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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, 10 May 2005

Topic: Couldn't be so...

Protecting the Brand

Rick, The News Guy in Atlanta, before those early days at CNN, used to work for Roger Ailes, the fellow who now runs “fair and balanced” Fox News. I think he worked for Ailes twice, but one time was some sort of restaurant-bistro venture, so that doesn’t count. Anyway, there is a blogger also named Roger Ailes – and his web log sometimes carried the subhead The Other One, or The Less Evil One. At the moment the web log carries the subhead The Most Ethical Blogger… Ever.

Can this other Roger Ailes really use his own name to write political commentary without running into copyright or trademark issues? You might recall that back in the early seventies when the Coca Cola folks from Atlanta bought Taylor Wines in upstate New York they also bought the family name – and when Walter Taylor started a boutique winery he called it Bully Hill, because he was forbidden to use the Taylor name if he was going to make wine. He told me so. I remember visiting the little winery near Hammondsport, overlooking Keuka Lake. He has done pretty well since then. And Taylor wines are crap.

Now this other Roger Ailes has politics that are about as far from the Fox Ailes as can be. The Fox Ailes chats with the president and those in power. The other one just writes short logic bombs, to borrow a term for the geek world, that explode under the silliness of what the current administration is up to. You would think the Fox Ailes – as Chairman and CEO of the Fox News Network - would not like this, and make some move to protect the brand, so to speak – the political views associated with his name.

Ah, who cares about bloggers? Not the Fox Ailes – and all PR is good PR, right?

As an example of what this other Roger Ailes is up to, last Sunday the other Ailes here does a number on the friends of the Fox Ailes.

His subject? “How goes the war on terror? Just peachy, if you're not too detail oriented.

Then he points to an item in the Times of London (UK) – and that newspaper is, curiously enough, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, the organization that also owns “fair and balanced” Fox News. But they aren’t Fox News, or there is no London equivalent of the Manhattan Fox Ailes, as they run an item that contains this -
THE capture of a supposed Al-Qaeda kingpin by Pakistani agents last week was hailed by President George W Bush as "a critical victory in the war on terror". According to European intelligence experts, however, Abu Faraj al-Libbi was not the terrorists' third in command, as claimed, but a middle-ranker derided by one source as "among the flotsam and jetsam" of the organisation.
We got the wrong guy?

The other Roger Ailes comments -
The suggestion is that the Administration confused al-Libbi with Anas al-Liby.

If Scooter Libby and Liddy Dole turn up missing, check Guantanamo Bay.

On second thought, don't.
Ha! But I guess you have to know the players to get that complicated joke.

And he also notes this in the Times story -
A former close associate of Bin Laden now living in London laughed: "What I remember of him is he used to make the coffee and do the photocopying."
Ailes’ comment? Yeah, but so did Colin Powell, and they called him third in command too.

Cool. And there is this –

The Times: One American official tried to explain the absence of al-Libbi's name on the wanted list by saying: "We did not want him to know he was wanted."

The other Roger Ailes: "Otherwise, he'd just take us for granted."

Yeah, yeah. This whole thing smells a bit. And Rick, The News Guy in Atlanta, goes further in an email we received in Hollywood on Tuesday.
The probable case-of-mistaken-identity angle aside, there's something else that bothers me about this story.

The closer I listen to U.S. claims coming out of this so-called "War On Terror," the more bells and whistles I hear in my brain that tell me something is not quite right. Those alarms were giving me migraines this past week with the announcement of the capture of some guy who nobody seems to have ever heard of, and who was not even on the FBI's most wanted list, but who was apparently the number three guy under bin Laden?

So if this guy was such an al Qaeda muckymuck, why WASN'T he on the FBI list? One answer -- and one that should give us all pause -- was found in the London Times story: "One American official tried to explain the absence of al-Libbi's name on the wanted list by saying: 'We did not want him to know he was wanted.'"

First of all, were this guy really al Qaeda's number three honcho, could one not safely assume he already strongly SUSPECTED he was wanted?

But that aside, why should this explanation of al-Libbi's name not being on the FBI list scare you?

Here's why: Go check the list, then come back and tell me if you find YOUR name!
Now that is an interesting idea.

You mean they’re making this up as they go along, and trying to make us think we’re winning this War on Terror™ with some sort of deception?

Surely not!



Rick, The News Guy in Atlanta, clarifies -
And interesting idea? I suppose so, but my main point when I wrote that was, of course, that if your name is NOT on the list, this could mean you could be in some sort of trouble. (I'm betting I, myself, fit this profile.)

But an interesting complement to that might be - and I say this not even having seen the list, mind you - that if your name happens to be Osama bin Laden, and (big assumption here) your name DOES happen to be on the list, then they obviously don't mind spooking you into thinking you are "Wanted, Dead or Alive," so to speak - but that otherwise, you can relax because you probably have nothing to worry about.

Posted by Alan at 16:33 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 10 May 2005 20:10 PDT home

Monday, 9 May 2005

Topic: Iraq

Fretting: The Price of Failure in Iraq

Juan Cole, that professor of history at the University of Michigan, the middle-east expert on Iraq who travels down to Washington to testify before congress now and then is worried.


Because he reads Rolling Stone. And finds this in the latest issue.

The Quagmire
As the Iraq war drags on, it's beginning to look a lot like Vietnam
Robert Dreyfuss, May 05, 2005

The first paragraph opens with a simple contention: The news from Iraq is bad and getting worse with each passing day. And detail is provided.

The second paragraph opens with another: But to hear President Bush tell it, the war in Iraq is going very, very well. And detail is provided.

The third paragraph starts with thus: In private, however, senior military advisers and intelligence specialists on Iraq offer a starkly different picture. And detail is provided.

What follows that is an analysis, filled with carefully chosen detail, of the prospects, real, for a major civil war – with the Shiite folks on one side supported by Iran, the Sunni folks on the other with the rest of the Arab nations piling on, and the Kurds. Do we back the Kurds, along with Israel?

And the paragraph in Rolling Stone that gets Professor Cole really worried?
If it comes to civil war, the disintegration of Iraq will be extremely bloody. "The breakup of Iraq would be nearly as bad as the breakup of India in 1947," says David Mack, a former U.S. assistant secretary of state with wide experience in the Arab world. "The Kurds can't count on us to come in and save their bacon. Do they think we are going to mount an air bridge on their behalf?" Israel might support the Kurds, but Iran would intervene heavily in support of the Shiites with men, arms and money, while Arab countries would back their fellow Sunnis. "You'd see Jordan, Saudi Arabia, even Egypt intervening with everything they've got -- tanks, heavy weapons, lots of money, even troops," says White, the former State Department official. "If they see the Sunnis getting beaten up by the Shiites, there will be extensive Arab support," agrees a U.S. Army officer. "There will be no holds barred."
Oh crap. Why did he have to quote this Mack guy – the former assistant secretary of state who knows that part of the world well? And this White fellow too?

Well, does one listen to the State Department, really? Over the last several years it has become clear that the Defense Department holds all the cards, and is where the president turns on international matters. Powell was ignored, and Rice seems to be redoing State as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Defense ? doing her Mistress of Pain dominatrix thing in those black boots and putting the tough back in tough love. This is the new face (or foot) of diplomacy.

But the traditionalists at State, in sensible shoes, are worried, it seems ? that a civil war, if it comes, would pull in all the players in the region, and force our hand with the Kurds. What WOULD Israel do?

But will this happen?

Dreyfuss ends with this ?
In fact, it may already be too late to prevent Iraq from exploding. Iraq's new government is stuck in a fatal Catch-22: To have any credibility among Iraqis it must break with the U.S. and oppose the occupation, but it couldn't last a week without the protection of American troops. The Bush administration is also stuck. Its failure to stabilize Iraq, and the continuing casualties there, have led to a steady slide in the president's popularity: Polls show that a majority of Americans no longer think that the war in Iraq was worth fighting in the first place. Yet withdrawing from Iraq would only lead to more chaos, and the rest of the world has exhibited little interest in cleaning up America's mess. Of the two dozen or so countries that sent troops to Iraq, fewer and fewer remain: Spain, Portugal, Hungary and New Zealand have already quit, and the Netherlands, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Italy have announced they are getting out. Even if the United Nations agreed to step in, there is little or no chance that the administration will internationalize control over Iraq. In the face of a full-scale civil war in Iraq, says a source close to the U.S. military, Bush intends to go it alone.
And that fellow says - "Our policy is to make Iraq a colony. We won't let go."

We say that isn?t our policy. In a private email from an Army officer in Mosul I received this ?
The elections started the constitutional process which could throw even the most democratic societies (which this one is not yet) into a tail-spin. I offer to all of you to watch this as we try to create or at least grow democracy in a cycle of less than five years. It will become a model of either true success or discouraging defeat often not because we don't want it to work -- but rather because it is not up to us but the Iraqis and people like the UN and the Independent Elections Committee - Iraq or IECI.
So it is up to the Iraqis ? and to the Shiites backed by Iran, the Sunnis backed by the other Arab states, and the Kurds hoping we?ll back them, and maybe pull in Israel. Who knows what the Turkish government would make of that?

This should be interesting.

But Professor Cole makes one more point. He comments that ?the full horror of it? has been ?expertly laid out? by Dreyfuss, with ?an acumen and imagination one doesn't see often? in the mainstream media. As a former English teacher I thought it was a fine composition. Cole wonders why he was reading it in Rolling Stone.
We live in a bizarro American were Jon Stewart's Daily Show and Rolling Stone are the venues for the real news, while the major cable news networks have confused themselves with the sort of thing the local television stations out in places like Peoria do at 5:17 pm for their human interest segments.
Indeed. Of course, one must know what?s up with the Michael Jackson trial, and did you know that runaway bride served jail time for shoplifting several years ago ? something about $1,700 worth of merchandise she lifted from a mall. And the prosecutor in that case is now serving as her attorney? MSNBC carried the Associated Press story and it has been talked about all over the news.

So by default sources like the Daily Show and Rolling Stone are where we traditionalists ? news hounds - now turn for our fix of things that matter to us.

Jonathan Klein can have his new and improved CNN. Michael Jackson can be convicted or not, and the runaway bride can be as strange as she likes. The likelihood of a major war of many nations across the whole of the Middle East, drawing us in, along with Israel, may be of little concern to the target demographic of the corporate news providers ? Time-Warner, ABC-Disney, Murdoch?s News Corp, Viacom and whomever ? but I?m sure they?ll send crews of earnest young ?reporters? when it starts.

Until then those of us outside the target demographic will hunt around for information. It?s a do-it-yourself kind of thing.

Posted by Alan at 22:34 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Monday, 9 May 2005 22:36 PDT home

Topic: Oddities

Our Turn: The Greatest American of All Time

In the middle of 2002 the British, via the BBC, got to vote on the Greatest Briton of All Time. Earlier this year the French, via France-2 television, got to vote on Le plus grand Francais de tous les temps - no need to translate that. And now it is our turn.

If you check with the BBC you can see how they voted.

From the BBC top 100 these were the winners:

- Winston Churchill - 456,498 votes (28.1%)
- Isambard Kingdom Brunel - 398,526 votes (24.6%) And that would be this fellow (the son of a Frenchman!)
- Diana, Princess of Wales - 225,584 votes (13.9%)
- Charles Darwin - 112,496 votes (6.9%)
- William Shakespeare - 109,919 votes (6.8%)
- Isaac Newton - 84,628 votes (5.2%)
- Queen Elizabeth I - 71,928 votes (4.4%)
- John Lennon - 68,445 votes (4.2%)
- Horatio Nelson - 49,171 votes (3%)
- Oliver Cromwell - 45,053 (2.8%)

Surprised? It was a popular vote, not a poll of historians after all.

For a jaundiced view of the French vote this year, The Guardian (UK) see this ?

French baffled by list of national heroes
Jon Henley in Paris - Wednesday March 16, 2005 - The Guardian (UK)
Victor Hugo, Moliere, Marie Curie and Charles de Gaulle are still in there fighting. But Alexandre Dumas, Jean-Paul Sartre and Belmondo and even - bit of an upset, this one - Napoleon are sadly out of the running.

? France's top 100 contained some surprises. "What the hell were they thinking of?" asked Le Parisien, noting that the anti-globalisation activist Jose Bove (87) and film director Luc Besson (91) were deemed to have contributed more to Gallic glory than Jean-Paul Sartre (96) and Simone de Beauvoir, who did not even make the list.

The full list contains 90 men and 10 women. Sixty-eight of the candidates are dead, and 32 alive. Even in a country which turns philosophers into household names, the world of show business comfortably tops the French poll with 44 representatives, while the arts and literature muster 22, politics 17 and sport just eight.

The top 10 contains few major upsets, with the possible exception of the anarchic comic and one-time presidential candidate Coluche, and the legendary comedian and actor Bourvil, who starred in 55 films and recorded 300 songs.

France's favourite priest, the Abbe Pierre, who founded the Emmaus charity for the poor and homeless, is in there, as are undersea explorer Jacques Cousteau, two-time Nobel prizewinner Marie Curie, General de Gaulle, the great romantic poet and novelist Hugo, the 17th-century dramatic genius Moliere, groundbreaking chemist Louis Pasteur and singer Edith Piaf.

Among the notable also-rans, the late president Francois Mitterrand (24) trounced the incumbent, Jacques Chirac (42). However, the diminutive Corsican emperor who created modern-day France could only manage an undistinguished 16th - while the show's two hosts, TV presenters Michel Drucker and Thierry Ardisson, both made the top 70.
Yeah, whatever.

Just Above Sunset?s Paris columnist, Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis, in his "Our Man in Paris" columns reported on this for our readers.

See March 20, 2005 - France Picks Its Nose -
The hit British TV reality show 'Great Brits' has been given a Gallic scent of garlic, amusing offshore news organizations somewhat more than the French, who have seldom wondered who among them is most popular national hero because Charles de Gaulle snared the top spot between periods of being a traitor and the ex-President of France.

Despite the heavy advance promotion by France-2 TV for last Monday night's 'Le plus grand Francais de tous les temps,' I easily managed not to watch it. I have nothing against diverting television entertainment but French TV is usually too silly to be diverting, even though veteran host Michel Drucker is not a total jerk. For Monday's amusement he was back-stopped by Thierry Ardisson, who used to pretend to drink jars of whisky in the Palace disco on Saturday night TV.

To compound my error, I failed to read Le Parisien's account of the show on Tuesday. ?
And that was followed by April 17, 2005 - Runners-Up - with the results -
This Frenchman contest only yielded two TV broadcasts. A poll in September of 2004 selected the '100 greatest Frenchmen of all time,' and after the first broadcast 10 remained in the running. With no suspense for the top spot in France, the vote's real interest fell on the nine runner-ups.

The scientist Louis Pasteur was chosen as the number two 'greatest Frenchman of all time.' Pasteur developed pasteurization, vaccines, and invented the science of microbiology. Hardly a random choice, because Marie Curie landed in the fourth spot.

Born in Warsaw, she discovered radium and won Nobel prizes in 1903 and 1911.

Between the two, a very old but living Abbe Pierre was chosen for the third spot. Since the end of World War II he has been saying that some people are poorly housed in France. He is a popular and longstanding moral force even if people are still poorly housed.

It's a surprise to see the dead comedian Coluche edge out Victor Hugo, but not such a surprise to find the writer in the sixth place. But the consistency holds with another comedian, Bourvil, in seventh spot, followed by Moliere the playwright, who died during the fourth performance of 'Le Malade Imaginaire,' in 1673.

In ninth place it's back to science again with the selection of the undersea's Jacques-Yves Cousteau. In the tenth place, the list is completed with name of another entertainer, Edith Piaf.

This adds up to one statesman, three scientists, a moral leader, two comedians and a singer, one writer and one playwright - that the French have chosen to be the 'greatest Frenchmen of all time.' If they were all attending a party, it would probably be an interesting evening, French style.
Yes, it would be, non? And The Nose won ? Charles De Gaulle, of course.

Now it is our turn. The Discovery Channel and AOL are teaming up on this one - seven hours in primetime to be telecast this summer. The idea is to make our choice for ?the person who has most embodied the American dream, having the biggest impact on the way we think, work and live.?

Is the American dream to rip off another BBC television show? Well, All in the Family with its quintessential American, Archie Bunker, worked our for Norman Lear. Any number of American movies have been adaptations of French movies ? Renoir?s son made "Boudu sauve des eaux" in 1932 and we got ?Down and Out in Beverly Hills? forty years later. This might work. Some of us think AOL is a really crappy service, but millions use it. And the Discovery Channel often runs pretty amusing stuff ? this coming weekend you can watch ?Who Killed King Tut?: Case Reopened? for example. The butler did it.

As for the Greatest American of All Time, the top one hundred (so far) can be found here, and the show itself premieres Sunday, June 5 at eight in the evening.
Millions of Americans nominated their choices via AOL to create a list of 100 candidates. Each candidate will be profiled in the four-part weekly primetime series. After learning more about the candidates, viewers will have the chance to make their voices heard through several forums including online voting through AOL, telephone voting and text messaging. After each show, they'll narrow down the candidates until only one great American remains.
As they say in Chicago, vote early, vote often.

Of course there is a web log that accompanies this ? an AOL promotional affair and hardly independent and cutting edge. Since March 15 it shows around 18,000 hits. There you can read AOL members arguing the case for their choices. And the stirring prose so far has suggested one of these is clearly the Greatest American of All Time:

- Michael Jackson
- Howard Hughes
- Bob Hope
- Thomas Jefferson
- Hugh Hefner
- Tom Hanks
- Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Walt Disney
- Elvis Presley
- George W. Bush
- Lance Armstrong

And to think the Brits had fun ragging on the French and their choices.

Other things to do on June 5 should you not want to watch? As it is the anniversary of the first public balloon flight - and that would be Joseph and Jacques Montgolfier in 1783 ? you could get high. Or think about other June 5 events ? in 1968 Robert F. Kennedy was shot at the Ambassador Hotel down on Wilshire, and in 1888 the Democrats nominated Grover Cleveland for president. Or you could celebrate the birthday of famous people on June 5 - Adam Smith (1723), Federico Garcia Lorca (1898), Francisco "Pancho" Villa (1877).

Or you could watch the show, and vote for??

Mark Twain is one of the finalists. So is Rush Limbaugh.

But so is Bobby Kennedy.

Posted by Alan at 16:47 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Monday, 9 May 2005 16:52 PDT home

Topic: In these times...

Speaking of Kansas…

Over at the generally strident site BartCop - with the daily subhead BartCop’s most recent rants - you will often find graphics of interest, or at least of interest to lefties. This is the site that uses the acronym BFEE for the efforts of the current administration and its friends – and that would stand for the Bush Family Evil Empire, or Enterprise. I’m not sure which. You get the idea.

The editor of the site often posts, in full, current cartoons – Doonesbury and Boondocks most frequently. Since Doonesbury has an exclusive arrangement with SLATE.COM – see the Daily Dose there – one suspects such things are posted without permission. In my discussions of copyright issues with Rick, The News Guy in Atlanta, he suspects so.

So I don’t feel bad posting this below, referencing the current hearings in Kansas, and this weekend’s top-grossing movie – Ridley Scott’s epic about the Crusades starring Legolas the Elf. (Yes, you can make bad jokes about Ariosto’s epic Orlando Furioso here. But Ludovico Ariosto and Orlando Bloom never met. Ariosto died in 1533, after all, while Bloom recently made a wildly successful pirate movie with Johnnie Depp.)

Anyway, given the times, the graphic is pretty good. And visit BartCop for some choice rants.

Posted by Alan at 09:20 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Monday, 9 May 2005 09:21 PDT home

Sunday, 8 May 2005

Topic: Backgrounder

Heads Up!

The new issue of Just Above Sunset, the weekly online magazine that is parent to this web log, went live last night around midnight, Pacific Time, or three in the morning Eastern, or for our readers in Paris, at nine Sunday morning. This issue is Volume 3, Number 19 - for the week of May 8, 2005 – and contains much you will not find here – like drole quotes on the subject of Mothers Day.

There are seven pages of high-resolution photographs.

Don Smith of Left Bank Lens sends photos and comments from Paris, if you ever wondered how they actually do get that stuff upstairs. See Moving Paris for that.

Many of the photos in the Just Above Sunset albums (see a list of those in the left column of this page) are done right at the weekly site, as the Earthlink site software used for Just Above Sunset provides far greater detail and depth, and richer colors, than the Lycos photo album servers and software. The photos of note are Cherry 54: A 1954 Chevrolet Corvette in all its glory and Beach Shots: Hermosa and Manhattan Beach (with jazz notes) - and Beach Sports: Surfing and Volleyball and Beach Blooms: Growing at the Edge and May Day: Botanical Detail and Old Birds: The Western Museum of Flight.

Did you know that the new Pope’s old car – a VW Golf – was just auctioned off on eBay in Europe? No? Well, then see Our Man in Paris: Cult Car where Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis, explains it all, and adds two cool photos. And I think I was supposed to use the title Kult Kar.

And course the Book Wrangler and The World’s Laziest Journalist is back – Bob Patterson.

The nine other items in the issue first appeared here – and there they are extended with further comment. In Meme Watch: Things fall apart, the center will not hold… and people are buying gay cars! see the footnote, new, where the Christian Values Coalition says what everyone thinks they said isn’t what they said at all.

It’s all good.

Posted by Alan at 16:43 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Sunday, 8 May 2005 16:45 PDT home

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