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com, the author decries the level of corruption in Congress, and attempts to explain it by a historical change in public funding from being largely controlled by state and local government, to infrastructure project monies now almost totally appropriated by the Federal Government. The Attack of the Body Snatchers In a classic 1956 film, Invasion of he Body Snatchers, normal people were transformed into creatures without feelings, yet, in all other ways, indistinguishable from normal human beings. This transformation occurred after being attacked by alien creatures from outer space. These transformed humans could only be recognized by a swelling on the back of the neck. This swelling resulted in naming these captured, dehumanized individuals, the label, “Pod People,” who I’ll simply call “PPs.” We too, have our own very real PPs with whom we must contend. We call them sociopaths , psy chopaths , or an ti- social p er sonal ities . It has been estimated that from 1 to 4% of the U.S. Population is composed of sociopaths (almost entirely males). While there are many behavioral variants, the sociopath is recognized by his complete and total indifference to the effect of his actions on other people. “… characteristic of the psychopath are shallow emotions, the utter absence of empathy, guilt, or remorse, glibness/superficial charm, manipulativeness, inconsistency, deceitfulness/lying and a grandiose sense of self-worth. These very characteristics when coupled with high intelligence, a drive for success and personal power, point this individual to a successful career as a religious leader, business executive, elected official, or political appointee. Once having achieved initial success, the PP is quick to ensure continued success. If a member of Congress, he is reelected, becoming more secure and holding greater control in each successive term in office. At the same time he builds layer upon layer of protection allowing him to expand his predatory wealth and power building activity with complete impunity from either detection or consequences. Of course, every so often, their actions catch up with them. William Jefferson and his money in the freezer, Ted Stevens and the current conflict of interest investigations, Tom Delay, Mark Foley and the page boys – the list goes on and on. Getting caught comes from a number of factors. In many instances, the scandal simply was too egregious to keep hidden or be ignored. FBI or other agency Informants often play a significant role. This certainly was the case with Foley. He had been engaged in predatory behavior directed at underage boys for many years, while posing as a protector of children by sponsoring legislation designed to protect these same victims. When the scandal; came to light, there was no surprise; his colleagues not only knew what he was up to, but had covered up for him. The brotherhood of PPs take care of their own, but this one got just away from them. Those who knew had to run from him to protect themselves.
Consider your expectations when the results of the ’06 election came in. You expected that there would be a change in course in Iraq, some beginnings of limitation and control on the Bush/Cheney administration’s destruction of the Constitution and the rights granted by it, efforts at stopping the endless corruption in Congress. Have you seen any of progress on any of those things? By no means is it to be inferred that all, or even a majority of Congress are PPs. Yet, because they have, over time, achieved positions of leadership, power, control, and influence, they systematically direct the legislative process to meet their own ends. Because any efforts at reform ultimately would require the assent and approval of these PPs, we have the classic problem of the “foxes guarding the chicken house.” The Counterattack Begins If reform cannot come from within, then how can it be accomplished? The solution lies with a concerted effort to replace the PPs with decent human beings. To accomplish this, several steps are essential to this process: • Identify targets for removal There are plenty of warning flags available which can separate the PPs from the humans. One of the easiest way to do this is to look at the “Pork Score” achieved by each of the suspects. As but one example, an examination of one of the leaders of the Anti-War, Troop Withdrawal movement, John Murtha, is well in the running for the “Pig of the Year” award. INDIANA, Pa. — In April 2004, Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) celebrated the groundbreaking for a gleaming new office building here, designed around its anchor tenant, a Rockville, Md.-based technology company called Aeptec Microsystems. Mur tha pursued millions of dollars worth of legislative earmarks for the company, and Aeptec's federal contracts blossomed after it opened a branch in his district in 2001, rising from about $13 million in 2000 to $45.6 million in 2003 and $33 million in 2004, according to fedspending.org, a database of federal contracts. The company had been represented by two lobbying firms with close ties to Mur tha : KS A Consulting and the PMA Gr oup . If we turn to the big Murtha campaign contributors, sure enough, PMA Group is sitting in the 4th rank with a donation of $31,000 for the ’05-’06 election. This is by no means the end of the Murtha pork story. Take a look at just some of his recent activity with respect to Defense Appropriations earmarks. In early August 2007, it was revealed that Rep. Murtha, Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, secured the most earmarked money in the FY2008 Defense Appropriations bill. According to the congressional watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense, Murtha
garnered 48 earmarks totaling $150.5 million. Coming in second was subcommittee ranking member Bill Young (R-Fla.), with 52 earmarks totaling $117.2 million. The $459.6 billion defense appropriations bill, which included an overall 1,337 earmarks, costing $3.07 billion, was expected to be considered on the House floor on August 3. Despite those earmarks, the measure still included less than half of the earmarks included in the previous year's appropriations bill, in keeping with a House commitment to reduce earmarking by 50 percent. However, the earmark total only consisted of earmarks disclosed by the committee, and many undisclosed earmarks may still be present. Murtha has also managed to get himself entangled in some very nasty scandals, including the famous Abscam bribery deal with some “Arab Sheiks.” Abscam was the FBI's operational name for its 1980 "Arab Scam" sting. The sting was executed using FBI agents posing as two fictitious sheiks seeking to bribe local, state and federal officials and eventually netted the convictions of seven members of Congress. Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) was videotaped agreeing to help one of the sheiks in exchange for an investment in his district and showed a willingness to possibly accept money in the future, but took no bribe and was not indicted in the scandal. Murtha is known as a dealer of earmarks, trading earmarks for votes on bills. On the floor of the House he occupies a corner, known as the "Murtha corner", where minority Democrats come to ask for earmarks and majority Republicans come to ask for votes for their legislation. Murtha has delivered votes to help Republicans block a number of Democratic initiatives: "to investigate federal contracting fraud in Iraq, to reform lobbying laws, to increase financing for flood control, to add $150 million for veterans' health care and job training, and to exempt middle-class families from the alternative minimum tax." Those who vote with Murtha have been rewarded with a large supply of earmarks for their districts. In 1989 Murtha became chairman of the Defense Appropriation Subcommittee. There he imposed new rules and procedure that forced Defense appropriations bills to be decided behind closed doors. The practice has continued since Republicans took the majority in 1995. Murtha’s history is prototypical of many of the 535 members of the House and Senate. However pure the original motivation for candidacy, once having been elected, the temptation to take advantage of the opportunities for corruption are far too overwhelming to ignore.
Removing the Pod People Identifying the PPs is the easy part of the problem. Finding candidates with the integrity, intelligence, and the ability to oppose incumbent members of Congress in their respective party primaries presents an even greater challenge. Regardless of party, the existing organization has every reason to support the incumbent, especially one who has served multiple terms. To successfully elect such candidates, it would seem the most effective point of attack would be through the mechanism of Independent candidacies. While next to impossible to mount a campaign at the presidential level, the localization of state and district boundaries makes feasible an attempt to storm the barricades.
Ending Party Control Just what is it that support by either of the political parties brings? Two things; money and endorsement. By far, money is the greatest element necessary to win a party based election. In the past a major part of campaign expenditure was directed at media buys, and organizing large public appearances. The Net, with free video broadcasts available to candidates in many forms, an unlimited opportunity for presentation of position statements, and interactive communication between voters and candidates, money is no longer a barrier to entry to a contested election. Party endorsement and support has always been an essential requirement for election. In years past party identification had value for the voter; it provided a clear definition of political philosophy (the “Party Platform”), and offered candidates vetted (in theory) to being individuals committed to the platform, qualified to hold office, and demonstrated good character. That service may well have had utility for the voter when he could only rely on the daily newspaper and the 6 o’clock news for information about a candidate. Not so, today. Without a consistent and coherent political philosophy nor reliable background information regarding its proffered candidates, the party has nothing of value to offer its voter membership. The freshman Representative or Senator can best be seen as an indentured servant to the party that sponsored him. He is expected to follow the dictates of party leadership, with swift and certain denial of perks and opportunities certain to follow, should he deviate from their issued marching orders. Support for party legislative positions is a foregone conclusion. So too is the expectation of silence regarding the corrupt activities of party elders. Perks awarded, withheld, or removed can range from the location of office space to choice committee assignments. The party is a major source of support in getting. Clearly, the Independent faces none of these problems or temptations. He has no primary campaign battles nor costs of any consequence. He can devote his full attention to convincing voters that he will represent their needs. Campaign costs, in the age of the Internet, will be orders of magnitude less than those incurred in the traditional Media Buy/Crowd centered campaign.
Return of the Humans
There will be no instant solution to the entrenched corruption existing within congress today. With but four Independents (two in the House, two in the Senate), their overall influence on legislation is slight, at best. An incremental Independent addition, built in election following election, seems certain to send a message to incumbents that their perch, once far from the reach of the rest of us, is no longer the secure nest once perceived. Instead, it should provide ample warning that the Americans are coming to take back their stolen country.
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