Saturday, September 1, 2018

Rough Month For Corruption

                                                                                                written 26 August 2018
                                                                                               published 1 September 2018

            Early in August, a grand jury in Pennsylvania reported that for 70 years, more than 300 priests abused at least 1000 children in just 6 dioceses.  This follows a Boston Globe expose of sexual abuse in the Boston area in 2002, which was the source for a major motion picture, "Spotlight".  These indictments are only a small part of a global problem for the Catholic Church.  Wikipedia shows more than 29 countries have exposed this problem, and as many as 4% of the clergy worldwide have been involved.  
            As they age, all organizations suffer from mission creep and corruption toward simple preservation of their structure.  The Catholic Church, being one of the oldest bureaucracies in the world, is an excellent example.  While the original mission of the Church was spiritual guidance for their parishioners, it is clear that the real priority is preservation of the power structure and the finances it controls.  The Church has shown it is willing to sacrifice the well-being of thousands, covering up sexual abuse which is condemned by its own rules, by shifting priests around without informing anyone, until the stature of limitations runs out on the crimes.  
            Consistent with this policy of corrupt repressed sexuality, the Church has lavishly lobbied to criminalize abortion and deny access to affordable contraception. A compliant Republican party has packed the Supreme Court toward this goal, rushing to finish the job by confirming Kavanaugh before the midterms.
            Corruption of original intent is not limited to the Catholic Church.  Trump's former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was recently convicted of various felony violations.  The same day, Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, pled guilty to felony campaign contribution violations for paying hush money to influence the outcome of the presidential election, with the full knowledge of candidate Trump. This makes the sitting president an unindicted co-conspirator in a felony.  Yet the entire Republican party stands solidly behind "their" man, putting power before principle.  
            At the same time, Republican Representative Duncan Hunter has been arraigned on 60 counts of felony misuse of campaign funds, allegedly spending $250,000 in donations to fund a lavish lifestyle.  This seems like petty cash compared to the millions Trump is pulling in through his access-for-sale presidency, but it is probably not what Republican donors had in mind.  
            Republicans used to have principles that were the foundation of their integrity as a party.  Rule of law, balanced budgets, and free trade were cornerstones.  Even if a person disagreed with their stand, it was acknowledged that these were true convictions.  Every one of those ideals has been thrown over by this administration. Clearly the only principle left is maintaining power, even if the entire foundation of the country and economy is eroded.  Integrity is no longer a Republican virtue.
            It seems that integrity is no longer a business virtue either.  Monsanto was recently fined $289M because their lucrative Roundup product was judged to have caused cancer.  After decades of Monsanto insisting that Roundup was safe, funding compliant scientists, harassing those reporting troubling data, and spending millions lobbying regulators, the truth is finally coming out in court.  Monsanto does not care that their product kills people because their only goal is maximizing shareholder value.  Even that may take a hit as stock value of Bayer AG, Monsanto's new owner, lost 20% value on news of the verdict.  This judgment will probably not be the last, since the weight of scientific evidence has been building for decades. 
            In each of the cases mentioned above, all values have been sacrificed to money and power.  America is not alone in confronting this collapse of values, but we have to start from where we are.  We are fortunate that we still have a judiciary that is committed to the rule of law, as limited as that may seem at times.  Republicans are busy stacking the courts with compliant judges who will prioritize wealth and corporations over people, furthering the fascism of state power used for corporate profit.  This next election is an opportunity for each of us to determine our own values, and then vote for people who represent those values.  Vote as if this is the last fair election, because it just might be.