What was the DC Madam case about?

With the blessed passing of yet another election cycle, we might reflect on another one from the recent past which resulted in a significant routing of the GOP by the Democrats: the deeply contentious 2006 national midterms. There’s at least one major political sex scandal that takes down a significant politician in the United States every election cycle, generally speaking, two years, with overlap for higher office.

After the fall of the Director of the CIA at the hands of the surveillance state, we might reflect on the DC Madam case and look at the same themes and actions at play.

Jeane got this, maybe more towards the end:

 On 3/15/08, Jeane Palfrey <jeanepalfrey@sprynet.com> wrote:

Bil… yes, I saw it. This further supports my belief that escort and adult services – which cater to powerful and influential clients – are being used as the new “hunting grounds” in American politics. –Jeane PS if interested, I will be on Geraldo and Coast to Coast Radio (10:30pm PDT) tonight. Newsweek also has done a piece on me, that is coming out in Monday’s edition. It should be available online, by late tonight/tomorrow.

Yet, it appears that the GOP practically brought their own scandal to the attention of the American public. This kind of calculated stupidity is completely in character for them. I walked away from this train wreck a few days after this email. This all began with a leak by federal prosecutors to Bill Bastone and the Smoking Gun, they wanted it out there.

Why do this? Damage control knowing that you can redefine a problem. 2006 had a lot to do with corruption, how much the public will take of it, and damage control rather than the willingness to change or to take responsibility like adults. There are no adults, don’t kid yourself. You look at events differently once you’ve been on the inside of them. Whether others like it or not, Jeane allowed me to take in a lot for a purpose. She invited me to sneak a peek behind the curtain, and indeed, some impotent clowns resembling the Wizard of Oz were incompetently pulling levers that affect people’s lives, tripping, falling over each other, and they were just as blunderingly human and frail as I expected them to be. What the case was about is right in front of your eyes, every day, therefore invisible. It wasn’t a mistake that defense and intelligence technology contractor SAIC and the CPU giant Qualcomm were in Jeane’s phone records, or that they were visiting my website any more than it was that so many arrows pointed to San Diego and numerous military personnel, many of them officers. It wasn’t coincidence that put Lockheed Martin in her phone bills for her escort service, that a World Bank executive was in them, that a major league GOP operative like Jack Burkman was too, and there were many others, others I haven’t even included in my account of what I believe happened and what the case meant. Judge Kessler saw no coincidences when she granted Jeane subpoena power over the intelligence community.

This was a tale of partisan politics and statism, but also where the lines blur in those constructs, because interests overlap, making for the strangest bedfellows of all. Why the 2006 midterms? I believe this election is the key to understanding why an interim-appointed U.S. Attorney named Jeffrey A. Taylor decided to move on Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the press-dubbed “DC Madam,” only one month after she’d shuttered her escort service. I’m assuming here that someone tipped her off. Why waste millions on a small escort service like that? This was first of all about damage control for the part of the public that can be reached when presented with stupid things like facts and corroborated evidence, empiricism, stuff that’s not entertainment. Without wanting to, I have no faith in the rank-and-file of either major party, and I think Palfrey’s own apathy about politics and her ignorance of it was instrumental in her undoing, word to the wise. Being the one-eyed man in the kingdom of the blind doesn’t elevate you to the throne.

She knew some significant things about her predicament and her place, but clearly, not enough. What still surprises me is that before I brought the timing of the search of the Vallejo residence to her attention, she, her counsel, and others assisting her, hadn’t considered it—not even journalists she was encountering were expressing their observations of this. For an openly partisan Republican prosecutor to move on a suspect who, perhaps unknowingly, holds information damaging to his party and other related interests, is an unmistakable political act. Breaking the law to achieve damage control and to protect the defense and intelligence contracting game was implicit to their theater and the media was only too happy to play along.

Not even a nearly unprecedented economic crisis was going to overcome the racist backlash over the 2008 election of Barack Obama and it temporarily breathed new life into an ashen GOP, perhaps for the final time, since it was coming from a demographic of angry, aging white Americans whose political significance has been rapidly eroding over the last few decades. In their bigotry, they fear this massive influx of Hispanic refugees, most of them desperate Mexicans fleeing social chaos, generations of poverty, the militarization of the drug war, corrupt federales, goons, police, the cartels, and enslavement in the maquiladora factories that line the Free Trade Zone along the border, and now, private security, the CIA and drones. Such a happy family relationship between nations brought the dictator Porfirio Diaz to remark, “Poor Mexico, so far from God, and so close to the United States.” Yet, thanks to this ruthless repression and exploitation, there were some unexpected results: a new dynamic where Latin Americans are now heading towards being the future of politics, and possibly the labor movement, in the United States. And with this realization among the nativist rabble element came the inevitable Know-nothing reaction of hounding immigrants, which, like lynching, is a time-honored American tradition. Does the public ever truly learn? Which one would that be in a divided nation when these racists are becoming the minority? They’re also the staggering idiots who tolerate an emergent police state and runaway defense spending while at the same time painting themselves inaccurately as rebels. That’s called a fool. This is why it wasn’t surprising to me that these same people–if you want to call them that–run to conspiracy theories that never truly touch on those power centers. Chasing ghosts and being ineffectual is the safest thing in the world. 2006 wasn’t especially different from now.

At this, the halfway mark of the second and unfortunate term of George W. Bush, when the future Tea Party members were cheering the illegal occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and police state tactics in the war on terror, Republican Party officeholders were paying the price for more skeletons in their closet than the Marquis de Sade or Al Capone. The litany of corrupt acts, antisocial behaviors, and general high weirdness, was widespread enough in their elected ranks to warrant decades of inquiries, yet, no, according to President Obama, we must “continue to look forward,” sounding as much like Scarface as the Republicans. Of great note, one of the cappers that went over the line was Florida congressman Mark Foley, who was accused of pedophilia. This is all about breaking the law and surviving through until the next ever-tightening election cycle. Controlling the DOJ never hurts. Besides, you can always fire your Attorney General and appoint another one the public can grow to hate as an arch-criminal the more they get to know about them. Almost a year earlier the profoundly illegal warrantless wiretapping program that bypassed the judicial oversight of the FISA court (housed at the DOJ, and I suspect they knew), initiated by the White House, was no longer being sat on by the traditionally submissive New York Times. (They had done this for a full year, so that the 2004 elections could pass by safely for the GOP, at least regarding that particular skeleton.)

You know that there’s a political crisis going on when the culture of politics has shifted so far to the right, that all the partisan hacks can talk about is a non-existent center. Most of what you’re going to be hearing from the official channels when a system ossifies is unbridled crap and lies, more obfuscations, apologies to power, ignoring the growing herd of elephants (the only one), until this game no longer works. Rather than looking at all of what we’re learning about rampant corruption as an excuse to cop-out (pun very much intended) and run to the temporary safety of jaded apathy, we should be glad that we know about these crimes at all, because knowledge really is power. But then the problem is that you’re forced to decide to do something about it. I made that decision getting involved in this case, hoping that I could bear witness to history and to accumulate whatever materials I could for the record. I was successful in that endeavor. Too often, the residue of events is lost to the ages. Collecting these materials was done so that the information could be out there and the public has the option to discover, more generally, how the private sector and government collude, and I’ve put it out there, with more to come.

An incredible effort was mounted to neutralize the destructive potential of what the charges against the late Ms. Palfrey were really about. To re-frame a story, and by doing so, redefining it, is a common practice in, ours, the most propagandized modern society outside of the former Soviet Union and China under Mao. “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.” This is why corrupt government contractors need to operate in the dark, and that’s what the DC Madam case, a branch of Hookergate, was about: to hide their criminal behavior and bury the evidence of their much greater crimes. When you keep raising this glaring discrepancy between how Palfrey was treated under the law on the one hand and how her privileged clients were on the other, and it’s never addressed in any substantial sense by government prosecutors, career spokesmen like P.J. Crowley, those clients like Senator Vitter, law enforcement, the hierarchy at the DOJ, you begin to realize the fix is in. Mind you, this was being said by many of us during the proceedings very loudly, and to no avail, because the mainstream press did its best to let it die by its own hand, and I mean that literally, because they also knew that Jeane was suicidally inclined. Brecht couldn’t have dreamed this nightmare up. That’s not murder, it’s willful negligence.

There had been a very serious scandal in 2006—one of many—that eventually fizzled-out named “Hookergate,” the standard cigar and hooker parties that are held in and around the Beltway for hungry contractors, to obtain coveted, high dollar jobs and assuage the seething addictions of sociopath Republican horndogs (as opposed to Democratic ones) with a taste for the high life on your dime. Yes, this is all about the war on terror and the moronic, runaway militarization of America, the biggest buyer of unnecessary, clunky military hardware in the entire world, six hundred times the spending in this area than of all the other nations of the world combined. That’s pretty stupid—nay—exceptional. We not only have the right to blow our balls off in this manner, but we still somehow have the right to speak about it thanks to a historical accident that began during the Colonial period, freedom of speech and the press. Things working out will never be good enough for the species. In our meanness and selfish tendencies that have been fostered into the emotional equivalents of plutonium, another poison we’ve refined, so as to illustrate our collective wretchedness, we have contaminated the world with our greed. From the moral rot of John Jacob Astor, to the senseless greed of the speculator Jay Gould, America’s first millionaires, on down to the Robber Barons like Carnegie, Rockefeller, and Morgan, men who childish fools have emulated ever since, we compromised with the bad guys and lost our way long ago as a nation, and we’re finally running out of road for the last time. This is our last chance. All of this is what the DC Madam case was about, the culmination of generations of baseness and barbarity. Either this is the beginning, the end, or both, but we’ve undoubtedly come full circle, which is rarely a good sign for the little people out there, the rest of us out here in television land.

This has happened before. Our out of control defense spending is doing to American democracy what it did to that system in Athens, first, by bankrupting their Treasury, then the inevitable collapse into anarchy and dictatorship, wrought by irrational military adventurism. Ask the Greeks how long it’s taken to come back from that one. And, so today, we have a similar situation in place thanks to the same kinds of criminals bent on power at any cost: a crisis on several fundamental levels—political, economic, social, cultural, and environmental. Not so long after Jeane died I conveyed to her former counselor Montgomery Blair Sibley that she may as well have stayed alive since, what with the encroaching economic catastrophe, she could have walked out of prison once there was no money to house her anymore (it elicited no response). What was the DC Madam case about? The fall of America by militarized self-immolation and general greed, nihilism.

Thanksgiving, the Studebakers, & Schuyler Colfax

1833 must have been quite a year in what was then Michigan and today in Northern Indiana. The borders were finalized several contentious decades later. Today, I spent Thanksgiving dinner with my mother and brother at what was once the Studebaker mansion, built in the 1880s, an enormous structure made of blocks of granite, slate, slabs of pink, Italian marbles, and an awful lot of precious woods, a Victorian nightmare, but pleasant. Not more than a block over is the site of where Schuyler Colfax’s home once stood. He was one of those fortune seekers who came to the area after 1833–1836 in fact, and he began in nearby New Carlisle–and a fortune he did make, mainly through his first newspaper here in South Bend.

In time he became involved in politics, finding himself engaged with the Whig Party which collapsed and regrouped with other factions including the Know-nothings (ancestors of the Tea Party, also not a real party, more a bunch of flailing idiots) into the Republican Party. As anyone can guess, with all their race-baiting from the opposite side of history, today’s GOP isn’t the party of Lincoln by any stretch of the imagination. But there are some core aspects that have never changed, mainly an element of corruption.

What was Colfax really famous for? Maybe that’s asking the wrong question when we should be asking what was his most significant contribution to American history? During the Civil War, Colfax was a major leader in the GOP and served as the Speaker of the House. It was because of him that the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery and granting blacks the right to vote got passed. Without his vote it never would have passed and it might have taken a generation or more before blacks would at least have that right enshrined in the Constitution of the United States, if not in practice. That would take another century, and the voting rights of black Americans and a variety of other vulnerable groups are under vicious attack from the right and the apparent indifference of the Democratic Party. Such are the death throes of white supremacy, but it’s still a dangerous situation for anyone who values living in a democracy.

And so, as we sat over our Thanksgiving meal, a good meal at that, I was given to these thoughts, and others, thinking of what we leave behind. Colfax, you see, is remembered more for a scandal that grew from corruption that began under the Lincoln administration (there were no regulations–eat it, Libertarians) involving the creation of the Union Pacific railroad. I won’t go into the details, but the backroom deals Colfax and many other members of Congress were involved in here was revealed in 1872 and called the “Crédit Mobilier” scandal because it involved a French bank. This business model allowed the winning bidders for the contract to build the western-half of the transcontinental railroad to pay themselves several times, from several different directions. It was a cunning business model that had never been tried in America, more Old World corruption infecting the body politic, and lining the pockets of scum. The congressmen involved all got stock in the company. Colfax was one of them. His problem in 1872 was that he was Vice President to former general and current president, Ulysses S. Grant. The scandal tainted both men’s reputations. This dark halo around them has continued into the present.

But Colfax has a street named after him here and many other fixtures in the community which are still associated with his legacy and name, and people still go to see Grant’s tomb, in recognition that nothing is pure, but that we should take what we can get. I have sat in the carriage that President Lincoln was ferried to Ford’s Theater, where he sat. You begin to realize as you grow older that these things took place yesterday and that these were people like ourselves. There are always things to be thankful for. Enjoy them. Happy Thanksgiving, now hit the vomitoriums!