News of government cupidity, malfeasance and just plain evil is pouring across the interwebs faster than we can keep track of it. The scandals at the IRS, the Justice Department, the NSA and more are enough to give anyone a headache.
That's not so unusual these days. What is perplexing - to sound a bit like Donald Rumsfeld - is that we don't just not know exactly what went on, we do not know how we can know what went on, is probably still going on, and odds are will continue to go on no matter how much huffing and puffing We the People or our elected representatives bloviate.
Consider the IRS. We know that politically-motivated IRS auditors were putting Tea Party groups through the bureaucratic equivalent of a rectal exam while whisking liberal groups through with the speed of an onset of diarrhea. We also have every reason to suspect that both the White House and the IRS' representatives lied about the timeline: Obama said he only learned about the problems when he read it in the papers, and yet his chief lawyer, the General Counsel, was told weeks if not months before.
That does not mean that Obama told the IRS to put his political enemies under the microscope; he didn't have to. Ordering something unlawful and evil is potentially impeachable; not stopping someone from doing something bad on their own is mere bad management, or so the White House claims.
Do we have any reason to believe that the IRS is going to change their ways? A handful of IRS agents have been reassigned; the most notorious one, Lois Lerner, pled the Fifth Amendment rather than testify to Congress and was "punished" with paid administrative leave. How does a free paid vacation sound to you? If that's the worst that can happen, why wouldn't they keep merrily on with their Inquisition, given that they inherently dislike anyone who calls for less government spending?
Then there's the question of privacy and exactly how much government snooping is going on. The press has reported that the government has a direct tap into the massive archives of all your personal data stored by giant corporations such as Google and Facebook. Those companies are ferociously denying the accusations, but apparently aren't legally permitted to prove their innocence because whatever requests the NSA makes are under legal seal.
Suppose they weren't kept from coming clean? Suppose Google and Facebook did a big press conference and revealed all the data they provided to the government. How do we know it's true? How can we trust them?
For that matter, how can they trust themselves? The Google Office of General Counsel isn't going to personally see all the NSA traffic; he and his team probably don't have the technical ability even to look into Google's databanks for themselves.
It's not merely plausible but probable that if any serious snooping was going on, it was at a much lower level by employees who can easily be intimidated by the mighty force of governmental power. That's exactly what Eric Snowden alleges - and once again, it is absolutely impossible for any of us to know whether he's a whistleblower or a fraud.
It doesn't help when government officials feel comfortable lying to Congress. Just a few days ago, the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper directly and baldly lied under oath when answering a question from a Congressman:
Back at an open congressional hearing on March 12, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) asked Clapper, “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” Clapper replied, “No sir … not wittingly.” As we all now know, he was lying.
In point of fact, the NSA is collecting "data on hundreds of millions of Americans" - records of everyone you've ever called, when, where, and how long. There are possible arguments as to why this is necessary and appropriate; Mr. Clapper didn't bother to make them. He didn't even decline to answer on the grounds that it was classified, as Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez did in 2006 when asked a similar question.
No, he just up and lied to Congress and the American people, daring them to call him on it. Now he's been called on it. Nothing's happened to him, not even administrative leave!
Here is where you are probably expecting a screed about the evils of Barack Obama. No doubt the President doesn't particularly mind that the IRS was putting Tea Partiers through the wringer. He probably doesn't much care that the NSA wants to be the secret police; after all, his own group "Organizing for America" or whatever it's called this week has similar goals and technology.
But these scandals were not Obama's doing any more than the economic collapse was Bush's doing. These abuses go back many decades, long before anyone had heard of either those politicians. For instance, the IRS may have refused to target Nixon's liberal enemies when he asked it to - but it eagerly helped FDR and JFK kneecap their conservative enemies.
Getting rid of Barack Obama, as pleasurable as that would be, will not help this country in the long term. Replacing him with a Republican might keep things from getting worse, but there have been Republican presidents more recently than FDR and JFK and yet, as we see, IRS abuses only grow. George W. Bush might have been unwise to sign the Patriot Act, but the author of that act, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, says it authorizes nothing resembling what the NSA is doing now. He claims it was specifically written to forbid what NSA now admits doing, and who would know better than he?
It is increasingly clear that we are indeed living in a tyranny or something perilously close to it. What we don't have is a proper tyrant. We are not in a situation where a few days of protest and some help from the military will send the dictator off to posh exile in a banana republic and grant freedom to the masses.
We are in a far worse, vastly more difficult situation: Over the past half-century, we have permitted our entire Federal government as a whole to become decoupled from any form of political control, popular influence, or even a sense of ethics and decency. Much of the time this frightening independence is obscured because bureaucratic interests are aligned with the Democrats. Bureaucrats and Democrats both want to raise taxes, spend as much as humanly possible, and then a bit more.
When it comes down to actual control, however, elected Democrats have no more real influence than elected Republicans. The bureaucracy does as it pleases and that's that.
When you have a massively overgrown, infinitely intrusive, well-organized but highly diffuse bureaucracy dedicated to a particular totalist political perspective but without any particular human leader of any kind, how can you stop it? Long ago we wrote laws preventing politicians from firing 99% of Federal employees. Our Constitution provides sufficient protection for the accused as to make sure that artful official evildoers can never be held to account, as when Ms. Lerner pled the Fifth. Assuming she wasn't stupid enough to write a memo ordering her minions to be biased according to the political beliefs she knew perfectly well they already had, there's no admissible evidence that could lead to proper punishment and never will be.
It might seem like the bureaucracy is absolutely immune to any checks of any kind, but history shows that isn't so; the trouble is that applying those checks is pretty horrific for ordinary people. There are entirely too many examples of countries whose bureaucracies became so large and intractable that they were conquered by enemies or collapsed in chaos and poverty, from China's everlasting Confucian Cycle to the Byzantines who had no money to maintain their military because corrupt bureaucrats stole it just as ours are beginning to do.
We talk about impossible bureaucratic red tape as "Byzantine." If we don't do something fast, we'll end up in Byzantine fashion, conquered by outsiders. Considering the way freedom has increased in China over the past 30 years, wouldn't it be ironic if in another 30 years being conquered by the Chinese would lead to an increase in freedom for us too?
Over the past five years, the editors have been secretly working on a book that summarizes the fundamental viewpoints of Scragged.