Most Americans know that politicians make promises they never fulfill; few know that politicians make promises they lack the means to fulfill, as President Obama’s political posturing on the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico makes perfectly clear.
Obama has made the following statements:
He told his “independent commission” investigating the Gulf oil spill to “thoroughly examine the disaster and its causes to ensure that the nation never faces such a catastrophe again.” Aside from the fact that presidential commissions have a history of providing dubious reports and ineffective recommendations, does anyone really believe that a way can be found to prevent industrial accidents from happening ever again? Even if the commissions findings and recommendations succeed in reducing the likelihood of such accidents, doesn’t this disaster prove that it only takes one? And unlikely events happen every day.
The president has said, “if laws are insufficient, they’ll be changed.” But no president has this ability, only Congress has, and the president must surely know how difficult getting the Congress to effectively change anything is. He also said that “if government oversight wasn’t tough enough, that will change, too.” Will it? Even if he replaces every person in an oversight position, he can’t guarantee it. The people who receive regulatory positions always have ties to the industries they oversee and can look forward to lucrative jobs in those industries when they leave governmental service. As long as corporate money is allowed to influence governmental action, neither the Congress nor regulators can be expected to change the laws or regulatory practices in ways that make them effective, and there is nothing any president can do about it. Even the Congress’ attempt to raise the corporate liability limit for oil spills from $75 million to $10 billion has already hit a snag.
The President has said that “if laws were broken, those responsible will be brought to justice” and that BP would be held accountable for the “horrific disaster.” He said BP will be paying the bill, and BP has said it takes responsibility for the clean-up and will pay compensation for “legitimate and objectively verifiable” claims for property damage, personal injury, and commercial losses. But “justice” is rendered in American courts, not by the executive branch. Any attempts to hold BP responsible will be adjudicated in the courts at the same snail’s pace that the responsibility for the Exxon-Mobile Alaska oil spill was adjudicated and likely will have the same results.
The Exxon Valdez oil spill occurred in Prince William Sound on March 24, 1989. In Baker v. Exxon, an Anchorage jury awarded $287 million for actual damages and $5 billion for punitive damages, but after nineteen years of appellate jurisprudence, the Supreme Court on June 25, 2008 issued a ruling reducing the punitive damages to $507.5 million, roughly a tenth of the original jury’s award. Furthermore, even that amount was reduced further by nineteen years of inflation. By that time, many of the people who would have been compensated by these funds had died.
The establishment calls this justice. Do you? Do those of you who reside in the coastal states that will ultimately be affected by the Deepwater Horizon disaster really believe that the President can make good on this promise of holding BP responsible? By the time all the lawsuits filed in response to this disaster wend their ways through the legal system, Mr. Obama will be grayed, wizened, and ensconced in a plush chair in an Obama Presidential Library, completely out of the picture and devoid of all responsibility.
Politicians who engage in this duplicitous posturing know that they can’t fulfill their promises. They know they are lying; yet they do it pathologically. Aesop writes, “A liar will not be believed, even when he speaks the truth.” Perhaps that’s why politicians never do.
Government in America consists of law. Legislators write it, executives apply it, and courts adjudicate it. But the law is a lie. We are told to respect the law and that it protects us. But it doesn’t. Think about it people! The law and law enforcement only come into play secundum vitium (after the crime). The police don’t show up before you’re assaulted, robbed, or murdered; they come after. So how does that protect you? Yes, if a relationship of trust is violated, you can sue if you can afford it, and even that’s not a sure thing. (Remember the victims of the Exxon-Valdez disaster!) Even if the person who violated the relationship gets sanctioned, will you be “made whole”? Most likely not! Relying on the law is a fool’s errand. It’s enacted, enforced, and adjudicated by liars.
The law is a great crime, far greater than the activities it outlaws, and there’s no way you can protect yourself from it. The establishment protects itself. The law does not protect people. It is merely an instrument of retribution. It can only be used, often ineffectively, to get back at the malefactor. It never un-dos the crime. Executing the murderer doesn’t bring back the dead. Putting Ponzi schemers in jail doesn’t get your money back. And holding BP responsible won’t restore the Louisiana marshes, won’t bring back the dead marine and other wildlife, and won’t compensate the victims for their losses. Carefully watch what happens over the next twenty years as the government uses the law to shield BP, Transocean, and Halliburton while the claims of those affected by the spill disappear into the quicksand of the American legal system.
Jim Kouri, citing FBI studies, writes that “some of the character traits exhibited by serial killers or criminals may be observed in many within the political arena.;” they share the traits of psychopaths who are not sensitive to altruistic appeals, such as sympathy for their victims or remorse or guilt over their crimes. They possess the personality traits of lying, narcissism, selfishness, and vanity. These are the people to whom we have entrusted our fate. Is it any wonder that America is failing at home and world-wide?
Some may say that this is an extreme, audacious claim. I, too, was surprised when I read Kouri’s piece. But anecdotal evidence to support it is easily cited. John McCain said “bomb, bomb, bomb” during the last presidential campaign in response to a question about Iran. No one in government has expressed the slightest qualms about the killing of tens of thousands of people in both Iraq and Afghanistan who had absolutely nothing to do with what happened on nine/eleven or the deliberate targeting of women and children by unmanned drones in Pakistan. What if anything distinguishes serial killers from these governmental officials? Only that they don’t do the killing themselves but have others do it for them. But that’s exactly what most of the godfathers of the cosa nostra did.
So, there are questions that need to be posed: Has the government of the United States of America become a criminal enterprise? Is the nation ruled by psychopaths? Well, how can the impoverishment of the people, the promotion of the military-industrial complex and endless wars and their genocidal killing, the degradation of the environment, the neglect of the collapsing infrastructure, and the support of corrupt and authoritarian governments (often called democracies) abroad be explained? Worse, why are corporations allowed to profiteer during wars while the people are called upon to sacrifice? Why hasn’t the government ever tried to prohibit such profiteering? It’s not that it can’t be done.
In the vernacular, harming people is considered a crime. It is just as much a crime when done by governments, legal systems, or corporations. The government uses the law to harm people or shield the establishment from the consequences of harming people all the time. Watch as no one from the Massey Energy Co. is ever prosecuted for the disaster at the Upper Big Branch coal mine. When corporations are accused of wrongdoing, they often reply that what they did was legal, but legal is not a synonym for right. When criminals gain control, they legalize criminality.
Unless the government of the United States changes its behavior, this nation is doomed. No one in government seems to realize that dissimulation breeds distrust, distrust breeds suspicion, and suspicion eventually arouses censure. Isn’t that failure of recognition by the establishment a sign of criminal psychopathology?
John Kozy is a retired professor of philosophy and logic who blogs on social, political, and economic issues. After serving in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, he spent 20 years as a university professor and another 20 years working as a writer. He has published a textbook in formal logic commercially, in academic journals and a small number of commercial magazines, and has written a number of guest editorials for newspapers. His on-line pieces can be found on http://www.jkozy.com/ and he can be emailed from that site’s homepage.