And while I have your attention, Bill Quick is doing one of his very infrequent fund-raisers. Give him a hand if you can. Besides being one of the strongest voices for liberty on the Interwebs, he also loves Dale’s auto reviews.
Camille Paglia is someone I disagree with at times but have always found to be, for the most part, refreshingly honest. I like to read her thoughts on current affairs (don’t really care much about the cultural side of it all) and this week, in an interview in Salon, she answered a couple of questions that I think are worth discussing.
Two words: Anthony Weiner. Your thoughts?
Two words: pathetic dork. How sickeningly debased our politics have become that this jabbering cartoon weasel could be taken seriously for a second as a candidate for mayor of New York. But beyond that, I have been amazed by the almost total absence of psychological critique in news analyses of the silly Weiner saga. For heaven’s sake, Weiner is no randy stud with a sophisticated sex life that we need to respect. The compulsion to exhibit and boast about one’s penis is embarrassingly infantile — the obvious residue of some squalid family psychodrama in childhood that is now being replayed in public.
I assumed at first that Huma Abedin stayed married to Weiner out of noble concern for her unborn child, who deserved a father. But her subsequent behavior as Weiner’s defender and enabler has made me lose respect for her. The Weiners should be permanently bundled off to the luxe Elba of Oscar de la Renta’s villa in the Dominican Republic. I’m sure that Hillary (Huma’s capo) can arrange that.
Her first point is the most important – how debased have our politics have become? Look at the circus we deal with on a seeming daily basis. Look at the people we attract. And consider the fact that Anthony Weiner actually figured he had a legitimate shot at being elected.
Look at this idiot mayor in San Diego. He just can’t imagine why he should shuffle off the stage. There are any number of others that need to take the hint as well.
It’s not just a problem on the left. It is a problem on both sides of the isle. As we have said many times here, we are extraordinarily ill served by our political class today… at all levels and from both parties. And it is we who we have to blame for that problem. The fact that Weiner was indeed taken seriously until his latest nonsense was revealed is the point. Elliot Spitzer is another example. The fact that neither demonstrated any character or integrity previously should tell us we don’t need them anywhere near public office. Yet somehow they get signals that they have a chance at a second try. What those signals are I haven’t a clue, but whatever they are, we need to quit sending them pronto.
Any hopes, fears or predictions for the presidential elections in 2016?
As a registered Democrat, I am praying for a credible presidential candidate to emerge from the younger tier of politicians in their late 40s. A governor with executive experience would be ideal. It’s time to put my baby-boom generation out to pasture! We’ve had our day and managed to muck up a hell of a lot. It remains baffling how anyone would think that Hillary Clinton (born the same year as me) is our party’s best chance. She has more sooty baggage than a 90-car freight train. And what exactly has she ever accomplished — beyond bullishly covering for her philandering husband? She’s certainly busy, busy and ever on the move — with the tunnel-vision workaholism of someone trying to blot out uncomfortable private thoughts.
I for one think it was a very big deal that our ambassador was murdered in Benghazi. In saying “I take responsibility” for it as secretary of state, Hillary should have resigned immediately. The weak response by the Obama administration to that tragedy has given a huge opening to Republicans in the next presidential election. The impression has been amply given that Benghazi was treated as a public relations matter to massage rather than as the major and outrageous attack on the U.S. that it was.
Throughout history, ambassadors have always been symbolic incarnations of the sovereignty of their nations and the dignity of their leaders. It’s even a key motif in “King Lear.” As far as I’m concerned, Hillary disqualified herself for the presidency in that fist-pounding moment at a congressional hearing when she said, “What difference does it make what we knew and when we knew it, Senator?” Democrats have got to shake off the Clinton albatross and find new blood. The escalating instability not just in Egypt but throughout the Mideast is very ominous. There is a clash of cultures brewing in the world that may take a century or more to resolve — and there is no guarantee that the secular West will win.
She nails Hillary and Benghazi on the head. I couldn’t agree any more with her assessment of that particular situation and the response from Clinton and the administration.
Note too that Paglia’s candidate isn’t another senator. She too has had enough of that brand of clueless fools that have no executive experience (although Clinton can claim exec experience with the Dept. of State, as far as I’m concerned she made a dog’s breakfast of her time there). Hopefully the rest of the country is just as tired of it as Paglia is.
On last night’s podcast, Dale and I discussed the rise of a soft tyranny and expansion of the regulatory state in this country. Pres. Obama has, on more than one occasion, unilaterally declared the power to pick and choose what laws to enforce, or to simply change the way they are enforced, without any consequences (i.e. checks and/or balances). He’s not the first POTUS to act that way (albeit the most brazen about it), and probably won’t be the last.
The primary reason he, or any other POTUS, is even able to act this way is because of the massive regulatory apparatus at the disposal of the Executive branch. An apparatus created by Congress; one it seems strangely reluctant to rein in. As Kevin Williamson notes, “Barack Obama did not invent managerial liberalism,” and while his agenda is painfully horrendous, it’s “a good deal less ambitious than was Woodrow Wilson’s or Richard Nixon’s.” However, Obama has used the leeway provided by Congresses past and present to further expand the regulatory state. Williamson characterizes this as Obama’s “utterly predictable approach to domestic politics: appoint a panel of credentialed experts.”
His faith in the powers of pedigreed professionals is apparently absolute. Consider his hallmark achievement, the Affordable Care Act, the centerpiece of which is the appointment of a committee, the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), the mission of which is to achieve targeted savings in Medicare without reducing the scope or quality of care. How that is to be achieved was contemplated in detail neither by the lawmakers who wrote the health-care bill nor by the president himself. But they did pay a great deal of attention to the processes touching IPAB: For example, if that committee of experts fails to achieve the demanded savings, then the ball is passed to . . . a new committee of experts, this one under the guidance of the secretary of health and human services. IPAB’s powers are nearly plenipotentiary: Its proposals, like a presidential veto, require a supermajority of Congress to be overridden.
IPAB is the most dramatic example of President Obama’s approach to government by expert decree, but much of the rest of his domestic program, from the Dodd-Frank financial-reform law to his economic agenda, is substantially similar. In total, it amounts to that fundamental transformation of American society that President Obama promised as a candidate: but instead of the new birth of hope and change, it is the transformation of a constitutional republic operating under laws passed by democratically accountable legislators into a servile nation under the management of an unaccountable administrative state. The real import of Barack Obama’s political career will be felt long after he leaves office, in the form of a permanently expanded state that is more assertive of its own interests and more ruthless in punishing its enemies. At times, he has advanced this project abetted by congressional Democrats, as with the health-care law’s investiture of extraordinary powers in the executive bureaucracy, but he also has advanced it without legislative assistance — and, more troubling still, in plain violation of the law. President Obama and his admirers choose to call this “pragmatism,” but what it is is a mild expression of totalitarianism, under which the interests of the country are conflated with those of the president’s administration and his party.
I likened the expansion and independence of the regulatory state to 2001: A Space Odyssey or The Terminator in that these things that were created to ostensibly serve in the aid of their users developed a life, mind and interests of their own, and eventually turned on the users. A perfect example would be if the IRS scandal of targeting conservatives turns out to be completely divorced of any political direction, and instead was completely self-initiated from within the department. As James Taranto often points out, that is the far scarier scenario than the one where the White House directed the agency to target its political enemies. Corrupt politicians are bad, but they are expected and can be dealt with in a summary manner. An unelected, unaccountable and extremely powerful organization exercising its own political agenda is orders of magnitude worse.
Democracy never lasts long,” [John] Adams famously said. “It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There was never a democracy that did not commit suicide.” For liberal regimes, a very common starting point on the road to serfdom is the over-delegation of legislative powers to the executive. France very nearly ended up in a permanent dictatorship as a result of that error, and was spared that fate mostly by good luck and Charles de Gaulle’s patriotism. Long before she declared her infamous state of emergency, Indira Gandhi had been centralizing power in the prime minister’s office, and India was spared a permanent dictatorship only by her political miscalculation and her dynasty-minded son’s having gotten himself killed in a plane wreck. Salazar in Portugal, Austria under Dollfuss, similar stories. But the United States is not going to fall for a strongman government. Instead of delegating power to a would-be president-for-life, we delegate it to a bureaucracy-without-death. You do not need to install a dictator when you’ve already had a politically supercharged permanent bureaucracy in place for 40 years or more. As is made clear by everything from campaign donations to the IRS jihad, the bureaucracy is the Left, and the Left is the bureaucracy. Elections will be held, politicians will come and go, but if you expand the power of the bureaucracy, you expand the power of the Left, of the managers and minions who share Barack Obama’s view of the world. Barack Obama isn’t the leader of the free world; he’s the front man for the permanent bureaucracy, the smiley-face mask hiding the pitiless yawning maw of total politics.
I would add that, if the politics were reversed (i.e. “the bureaucracy is Right, and the Right is bureaucracy”) we would still have the same issue: an unaccountable power structure that invades every aspect of our lives. Coupled with a President who exercises that power based on political whims, and we have a serious issue:
The job of the president is to execute the law — that is what the executive branch is there to do. If Barack Obama had wanted to keep pursuing his career as a lawmaker, then the people of Illinois probably would have been content to preserve him in the Senate for half a century or so. As president, he has no more power to decide not to enforce the provisions of a duly enacted federal law than does John Boehner, Anthony Weiner, or Whoopi Goldberg. And unlike them, he has a constitutional duty to enforce the law.
So, one might ask (as Dale did last night), why isn’t the President being impeached for dereliction of duty? Partisan politics is one answer (see, e.g., the failure of the Clinton impeachment). A lack of will is another. Perhaps the simplest answer, however, is that Congress is quite complicit in this expansion and abuse of the regulatory state:
Congress’s supine ceding of its powers, and the Obama administration’s usurpation of both legal and extralegal powers, is worrisome. But what is particularly disturbing is the quiet, polite, workaday manner with which the administration goes about its business — and with which the American public accepts it. As Christopher Hitchens once put it, “The essence of tyranny is not iron law; it is capricious law.”
Barack Obama’s administration is unmoored from the institutions that have long kept the imperial tendencies of the American presidency in check. That is partly the fault of Congress, which has punted too many of its legislative responsibilities to the president’s army of faceless regulators, but it is in no small part the result of an intentional strategy on the part of the administration. He has spent the past five years methodically testing the limits of what he can get away with, like one of those crafty velociraptors testing the electric fence in Jurassic Park. Barack Obama is a Harvard Law graduate, and he knows that he cannot make recess appointments when Congress is not in recess. He knows that his HHS is promulgating regulations that conflict with federal statutes. He knows that he is not constitutionally empowered to pick and choose which laws will be enforced. This is a might-makes-right presidency, and if Barack Obama has been from time to time muddled and contradictory, he has been clear on the point that he has no intention of being limited by something so trivial as the law.
I agree with Williamson that Obama has pushed the limits, but I think he lets Congress off the hook too easily. Every POTUS presses the limits. Indeed, Williamson provides the example of Nixon’s abuses, and even compares Obama favorably: “… it is impossible to imagine President Obama making the announcement that President Richard Nixon did on August 15, 1971: ‘I am today ordering a freeze on all prices and wages throughout the United States.'” Williamson notes that Nixon was able to make that announcement because of power invested in him by Congress. Just as Obama has been entrusted with incredible power via such instruments as the IPAB which requires a super-majority of Congress to override its decisions. While Obama is bad, clearly the issue here is that Congress isn’t doing its job either.
Recall that in Federalist #51, James Madison explained that the way the Constitution controls the new federal government, such that “the private interest of every individual may be a sentinel over the public rights”, was to divide the different departments in a way that each had interests sufficiently distinct from one another so as to provide an incentive for each to jealously guard those interests and maintain their power. This system of checks and balances was meant to prevent consolidation of power in any one part of the government.
The problem we seem to have run into since then is when the two most powerful departments combine their interests and secret away their combined powers in an unaccountable regulatory apparatus, safe from the will of the electorate. That the office of POTUS would be willing to do this is to be expected, and indeed is a large part of why there was much resistance to its creation. However, that Congress has done so much to aid and abet the effort is contemptible. Unless and until Congress rights the balance, and vigorously pursues its checking role, the problem will only worsen.
I was reading Da Tech Guy’s musings on why limited government types need to work within the GOP rather than try a third party approach to rid themselves of the GOP establishment. He quotes Rush Limbaugh on what Ronald Reagan managed to do the last time the GOP establishment found themselves threatened:
The real question, in my humble opinion, is that this effort and energy needs to be used, as Ronald Reagan did, to take over the Republican Party, to repopulate it and that’s exactly what Reagan did, he took it away from the Rockefeller blue-blood country club types starting in 1976, took him ’til 1980 to do it.
Worked before, so it should work again, right? I’m skeptical.
First, what did Reagan really accomplish? A few things, sure. Don’t get me wrong – he was the best we’ve seen in my lifetime, but given the competition, that doesn’t mean much.
He got income taxes down from their preposterous progressive wet dream rates of 70%. He stood up to the Soviet Union, and possibly hastened the crumbling of that creaking empire by a few years. He made it respectable, after the raging waves of liberalism in the sixties and seventies, to say that government was more likely to be a problem than a solution for social problems.
And that’s about it.
There was no “taking over the Republican Party” under Reagan. He got a few things done, but as soon as he was out the door, it was back to business as usual for the GOP.
Reagan was forced or induced by the GOP establishment to take on one of their blue bloods as his VP. Then, after Bush the Elder won what was supposedly a third helping of Reagan, he immediately broke his solemn promise on taxes, passed more social nonsense such as the ADA, and managed to fumble away the popularity and credibility built by Reagan to the point that he was defeated by a smarmy hick used car salesman from Arkansas.
The GOP then proceeded to nominate Bob Dole, Bush the Younger, John McCain, and Mitt Romney as their presidential candidates. GOP establishment stalwarts, every one of them. In some of those cases, the GOP establishment pulled out every trick in the book to drag their preferred choice over the finish line.
Yes, the GOP establishment learned something from the ascent of Reagan. They learned techniques to keep it from ever happening again.
The GOP establishment has made something perfectly clear: they would prefer to lose rather than let people like Reagan threaten their dominance of the party. Even when they get control, as Newt Gingrich managed in 1994, they revert to their ruling class habits and fumble the opportunity away without making any progress in limiting government. In fact, after a few years, and given a cooperative president, they proved they prefer bigger government to smaller. Under Bush, a classic GOP establishment blue blood, the establishment players in the Congress enthusiastically federalized education, passed a whole new social welfare program for seniors, and passed the biggest infringement of free speech seen in my lifetime (thankfully eventually overturned by the Supreme Court).
What motivation do limited government types have to vote for such weasels or give them support of any kind? Not much, and the elections of 2006 and 2008 proved it.
Even after seeing their limited government base re-energize the party and give them back control of the House in 2010, the GOP establishment still didn’t get the message. They worked their butts off to get the “electable” Mitt Romney as their presidential nominee. Having again shown contempt for limited government types, the establishment GOP thus managed to lose against one of the weakest presidential candidates for re-election in history. No one besides Obama has *ever* won re-election with fewer votes than he got the first time, which ought to tell you just how weak he was. But the GOP managed to be even weaker, with a candidate who looked like an android programmed to only say nice things, and never ever raise any of those unpleasant ideas about limiting government. Oh, no, government was just going to be managed better. Just like it was under those managerial types named Bush.
So how do these establishment GOP types keep getting what they want? One big reason is that limited government advocates such as Limbaugh, Da Tech Guy, Charles Krauthammer, Allahpundit over at Hot Air, and about half the denizens of sites such as Free Republic pound the same drum every election. Their basic message is “Yep, we’ve been screwed by these guys more times than we can count, but we still have to support them because the Democrats are worse!TM”
OK, message taken – the Democrats are worse. But, as limited government types demonstrated in three of the last four elections, that’s not enough reason to support the GOP establishment. Indeed, in the only exception that the GOP did well (2010), many of the limited government types only turned out because they were supporting someone other than an establishment candidate.
So we’re really four for four in proving that limited government types are fed up on supporting the establishment GOP.
Why on Earth would they not be? What’s the point of investing time, energy, and emotion in an effort to elect someone who will most likely end up being just as subverted by the GOP establishment as Bill Frist, Tom Coburn, Jeff Flake, and Mario Rubio have been?
And even on those occasions where a Ted Cruz or Rand Paul ends up winning and sticks to their guns, they can’t get anything done. After obediently voting for establishment GOP types for leadership positions, they then spend more time fighting the very people they supported instead of fighting Democrats.
The limited government advocates I mentioned above all desperately want to believe that the answer is simply running better primary candidates to beat establishment Republicans, but then supporting the establishment guys who win the rigged game at least nine times out of ten. That’s playing by their rules. I simply don’t see how that can ever work.
Therefore I’m confident that simply “working within the GOP” isn’t the answer. It’s a fantasy to think that will get us a party in which the leaders will work for limited government. The establishment GOP has decades of experience defeating every such attempt, and they’ve got the entire nomination and campaign financing game rigged in their favor.
Plus, the establishment GOP is willfully blind to the biggest successes the Republicans have had in my lifetime: Reagan, and the turnovers of Congress in 1994 and 2010. All three were fueled by enthusiasm for limited government. If the establishment GOP were simply practical politicians, they would embrace the limited government strategies and philosophies that won those elections.
But by subverting every one of those successes, they proved that they’re not just apathetic to limited government – they’re actively opposed to it. As members of the political class, the only thing they like about their limited government base is the votes provided. They are willing to pretend to embrace limited government principles to get those votes, but that just makes them more dishonest than Democrats, who are at least honest about growing government without end.
I see no reason to give the establishment GOP any quarter whatsoever.
The reluctant backers of the GOP establishment then say, “A third party would be disastrous! The Democrats would dominate for a generation!” I think things are a lot more complex than that.
First, waves of political change tend to happen in unpredictable, non-linear ways. We’re headed for some radical change in the next couple of decades, as we face multiple “what cannot go forever will stop” problems. Plus, a majority of people consider politicians more untrustworthy than the guys offering Three Card Monte on the streets of New York. I think there are plenty of possibilities in that mix to trigger the downfall of a major party.
Second, a third party opens up possibilities that make it more likely to genuinely take back the GOP by kicking out enough establishment Republicans.
The GOP stalwarts would have you think that the only way a third party would work is trying to challenge both the Democrat and the Republican in a large number of races. That would indeed give Democrats a better chance in marginal districts, and help them achieve majorities in Congress. But that’s not the only way to do it.
Many states allow candidates to run under the banner of more than one party. In such places, a candidate backed by a Tea Partyish third party could also run for the GOP nomination.
The message to Republicans would be “Look, I’ve already secured this limited government party’s nomination, and so I’m running. I’d also like to be the Republican nominee, which would mean I have a really good chance to win. But if I’m not the GOP nominee, the conservative/libertarian vote will be split and the Democrat would probably win.”
The GOP establishment would be furious, and as I noted above, they would probably prefer to lose to a Democrat rather than cave to such pressure. I’m not so sure, though, about the typical Republican primary voter. A lot of them are fed up with business-as-usual Republicans, and might be open to someone who shows serious limited government credentials by also running under a party specifically created to advance those principles.
A variation in other states would be to run for the GOP nomination, and make it clear from the beginning that losing that nomination to an establishment Republican will then result in a third party run. Sure, the establishment GOP and media would be shouting “sore loser!” till election day. But they had no problem with an establishment Republican (gentry GOP member Lisa Murkowski) who did exactly that, so why not ignore their hypocritical braying and do it anyway?
Would these kinds of strategies work? Probably in some cases, and not in others. But we can’t solve the current dominance of establishment Republicans by playing by their rules. It’s time to try more hardball strategies.
There is risk in that approach. There’s also risk in the “stick by the GOP because Democrats are worse” route. The limited government energy generated in 2010 has already been reduced to cynicism in many Tea Party supporters, and much of that reduction is due to seeing their goals subverted by candidates they trusted who defected to the establishment GOP side. We’ve seen what happens when the base just gets sick of supporting the establishment Republicans and drops out of the process. We get demagogue Democrats.
I think it’s time for direct confrontation with the GOP establishment. They’ve screwed us long enough. Any game theory expert would tell us it’s time to return the favor.
I love it when petty tyrants are struck down:
New York City’s crackdown on big, sugary sodas is staying on ice.
An appeals court ruled Tuesday that the city’s Board of Health exceeded its legal authority and acted unconstitutionally when it tried to put a size limit on soft drinks served in city restaurants.
In a unanimous opinion, the four-judge panel of the state Supreme Court Appellate Division said that the health board was acting too much like a legislature when it created the limit, which would have stopped sales of non-diet soda and other sugar-laden beverages in containers bigger than 16 ounces.
The judges wrote that while the board had the power to ban “inherently harmful” foodstuffs from being served to the public, sweetened beverages didn’t fall into that category. They also said the board appeared to have crafted much of the new rules based on political or economic considerations, rather than health concerns.
Bingo. In fact, they were instrumental in carrying out the wishes of one man – Mayor Michael Bloomberg. His is a personal agenda that has little to do with health and much to do with what he perceives as his duty to stop people from using substances that he deems harmful.
Thankfully the court said he doesn’t get to do that – at least not without substantial evidence to support his use of a ban. If ever there was an example of “arbitrary and capricious”, Bloomberg’s ban defines it.
But as a rule, petty tyrants don’t like getting their hands slapped. So, instead of seeing the handwriting on the wall, this one will spend more of NY taxpayers money pursuing a loss in a higher court:
The city’s law department promised a quick appeal.
“Today’s decision is a temporary setback, and we plan to appeal this decision as we continue the fight against the obesity epidemic,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a statement.
And if you ever wanted to understand why these busy-body do-gooders exist, here’s a fine statement to illustrate the point and the problem:
“We have a responsibility, as human beings, to do something, to save each other. … So while other people will wring their hands over the problem of sugary drinks, in New York City, we’re doing something about it,” Bloomberg said at a news conference after the measure was struck down in March.
Uh no, you don’t “have a responsibility” to “do something”. It’s none of your freaking business, sir. What you are doing is interfering in the life of people who haven’t asked you to do so and are therefore violating their right to do as they wish as long and they don’t violate the rights of others. That’s something petty tyrants can’t seem to get through there heads.
Freedom means the right to be fat, unhealthy and to fail. You may not like those things personally, but that indeed is the cost of freedom. If you’d prefer to be free to make your own choices rather than have some nanny make them for you, then you believe in freedom. Mayor Bloomberg does not.
Well there are a lot of contributing reasons, but Brad Plumer hits on the major one:
— Detroit is sagging under decades of bad governance. “The city’s operations have become dysfunctional and wasteful after years of budgetary restrictions, mismanagement, crippling operational practices and, in some cases, indifference or corruption,” Orr wrote in May. “Outdated policies, work practices, procedures and systems must be improved consistent with best practices of 21st-century government.” (Detroit has been a one-party city run by Democrats since 1962.)
Now I didn’t write that or suggest that. In fact, it comes from Ezra Klein’s “Wonk Blog” in the WaPo. Some things just can’t be denied or spun. Detroit is and has been the exemplar of the blue model city for decades. And this is the result.
Of course, Detroit isn’t the only blue city in dire straits. It’s simply the one in the worst shape of all. It has literally imploded. It’s population dropped as people fled the exploding crime and high taxes. 78,000 buildings have been abandoned or have become blighted. Unemployment is rampant. And, uncooperative unions and huge pension debt doomed any recovery.
Over the past few months, Orr has tried to convince the city’s various creditors, including the city’s unions and pension boards, to take far less than they were owed in order to restructure the city’s finances (in some cases, pennies on the dollar). But he was unsuccessful, so now the city is filing for bankruptcy protection.
So now they’re all at the mercy of the bankruptcy court, assuming the Obama Administration’s misnamed “Department of Justice” doesn’t try to take a hand in the restructuring as it did in the auto bankruptcy proceedings.
Looking back at the first cite, Kevyn Orr, the city’s temporary emergency manager makes an interesting point – he claims it is time to move government into the 21st century. Doing so would also include much less power for unions and much less generous payouts for pensions, if a city is to have a chance at fiscal solvency. Not that Detroit is going to get there easily:
“But city retirees, facing the prospect of sharply reduced benefits whether in bankruptcy or under Detroit’s restructuring proposal, think they stand squarely on the moral high ground because despite the poverty of many current and retired members, they have already offered big concessions.”
You can stand on the highest “moral ground” you can find, but reality says if there’s no money, it really doesn’t matter, does it?
That is, of course, unless the fed tries to involve itself in the mess and subsidize pensions and unions – something not at all far fetched.
Detroit is the canary in the coal mine of blue model governance. How many other cities will fold before it is finally kicked to the curb?
The IRS scandal took on new impetus today with a interesting revelation:
Top IRS officials in Washington, D.C. planned and oversaw the agency’s improper targeting of conservative groups, according to the 72-year old retiring IRS lawyer who will testify Thursday before the House Oversight Committee.
Retiring IRS lawyer Carter C. Hull implicated the IRS Chief Counsel’s office, headed by Obama appointee William J. Wilkins, and Lois Lerner, the embattled head of the IRS’ exempt organizations office, in the IRS targeting scandal and made clear that the targeting started in Washington, according to leaked interviews that Hull granted to the Oversight Committee in advance of Thursday’s hearing.
Treasury Inspector General J. Russell George will return to Republican chairman Darrell Issa’s committee Thursday along with two central characters in the IRS saga: Hull and Cincinnati-based IRS employee Elizabeth Hofacre, who previously gave Hull’s name to congressional investigators, fingering him as her Washington-based supervisor.
Yup, the rats are deserting the sinking ship. They are certainly not willing to go down with it and so they’re naming names. And contrary to all the claims previously, it seems that Washington D.C. was indeed involved and not just a “couple of rogue agents in Cincinnati” as we were told in the beginning.
It’s usually never the crime itself that hangs politicians, but the attempted (and ham-fisted) cover-up. And that’s precisely what this is beginning to look like. As for being “ham-fisted”, is there anything this administration does that isn’t ham-fisted?
Jonathan Chait certainly thinks so:
Unlike the last time Democrats threatened to change the Senate rules, and backed down without winning anything, this time they won something important: They broke Senate Republicans’ ability to hold presidential appointments hostage. It’s a total victory for the Democrats.
In fact, Chait says the bottom line is this:
Democrats had proposed to change the Senate’s rules to prevent filibusters on executive branch nominations (but not to ban filibusters of legislation or judicial nominees). They’ve won.
Republicans got one face-saving concession: Democrats have to pick new names for the NLRB. This became an issue because Obama tried to execute an end-run around Congress by appointing them to their positions when Congress was functionally, though not technically, in recess, and was struck down by the Republican-controlled D.C. circuit court.
You can obviously tell which side Chait comes down on if you didn’t know before. The D.C. circuit court struck it down not because it is “Republican-controlled” but because the appointments were Constitutionally illegal. By the way, so did the Third circuit court.
But it leaves us with a very interesting question. If the Democrats agreed to have two new appointments made to the NLRB, aren’t they at least tacitly admitting the current two appointments are illegal? And if so, what does that make any rulings the current NLRB made during that time it was illegally constituted? Common sense says those rulings should be invalidated, don’t you think? And that’s what Cablevision is still asking. It was one of the companies this illegally constituted board issued a ruling against:
“The role of Congress is to ensure a balanced NLRB and the Obama Administration bypassed Congress in order to stack the NLRB in favor of Big Labor. Two different federal courts — the D.C. Circuit and the Third Circuit — have established that the NLRB is illegally constituted and has no authority to take action. The NLRB continues to ignore these rulings, and we ask the Supreme Court to compel the NLRB to immediately halt its unlawful proceedings against Cablevision.”
Will anyone address this? Will anyone actually take action to annul these rulings from an illegally constituted board? Or, as usual, will we see it ignored, the injustice shrugged off and the usual lack of accountability further enshrined in our political culture?
I told you a while back how I get email from politicians that I never asked for and from which I can’t opt out because they don’t give any mechanism for that. I got a real doozy yesterday.
It’s from Marlin Stutzman, Congressman from Indiana, bragging about separating the Farm Bill out from a bunch of other Ag Department stuff:
Transparent government won an important victory today. Conservatives seized an opportunity to split the Farm Bill, a landmark reform that breaks the unholy alliance between food stamps and agriculture policy. For the first time since the 1970’s taxpayers will have an honest look at how Washington spends their money on agriculture and food stamp policy.
Supporters of this farm-only farm bill wasted the golden opportunity that separation could have provided: the ability to promote policies that benefit taxpayers, farmers, and consumers in a fiscally responsible way. With the passage of this bill, the House has gone even further to the left than the Senate bill. It would spend more money than Obama on the largest farm program, crop insurance [emphasis mine].
On top of all this, the process House Republicans used to get this 600-plus-page bill to the floor in a mere 10 hours essentially violates their own promise to conduct business in an open and transparent manner [emphasis mine]. They prohibited legislators from introducing amendments. And, they played a game of bait and switch by claiming this bill was the same text from the failed House farm bill of a few weeks ago.
In fact, they made this new bill even worse—by making sneaky changes to the bill text so that some of the costliest and most indefensible programs no longer expire after five years, but live on indefinitely. This means the sugar program that drives up food prices will be harder to change, because it doesn’t automatically expire. It also means the new and radical shallow loss program that covers even minor losses for farmers will indefinitely be a part of the law.
Note the sleazy irony. Congressman Stutzman starts by bragging about transparency in a bill that was passed in a process that was about as transparent as toxic sludge.
This is today’s GOP – paying off their corporate cronies and bragging about how transparently they did it.
It really is that simple. And you don’t need a PhD to figure that out. It is a “Human Nature 101″ course. If there’s no incentive for you to behave correctly and every incentive not to (i.e. no punishment), then why behave correctly?
Now, consider the government we have today and all the various scandals. Who is the last person who blatantly violated the public trust that you’ve seen frog-marched to jail? Hmmm. But it takes a bunch of academics to again remind us that human nature still rules:
In a new study, Stern School of Business assistant professor of economics Vasiliki Skreta and co-authors, Karthik Reddy of Harvard Law School and Moritz Schularick of the University of Bonn, examine statutory immunity provisions that obstruct or limit the criminal liability of politicians, and which exist throughout much of the modern democratic world.
…The researchers quantified the strength of immunity protection in 74 democracies and verified that immunity is strongly associated with corruption on an aggregate level. They also developed a theoretical model that demonstrated how stronger immunity protection can lead to higher corruption. The model suggested that unaccountable politicians under immunity protection can enhance their chance of re-election by using illegal means, namely supporting interest groups through lax law enforcement, non-collection of taxes, and other forms of favoritism that will go unpunished.
Where’s Charley Rangel? Chris Dodd? Barney Frank? Oh, enjoying retirement. Turbo Tax Tim Geithner? Well, not in jail.
And how about Lois Lerner? From what does she want immunity? Well in reality, she wants immunity from accountability. There’s no other reason to seek immunity otherwise.
Unfortunately, she’ll probably get it and we’ll watch the level of corruption within government continue to grow, and grow and grow.
You want to know why people don’t trust government?