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Archive for June, 2009

Madoff Madness- Bernie Made Out Well

Monday, June 29th, 2009

By now most know Bernie Madoff got 150 years in jail. He made off with estimates of up to $65 billion in invester losses. He got to live a  lavish lifestyle like a king for almost 30 years. He defrauded over 1300 investors with his elaborate ponzi scheme.  In the end, he got caught. For all of his money madness, did Bernie make out well?

Several questions come to my mind when I think of Madoff. When are the others involved in his scheme going to get their day in court? It is highly improbable and most likely impossible that he ran and organized this elaborate scheme alone. It’s far too elaborate and well orchestrated for that to be the case. His wife, sons, brother, accountant, assistant and confidante are all possible co-conspirators in this madness.  Yet, it appears so far that the victims are letting Madoff take the blame completely alone.  There was also the brokerage firms  recruiting investors for Madoff. What did they get in return?  The victims should scream until all involved are investigated, indicted and brought to justice.  No, it will not bring back their money. It should give them a better sense of justice.

Speaking of justice, I also wonder if Madoff’s sentence wuld have been lighter if the victims had been minorities or persons of limited income.  Minorities and those of limited income were defrauded by some sub-prime mortgage lenders and by foreclosure schemes and scams. Many of the  fraudulent  sub-prime mortgage lenders  and foreclosure schemes were perpetrated on African Americans, Hispanic and other minorities and persons  of lower income. These scams occurred across the country.  I do not hear the same sense of outrage in the media. 

Some sub-prime mortgage lenders fraudulently procured mortgage loans by falsifying documents and by other unscrupulous means. Then after victims defaulted, often times, other crooked businesses came to purportedly prevent foreclosure. Instead they accepted funds from victims and pocketed the money. Foreclosure ultimately occurred. Just like the Madoff victims, their money went straight to line the pockets of crooks. There should be the same outcry for these victims as with the Madoff victims. Lady Justice is not as blind as we would like her to be.

Lastly, did Madoff make out well? I wonder if he would do it again if he knew what the future and outcome would be.  I suspect that nothing would be different for him. He got to live out the majority of his life in grand style. So for him, Madoff made out well.

Michael Jackson-Social Agent for Change

Friday, June 26th, 2009

Michael Jackson will always be remembered as the King of Pop.  No one can take that title away from him. His Thriller album sold 100 million copies, more than anyone else including the Beatles or Elvis. Yet, he also leaves a musical legacy of social activism.  His music and legacy was also about social change and justice. 

Michael broke the color barrier at MTV. He became the first black artist to showcase their talent on MTV with Billie Jean and Beat It.  He paved the way for many others.  Then who could forget the Jackson 5 cartoon show on Saturday mornings.  In the ’70’s there were few black tv shows or blacks appearing on TV.

In 1985 he brought together artists and musicians from all over to perform a benefit  for the famine victims in Ethiopia.  His lyrics on We Are the World symbolize his spirit of social change.  He wrote: “We are the world, We are the children; We are the ones who make a brighter today, so let’s start giving. There comes a time when we need a certain call; When the world must come together as one.  There are people dying and it’s time to lend a hand to life, the greatest gift of all”.

His lyrics spoke of race relations.  Remember “Ebony and Ivory” living in perfect harmony. That’s how he wanted the world to be.  On “Black and White” he penned in 1991..If you’re thinking of being my brother, it don’t matter if you’re black or white.

My favorite was “Looking at the Man in the Mirror”.  ” I see the kids in the street with not enough to eat. Who am I to be blind, pretending not to see their need.  I’m starting with the man in the mirror. I’m asking him to change his way.  If you wanna make the world a better place, then take a look at yourself and make a change.  You gotta get it right while you got time.”

And in the words of Michael Jackson, it is up to us to make the world a better place.  He had it right, change begins within each of us. Let’s celebrate his life and legacy by making a change in the world.

Metro Crash Worthiness and Safety

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

The crash worthiness of DC Metro system’s older cars may have played a contributing role in Monday’s deady accident.  DC’s Metro rail system did not have the millions of dollars necessary to replace or retrofit the cars. These defective and outdated cars, according to the National Transportation Safety Board, should have been replaced several years ago.

Metro has now immediately established a fund of $250 million for the victims’ hospital, funeral and other immediate costs associated with the accident.  Yet, how much is a life worth?  All of the victims were someone’s mother, father, sister, brother, friend, co-worker or neighbor. How do you measure that loss?  How do you place a dollar amount on their life?

Profits should never be placed before people. When the National Transportation Safety Board recommends replacement for safety reasons, what more information do you need? Now Metro is facing the loss of lives and loss of millions from lawsuits to follow.

A new report from the National Highway Safety Adminstration was released on defective General Motors and Chyrsler cars. It estimates that 3400 persons will be either injured or killed from defective vehicles made by Chrysler and General Motors.  Yet, the terms of the Chyrsler bankruptcy sale powered through by the Federal government relieves Chrysler of any future or pending claims for injuries or death due to defective Chrysler vehicles.  Chrysler gets a free ride on all future death or injury claims due to lack of vehicle safety or crash worthiness. That’s the ultimate profits over people scenario.

What is the value of a life?  If you’re unfortunate to be involved in an accident due to a defective Chrysler vehicle, the value of your life will be zero.

DC Metro Tragedy

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

I was devastated when I heard about the Metro accident and lives lost and many persons injured.  I am a DC resident who takes Metro virtually everyday.  I love the convenience of the Metro system.  And for those who complain about Metro, just continue to drive and get stuck in traffic.  Monday’s tragedy was a dark day for DC and Metro.

An investigator for the  National Transportation Safety  Board says the Feds recommended 3 years ago the older fleet of cars known as the 1000 series be replaced, removed or retrofitted. The striking train was the older series. Although, no one knows yet what caused the accident, I hope Metro’s decision to keep these older cars had nothing to do with the cause.

Even if the aging cars did not cause the accident, they  very well may have contributed to the lives lost or persons injured. The train cars were completely smashed compromising the crash worthiness of the cars.  The crash worthiness of the older 1000 series was questioned previously by the National Transportation Safety Board.  I’ve spent a long time representing clients injured by defective products. Crash worthiness of vehicles can save or cause lives to be lost.  That’s why automobiles, trucks and why Metro cars are tested to see how they will withstand a crash. We even rate and give high marks to cars for their crash worthiness.

No amount of saving money by Metro is worth one person’s life.  Even if removing these ill fitted older cars will slow the system, let’s just do it. A human life is worth far more than the cost of replacement of the older 1000 car series.

Chris Brown and Celebrity Justice

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

Chris Brown pled guilty to felony assault on Rihanna. In exchange for pleading guilty, he avoided a preliminary hearing, trial and received 5 years probation. Did he receive celebrity justice?  Was he treated fairly? Should he have received jail time?

The pictures leaked earlier through the media suggest a vicious attack occurred on Rihanna. Yet, I never expected Chris Brown to get any jail time.  Unless, there was some mitigating circumstances, he deserved some measure of jail time along with the other conditions he received. I can’t imagine any mititgating circumstances. He didn’t need jail time to send any message.  He didn’t deserve jail time to make him a bad poster boy for domestic abuse.  He deserved jail time because of the seriousness of the felony assault charge.  His charge was not reduced to a misdemeanor assault with far less seriousness involved. The fact that the prosecutor required him to pead guilty to a felony shows the seriousness involved.

Michael Vick received jail time for cruelty against dogs. Of course, the system wanted to make an example of him. That wasn’t fair either.  I have seen defendants receive jail time for first time DWI charges where no one was injured.  Having prosecuted and also represented defendants in similar felony assaults, a split sentence would have likely occurred to a non-celebrity defendant.  A split sentence would have given him some amount of jail time followed by probation and the conditions he received.

Celebrities do receive celebrity justice. Remember Paris Hilton cried her way out of jail. Who could do that except a celebrity? On June 16, Cleveland Browns wide receiver Donte Stallworth received a 30 day sentence for killing a pedestrian while driving drunk in Florida.  He was facing 15 years.

Chris Brown will have 5 years probation hanging over his head. Should he go on another rampage again or commit any crime in 5 years, he will face jail time.

Michael Steele- Chairman, Leader or Distraction

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

For the dysfunctional Republican party, 2012 is really around the corner. Republicans do not know who’s leading them. Michael Steele, RNC chairman, does not know if he’s leading them. The multiple choices are Rush Limbaugh, Dick Cheney, Collin Powell, Sarah Palin or Michael Steele.  A recent poll found no consensus among Republicans.

Who are the Republicans today?  Apparently, no one knows even within the party. Does anyone know what they stand for?  Gone are their glory days when they knew what they stood for.  They cannot bring back George H. Bush, Ronald Regan or even George W. Bush.   Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee and John McCain were all losers.

Republicans need to decide who will lead them and then follow the leader. Yes, it’s really that simple. Yet, deciding who will lead them could take four years. By then 2012 will have come and gone.

What Michael Steele must decide is whether he’s an agent of change, a leader or a distraction to his party. Once he makes up his mind, the Republican party can perhaps make up its mind too.