Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Tar and feather their asses

It’s been fascinating to watch the country that recoiled at Abu Ghraib embrace with gusto the concept of inflicting bodily harm on the A.I.G. bonus babies.

Insurance giant employees that scooped up more than $200 billion in taxpayer bailout money are being inundated with death threats, and you can bet some of the 73 who snagged $1 million or more are devoting at least part of their time writing some extravagant policies in the event something unexpected upends their own actuarial table.

Sen. Charles Grassley said the shamelessness of the A.I.G. crew made him nostalgic for days when honor required that people who performed poorly at their jobs carved smiley faces into their sternums with their Samurai swords.

It’s a good thing for Capitol Hill janitors that Grassley doesn’t hold himself and his congressional colleagues to such a finicky standard.

Of course, many of our more creative fellow citizens think an honorable suicide would be too tidy a fate. The country is united in outrage. A bloodlust sweeps the land. Some think the perpetrators should be drawn and quartered and the severed limbs and torsos dumped into vats of acid.

Somewhere Dick Cheney is enjoying the warm and fuzzy feelings that people like me and you get when we watch things like “E.T.”

Me, I’m more of a squeamish sort. To me, the situation calls for a punishment that was popular when our Founding Fathers were first weighing in on issues of constitutional justice.

I’d like to see them tarred and feathered. Heck, I’d like to see anyone tarred and feathered.

I could never be a part of an angry lynch mob. Neither could most of the people I know. That kind of violence is unacceptable.

I often enjoy the noon meal at the bar beneath my office. Lined up along side me are a bunch of fair-minded individuals who come to dine and chat about sports, politics and the complex strategies it takes to succeed on “The Price is Right.”

They’re salt of the earth Americans. They’re furious about the bonuses but I don’t think they would ever be part of a killing posse so angry that they’d let it disrupt the important business being conducted by Drew Carey and his bevy of beauties.

They don’t have it in them to be an angry lynch mob. But an angry lunch mob? That’s another story.

Say, for instance, if someone came storming into the bar and said, “Hey, we’ve got Burt from the bank cornered down at the convenience mart! Anyone want to come help tar and feather him?”

I know at least a dozen guys who’d say, “Me! Me! Me! Save my seat . . . and somebody TiVo the Showcase!”

It sounds like great fun. I think it would be a dandy punishment that involves both pain and shame. Plus we’d all enjoy a day-brightening moment any time we’d get to see a rascal like Burt at the grocery store months later with chicken feathers still decorating his big bald spot.

I think tarring and feathering would be a sensible judicial middle ground between murder and letting the scoundrels get off scot free with the taxpayer loot.

And it would be a far better fate than that meted out upon those who displeased the great Kublai Khan, the 13th century Mongol ruler of China whose exploits were first detailed by the intrepid Marco Polo.

Khan’s preferred method of execution was to pack the mouths of miscreants with excrement until they suffocated, a send off that spoils all the fun of the whole condemned man’s last meal tradition.

I don’t know the source of the excrement, but if it was self-produced then the Chinese can take credit for inventing ultimate recycling right along side things like gunpowder, pasta and the first movable press.

Again, I’m a squeamish soul. I don’t think any violence of this unholy sort should be practiced against Wall Street titans or those who defend their excesses.

I'm just saying so much crap has been flying out of the mouths of Wall Street big shots for so long that seeing some of it moving in the other direction for once might be kind of refreshing.

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