Is there a word more abused by the monopoly media than the word “corruption”? For US journalists, corruption is the sin committed by bureaucrats, administrators, and politicians everywhere outside of the US and its closest allies.
A glance at the map of corruption devised by Transparency International, an NGO favored by the capitalist punditry, shows a remarkable result: skin color and political independence correlate pretty closely with the magnitude of corruption in the eyes of the “scholars” at Transparency International. It seems that the darker-skinned people have a predilection to tolerate corruption, as do those people who fail to accept the leadership of the US and its Euro-Asian sycophants. Needless to say, poor Haiti-- both dark-skinned and unforgiven for its overthrow of colonialism-- is allegedly most cursed by corruption, as are Venezuela, Syria, DPRK, several African states, and some failed states wrecked by imperialism.
If this index, itself, seems curiously corrupted by bias, consider the exposure of what may be the most egregious, far-reaching corruption of recent years: the conflict of interest of US Federal judges. In a recent in-depth study of 685 cases heard before US Federal judges over the last decade, The Wall Street Journal found that 131 out of the 600 hundred or so Federal judges ruled on cases in which the judge or family members held interests-- securities-- in one of the litigants. In other words, almost one in five Federal judges bore a conflict of interest in the cases examined.
This is, however, not simply a matter of bad judgement on the part of the judges, but a violation of a 1974 law that explicitly makes it illegal for Federal judges or their family members to hold investments in companies coming before the court:
Nothing bars judges from owning stocks, but federal law since 1974 has prohibited judges from hearing cases that involve a party in which they, their spouses or their minor children have a “legal or equitable interest, however small.” That law and the Judicial Conference of the U.S., which is the federal courts’ policy-making body, require judges to avoid even the appearance of a conflict. Although most lawsuits don’t directly affect a company’s stock price, the Supreme Court in 1988 said the law’s purpose is to promote confidence in the judiciary. (WSJ)
And yet no Federal judge has ever been charged, not to mention convicted, under this law. The Federal judiciary, a cornerstone of our three branches of national governance, is therefore riddled with conflicts of interest and, by any rational measure, corruption.
The WSJ story, a powerful exposé of corruption at the highest level of the US government, immediately follows the late September announcement of the resignations of two Federal Reserve Presidents, who engaged in extensive security trades while the Federal Reserve was embarking on policy changes potentially advantageous to the trades. While both denied any wrongdoing, many commentators saw a rather blatant conflict of interest. The widespread suspicion of insider trading-- high level corruption-- likely prompted the resignations.
In both cases, attention sank like an anchor in the media maelstrom.
While a few major media outlets made matter-of-fact reports of the two cases, outrage was noticeable for its absence. The pundits who are scandalized by customs officials in developing countries accepting $5 bribes to expedite the shuffling of papers were strangely silent over Federal judges’ rulings in cases where they held financial interests and Federal Reserve officials profiteering. The politicians exclaiming the corruption of foreign leaders showed little interest in the shameful behavior of high officials appointed to decide matters of greatest import to the people of the US.
As author and law school educator, Dan Kovalik, points out regarding the Federal judges:
One might think that all of this would create a huge scandal, and maybe even a US Department of Justice investigation to root out corrupt judges to at least try to bring some fairness and equity to our legal system. But no such righting of the US system will come – not any time soon, anyway. Instead, the US, true to its long-standing practice of projecting its own sins on others so it doesn’t have to get to grips with its own, is focused on rooting out corruption – both real and fabricated – in other countries.
To guarantee that no one dwelled on rampant Federal corruption, four days after the WSJ article appeared in the print edition, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalism, a well-connected Washington DC-based organization, released a brief summary of the so-called Pandora Papers, allegedly a massive anonymous dump of data on off-shore tax havens used by important people in numerous countries. Media outrage ensued. Pitchforks were sharpened.
The ICIJ is an oddity. Created as a depository for leaked information along the lines of WikiLeaks, ICIJ has never received the kind of violent hostility visited upon WikiLeaks and especially its founder, Julian Assange. Instead, ICIJ’s “scandalous” findings have been met with media enthusiasm and official acceptance or, at worst, indifference. Since little that it reveals is actually illegal, ICIJ findings are essentially celebrity-shaming.
Astute observers have pointed to several curiosities. Ben Norton noted that the Pandora Papers shames few prominent United States personalities, a blatant failing shared by the aforementioned Transparency International. Apologists have offered the ludicrous explanation that favorable US tax policy makes it unnecessary for the rich in the US to seek tax havens.
Norton also chronicles the funding for ICIJ, the usual pack of US CIA fronts, collaborators, phony NGOs, and the ubiquitous Soros Foundation.
Which, of course, raises the question of the source of the data dump, billed as a “trove of more than 11.9 million confidential files…” Does any individual or organization beyond the CIA, NSA, or other counterpart intelligence agency have the resources to acquire the data released in the Pandora Papers? Or the other leaks that preceded it? The Panama Papers? China Cables? Paradise Papers?
Isn’t it odd that unnamed sources can, seemingly with ease, steal private data “troves” and pass them anonymously on to a group (“...the biggest [mainstream] journalism partnership in history…”) without revealing a hint of the chain of events that led to the disclosures? Even more bizarrely, no one in the media-- no “premier” investigative journalist-- seems in the slightest interested in discovering this pathway. It just happened. No interest on the part of the FBI. No charges of data theft. Of hacking.
Compare this to the intense media bonfires kindled by leaks ranging from the Clinton campaign revelations to the Jeffrey Epstein scandal. Apparently, the Pandora Papers, despite open questions over the legality of their acquisition, have the stamp of official propriety.
Maybe it has something to do with the media’s determination to spin the findings to embarrass Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad and other targets of US and EU policies.
Call it a conspiracy theory, but the Pandora Paper’s convenient release overshadowed stories that the media had already chosen to ignore. It served nicely as a distraction. Corruption at the highest levels of US governance never made the Britney Spears/Gabby Petito news cycle.
Some might argue that our channels of information, our chronicles of events, are broken and compromised. Some cynically see our media as a megaphone of officialdom. Certainly the evidence is there for both views.
The simple fact is that monopoly news is no news at all.
Postscript: Today’s WSJ (October 16, 2021) reveals that 61 of the 131 Federal judges cited actually traded stocks of litigants while they were adjudicating cases involving those litigants, a blatant basis for conflict of interest charges in violation of the 1974 statute! Corruption!