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Harry Reid: Shame or Disgrace?

By       Message Stephen Pizzo     Permalink
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I'm not going to take a lot of your time this morning. Not because I couldn't go on and on about this, I could. But it's not necessary. It's simple. Let's start with this:

If you should run into Hillary or Barack on the campaign trail ask them the following question:

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"If you become President of the United States of America, making your running mate the constitutional president of the US Senate, will you demand that the current Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, be replaced immediately?"

It's a critical question. Harry Reid is, to put it mildly, the worst, most ineffective, mealy-mouth, wimp to lead the US Senate in my adult life time. And he proved that again this week when he allowed the administration's bill granting immunity to the telecoms to pass the Senate.

In effect what Reid did by allowing that legislation to pass is to ratify Richard Nixon's stated belief that, "if the President does it it's not illegal."

Fortunately the House, under Nancy Pelosi's leadership, showed more backbone than Reid and his Senate colleagues by refusing to ratify the Senate's version giving the telecom's a get-out-jail free card for aiding and abetting the administration's illegal wiretapping. Instead the House shelved the matter allowing the current authority to lapse this Saturday and took two weeks off.

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This morning President Bush was on TV whining that refusing to grant the telecoms immunity will mean "it will be harder for us to get companies to cooperate with us in protecting you."

The statement is correct, though worded incorrectly. The correct way to put it is that, failing to provide telecoms protection from lawsuits will, "make it harder for us to get companies cooperate with us to protect you by illegally spying on you."

To which I say, good. It should make it harder, just as the threat of lawsuits make it's harder for companies to screw consumers, which many companies would be delighted to do if they figured they could get away with it. But also, and more importantly, the threat of lawsuits will force the telecoms to do a basic cost/benefit analysis before they pull a stunt like this again. That analysis would go something like this:

- By helping the government spy on Americans the govenment owes us one the next time we want something from the government, be it legislation or regulatory favors.

- But, without immunity if the courts later find we broke the law it could cost of billions of dollars in damages, more than wiping out any gains we might garner by cooperating.

(Do notice that the top three recipients of telecom money are also the top three candidates for President -- Here)

What Harry Reid did last week was to assure that the telecoms would only see upside and no downside when faced with any similar requests from this or any other administration in the future.

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The reason this is so important is that the nexus of big government and big business must always be viewed with the greatest attention and suspicion. If history has taught us anything it's that it is at that nexus where seeds of corporate fascism geminate, and if allowed to grow, thrive.

Those seeds took root in a startlingly aggressive way under this administration. Not only did major telecom companies comply with the administration's request for assistance in its illegal warrantless wiretapping, but they did so with frightening gusto, efficiency and enthusiasm.

AT&T built warrantless wiretap rooms for the NSA

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Stephen Pizzo has been published everywhere from The New York Times to Mother Jones magazine. His book, Inside Job: The Looting of America's Savings and Loans, was nominated for a (more...)
 

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