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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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Monday, 31 July 2006
There May Be No One at the Wheel
Topic: Couldn't be so...
There May Be No One at the Wheel
The state of things late Monday, July 31, indicated to some that there may be no one at the wheel. Of course, maybe there never was anyone at the wheel, and no one at all has much influence on what happens in the world.

In the Cold War half the world seemed to turn to Moscow for leadership, and the other half to Washington. Now, although we say, as the only remaining superpower in the world, that we are remaking the world the way God intended it to be - free and democratic and free-market capitalist - the project seems more than stalled. It seems to be falling apart, and no one much is turning to us for leadership. They know they won't get it. They'll get "let things play out" and "through war and death and chaos things will be remade into something better," as stability and calm have, really, been the problem. You could look it up.

Of course those we have named as the bad guys - the terrorists of all sorts all over the world, except for that odd fellow with the bad hair in North Korea who isn't a terrorist at all but shouldn't have the bomb - have the exact same project, remaking the world the way they say God intended it to be, and that is devout and severely narrowed to a whole different set of rules. The guy with the bad hair in North Korea doesn't talk of what God wants - he's a godless communist. He's just dangerous. But it's all evil, and we are here to rid the world of that. There shouldn't be evil in the world, anywhere. We'll put and end to it.

As these words read, this should be a Monty Python skit - that crew was, in their day, forever sending up the logic people used in this world by taking it to its "logical" conclusion. Who can forget Every Sperm is Sacred from The Meaning of Life? You just go with the argument, running it out, and it turns silly. But this isn't a Monty Python skit. It just seems like one. There's a lot in the press about whether our tactics and strategies were right or wrong - from asking whether we sent enough troops to do the job, to what we have had them do, to, way back when, whether the Iraq War was necessary or there were other alternatives. The commentary on what we should have done, are doing and should do to achieve our aim is endless. But maybe it was the basic concept. All the rest is just detail.

The news of the preceding weekend had been of the death of all those women and children in the small village of Qana in south Lebanon. The world was outraged that an American-made precision bomb dropped by the Israeli Air Force killed thirty-seven small children, the rest of the fifty-four dead being women and the elderly. There were riots in Beirut and Gaza, the Lebanese government told our Secretary of State to just go home as there was nothing to talk about, and every nation called for a cease-fire. The government of Israel said it was regrettable, and the Untied States alone said there should be no cease-fire. Condoleezza Rice had been saying that in the Israeli-Hezbollah war we were seeing the "birth pangs" of a new Middle East - and sure it would be painful, but it was worth it - and the president used his Saturday morning radio address to say what was happening was really a great opportunity, if you looked at it the right way. But neither of them had been in the line of fire.

Sunday we announced that Israel had agreed to forty-eight hour halt to all the bombing. They didn't announce it - we did, for them. We cannot appear too heartless. That lasted six hours or so. It was just one of those things you throw out there and hope people remember later, no matter what really happens next. Call it positioning.

What happened next was this -
Israel's prime minister declared Monday that there would be no cease-fire with Hezbollah guerrillas, apologizing for the deaths of Lebanese civilians but saying "we will not give up on our goal to live a life free of terror." His Security Cabinet approved widening the ground offensive.
They had just called up thirty thousand reservists. They called up another fifteen thousand. So the president of Syria told his army to raise readiness, as something seemed to be up. Well, the Jerusalem Post had reported that the White House had been pressing Israel attack Syria. Forget birth pangs. We're talking induced labor. And in Iraq the vice president of our new government there, Shiite by default, was saying Israel was carrying out massacres, and former moderate clerics were on our case. But Israel bombed on, and we stood with them, alone.

And there was the inevitable - the Israel Defense Forces indicated that it might not have been responsible for the deaths at all (here) - the building they bombed didn't fall in until seven hours later and they have no explanation for that, but think something is up. And your can see here that the Israeli Insider is claiming the whole thing was staged - these people killed their own folks to make Israel, and by extension the Americans, the bad guys. You can find a lot of that on the web, and on Fox News Oliver North floated the idea - it may have been a set-up to make "us" look bad. Cognitive dissonance is a wonderful thing.

But things - as we talk about childbirth and opportunity and say dead children are just something you have to accept - are looking bad, as Daniel Froomkin notes here -
In the best of circumstances, Bush would be running the risk of being considered callous. But in the current circumstances, he runs the risk of being considered both callous and delusional.

… You don't get much more Washington Establishment than Richard N. Haass, who was Bush's first-term State Department policy planning director and now leads the Council on Foreign Relations. And he apparently finds Bush's position laughable. Literally.

Peter Baker writes in the Washington Post that Haass "laughed at the president's public optimism. 'An opportunity?' Haass said with an incredulous tone. 'Lord, spare me. I don't laugh a lot. That's the funniest thing I've heard in a long time. If this is an opportunity, what's Iraq? A once-in-a-lifetime chance?'"
People are catching on. Well, actually, the rest of the world had caught on a long time ago, years ago. They've been trying to tell us, but they're foreigners so they don't count, of course. But then polling shows the American public is slowly catching on, late to the game but sensing there's something delusional going on at the top. Some things you have to figure out yourself. The third of the country that says the president is doing just fine and his ideas are sound may find themselves getting more and more defensive - when people laugh at you when everyone is sitting around shooting the breeze you may get upset, not that you'd change your mind. (For a curious discussion of "the apparently literal impossibility of explaining the fundamentally counterproductive nature of the United State's invasion of Iraq, or of what's currently going on in Lebanon, to those who disagree" see William Gibson here - it all goes back to Thomas Kuhn's "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" and the blindness that "changing paradigms" induces, really - and it is quite convincing.)

And even the most carefully calculating group of people, who know their very careers and just about everything they are depends on not offending anyone about anything on any topic, the Democratic congressional leadership, sent the president a letter on that Monday, about the Iraq part of the delusion. And it included this -
The open-ended commitment in Iraq that you have embraced cannot and should not be sustained. Rather, we continue to believe that it is time for Iraqis to step forward and take the lead for securing and governing their own country... We believe that a phased redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq should begin before the end of 2006. U.S. forces in Iraq should transition to a more limited mission focused on counterterrorism, training and logistical support of Iraqi security forces, and force protection of U.S. personnel... Mr. President, simply staying the course in Iraq is not working. We need to take a new direction.
They even stopped squabbling among themselves. Everyone signed on - Murtha, Biden, and the whole gang. This is very odd. But then, when the whole world was there years ago, and two-thirds of the nation is slapping their foreheads and feeling had, maybe it's safe to send a letter now.

On another issue, the same day out here down in Long Beach, Tony Blair was meeting with Arnold Schwarzenegger, our odd governor, and the two of them announced an agreement to bypass the Bush administration and work together to explore ways to fight global warming (details here). Just bypass the White House - everyone knows they're a rather useless bunch. Heck, the administration still claims there is a lively debate on whether global warming is caused by man or just stuff that happens now and then, although they find it hard to come up with folks on the latter side of the argument, save for one guy at Yale and the fellow who wrote Jurassic Park. Why even bother trying to get them to do anything? So California and the UK will work something out together. George cannot be happy with Tony. And states really shouldn't be entering into what looks like treaty agreements with foreign countries - that's against the rules. But you've got to do what you've got to do. We're funding embryonic stem cell research out here too. Why even bother to argue with the administration?

And why even deal with people, who, as Scott Rosenberg notes here, here are pretty much saying we have to destroy Lebanon in order to save it. Been there. Done that. Got the t-shirt. But as Rosenberg says -
Chalk up another Vietnam parallel: Just as, in that conflict, military officers explained that in order to save a village we had to destroy it, so, today, President Bush explains that the destruction of Lebanon - one of the Middle East's very few functioning democracies -- is all in the service of spreading democracy.

Addressing the Coast Guard in Miami, Bush declared, "When democracy spreads in the Middle East, the people of that troubled region will have a better future, the terrorists will lose their safe havens and their recruits, and the United States of America will be more secure."

Never mind that Hezbollah, the Shiite group that provoked Israel's attack and continues to fire missiles across the border, was actually a part of the coalition that ruled democratic Lebanon. I suppose that if, say, elections in Saudi Arabia replaced its authoritarian monarchy with an Islamist democracy, we would hear something similar from our government: Democracy, yes - but it has to be a democracy that elects just the right people! In taking on the grand mission of bringing democracy to the Middle East, it seems, the U.S. is also committing itself to intervention (or support of others' intervention) any time that democracy produces governments we don't like.

Oh, Bush also took the opportunity to explain how the war between Israel and Hezbollah is actually all a part of the Manichean struggle that commenced on 9/11: "'For decades, the status quo in the Middle East permitted tyranny and terror to thrive,' the president said. 'And as we saw on Sept. 11, the status quo in the Middle East led to death and destruction in the United States, and it had to change.'"
Yep, it's the same thing. And Republican Senator Hegel, was blunt on the floor of the senate - this is "an absolute replay of Vietnam." He says we need to call for an immediate cease-fire - no more civilians in Lebanon get killed and no more rockets drop into northern Israel. Then everyone can talk. Of course he's ex-military. He fought in Vietnam. The administration scoffs at such folk - think Max Cleland, and of course that coward who knows nothing of these matters, John Kerry with all his medals. Amateurs. Monty Python couldn't top all that.

Rosenberg also offers this -
First we have the Bush administration's basic position, which, it's fair to say, has all along been: It's time to clean house in Lebanon. Let Israel do whatever it wants. Cease-fires are for wimps (unless they're real, manly cease-fires that are agreed to only after you have pulverized your enemy and achieved your goals). Then we have a succession of escalating awful events on the ground culminating in the Qana carnage - events that not only feature civilian bloodshed but that also immediately and directly harm the administration's "war on terror" by discrediting the U.S. among the Muslim populations whose hearts and minds we are supposed to be winning over. Finally, we have the U.S. engineering a slight slowdown in the Israeli onslaught - trumpeted on front pages as a "concession." This "concession" is so limited it has to be announced by American spokespeople rather than Israel itself, and before long it turns out to be so limited as to be nearly meaningless.
And he wonders what the administration is up to, offering these four possibilities -
1) They really mean it when they say that they only want a cease-fire if it can be a lasting cease-fire. Probably they do "mean it" in the sense that this accurately represents the wishful thinking of the president and vice president. As that wishful thinking collides with reality, however, the stance becomes increasingly irrelevant.

2) They think victory for Israel is just over the next ridge - the way it is for the U.S. in Iraq. Therefore holding Israel back from delivering a coup de grâce against the Hezbollah terrorists would hurt the "global war on terror" - civilian casualties are regrettable but it's more important to let Israel get the job done. The assumption here is that, given enough time, the Israeli military machine will get the job done. Unfortunately for Bush (and the Israelis), at the moment the Lebanon campaign looks no more effective at establishing the invader's invincibility than the Iraq invasion was at demonstrating American power.

3) It's a throw-the-gameboard over move. Things in the Middle East are so bad for the U.S. right now that Bush's team wants to go for broke. We have hints that Washington is egging Israel on to take on Syria. With Iraq spiraling the drain and Iran ascendant, Bush sees Israel's Lebanon campaign as the only way to create a new "opportunity" (to use Rice's term) in the Middle East. This scenario would be easier to credit if the neocon gang (Wolfowitz, Feith, et al.) that took us into Iraq were still manning the fort. Today we can only hope and pray that the reality quotient in policymaking circles is a little higher.

4) There is no one at the wheel. "Let it play out" might be a calculated stance, but it could also be the pure deer-in-the-headlights paralysis of a White House that is so far out of its depth it cannot muster any sort of coherent response to a crisis. In other words, there might not be method to this madness; in the immortal words of Martin Sheen's Willard in "Apocalypse Now," "I don't see any method at all."
He has the sinking feeling it's number four. And maybe it is.

There may be no one at the wheel. Is there a better explanation?

Well, maybe there is. It's the "human nature" explanation. Everyone tells you what you believe is wrong, and it's unanimous, and basic logic tells you you're wrong, and everyone is pointing to the logic. So you get defensive. You insist you're right, and everyone else just doesn't get it, all of them, every one of them. And you offer an alternative logic. When they laugh you act all noble - you play the misunderstood visionary. No one understands you, and it's so sad. Watch Humphrey Bogart in The Cain Mutiny - he got that thing down cold, maybe his best performance. Of course he was playing a madman, but he nailed the character. It's just in this case we don't get the ball bearings and this isn't about strawberry ice cream. And there will never be a court martial of anyone.

He doesn't like taking crap from anyone. Think of this from Ron Suskind's new book, The One Percent Doctrine -
He's a graduate student at one of America's most prestigious business schools.

He is the leader of his class basketball team.

Without provocation, he hits the leader of the opposing team in the jaw to stop him from making a shot. A few minutes later, he blocks another shot by the same man by smashing his legs on a jump shot.

Years later after both had become successful businessmen, the fellow who'd been struck twice was still wondering what the hell all that had been about. One day he happened to run into the man's brother, now the governor of a state. Could he explain it?

Well, yes. You see, in Texas there are people who get satisfaction from being hard. This was an example of Texas hardness.
That too might explain things. The whole crew is like that - the "shock and awe" crowd. We get two an half more years of this.


Thinking Differently

Here's a little thought experiment from the novelist Jane Smiley. She won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1992 for A Thousand Acres and her Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel (Knopf) is pretty good literary criticism. She writes articles for all the major magazines and she's a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She has a way with words, and ideas, and on current matters she offers this -
One of the things that is astonishing about conservatives is that they seem not to understand the simplest facts of logistics, such as how expensive and fragile extended supply lines are. I imagine it this way: France sends 150,000 troops to subdue California. California has 36 million people, most of them armed with something - if not guns, then kitchen knives. France divides up its forces between LA, San Francisco, Sacramento, San Jose, and Bakersfield, leaving, say a thousand troops to pacify the Monterey Peninsula, from south of Big Sur to north of Santa Cruz and east to the 101, about 4800 square miles of mountainous and inhospitable terrain. How exactly are they going to do it if we Californians refuse to cooperate? They will certainly make examples of some of us, destroy lots of our houses, wreck as much of our infrastructure as possible, and imprison some of us who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. But it's a long way from France to Monterey, it's hard to ship lots of supplies all that way, and so unless the French Army takes what we have, thereby alienating us, they are going to be hard put to subdue us, and the longer it takes them, the less likely it is that they will accomplish what they set out to do. Anyway, as soon as the French army leaves my neighborhood, I'm going to do what I want. Just about the only way that the French army is going to succeed here in Monterey is genocide - same in LA, same in San Fran, same in Sacramento.

The French Army is in big trouble because they have mistaken their fantasies for reality, but as they begin to win over the Hispanic population of California, they find themselves looking the other way when some ethnic cleansing takes place. The French Minister of Defense goes on the record saying that "Democracy is messy" a few days after some of my neighbors are ethnically cleansed by their gardeners. All around the world, after this incident, there is muttering about how maybe my neighbors deserved what happened to them (although isn't it too bad about the children?), but I can't help think that before the French army came along we seemed to be getting along well enough here in California. It's just that now, with the infrastructure largely destroyed by the French bombing and survival more difficult, it is inevitable that everything will be messy. Unfortunately, Jacques Chirac, when he planned this war on California, didn't bother to factor in the inevitable social breakdown that has been a documented part of every war since time began. I mean, unfortunately for us. Chirac doesn't care how California has been destroyed because he's distracted by his poll numbers, which are low, and in order to revive them, he is talking about attacking Mexico. This time, though, since the French Army is pinned down in California, he is just going to bomb the Mexican populace into submission. It's going to be a genocide. That seems to be his only strategic alternative, and the defense of France requires it.

Modern air war is always genocide. It has to be, because that's what bombs are for - they are for burning and blasting out civilians. That is the use they were put to the Second World War, and that is the use they have been put to since, and no one has ever proven that genocide-through-bombing was effective in persuading civilian populations to switch loyalties from one side to another. In fact, Jorg Friedrich, historian of the Allied bombing of Germany maintains that thousands and thousands of bombs toward the end of the war only stiffened German civilian resistance. Conservatives live by the principle that force always works in the end - and it does, if genocide is the goal (I mean real genocide, where a majority of a given population are killed), but what have you got when the killing is over? A devastated landscape, the reputation for war crimes, and a big humanitarian mess. The psychology on the face of it is just wrong. They're trying to kill me so I will start honoring and obeying them? Only a conservative would expect something like that, and only from the other side. He himself would never expect to be bombed into submission. So let's quit playing word games.

But let's give the conservatives the benefit of the doubt and say that they know enough to know, even though they don't say so, that bombing and genocide are not actually any more persuasive to an indigenous population somewhere else in the world than they would be to folks at home. But if that is true, why are they so enamored of bombing, attacking, sending in the troops?
Good question, that. But there's more -
Why did they come here, so far from France, in the first place? Oh, right. It was "French interests abroad" that they were trying to defend. You know, I was suspicious when they bought up the water rights in my neighborhood. I thought at the time "Why would the Loire Valley Water Authority buy the rights to the Carmel River?" And then when they put in the sausage facility and started sending groups of hunters out to harvest the wild pigs that infest our area, I was actually happy. But now I understand that for them the cost of doing business in California was just too high. We wanted them to pay pretty steep taxes and we began charging much stiffer permit fees for hunting licenses when we heard that those sausages were selling for about the same price as Kobe beef, while we were getting nothing at our end, the "buy low" end. The water owners and the sausage-makers back in France got incensed at how uppity we Californians were. They decided it was easier and far more cost effective (for them), to send in the French army to permanently secure the supply of water and sausage than it was to actually make a deal with us. But now the river is polluted and the sausage facility has been blown up by insurgents from Santa Cruz, so the French capitalists are thinking of investing in China (and I say French, but really, the money behind them is not only French - it's Saudi, American, British, Chinese, Brazilian. Capitalists are always proud of globalization. Money, as they say, doesn't care who owns it). What Capitalism requires, as I understand it, is the ruthless externalization of costs so that shareholders will keep investing. The job of the executives is always to reduce costs and maximize profits, so getting others to pay and keeping the profits for oneself is always the point and the goal. I am going to repeat that again, because so many average persons think that the corporation is their friend and capitalism is the lifeblood of democracy. The goal of capitalists is to make me, the average citizen, pay as much of the cost of doing business as possible, and to keep for themselves as many of the profits as possible.
And on it goes. It's just a different way of looking at things. Enjoy it while you are still allowed to look at things differently.

Posted by Alan at 23:26 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 1 August 2006 07:13 PDT home

Sunday, 30 July 2006
Hot Off the Virtual Press
Topic: Announcements
Hot Off the Virtual Press

The new issue of Just Above Sunset, the weekly magazine-format site that is parent to this daily web log, is now online. This is Volume 4, Number 31, for the week of July 30, 2006.Click here to go there...

This week, in four separate commentaries, notes on the national dialog about the implications of the third war that is underway in the Middle East, trying to make sense of it all - not just what is happening, but what people are saying about why it is happening and where this is all leading, and discussion, in a not too policy wonk way, about how we as a nation are now defining ourselves. And there is a discussion of the national mood of isolationism - or maybe it's complete pessimism, the idea that no one can fix anything. But on a cheerier note, there's that new survey on who are the happiest people on earth (they're not at Disneyland).

At the International Desk, Our Man in Tel-Aviv, Sylvain Ubersfeld, explains that although you may not think things are kosher right now in Israel, they really are, and he supplements that with four photographs. Our Man in Paris, Ric Erickson, finds an oasis in the midst of some strange doings. Like most Parisians - he is one now - he is about to leave for the month of August. And it seems his leaving is coming none too soon, as it is becoming very odd there.

The Hollywood page this week brings you the odd characters hanging around as the crew prepare the red carpet and floodlight for the premier of a major motion picture. That still happens out here. There's guest photography this week, from Phillip Raines, who work has appeared often in these pages. This time, Georgia porches.

The Southern California photography covers some surreal local architectural details, and there are some snazzy color studies, and better than ever botanicals, and some classic California palm tree shots, then a return visit to the lotus pool in Beverly Hills.

Our friend from Texas brings us another week of the weird, bizarre and unusual, and this week's quotes are some odd ones about war and peace, of course.

Direct links to specific pages -

Extended Observations on Current Events ______________________________

The Big Idea: We Want Change, Not Peace, and No One Is Helping
Root Causes
Isolated: When you're the strongest, the richest, and basically just the biggest, does it matter if no one at all agrees with you?
Getting Surreal
Drawing Inward: Some Notes on Isolationism
Odd Data: If You're Looking for Happiness, Move To Denmark

The International Desk ______________________________

Our Man in Tel-Aviv: KAF, SHIN and RESH, ARE YOU KOSHER?
Our Man in Paris: Oasis - the Last Sortie

Hollywood Matters ______________________________

Characters: Hollywood This Week

Guest Photography: Georgia Porches

Southern California Photography ______________________________

Architectural Details
Colors: On the Boulevard and at the Beach
Botanicals: Morning Mist
Palms: So California
Lotus Land

Quotes for the week of July 30, 2006 - War and Peace

Posted by Alan at 20:19 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Saturday, 29 July 2006
Drawing Inward: Some Notes in Isolationism
Topic: In these times...
Drawing Inward: Some Notes on Isolationism
With the new war in southern Lebanon - we're only three weeks or so into this one - and the rockets raining down on northern Israel and the bombs falling from Beirut to the Syrian border, some items in the news got short shrift. One would be the latest New York Times/CBS News poll. Yeah, yeah - bad news for the Republicans as people are unhappy with how things are going in the world. The party in power in the most powerful and influential nation in the world seem to have a mess on their hands. They cannot blame the Democrats for screwing things up, and everyone knows that. The Democrats aren't running anything they may never run anything ever again - and there's only some much lipstick you can put on this particular pig, as they say.

So this was not news, until you look at the poll more closely. That's what Jim Rutenberg and Megan C. Thee did in the New York Times on Thursday, July 27, here, saying that once you get past thinking about what the results mean in terms of the upcoming midterm elections, there's something else going on. Americans are showing a new but quite definite isolationist streak. It seems we, collectively, don't want to be the most powerful and influential nation in the world, spreading freedom and democracy willy-nilly where we're not wanted. It just causes more problems. The administration and the neoconservative idealists who direct it, with their massive project to remake the world - the famous Project for the New American Century - have hit a wall. The question seems to have come down to asking why we are doing all this, and what good had come of it, or is likely to come of it. Pinky and the Brain was a funny cartoon series, but this is real life.

Quick aside - Pinky and the Brain centered on a genetically engineered mouse (who sounded a whole lot like Orson Welles) and his quite amusingly insane mouse cohort making nightly attempts to take over the world. This was a co-production of Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment and Warner Brothers that ran from 1995 to 1998. There were sixty-five episodes, and it wasn't really for kids - the dialog was far too witty and subtle, and there were all those references to classic films like "The Third Man" and "Bride of Frankenstein" and such. It was about power and insanity. Pinky: "Gee, Brain. What are we going to do tonight?" The Brain: "The same thing we do every night, Pinky. Try to take over the world." They couldn't run it these days. The Brain, as drawn, looks too much like Dick Cheney and Pinky shares traits with George Bush. Bill O'Reilly would be incensed.

In any event, the Times item on the poll opens with this -
Americans are overwhelmingly pessimistic about the state of affairs in the Middle East, with majorities doubtful there will ever be peace between Israel and its neighbors, or that American troops will be able to leave Iraq anytime soon, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

A majority said the war between Israel and Hezbollah will lead to a wider war. And while almost half of those polled approved of President Bush's handling of the crisis, a majority said they preferred the United States leave it to others to resolve.

Over all, the poll found a strong isolationist streak in a nation clearly rattled by more than four years of war, underscoring the challenge for Mr. Bush as he tries to maintain public support for his effort to stabilize Iraq and spread democracy through the Middle East.
Election implications aside, the data are startling. Fifty-six percent of us support a timetable for a reduction our forces in Iraq, and more than half of that group says they support a withdrawal even if it meant Iraq "would fall into the hands of insurgents." Screw it. It's going to happen anyway. This turns on its head the notion that Democrats should stay away from those ideas completely, lest the Republicans point out they're cowards and out of touch with the mainstream. The mainstream has moved on. This isn't a cartoon. Folks aren't amused.

In fact, by a pretty wide margin, the poll found that Americans did not believe the United States should take the lead in solving international conflicts in general - as in fifty-nine percent saying that was something we shouldn't be doing, and only thirty-one percent siding with the administration. That's less than a third. Back in September 2002 it was fifty-fifty. Enough is enough. And in more broad terms, only thirty-five percent of respondents said they approved of the president's handling of foreign policy "in general." On the other hand that was a bounce, up eight points since May. But a clear "expressed doubt about whether the president had the respect of foreign leaders." No kidding. The thrill is gone.

The poll was based on telephone interviews conducted July 21 through July 25, and world events have spiraled down each day since then. This won't get better. More than twice as many people in this poll believe the country is heading in the wrong direction than believe it is heading in the right direction. That may be hard to turn around.

And there's this -
Support for the president's staunch backing of Israel goes only so far: 39 percent indicated they approved of it, but 40 percent said the United States should avoid saying anything at all about the conflict (Only 7 percent said the United States should criticize Israel, though many respondents cast blame for the conflict on both sides).
We don't need to get involved? Maybe it's more like we shouldn't take side do dramatically. There's a bit of that - asking why we're opposing most everyone in the world, saying there should be no immediate cease-fire, and encouraging Israel to continue to disassemble Lebanon and traumatize its people -
In a common refrain among respondents regarding the Israel-Hezbollah war, Sharon Schierloh, 62, a retired factory worker from Ottawa, Ohio, said: "Let the Israelis take care of the problems in their area. We need to stay out of that because our troops are spread too thin." She spoke in a follow-up interview after participating in the poll.
Basically there was agreement, 63 to 30, the Iraq war "had not been worth the American lives and dollars lost." Only a quarter of respondents said they thought "the American presence in Iraq had been a stabilizing force in the region" - over forty percent said the whole thing "had made the Middle East less stable." It was fifty-fifty on whether the invasion was the right thing to do in the first place. People are discouraged.

Actually, diving beneath the political business - the implications for the upcoming midterm elections - the Times writers seem awfully worried about this new isolationist mood - we don't want to be engaged in the world, or want to be less engaged. But there is something more basic going on here, and a bit more worrying. It's that pessimism. The idea that the Democrats could fix any of this is shown here as a halfhearted wish that no one believes is more than a delusion. Congress generally polls much lower than the president stuck under forty percent approval. There is not one opposition leader with any plan and lots of uplifting hope to hand out all around. There are no heroes on the horizon, no sense that anyone can fix all this.

The isolationism is not the problem. It's only a symptom of a larger problem, a kind of existential despair. Think Camus and Sisyphus and that rock. What's the point?

That's not to say Omaha will turn into the Left Bank in Paris in the fifties, with beefy ex-salesmen sitting around drinking bad coffee, smoking endless cigarettes in shady sidewalk cafés, dissecting angst and the absence of meaning in life. It just means the defining conservative position that Ronald Reagan summed up in one key concept - "Government doesn't solve problems. Government is the problem" - has finally taken hold. Everything the government does in the world is crap, and just makes things worse, and next hurricane or major earthquake, you're own your own, as the government cannot be trusted to help anyone much. You're on your own. Why even vote? What's the point? Many see we now live in this new "you're on your own" world. They call it the new YOYO world. Acronyms are fun.


Other Voices:

Bill Montgomery here -
Most Americans like and support Israel, and dislike or hate Arabs and Muslims, but they don't want to actually go to war for the Jewish state. They also don't like it when their president openly abandons the traditional U.S. role of cease fire maker (I know, it's mostly for show, but in this case appearances matter) and actually urges the Israelis to go on bombing the shit out of Beirut.

This wouldn't be a problem if Israel were winning, but it's not. So now it needs even MORE support from Uncle Sam, at a time when the political and diplomatic costs of the war are getting astronomical.

… At the end of the day, there is a fundamental difference of interests between the Israelis and the Americans, as much as the neocons would like to deny it. The war with Iran and its allies and proxies is an existential issue for Israel - or at least, so the neocons seem to see it. It is NOT an existential issue for the USA - or at least, so American public opinion seems to see it. And more and more garden-variety conservatives are beginning to see it that way too.

September 11 and the war hysteria over Iraq's mythical WMD allowed the neocons to elide that difference for a time. But only for a time. Now it's reappearing, despite the increasingly frantic propaganda spinning.

… But the fundamental difference of interest (existential versus optional) remains, and the isolationist tide continues to build. This wouldn't be a problem if the allies were winning, but the losses are mounting up. As in any marriage, adversity doesn't decrease the chances of divorce, it increases them.

So if the gang really wants World War III/IV, and expects the USA to be there in the trenches next to Israel, they'd better get a move on.
It may be too late for that.

Will this help? - Presidential adviser Karl Rove said Saturday that journalists often criticize political professionals because they want to draw attention away from the "corrosive role" their own coverage plays in politics and government.

Oh. People don't think government can do anything right because journalists report on what's happening. Hey, maybe so.

Posted by Alan at 19:21 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Sunday, 30 July 2006 10:19 PDT home

Friday, 28 July 2006
Getting Surreal
Topic: Couldn't be so...
Getting Surreal
Friday, July 28, was the birthday of Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968), who helped introduce cubism and dada to the United States and was prominent in the surrealist movement of the twenties and thirties. It was his kind of day, a tad surreal.

Out here the day opened with news of the arrest of Mel Gibson, the fellow who gave us The Passion of the Christ and along with those Lethal Weapon movies, and Braveheart. At two in the morning, down in Malibu on Pacific Coast Highway, he was driving way too fast and seemed to be drunk at the wheel. He was arrested and then released on five thousand dollars bail. The story is here, if that sort of thing interests you. He has his demons - he imagines violence, pain and redemption all the time. That can drive you to drink. They booked him at the Lost Hills station, appropriately. Later in the day, as day seventeen of the war in southern Lebanon raged, as more died in Baghdad as Iraq disintegrates, as the Pentagon announced we're sending five thousand more troops into the city and one-year tours of duty for soldiers about to leave had been extended for four months and all outgoing flights cancelled, and on the day Prime Minister Blair was in town to meet with President Bush and jointly announce there would be no immediate cease-fire in Lebanon as that would be wrong, the president took a breather and met with contestants from "American Idol" for a photo op. That detail is here, and the item notes someone on the White House staff must have realized this was just too surreal, and barred reporters from the event - no one was going to ask second rate singers from Hollywood what they thought of world events this day. Still photos only - and no questions. This could get out of hand.

And it was a day of things getting even more out of hand, as Hezbollah fired five Iranian-made missiles south of Haifa (details here). This is new, an escalation, as what they had been lobbing in previously didn't have that range. At the same time Israel called up 30,000 reservists (details here). Things are not calming down, and the UN is pulling all its observers from the war zone (details here). Four were taken out by a precision bomb courtesy of the Israeli Air Force, so that might be wise. And this was just after al Qaeda declared holy war against Israel (details here) - so it seems that the Sunni al Qaeda is willing to overlook the fact they don't consider Shiites really Muslims at all, just evil infidels, and will back the Shiite Hezbollah right now, as fighting to destroy Israel is more important than who believes what about Ali, the son of Mohammad. That's a pretty big deal. We're uniting them.

Then the former second man in the State Department, Richard Armitage, who reported to Colin Powell way back when, broke with the neoconservatives and said the systematic bombing of much of Lebanon by Israel was just going to end up "empowering Hezbollah" (details here). Of course the Israelis were saying that the nations who met the previous Sunday in Rome and couldn't agree on a call fro an immediate cease-fire had obviously given Israel the "green light" to bomb anything they liked for as long as they liked (details here)

Now that last one was amusing. The European Union nations were flabbergasted, and even the United States couldn't run with that and had to say something -
The US state department has dismissed as "outrageous" a suggestion by Israel that it has been authorized by the world to continue bombing Lebanon.

"The US is sparing no efforts to bring a durable and lasting end to this conflict," said spokesman Adam Ereli.
There are limits to the surreal. But the day ended with this -
At least five people were shot, one of them fatally, at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, and one person was arrested, authorities said. A witness told a local newspaper that the man said he was a Muslim who was angry at Israel.

That's from the AP wire, posted at Fox News. Fox put the second sentence in red bold. They're like that.

All in all, this particular day was not a particularly good day.

But that depends on your perspective.

In the joint statement and news conference where President Bush and Prime Minister Blair explained everything, and fit it all together in a hopeful pattern, the president explained -

President Bush proudly declared that American foreign policy no longer seeks to "manage calm," and derided policies that let anger and resentment lie "beneath the surface." Bush said that the violence in the Middle East was evidence of a more effective foreign policy that addresses "root causes."
You see calm is a bad thing. It's overrated. That's for wimps and girly-men. Real men address "root causes" and we no longer manage calm. It's just not effective, which is why war is good. It gets down to root causes.

Maybe so. But people don't like it much. Of course this is part and parcel with the much discussed "reverse-domino theory" that Secretary of State Rice seems to be enamored with - Israel takes care of Hezbollah and Hamas will see resistance is futile and fold, and that success will discourage Syria and Iran and they'll see there's no percentage in doing what they're doing. The insurgents in Iraq all give up. The dominos will fall, and this business in southern Lebanon is the first domino. All the "root causes" are addressed, by being removed. The dominos fall. It's a pretty cool theory.

On the other hand, there's this assessment -
This is sheer, abject lunacy of the sort that imagined the invasion of Iraq would lead to city squares in Iraq named after George W. Bush and the invasion would pay for itself out of oil revenues. The only appropriate reaction is to very loudly proclaim this is the reasoning of madmen. No rational human being thinks like this.

… The people who came up with an American foreign policy based on addressing "root causes" and no longer managing calm need straitjackets.
So managing calm - keeping things peaceful, is now no longer our official foreign policy, and to some it seems nuts.

But the president explained it all in detail when he was asked why everything seemed to going so, as they say badly.

That went like this -
QUESTION: Mr. President, Mr. Prime Minister, with support apparently growing among the Arab population, both Shiite and Sunni, for Hezbollah, by bounds, is there a risk that every day that goes by without a cease-fire will tip this conflict into a wider war?

And, Mr. President, when Secretary Rice goes back to the region, would she have any new instructions, such as meeting with Syrians?

BUSH: Her instructions are to work with Israel and Lebanon to get a - to come up with an acceptable U.N. Security Council resolution that we can table next week.

And, secondly, it's really important for people to understand that the terrorists are trying to stop the advance of freedom. And, therefore, it's essential that we do what's right - not necessarily what appears to be immediately popular.

There's a lot of suffering in Lebanon because Hezbollah attacked Israel. There's a lot of suffering in the Palestinian territory because militant Hamas is trying to stop the advance of democracy. There is suffering in Iraq because terrorists are trying to spread sectarian violence and stop the spread of democracy.

And now is the time for the free world to work to create the conditions so that people everywhere can have hope. And those are the stakes. That's what we face right now. We've got a plan to deal with this immediate crisis.

It's one of the reasons the prime minister came, to talk about that plan. But the stakes are larger than just Lebanon.

Isn't it interesting that when Prime Minister Olmert starts to reach out to President Abbas to develop a Palestinian state, militant Hamas creates the conditions so that, you know, there's a crisis, and then Hezbollah follows up?

Isn't it interesting, as a democracy takes hold in Iraq, that Al Qaeda steps up its efforts to murder and bomb in order to stop the democracy?

And so one of the things that the people in the Middle East must understand is that we're working to create the conditions of hope and opportunity for all of them. And we'll continue to do that. This is the challenge of the 21st century
One quick reaction -
I remember as a child a strange little neighbor girl who was found in her backyard swinging her cat by the tail against the sidewalk screaming "you're gonna love me!"

I'm pretty sure it didn't work.
And this, similarly, isn't working. NBC's Davis Gregory asks about that -
QUESTION: Mr. President, both of you, I'd like to ask you about the big picture that you're discussing.

Mr. President, three years ago, you argued that an invasion of Iraq would create a new stage of Arab-Israeli peace. And yet today there is an Iraqi prime minister who has been sharply critical of Israel.

Arab governments, despite your arguments, who first criticized Hezbollah, have now changed their tune. Now they're sharply critical of Israel.

And despite from both of you warnings to Syria and Iran to back off support from Hezbollah, effectively, Mr. President, your words are being ignored.

So what has happened to America's clout in this region that you've committed yourself to transform?

BUSH: David, it's an interesting period because, instead of having foreign policies based upon trying to create a sense of stability, we have a foreign policy that addresses the root causes of violence and instability.

For a while, American foreign policy was just, Let's hope everything is calm - kind of, managed calm. But beneath the surface brewed a lot of resentment and anger that was manifested on September the 11th.

And so we have, we've taken a foreign policy that says: On the one hand, we will protect ourselves from further attack in the short run by being aggressive in chasing down the killers and bringing them to justice.

And make no mistake: They're still out there, and they would like to harm our respective peoples because of what we stand for.

In the long term, to defeat this ideology - and they're bound by an ideology - you defeat it with a more hopeful ideology called freedom.

And, look, I fully understand some people don't believe it's possible for freedom and democracy to overcome this ideology of hatred. I understand that. I just happen to believe it is possible.

And I believe it will happen.

And so what you're seeing is, you know, a clash of governing styles.

For example, you know, the notion of democracy beginning to emerge scares the ideologues, the totalitarians, those who want to impose their vision. It just frightens them.

And so they respond. They've always been violent.

You know, I hear this amazing kind of editorial thought that says, all of a sudden, Hezbollah's become violent because we're promoting democracy. They have been violent for a long period of time. Or Hamas?

One reason why the Palestinians still suffer is because there are militants who refuse to accept a Palestinian state based upon democratic principles.

And so what the world is seeing is a desire by this country and our allies to defeat the ideology of hate with an ideology that has worked and that brings hope.

And one of the challenges, of course, is to convince people that Muslims would like to be free, you know, that there's other people other than people in Britain and America that would like to be free in the world.

There's this kind of almost - you know, kind of a weird kind of elitism that says well maybe - maybe certain people in certain parts of the world shouldn't be free; maybe it's best just to let them sit in these tyrannical societies.

And our foreign policy rejects that concept. We don't accept it. And so we're working.
This is so loony one doesn't know where to begin.

Andrew Sullivan makes a stab here -
The president's press conference with Blair today struck me as revealing - and not in a good way. Bush is right on the basic issue. He grasps the nature of the enemy. But he is so out of his depth - rhetorically, strategically, politically, intellectually - that it is hard to have much confidence in his leadership. This is one reason why I couldn't endorse him for a second term. He is an incompetent. He is too incompetent to lead the West at this time. He is simply without the skills to navigate the very treacherous waters we are all now in. He is being outmaneuvered at every turn by wily enemies who are becoming more dangerous and emboldened by the day.

Bush, in a word, is overwhelmed. He has no idea what to do except return to the catechism of freedom versus terror, like an ideological security blanket. Of course that it what this is about. The trouble is: freedom is being defended by the incompetent and the clueless. In Bush's blank, bewildered eyes, you see the image of someone who is finally beginning to see reality. And it's something with which he simply cannot cope. Our enemies, moreover, see the weakness in the president and they are ruthlessly exploiting it. And we have more than two years left to survive.
Okay, look at the video and see if you agree. Josh Marshall has and says this -
We know the president isn't very articulate in news conference settings. But national leaders don't have to be articulate to be good leaders. In fact there have been a number very good ones who could scarcely speak coherently for thirty seconds.

But if you watch this passage I think you see something different. Namely, that pretty much everything that's happened over the last three years, and certainly over the last three months has just gone in one presidential ear and out the other. He is, in both the deepest and most superficial sense, out of it.
Elsewhere he says - "This is the Bush administration's apocalypse. We are, to borrow the phrase, just living in it." How nice.

And other people are living in it too, and not much liking it. One of our big projects in the Middle East was Lebanon. We maneuvered to get the Syrians out. We praised their election and new government - the "Cedar Revolution" and all that. Yes, Hezbollah has more than few seats in their parliament, but they were elected to them, and they hold a few ministries, but not key ministries. In a democracy everyone gets a say. This was a success, and the economy was booming, before Israel got ticked and bombed all the new infrastructure. But they understand, don’t they? They will rise up toss out the Hezbollah bums, who have ruined everything for them. That's a key event in the "reverse-domino" theory. Hezbollah has cooked its own goose.

Not according to this, a poll released by the Beirut Center for Research and Information. Eighty-seven percent of the Lebanese support Hezbollah's fight with Israel, up twenty-nine percent from the last pool in February. As for those who are not Shiite folk, eighty percent of Christians polled supported Hezbollah as do eighty percent of the Druze and eighty-nine percent of Sunnis. Oops. It seems the Lebanese no longer blame Hezbollah for setting off the war by kidnapping those Israeli soldiers, but blame Israel and the US instead.

Now eight percent of Lebanese feel the US supports Lebanon, down from thirty-eight percent in January, and you get stuff like this -
"This support for Hizbullah is by default. It's due to US and Israeli actions," says Saad-Ghorayeb, whose father, Abdo, conducted the poll.

… If Israel establishes an occupation zone along the border to police the area, Hezbollah will likely continue fighting, unhindered by a weakened Lebanese government and backed by a radicalized Shiite community. That growing radicalization is palpable in this laid-back coastal town where support for Hezbollah traditionally has been arbitrary.

Ghassan Farran, a doctor and head of a local cultural organization, gazes in disbelief at the pile of smoking ruins which was once his home. Minutes earlier, an Israeli jet dropped two guided missiles into the six-story apartment block in the centre of Tyre.

"Look what America gives us, bombs and missiles," says this educated, middle-class professional. "I was never a political person and never with Hezbollah but now after this I am with Hezbollah."
The Washington Post reports the concept - "In the long term, the United States and Israel hope that Hezbollah is discredited or marginalized politically, too."

How "long term" are we talking here? And just who is winning?

See Christopher Dickey in Newsweek here -
The bottom line: Hezbollah is winning. That's the hideous truth about the direction this war is taking, not in spite of the way the Israelis have waged their counterattack, but precisely because of it. As my source Mr. Frankly put it, "Hezbollah is eating their lunch."

We're talking about a militia - a small guerrilla army of a few thousand fighters, in fact - that plays all the dirty games that guerrillas always play. It blends in with the local population. It draws fire against innocents. But it's also fighting like hell against an Israeli military machine that is supposed to be world class. And despite the onslaught of the much-vaunted Tsahal, Hizbullah continues to pepper Israel itself with hundreds of rockets a day.

The United States, following Israel's lead, does not want an immediate ceasefire precisely because that would hand Hezbollah a classic guerrilla-style victory: it started this fight against a much greater military force - and it's still standing. In the context of a region where vast Arab armies have been defeated in days, for a militia to hold out one week, two weeks and more, is seen as heroic. Hezbollah is the aggressor, the underdog and the noble survivor, all at once. "It's that deadly combination of the expectation game, which Hezbollah have won, and the victim game, which they've also won," as my straight-talking friend put it.

… When I heard Condi talking in pitiless academic pieties today about "strong and robust" mandates and "dedicated and urgent action," I actually felt sorry for her, for our government, and for Israel. As in Iraq three years ago, the administration has been blinded to the political realities by shock-and-awe military firepower. Clinging to its faith in precision-guided munitions and cluster bombs, it has decided to let Lebanon bleed, as if that's the way to build the future for peace and democracy.
Or as Digby puts it -
I've long speculated that one of the biggest miscalculations of the war in Iraq was exploding the American mystique of military and intelligence superiority.

… But at least America had decades of post war success to draw upon and diplomatic and economic clout to employ even as it degraded its reputation in all those areas. Israel, on the other hand, is entirely dependent upon its military superiority and this ill-fated overreaction in Lebanon is exploding that image.

… I'm not sure I really get why the US and Israel haven't yet come to terms with the fact that this fourth generation war cannot be won with classic military action. I suspect it is the neocon influence which, throughout many decades, never gave a passing thought to terrorism or asymmetrical warfare. They have been stuck in a cold war mindset (a mindset that was wrong about the cold war too) and have consistently seen the world through the prism of rogue totalitarian states. This is why, in spite of the fact that everything is going to hell in a handbasket in a hundred different ways, they persist in focusing on Iran (formerly Iraq) and ignoring all the moving parts that make their aggressive plans to "confront" these regimes simpleminded and doomed to failure.

For Israel and the US it couldn't be worse. They have systematically chipped away at any moral authority they had while demonstrating that their military, diplomatic and economic power are paper tigers. What an excellent strategy for all concerned. Oh, and too bad about all the dead bodies that have been produced to create that sad outcome.
It really is a bit surreal.

Michael Hirsch captures just how surreal in Newsweek here -
The Bush administration has fought the 'war on terror' [with] one lunatic leap of logic after another based on unreliable sources, linking up enemies that had little to do with each other.

… The president has used Al Qaeda to gin up the threat from Iraq, just as he is now conflating Hezbollah and Hamas with Al Qaeda as "terrorists" of the same ilk.

… What's sad is that the "war on terror" began as a fairly straightforward affair. Al Qaeda hit us. Then we went after Al Qaeda. We had a lot of support around the world in pursuit of our mission to hunt these men down, kill them or capture them and do with them as we pleased.

But inexorably, month by month, the Bush administration broadened the war on terror to include ever more peoples and countries, especially Saddam's Iraq, relying on thinner and thinner evidence to do so. And what began as a hunt for a relatively contained group of self-declared murderers like bin Laden became a feckless dragnet of tens of thousands of hapless Arab victims.

… Today, more from the muddled strategic thinking of the Bush administration than the actual threat from Al Qaeda, the 'war on terror' has become an Orwellian nightmare: an ill-defined war without prospect of end. We are now nearly five years into a war against a group that was said to contain no more then 500 to 1,000 terrorists at the start. … The war just grows and grows. And now Lebanon, too, is part of it.

Everyone will soon be part of it. The man doesn't use logic. He trusts his gut instincts. And those who advise him know military power is the only tool to use in this world.

How did it come to this, the world in flames and we're being told it's a good thing? And don't look at the details. Happy birthday to the surrealist.


Marcel Duchamp - Sad Young Man in a Train

Marcel Duchamp - Sad Young Man in a Train

Posted by Alan at 22:41 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 28 July 2006 22:47 PDT home

Thursday, 27 July 2006
Odd Data
Topic: World View
Odd Data: If You're Looking for Happiness, Move To Denmark
Yes, from Reuters via CNN, If you're looking for happiness, move to Denmark.

It goes like this
It's the happiest country in the world while Burundi in Africa is the most unhappy, according to a new report by a British scientist released on Friday.

Adrian White, an analytical social psychologist at the University of Leicester in central England, based his study on data from 178 countries and 100 global studies from the likes of the United Nations and the World Health Organization.

"We're looking much more at whether you are satisfied with your life in general," White told Reuters. "Whether you are satisfied with your situation and environment."

The main factors that affected happiness were health provision, wealth and education, according to White who said his research had produced the "first world map of happiness."

Following behind Denmark came Switzerland, Austria, Iceland and the Bahamas.

At the bottom came the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe and Burundi. The United States came in at 23rd, Britain was in 41st place, Germany 35th and France 62nd.

Countries involved in conflicts, such as Iraq, were not included.

"Smaller countries tend to be a little happier because there is a stronger sense of collectivism and then you also have the aesthetic qualities of a country," White said.
But what about big countries with a sense of collective identity? Does collective identity trump quaintness? No. China comes in on the happiness ranking in 82nd place, Japan at 90th, and India at 125th. Smallness matters.

Of course Adrian White admitted collecting data based on well-being was not an exact science, but he said the measures used were "very reliable in predicting health and welfare outcomes." It seems lots of food and an SUV in every garage doesn't matter much. Oh well.

The University of Leicester press release is here -
Further analysis showed that a nation's level of happiness was most closely associated with health levels (correlation of .62), followed by wealth (.52), and then provision of education (.51).

The three predictor variables of health, wealth and education were also very closely associated with each other, illustrating the interdependence of these factors.
But what about just having more stuff than anyone else, even if you're badly educated and don't know much, and you and everyone around you is seriously obese?

Try this -
There is a belief that capitalism leads to unhappy people. However, when people are asked if they are happy with their lives, people in countries with good healthcare, a higher GDP per captia, and access to education were much more likely to report being happy.
Well then, here we do have the stuff, and if you have the money the healthcare is fine (exclude forty-four million Americans who can't afford to pay for healthcare insurance), and although much of public education is disintegrating if you have the funds you can get a pretty good education. Giving that, ranking 23rd seems about right.

American valuesThe happiness rankings:

1. Denmark
2. Switzerland
3. Austria
4. Iceland
5. The Bahamas
6. Finland
7. Sweden
8. Bhutan
9. Brunei
10. Canada
11. Ireland
12. Luxembourg
13. Costa Rica
14. Malta
15. The Netherlands
16. Antigua and Barbuda
17. Malaysia
18. New Zealand
19. Norway
20. The Seychelles

The outliers:

23. USA
35. Germany
41. UK
62. France
82. China
90. Japan 125. India
167. Russia

The bottom three:

176. Democratic Republic of the Congo
177. Zimbabwe
178. Burundi

The map.

Note: The photograph was taken at the 900 block of North Highland Avenue, Hollywood, Wednesday, July 26, 2006.

Posted by Alan at 18:59 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 28 July 2006 06:53 PDT home

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