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January 04, 2006

A Very Good Year

As you know, 2006 is an election year and people are beginning to put their ducks in order. And people are getting out their duck calls and polishing up their shotguns. I am happy to report that King Kong sized monkey wrench has been tossed into the mix that will provide us with at least 11 months of fun.

First, we have Jack “Joe Valachi” Abramoff pleading guilty to a slew of charges that came out of his vocational activities: getting his clients favorable treatment from legislators in return for campaign contributions, trips (one wonders if anybody other than politicians on the take and radio station promotion winners actually attend the Super Bowl) and other gifts. Having nothing to lose and only years of freedom to gain, Abramoff promises to sing like the McGuire Sisters on crystal meth.

Already, President Bush and House Speaker Hastert have taken defensive moves, including either returning money from Jack’s buddies or donating that money to charity. Among the other benefactors of Abramoff’s largess: Representative Bob Ney of Ohio, Montana Republican Conrad Burns and North Dakota Democrat Byron Dorgan and the highly beleaguered Texas Representative (wait for it!) Tom DeLay. Tom said he had done nothing illegal, but I believe that was a tape-loop.

According to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, over the past six years Republican campaign groups received $1.24 million from Abramoff sources; Democrats – who really should stop their Doris Day act – took in $844,000.

With all his connections and all his millions, I hope Abramoff remembered to keep current with his life insurance payments. He can do a lot of damage. He might even help bring about real campaign reform. Maybe.

All this comes right on the heels of what sounds like a local story, but in fact is of major national importance. A month ago, California Republican Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham pleaded guilty to conspiring to take bribes in exchange for using his influence as a member of the House defense appropriations subcommittee to help a defense contractor get business.

Mr. Cunningham has had close relationships with at least several major defense contractors, including Automated Document Conversion Systems and MZM (Google ‘em), who have secured millions of dollars in government contracts while making significant donations to Cunningham and other members of the defense subcommittee.

It isn’t hard to discover how these companies spent their money and who benefited from the sports and hunting events and excursions. Hundreds of little Bernsteins and Woodwards are doing the Deep Dig Rag at this very moment. Given the structure of the Congressional system, it’s virtually impossible for such investigations to avoid cutting through the major Congressional leaders, some of whom are already under investigation or indictment.

When guys like Randy “Duke” Cunningham (you gotta love the name) and Jack Abramoff come out of the box clenching their asses and pleading guilty, everybody who came into contact with these scandals gets tainted. And as far as the media are concerned, the bigger they are, the harder they fall. All of this is happening in a campaign year when many candidates are already going to great lengths to distance themselves from the White House.

If you like to see politicians squirm, 2006 is going to be a very good year.

Posted by Mike Gold at January 4, 2006 07:11 PM

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Most Americans already have a fairly dim view of both houses of congress. That's why they keep sending good ol' boy southern/western governors to the White House. The Abramoff scandal won't do anything to significantly alter the public's perception of the two parties or shift the balance of power.

I think Hunter S. Thompson had it right when he suggested that politicians should be like race car drivers: They can take money from anybody, but they have to wear patches on their clothes identifying their sponsors.

Posted by: Rick Oliver at January 5, 2006 05:29 PM

Americans certainly -- and properly -- have a very dim view of Congress, but they keep on reelecting THEIR guy. He's okay; it's the rest of 'em that are jerks.

About the only time they kick their own guy out or make it clear (via polling) that he shouldn't run for reelection is when he's caught on the take. Of course there are exceptions for particularly favored native sons and suggestions of sexual malfeasance rarely void the chair, but taking money under the table raises the issue that Mike Royko called should be our national motto: Ubi Ist Mea?

This wouldn't be a problem if Dr. Thompson's suggestion had been adopted. But then your average Congressional press conference would resemble the opening to a PBS show.

Posted by: Mike Gold at January 5, 2006 05:39 PM

I'll try to inject a positive note. (or more)

I'm used to thinking of myself as very liberal and having a knee-jerk negative to economic and social conservatives and republicans in general; however:

I have great deal of respect for State Senator Jim Battin (R) for his work on the Circle of trust bill (short version, in many states, the way the law works: Rape a stranger's kid auto jail time, Grow your own victim(i.e. rape your own kid), possible probation.) Protect.org (which I am a memeber of) helped change this in California (with a strong and truly diverse membership that had support all across the spectrum from the ACLU to Bill O'Reilly. Show me something else those two would agree on.) My own Representative (Elaine Alquist (D)) supported it where her predecessor (Vasconcellos (D)) opposed it heavily while he was in office.

In other words, excessive partisanship and corruption don't always carry the day.

I want to see a bunch of the corrupt ones go to jail (and I still believe in working for a Bush/Cheney impeachement.) BUT I know that if that's all that I support then it won't be enough. I don't like, don't trust, and will vote against the Governor here (Schwarzenagger) and I'm highly suspicious of his elction year claims of wanting to work with Democrats, firefighters and feachers unions (he's said that before and been a complete lying S.O.B.) but this year has to offer more then just taking the other side down.

I'm still suspicious of libertarian, Ayn Randian, "invisible hand worshippers" who seem to think that "the free market" (a term that seems to shift depending on who is using it) is a utopian magic wand that solves all problems, has little or no problems of its own, and that the government, taxes, public schools, public libraries, public sector et al have any role to play,


I've been reading more libertarian sources of info (such as Choice: the best of Reason magazine) and been learning a great deal from libertarians (Penn and Teller caused me to learn more about Norman Borleaugh (check spelling)(the Green Revolutionist responsible for possibly doing the most to end world hunger through biotech, fossil fuel fertilizers, etc.), My libertarian economics professor introduced me to P.E.R.C. (a bunch of environmentalists that use market-based solutions to environmental problems. I respect them.))

I still want to be futurist and not a nostalgic past worshipper and look to far-left sources for new ideas, dreams, innovations, and information,


I'm also going to be checking out G.K. Chesterson writings; he seems to be very intelligent in some ways, but far too much of a traditionalist, anti-innovator and anti-skeptic for my taste.

Short version: I'm used to utterly loathing all things Republican (they've given me so many reasons to over the years) and being enraged at the Democrats for not opposing them enough, being just as corrupt, or not being much better (or living up to the standards of their past great successes (FDR and JFK, for example.)) and I don't just "keep on reelecting my guy." I've heavily voted Green and Libertarian (and even for a Republican or two that I thought was progessive) in an attempt to "change the system." I've done the traditional 'phone/email' your senator/rep/whatever and gotten back form letters and when they've voted the way I asked I know that it's because they think that it will get enough voters to relect them, *but* I also know that I don't have a right to be angry with them for not representing me if I don't tell them how to.

Okay, that wasn't short, and not entirely positive, but you see my point. There are successes, and we have to build more of them this coming year.

Posted by: Jon Roth at January 5, 2006 06:46 PM

I'm curious as to how one can vote "heavily" both Green and Libertarian. I can understand how one might consider oneself a pro-environment type and a government minimalist at the same time -- but I would think that voting Green would usually involve voting in favor of a level of government intrusion that Libertarians abhor. But then maybe I'm mistaking the neo-Libertarians (who have been co-opted by the neocons) for the true Libertarians. Sort of like the modern crop of "conservatives" and "Republicans." (And don't get me started on the Objectivists.)

I used to call myself a social Libertarian -- until outfits like the Cato Institute turned Libertarianism into some kind of whacked out cult (not unlike Objectivism), a holy grail catch-all philosphy that only works if you conveniently ignore reality.

Posted by: Rick Oliver at January 6, 2006 12:01 AM

I thought it was interesting to find out that the "Dukestir" (that's the name of the boat) was wearing a wire over the few months before he finally resigned. One can only wonder who it was that got taped.

Posted by: Bob Kahan at January 10, 2006 11:38 AM

"I'm curious as to how one can vote "heavily" both Green and Libertarian."

Pretty much every time I vote, I look to see if there is a green party member running for the position; if so, I vote for them. If not, I vote libertarian.(usually)

"I can understand how one might consider oneself a pro-environment type and a government minimalist at the same time -- but I would think that voting Green would usually involve voting in favor of a level of government intrusion that Libertarians abhor."

Greens (and generall leftists like myself) like the idea of "hands-off" government when it comes to the war on drugs, censorship, the death penalty, the right to die (still not completely comfortable with that one), and other issues of personal liberty. The main issue of contention (seems to me) is when so called 'personal liberty' affects others (pollution, zoning, property develoment, the right of business owners to do whatever they want to their employees, etc.)

"But then maybe I'm mistaking the neo-Libertarians (who have been co-opted by the neocons) for the true Libertarians. Sort of like the modern crop of "conservatives" and "Republicans." (And don't get me started on the Objectivists.)"

I'm still trying to figure out what the libertarians stand for/mean. I've never come across the term neo-libertarian before (though I have come across those who talk about "small l libertarians vs. big L Libertarians) so I'm not entirely sure what you mean.

This sort of thing is why I checked "Choice: the best of Reason Magazine" out of my library. I agree with some of it; the rest, I don't know.

Posted by: Jon Roth at January 12, 2006 08:52 PM

I made up the term "neo-Libertarian" since most of the modern crop of "Libertarians" seem to be little more than thinly disguised neocons who have no real problems with a large, over-bearing federal government, as long as it doesn't cramp their particular lifestyle or revenue stream.

Of course, everybody is in favor of less government interference in their own lives and business. That's not really Libertarianism; that's self-centered myopia.

From your description of yourself, sounds to me like you're what I used to call a "civil libertarian" -- before I decided that "libertarian" had too much negative baggage associated with it (in my own mind).

From the Wikipedia:

A civil libertarian is one who is actively concerned with the protection of individual civil liberties and civil rights. Civil libertarians do not necessarily agree with economic libertarianism. The largest group of civil libertarians in the United States is the American Civil Liberties Union.

Posted by: Rick Oliver at January 13, 2006 11:39 AM

Given that I respect/believe in/support the ACLU when I can, the title works for me.

One question though, where do you go for info on modern libertarians and what they believe in? (The only source I have so far is reason online.)

Posted by: Jon Roth at January 16, 2006 01:49 AM

The Cato Institute is probably the most visible and influential outlet of economic libertarianism.

A couple notable examples of their brand of extremism:

Since they apparently couldn't come up with some valid libertarian rationale for why the government shouldn't play some role in environmental protection, they have taken the hilarious position that global warming either doesn't exist, isn't harmful, or isn't the result of any controllable human activity; therefore any government interference is unnecessary/irrelevant.

On health care, they correctly place part of the blame on third-party payment systems (health insurance), and then absurdly claim that the main problem with third-party payment systems is that they encourage consumers (patients) to over-use the system, seeking medical attention when they don't actually need it. The role of for-profit hospitals and for-profit health insurance in the cost spiral is totally ignored, since that would be anti-business, and god forbid that a libertarian might appear to be anti-business.

Posted by: Rick Oliver at January 16, 2006 03:58 PM

In a related note:


Gah, the socialists are doing a better job than us in health care. Sometimes, by the rules of the market, socialism comes in first place.

Posted by: Jon Roth at January 17, 2006 10:25 PM

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