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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"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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Sunday, 4 July 2004

Topic: Photos

New stuff...

Volume 2, Number 26 (Sunday, July 4, 2004) of Just Above Sunset is now on line.

Extended versions of items that have appeared here - AND Bob Patterson on Bush and his flying lessons - and a bit on what makes for good photography (as he's done a bit of that for Associated Press). Ric Erickson's note from Paris becomes a weekly feature - and this week we get a bit on Marlon Brando's death making the front page of all the Paris papers and Michael Moore's film opening there. And readers send in comments - from Chicago to Atlanta, and from Montr?al to Paris. There's much on the law this time, and on religion and on ethics. Most folks just check out the pretty pictures. Whatever. It's all online now.

Yes, it's the Fourth of July Issue - with quotes about America - and a patriotic Hollywood photo.

Posted by Alan at 19:53 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Topic: Couldn't be so...


As for Bush getting reelected, the marketplace speaks volumes - see this - where you can buy shares. Rick Brown, the News Guy, pointed out this site last year.

Let's see - today the New York Times breaks the news we traded "detainees" with the Saudis (some Brits go free from there after they'd been tortured, and we release a few Saudi dudes from Guant?namo) - so we could keep the coalition of the reluctant together a bit longer. The Los Angeles Times quotes from the Army's own report that the statute being pulled down in Baghdad was completely staged. Just what folks on the left claimed was true and everyone on the right claimed was not so at all.

And Air Force One was grounded with a bad engine and Bush misses a West Virginia engagement while they roll out the spare plane.

And this this from Bob Harris:
You've surely already read about Colin Powell performing the Village People's "YMCA" in Indonesia. If not, the BBC has the video.

As the BBC's Tim Wilcox dryly put it: In any league table of politician's most embarrassing moments, it must rank pretty high.

And really, is there any better way to help stabilize a nation struggling with fanatic Muslim reactionaries than by performing a tune originally created to celebrate joyful gay sex?

I think not.

Y'know, it's the sheer enthusiasm behind the bat-brained idiocy that's so amusing.

Watch the video. Tell your friends.

And then remember this is the guy whose cartoons, empty vials, and plagiarized, misleading data led directly to an elective war, ten thousand civilian deaths, global distrust of the U.S., and a strengthened Al-Qaeda, all at a rising cost already surpassing $120 billion.

The guy in the hard hat. Trying to sing "YMCA." In front of a bunch of foreign ministers. In Indonesia.

Giggle. Cry.

And then at least be glad we'll (probably) still have elections in the fall.

I guess there's still some pride in that.

On this July 4, have a truly wonderful series of gratuitous explosions -- a form of celebration derived from the British, the escape from whose influence we are supposedly celebrating.
Geniuses, we are. Genius, right from the start.
Well, the sun is setting out here in Hollywood. Time to watch some fireworks, after sedating Harriet-the-Cat.

Posted by Alan at 19:38 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Saturday, 3 July 2004

Topic: Couldn't be so...

Smoke and Mirrors

I see this today in my local Los Angeles Times.

The folks at Information Clearinghouse were right low those many months ago. The pulling down of that statute of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad when we took over the place was a totally staged event. No joyous Iraqi civilians - just some shills. Our own Army, now, finally, explains it all in detail:
The Army's internal study of the war in Iraq criticizes some efforts by its own psychological operations units, but one spur-of-the-moment effort last year produced the most memorable image of the invasion.

As the Iraqi regime was collapsing on April 9, 2003, Marines converged on Firdos Square in central Baghdad, site of an enormous statue of Saddam Hussein. It was a Marine colonel -- not joyous Iraqi civilians, as was widely assumed from the TV images -- who decided to topple the statue, the Army report said. And it was a quick-thinking Army psychological operations team that made it appear to be a spontaneous Iraqi undertaking.

After the colonel -- who was not named in the report -- selected the statue as a "target of opportunity," the psychological team used loudspeakers to encourage Iraqi civilians to assist, according to an account by a unit member.

But Marines had draped an American flag over the statue's face.

"God bless them, but we were thinking ... that this was just bad news," the member of the psychological unit said. "We didn't want to look like an occupation force, and some of the Iraqis were saying, 'No, we want an Iraqi flag!' "

Someone produced an Iraqi flag, and a sergeant in the psychological operations unit quickly replaced the American flag.
So it was stage-managed for all us back here. To make us feel good. The news folks covering it cooperated. News anchors on the television were saying it was just like the fall of the Berlin Wall - and we all felt great.

A sham. But we didn't know. And we wanted to feel good about waging war. We needed to.

And it seems the Iraqis for the most part stayed away, having other things to do.

I feel the same way when the major studios film in the neighborhood out here in Hollywood. It's interesting for a moment, then all the trucks and cables and tech folks are just irritating. And not my business. One seldom ever knows what the film will be. Doesn't matter. One afternoon a few years ago they even used the courtyard of the apartment building where I live - dollies and cables and flats and booms everywhere. Harriet-the-Cat hid under the bed.

Same thing - a bunch of people making a film for an audience far away.



Again yesterday. Driving home from some shopping in Sherman Oaks. Came up Beverly Glen from the Valley and turned left on Mulholland Drive - to ride the crest of the hills over to Laurel Canyon and down that twisting canyon road to home. You hardly ever see more than one or two cars way up there. It's real pleasant - view of the Santa Monica Mountains one way, and the Pacific far in the distance the other.

Halfway across the hills - a giant jam. At the entrance to Marlon Brando's place up on Mulholland - traffic cones, then six police cruisers, then satellite vans from all the television stations (I counted nine), cameras everywhere, a catering truck.

Ghouls looking for a shot of a weeping relative or friend? Probably.

So I crept through that, trying to look inconspicuous - as my left brake light had gone dead last week and I didn't want a ticket for that, and I had been smoking my pipe, and you're not supposed to smoke when you drive in the Hollywood Hills as it really is fire season....

Fascinating? No.

Irritating? You bet.

Things are always different on the ground.

Posted by Alan at 16:44 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Saturday, 3 July 2004 16:54 PDT home

Friday, 2 July 2004

Topic: In these times...

Voices - On Winning or Playing Fair

From Ted Barlow over at Crooked Timber, Wednesday June 30...
I'm pretty sure that this isn't what Jesus would do

According to the blog Non Prophet, James Dobson's socially conservative activist group, Focus on the Family, has included Michael Moore's home address in their daily email to supporters.

What legitimate purpose could this possibly serve? What have Moore's neighbors, wife and daughter done to merit the danger that FOTF have foolishly put them in? Simply disgusting.

UPDATE: Several commentators have noted that this hasn't been independently confirmed, which is fair. I'm calling Focus on the Family this morning to see if they can confirm or deny it; stay tuned.

ANOTHER UPDATE: This is for real. I've just spoken to a representative of Focus on the Family who has confirmed that Focus on the Family did, indeed, give out Moore's home address. The person that I spoke to didn't want to be quoted. I've asked the media relations department to see if they have any comment that they are willing to make, and I'll update with any comment that they have.
I saw no further update.

From our correspondent in Chicago - "The Focus on the Family stuff is really disgusting."

From our friend who walked away from Hollywood to live in France...
I agree, giving Moore's or anyone else's home address to the angry mob is disgusting, especially considering what the lunatic fringe on the extreme right gets up to when they disagree with someone - i.e. killing abortion doctors and the like.

It's also a rather sad admission of lacking the intellectual capacity to express one's point of view.
Buga-buga. I can't effectively dispute the veracity of your words, so I'll shut you up by threatening you (and others who might say similarly unpleasant things, a priori) with exposure to the mob, and if possible the certifiable. If only they could muster even that prescience of thought. Buga!

There was a similar case in the not to distant past, wasn't there, involving 0'Reilly (yes, that's a zero, not an "O" - how childish)? I assume that it's generally those on the right who silence people in this way? My, how dangerous are words?
Well, so far nothing has happened.

From the News Guy in Atlanta...
To go further (and, Alan, if your conservative friend were to read this, I'm sure I'd get an earful of disagreement on this):

Despite certain trademarked phrases, "fairness" and "balance" and the "free marketplace of ideas" are highly regarded concepts, but mostly just by liberals, springing from a judgment that says you should pretty much let everyone express themselves, no matter how much you may intellectually and emotionally disagree with them. Yes, there are exceptions on both sides to this tendency, but conservatives are still much more likely to be found giving only lip-service to these ideas, and also are much more likely to publish on websites the names and addresses of people they don't like.

It's all part of process, and liberals are much more believers in process than conservatives, evidenced in the Florida recount, in which -- and I know I've mentioned this before, but I just love the theory and have to repeat it whenever I get a chance -- in which one side (guess which) lived according to the principle, "It's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game," and the other (guess which) lived by, "Winning is not the most important thing, it's the ONLY thing!"
Indeed. Is this so?

Regarding Rick's "process theory" note this - from the French news service AFP so maybe they just made it all up....

US lawmakers request UN observers for November 2 presidential election
Friday, July 02, 2004 - 2:22 AM ET
WASHINGTON (AFP) - Several members of the House of Representatives have requested the United Nations to send observers to monitor the November 2 US presidential election to avoid a contentious vote like in 2000, when the outcome was decided by Florida.

Recalling the long, drawn out process in the southern state, nine lawmakers, including four blacks and one Hispanic, sent a letter Thursday to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan asking that the international body "ensure free and fair elections in America," according to a statement issued by Florida representative Eddie Bernice Johnson, who spearheaded the effort.

"As lawmakers, we must assure the people of America that our nation will not experience the nightmare of the 2000 presidential election," she said in the letter.

"This is the first step in making sure that history does not repeat itself," she added after requesting that the UN "deploy election observers across the United States" to monitor the November, 2004 election.

The lawmakers said in the letter that in a report released in June 2001, the US Commission on Civil Rights "found that the electoral process in Florida resulted in the denial of the right to vote for countless persons."

The bipartisan commission, they stressed, determined "that the 'disenfranchisement of Florida's voters fell most harshly on the shoulders of black voters' and in poor counties." Both groups vote predominantly Democratic in US elections. ...
Ah, yes, monitor the process.

Just like a bunch of Democrats to think up that one.

Did it not occur to these folks that if they get a bunch of UN people to monitor this election where the voting is done on the new electronic touch-screen voting machines, the UN inspectors can only call up data files from the system servers. There is nothing else to examine. "Recount" is meaningless. There is one data set, and that's that. Maybe if more votes are recorded than there are registered voters - as happened out here in the last election with these machines in Orange and San Diego counties - then questions might come up. But what are you going to do about it? Throw out all the votes? Some are, really, after all, valid - maybe most of them. Or maybe not.

And how are you going to tell if someone hacked into the system and changed the votes? Maybe all but two voters in Ohio DID vote for Ralph Nader. Could you prove otherwise? The systems are pretty open and use well-known 4GL application languages. In tests folks have breached these systems, changed data, and left without a trace. It's not hard.

And why did I use Ohio as an example above? The President of the company (Dieblod) that sold his machines to the State of Ohio, in his formal presentation, said, flat-out, his goal was to deliver the Ohio electoral votes to Bush. He's a Bush "Ranger" - one of the Bush top campaign fund-raisers. (To be fair he did later say that he probably shouldn't have said what he said about the electoral votes - because people could take it the wrong way and, well, his audience at the meeting to select a vendor was mostly Republican guys, and he REALLY wanted to make the sale.)

Anyway, the Democrats can worry about fairness and process, and rule of law.

You don't win that way. Perhaps you save your soul... but you don't win.


Back to the Focus on the Family people publishing Michael Moore's home address....

Our friend in France, by the way, was probably thinking of something that appeared in Just Above Sunset on October 5, 2003 - Liberals cannot take a joke (Fox News gets CNN) or are conservatives mean-spirited?

That's a riff on this news item:
CNN's Tucker Carlson Angry Over Phone Flap
Mon Sep 29,10:54 AM ET

WASHINGTON - Conservative CNN commentator Tucker Carlson's snide humor backfired on him - and his wife. While defending telemarketers during a segment on "Crossfire" last week, the bow-tied co-host was asked for his home phone number. Carlson gave out a number, but it was for the Washington bureau of Fox News, CNN's bitter rival.

The bureau was deluged with calls. To get back at him, Fox posted Carlson's unlisted home number on its Web site. After his wife was inundated with obscene calls, Carlson went to the Fox News bureau to complain. He was told the number would be taken off the Web site if he apologized on the air. He did, but that didn't end the anger.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Carlson called Fox News "a mean, sick group of people."

Fox spokeswoman Irena Briganti said Carlson got what he deserved. "CNN threw the first punch here. Correcting this mistake was good journalism."
This led to a dialog between Hollywood, a friend in Montr?al (he likened revealing the Carlson home number, so people could make obscene and threatening calls to the wife and kids, to terrorism) and the News Guy (who worked for years for CNN). You could read it if you like.

I'm not sure the Focus on the Family people want to terrorize Michael Moore and his family. If you click on that link you'll find they are pretty benign folks. Their mission: To cooperate with the Holy Spirit in disseminating the Gospel of Jesus Christ to as many people as possible, and, specifically, to accomplish that objective by helping to preserve traditional values and the institution of the family.

Perhaps they'll just ask Michael if he wants to pray with them.

But perhaps not.

Angry Christians can be... difficult.

Remember the Church in Spain way back when? They too had to deal with people who didn't get the message of Jesus and the Church quite right. As Inquisitor Franciso Pena declared in 1578 - "We must remember that the main purpose of the trial and execution is not to save the soul of the accused but to achieve the public good and put fear into others."

Words to remember, no?

Posted by Alan at 20:42 PDT | Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink

Topic: Couldn't be so...

Your government at work... hoping there are some things you won't notice.

Actually these are things that 1.) they hope you won't notice, or 2.) things that they hope if you do notice them then you won't really mind, or at least you'll excuse them, or 3.) things said or done that simply assume you are dumb as a post.

The first? So the Feds cut some corners.... This is war, right?

Lawyers Sue Over Jail Videotaping
Thursday July 2, 2004
In 2001, MCC Brooklyn, a federal detention center for pre-trial arrestees who aren't allowed to or can't make bail pending their trials and sentencings, began videotaping lawyers meeting with their clients. And they lied about it. Yesterday, the lawyers filed a lawsuit seeking thousands in damages.

"When lawyers from the Legal Aid Society made their way into the federal detention center in Brooklyn in the fall of 2001 to meet with detainees, they said, they were alarmed to see video cameras on the walls. Concerned about the confidentiality of their conversations with their shackled clients - immigrant detainees who were rounded up after the Sept. 11 attacks - the lawyers asked whether they were being taped. Prison officials assured them, they say, that the cameras were turned off.

"But the cameras were running. The federal prison was intentionally recording the lawyer-client conversations in violation of federal law and prison policy, according to a December report by the inspector general of the Justice Department, Glenn A. Fine. `Surreptitiously taping attorney-client communications is a direct attack on the role of counsel and on these Legal Aid attorneys' well-established constitutional rights,' said Nelson A. Boxer, a partner of the Dechert law firm, who is representing the lawyers without fee. The plaintiffs are seeking damages under a federal statute that prohibits electronic eavesdropping without court approval and sets $10,000 for each violation. They have agreed to donate any money award to the Legal Aid Society, they said

We hope the Government has to fork over every red cent for this egregious intrusion.

"If the Justice Department is not going to defend the Constitution, then we will," said Bryan Lonegan, one of the plaintiffs.
Now, I have four good friends who are lawyers and will probably comment on this. The one most directly involved with criminal law and habeas corpus matters may make me all depressed and tell me this happens all the time - and it's no big deal. But I've heard nothing so far.

Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta, and like me, not a lawyer, has an interesting suggestion.
There shouldn't be a fine levied on the government, there should be jail time for the individual violators! I doubt the government would begrudge the money if they had to pay a fine, but some prison guard might think twice about going along with it if he knew he could find himself on the wrong side of the bars if he gets caught. This is a violation of the Constitution, not some petty contract dispute.
That might work. But September 11th changed everything, or so we're told. I think we're supposed to understand since these guys were rounded up around that time, the old rules, even if they do apply, don't really apply. It'll have to be a fine.

The second item was something I found over at Kevin Drum's Washington Monthly web log:
Freedom of Information Act? What Freedom of Information Act?

The Bush administration is offering a novel reason for denying a request seeking the Justice Department's database on foreign lobbyists: Copying the information would bring down the computer system.

"Implementing such a request risks a crash that cannot be fixed and could result in a major loss of data, which would be devastating," wrote Thomas J. McIntyre, chief in the Justice Department's office for information requests.

...."This was a new one on us. We weren't aware there were databases that could be destroyed just by copying them," Bob Williams of the Center for Public Integrity said Tuesday.

Coming next: we can't fulfill your request because the dog ate all our floppy disks and we can't get more until the next fiscal year starts.

They're not even pretending to be serious anymore, are they?
Why pretend? Tell someone copying a computer file could actually cause a system crash and destroy the original. The data would be lost forever. Say it again and again. You're the government. If you say it, again and again, it MUST be so. Why would you keep insisting - if it were not so?

Most folks don't know Jack about computers, do they? Every time you copied a file at home bad things happened, right?

After twenty years in Information Technology, from programming in aerospace to managing massive systems in heavy manufacturing and healthcare, it never happened to me, nor to anyone who worked for me. Not once. That's not to say it couldn't happen. One never knows!

They think we're fools. And no, they're not even pretending to be serious anymore.

Rick's view?
Nope, they're not! And if I were a congressman who heard this "explanation," I would move to launch an inquiry into why the Bush administration's computers are so delicate that they crash if you dare to try to use them, giving particular attention to the question as to whether this situation puts the country at risk during "wartime". (After all, there IS a WAR ON, in case they weren't aware of it!)
Yeah, yeah.

No, no questions will be raised. One fears folks will buy this crap. We bought the WMD arguments (We're all going to DIE!) and the Saddam-Osama connection (They're in this together - everyone just KNOWS it!). Why not this?

But the third item, also from Kevin Drum, is the kicker!

George Bush became governor of Texas in 1994 and reforming education was one of his major campaign promises. So how did he do?

A U.S. Census Bureau study shows that Texas again ranks last in the percentage of high school graduates.

The study released Tuesday shows that 77 percent of Texans age 25 and older had a high school degree in 2003, the same percentage as a decade earlier, when Texas ranked 39th in the country. Meanwhile, graduation rates in other states have improved and a record 85 percent of Americans have high school degrees.

So Bush's programs apparently had no effect at all, while other states showed consistent improvement. The result is that Texas now ranks dead last.

But there's good news for Texans: both George Bush and Rod Paige, the superintendent of the Houston school district and the man most closely associated with the "Texas Miracle," are gone. The bad news is that George Bush is now president of the United States and Rod Paige is his Secretary of Education.

Oops, indeed.

Bush and Page both said the performed miracles in improving Texas schools. Say it often enough.... You get the idea.

Those Texas days.... Let's see.... Bush says he cares about the average Joe and issues of compassion for his fellow man - things like healthcare. Can you get what you need - and without being jerked around? He says he signed into law a wonderful "Patients' Bill of Rights" when he was governor. He mentions it quite often. Conservative but compassionate. That's our George.

He opposed the bill. He vetoed it. The state legislature overrode his veto, a matter of public record.

But if you say something often enough....

Summary? None. These are minor items. They don't rise to the level of news that CNN or the majors would cover.

The world would be a different place if they did.

Posted by Alan at 18:15 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

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