Make a deal with Russia, keep our highways safe

So now we have a stretch of interstate highway in Florida being patrolled by the National Guard because wackos try to kill passing motorists.

Only a few weeks ago, the head of public housing in Chicago suggested calling out the National Guard to battle heavily armed gangs that have turned Cabrini-Green into a war zone.


Every 30 minutes, police stats say, somebody in Chicago is shot. The numbers are similar in New York, Detroit, Los Angeles and most other big cities. And things aren't too calm in the smaller cities and suburbs, where the drug trade has spread and shootings have followed.

It's remarkable how calm we are, considering that we have become the most violent country in the developed world. And maybe in the undeveloped world too. By the time the year is over, more people will be shot in this country than in Bosnia. And we're not at war.


A measure of how we have adjusted to this maniacal behavior is that crime wasn't even a major issue in the presidential campaign. It was seldom mentioned.

There was a reason. The candidates couldn't make a big deal out of it because they would have had to offer solutions. And they have none.

Sure, we can say that a long-range solution is to improve education in the crime-plagued inner cities and other poor areas. Improve education and the young men will get jobs. If they get jobs, they won't be joining gangs, dealing drugs and shooting each other and unfortunate bystanders.

But that's long range. And after years of Reagan-Bush's to-hell-with-the-cities policy (the punishment for being urban Democrats), the range is even longer.

Which brings us to short-term remedies. Some academics and sociologists might disagree, but the only practical short-term solution is to put criminals behind bars. It won't make them nicer people, but while they are locked up, they won't shoot anyone.

But that doesn't work well because we don't have enough space in our prisons. The cops bring them in, the juries or judges find them guilty, then what? If the prisons open the door to let a menace in, they have to shove another menace out to make room. We trade a new thug for a more experienced thug.

We could use more prisons. But we could also use better schools, bridges that won't collapse, highways that aren't falling apart and billions of dollars in other projects.

And because of the nature of the clientele, it costs more to build prisons than schools, motels and maybe even hospitals.


So the question is, how can we handle our world-renowned, record-setting, superstar criminal population on the cheap?

I have a proposal.

As we know, Russia and the other former Soviet states are staggering their way toward something that is supposed to be a capitalistic, free-enterprise system.

But they're having a hard time because they are novices and don't have much to sell. They are so inept that when they have something to sell, they lose it or break it or forget where they are supposed to ship it.

That's not good for them or us. If they get too messed up, they'll wind up with one form of dictator or another and will be at each other's throats and will threaten the peace. So it is to our advantage to see them succeed and prosper so we can sell things to them someday, rather than drop bombs.

Now, think: What were the Rooskies, as we used to call them in the angry old days, really good at?


You got it. If they were good at anything, it was locking people away. Joe Stalin may have been the most efficient prison warden in the history of the world. He had millions of people -- innocent nTC and guilty, it didn't make much difference -- stashed in gulags all over the Soviet map. His successors weren't as outwardly nasty, but they kept the tradition going.

And they did it economically. Instead of building stately prisons with enormous walls and all sorts of high-tech electronic doodads, they just hauled the unfortunates to places so remote, there was no point in escaping. How do you plan a breakout when the final step is: "Then we walk 1,500 miles through hip-deep snow and wolves, and we're home free."

You probably see my proposal shaping up. Now that the Soviet Union is no more, they have all these vacant gulags. And they have vast expanses where they can easily create others. They also have an army of unemployed gulag guards, gulag wardens and other gulag experts.

So it is a straight business deal. We have this huge surplus criminal population. They have this huge surplus prison space and surplus guard population. We were made for each other.

We ship them our surplus criminals and pay them so much a year in storage fees. We can probably cut a good price, especially in volume, because they need the business.

It will help their economy and ours. We won't have to build more prisons, we'll have less upkeep, and we won't have to spend as much money on law enforcement. We can then funnel the money into the long-range solutions.


I'm sure there are all sorts of legalistic obstructions to this plan. But if we can legally export war weapons, why can't we legally export criminals? I'm sure the creative minds of Congress could find a way.

You say the idea is preposterous and that I'm kidding, right? Think of it this way: Some retired geezers want to drive their camper to their Florida condo. But troops have to protect them from snipers. And I'm the one who is kidding?