Selective Smelling

Women, those creatures from Venus, assume that most men, particularly boyfriends and husbands, suffer from a malady known as “selective hearing.” Other forms of this pervasive syndrome include “selective memory” and “selective comprehension.” A rough description: When the Lakers score is coming over the radio, a man hears like a bat; when the wife is asking him to do the dishes – or massage her bunions, or watch cat videos – he hears like Marlee Matlin.

Selective memory usually kicks in when the subject of inquiry involves ex-girlfriends or number of beers consumed.

Selective comprehension usually kicks in when the subject of discussion involves the operation of the pay-per-view function on the remote when the new “Twilight” sequel shows up on cable.

Though it’s not yet entered in the Physicians’ Desk Reference, we’ve recently identified a new and possibly unrelated disease. This one affects both men and women, particularly those who consider themselves public servants, particularly those public servants who serve the public in Washington, DC, particularly those public servants who serve the public as members of Congress.

It’s called “selective smelling.” A rough description: Stuff that smells skunky, like rotted-flesh-coated-in-fresh-excrement-drizzled-with-spoiled-milk, to everyone who isn’t a politician smells perfectly agreeable to everyone who is a politician. As soon as you get elected, your nose can’t detect foul odors that are painfully obvious to those you graciously serve.

I know not a single soul who thinks it’s a great idea to have Representatives deciding legislative issues involving corporations who give them money. I know not a single soul who thinks it’s a great idea to have Senators decide regulatory issue involving corporations who give them money. Now, admittedly, I don’t know Chief Justice John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Tony “the Originalist” Scalia, or any of the other jurists who decided in “Citizens United,” the “Dred Scott” decision of our time, that corporations are tantamount to people and therefore should enjoy the same free-speech rights, i.e., ability to spend as much money as they want to buy off politicians. Most folks I know think it’s a pretty bad idea to have lawmakers, the referees of the grand capitalist game, paid handsomely (in the form of “donations”) by the corporations that they’re supposed to be refereeing .

Those who suffer from selective smelling, however, think the phenomenon known as “appearance of conflict of interest” has a perfectly pleasant aroma, a familiar scent akin to neatly stacked $100 bills.

Selective smelling covers all political demographics, affecting Republicans and Democrats (and anyone else who’s a member of their umbrella organization, the Money Party) equally and without discrimination. Each side has its patrons; each side has its puppet-masters; neither side can detect the stench.

Normal folks can. There are all sorts of Websites that document who gets what from whom and how the getter behaves when acting on legislation involving the giver. Take for instance a handy database compiled by Oil Change International. It’s called the Dirty Energy Money Campaign. Here you can verify that the same Lee Terry (R-Neb.) who introduced a bill to force the immediate approval of the noxious Keystone XL pipeline without further (bothersome) environmental review has a 100% rating. That means he’s sided with dirty energy interests (fossil fuels) in 100% of the votes involving dirty energy issues. All of Terry’s co-sponsors of the “pump, baby, pump!” legislation share the 100% honor. Damnable correlation or crazy coincidence? To the politicians, the answer is: who cares as long as it’s legal?

Which it is, of course. Because the lucky recipients of legal corporate bribery are entrusted to make the laws.

Why should selective smelling matter to those of us uninterested in high-dollar whoring? Because projects like Keystone XL could finally end life as we know it. Scientists tell us that accessing the Canadian Tar Sands – fracking, anyone? – and pumping them through the heart of America for refinement will destroy our perilously endangered climate, once and for all. We need to have this discussion publicly, with total transparency and eyes, ears, and nostrils wide open, not in the Congressional Office Building, where the folks who control our future have serious olfactory issues.

“Whoever smelt it dealt it,” children like to say when confronted with flatulence. Not in Congress. Not in corporate board rooms. Not in K-Street lobbyist offices. And not in a pig sty, where being covered in shit somehow makes the oinking inhabitants feel  as though they’ve been spritzed with expensive perfume.

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