Affluenza - The plight of poor rich white folk
Money: The root of all evil
Though the actual phrase is "The love of money is the root of all evil" (from Timothy 6:10 in, you guessed it, The Bible), let's go with the bastardized version for sake of this rant.
From the Republican and Ecclesiastical rape of their beloved Christ's words to abuse of power in the name of protecting their children, money has long been the primary source of corruption in whatever hall of power one can conceive. And it soon rubs off. Everyone, it seems, can be bought and getting away with murder is literally just a matter of having a substantial amount of coins to rub together.
Growing up in household of hypocritical, nebulous values, it seems, causes a disease. A disease only treatable with kid's gloves and tolerance not afforded anyone non-white and/or poor.
The term "Affluenza" is a combination of the words "affluence" (i.e. wealth) and "influenza" (i.e. the flu) and was originally coined by John de Graaf, environmental scientist David Wann and economist Thomas H. Naylor in their book, Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic, published in 2001. It was later re-published in 2014 as Affluenza: How Over-Consumption is Killing Us - And How to Fight Back.
The book defined Affluenza as "a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more."
But as privilege creates more and more ludicrous public behavior (see Lindsay Lohan, Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber), the term has taken on a new meaning: the inability to comprehend the consequences of one's actions due to financial advantage.
The following are character studies illustrating the latter definition.
Ethan Couch - North Texas sheet metal royalty
On June 15, 2013 Ethan Anthony Couch drove his pickup truck into a group of six pedestrians in a Fort Worth, Texas suburb. Couch was 16 at the time, and drunk.
On the day in question, Couch was caught on surveillance footage wahoo-ing (that's Texan for taking without paying) two cases of beer from a Wal-Mart and re-enacting a circus act by stuffing seven people into a Ford F-350. An hour after the booze acquisition, Couch plowed into a stalled SUV and the people who'd come out to assist, hit a parked car, which then hit an oncoming Volkswagen Beetle. Four people died and two children were seriously injured, but no one in the truck - none of whom were wearing seatbelts - was badly hurt.
A few hours after the incident, Ethan's blood alcohol content was .24 and he tested positive for Valium, a prescription sedative. In other words, he was messed up out of his gourd and driving the equivalent of a tank at 70 mph.
He was sentenced to long-term therapy at an in-patient facility after attorneys successfully fooled the judge into believing that the kid suffered from "Affluenza," and needed rehab, not prison.
But the apple, it seems, doesn't fall far from the tree. His father has been arrested for criminal mischief, assault and - mind-bogglingly - theft by check (he owns a $15 million a year business, yet was kiting checks.) And again last year, the elder Couch, one Fred by name, was arrested for impersonating a police officer. No word as to the outcome of the most recent charge, but charges on all the earlier cases were dismissed, probably due to the writing of a check that didn't bounce. His mother was fined $500 and given six months probation for reckless driving.
And Ethan had already been busted for offenses involving a minor with alcohol, to which he pled no contest and was given probation, mandatory attendance to an alcohol awareness class and a whopping 12 hours of community service.
While the judge may not have been outright bribed in Ethan's vehicular manslaughter case, it has been speculated - correctly in my opinion - that the Couch family's ability to pay for expensive rehabilitation is what ultimately led to the joke of a sentence.
Dr. Suniya S. Luthar, a specialist in the ridiculous field of "the costs of affluence in suburban communities," disagreed with the sentence.
(BTW, I don't feel that Luthar specializing in that field is what is ridiculous. It's the fact that such a field of study even exists is what is so absurd.)
Luthar had this to say in regards to the younger Couch's sentence:
"What is the likelihood if this was an African-American, inner-city kid that grew up in a violent neighborhood to a single mother who is addicted to crack and he was caught two or three times...what is the likelihood that a judge would excuse his behavior and let him off because of how he was raised?"
It wouldn't happen. In fact, if the events in Ferguson, Missouri last year are any indication, white, rich Republicans would probably lobby to have the eligible age for the death penalty lowered to accommodate this hypothetical kid.
And what are the chances that rehab will actually change Ethan Couch? He'll still be white, privileged and will have literally gotten away with murder. Is he a future Robert Durst (see below) in the making?
Does Ethan Couch deserve jail time?
Caleb Moore - son of Alabama Chief Justice and victim of Affluenza
Alabama Chief Justice Judge Roy Moore is well known to fans of the 1st Amendment, particularly the part about separation of church and state, as Public Enemy No. 1. In 2003, during his first term as Alabama Chief Justice, Moore refused a federal order to remove a monument of the 10 Commandments from the Alabama Judicial Building - a monument he himself had commissioned in the first place. This effectively taught young Caleb Moore, who would have been around 12 at the time, that being a Moore means the rules don't apply, even when coming from a federal judge.
Fast forward to March 15, 2015. Caleb Moore, now 24, was arrested near an attempted home break-in and found to be in possession of marijuana and Xanax. This arrest was his third strike as he had been arrested for drug possession and DUI in 2011 and again pled guilty to drug-related charges in 2013.
But he chalks it up to being a normal college kid and blames "the media and crooked police officers and critics of [his] dad" for trying to destroy Judge Moore's reputation and career. He also claims to have become closer in his relationship with God, and that's all the salvation he needs.
Caleb Moore was released on $8,500 bond and is scheduled to appear in court April 7th. Judge Roy Moore has made no comment beyond confirming Caleb's arrest. Probably because he's researching ways to prove that Caleb suffers from Affluenza.
Religious Affluenza - from Victoria Osteen to Monsignor Wallin, the Pimp
In 2005, Victoria Osteen was asked to disembark a Continental Airlines flight because she went bat-crap crazy when a spill on an arm rest was not immediately cleaned up. She allegedly assaulted a flight attendant in the ensuing chaos that led to her expulsion. Though the civil case brought against her went nowhere, her laughably hyperbolic reaction to a minor accident just illustrates how affluence turns people into monsters. I'm looking at you, Alec Baldwin, and I'm a fan.
The there's the case of Monsignor Kevin Wallin, a Roman Catholic Priest who owns a head/sex shop. Yup, so not really a pimp, but I liked the way it sounded. Oh, and yeah, he was running a meth distribution ring out of his "water pipe" and "personal massager" emporium. The original plea deal included 10 years in prison, but now his lawyers are trying to re-negotiate, using his day job to get his sentence reduced because Wallin is a "man of God" who momentarily lost his way.
Like Caleb Moore, Wallin and Osteen are both using their respective "relationships with God" to rise above the petty judgments of man and court alike.
Amen and Hallelujah! Pass the pipe and pills and be sure there's someone to clean up after me!
Robert Durst - not a kid anymore, but still....
While it's obvious that "Poster Child for Affluenza" is not fitting, "Poster Septuagenarian" is just way too much of a mouthful. But semantics aside, Robert Durst is the epitome of affluence run amok.
I'm pretty sure everyone is familiar with Durst's story by now, but for those living under a rock only emerging to read my borderline psychopathic rants, here's a run-down.
Robert Durst was born in 1943 to a real estate mogul. He never knew anything remotely resembling poverty, but most likely suffered trauma when his mother either fell or jumped off the roof of the family home when he was seven. While not officially ruled a suicide, there's not any really good reason why a grown, rich woman would be on the roof of the house. I'm sure they had people to clean the gutters.
In 1982, Kathleen "Kathie" McCormack, Durst's estranged wife of almost a decade disappeared. They were separated and he was shacked up with another woman at the time. Nothing really came of it until 2000, when a long-time friend of Kathie's, Susan Berman, was found murdered execution-style in her California home. Durst confirmed that he had sent her money ($25,000) then he moved to Galveston, Tx where he disguised himself as a mute woman to avoid talking about Berman's death.
Durst was arrested a year later when various parts of Morris Black's body were found in Galveston Bay. Durst skipped bail and was eventually caught in a Pennsylvania supermarket shoplifting a chicken salad sandwich, bandages and a newspaper. He had $500 cash on him and almost $40K more in his car. Along with two guns, a bunch of marijuana and Morris Black's driver's license.
He was acquitted in the Black murder case on the grounds of self-defense and the fact that he had been diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, a form of high-functioning autism that causes, among other things, difficulty in social interaction. Okay, so the story is that he and Black were arguing, a gun was pulled and in the ensuing struggle to gain control of said firearm, Black took a bullet in the face. Fair enough, self-defense, accidental, whatever.
BUT DURST HACKED UP THE BODY, PLACED IT IN GARBAGE BAGS AND THREW THEM INTO THE OCEAN!
This does not indicate a slight "problem with social interaction." This indicates an utterly sociopathic personality.
Having gotten away with what is allegedly three murders thus far, Durst became the subject of a six-part HBO documentary called The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst. A letter from Durst to Berman that her stepson gave to the filmmakers gave authorities the evidence they needed to file murder charges against Durst in the Berman case. He even mumbled to himself that he "killed them all" in the course of filming the documentary.
He is also suspected of being responsible for the disappearances of 2 young women, 18 and 16 years old.
Sure, by all indications, Durst is bat-crap crazy, but would he have walked around free as long as he did without significant resources? Chances are no. He had the money to hire the best, Schuysteriest lawyers he could find to keep him out of trouble (or at least the punishment part) for a very long time - far longer than anyone having to rely on public defense would have.
Insanity and Affluenza: a deadly mix.
While I don't agree with the death penalty in many cases - especially one such as this where wonky brain function played an obvious role - if it comes down to it, it may serve as an object lesson to youngsters like Moore and Couch. You don't get away with that sort of behavior forever. Forty years maybe, but not forever.