Last updated 12/20/2022 at Noon

Americans nurture a long-running obsession with criminals, from Jesse James to John Dillinger to Bernie Madoff, so it’s no surprise that FTX charlatan Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF) was able to enjoy a guilt-free series of softball interviews—and even a fawning ovation sponsored by the New York Times—in the days leading up to his arrest.

It remains to be seen how well his“These aren’t my pants” defense (the same line used by street-level dope dealers everywhere) will hold up in federal court, given his exposure.

SBF’s attorneys might consider having him write an “I’m Not Suicidal” statement before he winds up in a New York jail where the security cameras are out of service and the guards take frequent naps.

$15 billion is a lot of other people’s money to lose at the craps table.

Nowhere is the American crush on criminal nitwits, even violent ones, on better display than in the state of Illinois, which has recently eliminated cash-bail. The reasoning behind the no-bail movement is that poor defendants, mostly Black, can’t afford it, which is a strange new obsession among legislators who should be less concerned with poor criminals of any skin tone, and far more concerned with law-abiding victims of any tax bracket.

What people really can’t afford is to be repeatedly victimized by crooks. In Cook County, Illinois, between 2017 and 2021, some 15,000 hoods were freed without bail and went capering — mostly in poor neighborhoods —again. Apparently, people in Cook County just love being robbed, burgled, carjacked, or even shot at, because last year 1,002 people were murdered by gunfire, and as of November of this year 3,258 people in Chicago have been shot.

Those numbers read like the casualty figures from combat in Donetsk, even though Chicago has some of the strictest gun-control laws anywhere in America. They don’t appear to be working there, either, which one supposes can only be properly explained as very, very weird, given so many passionate assurances that gun laws reduce gun crimes.

The magnitude of criminal celebrity is usually tied to the audacity of the crime and spins off its own industries — most profitably in the entertainment universe. But it shows up in lesser forms as well because Bernie Madoff’s game-worn boxer shorts sold at auction for $200, and Charles Manson was perpetually inundated with marriage proposals until he finally died, asphyxiated under a mountain of fan mail. SBF was a darling of the crypto-climate imaginarium and incidentally vegan —so collectors of jailbird memorabilia might want to watch the art markets for his Free the Milk Cows silly cup and artisanal Peruvian chopsticks — which will eventually be worth a fortune.

Mining crypto is one of the most energy-intensive industries on the planet, which might make it anathema to climate warriors, except that it somehow doesn’t. That’s true even as the tonsured disciples of climate change continue their rapid evolution into what amounts to an ultra-orthodox religion. There are some fascinating parallels between the climate zealots of our day and the medieval Christian church, which aren’t limited to missionaries throwing soup on priceless artwork, the trotting out of doomsaying child prophets, and the always lucrative selling of dispensations to serial sinners.

SBF, of course, was well on his way to becoming a cardinal in the Church of Our Holy Climate after dropping $40 million in the collection plates of mostly left-wing politicians —and somehow convincing Major League Baseball’s umpires to stitch the FTX logo on their uniforms. The former earns a big meh, because that’s how America works. But the latter is extremely disconcerting because it is hard to accept that people who rep for a make-believe asset can be trusted to call real balls and strikes.

SBF being clapped in bracelets 24 hours before his expected congressional testimony is no accident, and it’s mostly amusing to see historically terrible legislators such as Maxine Waters pivoting so hard and so publicly to disavow their once cozy relationship. One suspects that SBF, the Jerry Falwell Jr. of America’s crypto-climate megachurch, has a few secrets he’d love to share — in exchange for a reduced sentence — with the notoriously efficient, competent, and nonpartisan Department of Justice.

If he’s found guilty. Which is always in doubt because it doesn’t take much to get a driver’s license, and a driver’s license and a heartbeat are about all you need to sit on a jury.

We will soon know what level of celebrity Sam Brinton can achieve. Brinton was an expert on nuclear fuel and radioactive waste, and an official in the Department of Energy until being arrested for stealing expensive luggage from airport carousels in Minneapolis and Las Vegas. And wearing the women’s clothes he found inside. There is probably a way to trace this behavior back to Oppenheimer, whose Manhattan Project unleashed a chain reaction of ever-expanding nihilism across the planet, but for now it’s enough to know that, unlike SBF, when Brinton tries to explain away his crime by saying “these aren’t my panties,” they really aren’t.

Thank God that pitchers and catchers report to spring training in less than two months. We can make good use of more bread and circuses around here.


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