Youth Before Bottom

Over at Neo-Neocon there’s an interesting peek at some passages from a book by the (now recently deceased) Michael Hastings.

Gentle Reader will perhaps recognize Brer Hastings as the reporter who, having been permitted nearly unprecedented access to Genl Stanley McChrystal (and his senior staff), at that time commander of the U.S. Central Command, abused the privilege of candor to wreck a splendid officer’s career. McChrystal’s most prominent prior command was the Joint Special Operations Command, whose godfather he apparently was. A rather close friend of mine from childhood served under him as a major and later lieutenant colonel, and based on his impressions of McChrystal I think it’s fairly safe to say that the general will be remembered when Hastings’s own grandchildren barely recall his name. 


The post focuses on a vignette from Dear Leader’s 2012 re-election campaign. All the cheerleaders reporters are gathered in some watering hole, and The One graces them with His Presence. The gab-fest is strictly off-the-record, of course (a privilege McChrystal doesn’t seem to have been afforded, by way of comparison), but Hastings describes the aura, the mood of pre-pubescent giddiness that the Coolest Cat in the High School is actually there. Among them. Really talking to them, caressing the small of their slapping them on the back and telling them he really liked the way they danced what a terrific job they were doing for The Cause. After he leaves they’re all – all of them – breathless with what can only be described as partially-slaked lust, and they spend the rest of the evening re-living every last little moment of it.

“We were all, on some level, deeply obsessed with Obama, crushing hard, still a little love there. This was nerd heaven, a politico’s paradise, the subject himself moving among us — shaking our hands, slapping our shoulders!”  One can almost picture the sweat of excitement on their downy upper lips – he talked to me; he really talked to me!! He said he likes how I dance! Hastings declines to share what was said (again, a privilege denied McChrystal), but he pretty nauseatingly serves up the fact of the meeting and the atmosphere.

 His fellow reporters got all hot and bothered because Hastings actually kissed the quarterback and told about it violated the off-the-record nature of the meeting.  And Dear Leader’s campaign staff also got all stern-faced and told them that they might not let them give the quarterback a hand-job again get that sort of access in the future.  Kicked him off the campaign airplane for a month.  And so forth.

Neo-neocon wonders about just what is it about all these reporters that makes them so utterly, joyfully, wilfully vulnerable to this sort of pimply-faced-girl-at-the-prom excitement. Of course there’s the ideology thing going on, something that Hastings thought himself clever to glory in. But as Neo-Neocon points out, there’s something else in the mix, too: the uniform youthfulness of the reporters. For them, this is the Big Dance. There’s nothing bigger. They haven’t spent thirty years on the government beats, figuring out who’s lying, who’s on the take, who got the contract because his uncle golfs with the mayor’s brother, who’s bedding whom and who thinks he’s the only one in line. They’re profoundly ignorant of human nature, in fact. Not to say they’re uneducated, because amazingly some of them boast fairly impressive academic credentials. And that’s part of the problem as well, as Instapundit has noted on several occasions. This bunch – and even though it displays its full I’m-sure-he-didn’t-mean-to-do-that-to-me-at-least-not-on-the-first-date saccharine sweetness in support of the Big O, they’re very much a bipartisan species – is “credentialed, not educated,” to use the Blogfather’s expression. Every politician who makes it to the top of their particular dung hill is The Second Coming (no pun intended, that time at least) and the Answer to all the world’s problems. Not a face in the crowd blew a snot bubble out its nose when Dear Leader proclaimed the occasion of his having secured the nomination – before he was actually nominated, elected, or served a day – as the moment in time when the entire damned planet began to cool off and the oceans recede. I mean, didn’t he ever, in his high-priced-modest-achievement schooling ever, run across the story of King Cnut?

And then I ran across this over at the AP, on how the IRS now admits that its targeting of Americans for their political beliefs was much more extensive and longer-lasting than they’ve admitted. The story’s got the picture of the acting Commissioner of Internal Revenue right under the headline.  His name is Daniel Werfel, and he’s every bit of 42 years old (according to this story in The Kansas City Star). Goes by “Danny.”  And he’s in charge of the IR of S? Huh?? It’s as if they pulled some fifth-grader out of the Red Rover line and shoved him behind the principal’s desk. The job is one which even more at the present than normally demands the wisdom of King Solomon himself.  Werfel’s Job #1 right now is to repair this rent in the American polity that the administration has torn from the crown to the floor. It requires someone who can look at a room full of people and tell them that he quite understands that they’ve always done business this way, but their way is wrong. Not mistaken, not unpopular, not embarrassing, but morally reprehensible. It requires someone who’s had enough under his belt to look the president himself in the eye and tell him to go pound sand. Someone who cannot be frightened by threats to his future career. And this is who they come up with.

While Danny’s got a pretty slick c.v., he does not appear to have picked up on the notion that, when you’re caught lying, Step 1 is to stop lying, especially when it’s so easy to check up on what you say.  Sure enough, among “Danny’s” first actions was, true to the pattern of his bosses, to lie in public.  [Update: 27 June 2013:  The IRS inspector general shoves Danny’s face into the turnbuckles.  He states that his audit “did not find evidence” that the lefty groups were selected for political reason, while “multiple sources” of evidence corroborate the political targeting of the non-lefties.  Copy of the letter here.]  According to him, the IRS was doling out similar treatment to groups that had words like “progressive” and “occupy” in their names and in fact to groups across the political spectrum.  The AP reports, “‘There was a wide-ranging set of categories and cases that spanned a broad spectrum’ on the lists, Werfel said.”

That statement makes it seem like everyone was getting the Gestapo treatment that the conservative groups got.  Except that wasn’t the case at all.  The National Review has obtained a 2010 version of the target list.  In point of fact it does show that lefty group names were on the “watch list.”  But here’s the kicker:  They were flagged as being inappropriate for § 501(c)(3) status.  This should surprise exactly no one, as § 501(c)(3) status prohibits any political activity.  The tea party, pro-Israel, anti-Obamacare, and similar groups were not applying for § 501(c)(3) status, but rather § 501(c)(4) status.  As to those applications, the IRS target list provided, for tea party groups, “Any cases should be sent to Group 7822”; or, for healthcare-act specific groups, “Group 7821”; or, for pro-Israel groups, the anti-terrorism group, 7830.  All of those are apparently Washington-based organizations.  As the National Review correctly points out, what this meant was that applications under § 501(c)(4) for “progressive” or “occupy” groups could be approved locally, in Cincinnati, while their tea party/anti-ACA/pro-Israel fellow-applicants got shipped off to Washington (there also goes by the boards the assertion of “just a few rogue agents in Ohio”).  In fact, from the document it doesn’t appear that the leftish § 501(c)(4) applicants were flagged at all for any reason.  By the by, the same 2010 list is referenced in the AP’s article, but it makes no mention of the easily-ascertainable points of distinction, and in fact reports the document as if it supports the notion that everyone was all in it together, when precisely the opposite is the case.  Objectivity in action, in other words.

So Danny, a career government hack, put in a position at the head of an agency whose credibility is in tatters, leads with bullshit.  How like a 42-year-old looking out for his future.  There’s nothing wrong with 42, by the way. The Founders thought 35 was plenty old enough to be president. Of course, back then by the time you were 35 you’d probably have outlived at least one wife and several children and more than a few of your siblings, you’d have weathered crop failures, a few Indian raids (if you lived on the frontier), bankrupt business associates nearly wrecking your life, at least one bout of a life-threatening disease, and so forth. You’d have accepted responsibility for the lives and fortunes of others at numerous points along your path. Since the 1960s what has been among the most prominent tendencies in American society? The progressive infantilization of the adult population. Now we’re supposed to glorify the 50-year-old who wants to act like he’s 30. The strutting, swaggering, loud-mouthed, in-your-face, I’m-not-takin’-that-offa-him world of the high school locker room is elevated to an ideal mode of existence.

That this is a fairly recent phenomenon can be pretty convincingly shown by contrasting the bearing of five under-or-near-fifty presidents. Theodore Roosevelt, John Kennedy, Wm Clinton, Geo. W. Bush, and The One. Seriously now, can anyone imagine for a moment either TR or JFK carrying on like Dear Leader? Or willingly associating with the folks he chooses to hang with (Jay-Z, anyone? can you really see JFK offering to shake his hand?). Would TR have sucked up to Geo. Soros and his ilk? Can anyone picture JFK whining like Clinton or The Won had he got caught having it off with the help?

Bush of course had the example of Poppy, but I’ll not attribute his behavior in office solely to the notion that it was beat into his head when a little scrubbed-face boy that Bushes don’t act like that (in no small measure because until he was 40 or so he in fact very much behaved like that). Bush got him a snootful of Jesus along the way somewhere. He acknowledged himself a sinner. This realization, if internalized fully, is not of small import. To confess oneself a sinner is to admit one’s inherent, irremediable imperfection, to step up to the plate and lay bare the blackness of one’s soul, and to accept that it is not of one’s own efforts that one is redeemed from the eternal damnation and suffering that is what one genuinely deserves, but rather by grace (I’ll leave the works debate to the theologians) which comes not of this world and which is freely given, wholly without meritorious claim upon it. I find God-botherers as annoying as the next guy, but if you truly have been blessed with a conversion experience, if you truly have made that commitment (and I’m not aware of anyone challenging W’s sincerity on the point) such that it becomes a part of who you are, then I’m going to submit that certain forms of behavior become off-limits to you, and that limitation proceeds from within you. Behavior, for example, like Dear Leader’s.

Age in short isn’t some talisman. But someone 60 years old today was born in 1953, and would have been sixteen the summer of Woodstock. What kind of young adulthood is that person likely to have had, relative to someone now 75, born in 1938? That 60-year-old’s earliest concrete memories are likely to involve who was the first on the block to get a television set. The 75-year-old’s are likely to involve seeing the newsreels from when they liberated the concentration camps. Or the troop trains carrying the wounded back home. Or the shriek as your best friend’s mother saw the black sedan stop in front of her house this day, followed by a quick glance at the small blue star in the flag in her front window, a star soon to change to gold, and a once-familiar face and voice forever to be frozen in the awkward pose in the photograph on the mantel. Or (as my mother still remembers) the troop trains full of Germans and Italians, captured in North Africa and absolutely thrilled to bits to be sitting on a railroad siding in Vincennes, Indiana, waiting to cross the bridge over the Wabash River (instead of trooping off into oblivion in the Soviet Union’s vastness).

How likely are we to find in the age cohort of the acting IRS commissioner the degree of what the British know as “bottom” necessary to remedy the damage that has been done in the past five years? How likely are we to find a press – free or otherwise – of Michael Hastings’s age peers and with the skepticism necessary to demand the truth and know when they’re not offered it? It’s out there, but how likely is it to arise to where it can do some good?

Somehow I question whether “Danny” Werfel is going to prove a Daniel come to judgment.

Seven for Silvio; or, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Call Your Office

. . . and in fact while you’re at it, burn your paper calendar, purge your e-mail and phone contact lists, and maybe go ahead and take holy orders.

Well, perhaps not, since ol’ Sen. Menendez has the correct letter (it’s “D,” in case you hadn’t already figured it out) after his name.  He gets to do pretty much as he pleases, using his influence to get free, undisclosed multi-thousand-dollar flights to Caribbean vacation get-aways at donors’ private retreatshook up his donors with half-billon-dollar contracts, cavort with harlots (which he denies doing), and whatnot.  And now go rolling in warm Puerto Rican with another man’s wife.

Poor Silvio, on the other hand.  He’s drawn seven years for organizing underage whores for a blow-out at his villa.  Hilarious note:  The prosecution had only asked for six.

What good is it being rich as God, a media baron, and a former prime minister to boot if you can’t plumber 15-year-old hookers in the privacy of your own villa?  According to the write-up, the girl herself testified he didn’t put it in.  They (the troika of three judges . . . all females, by the way (I’m tellin’ youse da fix wuz in!!)) not only got him for the statutory rape charge (or whatever it’s called in Italy), but also for abuse of his official position when he got her out of jail. The line he gave was — no, seriously — if they didn’t let her go it might cause diplomatic problems because she might be Hosni Mubarak’s niece.  It’s true, her passport does list “Mubarak” as one of her surnames, but (i) she’s Morroccan; (ii) he’s Egyptian; and, (iii) if I’m a dictator’s niece, I’m sure as hell not going flat-backing to make a living.  I might not give it away, to a prime minister or any other john boyfriend of the moment, but I’ll take my compensation in the form of a Bentley or a few grand worth of diamonds to set off my hair.

Some people just can’t take  joke.

Barbarossa and The Silence of the Lefties

If a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, then what is an evil consistency?

On June 22, 1941, Hitler’s Germany launched Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union. Hundreds of thousands of troops, thousands upon thousands of tanks and aircraft, even greater numbers of trucks and transport all poured across the frontier. It remains and perhaps will forever remain the largest single unitary military operation in history. Germany’s assault caught the Red Army not completely unprepared, but largely so. Most of their air force was destroyed on the ground, the first day. Writing on the vast canvas of the Eastern European plains, the Wehrmacht wrought large the tactics their parents’ generation had first pioneered (ironically, also in Russia) in 1916-17. Seeking weak spots, avoiding confrontation with strength, surrounding, always surrounding, the Germans bagged hundreds of thousands of prisoners at a time in enormous encirclements. It was more than a bit like modern industrial drift-net fishing.

For decades the standard line on Stalin was that he’d finally met his master in treachery. Koba had trusted Adolf, you see; he’d trusted him to abide by the Soviet-German Non-Aggression Treaty signed back in the warm August night of 1939, when Molotov and Ribbentropp whacked up Poland and the Baltic countries between them. Under the commercial arrangements entered into, Stalin kept up his deliveries of oil and other strategic materials literally until the last minute – the final train crossed the border into Germany less than eight hours before the invasion. Later more revisionist histories I’ve read deny that Stalin was duped. According to them Stalin was playing desperately for time while he in fact prepared his own attack on Germany. Under the newer theory, Hitler simply got the drop on him. 

Of the two opposing theories of “what in the hell possessed Stalin?” I have to say I like the newer one better. It has the advantage of being perfectly consistent with everything else that has ever been known about Joe Stalin. The original take requires one to accept the proposition that someone as cold-bloodedly calculating as Stalin just this once, and despite years of careful observation, behaved utterly unlike his past and subsequent actions. To get an idea of just how devious he was, there is good indication – now that the NKVD archives have been at least partially opened – that the Germans’ surreptitious poison pen correspondence fraudulently implicating Marshal Tukhachevski and others in sundry plots against Stalin, which were filtered to the NKVD, and which then became part of the basis for the disastrous 1937 purge of the Red Army’s senior command, were in fact planted on the Germans by Soviet agents whose mission was to set up the Red Army commanders. Someone who could cook up something that sinister is supposed to have been taken in by a man as un-subtle as Adolf Hitler? Leopards do not change their spots, and then change them back. 

It wasn’t as if Hitler hadn’t bird-dogged his intentions in the East for years, after all. As early as the first volume of Mein Kampf Hitler had proclaimed the need for Lebensraum for the German people, and identified the only place in Europe for that living space to be acquired. Although the National Socialists had originated as a garden-variety leftist party – the original name, which it still carried the night Hitler attended his first meeting in 1920, was the Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, the German Workers Party – no later than June 30, 1934 the few remaining leftish elements were killed off in Hitler’s orgy of retribution. The constant bogeyman the Nazis held up to the Germans scared stiff by the social and economic upheavals of the post-war period was the communist, red in tooth and claw. The skulls the Sturmabteilung cracked during the early 1930s were largely communist skulls. 

Oddly enough, it doesn’t seem as if Germany played nearly the role for Stalin that the Soviet Union did for Hitler. Russians in general and Stalin in particular were so over-the-top paranoid of everyone that I’ve never noticed in any history or biographies of the times or key players any especial pattern of concentration on Germany or Hitler. In fact, among the most frequent bogus allegations of espionage hurled against Stalin’s victims was spying for Japan and for Britain. Germany was lumped in with China, with Argentina, and other equally-improbable countries. 

The Comintern (which Stalin also ruthlessly purged in the 1930s) was a different story. Germany was very much a focus of their squawking. It was the communists and the socialists who were the first groups to go behind the barbed wire in the newly-created concentrations camps. They were the first who were systematically disappeared after the Gleichschaltung. It would have been curious indeed if the Comintern had not damned Hitler and his movement to all who would listen and most who wouldn’t (like the various fans of the Nazis elsewhere in the world . . . like Franklin Roosevelt, Charles Lindbergh, and the rest of them). 

The Comintern of course took its marching orders directly from Stalin. They screeched about what he told them to screech about, and about nothing else. That last is important to realize. The Western communists bewailed (properly, let it be remembered) the evils of the Nazi regime long and loud, from the time of its coming to power. All the way up, that is, until August, 1939 and the Molotov-Ribbentropp Pact. After that point the word went out that Germany was off-limits. 

And the commies the world over meekly took their marching orders and clammed up about the man and party who’d imprisoned and killed their comrades. 

Why is this important, Gentle Reader asks, and what does this not-quite two years of silence have to teach us today? It is important today because there is a straight line between the Comintern of August, 1939 – June 22, 1941, and the modern American left. For starts, the modern American left is much more radical than used to be the case. Once upon a time the left was all about not hanging people because they had the wrong skin color, or not allowing employers to view the female staff as random bed-mates. While the New Dealers were enthusiastic fans of socialism, both in its Soviet and Nazi manifestations, their socialism was very much softer around the edges. 

As inspector Clouseau would say, not any more. In today’s left the Alinskyites have triumphed, and are much closer to their 1930s communist ancestors than they are to the New Dealers.  The philosophy behind Cloward and Pivens’s “The Weight of the Poor” (about which I am working on a rather lengthy post . . . honestly I am) has now become the central pillar of the Democrat Party program, at least at the national level. That philosophy can be pretty neatly summed up as the use of transfer payments to cement electoral coalitions of people who otherwise haven’t the least affinity for each other. It is neither more nor less than the notion of spending other people’s money to maintain oneself in power. The mathematics of that approach are not without their outer limits, as Detroit and Illinois are discovering. 

Or at least the math is not unlimited so long as you cannot keep your population in place and under your thumb. There is a reason that all the various 19th Century utopian settlements eventually blew up. Without coercive power to keep people living there, they leaders of those efforts had no way reliably over time to enforce the penny-ante socialism that was all those places’ organizing principle. Nowadays the tourists go and spend gobs of money eating over-priced food and staying in over-priced rooms to sleep on uncomfortable beds in New Harmony, Indiana. Nowhere does anyone point out the moral violence that was the foundation on which it was built. That “new harmony” was the harmony of the plantation, of the Kolyma, of the Belomor. 

But what if you could run an entire country like Detroit? Now there’s an idea. It’s much harder to get up and leave your country than to let your Camden, New Jersey tract house go up the pipes for unpaid real property taxes and move to New Hampshire. Millions of Europeans left for our shores during the 19th Century in order to escape the lash, the press gang, the tax collector.  But as great an influx of humanity as it was from America’s perspective as the destination country, I still don’t recall that a single European despot changed his manner of operating one iota because of losing population to the U.S.  The overwhelming majority of people stood still and took it (aside from the revolutions of 1830 and 1848), and at that level of population retention and growth (recall how explosively Europe grew in that century) there was simply no demographic incentive for the tyrants to change.

The current administration of Dear Leader has exactly such a transformation in mind for the entire country.  We are all to become Detroit writ large. He’s never made much of a secret of it, either.  While he was just a “community organizer” and all the while he was running for his various offices he kept trumpeting his intent of “fundamental transformation” of American society and polity. It is irrelevant to him and his supporters that in order to crush dissent you have to use the IRS as your political enforcer; that you use the ATF and OSHA to threaten the very livelihoods of people who too effectively oppose what you’re trying to do. Have the U.S. Attorney General sue every state and county he can find which looks like it’s making actual progress towards ensuring that all but only eligible voters vote in elections? Not a problem. It’s all in the service of a higher goal. 

And from the self-appointed Fourth Estate, the forever-patting-themselves-on-the-back watchdogs of democracy? Crickets. Nothing. They even accept instruction from the administration about what they can and cannot quote insiders as saying, meekly submitting their copy beforehand for approval of quotations. The DoJ decides to wiretap their phones in order to catch a leaker who let out secrets no worse than what the president himself brags about (remember it was Dear Leader who boasted that we were behind Stuxnet, the computer malware which came within a whisker of crashing the Iranian nuclear weapons program), and the press just makes propitiatory grimaces and promises to be even more subservient in the future.

These days in the press it’s no longer about truth, about things which you can say in fact happened or didn’t happen, and then go check it out for yourself.  Now it’s about “The Narrative,” a mind-set which gives us Journolist, and the expression “fake but true.”  The Narrative is, of course, what you want to be true, or perhaps more cynically expressed, what you want others to believe to be true.  “Truth” is what tends to establish The Narrative.  Gentle Reader will recognize the circularity of the dynamic: narrative is what is to be “true,” and “truth” is anything which confirms narrative. 

Once upon a time a paragon of the American left, Daniel P. Moynihan, famously observed that while everyone is entitled to his own opinion, he is not entitled to his own facts.  Poor Danny Boy; so behind the times.  Nowadays we have supposedly learned folks asserting, with all seriousness, that “we each have our own truth.”  By that standard the Holocaust deniers are not in fact deniers; they’re merely asserting “their own truth.”  In this connection it is not unhelpful to remind ourselves that one of the foundation stones of this mindset, “deconstructionism,” was the bastard offspring of a gentleman name of Paul de Man, who ended his days full of honor and years as a professor at Yale.  The essential assertion of deconstructionism, which has — by their fruits shall ye know them — further spawned such intellectual nonsense as “critical legal theory,” is that words, and therefore texts, mean what the beholder chooses they should mean. That of course is a suggestion pregnant with foreboding for the public sphere, because it then becomes vitally important to be the one who chooses the beholder, the actors whose office it is to behold texts like the constitution for all of us, and to command the application of that meaning upon all our backs.  Yes, dear Prof. de Man ended his days at Yale, but that’s not where he started out.  He wasn’t born American, you see; he was born in Antwerp.  And during the Nazi occupation of Belgium he wrote over 200 articles for a collaborationist newspaper.  Two hundred.  For a newspaper collaborating with a country that’s invaded and raped your country twice in as many generations.  Not exactly a youthful indiscretion, is it?  But if nothing has irreducible meaning, then it really didn’t count, did it? 

Fast forward from the Stalin-worshippers and Nazi collaborators.  How about all the lefty outfits that spent the entire eight years of the Bush 43 presidency weeping and lamenting the civil rights cataclysm of warrantless wiretapping of international communications? Now the FBI admits to using drones to spy on American soil and you can hear a pin drop in the meeting hall. It takes a filibuster on the U.S. Senate floor before the administration will state, in so many words, that it does not claim the authority to order the extra-judicial killing of American citizens on American soil. One of the most justly feared and historically abusive government agencies of all – the IRS – is unashamedly used as a tool to silence a great chunk of the American political spectrum, and from the liberty mavens we hear . . . nothing. Zero. 

It is so important to today’s left that the aspiration of breaking American society succeed that no hint of criticism may be allowed to disrupt it. The reduction of the citizen to become the tool of the state – which is the sine qua non of all leftist hope and ambition – is so important, so close to realization, that it is worth accepting anything, any violation of principle, any swallowing of pride to bring it off.

How again is this silence in the face of violence to the supposed pillars of the lefty faith not indistinguishable from the Comintern’s silence as Hitler rolled over Poland, and France, and the Low Countries, and Denmark, and Norway?  I assert that precisely the same philosophical mechanisms are at work now as were at work then.  The left, both then and now, demonstrates a remarkably consistent acceptance of outright evil if commanded by one’s political bosses.

But Gentle Reader will counter that this trait of the left is not peculiar to the left.  I do not think so.  Recall that it was senior Republicans on the Hill who went to Nixon and told him the game was up (recall also that one of the articles of impeachment was using the IRS in manners indistinguishable from Dear Leader’s deployment of it).  The American right has supported unsavory characters over the years, but if we look at those, the common thread is that they were unsavory characters who were actively engaged in combat against communist subversion of nations.  At the most you can accuse the right of having supported evil to fight evil (and in this connection we might remind ourselves of Churchill’s comment to the Commons that if the devil himself would ally himself in the fight against Nazi Germany, Churchill would find something good to say about him on the floor of the House).  I would challenge Gentle Reader to find a single instance in which large numbers of the American right have supported or held their peace in the face of someone or something as indefensible as Hitler.  Or have engaged in the organized suppression of information in the manner of the Journolistas.

No, conscious support of evil men and evil measures for purely political (as in partisan) purposes is a copyrighted trademark of the left.  All of which makes one wonder, with trepidation, whether there will occur another — mercifully, and as we piously hope, non-military — Barbarossa moment for today’s lefties.

So Now Being a Lard-Ass is a Disease

I wonder where I caught it.  I’d always thought that I’m noticeably porcine because (i) I eat too much damned food, and (ii) I drink too much damned beer.

What a relief it was to stumble across this article.  Being a fat body is actually a disease, you see, just like pneumonia is a disease, or being HIV-positive, or being scrofulous (I love that word, by the way).  Now I can blame “society” for not being able to bend over to tie my shoelaces, and for being left winded by the walk up my driveway to check the mailbox.  “Andrews-Looper blames American society, saying it’s the oversized portions and calorie consumption producing overweight people.”  Silly me, all along I thought I’m too fat because I forgot to shut my pie-hole somewhere along the way.

By the way, guys, “society” is all of y’all.  So what are y’all going to do to slim my butt back to where it ought to be?

As the Ripples of Domestic Espionage Spread

So the other morning, well before sunrise, I’m lying there in bed wide awake and trying not to think of anything that will keep me awake.  No, that didn’t work out real well.

I am of course a lawyer.  In fact I am a country lawyer.  My clients are area pepole and businesses, their families, and so forth.  Not exactly the book of business that a large city firm is going to bring me in as a partner to acquire, as I think I’ve finally got the wife to understand after almost 20 years of this.  But my clients like anyone else are tremendously keen on their own privacy, and are entitled to be that solicitous of it.

Back in the late-middle 1990s, there was a formal ethics opinion released (can’t recall whether it was our state ethics weenies or the ABA) on the propriety of communicating with clients via e-mail.  The opinion allowed that it was acceptable, and the stated reason for that conclusion was that there was no reason to suppose that e-mail was any materially less secure than the U.S. postal system.

Errrmmm, fellows:  That assumption is no longer warranted.  The few things that have been disclosed about the surveillance capabilities are frightening enough.  The one thing of which we can be sure is that the Director of National Intelligence is willing to lie to Congressional committees.  So are the senior staff of the IRS.  So is the U.S. Attorney General.  So is the former Secretary of State.  And so forth.  We must therefore assume that we have not been told the full extent of what they can do, what they have been doing, what they have been doing with it, and to whom that information has been further disseminated and for what purposes.

Thus, yesterday I sent the following letter to the chairman of our state ethics weenie commission:

I am writing you in your capacity as chair of the Board of Professional Responsibility to request a formal ethics opinion from the board in respect of the following questions:  

Q: What duty does a lawyer in  have to advise those of his clients with whom he communicates telephonically or via e-mail of the existence of federal domestic espionage programs under which undisclosed amounts and kinds of information and data is harvested from those communications by undisclosed agencies to be used for undisclosed purposes?  

Q: In light of the known existence of domestic espionage programs of undisclosed intent and purpose, may a lawyer ethically continue to communicate with his client other than face-to-face or via paper mail, with or without disclosure of the risk of espionage?  

Formal guidance on the subject for the practicing bar in <my state> is necessary because recent revelations – which I must emphasize are very fragmentary – render incorrect the foundation of the board’s earlier formal opinion that electronic mail is a permissible form for attorney-client communications. That opinion expressly stated as its basis that there was no reason to assume that e-mails were any less secure than the United States Postal Service. While no doubt true at the time, no reasonable person can make that assumption after what has come to light in the past weeks.  

I also emphasize that formal guidance from the Board is indispensable because as now appears to be indisputably the case, various agencies of the federal government are in fact willing to cooperate with each other in using the information each gathers for partisan political purposes. It is now conceded that the Internal Revenue Service targeted for adverse action an entire segment of the American political spectrum, and that at least some of the targets of its attentions were then subjected to otherwise-unexplained attentions from ostensibly unrelated federal agencies (e.g., the ATF and OSHA), or other divisions within the IRS itself, such as gift tax audits of donors disclosed on tax-exemption applications. It is likewise now known that the Service released to its political opponents confidential information in respect of an applicant for a tax-exempt ruling while the application was pending – a criminal offense.  

Under such circumstances no reasonable person may assume that the contents of any communication which is subject to being monitored – as we now know e-mails and telephone calls to be – will not be harvested, disseminated beyond its announced user, and deployed in manners directly targeted at one or more of the specific parties to a communication, for the purpose of injuring that party’s interests. Protestations to the contrary by federal bureaucrats are not entitled to be believed, whether made under oath or not.

I must say that I have no reasonable expectation of hearing back from them, either personally or via actual action on their part. 

 In the meantime, I have added to my usual “please trash this if you’ve received it erroneously” and IRS Circular 230 notice e-mail “signature” the following:

Federal Domestic Espionage Warning.  This e-mail may be routed over communications networks which are the subject of active, non-disclosed monitoring and recording by agencies of the United States government and/or its contractors under one or more programs which may or may not be authorized by statute and/or permissible under the U.S. Constitution.  The nature and extent of information gathered through such espionage have not been disclosed, nor have been disclosed the purposes to which such information is put, nor have been disclosed the identities of any other agencies or entities to which such information is further disseminated.

At least they can’t accuse me of ignoring the issue.

[Update 05 Dec 13]  Back when I sent my request to the ethics weenies, I received what is likely their standard-form reply (reminiscent of “send this bastard the bedbug letter” of railroading fame) that they’d take it up at their September, 2013 quarterly board meeting.  It will surprise no one any more than it did me that I have yet to see any indication that they have engaged with the issue.  And of course the extent and detail of the monitoring that has been revealed in the interim has only got more alarming.  We now know, for example, that the NSA routinely shares information with law enforcement agencies, among them the DEA.  So how, if you practice criminal law, especially federal criminal law, do you communicate with your clients?  And if you practice immigration law?  Or in fact if you practice any kind of law where you have a federal or state agency as the adverse party?

A Modest Proposal

With apologies to Dean Swift, I offer herewith my modest proposal to address the IRS issue, by which I mean the joyful readiness with which the IRS — apparently all divisions of it — whores itself out as a general-purpose thug for the benefit of left-wing political interests.

The problem is how do you get an institution to change its direction when the people in charge of giving it that direction know themselves to be effectively immune from any consequences of any sort. Congress can’t fire Lois Lerner. The DoJ, under command of a flagrant perjurer, is certainly never going to bring either civil or criminal action down on her. Even if Dear Leader does decide to throw her under the bus, she’ll go roost at some think tank, university, law firm, or consultancy for a few years, and the next Democrat administration to come along will find her back at presidential-appointment level. She’ll retire full of years and pension benefits. Like as not she’ll be drawing a six-figure salary as a board member of some “non-profit” funded by whichever Geo. Soros clone is active at that time. The people whose lives and businesses she’s ruined? They won’t even get “good government.”

The federal government (and state governments too, by the way) is bursting at the seams with Lois Lerners large and small.

I suggest that the objectives of any resolution must be to (i) give the legal ability to go after the Lois Lerners of the bureaucracy hammer and tongs to private individuals who have actually been injured by her; (ii) put in play not only her present job but all of her accrued goodies built up over a career of sucking intermittently at the public tit; (iii) put in jeopardy her ability ever to hold a government job at any level ever again; and, (iv) make her such a poison pill that she will be unemployable by any of the groups which seem to exist principally as a cushy landing place for people like her. 

The first is the easiest to craft: Congress simply provides that any person or organization which can show itself to have been injured or have its rights compromised shall have an independent (i.e., not contingent upon action or non-action by the likes of Eric Holder) civil right of action in the plaintiff’s home federal district court. The right of action shall be cumulative with any other administrative proceeding, civil action, or criminal prosecution, and the pendency of any such other process shall not prejudice the plaintiff in the commencement or prosecution of the private action. The private action shall not be stayed by any filing under the Bankruptcy Code, nor will any bankruptcy court have jurisdiction to hear any matter pertaining to it. Any refusal to testify or respond to discovery under any claim of privilege shall, as to the private right, constitute an absolute admission on the point(s) implicated. Provide that there shall be no attorney-client privilege as to any conversation, written, or electronic communication between any person employed by the IRS any other person, excepting only the IRS’s employee’s attorney of record in the private action. Provide that not only the individual IRS agent involved but every person in that agent’s chain of command, up to and including the commissioner, shall be a party defendant, shall be subject to compulsory process in the forum court, and shall be subject to all forms of discovery. Provide that the defendant shall not be entitled to a government-provided defense, but shall, if successful in defending all but not less than all claims, have a right to reimbursement from the government for any actual expenses of defense incurred. Make every person’s employment and continuation in employment contingent upon such person’s accepting in full all of the provisions of the statute. Give a similar right, with similar procedural safeguards, of action to any employee who is disciplined, discharged, demoted, or otherwise experiences an adverse employment action by reason of his refusal to engage in the prohibited conduct. 

The remedies in the action would include, mandatorily: (i) personal, non-dischargeable liability for all monetary injury caused by the acts and omissions forming the basis of the suit; (ii) personal, non-dischargeable liability for punitive relief in the greater of, say, 250 times any compensatory damages awarded, or $10 million; (iii) personal, non-dischargeable liability for all of the successful plaintiff’s attorney’s fees and expenses of litigation; (iv) termination of all federal employment and permanent ineligibility for any office, elective or appointive, in the federal government, whether compensated or not; (v) forfeiture of all pay and benefits received in respect of federal employment, retroactively to the first date on which any such prohibited conduct is found to have occurred, the liability for restitution to be subordinate to the successful plaintiff’s and likewise non-dischargeable in bankruptcy; and, (vi) irrevocable assignment of all post-employment benefits, Social Security, federal retirement, as well as sums held within or payments from any “qualified plan” (this would sweep in IRAs, 401(k) plans, and state and local retirement benefits) and proceeds of life insurance policies, to the successful plaintiff to pay any monetary award made. Expressly make all those benefits subject to execution notwithstanding any federal or state statutory exemption from execution. Make all assets in which the losing defendant has any interest, legal or equitable, subject to execution to satisfy the judgment, again notwithstanding any otherwise applicable exemption (we’ll have no O. J. Simpsons living in a Florida mansion and enjoying an unlimited homestead exemption). 

Well, OK Gentle Reader says. Lois isn’t a federal worker any more. What’s to stop her signing on for a mid-six-figure job with the University of BLANK to teach . . . oh, whatever grievance studies course they feel like offering her? This is how: You simply make ineligible for federal tax exemption any organization which employs any person against whom judgment has been rendered pursuant to the statute. You make ineligible for any federal contract any organization which employs any such person. You make ineligible for exemption or contracting any organizations which pay more than, say, $5,000 in any year to any one or more than entities or organizations in which any such person has more than a 1% stake in the equity or profits, or which itself pays any such person more than $5,000 or so per year. You bar from lobbying any organization which hires or contracts with any such person. And so forth. You create a whistle-blower’s right of action with a 30% recovery of the first three years’ tax obligations of any violating tax-exempt organization. 

You’re not preventing Lois from working; you’re not even preventing her from working in her area of expertise (tax law). What you are doing is preventing her, having violated the public trust in that fashion, from drawing a subsidy from the American taxpayer, either directly or indirectly.  By like token you’re not preventing any employer from ever hiring Lois. You’re just asking them to choose which is more important to them: providing a comfortable retirement for someone like Lois or not paying taxes.

 To the argument that this would “chill” competent people from going into government service, I say bullshit. If Lois calls down to the Cincinnati office and tells them to git after them nasty, stinky Tea Partiers, which would you rather chill – the employee who will tell Lois to go pound sand up her ass and by the way this call was recorded, or on the other hand the employee who’ll say certainly and what specific groups does Ms. Lerner have in mind to target?  What you will chill is the dishonest, the power-mad, the megalomaniacal. 

Maybe once a few higher-ups have had their lives ruined by engaging in these sorts of monkey shines the message will get out that it really doesn’t matter who’s in the White House, a government employee identification card is not a license to be a law unto oneself. I’ll take any incidental chilling that happens. Collateral damage or, as Dear Leader referred to our four dead Americans in Benghazi, “bumps in the road.”

 And if you think none of this is really an issue, after all, take a look at what happened to someone who challenged the labor-union ridden TSA, and had the guts to testify before Congress about it.

Wow, Blow off Blogging for Three Short Months

And look what happens.

To all my loyal readers reader, my sincerest apologies for having gone all Rip Van Winkle on this venture for the better part of three months. I can’t even correctly recall precisely why it was that I went quiet, back then. I do know that for the better part of two full months I was at general quarters, getting ready for a jury trial that got postponed a week before it was supposed to kick off. In any event, the sensation of having abandoned something one set out to do is merited and oppressive.

And what a three months it’s been. We’re still no closer to finding out why the administration left four Americans, including its ambassador, to be slaughtered. We know that someone senior in the picture actively got involved in lying to the American public about the incident, for weeks on end. We know that the one person in the whole show who could have credibly shifted America’s focus onto what happened – Genl Petraeus – just happened to have made himself extremely vulnerable to blackmail at that time, and that he, though having earned a reputation for speaking his mind irrespective of the politics of the moment, strangely went along with the deception. If the inference is warranted that he remained silent, knowing that the administration was intentionally peddling a bogus version of what happened that night, in the hopes of saving his own hide, then (a) what a rube, and (b) he no more than fell afoul of one of the oldest saws out there: Never give a sucker an even break. You’d think that someone who’s navigated the (literally) cut-throat morass of Iraq would have understood that someone like Dear Leader simply doesn’t keep promises, especially not to people whose existence has become inconvenient. Let us recall what one of Dear Leader’s heroes, known for at least some period at the Great Helmsman, observed about mean who were problems: Get rid of the man, get rid of the problem. Once Dear Leader was safely re-elected (with the vigorous assistance of the Internal Revenue Service), the general was expendable. And he was expended. 

The now-former Sec’y of State has appeared before the Congress, and in response to the pointed question of who commanded the lie be told, shot back, “What difference does it make at this point?” By saying which she actually answered several questions all at once, viz. (i) I know who gave the order. (ii) I’m not going to say because I still need this person’s assistance in achieving my ambitions for the future. (iii) All that business about “executive over-reach” I was spouting during the eight years of Bush’s presidency was just a load of nonsense to look good in newsprint. 

I’m an ol’ sailor, and in inshore piloting, if you can get two intersecting lines of bearing, then you know where you are, because there’s only one point on the surface of the globe that simultaneously satisfies the conditions of bearing 217 degrees from Point A and 104.5 degrees from Point B. So let’s focus on which universe of people could conceivably satisfy both conditions of (i) being in a position to give the order, and (ii) being someone necessary to Hillary’s ambitions. Looked at that way, it’s a pretty small universe, isn’t it? 

Then we’re treated to a look inside the IRS. It turns out that a large part of why the Tea Party movement, which so thoroughly ran the table in 2010, was so oddly quiescent in 2012 was because their grass-roots organizations (and they’re all grass-roots in that movement; there simply isn’t such an outfit as The Tea Party) couldn’t raise money. Well why ever not? It seems that as folks began to study on the practicalities of formal political action, they realized they needed some degree of personal liability protection. They also needed a tax-exempt letter from the IRS. Now here’s something that the uninitiated sometimes don’t always realize right off the bat: It doesn’t matter what sort of an organization you are, or what your mission is, or what you do or don’t do; you’re not an exempt organization until the IRS determines that you are an exempt organization and tells you so much in writing. So what happened to the applications for tax-exempt status? Well, they were referred to a special group of people, who were given very specific instructions on how to see to it that these organizations got the Full Treatment. At first they were told to look for groups with “patriot” or “tea party” in their names. That dragnet was both too blatant and too porous for the administration’s purposes, so after a little while the focus was watered down to groups which stated that their goal was arguing for smaller, less intrusive, less expensive government. 

Groups caught up in it got swamped with hundred of questions, all the way from demanding to know who their donors were (and as it later turns out, the donors disclosed were then the subject of bogus gift tax “audits,” trying to levy gift taxes on the contributions made to the victim organizations), demanding to know who attended their meetings, what was said at the meetings, for groups with an overtly religious cast, what were the contents of their members prayers, and on and on and on. Hundreds and in some cases thousands of pages of documentation and answers were to be provided. Each round just brought more bullshit questions, and when the questions stopped, the applications disappeared into a black hole. No action one way or the other. Very clever, that: If the IRS had denied the application the organizations could have brought suit in federal court to challenge the denial, but without a denial. For months and in some cases years (some of the groups still don’t have a decision on way or the other) the IRS strung them out, and during all that time their ability to raise money was minimal. 

But it didn’t stop with the IRS. Prominent activists (like the husband and wife who, having observed massive voter fraud in Houston, organized a group – True the Vote – to monitor and document the abuse, and then of course eventually to fight back against it) suddenly found themselves subject to the interest of multiple federal agencies who for years had shown zero curiosity about them or their businesses. The True the Vote folks found themselves the subject of a surprise inspection by OSHA and not one but two audits by the ATF, as well as tax audits of their business and themselves personally. 

And so the Tea Party financial apparatus was crippled during the two years before the election. Every public statement thus far made about the genesis and supervision of the persecution has proven to be false, usually demonstrably so. There was a sudden surge in applications under Section 501(c)(4) in 2010? Uh, no. Leftist groups were the subject of identical treatment? Nope, not a one has come forward or been identified. Just a bunch of rogue agents in the Cincinnati office? Not true either; the program was from the very beginning known to and the subject of orchestration by senior IRS officials. Nobody in a position of authority knew about it? Try again; no less than the IRS senior counsel personally knew what was going on. 

What’s interesting is that the story was self-reported – kinda sorta – by a question planted at a news conference. The IRS apparatchik giving the conference, Lois Lerner (about whom more in a bit), arranged for a lawyer/lobbyist to ask a specific question about a forthcoming IRS Inspector General report on the fiasco. It was at that conference that ol’ Lois first tried out the “few rogue agents” bullshit. But that’s not the most interesting aspect of the case. The IG’s report was the report of an audit, which is nothing more than exactly that: The IG’s folks ask questions but have no compulsory power. If the audit discovers evidence of wrong-doing, the next step is an actual investigation, in which the IG does have compulsory powers, can put people under oath, and can generally crack heads. The IG audit report in question makes some very specific findings of misconduct, some of which may even be criminal in nature. But an investigation was never begun. It stopped with an audit.  Gerald Walpin, the (former) IG of the a federal agency who got himself fired when he refused to back down on a $750,000 theft of government money – by a prominent supporter and donor of Dear Leader, but Gentle Reader knew that without asking – has an interesting and under all the history of this administration compelling theory that the omission was entirely predictable. He recites a litany of IGs who made the mistake of pushing too hard on issues of concern to the administration, and who paid for it with their jobs. 

The DoJ has been busted for monitoring the communications of a host of Associated Press reporters, including their communications from within the Capitol itself, specifically the House Cloak Room. Those reporters of course got off comparatively lightly, as far as intrusiveness goes. A Fox News reporter (will coincidences never cease?!?) not only has all his personal communications monitored, but even his mother gets the same treatment. That of course required warrants, and to get it the Attorney General of the United States lied to a federal judge. The affidavit (sworn, dontcha know) alleged that the reporter in question was potentially a defendant co-conspirator in an act of criminal espionage. Later, the same AG stands in front of Congress and allows that he had “no involvement” in obtaining the warrant. Then it comes out that he’d given his personal approval to the affidavit seeking the warrant. All this raises the interesting philosophical point of whether it’s more permissible to lie under oath to Congress or to a federal judge in order to take a mighty chop at the tree of a free press. 

Well, those nasty, eeeevillll, violent Tea Partiers just asked for it, after all (no, seriously: we had a Congressmember say that in public), and that uppity Fox News feller should have expected as much, working for Satan himself. In plain English, they’re Other People. If we just keep our heads down, don’t question the government, we’ll be OK, won’t we? Won’t we? Ehhhhh . . . maybe not. We now discover a bit more of the true extent to which The Man has been watching us for years now. Every call we make, every e-mail we send has its metadata sent to and stored by the National Security Administration. The current program traces back to a Bush-era program in which the initial aim was to monitor communications crossing U.S. borders (don’t need a warrant to snoop on international communications). I admit I’m a bit sketchy on the full and technical details of what’s out there thus far, but at some point the program morphed into capturing the originating and recipient phone numbers of all telephone calls. The likely scope of what’s being hoovered (that’s actually an insider’s expression and refers not to the household appliance company but to the former FBI director) is of course much, much greater. 

In light of the revelations, we see the inevitable and utterly predictable blow-back from this all: International users of the communications systems are going to avoid U.S. providers, U.S. hardware companies (how can they be sure that the snooping software isn’t hard-wired into it, after all?), and we have to presume U.S. trading partners if possible. I mean, if they can pull that information from your computer when you send an e-mail, how difficult would it be to plant something on your computer in the first place? Stuxnet, anyone (which Dear Leader bragged – publicly – that the U.S. had placed on Iran’s nuclear weapons equipment)? 

The justification for this degree of surveillance is that it’s necessary to protect us from terrorism. Well, that’s reassuring, isn’t it? It’s indispensable that the federal government know every website I visit so that it can ignore not one, not two, but three specific warnings about specific individuals – the brethren Tsarnaev – given to it by two completely independent countries’ intelligence agencies. They have to know every time I fire up the ol’ Samsung because it would be just way too much trouble to infiltrate and monitor mosques, even mosques known to be recruiting centers for home-grown jihadists. The NSA has to analyze what it means – if anything – each time I send an e-mail to a particular address because if it didn’t, they would have to do complicated shit like follow up on Facebook postings by people that foreign governments have specifically warned us are radicalized, actively engaged with known terrorist organizations and agents, and are planning active operations in the U.S. 

All this and more over the dam since I went cold, dark, and quiet. I confess I’m still not completely satisfied in my mind which of the revelations I find the most egregious. Of all of them I’m least exercised by the reporters’ laments. I’m not a scholar of the First Amendment – I can’t really say I’m much of a scholar of anything, come to think of it – but while there is something to be said in favor of the proposition that press freedom is a limiting factor on the government’s ability to impose penalties on the press for dissemination of sensitive data, in point of fact it can’t be a secret to any reporter whose beat includes the hush-hush parts of Uncle Sugar’s House of Nuts that a good deal of what his usual sources tell him they’re breaking the law if they tell him. 

The specific revelation that got the Fox News dude in hot water was the tip that North Korea was expected to respond to particular sanctions by staging another nuclear test. It seems that information could only have come from sources very high within the North Korean regime, and the news story pretty much clued whichever Kim is this generation’s lunatic in to the fact that we had a source that high up. Depending on how that information was known within that regime, whoever our source was/is may well be on his way to a one-night stand in front of a wall in an execution cell somewhere. If he’s not been sent on his way already. So to pretend that this is a First Amendment issue pure and simple is not honest. I mean, let’s just say that Movietone decided to run a story on when Operation Overlord was set to go. Or if the BBC had run a story that Case Yellow – the invasion of France and the Low Countries – was set for early May, 1940. Would we object, per sé, to a warrant issuing on the people known or believed to have been involved in the security breach? 

The NSA story I find more unsettling, because the federal government has chosen to spy on me in lieu of more specific, less intrusive methods of guarding me from the folks out there who are known to exist. As hinted at above, until 2011 the FBI had an active program in place to infiltrate mosques, especially and specifically mosques whose congregants or clergy were known to have or reasonably suspected to have ties to terrorist organizations. We apparently monitored pretty closely what they did. That program was discontinued at the behest of CAIR – the Council on American Islamic Relations – an organization that if memory serves was itself an unindicted co-conspirator in several criminal terrorism prosecutions. Successful prosecutions. The revelations about what we knew about the Tsarnaev brothers, and when, illustrate the point even better. The Russian security agency warned us about the elder brother not once but twice. The Saudi intelligence boys also (according to a report in Mail Online; alas you have to read the foreign press to get a clear picture of what’s happening on this side of the ocean) gave not only the U.S. but also the British specific intelligence about Brer Tsarnaev’s activities and his intentions. The brilliant boys at the FBI and the CIA took those reports and did . . . nothing. They certainly didn’t share them with the old-fashioned gum-shoes in the Boston P.D., who might have put a tail on them. It wasn’t like the brothers were being secretive about any of their thoughts or actions, either. They put them right out there on Facebook. In summary, with this NSA operation the government has opted to go in for domestic spying – on me – on an historically unprecedented scale, with only theoretical likelihood of actually catching a bad guy in time, and at a time when it either refuses outright to engage in ordinary municipal police department quality investigation of known threats, or can’t be bothered to do the job properly when it does so bestir itself. It would be like a football team spending all of its practice time and budget on trick plays, rather than blocking drills, running pass patterns, and tip drills. Harlem Globetrotter stuff instead of practicing free throws and breaking a full-court press. 

The Benghazi fiasco outrages me, but more not on a fundamental level. Administrations have always tried to suppress bad news and blunders. The worse the blunder the more energy they’ve spent on hiding the truth. It’s what administrations do, and while I fully see the wickedness and cynicism of our betraying those Americans in that hell-hole that we helped create – that Dear Leader illegally helped create – it doesn’t strike me as something that endangers our American Experiment. 

The IRS abuses, however, are what make all the other scandals intolerable. The IRS is the one agency which touches almost every last American. If you’re sixteen and have a summer job, the payroll taxes withheld from your paycheck flow through the IRS. If you’re a single parent with a ninth-grade education and you’re trying desperately not to slip into perpetual welfare dependency, the EITC advance refund you get is processed by the IRS. If you’re a tobacco farmer the excise taxes paid on the end-product of your fields is enforced by the IRS. And of course if you’re part of that only slightly-more-than-half of the American adult population that pays federal income taxes, what the IRS does and how it does it shapes whether you have a job, what kind of a career path or pay curve you have within that job, and of course how much you bring home each pay period. With the enactment of the ACA – it bothers me to hear it called “Obamacare” because in fact Dear Leader was strangely uninvolved with its drafting; if anything it ought to be called “Pelosicare” or “Baucuscare” – the IRS will be in charge of determining what kind of health insurance you can buy, from whom, and at what price. 

We see now laid bare that the IRS views itself as being the enforcement arm of a particular political party and movement. While it was holding up, in many cases for months and years, the 501(c)(4) applications of the sundry conservative organizations, hamstringing their ability to raise money to pursue their goals, the lefty organizations’ applications sailed on through with minimal fuss. Lois Lerner (q.v.) was among the guiding lights of the plan, and here it’s not unimportant to note that this was not her first rodeo. She used to be counsel for the Federal Election Commission’s enforcement division. Back in 1996 a young Republican challenged an Illinois Democrat in a Congressional race (I’m thinking it was Dick Durbin, but I could be wrong). About a month before the election he mysteriously got popped with a full-bore FEC investigation. It cost him nearly $100,000 and it was eventually determined entirely in his favor. But around the time it was launched, he got a call from the FEC. “Promise me you’ll never run for office again and we’ll drop this case,” he was told by the FEC lawyer. His caller? One Lois Lerner. It was dear ol’ Lois again who required, as a condition for approving an anti-abortion group’s application for tax-exempt status, that its board members promise never to picket a Planned Parenthood office. 

Several former IRS employees have made the point that what happened to these conservative groups was so far outside the boundaries of what is known to be permissible behavior within the IRS (like leaking the donors of groups who had applications still pending, an offense for which the penalty is criminal), and the penalties for it so draconian (at least if you’re a peon, as was the case with the Cincinnati office staffers; if you’re Lois Lerner or the senior counsel who were pulling the strings your stakes are entirely different), that there is simply no way in heaven or hell these things would have been done without very specific instruction from very highly placed people in the central IRS command structure. 

When called on the carpet before Congress dear Lois put on hauteur which would have made Marie Antoinette proud. The elected representatives of the American people were no more than canaille, Pöbel, villeins (I note here that within the past few days we observed the anniversary of Wat Tyler’s un-doing: “Villeins ye are, and villeins ye shall remain,” spake Richard II to the assembled peasants, whereupon his men-at-arms made short work of them), narod. How dare you question one of the anointed? What she is asserting is neither more nor less than the right of the bureaucracy to do as it pleases, and be damned to any enactment of Congress. And to do it in the service of a partisan political goal. 

Richard Nixon famously had his enemies list, and he equally famously used, or attempted to use, the IRS to go after them. Much, in fact, in the manner that LBJ had used the same agency to go after Richard Nixon. And much in the manner that FDR had instructed the IRS, including its chief prosecutor, one Robert Jackson, to bring and prosecute criminal charges against Andrew Mellon, a former Secretary of the Treasury, for actions which Jackson informed Roosevelt were perfectly legal. But prosecute he did. Jackson, whom I used to admire before I read that little story (it’s one of the inter-twined plots in The Forgotten Man by Amity Shlaes, a marvelous book), and who ought to have been disbarred for what he did, instead was rewarded with a seat on the Supreme Court, from which post he took a leave of absence to go hang Nazis in Nuremberg. Go figure. 

Today’s IRS scandal is more unsettling because its actions were directed not at discrete individuals or organizations but at an entire swathe of the political spectrum. More to the point, the mechanism of the attack was a frontal assault on the practical ability of these groups to engage in political speech, which is the whole point of that part of the First Amendment. I mean, we don’t have a First Amendment so that people can dunk images of Jesus Christ in urine. We have a First Amendment so we can have True the Vote. The left has always been jealous of its hold on people like Geo. Soros and organizations like the New York Times. The Citizens United case blew a hole in that monopoly. If you can’t un-do that decision, you can at least turn it into a one-sided proposition. Despite the efforts of clowns like that feller from Minnesota (whose election victory bore unmistakable signs of pretty pervasive voter fraud), no one on the left seriously wants to toss a spanner into the ability of Comrade Soros and his like to pour millions of dollars onto the political scales. But what would make it even better is if you can intercept those unwashed bitter clingers from fly-over country in their efforts to take their $50 and $100 donations and get to what Geo. Soros can peel off his hip on any Saturday afternoon. 

In a wonderful movie, The Lives of Others, there’s a scene where the Stasi has just finished bugging the playwright’s apartment. The team’s leaving, and as the colonel is very carefully locking the door, the opposite door on the same floor’s landing opens behind him. A woman is standing there. The colonel turns and asks her if she’d like her son’s education to continue uninterrupted (and of course the colonel knows where and what he’s studying). He gives her to understand, in precisely so many words, that if she expects him to be permitted to carry on his education, she will forget everything she might have just seen or heard.

When trying to prevent voter fraud gets you repeated visits from not only the IRS but also the ATF and OSHA, when not only your political activities but your business livelihood is targeted, then folks, we’re at precisely the same point as depicted in that movie. 

Just imagine how delightful it will be when the same agency that came after the would-be conservative 501(c)(4) groups has access to all of your healthcare information. Do you really want to run that advertising campaign against Senator Dipstick? Just how badly does your brother need that lung transplant? You know, Mr. and Mrs. Murgatroyd, there are only so many experts in treating children with autism spectrum disorders. Not just everyone can be accommodated. Are you really that interested in the voter rolls of Dade County? 

So I think that, in the balance, it’s the IRS story that’s the one which genuinely has the potential to destroy what America was supposed to be about, when the committee of the Continental Congress (and oddly enough, in the past few days we observed the anniversary of that committee’s formation) was tasked to draft a declaration relative to the political relationship between the thirteen colonies and the British crown. 

What a three months it’s been.