Tag Archives: Rand Paul

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Rand Paul Proves That the American Political System is Broken

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I have been arguing for years that the American political system is broken. Not in the way that everyone else says it is – the Democrats and Republicans unable to compromise or get anything done. Given what happens when the two major parties cooperate – “free trade” agreements that send American jobs overseas and cut wages for those that remain, wars we have no chance of winning, and tax “reform” that only benefits the extremely wealthy and the corporations they control – we could use a lot more Washington gridlock.

The best indication that the United States government is no longer a viable entity, and so beyond reform that we need to start from scratch, is the fact that the best and the brightest no longer aspire to a career in politics or governmental inspiration. It’s not just anecdotal; polls and studies show that the millennial generation, like the generation Xers before them, care deeply about the nation’s and the world’s problems but don’t think that it’s possible to solve them through the political system, refuse to sacrifice their personal privacy in a campaign, and are disgusted by the requirement of raising millions of dollars in order to run.

Despite the obstacles, every now and then – like that one tadpole out of a thousand that manages to evade the snapping jaws of hungry fish – someone interesting and intelligent decides to enter public life. Unfortunately, these poor souls must present themselves as boring and stupid in order to do so – and shred every last ounce of integrity they had before they entered the political process.

If there is a better case for this political system being over and done, I don’t know what it is.

Current case study: Rand Paul.

The senator from Kentucky has been a principled voice of resistance to the Obama administration’s most egregious violations of privacy and civil liberties. He has relentlessly opposed the National Security Agency’s wholesale collection of Americans’ personal communications and digital data, filibustered to protest the attorney general’s refusal to rule out using drones to kill American citizens on American soil, and followed his libertarian father’s tradition of non-interventionism by opposing the post-9/11 endless “war on terror.”

In many respects Paul, a Republican, has been more liberal – and certainly more vocal – than the most left-leaning members of the Democratic Party.

Now, however, he has officially declared that he is running for president next year. And so the usual coalition of GOP officials, Washington Beltway pundits, and no doubt his campaign advisers are telling him that he must abandon the interesting, intelligent and true-to-the-Constitution stances that got him noticed in the first place.

Gotta become “electable,” you see.

In just one week as a presidential candidate, he has backed away from his 2007 statement – which happened to have the virtue of being correct – that Iran did not represent a military threat to the United States. To be a Republican these days, you have to be against everything Obama does, and he just finished negotiating a deal to normalize relations with Iran.

Paul made some major efforts to reach out to African-Americans over the last few years – rare for a Republican – but there are early signs that his unwillingness to call out the racist “dog whistles” of his Tea Party-besotted opponents will neutralize his previous expressions of sympathy for black victims of police profiling and brutality.

He even flip-flopped on drones. “If someone comes out of a liquor store with a weapon and $50 in cash, I don’t care if a drone kills him or a policeman kills him,” he said recently.

What’s next: selling us out on the NSA? Apparently maybe.

I am tempted to argue that Paul is wrong, and that he would be better off personally as well as politically sticking to his guns. After all, he has, or at least has had, these popular positions all to himself. Why follow the lead of Al Gore, who foolishly decided not to emphasize his credibility as an environmentalist in 2000?

Be that as it may, let’s focus on the big takeaway: the perception among the political class that, to be electable, you have to adjust your positions to conform to the banal, the uninspired, the illegal, with total disregard for the will or the greater good of the American people.

Broken.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for The Los Angeles Times, 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 2015 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

 

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The New Electable, Less Interesting Rand Paul

Rand Paul’s stances in favor of civil liberties and against government intrusions into privacy make Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul the most interesting of the 2016 candidates. But he’s already pivoting away from those appealing positions in order to be perceived as more electable.

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Presidential Campaign 2016: Who’s In, Who’s Out, Who’s a Joke

Originally published by Breaking Modern:

Predicting the outcome of presidential primaries and general elections is a fool’s errand one month before the first Tuesday in November in a leap year. This far out, nearly two years ahead of time, it’s beyond impossible.

Then again, we already know enough about the current likely crop of Democratic and Republican contenders to see the way that the race is likely to shake out. Here’s my US Presidential campaign preview below, beginning with the Dems.

Hillary Rodham Clinton (D): Hers to lose

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On the Democratic side, the nomination is Hillary Clinton’s to lose. She has already amassed a formidable campaign war chest, assembled experienced staffers from within the party establishment, and successfully created a sense of inevitability that has kept other potential rivals at bay. At this stage, only two occurrences could stymie her “rumbling tank” of a campaign: a scandal, or a seismic shift in the political landscape created by an earth-shattering news event, like 9/11 or a huge stock market crash.

I wouldn’t bet on a scandal. Everything the media can find out about Clinton it has already learned over the course of a quarter-century in the national political spotlight. Even if the big news story threatens to change everything, who could take advantage of it at this late date?

VP Joe Biden (D) is a long, long, looong shot.

And what about Joe Biden? He keeps making noise about maybe possibly running, but the National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar makes the case why that won’t happen. So I’ll just quote him here. “The veep,” he writes, “has done absolutely nothing to staff up for a prospective campaign—a necessity against a well-prepared, well-funded Clinton operation. At 72, he’d be the oldest future president in history. As vice president, he brings all the baggage that comes with serving under a polarizing president but carries none of the same excitement from the base. His approval numbers are weaker than Obama’s, and in his two past runs for president, he’s fallen far short of expectations. He trails Clinton by nearly 60 points—66 percent to 8 percent—in the latest CNN/ORC survey, conducted last month. A Biden campaign would be a bigger long shot than even Mitt Romney running a third time.”

Don’t bet on this this horse.

Liberal Elizabeth Warren (D): Lacking supporters with cash

Liberal Democrats who believepresidential-campaign-preview-ted-rall-Elizabeth-Warren Clinton is too far to the right and have never forgiven her for her positions on free trade agreements and voting in favor of the invasion of Iraq in 2003 keeps saying they want Massachusetts senator and consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren. Pictured at left, she would be challenging the former first lady from the Left. But Warren has repeatedly said she isn’t running, her fans don’t have much money, and her actions – well, more like her inaction in not showing up in key primary states like Iowa – support her repeated denials. Count her out. Way out.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (D): The other great liberal hope

presidential-campaign-preview-2016-ted-rall-Joe-BidenThe other great liberal hope is Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-identified “socialist” (though not a member of an organized socialist American party, and who caucuses with the Democrats and usually votes with them). Unlike Warren, he actually is spending a lot of time in Iowa and has said that he is seriously considering a 2016 primary run. Money is a serious problem for the “class-based campaign” Sanders says he’s interested in pursuing: he only has $7 million in the bank, and the price for running for President of the United States these days can easily exceed $1 billion.

If Sanders runs, it will be in the tradition of the hopeless liberal challenger to the establishment candidate: less Ted Kennedy, who actually gave incumbent resident Jimmy Carter a run for his money in the 1980 Democratic primaries, more George McGovern’s principled 1984 challenge to former vice president Walter Mondale. Sanders wouldn’t be running to win, but in order to articulate the traditional liberalism largely abandoned by the Democratic Party during the 1990s Clinton years of  “triangulation,” micro issues focus grouped by the toe-sucking Machiavellian pollster Dick Morris

Nice symbolism, but Hillary still gets to give the big speech in New York, Philadelphia or Columbus, Ohio.

Now, the Republican side of things is a far more wide-open affair.

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Jeb Bush (R): His last name will haunt him

With the decision of 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney to bow out of the 2016 sweepstakes, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is the Republican Party establishment’s top choice. But he is far from a shoo-in.

Both party insiders and mainstream political pundits think Bush’s relatively lax views on illegal immigration, though appealing to the Latinos that Republicans need to win in the future and more likely to succeed in the general election in November, would make it difficult for him to get enough votes from the right wing conservatives who dominate the primary process to secure the nomination. Also, he’s a bit late to the races. Although he is already conducting major fundraisers, and is connected to wealthy political patrons through his father and brother, both former presidents, it’s hard to put together that billion bucks in the allotted time.

Bush’s biggest impediment, of course, is also his greatest asset: his surname. Do Americans want to elect a third President Bush in 30 years — especially when neither the first or the second one are held in particularly high regard? From John Quincy Adams to Franklin Delano Roosevelt to Robert F. Kennedy, we know Americans are not allergic to political dynasties – and Hillary Clinton is about to prove that again – but Bush is a toxic name for both his aggressive post-9/11 foreign policy and his dismal handling of the banking crisis that led to the 2008 global economic meltdown.

Many Americans still blame Dubya for problems that are occurring today, such as the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Rand Paul (R): The Republican hopeful to watch

rand-paul-ted-rall-presidential-campaign-previewI think Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is the Republican hopeful to watch. Although Paul had less than a stellar week – I would say unfairly, since members of the media radically and intentionally spun his nuanced remarks about whether parents ought to have the right to choose to vaccinate their children against diseases like measles, but hey, that’s politics, he’d better get used to it – he has a lot going for him at this particular point in time.

For one thing, he’s a lot less scary to Democrats than many of his fellow Republicans. Particularly on civil liberties and foreign policy, his anti-interventionist views, opposition to unfettered spying on Americans by the NSA, skepticism about the Obama administration’s drone wars in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia, and his critiques of torture and indefinite detention at Guantánamo, Paul comes off as more liberal than many so-called mainstream Democrats, like Hillary Clinton. Were Paul to face off against Clinton in a general election, many liberals might not be able to stomach voting for him, but enough of them might sit home on election day to hand him the presidency.

Within the Republican Party there is also a sense that it’s time to let the libertarian wing takeover from the current dominant corporate and neoconservative strains within the party. Dating at least back to Barry Goldwater, the Republican Party has always relied on its libertarians, but hasn’t rewarded them with a presidential nomination in half a century. Given the disastrous George W. Bush administration, which many conservatives criticized for having run up the deficit and started wars that didn’t put America first, and the growing class divide that even Jeb Bush alluded to, many Republicans may decide to turn to Paul by default – simply for not being a Mitt Romney-type corporatist viewed as out of touch with the country, or another crazy Dick Cheney trying to take over the Muslim world.

One thing’s for sure: with Rand Paul as the nominee, there would be no shortage of impassioned young volunteers counting the pavement in 2016.

Chris Christie (R): Just too much working against him

chris-christie-ted-rall-presidential-campaign-previewI’m going to go out on a limb and say that the idea of Chris Christie, the outspoken New Jersey governor who made a splash for hugging President Obama, as a serious candidate is a joke.

Christie has so many things working against him – ongoing ethics investigations; the lingering hangover of Bridgegate, in which his officials were charged with shutting down the George Washington Bridge to get even with a local politician who didn’t kowtow to him; his – to be charitable – less than telegenic physicality; the fact that he is from New Jersey, which isn’t an important state electorally – that people really shouldn’t be spending a lot of time talking about him.

Moreover, this week’s New York Times story pretty much drives a stake through the governor’s core narrative – that he’s a plainspoken, average Joe just like you and me. Turns out that he routinely stays at five-star hotels and flies in private jets with a huge entourage, like a gangster rapper, and lets the taxpayers or, even worse, politically connected lobbyists with matters pending before his office, pick up the tab.

Maybe people shouldn’t care about these things, but I think they do and they will. In politics, you don’t have to be genuine, but if you’re a hypocrite, you can’t let people find out.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R): Probably really running for vice-president

marco-rubio-ted-rall-presidential-campaign-preview-2016Conservative intellectuals – yes, there is such a thing – argue that Florida Senator Marco Rubio is the next big candidate of big ideas, not to mention a natural for attracting Hispanic votes. But Rubio has an unfortunate tendency to try to weasel out of answering direct questions, even when they aren’t really dangerous.

I suspect that is because Rubio, as you might expect based on his age, is really running for vice president. Sure, maybe you’d like to be president someday, but he knows that 2016 isn’t that year. It’s pretty easy to imagine him paired up with pretty much any other top Republican, with the exception of fellow Floridian Jeb Bush.

Former Arkansas governor and FoxNews personality Mike Huckabee is another much talked about candidate whom I don’t take too seriously. He’s just beginning to test the water now. Really? In early 2015? For a campaign that begins late this summer? I say he’s not really running.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R): Not gunning for the top spot

kasich-walker-presidential-campaign-preview-ted-rallFinally, there’s two other governors, both from the Midwest: John Kasich of Ohio and Scott Walker of Wisconsin.

My gut tells me that both men are serious about running, but are really in it for the vice presidency. Ohio in particular is a key battleground state, but Wisconsin is important too, and either governor would serve as a nice counterbalance to a presidential standard bearer who is a senator, like Rand Paul. Furthermore, both of them have reputations as political attack dogs, traditionally the role of a running mate.

Walker has antagonized public-sector workers and trade unions in general, and has just proposed a budget that would gut the state’s education system. Kasich, on the other hand, did exactly the opposite, seeking to increase funding for his state’s school systems. Advantage: Kasich. Whether he runs or not, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him wind up as the 2016 vice presidential nominee.

So what happens in the general election?

If I had to put my money on it now, and I’m really happy that I don’t have to, I‘d bet that the Republican nominee will be Rand Paul or Jeb Bush.

In a Paul versus Clinton campaign, I see it as Paul’s to lose. If he doesn’t screw up with some kind of Romney style boneheaded 47 percent remark, and manages to overcome his greatest weakness – the perception that he doesn’t believe that government has a role in helping people – and doesn’t get embroiled in some sort of scandal, he will attract or neutralize enough left-of-center Democrats to beat Clinton, who at this point isn’t exciting to anyone other than older women hoping to see one of their own finally get into the White House.

A Bush versus Clinton match would be much harder to call. Both are highly professional, self-disciplined and somewhat likable on the campaign trail. But it’s hard to imagine anyone getting excited about either one. The prediction I would make about that campaign is that the biggest winner of all would be apathy.

That’s it for now. Excited yet?

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Presidential Politics: All Personality, No Platform

Distributed by Creators Syndicate (click the link to purchase for publication):

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Hillary Clinton has everything she needs to run for president: money, name recognition, staff, organization. Everything except ideas.

The 2016 presidential campaign will begin in earnest in late summer. This hasn’t snuck up on her; she has known this was coming since at least 2008. Yet here she is, six months before the unofficial start of her run, starting to figure out what she’ll do if she wins.

“People close to Mrs. Clinton say she has not yet settled on a specific platform” on the economy, the New York Times notes in a report about a recent series of meetings she held with 200 economists in order to collect their assessments of the economy.

There’s nothing wrong with asking experts for suggestions about how to fix the problems you want to solve. But you should already have a vision for what America and its economy ought to look like. You should be born with your platform – and, if you decide to run, collect advice from your brain trust on a granular level, concerning how to realize your goals.

If you haven’t always known what you would do if you woke up tomorrow morning as president, and whom you would appoint to help you govern, you have no business running.

Unfortunately, the former senator’s lack of ideas isn’t unique. She reflects a disturbing shift in American politics that most people haven’t noticed because it snuck up on us over time: in the past, politicians ran on a slate of ideas. Now they campaign as personalities.

Look at political buttons from a century ago. FDR ran on “prosperity” and “jobs.” They’re vague — but they’re ideas. And when he won, FDR demanded that his ideas become laws within his first 100 days. Reagan declared that it was “morning in America.” What does that mean? It’s been 35 years, he served two terms, I still don’t know. “Yes we can,” Obama promised in 2008. Can what? It worked because your mind fills in the rest, but it says nothing. “Hope.” “Change.” For/to what?

Reading the diaries of Chief of Staff HR Haldeman, I was surprised to learn that the newly-elected Nixon administration – led by this reputedly hardheaded ideological warrior – spent much of its first year, 1969, recuperating from the campaign it had just won, learning how to use the White House phone system and how to liaise with Capitol Hill before finally sitting down to determine what it actually wanted to do domestically and vis-à-vis foreign policy. I realized that, at least dating back to the 1960 race between Nixon and JFK, presidential candidates haven’t gone into it with much of a vision of how they want to change America. Their primary goal is to get the job, to add the gig to their resume, satisfied that their face may someday end up on a stamp or maybe a coin, and that schoolchildren will forever have to memorize their names.

Think back to the first year of every presidency in recent memory. None, even those like Reagan and George W. Bush who eventually oversaw radical policy changes, pushed major legislation right out of the gate – which is surprising given that a president will never have as much political capital as when he first takes the office. Stepping in during the middle of a global economic crisis, Obama never proposed anything on the economic front and handed off his Affordable Care Act to congressional Democrats throughout his first year. Since 2009 Obama has come off like a guy who achieved everything he wanted simply by having been elected. Bush’s first year was derided as aimless and policy-free until 9/11 gave him a sense of purpose. No major policy prescriptions came out of the Clinton White House for much of his first term.

2016 is once again shaping up as a clash of personalities over ideas, a high school student council-style personal popularity contest – “who would you most rather have a beer with?” (or, in Clinton’s case, are you “likeable enough“?) – as opposed to a debate over the direction of the country. Writing in the Washington Examiner, Michael Barron asks: “Can Jeb Bush — or anyone — come up with a platform for primaries, general, and presidency?”

Implicit in this question is the curious fact that none of the likely contenders for the Republican presidential nomination have yet articulated a platform. Even the most ideologically grounded GOP candidate, Rand Paul, finds himself showcased in a New York Times profile as drifting to the so-called “center” of his party – i.e., away from libertarianism. Isn’t it a little late in the game to be drifting?

Instead of dealing with ideas Paul, who made headlines for filibustering against Obama’s drone strikes and aggressively criticizing NSA spying, is said to be facing “questions about his style and temperament.” Never mind what he wants to do. This is about style: “Does someone who can be so impetuous and unapologetic have the finesse and discipline to win over people who are more naturally inclined to vote for someone else?” asks the Times.

They say we get the candidates and the presidents we deserve, but that’s not true. The system is broken, and has been for a long time. What else can you say about politics that isn’t about politics, but primarily if not exclusively about personality?

We may or may not deserve it, but we need better.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and cartoonist for The Los Angeles Times, 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 2015 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

 

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Professionals Behaving Badly

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The Drone Memo’s Hack Author Should Be In Prison. Instead, He’ll Be a Judge.

Conservatives say, and this is one of their more successful memes, that poor people are immoral. The proles have sex and kids out of wedlock and expect us (i.e., upstanding middle- and upper-class patriots) to pay for them. They steal Medicare and cheat on welfare. They don’t follow The Rules (rules written by, let’s just say, not them). Which makes them Bad.

This was always hogwash, of course. Though it is true that poverty causes people to do bad things, class and morals are uncorrelated. But who’s worse, the poor thief or the wealthy person who refuses to pay him a living wage?

America’s professional class has traditionally enjoyed a privileged position at the top of middlebrow America’s aspirational hierarchy. At the core of our admiration for doctors, lawyers and bankers was the presumption that these learned men and women adhered to strict codes of ethics. Doctors healed, lawyers respected the law and bankers didn’t steal.

When they did, there’d be hell to pay, not least from their brethren.

Evidence abounded that the clay content in the professional class’ metaphorical feet was no lower than anybody else’s. Thanks to recent developments, not least since 2008’s save-the-banks-not-the-people orgy of featherbedding at taxpayer expense, the fiction that we should look up to the technocracy is dying fast.

Not only are some physicians crapping on their Hippocratic oath by carrying out executions of prisoners and participating in the horrific torture of innocent concentration camp inmates, the associations charged with enforcing professional ethics sit on their old-boys-club hands. Big-time judges, depicted in movies as moral giants who love to get medieval on evil dirtbags whether in the mafia or the CIA, act like wimps instead, grumbling under their mint-flossed breath as they sign off on the federally-funded insertion of needles into innocent men’s penises.

Thurgood wept.

I got to thinking about the fall of the professional class after hearing that the White House has finally relented in its incessant stonewalling on the Drone Memo. Finally, we peons will get a peek at a legal opinion that the White House uses to justify using drones to blow up anyone, anywhere, including American citizens on American soil, for any reason the President deems fit.

When the news broke, I tweeted: “This should be interesting.”

I’m a cartoonist, but I can’t imagine any reading of the Constitution — left, right, in Swahili — that allows the president to circumvent due process and habeas corpus. I can’t see how Obama can get around Ronald Reagan’s Executive Order 12333, even after Bush amended it. Political assassinations are clearly proscribed: “No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.” (Yes, even bin Laden.)

I have no doubt that David Barron, who is a professor at the very fancy Harvard Law School and held the impressive title of Former Acting Chief of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, and who furthermore is President Obama’s nominee to fill a vacancy on the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston, did his very bestest with his mad legal skillz to come up with a “kill ’em all, let Obama sort ’em out” memo he could be proud of.

Still, this topic prompts two questions:

What kind of human being would accept such an assignment? Did anyone check for a belly button?

How badly would such a person have to mangle the English language, logic, Constitutional law and legal precedent, in order to extract the justification for mass murder he was asked to produce?

I haven’t seen the drone memo, but Senator Rand Paul has. Whatever legal hocus-pocus Barron deployed didn’t convince Paul. “There is no legal precedent for killing American citizens not directly involved in combat and any nominee who rubber stamps and grants such power to a president is not worthy of being placed one step away from the Supreme Court,” Paul said in a statement.

I’ll bet my next couple of paychecks that Paul is correct — and that Barron’s sophistry wouldn’t withstand a serious court challenge, not even before a panel of a dozen Antonin Scalias. After all, we’ve been here before.

Shortly after 9/11, Dick Cheney and his cadre of neo-con fanatics ordered the White House Office of Legal Counsel, the same entity behind Barron’s drone memo, to come up with a legal justification to give Bush legal cover for torturing suspected terrorists. When they emerged, the Torture Memos were roundly derided by legal experts as substandard, twisted and perverse readings of the Constitution, treaty obligations and case law. Read them. You’ll see.

In 2010, the Justice Department decided not to file charges against Torture Memo authors John Yoo and Jay Bybee on the grounds that the two men weren’t evil — just dumb. (Can’t they be both?) The Torture Memos, they ruled, were shoddy. That, I’m as sure as I can be about something I haven’t seen yet, will be the case with the drone memo.

As with Yoo and Bybee, both of whom went on to prosper in the legal profession rather than warm the prison cells they both richly deserve, Barron probably won’t lose anything as the result of his work on the drone memo. He’ll be a federal judge.

Yet another heavy stone on the grave of America’s once-vaunted professional class.

(Ted Rall, staff cartoonist and writer for Pando Daily, is author of “Silk Road to Ruin: Why Central Asia is the New Middle East.” Support independent journalism and political commentary. Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2014 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

 

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: If You Can Get Fired Over Your Politics, What Good is the First Amendment?

Now that the controversy over Mozilla’s firing of CEO Brendan Eich over his antigay politics has subsided (and before something similar happens again, which it surely will), it’s time for a brief tutorial on McCarthyism.

Because, if those who forget history are doomed to repeat it, Americans — who don’t notice history even as it’s happening, while it’s making headlines — are condemned to the endless purgatory of idiocracy.

McCarthyism, also known as the 20th century’s second Red Scare, took on several forms in the 1950s. Today, however, let’s focus on blackballing.

Blackballing, also often known as blacklisting (there are so many a.k.a.’s), is the act of denying employment to someone due to political opinions they express, and activities in which they participate, away from the workplace.

The qualifier “away from the workplace” is important. Denying you a paycheck because of your politics — politics you don’t express at work — is the essence of blackballing, and arguably the most powerful torture device in the censor’s toolbox. Examples of blackballing include the disgusting Hollywood blacklist of left-leaning actresses like Marsha Hunt and director Charlie Chaplin, and the 2004 firing of an Alabama woman because she had a John Kerry bumpersticker on her car. Also in 2004, Men’s Health magazine dropped my comic strip — which was about sex and relationships, 100% apolitical — because I opposed George W. Bush and his invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

As Timothy Noah wrote about the bumpersticker firing: “Firing a person because you don’t like his or her politics runs contrary to just about everything this country stands for, but it is not against the law.” The U.S. embraces the savage fiscal Darwinism of “at-will employment,” which allows employers to hire and fire workers as they please, unless a victim can prove — which is difficult — discrimination due to race, color, religion, gender, age or disability.

Incredibly, your boss can fire you simply for being a Democrat or Republican.

Blackballing squelches expression and debate. Yet the American public doesn’t seem to mind that the First Amendment doesn’t protect them where they spend more than half of their waking hours — at work. Which set the stage for what happened to Brendan Eich.

Star LGBT columnist-editor-author Dan Savage “shrugged off” suggestions that Mozilla blackballed Eich: “No gay rights organizations had called for him to step down. This wasn’t really an issue in the gay community, it was an issue at Mozilla. There were people at Mozilla who didn’t want this man representing them.”

(Disclosure: Savage has commissioned work from me, and I have said nice things about him, which I meant.)

Savage is right. No gay rights groups weighed in. They kept quiet. None spoke out in Eich’s defense.

Hey, if someone offs this turbulent priest, it’s no skin off my ass.

“He was perceived by his own employees as an unacceptable CEO,” Savage remarked, pointing to Eich’s record of right-wing politics, which included supporting Pat Buchanan and Rand Paul, in addition to the $1000 campaign contribution to California’s Proposition 8 in 2012, which attempted to ban gay marriage in the state.

Exactly so.

Eich was perceived as “an unacceptable CEO” by Mozilla. But this was not because of his computer skills, which are widely seen as unimpeachable, or his management talent, which only came under fire after his politics came to light.

The New Yorker’s James Surowiecki showcased the rationale of McCarthyism. Allowing that Eich is “a brilliant software engineer who had been the company’s chief technology officer,” Surowiecki explained: “The problem was that Eich’s stance was unacceptable in Silicon Valley, a region of the business world where social liberalism is close to a universal ideology.” To which one might ask: so what? If I only bought products made by companies whose CEOs I liked, my house would be empty.

And here, the “well, duh” logic that ignores the much bigger question of whether censorship is a good idea: “In interviews, [Eich] repeatedly spoke about the need to respect the diverse views of Mozilla community members…But there was something self-evidently odd about the pairing of Eich’s rhetorical support for diversity with his financial support for denying legal rights to gay people.”

Bear in mind: Eich pledged, in writing, not to discriminate against gay Mozilla employees. There’s no evidence that he ever mistreated any member of the LGBT community.

What is “self-evidently odd” about the argument that a company that values diversity ought to be able to make peace with a right-wing, anti-gay marriage CEO? Nothing. These “liberals” are blind to their own prejudice. In the same way that cable news channels believe that ideological diversity runs the gamut from center-right Clinton Democrat to right-wing Republican, Surowiecki and Mozilla’s top executives think acceptable political discourse allows for no disagreement on gay marriage.

This makes me nervous, and not just because I’m a political pundit or because gay marriage is an issue about which Americans have changed their minds at a breathtakingly rapid rate. If anything you say can be used against you in the court of the HR office, who is going to risk saying what they think? At Mozilla, Republicans would be wise to stay in the political closet. Isn’t that kind of…fascist?

Which is why I have consistently refused to join, actively opposed and publicly argued against boycott campaigns against right-wingers like Dr. Laura and Rush Limbaugh.

I think Eich is wrong about gay marriage. I disagree with his right-wing views. He’s a rich (former) CEO, so I don’t care about him personally. Nevertheless, Eich has become a symbol of something dangerous and wrong.

If you can lose your job due to your politics — especially if those in charge find those politics repugnant — there are only two options available to those of us who need to earn a living: keep our opinions to ourselves, or lie about them. If politics leaves the public sphere, forced underground by watchful employers and politically correct coworkers and anonymous online crusaders, how does the United States differ from East Germany?

(Support independent journalism and political commentary. Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2014 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

 

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Is Rand Paul America’s #1 Liberal?

Libertarians Replace Democrats as Warriors Against Crazy Presidents

There once was a time (before the 1980s) when liberals were a powerful force against executive overreach. Democrats like George McGovern opposed wars of choice. Democrats like Frank Church exposed the CIA, which led to an executive order (by President Ronald Reagan!) that banned political assassinations. A Democratic Congress held impeachment hearings against Richard Nixon, in part because he violated the privacy rights of a few hundred Americans by tapping their phones. Millions of lefties marched against the Vietnam War — it didn’t matter that the president was a Democrat.

Things have changed.

A “liberal” president and his Democratic congressional and media allies aren’t fighting the good fight. They’re committing the worst crimes.

And so, following what Chris Hedges called “the death of the liberal class,” where the Hellfire missiles fly and in streets that ought to be full of protesters, naught but crickets, here’s what’s left:

The most liberal politician in America is a right-winger.

Rand Paul, who in May led a 13-hour filibuster in the Senate over Obama’s drone war, is the mainstream’s point man against dystopian killer air robots. This is the kind of thing that, had even a Democratic president like LBJ had been up to, would have had Democrats and the liberal media up in arms.

Even though an out-of-control White House is leaving open the option of using drones to blow up Americans on American soil (not that it’s OK in Pakistan), Democrats are nowhere to be found. At least 4,000 people — by law, all innocent since none were charged by a court — have been assassinated under Obama’s orders. Meanwhile, liberal politicians sit on their hands. Progressive media outlets scarcely mention these horrors, and when they do it’s in tepid tones that rarely call out Obama as the blood-soaked mass murderer he is.

Is Rand Paul so far right that, like Pat Buchanan back when, he comes all the way around the back to the left? Are Paul’s maverick stances just a marketing program to draw attention to himself, in preparation for 2016? Or is his brand of libertarianism genuine? Whatever the motivation, Paul has become the most, perhaps the only, establishment political figure expressing a progressive vision on a host of incredibly important issues…issues that have been abandoned by the state-sanctioned Left.

Paul, a right-wing Republican who believes Israel can do no wrong, is nevertheless he establishment’s most passionate defender of privacy rights. The libertarian scion has sponsored a bill that would prohibit the NSA from intercepting and storing Americans’ phone records. (Because the NSA charter limits its activities to foreign intelligence gathering, the phone tapping and other Orwellian programs revealed by Edward Snowden are illegal. The bill would ban the phone intercepts explicitly.)

Only four senators are backing this progressive legislation. Paul is the only Republican; most Democrats continue to defend Obama and his NSA, whose totalitarian approach to stealing our information — they take it all — makes East Germany’s “Lives of Others” Stasi look like nosy neighbors. Paul, a free-market purist, wants to overturn the vile Patriot Act, get rid of the useless TSA (“The American people shouldn’t be subjected to harassment, groping, and other public humiliation simply to board an airplane”), and states openly that proposals for Congressional oversight of the NSA — typical, lame sops to public disgust, and Congress was supposed to be doing that all along, weren’t they? — won’t be enough.

“The Constitution doesn’t allow for a single warrant to get a billion phone records,” says the senator from Kentucky. “They basically, I believe, are looking at all of the cell phone calls in America every day.”

The most liberal Democrats in the Senate? They’re collaborators with Obama’s Gestapo.

Dick Durbin sporadically issues some pretty, progressive-esque, pro-privacy noises about reining in the NSA, yet voted to renew the Patriot Act, which captures Americans but not terrorists. Al Franken is pro-fascist security state. “I can assure you that this isn’t about spying on the American people,” Franken said. Actually, that’s exactly what it’s about.

When George W. Bush was in power, “liberal” California senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein railed against NSA spying on Americans, calling it an impeachable offense. Now that the president is a member of their party, Boxer is silent and Feinstein is the NSA’s PR flack.

On a lot of issues, Rand Paul’s stances are contemptible. Exhibit A: He opposed the Civil Rights Act as a violation of “state’s rights,” the clarion call of the segregationist Old South. Yet on many of the existential questions of our time, radical policies that have transformed the United States from a democratic republic to a terrifying authoritarian state that uses brute force to subjugate a vast global empire, Rand is on the side of the angels — far more so than the self-defined progressives who claim to value civil liberties while running interference for the insular, violent and repressive Obama Administration.

Rand stood tall against Obama’s fascist National Defense Authorization Act, which allows the federal government to kidnap U.S. citizens and throw them into prison forever without charging them with any crime. “His signature [on the NDAA] means indefinite detention without charge or trial, as well as the illegal military commissions, will be extended,” said Anthony Romero of the ACLU of Obama.

Naturally, the Republican establishment is pissed off at Paul.

GOP columnist Charles Krauthammer slammed Paul as “politically radical” and “socially liberal.” (No comment on whether spying on every American, or assassinating innocent civilians, is “radical.”) Chris Christie, a top 2016 presidential contender, calls Paul’s suspicion of endless wars against Middle Eastern countries “dangerous.” (Unlike the wars?) John McCain calls him a “wacko bird” (takes one to know one) for opposing drones.

If you want evidence of the crisis of the two-party system, look no further than the strange new bedfellows of the age of Obama. Even before the Snowden leaks, 70% of Democrats and 77% of Republicans believed the NSA was violating their privacy. Both Democrats and Republicans who felt this way thought the NSA wasn’t justified: 51% and 52%, respectively.

Even in Congress, a “loose alliance of lawmakers” is allied against the leadership of their own parties” on issues like the NSA and Obama’s desire to attack Syria.

Though nascent, the libertarian-left attack against the liberal-conservative establishment is a big deal. This tendency, as Marxists call it, can develop in one of two directions. There might be a dramatic political realignment such as 1932, when FDR’s New Deal began to move African-Americans and white Southerners into the Democratic camp. Or — I think this is more likely — newly exposed fissures will open, showing that the real split is between oppressed and oppressor, not “liberal” Democrat and “conservative” Republican.

(Ted Rall’s website is tedrall.com. Go there to join the Ted Rall Subscription Service and receive all of Ted’s cartoons and columns by email.)

COPYRIGHT 2013 TED RALL

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Lefties Against Obama

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Think the President is Socialist? We Wish!

Memo to Republicans: you don’t have a monopoly on hating President Obama.

I dislike America’s two-party system for a lot of reasons. Mostly because the duopoly is undemocratic: no two political parties can represent the diversity of opinions held by a nation’s voters. We’d need dozens of parties to approximate adequate representative government. Another reason, one that deserves attention, is that it reduces political dialogue to binary imbecility.

Democrat or Republican. Liberal or conservative. If you’re not one, you must be the other. If you don’t vote, people — apparently rational, functional people who manage to drive their cars without ramming them into walls — tell you with a straight face that your non-vote is a de facto vote for the candidate you would have voted against (had you voted). Because you’re not allowed to hate both. Because, in under our idiotic one-or-the-other political system, even if you hate both parties, you’re supposed to hate one party more than the other.

Which is why, for the last four years, Obama-hating has belonged to the racist right.

In the real world, of course, lots of lefties can’t stand the president. In the mainstream corporate media narrative epitomized by MSNBC on the “left” and FoxNews on the “right,” however, left=liberal=Democrat and right=conservative=Republican. They say it so often and we hear it so much that many of us think it’s true.

In the real world, away from the barking dogs of cable television news, lots of Americans would vote for a party other than the Ds or the Rs. A 2012 poll found that 46% of Americans would support a third party if it were viable. Many on the right think the GOP is too extreme or too soft. That debate, the “civil war” between generic Republicans (e.g., Chris Christie) and the libertarian right (e.g., Rand Paul), gets some play.

Not so much on the left. Thanks largely to the left=Democrat propaganda of the late Air America and now MSNBC, lefties disgusted with the Democrats get zero play.

You’ll never find our views discussed or our champions interviewed, not even on the “liberal” shows hosted by Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert or Bill Maher. But we exist. We are many. Even among self-identified Democrats, 14% of overall voters say they are “very liberal.” Unsurprisingly, this group disapproves of Obama’s job performance, which — contrary to right-wing talking points — has stayed away from policies friendly to his party’s traditional liberal base. Beyond that, about 10% of voters say they’re “disaffected” — so alienated from both parties that they refuse to participate in elections.

Greetings, right-wingers! We live in the same country. You should know about lefties who don’t like the Democrats — hold on to your seats — because they’re too conservative.

So, righties, you hate Obama because he’s a socialist.  Or a liberal extremist. Because the Affordable Care Act goes too far. Because he was born in Kenya (and stole the presidency). Maybe (though you’re only allowed to say this among trusted friends) because he’s black.

Fine. I’m not going to try to change your minds.

Instead, I’m going to provide some perspective. To demonstrate that despite two centuries of puerile choose-one-outta-two electoral politics, America’s ideological landscape is broader and more diverse than you may be aware.

Tens of millions of Americans — progressives, paleoliberals, greens, populists, left libertarians, left anarchists and yes, socialists and communists — hate Obama for being too far to the right. Socialist? We wish! We think he’s a sellout. At best! More like a corporate shill. Definitely a militarist. Possibly a fascist.

Here is a brief summary of the left’s brief against Barack Obama:

He bailed out Wall Street, not Main Street. The banksters who wrecked the economy should have gone to prison; he gave them $7.77 trillion. Distressed homeowners got nothing. Nor did the unemployed. Lefties see Obama as a slave of Wall Street scum like Timothy Geitner and Lawrence Summers.

He didn’t lift a finger to create new jobs. Right-wingers blame regulations and ObamaCare. Not us. Leftists want big jobs programs, like the WPA during the Great Depression, to add tens of millions of un- and underemployed Americans directly to the federal payroll.

He’s a warmonger. He expanded and extended the wars against Afghanistan and Iraq. (And lied about ending them. He renamed “combat troops” to “support personnel,” and replaced soldiers with private “contractor” mercenaries. The U.S. will be fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq long after Obama “ended” those wars.) He got us into a new war in Libya. Now it’s Syria. In both cases we are supporting Islamist factions whose values we — not just lefties, but all Americans — do not share.

He refused to investigate the crimes of the Bush era: the lies the Administration used to con us into war in Iraq, torture, extraordinary rendition, spying on American citizens. We believe in accountability.

He expanded the drone wars. Many leftists are pacifists, opposing all war. Others accept the necessity of fighting to defend against an invasion. All agree that drone strikes, managed in secret, devoid of legal authorization and without checks or balances, are the worst kind of war: aggressive, impersonal, sanitized, mechanized, and especially enraging to its victims.

Most leftists are civil libertarians. We believe that personal freedoms are more important than the rights of the state. As we learned thanks to Edward Snowden, Obama has presided over a breathtaking expansion of the post-9/11 police state, violating the inherent right of every American to speak on the phone or write correspondence in private on a comprehensive, totalitarian scale.

Even ObamaCare, bête noire of the right, annoys us.

For us, the profit incentive has no place in something as existentially necessary as healthcare. We want big insurance companies out of the equation entirely. So, even though there are early indications that ObamaCare’s insurance marketplaces will lower premiums for many patients, we shrug our collective shoulders at such incrementalism. We wonder why socialized medicine — doctors and nurses employed directly by the state, hospitals nationalized — or at least a “single payer” option (which Obama promised during the campaign) was never seriously considered.

Then there’s Guantánamo, which he should have closed. Bradley Manning, tortured under his orders. Edward Snowden, who should have gotten a medal, hunted like a dog.

Any one of the above outrages deserves a long prison term.

If you’re a right-winger who hates Obama and the Democrats, remember us. We hate them just as much as you do — but not for the same reasons.

(Ted Rall’s website is tedrall.com. Go there to join the Ted Rall Subscription Service and receive all of Ted’s cartoons and columns by email.)

COPYRIGHT 2013 TED RALL

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Investigating the Investigators

IRS Targeting is a Scandal, CIA Targeting is Business as Usual

“We’re fighting for you!” That’s what the Democratic Party tells Democratic voters and what the Republican Party tells Republicans. But even their “battles” reveal how similar the two parties really are.

Case study: what gets investigated.

Less than a week after the news broke that the IRS engaged in ideological profiling in 2011 and 2012 — targeting Tea Party-related non-profits for checks into whether they were violating the terms of their tax-exempt status by spending donor money on political ads — top Democrats joined their GOP counterparts to demand a Congressional investigation. That’s lightening quick for government work — and yet not fast for some. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida, ’16 prez prospect) called for Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller to resign immediately. President Obama called the IRS’ actions “outrageous” and “contrary to our traditions.” The IRS has already apologized.

This all goes to show that the federal government can turn on a dime when it wants to do something. It’s a matter of priorities. Millions of Americans whose homes were stolen by banks in illegal foreclosures waited five years for $600 settlement checks that bounced; the Fed gave the executives of those banks $7.77 trillion in a matter of days, no questions asked.

So it goes with what gets investigated.

Thrown under the bus in a matter of days, the IRS is already getting ground to mincemeat. Meanwhile, a spectacular panorama of Bush-era abuses have yet to draw the attention of a single Congressional subcommittee.

The 2000 stolen presidential election fiasco? Still no investigation — even though retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the swing vote in the 5-4 decision in Bush v. Gore, now agrees with constitutional lawyers who say the high court had no jurisdiction in the case and thus shouldn’t have heard it.

There still hasn’t been an independent investigation of 9/11.

No one has ever been questioned, much less held accountable, for the invasion of Afghanistan (ostensibly to catch Osama bin Laden, though he was already in Pakistan), the installation by the U.S. of the unpopular Hamid Karzai as a U.S. puppet, huge cash bribes paid to Karzai by Bush and now Obama,  or the lies — an impeachable offense — about Saddam’s WMDs used to con the public into war against Iraq.

People outraged by Bush’s torture program, secret prisons, extraordinary rendition and indefinite detention of innocent people, including children, at post-9/11 gulags at places like Guantánamo, the “salt pit” at Bagram and the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia — even on prison ships on the high seas — hoped that President Obama would make good on his campaign promises to investigate these horrific crimes against international law, U.S. law and common decency. Instead, he obstructed justice — another impeachable offense — issuing a directive to his Justice Department and other law enforcement agencies to ignore them. “We need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards,” he told a TV interviewer on January 12, 2009, eight days before taking office.

“At the CIA, you’ve got extraordinarily talented people who are working very hard to keep Americans safe,” he said. “I don’t want them to suddenly feel like they’ve got spend their all their time looking over their shoulders.”

Yes. God forbid our heroic torturers should face any questions about jamming forced enemas up prisoners’ butts. Sorry: I meant our extraordinarily talented torturers.

And, now a flashback to April 14, 2008 — a mere nine months earlier. Candidate Obama told The Philadelphia Inquirer: “If I found out that there were high officials who knowingly, consciously broke existing laws, engaged in cover-ups of those crimes with knowledge forefront, then I think a basic principle of our Constitution is nobody above the law.”

Except the CIA. And the military. And Donald Rumsfeld and Condi Rice and Dick Cheney and John Yoo and, of course, George W. Bush, who explicitly authorized the torture and other high crimes, and is now an elder statesman with his own library and everything.

To recap:

Both parties think it’s bad bad bad for the IRS to target right-wing pseudo-nonprofits for audits.

Both parties think it’s perfectly fine A-OK doubleplusgood to target the buttholes of random Muslims you kidnapped from Afghanistan or Yemen or wherever.

What the IRS did was, of course, wrong. But I’d rather be audited than butt-raped. Butt-raping, especially butt-raping that occurs before illegal auditing, should be investigating before illegal auditing.

Both parties also agree that if there’s ever been something that doesn’t need investigating by anyone, ever, it’s drones. Yes, a whopping 1.8% of Congress recently held an “unofficial hearing” (toothless PR stunt) and politely requested that Obama provide “further clarification of the legal justifications behind drone strikes.”

But no one —not even Vermont’s token “socialist” Bernie Sanders — has called for an investigation into a drone war that ridiculously remains “classified,” a secret to everyone but the dead, the maimed and their survivors. Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky, ’16 prez prospect)’s filibuster merely demanded whether Obama planned to drone any U.S. citizens on U.S. soil. (Since he has already droned U.S. citizens on foreign soil, we know the answer to that.)

I’m not Suze Orman, but please let me help you save a few bucks. Whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, the next time you get a campaign mailer asking you to support them because they’re “fighting hard for you,” chuck that sucker into the recycler. The truth is, the two major parties are on the same page on just about everything.

They’re not fighting for you.

They’re fighting for themselves.

(Ted Rall’s website is tedrall.com. His book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan” will be released in November by Farrar, Straus & Giroux.)

COPYRIGHT 2013 TED RALL

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