Just Above Sunset
July 18, 2004 - Hollywood Feels Like Steamy Florida

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Hollywood Feels Like Steamy Florida and the Political World Stays Just As Nasty, and Abu Ghraib May Be Even Worse Than Anyone Imagined...



I meant to post something insightful on the web log Thursday but the weather suddenly shifted in Los Angeles.  Instead of the usual cloudless ninety plus day, Thursday from before dawn through mid-afternoon a steady stream of clouds rolled up from Baja – straight from the Gulf of California.  It was ninety of course, but dark and close.  And it rained, sort of.  The rain just never reached the ground – it disappeared high in the dry, hot air over the Los Angeles basin.  So for much of the day it was dark and unpleasant, much like the news.  And there’s not much to say about the news.

The high barrage of dark clouds all blew through by mid-afternoon – the sun finally blasted through - and a trip to the car wash seemed better than reading what pundits were saying about Bush and Kerry, and whether Dick Cheney would be dumped from the Bush ticket.  Not going to happen.

So the car wash seemed a good idea.  One can still get fined out here for washing one’s car in the driveway with a hose and all that – or maybe that’s no longer true.  We do have a perpetual water shortage, but I haven’t heard much talk about it lately.  But then again, the car wash is always amusing for whatever reason.  Some people there go there to improve their Spanish, chatting with the Central America not-quite-legal guys with the rags and brushes – but the one I like on Ventura Boulevard in Studio City is staffed with energetic young men jabbering away with each other in Farsi.  I know no Farsi so I smile and grin and fake-chat with them.  It’s a break from politics.

But there is serious legal stuff going on and it deserves comment –

See this –

No-Good Lazy Justices
After the Supreme Court's sentencing case, the sky is falling. Hooray!
Dahlia Lithwick – SLATE.COM - Posted Thursday, July 15, 2004, at 4:13 PM PT

The issue is this -


A few weeks ago, the Supreme Court invalidated a Washington state sentencing scheme that's identical in many ways to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines and the systems used by at least 10 other states. Under these schemes, judges were allowed to ratchet up criminal sentences based on certain "aggravating factors." These aggravating factors (say, the heinousness of the murder, the amount of the drugs) were neither pleaded to by the defendant nor tried before a jury. That means sentences were hiked up, often significantly, based on facts never proven to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. The court curtailed that practice, giving force to the Sixth Amendment right to a trial by jury. Much to the dismay of the Washington Post, the high court then did precisely what everyone keeps asking courts to do and showed impressive restraint. The court decided only the case before it, and—since the federal guidelines were not on trial—the Supremes declined to declare them unconstitutional. To quote Antonin Scalia, "The Federal Guidelines are not before us and we express no opinion on them."

The problem, of course, is that most scholars agree that the most logical inference one can draw from Blakely v. Washington is that significant portions of the federal guidelines are unconstitutional, too. The justices did not declare that outright. Instead, they implied it, packed up their sarongs and hacky sacks, and took off for the shore, leaving federal courts around the country in a situation that has quickly escalated from messy to desperate. Instead of giving us a clear ruling, the court handed off a dangling implication and appears in no great hurry to resolve things conclusively.


This all seems moderately momentous, but thinking about it just makes me tired.

Click on the link provided if you wish.  Slog through it all.  I gave up.

I have three email friends who are attorneys, and one of them is no doubt quite involved in what this all means.  I trust she will explain it to me one day.  I will need scotch for that.

And one could get excited about Florida, again…

From Reuters one sees this –

Florida Faces Vote Chaos in 2004, Commission Hears
Thursday, July 15, 2004, 4:23 PM ET



Florida faces another debacle in the upcoming presidential election on Nov. 2, with the possibility that thousands of people will be unjustly denied the right to vote, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights heard on Thursday.

In a hearing on the illegal disenfranchisement of alleged felons in Florida, commissioners accused state officials of "extraordinary negligence" in drawing up a list of 48,000 people to be purged from voter rolls, most of them because they may once have committed a crime.

"They have engaged in negligence at best and something worse at worst," said Mary Frances Berry, chairperson of the commission, an independent bipartisan body whose members are appointed by the President and Congress.


Well, the president’s brother, Jeb, the governor down there, dropped the list.  He had to.  No one could make sense of it.

And curiously this “felons list” had only sixty-one Hispanic names out of the forty-eight thousand folk who maybe should not be allowed to vote.  And yes, the Republicans down that way do depend on the large Miami Cuban American voting bloc.  This looked a bit fishy.  And the four or five thousand on the list by mistake, those who Florida had to admit never actually were felons at all of any kind, seemed to be all black registered Democrats.  Oops.  Much embarrassment.

So the list is out.

But actually, now things are even worse -


The state said each of Florida's 67 counties would now have to find its own way to purge its voter rolls of felons. The commission heard that many counties, especially those controlled by Republicans, would probably use the state list despite its flaws and that court action was likely.


Oh, great.  We need more court action.

Perhaps the Democrats should just cede Florida and save everyone a whole lot of trouble.


Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta, added this –


I imagine this "culling" of voter rolls can be a fairly delicate task.  For example, if you cut out too many actual felons, you probably run the risk of significantly digging into the Republican vote!


But on a more serious note, I do hope we will (although somehow I doubt we will) see the Democrats mobilizing to serve notice on any Florida county that's contemplating using the list that it will face a serious legal challenge, hopefully filed before Election Day.  I suspect one of the reasons the state dropped the list is because it is confidant that the Republican counties will do the job for them, without leaving Jeb Bush's fingerprints on any of it.


Well, it got even more nasty – as Thursday during debate over HR-4818 (a bill that would provide international monitoring of the November presidential election) Congresswoman Corrine Brown (D-Jacksonville) was censured by the US House of Representatives for this remark: "I come from Florida, where you [the GOP leadership] and others participated in what I call the United States coup d'etat. We need to make sure that it doesn't happen again. Over and over again after the election when you stole the election, you came back here and said get over it. No we're not going to get over it and we want verification from the world." 


The House rules on censures mean that her remarks get removed from all records and she will probably be fined.  So, for the record, she never said that.  And it will cost her.


Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta, added more –

So if, for the record, she never said any of that, what are they fining her for?


Oh, never mind.


But although she probably asked for it, and probably shouldn't have, one can certainly sympathize with a little bit of impudent spouting off over the fact that so many Floridians, apparently almost all of them black, were denied the opportunity to vote last time, which, more than all that hanging chad stuff, probably cost Gore the presidency.  And hardly a peep was made of it afterward!  We probably should have international inspectors here in November, and not just in Florida.

And Bonnie in Boston asked what ground was the House member censured?  “Sounds like truth telling to me!”


She was censured, I think, for undignified discourse.  One thinks of Dick Cheney, president pro-tem of the Senate and what he said to the senior senator from Vermont on the floor of the Senate.  On well.  Corrine Brown is black, and woman, and a Democrat.  Different rules.


But Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta clarifies why Corrine Brown was censured


House rules, I think.  As I recall, members speaking on the floor are not allowed to outright accuse any other member of specific wrongdoing or unlawful behavior, which claims of "stealing an election" or engineering a "coup d'etat" would seem to qualify.  The rules are intended to keep the discourse in the people's house civil, nevermore goading each other into gunfights and canings, as has happened so often in the past.

"Truth telling," of course, would be no defense, since - as you yourself alluded to in a recent post, Bonnie, when you agreed that "objectivity" is a fiction invented by the winners - "truth" is presumed to be in the brain of the beholder!


I again refer back to Dick Cheney.  Rude is not bad, as he asserts. 


Maybe truth is bad, as Rick suggests.





And the rest of the news on Thursday didn’t get any better at all.


Finally, and most dispiriting - Seymour Hersh, the investigative reporter who, back in the Vietnam years, broke the story of the My Lai massacre, and was the one who over the last several months broke the story of the Abu Ghraib tortures in The New Yorker, revealing the details of the Taguba report and releasing all the digital photos everyone else picked up … THAT Seymour Hersh spoke to the ACLU last week and the details hit the press today.

Sadly, No! has the whole thing here - audio only, RealMedia 10, 8.3MB - and The Poor Man has the streaming video here - and that’s 71MB as it’s quite long.

Why bother?  Ed Cone has a summary


Seymour Hersh says the US government has videotapes of boys being sodomized at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

"The worst is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking," the reporter told an ACLU convention last week. Hersh says there was "a massive amount of criminal wrongdoing that was covered up at the highest command out there, and higher."

I transcribed some of his speech. …

He called the prison scene "a series of massive crimes, criminal activity by the president and the vice president, by this administration anyway…war crimes."

The outrages have cost us the support of moderate Arabs, says Hersh. "They see us as a sexually perverse society."

Hersh describes a Pentagon in crisis. The defense department budget is “in incredible chaos,” he says, with large sums of cash missing, including something like $1 billion that was supposed to be in Iraq.

"The disaffection inside the Pentagon is extremely acute," Hersh says. He tells the story of an officer telling Rumsfeld how bad things are, and Rummy turning to a ranking general yes-man who reassured him that things are just fine. Says Hersh, "The Secretary of Defense is simply incapable of hearing what he doesn’t want to hear."

The Iraqi insurgency, he says, was operating in 1-to-3 man cells a year ago, now in 10-15 man cells, and despite the harsh questioning, "we still know nothing about them...we have no tactical information.”

He says the foreign element among insurgents is overstated, and that bogeyman Zarqawi is "a composite figure" hyped by our government.

The war, he says, has escalated to "full-scale, increasingly intense military activity."

Hersh described the folks in charge of US policy as "neoconservative cultists" who have taken the government over, and show "how fragile our democracy is."

He ripped the supine US press, pledged to bring home all the facts he could, said he was not sure he could deliver all the damning info he suspects about Bush administration responsibility for Abu Ghraib.


Oh, we don’t need it all.  This is quite enough.

What Hersh previously revealed in his series of articles in The New Yorker turned out to be quite true - quite well-documented and all that.  There was no denying what happened.  He nailed it.

Now this?  Homosexual rape of young boys while their mothers are forced to watch – so we get good information on what the evil terrorists are up to?  Our own military in disarray and a billion or two just plain missing?

Let’s hope Hersh has suddenly started lying through his teeth.

But he probably hasn’t.

Clever comments seem inappropriate Thursday.

The car looked nice all cleaned up.  That will do.


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.

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