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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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Thursday, 14 April 2005

Topic: Photos

Photography: An Old Bird

Political and cultural commentary will resume tomorrow. This week has been visual, not intellectual.

On April 14 the local staff of Just Above Sunset was on a press flight. At ten that morning the editor and Just Above Sunset columnist Bob Patterson flew out of Torrance Airport on a media flight in a restored Boeing B-17G bomber from WWII. This photo album contains a few of the 132 photos we snapped.

And the New York City and Princeton collection has been amended here.

Posted by Alan at 22:11 PDT | Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink

Wednesday, 13 April 2005

Topic: The Economy

The Economy: Better Times for Whom? Paris Hilton.

This article was sitting in the Los Angeles Times on my doorstep Monday as I was thirty-five thousand feet above Kansas, returning from a weekend hanging around Manhattan. No, I?m not rich. I was the guest of a high-powered Wall Street attorney and his family, friends for many decades. (I first met the fellow when he was my student back in the seventies ? when I was an English teacher and he was in the tenth grade.)

And what was waiting for me in my copy of the Times on the doorstep?

Wages Lagging Behind Prices
Nicholas Riccardi, Monday, April 11

Something is up.
For the first time in 14 years, the American workforce has in effect gotten an across-the-board pay cut.

The growth in wages in 2004 and the first two months of this year trailed inflation, compounding the squeeze from higher housing, energy and other costs.
Is this a problem? Well, if folks can only buy less and cheaper, perhaps so. That might slow down the economy even more, as if the price of gasoline weren?t enough alone to do that.

The details?
? This is the first time that salaries have increased more slowly than prices since the 1990-91 recession. Though salary growth has been relatively sluggish since the 2001 downturn, inflation also had stayed relatively subdued until last year, when the consumer price index rose 2.7%. But wages rose only 2.5%.

The effective 0.2-percentage-point erosion in workers' living standards occurred while the economy expanded at a healthy 4%, better than the 3% historical average.

Meanwhile, corporate profits hit record highs as companies got more productivity out of workers while keeping pay increases down.

Some see climbing profits and stagnant wages as not only unfair but also ultimately unsustainable.
Who worries about such stuff? Don?t the people with get-up-and-go and the right attitude just become wealthy, and the others have only themselves to blame? That?s what my conservative friend tells me ? this erosion in workers' living standards is the fault of the workers themselves.

And too, as the economy recovers, as it will, or so we are told, wages will finally rise again. But should they? Unassertive (lazy) non-entrepreneurial folks getting even meager wages is bad for us all, it seems -
? higher wages could hurt the economy by stoking inflation further. Employers might pass the costs on to consumers in higher prices, and that in turn might prompt the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates more aggressively, possibly slowing the recovery or even triggering a recession.
It seems that keeping folks receiving less and less real income saves us from a recession. Odd.

A writer with the pseudonym Quiddity notes another passage from the Times story that seems to indicate things aren?t really that bad -
Despite the failure of their wages to keep pace with inflation, American consumers have kept shopping. Consumer spending has continued to rise. Analysts say that's partly because some shoppers are thinking less about their paychecks and more about their biggest asset: their homes.

Home prices rose 21.1% in Southern California and 9% nationwide from February 2004 to February 2005, sheltering consumers, and the economy, from much of the pinch of higher prices.
Ah, so the pain is not real, so to speak. Refinance, buy, refinance again. And that works out here in California. Home prices have gone up between twenty and twenty-five percent for the last five years or more. Instant money.

But Quiddity points out -
First of all, not everybody has a home, and those people are really losing. Second, when inflation is being "cured" with rapidly rising home prices, you've got a problem. Nothing is being produced. Nothing is being exported. Nothing of value is generated.

But the rise in home prices will work for a while, but only up to a certain point. When that's reached, there will be no way to keep the economy chugging along at a decent rate. Then comes the stall. Then comes the decline.
Really? Cannot home prices go up like this forever? What did Mark Twain say? Buy land. There?s not making any more of it.

Twain has a point. Out here in La-La Land there?s not just a shortage of affordable housing ? only about seventeen percent of working families in Southern California can afford anything for sale in these parts ? there?s a shortage of housing, period. Prices rise and rise, on and on, with no end in sight.

So, will the housing bubble ever really burst and send the economy into the weeds? Who knows? It doesn?t seem you?ll hear any bubble popping out here.

But that doesn?t help some people. For someone like me, who rents, by choice, and is retired, things just get more and more expensive ? with no access to the one remedy that is saving everyone else in the economy. Oh well. One becomes careful.

Of course, the New York Times delivered, a day late, the same story as my local newspaper, to my friend doing securities law in Lower Manhattan, but with more depth. No colorful anecdotes about this gainfully employed Joe Public or that gainfully employed Joe Public eating cat food or dropping health and car insurance to get by. This was in the business section.

Falling Fortunes of Wage Earners
Steven Greenhouse, Published: April 12, 2005

The same sort of opening -
Beginning in the mid-1990's, pay increases for most workers slowly but steadily outpaced the rate of inflation, improving the living standards for nearly all Americans.
But an unexpected reversal last year in those gains has set off a vigorous debate among economists over whether the decline is just a temporary dip or portends a deeper shift that may cause the pay of average Americans to lag for years to come.

Even though the economy added 2.2 million jobs in 2004 and produced strong growth in corporate profits, wages for the average worker fell for the year, after adjusting for inflation - the first such drop in nearly a decade.
Ah! The economists argue.

First, they say problem is not with the jobs themselves ? the problem is not very few and very crappy jobs out there - but perhaps with the now global economy, and with too many workers? benefits -
? Most economists dismiss as overblown the widespread fear that the number of jobs will shrink in the United States because of foreign competition from China, India and other developing nations. But at the same time many of these economists argue that the increasing exposure of the American economy to globalization, along with other forces - including soaring health insurance costs that leave less money for raises - is putting pressure on wages that could leave millions of workers worse off.
Worse off, but as above, keeping inflation in check.

But Greenhouse says there are optimists -
?But some economists are more optimistic, saying that the wage sluggishness is temporary and that real wages have slipped only because a sudden spike in oil prices has briefly left workers behind the curve. These economists assert that wage stagnation will end soon, as normal growth brings a tighter labor market.
Maybe. Let?s blame those middle-easterners with their OPEC nonsense. Everything will get better. No problem.

Some of us aren?t buying that. And we see this too -
? The overall wage figures hide a split, with an elite group getting relatively large gains. In a study of census data, the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal research group, found that for the bottom 95 percent of workers, after-inflation wages were flat or down in 2004, but for the top 5 percent, wages rose by an average of 1 percent, with some gaining much more.

The upper-income group enjoyed strong pay increases largely because of bonuses, stock options and other inducements and because of robust demand in certain fields, like law and investment banking.
Well, my host for the weekend is doing well. He?s an attorney. His wife is an attorney. For those of us in other fields?

Those of us in systems management know the next shift in priorities, or the next merger, or the new off-shore deal, or a change in technologies, means moving on to the next firm, always at a slight net loss. One gets used to it. Ah, there?s always work out there. It is just a bit irritating. Of course that?s the very top of the ?bottom 95 percent of workers? mentioned by Greenhouse. For the bottom 95 percent of workers perhaps it is well beyond irritating. If those folks got beyond being depressed by their slow and steady decline and got, say, angry, there might be a problem.

No, they all voted for Bush because they like is kick-ass style. No revolution this century. It?s a values thing. As long as Lars and Spanky don?t get married and move in down the street, well, that?s just the way it is.

Greenhouse does add more analysis, of course -
J. Bradford DeLong, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, said that current wage patterns, while perhaps only temporary, did not conform to traditional economic explanations.

? Richard B. Freeman, a Harvard economist, predicted that new competition in the form of millions of skilled Chinese, Indian and other Asian workers entering the global labor market will increasingly pull down American wages.

"Globalization is going to make it harder for American workers to have the wage increases and the benefits that we might have expected," he said.

Facing intense foreign competition, Delphi, the auto parts manufacturer, has decided against any merit raises this year for its salaried workers. And at its air bag and door panel factory in Vandalia, Ohio, it persuaded unionized workers to accept a three-year pay freeze, warning that the plant would be closed otherwise.
Yep, that?s the way it is.

Matthew Yglesias is puzzled by it all and adds this (my emphases) -
Why Low Wages? I'm a little puzzled by Steven Greenhouse's inquiry into the falling wages problem. The bulk of the hypotheses and so forth mooted about seem to suggest that wages are being held down by something or other, with possibilities such as foreign competition, Wal-Mart's low wages, the possibility of substituting technology for labor, etc. being canvassed. That seems to suggest that, in the past, wages went up when productivity went up because bosses were nice and realized that with productivity on the rise they could afford to raise wages. Now thanks to foreign competition, Wal-Mart, and other low wage sources they "can't afford" pay raises. But that's not how the economy works, now or ever. If productivity is growing much faster than wages, then it should be easy to make a lot of money by hiring new workers.

As people do that, wages should start to go up, until it no longer becomes profitable to add new workers, at which point wages will start leveling off. Wages and productivity can't become de-linked because today's businessmen are greedy or because Wal-Mart is cunning, the link between wages and productivity depends on the fact that businessmen are greedy and cunning. You don't raise wages out of altruism, instead you expand your workforce out of greed, and the expanding workforce pushes wages up. So what's going on nowadays? None of the stuff discussed in the article seems relevant to the issue at hand. Professor DeLong is quoted in the article but doesn't have any further comments. I'd be interested to know.
So would we all.

So DeLong replies (again, my emphases) -
Well, there are three hypotheses:

1.) Improvements in firms' ability to squash unions, and thus shift wage bargains toward employers (the Wal-Mart hypothesis).

2.) A slack labor market--much more labor-market slack than the level of the unemployment rate would lead one to expect--in which firms find it easy to hire workers and workers find it hazardous to ask for higher wages.

3.) Changes in the international economy that boost the wages of the skilled and educated (whose products can be sold abroad for more) and put downward pressure on the wages of the less-skilled and less-educated (who now face much stronger competition from abroad).

I believe that (3) is likely to be a very important factor over the next two generations. But this wage-growth slowdown we have seen since 2000 has hit too rapidly and has been too large to be credibly attributed to "offshoring" or other long-run international factors. (1) is surely a factor, but (1) wouldn't work unless (2) were exerting a powerful downward force on wages. (2) has many causes--a relatively high value of the dollar that switches demand from home to abroad is one of them.

I expect things to turn around as employment expands and as (2) loses its force--unless the Federal Reserve decides that it needs to fight inflation now.

Why hasn't (2) lost its force already? Why, with rapid productivity growth and stagnant wages and cheap money that is easy for firms to borrow, isn't firm demand for workers already through the roof? Well, how much would you like to expand capacity if you knew the country had a large budget deficit, and that either big tax increases or a burst of inflation were likely in the future? When Paul Volcker and Bob Rubin say that a serious financial crisis may well be on the horizon? Wages and productivity can't become de-linked because today's businessmen are greedy or because Wal-Mart is cunning, the link between wages and productivity depends on the fact that businessmen are greedy and cunning. You don't raise wages out of altruism, instead you expand your workforce out of greed, and the expanding workforce pushes wages up.
Wait a second here. I know Professor DeLong used to work in the Clinton administration but is he saying the Bush thing of turning a multi-trillion dollar surplus into a multi-trillion dollar deficits through an expensive war and tax breaks for the ultra-rich was a BAD idea?

Yes. Just how are these guys managing the economy?

Well, they have their priorities.

Ah, and that brings us to Paris Hilton.

"Trust fund babies rejoice!"

In the Washington Post we see this is speeding through the House of Representatives ? which one fellow calls legislation designed to keep the Paris Hiltons of the world from ever doing a day of honest work. The house is to permanently repeal the estate tax.

This is class warfare? Perhaps.
Last month, [Michael] Graetz and Yale political scientist Ian Shapiro published "Death By A Thousand Cuts," chronicling the estate tax repeal movement as "a mystery about politics and persuasion."

?For almost a century, the estate tax affected only the richest 1 or 2 percent of citizens, encouraged charity, and placed no burden on the vast majority of Americans," they wrote. "A law that constituted the blandest kind of common sense for most of the twentieth century was transformed, in the space of little more than a decade, into the supposed enemy of hardworking citizens all over this country."

The secret of the repeal movement's success has been its appeal to principle over economics. While repeal opponents bellowed that only the richest of the rich would ever pay the estate tax, proponents appealed to Americans' sense of fairness, that individuals have the natural right to pass on their wealth to their children.

The most recent Internal Revenue Service data back opponents' claims. In 2001, out of 2,363,100 total adult deaths, only 49,911 -- 2.1 percent -- had estates large enough to be hit by the estate tax. That was down from 2.3 percent in 1999. The value of the taxed estates in 2001 averaged nearly $2.7 million.
Hey, that?s a neat trick. Most of us are going to get screwed economically, Social Security must go away, the Veterans get their health benefits cuts, the troops don?t get all their armor ? but Paris Hilton get another Porsche?

Well, that?s fair. Not.

And at the Post E.J. Dionne notes this -
In a little-noticed estimate confirmed by his office yesterday, Stephen Goss, the highly respected Social Security actuary, has studied how much of the Social Security financing gap could be filled by a reformed estate tax. What would happen if, instead of repealing the tax, Congress left it in place at a 45 percent rate, and only on fortunes that exceeded $3.5 million -- which would be $7 million for couples? That, by the way, is well below where the estate tax stood when President Bush took office and would eliminate more than 99 percent of estates from the tax. It reflects the substantial reduction that would take effect in 2009 under Bush's tax plan.

According to Goss, a tax at that level would cover one-quarter of the 75-year Social Security shortfall. The Congressional Budget Office has a more modest estimate of the shortfall. Applying Goss's numbers means that if CBO is right, the reformed estate tax would cover one-half of the Social Security shortfall.

This is big news for the Social Security debate. Michael J. Graetz and Ian Shapiro, authors of a new book on the estate tax, "Death by a Thousand Cuts," have referred to its repeal as the "Paris Hilton Benefit Act." To pick up on the metaphor, why should Congress be more concerned about protecting Paris Hilton's inheritance than grandma's Social Security check? How can a member of Congress even think about raising payroll taxes while throwing away so much other revenue?
How? Assume folks know who their betters are and like good serfs they sacrifice for their lords? No, not that exactly.

It?s more like a principle ? everyone knows you keep and don?t share. It?s related to the conservative mantras about rugged individualism, personal responsibility, and taking care of yourself and not relying on big government. No community. That?s not the American way.

That?s what we all understand is the way things are now. That?s the real Republican revolution.

Posted by Alan at 16:54 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 13 April 2005 16:56 PDT home

Tuesday, 12 April 2005

Topic: Photos

Slow day…

Couldn’t add entries today. The internet service is not good and has been iffy all day. I cannot get to any sites much at all. Comcast says they’re working on it - an area-wide outage. In lieu of commentary, you might want to check out Manhattan, and Princeton, in this photo album from the weekend.

Back to the news tomorrow.

Posted by Alan at 22:41 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Monday, 11 April 2005

Topic: Photos

The Pope-a-Thon Continues: What Are they Thinking?

Via the Associated Press -
[Cardinal Bernard] Law resigned as archbishop of Boston in December 2002 after unsealed court records revealed he had moved predatory clergy among parishes for years without telling parents their children were at risk. He has apologized for his wrongdoing.
Monday’s event –

Disgraced Cardinal Says Memorial Mass for Pope
Philip Pullella and Claudia Parsons - Apr 11, 1:06 PM (ET)
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The disgraced former archbishop of Boston said a memorial mass for Pope John Paul at the Vatican on Monday as a few protesters outside reminded the world of the sexual abuse scandal that rocked the Church.

Cardinal Bernard Law, who said the mass in his capacity as archpriest of a Rome basilica, praised the Pope as a teacher who managed to influence people's lives when he was young and strong but no less so when he was old and frail.

… Outside the basilica, two leaders of a group representing victims of child clerical abuse protested, saying the Church was "rubbing salt in an open wound" by having allowed Law to say the memorial mass.

"He is like the poster child for the sex abuse scandal," said Barbara Blaine who came to Rome on behalf of some 5,600 members of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

Blaine and Barbara Dorris, who both said they were molested as children, handed out fliers and spoke to a crowd of TV news crews before being escorted off St. Peter's Square by police.

Vatican security officials later escorted them into the church for the mass, which went on without incident. …
Christopher Hitchens provides perspective (my emphases) on last Friday’s funeral -
… the partisans of the late pope have been praising him for his many apologies. He apologized to the Jewish people for the Vatican's glacial coldness during the Final Solution, and for historic filiations between the church and anti-Semitism. He apologized to the Eastern Orthodox Christians, and to the Muslims, for the appalling damage done to civilization by papal advocacy of the Crusades, and by forced conversion and massacre in the Balkans during the church's open alliance with fascism during World War II. He apologized to the world of science and reason by admitting that Galileo should not have been condemned by the Inquisition. These are not small climb-downs, and they do not apply just to the past. They are and were admissions that the Roman Catholic Church has been responsible for the retarding of human development on a colossal scale.

However, "be not afraid." The God-given right of the papacy to make and enforce absolute judgments is not at all at stake. Popes may have been wrong on everything, but they were right in general. By the time the church apologizes for saying that condoms are worse than AIDS, or admits that it was complicit at best in the mass murder in Rwanda, another few generations will have died out. This is almost exactly the sort of stuff with which Communists and their fellow travelers once had to content themselves. There had indeed been "spots on Stalin's sun," as one hack so prettily phrased it. But the leading role of the party was still a sure thing.

Sensing, perhaps, that so many admissions and confessions might sow doubt and unease, Pope John Paul threw himself into the sort of reinforcement that unifies and heartens the flock, or the base. The special sign of this was the mass production of saints and the removal of all obstacles to near-instant canonization and beatification.

This is especially handy for beefing up the faith in outlying regions, where a local hero is considered good for morale. Alas for those who value consistency, some of those canonized were at odds with the larger purpose served by the famous apologies. Cardinal Stepinac of Croatia, for example, had been a clerical ally of the Nazi puppet regime of Ante Pavelic, and had known full well of the vile treatment of Orthodox Christians and Jews under this dispensation. Jose Maria Escriva de Balaguer, the creepy founder of Opus Dei, was celebrated for his closeness to Gen. Franco. To make saints of such riffraff is the most obvious form of opportunism.

Seeking to cloud a difficult situation with even more of the fragrance of obscurantism, the pope also resorted to an almost wholesale appropriation of the cult of the Virgin. He openly announced that the bullet that hit him was prevented from taking his life not because of the skill of his physicians, but because its trajectory had been guided by Our Lady. She let the assassin fire and hit, in other words, and only then took action. (This reminds me of Bertrand Russell's comment on the practice of placing covers on the baths in convents so as to avoid offending the sight of God. The creator can see through the roof of the convent, and down into the bathrooms in the basement, but is hopelessly baffled by a sheet of canvas.) Sites such as Fatima, which had been frowned upon by serious Catholics for some years, became objects of adoration and pilgrimage and hysteria. The veneration of the Virgin, and the endlessly repeated mantra of "Totus Tuus" ("Everything for Thee") seemed to many veteran believers to depose Jesus in favor of a Marian idolatry, and even to violate the commandment against graven images.

Finally, if the pope is to have so much credit for the liberation of Eastern Europe, he ought to accept his responsibility for the enslavement of the Middle East. He not only opposed the removal of Saddam Hussein in 2003, but the use of force to get him out of Kuwait in 1991. I have never read any deployment of Augustinian argument, in the latter case, that would not qualify it as a just war. Moreover, the pope made a visit to Damascus not long ago, and sat quietly outside the Grand Mosque while the Assad regime greeted him as one who understood that Muslims and Catholics had a common enemy—in the Jews who had killed Christ. (That he may already have been senescent at this point is not an answer: It is a problem, though, for those who believe that he was Christ's vicar on earth.)

Unbelievers are more merciful and understanding than believers, as well as more rational. We do not believe that the pope will face judgment or eternal punishment for the millions who will die needlessly from AIDS, or for his excusing and sheltering of those who committed the unpardonable sin of raping and torturing children, or for the countless people whose sex lives have been ruined by guilt and shame and who are taught to respect the body only when it is a lifeless cadaver like that of Terri Schiavo. For us, this day is only the interment of an elderly and querulous celibate, who came too late and who stayed too long, and whose primitive ideology did not permit him the true self-criticism that could have saved him, and others less innocent, from so many errors and crimes.
Ah, not nice.

But for the larger perspective of what going on see this -

A Culture of Death, Not Life
Frank Rich, New York Times, April 10, 2005

What we see in America on television now -
Mortality - the more graphic, the merrier - is the biggest thing going in America. Between Terri Schiavo and the pope, we've feasted on decomposing bodies for almost a solid month now. The carefully edited, three-year-old video loops of Ms. Schiavo may have been worthless as medical evidence but as necro-porn their ubiquity rivaled that of TV's top entertainment franchise, the all-forensics-all-the-time "CSI." To help us visualize the dying John Paul, another Fox star, Geraldo Rivera, brought on Dr. Michael Baden, the go-to cadaver expert from the JonBenet Ramsey, Chandra Levy and Laci Peterson mediathons, to contrast His Holiness's cortex with Ms. Schiavo's.

As sponsors line up to buy time on "CSI," so celebrity deaths have become a marvelous opportunity for beatific self-promotion by news and political stars alike. Tim Russert showed a video of his papal encounter on a "Meet the Press" where one of the guests, unchallenged, gave John Paul an A-plus for his handling of the church's sex abuse scandal. Jesse Jackson, staking out a new career as the angel of deathotainment, hit the trifecta: in rapid succession he appeared with the Schindlers at their daughter's hospice in Florida, eulogized Johnnie Cochran on "Larry King Live" and reminisced about his own papal audience with MSNBC's Keith Olbermann.

What's disturbing about this spectacle is not so much its tastelessness; America will always have a fatal attraction to sideshows. What's unsettling is the nastier agenda that lies far less than six feet under the surface. Once the culture of death at its most virulent intersects with politicians in power, it starts to inflict damage on the living.
Ah, think of Keats –

I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Called him soft names in many a mused rhyme,
To take into the air my quiet breath;
Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
In such an ecstasy!

Yeah, yeah. Bit this is different. The media and our leaders are up to something.

To cite Rich -
When those leaders, led by the Bush brothers, wallow in this culture, they do a bait-and-switch and claim to be upholding John Paul's vision of a "culture of life." This has to be one of the biggest shams of all time. Yes, these politicians oppose abortion, but the number of abortions has in fact been going down steadily in America under both Republican and Democratic presidents since 1990 - some 40 percent in all. The same cannot be said of American infant fatalities, AIDS cases and war casualties - all up in the George W. Bush years. Meanwhile, potentially lifesaving phenomena like condom-conscious sex education and federally run stem-cell research are in shackles.

This agenda is synergistic with the entertainment culture of Mr. Bush's base: No one does the culture of death with more of a vengeance - literally so - than the doomsday right. The "Left Behind" novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins all but pant for the bloody demise of nonbelievers at Armageddon. And now, as Eric J. Greenberg has reported in The Forward, there's even a children's auxiliary: a 40-title series, "Left Behind: The Kids," that warns Jewish children of the hell that awaits them if they don't convert before it's too late. Eleven million copies have been sold on top of the original series' 60 million.

These fables are of a piece with the violent take on Christianity popularized by "The Passion of the Christ." Though Mel Gibson brought a less gory version, with the unfortunate title "The Passion Recut," to some 1,000 theaters for Easter in response to supposed popular demand, there was no demand. (Back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that at many screens the film sold fewer than 50 tickets the entire opening weekend.) "Passion" fans want the full scourging, and at the height of the protests outside the Schiavo hospice, a TV was hooked up so the assembled could get revved up by watching the grisly original on DVD.

As they did so, Mr. Gibson interjected himself into the case by giving an interview to Sean Hannity asserting that "big guys" could "whip a judge" if they really wanted to stop the "state-sanctioned murder" of Ms. Schiavo. He was evoking his punishment of choice in "The Passion," figuratively, no doubt. It was only a day later that one such big guy, Tom DeLay, gave Mr. Gibson's notion his official imprimatur by vowing retribution against any judges who don't practice the faith-based jurisprudence of which he approves.
Ah, it’s all death, all the time!

As for Rome?
If there's one lesson to take away from the saturation coverage of the pope, it is how relatively enlightened he was compared with the men in business suits ruling Washington. Our leaders are not only to the right of most Americans (at least three-quarters of whom opposed Congressional intervention in the Schiavo case) but even to the right of most American evangelical Christians (most of whom favored the removal of Ms. Schiavo's feeding tube, according to Time magazine). They are also, like Mel Gibson and the fiery nun of "Revelations," to the right of the largely conservative pontiff they say they revere. This is true not only on such issues as the war in Iraq and the death penalty but also on the core belief of how life began. Though the president of the United States believes that the jury is still out on evolution, John Paul in 1996 officially declared that "fresh knowledge leads to recognition of the theory of evolution as more than just a hypothesis."

We don't know the identity of the corpse that will follow the pope in riveting the nation's attention. What we do know is that the reality show we've made of death has jumped the shark, turning from a soporific television diversion into the cultural embodiment of the apocalyptic right's growing theocratic crusade.
So much for the culture of life.

Here’s a contrast. Atlas at Saint Patrick’s in Manhattan last weekend…

Posted by Alan at 21:19 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Wednesday, 6 April 2005

Topic: NOW WHAT?

No Entries for a bit…

The editor and publisher of Just Above Sunset and of this web log flies from Los Angeles to New York on the 7th – tries to assemble this week’s issue remotely from central New Jersey - and returns to Los Angeles on the 11th late in the evening.

Items here may be sparse – unless there are internet cafes in lower Manhattan and it’s raining.

Posted by Alan at 21:56 PDT | Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink

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