To understand what the sham lobbying "reform" bill that the House will likely pass today will do, you need to understand what it won't do. The only reason Congress is talking about lobbying reform is because of Jack Abramoff and his Fedora-studded guilty plea last January. Yet the so-called reforms in the "Lobbying Accountability and Transparency Act" will do absolutely nothing to prevent the next Abramoff, as this valuable chart from Public Citizen shows.
Moreover, as Public Citizen recognizes: "Corruption by lobbyists and lawmakers does not begin or end with Abramoff; it is a systemic problem. There are many more Jack Abramoffs peddling their wares on the Hill."
Yes. Don't forget about prostitutes at the Watergate servicing Republican members of Congress and CIA aides. Abramoff may be too technical, but hookers everyone can understand.
At least one GOP lawmaker is paying attention to L'Affair Abramoff: Ohio Rep. Bob Ney. Time is running out for the former "Mayor of Capitol Hill."
Dennis Hastert pushed the Ohio Congressman from his House Administration Committee chairmanship following Abramoff's DC indictment in January. Since then, a game of wait and see has transpired between Ney and the law.
Ney's statute of limitations in the Abramoff Sun Cruz casino fleet investigation expired last Thursday, with the Justice Department opting for an expanded corruption probe. Ney's lawyer says his client will learn in "a month or two" whether he faces criminal charges. Multiple guilty pleas from Abramoff and his aides ID'd Ney as the bribe-taking "Representative #1."
George Bush won't ask Congress for permission for torture or domestic spying. But when it comes to energy policy â€“ he is very, very concerned about the limits of his presidential powers.
According to The Washington Post, he "renewed his call for Congress to give him the authority to â€˜raise' mileage standards for all passenger cars." Then perhaps signaling a nod and a wink to his Big Oil friends, "White House officials said later, however, that they didn't know when or how the president would use that authority."
Meanwhile, the GOP Congress is scrambling to flex some 11th hour Election Year muscle of its own by reviewing oil company tax returns and "reaffirming authority for state and federal officials to fight price gouging."
Apparently when Republicans were urging Americans to get tough on crime they were doing it to protect us from themselves. Just last week, Karl Rove went back to testify to the grand jury for the fifth time; we learned that the FBI is investigating the possible bribing by two defense contractor of Rep. Duke Cunningham and other unnamed lawmakers with free prostitutes, and then there was my old nemesis, Rush Limbaugh.
Like most bullies, Limbaugh, who still finds it funny to refer to Hurricane Katrina as Hurricane Katrina vanden Heuvel, is better at dishing out the pain than taking it. He was arrested on Friday and charged with prescription drug fraud, a felony, for buying 2,000 painkillers prescribed by four different doctors in a six-month period.
But oh what a difference an arrest makes.
In the hours before the kick-off the Day Without Immigrants activities,it feels like today's protests are going to be once again of historicproportions.
Here in Los Angeles, the probable epicenter among the 60 or cities inwhich events are planned, officials are expecting crowds that couldsurpass the half-millon who rocked the city on March 25. Several majorthoroughfares are scheduled to be shut down. Numerous employers arealso shuttering for the day.
As the case in other venues, there are mixed views here about whatstrategy should best be pursued. The local Catholic cardinal, theMayor, organized labor and the most prominent among immigrant advocategroups are supporting an after-work rally and march (a position thatoverlaps with mine). A coalition of smaller groups are advocating awalkout from jobs and schools and a noontime rally. Beneath thesurface of that disagreement is a mostly un-reported struggle forleadership over the
If you had any doubt that this is a time of constitutional crisis, read the important, frightening (and under-covered) story in Sunday's Boston Globe. It documents an accumulating pattern of Presidential abuse, overreach and lawlessness.
Using the insidious pretense of "unitary executive" power, this president has renounced two centuries of prior constitutional understanding of how US democracy and government work. He has violated the fundamental rights of his own citizens and brutalized the "checks and balances" at the heart of our Constitutional design.
Here's one way to "nationalize" the 2006 election: Demand that all candidates defend the constitution. If that's a difficult or radical proposal, we might as well return to the monarchical system we overthrew some time ago.
Los Angeles is expected to be the epicenter of toay's nationwide "Day Without Immigrants" protests and rallies. Local officials have said they are bracing for a turnout perhaps larger than the mega-rally of March 25, which brought a half-million pro-immigrant demonstrators into downtown Los Angeles.
Similar demos and rallies are planned Monday for some sixty cities. And in many of them--as in Los Angeles--there's an active internal debate over which tactics should predominate. Organized labor, the Catholic church and some of the leading immigrant advocate groups in LA have argued to ignore and eschew calls for an economic boycott and a school walk-out, claiming they might be politically alienating at a time when public opinion is shifting in favor of immigrants. These groups have organized their own after-work rally to compete with the pro-boycott events scheduled for midday and organized by smaller groups.
The internal movement debate, however, seems likely to be blurred and overridden by sheer numbers. The call for a May 1 action seems to have struck a nerve and, according to various reports, there are many employers (including major meatpacking and poultry companies) who will be voluntarily closing their doors for the day.
Had it not been for the accident of his birth in Iona Station, Ontario, John Kenneth Galbraith, the greatest public intellectual of the second half of the American century, would surely have been considered presidential timber. As it was, the man whose Canadian birth barred him from seeking the nation's highest office had to settle for shaping every presidency since that of Franklin Roosevelt â€“ either as a trusted counselor to the occupant of the Oval Office, a wise critic or, as was frequently the case, both.
One of the last veterans of the Roosevelt's epic first term â€“ during which he worked with the Agricultural Adjustment Administration â€“ he would go on to advise FDR's National Defense Advisory Committee and then to serve as an administrator of the Office of Price Administration, where the man who was as quick with a quip as he was with economic charts and tables noted that he ''reached the point that all price fixers reach -- my enemies outnumbered my friends."
It will be his epigrams, his one-liners and his sharp asides that many of his friends will miss most about Ken Galbraith, who has died at age 97. The genius of the economics professor so long associated with Harvard and with most of the good â€“ or at least tolerable â€“ presidencies of the 20th century, was that he was never so impressed by his immense knowledge or his powerful positions that he could not find a humorous, and sometimes cutting, phrase with which to note the obvious.
John Kenneth Galbraith died at the age of 97, shortly after 9:00 on Saturday night.
America has lost a great and iconoclastic economist, thinker, writer and political figure.
As William Greider wrote in The Nation last year, the striking quality about "Ken" Galbraith--the man and his work--" is how forcefully the books he wrote across nearly fifty years speak to our present circumstances."
Co-written by Sam Graham-Felsen.
The evidence is mounting: there is perhaps no issue that transcends ideology like increasing the minimum wage. 86 percent of America supports boosting the federal minimum wage, deeply frustrated that the rate hasn't budged since 1997. Even in the so-called red states, the minimum wage movement is gaining serious traction.
On April 10th, in Arknasas, Republican Governor Mike Huckabee signed a massive $1.10 state minimum wage increase into law. Arkansas was desperately in need of a wage hike; it currently ranks at the bottom of the nation in median income. But the bill, which takes effect on October 1, will dramatically improve conditions for 127,000 Arkansans, whose wages had long languished at the pathetic federal standard of $5.15 per hour. And contrary to right-wing nonsense, the law won't just help teenagers working at burger joints; approximately 80% of those affected are over 20 years old.
If you took part in Saturday's antiwar protests, click here to download a free poster/flyer, created for the occasion by the Public Works Project. It's distinguished, in large part, by the fact that it possesses actual artistic merit--at least in my humble opinion. Print the flyer, post it, pass it out, or email it around.
And if you couldn't be at any of the marches in person, here are a few ideas for some e-activism online.
Click here to tell your elected reps to oppose funding this illegal, unnecessary and, increasingly, unpopular war.
Even figuring out the terms of debate for legislation is a tough task for Republicans these days--as the fight over lobbying reform in the House illustrated yesterday. First the GOP leadership introduced a rule to prevent reformers from offering amendments, then they pulled the rule from the House floor fifteen minutes later. They didn't have the votes. Then they did. When they reconvened to vote again, no one knew for sure. At the end of the day, the rule passed 216-207. Translation: Republicans 1, Democracy 0. A supposedly "open government" bill will come to a vote next week under closed debate. For those interested in backroom legislative minutia, here's yesterday's (sub-only) synopsis from National Journal's Congress Daily:
A last-minute agreement between House Speaker Hastert and Appropriations Chairman Lewis salvaged the lobbying and ethics overhaul package Thursday, but not before exposing divisions across the Republican Conference.
Following a two-hour afternoon Conference meeting, Hastert and Majority Leader Boehner were prepared to pull the trigger on a procedural vote that appeared destined for failure amid opposition from a united bloc of GOP appropriators.
In the Washington Post last week, Griff Witte reported that American businessman Philip Bloom--whose companies were awarded $8.6 million in Iraq reconstruction contracts--pleaded guilty to attempting to bribe US officials with more than $2 million in cash and gifts in exchange for the reconstruction deals.
Three officials of the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority have already been implicated and more arrests are expected.
According to Stuart W. Bowen Jr., Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (and former Associate Counsel to the Bush White House), "This shows oversight is working. It will send a message to those involved in similar schemes that we are on the case."
In the ongoing fight to clean up Congress, the reformers won a minor victory when the House Republican leadership was forced to yank its bogus lobbying "reform" bill off the House floor today.
The move came shortly after Democrats Louise Slaughter and Jim McGovern, both on the House Rules Committee, spoke out against a rule to close debate on a supposedly "open government" bill. When Chairman David Dreier realized he didn't have the votes to pass the rule, he simply yanked it from consideration. As Slaughter told Dreier at a Rules hearing yesterday, "Everybody in this town has beaten up on your bill."
Members of the House Appropriations Committee, led by powerful chairman Jerry Lewis, wanted earmark reform to extend to tax and spending bills. GOP moderates, led by Chris Shays, were unhappy about the steady weakening of an already-toothless piece of legislation. Democrats were virtually united against its passage. And Republican Rep. Joel Hefley, who Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert booted as chairman of the House Ethics Committee in February 2005 after the panel rebuked Tom DeLay three times, was going to speak on the Democrats side.