Hope and Change its more like "Lies and Everything Stays the Same" Mood:
irritated Now Playing: More of the Obama smear campaing - and a Portland protest on Oct 20 2010 Topic: FAILURE by the GOVERNMENT
On October 20, President Obama will speak at the Oregon Convention Center to stump for Democrats only.
A counter protest is planned for 3:30!
Meet at the NE corner of NE Oregon St (800 Block NE) and Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, across the street from the entrance to the Convention Center.
Saying we are disappointed in the current administration would be a massive understatement.
We've been short-changed and hope-winked.
Whether it's the continued wars, enlarged occupations, Wall Street bailouts, or rearranging the deck chairs on various sinking ships (the economy, healthcare, global warming, and others too numerous to mention)--we all have something that needs to be said.
Come out to the Oregon Convention Center and let the President know how you feel. Raise awareness that there is a choice other than the corrupt ways of the Democrats and Republicans who consistently bow to their corporate paymasters and ignore the will of the people.
Obama now complains that corporations are funnelling hundreds of millions of dollars, from secret sources, into Republican campaigns. But the Democrats could have prevented that by using their majorities in the House and Senate to require disclosure or even to add 2 more members to the Supreme Court and reveerse the Citizens United decision. But they did not, because the Democrats thought they would be the ones riding the corporate gravy train. After all, they got more corporate money than the Republicans in 2008 (reported the Wall Street Journal). But the corporations know better. They are buying Congressional seats for real Republicans who openly adhere to their agenda.
But doesn't action in the Senate require 60 votes? No. The Justices curcial to the Citizens United decision were themselves confirmed by 52 votes (Thomas) and 58 votes (Alito). Action requires 60 votes only when the majority party Senators want to fool people into believing they are impotent to protect the public interest. Impotence allows them to argue, "Make us stronger with a bigger majority." But the problem is not impotence. It is their allegiance to big money, which bigger majorities would not change.
Many groups are coming together for this one: See the note below from Dan Handelman of Peace and Justice Works Iraq Affinity Group.
(I received this from the Progressive Party on 10/19/2010)
Sometimes it isn’t necessary to quote facts and figures about government debt, unemployment and the trade deficit in order to convey how badly America is decaying. The truth is that millions of Americans can watch America rotting right in front of their eyes by stepping out on their front porches. Record numbers of homes have been foreclosed on and in some of the most run down cities as many as a third of all houses have been abandoned. Unemployment remains at depressingly high levels and the number of Americans on food stamps continues to set new records month after month. Due to severe budget cuts, class sizes are exploding and school programs are being eliminated. In some areas of the U.S. schools are even going to four day weeks. With little to no funding available, bridges are crumbling and street lights are being turned off in many communities. In some areas, asphalt roads are actually being ground up and turned back into gravel roads because they are less expensive to maintain. There aren’t even as many police available to patrol America’s decaying cities because budget problems have forced local communities across the U.S. to lay off tens of thousands of officers.
Once upon a time, the American people worked feverishly to construct beautiful, shining communities from coast to coast. But now we get to watch those communities literally crumble and decay in slow motion. Nothing lasts forever, but for those of us who truly love America it is an incredibly sad thing to witness what is now happening to the great nation that our forefathers built.
The following are 18 signs that America is rotting right in front of our eyes….
1 – Due to extreme budget cuts, school systems across the United States are requiring their students to bring more supplies with them than ever this year. In Moody, Alabama elementary school students are being told to bring paper towels, garbage bags and liquid soap with them to school. At Pauoa Elementary School in Honolulu, Hawaii all students are being required to show up with a four-pack of toilet paper.
6 – All over the United States, asphalt roads are being ground up and are being replaced with gravel because it is cheaper to maintain. The state of South Dakota has transformed over 100 miles of asphalt road into gravel over the past year, and 38 out of the 83 counties in the state of Michigan have now turned some of their asphalt roads into gravel roads.
7 – According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, more than 25 percent of America’s nearly 600,000 bridges need significant repairs or are burdened with more traffic than they were designed to carry.
8 – In a desperate attempt to save money, the city of Colorado Springs turned off a third of its streetlights and put its police helicopters up for auction.
12 – Elsewhere in Georgia, 30,000 people recently turned out to pick up only 13,000 applications for government-subsidized housing. A near-riot ensued and 62 people were left injured. The amazing thing is that all of this commotion was just to get on a waiting list. There are no aid vouchers even available at this time.
13- In the city of Philadelphia, rolling fire station “brown outs” recently cost a 12 year old autistic boy named Frank Marasco his life.
14- Oakland, California Police Chief Anthony Batts says that due to severe budget cuts there are a number of crimes that his department will simply not be able to respond to any longer. The crimes that the Oakland police will no longer be responding to include grand theft, burglary, car wrecks, identity theft and vandalism.
15- The sheriff’s department in Ashtabula County, Ohio has been slashed from 112 to 49 deputies, and there is now just one vehicle remaining to patrol all 720 square miles of the county.
16 – Of 315 municipalities the New Jersey State Policemen’s union recently canvassed, more than half indicated that they were planning to lay off police officers.
17 – Not that the criminals are doing that much better. Things have gotten so bad in Camden, New Jersey that not even the drug dealers are spending their money anymore.
18 – Almost everyone knows someone who has been severely impacted by this economic downturn. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey has found that 81 percent of American adults know someone who is out of work and looking for a job.
So can’t the states just step up and start spending more money and fix these things?
Well, no. The truth is that the states are absolutely broke. Quite a few of the states are actually on the verge of default, and there is no getting around the fact that budget cuts that are much more severe are going to be required in the years ahead.
So can’t the U.S. government step in and bail out the states?
Well, yes, but as we have detailed previously, the U.S. government is literally drowning in a sea of red ink. The U.S. government is already spending an amount of money equivalent to approximately 25.4 percent of GDP this year.
How much more money can the U.S. government possibly spend?
To get an idea of just how bad things are already, the IMF says that in order to fix the U.S. government budget deficit, taxes need to be doubled on every single U.S. citizen.
Are you ready to pay double the taxes?
No matter how you slice it, the U.S. is in a massive amount of financial trouble and the American people are starting to realize this fact. In fact, one new poll found that nearly two-thirds of Americans believe that the U.S. economy will get worse before it gets better.
But unfortunately things are not going to get “better” – at least in the long-term. The decay and the rot that have already set in are only going to get worse.
These problems did not appear overnight and they are not going to be solved overnight. Our leaders have been making very bad decisions for decades, and all of those bad decisions are starting to catch up with us.
But perhaps you disagree. Feel free to tell us what you think in the comments section below….
Can the government restrict the monks of St. Joseph’s Abbey in Saint Benedict, La., from building boxes?
Yes, says the state, if those boxes are for the deceased. In 2007, the monks at St. Joseph’s Abbey started St. Joseph Woodworks for the purpose of building simple wooden caskets as a means of supporting themselves. Monks in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, and Minnesota have been in the casket-making business for years. Before they were able to sell even a single casket, the Louisiana State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors told them that their sale of caskets violated state law, which says that you cannot sell “funeral merchandise” unless you’re a licensed funeral director. Were the monks to sell their caskets, they would risk both fines and imprisonment. In order to sell caskets legally, the monks would have to apprentice at a licensed funeral home for a year, take a funeral industry test, and convert their monastery into a “funeral establishment,” installing equipment for embalming. “We are not a wealthy monastery, and we want to sell our plain wooden caskets to pay for food, health care, and the education of our monks, said Abbot Justin Brown. This morning, the Arlington, Va.-based Institute for Justice is holding a press conference on the front steps of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana on behalf of the monks. They are announcing a federal lawsuit to fight against the state funeral board’s attempt to shut down their casket-making business.
“A casket is just a box and you do not even need one for burial,” said Institute for Justice senior attorney Scott Bullock. “There is no legitimate health or safety reason to license casket sellers.” The Institute for Justice says that the only reason the state of Louisiana is preventing the Abbey from selling its caskets is to protect the profits of the state’s funeral directors. “Economic liberty is a constitutional right that matters to everyone, even monks,” said Jeff Rowes, senior attorney with the Institute for Justice. “The monks’ story is just one example of a national problem in which industry cartels use government power to protect themselves from competition,” said Chip Mellor, president and general counsel of the Institute for Justice. “Protecting economic liberty and ending government-enforced cartels requires judicial engagement – a willingness by the courts to confront what is often really going on when the government enacts licensing laws supposedly to protect the public.” There’s a great video overview of the case go here. To learn more, visit the Institute for Justice’s website.
Mumia Abu-Jamal writes about - Lynne Stewart, the activist lawyer, - 10 years in prison. Mood:
loud Now Playing: Lynne Stewart, the activist lawyer, was recently sentenced to 10 years in prison. Topic: FAILURE by the GOVERNMENT
[col. writ. 7/18/10] (c) '10 Mumia Abu-Jamal
Lynne Stewart, the activist lawyer, was recently sentenced to 10 years in prison.
This outstanding lawyer, a 70 year old grandmother, who is facing the serious threat of breast cancer, was originally sentenced to 2 years and 4 months, but the federal appeals court apparently felt that wasn't enough.
The same appeals courts that traditionally reverses the convictions of cops who torture or kill Black citizens, and who traditionally rely on the judgments of the trial courts, reversed Stewart's sentence as not tough enough.
So much for judicial tradition.
For Lynne's tradition wasn't that of the tony, tie and tails law firms of downtown Manhattan. She didn't represent the rich, the powerful, the well-heeled.
She represented the poor, the oppressed, the destitute and the dispossessed; the Black, the Latino, the Arab, the damned; those whom Frantz Fanon famously called 'the wretched of the earth.'
A juxtaposition: Many, many lawyers on the Office of Legal Counsel, in the White House, the CIA, and the Defense Dept. violated criminal laws, the military legal code, the Geneva Conventions, and the Convention Against Torture (CAT) [not to mention the U.S. Constitution!] to aid and abet violations of law -- for years.
Guess how many of them faced trial? Guess how many of them will in future?
How many of them will ever face prison?
None, None -- and none.
For their crimes were on behalf of the powerful; the state; hence their immunity.
Or consider what is know in international law as the 'supreme crime': wars of aggression.
Iraq will be a basket case for generations, thanks to American arrogance and greed.
Will anybody be brought to book for this crime, that shattered a nation, that sent millions into exile, and killed perhaps a million men, women and children?
Don't hold your breath.
There are still black sites, secret prisons, where tortures happen daily. There is still extraordinary renditions - clear violations of the Convention Against Torture (CAT)
But politicians are doing it - not to 'protect' the nation -- but to secure elections. Torture for votes.
And a 70 year old grandmother, a lawyer, is sent to prison for 10 years - for violating a prison rule that is an unconstitutional relic of the so-called war on terror.
Please make a contribution to help free Mumia. Donations to the grassroots work will go to both INTERNATIONAL CONCERNED FAMILY AND FRIENDS OF MUMIA ABU-JAMAL and the FREE MUMIA ABU-JAMAL COALITION (NYC).
Seven years ago today, in a speech on the Iraq war, Sen. Ted Kennedy fired the first shot in an all-out assault on President George W. Bush's integrity. "All the evidence points to the conclusion," Kennedy said, that the Bush administration "put a spin on the intelligence and a spin on the truth." Later that day Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle told reporters Mr. Bush needed "to be forthcoming" about the absence of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
Columnist John Fund says you'll never guess who's funding ads critical of Obama's agenda. And, Columnist Mary Anastasia O'Grady looks into whether the just-passed Dodd-Frank financial reform measure is a quota bill.
Thus began a shameful episode in our political life whose poisonous fruits are still with us.
The next morning, Democratic presidential candidates John Kerry and John Edwards joined in. Sen. Kerry said, "It is time for a president who will face the truth and tell the truth." Mr. Edwards chimed in, "The administration has a problem with the truth."
The battering would continue, and it was a monument to hypocrisy and cynicism. All these Democrats had said, like Mr. Bush did, that Saddam Hussein possessed WMD. Of the 110 House and Senate Democrats who voted in October 2002 to authorize the use of force against his regime, 67 said in congressional debate that Saddam had these weapons. This didn't keep Democrats from later alleging something they knew was false—that the president had lied America into war.
Senate Intelligence Chairman Bob Graham organized a bipartisan letter in December 2001 warning Mr. Bush that Saddam's "biological, chemical and nuclear weapons programs . . . may be back to pre-Gulf War status," and enhanced by "longer-range missiles that will threaten the United States and our allies." Yet two years later, he called for Mr. Bush's impeachment for having said Saddam had WMD.
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On July 9, 2004, Mr. Graham's fellow Democrat on Senate Intelligence, Jay Rockefeller, charged that the Bush administration "at all levels . . . used bad information to bolster the case for war." But in his remarks on Oct. 10, 2002, supporting the war resolution, he said that "Saddam's existing biological and chemical weapons capabilities pose real threats to America."
Even Kennedy, who opposed the war resolution, nonetheless said the month before the vote that Saddam's "pursuit of lethal weapons of mass destruction cannot be tolerated." But he warned if force were employed, the Iraqi dictator "may decide he has nothing to lose by using weapons of mass destruction himself or by sharing them with terrorists."
Then there was Al Gore, who charged on June 24, 2004, that Mr. Bush spent "prodigious amounts of energy convincing people of lies" and accused him of treason, bellowing that Mr. Bush "betrayed his country." Yet just a month before the war resolution debate, the former vice president said, "We know that [Saddam] has stored away secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country."
Top Democrats led their party in making the "Bush lied, people died" charge because they wanted to defeat him in 2004. That didn't happen. Several bipartisan commissions would later catalogue the serious errors in the intelligence on which Mr. Bush and Democrats relied. But these commissions, particularly the Silberman-Robb report of March 31, 2005, found that the "Bush lied" charge was false. Still, the attacks hurt: When they began, less than a third of Americans believed the charge. Two years later, polls showed that just over half did.
About Karl Rove
Karl Rove served as Senior Advisor to President George W. Bush from 2000–2007 and Deputy Chief of Staff from 2004–2007. At the White House he oversaw the Offices of Strategic Initiatives, Political Affairs, Public Liaison, and Intergovernmental Affairs and was Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy, coordinating the White House policy-making process.
Before Karl became known as "The Architect" of President Bush's 2000 and 2004 campaigns, he was president of Karl Rove + Company, an Austin-based public affairs firm that worked for Republican candidates, nonpartisan causes, and nonprofit groups. His clients included over 75 Republican U.S. Senate, Congressional and gubernatorial candidates in 24 states, as well as the Moderate Party of Sweden.
Karl writes a weekly op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, is a Newsweek columnist and is the author of the forthcoming book "Courage and Consequence" (Threshold Editions).
Email the author atKarl@Rove.comor visit him on the web atRove.com. Or, you can send a Tweet to @karlrove.
The damage extended beyond Mr. Bush's presidency. The attacks on Mr. Bush poisoned America's political discourse. Saying the commander-in-chief intentionally lied America into war is about the most serious accusation that can be leveled at a president. The charge was false—and it opened the way for politicians in both parties to move the debate from differences over issues into ad hominem attacks.
At the time, we in the Bush White House discussed responding but decided not to relitigate the past. That was wrong and my mistake: I should have insisted to the president that this was a dagger aimed at his administration's heart. What Democrats started seven years ago left us less united as a nation to confront foreign challenges and overcome America's enemies.
We know President Bush did not intentionally mislead the nation. Saddam Hussein was deposed and eventually hanged for his crimes. Iraq is a democracy and an ally instead of an enemy of America. Al Qaeda suffered tremendous blows in the "land between the two rivers." But Democrats lost more than the election in 2004. In telling lie after lie, week after week, many lost their honor and blackened their reputations.
Mr. Rove is the former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush.
The federal government is launching an expansive program dubbed "Perfect Citizen" to detect cyber assaults on private companies and government agencies running such critical infrastructure as the electricity grid and nuclear-power plants, according to people familiar with the program.
The surveillance by the National Security Agency, the government's chief eavesdropping agency, would rely on a set of sensors deployed in computer networks for critical infrastructure that would be triggered by unusual activity suggesting an impending cyber attack, though it wouldn't persistently monitor the whole system, these people said.
Defense contractor Raytheon Corp. recently won a classified contract for the initial phase of the surveillance effort valued at up to $100 million, said a person familiar with the project.
An NSA spokeswoman said the agency had no information to provide on the program. A Raytheon spokesman declined to comment.
Some industry and government officials familiar with the program see Perfect Citizen as an intrusion by the NSA into domestic affairs, while others say it is an important program to combat an emerging security threat that only the NSA is equipped to provide.
"The overall purpose of the [program] is our Government...feel[s] that they need to insure the Public Sector is doing all they can to secure Infrastructure critical to our National Security," said one internal Raytheon email, the text of which was seen by The Wall Street Journal. "Perfect Citizen is Big Brother."
A U.S. military official called the program long overdue and said any intrusion into privacy is no greater than what the public already endures from traffic cameras. It's a logical extension of the work federal agencies have done in the past to protect physical attacks on critical infrastructure that could sabotage the government or key parts of the country, the official said.
U.S. intelligence officials have grown increasingly alarmed about what they believe to be Chinese and Russian surveillance of computer systems that control the electric grid and other U.S. infrastructure. Officials are unable to describe the full scope of the problem, however, because they have had limited ability to pull together all the private data.
Perfect Citizen will look at large, typically older computer control systems that were often designed without Internet connectivity or security in mind. Many of those systems—which run everything from subway systems to air-traffic control networks—have since been linked to the Internet, making them more efficient but also exposing them to cyber attack.
The goal is to close the "big, glaring holes" in the U.S.'s understanding of the nature of the cyber threat against its infrastructure, said one industry specialist familiar with the program. "We don't have a dedicated way to understand the problem."
The information gathered by Perfect Citizen could also have applications beyond the critical infrastructure sector, officials said, serving as a data bank that would also help companies and agencies who call upon NSA for help with investigations of cyber attacks, as Google did when it sustained a major attack late last year.
The U.S. government has for more than a decade claimed a national-security interest in privately owned critical infrastructure that, if attacked, could cause significant damage to the government or the economy. Initially, it established relationships with utility companies so it could, for instance, request that a power company seal a manhole that provides access to a key power line for a government agency.
With the growth in concern about cyber attacks, these relationships began to extend into the electronic arena, and the only U.S. agency equipped to manage electronic assessments of critical-infrastructure vulnerabilities is the NSA, government and industry officials said.
The NSA years ago began a small-scale effort to address this problem code-named April Strawberry, the military official said. The program researched vulnerabilities in computer networks running critical infrastructure and sought ways to close security holes.
That led to initial work on Perfect Citizen, which was a piecemeal effort to forge relationships with some companies, particularly energy companies, whose infrastructure is widely used across the country.
The classified program is now being expanded with funding from the multibillion-dollar Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative, which started at the end of the Bush administration and has been continued by the Obama administration, officials said. With that infusion of money, the NSA is now seeking to map out intrusions into critical infrastructure across the country.
Because the program is still in the early stages, much remains to be worked out, such as which computer control systems will be monitored and how the data will be collected. NSA would likely start with the systems that have the most important security implications if attacked, such as electric, nuclear, and air-traffic-control systems, they said.
The Obama administration said Tuesday that it “firmly opposes” the legalization of any illicit drugs as California voters head to the polls to consider legalizing marijuana this fall.
The president and his drug czar re-emphasized their opposition to legalizing drugs in the first release of its National Drug Control Strategy this morning.
“Keeping drugs illegal reduces their availability and lessens willingness to use them,” the document, prepared by Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske, says. “That is why this Administration firmly opposes the legalization of marijuana or any other illicit drug.”
Is anyone surprised? You shouldn’t be. After all, this is the same Gil Kerlikowske that has said repeatedly that legalization is not in his vocabulary, and publicly stated, “Marijuana is dangerous and has no medicinal benefit.” And this is the same administration that recently nominated Michele Leonhart to head the DEA — the same Michele Leonhart who overruled the DEA’s own administrative law judge in order to continue to block medical marijuana research, and publicly claimed that the rising death toll civilians attributable to the U.S./Mexican drug war “a signpost of the success” of U.S. prohibitionist policies.
Yet, given that national polls now indicate that an estimated one out of two Americans nationwide support legalization, and that a solid majority of west coast voters and Californians back regulating the retail production and distribution of pot like alcohol, it seems politically counterproductive for the administration to maintain such a ‘flat Earth’ policy. So what could possibly be their reasoning?
We have many proven methods for reducing the demand for drugs. Keeping drugs illegal reduces their availability and lessens willingness to use them. That is why this Administration firmly opposes the legalization of marijuana or any other illicit drug. Legalizing drugs would increase accessibility and encourage promotion and acceptance of use. Diagnostic, laboratory, clinical, and epidemiological studies clearly indicate that marijuana use is associated with dependence, respiratory and mental illness, poor motor performance, and cognitive impairment, among other negative effects, and legalization would only exacerbate these problems.
Yet the entire premise for maintaining the government’s policy — that keeping marijuana criminally prohibited “reduces [its] availability and lessens willingness to use [it]” — is demonstrably false. Under present prohibition, more than 1/3 of 8th graders, more than 2/3rds of 10th graders, and some 85 percent of 12th graders say that marijuana is “easy to get.” Even according to the stridently prohibitionist group CASA (National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University), more teens say that they can get their hands on pot than booze, and one-quarter say that they can buy marijuana within the hour. That means, President Obama and Gil Kerlikowske, that 25 percent of teens can obtain marijuana as easily — and as quickly — as a Domino’s pizza!
This is your “proven” method for “reducing availability?” Don’t make us laugh.
By contrast, dozens of studies from around the globe have established, consistently, that marijuana liberalization will result in lower overall drug use. For example, no less than the World Health Organization concluded:
“Globally, drug use is not distributed evenly, and is simply not related to drug policy. … The U.S. … stands out with higher levels of use of alcohol, cocaine, and cannabis, despite punitive illegal drug policies. … The Netherlands, with a less criminally punitive approach to cannabis use than the U.S., has experienced lower levels of use, particularly among younger adults. Clearly, by itself, a punitive policy towards possession and use accounts for limited variation in national rates of illegal drug use.”
In fact, NORML has an entire white paper devoted to addressing this issue here.
Of course, the best option to truly reduce youth availability to cannabis is legalization and regulation. This strategy — the same one that we employ for the use of virtually every other product except cannabis — would impose common sense controls regarding who can legally produce marijuana, who can legally distribute marijuana, who can legally consume marijuana, and where adults can legally use marijuana and under what circumstances is such use legally permitted.
But we already know that this option isn’t in the administration’s vocabulary, now don’t we?
I’ve written time and time again that this administration ought to view marijuana legalization as a political opportunity, not a political liability. They obviously aren’t listening. Nevertheless, it is the voters who have led — and will continue to lead — on this issue, and it is the politicians who will follow. Could we expect it to be any other way?
After all it was the federal government that followed the states lead in 1937 — federally criminalizing pot, but only doing so after virtually every state in the nation had already done so. California, for instance, outlawed marijuana use in 1913 — nearly a quarter of a century before the Feds acted similarly. Likewise, it is going to be the states — and California in particular — that are going to usher in the era of re-legalization.
And it will be the Feds who eventually will have no other choice but to fall in line.
“I do not expect any help for a libertarian revolution from any Government in the world. . . . We expect no help, not even from our own Government, in the last analysis.”
“But”, interjected van Paasen, “You will be sitting on a pile of ruins.”
Durruti answered: “We have always lived in slums and holes in the wall. We will know how to accommodate ourselves for a time. For, you must not forget, we can also build.
It is we the workers who built these palaces and cities here in Spain and in America and everywhere. We, the workers, can build others to take their place. And better ones! We are not in the least afraid of ruins.
We are going to inherit the earth; there is not the slightest doubt about that. The bourgeoisie might blast and ruin its own world before it leaves the stage of history. We carry a new world here, in our hearts. That world is growing this minute.”
House Democrats are suddenly in a rush to ban corporate earmarks, those just-for-our-donors legislative favors that benefit everybody but the taxpayers. It is the right thing to do, but it is also a classic case of closing the barn door just in time for Election Day.
Meanwhile, holier-than-thou Republicans are trying to trump with a call for a much-too-sweeping ban on all earmarks, even those helping nonprofit endeavors.
The quid-pro-quo awarding of government contracts — and the scandals that come along with it — has been especially rampant in recent Congresses. Most notoriously there was the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal that bedeviled Republicans right into minority status.
Democrats should have been feeling endangered ever since the Justice Department began investigating the coziness between defense contractors and high-ranking members of the Appropriations Committee. But their enthusiasm only blossomed after the ethics committee gave all seven members involved a blanket exoneration.
The appropriators — five Democrats and two Republicans — steered more than $245 million in earmarks through a defense lobbying firm now under criminal investigation. The lawmakers received more than $840,000 in political donations from the firm’s corporate clients.
The House ban was announced just days after the committee blithely pronounced the coincidence of generous defense contracts and political contributions as just that — a mere coincidence that does not “support a claim that a member’s actions are being influenced by campaign contributions.” The committee, notably, deep-sixed the recommendation from its new advisory panel, the Office of Congressional Ethics, to open a more thorough inquiry into two of the seven: Representatives Peter Visclosky, a Democrat of Indiana, and Todd Tiahrt, a Republican of Kansas.
Whether this embarrassment can be trumped by a last-minute earmark ban is doubtful. Senate Democrats instantly announced opposition to the House ban. That means, in final conference bills, corporate donor earmarks can be salvaged by grateful senators.