Archive for the ‘corruption’ Tag

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“The court left intact how much any person can give to a single federal candidate, but it did away with the limit on how much anybody can give to all candidates put together. “

Jon Stewart “Victory.  Finally we’re rid of the corrosive influence of not enough money in politics.”

Pundit “Basically, it gives people who have a lot of money at their disposal the chance to spread their influence even more widely.  If you have a million dollars now, think how many chunks of $5,200 that makes.  You can write a lot of checks.”

Stewart “Yup, lots and lots of $5,200 checks.  The last great hope of preserving our democracy from the corrupting influence of money, is carpal tunnel syndrome.  All right, what rationale did the court use to justify this 5-4 split decision.  Let’s hear some dissent from liberal justice Kagan.”

Justice Kagan “If you take off the aggregate limits, people will be allowed, if you put together the national committees and all the state committees and all the candidates in the House and Senate, it comes to over $3.5 million.”

Stewart “OK, here’s the conservative rebuttal, first Antonin Scalia speaks from the bench in his hot tub full of money.”

Justice Scalia “Just to put that in perspective how much money is spent by political parties and PACs in all elections throughout the country?  When you add that up, I don’t think $3.5 million is a heck of a lot of money.”

Stewart “Antonin Scalia, the strict constructionist justice, his argument seems to be OK sure, $3.5 million sounds like a donor is making it rain, until you compare that to the monsoon season of money that we unleashed in our previous Citizens United decision allowing corporations and unions to donate to Super PACs, I believe the limit there was, whatever the bleep they want.  Now, you may think even though there are billions of dollars in politics, surely millions can still have some corrupting effect, no?  And, aren’t we, by attempting to limit contributions just trying to limit the corrupting influence money, or at least the appearance of the corrupting influence of money?  You shouldn’t have said that, because it turns out you were bleeping wrong.  ‘Cause according to this Supreme Court the only kind of corruption that matters is the narrowest possible Thomas Nast like monocled, top hatted man who hands a bag of money, labeled money for bribes to a literal fat cat while the American public stands behind them wearing a barrel, known as quid pro quo corruption.”

Justice Alito “Unless the money is transferred to, you have to get it to the person who wants to corrupt to the person who is going to be corrupted, and unless the money can make it from A to B I don’t see where the quid pro quo argument is.”

Stewart “So, let me get this straight.  Justice Alito doesn’t see how money corrupts politics unless you can draw a straight line from I am giving you this money to do this thing for me.  Well, let’s see if we can find Justice Alito a broader, non-literal, quid pro quo, like an historical example of the corrupting influence of money in politics.  What if we reached back in history to like, this weekend.”

Pundit “The Republican governors are heading west to Las Vegas.  They’re speaking at the spring meeting of the Republican Jewish coalition, but more important, their private talks with one man, Republican super donor Sheldon Adelson.”

Stewart “I would respectfully like to approach the bench, and remind the court that when the media refers to Sheldon Adelson as a super donor, they’re not talking sperm, I hope.  So, A pack of Republican presidential hopefuls just flew all the way to Las Vegas just to kiss the scooter riding ass of one 80 year old billionaire.  It doesn’t prove anything though, right?  I mean people on Fear Factor speed eat a plate of bull testicles for $50,000, it doesn’t mean the two are connected.  It doesn’t mean that money changes their behavior. “

Pundit “Later, according to NBC news, Christie did apologize to Adelson.”

Pundit “He ended up having to apologize for referring to the West Bank as quote occupied territories.”

Stewart “Still don’t think money has a more general corrupting influence on politics?  ‘Cause I can tell you this, my family is full of 80 year old Jews, who would very much like to tell politicians what words they can and cannot use to describe Israel.  But, as of this taping, no presidential hopefuls have flown to their house to solicit that opinion…In who’s delusional mind is democracy made better by letting wealthier people control more of it?”

Sen Mitch McConnell “I can understand why the political left doesn’t like decisions like Citizens United and McCutcheon because they expand the playing field.  They enable more citizens to be involved.  More citizens to contribute to the candidates and causes they believe in.  That’s good for America.”

Stewart “Bullsh*t.  How the bleep does this decision enable more citizens to contribute?  According to the AP, in 2012, 646 individuals bumped up against the campaign contribution limit that this case just struck down. McCutcheon doesn’t get more people involved, it lets those 646 individuals get themselves more involved.  You know, how did the Supreme Court handle voter ID laws?”

Pundit in 2008 “The Supreme Court said that states can require a voter ID at the polls to prevent voter fraud.”

Stewart “So, the Court conveniently ignores the real effects of the donor lobbyist industrial complex under the guise of making our democracy more inclusive, yet they’re perfectly OK with voter ID laws which, under the guise or protecting us from mostly nonexistent in person voter fraud, actually makes our democracy less inclusive.  Corruption that actually happened (holds hands over eyes), voter fraud that doesn’t happen (moves hand away from one eye to peek out).  Justice is blind, but only in one eye.”

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Bill Maher “New Rule:When you promise the American people that something won’t happen if you change the law, and they you change the law and it does happen, you have to eat a little bleep for it. Oh, I’m not talking about him (shows picture of President Obama), I’m talking about him (shows picture of Chief Justice John Roberts). Twice now, in three years, first with the Citizens United ruling, then with gutting the voting rights act, Chief Justice John Roberts and the conservatives on the Supreme Court changed the law, and promised no bad would come of it, and bad came of it almost immediately. John Roberts is kind of the legal equivalent of the guy in The Hurt Locker, except in his case he always cuts the wrong wire and everything always blows up.

Now, back in June, before they took their summer break, the Supreme Court dropped a big one. They gutted the 1965 voting rights act, which is the law that forced certain states, let’s just say the ones where you might find a Piggly Wiggly, forced those states to get permission from the Justice Department before they made any changes in their voting laws. Why? Well, because in the past these states had been naughty, and had prevented minorities from voting with little tricks like poll taxes and literacy tests. But, the conservatives on the court, all excited from being born yesterday, said racism had been cured, and that laws against voter suppression were unnecessary, relics of a bygone era like cassette tapes or moderate Republicans. They said that other than shopping at Barney’s there was no evidence anymore that black people needed special protection. Come on, it’s 2013, they’re dating Kardashians now.

During arguments for the case Justice Roberts actually asked, with a straight face and a cocked head, ‘Is it the government’s submission that the citizens of the South are more racist than the citizens of the North?’ (Feb 27, 2013). Well, for example, in the last election, 66% of whites in Vermont voted for our black President, 10% of whites in Mississippi did, so maybe a tad. And the South, after all, was responsible for enslaving black people, and Jim Crow, and the KKK, and lynchings…I’m going to go with yes.

So, what happened after the court changed the law? Within 48 hours Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, South Carolina, Virginia all moved to make it harder for minorities to vote. The court was proved thunderously wrong in less time than it takes Miley Cyrus to get dressed. Same thing happened with the Citizens United ruling. President Obama said in his 2010 State Of The Union speech that the Supreme Court had quote opened the floodgates for special interests to spend without limits in our elections. And, Justice Alito famously was shown mouthing the words not true. Turns out (Mahr mouths the word true). Of course, left to their own devices the filthy rich, I’m sorry I mean America’s job creators. It turned out that they did indeed sway elections with billions from God knows where. Creepy billionaire Sheldon Adelson and his wife…they alone spent 150 million dollars in 2012. Money he mainly got from owning a casino in China, just as the founders envisioned. And yet, Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority from his tower in Whoville, said ‘independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.’ (January 21, 2010). Which is true, except for always.

John McCain called that naive, which of course it is, and it highlights a very real problem with today’s conservatives. They are just too sentimental about how wonderful America is. Racism, that’s over. Monied interests, they couldn’t corrupt us if they tried. Conservatives act like they’re tough as nails realists, but they cry at fireworks. And, they get a warm morning in America feeling thinking about lighthouses and farmers and the smell of pie. And, they just can’t believe that Americans, God’s chosen and wonderful people, maybe you’ve heard, we’re exceptional, would ever do anything as corrupt as, Yea we would! Twice in the last three years the court believed in us and twice Americans basically said what John Belushi said in Animal House, you bleeped up, you shouldn’t have trusted us.”

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Fareed Zakaria:
But, first, here’s my take. The hottest political book of the summer, “This Town” by Mark Leibovich, is being read in Washington with equal parts embarrassment and delight.

It is a vivid, detailed picture of the country’s ruling elite, filled with tales of ruthless networking, fake friendships and a sensationalist media. But beneath the juicy anecdotes is a depressing message about corruption and dysfunction.

If you are trying to understand why Washington works so badly for the rest of the country, the book explains that it works extremely well for its most important citizens; the lobbyists.

The permanent government of the United States is no longer defined by party or a branch of government, but by a profession comfortably encamped around the federal coffers.

The result, according to many measures, is that Washington has become the wealthiest city in the United States.

Leibovich describes a city in which money has trumped power as the ultimate currency. Lobbyists today hold the keys to what everyone in government, senator or staffer, is secretly searching for, a post- government source of income. He cites an Atlantic magazine report that in 1974, only 3 percent of retiring members of Congress became lobbyist. Today, that number is 42 percent for members of the House and 50 percent for senators.

The result is bad legislation. Look at any bill today and it is a gargantuan document filled with thousands of giveaways. The act that created the Federal Reserve in 1913 was only 31 pages long.

The 1933 Glass-Steagall legislation that regulated banking was only 37 pages long. The current version, the 2010 Dodd-Frank bill, is 849 pages plus thousands of additional pages of rules.

The Affordable Care Act is more than 2,000 pages. Bills have become so vast because they are qualified by provisions and exemptions and exceptions put in by the very industry being targeted; a process that academics call “regulatory capture.”

The entire political system creates incentives for venality. Consider just one factor, and there are many, the role of money, which has expanded dramatically over the past four decades.

Harvard University’s Lawrence Lessig has pointed out that Congressmen now spend three of every five workdays raising money. They also vote with extreme attention to their donors’ interests.

Lessig cites studies that demonstrate that donors get a big bang for their campaign bucks, sometimes with returns on their “investment” that would make a venture capital firm proud.

Now, taking money out of politics is a mammoth challenge. So perhaps the best one could hope for instead is to limit instead what Congress can sell.

In other words, enact a thorough reform of the tax code, ridding it of the thousands of special exemptions, credits, and deductions, which are, of course, institutionalized, legalized corruption.

The most depressing aspect of “This Town,” by Mark Leibovich, is how utterly routine all the influence-peddling has become. In 1990 Ramsay MacMullen, the great Yale historian of Rome, published a book that took on the central question of his field. Why did the greatest empire in the history of the world collapse in the fifth century?

The root cause, he explained, was political corruption, which had become systemic in the late Roman Empire. What was once immoral had become accepted as standard practice and what was once illegal was now celebrated as the new normal.

Many decades from now, a historian looking at where America lost its way could use “This Town” as a primary source.


Posted August 5, 2013 by tmusicfan in Politics, Quote of the Day

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