Politics & Policy

Get Out of Jail Free

To the entrepreneurial mind, the release of 46,000 California prisoners leads to a great real-estate opportunity.

I always knew there was something I liked about Justice Anthony Kennedy, and now, having read his Solomonic decision in Brown v. Plata, I know what it is. He has completely slipped the bonds of the reality-based community — you know, the one in which recently released criminals with an urge for societal payback come climbing through your window like a pirate boarding a ship filled with convent-raised virgins — and now dwells in those rarefied precincts where the prisons are empty, the lion lies down with the lamb, and government officials are driven in armored cars from one protected location to another.

In other words, he’s as dissociated from the consequences of his policy choices as we are. Welcome to the liberal-Democrat clubhouse, Tony! We’ve been saving you a seat for what seems like ages.

So what if after this decision the less salubrious precincts of California will quickly start to resemble The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even? Our Man Kennedy has a mind worthy of the great Duchamp himself — he can look at a nuthouse and see an ordered universe. The work of art that is Tony’s brain has been carefully cultivated and nourished ever since your boy Ronnie put him on the High Court back in 1988, and now his personal long march through the institution of the third branch of government is nearly complete. Just one more vote — the crucial swing vote on Obamacare — and his work is done. Somewhere, Marbury and Madison and John Marshall and their twelve best friends are beaming.

Can you wingnuts pick ’em or what? Earl Warren, the Minnesota Twins, Sandy Baby, David Souter — with enemies like you we progressives don’t need friends!

At a single bound, Turn ’Em Loose Tony just appropriated a whole lotta new turf for the Supes, including the prerogative to supervise state penal systems if the wardens don’t tuck the inmates in at night and leave a courtesy mint on the pillow. Sure, the saturnine duo of Scalia and Alito objected, but who the heck are they to talk? They just greenlighted the cops’ breaking down your door without a warrant if the Law thinks it smells a joint and hears the sound of a toilet flushing. If they’re to be intellectually consistent, they should have sided with the majority, since the result of their Fourth Amendment demolition derby is likely to be more potheads in the can — Make Room for Doobie!

Let me tell you, the Big Tone is really on to something here, for if there’s one amendment in the Bill of “Rights” we love more than any other — always excepting the Fifth, of course! — it’s the Eighth. It’s short and sweet — Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted — but oh what a world of mischief is contained therein. Since we believe there should almost never be any consequences for any individual action — that would be judgmental — we look at the Eighth Amendment as basically a Get Out of Jail Free card, since by our definition any punishment is cruel and unusual.

But to combine it with health care . . . now that is sheer genius. Who knew that the long arm of Obamacare was already snaking into the Big House? “Needless suffering and death” is taking place in prisons. Too many bad guys are stuffed into San Q and Atascadero like Fifties college students in a phone booth, or illegal aliens in a coyote van, or munchkins in a day-care center, and how the hell do you expect the state to take care of them all?

As we know from every prison movie ever made, most of the poor johnnies away at college are only there because of the iniquity of the capitalist system: They’re depraved on account of they’re deprived. Deep down, like George Raft at the end of Each Dawn I Die, they’ve got a heart of gold, even when they’re crowbarring the brains out of the screws. So why shouldn’t they have the finest health care the state of California can offer? Maybe crime doesn’t pay, but it sure is costing the taxpaying saps a fortune in benefits.

So something has to be done, and that something is to turn 46,000 poor suffering cons out into the street, where like Morgan Freeman in The Shawshank Redemption they’ll do their darnedest to try to go straight. After all, all they really want is a chance to lead socially useful, productive lives as wards of the state, and if they can’t do it in stir, they might as well do it in your living room, especially if you have a nubile daughter or two, satellite television, and a well-stocked fridge.

What could possibly go wrong?

Well, you never know, so that’s why I’ve sent a registered letter to all five sentient members of the Court, asking them to partner up with me in a real-estate transaction or two. I realize that some bluenoses might get their bluestockings in a bunch over what you wingnuts could deem a “conflict of interest,” but as George Washington Plunkitt said about his various real-estate deals in Tammany-run Manhattan, I’m seein’ my opportunities and I’m damn well takin’ ’em. Here’s the plan:

Since, geographically, most of California doesn’t vote for us anyway, we’re going to build a fence — not a virtual fence, but a real, honest-to-Gaia, Berlin Wall–type fence — 20 feet tall, electrified, with poisoned barbed wire on top. I’m still working out the details with my architectural firm, Elbridge, Gerry & Associates, but the basic plan is to wall off the entire west side of Los Angeles at the San Diego Freeway, then snake the fence east along Wilshire Boulevard to Western Avenue, then up to include Los Feliz. My own beloved neighborhood of Echo Park, alas, will stand outside the wall, but it will be heavily patrolled by the Ramparts Division of the LAPD, so we’ll be all right, thanks for asking.

San Francisco is even easier: Since the city is surrounded by water on three sides, we simply wall off the southern boundary, leaving a cordon sanitaire to the airport and across the Golden Gate Bridge to Marin. Nobody lives in Colma anyway.

Think of the upside. Real-estate values in what we’ll call Blue California will soar. Hardly anybody we know will be inconvenienced. Life as we’ve always known it will go on as before, serene, placid, with pretty girls, good restaurants, and no visible means of support. The rest of you . . . well, you’re always banging on about self-sufficiency and suchlike, so enjoy the jungle.

Sure, the Mexicans who currently raise our kids, mow our lawns, and take out the trash will have to have secure ID cards, but that will be fine with us, just as long as they’re not required for, you know, voting. And wouldn’t you know it, the Supreme Court has — entirely coincidentally — just delivered itself of a new opinion, Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting, and whaddaya know?

By a 5–3 vote, with Kagan abstaining and Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor dissenting, they just ruled that it’s okay to check credentials via E-Verify. Now all we need is the card and we’re in business.

Thanks, Tony! You da Man!

— David Kahane is thrilled to be leaving the uncertainties of screenwriting for a while to embrace a sure thing. You can get in on the Blue California action by e-mailing him at kahanenro@gmail.com or by purchasing his book, Rules for Radical Conservatives, and then passing a simple 50-page quiz on the Frankfurt School and the Cloward-Piven strategy. Remember, minimum buy-in is the sum of $1 million, unless you can show your Party card.

Since February 2007, Michael Walsh has written for National Review both under his own name and the name of David Kahane, a fictional persona described as “a Hollywood liberal who ...


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