Notes on how things seem to me from out here in Hollywood... As seen from Just Above Sunset
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Photos and text, unless otherwise noted, Copyright 2003,2004,2005,2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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Consider:

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

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

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

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"







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Monday, 27 March 2006
Strange doings out here on the far edge of the continent...
Topic: Breaking News

Strange doings out here on the far edge of the continent...

Los Angeles, Monday, March 27, 2006, Air America was here - the Al Franken Show got real local, this one broadcast from the Catalina Bar and Grill, the jazz club down on Sunset Boulevard (at 9725, between Hollywood High and Crossroads of the World). Among the guests were Cindy Sheehan, Meg Ryan and Lawrence O'Donnell, the writer/producer for NBC's "The West Wing." The show started at nine in the morning, but the line formed at seven. Too early, even if free. And who wants to sit in a dark room for three hours watching these people say what you expect them to say? And anyway, the new place is too slick - the Catalina was better when it was up on Cahuenga, right off Hollywood Boulevard. Ah well, things change. And fresh coffee here, and the Danish pipe tobacco, and the Times spread out on the table, seemed better that a jazz club in the morning with the humorous left.

But what was this outside the window, over the Catalina? LAPD helicopters? What did Cindy Sheehan do now? And they were loud, as the Catalina is just ten blocks away.

Nothing on the national news burbling away on the television in the far room. That was filled with this - "Laying out a stunning new version of his terrorist mission, al-Qaida conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui testified Monday that he was supposed to hijack a fifth jetliner on Sept. 11, 2001, with would-be shoe bomber Richard Reid and fly it into the White House."

Richard Reid? That fellow who tried to blow up his sneakers a few years ago on an Air France flight out of Paris to Miami? Very odd. That weekend is easy to remember - had the non-stop Air France for Paris to Los Angeles the very next morning. CDG was a mess, high-security and long, long lines. That Richard Reid?

It's all very strange, and Moussaoui, in the death penalty phase of the trial, seemed to be attempting legal suicide. He's a strange man. But then, some people, unable to do the deed themselves, commit suicide by provoking a confrontation with the police and pulling what looks like a real gun. It gets them dead. Suicide by cop. Why not suicide by jury? No wonder his defense team didn't want him to testify.

But what about those LAPD helicopters outside the window? It was state holiday. What was going on?

Monday was Cesar Chavez Day, honoring the founder of the United Farm Workers union. City offices were closed - but schools were open, the buses and trains on their regular schedules. Cesar Chavez Day - we've had that in California since 2000, recognizing his efforts to gain recognition for that union for farm workers, and yes, many of them were illegal immigrants. There was that consumer boycott of grapes. Bobby Kenney said Chavez was "one of the heroic figures of our time." Cesar Chavez got the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest award a "civilian" can get.

Illegal immigrants. That was it.

Cesar Chavez - "Society is made up of groups, and as long as the smaller groups do not have the same rights and the same protection as others - I don't care whether you call it capitalism or communism - it is not going to work. Somehow, the guys in power have to be reached by counterpower, or through a change in their hearts and minds, or change will not come."

Onto the net. One site had this, an email from a teacher in Hollywood High -
We have been sitting in class for the last hour and a half in full lockdown. I was able to go to the restroom and heard the thousands of marching teens from LA High converging on Hollywood and Highland. The din was unbelievable! The walkouts are spreading throughout all of Los Angeles, including the valley. We are fine here, but this is expected to go on for several more days. It is all unorganized, impromptu and is getting a life of it's own. Absolutely amazing!
A din from down the street? Well, yes. Thousands marching on Hollywood and Highland? Cool. That'll give the tourists something to write home about.

Of course it wasn't just a local story - CNN here - "Tens of thousands of students walked out of school in California and other states Monday, waving flags and chanting slogans in a second week of protests against legislation to crack down on illegal immigrants."

It's just that out here it was Cesar Chavez Day. And earlier in the morning there was this - the president at the Daughters of the American Revolution headquarters, "urging the nation to embrace its immigrant history even as many Republicans on Capitol Hill fought his plan to expand legal avenues for immigration."

That was the other lead story in the news, all three cable news channels carrying it. These immigrant folks "renew to our national character" - they "add vitality to our culture."

He sounds like a liberal. And his party isn't with him on this. It's all about HR 4437 (text here in PDF format), what the House passed to reform the Immigration and Nationalization Act and the Senate must pass before it goes for the president's desk to be signed into law. This is the one that would make being here illegally an aggravated felony, make assisting someone who is here illegally a crime (even providing a meal or a band-aid or a place in the alley to sleep wopuld be a serious crime), and mandate we build a giant wall on our side of the Mexican border to keep these folks out.

The Senate? The majority leader, Frist, is fine with it. He wants to be president. If Frist tries to ram it through - he had been talking about bypassing the committee Senate Judiciary Committee - the Democrats say they'll filibuster anything he tries. Others have things they want to modify, like this business about criminalizing "good Samaritans" who provide "humanitarian assistance" to illegal aliens And should there be some sort of path for the illegally here folks to become legal in some way, or even eventually become citizens - some of the eleven or twelve million, and around five percent of the workforce? McCain and Teddy Kennedy say yes. Others say send them all back to wherever - no guest worker crap, like the president has proposed, and certainly no amnesty. The president has said these folks are vital to the economy. His opponents in his own party say that doesn't matter - they broke the law and they have to go away. Of course they face reelection at the end of this year, and the president cannot run for a third term. This plays well at home, as once you have a population fine-tuned into a state of resentment about everything in the world, this is a natural.

But something is happening, or is out here, as the Los Angeles Times reported here -
Thousands of students walked out of high schools in Los Angeles and across Southern California this morning as protests against restrictions on immigration spread across the city for a fourth day.

School walkouts were reported at schools in San Diego and Orange counties, and in the Santa Clarita Valley in northern Los Angeles County. There were also immigrant rights marches nationwide.

In Los Angeles, dozens of schools experienced walkouts, with the major events downtown, where several thousand students converged on City Hall, and on the Westside and in the San Fernando Valley.
For those of you who have spent time out here they were on 101 Freeway near downtown mid-afternoon, northbound was down to one lane, but the police got them to get off at the Echo Park off-ramp. They were all over downtown.

The big deals were these -
Kennedy High School in the San Fernando Valley, where 1,000 students marched toward San Fernando High School, at about 9:35 a.m.

At about 9:00 a.m., 1,000 students at Los Angeles High School at 4650 West Olympic Boulevard walked to Fairfax and Hollywood high schools, which were both locked down.

School police patrol cars stopped traffic as students walked down the streets, causing traffic jams along La Brea and Melrose avenues.
Yep, Melrose Avenue. One kid from Los Angeles High (near downtown) - "If this law passes, what will happen? There would be no more Los Angeles High School. Nearly all of us are immigrants." The Times notes that out here seventy-three percent of 877,010 Los Angeles Unified School District students this year are Latino.

Where else? Southgate Middle School, Huntington Park High School, Bell High School; Marshall High School, Birmingham High School, Gardena High School, and, oddly, Palisades High School out in Pacific Palisades, wit its multi-million dollar homes. One of the contributors to these pages grew up out there, next door to Randy Newman, playing baseball with Jerry Lewis' sons. That's very odd.

The president did say in the morning that changing the immigration laws "is not going to be easy." He also said "No one should play on people's fears or try to pit neighbors against each other." He also said "No one should pretend that immigrants are threats to America's identity because immigrants have shaped America's identity." He also said "No one should claim that immigrants are a burden on our economy because the work and enterprise of immigrants helps sustain our economy."

Of course his motives may simply be to protect business interests - contributors whose companies run on ultra-cheap labor willing to work without protections, and certainly without any benefits, in awful conditions. But he sure sounded like a liberal. He should have been out here, marching in the streets with the kids, or down at the Catalina with Al Franken. Very odd.

By the way, if you want images of the doings out here, our local NBC affiliate has a gallery of thirty screen captures from their coverage here. The city, particularly Hollywood, was a mess. And staying home was the best option.

At the end of the day the Senate Judiciary Committee had a vote, millions of undocumented workers would be able to apply for citizenship, with conditions, and without having to first leave the country. And here you see they carved out an exemption for churches - they can still run soup kitchens and shelters without being charged with a federal crime for offering help to others, if the others are illegal immigrants and they knew, or should have known, that they were.

It means little. Now it goes to the full Senate. Everyone gets to posture and huff and puff. This will take a week or two.

There were five hundred thousand in the streets the day before the high school kids (see the Los Angeles Times here, with an accompanying photo gallery).

This is hot. And it's really hot out here, as in this - "If this weekend's organizers could get 500,000 people to turn out on Saturday for their march, imagine a one-day work stoppage. If all of my Hispanic employees and the Hispanics who make deliveries to us or provide other services didn't come into work for a day, I'd be screwed. Now imagine if they all stayed home and didn't buy anything for a day. They could bring California to its knees and you'd have business owners and factory owners and large contractors and the entire service industry screaming bloody murder."

Yep, there's kindness, decency, and all that, and there's business.

And of course the left is split too, as in this, Oliver Willis, son of Jamaican immigrants, a solid anti-administration voice on the left saying these folks just "cut in line" and they should all be sent back to wherever, so they can do it the right way, apply for a visa or whatever.

Ezra Klein says here that's "intuitively appealing" but not very realistic -
The question isn't whether we should reward bad behavior - though I've trouble defining bad behavior as a life-threatening trek across the desert in order to do backbreaking, essential labor for appallingly low wages - but how we deal with a policy problem.

Illegal immigrants are here. Deportation would be impossible, both logistically and, assuming you could surmount those obstacles, economically. Enforcement is a sham. Since 1986, we've increased border funding by a tenfold. We have built walls stretching into the desert. We have fined employers. And the flow of immigrants hasn't stopped, or slowed; it's accelerated. Worse yet, there's been a set of perverse consequences: not only do more come, but more succeed. We used to stop around 40 percent; now we halt 10 percent. Where immigrants used to use the main roads, now they slip into the deep reaches of the desert. Coyotes (smuggling operations) have increased the sophistication of cross-border migration. And because the coyotes have grown more necessary, and because their fees have expanded as their utility has increased, those who arrive are more in debt than ever, leading them to stay longer and return home less frequently. Illegal immigrants are becoming permanent residents, and if you don't want the undocumented here temporarily, you really don't want them hanging out indefinitely.

So enforcement doesn't work. Deportation doesn't work. Fining businesses - which we did try, to some degree, for awhile - is totally unworkable. (In 1999 we fined 417, in 2004, it was three.) The question, then, isn't how we feel about illegal immigration, but how we handle it in order to ensure the most desirable policy outcomes. And while I'm not precisely sure what the answer is, I'm fairly certain what it's not: the failed, moralistic, xenophobic policies of the past.

... As someone at a panel I attended recently pointed out, a few decades ago, Ronald Reagan excited the country by demanding that xenophobes and tyrants tear a wall down. Now, contemporary Republicans are exciting the base by promising to put one up. The Party of Lincoln must be so proud.
Klein is not the only on point out the irony with the Berlin Wall here. Imagine the hard-liners get their way, and a giant wall does go up, and the Los Angeles Five Hundred Thousand march on the wall, and somewhere near Tijuana a leader grabs a microphone, stands on some makeshift stage and says, "Mr. Bush, TEAR DOWN THIS WALL!" Pat Buchanan's head explodes.

But this is the culmination of forces unleashed with how we responded to the events of September 2001, where we decided to wallow in resentment and anger, decided we were all on our own in a miserable world with everyone against us, where we said we are free of all the laws and treaties of uppity people who think they knew so much and read books and think about details - we were VICTIMS, damn it. We had the right to do what we damn well pleased, and other could go stuff it (or something else, Cheney's words to that senator on the floor of the Senate).

This is what you get. Be reasonable? Why? We don't have to be.

It's just something dark, as you see in this interview with one Eric Haney, a retired Army command sergeant major, founding member of Delta Force -
Q: What do you make of the torture debate? Cheney ...

A: (Interrupting) That's Cheney's pursuit. The only reason anyone tortures is because they like to do it. It's about vengeance, it's about revenge, or it's about cover-up. You don't gain intelligence that way. Everyone in the world knows that. It's worse than small-minded, and look what it does.

I've argued this on Bill O'Reilly and other Fox News shows. I ask, who would you want to pay to be a torturer? Do you want someone that the American public pays to torture? He's an employee of yours. It's worse than ridiculous. It's criminal; it's utterly criminal. This administration has been masters of diverting attention away from real issues and debating the silly. Debating what constitutes torture: Mistreatment of helpless people in your power is torture, period. And (I'm saying this as) a man who has been involved in the most pointed of our activities. I know it, and all of my mates know it. You don't do it. It's an act of cowardice. I hear apologists for torture say, "Well, they do it to us." Which is a ludicrous argument. ... The Saddam Husseins of the world are not our teachers. Christ almighty, we wrote a Constitution saying what's legal and what we believed in. Now we're going to throw it away.

Q: As someone who repeatedly put your life on the line, did some of the most hair-raising things to protect your country, and to see your country behave this way, that must be ...

A: It's pretty galling. But ultimately I believe in the good and the decency of the American people, and they're starting to see what's happening and the lies that have been told. We're seeing this current house of cards start to flutter away. The American people come around. They always do.
They do? The good and the decency of the American people is not what politicians appeal to these days. It's somewhat the opposite. (By the way, Andrew Sullivan found that, and although he can be infuriating, it's a good catch.)

Even religion these days has little to do with good and the decency. Now it's about fighting pure evil by any means, invoking the avenging Jesus who kills his enemies. The United Church of Christ may be teaming up with Media Matters to take back the church back from the holy warriors willing to kill for Jesus, but this effort is a tough one. We've been conditioned - the world is out to get us, and everyone wants to screw us over. You have to hit back or they'll think you're weak. If you seem weak they'll take everything from you. So hit back.

The Hispanic fellow unloading crates of vegetables at the restaurant where you're having your seared Ahi or steak, or both, is just caught in the middle. It may be one of his three jobs to get by, but he's evil. But then, remind him of that enough times and his kids are in the streets of Los Angeles, and maybe he is too.

Now what?

Of course this may all be a diversion. The president gives his speech on decency and common sense while the same day by a suicide bomber at a security force recruitment center in Northern Iraq kills forty new Iraqi recruits and injures many more (story here), and Baghdad provincial governor Hussein al-Tahan, in response to a weekend clash at a Shiite mosque believed to be targeting al-Sadr and his followers, says he's no longer going to cooperate with us: "Today we decided to stop all political and service cooperation with the U.S. forces until a legal committee is formed to investigate this incident." He just won't deal with our military (story here). And they've postponed meeting on forming a new government. More bodies in the streets each day, twenty here, thirty there, shot in the head, or beheaded.

And this -
Iraq ruling Shi'ites demand control over security

BAGHDAD, March 27 (Reuters) - Iraq's ruling Shi'ite Islamist Alliance bloc demanded on Monday that U.S. forces return control of security to the Iraqi government after what it called "cold-blooded" killings by troops of unarmed people in a mosque.

"The Alliance calls for a rapid restoration of (control of) security matters to the Iraqi government," Jawad al-Maliki, a senior Alliance spokesman and ally of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, told a news conference...
And this -
U.S. troops defend raid, say Iraqis faked "massacre"

BAGHDAD, March 27 (Reuters) - U.S. commanders in Iraq on Monday accused powerful Shi'ite groups of moving the corpses of gunmen killed in battle to encourage accusations that U.S.-led troops massacred unarmed worshippers in a mosque.

"After the fact, someone went in and made the scene look different from what it was. There's been huge misinformation," Lieutenant General Peter Chiarelli, the second-ranking U.S. commander in Iraq, said.
And this assessment -
Unfortunately, the US didn't take advantage of the opportunity to withdraw during 2005. Decision makers mistook the controlled chaos enabled by the use of militias for progress towards their maximal goals in the country. That illusion officially ended with the attack on the Samara shrine (a form of social system disruption, likely a coup de grace by Zarqawi). After that event, the fragile structure of the system flew out of control as Shiite militias began to ethnically cleanse Sunnis.

The US is now caught between the militias and the guerrillas and the situation will deteriorate quickly.

Here's a likely scenario for how this will play out: deeper entrenchment within US bases (to limit casualties) and pledges of neutrality (Rumsfeld) will prove hollow. Ongoing ethnic slaughter will force US intervention to curtail the militias. Inevitably, this will increase tensions with the militias and quickly spin out of control. Military and police units sent to confront the militias will melt down (again), due to conflicting loyalties. Several large battles with militias will drive up US casualties sharply. Supply lines to US bases from Kuwait will be cut. Protesters will march on US bases to demand a withdrawal. Oil production via the south will be cut (again), bringing Iraqi oil exports to a halt. Meanwhile, the government will continue its ineffectual debate within the green zone, as irrelevant to the reality on the ground in the country as ever. Unable to function in the mounting chaos and facing a collapse in public support for the war, the US military will be forced to withdraw in haste. It will be ugly.
So let's get rid of the illegal worker doing the grunt work in Van Nuys.

Oh, maybe it's not that bad. The press just reports the bad stuff.

You could look at this way -
Imagine if 30 people were killed every day by car bombs in US cities. Monday, 30 dead in Denver. Tuesday, 30 dead in San Francisco. Wednesday, 30 dead in Philadelphia. You get the idea.

Now scale that roughly relative to population size. Make that 300 dead per day. Every day. Would the lead story on the evening news be about all the people who weren't blown up that day? No. The country would be completely hysterical.
But they are hysterical. About those who snuck in here to do the crap jobs. We for this war to bring peace, stability and all that to the region, and it made us safer.

Think about the illegal workers. That gives folks little time to think about this - "Undercover investigators slipped radioactive material - enough to make two small "dirty bombs" - across U.S. borders in Texas and Washington state in a test last year of security at American points of entry." Just a test. It was easy.

People could be in the streets over lots of things.

Like this - The Guardian (UK) in early February here ran the story of another secret memo - the Oval Office in January 2003, six weeks before the war started, and before Colin Powell spoke to the UN about our proof, Bush and Blair meet and agree there seem to be no WMD and the UN will vote against a war, but decide to have one anyway. Monday, March 27th, the days of the high school kids in the streets here, the president giving his "let them be" speech, the Senate in turmoil over those without papers, the New York Times get hold of the memo and publishes excerpts. That cannot be done in the UK, ad they have that Official Secrets Act. Details. All over the news - talk of how to start a war - the United States could paint one of our spy planes in the colors of the United Nations and maybe Saddam Hussein would fire on it, or, as Bush suggested to Blair perhaps the United States could simply assassinate the guy. And they agreed there was no reason to believe there'd be any "internecine" fighting after the war. Wouldn't happen.

Last week in his press conference the president slammed the eighty-five-year-old reporter Helen Thomas - no president wants war, and he never "wanted" to go to war with Iraq. The British press says there's memo that says he's lying. They can't publish it. The Times can. Old news. New documentation.

Late in the day, no denials. Just "lots of things were said" and that was a long time ago. Move on folks. Nothing to see here.

One senses the wheels are coming off.

"We're seeing this current house of cards start to flutter away. The American people come around. They always do."

Could that be?

__

The LAPD helicopter from the window, using the telephoto and a fast shutter speed -

LAPD helicopter over Hollywood


Posted by Alan at 23:11 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 28 March 2006 07:19 PST home

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