Archive for December 2011
Despite the wretched outcome of his wishes for 2010 and wishes for 2011, WC will once again set out his wishes for 2012. While it is tempting to moderate those wishes, WC is not inclined to lower his expectations in the hope of greater success. So here they are: WC’s wishes for 2012:
- Overpopulation. Among the crises facing the planet is human overpopulation. During 2011, we rolled the odometer over to an estimated 7 billion. To a deplorable extent, especially in the Western world, the rate of population growth is a function of religious teachings. The Catholic church’s and the Latter Day Saints’ crazed obsession with large families would be two examples. When religious dogma have counter-survival effects, it’s past time to change them. WC calls on those latter day saints and infallible pontiffs to have a revelation: that further growth of human populations is terrible, and must be controlled, that more than two chldren is a sin by whatever definitions they use.
- A second great crisis facing humanity is anthropocentric climate change. The way things are going, to paraphrase Pratchett and Gaiman, we are going to scourge all intelligent life from the planet, leaving nothing but dust, cockroaches and fundamentalists. The time for denying man-caused climate change is past. Can we at least shift the debate about how to deal with it? And can all the global warming-denying politicians who have sold their small, dark, crabbed souls to the fossil fuels industry have a look in the mirror and ask themselves, “Do I care about my gtandchildren?” There will come a day when fossil fuel lobbyists and the politicians they have purchased will be held in the same contempt as Congressmen who defended slavery, or claimed tobacco was harmless. Why not now?
- The health care crisis facing facing America threatens to sink the economy of our country. The Affordable Care Act remains the only half-way comprehensive solution presented. The need for health care is not going to magically vanish if Medicare and Medicaid are repealed. Passing a reduced amount of money out as vouchers isn’t going to reduce spending or lower costs. It is absolutely clear that traditional capitalist solutions are an abject failure in controlling costs. We’ve been trying it for the last 50 years and it has gotten us where we are. The neocons have to come up with specific, functional proposals to fix a real crisis, or shut up. Not more of the same. Real solutions.
- Despite the Republican presidential wannabes’ lies, distortions and self-deception, President Barack Obama as a national leader is vastly superior to Mitt Romney and all the Not-Mitts. Despite the protracted and concerted efforts of the Republicans to blow up the economy rather than allow him to effect reasonable repairs, the economy has improved. He has done more to slap down Islamofacsist terrorism than his predecessor managed with two land wars in Asia, up to and including the assassination of bin Laden and the liberation of Libya. He has gotten us out of George W. Bush’s disastrous, ill-conceived and unnecessary war in Iraq. He has stopped and repudiated the use of torture as an instrument of national policy. He has enacted the first real health care reform in the United States since Medicare. He has saved the plutocrats from their own greed and folly. And he has done all this is the face of an unscrupulous U.S. House that would tear the country to shreds if it had its way. Re-elect him. And while we are at it, pitch the Teabaggers out of the U.S House.
So there you have it: four modest, sensible and practical wishes. WC cautions against holding your breath while waiting to see if they come true.
Happy New Year, everyone.
The following chart, from New York Times reporter Teresa Tritch’s editorial of July 11, 2011, is WC’s pick as Chart of the Year. It demonstrates that the deficit that Neocons whine about so incessantly is overwhelmingly a Bush issue; the Bush tax cuts, which the Republicans refuse to repeal, amounted to $1.8 billion, larger by themselves than the entire $1.4 in new deficit spending arising in the Obama administration.
There’s a deficit. It’s a very serious problem. But let’s not blame the wrong guy.
You say it is unfair because it compares Bush’s eight years against Obama’s four years? Okay, double Obama’s spending. Oops, it’s still just over half of Bush’s.
WC’s runner-up for Chart of the Year is the Plutarchs of Congress.
However much humankind may injure and maim the planet, we don’t control nature. Nature bats last. WC introduces a new category of year end reviews, noting instances in this calendar year when we’ve had to be reminded of that lesson once again.
One of WC’s all-time favorite books is John McPhee’s The Control of Nature (Amazon link). McPhee examines three instances of man’s interactions with nature: the massive volcanic eruption at Vestmannaeyjar, near Iceland, and the efforts to protect the harbor there from advancing lava flows; the efforts by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to keep the Mississippi River from changing its course at the Atchafalaya Channel; and the City of Los Angeles’s efforts control the massive mudflows coming down out of the San Gabriel Mountains. McPhee’s message is that mankind may have short-term successes, but can’t win in the long haul. Nature bats last.
Each year, mankind gets a fresh set of reminders that for all out vaunted science, engineering and technology, we’re here at sufferance.
The list might both begin and end with the March 11 Tohoku ML9.0 earthquake and 40-foot high tsunami, which devastated northeastern Japan and wrecked the Fukushima nuclear power plant. The tragedy has so far resulted in 15,842 deaths, 5,890 injured, and 3,485 people missing across eighteen prefectures, as well as over 125,000 buildings damaged or destroyed. Radiation contamination has resulted in a 20km exclusion zone, likely to last for decades. The engineering that went into the reactor and safety design was woefully inadequate for a foreseeable disaster.
The drought in the southwestern United States continued. From 2010-11, Texas experienced its driest August–July (12-month) period on record. Wildfires, crop failures and animal deaths are the worst since the Dust Bowl. Droughts also afflicted places as far flung as China, East Africa and Tuvalu, Micronesia. To some extent, they are probably the result of the extended La Niña in the Pacific Ocean, but the devastation, particularly in East Africa, is horrific.
There’s an estimated $3 billion in damage, and 161 people were killed.
Hurricane Irene caused 56 deaths and $7 billion in damages, with the worst of the damage from flooding in Vermont, which experienced its worst flooding in centuries. A fairly modest Category 1 hurricane when it came ashore in the northeast, it carried enough water and was moving slowly enough that it caused catastrophic problems. We think of hurricanes as a disaster afflicting the southeastern states; we’re wrong.
Earthquakes, particularly big quakes, are consequence of living on a geologically active planet. But there’s increasing evidence that some quakes are man-made, with fracking -– hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas – as a primary cause. The near-unprecedented weather extremes in 2011 – flood, drought, heat waves, tropical storms – may be the result of anthropogenic climate change. Warmer air carries more water, contains more energy and could generate more violent weather.
Death rates and property damage levels aren’t a particularly good analysis tool. There are more people and more improvements to land every year. But if you measure weather by the number of hurricanes, the energy level of hurricanes, the number of tornadoes and the intensity of tornadoes, then it does appear that nature is batting last.
Reverend Harold Camping predicted the world would end on May 21, 2011. Oops. Oh, a math mistake. Reverend Camping predicted the world would end October 16, 2011. Oops again. Is it fair to ask why these folks are so eager to have their End Times?
The Westboro Baptist Church – which seems to be mostly members of Fred Phelps’ extended family – in its desperate attempts to gain public exposure, continues to act out hate speech at funerals for slain service members, celebrity events and any other occasion where they can show their hate. The U.S. Supreme Court conlcuded in 2011 that their activities were protected speech. Hateful speech, but protected.
Over 250,000 good Christians signed a petition to boycott “Homo Depot” stores. Of course, Home Depot wasn’t exactly singled out. The same group had pledged to boycott 7-Eleven, Abercrombie & Fitch, American Airlines, American Girl, Blockbuster Video, Burger King, Calvin Klein, Carl’s Jr., Clorox, Comcast, Crest, Ford, Hallmark Cards, Kmart, Kraft Foods, S. C. Johnson & Son, Movie Gallery, Microsoft, MTV, Mary Kay, NutriSystem, Old Navy, IKEA, Pampers, Procter & Gamble, Target, Tide, Walt Disney Company and PepsiCo.
A Gallup Poll conducted May 5-8, 2011 revealed that 30% of Americans interpret the Bible literally, saying it is the actual word of God. The good news (note the lower case) is that the numbers are actually down from the last decade. The bad news is that leaves nearly a third of Americans denying evolution, physics, geology and astronomy.
Muslims killed Christians. Christians killed Muslims. Muslims killed Hindus. Hindus killed Muslims. Catholics killed Protestants. Protestants killed Catholics. It’s a special kind of ecumenicalism, WC supposes. Oddly, all of these religions forbid killing.
WC is making his slow way through the first volume of Mark Twain’s autobiography – it’s not as much fun as you might expect – but came across this quote, which will serve as a coda for this post:
So much blood has been shed by the Church because of an omission from the Gospel: “Ye shall be indifferent as to what your neighbor’s religion is.” Not merely tolerant of it, but indifferent to it. Divinity is claimed for many religions; but no religion is great enough or divine enough to add that new law to its code.
Politics this year involved less “hiking on the Appalachian Trail” and more Republican presidential wannabes. But it was depressingly the same as the last few years. Some low points:
- The Teabaggers controlling the House of Representatives demonstrated there is nothing – absolutely nothing – they won’t do in their efforts to defeat President Obama.
- Kill the economy so it can be blamed on the President? Check.
- Accuse the President of treason? Check.
- Refuse to tax the super rich who have bought their small, miserable dark souls? Check.
- Refuse to extend tax cuts to the middle class? Check.
- Refuse economic recovery bills because of the deficit? Check.
- Refuse to compromise in an effort to reduce the deficit? Check.
- The candidates for the Republican nomination have done themselves more injury than their avowed opponent ever could as they cycle through the Not-Mitts.
- Michelle “Crazy Eyes” Bachman clings to ignorance as a virtue, and by her claim that vaccinations cause mental retardation has made the single most irresponsible statement by a candidate for national office of 2011. After a brief stint as the not-Mitt of the Month, she fades to a footnote.
- Serial sexual harrasser and motivational speaker Herman Cain tries to substitute one-liners for knowledge. After a brief stint as non-Mitt of the Month, he “suspends” his campaign and withdraws in disgrace.
- Governor Rick “I’m from Texas” Perry briefly dons the Non-Mitt of the Month mantle, before demonstrating that ignorance combined with abject debating skills are too much even for Teabaggers.
- Serial adulterer, ethically challenged and Eye of Newt Gingrich dons the Not-Mitt Mantle, but fades as his congenital foot-in-mouth disease and voters’ memories trip him up. Shame on whoever it was that lifted up a rock and let this thing crawl out.
- The Republican situation is so grim that libertarian and Ayn Rand worshipper Ron Paul begins to look attractive, despite offensive racist newsletters and worse cluttering his past. WC supposes he is a Not-Not-Mitt, at least by his calculation.
- Then there’s Not-Mitt Romney himself, who dons and removes the mantle as it serves his convenience and the wishes of his current audience. This candidate’s only scruple is his belief he should be elected. Every other principle – no exceptions – is sacrificed to that Prime Directive.
- Because the Republican Party and the conservative movement generally has been entirely captured by Teabaggers and Christianist theocrats, the very characteristics that will get a Republican candidate the nomination will lead to that candidate’s defeat in the general election. Barry Goldwater redux.
- Congress is so far out of touch with the American public that Congress is at an all time low in public opinion polls.
- Democrats – progressives generally – are so politically inept that they cannot take advantage of the situation.
All of this, and there hasn’t been an actual, you know, primary election yet.
And five-sixths of 2012 will be given over the the 2012 elections. Shudder. And you know, you can be certain, that no matter who wins the presidential election, before 2012 is over someone will declare themselves a candidate for president in 2016.
So, yes, 2011 was politics as usual.
The Chicago Cubs finished 25 games behind the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Central, in next-to-last place. Nine games worse than last year. Sigh. Bless the Houston Astros. The Cubs were truly awful. One hundred three years and counting. Some other National League team from the Central Division ended up winning the World Series. The American League continued to play some other game where the pitcher doesn’t bat. And yet another MLB star – this one the National League MVP – was outed as a user of performance enhancing drugs. On the brighter side, Major League Baseball survived another year with Bud Selig at the helm.
Ron Santo was selected to the Hall of Fame – the year after he had died. The Hall of Fame and its bastard selection process are despicable, as WC has argued before. But belated recognition of a great baseball player is fractionally better than a continuing exclusion.
Apparently there are other sports besides baseball?
American football, at all levels, was revealed to be a cumulative long term hazard to the health of the players. Repeated concussions, even symptom-free concussions, can cause very severe brain damage. Amazingly, this continues to be news to the National Football League.
Hockey, at all levels, was revealed to be a cumulative long term hazard to the health of the players. Repeated concussions, even symptom-free concussions, can cause very severe brain damage. Amazingly, this came as news to the National Hockey League. “I went to a hockey game and watched brain trauma occur.”
The National Basketball Association players and owners demonstrated that, no matter how many billions are available, it’s not so much that you can’t fight over it, killing the first third of the regular season. But it’s all right, pro basketball fans, playoffs once again will last into mid-summer. Presumably, some folks watched in 2011 and will watch in 2012 to see who won. WC didn’t and won’t.
Apparently auto racing, and specifically NASCAR, remains the most popular sport in the U.S. WC has never understood sitting in stands for hours, damaging your hearing and watching internal combustion engines waste fuel. Is this a southern thing? Is it a white thing? WC still doesn’t get it.
ESPN, the Eastern Sports Network, continues to believe there are no college football teams worth noticing west of the Rockies except Southern California. The Oregon Ducks didn’t help by choking in the BCS Championship Game. Boise State finally lost a game and, in sharp contrast to other 10-1 teams, was relegated to something called the MAACO Bowl, administering an object lesson to Arizona State. Yet EPSN continues to pretend the west doesn’t exist.
And despite the buckets of ink, petabytes of digital content and the passionate beliefs of a depressing high percentage of Americans, including WC when the Cubs are involved, none of it really matters. It’s entertainment. Sometimes farcical. In the case of the Cubs, almost always farcical. But passion is unrelated to importance in the real world. Despite what LSU fans may think.
As WC gets older, he finds death is claiming more and more of those he respects and admires. As we head in to a new year, WC wants to pause and note the loss of those who in one way or another, enriched WC’s life. In no particular order:
|Ronnie Gaubert: WC posted earlier on Ronnie’s work and life. A remarkable artist and man, and a model for us all. WC misses him.|
|Vàclev Havel: WC studied one of Havel’s plays, The Garden Party, when WC was an undergraduate student. It was a brilliant send-up of Soviet society, sort of Mikhail Bulgakov meets Albert Camus. The play earned Havel his first prison term.Havel emerged as an unlikely non-violent political leader in the Velvet Revolution that overthrew the communist rule in Czechoslovakia, and in 1989 became the president of the country.|
|Steve Jobs: WC has posted earlier on Steve. But will repeat here Steve’s words on death:
|Geraldine Ferraro, U.S. Representative and first woman to be a candidate for Vice President of the United States for a major political party. She was also a successful prosecutor, tireless advocate for the protection of women and children and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.
If Sarah Palin had an exact opposite, it was Ferraro.
|Christopher Hitchens: WC has posted on Hitch. Twice. Once on his death and against focusing on his Ten Commandments. An extraordinary man, and extraordinary life and an extraordinary body of work.|
|Jerry Lieber, the lyrics half the the songwriting duo, Lieber and Stoller. His songs included “There Goes My Baby,” Stand By Me” and “Hound Dog.” A member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1987), his lyrics and Mike Stoller’s melodies got in your head and stayed there.
|Clarence “Big Man” Clemons, tenor saxophonist in the E Street Band, and the heart of Bruce Springsteen’s band. His tearing sax solos helped define Bruce Springsteen’s music. Born to be wild, indeed.|
|Angela Ertter, German war bride, godmother to Mrs. WC, mean harmonica player (she’s playing the harp in that photo) and unrepentant singer of German folksongs. Her family was everyone Oma could hug. And her love could fill a big room.|
Others WC might name include James Arness, whose television show “Gunsmoke” was one of the few televisions shows WC could stand when WC was a pup; and Gerrie Rafferty, whose “Baker Street” would be on WC’s list of all-time top ten rock and roll songs.
Correction: 26 Dec 11 – As reader Paul Eaglin points out, Geraldine Ferraro was a member of the U.S. House, not the Senate. Corrected.
The late Carl Sagan created this, which captures pretty well WC’s view on such matters. It seems especially appropriate for December 25.
A tip of the hat to Gryphen at Immoral Minority for the idea.
All the best in 2012 from Wickersham’s Conscience
Once again, WC opened the year with wishes for the upcoming months. And once again, WC’s hopes were mostly dashed. But with just a week or so left in 2011, let’s look at the specifics:
1. WC wishes that the Republican House and the Democratic Senate recognize that health care reform isn’t a political football, or a springboard to electoral success in 2012, but the best solution so far to the looming health care crisis facing our nation.
NOT. If the Republican presidential wannabes are any indication, the hate is actually higher now than when the bill was signed into law. Not that any of them have a better idea. Representative idea: Ron Paul would abolish Medicare and Medicaid. If the patient has a fever, put him in the freezer. That’ll fix him, youbetcha.
2. The Department of Defense today is the largest single part of the federal budget. If the budget is to be balanced, it must be reduced. Unlike social security, which is funded, defense spending is a direct drain on taxes and the biggest contribution to the deficit. WC wishes Congress would recognize and address the problem.
MAYBE. A by-product of Congress’s shameful failure to deal with the deficit itself, either directly or through the not-so-Super Committee, is a pending, significant across-the-board reduction in the defense budget. The predictable pissing and moaning is already under way, and there are strong indications Congress will recant. But as of year end, an accidental modest success.
3. WC wishes that the Gods imagined by shepherds, nomads and farmers could see fit to adapt their edicts to a world with finite resources, doomsday weapons and horrific overcrowding. And that those Gods’ followers would then listen.
NOT. You need look no further than the sorry horde of Republican presidential wannabes, all of whom compete to be more zealous than the others in clinging to a pastoralist religion in a post-industrial society. Worse, they insist, on threat of citizenship, that the entire country give its unqualified embrace to doctrine that has the sun circling the earth. Iran remains a theocracy. And, with the death of Christopher Hitchens, our culture has lost one of its remaining voices of reason in this circle of absurdity.
(The next wish requires discussion of former half-term governor, Sarah Palin. Wickersham’s Conscience is a Palin-free zone. But to address those January 1 issues, WC has to make an exception. WC promises to be brief.)
4. Her ambition will force her to run for president, even though she doesn’t want either responsibility or the accountability that would come with the job. WC wishes that Palin would develop enough self-awareness, sufficient insight, to recognize Machiavelli is right.
MAYBE. Palin announced she was not a candidate for president in 2012. The world breathed a collective sigh of relief. Comediennes and a few Palinbots blinked back tears. WC suspects she still harbors dreams of deadlock at the Republican convention, and that she is somehow begged to step in. But, as of the year end, that nightmare scenario hasn’t occurred. Self-awareness and insight? Not so much.
So it’s another disappointing year. None of WC’s wishes came completely true, but as of year end perhaps two are partially so. Two failed completely. Better than 2010, but still a disappointment to WC. Maybe next year.
WC was brought to believe that Henry David Thoreau, under-bathed proto-hippy and general rabble rouser, was America’s first environmentalist, with Ralph Waldo Emerson in a supporting role. WC was taught wrong.
Teabaggers, presumably, will be appalled to learn that the man who on May 12, 1818 said:
[W]e can scarcely be warranted in supposing that all the productive powers of its surface can be made subservient to the use of man, in exclusion of all the plants and animals not entering into his stock of subsistence; that all the elements and combinations of elements in the earth, the atmosphere, and the water, which now support such various and such numerous descriptions of created beings, animate and inanimate, could be withdrawn from that general destination, and appropriated to the exclusive support and increase of the human part of the creation; so that the whole habitable earth should be as full of people as the spots most crowded now are or might be made, and as destitute as those spots of the plants and animals not used by man.
turns out to be the Father of the U.S. Constitution, co-author of the Federalist Papers and Father of the Bill of Rights, James Madison. You don’t get much more Founding Father than that.
Heh. WC can hear the screeches of outrage already.
But it’s true. Speaking to the Agricultural Society of Albemarle, Virginia in 1818, about a year after the end of his second term as president, Madison sounded an awful lot like David Brower, founder of the Sierra Club.
So, Teabaggers, in your reverence, your near-worship of the early leaders of our country, do you agree with Madison? Do you agree that, say, the Endangered Species Act has its roots in the thinking of the guy who wrote the Constitution?
WC awaits your response.
In celebration of 16 more seconds of daylight today, WC offers this very brief clip of solstice sunlight, courtesy of Todd Paris and the University of Alaska Marketing and Communications office.
Hey, it’s a start.
Meet Michael Morton.
Mr. Morton was just exonerated after being wrongfully convicted of murdering his wife. He spent 25 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Just another case of Texas justice, you say? Perhaps this time it’s a little worse. There are very strong indications of very serious prosecutorial misconduct in this case.
Morton’s 3 1/2 year old son witnessed the homicide. There’s a transcript. The kid exonerated his father. The prosecutor had the transcript. The transcript was not made available to Morton’s defense lawyers.
The victim’s credit card was stolen and used days later in another city. A check was forged over her signature after she was dead. The prosecutor knew of the exculpatory evidence. The evidence was not made available to Morton’s defense lawyers.
For six years, the successor district attorney fought to keep DNA tests from being made on a blue handkerchief found near the scene of the homicide. Finally, over the objections of the State of Texas and after five years of foot-dragging, the DNA tests were made and, once again, Texas was proven to have convicted yet another innocent man.
At least 45 Texas inmates have been exonerated by DNA evidence since the tests became widely available. When you keep in mind that DNA evidence is available only in a small percentage of criminal cases, that suggests a staggering wrongful conviction rate. The suppression by the county attorney of the other evidence of innocence strongly implies that in Texas a “win” for the prosecution is far more important than the truth; that a conviction, however obtained, is more important than justice. Perhaps that is “Texas justice.”
When you consider Texas also has the highest execution rate among the 50 states, and has already executed innocent men like Cameron Todd Willingham; well, if you care about true justice, you should be outraged.
But Mr. Morton is going a step further. He is attempting a court of inquiry, to determine if the prosecutor’s misconduct warrants ethical sanctions or even a criminal prosecution. Ken Anderson, the man who prosecuted Morton, and hid the evidence of innocence, is a judge now. That’s frightening in and of itself. Worse still, the successor county attorney, John Bradley, fought the request for DNA testing, based on advice from Judge Anderson, his predecessor and friend. Let’s think this through: Mr. Anderson knew of the exculpatory evidence. He knew the DNA evidence was going to exonerate Morton. He knew that would look bad for him personally. And he knew as a judge it was unethical for him to get involved. Yet he advised Mr. Bradley to fight the DNA testing?
And Bradley, who presumably knew about the exculpatory evidence, relied upon the advice of someone who had wrongfully hidden evidence, and had a personal stake in any DNA testing, to fight that testing?
The criminal justice system today, across the country but particularly in Texas, is fatally flawed. There are no consistent negative consequences for prosecutorial misconduct. The U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision threw out a $14 million damages award against egregious misconduct by a Louisiana prosecutor. As Morton’s case demonstrates, self-serving prosecutors and wrongful convictions can rip a quarter century or more out of the life of an innocent man. Hiding evidence of innocence is despicable.
WC applauds the efforts by the Innocence Project to attach consequences to bad conduct. WC hopes it will be enough.
In memory of one of WC’s favorite writers, WC presents here Christopher Hitchens’ version of The Ten Commandments:
- Do not condemn people on the basis of their ethnicity or color.
- Do not ever use people as private property.
- Despise those who use violence or the threat of it in sexual relations. Hide your face and weep if you dare to harm a child.
- Do not condemn people for their inborn nature—why would God create so many homosexuals only in order to torture and destroy them?
- Be aware that you too are an animal and dependent on the web of nature, and think and act accordingly.
- Do not imagine that you can escape judgment if you rob people with a false prospectus rather than with a knife.
- Turn off that fucking cell phone—you have no idea how unimportant your call is to us.
- Denounce all jihadists and crusaders for what they are: psychopathic criminals with ugly delusions.
- Be willing to renounce any god or any religion if any holy commandments should contradict any of the above.
- Do not swallow your moral code in tablet form.
They work for WC.
Republican presidential wannabe Gingrich was on CBS’s Face the Nation this past Sunday. He said,
There’s “no reason the American people need to tolerate a judge that out of touch with American culture,” referring to a case where a judge ruled that explicit references to religion were barred from a high school graduation ceremony. And Gingrich recently has said judges should have to explain some of their decisions before Congress.
Gingrich’s historic claims about presidents, precedent and the courts have already been thoroughly debunked by Stephen Budiansky; WC won’t attempt to do better.
Garry Trudeau famously drew Gingrich as a bomb with a lit fuse. Still exactly right.
WC’s photography buddy Richard Ditch was kind enough to forward WC a link to still more bad news about Olympus: apparently, the cops and regulatory authorities will be raiding Olympus’s office on Monday morning. You’ll recall Olympus, which manufactures WC’s preferred camera equipment, has been in a slow motion catastrophic avalanche.
First, WC has to tip his hat to the Japanese authorities, who are apparently kind enough to warn the target of a criminal investigation of an impending raid. That’s a really different culture. Can you imagine that in Alaska? Hey Bill Allen, we’re going to put a secret microphone and television camera in your hotel suite… The mind boggles.
But the link inspired WC to look further into the scandal. Reuters has done a fine job of investigating and reporting. The accounting and corporate machinations are ridiculously complex, but, at the risk of oversimplification, here’s what seems to have happened.
Back in the late 1980s, Olympus invested in some risky securities. When the Japanese stock market crashed in 1989, Olympus was staring at big losses. Instead of taking the losses, Olympus has attempted to hide them in a long series ever more convoluted and expensive accounting scams. Eventually, they had more than $1 billion in losses to hide. The clumsy effort to pay some of those losses off, by exorbitant commissions in an over-priced acquisition of Gyrus, a British medical equipment company. The real purpose of the commission was to payoff some of that hidden, off-books debt.
The scam was reported bythe Japanese magazie Facta, then a little-known investigative journal. New Olympus president Michael Woodford tried to find out what was gong on. When he was stone-walled by senior corporate board members, he tried to hire an auditor. He was fired. He went public with his concerns. And now it has all come out, 25 years of fraud. 25-year old chickens coming home to roost.
Stay tuned. There’s sure to be more bad news to come.
It is WC’s thesis that there is not and never has been a crisis facing America, not one, that hasn’t failed to attract some small-minded, noisy, mildly charismatic stooge who will pander to America’s worst reactions to the crisis. Communism gave us Joe McCarthy. The Great Depression gave us Huey Long. 9/11 gave us Dick Cheney.
Illegal immigration has given us Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Arpaio’s solution to the problem of illegal immigration problem has been to violate the constitutional rights of pretty much everyone in Arizona with a brown skin. And to brag about it. To the extent he is anything but a panderer to the outrage he helps to cultivate, he’s an ignorant buffoon. Illegal immigration is driven by economics, and Arpaio’s racism is simply part of the risks to which illegal immigrants are driven. It’s not a deterrent.
The U.S. Department of Justice has finally called Arpaio out. In a meticulously crafted letter to the Maricopa County Attorney, DOJ laid out the evidence, itemized the violations of law and issued a deadline. DOJ notes that it already had to sue the Maircopa Sheriff’s Office to compel the production of the evidence, and isn’t very happy about that. DOJ details three categories of violations of Latinos’ civil rights, and identifies another three that need further investigation. The specific instances DOJ details are very serious and troubling to anyone who cares about the Constitution.
Sheriff Arpaio dismissed the investigative report as politically motivated. The Los Angeles Times quotes him as saying, “Don’t come here and use me as a whipping boy for a national and international problem. We are proud of the work we have done to fight illegal immigration.” What Sheriff Arpaio can’t seem to grasp is that he has made war an the U.S. Constitution.
Maricopa County has 60 days to negotiate a compliance order with DOJ. If that doesn’t happen, DOJ will go to court to enforce compliance.
Maricopa may be about to learn a very expensive series of lessons on the perils of indulging a panderer. After DOJ is through with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, the victims of Arpaio’s outrages will line up to file lawsuits under the Civil Rights Act. With the DOJ letter in hand, the only question will be how much the County has to pay for its idiot son’s conduct. Arpaio is almost 80 years old; WC predicts his litigation will outlive him by a considerable interval.
WC would be reluctant to buy Maricopa County municipal bonds…
In November, WC harshly criticized the Illinois prosecutors for their irrational rejection of DNA evidence that strongly supports the innocence of the wrongly convicted.
The Appellate Court of the Second District of Illinois just agreed. In a December 9 decision in the case involving Juan A. Rivera, Jr., the court, not to put too fine a point on it, chewed out the prosecutors:
After viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, we hold that no rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Because the State’s evidence was insufficient to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, we must reverse the conviction of Juan A. Rivera, Jr.
According to the New York Times, the fixated prosecutors still haven’t let go. The Lake County state’s attorney, Michael J. Waller, said, “We are going to study the opinion, confer with our appellate attorneys on Monday and determine a course of action.” The Times reports he declined to elaborate.
Of course, there’s still the problem of imprisoning the wrong man for 19 years, too. And the problem of having the real offender still on the streets. But the Lake County DA wants to keep prosecuting the innocent man.
One other bit of good news: Michael Mermel, who was the lead prosecutor in Mr. Rivera’s last trial? The same DA who claimed that an 8-year-old murder victim may have come into contact with sperm — which didn’t match the DNA of her father, whom Mermel was trying to prosecute — by playing in woods where couples have sex or sitting on a bed where a man masturbated? The DA’s office has announced Mr. Mermel’s retirement.