Saturday, October 01, 2005

Organized crime in Washington

It appears to have been a rough week for the Republican Party, with DeLay's indictment, Miller talking, Larry Franklin's plea bargain, the forcing of the release of the worst of the Abu Ghraib photos, more revelations on the Abramoff and Safavian scandals, continued fallout from the debacle of the non-response to Katrina, more problems in Iraq, and on and on. People are starting to notice a pattern. From Sam Smith:

"WITH the indictment of Tom DeLay there can no longer be any doubt that with the Bush regime we are observing not a variation on politics but chronically criminal and corrupt behavior parading as ideology. This is not a movement but a mob and a disservice as much to conservatives as to progressives and moderates. The whole purpose of the Bush machine is to line its own pockets, increase its own power, and suppress any who would complain about it. For the media to treat what is happening as just another political discussion merely makes it a tool of the biggest fraud ever perpetrated on the American public. It is time the press learned to distinguish clearly between a con and a concept."

and Josh Marshall (there are links in the original text):

"On paper, Jack Abramoff was a lobbyist. And he made a great deal of money for himself. But if you think of Jack Abramoff as just a crooked lobbyist most of the facts coming out about what he did don't make a great deal of sense. He was a key player in a very big political machine and he was managing a slush fund.

Look at the pattern.

Notice how all Abramoff's clients seemed to get 'bilked' out of large sums of money that ended up going to other conservative foundations, consulting firms, Ralph Reed, lobby shops, Grover Norquist, astroturf organizers, politicians, etc.? All of them part of Washington's Republican infrastructure?

In the case of Abramoff's work for Flanigan and Tyco, Abramoff ended up sending the greater part of their $2 million lobbying fee to an astroturf outfit called Grassroots Interactive - an outfit allegedly controlled by Abramoff and run by a guy who now works as the Deputy Chief of Staff to the Governor of Maryland.

The money ended up diverted to other purposes beside the honorable task of whipping up populist enthusiasm on behalf of corporations that relocate to PO boxes in Bermuda to avoid paying taxes. Tyco lawyer George Terwilliger claims the firm 'was a victim of a rip-off.'

So is that it? Another rip-off? Another corporation which hires a lawyer out of the White House only to get taken in by Jack Abramoff's wiles? Please. How many times can one operator pull off the same stunt? How many times do big chunks of these pay days get passed on to other operators and organizations without the operators and organizations getting wise to the game?
These odd diversions aren't the exception but the rule.

The Republican machine built by DeLay, Norquist, Abramoff, et al. and pulled into high gear after 2001, is a pay-for-play political machine. This is just another part of the operation, like the diktat for trade associations to hire only Republicans. Big political machines need their soldiers taken care of - jobs on K Street which also discipline the trade associations under Hill leadership. Just so, they need big sums of money to move around off the books. How does Rove keep the millions moving to Norquist? To Reed? To all the other operatives whose names you don't know about?

Indian tribes bursting with millions who need very focused sorts of legislative intervention - that's one good source of money. Corrupt Pacific Island governments who need similar help - another good source.

If Tyco wanted help, they had to pay in. That's what the $2 million was. Of course it got passed on to some other GOP outfit with Abramoff connections. That was the point!"

The Republicans like to talk about how the Bush Administration brought MBA management techniques to the American government, but what they really did was discover the method of applying the most advanced management techniques to using the government as a source of personal wealth. The Katrina reconstruction, where they salivated like a wolf watching a lamb as they awarded huge no-bid, no-limit contracts to the usual select group of cronies, just provided the final proof of what they are really up to. The only difference between this American government, and corrupt governments at other times or in other countries, is that the current Republicans are better at it. Strangely enough, the Republican Party reminds me most of old revolutionary organizations, like the IRA or the Palestinian Authority, or even the original mafia itself, that start out with ideological purpose and descend into groups which use their power as the monopolists of violence to live off the avails of organized crime. Dick Cheney is just like Tony Soprano with an MBA.

As the American public s-l-o-w-l-y wakes up to the fact that their government is being run solely for the purposes of thievery, there is not a damn thing they can do about it. That's because the first thing the Republicans stole was the voting system itself. It's telling that the only resistance to the thievery - not the media, not the 'moderate' Republicans, and certainly not the Democrats - is coming from what is left of the judicial system, and Bush is in the final stages of permanently fixing that final problem. Why do the Democrats not take the obvious anti-war stance supported by the majority of Americans? Because they know they can't possibly win an election on the basis of their policies, so they might as well continue to line their pockets with the money from the same military lobbyists who are paying the Republicans. The entire adversarial nature of the voting system has been toppled by the fact that only one party has any chance to win. The Republicans may act a little contrite about the most blatant corruption, but as long as Diebold and similar Republican cronies are running the computer voting system, there is no chance that the Republicans will lose control of Congress or the White House, no matter how much they steal, and no matter how much they are caught. As the legal system is slowly worn down, there will be absolutely no checks on the thievery whatsoever.