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

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

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

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"

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Wednesday, 25 January 2006
Perspectives: Those Who Tell Us What It All Really Means
Topic: Couldn't be so...

Perspectives: Those Who Tell Us What It All Really Means

Wednesday, January 25th, was a day for mulling things over - everyone was trying to put things in perspective. The news was thin.

Perspectives? Yeah, Gore Vidal lives up the hill here. He sold the villa on the Amalfi coast. So he's stuck here in the Hollywood Hills, and his latest "perspective" piece is here - text and audio. He's rather devastating.

He quotes from the British historian Charles Freeman - The Closing of the Western Mind - and Morris Berman, a professor of sociology at the Catholic University of America in Washington - Dark Ages America: The Final Phase of Empire. Vidal comments - "Mr. Bush, God knows, is no Augustine; but Freeman points to the latter as the epitome of a more general process that was underway in the fourth century: namely, 'the gradual subjection of reason to faith and authority. This is what we are seeing today, and it is a process that no society can undergo and still remain free. Yet it is a process of which administration officials, along with much of the American population, are aggressively proud.'"

Vidal adds that "close observers of this odd presidency note that Bush, like his evangelical base, believes he is on a mission from God and that faith trumps empirical evidence."

Berman of course quotes a senior White House adviser who disdains what he calls the "reality-based" community (see this in these pages for details). Berman - "If a nation is unable to perceive reality correctly, and persists in operating on the basis of faith-based delusions, its ability to hold its own in the world is pretty much foreclosed."

Yeah, yeah - we know all this. We're in a cultural death valley, and it's not just all the fights over not teaching evolution. As Freeman says -
Add to this the pervasive hostility toward science on the part of the current administration (e.g. stem-cell research) and we get a clear picture of the Enlightenment being steadily rolled back. Religion is used to explain terror attacks as part of a cosmic conflict between Good and Evil rather than in terms of political processes.... Manichaeanism rules across the United States. According to a poll taken by Time magazine fifty-nine percent of Americans believe that John's apocalyptic prophecies in the Book of Revelation will be fulfilled, and nearly all of these believe that the faithful will be taken up into heaven in the "Rapture."

Finally, we shouldn't be surprised at the antipathy toward democracy displayed by the Bush administration.... As already noted, fundamentalism and democracy are completely antithetical. The opposite of the Enlightenment, of course, is tribalism, groupthink; and more and more, this is the direction in which the United States is going.... Anthony Lewis who worked as a columnist for the New York Times for thirty-two years, observes that what has happened in the wake of 9/11 is not just the threatening of the rights of a few detainees, but the undermining of the very foundation of democracy. Detention without trial, denial of access to attorneys, years of interrogation in isolation - these are now standard American practice, and most Americans don't care. Nor did they care about the revelation in July 2004 (reported in Newsweek), that for several months the White House and the Department of Justice had been discussing the feasibility of canceling the upcoming presidential election in the event of a possible terrorist attack.
The times are bad indeed, and Vidal adds this -
We are assured daily by advertisers and/or politicians that we are the richest, most envied people on Earth and, apparently, that is why so many awful, ill-groomed people want to blow us up. We live in an impermeable bubble without the sort of information that people living in real countries have access to when it comes to their own reality. But we are not actually people in the eyes of the national ownership: we are simply unreliable consumers comprising an overworked, underpaid labor force not in the best of health. The World Health Organization rates our healthcare system (sic - or sick?) as 37th-best in the world, far behind even Saudi Arabia, role model for the Texans. Our infant mortality rate is satisfyingly high, precluding a First World educational system. Also, it has not gone unremarked even in our usually information-free media that despite the boost to the profits of such companies as Halliburton, Bush's wars of aggression against small countries of no danger to us have left us well and truly broke. Our annual trade deficit is a half-trillion dollars, which means that we don't produce much of anything the world wants except those wan reports on how popular our Entertainment is overseas. Unfortunately the foreign gross of "King Kong," the Edsel of that assembly line, is not yet known. It is rumored that Bollywood - the Indian film business - may soon surpass us! Berman writes, "We have lost our edge in science to Europe...The US economy is being kept afloat by huge foreign loans ($4 billion a day during 2003). What do you think will happen when America's creditors decide to pull the plug, or when OPEC members begin selling oil in euros instead of dollars?... An International Monetary Fund report of 2004 concluded that the United States was 'careening toward insolvency.' " Meanwhile, China, our favorite big-time future enemy, is the number one for worldwide foreign investments, with France, the bete noire of our apish neocons, in second place.

Well, we still have Kraft cheese and, of course, the death penalty.
Perhaps Vidal reads too much. But you might want to check out his central conceit - just how did Jonah end up in that whale? What happened after they tossed him overboard? Didn't the storm stop and the warms become calm? That's the thought here, Bush as Jonah.

It's not going happen. As one reader in Rochester (New York state, top left edge) said - "he is preaching to the choir, and he is too articulate for the people who should listen."

Well, it is long, with references like "the integration of religion, the state, and the apparatus of torture - a troika that was for Voltaire the central horror of the pre-Enlightenment world" and a bit about the Roman emperor Tiberius. Altogether too erudite. Our friend in Rochester suggests Vidal is now the William F. Buckley of the left.

Still, it pulls a lot together, and, for those with a taste for history and scholarly matters, it works.

Other perspectives?

People are still mulling over that audio tape from Osama bin Laden last week. Christopher Hitchens offered Al-Qaida Is Losing: There's desperation in Osama's voice. Maybe, but why does Hitchens continue to hold that bin Laden did the western world a "big favor" by attacking New York and Washington? Well, yes, this brought things to a head and started the war Hitchens thinks we should fight from now to forever. See also Al-Qaida: Weaker Or Stronger? - a review of those who disagree with Hitchens' assessment of what the tape means about just who is winning or losing, and strength or weakness, or agree, or just don't know. Hitchens is alone, of course, in being grateful to Osama bin Laden. If nothing else, the tape keeps columnists busy.

Other perspectives?

People are still trying the get their heads around this -
A US officer who faced up to three years in jail for killing a captured Iraqi general has been punished with a reprimand and a $6,000 fine.

Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Welshofer Jr was convicted last week of the negligent homicide of Maj Gen Abed Hamed Mowhoush in 2003.

Prosecutors said Gen Mowhoush was tied, placed headfirst in a sleeping bag and died with an officer sitting on him.

Welshofer has thanked his military "family" for supporting his defense.
Everyone in the courtroom cheered when the verdict was read. The fellow was ordered to be confined to his base and "place of worship" for sixty days. He had said he was sorry.

Marc Cooper's perspective, after reviewing all the details, is this -
Let's make sure we get this story right. You take the captured, uniformed general of an enemy army - and in blatant violation of all notions of human decency and of the Geneva Conventions - you beat him with rubber hoses, pour water down his nose, then stuff him into a sleeping bag, tie him with electrical cord, and then sit your ass down on his chest until he suffocates and you are convicted of what? "Negligent homicide?"

... Remember that the victim in this case, Iraqi General Abed Hamel Mowhoush was a top, uniformed officer of a recognized state-sponsored enemy army and not some "illegal combatant." Worse, when Mowhoush was suffocated in November 2003, it was after he had voluntarily turned himself in to U.S. military authorities. At least, sort of voluntarily. Fact is, the General surrendered to American troops because they were holding his sons hostage - yet another stark violation of international law.
Well, that's one way of looking at it, but Welshofer said he was sorry.

In the local paper out here we get this - "The day after the general's death, prosecutors said, Welshofer asked for another sleeping bag so he could continue using the technique on others."


And in the Washington Monthly Kevin Drum tries to get some perspective on the defense used by Welshofer, asking this - "if the jury bought Welshofer's argument that he was just following orders, whose orders was he following?

Are you supposed to be asking those questions? And why do people refuse to see us as the good guys in all this?

Other perspectives?

Someone has it wrong. You just have to decide who.

You see, the Associated Press got its hands on a study the Pentagon commissioned - Andrew Krepinevich, a retired Army officer wrote it under a Pentagon contract, and it concluded that the Army cannot sustain the pace of troop deployments to Iraq long enough to "break the back" of the insurgency. The AP story is here - "Stretched by frequent troop rotations to Iraq and Afghanistan, has become a 'thin green line' that could snap unless relief comes soon." Part of the evidence is the Army's 2005 recruiting slump - they missed the recruiting goal for the first time since 1999 - and the decision to offer much bigger enlistment bonuses and other incentives. And yes, they raised the enlistment age (from 35 to 42) and lowered the standards regarding education and literacy.

Then congressional Democrats released a report Wednesday - same sort of thing, from former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former Secretary of Defense William Perry. Our ground forces are under "enormous strain" - and "This strain, if not soon relieved, will have highly corrosive and potentially long-term effects on the force." (But Madeleine Albright was born in what used to be Czechoslovakia and she dresses funny - and both these folks worked for Bill Clinton.)

Our current Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, took umbrage with all this. He has plans to reduce forces and buy more high-tech gizmos, all part of his "transformation" of the military.

His views here - "the force is not broken" - such an implication was "almost backward."

- "This armed force is enormously capable. In addition, it's battle hardened. It's not a peacetime force that has been in barracks or garrisons."

- Any report that the military is close to the breaking point "is just not consistent with the facts."

- "It's clear that those comments do not reflect the current situation. They are either out of date or just misdirected."

And then he blamed Clinton for leaving a mess for him to clean up. (And you can be sure he's going to come down hard on whoever leaked the Krepinevich study to the Associated Press.)

Lou Dobbs opened his CNN show on the 25th with this story, and his first words were "somebody's lying."

You just have to decide who.

Berman - "If a nation is unable to perceive reality correctly, and persists in operating on the basis of faith-based delusions, its ability to hold its own in the world is pretty much foreclosed."

Other perspectives?

Cathy Young here noticed that the International Lesbian and Gay Association recently applied to join the United Nations Economic and Social Council.

Yawn. This is a "niche" news story (here).

The giggle is this...

These countries voted to at least consider the application: Chile, France, Germany, Peru and Romania.

These countries voted to dismiss the application without allowing a hearing: Cameroon, China, Cuba, Iran, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Senegal, Sudan and Zimbabwe - and the United States.

Cathy Young doesn't like the company we keep.

As before, from as Markos Moulitsas Zúniga (aka "Kos," of the most widely-read site on the left), this -
Let's not forget that ultimately, Osama's vision for the Arab world is far more akin to the Right's vision of America. ... On homosexuality, on militarism, on women's rights, on religion in school, on capital punishment, on free speech, on curtailment of civil liberties, and on a million different other issues Islamic fundamentalists don't share many disagreements with the ideologues running our country. The reason we hate Islamic fundamentalists is pretty much the same reason we're fighting to take back this country from the Republicans. They are two peas from the same pod, and diametrically opposed to everything we liberals stand for.
We just voted with Iran.

Vidal was onto something.

Posted by Alan at 20:34 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, 26 January 2006 06:47 PST home

Tuesday, 24 January 2006
Maybe honesty is actually the best policy...
Topic: In these times...

Maybe honesty is actually the best policy...

You'd think on a day when no major news breaks - Tuesday, January 24th - things would calm down. Here at the edge of the Hollywood Hills, just about when Laurel Canyon meets the Sunset Strip at the Laugh Factory and the big Virgin store (they sell music and video, not big virgins), things did calm down - after two days of howling Santa Ana winds blasting down the canyon and rolling trash cans down the streets, that all stopped. Calm, hard sunshine, and near eighty - and the pool guys are everywhere scooping the debris out of the pale chorine water all over the neighborhood. Back to normal.

And the trusty Los Angeles Times landed with a thump at the door, on time - so feed the cat, pour some coffee, see what's up. Well, what was up was the usual doom and gloom, some local, some national, some international, but one just knew what was going to raise some eyebrows was that appeared at the bottom of the opinion page, this from Joel Stein -
I don't support our troops. This is a particularly difficult opinion to have, especially if you are the kind of person who likes to put bumper stickers on his car. Supporting the troops is a position that even Calvin is unwilling to urinate on.

I'm sure I'd like the troops. They seem gutsy, young and up for anything. If you're wandering into a recruiter's office and signing up for eight years of unknown danger, I want to hang with you in Vegas.

And I've got no problem with other people - the ones who were for the Iraq war - supporting the troops. If you think invading Iraq was a good idea, then by all means, support away. Load up on those patriotic magnets and bracelets and other trinkets the Chinese are making money off of.
This is going to be trouble. Bill O'Reilly already hates the paper, and the Times did get rid of Michael Kinsey as opinion editor, and dump the lefty columnist Robert Sheerer - and they run Jonah Goldberg's columns all the time now, saying the left is foolish when it isn't stupidly alarmist and everything is fine now. And then they run this Stein thing.

Well, Stein argues he's just not for this war, and says that "being against the war and saying you support the troops is one of the wussiest positions the pacifists have ever taken - and they're wussy by definition." He wants none of that - because "blindly" lending support to our soldiers will keep them overseas longer "by giving soft acquiescence to the hawks who sent them there - and who might one day want to send them somewhere else."

Well, he's consistent, even if the tone is badly managed - the thing full of some sort of snide humor -
... those little yellow ribbons aren't really for the troops. They need body armor, shorter stays and a USO show by the cast of "Laguna Beach."

The real purpose of those ribbons is to ease some of the guilt we feel for voting to send them to war and then making absolutely no sacrifices other than enduring two Wolf Blitzer shows a day. Though there should be a ribbon for that.

I understand the guilt. We know we're sending recruits to do our dirty work, and we want to seem grateful.

After we've decided that we made a mistake, we don't want to blame the soldiers who were ordered to fight. Or even our representatives, who were deceived by false intelligence. And certainly not ourselves, who failed to object to a war we barely understood.
All true, but the tone is all wrong, and tone here is defined as the writer's attitude toward his subject matter. And that's not working for him, as in this -
But blaming the president is a little too easy. The truth is that people who pull triggers are ultimately responsible, whether they're following orders or not. An army of people making individual moral choices may be inefficient, but an army of people ignoring their morality is horrifying. An army of people ignoring their morality, by the way, is also Jack Abramoff's pet name for the House of Representatives.
Why that last line? It's Hollywood thing, and this is a bad Bill Maher. Stein undercuts his argument with junk wit. As he says, he's not advocating that we spit on returning veterans like they did after the Vietnam War, "but we shouldn't be celebrating people for doing something we don't think was a good idea." He suggests instead of parades for veterans we give them what they need actually need - hospitals, pensions, mental health "and a safe, immediate return."

It's just too bad about the jokes, as he does make some sense.

Of course on the same day Senator Rick Santorum said this at a political rally -
And yet we have brave men and women who are willing to step forward because they know what's at stake. They're willing to sacrifice their lives for this great country. What I'm asking all of you tonight is not to put on a uniform. Put on a bumper sticker. Is it that much to ask? Is it that much to ask to step up and serve your country?
Huh? That's serving your country? "The real purpose of those ribbons is to ease some of the guilt we feel for voting to send them to war and then making absolutely no sacrifices..."

Stein is onto something.

Reaction? Over at Red State - Hating the Troops: One Lefty Says What Most Others Probably Really Think.

Did Stein say he hates the troops? Well, he said he rather they were not doing what they're doing, and suggests we owe them some stuff that will cost real money - hospitals, pensions and all that. He'd love to hang out with these guys in Vegas. Hate? It's not that simple, but you can find hundreds of items like the one at Red State.

The Fox News crew will fume. The Times will say something about printing all side of the issues of the day. And those on the left should try to get past the jokes here - you cannot have it both ways. The troops are not victims. They signed up knowing what they were going to be doing. If you do not approve what they are doing - implementing our new unique form of foreign policy - prophylactic war where we wish to make us safe and respected - then it seems odd to laud those who signed up to implement that policy. Let's be logical.

These military guys are good at what they do - and brave and honorable and wicked smart (the ones I know) and all the rest. But you can disagree with them. (In these pages see Disagreeing Sensibly on that matter.) That's still allowed, for now.

Well, Joel Stein stirred up a hornet's nest, but no more that the Washington Times did in its magazine, "Insight." The Washington Times is, of course, owned by Reverend Moon of the Unification Church, and is considered by many to be the voice of the Republicans now in power (the editorial page is managed by Tony Blankley), so what's with this?

Impeachment Hearings: The White House Prepares For The Worst -
The Bush administration is bracing for impeachment hearings in Congress.

"A coalition in Congress is being formed to support impeachment," an administration source said.

Sources said a prelude to the impeachment process could begin with hearings by the Senate Judiciary Committee in February. They said the hearings would focus on the secret electronic surveillance program and whether Mr. Bush violated the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Administration sources said the charges are expected to include false reports to Congress as well as Mr. Bush's authorization of the National Security Agency to engage in electronic surveillance inside the United States without a court warrant. This included the monitoring of overseas telephone calls and e-mail traffic to and from people living in the United States without requisite permission from a secret court...
What? This is very odd, but you prepare for all contingencies (save post-war occupation of foreign lands and hurricanes).

The items ends with "unnamed administration sources" saying the White House will defend itself relying on the image of a hero who saves his people, and must sometimes do so by doing what he shouldn't, for the greater good, or some such thing. Folks will understand this.

Well, this is the kind of a story that livens up a slow news day, but it seems too contrived (as in completely untrue). It smacks of an attempt to float some ideas and see how folks react - run that last idea (the noble hero reluctantly doing what he must) up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes. No one saluted, one way or the other. But it was a nice try. The story was probably cooked up in the office of Karl Rove, to see how folks would react. They didn't.

They didn't because what was going on in the real world with the NSA spying thing was getting downright Byzantine, or Baroque, or whatever word you'd like - complex, convoluted?

There's a little summary here (Kevin Drum, Washington Monthly) but it comes down to this.

First the administration does really acknowledge that the NSA program violates the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), even as it was amended it 1995 to make things looser. But the first argument is that this isn't really breaking the law - the Attorney General says that the Authorization for Use of Military Force passed just after the 9/11 business gave the president the authority to disregard that law. Congress says no, it didn't. The administration says, yes, it did. Then, Monday, General Michael Hayden of the NSA said that the reason they had to bypass FISA was because it required a showing of "probable cause" that the target of a wiretap request was a foreign power - and that standard was just too tricky to meet. Then Tuesday there was this - in 2002, Republican congressman Mike DeWine introduced an amendment to FISA that would have retained probable cause as the standard for US citizens, but allowed "reasonable suspicion" to be used as a standard for anyone else - and the White House argued that wasn't really necessary and the congress could pass it anyway. That died in committee.

Drum has all the links if you want to look it all up, but adds this -
Congress refused to pass DeWine's amendment. This makes it plain that Congress did not intend for AUMF to loosen the restrictions of FISA.

So this leaves only the argument that the president's inherent constitutional powers give him the authority to order wiretaps of U.S. citizens even when Congress has passed laws forbidding it. There is, as near as I can tell, no case law that supports this view.

It's worth noting, by the way, that the administration has been adamant that calls are only monitored if one end of the call is outside the United States. But why not also monitor calls within the United States? Last month General Hayden said simply that "that's where we've decided to draw that balance between security and liberty" - in this case "we" meaning the president and the NSA.

This rather strongly implies that George Bush believes there's nothing stopping him from ordering 100% domestic wiretapping if he feels like it, and nothing Congress can do about it if he does.

So much for Article I Section 8.
Too complicated? It's power thing.

The current crew at 1600 Pennsylvania is saying we've had the constitution wrong all this time - if the president says he must do something the law says he shouldn't, he can, as it's his job, as we're at war, to use his own judgment as to what's best, no matter what the law says.

No president ever claimed this in the first two hundred thirty years, but either they were not so bold and decisive, or everything changed after 9/11 and this is far more serious than what Lincoln faced, or FDR with the Nazis, or all the presidents who had to deal with the Soviets having all those nuclear missiles aimed at out cities for more than fifty years, ready to drop in. These new guys hijack airplanes and blow up subways! This is serious now!

Juan Cole, the Middle East expert at the University of Michigan, of course, has his doubts, as in his list Top Ten Mistakes of the Bush Administration in Reacting to Al-Qaeda -
Al-Qaeda is a small terrorist network that has spawned a few copy-cats and wannabes. Its breakthrough was to recruit some high-powered engineers in Hamburg, which it immediately used up. Most al-Qaeda recruits are marginal people, people like Zacarias Moussawi and Richard Reid, who would be mere cranks if they hadn't been manipulated into trying something dangerous. Muhammad al-Amir (a.k.a Atta) and Ziad Jarrah were highly competent scientists, who could figure the kinetic energy of a jet plane loaded with fuel. There don't seem to be significant numbers of such people in the organization. They are left mostly with cranks, petty thieves, drug smugglers, bored bank tellers, shopkeepers, and so forth, persons who could pull off a bombing of trains in Madrid or London, but who could not for the life of them do a really big operation.

The Bush administration and the American Right generally has refused to acknowledge what we now know. Al-Qaeda is dangerous. All small terrorist groups can do damage. But it is not an epochal threat to the United States or its allies of the sort the Soviet Union was (and that threat was consistently exaggerated, as well).
Oh. Well, we were misinformed. Is it really a Muslim version of the radical seventies groups like the Baader Meinhoff gang or the Japanese Red Army, and only a few hundred really committed members? Where there only a few thousand close sympathizers, "who had passed through the Afghanistan training camps or otherwise been inducted into the world view." But, but...

Well, we did what we did -
... the United States invaded a major Muslim country, occupied it militarily, tortured its citizens, killed tens of thousands, tinkered with the economy - did all those things that Muslim nationalists had feared and warned against, and there hasn't even been much of a reaction from the Muslim world. Only a few thousand volunteers went to fight. Most people just seem worried that the US will destabilize their region and leave a lot of trouble behind them. People are used to seeing Great Powers do as they will. A Syrian official before the war told a journalist friend of mine that people in the Middle East had been seeing these sorts of invasions since Napoleon took Egypt in 1798. "Well," he shrugged, "usually they leave behind a few good things when they finally leave."
They may think we're crazy.

And as for the ten mistakes, they're obvious, and you can read them all.

Note eight through ten -
8. Counterterrorism requires friendly allies and close cooperation. The Bush administration alienated France, Germany and Spain, along with many Middle Eastern nations that had long waged struggles of their own against terrorist groups. Bush is widely despised and has left America isolated in the world. Virtually all the publics of all major nations hate US policy. One poll showed that in secular Turkey where Muslim extremism is widely reviled and Bin Laden is generally disliked, the public preferred Bin Laden to Bush. Bush is widely seen as more dangerous than al-Qaeda. This image is bad for US counterterrorism efforts.

9. Bush transported detainees to torture sites in Eastern Europe. Under European Union laws, both torture and involvement in torture are illegal, and European officials can be tried for these crimes. How many European counterterrorism officials will want to work closely with the Americans if, for all they know, this association could end in jail time? Indeed, in Washington it is said that a lot of our best CIA officers are leaving, afraid that they are being ordered to do things that are illegal, and for which they could be tried once another administration comes to power in Washington.

10. Bush's failure to capture Bin Laden and al-Zawahiri allows them to continue to grandstand, to continue to frighten the public, to continue to affect financial markets, and to continue to plot. Al-Zawahiri almost certainly plotted the 7/7 London subway bombings himself, and gloated about it when he issued Muhammad Siddique Khan's suicide statement. Misplaced Bush priorities are getting our allies hit. The CIA is reduced to firing predators at villages because our counterterrorism efforts have been starved for funds by the Iraq quagmire. If al-Qaeda does pull off another American operation, it may well give Bush and Cheney an opportunity to destroy the US constitution altogether, finally giving Bin Laden his long-sought revenge on Americans for the way he believes they have forced Palestinians and other Muslims to live under lawless foreign domination or local tyranny.
Other than that, this went surprisingly well.

A reaction from Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis (an email to Hollywood) -
What's the verdict?

The current US administration is the most incompetent, cruel, corrupt, bungling, lying, deceitful group ever assembled to manage the affairs of the United States of America.

The Swiss investigator Marty, on contract with the Council of Europe, suspects that the United States may have kidnapped a hundred terror suspects and freighted them around Europe before delivering them to CIA-controlled secret contract prisons, for interrogation and torture. What's wrong with this is that kidnapping, torture and secret imprisonment are... illegal. If it has happened, is happening, it is illegal. Nobody in Europe needs to get the opinion of the US Attorney General about this. GW Bush's opinion does not count.

Of the terrorism suspects locked up in Europe awaiting trials, to be found innocent or guilty, possibly more have been convicted than those in similar situations in the United States. For all his noise and swagger, GW Bush is not giving Americans any value for their money, fair or otherwise.
Well, some would disagree.

But no agreement will be reached, and there's a reason why - see Benedict Carey in the New York Times with this - A Shocker: Partisan Thought Is Unconscious.

People don't think things through - "Using MRI scanners, neuroscientists have now tracked what happens in the politically partisan brain when it tries to digest damning facts about favored candidates or criticisms of them. The process is almost entirely emotional and unconscious, the researchers report, and there are flares of activity in the brain's pleasure centers when unwelcome information is being rejected."

Drew Westen, a psychologist at Emory is lead author of the study, and he'll present it next Saturday at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology meeting out in Palm Springs. His comment? "It is possible to override these biases, but you have to engage in ruthless self reflection, to say, 'All right, I know what I want to believe, but I have to be honest.' It speaks to the character of the discourse that this quality is rarely talked about in politics."

Oh. No need to drive three hours out to Palm Springs to learn more. Got it.

What about Markos Moulitsas Zúniga (aka "Kos," of the most widely-read site on the left)? Is this honest? -
Let's not forget that ultimately, Osama's vision for the Arab world is far more akin to the Right's vision of America. ... On homosexuality, on militarism, on women's rights, on religion in school, on capital punishment, on free speech, on curtailment of civil liberties, and on a million different other issues Islamic fundamentalists don't share many disagreements with the ideologues running our country. The reason we hate Islamic fundamentalists is pretty much the same reason we're fighting to take back this country from the Republicans. They are two peas from the same pod, and diametrically opposed to everything we liberals stand for.
Well, it's a start.

Posted by Alan at 21:33 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 24 January 2006 21:40 PST home

Monday, 23 January 2006
They Call It Stormy Monday, But Tuesday's Just The Same
Topic: Chasing the Zeitgeist

They Call It Stormy Monday, But Tuesday's Just The Same

Monday, January 23rd opened with this - "A British scientist says he has proven January 23 to be the year's lowest emotional point."

This fellow's name is Clifford Arnall and he's got this special formula - personal and seasonal factors all weighed against each other - bleak weather, debt versus monthly salary, the elapsed time since Christmas, the elapsed time since failure to quit a bad habit (think about your New Year resolutions), winter-time low motivational levels bumping up against the actual need to take some sort of action about this or that. And there are no holidays scheduled any time soon. (The next is Valentine's Day, which is the cause of tremendous anxiety and subsequent depression, self-reproach and guilt, of course.) He says his formula is valid for both the UK and most of the United States. He may not have "proved" anything, but he's clearly on to something. Some of us would argue Groundhog Day might be a better fit here, unless you live in Punxsutawney and own a concession stand.

But his day was the day Ford announced the plan to shed thirty-thousand workers in the next year or two, and close fourteen major assembly and parts plants. The idea is to make twenty-five percent fewer cars and trucks, and make car and trucks people might actually want to own. It is a matter of survival. The Windstar minivan wasn't going to save the company, and only the police and strange old men in baseball caps drive the Crown Victoria, which tends to blow up in a large fireball when tapped from behind, unless you buy the dealer-installed upgrade they've not publicized. Time to rethink all this.

This is bad news, made even more depressing with the note that only one thousand of the thirty-thousand jobs that will disappear will be Canadian Ford jobs, which might have something to do with labor costs there - the government picks up all the healthcare costs. It might have something to do with Ontario having the highest percentage of workers with college degrees in the industrialized world, or not. Both are advantages that have been pointed out in the pages before (see this last July). Still, the Ford announcement was a Clifford Arnall moment. Lou Dobbs on CNN was fuming.

But note this point-counterpoint -

White House Begins New Effort to Defend Surveillance Program -
President Bush today opened what amounts to a weeklong media blitz against criticism of the National Security Agency's warrantless eavesdropping program, calling it a "terrorist surveillance program" that had saved lives.

Mr. Bush hotly denied charges that he had done anything illegal by authorizing the warrantless eavesdropping program. "If I wanted to break the law," he told an audience at Kansas State University, "why was I briefing Congress?"

Earlier in the day, in Washington, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, who led the National Security Agency when it began the warrantless wiretaps, vigorously defended the program , though he acknowledged that it depended on a lower standard of evidence than required by courts.

"The trigger is quicker and a bit softer," said General Hayden, an Air Force officer who is now the principal deputy director of the new national intelligence agency, "but the intrusion into privacy is also limited: only international calls and only those we have a reasonable basis to believe involve Al Qaeda or one of its affiliates."

The standard laid out by General Hayden - a "reasonable basis to believe" - is lower than "probable cause," the standard used by the special court created by Congress to handle surveillance involving foreign intelligence.
Killing Me Softly -
... I'm down in the dumps, mostly because I am watching George W. Bush repeat his patented mantra for the 514,346th time. It's filled with lies, mischaracterizations and simple-minded gibberish, as always, and I'm watching it go out unfiltered, in its entirety, unchallenged by the media, no Democrats in sight, on every cable channel. I think they are personally trying to drive me crazy.

There is one new wrinkle. Regarding the illegal wiretapping, he just said, "it's amazing to me when people say I just wanted to break the law. If I wanted to break the law why would I brief congress?"

His masterful sound guy is there, compressing the sound, building the audience response to statements like that from a distant chuckle to a soft moan of appreciation, slowly ratcheting it up to a low roar until it reaches a crescendo of ecstatic, sustained hysteria. I think I even saw some rending of garments in the fourth row.

They are going to the 9/11 well again. They say that Democrats are sending talking points to Osama and giving aid and comfort to the enemy. Rove says we don't believe that the government should monitor al Qaeda's telephone calls. The next several months will be spent fending off accusations that if we don't let the president do anything he damned well pleases we are all going to die.

I don't know if it will work again. But I also don't know if I can take this campaign one more time. Five years of hearing the same thing over and over again and watching American sheeple fall for it over and over again is just too depressing. I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to January 20, 2009 (and I'm of an age where rushing the future is no longer wise.) The day I no longer have to listen to one more word from this immoral, dishonest, incompetent, delusional prick will be the best day of my life.
That's the kind of day it was, and indeed, the news media dutifully repeated the Karl Rove talking point from his speech last Friday, where he said the Democrats simply don't want to monitor the bad guys making plans. The day was filled with Democrats, even the useless John Kerry, saying of course we do - but we want to do is sensibly, carefully, and methodically - not with a wholesale spying on everyone - and within the law and constitutionally.

This of course is a major miscalculation on the part of the Democrats. They seem to think people value their privacy, but they clearly don't - if the NSA wants to put a camera in their shower or record every telephone call and email and file it all, that's fine. Anything to get the bad guys. On the Fox News panel shows with "real Americans," on all the call-in radio shows, it's the same. If you have nothing to hide (and good people don't) then there's no problem. These people just wonder what the Democrats have to hide. Privacy is a loser of an issue.

And of course in the question-and-answer with General Hayden he said the constitution said searches just had to be reasonable - there was nothing in the Fourth Amendment about "probable cause" - those two words just aren't there and everyone knew it. He scolded the reporters. The administration was just being reasonable. He knew his stuff. The news media reported all this dutifully, and didn't note that those two words - "probable cause" - actually are there in the Fourth Amendment, in every copy. But you don't want to embarrass the guy, and if you catch him out and expose him saying something that just isn't so, well, then you're giving comfort to the enemy and the Fox guys - O'Reilly and Hannity - will be on your case, and America will turn away from you, and you'll lose even more advertising revenue. So that passed.

For many of this, this was another Clifford Arnall moment.

But then there is the refreshing new openness from the administration, as in this -
Move over, Oprah. President Bush is making himself into television's newest talk show host by featuring audience participation in his appearances.

Bush has been taking questions from audience members in recent speeches, and the White House says none has been prescreened even though the sessions are limited to invited groups. It's a throwback to the folksy style on the campaign trail that helped him win re-election and a departure from the heavily scripted speeches that were the norm last year.
So the startling news of the day was that the president, starting with this appearance at Kansas State University in Manhattan (Kansas), was going to talk unscripted questions. He was going to dazzle them with his openness and willingness to respond to anything they put to him. He'd show all the doubters he was quick on his feet (with his mouth) and in command of all issue.

Yeah, yeah, the audience was carefully screened and all his worshipers, but for once he didn't know the questions coming and hadn't memorized the answers. This was not exactly Question Time in the House of Commons, but you have to start somewhere.

How did that go? As a general rule, see Crooks and Liars for video. They have him here (Windows Media) and here (QuickTime), looking really bamboozled when someone asked him about the big hit movie about the two gay cowboys, "Brokeback Mountain" -
Q: You're a rancher, a lot of us here in Kansas are ranchers - I just wanted to get your opinion on Brokeback Mountain, if you'd seen it yet?

Bush: I hadn't seen it - I hope you go back to the ranch and the farms...
And what? Get out of his face? Maybe this unscripted thing wasn't such a good idea. Those of us who caught a bit of this noticed the woman who asked about the 12.7 billion dollars cut from education funding, particularly from the student loan program - how was this going to make anything better for the country? The answer? The funding wasn't really "cut." Things were "restructured." No one in the room was buying it. You can imagine the "Note to Staff" - do better audience screening, and no more university appearances.

Ah well. That wasn't nearly as odd as some other recent questions to the opposition.

You may recall that two weeks ago the singer and activist Harry Belafonte, almost eighty now, was in Chile and called George Bush was the "greatest terrorist in the world" (see this). Belafonte has been saying that a lot. He's not happy. And Sunday, on NBC's "Meet the Press," this came up. Tim Russert, the host and "owner" of the show, had as his guest the junior senator from Illinois, Barack Obama, a rising star in the Democratic Party - the man who gave that amazing speech at the Democratic Convention in Boston.

Well, Russert put two and two together. Harry Belafonte is black. Barack Obama is black. Neither supports Bush. Ask Barack Obama about Harry. Yes, Harry Belafonte is a private citizen with no connection to the Democratic Party, but, well, they're both black folk aren't they? Russert saw an opening (see the video here).

It was one of those all-you-black-folk-are-alike moments. Barack Obama was, pretty much, being asked to explain what's wrong with the black folks. Why don't they like George? Note here the only other time Russert questioned anyone about Harry Belafonte before was when he asked Colin Powell. Tim wants to find out what black folks are up to?

He might ask what Navy folks are up to - see the Wikipedia entry on Harry Belafonte (here). Harry Belafonte is a WWII veteran - Navy. He enlisted, voluntarily. And James Webb, secretary of the Navy in the Reagan administration, a Marine platoon and company commander in Vietnam, on January 18th in the New York Times here, was all over the administration for personally attacking decorated veterans who disagreed with current policy. Maybe it's a Navy thing, Tim.

Peter Daou here -
My question is, why? Why did Russert ask Obama in particular about the statements of someone who isn't an elected official, who doesn't speak for Democrats, who doesn't represent Obama, who doesn't represent the Democratic Party, who is entitled to his own opinion.


Since when does an elected Democrat have to answer for the words of a citizen, however outrageous those words, even if that citizen has a public profile? And what's the real motive behind bringing the Belafonte quote into a discussion with Obama? The guilt-by-association game between terrorists and Democrats has been in hyper-drive this past week...
Yeah, well, scroll down to one of the comments and you get an explanation -
People objecting to Russert's question are apparently not aware that all prominent black people get together at a meeting in Secaucus, New Jersey, every Wednesday afternoon to share fried chicken and watermelon and decide what all black people think that week. Russert, being the perceptive newsman that he is, knows about these meetings. That is why he asked the question.
That must be it.

Steve Gilliard here -
Obama, like too many liberals, try to play nice when asked stupid questions, which implies weakness.

All he had to do was ask: "Did you ask me that question because I was black? Because as I understand it, Mr. Belafonte is entitled to his opinion, and is alone accountable for it. When was the last time you asked a white Senator to account for the ravings of Pat Robertson, who unlike Mr. Belafonte, has the ear of the President and the national media."
That would have been cool.

Well, see this - a screen capture of Secretary Of State Rice, a black woman, being asked her reaction to Hally Berry, a black woman, winning the Oscar way back when. Tim just doesn't "get" black folk. (Rice did say film awards wasn't her area of expertise, but was polite about it. Tim didn't get it.)

It all pretty comical.

Ah well, race issues aside, the rules of political discourse have changed, Glenn Greenwald explains here.

Read the whole thing but see the end -
It is a despicable act of deranged hatred to call George Bush a "terrorist." But it is perfectly acceptable, even common, to accuse Bush's political opponents of being traitors, committing treason, being on "the other side" (i.e., with the terrorists), and pronouncing that they should hang. And there's one last rule you don't want to forget about. It's from Newt Gingrich, announced on Hannity & Colmes:

"I think it's quite clear as you point out, Sean, that from this tape, that bin Laden and his lieutenants are monitoring the American news media, they're monitoring public opinion polling, and I suspect they take a great deal of comfort when they see people attacking United States policies."

So, according to Newt, anyone who is "attacking United States policies" - what we in the United States used to call "criticizing the Government" - is now guilty of giving "a great deal of comfort" to Al Qaeda.

These rules seem very fair and evenly applied and I think we owe it to the country to be a little more diligent in complying with them. After all, if we don't stop with all of this criticism of the Commander-in-Chief, we might lose our freedoms.
But Glenn is not bitter, is he?

It's the day.

Posted by Alan at 21:09 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Monday, 23 January 2006 21:13 PST home

Sunday, 22 January 2006
Where it all comes together...
Topic: Announcements

Redirection: Where it all comes together...

The new issue of Just Above Sunset, the weekly magazine-format parent site to this daily web log, is now on line.

This issue - Volume 4, Number 4 for the week of Sunday, January 22, 2006 - covers many topics.

In current events, you'll find items on the two birthdays, Martin Luther King's and Ben Franklin's (the three-hundredth), that consider their legacies, and what they might make of what we have now. Of course the big news of the last week was that we finally heard from Osama Bin Laden again, and that caused all sorts of turmoil, reviewed here with commentary. The remaining current events items cover what seems to be a constitutional showdown - just who gets to ignore the law and why - and the conflict between, on one hand, privacy and freedom, and on the other, security and comfort. Ah, it's just the usual big issues, with some exclusive observations from our friend in Europe.

"Our Man in Paris," Ric Erickson is back, but this time not with any slice of life in Paris, but with a real challenge to Americans.

Bob Patterson is back, as the World's Laziest Journalist reporting on car enthusiasts out here, and, as our Book Wrangler, telling us what's up in El Paso - he just returned.

There are four pages of Southern California photography - the world famous LA landmark (the big donut), for nature buff some intense bird studies, for fans of irony some very strange sign at the beach, and, as many request, a botanical study.

The quotes this week - given current events - are about the nature of the law.

Direct links to specific pages -

Current Events ______________________

King Day: 'His voice was like a furnace of optimism, trying to triumph over despair.'
Ben's Day: Things Have Changed
Perspective: Perhaps When You Are In The United States It Is Difficult To Have A Notion Of What Really Is Going On There
Dangerous Ideas: News From Abroad (Thursday's Osama Bin Laden Surprise, and More)
Constitutional Law: The Professionals' Views
Safe and Convenient: The Price of Security and Other Things

The International Desk ______________________

Our Man in Paris: Commentary on the War of Ideas

Bob Patterson ______________________

WLJ Weekly: from the desk of the World's Laziest Journalist - " ... rent a very fast car with no top and ... "
Book Wrangler: Alligators In El Paso And Other Texas Subjects

Southern California Photography ______________________

Randy's Donuts: The Quintessential LA Landmark
Shore Birds: A Little Hitchcock, A Bit of Aerodynamics
Signs Seen at the Beach
Botanicals: The Coral Tree

Quotes for the week of January 22, 1006 - The Law

From the photography pages...

Posted by Alan at 05:46 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Saturday, 21 January 2006
Safe and Convenient: The Price of Security and Other Things
Topic: In these times...

Safe and Convenient: The Price of Security and Other Things

He's back, as we see here - "Embattled White House adviser Karl Rove vowed Friday to make the war on terrorism a central campaign issue in November..."

Oh, it'll be more than that. At a more basic level there are simply two views of the world these days, and the idea Rove is peddling is one side. This one view is clear and unified - we're all in mortal danger, and have been since the 1933 or so, as there are madmen in the world (it gets worse every year), the family as a unit is disintegrating (divorce, gay marriage, a finally this movie about these very strange cowboys), there are always so many more odd others with odd religions and funny foods and nasty religions (the Catholic Cult-of-Mary turned out to be mostly harmless, the Jews finally seemed okay to everyone but Michael Jackson after his trial, but there's always the next as now we have Islam), and all the statistics show a steady climb is church-going and a yen for authority - a "big daddy" who lays down the new law (such as it is) and tell us what's good for us, and tells us anyone skeptical or raising questions is in cahoots with those who want to kill us all. This is supported by the nexus of talk radio - Rush and his imitators - promoting how awful the world is and how everything is disintegrating, and suggesting tight control from the top is the only thing that will save us all. Simple. Effective.

The other view is hardly worth mentioning - the one about tolerance and experimentation and seeing what's new and thinking about things and figuring out ways to adapt to how things change all the time - and trying some of the funny new foods. That's a minority view, and Rove knows it. These are the people who fly to Paris to see the sights there and hear a new language and sip cognac and chat with "the other."

But most people are afraid, anxious, turning inward from all the things science has discovered and toward the "faith," and turning outward for someone to tell them he or she will stop all this change, and make the queasy feeling that things are spinning out of control stop too. Out here you'll find them at Main Street USA at Disneyland down in Anaheim, or in Las Vegas exploring the fake Paris with its half-size Eiffel Tower, where it's safe and not too strange, although it is pretty strange the in other ways.

The latest twist on this "make us all safe, please" yearning, oddly enough, comes from a new effort by those we elected to do that at any cost. This is a combination of agreeing to prove to the government you are really not a terrorist - because, after all, they assume anyone of us could be - and the Reagan legacy view that anything the government can do can be done far better and far more efficiently if done by private enterprise, because if profit is involved and money is to be made, competition drives effectiveness to the ultimate. Whether this is true or not is not at issue, as people generally have come to believe this is true.

Thus we have this (AP) - "Airline passengers who buy a pre-approved security pass could have their credit histories and property records examined as part of the government's plan to turn over the Registered Traveler program to private companies."

The idea is the private companies would run the background checks, not the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). You'd give the private firms fingerprints of all your ten digits and permission to check your credit record and all property records, bank records, insurance data, and any court documents - anything they can find. If you pass, and don't seem to fit the profile of anyone who would be in league with any terrorist, you'd get to breeze through airport security - you don't have to take off your shoes or unpack your laptop computer or any of that. Pay the fee, pass the investigation, and you become a "trusted traveler."

The curious thing is what Amy von Walter, a spokeswoman for the Transportation Security Administration said - the agency wanted to be able to identify a terrorist who wasn't already known to law enforcement or intelligence agencies.

That's novel. Let the private firms - in their quest to make big bucks - do what the law enforcement or intelligence agencies can't do effectively - identify the bad guys. This gives a whole new meaning to what Adam Smith called the "invisible hand" of competition that makes all things run well.

So we'd now have, after June 20 when the program starts, Registered Travelers. These are the people who are "certified safe," not by the government, but by private firms.

The AP reports a few of the private firms are a tad surprised by their new role in preventative law enforcement, and wondering what to do. You see, before these companies will be allowed to sell "Registered Traveler Cards" they have to demonstrate that they can somehow or other definitively determine if any particular applicant is, say, a member of some terrorist sleeper cell. The FBI and CIA and NSA and such do this sort of thing all the time. But it's new to these guys.

The AP notes James Dempsey, executive director of the Center for Democracy and Technology, said that the idea that commercial data can somehow be used to find a sleeper cell is "highly speculative." And Marcia Hofmann, an attorney with the privacy group Electronic Privacy Information Center, is cited saying it wasn't clear whether federal privacy laws would apply to the program - ''It sounds like they want private companies to be in the business of law enforcement and intelligence gathering."

Well, yes, they do. The Transportation Security Administration was stung bad last year with a test program the collected airline passengers' personal data without their permission or knowledge. They secretly gathered files on a quarter million people. That was "Secure Flight" - every time someone hopped on a plane you automatically run the name against government lists of suspicious names. That didn't work out so well. Lots of name sound alike - some three-year-olds came up and that sort of thing. So it is obviously better to make this "private," and not governmental, and make it voluntary - you agree these firms can know everything. The government does catch crap.

Yes, yes - private firms are sometimes hacked. Yeah, last year someone stole, from ChoicePoint, all the personal data on over a million federal employees with Bank of America charge cards. Stuff happens.

Should you worry? -
There's already a private company running a Registered Traveler test program at the Orlando (Fla.) Airport. Verified Identity Pass, which was started by media entrepreneur Steven Brill, charges $79.95 for the card.

Earlier this month, the company told the TSA that it tested whether commercial data services could authenticate that a person is who he says he is.

The results: ''We dropped the idea after fully testing it and finding that it had no security benefits and significant, almost show-stopping negatives,'' the company said in a document responding to the TSA's request for information.
That's not encouraging. Asking a private firm to operate like the old East German secret police does, of course, involve a learning curve.

But there's money to be made, so General Electric, ARINC and Iridian Technologies, and some airports, are lining up for contracts. If people want "authority figures" to keep them safe, and ask for that, and will even pay for it, you take their money. This is America.

But our friend, Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis, sent an email to us here in Hollywood with this curious quote from the Transportation Security Administration - "We know that terrorists may seek to exploit the Registered Traveler program, and the program must be designed to thwart those efforts. Therefore, program benefits will change from time to time in order to make it more difficult for terrorists to anticipate our security activities. Further, TSA will not exempt Registered Traveler participants from random additional screening."

What? So what good is the whole program if, by revealing all and letting some for-profit firm says you're really not a terrorist, you still have to take off you shoes?

Ric: "Yes, but will they give you your money back - if you are a terrorist and have purchased an ID card in good faith." He notes this Google ad - "ID Card Solutions Custom ID Cards as low as .35 Each. Low Price Guarantee (Free Shipping)" - so you can make money on either side of this.

Ric also notes an item he found in Le Devoir about how the US government is bringing in ID cards through the back door. -
The problem is that they want to turn it over to private companies... So to travel abroad you'll need a passport, but if you don't go abroad you'll need one of these private ID cards - and if you want to skip the shoe search, you'll need the private card. You may get searched anyway, even having both passport and the ID card.

Apparently Canadians still don't need passports for US visits, but if they don't have one, they'll need these new private ID cards. Won't that be neat - the US accepting only its own ID cards? It'll also be a great way for keeping better track of Americans. Who are, as we know, almost all terrorists.

As I understand it, I am now required to get some new model passport if I want to visit the USA. My machine-readable passport is no longer good enough. And the other hand-made one has always been flaky. I could avoid it by getting a visa from the consulate but they cost something like $90 I think. Cheaper to get new paper with my eyeballs printed on it.

Anyhow, it's another good laugh for Bin Laden, if the dude even exists.

Anyway, Karl Rove is back, and he knows which way the wind is blowing. Shrink government, privatize everything you can, and trust that frightened, anxious people - most of us these days - will agree to most anything, and pay for it.

The Democrats had better run on some other issue. The Republicans will make the war on terrorism a central campaign issue, and they've won on that issue already.



Ric in Paris is wondering about all the news -
Do you hear Cheney? He said, "The United States doesn't negotiate with terrorists," in response to Bin Laden (allegedly) proposing to quit bugging the United States. All he asked for was the US to quit Afghanistan and Iraq. Man, I thought the US wanted to get out of those places. Is Cheney worried about his shares in Halliburton? Why is he so tight? It isn't as if it's his money.

But the world is doing okay. Disney is reported to be eager to buy Steve Jobs out of Pixar, sort of to pep up Disney's animation business. Apparently what they really want is the guy who runs Pixar, who used to be a Disney animator. The word is that Jobs wants to dump Pixar, pick up a cool six billion, and invest his ill-gotten plus values in the next generation of iPods - you know, the one with the 23" flat screen that fits in a pocket, has a 33.6 Mega virtual hard disk, GPS, telephone, video camera and the old MGM back lot built right in. Not announced last week at the Macintosh-MacWorld annual confest in San Francisco was the super new and ultra-mini new Mac. It fits inside a ring you wear on your finger and controls the entire Hollywood TV production so you can watch next season's TV serials on the inside of your closed eyelids while having triple-bypass surgery, with stereo surround sound and virtual nurses who strip to their Deadly Nightshade undies. It's pretty cool and insanely clever. When they get the one of two minor bugs ironed out of it, it'll be priced at $1.99 including tax, slightly higher west of New Jersey. Folks who are still paying attention will appreciate knowing that they should get their new iPods and ultra-minis in New Jersey before visiting France, because Jacques announced on Thursday that France was going to wrap atom bombs around the necks of dudes that mess with France or the euro. On account of this the price will be the same, 1.99 euros, which you should know is about 21 percent more that your limp greenbacks. Jacques gets that plus the 19.6 percent sales tax, so you see, things really are cheaper here. Taxes are a little higher though, but Jesus, this is France for Christ's sake!
And so it goes.

Posted by Alan at 10:13 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Saturday, 21 January 2006 10:15 PST home

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