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

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

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

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"

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Thursday, 7 July 2005

Topic: Breaking News

London: What to Say?

The only news Thursday was from London -
Four blasts rocked the London subway and tore open a packed double-decker bus during the morning rush hour Thursday, killing dozens in well-coordinated attacks that experts and British officials said bore the signature of al-Qaida. …
The first real hurricane of the season is moving in, sharks are still biting people, that pretty blond girl is still missing in Aruba, oil is staying above sixty dollars a barrel and the chief economist at Goldman Sachs sees over a hundred dollars a barrel as likely (December options are running around eighty), that New York Times reporter is now in jail for not saying who knows what, the reporter who printed the name of the CIA agent and destroyed her cover and her career is still a star on CNN, the man who master-minded the deal to "get" a fellow who embarrassed the president with the truth is still somewhere in the administration, and may be the presdient's top advisor - but the story Thursday is London.

Following the London story is easiest using the BBC News Front Page as it has maps and all, and a link to their live television feed.

What is being said about all this? Peter Daou sums it up:
LEFT: So much for "We're winning the war on terror," and "Let's fight the terrorists in Iraq so we don't fight them at home."

RIGHT: "Bush is right, this is a full blown war and liberals just don't know how to fight it."
That's about it. But Kevin Drum over at the Washington Monthly, in a post with a photo of the Union Jack at half-mast is a bit put off -
If I could have one small wish for today, it would be for the blogosphere on both left and right to refrain from political point scoring over the London attacks. Just for a day. Isn't tomorrow soon enough to return to our usual arguments?
No. Apparently not.

Digby over at Hullabaloo replies with this -
So, we're fighting the terrorists in Iraq - and London - so we won't have to fight them here?

I think the flypaper's lost its stick.

... Kevin wishes that the blogosphere could not politicize this for just one day, out of respect for the dead, which I understand. I struggled with whether I should write this post for those very reasons.

But I don't think we have the luxury of doing that, sadly, because the Bush administration has made exploiting terrorism their primary mode of governance and because of that we continue to see horrific scenes like today. Bush and his spokesmen are wasting no time is spinning this terrible event to their advantage once again.

I would like to see this as simple tit-for-tat political oneupsmanship because it would mean that it wasn't all that important. But Bush's incompetence IS all that important and we can't afford to let him crawl over the backs of any more dead people to boost his political fortunes.
Harsh? Well, Bush did say, "We are fighting these terrorists with our military in Afghanistan and Iraq and beyond so we do not have to face them in the streets of our own cities."

Question. Is London one of our own cities, or doesn't it count? If it does, Kos has a question. "Well, that didn't work out quite as planned, did it?"

He elaborates here in Flypaper:
Bush's latest rationale for maintaining the course in Iraq adventure has been the "flypaper strategy" - it's better to fight the terrorists over there than at home.

Nevermind that the Iraqis never asked to have their country turned into a dangerous den of terrorism, insurgency, violence and death. For war supporters looking for an excuse, any excuse, to justify the continued disastrous American presence in Iraq, the flypaper rationale was as good as any.

Except that it's not working. The war isn't making the West any safer. In fact, it's creating a whole new class of terrorists. Today it was London. Next time it could easily be the United States. And waging the war in Iraq, rather than make us safer, is further motivating Islamic terrorists to strike at the West.

Five of the London fatalities were killed by a bomb in the Edgware Road Tube station. Elisa and I have friends that use that stop every morning and we're both sick with worry. Every one of those deaths today sickens me. Those committing these attacks, like those committing any terrorist attack, need to be brought down.

But Bush (and Blair) took their eyes off the prize - neglected to finish the job in Afghanistan, let Al Qaida off the hook to rebuild and reorganize, and helped swell its ranks with an unnecessary and inept campaign in Iraq.

There are consequences to the mess in Iraq. And today, we're seeing one of them. Unfortunately, it won't be the last.
Disclaimer: I too have used Edgware Road Tube station - five years ago when off to the West End to see Ralph Fiennes do Richard II - and those were different days. It was a twinge to see it today on television.

But to the main point, that this war has made things worse. Has it?

The short answer? It seems so.

Reuters a few months ago (April) - Major terror attacks triple in '04 by U.S. count: Intelligence briefing renews debate over war on terrorism -
The U.S. count of major world terrorist attacks more than tripled in 2004, a rise that may revive debate about whether the Bush administration is winning the war on terrorism, congressional aides said Tuesday.

The number of "significant" international terrorist attacks rose to about 650 last year from about 175 in 2003, according to congressional aides briefed Monday on the numbers by U.S. State Department and intelligence officials.
And then the Financial Times the day before the bombs went off in London -US Raises figures for terror attacks to 3,200 -
The Bush administration on Tuesday released new figures for global terrorism that showed there were almost 3,200 terrorist incidents worldwide in 2004.

In April the US State Department had said there were 651 "international" terrorism incidents last year. But using a broader definition to include attacks that "deliberately hit civilians or non-combatants" the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) on Tuesday raised that number to 3,192. The incidents resulted in the deaths, injury or kidnapping of almost 28,500 people.
But who's counting? Is this "flypaper" idea just not working out, or could the Bush administration argue that there would have been even more of these attacks if we hadn't invaded and occupied Iraq?

You decide.

The endlessly acerbic - and hero to contrarians everywhere - Christopher Hitchens argues that the London bombing had nothing to do with Iraq.

The Anticipated Attack
Christopher Hitchens - Thursday, July 7, 2005, at 10:39 AM PT ? SLATE.COM

The idea here all this could have to do with this:
... the impending trial of Abu Hamza al Mazri, a one-eyed and hook-handed mullah who isn't as nice as he looks and who preaches Bin-Ladinism from a shabby mosque in North London. He is currently awaiting extradition to the United States, and his supporters might have wanted to make a loving gesture in his favor.

This would mean that the cell or gang was homegrown, rather than smuggled in from North Africa or elsewhere. Or it could mean coordination between the two. In any event, there are two considerations here. The first is Britain's role as a leading member of the "Coalition" in Iraq and Afghanistan. The second is its role as a host to a large and growing Muslim minority. The first British citizens to be killed in Afghanistan were fighting for the Taliban, which is proof in itself that the Iraq war is not the original motivating force. Last year, two British Muslims pulled off a suicide attack at an Israeli beach resort. In many British cities, there are now demands for sexual segregation in schools and for separate sharia courts to try Muslim defendants. The electoral strength of Muslims is great enough to encourage pandering from all three parties: The most egregious pandering of all has come from Blair himself, who has promised legislation that would outlaw any speech that could be construed as offensive to Islam. Since most British Muslims are of Asian descent, a faint sense exists that criticism of their religion is somehow racist: In practice this weak-mindedness leads to the extension of an antiquated law on blasphemy that ought long ago to have been repealed but is now to cover the wounded feelings of Muslims as well as Christians.
So it could be a local matter, having nothing to do with Bush and flypaper and whatever. That is possible, of course.

And in London now? Andrew Sullivan, another expatriate Brit, has been compiling reactions.

The London News Review -
We've dealt with your sort before. You don't try and pull this on us.

Do you have any idea how many times our city has been attacked? Whatever you're trying to do, it's not going to work.

All you've done is end some of our lives, and ruin some more. How is that going to help you? You don't get rewarded for this kind of crap.

And if, as your MO indicates, you're an al-Qaeda group, then you're out of your tiny minds.

Because if this is a message to Tony Blair, we've got news for you. We don't much like our government ourselves, or what they do in our name. But, listen very clearly. We'll deal with that ourselves. We're London, and we've got our own way of doing things, and it doesn't involve tossing bombs around where innocent people are going about their lives.

And that's because we're better than you. Everyone is better than you. Our city works. We rather like it. And we're going to go about our lives. We're going to take care of the lives you ruined. And then we're going to work. And we're going down the pub.

So you can pack up your bombs, put them in your arseholes, and get the fuck out of our city.
And this email he received -
Work's over but there's little chance of getting home right now. Most of us are just going to go to the pub until the traffic has died down. It's not callousness or indifference to carry on as normal, it's quiet defiance.
And this -
14:05 - I tell you what, if this is an "Islamic" terrorist attack, they're doing a piss-poor job. The pubs are all packed out, people sipping their pints happily, all a tad pissed off, but basically fine with it. Nice one, Al Quaeda - you profess to be from a teetotal religion, and you've given the pub trade a massive mid-week boost.
But then there is this -
"You are right to point out the British stoicism in the face of the attacks; it's quite admirable. However, your expat Brit emailer from London stretches his comparison too far. Perhaps if Westminster Abbey had a plane rammed into its side and over 3,000 people died, the sports commentators might feel the need to make a mention of it. It's wonderful the Brits are going on with their lives as normal and the Americans might indeed do well to take note, but spare us comparisons between the attacks, because they aren't at all comparable."

Point taken. I should add that celebrating British stoicism does not imply that somehow the American response is inferior. It isn't. Americans see a problem and want to fix it; Brits sometimes endure it. Some synthesis of these two approaches may be helpful in dealing with Islamo-fascist terror. I don't see either as somehow better than the other - just different.
So be it.

Other reactions?

This: "... it should be clear to everyone that we are losing the war on terror.... I've grown so weary of listening to the president and his minions pretend as if they are the only adults in the room who have any sense when they castigate liberals for wanting to use police powers in order to catch these people rather than armies."

This: "Let's be clear. The bombings today in London's subway system show how bullshit Bush's priorities are in the war on terror. Even as we pour hundreds of billions of dollars into Iraq and the military, vulnerable infrastructure like the New York City subway is underfunded and left vulnerable."

This: "... people aren't paying attention to how little things have really changed since the War on Terror began."

And on it goes.

A cynical friend just suggested that perhaps the French are behind the London bombings - a fit of pique over losing the 2012 Olympics. I suspect we can reject that theory, but he was calling from lower Manhattan, waiting for a bus home, near his office, at the corner by the big hole where the World Trade Center towers used to stand. He's earned his cynicism.



London in happier days - a swan in Round Pond just north of Royal Albert Hall, June 2000 - not that far from the Edgware Road Tube station -

Posted by Alan at 16:05 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, 7 July 2005 22:40 PDT home

Wednesday, 6 July 2005

Topic: NOW WHAT?

Politics: If I want a farce I'll read Feydeau.

Maybe it was the Fourth of July thing, but, after Just Above Sunset was put to bed July 3rd, commenting on current events seemed somehow pointless. Not that raising questions and commenting on what is happening in the world of national and international politics is unpatriotic or anything - although some see questioning what's going on as giving aid and comfort to our enemies. The right to do that is what we're fight for, isn't it? Democracy and all that? But nothing seemed to be changing.

Of course the heat of what was being said left and right continued rise, but nothing much new was being added. But perhaps it is time to return to see what's up, as that New York Times reporter, that Judith Miller woman, is off to jail and that group of right-side radio and television hosts is off to Iraq soon to bring back the truth about how well things are going there (one of them said he's "a patriot before he's a reporter"). I'd feel bad for Miller but she was the one who convinced the New York Times to run all of what Chalabi was saying to her about how there really were WMD over there - and she convinced the Times that she, and they, didn't need any second sources as it just had to be true. The Times apologized publicly, but kept her on.

That's a mixed bag. And it is a continuation of a story that broke last Friday noted in these pages here Busted: Bush's Brain (Karl Rove) Suddenly Exposed - the direct allegation by Lawrence O'Donnell that Rove is the man who leaked the name of the CIA agent for purposes of revenge. But nothing much has come of that.

Our friend Dick in Rochester wondered what happened. – "I have not seen any follow up on this in local rag or evening news. Did I miss something or are they just ignoring it?"

Well, I have no brief for the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle - the decade I lived in Rochester it seemed barely adequate for local news and everyone read the New York Times for real news (and the crossword). The mainstream national television and radio news? Miller gets a lot of play. Rove doesn't.

The direct allegation by Lawrence O'Donnell that Rove is the man who leaked the name of the CIA agent for purposes of revenge is mentioned in passing now and then in some news stories, but Judith Miller going to jail makes it seem a minor point. Commentary I read says O'Donnell may be right, or may be wrong, but no one knows, so there isn't a news story here. No one seems to know what the heck is going on. One theory is the press told Rove, not the other way around - mentioned here - and of course, it might have been Bill Clinton's fault somehow. No one knows just who the prosecutor (en français, le procureur) is going after or why.

If ever Rove is charged with this, or with only perjury or obstruction of justice, or let off the hook, then you might see a news story here and there. News is events - not allegations, as I think Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta, would agree. For example, the news didn't say one single thing about the allegations of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth about John Kerry - alleging Kerry was a coward, a liar, and perhaps a war criminal - until the Swift Boat guys proved it was so - just like they said. Then it was a story. No, wait...

I think we have to understand that anyone running a news operation must account for the idea - that the president's top advisor and life-long friend perhaps committed a felony close to treason - is too hot to mess with casually. Best to wait. Too, most viewers are solidly conservative and pro-Bush, as seen in his overwhelming landslide presidential victory for this second term, and running with this story will have your audience running for Fox News, and your advertising revenue going along with them. Know your audience and what they will tolerate, and what they want to hear (missing attractive white women and abducted and abused children). Reporting this story, if it turns out to be true, and especially of it turns out to be untrue, is bad for business. Then too there are those - most patriotic Americas - who think that if Rove did this then Wilson and his wife probably deserved to be destroyed because they embarrassed the man we chose to lead us, no matter how it hurt out intelligence efforts and even if Wilson was right. It's a tribal thing.

But perhaps I'm too cynical.

And everyone hates the news folks anyway. That group of right-side radio and television hosts off to Iraq soon to bring back the truth, about how well things are going there, provides an example of that. As Fox News summarizes the effort -
A contingent of conservatives talk radio hosts is headed to Iraq this month on a mission to report "the truth" about the war: American troops are winning, despite headlines to the contrary.

The "Truth Tour" has been pulled together by the conservative Web cast radio group and Move America Forward, a non-profit conservative group backed by a Republican-linked public relations firm in California.

"The reason why we are doing it is we are sick and tired of seeing and hearing headlines by the mainstream media about our defeat in Iraq," Melanie Morgan, a talk radio host for KSFO Radio in San Francisco and co-chair of Move America Forward, said.

Morgan said the media is "imposing a Vietnam template on this war."

"This is not Vietnam," she said. "War is war, and it's dangerous, and the killing is taking place all of the time. At the same time, where there is danger, there is success and there is a mainstream media that is determined to shut out that success."
Whatever. As noted in Daily Kos -
Awesome for them. Let them see the truth.

But, for the record, the truth includes traveling out of the Green Zone.

And it includes foregoing armed bodyguards and security escorts.

If they want the truth, let them see it the way the average Iraqi sees it.
But that's not the point, is it?

Each side is saying "WE HAVE THE TRUTH!" The idea is you don't know you're being deceived. What's a reporter to do?

Let's take the Karl Rove story. Is it complicated? Maybe, but Kevin Drum two years ago suggested the simple narrative -
Top White officials blew the identity of an undercover CIA agent, potentially endangering both lives and intelligence operations, solely to gain political payback against a guy who had risen to the top of their enemies list.

That's not so complicated, is it?
Maybe not, but Digby over at Hullabaloo suggests things have changed since then -
... there is more to it now. It has become obvious to a majority of Americans that the Bush administration was lying when it made its case for war. The public is much more likely to see this Plame leak for what it was. A cover-up by smear and intimidation. And it looks much more serious in this new light.

Here's how I would update it:

The Bush administration lied about its reasons for the war in Iraq. When a critic stepped up to expose one of the lies the Whitehouse blew his wife's identity as an undercover CIA agent. They did this to exact revenge against what they saw as a political enemy and to intimidate those who would further expose the administration, potentially endangering both lives and intelligence operations around the world.

That's the story. And regardless of what comes out about who leaked what to whom first, the sick fucking thing is Rove has actually already admitted to being the biggest asshole on the planet regardless of his legal culpability. When they are apprised of this, in the context of the Iraq lies, people may not be as amenable to forgive or write off as some think. Even if Karl Rove didn't break the law, here is what we already know he did do:
President Bush's chief political adviser, Karl Rove, told the FBI in an interview last October that he circulated and discussed damaging information regarding CIA operative Valerie Plame with others in the White House, outside political consultants, and journalists, according to a government official and an attorney familiar with the ongoing special counsel's investigation of the matter.

But Rove also adamantly insisted to the FBI that he was not the administration official who leaked the information that Plame was a covert CIA operative to conservative columnist Robert Novak last July. Rather, Rove insisted, he had only circulated information about Plame after it had appeared in Novak's column. He also told the FBI, the same sources said, that circulating the information was a legitimate means to counter what he claimed was politically motivated criticism of the Bush administration by Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson.

Rove and other White House officials described to the FBI what sources characterized as an aggressive campaign to discredit Wilson through the leaking and disseminating of derogatory information regarding him and his wife to the press, utilizing proxies such as conservative interest groups and the Republican National Committee to achieve those ends, and distributing talking points to allies of the administration on Capitol Hill and elsewhere. Rove is said to have named at least six other administration officials who were involved in the effort to discredit Wilson.
Here's the thing, though. Let's not forget that Wilson was right. There was no yellowcake. Rove and his minions discredited Wilson and destroyed his wife's cover because he was telling the truth.

If Democrats start going on Matthews to talk about this, they need to hammer this point home over and over again. They can debate the Barbizon school of blond former prosecutors all they want, but every single time, their point must be that this was a very serious matter of national security, weapons of mass destruction, lying about war - life and death. There was no yellow cake and there were no WMD and Bush and Rove and the rest have been lying their asses off from the beginning. And when anyone in a position to know spoke up, they were subjected to what Karl Rove openly admits to believing is a "legitimate means to counter criticism" - leaking and disseminating derogatory information about Bush's critics. In common parlance that's called character assassination. And when you do it to discredit someone who is telling the truth it's a cover-up.

Democrats really need to rise to the occasion this time. There remains a serious danger of the whole thing getting purposefully muddied by GOP spin artists as it usually is and there is just no excuse for it. As David Corn said back in 2003:

The strategic point here - and there is one - is for the GOP'ers to make this scandal look like another one of those nasty partisan mud-wrestles that the public never likes. Turn it into a political controversy, not a criminal one. Then it all comes out blurry and muddy in the wash. (Bad metaphor, I know.) But that is the intent: to fuzzy up the picture and cause people to shrug their shoulders and say, "it's just politics."

That's why we have to be prepared with a story people can understand and be prepared to tie it in to what they are beginning to see happened with the Iraq war. In Hollywood, screewriters and readers are asked to distill the plot into a single sentence called a logline. Here's the logline for the Plame Scandal: Karl Rove and others in the White House exposed an undercover CIA agent in order to cover up their lies about Iraq.
Well, that's one way to tell the story.

Here's another way -
Could Judy Miller have been enough of a "true believer" in the cause of the administration's WMD scare campaign that she passed along Plame's name to one of her Bushite contacts, where it then was funneled along to Rove and others? Anyone who has read Miller's angry defense of her WMD propaganda journalism ("I was proved fucking right") might be inclined to say yes.
Wow. She isn't saying anything because she set it all up? Why? Because her whole reputation is based on being right about Chalabi and the WMD and all the rest an Wilson came back from Africa and published, in her own paper, that the whole thing about nuclear weapons was a crock? Yeah, maybe. But maybe not.

Wednesday the 6th Rosa Brooks in the Los Angeles Times leads the anti-Miller charge with a long item that gives us this -
In the midst of the media's love-fest for Judith Miller, 1st Amendment Martyr, it's easy to forget that Miller's questionable journalistic ethics left her in the doghouse only a year ago. Indeed, when it came to leaks, the only people busier than White House staffers last year were the denizens of the New York Times' newsroom, who fell all over themselves to excoriate Miller to competing publications.

... It was Miller, more than any other reporter, who helped the White House sell its WMD-in-Iraq hokum to the American public. Relying on the repeatedly discredited Ahmad Chalabi and her carefully cultivated administration contacts, Miller wrote story after story on the supposedly imminent threat posed by Saddam Hussein.

... I'm as big of fan of the 1st Amendment as anybody, but I don't buy the new Miller-as-heroine story. When Judge David Tatel concurred in the D.C. Circuit's refusal to find any absolute journalist privilege shielding Miller from testifying, he noted, sensibly, that "just as attorney-client communications 'made for the purpose of getting advice for the commission of a fraud or crime' serve no public interest and receive no privilege ? neither should courts protect sources whose leaks harm national security while providing minimal benefit to public debate." Few legal privileges are absolute, and it's appropriate for the courts to decide in cases such as this whether the harm of requiring a journalist to divulge confidential information is outweighed by the public interest in prosecuting a crime.

Reasonable people can disagree on the appropriate scope of journalistic privilege. But we should keep the legal question - when should journalists be compelled by law to divulge their sources? - distinct from the ethical question: Is a journalist ever ethically permitted to break a promise and divulge a source? However we answer the first question, the answer to the second must be a resounding yes.

Should Miller have refused to offer anonymity to all those "high-level" sources who sold us a bill of goods on Iraq? Yes.

If it becomes apparent to a journalist that a source lied to him on a matter crucial to the public good, should he be ethically permitted to expose the lie and the liar, despite any prior promises of confidentiality? Yes.

If a source with a clear political motivation passes along classified information that has no value for public debate but would endanger the career, and possibly the life, of a covert agent, is a journalist ethically permitted to "out" the no-good sneak? You bet. And if the knowledge that they can't always hide behind anonymity has a "chilling effect" on political hacks who are eager to manipulate the media in furtherance of their vested interests, that's OK with me.

But Miller still won't testify. Even though, ethically, there should be no obligation to go to jail to cover for a sleazeball.

It's possible (though not likely) that Miller is covering for a genuine whistle-blower who fears retaliation for fingering, gee, Karl Rove, for instance, as the real source of the leak.

But I have another theory. Miller's no fool; she understood the lesson of the Martha Stewart case: When you find yourself covered with mud, there's nothing like a brief stint in a minimum-security prison to restore your old luster.

And Will Bunch at the Philadelphia Daily News piles on. -
We don't know what it's all about, except we do know that this isn't really journalism. It's about whether she continued her longtime pattern of aiding those in power and spreading their propaganda. What ever it is, we don't think it's protected by the shield laws that are on the books.

Nor do we think her jailing is the end of the world for a truly free press.
So much for a clear story about the press. As Cary Grant would say, shaking his head, "Judy, Judy, Judy..."

The bigger issues? That policy professor at UCLA, Mark Kleiman, comments, first quoting a letter from Steven Teles of Brandeis -
Re: the Plame affair and journalist-source privilege.

The legal basis of the journalists' claim is flimsy. The federal government doesn't have a shield for this, and the states that do require journalists to hand over information when all other approaches have been exhausted. All the courts that have looked at this have required them to hand the information over. End of story.

But more important is the fact that, in not handing over the information earlier, these journalists have, arguably, done a grave injury to the political process.

Had it been known during the campaign that the president's most important political advisor, the designer of this political strategy, had committed a felony and jeopardized the national security of the United States, this would have been a very significant issue in the campaign. It is, arguably, something the public really needed to know to make an intelligent decision about whom to vote for.

There is now NO real political consequence to the actions that administration officials engaged in (there is a legal consequence, perhaps, but no electoral consequence). So in that sense, these journalists not only flouted the law, they caused an election to occur without the full information the citizenry needed.

As such, in punishing them, the courts should come down as hard as possible.
The idea is you don't know you're being deceived. And Kleiman add this -
Note that it isn't just Cooper and Miller who withheld information the public ought to have known. Much of the Washington press corps apparently knew what the rest of us are just now learning, and kept their peace out of some sort of twisted professional courtesy, like the "blue wall of silence" that still protects brutal and crooked cops.

I can't agree with Steve on the question of political consequences, though. GWB won't run again, but there's always another election coming along, not just for the GOP but for the Bush clan.

Still, the journalists' decision to keep silent - backed with the full corporate resources of two of the biggest outlets in what the right wing still calls the "liberal media" - did lock us in to four more years of what Jefferson called "the reign of witches," and probably to twenty-five years of Mr. Justice Gonzales, or Mr. (or Ms.) Justice Somebody-even-worse.
Well, well, well - here we have the argument that if Rove did what Rove seems to have done, and we had known that before the election, we'd have thrown the bums out.

Doubtful. One could easily maintain the majority of citizens now want folks in our seat of power who destroy those who give them trouble - it provides a vicarious thrill to a citizenry feeling everyone hates us anyway and it's time to kick some ass. That too is a tribal thing - the powerless grooving on their proxy bully.

As for the vacancy on the Supreme Court covered last weekend in O'Connor Retires: The Game is Afoot? That's still playing out. It's a bit of a farce.

Bruce Reed was President Clinton's domestic policy adviser and is president of the Democratic Leadership Council, and he nails that here -
Conservatives don't know what's good for them, either. For the last four days, key Republicans have been insisting that nominees shouldn't have to reveal their views on divisive issues like abortion and same-sex marriage. Republicans think a nominee who keeps quiet stands a better chance of confirmation than a Bork-like nominee with clearly articulated conservative views. Will they never learn? The right's greatest disappointments have been Republican nominees who failed to define their views up front: Warren, Souter, O'Connor, Kennedy. Conservatives, not Democrats, ought to be the ones demanding that nominees put their cards on the table. Remember Grover Norquist's rule: Always get it in writing.

... Another pillar of the Democrats' strategy is to make it harder for Bush to appoint an ultra-conservative by extolling O'Connor as an ultra-centrist. O'Connor has earned an important place in history as the first woman on the Supreme Court, and paved the way for more women on the bench. But let's not get carried away with her jurisprudence. Being a swing vote on this Court does not make her a principled centrist. Even her admirers concede that she was a high-class hack, joining conservatives when she thought the Court could get away with it, ducking when her political antennae sensed a losing issue.

Glowing tributes to O'Connor's sense of judicial restraint conveniently underplay her decisive role in perhaps the greatest judicial overreach of recent times: Bush v. Gore. If Bush is able to shift the balance of the Court enough to overturn Roe v. Wade, O'Connor's vote on the most important decision of her tenure will be the reason. My off-the-cuff declaration: Stop saying she was "not so bad."
Yep, it's all farce. There was a reason I took a break for a few days. If I want a farce I'll read Feydeau.

Posted by Alan at 22:05 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 6 July 2005 22:21 PDT home

Topic: World View

Our Man in Paris: Paris battu par Londres

This just in from Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis -
PARIS, Wednesday, July 6, 2005

RADIO France-Info carried the ceremony live from Singapore, somewhat like the final shoot-out of the last match of the World Cup. With Moscow, New York and Madrid eliminated, Paris was facing London at showdown time. The president of the CIO was handed the envelope and you heard the paper ripping. He said, after a preamble lasting several seconds, "The 2012 games are awarded to... London." The crowd gathered at Trafalgar Square flipped out with joy. The crowd, in the place before the Hotel de Ville in Paris, cried. Tony Blair wins. Just reelected for the third time, just beginning a term as European president, just about to host the G8 meeting, what worlds left to conquer? And Jacques - where does this leave Jacques? Is France finished?
Related items from l'Agence France-Presse (AFP):


... There is a problem. For the third time... it is a bit hard to swallow," said Henri Serandour, president of the French National Olympic Committee. "We have to find the explanation, and it will not be easy."

French Sports Minister Jean-Francois Lamour was equally upset.

"It is too soon to analyse this defeat in detail," he said. "It is a big disapointment."

The defeat was a bitter blow for French President Jacques Chirac, who has been personally involved in all three Paris bids - once as mayor of Paris and twice as president.

The 72-year-old Chirac had flown into Singapore on Tuesday afternoon so he could address the IOC Session during Paris' final presentation.

The French team were hoping that the presence of Chirac would clinch victory for a bid that has been the front-runner since the campaign began.
Chirac should have stayed in Paris? Perhaps. His diplomatic skills seem to have left him.


The issue was Chirac's reported comments on the British - at a French-German-Russian summit Sunday in Russia - that "one cannot trust people who have such bad cuisine." And "the only thing they have done for European agriculture is 'mad cow.'" And that only Finland had worse food than Britain. Two of the committee voting on the committee were from Finland.

Perhaps his words were unwise. He has to eat them now.

It seems Ric and I agree -

Received from Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis, Wednesday, July 6, 2005 at 3:30 PM Pacific Time, which is of course thirty minutes past midnight on the 7th in Paris -
Another Day that Wasn't Jacques'

PARIS, Wednesday, July 6 - Continentals are suckers for offshore propaganda. Both the Germans and the French believe in the British notion of 'fair play,' as if games are somehow morally superior to war, and the way the British play games is the most superior of all. But, sometimes, the Germans and the French suspect that the British may play a bit too hard, may be a bit ruthless, and that the game is not quite 'the thing' but winning is.

Of course thinking something like this after the British have won a decisive round may appear to be sour vin rouge, so the French would rather not say it. Today in Singapore some were instead hinting that continentals should begin taking lobbying lessons from the British. There were rumors of British lobbying continuing in Singapore after it was thought the deadline was passed, as if there are Olympic rules for these things, as there apparently are.

Many of the French who spoke on TV-news today remarked on the lobbying skills of British spokesman and former athlete Sebastian Coe, in particular. If anything Mr. Coe was given most of the credit for pulling the British bid together and getting it concentrated at the finish in Singapore. Much of the rest of the credit went to prime minister Tony Blair, who awed witnesses with his persuasive efforts.

According to reports the team leading the bid for Paris woke up Wednesday morning in Singapore firmly convinced that if butterflies prevented them from enjoying breakfast and lunch, they would have a fine celebration at dinner as the winners.

How wrong they were! From beginning to end there were four votes by the IOC selection committee, resulting in the successive eliminations of Moscow, Madrid and New York. On every vote Paris was second to London, especially the last. From being perceived favorite, Paris was in perpetual second place, from beginning to end.

It is just as well so many French have already gone on holidays, where I hope many were sitting down in comfort when they heard the news. Since the beginning of the year they voted against the European constitution, against the invasion of the Polish plumber, which unexpectedly returned Nicolas Sarkozy as dynamic minister of the interior. The French voted against various government 'reforms' with strikes and other demonstrations, with mixed success. That the Pentecôte holiday will be reinstated was one tiny win.

Having voted solidly against the EU's excessive 'liberalism,' it was just as well to get out of town as Tony Blair took over the EU presidency, while pushing the policy notion that Europe can't afford its farmers and should do something else positive with the agricultural subsidy.

Tony Blair seems to be as unaware as Jacques Chirac that there are farmers in Britain too, getting the subsidies. Last Friday, as a joke to Gerhard Schröder and Vladimir Putin, overheard by a nosy reporter for Libération, Jacques Chirac said that Britain's only contribution to European food was 'mad cow disease.'

For some unknown reason Chirac added that the only country where food was worse is Finland. None of this was supposed to be heard, but of course there it was - making the rounds in Singapore, with Finland having two voting members on the IOC selection committee.

Jacques Chirac was up in the air flying towards the G8 meeting in Scotland when the result of the IOC's vote became known. From the jet he congratulated London for capturing the honor of staging the games.

When he arrives at Gleneagles in Scotland he can expect to receive a surprise hamper from Percy's Country Hotel & Restaurant based in Devon, containing a copious sampling of 'home reared, organic lamb and pork, delicious gold award winning tarts and fantastic Westcountry cheddar cheese' - as described in the email jointly sent by Percy's and the Western Morning News to MetropoleParis.

Bon appétit, Jacques!

Footnote: The Revenge of the Finns

Wednesday, 6 July 2005 10:18:00 GMT
BRUSSELS, July 6 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac's reported criticism of cooking in Finland and Britain has earned a dinner invitation from a European parliamentarian, but the president has to bring the wine.

In an open letter on Wednesday, lawmaker Alexander Stubb, from Finland, said he had noted "colourful versions" of statements attributed to Chirac in the press and that they had also caught the eye of his British wife.

The French newspaper Liberation reported on Monday that Chirac had commented about Britain's cuisine by saying that "after Finland, that is the country where you eat the worst."

"In order to revise your unfortunate impression of Finno-British cuisine my wife and I would like to invite you to join us for dinner at our home in Genval, Belgium at your convenience," Stubb wrote.

"We will endeavour to obtain authentic Finnish and British ingredients in order to avoid disappointment," he went on.

He said the menu, planned by Finnish celebrity chef Jyrki Sukula, would include: fish and chips - roe of vendace with Lapland potato chips, cep broth with turnip rye pie, rack of baby lamb from Aaland with nettle mash, and Finnish berries marinated in Arctic brambleberry wine with beestings pudding.

"We hope that, as the president of an esteemed wine-producing country, you could provide the wines for the dinner," Stubb wrote. ...
But what wine goes with roe of vendace with Lapland potato chips, and cep broth with turnip rye pie, not to mention nettle mash?


One of Ric's recent photos (June 23) from MetropoleParis – which might capture the mood -

Posted by Alan at 10:46 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 6 July 2005 18:35 PDT home

Tuesday, 5 July 2005

Topic: Photos

No Politics Today - The La Brea Tar Pits Instead

One of the more curious sites out here, just down the hill, is not what you expect when you think of Southern California and surfers and movie stars and all that. In the middle of all that we have a place for those into natural history. That would be the La Brea Tar Pits, right down on Wilshire Boulevard. They're famous. Really.

This is how Fodor's describes them -
About 40,000 years ago, deposits of oil rose to the Earth's surface, collected in shallow pools, and coagulated into sticky asphalt. In the early 20th century, geologists discovered that the sticky goo contained the largest collection of Pleistocene, or Ice Age, fossils ever found at one location: more than 600 species of birds, mammals, plants, reptiles, and insects. More than 100 tons of fossil bones have been removed in excavations over the last seven decades, making this one of the world's most famous fossil sites. You can see most of the pits through chain-link fences. Pit 91 is the site of ongoing excavation; tours are available and you can volunteer to help with the excavations in summer. Statues of a family of mammoths in the big pit near the corner of Wilshire and Curson suggest how many of them were entombed: edging down to a pond of water to drink, animals were caught in the tar and unable to extricate themselves. There are several pits scattered around Hancock Park and the surrounding neighborhood; construction in the area has often had to accommodate them and, in nearby streets and along sidewalks, little bits of tar occasionally and unstoppably ooze up. The Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits (PHONE: 323/934-7243) displays fossils from the tar pits. ...
Well, the place is know for lots of mammal fossils from the last ice age, that glacial age, when Los Angeles was a bit cooler and moister, and there were no freeways and Tom Cruise wasn't in town.

The tar pits were described by the early settlers out here in the mid-eighteenth century - "La Brea" is Spanish for "the tar" - and seemed be used as a source of asphalt, used for insulation and this and that. The assumption was the bones they found were from pronghorn deer or local cattle that got stuck in the goop.

What was really there? You've got your mammoths, your dire wolves, your cave bears, your giant ground sloths, and, of course, the State Fossil of California, the saber-toothed tiger - Smilodon Californicus. Does your state have a state fossil? (If you're from North Carolina you can't count Jesse Helms.)

Anyway, the place is cool - even if smells awful (try high-sulfur raw petroleum) as the big black pond still bubbles up methane and tar.

And there is a connection to the movies. Really. In the 1997 movie Volcano from Fox 2000 (a division of Twentieth Century Fox) the black pond is where the magma bursts up and Tommy Lee Jones has to save the city. (Read a review and synopsis here - the budget was seventy million, the screenplay was by Jerome D. Armstrong, the director was Mick Jackson, and it's pretty silly.) The last scene in the movie Miracle Mile (1988) is set here - no volcano in that. Then there is Last Action Hero (1993) where Arnold Schwarzenegger falls into the tar pit pond and easily wipes himself clean, prompting the kid in the film to point out that he (Arnold) is a character in a movie and not in the "real" world. It seems Schwarzenegger is now our governor out here, and he still hasn't figured it out.

But my favorite reference to the La Brea Tar Pits is in The Simpsons' episode "Bart Gets an Elephant" (writer John Swartzwelder, director Jim Reardon, first aired Thursday, March 31, 1994) which goes like this -
Marge has the family clean the house. Bart listens to the radio and wins his choice of a prize in a radio contest, $10,000 or an elephant. He chooses the elephant. He names the elephant Stampy and falls in love with him. The family neglects the other pets because Stampy demands so much time and money. Homer tries to make money off the elephant, but cannot pay Stampy's food bill. He lets slack-jawed yokels gawk at Stampy. (This is the debut of Cletus.) Homer tries to sell him. Mr. Blackheart, an ivory dealer, gives the best deal. Homer and Marge wake in the middle of the night to find Bart and Stampy missing. Bart runs away with Stampy to save his pet. Homer and the family go to find them at a museum exhibit, and Homer falls into a tar pit. Stampy saves Homer, so Homer decides to give him to an animal refuge. Once there, Stampy reveals himself to be a jerk to the other elephants and Homer reveals himself to be a jerk to the refuge supervisor.
The tar pits are kind of a running joke out here.

But they are interesting as you can see below (or in the twenty-one shot photo album listed in the left column)-




A real Saber Tooth in the Page Museum

A stylized Saber Tooth as you enter the grounds...

Posted by Alan at 20:18 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 6 July 2005 11:58 PDT home

Monday, 4 July 2005

Topic: Announcements

Still flying…

Posted by Alan at 11:19 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

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