As I watched Rudy Giuliani deliver his keynote speech at the Republican National Convention last week, I noticed a verbal tic intruding into the former mayor’s hatcheting performance. It was a kind of maniacal laugh appearing before or simultaneously surfacing as he delivered his slashing attack on Sen. Obama.
As I watched, I knew I had seen that laugh before. Suddenly I knew, as my brain finished its card sorting of the stored recollections within my skull and came up with the memory I sought. There was the picture of actor Richard Widmark, now deceased, carrying out his role in the movie “Kiss of Death.” I saw once again the scene in which Widmark, playing Tommy Udo, a killer, pushed a wheelchair in which an old woman was sitting and, laughing maniacally, shoved it off the top of the stairs with its occupant still in it.
Someone — a friend of Rudy’s — should draw his attention to this mannerism so that he can seek to eliminate it before he runs for public office again, maybe mayor, maybe governor.
Top-Level Security Breaches Go Unpunished
Why is it that when top level government officials are proven to have violated laws protecting the U.S. against the revelation of top level secrets or violated other major rules and regulations like taking home super secrets by placing them in their own non-secured computers and are caught, they don’t serve prison time?
John Deutch, CIA director at the time of his breach, kept classified material on several unclassified laptop computers. Two years after his departure from the CIA, the matter was referred to the Department of Justice, but the attorney general at the time, Janet Reno, declined prosecution.
Sandy Berger, once National Security adviser to the president, pled guilty in 2005 to a misdemeanor charge of removal and retention of classified material from the National Archives in Washington.
Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, according to The New York Times, “mishandled highly classified information relating to the National Security Agency’s wiretapping program and the administration’s prisoner interrogation program, an internal report concluded Tuesday. The Justice Department inspector general who investigated Mr. Gonzales’ handling of the documents, said he kept classified material at his home and in an office safe in violation of security procedures.” While the matter was referred to the Department of Justice for possible criminal action, the department declined to prosecute.
Had it been a lower level employee, how would he/she have been treated? Isn’t there a greater degree of responsibility for those who set the rules, and then violate them? Apparently not.
Palin Book-Banning Debacle
The Republican vice presidential candidate, Gov. Sarah Palin, according to The New York Times, “Shortly after becoming mayor approached the town librarian about the possibility of banning some books though she never followed through, and it was unclear which books or passages were in question.” Anne Kilkenny, a Democrat, according to the Times, “attended every City council meeting in Ms. Palin’s first year in office, said Ms. Palin brought up the idea of banning some books at one meeting. ‘They were somehow morally or socially objectionable to her,’ Ms. Kilkenny said.”
The librarian pledged, according to the Times, to “resist all efforts at censorship.” Mayor Palin first fired the librarian, Ms. Emmons, but later restored her when the public “made a strong show of support” for the librarian.
Defending herself in 1996, Mayor Palin “suggested to the local paper, The Frontiersman, that the conversations about banning books were ‘rhetorical.’”
Usually, the defense to charges such as these is, “My remarks were taken out of context.” I always ask, “Tell me the context from which they were taken, making them acceptable.” Here, I would ask, “What’s rhetorical about firing somebody who declined to remove books at the mayor’s demand?”
Punish Law-Breaking Anti-war Protestors
In St. Paul, apparently anti-Iraq war demonstrators marched through the streets, according to the Times, “with some smashing windows and battling with the public in clashes that led to dozens of arrests.”
My question is, What will be the ultimate disposition? In many, if not most cases, certainly in New York City in similar cases, the disposition often involves no fine or jail time, but in the “interest of justice” or simply wanting to rid the court of calendar congestion, the cases are dismissed.
In my judgment, this is a big mistake.
It encourages future violence by the same perpetrators who come to expect similar dispositions. I have done no independent research, but am certain of my beliefs in this matter. If I am shown to be wrong, I will be happy to publicly admit error.
I believe in free speech and the right to demonstrate peacefully as well as the right to commit non-violent acts of civil disobedience. I believe those who break the law and engage in non-violent civil disobedience should expect to be punished, albeit in most cases with fines that escalate upon further similar violations of the law.
In the case of violent actions not serious in nature on the part of those engaging in what they believe is a matter of conscience, jail time like 10 days and more when appropriate, in order to demonstrate that society is not without resources to protect itself from unlawful conduct. Based on history, there is a fat chance of that happening. Bill Safire, columnist and scholar, I am sure, can explain the derivation of fat chance. I can’t.
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