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Waiting for Another Watergate

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Posted on Oct 19, 2010

By Richard Reeves

Editor's note: Truthdig welcomes Richard Reeves to our lineup of syndicated columnists.

What is the most powerful political operation in the country in this 21st century? It's the United States Supreme Court. The men and women in black are on their way to deciding their second national election in just the first decade of the century.

In the year 2000, the justices stopped the counting of votes in the presidential election. This year they tilted (or mutilated) congressional elections by ruling—in the case called Citizens United—that corporations are people, only more so. What they ruled was that corporations (and unions) or groups they sponsor have the right to anonymously pump millions of dollars into campaigns. Citizens, you and me, can give much smaller amounts, but we have to reveal our names and addresses—"transparency" they call that.

There is, to say, a heated debate going on about all this secret money. Two distinguished debaters, David Brooks of The New York Times and Al Hunt of Bloomberg News, have taken opposite (and extreme) sides of the argument.

Brooks' analysis appeared Tuesday under the headline: "Don't Follow the Money."

Hunt wrote two days earlier under the headline: "Watergate Return Inevitable as Cash Floods Elections."

They are both commenting on the same set of facts: Because of the new Supreme Court decision, spending on next month's House and Senate elections may top $4 billion, a record. Undisclosed cash, most of it from unnamed corporations, could be between $250 million and $500 million.

As Brooks sees it, the money will have no impact; most candidates of both parties are perfectly capable of raising all the money they need to run as well as possible in their states or districts. So, according to his reasoning, the money does not change the politics on the ground. What it mainly does is make media consultants richer than they already are. He writes:

"I can see why media consultants would believe money is vitally important: The more money there is, the more they make. ... So why is there so much money in politics? Well, every consultant has an incentive to tell every client to raise more money. The donors give money because it makes them feel as if they are doing good and because they get to hang out at exclusive parties. The candidates are horribly insecure and grasp at any straw that gives them a sense of advantage. In the end, however, money is a talisman. It makes people feel good because they think it has magical properties."

Hunt, a more experienced pundit, says:

"A prediction: The U.S. is due for a huge scandal involving big money, bribery and politicians. Not the small fry that dominates the ethics fights in Washington; really big stuff; think Watergate."

"All campaign funds aren't the same. Even the purest campaign-finance overhaul advocates have trouble faulting small grass-roots contributions. ... Large contributions from corporations, unions, trade associations or wealthy individuals are another matter; these donors often expect something in return. Few of those making sizable and secret gifts to the (Republican) effort are engaged in selfless acts of good governance."

"Ever since Watergate, politicians have debated rules on the size and scope of campaign contributions. The 2002 McCain-Feingold measure, which cracked down on contributions and was signed by Bush, a Republican, was the culmination of years of intense struggle. In subsequent years, the courts, dominated by conservatives, have chipped away at the law, Citizens United representing the latest and most sweeping decision."

Hunt quotes a man of the past: "There is no legitimate case against transparency. 'Sunlight,' the late Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis famously noted, 'is the best of disinfectants.' "

The last time we ran an election in the shadows was 1972. Watergate. That year, with the re-election campaign of President Nixon, cash literally flowed into the White House to beat the date that new campaign regulations came into effect. There were little piles and drawers full of cash on the desks of middle-level campaign officials. Where did that money come from? No one really knew. Where did it go? No one knows how much there was or where it all ended up.

That was the lesson of giving and taking money without transparency or accountability. It damned near brought down the country. If Hunt is right, and I think he is, we are in for more of the same. The only question now is the timing of the next Watergate.

© 2010 Universal Uclick

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By national-security-4-us, September 21, 2011 at 12:38 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I told SCOTUS about crimes of TREASON & suddenly The Chief Justice dies & the righteous Judge resigns ~ O’Connor…

So those SCOTUS members are ~ “ACCESSORIES AFTER THE FACT”

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Mark E. Smith's avatar

By Mark E. Smith, October 21, 2010 at 1:50 pm Link to this comment

I wondered when the political party hacks, dupes, and
shills would show up. The fact that the same banks
and multinational corporations spend billions of
dollars backing candidates of BOTH parties goes right
past them—they can’t think beyond, “Repugs evil,
Dems maybe could be less evil.”

GrannyBgood writes: “That was GW who dun
that….Obama is just using these nefarious rulings
instead of reversing them, as we elected him for!”

You didn’t elect him, Granny. You didn’t nominate
him, Granny. The corporations spent millions of
dollars to ensure that both candidates would be
people who favored corporations over people, and then
gave you the privilege of casting a ballot for the
slate of Electors of whichever corporate candidate’s
political party you thought was less evil and might
do you slightly less harm. You voted for somebody you
KNEW was evil and would do you harm because you can’t
imagine the possibility, which is not possible in the
U.S., of a candidate who might represent people
instead of corporations.

Granny continued, “I can’t go so far as urging people
not to vote at this pass….why hand it to the
Reichwing on a silver platter?”

Both parties are Reichwing, Granny. Neither one
represents workers, the left, or ordinary people. You
just hope that the Dems might choose to betray their
big corporate donors and be slightly less evil than
the Repugs, but the corporations that spend billions
putting them in office would have them killed if they
did that.

Granny continued, “…..and next time is the Biggie!”

Sure, Granny. Every Presidential election is the
Biggie. That’s why our Constitution forbids us from
voting for President. The names are on the ballot
fraudulently. The names of the Electors, the people
you’re REALLY voting for, aren’t on the ballot
because you’re not supposed to know who they are.

When the corporations spend billions backing both
parties, it is because BOTH parties serve the
interests of the corporations. When they give more to
the Democrat, as they did with Obama in ‘08, it is
because the Democrat is WORSE than the Republican.

NOT less evil, Granny, MORE evil. Follow the money.

And although Bush did evil things, he couldn’t have
done them without Democratic Party support and votes.
Obama was known to support the Bush wars and the Bush
bailouts and he promised to during his campaign. But
he EXPANDED the Bush wars, INCREASED the Bush
bailouts, and while Bush shredded the Constitution,
Obama openly renounced the Magna Carta.

This isan’t Democrats vs. Republicans, it is the
military-industrial complex, the multinational
corporations, and the wealthy elites against everyone
else. And both parties support their big donors, not
their small donors. When Obama’s Catfood Commission
eliminates your Social Security, I’m sure you’ll
blame Bush. You knew Afghanistan was a war of
aggression based on lies, you knew Obama was going to
expand that war crime, and being a fascist who
doesn’t care how many millions of innocent people we
kill, you voted for him anyway.

Voters are apathetic. They don’t care if the
candidates are war criminals intent on destroying our
economy, or if the Supreme Court has the power to
overrule the will of the people—voters don’t care
about anything except voting for “their” party, even
when they know it won’t represent them at all.

We have a plutocracy, an oligarchy, a corporatocracy,
and a tyranny because voters don’t care about
democracy and don’t even know what democracy is.

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By Inherit The Wind, October 21, 2010 at 10:01 am Link to this comment

Welcome to Reeves, a fine journalist!

This is a serious matter: The ability to hide the buying and selling of campaigns.  So what happens?  All the conspiracy kooks come out of the closet.

IT’S ABOUT SECRET CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS, NOT ABOUT 9/11 OR THE KENNEDY ASSASSINATION OR THE ANTHRAX SCARE!

Nor is it about Israel/Palestine, Chinese manufacturing, global warming or alien abductions!

One thing I learned from the Civil Rights and Ant-War movements of the ‘60’s is you MUST stay on target, not get caught up in irrelevancies.

There will always be the gerryhiles with THEIR pet issue that they think SOMEHOW is the be-all and end-all and the solution. 

They have to be ignored. The problem that Reeves lays out brilliantly will NOT be solved by going back to pet conspiracy theories.

Not happening.  Not today, not tomorrow, not even if “The Revolution” comes.

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By GrannyBgood, October 21, 2010 at 9:37 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“As for Citizens United, it isn’t the biggest scandal.
The destruction of the Magna Carta by a Democratic
President, Obama, who has claimed the right to kill
whoever he wishes without due process, a right that
even tyrants haven’t had since the 13th Century, is a
much greater scandal.”

Uh, No, Mark.

That was GW who dun that with his destruction of Habeus Corpus and the Posse Comitas act, following soon upon the heels of the unholy “Patriot"Act.
(I myself got a resolution against it passed by show of hands vote in my tiny conservative town of Mt Vernon, Maine…THAT was Democracy!)
Obama is just using these nefarious rulings instead of reversing them, as we elected him for!

I can’t go so far as urging people not to vote at this pass….why hand it to the Reichwing on a silver platter?
However, when the DNC comes calling for cash, I tell them I only contribute to the very few I deem worthy: Those who actually support and vote for my Progressive ideals. And, I explain to them exactly WHY: I enumerate all the sell-outs and betrayals, and tell them if they keep that up, they won’t even get my vote next time…..and next time is the Biggie!

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By bogi666, October 21, 2010 at 8:29 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The USG is run by a JUDICIAL DICTATORSHIP, which has to be a 1st in the annals of world history. !st, this may be the 1st dictatorship in world history that doesn’t have an army, a treasury none of the characteristics of the traditional dictatorships.All they have is an ignorant, gullible populace of mindlessness persons whom choose to be ignorant, illiterate and unable to discern thought, including the thoughts of others, from facts. This is mindlessness, it is institutionalized by government, businesses, pretend christian churches which gives mindlessness legitimacy with peer pressure for mindlessness.In 2000 it was a Judicial/Military coup with the counting of illegal, late, military ballots.A bloodless coup in the USA only requires a few key states because of the electoral college, which is probably the reason for it and is unique in world history.

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By Sofie-Alice, October 21, 2010 at 8:05 am Link to this comment

It was good if Watergate was a lesson but apparently it was not. However corporates always expect something in return of their money, they do not give a small amount.
Brasov Hotels

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Mark E. Smith's avatar

By Mark E. Smith, October 21, 2010 at 3:44 am Link to this comment

Kevin Zeese, this is not a democracy scandal. For
that to happen, we’d first have to have a democracy.

Reformeists are people who believe in our system and
think it merely needs a few tweaks or some new
players in order to end the corruption. But if you
study the Constitution, you find that it has been
corrupt and favored the oligarchy since ratification
was based on defining African-Americans as 3/5 human
in order to perpetuate slavery. By the time that had
been amended, other forms of institutional
discrimination had been put in place.

In order to distinguish between a democracy and a
tyranny, you have to look at who has supreme power
over government. The dictionary definition of
democracy when the people hold that power. If there
is an unelected Supreme Court with supreme power, the
people do NOT have supreme power and you do not have
a democracy, you have a tyranny.

The reason for representatives is that it is far
easier to bribe, corrupt, or even kill if necessary,
a powerful few, than to control an entire citizenry.
A representative democracy is no democracy at all, as
the people do not have power, their representatives
do. Of course if there was a way to hold them
directly and immediately accountable, it would be
possible for the people to exercise our will through
our representatives, but the Constitution, written to
establish a plutocracy, states in the very first
Article, Article I, Section 5, that only Congress has
the power to judge the elections, returns, and
qualifications of Members of Congress, and only
Congress can impeach federal officials for wrong-
doing. The people have NO power because that’s how
the Constitution was written.

Of course you can appeal to the courts and to
regulatory bodies, just as the Founders petitioned
King George. The right to petition is not a sign of a
democracy.

As for Citizens United, it isn’t the biggest scandal.
The destruction of the Magna Carta by a Democratic
President, Obama, who has claimed the right to kill
whoever he wishes without due process, a right that
even tyrants haven’t had since the 13th Century, is a
much greater scandal.

If you want to negotiate with tyrants, oligarchs, or
plutocrats, you have to be able to offer them
something or have some credible leverage with which
to back up a demand. To say, “Give us honest
elections, or else we’ll keep voting in elections
where we know our votes may not be counted and are
not the final say in who takes office,” is not
negotiating from strength. It is capitulating without
a fight.

Petitioning legislators, elected officials,
regulators, courts, and other members of or servants
of the plutocracy is like a teenager asking their
parents for the car keys when they haven’t done their
homework.

If we want a democratic form or government, we have
to first recognize that we don’t already have one,
learn the history and find out that we never did, so
reforms won’t help, and then withdraw our support for
and stop legitimizing tyranny by voting in elections
where the ruling class has decided the winners before
the ballots are even printed.

If not voting was “doing nothing,” the corporations
wouldn’t spend billions to get out the vote.

No matter how we vote, the bad guys always win,
unless you call genocidal capitalist imperialists,
“good guys.”

The planet can’t take any more exploitation.
Prosperity is the agenda of the wealthy. Our agenda
should be simplicity, sustainability, dignity,
equality, respect, and direct democracy.

Corporations fund our elections and they wouldn’t do
that if there was any chance that they wouldn’t
benefit. In ‘08 they gave almost equal amounts to
both candidates, but slightly more to Obama because
he was a more reliable corporate shill.

The game is rigged. Don’t play. The bridge is out.
Turn around.

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William W. Wexler's avatar

By William W. Wexler, October 20, 2010 at 7:45 pm Link to this comment

gerryhiles,

I get it that you’re not trying to convince me, thanks for that and sorry if I gave you that impression.

If anything I am expressing my frustration and anger over the seeming lack of curiosity of our press.  I don’t know enough about architectural engineering to understand why a building would fall like that.  What irks me is that I don’t believe that there has been an accounting for what happened that makes sense, and obviously many people who know a hell of a lot more about this than I do have adopted the same position.

Also, I should have been clearer about what I meant by “separate issue”.  What I should have posted is that one is a plane crash (maybe) and the other is a building collapsing.  They are related by happening on the same day, that’s at least one relationship, anyway.  The feds say that it was another commercial airliner.  Well, if it was, shouldn’t there be a flight number, a passenger list, and probably a whole bunch of other stuff to prove this was a plane crash?  Not to mention the video.  I just don’t get it.

We already had the machine spinning towards perpetual war.  If this is really part of a plot, why would anyone have to hatch it?  They could have false flagged an extensive anthrax attack and stuck it on Iraq (I still believe that was a work in progress).  People were scared shitless when Bush made up his patently absurd “anthrax spraying drones” crap.  It was all about Visqueen and duct tape.  So if “they” wanted to push us into a state of perpetual fear, they knew what buttons to push and what levers to pull.

I’m just jabbering here, it appears you’ve put a lot more thought into this than I have.  I joined your part of the thread to make a comment about how truthers have been abandoned by the media.  They got a blackout almost as airtight as Ralph Nader’s blackout.

Good luck to ya.

-Wexler

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By aacme88, October 20, 2010 at 6:18 pm Link to this comment

Welcome to Richard Reeves, long one of my favorite columnists.
I must say I’m disappointed in David Brooks. I’ve never agreed with him, but I always thought he was relatively sane, for a conservative. I can see I was wrong. There is no defense of a ruling like Citizens United in a democratic society.
No educated person of goodwill could support it. Teapartiers, Republicans, etc are, at minimum on this issue, either liars or sheep. Brooks is no sheep.

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By aacme88, October 20, 2010 at 5:56 pm Link to this comment

“That [Watergate] was the lesson of giving and taking money without transparency or accountability. It damned near brought down the country.”

The people who want to bring down the country were foiled then, and incompletely successful in the Bush years.

Third time’s the charm.

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William W. Wexler's avatar

By William W. Wexler, October 20, 2010 at 5:10 pm Link to this comment

gerryhiles…

I’m not sayin’ I’m a truther, nor am I denying that truthers are correct.

However, the minute you start raising any questions about what happened on 9/11 you are instantly thrown into the pit.  It’s a knee jerk reaction, and I think the truthers should be working on some way to get the topic out of the pit and on the table.  I don’t know if petitions are going to do it.  I think if there is somebody on the inside who knows what happened that’s your best chance.

I’ve always wondered about building 7 and also the Pentagon crash site.  Where did the bodies end up?  Why did the government confiscate all the videotape available and then refuse to release it? 

I realize the building 7 thing is a separate issue, but it is related.  Why should the feds tell us the truth about this?  They haven’t been telling us about national security stuff for decades.

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By berniem, October 20, 2010 at 4:13 pm Link to this comment

How does one go about initiating impeachment of Supreme Court justices? Also, Doesn’t all of this campaign spending in view of our current financial meltdown cry out for some kind of explanation if not full investigation? Where’s Alice? Maybe she knows where the rabbit hole is so that I can climb the hell out of here!

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By margaret currey, October 20, 2010 at 3:35 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

If you would not watch FOX News you would not get confused because Fox news’s advertisement fair and balanced is just a lie, I do not watch television, so all the bought comments from Republicians will not reach me.  This state I live in is not for Reublicians but the consertive suburbs will go Republician, there are even some poor people who would vote Republicians. 

Sorry to say some people think that Obama gave to Wall Street.  Hope those low information sheep are not too many at least not here in Portland, Oregon.

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By Hammond Eggs, October 20, 2010 at 11:22 am Link to this comment

The Mainstream Media will never again expose another Watergate, despite the juiciness and potential eyeball attraction.

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By REDHORSE, October 20, 2010 at 10:03 am Link to this comment

Thanks MARK—Good Comments.

    Mr. Reeves perhaps they’ll get theirs when the truth comes out speculation about suspected graft in the election cash grab bag assumes prosecution of the culprits would be allowed or even reported to the general public by the in your face thugs who have seized control of the American destiny.

    I’m glad TRUTHDIG has added Mr. Reeves. We can all use a little more “objectivity”. I look forward to his contributions.

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By glennmcgahee, October 20, 2010 at 9:29 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Sorry that you chose to separate the Dems and Repubs in this article. They are one and the same. Servants to their rich masters. Watch as its the Dems turn to protect the banks and Wall Street. Ask Obama where all that money really came from. Lots of foreign money, no questions asked. Meanwhile, we all pay for it one way or another. The banks are recouping those loans they gave to the politicians with interest.

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William W. Wexler's avatar

By William W. Wexler, October 20, 2010 at 8:32 am Link to this comment

Fine writing, Mr. Reeves.

I just take issue with one point of your piece, which is I suppose the whole point of it.  I agree with everything you say, but Americans are so scandal-weary that buying an election won’t even register on the radar.  The only people with any political clout who give a damn about this any more are the Teabaggers, and they’re so off-the-wall nuts on almost everything else that nobody really pays attention to them except for the culture war part of it.

That’s just a sad fact.

-Wexler

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By Kevin Zeese, October 20, 2010 at 6:33 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’ve been doing a lot of work on the corruption of democracy with secret donations.  See http://www.ProtectOurElections.org, http://www.StopTheChamber.com and http://www.AmericanCrossroadsWatch.org.  This is the biggest democracy scandal since Watergate and those with the power to do something—IRS, FEC and DOJ—are allowing the democracy crime to continue.

However, Obama and the Dem leadership made this bed by putting in place Republican policies—health care deform written by the industry and resulting in hundreds of millions in new annual tax subsidies to them; Wall Street “reform” that was approved by Wall Street and the Fed before being passed and does not do enough to prevent a repeat of the 2008/09 collapse; continued funding of coal, nuclear and oil energy.  The Dems turned off their base and the corporate money is taking advantage of that reality.

We have a two party corporate duopoly.  The corporate money swings between both parties while progressive remain loyal to the Democrats no matter what kind of corporatist and militarist policies they put in place.  Guess who gets taken for granted?

We need independent movements, independent politics and independent media to counteract corporate media, the corporate duopoly and inside the beltway groups that have sold out to the Democrats.

Kevin Zeese
Executive Director
ProsperityAgenda.US

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Mark E. Smith's avatar

By Mark E. Smith, October 20, 2010 at 5:43 am Link to this comment

The Repugs don’t need to be elected. Obama will
appoint as many of them as he can and use the others
as high-level advisors. The Demopublicans and
Republicrats are one party, the party of money, of
corporations, of corruption, of oligarchy, of
fascism, of imperialism, and of plutocracy. And any
third party seeking power within this corrupt system
instead of opposing it, would inevitably be corrupted
by any power it gained.

That’s why democracy was invented. Look it up in the
dictionary and find out what it means. It doesn’t
mean casting uncounted ballots for unaccountable
representatives, it means government of, by, and for
the people. We’ve never had one, but if people stop
voting for tyranny, we could. Other countries have
done it and as stupid as we are, we’re not any
stupider than they are.

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By Jerry Elsea, October 20, 2010 at 5:34 am Link to this comment

Truthdig casually announces the addition of Richard Reeves to its stable of
syndicated columnists.

Great choice! I met Reeves 40 years ago when he was with The New York Times (he
won’t remember).  I’ve been impressed with his evenhanded reporting and
commentary ever since.

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Mark E. Smith's avatar

By Mark E. Smith, October 20, 2010 at 5:14 am Link to this comment

The only way to put an end to this is with a massive
election boycott.

What if the corporations spent a few billion dollars
on elections and nobody voted?

Our Supreme Court, in the way that it was established
by our Constitution, is incompatible with the most
basic principles of democracy. In a tyranny, the
tyrant issues edicts which cannot be appealed because
a tyrant has absolute power. In a democracy the
citizens have a voice. The Supreme Court’s powers do
not allow a voice for citizens. They don’t even hear
most of the cases appealed to them. They aren’t gods,
they are mortals and should not have supreme or
absolute power. They aren’t even elected.

And the Presidents who appoint them aren’t elected
either. Not with corporations owning the media and
funding the campaigns. Given a choice of candidates
who won’t represent us and who cannot be held
accountable, it is fraudulent to call it an election,
as there isn’t any real choice. This isn’t which
candidate will represent us better, but which one
might do us less harm. Since they’re all going to
favor the Pentagon, the banks, and the
multinationals, why are we voting for them?

I know the political party hacks will point to the
GOP ads suggesting that Latinos not vote. That’s
called reverse psychology. Since they have nothing to
offer, they try to frighten you into thinking that
things could be worse if you don’t vote, or that your
vote is valuable. It isn’t a voice in government,
just a choice of which unaccountable candidate you
would prefer to have destroying our economy, spending
trillions on wars, and favoring their rich donors.
The Supreme Court even said in 2000 that the
Constitution doesn’t guarantee us the right to have
our votes counted, and stopped the vote count.

They can do that again any time they want, and
there’s nothing short of armed revolution that can
stop them, according to Al Gore. Well, he’s wrong.
They derive their authority from the consent of the
governed, just like everyone else in government. If
we stop voting, they have no consent, no legitimacy,
and they can own up to being a tyranny and rule
solely by force, or, which is much more likely, take
their ill-gotten billions of dollars and go live on
their foreign estates in luxury with all the other
ousted oligarchs.

This is the last stronghold of plutocracy and it can
be easily and nonviolently overthrown the minute
Americans stop wanting to be millionaires, stop
voting for millionaires, and start respecting
themselves and their neighbors. We’re just as
competent as anyone in Congress, most of us more so.
Public office should be by lottery, with the right of
recall by direct vote if anyone proves corrupt or
incompetent.

Voting isn’t a civic duty, it is submission to
tyranny. It delegates the power of the people to a
bunch of unaccountable idiots. We’re the ones who
should be making the decisions about things like
wars, budgets, environmental regulations, and
everything else of importance. That’s what happens in
a democratic form of government, instead of people
wishin’ for hopey changey and getting the same old
same old.

Did you know that we’re not even allowed to vote for
President and Vice President? Their names are on the
ballot fraudulently. Our Constitution bans us from
voting for those offices. Only the Electoral College
can vote for Presidents and Vice-Presidents. So what
are those names doing on the ballot when they’re
really votes for the slate of Electors of the
candidates’ political parties, and those names are
NOT on the ballot.

You care about local issues? Eric Holder has already
said that the feds will keep busing people for pot
even if California legalizes it. This is a tyranny,
not a democracy, and even states don’t have rights
any more.

Boycott the elections. Don’t vote for tyranny.

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By Yankee49, October 20, 2010 at 4:14 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

And, given the corruption resident in the Supreme Court, should a Watergate-type
case ever reach them…as you know it would…you can predict the outcome right
now.

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By ocjim, October 19, 2010 at 8:18 pm Link to this comment

Probably the most powerful thing the conservatives have done is install justices that will do their bidding in all future legal decisions, whether you have a liberal or conservative in the administration. It is a gift that keeps on giving.

Due to conservative appointments, Bush stole the election in 2000, human rights are being eroded, and the Repugs can be elected using hidden and foreign money.

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