Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Mark Birnbaum & Jim Schermbeck, "The Big Buy" (2006).

This past Sunday was particularly fruitful from a bargain hunter's perspective. The Friendship neighborhood had their community-wide yard sale. Although there were only about twenty households participating, I got a tip-off (thanks, John!) that a local pop culture collector was shedding some weight. I risked potentially virulent animosity by heading out by myself in the morning to make sure I got there first. My proactive approach certainly paid off, and I grabbed enough stuff to fill an old-fashioned brown grocery bag. My total cost was only $10. I got a variety of books, DVDs (including a bunch of old gangster movies from the late 30's and 40's), a magnet featuring Three Mile Island, and a 3D Jesus head.

But not all the stuff I picked up was particularly frivolous. I was happy to pick up a documentary produced by Robert Greenwald's Brave New Films called The Big Buy (2006). Greenwald has been responsible for putting out a number of informative exposés on subjects like FOX News (Outfoxed- 2004), the Iraqi Invasion and Occupation (Uncovered-2004, Iraq for Sale-2006), and Wal-Mart (The High Cost of Low Price-2006). The Big Buy was directed by Mark Birnbaum and Jim Schermbeck, and examines Tom DeLay's campaign to build a permanent Republican majority in the US Congress by seizing control of the Texas House of Representatives.

For those of you who may have missed this intensely sordid affair, it's important to remember that shortly after George W. Bush was (not) elected president in 2000, Tom DeLay became the House Majority Leader in the US Congress. Once a shiftless party animal, DeLay had "found God" and accepted his "personal mission" to help the GOP permanently seize the reigns of power in the US Government. "The Hammer" (as his admirers lovingly referred to him) formed TRMPAC (Texans for a Republican Majority). He used this front organization to launder soft money from corporations across the United States, and passed it along to Republican candidates in the Texas State House. This was expressly forbidden by the Texas Constitution.

Of course the prospect of breaking a few laws would never stop anyone in the current Republican leadership (see Jack Abramoff- a close friend of "The Hammer"). They wanted to expand their majority in the US House of Representatives and DeLay sought to overwhelm the Texas Democrats. By seizing control of the State Congress, DeLay could affect redistricting that would help Republicans pick up five more seats in the US House (a +10 margin that would prove devastating to the future of the nation at a very crucial time). There were a rash of rumors that this entire strategy was actually masterminded by Karl Rove and the Bush Administration. But DeLay was indisputably the face of the program.

The strategy worked too, resulting in exactly the goals its framers had hoped for. Everyone involved would have gotten off scot-free if it hadn't been for Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle. He took the astonishing measure of indicting several key conspirators who just happened to be aides for Tom DeLay. Eventually Earle delivered the big bomb- he actually leveled charges against DeLay himself. This was effectively the end of "The Hammer's" official political career. He immediately resigned his House leadership position, and later decided not to seek re-election. Although the redistricting in Texas was found to violate minority rights under the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Bush's Justice Department overturned the ruling and suppressed media coverage of this abomination.

If we didn't have this record of these events it would be easy to believe that such things could not have happened here in the "Land of Freedom and Democracy". But thanks to Greenwald, Earle, Birnbaum, and Schermbeck, it's all documented.

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