Protecting the wrong interests

For what feels like the thousandth time (possibly more than that), our rage is directed at George W. Bush.But, now, our anger is directed more broadly, at the representative bodies of our federal government, too.In spectacular, would-be-hilariousif-it-wasn’t-scary fashion, the renewal of a corrupt and right-stripping bill failed only because it wasn’t corrupt and right-stripping enough.Portions of the Protect America Act (PAA), which facilitated things like spying secretly on American citizens, expired on Saturday because the US House and Senate couldn’t come to an agreement on whether to grant so-called “retroactive immunity” to telecom corporations that illegally assisted the government in spying on American citizens.Though Mr. Bush insists that the provisions of the PAA are vital for protecting Americans, he threatened to veto any extension that did not include the aforementioned immunity – a move which, if we’re reading into this correctly, places the interests of large corporations over the safety of American citizens.To paraphrase this threat, “Protection for telecoms is a prerequisite for the protection of the American people.” And he followed through.A sane and nominally honest man would have dropped this demand when it became apparent that the lawwas going to lapse, but he pushed forward, leaving, by his own standard, Americans vulnerable to a possible terrorist attack.From this we can conclude one of two things, both of which imply, for that thousandth time, that Mr. Bush is not only bad at his job, but has an offensively poor set of priorities to boot.He must either be a liar who does not truly believe that this law is a vital tool for protecting Americans’ safety, or he is beholden to the interests of corporations, and is willing to gamble the very lives of Americans for their enrichment.What’s more, our Senate willingly complied. They caved to the absurd demands and threats of the president, and they caved to the pressures of special interests. By pardoning the actions of these corporations, they reasoned, these companies would be more likely to cooperate with the government in the future.But the bottom line is that these companies are under threat of hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars in lawsuits. The Senate was working to protect their pocketbooks. We can thank the House of Representatives for defying the wishes of the president and their colleagues in the Senate, but we’ve nevertheless come scarily close to enduring yet another horribly conceived and immoral law.And it’s not over. Though the law has not been passed, the House could still agree to the Senate’s version. For the thousandth time we ask ourselves, “What is this country coming to?”(Note: none of Vermont’s representatives or senators agreed to this nonsense. We thank you Senators Leahy and Sanders, and Representative Welch)