1. Could anything be more cliched than this? Riffing off the same article about minimum-security prisons in The American that I wrote about here, a lazy-minded writer named Peter Carlson goes on autopilot and comes up with a column that soothes every liberal prejudice without engaging any of the issues honestly. To get himself off — a vulgar way of putting it, I realize, but that’s the way the story feels — he is forced to recast Luke Mullins’ story as an apologia for rich, crooked CEOs by a magazine sponsored by a think-tank devoted to “the welfare of the rich.”
Missing the point entirely, Carlson apparently thinks the story was about this:
Now, white-collar miscreants are forced to mingle with common street-level dope dealers. And they have to work for seven hours a day — sometimes at jobs that are boring and unfulfilling and beneath them. And some of these former country clubs no longer have a tennis court — or even a bocce court! And inmates are forced to wear tacky prison garb instead of their stylish street clothes.
The horror! The horror!
Okay, Carlson, are you feeling better now? Then why don’t you ponder for a minute or two why the “dope dealers” are in these prisons. You have to put two and two together. Minimum security prisons are reserved for non-violent federal felons. Why are non-violent “dope dealers” doing federal time at all? Obviously, you’re amused by the notion of white-collar convicts being forced to mix with them, but the “dope-dealers” are human, too — not just characters in your hack morality play. Have you done any reading about the human consequences of the war on drugs? Didn’t think so.
And while I’m sure you had a ball mocking the “high-class folks” now being warehoused at taxpayers’ expense, aren’t you the least bit curious about how many of these supposed powerhouses of capitalism actually belong there — and how many of them are actually “rich?”
Mullins didn’t interview any CEOs; my guess is because he didn’t run into any. The way our system works now, the CEOs generally aren’t the prosecutors’ targets. CEOs are too wealthy, too well-insulated and, if they were aware they were doing something wrong, they made sure not to get their hands dirty. In a typical white collar case of the past five years, the “higher-ups” work with the government to nail the “lower-downs,” which makes the government’s job so much easier. The feds get to look like they’re doing something important, while the stockholders interests are protected.
Obviously, I’m sensitive on this subject, but it burns me that a prestigious newspaper like the Washington Post publishes the writings of a pampered fool like Peter Carlson who, instead of doing any real thinking or reporting, just rolls out the creaky boxcars of received wisdom. If it’s my fate to go to a minimum security prison in the near or distant future, it doesn’t scare me in the least; and I certainly don’t plan on going in with an attitude that I’m better than any of my fellow inmates. But there’s a side of me — petty, to be sure — that wishes for the same fate for a Peter Carlson, a scribe who thinks he’s above everyone — CEO and “dope dealer” alike. How long would that snarky smile last? Measurable in seconds.
2. It took her almost a week, but it was worth the wait: Ann Althouse took a careful, Tivo-aided look at last Sunday’s episode of “The Sopranos,” the one in which Tony kills Christopher after a car accident. It’s a tour de force, and I say that even though I disagree with her ultimate conclusion — that Tony is now dead.
I post these paragraphs just as a sample. You should read all of it:
Carmela makes Tony a cup of coffee with that expensive expresso machine Paulie gave her in the April 22 episode. Tony says “It’s good.” At least something is good. They have a conversation that brings out the mother theme. (I note that Paulie’s aunt/mother Nucci also dies in this episode, and there’s a fair amount of childish whining by Paulie on the subject.) Carmela, crying over Christopher’s death, says that when Tony was in the hospital — back during that coma-dream — “It was Christopher who held me.” This mother-son image prompts Tony to bring up the baby seat in the SUV after the crash. It had a tree limb in it, so if the baby had been in the car, it would have been “mangled beyond recognition.” Carmela stomps off, and Tony is left holding out his empty arms toward her in a way that says this boy has no mother.
The following scene is Tony’s real session with Melfi, and he’s talking about mothering. He’s disgusted that Christopher’s mother is showing up now and soaking up all the sympathy, when she didn’t mother him well during his life. He says, “I hand carried him through the worse crisis he ever had.” “Hand carried” is an odd expression, but it conveys the image of a mother carrying a baby. Of course, it’s completely ridiculous for Tony to think he ought to be getting the sympathy when he’s the murderer. Tony thinks Chris was ungrateful, that his hand carrying only inspired hate. Well, yeah. It consisted of offing Adriana.
This sequence of mother-themed scenes culminates in a gathering of various mothers in the Soprano living room. Tony wanders out of his bedroom and looks down on them from the upstairs railing. Christopher’s baby is there. Christopher’s mother says: “She doesn’t know. Isn’t God wonderful that way?” Christopher’s wife pulls out her large breast and as the baby takes it, Tony snaps open the cell phone. He’s calling some guy in Las Vegas. “I need a suite.” The guy offers a plane too. Enough of the female. Bring on the phallic symbol. Escape from the family sphere into the realm of sin.