Out, Damned Spot!

American charities became unwitting beneficiaries of millions of dollars in contributions today as Republican lawmakers, including the President of the United States, sought to wash their hands of a once-fruitful and symbiotic relationship with Jack Abramoff, the former high-flying K Street macher who pled guilty to three felony counts of bribery and racketeering in Washington, DC Federal District Court on Tuesday.

President Bush, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Tx., and his successor Roy Blunt, R-Mo., joined a long list of former Abramoff beneficiaries casting off money connected to the lobbyist, who reached a plea bargain agreement to help federal prosecutors pursue a broadening probe of bribery in the nation’s capital.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., beat other Republican leaders to the punch, announcing on Tuesday within hours of Mr. Abramoff’s guilty plea, he would turn over to charity all contributions he had received from the lobbyist or his clients.

The Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan campaign finance watchdog group, said Mr. Hastert had received $69,000 from Mr. Abramoff and Indian tribes represented by the lobbyist. Mr. Hastert had not announced the recipients of his contribution at press time.

Mr. Bush, for whose 2004 campaign Mr. Abrramoff raised more than $100,000 — earning him the rank of Pioneer in the BushCo hierarchy — pledged to donate $6000 to the American Heart Association.

That is not a typo. The President of the United States is dontating $6000 to the American Heart Association.

Mr. Bush willingly tithed something shy of 6% to the Church of Doing the Right Thing, while other Republican beneficiaries of Mr. Abramoff’s largesse couldn’t distance them selves fast enough from the filthy lucre by which they feel suddenly tainted.

The fallen pimp for post-modern conservatism has the entire court of the new millennium’s lone Imperial power shaking in its boots, while the emperor himself makes an empty gesture to a symbolic idol in the mythic pantheon of American Goodness.

Life imitates Art.


  1. Philip White - January 5, 2006 @ 3:51 am

    I like your compact writing style. Orwell would be proud.

  2. Butler Crittenden - January 5, 2006 @ 7:17 pm

    Indeed, well said!

    The Republicans are defying the laws of gravity and engineering, piling so much hypocrisy on top of themselves and the nation. Let’s all keep the over-the-top scandal alive through the November elections THIS YEAR. Throw in the reality of Medicare and Social Security, and the fact that seniors vote in greater numbers than any other group, and the stage is set for blowing away the rats of both parties in November. Just today I received:

    Jim Hightower likes to point out the facts about progressivism in America from some recent polls.

    77% believe the country should do “whatever it takes” to protect the environment.
    65% say the government should guarantee health insurance for everyone-even if it means raising taxes.
    86% favor raising the minimum wage
    60% favor repealing either all of Bush’s tax cuts or at least those cuts that went to the rich.

    Now, if we can only figure out how to get honest elections.

  3. Michael Herdegen - January 6, 2006 @ 12:57 pm

    If you put your faith in poll results like those, you’re going to be disappointed.

    There is strong-but-not-overwhelming support for every item mentioned, but only in the case of raising the minimum wage does support break into a majority position, and virtually NOBODY votes for or against a candidate based on their position with regards to the minimum wage.

    Further, people with passionate feelings about gov’t-paid health care, or those who want to elevate the environment over the good of humans, are ALREADY voting Dem or Green.

    It would require some moderates to get onboard those movements for there to be any further traction.

    Good luck.

  4. lonbud - January 6, 2006 @ 2:37 pm

    I think putting faith in poll results at all has played a large role in getting us into the political and social miasma we’re trying to find our way out of today. Ever since “pollsters” became inescapable accoutrements of every political campaign principles, and vision, and strategic planning have taken a backseat to positioning for the public’s current whim.

    In addition, moderates are going to have to be onboard any movement that’s going to proceed from electoral politics, by the very definition.

    I think Butler’s point is well-made in that the greatest threat to our society, or way of life, standard of living — call it what you may — is NOT from radical Islam, it’s from diminishing confidence in the integrity of our system and in the honesty of the people in whose care we place its trust.

    MacLuhan said the medium is the message, but sometimes the message is the message, too. I’d like to ask, Michael, for some explication on what it means to elevate the environment over the good of humans.

    My view is that elevating the environment is for the good of humans, but that’s just me.

  5. Michael Herdegen - January 6, 2006 @ 3:11 pm

    I mean that we ought to ensure that human activity has the most-minimal impact on the environment that’s possible, but that concern for the environment ought not result in an unnecessary diminishment of human living standards.

    An example of the latter would be drilling for oil in ANWR.
    The environmental movement has, for whatever reason, decided to draw a line in the sand regarding such, even though the coastal plains where such drilling would occur are a mosquito-plagued wasteland, completely uninhabited by Indian tribes, and unvisited by tourists.
    Further, the oil companies operating on the Alaskan North Slope already practice “zero-impact” operations; everything that gets shipped in to support operations gets shipped out again, even garbage.

    Opposing drilling in ANWR does NOTHING WHATSOEVER to protect the environment, it’s just political posturing, but it WILL negatively affect, (if only slightly), the quality of life for Americans over the next five decades.

    It’s like the whole spotted-owl kerfuffle in the Northwest – a lot of loggers lost their livelihoods, and the spotted owls are STILL dying out, replaced by the barred owls.

    Almost nobody wants a “Cuyahoga-River-catches-on-fire” level of environmental control, but the only way to eliminate all human impact on the environment is to have NO HUMANS.
    There’s a middle ground, and the current crop of prominent environmentalists are straying off of it when staking their claims, which will only lead to heartbreak for them, in the long run, accompanied by a lack of accomplishment.

  6. lonbud - January 6, 2006 @ 8:53 pm

    I don’t imagaine it’s impossible to come up with a scenario in which concern for the environment might result in unnecessary diminishment of human living standards, but prohibiting drilling for oil in ANWR is most emphatically NOT one.

    Without having been there myself to survey the character of its 19.5 million acres, and being somewhat skeptical of Michael’s description of it as a place strangely similar to the Potomoc basin in which the capital of this nation was eventually settled, I’ll point out that when Congress created ANWR in 1960 the original purpose of the reserve involved preserving unique wildlife, wilderness and recreational values.

    In its 1980 enlargement, the reserve was also charged with the duty to conserve the natural diversity of fish & wildlife populations & habitats with emphasis on the Porcupine River caribou herd and an extensive list of other species, to fulfill international fish & wildlife treaty obligations, to provide access to subsistence uses by residents, and to ensure water quality in the reserve.

    The U. S. Fish & WIldlife Service states the reserve offers the full range of intact arctic and subarctic ecosystems, with no species of plant or animal missing, and no outside species has invaded

    Precious little there about tourism or Indian tribes.

    Contrary to Michael’s assertion, opposing drilling in ANWR does everything to protect the environment because as it stands today, whether a “mosquito-plagued wasteland” or something else entirely, it is pristine.

    The other half of Michael’s assertion is patently absurd. Neither Americans nor people anywhere else in the world need the oil that allegedly exists under ANWR’s tundra. If the oil there is never exploited, there is not a single human being alive today or one who will ever be born whose living standard would be unnecessarily diminished thereby.

    What we — and those yet-to-be born humans for whose living standard Michael feigns such concern — need is leadership that will wean this society from its dependence on oil, and will fund and tap its boundless rserves of creativity and innovation to produce ever-rising standards of living for human beings everywhere without destroying the environment in the process.

  7. Meredtih Charpantier - January 8, 2006 @ 2:11 am

    Oof. That’s what I was going to say LB. The buggering about reserves of crude oil hidding under un-tourist developed tundra are one among many smoke screens which distract us from more valuable work. Worse ones are still radically altering the standard of “living” via the immature deaths of young American soldiers and more than a few Iraki civilians. Caribou and Irakis don’t vote in U.S. elections. How depresingly cynical is it to plot the path of any environmental or progressive ideal by its status in the polls of our cement ladden lesser of two evils political system.

    There are so many alternatives. to all of this. from bio deisel, wind, sun, and the more hippy ideal of honest elections?!?!

    How does one continue to rally for a criminal control of the levers of planetary power?

  8. Tam O’Tellico - January 8, 2006 @ 4:11 pm

    This is where I say I told you so but alas with no glee, rather with utter dismay. The barbarians are not at the gate; they occupy the seats of power.

    While Michael chooses to whistle past the rapid-filling graveyard and promote the New American Century, the powers that behead are busy plundering and peeping. While most Americans seem willing to pass off the present political circumstances as only “more of the same” from whichever party happens to be in power, the truth is that our liberites have never been so endangered from within.

    But those in the midst of such madness are always the last to know:

    “What no one seemed to notice was the ever widening gap between the government and the people. And it became always wider…..the whole process of its coming into being, was above all diverting, it provided an excuse not to think….for people who did not want to think anyway gave us some dreadful, fundamental things to think about…..and kept us so busy with continuous changes and ‘crises’ and so fascinated…..by the machinations of the ‘national enemies,’ without and within, that we had no time to think about these dreadful things that were growing, little by little, all around us…..

    “Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained or, on occasion, ‘regretted,’ that unless one understood what the whole thing was in principle, what all these ‘little measures’…..must some day lead to, one no more saw it developing from day to day than a farmer in his field sees the corn growing…..Each act is worse than the last, but only a little worse. You wait for the next and the next.

    “You wait for one great shocking occasion, thinking that others, when such a shock comes, will join you in resisting somehow. You don’t want to act, or even talk, alone…..you don’t want to ‘go out of your way to make trouble.’ But the one great shocking occasion, when tens or hundreds or thousands will join with you, never comes.

    “That’s the difficulty. The forms are all there, all untouched, all reassuring, the houses, the shops, the jobs, the mealtimes, the visits, the concerts, the cinema, the holidays. But the spirit, which you never noticed because you made the lifelong mistake of identifying it with the forms, is changed. Now you live in a world of hate and fear, and the people who hate and fear do not even know it themselves, when everyone is transformed, no one is transformed.

    “You have accepted things you would not have accepted five years ago, a year ago, things your father…..could never have imagined.”

    Milton Mayer, They Thought They Were Free, The Germans, 1938-45 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1955)

  9. Meredtih Charpantier - January 9, 2006 @ 1:35 pm

    very powerful. very scary. too true. thank you. so, what are we to do?

  10. lonbud - January 9, 2006 @ 2:13 pm

    Well, as long as we’re on the Shakespeare tip, remember the Bard’s advice:

    “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.”
    –Dick the Butcher, Henry VI, part 2

    On a more serious note, it’s high time we hold Congress’ collective feet to the fire (overrepresented among them by members of the legal profession that they are) and demand a change in course with respect to the way business gets done in Washington.

    The Abramoff investigation and the wiretapping scandal dovetail nicely into the greatest opportunity for reform in the nation’s capital since Watergate.

    For example, Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, who is supposed to represent the progressive and forward-thinking constituents of her San Francisco district, has been an abomination in her term in the House of Representatives. She knew about BushCo’s surveillance proclivities for months before some lower-level whistleblower went to the press with the news.

    She and Harry Reid, D-NV, so-called leaders of the Democratic party, should have called a press conference two years ago and stood arm-in-arm on the steps of the Capitol to let the American people know of the concerns they now say they expressed privately when informed of the spying program by the administration.

    Voters should toss them both out on their ears.

    As long as people continue to keep their concerns and reservations private, and quiet, we are destined to slip silently down the tubes into whatever kind of society people like Cheney, Rummy, Wolfowitz, and the rest of the paranoid cabal running the show now has in mind for us.

    I’m with Tam and Dylan Thomas on this one.

  11. Tam O’Tellico - January 10, 2006 @ 9:07 pm

    Indeed, I do not intend to go quietly into that cold dark night.

  12. Tam O’Tellico - January 11, 2006 @ 8:12 am

    While the Republicans will try to portray the DeLay/Abramoff machine as an equal opportunity briber, it is obvious that the real purpose of the money from Abramoff and his clients was to help The Hammer promote the christian/conservative (lower case intended) agenda and nail Republicans who dared to step out of hard-line.

    DeLay, like Gingrich before him, did his rotten best to create a fourth branch of government — the Lobbyist Branch — a branch where financial accountability could be far more lax than even in the executive or legislative branches.

    Trouble is, as I pointed out here long ago, that kind of power corrupts absolutely. This wasn’t just your ordinary disgusting back-room power politics, this was shove-it-in-your-face-I-don’t-care-what-you-think greed without even the thin veneer of decency offered up by most politicians.

    Even now, rather than cop a Swaggert, DeLay continues to insist he did nothing wrong, arguing that it’s perfectly legal for him or a corrupt lobbyist to pay his wife or daughter or ex-right hand man hundreds of thousands of dollars in “salary” for services lightly rendered. Well, even if it is legal — a question the courts will eventually decide — it sure as hell ain’t perfect.

  13. Tam O’Tellico - January 11, 2006 @ 8:39 am

    By the way — as the DeLay/Abramoff scandal develops, the innocent can get an education by following the money to outfits like CREA, an acronym eerily familiar to those of us who lived thru the Nixon debacle and the corruption associated with CREP (Committee to ReElect the President).

    CREA is the Committee for Republican Environmental Advocacy. I’ll pause for a moment while the laughter subsides.

    One might hope this tax-exempt 501-C “non-profit” would advocate for environment causes, or at least, in the doublespeak of this administration, promote oil-drilling in the Alaskan Reserve or Yellowstone Park. By the way, the administration is seeking to remove grizzlies from the endangered species list so that they can do exactly that in Yellowstone.

    But in the perverted politics of Bottom Tom and Black Jack, one of the primary purposes for CREA was to launder money from Indian casino profits to use for influence-peddling (otherwise known as campaign contributions) or outright bribes to people like Steve Griles at the Dept of Interior. At least, Gail Norton, head of DOI, had sense enough to maintain the appearance of plausible deniability.

    So far the only argument these people offer in the face of incriminating evidence seems to run along these lines: they exaggerated their influence in order to enhance their power. The other defense is that repeated endlessly by Italia Federici of CREA: “I was just doing a favor for a friend.”

    Like far too many in Washington, she sees neither the irony nor the crime in that. But that may change soon since things always look different from behind bars.

  14. lonbud - January 11, 2006 @ 12:50 pm

    Tam O:

    I wish I shared your impression that any of these people will ever have the opportunity to contemplate their power and influence and friendships from behind bars.

    Abramoff, to be sure, seems headed for a stint in the hoosegow, but — barring a presidential pardon, which I put by no means beyond the realm of possibility — he will likely re-pay his debt to society from the relatively cozy confines of a federal “camp,” and not in the kind of place where he’d have to be careful of the kind of “friends” he’d be likely to make there.

    As for the rest, DeLay, Bob Ney, Duke Cunningham, Bill Frist — the roster is long and overwhelmingly Republican — I just don’t believe any of the f*ckers will go to jail or even be required to pay significant financial penalties for their abuse of the public trust.

    Color me cynical.

  15. Tam O’Tellico - January 12, 2006 @ 8:26 am

    Well, if I’m not mistaken, Black Jack’s plea bargain includes jail time and 24 million in fines. Granted, that probably leaves him with a few hundred million stashed in the Marianas or elsewhere. And the Duke got burned, too. I think there will be real penalties for these clowns, thoiugh you’re right, it will be far less than they deserve. As Jon Stewart asked recently “why aren’t these guys in jail jail? A few years as a “cabin boy” might actually do somethjing to bring them down to size.”

    For most of us, a public flogging would probably suffice, but then most of us have some sense of shame. Such public humiliation will probably do little to punish the shameless. Still, we can hope for a Colson Conversion, though I remain skeptical of Charlie’s true character even after his claim of being born again.

    As I’ve said about so many of the born-again, they ought to keep trying till they get it right.

    But I guess that attitude make me a Buddhist.

  16. Tam O’Tellico - January 12, 2006 @ 8:36 am

    By the way, anyone who thinks the appointment of Alioto is going to help improve the situation needs to read this:


    That being said, I don’t believe there is any way short of an endless filibuster to prevent that from happening.

    We are rapidly approaching the tipping point where the nation may not be able to ever recover from the negative consequences of this President. And to think we’ve still got two more years to go — what — there’s three more years?

    Turn out the lights, the party’s over!

  17. lonbud - January 13, 2006 @ 12:25 am

    Everyone is a Buddhist, though they may not realize it in their present life.

    For those who do, the present party may indeed be ending soon. For those who don’t, it would appear there may be a ways to go.

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