Dastardly Denny and Improving the System

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This is fun.  We get to add dastardly Denny Hastert to our universe of aspersively alliterated appellations and rhyme-named former elected officials: disgusting Dick Gephardt, Dirty Dan Burton, Slippery Steve Stockman, and mean Jean Schmidt.

In case you missed the news, Hastert, a former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, was indicted almost two weeks ago.  Technically, his tail was hauled off for making cash withdrawals from various banks at which he had accounts in amounts designed not to trigger the $10,000-threshold for reports that such financial institutions are obliged to make (purportedly to fight terrorism and drug trafficking).

But why was he pulling out that money?  It was to pay off/buy the silence of one of his former students (he was a teacher before being elected to Congress), to the tune of $350,000, of which dastardly Denny had already forked over $170,000.

But what was being covered up?  It’s not certain, but the reports I’ve read so far indicate some kind of inappropriate behavior with a minor.

So while it seems Hastert has gotten away with pocketing the Turkish blood money that Sibel Edmonds had exposed him for accepting, in the form of campaign donations—one has to presume for blocking passage of the genocide resolution in 2000—it looks like this bit of vermin may get his just desserts after all.  Let’s drink a toast to his getting a nice long prison sentence!

Unfortunately, there’s a downside to all this.  As one article I read pointed out, Hastert won’t be tried for the original, real crime he may have committed against a minor.  His “crime” is protecting his privacy from government snooping.  The government passes laws saying “report large withdrawals” and “avoiding triggering such reports is a crime,” leaving anyone exposed to punitive action just for protecting her/his privacy.

Of course, it’s hard to sympathize with dastardly Denny under whose watch the USA Patriot Act, with it massive intrusion into citizens’ lives, passed.  This situation is truly poetic justice, but the laws should subsequently be revised.

The same intrusive spirit pervades law enforcement, other government circles, and an artificially terrified citizenry that are hell-bent on making street-corner cameras and snooping drones part of our daily lives.  The NSA’s vacuuming up all phone conversations and e-mail traffic is another manifestation of this disease.

It’s time to rein in both the public and private sectors that are compiling all kinds of data about us for nominally harmless, even occasionally beneficial, purposes.  But ultimately, if this goes on, privacy will become an archaic, meaningless, forgotten word in English, and everyone’s everything will be dangling in public for all to see.

This is because the likes of dastardly Denny and disgusting Dick are making the laws, the likes of police officer Darren Wilson are Attorney General Alberto Gonzales enforcing them, the likes of the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson are buying off elected officials to make laws that suit them and their friends’ corporate interests, and the likes of secret courts such as those embodied in recent trade agreements and FISA interpreting the laws.

Let’s hope dastardly Denny Hastert does serious time.  He deserves it.  But more importantly, let’s work for a better electoral/legislative/enforcement regime based on citizen involvement, not money.

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