Wednesday, June 27, 2007

A Bush Man Goes to Jail

On an evening when George Bush's America awaits Paris Hilton's Interview on the Larry King show (the protests of the "other America" led NBC to withdraw their million dollar offer to Paris to give them her first post jail interview) a former Bush official has been sentenced to ten months in jail.

Unlike Paris, Steve Griles, number two man in the Department of the Interior from 2001 to 2005, isn't going to the slammer for drunk driving, parole violation, and a let them eat cake attitude toward drivers, pedestrians, and the non idle rich and speciously famous.

He merely used his position in the Interior Department to aid Jack Abramoff's corrupt deals involving Native American people and gambling casinos and then sought to obstruct investigations by the Indian Affairs Committee into Abramoff's criminal activities (Abramoff is now serving a six year prison sentence).

In the 1870s, the Interior Department and Bureau of Indian Affairs were the centers of corruption scandals in the Grant administration which have been considered, along with the corruption scandals of the Harding administration, the greatest in U.S. history.

But in this administration, Karl Marx old concept of quantitative change producing qualitative change may be a work were corruption is concerned.

When a company formerly headed by the Vice President aka Halliburton "overcharges" the government by hundreds of millions for Iraq contracts (and that is just for starters) and completely gets away with it; Enron extorts billions in electricity payments from California by literally threatening the population with a loss of power before its monumental stock fraud and pension swindle against its own employees bring it down; and nearly five hundred billion in annual military spending, perhaps as much as half the official state military spending of the world, fails to outfit the U.S. army with adequate body armor and other necessary protective gear, we may be entering a new stage where corruption itself is inadequate to explain the looting that we see around us.

This is "corruption" on such a monumental scale that it becomes difficult to even fathom. It makes William M "Boss" Tweed" the Tammany leader of the 1870s who spent an estimated twenty-five million dollars (mostly graft) to build a New York City courthouse (still a great landmark) look quaint. Tweed eventually was sent to prison, after being extradited from Spain, where he had fled. Bush's foreign policy has alienated so many nations. including allies, that it is difficult to think of a nation where his subordinates might flee to escape extradition, with the exception of course of Albania.

Apparently the Judge, Ellen Segal Huville, had some difficulty fathoming both the Justice Department's request for punishment and Griles lack of contrition in this specific case because she gave him a much stiffer prison sentence than they asked for and he expected. According to Reuters, from which I have gotten the story (the general U.S. media doesn't appear to be too interested) Giles had hoped to be able to serve his sentence at home,employed by a Charity sponsored by Walt Disney Company and other corporations as a sort of community service. Griles defense, according to his attorney, was that he did nothing wrong intentionally and has merely suffered by association with Abramoff "whose name has become synonymous with corruption."

What is the Republic coming to when Republicans are the "victims" of "guilt by association" as much of the left was in the various Red Scares of U.S. history? What can be said about a court which has no faith in the redemptive power of a charity funded by Walt Disney to rehabilitate a fallen high government official?

Before this story appears on Law and Order and GW Bush's America gets on with its serious business, watching Paris Hilton tonight on Larry King, a few points should be made about the corruption of this administration and corruption generally in contemporary U.S. capitalism.

Locking up some perpetrators is no more a long-range solution than fines for industrial polluters. Confiscating the assets of companies like Halliburton and Enron before they squander those assets is part of a serious solution. Placing heavy fines and surcharges on the corporations that do business with and profit from their corruption but keep their own hands relatively clean is another part.On the swindles that Abramoff and others have engaged in concerning the lands and rights of native peoples, whose suffering at the hands of the U.S. government through most of U.S. history is one of the great stains on that history, a national policy of affirmative action and social protection for native Americans, along with the policies of nurturing native American culture which John Collier began in the Interior Department during the New Deal government and
which were largely buried after WWII,offer the best solution to corruption. Corruption, and we should remember that this is true everywhere, always feeds on the consequences of poverty, segregation, and discrimination.

Socialist solutions, that is, nationalizing and placing into an administered and regulated public sector industries which provide for basic human needs, energy, transportation, health care, and education, would not only lower prices and provide for much more equal access to these necessities but also largely eliminate the swindles, both legal and illegal, that oil companies, pharmaceutical firms, banks and insurance companies perpetrate (when dealing with big time corruption, which should always remember that police rule of thumb: for every crime detected and criminal caught, there are at least a few that are never caught and some that are never even reported or detected).

These are the sorts of solutions that those who follow Bush and are left with the wreckage that his administration will leave them should be contemplating today, if they are to protect the people from the Cheneys, Bushs, Abrahamoffs, and Rumsfelds of the future,who one can expect to be around if the larger system of state protected and subsidized monopoly capitalism is still around.

Norman Markowitz

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