Ambivalent Insight

What does it say about oneself that one can see into the mind of a scoundrel?  There’s little question that it’s a useful ability, but is it something to be proud of that you can do it?  “I can think like an utterly depraved wretch.”  Yeah, write that home in a letter to mom.

It appears that the general consensus is that Wikileaks is a Kremlin front-operation.  This is not something difficult to figure out, in all truth.  Just ask yourself what damaging information has been leaked as to Putin’s Russia, or to Red China, or North Korea, or Iran, or to any other communist or former-communist client state.  And how much ought there have been released, given how those countries and their rulers operate, both at home and abroad?  This is Sherlock Holmes’s dog not barking in the night, writ large and in blood.  It therefore inevitably follows that the leaks of e-mails hacked from the Democrat National Committee, from Her campaign guru John Podesta, from Her private shady operator Sidney Blumenthal, and from others near and dear to Her are in fact an attempt to influence the American presidential election.  I just don’t see there being room for intellectual good-faith disagreement on the subject.

The question is thus suggested:  Influence it in favor of whom?  The self-evident answer is “in favor of Vladimir Putin,” but that’s only the ultimate answer.  The question is which candidate is Putin trying to put into the Oval Office.

The hand-wringing class has proclaimed that the answer is Donald Trump of course, because he said “pussy” on camera.  Or something like that.

I have always thought the Conventional Wisdom on this subject betrays an extremely shallow understanding of Putin, Trump, and Her.  It looks only at the surface ripple, the splash of the moment, and ignores the deep currents and subsurface eddies of what’s actually going on.  “These e-mails are horribly embarrassing to Her; of course he’s trying to put Trump over the top.”  And why?  Well, Trump has spoken disparagingly of NATO, and implied that America’s commitment to it isn’t absolute.  Ergo:  Putin likes Trump.  And besides, Putin’s evil and Donald Trump is the Very Incarnation of Evil (or will be until four years from now, when the then-current Republican nominee will be Satan’s Mentor and Donald Trump will be an august senior statesman the passing of whom the stage is a lamentable — lamentable! I tell you — indication of Our Republic’s degradation . . . just like Bush was to Reagan and Dole, like McCain was to Bush, Romney was to McCain, and not Trump is to Romney), and because they’re both So Evil, they must like and desire each that each other prosper.

I think the above is superficial.  In asking whom Putin wants in that office, the question to ask is which candidate might Putin think it easier for him (i) to predict, and (ii) to control.  Because that’s how Putin has to operate in a world in which he does not, directly or otherwise, control overwhelming physical force.  Yes, they’ve got some nifty toys, but he understands, as he must, that in a head-to-head match-up with the American arsenal, at least for the time being, his best hardware would be left a pile of smoking wreckage.  He’s a gambler, but he’s not reckless.  So without a Real Safe Bet on physical force, what is left to him but political control?  He doesn’t have to invade the spaces around Russia if he can so direct their actions, and so constrain the ranges of their options, that they have little choice left but to do his will.  It should go without saying that if he can largely control the person at 1600 Pennsylvania, he is 90% of the way to accomplishing that.

I will observe that it must be taken as axiomatic that you cannot control what you cannot predict.  That fact alone must incline Putin away from a Trump presidency.  There’s just about nothing bad, either personally or politically, that you can say about Donald Trump that I wouldn’t freely agree to be at least plausible, if not likely, and very possibly damned near a certainty.  And among the many bad things said is that the guy’s imbalanced; that he’s a narcissist; that he’s a pathological liar who doesn’t even mind it that you falsify every single one of his factual claims.  All of those have to produce billowing clouds of warning smoke for Putin.  How in the world can Putin predict what a Trump is going to do in Situation X?  You can’t ask what will allow him to cash in on his public service after he leaves office.  Trump doesn’t need the money.  You can’t ask what will burnish his reputation.  Trump’s been squandering his reputation for over 30 years now; in fact, his Bad Reputation is precisely the reputation he’s proudest of.  You can’t ask what will offend his base of support.  Trump was only slightly exaggerating when he allowed that he could shoot a man dead in broad daylight and his people would still vote for him.  You can’t ask what will help him to perpetuate his machine.  Trump doesn’t have a machine; hell, he’s just barely got a campaign organization.  Who out there is riding Donald Trump’s coat tails?  About whom does Donald Trump give enough of a damn that they could go to him and say, “Listen, chief; you gotta stop this business or you’re going to wreck us come next November.”  You can’t examine his record in public office because he’s never held any such office.  You can’t examine his public statements because he’s completely comfortable boxing the compass on just about any issue you can name, and you can’t embarrass him by pointing out that he’s done it once more.

I submit that to Vladimir Putin, Trump must appear to be an unguided rocket with at least two of five motor nozzles that are partially plugged, and a short circuit in the launching system.

But would She be so much easier to predict and therefore control?  I suggest She would.  And why?  For starts, we know for a fact that She will joyfully sell the highest public offices in the land for cash to hostile foreign actors, including foreign state actors.  I will remind Gentle Reader that the U.S. Secretary of State is fourth in line for the presidency, after the president, the vice president, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.  There can be no honest argument, after the recent releases of e-mails, that She was not perfectly willing to sell access to Herself, and to take official action (or refrain from it, just ask Ericsson) in exchange for cash donations to Her foundation and/or direct payments to Her husband.

But more to the point:  She has a passion, verging on a mania, for secrecy.  She could have run all of Her pay-to-play scams on that private server, and still run all of the State Department’s legitimate business across an official, secure government server.  She chose to do otherwise.  When discovered, She chose to destroy all the evidence She could.  She chose to have her underlings commit perjury for Her protection (Huma swore under oath that she had accounted for all e-mails in her possession or control . . . and now they find while investigating her husband a further 650,000 e-mails on a shared laptop).  She chose to lie, and lie, and lie about the entire episode, when She must have known that eventually it would all come out.  If there is a depth to which She will not sink in Her efforts to shield what She does in public office from the scrutiny of the public, no one has ever identified it.

As has been pointed out, the Clintons — He and She — make nothing.  They provide no intrinsically valuable service.  They have no valuable skills to sell.  All they have to peddle is influence in government.  And my o! my have they done well at it.  Millions upon millions upon millions of dollars in personal net worth, between two people who, as of January 20, 2001, had not held a real job in the better part of twenty years or more, but rather had worked a series of very modestly-paying government jobs.  So if you destroy Her, and Her network of supporters within and without government, you destroy Her livelihood, a livelihood to make which She has, as mentioned, joyfully sold the highest offices of the land.

Which is why I am convinced that Wikileaks has not come anywhere close to releasing the most damaging materials in its possession, and will very carefully not do so before the election.  It is in Vladimir Putin’s interest to have in office a crippled president.  It is in his interest to have a president across the table from whom one of his operatives can sit and read from materials so incriminating that not even the American “news” media will be able to avoid the compulsion to publish.  Material so damning in its lay-it-out-in-black-and-white-on-Her-own-keyboard terms that only the Al Frankens, Nancy Pelosis, Alcee Hastingses, and Chuck Shumers of the House or Senate will be unwilling to vote for her removal from office.

What are the exact odds that, should She be elected, within a few weeks at most, a very quiet meeting will not occur, quite off the record you understand.

“Congratulations on your election, Mrs. President.  You’ve worked your whole adult life for this and now you’ve accomplished what no woman before you has.  You are to be commended.  Now let’s talk about this e-mail.  <reads aloud>  Or perhaps this one.  <reads aloud>  Or, gosh darn it, perhaps this one.  <reads aloud>  Now Mrs. President, you and I both know those aren’t even anywhere close to as bad as they get, don’t we?  And you and I both know that there are many, many news outlets in this great wide world which would gladly take these stories and run with them.  Aren’t there?  And you can’t stop any of them, can you?  So let’s talk about how you’re going to run your office, is that OK with you?”

And so forth.  At that point we have a U.S. President who is owned, from the top of her noggin to the soles of her sensible shoes, by any of several hostile foreign intelligence agencies.

I have to say I’m proud to see that at least one other person seems to be thinking along lines similar to the above.  There is almost no level on which it is in Vladimir Putin’s self-interest to see a President Donald Trump sitting in that office, squinting at him with those porcine eyes of his.  Her?  Putin can work with Her, can work on Her, can . . . and will . . . own Her.

In Which I Go Full Tin-Hat

So yesterday the FBI re-opens an investigation, according to a letter which the director, James Comey, sent to Congress.

The Donald Trump campaign, and of course all the outfits which have been watching that campaign self-destruct, again and again making unforced errors, only to recover, somehow, as well as all the outfits that are more hoping that expecting that Hillary Clinton’s decades of malfeasance — including outright criminal behavior in the form of sale of public office and intentional mishandling of classified information, just to name a few — would finally catch up with her, are exulting.  They present the letter as news that the FBI is re-opening its investigation of Hillary Clinton.

The Letter to Congress (that expression puts me in mind of Lord Chesterfield’s Letters to His Son, one of my favorite expressions of which is the good earl’s characterizing his (bastard; is nothing immune from irony?) son, Phillip Stanhope, as an “abandoned whoremonger”) says no such thing, of course.  All it says is that certain e-mails have come to light in connection with an “unrelated investigation”; that those e-mails “may be relevant” to the earlier investigation of Her “personal e-mail server”; and, that in light of his previous testimony that the Feeb had completed its investigation of Her e-mail server, Comey feels obliged to inform Congress that is no longer the case.  The FBI will “assess whether or not this material may be significant,” and will get back with them.

All of which is to say, ho-hum.

Carl Bernstein, of Watergate fame, has this to allow:  “We don’t know what this means yet except that it’s a real bombshell. And it is unthinkable that the Director of the FBI would take this action lightly, that he would put this letter forth to the Congress of the United States saying there is more information out there about classified e-mails and call it to the attention of congress unless it was something requiring serious investigation.”  Full transcript at that link, by the way.

But that’s not the only word.  As it turns out, Comey — who’s never been an FBI agent, and whose actions in blatantly torpedoing the actual investigation of Her have, it seems, produced vehement outrage in the agency itself — felt called upon to explain himself to his underlings, whose integrity he sold out before all the world, in a letter which has now (will people never learn it’s 2016 already?) been leaked.  The Washington Post has a transcription, here.  Comey emphasizes his “repeated” statements in recent months that the investigation was complete, and how they discover additional materials.  And so to “correct the record,” the FBI is now going to take “appropriate steps to obtain and review” the e-mails.

And just where were these e-mails found?  Well, they were found in an e-mail account shared by Her Muslim Brotherhood operative closest aide, Huma Abedin, with her soon-to-be-former husband, Anthony “Carlos Danger” Weiner.  The physical discovery was on Huma’s laptop.  The “unrelated investigation” referred to by the FBI is their investigation of Weiner’s sexting relationship with a 15-year-old girl.  If Comey is unsuccessful at sweeping this stuff under the rug as well — and allow me to put down the marker that I firmly believe that’s exactly what he has in mind — and if the American public is not so covered in civic scar tissue from the repeated and prolonged revelations at just how corrupt the Clinton empire actually is, and consequently fails to give Her the office which She has always believed belonged to Her by right, then Weiner will truly have earned the nickname I saw him tagged with yesterday, viz. “the Fredo Corleone of the Democrat Party.”

So what does it all mean, then?

Comey certainly cannot be protecting either his reputation or that of the FBI.  He has ruined those for all time.  Don’t think the acquittal across the board of the Bundy crew out in Oregon this week was anything other than outright jury nullification?  Don’t think it might have been a reaction to seeing how the High and Mighty flout the laws to the peril of the country, and have the very police power itself collaborate in the cover-up?  What color is the sun on Gentle Reader’s planet, then?

<paste cri de coeur>

[How’s this for a civil disobedience program:  No More Convictions.  If every federal criminal jury were to return a “not guilty” verdict in every single trial, if every jury in a tax case were to find against the IRS, if every jury in every suit brought by an administrative agency were to find for the citizen, then maybe perhaps the political class might get the message that the rest of us have had about all we’re fucking going to take of them.  The boycott would continue until both She and Comey had (i) resigned all federal offices, (ii) made a full and public confession of exactly what they have done, (iii) executed an agreement in enforceable form never to seek or accept public office from any federal, state, or local entity, and (iv) surrendered their law licenses with an enforceable undertaking never to seek reinstatement.  I make that modest proposal fully aware of the horrible implications it would have, if implemented.  I am not unmindful of the innocent victims of horrific crimes who would see their perpetrators walk away unpunished.  I am certainly aware that, as Things Work Out at the cosmic level, I would in all likelihood be one of those victims.  But if we allow a system to continue in which the law simply does not apply to specific individuals from a specific political class, then Benjamin Franklin will have the answer to the question implicit in his response when questioned what the Constitutional Convention had wrought: “A republic, if you can keep it.”  Weimar Germany didn’t collapse under the weight of reparations; it was never invaded; it was not cast into outer darkness by any constellation of hostile powers.  It collapsed because ordinary Germans gave up on it.]

<end of  cri de coeur>

My guess is that the FBI special agents running the Weiner investigation went to Comey and told him something along the lines of, “Listen, coach:  You’re not going to do to us what you did to those bastards who served you up Hillary Clinton on a tray with the apple in her mouth, ready to be shoved into the oven and baked.  We’re not signing any bullshit non-disclosure agreements.  You either shine a light on this or we will.”  [Update: 01 Nov 16:  It looks as though my hunch may match up pretty well with what actually played out in the FBI.]

So what can Comey do?  Well, my guess is that in the FBI there are very specific, and very specifically enforced, rules about disclosures in respect of an on-going investigation.  By officially designating this material to be part of an on-going investigation, Comey seals it off from the light of day.  Unless I really misunderstand things, there is no deadline at all for how long the FBI has to take to make a decision to refer something for prosecution or not.  I would be amazed if Comey ever makes that “assessment” he’s promising Congress.  His “assessment,” if any, is likely to take the form that he assesses his job to depend on seeing to it that the contents of those e-mails and how they came to be on the laptop used by a pedophile to sext his victims never, ever, ever see the light of day.

And they won’t.

This is not, in other words, the “bombshell” that Carl Bernstein thinks it is.  It is, rather, precisely the opposite.  John Podesta, as corrupt a political operator as has ever run a pay-to-play scheme for a politician, has demanded that Comey immediately disclose what’s in those e-mails.  I guarantee you that She knows precisely what’s in them.  But this demand permits Comey to play — publicly, at least — all coy about the “on-going investigation” thing.  I will also promise you, however, that Her operatives will be permitted to participate in the “investigation”.  [Historical note:  In July, 1914, the only demand from Austria-Hungary which Serbia turned down was the demand that Austro-Hungarian officials be allowed to participate in the Serbian investigation into the antecedents, planning, and execution of the assassination plot against the Archduke Franz Ferdinand.  They were wiling to agree to a laundry list of humiliation by the Austro-Hungarians.  But not that:  They were willing to accept what they had to have known would be the nearly-certain destruction of their country rather than agree to that one demand.  And so it came to pass.  Let us watch what Comey does, very carefully this time.]

I will hazard a small prediction:  Within hours, if it has not already commenced, we will see public statements from Her campaign and its surrogates which, by reason of their confidence and substance, indicate that they in fact do not fear the supposed “investigation” and “assessment” of this additional “material” by the FBI.  When someone is acting as if what would otherwise be a known and grave threat does not exist, Innocent Bystander is entitled to question why.  Again, from July, 1914, the question was asked why, in its dealings with Serbia, did Austria-Hungary behave as if Russia — which was known to view itself as the protector of all Balkan Slav countries — did not exist.  And the answer was of course that Austria-Hungary had taken out an insurance policy in Berlin, in the form of the famous “blank check” given by Imperial Germany, that whatever their ally did Germany would march beside them.  My hunch is that Her campaign has already received the desired assurances from Comey.  Without fear of actual disclosure, they can pivot to media spin, confident that whatever bullshit they get their operatives in the “news” media to put out there will not be contradicted by leaks from within the FBI.

Is all this tin-foil-hat territory?  It may well be.  But given how intentionally Comey blew up his own “investigation” of Her, I’m afraid the burden of proof must be viewed as having shifted to Comey.

Cooking Chitlins: On Experimentation

How joyful it is to welcome chitlin season once again!  Went to my regular supper this past Friday evening, and I must say they were very tasty.

In preparation for the festivities, the preceding weekend I had thawed out a couple of quarts that I’d saved from last winter, and on a whim I tried a little variation when I heated them back up to eat.  Specifically, having warmed them back up, I put a couple of forkfuls’ worth in two teacups.  In one I added Worcestershire sauce, and in the other, Marsala cooking wine.

I am pleased to report that the Worcestershire sauce was a complete success, a result which I confirmed Friday at the chitlin supper when I had them bring a bottle to the table and I tried it out on an entire serving at once.

The Marsala wine was just too strong a flavor.  It may well be that because I added it to the finished product the flavor hadn’t had a chance to mellow out.  Maybe I’ll add it in while heating up a small helping next time.  The jury’s still out on that, in other words.

My next two experiments will involve apple cider vinegar and teriyaki sauce.  The vinegar will definitely be something to add while heating them back up.  I know some folks cook with it in the pot as well, and that’s certainly something I intend to try, based on how the smaller-batch experiment turns out.  The teriyaki will be something that can be, like the Worcestershire, added to the final serving.  You know, if you ever-so-slightly slur “chitlins teriyaki” when you say it, you sound amazingly like you’re saying “chicken teriyaki.”  So the impish chitlin chef could have a little fun offering his unsuspecting guests a nice plate of chitlins teriyaki.

I will keep Gentle Reader informed of my results obtained, as always.

On the Kaiser and the Administrative State

A couple of weeks ago a buddy forwarded to me a photo that a friend of his had taken, of House Doorn in the Netherlands.  This is it:


As Gentle Reader might surmise from the bust in the foreground, this was the house in which Kaiser Wilhelm II spent the last two decades or thereabouts of his life.  He is buried on the grounds there, and is likely to remain there forever.  His express wish was not to be returned to Germany until it became a monarchy again, and the likelihood of that occurring is somewhere in the neighborhood of 0.0.

Being the considerate, courteous feller that I am I thanked my buddy.  I passed along that I have the two-volume biography of Wilhelm by Lamar Cecil, which I found to be very well done, and remarkably fair given the subject.  Cecil doesn’t pull punches, but refrains from gratuitous character-blackening.  But it’s his final comment on Wilhelm that sticks in the mind.  Of the last kaiser it could equally be said, so Cecil, what Wellington pronounced upon George IV:  He lived and died without being able to assert so much as a single claim upon the gratitude of posterity.

My buddy then e-mailed me back to allow that Cecil’s judgment echoed what he had read about ol’ Kaiser Bill in both Paris 1919 and The War That Ended Peace, both by Margaret MacMillan.  I have both and recommend them both, but the exchange with my buddy got me to thinking back to the war’s beginnings.

As I think I’ve mentioned before, the Great War has been a fetish of mine for right at 30 years.  I can’t say I have any friends I know to give a tinker’s damn about it, but for me it is a source of endless fascination and continuing reflection.  [N.b.  By an odd coincidence, a very dear friend of mine had one grandfather who was a machine-gunner for the kaiser; the other grandfather had been a machine-gunner in the A.E.F.]

I have on loan from a mutual friend the BBC mini-series 37 Days, the story of the interval between the Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination on June 28 and the August 3, 1914, British declaration of war.  As you might expect from the Beeb, the story is told primarily from the viewpoint of the Anglo-German dyad.  There are two brief scenes each of Franz Joseph and Nicholas II; the balance of the action takes place in London and Berlin.  The central character around whom the narrative is framed is Sir Edward Grey, the British foreign minister.  Ian McDiarmid plays Grey marvelously.

There are a couple of historical inaccuracies in the plot.

Franz Joseph is implied to be the motive force behind the famous ultimatum to Serbia, when in fact it was his cabinet, and above all his military Chief of the General Staff, Field Marshal Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf, who seized upon the assassination (which Franz Joseph greeted with, above all, a sense of relief, remarking as much in so many words) to crush Serbia once and for all, both to remove a source of agitation for the empire’s Serb minority and to re-assert Austria-Hungary’s place as a Great Power in Europe.

In Germany, Kaiser Wilhelm’s initial reaction is presented as being bellicose, when it was nothing of the kind.  At least at first.  For obvious reasons the Austrians wanted to know whether they had Germany’s backing in doing anything to Serbia as such in response to the assassination.  So they sent Alexander, Count von Hoyos a foreign service official, with a memorandum in hand to see the Austrian ambassador to Germany, who was then to meet with Kaiser Wilhelm and the German Reichskanzler, Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg.  Bethmann-Hollweg’s initial reaction during that meeting — and more importantly, the kaiser’s as well — was cautionary.  But during the Austrian ambassador’s meeting with kaiser and chancellor, Hoyos was meeting with his own German counterpart to “explain” the memorandum’s actual meaning.  Hoyos had long been, it seems, a proponent of violent reckoning with Serbia, and the gloss he put on the memorandum was that Austria wanted a short, victorious war against Serbia and it expected Germany to live up to its alliance obligations.  That “interpretation” was then communicated up to Wilhelm, and by the time dinner came around that evening, Wilhelm was wearing his war paint and declared that whatever Austria wanted to do, Germany would back it to the hilt.  Thus was the famous “blank check” given.

The final point of inaccuracy in the BBC miniseries is that it presents Bethmann-Hollweg as being much more belligerent, and much more energetic about provoking warlike measures by the Austrians, than he actually was.  He’d never served in the army and had no illusions about its out-sized role in Germany policy-making.  He had long been an unsuccessful opponent of Admiral Tirpitz’s quixotic naval construction programs.

But that’s not what this post is about.  The BBC miniseries very accurately presents the role played by the German General Staff, the Generalstab.  The generals very very much wanted a war, but not a war between Austria and Serbia.  They were looking for war with Russia, a preventive war.

What follows below is the (slightly edited) e-mail I sent to my buddy:

If you back up a half-step from the historical narrative and look at the meta-story of it, what you realize is that what was going on was that the responsible organs of government – the kaiser and the reichskanzler — abdicated a central decision-making function – how to address the continent-wide instabilities created by two decrepit, ancient political systems (Austria-Hungary and Russia) as they desperately fought for continued relevance in a notoriously volatile part of Europe — to supposed “experts” viz. the Army Generalstab. 

Everyone and his cousin knew the issue – What to Do About the Balkans, Dear – to be fiendishly complicated. 

But hist! the Generalstab more or less hijacked the decisional process.  For them the issue wasn’t the Balkans as such, it was the supposed settling of accounts (“Which accounts, exactly?” the innocent bystander might have asked) with Russia.  For decades – ever since Caprivi had let the Secret Reinsurance Treaty with Russia lapse in 1890 (I think it was), the Generalstab had assumed a war with Russia as part of Germany’s treaty obligations to Austria-Hungary.  To be true, they’d at first discounted the possibility that despotic Russia and republican France could ever find their way to the same bed, but in 1894 it had happened.  But they were “experts,” after all, and what good is an “expert” if he can’t “solve” any problem you set him, right? 

In 1914, the “experts” of the Generalstab offered several assurances to the responsible decision-makers:  (i)  There was a rapidly approaching, apocalyptic event – the overtaking of Germany by Russia in military and economic power – the result of which, if not stopped, was the utter destruction of Germany as a flourishing polity and puissant European power.  (ii)  Only the Army had the power to stop it.  (iii)  The only method of addressing this on-coming apocalypse was to cede authority and command over events to the experts, who were to be given free hand in crafting a salvation from it, and that salvation was a specifically military solution.  (v)  There were no unknown developments to fearfrom the experts’ be-all-and-end-all solution of provoking a general war against Russia in the east (oh, for example, the American industrial economy being effectively thrown into the scales on the other side, or Italy getting bought by the Allies with promises of Austrian territory).  (vi) Any known risks of side-effects had been fully accounted for and contained (the Schlieffen Plan and knocking France out of the war in six weeks, thereby reducing the British and more critically the Royal Navy to impotence . . . assuming Britain even bothered to come in at all). 

You will readily recognize in the above the fundamental paradigm of the modern state.  The organs pursue their own agendas, which they form internally and without reference, by and large, to the determinations of the responsible political organs.  Those agendas grow from the agencies’ own objectives, the ultimate outcomes of which, whatever other attributes they might enjoy, invariably display one common feature: the increase in the control exerted by that agency, and the protection of its insiders.  The agencies invariably present their programs never as a trade-off among competing priorities, but rather as the sole chance of staving off catastrophe.  The agencies explicitly take the position that no one from outside them can possibly understand their pet issue(s) or be morally entitled to take a position on them which must be respected and is entitled to be accounted for in any ultimate resolution.  The agencies strenuously maintain, in the face of all evidence to the contrary, that they possess full knowledge of every possible consequence of their actions, have accounted for those consequences, and have so arranged everything – Everything, I tell you!! – that no meaningful harm can come from just turning the keys over to them, and if we’ll all just shut up and do as they say, the lion will lie down with the lamb and all will be for the best in the best of all possible worlds. 

Hold that template up to nearly every single agency of modern government, and you will see it fits like pigskin on a pig.  The legal system?  Check.  The EPA?  Check.  The Fed?  Spot-on.  The educational industry?  Oh boy yes; try making a suggestion about how classroom education might be improved to someone carrying an NEA card in her purse and see how much an Outsider gets listened to.  Pretty much any of the alphabet-soup agencies?  Like it was tailor-fit to them.  The military?  Pretty much yes, although the cultural memory of Vietnam has done a great deal to pop a lot of seams in the cloth (kind of ironic that the one aspect of modern America which doesn’t fit perfectly the paradigm of summer, 1914 is precisely the American military in its relationship with the responsible organs of government). 

And now remind me how the Kaiser’s decision to put the generals in the saddle in July, 1914 worked out.

We are glibly informed by our president that, “I’ve got a pen, and I’ve got a phone,” and so he’ll jolly well do as he pleases and Congress be damned.

We have the Consumer Financial Protection Board, which actually isn’t a “board” at all, but rather a non-firable single administrator whose budget comes from the Fed’s surplus income and who answers to no one (mercifully, that structure was just the other day ruled to be unconstitutional by the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit).

We have the EPA just more or less deciding to destroy the American power system through regulating carbon dioxide as a “pollutant”.  The courts, indulging the lunacy, agreed that what comes out of your chest as you exhale is subject to regulation by the EPA.  Think about that one, Gentle Reader.  The product of one of your basic life processes is subject to regulation in Washington, D.C.  You are a discharge point.  The EPA runs the National Point Discharge Elimination System (at least for wastewater; I can’t say off the top of my head whether it applies to airborne pollutants — like your breath — as well).  Can you say “residency permit” and “internal passport,” Gentle Reader?  Don’t think it can’t happen; the Army Corps of Engineers famously tried to regulate wet-weather pools on private land as being “navigable waters”.

It is an unfortunate fact of Life that it is far, far easier to do harm than good.  It took the better part of 600 years to build the cathedral at Cologne (or Köln, as we Germanophones would say it); one truck bomb lit off by an ISIS sleeper cell (and the German security services have admitted that such are already there) could bring it down with a few hours’ work.  The German Generalstab managed, with a few weeks manipulation of processes and personalities, to provoke a war which just about destroyed European civilization; in fact, it did destroy it.  If in 1895 you’d asked anyone but a raving lunatic whether it was OK to shoot and gas 6,000,000 people because of where — not just they, but their ancestors going back six generations — went to church, they’d have tried to calm you down while they quietly fetched the gentlemen bearing the straitjackets.  If you’d suggested that it was OK to kick hundreds of thousands of people off land they and their ancestors had inhabited for centuries (as happened in Poland, and eastern Germany, and the Sudetenland), they’d have very carefully put a table between you and them.  If you’d proposed that it would be a very good thing to starve to death your entire independent agricultural class, they’d have run for the hills shouting there was a madman on their tails.  And yet by mid-century all this and much, much more had happened, and had been blessed not just by the perpetrators but by “serious” third-party observers, such as The New York Times whitewashing the Holodomor.

What might an uncontrolled administrative state work by way of mischief?  I am afraid that I will live long enough to find out.  I am terrified that my sons almost certainly will.