When protests are non-violent, the media doesn’t cover them. When protests are non-violent, politicians ignore them.
I don’t care what they say. No way, no how will I make excuses for America’s lazy, morally bankrupt, ineffectual and cowardly politicians.
Believe it or not, asking we the people to sympathize with our crappy legislators has lately become a Thing.
Poor dears, they have so much on their plates! “Those in decision-making positions are often forced to make consequential judgments on incomplete information in a compressed period in an attempt to solve difficult and enduring problems,” Peter Wehner explains in a New York Times op-ed. “And the outcome of those decisions may well be determined by contingencies that are difficult to anticipate.” What BS. Wehner, who worked in three Republican White Houses, doesn’t explain that that “incomplete information” is no one’s fault but those very same politicians.
Beltway insiders say: “Personnel is policy.” George W. Bush’s war cabinet was so full of warmongers and militarists that it fell to a former general, Colin Powell, to serve as the token voice of moderation as the administration weighed war against Iraq. Bush’s decision to exclude pacifists from the ranks of his top officials led directly to the deaths of over a million people. Though he ran as a Democrat, Barack Obama didn’t appoint a single liberal or progressive to his cabinet. So, if there was no one in the room to point out the stupidity and injustice of bailing out the big Wall Street banks at the expense of millions of distressed homeowners and laid-off Americans, that was his own fault. It’s not like antiwar activists and Marxist economists send presidents straight to voicemail when they call.
Nevertheless the ruling political class—the very same people to whom we pay handsome six-figure salaries (and they whine that they’re underpaid) in order to solve the climate crisis, the rising inequality crisis and the crumbling infrastructure crisis yet never manage to accomplish a damn thing—want us to feel sorry for them.
Cue the Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil.”
“When I worked in the White House,” Wehner writes, “I was struck by how many decisions involved weighing competing goods while from the outside they seemed to be simple matters of right and wrong.”
Let me fix that for him. Not competing goods. Competing interests. In the corridors of power in Washington, decision-making is not a noble struggle to determine right and wrong. It is a cynical cost-benefit analysis about which powerful people and organizations are most important to suck up to.
Government by the people and for the people? Not any more. Today’s American political class no longer bothers to pretend that they serve us. They sound more like kings and queens: The issues are too complicated for us idiots to understand. The problems involve too many factors. You do your crappy $13-an-hour job; let us do ours, which we have done for decades and will do now and forevermore. Begone!
A video that shows California Senator Dianne Feinstein being confronted at her office by a group of children supporting the “Green New Deal” in February perfectly illustrates the arrogance of America’s professional politicians. It went viral with 2.5 million views on Facebook.
As soon as one kid starts to talk Feinstein interrupts: “Well, the reason why I can’t is there no way to pay for it.”
A girl replies: “We have tons of money going to the military.”
“Well, I understand that,” condescends Feinstein. “The United States government does a lot of things with the money and they’re important things.” (Play-by-play: That’s Feinstein tacitly conceding that the first kid is right, there actually is a way to pay for it but that money is for the military, not for a Green New Deal.)
A girl starts to remind Feinstein that the government is supposed to be for the people and by the people but the senator cuts her off again. “You know what’s interesting about this group,” she ’splains, “is I’ve been doing this for 30 years. I know what I’m doing. You come in here and say it has to be my way or the highway. I don’t respond to that. I’ve gotten elected. I just ran…So, you know, maybe people should listen a little bit.”
Whether the Green New Deal is or isn’t a good idea, it doesn’t take a PhD in environmental science to see that the planet is in deep trouble. We have to act. Congress has to act. Feinstein has to get off her ass and do something big, right away. It really is “a simple matter of right and wrong”—not to mention smart versus idiotic. Truth is, Feinstein is scared: scared of the military lobby if she tried to cut the Pentagon budget, scared of the energy lobby if she were to antagonize them. Complexity, competing issues, blah blah blah have nothing to do with anything.
“[Many Americans] believe that all politicians are knaves and fools, and that the system is endemically corrupt and rigged, and so (figuratively speaking) the village needs to be burned to the ground,” Wehner complains. “This is dangerous nihilism. But oddly enough, it is a function of expectations that are too high, not too low: It is rooted in an assumption that governing is easy, that if our leaders really wanted to solve all our problems, or if we elected people who did, they could.”
Many Americans are 100% right.
(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)
When Did Post-Disaster News Conferences Become Long-Winded Oscar Acceptance Speeches?
This is for you older readers: when did news conferences become long-winded acceptance speeches?
I’m too young to remember for sure, but There must have been a time when, after a train derailment or a tornado or a flood or a race riot or whatever, public officials stepped up to the microphones to deliver a status update (“as soon as we learn more, we’ll let you know”), and perhaps some advice to the public (“avoid downed live wires, especially the ones that are sparking, like in that movie The Ice Storm”), answered reporters’ questions and left the stage.
Today’s news conferences are a dreary, undignified mélange of pro forma acknowledgements and sentimental pabulum.
A news conference following this week’s fatal high-speed derailment of an Amtrak passenger train in Philadelphia was a typical example:
SENATOR PAT TOOMEY (R-PA): The scene is a horrific and heartbreaking scene. My prayers go out to the people who lost their lives in this terrible tragedy, to those who were injured, to all of their families. I also want to take a moment to express my appreciation to the first responders, the men and women of this city’s police and fire forces who have responded with such professionalism. Mayor Nutter deserves a great deal of credit. He and his team have pulled together a very, very effective and well-coordinated effort that’s included the federal as well as the city officials. So we appreciate what they’re doing. And we wanted to express both our condolences and our appreciation for that effort. As Senator Casey pointed out, a big part of my being here and his being here is to make sure that Mayor Nutter and city of Philadelphia knows if there’s anything the federal government can be doing to help, we want to make sure it does that.
MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER (D-Phila.): Senators Casey and Senator Toomey, thank you both. The response at the federal level has been tremendous here. With that in mind, let me also report to you that shortly after the earlier press conference today, I had the honor and opportunity to speak directly with President Barack Obama, who called, wanting to get on-the-ground information and facts. The president is very concerned about what has happened here, expressed his condolences as well, but also pledged the full support of the federal government and all the agencies under the executive branch of the government. The president feels very saddened by what has happened, but he was tremendously supportive and encouraging of our efforts here on the ground. For that, I want to say thank you to President Barack Obama for all of his leadership and support in these difficult and tragic times. With that, let me open to some questions for anything that we can answer.
I’m only picking on Philly because it’s the most recent example. I could quote the same crap, virtually verbatim, from press briefings following 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, the Deepwater Horizon disaster, you name it. Our prayers always “go out to the victims and their families.” We always praise the sainted “first responders.” If you’re a federal politician, you thank the local hack; if you’re a local politician, you suck up to the leech who just parachuted in from the Beltway.
In pro forma post-bad-things-happening briefings, natural and manmade disasters are heartbreaking, devastating, tragic, incomprehensible, terrible and/or horrific. Crimes of mass violence, especially those committed by terrorists, are always brutal and vicious, cowardly acts. Killing children is always unthinkable.
Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado, shortly after the Aurora shootings, after the 2012 Newtown elementary school shootings: “The heart of every person in Colorado goes out to every person in Connecticut.”
Secy. of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in 2003, after a helicopter carrying U.S. soldiers crashed in U.S.-occupied Iraq: “My heart and prayers go out to the families and the loved ones of those people.”
NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2014, commenting on the first death from Ebola on U.S. soil: “Our hearts go out to all the families who have been affected and our prayers are with them.”
House Speaker John Boehner after tornadoes killed people in 2014: “Our hearts and our prayers go out to those in Oklahoma who have been victimized by this storm.”
I could fill a book.
It is possible that politicians like President Obama, seen biting his lip in apparent sadness while announcing that one of his drones accidentally killed an American hostage held by Al Qaeda in Pakistan earlier this year, really meant it when he offered his “grief and condolences” to the poor dead SOB’s family…even though he was yukking it up with the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots about “deflategate” a few hours later.
It is possible. But it isn’t likely.
Fair or not cut-and-paste expressions of grief (“our hearts and prayers go out to the victims and their families”) come off as ridiculously insincere — just as fake and phony as those Academy Award-style “I’d like to thank my agent, my children, and my dog” thank-yous while we’re waiting to find out if and when the trains will begin running again.
But you know what’s worse than listening to our lame political class pretend to care? Their low regard for our intelligence, as evidenced by their obvious assumptions that they don’t have to try harder, and that we believe them.
We may be dumb. But we ain’t stupid.
(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
The motto of California’s State Senate had might as well be changed to homines qui pravis — men behaving badly.
As Patrick McGreevy reports in The Times, three members are currently under suspension due to scandals.
Roderick Wright of Los Angeles County was convicted of voter fraud and perjury for lying about living in his district. Ronald S. Calderon of Montebello and Leland Yee of San Francisco have been indicted by the feds, accused of influence peddling. Yee, who presented himself as a staunch proponent of gun control, has also been formally accused of offering to connect an undercover FBI agent posing as someone in the market for automatic weapons and RPGs with an international weapons dealer.
Smarting from these blows to their reputation, Senate leaders put their heads together and decided to recruit potential candidates from only the most morally upright, self-sacrificing Californians.
Actually, they really did come up with a solution: a proposed list of 12 “Standards of Conduct” members would be expected to abide by.
McGreevy calls the standards “fairly common-sense.” Which is true. They’re so common-sense as to prompt the question: why do they need them?
Among the highlights:
- “A Senator or officer or employee of the Senate shall not accept outside employment that is inconsistent with the conscientious performance of his or her duties.”
- “A Senator shall not use the prestige of his or her office, and an officer or employee of the Senate shall not use the status of his or her position, for material or financial gain or private benefit.”
- “Each Senator and each officer or employee of the Senate has an obligation to be informed and prepared, recognizing all sides of an issue.”
- “Each Senator and each officer or employee of the Senate has an obligation to make proper use of public funds.”
May I suggest Rule 13? “Each Senator shall wear pants, or a skirt, or a pantsuit or other suitable article of clothing as to properly cover his or her private parts when conducting his or her duties in the Senate, with the exception of when nature calls, and then only in a suitable restroom and then with the latch firmly attached so that others may not observe.”
We have finally arrived, it seems, at the stage when it is no longer reasonable to expect behavior that society once considered so standard that it needed neither to be taught nor explained, much less enforced by law. Conflict of interest was always, obviously unethical. Diverting public funds for personal use was always embezzlement, clearly illegal, evidently wrong. Political service was a public trust; while one always had parochial, partisan interests to consider, it was a given that the greater good took ultimate precedence — at least that it should.
You know what would be a better way to improve the ethical standards of state senators than these painfully obvious Standards of Conduct? Subject them to an IQ test. Because if you don’t know this stuff by the time you’re old enough to run for public office, you’re too stupid to serve.
IN WHICH I CALL OUT HIPSTERS AND CELEBRITIES FOR THE RIDICULOUS ARGUMENTS THEY GAVE FOR VOTING FOR OBAMA
Politicians get called to account for their broken promises. So too should their celebrity supporters. When boldface names convince the hoi polloi to punch the chads that put their favorite candidates into positions of power, they must assume responsibility when their pitches and talking points turn out to be low-grade bullshit.
One of the most notable pairings of electoral politics and celebrity of the 2012 presidential campaign was the website/happening “90 Days, 90 Reasons.” Each day during the last three months running up to Election Day, one liberal Democratic actor, writer or musician recruited by Dave Eggers’ McSweeney’s literary empire supplied an essay urging us to reelect Obama along with a reason to do so.
Disclosure: Eggers and I were friends during the 1990s, when I was a contributing editor to his Might magazine.
From New York Times esoterica compiler/”Bored to Death” actor John Hodgman to children’s author Lemony Snicket to “Mr. Show” comedian David Cross, the contributors to “90 Days” reads like a who’s-who of Gen X-meets-Millennial NPR-safe middlin’ liberalism. Which is fine — them’s Obama’s people.
What’s a little not fine is that so many of the arguments given in favor of The One are redundant: gay marriage, jobs for veterans, and abortion rights come up over and over. What’s a lot not OK is that so many of these pro-Obama talking points turn out, with a little hindsight (and in many cases none whatsoever), to be lies.
Lies lies. Not in-my-opinion lies.
Reason 24 to give Obama a second term in 2012, according to “The Kite Runner” author Khaled Hosseini, was that “Obama demonstrated prudent and effective leadership in helping bring about the fall of Muammar Gadhafi.” I…wow.
It’s not much in the news these days (gee, I wonder why?), but Libya is pretty much universally regarded as a failed state in the mold of Somalia or Afghanistan during the 1990s. Libya’s government is so weak as to be useless, there’s a civil war going on, and it has basically stopped producing oil. What Bush did to Afghanistan, replacing an oppressive regime with anarchy and lawlessness that was even worse, Obama did to Libya.
Obama doesn’t brag about Libya, and with good reasons that don’t include Benghazi.
Yet here you have Hosseini claiming “President Obama proceeded wisely, in allowing the U.S. to be a key player in a multi-national effort to support the rebels without committing to American air strikes.” Wisely. How does that include U.S. backing of radical Islamists? No airstrikes? Except for the most important one, ordering the airstrike that killed the Libyan leader, who might have met a different fate had he not been stupid enough to dismantle his nuclear weapons program.
Anything Hosseini says about politics should henceforth be regarded as fiction.
Then there’s Win Butler, singer for the band Arcade Fire. “Barack Obama is perhaps the greatest president of modern times at communicating directly with foreign populations,” Butler writes in Reason 86. I love that phrase “foreign populations.” File it next to that British imperialist classic “the natives” and the more contemporary “the locals.”
The thing is, even when Butler wrote that, it was the exact opposite of true. “Global approval of President Barack Obama’s policies has declined significantly since he first took office, while overall confidence in him and attitudes toward the U.S. have slipped modestly as a consequence,” Pew Research’s widely respected Global Attitudes Project, which measures global public opinion, reported in (cough) June 2012, about four months before Butler’s essay appeared. Approval of Obama’s foreign policies plunged between 2009 and 2012: down 15% in Europe, down 19% in Muslim countries, down 30% in China, down 17% in Mexico. No increase anywhere on the planet. Sorry, “foreign populations.”
The fact that the world hates us more under Obama than it did under Bush is not hard-to-come-by info. It was widely and repeatedly reported. If Butler didn’t know, he was a Google search away — as were his editors at McSweeney’s.
Many of the “90 Reasons” are so vague as to be hilarious. “President Obama is steady at the helm,” said ex-comedian/silent senator Al Franken. So was Edward Smith, captain of the Titanic. Shepard Fairey, the plagiarizing poster artist responsible for the 2008 Hope and Change posters, said he was “voting for Barack Obama because I believe evolution is real and possible. I want to see this country move forward, not backward.” “Forward, not backward” was Obama’s infamous soundbyte announcing his amnesty for CIA torturers. We are paying attention to these vacuous celebs, um, why?
Most unforgiveable are those who count on their readers’ ignorance to con them. Democrats worried in 2012 that the Democrats’ progressive base wouldn’t turn up at the polls. Lefties were pissed off that Obama hadn’t fought for traditional Democratic values. So Obama and his supporters tried to recast him as a fighter, a kicker of GOP ass, to counter the wuss prez problem.
Toward this end, several of the celebrity Obama bootlickers posted brazenly misleading essays to “90 Reasons.”
Novelist Mona Simpson claimed that “Barack Obama would reinstate the 1994 assault weapons ban.” Would, could, should…but not really. As of July 2012, it was clear that the ban was dead. Hindsight: Obama never pushed for it after he won again. Another writer, Karen Fowler, urged you to support Obama because he “opposes the Supreme Court’s Citizens United Decision.” Alas, Fowler’s implication — that he’d actually try to reverse it by proposing legislation — was based on exactly nothing.
It would be nice if Simpson, Fowler and the actress Molly Shannon, who wrote the words “President Obama’s actions remind me of the words of the great Roman philosopher, Cicero,” were to keep their political word-farts to themselves forevermore.
John Sayles’ contribution pains me most. I love that man’s movies. But he wrote this sentence, and it means he is politically dead to me: “Obama still has some respect for the truth.” Ahem: “If you like your current healthcare plan, you can keep it.”
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COPYRIGHT 2014 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM
I draw cartoons for The Los Angeles Times about issues related to California and the Southland (metro Los Angeles).
This week: After the 1971 Sylmar earthquake, California began an ambitious effort to map faults across the state. Over the next two decades, officials published 534 maps of active earthquake faults. New construction was prohibited on top of these fissures because previous quakes showed that buildings could be torn apart during violent shaking. But the mapping campaign has slowed to a crawl â with many dangerous faults still undocumented. Since 1991, only 23 have been drawn. Because of budget cuts, none were completed between 2004 and 2011, according to records reviewed by The Times. State officials said there are still about 300 maps to draw and even more to revise â including some in heavily populated areas of Southern California. That represents about 2,000 miles of faults statewide.
I draw cartoons for The Los Angeles Times about issues related to California and the Southland (metro Los Angeles).
This week: Under new primary rules in California, the top two winners in a race go on to the general election, regardless of their party. Now the perverse result is that candidates of party A, which is overwhelmingly popular in their districts, must appeal to party B voters in order to win.
In a little-noticed ruling issued concurrent to the Affordable Care Act, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Stolen Valor Act, which made it a crime to lie about having served in the military. Which made me think, (a) who’d want to admit they were in the military if they had been, much less brag about it if they hadn’t, and (b) politicians must be grateful now that their favorite activity–lying–has been deemed worthy of First Amendment protection.