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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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Sunday, 15 May 2005

Topic: Oddities

Paris versus Hollywood – Star Wars on the Champs Elysees and Palm Wars on the Internet

Courtesy of French Word-A-Day, an invaluable and rather pleasant language tool – J'ai decide d'etre heureux parce que c'est bon pour la sante. - Voltaire (I decided to be happy because it's good for the health.)

Okay, that’s out of the way.

This week’s issue of Just Above Sunset - Volume 3, Number 20, for the week of May 15, 2005 - the parent site to this web log, has more than the usual pages from and about Paris, in addition to its Hollywood and current affairs items. Covering the Cessna scare in Washington, and the president’s simultaneous and blissfully unaware bicycle ride, Jeremy Stahl, a freelance writer in Paris, offers us My Pet Goat Re-dux: The safer we are, the less they know? - and perhaps we will hear more from him. Recommended.

Not appearing on this web log, but of note, check out Scatology: Protests in Germany - even if the language is a bit rough. There Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis, who was a journalist in Germany before he settle in Paris, has some amusing comments. Also exclusive to the weekly are the columns of Bob Patterson. This week he and Ric in Paris go back and forth on a very odd topic in Naked Aggression - and Bob does a number on the Raymond Chandler world of noir as the Book Wrangler and provides this week’s noir quotes.

The Hollywood sections? Those would be the photography pages. Exclusive shots from an auction of custom cars built for the movies and television, including what you might remember from The Beverly Hillbillies, the Flintstones and Grease – and much more – in The George Barris Collection. An amusing statue of John Wayne in John Wayne and Larry Flint, and Harry Shapiro from Chicago, a good friend of Jackson Pollock, channeling Frederic Remington - really. A Double Mini Cooper and Captain Kirk’s motorcycle in Oddities, and four color studies in Architectural Color: West Side Whimsy.

But the real French business? Ric Erickson and I decide to open the Palm Wars. Which city has the most impressive palms – and yes, they do have palms in Paris.

My opening salvo was Palm Wars: Hollywood versus Paris - on how this started. Ric returned fire with Our Man in Paris: A Fool for Palms.

Recent developments?

I suggested there was another war going on in Paris, pitting Paris against Hollywood.

AFP - l'Agence France-Presse - by way of The Tocqueville Connection - Friday, 13 May 2005 18:48:00 GMT

What is this about?
PARIS, May 13 (AFP) - Darth Vader and the Imperial stormtroopers gave shoppers a nasty shock Friday when they took over part of a Paris boulevard at the start of the first ever official Star Wars convention in Europe.

Some 3,000 fans of George Lucas' action-packed space saga, which has kept fans on the edges of their seats since its launch in 1977, have gathered in Paris for the three-day convention to be attended by some of the films' stars.

The convention coincides with the launch of "The Revenge of the Sith" the long-awaited episode three of the prologue, which brings audiences back to the beginning where the first three films started. Here Lucas finally reveals why the fresh-faced Anakin Skywalker moves over to the dark side to become the frightening, deep-breathing incarnation of evil that is Darth Vader.

The convention was launched with a parade outside the striking Art Deco Grand Rex cinema with some of the most hard-core fans decked out in costumes many of which have been lovingly made by hand.

Confusingly there was more than one Darth Vader, but then everyone loves a bad guy and there were gasps and applause as parents hoisted children onto their shoulders to get a better look.

For many fans unable to afford a trip to one of the official conventions so far only hosted in the United States, this was a unique opportunity to swap news and gossip and show off their own costumes. ?
Geez, there is no end to what Hollywood does to Paris.

How bad is this?
Former policeman Nicolas Hure, 26, from Montarges, became so impassioned by his Star Wars role that he gave up his day job, to work a full-time volunteer job as an extra called on for Star Wars advertising.

"It's just great to be part of another world, another universe," he said.

But getting together the costumes, takes time and money. Video technician Thierry Monmahou, 28, from Besancon, spent around 500 euros (650 dollars) on his garb and looks the spitting image of Anakin played by Hayden Christensen in "Attack of the Clones".

"I was seven, when my father took me to see 'Return of the Jedi', and that was it," he said, explaining how he had to get a riding shop to help him make up the boots, and a tailors to make the costume just right.

But even when the mystery is finally to be solved, Star Wars fans are taking heart from plans for a television series and a cartoon version.

"I think it's going to be bigger than ever, the best is yet to come," said Hure.
Or maybe this is as good as it gets.

Ric?s reaction, on the ground there?
I sat in front of my TV and saw this on the news but it failed to register. I saw chaos and clown costumes, hysteria and insanity, civilians acting weird without reason. This is Cannes film festival time when anything might spring to the little screen. All the excitement is followed closely by the endless and terminally boring tennis at Roland Garros. When I see tennis I think, 'Oops, Cannes must be over.'

On tonight's TV-news, George Lucas was interviewed in Cannes.

Frankly I seem to be operating under the misconception that the latest 'Star Wars' is number 17. Can it be true that the first one was 28 years ago and this new version is only part 3? If so then you have to give the guy credit for keeping it alive with endless 'between-marketing.'

Lucas said, to an overlong question in French, that he thought that the mental level of the newest 'Star Wars' was about 12 years. That's what I thought about the first one; and admired him for doing it that way. Too many adults take it too seriously. As for Lucas, he looks like he's been at it far too long.

And for 'Stormtroopers' in Paris, you know that until recently students were demonstrating here regularly, always surrounded by squads of the CRS riot troops. These look amazingly like Lucas' stormtroopers except for being uniformed in black. White stormtroopers look like Schmoos.

Whatever it is, it'll turn up on TV in three years.
Indeed it will.

But Paris should be Paris. As I have mentioned before, Christmas shopping there five years ago I noted one door from my hotel a store selling California beach wear, and from my window I could see the cinema behind Les Deux Magots was showing Mulholland Drive, and around the corner on rue de Rennes, across the street from the GAP store, was a junk jewelry store named Sunset Boulevard.

Something is wrong here. And they shouldn?t have palm trees.


In the May 8 item on Iran - Nuclear Ambitions, Automotive Ambitions - I reported that Iran is considering a rescue of the failed MG Rover company and might be willing to continue production in Birmingham in the UK ? or move the whole factory to Iran. Then I came across this:

AFP - l'Agence France-Presse - by way of The Tocqueville Connection - Sunday, 15 May 2005 10:47:00 GMT

This gives a great deal more detail on the Paykan, a descendent of Britain's long-gone Hillman Hunter, that is being phased out. MG Rover is one answer. But note this on what they build there now:
? the firms now assemble more modern cars such as the functional Peugeot 405 and the trendy Peugeot 206, and a project involving Iran Khodro, Saipa and France's Renault has also been set up to produce the Logan model - a potential replacement for the Paykan as the budget car of choice for ordinary Iranians.
Paris turns Hollywood, and they drive French cars in Tehran. Very odd.

In any event ? here are two Paris palms from Ric you have not yet seen ?

This is all very odd.

By the way, at this week?s Just Above Sunset you will find modified versions of items that first appeared here ?

- Fish Stories: A Conversation on Displaying One?s Faith
- Ambiguity: We don?t recommend him, so let?s vote!
- Fretting: The Price of Failure in Iraq
- Ethics in Three Parts: The State of Things
- Infamy: Was he number three, or are you?
- Our Turn: The Greatest American of All Time

Posted by Alan at 21:35 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Sunday, 15 May 2005 21:41 PDT home

Topic: The Economy

Meme Watch: A Touch of Class

Last Monday, May 9, in Our Turn: The Greatest American of All Time (revised and posted today in Just Above Sunset, the parent site to this web log), you would find a discussion of how the Discovery Channel and AOL are teaming up for seven hours of primetime silliness to be telecast this summer. The idea is for us all 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.” That would be, of course, The Greatest American of All Time. Six days after the initial post here the contest seems to have gained the attention of the big-time web logs – Kevin Drum of Political Animal here and Stephen Bainbridge of UCLA here - and a search on DayPop or Google will lead you to many more.

But there is no prize for being first. Just know that the conversation that began here with Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis, reporting on the French version of this BBC gimmick - Le plus grand Francais de tous les temps - has bubbled up nationally as we prepare for the American version in June. Maybe CNN will do something on it next week, although there are some folks who work at CNN who are most unhappy with AOL – as when their parent company, Time-Warner, was absorbed by AOL the resulting drop in all the stock employees owned was more than a bit painful. Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta, knows all about that. Maybe CNN will take a pass on this.

Oh, and note that Kevin Drum of Political Animal points to the Canadian version of the BBC contest - The Greatest Canadian of All Time. Last November those odd folks up north chose Tommy Douglas, the former Saskatchewan premier, the man credited with being the founding father of Canada's health-care system, as The Greatest Canadian of All Time. Go figure.

Anyway, this week’s national conversation on the net, and maybe beyond, seems to be moving on. The new topic is the idea of class. No, it was not Tom DeLay last week saying that the Democrats offered the country nothing - "No ideas. No leadership. No agenda. And, just in the last week, we can now add to that list, no class." Even if Rush Limbaugh got all excited by this stunning observation, that moment passed. And too, DeLay has a pretty low quotient of class - however one might want to define it - to be saying such things, and I’m pretty sure Limbaugh is not an expert in such matters.

No, we are now talking about class in another sense. Think class warfare, or class mobility, or social caste - that sort of thing.

In the Sunday New York Times, which may or may not be "the nation’s newspaper of record" depending on your point of view, Janny Scott and David Leonhardt give us this - Class in America: Shadowy Lines That Still Divide (May 15) -
New research on mobility, the movement of families up and down the economic ladder, shows there is far less of it than economists once thought and less than most people believe. In fact, mobility, which once buoyed the working lives of Americans as it rose in the decades after World War II, has lately flattened out or possibly even declined, many researchers say.

The incomes of brothers born around 1960 have followed a more similar path than the incomes of brothers born in the late 1940's, researchers at the Chicago Federal Reserve and the University of California, Berkeley, have found. Whatever children inherit from their parents — habits, skills, genes, contacts, money — seems to matter more today.
Ah, choose your parents very, very carefully.

Well, if this is so ? and you can wade through the Times pages of tables and graphics here for data showing this is so ? then why does most of the heartland, or whatever we are now calling the fly-over part of America, those on the lower side of the economy, persist in supporting the current folks in power, who cut taxes for the rich and cut programs for those in the middle, and lower? This was discussed in the pages here last month, and it is a mystery. Could it be this?

Conservatism As Pathology
Are Bush supporters literally insane?
Timothy Noah - Posted Monday, May 9, 2005, at 8:40 PM PT SLATE.COM

In the same issue of the New York Times the columnist David Brooks argues not at all!
The big difference between poor Republicans and poor Democrats is that the former believe that individuals can make it on their own with hard work and good character. According to the Pew study, 76 percent of poor Republicans believe most people can get ahead with hard work. Only 14 percent of poor Democrats believe that.
Ah, so who is delusional?

Kevin Drum tries to sort it out -
Ever since World War II, the United States has done a phenomenal job of sorting people by talent. Not a perfect job, but an astonishingly good one nonetheless. All four of my grandparents, for example, would almost certainly have gone to college if they had turned 18 in the 1960s, but that just wasn't in the cards for any of them a century ago. Today, though, as a matter of deliberate policy, the vast majority of people who have the talent to succeed in college get the chance to try. As a result, they moved upward into the middle and upper classes decades ago, and their children have followed them.

But there's only a moderate amount of sorting left to be done. Random chance, both in nature and nurture, will always play a role in life outcomes, but that role has gotten smaller and smaller as the sorting has progressed. The result is that life roles have become more hardened. While incomes of the well-off have skyrocketed over the past 30 years, working and middle class incomes have stagnated. At the same time, the incomes ? and jobs ? they do have are far more unstable than they were a few decades ago. And as recent research indicates, most of them are increasingly stuck in these grim circumstances: every decade, fewer and fewer of them ? and fewer and fewer of their children ? have any realistic chance of moving up the income ladder.

In the face of this, Brooksian paeans to the hardworking Republican poor are little less than appalling. Clap your hands and you can be rich!

What this faux optimism masks is the astonishing real-life pessimism of modern conservatism. Among advanced economies, the United States is by far the richest, youngest, and fastest growing country in the world. By far. And yet, we're supposed to believe that an increase in Social Security costs from 4% of GDP to 6% over the next 50 years is cause for panic. We're supposed to believe national healthcare would bankrupt us ? never mind that our current dysfunctional system is the most expensive and most unfair on the planet. We're supposed to believe that broader unionization would ruin American industry, home of the highest profits and most highly paid executives in the world. We're supposed to believe that the nation's millionaires, having already had their tax rates slashed by a third over the past two decades, are still being bled to the bone by federal taxes.

It's a grim view. But then, modern conservatives are grim people, with little hope that things can ever be made better than they are today. I guess that's why I'm a liberal.
Clap your hands and you can be rich? Actually, I have heard variations on that theme from my conservative friend. (By the way, if you click and pop up the Kevin Drum items you will see he links to all the studies he cites).

Bottom line ? cut taxes for the rich. We?ll need those tax breaks next week when we make it big.

But it isn?t going to happen, or so that data indicate.

Up at UC Berkeley, the economics professor Brad DeLong has some observations, but as he served in the Clinton administration you may want to discount what he says. After all, that administration ran budget surpluses and suffered from high employment and read GDP growth, so who ARE you going to trust in this?

DeLong?s summary of the Times piece? - Janny Scott and David Leonhardt? They are, I believe, trying to make three points: (a) consumption is more "middle class" than ever before, so that (b) it appears as though class is unimportant, but (c) in reality choosing the right parents matters more than ever in America today?

Then the professor gives us some history -
This argument - that rising standards of living as a whole are making it appear that class is unimportant while in fact class matters more than ever - is an old one. It is one of the centerpieces of George Orwell's The Road to Wigan Pier. Orwell is distressed by the consumption of "cheap " by the relatively poor. He thinks: The system is taking advantage of the relatively poor by enabling them to consume commodities that they think are luxuries, but that in fact are not or are no longer so. It is conning them.

In the middle of the Great Depression in Britain, Orwell expected that the economic catastrophe would bring dismay, discontent, protest, and revolt. Yet it did not do so. Why? Orwell thought that even though "whole sections of the working class... have been plundered of all they really need" by high unemployment, they had also been "compensated... by cheap luxuries which mitigate the surface of life": fish and chips, artificial-silk stockings, tinned salmon, cut-price chocolates, movies, radio, tea.

Note the words: "palliative," "mitigate," "surface." Orwell is in the final analysis not pleased at all by the fact that:

? the youth... for two pounds ten on [installments]... can buy himself a suit which... at a... distance looks... tailored on Saville Row. The girl can look like a fashion plate at an even lower price.... [I]n your new clothes you can stand on the corner, indulging in a private daydream of yourself as Clark Gable or Greta Garbo."

For Orwell writing in the 1930s this pattern of cheap middle-class consumption masks the reality - that the working class has lost relative income, relative wealth, and relative power. It makes tolerable what should not be tolerated: that the upper class has much too large a share of the pie.
Cool. Orwell is fun ? and we all like to be compensated by cheap luxuries which mitigate the surface of life. This is the essence of Hollywood, where I live.

And the professor also gives us this -
It may be a very big mistake to think that human happiness is necessarily and significantly increased by piling up larger and larger heaps of material goods. Richard Easterlin in his Growth Triumphant points to evidence from public-opinion surveys that suggests that money does not buy happiness over time or across countries, and believes (though I think he is wrong) that people are no happier in the U.S. today than they are in India today, or were in the U.S. a century ago. Happiness is attained when you achieve your dreams and solve your problems. Material abundance helps you do so, but it also teaches you to dream bigger dreams and pose yourself more complicated problems. Easterlin thus concludes that modern economic growth is a "hollow victory": the "triumph of economic growth is not a triumph of humanity over material wants; rather, it is the triumph of material wants over humanity."

On the other hand, it may not be a very big mistake to think that human happiness consists in expanding our powers and capabilities to accomplish things (not the least of which are maintaining our comfort and satisfying our curiosity), and that wealth is a powerful tool to those ends. There is a standard American response to the claim that money doesn't buy happiness: "Your money doesn't buy you happiness? Then send it all to me. It will help buy me mine."
Any wealthy readers who wish to send me money, please contact me immediately.

In any event, you see this conversation - perhaps started by Thomas Frank with book "What's the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America" (see this last July for a discussion) through Tom Noah discussing pathological insanity to David Brooks discussing the optimism of the Wal-Mart clerk in Topeka just knowing he (or she) with be filthy rich any day now and need some tax breaks ? is bubbling up again.

Ah, what would Jonathan Swift say about all this? Who knows? But at Rutgers University in central New Jersey their noted Swift scholar, Paul Fussell, produced what may be one of the better early discussions of these matters - Class: A Guide Through the American Status System - Summit Books; 1st ed. edition (October 1, 1983) ? ISBN: 0671449915 (reviews here)

Fussell, as I recall, wrote a lot about the Kennedy clan in this book. Who knows what he would make of the Bush family, and of the delusional minimum-wage optimists in Topeka? He did once say - ?I find nothing more depressing than optimism.? Yep. And I remember him from his 1965 The Rhetorical World of Augustan Humanism; Ethics and Imagery from Swift to Burke - but don?t we all?

In any event - heads up! The topic this week is class.

Posted by Alan at 16:49 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Sunday, 15 May 2005 16:54 PDT home

Saturday, 14 May 2005

Topic: Photos

Who says there is no intellectual life in Southern California?

Saturday, May 14, 2005 – Hollywood about three in the afternoon, cloudless day, mid-eighties…

As seen from the front door…

Below my office window?.

Posted by Alan at 14:40 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Saturday, 14 May 2005 14:41 PDT home

Friday, 13 May 2005

Topic: Photos

Cowboy Art: John Wayne and Larry Flint, and Harry Shapiro from Chicago, a good friend of Jackson Pollock, channeling Frederic Remington

Should you come to Los Angeles to visit the world headquarters of Just Above Sunset, you collect your rental car at the airport (LAX) - do get a convertible - and drive up La Cienega Boulevard. Where La Cienega ends at Sunset Boulevard turn right, and a few blocks down the Strip, beyond the Chateau Marmont, turn left at the Laugh Factory - we’re just up the street.

As you come up La Cienega, though, in the flats below Sunset, on your right you pass the "Flynt Tower" at Wilshire and La Cienega, now the headquarters of Great Western Savings, but formally the headquarters of Larry Flynt Enterprises - you know, Hustler magazine and all that. You probably saw the movie - a Czech director, Milos Forman, explaining America’s issues with pornography. Woody Harrelson played Larry Flynt. John Wayne had passed away and wasn’t available?

So why is there a statue of John Wayne – six tons, twenty-one feet high, bronze - outside the former Flynt headquarters? Wayne, that nice man from Glendale High School, was not what we thought?

The answer is pretty ordinary. The Duke was the company's spokesman in their television ads, so when Wayne died in 1979 Great Western installed a statue of the actor riding a horse on the Hamilton Drive side of the building. The statute is by Harry Andrew Jackson, whose real name is Harry Shapiro – born in 1924 on the South Side of Chicago. Nothing out here is ever what it seems.

The statue?

Who is this Harry Jackson? Some biographical information -
He was raised in a family where his mother ran a cafe near the Stockyards, and his father was a drunken, violent man. Jackson was often a truant from school and loved to wander around the Harding Museum looking at Frederic Remington bronzes or to hang out at his mother's cafe listening to stories from the cowboys who had brought their cattle by trains to the stockyards. A teacher noticed his art talent and got him a scholarship to the Chicago Art Institute's Saturday children's classes.

At age 14, he ran away from home to Wyoming where he worked at a lumber company and on a ranch. He regarded these experiences as his spiritual awakening, and his art talents were reinforced by praise from his cowboy peers.

In the late 1930s, he returned to Chicago and studied at the Frederick Mizen Academy, The Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, and The Chicago Art Institute. In 1942, he entered the Marine Corps and became close to a man who introduced him to the classics of literature.

In 1943, at Tarawa, he had shrapnel head wounds that caused him epileptic seizures for most of the remainder of his life, and he also took two bullets to the leg at Saipan. He was then, at age 20, ordered back to the U.S. where he was appointed an Official Marine Corps Combat Artist, the youngest in Marine history.

Following discharge, he worked as a radio actor and went to New York with the idea of meeting his hero, Jackson Pollock, whom in 1948 he found to be "a beautiful fantastic man." The two formed a lasting friendship, and Pollock introduced Jackson to Abstract Expressionism, which helped Jackson express his troubled background. Jackson married artist Grace Hartigan, his first of six wives, at Pollock's home with Pollock serving as best man.

? The newlyweds went to Mexico and further explored abstraction, and a year later the couple divorced. Jackson did scenery painting for theatre and television, headed to Europe, and returned to New York where he did portrait painting and began to break away from Abstract Expressionism, something that met with disapproval from his peers. He had a Fulbright Travel Scholarship, did some heroic paintings in Denmark, and added sculpting to his repertoire, a medium inspired on March 4, 1958 when he arrived in Peitrasanta, Italy, where a new foundry gave him space. He remained in Italy for several years.

In 1966, his entire output of western art was given the first one-man show at the new National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City. By 1970, he was spending most of his time in Wyoming, becoming a resident of Cody, and was elected to the Cowboy Artists of America, but got "thrown out" because of his refusal to choose allegiances between it and the Cowboy Hall of Fame--entities that had had a major falling out.

Jackson's work is widely held and includes collections of The Vatican? Queen Elizabeth, and the Smithsonian.
Frederic Remington touches?

The Duke rides off into the high-rise office buildings and palms.

Posted by Alan at 15:02 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 13 May 2005 15:21 PDT home

Thursday, 12 May 2005

Topic: Couldn't be so...

Ambiguity: We don’t recommend him, so let’s vote!

John Bolton has come up in these pages on and off for the last several years – see My Favorite Diplomat, and his Shadow from March 13, 2005:
John Bolton was, last week, nominated as our new ambassador to the United Nations, and the Senate will probably confirm him.

In Just Above Sunset back in September of 2003 he was described as one of the "new school" of Bush diplomats. These are the "I don't care who I offend because you're all stupid anyway" school. Yes, they did have to call John Bolton off after all his announcements that Cuba was independently developing chemical and nuclear weapons to attack the United States and had to be stopped, now. The problem? No proof. The administration didn't think he ought to testify to congress. Too risky. And the folks at the White House have stopped sending him to the Hill to testify about much of anything, as he tended to say strange things. The North Koreans would not talk that year if he were involved. So we kept him home – a loose canon.

Hey, he's blunt. No spin. Folks like that. It's a Fox News Bill O'Reilly thing.
And it seems he probably will be our new ambassador to the United Nations.

Fred Kaplan in SLATE.COM, Thursday, May 12, 2005, summarizes -
This afternoon the Senate Foreign Relations Committee sent Bolton's nomination to the floor "without recommendation"—an extremely unusual slight for an appointment of such stature. Bolton got a C-minus, but it was a pass-fail course.

The Republicans hold a 10-8 majority on the committee. It would have taken only one deserter to wreck the nomination. They enjoy a 55-45 margin on the Senate floor. It would take six dissidents to stop Bolton there, and that isn't likely.

Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio was the sole Republican today to resist the White House's demand for total loyalty—but even he didn't resist it enough. Voinovich held up the vote three weeks ago, surprising everyone by saying that he'd listened to the debate and concluded he couldn't support Bolton. His party mates scurried to postpone the vote, fearing they might lose it. Sen. Joseph Biden, the ranking Democrat, agreed to the delay as long as the committee could interview more witnesses and request more documents in the interim.

This morning, as the committee resumed deliberations, the big question was whether Voinovich would cave or hold firm. As it turned out, he did both. He noted that he'd pored over all the documents, spoken to dozens of officials, met again with the nominee himself—and concluded that he was still the wrong man for the job, calling Bolton "the poster child of what someone in the diplomatic corps should not be."

But then came his punch line: "I am not so arrogant to think that I should impose my judgment and perspective…on the rest of my colleagues." He would oppose the nominee but vote for a resolution to send Bolton's name to the floor without endorsement.
I thought the voters of Ohio put Voinovich there to exercise his judgment and perspective on their behalf. Didn’t Voinovich ever read the book Arthur Schlesinger ghost-wrote for John Kennedy, “Profiles in Courage” - about politicians who stood up against the popular sentiments of the day, and often against their own political party, in order to do what they felt was right. He might have read about George Norris, that senator from Nebraska who ignored the will of the people he represented – just before WWI he refused to accept the idea that Congress should surrender its right to declare war by turning that right over to the president. Then this Norris fellow broke ranks with the Republican Party a few decades later and gave his support to Democrat Al Smith for President, instead of Herbert Hoover, a Republican. Something there about knowing your actions will cost you support – but acting out of principle regardless of the personal political cost.

Voinovich didn’t read that – or the other profiles. Or he did, but he knows times have changed and you don’t mess with Texas. You don’t go too far out on a limb and saw it off. Maybe he was thinking about Max Cleland, or about how the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth turned John Kerry from a war hero to a war criminal who couldn’t hold a candle to the sometimes-aviator, hard-drinking, coke-snorting, no-show Bush. Ah, one can understand the position of the man from Ohio. You could get hurt.

Now our friend the Australian headhunter (a management recruiter, not the other kind) in Paris asks – “By the way, is your Bolton guy really as dangerous as I am lead to believe?”

Well, if you get your news from Liberation on the left, Le Monde in the middle, and Figaro on what passes for the right in France, you might wonder.

… It takes enormous self-deception to believe that John Bolton is truly qualified—much less the "best man"—for this job. He has long held the United Nations in contempt. He has disparaged the legitimacy of international law (the basis for enforcing U.N. resolutions). As an undersecretary of state in Bush's first term, he repeatedly sought the removal of intelligence analysts who dared to disagree with him. He was such a loose cannon that Richard Armitage, deputy secretary of state, forbade him to say anything in public without prior approval. A half-dozen officials, most of them Republicans who served in this administration, say that Bolton would make—in the words of Colin Powell's chief of staff—"an abysmal ambassador."

Voinovich said today that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice assured him that Bolton would be firmly supervised in his new job. Voinovich wondered, "Why in the world would you want to send somebody up to the U.N. that has to be supervised?"
But Voinovich wouldn’t stop this one from going to a full-floor vote, where he says he WILL vote no on Bolton, when it doesn’t matter.

Rick, Just Above Sunset’s News Guy in Atlanta, answers our friend in Paris -
Yes, I think Democrats and Republicans both probably agree that Bolton's dangerous, but the question being batted around now is, dangerous to whom, us or the other side? There are those who think his "bad cop" approach just might come in handy.

There's also the question of how much he is a freelancing cowboy versus how much was he just doing the bidding of the president.

As we recently saw in the leaked UK memo [see this last weekend], whatever motivation Bush had back in 2002 for wanting to invade Iraq was apparently not the sort of thing he thought would motivate the American people, and there are suspicions that John Bolton helped Bush scrounge around in search of those other reasons.

Should that be enough to stop his appointment? Some say yes, since he didn't report to the president, he was working for the State Department. (After bad-mouthing North Korea just before a negotiating session, his bosses reportedly began monitoring him more closely in an attempt to keep him on the reservation.) Others say you shouldn't thwart a presidential appointment just because you think the guy is a jerk or that you don't agree with his politics.

But if anyone can find a smoking gun that proves all his "kicking down" was not just his "blunt" management style but was an attempt to "cook" intelligence, this could burn his nomination. Let's keep our fingers crossed.

(I heard just this moment that one Republican senator on the committee says he will vote against Bolton in the full Senate, so things may be looking up.)
That one vote against would be Voinovich, of course. Things are only looking a little up.

Our Paris friend is too young to remember Nikita Khrushchev at the UN banging his shoe on the desk in protest to folks not paying attention to him - October 11, 1960 - as he was ticked at something or other, and this was just after the U2 incident. But the current America rightwing conservatives remember, and, although they hated the commies with a cold fury, this is the one thing they liked about the fat guy from Moscow. As his own daughter said, this was "part of the democratic behavior" Khrushchev had seen in the pre-revolutionary duma where members "used fists to prove they were right." (See this for background.)

They are buying Bolton sturdy shoes right now. Expect the same. It's a matter of reviving an old tradition?

And too, American rightwing conservatives have a long memory - and do hold grudges. This last week in Europe your might have noted those odd comments from Bush, made in Riga, Latvia, that what was decided at the Yalta conference - how post-war Europe was to be divided amongst the victors - was a great evil. Bush apologized to the world for it. It was as bad as Neville Chamberlain selling out the Sudetenland to the Nazis in 1938 and all that. The idea is that FDR was an evil appeaser - he should have taken General Patton's advice and extended the war four or five more years, moving east against the Russian army and finally taking Moscow, freeing the world for the horrors of communism. (See this for background – one of hundreds of comments.) So FDR was not only evil for inventing the Social Security program - destroying Americans' sense of personal responsibility - he was just one more liberal wimp appeasing the bad guys instead of fighting them. He should have pissed on Stalin's shoes.

Never appease anyone. Bolton is the man.

It all fits into the new image we are constructing - a mythos or whatever (maybe a marketing thing). What we are trying to project? That we don't take crap from anyone, and we don't give a damn what anyone else thinks. This is the new "brand America" as it were. Bush's personality (or pathology) become policy.

Oh yeah - there is also this about John Bolton, but it kind of humanizes him -
Corroborated allegations that Mr. Bolton's first wife, Christina Bolton, was forced to engage in group sex have not been refuted by the State Department despite inquires posed by Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt concerning the allegations. Mr. Flynt has obtained information from numerous sources that Mr. Bolton participated in paid visits to Plato's Retreat, the popular swingers club that operated in New York City in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Oh, no one listens to Larry Flynt anyway. (James Wolcott has some history and comments in this Plato's Retreat group sex thing here that is worth noting.)

Bolton? The man passed this particular pass-fail course. And this was the hard one to pass. It’s all downhill from here, in so many different ways.

Posted by Alan at 17:29 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, 12 May 2005 18:15 PDT home

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