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All Right, But Just This Once

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By David Glenn Cox

Years ago there was a "Far Side" cartoon with an angry lynch mob in front of an old, Western jail. The sheriff was addressing the mob, "Now you boys know that I can’t just turn him over to you without a fair trial. Well, all right, but just this once."

That pretty much covers my feelings towards Mr. Madoff. I’m all for law and order, but this admitted criminal, who used trust to defraud his victims, will now use the legal system to protect himself from them. In a perverse tale of legalese mumbo jumbo, Madoff is under house arrest, held in his seven million-dollar town home, incarcerated between the hours of 9:00 PM to 7:00 AM.

When I was fourteen I got caught smoking and got pretty much the same penalty, less the seven million-dollar town home. Meanwhile, for his victims justice is swift,

"The 53-year-old investor, who asked not to be identified to protect his stake, took out about $600,000 this year from his $1.5 million account, using some of it to pay down a mortgage. He and other Madoff clients who withdrew funds as long as six years ago may be sued on behalf of other victims to return profits and even principal, securities and bankruptcy lawyers say." (Bloomberg)

The victims go after other victims? The perpetrator sits in his town home, living as a king in exile, and the investors must fight each other over the scraps? It is beyond absurd, but wait, as they say, don’t order now, this legal premise is based on a decision in another investment scandal. Bayou Group LLC was ordered to pay back money it defrauded from investors. Of the $135 million lost they recouped only $33 million and $20 million of that was used to pay off the lawyers.

There is a line in "The Grapes of Wrath" as a sharecropper is being ordered off his land. "All I want to know, mister, is who do I shoot? There’s got to be someone who knows what a shotgun's good for!" In Iceland they are taking to the streets; Eva Hauksdottir led a group of 60, whistle-blowing, pan banging, shouting demonstrators through the streets of Reykjavik.

"Pay your own debts," they yelled as they visited one bank office after another in Iceland’s capital. "Don’t make the children pay."

Hauksdottir says that she expects to lose her home because the amount that she owes has jumped 20 %, but she has come up with a novel way of making money, by selling Voodoo dolls in the shape of bankers. She warned in an interview "that only civil disobedience can force banks to stop collecting debts that people can’t pay.

"We’ll use our voices, and then if we have to we’ll use our hands, and maybe axes,"

Maybe axes. There is an invisible line, and no one knows where that line it is located, but once that line is crossed none can dare say what will happen next. It is a demarcation line between ordered, civil society and mob justice. These laws sole purpose are to protect the innocent and punish the guilty, but in the Madoff case it seems inverted. The only restitution is to make chum out of the investors, to feed the sharks; out of the survivors to kill Peter to pay Paul.

Our government has refinanced bankers with billions of dollars in new capital, now at a new, low, zero-interest rates. The banks respond by raising interest rates to consumers as high as 29% and making mortgage requirements out of reach to all but those who don’t need them in the first place. The administration has given up on its mortgage rescue package, Project Hope or dope or nope or something, admitting that it only helped 331 consumers out of over a hundred thousand that applied. It is as if we are paying the government to beat us; one year into the mortgage crisis and they’ve only saved 331 out of several million foreclosures?

But Dick Cheney is unrepentant; he appears on Fox noise and makes Ebenezer Scrooge look misunderstood as he tells the American people and historians to fuck off as he walks out the door. The dominos fall and few hear them as Ecuador defaults on its bond payments as Birmingham struggles to refinance its default. California has a whole list of cities bordering on default as New York City whispers, "Me too." The city council of New York ammended the law to allow Mayor Bloomberg to run for a third term, but now they question if he could win.

A 23% hike in transit fares as the city cuts back on services; the answer always seems to be to take it out on the little guy. Governor Arnold in California suggested layoffs and wage freezes to face his state's budget crisis but disdained from raising the luxury tax as unfair. CNBC’s Dennis Neal discussed the TARP bailout package that called for limits on CEO compensation as, "punitive," but within 24 hours lambasted the UAW, "that they should be willing to make concessions if they want to keep their jobs."

Listen, hear that? It is the sound of the other shoe dropping, and still they don’t get it. A recent news article described the advantages of using your Christmas bonus to pay down your mortgage, and if your bonus is over $50,000, applying it to your mortgage could cut ten years off of that mortgage! Anyone out there get a $50,000 Christmas bonus? It’s as if they are living in the Twilight Zone and oblivious to all that is going on around them.

In 1945 the Italian leader Benito Mussolini was caught by partisans and executed; his nude body was hung upside down from a gas station signpost for display to the public. No one complained, No lawyers came forward and decried this heinous crime. They didn’t bring briefs to the courthouse declaring that Mussolini deserved a fair trial. The ACLU was silent, all were silent. Mussolini had brought Italy to ruin and the people were sick of it. The evidence was all around them and the verdict of the jury unanimous.
In 1989, Romanian leader Nicolae Ceausescu was taken out into the courtyard along with his wife, Elana, and shot. The crime was never prosecuted as a new government was formed and life began anew. Ceausescu was full of himself as he built huge monuments to himself at the expense of the people. He had his government shower his wife with undeserved scientific accolades, all as the suffering of the people increased. As tensions escalated his bodyguards warned Ceausescu that it was no longer safe to leave the presidential palace. Ceausescu laughed off these warnings until one day he discovered his bodyguards had fled in fear for their own lives at the hands of the people.

Ceausescu and his wife were taken from the palace into the courtyard and Elena’s last words were, "Nicolae, I think that they are going to shoot us!" Executed by the court of public opinion, a verdict swift and sure. A verdict that every future leader of Italy or Romania is well aware of and not because of case law. It is the unspoken line, the line that dare not be crossed because civilization is a voluntary organization. If we feel that the laws and covenants cease to work for the common good then we have every right to withdraw our participation.

"Now, you boys know that I can’t just turn him over to you without a fair trial. Well, all right, but just this once."