Monthly Archives: August 2012

Civilian Review Boards

Maybe we should be concerned right off the bat by transplanting military terminology (“civilians”?) into domestic police work, but of course that’s not the point.

The point is, such boards invariably turn out to be a joke, as subject to regulatory capture and the same incestuous and insidious corruption as most everything else.

When problems become as “systemic” as police misconduct apparently has, the solution, really, is independent lawyers and lawsuits; but the financial incentives have to be there for that to work.  And they just aren’t.

It’s the same problem posed by the “financial” crisis, just a different context.

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Taibbi’s Latest

And it’s absolutely brilliant.  A thorough take-down of Mitt Romney, who is – incredibly – even more hollow and morally degenerate than Obama.

Being a sociopath isn’t an incidental characteristic of the worst presidential candidates at this point; it is a fundamental qualification for the job.  The idea that electing one or the other reprobate to the office will make any difference at all – other than perhaps affecting our rate of descent into the abyss – it too laughable to indulge.  But to the extent that constitutes a meaningful distinction, Romney is clearly worse because he is more capable of active financial rape, pillage and cannibalism.

And if that insight is at all valuable then Matt Taibbi has done us all a great service.

A little sample:

In the Eighties, when Romney and Bain were cutting their teeth in the LBO business, the primary magic trick involved the junk bonds pioneered by convicted felon Mike Milken, which allowed firms like Bain to find easy financing for takeovers by using wildly overpriced distressed corporate bonds as collateral… For the first time, the ability to make deals became more valuable than the ability to make stuff, and the ability to instantly engineer billions in illusory financing trumped the comparatively slow process of making and selling products for gradual returns.

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/greed-and-debt-the-true-story-of-mitt-romney-and-bain-capital-20120829#ixzz252aUdV4r

 

As tragic as it might be to continue with a robustly corrupt yet largely feckless and lethargic Obama administration, to elect Romney would be ratifying the ugliest and most amoral and predatory behavior that human beings are capable of.  It is a small step from a culture that produces an unblinking Romney to a culture that engages in murderous atrocities without blinking either.

Thus far we at least blink.  It isn’t much, but I hate to see that simple moral reflex fall by the wayside as well.

 

 

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Confirmation – More Than $33B In Arms Sales To Saudi Arabia (Updated)

… in 2011.  Saudi Arabia is the major consideration underlying the ongoing Iran “crisis” – not, as is so often speculated, Israel.

Note from the linked article how utterly disproportionate the arms sales to S.A. were as compared to the rest of the “gulf” nations.

We just discussed this subject here.

Israeli rhetoric and bellicosity are misdirection.  It is Saudi Arabia whose existence is increasingly threatened, not from Israel (of course) but from Iran.

Update:  I’m not the only one who’s thinking that Israeli strike threats are a bluff.

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Shameless Bribery Resumes

After a brief hiatus for appearance’s sake.

If the voters put up with this they deserve what they get.

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Iran

For the thousandth time in the last 30 years, we are on the brink of “war” with Iran and must now mark the occasion with appropriate seriousness by trotting out that beltway military sage, Anthony Cordesman.

Has anyone noticed that this or that Iran flap has occurred on a cyclical basis for as long as anyone can remember?  The “nightmare scenario” of a nuclear Iran with missile capability, Mr. Krauthammer?

Ever hear of North Korea?  The government of Iran is a model of openness, stability and sanity by comparison, yet life on earth has not ceased because of  nuclear North Korea.

Fair interpretation:  all the serial sabre rattling over Iran is just so much bluster to keep everyone whipped up and dollars flowing to the Pentagon.  After all, war is a racket.

Moreover, whatever you might think about Israel and their occasionally bellicose government pronouncements, they are neither stupid nor crazy.  Thus an Israeli pre-emptive strike against Iran is not possible – except in theory.  Not to mention that the country that most wants to see big changes in Iran is not Israel, but Saudi Arabia.  Israel might oblige Saudi Arabia rhetorically, but they’re not going to play dog to Saudi Arabia’s tail.

Granted, the US might blunder into something just God-awful due to sheer armed hyper-activity coupled with abundant opportunities for miscalculation.  But cutting against this is a track record of 30 years of empty posturing, a track record demonstrating phony brinksmanship and fakery and little else.

In sum, the whole subject has become wearisome.  Kind of like bankster corruption:  a lot of words flow, a lot of money changes hands and/or disappears, but in the end nobody does anything because it’s too hard.

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Obstinate Denial

When it comes to correcting wrongful convictions, it is not just a predilection or unthinking habit of prosecutors and state AG’s offices; it’s deliberate, official policy:

Prosecutors have long been frustrated by the seemingly endless appeals from inmates claiming innocence, many of whom were convicted on solid evidence. Robert Weisberg, a professor at Stanford Law School, said the attorney general appears to be trying to prevent an onslaught of legal claims by prisoners who have tenuous arguments. States want to make it nearly impossible for inmates to reopen their cases in federal court, which force prosecutors to retry cases in which they have already won convictions, he said.

“What they’re saying is, this guy had his chances. At a certain point the music has to stop, and a case just has to be closed,” Weisberg said. “We’re afraid that lots of people who were not unjustly convicted are going to be encouraged to frame their case as the injustice of the century.”
((

Emphasis supplied.

Leaving aside the problem that a wrongful conviction can hardly be termed a “win” for anyone by any sane person, it would nevertheless be fair to say that Mr. Weisberg should be gratified that state AG’s have largely succeeded in making it “nearly impossible” to obtain relief, whether the imprisoned party is innocent or not – a consideration Mr. Weisberg is specifically saying is irrelevant to the larger and more important issue of……prosecutor frustration.

Prosecutor “frustration” at having their errors corrected hardly seems sufficient justification for – well, not correcting them.  But it seems that there are no arguments so morally impoverished that some of the nation’s public officials won’t make them.  Lamentably, some of these public officials are actually lawyers, given the power to prosecute and imprison people.  Or keep them imprisoned.

To weigh the specter of an innocent person rotting away in prison or experiencing the lifelong “collateral consequences” of a wrongful conviction against “prosecutor frustration” and come down firmly on the side of the latter bespeaks a pathology that defies description.  The degree of solipsistic self-importance required dwarfs what might be found in people who could remotely be described as normal.  I suppose it is possible that if you coddle and reward and favor and, as with unruly children, spoil otherwise normal human beings no matter what they do – as the system does with prosecutors – to the maximum possible degree over a long enough period of time you might wind up cultivating a pathology of this magnitude.  But it seems as though this would require a concerted and unlikely effort by the nation’s judges.  And you might have to throw in a few overblown academics like Prof. Weisberg.

Only then, it seems to me, could you possibly arrive at the current nadir, a “justice”  system characterized by the abuse of power rather than the rule of law.

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Insightful

The relationship between the media and the “establishment” is often far too cozy, as the flap over Julian Assange continues to demonstrate.

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Casey Anthony Probation Ends

Taking the larger view, she really should leave the country.

She was acquitted, but the prosecution itself was and is ruinous, and the damage is irremediable.  The acquittal, a remarkable and supremely difficult feat by her lawyer, cannot hope to undo what the oh-so-easy-to-bring charges did the moment they were filed.

How disingenuous:  there is little doubt that the same people who would have reveled in a guilty verdict as personal vindication will put absolutely no stock in an acquittal.  It just makes them mad.

And for that reason, among others, time is more or less confirming what I pointed out more than a year ago, before the acquittal:  there’s really no “winning” a case like Casey Anthony’s.

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MF Global/Corzine Prompts Lawyer Strike

But this is of a slightly different kind.

The guy’s name is James Karger and he is, or was, a lawyer.  But he has retreated to the desert hills of Mexico, apparently, and views relevant events from afar, albeit with a level of disgust that suggests he is not all that detached, yet.

Lawyers like James Karger are important, inasmuch as they see through the mountain of insane bullshit to get to the simple issue:  if the feds, or some other government, isn’t going to prosecute or even investigate Jon Corzine over the MF Global spectacle, where do they get off investigating or prosecuting anyone?

I mean, let’s be clear about this.  They’re still prosecuting lots of people.  I am personally aware of prosecutions for “food stamp fraud”, “medicaid fraud”, and so on.  And one in particular is such a lousy prosecution it’s astonishing they’re even doing it.

Some lawyers are coming to the conclusion that it’s time to surrender and stop fighting.  But as Louis XV supposedly and famously remarked:  apres moi le deluge

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Pottawattamie

We’ve discussed that case a lot around here, such as in this post.  And this.  And this.  And this.

But all that commentary was on the apparent and public and ostensible legal aspects of that case.  There is another interesting question lurking behind Pottawattamie.  Not to be too cryptic or conspiratorial about it but, you know, not everything that goes on about a case appears in the published opinions.  There are parties to a case, for example.  They pursue this strategy or that.  Sometimes the parties are what I call “institutional”, meaning they are not a real person but some organization or other:  the government, an insurance company, a bank.

The parties often don’t disclose to anyone why they’re doing what they’re doing.  They do not make their strategy sessions open to the public, nor should they.

In Pottawattamie you had the classic case of the downtrodden, individual litigants versus the institutions.  The institutional litigants argued their execrable position (that police and prosecutor use of perjury and fabricated evidence to charge someone with a crime violated no one’s rights) all the way from the federal district court, to the federal court of appeals, and finally in the Supreme Court itself (pdf).

But then, after the oral argument at the SCOTUS, they bought off the poor saps on the other side for a paltry $12 million.  Which is not a lot of money in the grand scheme of things, but it is a lot of money for the powerful to fork over to the powerless.  At least nowadays. The poor and the powerless are regarded by their betters as little more than annoyances and punching bags.

So there is generally no need, and certainly no inclination, to pay out to untouchables like convicted criminals.  But for reasons of their own, the institutional litigants in Pottawattamie found that this occasion was the exception.   Obviously, the decision was driven to some extent by the fear of losing the case in the SCOTUS, but it causes one to wonder:  it’s evidently important enough to them to fork over $12 million, but who actually decides that?  Who is the “them”?  An insurance company?  The organization of prosecutors?  Some other part of the local, state or national government?

What sort of discussions took place before that offer was made?

I would like to have been a fly on the wall in one of those offices.  I would like to know who – and what – I am up against.  Although I suspect I might know, at least in the larger sense.

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Abdication (cont’d.)

So, there’s this (h/t Greenfield).

How’s this for an inadvertently revealing quote from Kathleen Rice‘s screed:

The evidence Schechter uses to support his sweeping indictment of an entire profession is a single case involving one prosecutor.

 

While Schechter, of course, may have made a “sweeping indictment” it was not directed at “…an entire profession”.  It was directed at prosecutors who, last time I checked, were only part of the legal profession.

Apparently prosecutors do not – in their heart of hearts, as the saying goes – consider their opposing counsel part of the same profession.  And since judges are drawn chiefly from the ranks of prosecutors, it’s a fair inference that they feel the same way.

This certainly would explain a lot of things.

If defense lawyers are to be relegated to some lesser status by prosecutors and judges, I would make two observations:  first, since prosecutors and judges  have vastly more raw power they can effectively do it if they want to; and second, this should be made as explicit and widely known as possible, so that we can stop pretending that our justice system is committed to equal and even handed treatment of litigants in an adversary process.

Indeed, the two-tier nature of our justice system is being explicitly acknowledged in whispered tones by its primary beneficiaries, and noted in some professional quarters, even as hoi polloi are concluding the same thing in a less sophisticated fashion and increasingly taking to the streets to protest this and that.

Another chapter in the breakdown of the Rule of Law, in other words.

The role of judges in this catastrophe – and it is a catastrophe right now, although these things play out slowly – is primary.  The problem is not that they are inappropriately loyal to the upper tier to whom, after all, they owe their positions.  For that has always been the case and is the reason juries exist, as has been pointed out on this blog many times.  Like many important institutions in other contexts, though, there are limits:  juries can function as a check on judicial imperfection, but if judicial imperfection degenerates into ossified favoritism or worse, even juries will not matter eventually.

The problem, then, is that one-sided judicial fealty is at this point completely unchecked.  This is reflected in the “new rule“, whereby judicial deference to prosecutors and obliviousness to the evidence and arguments of defense lawyers has become all but codified.  The upshot of the “new rule” in application will be:  judges will give no consideration to defense evidence of innocence unless the prosecutor signs on first.

A defense lawyer, in other words, is regarded by the judiciary as little more than a lobbyist paid by their clients to supplicate the prosecutor and beg favors.  This is an intolerable state of affairs for a free society.

But it fits right in with an insufferable tyranny.

 

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Abdication

What bothers me about the “new rule” (and I may have more on this later) is this:  if there is clear and convincing evidence that a convicted person is innocent, what is the court’s responsibility?  Does it have any?

The assumption appears to be that if there is clear and convincing evidence that a convicted person is innocent the court to which such evidence is presented will do justice as a matter of course.  But this isn’t true.

And that’s not something that can be fixed by a “new rule” for prosecutors.

(h/t Greenfield, Gamso)

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Legitimacy, Austerity And Romney-Ryan

With the selection of Paul Ryan (an Ayn Rand aficionado?  seriously?) as his running mate Mitt Romney has certainly thrown down the gauntlet vis-a-vis Obama-Biden, making the contrast pretty stark: Obama-Biden for bigger and more active government; Romney-Ryan for “austerity”.

The “electorate”, which is an increasingly specialized slice of the general population – which is to say, those that have a personal stake in who is running the government because they work for it or otherwise benefit from it – is exceedingly unlikely to slit its own throat and opt for austerity.

Exceedingly.

So what is being orchestrated, at this point, is an historic landslide for President Obama.  And that’s important for the Washington-Wall Street axis, which has been experiencing a “legitimacy” crisis for some time.

From the ever dependable Washington Post:  first, we should welcome the Ryan selection because we will now have a “meaningful debate” on the “role of government”.  It irks the folks at the Washington Post that taxes consume little more of the GDP today than they did fifty years ago.

But it’s not just the numbers that rankle; it’s people’s faith, their unreasoning belief in their inside-the-beltway rulers:

“America’s presidential campaign process works,” argues Troy, the historian. “It sifts through candidates, facilitates a continent-wide conversation and, most important, bestows legitimacy on the winner.”

Emphasis supplied.

Since Reagan was president there has been no legitimacy for the government loving crowd.  Though he accomplished little or nothing in the way of changing the reality of our relationship to our government, Reagan was quite successful rhetorically.  The people who want government to be bigger and more active have had to hold their tongues ever since.

These same people are, therefore, quite happy with the current presidential race:  not only is the Romney-Ryan ticket utterly lacking in personality appeal; their “vision” of government is inherently unpopular with the “electorate” for simple reasons of self-interest.  And the timing is exquisite: they will be trying to sell austerity when 40 million + are on food stamps and millions of others live with homelessness tugging at their elbows.

Put another way, this presidential election is the best chance since 1980 to reverse the rhetorical accomplishment of the Reagan presidency, to restore the legitimacy of the advocates of big government.

And legitimacy is the “most important thing”, isn’t it?

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Private-Public-Private

It’s probably surprising to most people, and even most lawyers and judges, but the fact is:  crimes were privately prosecuted until about the middle of the 19th century.

Reviving that tradition might have very positive implications for addressing the “financial crisis”, especially where government prosecutors have been captured.

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Corruption

It’s insidious.  It’s as if it happens to you from outside when you’re not looking.  In matters great and small.

So it’s important to look.  Often in the mirror.

(h/t Glenn Greenwald)

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