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

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

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

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"

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Wednesday, 5 July 2006
American Values
Topic: Photos

American Values

Some shots from the 2006 Fourth of July parade in Rancho Bernardo, about twenty miles north of San Diego, inland. This was "Duke" Cunningham's congressional district, the congressman now serving time for accepting almost two and a half million in bribes - for government contracts, CIA and military. Those contractors implicated in the scandal, Mitchell Wade and Brent Wilkes, are based in the adjoining town, Poway. The former number three at the CIA, now resigned, Dusty Foggo, is a local too. When Duncan Hunter rolled by in the parade - he's chairman of the House Armed Services Committee - he leaned out of his white convertible and asked us if we were all registered Republicans. Everyone cheered. It's that kind of place.

Up the road is Camp Pendleton, the Marine Corps headquarters and training center on the west coast. It's massive. They sent folks down for the parade. I was there with the family, including my nephew, the Major in the Army out at Fort Irwin, at the National Training Center (NTC) - back from Iraq, again, he and the others are devising the training for those about to there, or Afghanistan. He's a good man, and a good officer. We talk a lot about what you would expect. Birthdays and holidays we give each other books that get us talking more.

All in all, the parade was pretty impressive, in an odd sort of way. All seventy-four photos will be posted in an album soon. That's geek work. It's in process.

Below, Abe Lincoln and Duncan Hunter. Compare and contrast.

Abe Lincoln at Rancho Bernardo parade, 4 July 2006

Duncan Hunter, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, at Rancho Bernardo parade, 4 July 2006

Marines -

Marines at Rancho Bernardo parade, 4 July 2006

Marines at Rancho Bernardo parade, 4 July 2006

Marines at Rancho Bernardo parade, 4 July 2006

Veterans -

Veterans at Rancho Bernardo parade, 4 July 2006

Veterans at Rancho Bernardo parade, 4 July 2006

Veterans at Rancho Bernardo parade, 4 July 2006

The parade -

Rancho Bernardo parade, 4 July 2006

Posted by Alan at 21:52 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, 6 July 2006 07:00 PDT home

Our Man in Paris: Bonjour Tristesse
Topic: Breaking News

Our Man in Paris: Bonjour Tristesse
Wednesday, July 5, 2006, France beats Portugal 1-0 and will play Italy for the World Cup this weekend. The tournament is a big deal, only every four years, and France has only won once before, in 1998 when they hosted it. Now they can win it all again. And what was the scene like in Paris? Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis, lets us know in his latest letter from Paris.

Paris, Wednesday, July 5 - This is a historic day. Overnight the temperature dumped from over 30 to a reasonable 26 degrees - after dumping some hailstones the size of Great Auk eggs on unwary residents of southern France - and it is the 60th birthday of France's great gift to funky western mankind - the bikini.

Just think of all the things we wouldn't have if there weren't any bikinis. We wouldn't have dads on beaches and we wouldn't have moms frantically dieting after all those Easter Auk eggs they ate. And, by no means finally, your favorite French wouldn't be as famous as they are, for being cheeky. They would just be small, dark folks clad in itchy wool swimsuits, reeking of garlic.

Between football celebrations I have been watching TV-films on Arte. They have an Israeli series which shows, I am glad to learn, that Israel is a very weird place not anything like your average cheesy French village or oily truck-stop in South Dakota.

You say, 'so what?' You say, 'what else is new?' According to the TV-film I saw last night people who used to be policemen look after imported young ladies from the Ukraine and when they wear out they sell them for a discount to Egyptian spa owners. As unlikely as its theme, even unlikelier the happy end when the policeman learns to swim and the Tel Aviv goon squad nabs the bad guys and all the young ladies get a free trip to America - where they wanted to go in the first place.

But tonight is different because Spike Lee is in Munich to see his friend Thierry Henry playing for France in the semi-finals of the World Cup against Portugal. This city has opened the Parc des Princes and put a big screen up there, adding it to the free one in the Stade Charlety, and another one somewhere in the 16th.

Meanwhile Nicolas Sarkozy has declined to go and see Spike Lee in Munich because he has to stay in town to manage the spontaneous victory celebration on the Champs-Elysées right after the win by the (a) Allez les Vieux or the (b) Portuguese tigers.

Last Saturday night the Portuguese celebrating on the Champs-Elysées were impressive - more than 10 percent of the Portuguese in the world live in France, mostly around Paris - and after I saw the hosting Mannschaft get whacked last night by the Italians who were playing not much more energetically than when they soft-shoed the Americans into losing - I figure no matter who wins tonight, they are going to fix the Italians in Munich on Saturday, and Spike Lee will be there to see Thierry Henry hold the silver pot.

Caf? au Ch?teau, Paris 14th - the local Portuguese watch France defeat Portugal to advance to the World Cup championship gameOoops, that kind of gives it away. Tonight I went to see the Portuguese win at the Café au Château, a nearby mini-version of Porto right here in the 14th. All is very quiet on the streets here during a match and you could hear cats shedding as I neared the café, when about half a block short, a huge cheer or moan sounded. It sounded like a bomb in the stillness, coming as it did from the 700 nearest open windows.

It is not a big café and its TV is not large and it was holding at least 20 more than the legal limit as well as having a fair number sprawled around the terrace, some wearing team shirts. Due to the TV's location it could be seen from the terrace, the far end of the bar, or by short people. Since I wasn't even there I did not know that Zizou popped in a goal somehow - that was the moan I heard.

I never got close enough to the TV to get the score so I didn't know if I was consorting with winners or losers until this dude told me he studies bugs, insects. This was his way commenting on my photos - I was studying bugs? I told him, no. I didn't tell him I was doing it for Hollywood. These folks were going to be depressed enough.

The Portuguese will not be driving their cute honeys wrapped in green and red flags around the Champs-Elysées tonight. They will be home alone listening to old Fado records. Tomorrow they will wake up feeling slightly soggy and after a strong nip or two they will settle into rooting for Les Bleus, these old French dudes who have some new therapist who has put some young Turk spark into their legs.

Do I intend to be on the Champs-Elysées on Saturday night when France beats Italy? Does the Pope do mass? Isn't Spike Lee rooting for the French? Besides, TV-news says the Bleus have a new theme song, and they are going to sing it in public for the first time when they get their hands on that old silver pot again. Allez!

Photo and Text, Copyright © 2006 - Ric Erickson, MetropoleParis

Posted by Alan at 18:58 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 5 July 2006 18:58 PDT home

Tuesday, 4 July 2006
The Fourth of July
Topic: Announcements

The Fourth of July

Out for the day. Family picnic. A long drive south.

"In the United States there is more space where nobody is than where anybody is. That is what makes America what it is." - Gertrude Stein (1874-1946), The Geographical History of America (1936)

American flag as seen from the Page Museum Atrium at La Brea Tar Pits, Wilshire Boulevard, July 5, 2005

Posted by Alan at 07:56 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Monday, 3 July 2006
American Values
Topic: Chasing the Zeitgeist

American Values

When I left teaching in 1980 or so it was to get with the real world. Tried of being underpaid and hearing "those who can't do, teach," diving into the world of business seemed to offer a chance to "do" for a change - not to talk about things, but to participate in them, and make reasonable money. So it was hauling my sorry ass out of Rochester, New York, and moving to Los Angeles, where my sister and her family had ended up some years earlier, and hitting the bricks. In a few months I was doing, sort of, and living down in Manhattan Beach. So this is what the real world is like. That's what I told myself.

First at Northrop, then Hughes, it was working in "Training and Organizational Development" - but it was still teaching. These were, however, classes in supervision - how to manage difficult workers and play by the rules and motivate and reward, and reprimand, and all the rest - as if I knew. But they had scripts and all sort of audio-visuals that made it fairly straightforward, and if you can get seventh graders arguing about Macbeth and his motives, you can use some of the same techniques to get prima donna PhD engineers to be happy and productive workers, designing the next generation of electronics for the spy satellites. The new supervisors and managers needed all the help they could get, having been bumped up from being brilliant workers themselves to suddenly being bewildered bosses who didn't do the doing at all. They did the meetings, and the paperwork, the planning, and all the HR stuff - performance appraisals and the raises, coaching, hiring and firing. A good number of them were not entirely happy with that, but a promotion is a promotion. And that's how large organizations work - do something really well and you'll move up and not do it any more.

A few thrived. Many didn't. Those who thrived later became amazing executives, and those who didn't tried to remember what they had learned in "charm school" as they called it, and got stuck in that dreaded nowhere land of middle management, responsible for the work of those below them, and hammered by those above them for results, and not allowed to "do" anything. That's where I ended up, moving from the training thing to HR systems, coding clever little applications, then supervising those who did, then managing "systems shops" where I had not much idea what real work was being done two or three levels down, for which I was entirely responsible. Managing the business applications shop at a GM locomotive plant in Canada was a long way from those lazy afternoons in upstate New York, getting the kids to think about what Lady Macbeth was really up to, and writing something about it. How did that happen?

But those days are over. The systems world is an awful place, with all that "churn" and the outsourcing and the ever-changing technology, and no sense that anyone is ever safe. After stints at CSC and Perot Systems, where contracts come and go and the reorganizations move everyone around or out quite regularly, it seemed best to move on. The websites are fine. I'm retired.

In the middle of all the business stuff of course you had to read all the books on management theory - Tom Peters and that sort of thing. These books told how to get the most out of people, and be successful. "Management by walking around" made sense - be an open inquisitive presence, hourly if need be, and people will know you care about what's good on. It was all common sense, and rather obvious. These books made their authors rich, and they spoke at all those conventions you had to attend. I think this was supposed to be motivational. But nothing much can fix Salt Lake City or Las Vegas, stuck in a banquet room with five hundred of the clueless, sipping bad coffee and listing to the "insights" and worrying what's gone south back at the office.

And too there was the matter of values. Teaching English to kids from seventh to twelfth grade had that values stuff built in - help them develop the ability to understand what they read, to think critically as best they could, and help them learn to organize what they thought, and to write it down in a way others can understand. That was hard work, but it made sense. That's what they needed.

In the systems world it was a bit different. It was getting people to work well in threatening and chaotic circumstances, and like it, with the ultimate aim of keeping costs down, including the salaries you paid, so that the organization made scads of money and the shareholders were happy. It seemed a bit of a scam. Or maybe it was just detached from any sort of value, beyond the dollar.

This all came back when I came across an item in The New Statesman by Tom Hodgkinson, The Winner Takes It All. Tom Hodgkinson is editor of The Idler and author of "How to Be Idle" (Penguin) - and a bit of a wag, and blunt, as Brit writers can be when they deal with nonsense.

The item is a review of four of those management books -

Winning: the Ultimate Business How-To Book
Jack Welch with Suzy Welch, HarperCollins, ISBN 0007197675

You Can't Win a Fight With Your Boss and 55 Other Rules for Success
Tom Markert, HarperCollins, ISBN 0007227515

The Servant Leader: Unleashing The Power Of Your People - 50 Cautionary Tales for Managers
Peter Honey, How To Books, ISBN 0749445335

Bonjour Laziness: Why Hard Work Doesn't Pay
Corinne Maier, Orion, ISBN 1400096286

As you see, the first three are the management book, and that last one is the subversive one. That's why it was discussed in these pages off and on, most recently here, here, and by guest columnist Bob Patterson here. It "resonated," as they say. It's a values thing.

And Hodgkinson, in his review, dives right in the values issue, as a peculiarly American thing (British spelling, punctuation and usage maintained) -
In 1736, the American Puritan Benjamin Franklin published a pamphlet called "Necessary Hints to Those That Would Be Rich"; this was followed in 1748 by "Advice to a Young Tradesman". In these early management training guides, Franklin outlines the principles of a new kind of capitalism, then in its infancy: riches are to be pursued for their own sake; it must be remembered that "time is money".

Franklin goes on to recommend hard work and stresses the importance of appearing industrious: "The most trifling actions that affect a man's credit are to be regarded. The sound of your hammer at five in the morning, or eight at night, heard by a creditor, makes him easy six months longer; but if he sees you at a billiard table, or hears your voice at a tavern, when you should be at work, he sends for his money the next day . . . it makes you appear a careful as well as an honest tradesman."

As Max Weber pointed out in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Franklin promotes avarice, hypocrisy and the accumulation of wealth as if they were ethical principles. The emphasis is on how you are perceived. It doesn't matter if you go to the tavern - just don't let your boss see you there. Qualities such as honesty are promoted not because they are essential virtues, but because they might be useful business tools.
The scam has been going on a long time, but then, who's not to say avarice, hypocrisy and the accumulation of wealth are the real core of American ethics?

No, that couldn't be. Greed is good? Everything you do must be in the service of profit, growth and share price?

Let's see. Ten years in teaching, twenty-five in the business world. No, that seems about right.

And Hodgkinson is saying the first three of these books, on the secrets of "doing well" in business, promote what is "one of the central myths of capitalism - that, purely by virtue of hard work, anybody can get to the top."

Of course that's silly. If anyone could, they would, and everyone would be at the top, and then it wouldn't be the top, because everyone was there. It would be the dreaded middle. Maybe the books exist make you feel bad - you're not at the top, so you haven't been doing the right things, you inadequate slug. Maybe they aren't motivational at all, but written for depressives who want to think the worst of themselves.

And Hodgkinson, too, says the books recommend all sorts of immoral actions -
In the old days, greed and covetousness were seen as sinful; now they are encouraged. Jack Welch's Winning sets the tone. The author grins manically from the cover - despite the silver hair, manicured nails and perfect teeth, he looks like Beelzebub incarnate. Welch became CEO of General Electric after beginning his corporate life in plastics. He is well known in the business world as a "great CEO" - which, roughly translated, means that he has made loads of money. So now he feels qualified to advise young men and women how to "win". As Welch explains in his grammar-free prose: "And that is what this book is about - winning. Probably no other topic could have made me want to write again! Because I think winning is great. Not good - great."

But why is "winning" so great? Because, says Welch, it enables people to make lots of money which . . . erm . . . enables them to "get better healthcare, buy vacation homes, and secure a comfortable retirement". That's it. Those are the three goals of our mortal existence, otherwise known as more pills, more mortgages and more burglar alarms. Whatever happened to joy, pleasure, brotherhood? Whatever happened to enjoying life? Whatever happened to creativity? Whatever happened to love?
Well, those are for high school teachers to discuss when such things come up in whatever book they're teaching. And curiously, in my last position those who worked for me were aghast because one of the senior executives thought Welch had the right idea - each year fire the fifth of the workforce with lowest performance appraisals, as there's no point in helping them improve their work. That takes too much time and just slows everything down, and costs a ton of money. What's the point? What was I to say, that it would never happen in our office? It was going to happen. Life is hard, and I had to do the performance appraisals on a curve - there would be a lowest twenty percent. What to say? I'd write a nice reference letter. We'd have a going way luncheon at a nice place, if I could play tricks with the budget to find the funds.

But Welch is big on honesty -
"I have always been a huge proponent of candor," he says, before going on to explain why honesty is the best policy in business. Displaying his trademark Franklinesque hypocrisy, he advocates honesty in your dealings with others not because it is ethical, but because it can be useful for making money.
And there's this -
Some of the traits Welch looks for in potential staff are a little worrying: "They're sports trivia nuts or they're fanatical supporters of their alma maters or they're political junkies." Nuts, fanatical, junkies: in the everyday world, being insane, a fundamentalist or a drug addict might be considered bad; in business, it seems, the crazier you are the better. All of which summons up a picture of a madhouse office, with grinning employees giving each other high-fives, shouting "whoop!" and exploding with joy because they have just beaten someone else to a pulp. And Welch warns that you can't be too mad: "Hire and promote only true believers and get-on-with-it types . . . ferret out and get rid of resisters, even if their performance is satisfactory."
Well, he may not be charming, but he is successful, in his own thuggish way. And he has his values. They just aren't very pretty.

As for the Markert book, You Can't Win a Fight With Your Boss, that one is just about working hard - "You can forget lunch breaks. You can't make money for a company while you're eating lunch . . . if you don't put in the hours, someone just as smart and clever as you will. Fact of life: the strong survive." Don't follow that advice "and you might just end up as roadkill - lying dead by the side of the corporate highway as others drive right past you." Thomas Hobbes lives

Of course out here in Hollywood there's the classic line that if you can fake sincerity you've got it made. It's not just Hollywood -
Markert shares Welch's view that certain moral qualities can be useful in business - sincerity, for example, when sucking up to the boss ("The trick is to simply be sincere and charming"). He advises that "having friends at work is not a great idea", and he offers a staggering homily about plane travel. Markert claims that he always introduces himself to the person sitting next to him on the plane. Oh, that's sweet, you think. But then he explains this is "not to be nice"; it's because he wants to find out whether the other guy is a competitor before he gets out his laptop and displays confidential information. In such a world, even eating is seen as a business tool: "I'm a recent convert to eating well . . . food is fuel. Fuel is an element of performance. Bad fuel means low performance."
This is very utilitarian of course, or pragmatic. We American invented Pragmatism as a school of philosophy. Maybe we just don't do values.

The Neuschel book is more of this, and it all comes down to this -
The same tenets are repeated in these books: all variety in life is subservient to the goal of making money; individual character traits are fine so long as they don't hinder profits and share prices. "Eccentricities are welcome provided they do not have a detrimental effect on people's performance," warns Peter Honey in 50 Cautionary Tales for Managers. None of these authors ever mentions what the company he works for actually makes. Not once does Welch or Markert talk of quality of craftsmanship or the satisfaction of creativity; their sole interest is in growth, success and profits. Where the profits come from is immaterial. It could be cat food, computers or cars, any old stuff - as long as it makes money.
Hodgkinson say these books are just "sophisticated whips for slaves." He quotes Raoul Vaneigem - "Every call for productivity under the conditions chosen by capitalist economics is a call to slavery." That did occur to some of us in management, when told to get more out of people, but there was no money for raises, so we had to attended workshops on "no monitary reinforcement and motivation" - the brainstorming session were just depressing.

But that worked for some - heap on the praise, let them leave early and come in late now and then, as they're working at home too. We've all managed a few of these gung-ho happy workaholics. They can be scary. Just what are their values? What do the think, or feel, or dream? Vaneigem - "Nowadays ambition and the love of a job well done are the indelible mark of defeat and of the most mindless submission."

As for the hyper-successful authors of these books, Hodgkinson says this -
These architects of misery never exhibit the slightest concern for ecological issues: these are the sorts of guys who have been wrecking the planet, yet they present themselves as heroes. Nor, unsurprisingly, do they acknowledge the role of good fortune in business. They never say: I was just lucky in that, for 20 years, the markets went my way and I have no idea why.
They like that illusion of control, but how much of their brilliant success was just plain dumb luck, as Chaos Theory would and will demonstrate?

For a discussion of that see this, where Leonard Mlodinow, the author of those books on physics and mathematics - Feynman's Rainbow, Euclid's Window: The Story of Geometry from Parallel Lines to Hyperspace and, with Stephen Hawking, A Briefer History of Time - discusses the Hollywood executives out here who believe their success is based on great decisions they've made and their management skills, when really whether any one movie is a hit or a flop can be explained best by Chaos Theory and information cascades and all that. The mathematical concepts are complex, but explained clearly. The item is long, and amazing. Any movie can be a hit or a flop, and there's not much way to tell which it will be. That is demonstrated mathematically, with plenty of examples. You only have the illusion of control. It's a scam too.

Hodgkinson really likes Corinne Maier's Bonjour Laziness - she knows a scam when she sees one. That's why that one has been discussed in these pages.

And all I can feel is gratefulness. Hodgkinson read these nasty books. Facing that would be too depressing. Those days are over. No more of that.

But that's the business side of things. There are other American vales, as we are a religious nation - a pious nation. Outside the world of Islam and the nations which with we are now in conflict, you will find no more hyper-religious state. We'll match them scriptural revelation to scriptural revelation, the Bible faces the Koran in a showdown of righteousness. We're not all about making money. We're about doing God's work here on earth. And that's a different sort of management theory.

Amy Sullivan explains here, and it's a bit complicated -
For the past six years, the most prominent Christian in America has been the president. His belief is not of the "God said it. I believe it. That settles it," sort that fundamentalists embrace. Rather, Bush subscribes to a syllogistic doctrine of presidential infallibility: God works through Christians; I am a Christian; I have decided to do X; therefore, X is God's will.

Bush is known to start each day reading a devotional from My Utmost for His Highest, a collection of essays by 19th-century Scottish minister Oswald Chambers. As Bob Wright explained in the New York Times a few years ago, Chambers had a very simple - some might say comforting - view of divine will. "The basic idea" Wright wrote, "is that once you surrender to God, divine guidance is palpable." The only questioning involved is whether one carries out God's will, not whether one correctly interprets it.

Those who accuse Bush of being a theocrat have made much of his reported belief that God speaks through him. That's not entirely fair, because what Bush refers to is a fairly common hope among believers that God will use each of us to be instruments of justice and mercy and grace. "May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Your sight," from Psalm 19, is a prayer many Christians recite. It's just that most of us don't express this as a confident assertion that God does in fact speak through us. Instead, the prayer is a humble plea.
But the man isn't humble. And he's at the top of the heap, king of the mountain. So that's a management approach too.

What to make of all this, the Brit reviewing the management books and ragging on Ben Franklin? And this business about doing God's work when you manage things? What are our values?

Monday, July 3, 2006, there was this -
People in Britain view the United States as a vulgar, crime-ridden society obsessed with money and led by an incompetent president whose Iraq policy is failing, according to a newspaper poll.

The United States is no longer a symbol of hope to Britain and the British no longer have confidence in their transatlantic cousins to lead global affairs, according to the poll published in The Daily Telegraph.

The YouGov poll found that 77 percent of respondents disagreed with the statement that the US is "a beacon of hope for the world".

As Americans prepared to celebrate the 230th anniversary of their independence on Tuesday, the poll found that only 12 percent of Britons trust them to act wisely on the global stage. This is half the number who had faith in the Vietnam-scarred White House of 1975.

A massive 83 percent of those questioned said that the United States doesn't care what the rest of the world thinks.

... US President George W. Bush fared significantly worse, with just one percent rating him a "great leader" against 77 percent who deemed him a "pretty poor" or "terrible" leader.

More than two-thirds who offered an opinion said America is essentially an imperial power seeking world domination. And 81 per cent of those who took a view said President George W Bush hypocritically championed democracy as a cover for the pursuit of American self-interests.

... In answer to other questions, a majority of the Britons questions described Americans as uncaring, divided by class, awash in violent crime, vulgar, preoccupied with money, ignorant of the outside world, racially divided, uncultured and in the most overwhelming result (90 percent of respondents) dominated by big business.
Yeah, but they drink warm beer, and they have those football hooligans (and they perversely call soccer football when we know what that is), and the queen wears funny hats. We have all the money, and we have God on our side. What do they know?

The poll, the review of the management books, appear on the same day, just as the United States celebrates our two hundred thirtieth July Fourth. It's time to examine the values. Again.

Posted by Alan at 23:39 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 4 July 2006 00:04 PDT home

Sunday, 2 July 2006
Press Notes: A Tale for the Fourth of July
Topic: The Media

Press Notes: A Tale for the Fourth of July

It used to seem so simple.

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

Well, congress just can't do such things, but the pressure is there. Calls for the abridging the freedom of speech, and the press, were all the rage, Sunday, July 2, on the Sunday morning political shows, and in the press, and on the web, which some call the "blogosphere." Yeah, those pesky web logs.

The problem was the New York Times, again. Yep, those folks who long ago published the Pentagon Papers, and last year the story that revealed the domestic wiretapping of anyone or everyone without any warrants or judicial or congressional oversight and clearly against the law that explicitly said that was forbidden, and last month the story about the effort to secretly follow most all bank transactions in the world to see what's up. It was the Times at it again, printing what the government told them not to print.

How is the administration supposed to keep America safe from the terrorists everywhere if this newspaper keeps pointing out that the guys in charge are purposely breaking a quite unambiguous law or two, or more, flat-out lying to the public, and to congress, and just ignoring what they have sworn to defend, that constitution? It's just not fair, or something. Which do you want, safety - or the way things traditionally, and by law, and previously have been done? Make up your mind, folks.

The calls for charging the Times with treason are all over - from Congressman King of New York to most of the media on the right. Why even document it? Turn on the radio, or watch a little television. It's the topic of the week of the Fourth of July - freedom of the press, and its limits. We pride ourselves on having a free press but it must be compliant and complicit in the nasty things that must be done to keep us safe, or something like that - the free press is there to support the government and its policies, and its methods. What else is a free press for? This is an interesting discussion to have on the Fourth of July. It's getting back to the basics.

But it can get very odd. The Times is the lightening rod here, or the scapegoat. That's where to "pile on" if you're inclined to think there are many, many things you shouldn't know, and no one should know, and the press should only print the official version of things. So all eyes are on the Times and on this particular Sunday it was, of all things, something they printed in their travel section. Really.

The item at issue is this - a fluff piece on the small town of down in Maryland, Saint Michaels, where you will find vacation homes of all sorts of famous and really rich Americans, including Vice President Cheney and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. There's a picture of Rumsfeld's driveway.

What's the problem?

It's a plot - an intentional "exposure" of Cheney and Rumsfeld to terrorists, done with clever malevolence by the New York Times - they've just told the terrorists where these two live and are hoping the bad guys will come to Maryland and kill them. The Times wants them dead, and is helping along anyone who will do the deed. Yes, of course, the sale and ownership of all land and the buildings there is a public record. Anyone can look it up, and much is on the web, so you can look such things up from an internet café in Kabul or Tehran. But there terrorists only read the Times, of course.

But the outrage on the right is wide and deep, and reviewed by Glenn Greenwald here, with links to it all, and his discussion. You can follow it all there. It's all quite open - this is the smoking gun, proving the Times is plotting to overthrow the government, or at least have key officials assassinated. They did this travel piece on purpose. See? It's quite clear.

Everyone points to the problem. These homes and their location were well-known. Last year the Washington Post wrote about them here, and so did the hyper-right news service NewsMax here, quoting the Post item. But they're not the Times. And the too, back in 2003 the Times here printed a quite similar story about the Clinton's Chappaqua home north of Manhattan. This is travel writing, folks, about cool and exclusive places. Or it's treason.

Greenwald -
The Times clearly published this weekend's article [about Cheney's and Rumsfeld's vacation homes] disguised as a feature about vacation homes but with the intent to "retaliate" against and endanger Bush officials, even though: (a) the Times published a far more revealing article about the Clintons' private home in Chappaqua two years ago, completely with all sorts of identifying pictures, and (b) the secret, dangerous information which the Times revealed about Cheney and Rumsfeld's homes in order to encourage assassins was already disclosed in full months ago in an almost identical article published by that small, obscure newspaper called The Washington Post.

... America is currently at war and its enemies are domestic liberals and The New York Times. This war was started by Al Gore and Jimmy Carter when they opposed the invasion of Iraq. The New York Times is allied with Al Qaeda and their latest plot against America is to provide their terrorist friends with a roadmap to the vacation homes of Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld so that they can be assassinated. That is what is being reported today by three of the largest "conservative" blogs on the Internet, along with Horowitz, the leader of the conservative effort to wipe out anti-conservative bias on college campuses.
So, you see, it's coordinated treason. You do see that, don't you?

And if it is it's retaliation time against the reporters and editors who were involved in this particular travel story.

Greenwald quotes one idea -
So, in the school of what's good for the goose is good for the gander, we are providing this link so YOU may help the blogosphere in locating the homes (perhaps with photos?) of the editors and reporters of the New York Times.

Let's start with the following New York Times reporters and editors: Arthur "Pinch" Sulzberger Jr. , Bill Keller, Eric Lichtblau, and James Risen. Do you have an idea where they live?

Go hunt them down and do America a favor. Get their photo, street address, where their kids go to school, anything you can dig up, and send it to the link above. This is your chance to be famous - grab for the golden ring.
If Cheney dies, so does the travel writer. In the meantime, if you're a patriot, you can threaten and terrify the kids.

This is the side of things than posted the photos and home address of those who work at clinics that provide abortions. You remember the doctor who was shot dead in Buffalo, and the clinic bombed near Atlanta where that nurse lost much of her face. It's the same sort of thing. Now it's the Times, the newspaper on the side of the terrorists who hate America. Can't have that.

It should be an interesting Fourth of July. Will people cheer when those at the Times are gunned down to defeat terrorism? Maybe it's all bluster and they'll just harass the kids. Well, at least their children will have a chance to try real education - home schooling. It won't be safe to leave home. They're "fair game."

Is this a great country, or what?

And the press thing gets even odder, as it splits the Wall Street Journal, with its angry pro-Bush editorial board and its staff of first-rate objective reporters. On NBC's Meet the Press, Sunday, July 2, Andrea Mitchell interviews on of those reporters, John Harwood, and he unloads on whether the Times was just being treasonous when it ran the bank records story -
MS. MITCHELL: Let me, let me show you a Wall Street Journal editorial - a very unusual editorial - that was in the paper on Friday. It said that "The problem with The New York Times is that millions of Americans no longer believe that its editors would make those calculations in anything close to good faith. We certainly don't. On issue after issue, it has become clear that The Times believes the U.S. is not really at war, and in any case the Bush administration lacks the legitimacy to wage it." John, I don't want to really put you on the spot here, but I am. Your paper's news columns also ran this story, and here you have this editorial. It really is a really sharp conflict.

MR. HARWOOD: Couple of points on that. First of all, that editorial wasn't kidding when they said there's a separation between the news and the editorial pages at The Wall Street Journal.

MS. MITCHELL: That's for sure.

MR. HARWOOD: Secondly, there is a very large gap between the ideological outlook and philosophy of The New York Times editorial page and The Wall Street Journal editorial page. There is not a large ideological gap between the news staffs of those two places, and why would there be? Some of the top people of The New York Times were hired from The Wall Street Journal. What I found shocking about the editorial was the assertion that The New York Times did not act in good faith in making that judgment. I don't know anybody on the news staff of The Wall Street Journal that believes that. I certainly don't.
Yep, as Hemingway said - "Every good writer needs a foolproof, shockproof crap detector." Hemingway was a reporter for the Toronto Star in the late thirties, interviewed Mussolini, and new bully crap when he saw it (Mussolini was reading a book when Hemingway arrive, but was holding it upside-down). And this one reporter knows the same thing.

Then there was William Bennett and William Safire of Times mixing up on the same show -
MR. SAFIRE: Let me respond to what Bill [Bennett], to the point he's making, that who elected the media to determine what should be secret and what should not?

MS. MITCHELL: Which is the fundamental point.

MR. SAFIRE: Right. And the answer to that is, the founding fathers did. They came up with this Bill of Rights beyond which the constitutional convention would not move unless there were a First Amendment to challenge the government ... just as the American founding fathers challenged the British government. Now it's not treasonable, it's not even wrong for the press to say we're going to find out what we can and we'll act as a check and balance on the government. Sometimes we'll make mistakes. Sometimes the government will mistake.
Ah, a traditionalist.

And there was his boss, New York Times editor Bill Keller on Face the Nation with this -
Published reports that the U.S. was monitoring international banking transactions were not news to the terrorists who were its target because the Bush administration had already "talked openly" about the effort, The New York Times' top editor said Sunday.

... Keller, on CBS, said it is the government that "likes to have it both ways. ... They confide in us when they want to advertise the programs that are successful. And then they rebuke us if we write about something they would prefer we didn't write about."

"... I don't think this is all politics. I think the administration is a little embarrassed. This is the most secretive White House we've had since the Nixon White House."
And as noted here by Kos, the most widely read on the left - "Let's hope Keller is pissed off enough - and has been re-reminded of the importance of the First Amendment we've all been begging the paper to defend - to continue to show the Bush administration the folly, as the old saying has it, of picking a fight with anyone who buys ink by the barrel."

But the fight is on. It'll be a fine Fourth. Let's hash this out.

Posted by Alan at 23:11 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Sunday, 2 July 2006 23:28 PDT home

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