Dotty in D.C.: Our Criminal Classes at Work

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There is the
growing sense that things are getting pretty dippy in Washington,
D.C., but what, pray, can we do about it? Anymore than we can do
anything about war in Iraq or stave off war in Iran, if the boys
in charge decide it would be a good idea.

Yes, I know.
We can send letters to our reps or sign Internet petitions galore,
but I question whether any of that is worth the trouble. I think
our reps use our letters to take our temperature, and if it's less
than murderously revolutionary they go right back to doing the bidding
of their "important contributors." If it's a little too
scorching, maybe they set the FBI or the IRS or somebody on us.

As for me,
I have not been able to shake the feeling one should show a little
respect to an elected official (my "good" training when
young), so the letter I reproduce here is about as hot as I get,
and I am sure it accomplished nothing but to reassure Texas Rep.
Mike Conaway (R-11) that his home woods (actually desert hereabouts)
are full of unbalanced types who can safely be ignored.

May 22, 2006

Dear Rep. Conaway:

  1. I beg of
    you NOT to assign this letter to anyone to answer. I am already
    familiar with the sort of answers that eager youngsters write.
  2. I am 83
    and a Navy vet of WW II.
  3. I also beg
    of you to TURN OFF THE AGGRESSIVE WARS, above everything to deny
    the administration the pleasure of starting one of any kind with
    Iran, either by ourselves, with Israel, or in support of Israel.
  4. Your emailed
    Chronicle is well-written, but it is about what amounts to ho-hum,
    to trivialities, in the face of the hideous threat to world peace
    that the administration presently is, virtually unopposed by Congress.
    What are you people doing, how can you go home at night from day
    after day of pusillanimous evasion of your clear duty to oppose
    the usurpers and warmongers in high office?
  5. Please consider
    that God above is your real judge, and that you are to represent
    us in defense of the Constitution, which even this late in the
    day COULD be restored and the nation rescued from the decline
    it is presently in. For starters, consider nationalizing the Federal
    Reserve into the People's Bank of the U.S. and take back the congressional
    power, alienated in 1913, of controlling our money supply. Do
    this before we are destroyed by debt. For God's sake get busy.
    Please.

You hear in
the news of this or that kind of misbehavior (how about the recently
announced accounting
frauds at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac?)
and have the distinct
feeling that somebody ought to sway from the yardarm, but it doesn't
seem to happen. It certainly doesn't happen at all briskly.

Wasn't there
an old rule or idea to the effect that punishment, if it is to be
effective, must be proportionate and prompt? If you put several
years between crime and punishment, which our federal legal system
seems to do, someone like Abramof
or Lay
may have forgotten what he did that was so disapproved of and perhaps
come to feel he is being abused for nothing when he comes to get
his slap on the wrist. And what should, say, Abramof get for corrupting
some of our stalwart reps who would have never been on the take
except for him? Sixty years in the pen? Keep that figure in mind
and see what indeed happens to him. How about returning all the
money he gulled from the Amerind tribes?

I recognize
the need of lawyers to take lots of (expensive) time to work up
their cases and judges to take similar lots to read what the lawyers
have worked up, and I am sure the whole thing has gotten more swollen,
more demanding, with the advent of word-processing programs that
can
now reach speeds of 150 words a minute
in the direct transmission
from voice to print on paper. Think what sturdy reams of congealed
mentation – elaborated indictments, etc. – can be produced
by the merest rookie lawyer with that technology and passing fair
diction.

I'll bet not
only our big-time criminals, like Abramof and Lay and DeLay
and other elected equivalents in high office, but all the little
ones who ape them, still think, when trials are over and sentences
dished out, that the game was worth the candle. They had a shot
at easy dough and went for it, and where's the harm of that, really?
Isn't that what any rational man would do presented with the right
temptation?

I often think
of the sheriff of a neighboring county who got hold of a tremendous
stash of interdicted drugs, heroin, I think, worth about a million.
Drugs come across the border by the truckload. He got peached on
by a resentful co-criminal and hauled up before the courts for possession
and sale. He got life. I heard lately he's indeed still in the pen
15 or so years later. He had 25 years in office and a son on a local
city police force. Temptation.

I think government
drug laws and a porous border are a sort of oxymoron. But we are
now going to fix that with some wood and wire walls. Just as we
fix bad schools with a few millions of bonds for more bricks and
mortar.

We
get more and more Alice in Wonderland as the days advance. What
can be the terminus ad quem, the point at which all this
nutty-fruity iniquity in formerly honorable places comes to an end?
I'm sure it's ahead somewhere. As Herbert Stein famously said, “Things
that can’t go on forever, don’t.”
When that at last happens
it will be none too soon.

May
26, 2006

Tom
White [send him mail]
writes from Odessa, Texas. He is the author of Bill
W., A Different Kind of Hero: The Story of Alcoholics Anonymous

(2003),
and the newly-published Lost
in the Texas Desert
.

Tom
White Archives

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