View Full Version : Crime and No Punishment

09-27-05, 07:25 AM
Crime and No Punishment
Written by Burt Prelutsky
Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The other day, I was talking to a friend and, as old poops will, we tried to figure out when this country started sliding downhill. For instance, when did greed become not only acceptable, but admirable in the eyes of so many? When did we begin to accept that corporate CEOs were not only worth millions and millions of dollars in salary and stock options, but were deserving of their golden parachutes, which provided them with still more millions when their acclaimed business acumen brought their companies to the brink of bankruptcy?

When did we come to believe that self-esteem was yet another entitlement to be automatically bestowed on our young people, and not something that was sought after and earned? At what point did we decide that the kids were supposed to be treated the way monarchies treat their royals? The bedroom of a typical middle class kid looks like a Toys ‘R Us warehouse. Sneakers, which used to be the cheapest footwear this side of socks, now cost an arm and a leg. And parents pay the freight because no kid will be seen in public if Kobe or Shaq doesn’t have his name smeared on his shoes. You might think that just out of sheer gratitude, the young sprouts would at least mow the lawn or take out the trash once in a while. But, as you may have noticed, William and Andrew don’t do chores around Buckingham, either.

My friend suspected the decline of American civilization began with Nixon and Watergate. He felt it made us cynical about politics and politicians in a way we’d never been before. I disagreed. I felt that Nixon and his scandal created a sea change, but mainly in the way the media operated in this country. Suddenly, journalism became appealing to a certain besotted segment of the youthful population. The kids could picture themselves as the next Woodward or Bernstein, getting rich and famous while bringing down the high and mighty.

I happen to think that the country’s general decline began in the 1960s. For the first time in history, youngsters were being held up as the moral, behavioral and cultural, arbiters of the nation. Parents were looking to their children as role models. Forty-year-olds were suddenly trying to dress, think, and even wear their hair, like teenagers.

The combination of drugs, free sex, and irresponsible parents, made it inevitable that an entire generation grew up despising not only their own parents and the parents of their friends, but all authority figures. They called cops “pigs” and they spit on soldiers.

The only adults they had any use for were those whom they regarded as rebels, mainly cynical poseurs who made a handsome living thumbing their noses at what passed for polite society--people like Hunter Thompson, Tom Hayden, Jane Fonda, and safely tenured liberal arts professors.

Please understand that I had my own share of distaste for authority figures. I still do. They just don’t happen to be the same ones that Ward Churchill, Cindy Sheehan, and Al Franken have. Whereas the perpetually infantile vent their spleen on such folks as Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, and Scalia, I reserve my contempt for the likes of Michael Moore, Ted Kennedy, Ariana Huffington, Susan Estrich, Jesse Jackson, and Deborah Robinson.

You’re probably wondering who this Ms. Robinson could be that she should find herself lumped in such undistinguished company. She happens to be the U.S. magistrate who recently fined former national security advisor Sandy Berger $50,000 for stealing classified documents from the National Archives.

While Judge Robinson thought she was being quite stern, I saw it as just one more muddleheaded miscarriage of justice. She was patting herself on the back because the prosecution was only recommending a fine of $10,000. (You have to wonder why the government lawyers even bothered taking the matter to court, and didn’t simply have Mr. Berger mail a check to traffic court.)

“The court finds the $10,000 fine inadequate because it doesn’t reflect the seriousness of the offense,” Judge Robinson declared. But $50,000, and no jail time, does?! Hell, baseball players get fined that much for accidentally bumping an umpire while arguing a close play at second base.

You are probably wondering why I find the judge more contemptible than the defendant. It’s because Mr. Berger has provided me with several yocks along the way.

First he had me giggling when he committed the crime by shoving those documents down the front of his pants. I happen to be a sucker for physical comedy. What’s more, I’m in awe of his courage; the man is apparently fearless, at least when it comes to paper cuts.

Then, he had me laughing out loud when he said, after being found out, that he had simply misplaced the papers. Misplaced them in his boxer shorts? Boy, talk about being absentminded!

Even after admitting that he had destroyed three of the five documents by cutting them up with scissors, he called it an honest mistake. Man, you can’t write funnier stuff than that.

But it was at his hearing that Sandy “Always Leave Them Laughing” Berger had me rolling on the floor. “I let considerations of personal convenience override clear rules of handling classified material, but I believe this lapse, serious as it is, does not reflect the character of myself.” The character of myself?! Who taught this man to speak? Elmer Fudd?

“In this case, I failed,” he said. “I will not again.” Considering he got off with a slap on the wrist, I would say that it was not he, but Judge Robinson, who failed in this case.

Nevertheless, I, for one, am taking him at his word. And, so, if he ever shows up at my front door, I’m hiding the good silver. After all, next time he might be wearing reinforced jockey shorts.

About the Writer: Burt Prelutsky is a humorist, movie reviewer, writer for television series and movies, and author of the new book, "Conservatives Are From Mars, Liberals Are From San Francisco." His website is at burtprelutsky.com. Burt receives e-mail at BurtPrelutsky@aol.com