14 January 2014


The failure of the FBI to file any criminal charges in the blatant targeting of the administration’s political opponents by the IRS is deeply troubling. The investigation is a sham, given that many of the targets themselves were never interviewed. As the Wall Street Journal noted “That’s like investigating a burglary without interviewing the burgled.” The Justice department is also stonewalling the congress, refusing to provide any witnesses involved in conducting the investigation. 

None of this is surprising. Apart from counter-terrorism activity in recent years, anyone who has ever had any dealings with them knows that, contrary to their TV image, the FBI essentially consists of messenger boys for the US Attorneys. It is not all that different than the relationship between the local police and district attorneys. 

The US Attorneys are in turn political appointees, and decisions as to whom and whom not to prosecute are very often political. The notion that there is impartial justice at this level is laughable, at least when it comes to government or political activities. There is a frivolous argument floating around that other administrations have behaved politically as well. True enough, but none have been anywhere near as extensive as this one, which has clearly crossed the line in terms of blatant political calculation. Under Eric Holder the Justice department is driven by ideology more than the law. 

Consider the ramifications here, whatever your political viewpoint. Sooner or later the other party will return to power. What if they behave the same way? If justice becomes a political process, based upon friends and enemies, then the legitimacy of the entire legal system is undermined. If politicians and bureaucrats can act arbitrarily according to what they want, believe in, or oppose rather than what is legally mandated, then the law becomes something of an afterthought, to be applied when convenient, and ignored when it is not. This is the kind of behavior used by authoritarian regimes. It only becomes a difference of degree between what is left of the constitution and a banana republic. These factors, along with extraconstitutional actions that are actually being applauded by radicals puts over two hundred years of law and precedent in jeopardy. 

Furthermore a serious abuse of power, by any measure, has been grossly underreported, with very little follow up and even less explanation provided about  this scandal. What happened here was harassment of political opponents, leaking of their confidential taxpayer data to political allies, lying to congress by senior officials claiming there was no targeting, then claiming it was only the work of low-level employees, and otherwise deliberately obfuscating what transpired. We are talking about the IRS dealing with taxpayers based upon political considerations rather than objective facts, thus undermining the legitimacy of that institution, perhaps irreparably. The seriousness of these infractions cannot be overstated, for if they were to become commonplace the constitutional system would be fatally undermined.

This all stems from an administration that seems to be permanently in campaign mode, where it is quite effective, but disastrously inept when it comes to actually governing. International affairs are rudderless, and domestic policy is in complete disarray, in large measure because everything is perceived through an ideological framework. When the justice system is run this way it is simply no longer just. If the rules are ignored by those in charge there is every incentive for everyone else to do the same. Thus, political justice ultimately means no justice for anyone. 

02 January 2014


On my desk there is a pile several inches tall. it consists of charitable solicitations I’ve received over the past several weeks seeking year end donations; never mind that I already sent checks to many of them in the spring. What is worse is that the ones I have contributed to have shared my information with other organizations who are also inundating me with mail. I contributed to an animal shelter, for example, and somehow I started getting additional mail for every sort of creature imaginable. I gave to a veteran’s organization, and now I get mail from several others. I also contributed to a nature preservation organization. Now I get mail from all sorts of other organizations purporting to be engaged in similar activities. It goes on and on. 
This doesn’t include email requests either. Needless to say I am annoyed as I have to wade through all the stuff I’ve tossed aside for the end of the year. I begin discarding anything that engages in “advocacy.” I’ll only give to the ones that actually engage in service activities, i.e. sheltering animals, not “advocating” for them. If the organization is supposed to be in the nature conservation business but all they talk about is global warming, they’re out too. Then there are the ones that send me stuff I didn’t ask for, like expensively produced calendars making me wonder how they allocate their funds. I also have a lifetime supply of address labels I didn’t request, so I just throw them away at this point. 
Then of course there are the political solicitations, always with the same urgency. Needless to say they also share lists. I subscribe to a few things that could be considered conservative,  but that has led to a flood of others, some of them entirely off the wall. The worst are all the communications with bad financial advice, stock promotions of questionable legality, etc. and others with various bogus health claims. This is certifiably nutty stuff and has nothing to do with conservatism. 
So a lot of this material is pure junk mail, and while some may be worthies, they have  sabotaged their own chances by sharing lists with others. I’m still going to write some checks, but only to those who are engaged in activities in keeping with their purpose, and that don’t have large administrative and fundraising expenses. You can never go wrong with i.e. the Red Cross or Salvation Army.
The bottom of the barrel is occupied by the ones that make phone calls, or worse, have fundraisers making phone calls. I’m on a do-not-call list, so either they are breaking the law or there’s a loophole here. Either way it is irritating, and I just tell them I’m not interested and hang up before they can make their pitch. 

Then there is that pile of magazines I haven’t had time to read, mainly because I’m inundated with publication offers that are practically giving them away, and I’m still curious about everything so it adds up. Some are interesting, but I’m making a resolution this time that I will not subscribe! These piles will not make it into the new year!