January 06, 2006

It's About Oversight

If you’ve read any of my earlier articles, or lived in this country for at least 10 minutes, you know that the United States Constitution is the basis for our system of government. Built into our constitution is a system of ‘checks & balances’ that ensure an equilibrium of shared power. Why is that important? Because our forefathers understood the dangers of concentrated power.

That system of ‘checks & balances’ is a fundamental crux of our Democracy because it fosters oversight. Oversight is crucial because it ensures that power centers don’t get out of control. Power centers out of control are destined for corruption, and corruption is bad for everyone – except the corrupt, that is.

So let’s look a little further into that concept of ‘oversight’, with a particular regard to recent events…


By now we’re all pretty familiar with the recent revelations of the National Security Agency wiretapping and eavesdropping on domestic phone calls and emails without obtaining the warrants. The Bushites insist that they have the authority to do it and need to be able to do it in order to protect America. They try to wedge Americans by framing the issue as that of (black & white) security vs. privacy. Then they chastise and demonize anyone who disagrees with their imperial agenda (par for the course).

Make no mistake - this issue has nothing to do with security or privacy. This issue is about oversight. No one feels that the President shouldn’t have the tools he needs to protect America & Americans. No one thinks that the National Security Agency shouldn’t be spying on terrorists to gather the best intelligence in an effort to protect America & Americans. However, without oversight, there’s no stopping the NSA from eavesdropping on non-terrorists. Without oversight there’s no stopping Dubya from eavesdropping on Democratic strategists, peace/anti-war activists, environmentalists, or even desperate housewives.

Recess Appointments

Our Constitution accounts for oversight in people that are appointed to positions of responsibility in our government. Although the President is tasked with (read ‘has the prerogative’) to select these people, the ‘checks & balances’ part of the process allows for Congress to approve or disapprove the President’s selection. That’s the way the system works to ensure that qualified people, who reflect the values of America, are appointed.

This week we learned that the President made nearly 20 ‘recess appointments’. These are people he appointed to positions of responsibility that likely would not have withstood the muster of congressional scrutiny. So once again, just like his appointment of John Bolton to the United Nations, Dubya waited until Congress had their backs turned to install his neo-conservative thugs into power. This is another case of the Bush Administration subverting the Constitution’s premise of oversight.

The Sago Mine

This was a sad, unfortunate tragedy in Tallmansville, West Virginia. Of course it’s a terrible shame when something like this happens, and we as humans are always looking to point a finger and blame someone or something. It’s our nature. My first inclination is to blame the Bush Administration if at all possible. Fortunately, that’s so easy because they’re always to blame!

Since Bush came to power after winning the (s)election of 2000, he has systematically dismantled most every semblance of regulation in every industry. It was Bush’s payback to big business lobbies, and the mining industry is no exception. It’s not a coincidence that the toothless Mining Safety & Health Agency (MSHA) has peeled back rules and enforcement to the point where mining companies are not encouraged to provide a safe environment and remedy safety infractions.

Out of this particular accident we learned that the mining company had been previously cited for 273 safety violations. One has to ask oneself - Why did they not fix the problems? There’s only one plausible answer. Because of deregulation, the mining company felt it was cheaper to pay the miniscule fines instead of making the remedies… clearly at the risk of the miners. In the final analysis, this tragedy was a result of a lack of oversight.

So you see, dear reader… oversight is a necessary and critical component of our system of government. Without oversight, we have anarchy, imperialism and corruption. Without oversight, we have dishonesty and lies. Without oversight, there’s nothing stopping us from doing what we shouldn’t. Without oversight, we all pay… dearly. Some of us with our lives.


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