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Crime and Punishment

By       Message Richard Girard     Permalink
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"The man who is admired for the ingenuity of his larceny is almost always rediscovering some earlier form of fraud. The basic forms are all known, have all been practiced. The manners of capitalism improve. The morals may not."

John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-1997), U.S. economist. The Age of Uncertainty, chapter 2 (1977).

"The faults of the burglar are the qualities of the financier."

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950), Anglo-Irish playwright, critic. Major Barbara, Preface (1905).

"What is most important for democracy is not that great fortunes should not exist, but that great fortunes should not remain in the same hands. In that way there are rich men, but they do not form a class."

Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-59), French social philosopher. Democracy in America, volume 2, Appendix 5, "Democracy" (1840).

Chief Justice John Marshall wrote in the majority opinion for Marbury v. Madison (1803), "The Government of the United States has been emphatically termed a government of laws, and not of men." And yet, we are increasingly seeing that the enforcement of the law in the United States is a matter of who you are, and not what the law says.

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The case in point is the recent decision by the prosecutor in Aspen, Colorado, to not prosecute a Wall Street financier for hit and run (committed against a surgeon no less) as well as vehicular assault, because a felony charge would adversely effect this individual's ability to earn a living in the future.

I should not be surprised. Here in Colorado your station within the societal framework, together with your ability to afford a good lawyer has always made it easy for the power elite in this state to avoid the most serious consequences of their actions. I remember reading about a traffic accident roughly twenty years ago in Southern Colorado, where some local big wig ran a stop sign and broadsided an RV, killing all five people in the RV. This clown had the clout, and enough money for attorneys, so that by the time all was said and done, five counts of vehicular homicide had been reduced to five counts of careless driving. This was in spite of the fact (if I remember correctly) he had refused a breath test, and had his license automatically revoked at the scene for refusing a breath test when suspected of Driving Under the Influence.

If you or I or any other average citizen had committed the same heinous act, we would still be in jail for vehicular homicide. But as they say, money talks, and you know what walks. But it is another example of the two tiered system of justice we have to endure in this country.

There is nothing new about this. Unequal protection under the law has existed since our nation's founding, even before Chief Justice Marshall wrote those words of red letter law one hundred and ninety-two years ago. Earl Warren's Supreme Court went a long way trying to correct these inequities with its decisions in cases such as Gideon v. Wainwright, Miranda v. Arizona, and Mapp v. Ohio. But our country's legal system still has a much longer way to go.

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Our courts and legal system are in the care of men and women who are owned heart and soul by the plutocrats and their corporate proxies, up to and including the United States Supreme Court. In his recent article "' Could the Supreme Court's Citizens United Decision Soon be Overturned?'," Thom Hartmann wrote that Common Cause has requested that Associate Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas be investigated for conflicts of interest in the Citizens United v. the FEC. This after investigations by both the New York Times and Think Progress uncovered documents showing the two Justices attended an event in Palm Springs (which included political strategy sessions) hosted by the reactionary Koch Brothers at approximately the same time the High Court was hearing arguments in the Citizens United case. This would represent a clear conflict of interest on the part of the two Justices, who should have recused themselves. This would lead to their votes being declared null and void, and the Citizens United ruling would then be reversed. (See )

For example, take a look if you will at the draconian and often racially and economically based drug laws in this country. A person from the ghetto possessing half a gram of cocaine in the form of crack will spend a much longer in prison than a person from the suburbs possessing half a gram of fine Peruvian flake. The United States has more than doubled its prison population over the past thirty years. Many of those who are incarcerated are people who were picked up with a relatively small amount of drugs, sent into our privatized prisons (often owned by major political campaign contributors). The convicts are then forced into what amounts to slave labor, from which the private corporation makes additional profit selling various services and products (from furniture to telephone help centers) to private firms.

(See a story about a strike in the Georgia State prisons over these very issues at

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Richard Girard is an increasingly radical representative of the disabled and disenfranchised members of America's downtrodden, who suffers from bipolar disorder (type II or type III, the professionals do not agree). He has put together a team to (more...)

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