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Photos and text, unless otherwise noted, Copyright 2003,2004,2005,2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

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

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

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"

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Tuesday, 12 October 2004

Topic: Photos


Blogging? Suspended for the moment. As some readers know, I have returned to the workforce full time, and am about to spend two days in Northern California at a management off-site. Entries will be posted as possible, but further commentary may have to wait until the weekend.

The future of this site is hazy....

Posted by Alan at 19:43 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Sunday, 10 October 2004

Topic: Photos


The new issue of Just Above Sunset is now on line, and there is much there I wasn't able to fit in here.

This is Volume 2, Number 40 - Sunday, October 10, 2004

This week? A shorter issue, as your editor has just completed his first week of fulltime real employment, and lost fifty hours of time he would usually spend scanning the news and comment from around the world, compiling what is of interest and commenting on it. Thus this short issue. But there is lots here.

The big event was the second presidential debate, and all the coverage is here, with comments from readers, and some issues regarding cheating, and men's suits. Of course that means there is coverage of the vice presidential debate too. And Ric in Paris sees we've ticked off the French again. Bob Patterson, The World's Laziest Journalist, returns with a mediation on con men. And the quotes are from long-dead Greek fellows. The photos? Deep in the Hollywood Hills.

Current Events

First Stringers: This Week's Presidential Debate

Irony:George Bush gets his suits from Georges de Paris... And is told what to say by whom?

The Draw: The Debate of the Proxies

Reactions: Honesty as the Best Policy? And why did God create conservatives?


Paris This Week: The French - Upset?

Quotes: Useful Pithy Observations... Old Greeks

Bob Patterson

WLJ Weekly: The World's Laziest Journalist - Have we got a deal for you?


In those high rolling hills... (Hollywood Hills like in the song...)

Posted by Alan at 19:52 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Sunday, 10 October 2004 20:05 PDT home

Thursday, 7 October 2004

Topic: Election Notes

Reactions: Honesty as the Best Policy? And why did God create conservatives?

As I finish my first week of work I find myself too exhausted to do much commentary. So I will take a week off it seems, but then I miss two days next week for a business trip to Oakland, California. Rats! Maybe I'll run into Jerry Brown, formerly California's Governor Moonbeam, now mayor there in Oakland. I always liked that guy, and he once dated Linda Ronstadt. Cool. Gertrude Stein, Oakland's most famous writer, is long gone, and real dead. But Oakland is okay. Anyway, I'll get back to posting somehow.

But the previous entry here The Draw: The Debate of the Proxies, drew some reactions.

Joseph, formerly in film out here and now our expatriate friend in Paris (and a master sailor who now and then delivers new luxury sailing yachts to their new owners for fun and profit) reacts to Rick, The News Guy in Atlanta, who commented that he'd feel better about the current folks in power if they'd just been honest and had said, well, we blew it - "I know it's too late for them to change to this approach without showing themselves to be major flip-floppers. Still, this would be the honest approach, one that I think might have cost them a few votes but made it up in confidence in them among not only citizens of this country but also the world. Then again, I get the feeling these people are just not into truth and honesty as much as I am."

Joseph begs to differ, as it's too late for that -
I agree that a little honesty would go a long way with these guys. If George and Dick would admit only as much as you suggest, it would certainly improve their standing with me, and perhaps convince me that the are not living in an idiosyncratic dream world of their own creation, or alternately that they don't think we're all complete morons. But it is far too late.

Politicians never seem to learn this lesson. If Nixon had come clean early, would he still have been forced to resign? Of course not. What did him in was telling a lot of demonstrable lies in order to cover the initial lie. Clinton? Ditto.

Yet despite the knowledge that they are living in a fishbowl, somehow they manage to think they can get away with it. "Good attitude", or "the triumph of hope over experience?"

The ultimate value of these debate successes will not be to debunk the administrations self-spun mythology, but in convincing the faint-of-heart that this race is not over. As the discrepancy between polls of "registered voters" and "likely voters" suggests, if we can all be bothered to turn out, it is GWB's new middle name that is "toast".

PS - The topic at last night's Philo cafe was "Is rhetoric more powerful than reason?" Or, as Socrates asked, "Is the truth proof enough?" I can't imagine what was on everyone's mind.
Oh yes - his references. Once a month, on a Thursday evening I think, you can wander into a regular open discussion at the Caf? de Flore on Boulevard Saint-Germain, up on the second floor, for an international discussion of the philosophical topic of the day. It's very French. (Information on that famous place is here - 172 Boulevard Saint-Germain, 75006 Paris - with a menu, if you're hungry - the Salade de magrets de canard, haricots verts frais is about twelve euros). Joseph tells me when I'm next in Paris he will drag me there for the talk. That Philo Caf? is in English. There are others, in French, over in the Marais. I need to get back in gear for those.

The second reference? Somewhere in Boswell's Life of Johnson Boswell mentions to Samuel Johnson that someone they know has recently remarried. And Boswell reports that Johnson then said, "For a man to marry a second time represents the triumph of hope over experience." I have been married twice. Johnson was right.

Joseph from Paris also mentions that open letter from the professors at the top business schools in the country Wednesday saying this administration is well on its way to destroying the economy, and ought to stop with the deficits and tax cuts for the wealthy and all that.
That's an impressive list of signatures. A ton from Harvard, Duke, MIT, Darden. And not one from Berkley!

The striking thing is that as a group, B-school types (both students and faculty) have not surprisingly trended overwhelmingly Republican. This lot voted for Reagan in droves. Still being what they are, they are more inclined than the general population to acknowledge that facts, as they say, "is facts".
Ah yes, reality does matter, as the surrealists or those Dada folks no longer hang around at the Caf? de Flore, or at business schools.

But when Joseph says that if George and Dick would admit they were wrong, it would certainly improve their standing with him, and perhaps convince him that they are not living in an idiosyncratic dream world of their own creation, Rick, The News Guy in Atlanta, has some issues -
Admitting reality would certainly improve their standing with me, too, although probably not enough to get me to vote for them. As far as I'm concerned, their problem is way bigger than just Iraq.

But I have this theory:

Your reference to "the triumph of hope over experience" (or what I sometimes see as "the triumph of will over truth") got me to wondering why God created conservatives, and I've concluded that He did it to sow confusion and keep mankind off-balance.

Without conservatives, God might argue, reason would reign, which means humans might figure out how things actually work, and would then find a way to right things that are wrong, in which case they'd start asking themselves, "Hey, who needs God? We're doing just fine down here, thank you!"

In short, having outsourced His job to the inhabitants of a foreign planet, He'd be out of work! So to keep that from happening, He plants a herd of conservatives on Earth, allowing their nonsensical zaniness and refusal to believe what they read in newspapers to serve as a counterbalance to the liberals' persistent and disturbing preoccupation with reality.

This also, I think, should explain why He allows conservatives to get away with claiming God as their own personal property, when logic might otherwise dictate that any Supreme Being worthy of the title would be siding with those folks who treat the concept of truth with more respect.
So His plan, I think, is to keep us all stirred up and annoyed, even as He keeps us amused with the meaningless antics of the likes of Ann Coulter.

PS: Sorry for the delayed response, but it took me some time to go back over this and capitalize all those instances of "He" when referring to God. It's something I'm just not used to doing, but even as I criticize His judgment in foisting all these conservative blockheads on us, I still would rather not piss Him off.
Well, yes, pissing Him off would be dangerous.

But this an interesting theory. God plants a herd of conservatives on Earth, "allowing their nonsensical zaniness and refusal to believe what they read in newspapers to serve as a counterbalance to the liberals' persistent and disturbing preoccupation with reality."

God does have a sense of humor? So it seems.

And as they say, reality is overrated. As is Ann Coulter.

Posted by Alan at 22:53 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Wednesday, 6 October 2004

Topic: Election Notes

The Draw: The Debate of the Proxies

It is hard to return to commentary after three days off. Well, not three days "off" - as I started a fulltime job managing a small systems shop at a major corporation, and with more than eight hours a day there, and a thirty-minute commute there each morning and an hour commute home each evening (same route, but more people around in the afternoon for some reason), it has been hard to say on top of events. But I haven't had the long hours here to scan these current events and who is saying what about them in the press and on the blogs, here and in Europe, and add my observations.

What did I miss?

The former top American administrator in Baghdad, L. Paul Bremer III, told a private audience that the United States did not send enough troops to Iraq to establish security after driving Saddam Hussein from power. Oops. Much has been said about that, and he's being publicly attacked now by the administration - something about sour grapes. Everyone knows we did the war just right. And too, Donald Rumsfeld appeared before the Council on Foreign Relations Monday and, during the question-and-answer period, acknowledged that he had seen no evidence showing a connection between Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden. The Pentagon later released a statement, claiming that Rumsfeld had been "misunderstood." He did not mean to deny the existence of "ties" between the two. Oops. And I see there is much commentary on that. And Charles A. Duelfer submitted the final official report on Iraq and WMD - all one thousand pages - there weren't any, and hadn't been any. Oops. But the war seemed like such a good idea at the time. Well, the latest Gallup poll shows that sixty-two percent of Republicans still believe that Saddam was behind 9/11. That will do to get Bush elected, for real this time. Then there's the price of oil, news of more planned layoffs than anyone has seen in quite a while, and everything else that calls for some thought.

I've missed quite a bit.

But the debate was the main event of the week - so far - and I missed that for a business meeting over dinner. Cheney versus Edwards. Darth Vader versus Luke Skywalker. Montgomery Burns versus the Breck Girl. Whatever.

Rick, The News Guy in Atlanta, did watch it and told me it was a draw.
That's what it was. Which means, since I was sure Cheney would win, I'm sort of pleased. (It's that old expectations game at work here.)

Nevertheless, I still found myself yelling at the TV, trying to tell Edwards what he should say. I swear sometimes, I'd be the better candidate than both these Democrats, although I wouldn't want either job, were I to win.

But still, as it turns out, they both did good.
Did they?

I didn't see it. I had a dinner with the folks from work in Pasadena and didn't get home until 11:30 Eastern Time. I take it Cheney didn't lean over and say, "I'm your father, Luke."

I just caught some clips on cable. Cheney was effectible in what I saw. MSNBC had a poll up a few hours later showing Cheney with thirty-two percent saying he "won" and Edwards sixty-eight, but that just half a million folks stuffing the web ballot box. Edwards seemed a lightweight, but far less light the GWB was back in 2000 - so who knows? I sipped some scotch and surf a bit for reaction.

CBS News tracked the reactions of a nationwide panel of 169 uncommitted voters - voters who could change their minds before Election Day. A "scientific" poll with a margin of error of plus or minus 7 percentage points - by 41% to 29% their "uncommitted" debate watchers say Edwards won the debate tonight.

ABC News poll, 509 interviews +/- 4.5
Who won?
Cheney 43%
Edwards 35%
Tie 19%

Vote preference among debate viewers
Before the debate vs. after the debate
Bush/Cheney 51% - 50%
Kerry/Edwards 48% - 49%
Nader/Camejo <1% - 0%

Not much shift.

Then there's Andrew Sullivan:
Boy was I ever wrong. If last Thursday night's debate was an assisted suicide for president Bush, this debate - just concluded - was a car wreck. And Cheney was road-kill. There were times when it was so overwhelming a debate victory for Edwards that I had to look away. I have to do C-SPAN now, but stay tuned for more post-debate blogging in a little while.

... My view is that Cheney undoubtedly fired up his base; but I doubt very much that he made any headway with swing voters, and may well have alienated many. Edwards helped Kerry tonight. I didn't expect it; but I'm sticking with my judgment. My view is that Republican bias is making many believe Cheney did much better than he actually did. I'd already discounted the Daddy factor. But we'll see, won't we?

... From the beginning of the debate, it seemed to me that the contrast was fundamental. Let's start with superficials - because they do matter in debates. The only way to describe Cheney's performance was exhausted. He looks drained. And you can see why. One of the least understood and reported aspects of the current administration is simply the enormous strain of the past four years. They have endured some of the most testing times any modern president and vice-president have had to encounter. And you can see the strain and exhaustion in both the two principals. I'm not criticizing; in fact, I'm empathizing. But the result is obvious: when confronted with the major issues they have been dealing with day in day out, issues they know intimately and have worked on endlessly, their response is simply what Cheney himself kept saying: "Where do I start?" They have become so enmeshed in running a war that they have become almost unable to articulate its goals and process - and at times seem resentful that they even have to. There was a tone of exasperation in much of Cheney's wooden and often technical responses to political and moral questions. I can't explain the incoherence except fatigue and an awareness deep inside that they have indeed screwed up in some critical respects, that it's obvious to them as well as everyone else, and that they have lost the energy required to brazen their way through it. What I saw last night was a vice-president crumpling under the weight of onerous responsibility. My human response was to hope he'll get some rest. My political response was to wonder why he simply couldn't or wouldn't answer the fundamental questions in front of him in ways that were easy to understand and redolent of conviction.

... But, in fact, it was worse than that. He went down snarling. His personal attacks on Edwards were so brutal and so personal and so direct that I cannot believe that anyone but die-hard partisans would have warmed to them. Edwards' criticisms, on the other hand, were tough but relatively indirect - he was always and constantly directing the answers to his own policies. Edwards, whom I'd thought would come of as a neophyte, was able to give answers that were clear and methodical and far better, in my view, than Kerry's attempts to explain himself last Thursday. On substance, Cheney clearly had the better of the debate on Afghanistan; his criticisms of Kerry's record were strong and detailed; his brutal assessment of Edwards' attendance record was sharp - but too direct and brutal to win over swing voters. But on domestic policy, he was terrible. Again, he used the term "fiscal restraint," but he gave no explanation for the unprecedented slide toward debt in the last four years. When asked to respond to a question about young black women with HIV, Cheney might as well have been asked about Martians. He had no response to the charges (largely new to me) about Halliburton. He had no solid response to the question of sufficient troops in Iraq or the capability of the coalition to guarantee national elections in January. He was weak on healthcare; and said that the Massachusetts Supreme Court had ordered the legislature to change the state constitution! Huh? And, of course, he cannot disguise that he supports a president who would remove any legal protections for his own daughter's relationship.
And Sullivan's complete reaction in the National Review is here.

Rick, The News Guy in Atlanta, takes heart -
Once again, I may have underestimated the success of my side. Although I guess I do see a draw as favoring Edwards, I suppose time will tell us whether this Veep debate mattered either way.

The truth is, of course, that our side has truth on its side, while they have on their side the overwhelming power to condescend with so much self-confidence that many voters will be bamboozled into thinking those guys have truth on their side.

They will be home free for four more years if only they can just keep this pose up for one more month, surviving what Sullivan perceives as the "strain and exhaustion ... in running a war." (My immediate response to that is, "What war would that be?" But also, if they think they've been working under a strain this term, try conducting the nation's business while some gang of goofballs is trying to impeach you.)

While watching these debates, I keep wanting to wave a magic wand and jump inside the head of one of my guys and make him say what he should be saying. Last night, after Cheney told me the first time he met me was walking on this stage, I would have turned to him and laughed, saying "You're kidding! You don't remember me? We've met several times! I imagine there are even pictures out there of us shaking hands! Is it that I'm so unmemorable? Or could it be you are experiencing a 'senior moment'?"

(I might have added, "One reason you wouldn't remember meeting me has less to do with you being President of the Senate, as the fact that you mostly only showed up on Tuesdays, for the Republican lunch. Not many of us Democrats ever attend those.")

But in fairness, I suppose if I were to channel inside the skull of Cheney -- or maybe Bush, which I imagine has a bit more elbow room -- I'd have him be more honest about Iraq; which is that we could not have known back then everything we now know about the WMD, and the al Qaedda and 9/11 connections, and that Saddam was not such an imminent threat to the United States or anyone else; and that yes, it turns out that Clinton's containment policy and the UN sanctions, coupled with inspections, actually were working; and that yes, we have apparently caused a terrible mess in Iraq that wasn't there before, with the only small consolation being that a murderous dictator is no longer in power; but that simply because we didn't have good "actionable intelligence" on this back then means we had to take a chance and do what we did, because the cost of not doing it, and being wrong, was simply too great. So yes, knowing what we know now, we wouldn't do it again; but there was no way of knowing back then what we know now; so yes, we did the right thing.

I know it's too late for them to change to this approach without showing themselves to be major flip-floppers. Still, this would be the honest approach, one that I think might have cost them a few votes but made it up in confidence in them among not only citizens of this country but also the world. Then again, I get the feeling these people are just not into truth and honesty as much as I am.

But as for explaining why they've done virtually nothing on the so-called "War on Terror"? Hey, Cheney's on his own on that one! I can't be expected to do all this thinking for him!
Gee, I wish I had seen all this.

As for Rick's comment that these people are just not into truth and honesty, Cheney wasn't exactly honest, as you see from this table of lies. But people buy them.

Well, not everyone is buying everything. The top professors at the top business schools in the country Wednesday published an open letter to George Bush - and you can scroll down the list of signers, and see who they are - saying the administration is well on its way to destroying the economy, and ought to stop with the deficits and tax cuts for the wealthy and all that.

Less than thirty days to the elections, right? It's come down to the damn-the-facts true believers versus the damned-facts realists. The optimists with the good attitudes versus the realists with questions. And the hedgehog versus the fox (see this for that clich? - from December 21, 2003).

And I'd say more, but I have to get some sleep and go back to work tomorrow.

Posted by Alan at 21:04 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, 7 October 2004 22:50 PDT home

Sunday, 3 October 2004

Topic: Photos

News - No News

For the next several days, and perhaps a bit longer, this web log, As Seen from Just Above Sunset will probably not be updated. The weekly Just Above Sunset will probably not publish next week as the editor of both is returning to the workplace full time - the morning of October 4. It will be some time before he works out how to juggle the new job with writing commentary, collecting the observations of friends from Atlanta to Paris to Montr?al, snapping odd photographs, and posting it all to the web. So the photo appended below is appropriate.

But the new Just Above Sunset - the parent publication of this web log - has just been posted. That would be Volume 2, Number 39 (Sunday, October 3, 2004) of course.

This week? The big event was the presidential debate, and all the coverage is here, with comments from readers, and some issues regarding logic. Report and commentary on the press - Fox News pulls a Dan Rather, sort of, and does it twice in two days. New data on what we specifically refuse to believe is true when it is. An item on whether outsourcing torture is necessary for homeland security. And a bit on Ohio and efforts there to limit the vote.

Ric Erickson reports on this weekend's nuit blanche in Paris and sends along a very odd photo....

Features? A dialog regarding God's wrath, or justice, between two fellows from Georgia and an American expatriate in Paris, which somehow touches on the nature of the American South, Canada and the topic of good manners. Notes on spiritual elevators and such things in Sedona, Arizona. And the usual funny quotes (John Cleese on businessmen).

The photos? Hollywood closes and the sadness of being hip....

Much appeared here in first draft, and is extended and expanded there. Ric Erickson's Paris notes, the photos and the quotes are all new.

Note: Bob Patterson, who goes by the moniker The World's Laziest Journalist, is on hiatus this week due to technical problems (his computer is down). His weekly columns will resume when that matter is resolved.

Quick links to the contents of this weekend's Just Above Sunset:

Current Events ________

The First Presidential Debate: "You forgot Poland."

Debate: The Day After

Logic Bombs: Why Bush Will (eventually) Win the Debates

Media Notes: Fair and Balanced, and Quite Often Mistaken

Facts: The Annuls of Cognitive Dissonance

Legislation: The guy who used to coach high school wresting has a modest proposal...

Ohio: Blackwell the Magician

Our Man in Paris ________

Paris: A quick note and photo from the City That Never Sleeps (at least for one night) regarding this year's nuit blanche...

Features ________

Theology: The Paris-Atlanta Dialogs

Travel: In the Land of Spiritual Elevators

Quotes: Useful Pithy Observations... Parting Shots

Photography ________

Photography: Signs and Portents


I'll be back. But for now...

Posted by Alan at 18:08 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Sunday, 3 October 2004 20:04 PDT home

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