Third Party & Independents Archives

September 14, 2006

Congress: Corruption as Usual

Some appalling things are happening this week in Congress every voter should be aware of.

The first item is the Wilson FISA reform measure. This is a bill fashioned by the White House, which Democrats and a few Republicans fear would virtually eliminate FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court), by removing the power of the president regarding electronic surveillance from oversight and restraint by Congress and the Judiciary.

Last minute language changes in the so called reform, would create a perpetual state of emergency, and allow the president to wiretap anyone, anywhere, without a warrant, court review, or observance of Congressional restraint while operating in that state of emergency. Emergencies are defined so broadly that an attack by terrorists on our troops in Iraq or Afghanistan would open a 45-day state of emergency.

Obviously, with attacks on our troops daily, this means under this new proposed legislation, we would be in a perpetual state of emergency for years, if not decades, to come. This will destroy the checks and balances the Constitution established between the branches of government. An authoritarian government is one unchecked by any other branches of government or the people. This so called reform would establish authoritarian rule in the White House, not just for this President, but for all who follow him, in the area of surveillance of both Americans and foreigners.

This proposal passed on the Senate side on a party line vote. The House version by Rep. Heather Wilson, R - N.M., stalled yesterday when The House Judiciary Committee suddenly canceled a vote on the bill due to tense negotiations between GOP leaders who endorse it, and the administration, which says it places too many restrictions on the program. Take note, what is holding up this bill is not its undermining of the Constitutional checks and balances, but, to what extent they should undermine the Constitutional checks and balances.

Here is Washington Post writer Weissman's take:

The bill, set for Judiciary Committee consideration today, [now yesterday] would have forced the administration to seek a warrant for surveillance within 60 days and bolstered consultations with Congress on the program. But last-minute changes pushed by senior Republicans may allow warrantless surveillance to largely continue without those controls. Instead, House Republican leaders brought their bill in line with legislation agreed to by the White House and the Senate, which would allow but not require the administration to submit the program to a secret court for a constitutional review.

Republicans are undermining the Constitution and seeking to back authoritarian rule of the President during this war on terror, which may take decades to fight. Americans can and will be wiretapped under this bill without court review and without Congress' ability to check the President's (NSA, FBI, CIA) use of the authority.

Second item: earmark reform. What we taxpayers would call pork spending reform. However, it isn't reform at all. Republicans are putting forth legislation that sounds like reform of how earmarks are handled. One would expect such reform to thwart the corruption and waste of our tax dollars on pork projects and eliminate conflicts of interest. But, this bill is all show for the elections, and no reform. Amendments to the bill which would have made it a true reform bill, were blocked by the Rules Committee. As the bill stands, contracts may continue to be issued to companies run by, or which employ, relatives of Congresspersons.

The bill permits large campaign donors of Congresspersons to receive contracts from the earmark spending of Congress. The bill will continue to permit contracts awarded to companies whose wealthy industry lobby groups have contributed heavily to Congresspersons, even when those lobby groups contain Congressperson family members in their employ. Nothing in this so-called earmark reform bill, would have impeded the "bridge to nowhere" in Alaska, which became a scandal some months back. This bill is a sham designed to allow Congress to say they have done something about corruption and pork spending without actually having changed it at all. Democrats have tried to offer amendments, which would eliminate many of these corrupt conflicts of interest. They were denied by the Rules Committee to receive a vote.

A glaring example of such corruption was highligthed this week as reported in the Washington Post:

The head of a Pentagon-funded research organization has resigned after the group's trustees concluded that his simultaneous service on the boards of two defense contractors was contrary to its conflict-of-interest policies.

Asked to resign from the corporate boards, retired Adm. Dennis C. Blair chose instead to leave his positions as president and trustee of the Institute for Defense Analyses, a nonprofit company that has long provided the Defense Department with independent technical advice on large weapons systems.

Third Item: Fortunately for America, the President's bill to allow the CIA to torture prisoners, has met fierce divisions amongst Republican Congressional leaders and is temporarily stalled. Anne Flaherty of the Associated Press writes in her article, Negotiations on Terror Legislation Snag, "The White House and three powerful GOP senators reached an impasse Wednesday over a Bush administration plan to allow tough CIA interrogations, underscoring election-season divisions among Republicans on the high profile issue of security."

If politicians say they are accomplishing good things for America, don't believe it. The good things they refer to are naming post offices and bridges after past presidents and famous people. The national debt, quarter trillion plus annual deficits, corrupt tax dollar transfers amongst politicians and their friends and families, absence of real election reform, ethics reform, lobbyist reform, or efforts to solve the looming Social Security and Medicare crisis coming upon us fast, all contradict their statements about how much good they are doing for America.

Posted by David R. Remer at September 14, 2006 12:17 PM
Comments
Comment #181262

We need a new government. We are becoming what the forefathers had attempted to avoid when coming up with checks and balances. They knew that power corrupts, corruption is ramped in the government. The electronic voting machines can be easily hacked into and votes added or changed or deleted. We the people will soon have no say. Can anyone say Revolution

Posted by: dee at September 14, 2006 12:41 PM
Comment #181267

dee, it is imperitive that Americans first try to conduct their revolution at the ballot box. If that fails, obviously, consequences will become far more dire which you allude to. Thanks for the comments.

Posted by: David R. Remer at September 14, 2006 12:49 PM
Comment #181290

Our Constitution is gone. Our America is gone.
We act to save both. We talk and we argue amongst ourselves, but it doesn’t get us anywhere, and won’t.
We can’t do do anything to save it, because it has already been lost.
There are no checks and balances. NONE.
There is no law that binds our dictator and his henchmen. THEY DO WHATEVER THEY WANT.
No ballot boxes will save us. Your vote can be changed. Your vote can be flipped. You can vote absentee on a paper ballot, and it will be scanned and changed or flipped in their favor.
Our democracy is dead and our votes no longer matter. THEY WILL CONTROL US HOWEVER THEY WANT.
And they will have all the help they need to do so.

The consquences of Neocon Republican power — dire indeed, and will only get worse.

Posted by: Adrienne at September 14, 2006 02:44 PM
Comment #181291

Dee
The people already have not say, we are too divided.
The voting machine problem won’t be fixed because as soon as the Dems start winning in 06 and 08, they will then think the machines are fair and the Reps will then be the ones talking about them.
Only half of the American voters really care at one time and unless we get more people voting or (by some miracle) get the two sides fighting together against what is truly wrong, the path our country is on will not change.

Congress: Corruption as Usual? Indeed David, indeed.

Posted by: kctim at September 14, 2006 02:46 PM
Comment #181293

Dave I agree. I am a big fan of MLK and Ghandi who both preached non violent resistence. I love that idea in itself. But sometimes the only way to get people to listen is through violence. I’m just concerned with the electronic ballots, some professor attempted to hack into it to see if you could and lo and behold he was able to. I do not trust these things. They could easily be manipulated and this professor just gave us some evidence of it. I wish I could give you his name but maybe you heard of the story already. I feel like if voting becomes corrupt like the rest of the government, then I will have no say, therefore nothing to lose and something to fight for. I worried the ballot box is already heading towards failure with these elctronic systems and no paper backup.

And Dave, thanks for keeping people aware of what’s going and what the politicians are doing.

Posted by: dee at September 14, 2006 02:52 PM
Comment #181294

They tell Congress what to say.

Posted by: Adrienne at September 14, 2006 02:52 PM
Comment #181302

UPDATE: Weissman writes in a new article on the same topic:

Congress’s Republican leadership yesterday threw its weight behind two of President Bush’s most controversial national security programs, warrantless wiretapping and extrajudicial military tribunals.

But the party leaders are having trouble getting all their members on board, including the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. And by backing the president’s legislative demands, the leadership risks being labeled by Democrats as a rubber stamp for an unpopular president.

They risk far more than that. They put our entire nation at risk of losing its Constitutional checks and balances, and permanently damaging the image of America as champion for individual and humanitarian rights. America’s true strength in the last century was its ability to lead by example and provide a standard for the rest of the world’s people to strive toward. That standard is being grotesquely diminished by this White House and these Republicans who put party ahead of what is right for our nation and her future.

Posted by: David R. Remer at September 14, 2006 04:00 PM
Comment #181309

House Republicans passed a bill today for a border fence. It had only one small flaw. They didn’t authorize one single dime to begin construction. This is pure Election bullshit!!! They did this so they could tell their constitutents they just passed a bill to build the border fence. I gurandamntee you they won’t tell their constitutents they forgot to get any money to begin construction.

More corruption, same as ususal. Corrupt the truth, corrupt the tax dollars, corrupt the process, corrupt politicians. Time to remove them!

Posted by: David R. Remer at September 14, 2006 04:53 PM
Comment #181316

David:
“Time to remove them!”

How do you propose we do that?

Posted by: Adrienne at September 14, 2006 05:45 PM
Comment #181319

Adriennne,

I was watching Frankenstein the other day…pitch forks and burning torches worked for them…..

Posted by: gergle at September 14, 2006 05:58 PM
Comment #181320

They can do anything they want at this point, and no one can stop them.

Posted by: Adrienne at September 14, 2006 06:00 PM
Comment #181321

Revolution in a democracy is supposed to occur at the ballot box. If the ballot box loses its meaning for democracy, revolution will find alternative means. We are moving into the age of terrorism, where one people’s terrorism is another people’s heroism. That writing is on the wall in BOLD. You heard it hear first. But you won’t be hearing it here last, if history is any indicator. This country was founded on revolution to overthrow a corrupt and unfair government. It is in our collective psyche and education and culture. Screw with free elections in America, and alternatives will find a way. Look at the civil rights movement of the 1960’s where the ballot box was denied to blacks. Revolution will find a way if it grows in people’s minds.

Posted by: David R. Remer at September 14, 2006 06:04 PM
Comment #181325

All I can say is a little overwrought melodrama is fun to watch.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at September 14, 2006 06:14 PM
Comment #181356

There is a huge difference between today and the last great era of the 60s IMO. And that is that corporations have found ways to divide and conquer. That’s what marketing is all about. We’re so segmented by our media choices, and there’s so many channels, that it would be difficult if not impossible to have a “mass movement.”

That said, it is easier for smaller groups to be more effective. Look at Moveon.org. They were a very small opperation for a very long time. Only since GWB took office & 9-11 did their membership explode. But that’s just their membership. Organizationally speaking, they’re probably a small group—which makes them very effective.

The point is, how do we as activists get enough people to the polls, especially in a mid-term election?

Posted by: Daniel at September 14, 2006 09:33 PM
Comment #181361

Wow, what a depressing thread.

Though I am a believer and strong advocate of Abrupt Social Change, I don’t think we’re there yet. Give it twenty to thirty more years.

As a believer in ASC, I, of course, advocate letting the government do as they please. Let the government wiretap and disapear whoever they like. More no-bid contracts and big money lobbying. More torture. More easy-access, paperless electronic voting. More economic legislation that funnels more money to the rich. More congressional raises. Ignore the unions and bail out flagging industries. Encourage moving jobs overseas. Classify ever more things as crimes. More propaganda in the media. Spend less on education. Teach only abstinence to our children. Convince everyone that god will make it all better eventually but in the meantime he likes where we’re heading. And of course, get rid of all gun regulation.

This is a winning formula.

Posted by: Joseph Briggs at September 14, 2006 10:24 PM
Comment #181372

david, yet another excellent post.
I think our fearful leaders are looking to the future and running to cover their collective behinds with this sudden surge in consolidating power in the executive branch.
To all that thought running the country like a business was a good idea, this is just a taste of where we are heading, reconsider why business leaders and government shouldn’t mix.

Posted by: j2t2 at September 14, 2006 11:15 PM
Comment #181393

Thanks j2t2. Republicans still don’t accept that there is a fundamental difference between a for profit business, and government services. I guess they never will. My economics book spent chapters on the differences and why one cannot transpose accounting and economics from one to the other. They are inherently different animals. Try running a business like a goverment, and the business will be in huge trouble. Try running a government like a business: well, we are seeing the same result, aren’t we?

All this contracting out is costing taxpayers huge! I just read where the government contracted with oil companies for leases and found a billion dollar error in favor of the companies. No, it was not an accident, according to one government official who would go on record. Appears it was a policy decision. Now that the error is found, the IG says we may be able to recover 80% of if voluntarily from the companies. But, it was a bureaucratic policy decision. Possibly to reimburse the oil companies for the profits they were promised from Iraqi oil which never materialized? We don’t know, and it is very likely we will never know as no investigation is being called forward by the Dept of Justice, (read White House).

Bankruptcy on its way with national debt growing without end.

Posted by: David R. Remer at September 15, 2006 01:01 AM
Comment #181407

Jbod:
“All I can say is a little overwrought melodrama is fun to watch.”

I assume you’re talking about that demonstration video?

gergle:
“I was watching Frankenstein the other day…pitch forks and burning torches worked for them…..”

Now, there’s an idea! Get a whole bunch of those cards used in the Princeton voting study — if they can do what they did in that experiment, then we might also get some folks to write us a virus that will make all the electronic votes in every single state in America register a big win for Frankenstein!!!
When something outrageous like that happens, then maybe this will become major news, and people will suddenly take the total loss of our democracy seriously.

Joseph Briggs! you wrote:
“Wow, what a depressing thread.”

Yeah well, the loss of our democracy and freedom is a rather gloomy thing, Mr. Briggs. But that voting experiment is exactly the sort of incontrovertible proof we’ve been needing to see for a very long time. We are now free to say that there is no longer any doubt at all. We can be 100% certain that our votes on Diebold machines should be viewed as completely and totally untrustworthy.
Btw, it’s so good to see you in WB! You’re here so seldom, but I’ve never forgotten that you’re a true Master of Pointed Sarcasm.

David:
“Screw with free elections in America, and alternatives will find a way”

So, what do think of that Frankenstein idea? :^)

“Our leaders feel guilty for allowing 9/11 to happen. Our leaders feel unworthy of the roles they hold in our government. Our leaders confused by these feelings of guilt and unworthiness, are grasping to make it better.”

Personally, I think you’re giving them far too much credit, and cutting way too much slack here.

“it takes a brave and courageous people to choose to live free in it. Freedom carries risk.”

I sense that those who are giving up our freedom so easily, either through fear, or because they’re the type who can be easily lead, have never been courageous enough to know their own minds, or brave enough to risk feeling insecure in any way at all. I think it must be a great deal easier for people to give up freedom when they aren’t, and/or perhaps have never really been, free (in their minds and hearts) to begin with.

“Freedom or security.”

I think we can be still be free, yet at the same time, not take unnecessarily stupid risks with our security.

““Give me liberty or, give me death”. It takes a brave people to live by those words.”

Yes, indeed.

“Where have all our brave citizens gone in these days of confusion and guilt and remorse?”

IMO, a large number of our people have been cynically and very consciously whipped into a constant state of fear and hysteria, by a bunch of power-mad psychopaths. Still, I don’t think it’s the majority any longer. I think more of our people are seeing through this sick little game the Neocons have been playing since 9/11.

“Do we honor our soldiers because we can find nothing left in ourselves to honor?”

That isn’t why I do. I honor them because they’re my fellow citizens, and because they bravely risk their lives and limbs for all of us. And I speak out against the Iraq war, not only because it’s what I believe is the right thing to do, but also because while our troops are having to take orders, they often don’t get to speak as freely (against the decisions and commands of their superiors) as they might wish.

“They risk their lives in the hopes of returning to a free America, a brave America, and proud America that will not serve up its freedoms and liberties and Constitution for an illusion of security.”

Damn straight.

“Are we going to let them down behind their backs, yielding up freedoms and individual liberties to those would take them? Or, will we safeguard individual freedom and liberty for their return, against those inside our government and outside our borders who would steal them from us in the name of fear and concentrated political power?”

I wonder how we can revive American freedom and democracy when our elections are being rigged, or our votes tampered with, or not counted at all? This is why I have focused so much of my time on reading about that subject — despite the fact that I have been sneered and laughed at whenever I talk about it.
The Princeton study and the video that I have linked to in this thread are a total vindication against every bit of ridicule I have ever received on the topic of electronic voting. Therefore, I am now taking off the tin-foil beret I’ve been accused of wearing, crumpling it up, and tossing it in the general direction of our resident rightwingers!

So, anyway David, the way I see it, we might first begin by tampering with the electronic voting machines in so many ways that it will leave no doubt in anyones mind that American democracy is as dead as a doornail. Then, once we get rid of those shoddy computer programs that were designed to be easily hacked, and demand that our votes be counted again, we might then be able to begin to undo so much the other damage (the unconstitutional Patriot Act provisions, the wiretapping, the insane torture, the senseless war in Iraq, etc.) that these Neocons have been doing to our nation.

Posted by: Adrienne at September 15, 2006 02:30 AM
Comment #181415

Adrienne, thank you for the many comments and feedback. The very huge weight of our great and powerful nation rests balanced on a very slender stem. That stem is free, accountable, and transparent elections. You are, and have been, absolutely right to point out time and again, that forces are at work to collapse that stem upon which our great democratic republic rests.

Posted by: David R. Remer at September 15, 2006 03:56 AM
Comment #181436

Adrienne:

I assume you’re talking about that demonstration video?

I thought you had learned to stop making assumptions by now. But there you go, proving me wrong yet again.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at September 15, 2006 08:04 AM
Comment #182667

Government is FOR SALE.

And growing to nightmare proportions.

Now the government is trying to spread fear to secure their incumbency. Both Demopubs and Republocrats alike.

If you like things the way they are, keep re-electing irresponsible incumbent politicians. They will thank you by continuing to let our pressing problems continue to grow in number and severity.

Think about it. FISA is a farce when ports and borders are wide-open. Is Homeland security really the goal? Or just the lazy way?

Posted by: d.a.n at September 19, 2006 09:16 PM
Comment #182674

YOU may already be under surveillance?

Posted by: d.a.n at September 19, 2006 09:23 PM
Comment #227066

gp.org
the Green Party
it works, and also contests stolen votes!
(unlike some party that loses elections by not doing so)even in 2006 the repubs stole many elections. they would have been almost shut out of federal posts otherwise.

Posted by: monte letourneau at July 22, 2007 12:53 AM
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