LOS ANGELES TIMES CARTOON: Dianne Feinstein’s Would-Be Successors Gear Up for 2018

Bye Bye Dianne

 

Many Californians, and not just Republicans, would like to see fresh faces representing the state in the United States Senate. At ages 81 and 73 respectively, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer are not only some of the most senior senior citizens holding representative office in Washington, they appear somewhat incongruous given California’s culture of youth worship.

Boxer’s current term expires in 2016 and Feinstein in 2018. Polls that show Californians interested in replacing them with someone else may not mean much – after all, in many cases that would mean convincing lifelong Democrats to vote Republican – but the possibility that one or both groundbreaking women legislators might retire an array of boldface state political figures eyeing the possibility of a run in two to four years.

The Times’ Cathleen Decker reports:

By the middle of October, according to the last full report available, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom had spent more than $544,000 on his campaign and had almost $3 million in the bank. And he was sending out none-too-subtle fundraising appeals with lines such as: “For us, it’s all about the day after Election Day, the day after that, and all the days ahead when we’ll make big decisions about California’s future.” Since the lieutenant governorship is a vast, responsibility-less black hole, those big decisions presumably center on Newsom’s future.

Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris, meanwhile, had spent more than $2.2 million by mid-October, with almost $2.4 million in the bank. And she was blanketing the state with let-me-introduce-myself ads noting that she “aggressively prosecuted predators who victimize the vulnerable … cracked down on sex trafficking of women and children … took on the transnational gangs … prosecuted sexual assaults and enforced laws requiring equal pay for equal work.” No pushover, in other words.

Although I am in part persuaded by the seniority and experience argument in favor of returning Boxer and Feinstein to Washington – their tenure has earned them positions on key committees that allow them to leverage more power to the Golden State – I tilt more toward the belief that the term “career politician” ought to be considered an oxymoron, and the public service are not to be a career, but rather a chance to briefly give back to society before resuming private life.

Power has a tendency to become so entrenched that it is often hard for people who hold it to relate to the concerns of ordinary people – i.e. their constituents. In Feinstein’s case, for example, it was telling that after years of running interference for the national security agency and its massive infrastructure of illegal surveillance against the American people revealed by Edward Snowden – as chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, which is actually charged with policing the NSA, not justifying its actions – Feinstein only took issue with spooks when they tapped into her own investigative committee’s computers. Plainly she had spent too much time with people like director of national intelligence James Clapper, who famously lied under oath by saying that the NSA didn’t “wittingly” collect data on millions of Americans, to keep her ear to the ground.

I don’t think that the two senators are too old to serve effectively. I think they’ve been in office too long to serve us. Retiring soon in order to open up the field to a younger generation of public servants would be a classy move.

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Praise for bin Laden’s Killer Exposes Americans as Barbarians

 

http://www.popcrunch.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/OSAMA-BIN-LADEN-DEAD.jpg

France is grappling with the damage to its reputation as the global capital of intellectualism after the nation’s minister of culture sheepishly confessed that she doesn’t read books. “Barbarism is here,” declared the writer Claude Askolovitch. “If one can be culture minister without reading, then we are mere technocrats and budgeters.”

Oui.

Evidament.

At least there are still some among the French who care about their nation’s image.

Here in the United States, the face of barbarism appeared in the banal form of Robert O’Neill, a former Navy SEAL who claimed on Fox News to have been the SEAL Team Six member who shot the fatal shots that killed Osama bin Laden.

O’Neil is very proud of himself. “Standing on two feet in front of me, with his hands on his wife’s shoulders behind her was the face that I’d seen thousands of times, UBL,” O’Neill told Fox. “Very quickly I recognized him and then it was just pop, pop pop.”

Military men, including some of O’Neill’s former comrades, criticized him for speaking publicly about a classified operation, going against SEAL tradition. Others questioned whether he really fired the fatal shots.

But no one went after him for being, you know — a first-degree murderer. (Since four other people were killed in the raid, it’s probably closer to the truth to say mass murderer.)

What happened to America? We used to have morals. We celebrated Rosa Parks. Assassins were scum.

As recently as the 1980s, a right-wing president, Reagan, signed an executive order banning political assassinations. Which is exactly what the bin Laden rubout was.

There was never any intention to try to capture bin Laden alive. To the contrary — an eyewitness, bin Laden’s daughter, says the Al Qaeda leader was captured alive, then blown away, mafia-style. The man — in this crime, which is what it was, we have to call him the victim — was certainly unarmed. We’ll never know for sure, since no medical examiner got a peek at the victim’s body before it was dumped into the ocean.

The assassination of Osama bin Laden diminished what little was left of America’s moral authority. Calling it “justice” was a mockery of law and due process. It also denied his victims their right to see the facts about his alleged — since he was never tried, we have to say alleged — crimes revealed in open court.

As Geoffrey Robertson wrote at the time: “The U.S. is celebrating summary execution, rationalized on the basis that this is one terrorist for whom trial would be unnecessary, difficult, and dangerous. It overlooks the downsides: that killing bin Laden has made him a martyr, more dangerous in that posthumous role than in hiding, and that both his legend and the conspiracy theories about 9/11 will live on undisputed by the evidence that would have been called to convict him at his trial.”

The operation was, without question, illegal. If the U.S. were a nation of equal justice under the law, everyone involved, from O’Neill to the president, would face murder charges.

I don’t care how you feel about bin Laden. Assassinating him was disgusting, might-makes-right bullshit.

If anyone in the media agrees with me, however, I can’t find them.

“If [O’Neill] killed bin Laden, then he deserves the recognition that comes with it. … I say, ‘Well done, O’Neill, tell it like it is and let them howl. They’ll criticize you no matter what. Hooyah,'” wrote an editorial writer in the otherwise charming town of Saint George, Utah. Time magazine called the shooting of an unarmed suspect (while invading a foreign country, by the way) an “action that warrants…acclaim.”

Don’t forget the hit film “Zero Dark Thirty,” which portrayed the bin Laden murder — as well as the torture that preceded it — as heroic.

What happened to us?

Top Nazis, responsible for a lot more deaths than 9/11, were put on trial at Nuremberg. Just two decades ago, it would have been impossible to imagine that a state-sponsored assassin would garner praise for his role in a “wet op” (as long as he really did it).

Or that a president would brag about ordering it. (“Bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive,” Vice President Biden crowed.)

Or that said president would enjoy a bump in his polls as a result (as opposed to a knock on the door from the FBI).

ISIS? Mere pikers.

Barbarism, c’est nous.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and cartoonist, is the author of the new critically-acclaimed book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan.” Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2014 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

 

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Numble

A new study finds that young adults believe that the key to survival in the future is to be nimble. My cartoon: http://www.breakingmodern.com/ted-rall-quitting-job-already-toon/

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Why I Miss the Berlin Wall

http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/01412/berlin-wall_1412605c.jpg

 

This week’s coverage of the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall brought me back, not to warm fuzzies about peace and freedom and Gipper Ron Ron and winning the Cold War, but the reaction of my former BFF Dan (whom I miss for his talent for lightening-quick, wicked-brilliant repostes).

The Berlin Wall has fallen, I informed him. Germany is reunited.

Thoughts?

“This,” he replied as usual without missing a beat, “is like the reunion tour recently announced by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. I didn’t care for any of their previous collaborations, and I’m not looking forward to the next one.”

The former two Germanies haven’t given us another Hitler. Not yet. But Germany 2.0 did revive and realize the Führer’s dream of uniting Europe into a unified trading bloc, with a common currency, big enough to give the United States a run for its devalued money. The new euro was, naturally, pegged to the old Deutsche Mark. Germany is by far the most powerful nation in Europe.

Which is a good place to start my List of Reasons I Miss the Berlin Wall.

As usually-correct economist-professor-columnist (and usually ignored) Paul Krugman has pointed out over and over, the German-dominated European Union — which would never have come into being had the Wall remained standing and the Soviet bloc continued to exist — has been an unwieldy amalgam of political autonomy and fiscal union, dragging relatively poorer nations like Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain (“PIGS”) into a vicious cycle of austerity, budget cuts and seemingly endlessly rising unemployment. “The creation of the euro was about politics and ideology, not a response to careful economic analysis (which suggested from the beginning that Europe wasn’t ready for a single currency),” Krugman wrote in May.

Why should hard-working Germans bail out lazy, corrupt Mediterranean nations? Protestant pundits ask. Scratch the surface of the Eurozone crisis and you find that the Germans aren’t the victims here. Far from propping up their swarthy southern partners, Germans are using their control over the euro to turn the PIGS into trade debtors.

Adolf blew his brains out but Germany won the war. Cuz: reunification.

The most important consequence of the fall of the Berlin Wall was, of course, the 1991 dissolution of the Soviet Union. “Economic shock therapy” — U.S.-backed Russian President Boris Yeltsin’s misbegotten attempt to convert the USSR’s state economy to neoliberalist capitalism overnight — led to the infamous Russian Mortality Crisis, when death rates soared 40% in Russia, and even higher in other former Soviet republics.

It has been estimated that 30 million people either died or will die as the result of the catastrophic dissolution of the USSR.

Socialism was destroyed but not replaced. The power vacuum opened by the collapse of the Soviet system was quickly filled by gangsters. Corrupt former factory managers forcibly seized state property and industries whose profits might otherwise have been used to create a blow-softening social safety net for the millions who lost their jobs. Hard drugs from Central Asia and Afghanistan, set free to fall apart after Gorbachev stepped down, supplemented rampant alcoholism. The infamous Russian oligarchy rose during this period, widening the gap between rich and poor, and set the stage for Putinism supported by traumatized Russians who happily chose authoritarianism over the anarchy of the post-Soviet period.

No wonder most Russians tell pollsters they miss the Soviet Union.

Former Soviet client states lost their financial and military backing. Nations like Somalia and Congo disintegrated into bloody civil conflict.

But hey. The demise of the Evil Empire was good for the United States, right?

Not really.

American and European citizens paid trillions for the Cold War. After 1991, pundits promised a “peace dividend” — lower taxes, more public spending on infrastructure and social programs. Barely two years later, the peace dividend was gone — spent, ironically, on the high costs of the Soviet collapse.
“Defense cuts and reductions in military forces have brought in their wake a series of job losses,” Britain’s Independent newspaper reported in 1993. “The transitional costs of the end of the Cold War, combined with the inadequacy of government responses across Western Europe, have meant that we are worse, not better, off.”

You’d think that, as believers in the magic of the marketplace, Americans would see the value of competition in the world of ideas, militarily and politically, on the international scene. Whether or not they admit it, however, citizens of the United States have gotten softer and dumber after assuming their status as the world’s last remaining superpower. Unchallenged ideologically and otherwise, Americans questioned themselves and their beliefs in capitalism and American exceptionalism even less after the 1990s than before. But now, as de facto rulers of the last empire, Americans became the obvious targets of choice for opposition forces that want to change the new order, like fundamental Islamist movements.

It’s tough to disagree with the French writer Nicolas Bonnai, who noted in Pravda in 2012: “The US oligarchy [went] berserk, started new wars everywhere with the Bush dynasty and ruined [its] finances. Drastic inequality became the lemma of this crazy society driven by lunatic leaders and wars. Today America leads to nowhere; America is just a [locus] (Al Qaeda) of the new global matrix made of wars and terrors, manipulation and deregulation.”

The fall of the Berlin Wall created at least as many hardships as blessings.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and cartoonist, is the author of the new critically-acclaimed book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan.” Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2014 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

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Pacific Northwest Book Signings

Here’s the current schedule for my Pacific Northwest book tour for After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back as Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan:

Thursday, November 20, 2014
7:30 pm
Powell’s Books
1005 W Burnside St
Portland, OR 97209

Friday, November 21, 2014
7:00 pm
Elliott Bay Book Company
1521 10th Ave
Seattle, WA 98122

Saturday, November 22, 2014
7:00pm    
Village Books
1200 11th St
Bellingham, WA 98225

Sunday, November 23, 2014
3:00pm   
Orca Books
509 East 4th Ave
Olympia, WA 98501

Hope to see you there!

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