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July 25 2002 1:25 PM

The Fantanas Ate My Soul

Between the nuclear nightmare headed to Nevada and the civic cesspool headed for Lower Manhattan, this was a week to wallow in the mire. Things got so bad that the bad things started merging with one another: Traficant became Moussaoui, the Kronos Quartet became the Fantanas. And everywhere, the self-evidently worst became the perfectly emblematic. It was a souped-up American version of poshlost.


Subject: The Straw Man Responds
Re: "
Ballot Box: The Liberal War on Crime"
John Conyers Jr.
July 22, 2002 2:47 p.m.

Mr. Saletan accuses me of hypocrisy in the current debate on corporate crime because of the positions I have taken in the past with respect to civil liberties and drug penalties for nonviolent drug offenders. In presenting a number of my quotes from past debates in Congress completely out of context, Mr. Saletan creates a "straw man" that bears no relationship to my consistent and justifiable beliefs about criminal justice policy.

First, Mr. Saletan offers a series of quotes in which I have expressed my views … with respect to the imposition of mandatory minimum sentences on nonviolent drug offenders, sentences where Congress mandates that under no circumstance can judges or juries impose lesser sentences. Mr. Saletan is correct that I have viewed such sentences as "paternalistic dictates from Washington" and do believe that judges should be free to impose sentences in such cases based on "the evidence in court" and that Congress shouldn't presume a single formula for all such cases. I believe this because mandatory minimum sentences in nonviolent drug offender cases are administered in a racially discriminatory manner, have questionable deterrent value, and take discretion away from judges and juries.

What does this have to do with the legislation I have introduced to combat corporate crime? I have no idea. My bill does not contain a single mandatory minimum sentence. Instead, it proposes to increase the allowable maximum sentence for various corporate crimes, including document shredding. …

Second, [Mr. Saletan] … pulls a quote in which I defend the exclusionary rule, which by the way is constitutionally required, and which I adamantly support. I am also dumbfounded as to what this has to do with my position on corporate crime. …

Third, let me express my disappointment that Mr. Saletan did not ask for my response to his allegations of hypocrisy. Unfortunately, he chose to write a piece that reads like some misguided, inaccurate "opposition research" by a Republican Party summer intern.

[Find this post here.]

Subject: Let's Go Shopping at the Cemetery
Re: "Culturebox: Mall of America"
July 18, 2002 6:57 p.m.

What should be a memorial to the most tragic event in American history since the Civil War will, of course, be turned into a mall.