American Madness

Intelligent Criticism in the Service of a Better Nation

Why are we still lynching people in America?

Posted by Joel Friedlander on | July 18, 2011 | 1 Comment

Most people in this country who viewed the Casey Anthony trial seem to have disagreed with the final verdict and would like to kill the woman.  This attitude is a slander on our justice system.
The rights of the accused in our judicial system go back pretty far.  They start in English Law with the Magna Carta, 1215 AD, which states:

“+ (39) No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way … except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land.”

They continue in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights:

“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.” 6th Amendment to the Constitution, applied to the States through the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.  See also Article Three of the Constitution.

And they are present in European systems as well.

Article 9 of the Declaration of the Rights of Man of 1789 in France, provides:

“ As all persons are held innocent until they shall have been declared guilty, if arrest shall be deemed indispensable, all harshness not essential to the securing of the prisoner’s person shall be severely repressed by law.”

Internationally, in the last century they were extended to all peoples in the World:

“The United Nations placed the principle that a defendant is innocent until proven guilty in its Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 under article eleven, section one. The maxim also found a place in the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights in 1953 [as article 6, section 2] and was incorporated into the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [as article 14, section.” Ken Pennington,  Innocent Until Proven Guilty, the Origins of a Legal Maxim,  2].

So, how is it that Casey Anthony was found not guilty by a jury of her peers and is presumed to be guilty?  It is so because the Media has taken over in America as the proponent of guilt or innocence. (In this connection please see  “The Nation: Media Give No Presumption Of Innocence,” by Patricia J. Williams, media have turned the American People into a lynch mob that despises their own judicial system and thousands of years of developed jurisprudence.  Just read the media and the blogs and see what our people want to do to Casey Anthony.  If we are presumed innocent until proven guilty and are found not guilty, do we not continue to be innocent in the eyes of the law, and of the people?  If that isn’t true, what is the point of our system of justice?

Next time you are in Manhattan go over to 80 Centre Street and go into the Jury Room on the first floor of the building.  Go to the Jury Clerk’s Office and look behind their desk.  There are two pictures that the clerk keeps there to help remember why we have juries.  One photograph is from a movie, “Twelve Angry Men.”  That film teaches us what a jury charged with trying a criminal case must really do to discharge its duty, and what the obstacles to that are.  The second picture is from the film, “The Ox-Bow Incident,” about a lynch mob, teaches us what happens when we allow our violent passions to take us over.

I fear that we are heading away from the former film and heading towards the justice system in the second one.  I have begun to think that there are really good reasons to keep cameras out of the courtroom.  We are hanging people without a trial in this country, whether the be Dominique Strauss-Kahn, or Casey Anthony, and that’s a bad idea because it eliminates everything we have learned about justice through all of human history.  As it says in The Rights of Man, “… if arrest shall be deemed indispensable, all harshness not essential to the securing of the prisoner’s person shall be severely repressed by law.”  What we are allowing our Media to do to the accused, and the exonerated, in America is unduly harsh and must be stopped.

The Long Goodbye

Posted by Joel Friedlander on | July 14, 2011 | 1 Comment

Query: Must we continue to spend a major part of all Medicare spending on ineffective medical treatment during the last year of life? Or, asked another way: Are we doing Grandpa and Grandma a favor by keeping them marginally alive with no quality of life?

We’ve all heard the scenario; 85 year old Grandpa Ike has been taken to the emergency room for the 8th time in the last 6 months and after staying in the hospital for two weeks or so, has returned alive, but in a ever more weakened condition.  While he was at the hospital, Ike was subjected to every sort of diagnostic test available, and through dozens of heroic medical interventions was returned home.  This is an area of Medicare expenditures which hasn’t been studied lately.  Most of the available studies go back 10 years or so, but the study below is illustrative of the general findings:

Medical Expenditures during the Last Year of Life: Findings from the 1992–1996 Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey  Donald R Hoover, Stephen Crystal, Rizie Kumar, Usha Sambamoorthi, and Joel C Cantor.  Article citations within the text are omitted here.  The numbering is mine.

1.  The elderly (65 years of age and older) have consumed more than 33 percent of health care spending;  2.  Their medical expenses are substantially higher in the last year of life;.   3.  While only 5 percent of elderly Medicare beneficiaries have died annually, the percentage of elderly Medicare expenditures spent on persons in the last year of life fluctuates between 27 percent and 31 percent; 4.  Mean annual Medicare expenditures for the last 12 months of life in the elderly rose from $1,924 in 1976 to about $23,000 in 1995, but the portion of Medicare expenditures spent on beneficiaries in the last year of life did not change during this time period.
This study is available in full at,

Another study points out:
“Medicare, the health insurance program for the elderly, spends nearly 30 percent of its budget on beneficiaries in their final year of life. Slightly more than half of Medicare dollars are spent on patients who die within two months. … 40 percent of Medicare dollars cover care for people in the last month.” How Much Do We Spend On End of Life Care?

I recently went to a funeral for a woman of 91, who spent the entire last year of her life in a hospital bed tied to a feeding tube and other medicine infusions; she ultimately died of multiple organ failure.  Before her final hospitalization she had made endless visits to the hospital for what proved to be ineffective treatment leading ultimately to her total loss of mobility and freedom.

Should we continue doing this to the elderly?  Before my father died in January, he kept begging the people at the hospital to let him go home.  They kept him there until he died.  They said that they were going to make him better.  He was 92 years old, with almost absent kidney function, no ability to walk due to a fractured hip replacement that became infected, and moderate dementia.  Were they really going to make him better?  He had no life left, and ultimately died of the infection of the hip replacementIsn’t it time to put the cabosh on heroics that only enrich the medical providers and impoverish the nation?

Carnegie Hall has crappy marketing (and other reasons for the death of classical music)

Posted by Josh Friedlander on | July 26, 2010 | 3 Comments

So here is the crux of my problem with Carnegie Hall: It worships the musicians at the expense of the music.

I am on the list for Carnegie Hall because I’ve attended a couple of concerts there, but I rarely respond to emails or mailings and I haven’t been to the Hall in years. Why? Because I can’t read the marketing materials. I just can’t understand what I’m seeing. It makes no sense to me.

Let me explain. In mid 2010, Carnegie Hall sent out a pamphlet with a bland picture of an orchestra on the cover and a headline proclaiming “2010-2011 Season: Subscribe Now!” First, what is a season? Does it last a year? When does it start? We’re already well into 2010, so this is baffling. Is the “music year” like a school year (Sept to June)? I’m not familiar with this concept of a season. Already I feel like I’m being snubbed by people who assume I know the habits of their particular world. Read more

I’m flummoxed, can anyone explain this to me!

Posted by Joel Friedlander on | July 15, 2010 | 1 Comment

I am sure that almost no one is terribly concerned with how ultra orthodox Jews view the preparation of leafy vegetables.  A friend of mine’s daughter was told by a super orthodox Rabbi that if she served a lettuce without taking it apart and examining every part of the leaf for tiny bugs, eating it would be worse than eating a roast pork sandwich on Yom Kippur.  A little ridiculous, don’t you think, for surely there is nothing in the Bible about not eating leafy vegetables while there is a very strict prohibition against eating pork.  Well the same type of thing happen in the Catholic Church today.  Their new rules include:

Art. 5

The more grave delict of the attempted sacred ordination of a woman is also reserved to the

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith:

1̊ With due regard for can. 1378 of the Code of Canon Law, both the one who attempts to confer sacred ordination on a woman, and she who attempts to receive sacred ordination, incurs a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See.  My Emphasis

2̊ If the one attempting to confer sacred ordination, or the woman who attempts to receive sacred ordination, is a member of the Christian faithful subject to the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, with due regard for can. 1443 of that Code, he or she is to be punished by major excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See.

3̊ If the guilty party is a cleric he may be punished by dismissal or deposition[31].

Art. 6

§ 1. The more grave delicts against morals which are reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith are:

1̊ the delict against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue (Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultry) committed by a cleric with a minor below the age of eighteen years; in this case, a person who habitually lacks the use of reason is to be considered equivalent to a minor.

2̊ the acquisition, possession, or distribution by a cleric of pornographic images of minors under the age of fourteen, for purposes of sexual gratification, by whatever means or using whatever technology;

§ 2. A cleric who commits the delicts mentioned above in § 1 is to be punished according to the gravity of his crime, not excluding dismissal or deposition.

According to what I read above, if you try to ordain a woman as a priest the punishment is major excommunication, or being denied entry into Heaven through the Church, but if you are a pederast, the punishment is dismissal or deposition.  I’m having a problem understanding this, can anyone explain to me how the Church thinks on this?  How can #5 be worse than #6?  How can having a woman priest, which is not specifically prohibited in the New Testament be worse than raping a child under the age of majority, which is specifically prohibited in both the New and the Old Testaments, albeit under different numbers in the Decalogue.

Self-funding regulation:
Another stupid idea

Posted by Josh Friedlander on | June 12, 2010 | 2 Comments

Response to Top Securities Lawyers Call for Self-Funded S.E.C., in which it is stated that “Forty leading securities lawyers urged Congress on Friday to allow the S.E.C. to keep the hundreds of millions of dollars in fees it collects each year and use them to support its operations”:

We select among a series of bad options. An externally financed bureaucracy leaves its leadership with perverse incentives to enhance their power by pushing for more staff and resources. This is, at best, only slightly correlated with the task with which the agency is tasked. A self-financed agency arguably has a worse incentive structure: Imagine telling the police that their salaries will be a function of whatever tickets and fines they can collect? Some will say that there should be no agency at all and people will have to protect themselves. That is clearly suboptimal (like, uh, having no police force!). Or: eliminate sector-specific regulatory agencies and meld them into a general justice department (fraud is fraud, right? Or is it?). There seem to be no good answers. I prefer Temple Grandin’s solution to regulation (in her case as applied to the cattle slaughter industry): Set clear rules and deal with violations. So, if we don’t want cows falling down on their way to slaughter, we institute a rule that slippery floors are forbidden and we define slippery as X cows falling in a given period of time. What we don’t do is say: You must have a floor no more than one degree from perfect flatness, that adheres to XYZ-level of friction, and so on. We don’t tell people how to achieve compliance, we simply define compliance based on outcomes. Clearly, there will differences of opinion as to how one defines compliance in financial services, but I’d rather have an outcome-based regulatory structure than one in which the SEC wanders around with a stick in one hand and a coin jar in the other. This proposal sounds like ancient French tax collection practices that involved eyeballing people’s possessions and that resulted in the French having a weird fetish for blinds on their windows (some apartments in Paris have retail store-type metal gates on the windows…even those facing out on locked gardens from several stories up!). Turn each regulator into a tax collector and you encourage enormous opacity.

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