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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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Friday, 11 November 2005

Topic: Couldn't be so...

Veterans Day: The World Gone Mad, or at Least Angry

President Wilson said that on the eleventh day of the eleventh month at the eleventh hour of each year we should celebrate the end of the Great War, what was the first of the World Wars. In 1918 this was Armistice Day. Now it's Veterans Day, one more day in the Iraq war, a day we lost five more soldiers, bringing us to 2,065 or so.

Traditionally, the president gives a speech for this occasion. Usually this has to do honoring those who fought.

This Veterans Day was a bit different, with the president in some trouble - almost six in ten Americans think he lied to get us into this war (see the AP item here), and his approval ratings in all polls now in the mid-thirties, and disapproval ratings generally around sixty percent.

The New York Times noted, the day before, what was coming in the speech: His Image Tarnished, Bush Seeks to Restore Credibility - "Faced with a bleak public mood about Iraq and stung by Democratic accusations that he led the nation into war on false pretenses, President Bush is beginning a new effort to shore up his credibility and cast his critics as hypocrites."

And so he did. The text of the speech is here. There wasn't that much about the veterans - or anything about the Armistice of 1918 and it implications. This was something else.

The New York Times - Bush Forcefully Attacks Critics of His Strategy in Iraq - "President Bush lashed out today at critics of his Iraq policy, accusing them of trying to rewrite history about the decision to go to war, and saying their criticism is undercutting American forces in battle."

The Washington Post - Bush Attacks Iraq War Critics - Senator Kennedy Accuses Bush of Exploiting Veterans Day - "President Bush lashed out today at critics of his Iraq war policy, strongly denying any manipulation of prewar intelligence and accusing his detractors of sending "the wrong signal" to U.S. troops and America's enemies."

You get the idea.

And this "rewriting history" business?

The speech was centered on the hypocrisy of those claiming they were misled into this war. They voted for it, those Democrats, and they all thought Saddam was building nuclear weapons and had tons of bad stuff and all the rest. And they had the same information.

Well, they didn't have the same information. A lot of it was a summary of this or that with any doubts left out. It was "shaped." And much was information the administration knew fell between questionable and already disproved. But close enough? The White House now says yes, close enough, and the opposition says no. These people now say they wanted details?

And the vote was to send a message to get the UN inspectors and Iraq to let us know all - we were serious. But the administrations says these folks who claim to have been deceived must have know that they were voting for what actually happened - telling the inspectors to stop immediately, get out for their own safety, and then we invade and occupy. When the president said they were voting for a form of pressure and that war was his "last resort," they should have KNOWN he didn't mean that? That seems to be the implicit message - they were too dumb to understand what they were voting for, and now is no time cry foul.

And this bellyaching sends "the wrong signal" to our troops and "America's enemies." It's unpatriotic. As Glenn Reynolds, one of the main voices on the right, says of all this here - "And yes, he should question their patriotism. Because they're acting unpatriotically." Well, the charge could be hurled the other way - conning us into a war on bullshit information doesn't seem too patriotic.

If they administration conned themselves? Well, then we're in real trouble - but we really don't have to keep participating in this madness.

This speech? It would have been nice if he thanked the veterans. Well, to be fair, he did. But he also had other, bigger fish to fry. Too bad. They deserve better.

And there was nothing new here. In fact, you might want to look at this table - the speech is almost word for word what he gave to the National Endowment for Democracy, Oct. 6, 2005.

Ah well.

But for a different bit of discourse you might turn to a slightly different way of dealing with people who disagree with you, something that entered the national dialog late in the week. You call for their death and destruction, as in these.

In Tuesday's off year election voters in San Francisco decided military recruiters would be banned from public schools. The schools weren't the right place for that. Enter Bill O'Reilly, the voice of sensible America, the "no spin" guy, as reported here:
Hey, you know, if you want to ban military recruiting, fine, but I'm not going to give you another nickel of federal money. You know, if I'm the president of the United States, I walk right into Union Square, I set up my little presidential podium, and I say, "Listen, citizens of San Francisco, if you vote against military recruiting, you're not going to get another nickel in federal funds. Fine. You want to be your own country? Go right ahead."

And if Al Qaeda comes in here and blows you up, we're not going to do anything about it. We're going to say, look, every other place in America is off limits to you, except San Francisco. You want to blow up the Coit Tower? Go ahead.
So they're not part of America any longer? Bill has decided that? Well, they're all queers, of course. Cut 'em off. (As for Coit Tower, would its removal be that much of a loss?)

The same day CNN was reporting this from the Reuters wire - Pat Robertson, the voice of the Christian conservative right, the evangelical leader with a pipeline into the White House - was upset with the off year election results in Dover, Pennsylvania, where the school board that was advancing "intelligent design" in the public schools there, in a trial that got worldwide attention, was voted out office. Now they want science taught in science class, and discussion of the supernatural, that science doesn't cover, taught in classes that cover religion and philosophy. It seems they feel one ought not to confuse the one with the other. Pat's not happy, and says God isn't happy either.
"I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover: if there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God, you just rejected Him from your city," Robertson said on his daily television show broadcast from Virginia, "The 700 Club."

"And don't wonder why He hasn't helped you when problems begin, if they begin. I'm not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city. And if that's the case, don't ask for His help because he might not be there," he said.
Citizens of San Francisco, and citizens of Dover - you voted, and now you have been cast out.

Well, some people just don't count, as in last Thursday's senate vote. Senate Approves Limiting Rights of U.S. Detainees - "The Senate voted Thursday to strip captured 'enemy combatants' at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, of the principal legal tool given to them last year by the Supreme Court when it allowed them to challenge their detentions in United States courts."

Well, that will end the lawsuits, and the reaction was immediate from the right, as in Michelle Malkin calling this Sanity in the Senate. She loves this move by senator Lindsay Graham. Of course, she's been calling for internment camps for all American Muslims too. Her point? Some people just don't deserve the right to know what they're charged with, or the right to explain themselves, or the right to humane treatment. They're a "different sort" of people.

From the left? Steven Clemons - Lindsey Graham Leads on Shameful Legislation. And out here at UCAL, Mark Kleiman doesn't know whether to Laugh, cry, or puke: "How Graham intends to square this with Article 1, Section 9 - The privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it. - is beyond me." (And he consults some legal experts here.)

That famous criminal defense attorney from Denver you see on television off and on does the legal thing with No Habeas for Them, No Habeas for Us - Tinkering with habeas corpus ?. Habeas Corpus is now being discussed all over, and nine democratic senators who missed the vote are asking for a new vote.

So who gets to have rights? And who doesn't?

Anyone can see what's at the core of this. Those who we capture who seem to be bad guys, or may know what the bad guys are up to, or who are just damned unlucky to have been picked up by mistake, are not really like us. Are they really humans like us? The question underlies the whole argument as to whether we, who never would torture anyone, should be allowed to practice torture. It's the argument for this being a "special case" in each circumstance - they're not really fully human, or we're so frightened we cannot allow that they are.

And this torture issue won't go away.

Put aside what it says about those who practice it, and their humanity. The problem is that it just doesn't work. Even the guys in the CIA, at the "worker bee" level, say so in this bit of digging from Knight-Ridder - Operatives Say CIA Exemption on Torture a Mistake. It's detailed, but boils down to use torture and you get unreliable information - folks say lots of things to stop the pain - and too those others who might have been inclined at sometime in the future to help you out will hate your guts, and so all your sources dry up. It just screws things up.

But of course the Knight-Ridder item doesn't cover the obvious. If you want lies to support your view of the world then torture can provide those lies, and you can tell others, and yourself perhaps, that things really are as bad as they seem. The poor devil will tell you anything you want to hear. The key is you really want to hear it. And that's your problem. The long-cultivated sources aren't telling you what you want.

Ah well, this too doesn't matter. The trades are full of stories that the Knight-Ridder chain is up for sale, and the key bidder is a rich Republican operative. Such stories will disappear. Cheney will be a hero again.

Out here, the Chicago-based Tribune folks who own the Los Angeles Times are cleaning house. They just fired their liberal columnist Robert Sheer after twenty-eight years, the one who Bill O'Reilly wanted fired when he made fun of Bill, and fired their political cartoonist. Circulation is down. Shift right?

In any event, the Times is now contracting with various folks while building a new "stable" of editorial writers. In the transition you get a bit of this and a bit of that, as in what they came up with on Friday, November 11, on this torture thing.

David Gelernter here argues the usual - what if you had someone who knew where a nuclear bomb was set to go off in Manhattan and you had no time? You'd have to torture him to get to the bomb and disarm it and all the rest. You save the city!

Hollywood stuff. You have to do what you have to do, or millions die? Yeah, yeah. What if, to stop the unbearable pain, he (or she) tells you this bomb is in a storage room uptown at 7th and 52nd Street, when it's really in a basement down on lower Broadway? They win. The unbearable pain stops. The bomb goes off. What are you going to do? Sue them? Hurt them more?

The Times also prints this from Larry C. Johnson: "I think Dick Cheney has been watching too many Hollywood flicks that glorify torture. He needs to get out of his undisclosed location and talk to the people on the ground."

Johnson is a retired career officer from the CIA and covers the same ground as in the Knight-Ridder item, but with personal stories. He says even the Israelis have given up on torture - they play cards with their captives and let them call home and all the rest. And they do get their information. Yeah, it's sneaky, and not very heroic, but in the real world it actually works.

But what if, what if, what if...

All these special cases, all this talk that these are the worst of the worst and really different from "real" people, and we have to do what we have to do, even if it doesn't work, makes one wonder if we have two realities here.

As for special cases, on a lighter topic, you have to love this one, concerning the new nominee to the Supreme Court. From the Washington Post, Alito Defends His Actions In Two Appeals Court Cases: "In Letter to Senators, Nominee Denies Conflict of Interest - Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr. said yesterday that he did nothing improper when he ruled in cases involving two financial firms in which he held accounts." Except he's on record saying he would recuse himself. He was kidding? No, these were "special cases." Duncan Black's take on this? Alito: I Lied and I'm Proud of It.

Whatever. He will be confirmed. People can be so picky.

On the other hand, one cannot take the whole crew in Washington too seriously.

We're in some fiscal difficulty. Big federal deficit (record), big trade deficit (record), all those hurricane recovery costs (record number this year), an expensive war, tax cuts for the wealthy reducing tax revenue by a third or more - quite a mess.

But there's this: House Leaders Postpone Vote on Budget Bill: "Facing defeat, House Republican leaders on Thursday abruptly called off a vote on a contentious budget-cutting bill in a striking display of the discord and political anxiety running through the party's ranks."

Some objected to oil drilling in protected areas Alaska (ANWAR), some to cutting 300,000 kids from the food stamp program, some to cutting Medicaid benefits so fewer people could see a doctor on the government's dime even if they paid taxes for just that, some, from the northeast, objected to cutting funds to help the poor meet their heating bills with fuel prices at record highs and oil companies making record profits. No one wants to be the bad guy. And people vote when they're angry.

One of our congressmen from out here in California said, "We are not cutting Medicaid for those truly in need." He seems to think there are upper and middle-income Medicaid beneficiaries. Say what?

Reactions? From the left: GOP: The gang that can't shoot straight. From the right: Republican Bedwetters on the Hill.

Well, Tom DeLay is no longer running the shop and is not there to slap everyone around. Karl Rove is occupied with the possibility he will be indicted for a felony or two and hasn't the time to warn any one of these folks if they don't vote right they will be personally destroyed and their families will go down with them. What the president wants? Who cares?

Will the next three years be like this, a free-for-all?

Nothing will get done. Well, the bad stuff won't get done. But the good stuff won't get done either.

Finally, just a note. Like a dog gnawing an old bone, Steven Hadley, one of the guys who really, really, really wanted this war, now in Condoleezza Rice's old job as National Security Advisor, is still at it.

Bush Aide Fires Back at Critics On Justification for War in Iraq - "The White House went on the offensive in the debate over the Iraq war yesterday, insisting that U.S. intelligence had compiled a 'very strong case' that Saddam Hussein harbored banned weapons and accusing congressional critics ... "

What? Steve, we've moved on. They weren't there. Get over it.

So the week ended with Veterans Day, and no end to the madness.

Posted by Alan at 21:49 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 11 November 2005 22:02 PST home

Topic: Breaking News

Just In: Police Pack Paris on Veterans Day (Armistice Day)
Today's news from France, from Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis - an account of the situation on the ground there today, Armistice Day, celebrating the end of the first World War.

Police Pack Paris

PARIS - Friday, November 11 - Security was reinforced today in Paris to prevent any incidents during the traditional ceremony to mark the end of World War I at the tomb of the unknown soldier beneath the Arc de Triomphe at the Etoile.

The ceremony passed without incident this morning. Jacques Chirac placed the wreath in the presence of World War II veterans and the minister of defense, Michèle Alliot-Marie. The six poilus still living who participated in WWI are all over 100 years old and a bit too fragile for even short ceremonies.

In total, 3000 extra police were mobilized for the long weekend in the city. The préfet of police in Paris decided to forbid all public demonstrations on Saturday, from 10:00 until Sunday morning at 8:00, in reaction to calls for 'violent action' posted on the Web or distributed via SMS messages.

Today's demonstration in favor of urban peace, called by 'Banlieues Respects' for 15:00 at the Peace Wall on the Champ de Mars, drew 250-300 persons. Similar demonstrations are planned for Lyon and Toulouse tomorrow.

Overnight violence diminished again, with concentrations in 20 areas out of 160 communes affected. In Bordeaux police cars parked at the Palais de Justice were set on fire, while the number torched in the Paris suburbs rose slightly to 111, up from 82 on Wednesday night. Throughout France 463 vehicles were destroyed Thursday night. Police arrested 201 persons.

Also on Thursday night, minister of the interior Nicolas Sarkozy appeared on the France-2 TV program 'A Vous de Juger.' He refused the idea of confusing the kids from poor suburbs with hoodlums, saying, "When I say they are hooligans or rabble, I persist and sign - and in no case in this sense do I mean all youth" - repeating controversial terms used in Argenteuil.

Insurance companies have estimated that the cost of damage from the urban unrest is going to total 200 million euros. On TV-news tonight a spokesman said that owners are burned cars would be compensated, regardless of whether they had clauses covering fire.

Marseille Strike Resumes

Transport workers in Marseille voted to resume their strike of municipal buses and the Métro after a five-day pause. Part one of the strike lasted 32 days, causing many residents to become foot-weary, even with a belated system of replacement buses. The employees are protesting against a city plan to have a private company operate the Marseille tram lines when they are built.

Photo, Paris, Friday, November 11, 2005 -

Photo and Text, Copyright © 2005 – Ric Erickson, MetropoleParis

Posted by Alan at 16:02 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Topic: Photos

New Photo Album: Melrose Avenue - Peculiarly Los Angeles

Melrose Avenue - not "Melrose Place" from the television show - is where the excruciatingly hip and cutting-edge hang out. The core area, forming the southern border of Hollywood, from Highland to Fairfax, is all that people expect when they imagine stars shopping for what no one else has yet considered imperative to wear, or dropping into some new restaurant for what no one else has yet considered appetizing. It's a bit of the Village in New York and the Marais in Paris (lots of hip French industry folks and pop stars stop by) - with celebrities and seedy but cool locals. Melrose to the west becomes tame (Melrose Place itself is full of expensive antique shops), and to the east it becomes industrial.

Click here for a photo album of sixty shots from Thursday, November 10, 2005 - late morning, before the action.

Some of these will appear in this Sunday's Just Above Sunset, along with new botanical shots, and a very strange cow (don't ask).

Here's one of the shots you will find in the album:

Posted by Alan at 14:53 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Thursday, 10 November 2005

Topic: Photos

Catching the Past in Los Angeles Before it Disappears - the Tail O' the Pup

No Politics Today. Enough is enough. Thursdays are the day to shoot photographs for the weekend edition of Just Above Sunset, the magazine-format parent site to this web log. And the day was for Melrose Avenue, as in this:
Long before TV's "Melrose Place" hit the TV airwaves, there was Melrose Avenue, the real Melrose Avenue - one of the unique sections of the city which help define the L.A. experience. It's a funky, New Wave, walking/shopping/dining/ people-watching area which is, in turn, both bizarre and delightful.

Melrose is to the young, cutting-edge trendies of the West Side what Rodeo Drive is to their affluent elders, and what the Venice boardwalk is to LA's residual 60's counterculture: a place to shop, a place to stroll outdoors, but most of all, it's a place to see and be seen.

Melrose is one of the few genuine pedestrian neighborhoods in our City of Angels, and it is unique, with a quirky, slightly-demented personality all its own. It's a neighborhood trying desperately to be hip and outlandish, and succeeding wonderfully; a garish blur of day-glo and neon, of pierced noses and red Ferraris; row after row of eccentric, trendy little boutiques with gaudy storefronts done up in florescent colors, sporting curious names such as "A Star is Worn," "Humphrey Yogurt Cafe," "Warbabies," "Some Crust: the Bakery," "Retail Slut," and "Wacko".
Well, the best of the 155 Melrose Avenue photos will be in an online album soon, and the best of those in Sunday's Just Above Sunset. Until then, there is some local news.

Thursday, November 10, this appeared in the Los Angeles Times that landed with a thud on the doorstep he in Hollywood.

New Digs for Tail O' the Pup?
Internet gossip may complicate a possible relocation of the popular fast-food stand after it is forced from its spot in West Hollywood.
Bob Pool, Los Angeles Times

What's this? The Tail O' the Pup - one of those classic hot dog stands in the shape of a hot dog - classic LA stuff - is moving again. It used to be at La Cienega Boulevard and Beverly Place - that's where it stared in 1921. But they put up a giant mall - Beverly Center, roughly modeled after Renzo Piano's Beaubourg Center in Paris (the Pompidou) - and then a fancy Sofitel Hotel (a French chain, no less) right where the Tail O' the Pup was. They moved the Tail O' the Pup a few blocks over to San Vicente Boulevard in 1986, and now it may move to Westwood, by UCLA. But the deal may fall though as the new landlord, seeing all that chat on the internet, may want big, big bucks for the new site. The current landlord wants to use the site where it stands now to develop condominiums and a retirement community for gays and lesbians. This is West Hollywood we're talking about after all.

Is this the end of the Tail O' the Pup?

Better catch it before it's gone, which is what the pre-Melrose photo jaunt turned out to be - catching the past in Los Angeles before it disappears.

So here it is.

As luck would have it, the photographer who was assigned by USA Today to take shots of the Tale of the Pup, Bob Riha Jr, has been a customer of the famous food location for forty years. Here he gets a good one of the manager.

Ordering, and yes, the Tail O' the Pup is adjacent to Cedars-Sinai, so that really is a doctor in scrubs.



USA Today catching what may be gone soon.

Posted by Alan at 20:20 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, 10 November 2005 20:35 PST home

Topic: Breaking News

Just in From Paris: Calmer, But Not Peace
Today's news from France, from Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis - an account of the situation on the ground there today, received in Hollywood just after four in the afternoon, well after midnight in Paris.

Calmer, But Not Peace

PARIS - Thursday, 10 November -

Although urban violence decreased again last night the authorities are being cautious as the holiday for Armistice Day approaches on Friday, followed by a weekend, when there might by further demonstrations.

Fewer cars were burned on Wednesday night and a police spokesman said there were 'practically no' battles between police and rioters. All the same a police station, two kindergartens, a school and a city hall were targeted by arsonists.

Another 200 were arrested, which has brought the total since disturbances began, to 2033 arrested. According to reports, Michel Gaudin, General Director of the National Police, stated that a hundred of those arrested were foreigners. Of those arrested, 364 have been convicted. Of these, 73 were minors.

On the political front more voices are being raised against the expulsion order of the minister of the interior, Nicolas Sarkozy. There are objections that coupling deportation of foreigners to a conviction amounts to a double penalty - a legal situation not supported by French law, and one recently opposed by the same minister of the interior.

In Paris service stations have been forbidden from selling gas in containers, in an effort to halt the confection of Molotov Cocktails. Police say that rumors are flying around the Internet and via SMS telephone messages, suggesting a confrontation with police in Paris.

A group comprising 160 associations has police permission to form a group at 15:00 on Friday, at the 'Wall of Peace' on the Champ de Mars. The Banlieues Respects collective says participants should have visible white handkerchiefs. The demonstration in favor of urban peace will march towards Denfert-Rochereau. Similar parades are scheduled for Toulouse and Lyon on Saturday.

In another incident Nicolas Sarkozy acted quickly to suspend eight police officers filmed by a France-2 TV-news team, showing some of them beating a young man. The film was shown on tonight's TV-news. The incident, which happened on Monday in La Courneuve, is the subject of two investigations.

A spokesman for a police union said there was no excuse for the conduct, but pointed out that after 14 consecutive nights of urban turmoil many police officers are stressed to the limit and tired.

Copyright © 2005 - Ric Erickson, MetropoleParis

Editor's Notes:

Pascal Riché is Libération's US reporter. His blog (with Laurent Mauriac) is A l'heure américaine, in French. (It has a cool feature. Double click on any word and an English translation of that word pops up. How did they do that?)

Here he is in English on the riots, a brief item he has cross-posted at TPM Café, home to Josh Marshall and Matthew Yglesias -
Don't believe Fox News. France is not on the verge of a civil war, and what is happening in my country is not a jihad. The riots in the French "banlieues" are nevertheless very serious: they are one of the most serious social crises of the last 60 years. And they signal the death of our century-old "integration model," one of the pillars of the modern French Republic. As the Prime Minister Villepin put it: "We must be lucid: the Republic faces a moment of truth.

The French have always cherished their model of integration, considered as an idealistic and almost mystical process. Its aim was generous: any immigrant, once he or she acquires French citizenship, becomes a citizen absolutely equal to any other. The "République Francaise" would proudly integrate her immigrants without any problems, thanks to her secular schools, her national institutions, her universal values. Regardless of the color of their skin or their religion, they would quickly acquire and embrace French "culture".

For this reason, "diversity", of course, was never encouraged in France. The objective rather was "indivisibility". Immigrants were invited to melt, as quickly as possible, into the French cultural mold. "Affirmative action" - or, even worse, "positive discrimination" - are still are taboo words in France. "Communautarisme" - acting as a community - is a derogatory word in political language. You will never see in France a parade of Vietnamese French or Algerien French walking down the Champs Elysees as you can see Puerto Ricans or Irish celebrating their community on Fifth Avenue. And nobody will ever ask you if you are Black, Caucasian or from North-African ascent.

But during the riots of the past 13 days, Frenchmen have been confronted with the failures of this model, have watched it go up in flames like one of the many torched cars strewn across darkened Paris streets. Every day young rioters have been expressing a deep anger at the French society, even going so far as to burn schools, the ultimate symbol of the "République." Most are not immigrants themselves: they are French citizens, born in France, sometimes even born to parents who were born in France themselves. But they have not been integrated at all. Living in grim ghettos, without jobs, coping daily with discrimination and racism, they feel like they were abandoned by their country.
Riché goes on to explain that the French must now consider something like "affirmative action," but that is unlikely to go very far because of the deep conservatism of the French political elite.

See also Pascal Bruckner in The National Review here - "The riots could only have happened in France."

Ric sent a long post about these two items, but added, "It's a head-bender. Let me think about this before having any of it posted."

So more will follow.

Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, Thursday, November 10, 2005, 11:45 am Pacific Time -

Posted by Alan at 16:56 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, 10 November 2005 17:04 PST home

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