We are getting a lot of "looking forward" these days from the Obama administration. This, of course, is code for "we don't believe in the rule of law". Conservatives say when the laws are not enforced or only selectively enforced, the public loses respect for the rule of law, and I agree with them on this. Rules on insider trading have been selectively enforced by the SEC and the Justice Department, which means Martha Stewart did time, while George W. Bush and manic-depressive TV clown Jim Cramer were not even charged. This does grievous harm to the idea that justice applies to all.
More importantly, "looking forward" right now means we must ignore that our laws were broken by the people who swore to uphold the Constitution for the first eight years of this century. The problem the Obama administration has is that if the chips are allowed to fall everywhere, the people in the dock will not only be Bush administration officials, but people still in the government. Nailing people like John Yoo and David Addington would allegedly make it harder for Obama to reach out to conservatives, but I think if the scumbags on the right know there's a bloody big stick as well as a nice juicy carrot, some of them might become more docile, not less.
When I hear the phrase "looking forward", I am reminded of the low point in the public life of baseball slugger Mark McGwire. In the 1990's, McGwire was one of most feared hitters in all of baseball. For generations, hitting 50 home runs in one season was a remarkable accomplishment, something that might happen once or twice every ten years. Hitting 60 home runs or more had been done twice, first by Babe Ruth with 60 then Roger Maris with 61. In 1998, McGwire hit 70. The next year, he hit 65. The concept of what a great power hitter can do was revolutionized.
I'd say the concept was changed forever, but we know that isn't true anymore. Mark McGwire didn't get arms that size by drinking his milk, taking his vitamins and saying his prayers. McGwire regularly used steroids, and did so from the beginning of his career. In 1998, we turned a blind eye to the obvious. Baseball attendance was way up, and more than just McGwire tearing it up, there was competition from Sammy Sosa. Two big, friendly guys, one an All-American white guy and the other a Spanish speaker of African descent, made for a demographic dream for Major League Baseball.
Fast forward to 2005. People are shocked, shocked! It turns out their heroes were using performance enhancing drugs. Congress dragged a boatload of baseball stars, some of them retired, some of them still playing, up in front of an investigating committee. Oh, nice work, Congress! It wasn't like there was anything more important to investigate, like wars or no-bid military contracts or secret prisons and rendition. No, spend time finding out about steroids and baseball. That's what the public really needs to know.
Our elected officials grilled the players. Some, like Rafael Palmiero, angrily asserted their innocence, and were later found out to be lying scumbags. But Mark McGwire, only 41 years old at the time, looked like a defeated man. Seven years before, he was an athlete like no other, demolishing a record no one had even approached in his lifetime. But in that hearing room, wearing reading glasses, his hair receding, grey in his stubbly beard, he was a whipped dog. More than any of the other physical signs, he wore the expression that Princess Sparkle Pony has dubbed the Frowny Sucked In Lips Face, and as all regular readers of the Princess know, things never turn out well for these folks.
When asked about his use of performance enhancing drugs, McGwire said he didn't want to dwell on the past, but instead to "look forward". Well, Mark, let me help you look forward. In your first year of eligibility for the Hall of Fame in 2007, you got 23% of the writers voting for you. It takes 75% to get in. In 2008, the number remained the same, and in 2009, you lost ten votes and dropped to 21.9%. You are going in the wrong direction, and every time we find out about a Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens or Alex Rodriguez, more baseball writers will be reminded of why your amazing accomplishments now are unworthy of praise.
I hate to equate steroid use with violations of our laws and our principles by the most powerful elected and appointed officials in our country. It makes me look as stupid as a member of Congress, and that's hard to do. I do this here because people need to be reminded that the "looking forward" argument is a load of crap. Mr. President, you are now the boss of the guy who runs the Justice Department. Let those people do their jobs. The guards at Abu Ghraib did hard time, mainly because they took pictures of the stupid crap they did and those pictures got out. We have evidence against others from that era, and that evidence should be put forward in a court of law, where the people who did those documented things can have their day in court, and either be exonerated or found guilty and brought to justice.
This blog is still alive, just in semi-hibernation.
When I want to write something longer than a tweet about something other than math or sci-fi, here is where I'll write it.