Who Hijacked Our Country

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Crime and Punishment

A college student has been sentenced to eight years in prison and a $3.5 million fine. His crime? An arson and vandalism spree against several Hummers and other SUVs. His two accomplices, who actually committed the arson, have fled the country and left him to be the fall guy. In other words, his 8-year sentence and $3.5 million fine is because he spray-painted people’s vehicles with slogans like: “Fat Lazy Americans,” “SUV = Terrorism” and “No Respect For Earth.”

Of course he broke the law and should be punished, but eight years? $3.5 million? If he wanted a lighter sentence, he should’ve been a CEO who bilked his employees and customers out of millions of dollars. That way he’d be still playing golf while his suspended 6-month sentence was under appeal.

In another example of the law’s heavy hand, the federal government has forbidden members of an obscure New Mexico church from drinking a tea that contains an illegal substance (Huasca, used by South American Indians for religious ceremonies). The Bush administration insists that the tea is illegal and needs to be banned.

Well thank you, Boy George, for setting me straight. Here I was, dithering over terrorism and economic collapse, and the real problem is a group of church members drinking psychedelic tea during their ceremonies. Emergency! Bring in the Cavalry!

In 1990, when Native American churches were prohibited from using Peyote in their religious ceremonies, William “The Gambler” Bennett gave a speech cheering about this crackdown on big bad Peyote. In the same speech, he also complained about people turning away from religion . Duuhhh!!! Time for The Gambler to step away from the Blackjack table for a minute, focus, and start observing his own contradictions.

Corporate criminals (Enron, etc.) get slapped on the wrist for ruining thousands of employees’ lives and wrecking the economy. Government thugs manipulate us into a quagmire in Iraq, causing tens of thousands of deaths, and get rewarded with promotions. Meanwhile the government brings down its iron fist on someone who vandalizes SUVs and a church group that wants to continue a centuries-old tradition. Priorities, I guess.

And speaking of irony: Karl Rove is now complaining about the “adversarial” way that the media reports the news. Yes, that same Karl Rove, the Master of the Smear Campaign, King of the Big Lie, Joseph Goebbels reincarnated. He said “We are substituting the shrill and rapid call of the track announcer for calm judgment, fact and substance.”

“Fact and substance.” Ooookay! Karl Rove calling for “calm judgment, fact and substance” — sort of like the Mafia complaining about the high crime rate, or the Ku Klux Klan calling for racial harmony.


Blogger pri said...

When I read the suv guy sentence some days ago I found it extremely hard even if he burned the cars (as the newswire I read the news at said he did). Anyways I hope the appeal court will find the fine and prison time as a nonsense.

April 20, 2005 at 10:34 AM  
Blogger Unadulterated Underdog said...

This does sound extreme. The heck of it is, you are right about the way we dish out punishments. Look at Tom DeLay? He is practically a criminal and so far, he's gotten out of ANY punishment by simply changing the rules. This kid makes a small, but illegal statement, and they totally ruin his life. Is this Justice as the Founding Fathers intended?

April 20, 2005 at 1:13 PM  
Blogger Jet said...

If some kid wrecked my car, on purpose, to prove a political point, I'd be pissed. I would want that person punished for not only ruining my car, but for causing me lost time from my job (which I would not be paid for), difficulties in picking up my kids from school, and any of a hundred things I need my car for.

Destroying other peoples stuff is not the right venue to get your message out.

That said, punishment should fit the crime. The fact that big corporations go un punished for breaking the law and hurting hundreds of thousand of people is heinous.

The law is the law. We just need to enforce it across the board.

April 20, 2005 at 2:09 PM  
Blogger Sally said...

Karl Rove should know what fact and substance is... ;-)

April 20, 2005 at 2:15 PM  
Anonymous pia said...

Can't help but pick an almost extranous part in the post: wasn't there a revolution on these shores started in part by tea?

April 20, 2005 at 5:09 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

PRI: All this guy did was spray-paint slogans on people's vehicles. His 2 accomplices did the burning part (and then fled the country). It was a crime to spray-paint the vehicles, but 8 years just seems way out of proportion.

OK Democrat: Yeah, 8 years seems kind of extreme considering how lenient the sentences are for much more serious crimes.

Jet: He committed a crime, for sure, and should be punished. If his "friends" who actually committed the arson had been there to be prosecuted, I could even see them getting 8 years. But he was the scapegoat since he was the only one who didn't flee the country. So basically he got 8 years for spray-painting people's vehicles. That's just way out of proportion, especially with the little wrist slap that corporate criminals are getting.

Sally: Yeah, Rove would be the expert on that.

Pia: That'd make an interesting revolution, everyone tripping on Huasca tea (unless they'd be too stoned for protesting)...

April 20, 2005 at 5:54 PM  
Blogger Jet said...

I agree, Tom. The rules have to apply to everybody. I just think that individuals punishing other indivduals because they dislike their purchasing decisions is not the right way to protest environmental impact.

April 21, 2005 at 4:50 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Jet: You're right about that. Damaging someone's property should be punished as a crime, and it's certainly the worst possibly way to drum up support for a cause. Nobody ever thought "those SOBs vandalized my car, but now I see what they were trying to say, and I've joined them."

April 21, 2005 at 10:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a person who has memberships in Computer Security Organizations I can tell you as a FACT that if this kid had gone on line and Hacked 3 million dollars he would have gotten a lighter sentance in a nicer jail


April 21, 2005 at 11:24 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Erik: That's a fact. They finally catch a big spam kingpin, or someone whose virus wreaked havoc on millions of computers, and they get a lecture and a slap on the wrist.

April 21, 2005 at 11:34 AM  
Blogger Ken Grandlund said...

Wanton destruction is a crime. He should be punished for it. The fine is ridiculous though, as he will likely never be able to repay it and all future earnings will be affected. Likely, he'll not work, go on the public dole, or leave like his "friends" did.

I fully agree with the concept of consistent application of the law and the penalties for breaking the law. Whether this sentence is too harsh or not (and I'm undecided on this) is beside the point when, as has been readily pointed out, so many worse criminals get off scot-free.

I posted several articles in January or February regarding legal reform. If anyone is interested, head over and check them out.

April 21, 2005 at 11:36 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Ken: I agree, vandalism and destruction are crimes that should be punished. But don't forget, the arson was committed by this guy's 2 accomplices who fled the country; all he did was spray-paint slogans on vehicles (which is still a crime of course). I'm sure it was frustrating for the authorities that the arsonists haven't been caught and the only person they could prosecute was the spray-painter.

So basically he got 8 years for spray-painting slogans on vehicles. Arson deserves an 8-year sentence, but he isn't the culprit.

Plus, like we all agree, this sentence is way out of proportion to the light sentences handed down to corporate criminals.

April 21, 2005 at 12:29 PM  
Blogger Brother Kenya said...

Yikes. I think I'll postpone that Hummer-egging spree I was fantasizing about...

April 21, 2005 at 12:51 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Brother Kenya: Better postpone it for awhile, at least until this whole thing blows over :)

April 21, 2005 at 10:00 PM  

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