One would have imagined, from the Patriot Act-pushing rhetoric, that the Office of the United States Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania would have been necessarily and entirely devoted to combating terrorism since September 2001.
The lone apparent local accomplishment along that line, however, has been the sketchy excommunication (based on "national security") of a nuclear scientist from the Bettis Laboratory in West Mifflin.
Much more prominent and prevalent has been a series of confected nanny-state prosecutions designed to make western Pennsylvanians safe from dirty movies, celebrity bong lines, facsimile penises and, of course, felony facsimile abuse.
Mary Beth Buchanan has an admirable personal story. But she ran off the rails with respect to several of her moral crusades cloaked as federal prosecutions, using unbecoming subterfuge to confect a case against Tommy Chong before arguing that Tommy Chong's sentence should be intensified because his movies had (decades ago) mocked the War On Drugs warriors; pursuing Cyril Wecht in a manner reminiscent of a missing quart of strawberries; and staging the mailing of dirty movies from California to western Pennsylvania to arrange a yinzer jury as a point of leverage.
I do not regard Mary Beth Buchanan as the only or even the primary culprit for the manner in which the local U.S. Attorney's Office became a misguided vendetta factory. Instead, her term has been another sympton of the systemic corrosion that occurs throughout an organization when its leaders are inept, unhinged, misguided, or (as was demonstrated by the Bush Jr. administration) all three. Buchanan was a dutiful soldier for a Department of Justice that considered pornography to be a severe threat to our nation and whose gatekeeper was a mediocre-on-her-best-days graduate of Pat Robertson's Regent University law school. The real culprits were George W. Bush and those who elected him. You hire a sanctimonious, overmatched religious goober, you get a government that takes its eye off the ball (bin Laden and the Taliban) and instead relentlessly pursues C-list actors for selling bongs and mocking authority, the most competent public official in the region for sending personal faxes on a public machine, the producers of adult movies, and anyone involved with the Whizzinator.
Our government owes Cyril Wecht a few million dollars, restoration of his reputation and an apology.
Saturday Palate Cleanser
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