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"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"

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Saturday, 4 September 2004

Topic: Photos

Today in Paris... and Just Above Sunset ...

The new issue of Just Above Sunset, the parent site to this web log, is in the works. It will go on line mid-day tomorrow.

That would be Volume 2, Number 35 ...

Look for extended versions of what's been in these pages, along with a new column from Ric in Paris - Politics and Celebrities, Headscarves, Hostages and Short People. Bob Patterson has a new hot column, and there is a new item on the relationship of guilt and shame to the law and to the general culture, but it is not as heavy as it sounds.

And there are new photos from the editor and from Bob.

As a tease, Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis, snapped this in Paris this afternoon.

Posted by Alan at 17:11 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Saturday, 4 September 2004 17:57 PDT home

Friday, 3 September 2004

Topic: Bush

Perspective: Bush Speaks

The Republican National Convention ended Thursday night with the speech in which George Bush accepted the nomination of the party and set out his arguments for why he should be elected in November. Given that his surrogates had thoroughly trashed his opponent, and that was pretty much taken care of, this was Bush's opportunity to explain his plans for the next for years. They were general ideas, to the point of being vague, but that is to be expected. One hardly expected policy detail with subparagraphs on specific actions. But as one observer noted, the whole presentation was built around what seem to be becoming almost a cult of the Great Leader. He is resolute. He may be wrong. But he is determined. And you want that, you really do.

The most acerbic comments come from William Saletan, written a few moments after the speech ended.

Back to the Future
What Bush would do if he were president.
William Saletan - Posted Thursday, Sept. 2, 2004, at 11:47 PM PT in SLATE.COM

Saletan has a problem with the whole concept of the speech.
... This was a speech all about what Bush will do, and what will happen, if he becomes president.

Except he already is president. He already ran this campaign. He promised great things. They haven't happened. So, he's trying to go back in time. He wants you to see in him the potential you saw four years ago. He can't show you the things he promised, so he asks you to envision them. He asks you to be "optimistic." He asks you to have faith.
Well, this was the right audience in the right venue for this approach. These were his people. Blind faith in the absence of any evidence - faith without, yet, any works, to put it in religious terms - was here for the asking at this event.

He didn't need evidence with this particular crowd. They trust him. Swing voters and undecided voters - he can get back to them later.

Saletan suggests the problems, should he deliver variations on this same speech over the next two months to a more skeptical audience -
... Recession. Unemployment. Corporate fraud. A war based on false premises that has cost us $200 billion and nearly a thousand American lives. They're all hills we've "been given to climb." It's as though Bush wasn't president. As though he didn't get the tax cuts he wanted. As though he didn't bring about postwar Iraq and authorize the planning for it. All this was "given," and now Bush can show up, three and a half years into his term, and start solving the problems some other president left behind.

It's all downhill from here, he assures us. The mountain precedes the valley. Because the results have been bad, they'll start to be good--but only if we keep doing the same thing. Everything that hasn't happened will happen. Bush "will" control spending, he pledged. He "will make our country less dependent on foreign sources of energy." He "will lead a bipartisan effort to reform and simplify the federal tax code." "Soon every senior will be able to get prescription drug coverage." "More people will own their health plans."
The folks in Madison Square Garden may have thrown up their arms, rolled their eyes to heaven and shouted I BELIEVE! - but will anyone else?

Well, if everyone had a more positive attitude I suppose anything is possible.

I often mention my conservative friend who argues again and again that the one sole criterion for success, or at the one key necessary criterion, is having a positive attitude - a belief that such and such will happen, no matter what seems to be in your way.

I call that the Tinkerbell Theory. See May 2, 2004 - It is all a matter of having the right attitude...
As you recall, at the end of J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan, children are urged to clap to signify their belief in fairies and to bring the expiring Tinkerbell to life. They have to clap - or Tinkerbell DIES! It always works (using the term "works" quite loosely) in the play (and in the movie oddly enough) - but I always wondered what would happen if, in some theater somewhere, just to see what happens, the kids all decided not to clap. Dead silence, if you'll pardon the pun. Would the actor or actress playing Tinkerbell then have to improvise a death scene? What if the kids all just sat on their hands, as a kind of thought-experiment, a kind of existential dramatic trap for the cast? How would the other characters cobble together an alternative ending? That really would be interesting.
That's what is going on here. I see it. Saletan sees it.
... Why will these things happen? Because resolve brings good things, and we've maintained our resolve through bad times. "Having come this far, our tested and confident nation can achieve anything," said Bush. The bad things that have happened while we've stayed resolved show that good things will happen if only we stay resolved.

... But standing and thinking are not doing. Beliefs and promises are what you talk about when you have no progress to report. Bush pointed to the wars he had launched and the bills he had signed, but he couldn't point to the benefits those laws and wars were supposed to deliver. The benefits haven't happened yet. They "will."
You have to believe. And it helps if you clap. Be optimistic. Tinkerbell will live.

Nick Burbules here uses an entirely different metaphor.
So, the election has come down to this: "Most of you think the country is headed in the wrong direction, you think my policies have mostly failed and most of you don't support the things I intend to do in a second term. You're pretty convinced that I lied to you about Iraq and a lot of other things. But aside from all that, stay with me: I'm basically a nice guy."

If the American people buy this, they will be acting like others in abusive relationships, who keep making excuses for the partners who abuse them and always ask for just one more chance...
That's cold.

Ellen Goodman adds a different analogy.

RMC: Real Men Convention
Ellen Goodman - Washington Post Writers Group
09.03.04 - NEW YORK

Goodman knows me. Ask either of my ex-wives -
If nothing else, the Republican National Convention is bound to revive all those jokes about men and driving.

"Why does it take a million sperm to fertilize one egg? They won't ask directions."

"Why were the Jews lost in the desert for 40 years? Moses wouldn't stop to ask directions."

You know the drill.
Yes, I do. Guilty as charged.

But here's her point -
The polls show that half of all Americans think the country is on the wrong track. But the delegates and speakers here all praised George W. for being the President Who Wouldn't Ask Directions.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, the "once-scrawny boy from Austria," cited his two role models as John Wayne and Richard Nixon before he said what he admired most about Bush: "perseverance."

Leadership, said Arnold, is "about making decisions you think are right and then standing behind those decisions." And in case anyone didn't get it, he then teased those who disagreed with the president's rosy jobs scenario by reprising his line: "Don't be economic girlie men."

Zell Miller, the angry old Democrat of the Republican Party -- no, you can't give him back -- sounded like he was suffering from the side effects of Cialis when he called Kerry a "bowl of mush" and praised the president's, uh, "backbone."
And as for the Bush acceptance speech?
It didn't seem matter what he did as much as the fact that he said he'd do it. It didn't seem to matter as much where he was leading as that he was leading. The president put it best Thursday night when he said, "Even when we don't agree, at least you know what I believe and where I stand."

... In times of anxiety, many do gravitate to a very traditional, even archetypal image of male strength. Whatever the gender jokes, it isn't just men. There are also women in the passenger seat who are only comfortable with a man who behaves as if he knows where he's going.

... In a powerful acceptance speech rife with distortions, the same resolute, persevering, backboned president who went into Iraq claiming weapons of mass destruction now defends the war as one of liberation. In Bush's head, al Qaeda and Saddam are still connected. And anyone who worries that Iraq is breeding more terrorists than it had to begin with is suffering from what Zell Miller called "analysis paralysis."

My father used to describe a friend as "often wrong, but never in doubt." On the last day of the convention, Dick Cheney described his friend to a breakfast of Ohio delegates as "decisive."

"He doesn't waffle, he doesn't agonize," said the vice president. "That's exactly what we need in a president. We don't need indecision or confusion."

Well, I am sure that Dick Cheney isn't asking me for directions. But guess what? It's not George Bush's decisiveness that's the problem. It's his decisions.
But for so many, it just is NOT the decisions at all.


Start printing up the bumper stickers and t-shirts. Actually, I think the Bush supporters would embrace the slogan. It does differentiate Bush from Kerry in ways they seem to approve.

Andrew Sullivan, the gay conservative columnist, long a Republican stalwart and, until recently, a defender of Bush and all he's done, here offers his take on the speech -
It was the second best speech I have ever heard George W. Bush give - intelligently packaged, deftly structured, strong and yet also revealing of the president's obviously big heart. The speechwriters deserve very high grades for pulling it off, to find a way to get the president to deal substantively with the domestic issues he is weak on and to soar once again on the imperatives of freedom in the Middle East. I will be very surprised if the president doesn't get a major boost from the effort, and if his minuscule lead in the race begins to widen. In this way, the whole convention was a very mixed message - but also a very effective one. They presented a moderate face, while proposing the most hard-right platform ever put forward by a GOP convention. They smeared and slimed Kerry - last night with disgusting attacks on his sincerity, patriotism and integrity. And yet they managed to seem positive after tonight. That's no easy feat. But they pulled it off. Some of this, I have to say, was Orwellian. When your convention pushes so many different messages, and is united with screaming chants of "U.S.A.", and built around what was becoming almost a cult of the Great Leader, skeptical conservatives have reason to raise an eyebrow or two.
Ah yes, very positive, except the whole week was Orwellian and there that bit about the cult of the Great Leader. Curious.

But Sullivan has bigger fish to fry. The big concept? (The emphases are mine)
But conservatism as we have known it is now over. People like me who became conservatives because of the appeal of smaller government and more domestic freedom are now marginalized in a big-government party, bent on using the power of the state to direct people's lives, give them meaning and protect them from all dangers. Just remember all that Bush promised last night: an astonishingly expensive bid to spend much more money to help people in ways that conservatives once abjured. He pledged to provide record levels of education funding, colleges and healthcare centers in poor towns, more Pell grants, seven million more affordable homes, expensive new HSAs, and a phenomenally expensive bid to reform the social security system. I look forward to someone adding it all up, but it's easily in the trillions. And Bush's astonishing achievement is to make the case for all this new spending, at a time of chronic debt (created in large part by his profligate party), while pegging his opponent as the "tax-and-spend" candidate. The chutzpah is amazing. At this point, however, it isn't just chutzpah. It's deception. To propose all this knowing full well that we cannot even begin to afford it is irresponsible in the deepest degree. I've said it before and I'll say it again: the only difference between Republicans and Democrats now is that the Bush Republicans believe in Big Insolvent Government and the Kerry Democrats believe in Big Solvent Government. By any measure, that makes Kerry - especially as he has endorsed the critical pay-as-you-go rule on domestic spending - easily the choice for fiscal conservatives. ...
Lost another one, George.

And on the war? Sullivan echoes Goodman and Saletan -
I agreed with almost everything in the foreign policy section of the speech, although the president's inability to face up to the obvious sobering lessons from Iraq is worrying. I get the feeling that empirical evidence does not count for him; that like all religious visionaries, he simply asserts that his own faith will vanquish reality. It won't.
Sullivan won't clap for Tinkerbell?

But here's the kicker. I am neither gay nor conservative, being, I suppose, morose and liberal, but this one has to respect -
I will add one thing more. And that is the personal sadness I feel that this president who praises freedom wishes to take it away from a whole group of Americans who might otherwise support many parts of his agenda. To see the second family tableau with one family member missing because of her sexual orientation pains me to the core. And the president made it clear that discriminating against gay people, keeping them from full civic dignity and equality, is now a core value for him and his party. The opposite is a core value for me. Some things you can trade away. Some things you can compromise on. Some things you can give any politician a pass on. But there are other values - of basic human dignity and equality - that cannot be sacrificed without losing your integrity itself. That's why, despite my deep admiration for some of what this president has done to defeat terror, and my affection for him as a human being, I cannot support his candidacy. Not only would I be abandoning the small government conservatism I hold dear, and the hope of freedom at home as well as abroad, I would be betraying the people I love. And that I won't do.
Dick Cheney may disown his daughter. Sullivan knows better.

One is reminded of the late British novelist E.M. Forester - "I hate the idea of causes, and if I had to choose between betraying my country and my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country. Such a choice may scandalize the modern reader, and he may stretch out his patriotic hand to the telephone at once to ring up the police...."

Will someone call Attorney General Ashcroft about Sullivan? Or will they only call the Republican Party headquarters? Maybe it's the same number.


Footnote -

Just to make the dynamic even weirder, note this...

Card says president sees America as a child needing a parent
Sarah Schweitzer, The Boston Globe, September 2, 2004
NEW YORK -- White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card said yesterday that President Bush views America as a ''10-year-old child" in need of the sort of protection provided by a parent.

Card's remark, criticized later by Democrat John F. Kerry's campaign as ''condescending," came in a speech to Republican delegates from Maine and Massachusetts that was threaded with references to Bush's role as protector of the country. Republicans have sounded that theme repeatedly at the GOP convention as they discuss the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the war in Iraq.

''It struck me as I was speaking to people in Bangor, Maine, that this president sees America as we think about a 10-year-old child," Card said. ''I know as a parent I would sacrifice all for my children."

The comment underscored an argument put forth some by political pundits, such as MSNBC talk-show host Chris Matthews, that the Republican Party has cast itself as the ''daddy party."

A Kerry spokesman, seizing on Card's characterization of Bush as a parental figure for the nation, contended that the president had failed.

''Any parent that ran a household the way George W. Bush runs the country would find themselves in bankruptcy court on the way to family court," said Phil Singer, a Kerry spokesman....
Ha! Just when you thought the whole cult of the Great Leader couldn't get any stranger.

Posted by Alan at 17:15 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 3 September 2004 17:20 PDT home

Thursday, 2 September 2004

Topic: Election Notes

Choosing sides: The defining moment of the Republican National Convention...

I rather like the summary Sidney Blumenthal provides of the key political event this week in the United States - Zell Miller addresses the Republicans, and the nation.

Backwoods preacher pours hellfire on Democrats
Sidney Blumenthal, The Guardian (UK), Friday September 3, 2004

Now Blumenthal is a former senior adviser to Bill Clinton, and is Washington bureau chief of - a pesky, overly-intellectual online commentary site. But he nails it -
The belligerence of the Republican convention's keynote speaker was so overpowering it easily obscured the monochromatic performance of Dick Cheney. Senator Zell Miller of Georgia did not vary his grim expression or his shouting like a backwoods preacher casting out the devil. But his raw rhetoric framed the most profound questions about patriotism and democracy in wartime.

The previous speakers, from Rudy Giuliani to Arnold Schwarzenegger, had been chosen for their lack of partisan regularity in order to better carry attack lines against John Kerry. Superficially, Miller was to be the crescendo of this tactical march to the podium, a Democrat regretting his party's fall from grace and singing the praises of the Republican president.

Miller had been a keynote speaker at the Democratic convention of 1992 that nominated Bill Clinton. His politics then were a vibrant southern populism against the special interests. In the Republican sweep two years later, however, Miller experienced a near-death experience, almost losing as governor because he suggested removing the Confederate battle-flag from its corner of the state flag where it had been placed during the white resistance to civil rights laws.

Afterwards, Miller tacked steadily rightward.

Upon leaving the governorship, he jettisoned his Democratic alliances and became a lobbyist for the Phillip Morris tobacco combine. Elected as a US senator, Miller played as though he had been betrayed, aligning himself with the Republicans. In this he was following the tragic trajectory of southern populists past, who had transformed themselves into their opposites.

"Today," Miller said, "at the same time young Americans are dying in the sands of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan, our nation is being torn apart and made weaker because of the Democrats' manic obsession to bring down our commander in chief." In one sentence, he advanced a new stab-in-the-back theory, achieved the seamless merger of Iraq and Afghanistan, attributed political division to the Democrats (who had supported the war in Afghanistan and overwhelmingly backed the congressional war resolution on Iraq), and stripped the presidency down to its military function.
Yeah, well, that's about it.

Other highlights?
... he offered a peculiar history of the constitution and the bill of rights. "It has been said so truthfully," said Miller, "that it is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us the freedom of the press. It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the agitator, who has given us the freedom to protest."

Kerry, by contrast, was plotting a betrayal to the United Nations and, even worse, "Kerry would let Paris decide when America needs defending".
Ha! You can't have a Republican National Convention without mentioning the French!

But the whole thrust?

"Miller's skewed history of the United States was intended to taint political debate itself as subversive."

That about sums it up.

Rick, The News Guy in Atlanta, notes he has hear that when people in the White House first turn on their computers in the morning, they go first to Andrew Sullivan's blog." They ain't gonna be happy with this. But Andrew Sullivan is not a real Republican. He's gay. And was born in the UK. Yeah, he's a pro-Reagan, pro-Contra, pro-SDI, pro-Gulf War conservative... but he's GAY!

Here's part of his take on Miller, and Cheney who followed him -
THE MILLER MOMENT: Zell Miller's address will, I think, go down as a critical moment in this campaign, and maybe in the history of the Republican party. I kept thinking of the contrast with the Democrats' keynote speaker, Barack Obama, a post-racial, smiling, expansive young American, speaking about national unity and uplift. Then you see Zell Miller, his face rigid with anger, his eyes blazing with years of frustration as his Dixiecrat vision became slowly eclipsed among the Democrats. Remember who this man is: once a proud supporter of racial segregation, a man who lambasted LBJ for selling his soul to the negroes. His speech tonight was in this vein, a classic Dixiecrat speech, jammed with bald lies, straw men, and hateful rhetoric. As an immigrant to this country and as someone who has been to many Southern states and enjoyed astonishing hospitality and warmth and sophistication, I long dismissed some of the Northern stereotypes about the South. But Miller did his best to revive them. The man's speech was not merely crude; it added whole universes to the word crude.

And note these items on Barack Obama in Just Above Sunset: August 1, 2004 - Cain's Question and August 15, 2004 - Who Gets to be Black?.

Barack Obama and Zell Miller are as different as night and day - or would that be as different as black and white?

But back to the dyspeptic Sullivan, and what he thinks of this Miller fellow.
THE "OCCUPATION" CANARD: Miller first framed his support for Bush as a defense of his own family. The notion that individuals deserve respect regardless of their family is not Miller's core value. And the implication was that if the Democrats win in November, his own family would not be physically safe. How's that for subtlety? Miller's subsequent assertion was that any dissent from aspects of the war on terror is equivalent to treason. He accused all war critics of essentially attacking the very troops of the United States. He conflated the ranting of Michael Moore with the leaders of the Democrats. He said the following: Motivated more by partisan politics than by national security, today's Democratic leaders see America as an occupier, not a liberator. And nothing makes this Marine madder than someone calling American troops occupiers rather than liberators.

That macho invocation of the Marines was a classic: the kind of militarist swagger that this convention endorses and uses as a bludgeon against its opponents. But the term "occupation," of course, need not mean the opposite of liberation. I have used the term myself and I deeply believe that coalition troops have indeed liberated Afghanistan and Iraq. By claiming that the Democrats were the enemies of the troops, traitors, quislings and wimps, Miller did exactly what he had the audacity to claim the Democrats were doing: making national security a partisan matter. I'm not easy to offend, but this speech was gob-smackingly vile.
Yes, only Brits use that gob-smacked term. But it works here.

And further on the French come up again -
THE FOREIGN AGENT: Another lie: "Senator Kerry has made it clear that he would use military force only if approved by the United Nations. Kerry would let Paris decide when America needs defending. I want Bush to decide." Miller might have found some shred of ancient rhetoric that will give him cover on this, but in Kerry's very acceptance speech, he declared the opposite conviction - that he would never seek permission to defend this country. Another lie: "John Kerry wants to re-fight yesterday's war." Kerry didn't want to do that. Yes, he used his military service in the campaign - but it was his opponents who decided to dredge up the divisions of the Vietnam war in order to describe Kerry as a Commie-loving traitor who faked his own medals. What's remarkable about the Republicans is their utter indifference to fairness in their own attacks. Smearing opponents as traitors to their country, as unfit to be commander-in-chief, as agents of foreign powers (France) is now fair game. Appealing to the crudest form of patriotism and the easiest smears is wrong when it is performed by the lying Michael Moore and it is wrong when it is spat out by Zell Miller. Last night was therefore a revealing night for me. I watched a Democrat convince me that I could never be a Republican. If they wheel out lying, angry bigots like this as their keynote, I'll take Obama. Any day.
Yeah, well the Republicans can dismiss Sullivan. He's gay. What does he know?

He also had this to say about the Cheney speech which followed the Miller thing (my emphases) -
CHENEY'S SPEECH: It was a sound one, certainly defensible in its sharp attacks on Kerry and heartfelt in its defense of the character of the president. But it was over-shadowed by the foul rhetoric that went before him, rhetoric he blessed with his opening line. On a substantive note, it is astonishing to me that neither he not anyone, in invoking the war on terror, has mentioned any developments in Iraq or Afghanistan over the last year. These speeches could have been written as Baghdad fell or at the latest, when Saddam was captured.

And this party and president claim to be war-leaders. Real war-leaders explain defeats and set-backs, they recognize the current situation, they grapple with reality. But this war is easy, it seems. There are no problems in Iraq. Everything is peachy. Democracy is breaking out everywhere; no mistakes have been made; no rethinking is necessary after the travails of the occupation (sorry, Zell). I understand the political need to put a gloss on things. But the surrealism of the rhetoric is, in some respects, an insult to the American people, who deserve a real accounting of where we are. Of all the difficult choices we have to make - in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Russia - nothing is spoken. There is not even a nod to reality. Just an assertion that only the Republicans have the balls to fight this war. It may well work in the election. But it speaks to the character of our leaders that they prefer bromides and denial to a real accounting and real leadership.
Lost another one to the side of the wimps, it seems. Sullivan has gone over.

My comments - Shwarzenegger gave a speech the previous evening saying those who don't think the economy is just fine are "economic girly-men." Out of work, can't find a job? Suck it up! Arnold may have a net worth nearing a billion and used to get forty million a movie. Trust him. He knows. One summary I saw? "Once I was a skinny kid in Austria with a Nazi father and I was scared of the communists, but since then I've taken steroids and I'm rich. Also don't worry about troop strength because the soldiers we've already got still have some limbs left. Vote for Bush or you're a big faggy queer sissy nelly gay person."

But Sullivan says "smearing opponents as traitors to their country, as unfit to be commander-in-chief, as agents of foreign powers (France) is now fair game. Appealing to the crudest form of patriotism and the easiest smears" is wrong.

Sullivan needs to grow up. That's the game now.

Oh yeah - Cheney had better disavow is daughter, quickly.... Alan Keyes is on his case.

As your recall, Barack Obama now faces Alan Keyes in the race for the open senate seat in Illinois. His first opponent dropped out after it was revealed that his glamorous Hollywood wife divorced him partly because he kept insisting she would really enjoy naked hot monkey sex with him in front of large crowds at sex clubs. She suggested she wouldn't like that at all. Oh well. Obama was far ahead in the polls anyway. The Illinois Republicans then tried to the run Mike Ditka, the former Chicago Bears football coach with the notoriously short fuse. But Ditka stepped away. There was some talk of the Republicans trying to get Ted Nugent to run - the former rock star, avid hunter and NRA guns-for-everyone enthusiast. He hates wimps and girly-boys too. But that went nowhere. So the Republican tapped Alan Keyes, of Maryland, to run against Obama.

And Keyes is a gas. And in tune with the zeitgeist for the party.

Keyes takes jabs at his own party
Jennifer Skalka and Ofelia Casillas - September 1, 2004
... As the Republican National Convention focused on unity Tuesday, Keyes lashed out at Vice President Dick Cheney's gay daughter.

... Keyes' first comments about Mary Cheney came during an interview Monday night on Sirius OutQ, a New York-based satellite station that provides 24-hour gay and lesbian programming.

After the candidate told the hosts that homosexuality is "selfish hedonism," he was asked whether Mary Cheney is a "selfish hedonist."

"Of course she is," Keyes replied. "That goes by definition. Of course she is."

On Tuesday, Keyes defended his remarks, adding that if his daughter were a lesbian, he would tell her she was committing a sin and should pray.
Oh man, the lines are drawn. On one side the manly men, with a vengeful God on their side, who asks no questions and punish those who do. On the other side? The girly-men, the fags, and, of course, the French, who shun God's rues about proper sex and think too much - the questioners, the doubters.

The next sixty days are going to be a lot of fun.



Rick, The News Guy in Atlanta, points to this - a Georgia Democratic Party-produced ad run on CNN by a local
Atlanta cable system. Zell Miller exposed. Amusing.

Posted by Alan at 21:37 PDT | Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 3 September 2004 07:43 PDT home

Topic: Making Use of History

Low-Rent Crystalnacht

As so it begins -

On November 10, 1938 the Nazi enthusiasts went on a spree of threats toward and vilification of certain undesirable people - and caused quite a bit of damage to their shops and homes throughout Germany. Historians named it "Crystalnacht," the "Night of the Shattered Glass."

Note this from the Centre Daily, the newspaper of State College, Pennsylvania, where Penn State has its main campus -
Posted on Thu, Sep. 02, 2004

Vandals strike county Democratic headquarters
Byline - Lara Brenckle

STATE COLLEGE - Centre County Democratic Headquarters was vandalized late Tuesday when someone smashed the thick, tempered glass in the building's storefront window, causing about $3,000 worth of damage.

According to State College police Cpl. Mark Argiro, witnesses in the 300 block of Calder Way heard the window break and saw a white Ford Tempo carrying three men leaving the area.

Investigators will review surveillance tapes taken by cameras posted on Beaver Avenue from McAllister Street to Hiester Street, in hopes that the white car seen leaving the area was caught on tape. If it was, police can attempt to identify the license plate, Argiro said.

Joanne Tosti-Vasey said she was working alone at 9:32 p.m. in the headquarters at 236 East Calder Way when she heard "a loud thud and a boom and (the glass) fell."

Tosti-Vasey, who was not injured, said she did not see anybody because a wall blocked her line of vision. ...
And the Associated Press reports this via the Grand Rapids Press -
Vandals smash window at Grand Rapids HQ of Kerry campaign
September 1, 2004, 2:20 PM

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) -- Someone tossed a cement chunk through a storefront window of the local John Kerry presidential campaign headquarters in an act of vandalism a Democratic official said appeared to be politically motivated.

"They could have gone through any number of storefronts, so I don't think it was an accident," said John Otterbacher, Kent County spokesman for the Democratic presidential ticket.

Local campaign official Jim Rinck said nothing was taken from inside the headquarters during the vandalism early Tuesday.

Kim Yob, chairwoman of the Kent County Republican Party, said she was sorry to hear of the vandalism but dismissed the possibility of any Republicans being involved.

"We're not yelling at Democrats, telling them we hate them," said Yob, who The Grand Rapids Press contacted at the Republican National Convention. "But out here in New York, these (protesters) are out of control. I'm walking down the street and some people were screaming, "I hate Republicans."'
Justification? Fair is fair?

This week we saw the current governor of California, a charismatic German-speaking Austrian muscleman movie star, speak at the Republican Convention in New York. He was a big hit - a strong leader who folks cheered, as he himself cheered on a leader who also should not be questioned. And he excoriated all the "girly-men" out there who doubt we always are right in all we do.

His enthusiasts decided to have some fun?

One thing leads to another.

There was Zell Miller's speech twenty-four hours after Shwarzenegger spoke.

William Saletan says this -
The election is becoming a referendum on democracy.

In a democracy, the commander in chief works for you. You hire him when you elect him. You watch him do the job. If he makes good decisions and serves your interests, you rehire him. If he doesn't, you fire him by voting for his opponent in the next election.

Not every country works this way. In some countries, the commander in chief builds a propaganda apparatus that equates him with the military and the nation. If you object that he's making bad decisions and disserving the national interest, you're accused of weakening the nation, undermining its security, sabotaging the commander in chief, and serving a foreign power--the very charges Miller leveled tonight against Bush's critics.

Are you prepared to become one of those countries?
I don't know. I have a brown shirt or two - but more rust-colored actually. They are nice shirts.

So Miller's enthusiasts decided to have some fun?

Maybe so.

Digby over at Hullabaloo says this -
It has been clear for quite some time to anyone who is paying attention that the modern Republican party is actively undermining the democratic process. Look at the Republican funded recall in California or the strong-arm redistricting all over the country, not to mention the more subtle forms of anti-democratic rule like bald-faced lying about government statistics and holding secret meetings and creating entirely new forms of executive privilege.

Yes, standing up before the nation and saying that speaking out against the president during a presidential campaign is putting our troops at risk is a very shocking charge. But, this is hardly the first time they've said that. I simply don't understand how people who are paid money to watch politics for a living have missed what seems to me to be an obvious development over more than a decade. Every election since 1992 has been dicier and dicier. With each cycle, they have gotten more and more aggressive in breaking the rules and challenging accepted norms. The only real question at this point is if they have been successful in rigging enough voting machines to swing this election if it's close enough. I'm hoping that they just haven't had the time to get it done because if they have there is absolutely no reason to believe they won't do it. They do not have any limits.

So yes, this election is a referendum on American democracy. At this point, they all are - and they have been for quite some time. I'm glad some members of the media are noticing. Maybe this time they won't be so willing to smugly tell us to "get over it" if things go wrong.

But, I doubt it. Until elections are actually cancelled (which we -- shockingly -- even discussed openly for a while) or journalists are jailed for sedition or some other heinous suspension of the constitution (for ordinary white people, mind you) is employed, the media will continue to support the slow erosion of our political system until it will be too late to get it back.
Wrong. The press isn't going to save us. Too many people long for the strongman who ignores all the rules to get things done - the bold man who will save the homeland, the fatherland. The press just reports the news.

Arnold won easily out here and is now talking about abolishing the state legislature, or making it, actually, part-time and, shall we say, honorary. A crude solution but didn't Mussolini at least get the trains to run on time? Sometimes, to get things done, you just have to act boldly and assume all the power - and not be one of those girly-men. One level up, the president famously says treaties and rules don't apply to us and we need no allies like before - the UK and Fiji will do fine - and folks love him for it. He will save us from the bad guys. He's no wimp. He may make some really bone-headed decisions, and cannot explain himself if he perhaps even knows what he means, but he gets things done. The women swoon. The men are emboldened to punish folks with questions.

And it follows that a few enthusiasts will prove they're not wimps and smash a few windows here and there. One thing leads to another.

And here in the Hollywood Hills I thought I just saw the Von Trapp family climbing out over the hills headed for Vermont.

Here we go again.

Posted by Alan at 18:52 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, 2 September 2004 20:16 PDT home

Wednesday, 1 September 2004

Topic: Election Notes

Well, it could be true... you just never know.

Oh, it's been all over the political pages, so it deserves mention.

Basics - should something happen to the President, then to the Vice President, the next in line to run the whole show is the Speaker of the House of Representatives. You could look it up in the constitution. That go-to guy at present would be Representative J. Dennis 'Denny' Hastert, Republican of Illinois, graduate of Wheaton College (fundamentalist Christian) and a former high school coach at Yorkville High School (1964-1980). His basic bio is here - he's been in the House since 1986 and speaker since 1999. Between the teaching gig and the US House, he spent four years in the Illinois House of Representatives. He's been around.

His voting record by issues is here.

But no one much pays attention to him. And one assumes he got tired of that.

So on Fox News Sunday he made some waves. He decided to raise some questions about George Soros, the Democratic Party financier and donor to anti-Bush 527 ads and a major financial backer of - to float an idea about this Soros, the billionaire financier. Chris Wallace was the interviewer and wanted Hastert to say something about and the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and all these groups airing attack ads not directly tied to each candidate.

Here's the key part of the exchange -
HASTERT: Here in this campaign, quote, unquote, "reform," you take party power away from the party, you take the philosophical ideas away from the party, and give them to these independent groups.

You know, I don't know where George Soros gets his money. I don't know where--if it comes overseas or from drug groups or where it comes from. And I--

WALLACE (interrupting): Excuse me?

HASTERT: Well, that's what he's been for a number years--George Soros has been for legalizing drugs in this country. So, I mean, he's got a lot of ancillary interests out there.

WALLACE: You think he may be getting money from the drug cartel?

HASTERT: I'm saying I don't know where groups--could be people who support this type of thing. I'm saying we don't know. The fact is we don't know where this money comes from.
Before, transparency--and what we're talking about in transparency in election reform is you know where the money comes from. You get a $25 check or a $2,500 check or $25,000 check, put it up on the Internet. You know where it comes from, and there it is.
Ah, now we see, Soros is an international drug dealer, and that's where those who oppose George Bush get the funds to oppose him.

Note he doesn't say this is true. He says he just doesn't know. Makes you think, doesn't it?

Jack Shafer points out here -
Soros runs the Quantum Fund hedge fund and earned a reported one billion dollars in 1992 betting against the British pound. According to the Christian Science Monitor, he's dropped five billion of his fortune on his various "open society" programs around the world. He's given $12.6 million to the anti-Bush 527s, chump change relative to the size of his fortune. In addition, Soros has been a very public advocate and funder of drug-law legalization and liberalization campaigns.
Ah, the last part is the kicker, a lever Hastert can use.

Soros is ticked. And here (PDF format) the letter he sent Hastert on the 31st demanding an apology, and a retraction.

Hastert fires back a letter here saying he never referred to drug cartels on Fox News Sunday, that Chris Wallace did. Technically correct of course, as Wallace did ask whether Hastert was saying Soros made his money from dug cartels, and Hastert only say, well, he just didn't know for sure.

Actionable? Slander?

Hypothetical - If I say I heard you like to rape and murder Girl Scouts, and since there is no evidence you haven't raped and murdered Girl Scouts, well I can say I just don't know if it is true or not. And I haven't said anything slanderous. I just said I don't know.


Hastert's letter does list initiatives to decriminalize illegal drug use to which Soros has contributed. The bugs him. But Soros is giving these groups money. He's funding them, not the other way around.

Oh well. Drugs is drugs. And Hastert too doesn't do nuance.

Jack Shafer points out his theory of where Hastert got the whole idea, and it is amusing -
Where did Hastert get the notion that Soros might be getting money from drug cartels? A good guess would be the organization headed by political fantasist, convicted felon, and perpetual presidential candidate Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr. This campaign literature from the "LaRouche in 2004" Web site, dated Oct. 29, 2003, makes the drug charge directly:

Years of investigation by LaRouche's associates have answered that question in grisly detail: Soros's money comes from impoverishment of the poor countries against whose currencies he speculates, and from deadly mind-destroying, terrorism-funding drugs.

The LaRouchie slander of Soros dates back to the early '90s. Michael Lewis recorded an anti-Soros protest by LaRouche followers in a Jan. 10, 1994, profile in the New Republic. Since then, the drug charge has been a LaRouche literature mainstay. See, for example, this cached copy of a 2002 interview with LaRouche from his organization's Executive Intelligence Review.

Hastert may have also brushed up against the idea in a 1997 House hearing about needle exchanges that he chaired. David Jordan, the former U.S. ambassador to Peru, testified that Soros has backed drug legalization initiatives and owns a piece of a bank in Colombia. Connecting the imaginary dots, Jordan says, "And I think it would be very interesting for you to look to see and bring sometime [sic] who benefits from the legalization of narcotics."
Ah, not saying it's so, but it could be so?

Note - the Just Above Sunset background item on Lyndon LaRouche is this - January 11, 2004 Odds and Ends: "Religious cults, like fringe candidates, are never quite as much fun as you'd imagine. Lyndon LaRouche, Scientology... whatever."

But Shafer's catch - this connection to Lyndon LaRouche - is a minor issue.

What is most interesting is the dynamic here - attack by raising an outrageous allegation and say you just don't know if it is true or not. Stay safe, legally. But get the message out. And the damage is done.

Works every time.

Posted by Alan at 21:01 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, 2 September 2004 09:33 PDT home

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