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Apr 8, 2006

A Good Swift Kick

By Molly Ivins, AlterNet. Posted April 6, 2006.

http://www.alternet.org/

I never minded DeLay being a tough guy -- it was his syrupy claims to carry the banner for Christianity that I found offensive.

AUSTIN, Texas -- In general, I'm against kicking 'em when they're down ... unless really awful people are involved. I figured Tom DeLay is so awful, plenty of people would gang up on him and I could pass.

Imagine my surprise when the toughest question one famous TV tough guy could come up with was, "Do you think you invested too much in the Republican Party?" Another inquired whether DeLay could think of any mistakes he'd made. I waited with bated breath for the immortal, "I wish I could learn not to work so hard," but no, he couldn't think of a single one.

Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay first came to power promising to restore democracy to the House of Representatives, supposedly suffering from then-Speaker Jim Wright's tyrannical regime. Even after the Rs drove Wright from office, however, bipartisanship was out of the question for DeLay. In the budget fight and government shutdown of 1995, for instance, DeLay rejected compromise and famously said, "It's time for all-out war."

I never minded DeLay being a tough guy -- it was his syrupy claims to carry the banner for Christianity that I found offensive, as he frog-marched the House toward being a cash-operated special-interest machine. The idea of putting pressure on lobbyists to give only to Republicans, pressuring lobbying firms into hiring only Republicans and then letting lobbyists sit at the table during committee meetings where legislation was written -- it was just screaming overt corruption.

Tom DeLay and Newt Gingrich turned the U.S. House of Representatives, "the people's House," into a pay-for-play machine for corporations. Put in enough money, get your special tax exemption, get your earmarked government contract, get your trade legislation and your environmental exemption, get rid of safety regulation.

I'd like to address the idea that what DeLay did was only "payback" for the alleged sins of Jim Wright and then-House Majority Whip Tony Coelho, that it's "our turn" at the trough, so why not act like Dan Rostenkowski? It's a great way to rationalize misbehavior, even if the misbehavior is as disproportionate as Wright's ethical peccadillo compared to the open corruption of DeLay's "K Street Project," selling Congress to the lobby.

I've watched enough switches of political power and use of the "payback" excuse to realize that what the new Ins call "payback" has little to do with whatever the new Outs used to do. It is, instead, a direct reflection -- "projection," the shrinks call it -- of the ethical values of the Ins onto the Outs. Every time you hear a misdeed justified by, "Well, they used to do it," you can generally mark off a 50 percent to 75 percent exaggeration.

To get a real sense of DeLay's cynicism and recklessness, forget the stuff the press loves, like the "free golfing trip" to St. Andrew's. Instead, take note of the following example.

The Northern Marianas Islands are a U.S. protectorate (so it can label goods "Made in the USA") in the Pacific being used as a sort of labor gulag, with workers imported from China and elsewhere and paid pitiful wages. Jack Abramoff had a contract with the government of the Marianas to lobby against stopping the flow of immigrant labor to the islands and to prevent a minimum wage bill (mandating a level higher than the island's standard $3.05 per hour) from getting to the floor of the House.

The islands are home to classic sweatshops. In 1996 and 1997, Abramoff billed the Marianas for 187 contacts with DeLay's office, including 16 meetings with DeLay. In December 1997, DeLay, his wife and their daughter went on an Abramoff-arranged jaunt to the Marianas. DeLay brunched with the Marianas' largest private employer, textile magnate Willie Tan.

Tan had to settle a U.S. Labor Department lawsuit alleging workplace violations. According to the book "The Hammer" by Lou Dubose and Jan Reid, among the violations common on the islands is forbidding women to work when they are pregnant, thus leading to a high abortion rate.

Evidently, DeLay didn't have time to look into such allegations, since he was busy playing golf and attending a dinner in his honor, sponsored by Tan's holding company. According to The Washington Post, it was at this dinner that DeLay called Abramoff "one of my closest and dearest friends." He also reminded those present of his promise that no minimum wage or immigration legislation affecting the Marianas would be passed.

"Stand firm," he added. "Resist evil. Remember that all truth and blessings emanate from our Creator." He then went with Tan to see a cockfight.

This is why DeLay's professions of Christianity make me sick. He was there. He could have talked to the workers. Instead, he chose to walk with the powerful and do real harm to the very people Jesus mandated we especially care for.

To find out more about Molly Ivins and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2006 CREATORS SYNDICATE INC.
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Posted: Apr 8, 2006 5:33am
Apr 5, 2006
Published on Tuesday, April 4, 2006 by TruthDig

Global Warming: What, Me Worry?
 

On the premise that spring is too beautiful for a depressing topic like Iraq, I thought I’d take up a fun subject—global warming.

Time magazine warns us to “Be Worried. Be Very Worried.” On the other hand, my sister is on the Global Warming Committee of the Unitarian Church in Albuquerque, N.M. They go around replacing old light bulbs with more energy-efficient models. My money’s on my sis.

It’s a good thing the phrase “the tipping point” became a cliche just in time to help us describe global warming. Just a few years ago, we were more or less cruising along on global warming, with maybe 50 years or so to Do Something about it. Suddenly, the only question is how soon to push the panic button, and 10 minutes ago appears to be the right answer.

People in journalism are the worst criers of “Wolf!” imaginable. We are always setting off alarms about Ebola, or avian flu, or the impending water shortage, or the Social Security crisis, or killer bees, or the pine bark beetle, or anorexia among teenagers (surpassed only by obesity among teenagers). Boy, if we can’t sell you a scare with a few headlines and some mashed facts, no one can.

Naturally, having listened to the media set off endless alarms, the public is inclined to discount them, not to mention that global climate catastrophe is not an inviting topic. We’re somewhere between “Don’t Panic Yet” and “Panic Now!”—edging toward “Now!”

What is happening is not just what climatologists told us would happen, but global warming turns out to reinforce itself by a number of feedback mechanisms. For example, when the polar icecaps start melting, there’s less blinding bright ice to reflect heat back into the atmosphere—over 90 percent of sunlight simply bounces off ice and back into space. Whereas the dark water left behind by melted ice does the opposite, pulling in more warmth and accelerating the process.

The political fight over global warming is over, except for the Bush administration, which has some weird problem with science in general. I’m still not sure what’s behind that: I recall Rush Limbaugh and the radio right taking great glee in pooh-poohing the Kyoto treaty and the whole idea of global warming. Maybe they associated global warming with Canadians or something equally awful.

You might think some premise like, “The whole world is getting hotter, and disastrous consequences will ensue,” would be more persuasive than, “I don’t like Canadians, they’re wusses,” but I suspect part of the fun of being Rush Limbaugh is never having to say the word “responsible.”

The shame for journalism is that it has always been so easy to expose those few “scientific” voices claiming there is nothing to global warming. When the money for “scientific research” on such a subject comes from oil companies, skepticism is required.

Instead, many “journalists” let the bullies on the right cow us with the “liberal media” nonsense and reported there was “a debate” over global warming. There was no debate. The only question is how fast it’s happening. And the answer that keeps coming up is “faster than we thought. And still faster.”

Time magazine, in its warm and fuzzy way, proposes that capitalism can solve much of the problem of global warming—Henry Luce would be so proud. Can’t you see it now? Boy, I’ll bet those titans can hardly wait to cut into next quarter’s profits. The insurance industry, for obvious reasons of its own, has long taken global warming seriously. By simply refusing to insure housing or enterprises near low shores, insurance can make quite a difference.

It’s true the United States could make a good thing out of specializing in green energy and green technology—but we are still living with an administration that subsidizes the oil industry. The question is where the political leadership is going to come from before we reach the Panic Point, before Miami Beach sinks underwater, before Wall Street needs a seawall.

Al Gore is all we’ve got, and the right wing is still prepared to dismiss him with contempt and ridicule, not because he’s wrong but because they’d rather talk about the time he was supposedly advised to wear earth tones.

As the Earth drifts toward crisis, our president does not yet seem capable of grasping even the First Rule of Holes. We’re in one, and it is time to quit digging.

At the very least, it is time to replace those old light bulbs. Get busy, team.

Molly Ivins writes in this space every month. Her latest book is “Who Let the Dogs In?

© 2006 TruthDig.com, LLC

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Posted: Apr 5, 2006 1:04am

 

 
 
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