At the NYT, the columnists have seemingly decided to divide up the labor of compassion. It has fallen to Nicolas Kristof to worry about the Cambodian orphan and the Thai sex worker, and it has fallen to Joe Nocera to worry about the oppressed billionaire.
Last week, Nocera was very worried about BP, which was on the verge of being plucked by no account peasants. Hasn’t the company suffered enough for killing ten men and destroying the Gulf ecology for a year? It is all on account of trial lawyers, Nocera gravely intoned. You know, if the justice system would simply secede entirely from the jury system and allowing the poor to have lawyers, we could get some things done in this country.
Today, Nocera is shedding copious tears over various Russianbillionaires, represented by Bill Browder, who made a pile in Russia during thetime that Nocera euphemistically calls the Wild West period – Yeltsin’s time, when all corruption was excusable because it was in such a good cause! – and is now trying to get the West to take revenge for the imprisonment and death of one of his partners, Sergei Magnitsky. I am not going to deny that Magnitsky was barbarously treated by the Putin regime. Perhaps it is right for the US Congress to respond by a special act, named for Magnitsky, aiming at making his tormentors in Russia pay for his death.
But, ever the curious goof, I do wonder how it is that in the nation with the largest imprisoned population in the world, the US Congress doesn’t seem interested in passing acts in favor of US citizens.
Here’s how Magnitsky died:
Browder pleaded with Magnitsky to flee the country, as his other lawyers had done. But Magnitsky insisted on investigating — and speaking out about — the fraud that had taken place. For his troubles, he was imprisoned in 2008. By summer of 2009, he had developed pancreatitis, which went untreated despite his pleas. He died that November. Browder says that when he learned of Magnitsky’s death, it was “the worst news I had ever received in my life.”
And here, for instance, is how an Arizona prostitute died, around the same time as Magnitsky, according to the Phoenix Arizona New Times:
“The Maricopa County Attorney's Office has chosen not to prosecute staff in the death of inmate Marcia Powell.
Powell, 48, died May 20, 2009, after being kept in a human cage in Goodyear's Perryville Prison for at least four hours in the blazing Arizona sun. This, despite a prison policy limiting such outside confinement to a maximum of two hours.
The county medical examiner . Her core body temperature upon examination was 108 degrees Fahrenheit. She suffered burns and blisters all over her body.
Witnesses say she was repeatedly denied water by corrections officers, though the c.o.'s deny this. The weather the day she collapsed from the heat (May 19 -- she died in the early morning hours of May 20) arched just above a 107 degree high.
According to a 3,000 page report released by the ADC, she pleaded to be taken back inside, but was ignored. Similarly, she was not allowed to use the restroom. When she was found unconscious, her body was covered with excrement from soiling herself.”
It is perhaps unfair to ask Nocera how the Marcia Powell bill in Congress is faring. Powell was nothing. She wasn’t even Thai or Cambodian, so in the division of compassion neither Nocera or Kristof have any reason to care about her. And yet, somehow, I find it leaves a certain, well, taste in my mouth when I see NYT liberals or neo-liberals go on about the human rights wrongs – especially against billionaires – of the Putins of the world. When Jimmy Carter started the American foreign policy shift towards human rights, there were already 450 000 americans in prison. The rate of growth since then has the look of, maybe, something not so humans rightsish – according to the ACLU:
“From 1980 to 2010, the United States prison population grew over 11 times faster than the
general population. During this time, the general population increased by 36%, while the
state and federal prison population increased by over 400%.”
Bad boys bad boys whatcha gonna do? In any case, as we all pray that the exiled billionaires from Russia get back the possessions they so cleverly stole during the “wild west days” (oh those bad boys) and can investigate the corruption of the Putin clique, we also might spare a little time, o a second, a firefly’s flicker, to such as Marcia Powell. They deserve nothing and should, of course, die on the street – but think how much it cost the taxpaper to build a cage to keep her in while she boiled to death in the Arizona sun! Really, perhaps we should charge her family for those expenses.