Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Bradley Manning cleared of aiding the enemy

Bradley Manning knew what he was doing when he downloaded reams of government documents and forwarded them to WikiLeaks. He knew the information was classified. He knew that he shouldn't have been doing what he was doing.

Well, except for the fact that he exposed human rights violations committed by our government. He had a duty to reveal that information. After all, at the Nuremberg trials we found out that a defense that one was just following orders was insufficient to keep a noose from being tied around your neck.

But maybe that was just because those put on trial for committing war crimes were the losers in the war. No one ever puts the winners on trial. Maybe history will - one day.

Bradley Manning was a whistleblower and, just like every other whistleblower, he broke the rules to expose the wrong doing. That's part of the game. These folks who are willing to stand up and tell the truth about what's going on behind closed doors do so at a great price. Sometimes the consequences are financial and sometimes they're greater.

Pvt. Manning knew what that price was - yet he did what he thought was the right thing anyway. Without his actions we would never have seen video of the chopper killing children and journalists while the soldiers inside acted like they were playing a video game. The film was classified not because there was anything secret about what happened - it was classified because it was really embarrassing.

Yesterday Pvt. Manning was found guilty on 20 of the 22 charges filed against him - but he was acquitted of the most serious charge of aiding the enemy. Even though he was acquitted of the charge that could have brought about a life sentence, Pvt. Manning is still looking at the possibility of spending decades behind bars.

The aiding the enemy charge was dismissed by Col. Denise Lind because the prosecution failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Manning intended to provide the material to enemies of the United States. But the remaining charges do cast a large shadow on advocates for more government transparency.

Yes, the world's a dangerous place. Yadda, yadda, yadda. And part of the reason it is a dangerous place are the policies of the US government that are carried out without benefit of illumination. Our government has a sorry record of backing military dictatorships and authoritarian rulers due to fears that those who produce wealth will one day rise up and demand their fair share of the pie. Our government provides the weapons of war to despots in order to keep the steady drip of oil from running out. Our government has done things during this so-called War on Terrorism that we would condemn if the other side did the same.

Our government occupies over 100 countries around the world by the use of military bases. Our government gets involved in the internal politics of nations all over the globe in an attempt to ensure that politicians who favor a neo-liberal economic agenda and who are friendly to global corporations sit in the seats of power.

Just imagine the outrage if these roles were reversed. Would the US stand for another nation putting a military base in the Lower 48? What would be the reaction if it turned out that a foreign government funneled money into an American election?

Bradley Manning peeled back the curtain and for that he will be punished severely. The entire circus that has surrounded this case from the beginning has only served to distract the public from the real issues. During the trial we were consumed by the question of whether or not he intended for Osama bin Laden to see the information. We've questioned whether or not he exceeded his authority to download the material in question.

But few people questioned the basic assumptions of this case. No one in the mainstream media questioned whether or not government officials violated international law or committed human rights violations. No one questioned whether it was proper to charge someone criminally who exposed wrongdoing to the press. No one questioned whether the actions of our government that Pvt. Manning exposed were proper.

President Obama has come down harder on whistleblowers than any other president. He has made it his mission to keep the American people from knowing what their government does in their name. He has gone after those who exposed wrongdoing with a vengeance.

Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden and Julian Assange have done us all a service by exposing the illegal actions of our government. History shall be the judge of how they should be rewarded.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Execution Watch: 7/31/2013

On Wednesday night the State of Texas will kill again...

DOUGLAS FELDMAN. The former financial analyst from Richardson, Texas, was convicted of shooting to death two truck drivers in separate road-rage incidents in 1998. A federal appeals court in September rejected Mr. Feldman's appeal, in which he claimed his trial lawyers were deficient, the jury received incorrect instructions and a prospective juror was dismissed improperly.

For more information on Mr. Feldman, click here.

Unless a stay is issued, we'll broadcast live:
Wednesday, July 31, 2013, 6-7 PM Central Time
KPFT FM Houston 90.1 and Online...

Monday, July 29, 2013

Letting them twist in the wind

As the bottom dropped out of the economy in 2007 and 2008 the government was flailing about trying to figure out what to do. Treasury officials then decided that something had to be done to save the large investment banks after Bear Stearns was left to die on the side of the road. Next up were the major banks and then the giant insurer AIG.

Somewhere down the road Chrysler and GM came to Washington hat-in-hand begging for money to make up for their years of mismanagement.Washington was only too happy to hand it out.

These were the same auto companies that had abandoned Detroit for the suburbs and over the borders.The Motor City which boasted a population of nearly 2 million folks 40 years ago was down to around 750,000 by the time the government bailed out the auto industry.

Detroit saw its industrial base leave the city - and with it thousands of good paying jobs in the plants. The tax base shrank. The money available to maintain the city's infrastructure was no longer there. Over the course of four decades the city entered a death spiral.

Today Detroit is a sea of poverty. Sure, there are groups talking about revitalizing the city - but that revitalization is designed to draw young white professionals into the city and pander to their tastes. The revitalization has nothing to do with those our economic system has chosen to ignore. The city is writing a check to build a new hockey arena when it can't even afford to maintain its own police department or to pick up trash throughout the city.

Earlier this month Detroit became the largest city in the United States to file for bankruptcy protection. The goal of the emergency manager is to wipe out the city's obligations to its pensioners. If the bankruptcy master invalidates the city's pension obligations, thousands upon thousands of former city workers will see their pensions and health care cut to the bone. And they did nothing to contribute to the financial meltdown of the city.

So, while local and state governments were more than willing to hand out subsidies to the auto makers whenever the titans of industry asked for some dough, there is no one willing to provide financial assistance to Detroit.

While the federal government was only too happy to bail out Chrysler and GM no one is proposing any type of financial assistance to Detroit. The auto makers are enjoying near record profits and the big banks are pulling in money hand-over-fist but no one in Washington seems to give a damn about the poor and working poor in Detroit.

President Obama continues to ignore the poor while he trumpets what the so-called middle class needs. His recent proclamation that the minimum wage should be raised to $10.10 an hour is only about five years too late. And even then it isn't adequate to keep a family of four above the poverty line.

We can somehow finds billions of dollars to spend on killing people and blowing stuff up in Afghanistan and across the Middle East. We can find plenty of money for the NSA to conduct covert surveillance on the citizens of this country without the slimmest iota of reasonable suspicion that anyone has done anything wrong. We can find plenty of pocket change to provide subsidies for businesses, both large and small, throughout the economy. But we can't provide one dime to the folks in Detroit who have watched their city die a slow, painful death.

What a strange set of priorities we have these days.

Friday, July 26, 2013

House gives NSA data mining operation a thumbs up

Think the Fourth Amendment still means anything? Think you should be free from government intrusion into your private affairs absent probable cause or a warrant?

Think again.

This week Congress had an opportunity to take a stand in defense of the citizenry's right to be left alone by the government. This week Congress had the opportunity to channel the anger and frustration of their constituents brought about by Edward Snowden's revelations.

And the House of Representatives chose to give the American people a big middle finger instead.

Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich) brought forward an amendment to a defense authorization bill that would put a stop to the NSA's secret collection of phone records. Mr. Amash said he put the amendment forward in order to protect the privacy of the American people.

The House shot down Mr. Amash's proposal narrowly. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) both voted against the amendment. Opponents of Mr. Amash's amendment used the death and destruction of the 9/11 attacks as a reason for sacrificing the constitutional rights of their constituents. The argument follows the trope that all of this increased security and spying has kept us safe for the last twelve years.

This entire debate should serve as a reminder why opponents of the Constitution insisted on the Bill of Rights. Fearful of what a more centralized, stronger federal government could do, proponents of the Bill of Rights wanted a document that laid out a list of rights that were sacrosanct.

They foresaw a day when the government would move to limit those rights and they wanted them to be enshrined in a document that could prevent the government limiting them in the heat of passion. Unfortunately our courts have been only to eager to limit those rights in the face of allowing a guilty person to walk free because the police crossed a line.

This debate has nothing to do with preventing terrorism or keeping this country safe. It has everything to do with restricting our reasonable expectations of privacy. For once the government makes it known that our telephone records and e-mail metadata are subject to collection without so much as a showing of reasonable suspicion that anyone has done anything illegal, our right to be secure in our person, papers and effects is lessened.

And this is yet another reason that our old metaphors must change. While Justice Scalia's notion that the common law tort of trespass should be our lodestar when determining whether the state has violated the Fourth Amendment isn't adequate to cover government data mining operations, neither is this quaint notion of reasonable expectation of privacy.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Killing v. caging

The other day my fellow blogger, Grits for Breakfast, left the following comment to a posting about how badly the State of Georgia wants to kill folks:
Is killing an inmate the state's "most intrusive power" compared to locking them up for life? Everybody dies. Not everybody spends decades in a cage.
On the one hand Grits is right. The power to lock someone away in a cage for decades is antithetical to the notion of limited government. Locking someone away for the rest of their life without the possibility of parole is, according to the European Court of Human Rights, a violation of a prisoner's human rights.

The ECHR held, in a case brought by a man sentenced to life without parole for the murder of a colleague, that locking someone away for the rest of their life contravenes Article 3 of the European convention on human rights which prohibits "inhuman and degrading punishment." The court didn't say that Douglas Vinter will be released anytime soon - it just said that denying him the possibility of parole was a violation of his human rights.

And we all know that just because someone appears before a parole board doesn't mean they will ever be paroled. The odds are fairly short that Mr. Vinter, and the other men held in Britain for life without the possibility of parole, will spend the remainder of their lives in prison.

So, yes, the state's power to cage up a man or woman like an animal and leave them to die decades down the road is something that should shock the conscience. But it doesn't. At least not on this side of the Atlantic.

But, as bad as what Jeff Gamso calls "death in prison" is, the power to take that life at will is magnitudes more intrusive. That man sitting in a cage for the rest of his life is still breathing. And he still has a chance at freedom. Just ask Michael Morton. For those on death row, such as Cameron Willingham, exoneration may come too late.

In this day and age no government should have the power to decide who lives and who dies. The problem is made worse when we consider the rules of jury selection in capital cases work to ensure a jury is seated that is predisposed to kill the defendant. As I have stated many times in the past, killing an inmate doesn't bring anyone back to life and it certainly doesn't fill the void in the lives of those who lost a loved one. All it does is create a void for another family.

One day the state's power to kill will be abolished once and for all. That day is approaching faster than death penalty proponents want to admit - but for those of us fighting to do away with capital punishment that day can't come soon enough.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Time for a little road trip

Two DA's are sitting at the bar. The first one tells the second that there's lots of money to be made from drug forfeitures. The second one tells the first there ain't nothing like a little secret slush fund. The first DA then comes up with what he thinks is a brilliant idea. He finishes off his 3.2% beer and orders another round. Then he leans over and drops his voice.

"I've got it. I know a way to make a fucking killing on this. I'll set up a dragnet on I-40. Then I'll hire some private company to come in, train the officers and give them a cut of the take. We'll make so much fucking money we can roll cigarettes with it!"

After hearing the idea, the second DA decided he had had enough to drink so he put down his glass, dropped a few bucks on the bar, told his buddy goodnight and got the hell out of the bar.

"What a plan! I'm a genius! What on earth could possibly go wrong?" the first DA shouted as his friend beat a path to the parking lot.

Now I'm certain that my version of the genesis of Caddo (OK) District Attorney Jason Hicks' plan is a complete fabrication. I just wish the scheme itself was.

Mr. Hicks found out just what could go wrong when his money-making machine fell off the rails because an employee of Desert Snow LLC thought it would be a good idea to pull over a pregnant woman and question her even though he wasn't a certified law enforcement officer. The controversy caused the DA to put an end to his scheme.

Mr. Hicks' deal with Desert Snow called for the company to get a 25% cut of any funds confiscated on days the company was out in the field training and 10% on any other day. Up until Mr. Hicks suspended the program, over $1 million was seized during traffic stops. Not all of the money was seized from folks arrested for carrying drugs, however. It appears that the police and their paramilitary partners had a bad habit of confiscating money from folks even when nothing illegal was found in the car. All it took for the profit motive to take hold was a drug dog doing some kind of dance around a car.

The entire scheme raises questions about what drives law enforcement decisions in Caddo County. How many of those traffic stops were legitimate? How many of them involved following a car until a driver inevitably broke some traffic law? How many of those stops were motivated by the desire to make some money?

And what does the scheme say about whether Mr. Hicks is fit to serve as the chief law enforcement officer of Caddo County? Just what does it say about his judgment and his motivation?

There is no question that folks are driving around on our nation's roadways transporting drugs. It's an inevitable result of our "got a problem, take a pill" culture. But if we are going to subject people to the long and intrusive arm of the law, that decision should be based on probable cause and not on maximizing profits.

Jason Hicks betrayed the people of Caddo County. He betrayed the good people of Oklahoma. More importantly, he betrayed his office and the oath he took to uphold the law.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A lifesaver

Dawn broke on Saturday as the girls were packed into the car and the trip to San Antonio was on. Our youngest wanted to go back to SeaWorld for her birthday. The girls were happy I was going because I missed out on the trip last month when we were in San Antonio for the Rusty Duncan seminar.

Now, over the last few months the hydraulic system operating the clutch has been acting up. At first the clutch pedal would lose pressure for a day or two at a time and then work fine for a couple of months. Over the past month the problems have come and gone much more often. In fact, over the last month I've had to bleed the slave cylinder more frequently.

I last bled the cylinder the day before we left on our trip. I knew I would have to replace the master cylinder once we got back. Unfortunately the hydraulics didn't agree. After making a pit stop near Seguin the pedal lost pressure. As we got near SeaWorld the problem got worse. Instead of pulling into the park we went just down the road to a hospital parking lot so I could bleed the cylinder.

Unfortunately I torqued the bleeder screw just a bit too much and the screw sheared off. Oops.

The security guard I flagged down told me there was a Firestone just a few miles away on Culebra. I made the phone call and arranged for a wrecker to take the car. While we waited I walked my wife and girls toward SeaWorld and I went back to the car to meet the wrecker driver.

After he put the car on the hook I called Firestone to let them know the car was on its way and that we needed it fixed that day. I told the adviser that both the master and slave cylinders would need to be replaced. I then headed back to SeaWorld to hook up with the family.

The next few hours were spent going down waterslides and riding roller coasters -- and checking with Firestone every couple of hours to check on the progress of the car.

Finally I got the call I was waiting for -- the car was ready. But now I had to figure out how to get there. And that's when this story takes a happy turn. The manager sent one of employees to SeaWorld to pick me up at the main gate.

I regret to say I never did get the names of the people at Firestone I dealt with but I can say that they made a bad situation bearable. They certainly didn't have to send someone out to pick me up. I was prepared to call a cab to get over there.

At a little past seven o'clock I rolled into the parking lot and met back up with my wife and girls.

So, to anyone reading this who works at the Firestone on Culebra near 1604 in San Antonio -- thank you for going above and beyond the call last Saturday.

Monday, July 22, 2013

No refusal isn't just for weekends anymore

No longer must we wait for holidays and three-day weekends to celebrate the evisceration of the Fourth Amendment. Now, in Harris County, we can celebrate it every day. That's because the Harris County District Attorney's Office has decided to make every day a No Refusal Day.

Going forward anytime a motorist is stopped and arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated and refuses to consent to a breath test, police will obtain a warrant to strap that motorist down and stick a needle in their arm. The expansion of No Refusal Weekends was announced by the Harris County District Attorney's Office but no one from the county judiciary had anything to say (publicly) about the plan.

It strikes me as quite interesting that the DA's office would announce a program expanding the use of search warrants to conduct forcible blood draws while the people who would actually sign the warrants said nothing. There just isn't any question that men and women wearing black polyester robes will take the warrant application from their fax machine and sign it unconditionally.

No Refusal Weekends only work when judges are compliant and willing to cast aside any shred of impartiality and join "the team." There is no random wheel that assigns judges to sit and wait for search warrant applications to come across the telephone lines. Judges are recruited to blindly sign search warrants authorizing forcible blood draws at the drop of a hat.

This willingness to sign warrants without scrutiny is a blatant violation of the oaths they took when they took they position on the bench. The name of the game isn't teaming up to rid the streets of drunk drivers - the name of the game is to ensure that the constitutional rights of the accused are protected. Judges who are worried about looking soft on crime are doing us all a great disservice by sitting on the bench in judgment of others.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Killing at any cost

Theoretically, when the state exercises its most intrusive power - murdering an inmate - it does so in the name of the people. At least in Texas we don't play that game - criminal cases are brought by the State of Texas. Out in Georgia, however, lawmakers have been playing fast and loose with the public's right to know what their government does in their name.

Back in 2011 the US manufacturer of pentobarbital halted production after European manufacturers quit selling their wares in the US because of their opposition to the death penalty. All of a sudden states had to figure out what they were going to do when they ran out of the drug.

In some states the three-drug lethal cocktail was converted to an over-dose of one drug (as in Texas) but Georgia went a different direction. Bound and determined to keep killing inmates, the state legislature passed a law making the source of the drug a state secret. The law also classifies the names of doctors who willingly violate the Hippocratic Oath in assisting the state murder inmates a state secret.

By making the sourcing of its killing drug a state secret, the State of Georgia has, in effect, put in place a wall that makes judicial review of the protocol impossible.

The people have a right to know what their government is doing in their name. This includes the sourcing of drugs and the protocols used in murdering inmates. Now there is no way to determine the effectiveness or strength of the drug being used. There is no way to determine whether the drug is prepared properly. There is no way to determine if the state is procuring their drugs legally.

Yesterday, on the same day the State of Texas killed its 502nd inmate, a Fulton County judge halted the scheduled execution of Warren Hill on the grounds that the new law limits a condemned inmate's ability to seek legal redress in challenging the constitutionality of the state's method of execution.

From the Guardian:
The judge ruled that by withholding from Warren Hill crucial details about the source and nature of the drugs that were to be used to execute him, the state was causing him "irreparable harm". According to an Atlanta-based reporter Max Blau who tweeted from court, the judge added that the new law "unconstitutionally limits" the condemned man's access to legal redress as it prevented him from acquiring the information needed to mount an appeal under the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
When a government goes to these measures to hide what it's doing you have to ask yourself the question why. Is it really so important that inmates are murdered in cold blood for acts that took place years before? Is it really so important to kill inmates who, having spent years in prison, are no longer the same person they were when they were convicted at trial?

I dare say it's not a coincidence that a disproportionate number of those on death row are black, Hispanic and poor. If a society is judged by the way it treats its weakest members, what does this death-at-all-costs mentality say about us?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

California sterilizes dozen of female inmates

Over a five-year period, 148 female inmates in California's state prison system underwent sterilization procedures that had not been approved by a state medical committee. The committee's job was to determine whether the procedures were medically necessary.

The procedures were performed at outside hospitals under contract to provide health care services to inmates. Doctors claim no one was coerced but there was at least one inmate who was asked to consent to a procedure while under sedation. Medical directors at the individual prisons recommended and approved the procedures without submitting the requests to the state board.

Now just think about that for a second. Prison medical directors recommended the procedures. We're not talking about a woman going to the doctor of her choosing. We're not talking about a doctor advising a patient how to treat a particular condition. These women weren't afforded a second opinion. The very fact that the person recommending the procedures is in a position of authority as compared to the inmate raises very serious questions.

I suppose it's entirely possible that all of the women wanted to undergo sterilization procedures and that no one was pressured or coerced to do so. It's also possible that some of the women involved were pressured to be sterilized. The truth, no doubt, lies somewhere in between.
"Pressuring a vulnerable population — including at least one documented instance of a patient under sedation — to undergo these extreme procedures erodes the ban on eugenics." -- California Legislative Women's Caucus
But even if we accept the hospitals' claims that no one was coerced, performing the procedures without obtaining the necessary authorization beforehand is very troubling. These women are in custody. They have little autonomy and little discretion. To the State of California, they are nothing but a series of numbers.

Anyone placed in that situation will be vulnerable. Prison de-humanizes people. It robs them of their individuality. It robs them of their self-worth.

It's the reason the detainees at Guantanamo and other facilities operated by the US around the world were subjected to torture day after day. The entire goal was to degrade the inmate and break down his resistance to the point where he would see his torturers as his saviors. Once someone is in that position there is nothing they won't do.

If but one inmate was coerced into consenting to a procedure that she wouldn't have consented to otherwise, that's one too many. In prison, inmates live day-by-day. It's the only way to get through a long sentence. The focus is on the here and now. There is no room for long term considerations. How many of those women thought about their futures outside the walls while they were lying on the table? What happens whey they realize the damage can't be undone?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Update: 501 and counting

John Quintanilla, Jr., was murdered by the State of Texas on Tuesday evening after the U.S. Supreme Court denied two last minute appeals.

One of the appeals argued that the confession that prosecutors played at trial was the product of coercion and should never have been admitted into evidence. The scenario by which the confession was obtained points out the absolute absurdity of an accused's right to counsel.

If the police arrest someone and want to question him, they must read the suspect his Miranda warning. If, after being so warned, the suspect decides not to talk - or decides he wants to speak with a lawyer - the police are not allowed to question him further unless he initiates the conversation.

When a defendant is brought before a magistrate, the magistrate admonishes the defendant of his right to remain silent and not answer any questions. He is also informed that he has the right to counsel.

The problem occurs if the police don't inform a suspect of his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent before he is taken before a magistrate. That's because the magistrate is informing the suspect of his Sixth Amendment right to a lawyer - not his Fifth Amendment right to a lawyer.

The Sixth Amendment lawyer is there to guide the defendant through court proceedings while the Fifth Amendment lawyer is there to tell a suspect to keep his mouth shut when being asked questions by the police. But, when a defendant is first admonished by a magistrate the police are free to sit him down and question him about any other matters even if the defendant doesn't initiate the conversation.

And that's how Mr. Quintanilla found himself confessing to a murder. He had been arrested for an unrelated case and was admonished by the magistrate. The police then began to question him and out of his mouth tumbled facts and statements that pointed to him as the murderer.

Mixed up in the gumbo were also allegations by Mr. Quintanilla that the police threatened members of his family if he didn't tell them what they wanted to know.

And, now, with last night's execution, the circle of death is complete. No purpose was served. No one was brought back to life. Once again we lowered ourselves and revealed our basest nature.

Execution Watch: 7/18/2013

On Thursday night the State of Texas kills again...

VAUGHN ROSS. A former architecture student at Texas Tech, Mr. Ross was sentenced to die in the 2001 murders of Viola Ross McVade, an 18-year-old woman he was feuding with, and Douglas Birdsall, a Texas Tech associate dean, who happened to be with her. Mr. Ross' attorneys argued that police contaminated DNA testing by mishandling it and suggested the slayings stemmed from Mr. Birdsall's visits to a "high crime area" to patronize prostitutes. Family members of the victims said the death sentence brought them little peace. The relatives included Mr. Birdsall's son, Nat, who opposes the death penalty and said his father did, too.

For more information on Mr. Ross, click here.

Unless a stay is issued, we'll broadcast live:
Thursday, July 18, 2013, 6-7 PM Central Time
KPFT FM Houston 90.1 and Online...

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Flights of (fanciful) law

The other night my wife and I watched Flight. For those of y'all not familiar with the movie - Denzel Washington playsWhip Whitaker, an airline pilot who has a bit of an alcohol and drug problem. After a late night filled with booze and coke, Denzell gets in the cockpit for a routine flight from Orlando to Atlanta.

A routine flight that was anything but.

After fighting turbulence and a thunderstorm a key piece of machinery in the plane's tail assembly breaks and the plane goes into an uncontrolled dive. Whip, however, as hungover as he may be, makes the decision to invert the plane to stabilize it. Once it's stabilized he flips it back right-side-up and crash lands in an open field.

Of the 102 passengers and crew on board, all but six survived.

In the end Whip goes to prison because he admitted to the NTSB that he was drunk when he flew the plane that fateful morning. We're never told what he actually went to prison for, however. And that raises, at least to me, a very interesting question.

Why was he in prison?

Yes, he was drunk that morning. He was drinking while on the plane. However, the accident wasn't caused by his intoxication. In fact, despite the fact he was drunk, Whip was able to bring the plane down with little loss of life. He had enough command of his mental faculties that he was able to devise a plan to land the plane in a field. he had enough command of his physical faculties that he was able to invert the plane not once, but twice, before landing in the field.

At most he should have been convicted of flying while intoxicated - a misdemeanor. But he was convicted of a felony because he stated he had been in prison for a year-and-a-half and had another four or five years to go.

The situation he was in mirrored that of a defendant charged with intoxication assault or intoxication manslaughter. Yes, the state must prove the defendant was intoxicated at the time of driving - but they must also prove that the defendant's intoxication was the proximate cause of the accident.

And that's not something the state could prove up in Flight because the proximate cause of the crash was a mechanical failure - not pilot error. So, while Whip could have been charged with intoxication manslaughter, a conviction of anything beyond flying while intoxicated would be pure fiction.

Now I understand the need to advance the plot and the need for Whip to find redemption upon hitting rock bottom. But let's just make everyone just a little bit stupider in the process.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Doing their job

Amid much hand wringing we are left to decipher the meaning of the verdict in the Zimmerman case. There are those in our fraternity who think the jury got it wrong.

The six women on that jury didn't get it wrong. They just did their job.

Their job was to listen to the evidence presented in the courtroom and to decide whether or not the prosecution proved each and every element of its case beyond all reasonable doubt. Based on their decision, the obvious answer is that they failed.

It wasn't the jury's duty to resolve any longstanding social issues. It wasn't their job to right past wrongs or to make any statements about their views on gun violence and race relations.

It's not an uncommon sight on a criminal defense lawyer listserve for someone to send out congratulations to a colleague who managed to nab a not guilty verdict on a case with less than stellar facts. In fact, the more outrageous the facts, the more huzzahs come flowing in.

Well, that's exactly what happened in Florida. The facts for Mr. Zimmerman weren't good. Many just assumed that the trial was only delaying the inevitable. But, somewhere along the way Mr. Zimmerman's lawyers didn't get the memo.

Regardless of one's feelings about the politics surrounding the case, Mr. Zimmerman's legal team did their job. They poked holes in the state's case. They misdirected the jury's attention. They weaved the evidence into a story that the jury was willing to follow.

They held the state to its burden of proof. They convinced the jury to presume that Mr. Zimmerman was innocent unless proven otherwise. They challenged the evidence. They confronted the witnesses called against their client. In the face of certain defeat (according to the pundits), they stood their ground and fought for their client.

You may not like the verdict. I may not care for the verdict. But, in the end, that verdict is proof that our criminal (in)justice system does, on occasion, work.

Whenever I pick a jury I always ask the panelists how they feel about Blackstone's statement (or at least the statement attributed to him) that it's better that 10 (or 100 or 1,000) guilty men go free than one innocent man suffer. So, in light of the verdict in the Zimmerman case, do you agree or disagree with Blackstone's statement -- and how strongly?

Execution Watch: 7/16/2013

On Tuesday night the State of Texas is planning on murdering its 501st inmate...

JOHN QUINTANILLA, JR. Arrested in a Victoria, Texas robbery that turned deadly, Mr. Quintanilla was convicted - along with Jeffrey Bibb - of slipping into an amusement arcade wearing a mask and brandishing a rifle. They demanded cash from a worker and ordered customers to lie down on the floor. The murder victim, a former sheriff's deputy, was shot three times when he stood up and grabbed Mr. Quintanilla's weapon. Bibb and Quintanilla were charged with capital murder in the 2002 slaying. Mr. Bibb received a lengthy prison sentence.

For more information on Mr. Quintanilla, click here.

Unless a stay is issued, we'll broadcast live:
Tuesday, July 16, 2013, 6-7 PM Central Time
KPFT FM Houston 90.1 and Online...

Friday, July 12, 2013

Where have all the blawg posts gone?

I must confess, it wasn't until late this week that I realized I was hopelessly behind with what was happening in the blawgosphere. I've been so busy with trial prep and trial this week (and figuring out why my phone wasn't picking up my emails) that I didn't notice I hadn't been keeping up with Simple Justice, Gamso for the Defense or Mark or Murray's blawgs.

Up through the end of June I was so used to my phone alerting me to new posts through my Google Reader app. Now, thanks to the incredibly dense decision by the master of the universe to kill off a very simple and effective tool, I have to remember to check Feedly - and, as my daughters will attest, I'm not the best at remembering little details.

I'm sure Google Reader wasn't Google's biggest money maker - maybe there wasn't a good way to create a matrix of readers and blogs to target ads as narrowly as possible. It certainly wasn't sexy. The interface on the computer left a lot to be desired visually and the feel of the app was very utilitarian.

But it worked great. I could pick and choose which blawgs I wanted to read and there they would appear on my phone as soon as a new posting went live. Maybe I couldn't watch the video clip on my phone and maybe it took far too long for a picture to download. But all those posts were right there on my phone - just like presents stacked up in the corner of the living room.

Now it's going to take a little more work. A little more thought. I'm sure I'll get used to it soon enough. But, for now, I really missing Google Reader. Bad move, guys.

I imagine I'll have a bit of catching up to do this weekend.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Why shouldn't Puig be an All-Star?

Yasiel Puig is a rookie for the Los Angeles Dodgers who defected from Cuba last year. His first full month in the majors was the best for any rookie other than Joe DiMaggio. Currently he has a .407 batting average and an on-base percentage of .441. He is one of the candidates for the final spot on the National League's All Star roster. People who wouldn't ordinarily watch baseball are tuning in to see him play.

As the fans have been swept up in Puig-mania, there are those pundits of the sacred game who think it would be a travesty if a rookie with barely a month's time in the big leagues were to play in the Midsummer Night Classic. Critics, among them Philadelphia closer Jonathan Papelbon, say it would make a joke of the All-Star game if Puig were to make the roster.
“The guy’s got a month, I don’t even think he’s got a month in the big leagues, and just comparing him to this and that, and saying he’s going to make the all-star team, that’s a joke to me. It’s just really what happens in baseball when… to me it really does an injustice to the veteran players that have been in the game for eight, nine, ten plus years, and it kind of does them an injustice because they’ve worked so hard to stay there.” - Jonathan Papelbon
No, what makes the All-Star game a joke is that, thanks to Bud Selig, home field advantage in the World Series is granted to the team from the league that wins an exhibition game. Back in the day the All-Star Game meant something. It was the only time, other than the World Series, that you could see players from both leagues on the same field at the same time.

Interleague play killed that.

The game has become a joke on its own as the starters play no more than a couple of innings before bench players begin making their appearances. It has become more important for a manager to get all of his players in the game than it is to win the game. That's what led to the dreaded tie game a few years ago - in the rush to get everyone in the game the managers left themselves with no one on the bench as the game headed into extra innings.

The joke isn't that the most astounding rookie in years might get a spot on the roster. The joke is that a game that could be decided in the late innings with the starters long gone will determine who gets home field advantage when the World Series comes along in October.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Forced feeding = torture

Is it a form of torture to force feed a prisoner on hunger strike?

Let's forget for a second the question of whether it's torture to hold someone without charges thousands of miles from their own country for over a decade.

Rapper Yasiin Bey (formerly known as Mos Def) took part in a demonstration to show the world just what is involved in the forced feeding of a hunger striker. The doctors followed the procedures as set out in the military instructions that were leaked earlier this year.

The entire process takes about two hours but the demonstration only lasted about four minutes because of the pain and discomfort to Mr. Bey. While you watch, picture yourself or a loved one strapped into that chair.

Think about the pain and humiliation those being force fed must suffer over and over again.

What's going to happen as the Muslim world enters the month of Ramadan? Are we going to violate these prisoners' right to practice their own religion?

This is the reality of the War on Everything Terror. Our government has done everything it can to dehumanize those whom we don't like. Our conduct has been shameful and my only hope is that one day someone will have to answer for the crimes that have been committed in our name.

H/T The Guardian

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Taking the long way around

Last week we switched from DirecTV to U-verse. Now, while the installation guys got here about 20 minutes before they were scheduled - they were at our house for almost three hours. And, during that three-hour period we had no internet access.

Finally they left with everything seeming to be in working order. That is, until my wife came home and tried to use the television in the study. Because of the way our house is wired, the main unit is housed in the study and we have a wireless box in the living room. Somehow, and I have yet to figure out how, the picture was frozen in the study and the box and remote refused to work.

At the same time our phones and internet connections worked fine - as did the television in the living room. The only problem was, since the main unit was not working, we were unable to use the DVR.

On Friday my wife called the U-verse folks to try to get a serviceman to come out to the house and fix the problem. Not so fast. The installer walked her through rebooting the system which failed to resolve the issue. Next she called the manager and asked him to send out someone to fix the problem. No dice. She was told she would have to call customer service.

(So much for exceptional service on the survey.)

The guy she spoke to in Indonesia didn't seem to have the slightest clue what to do. He took her back through the steps of rebooting the system which failed, once again, to resolve the issue. He finally decided that the box must be bad.

Great! There's an AT&T store near my office. I could just take the box to the store, exchange it, install it and we'd be back in business. Right? Wrong. Way wrong.

The young man in Indonesia told my wife that wasn't how it worked. They would have to send us a new box through UPS and we would then have to return the old box to the nearest UPS store. We were promised that the box would arrive the next day.

That it did - but not before one of the most bizarre journeys I've ever witnessed. My wife was sent an email with a link to track the location of the box.

LocationDateLocal TimeActivity
Stafford, TX, United States07/06/201310:34 A.M.Delivered
07/06/20138:28 A.M.Out For Delivery
07/06/20138:25 A.M.Arrival Scan
Houston, TX, United States07/06/20138:16 A.M.Departure Scan
07/06/20136:33 A.M.Arrival Scan
Louisville, KY, United States07/06/20135:21 A.M.Departure Scan
07/06/20131:45 A.M.Arrival Scan
DFW Airport, TX, United States07/05/201310:48 P.M.Departure Scan
07/05/20138:53 P.M.Arrival Scan
Fort Worth, TX, United States07/05/20138:37 P.M.Departure Scan
07/05/20137:25 P.M.Origin Scan
United States07/05/20134:38 P.M.Order Processed: Ready for UPS

I have no idea where the box began its journey and I'm assuming it was put on a truck in Fort Worth and driven to the D/FW airport. But what I can't understand is why the hell it was flown to Louisville before being flown to Houston. It's seems mindboggling that there wasn't a direct flight from Dallas to Houston. It would have been quicker to put the box on a truck at the airport and drive it down I-45 to Houston.

Everything worked out in the end and the new box was plugged in and working by lunchtime.

I just can't help but thinking there has to be a more efficient way to handle this situation. I get that those planes and trucks would be in the air and on the road anyway, but would it really be so hard to allow customers to exchange those boxes at a local AT&T store?

Monday, July 8, 2013

Playing post office

So you plan on going "off the grid" in order to keep the government from keeping tabs on you. Los federales are storing all the metadata from every e-mail they can get their hands on. An NSA storage facility is being built in Utah so that the government can store every phone call.

Just don't count on your snail mail being secure.

Leslie Pickering of Buffalo, New York had no reason to believe that the government was poking around his postal business. That is, until he received a card in the mail by mistake alerting postal employees to flag all mail and packages sent to his home.

Welcome to the world of mail covers. Long before electronic surveillance there was another way in which the government kept tabs on who you communicated with. With just a letter to the postal service, law enforcement agencies can find out who's been sending you mail and packages.

While the letters and packages can't be opened without a warrant, the "metadata" on your snail mail can tell someone an awful lot about you - aside from the generic junk mail that accumulates in your mailbox. Who are you getting mail from? Letters? Packages? Zip codes?

In the old days the police would only send out the mail cover request when investigating a crime. But now, thanks to the War on the Constitution Terror, it's open season on privacy and your pen pals are in the crosshairs.

The simple fact of the matter is that we no longer have a reasonable expectation of privacy in anything. Our e-mails are monitored. The NSA intercepts and stores millions of telephone conversations. And Big Brother is peeking over your shoulder at the return address label on your mail.

I have said it before, and I will say it again, it's time to rethink our privacy paradigm. Maybe it's time to go back to the actual wording of the Fourth Amendment. Persons. Houses. Papers. Effects. Enough of the reasonable expectation of privacy. Enough of crafting metaphors for what computers and cell phones are.

Friday, July 5, 2013

And just how do you define successful?

Last weekend we went up to Conroe to hang out with the folks and celebrate my younger brother's birthday.  And, of course, at some point the conversation drifted to the pathetic state of major league baseball in Houston.

My mom told me that a hairdresser friend of hers was cutting the hair of someone whose relative knew Astros' owner Jim Crane or who knew some relative of Crane's or something along those lines. Well, the gist of the story was that Jim Crane had always been a successful businessman (well, let's just forget about those EEOC problems and that whole war-profiteering mess) and that this man had faith that Crane would be successful in turning around the Astros.

My mom took this to be a sign of hope that one day the Astros might just contend for the playoffs again (or win more than they lost).

Not wanting to be the one to burst my mom's bubble I pointed out that there are two measures of success when one owns a sports team - making money and winning championships. Jim Crane would have to be one of the world's worst businessmen not to make a profit with the Astros.

I pointed out that the upcoming broadcast rights would be worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $40 million or so per team. And that's before selling a single ticket. I told her he had no incentive to go out and spend money on players because with the current payroll he stands to make millions a year doing absolutely nothing.

Now there's little chance the Astros will be as bad as they are now for the foreseeable future. They will improve over time - but don't count on Crane opening up the checkbook to buy free agent talent anytime soon. In fact, be prepared to see the best and brightest young players traded off before they become eligible for arbitration.

Yes, Jim Crane will be successful. He will make money hand-over-fist. Unfortunately, his metric of success isn't winning ballgames.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Be careful what you wish for

On this day that we celebrate declaring our independence from the English crown it seems appropriate to look at what's happening in Egypt.

In 2011 the Arab Spring reached its zenith as the US-backed dictator, Hosni Mubarak, fell from power. The army refused Mubarak's commands to fire on the protesters and forced Mubarak to step down. Over the course of the next 18 months secular and Islamist forces vied for control of post-Mubarak Egypt.

The Muslim Brotherhood, the outlawed opposition force during the days of the dictatorship, took both the presidency and the parliament (even after the original elections were invalidated). The Muslim Brotherhood also had a majority of the representatives in the assembly that was to draft the new constitution.

Dr. Mohamed Morsi, the standard bearer for the Muslim Brotherhood, did his best to force an Islamist state upon the people. Now, while his party did win a majority of the vote, there was still a healthy percentage of the population that voted in favor of the secular parties.

Over the past year Dr. Morsi's relationship with the political opposition deteriorated to the point that millions of Egyptians marched in the streets calling for Dr. Morsi to step down this week. That call was echoed by the leaders of the Egyptian military who told the president that if he didn't negotiate a political settlement with the opposition that they would step in.

And that is what happened on Wednesday evening. Dr. Morsi was removed from office by the military and placed under arrest - as were other members of his government and the Muslim Brotherhood. Those who had called for Dr. Morsi to resign were overjoyed after the coup.

But what is the price of victory?

Dr. Morsi was the first democratically elected president in Egypt's history. The parliamentary elections were the first free elections as well. While the secular parties and their supporters have legitimate grievances against the Morsi government, does it really serve the forces of democracy to have the military step in and remove a democratically elected president? What kind of precedent does this set for future governments?

Dr. Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood certainly didn't represent the views of millions of Egyptians who wanted Egypt to be a secular state. But he was elected. The Muslim Brotherhood, as an outlawed group, had, by far, the best organized party in the country. And it showed when it came time for elections.

The secular opposition wasn't happy. But Dr. Morsi played by the rules. The actions this week in Egypt were anything but democratic. Allowing the military to act as a sovereign branch of government is a very bad idea. Military rule is one of the worst possible forms of government as soldiers are taught to obey orders from above and not to question authority. Lest we forget, questioning authority is one of the cornerstones of a healthy democracy.

So now Egypt has a provisional president. At some point in the future new elections will be held and a new president will be elected. He may be better than Dr. Morsi. He may be worse. But what happens the next time there is public dissatisfaction with the government? Will the military step in once again?

In order for democracy to thrive there must be an understanding  that the people have the right to change their government. That right is exercised at the ballot box not by use of a rifle. The people in the streets of Egypt got what they wanted; but how will they feel when it's their ox that's being gored?

I have no sympathy for Dr. Morsi. I firmly believe that government and religion should be separate. But I also believe that you must accept the results of a free and fair election and fight your battles in the political arena. Organize your block. Organize your neighborhood. Picket. Shout. Protest. But be very careful what you wish for - because sometimes, in the long run, the price is more than you're willing to pay.

Reading the Declaration

Yesterday the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association held its fourth annual reading of the Declaration of Independence on the steps of the Harris County Criminal (In)justice Center. Here are a few images from the event...

  A view from the crowd.

 The speaker is John Raley who helped exonerate Michael Morton.

 The look toward the crowd.

As usual, a special thanks goes out to Robert Fickman who put together the first reading of the Declaration four years ago. The tradition he started in Harris County has spread throughout the state.

 Here's a scene from Walker County.

This is a shot of the reading in Denton County.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The turning of the tide 150 years ago

150 years ago today dawn broke over the fields and foothills of Central Pennsylvania where the armies of George Meade and Robert E. Lee were encamped. The evening before the forces of Col. Joshua Chamberlain held the Union flank against repeated Confederate assault.

The cannons roared all afternoon as the Confederate army bombarded Union positions at the top of Cemetery Ridge. The Union artillery kept up a steady fire on the soldiers sheltered in the woods at the bottom of the ridge.

Toward the end of the afternoon, Confederate General George Pickett led 12,500 Confederate soldiers on a charge up the naked ridge. His men never stood a chance as they marched without cover on the entrenched Union army. The target was a small grouping of trees near the center of the Union line. While some of Pickett's men reached the target they were cut down in hand-to-hand combat.

As the slaughter came to an end, the Confederate forces retreated down the ridge and back into the woods. The next morning they began the march back to Virginia. It was the last concentrated Confederate assault on northern soil during the War.

That same day Union General U.S. Grant accepted the surrender of Vicksburg, Mississippi, a port city located on the lower Mississippi River. The fall of Vicksburg not only gave the Union control of the entire Mississippi River, it also cut the Confederacy in half.

The Civil War appeared to be near an end, but it would take almost two more years, and thousands of casualties, before it was finally over.

Come gather 'round and read the Declaration

If you are in Houston this morning, the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association would like to invite you to our 4th Annual reading of the Declaration of Independence outside the Harris County Criminal (In)justice Center at 11:30 a.m.

What was once just a vision dancing around inside the head of my colleague Robert Fickman has now become a yearly tradition - not only in Houston, but at courthouses around the state and the country.

So come out and listen to the words of Thomas Jefferson and reflect upon the stand those brave men who signed the document took during the summer of 1776.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Taking aim at the Occupy movement

An identified _____ as of October [2011] planned to engage in sniper attacks against protesters in Houston, Texas, if deemed necessary. An identified _____ had received intelligence that indicated the protesters in New York and Seattle planned similar protests in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin, Texas. _____ planned to gather intelligence against the leaders of the protest groups and obtain photographs, then formulate a plan to kill the leadership via suppressed sniper rifles.\
*     *     *     
On 13 October 2011, writer sent via email an excerpt from the daily _____ regarding FBI Houston's _____ to all IAs, SSRAs and SSA _____. This _____ identified the exploitation of the Occupy Movement by _____ interested in developing a long-term plan to kill local Occupy leaders via sniper fire.
Those are excerpts from documents obtained by Dave Lindorff through a FOIA request to the FBI regarding the Occupy movement. This is how seriously someone took the Occupy movement given the economic conditions and events happening around the world in 2011.

Through my work with the National Lawyers Guild I represented members of Occupy Houston, and their supporters, who were arrested during their "occupation" of downtown Houston. In the course of that representation a colleague, Greg Gladden, uncovered documents regarding the infiltration of the Occupy Austin movement by officers with the Austin Police Department. The documents also spelled out the involvement of the FBI and other law enforcement agencies.

Never during the course of our representation of the Occupy Houston protesters did we hear anything about a plot to kill the leadership of the Occupy movement in Houston. If the information contained within these documents is true, it raises some very serious questions.

Just how scared of the Occupy movement was the government? Or, maybe the question should be just how scared were business leaders and their lackeys in the government? The Occupy protests were a mass movement that had the potential to catch fire. That they didn't is due to the government's crackdowns and, I would argue, on the lack of a cohesive message from the movement.

The more important question is, obviously, who was behind the alleged plot to assassinate Occupy leaders in Houston? Why did the government redact any identification information about whose plot it was? Is that information redacted because it would expose confidential sources, or is it redacted because the FBI was behind the alleged plot?

I must admit that I have a very hard time believing that the assassination plot was a government-hatched plan. The more effective tactics in shutting down the movement were either driving the protesters out of the parks or waiting them out. Sending in snipers to kill protesters seems like a massive overreaction.

Of course maybe the FBI had infiltrated right-wing groups opposed to the Occupy movement and were running an undercover operation to put the groups out of business. If that were the case, how much of this alleged plot was cooked up by group members and how much of the idea was planted in their heads by undercover agents?

Whatever the answers to the questions may be, we know that something was up. We know that the Houston FBI knew about the plot and that they provided no warning to the Occupy protesters in Tranquility Park.

We also know that the FBI characterized the Occupy movement as a terrorist organization - apparently because the participants dared to question the status quo and the government's role in the economic collapse.  For those of y'all who are okay with our government's domestic surveillance programs under the belief that the programs are keeping us safe, just take a moment to think about how low the bar is for the government to label a group as being a terrorist organization.

See also:

"FBI Document - "[DELETED]" plots to kill Occupy leaders "If Deemed Necessary," by David Lindorff, WhoWhatWhy (June 27, 2013)

-- Please note that Mr. Lindorff's story is inaccurate with regard to my role in the defense of the Occupy the Port protesters who were charged with felony offenses. I represented one protester charged with a misdemeanor arising out of that protest. --

Monday, July 1, 2013

Book review - After the Music Stopped: The financial crisis, the response and the work ahead

Alan Blinder is an economist. He was the author of the microeconomics textbook we used when I was an undergrad at the University of Texas. He is an unabashed Keynesian and generally leans just a bit to the left (but still squarely in the middle). His new book, After the Music Stopped, is a look at the economic catastrophe that we are still trying to get out way out of.

The book is a defense (generally) of the policies implemented by the Bush and Obama administrations in response to the economic collapse in 2007. He is a big fan of Fed chairman Ben Bernanke, a Bush appointee who still heads the bank. He also seems to have a soft spot for Timothy Geithner, at one time the head of the New York branch of the Fed and, later, Treasury secretary under President Obama.

Looking back at the economic collapse, Mr. Blinder blames the crash on bubbles in both the housing and bond markets. He decries the mortgages that were "designed to default" and on the mortgage-backed securities (and associated derivatives) that fueled the flames.

He defends the actions of the Bush administration when it came to bailing out Bear Stearns but questions the decision to allow Shearson Brothers to go into bankruptcy. He cheers the Fed's decisions to provide capital injections for the big banks and to bail out insurance giant AIG. He was in favor of the TARP program but didn't care for the way the head of the Treasury Department, Henry Paulson, under President Bush, went about spreading the money.

He argues that President Obama's fiscal stimulus plan didn't go far enough (not much argument there). He is a big fan of the so-called quantitative easing policy of the Fed (buying up longer-term debt in order to lower longer-term interest rates) since there's just so much one can do when the Fed's primary interest rate is already as low as it can go.

He is critical of the Bush administration's lack of oversight of financial markets and the exotic "investment" vehicles they created. He feels that derivatives should only be traded in regulated markets and that customized OTC (over-the-counter) derivatives should be done away with - as the more complicated a financial product is, the more likely someone's taking a bath.

He also offers a prescription for recovery and sustainability - get health care costs under control, rein in discretionary government spending and regulate the markets more effectively. His greatest concern is the looming tab for health care for the elderly. Of course the problem with health care costs is we subsidize the health care industry for its foregone profits in parts of the world with single-payer plans and whose people lack the funds to pay market price for prescriptions.

Yes, the book sounds very dry - but you'd be wrong. If you have any knowledge of , or interest in, economics, it's a pretty interesting book. It's not the definitive look at the economic collapse but it is a fair survey of the mess.

However, Mr. Blinder, much like his colleagues, can't seem to explain how everything went so bad in the first place. Yes, financial companies took a bath when folks started defaulting on their mortgages. The problems were multiplied because of the mortgage-backed securities that were sold and the manner in which the originator of the mortgage became completely divorced from the servicing of the mortgage. But what caused folks to default on their mortgages in the first place?

The underlying problem is the crisis of overproduction. As companies develop more efficient production methods, they are able to produce more products with fewer workers. Profits surge while wages stagnate. Some firms then take the next step and move production overseas where they can lower their wage expense even more. Profits surge higher and wages stagnate - or decline. So, while profits are soaring and the stock market is hitting record highs, more and more workers find themselves without work - or with the prospect of lower-wage jobs. The question then becomes how all of these products that are being made are going to get sold. As inventories increase because fewer and fewer people can afford to buy, workers get laid off and the problem worsens.

This is what causes the so-called business cycle. Overproduction precipitated the Great Depression. The financial crash on Wall Street merely served to worsen it. Overproduction led to the economic collapse in 2007, the financial crash merely served to worsen it. Now we are looking at a future with a higher unemployment rate and with fewer and fewer high-wage jobs. So, far all of Mr. Blinder's prescriptions to keep another economic collapse from happening, there is nothing that can be done to prevent it - a system of production designed to benefit the few at the expense of the many can never be fixed.