Wednesday, June 12, 2013

long time

Your correspondent from the ether, CF Oxtrot, wishes to drop by via seance.  Hold hands, close your eyes, and don't bang the table with your knees.  Do not break the circle.

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In the summer of 1987 I foolishly pursued TradPower by seeking Law Review membership in a summer write-on competition.  This was open to all students who hadn't Graded Their Way onto Law Review (3.5 GPA was the gate, current Editor the gatekeeper, not automatic but few were turned away as most didn't want the extra drudgery of Law Review on top of normal reading/case loads for class).

I don't recall with much clarity the subject we had to write about.  Vaguely I remember it being about Sovereign Immunity and defective helicopters built by Bell/Textron for the US Army -- a product liability issue, the helicopters were shown to be defective, but MoBroSam claimed immunity and Bell/Textron sought vicarious sov-imm as a MoBroSam K'r.  What I don't recall was the body of case law on the sov-imm Q.

In any case, that's not what's important here.

Being of the Dirt-Eater Class, I didn't have a PC, just a humble typewriter, and this required word processing power for a person of my meagre typing and formatting skills.  So, I pleaded with the Parental Authority to allow me to do the writing work at her office on a dormant computer workstation.  It didn't require much pleading once I explained the value of LawRev membership and affiliated aspiration to gain access to the nodes of TradPower.  (The aspiration, my public declaration of it within the Family Home, was the switch flipper for ParAuth.)

PA was an Exec Asst of a mid-management sort, overseeing entry level EAs and coordinating more than mere typing.  She had the power and charm necessary to allow me to work within the US Department of State, Public Affairs division's word processing intranet.  So after doing my legwork at The Catholic University of America's law school library, I ventured to Foggy Bottom with my redweld full of notes and xerox copies of cases, determined to write my comp entry Case Note.

Once I began the task of writing the Case Note I got bound up first in the Strunk & White and Harvard Blue Book details of micromanaging format.  The writing and thinking parts were relatively easy but the Getting It Right part was a hurdle.  I had many moments of anxiety regarding the issue of how much of an opinion's individual sentence could be quoted without these: "_________", as well as how and when to use the Block Quote.  And there was also worry-cycling over what and how to footnote.  The Footnote, the academic Veracity Sanctifier.  Worry worry worry.

Stopped again. 

And again.  And again and again and again.

On one such stop I began walking around the office and found the room where the Press Spokesman would present Hallowed Official Positions on Issue X or Country DEF.  There was a podium, and an audience area with seating for the reverent press.

On the podium was a 3-ring binder, which I didn't expect to find given the National Security Interests inherent in Foggy Bottom data.  But being the curious sort who always harbored a Fuck Your Boundaries attitude toward those in positions of TradPower (this, at the same time I was seeking LawRev membership -- the bane of Parental Authority's exercise of such Authority over offspring, she'd dealt with my attitudes toward PoPo several times already), I went up to the podium and pretended to be the Spokesman for a moment.

I opened the binder and found tabbed sections relevant to the various nations whose doings were pivotal to Foggy Bottom's need to be Gepetto.  Each tabbed section contained boilerplate paragraphs with bold headings relevant to an issue for MoBroSam's Humanitarian Intervention in the nation whose section I was... err... ahhh.... stalking.

At this point my mind leapfrogged to a new question.

"Hey, I thought the Press Spokesman had to be an expert on the nation in question, the issue at hand.  I thought that's how candidates were vetted -- their expertise and the depth and breadth of that Warehouse of International Security Concerns.*  Why are there boilerplate paragraphs here?"

I thumbed through a bit more, and saw more of the same everywhere in the binder.

By this point I'd forgotten the Case Note and wanted to know about the binder's significance.  I went to talk to Parental Authority.

"Hey, I just found a 3 ring binder on a podium in the press conference room.  What is that used for?"

"The Press Spokesman uses that to answer questions from the media.  The Spokesman must stick to what's in the binder."

"Really?  I thought the Spokesman was chosen for his/her expertise on foreign affairs.  But it looks like the Spokesman is just a script-reading actor."

"No.  The Spokesman is an expert on foreign affairs.  It's just that we have to make sure the media don't mis-state what is the official position on any issue in any nation."

Here the conversation drifted to what Parental Authority did besides overseeing the junior typists.  PA advised me that a large part of her job was to review each day's media treatment of a State Department position, and verify that the treatment did not divert from the Official Script as delivered through the Spokesman reading the binder's contents.

After she told me this I remembered when she'd returned from a trip to Russia back when she worked in the White House Press Office.  She'd lamented the way the Russians rummaged through her suitcase and her hotel room, and had given a mini-speech on the horrible Communists and their Pravda "newspaper" and "news media" that were nothing more than state propaganda.

Since I'd remembered that, and knew she would likely not know I'd remembered it (my memory being more powerful than hers, and a point of her jealousy toward me, always), I asked --

"Doesn't the binder make this office more like Pravda, then?"

Her response sounded like something Glenn Greenwald would say circa 2004 or 2006 or 2008 or 2010, Nation of Laws, etc., vital security interests, etc., terrorists threatening our freedoms, etc.

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Now tell me, old chum -- if you'd learned this yourself, what would it have done to your youthful fantasies and the dominant cultural myths you'd assimilated regarding why we should trust MoBroSam?

I will tell you this:  it completely reorganized my foundations when completing my 2d and 3d years of Ancient Papyrus Academy, and gave me a new look at how The Law, and our Nation of Laws, actually work -- who is favored, what is protected, who is protected, and why.

But please -- keep reading Glenn Greenwald, and keep treating him as your expert on things he knows nothing about.  Because he knows more than you, or so you assume.

And he just "broke a story" regarding something that I've known since well before Hepting vs ATT was filed.

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I will tell you further that my little brother is a Booz Allen & Hamilton K'r at Ft Meade and surely knows more than Edward Snowden given li'l bro's much higher security clearance and 20+ more years in the field.

And he refuses to discuss his work with me, because he, like Parental Authority, is worried and often exasperated by his big bro's attitude toward TradPower and MoBroSam's trustworthiness.

*************

The above is just one of many, many snapshots I could share regarding my childhood wandering the halls of power and interacting with The Media.

But please, keep treating Glenn Greenwald as the real expert here.

'Cuz he's gay, and he says he's a Constitutional Lawyer, 'n' shit.


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* This I thought because during my junior year of Kolidge, I talked to Parental Authority about possibly taking the Foreign Service Exam.  On an earlier visit to Foggy Bottom (circa summer 1984, hah hah hah at the date) I'd picked up a copy of MoBroSam's informational booklet on that Exam and the booklet contained a mini-version of the Exam, to show the breadth and scope of what international and domestic trivia one should know to pass the Exam in order to get posted to a foreign service desk.  To put it simply, the scope and breadth were surprising to me, intimidating even.  They suggested a level of knowledge that seemed well beyond what anyone earning a BA in History or the like could have accumulated come graduation.  In other words, extensive cramming would be required.  Or a youth grown up under the stewardship of a parent who is, or had been, a Diplomat or Foreign Service Officer.