23 March 2009

Grandstanding, Baby-Kissing & Staged Community Service Photos

On Saturday I joined a group of youths in cleaning up the yards and streets near Willesden Green in the Brent Council here in London. It was your typical street/yard cleaning service project. We found all the usual things, though certainly nothing so crazy as the meth lab remnants I found while doing a similar project in Mead Valley, CA.

While I was glad to not involve the UK version of Hazmat in our service project, I was disappointed we didn't find anything stranger than a half-filled bottle of transmission fluid. That's a boring service project.

The one thing that did make it interesting was the appearance of the Brent East MP (Member of Parliament), Sarah Teather. Hers was like the visit of politicians to service projects everywhere--all about staged photos. I know I shouldn't have given it another thought--it goes on all the time--but I was, admittedly, a little disgusted.

To my mind, if you want to take pictures of yourself picking up trash with all the rest of us morons, you ought to at least, you know, pick up a little trash.

I don't know anything about her politics--other than the fact that she's a Liberal Democrat. But her "appearance" at the service project Saturday made her just another politician.

She's just like the hacks in Congress who write ex-post facto bills of attainder meant to "punish" people who earned bonuses at a company that took TARP money. Never mind that Congress--Chris Dodd, at the urging of the Obama administration--wrote the rule in the first place. Now that there's a backlash, Congress will do what it does best--grandstand.

Consider the WSJ's quote of James Madison in Federalist 44
such punitive laws were expressly deplored by America's Founders. In Federalist 44, James Madison warned that "Bills of attainder, ex post facto laws, and laws impairing the obligation of contracts, are contrary to the first principles of the social compact, and to every principle of sound legislation."
I get the populist pulls on these people. I understand that they need to get elected (or re-elected for the 17th time). But why can't a Senator or President Obama show a little bit of leadership on this issue--why can't anyone in Congress behave like an adult?

Instead of making a superficial production of everything--the Guitar Hero* phenomenon I wrote about all last year--how about a little substantive leadership?

*Over-the-top performance, no real skill or experience.

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