The question is who gets the cupcake?
In 2007 Freddie Mac's Chairman earned 18,289,575. Fannie Mae CEO Daniel Mudd made only $13.4 million, but take into account that his company had lost $2.1 billion and its shares had fallen 33%.
Between 1993 and 2006 Bear Stearns' CEO James Cayne is said to have made $236 million. As of this writing, neither of the first two executives appears likely to suffer the indignity of a pay cut. The only reason that can't be said of Cayne is because he managed to get out before the company went belly-up.
In the July 21 Newsweek, Stuart Taylor argues against a criminal investigation of administration officials involved in torture. It's not that Taylor approves of torture, he just feels that a trial of torturers would be too long and divisive: too partisan.
And so he recommends that President Bush "pardon any official from cabinet secretary on down who might plausibly face prosecution." This presumably would include former Attorneys General John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzalez, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, former Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo, former Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee, and David Addington, formerly counsel to Vice President Dick Cheney and, since 2005, his Chief of Staff. Taylor also feels that it would be "unseemly" for Bush to pardon either Cheney or himself, but assures us that "the next president wouldn't allow them to be prosecuted anyway."
What these events have in common is the theme of impunity, from the Latin root punire, to punish. It's the idea that certain people are exempt from the punishments meted out by criminal or civil law, or even the law of the marketplace, which usually dictates that the executives of a failiing company should be forced to resign in disgrace, or at least take very large pay cuts.
Impunity was a characteristic of ancient and medieval societies. It still characterizes ones in Africa and the Middle East. In those countries it's taken for granted that the dictator's son can order the kidnapping of young women who catch his fancy and, following their delivery, rape them.
It is expected that the each of the Leader's ministers will be given his own personal state enterprise to plunder to the floorboards.
It is assumed that the State can designate whomever it chooses as its enemies, to be treated as it sees fit.
We don't like to think of these things happening in the U.S.
The attorney Donald Goodrich has acquainted me with the ideas of the early 20th-century law professor Wesley Hohfeld, who illustrated the internal relationships among different fundamental legal rights by drawing up tables of jural opposites and correlatives:
Right Privilege Power Immunity
No-Right Duty Disability Liability
A privilege is the opposite of a duty; a no-right is the opposite of a right. A disability is the opposite of a power; an immunity is the opposite of a liability
Right Privilege Power Immunity
Duty No-Right Liability Disability
"Close relatives of the term 'impunity,' Goodrich writes, "are 'immunity' and 'privilege.' Every grant of 'immunity,' whose opposite is 'liability,' creates a 'disability' - the opposite of 'power.' In the context of the government bail-out of failed/failing corporations, the jural opposites and correlatives of 'privilege' take one to the relationships between rights and duties: One has no rights vis-à-vis the privileged and they owe no duties."
Of course, under this state of affairs, the rest of us are disabled.
Causes Peter Trachtenberg Supports
Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Mercy Corps, Move On, Oxfam