Sunday, December 14, 2014

Rant — High Crimes And Misbehavior: Don’t Bother Calling The Authorities!

It is probably unwise for me to delve into politics on a blog that is also used to increase awareness of my mystery novels.  But I haven’t misled you.  I promised occasional rants.  And while my books are not lectures on social mores, they are about the world we live in as I perceive it.  You may not share my perspective, but as potential readers you deserve to know how I feel about such things as law and criminality. The comment section is open and I welcome disagreement as much as I do “amens” provided, of course, your comments are at least relatively civil.

Even if you are not a young Black man, and even if you are not fair-minded, or consider yourself to be your brother’s keeper, you should be concerned.  Even if you are what Tom Wolfe used to refer to as “master of the universe,” you are quite likely not rich or powerful enough.  The mix of corporate influence and government obeisance is the recipe for true Fascism and unless you are at the very top you will be ground up in its machine. One slight slip and you are at the mercy of “the authorities.”

Recently, from somewhere, down deep in my Hoosier roots, came the word, “cahoots.” It strikes me that I might have heard this word from Gabby Hayes, but it is so fitting now.  Unfortunately we have no Hopalong Cassidy to save us from rampant corruption and deepening injustice.  Corporations and your government representatives are in cahoots to maintain the status quo — low minimum wage and a reduction in benefits while executive salaries soar. There are more tax breaks for the rich, and banks are allowed to gamble taxpayer funds for their own profit, but never their loss. Meanwhile the highest court in the land says money is speech and the uninhibited purchase of our politicians may continue hidden by the rules enforced by the authorities.  In that case the wealthiest will have more to say and say it more often.

In fact, as I write this, there is a bill, guaranteed to pass that will raise limits on campaign contributions thus further promoting bribery. The bill also means less vigilance over Wall Street allowing them to return to their pre-crash ways. Yet we have no Roosevelt, Teddy or Franklin, to reign in the unmitigated transgressions the mighty have inflicted upon the powerless. We have Obama agreeing to sign the legislation. What does Wall Street have on the President that he would sell out in this way?  Who is running this country, anyway, Jaime Dimon? I voted for President Obama twice and am pleased that he has taken on some serious challenges.  What I don’t understand is his ongoing coziness with Wall Street. Have the bankers kidnapped his dog?

The bill allows banks to make risky investments backed by taxpayer dollars.  This is like you lending someone a thousand dollars to make bets in Vegas.  The guy loses half of it and then says you owe him $500 to make up for his losses. Big banker Dimon called legislators personally and it is reported the bill itself was written in language nearly identical to Citigroup’s proposal. Essentially, Republicans threatened to close down the government if Dimon didn’t get what he wanted. A banker — a friggin’ banker is running the show. 

In a related note, NSA chief James Clapper lied to the congress about government spying on U.S. citizens. Nothing happened to Mr. Clapper. Not even a time out.  Edward Snowden, who acted as whistleblower, was vilified by nearly every top politician as well as many in the corporate media, and was pursued doggedly for letting us know our private lives weren’t private. You are not supposed to know that.  Who do you think you are?  A citizen?  Is there any doubt he would face serious charges if he were apprehended? Corporal Chelsea Manning is serving 35 years for the part she played in shining the light in that very dark place.  Why would Snowden come home to tell his story? Anything he might say in his defense would be classified or redacted. He would be convicted before the trial began. In fact, he has been already. The authorities want to crucify him for questioning authority.

Now we know the CIA engaged in torture.  They called it “enhanced interrogation techniques.” They too appeared to lie to congress without repercussions.  But they didn’t do it all by themselves.  They hired and paid millions to a private corporation to do it for them. Cahoots is the word. In fact, aren’t we at least a little wary of hiring professional torturers after our private army debacle in Iraq with Erik Prince and his army of mercenaries? Remember Blackwater?  (In a P.R. move, Prince is now doing business as Academi.) There are also serious questions about Vice President Cheney, who called the CIA report “hooey,” as well as his former corporation, Halliburton. Cheney was chief architect and proponent of our “mistaken” invasion of Iraq, a war of convenience that was incredibly profitable for Halliburton. I guess if I can use the word, “cahoots,” Deadeye Dick can use “hooey.” Now, AGAIN, no one is being prosecuted for the torture. However, former CIA staffer, John Kiriakiu is in prison for 30 months for shining a little light into that particular dark corner.  (It’s sad to see Cheney walk free while we stop and frisk random black kids without cause.)

I’m not at all sorry to see Attorney General Eric Holder go. No one among the rich and powerful, even during all the crooked bank and Wall Street antics, has been pursued for breaking the law.  A few firms paid fines out of their petty cash drawer. No one is being seriously questioned for breaking the rules of the Geneva Convention, let alone the gross violation of the values we think we hold dear.  

This isn’t conspiracy theory.  This is out there for those willing to look, listen and put the pieces together. The impact of the intimate friendship among government agencies and branches and global corporations manifests itself on all levels.  Do we really want private corporations running our prisons and schools?  When the prisons are low on prisoners, the corporation will find compliant or indebted legislators, pass some laws extending prison terms or put some new crimes on the books. Corporate earnings will go up. Stockholders will be happy.  Teachers will lose their pensions.  And students will be good, little corporate dweebs.  What better way to validate a corporate privatization vision than to inculcate it in the school’s lesson plan? First eliminate the arts from the curriculum so students won’t learn to think for themselves.  Oh, that’s already done.   Once upon a democracy, some things were meant to be public institutions — schools, prisons, and roads. And what about private armies? I can see it now — Wal-Mart’s Fifth Infantry Division.  Impossible? No. The word is out that the new congress will attempt to privatize the post office.  A 222-year old public institution, once headed by Benjamin Franklin, will be corporatized.  Who, do you think, wants that to happen?

We also believed that our representatives shouldn’t be pawns of corporate interests. Yet, under current law, the purchaser and purchase price of a legislator do not have to be disclosed.  Did I just dream bribery was illegal?

What we have, as I suggested, is not new.  People in power have always wanted to consolidate and preserve that power.  It’s natural.  Many just see it as part of the game.  But it is insidious when allowed to go unchecked.  As it was when Teddy Roosevelt used anti trust laws and Franklin Roosevelt went after the banks to level the playing field, we need some reformation. Capitalism is fine until those at the top of the heap crush those below. They are doing so now with the blessing and kindly cooperation of the authorities.

We’re seeing abuses not only nationally and internationally, but locally when police departments, often in cahoots with prosecutor’s offices, fail to acknowledge, let lone fix ubiquitous bullying, corruption and unnecessary force used by a seemingly growing number of those in the thin blue line.  When the prosecutor acts like a defense attorney in a grand jury deliberation, is it any wonder the case doesn’t make it to a real court where due process can happen?

The notion that the authorities are allowed to act without accountability leads to local police using deadly force for minor infractions and powerful office holders and mega billionaires excused from the laws the rest of us must obey.  

Because the power is in the hands of the few is why we have such a huge income gap, a shrinking middle class and increasingly unequal access to quality education. It isn’t in the corporate interest to have the masses educated. They might figure out what’s going on.  They may read the fine print. It is the greedy consolidation and immoral protection of wealth, no matter how it is accumulated, in the name of “trickle down” that will eventually ignite real and justifiable class warfare.

Unfortunately the electorate is asleep.  Minorities most likely to suffer oppression from the authorities, women who see their rights backsliding while disparities in their health care increase, and people being paid below a livable wage did not fully participate in the last election.  Congress, in a few months, will be run by those who nakedly favor the rich, who believe in taxpayer subsidies for hugely successful global corporations while defunding, if not eliminating programs that provide help for those who have either stumbled on hard times or were pushed into a hole by changing business models.  And the elderly, who have paid into Social Security and Medicare all their lives voted for the very people who would deny them the fruits of that investment. How unaware can the electorate be? Will it be only the most destitute and oppressed who will finally, pushed to their limits, rebel as peasants did against their feudal lords?


MereOnceMoore said...

You hit the nail on the head. I say Ron for president; but then I know you're too smart to want the gig. Where is our Mr. Smith when we need him most?

Patrick Murtha said...

Absolutely, 100% agree with everything you have written here.