New Year’s Greetings…

…to Tonya and Ethan Couch, just regular folks from east Texas. Ethan who was 16 two years ago got drunk and plowed his car into a gathering of pedestrians, killing four of them and injuring nine, two seriously. His punishment? Ten years of probation—rich people get smart attorneys and smart attorneys concoct “affluenza” arguments. Everyone was angry, even angrier early this month when Young Ethan and his mother—from whom he apparently “caught” affluenza—fled to Mexico. A few days back they were caught and people felt Ethan would finally get what’s coming to him. He won’t. All he did was violate probation: his punishment will probably be more probation. His mother, however, could do time, and that might make us feel better. But even though nobody asked me, I’d feel better if she could trade places with the mother of the 12-year-old Cleveland boy who was shot by police while waving a toy gun in a public park. We have two legal systems—I’d like to see her involved in the other.

That 12-year-old boy’s name was Tamir Rice, and the toy gun he was waving was actually a pellet gun that looked for all the world like a real weapon. Most experts claim that no one could have discerned the difference from twenty feet away, and though a police officer who might have been familiar with guns could have been more aware, this is more a tragedy than a murder. I understand the outrage in Cleveland and elsewhere, but I don’t know how we avoid these kinds of situations—unless we’re rich and white. I cannot imagine two policeman pulling up to a young, nicely dressed white man in an affluent neighborhood and simply shooting him. Ethan Couch waving a pellet gun on the grounds of Anderson Private School would probably have earned him a stern talking to, despite his previous run-ins with the law, with alcohol, with authority. Two legal systems—two justice systems.

…to Martin Shkreli, well as Mr. Potter says in It’s A Wonderful Life, “Happy New Year to you…in jail!” Shkreli as you know is the clever businessman who jacked up the prices of some drugs 5000%. The price of a dose of the drug Daraprim (an HIV medication) increased from $13.50 to $750 per pill overnight. Weeks later when Shkreli was arrested for securities fraud, he seemed unrepentant, claiming he was playing the Wall St. game with everyone else. What he should have said was that he was playing the pharmaceutical game—drug companies have been Shkrelizing us forever. They’re just smart enough to do it more slowly and less conspicuously. All those good feelings we had when Shkreli got his comeuppance should be tempered a bit by the fact that although someone as intemperate and venal as Shkreli isn’t in bed with Congress, the pharmaceutical outfits continue to be.

But let’s end the year on a high note—Steve Harvey did eventually crown the correct Miss Universe.

So there’s that.


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