Thursday, July 25, 2002

Jim Traficant Expelled

It's clear to my readers that I don't care if they expel the whole house. The corruption, venality, and selfishness exhibited by congressmen, except a very few, mostly rookies, is unlimited by normal human rules of shame and conscience. So I will not for a second argue that Jim traficant is innocent of all charges, or that jail is not a place where he will fit in. But there is an element of his criminal case that is shown in the vote to expel him, that I find chilling.

I followed his case all along, and here's my distillation of what really happened: He, as a maverick democrat who actually voted his conscience, made few friends on the hill. But he did put his name on some significant pieces of legislation, the effect of which was to make the IRS and the FBI look bad. The language he had inserted into a tax bill virtually eliminated the practice of the IRS taking away homes from suspected tax cheats, and he was instrumental in strengthening our right against self-incrimination viv-a-vis the tax man. (to me, these had been two of the few bright spots I have ever seen coming out of Washington) Also, he humiliated the FBI in his previous trial, where he won acquittal. (the feds see ANY acquittal as a humiliation. The fact that he was also a high profile congressman only made it worse.)

Six of the key witnesses against him would be in jail today were it not for their testimony against him. That's how the feds operate. You can see it in all their cases. They buy testimony; their currency is freedom from prison. You can see it in yesterday's Adelphia case, or ANY other. They always grab some peripheral players, say, the guy's secretary. then they threaten her with an indictment that carries a maximum sentence of 97 years. Can you trust her testimony to be the truth? I don't know about you, but if the feds grabbed me and threatened me with never seeing my family again without bars between us, I'd be willing to testify that the Pope raped my children, or whatever other script they put in front of me, to make the nightmare go away. Look deep inside yourself before you judge this statement. Would you lie, especially if you thought that the guy was probably guilty anyway, to preserve your way of life, or that of your children? Would you lie to save your country?

I am not defending him. He's probably guilty anyway. But then, look at last night's vote. Only 1 vote in his favor. All he was asking for was to wait until his appeal in September. Certainly many of those votes were made on the merits. But do you think that it's possible that some of those paragons of virtue voted against him due to their fear of the IRS, or the FBI? Call me crazy (join the mainstream) but I think that the Congress was blackmailed into this massive repudiation of one of its own. I fear for my country. Things may be worse than even I thought.

I am an optimist. Things might get incrementally better. This is still the best nation on Earth. But in the corridors and anterooms of power, truth and justice seem to have no place. And the rest of us, the little people, are the bright hope, the real power behind the powerful. If we ever awaken, we could turn these frightened bozos out of office anytime we want. Now, where can we find suitable replacements for them....