Thursday, July 23, 2009
  Madoff puzzle

America has replaced morality with licensing.

You can do anything with impunity, as long as you have the correct credentials.

Killing a child will get you arrested and tried for 1st degree murder ... unless you're a licensed abortionist, in which case the "legal" system will pull out all the stops to protect you from justice, even protect you from protesters.

Stealing money will get you arrested and tried for robbery ... unless you're a member of the Wall Street Mafia, in which case it will get you appointed to a high federal office.

Bernie Madoff is an interesting exception to this rule. He's clearly a member of the Mafia, he's definitely Jewish, he knows all the People Who Count in New York, Washington and Hollywood, and yet he was arrested and imprisoned hard and fast, not hired as Treasury Secretary.

It's a genuine puzzle. Does he know too much? Did he need to be silenced?

= = = = =

A completely unrelated thought, also triggered by Madoff. Before the doors clanged shut, it was reported that Bernie was paying a "prison placement consultant". The news shows mentioned this with disbelief, but I know that such consultants existed when I was at Mansfield.

There were two layers of consultancy. If you had real pull or aristocratic privilege, you could get moved to Lebanon, which was a newer and more humane facility. This assignment happened purely through official channels.

If you didn't qualify for that step, Beasley could help. Beasley (pronounced 'Beeeeeeleh') was a squat toad-like black inmate who nominally worked in the Laundry but really ran a lucrative cell placement racket. Beeeeeeleh had separate agents for the black and white populations. You had to get introduced to the appropriate agent by word of mouth, and after that you would pay a certain number of cartons of Koo for the chance of reassignment. I assume Beeeeeeleh had some kind of extortionate connection to the administration, because shortly after you paid the requisite number of Koo, you'd be moved to a new cell. It wasn't always the one you wanted, and you generally had to make two or three moves to get into a safe place. Nevertheless it worked, rather neatly and quickly. I probably owe my life to Consultant Beeeeeeleh.
 


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Polistra was named after the original townsite of Manhattan (the one in Kansas). When I was growing up in Manhattan, I spent a lot of time exploring by foot, bike, and car. I discovered the ruins of an old mill along Wildcat Creek, and decided (inaccurately) that it was the remains of the original site of Polistra. Accurate or not, I've always liked the name, with its echoes of Poland (an under-appreciated friend of freedom) and stars. ==== The title icon is explained here. ==== Switchover: This 2007 entry marks a sharp change in worldview from neocon to pure populist. ===== The long illustrated story of Polistra's Dream is a time-travel fable, attempting to answer the dangerous revision of New Deal history propagated by Amity Shlaes. The Dream has 8 episodes, linked in a chain from the first. This entry explains the Shlaes connection.

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