Monday, October 16, 2006

Rhymes With Hobbyist

It’s just so much fun to watch the big-time as well as the small-fry congressmen try to keep from drowning just three weeks before elections. They’re all in the water, flailing away to stay afloat. Sharks are circling, but Jack Abramoff’s in the boat and they're all afraid to climb in with him.

Jackabramoff2_1
It’s just so much fun to watch the big-time as well as the small-fry congressmen try to keep from drowning just three weeks before elections. They’re all in the water, flailing away to stay afloat. Sharks are circling, but Jack Abramoff’s in the boat and they're all afraid to climb in with him.
But sharks are circling, man. Damn, if only the election was over, their seat secure and they could just go back to the way it was—all that nice, comfy money. The papers and TV keep talking about ‘disgraced lobbyist, Jack Abramoff’ as though he was something unusual.
Abramoff’s disgrace was getting caught. Then the sonofabitch plea bargained. Some 35,000 lobbyists in Washington haven’t yet been caught. But, like my old daddy used to say, “you run with dogs, you get fleas” and Washington is alive with the itch.
According to a guy by the name of Evan Tracey, who keeps a pro's eye on political commercials, "lobbyists and special interests are the biggest bogeymen of this election." Which is kind of a chuckle and shows just how selectively puritan this country has come to be.
The dictionary defines ‘puritan’ as
‘a person excessively concerned about propriety and decorum, adhering to strict religious principles; opposed to sensual pleasures.’
Man, it’s a sensual pleasure just to read that. But the point is that wrecking our country’s reputation as a fair-minded place where people can do well on their ability doesn’t seem to offend puritans.
Nor are puritans at all put off by neocons setting up the rich to get richer and the poor poorer—as long as the rich don’t have too many sensual pleasures. I’m not sure what you think. I have a hunch the rich get more sensual pleasure on almost any mundane afternoon of the week than most of us do in a year, but that’s just my take.
Jackabramoffgolf But the puritan voter out there, the guy whose ancestors burned witches, is all-a-tremble come this November. And he’s the guy all these neo-conservatives are worried about because witch burners are such a broad Republican constituency. Puritanism is very upset about skyboxes, hookers, $200 dinners, private jets and golfing outside the country. Propriety and decorum are simply not to be had playing golf in a foreign land.
And I understand that. But we have to be careful about terms, thoughtful about the language we use when we are close to throwing out babies with bath waters.
Lobbyists are essential to government—not only government ‘as we know it,’ but any reasonable kind of government at all. Who can possibly know all the sides of the myriad issues that come before our learned legislators? When the Senate passed Bush’s torture bill in its closing moments before rushing home to deny lobbyist influence, not more than five Senators had even read it.
Repbobgoodlatte If they can’t take the time to read wording within legislation affecting our constitutional rights and the security of our nation, how are they supposed to thoughtfully balance each side of arguments affecting schools? Most of them weren't all that good in school. Or maybe the wind-farms Teddy doesn't want near his Cape Cod hangout. Could even be something as slippery as the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, that Rep. Bob Goodlatte slipped into the Port Security Bill like a switch-blade between the ribs for his Indian friends.
Goodlatte is not the lobbyist for Starbucks, though he may well be should he lose at the polls.
Behind this gentle poking of fun at our sweating politicians, is the true fact that we need lobbyists and they serve a purpose in bringing both sides of important issues before our elected officials. In many cases, they write legislation and there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that. They are educated men who can write as well as think and most of the ethically-impaired in Washington (who vote on these issues) are hard pressed to keep their tee-times straight.
Lobbyists are necessary and occasionally even good.
The problem comes when, like oil and water, lobbyists and money are mixed. Lobbyists and money (shaken not stirred) poured down the dry throats of desperate legislators, are a very bad idea. It stuns me that Goodlatte can so cavalierly slip us an Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act and the entire (admittedly distracted) peer-group of his 434 co-conspirators can’t devise a simple Unlawful Lobbyist Payoff Enforcement Act.
Repbobney2_1 When I mention desperate legislators, they have been made desperate by the costs of re-election. Out of control. Spun out of control by confusing ‘free speech’ with paid speech.
Paid speech, in the form of airtime, is an arms race which primarily benefits the media, who haul off the booty every couple years. Incumbents benefit, only because those who would buy their vote are served by the efficiency of paying off the same man (or woman) and not having to learn a new name. But the benefit requires an unrelenting grab for money.
The downside is that the payees are bound to the payers like Ahab to Moby Dick. Once convinced you need to take money and that everybody's doing it, it gets easier.
Money Lobbyists like the system because it’s efficient and business always reveres efficiencies. Congressmen can’t kick the money habit because progress (a good chairmanship) in the Congress is tied to longevity, longevity is tied to (duh) re-election, re-election is tied to funding, funding is tied to the selling of votes and (finally) the selling of votes has become a way of life in United States government.
But the sharks are circling.
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What rhymes with hobbyist in the news;