As a general principle, I try not read newspapers, for reasons that are plainly obvious. Referencing a headline once in awhile is one thing; superficially scoping out the front pages of establishment rags like the Sacramento Bee, the San Francisco Chronicle, USA Today, and of course the New York Times (all available in the vending machines just outside most of the coffee joints and beer holes I usually patronize), is about as far as I usually go. Yesterday morning, however, I splurged and managed to dig up fifty cents to waste on a copy of the Bee, only after an above-the-fold juxtaposition of a couple of stories caught my jaundiced and bloodshot eye.
My last two quarters gave me a soupy mixture of Jose Padilla being convicted of ... something or other, and another story of the Sacramento County District Attorney declining to prosecute a CHP lieutenant who awarded no-bid state contracts to a firm owned by his daughter and son-in-law. What do these two stories have in common? Well, nothing really, at least directly. Except, of course, they do function as the two sides of a "criminal justice" coin that's been debased and adulterated to such an extent, it hardly has anything to do with "criminal justice" any longer -- assuming it ever did.
Anyway. The Padilla case is sufficiently well known, among those paying attention, as to not need recounting here. It's enough to characterize it as the logical result of a co-called "justice" system run completely amok, political corruption settled in its gonads (and other vital organs) like heavy metals in a population exposed to depleted uranium. From what I understand -- and, naturally, I could be about as wrong as it is humanly possible to be -- the DOJ commissars never actually proved that Padilla really did anything, certainly nothing even remotely connected to the "dirty bomb" bullshit for which he was originally arrested and illegally held by the military, until his mind transmogrified itself into an especially rancid chunk of moldy roquefort. It was, from bogus beginning to pathetic end, a politically-motivated operation with a predetermined outcome; essentially it was an experiment within the wider project of eviscerating the United States Constitution, at least those sections of which that deal with "antiquated" notions of civil liberties -- you remember those things, don't you? Somebody had to be the precedent-setting sacrifice, the foredoomed rat in the diabolical neocon laboratory where the mad scientists attempt to alchemically merge the worst, most base characteristics of predatory capitalism with such fun-time concepts as Stalinism and the major tenets of National Socialism. Somebody -- in this case, Jose Padilla -- had to function as the procedural trailblazer for the rest of us, if you know what I mean.
In contrast to the Padilla case, this local tale of CHP corruption seems of little consequence. The mammoth chicaneries of, say, Halliburton and Blackwater, and other corporate monstrosities of their ilk, would seem to easily eclipse such penny-ante shenanigans as a Highway Patrol nitwit funneling the inevitable no-bid contract to his daughter. In dollar terms, that's certainly true. What's so significant to me is how the editors at the Sacramento Bee pinned this story next to the one on Padilla, actually sticking this article about low-budget CHP nepotism and thievery in the more prominent position, in the center above the fold. Clearly, they feel it's more important to emphasize how a minor public official is apparently entitled to escape criminal conflict-of-interest charges (in the words of Sacramento County DA Jan Scully: "The evidence does not show that [the CHP lieutenant] had any prohibited financial interest in any of the contracts at issue.") when a member of his family benefits from his decisions, rather than the sick story of how some poor dumb sap was railroaded into prison after being illegally held for years and having his brain turned into a rotten cucumber. A typically curious, but telling, mishmash of priorities on the part of the Bee's corporate hatchetmen.
Well, as I said, under ordinary circumstances -- whatever those might actually be anymore -- I usually avoid newspapers like a politician avoids the truth and/or his constituents. Looking at traditional conduits of news and information, such as newspapers, really has only two possible outcomes: the submersion of any and all issues into unfathomable depths of incomprehensibility, or the exposure of just enough of what's real to legitimize and solidify one's impending lunatic dissolution. That's precisely what I feel like is happening when a corporate ventriloquist's dummy such as the Sacramento Bee effectively declares that our sympathetic attentions should focus on the tribulations of an unindicted cop who broke the law, instead of a political prisoner who's merely a prototypical poster child for the right-wing dystopia-to-be. Ah, but such is the Bushworld zeitgeist, 2007.
*Sigh* Is it too early for a beer?