Random Rants, by Thomas Andrew Olson

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Perhaps we should see more of this at home

Two interesting articles caught my eye yesterday: (1) The Chinese equivalent of the US Food and Drug Administration chief was actually sentenced to death for his key role in a corruption/bribery scandal leading to the poisoning and potential deaths of their US-export customers and their pets; and (2) Japan's Agriculture Minister hanged himself in shame, over allegations of significant bookkeeping fraud.

Now, those who know me know that I'm big on fundamental human rights, particularly protecting the rights of the accused, with the presumption of innocence, right up to the point where they are in fact convicted of crimes in a court of law, with all the rules of evidence respected.

But having said that, after all the formalities have been done, punishment should indeed be swift and terrible for high government officials who fail to honor the trust the public placed in them. It is ironic indeed that China, not exactly the greatest example of human rights protections in the world, would protect the integrity of public service in this way, whereas official miscreants in this country are not only protected to the bitter end, but if imprisoned at all, are sent to a minimum-security "Club Fed" facility, and then upon release are feted with book deals and high-fee lecture tours. Some, like Oliver North and G. Gordon Liddy, become talk radio hosts.

Japan, at least, as evidenced by the link above, still has high ethical scruples encoded into its society's DNA, and those officials who yield to temptation while in office, feel the only way to redeem their honor is to sacrifice themselves. We may not understand this attitude in the West, but I must admit a certain grudging admiration for it. I wish more officials in my own government, when confronted with egregious errors in judgement leading to the deaths of thousands, would fall on their own swords, even metaphorically. But given the moral cowardice evinced by todays "leaders", China's road would be the more practical for the US - i.e., severe, inescapable penalties for official misconduct or malfeasance.

Perhaps this would discourage more of the ilk of a Gonzales or Cheney from seeking public office and power, knowing they may face long prison terms, or even a firing squad, for abusing their offices in a corrupt manner unworthy of a free people.

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