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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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Wednesday, 11 May 2005

Topic: In these times...

Ethics in Three Parts: The State of Things

One - Be all that you can be…

From CNN, Wednesday, May 11, 2005 you will find this -
The U.S. Army plans to stop recruiting activities for one day this month to review procedures that its 7,500 recruiters use, an Army official said.

Maj. Gen. Michael Rochelle, head of the Army Recruiting Command, is expected to make the announcement, which could come as early as Thursday.

The move follows a CBS News report of least two allegations of recruiting abuse.

In one case, the network reported a recruiter suggesting how a potential volunteer might cheat to pass a drug test, and in another, a sergeant threatened a prospect with arrest if he didn't report to a recruiting station.

The Army said it is investigating the allegations. …
And from a Texas television station (KHOU, Houston) there is this -
Will Ammons, 20, signed up for delayed entry at the Lake Jackson Army recruiting station last year.

But soon afterwards, he fell in love and changed his mind before he ever shipped out.

That's when, he says, Army recruiters crossed the line and started harrassing him.

"He told me I pretty much had two options," Ammons said. "I'd go before a judge and get a sentence of 15 years but he had the option to double it. It was either that or they were going to put me in front of seven other people with rifles and shoot me."
For giggle look up J. R. Hutchinson, The Press-Gang Afloat and Ashore (1914); J. F. Zimmerman, Impressment of American Seamen (1926, repr. 1966).

A typical encyclopedia entry here
In England, impressment began as early as the Anglo-Saxon period and was used extensively under Elizabeth I, Charles I, and Oliver Cromwell. "Press gangs" forcibly seized and carried individuals into service; frequently subjects of foreign countries were taken. After 1800, England restricted impressment mostly to naval service. The Napoleonic Wars increased English need for sea power and led to the impressment of a large number of deserters, criminals, and British subjects who had become naturalized Americans. (Until 1850, England did not recognize the right of a man to renounce his nationality.) Frequent interception of American ships to impress American citizens was a major cause of the War of 1812. England generally abandoned such forcible measures after 1835. In Prussia, impressment was introduced by Frederick William I after 1713, laying the groundwork for Prussian military power in the 18th cent. It reached its height under Frederick II (Frederick the Great) who made forced recruitment on foreign soil an integral part of the Prussian military system. Impressment was used in many countries as a method of ridding society of undesirables. Persons of property, apprenticed youths, and other respectable citizens were often exempted by law. The system fostered gross abuses and was often a means of private vengeance. It filled the army and navy with a group ready for mutiny, desertion, or other disloyalty, and it adversely affected voluntary recruitment. After 1800 impressment tended to become a means of enforcing conscription, and it fell into disuse after 1850.
Here we go again.

But as of a method of ridding society of undesirables where persons of property, apprenticed youths, and other respectable citizens were often exempted by law. That works.

One thinks of kids like that Lynndie England lass who join up just to get away from a no-prospects, no-future, stuck-stocking-the-shelves-at-Wal-Mart-for-the-rest-of-my life existence. And then what happens?

Two ? George Bush and Sam Peckinpah

Probably no one remembers the movie Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974) directed by Sam Peckinpah. Starring Warren Oates and Gig Young? Whatever. Warren Oates is out to collect the head of this Alfredo, in order to get the bounty money, and escape his low-paid job in a bar for a better life. And he takes his promiscuous girlfriend Isela Vega along for the ride. (Full plot summary here.) It?s your typical sadistic Peckinpah bloodbath, intended to shock and appall the audience and all that.

So what to make of this from the BBC on 4 May?
The CIA sent a team to Afghanistan days after 9/11 with orders to kill Osama Bin Laden and bring back his head, a former agent has revealed.

Gary Schroen flew out soon after the attacks on New York and Washington, helping to set up the 2001 invasion, he told US National Public Radio.

He recalled his orders from the CIA's counter-terrorism chief.

"Capture Bin Laden, kill him and bring his head back in a box on dry ice," he quoted Cofer Black as saying.

As for other leaders of Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network in Afghanistan, Mr Black reportedly said: "I want their heads up on pikes."

Contacted by the radio network, Mr Black would not confirm that these were his exact words but he did not dispute Mr Schroen's account.

? Mr Schroen has released memoirs called First In, a reference to the fact that he and his team were the first US government personnel on the ground.

He says he is surprised that the CIA has still not managed to track down Bin Laden after nearly four years.
Well, if you want to see that on video, go here for the CIA agent who says he was asked to provide Osama's head on ice, dry ice specifically - as the president said he wanted that delivered to his office. Chris Matthews on his MSNBC Hardball show asked the CIA guy today the dumbest reporter-question of the year. Where do you get dry ice in Afghanistan? Yeah, we always wondered about that.

And from Sunday's Meet the Press Show (same link) ?

MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Black gave you specific instructions on what he wanted you to bring home.

MR. SCHROEN: That's true. He did ask that once we got bin Laden and killed him, that we send his head back in a cardboard box on dry ice so that he could take it down and show the president.

Hell, you can't make up this stuff. It only gets better by the day.

The president has watched too many Sam Peckinpah movies. But we know now where he gets his ethical principles. Remember our gleeful display of the mutilated bodies of Saddam?s two sons? We have to show the world the kind of people we are?

Fine. We voted the man in for anther four years. That?s what we want.

But over at the Christian Science Monitor we get more detail. They report that when this guy spoke to Radio Free Europe he said it is unlikely we will ever get bin Laden, in a chilled cardboard box or not. He probably in Pakistan, and getting him might just bring down the Pakistani government ? and they seem to be our allies ? as in this -
[Schroen] says bin Laden is regarded almost as a "Robin Hood" figure among certain elements of the Islamic world. He says bin Laden's popularity is so great that Pakistan may not want to risk a potentially devastating political backlash by capturing him.
So no help there? And on last weekend?s Meet the Press there was this -
Q: "Is there a distinct possibility that [Pakistani President Pervez] Musharraf is afraid of capturing Osama bin Laden because he would fear that his government would be toppled?"

A: ?In my opinion, that's a real likelihood ... to take on bin Laden, there would be an uproar within that country and around the Islamic world that would really cause the foundations of the Pakistani government to be shaken. ... And if we were able to find bin Laden, and identify that to the Pakistanis, I would suspect that there would be a great reluctance and probably a refusal to move forward.?
So George will not get his iced human head in a box. This probably pisses him off no end.

There is no point in harping on what this all shows about our leader, or about us a people who want someone like this to lead us, or about what this would do to our already diminished reputation in what is called the civilized world. George Bush holding up the severed head on television, and smirking ? or more likely sneering ? would please the Christian evangelical right. Heck, they?d wet their pants in righteous delight and praise Jesus. But one wonders if most other nations would just sever diplomatic relations with the United States in disgust. Bush would love that. Sam Peckinpah would just smile.

Three ? The Press

In the Louisville Courier-Journal on Sunday, May 8, you will find an item by photojournalist Molly Bingham ? adapted from a speech she made at Western Kentucky University last month. According to the newspaper, Bingham, a Louisville native, was detained in 2003 by Iraqi security forces and held in Abu Ghraib prison from March 25 to April 2, 2003. Eighteen days after her release, she returned to Iraq to pursue stories for the New York Times, The Guardian and other papers. The idea here?
Taking a short break during the summer of 2003, Bingham had the idea of working on a story to explore who was involved in the nascent resistance that was becoming apparent throughout Iraq. She scanned the papers that summer, looking for an article that would show some journalist had reported the story, had gone deeper to find out the source of the new violence. No one had. So in August 2003, Bingham returned with British journalist Steve Connors and spent the next 10 months reporting the story of the Iraqi resistance. Her account was published in Vanity Fair magazine in July 2004; Connors shot a documentary film on the subject. This speech was a challenge to journalists, and Americans, to speak up and be sure their comments, questions and thoughts are heard, and that the First Amendment is celebrated in all its strengths. Bingham began her career as a photo intern for The Courier-Journal and Louisville Times.
Local girl makes the big time, of course.

You can find a commentary on the item here, but here are a few choice excerpts ?
?the basic point for this discussion is that we both thought it was really journalistically important to understand who it was who was resisting the presence of the foreign troops. If you didn't understand that, how could you report what was clearly becoming an "ongoing conflict?" And if you were reading the news in America, or Europe, how could you understand the full context of what was unfolding if what motivates the "other side" of the conflict is not understood, or even discussed?

? One of the hardest things about working on this story for me personally, and as a journalist, was to set my "American self" and perspective aside. It was an ongoing challenge to listen open-mindedly to a group of people whose foundation of belief is significantly different from mine, and one I found I often strongly disagreed with.

But going in to report a story with a pile of prejudices is no way to do a story justice, or to do it fairly, and that constant necessity to bite my tongue, wipe the smirk off my face or continue to listen through a racial or religious diatribe that I found appalling was a skill I had to practice. We would never walk in to cover a union problem or political event without seeking to understand the perspective from both, or the many sides of the story that exist. Why should we as journalists do it in Iraq?

? the other thing I found difficult was the realization that, while I was out doing what I believe is solid journalism, there were many (journalists and normal folks alike) who would question my patriotism, or wonder how I could even think hearing and relating the perspective "from the other side" was important.

?To seek to understand and represent to an American audience the reasons behind the Iraqi opposition is practically treasonous.

Every one of the people involved in the resistance that we spoke to held us individually responsible for their security. If something happened to them -- never mind that they were legitimate targets for the U.S. military -- they would blame us. And kill us. We soon learned that they had the U.S. bases so well watched that we had to abandon our idea of working on the U.S. side of the story -- that is, discovering what the soldiers really thought about who might be attacking them. There were so many journalists working with the American soldiers that we believed that that story would be well told. More practically, if we were seen by the Iraqis going in and out of the American bases, we would be tagged immediately as spies, informants and most likely be killed.

? I could go into a long litany of the ways in which the American military has treated journalists in Iraq. Recent actions indicate that the U.S. military will detain and/or kill any journalist who happens to be caught covering the Iraqi side of the militant resistance, and indeed a number of journalists have been killed by U.S. troops while working in Iraq. This behavior at the moment seems to be limited to journalists who also happen to be Arabs, or Arab-looking, but that is only a tangential story to what I'm telling you about here.

? The gatekeepers -- by which I mean the editors, publishers and business sides of the media -- don't want their paper or their outlet to reveal that compelling narrative of why anyone would oppose the presence of American troops on their soil. Why would anyone refuse democracy? Why would anyone not want the helping hand of America in overthrowing their terrible dictator? It's amazing to me how expeditiously we turn away from our own history. Think of our revolution. Think of our Founding Fathers. Think of what they stood for and hoped for. Think of how, over time, we have learned to improve on our own Constitution and governance. But think, mostly, about the words I just used: It was our decision and our determination that brought us where we are now.

? How many other American journalists, perhaps not as secure in their position as I, have thought to do a story and decided that it's too close to the bone, too questioning of the American government or its actions? How many times was the risk that our own government might come in and rifle through our apartment, our homes or take us away for questioning in front of our children a factor in our decision not to do a story? How many times did we as journalists decide not to do a story because we thought it might get us into trouble? Or, as likely, how often did the editor above us kill the story for the same reasons? Lots of column inches have been spent in the discussion of how our rights as Americans are being surreptitiously confiscated, but what about our complicity, as journalists, in that? It seems to me that the assault on free speech, while the fear and intimidation is in the air, comes as much from us -- as individuals and networks of journalists who censor ourselves -- as it does from any other source.
What's happened to the documentary that Bingham and Connors filmed last year in Iraq? From last month, this -
...Meanwhile, I'm told by another source that ?Dateline? executive producer David Corvo recently declined to pick up an hour-long documentary from photojournalist Molly Bingham, who spent four months filming with anti-American insurgents in and around Baghdad. ?Really interesting footage,? I'm told Corvo said. ?Not something my audience wants to see.?
Of course not.

Posted by Alan at 22:00 PDT | Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 11 May 2005 22:04 PDT home

Topic: God and US

Fish Stories

For a discussion of evolution and the current hearings in on this matter in Kansas see Institutionalizing Magic Thinking: Late Comment on the New and Improved Scopes Trial in last weekend’s Just Above Sunset - a review of who is saying what and why. And for a discussion of a how one scientist, Richard Dawkins, sees the matter, see "Fossil Rabbits in the Precambrian" from May 1, 2005 – and at the bottom of the page note the fish. You see Christian fish symbols as magnets or plaques on the back of cars – proclaiming, or at least displaying, the driver’s deep faith. A skeptical friend of mine, and internist in Massachusetts, displays this – the Darwin fish.

Of course, that displays the opposite.

But there is something new on the market now. Since much political thinking on the right seems bound up in the idea that we should be, above all else, a Christian nation (discussed most recently here) this product was inevitable, linking the Christian fish image to our born-again president.

What is this about? Here is the promo ? and the link at the bottom is active should you wish to order one for your Hummer or pick-up?
If this country's legislature and judiciary are supposed to reflect the values and beliefs of The People, then send them a message that they are WAY off course!

If you are tired of secularists telling you that The Lord has no place in our government and our public institutions, then show them that you disagree.

This symbol, this site, and this car magnet have been created for the millions of Americans who support the President and his vision for a government that embraces religion, morality, and family values. It shows worship to the Lord, respect for the President, and hope for all.

Join the millions of Americans who believe that President Bush?s faith-based administration presents the best hope for America?s future. The future is in your hands. Stand up and be counted!

Order a BushFish for yourself or a loved one today.

God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.
As far as I can tell, this is not a satire.

Rick, The News Guy in Atlanta, isn?t so sure.
Maybe not satire, but maybe it is. Either that or it could be called "Bush Phish."

Did you see this part?

?A portion of every purchase goes to, a group dedicated to releasing children from poverty in Jesus' name.?

Either these folks are really sincerely weird, or maybe scamming the true believers (couldn't happen to a nice bunch), or else this site is run by that same group who, back in the early sixties, claimed to be fighting for morality in the animal kingdom by demanding that farmers dress their cows and bulls in dresses and trousers.
Yeah, I saw that - and I had forgotten about the bovine dress code folks. And I like the "Bush Phish" idea. (Don?t know what phishing is? See this explanation.)

It all just makes me want to move to France - as I came across this from a site devoted to Understanding France -
Laicite (secularism) : in France, you do not mix religion and society: it is a private domain and no candidate for any public function would ever mention his religious belief, the name of God, etc ; it is absolutely unthinkable that a French president would express his religious beliefs the way US presidents do (particularly George W. Bush) ; at social occasions (dinner party, etc..), it would be considered very rude to start a discussion about God and religion, unless a very light and careful one ; the role of the church in social life is extremely limited compared to the U.S.A. Globally speaking, France is a country much less religious than the USA which does not mean that people have no religious beliefs, but they are a personal choice and not a social obligation. "Laicite" does not mean that the state is against religion, but it means that it must guarantee that all religious beliefs are treated equally, including having no religious belief. An illustration of that is the Sunday morning program on Antenne2 (state-owned TV channel, around 30% of total viewers) : between 8:30 am and 12h30, there is a mass and various programs by all religions and philosophical opinions (protestant, islam, jewish, free masons, atheist, you name it...). One can say that "laicite" is a value which shared by a huge majority of the French, whatever their religion. This is why the Islamic veil in school caused an almost unanimous scandal. The milestone is the 1905-law of separation of church and state : since that date, all religious buildings belong to the local authorities or to the state (which must maintain them), no member of the clergy can be appointed and paid by public funds (except in Alsace, where the system is the German system), etc...
DAMNED CHEESE-EATING HEATHENS! Do they have the right to be so sensible?

I asked Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis, if he knew Philippe Rochefort, a Frenchman married to an American writer, Harriet Welty Rochefort, who were responsible for the site that gave us that comment on the French view of religion and government, their view of the secular versus the religious in public life - Laicite.

Here are Ric's comments from Paris ?
I met Harriet a few years ago, to talk about her book 'French Fried.' See: Harriet's Not Afraid - Of Cooking 21,173 Meals In France for that.

Philippe's explanation of 'Laicite' is correct. I do not understand what may be remarkable about it. Perhaps it is how I think it should be - religion is a private matter.

But 'having no belief' is not, as far as I know, treated equally.

It is not treated at all. But for those without belief this is probably fine, the absolute best way to treat it.

Laicite is, I think, a republican idea. No religion in state schools for example. No state prayer. If the president goes to a church on Sundays it is not advertised. He does go on ceremonial occasions, as do atheists.

If you do not loiter around churches you could wonder who uses them. There is always some crowd in front of Notre Dame, but it is an important monument as well as a church. People come from a long way to see it.

Times are changing. Catholics are now seen on the streets, gathered in small groups, singing songs and handing out leaflets. These aren't many, but are contrasted with none. Is the church on the move? Going on the offensive, trying to get converts?

The Muslim head scarf is becoming more common. These used to be rare and were usually worn only by older women. Now they are more likely to be young ones. After all the news and debate about this, one can't help thinking that these young girls and ladies are... Muslims. Nobody else, except a few orthodox Jews, is wearing religion on their heads, but they always did.

Last night, Tuesday, Arte-TV devoted the evening to documentaries about Muslims in Europe. Different countries deal with it in different ways. Some countries hope the situation will evaporate, but it's not going to happen.

It means that France is going to have to think about this seriously. The French imagine that the business is settled - the 1905 law - but the whole force of today's history is going to affect how things go here.

From the viewpoint of an atheist it looks like a return to the wars of religion. Everybody can get dragged into these things because they are not rational. We'll see how well the republic can resist.

And by the way, Antenne2 now called France-2
Okay, I?ll stay here. But that BUSH FISH still bothers me.

And Joseph, our expatriate friend who is moving from Paris to Belgium, adds this ?
Perhaps the fact that you are compelled to add the disclaimer "not a satire" speaks as much about how out of touch we are as how out of touch they are.

To me it is some relief that this merger between church and state, which is already a fait accompli, should assert itself in the open rather than in the nudge-nudge, wink-wink way in which it came to pass. Maybe we can argue it on the merits now. This is impossible when one side refuses to admit their true goals, non?
I suppose, but that it is all in the open now is cold comfort.


Our high-powered Wall Street attorney from his offices high above Battery Park in lower Manhattan ? ?Please tell me this is a satire!?

Our business school professor in upstate New York ? ?It's been my conclusion that people with fish tattoos don't practice satire.?

Our high-powered Wall Street attorney ? ?I was afraid of that.?

From our friend the Australian headhunter (a management recruiter, not the other kind) in Paris -
Well, it would seem that the religious nutters on the right in America have scaled new depths of selfish stupidity and that, in fact, for all we know, there could be something decidedly fishy going on at the White House. Thanks heavens though that Bush does not cast the net wider with his phony God-worshipers in tow and take a bite at the rest of the world for further blinkered support and enduring love.

Still, it may be prudence to clamp down the jaws behind such crap sites and look to hooking Bush up by his tentacles to dry out. .When is the next presidential election in the US?!

Excuse the puns - couldn?t resist it!
And from our high-powered Wall Street attorney from his offices high above Battery Park in lower Manhattan?
With all due respect, I believe you misspelled the word by which you wanted Mr. Bush hooked up, but then, I have been wrong before.

As for the next election, the answer is not soon enough!
Ah, but then the new president will be Bill Frist, as the Democrats will have run Hillary Clinton.

Oh well.

Oh yes, our Wall Street friend takes issue with Ric in Paris on this Laicite business ?
But 'having no belief' is not, as far as I know, treated equally.

Perhaps it is my philosophy degree that forces me to respond to this one. Having no belief is, in fact, having a belief; it is the belief not to believe.
What? As his former English teacher (far too may years ago) I beg to differ. Just how is he using the word "belief" here? It seems to me he is just distorting what the word means.

The reply from Wall Street?
The ability or right to choose to believe something or not to believe something results in having a belief, even if it is of something negative. For instance, at least for the moment in these United States, one has the choice to believe in Jesus or not. The fact that I do not believe in Jesus does not mean that I do not have a belief, but rather that I choose not to believe in Jesus. That being said one must ask, does an atheist have no belief or does she/he have a belief (in this case atheism)?
From that business school upstate?
From an innocent bystander... uh-oh... next comes epistemology!
Hey! When it comes to epistemology? well, there are no innocent bystanders.

Does an atheist have no belief or does she/he have a belief (in this case atheism)?

What the? ? Somehow this reminds me of our Wall Street friend asking why, whilst I was in lower Manhattan last month, I took no pictures of the World Trade Center site. Hey, there was nothing there. It is damned hard to take a picture of the absence of an object, or in this case, two very large ones. Pictures of a gap in the skyline or a large hole in the ground seemed pointless. Look, look ? there?s nothing there! For the last half-hour there has been an LAPD helicopter circling a fifty feet over the intersection down the block. When I finally dragged out the Nikon and snapped on the telephoto lens and fired up the camera? it had left. Do I take a picture of the empty sky? No.

Similarly, calling the decision (or inability) to believe in something a positive belief seems also to twist the word ?belief? away from its meaning. Maintaining a stable, agreed-upon meaning for words is the first task in philosophy, as I remember it from college days. This is why most on the political right have no use for philosophy, of course.

And from Phillip in Georgia ? the one down south, not the one where the president spoke this week ?
Maintaining a stable, agreed-upon meaning for words is the first task in philosophy?

It's all according to what is, is.

Enjoying some philosophy and ethics of religion, and not buying in to the hocus pocus, or the pageantry or Santa in the clouds - is that even atheism? An IT friend and I agreed to leave it at the compromise of not believing in a supreme being, but reserving the right to believe if we were in the metaphorical foxhole. It is a belief in something, but it's not aspiring to much.
Well, aspirations aside, and what is atheism and belief, and what depends on what the meaning of the word ?is? is (not only Republicans play language games) ? to make my Wall Street friend a bit more comfortable I found him some alternative magnet-plaques should he wish to display something other than the BUSH FISH on the back of his car. And the links are active if you want to order one or more.

Here is a Tyrannosaurus Rex making a nice snack of a certain well-known fish.

And here?s a dead fish with a comment at the site: The dead fish seemed the most appropriate fish for me because I am an ex-Christian. To me it means it is a dead issue, dead religion, something I already ate to its bare bones and found infilling. And it's damn funny.

And a Devil Fish and a Star of David Gefilte Fish.

But this one is just cool.

And speaking of cool graphics ? you may have missed this one earlier in the week.

The war on the secular to establish a Christian, evangelical theocracy rolls on.



Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis, sends along some final thoughts ?
Considering this - Does an atheist have no belief or does she/he have a belief (in this case atheism)?

Considering this - Hey, there was nothing there. It is damned hard to take a picture of the absence of an object, or in this case, two very large ones. Pictures of a gap in the skyline or a large hole in the ground seemed pointless.

Considering this - Similarly, calling the decision (or inability) to believe in something a positive belief seems also to twist the word "belief" away from its meaning.

Atheism (a'the-ist) n. Disbelief in or denial of the existence of God. 2. Godlessness. (from old French, Greek)

Disbelief is probably pretty close no belief. But I ask you, does one deny that there's a God, or merely disbelieve it? It seems there might be a difference between total skepticism, and outright denial. 'Denial' sounds militant, possibly defensive; and who knows? even doubtful. Disbelief takes care of it with a minimum of fuss.

Try it out.

'I disbelieve in God.'

It says it all. Well, nearly. Try, 'I disbelieve in Gods.'

Makes you sound like the opposite of a nut.

I used to get very nervous around religious people. If I was in a church, even for a wedding, I would wonder how many people in it believed in God. I used to think they were fanatics, crazy, but I didn't doubt that they believed. Ready to march to Palestine, hire somebody to fight the Turk, fry me at the stake for heresy, disbelief.

Now after all the time here, churches all over the place, cathedrals, mosques, whatnot, I think people who aren't faking about their belief are probably a bit afraid of being alive. It's not their fault if they get comfort by believing in hocus-pocus. In the US I think you're seeing that the more extreme of these so-called Christian believers can be pretty loony, just as far out as anybody's brand of fundamentalists. The more afraid they get the more dangerous they become.

You know, modern man's history on this planet is supposed to be about 50,000 years. On one hand this is a short span of time; on the other our own historical span is only about, what, 3000 years? Think back a mere 1000 years and where are you? Now add 500 years, and the Turks get beaten up in the Mediterranean.

From where we are, anno 2005, add 500 years - a piffle! - and we find that the Holy Mother of Mary Jesus God fans have blown the hell out of the earth and the whole thing is reduced to wreckage and rubble, and stinking swamps full of greasy garbage and plastic sacks. You know, another 1500 years pass and there we are, picking around in the ruins trying to piece our history together from industrial waste and fossils, and there are the God freaks again, dancing and singing in a converted supermarket.

Time never stops. Some animals get smarter; most don't.
I agree with Ric - the more afraid they get the more dangerous they become.

That?s the state of things now on this side of the big blue ocean - good number of people who aren't faking about their belief but probably a bit afraid of being alive. Ric says he used to get very nervous around religious people. But he got over it?

It?s a bit harder over here.

Is it harder? Rick, The News Guy in Atlanta, jumps in -
Somehow this reminds me of our Wall Street friend asking why, whilst I was in lower Manhattan last month, I took no pictures of the World Trade Center site. Hey, there was nothing there.

Which, of course, explains why it's so hard to find actual photographic evidence of the existence of Oakland, California. (Reference? "There's no there there.")

But regarding belief in belief:

Oh, Geez Louise, here we go with the goddamn philosophy! And religion, to boot? Okay, bring it on.

As the OTHER philosophy major here, the one who's main attention as an undergraduate became more and more focused on A.W. Ayer and his "ordinary language approach" to philosophy, I'm afraid I must side with Alan on this.

(Sidebar: But also as someone who spent most of his life as an Agnostic when it comes to religion, ever since my brothers burned my butt to a crisp when, me having flunked fifth grade and being forced to repeat it at an Episcopal parochial -- in every sense of that word -- school away from the mocking mouths of my fellow students -- including, I think, my friend Randy Newman, if I recall correctly -- I became a devout super-believer who knew it to be a sin to carry a pile of books under your arm in which the Holy Bible was not the top book, and also a sin if one of your brothers skinned himself while falling off his bike and exclaimed "Goshdarn it!" My two brothers, with their combined physical strength, tag-teamed me into rethinking my faith, unintentionally causing me to become a follower of Rene Descartes and the "Cartesian Method" at the tender age of ten, although not with the same result. Descartes, I still contend, was guilty of intellectual dishonesty.)

I suppose you COULD say an Atheist "believes" in Atheism in the same way that a Christian "believes" in Theism, but to me, that seems to miss the point.

As I told my atheist Uncle Byron -- after he accused me of not having the guts to take a stand on this stuff -- you and your fellow Atheists have something in common with Christians and Theists that I don't, and that is that you have a "belief," one way or the other, concerning the existence of God. They say there is one, you said there isn't. But as an Agnostic, and unlike you and your "fellow believers," not only don't I know, I don't really care one way or the other.

Since that conversation, which was probably eight or nine years ago, I "found" religion of sorts. Well, okay, not "religion" so much that G.W. Bush would recognize, but whatever.

(By the way, I do credit Bush for backing away last week from the Frist approach to the Democrats filibustering "people of faith". Was this just a trick on Bush's part? Who really cares why he did it, he did the right thing.)

I started thinking about this God thing again a few years ago after all these Bozos started planting the Ten Commandments in courthouses, based on the argument that American law is based on them. (Forget the fact that it obviously is NOT, especially when it comes to worship of any other god but him, as well as coveting your neighbor's mule, or whatever; that's not really my point.)

In fact, I would argue (assuming my religious beliefs are of any interest to you anyway), religion is not the source of morality, morality is the source of religion.

In fact, nature demands that we behave ourselves; if we don't, we screw ourselves up big time, and we possibly even destroy ourselves.

I would bet that early community leaders realized this, and told the villagers there were gods who didn't like us trying to fool Mother Nature, so we had better behave ourselves if we want to ... um ... if we want to, uh, have eternal life! (Yeah, that's the ticket!) And so it was, I believe, that morality invented religion.

But if there is a God, I figure, God is nature, and God's laws are how nature works. Hold a pencil out and let it go? It drops to earth. Gravity is one of God's laws. Should we marry our siblings? Inbreeding will destroy the species, so we shouldn't do it. Should we murder everyone we feel like murdering? Then we will cease to exist as a people, another of God's no-no's.

In other words, God is everything! Looking for God? You're standing on him!

Looking for heaven? Once again, you're standing on it! Life on Earth is the kind of miracle that you could only appreciate in its fullest sense after you lose it.

Which, of course, is after you die! See a Catch-22 there? Bingo! After you die, you won't know dip, because you'll be dead! So enjoy heaven while you live here, because unfortunately, the place has term limits. Got to make room for your kids, after all.

This is not to say that if you do nice things during your lifetime, you won't be remembered fondly afterward -- something I think that is good. But if you're looking to meet up with all your deceased pets, my advice is to not get your hopes up too high. Then again, you also won't have to worry about once again facing your over-judgmental parents either!

If, on the other hand, what you are arguing, our Wall Street friend, is that freedom of "religious belief" includes the right to abstain from belief in God, I'm with you.

I have had friends -- although otherwise very nice and relatively intelligent people -- who have told me that the "freedom OF religion" guaranteed in our Constitution doesn't mean "freedom FROM religion."

Pretending astonishment, I would reply, "Does this mean 'freedom of the press' means we are all required to print newspapers? And does 'freedom of assembly' mean any one of us can be arrested if found not in a group? And does the Second Amendment mean we are all required to bear arms and join a well-regulated militia?" Etcetera.

My main point about the "Freedom of Religion" in this country which seems now to be threatened -- by people who THINK they know this country got its start, but don't -- is that this country belongs to ALL of us, not just those who profess a belief in God, but ALL of us, no matter what our belief, or lack thereof.

I loved that item about how the French see religious freedom differently than we do.

Although I mostly disagree with the rest of the world and feel that our "democratic revolution" in 1775 (yes, it was one, but maybe the subject for another posting) was somewhat more successful than the one in France in 1789 what with Robespierre and Napoleon and the guillotine and all that -- I still can't help but admire how the French, here and there, have taken basic democratic principles to heart in ways that slightly more than half of American presidential voters in 2004 couldn't even begin to understand.
Well, maybe one day we?ll get it right.


By the way, for a giggle do browse the quotations page in Just Above Sunset.

A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything. - Friedrich Nietzsche

When trouble arises and things look bad, there is always one individual who perceives a solution and is willing to take command. Very often, that individual is crazy. - Dave Barry

Most people would sooner die than think; in fact, they do so. - Bertrand Russell

Since we cannot hope for order, let us withdraw with style from chaos. - Lord Malquist in ?Lord Malquist and Mr. Moon? by Tom Stoppard

There are two ways to slide easily through life: to believe everything or to doubt everything; both ways save us from thinking. - Alfred Korzybski

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away. - Philip K. Dick

Ignorance is preferable to error, and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing than he who believes what is wrong. - Thomas Jefferson

Posted by Alan at 15:02 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 11 May 2005 22:22 PDT home

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

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