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Friday, February 16, 2007

Snitch Law & Iraq

The PBS show Frontline has done some good reporting, in depth truth telling about issues that the media glossed over in first editions.

It is now running a multi-part series about the problems of journalism which it calls “News Wars.” The second installment analyzed the mess journalists made of the Wilson / Plame Affair. (“Secrets, Sources & Spin”)

Their focus was what the story revealed about the problem of journalists allowing themselves to be spun by government sources who leak information to influence public opinion. The report distinguished this from the whistle blower source who needs confidentiality to protect from retaliation by superiors.

Reporters see no difference, insisting that preserving the confidentiality of sources is a principle on which the First Amendment and therefore a free society depends.

The report delved into the history of this claimed privilege, the cases and arguments that surround it, and the evils of the government “going after” journalists doing their job of informing the people.

I have little quarrel with them up to that point. However, as part of their argument, they quoted Bob Woodward, a journalist who knows something about keeping sources confidential. Woodward was also involved in the Wilson case because his source, which he willingly revealed (Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage) had mentioned Plame’s CIA status to Woodward in an almost off-hand way at the end of a long interview that occurred before Libby, Rove or Chaney leaked the information to reporters.

In Woodward’s view, the fact that Armitage did so without any motive to spin for the Administration which in fact Armitage opposed on the Iraq war, showed that the entire issue was a tempest in a teapot, no Watergate at all.

In my view, the Frontline report and Woodward miss the point entirely by their narrow minded defensive claim that the issue’s chief effect was to sully journalism.

I see the affair as evidence of a governmental cover-up that is as dark and scary as Watergate. To paraphrase Deep Throat, in this case, follow the motive.

The four best arguments the government had for war against Iraq were the imminent threat to the US from Sadam Hussein's: (1) stockpiles weapons of mass destruction; (2) including chemical and biological weapons; (3) and nuclear weapons; plus (4) a direct Al Qaeda connection.

Chaney’s motive in discrediting Wilson was obvious.

  • Prior to the war, Chaney had asked CIA Director George Tennant to get evidence of Iraq’s attempt to buy nuclear material from Niger.
  • The CIA, at Valerie Plame’s urging, sent her husband, a retired diplomat who had served in both Niger and Iraq, to investigate.
  • Wilson reported to the CIA that there was no evidence of Iraq’s seeking of nuclear weapons from Niger.
  • Despite the negative report, Chaney continued to argue that it was fact. It would up in Bush’s State Of The Union Address after Wilson had issued his report.
  • Later, CIA Director George Tennant took the heat for the faulty intelligence about WMD but has equivocated about the nuclear issue. It has been reported that in fact he asked Bush to remove the reference from the Address, but Chaney put it back in.

When Wilson spoke up, Chaney discussed it with Rove and ordered Libby to leak to reporters that Wilson’s wife got him the job, implying that it was a trivial lark to an unqualified person.

The journalists on Frontline insisted that this was standard operating procedure for all Administrations, retaliating against enemies with inside information.

Okay, I’ll buy that. But here’s the kicker. Libby lied about it when interviewed by the FBI, Special Prosecutor and to the Grand Jury, claiming that he had not told it to reporters, but had heard it from them.

Why lie? The only reasonable inference is that Chaney did not want it revealed that he knew the nuclear claim was “cooked.”

Recent reports have shown that the claim of an Al Qaeda connection with Saddam Hussein was also cooked. The CIA had discounted the information as unreliable, but Douglas Feith, Rumsfield’s assistant, had reported it as if it was fact.

In my trade, we often deal with confidential informants in the area of probable cause to investigate, search and or arrest. Statutes and case law specify when and how such information can be used.

  1. The law distinguishes between “reliable” and “unreliable” informants, depending on proof of past performance and independent corroboration to justify reliance.
  2. Information that contradicts a confidential informant must be disclosed.
  3. The “motive” of the informant must also be disclosed if it tends to reduce his reliability.

You would think that arguments supporting war are at least as important as those supporting the search of a suspected drug dealer’s house.

Neither the Bush Administration nor the journalists we trust to protect of liberties followed any of these guidelines.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Laws Of Love

The LA Times Business section isn’t the place you’d expect to see wry social humor, certainly not the kind that smacks of absurdist commentary on the trends that foretell cultural ruin. But then again, maybe it is.

A recent article notes a corporate trend that involves lawyers in creative problem solving in a new and potentially lucrative field.

Fact: The corporate workplace is fertile ground for coupling between employees. 43% of office workers surveyed have had at least one romantic relationship with a co-worker.

Problem: Some of these affairs crash and burn, leaving raw emotions that lead to law suits against the company and former lover, claiming sexual harassment.

Solution: Dating employees are asked to sign a “consensual relationship agreement” that acknowledges the risks and frees the company from liability in case of a break-up.

The issue reminds me of my thoughts some years ago when I viewed a TV magazine piece about the Brown University dating policy.

A male student was in his dorm room cramming for an exam. A female student entered, asking him to join the beerfest that was going on elsewhere in the dorm. The male demurred. He needed to study to preserve his scholarship. The female drunkenly teased him and they wound up in his bed.

The morning after, the female related the incident to her sisters, and discovered that she had been victimized. Even though she had been the aggressor, had “consented” to the sex act, her intoxication negated her consent according to the Brown policy. Since he knew she was intoxicated, he should not have relied on her consent. He took advantage of her inebriation and was liable.

In fact, there is solid legal ground for this view. In California and most other states, "date rape" is similarly defined according to the enlightened interpretations that respond to Feminist complaints about sexist laws. The burden has been shifted almost completely to the male in such cases.

Consent once given can be withdrawn. A consent to kiss is not a consent to intercourse. Consent must be unequivocal; implying consent based on actions is risky.

Applying a “reasonable man” test to figure out if actions can infer consent is an oxymoron, given that no male or female (especially college students) acts reasonably in the heat of such passions.

Even in the midst of consensual intercourse, consent can be “withdrawn” by a “No” or its non-verbal equivalent. Ambiguity or equivocation may not be a defense when the event is later evaluated objectively.

When consent is withdrawn, so must the male, so to speak.

The Brown incident alarmed me. My son was a college student at the time and the threat it implied replaced AIDS in my mind as something I had to warn him about.

I toyed with creating a form contract to send to my son, for him to use when dating. It contained paragraphs covering the incremental contingencies of dates as I dimly remember them from my own barely survived youth.

Here's a partial draft:

1. I hereby give my consent and voluntarily agree to participate in the following:
A. Kissing ______________
1. With / Without tongue (circle appropriate word)
1. On lips _____
2. On neck _____
3. On breasts ____
4. On labia _____
5. Other (specify) __________________________

B. Hands touching of
1. Breasts ________
2. Labia __________
3. Other (specify) _________________

C. Upon completion of or in conjunction with any or all of the foregoing acts as enumerated in clause A and / or B, supra, I also voluntarily consent and agree to the following acts:
1. Fallatio _____________
2. Cunilingus ___________
2. Penile penetration _______
a. Vaginal _____________
b. Other ______________

The contract would be submitted to the potential datee along with flowers or candy and a Number 2 pencil.

The datee would be asked to initial, check, circle, and sign the paper, keep a copy and return a copy to the dater. He would file the original with the University.

But that would not end it.

Because the datee has the right to withdraw consent at any stage, the parties would have to initial each interval as the date progresses before performing any of the specified acts.

To be completely safe, I recommended the presence of an impartial witness and notary, and audio / video recording of the encounter.

(Today, I would update that proviso to itube uploading of the date - with the appropriate confidentiality waivers, of course.)

In order to prevent later claim of coercion, the contract would suggest that the datee seek independent legal advice before signing.

If the datee wished modification of any clause, each party’s lawyers would meet with them and hammer out their differences.

A 24 hour legal aid hotline would have to be funded for emergency legal advice if issues should arise during dates.

I am also working on post date contracts.

The party trying to contact the other by phone or in person risks claims of “stalking.”

To alleviate this, my proposed "Morning After Contract” would cover all such contingencies.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Female Trouble

There are all kinds of female trouble for a man. It doesn’t matter if you have one or more than one or none. It’s all trouble. This was my day for too many.

My client (call her ‘She’)is only 20 and to me that means She’s still a kid. She’s a sociological case study, this one, charged with helping her boyfriend (call him ‘Dog’) and his homies jack another kid’s cell phone and ipod, this year’s Air Jordans, my era’s lunch money. Dog and his bro’s snatched a few others that night along with a watch, an A’s cap, and some other loot. Then they called her, cuz She had a sweet ride, her daddy’s Cad.

So She picked them up and they cruised and She stopped to get gas and on the way out, the boys saw another fool so they got out and jacked him too. When the cops found them kickin’ it at the park, they found all the stolen shit and they were all busted.

The boys are charged with three robberies and She with abetting the last one.

Daddy bailed her out and he’s with her in court. So is Mummy and Mummy’s Sister. They’re nice people, still strangers stranded in The American Valley, though they’ve been here many years. They speak in that clipped Indian accent I like to listen to, so polite and Englishy. Civil and civilized in an uncivil and uncivilized world. Like the Chinese and the Jews, the Sikhs thrive in many alien worlds by tenaciously preserving their ways.

They’re supportive of their daughter, got her into counseling immediately. She’s on hiatus from nursing school, where She’s going because Mum’s a nurse. Daddy takes her to work with him. Mummy is an attractive woman, dressed & coifed American. Daddy sells cars and has that glad hand personality that goes with it.

Daddy makes pronouncements but Mummy just shoots looks that end discussions. He is big on “respect,” and they both are convincing me that their daughter is full of it, deep down.

“This is not how we raised our daughter,” they keep reminding me. The usual rap: theirs is a “good home,” their child is kind, trusting, loving – too kind, too trusting and too loving to the wrong friends and that’s the problem.

The girl has that Indian look — overly generous eyes, nose, lips, figure. But she’s done what she can with it: she wears startling sky blue tinted contacts, nose and lip studs, too much make-up, has squeezed into faux Paris Hilton rags. It’s a new Her. It doesn’t work for me, but she must have something for Dog, cuz she’s hooked.

All too soon, with my penchant for cross-examining women that endeared my to mine, I strike a nerve with Mummy. “You didn’t approve of her boyfriend?”
“Of course not.”
“Because he’s a thug.”
“Because he’s Black. If she marries him, we’ll disown her.” A simple straightforward declaration, as if it didn’t have to be discussed. “In our culture, it is impossible.”
“So, what about a Muslim?”
“The same.”
“And a Hindu?” That brought about some equivocation. Seems that to Sikhs, Hindus are only marginal, worth a hesitation.
So, I launch into my sermon, my argument for tolerance. First, I assure them that I get them.
“Its the same with us Jews,” I say, with some hyperbole. “For us, the grandmother’s first question was, ‘Is she Jewish?’ They used to want to know more: Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, what part of Europe her people came from?” That gets me on their team.

Then I think of a cool analogy. “You know Vice President Cheney?”
They nod somewhat vaguely. I proceed with a fable: “Well, he’s a strict Christian Fundamentalist and when his followers found out his daughter was homosexual, they asked him about it. He said, ‘I don’t approve but I love her.’ Then they found out she was marrying her lover, they asked him again to denounce her. He said, ‘I don’t approve but I love her.’ Then she announced that she was pregnant. (This stumped my listeners and I had to explain how this could be done without miracles.) Cheney’s followers were outraged. Still, he insisted that though he disapproved of his daughter’s ‘choices’ he still loved her and would love her child too.”

They listen with respect, but my little fable sermon didn’t persuade.

All this while we wait and wait for another woman, the lawyer appointed for defendant #2. She sweeps in around 10:30, stammers an apology to the judge and enters the lock-up to talk to her client. I wait for her to get around to me.

When she does, I’m ready for her. “I don’t appreciate being cross-examined,” she snoots.
That’s enough for me to go off. “Listen, sweetheart,” I whisper loudly, choking on my words, my finger poking at her. “I called the panel to find who was assigned and they gave me your number. So I called you and it was obvious you’d forgotten this case. Then you ask me to stand in for you but you hadn’t even met your client yet.”
She’s fazed. “I tried to call the court but I had the wrong number.”
“Yeah. I heard you tell the judge that. But you found it quick enough after you hung up on me, didn’t you?”
“I don’t have to answer that.”
“Not to me, you don’t. Not today.”
“Is that a threat?”
My glare answers her.

The two custodies are brought out and my client sits in the third seat. I’m standing with my calendar out and we’re talking about next date. I glance around and She’s whispering to her “man” whose cuffed next to her. I shush her.

Then she twists around and mumbles something toward the audience. There’s two Black girls in the second row. They’re smiling at her in that nasty way girls have with rivals. The female mad dog. My client says aloud, “Bitch, you ain’t nothin.’”

“Young lady, turn around and be quiet,” the judge says before I can. He rolls his eyes and I shake my head. I repeat the order to her but she keeps returning the looks and curses at the girls. I want to slap her. The bailiff sees my look and orders the spectators to move. He fears a fight in the making.

After court, I take my client aside, another cross-exam. She’s been taking Dog’s calls, putting money on his books for a calling card. Her look is her Mummy’s but She’s talking about the girl in the audience. “She thinks he’s hers, but he’s not. He loves me.”
“And you love him.”
She doesn’t have to answer.
“Okay, here’s the deal. You tell me if you love him enough to go down with him. He’s going to the joint.”
“I’ll wait for him.”
“You might go with him.”
“No, I won’t go that far.”
“That’s a start. But you are jealous.”
“No,” she insists. “He don’t care about her. She’s the one that’s jealous.”
“How did she know to come to court?”
She shrugs, but the answer is obvious.
“Your boy’s a player. That’s what you’re worried about.”
“I’m not jealous. I’m insecure.”
“Okay, insecure. Here’s the thing. To defend you I have to dump on him.”
“He’ll say I didn’t know anything.”
“That won’t cut it with the DA or judge — and his lawyer may say he was stealing shit for you.”
She knows that.
I tell her something she also knows. “If he loved you he wouldn’t have gotten you into this shit.”
“He said he was sorry.”

Its no use but I instruct her anyway. “No contact with him or with those girls and if they stalk you call me or the cops. After the case, you can do what you want. As to your parents, you’ll be 21 soon. You don’t have to live with them or take their money.”

On the drive home, I’m listening to the news. The astronaut triangle story is churning. I’m thinking, where’s the next screenplay coming from? “Romeo And Juliet’s” been done. And “Fatal Attraction,” too. I’m too fatigued to write this one. The bitches have taken me down, dude.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

You've come a long way, baby, er, Ms.

In 1963 Britain’s conservative government fell because a cabinet member, John Profumo, had been having a long term steamy affair with a 21 year old party girl named Christine Keeler, who was also sleeping with a Soviet spy among other men.

In 1998, President Clinton was impeached after lying about whether “sexual relations” with an intern included oral copulation.

Now, the L.A. Times reports, the Israeli government has been shaken by the sexual harassment conviction of a cabinet member who committed the “indecent act” of kissing a 21 year old female army officer which the woman convinced the 3 judge panel was “unwanted.” The culprit may get a 3 year prison sentence.