Wednesday, May 02, 2012

People's Republic Of Santa Monica Meets Stephen King... And The Judean Peoples' Liberation Front


Monday I was a guest on Nicole Sandler's radio show. Her listeners are always so kind and so supportive. When I woke up Tuesday I found this note in my in-box:
Howie, I am listening to you on Nicole’s Monday show and cannot tell you how amazing you are. I love your passion, you intelligence, and all that you say and do.
I have a request. I vote out of Santa Monica but live up in xxx, and have tried to read about an alternative to Henry Waxman, my congressman, but nothing on Google. I just feel that he hasn’t done all I expect him to do. Dropping the ball on the Bush Impeachment and other things. Would like to vote for someone else, just to show my anger and frustration. I plan to vote for the ex Salt Lake mayor, at the moment, for president. I want Obama to know this and maybe he will somehow hear someone like me’s anger and frustration. I may end up voting for Obama, but not now. Do you have any name(s) for me? Would very much appreciate it.
Howie, I hope you sleep well every night, knowing what a very special person you are. We need to clone you. F Debbie Wasserman. What a piece of shit. Waxman, Wasserman/Shultz make me ashamed to be a Jew. Howie Klein MAKES ME PROUD to be a MOT.

With Deep Respect.

Not sure what a MOT is but what a nice bit of feedback to wake up to-- pretty different from most of the mail I get! Waxman used to be my congressman too. He's one of the smartest and most dedicated progressives in the House, although he lost me as an actual supporter when he gave Bush the green light for his unconstitutional and unjustifiable war against Iraq. Waxman, like most all of the L.A. congressional Jews can be quite the pawn of AIPAC. You expect that from outright principle-less shills like Berman/Sherman and Blue Dog Adam Schiff but... well Henry Waxman is supposed to more like a West Coast Jerry Nadler. Supposed to be.

Like Barney Frank once said-- although he claims he doesn't recall ever saying it-- if you want to agree with an elected official 100% of the time, run for office and win-- and after a few years you won' even agree with yourself 100% of the time!

As it turns out, there are 3 Democrats, a Green, a Ron Paul Republican, a Libertarian and an Independent running in the Jungle Primary against Waxman. In 2008 Waxman had no GOP opponent at all but in 2010 a crackpot teabagger ran against him and nearly got a third of the vote. But this year the race is a cornucopia of possibilities for someone hunting for a protest candidate. The Democrats in the race include Brice Margolin an attorney who specializes in pot cases and describes himself as "a marijuana activist." That sounds pretty pure, right? Well, don't forget about filmmaker Tim Pape, who describes himself as an "Occupy Movement Activist." I mentioned him to a lefty friend of mine in Santa Monica this morning and she said she didn't know there was an Occupy movement in Santa Monica. "I've looked for it," she told me. "I saw a couple of stoners with a sign the other day but then realized they were selling Bob Marley t-shirts." That might have been the Margolin campaign. And then there's Zein Obagi, another attorney, who bills himself as a "Conservative Democrat." I'm sure there's a neighborhood in Santa Monica-- or more likely Agoura Hills, Palos Verdes Estates or Calabasas-- for that too. Bill Bloomfield is the Independent and David Steinman is the Green and Steve Collett is the Libertarian who must be an entirely different animal from the Judean Liberation Front Ron Paul Republican, 25 year old Christopher David. His gets his awesome campaign slogan from Arundhati Roy:
Another world is not only possible, she is on her way.
On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.

I suggested to my admirer from the Nicole audience that he give n especially good look at Tim Pape's campaign, mostly because I loved the Twitter feed on his campaign website which highlighted Stephen King's kick ass Daily Beast article yesterday about tax inequality. Nothing to do with Henry Waxman but more interesting than anything about that particular race.
Chris Christie may be fat, but he ain’t Santa Claus. In fact, he seems unable to decide if he is New Jersey’s governor or its caporegime, and it may be a comment on the coarsening of American discourse that his brash rudeness is often taken for charm. In February, while discussing New Jersey’s newly amended income-tax law, which allows the rich to pay less (proportionally) than the middle class, Christie was asked about Warren Buffett’s observation that he paid less federal income taxes than his personal secretary, and that wasn’t fair. “He should just write a check and shut up,” Christie responded, with his typical verve. “I’m tired of hearing about it. If he wants to give the government more money, he’s got the ability to write a check-- go ahead and write it.”

Heard it all before. At a rally in Florida (to support collective bargaining and to express the socialist view that firing teachers with experience was sort of a bad idea), I pointed out that I was paying taxes of roughly 28 percent on my income. My question was, “How come I’m not paying 50?” The governor of New Jersey did not respond to this radical idea, possibly being too busy at the all-you-can-eat cheese buffet at Applebee’s in Jersey City, but plenty of other people of the Christie persuasion did.

Cut a check and shut up, they said.

If you want to pay more, pay more, they said.

Tired of hearing about it, they said.

Tough shit for you guys, because I’m not tired of talking about it. I’ve known rich people, and why not, since I’m one of them? The majority would rather douse their dicks with lighter fluid, strike a match, and dance around singing “Disco Inferno” than pay one more cent in taxes to Uncle Sugar. It’s true that some rich folks put at least some of their tax savings into charitable contributions. My wife and I give away roughly $4 million a year to libraries, local fire departments that need updated lifesaving equipment (Jaws of Life tools are always a popular request), schools, and a scattering of organizations that underwrite the arts. Warren Buffett does the same; so does Bill Gates; so does Steven Spielberg; so do the Koch brothers; so did the late Steve Jobs. All fine as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go far enough.

What charitable 1 percenters can’t do is assume responsibility-- America’s national responsibilities: the care of its sick and its poor, the education of its young, the repair of its failing infrastructure, the repayment of its staggering war debts. Charity from the rich can’t fix global warming or lower the price of gasoline by one single red penny. That kind of salvation does not come from Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Ballmer saying, “OK, I’ll write a $2 million bonus check to the IRS.” That annoying responsibility stuff comes from three words that are anathema to the Tea Partiers: United American citizenry.

And hey, why don’t we get real about this? Most rich folks paying 28 percent taxes do not give out another 28 percent of their income to charity. Most rich folks like to keep their dough. They don’t strip their bank accounts and investment portfolios. They keep them and then pass them on to their children, their children’s children. And what they do give away is-- like the monies my wife and I donate-- totally at their own discretion. That’s the rich-guy philosophy in a nutshell: don’t tell us how to use our money; we’ll tell you.
The Koch brothers are right-wing creepazoids, but they’re giving right-wing creepazoids. Here’s an example: 68 million fine American dollars to Deerfield Academy. Which is great for Deerfield Academy. But it won’t do squat for cleaning up the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, where food fish are now showing up with black lesions. It won’t pay for stronger regulations to keep BP (or some other bunch of dipshit oil drillers) from doing it again. It won’t repair the levees surrounding New Orleans. It won’t improve education in Mississippi or Alabama. But what the hell-- them li’l crackers ain’t never going to go to Deerfield Academy anyway. Fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke.

Here’s another crock of fresh bullshit delivered by the right wing of the Republican Party (which has become, so far as I can see, the only wing of the Republican Party): the richer rich people get, the more jobs they create. Really? I have a total payroll of about 60 people, most of them working for the two radio stations I own in Bangor, Maine. If I hit the movie jackpot-- as I have, from time to time-- and own a piece of a film that grosses $200 million, what am I going to do with it? Buy another radio station? I don’t think so, since I’m losing my shirt on the ones I own already. But suppose I did, and hired on an additional dozen folks. Good for them. Whoopee-ding for the rest of the economy.

...I guess some of this mad right-wing love comes from the idea that in America, anyone can become a Rich Guy if he just works hard and saves his pennies. Mitt Romney has said, in effect, “I’m rich and I don’t apologize for it.” Nobody wants you to, Mitt. What some of us want-- those who aren’t blinded by a lot of bullshit persiflage thrown up to mask the idea that rich folks want to keep their damn money-- is for you to acknowledge that you couldn’t have made it in America without America. That you were fortunate enough to be born in a country where upward mobility is possible (a subject upon which Barack Obama can speak with the authority of experience), but where the channels making such upward mobility possible are being increasingly clogged. That it’s not fair to ask the middle class to assume a disproportionate amount of the tax burden. Not fair? It’s un-fucking-American is what it is. I don’t want you to apologize for being rich; I want you to acknowledge that in America, we all should have to pay our fair share. That our civics classes never taught us that being American means that-- sorry, kiddies-- you’re on your own. That those who have received much must be obligated to pay-- not to give, not to “cut a check and shut up,” in Governor Christie’s words, but to pay-- in the same proportion. That’s called stepping up and not whining about it. That’s called patriotism, a word the Tea Partiers love to throw around as long as it doesn’t cost their beloved rich folks any money.

This has to happen if America is to remain strong and true to its ideals. It’s a practical necessity and a moral imperative. Last year during the Occupy movement, the conservatives who oppose tax equality saw the first real ripples of discontent. Their response was either Marie Antoinette (“Let them eat cake”) or Ebenezer Scrooge (“Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?”). Short-sighted, gentlemen. Very short-sighted. If this situation isn’t fairly addressed, last year’s protests will just be the beginning. Scrooge changed his tune after the ghosts visited him. Marie Antoinette, on the other hand, lost her head.

Meanwhile... there is this-- no matter how far from perfect Obama has been:

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At 10:34 AM, Blogger Pats said...

I definitely agree with King's point on charity vs supporting the government. I work in a church, and we always know when it's the end of the month, because of DOZENS of calls we get from people who are out of money, can't pay the light bill, don't have any food. We once asked a few why they were calling us instead of social services. They have told us that the (government-funded) services told them they were out of money and they should get out a phone book and start calling the churches. Our problem is, we don't have the resources to evaluate whether we are dealing with people who are truly in need, or scammers. Oh, and the fact that we can barely pay our own bills, but that's another topic.

I know there will always be scammers. But if we as a nation were doing a better job at helping people help themselves, we wouldn't be seeing so much of this. Paying our fair share in taxes helps do this more than a donation to a private charity.


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