JAMES BRADY;CRIME AND PUNISHMENT

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Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky died 114 years ago and a good thing, too. The author of one of the world's great novels, "Crime and Punishment," would assuredly find himself somewhat confused about today.

There's plenty of crime and, too often it seems, insufficient punishment.

Last month I subbed for Roger Ailes on his nightly hourlong talk show over the new America's Talking channel, interviewing two very disparate guests, activist-radical defense attorney Bill Kunstler, and Esquire magazine writer and author Michael Gross.

And found myself talking about crime and punishment with both.

Gross' new book is called "Model," and carries the juicy subtitle, "The Ugly Business of Beautiful Women," and has been on the best-seller list of the Sunday New York Times for some weeks. And while crime and punishment was a predictable point of discussion with attorney Kunstler, I also found myself talking about it unexpectedly with Gross.

"Model" is full of drug-taking in its most exotic forms, all of them quite illegal. And there is also a great deal of sex going on, which is not. Except when it involves children. Which some of these incredibly beautiful young women still are. Mr. Gross' account of the model biz these days is replete with tales of agents, and others, indulging in sexual liaison with 13- and 14- and 15-year-old girls who, just because they happen to be 6 feet tall and knockouts, are still underage.

In some exasperation I asked Michael Gross, "Doesn't anyone ever go to jail?"

Not, apparently, in the model business.

At about that same time last month they unveiled a bust of Spiro Agnew in the U.S. Capitol and issued a new 32 cents stamp bearing the portrait of Richard Nixon.

Here we have a former vice president who took bribes and a disgraced president and we are issuing stamps and unveiling busts. Mr. Nixon, who is dead, had the decency not to appear at the Postal Service ceremonies but there in the Capitol was Agnew of whom, at the time, a prosecutor said, "The man is a crook, no question about that at all."

Forgive and forget? Not me. Not Agnew. Yet, as the Times remarked, "Even if Pete Rose can't get into baseball's hall of fame, every vice president gets into the Senate collection, whatever scandal may obtain." The man plea-bargained himself out of a felony jail term and there he was the other day, without a warder in sight or an electronic anklet in place, admiring himself in sculpted marble.

Dostoyevsky would surely have remarked the irony.

Also in the news yet again, Joey Buttafuoco, busted this time out in Los Angeles where, it is alleged, he tried to negotiate a deal with a streetwalker who turned out to be a vice cop. Released swiftly, Joey flew back to New York with his attorney to be greeted with mixed shouts at the airport of, "You bum!" and "We love ya, Joey." As for his long-suffering wife (remember, Joey's teenybopper girlfriend shot Mrs. B. in the head because she was being awkward about the love affair and things might go much more smoothly if somehow, she were out of the way), she welcomed Joey back, tousling his hair and muttering something like, "Ya big lug, ya," and the two of them promptly hired a limo and went out on the town to celebrate.

These people are, of course, morons. But equally moronic, the people who paid for Joey's trip to California, TV producers interested in having him star in a game show.

Another outstanding example of morally failing upward, Darryl Strawberry. Here is a fellow who not only can't hit the cutoff man but who regularly hit his wife and girlfriend, has been in and out of rehab, was arrested and recently plea-bargained himself out of a jail term on tax evasion (he is under house arrest following a guilty plea) and has been dropped by yet another major league team, the San Francisco Giants. So what is Darryl's next stop? Bagging groceries at the 7-Eleven? You would think so, but then you have reckoned without George Steinbrenner who confirmed he has indeed been speaking to Strawberry's agent and would be meeting with the fellow himself regarding his possibly joining the Yankees this weekend.

Not only that, Doc Gooden, on a suspension from baseball for drug use, is said to have caught Der Steinbrenner's eye and, if certain things occur, may also be on the Yankee wish list. Which would surely be in keeping with Steinbrenner's apparent baseball philosophy, "You can't have too many pitchers. Or too many druggies," since the Yankee roster for the past several years has also boasted reliever Steve Howe, busted, suspended or otherwise nailed for drugs seven times in his major league career!

The team of Henry Louis Gehrig might shortly bear a new nickname, The New York Junkies. But then again, Boss George himself has had his little run-ins with the law, hasn't he?

When I worked in London Beaverbrook was still alive, very much the Fleet Street press lord, and about once a year his great daily, the Express, would do its perennial leader about the need to bring back corporal punishment in order to restore order in the London streets. And the front-page screamer headline, dictated, I believe, by Lord Beaverbrook himself, was usually, in 72-point type, along the lines of:

BIRCH THE THUGS!

In Beaverbrook's day, by God! they believed in punishing the wicked. These days Bob Dole is going about the country fretting aloud about gangsta rap and violent movies. Did Senator Dole have anything to say while in Hollywood about the extraordinary assertion by Paramount Pictures that its film, "Forrest Gump," which last month had already grossed $657 million, hasn't yet earned a dime in profits and is in fact in the red to the tune of $62 million?

"Birch the accountants?" As Fyodor Dostoyevsky might put it, "It couldn't hurt."

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