Friday, December 21, 2007

"Greatest Humiliation ... Ever"

From the "Best of the Web" website (h/t Digby) comes a story about a young woman from Iceland who decided to take a trip to New York for some holiday shopping and soon found herself cuffed in the airport. (Who knew you could be in line one minute and cuffed the next?)

Last Sunday I and a few other girls began our trip to New York....
-As I waited [airport officials] to finish examining my passport I heard an official say that there was something which needed to be looked at more closely and I was directed to...Homeland Security [and] told that... I had overstayed my visa by 3 weeks in 1995 [and] would not be admitted... and would be sent home on the next flight... A detailed interrogation session ensued.
-I was photographed and fingerprinted... asked questions which I felt had nothing to do with the issue... [and] forbidden to contact anyone...
-I was then made to wait... for 5 hours.
When 5 hours had passed and I had been awake for 24 hours, I was told that they were waiting for officials who would take me to a kind of waiting room. There I would be given a bed to rest in, some food and I would be searched.
-What turned out was something else. I was taken to another office exactly like the one where I had been before and once again along wait ensued.
-At this office all my things were taken from me [but I sent}... a single sms [message?]}to worried relatives and friends when I was granted a bathroom break. After that the cell phone was taken from me...
-I was exhausted, tired and hungry. I didn't understand the officials' conduct, for they were treating me like a very dangerous criminal...
-I was removed from the cubicle and two armed guards placed me up against a wall.
A chain was fastened around my waist and I was handcuffed to the chain. Then my legs were placed in chains.
-I asked for permission to make a telephone call but they refused.
So secured, I was taken from the airport terminal in full sight of everybody.
-I have seldom felt so bad, so humiliated and all because I had taken a longer vacation than allowed under the law...
-We ended up in front of a jail. I could hardly believe that this was happening. Was I really about to be jailed? I was led inside in the chains and there yet another interrogation session ensued.
-I was fingerprinted once again and photographed. I was made to undergo a medical examnination, I was searched and then I was placed in a jail cell. I was asked absurd questions such as: When did you have your last period? What do you believe in? Have you ever tried to commit suicide?
I was completely exhausted, tired and cold.
-Fourteen hours after I had landed I had something to eat and drink for the first time...porridge and bread...
-I was afraid and the attitude of all who handled me was abysmal to say the least. They did not speak to me as much as snap at me.
-Once again I asked to make a telephone call and this time the answer was positive... [but] the telephone was setup for collect calls only and it was not possible to make overseas calls.
-The jailguard held my cell phone in his hand. I explained to him that I could not make a call from the jail telephone and asked to be allowed to make one call from my own phone. That was out of the question.
-I spent the next 9 hours in a small, dirty cell. The only thing in there was a narrow steel board which extended out from the wall, a sink and toilet.
-I wish I never experience again in my life the feeling of confinement and helplessness which I experienced there.
-I was hugely relieved when, at last, I was told that I was to be taken to the airport, that is to say until I was again handcuffed and chained.
-Then I could take no more and broke down and cried. I begged them at least to leave out the leg chains but my request was ignored.
-When we arrived at the airport, another jail guard took pity on me and removed the leg chains. Even so I was led through a full airport terminal handcuffed and escorted by armed men. I felt terrible.
On seeing this, people must think that there goes a very dangerous criminal. In this condition I was led up into the Icelandair waiting room, and was kept handcuffed until I entered the embarkation corridor.
-I was completely run down by all this in both body and spirit. Fortunately I could count on good people and both Einar (the captain) and the crew did all which they could to try to assist me.
-My friend AuĂ°ur was in close contact with my sister and the consul and embassy had been contacted.
-However, all had received misleading information and all had been told that I had been detained at the airport terminal, not that I had been put in jail. Now the Foreign Ministry is looking into the matter and I hope to receive some explanation why I was treated this way.

Welcome to Tom Tancredo's America, baby! Crime is a disease and he's the cure! Maybe next time you'll think twice before you stay 3 extra weeks, or come over here to spend your money! Here's an explanation for you: don't do the crime if you can't do the time! Don't come for our sales if you don't like our jails!

(I know, I shouldn't laugh at things like this, but they're so stunning that I almost have to.)

How many times could criminal defense lawyers retell the part of the story below, after meeting with clients?

I saw the officials in this section handle other cases and it was clear that these were men anxious to demonstrate their power. Small kings with megalomania. I was careful to remain completely cooperative...

Yeah, guns and cuffs have a way of making you "cooperative," don't they? Tazers work pretty well too, I'm told.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Death of a Jazz Legend / Addict

About 20 years ago, when I was in college, my dad took me to Washington, DC for a week as he had business, and a hotel room, there at the height of cherry blossom time. One night he insisted that we go to Blues Alley, a small jazz and blues club in Georgetown. I remember telling my dad the cover was too much, that he should save his money, but he insisted that I have this experience.

When we got in the club, I was amazed how intimate the atmosphere was. I could look right into the saxophonist's eyes as he played. In fact, when we sat down I remember him looking at us, as if concerned that we would be drawn into the music, as if he was trying to draw some energy from the crowd. It reminds me of Josh Karton's statement about real artists being that way because they're more concerned with what the audience is hearing, and how they're reacting, that in how the material is being delivered. In short, he seemed to focus on us and this created an incredible experience, and my first exposure to live jazz.

My dad was right. It was worth the cover as it's not often you remember a night 20 years ago that vividly. As my former poetry teacher described the feeling of writing a good poem, it was a "vertical moment in an otherwise linear life."

The man's name was Frank Morgan and he died last week at age 74.

On Tuesday, NPR's Fresh Air featured a 1987 interview he did (I saw him in 1988) and I was amazed to hear that he spent about 20 years of his life in prison, struggling with a heroin habit that he finally kicked in the mid-80's. The tragic part of the interview was that he described being treated like a celebrity in prison but being "a little fish in a big sea" on the outside. He described being able to play every day in prison and even said, as quoted on wikipedia:

"The greatest big band I ever played with was in San Quentin. Art Pepper and I were proud of that band. We had Jimmy Bunn and Frank Butler, and some other musicians who were known and some who weren't, but they could play. We played every Saturday night for what they called a Warden's Tour, which showed paying visitors only the cleanest cell blocks and exercise yards. But people would take that tour just to hear the band."

The NPR interview can be heard at this link. Wikipedia outlines Morgan's story:

Frank Morgan showed a great deal of promise in his early days, but it was a long time before he could fulfill his 1947 and was approached by Duke Ellington who wanted the then 15-year-old Frank to go on the road with his band. Frank's father wanted his son to finish school so the Ellington gig never materialized, but by the time he was 17, Frank was working at LA's Club Alabam, backing the likes of Josephine Baker and Billie Holiday. Morgan worked on the bop scene of early-'50s Los Angeles, recording with Teddy Charles (1953) and Kenny Clarke (1954), and under his own name for GNP in 1955.

Unfortunately, around that same time Frank followed his idol and mentor Charlie "Bird" Parker into heroin addiction, and spent most of the next thirty years serving time for thefts to support his habit. Yet except for periods in the Los Angeles County jail system, he never strayed too far from music. At most penal institutions, there were bands made up of inmates, and Morgan was greeted as a celebrity. He was constantly made gifts of mouthpieces, drugs, food, cigarettes.

When he was not incarcerated Frank performed occasionally around LA, but it was not until 1985 that Morgan, with the help of artist and future wife Rosalinda Kolb, managed to leave his life of "questionable interests" behind him and once again concentrate on his music. Resuming his recording career after a thirty-year hiatus, releasing "Easy Living" in June 1985, Frank was rediscovered and his unique history, combined with his equally unique sound and story-telling ability on his horn, made him a media star. He made multiple appearances on the Today Show in the '80s and '90s; starred in "Prison-Made Tuxedos," an off-Broadway play about his life, in 1987; was the first subject of Jane Pauley's "Real Life" primetime TV show on NBC in 1990; and won the Down Beat Critics Poll for Best Alto Saxophonist in 1991.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Is 30 hard years for a 12 year old cruel and unusual?

That's the issue in Pittman v. South Carolina, a case in which a 12-year old who shot and killed both of his grandparents was sentenced to 30 years in prison without the possibility of parole. A petition for cert was filed yesterday in the Supreme Court (h/t How Appealing) alleging that:

...the 30-year sentence violates Christopher Pittman's Eighth Amendment protection from cruel and unusual punishment.

Such a lengthy sentence is "unconstitutionally disproportionate as applied to a 12-year-old child," according a copy of the petition provided by the Juvenile Justice Foundation. It said Pittman "is the nation's only inmate serving such a harsh sentence for an offense committed at such a young age."

Opponents of Pittman's sentence have created a web site devoted to his release, or at least his ability to apply for parole before he's in his mid-40's.

Don't get your hopes up. As I said in a previous post:

The vote on a United Nations resolution calling for the abolition of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for children and young teenagers was nearly unanimously approved. In fact the vote was 185 to 1 with the United States the lone dissenter.

Or, as the New York Times described our national response to these issues compared with other nations:

[T]he United States stands alone in the world in convicting young adolescents as adults and sentencing them to live out their lives in prison. According to a new report, there are 73 Americans serving such [life without parole] sentences for crimes they committed at 13 or 14.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Don't Believe the Snitch

Yesterday, Major League Baseball was rocked by the release of the Mitchell Report which contained allegations of widespread steroid use by current and former players.

Of course, the place most people turned were the names of players who, by their very inclusion in this very official looking report, were obviously guilty. Quickly, sportswriters like Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports, in an article entitled, "Clemens is no different than Bonds" jumped to the conclusion that just being mentioned in the report, for people such as the Rocket, was enough proof to convict. Not only that, but the entire legend of a guy I saw pitch in the College World Series 22 years ago, was "gone." As muckraking journalist and truthseeker Wetzel put it:

It's all gone now, the legend of Rocket Roger dead on arrival of the Mitchell Report; one of the greatest pitchers of all time, his seven Cy Youngs and 354 career victories lost to history under a pile of lies and syringes. Clemens was injected with performance-enhancing drugs and human growth hormones by his former trainer starting in 2000 and continuing many times through the years, trainer Brian McNamee told George Mitchell in great detail.

Wetzel, showing a laughable lack of knowledge about people's ability to lie openly in court when it serves their interests, even says...

"The smoking gun comes from McNamee, a former New York Yankees employee who used to work as a personal trainer for Clemens and his buddy Andy Pettitte, who is also cited in the report. McNamee is also a witness in a federal investigation and spoke to Mitchell and federal investigators under the penalty of perjury."

In other words, McNamee's allegations must be true as they were:
1. In the Mitchell Report
2. Given in "great detail," and
3. Spoken under "Penalty of Perjury"

So they must be true, right? "Why even have this trial?," in other words. I mean he's been convicted in the press and the press never gets it wrong, especially after the lessons they learned on those WMD's, right?

Well, as Neil Young once said "there's more to the picture than meets the eye" (hey, hey, my my!). You see, Mr. McNamee wasn't merely talking under penalty of perjury and "in great detail," he was also out to save his own skin. He's not merely a former Yankee employee. He's also a snitch.

As Roger's lawyer says,

Clemens's lawyer, Rusty Hardin, said he had been told that McNamee was pressured by Jeff Novitzky, a tax investigator for the U.S. government, to give up names or face prosecution. McNamee agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors under the terms that he would not be charged with a crime if he told the truth to the federal authorities and to investigators working for the report's author, former Senator George Mitchell.

Hardin criticized Mitchell, for naming players based on uncorroborated allegations. "He has thrown a skunk into the jury box, and we will never be able to remove that smell...,"

When I was in law school I clerked for a great lawyer named Clarence Mock. I was hooked on criminal defense work when I read a transcript in which the police took a witness to the scene of a "crime" and asked for the truth. After he told them he saw nothing about 20 times, the officer said something to the effect of "Do you know what we do to people who cover up for crimes? We charge them as accessories and they're punished the same way the criminals are. In this case, that could mean the death penalty."

After the witness continued to deny seeing the alleged perpetrator, our client, at the scene of the crime, even under threats of getting the death penalty (an obvious bluff) he finally began asking to go home and claiming to be hungry. The officer said something like, "Just tell us what you saw and we'll go eat those hamburgers that are in my car." Of course, immediate hunger outweighed possible future lethal injection and the "witness" started telling the officer the "truth," that he'd seen our client standing by the side of the road. So they pat the witness on the back, thank him for telling the truth, and go eat the burgers. The only problem was as soon as the dog got his treat, he didn't want to play anymore and said, "You know, everything I told you I made up. I didn't see anybody there."

I tell this story, which later lead to an acquittal before a judge, to illustrate the lengths the state will go to to get the "truth" which is occasionally nothing more than the information necessary to fulfill their current theory of the case.

The "penalty of perjury" and the "great detail" that lie behind the lies that are told in court all the time don't compare to the threat a snitch is facing when told:
1. Tell us the truth.
2. We'll keep asking you until you tell us what we want to hear.

I have no idea whether the Rocket used the roids. But I know that the greatest pitcher of the modern era shouldn't be convicted on the word of a "Yankees employee," who not only had to endure the horror of working under Steinbrenner, but who was telling the authorities what they wanted to hear to keep from being a trainer in what Spongebob refers to as "the stony lonesome."

His own "performance" was enhanced by his desire to stay out of jail. Before we ruin and write off the Rocket, maybe we should consider the source: the snitch.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Discovering the Client's Story and Telling it Well

Josh Karton says we are all "hard-wired" for stories. Recently I saw this dramatized when I picked my daughter up at Borders at 2 a.m. after she waited for hours to buy the last Harry Potter book. Even in this digital age, it was amazing to see thousands of people at one bookstore and to realize there were many other bookstores that looked the same way in Omaha and perhaps millions of bookstores across the country looking the same way.

But how do we tell the judge a good story, one that doesn't simply entertain them but makes them genuinely empathize with our client and minimize the sentence she's facing?

I tried something new once after losing several appeals of termination of parental rights cases before the Nebraska Court of Appeals. I began my argument with the question, "May I tell you a story?," assuming that while they liked the respect inherent in "May it please the Court," that they were up for something different and perhaps bored with it. I knew it would get their attention and that I needed to do that to have a shot at winning this longshot appeal.

I went on to tell a story, seemingly unrelated to the case, about me watching baseball on t.v. and my wife asking me "How can you watch this stuff day after day? It's so boring." I said to her, and to them, "Yeah, you're right, it's boring but," I went on, "it's the only thing on t.v. that you don't know the ending to. And once in awhile, it's not boring; it's magical, and somebody digs down deep and surprises you, and you see an ending that's more dramatic than anything any made for t.v. drama. That's when it's amazing, when you see somebody get a chance to prove themselves against all odds, and they do something dramatic, right there live, before your eyes. That's why I watch baseball," I said, "for those moments when people do amazing things that you never expected."

The judges were still looking at me dumbfounded, and, while they hadn't even answered my question about whether they wanted to hear a story, I took their silence as agreement and carried on anyway. That's when I brought the story back to the case, saying "and that's what this case is all about, my client never had the chance to step up to the plate. And because she didn't get this chance, we never got to see how this story might have ended, how something magical might have happened..."

And then I went into my argument about how my client's parental rights should not have been terminated, how she didn't get the chance to see if she could do what was asked of her in an evaluation that was before the judges as an exhibit. The phrase "she never got a chance" became a theme that I hoped they would take back with them. I think I even mentioned something about the Bad News Bears, hoping they might have taken their kids there and remembered the scene at the end where the game ends early to chants of "Let Them Play!" as I wanted to get my client another chance to "play" too.

But, it didn't work.

I lost the case. But I felt like my presentation, my story, worked despite the fact that we lost, because the "live event" seemed to get their attention. My goal was to get them to look at the case differently, more closely, and to have the phrases I used echoing in their minds when they read the exhibits and crafted their opinion.

I wish I would have had the chance to ask them whether my odd way of beginning an argument repelled or attracted them to my client's cause. I knew it was a tough case to win and that drastic action was necessary. But, it didn't work, we didn't win, so I can't claim anything other than a feeling that it came off pretty well, but evidently not well enough.

Maren Chaloupka once wrote that there is a fine line between a "courtroom stunt" and a successful, engaging presentation that ultimately wins the case. My story might sound like a stunt described in words, but it felt like it hit home, even to judges who were uncharacteristically speechless throughout my argument.

But, let's face it. We've all seen and perhaps even performed courtroom stunts that had good intentions but didn't work in the moment. So what's the difference between a stunt and a good story? A stunt is about the lawyer's ego, about her need to be "different" or simply on stage. A good story, however, is about the client, about getting the judge to see that person as something other than a case number or offense, empathizing with the client's choices and background and sentencing the person accordingly, mercifully.

I've told some good stories in court that got the judge's attention, but I've also tried and failed, when my ideas sounded better in rehearsal than "on the stage" of a courtroom. But I've also seen a lot of lawyers who are afraid to do anything that's not "by the book" even when the case cries out for something creative and unorthodox, when not doing so turns the trial into a slow plea.

One phrase I remember from NCDC is "a trial is a contest between competing stories. The prosecutor is handed her story in the form of the police reports. But this is only one side of the story and until we discover our client's story, their story will win and our clients will lose." I have even heard a law enforcement officer say that "it's all in how you write the report" as if he was aware that what he wrote would be accepted as the truth, even when he was simply making up stories.

One luxury of private practice that I didn't have as a public defender is the extra time to "discover the story" of the client. In fact, the other day I met with a client for an hour before we cancelled her warrant, learned all about why she missed court, how she moved away to be closer to the couple who wanted to adopt her baby and then moved back to Omaha with the child after deciding to keep it. I learned that she came to Omaha after meeting the father of her child, how she met him while travelling across the country selling magazine subscriptions, and how he promised her a great life here, thousands of miles away from her family, and how he beat her up when she got here. She was charged with assaulting him, with damaging his car, and with disorderly conduct, but that was only the last chapter in a story that needed to be discovered.

When we got to court, the judge I'd picked as likely to let my client go with no bond was gone, replaced by a judge who would set a bond if we didn't enter a guilty plea that day to either assault, damage to property, or disorderly conduct. But the hour spent discovering her story paid off as the judge, after hearing my client's story behind missing her trial date, for purposes of deciding whether to set a bond, later asked the prosecutor to drop the assault and damage to property charges and plead to the disorderly conduct for a $25 fine.

The car my client had scratched with the paint can, that I was worried would lead to payments of restitution, was not important to the judge after he heard how the owner had two previous domestic violence convictions for assaulting my client and how she'd been struggling with what to do with the baby he'd left her with. The hour spent "discovering the story" paid off and probably saved her days in jail and hundreds in restitution, and perhaps an assault conviction. I didn't have to even attempt a courtroom stunt as her story was engaging enough by itself.

But how do you know when the time is right to step out of "lawyer mode" and try storytelling techniques that hopefully grab the fact finder's attention and win for your client? Like Jeff Bridges says about Duracell, "it just has to work." But if staying in "lawyer mode" isn't working, maybe it just has to change?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Defendant's "Failure" to Testify?

Mark Bennett, a student of Terry McCarthy, who knows the importance of choosing language that not only doesn't demean your client but which describes him or her in the best possible light, spots something subtle but potentially important in Texas' Criminal Jury Instructions:

"You are instructed that our law provides that the failure of the defendant to testify shall not be taken as a circumstance against him, and during your deliberations you must not allude to, comment on, or discuss the failure of the defendant to testify..."

Nebraska's instruction isn't quite so bad, but is entitled, "DEFENDANT'S FAILURE TO TESTIFY." (NJI2D Crim. 9.4) It doesn't mention the word "failure" in the instruction, but the judge reads the title before getting to the instruction itself:

"The defendant has an absolute right not to testify. The fact that the defendant did not testify must not be considered by you as an admission of guilt and must not influence your erdict in any way."

There is also no mention of the source of the privilege, but the comment says "the committee left mention of the Constitution to argument of counsel." In other words, it looks like defense attorneys need to start arguing for (1) a mention of this as being a "Constitutional" right and, (2) objecting to it being described as a "failure."

In fact, my former boss, Tom Riley, is arguing a death penalty case right now and I'm guessing that the defendant won't testify, meaning that the jury will undoubtedly hear about his "failure" when the judge instructs the jury. I'm sure my boss has more than this on his mind right now, but, in a case like this, even a subtle word choice might be the difference between life and death.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

"I'm a piece of (deleted) and now I'm going to be [in]famous"

Those are the words Robert Hawkins wrote in a note left in his room before he went to the Westroads Mall and opened fire randomly with an AK-47. From the local news story...

"Maruka-Kovac said Hawkins lived with her, her husband and their two sons. She said that the last time she saw him, she thought he was going to pick up his eyeglasses. The last time she talked to him, about 40 minutes before the shooting was reported to police, he told her he was sorry to be a burden and thanked her for taking him in. He also told her for the first time that he had been fired.

"I tried to talk to him and say, 'Come on home. We'll work it out,'" Maruka-Kovac said.

She said he told her it was too late, and that he'd left some notes in his room to explain why.

"He wrote, 'I'm a piece of (deleted) and now I'm going to be famous,'" she said.

Maruka-Kovac said she found the notes, called Hawkins' mother and then the police. It wasn't long before reports of the shooting were everywhere.

"I had a sick feeling when I heard about it," she said. "I can't believe he would go this far. He was a good-hearted kid. He was just going through some rough times."

I was in court getting a 12-year old's warrant cancelled when the news came that two had been shot at Westroads Mall, a mall where my wife used to work about five years ago. Then, after I stopped into another lawyer's office to talk about a personal injury case, the news came that 8 were dead. My wife, who was very familiar with that store, describes it as the most open of any retail store, with a clear view from the third floor onto the two lower floors and few walls or obstacles to hide behind besides racks of clothes.

Like a lot of criminal defense lawyers, my first thoughts went to "I hope it isn't one of my clients" as a lot of us can easily think of people about whom the question seems to be not "if" but "when."

The two scenes I'll remember most about this incident are the guy sitting next to me, by himself, at a stoplight, pushing up his glasses and wiping away tears, evidently hearing a report on the radio or just thinking about what the only news story has been around here lately. The other "scene" I'll remember is my dad calling and leaving me a message asking if we were out Christmas shopping last night and then saying, "but give me a call, would you?" It reminded me of the time he called at 6:30 a.m. when I was in college to "make sure I'd checked my oil lately."

Luckily there were a lot of officers on duty for Bush's visit, which evidently made the response quick. Unfortunately when they got there, they only found the effects, and ultimately the cause, lying next to his step-father's AK-47, smuggled in under his black sweatshirt.

Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine

As a follow up to yesterday's post about Paul Krugman's dire forecast about the economy, below are two paragraphs that stood out as I read Naomi Klein's great book The Shock Doctrine.

A more accurate term for a system that raises the boundaries between big government and big business is not liberal, conservative or capitalist but corporatist. Its main characteristics are huge transfers of public wealth to private hands, often accompanied by exploding debt, an ever widening chasm between the dazzling rich and the disposable poor and an aggressive nationalism that justifies bottomless spending on security. For those inside the bubble of extreme wealth created by such an arrangement, there can be no more profitable way to organize a society. But because of the obvious drawbacks for the vast majority of the population left outside the bubble, other features of the corporatist state tend to include aggressive surveillance, once again, with government and large corporations trading favors and contracts, mass incarceration, shrinking civil liberties, and often, though not always, torture.
That is how the shock doctrine works: the original disaster -- the coup, the terrorist attack, the market meltdown, the war, the tsunami, the hurricane -- puts the entire population into a state of collective shock. The falling bombs, the burst of terror, the pounding winds serve to soften up whole societies much as the blaring music and blows in the torture cells soften up prisoners. Like the terrorist prisoner who gives up the names of comrades and renounces his faith, shocked societies often give up things they would otherwise fiercely protect... Evacuees at the Baton Rouge shelter were supposed to give up their housing projects and public schools. After the tsunami, the fishing people in Sri Lanka were supposed to give up their valuable beachfront land to hoteliers. Iraqis, if all had gone according to plan, were supposed to be so shocked and awed that they would give up control of their oil reserves, their state companies and their sovereignty to U.S. military bases and green zones.

I'm not finished with the book yet, but I am amazed at the parallels Klein draws between the will to torture, the will to invade, and an almost fundamentalist view of free markets with no tolerance for any interference. She describes true believers of Milton Friedman's economic philosophies as believing that the real enemy of progress was not communism or totaliarianism but instead people who believe in a mixed economic system in which government steps in to correct the effects of an unregulated free market.
Sounds a lot to me like a group of group of people whose supporters would write books with titles such as "In Defense of Internment" or "Treason" or even "How to speak to a Liberal, if you must." As Bill Maher says, they run on a platform of "government doesn't work" and then get into power and prove it.

It's time to get beyond labels such as "Democrat" and "Republican" and instead begin to look at candidates in terms of their "Corporatist" tendencies.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Paul Krugman's Scary Observation

It's a little off topic, but I read this quote from New York Times columnist Paul Krugman from his Monday column. Frightening, don't you think?

The financial crisis that began late last summer, then took a brief vacation in September and October, is back with a vengeance. How bad is it? Well, I’ve never seen financial insiders this spooked — not even during the Asian crisis of 1997-98, when economic dominoes seemed to be falling all around the world.

This time, market players seem truly horrified — because they’ve suddenly realized that they don’t understand the complex financial system they created.
Why was this allowed to happen? At a deep level, I believe that the problem was ideological: policy makers, committed to the view that the market is always right, simply ignored the warning signs...And free-market orthodoxy dies hard. Just a few weeks ago Henry Paulson, the Treasury secretary, admitted to Fortune magazine that financial innovation got ahead of regulation — but added, “I don’t think we’d want it the other way around.” Is that your final answer, Mr. Secretary?

I haven't had a chance to read Krugman's latest book, The Conscience of a Liberal, yet, but am currently reading Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine about the "Chicago Boys" and their effect on modern economies, and politics. If you've read the book, you know the phrase "free-market orthodoxy" is an understatement as used to describe the followers of Milton Friedman, true free-market fundamentalists, as described by Klein.