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Eureka: An air-conditioner side chat on legal affairs Eureka: An air-conditioner side chat on legal affairs
by Akli Hadid
2018-07-07 05:17:39
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Why would Ameriacans have more people behind bars and busier legal systems than most of the rest of the world? I can only speak from personal experience. If you have more people behind bars, there's a combination of two factors: one, there is more legal enforcement. Two, there are fewer law-abiding citizens. But are citizens, say in Europe or Asia, really more law-abiding than in the United Sates?

The American legal machine has clearly defined procedures and a workforce who is happy to show up to work and get some work done. What I've observed from experience is that it tends not to be the case in many countries. I've travelled the world and seen the police and legal profession in Europe, East Asia, North Africa or Latin America for that matter not wanting to be bothered during their constant chats with colleagues or excessive online activities that have little to do with work. I remember a case in East Asia where a friend of mine got assaulted at her school and we just had to call the police. Her school made sure they did not call the police and school authorities substituted for the legal system. Why? one might ask. Well you see, in East Asia, if you bother the police, next thing you know they will investigate the school and investigate the vicitm and a few months down the road the school or victim could get in legal trouble. Same goes for me. I was repeatedly assaulted at one of my jobs and did not call the police. Why? First of all because next thing you know the police would start investigating me and my records and I'd end up in legal trouble one way or the other. Then my employer would be investigated for other stuff he did, then next thing you know my employer would have settled things like the the wild west, either with a dual or with a group of thugs beating me to torture. So letting go was the way to go.

legal01_400Why the high murder rate in the United States? Europe has universal healthcare and no stigma with psychiatric care, prozac is free and adminitered at will in Europe. Furthermore most drug addicts have welfare checks that provide for their drugs, be it crack cocaine, heroin or “softer” drugs. This means Europeans do not have to rely on loans from gangs to get their fix of drugs, and do not need to settle things with guns to get their fix of cocaine or heroin. Welfare checks also means you don't need to hit the streets and deal heroin or weed. Universal healthcare in Europe means free medication tends to soothe your impulses to commit violent crimes. When violent crime does take place in Europe, again the police don't like to be bothered. As the French police likes to say “s'il n'y a pas mort d'homme” (meaning roughly “let's not make a fuss since no one has died from this case”) and you can get away with a slap on the wrist for violent crimes in most European nations as the police won't want to bother with legal procedures and again as the French say “you put a foot in that lawyer's office, that's 1,000 Euros out of your pocket.”

Same goes for East Asia or the Middle East and Africa where a lot of the justice is what I like to call “tribal justice.” That is if you commit a crime, rather than face a judge, you will face the victim and their friends and family and will have to negotiate a settlement, usually some form of financial settlement. In East Asia trials rarely last more than 20 minutes, and again the judge does not want to be disturbed by the legal case. As for homicide, violent weapons are hard to come by in East Asia, but surprisingly, even in homicide cases, tribal justice tends to take place. If the victim is a partner, spouse or parents heavy prison sentences are imposed, but if the victim is partly to blame for the homicide (such as financial or legal problems with the perpetrator) then significantly more lenient sentences tend to be imposed, and in some cases the case is just settled with blood money. If debt was involved, debt toward to perpatrator can count as blood money and be deducted from the total amount.

In this air-conditioner side chat on legal affairs, I will briefly speak from personal experience exclusively on legal cases around the world involving contentious cases such as rape, abortion, gay marriage, gerrymandering, the death penalty, legal philosophy and reasoning and finally ask whether there is such a thing as social justice.

Rape

There are essentially two types of rape cases: true allegations and false allegations. True allegations involves rape cases where emotional or physical abuse was used against the victim. False allegations are cases where the alleged victim consents to the sexual encounter, but then, fearing retribution from friends, a spouse, or more often, her parents or family, will claim that the sexual encounter was rape. False allegations are fairly common in cases of sexual encounters resulting in pregnancies, or in cases where friends, family members find out that the alleged victim had a sexual encounter, or in cases of adultery where the spouse will claim that his her extra marital sexual encouter was the result of rape. For the anecdote, this is why it is almost proverbial that when a spouse is caught cheating, he or she almost always starts with “let me explain.”

For the rest, let me discuss a few vague potential case studies involving rape, both true allegations and alleged allegations. One case is that of the high school senior or college freshman, often a wowan, who visit a male friend's house. In society, 18 year olds often go to a man's house, watch a couple of Netflix series, bond over chips and soda, and get picked up by their parents. Such women are often naive, when suddenly they will go to a playdate, or perhaps even a date, expect to watch Netflix, and the man will suddenly start pushing forward for sex. Despite repeated resistence from the woman, the encounter will eventually take place. But in some cases, the woman does not resist, or even initiates the sexual encouter. Such cases are often cases where the girl will tell her parents that she will sleep over at a female friend's house, goes to the male friend's house, and through gossip and hearsay eventually the parents find out that she was in fact at the male friend's house. The girl, fearing a spoiled reputation, will sometimes allege that rape took place, often to shift the angry parent's from their incessant nagging.

The above case is difficult for judges to decide whether rape did take place or not, and unfortunately, in a lot of the world's legal systems, the person with the most money wins. If the presecution has more money, they can dig up the defense's past, conduct psychological profiles of the defendant and will end up finding something in the investigation leading to acquittal. If the defense has more money or the lawyers have more experience, they might lead the investigation in a direction where the victim was in fact guilty. The judge can also play a role. If the judge is young and comes from a sexually conservative background, he or she may not understand some of the graphic details which can influence the decision. Same goes for the jury in jury systems. If the alleged rape took place in a conservative neighborhood, or in a more sexually liberal neighborhood, that could influence the jury's decision.

Here's another two other case studies. In one case study a female worker has a sexual encouter with her boss. In one scenario, there was a convention at a hotel where the boss forced himself sexually on the female worker at the hotel room. In the other scenario, the female worker had an affair with the boss, was at a convention in the hotel, went to the boss's hotel room, had sex, and then colleagues saw her come out of the hotel room with her hair a little messed up, and she claims it was rape.

Another case study is one where a maarried woman has a male friend who invites her home for dinner  and the man forces himself on the married woman sexually. In the other scenraio the woman is having an affair with the male friend, the husband finds out that she has stop-overs at the man's house, and she claims it was rape.

Another final case study is one involving alcohol or substances. In such cases, they often involve women, or men, who drink until they pass out, only to wake up in bed with another person. This case is complicated. Some women don't recall drinking heavily and know they would never do such a thing a suspect they have been drugged. Other women tend to drink heavily but would never do such a thing a suspect they have been drugged. Other women don't suspect they have been drugged, recall they drank very heavily, but don't recall consenting to having casual sex with another man. In some cases the partner is a good friend, in other cases the partner is someone who the person went on a date with, but got so drunk on her first date and ended up in bed with him, when the woman would never sleep with a man on the first date. The only way to solve these cases would be to create some kind of smartphone app that would record men and women's actions in one way or another, especially when going on casual dates or casual drinking parties.

What makes rape cases more difficult is that it's diffcult to define what emotional or physical abuse is. If you've ever been sexually active, you know that a lot of women start off by saying “no” or “not now, later” or “I'm tired” or “let's not do this” and eventually if you insist a little bit the sexual encouter happens. In some cases the man can force himself violently, in other cases the man can be very soft and tender and yet the woman will consent but be completely “absent” during the sexual encouter, while in other cases the encouter can start slow but end up being passionate, while in some cases the man uses a little bit of force but the encouter ends up being very passionate. So in the age of #metoo, how do you define rape or sexual harassment?

A couple of words on sexual harassment. If you go to France, friends of the opposite sex tend to hug passionately and give passionate kisses on both cheeks if they're very close friends, in some cases might even kiss passionately despite they only being casual friends. The French, along with many others, are also famous for getting out of the shower naked and not bothering to put a towel on. If you ever watched Big Brother or The Real World other any other reality TV show you will see a lot of episodes which to me would ressemble sexual harassment or even sexual assault. I mean guy gets out of the shower naked, starts touching a woman he's not dating and making sexually suggestive comments, the woman does not seem to resist, nor did the press make a big deal out of such episodes. So should the new trend be one where, like in many companies or organizations, the rule is “no touching.” As I'll argue with abortion, #metoo and sexual harassment has become the issue of the politicians and feminists doing the talking rather than a big picture issue where society comes together and says let's have an honest conversation. Feminism is an ideology to a certain extent, on full of paradoxes.

Feminism was at the forefront of sexual liberation and the right to abortion, and is now at the forefront of a very rigid definition of sexual consent. Now it doesn't bother me, because for me the rule has been “no touching” for a very long time. Ever since I went to Korea where it is unusual to touch anyone and where casual conversation about sex is not the norm, I don't believe I have touched anyone or discussed sex with anyone but my ex-girlfriend. But for those who spent the last 10 or 15 years in France, the United States, the UK, Europe or anywhere touching, long hours drinking over very explicit sex-related conversation with friends of both sexes, and casual sex is common, getting used to the new definitions of consent might take time getting used to. 

Abortion

When asked about when will there be a woman president of France or the United States, I often explain that when France or the United States will have its equivalent of Margaret Thatcher, Golda Meir, Simone Veil or Hannah Arendt, there will be no problem and a woman will be president. That is a woman who knows lots and lots of stuff, who has absolutely no complex of inferiority around men, and who is so discreet about her womanhood that you know you're dealing with a politician first, and a woman second. Of course Hannah Arendt was not a politician, but if she had ran in any election she would have my vote.

The reason I mention this is specifically Simone Veil, the French Minister of Health in the 1970s, is in many ways the symbol of the legalization of abortion, and her arguments were so convincing that she single-handedly convinced the rest of the world that the legalization of abortion was the right thing to do and that any country that did not legalize abortion was on the wrong side of history, although Roe vs. Wade in the US came first. Her arguments were so intellectual, so complete, and despite being in a government of men and a National Assembly of men, her intellect put the fact she was a woman in the background, and eventually abortion laws took the turn they have taken since the 1970s.

Now things were a little different in the 1970s than they were today. There used to be at least one parent staying at home in the 1970s, making casual sex complicated. Parents tended not to work during weekends, and working 68 hour workweeks was not common, and when people did work long hours, there was always a mother, in some cases a grandmother and several aunts at home. Families tended to be tight-knit, social views on sex and unwanted pregnancies were very different, and back then a date meant going for a milk shake and a BLT sandwich. Television did not have erotic or pornographic movies, cinema was heavily censored and nudity was very frowned upon, and to most people the concept of group sex was not even in the dimension of thought.

My views on this is that today society is very different. Both parents tend to work, teenagers and young adults tend to have the house to themselves, everyone knows that group sex exists, and a date involves some kind of drinking and a stop at the motel. So while abortion rates may not be significantly higher than they were in the 1970s (there has always existed a problem of unwanted pregnancies) in today's day and age the climate is different. Very few parents would nag, scold or ground their children for getting pregnant, there's a wide social network of organizations that help single mothers, daycare facilities are more common than in the 1970s, and giving up children for adoption is a lot easier today than it was in 1975 or in 1973, feminist groups are no longer isolated groups of women at the margins of a male-dominated political class, and single mothers with children are no longer something that people marvel at the way they marveled at Mary Tyler Moore for being an independent working woman. So given all these social changes, abortion laws need to be more specific and reflect the realities of the day.

Affirmative action

I'm opposed to affirmative action. Not because I'm racist. I'm opposed to discrimination, and spent 10 years fighting hard for discrimination laws to be abolished in some countries and companies. In some countries and companies, you can only be hired if, say, you're American, or Britsh or whatever. Now imagine the Chinese kid who went to an American school, hung out with Americans his entire life and can write English better than Dickens or Dan Brown. Or the Zimbabwean kid who speaks 20 languages and has no problem performing any task. Why would you only be allowed to hire Americans? Why can't you give that Zimbabwean kid a chance?

On the other hand, Affirmative action is about hiring minorities or accepting minorities at universities. The problem with companies, and I've worked at several, is that hiring is not the problem. Hiring is easy. Hiring an African American or a French Muslim or a woman is easy. The problem is keeping those people. You can't tell a company they need to hire 7% disabled people or 10% African Americans, because one of two things will happen. Large companies will hire their 7% disabled quota or their 10% African American or Hispanic American quota, will sit them at a desk behind the pillar and the decorative tree seedling where no one can see them, will punch the clock in the morning, and will stare at the walls until it's time for them to go, and this five days a week. That can be very defeating emotionally. Or you can have large companies hire their 7% disabled people and 10% minorities, and if those underperform on the job, fire them and hire another 7% and 10%, and the vicious cycle goes on. So statistically, minority and disabled unemployment will go down, but in terms of turnover rate and job retention, the figures will be dismal.

So my advice for minorities is the same advice to anyone else. Build a resume, build a portfolio. Network, engage in professional development, work on your skills, be competent.

Does racism exist? Of course it does. I've sent resumes around the world, with a name like that, I've had a few laughable responses such as “we don't hire foreigners” and “we don't hire immigrants” and “I think you lack experience” when you all know the experience I have. But the idea would be to have a legislation that does not place restrictions on hiring, because only idiots would not want to work with a Zimbabwean who speaks 20 highly demanded languages.

Election of public defenders

A quick note on the election of public defenders in Florida. In Florida, public defenders, that is those lawyers who defend clients who can't afford lawyers or don't want to hire one, are elected publicly. The very brilliant Alan Dershowitz has a problem with that, and said in one of his lectures that, and I'm paraphrasing, public defenders are those people who fight hard to keep criminals out of serving jail time. While a majority of people who face trial are indeed criminals, two things. First, in the United States everyone has the right to a fair trial, so it's not ridiculous that public defenders get elected. Second, there's always a chance that the defendant be innocent, or it's always a good thing that a good publiclty elected defender argue a case to get sentences proportional to the crime that has been committed. As I argued in the case for rape, defenders can make or break rape cases.

Gay marriage

To me there's nothing wrong with a man marrying another man or a woman marrying another woman. To me it's not even a matter of civil union, it's a matter of marriage. Sexuality is a complicated thing. Some people are straight, others are bisexual, others are homosexual, others are transgender and some don't really fit any of the categories. So to me it wouldn't be fair to tell someone that they can marry a person of the opposite sex but not a person of the same sex, and there are same sex partners desperate to get married, so why shouldn't they be.

But then, in sociology, if you ask illegal immigrants if it's easy to marry a person of the opposite sex just for the Green Card, a lot of women will say yes, a lot of men will say no. That is if you're an immigrant woman in America, or in France for that matter, you can walk into any bar and chat up the patrons and soon enough you will find some guy willing to marry you, in some cases free of charge, in exchange for a Green Card. Now for men trying to do that with women it's a little more complicated. You can't be an immigrant man, just walk into a bar and chat up the patrons and ask a woman to marry you because you need a Green Card. Women don't do that in most cases.

Now in terms of illegal immigrants or immigrants it's not just blue collar undocumented migrants. You have a lot of businessmen, high tech guys, and mostly students. With gay marriage, you can marry your college buddy for a Green Card and no one would really know. Or if you're a woman who does business, you can marry one of your female employees for a Green Card and she'll understand.

It's not just immigrants. Married couples who do business together or run non-for-profits together get tax breaks and other advantages, so you might as well ditch the wife and marry your business partner. Again sociologically it's a lot more common for two men to be partners in business than for a man to partner in business with a woman.

So what do you make of this mess? Do you only marry those of the same gender who insist they really need to get married? Or do you make them prove that they are in a serious relationship? To me, gay marriage has had the same social evolution as abortion. Gay marriage was allowed at a time when being gay was an insult and if you were gay you were disowned by your family in many cases. Gay marriage did a great deal to help being gay become a fact of life. A lot of gay organizations were using gay marriage to fight for the right to be gay itself. Now that being gay is a fact of life and that fewer families would disown their gay children, that cold showers are no longer recommend as cures against the gay “disease” it's about time marriage goes back to what it used to be, an institution for a man and a woman to build a family and have biological children.

Gerrymandering

The problem with gerrymandering is that it's inevitable in some ways. Cities grow, evolve. The City of Rishon Letzion in Israel was a village of 100 people a undred or so years ago, and is a city of 250,000 or so today. Israel is considered a single constituency so the problem of gerrymandering does not really pose itself, but in Europe or North America, cities evolve, population grows or declines, the adult population keeps shifting, population moves from one district to another, college towns have more college kids, bigger cities have more single men and women, mid-sized towns have larger families, the children of larger families move out to college towns when they reach adulthood, some neighborhoods spring up while others become ghost towns.

The problem is who does the gerrymandering? Of course politicians do it, and of course they take elections into consideration. Now in the 2010s populations shifts have been tremendous. College populations have exploded, people are seeking jobs anywhere they can find them, people are no longer attached to their hometown like they used to be. The idea is what criteria do you use in gerrymandering? Do you use population criteria, housing criteria, economic criteria, business criteria? All those have polical and partisan elements.

Again it's the politicians doing the talk who frame the debate. Democrats are accusing Republicans of using gerrymandering to their advantage and vice-versa. The problem is political culture is also shifting. You have Obama Democrats who are Trump Republicans. You have Ron Paul Republicans who are Bernie Sanders Democrats. In the end, voting is not an exact science. There is really no such thing as a Blue District and a Red District. There's a good election campaign and a bad election campaign.

The death penalty

In most states and most countries where the death penalty is legal, the death penalty tends to be, and increasingly so, only for the crime of murder, save Singapore and a few other exceptions. I'm not going to discuss Singapore's high profile death penalty cases here, all I can say is in many of Singapore's high profile death penalty cases involving drug trafficking or accidental murder I was opposed to the death penalty.

In most Americaan states, you need murder plus another offense along with murder to be considered for the death penalty. So it has to be rape and murder. Or burglary and murder. Or theft and murder. This is the case in most states.

Some people are opposed to the death penalty and I understand their position. But having dealt with Neo-Nazis, Skinheads and other dubious groups while doing research, all I can say is when you deal with that category of human beings, when you're surrounded with those poisonous snakes, you have to do two things. First you have to restore your faith in humanity and look at the majority of human beings who are decent. Second, for some crimes that involve murder and where there's no doubt that the person committed the murder, the death penalty can be necessary, as life in prison is only taxpayer money feeding and housing that category of people.

Conclusion: Is there such a thing as social justice? 

If you read carefully what I just wrote, you might wonder if there's such a thing as social justice. You might think we're all very lucky to escape the judicial machine and that anyone could be trapped by the system. Not everyone expresses themselves as clearly as I do and not everyone has a a long memory or the ability to defend themselves against crimes they did not commit, while some get away with crimes they commit.

To sum up the justice system, I remember being a 16 year-old and meeting famous French actor Pierre Arditi in Istanbul, Turkey. He gave a talk in front of an audience and said “la nourriture de l'acteur, c'est soi-même” which roughly translates to “the inspiration of an actor is his own life.” That is the inspiration of a lawyer, a judge, a prosecuter, a defender, the accused, the defendant, are their own life stories and narratives. If they can't really make sense of a case, there will always be blind spots, ambiguities, approximations, trial and error. So the best way to avoid dealing with the justice system is to have fun but to be good. If you have the wrong kind of fun, sooner or later you could end up dealing with the justice system. Does the arc of history bend toward justice? I'm sure an Iraqi or a Syrian would disagree with that one. But when someone fights for justice, I always tell them to go for it!


     
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