Just Above Sunset
July 4, 2004 - Your government at work... hoping there are some things you won't notice.

Home | Question Time | Something Is Up | Connecting Dots | Stay Away | Overload | Our Man in Paris | WLJ Weekly | Book Wrangler | Cobras | The Edge of the Pacific | The Surreal Beach | On Location | Botanicals | Quotes

Gee, Couldn’t be so! may become a weekly feature.

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.  I just wondered if I was being nave and the world was as nasty a place as I sometimes imagine - and thus this person would tell me to get used to it, that's this is something every attorney just lives with.  Does one simply assume one is being recorded?  I am curious.  I just don't know what any attorney would assume.


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 down there in Texas.  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.






Then this just this weekend in my local Los Angeles Times.


The folks at Information Clearinghouse were right low those many months ago.  The pulling down of that statute on 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 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 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 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 Friday.  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.

Note on the Note -


Ric in Paris in a quick note scolds me for not taking advantage of a classic Hollywood moment.... 

The classic LA private dick route.  Living in a thriller, where even smog is colorful.


C'mon - how many of these people are ever seen live, let alone dead?  It's TV that is 'live' - but they'll probably end up filming each other and eating sandwiches.


What, ho?  There you are, the Sunset Boulevard investigative reporter, and you're worried about a little busted taillight and your Holmes' pipe?  Where's your sardonic LA grit?


It was irritating?


Oooh.  You are supposed to be Zen, right down to your toes.  How many other Brandos living up there are likely to kick the bucket any day?  A lot, probably.


So what's the surprise? It's not like you were tooling along up in the hills there and suddenly came upon a bunch of Brazilians about to wash Sacre Coeur.


You know, you could have made more of it.  Trying to cage sandwiches from the TV people, helping them to wait for Brando.  Idle thoughts about Mulholland Drive and Laurel Canyon, David Lynch, and all the coyotes.  A lot of things just happen right in front of you - the trick is interacting with them on the spot.  Like being a character in your own movie.  In 'your own movie,' you write the script and get to play the leading role.

Ah, I was not in the mood.


And Rick did ask me what I was doing in Sherman Oaks.


My reply:


Sherman Oaks?  A large American-style drug store on Ventura Boulevard - and do NOT think of the hip "Le Drug Store" that used to sit across the boulevard from the Flore - now Armani - and has since reopened in its latest incarnation on the Champs.  This is a big discount place full of crap - with nostrums aplenty and a team of pharmacists behind a high counter.  It's where I found for Tiffany - seven last weekend - a fine and quite large plush unicorn toy, and a plastic tea set so she could have the requisite tea party with the unicorn as guest of honor.  She was impressed.  Well, she's seven.  This place carries cheap liquor too.  Think Monoprix.  This particular trip was for my usual Borkum Riff pipe tobacco - on sale - and shampoo and razor blades and such things.  Not hip in the slightest.


Life on the ground is, well, full of such things.


Hollywood is just another place.  So is Paris.


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

This issue updated and published on...

Paris readers add nine hours....