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June 17, 2018

Larry J. Kolb learns why 'I don't know' is not only the best but also the correct answer

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I loved his book "Overworld: The Life and Times of a Reluctant Spy."

It's staggeringly good, completely absorbing, and the best part is that it's all true.

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The even better part is that 99% of the story didn't even make it into the book because it's classified: can you imagine what's in that material?

Anyway, the following is from pages 404-405, in which Kolb's crackerjack attorney, Frank Morris, prepares him for testimony in federal court in a case in which the government of India attempted to have him extradited to stand trial there for alleged misdeeds involving an election to determine the Prime Minister.

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"You'll be sworn," Frank went on, "and you'll answer truthfully. But by that I mean truthfully according to the standards of the law, which means pursuant to the rules of evidence." This was the point at which Frank started smiling reassuringly.

"In everyday life," Frank said, "we accept things as true which aren't necessarily true," and just then, Paul Morse, Jr., Frank's blond six-year-old nephew... stuck his head against one of the panes of the closed glass door of the study Frank and I were in and made some faces at us. Frank waved at Paul, I made some faces back at him, and Frank said, "If you were his father, and he asked you if he could eat a chocolate bar that was sitting here on the desk, and you said No, and then you left the room, and when you came back ten minutes later the chocolate wrapper was on the floor, and there was chocolate all over his lips and cheeks, you'd spank his ass. Even if he said he didn't eat the chocolate, you'd spank him. Because, by the standards of everyday life, you'd know he did eat the chocolate. But, according to the standard of the law, you'd only suspect he ate the chocolate, and that is meaningless. For all you'd know, he could've fallen and smashed his mouth on the chocolate bar, knocking the wrapper onto the floor. You weren't a percipient witness to Paul eating the chocolate bar. So, if you were asked in court if Paul ate the chocolate, the only truthful answer you could give would be I don't know."

Damn if Frank wasn't right. And that was a good thing, I was just beginning to realize. I'd testified a few times before under oath, in unrelated matters and under the advice and protection of expensive and what I thought was highly competent counsel. But in light of the new standards of truth, knowledge, beauty, and human frailty Frank was imparting to me now, it was quickly coming clear to me that my previous counsel had let me ramble and speculate shamelessly about things I didn't actually know.

"For example," Frank said to me now, "if you were asked, 'Why did Adnan Khashoggi ask you to help him with this matter?', your answer would be 'I don't know.' Because you don't know. Most of us have enough trouble figuring out why we do things ourselves. There's no way we're competent to know why anybody else does anything. While testifying, don't ever let yourself be tricked into speculating about someone else's state of mind.

"If you happened to be asked, 'Why did Mr. Gandhi go to the restaurant?', your answer could not be 'Because he was hungry' or 'To eat.' Your only truthful answer would be, 'I don't know.' Because, even if Rajiv told you he was hungry, that's just hearsay, and you don't know what went on in his mind that made him go into the restaurant. But, if you were asked, 'Did Mr. Gandhi eat in the restaurant?,' ands you were in the restaurant when he was, and you saw him eat there, your answer would be?"

Finally a part for me. I said, "My answer would be 'Yes.'"

"Correct," said Frank. "Your answer would be 'Yes' and it would not be 'Yes, I saw him eating apple pie in the restaurant.' Because they didn't ask that, and it's not up to you to volunteer anything."

"So, do you understand? Don't speculate about events to which you were not a percipient witness. Don't speculate about another person's state of mind. Don't volunteer anything. Don't ramble. Answer the questions, and only the questions, truthfully. And the only truthful answer you can give to a lot more questions than it might first seem is 'I don't know.'"

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The above is as perfect a summary of how to conduct yourself in court as you will ever encounter.

I might note, however, that answering "I don't know" over and over again results in all manner of head-shaking and doubtful expressions on the part of the examining attorney, so much so that you're tempted to try to make yourself look better in her or his eyes by offering more than the above-styled truth.

Oftimes there will be derisory, sarcastic remarks such as "You don't know much, do you?"

Don't take the bait.

Because those looks don't translate to paper and those remarks make the questioning attorney look small when read in context.

Trust me — in the deposition transcript "I don't know" makes perfect sense and is completely appropriate in the context of the ongoing questioning.

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One last comment about "Overworld."

The cast of characters is larger than life: Muhammad Ali, Adnan Khashoggi, Presidents Bush 41 and 43, Ronald Reagan, Daniel Ortega, Dan Jenkins, Miles Copeland, William J. Casey, Jan Stephenson (Kolb's first wife), J. Edgar Hoover, Bill Talbert, King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, Ben Crenshaw, Rajiv Gandhi, Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, Swamiji aka Chandraswami, V.P. Singh, boldface names on and on.

Eye-opening, jaw-droppingly amazing tales of life in a world you and I will most likely never visit.

Just as well — me, I'm fine just reading about it.

I can't speak for you.

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But your attorney could.

June 17, 2018 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

What is it?

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Answer here this time tomorrow.

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Hint: not made in the U.S.A.

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Another: edible.

June 17, 2018 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

bookofjoe's Favorite Thing: Bungee Cords

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Buy these, put them in your trunk*, and forget about them until one day, while you're on the road, something unexpected happens that threatens to mess up your trip.

As you dig through your trunk, you find these, all dusty back in the corner.

All of a sudden, a solution for your problem occurs to you and Bob's** your uncle.

From websites:

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• Ease of use — reverse hook design provides more room for fastening adjustable bungee; rounded hook end helps prevent scratching

• Durable design — two wire hooks offers more strength than traditional bungees

• Assortment of 24 infinitely adjustable cords with lengths ranging from 6" to 40"

40" x 2

32" x 2

24" x 4

18" x 6

10" x 6

6" x 4

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$24.62.

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*If you keep them in your trunk, you'll have them for around your home; if you keep them in your home, you won't have them in your car.

**OK, you can call me Joe if you like (just don't call me late for dinner).

 

June 17, 2018 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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