Crime And Punishment

I read the more credible left and right-wing Internet sites with a grain (or cup) of salt, knowing that they may begin with factually-accurate information, but that they will spin that information to make their points. Inevitably imperfect aspects of human society are typically treated as examples of pervasively evil intentions: Democrats are “socialists” who want to deprive you of your liberty and property; Republican businesspeople are “right-wing plutocrats” working night and day to worsen inequality.

It would be refreshing to read “this aspect of society isn’t working very well, and we should probably pay attention to it” rather than “this is the tip of the rotten iceberg and we need armed revolution.”

But a recent post originally from Daily Kos struck me as basically accurate.

In sentencing documents, the special counsel’s office referred to Paul Manafort’s crimes as both “bold” and “brazen.” The word they didn’t use was “overlooked,” but that’s also absolutely true. Manafort is heading to federal prison for the rest of his life on a list of felonies a mile long—but if a special prosecutor had not been appointed, he would, at this moment, be getting fitted for a new vest made from some endangered species.

 Manafort and his partner Rick Gates committed multiple felonies over a span of decades. They weren’t sly about it. They weren’t particularly cautious or clever or even competent in their efforts to cover up illegal lobbying, money laundering, and tax fraud. They just never expected to get caught because guys like them never do. The same is true of Roger Stone, who was another of Manafort’s partners at the lobbying firm charmingly known as the “Torturer’s Lobby” for its willingness to help out brutal dictators and even-more-brutal would-be dictators.

As the post went on to note, the appointment of a Special Prosecutor has uncovered criminal behaviors that probably would not have been prosecuted but for that appointment, beginning with Donald Trump. (Trump’s history of money laundering hasn’t exactly been a secret). That includes Michael Cohen and Michael Flynn and Erik Prince, among others.

The real revelation of the investigations into Trump and his foreign connections isn’t even that the man occupying the White House is a crook, and the man who ran the Republican convention three times and acted as an adviser to a half-dozen presidents is a crook, and so is his partner, and so is his partner, and so are they all. The real revelation is that it took a special counsel to see any of these men face serious prosecution no matter what they did, or how often they did it, or how “bold” their crimes might be.

Stripped of the somewhat florid language (and the unstated but implied accusation that all  rich people and their “fixers” fall into the same category), the post makes a valid point: the rule of law is not equally applied.

What Trump knows, and what should be the most sobering discovery to emerge from the entire investigation, is that, barring the extraordinary circumstances of a special counsel or someone with similar authority, men like him will not face justice for crimes. And in fact, they will go on lying, cheating, stealing, with impunity.

If we are honest, we know that the criminal justice system doesn’t treat rich and poor people–or white and black people–equally. David Cole’s eye-opening book, No Equal Justice, was published in 1999, and little has changed since then.

The problem isn’t simply the unfairness of a justice system that applies different standards to different groups. The problem is that–as evidence of the disparity becomes more obvious–respect for law declines. Precipitously.

The most basic premise of the rule of law is that the rules apply to everyone; that “similarly-situated” citizens have the same rights and duties, and are subject to the same legal constraints. And “similarly-situated” in this context does not refer to finances or skin color.

When government winks at privileged persons’ misdeeds while punishing similar–or lesser– behaviors by less fortunate citizens, there is no justice and no rule of law. And that’s a problem that deserves some florid prose.


  1. “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal their bread.” — Anatole France

  2. Reps. Steny Hoyer and John Sarbanes (both Dem-MD) in ardent support of HR-1
    and GOPs in opposition. It’s our good luck to note, in this debate, that the Dems have the
    majority since our Blue Wave.
    I wonder what the outcome will be when the whole House of Reps votes, then what the insane, queer White House will do, approve or Veto?
    It depends on what the lock-step zealot GOP Trump handlers will tell his dizzy nibs what to do.
    “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”

  3. We have a Legal System or a Judicial System, whichever term you prefer. We do not and have never had a justice system. I refuse to call it what it is not.

    It is a bit amusing to watch trump squirm as he watches the walls around him come tumbling down. The arrogant attitude of being untouchable that he has had for over seventy years is about to be thrown back in his face and he knows that punishment for his lifelong crimes are going to take him down. As his fake empire falls it will also take down his children.

  4. what trump was hoping for,his posistion to overide the legal system, until he found the only ones riding with him were the republicans,and some corp demos.politics in whole support a rule of law, if their caught,or,if reasonable, they resign and become lobbyists, goldman sachs alum,or like behner, investing in a product he always dismissed,(i wonder if he can roll a blunt now?) in the scam of sentencing,yes,from personal exp, race is,a factor in sentencing,but, if one was black,and had no prior,was educated to atleast a high school grad, sentencing could be given like whitey.ill talk street here,since thats my burg. as i walked the halls,er, streets,high fived in the hood,drank 40s at the park,and actully broke bread with many races, its all in why they got the sentance. education, lack of, due many issues,and top of the list,because the family needed money. constant survalence, by whitey, who sees the crime,not the person. your associates, now ive had my run ins with the law,on the street, and it was always because of who i knew, and i did not, run with thier issues,i just knew got me on lists,and stopped for no reason, as a whitey.. i see more in people,than the law does,because i listen and jive with the local.. my incarseration,pot, set up by a looser,who, was looking to lose his city paid job,because he DWId himself into a corner, and turned snitch on many more. i was lucky 39 no record,no,past issues that could be confirmed,hense i got 46 month,manditory,and three years supervised. came out on my own appeal,14 months early. due sentencing changes. what i did, i wrote appeals for,other inmates,41 of them, i helped two others get out early. this opened me up,to see, what was sentencing in the color scheme. yes, all of the people of color had far greater sentences,compared to the same basic crime,i had. disparity,you bet. as working people we have a saying,,,,,capital punishment, if you dont have the capital, you get the punishment… best wishes. hey trump, when you turn civilian again, i hope they strip that name off that tower you slime in..

  5. “The most basic premise of the rule of law is that the rules apply to everyone; that “similarly-situated” citizens have the same rights and duties, and are subject to the same legal constraints. And “similarly-situated” in this context does not refer to finances or skin color.”

    We can watch this current administration at all levels abuse the Rule of Law daily in the media but in the case of the issue in Boulder,Colorado, one black citizen was stripped of those “same rights” while armed police were NOT subject to the “same legal constraints”. White Boulder police officers confronted a black man in his own yard picking up trash with a trash grabber and placing it in a bucket. The original office called for backup when the black resident stated it was his property; some of the EIGHT white police officers had their guns drawn against one black man picking up trash in his own yard. He was angry and argued with them…remember Professor Gates, tho older black man arrested by white officers for breaking into his own home and complaining about it as he was roughly handcuffed?

    We are seeing less of these armed police against unarmed black citizens…but what is the explanation? Are police confiscating onlooker’s cell phones to destroy pictures and videos? When the punishers are our public safety protection committing crimes; who do we turn to for help?

    “When government winks at privileged persons’ misdeeds while punishing similar–or lesser– behaviors by less fortunate citizens, there is no justice and no rule of law. And that’s a problem that deserves some florid prose.”

    Let’s not forget this issue is still happening on our streets, to our residents who are American citizens; will the Boulder, Colorado Police Department “wink” at their privileged white officers while they keep a wary eye on the “behavior by less fortunate citizens”, namely this one black resident picking up trash on his own property? He is fortunate that a neighbor filmed the incident and the neighbor is fortunate their cell phone was not confiscated. God bless Trump’s American; this is his version of “Great Again”.

  6. The main reason that these guys get away with so much is that the revolving door that they and their kind use between government positions and back-alley deals that would send normal people to jail.

  7. When the rule of law is not equally applied, and when this inequality is brazenly displayed for all to see, is it any wonder why so many people give up and turn away from participation in government?
    We need a thousand Mueller investigations in this country.

    Follow up: Anyone wishing to make a donation to PP and direct that donation to some specific part of PP can do so, just not through their on-line donation site. You will need to send a check, with a note, telling them how you want the money used. And they are very thankful for our interest and concern.

  8. Of all of the fields that I don’t know very much about, the law is a leading contender. Given that, the following is a WAG. Trump and family will skate free of a lifetime of crime through the brilliant strategy of becoming President.

    That’s infuriating to me but not surprising.

  9. We could go on and on as this is embedded in our country….the cash bail system…who the IRS is able/willing to catch…the “fines” that companies pay in lieu of the execs being punished…

    Jimmy Carter put it squarely about fairness…

  10. A good friend of mine is fond of saying, “Lady Liberty may be blind but she does accept Visa…”

  11. When “the law” is not equally applied irrespective of class, color etc. we are breeding a disrespect for “the law” which gives rise to lawlessness as those who are not given “equal protection of the laws” and are not equally protected against money, police, mafia et al respond accordingly. We the people are given a daily diet of crimes committed by such people ranging from jaywalking through murder while the rich and corporate class go about the business Sheila has described and are even saluted for their “successful business” lives as “captains of industry” when they connive to keep the bottom line and shareholder value intact by, for instance, methodical denial of health claims on grounds of so called “pre-existing conditions.”

    As another for instance, I used to do some tax work both for and against government while in the practice and found it amazing what taxpayers would try to get away with, and did, in their returns. As yet another for instance, try this one on for size > that Trump’s returns are likely to take payments to Cohen for attorneys fees deductible in the tax year paid when they were actually payoffs made to porn stars, which is, of course, and aside from being a crime under FEC regs, tax fraud – but that’s not where it ends. If you really want to get your dander up, consider that the taxes he evaded are added to the taxes you must pay so that, albeit indirectly, you along with the rest of us as taxpayers are paying for his fraud and sex dalliances.

    I could go on and on (as readers know) about how an American corporation bought a used sawmill in Manila, took it to New Guinea to cut mahogany for export to Japan, was caught up in a revolution, and tried (under a statute allowing it) to take an expropriation deduction for much more than it paid for the used sawmill. The successful businessman who headed the company failed to prove his fraudulent deduction and the taxpayers became $750,000 richer.

    Applying some of my experiences in tax lore, in my opinion the most important witness (unless he takes the Fifth) in Trump’s case is not Cohen; it is Trump’s accountant. The old mafia gangbuster FBI agents were right when they said the most important witness against the godfathers and dons was their accountant, as in, written evidence, which cannot be erased by gangland slaying. I am looking forward to the testimony of Trump’s accountant before the Congress (assuming he doesn’t take the Fifth – and assuming he survives till then).

  12. Obama contributed to his own political backlash by sending not one white collar executive to jail for their fraud and other well established crimes in the Great Recession.

  13. So it bears repeating from the article: “What Trump knows, and what should be the most sobering discovery to emerge from the entire investigation, is that, barring the extraordinary circumstances of a special counsel or someone with similar authority, men like him will not face justice for crimes. And in fact, they will go on lying, cheating, stealing, with impunity.”

    This paragraph says it all. President Agent Orange and his gang is the ugly face of the 1% that has been revealed. President Agent Orange is not the one bad apple. As many documents like the Panama Papers have revealed money laundering, and tax evasion are Standard Operating Procedure for the 1% and Multi-National Corporations. Focusing on President Agent Orange and his gang alone is mistake of huge proportions.

    There are many points of intersection here concerning our “Justice System” here in America. The most important point is we have a “Class System” of Justice here in America. Wealth buys the kind of Elected Officials that can be counted on to pass and enforce the laws, that protect the 1% and Multi-National Corporations. Companies may be fined for egregious illegal financial activities. However, you will not see the High Command of these Corporations led off in Orange Jump Suits to jail.

    What the McMega-Media and the 1% on the whole want to accomplish is to divert the attention of the “Proles” to President Agent Orange and not admit we have a corrupt system that allowed him and his gang to evade the law for decades.

  14. I don’t know that there was any “Obama backlash”. There certainly was Republican fake news political assassination and racial backlash for the black half of his ancestry. I don’t see evidence that it was any different at the end of his administration than the beginning.

  15. John Neal @ 10:12 am, good comment. It was Obama’s AG Eric Holder who came up with the Too Big to Fail, Too Big to Jail. From Wiki: >>>In July 2015, Holder rejoined Covington & Burling, the law firm at which he worked before becoming Attorney General.

    The law firm’s clients have included many of the large banks Holder declined to prosecute for their alleged role in the financial crisis. Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone opined about the move, “I think this is probably the single biggest example of the revolving door that we’ve ever had.”<<<

  16. Sherod Brown isnt running, now heres one Joe Bidin,as we wish joe was.. id vote sherod,if,bernie didnt run. Bidin has a real nice 1968 corvette, Joe, take a ride. best wishes.Sherod maybe secty of labor… Robert Riech as comm secty. dreamin?
    all the black violence,, been that way since 1900, nothings changed..except today we have more free ink. its always the co$ts in all conversations. zuckerburg,needs a nice european privacy law, in the U.S.

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