On Freedom And Crooks

March 13, 2008

Free societies stay that way because their peoples and institutions assume people given power will abuse it. The Wall Street Journal has forgotten this rule.

It is tempting to argue that Mr. Spitzer deserves the Spitzer treatment more than many of those he made targets while a prosecutor. That may well be true in the sense that many of his victims were innocent.

But the proper exercise of prosecutorial discretion dictates that the power of the state not be wielded merely to settle a grudge. Mr. Spitzer never learned that while in office, but playing by his unrestrained rules is not the same as seeing justice done.

Of course future Attorney Generals can’t be made to understand that ” the power of the state not be wielded merely to settle a grudge” – “unconstrained rules” will always attract predators like Spitzer.

One answer is to add constraints in the form of judicial oversight. It’s the absence of that in the US legal system that allows infestation by crooks.

Another would be to enable victims of legal malpractice by state agents to get restitution.

These measures would restore NYC’s reputation as a financial center.


The WSJ And Illegal Immigration

December 17, 2007

The WSJ, normally sound on the rule of law, makes an exception for illegal immigrants. This does neither the WSJ or Hispanics any favors, and reminds us to trust no one.

America’s illegal immigration mess is born of bad policies that are either unenforceable or not enforced because it’s not in our economic interest to do so.

These dubious assertions are the conclusion of its argument that Republican candidates shouldn’t oppose illegal immigration, because:

A Pew Hispanic Center poll released this month found that 57% of Hispanic voters now identify with Democrats, while only 23% align with Republicans. That 34-point gap has increased by 21 points in less than 18 months.

The GOP probably can’t hold the White House next year without winning swing states like Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado, all of which have large Hispanic populations.

But the rule of law is fundamental to US freedoms. If one group is allowed to flout it with impunity – either through incompetence or in “our economic interests”, the center cannot hold.

And if the center does not hold, where does that leave Hispanics, legal and illegal? They’re a minority, and depend entirely upon the acceptance of their host community.

If, cheered by the likes of the WSJ, Hispanics vote a lefty in to White House, the results will be catastrophic. First for the nation, including its economy. If the WSJ’s editors doubt that, they should try living and working in one of the many countries of the world where the law is not respected – Mexico, for example.

And so will fall the City On The Hill, Hispanics and all.

But no such risk is necessary, since illegal immigration can be easily controlled – starting with honest protection of US borders, but then raising the quotas for legal immigration.

All of which shows that normally sensible groups like the WSJ’s editors are on some topics as deranged as the nuttiest global warmenist.

And that confirms that we must always distrust received wisdom, whatever the source.

Shooting The Dollar

November 29, 2007

It now takes over to two US $ to buy one Brit £, in part because the world’s financial industry – hence its investors – regard the US as too risky.

The US has the world’s largest external debt – bigger even than the profligate Brits. In both countries, the books are balanced by selling assets – businesses and real estate – to foreigners.

That’s why a Saudi prince and the government of Abu Dhabi now own about 9% of Citibank.

There’s nothing inherently unhealthy in this, but for it to work, foreigners have to be happy to buy our assets, and in the case of the UK they are – which is why the £ is holding up.

But the $ has tanked, here’s one reason why:

The “NatWest Three”, who were extradited to the US in July 2006 amid much public protest, changed their plea after five years of protesting their innocence in a partial bid to reduce their time behind bars.

The British men…could have faced up to 35 years in jail as a result of the charges being brought by the US government. They agreed to change their plea following four weeks of bargaining with US prosecutors, in which they agreed to one count of fraud in return for the rest being dropped.

The men may be guilty, although from my limited experience of high finance, they seem no guiltier than the average practitioner.

But we’ll never know – the men were trapped in the US, could not work, and faced spending the rest of their lives in jail. So copping a plea was rational, regardless of guilt.

The three now have to serve time in Brit jails, but the US is the big loser:

– Foreign courts will be reluctant to agree more deportations to US jurisdictions, since forced plea bargains are generally considered unfair. That means foreign terrorists get to stay home.

– Foreign financial professionals will avoid exposure to US entities, to avoid the fate of these three men.

– And that means less US assets will be purchased by foreigners.

– And hence the dollar will tank to balance the equation.

Of course a weak dollar means more US exports and less imports, and both are good.

But it also means more US assets will be bought by people who the US won’t dare annoy – cash-rich Arabs, Chinese, and Russians.

That is not good.

Avoid Flawed US Justice

October 23, 2007

We’ve suggested Brits model their post-revolutionary Constitution on the US version while avoiding its flaws. One such flaw is the abuse of state power in the US plea-bargaining system.

This concerns the NatWest Three, Brits the Blair government allowed the US extradite to Houston 15 months ago in spite of:

a) the US refusing to extradite convicted IRA murders now living in the US.

b) The alleged crimes being committed entirely in the UK.

c) The UK authorities having investigated the alleged crime and declined to file charges.

These men have been stuck in Houston, where a US judge granted them the right to work – but they’re skilled investment bankers and have no chance of finding jobs equivalent to those they had in London, the world’s financial capital. And of course they’ve been cut off from their families.

The Feds’ objective of the has thus been to torture these men in agreeing a plea bargain, and they’ve succeeded:

The NatWest Three, the trio of bankers accused in America of fraud linked to the Enron scandal, have started negotiations over a possible plea bargain under which they would admit some charges in return for others being dropped, according to legal sources…

But now, they are understood to be weighing up the idea of a plea bargain � even though they are almost certain to face imprisonment.

The trio are thought to be close to conceding that if they try to fight their case to the bitter end, they are unlikely to win.

Their trial has been repeatedly postponed. It is now due to open in January.

If they are convicted on all charges, the men could in theory face as long as 35 years behind bars…

The failure of the NatWest Three to persuade ex-colleagues to travel to America to testify has hampered their defence.

This and other legal abuses by the its tort bar* have harmed the US – causing foreign companies to stop listing there, triggering the defeat of NASDAQ’s bid to buy the London Stock Exchange, causing European companies to de-list in the US (most recently Ahold after a drive-by shooting by US tort lawyers), and to cause foreign financial institutions and specialists to avoid the US.

This has been London’s gain and America’s loss, adding to the weakness of the dollar (which can only stay strong if people want to buy it).

So the new Brit constition should stick firmly to English and Scottish Common Law, protecting the liberty of the subject and forbidding torture.

* Disclosure. I’m involved in a US civil lawsuit in which the plaintiffs’ lawyers are confessed crooks who the judges have allowed to keep secret the identities of their witnesses – a practice prohibited (except in extreme cases ) by the Magna Carta.

Brits Need US Trial Lawyers

October 7, 2007

Brits need help to escape their dictatorial governments in Brussels and London, and the US can provide that by setting its trial lawyers loose on Europe.

Americans are protected by the separation of powers (State, Legislature, Executive, Judiciary) – multiple hands fighting for the levers of power leave a wide zone of freedom for the citizen. But London and Brussels are modified monarchies where a few men call all the shots and will hang onto their monopoly until removed by insurrection.

That may be decades off, so here’s how the US can help in the meantime.

US trial lawyers, in spite of their many failings, empower the poor and oppressed by providing their massive expertize for free in exchange for a percentage of the take.

Consider how this might work in a current Brit tragedy:

The Government will be blamed for failures at its research laboratories that caused this summer’s foot and mouth outbreak.

An inquiry is expected to criticise heavily the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) for allowing the disease to escape from the laboratory at Pirbright, in Surrey.

It will also single out the Government’s agency for scientific research for the terrible state of disrepair at the laboratory linked to the outbreak, which led to the infection and slaughter of hundreds of cattle in the area.

It’s costing these wretched farmers billions they cannot recoup:

Thanks entirely to the negligence of our Government and the response of our friends in the EU, Britain’s sheep farmers are facing the worst crisis in their history.

The timing of the escape of foot and mouth virus from Pirbright, leading to the EU’s export ban, means that the five million lambs we would normally export between now and Christmas are either unsaleable, or can only be sold on the domestic market at giveaway prices. Many will simply have to be destroyed, without a penny in compensation for a disaster entirely of the Government’s making.

These farmers have a rock-solid case for billions of pounds in punitive and compensatory damages – from the Brit government for criminal negligence and its masters in Brussels for their excessive and spiteful sanctions.

US trial lawyers are a creative bunch – they’re currently suing the management of British Aerospace (BAe) for bribing the Saudis. That’s in spite of the fact that all the events took place outside the US – they’re leveraging BAe’s US listing.

This ingenuity is necessitated by a huge reduction in the number of securities lawsuits following the conviction for fraud of the leading lawyers in that area. But BAe on its own won’t feed the families of tens of thousands of trial lawyers.

However Brussels and London have very deep pockets, and the first US law firm to file a class action against London and Brussels on behalf of these poor Brit farmers will make hundreds of millions in contingency fees.

That would be a thoroughly good thing – good for Brit farmers and good for Brit and European freedoms.

And of course good for trial lawyers – so go to it guys!

A Queens Welcome For Ahmadinejad

September 20, 2007

Here’s an excellent suggestion on how New York should greet this evil little creep.

The person who could prevent this entire farce from taking place is the district attorney of Queens County, Richard Brown.

When Mr. Ahmadinejad flies into John F. Kennedy International Airport, he’ll be in Queens.

That is the borough of Specialist Jonathan Rivadeneira of the U.S. Army’s 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, who was killed on Friday in Iraq by an improvised explosive device of the sort that American officials say are supplied and crafted by Iran.

Rivadeneira’s death left his mother, Martha Clark of Jackson Heights, Queens, childless.

Let Mr. Brown seek a warrant for Mr. Ahmadinejad’s arrest and give him a true civics lesson in an American dock. Let’s just say we have no doubt that, were a warrant issued…New York’s Finest would be delighted to enforce it.

This would involve a breach of diplomatic immunity, but we know Ahmadinejad is relaxed about that.

Muscular Christianity

August 28, 2007

You probably saw this story, but may have missed the robust demonstration of Victorian values.

…four Fijian missionaries were on a proselytising mission on the island of New Britain when they were massacred by Tolai tribesmen in 1878.

They were murdered on the orders of a local warrior chief, Taleli, and were then cooked and eaten…

Thousands of villagers attended a reconciliation ceremony near Rabaul, the capital of East New Britain province, once notorious for the ferocity of its cannibals.

Their leaders apologised for their forefather’s taste for human flesh to Fiji’s high commissioner to Papua New Guinea.

So far, so touchy-feely.

But the unfortunate Fijians were under the command of a doughty British clergyman, and he was not amused:

He reluctantly agreed to launch a punitive expedition, ordering his men to burn down villages implicated in the murders and destroy wooden canoes.

At least 10 tribe members blamed for the attack were killed in an area known as Blanche Bay. Rev Brown claimed the raids made the region safe for Europeans.

In a letter to the general secretary of the London Missionary Society he wrote: “The natives respect us more than they did, and as they all acknowledge the justice of our cause they bear us no ill will.”

That’s the stuff.