Thursday, July 05, 2012

On Accountability

There is a most interesting article on Smirking Chimp today, “How Scalia Distorts the Framers,” by Robert Parry. In their failed attempt to discredit “Obamacare,” the four conservative Justices quoted a passage by no less an authority than Alexander Hamilton. This was a quote they offered from the Federalist Paper #33 to prove the Commerce Clause did not support the President’s health care plan. Mr. Parry points out that Federalist Paper #33 is not about the Commerce Clause. Not only that, Scalia and his conservative buddies used the quote so far out of context it meant precisely the opposite of what Hamilton intended. If this is true, and I suspect it is true, it raises a truly interesting and important question. It seems to me that one would expect all four Supreme Court Justices would be more than mildly familiar with the Federalist Papers. Surely at least one out of the four Justices should have known that Paper #33 was not about the Commerce Clause. If it is true that none of the Justices knew this, or not even one of them did, I suggest they probably have no business being on the Court in the first place.

If, on the other hand, one or more of them did know that Paper #33 was not about the Commerce Clause, and if, indeed, they lifted a quote out of context deliberately to make a political point against Obamacare, this would constitute a serious, even egregious violation of their supposed objectivity, as well as undermining the credibility of the Court, the only thing that allows us to have confidence in it. It would be an obviously partisan act designed for a political end, an act supposedly forbidden to the Court.

I am virtually certain these Justices will not be held accountable for this obvious violation of their duty. Why should they be held accountable for it, they have not been held accountable for any of their other violations of their responsibility. When they chose Bush over Gore in 2000, with a decision so terrible even they announced it could never be cited as a precedent, they were not held accountable. When they passed Citizens United, quite probably the worst decision ever by a Supreme Court, they were not held accountable. Neither Scalia nor Thomas have been held accountable for their obvious partisanship and, in Thomas’s case, his obvious conflict of interest.

The sad fact is, accountability is no longer a part of the American political system. I don’t remember any obvious violations during the Clinton administration (there probably were some), but it is obvious that under Bush/Cheney the very concept of accountability seems to have vanished. No one was held accountable for “outing” Valerie Plame, except Libby, and he was pardoned. No one was held accountable for the obvious lies involved in leading us into the Iraqi “war.” You might also remember that neither Reagan nor Bush the First was held accountable for Iran/Contra. Nor was Clinton held accountable for his “war” over Bosnia.

Accountability has certainly not been a feature of the Obama administration. Bush/Cheney have not been held accountable, even for their confessed war crimes. No one on Wall Street or in the Banks has been held accountable for the recession they obviously created, or for the terrible foreclosures they have sometimes illegally engineered. Even now, when Barclays lost somewhere between 2 and 9 billion dollars, basically gambling with other people’s money, no one, not even CEO Robert Diamond, has been held accountable. It is true they paid a fine, a typical punishment for such malfeasance, but no one, absolutely no one, has ever gone to jail (where they clearly belong).

It seems that the “Too big to fail” crowd is rarely if ever held accountable for anything, no matter how illegal or egregious. But the “Too small to resist” crowd is easily and often held accountable. Smoke a “joint” and go to jail, speak the truth to power and lose your job or go to jail, steal a loaf of bread or a six pack and go to jail, kill or maim someone and go to jail, but kill thousands to protect democracy or an oil company and, well, "national security," spreading democracy, or doing the Lord’s work. Steal a billion, to big to fail. The freedom from accountability is directly correlated with your position in the pecking order or the size of the fortune you possess. Accountability for anyone in the one percent is virtually non-existant, for the 99% it is virtually inevitable. Lying on the part of politicians is now so commonplace and expected it is considered normal, even the most obvious and blatant lies regularly go unquestioned by the media. You might well say that between our politics, advertising, and the corporate owned media, we live in a world so permeated with such a web of falsehoods that neither truth nor accountability any longer have meaning for us. So it is that Obamacare is socialism, socialism is very bad, Iran is a danger to the entire world, Israel is a poor, put upon democracy, the poor are poor because it’s their own fault, welfare queens drive pink cadillacs, President Obama is a Muslim from Kenya scheming to take away our guns, global warming is a myth, Sarah Palin was fully qualified to be President of the United States, and Mitt Romney has a secret plan to create full employment and health care for all, but he won’t tell anyone until after he is elected.

“…man is an animal suspended in webs of significance he himself has spun…”

Clifford Geertz

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