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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, 18 April 2005

Topic: Backgrounder

From the Department of Useless Information

From Bob Patterson, columnist for Just Above Sunset - the parent site to this web log:
One of our regular readers works near my apartment and we chat often. He asked me if there was a period when Greek literature diminished and then bounced back. He wanted to know when the revival in Greek Literature occurred.

I wondered if there had been one long gradual decline in interest in Greek Literature. I have no idea how to answer this question? Any feedback that I can relay to him?
Ah, yes.

Ah - it comes and goes. What brought Greek literature back from obscurity was Greek fascination with the French Enlightenment (Voltaire and those dudes) that got the proto-nationalist folks there looking at the local roots of the local culture and digging up old texts - Candide may be responsible for that, and much more - and a tad later the Romantic poets, particularly Byron traipsing around Greece with Keats. In fact, Byron died of a fever at Missolonghi in April 1824 - a town in western central Greece, on the north shore of the Gulf of Patras (it was under siege by the Turks in the wars of 1822-26 and he was way pro-Greek as they tried to break away from the Turks). Think also of the Elgin Marbles swiped from the Parthenon being a big deal in England at the time. The Brits still have them. Lord Elgin loved Greek stuff, and stole it when he could. All things Greek were big around 1820 - and not much before and not much since. That was the peak. Keats' "Ode on a Grecian Urn" was first published in 1820 - and so on and so forth.

I must admit I never caught the enthusiasm for all things Greek - but way back in the early seventies I was an eighteenth-century English lit PhD student and thought Keats was for misty-eyed girls, and Byron with his clubfoot and brooding was a bit too Hollywood. My guy was Swift. (Byron was nicely cynical, however.)

You see, from Dryden through Pope and Swift, and on out to Johnson, the model was Roman. That was the Augustan Age, after all. Caesar Augustus. August. Wise. Retrained and controlled. Think Cicero, Juvenal, Ovid, Tacitus and Virgil. You imitated those guys.

Then comes 1798 and Wordsworth publishes "Lyrical Ballads" and all things fall apart. (In fact, I had a professor in grad school at Duke who said English literature itself ended that year.) Anyway, for the next three or four decades you get Homer, Sappho, Herodotus, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes, Thucydides, and Plato. Oh my! George Chapman had translated Homer way back in 1611 and suddenly THAT was rediscovered - and we get Keats' sonnet "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer" in October 1816. Geez! It's not THAT good a translation! (I used to teach the Robert Fitzgerald translation back in Rochester - and it is mighty fine.)

But I digress.

See this -
Under Turkish rule, Greek literature virtually ceased, except in Crete. In the late 18th cent. two patriots, the poet Rhigas Pheraios (1751-98) and the intellectual Adamantios Koraes (1748-1833), sought to encourage a revival of Greek letters. The revolutionary society Philike Hetairea, founded in 1816, reflected the growing influence in Greece of the French Enlightenment and the rise of European romanticism; both furnished the intellectual framework for the War of Independence (1821-27) and spurred the postwar nationalist revival that awakened a modern Greek literature.
Fascinating stuff? Probably not.

But Greek food is great ? lamb, and spanakopita! Great stuff. And retsina? Fine. Ouzo? Interesting.



From our friend Vince in Rochester, New York ?
Why am I fascinated by meaningless patter?

Curiosity - from the unenlightened peanut gallery... is there a similar reflection of the Greek revival in architectural design (that showed up in North America as Southern plantations or things column-iar? (how would you say that adjectively?). What about the differences in Roman and Greek columns and architectural styles? Also the ebb and flow in those timeframes?

Dumb questions... to go with useless topics?

Bit it is interesting to note in your final quote, however, that the impact of Greek/French attention was bi-lateral - reflected with renewed energies in and on both cultures/societies.
My reply to Vince is that if you think about what is at this site ? Greek Revival Architecture (1800-1850) - and sites like it, you see this is all part of the same deal. And here you don?t blame Voltaire and Candide ? you blame a follower of Voltaire?s ideas, Thomas Jefferson.

Inspirations and beginnings: Thomas Jefferson designs Monticello, Charlottesville, VA in 1770. Influenced by Palladio. Jefferson believed in architecture as a symbol; he despised Williamsburg due to English origins: Williamsburg represented colonial exploitation. In France, Jefferson learned of Roman architecture and its symbolic association with Greek democracy.
Okay, Lord Byron is writing loopy poetry and fighting for Greek independence in the early 1820?s ? and Jefferson was in Paris decades earlier, or was that Nick Nolte? (Jefferson in Paris is an amusing movie.) It was a time for thinking about Greece in its Golden Age.

Think about this. Our revolution in 1776 and that French one in 1789, were efforts towards ?democracy? ? a Greek word, isn?t it? That there AGE OF REVOLUTION (1789-1848) in the history books was full of all sorts of references to ancient Greece. That was the model for all the changes planned and executed, so to speak and not to bring up Robespierre and Doctor Guillotine. Why wouldn?t architecture follow?
To Jefferson architecture was a form of visual education in support of democratic ideal. The Greek Revival movement becomes widely accepted throughout the early U.S. as a symbol of the new democracy.
Of course.
Dominant style in America, 1820-1850. Also called ?national style? due to popularity. Known as the ?Territorial style? in early Western towns, including Santa Fe, NM. Style diffused westward with settlers (especially New Englanders, across upstate New York), first American architectural style to reach West Coast.?
And this? ?Greek place names, street names, and architecture became dominant throughout the Northeast.?

One sometimes contributor to these pages - our high-powered Wall Street attorney - grew up in Greece, New York, just a few miles west-northwest of where Vince sits in Rochester. His mother still lives there. I remember the area. I used to shop at the Greece Town Mall, which our high-powered Wall Street attorney tells us has gotten huge lately. Heck, if Rochester weather were better they would have build it differently ? with outdoor colonnades and Doric columns and fountains ? and called it the Greece Town Agora. But winters there are too harsh. (This web log is published not too far from Agora, California.)

Oh, and on styles of Greek columns see this from Boston College. The page has links to items on the styles. The four JPG examples are from the US northeast, including the Custom House down in The Battery in Manhattan, right in front of the park, the old Bowling Green, where Rick, our News Guy in Atlanta, reminds us, after looking at the picture of the bull down there -
Bowling Green, where the Dutch in New Amsterdam used to go bowling, and where, on the evening of July 9, 1776 - moments after George Washington, in what is now City Hall Park, had the newly-arrived Declaration of Independence read to the troops - a mob of exuberant citizens descended on the park to haul down the equestrian statue of George III (that they themselves had paid for), and to knock the heads of the royal family that were on the posts of that very fence you see there, later melting them all down into shot to be used by Continental soldiers to shoot redcoats. That other building beyond the park is the Customs building, which sits on the spot of the original New Amsterdam fort, which was essentially the first settlement on the island, out of which the whole city grew.
The NYC Custom House columns are Doric. The spirit is Greek and revolutionary.

Minor note ? the scale patterns in music theory are called modes. And they are named somewhat like the columns ? Dorian and such. You see, music had been studied mathematically, and there were many such collections of ?pleasing pitches,? generally called modes. There is the Phrygian. And Lydian. And the Mysolidian. And the Eolian. And the Locrian. There?s a lot of Dorian mode in rock music, and in much of Miles Davis. That?s what I meant by saying this is a minor note ? listen to ?So What? from his best album, ?Kind of Blue? ? as Miles had a Dorian career.

Ah, them Greeks!

Posted by Alan at 09:36 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 19 April 2005 11:46 PDT home

Topic: Oddities

From the Department of Useless Information

From Expatica this is most curious.

The event?
In Paris: Bo Diddley

One of the pioneers, and now greatest stars, of rock guitar, 77 year-old Diddley would never received his full acclaim without becoming a cult figure among British rockers after falling from favor in his native US.

A rare appearance in Paris.

April 24

28 boulevard des Capucines
75009 Paris
Tel: 08 92 68 33 68
To the three regular readers in Paris, don?t go out of your way. On the other hand we glean these facts from the Bo Diddley link above ?

1987: Bo Diddley inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and presented his award by ZZ Top who credits this guy with "even teaching us to put fur on our guitars!"

1989: Performs at President G. H. W. Bush's Inaugural gala in Washington, appearing in the "Celebration for Young Americans: Tribute to Rhythm and Blues " with Stevie Ray Vaughn, Joe Cocker and so on

1989: Receives a star in the sidewalk on the Hollywood Hall of Fame

1992: Appeared at the Democratic National Convention's celebration for Bill Clinton in New York City?

And there is more.

It seems Bo Diddley's legal name was Ellas McDaniel, but he was born Otha Ellas Bates. He got passed around a few families. He got the stage name Bo Diddley from a one-stringed African guitar thing.

And that?s this morning?s useless information.


Oddly enough, no readers from Paris sent any reaction to this. Phillip Raines sent a note from Georgia -
Bo Diddley played in Atlanta at the Royal Peacock on Auburn Avenue, a few doors up from the birth place of the SCLC and a few blocks from the birthplace of Martin Luther King.

The club was owned by Clay Harper, a singer, band leader and pizza chain owner - one of my peers who couldn't help but make money everywhere he turned. Clay lined up a band of good players from the general local scene. One of the guys was Brendan O'Brien, who later went on the produce the first Nirvana album and, after that, Mick Jagger's solo album, and not too long ago, Bruce Springsteen's latest album.

I ventured to the gig, which was in a decidedly black section of downtown, but the club dragged in all these new wave (it was the eighties) white kids to the area. It was actually a big risk for Clay to re-open this club with no guarantee it would draw a crowd even with Clay's Midas touch. I talked to Brandon and Clay about working with this living legend.

Clay was nervous when he picked Bo Diddley up at the airport. He told Bo Diddley the band was waiting for him at the club to go over the material and Bo Diddley held up his hand to stop him explaining any details and said, "Just tell me when the gig starts." He had no intention on going over any songs, assuming that the pick-up band was made up of competent musicians they would be able to follow along. Like the pick-up bands that accompany Chuck Berry (who always travels alone, no band) they should be familiar enough with the material to pull it off. In honesty it is really simple music and each song sounds a lot like the next.

Clay took him to the club anyway, where not only the musicians were waiting (for nothing it turns out), but a local news crew had been tipped off (summoned) to interview Bo Diddley. The interview was brief and in it Bo Diddley said - "Everybody playing bum-t-bum-t-bum---t-bum bum. All these white people making money off Bo Diddly's guitar lick, but where's the money for Bo Diddly?"

Well that night the money for Bo Diddley was eight grand and a round trip air ticket in first class and a hotel room at the Hyatt. I thought it was a lot for a 45 minute show by a guy who was sitting down the whole time. Maybe he didn't have his heart in it, or maybe it was an attitude about the white crowd in a formerly black club owned by white punkers smack dab in an area of such important black history.

His stage directions were minimal. Holding his right hind in the air, rolling his fingers, and Brandon would roll the chords on the acoustic piano, or flopping his hand with his pinky and thumb showing for octave trills, or telling Rick Richards (GA Satellite's guitarist) to "take one Guitar man". The drummer knew to lay off the cymbals (as is consistent with the request of older band leaders). It was just such a brief show. The pick-up band played and hour before his show and an hour and a half afterward. It turned into a social evening listening to my pals jamming on rock standards, and this legend playing a predictable set for a short time.

Bo Diddley no longer had to prove he was a legend. The pick-up band members were paid 200 each, though 250 is rate - but Clay is cheap and thought it would be an honor for them to play with a legend. Bob Diddley never learned their names and was only friendly enough to pull off his show with them.

It is commendable that the British rockers learned obscure blues and imitated it, in spirit to bring it to the world in the form of rock-and-roll. Music is more fashion to Brits, and I won't be convinced otherwise. A lot of legends would not have been noticed with out them. A lot of legends weren't all that good, and it took the charisma of fashion-minded British rockers to merit notice.

To Bo Diddley and Little Richard (another chronic braggart) I ask, what have you produced lately? How long do you get to rest on the past laurels you cranked out when you were hot? Sorry you were cheated by the record companies and your style was exploited by the Brit rockers, but you can still make a good buck for an hour's work and be called a legend. That's better than a lot of other players.
Phillip?s writing appears in Just Above Sunset - see the lower left of the home page. The key music pieces are here and here and here and here.

Posted by Alan at 09:02 PDT | Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink
Updated: Monday, 18 April 2005 19:14 PDT home

Sunday, 17 April 2005

Topic: Photos

New Directions: The End of Outrage?

The new issue of Just Above Sunset was posted late Saturday night. Sunday morning Rick, The News Guy in Atlanta, sent an email pointing out a misspelling on the home page, so I fixed that and reposted. Is this any manner in which to spend a sunny weekend in Los Angeles ? putting together, and reediting, an online virtual magazine? Either your editor doesn?t have a life, or still is in the second week of a really appalling head cold. Best guess? Forty percent of the former, and sixty percent of the latter. [More corrections will be posted late Sunday evening. One should not be obsessive, but one should be correct. And one should always have Kleenex at hand.]

But the new issue, while deeply steeped in politics and what would be sputtering outrage if this writer weren?t so cynical and sensed nothing anyone with similar views could do about anything anyway, is unusually deep in photography.

For example, Bob Patterson?s column on Einstein has two somewhat appropriate shots from Princeton. Don Smith?s cool photo from Paris is supplemented by a matching one from lower Manhattan. In fact, there are five photography pages, and links to two extensive photo albums. Many recent pages have been illustrated with photos.

What?s up with that? Is the publication shifting from words about the world to just images? (And can you call a virtual magazine a publication if it is not really published? There are now an average of ten thousand unique logons each month, but is Just Above Sunset really a publication?)

There is a bit of a shift, away from words. This is perhaps not anti-intellectualism per se but something more like fatigue. What more is there to say about how the world is going these days?

For example, I just didn?t have the energy to say anything about the plan to hunt down and kill cats in Wisconsin - a hot story out of the upper center of America last week ? even if two readers did suggest it. In short?
MADISON (AP) Thursday, April 14, 2005 ? Feral felines fearing for their lives in Wisconsin got a boost Wednesday from Gov. Jim Doyle, who said a plan to allow hunters to shoot wild cats at will is dead.

"I don't think Wisconsin should become known as a state where we shoot cats," said Doyle, a Democrat who neither hunts nor owns a cat. "What it does is sort of hold us up as a state that everybody is kind of laughing at right now."

He said his office has received calls from throughout the country denouncing a plan passed Monday night at meetings of the Wisconsin Conservation Congress that would classify wild, free-roaming cats as an unprotected species. ?
Whatever. What is there to say?

By the way, Samuel Johnson, the eighteenth-century poet and essayist, who wrote the first English dictionary, had a big yellow tabby he called Hodge, just as fat as Sam himself, and Johnson never wrote a word about Hodge. Boswell mentions Hodge only once in his ?Life of Johnson.? It seems Beau Brummell (yes, THAT one) and his proto-frat-boys friends had been gadding about London shooting housecats for their amusement, and Boswell says when he mentioned this to Johnson, Johnson tickled Hodge in his lap, smiled wryly and muttered, ?They shant shoot Hodge, they shant shoot Hodge??

You could look it up. And see this - At 17, Gough Square, EC4, London, England - a brand new statute of Samuel Johnson?s cat Hodge. It stands opposite Johnson's house in Gough Square.

Well, they shant shoot my Harriet either.

But, cat-hunting aside, keeping up with what might seem moderately outrageous has been what this editor has been doing since starting the virtual magazine in late May of 2003, and the companion web log in mid-November of the same year. Are there really 672 entries there? It seems so.

What can one do to keep going on with this?

One can, of course, surf the blogs in hopes of picking up some secondary outrage. And lately a good place to start seems to be the Daily Kos from Markos Moulitsas Zuniga. Kos can do the heavy lifting.

What do we find there? An echo-chamber.

Kos points to an item from David Sirota, a fellow from the Center for American Progress who points out that we Americans are not only systematically being denied information by out government, previous information to which we had access is simply disappearing.

Yeah, well, what did you expect?

Sirota quotes our president saying that "in a society that is a free society, there will be transparency." Sirota takes that to mean that we have a government where the public gets to see as much information as possible about its government.

Really? Here?s what he notes -
- Knight-Ridder reports today [April 16] that the Bush administration announced yesterday that it has ?decided to stop publishing an annual report on international terrorism after the government's top terrorism center concluded that there were more terrorist attacks in 2004 than in any year since 1985, the first year the publication covered."

- When unemployment was peaking in Bush's first term, the White House tried to stop publishing the Labor Department's regular report on mass layoffs.

- In 2003, when the nation's governors came to Washington to complain about inadequate federal funding for the states, the Bush administration decided to stop publishing the budget report that states use to see what money they are, or aren't, getting.

- In 2003, the National Council for Research on Women found that information about discrimination against women has gone missing from government Web sites, including 25 reports from the U.S. Department of Labor's Women's Bureau.

- In 2002, Democrats uncovered evidence that the Bush administration was removing health information from government websites. Specifically, the administration deleted data showing that abortion does not increase the risk of breast cancer from government websites. That scientific data was seen by the White House as a direct affront to the pro-life movement.
Kos comments ? ?Can there be any doubt that this is the worst presidency ever?? Yawn.

And Kos is upset by something else from the BBC. Kos tells us that Aschiana is the name of an Afghan charity for street children. It means "the nest", and it will soon be replaced by a five-star hotel.

The BBC item?
Afghanistan's internationally renowned charity for street children, Aschiana, survived the Afghan wars of the 1990s and the Taliban era.

However, the free market economics of Kabul's post-war boom now seem a more potent enemy than rockets and bombs.

Aschiana, which means "the nest" and provides support, food, education and a refuge to 10,000 street children, faces the closure of its main centre in Kabul.

It is the victim of rocketing rents and land prices rather than artillery.

The charity's compound on Char Rahi Malik Asghar, which it has occupied since 1997, has been sold by its owner to an international company.

A five-star hotel will be built on the site.
The comment from Kos? ?It's social Darwinism in action.?

And so it is. What is there to say? The world has ever been different?

And Just Above Sunset just covered issues with the pending repeal of the Estate Tax here - and there is a whole lot of commentary all over on that. It seems to grow and grow. How outraged can you continue to be?

One blogger here is conflicted.
I've been taking care of some long-neglected yard work and prepping the place for summer ?

Anyway, I'm back off to the outdoors, but first, because the issue of the Estate Tax is still pissing me off, I wanted to note that Fred Clark over at Slacktivist has a powerful piece up on the Estate Tax and its impact on charities, should the Senate repeal it. And in it he links to Max Sawicky's takedown of the stated defenses used by those benighted who still think that getting rid of it is going to ruin all those family farms (as opposed to, say, Archer Daniels Midland ?).
Oh, go do the yard work. Fred Clark points out our own government economists say the repeal of the Estate Tax will reduce charitable contributions to society from rich folks by at least twelve percent. You can read the reasoning at the link. And of course the idea that charity should not come from the government ? as it destroys initiative and makes people forget personal responsibility - is covered too. Okay. And Max Sawicky is brilliant. But?.

Nothing will change. Perhaps you will see more photos here.

Ah, and our friend, the high-powered Wall Street attorney, sends this along?

Posted by Alan at 19:47 PDT | Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink
Updated: Sunday, 17 April 2005 19:50 PDT home

Saturday, 16 April 2005

Topic: Oddities

Americana: Mickey D?s and Twinkies, and Taxes

This last Friday, April 15, was not just Tax Day.

Consider other April 15 events.
In 1862, a bill ending slavery in the District of Columbia became law.

In 1865, Abraham Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth at Ford's Theater.

In 1912, Harriet Quimby became the first woman to fly across the English Channel.

In 1917, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin returned to Russia after years of exile.

In 1935, the radio comedy program "Fibber McGee and Molly" premiered on the NBC Blue Network.

In 1945, British troops liberate the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

In 1962, Walter Cronkite succeeded Douglas Edwards as anchorman of "The CBS Evening News.".
Birthdays? Edie Adams and Bobby Vinton and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Oh yes, in the early morning of April 15, 1912, the Titanic struck an iceberg.

But the big one? On April 15, 1955 Ray Kroc opened his first McDonald?s in Des Plaines, Illinois. Fifty years of those hamburgers.

Note this
McDonald's CEO Jim Skinner will lead the celebration of 50 years of opportunity at McDonald's around the world with the grand opening of a spectacular new restaurant in downtown Chicago on Friday, April 15 at 10 a.m.

The two-story restaurant features 60-foot-high Golden Arches, a double-lane drive-thru, seating for 300, historical displays and stunning views of Chicago's skyline.
Your editor was in Manhattan last week and on the 8th had lunch at the wood-paneled and mirrored fancy McDonalds on lower Broadway near Wall Street, the only McDonalds with a fellow in tails playing show tunes on a grand piano on a balcony suspended above the fries and such. Very odd.

Things have changed in those fifty years.

And seventy-five years ago?

See this press release ? Twinkies, a sort of snack food, was visited upon us on April 15 long ago.
Calling Twinkies the "best darn tootin" idea he ever had, James A. Dewar created the beloved treat in 1930, while working as a Hostess bakery manager in Chicago. Looking to make better use of shortcake pans that sat idle except for a short strawberry season, Dewar decided to inject the little golden cakes with a smooth creme filling (first banana and later vanilla following a banana shortage during World War II). A St. Louis billboard advertising "Twinkle Toe" shoes inspired the name for the two-for-a-nickel treat and an American icon was born.

More than just a top selling snack cake, the Twinkie has emerged as a social phenomenon with a treasure trove of amazing tales that underscore its astonishing impact on our culture.
The astonishing impact?
Twinkiegate: A grand jury indicted a Minneapolis city council candidate for serving coffee, Kool-Aid, Twinkies and other sweets to two senior citizens groups. The act led to the passage of the Minnesota Campaign Act, widely known as the Twinkie law. The 71-year-old candidate, George Belair, lost the election but the charges against him were dropped. The case was dubbed "Twinkiegate."

Twinkie Hall of Fame: 89-year-old Lewis Browning of Shelbyville, Indiana, has been eating at least one Twinkie every day since 1941, consuming more than 20,000 Twinkies. James Dewar, who died at 88, is said to have consumed more than 40,000 Twinkies in his lifetime. Chicago consumes more Twinkies per capita than any other city in the United States.

Twinkiejackings: In the late 1970s, reports of Twinkie hijackings began surfacing. In 1975, a Kennett Square, PA house twice was broken into and robbed of its Twinkies. That same year, AWOL marines from a California base were stopped on a freeway driving a truck full of "hot" Twinkies. In 1976, someone stole a bakery truck containing 1800 Twinkies. The truck was found; the Twinkies were not. In 1978, two Albuquerque men held up a delivery truck and made off with two large boxes of Twinkies, which at the time were valued at $16. Nothing else was taken and no one was injured.

Twinkies to the Rescue: An elephant living in Sarasota, FL refused food for days after undergoing surgery; Twinkies reportedly were used to end the hunger strike. When fifty baboons escaped from a wildlife reserve in an Ohio amusement park, Twinkies reportedly were among the treats used to try to lure the AWOL creatures back.

The Twinkie Defense: After former San Francisco supervisor Dan White killed the city's mayor and another supervisor, he argued diminished capacity as a result of excessive junk food consumption. The strategy was dubbed the "Twinkie Defense."

Twinkies Roll On, Fly High: In 1976, a Bloomington, IL radio station held a Twinkie Roll contest. Contestants reportedly were required to roll a Twinkie around a local courthouse using only their noses. The winner received $50 and a five-pound Twinkie. Organizers originally had planned for finalists to push the Twinkies up the courthouse steps but, fearing skinned noses, moved the event to grass. That same year, students at Rochester Community College participated in a three-day "First Annual International Twinkie Festival." Among the festivities, students used 300 helium balloons to launch a Twinkie into the stratosphere for the first time. The Twinkie returned to earth some 120 miles away.
Your editor was living in Rochester, New York that very year and remembers the RCC "First Annual International Twinkie Festival" and the Twinkie flight.

Oh yeah!

What a country!

Your editor?s own Twinkie story?

The year was 1983 and I was living at the time in Manhattan Beach, just south of the Los Angeles Airport (LAX), just steps from the sand. The hot happy-hour place for all of us working in aerospace at Hughes was a Manhattan Beach restaurant called Orville and Wilber?s, with a big glass bar ? a giant room ? with views from Malibu to Catalina. Many nights they had this fellow on the small stage playing guitar and singing ? a Kenny Loggins wannabe. But he was good. One of his specialties was that, as they sun set over the Pacific, patrons could shout out phrases to him and he would choose one, then, on the spot, create a song based on the suggested phrase.

One evening I was there with a sweet young thing, Leslie McC, who later introduced me to my second wife. Leslie was a tall, willowy blond from the office, with big blue eyes ? and very prim and proper, as her father was the full-bird colonel who ran the Air Force Space Command office down the street from Hughes.

So this guitarist, as the sun hit the horizon far out beyond the windows, did his usual thing and asked for possible song titles. Lot of folks shouted out lots of things. On a whim I shouted out ? ?My Nephews Like Their Twinkies Frozen.? And the guitarist grinned and built a clever little tune based to that idea. And it was not salacious at all. It was about food. Really. But there was, of course, a subtext.

Leslie just about crawled under the table. All I could say to her was that it was true, honest - my nephews DID like their Twinkies frozen.

Posted by Alan at 11:23 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 19 April 2005 21:15 PDT home

Friday, 15 April 2005

Topic: The Law

Legal Theory: I love the smell of theocratic McCarthyism in the morning?

In the world of law and considering what Tom DeLay said last week about getting even with judges who make the ?wrong? decisions ? (see last week?s issue here and here) - "The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior." ? we have more this week. You do remember more than a week ago Dana Milbank in the Washington Post reported on a conservative conference about out-of-control judges. You remember what those folks said about the current nine on the Supreme Court.
? lawyer-author Edwin Vieira told the gathering that Kennedy should be impeached because his philosophy, evidenced in his opinion striking down an anti-sodomy statute, "upholds Marxist, Leninist, satanic principles drawn from foreign law."

Ominously, Vieira continued by saying his "bottom line" for dealing with the Supreme Court comes from Joseph Stalin. "He had a slogan, and it worked very well for him, whenever he ran into difficulty: 'no man, no problem,' " Vieira said.

The full Stalin quote, for those who don't recognize it, is "Death solves all problems: no man, no problem."
Kill them all? It?s a thought. But not on this side of the fence.

This week? From a transcript of an interview between editors and reporters from The Washington Times and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, April 13, at his Capitol office -
I blame Congress over the last 50 to 100 years for not standing up and taking its responsibility given to it by the Constitution. The reason the judiciary has been able to impose a separation of church and state that's nowhere in the Constitution is that Congress didn't stop them. The reason we had judicial review is because Congress didn't stop them. The reason we had a right to privacy is because Congress didn't stop them.
Oh my. The man has a bee in his bonnet.

Some of us are kind of fond of that right to privacy business. The Griswold ruling against the State of Connecticut made sense to us ? that state had no business telling anyone they couldn?t use birth control and what happened in the bedroom really was the state?s concern. Some of us thought that ruling made sense. The idea the government shouldn?t sanction a particular religion and deal harshly with any who don?t subscribe to it? That seems pretty basic ? and a fine idea. Theocracies cause no end of trouble. The idea that the courts can review laws and say hold on, the constitution says you can?t do that is, some of us believe, how things should work.

Tom DeLay ? the Hammer, the Bug-Man ? seems to have other ideas. And this is getting hotter.

Mark Kleiman, that Professor of Policy Studies at the School of Public Policy and Social Research at UCLA, being a bit of a wag, quotes, at length, Alexander Hamilton in the Federalist Papers, Number 78 particularly. Kleiman is here and the link the Hamilton is here.

The complete independence of the courts of justice is peculiarly essential in a limited Constitution. ? Without this, all the reservations of particular rights or privileges would amount to nothing.

? There is no position which depends on clearer principles, than that every act of a delegated authority, contrary to the tenor of the commission under which it is exercised, is void. No legislative act, therefore, contrary to the Constitution, can be valid. To deny this, would be to affirm, that the deputy is greater than his principal; that the servant is above his master; that the representatives of the people are superior to the people themselves; that men acting by virtue of powers, may do not only what their powers do not authorize, but what they forbid.

? The interpretation of the laws is the proper and peculiar province of the courts. A constitution is, in fact, and must be regarded by the judges, as a fundamental law. It therefore belongs to them to ascertain its meaning, as well as the meaning of any particular act proceeding from the legislative body. If there should happen to be an irreconcilable variance between the two, that which has the superior obligation and validity ought, of course, to be preferred; or, in other words, the Constitution ought to be preferred to the statute, the intention of the people to the intention of their agents.

? where the will of the legislature, declared in its statutes, stands in opposition to that of the people, declared in the Constitution, the judges ought to be governed by the latter rather than the former.

? whenever a particular statute contravenes the Constitution, it will be the duty of the judicial tribunals to adhere to the latter and disregard the former.
Ah, what did Hamilton know? He wasn?t born here ? he was a mixed-race illegitimate child born in Saint Kitts in the Caribbean. Uppity fellow. Or so the white Orkin Man from Texas thinks.

Kleiman comments that there was obviously something deficient in the teaching of American history in the public schools Tom DeLay attended. And he points to another fellow suggesting DeLay has an obvious problem with Marbury v. Madison, ?which Defendant DeLay no doubt regards as an exercise in judicial activism.? You can follow the links for that.

What is all this about?

Andrew Sullivan suggests this regarding this and all the ethical problems DeLay is facing ? it?s a personality thing -
I'm not that impressed with the ethical complaints against him. His sleaze doesn't seem to me to be that unusual. Having his wife work for him is almost routine in Congress. The problem with DeLay is that he's a repulsive figure on television and elsewhere. I've never met him and can't believe he's this repellent in person (he wouldn't have done so well in politics if he were). But his religious fanaticism, his seething hatred for his opponents, his natural proclivity for arrogance all reflect a real problem for the GOP. He does indeed represent what the party seems to be becoming. That's why he won't be forced out. And that's why smart Republicans will keep him out of the public eye as much as much as possible. He makes Newt seem likable.
He is what the party is becoming? Yeah, him and John Bolton. The party of hyper-aggressive bullies?

Well, DeLay did apologize this week, sort of -
U.S. House Majority Leader Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, has asked for recommendations on legislation regarding judges' decisions in the Teri Schiavo case.

DeLay became involved with the Schiavo case, in which the husband of a brain-damaged woman received a state judge's order to have the woman's feeding tube removed and the federal courts did not intervene. Schiavo died about two weeks later. DeLay then said the judges responsible for such decisions would be held accountable.

On Wednesday, while saying Schiavo's death may have made him "more passionate" than usual, DeLay told a news conference he told the House Judiciary Committee to recommend legislation regarding the courts. He said, "Of course I believe in an independent judiciary," but added it was congressional duty to rein in the courts, The New York Times reported. He did not outline what kind of legislative action he was seeking.
That is, he really is sorry, and he wants legislation to overturn court rulings. Oh.

Well, what to do about these judges? Get rid of the filibuster so we can get some men of God on the bench. That?s Bill Frist?s idea, as reported widely at the end of the week.
As the Senate heads toward a showdown over the rules governing judicial confirmations, Senator Bill Frist, the majority leader, has agreed to join a handful of prominent Christian conservatives in a telecast portraying Democrats as "against people of faith" for blocking President Bush's nominees. Fliers for the telecast, organized by the Family Research Council and scheduled to originate at a Kentucky megachurch the evening of April 24, call the day "Justice Sunday" and depict a young man holding a Bible in one hand and a gavel in the other. The flier does not name participants, but under the heading "the filibuster against people of faith," it reads: "The filibuster was once abused to protect racial bias, and it is now being used against people of faith."
Reactions? You can find some gathered at the Daily Kos ?

John Cole:
This is so patently offensive that I don't have adequate words to describe how truly wrong this is: [...]

If you don't share our politics, you hate the baby Jesus.

If you don't share our politics, you hate religious people.

If you don't share our politics, you are evil.

Congrats, Republicans. Our leaders have now taken the traditional rhetorical demonization of our opposition and elevated it to heavenly heights. I assume my friends on the right are going to spend the week-end attacking me for being a 'religious bigot' because I rightly point out the inappropriateness of this behavior.
Joe Gandelman:
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has reportedly now not only decided on the "nuclear option" on filibusters but he is apparently ready to help instigate a political BIG BOOM that has the potential of enmeshing the GOP in charges that it's ushering in a new, dangerous area of theocratic McCarthyism.

If he does it, it'll be a watershed moment -- a transformational moment for the GOP...marking the political death of a dominant part of its party. [...]

Isn't this ushering in a new LOW in American political demonization? Isn't this akin to labeling those with whom we disagree Communists or Communist stooges? Isn't this throwing out all pretensions of the kind of intellectual, civilized discourse and debate taught in universities, law schools and practiced daily by Americans on the right and left who sit down for drinks or coffee and agree to differ on issues but maintain respect?
Digby at Hullabaloo:
I cannot stress enough how important I think it is to draw the contrasts between the Democrats and Republicans right now. Their ducky president looks lamer and lamer by the day and both GOP leaders of the congress are overreaching badly with this public soul kissing of the extremist religious right. (Giving them any cover for this wacky morals crusade is just dumb. Don't go there, please.)

All we need to do is say we are defending the constitution. Most people may know nothing about civics in this country anymore, but they know damned well that disemboweling one branch of government is not business as usual.
As Kos humself (Markos Moulitsas Zuniga) says - This is going to get ugly. And surreal. But the American Taliban have Frist in their grip, and won't relinquish until they have their Afghanistan-style theocracy.

From the Anti-Defamation League?
Deeply troubled by reports that Senator Bill Frist will appear in a telecast organized by conservative Christian groups that portrays the filibustering of judicial nominees as "against people of faith," the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today urged Dr. Frist to reconsider his participation in the telecast, stating that: "Whatever one's views may be on this or any other issue, playing the 'religious' card is as unacceptable as playing the race card."

In a strongly worded letter to the Senate majority leader, Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National director, said he was "deeply troubled" by Dr. Frist's decision to appear in the "Justice Sunday" telecast on April 24. The program's message, " deeply flawed and a dangerous affront to fundamental principles of American democracy," Foxman said.

"The heated debate regarding the status of the filibuster in the United States Senate is a quintessentially political contest, not a religious struggle," Foxman said. "Nor should it be portrayed as such. Whatever one's views may be on this or any other issue, playing the 'religious' card is as unacceptable as playing the race card."
The Democratic leadership? Senate leader Reid:
I am disappointed that in an attempt to hide what the debate is really about, Senator Frist would exploit religion like this. Religion to me is a very personal thing. I have been a religious man all my adult life. My wife and I have lived our lives and raised our children according to the morals and values taught by the faith to which we prescribe. No one has the right to judge mine or anyone else?s personal commitment to faith and religion.

God isn?t partisan.

As His children, he does ask us to do our very best and treat each other with kindness. Republicans have crossed a line today. America is better than this and Republicans need to remember that. This is a democracy, not a theocracy. We are people of faith, and in many ways are doing God?s work. But we represent all Americans, regardless of religion. Our founding fathers had the superior vision to separate Church and State in our democracy. It is a fundamental principle that has allowed our great, diverse nation to grow and flourish peacefully. Blurring the line between Church and State erodes our Constitution, and our democracy. It is a blatant abuse of power. Participating in something designed to incite divisiveness and encourage contention is unacceptable. I would hope that Sen. Frist will rise above something so beyond the pale.
Don?t bet on it.

So this is a heads-up. This fight will be amazing. Oppose the Republicans, understand and respect the constitution, expect judges to rule on the laws passed in regard to the constitution? Do so and you are against God.

So it has come to this.

Posted by Alan at 18:56 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 15 April 2005 18:58 PDT home

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