“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Thursday, March 13, 2008

'Magic is over' for US Battered Image?

"Say it ain't so."

'Magic is over' for U.S., says French foreign minister

By Alison Smale IHT

Published: March 12, 2008

PARIS: Bernard Kouchner, the foreign minister of France and a longtime humanitarian, diplomatic and political activist on the international scene, says that whoever succeeds President George W. Bush may restore something of the United States' battered image and standing overseas, but that "the magic is over."

In a wide-ranging conversation with Roger Cohen of the International Herald Tribune at the launch of a Forum for New Diplomacy in Paris, Kouchner on Tuesday also held out the hope of talking with Hamas, the Palestinian faction that rules the Gaza Strip but has been ostracized by the West and by its Palestinian rival, Fatah, because it opposes peace talks with Israel and denies that Israel has a right to exist.

Asked whether the United States could repair the damage it has suffered to its reputation during the Bush presidency and especially since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Kouchner replied, "It will never be as it was before."

"I think the magic is over," he continued, in what amounted to a sober assessment from one of the strongest supporters in France of the United States.

U.S. military supremacy endures, Kouchner noted, and the new president "will decide what to do - there are many means to re-establish the image." But even that, he predicted, "will take time."

Kouchner began the 90-minute event with a speech that emphasized that "there is not just a new diplomacy; there is a new world."

To those intimidated by or fearful of what seem to be the rising challenges of globalization, climate change, spreading disease or new technology, Kouchner had a simple message: "The great difficulty is to accept this new world."

"There are not more problems - please, have a little memory - than 35 years ago," he said, recalling how, in 1971, he co-founded Médecins Sans Frontières in response to the horrors of the conflict in Nigeria over Biafra.

The challenges may be daunting, he said, noting for instance that the world had decided to act to curb the AIDS epidemic, but asking, "Can we take charge of all the other diseases? I'm not sure."

Some of the most persistent diplomatic challenges emanate from the Middle East, and Kouchner was asked about approaches to Iran, whose president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has called for the destruction of Israel, or to Hamas, which has the same stated goal.

Kouchner and other European diplomats have tried to talk Iran out of its controversial nuclear program, but officially rejected all contacts with Hamas, which is listed as a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union. Asked whether there is a way to engage Hamas, which is supported by a significant minority of Palestinians, Kouchner appeared to hold out hope of contact, saying: "I'm looking for a diplomatic way to say yes."

He then carefully couched this statement by noting that, in general, "we have to talk with our enemies," and that Fatah, which controls the West Bank, "always said they were in favor" of unity talks with Hamas. But after Hamas routed Fatah forces from Gaza in June, the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah, has refused to deal with Hamas, which he accused of committing a coup. Kouchner, of the Socialist left in France, stirred controversy when he accepted the offer from President Nicolas Sarkozy, leader of the Gaullist center-right, to join his government last May.

At the end of the conversation, held in a glittering hall at the Académie Diplomatique Internationale, the IHT's partner in the new diplomatic forum, Kouchner denied that his activism had been curbed by the need to run the resplendent Foreign Ministry on the Quai d'Orsay and France's large diplomatic machinery around the world.

But he conceded that practicing the new diplomacy - which he defined as being action that is more practical, multifaceted and realistic than mere protocol calls and visits - "is very difficult, and very time-consuming."


  1. For philology's sake, let us be clear that the term 'hooker' is not exclusively an American term, and didn't arise from the camp followers of General Hooker, though it may have hooked on to them--


    Hook·er (hkr), Joseph Known as "Fighting Joe." 1814-1879.
    American Union army officer who was defeated by Robert E. Lee at Chancellorsville (1863).

    Hooker, Richard 1554?-1600.
    English writer and theologian. His Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity (1594) was central to the formation of Anglican theology.

    hook·er 1 (hkr)
    1. A single-masted fishing smack used off the coast of Ireland.
    2. An old worn-out or clumsy ship.


    [Dutch hoeker, from Middle Dutch hoeckboot : hoec, fishhook; see keg- in Indo-European roots + boot, boat.]

    hook·er 2 (hkr)
    1. One that hooks.
    2. Slang A prostitute.
    Word History: In his Personal Memoirs Ulysses S. Grant described Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker as "a dangerous man ... not subordinate to his superiors." Hooker had his faults. He may indeed have been insubordinate; he was undoubtedly an erratic leader. But "Fighting Joe" Hooker is often accused of one thing he certainly did not do: he did not give his name to prostitutes. According to a popular story, the men under Hooker's command during the Civil War were a particularly wild bunch, and would spend much of their time in brothels when on leave. For this reason, as the story goes, prostitutes came to be known as hookers. However attractive this theory may be, it cannot be true. The word hooker with the sense "prostitute" is already recorded before the Civil War. As early as 1845 it is found in North Carolina, as reported in Norman Ellsworth Eliason's Tarheel Talk; an Historical Study of the English Language in North Carolina to 1860, published in 1956. It also appears in the second edition of John Russell Bartlett's Dictionary of Americanisms, published in 1859, where it is defined as "a strumpet, a sailor's trull." Etymologically, it is most likely that hooker is simply "one who hooks." The term portrays a prostitute as a person who hooks, or snares, clients.

    hook·er 3 (hkr)
    n. Slang
    A drink of undiluted hard liquor: a hooker of whiskey.


    [Probably from the hook-like form of the arm taken in raising a drink to the mouth.]

  2. The frogs ought to look to their own pond, and not worry so about us.

  3. The magic is over, alright. The Archbishop of Canterbury is mulling sharia law while continental Europe steadily turns into an outpost of Islam. The next president will probably roll up the bases in Germany and Italy as part of a second Peace Dividend, this time following the end of the cold war with the Religion of Peace.

  4. The first openly gay Episcopal bishop announced he will have no official role in a meeting this summer of world Anglican leaders, saying restrictions that organizers wanted to place on his involvement had caused him "considerable pain." New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson had been told last year that he could not fully participate in the once-a-decade gathering in England, called the Lambeth Conference, as the world Anglican Communion sat on the brink of schism over his 2003 election.


    National leaders of the Episcopal Church have ousted the bishop of a California diocese for breaking away from the denomination in a fight over the Bible and homosexuality. The denomination officials voted Wednesday to remove Bishop John-David Schofield from his role as head of the Diocese of San Joaquin in central California.


    The Vatican last week announced a new Catholic-Muslim Forum to try to improve relations between the religions. The announcement came after a delegation of Muslim scholars met with members of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

    Religion Briefs

  5. The French Foreign Ministry very much recognizes the power of commerce and uses it to their advantage. Somewhat ironic considering their hidebound economy. Our DOS, on the other hand, recognizes the power of threats (of force) but not of commerce; also somewhat ironic given our commercial vibrancy (not so ironic given our mammoth defense establishment).

    In any event, everyone's got their niches to fill, ably or otherwise.

    And we're all probably in for a looooong spell of ME diplomacy.

  6. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

  7. Christine de Mazières, speaking for the French Publishers' Association, which organizes the fair, said last week: "What is happening in the Middle East is very sad, but it is not linked to our event."

    She said all the countries that had withdrawn were aware that Israel was being honored when they signed up and that many of the Israeli writers taking part favored a Palestinian state.

    Earlier Thursday, Peres paid tribute to the French who saved Jews during the Holocaust in a somber ceremony at the Pantheon in the Latin Quarter, and visited a French Foreign Ministry exhibition about the origins of the state of Israel.

    Book Fair Controversy

  8. If we get in a fight with Iran in the Gulf, French missiles may well sink some of our boats. Exocet

  9. Even if it's heavier on ceremony than substance, the visit of the German cabinet next week, to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Israel's independence, has the potential to serve as one of the crowning moments of German-Israeli relations. Merkel will deliver a precedent-setting speech before the Knesset on March 18, and visit Yad Vashem.

    For the Israeli side, the importance of the private discussions between the chancellor and Prime Minister Olmert will be the opportunity it offers to again bring up the issue of Iran.

    Germany consistently remains Iran's most important partner for trade in the European Union, and it is highly active in Iran's technological and energy sectors, which are vital to its nuclear program. If the sale of German technology to Iran is the core impediment to the advancement of German-Israeli relations, the continued delivery of German military technology to Israel is the best means for guaranteeing another 60 years of Israeli existence.

    German-Israeli Tango

  10. Hasn't the UN put a series of sanctions on Iran? Isn't Germany in violation?

  11. I wonder what the Archbishop of Canterbury would say about this, rational man he thinks himself to be. Sends a slight shudder up my spine--

    Real-life case of demon possession documented
    Woman levitated, spoke other languages, showed paranormal powers

    An American woman who levitated, demonstrated paranormal psychic powers and spoke foreign languages unknown to her was clearly demon possessed, according to a board-certified psychiatrist and associate professor of clinical psychiatry at New York Medical College.

    The unnamed woman, with a long history of involvement with Satanic groups, was observed by a team of priests, deacons, several lay assistants, psychiatrists, nuns, some of whom also had medical and psychiatric training, levitating six inches off the ground while objects flew off shelves in the same room, according to Dr. Richard E. Gallagher, who documented the case in the February issue of the New Oxford Review.

    "Periodically, in our presence, Julia would go into a trance state of a recurring nature," writes Gallagher. "Mentally troubled individuals often 'dissociate,' but Julia's trances were accompanied by an unusual phenomenon: Out of her mouth would come various threats, taunts and scatological language, phrases like 'Leave her alone, you idiot,' 'She's ours,' 'Leave, you imbecile priest,' or just 'Leave.' The tone of this voice differed markedly from Julia's own, and it varied, sometimes sounding guttural and vaguely masculine, at other points high pitched. Most of her comments during these 'trances,' or at the subsequent exorcisms, displayed a marked contempt for anything religious or sacred."

    The subject would have no recollection of speaking these phrases upon recovering from the trance-like state, according to Gallagher.

    "Sometimes objects around her would fly off the shelves, the rare phenomenon of psychokinesis known to parapsychologists," reports Gallagher. "Julia was also in possession of knowledge of facts and occurrences beyond any possibility of their natural acquisition.

    "She commonly reported information about the relatives, household composition, family deaths and illnesses, etc., of members of our team, without ever having observed or been informed about them," he said. "As an example, she knew the personality and precise manner of death (i.e., the exact type of cancer) of a relative of a team member that no one could conceivably have guessed. She once spoke about the strange behavior of some inexplicably frenzied animals beyond her direct observation: Though residing in another city, she commented, 'So those cats really went berserk last night, didn't they?' the morning after two cats in a team member's house uncharacteristically had violently attacked each other at about 2 a.m."

    Julia requested a Roman Catholic exorcism ritual, convinced from the beginning of her consultations that she was under demonic attack.

    "The exorcism began on a warm day in June," Gallagher recollects. "Despite the weather, the room where the rite was being conducted grew distinctly cold. Later, however, as the entity in Julia began to spout vitriol and make strange noises, members of the team felt themselves profusely sweating due to a stifling emanation of heat. The participants all said they found the heat unbearable.

    "Julia at first had gone into a quiet trance-like state. After the prayers and invocations of the Roman Ritual had been going on for a while, however, multiple voices and sounds came out of her. One set consisted of loud growls and animal-like noises, which seemed to the group impossible for any human to mimic. At one point, the voices spoke in foreign languages, including recognizable Latin and Spanish. (Julia herself only speaks English, as she later verified to us.)

    "The voices were noticeably attacking in nature, and often insolent, blasphemous and highly scatological. They cursed and insulted the participants in the crudest way. They were frequently threatening – trying, it appeared, to fight back – 'Leave her alone,' 'Stop, you whores' (to the nuns), 'You'll be sorry,' and the like.

    "Julia also exhibited enormous strength. Despite the religious sisters and three others holding her down with all their might, they struggled to restrain her. Remarkably, for about 30 minutes, she actually levitated about half a foot in the air."

    The purpose of Gallagher's paper, he says, is to "document a contemporary and clear-cut case of demonic possession." He explains that even those who doubt such a phenomenon exists may find this case "rather persuasive."

    "Possession is only one and not the most common type of demonic attack. Possession is very rare, though not as exceedingly so as many imagine," he concludes. "So-called 'oppression,' or 'infestation,' is less rare, though hardly frequent either, and sometimes more difficult to discern accurately."

  12. In tomorrow's WaPo Petraeus starts laying the groundwork for his April testimony.

    I can understand why Fallon left - and why Gen Jones didn't take the CENTCOM job to begin with.

  13. Despite the way Fallon and the Bush administration are portrayed in the Esquire piece, no one that I know of -- in the White House or the Pentagon -- wants war with Iran. In fact, rather than a rush to war, the Bush administration has been on a rush to diplomacy.

    And it may even work.

    The U.N. Security Council just passed a new sanctions resolution to enforce nuclear inspections. And this week, the U.S. Treasury announced that yet another financial institution connected to the theocrats in Tehran is banned from doing business in the United States.

    Resigned to Reality

  14. And it may even work.

    Well, I can't prove it won't. Nor that Congress will extend Bush's tax cuts.

  15. The Graham amendment makes room in the budget to make permanent:

    • The current marginal tax rates of 35, 33, 28, and 25 percent. If they are allowed to expire on December 31, 2010 the new rates will be 39.6, 36, 31 and 28 percent.

    • Lower rates on capital gains and dividends.

    • College tuition deduction

    Tax Cuts

  16. "Despite the way Fallon and the Bush administration are portrayed in the Esquire piece, no one that I know of -- in the White House or the Pentagon -- wants war with Iran."

    Been saying it for years. No one listens.

    There is. No. Military. Option.

    The administration HAS been talking to Iran the ENTIRE time.

  17. North is, however, completely wrong on the reason for Fallon's departure.

  18. Geraldine Ferraro caused a storm Monday by claiming Barack Obama got to where he is today because he's black. Anyone who criticizes Barack is a racist and anyone who criticizes Hillary is a sexist.

    In order to get these poisonous politics of race and gender out of the Democratic Party they are going to have to nominate a white guy.

    Barack Obama's Chicago minister Jeremiah Wright on Sunday compared Barack Obama's being raised in white America to Jesus Christ being raised in the Roman Empire. It's an absurd comparison. Jesus had a health care plan that cured everybody for free.


  19. Sam, there's some sanctions, but I'm not sure exactly what they are. They don't exactly seem to be bringing the country to its knees, and everybody and his cousin is probably flaunting them anyway. The French probably more than anyone.

  20. Jesus had a health care plan that cured everybody for free.

    But not in his hometown, or among those without trust.

    Big day, tomorrow. Nite.

  21. Bobal: If we get in a fight with Iran in the Gulf, French missiles may well sink some of our boats.

    If the Wahabbists take over Saudi Arabia, we may be facing some of our own smart bombs, launched from our own F16s.

  22. "Real-life case of demon possession documented
    Woman levitated, spoke other languages, showed paranormal powers"

    and no audio or video was taken of this amazing moment proving the existance of the devil or demons because why?

  23. That's the very question I was asking myself, SSS, why no video showing the hula-hoop passing arund the body? Levitated for half an hour, plenty of opportunity, could have driven to Wal-Mart, bought a camcorder in that amount of time. So I think it's bs, too.

  24. Why are the French rewarded with US military contracts?

  25. Metuselah: Why are the French rewarded with US military contracts?

    Because...they have lobbyists on McCain's campaign team?