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"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

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

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

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"

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Tuesday, 14 June 2005

Topic: World View

France Turns a Bit American: What's Up with That?

Tuesday, June 14, 2005 notes from Paris -

In our coverage of the end of the Michael Jackson trial - Enough Already: Michael Jackson So Over - there's a screen shot of one of the celebrating pro-Jackson demonstrators waving a French flag.

What was THAT about?

Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis, and Our Man in Paris, has some thoughts, as the same image showed up on the television news in Paris -
In one of the posts today there's a mention of a French flag. This showed up in tonight's TV-news, which had a report about MJ getting off. While many fans outside the courthouse looked like they weren't old enough to remember MJ's last hit, there was this French guy waving the bloody tricolor, screaming, "France is behind you, Mikey!" - in French of course. This was probably one of the Johnny Hallyday fans left stranded in Las Vegas from a few years ago. It just goes to show that when it comes to serious looniness the French can hold their own. I mean, there's Johnny Hallyday, isn't there?
Yep, there's him.

But what else is happening in the City of Light?
Well. Of course the world moves on, so Giscard was on the TV too, for the first time since his constitution got the big 'non' here. He said it was like 'Saving Private Ryan,' in the sense that there is no other text and no project to create any. He also mentioned a recent poll in which 65% of the French were for a continuation of the EU, plus the fact that Italy, Spain and Germany, and 7 other countries have voted to ratify the constitution. He's just a poor loser of course.
What? See this:

Giscard puts blame on Chirac
Elaine Sciolino - The New York Times / The International Herald Tribune - Wednesday, June 15, 2005
PARIS - As the architect of the European Union constitution, Valary Giscard d'Estaing, seemed at the top of his game, praised as "the Mozart of politics" and poised to go down in history as the founding father of a new Europe.

Only two months ago, Giscard, the former French president, called the constitution "as perfect as, perhaps less elegant than, the Constitution of the United States of America."

Ratification by member countries was supposed to have been easy, and Giscard, now 79, might even have been asked to become the first president of the entire the 25-country bloc. …
Ah well, he himself is elegant. And a sore loser. And why is "the Mozart of politics" making references to "Saving Private Ryan" of all things?

The French are strange. (And someone who has lived in the middle of Hollywood for fifteen years says that?)

And then, as Ric notes, the Big Brit was in town -
Tony was in town today. Back in prehistoric times Thatcher conned the EU into giving it an annual cheque for 5 billion euros, in return for the UK contributing anything - about 7 billion - to the common EU funds. Apparently it was a deal to balance the fact that UK farmers had been already driven into the Irish Sea and there wasn't anything to subsidize. Now the UK is doing alright Jack, and France - Jacques in fact - is leading the drive to get the UK to forego the cheque.

Tony said, 'not bloody likely!' He said, "Why should the EU spend 60% of its budget to subsidize 2% of the population?"

I hope Jacques said that Tony would starve to death if we don't. I hope he didn't say we could buy cheap wheat from America instead. If Europe didn't squander it on farmers, what else could it waste it on? Mind you, if we can drive the farmers off the land, then we could close all those money-losing rural post offices, town halls, bakeries and village schools.
Oh, that dispute is a dismal business as the BBC notes here (Tuesday, 14 June, 2005, 18:56 GMT 19:56 UK) -
Tony Blair says he cannot see how he can bridge his disagreement with French President Jacques Chirac over the controversial British EU rebate.

The UK premier said his talks with Mr Chirac were "immensely amicable" but there was "sharp disagreement".

Mr Blair earlier flatly rejected a formal plan put forward by Luxembourg to freeze Britain's ?3bn rebate. …
So these were "immensely amicable" talks - but there was "sharp disagreement." Cool. Blair speaks passable French, and he's not Margaret Thatcher, but this is going nowhere.

But Ric reminds me of one of my favorite things about to happen, again -
Upcoming is the weekend of the 24-hour flat-out race at Le Mans. France has its own good old boys and about a quarter million of them go there and drink a lot of six-packs during the race and the weekend. It's supposed to be quite a show, and, since it usually rains floods, it might be disappointing this year if the drunks stay dry.

It's all very appropriate because TV-news just announced that French drivers seem to be losing their fear of the robot radars, as in, speeding has become fashionable again. Average autoroute speeds have risen from 128 kph to 142 kph, and it has been estimated that 94% of drivers are joining the fun. No doubt this prompted the traffic lords to propose 'life-long' license plates, to combat against the tens of thousands circulating with stolen or counterfeit plates. The idea is that a car will get a plate and keep the same one until it goes to the wreckers. They didn't say how this would prevent the stolen plate trick, but the speeding drivers who were photographed by the robot radars while they were home asleep in bed in Perpignan will probably welcome the idea.

All that slow driving was too tedious anyway. Getting to the beaches is going to be fun this year. Or would be, if there were any free parking spaces.
I drove Autoroute A54 et A9 - Arles to Aix – a few years back. Much like driving the freeway out here (same climate, same topography, same flora, and we have beaches too) – when you can, you go fast.

And it would be fun to get to Le Mans one day.

But the license plates? Years ago you'd spot a French car out here with a plate that ended in "75" and know it was from Paris. That system ended a few years ago, and now this. New ugly pan-European currency and no localized license plates on the cars. Things keep changing.

Back to Ric -
Which brings up to the beach report. Many French beaches have been awarded the good housekeeping Europe-wide 'blue' flags for 2005. A local seaside mayor whose resort community didn't get one said that the inspections were too superficial, and didn't take into account polluted ground-water and open-pit garbage dumps just out of sight behind his battery recycling plant. Another town showed its wheelchair route across the sand to the high water, which kind of looked like the edge of the Erie Canal with its gum wrappers and froth of suds. Next thing we'll hear will be from the sanitation inspectors, discovering unfrozen meat lockers full of rotten chicken wings, worms as big as bullsnakes in the lettuce and stinky cheese full of rabid mice. Our paradise has lumps in it, but it's authentic!
Hey, after a heavy rain the beaches out here are just the same!

And Ric adds -
How timely that bacteria no longer infests the oysters. They had to be given a clean bill of health on account of the oyster people burning down police stations and tax offices, and blocking ports with their oyster scows. Now they are waiting for a month with 'r' in it so they can go on the rampage about the price of gas, or is that the wine people?
What? We don't have the scows blocking ports, and no one is burning down anything, but a red tide has shut down most shellfish beds from Maine to Massachusetts. No oysters. On Friday, June 10, the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries expanded the ban to a stretch of federal water (see this) – but no rampage.

Do Americans go on rampages about oysters, or the price of gas, or the price of wine? No – that's a French thing. We don't do rampages. Consider our revolutions back in the eighteenth century. You guys had the guillotine and that Reign of Terror. We had the Boston Tea Party. "Party."

But as Los Angeles moves into the dry season, what Ric says here resonates -
Meanwhile, also causing anxiety, is the lack of rain. One by one departments are being added to those with water restrictions and farmers are watching their tender little green plants shrivel up into ropey brown twists of useless weed, while car washes close down and lawns fry. Meteo France [watch the weather here] says that two out of four weather soothsayers are predicting a summer warmer than usual. The water bomber squadrons are completing their spring training. Paris, mostly immune from all this, will hold its first beach volleyball tournament at the end of July on the Champ de Mars. Unknown - whether there will be sand, and whether they will play beside the Seine. Where there's sand there's …
Hot, no rain, beach volleyball. Polluted beaches, speeders, beer drinking good-old-boys at the car races. And crazed Michael Jackson fans?

As Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta, said earlier - "Omigod! It sounds like the French are turning into... into Americans!"

Posted by Alan at 20:54 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 15 June 2005 17:22 PDT home

Topic: Making Use of History

"Never apologize, son. It's a sign of weakness." – Not Just for Muslims Anymore

Monday, June 13, the Senate voted to issue a formal apology for its repeated failures to pass anti-lynching legislation.

A Senate Apology for History on Lynching
Vote Condemns Past Failure to Act
Avis Thomas-Lester, Washington Post, Tuesday, June 14, 2005; Page A12
The U.S. Senate last night approved a resolution apologizing for its failure to enact federal anti-lynching legislation decades ago, marking the first time the body has apologized for the nation's treatment of African Americans. …
Drawing on the assistance of Assistant Historian of the Senate Betty Koed, Historian of the House of Representatives Robert Remini, Garrison Nelson of the University of Vermont, and Julian Zelizer of Boston University, Daniel Engber here, in the "Explainer" column at SLATE.COM, gives background.

First, the resolution itself can be found here - noting congress ignored hundreds of proposed anti-lynching bills as thousands of African-Americans were killed between 1882 and the 1968. Oops.

Precedents? Engber notes these:
In 1987, the House passed a resolution to apologize for the internment and relocation of Japanese-Americans (and the relocation of Aleuts) during World War II. The Senate passed an equivalent bill the following year.

In 1992, the Senate voted to apologize for the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii. The House followed suit in 1993, and Congress expressed its official regrets to Native Hawaiians.

The House, though, rejected a 1997 proposal to apologize for slavery, and the Senate failed to pass an anti-lynching apology last year. In 2004, some members of Congress also tried unsuccessfully to pass an official declaration of remorse for the treatment of American Indians. (Both houses are again considering an apology for the treatment of Indians.)
So this sort of thing is recent, and rare.


Engber speculates that "lawmakers might be afraid that an admission of guilt will lead to claims for government reparations, like those offered to the victims of wartime internment. Bills calling for an investigation of reparations for slavery have been introduced again and again over the last few decades. A formal apology for a single injustice done to a single group also might invite demands from other groups."

One must be careful. Engber does note that last Wednesday the Senate passed a bill to recognize the importance of sun safety. And a few months earlier, senators unanimously agreed to commend the men's gymnastics team from the University of Oklahoma for winning the NCAA championship.

Much safer.

As mentioned previously –

Bush urged: 'Never apologize' to Muslims
Administration officials reportedly inspired by classic John Wayne movie
Some members of the Bush administration have taken a cue from a classic John Wayne Western and are advising their boss to take the film's advice – "Never apologize" – when dealing with Muslims, reports geopolitical analyst Jack Wheeler.

In a column on his intelligence website, To the Point, Wheeler explains Wayne's "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon," made in 1948, though lesser known than many of the star's films, includes what's been called one of the top 100 movie quotes of all time.

Wayne's character, Capt. Nathan Brittles, who is facing an Indian attack, advises a junior officer: "Never apologize, son. It's a sign of weakness." …
That – and it can cost big bucks.

And what is the point? Tuesday morning this was in the local paper our here, the Los Angeles Times - one Deborah Crawford, whose great-grandfather was lynched in South Carolina in 1916 after arguing with a white farmer over the price of cottonseed, saying the whole thing was just odd - "I feel that there should be something else, something more than an apology, but I don't know what."

Oh, no one knows what.

By the way, this was a voice vote – so no one had to go on record. That way you don't lose the votes of the red-meat right.

Over at The Daily Kos you can find a list of the initial twenty who 1) refused to co-sponsor the anti-lynching resolution, and 2) refused a roll-call vote so they'd have to put their name on the resolution.

Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
Robert Bennett (R-UT)
Christopher Bond (R-MO)
Jim Bunning (R-KY)
Conrad Burns (R-MT)
Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)
Thad Cochran (R-MS)
John Cornyn (R-TX)
Michael Crapo (R-ID)
Michael Enzi (R-WY)
Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
Judd Gregg (R-NH)
Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
Trent Lott (R-MS)
Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
Richard Shelby (R-AL)
John Sununu (R-NH)
Craig Thomas (R-WY)
George Voinovich (R-OH)
Kent Conrad (D-ND) – but later changed his mind and joined as co-sponsor

What was Howard Dean saying about the Republicans being a monolithic party of white Christians? Everyone, Democrat and Republican alike, was aghast at that remark - except Wesley Clark (See this - "I'm proud of Howard Dean. I'm proud of the Democratic party. And we're going to stand together as a party.")

John Aravosis over at AMERICABlog checks what was coming from the offices of those who didn't want to apologize for anything – the usual "my boss was out of town" stuff. But he points out this -
The vote last night was a voice vote. That means all you need is one guy in the Senate chamber to have it pass (as I understand it, there were some 6 Senators or so there last night). That one guy says something about asking unanimous consent that SRes39 (the resolution) be agreed to. The presiding chair says "all those in favor say aye, all those opposed say no, the ayes appear to have it, the ayes do have it." And bam, it's done. All you need is one Senator sitting there saying aye and it's "unanimous."

A "roll call vote" is when they literally go through each Senator's name and he or she has to vote yes or no. They didn't do that last night, on purpose, so there would be no record of the "no" votes.

What we are talking about, and what we are angry about, is NOT who did or didn't vote for the resolution. In principle, NOBODY voted for the resolution and, at the same time, EVERYBODY did because it was passed "unanimously." What we are upset about is that you ALSO can "cosponsor" legislation before and AFTER it is voted on. Cosponsoring legislation is a way of showing your support the legislation, and usually your intention to vote for it. Apparently this resolution had 84 cosponsors, but 16 Senators refused to cosponsor it.

The question is therefore, why did Senator X refuse to cosponsor legislation, in essence, opposing lynching?

But it gets better. A senator can add themself as a cosponsor even AFTER a resolution is passed. That means the 16 hold-outs can STILL now add themselves as cosponsors of the resolution.

So why don't they?
Kent Conrad (D-ND) did. The others?

Of the nineteen left there are sixteen on the list as of Tuesday night - Orrin Hatch and Trent Lott among them. They know their constituencies. And they watch those John Wayne movies.

Kevin Drum over at the Washington Monthly points to something else happening Monday – the same day as the apology – "The Supreme Court, overturning the murder convictions of a black man in California and another in Texas by nearly all-white juries, warned judges and prosecutors Monday that they must put an end to racial discrimination in the selection of jurors." (Full story here.)

So? His comment -
It's about damn time. There's value in symbolic actions like the Senate apology, but there's a lot more value in recognizing the reality of how racism continues to work today and then doing something about it. Of course lawyers routinely consider race when they pick juries, and most judges know it when they see it. Giving them the authority to exercise their best judgment to put a stop to this helps prevent the modern day equivalent of lynching - which, for my money, is the best way there is to apologize for the actions of the past. …
A quibble – is there value in symbolic actions like the Senate apology? What would it be?

It seems like posturing. Yes, better to work on the nuts and bolts of jury selection.

Do something now.


Footnote -

La Shawn Barber, who happens to be black, says this:
"In light of the serious problems we face in the world and our own country, I think this apology is one of the dumbest, emptiest, most politically correct pile of rubbish I've heard in a long time.

... I'm sick of politicians wasting time and money pandering to blacks, treating us like empty-headed children, spoon-feeding us putrid pabulum, and prostrating themselves for every perceived slight. Don't apologize to 'Black People.' Apologize to individual blacks who actually care about this mess."
Hey! There's an idea.

Posted by Alan at 18:44 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 15 June 2005 18:39 PDT home

Monday, 13 June 2005

Topic: World View

Other News: While Fox, CNN, MSNBC and the networks deal with Michael…

Our friend, the stunning Australian woman who has lived and worked in Paris for many years, and who has never visited the United States, does point out there is more to the news than Michael Jackson and his acquittal. (Minor note – on the telephone, Paris to Hollywood, she has that Australian accent, but does she speak French with an Australian accent?)

Her first question?
Isn't it strange that Florence Aubenas the French journalist has suddenly been released in Iraq after five months captivity? [See this statement from UNESCO, Monday, June 13, 2005 – "The Director-General of UNESCO Koichiro Matsuura today welcomed the release from captivity in Iraq of French journalist Florence Aubenas and her Iraqi assistant Hussein Hanoun after five months in captivity in Iraq"]

All the French press seem to have forgotten about the European Constitution, record-breaking French unemployment figures, the ineptness of their new PM and the abysmal uselessness of their President. Ah, but wait - rumor is growing in the national press that Chirac and his cronies negotiated her release. Ah ha! So maybe that is why Chirac is President?

Non? Oui?

[The rumor? See this from The Guardian (UK) - Monday June 13, 2005, 5:46 PM (London) – "France, which denied it paid a ransom to win the release of French journalist held in Iraq, refused Monday to give any details that led to winning freedom for the reporter and her Iraqi guide after five months of captivity. Florence Aubenas and Hussein Hanoun al-Saadi, who were freed Sunday, had been missing since Jan. 5, when they were seen leaving Aubenas' hotel in Baghdad. French officials have never identified the kidnappers, although authorities in both France and Iraq suggested they were probably seeking money rather than pressing a political agenda."]

Or maybe... or maybe the terrorists woke up and realized that France is no longer at the forefront on the global political stage, that France - or what was France - is long gone from this world, that the French today, after years and years of socialism and still counting, are actually too interested in themselves to care about what is going on elsewhere - unless there are any subsidies to be handed out. Quite frankly, I would be a rather embarrassed little terrorist having picked a Frog to try and get my message heard across the world.
Yes, French influence has waned, has it not? In the end, taking a French hostage probably seemed just silly. What was the point?

What else from our Australian friend in Paris?
And on another topic - what the hell is going on in Oz? Thanks to the stupidity of another little weasel in the form of Howard, we have loonies sending little packets of powder willy-nilly and creating havoc in a country where, until Howard decided that his ego wasn't sufficiently taken care of in the world's fifth or sixth largest country (Ok, ok - I know there are more sheep than men, but c'mon - sheep have ears too and make darn fine woolly turtlenecks), and decided to caress the inane smile on Bush's' face, Australia was far removed (quite literally) from what was going on elsewhere in the world - and Aussies spent the time wrestling crocodiles, surfing and drinking till their beer guts exploded (it does get terribly hot in Oz). Ah, those were the days.
No longer. See Powder scare shuts part of Australia parliament (Reuters - 14 Jun 2005 02:06:56 GMT) - "Part of Australia's Parliament House was shut down for the fourth time this month on Tuesday after another packet of white powder was sent to the building, authorities said. The incident comes after similar security scares at six embassies, including the Indonesian, U.S., British and Japanese missions, and the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. All the contents of the packets involved turned out to be harmless. …"

Welcome to Bush's world, where everyone is angry. Australian Prime Minister John Howard long ago threw in his lot with George. Oz is in the big leagues now.

And more?
And one last thing, concerning the young Schapelle Corby and being imprisoned in Indonesia for 20 years for "allegedly" smuggling drugs. As an Aussie, I too understand the dismay and anger of Australians at this sentence - whether she did it or not - as quite frankly it doesn't seem to fit in with the two year sentence the Bali bombers got does it?! Boycott Bali?

Yes, please.
What is our friend talking about?

Background from Radio Australia - updated 13/06/2005, 22:19:08 -
Prosecutors on the Indonesian island of Bali have formally asked for an increase in the sentence for convicted Australian drug smuggler, Schappelle Corby.

They have appealed to the High Court of Denpasar against the leniency of the sentence, saying the 27 year old had been involved in a trans-national crime.

Ms Corby was found with 4.1 kilograms of marijuana in her bag on arrival at Bali Airport last October.

She maintains her innocence, saying the drugs were planted on her.

In just a few pages the prosecution spells out why it is not satisfied with the original verdict of 20 years in jail.

The appeal in part states that drug importation is a great danger to life, the community and the nation.

The defence team is expected to file its appeal Tuesday.

Our Indonesia correspondent, Tim Palmer, says that unless the defence succeeds in its planned request for hearings to be reopened, the appeal could be resolved behind closed doors within a month or so.
And from the attorneys at the US site Talk Left there was this in real time from Friday, May 27, 2005 (one of many posts) -
Time to Boycott Bali.

Indonesia rules out a prisoner transfer to Australia. What Neanderthals they are over there. Schapelle got 20 years. Here's the translator's edited transcript of the verdict and sentencing. Here's the Australian news blog's description of the reaction in the courtroom.

Is this sentence really better than life? I'd say it is a life sentence... Schapelle's life as she knew it is over. And who lives 20 years behind the walls of a foreign prison? We live-blogged the two hour verdict reading (along with Blaghdaddy in the comments) as best we could given the awful audio feed from the courtroom to the Australian media which kept going in and out - and the sporadic translation. ?
There's much more at the Talk Left item, and it's full of links to source material, and photos of the woman. Of course there was next to nothing on this in the mainstream US press.

It seems there is more news that that of Michael Jackson.

From, Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta, one of the founders of CNN -
My friend Phillip says the release of Florence Aubenas is being played over here as a hostage for ransom, not a hostage for a political agenda.

True, although it's being played somewhere on down below "King takes Miss Teen Swaziland finalist as 12th wife".

Paris: The French ... are actually too interested in themselves to care about what is going on elsewhere.

Which is to say ...Omigod! It sounds like the French are turning into... into Americans!

Paris: Ok, ok I know there are more sheep than men [in Oz]?

Hey, I thought that was New Zealand! Well, whatever. Pretty much the same accent, as far as I can tell.

And regarding the EU constitution: An issue or so back of "Foreign Affairs" Magazine (before the recent votes) predicted the UK might just vote it down, and what would that mean to European unity, with the article saying the document as being several hundred pages long, and describing in excruciating detail everything short of when people will be allowed to flush the toilet. After learning this, I would have been surprised if it weren't shot out of the water, since the longer and more complex the document, the more various constituencies would find objectionable in it. But what to I know, I live in a country with a Constitution so simple that it allows anyone to read into it pretty much whatever they want.

Regarding the Euro? I suppose the dollar will be seriously threatened by the Euro once the Europeans start buying more doodads from China then we do over here. Unless, of course, that happens to be the case already, I haven't checked, in which case it's only a matter of time before we link the value of the dollar to the Euro. In fact, that might be good for us!
Quibbles? Australian accents to some of us sound quite different than New Zealand ones, and different from those South African white folks [Trevor Denmon out here announcing horse races down at Del Mar]? but then that's a Henry Higgins thing and it really doesn't matter. To Europeans, folks from Texas and Georgia sound alike - but Jimmy Carter doesn't sound at all like George Bush, in so many ways.

But it's only a matter of time before we link the value of the dollar to the Euro? Whoa, Nellie! Where did THAT come from? Something to think about there!

And what exactly did Phillip, not the News Guy but also in Atlanta, say, showing he has woefully neglected the Michael Jackson saga and HAS followed some of this -
Here the release of Florence Aubenas is being played as a hostage for ransom, not a hostage for a political agenda. More of a fundraiser motive than a political statement vehicle.

I'm sorry the European Constitution got snuffed, but that postpones the ability of the Euro to snuff the dollar, or China to cash in their US Treasury notes and buy Euros, which would have hammered our economy. Is it really true, though, that the rejection was over a threat to job security - and over a pretty choice worker entitlement package? The foot has been self-shot.
Well, Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis, and in these pages Our Man in Paris, explained that, yes, the rejection was all mixed up with the threat of that hypothetical "Polish plumber" (See this from April 17, 2005 and from June 5, 2005 - Fallout from the French Kiss of Death) and mixed up with all sorts of fears and resentments.

It is NOT true, as some on the right here have claimed, that the French "non" vote was simply more than half the French people getting fed up and voting for Bush and America ? acknowledging WE are the only superpower, and it is futile and silly to try to form a rival power, and that WE are superior, WE saved their sorry asses in two world wars, and the only thing to do was give it all up and bow down before US, worshipfully.

No. Somehow I think the issues were more local. And Chirac has lost his charm, whatever charm he had.

Ah but there is this -
The only child of a well-to-do businessman, Chirac apparently had a lively youth. He was expelled from school for shooting paper wads at a teacher. He also sold the Communist daily "L'Humanite" on the streets for a brief time, and even worked as a soda jerk at a Howard Johnson's restaurant in the United States, where he reportedly earned a certificate of merit for his outstanding banana splits.
Good to know. That was in 1953 when he was at Harvard (more here). A long time ago.


No charm.

This from Andy Borowitz (and our columnist Bob Patterson told me to add a "humor warning label" here as some might think this is a real news story) ?

June 12, 2005
Rare Accord for Two Heads of State
Angered that the French people voted down the European Union's constitution two weeks ago, French President Jacques Chirac announced today that he agreed with President Bush that the French suck.

For the French president, the public acknowledgment that the French suck marked a reversal of his position and a stunning break with centuries-old tradition.

Mr. Chirac took the extraordinary step of flying to Washington to appear side-by-side with U.S. president to express their mutual distaste for the French.

In a Rose Garden ceremony, the French president told reporters, "For years, President Bush has been complaining about the French, and now, Sacre Bleu! I know what he's talking about," adding, "They are annoying."

In a joint communique, the two leaders said they would work together to ridicule the French people, with Mr. Chirac agreeing to import over one thousand anti-French jokes over the next twelve months.

In addition, the French president said he would propose legislation in France that would change the words "pommes frites" on all French restaurant menus to "Freedom Fries."

"Wait 'til those cheese-eating surrender-monkeys get a load of that!" Mr. Chirac said.

For President Bush, the French president's agreement that the French suck was sweet vindication, but Mr. Bush indicated that he was not about to rest on his laurels.

"I will not be satisfied until Gerhard Schroder admits that the Germans suck," Mr. Bush said. ?
Our Australian friend in Paris comments - "Well, is it better to suck - or be wanted dead or alive, as Bush once stated about nobody else in particular in the past?"

Anger there? Now that Michael Jackson is a free man, or free whatever (pixie?), there is much to think about.

Posted by Alan at 21:15 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 14 June 2005 08:35 PDT home

Topic: The Media

Enough Already: Michael Jackson So Over

As editor of this web log and its weekly parent site, Just Above Sunset, I have really, really tried to avoid commenting on the Michael Jackson trial.

Oh there have been lapses:

May 8, 2005 - Celebrity trials are the opiate of the masses? - This is stupid stuff!
May 29, 2005 - Michael Jackson and Postmodernism - Maybe we can use the trial to talk about something else?
June 5, 2005 - "Maybe a little less of the pervert of the day..." - The news media are fools to cover this.

Monday, June 13, late in the afternoon, Jackson was acquitted on all counts. Can we stop dealing with this now?

But the problem is my ace local columnist, Bob Patterson, is pressing really, really, really hard for these two sites to devote as much space as possible, as often as possible, to this Michael Jackson business. I think the idea is we're missing the biggest story of our times. We may have an inarticulate, dim-witted and causally sadistic leader who has lied to us and put us in an endless war. As one fellow puts it - "We are losing the war in Iraq. We are an isolated and reviled nation. We are pitiless to others weaker than ourselves. We have lost sight of our democratic ideals." Yep, we now are the torturers, the economy is being stripped to make the ultra-rich richer at the expense of the average Joe, we are fast heading toward something like an angry evangelical theocracy, and all the environmental laws are being dismantled by this crew that just doesn't like science – and there's Social Security issues and this and that about who we really are. But I'm being told the biggest story is Michael Jackson.

Bob has told me several times that had Jackson been found guilty there would be race riots across America. Well, he floated that one at a press function recently, and was met with silence, and then wry smiles.

Perhaps he thinks covering Michael Jackson will help our circulation. It seems Just Above Sunset has leveled out at just under 12,000 unique logons each month, and that seems to be a plateau right now. Will doing less on political matters, particularly French politics, and on where the country is headed, and more covering stories like this Michael Jackson trial, move us up a notch or two? Perhaps. More readers all always welcome.

Bob urges that Just Above Sunset and As Seen from Just Above Sunset decide on its audience, and dump what doesn't appeal to that target audience, and grow because of a really intense focus on what is hot for those readers. I think he is really discouraged that we haven't grown as much as we could.

I don't get the marketing stuff. I publish what interests me. Thus, it seems, I am doomed to a small readership and logons from servers like these in the last ten days – - The Treasury Department (four hits in one day) - The Department of Justice - The US Senate - The Food and Drug Administration - The US Postal Service - The National Science Foundation - The Smithsonian Institute - Microsoft's photography folks - The United States Patent and Trademark Office - The website of the Government of Alberta - The website of the Government of British Columbia - CBS - US Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command - the site maintained by the Administrative Office of the US Courts on behalf of the US Courts - a clearinghouse for information from and about the Judicial Branch

Those and all the universities are getting us nowhere. Yep, we hit a wall.

But I still don't want to deal with Michael Jackson.

Monday morning Bob tried to get me going with this -

The USA (and the world?) seems deadlocked for and against. Some folks approach the topic from the "you know he's guilty" point of view and are not very concerned with the specifics of the evidence. Others tend to stick to the "nothing has been proved" line of defense.

When the verdict is announced, the results will be debatable (to put it mildly.) No matter what the jury says the public will stay with their pre-verdict assessment and not be open to any new "evidence."

The verdict will not settle the question in the least bit. Do folks still defend Bruno Hauptman?

Odd thing about it all is that the folks who think Michael Jackson is guilty, and are not concerned with the specifics of his trial, are quite likely to be staunch Bush defenders, while Jackson's supporters would be open to impeaching the president for lying about WMD's.

Maybe the most fascinating aspect of the Michael Jackson trial is that it could be interpreted as a trail by proxy of the guy who invaded Iraq to find Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Hasn't the Bart Simpson quote "No one saw me do it; you can't prove a thing" become the nations new motto?
And I wrote back -
You do the Jackson trial. I will have nothing to do with it. Period. And it has not one thing to do with Bush. Your speculation is far beyond "a stretch" ? it seems to me to be a crazed attempt to find meaning where there is none. Why push it? You are trying to make something out of nothing. He is no longer a "star" - that was over a decade ago. He is no longer black - that was over three decades ago. He's just a minor freak.

The only story here is, perhaps, about the press. Why are they flogging this story? That it is covered at all has to do with selling advertising spots - and the whole thing is a commercial venture by the collective herd of television news marketing departments who don't care about embarrassing the journalists who work in their corporations.
And I sent him this:

Jacko: American Nightmare
Andrew Sullivan - June 10, 2005, Sunday Times of London (UK)

A bit of that?
A very strange thing happened during what had been breathlessly billed as the "trial of the century." Americans turned off. Yes, the Michael Jackson trial has spawned its "media circus," its occasional tabloid splashes, and its cable news shows. But compared to the trials of, say, Martha Stewart, Scott Peterson (the man who murdered his wife and dumped her in a lake), or, of course, O.J. Simpson, the whole affair has been a bit of a dud.

... The key fact about Michael Jackson is that he is the first true black celebrity in America who has literally turned himself into a Caucasian. African-American culture has long been obsessed with varying degrees of blackness. Light-colored men and women have historically enjoyed social status in African-American society and we have learned from the exhaustive biographies of Jackson that his father ridiculed him in his youth for having a flat nose and stereotypical black features. Jackson's response? To take the valuation of lighter skin to its logical conclusion.

That has brought its costs to Jackson's p.r. For all his nightly chats with Jesse Jackson, the Gloved One can hardly play the race card. With O.J. Simpson, black America still saw the former football player as one of them, even though he had largely left black society, had married a white woman and done next to nothing for black causes. But Michael Jackson has more support among Japanese teenagers than American blacks - and for understandable reasons. He looks more like a character from a Japanese anime cartoon than anything resembling a black American male. He is not Tiger Woods, declaring himself post-racial. He is far more retrograde and repulsive figure: a person who has become a reverse minstrel, a black man finally reincarnated through surgery as a white androgynous waif. He is therefore a racist in the most profound sense - and one that neither blacks nor whites want to claim.

His alleged crimes, moreover, are repellent, but not on a scale that can shock Americans into paying attention. If you read the papers, you will know that hundreds of Catholic priests have raped young boys and teens with impunity over the past few decades; the visuals of sex abuse at Abu Ghraib, soon to be amplified by a new release of photographs, are still seared into the American consciousness. Jackson, in contrast, is merely accused of creepy fondling, getting kids drunk, exposing himself and other sordid habits, but the pattern never quite rises to the level of real horror. The fascination comes less from the crime itself than from the lurid details of its environment - the insane luxury of Neverland, the locked doors and hidden alarms and stashes of pornography that give you a glimpse of derangement on credit. So we're left with a trial between a highly unpleasant mother with a history of scams and what can only be described as a walking hologram of self-love. No wonder few want to stay for the credits.

... No one cares much about Jackson's music any more. No one cares about his soul or those of his alleged victims. What the culture of celebrity builds it also destroys - casually. In this case, the wreckage is a husk of a human, the detritus of a culture that feeds on exposure and then, bored, moves on to the next victim. It is because we do not want to look at this too long that we finally look away. The world that created Michael Jackson is also the world that will happily forget him.
Well, I would have liked to happily forget Michael Jackson, but sometime after noon on Monday the phone rang ? Bob telling me to turn on my television, quick! The jury in the Jackson trial had reached a verdict! This was followed by instructions on how to take screen shots of the coverage ? shutter speed and exposure and all that. I had to cover this!

Well, Bob spent much of his career as a newspaperman - he used to work for Associated Press. I don't have that background, or that nose for news. He does.

But what the heck - it was a chance to learn more about what the Nikon can do, and what more can be done in Adobe Photoshop. Why not? I watched a bit.

Michael Jackson was acquitted on all counts. Like I care?

Bob sent this a bit later -
Now Tom Sneddon knows how Dubya felt when there were no WMD's in Iraq. It was only taxpayer money to stage the big nothing.
Well, if he says the two things are connected, who am I to argue?

But I don't see it.

Below are the screen shots ? and perhaps there will be a big spike in readers today because of this. If so, Bob wins.

But perhaps then I will continue with these sites ? commentary and analysis of politics and the culture - and Bob can start his own site that covers the real "news" as it is defined today in this country. I'll stick with my modest audience - and he can really get famous with hundreds of thousands of hits each day. We'll both be happy then.

The screen shots -

You can sort of make out the French flag. What's THAT about?

The accused entering court to learn his fate ?

Leaving the court - a free man - and that's his sister Janet with no wardrobe malfunction at all -

Playing with Adobe Photoshop - the two of them leaving (free at last!) with the umbrella to protect his pale skin from the harsh Californian afternoon sun -

Posted by Alan at 16:39 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 14 June 2005 19:37 PDT home

Sunday, 12 June 2005

Topic: Photos

Hollywood Today: Where Is Paris?

As mentioned previously, today was the day.

Hilton Grand Marshal in Gay Pride Parade
Sunday, June 12, 2005, ABC News Los Angeles
WEST HOLLYWOOD (CNS) — Paris Hilton will be the grand marshal in today's gay pride parade in West Hollywood, where about 300,000 are expected to line Santa Monica Boulevard as 35th annual event steps off.

Though some questioned the selection of Hilton, known for her heterosexual exploits, to represent gays, the 24 year-old model and reality TV star appeared enthusiastic last night when she made a brief appearance at the two- day Los Angeles Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual & Transgender Pride Festival. …
Walked down the hill to Santa Monica Boulevard at Crescent Heights Boulevard – few short blocks. Had the Nikon and all the lenses. Covered the staging area thoroughly. Watched a lot of the parade.

No Paris Hilton. Got there too late? She didn't show?

Oh well. As you can see in a new photo album (link below), some other folks will have to do. In addition to the amazing participants in the parade, you will find some of the local celebrities –

Former Grand Marshall of the parade, Mamie Van Doren -

Edith Shain who claims to be the nurse being kissed by that sailor in the famous end-of-WWII Eisenstaedt photo -

E.G. Daily - a friend of Paris - "Hey guys, I just got back from Florida where I played Paris Hilton's mom in the new movie 'National Lampoons Pledge This!' The most ironic part of the whole thing is my ex-husband Rick Salomon just happens to be the guy in the infamous x-rated tape with Paris and here I was playing her mom!! Crazy!!! We all ended up having a great time and the cast was awesome!" You get the idea.

And Ann Nicole Smith of course… Great Big Beautiful Doll: The Anna Nicole Smith Story - "She was the Guess! Girl. She was Playboy's Playmate of the Year. She is Anna Nicole Smith and this is the story of her meteoric rise to fame and her astonishing marriage to one of the richest men in America." Yep. Her.

Oh yeah, for the locals, shots of the new Mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, of Los Angeles City Councilman Bernard Parks (used to be chief of police – the LAPD man! - but the former mayor fired him as the parallels to Cleavon Little in "Blazing Saddles" were too much to bear), of Los Angeles City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky (great name, but a pain in person, as I found out a few years ago), of Gloria Allred – the famous attorney who once represented Michael Jackson, and Amber Frey if memory serves – a firebrand on women's rights and employment discrimination and whatnot.

The photo album is here – Paparazzi Time: Minor Celebrities and Major Oddities

The Great Big Beautiful Doll - Anna Nicole Smith – being eyed critically -

Posted by Alan at 16:01 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Sunday, 12 June 2005 16:07 PDT home

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