Free Markets, Free People

Scandals

Common thread in all of these scandals? Abuse of power

That’s the conclusion Insty comes too in his USA Today column:

The NSA spying scandal goes deep, and the Obama administration’s only upside is that the furor over its poking into Americans’ private business on a wholesale basis will distract people from the furor over the use of the IRS and other federal agencies to target political enemies — and even donors to Republican causes — and the furor over the Benghazi screwup and subsequent lies (scapegoated filmmaker Nakoula is still in jail), the furor over the “Fast And Furious” gunrunning scandal that left literally scores of Mexicans dead, the scandal over the DOJ’s poking into phone records of journalists (and their parents), HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ shakedown of companies she regulates for “donations” to pay for ObamaCare implementation that Congress has refused to fund, the Pigford scandal where the Treasury Department’s “Judgment Fund” appears to have been raided for political purposes — well, it’s getting to where you need a scorecard to keep up.

But, in fact, there’s a common theme in all of these scandals: Abuse of power. And, what’s more, that abuse-of-power theme is what makes the NSA snooping story bigger than it otherwise would be. It all comes down to trust.

Anyone who, in fact, trusts government these days is simply not paying attention or is a part of it.  As Reynolds outlines above, each and every one of the scandals mentioned do, in some degree or another, involve an abuse of power.  And an abuse of power is always an abuse of trust.  This administration has been just about as abusive of both power and trust as any in our history.

What should bother you is they don’t seem to care.   To me that points to a culture that has come to accept the fact – at least in their world – that government is all powerful and can do no real wrong.  It’s “for the people”, after all, that they commit these abuses.  It is also in the name of “security” – that all-purpose reason to grind away at the freedoms we enjoy and put us under more and more government control.

One of those old dead white men who helped found this country saw the possibility of the latter long ago.  In fact, he’d seen it in his lifetime and had done all in his power to escape it and to build a system that wouldn’t tolerate the types of abuses of power we do today:

“The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home.” – James Madison

Bottom line, we’re saddled with an arrogant and abusive, totally out of control goverment that badly needs reigning in.  The problem – we need statesmen who can do that.  And we all know where we are in that particular case. Without, that’s where. We’re stuck with self-serving politicians.

By the way, are we really any safer since the draconian security measures have been implemented?

Anonymous government sources quoted in news reports say yes, but we know that all that snooping didn’t catch the Tsarnaev brothers before they bombed the Boston Marathon — even though they made extensive use of email and the Internet, and even though Russian security officials had warned us that they were a threat. The snooping didn’t catch Major Nidal Hasan before he perpetrated the Fort Hood Massacre, though he should have been spotted easily enough. It didn’t, apparently, warn us of the Benghazi attacks — though perhaps it explains how administration flacks were able to find and scapegoat a YouTube filmmaker so quickly . But in terms of keeping us safe, the snooping doesn’t look so great.

And it remains “snooping” regardless whether it great or not.

Is this the the type of country in which we really want to live?  Where we’re afraid of our own shadow and our government to boot?

~McQ

Today’s attempted narrative on the IRS scandal: A Republican in the IRS says “Nothing to see here”

Since the Clinton era, we’ve seen the left retreat from reality into a dependence on post-modern narrative. They don’t even bother to hide it; they talk about narrative all the time, and they’ve reached the point where “the fact is” has become a public speaking tic for Democrats that really means “what I prefer you to believe is” or “the accepted leftist narrative is”.*

Narrative isn’t about reality; the post-modern leftists don’t even think there is such a thing as objective reality. Narrative is about what you can get people to believe.

When the left is really having trouble finding a narrative that will stick, they like to use misdirection. For example, they will pull out a single aspect of an issue, even if the aspect was made up or planted just for the purpose, and try to push the meme that “because of this one thing, the rest doesn’t matter”.

We saw the attempt with Benghazi, and the supposedly “doctored” emails. One of our own leftist commenters pushed and pushed on the idea that, because the Republicans doctored emails, the whole Benghazi controversy was obviously ginned up by the Republicans to embarrass Obama, and therefore wasn’t a “real scandal”.

Again, reality doesn’t matter. The Republicans didn’t even get those emails. They got summaries. The summaries came from ABC News, and the Republicans presented what they received. But to a committed leftist and Obama apologist, so what? They’re Republicans! Stop paying attention to stuff like dead ambassadors, bad decisions, and the earlier, failed misdirection about the video. Just dismiss the whole thing because (I claim) Republicans doctored emails.**

The latest attempt of that type in the IRS scandal is to put forth some schmoe in the Cincinnati office who says there’s no evidence Obama is involved, and is (gasp!) a conservative Republican.

This is simple misdirection. First, the guy just describes himself as a conservative Republican. Doesn’t mean he really is. We’ve seen plenty of cases in the past where these supposedly conservative or independent people involved in a situation turned out to be anything but.

Second, the person who put this out, the consistently idiotic Congressman Elijah Cummings, refused to release the full transcript. He released the parts that created the impression he wanted.

So there’s plenty of full story still to come out. That, of course, didn’t stop Joan Walsh at Salon from crowing “Elijah Cummings outplays Darrell Issa”, as if this were some kind of tennis match instead of a deadly serious problem that threatens the very legitimacy of the federal government.

Even if he turns out to have voted straight ticket Republican back to the beginning of time, it doesn’t change some of the basic facts:

- Groups were targeted because of political ideology

- People in Washington signed the letters demanding that were part of the targeting effort

- No one anywhere along the line, no matter what the philosophy, raised a flag about the targeting

This bespeaks a partisan, authoritarian culture in the IRS as an institution. As Dale is fond of pointing out, it’s hard to see how that can possibly be fixed without changing the tax system in such a way that we eliminate the IRS.

That will not stop desperate Obama apologists from seizing on this narrative the way a starving coyote seizes a squirrel. They will state the “established fact” that a conservative Republican says Obama wasn’t involved, and use that as an excuse to hand wave away everything else that anyone says about the IRS scandal. Here is Cummings himself:

“Based upon everything I’ve seen, the case is solved,” he said. “If it were me, I would wrap this case up and move on.”

This is ridiculous. The IRS scandal is bigger than Watergate, bigger than Benghazi, bigger than Fast and Furious, bigger than Iran-Contra, bigger than Monicagate – bigger than any other scandal for the federal government in my lifetime. Teapot Dome isn’t close to this. Even if Obama isn’t directly involved (and he would have to be sand-poundingly stupid to have issued actual directives that resulted in this) his rhetoric towards these groups was a contributing factor, so he bears some responsibility.

None of that is going to change because the leftists have found a new piece of misdirection. Which won’t stop them from bleating about it for while to avoid any real argument, of course.   

 

* Even some Republicans have picked up this tic. Just goes to show that if you lie down with Demos, you get up with tics….

** Have you noticed that the doctored email narrative excuse is mostly gone now? It didn’t stick as a narrative, because it was obviously false-to-fact from the outset. That didn’t stop leftists from pushing it as a narrative, of course, because they don’t have a connection with reality. They just realized it didn’t work after a while, and moved on to something else. I will be shocked the first time one of them says “Yeah, that was wrong. The Republicans didn’t really doctor emails.” The narrative may be out of the limelight, but the leftists still believe it because it feels so good to believe it.

You don’t say: “New IRS head says taxpayers no longer trust agency”

Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel  says the taxpayers don’t trust the IRS, and he intends to conduct “a thorough review of what went wrong and how to fix it.”

Just a suggestion, Danny, but why don’t you start by telling these folks to either tell us the full story or hit the road? Treasury IG: No IRS employee interviewed by us would acknowledge who ordered the targeting of conservatives

Suggested title for a book on the current scandals: “We told you so, you f@(%!ng fools!”

In the book In Denial: Historians, Communism, and Espionage, a great story is told about historian Robert Conquest. He wrote a book in the 1980s about the abuses of Stalinism, and got the usual roasting from Soviet apologists in academia. They accused him of cherry-picking data, failing to see Stalin’s supposed good points – the usual blather of Marxist-friendly social science academics.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, opened archives showed that Conquest not only had it right, but was actually a bit conservative is his assertions. His publisher suggested an updated edition of the book incorporating that information, and asked Conquest if he wanted to change the title.

Conquest responded “How about ‘I told you so, you f*cking fools’”? *

I’m feeling that same impulse after reviewing the cascade of scandals over the last few weeks.** Anyone who wasn’t mesmerized by Obama and actually paying attention already knew that:

1. Benghazi was not just a tragedy. It was one of the most massive screw-ups ever perpetrated by the State Department, and there was clearly a cover-up to keep the rest of us from finding out the what, where, when, how, and why.

2. The IRS was targeting and harassing limited government groups.

3. Fast and Furious was a botched effort to engineer evidence in favor of gun control.

4. Fox News was being targeted by the administration from its earliest days.

Various folks on the right could see all this, yet our supposed smart media pundits at major organizations are still expressing surprise at every new revelation. In other words, we told you so, you f*cking fools. And we were ignored, or even ridiculed as paranoid and obsessive.

I learned a valuable lesson in my first job out of graduate school. The software company I worked for was acquired by a giant corporation. The executives from that giant corporation came down for meetings after the acquisition. After listening to them for a day, I concluded that they were incompetent fools.

But I had some doubt. How could they have reached such a position of authority and still be such fools?

Yet, in the ensuing years, under their leadership, the giant corporation lost tens of millions of dollars running that small software company into the ground. They ended up selling it after five years for about five percent of what they paid for it. So yeah, those guys really were the incompetent fools I thought they were.

I now assume that if I have good reasons to believe something, the assertions of powerful or influential people don’t change my mind. I assume they are simply ignorant, willfully blind, or actively deceptive. This round of scandalous outrages by the Obama administration is just another confirmation of that assumption. If media types and establishment politicians didn’t realize these problems existed before last month, then they are f*cking fools, no matter how high they have risen in the political class.

On the other hand, if they knew the problems existed and did nothing, they are despicable villains and not fit to be in the job they hold. Not in their own eyes, of course. As Robert Conquest found out, to those on the left, even Josef Stalin isn’t really a villain.

* I first saw the anecdote about Conquest in a review of the book in Reason Magazine, Fools for Communism. I got the book, which is a concise, good read. If you want examples of willful blindness by lefties, In Denial is a great source.

** Many writers predicted Obama scandals early in his term. I’m pretty sure they feel the same lack of surprise, even if they don’t express it in such a vulgar way.

Higher ups in the IRS knew about targeting Tea Parties? You don’t say

I mean really, did you honestly believe that a couple of rogue agents in Cincinnati did this on their own … for over two years?  Yeah, about as much as you believed the YouTube video caused Benghazi, huh?

Additional scrutiny of conservative organizations’ activities by the IRS did not solely originate in the agency’s Cincinnati office, with requests for information coming from other offices and often bearing the signatures of higher-ups at the agency, according to attorneys representing some of the targeted groups. At least one letter requesting information about one of the groups bears the signature of Lois Lerner, the suspended director of the IRS Exempt Organizations department in Washington.

Lois Lerner … the IRS official who “knows nothing” and refuses to talk about any of it?

Huh.

Among the letters were several that bore return IRS addresses other than Cincinnati, including “Department of the Treasury / Internal Revenue Service / Washington, D.C.,” and the signatures of IRS officials higher up the chain. Two letters with “Department of the Treasury / Internal Revenue Service / Washington, D.C.” letterhead were signed by “Tax Law Specialist(s)” from Exempt Organizations Technical Group 1 and Technical Group 2. Lerner’s signature, which appeared to be a stamp rather than an actual signature, appeared on a letter requesting additional information from the Ohio Liberty Council Corp.

Imagine that.  We have an administration full of “Sgt. Shultz’s” (see Hogan’s Heroes if you’re too young to know what that references).  They see nothing.  They know nothing.

But apparently, they’ll sign anything.

~McQ

IRS Commissioner knew about illegal targeting of conservative groups a year ago

And, as it always seems to happen now days, nothing was done:

In late March 2012, IRS deputy commissioner Steven Miller–who resigned his post as acting commissioner last week at President Obama’s request–directed senior technical advisor Nancy J. Marks to investigate allegations of political targeting of groups seeking tax exempt status, agency officials told congressional aides. Holly Paz, acting director of ruling and agreements, worked with Marks on the probe, and both traveled to Cincinnati to conduct interviews.

Sounds serious, right?  Eh, not so much:

On May 3, 2012. Marks gave what IRS officials described as a “presentation” to Miller describing her findings. According to the House aide, Marks said the investigation had found significant problems in the review process and a substantial bias against conservative group. No written findings were produced as a result, the aide said, and it does not appear the internal review led to any disciplinary actions against IRS employees.

Now, I don’t know about you, but if, in fact, “a substantial bias against conservative groups” was found, and it was important enough, at least initially to send Paz and Marks to check it out, then by doing nothing, it would seem to me that IRS management at least tacitly endorsed the action.

Which may be why certain IRS official has decided has decided to plead the Fifth:

A top IRS official in the division that reviews nonprofit groups will invoke the Fifth Amendment and refuse to answer questions before a House committee investigating the agency’s improper screening of conservative nonprofit groups.

Lois Lerner, the head of the exempt organizations division of the IRS, won’t answer questions about what she knew about the improper screening – or why she didn’t reveal it to Congress, according to a letter from her defense lawyer, William W. Taylor 3rd.

And yes, you’re right … this stinks to high heaven and it absolutely begs to be prosecuted.

Of course, if you had any faith in government, you’d expect it too.

That exempts me, however. I expect a few low level IRS employees to get to take one “for the team” and those that actually made it happen will, as usual, escape scott free.

That’s how it works today in this land where everyone is “equal” under the law.

~McQ

What is the IRS scandal if not political?

Peggy Noonan makes this statement today:

What happened at the IRS is the government’s essential business. The IRS case deserves and calls out for an independent counsel, fully armed with all that position’s powers. Only then will stables that badly need to be cleaned, be cleaned. Everyone involved in this abuse of power should pay a price, because if they don’t, the politicization of the IRS will continue—forever. If it is not stopped now, it will never stop. And if it isn’t stopped, no one will ever respect or have even minimal faith in the revenue-gathering arm of the U.S. government again.

And it would be shameful and shallow for any Republican operative or operator to make this scandal into a commercial and turn it into a mere partisan arguing point and part of the game. It’s not part of the game. This is not about the usual partisan slugfest. This is about the integrity of our system of government and our ability to trust, which is to say our ability to function.

First paragraph … agree, for the most part.  Where I don’t agree is that there is a “minimal faith” in the revenue gathering arm of the US government.  There’s been little faith in it since it’s inception.  Most people understand that the gun is pointed at them and the prison cell is open and waiting.  They don’t pay taxes because of any “faith” or respect for the IRS or government.  They do it out of fear.

As for the second paragraph, that’s total horse hockey.  Total.

The entire point of the scandal was it targeted “political” organizations.  How does one not politicize it?  It took place under a Democratic administration and the opponents of that party were the target of the IRS.

Hello?

And what do we get from Noonan? “Hey, let’s take a knife to a gun fight”.

Noonan’s advice is, by far, the stupidest advice one could give.

Yes, this is about the integrity of the system. And, like it or not, that is directly linked to those who administer and govern.

Ms. Noonan, who is that right now? And how, if they were doing an effective job, would this have been going on for two years. Oh, and speaking of trust, how are you with the whole AP scandal? My guess is you’re wanting some heads over that.

Well, I want some heads of this. And Benghazi. And Fast and Furious.

Instead we get shrinking violets like you advising everyone to back off and not make this “political”.

BS.

~McQ

Is anyone in our government in charge?

So Ed Morrissey points out that the IRS thing has been going on since 2011 and it’s just a “couple of agents” in a single per the official line.  Well, maybe four.

Except the agents in question are claiming only to have done what their bosses wanted.  And their bosses?  We don’t know.  We don’t know who they are.  After all, it was only a couple of letters to a couple of right of center organizations.

But again, per Morrissey, these two – or four – agents were busy little people in that one office.

Did I say 300 organizations? According to the report, Reps. Jim Jordan and Darrell Issa now put that number closer to 500.  If it was just these four agents, they’d have to have been rather, er, productive.

Yeah.  And they did it all over the US and all by themselves for two years.

Is anyone in charge up there?  Does anyone even know what’s going on?  And, if someone is in charge, are we ever going to hold them accountable?

Trust in government?

What trust?

~McQ

So is the media finally being forced to pay attention to this administration’s scandals?

I found this to be very interesting.  From ABC News (email):

THE ROUNDTABLE

ABC’s JEFF ZELENY: The troubles are mounting for the White House – Benghazi, IRS, AP phone records – leading one administration official to ask yesterday: “Is it really still only Monday?” It’s safe to say all three topics are moving into scandal territory, but it’s a mistake to view them together. Of all of the controversies, the IRS seems to be the most troubling because it further erodes trust in government and institutions – from a point that is already distressingly low. At least three Congressional committees are digging in. Even though the president said he didn’t know about the IRS matter until the news broke last week, it happened on his watch. Democrats could have a hard time winning this one. It bolsters the case for Republicans, just in time for the midterm campaign to begin.

ABC’s RICK KLEIN: It comes fast and intense in a second term. And the confluence of events – Benghazi talking points, the IRS scandal, sweeping subpoenas of Associated Press records – leave plenty of reasons to mistrust the government President Obama is leading. Knowing that Congress can’t walk and chew gum very well – it can’t walk all that well without the gum, and this flavor is particularly tasty to the president’s opponents – this is a recipe for stalling and worse for just about anything the White House wants to do. The president’s powers of public persuasion, meanwhile, could ebb in the whiff of scandals. If there’s a White House strategy to turn this all around, we’re not seeing signs of it, not yet.

ABC’s DEVIN DWYER: The talking points coming out of the State Department on Monday were astonishing for their attempted revisionism. Spokeswoman Jen Psaki repeated four times in four minutes that the Obama administration’s early public characterization of the 2012 Benghazi terror attack was dictated by the CIA. “These were CIA points. They were CIA edited. They were CIA finalized,” she said. Nevermind that trove of emails, obtained by ABC News, that shows it was in fact the State Department that sought to edit out the CIA’s references to al Qaeda and to security warnings in Benghazi prior to the attack. “These started and ended as CIA talking points,” Psaki said. Technically, maybe so. But it would be disingenuous to ignore or deny the apparent influence of State during the talking-point sausage-making that occurred in between.

ABC’s SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: The Tea Party groups who say they were unfairly targeted by the IRS showed ABC News questionnaires and documents received from the Internal Revenue Service. They had to answer questions about their donors, views on issues, and one member said she was even asked to show her personal Facebook account, all they say, because of their political views. The agency apologized last week, but these groups don’t feel like they were directly apologized to. All want an investigation, but for Jennifer Stefano who was trying to set up a group called The Loyal Opposition, but finally gave up, she compares this scandal to Watergate: “It became very frightening, the IRS has the power to target the political opposition of a sitting president.”

It’s amazing it has taken these events and this long for these people to actually do their jobs.  And there’s no guarantee they will.  But it can’t be denied any longer — it is on “the” radar screen.  Benghazi, IRS, AP, you name it.  Even the sycophants credulity is being tested.

Maybe it took this administration’s messing with AP to finally make them figure out that for the most part they’ve simply been the media arm of the administration and the administration feels some “ownership” rights.  Thus it was checking on them … or something.

It’ll be interesting to watch this all unfold — or disappear.

~McQ

Fast and Furious – It takes Univision to “break” it?

Seriously?

This has been a scandal for over 2 years. It has bubbled along in the blogosphere for some time. But in the MSM, it has been mostly ignored. Cheryl Atkinson of CBS is about the only reporter I’m aware of who has done any in-depth reporting about this and it too has been mostly ignored.

Even the coverage of the Congressional hearing into this fiasco was muted.

Finally, we have some journalism coming to the fore (with apologies to Ms. Atkinson) and Univision, a largely Hispanic network, has done an expose on this operation that can only be called either the dumbest and most inept operation known to man or a very cynical and malevolent one. More and more I’m leaning toward the latter explanation with a sprinkling of the former.

ABC has finally picked up the ball, and if you are interested in the Univision report, they have it with English captions. Definitely worth the view.

Says ABC:

As part of Operation Fast and Furious, ATF allowed 1,961 guns to “walk” out of the U.S. in an effort to identify the high profile cartel leaders who received them. The agency eventually lost track of the weapons, and they often ended up in the hands of Mexican hit men , including those who ordered and carried out the attack on Salvarcar and El Aliviane, a rehabilitation center in Ciudad Juarez where 18 young men were killed on September 2, 2009.

In Mexico, the timing of the operation coincided with an upsurge of violence in the war among the country’s strongest cartels. In 2009, the northern Mexican states served as a battlefield for the Sinaloa and Juarez drug trafficking organizations, and as expansion territory for the increasingly powerful Zetas. According to documents obtained by Univision News, from October of that year to the end of 2010, nearly 175 weapons from Operation Fast and Furious inadvertently armed the various warring factions across northern Mexico.

Univision went into some real depth in their investigation, apparently even deeper than the Congressional investigation:

Univision News identified a total of 57 more previously unreported firearms that were bought by straw purchasers monitored by ATF during Operation Fast and Furious, and then recovered in Mexico in sites related to murders, kidnappings, and at least one other massacre.

Remember, this was first claimed to be a “local, rogue” operation. Then White House staff emails referencing it were found. This was an ATF/DEA/DoJ operation that was never coordinated with Mexican officials. It has caused at least 2 deaths of US agents and literally hundreds if not thousands of deaths in Mexico.

Someone should be held accountable and be heading to jail.

But then “someone” ought to also be reporting about it too, shouldn’t “they”?’

~McQ
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