Book Review: ‘The Divide’

Go Lean Commentary

Book Review - The Divide - PhotoSo many Caribbean citizens would love the opportunity to immigrate to the United States. However, the old adage could apply here: “All that glitters is not gold”.

The publishers of the book Go Lean … Caribbean, align with the source book in this review, The Divide by Matt Taibbi. In the Caribbean, we hope to minimize the “push-and-pull” factors that draw our Caribbean youth away. This verse from Matt Taibbi’s book depicts that the US is not the “Promised Land” that many Caribbean expatriates envision:

Violent crime has fallen by 44 percent in America over the past two decades, but during that same period the prison population has more than doubled, skewing heavily black and poor. In essence, poverty itself is being criminalized.

This subject matter aligns with the Go Lean … Caribbean publication, which serves as a roadmap for the introduction and implementation of the Caribbean Union Trade Federation (CU). The Go Lean roadmap calls for the optimization of the Caribbean economic, security and governing engines. We want a society based on justice, but not the “American Justice” we see meted out, as described in the source book.

This Go Lean roadmap first assesses that the Caribbean is in crisis, that we are not able to retain our young people. Many member-states (St Vincent, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, etc.) have lost more than half of their populations to foreign shores. This plight of human flight makes the task of building a functioning society difficult for the remainder, as often our brightest and best talents are the ones that leave. We “fatten frogs for snakes”, as the Jamaican expression depicts.

Many times, the destination of choice is the United States. The goal of Go Lean movement is to forge a better society, to make the Caribbean a better place to live, work and play. While the source book in the foregoing article is indicting the American Justice system, we, in the Caribbean, need to ensure that we are doing even better ourselves in our Caribbean homeland.

Book Review: By Timothy Noah; contributing writer New York Times, April 10, 2014

THE DIVIDE (Spiegel & Grau Publishers)

American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap

By Matt Taibbi

“Low-class people do low-class things.” What’s notable in this reflexive dismissal of those with modest means are not the words themselves. Rather, please turn your attention to the person whom Matt Taibbi, in his ambitious new book documenting America’s unequal administration of justice to rich and poor, quotes saying them: a private attorney hired by New York State to defend low-income people in criminal court. We never learn his name, but Taibbi calls him Waldorf because he resembles the grouchy old balcony heckler on “The Muppet Show.”

Waldorf’s casual contempt for his defendants (and tacit approval of the sloppy policing dragnet that puts them at his mercy) is voiced at the conclusion of a grimly comic vignette worthy of Joseph Heller — one of many deeply reported, highly compelling mini-narratives of dysfunction within the criminal justice system that make “The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap” as infuriating as it is impossible to put down.

A 35-year-old black man named Andrew Brown is arrested for “obstructing pedestrian traffic” in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Brown, having been similarly harassed by the cops countless times before, refuses to provide ID and accept a summons, and is consequently brought into court. Once there, Brown explains to Waldorf that he was talking to a friend outside his own apartment building after getting off work, and that, given the lateness of the hour (shortly before 1 a.m.), there wouldn’t have been any pedestrian traffic on Myrtle Avenue to obstruct.

None of this seems to register with Waldorf. “What are you arguing?” he asks. He wonders aloud whether Brown was “being a wise guy” with the cops, and expresses surprise that a person such as Brown would have a job. He advises his client to pay the $25 fine.

Brown refuses and explains it all over again to the judge. The judge turns to Waldorf and asks whether Brown will pay the $25 fine. Waldorf explains, for the second time, that Brown won’t pay, his manner suggesting that for the life of him he can’t figure out why not.

Only then does the judge bestir himself to ask the arresting officer whether he saw any other people on the sidewalk that night. No? “O.K., then,” the judge sighs. “Not guilty.” Out in the hallway, Taibbi asks Waldorf why white people never get arrested for obstructing pedestrian traffic. Oblivious to the lesson that has just played out, and puzzled as to why Taibbi would want to include any of this in a book, Waldorf replies, “Low-class people do low-class things.”

Taibbi wrote “The Divide” to demonstrate that unequal wealth is producing grotesquely unequal outcomes in criminal justice. You might say that’s an old story, but Taibbi believes that, just as income disparities are growing ever wider, so, too, are disparities in who attracts the attention of cops and prosecutors and who doesn’t. Violent crime has fallen by 44 percent in America over the past two decades, but during that same period the prison population has more than doubled, skewing heavily black and poor. In essence, poverty itself is being criminalized. Meanwhile, at the other end of the income distribution, an epidemic of white-collar crime has overtaken the financial sector, indicated, for instance, by a proliferation of record-breaking civil settlements. But partly because of an embarrassing succession of botched Justice Department prosecutions, and partly because of a growing worry (first enunciated by Attorney General Eric Holder when he was Bill Clinton’s deputy attorney general) that any aggressive prosecution of big banks could destabilize the economy, Wall Street has come, under President Obama, to enjoy near-total immunity from criminal prosecution. It had more to fear, ironically, when George W. Bush was president.

The argument isn’t laid out in a particularly rigorous or nuanced manner, but it seems plausible enough. Taibbi, a longtime Rolling Stone writer who is currently developing a publication about political and financial corruption for First Look Media, has in the past written in a blustery style that put me off, but here the gonzo affectation is kept largely in check. What I failed to notice previously — or perhaps what Taibbi shows off to especially good effect here — is what a meticulous reporter he can be, with a facility for rendering complex financial skulduggery intelligible. Especially noteworthy are Taibbi’s detailed accounts of self-­dealing amid the dismantlement of Lehman Brothers — which involved, among other things, hoodwinking Lehman’s bankruptcy judge — and of a vicious harassment campaign waged by hedge fund managers against the employees of a Canadian insurance company whose stock they’d shorted. In both instances, one is struck that, however tricky the standard of proof may be for the white-collar criminal class, the evidence available nowadays in the form of compromising email communications would make Eliot Ness weep with gratitude. And yet the gangsters got away.

Taibbi is similarly skillful at explaining how bureaucratic imperatives in the criminal justice system can spin scarily out of control. In New York City, you start with a “broken windows” theory that says cracking down on petty crime can prevent little criminals from becoming big criminals. Possibly because that’s right, violent crime goes down. But paradoxically, that makes a cop’s life more difficult rather than less, because criminals are getting harder to find even as new computer systems are enabling the police commissioner to keep track of which precincts are making the most arrests. The solution turns out to be aggressive use of a stop-and-frisk policy that gives cops a blank check to “search virtually anyone at any time.” The police start behaving “like commercial fishermen, throwing nets over whole city blocks.” Some of the fish get prosecuted or ticketed for ever-pettier offenses; 20,000 summonses, for instance, are handed out annually for riding a bicycle on the sidewalk. But most fish aren’t guilty of anything and must grow accustomed to being routinely cuffed and ridden around in a police van before they are tossed back into the water. These fish are, of course, typically black and poor. Anecdotal evidence suggests that throwing a similar fishnet over entire Wall Street firms would produce a criminal yield at least as high as any random ghetto block. But innocent Wall Street fish would have a much bigger megaphone with which to proclaim their constitutional rights, and guilty Wall Street fish would have much better lawyers.

One theme implicit in Taibbi’s reporting is the extent to which the justice system’s newer kinds of inequalities are driven by technology. Computers encourage both the government and the banks to operate on a scale at which consideration of

individual circumstance isn’t really possible. The result is unstoppable error by government (say, the frequent miscalculations that leave welfare recipients at constant risk of being wrongly accused of fraud) and unstoppable fraud by banks (say, ­robo-signing endlessly repackaged and resold mortgages and credit card debt). For both government and banks, such scaling up inevitably creates injustices for certain individuals, but so long as the victims are powerless there won’t be much of a legal or political reckoning. The person tossed into jail for welfare fraud he didn’t commit or tossed out of his house because he was mistakenly judged not to be paying his mortgage may or may not get it all sorted out in the end, but even if he does the feedback loop won’t impose too much pain.

We may be approaching a day when any kind of personal attention from a large institution that wields substantial control over your life becomes a luxury available only to the few, like a bespoke suit or designer gown.

New York Times Online –Book Review – “The Justice Gap” – Retrieved 04-15-2014 –

Even though the Go Lean book is presented as a roadmap for economic empowerment, it immediately recognizes that there must be an effort for justice among Caribbean institutions or rather, people will continue to flee. At the outset of the Go Lean book, in the Declaration of Interdependence (Page 12), this point is pronounced:

xxi. Whereas the legacy in recent times in individual states may be that of ineffectual governance with no redress to higher authority, the accedence of this Federation will ensure accountability and escalation of the human and civil rights of the people for good governance, justice assurances, due process and the rule of law. As such, any threats of a “failed state” status for any member state must enact emergency measures on behalf of the Federation to protect the human, civil and property rights of the citizens, residents, allies, trading partners, and visitors of the affected member state and the Federation as a whole.

How should the Caribbean be different than the United States in the pursuit of justice?

The book Go Lean … Caribbean details strategies, tactic, implementations and advocacies to elevate Caribbean society. Some of the specific features include:

Community Ethos – Juvenile Justice Page 23
10 Ways to Manage Reconciliations Page 34
10 Ways to Impact the Greater Good Page 37
Separation of Powers–Justice Department Page 77
Separation of Powers–Judicial Branch Page 90
10 Ways to Better Manage Image Page 133
10 Ways to Improve Failed-State Indices Page 134
10 Ways to Impact Justice Page 177
10 Ways to Reduce Crime Page 178
10 Ways to Improve Intelligence Page 182
10 Ways to Impact Wall Street Page 200
10 Ways to Impact Prison-Industrial Complex Page 211
10 Ways to Protect Human Rights Page 220
10 Ways to Impact Youth Page 227

The roadmap also cautions that we do not want to repeat America’s mistakes. If we do not learn from history …

In truth, the Caribbean is still reeling from the effects of the Global Financial Crisis of 2008.

What is worse, the US has “hardly” marshaled any persecutions against the culprits and perpetrators of the mortgage fraud that de-stabilized the American securities markets and the world economy. Matt Taibbi further reports:

In a speech last year that chilled Wall Street, New York Federal Reserve President William Dudley said he feared that the tax dodging, money laundering, mortgage fraud and trampling on homeowners by America’s big banks might reflect not just a few bad actors but ethical flaws deep in the fabric of Wall Street.

In 2010, Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. warned that “mortgage-fraud crimes have reached crisis proportions.” He vowed bravely to fight back, but the Justice Department’s inspector general recently reported that, in fact, Holder’s department has made Wall Street crime its lowest priority and that, since 2009, the FBI has closed 747 mortgage-fraud cases with little or no investigation.

800px-Statue_of_Liberty,_NYThere it is, the United States, where there seems to be a Great Divide in justice, one set of standards for the rich, another set for the poor.

The grass is not greener on that (American) side!

The reasons for emigration are “push-and-pull”. This source book identifies and qualifies a “pull” factor, the issue of justice in America. The book informs the reader that America should not be considered alluring from a justice perspective, especially if the reader/audience is poor and of a minority ethnicity.

This leaves the “push” factors. The Caribbean must address its issues, as to why its population is so inclined to emigrate. This is the purpose of the Go Lean roadmap. It features the assessments, strategies, tactics and implementations to make the Caribbean a better place to live, work and play.

Now is the time for the Caribbean region to lean-in for the changes described in the book Go Lean … Caribbean. The benefits of this roadmap are too alluring to ignore: emergence of our own $800 Billion economy, 2.2 million new jobs, new industries, services and optimized justice institutions.

Download the free e-Book of Go Lean … Caribbean – now!



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