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October 2009
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December 2009

Warren Buffett is No Folk Hero

Years ago Tom Kirkendall had an insight that no one had before - or since, it seems - about Warren Buffett.   Called "The Buffett Rule," Kirkendall explained the media's reporting of Buffett thusly: "A folksy and media savvy businessman involved in complicated structured finance transactions is given a pass [when others go to jail and receive negative press for the same conduct]."  

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The Buffett Rule is in full effect today.  A story getting major attention reads: "Goldman Sachs, Buffett to help small businesses."  Nowhere does the story report that Buffett is a substantial shareholder in Goldman Sachs.  Instead, we're told that Goldman Sachs (which by now everyone who has been paying attention recognizes is evil) is getting advice from Aw, Shucks Buffett:

NEW YORK (AP) -- Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said Tuesday it is teaming with billionaire investor Warren Buffett to invest $500 million to provide thousands of small business owners across America with college scholarships and boost their access to capital.

How thoughtful!  Or is it?

Some might wonder whether Buffett, who has a several-billion-dollar stake in Goldman Sachs, is attempting to reform Goldman Sachs's evil (and well-deserved) reputation.  Yet anyone who read the media's coverage of the tag-team wouldn't even realize that Buffett is a major shareholder in Goldman Sachs.  No one would even recognize Buffett's true motives.  

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It's not evil for Buffett to seek to profit from his Goldman Sachs investment.  In fact,  Buffett has a legal and moral duty to maximize profits for his Berkshire Hathaway shareholders.  It is evil for the media to pretend as if Buffett is being selfless.  He's not.  

Buffett wants to exploit his Goldman Sachs investment.  Goldman Sachs profits due to government action and rent-seeking.  Do you have an idea how many billions Goldman Sachs would make from cap-and-trade?  Of course you don't.  Goldman Sachs would like to keep you ignorant.

Buffett needs Goldman Sachs to continue its parasitic relationship with the federal government.  Populist outrage and media attention is bad for Goldman Sachs; and thus bad for Buffett.

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Speaking of the bailouts and Buffett, did you know that Warren Buffett received a $100 billion bailout from the federal government.  The media hasn't been reporting on this, either:

I had lunch last week with Rolfe Winkler, who is an up and comer in the blog world, a thinking man’s Felix Salmon.

He is similarly annoyed with St. Warren — but rather than engage in my sophmoric venom spew, he went to the spreadsheet to discover that Buffet owns major stakes in 8 companies that have received more than $100 billion in government bailouts.

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If you think we've moved beyond folk heroes and myths, look no farther than the media's treatment of Warren Buffett.


Using Google for Legal Research

I begin every legal research issue the same way - with Google.  Using Google just got better:

As many of us recall from our civics lessons in school, the United States is a common law country. That means when judges issue opinions in legal cases, they often establish precedents that will guide the rulings of other judges in similar cases and jurisdictions. Over time, these legal opinions build, refine and clarify the laws that govern our land. For average citizens, however, it can be difficult to find or even read these landmark opinions. We think that's a problem: Laws that you don't know about, you can't follow — or make effective arguments to change.

Starting today, we're enabling people everywhere to find and read full text legal opinions from U.S. federal and state district, appellate and supreme courts using Google Scholar. You can find these opinions by searching for cases (like Planned Parenthood v. Casey), or by topics (like desegregation) or other queries that you are interested in. For example, go to Google Scholar, click on the "Legal opinions and journals" radio button, and try the query separate but equal. Your search results will include links to cases familiar to many of us in the U.S. such as Plessy v. Ferguson and Brown v. Board of Education, which explore the acceptablity of "separate but equal" facilities for citizens at two different points in the history of the U.S. But your results will also include opinions from cases that you might be less familiar with, but which have played an important role.

Awesome.


Deferred Prosecution for Aleynikov?

In like a lion, out like a lamb:

In a court filing on Monday, federal prosecutors revealed that Aleynikov's attorney plans to seek a resolution of the case that could culminate in either a deferred prosecution agreement, or a plea to a reduced charge of a misdemeanor. Prosecutors say they intend to "evaluate'' the request for a deferred prosecution.

In light of the anticipated request from Aleynikov's lawyer, Assistant US Attorney Joseph Facciponti asked a U.S. magistrate judge to extend the time that prosecutors must act to begin trying Aleynikov on the theft of trade secrets charge until December 16. Aleynikov was originally arrested and arraigned on the theft charge over the July 4th weekend.

What a joke.  Facciponti is of course going to accept this plea offer.  There is literally no criminal case against Aleynikov.  There is no good-faith basis to move forward with the prosecution.  Aleynikov is factually innocent.

Aleynikov's lawyer is doing Facciponti a favor.  Facciponti will be able to get a pseudo-conviction out of this case without having to indict Aleynikov for crimes that Aleynikov did not commit.  

Facciponti's actions should serve as a cautionary tale for Department of Justice line lawyers.  When Goldman Sachs tells you that someone committed a crime and must be arrested within 48 hours: Goldman Sachs is lying.  Of course, Facciponti probably already knew this.  

Facciponti is no doubt hoping to cash out big time once he leaves the Department of Justice.  I guarantee that when Facciponti leaves DOJ, Goldman Sachs will be one of his clients.  

At least federal judges are on notice that Facciponti has no integrity.  It is an undisputed fact that Facciponti lied at Aleynikov's bail hearing.   It is also undisputed that Facciponti's arrest of Aleynikov was an embarrassing rush to judgment; and that Aleynikov's arrest was made without probable cause; and the arrrest violated official Department of Justice policy.


Facebook Saves Teen from Confirmation Bias and Flawed Eyewitness Identification

We got a black kid who was already in jail for armed robbery.  Therefore, he must be guilty of an unrelated armed robbery.  Oh, and we have an eyewitness identification.  Let's send him to prison!  Oops:

For 19-year-old Rodney Bradford, a simple Facebook status update turned into much more: a rock-solid alibi after he was accused of a crime.

Confirmation of the time stamp on the update and the location from which it was entered showed he could not have been at the scene of a robbery in another part of New York City. After he had spent almost two weeks in jail, the case against him was dismissed.

Confirmation bias makes police work easy:

The story began at 11:49 a.m. on Saturday, October 17, when Bradford was updating his Facebook status at his father's home in Harlem. A minute later, 12 miles away in Brooklyn, two men were mugged at gunpoint.

The next day, Bradford, who is facing a separate 2008 robbery indictment, found out police were looking for him in connection with the Brooklyn robbery.

Must be guilty.  After all, he robbed someone else in 2008.  No doubt the evidence in that case is as strong as it was in the Facebook case.  Perhaps an eyewitness identification?  

Bradford turned himself in, confident he would be cleared. But after one of the victims picked him out of a lineup, he was charged with robbery in the first degree and sent to Rikers Island, home of the New York City jail.

Nice.  Fortunately the prosecutor dismissed the case after Facebook legal authenticated Mr. Bradford's location and time of posting.  (Ponder that.)  No one, though, is asking: What went wrong?  

The kid clearly did not commit the armed robbery.  Yet without the Facebook profile update, he'd have been sent to prison.  

It's great that the kid isn't going to prison for a crime that he didn't commit.  What about the teenagers not lucky enough to be home on a Saturday afternoon, updating their Facebook profiles?  

Scott Greenfield likes to jab guys who are on Twitter on a Saturday night: "Friday Night Warning: Go out. Have a life. Do not twitter. Find real people to talk to. Look them in the eye. Interact. Maybe LOL for real." 

It's a good thing Mr. Bradford stayed home, and a bad thing for society that Bradford's staying home is the only thing preventing him from being behind prison bars. 


See a Narcissist Parent

Do check out this insightful post and fascinating comment thread.  "Sparkylong" serves as the voice of insight and reason.  "Turk" plays the role of narcissistic father.

The post and thread reminded me of a brilliant insight from The Last Psychiatrist: "[Today's parents] secretly read their kid's email and MySpace accounts, but have never once read the kid's math book. (If you do your kid's math homework with them every night, I swear to you that you won't need to worry about MySpace.)."


Obama Gives $33 Billion to Home Builders

Rarely does news shock me.  The corruption is so thick...How can one be surprised?  Barack Obama has given us a reason to sit in awe: 

ON Nov. 6, President Obama signed the Worker, Homeownership and Business Assistance Act of 2009 into law, extending unemployment benefits by 20 weeks and renewing the first-time homebuyer tax credit until next April.

But tucked inside the law was another prize: a tax break that lets big companies offset losses incurred in 2008 and 2009 against profits booked as far back as 2004. The tax cuts will generate corporate refunds or relief worth about $33 billion, according to an administration estimate.

Happy Holidays.


Judge Manuel Real at it Again

What does it say about the judiciary's ability to self-police when Judge Manuel Real is still on the bench?  

A federal appeals court today criticized U.S. District Judge Manuel L. Real for his handling of $33.8 million entrusted to him for victims of late Philippines dictator Ferdinand Marcos, calling his accounting “curious” and “filled with cryptic notations” that failed to show what happened to the money.

Read the rest here.  


Aleynikov Hearing on Monday: Facciponti's Unanswered Questions

Will AUSA Joseph Paul Facciponti indict Aleynikov - who was arrested less than 48 hours after Goldman Sachs reported him for alleging stealing trade secrets?  (When Goldman calls: Arrest first, investigate later.)  Or will Facciponti ask for another 30-day continuance?  When is a federal judge going to stand up to Facciponti?  

Facciponti already lied in federal court.  He made a bad arrest.  Goldman said, "Jump," and he jumped.  Goldman Sachs pimped Facciponti.  Do the right thing, Joe.  Dismiss the case.  You are not Goldman Sachs' personal lawyer.  If you want to work for Goldman Sachs, join the private sector.  Facciponti lacks the moral courage to dismiss the case.  

It's time for a federal judge to force Facciponti to dismiss the case against Aleynikov.  Then the Office of Professional Responsibility needs to open an investigation into Facciponti.  Among other questions:

  • Why did you arrest Aleynikov less than 48 hours after Goldman Sachs contacted you?  Is Goldman Sachs on a "priority list," such that you drop everything when they call?
  • You said at the Aleynikov bail hearing that Aleynikov stole from Goldman Sachs, software that could "unfairly manipulate markets."  If that is true, why didn't you investigate Goldman Sachs for possessing market-manipulating software?  After all, Aleynikov allegedly stole the software from Goldman Sachs - which means that it's Goldman's software.  Did you investigate Goldman Sachs?  If not, why not?
  • At the Aleynikov bail hearing, you said that Aleynikov's "dissemination of [Goldman's high frequency traidng software] program would be a substantial loss to them, a very substantial loss to them."  Yet days later, David Viniar, Goldman Sach's Chief Financial Officer, said: "We still have all of the code.  It is not like the code had been lost to Goldman Sachs. And even if it had been, it is a small piece of our business.”  Were you lying?  Or did David Viniar make a false statement of material fact to the investing public?  
  • At the Aleynikov bail hearing, you demanded that Aleynikov be denied bail.  Can you identify any other trade-secrets theft case where the prosecutor sought to have a defendant remanded into custody?  Can you identify any cases involving non-violent defendants where the defendant was remanded into custody?
  • Your initial actions towards Aleynikov were extremely aggressive.  Since his arrest, you've done nothing.  Why has there been such a dramatic change in your litigation posture?


Veteran's Day is a Time for Narcissism

"Oh, thank you so much soldiers for serving and risking your lives.  Yes, thank you.  Oh, sure, I haven't written a single check this year to any veteran's-related charity.  I care, though, dammit!  I support the troops!"

Yes, indeed, you do care.  You care about how people perceive you.  In public, you thank veterans so that others will think, "What an upstanding guy!"  In private, you buy another bottle of wine rather than write a check to charity.  

Your true self does not care about veteran's - especially when caring might mean avoiding materialistic self-indulgence!  The fake self supports the troops and will spend many minutes saying many words proclaiming support for America's soldiers.  We support things most of all when our support costs us the least.

Even on a day that's supposed to be devoting to others, we cannot resist celebrating ourselves.