Tag: Corrupt Congress

The Accursed 113th Congress: Are Our Democratic Institutions Broken?

Posted by – November 18, 2013

ac·cursed
1: being under or as if under a curse
2: damnable

Source: Merriam-Webster’s dictionary – accursed

I am probably one of the few bloggers who would notice our worst. Congress. ever. is also the 113th Congress, and feel a gut feeling that the correlation isn’t really… entirely coincidental.  Too many horrendous events have happened to me and those I know on the 13th day, especially Friday the 13th, and though I know on the intellectual level that correlation doesn’t imply causation—a number can’t damage you, and dates on the calendar are more subjective…or more Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey than you might initially realize, for example the Jewish calendar may tell you it’s the 5th of Tishrei instead of September 13th—nonetheless I have some mild triskaidekaphobia, fear of the number 13… or at least some discomfort and anxiety around thirteen.   Or, as Alejandra said in another context, not meaning 13-itself, “numbers are bad enough… odd numbers are shady mtherfkers.” 

Prior Congresses (Congrii?) have been notably awful: there’s the last session—the 112th Congress—which brought us to the brink of a sovereign default crisis in 2011 which led to Standard & Poor’s downgrading the credit rating of the United States government for the first time, and we lost international credibility big time, and so on.  Of course there was the infamous 80th Congress, which President Truman ran against as “the Do Nothing Congress,” though it was a marathon of productivity compared to the 112th and 113th Congress.  We would much prefer “the Do Nothing Congress” to the current situation.  All the available polling data bears that out. And the 113th Congress is even worse than the 112th by every available yardstick.

Confidence in Congress has never been lower.

Put another way, when Public Policy Polling did a survey during the shameful government shutdown last month, asking registered voters questions like “what do you have a higher opinion of: Congress or hemorrhoids?” hemorrhoids won 53% to 31%… people have a higher opinion of dog poop than Congress 47% to 40% and when asked about zombies vs. Congress, people have a higher opinion of zombies 43% to 37%… at least you know where zombies stand…well, shamble.  [Public Policy Polling full results PDF]

The 113th Congress is also on track to be the least productive in history, demonstrating a shocking inability to pass legislation, even ceremonial laws like congratulating the winner of the World Series and the like…

Ceremonial vs. Substantive legislation in recent Congrii. Source: Washington Post’s “The Fix”

The inability to pass legislation has become so bad during the 113th Congress, the federal government is unable to fund itself, meaning funding only getting done in half-hearted three month CRs (Continuing Resolution), creating dysfunction in everything from scientific research to military procurement.  We’re on a three month CR right now; the weeks of government shutdown lowered expectations so much, it’s seen as a success.  The legislative machinery of our republic is going grinda-grinda-grinda, grinding nearly to a halt, and the dysfunction is mostly due to choices made by the House leadership.

Now, to the real thrust of this post: the decay of our democratic institutions and the weakening of American constitutional values occurring at present.  For example, the mechanism, or underpinning, enabling law that made the government shutdown possible was House Resolution 368, which banned anyone bringing legislation to the floor to re-open the government except the House Majority Leader or his designate, a new, innovative abuse of parliamentary rules and certainly extra-constitutional—not in the constitution, as the parties are not mentioned in the constitution, nevermind a party’s “Majority Leader”—and against the spirit of constitutional law if not its letter.
H. Res. 368 was snuck-in at 1am as the government shutdown began October 1st. Maryland’s Chris Van Hollen, whose DC suburb-district is made-up heavily of federal employees and was disproportionately harmed by the government shutdown, proposed that the House vote on the Senate bill to re-open the government in order to force the Speaker-designate to block him under H. Res. 368, so he could question H. Res. 368 in public; the video clip of Van Hollen’s effort became the first “parliamentary inquiry” to go viral on Facebook and Twitter.  Ironically, the Majority Leader given the sole power to re-open the federal government, and kept it shut down for over two weeks, was Eric Cantor, whose DC-suburb district has broad swaths of its working population depending on federal contracts and paychecks, and was nearly as disproportionately harmed as Van Hollen’s district.

Underpinning all that, how we find ourselves with appropriations stalled and shutdowns possible in the first place, is the Hastert rule.  The Hastert rule, which really should be called the Gingrich rule, as it was first added under Newt Gingrich’s speakership, requires majority support among the Republicans before the speaker will bring legislation to the House floor for a vote.  As the constitution envisions legislation passing the House with simple majorities, the Hastert rule to require legislation either passes with majority-Republican votes or never gets considered, is unconstitutional.  Similar to the situation in the Senate, where the constitution requires supermajorities in cases of ratifying treaties, expelling a Senator, removing a president, not for routine legislation like the 60-vote supermajority needed for passage of most everything, since most everything is now held up by filibusters, this Hastert rule violates the spirit if not the letter of the constitution,  The filibuster certainly isn’t mentioned in the constitution, and the routine blocking of run-of-the-mill legislation and nominations is an innovation not seen until recently.

In the House of Representatives, the Hastert rule has meant nothing gets voted on until the Speaker and/or Majority Leader “have the votes” of the majority of the Republican caucus.  This has meant a vocal minority of the Republicans can grind the legislative

Male elephants tusk-jousting for dominance. Photo by EPA/DAI KUROKAWA

machinery to a halt; the elephant factions have to battle it out and come to a resolution before anything can happen.  This explains the historically low number of bills voted on and passed, the inability to appropriate funds for federal departments, etc. And because of the rapidly changing dynamics within the GOP, which, in my recent post discussing the shifts in conservatism I describe as “revolutionary flux,” the Hastert rule is freshly problematic, not only because of its inevitable enabling of an extremist minority shutting down the government, but because of Republican unity on positions so radical they risk extinction in future presidential elections if the Speaker had held fast on the Hastert rule.  For example, an extension of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) had the majority of the Republicans united in opposition, but the national GOP didn’t want to head into the next elections having removed assistance for battered wives, so Speaker Boehner allowed a vote; VAWA passed with only 38% of the Republicans in the House voting yes.  Similarly a “danger zone” for national disgrace, Speaker Boehner had to bring the Hurricane Sandy disaster relief bill to the floor despite harsh opposition, even drawing no votes from Republicans representing damaged New Jersey districts; it passed with a healthy majority of 241 votes, but only 49 Republican votes, a mere 21% of the majority.

I don’t usually quote others at great length like this, but the blog Gravitas: A Voice for Civics has an excellent explainer on the unconstitutionality of the Hastert rule, explaining it much better than I can:

For example, right now there is an initial impetus to oppose the death penalty between what we call liberal or progressive politicians and libertarians. Usually, these two groups of politicians are known for their antagonism toward each others’ positions, but here is one area in which they agree. Now, I don’t know whether there are enough liberals and libertarians to form a majority, but there is the possibility that if not today, maybe eventually. This potential is exactly what the Founding Fathers foresaw and I believe hoped for. But the Hastert Rule makes such an eventuality almost impossible.

Why? The Hastert Rule calls for limiting the bills that come before the House for a vote to those that are supported by a “majority of the majority.” Let me explain. The Constitution calls on each chamber of Congress to form its own rules. The formal rules of the House state that the Speaker has the role of placing on the voting agenda those bills he or she feels should be considered by the membership. So, if the Speaker is against a bill, it will not come up for a vote unless 218 members sign a “discharge” petition – a very unlikely development. In effect, this role gives the Speaker a great deal of power. An informal rule – one not voted on by the membership – states that the Speaker will not call up a bill that is not supported by a majority of the members who make up the majority party in the House – presently, the Republican members. This, in effect, can give as little as one quarter of the members veto power over any considered policy option – a far cry from the rule of the many. That is what the Hastert Rule allows. The Democrats have never implemented the Hastert Rule when they held the majority, but Republicans have, although there have been a few occasions when the present Speaker has brought up a very limited number of bills that didn’t have a majority of the majority’s support. The Hastert Rule is named after a former Speaker, Dennis Hastert, but it was in effect under a previous Speaker to Hastert, Newt Gingrich.

Whatever its origins, the rule counters a constitutionally conceived quality: the possibility and, hopefully, the likelihood that Congress, particularly in the House, would have rolling coalitions that form over particular issues and policy considerations. These coalitions would form over one area, dissolve, and then other coalitions would form over other considerations. In each, there would be a different collection of members. This reflects a more congregational atmosphere in our Congress and would give meaning to its name: a congress, not a parliament. The Hastert Rule belies this entire conception and, as such, it is un-constitutional with a small “c.”

Read the post in its entirety: AN UN(c)ONSTITUTIONAL RULE

Perhaps we need a new word for things that violate the intended system, instead of “against the spirit of the constitution,” or “un-constitutional with a small ‘c,'” we could call it counter-constitutional, meaning it runs counter to the framers’ intent for our constitutional system of government.

People have a tendency to chuckle at the EPIC FAIL of our

from an early Bob Dylan music video, in which he captions the song with signs that he flips through for every word of the lyrics

from an early Bob Dylan music video, in which he captions the song with signs that he flips through for every word of the lyrics

system: you know, “LOL Congress is less popular than dog poo,” or “haha, we make Europe’s coalition parliaments that collapse every year look functional.”  But I’ve written so much about the dysfunction and the erosion of constitutional values in hopes people will notice the problems.  I want blogging to save us.

The weakening of constitutional values seems to be worsening not only in our legislative branch but in disregard and non-enforcement of the Fourth Amendment leading to a case of the police unnecessarily forcing a colonoscopy on a guy they thought was hiding drugs in his butt (he wasn’t).  The president suspending sections of the Affordable Care Act by executive fiat isn’t exactly a sign of constitutional health either: the law blog The Volokh Conspiracy points out the order’s lack of constitutionality.
Our country desperately needs its legislative branch, the broken branch, fixed.  We badly need to get the budgetary and lawmaking machinery running at normal speeds again, break the cycle of budgeting by emergency CRs; we need an end to austerity and a return to normalcy.  There’s such a yearning for a return to normalcy, you even heard the House GOP calling for a return to “regular order” in legislative procedure and budgeting in the first half of 2013 (though that rhetoric seemed long-forgotten by gov’t shutdown zero-hour October 1st).
I wouldn’t be surprised if, in the 2014 midterm elections to seat the 114th Congress and in the presidential primaries in late 2015 and early 2016, candidates on all sides run on variations of the “return to normalcy” theme.   I expect to see at least one presidential campaign reminiscent of Warren G. Harding‘s strategy in his 1920 run; Harding’s main campaign slogan was a “return to normalcy,” tapping into the American public’s weariness of the economic upheaval (and unimaginable carnage) of Woodrow Wilson’s presidencies and World War I.  Harding won in a landslide.

For Congress, normalcy would look like a string of routine appropriations bills passing and fully funding federal departments and programs.  Appropriation bills have become more “rarity” than “routine,” a situation that desperately needs reversing.
The accursed 113th Congress has visited upon us so many evils, the most obvious being the government shutdown, but an even longer-lasting evil is the distortion of expectations to the point that the vicious cycle of three-month budgets via emergency CRs is seen as regular, and anything resembling a healthy appropriations process is seen as remote, a distant thing on the horizon, at the verge of impossibility.  The 113th Congress’ dysfunction feels even more egregious because more voters voted Democratic party for Congress in the 2012 Congressional elections than voted Republican, yet redistricting allowed the GOP to keep a healthy majority in the House; unlike the awful 113th, the 112th Congress had a definite democratical mandate for obstruction and/or reversal of the incumbent’s policies behind a sizable GOP victory.
Hopefully the departure of the unluckiest 113th Congress following the 2014 midterm elections, a year hence, will mean a breath of fresh air and full funding for federal obligations for a full fiscal year.

If you don’t remember anything else from this post, please absorb this: for better or worse, the House and Senate are our democratic institutions, meaning the democratically-elected, collaborative, “people’s house(s),” and when democratic institutions are weak, the authoritarian parts of our system—the increasingly “unitary” executive, an enforcement branch run amuck without Congressional oversight, etc.—inevitably become stronger.  Despite the absence of a savvy demagogue-executive who could strip Congress of power, it seems the Congress and “the suicide caucus” could still self-destruct, de facto leaving the U.S. with a unitary executive by process of elimination (only the executive still functioning). We have to have healthy, functioning democratic institutions lest “separation of powers” whittle away, and a much more unitary/much less representative system emerges as a fait accompli, justified as a necessity in the face of a Congress that isn’t able to even keep the lights on.  Our democratic institutions MUST regain credibility.

Keep bloggering on.

Nick

Bribeocracy Update: the Quid Pro Quo status quo—Revolving Door

Posted by – March 3, 2013

Bribeocracy Update Winter/Q1 2013

I want this blog to be a useful source of information you’ll not get from TV or other web sites. You certainly don’t hear about Medicaid issues like “aging out” of most in-home support at age 21, and how it impacts the ventilator-dependent population, on other blogs. You won’t get in-depth coverage of Medicaid, how Medicaid is changing in the age of ObamaCare (eligibility is broadening under the “Medicaid expansion” without addressing anything else) and the policies that must change, on many other sites. But I also feel a responsibility to spotlight the disease, not just the symptoms, strike at the root causes, cover the corruption that prevents our government from listening to us, filling the gaps in our social safety net, improving services. The corrupto-sclerosis clogging the gears of the federal machine has not been this obvious, awful, and destructive to the people, in my lifetime. Corruption has made Congress and the executive branch so dysfunctional that we’re seeing symptoms of unprecedented severity, like the oddly-named “sequestration.”

Good government has disintegrated in the acid of dysfunctional, corrupt Washington. It’s gotten SO BAD that “the sequester” is taking effect, meaning we can’t even agree that laying off a generation of NIH scientists and breaking the back of American medical research is bad, that gutting Head Start and K-12 funding is bad, that yanking housing vouchers out from under 125,000 Americans, many of them people with disabilities, is bad. Americans with disabilities will need homeless shelters—oh wait, they’re gutting funding for emergency shelters too, dumping an estimated 100,000 homeless people, who will end up on the sidewalks or end up suffering a traumatic displacement to other shelters, or more likely, emergency rooms (the standard dumping ground for populations our society hates and doesn’t want to face or deal with). This will hit New York City at the worst possible moment; in January 2013, more than 50,000 people, on average, slept in our city’s homeless shelters each night, a new record, easily surpassing past NYC averages, even those during the notorious The Warriors-looking NYC of the ’70s and ’80s. It’s likely that, by putting vulnerable populations out onto the streets en masse, we’ll create 21st century horror stories I can’t even imagine right now. All this brought to you by “the sequester.”

“Sequestration,” again, is just a symptom. The root cause is the culture of corruption and dysfunction in Washington that runs deeper, and is more corrosive and paralyzing now, than it has been during any other era in my lifetime. I believe that we have to attack corruption, and, recognizing that Team Donkey and Team Elephant swim in the same corrupt pond, mercilessly expose bribery and the quid pro quo status quo to the sunlight wherever it lives. Under the tag Bribeocracy, I’ve been trying to shed light on corruption on this blog for years. Last month, I talked about the quid pro quo status quo within the executive branch, which I hope ya’ll will understand is not okay; even if you give President Obama a pass for giving ambassador posts to top campaign contributors, I hope you won’t let him off the hook for giving out cabinet positions in the same manner, to CEOs who were top donors.

Today, I’ll talk about the “revolving door,” the phenomenon of creatures of Washington rotating in and out of lobbying and powerful positions in the White House, executive branch agencies, Congress, and Congressional staffs. These are the Senators, Congressmen, and key staffers who purport to work for the public good, then exit public service but stay on Capitol Hill to cash in on the work they did under oath to serve their district. They use their contacts and knowledge to advantage monied interests.

Some high profile examples: Rep. Billy Tauzin of Louisiana’s 3rd Congressional district, chair of the House committee that oversees prescription drugs during GWB’s first term as president, negotiated the 2003 Medicare Prescription Drug Bill—soon after known as Medicare Part D—on crazy-skewed terms in favor of the pharmaceutical conglomerates (not only were private pharmacies and citizens banned from importing affordable drugs from Canada, ever, Medicare is banned from negotiating bulk prices or paying anything below full sticker price for prescription drugs) and then turned around hardly two months later and quit Congress in order to take the helm at the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the giant trade association he had essentially let craft Medicare Part D while chairman. It’s one of the most brazen revolving door kickbacks the media has ever ignored. In Tauzin, Louisiana lost its most powerful voice in the House—seniority means how much clout and bargaining power your state and district has in the House—and the loss of voice, and betrayal, must’ve deeply stung his constituents; they might have felt like some unstoppable vixen took their man.

In my post Living in Zomerica, I mentioned that the so-called “Fiscal Cliff Bill,” passed two hours into falling off the cliff (2 a.m. EST on New Year’s Day, January 1, 2013) had egregious corporate welfare in it. Man, that thing was stuffed like a piñata with goodies for corporate campaign contributors. But beyond the eight industries receiving subsidies that I mentioned in my prior post, reports soon surfaced of a lucrative loophole for pharmaceutical company Amgen in the Fiscal Cliff Bill. The New York Times uncovered a sordid, almost unbelievably bizarre “revolving door” story that led to the kickback for Amgen. The loophole for Amgen was negotiated by a top aide for Sen. Orrin Hatch who previously worked as a health policy analyst for Amgen. The former chiefs of staff for both Sen. Max Baucus (D – Corrupt) and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R – Corrupt) came back to Capitol Hill as Amgen lobbyists and lobbied their recent ex-bosses; it’s thought that notoriously bribable Senator Max Baucus slid the Amgen provision into the Fiscal Cliff Bill in the dark of night at the eleventh-hour, but it’s clear that there’s no daylight between Republicans and Democrats on this revolving door problem. They’re both up to their elbows equally in this cesspool of corruption.
In this Bill Moyers interview, tiny Vermont’s only representative in the House, Peter Welch, explains why he’s fighting to get Amgen’s “sweetheart deal” repealed.

A case like Rep. Tauzin’s emerged recently. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, about two weeks after being sworn in to the 113th Congress for her tenth term, announced her resignation January 22, 2013 and took a job as CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.National Rural Electric Cooperative Association NRECA, where the last CEO was paid around $1.7 Million for a year, one of Washington’s largest and most influential trade associations. Now, the 8th district in Missouri’s “bootheel”—the poorest in Missouri, and one of the 10 poorest in the nation—has to foot the bill for a reported $1 million election on June 4th.

The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association was the biggest single campaign contributor to both Jo Ann over the years, and to her husband Rep. Bill Emerson, who she inherited the Congressional seat from upon his death in 1996. Both Mr. and Mrs. Emerson were lobbyists in Washington prior to serving in the House of Representatives, and seem to be entirely creatures of Washington; neither were born in or near the impoverished rural district they swore to represent. Her ties to the district are much more tenuous than her husband’s were—at least he was a Missourian—she’s from Maryland, born and raised. So even though Jo Ann Emerson was Missouri’s most senior member of Congress, so Missouri loses a lot of clout in the House upon her departure, but it’s not the same as losing a Billy Tauzin, who’s deeply connected to his district. I think that understanding a district is essential to representing it. When I met with my Rep. in Mobile, Jo Bonner (Alabama’s 1st Congressional district, covering the entirety of Alabama’s Coastal counties, that is to say, Mobile and environs) even though we’re on the opposite sides of plenty of issues, since he comes from Mobile, we immediately have a shared culture, references, points of context, that make it easy for us to work together. Having that local connection is so very important!

The founding generation (the framers of the Constitution, founding fathers and mothers, and others of the spirit of ’76) intended the House of Representatives to be a constantly improving and updating body of the most knowledgable and wise representatives of the districts, to assess the realities on the ground, the results of the American experiment, and respond when adjustments are necessary. I know that because of bribeocracy supplanting democracy, we can’t expect good government to return in 2013, but definitely we can do better than the blatant abuse of people like Tauzin and Emerson using, then losing Congressional districts, cashing in on seniority.

Details of the sordid, weird, revolving Emerson in this CNN investigative report:

Worst revelations from the report:

    Unintended consequences? Laws prohibiting members of Congress from becoming registered lobbyists for two years after leaving office have backfired, making people like Emerson even more valued hires; they can bribe and influence on Capitol Hill for two whole years without any of the regulations or limitations registered lobbyists are subject to under current law. Monied interests are gaining from the two year waiting period purportedly designed to shut the revolting door.
    Jo Ann Emerson isn’t alone in leaving the House as the 113th Congress begins, she is one of five outgoing members—four Republicans and one Democrat—to abandon their constituents in favor of “influence industry” jobs.

Never stop exposing corruption.

Nick

Easter egg: mousing over a few links reveals hidden lulz in some of the tags

“No bribe?” [the Congressman] said, “why am I taking this meeting?!”

Posted by – January 14, 2013

If you haven’t heard last year’s Planet Money on campaign fundraising (I refer to this as campaign bribetributions, a hybrid of campaign contributions and blatant bribery) then you should:

Planet Money wrote:
[The Congressman] said, “I have put in two calls to your PAC director and I haven’t received any returned phone calls. Now why am I taking this meeting?” And he held up a piece of paper with my PAC director’s name highlighted in yellow on it with the dates and the times that he had called her to ask her for a campaign donation, and she hadn’t returned his call … He has warned me that if I don’t … [contribute] to his campaign, then he’s not going to help my guys.

Full podcast: Inside Washington’s Money Machine : Planet Money : NPR

We all know the political fundraising climate of our time…the bar for campaign costs keeps going up and up and up. Team Obama said that they had to raise a record $One Billion for the 2012 re-election run, THEN THEY DID, the cycle continues, campaign costs go up exponentially, largely driven by soaring TV ad time prices, and the government world is more and more and more focused on campaign fundraising.

In order to raise the obscene amounts of money necessary, politicians have to spend more and more of their time (time they should be using serving us, the voters and constituents) chasing down donors. They have to send the message that they’re carefully counting who’s giving how much, to create a competitive atmosphere. And send not-so-subtle signals that there’s going to be a return on the investment. Often, these signals are about as subtle as a foghorn at a funeral.

Political graft has become so aggressive, you now have situations like the one described on Planet Money above, implicit quid pro quo no longer carries enough cost certainty for some, some Congressmen are furious when expected PAC graft payments don’t come in fast enough!

Right now, we have a system of open, legal bribery; ALL the incentives and thus, inevitably, ALL the policymaking energy is lined up against efforts to help normal constituents, and lined up for the special interests that give money to elect candidates. This totally skews the system so that the corrupt incentives make the government serve powerful private interests first and the public good only accidentally, but it remains completely legal.

I am desperate to address the crisis of campaign bribetributions making government only serve moneyed interests (not democracy but bribeocracy). If the powerful will never let us remove campaign bribetributions from our system, how do we realign the corruption to serve the people NOT just narrow interests with fat stacks of $$$$???

U.S. Attorneys Scandal: The Media Is Missing The Point

Posted by – March 21, 2007

The media, the pundits, the blogosphere is abuzz about the firings of the eight U.S. attorneys.

As usual, most everyone is missing the point.



The Senate Democrats are saying “were the firings politically motivated?” Of course they were, the documents even admit this. Move on to the crucial questions, you fools.

The Republicans are saying “Clinton fired U.S. attorneys too!” As always, blaming Clinton is the balm that cures all ills. Of course, this isn’t true. All new U.S. attorneys come in (and old ones resign) whenever a new president comes in, like any presidential appointments, and this has always been true. Never has a purge of U.S. attorneys happened in the middle of a term, or new ones appointed without Senate approval.

The media is giving copious coverage to what “both sides” are saying, but, when, as usual, both sides miss the point, the media isn’t following up and pointing out the obvious problems and asking the real questions.

The real questions are:

1) Did ya’ll fire the San Diego lady because she was about to expose your corporate pals for bribing Duke Cunningham?

and perhaps more importantly,
2
) You guys snuck a clause into the Patriot Act that allowed you to bypass Senate confirmation for installing U.S. attorneys. This is totally unprecedented. Why do you think it’s kosher to discard the separation of powers? Why is the consolidation of this power in the hands of the executive appropriate here? What other gems did ya’ll sneak into the laws that give you extra powers?

The media, as usual, is totally missing the relevant points, and it is excruciating to watch.

While their coverage is typically shallow, the news networks are hyping this as a “Constitutional Crisis,” with all sorts of flashy “Constitutional Crisis” graphics. It is all so lame, all so fake. What, do they think Senator Schumer (pictured at left) is going to wage an insurrection or something? lol…. The worst that will happen is a strongly-worded letter and a lot of wrangling in court.

The branches of government are supposed to challenge and block each other. Checks and balances. The Founding Founders gave us a Constitution for this exact reason! They hoped the government would be too tied up fighting amongst themselves to pass anything too loathsome (like the Patriot Act) and subjugate us. It may be a bad sign for how far we’ve drifted from our founding when we view something as minor as subpoenas of the President’s lackeys as a “Constitutional Crisis,” but this label is probably just a ploy for ratings that no one really believes.

Again, the media is missing the point, and letting the government cover for corruption and consolidate more power in the hands of the executive right under their nose.

And it’s SO frustrating.

Nick

Hypocrisy

Posted by – October 23, 2006

Hypocrisy

It is an issue

I haven’t blogged about the Mark Foley scandal. It seems superfluous; the badness of it is so obvious, and the media and the public’s insatiable appetite for sexual titillation provided wall-to-wall coverage of all aspects of the case, so what more can I add?

But I do want to comment on an issue, including, but much broader than, the Foley scandal. It is as old as time itself, and one of humanity’s most dangerous sins: hypocrisy.

The Holy One hates him who says one thing in his mouth, and another in his heart.

Babylonian Talmud, Pesachim 113b

The hypocrisy and thick irony of the recent news is apparent:

CAUTION! VERY DISTURBING ARTICLES.

  • While Congressman Foley was cyber-molesting young boys, he served as chairman of the House caucus for exploited children, and pushed the toughest legislation on online predators in the world into law, the law that may land him in court now. He was such a prominent child advocate, campaign ads for him said, “Protect our children. Vote Mark Foley.” (I’m not making this up.) Hypocrisy.
  • Christian leaders, like James Dobson, who spent years making a career out of vigorously bashing Clinton’s sexual immorality from the pulpit, aren’t bashing Foley’s infinitely-more-troubling behavior, aren’t even mentioning it unless cornered, and then are blaming the victims, and “the liberals.” Hypocrisy. (source)
  • On October 5, Speaker Hastert accepted “responsibility” for not acting on info of Foley’s behavior. In that same exact press conference, he said, “of course, I haven’t done anything wrong.” Hypocrisy. (source)
  • The fact that Hastert turned to Rush Limbaugh for moral vindication after all this boogles my mind. Glenn Greenwald’s blog put it better than I could: If the term ‘moral degenerate’ has any validity and can be fairly applied to anyone, there are few people who merit that term more than Rush Limbaugh. He is the living and breathing embodiment of moral degeneracy, with his countless overlapping sexual affairs, his series of shattered, dissolved marriages, his hedonistic and illegal drug abuse, his jaunts, with fistfulls of [illegal] Viagra (but no wife), to an impoverished Latin American island renowned for its easy access to underage female prostitutes. Yet that is who Hastert chose as the High Priest of the Values Voters to whom he made his pilgrimage and from whom he received his benediction. The difference between Rush Limbaugh and Mark Foley, to the extent there is one, is one of hedonistic tastes, not moral level. Rush Limbaugh isn’t just tolerated within the party that stands for religious piety and moral strength. He is a leader of it, arguably the leader of its most righteous wing.” HYPOCRISY.
  • George W. Bush proclaimed “Our changing world requires virtues that sustain our democracy, make self-government possible, and help build a more hopeful future. National Character Counts Week is an opportunity to recognize the depth of America’s character and appreciate those who pass on our values to future generations. NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim October 15 through October 21, 2006, as National Character Counts Week. I call upon public officials, educators, librarians, parents, students, and all Americans to observe this week with appropriate ceremonies, activities, and programs.” Read the official announcement. During “Character Counts Week,” George W. Bush went to Pennsylvania to campaign and unabashedly endorse Congressman Don Sherwood, who paid millions in compensation for trying to strangle his mistress, and is now running sappy piano-laden TV ads (watch) apologizing for his adultery and denying he choked his mistress. “Character Counts,” eh? Hypocrisy!
  • Clinton wagging his finger that “I did not have sexual relations with that woman,” when he totally did was hypocrisy too, and he’s now admitted that and apologized profusely, and even gave an anatomy of the self-deception in his autobiography.
  • ADDENDUM: Democratic Minority Leader Harry Reid criticizing “a culture of corruption,” while illegally siphoning campaign money to condo employees (breaking news).
  • The White House at the highest levels employs gay men (source), allowed male prostitute Jeff Gannon press access for two years (source) while they made the constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage the centerpiece of their 2004 campaign. Anti-gay Senator Larry Criag (R – Idaho) just got outed. While we are at war, one of the most crazy fervert opponents of “the gay agenda,” Tom Coburn, says “that agenda is the greatest threat to our freedom that we face today.” And he has a gay legislative director drafting his anti-gay legislation. Former Washington state senate leader Jim West pushed a bill banning gays from schools while he was trying to give young men government jobs in exchange for sex. McCarthy aide Roy Cohn was an anti-gay activist who secretly was a promiscious homosexual and died of AIDS. The list goes on and on. As the New York Times’ Frank Rich said, this isn’t just hypocrisy, it’s pathology. I’ve often wondered why anyone would spend so much time out of their daily life trying to squelch homosexuality if it didn’t affect them at all. Evidently, it does affect them; in their twisted world of denial, perhaps feverish opposition of homosexuality is the only way they could feel a semblance of comfort. It’s one of the sickest forms of hypocrisy because it brings so much hate into the political proccess. And it is very sad. And we as a society should find a more mature way of dealing with the issue than this. But that is for another blog.

Hypocrisy is a huge issue that is impacting government and public life. It is one of our gravest sins.

One of my first experiences with it was when I was a child, and I saw on the Today show that President Reagan was making huge cuts to Medicare, but then it showed him at a ribbon-cutting ceremony to open a new hospital.

Sometimes hypocrisy is a diversion, a painful contradiction, or even a self-deception. But it is always wrong, and can even be devestating to the public. And it is wrong no matter who does it.

We’re all guilty to some extent.

But if we want a better world, we have to end it. I hope I helped in some small way.

All my best,

Nick


Filed Under: Politics and Government

For 2006 Republican Leadership, Support For Slave Labor Runs Deep

Posted by – October 17, 2006

For 2006 Republican Leadership, Support For Slavery Runs Deep

More Revelations In Marianas Scandal Show GOP Chairman Involved

Yesterday, I shed light on the disgusting Republican effort to protect deplorable labor conditions on the American-controlled Northern Marianas Islands, where Chinese immigrants are kept in sweatshops with little to no pay and not allowed to leave. Basically, the definition of slavery.

The party that abolished slavery under Lincoln has now resorted to extraordinary measures to keep slavery and forced abortions in place in the Northern Marianas Islands.

It has now been revealed that Chairman of the Republican Party, Ken Mehlman conspired with Jack Abramoff to protect the slavery racket there. He intervened and got a State Department official fired for trying to enforce labor laws on the islands.

“…according to documents obtained by Vanity Fair, Mehlman exchanged email with Abramoff, did him political favors (such as blocking Clinton-administration alumnus Allen Stayman from keeping a State Department job)…”

Stayman had been on Abramoff’s hit list for a long, long time, because, as a higher-up at the Interior Department, he had been an ardent advocate for bringing the sorts of labor and immigration reforms to the Northern Mariana Islands that Abramoff had been hired to squelch.


Ken Mehlman Killed State Department Nomination on Abramoff’s Behalf

In related news, China, tired of similar sweatshop operations, has drafted a new law to crack down and empower labor unions. The American response? Instead of applauding the Chinese effort to change their horrendous human rights record, U.S. corporations reacted angrily that their exploitation may be curbed, and are lobbying against this and threatening to stop opening factories there. Check out
China drafting law to protect workers, regulate sweatshops
Foreign firms hint they’ll build fewer factories if it passes (link).

It should be clear to everyone now that these sweatshop corporatists only care about profit, and the dignity of the human person is but another liability to be reduced and mitigated.

It should be clear to everyone now that a vote for Ken Mehlman’s party is a vote supporting his unabashed efforts to keep Marianas slavery and sweatshop exploitation shielded from U.S. regulation.

Three weeks until the Congressional elections. Stay alert, and VOTE!!!

Nick


Filed Under: Politics and Government

Bush Gov’t & House Cronies Supporting Slavery, Forced Abortions

Posted by – October 16, 2006

Bush Government Supporting Slavery And Forced Abortions

Top Rove Aide Involved In Abramoff Scandal Resigns

The Abramoff corruption and its reach deep into the government has been horribly unreported by the mainstream media; almost no one knows about it (liberal media? please.) and the most outrageous aspect of this scandal is how Abramoff and Tom DeLay conspired to continue slavery and forced abortions in the American Northern Marianas Islands (details).

Basically, human traffickers bring Chinese women to the islands, and keep them there in slavery in sweatshops behind barbed wire making clothes for U.S. retailers, force them into prostitution, and if they get pregnant, force them to get abortions. They are not allowed to leave the island, and they either get paid less than half the minimum wage, or not paid at all. Yet the clothing is allowed to be labeled “Made In The USA,” as the Northern Marianas Islands are a commonwealth of the United States.

Catholic social justice groups howled about the slavery and forced abortions under American auspices. A bill was introduced in Congress to enforce U.S. minimum wage and labor laws on the islands. The sinister Northern Marianas authorities then contracted super lobbyist Jack Abramoff to the tune of $6.7 million to kill the bill and protect their slavery racket. Abramoff, who has now pled guilty to fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to bribe public officials, brought then-Majority Leader Tom DeLay to the Northern Marianas Islands. DeLay appeared at a benefit dinner for the chief slaveowner, Willie Tan, and lauded his operation. “When one of my closest and dearest friends, Jack Abramoff, your most able representative in Washington, D.C., invited me to the islands, I wanted to see firsthand the free-market success and the progress and reform you have made.” Tan, who has paid the largest U.S. labor fines in history, told ABC News that DeLay assured him the bill enforcing labor laws would not pass Congress, because “I make the schedule.” Listen to NPR’s report on the Marianas scandal.

Abramoff hired long-time associate and former-executive director of the Christian Coalition Ralph Reed to send out mass mailings to Alabama Christians telling them to call their Congressmen to tell them to vote against the Northern Marianas bill. “The radical left, the Big Labor Union Bosses, and Bill Clinton want to pass a law preventing Chinese from coming to work on the Marianas Islands,” the mailer from Reed’s firm said, where, it added, the Chinese workers, “are exposed to the teachings of Jesus Christ.”

So Christians were enlisted to protect slavery and forced abortions.

And DeLay did all he could to promote the Marianas as a free market utopia and scuttle the bill to bring regulation to the islands. And succeeded. These brutal sweatshops are still very much in place in the Northern Marianas islands.

The latest development in this outrage is the resignation of top aide to Karl Rove, Susan Ralston, on Friday after the press corps went home. See Rove Aide Linked To Abramoff Resigns in the Washington Post. Ralston, it was revealed in the Abramoff investigation, was essential in the extraordinary effort to protect
slavery and forced abortions in the Marianas Islands. When Abramoff wanted a Republican candidate for the governorship of the Marianas who had promised reform to lose so they could continue the slavery, he e-mailed Ralston to ask if Rove could get Bush to withhold endorsement of the candidate. She e-mailed Abramoff back: “You win. 🙂 KR says no endorsement.” KR is, of course, Karl Rove. Ralston was Abramoff’s executive assistant but in February 2001 went to work in the same job for Rove.

This scandal should be huge, and devastating for the Republican party. It should be all over the front page, all over the 24/7 news channels. It isn’t, even though the scandal has now felled a top West Wing aide.

None of the pro-life groups are up-in-arms or even mentioning this, much less picketing the White House with “STOP PROTECTING FORCED ABORTIONS” signs; they are either duped into actively blocking reforming the island, or at least still supporting this administration. If they really cared about opposing abortions, why does this not get a rise out of them?
Is it that Chinese life doesn’t matter?
Is it just about power?
Where’s the outrage?

This is 2006, dammit. I want my government to stop supporting slavery and forced abortions.

Who’s with me?

Nick

PS
Don’t take my word for it. You can independently verify what I’m saying with a simple Google search.

Filed Under: Politics and Government

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