Q. Over the years our illustrious politicians have been involved in outsourcing everything from manufacturing jobs to telemarketing. Except for protests from the ACLU, why couldn't we outsource our prison system? Wouldn't it be wonderful to sentence the accused to, say, China, or Mexico?
-- V.O., of Marissa
A. At first glance, your idea probably would appeal to many from the standpoint of both economy and punishment.
I mean, can you imagine the conditions murderers and rapists would have to endure in such countries while perhaps literally surviving on bread and water? Why, Mr. Blagojevich, our former governor, might even have to do without his mousse. Talk about your cruel and unusual punishment.
Alas, I may be able to snap you back to reality with just two words: Afghanistan and your own suggestion of Mexico. Here's why:
Case 1: Just last month, Afghan President Hamid Karzai released 72 inmates that the United States had carefully rounded up and locked in a Bagram prison.
The U.S. State Department said they were dangerous and it had strong proof linking them to terrorist plots, some involving improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Afghani officials, however, said there was no evidence and let them go, widening the ongoing U.S.-Afghan diplomatic rift. Meanwhile, we worry about them carrying on their terrorist activities.
Case 2: On Saturday the U.S. and Mexico teamed up to snare Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, the world's most powerful drug trafficker, according to Forbes magazine.
That's great news -- until you remember that Guzman originally had been captured in 1993 and was sentenced to nearly 21 years in prison on charges of drug trafficking and bribery. Two years later, he was convicted of more crimes and was jailed at the Puente Grande maximum security prison in Jalisco.
But even behind bars, Guzman is thought to have continued running his drug empire through his brother Arturo. Then, after a law would have made it easier to extradite Guzman to the U.S. for further trials, Guzman bribed prison workers to help him escape on Jan. 19, 2001, well before his release date. He remained free for 13 years to do his dirty work.
So although it's never been tried, I would shoot down your idea on a number of grounds: First, I wouldn't trust the security of those prisons to hold them. Second, like Guzman, any Bernie Madoff character might be able to bribe his way out by using ill-gotten gains he had stashed away. And, third, I could imagine some being recruited by drug gangs or even not-quite-friendly governments to eventually wreak more havoc once they returned to the U.S.
I think I'd rather pay a few extra dollars in taxes and sleep somewhat easier, thank you very much.
Q. Last Thursday, you ran a story about Kirk Rueter, a former San Francisco Giant pitcher and Hoyleton native who will join the McKendree University coaching staff in Lebanon this spring. However, the story said that, with 105, he was "the all-times wins leader for a left-hander in Giant history." I don't think that's true. Do you?
-- C.H., of New Athens
A. It depends on how you define "Giants."
If you're limiting the discussion to the years since 1958, when the Giants first played on the West Coast, the story is accurate. But if you're talking about the organization's entire century-plus history, you've hit one out of the park with your baseball knowledge.
In fact, there's not just one, but two Giant southpaws who top Rueter's notable mark. The most recent was Mike McCormick, who, in 1967, became the first Giant pitcher to win the Cy Young Award when he went 22-10.
In 11 seasons with the Giants, McCormick compiled a 107-96 record, but if you subtract the three wins he had in 1956 and '57, when the Giants were still in New York, he had only 104 victories in S.F., one shy of Rueter.
And then, of course, there was two-time National League MVP Carl Hubbell, who retired from the New York Giants in 1943 with a 253-154 record after 16 seasons. From July 17, 1936, to May 27, 1937, he won 24 games in a row, still a Major League Baseball record. He is 45th overall for most all-time wins.
Here's an interesting fact to ponder: He was the first American president who had been born in the United States after it became a country. Yet, English was his second language. Who is he?
Answer to Tuesday's question: What other president would leave a 23-word final will and testament than "Silent" Calvin Coolidge, who in death said as little as he did in life. Executed in December 1926, it read, "Not unmindful of my son John, I give all my estate, both real and personal, to my wife, Grace Coolidge, in fee simple." As Coolidge reportedly once said, "The things I never say never get me into trouble." Of course, that could cause occasional problems. When American writer Dorothy Parker was told Coolidge had died, she reportedly cracked, "How can they tell?"
Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or firstname.lastname@example.org or call 618-239-2465.