TRYING TO MAKE SENSE OUT OF NONSENSE

Okay, I’ll narrow the field for you since there is so much nonsense afoot at any particular time.

We have learned that the IRS targeted right wing groups regarding their tax-exempt status or efforts to secure that status. I’ve already addressed this issue and I can safely maintain that I’m agin’ it! https://umoc193.wordpress.com/2013/05/12/no-country-for-old-tax-exempts/

We have also learned that the Department of Justice obtained at least two months of phone records of Associated Press (AP) journalists in an attempt to determine the source of leaks in conjunction with anti-terrorist activities.

There is no doubt these actions by our government are extremely troubling and the Obama Administration is deservedly taking heat.

Piggy-backing on top of the renewed Benghazi investigation Republicans in Congress are undoubtedly feeling their oats. Especially joyful at these revelations are those on the right who are constantly preaching of the evils of the federal government and warning of complete government suppression.

Infortuitously for Obama and his minions, it will be easy to exploit these missteps to make political hay that even, conceivably, could carry over into the 2016 Presidential campaign.

However much one is offended by these actions, and I am sorely offended, I really cannot say that they signal a seachange in government misdeeds that threaten our very Republic.

Senate Majority Leader Democrat Harry Reid offered his two cents that the IRS focus on Tea Party groups is no different than when the agency picked on Greenpeace and the All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California during the Cheney…er…Bush Administration without a peep of protest from Republicans. http://www.salon.com/2013/05/14/reid_republicans_hypocritical_for_benghazi_irs_outrage/

In the former instance Greenpeace was subject to an extensive IRS audit due to allegations its advocacy passed lines of permissibility for a tax-exempt. It seems that a supposed watchdog group, heavily financed by Exxon, instigated this audit. Exxon, of course, is the natural enemy of Greenpeace. http://www.commondreams.org/headlines06/0322-10.htm

The Church got into trouble when its former Rector, Rev. George F. Regas, gave a guest sermon chastising Bush for the Iraq war. http://articles.latimes.com/2005/nov/07/local/me-allsaints7

Neither did spying on journalists originate with the Obama DOJ.

But obtaining phone records of journalists is an extreme course of action that has serious ramifications. There are special rules in place in the United States that authorities are supposed to adhere to when obtaining journalists’ communication records, and they’re intended to protect press freedom and stop prosecutors from compromising journalists’ constitutionally protected newsgathering role. Federal regulations instruct investigators that they can obtain journalists’ phone records only as a last resort, and the decision to seek the records should receive the “express authorization of the Attorney General.” The authorization should be given on the basis that “effective law enforcement and the fair administration of justice” is deemed, in the specific circumstances, to outweigh “the public’s interest in the free dissemination of ideas and information.”

In recent years, however, the FBI has flagrantly disregarded these rules on multiple occasions. A scathing 2010 review by the DoJ’s inspector general criticized how the feds had spied on Washington Post and New York Times reporters in a leaks investigation carried out in 2004. The feds obtained 22 months of reporters’ phone records “without any legal process or Attorney General approval,” the inspector found, which illustrated “the absence of internal controls” and was judged to be “negligent in various respects.” The same report detailed two other cases of the FBI obtaining reporters’ phone records without following the proper procedures. One of these cases was described as “deficient and troubling” and the other a “clear abuse of authority” that violated the Electronic Communication Privacy Act, federal regulation, and DoJ policy.

http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2013/05/14/ap_reporters_allegedly_spied_on_by_the_justice_department_aren_t_alone.html

Also in the past American journalists have allowed themselves to be used by the CIA for intelligence gathering, i.e. spying, mostly furing the Cold War. Carl Bernstein gave a lengthy review of this practice in this essay. http://www.carlbernstein.com/magazine_cia_and_media.php

So the great concept of Freedom of the Press has often been compromised in the past and, on occasion, it is the Press doing the dirty deeds.

Our level of disgust when we are informed of these abuses usually depends on whose ox is getting gored. That is, if the party in power is one you are antipathetic towards, your umbrage will reach record highs.

It often develops that the offenses are dreamed up at the lower levels of bureaucracy, whether out of a misgiuded sense of loyalty to the administration then in power or from an inner need to feel self-important by wielding power not actually granted to you.

But these offenses and abuses are most egregious when they are the product of the high political appointees to office who are most likely striving to consolidate and enhance their designated powers.

However outraged we are over the AP spying, we seem to be less so when faced with the erosion of 1st and 4th Amendment rights when it comes to fighting terrorism. In Salon, Natasha Leonard enumerates the steps taken, laws enacted, etc, that seem to have us going quickly down the slippery slope. Again, though not new with Obama or even George W. Bush, since 9/11 the government has sought and been granted greater access to our personal lives, all in the name of “anti-terrorism.” http://www.salon.com/2013/05/14/whats_so_special_about_journalists/

Reg Henry of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette opines that these current scandals are simply more of Obama’s opponents crying wolf. http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/opinion/reg-henry/obamas-opponents-do-a-lot-of-crying-wolf-687665/

I take a more wait and see attitude before judging the impact of these matters. I’ve already clearly stated that the IRS actions merit full investigation.

I do have a suspicion that there will be no sustained effect on the Obama Presidency. I’ve had my own bones to pick with him but to date these latest “sins” don’t appear to be anywhere near as serious as what I’ve been railing about.

In the end, history will tell us which it is. We do not, however, need to wait thirty years or so in order for that history to be written. These scandals often have a way of working themselves out so that in a few years down the road we will need stark reminders to recall they ever occurred.

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Comments

  • Little_Minx  On May 15, 2013 at 3:54 PM

    I too suspect “there will be no sustained effect on the Obama Presidency,” if only because the American public’s attention span has become so short.

    Look, a shiny object!

  • Little_Minx  On May 15, 2013 at 4:09 PM

    Also, Issa is likely to self-destruct by going too far (perhaps McCarthy-like?):
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/darrell-issa-trying-to-prove-his-mettle-chases-multiple-scandals/2013/05/15/e834f394-bd59-11e2-97d4-a479289a31f9_story.html

  • Little_Minx  On May 16, 2013 at 2:14 PM

    How can these things happen? “What are some good ways to annoy extremely logical people?”:
    https://www.quora.com/What-are-some-good-ways-to-annoy-extremely-logical-people

    Try this:

    Let your “intuition” decide what is true
    Confuse correlation and causation
    Draw firm conclusions from personal anecdotes
    Appeal to “nature” and what “native people” believe
    Add a little conspiracy theory
    Layer on emotion

    An example to get you started:

    “My intuition just tells me that vaccines are bad for you. Native people have lived just fine for centuries without putting “toxins” in their bodies — they are more in tune with nature. I also have a friend whose son became autistic after he was vaccinated. The doctor said it wasn’t the reason why, but he has a typical western medicine mindset and must be taking money from the vaccine companies. I don’t want to argue about it – it makes me so angry!”

    See how easy!

    [1/6/2012 Update to infuriate the logical]: several workers at a Indiana hospice were recently terminated for refusing to get a flu shot which is, obviously, a requirement for working around ill and elderly patients since it helps keep them from, well, dying. Quotes from the workers included,

    “I just feel like it’s a toxin that I don’t want in my body”

    and

    “God Gave us a body. He gave us, He Made our body uniquely that … our chances of being able to fight it off with our own immune system is very likely”

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