Progressive Calendar 10.20.06
From: David Shove (
Date: Fri, 20 Oct 2006 02:36:25 -0700 (PDT)
              P R O G R E S S I V E   C A L E N D A R    10.20.06

1. Empty bowls        10.20 11am
2. Jay Pond on MPR    10.20 11:15am
3. Indian slave trade 10.20 12noon
4. Anti-Israel vigil  10.20 4:15pm
5. Choice fundraiser  10.20 6:30pm
6. Fossil free fest   10.20 7pm
7. Immigrants/film    10.20 7pm
8. Pentel/gov/funds   10.20 7pm
9. Betty Shamieh      10.20 7:30pm
10. Mother Courage    10.20 8pm
11. US v Lennon/film  10.20
12. Bioneers conf     10.20-22

13. Matt Taibbi - Time to go! Inside the worst Congress ever

--------1 of 13--------

From: Julia Eagles <julia.eagles [at]>
Subject: Empty bowls 10.20 11am

Youth Farm & Market Project is sponsoring our second annual Empty Bowls
fundraiser.  It's part of a national project to raise awareness about
hunger issues.  The event is Friday, so you can come anytime between 11 am
and 7 pm for a handmade bowl of tasty Youth Farm soup.  Some of our youth
have been working on putting together educational materials and activities
on local hunger and food access issues, so you can expect to learn a thing
or two as well.


Enjoy a simple and delicious meal out of a bowl made by a local potter.
Donate to help Youth Farm continue creating access to fresh, healthy food
for neighborhood youth.  Take your empty bowl home with you as a reminder
of the challenges of food access in our communities.

Friday, October 20 from 11 am to 7 pm
Pillsbury House, 3501 Chicago Ave S
        Powderhorn Neighborhood, South Minneapolis

Tell your friends, bring your neighbors, pass on this announcement.
We're aiming to get 500 people each day, so we need you there.  Plus,
you'll walk out with a beautiful handmade bowl.

Julia Eagles Americorps Member Powderhorn Neighborhood Youth Farm and
Market Project 612-729-9439 julia.eagles [at]

--------2 of 13--------

From: Ashley James <ajames123 [at]>
Subject: Jay Pond on MPR 10.20 11:15am

Jay Pond, along with the other 5th district Congressional candidates, will
be on MPR's Midday program with Gary Eichten tomorrow, Friday 10/20. The
program will air live starting at 11:15am.

I assume they will take questions from listeners. Tune in and call in to
support Jay. Thanks to everyone who put pressure on MPR to get minor party
candidates included.

Ashley James - Pond for Congress co-chair

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From: Stephen Feinstein <feins001 [at]>
Subject: Indian slave trade 10.20 12noon

Joseph Hall will be visiting from Bates College to present his work
"Creating White Hearts: Muskogean Efforts to Survive the Indian Slave
Trade" as part of the Center for Early Modern History's colloquia series.

His presentation will be Friday, October 20 at noon in the Ford Room
(Social Sciences Bldg 710). His paper is available in Social Sciences Bldg
636 or electronically upon request.

-Will Cremer Center for Early Modern History

--------4 of 13--------

From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at]>
Subject: Anti-Israel vigil 10.20 4:15pm

Friday, 10/20, 4:15 to 5:30, vigil to end U.S. military and political
support of Israel, Summit & Snelling Aves, St. Paul.  Karen, 651-283-3495.

--------5 of 13--------

From: erin [at]
Subject: Choice fundraiser 10.20 6:30pm

Friday, October 20: Pro-Choice Resources Art for Choice - an evening of art,
performance, food, wine, and music. All proceeds benefit the reproductive
health education and access programs of Pro-Choice Resources that serve
women and youth in Minnesota and beyond. 6:30-9 PM. Suggested donation
$25-$50. Weisman Museum. RSVP by October 13 to 612/825-2000.

--------6 of 13--------

From: Debbie <ddo [at]>
Subject: Fossil free fest 10.20 7pm

Learn about Climate Change and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Oct 20 Friday   7:00 PM
John B. Davis Lecture Hall, Campus Center

Speakers Chad Kister and Will Steger on Global Warming at the Poles.
Global warming: it's visible, it's personal, it's time to act.
Sponsored by: MacCARES

Chad Kister is the author of Arctic Quest: Odyssey Through a Threatened
Wilderness Area and Arctic Melting: How Climate Change is Destroying One
of the World's Largest Wilderness Areas, both published by Common Courage
Press.  Kister is also the Producer of the 2006 film Caribou People.

Mr. Steger has had a 40-year career exploring the Arctic by kayak and
dogsled. In that time he witnessed first hand the change and destruction
of the Arctic, becoming an impassioned spokesman for its preservation. Mr.
Steger's concerns led him, along with the Will Steger Foundation, to
launch the Global Warming 101 Initiative.

More From the Festival:

The Festival will be held in the John B. Davis Lecture Hall, Student
Center, Macalester College, Corner of Snelling & Grand, St. Paul, MN.  It
is sponsored by Macalester Conservation & Renewable Energy Society
(MacCARES), Sierra Club Energy Film Festivals, Global Exchange, Global
Warming 101, Arctic Refuge Defense Campaign, Macalester's Program Board,
Environmental Studies Department, MacBike and MPIRG.  Be sure to catch
some of these excellent speakers and films and attend the Big Stone II
Expansion Hearings to stop further burning of more dirty coal!

--------7 of 13--------

From: Minneapolis Central Labor Union Council <betsy [at]>
Subject: Immigrants/film 10.20 7pm

'Reel Work', the 2006-2007 Labor & Community Film Series presents:

De Nadie (No One)
En espanol y ingles

The title of the documentary refers to the millions of poor migrants from
the South seeking entry to the United States as means to escape poverty.
While the anti-immigration movement in the United States focuses on
preventing Mexican migration to America, limited attention is paid to the
thousands of Central Americans who first have to cross Mexico before
attempting to enter the United States. This documentary seeks to fill this
gap by exploring their journeys.

Filmmaker Tin Dirdamal, 82 minutes; bilingual: Spanish/English

7 p.m., FRIDAY, OCTOBER 20th, Resource Center of the Americas, 3019
Minnehaha Avenue, Minneapolis

The 'Reel Work' screenings are sponsored by the University of Minnesota
Labor Education Service. Each screening is free and open to all. Each
showing will be followed by a discussion of the film.

--------8 of 13--------

From: Ken Pentel <kenpentel [at]>
Subject: Pentel/gov/fundraiser 10.20 7pm

Dear Greens,
There's a fundraiser this Friday night.

I will make my case to be the next Governor of Minnesota. Lend me your
ears and support, and we can continue to change politics today and for
future generations. My Goals are to establish a honest democracy and
economy that leads to healing the earth and our communities.

Friday, October 20th

Don Irish's House, 3611 14th Ave S, Minneapolis

Ken Pentel Green Party Candidate for Governor (612)

--------9 of 13--------

From: Mizna <mizna-announce [at]>
Subject: Betty Shamieh 10.20 7:30pm

Mizna presents:

Playwright, author, screenwriter and actor, Betty Shamieh performing
excerpts of her plays, including the critically acclaimed, Chocolate in
Heat:  Growing up Arab in America.

Friday, October 20th 7:30 pm
Open Book
$5, includes refreshments
1011 Washington Avenue South, Minneapolis

Shamieh is the author of fifteen plays. Her off-Broadway debut as a
playwright was the 2004 New Group premiere of ROAR on Theatre Row, which
was selected a New York Times Critics Pick for four consecutive weeks and
published by Broadway Play Publishers.ROAR was directed by Tony-nominated
Marion McClinton and starred Annabella Sciorra and Sarita Choudhury.

THE BLACK EYED premiered at the Magic Theatre in May 2005. TERRITORIES was
commissioned and optioned by Trinity Repertory Theatre. As an actress,
Shamieh performed in her play of monologues CHOCOLATE IN HEAT at its sold
out premiere at the New York International Fringe Festival in August 2001,
two subsequent extended off-off Broadway runs, and at over twenty
universities throughout the country. Shamieh received an Honorable Mention
for her screenplay ANONYMOUS from the Third Annual Writers Network
Competition and mentored many young writers as a screenwriting professor
at Marymount Manhattan College . Her writings have appeared in American
Theater magazine, the Brooklyn Rail, and Mizna. Shamieh's contributions to
theatre and literature have not gone unnoticed. Her life and work has been
the subject of features in the New York Times, Time Out New York ,
American Theatre magazine, the Brooklyn Rail, the Washington Post, and the
International Herald Tribune. A cartoon of ROAR appeared in the New
Yorke';s Goings on about Town section. Shamieh has been awarded an NEA
grant, Sundance Theatre Institute residency, New York Foundation for the
Arts (NYFA) Fellowship, New Dramatists Van Lier Fellowship, Ford
Foundation grant, Yaddo residency, Arts International Grant, and
Rockefeller Foundation residency in Bellagio , Italy . She was selected as
the 2004-05 Clifton Visiting Artist at Harvard University and is currently
serving on the playwriting advisory board for the New York Foundation for
the Arts.

Mizna is a forum for Arab American art. Visit our website at

--------10 of 13--------

From: Lydia Howell <lhowell [at]>
Subject: Mother Courage/play 10.20 8pm

Bertolt Brecht's "Mother Courage", Oct.20- Nov.12, Pillsbury Machine
Shop, near St. Anthony Main, Minneapolis

This anti-war classic uses music and ironic humor to expose brutality,
futility and profiteers of war, performed with the daring Frank Theatre is
known for. Often haled as German surrealist playwright, Bertolt Brecht's
greatest work, "Mother Courage" was written in 1939, as WWII was

A luminous cast and live musical accompaniment by Croswell, Marya Hart,
and Tom Adams mak e this one of the highlights of the 2006 TC theatre

Mother Courage reveals the contradictons of our time, as she struggels to
survive by profiting from war and losing her own humanity. $14-20,
Pillsbury Machine Shop, 300 Second St. SE, Minneapolis,(near St.Anthonoy
Main) Fri.Oct. 20 thru Sun.Nov. 12, Thurs-Sat. at 8:00, and Sundays at

(There is a silent auction benefit for the theatre on Oct. 28; call the
theatre for details.) The Sunday performances are followed by a post-show
panel discussion with members of the community. Tickets are $14-20; for
reservations and information, call (612) 724 3760,

--------11 of 13--------

From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at]>
Subject: US v Lennon/film 10.20

10/20 to 10/26, film "The U.S. vs John Lennon" concerning government efforts
to surpress the famous Beatles"s antiwar work during Vietnam, Oak St Cinema,
309 Oak St SE, Mpls.

--------12 of 13--------

From: Sue Ann <mart1408 [at]>
Subject: Bioneers conf 10.20-22

Minneapolis to Host Northland Bioneers Conference:

Visionary and Practical Solutions for Restoring the Earth and People,
companion event to the 17th annual Bioneers Conference,
<> in San Rafael, CA

Leading national and local scientific innovators and environmental
visionaries offer practical solutions to the most pressing environmental
and social issues of today

The purpose of the Northland Bioneers Conference is to disseminate
environmental solutions to the public, to professionals and to the media;
to cultivate grounded optimism, and to encourage and equip people to take
action and engage more effectively in restoration.

WHO/INTERVIEWS:  National presenters include 15 of the leading thinkers on
environmental and social innovation. Local presenters and interview
opportunities include:

* Ann Bancroft, polar explorer, conference emcee
* Dr. David Walinga, director of the Food and Health program at the
   Minneapolis-based Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
* Horst M. Rechelbacher, founder of Aveda and Intelligent Nutrients
* Connie Grauds, president of the Association of Natural Medicine
* J. Drake Hamilton, science policy director for Fresh Energy
* Ronnie Cummins, national director of the Organic Consumers Association

The first Northland Bioneers Conference, Oct. 20-22,
<> , will be the epicenter of a movement of
people and organizations in the Midwest learning how to protect and
sustain their communities by connecting the dots between the environment,
health, science, social justice and spirit at the Minneapolis Community
and Technical College.

 The North In its first year, The Northland Bioneers Conference is one of
18 regional satellite conferences happening simultaneously across the
country serving as a companion event to the 17th annual Bioneers
Conference, <> in San Rafael,

Northland Bioneers Conference offers a weekend of sharing, learning and
action. The conference will feature a live simulcast of the main Bioneers
plenaries, enriched with locally produced programs on regional issues,
solutions, community dialogue, networking, entertainment, and a green
living marketplace.

WHERE:  Minneapolis Community and Technical College, 1501 Hennepin Avenue,
Minneapolis, MN 55403, 612-659-6000.

Fri Oct 20 - Sun Oct 22

REGISTER: Visit <> for
registration details.
COST:  $78-$180; discounts for students and seniors
CONTACT:  Media, Sarah Bell Haberman, sarah [at]
/612-338-3900 / cell 612-396-9413

Conference Director, Vonda Vaden, vcreative [at] /612-247-1448

What is a Bioneer? They are everyday people committed to solving
environmental and social problems by working in harmony with nature. These
bioneers include writers, biologists, educators, architects, farmers,
economists, public servants, scientists, business people, artists,
gardeners, chefs, and activists whose work spans many fields and cultures.

--------13 of 13--------

Time to Go! Inside the Worst Congress Ever
By Matt Taibbi
Rolling Stone [Good no-nonsense Anglo-Saxon words used -ed]
Tuesday 17 October 2006

The worst Congress ever: How our national legislature has become a stable
of thieves and perverts - in five easy steps.

There is very little that sums up the record of the US Congress in the
Bush years better than a half-mad boy-addict put in charge of a federal
commission on child exploitation. After all, if a hairy-necked,
raincoat-clad freak like Rep. Mark Foley can get himself named co-chairman
of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children, one can only
wonder: What the hell else is going on in the corridors of Capitol Hill
these days?

These past six years were more than just the most shameful, corrupt and
incompetent period in the history of the American legislative branch.
These were the years when the US parliament became a historical punch
line, a political obscenity on par with the court of Nero or Caligula - a
stable of thieves and perverts who committed crimes rolling out of bed in
the morning and did their very best to turn the mighty American empire
into a debt-laden, despotic backwater, a Burkina Faso with cable.

To be sure, Congress has always been a kind of muddy ideological cemetery,
a place where good ideas go to die in a maelstrom of bureaucratic hedging
and rank favor-trading. Its whole history is one long love letter to
sleaze, idiocy and pigheaded, glacial conservatism. That Congress exists
mainly to misspend our money and snore its way through even the direst
political crises is something we Americans understand instinctively.
"There is no native criminal class except Congress," Mark Twain said - a
joke that still provokes a laugh of recognition a hundred years later.

But the 109th Congress is no mild departure from the norm, no slight
deviation in an already-underwhelming history. No, this is nothing less
than a historic shift in how our democracy is run. The Republicans who
control this Congress are revolutionaries, and they have brought their
revolutionary vision for the House and Senate quite unpleasantly to
fruition. In the past six years they have castrated the political
minority, abdicated their oversight responsibilities mandated by the
Constitution, enacted a conscious policy of massive borrowing and
unrestrained spending, and installed a host of semipermanent mechanisms
for transferring legislative power to commercial interests. They aimed far
lower than any other Congress has ever aimed, and they nailed their

"The 109th Congress is so bad that it makes you wonder if democracy is a
failed experiment," says Jonathan Turley, a noted constitutional scholar
and the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington Law
School. "I think that if the Framers went to Capitol Hill today, it would
shake their confidence in the system they created. Congress has become an
exercise of raw power with no principles - and in that environment
corruption has flourished. The Republicans in Congress decided from the
outset that their future would be inextricably tied to George Bush and his
policies. It has become this sad session of members sitting down and
drinking Kool-Aid delivered by Karl Rove. Congress became a mere extension
of the White House."

The end result is a Congress that has hijacked the national treasury,
frantically ceded power to the executive, and sold off the federal
government in a private auction. It all happened before our very eyes. In
case you missed it, here's how they did it - in five easy steps:

                      Step One: Rule by Cabal

If you want to get a sense of how Congress has changed under GOP control,
just cruise the basement hallways of storied congressional office
buildings like Rayburn, Longworth and Cannon. Here, in the minority
offices for the various congressional committees, you will inevitably find
exactly the same character - a Democratic staffer in rumpled khakis
staring blankly off into space, nothing but a single lonely "Landscapes of
Monticello" calendar on his wall, his eyes wide and full of astonished,
impotent rage, like a rape victim. His skin is as white as the belly of a
fish; he hasn't seen the sun in seven years.

It is no big scoop that the majority party in Congress has always found
ways of giving the shaft to the minority. But there is a marked difference
in the size and the length of the shaft the Republicans have given the
Democrats in the past six years. There has been a systematic effort not
only to deny the Democrats any kind of power-sharing role in creating or
refining legislation but to humiliate them publicly, show them up, pee in
their faces. Washington was once a chummy fraternity in which members of
both parties golfed together, played in the same pickup basketball games,
probably even shared the same mistresses. Now it is a one-party town - and
congressional business is conducted accordingly, as though the half of the
country that the Democrats represent simply does not exist.

American government was not designed for one-party rule but for rule by
consensus - so this current batch of Republicans has found a way to work
around that product design. They have scuttled both the spirit and the
letter of congressional procedure, turning the lawmaking process into a
backroom deal, with power concentrated in the hands of a few chiefs behind
the scenes. This reduces the legislature to a Belarus-style rubber stamp,
where the opposition is just there for show, human pieces of stagecraft -
a fact the Republicans don't even bother to conceal.

"I remember one incident very clearly - I think it was 2001," says Winslow
Wheeler, who served for twenty-two years as a Republican staffer in the
Senate. "I was working for [New Mexico Republican] Pete Domenici at the
time. We were in a Budget Committee hearing and the Democrats were
debating what the final result would be. And my boss gets up and he says,
'Why are you saying this? You're not even going to be in the room when the
decisions are made.' Just said it right out in the open."

 Wheeler's very career is a symbol of a bipartisan age long passed into
the history books; he is the last staffer to have served in the offices of
a Republican and a Democrat at the same time, having once worked for both
Kansas Republican Nancy Kassebaum and Arkansas Democrat David Pryor
simultaneously. Today, those Democratic staffers trapped in the basement
laugh at the idea that such a thing could ever happen again. These days,
they consider themselves lucky if they manage to hold a single hearing on
a bill before Rove's well-oiled legislative machine delivers it up for
Bush's signature.

The GOP's "take that, bitch" approach to governing has been taken to the
greatest heights by the House Judiciary Committee. The committee is
chaired by the legendary Republican monster James Sensenbrenner Jr., an
ever-sweating, fat-fingered beast who wields his gavel in a way that makes
you think he might have used one before in some other arena, perhaps to
beat prostitutes to death. Last year, Sensenbrenner became apoplectic when
Democrats who wanted to hold a hearing on the Patriot Act invoked a
little-known rule that required him to let them have one.

"Naturally, he scheduled it for something like 9 a.m. on a Friday when
Congress wasn't in session, hoping that no one would show," recalls a
Democratic staffer who attended the hearing. "But we got a pretty good
turnout anyway."

Sensenbrenner kept trying to gavel the hearing to a close, but Democrats
again pointed to the rules, which said they had a certain amount of time
to examine their witnesses. When they refused to stop the proceedings, the
chairman did something unprecedented: He simply picked up his gavel and
walked out.

"He was like a kid at the playground," the staffer says. And just in case
anyone missed the point, Sensenbrenner shut off the lights and cut the
microphones on his way out of the room.

For similarly petulant moves by a committee chair, one need look no
further than the Ways and Means Committee, where Rep. Bill Thomas - a
pugnacious Californian with an enviable ego who was caught having an
affair with a pharmaceutical lobbyist - enjoys a reputation rivaling that
of the rotund Sensenbrenner. The lowlight of his reign took place just
before midnight on July 17th, 2003, when Thomas dumped a "substitute"
pension bill on Democrats - one that they had never read - and informed
them they would be voting on it the next morning. Infuriated, Democrats
stalled by demanding that the bill be read out line by line while they
recessed to a side room to confer. But Thomas wanted to move forward - so
he called the Capitol police to evict the Democrats.

Thomas is also notorious for excluding Democrats from the conference
hearings needed to iron out the differences between House and Senate
versions of a bill. According to the rules, conferences have to include at
least one public, open meeting. But in the Bush years, Republicans have
managed the conference issue with some of the most mind-blowingly juvenile
behavior seen in any parliament west of the Russian Duma after happy hour.
GOP chairmen routinely call a meeting, bring the press in for a photo op
and then promptly shut the proceedings down. "Take a picture, wait five
minutes, gavel it out - all for show" is how one Democratic staffer
described the process. Then, amazingly, the Republicans sneak off to hold
the real conference, forcing the Democrats to turn amateur detective and
go searching the Capitol grounds for the meeting. "More often than not,
we're trying to figure out where the conference is," says one House aide.

In one legendary incident, Rep. Charles Rangel went searching for a secret
conference being held by Thomas. When he found the room where Republicans
closeted themselves, he knocked and knocked on the door, but no one
answered. A House aide compares the scene to the famous "Land Shark" skit
from Saturday Night Live, with everyone hiding behind the door afraid to
make a sound. "Rangel was the land shark, I guess," the aide jokes. But
the real punch line came when Thomas finally opened the door.  "This
meeting," he informed Rangel, "is only open to the coalition of the

Republican rudeness and bluster make for funny stories, but the phenomenon
has serious consequences. The collegial atmosphere that once prevailed
helped Congress form a sense of collective identity that it needed to
fulfill its constitutional role as a check on the power of the other two
branches of government. It also enabled Congress to pass legislation with
a wide mandate, legislation that had been negotiated between the leaders
of both parties. For this reason Republican and Democratic leaders
traditionally maintained cordial relationships with each other - the model
being the collegiality between House Speaker Nicholas Longworth and
Minority Leader John Nance Garner in the 1920s. The two used to hold daily
meetings over drinks and even rode to work together.

Although cooperation between the two parties has ebbed and flowed over the
years, historians note that Congress has taken strong bipartisan action in
virtually every administration. It was Sen. Harry Truman who instigated
investigations of wartime profiteering under FDR, and Republicans Howard
Baker and Lowell Weicker Jr. played pivotal roles on the Senate Watergate
Committee that nearly led to Nixon's impeachment.

But those days are gone. "We haven't seen any congressional investigations
like this during the last six years," says David Mayhew, a professor of
political science at Yale who has studied Congress for four decades.
"These days, Congress doesn't seem to be capable of doing this sort of
thing. Too much nasty partisanship."

One of the most depressing examples of one-party rule is the Patriot Act.
The measure was originally crafted in classic bipartisan fashion in the
Judiciary Committee, where it passed by a vote of thirty-six to zero, with
famed liberals like Barney Frank and Jerrold Nadler saying aye. But when
the bill was sent to the Rules Committee, the Republicans simply chucked
the approved bill and replaced it with a new, far more repressive version,
apparently written at the direction of then-Attorney General John

"They just rewrote the whole bill," says Rep. James McGovern, a minority
member of the Rules Committee. "All that committee work was just for

To ensure that Democrats can't alter any of the last-minute changes,
Republicans have overseen a monstrous increase in the number of "closed"
rules - bills that go to the floor for a vote without any possibility of
amendment. This tactic undercuts the very essence of democracy: In a
bicameral system, allowing bills to be debated openly is the only way that
the minority can have a real impact, by offering amendments to legislation
drafted by the majority.

In 1977, when Democrats held a majority in the House, eighty-five percent
of all bills were open to amendment. But by 1994, the last year Democrats
ran the House, that number had dropped to thirty percent - and Republicans
were seriously pissed. "You know what the closed rule means,"  Rep.
Lincoln Diaz-Balart of Florida thundered on the House floor. "It means no
discussion, no amendments. That is profoundly undemocratic." When
Republicans took control of the House, they vowed to throw off the gag
rules imposed by Democrats. On opening day of the 104th Congress,
then-Rules Committee chairman Gerald Solomon announced his intention to
institute free debate on the floor. "Instead of having seventy percent
closed rules," he declared, "we are going to have seventy percent open and
unrestricted rules."

How has Solomon fared? Of the 111 rules introduced in the first session of
this Congress, only twelve were open. Of those, eleven were appropriations
bills, which are traditionally open. That left just one open vote - H.
Res. 255, the Federal Deposit Insurance Reform Act of 2005.

In the second session of this Congress? Not a single open rule, outside of
appropriation votes. Under the Republicans, amendable bills have been a
genuine Washington rarity, the upside-down eight-leafed clover of
legislative politics.

When bills do make it to the floor for a vote, the debate generally
resembles what one House aide calls "preordained Kabuki." Republican
leaders in the Bush era have mastered a new congressional innovation: the
one-vote victory. Rather than seeking broad consensus, the leadership
cooks up some hideously expensive, favor-laden boondoggle and then scales
it back bit by bit. Once they're in striking range, they send the fucker
to the floor and beat in the brains of the fence-sitters with threats and
favors until enough members cave in and pass the damn thing. It is, in
essence, a legislative microcosm of the electoral strategy that Karl Rove
has employed to such devastating effect.

A classic example was the vote for the Central American Free Trade
Agreement, the union-smashing, free-trade monstrosity passed in 2005. As
has often been the case in the past six years, the vote was held late at
night, away from the prying eyes of the public, who might be horrified by
what they see. Thanks to such tactics, the 109th is known as the "Dracula"
Congress: Twenty bills have been brought to a vote between midnight and 7

CAFTA actually went to vote early - at 11:02 p.m. When the usual
fifteen-minute voting period expired, the nays were up, 180 to 175.
Republicans then held the vote open for another forty-seven minutes while
GOP leaders cruised the aisles like the family elders from The Texas
Chainsaw Massacre, frantically chopping at the legs and arms of
Republicans who opposed the measure. They even roused the president out of
bed to help kick ass for the vote, passing a cell phone with Bush on the
line around the House cloakroom like a bong. Rep. Robin Hayes of North
Carolina was approached by House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who told him,
"Negotiations are open. Put on the table the things that your district and
people need and we'll get them." After receiving assurances that the
administration would help textile manufacturers in his home state by
restricting the flow of cheap Chinese imports, Hayes switched his vote to
yea. CAFTA ultimately passed by two votes at 12:03 a.m.

Closed rules, shipwrecked bills, secret negotiations, one-vote victories.
The result of all this is a Congress where there is little or no open
debate and virtually no votes are left to chance; all the important
decisions are made in backroom deals, and what you see on C-Span is just
empty theater, the world's most expensive trained-dolphin act. The
constant here is a political strategy of conducting congressional business
with as little outside input as possible, rejecting the essentially
conservative tradition of rule-by-consensus in favor of a more
revolutionary strategy of rule by cabal.

"This Congress has thrown caution to the wind," says Turley, the
constitutional scholar. "They have developed rules that are an abuse of
majority power. Keeping votes open by freezing the clock, barring minority
senators from negotiations on important conference issues - it is a record
that the Republicans should now dread. One of the concerns that
Republicans have about losing Congress is that they will have to live
under the practices and rules they have created. The abuses that served
them in the majority could come back to haunt them in the minority."

    Step Two: Work as Little as Possible - And Screw Up Whatever You Do

It's Thursday evening, September 28th, and the Senate is putting the
finishing touches on the Military Commissions Act of 2006, colloquially
known as the "torture bill." It's a law even Stalin would admire, one that
throws habeas corpus in the trash, legalizes a vast array of savage
interrogation techniques and generally turns the president of the United
States into a kind of turbocharged Yoruba witch doctor, with nearly
unlimited snatching powers. The bill is a fall-from-Eden moment in
American history, a potentially disastrous step toward authoritarianism -
but what is most disturbing about it, beyond the fact that it's happening,
is that the senators are hurrying to get it done.

In addition to ending generations of bipartisanship and instituting
one-party rule, our national legislators in the Bush years are guilty of
something even more fundamental: They suck at their jobs.

They don't work many days, don't pass many laws, and the few laws they're
forced to pass, they pass late. In fact, in every year that Bush has been
president, Congress has failed to pass more than three of the eleven
annual appropriations bills on time.

That figures into tonight's problems. At this very moment, as the torture
bill goes to a vote, there are only a few days left until the beginning of
the fiscal year - and not one appropriations bill has been passed so far.
That's why these assholes are hurrying to bag this torture bill: They want
to finish in time to squeeze in a measly two hours of debate tonight on
the half-trillion-dollar defense-appropriations bill they've blown off
until now. The plan is to then wrap things up tomorrow before splitting
Washington for a month of real work, i.e., campaigning.

Sen. Pat Leahy of Vermont comments on this rush to torture during the
final, frenzied debate. "Over 200 years of jurisprudence in this country,"
Leahy pleads, "and following an hour of debate, we get rid of it?"

Yawns, chatter, a few sets of rolling eyes - yeah, whatever, Pat. An hour
later, the torture bill is law. Two hours after that, the diminutive chair
of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, Sen. Ted Stevens, reads off
the summary of the military-spending bill to a mostly empty hall;  since
the members all need their sleep and most have left early, the "debate" on
the biggest spending bill of the year is conducted before a largely
phantom audience.

"Mr. President," Stevens begins, eyeing the few members present.  "There
are only four days left in the fiscal year. The 2007 defense
appropriations conference report must be signed into law by the president
before Saturday at midnight...."

Watching Ted Stevens spend half a trillion dollars is like watching a
junkie pull a belt around his biceps with his teeth. You get the sense he
could do it just as fast in the dark. When he finishes his summary - $436
billion in defense spending, including $70 billion for the Iraq
"emergency" - he fucks off and leaves the hall. A few minutes later, Sen.
Tom Coburn of Oklahoma - one of the so-called honest Republicans who has
clashed with his own party's leadership on spending issues - appears in
the hall and whines to the empty room about all the lavish pork projects
and sheer unadulterated waste jammed into the bill. But aside from a
bored-looking John Cornyn of Texas, who is acting as president pro
tempore, and a couple of giggling, suit-clad pages, there is no one in the
hall to listen to him.

In the Sixties and Seventies, Congress met an average of 162 days a year.
In the Eighties and Nineties, the average went down to 139 days.  This
year, the second session of the 109th Congress will set the all-time
record for fewest days worked by a US Congress: ninety-three. That means
that House members will collect their $165,000 paychecks for only three
months of actual work.

What this means is that the current Congress will not only beat but
shatter the record for laziness set by the notorious "Do-Nothing" Congress
of 1948, which met for a combined 252 days between the House and the
Senate. This Congress - the Do-Even-Less Congress - met for 218 days, just
over half a year, between the House and the Senate combined.

And even those numbers don't come close to telling the full story.  Those
who actually work on the Hill will tell you that a great many of those
"workdays" were shameless mail-ins, half-days at best. Congress has
arranged things now so that the typical workweek on the Hill begins late
on Tuesday and ends just after noon on Thursday, to give members time to
go home for the four-day weekend. This is borne out in the numbers: On
nine of its "workdays" this year, the House held not a single vote -
meeting for less than eleven minutes. The Senate managed to top the
House's feat, pulling off three workdays this year that lasted less than
one minute. All told, a full fifteen percent of the Senate's workdays
lasted less than four hours. Figuring for half-days, in fact, the 109th
Congress probably worked almost two months less than that "Do-Nothing"

Congressional laziness comes at a high price. By leaving so many
appropriations bills unpassed by the beginning of the new fiscal year,
Congress forces big chunks of the government to rely on "continuing
resolutions" for their funding. Why is this a problem? Because under
congressional rules, CRs are funded at the lowest of three levels: the
level approved by the House, the level approved by the Senate or the level
approved from the previous year. Thanks to wide discrepancies between
House and Senate appropriations for social programming, CRs effectively
operate as a backdoor way to slash social programs. It's also a nice way
for congressmen to get around having to pay for expensive-ass programs
they voted for, like No Child Left Behind and some of the other terminally
underfunded boondoggles of the Bush years.

"The whole point of passing appropriations bills is that Congress is
supposed to make small increases in programs to account for things like
the increase in population," says Adam Hughes, director of federal fiscal
policy for OMB Watch, a nonpartisan watchdog group. "It's their main job."
Instead, he says, the reliance on CRs "leaves programs underfunded."

Instead of dealing with its chief constitutional duty - approving all
government spending - Congress devotes its time to dumb bullshit. "This
Congress spent a week and a half debating Terri Schiavo - it never made
appropriations a priority," says Hughes. In fact, Congress leaves itself
so little time to pass the real appropriations bills that it winds up
rolling them all into one giant monstrosity known as an Omnibus bill and
passing it with little or no debate. Rolling eight-elevenths of all
federal spending into a single bill that hits the floor a day or two
before the fiscal year ends does not leave much room to check the fine
print. "It allows a lot more leeway for fiscal irresponsibility," says

A few years ago, when Democratic staffers in the Senate were frantically
poring over a massive Omnibus bill they had been handed the night before
the scheduled vote, they discovered a tiny provision that had not been in
any of the previous versions. The item would have given senators on the
Appropriations Committee access to the private records of any taxpayer -
essentially endowing a few selected hacks in the Senate with the license
to snoop into the private financial information of all Americans.

"We were like, 'What the hell is this?'" says one Democratic aide familiar
with the incident. "It was the most egregious thing imaginable.  It was
just lucky we caught them."

         Step Three: Let the President Do Whatever He Wants

The constitution is very clear on the responsibility of Congress to serve
as a check on the excesses of the executive branch. The House and Senate,
after all, are supposed to pass all laws - the president is simply
supposed to execute them. Over the years, despite some ups and downs,
Congress has been fairly consistent in upholding this fundamental
responsibility, regardless of which party controlled the legislative
branch. Elected representatives saw themselves as beholden not to their
own party or the president but to the institution of Congress itself. The
model of congressional independence was Sen. William Fulbright, who took
on McCarthy, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon with equal vigor during the course
of his long career.

"Fulbright behaved the same way with Nixon as he did with Johnson,"  says
Wheeler, the former Senate aide who worked on both sides of the aisle.
"You wouldn't see that today."

In fact, the Republican-controlled Congress has created a new standard for
the use of oversight powers. That standard seems to be that when a
Democratic president is in power, there are no matters too stupid or
meaningless to be investigated fully - but when George Bush is president,
no evidence of corruption or incompetence is shocking enough to warrant
congressional attention. One gets the sense that Bush would have to drink
the blood of Christian babies to inspire hearings in Congress - and only
then if he did it during a nationally televised State of the Union address
and the babies were from Pennsylvania, where Senate Judiciary chairman
Arlen Specter was running ten points behind in an election year.

The numbers bear this out. From the McCarthy era in the 1950s through the
Republican takeover of Congress in 1995, no Democratic committee chairman
issued a subpoena without either minority consent or a committee vote. In
the Clinton years, Republicans chucked that long-standing arrangement and
issued more than 1,000 subpoenas to investigate alleged administration and
Democratic misconduct, reviewing more than 2 million pages of government

Guess how many subpoenas have been issued to the White House since George
Bush took office? Zero - that's right, zero, the same as the number of
open rules debated this year; two fewer than the number of appropriations
bills passed on time.

And the cost? Republicans in the Clinton years spent more than $35 million
investigating the administration. The total amount of taxpayer funds
spent, when independent counsels are taken into account, was more than
$150 million. Included in that number was $2.2 million to investigate
former HUD secretary Henry Cisneros for lying about improper payments he
made to a mistress. In contrast, today's Congress spent barely half a
million dollars investigating the outright fraud and government bungling
that followed Hurricane Katrina, the largest natural disaster in American

"Oversight is one of the most important functions of Congress - perhaps
more important than legislating," says Rep. Henry Waxman. "And the
Republicans have completely failed at it. I think they decided that they
were going to be good Republicans first and good legislators second."

As the ranking minority member of the Government Reform Committee, Waxman
has earned a reputation as the chief Democratic muckraker, obsessively
cranking out reports on official misconduct and incompetence.  Among them
is a lengthy document detailing all of the wrongdoing by the Bush
administration that should have been investigated - and would have been,
in any other era. The litany of fishy behavior left uninvestigated in the
Bush years includes the manipulation of intelligence on Saddam Hussein's
weapons of mass destruction, the mistreatment of Iraqi detainees, the leak
of Valerie Plame's CIA status, the award of Halliburton contracts, the
White House response to Katrina, secret NSA wiretaps, Dick Cheney's energy
task force, the withholding of Medicare cost estimates, the
administration's politicization of science, contract abuses at Homeland
Security and lobbyist influence at the EPA.

Waxman notes that the failure to investigate these issues has actually
hurt the president, leaving potentially fatal flaws in his policies
unexamined even by those in his own party. Without proper congressional
oversight, small disasters like the misuse of Iraq intelligence have
turned into huge, festering, unsolvable fiascoes like the Iraq occupation.
Republicans in Congress who stonewalled investigations of the
administration "thought they were doing Bush a favor," says Waxman. "But
they did him the biggest disservice of all."

Congress has repeatedly refused to look at any aspect of the war. In 2003,
Republicans refused to allow a vote on a bill introduced by Waxman that
would have established an independent commission to review the false
claims Bush made in asking Congress to declare war on Iraq. That same
year, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Porter Goss, refused
to hold hearings on whether the administration had forged evidence of the
nuclear threat allegedly posed by Iraq. A year later the chair of the
Government Reform Committee, Tom Davis, refused to hold hearings on new
evidence casting doubt on the "nuclear tubes" cited by the Bush
administration before the war. Sen. Pat Roberts, who pledged to issue a
Senate Intelligence Committee report after the 2004 election on whether
the Bush administration had misled the public before the invasion, changed
his mind after the president won re-election. "I think it would be a
monumental waste of time to re-plow this ground any further," Roberts

Sensenbrenner has done his bit to squelch any debate over Iraq. He refused
a request by John Conyers and more than fifty other Democrats for hearings
on the famed "Downing Street Memo," the internal British document that
stated that Bush had "fixed" the intelligence about the war, and he was
one of three committee chairs who rejected requests for hearings on the
abuse of Iraqi detainees. Despite an international uproar over Abu Ghraib,
Congress spent only twelve hours on hearings on the issue. During the
Clinton administration, by contrast, the Republican Congress spent 140
hours investigating the president's alleged misuse of his Christmas-card
greeting list.

"You talk to many Republicans in Congress privately, and they will tell
you how appalled they are by the administration's diminishment of civil
liberties and the constant effort to keep fear alive," says Turley, who
testified as a constitutional scholar in favor of the Clinton impeachment.
"Yet those same members slavishly vote with the White House.  What's most
alarming about the 109th has been the massive erosion of authority in
Congress. There has always been partisanship, but this is different.
Members have become robotic in the way they vote."

Perhaps the most classic example of failed oversight in the Bush era came
in a little-publicized hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee held
on February 13th, 2003 - just weeks before the invasion of Iraq. The
hearing offered senators a rare opportunity to grill Secretary of Defense
Donald Rumsfeld and top Pentagon officials on a wide variety of matters,
including the fairly important question of whether they even had a fucking
plan for the open-ended occupation of a gigantic hostile foreign
population halfway around the planet. This was the biggest bite that
Congress would have at the Iraq apple before the war, and given the
gravity of the issue, it should have been a beast of a hearing.

But it wasn't to be. In a meeting that lasted two hours and fifty-three
minutes, only one question was asked about the military's readiness on the
eve of the invasion. Sen. John Warner, the committee's venerable and
powerful chairman, asked Gen. Richard Myers if the US was ready to fight
simultaneously in both Iraq and North Korea, if necessary.

Myers answered, "Absolutely."

And that was it. The entire exchange lasted fifteen seconds. The rest of
the session followed a pattern familiar to anyone who has watched a
hearing on C-Span: The members, when they weren't reading or chatting with
one another, used their time with witnesses almost exclusively to address
parochial concerns revolving around pork projects in their own districts.
Warner set the tone in his opening remarks; after announcing that US
troops preparing to invade Iraq could count on his committee's "strongest
support," the senator from Virginia quickly turned to the question of how
the war would affect the budget for Navy shipbuilding, which, he said, was
not increasing "as much as we wish." Not that there's a huge Navy shipyard
in Newport News, Virginia, or anything.

Other senators followed suit. Daniel Akaka was relatively uninterested in
Iraq but asked about reports that Korea might have a missile that could
reach his home state of Hawaii. David Pryor of Arkansas used his time to
tout the wonders of military bases in Little Rock and Pine Bluff. When the
senators weren't eating up their allotted time in this fashion, they were
usually currying favor with the generals. Warner himself nicely
encapsulated the obsequious tone of the session when he complimented
Rumsfeld for having his shit so together on the war.

"I think your response reflects that we have given a good deal of
consideration," Warner said. "That we have clear plans in place and are
ready to proceed." We all know how that turned out.

               Step Four: Spend, Spend, Spend

There is a simple reason that members of Congress don't waste their time
providing any oversight of the executive branch: There's nothing in it for
them. "What they've all figured out is that there's no political payoff in
oversight," says Wheeler, the former congressional staffer. "But there's a
big payoff in pork."

When one considers that Congress has forsaken hearings and debate,
conspired to work only three months a year, completely ditched its
constitutional mandate to provide oversight and passed very little in the
way of meaningful legislation, the question arises: What do they do?

The answer is easy: They spend. When Bill Clinton left office, the nation
had a budget surplus of $236 billion. Today, thanks to Congress, the
budget is $296 billion in the hole. This year, more than sixty-five
percent of all the money borrowed in the entire world will be borrowed by
America, a statistic fueled by the speed-junkie spending habits of our
supposedly "fiscally conservative" Congress. It took forty-two presidents
before George W. Bush to borrow $1 trillion; under Bush, Congress has more
than doubled that number in six years. And more often than not, we are
borrowing from countries the sane among us would prefer not to be indebted
to: The US shells out $77 billion a year in interest to foreign creditors,
including payment on the $300 billion we currently owe China.

What do they spend that money on? In the age of Jack Abramoff, that is an
ugly question to even contemplate. But let's take just one bill, the
so-called energy bill, a big, hairy, favor-laden bitch of a law that
started out as the wet dream of Dick Cheney's energy task force and spent
four long years leaving grease-tracks on every set of palms in the Capitol
before finally becoming law in 2005.

Like a lot of laws in the Bush era, it was crafted with virtually no input
from the Democrats, who were excluded from the conference process.  And
during the course of the bill's gestation period we were made aware that
many of its provisions were more or less openly for sale, as in the case
of a small electric utility from Kansas called Westar Energy.

Westar wanted a provision favorable to its business inserted in the bill -
and in an internal company memo, it acknowledged that members of Congress
had requested Westar donate money to their campaigns in exchange for the
provision. The members included former Louisiana congressman Billy Tauzin
and current Energy and Commerce chairman Joe Barton of Texas. "They have
made this request in lieu of contributions made to their own campaigns,"
the memo noted. The total amount of Westar's contributions was $58,200.

Keep in mind, that number - fifty-eight grand - was for a single favor.
The energy bill was loaded with them. Between 2001 and the passage of the
bill, energy companies donated $115 million to federal politicians, with
seventy-five percent of the money going to Republicans. When the bill
finally passed, it contained $6 billion in subsidies for the oil industry,
much of which was funneled through a company with ties to Majority Leader
Tom DeLay. It included an exemption from the Safe Drinking Water Act for
companies that use a methane-drilling technique called "hydraulic
fracturing" - one of the widest practitioners of which is Halliburton. And
it included billions in subsidies for the construction of new coal plants
and billions more in loan guarantees to enable the coal and nuclear
industries to borrow money at bargain-basement interest rates.

Favors for campaign contributors, exemptions for polluters, shifting the
costs of private projects on to the public - these are the specialties of
this Congress. They seldom miss an opportunity to impoverish the states we
live in and up the bottom line of their campaign contributors. All this
time - while Congress did nothing about Iraq, Katrina, wiretapping, Mark
Foley's boy-madness or anything else of import - it has been all about
pork, all about political favors, all about budget "earmarks" set aside
for expensive and often useless projects in their own districts. In 2000,
Congress passed 6,073 earmarks; by 2005, that number had risen to 15,877.
They got better at it every year. It's the one thing they're good at.

Even worse, this may well be the first Congress ever to lose control of
the government's finances. For the past six years, it has essentially been
writing checks without keeping an eye on its balance. When you do that,
unpleasant notices eventually start appearing in the mail. In 2003, the
inspector general of the Defense Department reported to Congress that the
military's financial-management systems did not comply with "generally
accepted accounting principles" and that the department "cannot currently
provide adequate evidence supporting various material amounts on the
financial statements."

Translation: The Defense Department can no longer account for its money.
"It essentially can't be audited," says Wheeler, the former congressional
staffer. "And nobody did anything about it. That's the job of Congress,
but they don't care anymore."

So not only does Congress not care what intelligence was used to get into
the war, what the plan was supposed to be once we got there, what goes on
in military prisons in Iraq and elsewhere, how military contracts are
being given away and to whom - it doesn't even give a shit what happens to
the half-trillion bucks it throws at the military every year.

Not to say, of course, that this Congress hasn't made an effort to reform
itself. In the wake of the Jack Abramoff scandal, and following a public
uproar over the widespread abuse of earmarks, both the House and the
Senate passed their own versions of an earmark reform bill this year.
But when the two chambers couldn't agree on a final version, the House was
left to pass its own watered-down measure in the waning days of the most
recent session. This pathetically, almost historically half-assed attempt
at reforming corruption should tell you all you need to know about the
current Congress.

The House rule will force legislators to attach their names to all
earmarks. Well, not all earmarks. Actually, the new rule applies only to
nonfederal funding - money for local governments, nonprofits and
universities. And the rule will remain in effect only for the remainder of
this congressional year - in other words, for the few remaining days of
business after lawmakers return to Washington following the election
season. After that, it's back to business as usual next year.

That is what passes for "corruption reform" in this Congress - forcing
lawmakers to put their names on a tiny fraction of all earmarks. For a
couple of days.

                  Step Five: Line Your Own Pockets

Anyone who wants to get a feel for the kinds of beasts that have been
roaming the grounds of the congressional zoo in the past six years need
only look at the deranged, handwritten letter that convicted bribe-taker
and GOP ex-congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham recently sent from prison
to Marcus Stern, the reporter who helped bust him. In it, Cunningham - who
was convicted last year of taking $2.4 million in cash, rugs, furniture
and jewelry from a defense contractor called MZM - bitches out Stern in
the broken, half-literate penmanship of a six-year-old put in time-out.

"Each time you print it hurts my family And now I have lost them Along
with Everything I have worked for during my 64 years of life," Cunningham
wrote. "I am human not an Animal to keep whiping [sic]. I made some
decissions [sic] Ill be sorry for the rest of my life."

The amazing thing about Cunningham's letter is not his utter lack of
remorse, or his insistence on blaming defense contractor Mitchell Wade for
ratting him out ("90% of what has happed [sic] is Wade," he writes), but
his frantic, almost epic battle with the English language. It is clear
that the same Congress that put a drooling child-chaser like Mark Foley in
charge of a House caucus on child exploitation also named Cunningham, a
man who can barely write his own name in the ground with a stick, to a
similarly appropriate position. Ladies and gentlemen, we give you the
former chairman of the House Subcommittee on Human Intelligence Analysis
and Counterintelligence:

"As truth will come out and you will find out how liablest [sic] you have
& will be. Not once did you list the positives. Education Man of the Year
... hospital funding, jobs, Hiway [sic] funding, border security, Megans
law my bill, Tuna Dolfin [sic] my bill ... and every time you wanted an
expert on the wars who did you call. No Marcus you write About how I

How liablest you have & will be? What the fuck does that even mean?  This
guy sat on the Appropriations Committee for years - no wonder Congress
couldn't pass any spending bills!

This is Congress in the Bush years, in a nutshell - a guy who takes $2
million in bribes from a contractor, whooping it up in turtlenecks and
pajama bottoms with young women on a contractor-provided yacht named after
himself (the "Duke-Stir"), and not only is he shocked when he's caught,
he's too dumb to even understand that he's been guilty of anything.

This kind of appalling moral blindness, a sort of high-functioning,
sociopathic stupidity, has been a consistent characteristic of the
numerous Republicans indicted during the Bush era. Like all
revolutionaries, they seem to feel entitled to break rules in the name of
whatever the hell it is they think they're doing. And when caught breaking
said rules with wads of cash spilling out of their pockets, they appear
genuinely indignant at accusations of wrongdoing. Former House Majority
Leader and brazen fuckhead Tom DeLay, after finally being indicted for
money laundering, seemed amazed that anyone would bring him into court.

"I have done nothing wrong," he declared. "I have violated no law, no
regulation, no rule of the House." Unless, of course, you count the
charges against him for conspiring to inject illegal contributions into
state elections in Texas "with the intent that a felony be committed."

It was the same when Ohio's officious jackass of a (soon-to-be-ex)
Congressman Bob Ney finally went down for accepting $170,000 in trips from
Abramoff in exchange for various favors. Even as the evidence piled high,
Ney denied any wrongdoing. When he finally did plead guilty, he blamed the
sauce. "A dependence on alcohol has been a problem for me," he said.

Abramoff, incidentally, was another Republican with a curious inability to
admit wrongdoing even after conviction; even now he confesses only to
trying too hard to "save the world." But everything we know about Abramoff
suggests that Congress has embarked on a never-ending party, a wild
daisy-chain of golf junkets, skybox tickets and casino trips. Money is
everywhere and guys like Abramoff found ways to get it to guys like Ney,
who made the important discovery that even a small entry in the
Congressional Record can get you a tee time at St. Andrews.

Although Ney is so far the only congressman to win an all-expenses trip to
prison as a result of his relationship with Abramoff, nearly a dozen other
House Republicans are known to have done favors for him. Rep.  Jim McCrery
of Louisiana, who accepted some $36,000 from Abramoff-connected donors,
helped prevent the Jena Band of Choctaw Indians from opening a casino that
would have competed with Abramoff's clients.  Rep. Deborah Pryce, who sent
a letter to Interior Secretary Gale Norton opposing the Jena casino,
received $8,000 from the Abramoff money machine.  Rep. John Doolittle,
whose wife was hired to work for Abramoff's sham charity, also intervened
on behalf of the lobbyist's clients.

Then there was DeLay and his fellow Texan, Rep. Pete Sessions, who did
Abramoff's bidding after accepting gifts and junkets. So much energy
devoted to smarmy little casino disputes at a time when the country was
careening toward disaster in Iraq: no time for oversight but plenty of
time for golf.

For those who didn't want to go the black-bag route, there was always the
legal jackpot. Billy Tauzin scarcely waited a week after leaving office to
start a $2 million-a-year job running PhRMA, the group that helped him
push through a bill prohibiting the government from negotiating lower
prices for prescription drugs. Tauzin also became the all-time poster boy
for pork absurdity when a "greenbonds initiative" crafted in his Energy
and Commerce Committee turned out to be a subsidy to build a Hooters in
his home state of Louisiana.

The greed and laziness of the 109th Congress has reached such epic
proportions that it has finally started to piss off the public. In an
April poll by CBS News, fully two-thirds of those surveyed said that
Congress has achieved "less than it usually does during a typical two-year
period." A recent Pew poll found that the chief concerns that occupy
Congress - gay marriage and the inheritance tax - are near the bottom of
the public's list of worries. Those at the top - education, health care,
Iraq and Social Security - were mostly blown off by Congress. Even a Fox
News poll found that fifty-three percent of voters say Congress isn't
"working on issues important to most Americans."

One could go on and on about the scandals and failures of the past six
years; to document them all would take ... well, it would take more than
ninety-three fucking days, that's for sure. But you can boil the whole
sordid mess down to a few basic concepts. Sloth. Greed. Abuse of power.
Hatred of democracy. Government as a cheap backroom deal, finished in time
for thirty-six holes of the world's best golf. And brains too stupid to be
ashamed of any of it. If we have learned nothing else in the Bush years,
it's that this Congress cannot be reformed. The only way to change it is
to get rid of it.

Fortunately, we still get that chance once in a while.


   - David Shove             shove001 [at]
   rhymes with clove         Progressive Calendar
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