Just Above Sunset
November 7, 2004 - "You need to disengage your need to be right."

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From someone to whom I was once married –


It's just after 7:00 am here and I'm about to leave for work. Just thought I'd check in to commiserate. I guess the people have spoken. Unfortunately most of "the people" are faith-based morons. Still, I'd feel really odd being part of an American majority. It is much more comfortable to be outraged from the fringes.


I'm settling down to being comfortable with the new state of things.  I guess.  My domain names - the Above Sunset things - are registered and paid for.  And I suppose someone else owns the domains www.grousingfromthefringe.com and www.whatwereyouthinking.com and such variants.  Minorityreport.com is taken.  Being one of the few and isolated contrarians will do for now.

From another friend in upstate New York –


Excuse me... looking up from my Vonnegut book long enough to ask this disenfranchised question....

Republicans send THOUSANDS of lawyers to specific voting precincts in critical states to hover over the process and contest irregularities... And not a single shot is fired - anywhere?

And yet - ALL the exit polls throughout the day that indicated Kerry was actually winning this thing.... to the extent that the markets tumbled (Dow down several 100 points) in the final 90 minutes of trading... ALL those polls happen to be TOTALLY wrong by the end of the day when numbers are actually tallied?

Now I only grew up in the 60's when we had clear evidence that certain conspiracies - from time to time - deserved to be considered more than just theory -

But is ANYBODY out there with a national voice going to ask what ALL those lawyers were doing yesterday? Really?

Anonymous (to protect my children's' children!)


Yeah, well, fraud or not, it’s a done deal.  And Phillip Raines adds –


Just the threat was enough. Did they cheat? Yeah, prove it. Say "wait a minute, this ain't right..." and get hit with the sore looser tag. Out thought in the devious arena, again.


From our friend in France.

Heather Stimmler-Hall – member number one of Ric Erickson’s MetropoleParis Club – sends this along.  (You can see her picture over at Ric’s site of course - she’s the one in the middle.)  Joseph was at Harry’s New York Bar near the opera.  Heather was at the Paris Plant Hollywood, which I think is up on the Champs somewhere or other.  The expatriates (ex-patriots?) in Paris… not happy?

Heather and I have traded emails in the past on many topics.


Hey Alan –

Spent last night (midnight six in the morning) at Planet Hollywood’s election party. I expected a few cameras, but the reality when I arrived was much more over the top. There seemed to be more journalists with cameras and notebooks and bright lights than actual Americans. There were only a handful of people really dressed up for the occasion, and they were constantly hounded. The rest of us didn’t even have buttons. I put on a donkey sticker from my CNN election worksheet I tore out of the New Yorker. The bar is huge, lots of small rooms. Stood around awhile, met up with a friend, got drinks, got food, got Champagne. Got tired and commandeered some chairs. There was a band, and the sound on the TV was turned up to drown them out. The volume was unbearable by 5:00 am, especially during the commercials. There were mostly Democrats, I gather from the cheering whenever a state result was announced in his favor. The few Republicans were being very quiet. I think there were even some Nader fans. A woman next to me commented on how old Larry King looked. The guy on my left was growing frustrated with CNNs “We haven’t got any news yet, but we’re going to keep talking anyway” schtick. I left with Ohio and Florida still unannounced, as well as my own state, Minnesota. By the time I made it into my house and turned the TV back on, Ohio was already being declared favorable to Bush. A long night. I went to sleep at 830am. This afternoon, still no word, but of course the Republicans would like to just go ahead and accept the win before everything’s counted. Another proud moment in American Democracy. And this is what we want to export?

Still keeping my fingers crossed…

- Heather


Oh well.  It was not to be.

By the way, check out Heather’s new book:


Paris & Ile de France by Heather Stimmler-Hall
Hunter Publishing, Inc March 1, 2004
ISBN - 158843396X


And her Secrets of Paris website is really fine.

Joseph, out expatriate friend threw this is in -


I will be at Harry's Bar from about 4:00 pm EST, glued to the Reuters screen, drinking, canvassing the crowd and probably hounded again by the Agence France Presse folks trying to get point of view from a "real American". I shall have to once again tell them that I don't know any.

For anyone wishing a report from the ground on this side, general commiseration or condolences, as the case may be, I will happily accept your call on [number kept private].

Cheers, and may someone win!


Someone did.  And the Agence France Presse stories here and here on events at Harry's and Planet Hollywood do not mention Heather or Joseph.

Ric Erickson adds this – grounding us back to real life -


Bravo Heather!

Last night, Tuesday, 2 November, was at a dinner in a place with no TV. We were told Oleg from Kiev had left a black and white TV in a closet, but nobody made a move to get it. Alan Ginzberg's 'America' was read aloud.

This morning radio France Info was no longer focusing its reports on the United States. Weather, sports, the Paris Bourse, and finally a 90-second bulletin. Grand elector scores and hung up in Ohio. Then on to the 'life of plants.'

Had to go out to the deepest countryside today to pick something up from the server-lady. She has satellite and cable, maybe 30 channels. Which she had watched until early morning; and was not in a good mood at noon.

What should we do? Immediately buy all the apartments we can, so we can sell them to refugees?

Will they sing, 'Don't cry for me, America?'

Today's papers too soon for Paris comment.


But the comments came.

Joseph, after his vigil at Harry’s –


Yes, it does seem like a pretty dark day. But I can't really complain too much as none of it affects me very directly. 

Before the whining begins in earnest, let me share with you two thoughts that have pre-occupied me in the last week, and I'll explain them later when I'm no longer hung-over and exhausted. 

1) This outcome proves superior to a Kerry win. Though I voted for Kerry, I have been somewhat hoping for a Bush win. 

2) Dems need to understand why it is that they are so personally offended by Bush. It has little to do with his policies. 

3) Dems did not lose the election because all the votes were not counted, or because Republican operatives pulled dirty tricks. These are the political realities we must face. This stuff will always be with us. Therefore, the solution doesn't lie in re-counts or lawsuits. Kerry, like Gore before him, lost to a stuffed-shirt all on his own, fair and square.  If you can't beat someone with this record, there is something seriously wrong with your message.  Deal with it.

4) The Republican leadership knows something that the Democratic leadership does not: The majority of Americans do not support their policies. This realization affords them a tremendous advantage. The sooner the Democrats learn this lesson, the sooner they can shape public opinion to their benefit.

Let me share with you the best piece of advice anyone has ever given to me: "You need to disengage your need to be right."


Phillips Raines down Atlanta way, adds this –


Watch the talking heads last night I felt like I had eaten some bad shellfish. My oldest son, Will (18) voted for the first time yesterday and stayed up to watch me cuss at the TV "See what it's like being a leftist in the south, pointless except for being a goaded punching bag for some god and guns devotee." But I'm not moving to France because I'm so disgusted with the majority right wing slant here. It crosses my mind like it does every other friend who has called me this morning to cry in the democrat beer. The percentages look the same in most states as they have the whole election. 51 Bush, 48 Kerry. The skins capture the flag. But I will still sell my hotdogs on this street, even though a goomba will expect 30 dollars a day protection money, even if it rained. Can't fight it. I hope Bush won't fuck things up as bad as he did the first term, but I'm sure the deficit will get higher and that the United States of Europe will surpass us as the supreme economic power, especially since so much of our debt is owed to them. There is no reason for EU to have any mercy.

EU "You must pay the rent."
US "But we can't pay the rent."
EU "Should have thought of that before you took Iraq on as your main welfare project."

As Alan says…"Oh well."


Do I say that?

And Vince in upstate New York also comments to Joseph in Paris –


Joe your thoughts here are grist for deep diving, in fact profound, but as I take my own loop through your implied logic - and I'm looking forward to your expanded thoughts on just that exercise, I'm struck not only with the impact of your closing thought (never stated more eloquently), but struck especially by the triple-entendre of pure irony that plays here...

1) … for what proportion of red state votes were grounded in just the opposite expression of self righteousness?, and

2) … if W. had adhered to your wisdom would his face have ever graced our national stage?, and 

3) … if not for your counsel's polar opposite would the incumbent party even have had a platform on which to stand yesterday!

"Shoot me off my own ho'ss?" cried the Marlboro cowboy.

"Not while I'm still breathin' (and smokin' these things!)  Dang varmits!"


Dick, nearby in upstate New York adds –


"....need to be right?"  This all sounds like a Red Sox fan in 1919 (or whatever) saying "wait ‘til next year."  None of them lived long enough for "next year."

It is not so much a need to be right as it is a realization that we have just reelected the worst president of my lifetime.  (I’m 58.)  Even when he did not win the popular vote in 2000 he made absolutely no minimal gesture toward "healing" or even considering the Democrats as anything but a pain in the ass to be snubbed and ignored.  He has said, "Fuck the world" and shows no indication moderating that.  He has indicated that Scalia (short form of Machiavelli) is his standard for appointing probably two - maybe four - Supreme Court justices.  The environment is up for sale with energy companies having first bid and environmentalists not making the list at all. T he national debt is going right off the chart as the big bucks people will probably get another tax cut.

Need to be right?  I don't think so.  I just am not happy having Nero back in office.


And Vince responds -


Funny you should conclude that way - the name Nero crossed my lips just this morning... as I thought - Jeez maybe New Zealand would be a nice place to move the family... or retire!

Which is my own way I guess of "disengaging my need to be right..." Same category as my Vonnegut novel - only safer!

One worst-case Nero scenario that may emerge here... is that we become ever more the target... in the infinite loop of militant bloodletting, merely because of the way Cheney and friends provoke with every breath!

You want to know why Palestinians & Israelis refuse any path but violence? Because the Bushes in particular have been the latest ideal role models for best practices in middle east conflict resolution! Why wouldn't I emulate the "winners!"


But Phillip in Atlanta adds this -


"You need to disengage your need to be right."

Good advice whether you got it from a respected professor or a sailor with chronic B.O. Even my smartest friends fall into the trap of conceit centered on their opinion. It blasts a great sucking sound to me too. It is fueled by the phantom of bewildered dismay at how an opposing view could erupt from deluded insight based on emotion or lack of facts. An easy example is that not accepting Jesus as your personal savior will lead to an eternity in hell for your immortal soul. That just can't be right, the Baptist just can't be right. I recall so many emails from Alan where he had dinner conversations with republicans who thought we should defeat Iraq and afterwards march into Syria then Iran. It would be followed up with articles and analysis of astonished disbelief, almost hurt feelings that friends were detached from the trouble such actions would cause. No desire to gloat if these bad ides were carried through and then made things much, much worse. Only a hope that cooler heads prevail.

In Yana Yoga, an ancient study that plays with the stretch of thought, there is a distinction made between knowledge and belief. If you know something you don't get torqued out of shape if someone disagrees with you, but if you just believe something and encounter disagreement, a flood of emotions kick in, dragging behind it vanity and an inability to disengage a need to be right. Such are the perils thought. Disengaging from this need does in fact sooth.

After voting yesterday morning I had a vision of the republican party grabbing their heart like Obi Wan Kanobe feeling a great disturbance in the force as Kerry won by a slight margin state after state raising the metaphorical moan like the citizens of Algernon. The anticipated collective anguish sent a warm glow through out me and I felt the seductive opiate of prescient vanity. Damn it felt good. But I was wrong. Oh well, what's next? Maybe I'll return to the axiom of my twenties of not really caring about politics, being more interested in my sax, centering my pitch, fattening my tone. If he doesn't draft my boys then it's not really my problem.

Joseph, please spread the word that half of Americans think this administration sucks, and give us the benefit of the doubt if we visit overseas. That's a useful activism I'd appreciate.

Click for separate image...

Emma, the Australian in Paris, to that image – “Thanks - it brought a smile to my face. I’m suffering depression and I’m not even American!

Dan in Cincinnati, to Joseph, his old friend in Paris, weighs in from the other side –


“You need to disengage your need to be right."

I have always admired your ability to come up with good quote. Ever since we met way back in high school, I have always quoted you. Actually, plagiarized is a better word. Anyway, I know we shared some thoughts off-list so no one will fully understand what I am talking about but I share it with everyone anyway.

Some points:

The margins by which Bush won was what I was referring to when I said my gut tells me Bush wins by a "large" enough margin to keep the lawyers at bay.

I am not sure the Democrats will learn anything from this loss any time soon. Fear of Christians, hatred of Bush, among other things has clouded their thinking.

As far as Ohio goes... The press late last night was pointing out all the provisional ballots that had yet to be counted. They speculated (hoped, really) that if numbers were close enough the provisional ballots would put Kerry over the top. What they either missed or didn't say is that one of the biggest groups that signed up new voters was those "dumb" Christians. You see, we here in Ohio were voting on a same-sex marriage amendment (which was soundly defeated, bi-partisan-like) so the churches started signing up voters. Had some activist judges and others on the left not stirred that pot earlier in the year, we may not have had that issue on the ballot. Could be that the Christians who registered to vote solely for that issue wouldn't have been a factor and Kerry wins Ohio. The one big lesson the Democrats could learn from this is that the country in not as liberal as they think.

Keep in my mind I have had no sleep in the last 36 hours so I hope I am making sense. Finally, I am not a gloater but I have some quotes to comfort those of who need it. Please take these in the spirit intended.

"In times like these it helps to recall that there has always been times like these" - Paul Harvey, I think.

"Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy" - Anne Frank



And in the web sphere?

This -


Reading the various commentary and chatting with a few people I've come to a couple of realizations which I think we all need to come to terms with. First, as Eric Alterman puts it, there are more of "them" than "us" right now. The people who voted George Bush and the Republicans into office this year didn't do so because they were conned by a right wing asshole posing as a compassionate centrist. They did so precisely because he is a right wing asshole. Yes, the modern Republican party consists of nasty bigots and liars and the media rarely bothers to point out just how nasty they are (all the talking heads talking about the role of "moral values" in the election know that what that really means is "fag hating," but they won't say it). But, don't be fooled - people know what they voted for.

… Democrats and liberals have spent too many years running away from the Right's caricature of what it means to be a liberal that they've managed to obliterate from the public consciousness any coherent concrete narrative. It isn't as many seem to think about precisely where on the Left/Right spectrum a candidate or the Party chooses to position itself. I'm not arguing that Democrats need to be "more liberal" or "less liberal" or anything like that it all. But, they have to be something other than "not Republicans."


And this -


I hate to say this, but I hope liberals quit whining about George Bush's "mandate." It may be a narrow one, but of course he won a mandate. We've all been saying for months now that this election was a referendum on the incumbent, and the incumbent won the electoral college, won the popular vote by nearly 4 million votes, picked up four Senate seats, tossed out the Democratic leader in the Senate, and picked up a few more House seats for good measure. If the results had gone the other way, we'd be talking about them as a clear repudiation of Bush and everything he stood for.

Needless to say, this doesn't mean we should just mope around and let the Republican Party run the country unopposed. At the same time, though, it doesn't help to be in denial: the fact is that Bush did win a convincing victory, and he did it because more Americans agreed with his vision for the country than agreed with ours. Our job now is to try to change that, not to pretend that it never happened.


And this -



That's Bill Bennett's conclusion. He won't be the only one. What we're seeing, I think, is a huge fundamentalist Christian revival in this country, a religious movement that is now explicitly political as well. It is unsurprising, of course, given the uncertainty of today's world, the devastating attacks on our country, and the emergence of so many more liberal cultures in urban America. And it is completely legitimate in this country for such views to be represented in public policy, however much I disagree with them. But the intensity of the passion, and the inherently totalist nature of religiously motivated politics means deep social conflict if we are not careful. Our safety valve must be federalism. We have to live and let live. As blue states become more secular, and red states become less so, the only alternative to a national religious war is to allow different states to pursue different options. That goes for things like decriminalization of marijuana, abortion rights, stem cell research and marriage rights. Forcing California and Mississippi into one model is a recipe for disaster. Federalism is now more important than ever. I just hope that Republican federalists understand this. I fear they don't.


And on it goes.

There will be more.


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
for the purpose of illustration and commentary,
as permitted by the fair use doctrine of U.S. copyright law. 
See the Details page for the relevant citation.

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