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Is This the End of RICO?

At the risk of being imprisoned on federal racketeering charges, we will admit that we have our doubts about that whole anthropogenic global warming idea. We might eventually be proved wrong, in which case we will humbly admit our culpability in the end of all life on the planet, but in the meantime we don’t see any reason to to make a federal case of it.
At least 20 climate scientists disagree, though, and have written a letter to President Barack Obama urging that he use the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act to punish any criticism of their theories. Noting that Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse has already proposed a similar idea, they ask  for a RICO investigation “of corporations and other organizations that have knowingly deceived the American people about climate change, as a means to forestall America’s response to climate change.” Perhaps they don’t mean us, as we are not a corporation and thoroughly disorganized, and we can swear in any courtroom that our doubts about the whole anthropogenic global warming idea are quite sincere and not meant to deceive, but we still find the scientists’ suggestion rather chilling.
Such a ban on public debate also strikes us as illiberal, and anti-scientific as well. Aside from a few quibbles about the First Amendment and the ramifications of a criminal justice system assuming it can read the minds of those citizens who avail themselves of its rights, the plan doesn’t seem likely to advance our understanding of mankind’s effect on climate or, assuming that mankind does some exert some effect, what to do about. We expect the censorious climate scientists will insist that the science is settled, and their policy prescriptions beyond any reasonable debate, but that’s the same thing the scientific community told Galileo when he was espousing a heliocentric rather than geocentric theory of the universe. Ever since then that tawdry episode was blamed on the Catholic church, which is always more fun, but that some overwhelming consensus of scientific opinion being asserted today was also in on it.
There were a few other dissidents against that consensus then, just as there are more than a few now, and we’re glad their arguments somehow survived the official sanctions that were imposed then, and we’re hopeful the current dissidents’ arguments will fare as well. Even so, we’d rather that the debate proceed without any RICO indictments. If the case for anthropogenic global warming is indeed iron-clad, as those climate scientists insist, they shouldn’t necessary. If those scientists are wrong, as any scientifically skeptical thinker would acknowledge is still a possibility, then the American economy will be needlessly hampered, science will be set back, innocent people will be wrongly persecuted, we’ll have to rely on the outside-our-jurisdiction Germans to for rebuttals, and there won’t be any conceivable way to blame it on the Catholic church.
We note that of the signatories of that letter is Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, who once wrote an e-mail to his colleagues, since discovered among the hacked “climategate” e-mails at the University of East Anglia, admitting that “The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t,” and whose thus-far unfulfilled prophecies of more and stronger hurricanes has been criticized as knowingly deceptive. We’re not suggesting he should be hauled into court, but so long as the First Amendment still applies to scientific debates we thought it worth noting.

— Bud Norman

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Totalitarian But Honest

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. thinks we should be in prison for our skeptical opinions regarding the more alarmist anthropogenic global warming theories, and we appreciate his honesty.
The scion of the liberal dynasty argued for imprisoning anyone who harbors doubts about his anti-capitalist political agenda to solve the alleged global warming problem during one of the big “climate change” protest marches the past weekend, which all sorts of celebrities had flown in on private jets to attend, and although his harshest words were of course directed at those all-purpose villains the Koch brothers he made it clear that anyone dissenting on the issue should be behind bars. It’s about as illiberal an opinion as anyone could utter, and was part of a rant that was full of staggeringly stupid misinformation, including the claim that the Kochs were responsible for the war in Iraq despite their outspoken opposition to it, which is one of our rare disagreements with the brothers and one we don’t wish to see them imprisoned for, as well as the laughable claim that they support only policies that enrich their business when the environmental movement’s prohibition against building competing oil refineries has probably done more than anything to enrich them, and there was also some galling hypocrisy, but at least he came right out and said it. A desire to criminalize political opposition is quite common among what passes for modern liberals, we have found, but few are so willing to abandon any pretense of support for freedom of thought and speech.
Kennedy isn’t the only one willing to confess his censorious and totalitarian instincts, alas. The Gawker and Talking Points Memo web sites and a former Clinton administration official named Joe Romm and a former National Aeronautics and Space Administration worker named James Hanson are among those on the record with the same view, and those Attorneys General who have been targeting the governors of Texas and Wisconsin and the Internal Revenue Service agents who were scrutinizing those “tea party” applications for tax-exempt status might as well have made the same confession, along with all the Democratic Senators who voted for that proposed amendment to the First Amendment, but he does have the most prominent name of those who brazenly support crushing dissent. Perhaps it’s because he doesn’t have a real job at risk, and can be assured that prominent name will protect him from the guillotine once the blades start falling, but his honesty is still commendable.
If the rest of modern liberalism were as frank it would be easier to deal with, and would spare the public discourse all sorts of disingenuous blather about civility and dissent as the highest form of patriotism and all those other high-minded concepts the left still claims to believe in even during periods of Democratic rule. The vast majority of the public that isn’t at all worried about climate change, and doesn’t fly in private jets and rightfully resents the efforts of those who do to shoe-horn the hoi polloi into those phone-booth sized automobiles or inefficient public transportation systems, would also be more easily convinced to rally to the right. That’s not Kennedy’s intention, we’re sure, but he’s obviously an idiot who doesn’t carefully consider the consequences of his deranged views.

— Bud Norman

Of Angry Mobs and Freedom of Speech

There’s always a temptation to get out in front of an angry mob, and these days it is especially alluring, but the problem is that you inevitably wind up with an angry mob at your back. Angry mobs are notoriously fickle, as many on the a left have lately learned.
Consider the the case of Kristian Williams, a writer who until recently enjoyed an impeccable reputation as a brave voice in the academic wilderness for opposing rape and other forms of violence against women. We’re not sure how this entails any bravery, as the pro-rape and pro-violence-against-women lobbies do not seem to wield any formidable power in academia or any other corner of modern society, but it was nonetheless considered quite heroic by the sorts of people who take an ostentatious pride in their opposition to rape and other forms of violence against women. Williams was bold enough to write in an essay last year that there is an unfortunate tendency among the anti-rape and anti-violence-against-women preeners to insist that “the survivor, and the survivor alone, has the right to make demands, while the rest of us are duty-bound to enact sanctions without question. One obvious implication is that all allegations are treated as fact.” We read this to mean that the American criminal justice system should should allow a presumption of innocence, and that even a male should not be deprived of his life, liberty, or property without proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, which does not seem to us a unreasonable position, but in this day and age a leftist must muster some genuine bravery to make such a claim. Williams recently found himself shouted down at a “Law and Disorder” symposium at Portland State University by some of that Oregon city’s famously strident hipsters.
A widely-circulated video of the fiasco is somewhat comical, as the fashionably disheveled activists with their obligatory up-turned chins chant that “We will not be silenced in the face of your violence” as a response to Williams’ entirely non-violent writings on behalf of a long-standing and quite sensible legal principle that guards against state-sanctioned violence, and Williams’ perplexed expression is by far the best part. He’s clearly threatened by the angry protestors, and understandably so given the unsettlingly contorted faces he confronts, but it’s a “Law and Disorder” symposium devoted to decrying law enforcement so he can’t call the cops to restore order. The cops eventually do arrive, although it’s unclear from the subsequent press releases who dropped the proverbial dime, but the forces of progress and liberalism do seem to have succeeded in keeping Williams from stating his heretical opinions.
A similar sort of censorship by mob has prevented a conspicuous number of graduating classes from hearing the heretical opinions of notable speakers who had been slated for commencement address. Most of the speakers were arguably from the right, and included such estimable figures as former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and human rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, but some from the left were ousted because they weren’t quite from far enough to the left. Robert J. Birgeneau was a chancellor of the University of California-Berkely, which ordinarily would be sufficient far-left credentials to ensure entry to anywhere in Academia, but he was prevented from speaking to the graduating class of Haverford College. Despite his otherwise meticulous adherence to the prevailing proprieties of liberalism he had called the cops to evict some squatting Occupy Wall Street protestors from campus facilities a few years earlier, and that was enough to render him unfit to still-innocent minds of the school’s graduates. There’s no comic video to record the moment, but we can imagine the look on his face when he found himself cast into the same purgatory of persona non gratis as Condoleeza Rice.
The well-paid folks at America’s universities are quick to defend academic freedom whenever taxpayers or students’ parents wonder why they’re paying to have their children indoctrinated in the latest liberal fads, but Princeton’s Professor Robert P. George is the latest to discover that freedom extends only so far to the right. George is a longtime advocate of same-sex marriage and pretty much the rest of the homosexual community’s demands, but he’s lately been barraged by criticism for his suggestion that other people might have a right to disagree with him. With everyone from Internet engineers to chicken sandwich peddlers to Home and Garden Television reality show stars under attack from the forces of tolerance, he should have seen it coming.
Despite our begrudging admiration for the actual bravery it took Williams, Birgineau, and George to utter their mild heresies, we can’t shake a nagging suspicions that they’d previously cheered on the similar angry mobs that seek to silence dissent from the right. Aside from the stigma that a still-dominant mass media can impose on a society that isn’t paying much attention, the Internal Revenue Service has bee deployed to harass Tea Party groups and the Department of Justice has declared troublesome investigative reporting a a criminal conspiracy and contributors to the wrong causes have wound up being investigated by any number of regulatory agencies, all of which have been excused by the censorious mobs on the left. For now they’re confident that they’re leading the mob, and until the mob turns fickle they’ll probably enjoy the parade.
Those very rich folks with the fashionable complaints about income inequality should keep this in mind, and remember the headless fate of Robespierre during the Reign of Terror that so many leftists want to revive, but the hard-right folks wanting to purse the conservative ranks of the near-right should also pay heed. We’re all heretics on something or another, and should agree that the banishment of heretics from the public square is a bad idea.

— Bud Norman

The Rising Price of Dissent

A friend of ours is an outspoken proponent of same-sex marriage, even though he is quite heterosexual and otherwise seems to have no enthusiasm for the institution of marriage, and he was recently exulting about how his side seems to be winning. He pulled his little telecommunications machine out of his pocket and showed us a commercial produced by the Honey Maid corporation, which told of show they had taken all the negative letters mailed to them about another recent commercial showing a same-sex couple and turned them into some sort of conceptual artwork, and he seemed pleased that the power of corporate America and Madison Avenue had at long last been turned the final holdouts of hateful bigots still opposed to same se-sex marriage. We mentioned that the highly-regarded chief executive officer of a large internet company had recently been forced to resign because of his past donation to an anti-same-sex marriage campaign in a California referendum, and our friend noted rather defensively that the fellow had after been given a chance to recant his previous position.
Although we have grown weary of the whole same-sex marriage controversy, the conversation was unsettling. We found the Honey Maid advertisement about the same-sex coupling offputtingly smug and self-satisfied, and its theme of “This Is Wholesome” particularly preachy, but it didn’t bother us because we doubted it would persuade anyone to purchase the company’s products or reconsider their political viewpoints. The part about allowing the embattled internet executive to recant his views was rather chilling, though, as it evoked the image of bespectacled, violin-playing intellectuals confessing their political thought crimes to before the cadres of Mao’s Cultural Revolution. We couldn’t help wondering if re-education camps might be looming. Whatever misgivings we might have about same-sex marriage as a result of our our Burkean cultural instincts and Judeo=Christian religious upbringing we have almost reached the point where we’re eager to see all our homosexual friends rendered as domesticated as the rest of us, but this broader business of punishing any heterodoxy against the liberal pieties is becoming intolerable.
It’s not just same-sex marriage but a much broader ranger of issues that will bring down the wrath of the newly fledged establishment on anyone who dares utter a dissenting word or write an offending campaign contribution check. Despite the indifference of much of the press the Internal Revenue Service has harassed conservative non-profit groups, a matter the president has dismissed as a “phony scandal” even as the IRS honcho at the center of it all is very genuinely invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Anyone skeptical of the the most alarmist warnings about anthropogenic global warming is scorned by polite opinion as a “denier” or member of the “Flat Earth Society,” which hardly hurts our feelings, but when such a formidable writer and wit as Mark Steyn finds himself in an expensive court case over some well deserved ridicule of a thoroughly debunked “climate scientist” it is is a daunting reminder of how very far the alarmists will go to quash debate. Our favorite local billionaire has lately been denounced on the floor of the United States Senate by the majority of that once-august body as “un-American” for promoting his pro-capitalist views, and the poor fellow and his brother are publicly protested even when they throw a hundred million or so to a new hospital wing. In academia conservative speakers are routinely met with brown shirt tactics by censorious mobs, and conservative scholars are frequently denied tenure. Conservative politicians are subject to special scrutiny not only by the increasingly inconsequential media but also by the evermore powerful prosecutors.
We are constitutionally inoculated against the blandishments of Madison Avenue and have always enjoyed a voluntary relationship with corporate America, and we’re confident that our friend will draw the line at guillotines and a full-blown reign of terror, but the bare-knuckles nature of the progressive movement and its corporate and political allies will likely prove more troublesome. Anyone who’s endured “sensitivity training” in a corporate job knows that the prospect of re-education camps isn’t so far-fetched, and any of the increasing number of dissenters who have been subjected to the scrutiny of the IRS or any of a countless number of other acronym agencies, or have been hauled into a court to account for the opinions, knows that something sinister is afoot. Once upon a dark time in America punishing people with economic and legal consequences for the political opinions was known as “McCarthyism,” but ow we’l have to find some more polite term for it.

— Bud Norman

The Grand Tour

Way back in our younger days it was a widely accepted truism that only Nixon could go to China, but these days anyone with the airfare and cost of a decent hotel can do it. Even First Lady Michelle Obama, who can simply put the trip on the taxpayers’ ever-swelling tab, is currently on tour on in China.
First Ladies usually get the kid-glove treatment from the press, especially the First Ladies’ of Democrat presidents, and most especially the First Ladies’ of Democrat presidents who can claim some historic ethnic first or another, but this trip has garnered some unusually critical coverage. That’s partly because of Obama’s inexplicable decision to not bring along her usually adoring media groupies, partly because of the explanation that it’s a “non-political” trip makes the undisclosed but easily guessed-at price-tag seem all the more extravagant, and to no small extent because she has come across as what in our younger days was known as an ugly American.
Granted, the sneering coverage has come from British press that is always snarkier and less politically-correct than its American counterpart. The reliably conservative Telegraph headlined that because of the refined behavior of Chinese President Xi Jingping’s wife “China Claims Victory in Battle of First Ladies.” The even snarkier but less reliably conservative Daily Mail reported that the Obama entourage was racking up an $8,350-per-night lodging bill for their 3,400-square-foot suit, and that despite such amenities as a 24-hour butler the First Lady’s mother was driving the hotel staff to distraction with her constant demands and criticisms. The temptation to crack the inevitable mother-in-law jokes must have been difficult for the American press, but they resisted admirably and contented themselves with straight-forward coverage of Obama’s public pronouncements.
Even the most straightforward accounts could not help embarrassing to the First Lady, however. At one point Obama was lecturing the Chinese on the need to tolerate dissent and political criticism, noting with pride the unending tolerance she and her husband have for such lese majeste, but the reports’ failure to mention the Internal Revenue Service’s harassment of conservative groups or its vilification of prominent opponents was conspicuous. Other reports proudly quoted Obama urging the Chinese to undertake educational reforms, with USA Today adding that “she has won praise for her approachability and admiration for her comments supporting freedom of speech,” but surely only the most star-struck readers weren’t reminded of her husband’s obeisance to the teachers’ unions and opposition to charter schools or vouchers or any other serious educational reform. One hopes that the first kids are enjoying the pricey visit, and not proving too much a pain in the neck to the hotel staff, but otherwise it’s hard to see what the taxpayer is getting for his money in this visit.

— Bud Norman

Dancing in the End Zone

A certain amount of taunting and chest-thumping is now an almost obligatory rite of victory in America. This unfortunate trend can be seen in those silly minstrel shows that professional football players perform after every touchdown, in the anonymous trash-talking that is misspelled on the message boards of internet game sites, and lately even in remarks by the President of the United States.
In the aftermath of a perceived victory over the congressional Republicans in the government shutdown standoff, President Barack Obama was as sneering and snotty as an overly-tattooed power forward after a slam dunk when delivering a short speech on Thursday. “There are no winners here,” Obama said, but he had preceded that with a “Let’s be clear” that signaled he didn’t mean a word of it. His attitude throughout the speech was unmistakably triumphalist, albeit unaccountably angry for a putative winner, and he was not at all magnanimous toward his presumably vanquished opponents.
The president showed even less respect for the truth, peppering the speech with dizzying number of exaggerations, half-truths, and outright hogwash. He repeated the dubious claim that a government default would have inevitably followed the passing of the debt ceiling deadline, portrayed the largely unnoticed government shutdown as a major catastrophe, argued that the mere $600 billion budget deficit of the moment is proof of his fiscal rectitude rather than the restraint forced on him by his Republican antagonists in the House, then once more made the argument that unrestrained government is essential to the country’s economic heath. He spoke loftily of the need for growth, as if his policies haven’t been the main impediment to the achieving that goal, and declared that “the American people are fed up with Washington” as if he hasn’t held the most powerful position in that capital city for the past five years.
All the blame, as always, was laid at the feet of those pesky Republicans who dared to defy his imperial edicts. Although he condescended to praise the “reasonable” Republicans who eventually capitulated to his demands, he scolded the “extremes” of the party who “don’t like the word ‘compromise’” and aren’t “willing partners.” Obama is reckoned to have won the shutdown showdown because he was able to compromise less than even his most unwilling adversaries were prepared to do, and by “reasonable” and “willing” partners he clearly means Republicans willing to go along with every detail of his insane agenda, but he does seem to believe that he deserves credit for his generous willingness to work with those anarchistic hostage-taking old-folk-hating terrorists in that other party.
The president’s great victory merely postponed the same old fussing and fighting for a few months, when yet another debt ceiling will be reached and the same old argument that it would be the height of fiscal irresponsibility not to go a few hundred more billion dollars in debt is once again trotted out, but he believes it entitles him to proceed without any bothersome dissent from his vanquished foes. Not only are those Republicans in the House of Representatives are expected to stay silent, but also “the lobbyists, and the bloggers, and the talking heads on radio, and the professional activists who profit from conflict.” Including the “professional activists who profit from conflict” is an especially audacious choice, coming from a man who touted his years as a community organizer to win election, and it’s not as if Obama has demonstrated any sort of aversion to the right sort of lobbyists during his time office, but the disdain for the folks exercising their First Amendment rights to criticize his actions is also quite worrisome coming from a president.
Obama went on to taunt his opponents to “Go out there and win an election. Push to change it, but don’t break it. Don’t break what our predecessors spent over two centuries building. That’s not being faithful to what this country’s about.” Coming from the man who promised to “fundamentally transform” the country, and was eager to vote against raising the debt ceiling when a Republican was in the White House, and apparently believes that his convoluted socialized medicine scheme is what our predecessors spent over two centuries building, this is rich. Those Republicans who bravely voted against handing yet another few hundred billion dollars of debt to the president did win elections, and they won them on a promise to get rid of Obamacare and at least slow the growth of an ever-expanding government. Such resistance might offend Ocala’s sense of entitlement, but it is very much a part of the system he claims to uphold. Elsewhere in the speech Obama indicated that he will use the next few months of increased debt to pursue immigration reform that will sign up a few more million Democratic voters and a farm bill that continues to churn out corporate and social welfare, and he seemed offended in advance by the predictable resistance.
After some blather about the selfless government employees who endured a lengthy paid vacation during the shutdown, Obama ended with some old-fashioned hope-and-change rhetoric about everyone working together to do whatever his heart might desire. He graciously allowed that there will be some differences of opinion, but with chin aloft he intoned that “It can’t degenerate into hatred.” Not like those anarchistic, hostage-taking, old-folk-hating Republicans, you know.

— Bud Norman

Send in the Clowns

These are the dog days of summer, although you’d never know it from the constant rain and unseasonably cool temperatures we’ve been having around here. The only indication we are actually in the lazy, hazy days of summer is that the big story of the slow news cycle is about a rodeo clown in Sedalia, Missouri.
In case you’ve been taking a well-deserved vacation from the news, the aforementioned rodeo clown found himself in the middle of a full-blown media storm after he donned a rubber mask resembling President Barack Obama and regaled an audience at the Missouri state fair by allowing a rampaging bull to chase him around the arena. The presumably rural audience of Show-Me Staters was mostly delighted by the spectacle, judging from the inevitable grainy cell phone video of the incident that has become an internet sensation, but of course the more sophisticated observers have not been amused. So much outrage has been mustered from the respectable corners of society that the rodeo clown has been forever banned from the Missouri state fair, an announcer who acted as an accomplice has been forced to resign from his presidency of the Missouri Cowboy Rodeo Association, Missouri’s National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is calling for a federal investigation, and state fair officials are promising that all future rodeo clowns at their events will be required to complete sensitivity training.
The rodeo clown’s shtick doesn’t strike us as especially astute satire, but we don’t expect rodeo clowns to be Jonathan Swift and the reaction to his antics seems disturbingly inordinate. Similar acts of disrespect toward presidents are a long tolerated tradition in America, and were even celebrated in the respectable corners of society as recently as the last administration. Mocking effigies of President George W. Bush was de rigueur during his two terms to an extent that even rodeo clowns were getting in on the craze, and it’s surprising their efforts weren’t praised as a performance art and honored with a federal grant. It was silly and slightly annoying then, as it is to a lesser degree now, but it didn’t constitute a threat to the public welfare.
What is threatening, on the other hand, is the heavy-handed effort to punish constitutionally protected criticism of the president. When a rodeo clown is summarily denied Pronto Pups and deep-fried Twinkies and other attractions of a state fair, and such supposedly independent sorts as rodeo cowboys feel obliged to oust their elected leader in the name of proper political etiquette, and the NAACP is threatening to literally make a federal case of such a harmless act of lése majesté, the chilling effect on other critics is unmistakable. It’s not as if the Internal Revenue Service were using its awesome powers to stifle dissent, or impertinent journalists were being treated as criminal conspirators by the Department of Justice, or a contributor to the opposition party were being harassed by a variety of federal agencies, but at a time when all those things are also happening it creates an unhappy feeling of enforced conformity. When rodeo clowns are being subjected to “sensitivity training,” which is a modern euphemism for re-education, there’s something almost Soviet about it.
One can still hope that the effort will prove futile, though, and perhaps even counterproductive. Respect for the presidency cannot be enforced, and such bullying attempts to do will likely only provoke further mockery. After his initial defiance, telling reporters that “At least I know I’m a clown,” the performer has since recanted his act with the zeal of a cowed dissident standing before one of Mao’s cadres to confess his political sins, but others are bound to don his rubber mask and take his place.

— Bud Norman

Falling in Line

Everything was supposed to be different by now. When Barack Obama was elected President of the United States, it was supposed to herald the dawning of a brave new world. A trillion dollars or so of stimulus money handed out to the right Democratic constituent groups would cause an economic boom to pay for a slew of expertly administered programs that would cure every social ill, a bit of the impeccably multi-cultural president’s silver-tongued oratory in Cairo would soothe the most savage Islamist breast, and the most transparent administration in history would reveal no taint of the scandals that had so offended liberal sensibilities for the previous eight years. By now, the faithful truly believed, everyone would be marching in formation behind the great leader toward a glorious future.
Although it seems so very long ago, we vividly recall running into a friend who had just returned from an Obama rally on the eve of the Democrats’ state caucus back in ’08. She spoke at length about the wonderful things her newfound hero would surely accomplish, and with such a youthful idealism in her star-struck eyes that we were tempted to slap some sense into her, then promised that the best part would be when the country stopped bickering and was at long last united. When we assured her this would not happen, and that we were certain of the fact because we had every intention of opposing with every legal means at our disposal, she seemed quite taken aback but only momentarily disappointed by the news. Everyone else she knew was apparently of one mind about Obama’s leadership, and she was confident that the few contrarians would eventually come around.
The same expectation was widely shared by the president’s supporters, and for a while there it seemed possible that the opposition of a few individualists would indeed be overwhelmed by the collective adulation of the masses. Most of the media did their part, overlooking Obama’s paltry record of legislative accomplishments, longtime membership in the First Church of Hate Whitey, his sneering characterization of small town Americans, and various other scandals while focusing on the most minute and sometimes imaginary scandals of the opposition, and the photographs always seemed to include some sort of halo effect. Dissent was suddenly unfashionable after Obama’s election, and those who did dare express were treated harshly in the court of public opinion. A well-known radio commentator who openly hoped for Obama’s failure was pilloried in the press, and the president himself warned congress not to listen. The only television news organization that assumed an adversarial role in its coverage was widely mocked, with the president criticizing it by name. A mass protest movement by ordinary Americans opposed to the administration’s deficit spending and extensive health care reforms was portrayed by most of the news media as an extremist element constantly on the verge of violent revolution and was relentlessly ridiculed by the entertainment media. The bond holders in nationalized auto companies, Supreme Court justices issuing unfavorable rulings, wealthy donors to conservative causes, and others who stood in the way of the administration received similar vitriol.
In recent weeks it has been revealed that the official harassment of the administration’s opponents went beyond far beyond name-calling and stigmatization, with protest groups subjected to the menacing scrutiny of the Internal Revenue Service, journalists being treated as suspects in criminal investigations simply for doing their jobs, donors to opposition campaigns being hounded by various agencies of the government, and businesses being approached for donations by people with regulatory power over their industries. The administration professes to be appalled at what has been happening to the very people they have eagerly demonized for the past five years, and insists that of course it has nothing to do with what has been going on in its government, but the public seems to be growing skeptical lately. There’s no shaking a suspicion that the president had also expected that everyone would have fallen in line by now, and is not troubled if some are pressured rather than persuaded.
The economy has whimpered rather than boomed, the various new programs have shown little success and the big Obamacare triumph is looking like a “train wreck” even to its sponsors, the murderous impulses of Islamist terrorism are somehow proving immune to the president’s oratory, and the bickering continues in a country that is far from united. All of which makes it even more crucial to quash the dissent, as the entire collectivist project depends on having everyone go along. If some private company starts fracking oil and gas on private lands it keeps the prices down too low for the government’s “green energy” plans to succeed. People with legal claims to the industries being nationalized make it difficult to transfer their wealth to more favored groups. News organizations that report stories embarrassing to the administration undermine public confidence in the government’s ability to solve all their problems. Tax protestors make it difficult to raise the revenue required for an ever-expanding government. Donors to the opposition might even wind up getting a Republican elected.
Such dire outcomes cannot be tolerated, not when there’s a brave new world that might yet be achieved, and it should not come as a surprise that some people have been taught a lesson about keeping their mouths shut.

— Bud Norman

A Sorry State of Affairs

Monty Python’s Flying Circus once presented a skit about a man who was convicted of mass murder but apologized so profusely for “petty atrocities” that the judge, jury, and even the prosecuting attorney insisted he be let off scot-free. It is never a good sign when the government of the United States of America reminds of a Monty Python skit, but that bit of absurdist comedy was recently brought to mind by the Internal Revenue Service saying how very sorry it was that organizations associated with the Tea Party movement and other groups opposed to administration policies were targeted for scrutiny.
No one will be charged with a crime, or even fired, and no compensation to the aggrieved parties will be made, but the IRS has offered a most heartfelt apology. The mea culpa comes just prior to the release of an inspector general’s report that senior officials in the agency knew of the practice since 2011, after years of repeated indignant denials to the press and congressional investigators, and despite their present insistence that only low-level workers in far-flung regional offices were involved, but it would require a most hard-hearted cynicism to doubt the agency’s sincerity. The IRS no doubt feels this professed remorse deep in its bureaucratic soul, and for much of the press and a large segment of the population with the same loathing for conservative activists this will likely suffice. Anyone with a sense of fair play, however, should insist on more tangible consequences.
Although it might not rise to the level of mass murder, abusing the awesome power of the IRS to harass citizens for their legal and constitutionally-protected political views is a most serious matter. A similar allegation was one of the articles of impeachment that forced the resignation of President Richard Nixon, and at the very least a similar ignominy should befall anyone more recently involved in the practice. Hearings will be required to find out how who was involved in the abuse of power, regardless of how high in power they might be, and to what extent the practice was countenanced by political signals from even higher above. The Tea Party movement was targeted for harassment by the IRS at the same time it was being subjected to constant denunciations and slurs of racism and extremism from politicians who despised its efforts to restrain government power, echoed constantly by news and entertainment media eager to blame the movement for every momentarily unexplained act of violence, and there is reason to suspect a coordinated government effort to quash a dissident political movement.
Nixon used the IRS to harass groups that he felt were fomenting the riots were destroying American cities at the time, which does not mitigate the seriousness of the crime, but it does exacerbate the seriousness of the IRS harassing a movement that was not only peaceful and not at all destructive but remarkable for its orderliness and cleanliness. The tea party movement only represented a threat to the constant growth of government, and government that uses it powers of taxation to punish them owes all of its citizens more than an apology.

— Bud Norman