Saturday, June 14, 2008

The smearing of Judge Kozinski

Most bias in newspapers is subtle. Now and then some journalist comes of the closet with a piece so biased and distorted as to out himself. One such “journalist” is Scott Glover of the Los Angeles Times. He wrote an article that can best be described as a “hit piece” regarding Judge Alex Kozinski.

Let us get some background here. Kozinski is a strong advocate of the First Amendment. He is a friend to civil liberties. While he was appointed to the federal court by Ronald Reagan, Kozinski is more libertarian than conservative.

Kozinski was the presiding judge at an obscenity trial in Los Angeles. The trial dealt with some very fringe sexual material that most people would find unappealing. The prosecutors in the case know that Kozinski happens to take the First Amendment seriously and that meant they were gunning for him. They argued he should step down due to a conflict of interest claiming he has a “sexually explicit web site with similar material to what is on trial here.”

Let us note that the prosecutor is lying intentionally. Here are the facts as we know them.

Judge Kozinski had a private web site which was not promoted to the public or advertised in any way. The site had some files on it which had some images that included sexuality or nudity but the context was entirely different from what the prosecutor was implying. Most of the material was of a humorous nature. None of it was commercial. None of it even came close to being “similar material to what is on trial here.” The prosecutor does what he was paid to do -- lie through his eye teeth in order to destroy the First Amendment. To access the files you had to have the precise url address.

But what got worse was that Glover at the Los Angeles Times then stoops to smearing Kozinski by distorting beyond recognition the actual material that was on the site. Glover had to know he was twisting facts in order to make Kozinski look at bad as possible. If that were not the case then Glover never actually saw the material in question. Much of the material has made the rounds on the internet for years. It is widely available and unlikely to be classified obscene anywhere.

For instance, Glover says one video showed “a half-dressed man cavorting with a sexually aroused farm animal.” I thought, when I read that, “what the hell is going on here?” It surprised me. I’m sure such material exists but still I doubted that Judge Kozinski would be collecting it. It turns out that Glover’s description is blatantly twisted and distorts the facts beyond recognition.

What I found surprised me. It surprised me because it was a film which I had seen aired on television, and I don’t mean cable. It was on broadcast television because it was funny. Glover carefully tells the truth but in a manner that the truth is no longer recognizable. The farm animal was a donkey. And the donkey was rather excited. The “half-dressed” man wasn’t quite half dressed and the term “half dressed” actually doesn’t say much. Responsible journalists wouldn’t use such a vague term. As for “cavorting” that is a distortion as well.

To “cavort” is to have “lively or boisterous fun”. Well, that wasn’t quite what was going on here. As I remember the video in its entirety this donkey was in a field in a sexually aroused state -- something which can’t be hidden on a donkey. This man climbed over the fence to have his picture taken standing next to the donkey. But the donkey apparently had other ideas in mind and charged at the man.

In the film the man is not “cavorting” with the donkey but actually trying to fend it off. He is pushing it away and trying to deflect its attention. The humor was that he wanted a funny picture of himself and the donkey decided he was the only live option around for some relief. So for a couple of minutes you see this man trying to escape the attention of the donkey. He can’t turn and flee since the donkey was taking that as an invitation. So he keeps turning around and pushing the donkey away.

The man was wearing somewhat loose trousers. As he is fending off the donkey the waistline of his trousers starts falling lower and lower exposing his underwear. The man is now trying to pull up his underwear and fend off the donkey, and flee, all at the same time. That was on television but in the LA Times is it described as a “a half-dressed man cavorting with a sexually aroused farm animal.” (Please note that the video below is the video in question. It is so obscene that Youtube runs it.)

Did Mr. Glover actually see the video which he was reporting on? If he didn’t see it then he had no business reporting what it showed. If he did see it then he twisted the content and context to such a degree that he is guilty of a breach of common journalistic ethics. Either way Mr. Glover has no business pretending to be a journalist on a major newspaper.

Glover says that Kozinski “defended some of the adult content as ‘funny’....” Since Glover did not accurately portray the content in his article he makes Kozkinski look as if he is defending, as humorous, a film depicting bestiality. No such film was on the site. Kozinski’s response that material was funny is accurate. Only Mr. Glover’s false portrayal of the facts made Kozinski look jaded.

Kozkinski said that the material in question was not in a public area of his web site. Individuals had to have the file names to find the pages in question. And he, like everyone else on the net, sent funny images or videos to friends.

Glover then twists in the knife even more by claiming that after the LA Times released its smear story “the judge offered another explanation for how the material might have been posted to the site.” What Glover should have written is that he offered an additional explanation for some material not “another explanation.” Glover implies that Kozinski was lying and trying to come up with a new excuse.

Kozinski offered no excuses. He said that he added videos and images he found amusing to this collection and sometimes sent that material to others. Virtually everyone I know does something similar. Kozinski said that he didn’t remember adding some of the images or films in question. His adult son, Yale, says he also added images to the site. So both the father and the son had access to the site and both periodically added material to the files that were there. That sounds reasonable.

So how does the sleaze merchant Glover describe this: “By Wednesday afternoon, as controversy about the web site spread, Kozinski was seeking to shift responsibility, at least in part, to his adult son, Yale.” Glover is journalistic slime.

Kozinksi says that Yale called and told him that some of the material was uploaded by himself.

Of course Glover then goes bottom crawling by seeking comments from Senator Dianne Feinstein -- a smarmy politician if ever there was one. I never liked her from the day she took over as mayor of San Francisco. She has always had a moralistic streak that would ride roughshod over the Bill of Rights. Feinstein immediately said that: “If this is true, this is unacceptable for a federal court judge.” If what is true?

Notice that Feinstein is stupidly responding to a question put to her by Glover and she is even more stupidly relying on his description of the content. She should have said that she had no comment since she hadn’t seen the material in question. But no Senator wants to look uninformed. Her remarks are then used by Glover to indicate that Kozinski had done something seriously wrong.

But Feinstein is merely responding to Glover’s description and we have already seen that what Glover printed is a gross distortion of facts. He is was so inaccurate in his printed story one can only wonder how much worse his verbal descriptions were.

Another item that Glover wrote of “was a slide show striptease featuring a transsexual”. That is also false. According to various individuals who have seen the slide show it is not that at all. It is a series of photos of women except some of the women are actually men dressed as women. The viewer is asked to decide whether the woman is a biological woman or a man dressed to look like a woman. After they guess the outfit is removed to show the actual gender of the person involved. This is hardly a “strip tease” by any stretch of the imagination. [Update: Since writing this I have seen the slide show in question and Glover's description is utterly false.]

Glover writes: “Among the sexually explicit material on his site that he defended as humorous were two photos. In one, a young man is bent over in a chair and performing fellatio on himself.” What Glover leaves out is the entire context of that photo. By doing so he makes Kozinski look absurd by referring to the photo as humorous.

The photo in question was put into a bogus Mastercard ad featuring the “priceless” slogan that has been the target of satire regularly. The photo is of a young man performing oral sex on himself in front of his computer screen. The text says:

“A Mastercard bill you would not receive.”
Internet connection: $19.99/month
CyberSex Chatroom membership: $9.99/month
Hidden cam your little brother bought $69.99

Your brothers revenge on you for years of torment by posting a ‘private moment’ picture of you on the internet: Priceless!! supports Kozinski. They say that his description of the files as funny and part of life is accurate. They contend that what he had were “the type of ‘viral’ videos and images that are commonly circulated among men of a certain humour by e-mail.” Kozinski said these were photos and films that various people sent him and when he found them amusing he saved them to the private file -- remember this was never a file he made public intentionally.

One has to question what the hell Glover was thinking to write trash like this. Is his output so meager or pathetic that he has to bolster his writing with flagrant, sensationalistic distortions? One can understand why the smarmy prosecutors would want to smear a First Amendment advocate like Kozinski, but why would a journalist want to do this? And we shouldn’t forget how quickly and easily Feinstein stuck her nose into the matter without bothering to find out what the facts were.

The First Amendment is under assault by the Religious Right and the feminist Left. Judge Kozinski is one of those rare justices who stands by the Constitution -- certainly far more so than most. To have him smeared in this sensationalistic manner is shocking. To have the Los Angeles Times acting as the mouthpiece of a federal prosecutor who is trying to gut the Bill of Rights is inexcusable.

Photos: The infamous self-fellatio photo is here but cropped so you can see the text that accompanies it -- text which Glover failed to mention. Another photo from the site is attached as well. This is a Halloween costume and the “child” is a rag doll. Numerous morons on the net are fuming because they are incapable of telling a live child from a doll. The costume is funny and one that I saw distributed widely after it first appeared. Most of the items that Kozinski filed away were of a similar nature. This pretty much shows that the prosecutors were lying. I’m wonder if Glover is sleeping with one of the prosecutors given the quality of his reporting.

PS: I don't want anyone to assume that if Judge Kosinski had clearly pornographic images on his computer that would mean he had violate judicial ethics. Such images are not illegal. The computer was a home computer not a work computer. And somebody should pay attention to the fact that someone bypassed the security on Kosinki's site. It may not have been good security but this was clearly a private file that was accessed without permission. If this had been taken from a file cabinet it would be called breaking and entering. We seem too lose about what people (and police) are allowed to do with computers.

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