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Sunday with the Senators: Lock and Load Edition

by: DocJess

Sun Nov 28, 2010 at 06:00:00 AM EST


I love a lot about technology, but every once in a while, I'm faced with something that has gotten lost. For example, most people don't own dictionaries any more, instead using web dictionaries. (That's NOT a condemnation about those who've given up dead tree editions.) But the following is lost on the younger generation "I've seen your picture in the dictionary, it's next to the word "idiot."" In this case "I've seen your picture in the dictionary, Congress, it's next to the word "gridlock.""

Yes, kids, Congress is back again tomorrow. The Senate will see a big change as Roland Burris is replaced with the swearing in of Mark Kirk. I'll miss Senator Burris (potentially not for long, as while HE is still considering, his supporters filed papers for hm to run for Mayor of Chicago). While a lot of people only think of him as a Blago flunky, his voting record was stellar, and he stood in every way for progressive principles. 

It will be a good week for Maxine Waters, whose hearing in front of the House Ethics Committee has been delayed. We'll see how Charlie Rangel fares. While the Ethics Committee voted to censure, for that to happen the full House needs to vote, and the censure will only carry with a 2/3 vote. Censure would involve him standing on the floor of the House and the Speaker saying ugly things to him. I hope when people vote, they remember that his voting record for the past 40 years was exemplary, and prior to that he fought for civil rights and was a decorated war hero.

As an aside, there are jail cells in the bowels of the Capitol. Yes really, they were used from 1795 to 1821 to compel citizens to testify at Congressional hearings. Then, the Supremes turned such things over the the Justice Department. And here's the thing that rankles me: Charlie Rangel didn't pay his taxes, nor his parking tickets, and he's got three too many rent-controlled apartments. After a lifetime of public service, he will be shamed. To a lot of us of a certain age, "shame" means something. And yet, people like Baby Bush, Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and their brethren, with the full complicity of lots of Senators and House members did HORRIBLE things to us, the American people. And to others throughout the world. Here, they eviscerated the Constitution, went around the FISA court, put in place economic policies that destroyed our economy, dithered on policies related to the environment that may well kill the earth as we know it for our kids and grandkids and yet they walk free. They invaded a sovereign nation for no reason other than Shrub hated Saddam, killed tens of thousands, and walked away feeling okay about the whole thing.

How is it that these people get off with book deals and no prosecution, and Charlie Rangel gets shamed for not paying taxes? Does anyone else feel the outrage that I do? The House and Senate, should, this week, be looking at extending unemployment benefits, repealing DADT, getting a budget in place, avoiding a government shutdown, taking action to prevent newbie Republicans who campaigned on a repeal-healthcare platform to be denied ANY coverage paid for with tax dollars, giving support to DOT in getting their money back from governors who won't build the transportation projects for which the money was intended, etc., etc., etc., and instead, they'll gridlock on everything but censuring Charlie Rangel.

SHAME. And not on Charlie. 

DocJess :: Sunday with the Senators: Lock and Load Edition

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shame on them all (4.00 / 1)
Rangel stole from all of us.  He doesn't get a free pass just because others escaped justice.

i think a sense of proportion is needed hear, but again, our justice system doesnt go that way, (0.00 / 0)
 if i drive too fast, even 5 mph over the limit, and an officer stops me, and i admit that i knew both my license and tags were expired, i go to jail. if a rich is drunk, off the scale, hits and kills somebody, but goes home and calls his lawyer and the lawyer comes over and witnesses the rich man drinking in the comfort of his living room, the man can swear he did not know that he had hit a human, and that he was completely somber at the time of the accident and quite possibly, if he hires a good enough lawyer, he might not ever go to jail, or be found guilty of any crime.

rangel is the speeder with his paperwork expired, the Bush gang are all having a stiff bourbon with their lawyers. It does not help Rangel's case to point out that worse criminals escaped justice. and the truth is, if you or i had been guilty of the charges he is charged with, we would do a lot of jail time, not be "censured by a judge, or by our peers"

so they all get away with something that we should not let them get away with. our system is corrupt. i dont mean our political system, i mean our justice system!


Nice analogy! (0.00 / 0)
I think your analogy is on the point.

[ Parent ]
But we'd be less likely to be caught (0.00 / 0)
Yes, if we were caught doing the things Rangel did, we'd get jailed. But we're less likely to get caught. Most people are mostly honest, but in all parts of society there are those who get away with what they can. People who like to get paid in cash for a side business to avoid paying taxes on the income, people who knowingly hire undocumented immigrants for their child care or their yard work because it's cheaper, etc..

A prominent politician is in a publicity spotlight, so I think they're more likely to get caught (eventually). But then their lawyers and power can make the punishment less severe.

So it's not a level playing field, and our system is corrupt. But I'm actually not sure which group has it "easier."


[ Parent ]
Nope (0.00 / 0)
If you were caught going slightly over the limit and your license and tags were expired you would NOT go to jail. Perhaps in Florida, but not in any state I've ever lived in. They might impound your car and slap you with a fine and possibly take your license, but you would NOT go to jail.

As for drunk drivers -- sadly WAAAAAY too many people get off, at all income levels.

The better justice analogy is that Charlie was caught with an amount of crack that would be a misdemeanor if it were cocaine, but gets you 20 years if it's crack.

What he did does NOT rise to the level of censure. In all of Congressional history, there had to be direct personal gain. And he didn't take bribes, he didn't enrich his coffers....not to mention that back in July, he agreed to plead guilty for some violations and the punishment was to be reprimand NOT censure. That was the deal, but it was overriden by Zoe Lofgren -- whether that was personal, or just a desire to prove that Democrats would go after their own MORE than Republicans would is debatable. The ETHICS COMMITTEE pointed out that Charlie was not personally corrupt. It's in their paperwork. And THAT is what gets censure instead of reprimand. Censure is so very, very rare. It's for Koreagate, or for sex with pages.

Plus, Charlie has started making payments on his taxes owed. And in this country if you owe the IRS and you either pay the money or enter into a payment agreement and start making payments you DON'T go to jail.

And that's another consideration -- his actions have not risen to the level of criminal charges outside of Congress. He's not going to be charged, he's not going to jail.

It's WRONG to censure him.


[ Parent ]
i totally disagree (0.00 / 0)
3 rent controlled apartments is personal gain!

censure is exactly what he deserves, and maybe jail time, which he will not receive. corruption is not to be tolerated in public officials, be they on our side or against us.

you abuse your public trust and you should go straight to jail, no matter how many potholes you got fixed along the way!

Time for Charlie to go! censure is really not enough, but it is probably all he will get and it is a bit of the justice that other got away with worse that will make censure the choice instead of ejection from office.

his local supporters might be willing to turn a blind eye, as a testament to how well he has served their interests, but whenever people do that, be they GOP or DEM, it tears at the fabric of an open and honest govt, and in the long run, harms the trust that is needed to run a govt.


[ Parent ]
OK, I'll play... (0.00 / 0)
WHAT would he go to jail FOR?

The rent-controlled apartments are a civil, not criminal, offense. He's begun paying back the taxes. He didn't receive bribes.

WHAT CHARGE??????


[ Parent ]
it is a civil matter, unless he used his influence to achieve it, then it is corruption (0.00 / 0)
what used to be called the "honest services" law, which has since been repealed, at least in florida, so it is harder to prosecute, but if it can be proved that he got something of value thru illegal means, civil or not, i think that would violate the public trust.

what i dont get is why you are defending a crook. i understand worse crooks have gotten away, but that is our justice system as a whole, not just as it applies to politics.


[ Parent ]
Timing (0.00 / 0)
I'm with you on this, but I think Jessica's issue is the timing. Republicans are trying to run out the clock on the lame duck session, and this is one more thing that takes time from a crowded agenda.

So why not just wait until early next year? Because then it's a new session, and I bet the rules are such that the Ethics Committee would have to vote again to send it to the floor, and that might even require holding hearings again, as the Committee will have new members. Maxine Waters, on the other hand, hasn't had her hearing yet, so the whole thing can be done during the next session. (Someone correct me if I'm wrong on the intricacies of legislative procedure!)

It's one of those unfortunate sausage-making messes, but I think it probably does need to be taken care of now. The Senate shouldn't have pushed all of this stuff into the lame duck session in the first place, but we are where we are, and we're just going to have to deal with it as best we can.


[ Parent ]
Defense.... (0.00 / 0)
I am not defending Rangel's actions. I never have. I have pointed out for a long time that he did things that were wrong.

But this is about the punishment fitting the crime. And the punishment here is WAAAAAAY out of line. A reprimand would be a proper punishment, adding to his having been previously stripped of his chairmanship of Ways and Means. If you want to look at his relationship with City College and say it borders on pay to play, I could see that. But pay to play is COMMON -- it's wrong to prosecute one person for it when everyone else gets away with it, and I don't buy into the idea of making an example of an 80 year old war hero.

I believe that there are problems in government with corruption and hypocrisy and all sorts of nonsense. But I believe that we often, as a society, focus on the wrong things to our overall detriment.

Let me give you a non-governmental example. In 2007 I took a job with a company which required every new employee to attend a sexual harassment seminar within 30 days of hire. The company has a very strict harassment policy: do it once, and there's a warning. Second time is automatic firing. In the seminar, they gave examples of what constituted harassment so people would understand the rules.

Now I'm old enough to remember when "sexual harassment" was "get on the desk and have sex with me or you're fired." It was all pretty brutal decades ago. Now, according to the policy, it's "harassment" if two people are at the coffee machine on a Monday morning regaling each other with details of their weekends. (Use your imagination). The seminar said that if there was a third person in the room who was offended, the two other people would be cited.

So, about a year later, there was a clock that hung at the dead end of a corridor. The battery had worn out, and someone took the clock down. I put a battery in it, and went to rehang it, but couldn't reach the nail. So I banged in another nail, and put the clock back up.

My boss made a crack about "what midget woman hung the clock at waist level?" and his boss offered me the opportunity to report my boss for harassment, which would have been his second offense. His FIRST offense was being overheard saying to me "that's a great hat, you look adorable."

Letter of the "law"? Sure. And to the 23 year old who heard the adorable comment, that was "harassment" since my boss saw me a female person and not a worker-blob.

He's a great guy, a terrific boss, and would NEVER do anything actually "harassing".

Charlie Rangel didn't pay his taxes. Lots of people don't pay their taxes, and unless you approach Wesley Snipes level, you don't go to jail.

I want my government to concentrate on REAL problems -- this is so minor compared to war, taxes, unemployment, hunger.....does that make anything more clear?


[ Parent ]
Sorry, Doc, I still disagree (4.00 / 1)
pay to play has sent most of our city and county officials to jail in palm beach county, and broward (ft lauderdale) has done nearly the same, miami, too. and i think it is a good thing. i just wish we could get enough evidence to send our mayor frankel to jail with them!

as to the sexual harassment, i am usually offended by the stupidity of my male office counterparts whenever i worked in an office, even though i was a male, but of course rape is worse than obnoxious talk at the water cooler, but the thought behind the rules are that the tolerance of the watercooler talk creates a lax environment where the rape can happen more often. is that correct? i dont know.

actually, a  lot of people who dont pay their taxes do go to jail.

is charlie the worse guy to ever serve in congress? no, but a crime is a crime, if you get caught, "the other guy did worse" is not a defense.


[ Parent ]
Changing mores versus always wrong (0.00 / 0)
I actually can see pay to play being a "minor" offense in some cases. Like mild sexual harassment, intemperate language, junkets, and accepting gifts from people you do business with, it's something where societal and legal attitudes have changed over time.

But failing to report income on your taxes? Always, clearly, obviously wrong.

That's the charge that puts this over the top for me.


[ Parent ]
actually, my very law abiding wife went to jail for just such an infraction. (0.00 / 0)
in florida, if you are driving with both expired plates and drivers license, it is an automatic trip to jail, just like hitting your domestic partner in front of a police officer. i dont know which other states have the same law, but i know for a fact the newspaper she was working for when it happened had to bail her out and then spend money on a lawyer to make it all go away. if she had not been working for the local newspaper at the time, i am sure we would have had some legal fees of our own.

That's not technically being sentenced to jail (0.00 / 0)

That would be taken into custody and processed to await trial, and I'm sure the bail was a very low number equal to or a percentage of the maximum fine as set by law, bail for some pretty petty crimes can be tens of thousands of dollars. Then the lawyers made it go away, more like the republican having cocktails with his lawyer, even in that scenario the republican would be brought downtown and processed.

[ Parent ]
joe, try telling my sweet and innocent little wife that she wasnt in jail:) (0.00 / 0)
my point is the DUI murderer spent less time in jail

(she spent a few hours, the killer never saew the jail. kinda like rangel getting censure and the Bush/cheney thugs sip bourbon and branch water and let the attorneys make sure they never go to court)


[ Parent ]


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