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A day to say goodbye . . . // . . . to 1995

If I had to pick two words to summarize 1995, those words would be "reasonable doubt."

What I mean is, any reasonable person has to have serious doubts about whether this year should have been allowed to occur.

A big reason, of course, is that this was the year when we had to endure The Trial That Lasted At Least A Century. Don't get me wrong: I'm not complaining about the verdict.

The problem was _ and here I must search for precisely the right word to describe a very complex and subtle flaw in our current legal system _ lawyers. There were way too many of them. There were at least six of Barry Scheck alone.

The sheer mass of lawyers overwhelmed poor pathetic Lance Ito, who, during the course of the trial, was buffeted by a relentless gale of lawyer-generated wind that gradually started eroding him, so that he became smaller and smaller as the months wore on, until finally he was just this nervous little fringe-bearded face poking up over the top of his desk, praying for this awful ordeal to end before he completely lost his mind and started shouting objections at himself via a Cookie Monster puppet.

Come on, let's be honest: NOBODY came out of that trial looking good. And I'll tell you who else had a bad 1995: The international banking industry. I am thinking here of two stories that should strike a chord in the soul of any bank customer who has ever been treated like a serial killer for trying to cash an out-of-state check:

1. In February, the British investment bank Barings PLC collapsed because a 28-year-old trader named Nick Leeson lost $1-billion _ that's with a "b," followed by an "illion" _ in futures trading.

2. In October, an employee of the New York office of Japan's Daiwa bank, Toshihide Iguchi, admitted that he doctored bank records to hide the fact that he had lost $1.1-billion.

Do you know what I think about when I read these stories? I think about my ATM machine. My ATM machine is hooked up, electronically, with my bank, which in turn is hooked up electronically with all the other banks and financial institutions all over the world.

So when I am using my ATM machine, I am interfacing with the global international financial network. And do you know what my ATM machine is always telling me? It's always telling me: YOU CANNOT WITHDRAW THAT AMOUNT. It tells me this even when it KNOWS I have enough of my own personal money in the bank to cover the withdrawal.

This makes me crazy. "WHY CAN'T I HAVE MY MONEY?" is what I want to scream. "DO YOU WANT TO MAKE SURE THERE'S PLENTY ON HAND IN CASE SOME 28-YEAR-OLD TWIT NEEDS TO LOSE IT?"

But I don't scream at the ATM, because if I did, people would have reasonable doubt about my sanity. Speaking of which, it's hard to believe that ANYBODY is still sane after the year we've all just been through. Just in case you forgot what happened, let's swallow our anti-nausea medication and take a trip back in time through 1995.

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