Notes on how things seem to me from out here in Hollywood... As seen from Just Above Sunset
OF INTEREST
Click here to go there... Click here to go there...

Here you will find a few things you might want to investigate.

Support the Just Above Sunset websites...

Sponsor:

Click here to go there...

ARCHIVE
« August 2005 »
S M T W T F S
1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30 31
Photos and text, unless otherwise noted, Copyright 2003,2004,2005,2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
Contact the Editor

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"







Site Meter
Technorati Profile

Saturday, 13 August 2005

Topic: Announcements

Redirection

The new issue of Just Above Sunset, the weekly parent site to this web log, has just been posted. This is Volume 3, Number 33 for the week of Sunday, August 14, 2005 and full of new items in magazine format.

This mid-August issue is a bit international - an exclusive letter from an officer in Baghdad, some intensely British humor from Mike McCahill, "Our Man in London," a photo essay from Ric Erickson, "Our Man in Paris" (with nine shots that might actually make you book a flight on Air France right now), and "Our Eye on Paris" this week, Don Smith, will surprise you. Sooner or later we'll hear again from "Our Man in Tel-Aviv" - but not this week.

Current events? Everything regarding Camp Cindy down in Crawford is explored, there's some starting legal maneuvering covered in detail, and there are notes on some reevaluations of Islam - and just why was that four-star general fired?

The Culture? Rick Brown provides a great column on religion, and the stem cell business seems to be tearing up California, and the Rolling Stones get all political (and Arnold Schwarzenegger loves it).

Bob Patterson is back, exploring nihilism and travel, but in separate columns. And this week's Hollywood photography is more photojournalism than the usual local interest shots - we scoop the local press and cover a wildfire in the Hollywood Hills.

But there are the usual, short and snappy quotes, this time about tolerance (needed this week), and a link to yet one more Just Above Sunset photo album.

Direct links to specific pages -

Current Events ________________

The Dominant Story: Raising Questions
Letter from Baghdad: At War
Legal Matters: Dealing with Canadians and Shoplifters
Don't Pretend: It is a War on Islam
Sex: A Four-Star General is Fired

The Culture ________________

Religion: Responding to the Theocrats (Rick Brown)
Trends: What Belief Buys You
Changes: Stones Attempting Significance

The Foreign Desk ________________

Our Man in Paris: A World of Warm Airs (nine new photographs)
Our Man in London: How to Stage An Olympic Games

Bob Patterson ________________

WLJ Weekly: from the desk of the World's Laziest Journalist - The Return of "The Point of No Return"
Book Wrangler: Who wants to leave "the land of silk and money?"

Guest Photography ________________

Our Eye on Paris: Seen This Week

Hollywood Photography ________________

Wildfire: Watching the Hollywood Hills Burn (new photographs added Saturday, August 13)

The Usual ________________

Quotes for the week of August 14, 2005 - Tolerance
Links and Recommendations: Another New Photo Album, Fire in the Hollywood Hills (21 photos)

Saturday morning in the Hollywood Hills after this week's big fire - Nichols Canyon



Posted by Alan at 23:46 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Saturday, 13 August 2005 23:47 PDT home

Friday, 12 August 2005

Topic: Backgrounder

The Dominant Story: Raising Questions

Late last Sunday on the web log in a discussion of how to define this war on terror (GWOT) you would find this pull from the Associated Press, Sunday, August 7:
The mother of a fallen U.S. soldier who is holding a roadside peace vigil near President Bush's ranch shares the same grief as relatives mourning the deaths of Ohio Marines, yet their views about the war differ.

"I'm angry. I want the troops home," Cindy Sheehan, 48, of Vacaville, Calif., who staged a protest that she vowed on Sunday to continue until she can personally ask Bush: "Why did you kill my son? What did my son die for?"
Followed by this comment:
Well, he died in the Iraq subset of the larger war against a loose, stateless confederation very angry people who feel they have been wronged, and may have been, and also may be quite crazy and know nothing of how the world really works, and are pretty good at acts of terrorism, and don't use submarines. How Iraq is involved in this? Let's see - no trace of WMD like we thought and no real connection to or support for the loose confederation, al Qaeda or whomever, like we thought - but now we have this general idea that a democracy there would help things, even if it turns out to be run by a group of fundamentalist Shiite guys who are all cozy with the fundamentalist Shiite Iraq bad guys....

I'm not sure she'd be happy with that.
She has not had any answer, and she's still there, and still unhappy. And the story built during the week.

The view from the outside:

Bush rejects mother's Iraq plea
President George Bush has said he "sympathised" with the mother of a US soldier killed in Iraq but refused to heed her call to pull out the troops.
BBC World Service, Thursday, 11 August 2005, 22:22 GMT 23:22 UK
Speaking from his Texas ranch where Cindy Sheehan has been holding a roadside protest, Mr Bush said withdrawing would be a "mistake".

Ms Sheehan is vowing to remain until she gets to speak to the president about his justification for the war.

Dozens of well-wishers have turned out to join her demonstration.

"Listen, I sympathize with Mrs Sheehan," Mr Bush said. "She feels strongly about her position. And she has every right in the world to say what she believes. This is America."

He said he had thought "long and hard about her position" calling for US troops to be sent home. But he had decided against it, he said.

"It would be a mistake for the security of this country and the ability to lay the foundations for peace in the long run if we were to do so," he said.

Mr Bush's remarks came after meeting with security advisors, including Vice-President Dick Cheney, Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Ms Sheehan's son Casey was killed in Baghdad's Sadr City in April 2004.

The Californian has been camped outside Mr Bush's property since Saturday and has become a symbol for the US anti-war movement.

"All I want is for President Bush to take one hour out of his vacation and meet with me before another mother's son dies in Iraq," she said.

"You don't use our country's precious sons and daughters unless it's absolutely necessary to defend America."

However, some veterans and relatives have dubbed the vigil a distraction and are keen to ensure support for those serving in Iraq does not wane.

Ms Sheehan met the president once before when he visited Fort Lewis in Washington state to meet relatives of those killed in the war.
Case closed? Hardly.

A lot was happening. According to the AP here's some of it -
Bush National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and a deputy White House chief of staff talked to Sheehan on Saturday. She said the meeting, which she called "pointless," lasted 20 minutes. The White House said it lasted 45 minutes.

By Thursday, about 50 people had joined her cause, pitching tents in muddy, shallow ditches and hanging anti-war banners; two dozen others have sent flowers. Her name was among the most popular search topics Wednesday on Internet blogs.

The soft-spoken Sheehan, 48, is surprised and touched at the overwhelming response - most of which is positive, she says. But not everyone supports her. Kristinn Taylor, co-leader of the Washington, D.C., chapter of FreeRepublic.com, said Sheehan's protest is misguided and is hurting troop morale. "She has a political agenda that goes way beyond her son's death in combat," said Taylor, whose conservative group has held pro-troop rallies since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks and counter-protests of anti-war demonstrations.

... Many supporters decided to go to Crawford because of rumors that Sheehan would be arrested.

But no protesters will be arrested unless they trespass on private property or block the road, said Capt. Kenneth Vanek of the McLennan County Sheriff's Office.

Trucker Craig Delaney, 53, was in Georgia on Monday when he heard numerous radio shows discussing Sheehan - some criticizing her. He altered his route to California, heading for Texas, and got to Sheehan's site Wednesday morning.

"I felt compelled to come and tell her I support her," said Delaney, a self-described hippie from Sly Park, Calif. "The way they were bad-mouthing a mother whose son was killed in the war is un-American."

Nearly 40 Democratic members of Congress have asked Bush to talk to her. On Wednesday, a coalition of anti-war groups in Washington also called on Bush to speak with Sheehan, who they say has helped to unify the peace movement.

"Cindy Sheehan has become the Rosa Parks of the anti-war movement," said Rev. Lennox Yearwood, leader of the Hip Hop Caucus, an activist group. "She's tired, fed up and she's not going to take it anymore, and so now we stand with her."
Rosa Parks? Maybe so.

It seemed best to leave this to the end of the week to gather the threads of what's happening. Many readers have followed all this, but putting it all in order may be of some use. If nothing else, it is sometimes nice to look back and see just what happened. And these links will all be in one place.

Tim Grieve mid-week with this:
By our way of thinking, families who have lost a loved one in Iraq get a free pass to think whatever they want to think about the war. If getting through their grief requires them to believe that Iraq had WMDs or that Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11 or that the war will spread democracy through the Middle East or that fighting "the enemy" there means we don't have to fight them here or whatever new story the president is peddling this week - well, whatever. They've paid the price of admission to think whatever it is that lets them sleep at night, and we wouldn't presume to tell them why we're right and they're wrong.

Is it too much to ask for a similar courtesy from our friends on the right?

Apparently so. Cindy Sheehan's 24-year-old son, Casey, was killed in Baghdad's Sadr City last April, and now she's making a scene down at Crawford as she tries to talk with the president about the war. We say she's entitled, and we're pretty sure we'd say that no matter what she was saying about the war. But Bill O'Reilly says Sheehan's behavior "borders on treasonous." And Michelle Malkin, the right's darling blogger and Ann Coulter-wanabe, is complaining that Sheehan has made a "public circus" out of her "private pain." Appearing on O'Reilly's show, Malkin aimed the lowest of blows at Cindy Sheehan: "I can't imagine," she said, "that Casey Sheehan would approve of such behavior."
David Brock over at Media Matters provides the details of who said what.

Cindy Sheehan's a hypocritical liar:
On August 8, Internet gossip Matt Drudge posted an item on his website, the Drudge Report, in which he falsely claimed that Sheehan "dramatically changed her account" of a meeting she had with Bush in June 2004; Drudge attempted to back up his false assertion by reproducing Sheehan quotes from a 2004 newspaper article without providing their context. After the story appeared on the Drudge Report, it gained momentum among conservative weblogs and eventually reached Fox News, where it was presented as hard news and in commentaries. ...

Drudge's August 8 item claiming that Sheehan had changed her story used quotes from a June 24, 2004, article in The Reporter of Vacaville, California, where Sheehan lives. The Reporter article described a meeting that Sheehan and 16 other families of soldiers killed in Iraq had with Bush in Fort Lewis, Washington, earlier that month. Sheehan's son, Army Spc. Casey Sheehan, was killed in Iraq in April 2004.

Drudge quoted Sheehan seemingly speaking glowingly of Bush: "'I now know [Bush is] sincere about wanting freedom for the Iraqis,' Cindy said after their meeting. 'I know he's sorry and feels some pain for our loss. And I know he's a man of faith,' " and, "For the first time in 11 weeks, they felt whole again. 'That was the gift the president gave us, the gift of happiness, of being together,' Cindy said." Drudge contrasted these quotes to Sheehan's statements on the August 7 edition of CNN's Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer, in which she said, of the 2004 meeting with Bush: "We wanted to use the time for him to know that he killed an indispensable part of our family and humanity."
A part of the The Reporter story Drudge omitted?
"We haven't been happy with the way the war has been handled," Cindy said. "The president has changed his reasons for being over there every time a reason is proven false or an objective reached."

The 10 minutes of face time with the president could have given the family a chance to vent their frustrations or ask Bush some of the difficult questions they have been asking themselves, such as whether Casey's sacrifice would make the world a safer place.

But in the end, the family decided against such talk, deferring to how they believed Casey would have wanted them to act. ...
The fellow who wrote the story says Drudge got it all wrong here and the editor of the paper where the story appeared later added this "We don't think there has been a dramatic turnaround. Clearly, Cindy Sheehan's outrage was festering even then," Barney wrote. "In ensuing months, she has grown more focused, more determined, more aggressive. ... We invite readers to revisit the story - in context - on our Web site and decide for themselves." Editor and Publisher also quotes the editor of the Vacaville paper saying this: "It's important that readers see the full context of the story, instead of just selected portions. We stand by the story as an accurate reflection of the Sheehan's take on the meeting at the time it was published."

As Media Matters notes, all that made no difference. August 8:
- Drudge posted the Sheehan item on August 8 at 10:11 am ET.

- Right-wing pundit Michelle Malkin postedthe item on her weblog one hour later, at 11:22 am ET.

- At 12:40 pm ET, the Drudge story appeared on C-Log, the weblog of the conservative news and commentary website Townhall.com.

- At 2:33 pm ET, MooreWatch.com posted the story.

- At 3:23 pm ET, William Quick of DailyPundit.com posted the story.
Then Fox News picked it up on the "Political Grapevine" segment of the August 8 edition of Special Report with Brit Hume. Guest anchor and Fox News chief Washington correspondent Jim Angle:
ANGLE: Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq last year, who's now camped outside President Bush's Crawford ranch demanding to see him, said yesterday on CNN that a private meeting with President Bush last year was offensive, insisting, quote, "He acted like it was a party. He came in very jovial, like we should be happy with that. Our son died for the president's misguided policies."

But just after that 2004 meeting, she gave a very different account...
It hit O'Reilly the next day.

The lefties should be so organized. There's much more at Media Matters. Note this from the August 9 edition of The O'Reilly Factor -

Bill O'Reilly says we're dealing with treason here: "I think Mrs. Sheehan bears some responsibility for this [publicity] and also for the responsibility for the other American families who lost sons and daughters in Iraq who feel this kind of behavior borders on treasonous." (audio here)

His guest Michelle Malkin adds: "I can't imagine that Casey Sheehan would approve of such behavior." (audio here)

Yeah, well, they're unhappy.

Sheehan on the Bill Press show: "I didn't know Casey knew Michelle Malkin? I'm Casey's mother and I knew him better than anybody else in the world? I can't bring Casey back, but I wonder how often Michelle Malkin sobbed on his grave. Did she go to his funeral? Did she sit up with him when he was sick when he was a baby?" (audio here)

And Thursday's statement from the woman:
This is George Bush's accountability moment. That's why I'm here. The mainstream media aren't holding him accountable. Neither is Congress. So I'm not leaving Crawford until he's held accountable. It's ironic, given the attacks leveled at me recently, how some in the media are so quick to scrutinize -- and distort -- the words and actions of a grieving mother but not the words and actions of the president of the United States.

But now it's time for him to level with me and with the American people. I think that's why there's been such an outpouring of support. This is giving the 61 percent of Americans who feel that the war is wrong something to do -- something that allows their voices to be heard. It's a way for them to stand up and show that they DO want our troops home, and that they know this war IS a mistake? a mistake they want to see corrected. It's too late to bring back the people who are already dead, but there are tens of thousands of people still in harm's way.

There is too much at stake to worry about our own egos. When my son was killed, I had to face the fact that I was somehow also responsible for what happened. Every American that allows this to continue has, to some extent, blood on their hands. Some of us have a little bit, and some of us are soaked in it.

People have asked what it is I want to say to President Bush. Well, my message is a simple one. He's said that my son -- and the other children we've lost -- died for a noble cause. I want to find out what that noble cause is. And I want to ask him: "If it's such a noble cause, have you asked your daughters to enlist? Have you encouraged them to go take the place of soldiers who are on their third tour of duty?" I also want him to stop using my son's name to justify the war. The idea that we have to "complete the mission" in Iraq to honor Casey's sacrifice is, to me, a sacrilege to my son's name. Besides, does the president any longer even know what "the mission" really is over there?

Casey knew that the war was wrong from the beginning. But he felt it was his duty to go, that his buddies were going, and that he had no choice. The people who send our young, honorable, brave soldiers to die in this war, have no skin in the game. They don't have any loved ones in harm's way. As for people like O'Reilly and Hannity and Michelle Malkin and Rush Limbaugh and all the others who are attacking me and parroting the administration line that we must complete the mission there -- they don't have one thing at stake. They don't suffer through sleepless nights worrying about their loved ones

Before this all started, I used to think that one person couldn't make a difference... but now I see that one person who has the backing and support of millions of people can make a huge difference.

That's why I'm going to be out here until one of three things happens: It's August 31st and the president's vacation ends and he leaves Crawford. They take me away in a squad car. Or he finally agrees to speak with me.

If he does, he'd better be prepared for me to hold his feet to the fire. If he starts talking about freedom and democracy -- or about how the war in Iraq is protecting America -- I'm not going to let him get away with it.

Like I said, this is George Bush's accountability moment.
Clear enough.

Drudge tries another gambit (picked up on all the same sites as above), a statement from the "Sheehan Family" condemning Cindy's "political motivations and publicity tactics" (run under a giant bold headline "Family of Fallen Soldier Pleads: Please Stop, Cindy") - to which she responds:
Still putting out the O'Reilly fires of me being a traitor and using Casey's name dishonorably, my in-laws sent out a press statement disagreeing with me in strong terms; which is totally okay with me, because they barely knew Casey. We have always been on separate sides of the fence politically and I have not spoken to them since the election when they supported the man who is responsible for Casey's death. The thing that matters to me is that our family -- Casey's dad and my other 3 kids are on the same side of the fence that I am.
So that's dying out.

Still there's this (audio and video available at the link):
During the panel segment on Thursday's Special Report with Brit Hume on FNC, Fred Barnes recalled Joe Wilson and Bill Burkett as he wondered, "is there any left-wing publicity hound who the media won't build up?" Zeroing in on Cindy Sheehan, Barnes criticized both her and the media's treatment of her: "This woman wants to go in and tell the President that the war is about oil because the President wants to pay off his buddies. She's a crackpot, and yet the press treats her as some important protestor."
No, she wants to ask questions. He made up that thing about oil.

Michelle Malkin here:
I can't imagine Army Spc. Casey Sheehan would stand for his mother's crazy accusations that he was murdered by his commander-in-chief, rather than the Iraqi terrorists who ambushed his convoy. I can't imagine Army Spc. Casey Sheehan would stand for a bunch of strangers glomming onto his mother's crusade and using him to undermine the war effort as they shouted "W killed her son" in front of countless TV cameras.

Cindy Sheehan has surrounded herself with a group of anti-American, anti-military, terrorist-sympathizing agitators, including Code Pink, the Crawford Peace House, and the crackpot crowd.

It's a sad spectacle. President Bush should continue to treat Mrs. Sheehan with the same compassion and sympathy he showed her when they first met - before her heart and mind were poisoned by the professional grievance-mongers who claim to be her friends.
Right. Maureen Dowd in the New York Times wonders about that:
It's amazing that the White House does not have the elementary shrewdness to have Mr. Bush simply walk down the driveway and hear the woman out, or invite her in for a cup of tea. But W., who has spent nearly 20 percent of his presidency at his ranch, is burrowed into his five-week vacation and two-hour daily workouts. He may be in great shape, but Iraq sure isn't.

It's hard to think of another president who lived in such meta-insulation. His rigidly controlled environment allows no chance encounters with anyone who disagrees. He never has to defend himself to anyone, and that is cognitively injurious. He's a populist who never meets people - an ordinary guy who clears brush, and brush is the only thing he talks to. Mr. Bush hails Texas as a place where he can return to his roots. But is he mixing it up there with anyone besides Vulcans, Pioneers and Rangers?

W.'s idea of consolation was to dispatch Stephen Hadley, the national security adviser, to talk to Ms. Sheehan, underscoring the inhumane humanitarianism of his foreign policy. Mr. Hadley is just a suit, one of the hard-line Unsweet Neo Cons who helped hype America into this war.

It's getting harder for the president to hide from the human consequences of his actions and to control human sentiment about the war by pulling a curtain over the 1,835 troops killed in Iraq; the more than 13,000 wounded, many shorn of limbs; and the number of slain Iraqi civilians - perhaps 25,000, or perhaps double or triple that. More people with impeccable credentials are coming forward to serve as a countervailing moral authority to challenge Mr. Bush.

Paul Hackett, a Marine major who served in Iraq and criticized the president on his conduct of the war, narrowly lost last week when he ran for Congress as a Democrat in a Republican stronghold in Cincinnati. Newt Gingrich warned that the race should "serve as a wake-up call to Republicans" about 2006.

Selectively humane, Mr. Bush justified his Iraq war by stressing the 9/11 losses. He emphasized the humanity of the Iraqis who desire freedom when his W.M.D. rationale vaporized.

But his humanitarianism will remain inhumane as long as he fails to understand that the moral authority of parents who bury children killed in Iraq is absolute.
And Friday we get this (Associated Press):
President Bush and his motorcade passed the growing camp of war protesters outside his ranch Friday without incident.

The motorcade didn't stop.

Cindy Sheehan, the California mother who started the vigil along the road leading to Bush's ranch, held a sign that read: "Why do you make time for donors and not for me?"

On Friday, Bush arrived before noon at a neighbor's ranch for a barbecue that was expected to raise at least $2 million for the Republican National Committee.

About 230 people were attending the fundraiser at Stan and Kathy Hickey's Broken Spoke Ranch, a 478-acre spread next to Bush's ranch. All have contributed at least $25,000 to the RNC, and many are "rangers," an honorary campaign title bestowed on those who raised $200,000 or more for Bush, or "pioneers," those who have raised $100,000 or more.
And so the week ends.

What to make of all this? As the week ends, Digby over at Hullabaloo asks the question:
I've been wondering what it is about Cindy Sheehan that's gotten under people's skin. Her loss is horrible and everyone can see that she is deeply pained. (Only the lowest, cretinous gasbags are crude enough to attack her in her grief.) She's a very articulate person and she's incredibly sincere. But she's touched a deeper nerve than just the personal one.
Yep, she finally asked the question clearly. What was the noble cause that her son died in - because that's what he said the other day when those fourteen marines were killed. He did say their families could rest assured that their sons and daughters died for a noble cause. And she asked, "What is that noble cause?"

Good question.

Digby:
It is not an academic exercise for her. She lost her son - and she'd like to know why. Nobody can explain to her - or to any of us - why we invaded Iraq and why people are dying. They said it was to protect us - but it wasn't a threat. Then they said it was to liberate the Iraqi people, but Saddam and his government are a memory and yet the Iraqi people are still fighting us and each other. Our invasion of Iraq has inspired more terrorism, not less. Oil prices are higher than they've ever been. The country is swimming in debt. People are being killed and maimed with the regularity of the tides.

And everybody knows this. Deep inside they know that something has gone terribly wrong. We were either lied to or our leaders are verging on the insanely incompetent. That's why when Cindy Sheehan says that she wants to ask the president why her son died - in those simple terms - it makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up. It's not just rhetorical.

She literally doesn't know why her son had to die in Iraq. And neither do we.
Of course, there are geopolitical concerns and lots of things happening in the world that command one's attention, and this may be more a curiosity than an important news story. The woman has put the president, his administration, and his supporters, on the defensive, and they may be striking out in anger - but the war will proceed, as will whatever follows it. It seems she will not sway any of those in power.

But they know the danger - a tipping point - something that shifts the terms of all the arguments. You cannot any longer shout WMD and have folks stand behind you, because it turns out there weren't any, as many warned. You cannot shout, "Connection to al Qaeda and all the terrorists!" - because it turns out there wasn't any connection, as many warned. You cannot shout "Democracy in Iraq" as they work out a new constitution there that takes away women's rights even Saddam Hussein granted and aligns the new government with the theocracy in Iran next door, the evil folks working on nuclear weapons. You can shout out, "Remember 9/11" - and they will do that again and again - but that's wearing thin.

Lots of folks asked "the question" - why? It seems it took the mother of a dead soldier asking it for it to seem a serious question that actually deserved more than a perfunctory answer. Lefties and commentators and think-tank folks and ex-diplomats and foreigners asking the question won't do. This woman will do.

But don't expect any answer.

Still, she's dangerous.

Many will dismiss her as addled by grief and thus unqualified to discuss such matters, or just a tool of the left ? those out to destroy Bush because they resent him - or a shameless opportunist who just loves the limelight. Many will? Many have.

Still, now the question is out there, plain as day, no matter what her motives.

__

Footnote:

This will be continued. Over at the National Review Kate O'Beirne, a commentator one often sees on Fox and CNN and the other talk shows, tells us Cindy Sheehan's efforts should be countered with pro-war grieving mothers: "Surely a fair number of such family members are in Texas? Let's hear from them?" (That's here.)

At the snarky site Wonkette, this:
Is that what the debate has come to? Which side can corral the saddest crop of widows, parents, and orphans? Call it a harms race. Better: an ache-off.

We hope the grimly absurd image of two competing camps of mourners illustrates why it is we've been somewhat reluctant to weigh in on Sheehan's cause: Grief can pull a person in any direction, and whatever "moral authority" it imbues, we can't claim that Sheehan has it and those mothers who still support the war don't.

The Bush administration knows all about exploiting tragedy for its own causes, including re-election.

Whatever arguments there are against the war in Iraq, let's not make "I have more despairing mothers on my side" one of them.

The only way to win a grief contest is for more people to die.
Yep, but it's not about who grieves more sincerely. It's about why they have to.

Posted by Alan at 19:08 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 12 August 2005 19:34 PDT home

Thursday, 11 August 2005

Topic: The Law

Legal Matters: Dealing with Canadians and Shoplifters

A long time ago the case of Maher Arar was discussed in Just Above Sunset here - December 21, 2003: Bitter Brits. Arar was the Canadian citizen we secretly deported to Syria. We don't do torture. They do. Torture is not US policy. And we thought he was a bad guy. We picked him up at the Newark airport when he was changing planes. But, damn, is seems he wasn't as bad guy. We had bad information. As the 2003 item points out, his crime was that his mother's cousin had joined the Muslim Brotherhood long after Maher Arar moved to Canada. And after ten months of torture and incarceration in a quite tiny cell in Syria, he was allowed to return to his home in Canada.

Oops. Now he is suing the US government. He is not happy.

Well, we were just being careful, and a bit overly enthusiastic. Understandable, of course.

Wonder of wonders, his case is finally being heard. You see there was rental lease agreement from 1997 which he had co-signed and that seemed to indicate he might have known someone who knew someone who… oh heck, the full details and all the supporting documentation are here if you're at all interested.

What's interesting now is the summary of our government's position, now that we're in court, as reported in the New York Times, Wednesday, August 10, 2005 - U.S. Defends Detentions at Airports (byline Nina Bernstein) -
Foreign citizens who change planes at airports in the United States can legally be seized, detained without charges, deprived of access to a lawyer or the courts, and even denied basic necessities like food, lawyers for the government said in Brooklyn federal court yesterday.

The assertion came in oral arguments over a federal lawsuit by Maher Arar, a naturalized Canadian citizen who charges that United States officials plucked him from Kennedy International Airport when he was on the way home on Sept. 26, 2002, held him in solitary confinement in a Brooklyn detention center and then shipped him to his native Syria to be interrogated under torture because officials suspected that he was a member of Al Qaeda.

Syrian and Canadian officials have cleared Mr. Arar, 35, of any terrorist connections, but United States officials maintain that "clear and unequivocal" but classified evidence shows that he is a Qaeda member. They are seeking dismissal of his lawsuit, in part through the rare assertion of a "state secrets" privilege.
You have to love the contentions here, especially the contention the suit should be dismissed because we know stuff we cannot tell even the judge. You have to trust us on this.

Judge David G. Trager of United States District Court of course prepared written questions for lawyers on both sides to address further, including one that focused on the fellow's accusations of illegal treatment in New York. Arar says he was "deprived of sleep and food and was coercively interrogated for days at the airport and at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn" - and he was, of course, not allowed to call a lawyer, his family or the Canadian consul.

Trager: "Would not such treatment of a detainee - in any context, criminal, civil, immigration or otherwise - violate both the Constitution and clearly established case law?"

Mary Mason, senior trial lawyer for the government, "it would not."
Legally, she said, anyone who presents a foreign passport at an American airport, even to make a connecting flight to another country, is seeking admission to the United States. If the government decides that the passenger is an "inadmissible alien," he remains legally outside the United States - and outside the reach of the Constitution - even if he is being held in a Brooklyn jail.

Even if they are wrongly or illegally designated inadmissible, the government's papers say, such aliens have at most a right against "gross physical abuse."
At most? Seems like she's saying he was lucky he didn't get the New York police broomstick up the ass treatment - but he was Canadian, not Haitian.

But here's a cool exchange:
Under immigration law, Ms. Mason asserted, Mr. Arar was afforded "ample" due process when he was given five days to challenge an order finding him inadmissible.

"The burden of proof is on the alien to demonstrate his admissibility," Ms. Mason said, "and he did not do that."

"Do you do this to all people on a connecting flight?" Judge Trager asked, raising his eyebrows.

"Yes, all have to show admissibility," Ms. Mason replied. …
The counterarguments came form David Cole, a law professor at Georgetown University, representing Arar. His notion was that the government had denied Arar "a meaningful chance to be heard" - refusing to let him call a lawyer initially, and later by sort of lying to the lawyer about his whereabouts. You see, Arar, who had been told he would be deported to Canada, was not handed a final order sending him to Syria until he was in handcuffs on the private jet heading out over the Atlantic. And we told his lawyer that he had been sent to a jail in New Jersey. Fooled ya!

Cole - "We can't take a citizen, pick him up at J.F.K. and send him to Syria to be tortured. We can't hold against Mr. Arar the failure to file a motion for review when he's locked up in a gravelike cell in Syria."

Wanna bet?

Other issues?
Dennis Barghaan, who represents former Attorney General John Ashcroft, one of the federal officials being sued for damages in the case, argued that Congress and recent judicial decisions tell federal courts "keep your nose out" of foreign affairs and national security questions, like those in this case.

At several points the judge seemed to echo such concerns. He said he had refused to read a letter from the plaintiffs detailing testimony before a Canadian board of inquiry into Mr. Arar's case because he did not know how to deal with questions that might require the government to confirm or deny classified information.

"How am I going to handle that?" he asked, rubbing his forehead and furrowing his brow before adjourning the hearing.
That's a real good question.

Tresy, over at Sisyphus Shrugs (great name for a commentary site) suggests this is a little too Kafkaesque for her taste and wonders why this isn't get more play in the media:
You would think that our government kidnapping the citizen of a neighboring democracy and sending him to be tortured, by an official supporter of terrorism no less, simply because of a signature on a rental lease agreement, would have some newsworthiness. Too bad Arar wasn't a pretty white woman. …

I guess we shouldn't be surprised that a government that claims the right to imprison suspects without any due process on grounds of national security would claim immunity from legal process on the same ground when the tables are turned. Still, it takes a bit of chutzpah to claim "clear and unequivocal evidence" that the plaintiff, now walking around free, is a terrorist. Sending him to Syria to be tortured is just what you do with obviously guilty people, you see.

Welcome to America. Have a nice trip.
Our friend, the high-powered Wall Street attorney, commented all this cannot be good for tourism. Maybe it will improve sales of the collected works of that Czech-born German-speaking writer, Kafka - and we can all read "The Trial" (1914). Maybe it will revive interest in that 1967 television series The Prisoner. Not much else good will come of it all.

But finally, the guy is a Canadian, and we've been unhappy with the Canadians for a long time. In an April 27th 2004 radio debate with a Canadian journalist, Bill O'Reilly threatened to lead a boycott of Canadian goods if Canada didn't deport two American military deserters, saying that his previous boycott of French goods - the one he thought-up and championed - cost France billions of dollars in lost export business. (See this - it didn't.) And although they sent troops to fight beside us in Afghanistan, Canada took a pass on Iraq. Seems they weren't impress with the WMD argument, or felt the pressing need for an immediate war. And now those Canadian folks have approved gay marriage and made it all legal.

Like we care what happens to this Canadian?

__

Other legal matter for the week:

Answers sought in death outside Wal-Mart
Man accused of theft begged to be let up from hot pavement, witness says
Robert Crowe and S.K. Bardwell, Houston Chronicle, August 9, 2005, 8:49 PM
A man suspected of shoplifting goods from an Atascocita Wal-Mart - including diapers and a BB gun - had begged employees to let him up from the blistering pavement in the store's parking lot where he was held, shirtless, before he died Sunday, a witness said.

An autopsy for the man, identified as Stacy Clay Driver, 30, of Cleveland, was scheduled for Monday, but officials said results probably would be delayed by a wait for toxicology tests.

Driver's family, as well as one emergency worker, are questioning company procedure, including whether Wal-Mart workers administered CPR after they realized he needed medical attention.

When Atascocita Volunteer Fire Department paramedics arrived, Driver was in cardiac arrest, said Royce Worrell, EMS director. Worrell said Monday he heard from investigators that Wal-Mart employees administered CPR to Driver, but he was not sure that happened.

"When we got there, the man was facedown (in cardiac arrest) with handcuffs behind his back," Worrell said. "That's not indicative of someone given CPR."
Liability here? Or is the business of America business?

Wal-Mart has been getting a lot of bad press lately. There was the shooting-the-cats business (here) and the big class-action discrimination lawsuit (and by "big" we're talking about 1.6 million plaintiffs) - and now this death-to-shoplifters enthusiasm. Perhaps questioning company procedure is in order.

On the other hand, too much regulation of business hurts the economy. And we love those low prices.


Posted by Alan at 18:06 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, 11 August 2005 18:07 PDT home

Wednesday, 10 August 2005

Topic: God and US

Trends: What Belief Buys You

Another one of those front-page "backgrounders" you run it the left column and continue inside - this one letting the folks in DC know what's up the heartland.

In Heartland, Stem Cell Research Meets Fierce Opposition
Peter Slevin, Washington Post, Wednesday, August 10, 2005; Page A01
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The moral debate over embryonic stem cells stretches far beyond Capitol Hill to state capitals and research parks across the country, where a fierce competition is underway from Maryland to California for cutting-edge research and the profits that could follow.

In Maryland yesterday, advocates began a campaign to secure state money for stem cell research. A House of Delegates effort to spend $23 million a year on research died in the Senate earlier this year after a filibuster threat by Republicans and conservative Democrats.

Here in Missouri, a similar battle is raging over the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, which has built a $300 million laboratory and stocked it with sophisticated machines for nearly 200 scientists recruited from as far afield as China and Argentina.

Yet social conservatives in the Missouri legislature are effectively blocking some of the most ambitious research envisioned by the Stowers staff, saying that research with embryonic stem cells is so immoral it should be a crime.
One thinks of Rogers and Hammerstein, Oklahoma! - "Everything is up-to-date in Kansas City" (1937). Ah, perhaps not.

Illinois? South Dakota? Same deal. They seems to be differentiating themselves from New York City (see below) and California, Massachusetts, and New Jersey -
… Just last month, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) announced that he had helped hide $10 million in the state budget that will now be used for embryonic stem cell research. Several leading Republicans criticized him for the move, and the Catholic Conference of Illinois said he "betrayed his own office, both morally and politically."

South Dakota forbids research on all embryos, yet New Jersey is bankrolling an embryonic stem cell program. In New York City, a private foundation recently gave $50 million to three medical institutions for early stem cell work to sustain the city's research credentials.

"The blue states have been rushing to embrace opportunities in stem cell research," said Patrick M. Kelly, vice president of state government relations at the Washington-based Biotechnology Industry Organization. "California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, now Illinois. That has not been a phenomenon that has swept through the red states."
Yeah, well, don't be so sure about California. Sure, Senate Majority Leader Frist may have changed his mind, the House may have already approved expanding stem cell research, but President Bush did restrict government funding to "a limited number of stem cell lines that existed in 2001" – and says he will veto any expansion.

And here is California? California's stem cell institute? Approved by a ballot initiative - but no progress yet. Can't sell the bonds to finance the thing. Problems.

Group files lawsuit to halt research at stem cell institute
Terri Somers, San Diego Union-Tribune, August 6, 2005
A national anti-abortion group yesterday served the administrators of California's stem cell institute with a federal lawsuit seeking to stop their work on the grounds that the civil rights of frozen embryos are violated by stem cell research.

The lawsuit was delivered during a monthly meeting of the institute's oversight committee at the University of California San Diego. Around the same time it arrived, committee Chairman Robert Klein was announcing that several lawsuits filed in state court had been consolidated to be heard by one judge, in one county, on an expedited basis.

That litigation has blocked the sale of government-backed bonds to fund the institute, which is supposed to award $300 million annually for stem cell research.

The federal lawsuit, filed by the National Association for the Advancement of Preborn Children, could now further delay the sale of bonds.
National Association for the Advancement of Preborn Children? Who are these folks, and what exactly is a "preborn child?"

Over at Pandagon you'll find this -
The name of this group is both a way to mock the NAACP and an opportunity for wingnuts to pretend that their desire to control women's bodies puts them on the side of the angels. If they could only work in a way to claim the Islam is Satanic, it would be a trifecta of wingnuttery.

I say watch this group closely. If they open and close their meetings with a sincere-sounding rendition of "Every Sperm is Sacred" as if it were "Kumbaya," then we'll know for sure they are fucking with us.
No, they're real. As far as I can tell the old Monty Python ensemble is long gone. This is not an ironic skit, or some sort of performance art. The lawsuit is quite real.

And what does it claim?
The suit was filed on behalf of Mary Scott Doe, a fictitious embryo produced by in vitro fertilization and then frozen and put into storage. Some of these embryos, which people have decided not to use in attempts to have children, have been donated for use in stem cell research, which involves destroying them.

The lawsuit claims the embryo is a person who should be given equal protection under the Constitution, and her destruction violates her right to freedom from slavery.
What? Slavery? Most curious, if not Python-like it its contentions. But it happened.

Note: if an embryo is "a person" who should be given equal protection under the Constitution, then you must refer to it as either a "he" or a "she" - as Terri Somers of the San Diego Union-Tribune dutifully does here. Would the San Diego Union-Tribune also be sued if the writer referred to an embryo as an "it" in that last sentence? It would have been better had Somers put "her" in quotes, indicating the matter isn't yet settled. A minor point, perhaps.

As for stopping the California Stem Cell Institute now, before it gets off the ground, is that good for California? Kevin Drum in The Washington Monthly, who writes from Irvine - about halfway between Hollywood and San Diego - thinks blue states like California are so much richer and more culturally vibrant than red states -
Technological development is at the core of increasing productivity, and everyone benefits from it regardless of where the basic research is done. Still, the places that do the research get the lion's share of the benefit, and if you were a scientist, where would you rather be? UCLA or Stanford on the one hand, or someplace where the locals try to ban the teaching of evolution and think that biotech laboratories are symbols of moral degeneracy? Seems like an easy choice.
Yeah, this isn't Kansas with its Son-of-Scopes Trial - those hearings to counter the teaching of evolution in the schools (last covered in these pages here in May).

But the rest of the country may have some misconceptions about the actual "blueness" of California. A bunch of Hollywood, liberal nuts down south, and up north - Berkeley and Santa Cruz - a bunch of ex-hippies who still live in the sixties, smoking dope and grinning. No. We gave the nation the John Birch Society, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan - and we happily elected the Austrian muscleman and movie star, the son of a Nazi, a man who doesn't like nuance or girlie-men - as our governor. He's no leftie Democrat - and he's not much of a governor, but that's another matter.

The other California? Shwarzenegger loves the armed citizen volunteers, the Minutemen - these vigilantes watching the border, taking care of those who would sneak in here illegally from Mexico, taking the law into their own hands.

What about that? If you travel a few miles west from Kevin Drum's Irvine, you end up in Laguna Beach. Arts colony, big art festival each year - and that silly "Pageant of the Masters" thing. It seems that on Saturday, July 30, in Laguna Beach, twenty-five Minutemen and Save Our State folks - and some neo-Nazis - put on a display of US, Confederate and Nazi flags in a protest of one of those sites where day laborers gather hoping for some work. According this account these Minutemen guys were there for some good-natured harassment of the probably illegal day laborers - spitting on them and such - and more than a hundred of the locals thought that wasn't very nice, and it got ugly. (A good picture of the guys waving the flags here.)

That's California too.

__

Well, putting aside this Minutemen business, this stem cell research issue is presenting difficulties all over the place - from Frist and Bush disagreeing to this California suit.

Is there some middle ground? Since the Democrats don't matter in the discussion - as they control no part of the government and may never again control anything - is there a Republican middle ground? See this from Morton Kondracke:
Political moderates predominate in the U.S. electorate, but the two parties are increasingly captives of their extremes. Will the moderates ever rise up and assert themselves?

In the Republican Party, they ought to do so by defending Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (Tenn.) against right-wing attacks for bucking President Bush (and Christian conservatives) over embryonic stem-cell research.

Republican moderates also ought to start speaking up for "emergency contraception" before the right makes banning it a litmus test of party loyalty. Someone in the GOP ought to tell Bush that "intelligent design" is not a true scientific theory on a par with evolution. And moderates need to fight at the state level to prevent "ID" from being required teaching in biology classes. ...
Someone tell Mort he isn't going to get his Party back.

And Kondracke also hints at something else that might be an issue - sex: "... there's ground for suspicion that some religious conservatives are as much about punishing illicit sexual activity as they are about saving 'life.'"

Yep. Bush may be a dim-witted mean-spirited frat-boy who got us into a pointless war, but at least he wasn't messing around with chubby White House interns. Sex matters.

A counter to that? From Ramesh Ponnuru in the conservative National Review this objection: "It's the bit about sex where he [Kondracke] makes no sense at all. If punishing illicit sexual activity were the point, why would these religious conservatives care about embryonic stem-cell research at all? We're not talking about embryos created the old-fashioned way."

Kevin Drum -
Exactly. And guess what? It turns out that embryos created in vitro and then discarded - as most of them are - cause no heartburn for religious conservatives. But if those embryos are genuine human lives, shouldn't the Christian right be picketing outside IVF clinics the same way they picket outside abortion clinics?

In fact, even stem cells themselves help make Mondracke's case. Religious conservatives are universally opposed to abortion, but stem cells are divisive even within the pro-life ranks, a division that's only growing with time. This is why George Bush had to fudge his original stem cell decision in 2001 and it's why Bill Frist decided to come out in favor of expanded stem cell research last week. If the embryo debate were really only about "life," opposition to stem cells among religious conservatives would be as monolithic as opposition to abortion.

So yes: illicit sexual activity is at the core of the abortion debate, and it's at the core of a lot of other conservative hot buttons too.
But not this one:

Evolution vs. Religion
Quit pretending they're compatible.
Jacob Weisberg - Posted Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2005, at 12:30 PM PT SLATE.COM

Opening:
President Bush used to be content to revel in his own ignorance. Now he wants to share it with America's schoolchildren.

I refer to his recent comments in favor of teaching "intelligent design" alongside evolution. "Both sides ought to be properly taught ? so people can understand what the debate is about," Bush told a group of Texas newspaper reporters who interviewed him on Aug. 1. "Part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought."

The president seems to view the conflict between evolutionary theory and intelligent design as something like the debate over Social Security reform. But this is not a disagreement with two reasonable points of view, let alone two equally valid ones. Intelligent design, which asserts that gaps in evolutionary science prove God must have had a role in creation, may be? creationism in camouflage. Or it may be? a step in the creationist cave-in to evolution. But whatever it represents, intelligent design is a faith-based theory with no scientific validity or credibility.

If Bush had said schools should give equal time to the view that the Sun revolves around the Earth, or that smoking doesn't cause lung cancer, he'd have been laughed out of his office. The difference with evolution is that a large majority of Americans reject what scientists regard as equally well supported: that we're here because of random mutation and natural selection.
Of course this is followed by lots of polling data showing people here just don't believe the Darwin business, by and large. Scientists do. Most folks believe in God doing the heavy lifting, not random mutation over time eliminating the useless and things changing. And that's the problem. Darwinian science just can?t coexist with religion.
? let's be serious: Evolutionary theory may not be incompatible with all forms of religious belief, but it surely does undercut the basic teachings and doctrines of the world's great religions (and most of its not-so-great ones as well). Look at this 1993 NORC survey: In the United States, 63 percent of the public believed in God and 35 percent believed in evolution. In Great Britain, by comparison, 24 percent of people believed in God and 77 percent believed in evolution. You can believe in both - but not many people do.

That evolution erodes religious belief seems almost too obvious to require argument. It destroyed the faith of Darwin himself, who moved from Christianity to agnosticism as a result of his discoveries and was immediately recognized as a huge threat by his reverent contemporaries. In reviewing The Origin of Species in 1860, Samuel Wilberforce, the bishop of Oxford, wrote that the religious view of man as a creature with free will was "utterly irreconcilable with the degrading notion of the brute origin of him who was created in the image of God." (The passage is quoted in Daniel C. Dennett's superb book Darwin's Dangerous Idea.)

Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, the archbishop of Vienna, was saying nothing very different when he argued in a New York Times op-ed piece on July 7 that random evolution can't be harmonized with Catholic doctrine. To be sure, there are plenty of scientists who believe in God, and even Darwinists who call themselves Christians. But the acceptance of evolution diminishes religious belief in aggregate for a simple reason: It provides a better answer to the question of how we got here than religion does. Not a different answer, a better answer: more plausible, more logical, and supported by an enormous body of evidence. Post-Darwinian evolutionary theory, which can explain the emergence of the first bacteria, doesn't even leave much room for a deist God whose minimal role might have been to flick the first switch.
No sex here. But just as threatening.

And you might consider the implications. The Korean cloned dog and all their research. What we give up by undermining science. Is it time "to focus more strongly on the practical consequences of resisting scientific reality?"

Well, California won't have its stem cell research center anytime soon now. Don't want embryos forced in slavery and death, as they are citizens with rights too. Don't want science showing that what is in this "good book" or that is flat-out wrong, or at best, metaphor. Most folks won?t stand for that.

And we have those Confederate and Nazi flags in the streets here in Southern California.

The country is heading in an interesting direction.

Posted by Alan at 19:49 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 10 August 2005 19:58 PDT home

Tuesday, 9 August 2005

Topic: Breaking News

Breaking News: A Hollywood Fire

Sometimes the news just comes to you. Tuesday, August 9, just before six in the evening here in Hollywood, as the light got long, the neighborhood was filled with the sound of helicopters in the air and sirens on the ground. Here, one block below Hollywood Boulevard and one block above Sunset Boulevard, one gets used to a low-flying helicopter now and then, hanging around for fifteen or twenty minutes, fifty feet up and making lots of noise. (There is a bit of crime here.) But six helicopters?

Glancing out the window, I see we have a serious brushfire up in Nichols Canyon, less than a mile away. The red and whites are dropping water, and the news choppers are grouping themselves a few thousand feet above them.

By the way, Don Smith sent same-day breaking-news photos from that metro fire in Paris - see last weekend's Just Above Sunset here - and now there are these from this fire in the Hollywood Hills.

A collection of nineteen Hollywood Hills fire shots is in a photo album here. The fire was pretty much out by eight, as it got dark.

__

The start of the fire as seen from balcony off the living room...



























From the second bedroom (office) window, using the telephoto lens ...































































Dropping water ...































































Another spectator ...




Posted by Alan at 21:11 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 10 August 2005 09:15 PDT home

Newer | Latest | Older