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And, yes, I DO take it personally: "Our most powerful and well-connected elite are free to break the law with impunity"
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Sunday, December 30, 2007

"Our most powerful and well-connected elite are free to break the law with impunity"

as an appropriate follow-on to the previous post (or perhaps, more accurately, a good lead-in), glenn has this to say...
[W]e have a perfect oligarchical system in which, literally, our most powerful and well-connected elite are free to break the law with impunity, exempt from any consequences. While exempting themselves, these same figures impose increasingly Draconian "law and order" solutions on the masses to ensure that even small infractions of the law prompt vigorous prosecution and inflexible, lengthy prison terms.

As Matt Stoller recently noted in an excellent post on the bipartisan orthodoxies that are untouchable in political debates, "there are 1 million people put in jail for doing what Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and George Bush have done" (buying and consuming illegal drugs) and "2 million people are in prison in America, by far the highest total of any other country in the world." It's almost impossible for the non-rich to defend themselves effectively against government accusations of criminality, and judges have increasingly less sentencing discretion to avoid imposing harsh jail terms. Punishment for crimes is for the masses only, not for members in good standing of our political and corporate establishment.

Where our political elite break the law, our leading media stars and pundits fulfill their central purpose by dutifully arguing that establishment figures who have broken the law have done nothing wrong and deserve protection, even our gratitude, when they do so. In the view of our establishment, even mere civil liability -- never mind criminal punishment -- is deeply unfair when imposed on lawbreaking corporations, as we see in the "debate" over telecom immunity.


Naturally, our establishment sees itself as Good, and thus, whatever their most powerful leaders do -- even when illegal -- is never really bad. It can't be, because they do it. Hence, George Bush's and Lewis Libby's felonies aren't really like the felonies of the "drug dealers" and the other street dirt. Neither the Law nor Jail are for the clean, good, upstanding establishment members, so sayeth Jay Rockefeller and Fred Hiatt and Joe Klein and David Ignatius and the rest.


There is a mildly increased desperation that is palpable among our political and media elites to protect and defend their system. The extent of their wrongdoing over the last several years -- political, legal and economic -- is so extreme that the potential for upheaval in the event of accountability is extreme as well. Their chief weapon to protect those privileges is immunity from the rule of law, and most of our political controversies -- over presidential power and state secrets and executive privilege and torture and eavesdropping and these CIA videos -- really share the same root: the effort of the establishment to maintain their immunity from impropriety-exposing legal proceedings and, thus, from political consequences.

Just as the warrantless eavesdropping revelations did, the CIA video scandal presents an extremely clear and straightforward case of serious lawbreaking by our highest government officials. It's far less complex and far more serious than the scandals that brought down Richard Nixon. That a rational person would be highly skeptical about the prospects that we will find out what happened, let alone that there will be consequences for any of it, is pretty compelling evidence of the kind of country we are becoming.

we're in such deep shit as a country, and sitting around watching our elected leaders DO NOTHING is crazy-making in the first degree...

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