Online Journal
Front Page 
 Special Reports
 News Media
 Elections & Voting
 Social Security
 Editors' Blog
 Reclaiming America
 The Splendid Failure of Occupation
 The Lighter Side
 The Mailbag
 Online Journal Stores
 Official Merchandise
 Join Mailing List

The Lighter Side Last Updated: Apr 28th, 2009 - 00:24:58

The real criminals
By Pubali Ray Chaudhuri
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Apr 28, 2009, 00:21

Email this article
 Printer friendly page

In these hard economic times, it is crucial that we hunt down and punish those responsible for the mess we�re in today. Looking around for culprits, however, I found myself hard put to it. For as we all know, the American Way of capitalism, profiteering and imperialism is a fundamentally sound one. So we can forget about pointing at Wall Street, Big Oil, and the military-industrial complex, which represent the sacred apogee of our great capitalist system and as such are above reproach.

But oh, for somebody to blame! To wave those torches in someone�s cowering face, to thrust those pitchforks where they�ll really hurt! The very thought warms the cockles of our collective heart, does it not? But the question is: Whom do we hold responsible, and whom do we punish?

In despair, I was reduced to scanning the FBI�s list of the Top Ten Most Wanted, where I found �Usama Bin Laden� occupying second place. But as the FBI has been looking for �Usama� for the best part of eight years now, one can only hope they catch him before he dies a natural death of old age. At any rate, our pitchforks are unlikely to cause him undue concern.

Still, looking at the FBI�s list did inspire me to create a list of my own -- a list of some of the men and women who, by their philosophy and actions, represent a clear and present threat to our cherished American values of overconsumption, �free� markets, and the right to bomb the bejeezus out of any individual or nation foolhardy enough to stand in our path.

Since I am only an individual, not an agency, my list consists of five people instead of 10, but I have a feeling that there are more of them out there. Ladies and gentlemen, meet the real criminals. They�re all easier to get to than �Usama,� -- in fact, one of them is actually in custody at this very moment. Let�s light those torches and make sure the pitchforks are flesh-ready. Here is the first of these America-hating dirtbags.

The Eco-terrorist

The Criminal: Tim De Christopher, 27, Economics Major at the University of Utah

Don�t be deceived by his boyish looks. This young man is an unscrupulous character who had the chutzpah to deliberately disrupt business as usual in this great land of ours. And he is not even apologetic about it.

The Crime: De Christopher infiltrated an auction where parts of Utah�s red-rock country were being sold for oil and gas parcels. With cool insolence, the young man sat in the group of bidders, and with a bidder�s paddle, ran up the prices for the parcels until he was escorted out by law enforcement. The businessmen thus unjustly victimized were innocent, law-abiding citizens who were peacefully exercising their right to plunder the natural resources of our earth. One of them complained that his firm had lost $600,000 owing to De Christopher�s underhanded actions. We should sympathize whole-heartedly with these ordinary folk who were only trying to drill some of the most pristine, most beautiful landscape in Utah for oil and gas. Surely they have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of profit.

The Sentence: De Christopher said he knew he was going to jail, but persisted in his activities in deliberate violation of the rights of the endangered species of oil and gas drillers. The kindest interpretation of his actions is that he has been brainwashed by his regressive ideology, in which case a course of �reprogramming� seems indicated. Might I suggest something along the lines of Room 101, with the urbane O�Brien from Orwell�s Nineteen Eighty-four, where the stubborn and rebellious Winston learned the salutary lesson that, though two and two are usually four, �Sometimes they are five�?

Folks at the Creationist Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, hold views that offer encouraging real-world parallels to O�Brien�s innovative logic. De Christopher cites �the imminent danger of climate change� as one of the concerns that motivated his action. Creationists at the museum, though finally compelled to admit the reality of rising earth temperatures, still entertain grave doubts about the role humans have played in the change. They also believe that the Bible is literally true, complete with what Bill Maher has dubbed �the talking snake,� and consequently discount the Darwinian theory of evolution. The museum would. Therefore, provide an excellent environment for De Christopher to learn to ignore pettifogging little details like scientific evidence. He is still young; there is reason to hope that with time and patience, and under the able tutelage of the Creationists, he will develop the ability successfully to discriminate between truth and fable, fact and fiction, which he appears so sorely to lack at present.

As we know, many people who believe in the �talking snake� also believe in the death penalty and corporal punishment. In fact, there are paddles sold for believing parents with which to chastise their children according to God�s will. Since De Christopher used a bidder�s paddle as his instrument of sin, there is a certain justice in using these holy paddles to beat some sense into him.

The Punisher: In the interests of justice, this punishment should be administered by a member of the maligned group of oil and gas drillers. The name of the late lamented Lawrence G. Rawl, the CEO of Exxon Mobil at the time of the Exxon-Valdez oil spill in 1989, comes to mind. Who can forget Mr. Rawl�s response to the spill that ruined local wildlife, severely damaged the livelihoods of local fishermen and remains a proud example of one of the biggest environmental disasters to date? Top-ranking employees at Exxon were very concerned at the time -- concerned that the company would have to take the wrenching step of increasing the price of fuel to pay for the clean up, and Mr. Rawl himself took only six weeks to visit the site of the spill. A solid corporate citizen like him would have been the ideal choice to give De Christopher the whipping he so richly deserves. Perhaps the current Exxon Mobil chairman could do the honors as a tribute to his predecessor�s memory.

Scandal in Holy Orders (no, not that kind of scandal)

The Criminal: Father Louis Vitale, 76, Franciscan Friar, St. Elizabeth�s Friary, Oakland

There is a huge difference in years between the 76-year-old Father Vitale and the college sophomore De Christopher, yet both share the same egregious contempt for the law. They both babble about �civil disobedience,� as though it were a virtuous thing, apparently unaware that you can�t be admired for breaking the law unless you happen to be dead, like Gandhi or Dr. King. Since after you�re dead you can make no more trouble, you then get roads named after you and politicians make speeches about you in which they drip with unctuous praise that is usually in inverse proportion to how badly they actually intend to ignore or subvert your legacy. So the only good civil disobedient is a dead civil disobedient, a truism that appears to have escaped these two criminals.

The Crime: This one�s a career criminal with a mile-long rap sheet. He�s been arrested over 200 times! Need one say more -- could there be a more damning indictment? The man is a serial pacifist who inflicts his unwelcome presence upon such temples of Empire as the former School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia, and Fort Huachaca, Arizona, where military interrogators receive necessary training in the latest �enhanced interrogation� techniques. No, these do not include learning to sing lullabies.

By attempting to interfere with the officers in the pursuit of their lawful (and no doubt moral) duty, Fr. Louie, as he is popularly known, is acting against American interests. His vaunted message of peace and non-violence is probably a veneer that conceals his real motives -- to provide aid and comfort to terrorists. (Isn�t that what all pacifists, from Shelley to the Dalai Lama, are supposed to really want?)

The Sentence: Well, we could crucify him, or throw him to the lions, but that�s been done, and anyway, it�s so last century. Besides, the only lions we have are in zoos and circuses, and it would take a while to round them all up. Too time consuming.

We�ll have to come up with something more hi-tech, something with the cutting-edge technology befitting our status as a modern-day Empire. Since the Father appears to like hanging around our schools of military interrogation so much, why not give him an inside tour of one of them? Let�s put the pestilential priest on one of the special tables described by some recipients of our �enhanced interrogation� (testimony in the recently leaked ICRC Report). Waterboarding, hanging from hooks, banging heads against walls, stripping, hooding -- we have a whole smorgasbord of choices for the unholy Father�s delectation. And isn�t that what America is all about -- the right to choose?

The Punisher: Fortunately we have no call to turn to the spirit world for a suitable punisher. The obvious choice in this case is ex-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who rightly pointed out how �quaint� and �obsolete� the Geneva Conventions are. Mr. Gonzales was the pathbreaking visionary who crafted the legal authorization for the Justice Department�s �enhanced interrogation.� Far from appreciating his pioneering leadership, Fr. Louie seeks to hobble their practice of these techniques on the ground. It is, therefore, strict justice that the distinguished lawyer would be dealing out to the recalcitrant priest. The former is a credit to his robes, the latter, an unqualified disgrace to his.

Of course, Mr. Gonzales might conceivably argue that actually to inflict torture is not his job, his being merely to reason why. But surely Mr. Gonzales would not wish to miss the chance of trying out the methods he authorized on Fr. Louie, whose mission in life appears to be to subvert them.

Go for it, Mr. Gonzales. May the Force (the force you helped unleash) be with you.

The Shoecide Bomber (title courtesy of P. Sainath of The Hindu)

The Criminal: Actually, the way we�ve reduced their country to a pile of rubble, one can only conclude that every man, woman and child in Iraq must be a criminal. Still, one of those renegades deserves special mention. The individual I have in mind is Muntadhar Al-Zaidi, Iraqi journalist for Al-Baghdadiya, and currently lodged in an Iraqi jail, where he is doubtless being pampered past all endurance.

The Crime: Surely you remember the despicable act that made this man an international hero? (Ask Facebook if you don�t believe me -- they�ve got multiple fan sites dedicated to him. Some people are so sick). Al-Zaidi is the man who, during a press conference where both then-President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki were present, suddenly rose from his seat and hurled first one of his shoes, then the other, at the president of the United States.

Al-Zaidi claims he was incensed over the American occupation of Iraq. This is not the moment to digress, or I could cover several pages with shocked disapproval at the man�s inexplicable attitude. Does not the whole world -- particularly poor nations and those where most residents are people of color -- have wet dreams about gum-chewing, gun-toting, well-fed American G.I.s marching in lockstep across their homelands? Does not every �developing� nation, like a woman wailing for her demon lover, long to be ravished by the mighty and virile U.S. of A? Well, then -- how dare this upstart of an Al-Zaidi suggest otherwise?

Al-Zaidi was dragged out by Iraqi law enforcement, and was allegedly being roughed up outside by these worthies as President Bush, in a devastating flash of insight typical of someone of his exceptional intelligence, remarked that Al-Zaidi had done the deed to draw attention to himself. See? There�s his motivation laid bare for you right there. The man wanted attention, like a spoiled toddler who throws toys at Mommy because he wants to play. Perhaps the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi widows and orphans whom Al-Zaidi invoked in the midst of his tantrum wanted attention, too, but nobody asked them. What a nation of pouting brats. Shame on them.

The Sentence: Al-Zaidi�s jail sentence, which was three years at first, has now been reduced to just one year under intense pressure from fellow Iraqis and human rights groups. Of course, such a lenient sentence does not begin to scratch the surface of the punishment this scum of the earth deserves. He has apparently been beaten and tortured while in custody, but is that sufficient? Must we not make an example of him to show the world what fate awaits the one who thumbs a nose -- or throws a shoe -- at our great nation? Al-Zaidi should be publicly hanged, drawn, and quartered in the best medieval tradition. This is only fitting, and culturally sensitive as well, since the devastation of Iraqi society has sent that country back to the Middle Ages if not the Stone Age.

The Punisher: I have two candidates to suggest: one, of course, Mr. Bush himself, and the other the ex-Secretary of State Ms. Madeline Albright. Ms. Albright once answered a question put to her by a reporter about whether the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children owing to the U.S.-backed U.N. sanctions had been �worth it.� She responded nobly, saying, �It was a very difficult choice -- but yes, we think it was worth it.� Given that the milk of human kindness appears to be sloshing around so freely in Ms. Albright�s bosom (the same milk those Iraqi children would have received but for the sanctions) she appears to be a natural candidate for carrying out the sentence on Al-Zaidi. For when she disembowels him, she will do so even though it will be a �difficult choice.� That�s the U.S.A. for you -- we appoint people to powerful positions who do not shy away from difficult choices.

The Lawyer in Looking Glass Land

The Criminal: Clive Stafford Smith, OBE, director of legal charity Reprieve

This man is yet another example of a wolf in sheep�s clothing -- someone sworn to protect the law but who shows scant scruple in breaking it over trivial questions such as human rights. You�d think his British origins would ensure his loyalty, but he evidently fears to tread where Tony Blair once rushed in so blithely.

The Crime: Smith stands accused of �unprofessional conduct� for attempting to notify the U.S. president of human rights abuses being committed by American personnel. Actually, Smith submitted the memo detailing the abuses to the Privilege Review Committee, which scrutinizes and censors communication between Gitmo prisoners and their lawyers, and the committee redacted the entire memo except for the top sentence. Smith, apparently aggrieved by the committee�s decision, called it a �bizarre reality� that the commander in chief of the U.S. Armed Forces should be thus prevented from learning about alleged crimes committed by U.S. personnel.

Okay, Mr. Smith, you need a serious �reality� check. Here are some facts that should put you straight on our contemporary reality.

  • �The United States of America does not torture. It�s against our laws, and it�s against our values.� [1]

  • �No-one is above the law.� [2]

  • �This is a time for reflection, not retribution.� [3]

  • � . . . those who devised policy, he [Obama] believes that they were -- should not be prosecuted . . .� [4]
  • President Obama leaves open the possibility of inquiry into the actions of Bush administration lawyers who authorized torture [5]

  • � . . . certain acts may be cruel, inhuman, or degrading, but still not produce pain and suffering of the requisite intensity to fall within Section 2340A�s proscription against torture� [6]

  • � . . . the water was poured on . . . I thought I was going to die. I lost control of my urine. Since then I still lose control of my urine when under stress . . .� [7]

  • �Contrariwise,� continued Tweedledee, �if it was so, it might be, and if it were so, it could be; but as it isn�t, it ain�t. That�s logic.� [8]

I hope, Mr. Smith, that your reality feels appreciably less �bizarre,� now. Or maybe you just need more practice learning to believe six impossible things before breakfast.

The Sentence: Since the Supreme Court recently ruled that Gitmo �detainees� (such a lovely word, as though they�re under house arrest in the Aga Khan Palace) do have the right of habeas corpus, perhaps we should dispatch Smith to the Bagram �detention facility� in Afghanistan. But wait -- there�s a Justice John Bate currently gumming up the works for Bagram, too, with his �quaint� notions of the rights of Bagram detainees to habeas corpus.

Really. What�s a decent, self-respecting Empire to do, hampered at every turn by these pestering arbiters of justice? It�s enough to make one want to do away with meddlesome institutions like courts altogether, and start forming lynch mobs, as in the Good Old Wild West.

Well, if Bagram is out, I assume the CIA black sites are still open, so let�s hood Smith, strip him, shackle his hands behind his back, put him on a plane, and ship him to one of those sites before the CIA closes them. Afterwards we can always transfer him to Syria or Egypt or some other friendly country that gives us touching assurances that it, too, does not torture.

The Punisher(s): The CIA officials who participated in the �enhanced interrogations� authorized by Mr. Gonzalez might be persuaded to offer their services in the case of Smith. After all, these loyal employees acted in �good faith� and the president has granted them immunity from prosecution as a consequence. Although the president has referred to the episode as a �dark and painful chapter in our history� -- no doubt referring to the excruciating agony the torturers had to endure as they performed their hard tasks -- Smith�s brazen attempt to subvert official secrecy surely constitutes a powerful argument for reopening the �chapter.� It will be hard on the CIA operatives, of course, but they�re big boys and they�ll handle it somehow. They�ve done it before.

The Wicked Witch of the CFTC

The Criminal: Brooksley Born, Stanford graduate and former chairwoman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).

We can call her �The Witch� or �The Woman Who Knew Too Much.� Same difference, really. She�s one of those mouthy women. You know the type -- women who don�t understand that they are meant to be seen and not heard.

The Crime: Basically, blasphemy against the Holy Trinity of Alan Greenspan, Robert Rubin, and Lawrence Summers. Born dared to question the accepted gospel that the market would always regulate itself. Apparently bent on heresy, she suggested that there needed to be more regulation and oversight of complex financial instruments such as credit default swaps (CDS). Even after the �Oracle,� as Alan Greenspan was called, had spoken, declaring that he saw no necessity for such regulation, Born continued mulishly to express her concerns, undeterred by the �scorn, condescension and anger� with which Greenspan et al. met Born�s ill-mannered carping. [9] Something had to be done about this presumptuous pest of a woman -- or someone might start paying attention to her increasingly shrill warnings. Now was the time for a few good men to come to the aid of the beleaguered Lady, �Free Market.�

Enter the four gallant knights-errant: Greenspan, Rubin, Summers, and Arthur Levitt, then head of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Blazing with righteous zeal for their liege, they rode swiftly forth to rescue the endangered Lady, �Free Market,� from the evil machinations of Brooksley �Morgana Le Fay� Born. Triumphant success attended the efforts of the doughty defenders. On their recommendation, Congress froze the CFTC�s regulatory authority for six months, and soon afterwards, Born slunk away, declining a second term in office.

You might think being forced from office is sufficient punishment for Born�s transgressions. But alas, like Cassandra, Born�s spiritual ancestor, Born turned out to be right all along. Exotic financial instruments such as those she sought to regulate ended up playing a starring role in the current economic meltdown. And this, I submit, is Born�s real crime. She has made Greenspan, Rubin, Summers and Levitt look like foolish schoolboys who should never have been allowed to manage a child�s piggy-bank, let alone run the financial affairs of an entire nation. Born-the-witch suggested some simple folk remedies that would have worked where the best efforts of the �leeches� (an ancient and instructive term for surgeons) have failed.

The Sentence: Born is by no means the first woman to be cut off at the knees by male bosses who know better than their female underlings. Women have been facing similar fates for centuries now -- uppity women, �wise women,� as some misguided feminists call them. The English language is full of words to describe such women -- scold, shrew, nag, harridan, bitch, witch . . . all of which basically mean the same thing, a woman who has opinions and is not afraid to voice them. And our world has developed time-honored methods of dealing with such women, too -- one very effective method, sanctified by tradition, is to burn them at the stake.

After such l�se majest� as Born has committed, what forgiveness? To the stake with her, and let�s pile the logs up nice and high.

The Punisher(s): Although Time has called the Greenspan-Rubin-Summers troika the �three marketeers,� the addition of Arthur Levitt evokes a more appropriate title: �The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.� These �parfit gentil� knights represent War, Famine, Pestilence, and Death -- familiar experiences in country after country where the free-market, neoliberal economic principles they championed have been put into practice. Who better than they to consign Brooksley Born to the flames of retribution?

Apart from the fact that �Bankers Burn Brooksley Born� would make a rather catchy headline, there are more pragmatic reasons to consider getting rid of Born. Other women, on seeing her vindicated, might get ideas -- and, as everyone knows, there is nothing so dangerous as a woman with ideas.

So there you have them -- a rogue�s gallery, a snapshot of the kind of people who pose the greatest threat to our country today. I am currently soliciting suggestions for more names to add to the list. Creative methods of punishment are also welcome. In America, we are great believers in creativity, as also in punishment -- combining the two would be super. Send in your ideas.


[1] President George W. Bush, White House Speech, September 6, 2006

[2] President Barack Obama, answering reporters� questions, White House, February 9, 2009

[3] President Barack Obama, letter to CIA employees, in which he rules out prosecution of CIA operatives involved in acts of torture, April 18, 2009

[4] Rahm Emanuel, White House Chief of Staff, ABC news, �This Week� April 19, 2009

[5] Various news sources, April 21, 2009

[6] Former Asst. Atty. General Jay Bybee, Justice Department Memo authorizing �enhanced interrogation� techniques, August 1, 2002

[7] Abu Zubaydah, terrorism suspect, describing his experiences of �enhanced interrogation,� page 11

[8] Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass, 1871

[9] Katherine Van Heuvel, �The Woman Greenspan, Rubin & Summers Silenced,� The Nation, October 9, 2008

Copyright © 1998-2007 Online Journal
Email Online Journal Editor

Top of Page

The Lighter Side
Latest Headlines
New loan promises to save USA, global capital
Mocha Revolution in New York!
Bulletins from Konsciousness Kontrol
The real criminals
Just say no (to medical marijuana in NH): An open letter to Gov. Lynch
What to do with 1,200 pounds of bull and other handy lessons from Women�s History
The beeper cacophony
Skoda: Car of the ordinary citizen
Christian settlers expel Jews from Holy Land
Nation rearing the old fashion way
The holiday formerly known as Thanksgiving
What�s in a middle name?
Sarah Palin wins debate -- by darn
Meditation upon a broomstick (an allusion to Jonathan Swift)
Something you might not know about John McCain
The rocket�s red glare may be Chinese
Galactic Government
Privatization: The key to the coming solar age
The surrogate Votergate
Homegrown terrorism: Keeping your eye on others isn�t sneaky -- it�s patriotic!