And can someone please take this young woman out of my media. I want her off my TV and off of my Internet.
Fiction author and legal journalist Stephen Elliott explains how and why Paris Hilton has drawn valuable attention to the inequalities of the California justice system.
Paris, The Hero
The Huffington Post
Mon Jun 11, 8:35 PM ET
Sometimes I think Paris Hilton is a hero. I watch the news and I see the willowy blonde, staring from the squad car window, face like a painting. Then I hear about over-crowded jails, a corrupt Los Angeles Sheriff, a two-tiered legal system. It doesn't bother me that it takes Paris Hilton to draw attention to these issues. Well, it does, but this is America and you have to accept certain things.
If anything, the Paris Hilton story breaks all the rules of celebrity journalism in that it is actually about something. It's about money and the kind of privilege money can buy, the kind of things that aren't supposed to be for sale, like justice. It's about the California penal system, broken under Pete Wilson and Gray Davis regimes where cheap slogans like "tough on crime" took over the space reserved for intelligent analysis and were rammed through the state legislature or put on ballot initiatives where they became law. Pete Wilson was going to run for president and Gray Davis' prime constituency was the prison guards union followed by the victims rights groups. If you were to visit a prison like the LA County Prison in Lancaster you would see medium security prisoners, most drug offenders, stuck in endless bunks in what was supposed to be recreational areas. I visited Lancaster in 2005. There were only a few feet before the walls, a bank of television screens, open toilets, guard with a gun walking on a metal plank twenty feet above. The bunks were in two or three tiers and the prisoners were only outside one hour a day. These people are serving years in the most horrendous, over-crowded conditions imaginable. And it is costing tax payers huge sums of money.
There is a PR campaign underway to paint Paris Hilton's punishment as harsh, as if she was being penalized for being a celebrity. Sheriff Baca even pointed to her harsh sentence when defending his decision to release her after three days. In fact, the sentence isn't harsh. This was not her first time being pulled over driving recklessly since her license had been suspended. She was given repeated warnings and pulled over in at least three separate counties. She had a signed document in her glove compartment stating she knew she was not allowed to drive. She had the resources to hire a full-time driver. Most people in her situation are forced to drive on a suspended license just to get to work, thanks to General Motors early dismantling of the LA public transit system. There are those that say the Sheriff was within his jurisdiction to release Paris early, but surely he could have found another prisoner to release, one whose sentence didn't specifically state that she could not serve any part of her sentence under house arrest.
This is about class warfare of the kind the rich have been waging on the poor. This is about separate and unequal. This is about a generation of poor stripped of political power in jail or on parole. And Paris Hilton has got America talking about these things.
Paris has become an unlikely hero. She didn't even try. Her well-cared for golden hair is shining a bright spotlight on the ever increasing disparity between the rich and the poor. Perhaps when Paris is released for real she will travel the country speaking to these issues. She'll lobby congress against mandatory sentencing guidelines, three strikes laws that target non-violent criminals, the absurdity of ballot initiatives that cost more money while removing layers of judicial oversight -- such as the absurdly named Gang Violence and Juvenile Crime Prevention Act- AKA Proposition 21.
So I want to take this moment to thank Paris Hilton for bringing these important issues back to the American conversation and the media for its excellent coverage of the events as they unfolded. Can a person be a hero even when they don't mean to be? Even while crying for their mother, taken away in chains? I guess it depends on your definition, but I don't see why not.
Dead-on correct. The reason Harvey Levin, the chief of TMZ wants Paris freed is not because he cares about justice. It's because he needs Paris out and about to generate more revenue.
Why Bush Should Pardon Paris
The Huffington Post
Sat Jun 9, 8:36 PM ET
Forget Scooter Libby. He's hung out to dry. Much too complicated for Bush to pardon him now. Yes, the Republican base wants it, but a pardon always admits guilt, and that's something that the Bush people cannot, never have, and will never do.
But Bush has too much in common with Paris Hilton -- too much natural sympathy with her to let her twist in the wind or languish in a Los Angeles jail. He should pardon her if he acts on his principles and his past behavior. Like Paris he moves from one folly and misadventure to another without regard to the consequences, never suffering remorse or understanding the consequences of his acts. The Los Angeles police calls such folks 51/50's -- armed and dangerous mental cases who can injure themselves or others. But we call them news makers or Republican presidents. Here goes -- my short list of reasons for Bush to pardon Paris:
1. Her activities distract the public from the war in Iraq in a big way and keep us all calmer. In jail she can't do this successfully, but free she can work her charms on the public mind. There is no insurgency in Iraq, no economic conference, no atom bomb in Iran, no starvation in Darfur that can stand up to the attack of Paris on the news media. She is far better than the surge in spreading the Bush optimism, and since we don't have a Michael Jackson charged with interfering with the underwear of small children to keep us amused and outraged these days we need our Paris free. Who thinks of the three thousand and more American solders dead and the thousands of casualties, not to mention the tens of thousand Iraqi maimed and dead when we have Paris, reminding us that life goes on in its merry way - particularly among the rich and famous. Why worry, America? As Rick said to Ilsa in Casablanca, or was it Ilsa to Rick? "We will always have Paris." And so we do.
2. Paris is responsible for keeping thousands of reporters, commentators, publishers, lawyers, Judge Judy and all those cable-news-sanitation-workers employed. Not to mention those pesky undocumented aliens who tend the family gardens and cook America's restaurant meals. So we can all live vicariously through the wealth of our betters without solving our immigration policy as long as Paris is free.
3. Paris stands for all that Republican legislation which attacks the inheritance tax and calls it the death tax. Think of where Paris would be if not for grandpa Conrad's hotel money.
Just another working girl in Vegas paying off the cops to loiter in the casinos and hotels. And she is such a fine role model for poor young girls who seek a lucrative career with no discernible talent but beauty and an interest in recreational sex. Speaking of sex - and that's always fun - she's a straight woman - no Ellen or Rosie - our Paris does it the right way, the American way. Say what you will about her, she will never demand to be married to Nicole Ritchie or Britney Spears. That in itself should earn her a pardon by Bush. We also have a duty to protect her from Large Marge and Big Betty in prison who wish to turn her into their prison bitch - the unspoken fantasy of our cable newscasters. We've all seen those prison movies. Although Bush as Governor never saw a prisoner on death row he wished to pardon rather than mock - here is a chance for him to show a bit of mercy to a girl who needs some. After all, she is our Princess Di, a martyr to privilege, our own first class train wreck.
4. Like Bush, Paris has her pornographic tapes. Hers was that plain, good 'ole American screwing (alas, I have never seen it, but I have heard tell it is right up there with Scarlet and Rhett in Gone With The Wind), while his pornographic tape is Abu Ghraib -- the torturing of prisoners -- which reveals his stalwart resolve to protect us at any cost - even if it means destroying our constitution and our traditional values. Together, their tapes record their misadventures, and the tapes don't seem to have hurt their standing in the great world. He should pardon her as a fellow tape maker, advancing the art of the American documentary film.
5. Paris, like Bush, has been nailed for DUI behavior. Only Bush's driving misadventures managed to get suppressed by his wealthy family. In this he has a friend in wife Laura, "Our Lady of the Libraries" with her youthful vehicular manslaughter - ready to stand with him behind this pardon. What's a few too many behind the wheel? The worst that can happen is that you kill a few innocent folks - far better than killing embryonic stem cells in the name of medical research, right?
6. With the public clamoring for Paris's incarceration, Bush can show once again that he doesn't give a damn about public opinion - that he is above it - by pardoning Paris. What a stick in the eye to those Democrats who keep sniveling about accountability and his failure to get rid of the egregious torture-loving Alberto Gonzales. You show 'em George!
7. For Bush, as the father of young daughters, the Paris pardon will send a message to the world that he still stands by his family values no matter how tested they are by a girl's violation and contempt for the law.
8. Our President with all his youthful misadventures with drugs and alcohol must sympathize with Mrs. Hilton and pardon her child. Here is a mother whom he can understand, one who regards her darlin' daughter as a martyr to the press, and has, like his own Barb Bush, turned a blind eye to youthful, coke-snorting hi-jinks. Momma Hilton may not be up to the high standards of a Barbara Bush, who shared her son's supreme indifference to the suffering of the Katrina survivors, but Momma Hilton is a Junior League version of Mama Bush who will stand by her child through thick and thin. Bush must stand up for such mothers and their tribulations by pardoning their progeny.
9. Remember 2000? Bush was the man all the men in white middle class America wanted to have a beer with - and so he was elected to rule the world. And a groveling MSM helped him do so. Paris is the girl that all the girls want to have a Cosmopolitan with and all the men want to go to bed with - and so she rules the news - which in our publicity culture means ruling the world. And a groveling press helps her do so. Despite their tsk-tsking, the MSM's admiration for the girl shines through - and a free press must be allowed to follow up every lead. No one will ever accuse them of neglecting to follow up on Paris as they did on the WMDs.
10. And finally, when Bush pardons Paris it will be the last chapter of No Child Left Behind. Paris may be old enough to understand the consequences of her acts, but she must not be the child left behind to rot in prison for a month, when she can rot in public for the rest of her life. Her failure to be educated properly, despite the private schools and tutors, reveals the failure of the American educational system and justifies more rigid testing of the young. More homework, America, or your child will become the next Paris with a condom in every backpack. She serves as both a source of admiration and a warning - a terrific combo.
11 & 12. Just as Bush urged us to shop our way to freedom during his war, Paris Hilton has lead the charge. She needs no American flag in her lapel to reveal her patriotism. She has replaced our national pride of WWII with our national Prada in the war on terror. As one who loves this country it warms my heart to know that the young, such as Paris, are doing their best to protect our country in its time of trial. As the Republican candidates have shown us, Americans want optimism - mixed with a dash of terror - and who is more slap-happy-yet-scary than Paris Hilton? Selfishly, as the grandfather of a 2-year-old toddler who is more interested in Dora the Explorer than Paris Hilton, I would like to see Paris out and about to exhaust her shelf life on the newsstands before my beloved child comes of age. I hope she can do that in the next decade or we are all lost. They used to say SEE PARIS AND DIE, but my motto for today is FREE PARIS AND LIVE!
I agree with just about everything Rachael Sklar says, until her final sentence. Paris news does exclude most everything else - if a typical news consumer only watches nightly cable news.
We'll Always Have Paris
The Huffington Post
Sun Jun 10, 3:08 PM ET
Paris Hilton is news. That is a fact, like evolution. What kind of news depends on the day: Attending a premiere in a low-cut dress? Celebrity news, for Star and Us Weekly. Premiering another season of "The Simple Life?" Entertainment Weekly and TVGuide. Having a nip slip? Okay, maybe that's no longer news. But otherwise, Paris Hilton makes news — and it's not just for existing, either, it's for constantly doing things. Stupid things, but things nonetheless. Like being engaged to someone with the same name. Like recording an album with a single that was actually pretty sticky (oh, come on, you toe-tapped to "Stars Are Blind" too). Like eating a hamburger lasciviously for Carl's Jr. She even makes news when she flops, like with her infamously terrible Vanity Fair cover. Dies theatrically in a horror flick? Launches a perfume? Loses her dog? News, news, news. And of course, she was something of a sex-tape pioneer (but nice try, Kim Kardashian). Plus, didn't she pee herself in public or something? So like it or not, what Paris Hilton does makes the news — or some subset of the news. Perhaps not for being smart, but still.
Originally, Hilton was famous for being famous — a creation of Page Six, which catalogued her table-dancing antics from her arrival on the social scene. And as she got more famous, the outrage at her fame grew: "What does she do?" So, as she "did" more things, that outrage remained and our collective incredulity grew, in step with her worlwide marketing muscle and the skyrocketing value of her brand (worth even more in Japan!).
By the time Paris Hilton was actually busted for something real — a DUI is not a small thing, it is an act of surpassing selfishness, a fitting offense for a spoiled heiress who has never had to answer for anything in her life — the ourtrage, and the schadenfreude, was off the charts. So when she was busted, it was news. Real news — breaking news on the cable nets and headline news in the papers (though more the New York Post than the New York Times). And when she was released after three days for a paltry house arrest (and concomitant house party), it was even bigger news — so when she was dragged kicking and screaming back to the slammer, it was the biggest news of all.
That last bit would have been news for any celebrity — news is man bites dog, anything out of the ordinary, which is why Anna Nicole Smith got so much damn attention. For Paris Hilton — a truly sui generis case in the world of celebrity — this was a sui generis situation, and a story, on many levels. Celeb comeuppance? Check. Twisting, turning, developing case of crime and justice in the thank-god-there-is-actually-news-to-fill-this-late-afternoon timeslot? Check. Meditation on the differential treament of celebrities in the legal system? Check. There is even a debate: Was Paris treated too lightly — or punished too severely? Check, check, check.
So, Paris is news. Maybe not round-the-clock-all-the-time-this-just-in-
she-took-another-breath news, but news nonetheless. News across the board, as news itself and as news about the news, i.e. "Did it need to be news?" and "How was it covered?" vis a vis the news decisions (and public statements thereon) of Katie Couric and Brian Williams. During the Anna Nicole whirlwind, I wondered if it wasn't news, the "why is Howard Kurtz putting it at the top of the hour?" Guess what led "Reliable Sources" today? Paris, Paris, Paris. Like it or not, it is news — just not to the exclusion of everything else.
In November or December of this year, this country will lose its 4,000th soldier in Iraq. Will that lead primetime cable TV newscasts every night the way Paris Hilton did last week? Of course not. This is a fifth really sad summer for the USA and Iraq. Ever since the Fallujah uprising in April 2004, it has been really shitty.
In other news.
This coming Sunday might be a beach day here in the New York area. It's not all bad news here in the Big Apple. It's time to hit the beach. Sandy Hook NJ, Long Beach, NY, and Fire Island, NY might all be on-tap for Father's Day.
That's what a good judge should do when lawyers and sheriffs fuck with his ruling. I like this judge:
During the hearing on the issue of her early release, Superior Court Judge Michael T. Sauer was calm but apparently irked by developments of the morning. He said he had left the courthouse Thursday night having signed an order for Hilton to appear for the hearing.
When he got in his car early Friday, he said, he heard a radio report that she would not appear and that he had approved a telephonic hearing. He said no such thing had been approved by him.
"I at no time condoned the actions of the sheriff and at no time told him I approved the actions," he said of the decision to release Hilton from jail after three days.
"At no time did I approve the defendant being released from custody to her home on Kings Road," he said.
Got that, Sheriff Baca? He's the judge. You are the sheriff. He calls the fucking shots around here. Asshole.
And as for Paris, crying and screaming throughout the hearing!
I wish I had your problems, girlfriend. You're famous for being famous. You are the ultimate postmodern celebrity. For having your name, you are a millionaire and don't have to work a fucking day in your life. And because of this, you have millions of fans. Fans! They love you because they want to live like you.
You have fans the same reason George W. Bush has fans. Millions of people wish they wouldn't have to work and they wish they had rich parents to get them everything they want. And when you don't get what you want? Well, whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!! Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!
EIGHTY dead American female soldiers so far and counting.
I've got thirty fans here at MLH. I'm blessed. Happy Viernes, everyone.
When news broke yesterday morning that Paris Hilton was sent home after completing just 72 hours in jail, the story was that she had a medical condition that required her release from prison. But what could that medical condition be?
Well I used my non-professional medical knowledge to come-up with six possible serious medical conditions:
1. Paris is pregnant.
2. Paris has cancer and needs treatment.
3. Paris has appendicitis.
4. Paris got a serious bacterial infection (eg, a staph infection or meningitis - highly unlikely).
5. Paris suffered from a life-threatening blood clot (DVT).
6. Paris suffered a broken bone or other injury requiring a visit to an ER.
I think numbers 2 through 6 have been ruled-out, given that Paris was allowed to return to her house to work out, resume using lotions, play video games, and order take-out. So is she pregnant? I'm just asking. But her lawyer ain't telling.
And if she was released due to a 'psychological condition,' then what the fuck?
Does this mean that in California, complaining that a jail cell is cold is enough to get a fairer sentence (and in an instant)? What judge would allow that? Crying got her sent home? Is this a California thing? I ask because in Massachusetts and New York, crying and shivering does not get you out of prison sooner. A judge would laugh his ass off if someone faxed him a request to release a prisoner. Or the judge might grab his gun if he received the fax at 11pm on Wednesday night.
[I know how my girl reacts is she receives a bullshit page in the middle of the night. Badness. I can't possibly believe a judge received the order and said, "Oh joy! I'll sign this right now! Paris must be freed!! I'm honored to be awakened by this news! It's the most important case in the state!"]
Or was she released without a judge's signature at all? If that's the case, I again ask: What The Fuck?
Let's go to the videotape. From the Associated Press:
The decision by Sheriff Lee Baca to move Hilton chafed prosecutors and Judge Sauer, who spelled out during sentencing that Hilton was not allowed to serve house detention.
Late Thursday, Sauer issued the order for Hilton to return to court after the city attorney filed a petition demanding that Hilton be returned to jail and to show cause why Baca shouldn't be held in contempt of court.
Good. The judge ought to slap him silly. He needs to be fined. But wait:
Baca dismissed the criticism, saying the decision was made based on medical advice.
"It isn't wise to keep a person in jail with her problem over an extended period of time and let the problem get worse," Baca told the Los Angeles Times on Thursday.
"My message to those who don't like celebrities is that punishing celebrities more than the average American is not justice," Baca said.
What was that, asshole? "Punishing celebrities more than the average American is not justice"? Are you on Paris' payroll? You actually think that Paris is being punished more harshly than a non-celebrity? Do you expect her to blow you when this is over? Did she suggest she would? Sucker.
What kind of a state is it where a sheriff can effectively modify a judge's sentence without a signature or the need to explain himself to the bench? Un-be-fukcing-lievable.
What medical advice did Sheriff Baca receive? Paris was diagnosed with being a fucking crybaby? He could have called my house for a diagnosis. Then again, it would have been 2am my time. Grrrrrrrrrrrrr.
[And I don't mean to go even more overboard, but look at the logic. Women in this country complain about interior spaces being cold all the time. You see them wearing sweaters and jackets in movie theaters, offices, and shopping malls. They aren't as addicted to air conditioning as we sweaty men are. But does this mean that complaining about cold spaces is going to grant them special treatment? Can my girl now get a seat in first class if it is too chilly in coach? I'm just asking.]
Golly, this is such a weird sentencing case. Only in California (where a homicide trial lasted over a year, and frivolous lawsuits can survive rounds in court, etc.).
I know one thing: in Massachusetts, which has some of the toughest drunk driving laws in the country, driving while one's license is suspended, even sober, carries some stiff penalties:
- 30 or 60 days in jail, or up to 36 months if the individual has a criminal record and shows signs of violating the law repeatedly. Let's assume Paris would get 30 days. There would be no way to serve the detention at her house. She would have to live in a jail cell, albeit a nice one that resembles a dorm room.
- A fine up to $10,000.
- If one was on probation at the time (as Paris was), the judge can aim for the high-end of the fine scale and extend the jail term beyond the minimum 30 days.
So what Paris got was very similar, right? Her lawyers even got the jail term reduced from 45 days to 23. And what was so bloody difficult about serving that sentence? Her lawyers seem to be behind yesterday's early release, aggressive slime balls that they are. I'm curious to see what is going to go down in the courtroom today. If I were the judge, I would be pissed that my order did not stick for a young woman in good health and deserving of 20+ days in a detention facility.
Of course, her lawyers are doing what lawyers are paid to do - to get her a better deal. They have done a great job, too. So far they have:
1. Reduced her sentence from 45 days in jail to 23 (subject to change in today's court hearing).
2. Arranged for Paris to stay in the 'special needs' wing of the prison, so she would not have to interact with the majority of the 2,000 female inmates there. Also her cell would be slightly more comfy.
3. Successfully portrayed Paris as a victim, who is miserable and unsafe in jail, and therefore deserving of a much more comfortable home detention.
4. Spun the news about her medical condition in such a way that they made it appear that the sheriffs detained Paris for an extra 24 hours after first noticing her serious condition. So they have the audacity to say that she should have been sent home sooner.
Of course I know this IS a small story. We have lost 3,500 troops in Iraq, and counting. There are over a million Iraqi refugees that neighboring countries don't want. Habeas corpus is dead in the USA. The right to a safe abortion is under attack from multiple fronts. And we have the Department of Justice scandal still brewing. But I wanted to point out the madness that is California justice. It is truly mad.
Just saw Paris Hilton on the red carpet of the MTV Movie Awards. She did her typical poses and tilted head routine when she arrived. But then she was interviewed by the MTV hostess. She was asked about her upcoming prison sentence this week. And I must say, her tone and her attitude was much different from the Paris Hilton of old. She was articulate and told the kids out there not to make silly mistakes like she did. It was a grown-up Paris. I almost found her attractive at that moment.