More Wrongful Convictions

I cannot understand why there is no movement in the United States to do a massive overhaul of the criminal justice system in the face of widespread, pervasive evidence of incompetence, dishonesty, and deception. In Canada, there would be a Royal Commission of Inquiry, ending with steps to be taken to remedy the serious defects in the system. The U.S. just blithely ambles along locking people up for ridiculous lengths of time after trials that engage in ritualistic presentations of “expert” testimony by people with titles of imaginary professions, witnesses who swear that the wrong picture of someone they never clearly saw is exactly like the face of the suspect they now see, and jailhouse snitches who miraculously extracted confessions from people they never met before.

And then there are confessions– the last hope in criminal cases with no evidence, no real suspect, no weapon, no matching blood samples. Ah, but we have a confession…

Here’s the latest: in 1992, on August 17, an eleven-year-old girl named Holly Staker was found raped and stabbed to death in a home in Lake County, Illinois. She had been babysitting two young children. The police were frantic to find the killer. The real killer. The person who actually murdered Holly Staker.

At least, that’s what they want the public to believe. And probably, at first, they were sincere about finding the actual killer. But as the pressure on the police increased, it appears they were willing to settle for a stand-in. They found him in Juan Rivera, a 19-year-old high school drop out, who had suggested to the police that he noticed someone at a party on August 17 “acting funny”, and later admitted he had made that up– a girl at the party had told him the story, but she didn’t want to go to the police. I would guess that he thought this would make him important.

That made him the suspect, and they questioned him incessantly and relentlessly for 24 hours straight, until he confessed. He confessed in great detail. He provided details that “only the killer” could have known, and which the police would never, ever surreptitiously provide to him during the course of the interrogation. Never. Honest. In the study quoted in the left sidebar, it was also shown that in 38 out of 40 cases of wrongful conviction, the suspect provided details that, the police claimed, only the actual murderer could have known.

But why would a man confess to a horrible crime unless he had actually done it? It’s hard to imagine. It’s hard for juries to imagine. So Rivera was convicted, once, twice, three times. I don’t know why but each time he was retried, and three times he was convicted. His lawyers are currently appealing the results. Most people would be quite glad to see him executed– perhaps nobody more so than the police, who finally have that monkey off their backs.

There is only one problem– there is no physical evidence linking Juan Rivera to the crime scene or the crime. No blood stains, no weapon, no finger-prints. I guess that ever since the “science” of fibre evidence has been discredited, they decided not to the try that route — why not– it used to be a sure winner.

And there was another problem: Rivera was wearing a electronic leg bracelet on account of having stolen a car stereo, and the leg bracelet showed he was home at the time of the murder.

And, there is an even bigger problem: Holly was raped. DNA analysis was conducted in 2005 and the defense used it at his fourth trial: the semen found inside her body could not have come from Juan Rivera.

That is a problem. The police and prosecution had a lot invested in Juan Rivera. It’s hard to give up investments like that. They decided that the confession must be true and the DNA evidence must be wrong.

And here’s where we get to why I believe the U.S. should conduct a large inquiry into how police collect evidence and conduct investigations: the police continue to insist that Juan Rivera committed the murder! They actually claim that 11-year-old Holly must have had sex with someone else before Rivera attacked her.

But wait– Rivera, in his confession, acknowledged that he had raped Holly. He confessed to that because at the time the police needed that as part of the confession. How to explain the wrong DNA in the semen? Rivera must have raped her without ever ejaculating.

But wait– there’s more! Mike Mermel, the prosecutor– a fan of Anne Coulter and Rush Limbaugh and Charlton Heston– defends the idea that 11-year-old Holly was sexually active by arguing that if you were having sex with an 11-year-old, you wouldn’t be bragging about it, would you? So the fact that there is no evidence that she was sexually active becomes proof that she was.

Shades of Stockwell Day’s “unreported crimes”.

But let’s go back to that confession. Did you even have to ask?– the initial confession contained numerous other “errors” that would have made it look ridiculous in court. No problem– we just call in ex-marine Lou Tessemann and have him take the confession all over again and straighten out those problems. And– of course, of course, of course– these sessions were not recorded.

And– of course, of course, of course– Tessemann denied knowing anything about the crime before he took the confession while some police officers admitted giving him details of the crime scene before he met with Rivera. According to Tessemann, Rivera was relaxed, comfortable, and rational during this interrogation. According to other witnesses, including a nurse who treated him, he was banging his head against the wall, shackled and bruised, and mumbling incoherently.

Why has a the judge not thrown this case out in disgust. Not merely with sadness or regret or reluctance– he should have tossed the case out with demonstrated disgust at the prosecution. You are a bunch of clowns.

And there’s more: take the case of Jerry Hobbs, for whom the death penalty was being pursued. Hobbs’ daughter Laura and a friend, Krystal, disappeared one night. The bodies were found the next day by Jerry Hobbs, stabbed to death. Hobbs was arrested and interrogated until he confessed.

There was nothing in his confession or in the police reports that suggested that either of the girls had been raped. The story, according to the confession, was that his daughter Laura and her friend Krystal had defied him and refused to come home and Krystal had pulled a knife on him, which he took away from her during a fight, and which he then used to stab them both to death in a blind rage.

Come on — doesn’t that just sound like a coerced confession, twisted and turned and designed to explain all the circumstances that Dobbs could only have known about if he had been the killer? With all that stabbing, there would of course be some physical evidence, right?

Two years later, analysis paid for by the defense team showed that Laura had been sexually assaulted, and, yes, there was sperm, and the sperm did not belong to Jerry Hobbs. Will the prosecution now finally admit that their theory about the crime is wrong? Hell no! According to Mermel, that area of the woods was often used by couples for having sex, and the girls probably came into contact with sperm from rolling around in the dirt!

Enough is enough! The fact that the police are willing to go this far to attempt to cover up their own incompetence and poor judgment tells us that there is something fundamentally wrong with the way they go about their business.

There was a time when I could not imagine how a rational person could confess to a horrible crime he had not committed. It made no sense on any level whatsoever. And Holly’s twin sister, Heather, believes devoutly in the confession. Why, oh why, oh why would an innocent man make a confession like that?

Over the years, thanks to close analysis and excellent documentaries by programs like PBS’s Frontline, it is not longer hard to imagine. We now know with a good deal of certainty that some confessions are absolutely false. We now know it’s possible. We even know how it’s done, how hour after hour of continuous, relentless psychological assault by clever and determined police detectives can eventually drive even a rational person to agree to almost anything. When the suspect is all primed and primped, that is when they start the recording.

There have been instances where the police are recorded questioning a suspect who continues to deny his guilt, and then the recording equipment is turned off, and then it starts again, and we have a rather diminished-looking suspect now in confession mode.

Do Miranda rights even mean anything anymore? Why would the police be allowed to suggest to a suspect that having his attorney present for questioning would imply guilt? Instead of insisting on a suspect’s right to have an attorney present while being questioned, perhaps it’s time we required a suspect to have an attorney present, to protect the administration of justice.

There are definitely a few things that could easily be done to prevent false confessions and false convictions:

  • relentless continuous questioning of a suspect for longer than three or four hours at a time should be absolutely banned. It is simply not possible to elicit more, accurate information from someone after three hours. But it is possible to begin to psychologically break a person.
  • evidence obtained from jailhouse snitches or informants or undercover cops posing as inmates should be automatically disqualified
  • no confession should be taken seriously unless it can be clearly demonstrated to provide new information which leads to the discovery of real physical evidence
  • no confession should be accepted unless the police have recorded every interrogation of the suspect from beginning to end and provided the defense legal team with accurate, complete copies
  • eyewitness identification should always be only conducted by police officers who do not know who the suspect is
  • police and prosecutors who ever violate any of these rules are suspended without pay for six months or more for a first offense, and fired for a second offense; if their actions result in a false conviction, there should be jail time.
  • Wait — why am I being so soft on crime here? Any police officers caught trying to manufacture a case through any of the techniques described should go to prison.  Because we want to be tough on crime.

In his 2011 book, “Convicting the Innocent,” Brandon Garrett, a law professor at the University of Virginia, examined most of the case files for the first 250 DNA exonerations. Garrett found that 76 percent of wrongly convicted prisoners were misidentified by a witness and half the cases involved flawed forensic evidence. NY Times, November 26, 2011

This story, about a professional jailhouse informant named Paul Skalnik, and the stunning fact that any judge might accept the testimony from this miscreant.

The Sentinelese: Leave us Alone

The Sentinelese live on an island at the west-ward tip of the Great Andaman Archipelago, which is in the Bay of Bengal, due east from India. You do not want to visit this place.

They don’t want us and they won’t have us. It is rather shocking to read, in this day and age, that there is yet an aboriginal culture that resists homogenization. Homogenization? They don’t even want to get to know us. When a pair of fisherman inadvertently drifted into their waters, the Sentinelese killed them. A helicopter was sent to retrieve their bodies: the Sentinelese drove it off with bows and arrows. Go away. The bodies remain unrecovered.

I find the existence of the Sentinelese reassuring. I don’t like the thought of travelling to the most obscure, distant corner of the earth, slashing my way through dense jungle, climbing through volcanic rock and vale, only to come upon a native child wearing a Nike swoosh and listening to music on his headphones, watching survivor on his portable satellite TV. The Sentinelese, surprisingly, don’t want any contact with our culture. Even more surprising is the fact that India, which has nominal control over the islands, has chosen not to press the point. This is in utter defiance of the sad, long history of encounters between different cultures, one of which is powerful and rich. Usually, we want to kill and enslave them.

They tried. They left gifts of cocoanuts. The Sentinelse accepted the gifts and refused to act grateful.

It was when they killed the fishermen and drove off the helicopter that the Indian government decided it was best to leave them alone. I think they should get some kind of big international prize for this decision.

They don’t want our medicine, our appliances, our toys, not even our agriculture (they fish and harvest native fruits from trees). They don’t want us to enlighten or frighten or amuse or confuse them.

They want to be left in peace.

A Conspiracy of One

There is a practical advantage to bringing the case in New York State court: state prosecutors said they were allowed to charge Mr. Pimentel with a conspiracy, even if he were acting with just the informant; federal law does not permit charging such a conspiracy. NyTimes, November 21, 2011


So federal law takes the view that if a police informant makes a plot with an individual– and no one else– the individual should not be charged with conspiracy.

That makes sense to me. I had always thought a basic principle of common law was that a person could not be charged with a crime if he would not have committed it but for the help of a police informant.  Do you see the problem?  If police informants are going to choose a “suspect” and then assist and encourage them to take part in a criminal conspiracy, then the police are choosing individuals to make them criminals.  Then you would have to apply this approach to everyone equally.   It’s entrapment.

If that isn’t a real principle of common law, it should be. It absolutely should be. Would a crime have been committed if not for the actions of the police informant?

The FBI declined to participate in the laying of “conspiracy” charges against Jose Pimentel, for various interesting reasons. One reason was the conspiracy bit. Another reason was the fact that the police informant and Mr. Pimentel liked to smoke a little weed together while they bounced around suggestions for terrorist conspiracies.

I haven’t heard this but I’ll bet another reason is that Mr. Pimentel, like many of the other so-called terrorists arrested, charged, and convicted, couldn’t conspire his way out of a paper bag without the help of his trusty police informant.

That’s was passes for heroic law enforcement these days.

It should tell you a lot that Mr. Pimentel has become representative of the war on terror, in my view: we can’t catch the real terrorists in spite of the billions and billions and billions of dollars we are spending, so we damn well better catch somebody, and damn well better make it look good.

Try to tell your friends that a man was charged with conspiracy even though his only co-conspirator was a police informant. They’ll think you’re exaggerating.

Oil Subsidies

The oil industry in the United States receives about $2.3 billion in government subsidies every year. Why? Because they can’t make a profit? Obviously not. Because they are good to the environment? Obviously not. Because they contribute to national defense, our cultural heritage, anything, anything at all other than the profits of their investors?

The oil industry gets this money because the rich owners of oil companies have lunch with your congressman frequently and contribute to his re-election campaign so he can run ads telling you how he will go to Washington and clean up all that corruption and perversion, with the help of that corporate jet supplied by BP.

Did you get your share? Not likely. But if you are GE or Goldman-Sachs, you will get your share of government largesse: they are collecting hundreds of millions of dollars to build alternative energy farms.

Now, a normal business takes a risk and invests in a certain technology and, if it’s leaders are wise and diligent, they will make a profit. And then they will tell you that they should pay less tax on their large profits than you pay on your meager earnings, because, they’ll say, they take risks, and they create jobs, and they are the engines of growth.

Except that, as in the case of the NRG Solar Ranch in the California Valley, which has received nearly $1.6 billion in government subsidies. Which is pretty well 100% of the cost of the project. NRG has also obtained a guarantee that the government will buy it’s power at a certain fixed price guaranteed to ensure a very healthy profit for NRG, possibly as high as 50%.

Are you getting your share? Not if you work for a living. But if you invest, you might be. And you can see why we need less government regulation– my goodness! It’s just strangling those businesses!


Apparently, Godspell is being revived on Broadway this year. The title “Godspell”, by the way, is not meant to suggest some kind of spiritual magic: “Godspell” comes from the old English words for “good word”, which also evolved into the more familiar “gospel”.

There was “Jesus Christ Superstar” and there was “Godspell”. Superstar was incredibly polished, elaborate, and ambitious. It was sophisticated and complex. It was an opera. Godspell was like the country bumpkin cousin, all jocularity and clowning, but, underneath it all, as conventional and conformist as the church in the wild dell. Astonishingly, Christians still objected to it, because the cast looked like hippies, and because, after all, Jesus was portrayed as a clown.

Here’s an oddity. John-Michael Tebelak, a student at Carnegie Mellon University, wrote the musical while he was still in college, as a masters thesis. He died of a heart attack April 2, 1985 (age 35).

Jeffrey Mylett, cast member, died May 7th, 1986 (AIDS).

Lamar Alford, died April 4, 1991, age 47, cause of death not disclosed.

David Haskell, died of brain cancer, age 52, August 30th, 2000.

Lynne Thigpen, cast member: cerebral hemorrhage, age 54, March 12th, 2003.

Merrell Jackson (one of the apostles), February 23, 1991, age 39. His cause of death is conspicuously unmentioned anywhere on the web. He could sing, he could act, he could dance: let me guess.

[Sonia Manzano, another cast member, clearly implies it was AIDS.]

Two members of the celebrated Toronto production (May 1972-August 1973),  also died young:  Gerry Salsberg, June 22, 2010, in a car accident, and Nancy Dolman, natural causes, August 21, 2010.  She was married to Martin Short.

Victor Garber, who played Jesus in Toronto, performed the same role in the movie.

Tebelak was both a believer and a hippie, and Godspell shows it. I’d always regarded it as charming at some level, but sloppy and unfocussed, which is another way of saying it shows its roots as an improvised piece that was taken in different directions at different stages of development. The deciding factor of its success seems to have been the involvement of Stephen Schwartz, though some seem to think the original score by Duane Bolick was more authentic, more rock’n’roll. We’ll never know– I’ve never heard of it being available anywhere. On the internet? Duane Bolick doesn’t seem to exist. He’s probably dead.

Here’s another oddity. The original, with the music by Duane Bolick, was a smash success among the small crowds that saw it at Carnegie Mellon, and when it first went to New York. So, if you have a smash success, you want to throw out the music, right, and rewrite it? I don’t know what to make of that. The template for this kind of makeover is Hollywood, which almost always cuts the heart and soul out of a story before castrating it into innocuous vehicle for Leonardo Di Caprio. But there was a more immediate template: James Rado and Gerome Ragni’s Hair. Hair (1968), like Godspell, seems to be about the rock’n’roll generation, and outwardly acknowledges rock music, but it is structurally, heart and soul, a Broadway musical. It should be: the composer, Canadian Galt MacDermot, had never encountered hippies before being contacted by Rado and Ragni to write the musical.

Many people, including cast members who played in both versions, concede that Stephen Schwartz is a genius, and that he made it sound more clever and polished and sophisticated. Like Barry Manilow and Bette Midler?

And here’s another oddity: Stephen Schwartz also came from Carnegie Mellon University. And yet another oddity: many of the original cast members, and the director, who happened to be John Michael Tebelak, made it all the way to the Broadway version. Tebelak was even involved in the movie script. Surely someone has written a Hollywood movie about this plot: sincere, visionary hippie writes a musical that rocks the world, transport him and his cast to Broadway, and wins a Tony.

Of course they didn’t really win a Tony, but Hollywood doesn’t care if it really happened or not.  It understands perfectly that movie audiences want to be spoon fed harmless illusions.

The movie version of Godspell is set on the streets of New York, including an extraordinary sequence with cast members dancing and singing on window washer platforms and on the roof of the unfinished World Trade Center. It’s all a bit precious in some ways, but it’s also a courageous attempt to take the gospel out of the sterile Mayberry of Andy vintage, and it’s own quiet irrelevance, into a vital, crackling, youthful urban setting: God speaks to the twin towers! It remains startling in concept, which is outrageous considering that it is 2012, but it’s even more outrageous that Rick Perry and Michelle Bachmann campaign for president as if it were the 1950’s, devout and puritanical, and ragingly hypocritical. God rules everything when it comes to prayer in schools and abstinence training, but his authority is severely limited when it comes to stewardship of the environment: drill baby, drill.

Tebelak’s Jesus, by the way, is a bit sanctimonious. When John the Baptist/Judas almost uses his name in vain, he slaps him, and the rest of the troupe are aghast when Judas almost slaps him back. It’s a weird scene. This is not a new age Jesus, sheep-like, tolerant, inclusive. It’s a strong moment in the play and I am amazed that the considerable forces of homogenization and pleasant superficial conformity didn’t filter it out.

At one point in Godspell, in the movie version, the cast is dancing on top of the roof of the unfinished World Trade Center.  The shot was taken from a helicopter.  It is remarkable.

Anything like that (along with other scenes on roofs and windows washer platforms) shot today would have been green screened, so enjoy it while you can. It’s pretty amazing.

The Original Cast album, the first recorded version of Godspell, was recorded in one day, and sounds like it.

There are copies of the original theatrical trailer for Godspell online. You will be shocked. The trailer seems to illuminate aspects of the movie. The cuts are several seconds long. There are no helicopters, explosions, or naked women. The purpose actually seems to be to give you some kind of idea of what kind of movie Godspell is.

More on Godspell.

More not on Godspell:

At the 1969 Tony Awards, “Hair” lost out to “1776” for best musical. You remember “1776”, don’t you?

One of the reasons Eugene Levy says he lost out on the role of Christ in the Toronto production was that he looked too Jewish. And also too hairy.

Penn State University

Penn State rakes in $70 million a year from it’s football program. The University eats, breathes, and suckles football.

It’s stadium holds 107,000 people.

State College– what a dumb name for a town!– only has a population of about 50,000.

I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume that Coach Paterno and assistant coach Mike McQueary didn’t call the police because it was former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky raping that ten-year-old boy. The more I think about it, the more ridiculously lame Paterno’s excuse– that he notified Penn State’s administration and trusted them to do the right thing– sounds.

Let’s leave that aside for now.

My question is, why do they even bother with the “university” aspect of their operations?

All those professors and non-football-playing students and courses and books and libraries and museums and lectures and panel discussions and seminars and sororities and fraternities– why bother? Who needs them? Who wants them? Why not just convert all the big universities into sports franchises, like the NBA, NFL, or MLB?

The football is obviously the only real focus of the institutions that devote so many resources to the sport, and whose mostly highly paid employee is the football coach.  Why are you pretending to give the slightest fuck about education?

Let’s say you’re interested in learning. Yeah, lets say you are a total weirdo by American standards. If you really wanted to, you could probably buy a few buildings, hire a few smart, educated people who know something about history or English or physics or economics, and see if you could get them to pass on their knowledge to young people who think there might be some value to it.

You could have a place where learning is valued, where knowledge is prized, and the imagination is appreciated.

Some young people who didn’t think the life of the mind was a mere after thought, a tiny, insignificant garnish to the gleaming athletic trophies, might sign up. You could have dorms and cafeterias. You could name the place after a brilliant writer or artist or economist or scientist.

And once in a while, if the kids need to get their yah-yahs out, there could be a game of football or something.

But just imagine:  place devoted to learning and knowledge and the arts and intellectual development!  Would that be amazing.

Household Debt

The average Canadian household debt, excluding mortgages, is about $40,000. Yes, read it twice.

As everyone points fingers at those irresponsible Greeks– rumour has it they don’t work at all– consider the Canadian consumer, also living high on future earnings.

Now, if one in ten Canadians were in debt to the tune of $40K, you might begin to think that one in 10 Canadians is irresponsible, selfish, and/or inept. You might look at yourself: I’m pretty smart and wise and self-controlled. I have no debt.

But you can’t. You also have $40K in outstanding debt. So you are irresponsible, lazy, and inept.

Good news for you– you’re probably actually pretty average. In fact, you are average. In fact, you are everyone.

So if the average person owes $40K to credit card companies and banks, what does that say about our society? It says that the creditors in our world have found a way to transfer the hard-earned wealth you have earned from honest labour into their own pockets by simple virtue of the fact that they have capital to lend out. If this state of things were the result of a character flaw, there’s no way everyone would be doing it.

The banks act as if everyone has a choice of running up personal debt or not. But the results of their policies and practices reveal the truth: the system is rigged to their favor. The system is rigged to entice you into spending more than you have in order to “enslave” you: fixed monthly payments for most of your adult life is not “credit”. It’s indentured servitude. Twenty-eight percent interest on credit card debt is not there to provide a fair incentive to banks to lend– it’s there to keep you in servitude by making it increasingly difficult to pay off the principle.

The financial crisis in the U.S. was largely triggered by the attempts of the banks in the U.S. to apply the lessons they learned about credit cards to mortgages, with balloon payments, floating rates, back-loaded payment schedules, and so on. All of this requires a very large crew of lobbyists’ and lots of political donations, because for it to work, the government must be complicit. The government provides the legal system that is rigged to enforce the banks’ rules and the banks’ views of what is “fair” and “honest”. If the banks tried to enforce their own rules themselves, that would be called organized crime. Extortion. Loan-sharking. When the government does it, it’s called “free enterprise”.

It may occasionally be necessary for some of you debtors to go over to a hot, dusty, godforsaken foreign country and kill people to maintain our glorious liberties and freedoms. Thank you very much. We’ll get you to stand up at our baseball and football games and accept a salute. No no no– not you homeless or paralyzed veterans! The ones who can stand.

Only about half of all Canadian homeowners, according to the same website (right) have a mortgage on their home. That’s amazing. But then, they probably bought a boat, or a cottage.

The Lindy Chamberlain Case: the Australian Court gets High

In the Lindy Chamberlain case (famous as “A Cry in the Dark”), one of the scientists who testified that she found “foetal blood” in 22 areas of the Chamberlain’s car, destroyed all the original tests and photographs before the trial.

Should we say, someone who “claimed” to be scientist? Or remark on the fact that it was the policy of the lab to destroy original tests and photographs immediately after analysis had taken place? Is there any reason to do this, other than to ensure that no one can contradict your testimony?

On February 22, 1984, the Australian High Court confirmed the conviction.

Someone ought to place a monument in front of the court building to this event: and every Justice should look at it and think about it as he or she enters the building to hear cases.  We were wrong.

The Chamberlain case is a sharp tear at the fabric of self-deceit we practice in so-called civilized countries: when it comes right down to it, we don’t much care for facts and science when there is a witch to be burned.

Similar cases, that might give you pause: The McGann case in Portugal, and the infamous Jon-Benet Ramsey case in Boulder, Colorado.

How Mitt Romney Got Rich

How Romney Did it:

Romney ran a company called Bain Capital. Under Romney’s ineffable leadership it bought an Illinois company called Dade. After some manipulations, streamlining, slashing benefits, and more aggressive marketing, Dade got bigger. Then Bain Capital wanted to cash out. But nobody would offer the kind of money for Dade that Bain Capital felt it deserved. No problem.

Dade borrowed hundreds of millions of dollars to… buy itself! From Bain! At the direction of Bain! What kind of price did they pay? Ask yourself: how much do you think you should get for you? You betcha!

The story has a tragic end. Dade, now burdened with hundreds of millions of dollars in debt could no longer afford to innovate and soon went bankrupt.

That’s how Romney “creates jobs”: he buys you. Then he borrows your money to buy yourself back from him at a very good price. He ends up with a pile of money and you end with a pile of debt. To top it off, he pays less tax on the capital gains profits he made than you did on the salary you no longer receive because you went bankrupt.

Republican Duck Soup

This is the same Rick Perry who recently told The San Francisco Chronicle that he was the sort of leader who could go to Washington and “take a wrecking ball, a sledgehammer — whatever it takes to break up the good-old-boy corporate lobbyist mentality that is putting this country’s future in jeopardy. NY Times, November 5, 2011

As the Republican primaries begin more and more to resemble a Marx Brothers Movie (think of “Duck Soup”), the absolutely in your face, we don’t give a damn about even giving the appearance of integrity attitude of most of the candidates is absolutely astonishing. The above quote is from an article on Perry’s obsessive use of corporate private jets to travel around the country attending sporting events, dinners, and meetings, without even hiding the fact that he is being lavishly funded by the very “good old boys” who corrupt our political process.

He’s not even really very coy or sly about it. It’s as if they don’t really believe that, behind all the fury of the Tea Party and the Occupy Wall Street movements, there is anything real about public disapproval of the government.

The other astonishing thing– which isn’t so astonishing the closer you look at it– is that no politician has come along to take advantage of the fury American voters now feel towards their leaders. Where is the Jimmy Carter of 2011? You would think that all you would need right now if for some plain-spoken young idealist to come along and refuse the corporate jets, the lavish donations, the idiotic slogans, the American flag pin, and just waltz right through the primaries to become the next President of the United States. But the Republicans think that a “plain-speaking” lobbyist who travels on corporate jets and gropes female employees qualifies.

Not so astonishing, really. The system is so rigged in favor or money and the money is completely controlled by corporate interests– even Obama took a lot of money from rich donors– that it may well be impossible for a Jimmy Carter to succeed today.

Besides, it looked like Obama was that kind of candidate, but he has proven, over and over again, that he is unwilling or unable to stand up to the same corrosive forces when applied to a sitting president. Like any other sitting president, his time in office seems primarily calibrated towards raising money to run for a second term. And I would guess that the intelligence and military communities have succeeded in convincing him that any tinkering with Guantanamo and any reduction in military or homeland security spending will leave him vulnerable to attack by the right for not being tough enough on evil, no matter what he believes about how effective or counter-productive any particular measures might be.