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Piling On

Martha Stewart resentenced. Plus much more.

3.8.04

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JUDGING MARTHA STEWART
Re: Reid Collins's Tembrel Rolling:

For the life of me I cannot understand the infatuation of many Conservatives and Republicans with the idea of Martha Stewart's innocence.

Agreed, the interpretations of insider-trading law need further tuning, and agreed that Stewart's broker was perhaps unfairly caught in its coils. Agreed, that Martha will pay (and already has paid) a high price for a relatively minor crime, and agreed that many of the stockholders in her company will be caught in the undertow.

But what's the other side of it? Should "relatively" minor theft by a wealthy person go unpunished? Should only the worst examples of using inside knowledge be prosecuted? Should a celebrity have received breaks that you or I would not get under similar circumstances? I think not. And we should remember that at many stages Martha could have called a halt to the proceedings by telling the truth; she might have received penalties but certainly not as severe as what she now faces.

In the end, her main mistakes were arrogance and, perhaps, stupidity: the belief that her interpretation of the laws would be proved correct, that her worshipers would make it to the jury, that her supporters great and small could favorably affect the outcome. In other words, she committed worse than a crime -- she committed a mistake.

And as for Reid Collins' laughable assertion that based on historical precedent she deserved to be tried before a jury of wealthy CEOs and company founders (not his exact words, of course), isn't this a bit like insisting that John Wilkes Booth be tried by a panel of actors?
-- Richard Donley

"[C]onsider the motives for fibbing to the feds, or fabricating a stop-loss agreement with the broker."

With these few words, Mr. Collins has done considerable damage to your magazine's well deserved reputation for holding individuals responsible for their actions, no matter the individual's station in life or "good intent" (e.g. Bill Clinton and cohorts). When one commits a crime not (primarily) for his own benefit, but for the benefit of one of the "little people," he is still guilty of a crime.

Society may have more respect for the criminal who acts out of noblesse oblige than it does for the man who perpetrates his crime out of greed or anger, but the crime is the same. One must tell the truth. It is both honorable and right. When caught out in the act of doing wrong, whatever the motivation, the moral person must admit the error and ask for mercy.

Does anyone doubt that had Martha Stewart followed the foregoing policy of truth that she would today be happily helping us live more gracious lives, all the while earning money, quite justly, by the bucketful? I don't think so. The moral of the story is, if one does not wish to be judged by the envious Chapell Hartridges of this veil of tears we call life, don't lie to save your broker's job and your reputation.
-- Dan Hagen
Columbus, Ohio

"But here is the problem with Kelly-Hartridge: the case has nothing -- nada -- to do with the 'little guys who lose money in the market...' By selling ImClone at a fortuitous moment, Martha Stewart did not cost any other little guys anything, unlike the robber baron CEO's the feds and Hartridges would equate her with, who took tons of money out of their companies' coffers with the complicity of congenial board members and compliant accountants."

I don't get it. Would not the people buying the stock that Martha and others dumped because they "knew" something that no one else knew be left with vastly devalued stock? Did anybody ask those people what they thought of their purchase of that stock? I think little people or not, they probably wanted some justice done. It is kind of interesting to see the flip side of the IPO that being stock dumping and its effect on those who can play and those who are left out. The little guy and the non-privileged always get burned.
-- Jeff Brownell
Herndon, Virginia

Martha fumbled the first rule of dealing with the Feds -- providing more than her Social Security number and Drivers License without her legal council on speed dial. She served a Coq au Vin in deposition when she should have been cleansing their discovery with a Raspberry Coulis. To offer anything else is "A Bad Thing."
-- John McGinnis

I wonder if the critics of Martha Stewart who also support John Kerry realize the irony of their positions? Ms. Stewart is facing jail time for lying to federal investigators about something that never happened, whereas Mr. Kerry testified before Congress about something that never happened and was rewarded a U.S. Senate seat.

The fact is, thousands of anti-war correspondents were unable to document commonplace American atrocities in Vietnam, and yet Mr. Kerry deliberately offered accounts of such as if they were established fact. He knew or should have known the accounts were false and he profited from his false testimony.

Martha Stewart was wrong to lie at the beginning an insider trading investigation but at least she saw the error of her ways long before she went to court. On the other hand, Mr. Kerry, like Bill Clinton, had plenty of time to get his story straight before he raised his hand and swore to God to tell the truth. The deliberateness of their deceptions in the most solemn of venues renders their misdeeds, if you'll forgive the pun, unpardonable
-- Brian Fortin
Catharpin, Virginia

ONLY ONE SOLUTION
Re: Jed Babbin's March SGO:

As usual, Jed tells it like it is, and lets the chips where they may. North Korea is a text-book example of what happens when we trust dictators and terrorists to do what they say they will do.

The lesson I've taken from the article is that we must work very hard to re-elect the President. The war, much as some people would have us gradually just forget, goes on. As much as I disagree with the President's immigration policies, it is evident that the last person we need in office is a wishy-washy flip-flopper like John (Oh, by the way, I served in Vietnam. Or did I already tell you that? Yeah, John, you did. About ten thousand times!) Kerry. Most veterans know Kerry for what he is. I urge everyone who has any hope that Kerry can do the job to look very carefully at his sorry Senate record and realize the folly of such hope.
-- Mike Webster
Dallas, Texas

A WHOLE OTHER PERSPECTIVE
Re: K. Andrew Jackson's Retail Politics:

Were the Walton Family not already so despicable for their neglect of their employees' wages and benefits and their ruinous effect on small businesses struggling to stay alive in this country, we have yet another fact to hate them for: No Child Left Behind. Turns out that the Walton family backs this legislation in order to bring about the demise of the nation's public schools and force taxpayers to support vouchers for home schools and private school academies so prevalent in the suburbs. As reported in the Black Commentator: The family will endow up to $20 billion to their non-profit empire over the next few years. The family currently spends about $100 million annually to influence the political direction of the nation, the great bulk of it in the education arena. If the rumors are true, the most reactionary super-rich family in America could soon by doling out $1 billion a year. If an alternative, right-wing political leadership ever emerges in Black America, its lineage will be traced directly to the rich white racists who invented the voucher "movement."
-- Carol Bronder
St. Paul, Minnesota

SEIU AIMS TO NOT SERVE
Re: The Washington Prowler's Dueling Democrats: Room Service:

How dare they? This was one convention they didn't want coming to New York? What would happen if NO ONE came EVER AGAIN and all the hotels that supply their jobs had to close down -- how would they like their situation then? They'd probably just blame the Republicans.

How do these people become so programmed? Is there no one on the left who thinks independently and for themselves? Is it the rank and file or is it the union honchos that are driving the ship and delivering this bilge? I mean, I thought this stuff only happened in fiction! Unbelievable.
-- Alex Pinsdorf
Lake Success, New York

MAKE IT SNAPPY
Re: Eric Peters' Points Spread and the "Caught in the Fast Lane" letters in Reader Mail's Wal-Mart Marked Off:

In response to some letters for this article and a past article about seat belt laws. If a motorist gets into an accident and lacked the foresight to wear a seat belt, the insurance policy should state that the insurance company is under no obligation to pay and the hospitals should be allowed to refuse care if they won't get paid. This may seem heartless and cruel. However, this policy would only have to be enforced a few times to make people voluntarily buckle up. Even the dimmest can learn by their own or other's mistakes.

This could also be used for health insurance. Instead of increasing the premiums for smoking, drug abuse, alcohol abuse and other high-risk activities, just allow insurance companies to exempt any illness resulting from those activities. Government could use the same policy. Instead of suing tobacco companies for more booty, they could save money by refusing to pay for our own stupidity.

There will be a substantial number of people who will continue to act foolishly, but under a policy of society not subsidizing bad choices, we will eventually reduce the number of people who make bad decisions. In the end it will be more effective, less costly and less oppressive.
-- John Sharkey
Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey

Regarding the piece, "Points Spread" by Eric Peters: I strongly agree with Mr. Peters' basic position, the assigning of points against one's license for infractions which are not safety related is a serious abuse of authority. I do find the assertion that this is the "latest in thing" rather odd -- I got points against my license in a Maryland suburb of Washington for hitchhiking in 1970. I was a teenager and didn't even have a license yet. I was standing off the pavement in a clearly visible spot with plenty of room to pull onto the shoulder. There was no safety issue.

I propose that drivers be tested on the automobile equivalent of a flight simulator, with real pedals and steering wheel. This way it's possible to test actual ability to handle potential accidents. The current driving tests only measure the ability to work the levers and remember abstract concepts. The simulators can be used to develop actual driving skill, a quality hardly known in contemporary life. If we have to pay for licenses to drive in the name of safety, the process should really address safety and the outcome should be
measurable improvement. What we have now is just revenue enhancement.
-- unsigned

ONE-TWO PUNCH
Re: Andrew Macfadyen, M.D.'s letter (under "Caught in the Fast Lane") and Anne Hanlon's letter (under "Wal-Mart Special") in Reader Mail's Wal-Mart Marked Off:

a) To Doc Macfadyen, who writes: "But feel free to drive around without your seatbelt on. Reminds me of those "This is your brain..." commercials."" Just the point, doc, I don't "feel free" to drive around without my seatbelt on, as there is a law against it. Duuhhuh. Just as, I don't feel free to do insider trading, as there is a law against it. Same with bank robbery, cow-tipping, and shooting up deer-crossing signs. Plus, this whole thing about Martha Stewart is giving me the willies about doing illegal stuff -- she's so dang cute ...

BTW, I ride with a helmet on my motorcycle 99% of the time, but I sure don't believe in helmet laws. I hope I don't catch you in the ER in the same foul mood you were in when you wrote your letter either -- or I'll demand a second opinion whenever I wake up.

(b) In response to Mrs. Hanlon from NH (so much for living free or dying, huh?):

"This store got rid of our other discount stores and is not necessarily the cheap for poor people store. One can shop at Macy's or Filene's for clothing and other goods at a much better price when they have their weekly sales and the goods are superior to Wal-Mart's."

Let's see here, their prices don't beat the other stores, but they magically put them out of business. Why would the other discount stores go out of business if people are still shopping there? Why would people not shop at the other stores, if the prices beat Wal-Mart.

Maybe, Anne, you are not poor enough to notice the difference. Wal-Mart has always got good prices on 1G juice and stuff like that. Maybe "one" can shop at Macy's, but I guarantee the flannel shirts will be cheaper at Wal-Mart, when they ever get them in medium (see, the service is bad, so it's a trade-off - some poorer people prefer the price side of the trade-off.)

Keep up the good work, Spectator.
-- Jimmy Antley
Gadsden, Alabama

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