Thursday, July 15, 2010

If Only I Had A Unicorn


When I first went to work at Warner Bros I went from making around $5,000 a year running my own little indie record label in San Francisco to making the enormous-- even inconceivable-- salary of $90,000. I was feeling like the richest guy in the world. I was breathless. And that didn't count a generous expense account! My two best friends, Fric and Frac, had each been with the company for many years and made respectively, a million dollars a year and $250,000. Fric was-- and still is-- one of the most profoundly unhappy people I've ever known. The level of dissatisfaction in his life is incomprehensible. And the anger. He was mad because so and so made two million a year or five million a year. He always lived far above his means and often borrowed money from... me! Frac was like a junior version and I recall-- I'll never forget it-- him saying to me, with a straight face, that one day we'd break out of "these bonds of poverty."

In my life there was always someone smarter, better looking, stronger, funnier, more popular, wiser, more talented, richer, more evolved... you work with what you've got and do the best you can. I've been happy under just about every circumstance. Was it Sharron Angle who said something about turning lemons into lemonade the other day. Bad reference, but... well, you only live once so you might as well enjoy the trip.

I voted for Barack Obama for various reasons, none of which included that I thought there was much of a chance he would be an exceptionally good president-- let alone a truly excellent one. There haven't been any really good ones in my lifetime, just a bunch of grubby political hacks. [Ironically, Eisenhower comes closest to not fitting that dreadfully disparaging mold.] Like Eric Alterman said the other day at The Nation, there are an awful lot of structural impediments to being a good president.

I wish Obama could hit back at the Republicans like this: "You guys took millions from Big Oil because you're a bunch of corrupt scumbags who sold out the country. You allowed them to thwart even a minimally decent regulatory regime in exchange for a few bucks and it's cost the country incalculably. I hate to do this-- and history will judge me a bad man-- but I have no choice but to have you all shot today. Mr. Boehner, hand out a last cigarette to every one of your sleazy colleagues." And yes, we'd be finally rid of that stinking, pustulent walking corpse McCain (who took $2,677,524 from Big Oil) and Cornyn (who took $1,652,150) but even before we got to McConnell ($862,561) and Vitter ($791,335), guess which former Illinois junior senator took $973,551? And this isn't about Big Oil at all. This is about Obama being unable-- structurally, systemically-- to call out the Republicans on just about anything.

They're venal-- and Harry Reid was completely correct yesterday when he pointed out that they, as a party and a corporate entity, have gone around the bend entirely and are all now with Limbaugh and DeMint in wanting to see a Great Depression and wanting to see your children starve to death in the streets like dogs so they can seize power again. "They're betting on failure. They think that the worse the economy is come November, the better they are going to do election-wise." But people who live in glass houses can't cast stones-- at least not convincingly. And, sorry to ruffle feathers, fellas, but the Democrats' house is just as glass as the Republicans-- or at least close enough to as glassy as not to matter that they're a little better. Our Inside-The-Beltway scumbags suck as much as theirs do! And look at the ones in the leadership. Clyburn and Pelosi are miracles but look beyond them and there's no hope, not a ray-- just one corrupt sack of crap after another: Hoyer, Wasserman-Schultz, Crowley... that's the future? Or an ineffectual weasel like Van Hollen?

This morning, responding to the latest anti-Democratic Party propaganda in Politico, John Aravosis and I pointed out that as nefarious as Politico may be, it's hard to argue that the Democratic base isn't angry at Obama and the Democratic congressional leadership's tepid approach to the real problems they were supposed to fix. Aravosis:
As polls confirm, interest in the midterms is low everywhere among Democrats. And why shouldn't it be? When your current boyfriend beats you, albeit less than the previous boyfriend, it's difficult to get excited when his birthday rolls around. The White House shares a large chunk of the blame for this entire mess, from the tone they set from the beginning (no politics, just hugs for the bad guys), to their abysmal performance on the stimulus that has now plagued our country 
with 10% unemployment for the foreseeable future, to their refusal to push for much of what they promised during the campaign (not a refusal to GET what they promised, I'm talking about a refusal to even TRY to get what they promised-- a huge, and relevant, distinction).

A lot of Democrats, I think, rightfully feel like they've been lied to. Feel that the party doesn't much care for them, and even has contempt for them-- mocking their concerns about the party's indifference to its own promises as "naive." It's no surprise that most Democrats aren't excited about helping re-elect people who don't seem to like most Democrats. If the White House and the Congress want to turn things around, they need to stop bashing Democrats in the press, and start wooing them, just as they woo the people on the right who want to destroy them... Our leaders remind me of an old Shoe cartoon that showed a notice inan office stating "vacations have been temporarily suspended untilmorale improves."

Today Eric Lipton and Eric Lichblau reported on congressional ethics for the NY Times is a way that just underscores a deadly fatalism that I never experienced-- and hope to never experience-- in my personal life. It's a look at how money makes the world go round-- and how it makes the rest of us victims of our own democratic charade. If you didn't watch George Carlin's "rich cocksuckers" video we ran on the 4th of July, please do so before reading any further. (And if you did... well this is one you can never see too many times):

Now the two Erics, who are essentially saying the same thing Carlin is, if less poetically
Lawmakers take contributions every day from corporate executives and lobbyists hoping for their votes. The question of whether that represents business as usual in Washington or an ethics breach is at the heart of a far-reaching Congressional ethics investigation that is stirring concerns throughout Washington and Wall Street.

Of course they're missing the essence of the problem by a wide mark by using the word "or." How about calling bribery, bribery and just admitting it's both business as usual in Washington and an ethics breach-- or, better yet, a criminal breach. So there's a focus on two ultra-sleazy, uber-corrupt up-and-comers, GOP sociopath Tom Price and crooked New Dem leader Joseph Crowley.
The Office of Congressional Ethics has sent corporate donors and fundraising hosts more than three dozen requests for documents involving eight members who solicited and took large contributions from financial institutions even as they were debating the landmark regulatory bill, according to lawyers involved in the inquiry.

The requests are focusing on a series of fund-raisers last December, in the days immediately before the House’s initial adoption of the sweeping overhaul, which could win final approval this week. Some of the fund-raising events took place the same days as crucial votes.

For example, on Dec. 10, one of the lawmakers under investigation, Representative Joseph Crowley, a New York Democrat who sits on the Ways and Means Committee, left the Capitol during the House debate to attend a fund-raising event for him hosted by a lobbyist at her nearby Capitol Hill town house that featured financial firms, along with other donors. After collecting thousands of dollars in checks, Mr. Crowley returned to the floor of the House just in time to vote against a series of amendments that would have imposed tougher restrictions on Wall Street.

That same day, Representative Tom Price, a Georgia Republican on the Financial Services Committee, scheduled what he called a “Financial Services Luncheon” at the Capitol Hill Club, as part of a fund-raising push that netted him nearly $23,000 in contributions from the industry in a two-month period around the vote... [L]awyers knowledgeable about the investigation said those eight were picked in large part because in the 10 days immediately before the initial full House vote on the bill-- which took place Dec. 10-- they solicited and received an unusually high proportion of campaign dollars from the financial sector. They received $140,000 in all, and at least seven of the eight, like Mr. Crowley, had fund-raisers during this period.

Julie Domenick, the lobbyist who hosted a house party to raise money for Mr. Crowley on Dec. 10, has been asked to turn over “all files, correspondence, e-mails, receipts, notes and any other documents” related to the party, as well as any contact she has had with Mr. Crowley’s campaign since early 2009, according to a letter she received. Others have received similar requests.

Besides the Crowley and Price fund-raisers, questions are being asked about a fund-raising breakfast the day before the vote that honored Representative Earl Pomeroy, Democrat of North Dakota, and was sponsored by a Washington lobbying firm.

The other slimy operators caught up in this particular net are all notorious bribe takers who routinely sell their votes: John Campbell, (R-CA), Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), Christopher Lee (R-NY), and Frank Lucas (R-OK). Congress would be a better place if all 8 were rotting in prison with Duke Cunningham. But just tangentially better... because almost all of their colleagues are nearly as bad. Not all, almost all. and the White House? What can anyone even say beyond the fact that Obama's first appointment to his new Adminstration was the Democratic answer to the penultimate corruption of Tom DeLay: Rahm Emanuel?

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At 4:36 PM, Blogger Cirze said...

The coming revolution is going to be a complete surprise to these people, isn't it?

And I can't wait.

Thanks for covering this so well.


sorry to ruffle feathers, fellas, but the Democrats' house is just as glass as the Republicans - or at least close enough to as glassy as not to matter that they're a little better.

At 6:09 PM, Anonymous Mark Scarbrough said...

Excellent post. Really spot on. And yes, both sides of the aisle. For real.

It's all about the deep connections between power, money, and contentment. I don't even presume to know the ways they relentlessly deform each other, but the gravity hole they make is almost inescapable. I fear for the future when only billionaires are running for office. We're officially screwed.

At 6:46 PM, Blogger Serving Patriot said...

Yes Suzan, it will be. I think many of them will be surprised in Nov when the "crazy" Tea Baggers seat a few of their own.

Of course, when the Teabaggers get their own comeuppance from their corporate overlords, the pig people will be mighty PO'd.


PS -- perhaps its time to implement an income and wealth LIMIT to those elected to the Congress? No one with more than $1M in assets can be a member.

At 10:31 PM, Anonymous Ida Jurie said...

Violence is inevitable.

At 8:41 AM, Anonymous Bil said...

thanks Howie, RIP Carlin.

I bet he makes one freaky funny angel, or ...whatever:)


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