Archive for October, 2008

Two new books

Posted in 1966, 2008 Election, alcohol, alcoholism, animal house, animals, arrest, asia, athletics, Barack Obama, baseball, bichons, Biden, Big Business, binge drinking, blogging, Blogroll, breaking news, cars, cats, ceo compensation, Christmas, chrysler, Crime, criminal justice, cyberspace, Democrats, diets, divorce, dogs, election, environment, films, food, fraternities, gun control, high education, Higher Education, history, hollywood, immigration, intelligent design, international, internet, Israel, journalism, Law, Law and Justice, leadership, literature, marriage, mccain, media, medicine, middle east, movies, murder, murder in the 20th century, news, North Pole, novels, obama, Oil Companies, Palin, pennsylvania, pets, Pigs, Pit Bulls, Polar Express, Politics, pornography, president, Presidential Election, prisons, professors, relationships, religion, Republicans, Santa Claus, Sarah Palin, science, science fiction, second amendment, shooting, sports, study abroad, technology, Terrorism, time travel, Uncategorized, United Nations, universities, vegans, Vice President, Violence, VTU, war, war on terror, world affairs, writing on October 31, 2008 by castagnera
Published on Times News Online (

TIMES NEWS “Attorney at Large” publishes his 16th Book

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Al Qaeda Goes to College has just gone into production at Greenwood Press.

Jim Castagnera, the Times-News “Attorney at Large,” has published his 16th book, The Employment Law Answer Book: Forms and Worksheets. The 800-page tome, complete with a CD-Rom of adaptable human-resource templates, is a new companion to Castagnera’s popular Employment Law Answer Book, which was first released in 1988 and is now in its sixth edition. Both are published by Aspen Publishers, an American subsidiary of the Wolters Kluwer, a large European publishing/communications firm.

Meanwhile, his 17th book, Al Qaeda Goes to College, has just gone into production at Greenwood Press.

Holder of a J.D., Ph.D., Castagnera has spent more than 25 years practicing, writing about, and teaching law. He has been a labor lawyer and litigator with a major Philadelphia firm and the general counsel/corporate secretary for the then-largest convenience store chain in New Jersey and for the nation’s number one econometric forecasting organization. He has published 15 other books, as well as more than 50 professional/scholarly articles and book chapters. He is a frequent commentator in newsletters, newspapers, magazines, and broadcast media and has been writing his regular weekly column “Attorney at Large” for the Times-News since December 2003.

His teaching has taken him to the University of Texas-Austin, the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and the Widener University School of Law. He has completed 12 years as Associate Provost and Associate Counsel for Academic Affairs at Rider University in Princeton/Lawrenceville (NJ), where he also holds the rank of Associate Professor of Business Policy.

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Thinking About the Unthinkable

Posted in 1966, 2008 Election, arrest, Barack Obama, Biden, Big Business, blogging, Blogroll, breaking news, Crime, criminal justice, cyberspace, Democrats, election, films, gun control, Higher Education, history, intelligent design, international, internet, journalism, Law, Law and Justice, leadership, literature, mccain, media, middle east, movies, murder, murder in the 20th century, news, obama, Oil Companies, Palin, pennsylvania, Pit Bulls, Politics, president, Presidential Election, prisons, professors, religion, Republicans, Sarah Palin, second amendment, shooting, technology, Terrorism, time travel, Uncategorized, United Nations, universities, Vice President, Violence, VTU, war, war on terror, world affairs, writing on October 24, 2008 by castagnera

In 1962 a Rand Corporation strategist named Herman Kahn wrote a controversial book on nuclear war, which he entitled “Thinking About the Unthinkable.”  The title came to my mind this week, as I listened to radio reports of polls that put Barack Obama’s lead at anywhere from five to 10 percentage points.  No, his election is not unthinkable to me.  Two years ago, I wrote him off as a fluke.  A year ago I worried out loud about his lack of experience.  As I write this, I am prepared to vote for him.
The “unthinkable” for me today is that some racist out there somewhere, hearing the same polling stats, is oiling his rifle right now.  That’s what scares the heck out me, as the countdown to Election Day approaches its final hours.
We’ve been there before, and thinking about it makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.  This month marks the 45th anniversary of JFK’s assassination.  Despite all the conspiracy theories, the thousands of books, the Oliver Stone movie, and all the rest, I continue to believe that a weird little nut named Oswald acted alone.  Armed with a cheesy Italian war-surplus rifle, he killed the president… and, with him, the dreams of many in my generation.
Forty years ago, two more worthless cuckoos killed Bobby and Martin.  I shall forever be amazed at colleagues who wax nostalgic about the Sixties.  The decade was a time of terror, dissention, drugs and war.  And madmen robbed me of the three heroes of my youth.
Why will I vote for Obama, when I have said so often that I would not?
First and foremost, because John McCain has let me — and such GOP icons as Christopher Buckley and Colin Powell — down… way down.  It’s not that he is behaving like Hubert Humphrey in ’68, when Gonzo-journalist Hunter Thomson likened HHH to a bull moose in heat crashing through a Wisconsin forest.  Old men may be forgiven for excessive zeal in their last runs for the White House.
No, I could forgive him for that.  What I can’t forgive is his selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate.  Palin makes Obama look like an elder statesman.  Her nomination is an insult to every thinking American.  True, P.T. Barnum once said, “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.”  But, folks, are we really that dumb?  I sure hope not.  But, if I were sure we weren’t, I wouldn’t be worrying about the unthinkable.
Second, whether Obama is good or merely mediocre in the White House, his election will do more to put behind us the centuries of slavery, Jim Crow, and segregation, than anything else that I can imagine.  His presidency simultaneously will send a conciliatory message to what we used to refer to as the “Third World.”  From the Bush Doctrine to the son of a black African in one election… what opportunities to rebuild America’s international image this offers!
Last, but not least, something in my aging gut tells me this guy may be the real deal, despite his limited international expertise.  His aplomb in the three debates was exemplary.  Hilary Clinton had me worrying about the crisis-call at three o’clock in the morning.  I begin to believe that that call, when it comes (as it inevitably must), won’t shake this guy up at all.  Besides, he has the good sense to surround himself with the best and the brightest, from Joe Biden to Warren Buffet.
So, I say to the Secret Service: be on your tippy toes, folks.  Keep this candidate safe.  He may be America’s Great Black Hope.  In any event, he deserves a chance to change the course of our ship of state, which Mr. Bush has driven over shoals, nearly tearing out its bottom, and headed toward history’s rocks.  Keep him safe and sound, fellas.  I have come to believe that right now we need this guy.
[Jim Castagnera is the Associate Provost/Associate Counsel  at Rider University.  His novels and a collection of his columns are available at]

Do the Piggies ALways Escape Scott Free?

Posted in 1966, 2008 Election, animal house, animals, arrest, Barack Obama, Biden, Big Business, blogging, breaking news, ceo compensation, Crime, criminal justice, cyberspace, Democrats, dogs, election, history, international, internet, journalism, Law, Law and Justice, leadership, mccain, media, news, obama, Oil Companies, Palin, pennsylvania, Pigs, Pit Bulls, Politics, president, Presidential Election, prisons, Republicans, Sarah Palin, technology, Terrorism, Uncategorized, Vice President, Violence, world affairs on October 13, 2008 by castagnera

As Uncle Sam printed billions of new dollars to bail out AIG, the failing financial giant’s top hogs gobbled up more than $400,000 on a junket, according to news reports.  While that much money might be enough for many of us to retire somewhere shy of our 80th birthdays, it’s only a drop in the trough for these folks.  Golden parachutes in the nine-figure range enable these piggy-pirates to enjoy soft landings, leaving shareholders — including our pension funds — and we taxpayers and our children (and, no doubt, grandchildren) to cover the losses caused by their greed and incompetence.
And Obama wonders why some of us here in depressed Pennsylvania may fondle our guns with a certain wistful affection.
Do these porcine gluttons ever have to pay for their sins?  The answer is “yes, sometimes they do.”  For example, several former AIG and affiliated execs were convicted in a federal court in Connecticut of securities fraud and mail fraud in May.  In this case, according to the federal district judge, “The defendants were convicted of crimes associated with a loss portfolio transfer reinsurance transaction between Gen Re and AIG. Four of the defendants-Ferguson, Garand, Graham, and Monrad-are former Gen Re executives; the remaining defendant, Milton, is a former AIG executive. Count One charged all five of the defendants with participating in a conspiracy to commit securities fraud, to make and cause to be made false and misleading statements in reports filed with the SEC, to falsify and cause to be falsified the books and records of a public company, and to commit mail fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371.”  In other words, they lied to the SEC and the public to make their firms’ assets look more valuable than they actually were.
According to Reuters, last month “In a sentencing memorandum…, prosecutors argued that sentences for the five defendants should be stiffer than the range of 168 months to 210 months calculated in a pre-sentence report. The government also said losses to AIG investors could be estimated at more than $400 million — with the government’s expert calculating fraud-related losses as much as $1.4 billion — a factor that should enhance the defendants’ sentences.”  The memorandum is still under consideration, so far as I can tell.  Here’s hoping  the judge sees things the government’s way.
In addition to such criminal cases, we can anticipate plenty of litigation on the civil side, too, in the wake of the financial pigpen’s collapse.  Here’s one example, from the June 13, 2007, edition of Market Watch []:
“American International Group Inc. (AIG) Wednesday sued its ousted Chairman Maurice R. ‘Hank’ Greenberg and ex-Chief Financial Officer Howard I. Smith for more than $1 billion in damages stemming from accounting troubles on their watch.”
Another class action suit, called In re American International Group Securities Litigation was described a federal judge in Manhattan this way last July:
“This litigation was commenced more than three-and-a-half years ago when putative class actions were filed in this Court on October 15, 2004. The putative class actions alleged that AIG and certain of its officers and directors violated the securities laws by failing to disclose AIG’s participation in bid-rigging and contingent commission schemes (alleged in a complaint by the New York Attorney General against Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc.).  The proposed class period in these actions was October 28, 1999 through October 13, 2004.  On February 8, 2005, this Court consolidated the cases and appointed Ohio Funds as lead plaintiff. On April 19, 2005, lead plaintiff filed a Consolidated Amended Class Action Complaint, which included allegations pertaining to the same bid-rigging and contingent commission schemes, as well as newly-disclosed allegations of accounting improprieties involving defendant General Reinsurance Corp.”
Plaintiffs include public employee and teachers’ retirement funds and the like.  Defendants again include good ‘ol Hank Greenberg.
If all this seems too much to take in, you’re not alone.  I plan to follow these lawsuits for you into the future.  For now, suffice to say that, when I was still practicing law in Philly, I knew lawyers who made their livings chasing down such pilfering piggies on behalf of we hapless shareholders and would-be retirees.  The Enron crimes of the last decade resulted in similar suits, which recovered quite a bit of what had been stolen by Enron’s criminal execs.  CEO Kenneth Lay escaped prison by dying.
Someone less charitable than me might wish the same for some of the hogs who have benefited personally from the shenanigans that led up to our present predicament.
[Jim Castagnera is the Associate Provost and Associate Counsel at Rider University.  His novels and a collection of his columns are available at]