ABOUT FACE

Some things are funny because they are predictable, but it's a tricky kind of humor. When Leslie Nielsen turns to the bartender and asks for a Black Russian, you know with such certainty what's about to happen that there is no room left for humor when the visual punchline arrives. Foreshadowed is funny, telegraphed is not. Predictability is a source of humor more often when there is no overt attempt to be funny. When Charlie Brown lines up for the hundredth time to kick the football he's not trying to crack you up. It's funny because he doesn't know what's going to happen but you do.

When we saw the first reports of severe flooding coming out of Texas, I suppressed a soft chuckle. Not because I think death and destruction inflicted upon my fellow man is funny – no, the impending humor was the certainty that we'd be seeing Greg Abbott requesting Federal disaster relief aid by the end of the week. It may not take long, though, since he has already met with He Whose Name Cannot Be Spoken in Texas.

Stop me if I've mentioned this before, but when I teach Intro American Government (a breadth course that forces you to cover a new topic every other class, with no time to address anything in real depth) I am a realist who accepts that the students are unlikely to remember more than a fraction of the details. So I try to make sure that there's one or two big points from each topic that they remember. With the obligatory chapter on federalism, the One Point is that states balk at Washington's involvement in their affairs only until they're begging for it. With the dire budgetary situation found in most states today, there is no Rainy Day money lying around for hurricanes, tornadoes, forest fires, measles outbreaks, or anything else that can't be forecast with certainty. All the tough-sounding talk about getting Washington off Our backs goes right out the window when things, as the kids say, get real. It is politically appealing for state-level politicians to bash the federal government; some of them may even believe it. They learn very quickly, however, that ideology goes out the window when the state is faced with billion dollars in repair and cleanup costs. No one's a states' rights advocate when a city is under water and the Coast Guard and FEMA are the only ones equipped to handle it.

The men who wrote the Constitution were more suspicious (earnestly so) of power in the hands of a national government than any of the corn-pone orators elevated into high offices today. Yet they understood the necessity of having such a government. Even if they don't realize it, people like Greg Abbott recognize it too. It takes very little reflection and imagination to come up with a dozen scenarios that would have even Sam Brownback reaching for the phone to beg for Washington's help faster than he could say "I've never met Josh Duggar."

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40 Responses to “ABOUT FACE”

  1. Both Sides Do It Says:

    Plus, all that money floating around is a great opportunity to stick a little in the pockets of companies that donated to you and for whom you wish to work.

    Never waste a crisis, and all that.

    The individual behavior of politicians is less surprising than *their supporters* that clamor hypocritically for the cleanup money.

    Well, maybe not. "All that welfare money for Obama-phones and FEMA trailers for the New Orleans heroin addicts, and they can't even clean up my street."

  2. HoosierPoli Says:

    The irony is even richer given the tacit encouragement of anti-FEMA tinfoil hatters in the right-wing looney bin. When you get to the death camps don't forget to write!

  3. wetcasements Says:

    It's why we, the good guys, can never win.

    It take a modicum of logic to understand basic economics and what happens when shit hits the fan.

    But people like my father, who is comfortably retired on a full Federal pension with gold-plated benefits, will earnestly tell you they _earned_ that sweet, sweet Fed cash while others didn't.

    It's basic cognitive dissonance. One side wants to understand how to best organize a functioning society, the Tea Baggers are just little babies.

    Cf. also the "keep government out of my Medicare" geniuses.

    We, as a nation, are completely fucked in the long-run.

  4. US leaving the UK Says:

    Can we please ask the Federal Government – in the form of one specific person, teh Communist Muslim Overlord – to say yes to Texas …. as long as they ask on the White House lawn in front of the full array of tv cameras and it must run as the head story on a certain 'news' program?

    Just for once can we rub their noses in it?

  5. RosiesDad Says:

    So maybe Texas will wait a couple of months before it secedes?

  6. Major Kong Says:

    Wait, can't you just shoot the flood with your concealed handgun?

  7. Buckyblue Says:

    I.E., Chris Christie. And it cost him his fantasy run to the WH. I know he had no chance but I wanted to see him in a G8 meeting and call Angela Merkel a cunt. Kind of like the only positive reason I can think of voting for Hillary is for the fun and hi-jinx of watching Bill run around unattended for 4/8 years in the WH.

  8. Xynzee Says:

    Second for what "US" said.
    That, or "Fuck 'em!"

    The other is to tell 'em to "talk to the Koch". I'm sure they'll gladly bail 'em out.

  9. Verbal Says:

    My friend keeps saying basically what "US Leaving the UK" posted above – aid should be contingent on elected officials showing up at a photo op to have Obama give them a big novelty check.

  10. Deggjr Says:

    When Rick Perry didn't get enough FEMA money for the self-inflicted fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, he put out his hand and went begging for more. He begged until he got the additional funding.

    From Rick Perry to Greg Abbott to Mike Huckabee to Rick Santorum, all the way down to Luis Lang, their 'deeply held beliefs' evaporate when misery happens to them instead of to other people.

  11. anotherbozo Says:

    Another reminder that this is the best blog in its class on the Internets. At least that I've been able to find.

    "Class" being a daily or almost-daily blog. "Class" being a one-person show, unpaid. His Memorial Day posts, Esquire's Charles Pierce wrote, were brief because his staff was off. "Staff"? And I would bet he probably pulls a regular salary for his blog.

    Leaving Ed in a class by himself.

    Also wonder if Arianna has ever paid attention, always on the alert, as I'm sure she is, for free talent. I notice there weren't even any dick jokes today.

  12. Tim H. Says:

    And I suppose the survivors are likely to vote for those that would make future disaster aid impossible, if they could…

  13. Well mostly Says:

    This is why I read GAT at 5 every morning! Brilliant.
    There is something beyond poetic wonder in the words "Obama declares Texas a national disaster area."
    Indeed. We already knew that.

  14. John Danley Says:

    A don't-tread-on-me patrol poncho and unregulated rope tricks should get them out of this.

  15. MS Says:

    Obama should certainly pay to have a lengthy speech run on Texas TV networks where he talks about Texas begging for handouts from Washington and how he, personally, was happy to oblige them. Novelty check with "Government Handouts From Washington to Texas" on it would be great.

    Would make heads explode.

  16. c u n d gulag Says:

    Conservatives are what I call "IMBY's" – In My Back Yard.

    They don't give a shit about anyone else's back yard, but when theirs is affected, well, goddamn it, I've earned some help!!!

    Now, Jeb, who as FL's Governor nixed money for Alzheimer's research, he now says if he's elected President, he will increase the budget for Alzheimer's research.
    Why the change?
    His wife's mother now suffers from Alzheimer's!

    Jeb, in a classic example of an IMBY.

    Like the assclowns who are adamantly against gay rights – right up until they find one of their children or siblings is gay.
    NOW, people should be allowed go be happy, regardless of sexual orientation!
    YEEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeesh…

  17. Skipper Says:

    It's like the "free market." There isn't one corporation that wants a free market. They all want it skewed in their favor. And then there are "job creators." No corporate exec has ever gotten a bonus or a pat on the back for adding people to the payroll. However, if you put 5,000 people out of work, the stockholders will carry you around the block on their shoulders.

  18. Totoro Says:

    You're being too hard on Leslie and his writers. If you fire up a 3-Stooges video you had better expect the broadest slapstick and telegraphed mayhem. If you just arrived from Mars and had never seen "Airplane" you are forgiven for thinking that their use of "foreshadowing" was crude at best. But at some point you gotta know that verbal slapstick and shit literally hitting the fan is _the point_. Either you're in the mood for that kinda humor or you aren't. But complaining that Leslie Nielsen lacks subtlety, well, that seems harsh.

  19. Gordon Says:

    He Who Cannot Be Named In Texas won 5 of the 6 largest Texas counties in 2012. Hence, of course, a lawsuit by Republicans to challenge one person one vote.

  20. Mistergizmo Says:

    On the religious side, the TV evangelists love to rail about hurricanes in the Northeast being the result of evil hippie librul ways. But they're strangely silent when their God's wrath turns on the conservative south. I'm shocked.

  21. swkellogg Says:

    The comments in the linked article are worth the read.

  22. Mr. Wonderful Says:

    "Obama should certainly pay to have a lengthy speech run on Texas TV networks where he talks about Texas begging for handouts from Washington and how he, personally, was happy to oblige them."

    This, this, a thousand times this. Sure, let the Feds help. But Obama, or someone, should give a clear, angry speech explaining how GOP "anti-DC" rhetoric is bullshit, the people who deliver it are *predictably* hypocritical, and citizens who demand (and expect) aid from the Fed. gov't. should have the decency and honesty to acknowledge that. Why not? What is there to lose? The affection of morons who hate you? Please.

  23. Skippper Says:

    Texas just clarified. They're not asking for a government handout. They're asking for foreign aid.

  24. MS Says:

    Also, shouldn't the Texas governor be drug-tested (and the results published) before receiving aid? (Every applicant as well; have to be fair.) And shouldn't he have to wait 16 weeks to be sure he's eligible? And shouldn't it come with a bunch of restrictions about not spending it on lobster and things like that?

  25. mothra Says:

    I am curious—when Obama declares Texas a disaster area, does that start the federal takeover of Texas, or is that a separate thing?

    The other thing to love about this is that some of the most entrenched climate deniers live in TX. Houston flooding has nothing to do with climate change. Nothing whatsoever. Mmmmhmmmm.

  26. cromartie Says:

    Karma. It's a bitch.

  27. democommie Says:

    " am curious—when Obama declares Texas a disaster area, does that start the federal takeover of Texas, or is that a separate thing?"

    Ixnay on the chadenfreudsay. They just about calmed down since finding out about the takeover scheduled for this summer!

  28. Heisenberg Says:

    I enjoy pointing out conservative hypocrisy as much as the next guy, but I think this criticism is slightly unfair. I would equate it to the famous Ice-T lyric, "Don't hate the player, hate the game."

    Everyone here is calling Abbott a hypocrite for railing against the federal government on one hand, and then asking for federal handouts on the other. But I'd say he's just playing by the rules of the game as they're set up. Sure, he opposes the federal government's heavy-handed role in state affairs, and he thinks a lot of things should be changed in the federal-state relationship… but given the system we currently have, in which the federal government taxes heavily (relative to the states) and then redistributes funds to them, Abbott has a legitimate claim that he's already bound by the rules, even if he doesn't like them.

    In Abbott's perfect world, Texas wouldn't be giving up so much of its income to the feds in the first place (Texas is a "donor state" after all). But because Texas is forced to do so by the rules of the game, then I'd say Abbott is justified in asking for some of those funds when (by the rules of the game) his state warrants it.

  29. Heisenberg Says:

    Adding to my last comment, I thought an opposite example also might be helpful:

    In 2012, conservatives accused Obama of hypocrisy for railing against unregulated campaign cash, and then going out and raising a mint in unregulated cash for his own campaign. Was this criticism valid? Should Obama have stuck with his principles and refused massive donations, and then tried to beat Mitt Romney on a shoestring budget?

    I think most people here would answer no, Obama wasn't being a hypocrite – he was merely playing by the rules of the game, even though he disliked those rules. So how come nobody is willing to extend this same courtesy to Abbott? The rationale is exactly the same.

  30. Skepticalist Says:

    Such subtly.

    A little take no prisoners attitude by the left seems appropriate here. Such thoughtful stuff would never be found on the right.

    Screw it. We are entitled….there's a word….to a little fun now and then.

  31. Deggjr Says:

    The 'exactly the same' comparison between Obama/Abbott is broken by the eight Texas congressmen who voted against Superstorm Sandy aid: Mike Conaway (R-TX), Bill Flores (R-TX), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Kenny Marchant (R-TX), Randy Neugebauer (R-TX), Mac Thornberry (R-TX), Randy Weber (R-TX), Roger Williams (R-TX).

  32. PhoenicianRomans Says:

    Ideally, authorizations for these monies should be at the periodic discretion of the President, as chief executive, as to whether it is needed.

    The next election will be held Tuesday 8 Nov 2016. Said authorisations should be arranged so they ALL go up to the President Nov 9 or 10. And those places plumping for Republicans (the Party of Small Government) should get all aid cut until 20 Jan 2017, when the new President can do as he or she wants.

  33. NonyNony Says:

    I am curious—when Obama declares Texas a disaster area, does that start the federal takeover of Texas, or is that a separate thing?

    I'm actually somewhat legitimately concerned that relief workers in Texas might get assaulted by paranoids who think that the floods are all a plot by Barack Hussein Obama's FEMA to take control of Texas and march them all off to the waiting death camps.

    If this wasn't happening so close to the Jade Helm truther weirdos stoking the fires I'd be less worried, but still worried.

  34. NonyNony Says:

    but given the system we currently have, in which the federal government taxes heavily (relative to the states) and then redistributes funds to them, Abbott has a legitimate claim that he's already bound by the rules, even if he doesn't like them.

    No he isn't. He could be advocating that Texas has its own disaster relief fund that is for Texas alone and that they'll raise taxes (or some other funding mechanism) to pay for it.

    He isn't doing that. He isn't making a proposal for how Texas could be independent of Federal dollars. He has never even suggested it. Instead he agitates against the Federales to get elected and then turns around hat in hand to beg for money when the first crisis shows up.

  35. Skepticalist Says:

    Once again the more or less regular threats by Texas to secede have some appeal.

  36. MS Says:

    Headline today:

    "Ted Cruz — who voted against Hurricane Sandy aid — calls for federal relief following Texas floods"

    Again, Obama needs to come visit, and in a well-photographed photo op lean over and hand Cruz a large welfare check, and have a lengthy televised discussion about how it's okay to admit weakness and ask for help from a black man.

  37. Barry Says:

    Heisenberg: "But I'd say he's just playing by the rules of the game as they're set up. "

    As they have been set up by the whackjob right and the politicians who stoke their insanity. The governor of Texas is far from innocent.

  38. democommie Says:

    "Sure, he opposes the federal government's heavy-handed role in state affairs, and he thinks a lot of things should be changed in the federal-state relationship… but given the system we currently have, in which the federal government taxes heavily (relative to the states) and then redistributes funds to them, Abbott has a legitimate claim that he's already bound by the rules, even if he doesn't like them."

    Texas is, afaia, a net "taker" in the area of federal tax monies. Fuck Texas.

  39. PhoenixRising Says:

    hahahahahaha no:

    "given the system we currently have, in which the federal government taxes heavily (relative to the states)"

    You are not familiar with an organization we Californians know as 'the Franchise Tax Board', I see.

    Fed taxes are a bigger bite than TX taxes, which is why TX is a post-apocalyptic shithole to live in unless you personally ARE an oil well.

    Texas loves to put a thumb on the scales of how the US can regulate fossil fuel production, based on the vital Principle of $45 a Barrel Leads to Suicides, while keeping its property taxes at Cambodian levels and no income tax. Therefore employed Texans see a big bite from the Feds on every pay stub. But that's a tactic designed to keep the rich that way & the poor miserable.

    …but the sovereign Lone Star State balances its budget every year, so they know how to work money, right?

    Ed, this rant lacked the appropriate degree of judgment, hostility and misanthropy. You're going to take the hit for kicking the stupid rubes when they're down, or in some cases dead/homeless, no matter how polite your language (because there is no whiner like a Republican who just found out that rules apply to them, not just Them)–so excoriate them like the Lord intended you to. B-.

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