Matt Taibbi in the January 4, 2012 Anderson Valley Advertiser, a small Mendocino leftwing paper, writes the following:
As for President Obama, what is there to be said? Goldman, Sachs was his number-one private campaign contributor. He put a Citigroup executive in charge of his economic transition team, and he just named an executive of JP Morgan Chase, the proud owner of $7.7 million in Chase stock, as his new chief of staff.
What indeed is left to say? Excuses flood the arena—excuses from Obama himself and his staff, berating his supporters. Meanwhile, his loyal base offers speculation that, as the nation’s first black president, Obama has been hamstrung by the stereotype of angry black men, a stereotype his every word has been crafted to refute. Yet every parent knows it’s possible to say no without getting angry. It’s possible to have a backbone with appearing vindictive.
Meanwhile, we flock to our television sets on Sunday night to watch Downton Abbey. What explains the phenomenal success of this early twentieth century soap opera? Among the characters who populate the plot are several whose ethics are above reproach. They expose (unnecessarily at times) past bad behavior, even though to do so risks their position. They spurn advantages tied to moral lapses. The poorest among them either regard money as something to scheme to obtain (evil) or as not worth lowering themselves (good). One character seems to be transitioning from the evil side of the spectrum to the good. We have to wait and see how that plays out.
Dickens’ Manichean view of good and evil serves as the infrastructure for Downton Abbey—not that its characters have been taken from Dickens but that its condemnation of moral lapses and celebration of self-abnegation emulate that Victorian author’s novelistic philosophy.
In the 21st century, we live, on the other hand, in a world where Supreme Court justices have no allegiance to Eisenhower’s advice to reject “even the appearance of impropriety.” Because of Citizens United, corporations now secretly flood their candidate of choice with enough cash to turn his head. And heads have turned, whether on the Court, in the Administration, or sitting in the hallowed halls of Congress—all playgrounds for the moneyed class. We are in an unprecedented period of obscene levels of campaign spending.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the source of only 51 percent of non-party outside spending was disclosed to the public in 2010.
. . . . Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion in the Citizens United ruling, offering the main argument underlying the decision. "Independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption [italics added]," he wrote.
Mindful of the “appearance of corruption,” justices merely dismiss it. Chief Justice Roberts assures the American people in emphatic language that the justices are ethical people.
[Chief Justice] Roberts rebuffed calls for the U.S. Supreme Court to adopt the Code of Conduct for United States Judges -- which binds lower courts but not the high court -- and pushed back against partisan demands that Justices Clarence Thomas and Elena Kagan recuse themselves from what may be the term's most controversial conflict, the health care cases slated for oral argument in March.
"I have complete confidence in the capability of my colleagues to determine when recusal is warranted," Roberts wrote. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/05/chief-justice-john-roberts-supreme-court-ethics_n_1184780.html
So our politicians are drowning in corporate funding and our justices are sunning themselves on Koch Brothers’ chaise lounges, sipping Koch Brothers’ liquor, eating Koch Brothers’ food, and sleeping in Koch Brothers’ beds. But they know best when it’s time to recuse themselves.
This is the landscape against which television viewers flock to watch Downton Abbey, a melodrama about ethics and lapses in ethics. Criminal behavior, apart from the behavior of our politicians and judges, has escalated. I believe it does so in response to two pressures: the downward spiral of the economy that moves the fantasy of “wealth management for the masses” into its proper spot, namely romance novels; and the sewage spilling from government and large corporations into public life, reminding us all that ethics are for the poor.
You can’t blame the poor if they reject that bit of propaganda in favor of low-level thievery. Trouble is, that’s the only thievery in this democracy that ever gets punished.
I say vote no on all of them, and be done with it. They may be our “democratically elected” leaders but they do not believe in democracy. If you ask them, “Which side are you on, boy?” they will never recuse themselves. They have shifted the appearance of wrongdoing to the eye of the beholder. That’s you. They wash their hands of your evil thoughts.