Attack of the Blob: How Professional Democrats and Professional Republicans Ran America Into the Ground

This is a review of the new book by former Senate staffer and super-lobbyist Jeff Connaughton, Payoff: Why Wall Street Always Wins. The review is written by Matt Stoller, a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. You can r follow him on Twitter at @matthewstoller

There’s a slate of important books coming out by reformers this year on what it was like to fight, and lose, for better policy during the financial reform fight. Neil Barofsky talked about facing the administration and Wall Street in Bailout, Sheila Bair has written about her experience at the FDIC, and now former Senate chief of staff for reform Senate Ted Kaufman, Jeff Connaughton, has provided his own memoir. Connaughton is not a rube, and doesn’t pretend to be shocked by DC corruption. His whole career is an anomaly, an idealist turned corporate super-lobbyist in the 1990s turned unlikely reformer in 2009. As such, he is uniquely positioned to describe how our political leaders, and which political leaders, think and act.

One anecdote in his new book The Payoff: Why Wall Street Always Wins really gets at when the failsafe mechanisms for our financial system were in the midst of collapsing. The crisis of 2008 was when the dam broke, but the actual structural weaknesses appeared long before, in the 1970s, and accelerated in the 1990s. Connaughton was a player in both the period of accelerating weakness, in the 1990s, and in the collapse itself.

Throughout the book, Connaughton shows how the system was corrupted by ensuring that only voices within the establishment were heard. For instance, in 1995, Connaughton was a lawyer in the White House, and he and his colleagues had persuaded Bill Clinton to stand up to Wall Street by vetoing the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995.  This bill would make it harder to prosecute securities fraud when CEOs made positive statements about their own company while selling company stock. It would undercut SEC Chair Arthur Levitt, who was furious at the way Congress leveraged its appropriations power to challenge his agency’s ability to protect the capital markets. More importantly, it was Bill Clinton’s most significant and last attempt to stand up to the power of big finance. Senator Chris Dodd and then White House deputy Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles were carrying water for Wall Street in an attempt to loosen the ability to commit securities fraud, but Connaughton had managed to work the White House levers to go around them and get to Clinton himself. After the meeting where Clinton was persuaded to oppose the bill, Clinton saw Connaughton standing alone in the White House hallway. The President went up him, and revealed his unease at what he was about to do.

“You think I’m doing the right thing, don’t you?”

“Absolutely, Mr. President. You can’t undercut the Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission on a question of securities fraud.”

“Yeah, that’s right. And Levitt is an Establishment figure, right?”

“Yes, Mr. President, that’s right.”

Clinton, even in opposition to big finance, cowered before the opinions of the establishment. Of course, the stamp of approval from Levitt wasn’t enough. Senator Chris Dodd went to work. First, Dodd killed a Clinton endorsed Senate amendment put forward by Paul Sarbanes designed to remedy the problem, forcing Clinton to veto the whole bill. Dodd then went for an override. Connaughton implies that Clinton put the word out that he wouldn’t really mind if the override succeeded, and with that, the political opposition to the bill collapsed. Even Ted Kennedy voted for Dodd’s bill. And so another brick in the wall that had guarded against white collar fraud came down.

These kinds of stories, which are far less operatic than the petty office politics dressed up as high melodrama by Bob Woodward, help show in a powerful way the cowardice and methods of the politicians and bureaucrats in the 1990s who set the stage for the destruction of our democratic system. The author describes a system of influence-peddling, financial rewards for unethical behavior, and of weakness. But he also, and this is where the book shines, talks about the individuals who ran this system. Jeff Connaughton is as close as you’re going to get to the point person for the financial reform fight. A former Wall Street banker, super-lobbyist, Democratic establishment player, and most recently, chief of staff to ardent crusading Senator Ted Kaufman in 2009-2010, Connaughton was the consummate insider who made enormous sums of money selling his lobbying services and connections to corporate elites. But something snapped in him in 2009, and he began to build a more honest life for himself, turning his deep connections and expertise on the nexus between Wall Street and Washington into a fight for reform of capital markets.

There are three stories in this book. The first is that of Jeff Connaughton, the Professional Democrat. This is the story of how Connaughton went to Wall Street after college, sought to break into Joe Biden’s inner circle, became a member of the permanent political class in DC, and then a co-founder of one of the biggest and most important lobbying firms, earning fabulous riches in the process. This is a process he maintains happens to thousands of young people in DC, turning them from idealistic potential agents of change into ardent careerist bureaucrats seeking wealth and access. The second is the financial reform fight, how Connaughton worked in the Senate as chief of staff for Senator Ted Kaufman, the replacement for Joe Biden and as Arianna Huffington put it in 2010, an “accidental Senator” and leader for financial reform. The third can best be described as how Connaughton transitioned from the first to the second. That piece of the story is seemingly simple – Connaughton lost a bunch of money in the financial crisis, and then he realized that Joe Biden had been a total disloyal asshole to him for decades, and he was tired of faking a good relationship with Biden just to make money as a corporate lobbyist. He had lost his taste for the game – the excitement, the money, the corrupt culture of DC. Connaughton really lays into his former boss Biden throughout the book, and I’m actually surprised the press hasn’t picked up on his vicious characterization of the current Vice President. The telling of the true nature of this important relationship has its purpose – he was willing to endure it for decades because DC has a feudal order, with lords and serfs. Connaughton was a “Biden” guy, and his loyalty to the system that paid him meant he had to stomach rank public dishonesty about it. It’s an echo of the financial fraud on Wall Street, where banks must pretend to be solvent even when they know they aren’t.

While most people will focus on the financial reform fight, how Connaughton became a member in good standing of the professional class is actually the best part of the book. As a 19 year old college student in Alabama, he invited Joe Biden to speak before a political group he had founded. Biden gave an impressive speech, and then signed a personal note that said, in essence, stay in politics. Biden’s human touch inspired the impressionable Connaughton, giving him the sense that being in politics had meaning. Politics would be the animating force for Connaughton’s entire life. After being convinced that Biden would be the Kennedy of his era, Connaughton spent a good amount of effort trying to get employment with the Senator, but couldn’t. So after college, he elected to go to business school, and then a Wall Street firm. After six years, he finally got his chance to work for what he assumed would soon be the Biden White House. He joined Biden’s 1988 Presidential campaign as part of the fundraising team. He wrote a campaign manual on fundraising called “The Bible”, which explicitly limited all access to Biden to those who would give money and encourage others to raise money in an Obama campaign-like Amway-style operation. It worked, and the Biden campaign was swimming in cash (for the time, anyway). But Biden lost the race in a plagiarism scandal. Ted Kaufman, who was on the campaign, brought Connaughton back to DC as a Senate staffer for Biden.

The Senate was a strange and disillusioning place for Connaughton. Though quite skilled, Connaughton never quite penetrated Biden’s inner circle. The problem was, he and Biden just didn’t like each other: “In Alabama, I’d watch him train his charisma beam on people of all ages and, as far as I could tell, win them all over. In Washington, he would do the same thing with complete strangers, especially if there was any hint that they might be from Delaware. Yet, behind the scenes, Biden acted like an egomaniacal autocrat and apparently was determined to manage his staff through fear.” At one point, Connaughton was sitting in a meeting where the staff were trying to get headlines for Biden on the problem of crack-cocaine addiction, and Connaughton realized that they were already doing a hearing and a press conference a week on it. The meeting was strategizing for political gain, and irrelevant to good policy; it seemed like they were looking for nine different ways “of skinning a cat”.

Connaughton soon left and went to Stanford Law School, becoming a clerk with Judge Abner Mikva. As it turns out, Mikva was brought in to be Bill Clinton’s General Counsel, which meant Connaughton would have a shot at his lifelong dream – working in the White House. So Connaughton sought Biden’s help to encourage Mikva to bring him to the White House, seeking to cash in on the chips he thought he had acquired with fundraising and Senate staff work. But Biden refused to call and put in a good word. “This isn’t personal,” explained a Biden staffer. Biden just doesn’t like Mikva. “Biden is an equal opportunity disappointer.” Another former Biden staffer consoled him this way: “Jeff, the difference between Ted Kennedy, who has spent decades promoting his staff into government jobs, and Joe Biden, is Kennedy believes in force projection. Kennedy Democrats share an ideology. Biden is only about himself becoming President, he doesn’t care about force projection, so he never helps his former staff get jobs.” Biden repeatedly shows up in the book, usually to pull some stunt like refusing to thank someone for busting ass on his behalf , condescending to Connaughton on the transition team,or trying to back out of a fundraiser after giving his word he’d show up. Connaughton is also Biden’s biggest fundraiser throughout, from the mid-1990s to 2008, even though the two have a relationship based entirely on image – Connaughton gets to pretend he’s close with Biden, and Biden gets to treat Connaughton as an afterthought to whom unpleasant duties can be foisted. The telling of this relationship isn’t sour grapes, it is meant to evoke the sentiment of fraud, not the Wall Street version, but how it worked in DC. Finance and politics paralleled each other, really as parts of the same system, though the tools and institutions differed depending on the industry.

Eventually, Connaughton makes it into the White House without Biden’s help. This is unusual, because Connaughton recognizes the dynamic of DC – you are always someone’s “guy”, and he was Biden’s, whether he liked it or not. That’s how the establishment worked, and the establishment always won (and still does win). At the White House, Connaughton fought the good fight against Wall Street, but was overwhelmed by Clinton’s weakness and Dodd’s alliances with the big banks. And then he left, and joined a law firm where he began working with Jack Quinn, a Democratic super lobbyist.

As he writes, “When I started lobbying, I was 38 and had few assets; no house, a cheap car, and a four-figure bank account. I’d made modest salaries in government and spent all my Wall Street savings on law school. I’d stayed in Washington for reasons that had little to do with issues or ideology; for me it was now mainly about establishing a DC profile, making money, and helping Democrats beat Republicans.” He, Quinn, and Ed Gillespie formed a powerhouse firm Quinn Gillespie, which was well positioned going into the 2000 election. Republicans and Democrats at the firm joked that they were all “members of the green party”. His firm’s motto was “we don’t lose sleep on election nights.”  And because of Gillespie’s role in the Bush recount team, “a Bush presidency wasn’t my preference for the country, but it was great for our firm.”

This is a great part of the book, where Connaughton explains the wider circle of influence. “Professional Democrats are not just lobbyists. The term applies to almost all Democrats in the legal, policy, foreign policy, and even national security worlds, each one of whom is trying to climb the greasy pole of power.” These well-paid bureaucrats pass from a public position to a private position, hoping that Team Blue or Team Red wins so they can increase their monetary and political value. But the status quo is paramount, and anything threatening that brings the two teams together (as does, well, cash). This dynamic is well-covered by sociologist Janine Wedel’s Shadow Elite as a core element of corrupt economic organizations, this is a narrative documentation of it.

At Quinn Gillespie, Connaughton (a minor partner) helped design the modern corporate lobbying campaign. During the 1990s, corporate money spent on influence and campaigns tripled, and the culture changed. Quinn Gillespie led this change – the firm’s employees were early adopters of Blackberries, and the firm moved away from hourly billing to a compensation structure modeled on the financial services industry. Rather than lobbying being a spinoff of a large white shoe law firm, or the result of a key relationship between a former official and Committee chairs (like the original super lobbyist Tommy Corcoran), lobbying would now become about manipulating the press, implementing a grassroots campaign, and aggressive full-blanket coverage of Capitol Hill and the agencies. He described how the Banking Committee worked in this ecosystem – staffers close to Dodd and Shelby would leak tidbits to friendly lobbyists, who would relay them to clients. These clients would use the Financial Services Roundtable as a clearinghouse for this info, and it would circulate back out to the entire nexus of lobbying. Other staffers, even other Senators, would have no idea how to even find out what was in a bill, but K Street would have copies of it circulated and analyzed within a few hours.

The seedy anecdotes he details in this book are useful. He reminds me of scandals I had forgotten, like Hillary Clinton’s brother Hugh Rodham being paid $200,000 and securing pardons for two felons in the waning days of the Clinton administration. The narrative also throws the impeachment of Clinton into a new light, and gives the reader a glimpse of the rise of cable news as a vehicle for intra-elite dialogue. During that period, Quinn Gillespie supplied multiple surrogates to cable news to rebut the arguments put forward by Republicans. These surrogates included Jack Quinn, and then Connaughton himself. Connaughton was particularly skilled at this, and became a regular on the cable news circuit. His presence on TV generated accolades from friends, clients, and Republican colleagues. Impeachment was good for business, a sales opportunity. Over the course of the next ten years, from 1998 to 2008, Connaughton marinated in the world of DC, raising large sums of money for Joe Biden, working on behalf of corporate interests, helping Democrats get elected, and becoming a very wealthy man.

Then came the crisis, when Connaughton jumped from lobbying back into government, returning to his career as a reformer who wanted a strong public response to the crisis. In 2009, After Biden became VP, Biden’s former chief of staff Ted Kaufman was appointed to the Senate to fill the empty seate. Kaufman offered Connaughton  a deal – become chief of staff, and they would spend two years doing their best to make a difference. Kaufman wouldn’t run for office, wouldn’t raise a dime in campaign contributions. Connaughton was already a millionaire, so the revolving door wasn’t particularly appealing to him any more. As with Barofsky’s path in SIGTARP or Elizabeth Warren’s at the Congressional Oversight Panel (and to some extent Alan Grayson’s work on auditing the Fed in the House), the circumstances were unusual enough to allow some genuine power to be exercised from the inside on behalf of the public interest.

Of course, we know what happened during the reform fight. The details Connaughton provides add to our understanding of how reform was undermined by various Senators and most importantly, the administration and Senator Chris Dodd. Kaufman starts out as a Senator excited to have the Bush administration gone, and having a high opinion of Geithner and the Rubinites. Connaughton, having been a high powered lobbyist and with a bit more of a real politick bent, knew this was nonsense from the get-go. Kaufman was disabused quickly. His first bill was to authorize a task force investigating criminality central to the crisis. It passed, with accolades for all involved, especially a freshman Senator who had hit the ground running.

Kaufman and Connaughton were excited that the bill passed, but soon noticed some problems. Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, who had voted for the bill, was in charge of allocating the money for the new task force. And her staff simply refused to fund it. A high profile bill touting an upcoming criminal investigation was thus effectively turned into a press release. Connaughton was also hearing rumors from his long career in Democratic politics about Rahm Emanuel, “Two sources were telling me that Christine Varney, the assistant attorney general for the Antitrust Division, were complaining to friends that Rahm Emanuel, then White House chief of staff, had sent her a message: in effect, throttle back on antitrust enforcement, because the top priority is economic recovery. I was concerned that Attorney General Holder had gotten the same message about investigating Wall Street crime.”

The administration had a policy of not prosecuting, but Kaufman didn’t realize this until it was too late. They picked up clues early. Connaugton recalled a presentation by FBI official Kevin Perkins, who unveiled an “impressive” matrix of FBI investigations – but all of the targets were mortgage brokers and small timers, and there were no Wall Street banks on the list. At one point, they heard from the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, the office that had the resources to tackle Wall Street crime. His office’s main focus, he said, was cybercrime. Despite this, and that the SECs head of enforcement Robert Khuzumi continually brushed off Kaufman’s inquiries and oversight questions, Kaufman continued to defend him throughout his two years in office. Towards the end of his term, Kaufman was able to hold oversight hearings about prosecutions, but it was too late.

This dynamic of obfuscation and dishonesty in the process reappeared constantly and frustrated efforts at fixing the system. During the fight over the reform bill itself, Connaughton encountered what he called “The Blob”, a network of bank regulators, staffers, lobbyists, think tank denizens, and corporate officers who worked together to undermine efforts at reform [using a cover of partisanship]. At one point, he and Kaufman began criticizing the SEC for not ensuring that the short-selling process had effective rules to protect investors. A financial services lobbyist and former Dodd staffer threatened Connaughton, telling him it would be bad for his career if he kept going after short-selling. The two of them found the same problem in their attempt to deal with high frequency trading, where trading firms would use a variety of tricks and traps to squeeze pennies from investors and circumvent traditional stability enhancing rules for the equity markets. Largely ignored until the flash crash, Connaughton and Kaufman developed credibility on financial reform when the Dow inexplicably dropped by 1000 points in a few minutes. But the Blob was there, fighting against HFT reforms and aggressively seeking to weaken Dodd-Frank.

The Blob was aided in their efforts by the Obama administration and Chris Dodd. Dodd had insisted that the final bill would need to be as bipartisan as possible. This was, Connaughton notes, a cynical ruse to make the bill as weak as possible by claiming it needed to get GOP votes. The negotiating over the particulars of the bill were telling – Kaufman and Connaughton could get no info on what was happening behind Dodd’s closed door. Connaughton called his former lobbying partner, Jack Quinn, to vent about the secrecy of the process. Quinn was surprised, and said “I just spent 45 minutes with Dodd yesterday.” Wall Street, unsurprisingly, was writing the bill.

Eventually, Kaufman cracked the process open. He began blasting Dodd-Frank publicly, on the floor of the Senate. Dodd, miffed, called and asked him to stop saying bad things about the bill. Other Senators then got involved. Carl Levin and Jeff Merkley proposed the Volcker rule, which would crack down on prop trading by banks. Blanche Lincoln, in a cynical move to deal with a left-wing primary, got aggressive on derivatives reform. And of course, Sherrod Brown and Ted Kaufman proposed Brown-Kaufman, an amendment that would break up the biggest banks. This amendment struck at the heart of the financial crisis, proposing a genuine structural change in the banking system.

The reaction of different Senators and administration officials to the bill, and to the Brown-Kauman amendment specifically, was telling. Harry Reid wouldn’t talk Wall Street reform even though he knew that blasting Wall Street was a vote getter, because Wall Street was bankrolling his 2010 campaign. The cynical Senator and Democratic whip, Dick Durbin, noted that “the banks own the place” but then said that breaking up the banks was going “a bridge too far.” Durbin even said to Kaufman at one point, “Jamie Dimon asked me to tell you ‘it was the small banks that failed'”. Tim Geithner said the administration would deal with Too Big To Fail Banks at Basil, through capital requirements negotiated at the international level. Republican Banking Ranking Member Richard Shelby assented to all of Dodd’s unanimous consent requests because he knew that Dodd wanted the weakest bill imaginable. And though newly elected Senator Scott Brown wanted to punch a hole through the Volcker rule, the Obama administration actually wanted a bigger loophole than Scott Brown did for proprietary investments by banks.

My favorite Senatorial reaction was from Dianne Feinstein. Dodd, knowing Brown-Kaufman was gaining strength but didn’t yet have enough votes to pass, called a snap vote. Connaughton wrote about the vote that “no one could confuse the issue, or so I thought. But, just before voting, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) – one of the most liberal members of the Senate — asked Durbin, the majority whip, “What’s this amendment?” According to Durbin, who later told Ted, he replied, “To break up the banks.” Giving the thumbs-down sign, Feinstein said bemusedly: “This is still America, isn’t it?”

Connaughton and Kaufman fought, as aggressively as they could, for two years. And Connaughton is clear-eyed about what happened. They had accomplished very little, and his career in Democratic politics and on Wall Street was over. As he put it in the conclusion of the book, “In Washington, as a Professional Democrat, I could count on the corporate marketplace to play me for the value I provided in access, insights, strategy, influence, hard work and – most especially – results. In politics, the box comes with no guarantee. When I finally opened mine, it was empty.” The corporate world pays for results, the political world is simply about the random luck you have in working for a Joe Biden who isn’t a disloyal asshole. Wall Street and the K-Street empire it supports, in other words, is reliable. The electoral world isn’t.

Most books on politics with a polemical edge end with some sort of uplifting narrative. The narrative goes, here’s this insurmountable terrible problem, but we can fix it, somehow, somewhere. The Payoff is not like that. At a certain point, Kaufman suggested that the two of them start a nonprofit to continue their reform fight, but Connaughton turns him down and leaves to live a different kind of life in Georgia. He has no illusions about the power of Wall Street and the political system. It isn’t fixable within the current model. Nonprofits are outgunned, political money is too powerful, and the careerist allure Professional Democrats and Professional Republicans is overwhelming. He has no solutions, just his own witnessing of how the people who rule us think and act when we’re not in the room.

Connaughton is going to pay a heavy price for this book, and for his reform-minded behavior in the last three years. He told stories that you aren’t supposed to tell, gives away open secrets that should remain circulating only among insiders. He blew up his connections in the world of politics, burned all his insider bridges. I don’t quite know why he wrote this book – though the book itself is deeply pessimistic, the act of writing is in and of itself an act laden with hope. I don’t think Connaughton necessarily included his real motivations in the book. It’s not as if he says that he met a victim of his earlier career, and realized what he had done. Perhaps he lost a bunch of his wealth in the crash, which opened his eyes to the mirage of what wealth was. Then, he was a helper on Biden’s transition team, but was kicked off because he was a lobbyist who had raised Biden money. It seems actually that his turn was completed because he realized that the relationship with Joe Biden, the man who had inspired his life’s work – was based on fraud, narcissism, and transactional dishonesty. And the timing of Ted Kaufman’s ascension to the Senate was the final kicker.

Sometimes, circumstances and a conscience can intrude at opportune moments. It seems like that’s what happened with Connaughton and his remarkable last two years. And now, he has quit the game, with this book — and perhaps “The Blob”, which may join the vernacular – as his legacy. He tried his best for two years, and it wasn’t enough. The fight is over, and the bad guys won. It’s a sad conclusion for someone like Connaughton, and for all those who fought the good fight over the last four years. But it’s hard to argue he’s wrong.

 

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About Matt Stoller

From 2011-2012, Matt was a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. He contributed to Politico, Alternet, Salon, The Nation and Reuters, focusing on the intersection of foreclosures, the financial system, and political corruption. In 2012, he starred in “Brand X with Russell Brand” on the FX network, and was a writer and consultant for the show. He has also produced for MSNBC’s The Dylan Ratigan Show. From 2009-2010, he worked as Senior Policy Advisor for Congressman Alan Grayson. You can follow him on Twitter at @matthewstoller.

83 comments

  1. Capo Regime

    Its refreshing to read something insightful and does not contain the usual Democrat better than Republican or vis versa nonsense…..Ah NC a point of light….

    Now I wonder if the partisan trolls will now leap into action….

    1. bmeisen

      Citizen registration is the silver scalpel that will castrate partisan trolls from both parties and their anti-democratic 2-party oligopoly. We don’t have to re-write the Constitution. We need to be forced to register at city hall every time we move. This one-time act would eliminate the balkanization that currently inhibits efficient government as it enables party hacks to manipulate voter registration and election results. Imagine going to one office, providing your name, birthdate, nationality, and address and being automatically registered to vote, registered for schools for your kids, registered for municipal services, for drivers licenses. It would be the beginning of the end of the GOP and Dems controlling and undermining American democracy. Of course citizen registration is un-American. Upload your family tree to Facebook but don’t tell city hall where you live, when you were born, what your nationality is.

      1. Eureka Springs

        WHile I have no problem with points of automatic registration. I have problems will mandates to register.

        I also think you miss far too much of the history, design and intent of the constitution. Additionally the original is simply dated on so many levels. This country needs a better template a renewed statement of who we are. We need a new constitution desperately. This time it should be open to and debated by the public… the people should approve it / or not. Not the aristocrats who penned it in secret.

        The whole occupy/end corporate personhood, citizens united, what it takes (the aristocrats, not the people) to amend the constitution alone justifies a the need for a new constitution to me.

        http://cyberjournal.org/authors/fresia/

        A wonderful book on this is available for free online. Read just the first few chapters when you have a chance if for the purpose of nothing more than a refresher.

        1. bmeisen

          Your “Go OWS but distrust representative democracy” is widespead thesedays. It is IMO deeply flawed. Representative democracy is not the enemy – direct democracy, as demonstrated repeatedly in California and elsewhere, is broadly untenable. Reducing governmental hierarchies is a red herring – the People are never closer to power than in a dictatorship. The core issue for the USA is that its 2-party oligarchy, the “greatest democracy in the world,” is terminally unique. You seem to not get my take on the Constitution: indeed it needs to be re-written. Instead of re-writing the Constitution I’m suggesting what may appear to be a trivial change, mandatory registration, that I believe would lead to deep change, namely the non-revolutionary dismantling of the 2-party oligarchy.

          1. nikhil

            Hi,

            Can you explain this statement a litle more?

            “the People are never closer to power than in a dictatorship.”

            I have never heard this sentiment and find it fascinating. What do you mean by it/could you speak about it a little more?

            Thanks

          2. Bev

            http://www.democracynow.org/blog/2012/9/28/third_party_candidates_to_join_in_real_time_on_democracy_now_s_live_coverage_of_first_pres_debate

            Third Party Candidates Join in Real Time on Democracy Now!’s Live Coverage of Presidential Debate
            Elections_2012

            As President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney square off in their first debate tonight, Democracy Now! will broadcast live from Denver with a special expanded presidential debate from 8:30 to 11:30 p.m. ET. We will air the Obama/Romney debate, pausing after questions to include equal time responses from two presidential contenders who were shut out of the official debate: Jill Stein of the Green Party and Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party.

            Stream our special 3-hour show on the Democracy Now! livestream or tune in on television on Link TV (DISH Network Channel 9410 or DirecTV Channel 375) or on Free Speech TV (DISH Network Channel 9415 or DirecTV Channel 348).

            Click here to see all of our coverage of Election 2012.

            Join the discussion on our Facebook page, on Google+ or on Twitter #ExpandTheDebate.

            Watch our interview with Rocky Anderson, former mayor of Salt Lake City, when he announced his presidential campaign in December.

          3. bmeisen

            @nikhil

            Dictators nullify layers of governmental bureaucracy by dismissing legislatures. They claim to offer the People direct access to power and initially the People believe them. Their absurdly simplified model of political decision making is appealing: the People communicate their needs and wants directly to the decision-making instance or alternatively the Leader by virtue of profound closeness with the People intuitively knows what they want and need. There are just 2 layers of governing bureaucracy. Of course in reality there is an apparat that ultimately terrorizes the People and imposes policies that allow the Leader and her friends to amass wealth. This apparat however is theoretically not present. See Carl Schmitt, Die Diktatur von den Anfängen des modernen Souveränitätsgedanken bis zum proletarische Klassenkampf. Berlin 1994.

      2. Brian M

        I disagree. To paraphrase The Carlin (RIP), my favorite cynic “Politicians come from American homes and American churches and American families and run American businesses. Maybe it’s not the politicians who are to blame…Maybe it is the people.”

        1. Carol Sterritt

          There is a certain Truth to that. All around me I see people who are proud to be pragmatic. Obama is not who they would vote for in an ideal world, but hey, at least under him, women will still have contraception.

          Never mind that Obama is continuing the endless wars, the bloated military, or even how it was his Secretary of State who wanted the XL pipeline. (Although boy, is she ever relieved she can oppose it now that there are more than enough Republicans in the House and Senate to ensure it goes through.) My friends don’t want Monsanto Frankenfoods, but they “realize” Monsanto is favored by the Republicans. (Not even a true meme- look at the Presdient’s appointments of Mike Taylor and Valsick to see how Obama guaranteed that Monsanto would prevail.) And most of the people I know have no concept of what the banks did to our country – they really believe that too many poor people bought homes they couldn’t afford.

          The leaked recording of Ryan and Bill Clinton back in May, where both men are agreeing that Social Security has to be pilfered, is yet another nail in the coffin for the middle class. America, you once were a great place to live. Now you make a lot less sense than many totalitarian nations.

          1. ZygmuntFraud

            Why not keep tabs (more accurately, anywhere from a “dossier” to a filing cabinet up to a library) on significant professional politicians?

            It takes disinterest in money and power to do this well. There are some out there (like Lambert Strether, Matt Stoller, Yves Smith or Bev on Voting, Amy Goodman or Bill Black) who form a backbone of informed, intelligent and savvy down-to-earth commentators. I think critiquing is good. It’s used in adversarial court proceedings under criminal and penal procedures. Perhaps a better critiquing is one where one accepts that one doesn’t know all, and therefore one is open to yield ground, if it makes sense. This is firmly based in empiricism. Some preferences are “gouts et couleurs”, like “chocolate or vanilla ice-cream”. To the extent that they’re small potatoes, these can be put to the last page of the agenda.

      3. Capo Regime

        What the… does this have to do with anything? Register at City hall and viola magic. Yes whatever dude.

        1. bmeisen

          How many eligible voters are there in the US? Nobody knows for sure! Because the voting lists are assembled shortly before the vote using the names of those who have been motivated enough to go down to the voter registration office which is often enough in an outhouse south of the intersection of routes 37 and 492. And who assembles the voting lists? The voting commissioner who is either a good Dem or a good Rep.

      4. Another Gordon

        That is, in essence, how it works in Britain exceept it’s done mainly by mail (there is now an online option) every September/October and minimal information about individuals is involved. The whole process is managed by non-partisan officials.

        I find it incomprehensible that assembling the voting roll in the US is done by political activists.

    2. Leviathan

      Yes, I agree it is a good review, but could have been a wee bit pithier IMO. Condense, condense, condense!

      1. jake chase

        It makes me feel I have already read the book. I suppose this ex lobbyist now feels better for writing it, but why do people feel more enlightened after engorging on the details of a transparently obvious racket? Can anybody watch Joe Biden and believe he is anything but a cr*ep? I could be more vituperative but am inhibited by mo*era*ion.

        If only there were some way to exile the Washington cesspool to outer space, en masse. Robespierre probably had the right idea.

  2. Clive

    Finally got to the end of that lot, definitely needed a nice cup of tea and a biscuit to get through it, but it was worth it.

    Can’t add much to the narrative Matt Stoller created above except perhaps that, when you’re confronted by a problem that simply doesn’t have any easy answers, sometimes merely saying “this problem cannot be fixed” IS actually a solution. Of sorts.

    1. Art Eclectic

      Utimately, the problem is human beings. There is no system designed yet that can withstand greed, ego, manipulation, seduction and the desire for power. There is no fixing the system because there is no fixing the flaws of humans. Any system designed will be overcome.

      1. citalopram

        Sing it again, Sam.

        All systems have flaws. There is no silver bullet (unless it’s the 12 in your fridge).

          1. citalopram

            Your nitpicking doesn’t offend me. I strive to be accurate, and when I’m not I don’t mind being called out.

      2. Jill

        Art Eclectic,

        I hear this a lot. But it never rings true. A study of history and cultures shows us that human beings are defined differently by each society. There is not really a “human nature”. If that was true, there would be no need to force conformity down our throats. We would just be all a certain way and no society would need to monitor or punish anyone for deviating from cultural norms.

        Humans actually survive by being cooperative. Even people within this ultra competitive society don’t do well apart from the help of others. This society is a death cult. But it does not have to be that way. It may be too late to change into a society that values life-life of the earth and its many creatures. But we have nothing to lose by choosing to try. Without tryin, the outcome is assurred.

        1. ZygmuntFraud

          Another take on this is that every child is in some sense “indoctrinated” into whatever culture exits in the ambient milieu. I know this from the Thais’s abhorrence of having a foot pointed at them (I wasn’t indoctrinated in Thai culture).

      3. Eric Patton

        This is not true. There’s participatory economics, which the coordinator-class left will not discuss.

        1. JTFaraday

          “Participatory economics” is what this post on the Wall Street-DC career nexus is all about.

          1. JTFaraday

            “Actually, parecon is a technical term referring to a specific economic theory…”

            Well, thank you for filling me in.

            I don’t think we’re going to do very well in a participatory anything if we can’t communicate.

            That we can’t communicate very well suggests to me that your theoretical economy, which is significantly more complex than the participatory politics you’d need as a prior condition, is a bit out of reach.

            ie, at least 2 removes from where we appear to be, in communication breakdown.

  3. ScottW

    Excellent review. Almost too good as I am not sure I now need to read the book. Reality most often sucks and it sounds as if this book is full of it. Should I give it to my twenty year old to read, or just let him find out for himself? The game is fixed, we supposedly all know it, but most of us don’t have the stomach to do much about it. As my son often says, “How have you changed anything with all of your complaining?”

  4. Jill

    Laying out the truth gives us the best chance we have to actually make change for the better. I don’t know if that can happen at this point, but I and many others need all the understanding of what is really going on that we can get.

    If we are always working form incorrect understanding of what we face, we are unlikely to get anywhere. So I will read this book and talk with others about it.

  5. Cheyenne

    Thanks so much, Matt, for that thoroughly depressing review. It confirms, in lurid detail, my worst suspicions about our one-party system and the cynical sham that is left-right politics. It also makes me think that real reform, if not impossible altogether, will not occur until after the house of cards (“banks must pretend to be solvent even when they know they aren’t”) collapses.

    But I wonder what your view on that is.

  6. grayslady

    Neil Barofsky, at the end of his book, “Bailout”, said that he wrote the book because he was angry at what he saw in D.C. and hoped the book would help others to be angry, too; and that maybe, if enough people finally became really angry , things would change. Perhaps that’s the same reason Connaughton wrote his book.

  7. RT

    In short: He was part of the fraud machinery providing him with a fabulous fortune not least by selling political influence to corporations, then things went awry (like all fraudulent systems do at some point), and, oops, he himself was hit by some financial loss, plus, oops, he suddenly found himself betrayed by the one he once admired. And he quit. And now he’s trying to sell the details of that story to the public, again for profit.

    To me, that’s not convincing at all. Well, I do appreciate that some insiders start telling us about how the inside looks like. But he could’ve used, for instance, his blog to tell that story for everyone – on which expenses (say, taxes) he once lived – to read for free. Now cashing in on that ugly story again? Nope. First making profits from being part of it, then profiting from dissenting? Being in need of making a new living? I just don’t believe that he’d lost all his fortune he made, his “price” only being ousted from that game he’s now critizing after being hit personally. I seriously doubt that he would’ve made that move without him being hit by the system he served so well. That’s why I’m not going to buy it. Therefore, many thanks for summarizing at considerable length and detail that memoir freely and openly here for everyone to read and to get an idea about the contents. That’s a truly convincing and admirable communal service – and enough in regard to this book, I think.

    1. Anon

      I have heard the “well they made theirs and now they speak up” criticism before. The important point would seem to be that more and more of the former insiders are speaking out against the current system as being untenable which adds strength to the argument.

    2. pebird

      I would rather hear from someone who worked the system, was successful at it, got damaged and had the courage to speak out than someone who never dared to take a chance and spouts opinions from over the fence.

  8. chuck roast

    One of the most concise political pieces on our political/institutional Mafiosi that I have ever read on the web. Having worked in DC for a number of years on the margins of “The Blob”, I believe every word of it. Call it cynical if you like, but I prefer to call it reality.
    Thanks.

    1. readerOfTeaLeaves

      Indeed. If nothing else, Connaughton and Barofsky seem to have liberated themselves from a web of lies. That is no small thing.

  9. Ms G

    Lambert had a link about this book weeks ago — with a most memorable highlight on the link — some Establishment Prog scolding the author about straying off the party-track with a line about how “we all wear blue jerseys.” Connaughton deserves kudos for bringing these two details to broad public attention (if anyone’s paying attention, that is)!

    1. Ms G

      I found Lambert’s link from September to an early review of Connaughton’s book, complete with L’s excellent note. The “blue jerseys” dialogue is reproduced in the linked review and is definitely worth a click-through.

      Legacy parties. Jerseys: “‘Remember,’ he said. ‘We all wear blue jerseys and play for the Blue Team.’” I’ve been using the jersey as a metaphor for tribalism for years. But I didn’t know insiders used it, too.

  10. JTFaraday

    “the difference between Ted Kennedy, who has spent decades promoting his staff into government jobs, and Joe Biden, is Kennedy believes in force projection. Kennedy Democrats share an ideology.

    Biden is only about himself becoming President, he doesn’t care about force projection, so he never helps his former staff get jobs.”

    Sounds counterproductive to me. And, as it happens, Professor Gaffe never did become President.

  11. JEHR

    Finally, here is someone who is not afraid to name names. Imagine that: the guy who is writing the bill to reform the financial system wants the bill to fail!

    We really have to create more and bigger circles of suffering in Dante’s Inferno to hold this lot!

    1. JTFaraday

      With the inner circle surrounding Satan Himself already holding The Treacherous, I would say we have that covered.

      1. Harry Johnson

        The section of the circle containing the flatterers has the most appropriate punishment for our political and corporate class.

        1. JTFaraday

          Indeed. I have been trying to get tenured academics to clean the public restrooms on campus ever since I read Nancy Fraser on the need to break down the divisions of labor in the name Justice.

          I have a notable record of failure behind me already, and they’re dirtier than ever.

  12. Susan the other

    Thanks Matt for the in depth review. It’s a story we know well even without a book. Socializing losses and saying in its defense, “This is still America!” The Blob is so entitled they think they are patriotic. So very bizarre; very Paul Ryan. The great truth is that we, the rest of us, are the only strength they have. They need us. We do not need them. Someday we will organize our awesome power, probably we’ll soon reach a threshold of such massive national dysfunction we’ll all just do what Connaughton did. We’ll shun the whole filthy system.

    1. Phichibe

      I couldn’t resist adding this:

      ” ‘Course I’m respectable. I’m old. Politicians, ugly buildings, and whores all get respectable if they last long enough.” (ibid)

      P

  13. Lambert Strether

    To me, this is the key takeaway:

    [T]hough the book itself is deeply pessimistic, the act of writing is in and of itself an act laden with hope.

    The endless triumphalism of the smiling faces on TV seems inevitable.

    Until it’s not.

  14. justjokes

    Goliath worked on all sides of Washington and the Lobbying industry, creatively found plenty of solutions to write in his LOBBYING “BIBLE”, but now has no solutions.

    Sounds like the new attack method of the lobbyist: write about how it’s a hopeless case with “no solution” in order to intimidate and dishearten reformers and the public.

  15. Waking Up

    In the future when we take a historical perspective looking at actions, not simply the words of presidents, former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, along with current president Barrack Obama will be viewed harshly.

    When a realistic assessment is made of President Obama, we will see that his administration was one of the most (if not THE MOST) corrupt, warmongering, and destructive to the Constitution of the United States (along with that to our civil liberties). That is, if we as a country can even survive the corruption from “the Blob” instead of imploding and can finally stop the sociopaths who comprise “the Blob”.

  16. Cynthia

    Liberals are their own worst enemy. They thwart progressive action and continuously accept the worst of compromises. Take Obama’s health care reform–liberals accepted Obama’s back room deals with drug and insurance companies and didn’t support progressive efforts to keep single payer on the table. Liberals go along with Obama’s wars and drone policy, just as they did with Bush’s invasion on Iraq. The very few progressive voices in Congress are drowned out, not only by Republicans, but by too many “liberal” democrats. So, “if only” liberals would wake up and see that their “lesser of two evils” strategy still keeps evil in power–we might have a chance for change.

  17. steelhead23

    I simply wish to thank Yves for putting more book reviews out on NC – and Matt for this excellent review. It is very interesting to read a review of an insiders book, by an insider. However, as regards the sausage-making business, I am less and less secure that it even matters. That is, while Article 1 sets out Congressional authorities in clear language (e.g. declare war, raise money, appropriations, etc.), increasingly the U.S. president has been afforded ever-larger authorities – to the extent that this president has assumed the authority to murder American citizens with the merest veil of process, I am not aware of a single U.S. Representative who voiced such outrage. Thus, a part of the status quo appears to be dereliction of authority, or uncensored usurpation, allowed not for the good of the country, but political expediency. In the U.S., democracy is rapidly giving way to tyranny. That is what Connaughton’s book says to me.

    1. Ms G

      ” … is rapidly giving way to tyranny.” Or “… has given way to tyranny.” Currently still clothed in trappings of the old system, but rapidly shedding the costumes.

      1. ZygmuntFraud

        This is from listening to RT America, online around 6pm Wednesday.

        There was a ruling on Hedges et al v. ? by a woman judge at the lowest level of Federal Courts (the District level). She found in favor of Plaintiffs Hedges et el. and against the Government.

        What RT America reported, speaking to an Attorney, was that the Circuit Court (one level above District, one level below SCOTUS) had issued an order. This order is called a “stay”. A “stay” puts on a hold the application of the ruling by the District Court. Although Amy Goodman called this “reversed” Wednesday, I’m not sure that’s accurate, legally speaking. As the Attorney on RT Amrica said, this was “a procedural stay” : it bolcks immediate application of the District Court’s ruling.

        But, the Circuit Court hasn’t yet examined the case “on the merits”. Additionally, the Attorney said that the Circuit Court had ruled/decided to review the case on an expedited basis. That means that ruling on the merits (for this case) is prioritized, while other cases are not prioritized. So in the meantime, the detention provisions spelled out in NDAA of last year are still operative.

  18. mac

    This all sounds to me like what I have thought the system was like all my life.
    That has been quite while also, 76 years, I am not surprised.

  19. spacecabooie

    Thanks Matt. Any chance you hook up with Grayson again ?

    I would die for a similar accounting of the administration’s termination of the move in 2010 to reinstate Glass Steagal.

    My understanding is that the effort to reinstate had reached to within a single vote of success when the President, or wnother of the usual suspects, came down hard against it. Similarly with this years platform committee, which was meeting in the midst of recent cries from many places for its reiinstatement, even from, of all places, The City of London.

    Do you, Matt, have any insight into these blcoking efforts ? Or does Jeff mention it in The Blob ?

  20. Gil Gamesh

    More evidence of the utter subversion of democracy by wealth. Yet, fixing the political system, and that fix won’t be accomplished using the “legitimate”, approved channels, isn’t enough. There will be no democracy in this country until our malignant pluocrats are put in their place. And where is that place, you ask? Well…..

  21. John

    Reading this reminds me of the Morris Berman books on the decline and fall of America. He also offers no panacea.
    I really got Berman’s point when he said in an interview that while Eskimo’s have 20 words for snow and Arabic the about the same number for sand, the American variant of English has about 200 words for swindle.
    We live in a hustler nation, in it for the long con. Been that way since the start. And nothing will stop it short of collapse.

    1. Nathanael

      Well, it will have collapsed within 20 years — like all swindles, it’s gotten too big to survive — so let’s get ready to build something new atop the ashes.

  22. Kurt Sperry

    Thanks Matt for the well written synopsis. This story adds to the skyward growing evidence pile that the status quo is both irredeemably and unapologetically corrupt, that the two party system is more a cynical cooperative venture than an adversarial one, and that working within the system cannot substantively change it until the American culture assimilates the first two realities.

  23. Jim

    Matt’s wonderful review raises some important questions:

    What is the relationship between personality, culture, and power?

    Can there be a political movement to take power which is not about power?

    Do the anti-blob forces always end up following the same logic as the blob forces?

    If the process of socialization includes an understanding of how traditional power must operate can such socialization be not simply critiqued but also resisted?

    Are there any methodologies of resistance? Could or should such methodologies be part of an alternative political mobilization program?

    What would be the nature of cultural renewal in our present cultural situation?

    Are we talking about impulse control or impulse release?

    Does the progressive ideology offer any insights to cultural renewal?

    1. Al Foster

      Excellent questions. Too bad we won’t be hearing a one of them during tonight’s “debate.”

  24. emptyfull

    Thank you Matt! This is a deeply informative book review on the nature of “the blob” that I hope will be widely read in progressive circles (hey, maybe even by populist tea partiers who actually do hate “croney capitalism”).

    The thing that actually gives me hope here is that there ARE good people in D.C. who love this country enough to try push us in the right direction. Not saints, but people who maintain beating hearts and a sense of responsibility. Obama’s folks did indeed “save the system,” but it’s still creaking under the weight of all its corruption and hubris.

    This fight is far from over. Indeed, it’s just beginning.

    1. Waking Up

      Our financial “system” effects everyone in this country, including the homeless. Obama saved the corruption WITHIN the financial system through bailouts, programs designed to enrich the financial institutions, and a complete breakdown of judicial responsibilities. After all, in Obama’s world, Timothy Geithner, who was literally front and center of the financial crisis and part of the problem would become Secretary of the Treasury. CEO’s of financial institutions, which continue corrupt and fraudulent practices, are “savvy businessmen” according to Obama. He didn’t save the system, he saved the corruption within the system. Actually saving the system would have meant justice for the citizens of this country and going after corruption.

      1. emptyfull

        “He didn’t save the system, he saved the corruption within the system. Actually saving the system would have meant justice for the citizens of this country and going after corruption.”

        In the long-run, I agree. I, too, want an FDR-type to really save the system (through far-sighted, but inevitably imperfect reform). But I think it’s important to realize that such reform has never happened overnight. It took decades to win almost all the good fights in American history. Roosevelt had the power he did only because the Depression had almost entirely eroded the public legitimacy of the 1920s Wall St. – DC power network. And he built on the spirit of the old progressive trust busters.

        This time the Obama administration kept the old, battered monopoly board together with a lot of scotch tape — and yes this probably did prevent a much worse economic crash in the short term. The establishment game is thus still run by “the blob.” Clearly Obama prefers it that way.

        But notice this — Wall Street once again has lost a great deal of its soft power (its legitimacy) in much of America. And it is losing more every day (thanks Yves, Lambert, Stoller, Taibbi, et. al. for doing the heavy lifting on this!!!). So we need not despair. History has not ended yet!

        1. emptyfull

          PS, I also agree with your point about Obama’s identification with “savvy businessmen.” Obama catapulted to the hights of power in the game as currently played. He is clearly obsessed with being a “winner” (unlike his father perhaps?) and shares with Wall St. bigwigs a certain narcissism of “success.” So why would he voluntarily try to change the game?

  25. Aintnorep

    Well the scum always rises to the top as they say, and always will. But the triumph of Finance Capital over the last twenty five years, of which these guys were simply enablers, did not happen by accident.

    It was the only road open to Capital. The question for this decade will not be who are the new iniquitous enablers, but what happens when the road gets blocked.

  26. Paul Tioxon

    It is a personal history that speaks to the body politic. I guess I can now see how varied the NC community is, even though we have found common ground here, our backgrounds and current politics could not be more diversified. The corruption in DC is just that, but from my perspective, this is nothing new. And again, from my perspective, DC is NOT corrupted by money, power or false ideologies, and democracy and the republic ARE NOT the undermined victims. DC is a center of power networks, the dominant power being capital, it is the metropole of global capitalism. The United States of America remade the world into a new geopolitical order of United Nations. And the global order is in service to the our nation’s networks of power. It is not democracy that has been cynically played and undermined. It is democracy that has been swelling and crashing against the power in DC, trying to undermine the wealth and power and move wealth and power more into the public domain, widely dispersed with even handed management.

    Democracy is not much in comparison to the hereditary concentration of power built over the past American Century. AS I optimistically see it, democracy had a golden age up until the reactionary neo-liberal counter attack beginning in the 1970s and successfully prosecuted against democracy and widespread prosperity. But there has never really been that much democracy for most of the people most of time in terms of material benefits. The general welfare of the nation, the fruits of productive economic activity was always skewed towards a limited group, then slowly expanded out ward and now, is being retracted. Why? There seems no real reason other than people with power simply can, if they want to, and it seems with austerity, and debt panic, that they want to. Democracy has betrayed capitalism in their eyes, and needs to be overcome, worked around and the social order needs to be be maintained to the point of their wealth being secure from the political pressures that a rising democratic movement was bringing.

    I don’t feel bad that yet another history of power politics has made its way into the bright light of day for all to see. Most people I know and grew up with saw it that way anyway. Capitalism does not give up on overcoming its obstacles, its greatest now being democracy. I feel bad when people give up on using democracy to undermine capitalism. The problem has been pretty clearly stated, too much wealth in the hands of the 1%, as it has been more or less for most of history. If it was any other way, we wouldn’t be talking about democracy and capitalism, one or the other would be gone from the scene. We can’t have both. The power of the market as a pricing mechanism, can be put into service for the democratically controlled institutions of our social order, in the form of a new structure of political economy, where democracy is just an inherent, operation feature throughout. Or, something new will be installed, which will allow the power networks of the 1% to go on, once capitalism completely fails, where the social order is largely dominated and put into service to benefit that 1%. IT won’t be fascism, or capitalism, and democracy will only be really practiced for the those with something to make decisions about. The rest of us will linger on as a part of something that could prove to worse than anything previously imagined.

    1. enouf

      Did i just hear you say;

      “Markets not Capitalism”?

      Individualist anarchists believe in mutual exchange, not economic privilege. They believe in freed markets, not capitalism. They defend a distinctive response to the challenges of ending global capitalism and achieving social justice: eliminate the political privileges that prop up capitalists. [,,,]

      read much more Description here;
      http://bookstore.autonomedia.org/index.php?main_page=pubs_product_book_info&cPath=71&products_id=672

      If so, everyone interested please see one of the links below — the originating site: http://c4ss.org/ which i didn’t know about until i saw another post it here at NC some days back seems to have been a place i’ve been looking for–finally– (though not entirely certain yet), to hopefully amalgamate and homogenize my progressive, yet anarcho-* tendencies.

      We’ve come full circle folks, IMHO, the real left and right are almost able to touch fingers now.

      http://youtu.be/toatggE2T5I
      or
      http://www.porctherapy.com/audiobooks/mnc/

      Love

      p.s. BTW, awesome (pleasant) reading voice in both above

  27. Don Druid

    “The corporate world pays for results, the political world is simply about the random luck you have in working for a Joe Biden who isn’t a disloyal asshole.”

    Well. I think there was a time in this country when the political world hung together based, in part, on loyalty, before it was dismantled by the invasion of capital. Now, Senators of the same party barely talk to each other, as their time must be spent on a balance of P.R. and fundraising.

  28. Aquifer

    This a pretty good summary of where we are:

    http://finance.yahoo.com/blogs/breakout/wall-street-secretly-loves-obama-bleier-141915787.html

    The other little vignette that seems to summarize the situation is the little speech Harry Reid made when he was announcing the replacement of Terry McCauliffe by Howard Dean as head of the DNC – thanking McCauliffe for his service, Reid said that before McCauliffe the Dem party didn’t have 2 nickles to rub together – but as a result of Mcauliffe’s fund raising prowess, in the last election they had actually been able to outspend the Reps – this was just after they had lost the ’00 Pres election …. (wish I had a link – remember seeing it C-Span(?)) Apparently selling out is worth “losing” …. Ds don’t mind taking turns with Rs as long as they can live well …

    The DLC had taken the party from hotdogs with Joe Hardhat at the local diner to pate de foie gras with the 1% at the Ritz and the Dems have no desire to return …

    What, by turns, amazes and frustrates me is the number of “old time Dems” who keep looking for a new FDR within the Party – if you hope to find a new FDR, (s)he won’t be a Dem, so dry your tears and move on, time’s a’wastin’ ….

  29. OMF

    Nonprofits are outgunned, political money is too powerful, and the careerist allure Professional Democrats and Professional Republicans is overwhelming. He has no solutions, …..

    Unable to think outside the box was he? Methinks there is a lingering sense of hope, and his part in it, that is holding him back.

    The solutions are simple, but radical. Some suggestions:

    ===================================

    1) Bar former public servants and officials and politicians from working in the private sector for 10 years after leaving office. You may have to grant them intermediate pensions, and you will have to take a hell of lot of (fairly justified) flack.

    2) Bar members of certain industries(finance) from becoming public officials/staffers/lobbiests etc. The only exception to this rule is for directly elected officials, who should then be permanently disbarred from returning to their old industries.

    3) Require all public officials, servants, staffers and advisers to keep diaries and to make those diaries public. Every meeting, discussion, and talk should be open to the sunlight.

    4) Require the entirety of the private finances of public officials, servants, staffers, etc to be a matter of public record, and extend this to 5 years after leaving office.

    ===================================

    Those are solutions. They are radical, but they are necessary. If you are not prepared to think at about this far outside your box, then of course you will be unable to come up with solutions. It time, in the national interest, for people to move outside their intellectual and cultural comfort zones.

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