Wednesday, November 09, 2016

After the election

It’s November 9th. For a long time now I have been saying and writing that I will be sad today, regardless of who wins, but glad for who lost. I feel both these things. Both candidates are unacceptable in my view.  

I am, sick at heart of the campaigning, but so is everyone else I know. I hope this is my last political post for a while, at least that is not historically based, but, who knows? These are my intended closing thoughts, not in any particular order.

Boy, did I get everything wrong. I was 90% sure she would win. I believed the polls, though I cautioned some few people I knew who were certain, that you can’t ever be. Pretty much everyone I know believed the polls too. Yes, some of his supporters thought he'd win, but many of them expected him to lose too. Pretty much the only thing I have been right about was who would be the VPs. But, I thought that was pretty easy. Both were good choices and I would have preferred both to their bosses. Pence turned out to be the more valuable by virtue of his demeanor, which was a tonic to Trump’s abrasiveness. I do give Trump credit for letting Pence be Pence, and not demanding fealty to every opinion. I do think he will become very popular and if Trump has any brains, he will give him his own lead.

Never before have we had two such unbearably bad candidates, even if one of them was very qualified – in a technical sense by experience – for the job.

This is our third completely inexperienced president in a row. A one term governor, a one term senator and now a no term anything. It doesn’t mean he will be a bad president. Washington and Lincoln were very light in the governing aspects of their experiences.

While I am sad that the two parties have given us such poor choices, and that a man as willfully ignorant, arrogant, sometimes seemingly delusional, dishonest, insecure, bigoted (though that I believe is exaggerated) and inexperienced, is president, I am grateful that Clinton, who was experienced, but also dishonest, corrupt and arrogant, was defeated. I am grateful that the media has gotten a stinging slap in the face. I am glad that there is a break in the pace of progressivism and its concurrent strains of victimization and slow dismembering of capitalism, federalism, equal rights and constitutionalism.

If Hillary Clinton had merely said something like –

“I recognize that not only was the server a mistake, but I have been in cover up mode for the past year – and I apologize. . .” or . . . “I pledge to select at least one of the next two Supreme Court Justice from the same list as Donald Trump has made. . .” or both, she might have won. But maybe not.

What will Trump do? I had no idea. I have no idea. I don’t think he knows. But I think these things are dead in the water:
      - A wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
      - Banning Muslims from America in any manner, except perhaps new standards for vetting asylum seekers.
      - The self-deportation or forced deportation of many millions illegal aliens.
           - An independent prosecutor for the Clinton emails.

One thing that I believe has been exaggerated about Trump is his supposed bigotry. I do think he is bigoted in the way many people I know who were already grownup at the time the ‘60s and its revolutionary movements happened. People in their 70s and up now.

I am not happy as others about the Republicans controlling the two houses and the presidency. I tend to like split government. I am not even sure what they can do with the Democrats still having a filibuster, which they will use and blame the Republican's own use of it for their own. Both parties routinely exchange their positions on that device based upon which is in the majority and minority.

I am happy that people like Al Sharpton will no longer be the adviser to the president with respect to race matters. Obama's handling of racial matters has been one of the most disappointing aspect of his two terms for me. Even if unintentionally, he has fomented greater division in our society. Trump may also, but I think in other ways.

I think some people who are happy will be eventually disappointed by Trump. Foremost conservatives because I don’t believe Trump is as conservative as he makes out. Also, Putin and Russians. Trump will turn on them on a dime if it is in his interests.

Who is happy today, other than Republicans? Putin, but I think he is too cagey not to suspect what I suggested above. Netanyahu has to be ecstatic. Perhaps conservatives in Britain and Brexit supporters.

For better or worse, we have Trump for at least 4 years. We will see then if he faces Elizabeth Warren or some other left-wing flame thrower.

We will now see the Trump children eclipse the Kardashians on American’s magazine covers. Hopefully, it will not be as sordid and uncomfortable.

In the end, how could he have won with women and minorities, particularly Hispanics, and almost the entire media so against him? How could he win Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio, plus almost everything else? The answer is Hillary Clinton? Both parties deserved to lose because of who they championed, though I give Republicans credit who rejected him. In the end, the appearance of corruption surrounding her was her undoing. Worse than his sex scandal.

Though I predicted I would be unhappy today, I also said we have to move on. I hope everyone gives him a chance. I think most people will. What the future will bring, I have no idea. I’ll still make predictions as if nothing happened, because, I have it on good authority (the famed psychologist, Daniel Kahneman) that this is what we all do – make wrong predictions and keep making them using the same frail strategies. 

Friday, October 28, 2016

The most Depressing Election Since 1860

I've been hesitating posting on my blog lately because I didn't want to write about politics. Yet, here we are less than two weeks before the election and it's so depressing. So, grin and bear it.

So, 1860 had to be worse, right? If Lincoln won, it meant the country would likely split in two. If any of the others ones won, probably not, but slavery would have continued much longer than it did (although often thought to have been between Lincoln and Douglas, who had defeated Lincoln for the Illinois' senate seat in 1858 during which campaign the famous debates were held, John C. Breckinridge, later an important confederate figure, received far more electoral votes than Douglas). In any event, overall, that election had to be more depressing. Right? Right?

Okay, no quibbling, it was.  But this is the worst in my lifetime. It is so bad, that I absolutely find it impossible to vote for the third party candidate I have been waiting four years to vote for (so, funny story - I moved back to NY from Virginia in July, 2012. When I went to register to vote shortly before the election a few months later, I learned that since I didn't register 30 days before the election, I would need to see a judge on election day; I didn't like Johnson that much and since NY would have gone for Obama if I voted 1000 times, I just passed on it) because he seems either so clueless about foreign affairs that Trump - and I know this sounds impossible - has more on the ball than he does. And, maybe I'm biased because I know Johnson smokes pot and that always kind of turned me off (note to most everyone I know - try not to take it personally). I'd ignore it except he talks like he has smoked too much.  I'll mention Jill Stein once to say that I would rather have a random person chosen in America by lot, because there is a good chance that man or woman would be better than her. Actually, you know what? I feel that way about all four.

Trump or Clinton? What a choice. I don't like to curse on my pristine evalovin' blog, but really, this has to be an exception. Good FuckING God, what have we wrought?

I'm not alone in thinking that Trump is disturbed. Mika Brzezinski, a morning tv hostess, went too far in asking her panel why they all didn't admit it, he was psychotic. He's not psychotic. He just acts like someone who might be psychotic.  Even if I believe nothing the media writes but only my only impressions from what I have observed of him myself, I would have to say that he's almost frighteningly egotistical in yet an incredibly insecure way, he doesn't seem particularly bright, I'm not even convinced he's a great businessman (not that I think that would make you a good president), absurdly temperamental, childish, lacking in will power, ignorant of even the basics of policy and possibly pathologically dishonest. I've felt this way for years and I don't feel like I should have to give examples. They are all too well known, and if you don't believe at least some of this stuff is true it is probably because you think he is more likely to be on your side than the "other" side. And perhaps it is just a coincidence that you are more likely than not pro-life, think a wall is a good idea and that a more liberal Supreme Court will end the America you've known.

Having said all that, the really sad part is that every time I think Good FuckING God, how can he possibly be president, I remember what the alternative is, and I don't feel any better. I do think Hillary Clinton is smart and tough, and if I consider only what the media says, most of which is hopelessly addicted to promoting her for president, and leave aside that she also seems terribly unlikable and phony to me and others (even some who will vote for her), I still have a great deal of trouble with an embarrassment of riches of corrupt, flagrantly disingenuous, dangerous and yes, stupid behavior. I feel like I shouldn't have to review everything that has come out despite her having a huge team dedicated to keeping us from knowing all this stuff and a media that has rolled on its back and purred or worse, actually sought to suppress knowledge of her perfidy. And if you do not believe most of these things are true, it is probably because you think she is more likely to be on your side than the "other" side. And perhaps it is just a coincidence that you are more likely than not pro-choice, think a wall is a terrible idea and that a more liberal Supreme Court will greatly benefit America.

I'll say it - I'm glad that someone hacked those emails. Look how much we've learned about the person who is probably going to be president that we have never known. I was pretty mensa mensa about Wikileaks. But lately, I'm grateful. And if it is Russia that is doing it because they think all they need to do with Trump is say what a great man he is once in a while to get their way about anything, I don't care. It doesn't mean they will. I'd rather know what she and her team of deplorables have been doing, even if Russia shouldn't be doing what they are probably doing (or the 400 pound kid on his bed). I can appreciate the revelations and hate the act. If someone broke the law in hacking and releasing this info, and there are not sufficient defenses, they should be prosecuted (and sometimes they do find them). I find it laughable that the Democrats are crying about the Russians. After all, it is this administration that tried to "reset" its relationship with Putin and Russia, this administration that did virtually nothing when they invaded Crimea, and let Putin totally dupe them over Syria and Iran. Plus, don't we still work with them on the Space Station? And if you believe for a second we do not do hack Russian emails (and those of our allies - still), well the Brooklyn Bridge is still for sale. And BTW, anyone, no matter how smart they are, who puts the things they did in writing, thinking they would not become public, should not be president or work for the president.

And if they are very different, they are both the same in being unsuitable for the presidency. Character matters when it will affect the job they have to do. Every time Trump opens his mouth and I think it is impossible this boorish clown could be president, every time something comes out showing that she and her closest confidants and team (who are likely to be sleeping closer to her than Bill in the White House) are hopelessly mired in the swamp, I look to the other side of the room and see the Bizarro world mirror image of the other - the vulgar and clueless businessman who sometimes acts like he should be institutionalized as opposed to the cynical career politician who is institutionally corrupt. No two more unsuitable candidates from the two major parties have ever opposed one another.

So, what to do, what to do? Nothing. There is nothing to do about it. I can point fingers, of course. It is the fault of the liberals and conservatives. The liberals put forth far left candidates, that being the mainstay of the Democratic Party. Whoever their party nominated was going to be far left. We saw what happened to Jim Webb just when he said "All Lives Matter." And we know (thanks, possibly, to Russia) that the DNC was pushing for her as were some in the media.  So, they are primarily responsible for Clinton being nominated. But, so are conservatives. In fact, conservatives are partly responsible for Barack Obama's two terms. They treated McCain shabbily, many being slow to support him and doing so tepidly when he needed it. I still remember the way he was treated by Republicans - not just the media - when he perhaps grandiosely suspended his campaign as the economy collapsed. With laughter and contempt (although I will admit, I found his economic knowledge - as he would candidly admit - lacking). But, it's no way to get YOUR candidate elected. And I remember the way that conservatives trashed Romney, demanding anyone but Romney, tarring him (remember "Vulture Capitalist") and giving him tepid support (okay, except for Ann Colter, who it seems learned after McCain that you have to support your party's candidate if you want them to win.

And, now the conservatives have won, if only in their party, and they nominated a completely unsuitable candidate, rather than the one candidate they had who the polls show us would have likely beat Clinton by a large margin (that would be Kasich, who conservatives still speak of with contempt as if he were not the closest candidate to Reagan, but a plant from the Democrats - personally, I think had he made the requisite noises about immediately dragging all illegal aliens out of the country he'd be the nominee; he says it wasn't possible, and it wasn't, for economic, humane and logistic reasons. When conservatives hear that, they hear you say "amnesty," a word that worked all to well for them during the Bush administration in defeating legislation they did not like, and now is helping keep them from the White House. When Clinton likely wins, it will be conservatives who helped, because they nominated Trump (although, I think it would have been closer with Cruz, he would have also lost).

But, the reverse is true too. The Democrats are partially responsible for Trump. And I'll go further and say, as much as it seems to disturb him, Obama himself is largely responsible for Trump. People who are disgusted by his policies and the seeming inability of Republicans they elect either to derail it or to even stand tough (except for Cruz), have wanted, perhaps in desperation, to blow the system up. Republicans think Trump is the most likely to do this. That may be true. But, it also may be true that he will not be a controlled blast. I believe that if he is elected, no group will be more upset with him than conservatives. He will nominate conservative justices. But, he really isn't a conservative in some aspects. There has been only one thing he really knows how to do well politically - he knows what to say to conservatives to get them wound up. He lies to you like he lies to the rest of us.

And lets face it, moderate/independents are at fault too, because we are too unmotivated and disgusted by politics to make noise like the liberals and the conservatives. So, to a lesser extent, we get what we deserve too.

On the other hand, despite Clinton's being in bed with Wall Street, she will not disappoint the liberals with the specter of Sanders and far worse, the fear of Elizabeth Warren before her. Admittedly, I am more fearful of what he might do as a loose cannon in the short run, but more afraid of what she will do in the long run, because she will likely further advance Obama's policies that I do not think good for us - the spirit of victimization in minorities and the scapegoating of police, unsustainable federalized healthcare for all, no limits to debt, a Supreme Court that may be completely unhinged from the constitution, government by regulation, the further erosion of congress's war power and others. With Trump I do not know what to expect or fear - but it may be worse. One thing I know after approximately 30 something years of watching politics and reading as deeply as I could, you cannot predict what will happen in the future.

So, in the end, I do not get a happy November 9th. I expect she will be president and I find that depressing. It means that you can lie as much as you want (and if she lies a little less than him, so what?), that it can be proven that you and your staff are corrupt, that you can flout the laws and even obstruct justice, that you can pander as much as you want, mislead even your base as to what you are planning to do, that the media can be almost obsessively unfair to cover up how far below any reasonable standard you may fall -- and you can still win. And, if by some chance Trump wins, I will be sad too, but the only thing that is going to make me happy about that is that the media got slapped in the face.

So, rather than being upset, I am going to tune out the glee of the winners and the bitterness of the losers to the extent possible, and concentrate on the things I love, marvel at the increasing pace of seemingly magical technology, put off ill-health to the extent possible and as I have to (reluctantly) focus on my work, enjoy my daughter's wedding this April and her evolving life, perhaps even grandchildren during the next two terms, go to the movies occasionally, watch Belichick and Brady win a few more Super Bowls, and read as much as possible. And occasionally write a blog post.

We survived Bush. We survived Obama. I think and hope we can survive either the Knucklehead or the Borg Queen too. But, it isn't going to be as easy.

Postscript 10 29 16 

After I posted the above I became aware of the latest brouhaha. It seems that the email scandal is back. Apparently, while investigating former congressman, Anthony Wiener, who is also the estranged husband of one of Clinton's most important advisors, Huma Abedin, for his inappropriate virtual contact with a minor (if you don't know his story - google), the FBI found that he had emails which were pertinent to their investigation. He wrote to congress to supplement previous testimony. The letter is not much and he agreed with his investigative team that the FBI should take investigative steps to review the emails. He did not know if they were significant or how long it would take. That's all his letter said. Also, a reporter for The New Yorker was advised by an administrative source that Lynch ordered Comey not to write to congress and he ignored her. Interesting, if true.

I'm not a news organization, so obviously I want to give my impression. Yesterday, after the news broke, or at least after I saw it, I asked a friend who is a Trump supporter if there was anything negative the left or media says about him, which he determined was true, that would change his mind about voting for him. He said no, it didn't matter. What was important was that Clinton did not win so that we did not get conservative Supreme Court justices, Obamacare is repealed and other social or cultural matters important to him were decided the right way. Another Trump supporter I know, much less enamored of him, had said similar words to me the day before. He even said that if Trump was a serial molester, he wouldn't care, because the Democrats want to put Bill Clinton, who he thought was a rapist, back in the White House (and we know H. Clinton will give him a big role from her own mouth) and neither she nor the media would denounce him the way they denounce Trump.

So, I called one of the most reasonable Clinton supporters I know and asked him the same question. He echoed the Trump supporters. He was voting for Clinton, not against Trump, and if it turned out that we learn in the next week that Clinton had intentionally broken the law, it would only mean that his vote would now be more about being motivated to vote against Trump than to vote for her.

So, there we are. Situation normal. Of course, it doesn't really matter if in the new emails (if they are new) there is nothing more than Clinton asking Abedin to remind her to pick up some more hot sauce, what counts is the impression it makes on the very small part of the population that might still change their mind and possibly matter in a swing state.

As for Lynch and Comey, it may be that Lynch, who I have very little respect for, was right, and Comey was wrong. It is also possible that he is just taking care that his own previously sterling reputation does not take a further hit.

Of course tomorrow, we may get a new Trump story or another Clinton one. Like my friends, I've heard enough, and I'm not voting for any of them.

Postscript 10 31 16

I watched football yesterday because in my view, Tom Brady, aka God Brady (so what I am the only one who calls him that) throwing 4 touchdown passes and having after 4 games a passer rating of 133.9 (the closest quarterback to him in passer rating who has played even two games is his own back up and he is far back with 117.1; the two other QBs having the best seasons so far, Matt Ryan and Drew Brees, have 115.8 and 104.7 ratings, respectively - great numbers, but not Brady numbers), averaging 3 TDs a game with no interceptions . . .) is WHAT IS REALLY IMPORTANT. But, my tv set is blowing up with more on the email scandal and I'm loving it. Not because I want Trump to win; far from it. I've said a gazillion times he is completely unqualified to be president (or even a city councilman) and I lose - I think the country loses - no matter who wins on 11/8.

But, this is just starting folks. Ever since Bill Clinton paid a visit to Loretta Lynch's plane and had a talk with her followed by the FBI director explaining to us that Clinton had (repeatedly) violated the law concerning handling classified material and then incongruously said no reasonable prosecutor would prosecute her, it has been apparent that there would be a division of opinion at the FBI and Justice, and we are just possibly starting to learn about it. I don't know that any of the rumors are true at all. But, they all have the ring of truth - that the Justice Department pressed the FBI not to pursue Clinton, that FBI agents at lower levels were told "Stand down" concerning the investigation. Could it all be made up by right wing Trump proponents? Sure.

I don't know if Comey broke the law by writing to congress (according to Sen. Reid, one of the most partisan and disreputable politicians, who I am grateful will soon be out of office) but I find it hard to believe providing information about an investigation he promised to keep congress updated about would violate any law.

I hate, hate, hate what I perceive as injustice and the destruction of our system for the personal benefit of a politician and that is what it looks like to me so far - at the very least, the appearance of impropriety is so great, that it is as bad as if it were true, because it has undermined people's belief that the system works fairly. But, in saying so, no one has any idea whether the emails on Weiner's devices mean anything at all - it is hard to see how they could, based on the decision Comey already made that there was no intent. There would have to be a smoking gun of the this variety - "So, Huma, you and Anthony know that I intentionally violated the law and I'm getting away with it, right? Yours truly, Hil"). That's not likely.

I suspect that months from now, after actually looking at the emails, the FBI will issue a short report (possibly under the Clinton administration) that says, nothing to see here, move along.  But, at the same time, I believe the revelations of corruption at Justice will be forthcoming to my disgust, and those of half the country. The last two presidents were faced with opposition from others who thought their election was illegitimate. Personally, I found both claims factually ridiculous. Not this time. Not because of what happened this week, but what happened months ago starting when BC first stepped on LL's plane.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Oh, O.J.

I know this post seems like it is about O.J. Simpson, but it is really about the way people argue. But, as I blabbered along (I came back to write this intro) I realized it is also because I love to talk about books. That is a reason for many of my posts. Anyway . . . 

When I was a young man, I was a big O.J. Simpson fan. He was the state of the art running back for his time, a combination of power and speed that was wonderful to behold. Obviously a large and strong man, he was, in fact, so fast that he was on his college 4 x 100 relay team which held the world record for a while.  I was at the NY Jet game in 1973 when he went over 2000 yard mark for the season. No other running back had ever done that before. Only six other men have done it since, three of them among the greatest running backs in history. But, all of them did it in 16 games. When OJ did it, there were only 14 games. None of them did it with as few running attempts as he did, although some were close. His per game average is substantially greater than the other six (still the NFL record). His average gain per rush for a year is surpassed only by Barry Sanders by a tenth of a point and Adrian Peterson tied him a few years ago. Of course, this greatest year was only a part of his tremendous career, which included the Heisman Trophy in college and 11 years as a pro. When he retired only one man had more career yards than he did, arguably the only back better than him (although I'm a Gayle Sayers' man, and had his career not been so short . . .).  From 1972-1976, basically while I was in high school, O.J. averaged 1540 yards per 14 game season and 5.1 yards per carry. If you don’t follow football, that was and still is awesome. Perhaps at that time Jim Brown was greater and maybe now some think Barry or Payton was, but Simpson was and still is in the elite group.

Later on he was worked in tv as a football commentator but was also known as a comic actor, although no one took him very seriously, including himself. That was part of his charm. His light and friendly personality was well known, in fact, beloved by many. It is hard to imagine that anyone other than a diehard racist did not like him, and frankly, he or she probably would have too.

So, imagine my surprise – everyone’s surprise, when his wife was murdered in 1994 and it looked like he was going to be arrested for doing it. I either initially presumed or maybe just hoped he was innocent despite the suspicion spouses engender. Of course, few people knew the important facts a day or so after it happened. A few days later, I was on a canoe trip with some friends. The owner of the van we drove in had both a tv and a portable phone (I presume a cell phone – it was over 20 years ago, so forgive me). His wife called and said, put on the tv. We gathered around, about 8 guys, and turned on the television to see O.J. (and I call him that because that is how I know him, though it outrages one of the authors I will write about) in a slow motion chase in the famous white Bronco. I said “Oh no, OJ” and think the others something similar too.  To us, his run meant he was most likely guilty, although there is little logic behind such a conclusion. But, we all liked him and were terribly disappointed.

The trial itself, not including jury selection, was over 8 months long. Everything happened in this case - everything. Leave aside the double murder, there were celebrities, athletes, infidelity, police corruption, DNA evidence (fairly new then), lesbianism, drugs, mobsters, conflicts of interest with the judge’s wife, trash talking, racism, sex – likely even between co-counsel,[1] domestic abuse, a barking dog, a shadowy figure, a failed unofficial lie detector tests, almost a suicide, a puzzling seemingly beloved wannabe actor housemate, relentless courtroom drama and so on. Though I realized how sad it was – two people brutally slaughtered with a knife; one’s throat cut horribly – it provided almost a year and a half of entertainment for me and millions of others.

It is hard to convey this case’s hold on the public’s interest to people who did not live through it or are too young to remember how sensationalized it was. After it ended, as a trial attorney, I would bring the case up during jury selection when going over courtroom procedures (being careful not to take a side one way or another), because almost everyone had seen some of it. And for many of them, it was probably the first and last time they had ever seen a real trial.

Recently I’ve read two books about it and want to discuss them because they illustrate for me the different ways people argue. I agreed with many of the conclusions of one author, a renowned prosecutor and later a true crime writer named Vincent Bugliosi, including as to O.J.'s guilt - the difference is, I am 95% sure and Bugliosi 195% certain (yes, I know that is not possible, but . . . ). Bugliosi, deceased now, seemed like an energetic, highly intelligent man. Certainly he had more experience in criminal matters than most anyone else.  Yet I found him very biased and unfair. For whatever reason, perhaps there is something wrong with me, I almost always want everyone to argue what I see fairly (of course, in my opinion – you can always make an argument someone was not fair – and I have my exceptions when it is not necessary), especially when there is a lot at stake. I hate it when people are falsely accused, even of small things, and I hate it more when the reasons are based on certainty without back up. I never mind if someone has an opinion based on speculation or feelings when it is admitted to be such. I have many such opinions. But I hate it as much when someone claims to just “know” something to be true or false, particularly as to what someone else is or was thinking without at least some sufficient reasons to conclude it. This doesn't mean that opinion isn't just that - opinion, or that I am the final arbiter, just that neither is Bugliosi or anyone else.

I also read American Tragedy, by Lawrence Schiller, which I will deal with first. Schiller is a journalist/producer who was a very minor player tangentially on the defense side (he once helped them gain some access to some technology they needed), which gave him access to OJ’s friend and one of his lawyers (sort of), Robert Kardashian, deceased, and who is probably more famous now for his reality show family. Schiller didn’t even give an opinion as to guilt or innocence, but I found him quite fair and to have written a much better book than Bugliosi, even if he mostly had access to the defense side – he still provided the prosecution arguments fairly.

I was very familiar with most of the claims and defenses in the case from watching it, but in the past 20+ years I’ve forgotten some of it – and there was a lot to absorb. But I learned a lot of detail from Schiller about the possible tainting of the blood evidence, the reasons to believe that the glove and bloody socks were planted (even the blood on the socks was questionable as it was not discovered until much later), that blood was possibly planted in the Bronco, that the blood tests were done in a way that made contamination quite possible if not unlikely and that Mark Furhman was a thoroughly disreputable police officer – not because he repeatedly used the N-word in helping write a screenplay, but because it is hard not to come to the conclusion given all of the evidence, much of which was not even presented to the jury, that he was deeply prejudiced and sometimes abusive to minorities. Even the prosecution had to denounce him, while refusing to accede he did anything wrong, and he eventually took the 5th amendment to avoid probable criminal charges. To many people's disgust, Fuhrman became the trial within the trial.

The real fun of Schiller’s book though was seeing the blow by blow in-fighting between the many attorneys and investigators working for O.J., the true legal skills and work ethic of the two New York attorneys - Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld, both the charm and egotism of the defendant who demanded that his questions be asked by the attorneys and coached them even on how to act, the frustration and incompetence of the DA’s office and LAPD (which was evident if you watched the trial objectively) and an inside look at what might actually have been the trial of the century that never stopped developing and changing right up until its last days.

I watched the trial as an attorney of 10 years plus experience (which is a middling amount of time) and was actually stunned by the incompetence of almost all of the attorneys involved on both sides. Only the two New York attorneys seemed to know how to cross-examine anyone well. The famed F. Lee Bailey and the ballyhooed Johnny Cochran often seemed incompetent at it. I’m not exaggerating. There’s a shtick I do on how Cochran cross-examined witnesses:

“So, when you came to the corner, you could see the entrance?”
“Uhhh, no.”
“Yeah, as in ‘no I could not see it.’”
“You sure?”

That’s of course an impression. I have argued with non-attorneys, but also many attorneys, who bought the media hype about him since the days of the trial that he, and most of the attorneys on both sides, were great at their job. So, I admit that I was joyful when I read in Outrage, Bugliosi (who I will jump to for this) commenting on Cochran's abilities thus:

“With respect to Cochran’s cross-examination at the trial, it was the most rudimentary type imaginable. He could hardly have been more mediocre. Watching him I asked myself how it was possible he could have been a trial lawyer for thirty-two years and not have picked up even the slightest degree of skill at cross-examination. Not only did he appear virtually weaponless as a cross-examiner, but he magnified his lack of expertise by obviously minimal preparation and fumbling, inarticulate questions. He basically limited himself to seeking to elicit from the prosecution witnesses he cross-examined information he had learned was helpful to his side, i.e., cross-examination in an important but very unsophisticated form.

Before getting into Johnnie Cochran’s direct examination, let me digress for a moment to discuss briefly two adjectives that the media used to describe Cochran at this trial, silver-tongued and smooth. There is nothing silver-tongued about Johnnie Cochran, even remotely so. . . .”

And so on. I’ll get back to Bugliosi later.

By the way, the line Cochran is most famous for - "If it does not fit, you must acquit," is not his own, but the creation of another lawyer on the team, a much less well known co-counsel, Gerald Uelman, the dean of a California law school.

After a good start at a hearing, F. Lee Bailey proved so embarrassing to the defendant that the rest of his attorneys did not want to give him any more witnesses and he had to pander to O.J. himself to get them. But, I really was not impressed by most of them, although the defense was lionized by the media as the “Dream Team.”  Many of my attorney friends at the time also thought Marcia Clark, the lead prosecutor, was wonderful. I was stunned how bad she was (the only one I knew who agreed with me was my friend, Don, who worked with me at the time). MC had one speed – angry, if anyone said anything that helped the defendants, even incidentally. I seem to recall a witness asking her why she was berating him when he was just telling what he observed and had no dog in the fight, but I am not going to read thousands of pages to find it.

Chris Darden, Clark’s primary associate prosecutor – who the prosecution wanted to be on the trial because he was black - did not seem at all better than Clark. Perhaps he was worse than she was. His biggest blunder, asking O.J. to try on the gloves, is up there with one of the dumbest things ever done in a courtroom. Now I know people who just wanted O.J. convicted, that insist the gloves fit and he was deliberately making them not fit and others who claim that the gloves shrunk because of blood (which, if planted, makes no different). The truth was, some of the defense attorneys had already measured their hands against the gloves and knew they would not fit O.J., who was, after all, quite a large man.  I thought Darden did a decent job on part of the summation though. But, the defense, particularly Cochran, knew how to push his buttons and he was almost held in contempt by Judge Ito for one exchange.

Ito was a story in himself. Most people, especially after the acquittal, thought he did a terrible job. He was often mocked for seemingly allowing the attorneys to run the trial and over him. Like most things in life, it is not entirely fair. It was a murder trial, and it was uniquely complex and fraught with problems, including the possibility Ito’s own wife might have to be a witness. Many people thought he favored the defendants, but I thought he favored the prosecution. Just as one example, when the defendants wanted to provide 41 examples of Furman using the “N” word, he allowed just 2, and very mild ones which did not highlight the railroading of black defendants or his brutality. I’m sure other judges would have been tougher on all the attorneys, but some less so. Some of his decisions were just baffling (like letting O.J., who would not testify, address the jury briefly to explain that he wished he could – wha-aat?), although, I have seen many baffling decisions by judges, even good or experienced ones. We tend to remember other people’s dumb mistakes more so than our own.

Simpson himself was portrayed in a very complex way by Schiller. Always maintaining his innocence, he seemed to convince almost everyone he could personally address with his sincerity and innocence. But, some of his attorneys, particularly the nominal lead counsel, Robert Shapiro, never believed he was innocent and many of them came to doubt it, including his close friend, Kardashian. Of course, years after the trial he was convicted and jailed for robbery (of his own memorabilia), but clearly was given the extensive 9-33 years not for that, but for the murder of which he was acquitted. Consider the following. Though never convicted of a crime before, and not accused of carrying a weapon, and trying to take back his own stolen memorabilia, Simpson got by far the longest sentence among the defendants. The two men who actually carried guns were given probation – that’s it. The guy who told Simpson about the memorabilia, recorded everything secretly and made hundreds of thousands of dollars on it, was, not surprisingly, given immunity. Another guy, the driver, refused to plea – he got at least 7 ½ years, but did not serve much time. His conviction was overturned and he struck a deal for time served. Another guy who just pretended to be another buyer also got probation. So, if O.J. didn’t carry a gun and was recovering his own stuff, why did he get so long a sentence? There are people convicted of heinous crimes, even murder, who received far less. A young women who entered the house I live in and stole $20,000-30,000 of stuff, got probation. The answer as to why he got up to 33 years is pretty clear if you ask me. He was convicted of robbery but served a sentence for murder.

Before he further ruined his life with that conviction, he agreed to a ghostwritten book, originally entitled I did it, then If I did it: Confessions of a Killer (you can get either version on Amazon), which “speculated” if he had committed the murders, how it went down. Bad publicity forced the book from the shelves originally, but, obviously, can reasonably be seen as an admission of sorts. No one was shocked. Most people think he’s guilty and he knew it.

One of the aspects that was treated in American Tragedy and more recent documentaries, is the racial issue, which loomed so large. One thing the defense knew from their jury consultant was that blacks, and particularly black women, were almost certain to acquit him no matter what. Far less so were whites.  In fact, one white female juror, originally an alternate, was dubbed by the defense team, “the demon,” and they would have loved to have gotten rid of her. They tried. But, apparently, the evidence presented to the jury led her to find reasonable doubt too.

I give Schiller high marks for presenting, as best as he could, a fair summary – even a long book has to be a summary about this case - and even though he could have easily been biased by having so much more access to the defendant’s team. Possibly he was able to do this because he was not an attorney who was trained to take a side and make a case, but not necessarily to be fair. I could catalog all the inside baseball I learned from Schiller, but, it would take up too much space. Perhaps my favorite item was that when the jury was about to visit O.J.’s home, the defense team took out all the pictures of white women and replaced them with pictures of blacks and other signs that he was not just a rich man who used to be black (“I’m not black. I’m O.J.,” he famously said) but someone deeply involved with the problems of the black community.

Bugliosi’s book, Outrage, was different.  I want to talk about it as an example of my thinking someone is right in many of their conclusions, including the main one, but absolutely wrong or biased in their analysis and other convictions. For those who don’t know it, Bugliosi was a famous L.A. prosecutor, whose most notable success was convicting Charlie Manson, who was never present at the scene of his murders. Bugliosi apparently won all but one felony cases he tried. However, it is true that prosecutors tend to have very good win records as they are usually trying guilty people before a prosecution minded judge and a cynical jury. He is also a well known and very thorough true crime author, and his book on the Manson murders, Helter Skelter, was his first and most famous work. I had read one of his other books, on the Paula Jones v. Bill Clinton case, No Island of Sanity. Although I agreed with him generally in reading that book, and that O.J. is most likely guilty of murder, almost certainly, I am still appalled at his argument.

Bugliosi began this book by essentially stating that anyone who doesn’t think O.J. was guilty was unreasonable and that it was the most clear case of guilt he ever saw. Keep in mind, there was no witness and no unimpeachable direct proof of the murder. There often isn’t, and there can still be a conviction on circumstantial and other evidence. But then you can’t say that it is the most clear case of guilt. He not only dismisses the prosecution as stupid or colloquially insane (and I agree, they did a bad job), but the jurors who he says did “not have too much intellectual firepower” and were “biased in Simpson’s favor” (which may also be true). He gives no credence at all to the fact that the trial went on for so many months and was beyond doubt a ruinous event in everyone involved’s personal or social life, and that it would be impossible for anyone to follow every line of evidence or argument. Everyone was bound to make many mistakes and have memory lapses. DNA was new then and most of the attorneys did not even understand it. How could the jury learn it in that setting?

Bugliosi believes that if the DNA evidence was believed, Simpson had to be guilty beyond doubt. He does this by dismissing, right from the start, the possibility of the LAPD detectives planting the blood evidence as, while being not as insane as believing Simpson accidentally bled on all these spots before the murders or that Simpson was defending himself, still so highly unlikely that he felt no need to defend it and just says the book is not for doubters. Personally, I think Simpson guilty but also think there was evidence planted, at least the glove at Simpson’s residence and the bloody sock on his bedroom floor (which was somehow not there in a video taken before the sock was collected).

But, Bugliosi goes beyond this. Everything and I mean everything about the defense is mocked. He mocks the fact that Simpson, instead of just saying “not guilty,” said “absolutely, one hundred percent not guilty,” without understanding or even suspecting that he was told by his attorneys to say that, and he found Johnnie Cochran audacious for defending his client like a defense attorney is supposed to - zealously. He questions Barry Scheck’s ethics for defending someone because Bugliosi was sure he was guilty (Scheck, like some other attorneys, had his doubts and it did bother him).  But, worst of all, he, Bugliosi, actually believes that innocent people always testify. That means that he himself is either as stupid as he claims most everyone else is, or he is so biased in favor of prosecutors that he can’t fathom all the good reasons why they don’t testify, even when innocent. Perhaps he also just didn’t know that Simpson desperately wanted to testify and was talked out of it by his lawyers, especially after he was showed how badly he would have done when they did practice cross-examinations, by one of his lawyers, and then two lawyers they hired.

I don’t doubt that Bugliosi was a very good prosecutor, perhaps the best as some say. He is a ferocious arguer. But he has all the faults of people who are so sure of themselves that they cannot see the other side and I find that he makes many of the same type judgments that I am so critical about and spend my life trying not to do (even if I fail mightily in it, in anyone else’s view, sometimes or even all the time – that doesn’t mean the attempt to be fair is wrong). Reading just the introduction to the book I had to wonder whether Bugliosi wasn’t aware of some of the evidence or didn’t care. It seems the latter, at least much of the time.

Having been so negative about him, I have to applaud his finding laughable the lauding of the attorneys involved in the case by the media. Now, he warns you he is a cynical guy. So am I. So are a lot of people. That doesn’t mean you think you should think you are the only one who has any abilities, or one of the few. He assumes incompetence, even in the lawyers in a criminal case, and pretty much everywhere. Well, it’s not that I disagree in general.  I have many times echoed in other words his statement, “[incompetence] is so prevalent and so bad that the only adjective I’ve ever been able to come up with in the lexicon that adequately describes it is ‘staggering.’” He adds, and I also agree, “Yes, common sense tells you this. But this is not the way society sees it.” That doesn’t mean you have to presume it in every case unless proven otherwise.  I stated above how I agreed with his analysis of Cochran’s abilities, or lack thereof, and I agree with his analysis of all of the attorneys (with two qualifications). For example, I was pleased to see back when the trial was going on, that at least Robert Shapiro, technically the lead defense attorney, but also not a very experienced trial attorney, was among the few present who could really cross-examine a witness like an attorney should be able to do. Bugliosi agreed: “I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by Shapiro. He was better than I expected him to be. He certainly is no legal heavyweight by any stretch of the imagination, but he demonstrated that he knows his way around the courtroom, and he has good courtroom presence. Although he handled only a few witnesses on cross-examination, with those he did, he knew what he wanted to elicit from them, asked intelligent questions, and sat down. Ironically, Shapiro was criticized for his terse crosses by some of his co-counsel and O.J.

He was less than complimentary on Shapiro’s questioning of his own witnesses sometimes and again I have to agree. And, he was most critical of the attorneys on both sides for not interviewing their witnesses before they took the stand. I can’t agree more that it is critical, although, of course it happens. Schiller, who, again, was not an attorney, also made reference to the defense team itself belatedly realizing the witnesses had to be interviewed by the attorney who was questioning them; not just by an investigator. Bugliosi gives no credit to the fact that this was no ordinary trial. In the same way, he gives a wonderful pseudo-summation right in his book, but never considering that maybe the attorneys just didn’t have time he has had to write one as good. And maybe they did not have a lot of time to interview witnesses either. Arguably, if you decide to do this trial as a defense or prosecution attorney, you give up for your life for a year – it’s a commitment. But that doesn’t mean all things are possible. I have had short trials of a few days where it was very hard to find time to write a summation, even when highly motivated and sometimes, I ended up completely winging it.

Bugliosi was a little nicer when it came to the New York defense lawyers, Scheck and Neufeld, who he at least found competent. He understated it, and might even have changed his mind if he read Schiller’s book and saw how they were by far the strongest legal force for the defense team. I think they were a major factor in the acquittal. Besides, I’m not sure that Bugliosi would put any lawyer in his own class. I knew who he was talking about when he wrote that there are only a few lawyers in the country who know how to cross-examine someone - he meant himself and probably a few others. He’s absolutely wrong about that, although the number is a lot smaller than you’d like to think.

Despite all my criticism of Bugliosi’s arrogance, his book was fascinating at times. In some ways he’s my kind of cynical guy and much of the book is social commentary. There was even a bizarre chapter on whether there was a God or not (he is really talking about people attributing this or that to God in a trial). Bugliosi says he is an agnostic, but, ironically, he is a dogmatic one. As he is uncompromising in his criticism of everyone associated with a case of which he did not like the outcome, he is uncompromising with his agnosticism. Which allows me to discuss one of my favorite topics, atheism, but I do it for a reason which I will tie into later. Bugliosi mocks atheists for their certainty, because – how is it possible to know for certain something unknowable? I know many people who take this position.  I have written on atheism itself on many occasion here and I don’t want it to become the focus of this post, but I can briefly state my opinion thus: because of the emotional aspects of “God,” it is often disturbing for people to discuss it or be contradicted about it. Believers, even agnostics, do not like what they believe is the “certainty” of atheists. And because of this they apply two rules to atheists that I doubt they would apply to any other subject, person or opinion. First, they expect atheists to prove a negative – and I don’t need to explain why that is ridiculous. Second, they insist that atheists alone need certainty in order to “believe” something does not exist. No one would require anyone to be absolutely 100% certain that there is not a bowl of spaghetti circling the earth (for some reason, this is a favorite example given by philosophers), but an atheist must "prove" there is no God. I’m sure enough about it. I believe things because I have enough reason to believe, like everyone else. Otherwise, we would never get out of bed – or stay in bed - because you can't have 100% certainty. Even agnostics have beliefs that are not based on certainty, but likelihood. The only time that people expect different is when there is some emotional involvement. Then they either insist their belief is built on 100% certainty or they insist someone who disagrees with them must prove it. And, ironically, many critics of "certainty" by atheists, do not have the same criticism of religious people who are "certain" about their belief in God. But, enough about God for the moment. I'll come back to the topic.

Bugliosi is angry, of course – he is outraged – hence his title. I do not blame him for being angry about the result. If I believe someone was murdered and the DA and police botched it, I’m angry too – and I was – very much so, during the Simpson trial, watching mistake after mistake. Early in his book he complains bitterly that the D.A. filed the case downtown, which guaranteed a largely black jury. Leave aside that it SHOULD not matter if the jury is white or black, he’s right that it can (certainly not always, but often enough). You can think that is racist of him and I, but the defense and prosecution were both made aware by their jury consultants that black jurors were very likely to vote based on race. The prosecution ignored the advice and went with Clark’s inaccurate feelings that black women would sympathize with a woman who was abused and murdered. The opposite was true. Their bias was against Nicole Brown, even though she was murdered, because she was a white woman who married a rich black man. I’m not suggesting they knew this and acted deliberately, in fact, it is quite possible they were biased but then took their duty seriously and came to a conclusion based on what they saw as the evidence. I'm just say the results the consultants got with mock juries were extremely strong. In any event, when Bugliosi complained early on in the case on tv about where the case was filed, the D.A., Garcetti, called him and tried to explain that they had no choice but to try it there once they had started a grand jury (which was never completed) under California law. Bugliosi nicely (he says) explained to Garcetti that he was completely wrong on the law, but held back half the reasons while speaking to Garcetti (though he gave it in his book). Trust me, it should not surprise anyone that a D.A. does not know the law.  But, in complaining, Bugliosi leaves out an important consideration. If the case was brought before an all-white jury, as Bugliosi apparently thought appropriate, the black community, the defense and also the media would have been all over them and thought the results just a matter of prejudice if Simpson was convicted. If it came out that filing somewhere was done to avoid black jurors (which is unconstitutional), the conviction might be overturned. It should be.

For Bugliosi (and many people), if he has a perspective, that is it. He decided, for example, that the famed forensic expert, Dr. Henry Lee, did not do a great job for the defense, as many viewers and even jurors thought, but a terrible one. Admittedly, watching Lee and then reading his testimony and opinions given during the case (in the Schiller book), I had my doubts about his testimony too. But, Bugliosi pointed out the testimony of the prosecutor’s shoe expert completely shattered some of Lee’s claims. But, either he doesn’t know, or didn’t realize that Lee had serious doubts all during the trial, and that he was always very reluctant to participate and wanted to back out of it numerous times – he had always been a witness for the prosecution before and even had to get special permission to participate in Simpson’s defense from his employers. In fact, though very helpful to the defendants, perhaps because of his personality, he also made life very difficult for them, discussing all his thoughts with prosecution experts. Yet, Bugliosi believes Lee did not want to come back to rebut the prosecution's take down on his testimony because it was destroyed. It appears rather he just did not want to dedicate anymore of his life to this one case. In fact, in the end, the jury believed him more than the prosecution’s expert. I see no reason, even reading Bugliosi’s summary of the prosecution’s expert’s testimony, that it was more credible than Lee’s. It doesn’t matter for Bugliosi. If it helps him win the case, he believes it, and therefore it has to be believed by everyone or they are idiots.

Another way in which Bugliosi shows strong bias is in complaining that the defense was allowed to show evidence of Fuhrman’s racism. He asks what if that was allowed in every case. Maybe he has a point. But, in this case, he ignores or dismisses as unimportant that there was very strong evidence of Fuhrman’s extreme racism and that even Judge Ito’s wife, a former police officer had investigated him for it. There were numerous witnesses to his bias and brutality willing to testify. Frankly, I thought Judge Ito was unfair in how little evidence of it he let in. Remarkably, Bugliosi admits that he also knows that Fuhrman is an avowed racist. Very quickly you realize why he is so offended by Ito’s rulings which essentially put Fuhrman on trial. Fuhrman's bias had to escape scrutiny because it helped lead to the defendant’s acquittal and therefore, for Bugliosi, that is unfair. And no doubt Fuhrman's bias definitely was a factor. But, I do not think it would have been so were there not so many instances of doubt as to whether evidence was actually planted in this case. Remember, the glove did not fit. The police did make many mistakes. Many.

Schiller at least tried to give the arguments on both sides and frankly indicated that O.J.’s own lawyers had doubts about his guilt – and I think Schiller too thought him guilty. He acknowledges that his contacts were through the defendants, mainly Kardashian, but once he was writing a book, he put on his journalist hat. Bugliosi could care less. He just prosecutes one side of the claim as if he were still working for the State of California and not a writer. He argues both that the gloves actually fit and also that they must have shrunk and that’s why they didn’t fit. It's a self-contradictory kind of thinking that he would complain bitterly about it from anyone else. He also complains that Marcia Clark did not question a single witness for three months straight, which must have looked bad to the jury (I disagree)  – after basically describing her as incompetent. Which is it?  Should she have questioned witnesses or not. I doubt he would let a witness get away with such fuzzy thinking.

He also made a crazy metaphor about trying to put together a masterpiece of a trial that when you paint a masterpiece, you don’t let others paint parts of it – which is completely untrue if you know anything about some painting. He uses the Mona Lisa as an example, but that is a tiny painting. But, many larger works, including, e.g., the Sistine Chapel, are painted by groups or a famous artist's workshop. Group effort is also true of many endeavors, including writing books. Not surprisingly, there are no acknowledgments in Bugliosi’s book, you know, the part where you thank everyone, including your editors, for their help, without which help the book would not have been possible. I'm sure in his world, he and only he can be thanked.

He also complains that the prosecution did not show a video first, in which O.J. was seen laughing at his daughter’s recital on the day of the murder, and at which Denise Brown testified he had been glowering. That way she could say that he was laughing at that moment but angry later on after the recital. He is right that doing so would have been good strategy, but the truth was, Brown was a terrible witness and not credible – she was caught in a lie. That was the problem. And he was aware of this.  Bugliosi is basically saying the prosecutor should have helped her. He makes the same argument when the officer first on the scene testified that they really weren’t trained how to preserve a crime scene – in Bugliosi’s opinion, I guess the prosecutor should have prepped him to lie and say they were well trained. Again, he’s right about the strategy, but morally? Apparently, according to Bugliosi, it is unethical to defend a man he thinks guilty, but not unethical to prep a prosecution witness to lie.  Yet shortly later, he comments that the prosecutor has to expect the defense attorney to have the morals of an alley cat (this somewhat slanders alley cats, as their metaphorical lack of morals is solely directed at their promiscuity, not for being worse than other cats in other ways). In yet another controversy – an important one about what happened to some missing blood that the police drew from O.J. (because it could have been planted elsewhere), Bugliosi simply takes the witness’s word after the fact that he had drawn less blood than he earlier stated. I can see arguing that maybe that was what happened, but you cannot state that it was obviously what happened.

Thank goodness Bugliosi never became a judge, as he is completely biased. And, unfortunately, this often happens.  Bugliosi is so lost in his certainty that he says that he would bet against 10-1 odds (of course, he could have said a million to one as there is no way to prove this) that the reason the jury acquitted, was that they were confused by the difference between police abuse and police planting evidence, which was rare and he insists did not happen here (because he just knows). And he also believes that only he and Cochran (no idea why Cochran as Bugliosi previously painted him as incompetent) knew about the jury’s confusion about these two issues. On the other hand, in this case, Bugliosi was certain that the D.A. and not the LAPD, lost the case by virtue of their incompetence.  I could not disagree more with that conclusion. Both the LAPD and the DA exhibited tremendous incompetence (as did most of the defense attorneys and the judge). Why LAPD incompetence in this case is somehow non-existent or unimportant for Bugliosi is odd, as he has already stated that incompetency is simply a part of being human, a fact of which I am in total agreement. We all make so many mistakes. Fortunately, we have memories and sometimes we can, often at great length, even over centuries, improve the way we do things or become very good at certain things.

In writing about a case with thousands of pages of testimony and pieces of evidence, I can only touch on a few here. Bugliosi, as with Schiller, touched on many more, as they wrote long books. There were many issues that Bugliosi himself can't explain away, but he does anyway en masse. Let me quote him near the end of his book when he is discussing troublesome facts:

“[T]he reader knows this book is not an analysis of every single issue in the Simpson case. . . Here’s the reason. Since we know Simpson is guilty, any defense points or arguments which have not been dealt with in this book, regardless of what they are, by definition could not change that reality. (And any reader who, at this point in the book, isn’t convinced beyond all doubt of Simpson’s guilt, certainly would not become so if I addressed myself to some additional ancillary issues.). . . .”

Is he kidding? (NO). His we win/you lose argument is not unheard of in the world of attorneys. It is probably a good way to approach many cases, though it can lead to thinking which will hurt, not help the attorney’s case.  But he is not actually prosecuting a case, but writing a book, even if that book is meant to explain why the people lost. It calls for perspective and balance (which, ironically, he asks for in his book on Clinton).

Let’s get back to God now because I think Bugliosi’s views show hypocrisy on his part. He says that he is an agnostic, and cannot understand atheists, because (in his view) they are too certain. Yet, read any chapter in the book, and you see that he is certain beyond certain – and demands the reader be certain – about a case where certainty is not possible at all. Even if there was an eyewitness, you still couldn’t be certain they did not have motive to lie. And there wasn't. But, he, Bugliosi, is uncertain about God's existence to the degree he cannot be an atheist, although reading his words, he sees no evidence for God and says he could write hundreds of pages against it. In other words, he cannot disbelieve something of which he sees no credible evidence because it is impossible to be certain, but he believes O.J. murdered his ex-wife and friend with absolute certainly, even though he didn’t even see it with his own eyes and there was no direct evidence. More, he won't accept God on faith alone, but accepts on faith alone that the defenses raised must be dismissed.

As I explained earlier, I am sensitive about, even hate, what I see as unfair argument (though like everyone, I'm sure I am guilty of it sometimes too - I hope not as much as Bugliosi).  But, this kind of Bugliosian argument, is especially troubling when the weight of the law is behind it. Some prosecutors, who have the power of the state behind them, and crush people who, unlike O.J., cannot afford a defense. Yes, it is important that justice be done in the conclusions juries or judges reach. I’d like the guilty to be found guilty and the innocent found innocent. Unless we have some personal involvement which leads us to seek an unfair result, most of us want them to get it right. But we will survive them getting it wrong (most of us, anyway) and do all the time. No very controversial trial verdict has ever seemed to me more clearly wrong than the acquittal of Casey Anthony for murdering her young daughter. As angry as I and many others were, we moved on. I’m not sure if not writing this right now that I would have even thought of it again in my life, certainly very little. But, if our system fails, we must either fix it or we will eventually fail completely. It's that important. One of the ways to do that is to criticize certainty and unfair pressure by the prosecutors.

I’m not going to read very book written on this case. Two very long ones are enough. There are too many others, some of them ghost written. Many of the defense attorneys, both Clark and Darden, Simpson (2 books), at least one person in Nicole’s family, some of the jurors and a legion of commentators have written them. It would not surprise me if Ito does not write his own now that he retired. And though it is possible, I doubt my mind will be changed. Here’s what I think happened:

OJ planned to murder Nicole and did. He had opportunity. We know he was at least within a short drive from his own home when they were killed. I have to believe that Goldman’s presence was accidental. I can’t see how OJ would know he would be there, or want to take the risk. O.J.’s motive, the fact of his jealousy, the frequent bouts of abuse, are enough for me to believe that. I actually agree with Bugliosi on his main point supporting his certainty – the deep cut on O.J.'s hand at the very time he was within driving distance of the murder or soon thereafter just seems too coincidental. And O.J. never gave a convincing story to his own defense attorneys about how and when he cut himself. He also conveniently said he broke a glass while on the phone in Chicago. How convenient. But it also can in no way provide certainty as claimed by Bugliosi. Coincidences do happen. People can forget how they cut themselves, even if unlikely. And they do get confused and give out different stories (as O.J. did about what he was doing at the time of the murder) without being guilty.

Unlike Bugliosi, I do not at all think the reason, and certainly not the only reason O.J. was acquitted, was because the jury did not understand the difference between police abuse of minorities and planting evidence on them. Why would they not understand that simple difference even if it was not explained to them? The fact is, the jury had plenty of evidence of the police planting evidence if they believed it. The reasons I think there was an acquittal are complex, because most things in life that are very complicated have multiple reasons, especially when it comes to people’s opinions. Here’s my list of reasons that I think there was an acquittal:

  • There was evidence of evidence being planted or contaminated, including blood evidence.
  • There was no single piece of evidence or collective evidence which proved beyond a reasonable doubt that he was guilty.
  • The glove did not fit.
  • There can be doubt as to how he cut his finger.
  • There were people who observed him who testified he did not act like someone who had murdered someone.
  • There were questions about the time line, people walking by when the murder had to take place in order for O.J. to get home for the limo driver to see his shadowy figure enter the house, who saw nothing going on (indicating it happened afterwards).
  • Racial bias against convicting a black man.
  • Anger with Fuhrman and the police in general.
  • The personalities of the prosecution attorneys including their evident lack of competence on so many occasions.

So, how do I explain away these doubts and believe O.J. guilty myself? I can’t explain some of them. I said that I believed he was guilty. I did not say I was convinced that the jury should have found him guilty. If I was on the jury I may have voted not guilty too. It is too easy to say what you would have done if not under the gun yourself. But, if I did acquit, I probably still would have believed him guilty and blamed the prosecution and the police for screwing up, yet still felt the need for us to maintain a fair system where they have to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If it were my family member or friend, I'm sure I'd be less reasonable.

I do remember fairly clearly the office I worked in at the time gathering about to watch the verdict. My friend, Don, who comments here from time to time, was certain he would be acquitted. I was 50-50 about it, though I certainly believed him guilty. Alone in the office (probably 40 + people at the time), we were both outraged at the prosecution and police and shocked at the general incompetence of most of the attorneys. Needless to say, it was a mostly white office.

[1] I should say, because I don’t want to slander anyone, that when Oprah asked Christopher Darden if he and Marcia Clark had sex during the trial, he just complimented Clark and did not answer the question, causing Oprah to ask if he was taking the 5th. He seems like a principled guy, although he messed up the trial royally, and I don’t think he would let the question hang there unanswered if it wasn’t true.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Hamlton, Trump and Clinton.

No, the title to this post is not the name of a fortuitous law firm. I was rereading The Federalist Papers the other day. No special reason. I turned to the first page and read the first paragraph of No. 1, written, like most of them, by, ironically, newly famous Alexander Hamilton. I maybe the only person in America who is not happy with the Broadway play, Hamilton, the musical. I suppose, in the abstract, I might like it, but, I know I don't like that it took the great book by Ron Chernow and that many people who see the play will think they know the historical person. It is no different than thinking you know a person's life because you had a single dinner with them, even if it was a great conversation. The substitution of musical comedy for a very impressive biography seems like part of a Platonic degeneration of the ages of man. Just like the debates of Lincoln and Douglass are replaced by the shams of sound bite "debates" we have now. Just like The Federalist Papers have been replaced by op-eds. Just like The Lord of the Rings has been replaced by Harry Potter (for the record, I like Harry Potter, but comparing it to TLOTRs, is like comparing the moon to the sun.

Yes, I am aware that the author, Chernow, loves the musical and can't say enough about its creator and the production. Yes, I am aware that sales of the book are skyrocketing. I already knew, without doing a study, that far more people were buying it than were going to read it because it is just not the type of book most people I know are going to read. It's thick, trying to be if not quite comprehensive, probably more so than any previous biography of him. I do have one anecdotal experience by a friend who ran out and bought the book for himself and his wife to read. I could have told him to save his money. He buys a number of very popular non-fiction works, and reads none of them. Not surprisingly, he realized right away he wasn't going to read Hamilton either.

In any event, leave the musical and Chernow's Hamilton aside. When I was reading the very first paragraph of Federalist No. 1 I realized immediately that if I substituted one single word in the first and second to last sentences - "president" for "Constitution," with only a little imagination it seemed as if Hamilton could be writing about this year's presidential election rather than ratifying the Constitution. And without further ado and without apologies for Hamilton's vocabulary heavy writing style:

"AFTER an unequivocal experience of the inefficacy of the subsisting federal government, you are called upon to deliberate on a new president for the United States of America. The subject speaks its own importance; comprehending in its consequences nothing less than the existence of the UNION, the safety and welfare of the parts of which it is composed, the fate of an empire in many respects the most interesting in the world. I has been frequently remarked that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether thy are forever destined to depend for their political presidents on accident and force. If there be any truth in the remark, the crisis at which we are arrived may with propriety be regarded as the era in which that decision is to be made; and a wrong election of the part we shall act may, in this view, deserve to be considered as the general misfortune of mankind."

My substitution of the word "president" makes the election seem rather stark - but isn't it? Some of us think the present administration has injured our country by a feckless and misguided foreign policy which has weakened our military, made our allies nervous (even if, being generally more liberal than our country, they like our president personally) and emboldened our enemies, and by domestic policies designed to empower the lower economic classes and ethnic minorities (whether they do or not), but to the detriment of the general good. Others of course disagree. I don't intend to argue that out now here. But, though many people seem to think that each election is the most critical one we've had since perhaps the Civil War or the Great Depression, I believe more people than ever consider this one so, not just because of the changes since Obama came into office, but also because the two primary choices -  absent some unforeseeable miracle - are just awful. You can disagree with one or the other, but record numbers find both of them unacceptable.

It is an exercise in speculation to guess what Hamilton, or any 18th-19th century person would have made of Trump or Clinton. Certainly both Hamilton and Jefferson had their great scandals and were master of partisan attack far greater subtlety and effect than any of our hacks. Hamilton and Jefferson were so partisan, that they battled even before there were actually two parties in America. Both essentially lead one opposing party into existence, and while they were both in the Washington's first cabinet. So contentious were the two of them that Washington begged them both in correspondence to knock it off. Despite supposed reverence for the old man, both explained why they wouldn't or couldn't.

Trump and Clinton are Hamilton's and Jefferson's political heirs in terms of dishonesty and partisan warfare, without either displaying an ounce of the political genius that made the two founders so revered. But, who these days does. We are not in an era where our presidential candidates are generally remarkable thinkers, great speakers or writers. Their books are more likely to be ghost written or at least written with someone else. Those candidates with the best chances seem to be celebrities more than anything else. And not that Hamilton and Jefferson were not celebrities - both were - but it was as a celebrity as a result of their political abilities. In Hamilton's case, that is exceedingly so, as he was raised without a father and virtually penniless at times in his childhood. Jefferson was born to the manor, and though I often assault his character here (Hamilton's too), his learning and writing ability were legendary in his own time, and his fame came from his writings, particularly the declaration. Though I thought he was a crumby vice president and then president, he was exceedingly popular in his own time.

It's not that I expect a new age of founders. The world has turned over many times and I do not think we will get a pool of talent like that again, but it is a different world. And we get what we deserve as a whole. Our world is a wonderful place for humans, but it is always precarious. Golden ages can deteriorate into brass ones very quickly. Our own country seems at one of those cross-roads, such as in the mid-1800s and 1960s, where we could go one way or the other. And who do we choose to be the leader, not just for us, but for the free world? Likely an unscrupulous, dishonest and ambitious person, whichever one of the two we select.

I'm trying to be optimistic, folks, but they make it very hard.

Thursday, September 08, 2016


When does character count in voting for a president? I was just discussing this today and decided to post on it.

I don't care if a president has a bad temper, as long as it is not so bad that he (yes, I know, or she) is impaired in carrying out their duties.

I do not care that they committed crimes when young, including substance abuse - even heroin, so long as I do not believe it is happening now and for a sufficient time I am willing to trust.

I do not care that they have told lies in their lives, because everyone has told some lies and made decisions on what lies they think are okay.

But, I do care that a candidate is a reflexive liar such we can't trust them. I do care that a candidate has committed crimes or done heinous things and not come to understand that it was wrong, because otherwise they have no reason not to do them or similar things in the future.

I do care that they do not seem to have sufficient courage to withstand criticism or face down tough foreign opponents.

I do care when a candidate is so needy of a subsection of the American people that they must pander to them. And I don't care whether it is John McCain, still among my favorite politicians, pandering to the religious right, the only pandering I've seen him do, or Hillary Clinton to minority groups, claiming she carries hot sauce in her pocket book (and I did not even know that was supposedly a black thing - though she said it to an approving black show when I saw her say it). Because you can't be president to everyone if you are treating some special.

It is this simple and complicated at the same time. In law and politics we rarely deal in absolutes, but in a very imperfect and sometimes volatile balancing act. Most social things are subject to qualifications and balancing including mundane things like how we treat friends or family differently from one another. Kant believed in categorical imperatives. You should never lie, even, for example, if it would cost someone their life. That's great in a philosophy book, but crazy in real life. In law, values, laws, policies are constantly being balanced. It is the same with character. Some character matters. Some doesn't. You can make rules, but they are also going to be subject to exceptions not to mention bias. I'm going to try for an abstract definition anyway, because it is a blog and I can post my opinion, even if others find it idiotic. That's why the blog's subtitle is My Thoughts. What Else?

Character matters when it is not just some quality in a candidate's personality, but when it leads to an inability for a substantial number of people to carry out their executive duties, whatever they may be, in a manner that is at least generally constitutional and is safe for the American people.

I said abstract. Now applied to the candidates, two candidates fail this abstract test for me, and it isn't even close. Leave aside policy and personality quirks we might not like (smirks, shouting, etc.), just their level of dishonesty alone is a disqualifier for both. You simply can't trust either at all.  I read an article today where a columnist, Charles Blow, a liberal who writes a lot about racial issues, went off on Trumps dishonesty. Amazingly, he started by saying that if you go by some fact checkers, what she says is partly true 22% of the time and mostly true 28% (I might have reversed them, but they are close enough). You might want to add that up and get 60%, but that is failing by a large measure to me. And I wouldn't count the first group. If you what you are saying isn't "mostly true," it isn't close enough to be called true. Only for politicians and maybe our own kids would we make such a weak-kneed category as partly true.

Trump panders to the anti-illegal immigration crowd, but sometimes also to a segment of the population that is general behind the times in their view of those who aren't in their racial group. I do not buy his excuses about his David Duke gaffe at all. He ran it back immediately afterwards, no doubt when one of his kids called him (I picture his daughter) and saying "Are you nuts?" But, there is no doubt in my mind he was not wanting to offend anyone among them who might like Duke.

She is the same, of course, with blacks. I am repulsed by Black Lives Matter and she panders to them, especially once she saw what happened to Democrat candidates who didn't. You can't pander to a group I think is fascist and expect me to even consider voting for you.

For me, this unfortunately only leaves Gary Johnson as a potential president. His character seems just fine to me. I do not care that he own a medical marijuana company, though I admit my own bias towards the non-medical usage of the product (though it should be legal). He seems honest. I was watching this a.m. when he didn't know what Aleppo was. I guess he thought it was some crazy Beltway anagram. But, at least he answered honestly. At least he didn't pretend or immediately make excuses. He should have said, okay, I screwed up, but it is not important. Syria isn't important (I disagree) or something like that. But, again, at least he didn't reflexively lie.

I disagree with him on several things, mostly because I'm a hawk and he's not, but also because he gives at least a pass to BLM, even if he isn't a real supporter. So, I will probably vote for him anyway. Sigh. Stupid parties.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Women in the 21st century - their rights, their demands, and other stuff

You know, shoot me, I still like women. I don't mean I like them personally any more or less than men. People are individuals and I can like or dislike anyone regardless of gender or admire them or not, etc. I mean that I am at the advanced age of 57 still attracted to women physically (thank goodness) and though it is definitely with far less urgency than it used to be, plan on keeping it that way. I say "shoot me," because it appears that in modern society some people are offended by even the notion of two sexes, or that someone might be attracted to someone else, or heaven help us, treat them better because of their sex. It is not a majority, but it is a very vocal minority amplified by the media.

Reading an autobiography of one of my favorite humanists, Will Durant (actually a dual one with his wife), I was surprised to see that he found it so puzzling that he was still attracted to women in his old age. No big surprise. He was still producing testosterone.  Speaking with some male friends in their 70s and 80s, they told me that they have never stopped thinking about old girlfriends and their conquests in days gone by. I'm not sure they used the word conquest, but I think that would apply if used in the milder sense. It's not an actual war, but there is a hunt and capture all the same.

I want to talk about some of the issues of the day concerning women, as they are certainly topical. Obviously, with Hillary Clinton running for president, and the odds still in her favor, some of these things have been raised already and some have been issues for decades. As the Greatest would say - and away we go. . . .

Harassment at work

I don't know when the first laws were passed which protected women at work. I'm sure they were necessary then and now. Some men, and by that I mean some, not every or even most, but no doubt some, cross what should be inviolate lines at work. No man nor women for that matter has the right to touch another in a sexual (or, of course, violent) way without their consent, with some gray line being there for reasonable mistake - after all, someone usually has to make the first move unless you ascribe to the recent insanity concerning written consent, and I don't. But I don't mean by that it is a reasonable mistake to think someone wanted you to grab their breast who did not invite you. I mean perhaps touching an arm or going in for a slow kiss. If you are overly aggressive, even in days gone by you deserved to get slapped.

First, I do not understand the anger some people have at others having romantic or sexual relations at work. There's nothing wrong with it and I still think it is the most likely place to meet a significant other even in the internet age. Perhaps they are merely over-generalizing the complaint some have as to superiors dating their subordinates. But this too troubles me. No doubt there are wolves out there, and no doubt too that a boss or even a middle manager of either sex dating a subordinate can wreak havoc among the staff. But, I refuse to accept that we should throwing the baby out with the bathwater. The cliche fits. If 100 bosses date someone on their staff and ten of them are over the line about their behavior and another ten just obnoxious, and a third group of ten irritating on occasion but acceptable, what business is it of the rest of us to rain upon the dating lives of the other 70%.

Of course, I made the numbers up. But, if you doubled them I would probably still feel the same way. I'm not sure if you tripled them, but probably then too. The issue is with those who are abusive (we haven't gotten to how to define that) - not with those who are just going about their lives.

But the trend is to do this same overkill with many things. The written consent, actually required, if not frequently enforced on some college campuses, is a good example. To prevent the date rapist, or plain old rapist (as if it makes a difference to the victim), every decent young man is made suspect, and without that written proof, they are sometimes punished, just for the violation of the formal. How is that possibly right? Some would take it even further. They believe that a charge of sexual predation is equivalent to guilt, or at least the reversal of the normal rule that we are innocent until proven guilty.

And I do understand the logic behind it. They feel that centuries of overbearing, rapacious and criminal behavior is enough to crumble the cultural customs, habits of centuries, not to mention human nature. They believe that the devastation of the injury to those who are victims is beyond the point where we can be generous to those who are merely engaging in consensual and agreeable relationships of one sort or another (anywhere from a sexual encounter to long term marriage). An analogy to this approach can be made to seat belts. We don't only give tickets to those who don't wear their belts and have accidents. Anyone who doesn't wear a belt while driving - period - can get a ticket. We could, of course, do only the former, but that would not have any effect, or very little, on getting people to wear their belts.  Perhaps young people don't know, and older people forget, but at one time, that law was pretty controversial. Many people felt it was a government intrusion into personal decisions an adult at least should make on their own. In fact, I know one older fellow who does not wear a seat belt because it so offends him, even though he will tell you he knows it will increase his injuries or take his life. But, I doubt there are many who question it anymore, because the live and injury saving results are obvious to all. There was a time, out of sheer sleepiness or laziness (long story) I did not wear a belt. Though I would often tease those who insisted I wear one when I didn't feel like it with tomfoolery, I never seriously denied that it was not a good idea.

We are a Madisonian democracy (still, I hope, for a while) and we balance some things in our branches of government. When we are concerned with the risks of certain behavior, we balance our beliefs in the effectiveness of the approach to the gravity of the problem with our perception of the degree of its invasion in our lives against the costs in doing so, such as whether there should be environmental, smoking, safety or soft drink laws.  We rarely do this directly, instead, in our system, we vote for representatives who will in turn vote on laws. We will also balance the importance of the government's interest in an issue with the constitutional rights of individuals to determine their own lives. Our judges do this every day, although some few people still think they have no right or power to do so. It would take a revolution for that to stop, and I'm sure it would only stop it briefly, if at all. More likely, it would just substitute new, or re-frame old compromises.

Some women I've discussed the issue with have told me that I have no idea what I'm talking about concerning sexual harassment because I do not experience the day to day comments, looks and behavior which is sometimes overtly aggressive or hostile, other times just incredibly irritating or offensive. And, this behavior, they complain, is seen as normal or understandable behavior that they should blithely overlook. I don't doubt that they are right that many of them experience some degree or another of offensive behavior on a regular basis. Others, of course, have not. It is not unusual that the complaints of bad behavior in life can drown out more usual, even far more common beneficial behavior. We always make judgments as to how far we want to go to prevent bad things and that includes frequency of occurrence and impact of the occurrence. Rarely is it counterbalanced with an understanding of the beneficial things that come out of some behavior.  I have known a few women who believe that even a man smiling at a women, or looking at her, in a workplace, should be grounds for discipline. I didn't say that they weren't crazy, just that they exist. They are an extreme, but there is a spectrum of beliefs about what is acceptable, but they do not consider that smiling in an office might be beneficial.

I have asked both men and women the following hypothetical question (always with some variety). Sometimes I get a straight answer from men, but so far as I remember very few women have given me a straight answer to the question. They all give me an opinion, but not one that answers the question. I'll return to that. Here is the hypothetical: Imagine a female boss. On Friday night she runs into two male subordinates at happy hour. Monday comes and she calls Bob into her office. She says to Bob - "Bob, it was a mistake for us to fool around on Friday. You said you didn't want a relationship, just liked the idea of getting over on your boss, and I can't deal with it. Therefore, you are fired." She then calls in Tom - "Tom, I realized Friday that you are a good employee and always tell me what I need to hear, not what I want to hear. But, I need someone who is afraid of me and obsequious. You are fired."

It doesn't really matter why Tom is fired in the hypothetical so long as it isn't for harassment or some other type of recognized discrimination or other reason that is typical of getting fired - like insubordination. You are boring, ugly, stupid, have offensive politics, I want to give my niece your job, and so on, all work.

The question is - why should Bob, who was perhaps shallow and callous, have a law suit against the company for participating in creating a dicey situation? In fact, one might argue more crudely that he got to have sex and has a law suit on top of that. And if he does (and he does, whether or not his callousness will hurt his chances), why shouldn't Tom have one (and he doesn't,) though he was a good employee fired for a bad reason? The obvious reason is that one was fired because of a sexually related reason and the other wasn't.

The real thread of the question is why do we take sexual indiscretions or politics and promote them over other work issues? Is it because more men are bosses and the problem usually falls on women subordinates. Because that's why I used a women as the boss and made the men the "victims." The fact is, the laws, at least now, generally prevent discrimination in every direction - even same sex, so long as the issue is sexually related.

Getting back to why do women avoid answering the question, but instead tell me that harassment is bad - I think the answer is because there really isn't a good objective reason why sexual discrimination is more important than other kinds. Even if you accept that women have less power because of the history of pretty much every culture (even the very rare matrilineal or polygamous ones), other people have less power who are not able to sue when they are rejected because of their superficial or perhaps substantive characteristics, at least in our modern society. A man who is by convention not very attractive or grossly overweight, or poor, for examples, might have a lot less power than a woman who is neither of those. The conclusion that there is no real good reason is not generally threatening to men, so they are free to accept that logically, even if they are very pro-sexual harassment laws. Women, I think, recognize as well there is no good reason, but feel deeper about sexual harassment, so just return to safe ground - the act is wrong. Maybe that all sounds sexist to you, but it is what I have experienced. There are, of course, some women who have answered similarly to the men, but no one of either sex has ever given me a sound reason why it should be discrimination resulting in a law suit.

When I was young I never heard about sexual harassment. Could be the first time was in the '90s. I knew people who had relationships with subordinates or their bosses. I can think of one that was arguably abusive, but not in the traditional way. The rest, not really at all. Sometimes there were heart breaks, sometimes marriages or both. Now, I can't conceive of working with a spouse. It just seems to be an invitation for screaming or angst. I'm sure some pull it off but, no thanks.

I also definitely behaved in a way with some women at work that today would be frowned upon, although, with one exception it was all what we then would call flirtation or dating or occasionally, just sex (as for the exception, she below). I enjoyed the chase but didn't want problems. No one complained that I remember (what they would remember in today's politically charged environment I can't say). I can't think of any of it that was not pursued equally by the woman, although if they raised it today and complained, I'd never be elected for public office.

I know that I behaved in certain ways in the '80s and '90s that would today possibly be deemed harassment. I flirted, massaged, joked and when I was in my 20s, even occasionally kissed women I knew in my office or building and touch ones who wanted to be touched or asked. It sure seemed to me, even looking back that it was all welcomed or invited. I wouldn't make a move on a women if I didn't think I was pretty sure I'd get a positive response. In my '30s I started a relationship with a secretary that still exists (and if it could be said I abused her then, boy has she gotten her revenge). I can think of a few times (three) I suppose I crossed a fairly unimportant line, but I can't say I felt guilty because they seem pretty innocuous transgressions back then and now. I'll leave the stories for another time because a couple make me blush. For those readers who know me personally and find it hard to believe anyone ever saw me as a sexual being - drop dead. In any event, my experience was hardly abnormal.

I have also seen some of what I considered inappropriate behavior by men in superior positions who were not in a relationship - boss, judge, etc. But, in no case did I find it abusive or so bad that I thought a lawsuit should arise. And, in the few where I did think it was inappropriate, there was no attempt at sexual contact, just unwanted flirtation, or dancing or jokes. I remember one women who cried to me because at a Xmas party her boss and another man made a "sandwich" of her on the dance floor. Did she invite it by flirting with the boss too often? That's a hard question. She and I both thought maybe. Was it that bad?  I've had women do it to me, and you know what, I didn't like it, but didn't feel harassed either. I know another women who teased guys sexually relentlessly, although she would not be physical with them, and complained when one thought she was coming on to her.

Anyway, I have seen instances of jokes where I thought women were unfair to men in terms of what they considered harassment just because they found them unappealing. In one place that I worked I had close to carte blanche to make whatever horrible jokes I wanted to with the women (I apparently goofed once with a comment about a co-workers "cancer ridden face" - she had a tiny growth that had to be removed - and hurt her feelings; but our humor was so rough in the office I thought everyone was kidding when they told me) and female co-workers frequently asked me to rub shoulders. Sexual kidding (not actually sex) was rampant in both directions. But, a friend who worked with me (will call him Bob) kind of creeped the ladies out, although he was a nice guy, and they would complain sometimes if he made a rare off-color joke. One even complained to the boss over the slightest of blue remarks by Bob, though she frequently took part in ribaldry herself. No doubt in my mind they were discriminating against Bob. Do I think he should have been able to sue? No.

Of course, I realize that this is just my life and that there are many women I don't know who have gotten brutally harassed physically, economically and mentally. And, of course, I think it is wrong. What I am talking about is not a clear case but the lower levels of it - what justifies a suit.

Some years ago New York City, obviously politically very liberal, passed an ordinance making much stricter work rules for harassment than the State or Federal government had. I was involved in one case which I thought was ridiculous (I really don't know what happened after I was off the case), but I think many women (I couldn't say if a majority or not), and probably some men, would have considered it a just suit. There were no insults or threats or sexuality, just some bragging about his sex life (which he himself acknowledged later could be offensive). For me, that's just dealing with people. I've found other non-sexual behavior far more offensive to me - such as jealously or backstabbing, than mildly sexual conversations.

Enough about that. As usual I went on too long and will have to give short shrift to the rest.

Equal pay for equal work

I don't have very strong opinions about this because I feel that there has to be a statistical analysis and greater familiarity with the facts to have something valuable to say. Personally, I have never worked anywhere where women doing the same job were paid less. Sometimes it seemed the opposite to me. However in some industries, it is clear that it exists. Probably the most dramatic example was illustrated by leading actresses (although, we are supposed to call everyone "actors" now - I'll get used to it). Rather than me blather on - Though there are certainly discrepancies about what differences are attributable to legitimate factual matters (e.g., education, personal choices, etc.), the disparity seems to survive all adjustments. I believe it exists. I do not believe, however, that it is an easy fix. Because if we just try to legislate it out by some arbitrary measure, we end up creating some merit-free zones, where salaries may be re-adjusted based on gender in favor of women. Now, I realize that as with racial issues, someone might say - really, so it was tolerable for centuries, and now you can't handle a little of reverse discrimination?

My answer is, if I thought reverse discrimination would really help and be for a short time, I could. But, I don't believe legal problems like this really go away until the social issues are resolved. We certainly see that 40 or 50 years of efforts to realign racial discrimination by giving minorities legal advantages (such as laws that make even a negative disparate impact on minorities which may be related to merit is deemed discriminatory despite no attempt to do so, affirmative action and other efforts), as opposed to outlawing actual discrimination, has not changed much - but better social attitudes has. In fact, some activists even acknowledge these things may harm minorities. I believe they do and I agree with the premise that the way to end discrimination is to end discrimination. Bringing it back to women and pay, making laws that will result in women having greater pay than men will not save the problem; it will avoid it and probably make it worse at the same time, taking management's ability to inspire by increased compensation secondary to gender claims.

Rape on campus

This is, of course, an important topic, and I have very strong feelings about it. First, I'm sure without researching it, that it has always existed since women went to college with men. I can't tell you how many women I have known in my age group who told me of their campus experiences -- sometimes rape, sometimes close escapes. Women who don't go to college too, of course, but the college campuses and the way they are run leads to opportunities and excesses (drinking, drugs) which all relate to it. In almost every case that I hear about personally, some drinking or drug use is involved.

Some people want to deal with the problem by outlawing being male. I jest, but barely. The federal government has tied funds to implementing systems that make an accused male facing criminal charges face administrative ones first - that is, putting him in peril of testifying in his defense with criminal charges pending. That is grossly unfair. Some schools have implemented a variety of consent rules, some requiring affirmative consent and others requiring written consent. These are absurd, and not only unfair to men, who they are primarily used against, but were made to be broken. Honestly, I would rather be thrown out of college than have to say - "may I kiss you?," "may I . . . ?"  Yes, sometimes for each act consent is required.

I have heard advocates on television and in print insist that women never lie about rape (they are either liars or delusional - women are people too) and that therefore every accusation of sexual abuse by a women should result in the man being presumed guilty. This one is not just stupid, it's barbaric. I'm not saying if there is strong evidence that non-consensual sex occurred that someone can't be arrested and charged, but short of very strong evidence, I would not be destroying anyone's academic careers such as occurred in the famous Duke University case. The prosecutor there went to jail and was disbarred. I wish some of the professors and administrators there had been punished for their reversal of everything we hold dear about due process.

I do believe there are solutions. It starts like this. If rape on your campus is a problem, first ban all alcohol and mind altering non-prescription drugs (whatever is legal - so, if pot is legal there, ban that too) on campus. Don't say it can't be done. My daughter went to a school which was dry and it generally worked. Not that you can't go outside campus, but then it is not the school's problem. I'm sure there are many reasons a school would say, we can't do it because no one will go here or we have alums. Whatever. That's fine. Just don't say you care that much about the rape problem, because that is likely the best way to partially solve the problem. Next, more lights, more guards and more cameras for nighttime, wherever kids will be walking from classes to parking lots or anywhere from dorms, etc. Last, and I know this will be controversial - parents, listen up - teach your daughters not to go anywhere alone with men they don't expect to have sex with. Not that it makes it rape their fault by doing so, but it might just spare them. I recently read that a major college is following just this path, at least with "hard" liquor. It's not far enough.

There's a special place in hell . . . .

Madeleine Albright, a former SecState, said during this campaign that there was a special place in hell for women who didn't vote for other women. That's up there as just plain stupid with Speaker Pelosi's famous - "But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it." And, in fact, Albright was roundly criticized for it.

Think about the implications. That a woman should vote for woman means that the first woman should not think about policy and the second woman's election should be based on her sex.

And, I have no doubt that many will do just that, just as some people voted for Obama because of his skin color. Even he admitted that - but also that some people voted against him for that reason.

It is also the basis of all identity politics:

1. It is not the quality of character of a person that matters, but the color of their skin (or sex, or other superficial characteristic). This is, of course, the opposite of MKL's famous formulation.

2. When an identifiable group has been historically oppressed, it is "just" to give them an advantage or practice reverse discrimination, even at the risk of damage to people who do not share their superficial quality and even to themselves.

Unfortunately, as I have said over and over, we have no good choices this election. That's happened before, so I'll add, never before have we had such poor choices.

But let me not quick divert from my topic again. On second thought, I have gone on long enough, having started and stopped this post for weeks. It seems, I have somehow taken most a long vacation from this blog.

But, I'm back, baby, I'm back.

About Me

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I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .