POLITICS

Sunday night owls. Denison: ‘The Abominations of Congress’

Dave Denison at The Baffler writes—The Abominations of Congress. An excerpt:

MORE THAN TWENTY YEARS AGO Charles Lewis noted in The Buying of the Congress that for most Americans the national legislature is “a distant abomination.” You can put the emphasis on “distant”—fewer than half the citizenry can name their representative and even fewer can name both their senators. Or you can emphasize the “abomination,” since most people are aware that Congress is perennially in the grip of the high-paid influencers who haunt its marbled lobbies and fund congressional campaigns. It’s part of our national folklore to believe, as Mark Twain put it, “There is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress.”

In a simpler age it was customary to find humor in the fact that some of the most, um, ordinary intellects stumbled into the august chambers of the United States Congress. Today’s longest-serving House member, Alaska Republican Don Young, is known for sometimes brandishing a penis bone of a walrus—and for once pulling a knife on former Speaker John Boehner. Louisiana Democrat Rep. William Jefferson was indicted in 2007 for taking about a half million dollars in bribes. The FBI found $90,000 in his freezer.

When I was a grade school student, I became aware that there was a man who represented mein Congress, sent to Washington, D.C., from our Second Congressional District in Indiana. His name was Earl Landgrebe, and he was a Republican, as were most people in the district of small towns in Northwest Indiana’s Lake and Porter counties. Yet in the summer of 1974, when I was riveted to the televised Watergate hearings and was becoming aware that the president was corrupt, and that some Republicans were beginning to acknowledge as much, I also learned that my own representative was unable to speak intelligently about the national crisis.

The House had voted earlier that year 410–4 to authorize the Judiciary Committee to start impeachment hearings. Rep. Landgrebe was among the four dissenting voters. He was loyal to Nixon all the way to the end: the day before Nixon resigned Landgrebe made himself famous by telling a reporter, “Don’t confuse me with the facts. I’ve got a closed mind. I will not vote for impeachment. I’m going to stick with my president even if he and I have to be taken out of this building and shot.” That was the year the magazine New Times named Landgrebe to their “Ten Dumbest Congressmen” list.

To be young in America, in every generation, is to become at least vaguely aware that an incompetent and malignant Congress is not entirely funny. These people can get you killed. It was a clear and present danger when neither party was able to put a stop to the Vietnam War, and again when Congress authorized George W. Bush & Co. in 2002 to launch an invasion of Iraq. And it’s true today, as any high school student knows who walks through metal detectors and endures “active shooter” drills at school: Congress, despite its constant protestations, has a long record of negligence when it comes to meaningful national security—especially for young and marginalized people.

Yet it’s a feature of #resistance politics today to focus almost entirely on the abuses of presidential power. We’re stuck in a president-centric political system—and the unlimited goonery of the current president makes it almost impossible to gain perspective on the depth of our democratic dysfunctions. But a corrupt president can be voted out after four years. Congress can be impervious to reform for generations at a time. [...]

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If @BarackObama tried to get documents that were hacked by the Russian military, Republicans would have cancelled Easter to impeach him.

— David Cicilline (@davidcicilline) April 21, 2019

BLAST FROM THE PAST

On this date at Daily Kos in 2006—More Flu Stories:

It's interesting that ANY discussion of bird flu engenders a reflex "fear/hype" response amongst some posters, (and the usual media culprits) as if the very existence of the discussion (and the provision of neutral information) is an affront to propriety. For example,  here's a simulation from the Los Alamos National Laboratory on Avian Flu infection dynamics should 10 people be found positive in a major America City like Los Angeles. The low probability, high impact nature of the Quicktime movie simulation speaks for itself. But as the Science editorial goes on to say:

An energetic response to H5N1 does not have to be alarmist. [emphasis mine] We can marshal existing concern about this particular strain of avian influenza to build a long-lasting international infrastructure to monitor and thwart threats from such emerging infections.

And Americans are concerned. They're a little concerned about bird flu (or the pandemic flu version) and very concerned about the government's ability to deal. 

Monday through Friday you can catch the Kagro in the Morning Show 9 AM ET by dropping in here, or you can download the Stitcher app (found in the app stores or at Stitcher.com), and find a live stream there, by searching for "Netroots Radio.”

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Politicians are not celebrities, and we are constituents, not fans

I think I first started hearing the words “I am a fan of…” in regard to politicians in 2008, when Barack Obama was running. Granted, I had probably heard it most of my life, but I’d never paid much attention to it. In 2008 I did not think much of it—just the turn of a phrase. However, in 2019, the use of that phrase has grown, and when used with a politician’s name—the cult of personality is a very dangerous path to do down.

Now this is not an uncommon occurrence in American politics. In recent history one only has to look back to the 1960s to see it with the Kennedys and Camelot, or to remember how Reagan, Schwarzenegger, and Trump used their celebrity to propel them to state and national offices.

If you are a fan of Bernie, Kamala, Pete, Joe, or, heaven forbid, Donald, then you need to look at yourself in the mirror and promise to change. Politicians are not celebrities; they do not deserve fawning worship. They are public servants, who can and should be scrutinized, and must be held accountable for their actions. On the obverse, we are not fans; we are constituents, and we must demand better from our public servants. We must hold their feet to the fire, and if they fail—they must not be re-elected.

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Trump’s immigration plans are all about pain, fear, cowardice, bigotry, and punishment

When Trump first slithered down an escalator pronounce his stunt to get paid more than Gwen Stefani by NBC, announce his run for the White House, he came out of the gate with a ridiculously bigoted false notion that “Mexicans are rapists.” 

“If you go to Fusion, you will see a story: About 80% of the women coming in — you know who owns Fusion? Univision!” Trump told [Don} Lemon. “Go to Fusion and pick up the stories on rape. And it’s unbelievable when you look at what’s going on. So all I’m doing is telling the truth,” Trump told Lemon.

It really didn’t take me more than three minutes to look up what he claimed was his source for this argument to find that he had totally misconstrued the Fusion report about migrant women from Central America being tricked and trapped into prostitution as trade and barter to help pay for their passage through Mexico. The report said literally nothing about “Mexico sending rapists to America” because that’s seriously not a thing. 

I still don’t know what excuse has been made for the rest of the so-called professional media—because I was certainly an unpaid amateur at the time—to simply fact check his statement up front by using his own source and point out that it he was spouting bullshit from Day One. It should be easy to point out that the reason they started traveling in caravans was to protect them from these gangs, cartels, and corrupt officials that were forcing them to pay for the price of passage in pounds of flesh. Unfortunately, that never happened.

Consequently, the opinion that certain immigrants are largely criminals and basically scum has always been Trump’s starting point for his “thinking” and policies. Hence we have this crazy Rube Goldberg/Wile E. Coyote plot to deal with the migration problem on our southern border.

Trump has apparently concocted this plan that a) since Immigrants are “criminals” that he can use their inherent threat against public safety as a b) political targeted cudgel in violation of the Hatch Act which prohibits the use of government for partisan purposes against his political opponents. You know, those squishy liberal Democrats in so-called Sanctuary Cities—in order to get them to c) agree to carve out an override and exception to the 5th Amendment Due Process Clause, the 14th Amendment Equal Protection Clause, the 1951 UN Convention on the Refugee which as a treaty that was ratified in 1969 through the Supremacy Clause is currently considered part of the “supreme law of the land” so that d) hundreds of thousand of undocumented immigrants can be summarily deported without an immigration or asylum hearing before a judge.

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