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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Extreme Makeover, Congressional edition

From 2002 to 2007 there was a TV show called Extreme Makeover which gave its subjects a new look. Its frumpy subjects were given a new wardrobe and hairstyle, and were encouraged to diet and exercise. Some of the subjects were even given plastic surgery.

We were shown how they looked at the start, and then the "new" person was unveiled at the end of the show.

A similar, though not entirely positive transformation, seems to have taken place with Dennis Hastert, who was the Republican Speaker of the House from 1999 to 2007. Back in his Congressional days, he exuded a staid respectability:

He seemed at once kindly grandfather and responsible legislator, a man who bore his weighty responsibilities with the seriousness and sense of duty they called for.

Of course, that image evaporated as soon as we found out that he had once molested a bunch of high school wrestlers.

Still, it was a shock to see the picture that accompanied an article this morning about the conditions of his release from jail:

It could just be the lighting of the photo, but it almost looks as if his hair has been dyed blond. His haggard look indicates that jail apparently didn't agree with him.

The picture reminded me of one I'd seen of Richard Speck when he was in jail:

(Speck had dyed his hair while in prison, though it's not apparent from this photo. He also took estrogen so he could grow breasts; you might say he was a transgender pioneer.)

Note to older guys: don't grow your hair long and dye it blond, it's not a good look.

Oh, and don't do anything which will land you in the clink.


Anonymous said...

Now that he's out of prison, I wonder if he'll live with his wife.

- birdie

Anonymous said...

Are you sure his hair was dyed blond? It doesn't look like dye - more like a trick of the lighting.

And Speck couldn't have been a trans pioneer when there were trans people taking oestrogen in the 1920s:

- Gethin

John Craig said...

Gethin --
No, not sure at all -- take another look at my sentence:

"It could just be the lighting of the photo, but it almost looks as if his hair has been dyed blond."

And I was just joking about Speck being a transgender pioneer; he's obviously not someone the trans community would want to claim as one of their own.

mark said...

In fairness, your looking at pictures of him when there was probably, at least, a ten year age difference. He is 75. He had a horrifying fall from grace which probably did more damage to his psyche then his time in prison, although that was no picnic either. When he became speaker, people believed based on his personality and appearance that he would be free of sex scandals. I wonder if he got into politics in part, to play a role, solid citizen, that would discourage anyone from ever making charges against him or seeing him such a sordid light. Strange and sad.

John Craig said...

Mark --
You're right, the age difference always makes people look more haggard. And when I was looking at pictures of him during his prime as Speaker and then at his trial, he was already starting to lose weight and have a much grimmer expression after the scandal broke.

And yes, strange and sad, though you have to wonder if the type of person who wold do something like that is the same type who is drawn to politics, in general. (Meaning, not in every case, but DC does seem to be a magnet for power hungry sociopaths.)

Gringott said...

Here is what bothers me about Dennis Hastert, and it is not his looks.

He went into politics with this blackmail material hanging over him his whole career. Seems to me TPTB knew quite well what he had done.
He was in the line of succession for POTUS for 8 years.
He was one of the most powerful people in America during that time, influencing legislation, what gets voted on and what didn't get voted on.
Longest serving Republican Speaker in history.

Now fast forward to when he was exposed - May 2015.
He was out of politics and was no longer in any real power.
What was coming up at that time?
Supreme court ruling on Obamacare.
In June of 2015 the Chief Justice, John Roberts, issued the ruling, in my opinion, an unconstitutional ruling, saving Obamacare.
Roberts is said to have 'something' hanging over his head - most often something not quite kosher about his adoption of his children. Who knows?

My personal opinion at the time was Hastert was outed as a warning to John Roberts.

John Craig said...

Gringott12 --
I've heard the same theory, that "they" don't let anyone succeed whom they can't blackmail. I"m not sure what to make of it; it's certainly possible there's something to it. And I agree that Roberts' ruling on Obamacare was awfully suspicious. In fact, when it happened, I heard similar speculation, that maybe they were going to "out" him as a homosexual or something like that.

Certainly Barack Obama would have been blackmail able on those grounds; it's actually amazing to me that his homosexuality isn't general public knowledge at this point. And, after all, he did have sex with quite a few members of his staff, which in this @Metoo moment in history is a particularly egregious crime.

I'm also not sure who "they" would be.

Gringott said...

Over the decades I have come to believe that the blackmail / bribery theory is more fact than fiction. Keep in mind the very low numbers of elected Federal officials vs. the size of the US population. Congress has 535 voting members: 435 Representatives and 100 Senators. Plus the POTUS & VPOTUS, total of 537 elected officials to control the population of 325,511,399. Seems to me this is a very small group to control using blackmail, bribery or other threats. Of course, if you focus on the leadership you will have a much more cost effective control mechanism, you can even let a few Senators and Representatives in that you don't control. Why not? They cannot do too much harm to your agenda.

I'm sure Obama was controlled, when he took office I remember him flashing his Blackberry [the most secure cell at the time], my question was "who is on the other end of that thing?" Keep in mind "they" had no reason to expose Obama, he was doing everything they wanted.

Who "they" are is of course the ultimate question. We often hear about Soros for example. He is in my opinion just the public face, not the controller.

The groups and people often tossed out there as "They" are just the implements of those in control. A number of 10 or 12 people is usually the number given for the pinnacle.

Who are they? I have given up hope in my lifetime of ever discovering who they are.

One thing to keep in mind is the use of the pyramid as a symbol for the power structure. There is no magic to it, it is not mystical. It simply means the pyramid structure is an effective way to control large populations. A very small group at the capstone can control a larger group in the next layer down, that next layer can control an even larger number in the next lower layer, and so on. This is how 10 or 12 people can control the world in the end. A plebe or serf at the bottom has no need to know the goals of the pinnacle. They just follow orders.

The hidden hand.

John Craig said...

Gringott12 --
I'm sure you're aware that we both sound like paranoid "conspiracy theorists" having this discussion, but I'm sure you're right about a lot going on behind the scenes that we never fid out about, and a lot of it having to do with the threat of blackmail, maybe secret payoffs, maybe even physical threats, in some cases.

So, yes, the question then becomes, who is behind it? It could be a combination of interests, each operating independently. And there's also no underestimating the power of campaign contributions, which are made openly. I'm always amazed how well these can pay off. A corporation can give, say, 50 thousand a year to a Congressman or Senator for 10 years, and in return get steered a government contract worth, say, 100 million or more. This happens all the time, in plain sight, and people rarely complain about it. And to abolish it, Congress would have to vote campaign contributions out, and which Congressmen exactly are going to vote for that?

But back to your point, I wouldn't be surprised if there are Deep State operatives in places like the CIA and NSA who are privy to all sorts of information that can then be used to pressure Congressmen to bend a certain way. It would explain a lot. I also wouldn't discount the power of someone like Soros, who's willing to use his money to fund a lot of shady organizations (think ACORN) that promote electoral fraud, etc.

When you think about it, practically everyone has a shady past, or at least something in his closet which could be potentially embarrassing. How many heterosexual guys age 40 and above do you know who haven't been guilty of, by today's definition, "sexual harassment?"

No one ever went broke overestimating corruption in our government.

Gringott said...

John Craig-
All good points in your last post. I guess we have strayed from the original topic.

Sorry for the thread drift, however, I felt it was important to point out the Hastert case is so much more than structuring bank withdrawals or molesting teenage boys while in a position of public trust.

Maybe I'm paranoid. But I asked myself "why now?" when it happened, and the John Roberts decision popped right up.

Another issue not addressed - why are we restricted in access to our own capital, to the point we can go to prison if the FedGov decides to prosecute us for withdrawing our own capital from the bank in a pattern they don't like? What if I decide I want to have $20k in cash, if I withdraw it, the bank will report my activity to the FedGov, if I withdraw a lesser amount a couple of times, I can be accused and prosecuted for structuring. The FedGov has unlimited resources to prosecute me, I of course have only limited resources to defend myself.

Yes, Hastert was a bad guy, he needed to go to jail, but the method used in my opinion is worthy of the old Soviet system.

John Craig said...

Gringott12 --
I hadn't even realized that withdrawals of 20k are subject to government scrutiny. I knew that deposits of more than 10k would be reported, but not withdrawals. I suppose that makes sense, in a way. Large cash transactions often signal either money laundering or drug profits. (Why else would people want to move around that kind of money in cash?) So, frankly, that doesn't bother me too much.

In the summer of '13 I came back from London with 13k in cash (gambling profits, which would have been a lot more if the London bookies had allowed me to bet the amounts I had wanted to), and I had to report that at Customs. But nothing came of it that I know of. But, honestly, I have no problem with that: money launderers and drug dealers SHOULD be exposed.

This is sort of the opposite of what we were talking about before: we both want more openness and transparency with what goes on in government, not less. But what Congress wants is transparency for the common citizen and a thick cloak around themselves.

Anonymous said...

Interesting comments. Truly wish I could look into them. Don't have time. Too busy working to pay off debt because I am constantly bombarded with messages that if I don't buy "this item" then I won't be happy.


John Craig said...

Hannah --
Well, ARE you happy?

(My advice: ignore all advertisements.)

Gringott said...

Although I was not deeply in debt I decided to go debt free and achieved that goal in 2003, finished paying off my mortgage of 15 years in 7. I do use CC but I pay the balance several times a month as it accrues. What a feeling of freedom, I cannot describe it. Property tax bills show up, no issues, I just go down and write a check. Annual car & homeowners insurance comes due - I just write a check and send it in.

I decided to leave the hamster wheel and haven't looked back. Stopped working 4 years ago and there was no change to my lifestyle as far as financially. The costs of work were eliminated and my taxes dropped like a rock. I never felt a pinch. Of course I have retirement money coming in [Army] and finally started SS in April of this year.

I read a book back in 2001, by Jim Marrs, titled "Rule by Secrecy: The Hidden History That Connects the Trilateral Commission, the Freemasons, and the Great Pyramids".

The book was striking to me, not because it contained any new information to me, but he presented it in a chronological order making it easy to understand how we got here, to where we are.

Oddly, the part that touched me the most was in the very last pages, he addressed the issue "what can we do about this?". His answer - don't go into debt, don't buy a McMansion, don't buy that giant SUV, don't max out credit cards on crap you don't need.

In other words, live within your means, and accumulate wealth for yourself. Don't play their game.

You cannot be free if you are a debt slave.

A wino on the corner who just panhandled a dollar has a greater net worth than many [if not most] Americans. Think about that.

The powers that be only have power over us because we allow them to. Sometimes we have to step back from our lives and take a good long hard look and reflect on what we are doing, why we are doing it, and do we really want to do it. I did this at several stages of my life and made drastic changes, in my opinion to the good.

Your mileage may vary.

John Craig:
I took a trip last month and was in a motel for several days. Each morning I turned on the TV and watched the "news". I don't normally watch cable or broadcast TV, haven't for years, I was literally shocked at the amount of advertising both embedded in the "news" and during commercial breaks. TV really is PROGRAMMING.

John Craig said...

Gringott12 --
I basically went the same route as you, which is what allows me to speak my mind freely these days. I haven't quite reached SS age yet, but am not far away. (I'm guessing that Hannah is considerably younger than us; I'm also guessing she was being facetious about having to buy stuff because of ads.)

Yes, I see ads everywhere, all the time, too. In a way, the benefit of that is that that constant barrage has a numbing effect; they barely register with me these days. I don't buy that much stuff, feel no need to. I suppose that's just a way of justifying cheapness, but I honestly feel almost no desire to have stuff. The older I get, the more simple I want my life to be.

Anonymous said...

John and Gringott12

Yes, I was being facetious. I don't have debt. But I do think debt plays a role in some kind of "powers that be". It's funny that Gringott12 uses the word "hamster wheel". I have often used that terminology when my friends complain about their lack of money due to their debt. Yes, I'm younger than you and not as wise...but I'm working on it. Thanks for the tip on the book.


John Craig said...

Hannah --
I read somewhere, once, that the essence of wisdom is knowing how you don't know. by which definition, you've already achieved it (and I'm the one who's still working on it).

Gringott said...

Hannah - I am sorry if I offended. I assumed you were joking but I never miss an opportunity to preach about being debt-free, even to the choir.

When I was working I learned to keep my mouth shut with co-workers however.
Most are on the "wheel" and resent hearing there is an answer. Really!

John Craig - I assumed you are a "smart guy".

John Craig said...

Gringott12 --
Thanks, but trust me, I'm more clever than smart. No one who is truly smart could have done and said as many dumb things as I have in my life.

Anonymous said...


There is absolutely no reason for me to be offended. Preach on.