Monday, February 16, 2009

Punishment To Fit the Crime

I can't help but compare the eagerness to condemn and punish Michael Phelps for taking a hit from a bong to the utter lack of outrage from so many national leaders and media pundits about the corporate and political criminals who've wrecked the world economy and the lives of millions.

Take Bernie Madoff, inexplicably still allowed to live in his luxury apartment. The jail time he eventually will face seems an insufficient penalty. He--and the other Wall Street titans who ran what I now understand as legal Ponzi schemes--need to hear and see, close up, the consequences of their actions. Putting them in a pillory right next to the raging bull on the real Wall Street has occurred to me, but I doubt they'd survive with their skins intact. And I don't believe in the death penalty.

Better, it seems to me, would be to require them to engage in long-term, unpaid volunteer work at homeless shelters or social service offices,while they, themselves, are forced to live in those Homeland Security trailers--the ones that off-gas toxic pollutants--foisted on the displaced from New Orleans.

I'm not alone in having such fantasies. They are the natural consequence of the unwillingness, so far, of anyone in Washington, including Obama, to hold accountable the crew that bankrupted this country and the world, and who profited and continue to profit from the unjust, calamitous wars that continue to rage. Which of course includes Bush, Cheney & company.

The Nation magazine recently tapped into this public desire with a "Retire Bush" contest. The idea was that people should suggest what Bush should do in his retirement. The winner, Kristen Wack, would give George W. the job as host of a revised version of the reality show The Biggest Loser; the contestants would be corporate executives who would compete for instigating the most colossal management debacle.

I like it--as a start, particularly because it includes the element of public humiliation, a necessary humbling for the arrogance that is surely the hallmark of the era just ended.

But, it's only a start. A runner-up entrant in The Nation contest suggested that Bush spend his retirement "assembling a legal dream team to fight extradition to The Hague for war crimes."

I hope I live long enough to see that happen, or to see one brave district attorney somewhere in America indict Bush & Cheney right here at home.

That last idea is coming from Vince Bugliosi, the author and former Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney who prosecuted the lunatic murderer Charles Manson. In his latest book, "The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder," Bugliosi presents what he says is more than sufficient evidence for any district attorney in America to indict W for the deaths of 4,000 American soldiers. He argues that by lying to the American public, by saying that Saddam Hussein posed an imminent threat, Bush was directly responsible for the deaths of our soldiers.

You can find out the name of your local DA, and urge him or her to take action and link to a You at There's also a link there to a YouTube video of Bugliosi testifying before Congress.

While we wait for accountability, here's an invitation: what do you think would be fitting punishment for Madoff, irresponsible bankers, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and company?

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