Monday, June 29, 2009

Asshat of the Day - June 29th, 2009

Today's candidate is Miss Christie Blatchford. Much as I respect the great old edifice of the Globe and Mail for having columnists from both sides of the great political divide, it's only natural that their more socially conservative ones should draw my ire - and that's precisely what Miss Blatchford has done. Drawn. My ire.

Her most recent column - Madoff's No Murderer - decries the fact that Bernie Madoff got handed down a sentence of 150 years in prison for the elaborate Ponzi scheme he maintained.

To quote Miss Blatchford,
I am unconvinced that the slower justice Canadians receive is better; unconvinced that white-collar crime is worthy of more grievous punishment than violent criminal offences (most particularly murder); unconvinced that those who were swindled by Mr. Madoff ought to be seen purely as victims, although they are universally being described that way.
She goes on to rail against Canada's "lax" justice system, with a particular bit of venom reserved for the Canadian life sentence ("...or what passes for it in Canada...") and the "faint hope" clause.

Now, this might be viewed as reasonable, but let's examine the two crimes. Murder, we'll all admit, is a horrible thing. But we've created implements that make it very, very easy... and humans are fragile creatures at the best of times. This is why there are degrees of severity in murder charges. Manslaughter is when you do it by accident.

Moreover, murder is the work of a second, most of the time. Premeditated murder is a special sort of evil, and so most who commit it are put away for a very long time - but unless we have irrefutable proof that the accused committed the crime (for example, Paul Bernardo), the faint hope clause and the chance of parole after twenty-five years is our justice system's way of providing a safety net. For the people who lashed out in a moment of anger that will pain them for the remainder of their lives - they deserve punishment, certainly, but to damn them instantly and eternally? (Come to think of it, that's a fairly Conservative viewpoint.)

Mr. Madoff, in contrast, carried on with his Ponzi scheme for seventeen years. He caused $65 billion dollars of savings to vanish. He wiped out life savings, pensions, charity funds! Erased philanthropic holdings, destroyed building loans! And you don't think that's premeditated murder?

I'll leave you with a bit from a man far wiser than I...
"I have never laid a finger on anyone in my life, Mr Pump. I may be— all the things you know I am, but I am not a killer! I have never so much as drawn a sword!"

"No, You Have Not. But You Have Stolen, Embezzled, Defrauded And Swindled Without Discrimination, Mr Lipvig. You Have Ruined Businesses And. Destroyed Jobs. When Banks Fail, It Is Seldom Bankers Who Starve. Your Actions Have Taken Money From Those Who Had Little Enough To Begin With. In A Myriad Small Ways You Have Hastened The Deaths Of Many. You Do Not Know Them. You Did Not See Them Bleed. But You Snatched Bread From Their Mouths And Tore Clothes From Their Backs. For Sport, Mr Lipvig. For Sport. For The Joy Of The Game."
--Terry Pratchett, "Going Postal"
Just because Madoff wore a suit when he committed his crimes doesn't make him any less evil, Miss Blatchford. Just more palatable to you.

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