Sunday, January 31, 2010

O'Keefe's Dilemma

A certain Mr. James O'Keefe the III sits today on the horns of a dilemma. Either way he moves, he gets pricked.

He was nabbed last week with two accomplices dressed in fake phone company outfits, messing with the phones in the Hale Boggs Federal Office Building, in the offices of U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu.

His team had gotten so far as to see the bottom of the receptionist's phone. This would have given them its line number and possibly a phone closet distribution box tag identifying the circuit the phone was on. They next asked for entry to the phone closet. That's when their plan fell apart. Asked for credentials, they said that their phone company IDs had been "left in the truck." The three were arrested.

O'Keefe, the leader of the band, had been taking videos with his cell-phone. One of the fake repairmen had a video camera in his hard hat. A fourth conspirator was discovered in a car with a 'listening device', according to the affidavit supporting their arrests.

From the little that is known from the affidavit, several interesting scenarios are possible.

The most benign horn of the dilemma - but most embarrassing scenario for the far right - would be that O'Keefe and company were just capturing background footage for a fake sting video, similar to their Planned Parenthood and Acorn videos.

In both the Planned Parenthood video and the Acorn videos, O'Keefe appears to have used heavy editing and green-screen overlays to delude the viewer.

To make a green-screen overlay, you just record your foreground subject in front of a single-color screen. In the computer, you then click on that single-color background and specify that tint as 'transparent'. Voila, you have an overlay. There are probably little artifacts in these videos of spots where the actress' clothes match for a moment the 'transparent' tint and the background shows through. 'ANDing' the images of the office pre-actress and with actress present should illuminate these artifacts.

To make this defense, O'Keefe will need to show how he has done it before. He will need to show the backgrounds and overlays for his past videos. One would think. That would prove his innocence. But it would end his career. 31 Republican Congressmen sponsored a resolution commending his fake Acorn sting. Suppose they take it back?

If O'Keefe chooses not to use this 'fake news sting' defense, then the listening device in the car suggests a bug was about to be placed. Perhaps the listening device itself was the bug, waiting for a safe route to its destination. If O'Keefe fails to expose himself as a faker, then he gets jailed as a spy or saboteur. Pricked either way. His balloon or his booty.

On Australian Rupert Murdoch's Fox News channel, Sean Hannity has just interviewed Mr. O'Keefe. The lead perpetrator insisted that his crew was there simply to investigate reports that Senator Landrieu's phone system was broken.

Her phone system had been jammed by a call-in campaign, not broken. The public complaint had been that it was jammed. Not that it was broken.

On Hannity, O'Keefe was sticking by his script. Ergo, he had a script. Ergo, he was there to take some video. But the listening device? Was it there to later capture audio for reprocessing? The listening device has the words "for later" somehow written in its own script.

O'Keefe did mention in a speech a few days earlier that people would soon be hearing about his next exploit. Being public about being up to something suggests no fear of law enforcement issues. Of course, having the son of a U.S. Attorney on your team of invaders, as O'Keefe did, could give a certain sense of fearlessness. But that he should be so public - promising a release date - suggests that he had his process in hand. He was sure that he would have a story.

If not to make faked-up videos to embarrass a Senator, then what else could this crew have been up to, but disrupting or bugging her phone line? That they asked to get into the phone cabinet sort of condemns them. On federal property, presenting themselves falsely as phone men, asking for access to critical systems?

Either way, these boys are facing time. Time for entry under false pretenses. Maybe time for attempted vandalism. Maybe even time for attempted espionage. Short time or long time. James O'Keefe led his followers into a life of crime.

If he keeps upping the ante, he could someday become the ultra-right's Mumia Abu-Jamal. "Free James!!!", they will shout. As he sits on death row.


Mr. O'Keefe, why does your dilemma have horns? Does this reflect on a choice in your life made long ago, perhaps not even by you? Does this seem to have been the best choice for a happy life? Life does await you, one way or the other, happy or un. Would you rather a different choice had been made? What would it have been?

Time gives a person a chance to leave one life and enter another. To go back and begin again from where the good path got fouled up with anger which you didn't dare express. Where a parent maybe stepped on your turtle because they had told you to keep it off the just-cleaned floor. Go there. Time will let you do this.

Time will not be your enemy so much as your friend. Time spent away from the matrix of vain discontent of those who lack job skills to match their intelligence will do you good. Time spent among those who lack the intelligence to fulfill their job skills will be a sea-change. Perhaps you will find common ground and a broader life course.

Over time.

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