Friday, June 09, 2006


What would happen if you made a mistake at work and someone got killed? You know that you would lose your job, your friends. There wouldn't be any question of getting a good reference. Your personal life would fall apart, you would be a pariah. And that assumes that you escaped criminal prosecution. You might be lucky to escape several years in prison. That's the way life is when you screw up royally. That's the way your life is when you screw up. It's not that way for the rich and connected. The ones who are in a position to really screw up royally.

It's hard to think of a single person in the federal government who has advised doing something that has turned out to be a total disaster, costing hundreds and thousands of lives, who has paid a real price for it. A lot of the time they advise going ahead into disaster when there are people who strongly advise against it. A lot of times the people advising caution are experts in universities; great scholars of long standing with decades of study, who have taken the bother of learning the languages. In many cases they, unsurprisingly, turn out to have known what they were talking about. The DC policy wonks who gave the bad advice typically work out of that intoxicating mix of theory, wishful thinking and the nest feathering that has nothing to do with the subject of action. It has everything to do with their speaking and dinner invitations.

And when they get it catastrophically wrong what happens to them? They get promoted. The invitations don't stop. They're still dining among the Sulzbergers or the Grahams. They often end up with seats at the very same universities where the real and unheeded experts work. They are still consulted by the media in preference to the real experts. Connections count for more than book larnin' with our great and free press. Eventually, now resting on their laurels as a "scholar" of the subject, they go back into the government.

In retirement a few of them pen their memoirs. A few of those will, the tide of opinion making it prudent, express their belated regrets for their tragic mistakes. They were victims of fate, no one could have done any better under the circumstances. I don't know about you but I think honor would have been better served if they had sat silently and taken their lumps from history.

But here is the real question. What are we to these people? Those of us who get killed in their disasters, those of us whose relatives and friends get killed, those of us who pay? Does it even register with the media, the heads of departments, the corporate boards, that these people have climbed on the bodies of real, bleeding people to rise to the top? Does it begin to dawn on them that they have proven themseves to be bunglers and thugs with nothing to teach the world except as bad examples? And YES, I do mean the Kennedy school at Harvard and Georgetown.

These are rhetorical questions, sadly. The answer is clear in their actions. We are nothing to them. To them We the People are things to be used and suckers to be milked. We are those who are to be gulled into paying for it. And don't get me wrong. I'm not just talking about we the working class of America. "We" means those of us on both sides who end up dead and destitute because of this March of Folly.

They will keep killing us as long as we let them, for as long as we allow the media to cover up for them. If they were exposed and their presence at those elite dinner parties became just a bit outre, a key part of the daisy chain of corruption would be broken.

We have to make criminal negligence a crime and a shame for the plutocrats and their publicity hounds. And by we, I mean we the used.

It's even worse than that -- there are not only rewards for being wrong but people who are right are punished. How does the marketplace of ideas allow us to get the best ideas (which is the strength of democracy) if we don't reward good ideas and de-reward bad ones? If we don't have an adaquate system of rewarding good ideas, then we might as well be a dictatorship, from a purely practical point of view -- maybe that's the idea?

Or maybe it's just a case that society (or at least our punditocracy) has developed a very juvenile "nobody likes someone who always says 'I told you so'" attitude?
There are times I wonder how many on the left care, really. The "left" cites the "liberal" pundits who aren't really liberal but just plying the same trade as those on the right side of the pavement. Not on the left side, there's no money on the left side of the street. They ply their trade in the middle and call it the left.

But some people do care and those are the ones I care about.
The left cares, but what can we do? We are the ones who murmur in alarm, who advise against disastrous courses of action, who protest in the streets, but we are Cassandras whose prophecies go unheeded. Our best efforts earn us nothing but contempt from those we wish to spare. Many of those who allegedly represent us in government are too timid to take a principled stand for fear of alienating those who disregard us.

I am not sure what more we can do. No one seems to hear us, and those who do hear us don't dare admit that they do. I would like to have hope that this can be fixed, but I think we are already past the point of no return.
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