Help needed here and there

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From the Publisher/Arnold G. York

They need our help

It looks like we’re finally going to see a break in the weather and we can only hope that life will actually get back to normal. Despite what the Los Angeles Times said in a recent story, many of us were not delighted to have Malibu closed off to the world. One two-hour drive to LAX via Kanan Dume Road to the 101 to the 405 in bumper-to-bumper traffic was enough to dissipate for me, any romantic illusions about the good old days.

The next few weeks are going to be tough because sometimes the slides don’t begin until the hills start to dry out. We might very well see more slides and road closures.

There were lots of people who got hurt in this storm. The people who have stores and businesses here were virtually closed down for a week or two. Many of the people who work here and live outside were without a paycheck for a period. And if you’re living from paycheck to paycheck, that’s a disaster. There is something we can do. We can all concentrate on shopping and eating and using services in Malibu for a while. If you have a choice, buy locally. If we don’t support our local small businesses, and that’s almost every business in Malibu, we’re going to see more business closures like Malibu Lumber to be replaced by little chic frou frou shops that get $200 for a fancy T-shirt. I know that the prices here are not as good as at Costco, but we need to keep our businesses and services healthy. We can’t go to the local businesses to ask for support whenever there is a charity event and then shop in Los Angeles because it may be cheaper.

There is no way around it. It is expensive to have a business in Malibu. You don’t have the large volume of business you would get in Los Angeles. Commercial space is scarcer and rents are higher, and it’s harder to get help to come here to work. They need our support. Besides, who wants to drive into town or over the hill if you can avoid it. Life is too short.

Watching a trial

They ought to issue a manual on how to watch a trial on TV. Most of us don’t really watch a trial. What we watch is excerpts from a trial as presented in clips with a reporter standing in front of a courthouse, intoning about how it went that day and what it all meant. The truth is they report it as if it were a sporting event. And most of the reporters, except for who some very seasoned print reporters who cover trials regularly, haven’t the remotest idea what’s going on and what it means. I’ve sat through enough trials at the counsel table to be able to say that a trial is not a sprint; it’s a distance race, and the Jackson one is a probably going to be a marathon.

It helps to remember some basics. Michael Jackson was there. The kid, or kids, was there. Maybe an adult was there, but typically not at the critical time. Unless there is some kind of physical evidence like film, recording, clothing with sperm, it’s pretty much a circumstantial case. This gets even murkier because there is ample motive for everyone to lie. The defendant lies to try and save himself. The witnesses lie because there is a great big fat financial carrot out there if he’s convicted. And frequently in a case as big as this, pretty much all of the teams-both prosecution and defense, private investigators and police officers, private experts and police labs and scientists-will lie though their teeth. The judge will slap a gag order on everything and it won’t work because one side or the other leaks it out somehow, because they can’t afford not to. Any trial that involves a rich county with an ambitious district attorney and a rich defendant with lots of show business friends is guaranteed to be a circus. Compound that with what looks apparent that Michael Jackson is sort of a Peter Pan, a boy in a grown-up’s body, with about as much sense as a plant (and at best someone who is only lightly tethered to this planet), you have all the ingredients for a big court spectacular.

Despite my cynicism, I do believe that juries are rational and take their roles very seriously and try very hard. Watch for some major fights about the evidence. There will most certainly be some early polices tapes of the victim or the parent that will miraculously be lost. There will be some major fights over the disclosure of previous payoffs to parents of other children. There will be a time when you will ask yourself how any parent could allow their child to sleep over unsupervised in the situation that’s going to be described. There are going to be times you’ll wonder if Michael Jackson is really a person, or is he some transsexual, transracial will of the wisp.

Whatever, it’s going to be fascinating and guaranteed to produce a few surprises.

PS. Watch for Bernie Ebbers, former CEO of WorldCom to invoke the dumb CEO defense, which essential says, “I didn’t know anything about anything.” Or perhaps he’ll go for the Caine Mutiny defense, which goes, “I was surrounded by disloyal subordinate.”

If either of them works, look for Kenneth Lay of Enron to use a few of the defenses from the same playbook.

See you in court!