Thursday, February 16, 2006

Will on Bush Spying: 'Based on Monarchical Doctrine'

Conservative columnist George Will says the Bush administration is a threat to the republic, based on their arguments given to justify their total disregard of the law, the Congress and the courts in the use of the National Security Agency (NSA) to intercept communications that it deemed suspect.

I hereby turn over the blog to Mr. Will:
The next time a president asks Congress to pass something akin to what Congress passed on Sept. 14, 2001 -- the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) -- the resulting legislation might be longer than Proust's "Remembrance of Things Past." Congress, remembering what is happening today, might stipulate all the statutes and constitutional understandings that it does not intend the act to repeal or supersede.

But, then, perhaps no future president will ask for such congressional involvement in the gravest decision government makes -- going to war. Why would future presidents ask, if the present administration successfully asserts its current doctrine? It is that whenever the nation is at war, the other two branches of government have a radically diminished pertinence to governance, and the president determines what that pertinence shall be. This monarchical doctrine emerges from the administration's stance that warrantless surveillance by the National Security Agency targeting American citizens on American soil is a legal exercise of the president's inherent powers as commander in chief, even though it violates the clear language of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which was written to regulate wartime surveillance.

Administration supporters incoherently argue that the AUMF also authorized the NSA surveillance -- and that if the administration had asked, Congress would have refused to authorize it. The first assertion is implausible: None of the 518 legislators who voted for the AUMF has said that he or she then thought it contained the permissiveness the administration discerns in it. Did the administration, until the program became known two months ago? Or was the AUMF then seized upon as a justification? Equally implausible is the idea that in the months after Sept. 11, Congress would have refused to revise the 1978 law in ways that would authorize, with some supervision, NSA surveillance that, even in today's more contentious climate, most serious people consider conducive to national security.

Anyway, the argument that the AUMF contained a completely unexpressed congressional intent to empower the president to disregard the FISA regime is risible coming from this administration. It famously opposes those who discover unstated meanings in the Constitution's text and do not strictly construe the language of statutes.

The administration's argument about the legality of the NSA program also has been discordant with its argument about the urgency of extending the USA Patriot Act. Many provisions of that act are superfluous if a president's wartime powers are as far-reaching as today's president says they are.

And if, as some administration supporters say, amending the 1978 act to meet today's exigencies would have given America's enemies dangerous information about our capabilities and intentions, surely FISA and the Patriot Act were both informative. Intelligence professionals reportedly say that the behavior of suspected terrorists has changed since Dec. 15, when the New York Times revealed the NSA surveillance. But surely America's enemies have assumed that our technologically sophisticated nation has been trying, in ways known and unknown, to eavesdrop on them.

Besides, terrorism is not the only new danger of this era. Another is the administration's argument that because the president is commander in chief, he is the "sole organ for the nation in foreign affairs." That non sequitur is refuted by the Constitution's plain language, which empowers Congress to ratify treaties, declare war, fund and regulate military forces, and make laws "necessary and proper" for the execution of all presidential powers . Those powers do not include deciding that a law -- FISA, for example -- is somehow exempted from the presidential duty to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed."

The administration, in which mere obduracy sometimes serves as political philosophy, pushes the limits of assertion while disdaining collaboration. This faux toughness is folly, given that the Supreme Court, when rejecting President Harry S Truman's claim that his inherent powers as commander in chief allowed him to seize steel mills during the Korean War, held that presidential authority is weakest when it clashes with Congress.

Immediately after Sept. 11, the president rightly did what he thought the emergency required, and rightly thought that the 1978 law was inadequate to new threats posed by a new kind of enemy using new technologies of communication. Arguably he should have begun surveillance of domestic-to-domestic calls -- the kind the Sept. 11 terrorists made.

But 53 months later, Congress should make all necessary actions lawful by authorizing the president to take those actions, with suitable supervision. It should do so with language that does not stigmatize what he has been doing, but that implicitly refutes the doctrine that the authorization is superfluous.
The Republicans in the Senate may not be able be up to the task of reining in this administration, but Mr. Will appears committed to instructing them as to what their obligations are.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Congressional Probe of NSA Spying Is in Doubt

Senate Republicans, under intense pressure from the Bush administration, appear to be preparing to take a "don't ask, don't tell" approach to shredding of Constitutional rights.

The Washington Post reports
that Bush/Cheney/Rove have been leaning heavily on moderate Republicans in their effort to prevent Congressional hearings on the domestic spying initiative the NSA undertook in apparent violation of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

Ohio Republican Senator Mike DeWine, facing a tough re-election campaign this year, has come up with a novel solution: make the illegal activity legal. Here are the key paragraphs:
Senate intelligence committee member Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) said in an interview that he supports the NSA program and would oppose a congressional investigation. He said he is drafting legislation that would "specifically authorize this program" by excluding it from the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which established a secret court to consider government requests for wiretap warrants in anti-terrorist investigations.

The administration would be required to brief regularly a small, bipartisan panel drawn from the House and Senate intelligence committees, DeWine said, and the surveillance program would require congressional reauthorization after five years to remain in place.
So, Republicans want to legislate away the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure. But, they might be willing to allow it to make a comeback in five years; or, maybe not.

There was a time, not very long ago, when conservatives claimed to be for small government and were strict constructionists when it came to the Constitution. Man, that seems like eons ago.

This quote indicates how radically things have changed:
We are confused and we have confused you with a double standard of morality. We try to keep alive a moral code for our individual conduct--"Don't cheat," "Promises are sacred." "Your word is your bond," "Serve your fellow men"--but at the same time, we accept double-dealing at government levels, and we've lost our capacity to get angry when decisions are not based on moral truth, but on political expediency. When small men are granted great rewards for political favors, we excuse it with the expression: "Well, that's politics."
. . . Time to look to the future. We've had enough talk--disruptive talk--in America of left and right, dividing us down the center. There is really no such choice facing us. The only choice we have is up or down--up, to the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order, or down, to the deadly dullness of totalitarianism.

Do we still have the courage and the capacity to dream? If so, I wish you'd join me in a dream. Join me in a dream of a California whose government isn't characterized by political hacks and cronies and relatives--an administration that doesn't make its decisions based on political expediency but on moral truth. Together, let us find men to match our mountains. We can have a government administered by men and women who are appointed on the basis of ability and dedication--not as a reward for political favors. If we must have a double standard of morality, then let it be one, which demands more of those in government, not less.
Those 1966 words of Ronald Reagan deliver a stinging rebuke to those so-called conservatives in Washington who pay homage to his image, but savage his principles.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Meet the Democrats 2/13/2006

It's an all New "Meet the Democrats" on AOC Channel 5 on Monday Night at 9pm.

This is your PREVIEW of this week's show:
  1. The Republican House Members have a NEW LEADER… and this one is just as corrupt as the last! And guess who is his new BEST FRIEND? - Congressman Charles Boustany, but only after a $5,000 donation to Charles Boustany.
  2. Illegal Wire Tapping... Repulbicans are breaking with the administration in record numbers. Make no mistake this investigation is about breaking the law, and this administration did just that.
  3. The State of the Union... Bush stated that we are addicted to Middle East Oil however even with his promises made in this years SOTU it will only return funding to Alternative Fuel development back to the levels under the Clinton Administration. And in his entire speach only 42 seconds of it was about Louisiana and the devistation we are suffering here - shame on you Mr. President.
  4. Congratulations to Dick Cheney! - In 2004 Dick Cheney's stock options in Halliburton were valued at $241,498 however NOW in 2006 - These same stock options are valued at over $8,000,000 (yes, that is 8 MILLION). It would seem these "NO BID, NO COMPETE" contracts Cheney oversaw and awarded to Halliburton has paid off nicely for him.
  5. The Immoral Budget - Congressman Boustany AGAIN votes against Families in Acadiana and for himself and other Millionaires to cut programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, Student Loans and even the School Lunch program - stripping Free School lunches for over 40,000 American School Children - where most of the time this is the only time these kids get a balanced meal. There is NOTHING Christian about this.
  6. The Nation says goodbye to Coretta Scott King - Mrs. King spent her life fighting for Racial Equality and Civil Rights for all; specifically standing up for African Americans, The poor, The Gay and Lesbian community and all those disenfranchised throughout the world.

This show's guest is Rev. Donald R. Washington where we discuss the Values and Morals of the Democratic Party and the immorality of the current budget by this administration. There is nothing CHRISTIAN about taking from the poor to give to the rich.

What do you think about this week's Show? Tell us - Post a comment here!

BULLETIN: Corruption Works!

The Washington Post reported the obvious today: big money lobbying works!

The first two paragraphs of the story provide anecdotal proof:
A few years ago, a coalition of 60 corporations -- including Pfizer, Hewlett-Packard and Altria -- made an expensive wager. They spent $1.6 million in lobbying fees -- a hefty amount even by recent K Street standards -- to persuade Congress to create a special low tax rate that they could apply to earnings from their foreign operations for one year.

The effort faltered at first, but eventually the bet paid off big. In late 2004, President Bush signed into law a bill that reduced the rate to 5 percent, 30 percentage points below the existing levy. More than $300 billion in foreign earnings has since poured into the United States, saving the companies roughly $100 billion in taxes.
If you want to understand why government does work for regular people, look no further than this story. 'One man, one vote' has been replaced by 'ten grand, one vote,' with the lobbyists delivering the money and the senator or congressman delivering the vote.

Here's another revealing anecdote:
The Carmen Group Inc., a mid-size lobbying firm, is so proud of its performance that it annually publicizes its clients' costs and compares them with the benefits they receive. In 2004, the latest year available, Carmen said, it collected $11 million in fees and delivered $1.2 billion in assistance to its clients -- a ratio of less than 1 to 100. The payoff is large but fairly typical of modern-day lobbying, said David Carmen, the firm's president.

Take Carmen Group's experience with the General Contractors Association of New York. The association paid Carmen $500,000 to persuade the federal government to cover its members' insurance premiums for cleanup work at Ground Zero after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. After three years of lobbying, the government agreed to pay $1 billion.
So, it's not what you know, it's who you know to pay in order to get members of Congress to believe in what you know. We've moved from a marketplace of ideas to a time when the mindshare of members of Congress is up for bid on eBay!

This profound distortion of our political process is one reason why our politics has become so removed from the everyday reality of regular citizens. In the constant crush of members of the House and Senate to raise campaign dollars, the only 'voices' that matter are the voices of the lobbyists, and they're only saying what they're paid to say.

The power of money in Washington is so great that the great huff and puff of electing a 'new' leader of the Republican majority in the House only came up with a compromised congressman from Ohio who rents an apartment from a lobbyist. Suddenly, House Republicans have cooled to the idea of real reform of the lobbying laws. Could it be the result of new flows of campaign contributions?

Government will not work for the rest of us until we return ideas, not money, to the center of the political process. Then, and only then, will we be able to drive those money changers from the temple of our Republic.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

'Political heat over disasters rising'

The Christian Science Monitor reports that a U.S. House committee report on the Federal response (or, more accurately "lack of response") to hurricane Katrina is going to refocus the nation's attention on that scandalous effort.

It's comes at an inopportune time for the White House, as Karl Rove has determined it's time for Republicans to get back on the 'terrorism' horse to ride into the 2006 election cycle.

But, as Ronald Reagan said, "Facts are stubborn things."

Or, to paraphrase the slogan in the 1992 Clinton campaign war room: "It's America, stupid!"

Here's what the Monitor reports:
According to The Washington Post, which obtained a summary of the report, the document will lay primary blame on top administration officials, including Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, the Homeland Security Operations Center, and the White House Homeland Security Council.

Bush himself faces criticism: "Earlier presidential involvement could have speeded the response" to Katrina, because Bush could have cut through the bureaucratic resistance that slowed the federal response, the summary reportedly says.
And, as events have continued to unfold, the response has dwindled as the administration has sensed the public at large was shifting its attention to other of the administration's disasters: Iraq, the trade deficits, the Medicare Part D prescription drug program, the collapse of the defined benefit pension system. I could go on, but this is a blog; I don't have a book contract!

Bush's abandonment of the Congressman Richard Baker's plan to help storm-damaged homeowners retrieve some value from their homes was a clear signal that President Short-Attention-Span was ready to get back to the fun stuff of blowing things up. This disaster recovery stuff (like nation-building) is "hard." Particularly so if you're not really interested in doing it. Would Olympic judges add degree of difficulty points to the program based on the willingness to actually undertake the work?

Sorry, Mr. President and Mr. Rove. This is America.

The scenes we saw in the wake of Katrina were not the kinds of things that were supposed to be able to happen in America to American citizens. The incompetence that your agencies exhibited in response to this storm burned their way into contemporary consciousness just as surely as the images of police dogs and firehoses being turned on peaceful demonstrators in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963.

The fact that your former lapdog loyalists in the U.S. House of Representatives couldn't bring themselves to ignore this reality is testimony to just how colossal your failure was and just how much trouble your party is in as a result of your indifference to central responsibilities of your presidency.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Bush Revives Era of Big Government with Spy Program

It's official! The Era of BIG Government is back, courtesy of your Constitution-ripping Republican administration.

The Christian Science Monitor (a consistent source of solid, spin-cutting reporting) reported on Thursday that the Bush Administration is developing a massive data-sucking operation that will rip away whatever tatters of privacy Americans may (apparently foolishly) believe they have.

Here are key elements of the story:
The US government is developing a massive computer system that can collect huge amounts of data and, by linking far-flung information from blogs and e-mail to government records and intelligence reports, search for patterns of terrorist activity.

The system - parts of which are operational, parts of which are still under development - is already credited with helping to foil some plots. It is the federal government's latest attempt to use broad data-collection and powerful analysis in the fight against terrorism. But by delving deeply into the digital minutiae of American life, the program is also raising concerns that the government is intruding too deeply into citizens' privacy.

"We don't realize that, as we live our lives and make little choices, like buying groceries, buying on Amazon, Googling, we're leaving traces everywhere," says Lee Tien, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "We have an attitude that no one will connect all those dots. But these programs are about connecting those dots - analyzing and aggregating them - in a way that we haven't thought about. It's one of the underlying fundamental issues we have yet to come to grips with."
The entire program in shrouded in secrecy. The existence of the program was only able to be discerned by parsing through an assortment of public documents:
The core of this effort is a little-known system called Analysis, Dissemination, Visualization, Insight, and Semantic Enhancement (ADVISE). Only a few public documents mention it. ADVISE is a research and development program within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), part of its three-year-old "Threat and Vulnerability, Testing and Assessment" portfolio. The TVTA received nearly $50 million in federal funding this year.
Everyone's activity is subject to surveillance:
What sets ADVISE apart is its scope. It would collect a vast array of corporate and public online information - from financial records to CNN news stories - and cross-reference it against US intelligence and law-enforcement records. The system would then store it as "entities" - linked data about people, places, things, organizations, and events, according to a report summarizing a 2004 DHS conference in Alexandria, Va. The storage requirements alone are huge - enough to retain information about 1 quadrillion entities, the report estimated. If each entity were a penny, they would collectively form a cube a half-mile high - roughly double the height of the Empire State Building.

But ADVISE and related DHS technologies aim to do much more, according to Joseph Kielman, manager of the TVTA portfolio. The key is not merely to identify terrorists, or sift for key words, but to identify critical patterns in data that illumine their motives and intentions, he wrote in a presentation at a November conference in Richland, Wash.
Can you say "Death to the Fourth Amendment"? If you can, you'll likely end up in the database.

The Christian Science Monitor calls the program "A program in the shadows." The secrecy surrounding the program is sounding alarms among conservatives, progressives and liberals.
Yet the scope of ADVISE - its stage of development, cost, and most other details - is so obscure that critics say it poses a major privacy challenge.

"We just don't know enough about this technology, how it works, or what it is used for," says Marcia Hofmann of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington. "It matters to a lot of people that these programs and software exist. We don't really know to what extent the government is mining personal data."

Even congressmen with direct oversight of DHS, who favor data mining, say they don't know enough about the program.

"I am not fully briefed on ADVISE," wrote Rep. Curt Weldon (R) of Pennsylvania, vice chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, in an e-mail. "I'll get briefed this week."

Privacy concerns have torpedoed federal data-mining efforts in the past. In 2002, news reports revealed that the Defense Department was working on Total Information Awareness, a project aimed at collecting and sifting vast amounts of personal and government data for clues to terrorism. An uproar caused Congress to cancel the TIA program a year later.
What is most alarming about ADVISE and the National Security Agency's warrantless domestic spying operations is the fact that they are being carried out without the checks and balances provided by the Congress and the Courts.

Congress, under the control of Republicans in both houses, has, with rare exception, abandoned all pretense of providing oversight to any activities of the Bush administration, ranging from fixing the intelligence used to justify the invasion of Iraq to spying on the phone and internet communications of U.S. citizens.

It is that system of checks and balances that resides at the core of the American experiment in republican and democratic government. The system is under attack, not from outside the U.S., but from within. Most damning, the attack is being led by the executive branch of our own government.

The approach to governing and the Constitution that resides at the heart of the testimony given by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and the public statements of the President and Vice President constitute a constitutional coup. That is, they are unilaterally acting to alter — without public discussion — the constitutional balance of power that has been in place in this country for more than 200 years.

Who died and made W king?

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Power of Conscience Emerges in the House (Charles Boustany not affected)

This could be big.

A Republican House subcommittee chairman has broken with the Bush administration over the issue of domestic spying.

The New York Times is reporting that "Republican Representative Heather A. Wilson of New Mexico, chairwoman of the House Intelligence Subcommittee on Technical and Tactical Intelligence, said in an interview that she had 'serious concerns' about the surveillance program. By withholding information about its operations from many lawmakers, she said, the administration has deepened her apprehension about whom the agency is monitoring and why."

Rep. Wilson is not to be taken lightly:
Ms. Wilson said in the interview Tuesday that she considered the limited Congressional briefings to be "increasingly untenable" because they left most lawmakers knowing little about the program. She said the House Intelligence Committee needed to conduct a "painstaking" review, including not only classified briefings but also access to internal documents and staff interviews with N.S.A. aides and intelligence officials.

Ms. Wilson, a former Air Force officer who is the only female veteran currently in Congress, has butted up against the administration previously over controversial policy issues, including Medicare and troop strength in Iraq. She said she realized that publicizing her concerns over the surveillance program could harm her relations with the administration. "The president has his duty to do, but I have mine too, and I feel strongly about that," she said.
It's always trouble when a serious person starts talking about duty to the cabal that tries to run the country like it's a privately held company.

The significance is that Bush's legislative successes and his ability to successfully stonewall investigations (like the one into fixing the intelligence used to justify the invasion of Iraq) has been lock-step, rock-solid, unwavering unity among Republicans in the House and Senate.

Heretofore, the House has been the more stalwart of the two bastions of Bush/Cheney-ism, but now it appears to be wavering in the face of the NSA spy case, which even Senate Republicans and other conservatives are viewing with alarm.

Could it be that the NSA spying will be viewed as Bush/Cheney's 'grab too far'? That is, a less brazen attempt to claim executive pre-imminence might have passed muster, but the claims that Bush, Cheney, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, and Deputy Director of National Intelligence Michael Hayden, don't fit with the theory of constitutional government that has prevailed in this country since 1781.

Never underestimate the power of conscience to change politics.

Bush Budget: 'Tax Cuts, Yes! Gulf Coast, No!'

Here's the Bush administration's Fiscal Year 2007 budget in condensed form:

Tax Cuts, Yes!

Disaster relief for the Gulf Coast, NO!

Medicare: cut pay to hospitals.

Medicaid: cut programs and fees.

Iraq war: Off the books, but YES!

The result will bigger deficits and a government even less prepared to respond to needs of its citizens.

Or, as one former budget official told the New York Times:
Gene B. Sperling, a former economic adviser to President Bill Clinton, compared it to a man who leases three fully loaded Hummers, finds it stretches his family's budget to the breaking point, and decides his family has to start buying cheaper peanut butter.

"They're trying to create a framework where it seems the government can't do anything dramatic on child poverty or helping people between jobs because there's too much discretionary spending," Mr. Sperling said. "And their own numbers show that's flat out wrong."
This administration is neither conservative nor compassionate, but they are unburdened by any doubts about their actions. Apparently, infallibility is a component of the unified theory of the executive (aka "King me!") that has emerged fully-formed in the Bush administration after being in disrepute for the entire history of the republic. Who knew that the Founding Fathers were royalists after all?


Read what the Attorney General is saying: in their view, the President, when acting as Commander in Chief, is answerable to no one.

If this is not a Constitutional crisis, it is just a few steps away.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

New Orleans: Their Problem

Washington Post columnist James Hoagland is generally conservative and has been a fairly consistent defender of the Bush administration, particularly on foreign policy matters.

So, Hoagland's comments about the State of the Union address and what the little mention Bush made about Katrina and New Orleans are instructive. It appears that Bush's handling of the storm and its aftermath in the speech sent an unsettling message that worries even mainstream conservatives.

Hoagland writes:
President Bush's 2006 State of the Union message has been widely dismissed as an inconsequential affair already headed for history's ash heap. But the speech leaves an astringent aftertaste that brings it to mind days after its delivery.

The bitter aftertaste comes primarily from Bush's perfunctory treatment of reconstruction efforts for New Orleans and other Gulf Coast areas hit by Hurricane Katrina. It was a curiously missed opportunity for a president usually eager to spotlight stories of human valor and to promise disadvantaged citizens better tomorrows. Speeding past New Orleans verbally is unlikely to have been an accident.
No doubt, it was not an accident. The speech came days after the administration said it would not support the so-called Baker Plan to at least partially help homeowners in the affected regions of storms make some steps towards recovery.

Hoagland makes clear what has taken place:
And that suggests that another bit of journalistic conventional wisdom -- that Bush is out of touch and lives in a bubble through which he sees the world darkly, if at all -- is also deficient. My fear is more ominous. After a great deal of study and some polling, Bush is reflecting national opinion fairly well on the challenges still faced by the people of New Orleans: We wish them well, but it is their problem, not ours anymore.
Hoagland also makes clear that Bush has viewed the aftermath of Katrina as a political problem, not a humanitarian one:
Bush's rhetorical reticence could be tactical -- a calculated unwillingness to revisit a personal political disaster. Why give anybody an opening to bring up Brownie again? By asking Rove, his political guru, to lead federal reconstruction efforts, Bush clearly signals that his top priorities and concerns are political in this crisis, as in so much else.
Remember that the next time someone (no doubt a Republican) says we need to keep politics out of the recovery. The fact is, that the response to the storm has been political all along and that started with the appointment of a crony/hack to head FEMA. The trips to the coast and New Orleans were all intended to signal to the outraged American public that, hey, Bush cares. The reality is that he doesn't; at least, not about anything but his political skin.

Hoagland suspects there was cold political calculation in Bush's speech:
If you believe that Rove and Bush are too deep in a bubble of isolation or oblivion to see the shortcomings of their energy "plan" and the conflicts swirling around New Orleans, they have a midterm election they would like to sell you. It is far more damning -- for what it would say about them and about the public -- to suspect that they have carefully weighed the pluses and minuses of devoting more attention and resources to New Orleans and have pegged public sentiment just about right.
Rove and Bush might be right about the rest of America wanting to stop thinking about what happened in Louisiana in the wake of the storms. But, if, indeed, New Orleans is our problem, then Bush's callous response to this man-made catastrophe must be made to be the problem of Louisiana Republicans.

Has the state and local response to the storms been perfect? No.

But, what other time in the history of this country has the national government turned its back on its own citizens in the wake of disaster?

The answer is never.

But, this administration and that party (which controls both houses of Congress) have done so. And, no Louisiana resident should ever forget that!

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Bush Prepares to Launch New Front on War Against Middle Class via Medicare Cuts

The Bush administration's war against the Middle Class is about to open on a new front, according to the New York Times. The new front will come through cuts and changes in Medicare, the program geared for those over 65.

While the cuts themselves don't seem large on their face, taken together with the gutting of privately funded retirement programs that are becoming the rule rather than the exception in the current era, and what you're confronted with is an across-the-board roll-back of the social contract which has governed social relations in this country since the Great Depression (recall that this started with Bush's attack on Social Security last year).

Hey! He's a Big Picture guy! He doesn't care which piece of the social contract he repeals, so long as it was initiated by a Democrat!

You might recall that Bush's Tax Reform Commission recommended doing away with the Home Mortgage Tax Deduction (PDF). Yep! Let's make home ownership available only to those who can afford to pay cash for them! This is the way the world looks from the desk of a man who inherited his money.

The fact is that the Republican Party is in the thrall of the monied financial interests of this country. That's why the pharmaceutical industry thinks the Medicare Prescription Drug Program (Medicare Part D) is working out so well for the drug companies while seniors (you remember them? They were the program this 'benefit' was intended for) are finding the program tremendously complex. The program was never really intended to work for seniors; it was intended as a give away for the drug companies.

Then, there is the cost of the War Against Iraq, which the Bush administration just asked for another $70 Billion to fund. Once again, corruption is rife.

And, while it's easy to beat upon our hapless president for these corporate give-aways masquerading as policy, the fact is that none of this would have been possible without a compliant Republican Congress that has abandoned its fundamental Constitutional responsibility to provide oversight to the activities of the Executive Branch.

It is in this way that the corruption of the legislative process under Republicans dating back to the first days of Newt Gingrich's revolution of 1994-1995 comes to bear in the lives of ordinary Americans and of regular Louisianians. Programs designed to benefit the middle class and the working poor have been distorted in ways that drive the bulk of the benefits away from the targeted beneficiaries but toward those who can figure out how to profit from the delivery of those benefits.

Corruption replaces the idea of 'one citizen, one vote' with the idea of 'one dollar, one vote.' This is the basis upon which the Republicans created their now-infamous K Street Project. While many are trying to distance themselves from this effort now (Hi, Charlie Boustany!), the fact remains that it was under Republican control of the Congress and the White House that people like Jack Abramoff had the ethical and legal leeway to run what is now recognized as an illegal operation among the inner circles of the Washington leadership; that is, Republican leadership.

Whatever corruption Republicans want to dredge up against Democrats pails in comparison to what has taken place under the Republicans' watch in Washington, particularly the decade of Republican leadership in the House of Representatives. There has been a systematic effort to corrupt the political process in Washington led by the likes of Tom DeLay, Bob Ney, Rick Santorum, Randy 'Duke' Cunningham, and, yes, even new House Majority Leader John Boehner.

Want to know why government isn't working for regular Louisianians? Look no further than the money being given by special interests groups to campaigns at all levels. Those dollars buy more loyalty than your votes do.

That is the sum of the problem in a nutshell.

Nothing will change until we level the playing field between incumbents and challengers and make those races about ideas, rather than how much corporate money the candidates can raise. Public campaign financing is the REAL cure for the corruption that grips our national government today.

Accept no substitutes!