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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Thursday, 17 June 2004

Topic: The Law

Pesky Lawyers

Seems someone thinks that if you don't play be the rules, you ought be asked to leave the game.

See Legal scholars say condoning abuse could be impeachable offense
Lolita C. Baldor, Associated Press, Wednesday, June 16, 2004

What's up, Lolita?
WASHINGTON- More than 400 legal scholars from across the country urged Congress Wednesday to consider impeaching President Bush and any high-level administration officials who approved the Iraqi prisoner abuses.

In a letter released by two Harvard Law School professors, scholars asked Congress to identify everyone who should be held accountable for the torture at Abu Ghraib prison, and determine what sanctions are appropriate. The sanctions, they said, could include "impeachment and removal from office of any civil officer of the United States responsible."

... In the letter, scholars said the prosecution of low-level military personnel for the abuses is not enough. Harvard law professor Christine Desan said Congress would have to determine if the abuses rose to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors which would be punishable by impeachment.

... The prisoner abuse, made public in photos and video, is being investigated by military and Justice Department officials. And Congress is looking into administration memos that could have laid the legal groundwork justifying the abuse.

... The letter was signed by a host of legal notables, including former O.J. Simpson defender Alan Dershowitz and the Rev. Robert F. Drinan, a former Massachusetts Congressmanmember who teaches at Georgetown University Law Center.
Congress is urged to "consider" this?

And just which party controls both house of congress?

And presidents are impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors. Not for being a tad overly zealous in their patriotic fervor to protect Americans. Mistakes were made? Perhaps, although no one in administration will allow for that possibility.

But even if mistakes were made, our intentions cannot be questioned.

And we do not break laws.

Of course Pentagon officials told NBC News that late last year, at the same time U.S. military police were allegedly abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld ordered that one Iraqi prisoner be held "off the books" -- hidden entirely from the International Red Cross (ICRC) and anyone else -- in possible violation of international law.

But don't blame Donald Rumsfeld - George Tenet made him do it.
"I was requested by the director of central intelligence to take custody of an Iraqi national who was believed to be a high-ranking member of Ansar al-Islam, and we did so," Rumsfeld told a Pentagon press conference.

"We were asked to not immediately register the individual and we did that," he said.

The prisoner, who was not identified, was secretly held for more than seven months at a detention facility for high value prisoners near the Baghdad International Airport until last month when a senior Pentagon official decided he should be returned to the general prisoner population, officials said.

Before that, he had been held by the Central Intelligence Agency for about four months at an undisclosed location outside of the country, an intelligence official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The prisoner was turned over to the military in Iraq following legal guidance that as an Iraqi he should be held in Iraq, the official said.
Oops.

The Geneva Conventions sort of kind of does require prompt registration of prisoners of war, as quaint as that seems.

Dan Dellorto, the Pentagon's deputy counsel is quoted as saying, well, "We should have registered him much sooner than we did."

And Rumsfeld just isn't saying why Tenet asked that the prisoner be held secretly. When asked why Tenet wanted that? "Ask him. It's a classified letter."

But Tenet has resigned and he's busy packing up his office.

As you might recall, Major General Antonio Taguba (yes, he's a Philippine-American West Point guy whose father survived the Bataan Death March) - the guy who wrote the unfortunate report on "abuses" at Abu Ghraib - reported in March that some detainees were kept off the rolls there and denounced the practice as "deceptive, contrary to army doctrine and in violation of international law." (Background at May 16, 2004 - Responsibility - Military Style... and legal issues.)

A violation of international law? That depends on how you interpret the law.

Dellorto and the dudes at the Pentagon are now arguing that a prisoner could be held for a period without being registered "for purposes of imperative military necessity." Well, there's no such exception in any law to which we've agreed and thus to which we are bound, but that is a pretty cool idea.

Necessity is the mother of invention, as they say.

So by the direct order of the President's Secretary of Defense... this guy didn't exist. No one could see him if her didn't exist, and certainly not the ICRC which sort of takes as its job making sure people aren't tortured and abused and such.

Gee, I wonder why he was not reported, why he wasn't in the system. Duh.

But this one prisoner probably wasn't tortured. They, well, lost him.

Intelligence officials asked about the prisoner in January but were told by the military that he could not be located. AFP quotes a fellow who doesn't want his name used - "Frankly, it's a case where people lost track of him. The normal review procedures that would kick into play didn't in this instance. And it fell between the cracks."

And now they cannot find him anywhere in the system.

One suspect he's no longer alive, and Donald and George are smiling.

Nothing to see here folks. Move on.

All this legal stuff. Does it all rise to the level of impeachable offense? Don't know. It's not about sex.

--

So how about a little perspective from William Pfaff last week (11 June) over at The International Herald Tribune - and yes, that paper is owned by the New York Times (east-coast liberal monsters of course) and published in Paris (which is still in France last time anyone noticed) -
All of this is a ghastly scandal, one of the worst in American history. It is evident cause for impeachment of this president, if Congress has the courage to do it, and for prosecution of cabinet figures and certain commanders. However in view of the partisan alignment in Congress, quite possibly nothing will happen before the November election.

What then? It also is quite possible that George W. Bush will be elected to a second term. In that case, the American electorate will have made these practices its own. Now that is something for our children to think about.
If Bush wins, by a clear popular count this time, yes, we all own this.

--

Note:

Some folks are taking a stand. The Senate voted without dissent on June 17 to require the Bush administration to "issue guidelines aimed at ensuring humane treatment of prisoners at U.S. military facilities and to report any violations promptly to Congress."

Really.

But note this too. Passage of the proposal came by voice vote. Why? Because a good number of Republicans, seeing they were going to lose this one, didn't want any record with a roll call - as they didn't want their constituents, voting in November, to be able to see they were going all soft on the evil doers. They know their voters in their conservative districts rather like what has been going on - bad guys and folks who might be bad guys (one never knows) are getting it good, and some are dying from it. And these voters feel good when they know that (and of course they don't have to do any of the beating and torture themselves). Thus a voice vote in the senate - these senators who answer to these voters would like to stay in office.

It gets tricky.

Posted by Alan at 16:34 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
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Wednesday, 16 June 2004

Topic: The Media

What to cover, what to discuss...

Bob Patterson, ace columnist for Just Above Sunset, sent me an email late last night. Questions I should consider as topics for this web log or the weekly issue of Just Above Sunset. These are issues that should be addressed, and events that should be covered?

Maybe.

I tackled them here.
Question - The Olympic torch goes through Los Angeles today. Is it really news? Important?

Answer - NO. IT'S PR BULLSHIT. UNLESS, WHEN TOM CRUISE IS RUNNING WITH IT, A GERBIL RUNS UP HIS ASS.

Question - What will happen to Saddam when the interim government takes over on June 30?

Answer - I HAVE NO IDEA AND CANNOT PREDICT. PERHAPS ALIENS FROM THE PLANET CLOROX-2 WILL ABDUCT HIM AND TAKE HIM AWAY IN THE STARSHIP QUAALUDE - AS A CURIOUS SPECIMEN. NO SADDAM? NO PROBLEM! FOLKS WILL BUY ALMOST ANYTHING.

Question - Will that become the "Achilles heel"? If we can't turn him over to the Iraqis does that mean the interim government can't be trusted. If we do turn him over...?

Answer - OH HELL. THAT'S EASY TO SOLVE. WE TURN HIM OVER BUT THEY ASK US TO PROVIDED CUSTODIAL CARE IN OUR IMPRESSIVE LOCAL DETENTION FACILITIES - THEY SIMPLY SUBCONTRACT HIS CARE TO US. WE GET TO KEEP HIM, AND GET TO BILL THE NEW IRAQI GOVERNMENT MONTHLY FOR HIS CARE. THE MAJOR CHANGE? ONE INVOICE.

Question - Special treatment for frequent flyers at airports?

Answer - IN THE WORKS. AND IT IS SO WILDLY EASY TO FOOL ANY REGISTRATION SYSTEM - FAKE DOCUMENTS AND SUCH - THAT THE LIST WILL PROVIDE NO BENEFITS, OTHER THAN PR FOR ASHCROFT.

Question - The June 30 turn over can't really be delayed now. Lose face. But will it work? Are we "in charge" or is it "hunker in the bunker" time for Americans in Iraq?

Answer - WE SAY IT WORKED FINE. JUST KEEP MAKING THE ASSERTION. THEN ALL OUR CIVILIANS LEAVE, QUICKLY. THE 135,000 MILITARY AND 20,000 CONTRACT FOLKS (OUR TITAN DYNCORP BLACKWATER MERCENARIES) CONTINUE AS BEFORE. CHANGE WORDS AT ALL PRESS CONFERENCES - "WE DID TODAY" BECOMES "WE WERE ASKED TODAY AND DID" - NO PROBLEM. AND GUARD ALL TECHNICIANS WORKING ON INFRASTRUCTURE - OIL PRODUCTION, ELECTRICAL POWER, WATER TREATMENT - WITH BRIGADE STRENGTH FORCES. ZONE DEFENSE, AS THEY SAY IN FOOTBALL.

Question - Are we in the "test crash" mode? I.e. strapped into a vehicle (policy) that is screaming toward a steel wall?

Answer - WE'VE BEEN IN TEST CRASH MODE SINCE DECEMBER 2000 - MAKING IT UP AS WE GO ALONG. THE REST OF THE WORLD WAS, AND IS, NOT AMUSED. BUT, HEY, THAT'S WHAT WE DO. WE ARE A PEOPLE WHO DO THINGS - WE DON'T SIT AROUND AND THINK AND TALK, LIKE THEM FRENCH WIMPS. WE DO. APPLICABLE SLOGAN: JUST DO IT. GOOD THINGS SOMETIMES HAPPEN. AND SOMETIMES THEY DON'T. BUT SOMETHING HAPPENS.

Question - Will an Iraqi disaster cost Bush the election?

Answer - NO. SEE ABOVE. "DOING" TRUMPS ALL ELSE.
Sometimes short comments are best.

Posted by Alan at 13:20 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 16 June 2004 13:23 PDT home

Tuesday, 15 June 2004

Topic: The Media

We like being lied to, we really do...

The most popular cable news network in the United States, Fox News, the only news outlet Dick Cheney says he trusts, has a habit of lying. Perhaps that is a little too blunt. But they keep getting called on their lies. And the keep getting slapped down.

The topic has been around a long time. You will find it covered in some detail in the pages of Just Above Sunset here: October 19, 2003 Opinion - Thoughts on nailing mashed potatoes to a wall. Or - "We report, you decide." "Disseminating Ignorance." Basically, how watching the news can actually sometimes make you dumber, and have you believe things that just aren't so.

Al Franken's book about Fox News, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, pointing this out, is the seminal work on the topic, so to speak. Fox sued over this book, and for a review of the full court transcript of the Fox-Franken hearing where Fox News was laughed out of court see the Just Above Sunset "Links and Recommendations" page, here (scroll down for the link).

In the Washington Post of June 14, 2004 you will find more of this silliness:
On his show the other day, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly apologized to Texas columnist Molly Ivins for calling her a socialist. Now liberal author Eric Alterman wants a retraction from O'Reilly, who recently labeled him a fellow traveler of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.

Alterman's Miami-based attorney, Sarah Clasby Engel, sent a demand letter to O'Reilly last week, saying, "We would like to take this opportunity to identify a lie you recently broadcast." On his show in early May, the conservative yakker called Alterman "another Fidel Castro confidant."

Threatening a defamation suit unless O'Reilly makes a retraction, Engel states: "We are certain that you will be unable to point us to any proof whatever of a personal relationship between Alterman, a proud anti-Communist liberal, and Fidel Castro." The letter notes that in mid-May, Alterman signed a public rebuke of Castro, assailing the "brute repression" of his dictatorship.

The lawyer gave O'Reilly five business days to respond. A Fox News spokesman told us the missive arrived only yesterday and "our legal department is reviewing it."
What's with these guys at Fox?

And over at Media Matters we find this: Bill O'Reilly, on air, comparing Michael Moore and Al Franken to Goebbels - and saying Hollywood celebrities are just like the Nazi faithful in the forties.

Well, that's just name-calling. It's not really lying. It's a comparison - not the same as saying a liberal columnist is a close friend and supporter of Castro, or another liberal columnist is a member of this or that socialist party.

But there are lies. And the British government has just censured Fox News for flat-out lying.

See Fox News censured for rant at BBC
Ofcom says Murdoch station broke programme code
Matt Wells, media correspondent, The Guardian (UK), Tuesday June 15, 2004

What's this about? It's about the British Office of Communications, the office that controls who gets on the air in the UK, saying Fox News lies:
Fox News, the US news network owned by Rupert Murdoch, has been found in breach of British broadcasting rules for an on-air tirade that accused the BBC of "frothing-at-the-mouth anti-Americanism".

Television regulators said the broadcaster failed to show "respect for truth" in a strongly worded opinion item ... which also accused BBC executives of giving reporters a "right to lie".

Ofcom, which licenses commercial channels shown in Britain regardless of where they are based, received 24 complaints about the remarks. In a ruling published yesterday, it described the offending item as a "damning critique" but said it did not stand up to scrutiny.

It is the third ruling by British regulators against Fox News, which is available in Britain to Sky Digital customers, in the past year. It broke the rules on "undue prominence" in two previous news items which plugged beauty products and a seed manufacturer.
Ah, habitual liars.

But the rules are different over there:
The Independent Television Commission, which preceded Ofcom, responded to complaints last year that Fox did not meet its strict "due impartiality" rules by issuing a ruling that is regarded in some quarters as a fudge to avoid a standoff with Mr Murdoch: it said "due" meant "adequate or appropriate", and Fox News could justifiably claim to have achieved a level of accuracy and impartiality that was appropriate to its audience in the US, where different rules apply.
Ah yes, we Yanks expect to be lied to.

But the Brits do not seem to like rants that lack any basis in facts.

According the The Guardian -
John Gibson, said in a segment entitled My Word that the BBC had "a frothing-at-the-mouth anti-Americanism that was obsessive, irrational and dishonest"; that the BBC "felt entitled to lie and, when caught lying, felt entitled to defend its lying reporters and executives"; that the BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan, in Baghdad during the US invasion, had "insisted on air that the Iraqi army was heroically repulsing an incompetent American military"; and that "the BBC, far from blaming itself, insisted its reporter had a right to lie - exaggerate - because, well, the BBC knew that the war was wrong, and anything they could say to underscore that point had to be right".
Well, yes, he said that.

The British regulators had three issues here.

Fox had failed to honor the "respect for truth" rule. They had failed to give the BBC an opportunity to respond. They failed to apply the rule that says, in a personal view section, "opinions expressed must not rest upon false evidence."

These guys simply do not understand Americans. We're used to false evidence. We love it. Think of the WMD stuff. Think of how the majority of Americans still believe Saddam Hussein was personally responsible for the 9/11 attacks.

These Brits are so picky about facts and truth (exclude Tony Blair here).

The official report is here, with comments.

You will find there is no objective evidence of BBC having an anti-American bias - which is explained in detail. There is no objective evidence the BBC felt "entitled to lie" - not a shred. And what John Gibson claimed the BBC reporters said on the air? They did not say what he claimed. The transcripts show John was being a tad fanciful, interpreting ... or, ah ... flat-out lying.

We're used to that. I guess the Brits aren't.

From the report - "Fox News accepted that Andrew Gilligan had not actually said the words that John Gibson appeared to attribute to him. However, Gibson was paraphrasing ..."

Close enough.

Not.

To quote the report:
We recognise how important freedom of expression is within the media. This item was part of a well-established spot, in which the presenter put forwards his own opinion in an uncompromising manner. However, such items should not make false statements by undermining facts. Fox News was unable to provide any substantial evidence to support the overall allegation that the BBC management had lied and the BBC had an anti-American obsession. It had also incorrectly attributed quotes to the reporter Andrew Gilligan.

Even taking into account that this was a 'personal view' item, the strength and number of allegations that John Gibson made against the BBC meant that Fox News should have offered the BBC an opportunity to respond.
Fox News didn't.

Busted.

At Fox News Gibson responds with this:

The U.K. Investigates John Gibson
John Gibson, Tuesday, June 15, 2004

He says he did nothing wrong.
My opinions about this major Brit media outfit are entirely buttressed by the truth, and they know it... which is what makes them so mad.

The Guardian newspaper in Britain now says this particular "My Word" from last January was so incendiary it "shocked many in the U.K."

I can't imagine that's accurate. I shocked many in the U.K.? How is that possible if they listen to and believe their major media outlet, which routinely trashes Americans, the American president, the American military and American policy?

That is what is truly shocking, and I suspect that even though 24 Brits complained, the vast majority knows that all the nasty things the major media outlet says about us cannot be true.
Get it?

Good Brits know the BBC hates Bush. And everyone, the Brits included, knows Bush, and his policies, should be loved and respected.

And lying a bit to prove that is okay.

Such is American news these days.

I ran this past my old college friend in Atlanta, Rick Brown, who worked for years for the Associated Press and then had a long career at CNN.

When he read these items, then the Gibson response? He wasn't happy.
Jesus H. Christ, he's gone and done it again!

And correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems this Gibson guy gave this response in the very same Fox News segment in which he committed his original offense! (Or is it "offence"? The offence was committed, after all, over there, where I suppose British rules ought to apply.)

I do hope they get 24-hundred, or even 24-thousand, letters this time. I wonder; does Ofcom have the power to deny Fox News permission to broadcast in that country? Or do they just have the right to levy a fine? Whichever, I would think UK public opinion will for sure be against the network on this one, which should be enough to make Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes to think twice about letting this continue.

It is interesting to see how someone can take the phrase "I'm at the centre of Baghdad ... and I don't see anything, but the Americans have a history of making these premature announcements," and, with neither shame nor explanation, paraphrase it so as to say Gilligan "insisted on air that the Iraqi Army was heroically repulsing an incompetent American Military."

Just incredible!

I know his comments are supposed to qualify as privileged opinion, but it's an opinion that contains within it a lie! Listeners or viewers who didn't know any better would think a BBC reporter actually said those things, which of course he didn't. And that's why this sort of thing is dangerous. If racism would not be allowed in its opinion pieces, why should a network allow outright lies?

If Fox were serious about its responsibilities as an information outlet, it would persuade Gibson to either straighten up or take a hike.

The irony is, if Fox doesn't do take serious action against Gibson, it is doing what Gibson falsely accused the BBC of doing: acting as if one of its on-air people has a right to lie!

And that would be reason enough for anyone, no matter what country they live in, to not trust, and therefore not patronize, a news network that willfully allows disinformation to get out, uncorrected, onto its air.
But Rick, Dick Cheney himself says Fox News in the only reliable news source out there.

A preliminary conclusion? Americans LIKE being lied to. They LIKE believing what they want to believe. Fox News has dominated the news market because they say what we WANT to think is true. We sort of know they lie. That's okay. We like that. It's patriotic.

And these Brits want to rip away our comfortable, pleasant delusions. Heck, they're getting to be as bad as the French - except for Tony, except for Tony ....

Posted by Alan at 19:29 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 16 June 2004 12:02 PDT home


Topic: Couldn't be so...

The wheels turn slowly, but they do turn... A follow-up...

In Just Above Sunset see December 21, 2003 Odds and Ends. At the end of the left column you will find this:

Enqu?te sur l'affaire Halliburton
Eric Decouty, le Fiagro, 20 d?cembre 2003
Pour la premi?re fois en France, une information judiciaire a ?t? ouverte pour ?corruption d'agent public ?tranger?. Elle vise notamment la soci?t? fran?aise Technip et l'am?ricaine Halliburton associ?es dans une op?ration au Nigeria. Une telle enqu?te internationale est possible depuis l'adoption en 1997 de la convention de l'OCDE ?sur la lutte contre la corruption d'agents publics ?trangers dans les n?gociations commerciales?, entr?e en vigueur en droit fran?ais depuis 2000. C'est donc dans ce nouveau cadre juridique que le juge Renaud Van Ruymbeke m?ne ses investigations et que le parquet de Paris envisage la mise en cause de l'actuel vice-pr?sident de Etats-Unis, Richard Cheney, en sa qualit? d'ex-PDG de Halliburton... .
And it goes on.

You get the idea.

This week you will find this:
SEC OPENS NEW INQUIRY: Halliburton this weekend announced the Securities and Exchange Commission has "commenced a formal investigation" into $180 million worth of potentially illegal payments made by the company to Nigerian officials at the time Dick Cheney was CEO of the company.

Halliburton is already undergoing a Justice Department inquiry for the same allegations, which focus on whether the company's payments were actually illegal bribes to Nigerian officials in connection with a natural gas plant in the country.

If they were, they would violate the U.S. government's Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Halliburton has already admitted that a subsidiary made "improper payments" in Nigeria under Cheney.

For his part, Cheney has refused to comment.
No comment is necessary.

Posted by Alan at 10:04 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
home


Topic: Photos

Embrace the Zeitgeist

Early morning here in Hollywood - a deep marine layer rolled in off the cold Pacific during the night - dark and damp. Coffee helps. Sun by noon? Perhaps.

Two days ago I noticed another LAPD helicopter circling low just outside my window. A double murder. A drifter broke into a few apartments three blocks away and took out two old men, a seventy-year old doctor and a ninety-one-year-old screenwriter - Robert Lees, one of the first screenwriters to be blacklisted in Hollywood during the McCarthy days. Lees wrote a lot of the Abbott and Costello movies. Lees was decapitated and the drifter fellow trotted off with his head. The drifter fellow in now in custody. Life in the big city.

Perhaps this drifter fellow read Ann Coulter's stirring defense of Joe McCarthy in Ann's latest book, "Treason" - and took her seriously.

Ah, probably not. Just another crazy.

This note from my friend Rick Brown in Atlanta.
I heard that beheading story this morning on the radio! You left out the part that said he was arrested outside Paramount Studios where he was apparently trying to find out the telephone number of someone who worked there. Makes me wonder what's going through the head of that Paramount person right now; well, at least they still have a head through which such thoughts can go through.
Stanley Avenue, the crime scene, on a sunny morning - looking south from Hollywood Boulevard to Sunset Boulevard...



Posted by Alan at 08:37 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 15 June 2004 11:20 PDT home

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