Sometimes We Call Them Kickbacks, Other Times We Call It the Invisible Hand

At Reason, Jacob Sullum explains the story of the corrupt Judge in PA who received payments for in turn sending business to corrections facilities:

Mark Ciavarella, the corrupt Pennsylvania judge who is the subject of my column today, prided himself on taking a tough, no-nonsense approach to juvenile offenders, refusing to accept excuses or consider mitigating factors. It is therefore bitterly amusing to read his testimony during his federal trial, when he twisted himself into knots while trying to explain away the $2.9 million in kickbacks that he and another Luzerne County judge, Michael Conahan, received from two private detention centers they helped establish and kept in business. Ciavarella said $2.1 million of that was a “finder’s fee” that the contractor who built the juvenile jails, Robert Mericle, volunteered to pay him after he introduced Mericle to Robert Powell, co-owner of the company that ran the jails…

We’ve written here about this story several times, and the details are horrifying. A deeply corrupt man was elected by the people to do one thing, and then sold out the public to corporations. It’s a classic case of moneyed business interests using the government we set up to benefit the population at large, but using it to enrich themselves and the powerful few at the expense of the public. It’s shameful.

But how is it any different from this:

Walker was elected just over three months ago on the heels of an exceptionally expensive gubernatorial race in the Badger State, fueled by groups funded by the Koch brothers, David and Charles. David Koch, the son of a radical founding member of the John Birch Society, which has long been obsessed with claims about socialism and advocated the repeal of civil rights laws, personally donated $1 million to the Republican Governors Association (RGA) in June of last year. This was the most he had ever personally given to that group. (Fellow billionaire Rupert Murdoch matched Koch’s donation to the RGA with a $1 million donation from his company News Corporation, parent company of FOX “News” Channel.)

Screen Shot of RGAs 5 million Investment in WalkerThe RGA in turn spent $5 million in the race, mostly on TV ads attacking Walker’s political opponent, Democratic Mayor Tom Barrett. As this photo shows, the RGA described itself as a “key investor” in Walker’s victory. In its congratulations, the RGA notes that it “ran a comprehensive campaign including TV and internet ads and direct mail. The series of ads were devastating to Tom Barrett … All told, RGA ran 8 TV ads and sent 8 pieces of mail for absentee, early voting, and GOTV, totaling 2.9 million pieces.”

Walker then turned around and did this:

s the nation focuses on the efforts of Governor Scott Walker to take away collective bargaining rights from public employees in Wisconsin, new information is coming to light that reveals what is truly going on here.

Mother Jones is reporting that much of the funding behind the Walker for Governor campaign came from none other than uber-conservatives, the infamous Koch Brothers.

What’s more, the plan to kill the unions is right out of the Koch Brothers play book.

    Koch-backed groups like Americans for Prosperity, the Cato Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and the Reason Foundation have long taken a very antagonistic view toward public-sector unions. Several of these groups have urged the eradication of these unions. The Kochs also invited Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, an anti-union outfit, to a June 2010 confab in Aspen, Colorado;

    Via Mother Jones

If you are reluctant to believe that this is a coordinated attack, consider this-

This afternoon, Marty Beil, executive director of the Wisconsin Public Workers Union, sent a message to the Governor’s office agreeing to the cuts to pension & welfare benefits sought by Walker in his bill. The governor’s response was “nothing doing.” He wants the whole kit and kaboodle – the end of the collective bargaining rights of the public unions.

And this:

The Capital Times reported on Tuesday that Koch Industries had quietly opened a lobby shop in Madison. This news comes amid concerns about the influence of the company and the billionaire brothers who lead it ,and the bankrolling of multi-million dollar ad campaigns like the one that helped sweep controversial governor Scott Walker into office. The company’s political action committee was also one of the largest PAC donors to contribute directly to Walker’s election, giving his campaign $43,000, second only to the realtor PAC. Amid controversy swirling around a provision in the budget bill Walker introduced that would allow his administration to sell off state heating, cooling and power plants or their operations “for any amount” in no-bid contracts and without any external oversight, Koch Industries denied last night that it was interested purchasing power plants here to go along with its pipeline, refinery, and coal companies in the state.

According to Judy Davidoff, their operation “Koch Companies Public Sector — Legal, Government, Public Affairs” opened steps from the Wisconsin capitol the week Walker was inaugurated as governor. The lobby firm moved into the seventh floor suite two weeks before the November election was held.

The Center for Media and Democracy told the Cap Times Tuesday, “It’s curious that the Kochs have apparently expanded their lobbying presence just as Walker was sworn into office and immediately before a budget was unveiled that would allow the executive branch unilateral power to sell off public utilities in this state in no-bid contracts.” CMD was referring to Section 16.896 of Walker’s controversial budget “repair” bill that would vest the Walker administration with unilateral authority to sell off or lease the operation of the state’s cooling and heating plants in no-bid contracts.

If you would like to talk to Governor Walker about all this stuff, well, good luck. His line is busy, unless you are on of the Koch brothers:

Here’s something for your “can this possibly be for real” file this morning. Over at the Buffalo Beast — the former print alt-weekly turned online newspaper founded by onetime editor Matt Taibbi, typically best known for its annual list of “The 50 Most Loathsome Americans” — there appear to be recordings of a phone call between Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and current editor Ian Murphy. Now, why on earth would Scott Walker want to talk on the phone with the editor of an online site in Buffalo? Well, he wouldn’t.

But what if said editor pretended to be David Koch of the famed Koch Brothers? Well, that’s a different story altogether, apparently! And so Walker, believing himself to be on the phone with his patron, seems to have had a long conversation about busting Wisconsin’s unions.

Buffalo Beast Publisher Paul Fallon told The Huffington Post that the audio is “absolutely legit.” That the call took place as described by the Beast has been confirmed by Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie.

Moneyed special interests use a man in a position of elected public power to enrich themselves greatly at the expense of the public. The only difference between the corrupt Judge Ciavarellla and Gov. Walker is that the latter was planned, while the former just got lucky to find an amoral scumbag they knew presiding as a judge.

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73 replies
  1. 1
    agrippa says:

    Can we call that crony capitalism?

  2. 2
    Pooh says:

    The free market can never fail, it can only be failed.

  3. 3

    And the guy that pwn’d Scott Walker, he works for an alt-weekly that was started by Matt Taibbi(Yes, that one!!).

  4. 4

    Will McMegan talk about how Walker got pwn’d? My guess is no.

  5. 5
    Doug Hill says:

    It seems to me that on the first story, the real problem is that we don’t have free market courts ruling on the basis of Hayekian law.

  6. 6
    Guster says:

    Well, you know what they say. Massive accumulations of wealth have consequences.

  7. 7
    cleek says:

    elections have consequences – corrupt, lucrative, cronyism-based consequences.

  8. 8
    Svensker says:

    If it’s a kickback, wouldn’t it be the Invisible Foot?

  9. 9
    Gretchen says:

    Walker and Koch are completely evil. But the judge is even more evil. Those kids, who were troubled and capable of being saved, are now completely fucked up because somebody wanted more money. Their lives are literally ruined. I am the mother of a mid-20’s son who is totally fucked up by a random event that happened long ago, and I know how costly this sort of thing is. There’s no “sorry, diddn’t mean it” do-over. When you do something terribly damaging to a teenager, like send them to a for-profit juvie, you can literally ruin their life forever, and there is really, really no circle of hell deep enough to fairly pay this guy off for the harm he has done.

  10. 10
    Surly Duff says:

    How is it different? Well, one incident of corruption ended in many children being placed into juvenile detention centers, which are often deplorable and have atrocious education rates, thus circumventing the purpose of the legal process.

    The other resulted in a governor, duly elected by the people of Wisconsin, acting as a crony for the interests who eleceted him. In other words, he acted like a politician. Frankly, the two are not alike at all.

  11. 11
    Zam says:

    Yea, the bill also includes a provision for the Kochs to buy up public power plants as well.

  12. 12

    This is of course a coordinated attack. Scott Walker says as much in his 20 minute conversation with Fake David Koch. I’ve got a transcript up at my place.

    Walker also references David Koch’s “guy on the ground.” Who the fuck is that? Hello?

  13. 13
    cyntax says:

    Moneyed special interests use a man in a position of elected public power to enrich themselves greatly at the expense of the public.

    Just don’t call this class warfare, that might hurt some people’s sensibilities. We’re all just collateral damage in the pursuit of the Galtian paradise that the uber-rich deserve.

  14. 14
    meh says:

    excellent post – for a second I thought I stumbled onto ProPublica’s website instead of some shitty blog that posts pictures of an obese cat with dead eyes…creepy.

  15. 15
    mr. whipple says:

    oops, wrong thread.

  16. 16
    DBrown says:

    Gretchen, I am so very sorry for what happened to your teen and your are correct – that monster should get twelve years for each and every kid he sent to jail – that wouldn’t do anything for the terrible harm that monster has done but remember, there will be tens of thousands of teen’s lives that will be/are being destoryed due to parents loosing their jobs/income/med benefits thanks to the twin Nazi pigs called koch butt brothers (they are really into each other in more ways than one.)

  17. 17

    Also John:

    Lots of people have written about this, namely ThinkProgress but others too. This is all coordinated through ALEC — American Legislative Exchange Council — which is a free market, small government groups which pushes a right wing agenda at the state legislative level. The Kochs are one of the many funders of ALEC. Also, industry groups like Phillp Morris and ExxonMobil, etc.

  18. 18
    mr. whipple says:

    The Capital Times reported on Tuesday that Koch Industries had quietly opened a lobby shop in Madison. This news comes amid concerns about the influence of the company and the billionaire brothers who lead it ,and the bankrolling of multi-million dollar ad campaigns like the one that helped sweep controversial governor Scott Walker into office.

    Outside agitators!

  19. 19
    freelancer says:

    The Walker-Koch dynamic is obviously less of a Vader serving the Emperor relationship than it is Dark Helmet reporting to President Skroob. Still evil, but monumentally stupid and pigheadedly selfish.

  20. 20
    Zifnab says:

    The only difference between the corrupt Judge Ciavarellla and Gov. Walker is that the latter was planned, while the former just got lucky to find an amoral scumbag they knew presiding as a judge.

    Nothing illegal about large campaign contributions and outside funding used to propel a conservative into power so that he can sell government assets to said large campaign donor.

    Thanks Citizens United!

  21. 21
    ppcli says:

    Well, Walker is beneath contempt and what he is doing is despicable, but let’s not get carried away. What the PA judge was doing – packing off troubled kids to jails owned and run by the buddies who bankrolled him, for trivial or even non-existent offences – is in an entirely different category of vile.

  22. 22

    ..while the former just got lucky to find an amoral scumbag they knew presiding as a judge.

    Really? The New York Times did a huge piece on this, but I thought they helped get that judge elected? Maybe I’m remembering it wrong …

  23. 23
    cyntax says:

    @freelancer:

    I don’t know. They may have over-played their hand somewhat in this case, but those guys are really in it for the long haul and they will keep trying to get everything till it’s all their’s. They want out milkshakes, make no mistake.

  24. 24
    Maude says:

    @meh:
    That wasn’t a cat, it was El Rushbo.

  25. 25
    Sly says:

    If the mother who confronted Ciaveralla outside the courthouse doesn’t break your heart, odds are you probably don’t have one. Video of the confrontation here.

    In other news, the President is further demonstrating his intense hatred for gays by declaring that the DOJ will no longer defend the constitutionality of DOMA in Federal court.

  26. 26
    kdaug says:

    I see Cole’s point. We’re talking about a fundamental destruction of the public trust by greed, graft, and corruption.

    From the courts to the government to the military, everywhere you look there seems to be rot that stretches down to the roots.

    It’s the main reason I advocate Eisenhower tax rates – to help eliminate the incentive.

    But it’s taken 30+ years for us to get to this point, and I doubt we could fix it in 30, even if Americans were motivated, unified, and mobilized.

  27. 27
    Martin says:

    @Southern Beale: Tim Phillips, president of Americans For Prosperity.

  28. 28
    Ash Can says:

    Agree with those who say that the direct victimization of kids involved in the judge’s case puts it in a different, and worse, class of evil.

  29. 29
  30. 30
    Davis X. Machina says:

    Everything can be bought or sold.

    If it can’t be bought and sold, it a.) doesn’t exist, b.) must be made salable, or c.) cease to exist.

    All things, all people, all love, all honor….

  31. 31
    liberal says:

    @DBrown:

    …that monster should get twelve years for each and every kid he sent to jail…

    Nah. His crime is so heinous it’s clear he should be executed. (no snark)

  32. 32
    liberal says:

    @Doug Hill:
    Don’t laugh. I thought one of the underlying tenets of the “Law and Economics” movement is applying utilitarian calculus (warped or otherwise) to the courts.

  33. 33
    kdaug says:

    @liberal:

    His crime is so heinous it’s clear he should be executed renditioned.

    Fixed.

  34. 34
    John Cole says:

    LOL. You people kill me. A couple comments in and this post is already devolving into a pedantic “which is more evil” waste of time.

    I give up.

  35. 35
    peach flavored shampoo says:

    @Svensker: The Invisible Kock?

  36. 36
    PIGL says:

    @DBrown: This is the sort of case where the People’s Republic of China would just execute everyone involved. And if anyone is going to be executed, it should be these people.

  37. 37
    liberal says:

    John Cole quoted:

    …typically best known for its annual list of “The 50 Most Loathsome Americans”…

    Sadly, while that list is just as informative as in past years, it’s no longer nearly as funny. I assume some particularly funny writer is no longer there.

  38. 38
    Tone in DC says:

    I heard of that judge a while ago. Disgusting excuse for a human being AND greedy.

    Also, the Wisconsin situation is more mainstream now than I had thought…

    http://www.usnews.com/opinion/.....ers-puppet

  39. 39
    4jkb4ia says:

    Ezra on this point was devastating:

    The state’s Democratic senators can’t get Walker on the phone, but someone can call the governor’s front desk, identify themselves as David Koch, and then speak with both the governor and his chief of staff? That’s where you see the access and power that major corporations and wealthy contributors will have in a Walker administration, and why so many in Wisconsin are reluctant to see the only major interest group representing workers taken out of the game.

    The critique many conservatives have made of public-sector unions is that they both negotiate with and fund politicians. It’s a conflict of interest. Well, so too do corporations, and wealthy individuals. That’s why Murphy — posing as Koch — was able to get through to Walker so quickly. And it shows what Walker is really interested in here: He is not opposed, in principle, to powerful interest groups having the ear of the politicians they depend on, and who depend on them. He just wants those interest groups to be the conservative interest groups that fund him, and that he depends on.

    Nice post, John. Seriously.

    “If you are annoying him, he knows how to type.” /evil inclination, highly confused by this line of attack

  40. 40
    Tone in DC says:

    @John Cole:
    A crowd as unruly as this would hardly do otherwise!

  41. 41
    liberal says:

    @Davis X. Machina:
    Yeah, well, there’s very little honor anywhere anymore to be sold in the first place.

  42. 42
    4jkb4ia says:

    @meh:

    Hey, that cat picture was hilarious. Tried to use it: “The evil inclination knows I am at the computer, but I am not giving it food.”

  43. 43
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @John Cole:

    I give up.

    No, you don’t.

  44. 44
    kdaug says:

    What I really want to know is how the thousands of people being shot on the streets in Libya will affect how much I have to pay for gas.

  45. 45

    Thanks again, John.

    The real kickback, though, is not the union-busting, though it plays well in Peoria and gets all the attention. The real thing the Brother Koch bought with their campaign money was the power plant provision.

    To tell you the truth, if I thought they were smart enough I would say that that was the plan all along: gin up a controversy around unions and collective bargaining, then sneak the provision allowing Scott Walker’s appointed cronies to sell the Koch Brothers all of Wisconsin’s state-owned power plants for five cents on the dollar. Not only could they then raise prices, further squeezing the middle class, but the loss of revenue to the state from having sold the plants could be used as an excuse for further dismantling of the social safety net.

    Shorter Republicans/Conservatives: Government doesn’t work. Elect me and I’ll prove it to you.

  46. 46
    peach flavored shampoo says:

    @John Cole: Then next time you post, Heir Cole, why dont you lay out explciit instructions on precisely what we are allowed to discuss? Otherwise, find yourself your own blog. Or something.

  47. 47
    fasteddie9318 says:

    I have to stop getting out of the boat. Even a quick perusal of the comments at the Reason link were loaded with enough “this case of gross corruption in the privatized prison system is further proof that the whole criminal justice system should be privatized” stupid that my head aslpode.

  48. 48
  49. 49
    Stillwater says:

    @ppcli: What the PA judge was doing – packing off troubled kids to jails owned and run by the buddies who bankrolled him, for trivial or even non-existent offences – is in an entirely different category of vile.

    Yes, from our point of view. But the cases are similar instances of a sociopathic disregard for the values we embrace.

  50. 50
    Zifnab says:

    @kdaug:

    What I really want to know is how the thousands of people being shot on the streets in Libya will affect how much I have to pay for gas.

    That’ll make it more expensive.
    Of course, riots in China or drought in Brazil or car accidents in France will have the same effect.

    It’s gas price increasing season.

  51. 51
    Exurban Mom says:

    Exact same story in Ohio. Rupert Murdoch gives $1 million to the RGA, expressly to fund his employee Kasich’s campaign. Kasich gets in office, moves to break unions in Ohio. He’s also talking about privatizing our tollways, because he found out some tollway worker makes $80,000.

    Politifact dove into that, and found a few making big bucks, but mostly because they are working huge amounts of overtime.

  52. 52
    fasteddie9318 says:

    @Zifnab:

    That’ll make it more expensive.
    Of course, riots in China or drought in Brazil or car accidents in France will have the same effect.

    That’s nothing; Gaddafi NOT SHOOTING THE SAME PEOPLE WHO GOT SHOT would have made gas more expensive.

    It’s gas price increasing season.

    Duck season!

  53. 53
    Shinobi says:

    But you guys, getting crazy about the Koch brothers is just like the right talking about George Soros. They are exactly the same. Even though one often has nothing to do with organizations he is tied to, and the other has documented ties with those groups and are clearly benefiting from the scenario.

    We may live in a Banana Republic, but it is a BI partisan Banana Republic Dammit!

  54. 54
    WyldPirate says:

    @Surly Duff:

    The other resulted in a governor, duly elected by the people of Wisconsin, acting as a crony for the interests who eleceted him. In other words, he acted like a politician. Frankly, the two are not alike at all.

    Bullshit. Legitimizing the “payoff” via campaign contributions makes no difference from a moral standpoint. He is fucking over people as a favor to those that bought his services. Scott is getting his payoff now via power, but he has the option of getting the monetary rewards for selling out later.

  55. 55
    JGabriel says:

    peach flavored shampoo:

    Then next time you post, Heir Cole …

    Wm. Shakespeare:

    To die: to sleep;
    No more; and by a sleep to say we end
    The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
    That flesh is heir to, ’tis a consummation
    Devoutly to be wish’d.

    So, um, which flesh is Cole heir to?

    .

  56. 56
    geg6 says:

    @Gretchen:

    It’s even worse than that. Some of these kids did nothing, really. They got sent up the river in shackles and chains with long sentences for minor shit:

    They made money by taking kids guilty of minor crimes – setting up an online satire of an assistant principal, stealing a $4 bottle of nutmeg, getting into a fight with another kid –and putting them into these juvenile prisons. The evidence so far indicates that Judge Ciavarella was two and a half times more likely to incarcerate kids than other judges in Pennsylvania were. And he and Judge Conahan made money – lots of money – doing this.

    http://jurist.law.pitt.edu/for.....kbacks.php

    Some of these kids committed or attempted to commit suicide. These judges are kidnappers and murderers, IMHO.

  57. 57
    geg6 says:

    @ppcli:

    We have to quit referring to these kids as “troubled.” Some of them were and some of them were anything but until Ciavarella and Conahan came into their lives. Seriously, do you consider making fun of your principal or stealing a $4 bottle of nutmeg or carrying a roach clip a sign of a “troubled” kid or just typical teenage behavior? Protip: if you say “troubled,” you may have a problem in that I don’t that word means what you think it means.

  58. 58
    kilo says:

    @Svensker:
    More like an invisible hand job, no?

  59. 59
    Martin says:

    @geg6: As a creepy man told me back when I was 12 or so: “You’re going to burn in the fires of hell if you die as an adult, but God will spare you if you die as a child.”

    That was his reaction to hearing that I didn’t believe in God. I don’t doubt some folks would conclude that the judge was doing these kids a favor – even for such trivial offenses. We’ve got some sick motherfuckers in this country.

  60. 60
    Surly Duff says:

    @John Cole:
    In general I agree with the point regarding Wisconsin. I guess I’m just surprised that a blog that identifies and denounces fasle equivalence so readily, decided to lean on it for this example. The two incidents are not really comparable and you didn’t need to use them to make your point. Just my opinion.

    @WyldPirate:
    And your explanation is different from our current political election process how?

  61. 61
    Chuck says:

    @John Cole: Ummm… You’re the one who explicitly said the two were no different. Kids killed themselves as a result of their bogus incarcerations. Bullshit equivalency.

  62. 62
    LGRooney says:

    Which is worse? Who the fuck knows but the Koch brothers have laid the philosophical foundation for the Judge. I see it this way: the judge, realizing that he was never going to make the big bucks, seeing so much greed and graft go unpunished, since greed is good in the Koch/NewsCorp world, decided to cash in. The only way to cash in is to take advantage of the available asymmetries in information – and, starting with the deregulation kicked off by Carter, few with the economic means available to a small cohort of our population have ever had to pay out in time or money for misdeeds. Might as well take a chance – even if some kids lives are ruined, or some grandparents have to live on Kibbles, or middle-aged workers have to rely on remits from parents to supplement their meager incomes, etc.

  63. 63
    4jkb4ia says:

    There is something about “Don’t accept a bribe, for the bribe will blind the eyes of the wise and make just words crooked” here. I heard the interpretation from R’ Grunberger that it doesn’t matter if you decided correctly or would have decided that way anyway. You took the bribe and your inner and legal decisionmaking is therefore corrupted.

    Scott Walker had a clear and proud record of being hated by unions. He ran on forcing unions to give concessions. John left out that the Mother Jones post his link is linking to said that the Koch Brothers PAC gave Walker money directly–$43,000, more than any other PAC, although the $1 million to the RGA is clearly a sexier number. So by supporting Walker the Kochs were “expressing their views”. But if Walker does not disclose before he is elected that he wants to privatize the power plants or take away collective bargaining rights, that goes beyond expressing views. The Kochs have access to Walker’s views that the public didn’t get, whether it was before or after the election. And Walker has an incentive/bribe to expand on his previously expressed views, which is easy because he hated unions anyway.

  64. 64
    Bubblegum Tate says:

    @Svensker:

    If it’s a kickback, wouldn’t it be the Invisible Foot?

    I like this one a lot. Kudos!

  65. 65
    LGRooney says:

    @Chuck: And how many people have killed themselves, and left kids alone as a result, because the economic system is absolutely tilted to allow those at the top to sweep up more and more of the gains for themselves while the vast majority see declining paychecks and opportunities or have lost everything in a system built on simple greed? It is not as black and white as you think. In general, I agree with you that doing it directly to kids is a damn sight more atrocious but those are first-thought sentiments. Kids can be fucked up in many ways.

  66. 66
    4jkb4ia says:

    @Chuck:

    No, the idea of public benefit being taken for private use was all John was getting at. The kids killing themselves would have been just as bad if they were incarcerated at a public facility.

  67. 67
    4jkb4ia says:

    Actually, the problem with this analogy is that Walker isn’t personally profiting.
    You could say, “Yet”. You could also say that his chances of getting elected to any higher office may be completely screwed now.

  68. 68
    ppcli says:

    @geg6: Yes, you are right. Should have chosen words with more care. I didn’t mean that the kids who were imprisoned for trivialities were necessarily “trouble kids”. What I meant to indicate by “troubled” is that some of the kids he was shipping off were psychologically vulnerable in a way that would make such imprisonment especially damaging. Not that their behaviour warranted this treatment in any way.

  69. 69
    kay says:

    Part of it is this myth people have of the kindly judge looking over his glasses and setting the young man on the straight and narrow with a sentence that’s not “a slap on the wrist”.
    That’s a movie. Juvenile detention centers are part of the prison system. It’s cold in there.
    I haven’t seen a bit of anecdotal evidence that “scared straight” or “shock ’em out” works, at all, either, so we can add those to the failed military-style “camps” that were in vogue for a while.
    This is just a poor way to punish children. The cure is worse than the disease. For anything other than violent crime, they should be assessed, treated (if they need treatment) and given some way to make practical restitution. I don’t know why we’re detaining them at all. It’s not helping anything or anyone.

  70. 70
    James E Powell says:

    @Shinobi:

    I was wondering how long it would be before we heard “both sides do it.” Pretty quick, but not a record.

  71. 71
    James E Powell says:

    Part of it is this myth people have of the kindly judge looking over his glasses and setting the young man on the straight and narrow with a sentence that’s not “a slap on the wrist”.

    Another part of it is the related myth that the harsher the punishment, the better. And that what we really need are ‘tough’ judges. Tough meaning “gives the max.”

    Americans, generally, love to punish.

  72. 72
    AnotherBruce says:

    For quality of evil, concentrated evil on a per person basis it’s pretty hard to beat what the Judge did. But for quantity, that is more evil but more evenly distributed, I’m going with Hosni Walker all the way.

  73. 73
    Sly says:

    Ezra, I think, summed it up the best:

    But if the transcript of the conversation is unexceptional, the fact of it is lethal. The state’s Democratic senators can’t get Walker on the phone, but someone can call the governor’s front desk, identify themselves as David Koch, and then speak with both the governor and his chief of staff? That’s where you see the access and power that major corporations and wealthy contributors will have in a Walker administration, and why so many in Wisconsin are reluctant to see the only major interest group representing workers taken out of the game.
    __
    The critique many conservatives have made of public-sector unions is that they both negotiate with and fund politicians. It’s a conflict of interest. Well, so too do corporations, and wealthy individuals. That’s why Murphy — posing as Koch — was able to get through to Walker so quickly. And it shows what Walker is really interested in here: He is not opposed, in principle, to powerful interest groups having the ear of the politicians they depend on, and who depend on them. He just wants those interest groups to be the conservative interest groups that fund him, and that he depends on.

    Though I wouldn’t necessarily call the transcript unexceptional. Walker not only confirmed what everyone was thinking, that he wasn’t willing to negotiate with his political opponents, but that he was looking into feigning interest in order to lure Democratic State Senators back to Wisconsin just to stab them in the back. If any of those State Senators return now, and aren’t repeating this every time someone asks them why they won’t come back, they’re downright stupid.

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