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Photos and text, unless otherwise noted, Copyright 2003,2004,2005,2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

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

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

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"

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Friday, 11 November 2005

Topic: Breaking News

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

Police Pack Paris

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marseille Strike Resumes

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

Photo, Paris, Friday, November 11, 2005 -

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

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

Topic: Photos

New Photo Album: Melrose Avenue - Peculiarly Los Angeles

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 10 November 2005

Topic: Photos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So here it is.

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

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



USA Today catching what may be gone soon.

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

Topic: Breaking News

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

Calmer, But Not Peace

PARIS - Thursday, 10 November -

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2005 - Ric Erickson, MetropoleParis

Editor's Notes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So more will follow.

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

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

Wednesday, 9 November 2005

Topic: Chasing the Zeitgeist

Too Much News: Lots of Things Blow Up

Recedite, plebes! Gero rem imperialem! (Stand aside, plebeians! I am on imperial business!)

Okay, that appeared here, so who knows if the Latin is accurate, or the translation? But it's pretty cool. Those charged with implementing the policies of the administration might want to commit this to memory, as it might be useful when asked questions about our secret prisons in the old soviet satellite countries, what's up with asking for the authority to torture folks and all the rest.

Are people thinking that way? Well, the Comptroller General of the United States, David Walker of the General Accounting Office, says in this in Business Week -
The Roman Empire fell for many reasons, but three seem particularly relevant for our times: (1) declining moral and ethical values and political comity at home, (2) overconfidence and overextension abroad, and (3) fiscal irresponsibility by the central government. All these are certainly matters of significant concern today. But it is the third area that is the focus of my responsibility and authority as Comptroller General, the nation's top auditor and chief accountability officer.
Yes, running an empire is hard work, and our imperial war seems to have grown.

Wednesday, November 9, suicide bombers carried out nearly simultaneous attacks on three hotels in the Jordanian capital of Amman that night, killing at least 57 (the count so far) and wounding 150.

This does appear to be an al-Qaeda assault on this Arab kingdom with very close ties to the United States. The hotels - the Radisson and Day's End and Hyatt - are part of US chains. And Jordan has helped us with the war - training Iraqi police and such things. In the Clinton years we convinced them to sign a peace treaty with Israel. They made their choices.

The wider implications? We may think by invading and occupying Iraq, and setting up there the kind of government we know they really ought to have, we were excising a cancer of sorts, a malignant influence in the region. But we may have started a region-wide war. Why would the bad guys decide that all the bad stuff would have to be carried out inside the Iraq borders? They don't think much about borders, or more probably, think they are artificial barriers to the way the world should be. We fight nations. They don't.

Of course Ahmed Chalabi, who will, it seems, soon run Iraq, was in Washington the same day, and he's from Jordan - although he can't go back what with that conviction for bank fraud and the sentence of twenty-two years hard labor - so maybe there's some message here.

The message might just be this whole business is more than Iraq. We shall see.

Minor blowups?

Mentioned previously, there were rumors that Judy Miller of the New York Times, the reporter who got the Times to publish all the pre-war stories about Iraq having a nuclear program and tons of chemical weapons - straight from her inside sources, Ahmed Chalabi and Scooter Libby and the White House Iraq Group - would return soon to the newspaper. Yeah, she went to jail to protect Libby, and she got the Times to publish single-source propaganda, but would she return as a reporter or even an editor? Would she be telling editor Bill Keller and publisher Arthur Sulzberger what they should and should not print each day?

It seems not. She resigned Wednesday. The Times explains here. They know they were burned. Enough is enough.

Somewhat larger blowups?

That would be the results of the off-year elections all around the country. Something is up.

The Democrat, Corzine, wins in New Jersey (here)
The Democrat, Kaine, win in Virginia (here)

That's two state governors.


The Democrat, Mallroy, wins in Cincinnati (here, the first black mayor they've ever had)
The Democrat, Kilpatrick, wins in Detroit (here)
The Democrat, Frank Johnson, wins in Cleveland (here)
The Democrat, Ryback, wins in Minneapolis (here)
The Democrat, Coleman, wins in Saint Paul (here)

Other races?

The Dover Pennsylvania School Board - all eight "intelligent design" proponents were voted out of office, as they paid the price for the showplace trial on teaching such stuff in science classes. The locals seem to be asserting that Pennsylvania isn't Kansas. It seems they won't be redefining science there. It will be, there at least, just the study of natural phenomena, and not the study of the supernatural or metaphysical.

Out here in California, all eight initiatives on the ballot got voted down.

Proposition - 73 Abortion Notification - no at 52.52 percent
Proposition - 74 Teacher Tenure - no at 54.08 percent
Proposition - 75 Union Dues - no at 53.45 percent
Proposition - 76 Spending Cap - no at 62.00 percent
Proposition - 77 Redistricting - no at 59.46 percent
Proposition - 78 Drugs-Industry - no at 58.42 percent
Proposition - 79 Drugs-Labor - no at 61.02 percent
Proposition - 80 Electricity Deregulation - no at 65.64 percent

Okay, the first was a nod to the religious right, as all teenage girls would be required to let their parents have the final say.

The second was an attempt to hit the teachers' union - and made little sense. Make tenure harder to get. Drive teachers away.

The third was classic union busting - making sure the unions were quiet. No dues for political action, unless with specific instructions each time.

The fourth was classic - give the governor the authority to override everyone and make all budget decisions himself any time there's not a budget surplus.

The fifth was to give a panel of three retired judges the authority to draw the lines, and to get more Republican districts.

The sixth was to cap drug prices in the way the pharmaceutical industry wanted.

The seventh was to cap drug prices in the way the Ralph Nader followers wanted.

The eighth was changing the rules on energy production to make things more "free market."

The voters here, as it seems to some of us, just said they don't trust the governor and would prefer not to have these special elections to decide things he cannot be bothered to work out with the state legislature. This "special election" cost us around seventy million in state funds. It was bullshit. The voters just said so.

Robert Scheer, the Los Angeles Times' token leftie (soon to be fired, according to the word on the street), had this to say about all these results:
The lessons of Tuesday's election both in the bellwether state of California and across the nation is that Lincoln was right: the American people will not forever be fooled. The negative message of the Republican right, even when fronted by a smirking action hero, has lost its power to terrorize voters.
On the other hand, Washington Post columnist Howard Kurtz said this -
Every four years, the press grabs onto the flotsam of the Jersey and Virginia races and the New York mayoral contest - boosted this year by Arnold's special election in California - and tries to interpret, infer and extrapolate what it all means. And it may not mean squat beyond the borders of those states.
Maybe so. All Americans trust Bush and are in awe of Arnold Shwarzenegger, as Kurtz know in his bones. And we're all terrified, and will thus, in the end, vote Republican.

Some of us think not. But we're probably wrong.

Still, the results are interesting.

Other blowups?

This should be noted. It hit the media on Wednesday, November 9 -

Who Is Lying About Iraq?
Norman Podhoretz, Commentary Magazine, December 2005

"Among the many distortions, misrepresentations, and outright falsifications that have emerged from the debate over Iraq, one in particular stands out above all others. This is the charge that George W. Bush misled us into an immoral and/or unnecessary war in Iraq ?"

He says it never happened. People like that Wilkerson fellow just misunderstood things. (In these pages see this and this for what Wilkerson was saying.)

His conclusion: "For the most part, the problems discussed so far have more to do with the methods of Administration officials than with their motives, which were often misguided and dangerous, but were essentially well-intentioned. The one action for which I cannot hold Administration officials blameless is their distortion of intelligence estimates when making the public case for going to war."

But there were those good intentions.

There was tons of reaction.

Matthew Yglesias here -
Now look. Maybe you want to argue that Pollack doesn't know what he's talking about. Maybe the administration's actions weren't "misguided and dangerous." Maybe they didn't engage in "distortion of intelligence estimates" (or, in layman's terms, "lying") when talking to the public. But surely if there's any justice on earth we can all agree that you can't cite an article that calls Bush a liar as evidence that he did nothing wrong.
Kevin Drum here: -
Unless you think that going to war is no more serious than planning a marketing campaign for a new brand of toothpaste, all of this contrary evidence should have been publicized and acknowledged along with all the evidence that went in the other direction. It wasn't. Given this, the fact that so many people believed that Saddam had an active WMD program simply doesn't perform the analytic heavy lifting that Podhoretz thinks it does.

In any case, if it's really true that the Bush administration did nothing to spin, exaggerate, or lie about WMD before the war, why are war supporters so relentlessly trying to suppress any congressional investigation into this? You'd think they'd welcome it instead. For a bunch of innocent bystanders, they sure are acting awfully guilty.

This will be the political discussion for the next three years? Seems so. What was said wasn't the truth, but it wasn't really lying.


Other things blowing up?

Douglas Jehl in the New York Times with this - the CIA's Inspector General warned in a report a long time ago that interrogation techniques approved after 9/11 might violate provisions of the Geneva Conventions.
The current and former intelligence officials who described Mr. Helgerson's report include supporters and critics of his findings. None would agree to be identified by name, and none would describe his conclusions in specific detail. They said the report had included 10 recommendations for changes in the agency's handling of terror suspects, but they would not say what those recommendations were.

Porter J. Goss, the C.I.A. director, testified this year that eight of the report's recommendations had been accepted, but did not describe them. The inspector general is an independent official whose auditing role at the agency was established by Congress, but whose reports to the agency's director are not binding.
So we're actually doing eight of ten things that might be legal. What are the other two? Heck, what are the first eight we're no longer doing?

More CIA stuff - over at the Washington Post there was an editorial by Jeffery Smith, who used to be their top lawyer, the former General Counsel there. He thinks Cheney's call for an exception to allow the CIA to practice torture is loony:
The Post reported on Oct. 27 that John Negroponte, director of national intelligence, has directed intelligence agencies to "bolster the growth of democracy" and support the rule of law in other nations. Those are noble causes that will be embraced by all intelligence officers. But if the vice president's proposal is adopted, the CIA will presumably be free to bolster democracy by torturing anyone who does not embrace it with sufficient enthusiasm. Some democracy.
The vice president is taking heat from all over.

And there's this - some very influential conservatives are getting behind the McCain amendment to follow the existing rules and not torture people, and make no exception to that for the CIA, no matter what the vice president wants.

This torture thing is harder to sell than the plan to wipe out the Social Security program.

And then there's something that just might blow up. Karl Rove is not at all out of the woods. Susan Ralston, Rove's personal assistant, is being called before the Fitzgerald grand jury again, as noted here. That's not over yet?

And there's this. It seems in a White House press briefing Scott McClelland, the press secretary, is asked this:
Whether there's a question of legality, we know for a fact that there was involvement. We know that Karl Rove, based on what he and his lawyer have said, did have a conversation about somebody who Patrick Fitzgerald said was a covert officer of the Central Intelligence Agency. We know that Scooter Libby also had conversations.
He answers, "That's accurate."

The White House transcript publishes his answer as, "I don't think that's accurate."

The White House is now trying to get the Congressional Quarterly and everyone else to change their transcripts. They're resisting. It's on tape, and they don't want to lie. The White House sees it as a courtesy. He didn't mean to say that. But no one is cutting anyone slack these days.

The mood of the country has changed.

Posted by Alan at 20:29 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 9 November 2005 20:34 PST home

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