The Byrne Report
By Peter Byrne
Mid-July found me chilling inside the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., on assignment with The Nation magazine for an investigative story (see that excellent publication in September!). My press credential allowed me to roam the House and Senate as if I were a member of our corporativized government--which, unfortunately, describes the role of many Capitol Hill reporters, who are better known in the trade as "stenographers."
Insiders call the alabaster Capitol, with its subterranean links to office suites, the "Bubble." Just about the only non-Caucasian people I saw in the Bubble were either members of Congress, janitors or security guards. The place is teeming with flint-eyed recent college grads looking to make money, get laid and suck up some political power--not necessarily in that order. With 360-degree surveillance the order of the day, the paranoia in the palace is palpable.
I obtained a seat behind home plate in the House for the July 18 debate on amending the Constitution to ban gay marriage. I learned from a swarm of Bible-thumping congressmen that if gays can marry, hetero dads will take three wives! Teachers will fornicate with prepubescent students! Children will succumb to bestiality! Said one theocrat, "America was founded on Judeo-Christian principles, and marriage between a man and a woman was good enough for our Creator, so let's not mess with His plan."
A member of the Black Caucus (the only reasonable people in sight) said, "But that would enshrine discrimination in the Constitution!"
A Southern congressman countered, "We must protect our thousand-year culture!"
A black congresswoman shouted, "Why are we wasting time debating gay marriage when we should be hunting down bin Laden?"
Next stop was the Senate, where I stopped in for the debate on whether the Supreme Court could rule it unconstitutional to prohibit the Pledge of Allegiance from being recited at the whim of Judeo-Christian teachers. A senator from Missouri with a red face and a Mel Gibson leer said, "Our nation is based on the idea that there is a God. We cannot use free speech to censure the rights of school children to recite the pledge."
Back at the House, where every 10th word is "terrorist," I learned that we can defeat the dark-skinned T-people by granting a "free trade" agreement to the sultan of Oman, despite his use of forced labor in his Persian Gulf sultancy. The pinstriped sponsor of that legislation affirmed that the sultan would decree fair labor laws in Oman after the bill passes.
Meanwhile, Congress should not concern itself with "democratic niceties," he said. One reason we have to give the Sultan a break, he declared, is because the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) wants us to favor the sultan. (AIPAC is a powerful lobby that tries to ruin the careers of politicians and reporters who do not genuflect to its imperialist agenda.) Two Congressman rose to wildly wave "letters from AIPAC" over their heads as warnings to those fools who might oppose the treaty. The bill passed.
The next day, as Israel began blowing up Lebanese children by the roomful, scores of glassy-eyed blondes magically appeared in the halls of the Capitol wearing "Vote the Bible" and "Christians for Israel" buttons. While weapons made in the U.S.A. incinerated beings in Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan, arms-dealing lobbyists and congressional plutocrats advocated attacking Iran for good measure.
At a meeting of the Senate Appropriations Committee, octogenarian Sen. Robert Byrd, D-West Virginia, single-handedly tried to stop the largest military spending bill in history. But veteran pork-pusher Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, carried the day, claiming that the extra $453 billion is needed to fight "the global war to contain extreme violent Moslem militants." The ultraviolent bill, loyally supported by California's Dianne Feinstein, passed with no discussion about the wisdom of continuing to artificially generate Armageddon.
Then it was time for the Bubbleheads to trim $12 billion from the ever-shrinking budget for labor, health and education.
Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pennsylvania, critically observed that the draconian cuts signal the "disintegration of the federal role in health, worker safety and education." But only Byrd had the guts to try and restore money to the withered appropriation. His motion failed. But another motion passed: the feckless senators amended the bill to encourage famous singers to voluntarily teach children how to sing the "Star Spangled Banner."
Maybe we should send a choir to Beirut or Baghdad and teach the pretty song to limbless children squatting in rubble next to their dead parents.