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

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