Finally, our long national nightmare is over. The government brought charges, submitted its case to the people, and the people decided. Baseball player Roger Clemens has been acquitted of perjury for allegedly lying to congress when asked about using performance enhancing drugs.
Of course, no amount of press fanfare should be spared for such a monumental story. As of the time of this writing, the verdict holds the top spot on websites of every major newspaper, and why not? There’s clearly nothing else going on, at least nothing worth discussing.
I’m being facetious of course, but the real parody is our government, which spares no expense to charge and try citizens for lying to the government, while they simultaneously lie to us every single day — and yes, it is illegal for a government official to knowingly lie to you. Under the False Statement Statute (Title 18, Section 1001) any member of the executive, judicial or legislative branches of government can be criminally charged for knowingly making false statements. If convicted, they can serve up to 8 years in prison or pay a fine of up to $10,000.
Liars aren’t confined to sheisty law makers and juiced up baseball players. Investment bankers like Lloyd Blankfein have also been accused of perjury. The CEO of Goldman Sachs was accused of betting against the housing market while it was simultaneously selling mortgage securities. Blankfein insisted Goldman’s positions were merely a hedge, not a directional bet.
That sounds familiar. Where have we heard that before? Uh, calling Jamie Dimon? (see: The Nation: Jamie Dimon Redefines Hedging as Studious Senate Takes Notes).
The government can’t be bothered to enforce the laws against criminal banking cartels, but God forbid you smoke marijuana, refuse to pay your taxes or (gasp) lie to them.
We don’t yet know why the jury in the Clemens case decided the state’s arguments were insufficient, and we may never know, but I like to think that just maybe they saw the farcical situation for what it really was. Maybe the sight of a baseball player, someone from a still mostly respected institution, being attacked by the government for a now ancient lie just seemed wrong. Maybe jury nullification does still mean something.
Update: Protesters have joked that the Justice Department had more people investigating Roger Clements than they did the financial crisis. While probably not true, it’s not exactly beyond belief either, is it? Yet another example of how far we’ve fallen.