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The real IRS argument

Everyone in America who cares knows that President Obama has for years been encouraging his supporters within the governmental machine to use their governmental powers to harass his political opponents. You have to be deaf, dumb, blind, and living a lot further away from America than I do, not to have known about this for a long time. When it comes to IRS harassment of those he objects to, President Obama has been behaving absolutely as transparently as he promised he would.

To talk now of a “smoking gun” is like witnessing the Battle of Waterloo and saying: “Hah! A smoking gun! Over there!” True, but daft.

A serious defence of President Obama in this matter, from him or from anyone else, cannot be based on the claim that he has not been behaving as he has been behaving. The serious argument is about whether it matters how he has been behaving, and if it does matter, whether it is a good or a bad thing. To defend Obama, as his wiser supporters already realise, must mean defending what he has quite obviously and publicly been doing.

Which might well work, because it is also clear that a great many Americans do agree with what President Obama has been doing. They want big government, and they want the big government they already have to silence anyone who doesn’t want big government.

74 comments to The real IRS argument

  • Adrian Ramsey

    If “everybody knows” such-and-such, then it ain’t so, by at least ten thousand to one. — Robert A. Heinlein

  • John

    If “everybody knows” such-and-such, then it ain’t so, by at least ten thousand to one. — Robert A. Heinlein

    Sure. Everybody knows that.

  • Jaded Voluntaryist

    Most of the reporting I have seen on this has an Obama spokesman adopting the “Golly gee whiz” defence. They deny the actions of the IRS had anything whatsoever to do with the White House.

    Which is odd, because how could it possibly benefit officials at the IRS to harass Tea Partiers without having had say so from Obama? The only possible incentive would be to curry favour with the Commander in Chief.

    Why would any IRS official do something like that off their own back? They would have nothing to gain and a lot to lose.

  • Tedd

    Good one, John.

  • llamas

    Jaded Voluntaryist wrote:

    ‘Which is odd, because how could it possibly benefit officials at the IRS to harass Tea Partiers without having had say so from Obama? The only possible incentive would be to curry favour with the Commander in Chief.”

    Well, you may well be right, but we should bear in mind that Tea Party originally stood for Taxed Enough Already, and many of the original Tea Partiers were/are pushing for a root-to-tip re-organization of the US income-tax system, flat taxes, or any one of a half-a-hundred other approaches, all of which would have the effect of reducing the size and power of the IRS.

    So the IRS may not have been trying to please the CinC as much as they were reacting to attacks on their institutional structure. More Tea Party = Less IRS workers. It may have been nothing more than craven institutional self-interest.

    Myself, I think that, since the institutional interests of the IRS (more people, more budgets, more power) align so closely with the fortunes of President Obama and the Democrats, it’s much-more likely that the IRS did what they did for party-political reasons. But we shouldn’t be blind to the possibility that it was nothing more than simple greed.

    llater,

    llamas

  • RRS

    Test

    (Editor: passed with flying colours)

  • Paul Marks

    Sadly many people are totally unaware of the matter.

    Of those who are aware of it – many believe it was officials, that Barack Obama did not control them (how can he – the government is so big….)and that he was really angry when he found out…..

    Which is why he promoted the lady in charge of this division of the IRS to be in charge of the Obamacare Office (oh yes – the IRS is in charge of that), and pretended to “fire” the acting head of the IRS bureaucracy who was about to leave anyway.

    It is much the same with Bengazi.

    If one believes the BBC-Economist magazine account…. this was, at worst, a State Department cover up to protect a few officials from the charge of incompetance.

    Nothing to do with Barack Obama covering things up so that he could win the election.

    Even the speech he delivered to the United Nations weeks after the event (still lying – blaming the 9/11 Bengazi attack on an Youtube video) goes unreported….

    Still Brian has a point.

    Jon Stewart and co.

    You lot (like George Orwell before you) want big govenrment – but you also want it to be dencent and respectful of people (a bit like the “Federation” on “Star Trek”).

    But big government CAN NOT be like that.

  • Lee Moore

    I think there are other explanations aside from JV’s (they were following orders from the top) and llamas’ (it was in the IRS workers’ financial interests.)

    Number 3 is that the IRS workers and managers concerned were opposed to the Tea Party politically and decided that it needed a good kicking, and did not require any orders from the top to start kicking. To be sure, if they had feared punishment from higher up they might have been deterred (or might not – depends how evil they thought the Tea party was.) But I doubt they would have been too scared. Although Obama is happy to throw allies under the bus, he doesn’t do it unless he has to. And number 4 is that the IRS workers and managers genuinely thought that the Tea Party folk were making all sorts of applications that deserved very close scrutiny because they were likely to be abusing the tax relief. And there was no corresponding abuse by progressives. Hard to believe, but it’s really no different from the average football fan’s view of whether it was a penalty or not. They aren’t pretending that they think it was a penalty if their man goes down, they really do think that. And vice versa for an opposition man going down in their team’s box.)

    In reality, of course, Obama gave lots of speeches criticising the Tea Party, so it wasn’t left to IRS workers to come up with the idea that they were evil. Even with no specific orders, we’re comfortably in turbulent priest territory.

  • Steven

    Even with no specific orders, we’re comfortably in turbulent priest territory.

    Except that the buck ultimately stops on Obama’s desk. The Treasury Department reports to him. If he ordered the IRS or FBI or ATF or any other branch to engage in nefarious activities, he’s responsible. If he didn’t know what was going on, he’s an ineffectual manager who has no real oversight or control over what his subordinates are doing. He’s either complicit or incompetent.

  • Lee Moore

    The President not knowing what all his subordinates are up to does not in my opinion qualify as incompetence. The federal government is waay too big for anyone to have comprehensive knowledge of what all its functionaries are up to. In this case, however, I suspect the White House had a pretty good idea of what was going on.

  • Paul Marks

    Lee Moore – one of the classic talking points “the government is so big – the President can not know everything….”

    However, I agree with you – he either did not know, or did not HAVE to know.

    Obama appoints people who share his ideology and his Chicago methods – why would he need to give such people direct orders?

    Even if Barack Obama personally gave the orders – it will not be recorded anywhere.

    Only a hopeless amateur (such as a Californian Quaker pretending to be a tough guy) tapes himself saying naughty things.

  • Mr Ed

    IRS news release ‘We were only obeying/anticipating/daydreaming of orders!’. (delete as appropriate).

  • Julie near Chicago

    “Taxed Enough Already”? Well, we Tea Party types certainly agree, but that’s not what the “T E A” stands for. We want a government that spends little, gets out of our faces, and understands and respects the limitations put on its powers by the Constitution. Taxes must also be lowered, but of course that would come naturally if the rest of the agenda were followed. As would uninfringed weapons owning and carrying.

    There have been several precursors in recent history that also called themselves a “Tea Party,” or at least referred to various North American Tea Parties in describing their movement. And there are different theories as to the actual origin of the present Tea Party movement.

    But the national Tea Party movement as we know it began with a remark by Rick Santelli of CNBC in February 2009, broadcast from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Quoting Wikipedia, “[He] criticized the government plan to refinance mortgages, which had just been announced the day before. He said that those plans were ‘promoting bad behavior’[80] by ‘subsidizing losers’ mortgages.’ He suggested holding a tea party for traders to gather and dump the derivatives in the Chicago River on July 1.” Others took him up on the idea and the national movement as we know it today took off.

    (The entire Wikipedia article is interesting, as it discusses the various invocations of the various Tea Parties in North American history. It lists some of the Tea Party’s signature issues–NOT just taxation!–and it names some of the Leading Lights of the movement since 2009 and various “Tea Party” organizations supporting it, including the infamous, evil Koch Brothers. See

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tea_Party_movement .)

    It was only later that some people (whose chief interest was in lowering taxes, presumably) noticed that the letters “T e a” could also stand for “Taxed enough already” and decided to add the phrase to their signs at the Tea Party rallies, as emphasising what in their view was the Tea Party’s most important issue.

  • llamas

    Complicit or incompetent, makes no never-mind, what he is is responsible.

    The approach of the White House and the various chuckleheads who have appeared before various Congressional committees has been the standard Mafia response: I don’t know nuthin’, I didn’t do nuthin’, nobody told me nuthin’, I wadn’t there, it wadn’t me. It’s the theory that if nobody talks, everybody walks. These folks really beleive that this approach is viable – if they can’t pin nuthin’ on me, I’m innocent.

    They really believe that they will be seen as innocent of any wrongdoing if they can just stonewall with these endless tales of I don’t know who did that and I have no names for you and I wasn’t part of that. And, given a complicit media that’s just aching for any excuse to fall back into President Obama’s arms, it may just work for him/them.

    And, of course, the ex-LEO in me is saying – wait a minute. They’re making all this palaver about this, and telling these obvious whoppers, and trotting out this parade of clowns for the TV cameras that make them look like clueless idiots, and generally making complete fools of themselves, even though they expect to eventually come out smelling like roses. Why are they doing this? What piece of real skullduggery is getting run in while everybody is looking over there? Never let a good crisis go to waste . . . . . Anyone have any ideas? I see where the President very-quietly announced a ‘deficit reduction plan’ that is nothing of the sort (it doesn’t reduce the deficit) but does bring in another huge round of new taxes. Maybe it’s that?

    llater,

    llamas

  • Regional

    Having had the misfortune of living and working but in the Public Service I can assure that that many in the Public Service need no direction in harassing opponents of the Labor Party, the same applies in the United States and Britain while the Meeja in all three Nations is heavily slanted to the Left, the ABC a taxpayer funded television and radio network is heavily biased to the Left but it’s competing with commercial Left wing news outlets which is all of them to be the voice of the Left and consequently as this is a limited market the commercial networks are struggling as most people really don’t give a rats about politics or camp entertainment. It’s better to be ignorant than misinformed.

  • Regional

    That should have been in Canberra.

  • Rich Rostrom

    Don’t assume it’s all about “big government”. It’s also about “green government”, and “racial justice”, and “diversity”, and “peace”, and oh yes, sex liberation.

    The IRS drobes harassing Tea Partiers aren’t thinking about losing their jobs if a “flat tax” is enacted. Most of them are just liberals convinced that the Tea Party are gun-crazy racist Christian fundamentalists who want to ban contraception… or something like that.

  • Brad

    No one has made the connection that the Tea Party bloomed a few years back pretty much in response to Obamacare gaining traction. I’m sure this didn’t go unnoticed by Obama and his circle of cronies. No question it didn’t take a whole lot of arm twisting for the IRS to pay stricter attention to Tea Party conformity with tax rules, but there was a direct connection between the policies he was promoting and the Tea Party evolving out of the “town hall” response to those policies. I remember because I was a bit taken aback by how the Tea Party evolved out of fear of Obamacare, but didn’t seem to have problem one with Medicare Part D, and its $11 TRILLION impact on our accrual basis debt, circa 2003 – with the Republicans in control of everything. Sure Obamacare is a bigger, steaming brown pile of socialism, but Medicare Part D was a breathtaking Great Society style dump in its own right. And not a peep from the “we want small government” crowd. I suppose without clearly knowing why, Obama and his cohorts could only deduce a partisan agenda built into the evolution. Certainly not justification in any way, just pointing out that the elements that make up the Tea Party were quiet and content six short years earlier when an entitlement on scale with New Deal and Great Society was ushered in with the Republicans at the helm.

  • Mike

    You only have to read the comments on the Washington Post articles about this to know Brian is correct. Surprised? Me neither.

  • Nick (nice-guy) Gray

    At least you can coin a new swearword out of this- ‘IRShole!!!’

  • Regional’s response is typical of the neoreactionary camp. As Foseti said recently,

    “I really can’t figure out what anyone is surprised about here.

    Conservatives suggesting that Obama put the IRS up to it are almost as bad. The only real way to get the IRS not to target conservative groups would be if Obama had asked them to do it. We bureaucrats are very protective of our faux-independence.”

  • It isn’t Obama’s fault. It wasn’t Bush’s fault. All the current brouhaha has been perfectly predictable long before either entered the arena. So whose fault is it?

    The fault lies directly on the forelock-knuckling American citizen who saw something for nothing coming his way and put behind him any notion of his own abilities and liberties. He ate the propaganda, digested his own role as a player in life, and shat out the reality that he is not, in fact, a player, but an ant in a very long queue of ants believing the Queen knows what she is doing.

    Very luckily for future generations, we have Stein’s Law, and I am very much looking forward to this: The End Is Near And It’s Going To Be Awesome

  • PaulH

    “Only a hopeless amateur (such as a Californian Quaker pretending to be a tough guy) tapes himself saying naughty things.” Or a president with an inferiority complex: “”Are we going after their tax returns? I … you know what I mean? There’s a lot of gold in them thar hills,” Nixon said.”

    As with others here the only real surprise for me is that some might be surprised. Whether it’s the result of a direct order from the President, an overly enthusiastic senior administrator, the natural tendency of bureaucracy to defend itself, or even a valid investigation into tax-sceptical organizations, this is what power does. Even if we (temporarily) neutralize one of these motives the power will still exist, and hence will be abused.

  • Paul Marks

    A leftist could say (accept they would choke on the words) that the lives of Richard Nixon and Barack Obama show the “unfairness” of American life.

    Richard Nixon worked like crazy as a child – he got the highest marks of any child in California. But Nixon could not afford to go to Harvard – so the elite always looked down on him (and he felt their contempt).

    Barack Obama just played sports and used drugs as a child (after all what did he need with school – his Marxist mother, Red maternal grandather and Frank Marshall Davis had taught him all he needed to know…), but his wealthy grandmother bought him into Occidental – where he continued to mess about.

    Barack Obama was then sent (via wire pulling – the sort of thing that Nixon’s family could never have done) to Columbia – where he seems to have cleaned up his act (going to Marxist conferences – rather than staying up all night doing drugs), but as for his work – no idea as people are not allowed to see his work at Columbia.

    His time at Harvard Law was also the result of wire pulling (from academic “friends” i.e. Comrades) – the sort of people Richard Nixon could never count on as allies.

    Indeed made an officer of the student law review, and given a job at a Chicago Law Firm (and a post at the University of Chicago).

    On the basis of what?

    One article on abortion?

    After all that is the only work from the Harvard years that has been shown.

    I think the above shows that the radical left are correct is saying American society is corrupt – but not in a way that they will ever say.

    For American society (like other nations) is corrupt IN THEIR FAVOUR.

    To any who deny this…..

    Do as Barack Obama did – little or no work.

    See how many nice Law Firm jobs (and academic posts and…..) are offered to you.

    One of the many sad things about Richard Nixon (“sad” in both the old and the new senses of the word) is that he took the Progressives at their word (much as “compassionate conservative” George Walker Bush was hated – because he really believed in their “spread demcracy” words, which they themselves do not, and he beliveve that in using government to do good domestically – rather than knowing that the PURPOSE of government interventionism is to undermine civil society).

    Be intelligent and work hard – and you will become a planner in the Progressive state that controls society (for the “good of the people”). That is what Nixon was taught – and that is what he believed.

    That is not the way real Progressive states work – and part of the reason that the Progressive elite (including the acacdemic elite) hated Progressive Nixon was because he was a livin reminder (a rebuke) to them of the gap between their formal beliefs (meritocracy) and their actual practices (in reality they favour people who are culturally like themselves).

    Barack Obama is far more a poster child for how Progressive states acctually work.

    And, oddly, enough this is why somoe Progressives may come to hate Barack Obama.

    Because he shows their own true face – he is their reflection.

    Shallow, vain, and a man who has no real concern for other people.

  • RRS

    Arrogance

    Incompetence

    Deceit

    it is generally accepted that arrogance arises from ignorance. The broader the ignorance the higher the arrogance.

    Ignorance results in incompetence.

    We may be approaching the apex of political and academic incompetence that will begin to fracture, but probably not totally destroy, what has been identified in the US as the “Progressive” agenda in both politics and academia.

    In much of academia we have witnessed a self perpetuation resulting in levels of successively increasing mediocrity, accompanied by increasing arrogance of assumed “expertise.”

    In politics, we have been observing the transition of legislators from representation to managerial functions, requiring their dependence upon external “expertise.” The arrogance of politicians today is the assumption that their function is “to run the governments.” That arrogance is also based on ignorance.

    If there is a saving grace in all this, it is that the incompetence and ignorance and continuing increase in levels and extent of mediocrity will result in the collapse of the influence of the individuals involved, similar to that of the apparatchiks of the Soviet Union.

    We are seeing some symptoms of the crumbling of the academic structures as mediocrity penetrates further up into administrative and curricula levels. Aversion has begun. Many academic communities have taken on totalitarian aspects. They will collapse. Unfortunately, not soon enough.

    The academic source of “expertise” for increasingly incompetent politicians as legislators will deteriorate. The lack of abilities and capacities to “manage” governments will stagnate the “Progressive” agenda.

    That is optimistic pessimism.

  • Laird

    RRS, I hope that you are correct, but I am unconvinced. I remain a “pure” pessimist (uncorrupted by any taint of bourgeois optimism).

    Paul Marks, that was an inspired comment. One of your best.

  • Red Dorking

    I’ve discovered most people in America aren’t evil; but many are amoral. And for that reason, they simply try to be on the winning side — no matter which way the country goes. I believe that’s the main motive of bureaucrats in agencies like the IRS, EPA, etc. It may affect basically decent Supreme Court appointees, as we saw in the ObamaCare decision.

    In his essay Rise of Empire (1952), Garet Garrett wrote:
    We have crossed the boundary that lies between Republic and Empire. If you ask when, the answer is that you cannot make a single stroke between day and night; the precise moment does not matter. There was no painted sign to say: “You now are entering Imperium.” Yet it was a very old road and the voice of history was saying: “Whether you know it or not, the act of crossing may be irreversible.”

    Have we crossed that boundary? I believe so.

  • Mr Ed

    @ Red Dorking: it is absolutely right that most people are not evil, PJ O’Rourke made a similar point in, I think, Parliament of Whores. But some do evil, believing it is right or necessary, or even good. Is it because they lack insight into what they do? Do they think that they are doing good? They do it because of the ideas in their heads.

    The United States is not a place, it is an idea, like the Soviet Union and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which to some, sounded like good ideas. The United States will run out of economic steam when the bills cannot be paid, it may run out of political steam around that time. The several States will remain, as will DC come what may. Then, surely, the Empire will crumble. Why would either Dakota want a Navy?

  • The United States is not a place, it is an idea

    No I really do think the US is just another place ;)

  • Steven

    Why would either Dakota want a Navy?

    Because neither Dakota is self-sufficient and both Dakotas realize that international trade is dependent on freedom of the seas. You want a computer that relies on $1.50/hr labor to produce (or coffee or pineapples or cheap clothing or…), then you’re going to need open sea lanes to places like China and India.

  • Red Dorking

    Mr. Ed,
    I certainly agree that wrong ideas lead to “evil” consequences, and also that evil people — those having criminal intent — exist and are the objects of our laws. But evil persons should not be the makers of our laws, nor the enforcers. Yet they are in many cases. The present White House is probably the most felon-friendly in our history, surpassing even Bill Clinton’s (but of course, some of the present WH perps are retreads from the latter’s presidency).

    Regarding the fate of our Empire, may I leave you with another quote? The final paragraphs of Isabel Paterson’s The God of the Machine, read as follows:

    The most extreme fallacy is to believe that nothing can be done, that we must drift to disaster and accommodate ourselves to it. If that were true, we must die in heaps, with a miserable remnant reverting to savagery; for there is no compromise. But it is not true.
    With the establishment of the Republic of the United States of America, a great landmark in secular history was erected…it was the first time a nation was ever founded on reasoned political principles, proceeding from the axiom that man’s birthright is freedom. And as long as those principles were maintained, it succeeded beyond all precedent. Until then, nations were formed by chance and circumstance and doubtful experiment; then if a nation sank, it was impossible to reconstruct it…But a federal republic with no hereditary element in the political structure can always be reconstituted by design on the same principles and bases.

    Most Americans have not yet realized that reconstitution must be carried out by the People, rather than a newly elected gaggle of politicians. The American Revolution was initiated by hot-headed commoners like Sam Adams and Ethan Allen, not landed gentry like Washington, Jefferson, and Madison, who joined later.

    However, Paterson’s recipe doesn’t call for an armed rebellion. What’s needed is a meeting to reframe the constitution. We know its flaws; strike them out, or start from scratch.

  • Mr Ed

    @ Perry, the United States is simply a political construct in the minds of its inhabitants.

    @ Steven, if they want freedom of the seas, why sit behind US tariffs?

  • Steven

    @ Steven, if they want freedom of the seas, why sit behind US tariffs?

    Tariffs and lopsided trade agreements are not quite the same thing as hunting down pirates preying on freighters and bombing dictators who are closing off shipping lanes. Maintaining Freedom of the Seas is making sure someone like Khadaffi isn’t shutting down the Gulf of Sidra (and using three carrier battle groups to clearly illustrate the point), not making sure grapefruits aren’t rotting in some customs warehouse.

  • Laird

    Red, thanks for that quote from Garrett. I’ve read “The Revolution Was” (it’s brilliant) but not that one. I shall remedy that promptly.

  • Laird

    BTW, I see that the woman in charge of the IRS division responsible for this atrocity is invoking the Fifth Amendment (i.e., her constitutional right against self-incrimination). Delicious.

    Of course, I do have a serious problem with that. I don’t believe that government officials should be permitted to take the Fifth in matters directly relating to their official duties. The citizens have a right to know everything they do in their official capacity (with perhaps a temporary reprieve for matter of true national security). Beyond that, if you choose to work for government you waive any right against self-incrimination for official matters. She should be called before the committee and, if she refuses to testify, be held in contempt of congress and incarcerated until she changes her mind.

  • Nick (nice-guy) Gray

    “America is an idea”. Once again, the arrogant belief of exceptionalism rears its’ old head. So all other countries are crud, is that it?
    All countries start off new, yes, but that was over two hundred years ago! I suppose we could say that The American constitution is exceptionally old. It has an exceptionally large tax code. Any other exceptions?
    Yes, it is still an attractive place to migrate to; but it is not the only country which attracts migrants. Britain, Australia and New Zealand also do that. And some people want to live in France. Go figure.
    All countries can find something exceptional about themselves, but only America’s IRS claims such exceptional powers. Look at the trouble Apple is now in, because of some offices in Ireland!

  • Red Dorking

    Laird,
    The new provisions you propose (modifying the self-incrimination clause for government employees) seem fair to me, but of course I have no plans to enter civil service. Alternatively, if it’s thought that this goes too far, the law could force the uncooperative wretch to quit his position and forfeit all pension benefits.

    I believe you’ve caught the spirit of reconstitution; we need more like you.

    Glad you appreciate Garrett. Have you read A Bubble that Broke the World? It’s about the 1929 market crash, the great depression and their aftermath.

    Here is another quote along similar lines of the first:

    As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there is a twilight when everything remains seemingly unchanged. And it is in such twilight that we all must be most aware of change in the air—however slight—lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness.

    — U. S. Justice William O. Douglas (1898-1980)

  • Steven

    “America is an idea”. Once again, the arrogant belief of exceptionalism rears its’ old head. So all other countries are crud, is that it?

    “Sure, I’ve been called a xenophobe, but the truth is, I’m not. I honestly just feel that America is the best country and the other countries aren’t as good. That used to be called patriotism.”
    ~Kenny Powers

  • Nick (nice-guy) Gray

    So, other countries ARE crud? The difference between patriotism and nationalism is thin, and both -isms are collective ego boasting, something I thought libertarians would be against.
    So long as ANY country stands up for individuals, and individuality, I will support that country. If Ireland fights the american IRS because of Apple, I will support Ireland. I will never subscribe to the slogan, “My country, right or wrong!” But a patriot, or a nationalist, would.

  • Laird

    ‘America is an idea’. Once again, the arrogant belief of exceptionalism rears its’ old head. So all other countries are crud, is that it?”

    That’s not a fair comment (or, at least, it’s not necessarily a fair comment, since I don’t know what was in the mind of Mr. Ed when he wrote the original quote). But the truth is that in its inception the United States was truly exceptional, and was very much “an idea”. In the history of the world it is the only country founded with a wholly new and intentional approach to nationhood and governance. All other countries arose more or less by accident, principally that of war; only the United States was created by intention and through careful thought by a group of extraordinary men. That is by any measure exceptional.

    I certainly won’t argue, and I doubt that anyone else here will either, that the United States hasn’t lost its grip on its exceptional premise, that we haven’t profoundly broken faith with the Founders’ vision. But there remain those of us (quite a few, in fact) who still remember and believe in that vision, and who are working to restore it (or at least something approaching it). And I doubt that you will find much of that anywhere else in the world, because no other nation shares the same provenance as the United States (although Canada comes close). To that extent it does remain exceptional, even today. How much longer that will last is an open question. But if we do ultimately lose that vision, and the United States does truly become “just another place”, the world will be infinitely poorer for it.

  • RRS

    Laird:

    I believe that the only oath that can correctly be taken before an investigating body is:

    “I will not knowingly make any false statement nor intentionally withhold any information known to me which is requested of me.”

    Otherwise, all witnesses are at risk of charges of perjury. AND we have record of that attack being made at great expense and loss to those charged.

  • Nick (nice-guy) Gray

    Sorry, Laird, but the original thirteen colonies were not founded on virgin soil, but on Indian lands. The expansion westwards was also at the expense of the natives. The same thing happened in other countries- throughout history. And there is also the little matter of black people being enslaved at the time of Independence, and afterwards. Didn’t Washington and Jefferson both own slaves?
    And I will agree beforehand that Australia doesn’t have clean hands- Australians dispossessed the Aborigines from their lands, and stopped them from fighting and killing each other over the same question- who owns the land.
    What we should do is sail to Antarctica, and claim a harbour for ourselves, and learn to harvest and enjoy crill and seaweed in our new settlement. New Camelot, anyone?

  • Mr Ed

    @ Nick, you show a remarkable aptitude for launching off on a frolic and extrapolating, throwing up straw men. I did not say ‘America is an idea’.

    Here’s a tip. Don’t ever go into a witness box if your property is at stake, you might get made mincemeat of by a decent lawyer.

  • Nick (nice-guy) Gray

    Mr Ed, if you look up any good dictionary, and read the definition for ‘oxymoron’, you won’t put ‘decent’ next to ‘lawyer’ again! Thanks for a good laugh.
    As to your quote, didn’t you write ‘The United States is not a place, it is an idea’, et cetera? I think you meant it embodies an idea, just as the Soviet Union embodied Communism. Maybe it once embodied Capitalism, or Free Enterprize, but does it still do so? And would it be exceptional if it did?

  • Mr Ed

    Nick, I know one decent lawyer, maybe two.

    I meant that the United States was a political idea constructed to overlay the Several States to further their mutual interest. The Several States lie smothered under it now, a Tiger in the States’ kitchens raiding the fridge, and roaming outside their estates from time to tme, fr good or ill. If the idea of the United States loses its appeal to its citizens, and it were to vanish with its debt, there is no natural successor State unlike Russia to the USSR or even England to the UK, with 50 States to emerge, blinking into the new dawn. I would hope for reform, but I do not expect it, I can see no prospect of it. Mind you, in 1988, I did not expect that the USSR would dissolve so easily. The USA, though, has a lot of goodwill towards it,

    No one misses Yugoslavia now, surely?

  • Paul Marks

    Yes Mr Ed – a disolved United States would leave no “Russia like” state behind to dominate the other former States. This would be a good thing (why should even Texas tell people in South Dakota how high their taxes should be, or whether they should have X, Y, Z, regulations?)

    However, I am one of those people who believe that the influence of the United States has (in general) been a force against evil in the world (a counter balance against the vast powers of EuroAsia – whose evil can normally be counted upon).

    The Rothbardian view of World War II, Korea and so on has no charm for me – because it is a false view and no ideology (including libertarianism) should seek to build itself on a false foundation.

    It would be a shame (to put it mildy) if the influence of the United States were removed from the world.

    Howerver, better no American influence (better no United States of America) than an evil one.

    A bankrupt United States rolling round the world like the Hollywood degenerate Matt Damon (latest film about how it is O.K. to invade OUTER SPACE if it is for the noble cause of Free Stuff), seeking to finance “free health care” (and so on – “buy our government bonds, or else!”) – that would be the Rothbardian view of American influence made true.

    It is a great mistake to think that the left are “anti war” – they are not.

    Like the so called “anti war” movement in the 1960s – the modern left are NOT anti war.

    They want THE OTHER SIDE (THE “SOCIAL JUSTICE” SIDE) TO WIN THE WAR – that is not being “anti war”.

    Even the antisemitism of the modern left (in the universities and so on) is quite consistent with their general Social Justice views.

    A couple of days ago I watched an American academic on “Al Jazeera”.

    He blamed what is happening in Syria (and Iraq – and everywhere else) on the Jews (sorry the “Israelis”) – their reactionary greed was at the heart of all bad things….

    He was being quite consistent – the problems of “the poor” (according to Social Justice ideology) are caused by “the rich” (who exploit them) as the Obama friend Edward Said (of Columbia university)endlessly explained – the Jews (Israel) are the shock troops of Capitalist Imperialist exploitation in the Middle East – it ia all part of the “Orientalist” “neo liberal” project……

    The general themes are not new.

    Pierce Butler (before he became a Supreme Court Justice – where he carried on the defence of the West) faught these “Progressive” ideas in the University of Minnesota as far back as the 1920s.

    And YES the acedemic on Al Jazeera was from the University of Minnesota (a nice touch – although he could have been from almostany university these days).

    It should be pointed out that the “libertarian” left sometimes deny that they want the STATE to enforce Social Justice.

    Instead such things as Chicago street gangs and unions (although the difference between Chicago gangs and union thugs is rather hard to spot) could do the job of “redistribution” according to the “postive rights” of “justice as fairness”.

  • Ernie G

    They are playing by Chicago Rules. Every shopkeeper or restaurateur there knows that it’s best to stay out of politics. Otherwise one can expect visits from Building Code or the Health Department, or Zoning. The inspectors come with clip boards, sharp pencils, and fat books of excruciatingly detailed regulations. Word gets around that a good way to avoid these inspections is to keep your head down.

    The other aspect of Chicago Rules is Don’t Leave Fingerprints. Al Capone was never convicted for any of his many murders because nothing could be traced back to him. Like the inspections, bad things just happened.

  • Regarding American exceptionalism: Statistically speaking, for a long time, the US was a strange place. God had long since died in Europe, from wounds suffered from the Enlightenment and from iatrogenic state religions. But through good fortune, the American founders couldn’t agree on a state religion, so God lived on in the US for many decades. You see this in statistics in books like atheist sociologist Guenter Lewy’s _Why America Needs Religion_. This was a tremendous blessing, because, while socialism and Christianity may both be “mind parasites” in a sense, they are “counter-parasites” for one another to a considerable extent. The relationship is like that between smallpox and cowpox, but not as pronounced. Mencius Moldbug explains this in
    How Richard Dawkins got Pwned. Brian Mickelthwait said something along these lines a while back regarding creationism. Long live socialism’s counter-parasites!

    But sadly, Isabel Patterson is wrong in thinking that the Constitution can be restarted. God is dead. Politicians are feasting on His corpse and trying on His clothing.

  • Mr Ed

    @ Peter, someone said that when people stop believing in God, they won’t believe in nothing, they will believe in anything.

    I have wondered if cowpox was the genesis of the image of the ‘pretty milkmaid’, the women without smallpox scars.

  • Steven

    Nick (nice-guy) Gray wrote:

    So, other countries ARE crud? The difference between patriotism and nationalism is thin, and both -isms are collective ego boasting, something I thought libertarians would be against.
    So long as ANY country stands up for individuals, and individuality, I will support that country. If Ireland fights the american IRS because of Apple, I will support Ireland. I will never subscribe to the slogan, “My country, right or wrong!” But a patriot, or a nationalist, would.

    But the other, non-US, countries are crud. Sorry, but the fact remains we have more bitchin’ skateparks and waterslides per capita than any other country, we have Shiner Bock available in both bottles and kegs are pretty much every grocery store, I can go to a Tex-Mex joint that is staffed by real Mexicans at 3am for a couple of tacos when the bars close and I’m jonesing for something spicy, and we’re the birthplace of Hank Williams (Sr, Jr, and III!). It’s science.

    The Kenny Powers quote was a joke. It’s a from a great cable series called East Bound & Down about an ex-superstar ball player who can’t quite accept that his days of glory are over and who thinks he’s the greatest thing since sliced bread…and who’s a total dirtbag to boot. It’s like Jose Canseco and John Rocker had a love child that was raised by Roger Clemens. Here’s a very NOT SAFE FOR WORK clip that should give you a sense of the character(and it’s the opening scene from the series as bonus). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qdteYs7M6BE

  • Julie near Chicago

    Thank you, Paul. And yes indeed, the left are definitely anti-war, as long America is in the fight. If we seem to be winning, that’s just unconscionable. If we’re apparently losing, it’s important to redouble efforts to see that we lose even faster. After that, it doesn’t matter so much. (Except to a few people like Joan Baez.)

    And Laird nails it, too.

    For America to survive, it’s important that we not lose our sense of moral self-confidence. That’s the reason why “American exceptionalism” has been used by our friends (generally speaking, conservatives) to stiffen our spines. They remind us of our ideals and achievements of individual freedom and of small and limited government and, yes, of an undiminished capacity for national defense–i.e., of military strength. And also of our record of increased prosperity for all, not just at home but world-wide (to the extent that dictators and war-lords and the culture they perpetuate allow it to occur).

    And all the leftist and other enemy propaganda against “American exceptionalism” including that from, yes, our so-called “president,” is calculated precisely to destroy our morale, our sense of moral self-confidence, so that like the tree dead at its core we are not so difficult to fell.

    It seeps into the consciousness of Americans, nudge by nudge, that we are not so great … our aims are not noble … we have done terrible things … blah blah blah ….

    And of course all of these same remarks apply to Britain. And to Israel, too.

    Unfortunately many non-Americans get their news, in the end, from the leftist press which predominantly presents leftist and anti-American view.

    Americans generally, though, don’t “believe we’re better than anybody else” as a matter of general outlook. Some have drunk an awful lot of Kool-Aid via the Daily Show and Bill Maher and Rachel Maddow, so they certainly don’t.

    Actually, I can understand why people like Nice-Guy and some others get tired of hearing about “American exceptionalism.” But please, to those who feel that way: Understand the reasons why you’ve been hearing the phrase made much of (for good and bad) in the last few years, and also understand that those of us who do believe there is truth to it do not mean to diminish nor deny like-minded nations’ value or importance.

  • Nick (nice-guy) Gray

    Julie, feelings of american exceptionalism would pass unnoticed if Americans didn’t export their TV shows and movies to other countries. Hollywood has done more to alienate foreigners than anything else. One of the many things, when I was younger, that put me off ‘Beverly hills, 90210′ was the insertion of patriotic speeches that had nothing to do with the plot (like two teens talking about how great America was because they could drive through the streets safely.) Hollywood also seems to not notice any wars that don’t have Americans in them- unless they can put them in, in fake scenes, like ‘The Great Escape’, and ‘U-571′.
    If you would atom-bomb Hellywood, you would be doing America an exceptional favour!!!

  • Laird

    Nick, I’d prefer Washington rather than Hollywood (or even “Hellywood”).

  • Tedd

    I think I was about five minutes into my first day on the job as a manager when I realized that all sorts of things I used to say as a matter of course I simply could not say anymore, because the context of everything I said had changed. How a person can be this far into a job as one of the most influential people in the world and not have figured that out is beyond me.

  • Tedd: if you think precisely why the context changed for you so drastically (and rightly so, of course), you may find the answer to your question.

  • …unless it was a rhetorical one to begin with…:-)

  • Julie near Chicago

    Nick N-g, as an antidote to what so distresses you, I wish you were here listening to the George Carlin routine now appearing in the next room.

    It is heartbreaking to hear what this no-good POS “comedian,” whose every other word is either f*** or s***, has to say about this country. And the laugh tracks are there constantly, oh it’s all just TOO hilarious for words. And all it is is really furious and flagrant anti-American propaganda. And historical vandalism, and throwing feces on the wall and AT THE AUDIENCE, who are too stupid to even know it, I guess.

    It is unsurprising that entertainment media in country X tend to make movies and shows in which Country-X-ans appear. (Slightly fictionalized shows based on history are not all that irregular, but I haven’t seen either of the movies you mention.) It is unfortunate if they’re popular enough abroad that other countries’ citizens are willing to pay to see them.

    What’s more unfortunate still is that most of the entertainment media’s presentations manage to work in a viewpoint that attacks America in one way or another, however subtly or not-so, and that young people and foreigners come to believe this junk by pure osmosis.

    How can any sentient being find the current example funny! It boggles the mind.

    –Sigh…not particularly directed at you, really, Nick–I’m venting.

  • Nick (nice-guy) Gray

    Dear Julie, it’s probably PCGM (Political Correctness Gone Mad). People are still allowed to make jokes about themselves, but not other people.
    Fortunately, here in Australia we’ll always be able to make jokes about New Zealand- because New Zealanders are so thick they’ll never get the joke!

  • Julie near Chicago

    LOL :>)! Come home, Nice-guy, all is forgiven! ;)

  • Nick (nice-guy) Gray

    So long as that ‘venting’ has cleared up, all is good! You just need to put in earplugs, and that Carlinitis will go away.

  • Laird

    Julie, you may certainly object to Carlin’s vulgarity (and if you’re religious I can see why you wouldn’t like him, as he has no respect for that foolishness), but personally I find much of what he says truly insightful. Not always strictly funny (as in “laughing-out-loud”, although frequently he elicits a wry snort), and I don’t always agree, but I usually find him thought-provoking. Listen to him explain why we have no “rights”, but merely “conditional privileges”. I miss him.

    (And I’ve never heard a clip of him with a laugh track. That’s a live audience of people actually laughing. So I guess some people really do find him funny.)

  • I agree with Laird: I never found Carlin particularly funny per se, but he did occasionally have some very good insights.

    July, can you name or even link the specific routine? I’m curious.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Laird, it’s nice being honest and forthright and all, but if I were “religious” (and even though in fact I’m agnostic rationally and atheistic emotionally), I have to ask if you usually start your conversations with folks you think could be Christians or Jews or whatever with a gratuitous insult.

    Yes, occasionally Carlin says something that, if you take it strictly for the momentary sense and forget the man’s general shock-the-rubes approach, it might on its own be “insightful.” Just as every once in awhile Liebowitz (a.k.a. Jon Stewart) and even Bill Maher say things that sound intelligent. (I’m not too impressed with present disenchantments. We’ve seen it all before.)

    This diatribe was all about how America was founded by rich white slaveowners, who claimed to be against slavery but kept their slaves. And how we forgot all about freedom when it came to the Native Americans (whose land we stole) and our black slaves, yadayadaya, *laugh track*. Yes, he was standing up in front of a mike with nary the slightest hint of amusement or joking in his voice or on his mug, and no, there was no punchline that I heard, and I listened to nearly 15 minutes of this rant before I thought I’d given him a fair chance and headed out the door. It was standard leftist/anti-American propaganda, straight out of Howard Zinn.

    It definitely sounded like the standard recorded laugh-track, and there was no sign of an audience in view.

    It was not on the Net, sorry guys, it was on TV via Netflix, I think; more I cannot say.

  • I have to agree: it does sound like him, and I may have even run into that particular bit in the past. Oh well.

  • Laird

    Well, we’ve run this thread seriously off-topic, so I’ll just leave it with the classic “de gustibus non est disputandum.”

  • Julie near Chicago

    :>)

  • Rich Rostrom

    Nick (nice-guy) Gray: Hollywood also seems to not notice any wars that don’t have Americans in them- unless they can put them in, in fake scenes, like ‘The Great Escape’…

    Sorry, Nick, but there were Americans in the camp. The Fourth of July celebration with hooch provided by the Yanks really happened. Americans helped dig the tunnels.

    There is some fictionalizing in the movie. The Germans built a separate camp for the American prisoners, and moved them there a few weeks before the actual breakout, but this was omitted. It would have messed up the narrative to no point. Several of the actual PoWs worked as consultants on the movie, and they all agreed to that change.

    BTWL: The PoWs had been notified in advance of the move. “Big X” suggested that since the Americans wouldn’t be get to use the tunnels, it was unfair for them to continue digging them. The U.S. commander turned him down – the Americans kept up their digging shifts until they were moved out.

  • Nick (nice-guy) Gray

    O.k., on that point I stand corrected, though I thought Colditz housed soldiers from 1940, the fighting in France. What were the Yanks doing there?

  • Colditz was the setting for “The Birdmen”. “The Great Escape” was set at Stalag Luft III.

    “When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing — they believe in anything.”
    — Emile Cammaerts, commenting on G. K. Chesterton

    I understand that the “pretty milkmaid” reputation is due to cowpox. The word, “vaccine”, is related to the French word for cow.

  • Paul Marks

    Julie – about people believeing anti American stuff by it being repeated so many times.

    Over another libertarian site (of the man in Kent) it is being repeated (as matters of fact) that vast numbers of Muslim civilians have been and are being killed by Americans in “wars of aggression” (not by Islamist terrorists – oh dear me no). And that the present horrors in Syria are caused by Western intervention.

    “What intervention” – ah you see the West (especially America) has been arming all those nasty ultra Sunni cannibal types……

    What you mean “that is not true” – it is true if it is repeated enough (reality is subjective? well William James……).

    After all most of the young already believe “Reagan created the Taliban” – even though it did not even exist in the 1980s (other than as “students” which is what the word actually means).

    America is to blame for everything (including the skin commming off my toes and heals) the left teach this – and many libertarians teach THE SAME THING.

    So it must be true.

  • Rich Rostrom

    Nick (nice-guy) Gray”May 27, 2013 at 12:33 am
    O.k., on that point I stand corrected, though I thought Colditz housed soldiers from 1940, the fighting in France. What were the Yanks doing there?

    The Great Escape was about Stalag Luft III, near Sagan in Silesia. It was a Luftwaffe camp for aircrew, and by the escape in 1944, thousands of American aircrew had been shot down and captured. That was why a separate compound for Americans was established. In fact, by the end of the war, there were 7,500 Americans there and 2,500 British.

    Colditz is near Leipzig in Saxony, about 100 km east of Sagan.

  • I don’t think there were any Americans at Colditz. But of course, Hollywood put them there in the movie (“The Birdmen”).

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