Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made. —Immanuel Kant
I have a couple of friends in my county who might be considered high-powered on the local level. One is a district judge and the other is a county commissioner. I’ve invited the judge to a few local gatherings that support relatively benign conservation groups. He has always declined, saying that he may at some point have to rule on one of their cases, so he doesn’t want any appearance of supporting the group outside of court. I recently invited the county commissioner to a benefit dinner for another conservation group. He accepted the invitation but insisted on paying his way through a donation to the organization as he didn’t want to accept any gift from me. Compared to some of the all-powerful Supreme Court justices like Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, who rule the land, their ethics are studied and consistent. On Chief Justice John Robert’s court, their ethics might be considered quaint and would find no home.
Thomas and Alito have both accepted extravagant paid vacations worth tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars by political operatives and businessmen who have a lot to gain from having Supreme Court decisions go their way. In Alito’s case, he joined hedge-fund billionaire Paul Singer on his jet to Alaska for a fishing trip in 2008 and then failed to recuse himself on a 2014 Supreme Court decision that ensured Singer netted billions of dollars from a business deal. ProPublica, arguably the best investigative journalism operation in the world, wrote about the story in June. Anticipating the story when ProPublica sent him a list of questions about the Singer trip, Alito wrote a sort of preemptive editorial in the Wall Street Journal defending the trip—before the story was even written.
Part of Alito’s defense of flying on Singer’s jet to Alaska was that there was an empty seat that would have otherwise gone unused. That feeble excuse harkens back to the days of the notoriously corrupt New York Alderman, George Washington Plunkitt, who made the famous distinction between “honest graft” and “dishonest graft.” Serving in the New York City government in the late 19th century, Plunkitt knew in advance what lands would be necessary to complete a public park. So he bought the land and then sold it to the city at a very tidy profit. As he put it, “There’s an honest graft, and I’m an example of how it works. I might sum up the whole thing by sayin’: ‘I seen my opportunities and I took ’em.’” Read more »
I heard an amazing story about Hillary Clinton from someone who worked for her. When she was a Senator, and some corporation gave her big campaign money, she wouldn't take the money if she knew she was going to vote against that corporation's interests on a bill that corporation wanted passed. She would tell them straight that she was going to vote against them, and then ask them if they still wanted her to cash their check, because she'd rather not have their money (this guy told me that weirdly enough, 90% of the corporations would tell her, heck, keep the money).
So this is a story about something very unique: an American politician who refuses to be bought.
One wonders if, under a Hillary presidency, with a Hillary Department of Justice … if Wall Street, Jon Corzine, and all the other financial crooks would be walking around free today.
Obama has been totally bought by Wall Street. Not a single CEO from any of the big banks has been in trouble with the law, after the biggest financial meltdown and scandal of our times. Wall Street sold stuff they knew was crap to pension funds and other customers, and even bet against the stuff they sold. This is big-time fraud, to sell stuff you know will blow up, but you don't care, because the stuff will blow up after you've collected your bonus. Too big to fail turns out to be too big to jail. Not a single hand of justice has been laid on them. And no laws have been made to force them to be honest and transparent. Tim Geithner and the SEC are giving Wall Street crooks a free pass. Jon Corzine openly stole a billion bucks from his customer accounts to cover his bad margins, and he is walking free.
Would Hillary have let Wall Street off scot-free? Who knows. But at least now I know she was willing to refuse money from corporations whom she was going to vote against. She was not for sale when she was a Senator. But Obama as president was and is for sale. He sold out to Wall Street when he became president, because his candidacy was backed big-time by Wall Street money.
“I dreamed of retribution from the sky. I made plans in the course of my sleepless nights to stop this individual and have him judged by an honest, independent tribunal. I dreamed of a court martial, of justice for the people. I dreamed of a national cleansing; a magic hand would pass over the people, bringing order to this society in which ultimately anything goes. I turned my dreams over in my mind until I was stricken with laughter or a fever”.
– Mourad (in Tahar Ben Jelloun’s Corruption)
Earlier this week a noisy gaggle of Facebook invitations started flying about beseeching people to join the fight of the activist-crusader Anna Hazare (once a soldier in the Indian Army) against corruption. Anna Hazare, who went on a fast unto death in New Delhi, wanted the central government to pass a bill in Parliament that constituted an independent watchdog/ombudsman to look into corruption.
Corruption in India is, need one say, widespread. It is endemic. And it is insufficient to say just that because it is much more. There is no section of civil society that remains untouched by corruption.
I did not press the ‘Like’ button on the many Facebook invites.
Around 11 AM yesterday, 9th April 2011, when news channels and online social media triumphantly and raucously declared a ‘victory for India’ and that ‘celebrations will be going on’, ‘people are out on the streets’, it could have been easily mistaken for reruns of the aftermath of India’s recent cricket world cup win. Channels showed clips of people chanting slogans, singing songs, victoriously raising fists and banners as the news poured in that Anna Hazare, the self-styled Gandhian activist and anti-corruption crusader, ended his four day fast after the government acceded to his demand to act expeditiously on the draft Jan Lokpal Bill 1(Citizen’s Ombudsman bill). The proposed legislation calls for an independent body constituted by a collegium of officials and private citizens and which has the power to investigate and prosecute charges of corruption against politicians and public officials, as well as pass remedial judgment against those found guilty. It further seeks to invest this independent body with extraordinary powers.2