The news, as ever, is filled with lots of horrific events. I remember going round with my journalist father, Kays Gary, when I was in my first journalism class in junior high, about why newspapers were filled with mostly bad news. His answer was that things out of the ordinary qualify as news, and if newspapers were to carry a predominance of positive, warm fuzzy stories, that would in a way be saying that those are the rare, non-ordinary things in life. Better, he said, for “bad news” to hold place as the non-ordinary, and thereby (sort of) affirming the goodness of ordinary life. Convoluted, and no doubt tailored for my 13-year-old brain, we just left it at that.
So the news is still full of bad stuff, but I detect a change in people’s reactions to the bad stuff, in that calls for transparency and accountability keep mounting.
Here are a few of the current stories that prop up hope that there is a substantive shift going on, and not just in this country.
Amrit Singh writes today on Huffington Post how the U.S. may soon face some measure of accountability for the secret “extraordinary rendition” program and torture undertaken post-9/11. She tells a bit of the story of Khaled El-Masri, a German citizen whom the CIA and Macedonian government detained and tortured. El Masri tried to obtain justice through the U.S. courts, but the government got his case dismissed by invoking “state secrets privilege.” El-Masri has now taken his case to the European Court of Human Rights. While the U.S. is outside the jurisdiction of the ECHR, the court will need to determine Macedonia’s liability, and to do that, it will need to determine the role of the U.S. and form a judgment of the actions of the U.S.
On the same issue, the UK is launching a government inquiry into its role in rendition and torture. Many are hoping it will be done in such a way as to provide a model for how other governments should investigate their roles, as well. All of that is good for transparency; I’ll hope the inquiries result in recommendations for, and actions to effect, accountability as well. Otherwise in the UK, there’s been a coming clean about Bloody Sunday, that day in 1972 when British troops slaughtered 13 Northern Ireland demonstrators. A 12 year investigation determined that British soldiers were wholly to blame, and that determination has helped a lot of families heal some very old wounds.
The Roman Catholic Church, which has verbally made some progress in moving toward transparency and accountability in its multinational pedophile priest scandal, is also being challenged about financial transparency and accountability in Germany. SpiegelOnline carries this report about enormous assets controlled by bishops, though just how much can’t be determined. The bishops have no requirement to make full financial disclosure to the German government, nor do they even let the faithful in their own diocese know how much and what kinds of wealth they control. And while there are clear indications that the amounts are, in most dioceses, quite large, and some of the bishops enjoy a lavish lifestyle, the rank and file of the church are going through major cutbacks. So again, more of people calling for transparency and accountability.
The BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill cataclysm: good heavens, where to start? Fortunately, the news is full of stories demanding transparency and especially accountability within and from BP. Even the numbers of right wing politicians who’ve sought to protect BP is dwindling, as the catastrophe grows ever larger. With all the different articles out there I’ll restrain myself and link only to this one.
May turning of the tide toward transparency and accountability become a great sea change, even to becoming its own Age. Coming soon: a report on efforts to achieve more transparency and accountability in Vermont.