When will Americans learn that prison just isn’t fit for rich people? Apparently, it was these last few weeks. First there’s the Paris Hilton in-and-out again with the overcrowded California correctional system. When asked why Hilton was being released a second time before her setnece had been served, an official mumbled somehing about ‘health concerns’ and the gossip rags all speculated that the heiress hadn’t been taking her medication and had threatened suicide. Clearly, a flower too fragile to pay her debt to society in some lower-class hellhole.
Remember when Martha Stewart was sent to jail and all sorts of people got upset about it? I can’t think of a less justified opportunity for outrage. This woman started out as a stockbroker. She passed the Series 7 exam, she knew exactly what the laws about insider trading were. Not only that, but she sat on the board of the New York Stock Exchange. I can’t imagine any of those people who were outraged at Martha being made an example of saying anything remotely similar if any man with Martha’s qualifications were caught committing securities fraud.
Celebrity justice is nothing new. Celebrity treatment in courts is to white people’s what white people’s justice is to minorities. And that’s why the white people on your television (and some of their diverse friends) get upset about it. Rich people can afford ridiculously good lawyers, and that’s usually enough to tip the scales of justice, but they also have extensive networks to rely on for all sorts of support.
Now we can talk about the big story, Bush’s recent commutation of Scooter Libby’s jail sentence. Bush said that the fine Scooter had been ordered to pay and two years’ probation would be enough punishment for perjury and obstruction of justice.
Fine? It’s clear that Libby’s wealthy friends, and probably many of those who wrote in to support Libby during the sentencing phase of his trial will pay not only his fine but probably his legal fees as well. So unless probation status stops him from getting the kind of cushy private sector job a departing Administration member gets upon leaving the White House, he’s going to get off scot-free. At least until Bush grants a full pardon.
So now that we’ve firmly established that the White House is above the law (I’m not holding my breath for an impeachment proceeding, even though I think we should have one for every administration from now on), there remains only the fine, which, as I said, is all but paid.
You’ll notice, however, that not only is Libby’s case, at heart, about the lies the Bush administration told a willingly deceived public to get us into war in Iraq—the very same people responsible for this propaganda effort are those who ended up paying the financial penalty for the one guy who got caught during all of these shenanigans.
Which leads me to believe that if rich people are too good for jail, the very least we can do is start seriously upping the financial penalties.
The Scooter Libby Defense Fund lists people like Spencer Abraham, Bill Bennett, Steve Forbes, Francis Fukuyama, Mary Matalin, Jack Kemp, Ed Meese, Martin Peretz, Bernard Lewis, Fred Thompson, John Silver and James Woolsey as charter members, which probably means they paid a big chunk of change to be listed.
So I was thinking, why not impose a real financial penalty, like $50,000,000? That might cover the total costs of uncovering the malfeasance in question and the drag it created on good government. More importantly, it’s way too much money for the likes of Libby, so he’ll keep leaning on his friends. And that’s how we can really put the hurt on them, by awarding one of those outlandish settlements in the upcoming civil trial.
Having stepped outside the norms of legality in this era where notions of law and right and old ethical standards have become, for lack of a better word, squishy. Morality, for the most religious president in memory, has been reduced to what his lawyers and press secretaries can get away with arguing with until articles of impeachment are handed down.
Dionne Warwick’s Psycho Friend
I’m a TV psychic. This means I can see the future, but only on television (must have been all those years spent rotting my brain). This happens to me a lot; I always laugh before everyone else and people look at me funny. Anyway, two sample prognostications, today, for two Miami-based cable series:
USA’s Burn Notice: Fiona is the one who got Michael blacklisted so they could settle down together in Miami.
Showtime’s Dexter: Doakes will find out about Dexter’s habits and end up encouraging him. Rita’s daughter Astor will be revealed as a sociopathic killer whom Dexter takes under his wing.
Speaking of things that are free, here are some pictures of my favorite park in Manhattan, City Hall Park. I took them two weeks ago—for private use, not intended for public consumption. But I literally need to fill space in this post, because I built my website around a minimum post length of 1500 words.