Not a very happy birthday for your Diarist.
Alex and I are in Scottsdale, Arizona, one of our favorite places on this earth, for a dreary, horrible errand. One of the finest people I have ever known is about to go to prison for doing something foolish but by no means malicious. Basically, this man, whom I will call simply “B”, was in a small business that had done fairly well for many years and even decades.
Because of various business trends, he found it difficult to borrow money from banks for his business.
So, he borrowed money from private lenders at spectacularly high interest rates. He definitely did not adequately warn the lenders of the risks involved in the loans. Still, he would probably have been able to repay them if these were better times. But the economy crashed and burned and he could not pay back the loans.
One or two (or maybe more) of the lenders raised a huge ruckus about the loans and — to make a long horror story short — managed to persuade the state of Arizona to prosecute my friend for alleged fraud and many other improprieties.
Once the state was on the case, the result was bound to be terrible for B. He had no money to speak of, had always lived modestly, and defending a complex white-collar case against the government is wildly expensive. He had fine lawyers, but he could not afford long, complex litigation. By then, his business was virtually nil and he could only hope for the best possible plea bargain versus the state of Arizona.
My view of the case has always been that B basically did the same as millions of homeowners — borrowed money that he could not repay because of factors beyond his control. In no sense did he ever intend to fail to repay the loans: economic conditions made repayment impossible.
If B is guilty of a crime, so are millions of homeowners who could not pay their mortgages. So it seems to me. I very respectfully put that suggestion to the prosecutors, who brushed it off. I am sure they meant to do the best they possibly could for the state of Arizona and they are competent professionals. But B is not a criminal if by criminal one means someone who intended harm. That much is clear to me.
Anyway, it’s all over now, baby blue. B is going to appear in court tomorrow morning. Alex and I are here to show the flag. Tonight, we took him to dinner at a fine restaurant at the Scottsdale Fairmont Princess, a beautiful hotel.
We talked about what prison will be like (awful), how we can send him letters in prison (complicated), how we can talk to him in prison (much more complicated), and the kind of work he can do when he gets out. We reminisced about autres temps, autres moeurs, often at the much missed Morton’s. We talked about topics for books he can write when he is a free man again. He is a superb writer.
I felt wave after wave of panic wash over me as we ate. In my long life, I have known thousands of men and women. I have known maybe a hundred of them well. I have never met a kinder, more empathetic, generous spirited, patient, loving man than B. He is brilliantly insightful, never judgmental, always a fount of sympathy.
In a world of hardened, hidden personalities, B is open, giving, vulnerable. No one I have ever talked to, not even my stupendous super shrink, Paul, nor my ultra-thoughtful and wonderful Phil DeMuth, nor even the miraculous Al and Sally Burton, has ever been more encouraging and life affirming. He may well be even close to the ideal human — my wife — in kindness.
For the government to send this man to prison is, as they say, to kill a mockingbird.
Not to mention, B owes a great deal of money to his lenders. If he were put on probation, he might be able to repay at least some of it. But working making license plates or whatever he will do, at 15 cents per hour, then emerging with a prison record — well, repayment will be a tough row to hoe.
So, with heavy heart, we ate our meals, bid B good night, and then went back to our rooms. I can only pray that someone, somehow, sees the manifest nonsense and cruelty of sending B to prison and lets him out early. This man is a saint. I will miss him terribly. He will suffer terribly. The lenders will not get any money back. Where is the sense in this? Isn’t recompense better than revenge?
Meanwhile, back in my room, I watched the TV news about the war between Hamas (really Iran) and Israel. One of the beaux cadeaux of “Arab Spring” — Egypt, which once helped keep the peace, is now looking the other way as Iran sends heavy missiles to the Hamas and starts a war. What an idiotic idea it was for us to throw Mubarak under the bus. Typical. We did it to the Shah, too. The results might literally end the world.
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Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
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The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
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