest aides have warned him to resist the plan, insisting that a meeting with President Bush would torpedo Democrat rival John Kerry's bid for the White House.

A senior Government source said: "There has been a lot of telephone traffic between the White House and Downing Street over the medal in recent weeks. George Bush wants the Prime Minister to come to Washington and pick up the medal, which is the highest honour America can bestow on a foreigner.

"But he has refused for more than a year now and for good reason. He cannot possibly accept an award for the Iraq War when British and American troops continue to risk their lives there.

"The Democrats are watching the situation very carefully and there would be uproar if Tony travelled to Washington to meet Bush so close to the Presidential elections.

"But Bush isn't letting up. The White House has already let it be known that they feel slighted because of this and believe they can use this to put pressure on Blair to get him out there."
Pressure? He may be impeached for the whole business - and George says he needs him and is, well, feeling slighted. What sort of pressure can the White House put on Blair? They tell him George is all depressed and feeling so disappointed and sad?

"How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless child!" King Lear - Act I, Scene 4

Blair was due to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor in Washington but the Mirror says "following intense negotiations" the ceremony was scrapped. It would be fun to have a transcript of those negotiations.

"After all we've done for you, Tony...."

"Yeah, like what, George?"

The Mirror adds that Blair is now not expected to pick up the award until he leaves Downing Street.

On the right over here NewsMax is reporting it this way -
While many world newspapers are reporting the situation as a snub to Bush, The Economic Times suggests that Blair feels a visit to the U.S. now would be tantamount to support for Bush in the 2004 presidential election, and Blair doesn't want to be seen as partial.
Ah, Blair is just being fair and impartial. That must be it.

Or maybe he just doesn't want to be the happy "good dog" playing fetch, endlessly. Maybe being a subservient, obedient puppy for a dim-witted master is finally getting to him.

Hell, add too that it must be hard being the articulate one to the bumbling smirking fellow standing next to you who can't quite explain himself and doesn't ever quite get the concept.

Maybe enough is enough.

Posted by Alan at 19:38 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Wednesday, 25 August 2004

Topic: Election Notes

Political Theater: Our President Doesn't Deal with Losers, or Cripples, or Whiners

Here's the barebones store as reported by the Associated Press -
Cleland unable to deliver letter to Bush
Wednesday, August 25, 2004, 2:09 PM
CRAWFORD -- Former Democratic Sen. Max Cleland tried to deliver a letter protesting ads challenging John Kerry's Vietnam service to President Bush at his Texas ranch today, but neither a Secret Service official nor a state trooper would take it.

The former Georgia senator, a triple amputee who fought in Vietnam, was carrying a letter from nine Senate Democrats who wrote Bush that "you owe a special duty" to condemn attacks on Kerry's military service.

"The question is where is George Bush's honor, the question is where is his shame to attack a fellow veteran who has distinguished himself in combat?" Cleland asked. "Regardless of the political combat involved, it's disgraceful."

Encountering a permanent roadblock to Bush's ranch, Cleland left without turning over the letter to anyone.

"I have a letter signed by nine members of the U.S. Senate, all of whom have served honorably and I'd like to hand it to a responsible officer here on the gate," Cleland said as he tried to deliver it to security personnel at the roadblock. He accused a member of the president's security detail of trying to evade him.

"I am just going to return the letter and make sure it gets in the mail," Cleland said as he returned to his car.

In their letter, the senators said, "This administration must not tacitly comply with unfounded accusations which have suddenly appeared 35 years after the fact, and serve to denigrate the service of a true American patriot." ...
And AP provides much additional he-said she-said detail.

Oh, these Swift Boat Veterans for Truth are causing no end of problems.

Of course this is all over the news.

As Digby over at Hullabaloo comments, this was made for the evening news and cable "analysis" shows.
This is creative and the press loves it. Max Cleland, disabled veteran and former US Senator is greeted by some lowly functionary in Crawford because Bush is too much of a pussy to talk to him himself.

Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton would have used the moment to show himself as a regular guy with respect and humor.

Bush hid. As usual.
But perhaps this was calculated. Our president doesn't deal with losers, or cripples, or whiners. Call it tough love.

Cleland had with him that Rassman fellow - who famously said John Kerry saved his life way back in 1969 in Vietnam, pulling him from the water under enemy fire, even though Kerry himself was wounded. The Navy gave Kerry a medal. The Navy says it happened. Everyone who was there said it happened, just like that. The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth say it just isn't so, as that is not what they heard. Everyone is lying, including the Navy. Oh well.

And the Bush folks tried to give Cleland a counter-letter, saying the Democrats should stop picking on George Bush. Cleland said no thanks.

Atrios at Eschaton says sure, Cleland ambushed Bush for a bit of theater, but a real man would have known how to handle it.

And then Atrios points to this comment - from Steve Gilliard:
Yes, this was a campaign stunt, and yes, Cleland has his own grudges against these people, but a real man would have invited Cleland and Rassman up to the ranch house, gave them some sweet tea, taken the letter and let them go.

... Now, let's be real. Cleland probably owes Kerry a $20 because one of them had to have bet Bush would live down to character, and the other bet that he couldn't be so stupid as to turn away a triple amputee from his home. But make no mistake, they knew what Bush would do, and they bet on him doing it.

Yet, once again, the Bush campaign walks into a trap set by Kerry. Two decorated veterans show up to you door and you hide from them? That's just stupid. It's bad politics if nothing else.
Really? Maybr it is good politics. As was pointed out previously here it seems half the country likes this child bully who can sucker-punch the skinny, brainy wimp and get away with it. The same probably goes for crips and losers. This is know as playing to your base, in many senses.

Josh Marshall over at Talking Points Memo has a number of things to say about this, and about this guy Patterson (not our Bob) he sent out to meet Cleland and hand Cleland the counter-letter.
... The president gets called on to step up to the plate and say one way or another way he supports his friends' (rapidly deteriorating) smears on his opponent's military record.

And he just won't do it.

First, he sends out his chief spokesman to dodge the question.

Then he dodges the question.

And now, politically on the defensive, he calls another veteran and asks him to rush over to the ranch to face Max Cleland.

(It turns out that Patterson, the guy who got the 911 call from the president, has received $150,000 in campaign contributions from Bob Perry, the funder of the Swift Boat ads.)

Needless to say, the president doesn't have to play into the Kerry photo op by showing up to take Cleland's letter; a straight answer about the Swift Boat smears would do nicely.

But he just can't do it -- a classic bully.
But Marshall hones in on another detail.
Cleland got stopped at the first roadblock.

He tried to give the letter to secret service officials guarding (giving the word rather a new meaning) the president. But the president got a political ally from Texas, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson -- who is also a vet -- to show up and offer to take the letter, if Cleland would take a letter from him in exchange.

Cleland told him never mind; he'd rather stick it in the mail.

That prompted Patterson to utter this pricelessly unlovely retort ... - ""I tried to accept that letter and he would not give it to me," said Patterson. "He would not face me. He kept rolling away from me. He's quite mobile."

Yes, quite mobile. Classic.

Did I mention that President Bush is addicted to having others do his dirty work for him?
Well, gee, these triple-amputees can be damned tricky! And rude like you wouldn't believe. And insulting. Cleland wouldn't even face Patterson.

The nerve of some people - as you'd think they'd show the third string substitute representative of the president (who was no doubt busy running the country) a little more respect. Cleland must think he's a big shot because he was stupid enough to actually go to war, and then careless enough end up in a wheelchair with no legs and only one arm. Hell man, the guy could have joined the Texas Air National Guard way back when. It's his own fault. What a loser.

You have to love political theater.


Of course, you have to grant that the Bush folks are under a lot of pressure and we should understand if they are a tad short-tempered. Tuesday Vice President Cheney said Bush's call for a Constitutional Amendment to ban gay marriage was something he thought was the wrong thing to do. And also on Tuesday the commission headed by a former secretary of defense released its findings - and said the responsibility for the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere went all the way up the chain of command to Rumsfeld - crappy planning and lousy resource planning (not enough folks for much of anything that was done in Iraq) and not much oversight at all. Just bad management. And then John Kerry again called for Rumsfeld to resign, or be removed. Then on Wednesday morning a second commission reported its findings - the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib was far worse than reported and did indeed include actual torture, and some senior commanders needed to be brought to courts martial. Geez. And then Wednesday evening, after Cheney had floated his idea that maybe the administration could be a bit more moderate on this business with the gay folks (Cheney has a daughter who is a lesbian) - well, the Republican National Committee finalized its plank on this matter, the official party position. No gay marriage should be allowed anywhere, and the constitution really should be amended, and further, no "civil unions" should ever be allowed for gay couples in any state - no contracts, no shared insurance, no tax breaks like "real" married folks get, no "family" hospital visitation rights when one or the other falls ill - no nothing. Now the party may fight itself, and the gay wing, the Log Cabin Republicans, may bolt.

And then too on Wednesday we discovered that the Bush campaign and Swift Boat Veterans for Truth shared an election lawyer - one Benjamin Ginsberg who helped out with the Florida recount arguments in 2000 - and he resigned from the Bush campaign. That's against the law. These independent "527" opinion organizations are not allowed to coordinate with candidates - or they fall under the traditional spending restrictions. What was Ben thinking? He told Reuters he was thinking this - "I was at the nexus of making sure (coordination) didn't happen. To suggest otherwise is flat wrong." Huh? He was coordinating the non-coordination? Guess so. So the Bush campaign lost its top outside attorney.

Max Cleland just showed up on a bad day.


Ah yes, and here's the latest (via Josh Marshall) from the Bush folks (at - If Kerry Can't Handle the 'Swiftees,' How's He Going to Handle the Terrorists?

So the high-minded discourse continues.

Posted by Alan at 21:39 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 25 August 2004 21:59 PDT home

Topic: Oddities

Three odd political items...

Item One: If it's good enough for Paul Wellstone....

Dana Milbank in the Washington Post - Tuesday, August 24, 2004; Page A15 - notes this -
The White House travel office signed a contract last week with an airline called Primaris to fly the press corps to Bush events. The two-month-old company has only one airplane. True, media representatives gave their blessing to the deal. But that was before they learned that the company's president twice had his pilot's license revoked related to his flying of an "unairworthy" aircraft, that the chief executive flopped in his last attempt to start an airline and that the 15-year-old plane itself was damaged in a hailstorm a decade ago and spent most of the past two years mothballed in France.
Rick, The News Guy in Atlanta, adds this -
I like the way the coup de grace was saved for the end: "France."

It is said that when a Chinese person wants to insult a foreigner who doesn't know any better, he presents him with the gift of a clock. (Something about a reminder that he will die someday, maybe soon.) And I imagine that when the Bush administration wants to insult you, it makes you fly around in a rickety old plane that spent its last two years in France.
No problem, as Rick no longer works for CNN and his wife is was never a reporter/anchor there, but she is an executive who manages resources, like reporters. Will she advise not taking the pool plane?

Item Two: No wonder Bill O'Reilly fumes about the Canadians and is calling for a US boycott of all Canadian products...

Carolyn Parrish is at it again.
OTTAWA, Aug 25 (Reuters) - It was damned bastards last year, "idiots" this year.

Canadian Member of Parliament Carolyn Parrish had said she hated "damned Americans" and called them bastards in the run-up to the Iraq war. She found a new moniker, idiots, on Wednesday in discussing the planned U.S. missile defense system.

"We are not joining the coalition of the idiots. We are joining the coalition of the wise," the Liberal legislator told a small group of demonstrators.

Parrish, who had to apologize for her "bastards" remarks last year, at first denied using the term idiots, and when reporters pointed out they had her remarks on tape, she said: "I don't mean Americans are idiots."

"The world respects Canada. If we were to join this then it will be giving credibility to what they're doing," she said.

Parrish then begged reporters not to use the remarks: "Please guys don't put that on tape," she said. "I already got into trouble once.... Really, please, I've had enough trouble." ...
What? Is she afraid of Bill O'Reilly's once more calling for boycott of Canadian goods and services? Well, he did single-handedly destroy the French economy, according to the Paris Business Review.

Item Three: Life Imitating Art - Paddy Chayefsky LIVES!

MSNBC notes this -
NEW YORK - Al Franken wants you to get up out of your chairs, open your windows, stick your heads out and yell...fuggedaboutdit?

Well, yes.

In the spirit of Paddy Chayefsky's classic movie monologue from "Network," the liberal comedian Wednesday urged New Yorkers -- and other Americans -- to simultaneously scream the all-purpose local wisecrack at the moment that President Bush accepts the nomination.

"This is a form of protest that is very non-disruptive," Franken said at a press conference in the Park Avenue office of Air America radio network, where he hosts a talk show.

Franken said the Sept. 2 protest, called the "Great American Shout-Out," will not "tax our public safety system at all."

"This is our way of venting," Franken added. "It will be a catharsis."

Franken said he expected the shouts to last less than five minutes. Out of "respect for the office of the presidency," he asked that participants quiet down once Bush begins speaking so "people can hear him give a bad speech."

Franken said he expects 100 million people nationwide to participate, adding: "Anything less would be a horrific failure."

Unlike the movie version -- "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!" -- this protest has been tailor-made for regional dialects, Franken said.

In his native Minnesota, people are to yell "Oh no ya don't!" in an exaggerated accent.

In California, the suggested shout is: "No way, dude!"

Air America has created a Web site,, where participants can plan "shout parties" or let their solo shout be counted.
Franken has been floating this idea for the last week or two. I'll lean out my window at the appropriate time and report back if I hear ringing choruses of "No way, dude!"

Posted by Alan at 19:55 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, 26 August 2004 08:11 PDT home

Topic: Making Use of History

History - The Liberation of Paris (and the rise of California)

Wednesday, August 25, 2004 looking back on August 25, 1944 - sixty years after Paris was liberated from the German occupiers....

Ric Erickson over at MetropoleParis has many details of what's up in the city on the anniversary. Check it out.

Ric additionally sends this along by email from the scene -
The entry of the French 2nd Armored Division was re-enacted today in front of the city hall of the 14th arrondissement. There were Parisians costumed in WWII French and US uniforms, and as civilians were dressed in 1944. There were scout motorcycles, jeeps, army trucks, a DUK, a half-track with four Brownings, plus some FFI rides, a firetruck and some old Renaults and Citroens.

There was a popular band on a flat-deck and a marching band on the city hall steps. Stage producer Jerome Savary, responsible for this evening's big dance show at the Bastille - and for organizing 1944-era dance lessons using the Hotel de Ville ballroom as a rehearsal hall - was on hand to say a few words mangled by a defective sound system. Schoolgirls sang a popular air of the times, and Parisians in their costumes danced, with flags fluttering.

Just as the rain started the motorcycles were fired up, to lead the ensemble out of the place and over to the Avenue Leclerc, to make the run northwards to the city center. The heavy rain had almost stopped by the time the historical parade reached Denfert-Rochereau, no more than 500 metres away. This place, named for a hero of the 1870-71 Franco-Prussian conflict, was partially renamed for Col. Rol-Tanguy, leader of the FFI resistance fighters. His headquarters were located in the underground catacombs which have their entry in this place.

The parade stalled by accident or design at Denfert-Rochereau, enabling more Parisians to show off their recently acquired jitterbugging skills. Later the parade reached the Luxembourg, which was a scene of heavy fighting on this day 60 years ago. The parade eventually wound through a very crowded Quartier Latin, to the Pont Neuf.

There was a parallel parade, starting from the Place d'Italie. It represented the 4th US Army Division that also entered Paris in tandem with the French 2nd Armored Division. Originally, it was another unit of the French 2nd that entered Paris here, almost entirely manned by Spanish Republicans. The American division came into Paris more from the west in 1944.

Besides a popular 'bal' staged by the French Senat at the Luxembourg Place, there was a solemn ceremony of remembrance at the Hotel de Ville. According to today's papers there was to have been a modern military display of some sort in the Place de la Concorde.

The stage show at Bastille tonight is also supposed to be followed by a popular 'bal' there, but the weather isn't cooperating. Live TV coverage is supposed to begin just after midnight; perhaps as a recap of the day's festivities. Unlike the formal military parades on 14 July and 11 November, all Parisians were invited to take part in today's parades.
And Ric send these shots -


Additional comments on the day sixty years ago from this:

60 years of memory: Paris of myth, Paris of reality
Mary Blume, International Herald Tribune (Paris) Wednesday, August 25, 2004
... Analyzing the event is like taking apart a birthday cake. What does matter is the emotion Albert Camus described in the Resistance paper Combat: "This huge Paris, all dark and warm in the summer night, with a storm of bombers overhead and a storm of snipers in the streets, seems to us more brightly lighted than the City of Light the whole world used to envy. It is bursting with the fires of hope and suffering, it has the flame of lucid courage and the glow, not only of liberation but of tomorrow's liberty."

... The past, with its defeatist generals and complaisant Parliament who voted Marshal Henri-Philippe P?tain to power by a great majority, was unthinkable, the future unimaginable. "I calmed down and lived wholly in the present," Simone de Beauvoir wrote. The present meant seeking heat in the Caf? de Flore and cooking up her infamous turnip sauerkraut. "But previously the present had meant a happy proliferation of new schemes in which the future bulked large; reduced to itself alone, it crumbled away into dust. Not only time but space had contracted."

... If everyone has his or her own Paris, arguably the city is most important to Americans who, unlike older civilizations, came to it unlumbered by history, tradition or fancy lifestyles of their own. Even Ben Franklin took up flirting in Paris in order to be ? la mode; others studied science or political theory, wrote books or just loafed, moving eastward, as Malcolm Cowley wrote, into new prairies of the mind.

It cannot be claimed that Paris welcomes foreigners, distrusting the Other as it does, but in ignoring them it tolerates them; it is accommodating in its indifference.

"I have a feeling that there's a voice saying take it or leave it, kid," said Mavis Gallant, who has gladly taken it. "I have lived half my life in Paris," Gertrude Stein said. "Not the half that made me, but the half in which I made what I made."

One thing Americans liked from the start about Paris was that while they fully enjoyed its sensual pleasures they felt they had retained their native virtue. "We have not as much refinement, but more of everything that is good," a New Yorker wrote to his son in the mid-19th century.

This moral self-satisfaction persists. Parisians, for the most part, don't think a lot about high-minded ideas, these having been resolved by the heavy thinkers memorized in the lyc?e. Americans trumpet moral views and find them, especially to their cost today, hard to enact. Americans want to do the right thing, not realizing it can be plural. Parisians want to do things the right way; that is, with precision and style. This can require more discipline than many realize: being Parisian is not a free ticket to indulgence.

The Parisian is deeply superficial, the American superficially profound. This should balance out, but the French are more complicated than we are, as Henry James noted in a letter telling a friend not to be put off "by what I might call the superficial and external aspect of the superficial and external aspect of Paris."

New Yorkers are merely self-absorbed but Parisians are world-class narcissists. This is a city made for preening, and the endless public grandstanding, physical and intellectual, may shock Americans, but in our innermost hearts wouldn't we love to gaze at ourselves in the mirror with unabashed delight and let fall from our lips a well-timed and irresistible mot juste?

The differences are endless, the similarities often more than skin-deep. Maybe we all need a Paris. What Paris is, and not just for Americans, is wishful thinking come true, whatever the wish.

Sixty years ago, the wishes ranged from the most basic (more meat) to the most lofty (peace forever). Many agreed that the thing they had most missed was the freedom to speak. "Paris is fighting today so that France may speak up tomorrow," Camus said. Speaking up meant daring to hope out loud. "Peace," Camus said "will return to this disemboweled earth and to those hearts tortured by hope and memories.... Happiness, tenderness will have their moment." He was surely speaking to the dead as to the living.
You might want to click on the link and read the whole item.

Other items of interest -

'You can't know how wonderful it was to finally battle in the daylight'
Jon Henley talks to Madeleine Riffaud, a Resistance fighter who helped save the city
Saturday August 21, 2004 in the Guardian (UK) -
August 15 1944 Paris police and metro workers begin all-out strike, followed the next day by postal workers

August 17 German-controlled state radio stops broadcasting; BBC reveals capture of Chartres and Orleans. Heated debate by resistance officials on when to call uprising. Raoul Nordling, Swedish consul, negotiates prisoner exchange that frees Madeleine Riffaud. Marshal Petain, head of Vichy government, told to leave France

August 18 Collaborationist press fails to appear. General mobilisation of Paris declared

August 19 First fighting of the uprising. Several government buildings taken. Police occupy their HQ. German commander Dietrich von Choltitz makes first contact with Resistance.

August 20 Street-fighting continues. US 4th Infantry crosses Seine. De Gaulle lands at Cherbourg. Paris city hall occupied peacefully.

August 21 Street fighting. General Leclerc's 2nd Armoured Division send advance detachment to Paris. First Resistance newspapers on sale.

August 22 Street fighting reaches peak. Barricades all over the city. US general Omar Bradley gives Leclerc order to advance on Paris.

August 23 Von Choltitz receives order from Hitler to raze Paris to ground. Leclerc runs into resistance near Orly.

August 24 2nd Armoured fights on. Advance detachment, escorted by Resistance, reaches city hall in evening.

August 25 Von Choltitz signs formal act of surrender at Paris police HQ in afternoon. De Gaulle appears at city hall.

August 26 A million people crowd Champs-Elys?es for De Gaulle's victory parade.

August 31 Seat of provisional French government transferred to Paris.
From l'Agence France-Presse (AFP) by way of The Tocqueville Connection an interesting detail here -
For the French, the liberation of Paris stands as a stirringly patriotic moment. Unlike the D-Day and Provence landings, which were led by US and British forces, the first Allied forces the Parisians saw in the streets were their own countrymen, followed by the Americans.

Therese Henry, 74, told AFP of her experience that day: "On the 25th and in the days following, the Americans gave us chocolate bars with hazelnuts and almonds in them. I never again tasted chocolate that good."

De Gaulle, the designated leader of the free French forces, marched in victory along the famed Champs-Elysees the day after Paris's liberation, on August 26, and attended a mass in the Notre-Dame cathedral to give thanks for the city's liberation.

On Thursday, Chirac -- who sees himself as de Gaulle's political heir -- will attend a mass at Notre-Dame, following in his predecessor's footsteps.
And this below is good - and contains these lines - Nick rolled his eyes when I described to him how I had held forth to Sartre. "Him big cheese in some circles," he commented.

Paris: 1946
Paula Fox - Paris Review - Summer, 2004 - Issue 170 (with link to and interview with the author)

But Le Nouvel Observateur (Semaine du jeudi 19 ao?t 2004 - n?2076) at the kiosks all over Paris this week points to the future. The past is Paris. The future is out here in California, the home of Just Above Sunset.

Here are some of the items -

Californie : Voyage au pays du future

300 km par jour pour travailler ? Los Angeles
Des champignons dans le d?sert
Pour ?chapper ? la saturation immobili?re de L. A., les nouveaux urbains font pousser des villes au milieu de nulle part
(Yeah, folks do commute from Apple Valley to work in Los Angeles - day in and day out.)

Des puces et des hommes
Plong?e dans la soci?t? de demain
C'est l'endroit le plus high-tech de la plan?te mais les machines ? laver y ont parfois vingt ans de retard. Et si ce mariage du pass? et de l'avenir ?tait une des cl?s du g?nie californien?

Aime ton chien comme toi-m?me
Ici, on peut confier ses poissons rouges ? une clinique de remise en forme et faire cloner son chat. Ici, on entend instituer le droit au bonheur des animaux
(To paraphrase Samuel Johnson, "They shant clone Harriet.")

Retour aux racines
Dans l'Etat le plus riche des Etats-Unis, la derni?re mode est ? l'asc?se, ? la m?ditation, ? la protection de la plan?teet aux plaisirs simples et bruts de la vie de pionnier
(Yes, there is a Zen ashram up in the Hollywood Hills not far from here.)

La ru?e vers l'eau
N?cessit? ou g?chis, la Californie a puis? plus que sa part dans le fleuve Colorado et les lacs environnants. Devra-t-elle se rationner?
(Always a problem here, as the city was built in a desert.)

Note also Myl?ne Farmer's breathy pop ditty has these words -

A?roport, a?rogare
Mais pour tout l'or m'en aller
C'est le blues, le coup de cafard
Le check out assur?
Vienne la nuit et sonne l'heure
Et moi je meurs
Entre apathie et pesanteur
O? je demeure
Changer d'optique, prendre l'exit
Et m'envoyer en Am?rique
Sex appeal, c'est Sunset
C'est Marlboro qui me sourit
Mon amour, mon moi, je
Sais qu'il existe
La chaleur de l'abandon
C'est comme une symphonie

C'est sexy le ciel de Californie
Sous ma peau j'ai L.A. en overdose ...

[You can download this in MP3 format here.]

This song from the album Anamorphos?e (1995) did well in France and French-speaking Canada (saw the music video several times when I was living in Canada and it looked as if it actually had been filmed in the courtyard of the apartment building where I live, down by the pool). The album was recorded at the old A&M Studios six blocks east of here, on La Brea, one block south of Sunset Boulevard. The French love California?

Oh yes, Le Nouvel Observateur has the usual political item.

La n?buleuse anti-Bush
Pour battre le pr?sident sortant, ils organisent des concerts, l?vent des millions de dollars et alertent des milliers d'activistes par internet. Ils ont dop? la campagne de John Kerry

Bruce Springsteen, REM, Jackson Browne, James Taylor en tourn?e pour MoveOn. Un joli coup de plus pour la nouvelle star de la campagne pr?sidentielle am?ricaine! MoveOn? Certainement pas un groupe de rock, encore moins un parti, et ? peine une organisation: avec seulement quatre permanents, mieux vaudrait parler d'un r?seau. C'est pourtant cette n?buleuse de 2 millions de membres qui a convaincu le Boss et ses potes rockers de se lancer dans une s?rie de concerts pour un ?Vote for change?. Les concerts anti-Bush, annonce Eli Pariser, le directeur de MoveOn, constitueront ?la sonnette d'alarme pour l'?lection la plus importante de notre vie?...
MoveOn et consorts sont-ils en train de r?inventer le Parti d?mocrate et la politique am?ricaine en g?n?ral? Trop t?t pour le dire, mais le mouvement a largement d?pass? le stade de l'?piph?nom?ne. Quand Howard Dean s'est pris une racl?e lors des primaires, d?but 2004, on avait beaucoup rican? sur cette n?buleuse internet qui le soutenait. Cette frange d'?lecteurs plus jeunes et plus ? gauche que l'ensemble de la population n'avait pas pes? lourd devant la volont? g?n?rale de d?signer un candidat centriste cr?dible face ? Bush. Mais John Kerry s'est empress? d'emprunter ? la campagne Dean son savoir-faire pour la lev?e de fonds par internet. MoveOn, ACT (America Coming Together) et une n?buleuse de ?comit?s d'action politique? ou de ?groupes de pression? ont pris une importance chaque jour plus grande dans cette campagne.

A l'exception des partisans de Ralph Nader, toute la gauche est aujourd'hui rang?e sous la banni?re ABB (Anybody But Bush - n'importe qui plut?t que Bush). ...
You get the idea.

But back to the past - Wednesday's French national dailies. -

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