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First off let me say that I’m not picking on Congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina because he called President Obama a liar. I’m all for the breakdown of political decorum and think democracy would be far better off if politicians from both parties were ruder. For example, imagine if the Democrats had had the courage to call President Bush a liar instead of voting to support the Iraq War. No, I picked on Wilson yesterday because he’s an extremist and today because despite his posturing as a model of political rectitude, he’s a typical pay-to-play hack.
Consider Wilson’s relationship with Fabrique Nationale de Herstal (FNH), a Belgian arms maker. Earlier this year, public records show, Wilson secured a $2.5 million earmark in the defense appropriations bill for the Special Operations Combat Assault Rifle (SCAR), which is made by FNH.
Since 2004, FNH has spent more than $500,000 lobbying for the SCAR, employing the services of a firm called the American Business Development Group to seek funding for the assault rifle. The firm has headquarters in Washington and several state offices, including one in South Carolina.
Since 2003, William Skipper, the president of American Business Development Group, has donated $8,800 to Wilson’s campaign. And Skipper also gave the only individual contribution this year to the Carolina Majority PAC, which is Wilson’s personal Political Action Committee.
“Working extensively on national defense issues with Congressional Committees and senior Federal officials, Mr. Skipper has earned a reputation for American BDG as the leading defense-oriented firm in Washington,” say his bio on the firm’s website. “He has played a critical role in bringing new technologies to the modern warfighter and has testified before Congress on issues related to the Department of Defense and Armed Forces.”
Skipper’s contribution to Wilson’s PAC — for $5,000, the legal maximum — was made on March 10, 2009. Earmark requests for the appropriations bills were due five days later. So FNH’s lobbyist was handing Wilson a check at virtually the same time that Wilson was asking for $2.5 million in federal funds for the lobbyist’s client.
More from Ken Silverstein:
Perspective — October 23, 2013, 8:00 am
How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy
Postcard — October 16, 2013, 8:00 am
A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”