Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Brutally Honest Rant - 02/22/06

Brutally Honest Audio Rant: On Fixing Congress
Audio Transcripts

[Start Program]

(Computer – Introduction)
(Music intro – "American Idiot Remix" – by Green Day and David Matthews 2)

Good evening, and welcome to this week’s Brutally Honest Rant. I’m David Matthews 2, writer of the weekly online column Brutally Honest.

You know what’s really annoying about our government? It’s how easy things get whitewashed. Even the most egregious violations of our trust and our money get swept under the rug… and sometimes it even happens right in front of us!

Back when I lived in the southwestern part of Georgia for about five years, I used to hear all of this news from Tallahassee, Florida, because I lived about forty-five minutes north of Florida’s capital. And one of the stories that just absolutely blew my mind was how that state’s legislature bought the silence of a woman who was the victim of sexual harassment by one of their own. This came out around the time of the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill issue, so "sexual harassment" was still a big subject. And some of this woman’s accounts were pretty damning. One incident pretty much fell under the category of attempted rape.

Now, nobody questioned the validity of the woman’s accusations. Nobody challenged her accusations or called her a liar… well except for the legislator himself. The hierarchy in the state legislature simply paid to settle the case and sealed it under a confidentiality clause. She could not tell anyone about it or of what happened to her.

So how did it any of this come out and be made public? Well this prick-bastard of a state legislator did that! During the whole Anita Hill issue he started blabbing to his friends and to associates about how he paid this woman to shut up about his actions, and called her every name in the book except a child of God. You see, SHE couldn’t say a word about the matter, but he could. She couldn’t even defend herself against his attacks on her character. Then they found out that the state legislature really didn’t have the authority to either issue a secret settlement or to seal it under a confidentiality clause. But they were so preoccupied with THIS matter – about the settlement itself and how it was breached – that they completely forgot about the abusive sexual harassment case itself! And what really infuriated me was that after all of this press…after all of this public outrage and how everyone says that this kind of activity is wrong… that this legislator essentially got away with it… because of who he was.

I think it was really THAT incident that really opened my eyes to the abuse of power going on in governments large and small, and it never got any better from there. I keep on expecting these politicians to somehow take a hint, especially after some of these upset elections, but they simply refuse to learn!

I got pissed off about how members of the US House and the US Senate could get away with things like writing bad checks from their own bank, or voting themselves a pay raise in the dead of night, or sneaking in pork-barrel spending. Every year Congress ignores their own annual budget deadline of October 1st and nobody calls them on it. And yet they EXPECT all private businesses to adhere to standards that they themselves cannot follow. It’s infuriating to see this happen! It really is! And these guys get away with just about everything!

Ethics committees? What a joke! They should be called WHITEWASH committees, because that’s what they really are! They just WASH their hands clean of the matter and then just get on with the business of screwing over the taxpayers.

And every year we keep on hearing about how things are going to be different! When the GOP took over Congress in January of 1995, they made a big presentation about how THEY would do things differently… with HONOR and INTEGRITY and ETHICS. Remember that? Remember all of the promises made with their Contract with America?

Now look at what’s happened to them! We have members of Congress either indicted, convicted, or under suspicion of accepting bribes from lobbying groups. We have a former House Majority Leader who tried to have the rules changed so he would keep his position even after he was indicted. We have a Senate majority leader who thinks that his training as a HEART specialist gives him the God-like ability to diagnose on the floor of the Senate in Washington DC the condition of a severely BRAIN-damaged woman in Florida! And nobody thinks anything of it, do they? We have members of Congress that get up on their respective floors and declare that even the most repressive bill before them is constitutional simply because THEY said so! And if a judge that is schooled in matters of the Constitution says otherwise, then the JUDGE is accused of "legislating from the bench"… but NOBODY accuses the politicians of passing judgement from the dais! Now THAT’S arrogance!

So like some of you, I think that it’s high time that we fix the system. We’ve got a great system of government in place, but let’s get brutally honest here… it’s been so badly corrupted and corroded by the people inside the system that it needs some SERIOUS tinkering around to get things to work again. We can’t simply vote the bastards out and vote in a new bunch of bastards from the opposing major political party. These hucksters have swapped parties around so many times that you can no longer tell the difference between the Dems and the Reps! They support certain positions when they are to his or her advantage and then hypocritize themselves when the situation calls for it and nobody calls them on it.

So then the next question is… HOW do we fix the system? What do we do to fix it? What needs to be changed? It’s one thing to say that there is a problem… it’s another to actually come up with a solution. That in and of itself contributes to the problem… we all admit that there IS a problem with the system but nobody has the courage to come up with ways to fix it! We need to actually take a blue pencil to the system and say "change this" or "change that" and put those fixes in so that you know there ARE definitive changes instead of just talking about how things should be "different".

So here goes… if I had a magical blue pencil to fix our US Congress so that it would work, this is what I’d do…

First, you know that oath of office that they take when they start their new term? I’d make it under penalty of perjury. If you violate that oath, such as passing bills that you know would undermine the US Constitution, then you get charged with perjury and you go to prison. I’d also make it so that anyone making any kind of statement or testimony on the floor of the House or Senate or in committee is automatically under penalty of perjury. No more swearing in only at the discretion of the committee chairman… everybody does it…and yes that would also include the President’s annual State of the Union address! "The State of the Union is strong! The economy is doing great!" Horsecrap, sir… and enjoy your two-year stay at Club Fed!

Second, ethics committees would no longer have fifteen different levels of punishment. There would just be three: acquittal, censure, or expulsion. And if you’re censured three times by the ethics committee during your career, then you’re automatically expelled from Congress. You’re done. Finished. Pack up your crap and go home. Hey, if "three strikes" are supposed to be so great in going after the street criminals, then it should also work against the liars, crooks, and thieves in government.

Third, every member of the House and Senate would be OBLIGATED to swear under penalty of perjury that their vote for or against any legislative bill before them only came AFTER they have personally read and understood EVERY SECTION of that bill! And yes, that would include the seventeen thousand amendments that get tacked onto them. Too many members of Congress really have NO IDEA whatsoever what’s in the bills that they vote for or against. They’ve never even heard of the bills, much less know what’s in them or if they’re in accordance with the US Constitution. They let their underlings read the bills and give them the condensed sound-bite summary and then wait for the party’s whip to tell them how to vote on it. I call that a direct and blatant violation of their oath of office and they should be prosecuted for it.

By the way, that kind of penalty would do wonders with cutting down on the pork projects put in and on the number of laws passed and the asinine amendments that get thrown in at the last minute. If these career hucksters had to swear under penalty of perjury that they knew EACH AND EVERY nuance of that bill before they could vote for or against it, then they wouldn’t be so flippant to throw in too many amendments on it. The first instance of saying "I don’t know" could lead them to a two-year stay at Club Fed playing "don’t drop the soap".

Fourth, the budget deadline… the only reason why these guys get away with violating their own rules regarding the October 1st budget deadline is because they keep on passing continuing resolutions. If I had that magical blue pencil, though, I’d prohibit that kind of extension at all. If Congress can’t get their act together by October 1st, then the government gets shut down. Period. No more money. No more delay. I wouldn’t want that to happen, but at the same time, Congress has no moral authority to dictate to the rest of the world how to do business if they can’t abide by their own damned rules. And I’d tie their pay to the health of the budget. If the budget is in surplus, then they get a 5% raise. If the budget is in deficit, then they get a 5% pay-cut. If they Congress wants to spend like there’s no tomorrow, then that’s fine... they’ll just be working for free. And that’ll save us even MORE money!

Fifth, the "Bob Dole" rule: this one was done by former Senator Bob Dole back in 1996. If you’re in the Congress and you run for another elected position other than your own, then you have to give up your current job! You can’t spend two years in the Senate running for President all the way up to the November elections and then retreat to your cushy government job if you lose. The minute you say, "I’m running for another job", then the next words out of your mouth have to be "I’m resigning my current position." You can’t properly serve your constituents if you’re busy putting your time, effort, and energy on running for that other job.

That rule alone would free up a lot of spaces in these elections. Think of the number of politicians that would effectively be removed from Congress if that rule were enforced. Ted Kennedy, Joe Biden, John Edwards, John Kerry, Joe Lieberman… and Hillary Clinton would CERTAINLY have to think twice before risking HER cushy Senate seat on a run for the White House.

Sixth, I’d make a filibuster REAL. If you want to tie up the Congress with talk, then bring your adult diapers, bring your dinner, bring plenty of coffee, and bring the contents of the Library of Congress with you because you’re going to be talking nonstop. The minute you stop talking, your turn is over and there’s an immediate vote to close discussions. I don’t care which party does it, because both the Dems and the Reps have done it in the past, but I’d want them to actually WORK for it.

But then again these are all small fixes. Seriously. Well, at least THOSE things are small fixes. They could be put in place tomorrow if there’s enough political outrage. But I’ve still got two big magic blue-pencil fixes to make.

First big one is term limits. I’m still all for them, and twelve years in either the House or the Senate is more than enough time for anyone to get their "agenda" enacted. I think it’s insulting to hear politicians talk about getting a pension on the first day they serve.

Second big one… we need to fix the Senate. I’d like to see it go back to what it was originally under the US Constitution, when they were appointed by the state instead of elected by the people. That’s the real reason why they served six years instead of two, because back then the senators actually represented the interests of their respective states, not just the voters. It’s pretty stupid to have TWO legislative houses that are directly elected by the voters, so let’s just get it back to a true bicameral system. PLUS it gives more power back to the states, thus restoring the balance of power that was originally created. The governors and the state legislative bodies would have more say in how federal laws are passed and in how federal budgets are set up.

But… by now I’ve probably turned some of you guys off. I mean, come on, this stuff is a little BORING isn’t it? It’s much easier for us to simply say "Storm the Bastille! Throw the bums out! Let’s just elect the people from the OTHER major political party so we can go back to watching American Idol!" That does seem to be the common mindset here… just pick the other party in November and hope that they somehow don’t screw us over AS much as we’re getting screwed right now. That’s how it’s been for the past century or so. One major party screws up, so we give control over to the other major party.

But that’s EXACTLY what the politicians expect us to do! They want us to just stick with the Dems and the Reps and let THEM fix the problem themselves. And of course… THEY won’t! Because it’s in THEIR best interest for the system to be as screwed up as it is right now! As long as we just complain that there IS a problem and we don’t do anything about FIXING it, then the politicians will just go right on screwing us over.

You don’t like the current tax system? Hate to hear about the continually rising federal debt? You don’t like the bums in office? You don’t like hearing about the scandals and the bribery? Well it’s up to US as voters to do something about it! If these career politicians are the simple "public servants" that we think they are, then they’re actually waiting for US to tell them how to fix things. And if they aren’t the "public servants" that they pretend to be, then they certainly don’t want to do anything to spoil it for themselves and their buddies, and that means that it’s up to us to get them as far away from positions of power as possible.

Either way, guys, nothing will ever get fixed if WE don’t do it!

(Computer – various mixes about change, sorry you have to hear the rant to know what they are)
(Fade Music In – "Session" by Linkin Park)

Some of my more libertarian supporters are probably wondering why I haven’t said too much about third-party alternatives… and to be perfectly honest with you, I don’t think that the great unwashed are ready for that step yet. We gotta get the people MAD first. They have to be mad enough to DEMAND that changes be made to the status quo! That part is relatively easy. There’s quite a bit out there right now that piss people off.

And then comes the really hard part… you have to show that the Dems and the Reps have absolutely no intention on giving you the changes that you’re demanding. And of course once these career politicians find out that you’re willing to go outside of the Democrat-Republican duopoly, then both parties will trip over themselves to convince the masses that they really want those changes.

And thus the game begins all over again… and that’s what this is to the career politicians. It’s just a game. A game that is played with THEIR power and with OUR money, OUR freedoms… and even with OUR lives.


Brutally Honest is a Get Brutal production, all opinions expressed are those of the commentator, and may or may not be shared by the online provider. This is David Matthews 2 saying good night, and I’ll speak with you soon!

(Fade out)

(Computer – Ending/"End of Recording")

[End of program]

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