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May 4-May 18, 2005

Issue #74

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SHILL YOUR TELEVISION
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Democrats Sucking for America
by Matt Taibbi
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The Falling Value of Domocracy
by Russ Wellen
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Stadiums & Phony Capitalism
by Matt Taibbi
CON & PRO
Spirited Debate on the Filibuster

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by Ian Murphy

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Democrats Fight for America...When the Lights are on

by Matt Taibbi

The Democrats were all over the news last week, acting like an opposition.

They bitched about Tom DeLay, stalling a transparent Republican effort to self-investigate (read: bury) the charges against him. They pounded their fists in righteous indignation over the nomination of John Bolton. And they freaked out to the man about Bill Frist's decision to denounce the Democrats as being "against people of faith."

Even John Kerry issued a cheeky "Can you believe these fucking guys?" quote about Frist that was picked up in papers across the country. "We're going to allow the majority leader to invoke faith to rewrite Senate rules, to put substandard extremist judges on the bench?" he shrieked.

In the Bolton fracas, the voice leading the opposition charge was none other than Joe Biden, who was unusually pointed and vicious about the Bush nominee, all but accusing him of lying to Congress. In a voice dripping with Capra-esque civic-mindedness, Biden said: "I'm less concerned about the interests of the U.N. than I am the interests of the United States of America and how we can look straight-faced in the mirror and say, 'this guy is the face we want to put forward to the whole world.'"

That was the front-and-center stuff. Democrats were less vocal about some of the other shenanigans going down in Congress. In the last two weeks, a number of major bills were passed with wide bipartisan support, including an $81 billion spending bill for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, an energy bill containing some $12 billion in tax breaks and subsidies for the energy industry, and—last but not least—the so-called Bankruptcy Reform bill, that long-awaited hot wet dream of the commercial lending industry.

The Energy bill, which included a $2 billion subsidy to the oil and gas industry to research drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, and cleared the way for oil drilling in the Alaskan wildlife refuge, was passed by the House on Earth Day in a touching gesture to environmental idealism. It passed by a vote of 249-183, marking the sixth time this year that at least 40 House Democrats voted for a Republican-sponsored bill.

One of those other instances involved the Bankruptcy Reform bill, which unlike the energy bill has already cleared both houses and been signed into law. This admirably vicious piece of legislation—which one Harvard expert on bankruptcy described as having been "designed to point a thousand daggers squarely at the consumer in trouble"—will essentially make it next to impossible to declare personal bankruptcy.

The central feature of the bill is the creation of a so-called "means test," a mechanism that will employ the IRS to investigate the means and assets of individuals to determine if they are eligible to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The test is elaborate and complicated, but the gist of it is that if you own your own underwear, you will not pass it. Other excellent provisions of the bill include an elimination of automatic stays of evictions, and the exclusion of certain types of student loans from Chapter 7 consideration.

The credit-card industry has been gnashing its teeth to get this bitch passed for about eight years. When it finally succeeded, it did so with margins of 302-126 in the House, and 74-25 in the Senate.

How did it manage those numbers? Among other things, the industry made some $7,978,034 in political contributions in 2004 alone, with $2,925,825 of that going to Democrats. Not surprisingly, some of its biggest contributions were to the leading Democrat traitor-whores who cheerleaded the thing through Congress. Among the top 20 recipients of credit-card money in the past year were Senate Democrats like Evan Bayh of Indiana, Harry Reid of Nevada, and the Delaware contingent of Tom Carper and Biden—all of whom voted for S.256.

With congressional legislation, it's always useful to look in the fine print, because the broad strokes of almost any bill can be made to sound quite sane. With the Bankruptcy Reform business, Bush-haters naturally pounced on the baldly hypocritical premise of the bill. They balked when Bush, in signing it into law, said, "If someone does not pay his or her debts, the rest of society ends up paying them." This from a man who's running massive federal deficits that our grandchildren will have to pay for; this from a man who ran up $3 million in bank debts as president of a failed company called Spectrum 7, only to be bailed out by a company called Harken.

The Bush-hating crowd can cry foul about this stuff all they want, and they obviously have a point in doing so. But the Bankruptcy Reform bill sounds reasonable on its face. If you borrow money, you should pay it, right? Why should it be Citibank's problem if you don't get a job?

Except that this bill goes out of its way to stick you even if the debts aren't your fault. In amendment after amendment leading up to the final vote on this bill, Republicans—with the help of a dependable group of contribution-rich Democrats—shot down every conceivable legitimate exemption to means testing. This included proposed exemptions for women whose debts were incurred due to non-payment of alimony and child support, for the dependent spouses of servicemen killed in action, and for people whose debts came about as a result of catastrophic medical problems.

But my absolute favorite is the amendment, proposed by Bill Nelson of Florida, to exempt from means testing individuals whose debts were incurred as a result of identity fraud. It would be hard to imagine any legitimate objection to this amendment. The only rational objection to this amendment would be that your tongue is so far up the ass of MBNA that you can't possibly vote for it. Which says something about the Senate; the amendment was crushed, 61-37.

Among the Democrats who voted "Nay" to that amendment were Carper, who received $86,107 from credit card companies last year, and our Capra-esque civic hero Biden, who received a total of $144,700 between 1999 and 2004—far more than he received from any other industry.

The bill was held up only when Republicans and Democrats locked horns over barring abortion clinic protesters from filing for bankruptcy if they were sued. Republicans balked, the Democrats refused to budge, and the long "ideological" tug-of-war ended only when an amendment on this issue sponsored by local swine Chuck Schumer was finally defeated.

The whole thing is a perfect microcosm of our national politics. On the front pages, the Democrats feud with the Republicans like pit bulls over a bunch of idiotic and mostly irrelevant social issues, usually involving Jesus—Terri Schiavo, judicial nominations, the bankruptcy claims of anti-abortion terrorists. Whenever the cameras are on, they trot out a shrill hag like Nancy Pelosi—a personage very proficient at being loud, but suspiciously ineffective at instilling party discipline—to hysterically denounce the Republicans as the spawn of Satan. But once the lights are off, they hand the party reins to a few dozen whores who make sure the money votes go the right way.

They do this every time, yet we still buy their Capra act. Are we really all that stupid?

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