Political prosecution
Posted by aogSaturday, 21 September 2013 at 10:19 TrackBack Ping URL

Former House Majority Leader Tom Delay’s conviction was overturned with the appeals court ruling that the evidence was “legally insufficient” to sustain the charges.

This follows in the former Senator Ted Stevens case (which also involved prosecutorial misconduct) and the hounding of then Alaska Governor Sarah Palin on bogus ethics charges. At what point do we being to wonder if our criminal justice system is being used as a partisan weapon via unsustainable indictments?

All of this in addition to the targeting of groups by the IRS based on their political views and, in some cases, anti-Obama rhetoric. Targeting that continued after the IRS claimed it had stopped. As has been pointed out it is in fact more concerning that there doesn’t seem to have been any high level direction of this activity, it was spontaneous inside the IRS, even though it was clearly inspired by the Obama Administration and Old Media agitprop. That’s a level of corruption far beyond what Nixon managed. Why should a conservative have any faith in the government or regulation when it’s so blatantly used for political advantage?

Comments — Formatting by Textile
Bret Saturday, 21 September 2013 at 15:20

At what point do we being to wonder if our criminal justice system is being used as a partisan weapon via unsustainable indictments?

I assume you’re joking? Of course it’s also “being used as a partisan weapon.” If I were in a position to use it to bludgeon my opponents, I would too. There’s a reason people seek power. It has its benefits.

Annoying Old Guy Saturday, 21 September 2013 at 16:02

Are you sure you’re not an anarchist? If government is being used in such a openly partisan fashion, we might as well have a civil war and get it over with. The civilization you enjoy can only work long term when government agencies are not used in that fashion. Otherwise you eventually end up in Somalia or Haiti. An intelligent ruling class would realize this and behave differently, and I can’t believe you’re not at least that intelligent.

Bret Sunday, 22 September 2013 at 08:42

aog wrote: “Are you sure you’re not an anarchist?

Minarchist. The more power the citizens allow a government, the more abuse you’ll get.

aog wrote: “…we might as well have a civil war and get it over with.

Elections are, in my opinion, basically mini-civil wars, where ballots are used instead of bullets. The losers agree to be oppressed to some extent by the winners for some period of time. During that period, the winners of course use their power to their advantage in a partisan fashion. When I say “oppressed to some extent,” the extent is limited by the degree to which the citizenry is armed - if the oppression is too great, bullets replace the ballots. I have upcoming (someday) posts on this under my “Might Makes Right” series.

aog wrote: “The civilization you enjoy can only work long term when government agencies are not used in that fashion.

No, as long as elections keep happening, and as long as the total extent of the oppression is limited by the arm citizenry and their willingness to fight if things become too oppressive, it can work adequately. It’s not perfect, but that’s the way it works, and there’s really not a better alternative.

aog wrote: “Otherwise you eventually end up in Somalia or Haiti.

I think the United States may be on the way to imploding. It’ll probably take decades. Imagine if we have governments like the current one forever. Well, when I imagine that, it ends in tears. And if the United States implodes, it’ll make Somalia and Haiti look like paradise.

aog wrote: “An intelligent ruling class would realize this and behave differently…

It’s not a coherent class. It’s a bunch of individuals and groups, each in positions of power, who can gain advantage by using that power. Any one person can realize that the ruling class as a whole behaving would make him better off, but far better is for everyone to behave EXCEPT him.

That’s the argument for hereditary monarchy. An intelligent King realizes that he’s better off not abusing his power and then he can strive to ensure no else abuses their power either. That doesn’t work so well because you always eventually get a series of Kings who are idiots.

Annoying Old Guy Sunday, 22 September 2013 at 12:20

The losers agree to be oppressed to some extent by the winners for some period of time

Then my question would be, do you think using the IRS as a partisan tool exceeds those bounds sufficiently to justify armed resistance?

Of course, the ruling class problem is the Prisoner’s Dilemma writ large.

Bret Sunday, 22 September 2013 at 14:14

That would depend on to what extent the IRS is used as a partisan tool and to what extent the oppressed view the IRS’s transgressions as being beyond the pale. A critical mass is required for armed resistance. My guess is that the current IRS transgressions are nowhere near oppressive enough to incite significant violence.

Yes, it’s more or less the Prisoner’s Dilemma or the Tragedy of the Commons or whatever. A tight-knit community can overcome those sorts of dilemmas. A large, diverse, unconnected, and ideologically conflicted nation such as the United States? Not a chance, in my opinion. That’s why reducing the Commons and reducing the number of Prisoner’s Dilemmas is the only chance for peace and long run prosperity in my opinion.

Annoying Old Guy Sunday, 22 September 2013 at 15:16

Well, I certainly agree with your second paragraph.

Annoying Old Guy Monday, 23 September 2013 at 17:05

Does the use of the IRS as a partisan tool become beyond the pail when it is violation of the IRS’s own regulations, the law, and quite possibly the Constitution?

Annoying Old Guy Monday, 23 September 2013 at 19:27

As long as we’re looking at egregious federal prosecutions, what about that case in Louisiana where the federal Department of Justice prosecuted police officers for events during Hurricane Katrina. To quote the ruling

[…] prosecutors acting with anonymity used social media to circumvent ehtical obligations, professional responsibilities, and even to commit violates of the Code of Federal Regulations. Hence to the Court’s knowledge, there is no case similar, in nator or scope, to this bizarre and appalling turn of events.

I think at the point where a citizen, even of an opposing political faction, cannot depend on the written laws or regulations to apply to the government, we’ve gone beyond the pale of tolerable partisanship. If you read through the document it’s clear the DoJ wasn’t prosecuting this for law enforcement purposes, but purely as a political exercise without regard to truth or law.

The DoJ response to all of this is to crack down on leakers, which apparently is the only problem they see in this.

I know it won’t effect your view Bret, but it’s my weblog and I’ll rant if I want to!

Bret Monday, 23 September 2013 at 20:32

Do I think it’s beyond the pale? Yes.

Do I think we’re gonna convince the side with the power that it’s beyond the pale? No. In fact, liberals (Harry Eagar) for example, think the IRS is perfectly justified in singling out groups the way they did.

Do I think we’re at the point of resorting to armed violence to fix it? Well, I’m definitely not. Maybe some are, but my guess is nowhere near enough to matter.

If the republicans in congress don’t have the power (and/or will) to do anything about it, were plain-old-out-of-luck for now.

Or do you have some other action we could take that has a reasonable chance of making a difference?

Annoying Old Guy Monday, 23 September 2013 at 20:48

Not short term. Becoming active in local Republican party politics is about the only possible solution I see, hence my strong support of the Tea Parties. As someone noted, we must make the politicians more afraid of the voters than the NY Times editorial page.

Other than that, I agree with your assessment. Eventually if the people are not virtuous, neither in their government.

Annoying Old Guy Saturday, 28 September 2013 at 11:47

An interesting tidbit in this vein —

A new Rasmussen Reports poll found 53 percent of likely U.S. voters believe the IRS broke the law when it targeted tea party and other conservative groups, while only 24 percent disagree.

But only 17 percent believe it is even somewhat likely that criminal charges will be brought against any government employees for IRS’s targeting of these groups. Seventy-four percent consider criminal charges unlikely. This number includes 27 percent who say charges are not at all likely.

A near majority who think the government breaks its own laws and escapes any punishment indicates people are beginning to catch on.

Here is another example of the IRS being lawless in persecuting a citizen because, basically, they don’t like the way he deposits money in his bank. This is despite having already audited him and officially found no illegality.

Bret Saturday, 28 September 2013 at 22:01

I’m obviously pretty aligned with the Rasmussen Reports poll.

Annoying Old Guy Sunday, 29 September 2013 at 06:41

Yes, but you are a political junkie freak (like me). That this is in the general populace is much more interesting.

Clovis Sunday, 29 September 2013 at 20:26

And what about the claims that IRS targeted liberal groups too?

Annoying Old Guy Sunday, 29 September 2013 at 23:18

Clovis;

Any evidence for that? I thought even the MAList had left that meme for dead.

But let me ask you, suppose those claims were true. If the IRS targeted 1000 Tea Party groups, and 4 MAList groups, would that prove no political bias or persecution?

Clovis Monday, 30 September 2013 at 06:04

AOG,

Please, what is a “MAList”?

As far as I can see, much of the Center and Left side of your old media took that explanation (“IRS were targeting both kind of groups”). Only the Right looks to still be arguing in contrary, and even not all of them.

But I did not research extensively, so I may well be wrong. My question was a sincere one, I was not offering it as contradictory evidence.

Annoying Old Guy Monday, 30 September 2013 at 07:54

Clovis;

When I use a term like “MAList”, I set hover text for it. Just rest your cursor on the term and you’ll get a little popup with the definition. It’s “Modern American Left” ist.

As far as I can see, much of the Center and Left side of your old media took that explanation (“IRS were targeting both kind of groups”).

Of course they did. Didn’t we just discuss how Old Media distorts things? But you’ll find little of that now, because it became unsupportable. There was never any evidence for it. Because that’s become obvious, the scandal is simply not covered. Think about that — a government agency, probably the most powerful one in the entire government, used to deliberately target people for their political views and our Old Media avoids the topic. Kim Jong Un has his journalists beaten, screaming at them “why can’t I get support like this?”.

IRS documents show that targeting based on political views. Did you try any of the links in my original post, such as the IRS document showing they targeted groups for “anti-Obama rhetoric”?

Clovis Monday, 30 September 2013 at 10:19

AOG,

To tell you the truth, the IRS case is not that easy to follow and proof check in detail. Soon you enter in a soup of letters about internal rules of taxation and all the other bureaucratic stuff. For a foreigner like me, who has absolutely no experience with such US matters, it takes some energy, and I’d rather use it for topics closer to my interests. I can imagine though, that the bureaucratic language can also make the topic indigest even for Americans.

I believe the pattern of lack of accountability of government is better shown in another case, the Snowden affair. He declared his decision of going public with all that stuff was motivated by his boss lying in Congress, in front of every lawmaker and camera he could. Still, the only thing that happened is that people want Snowden’s head, no one asked for his boss’ head. I do not see your indignation in this case, why should people be in the other one too?

Bret Monday, 30 September 2013 at 10:45

Clovis,

You think there’s no indignation about the NSA’s programs?

On my part, there certainly is. I will say that I personally only have so much time and energy to express indignation and the long list of bad things occurring in this country. I haven’t written about the IRS one either for that reason. Or Benghazi. Or Syria. Or the mess that is Obamacare. Or …

Annoying Old Guy Monday, 30 September 2013 at 11:01

Bret;

That’s the “dense pack” theory — that the Obama Administration has decided to get away with things by having so many scandals and flagrantly abusing the government, our institutions, and the citizenry in so many ways that people can’t keep track and no one specific opposition to any of them can form. You end up with just oppposing Obama in general, at which point the race card is played.

Annoying Old Guy Monday, 30 September 2013 at 13:44

Soon you enter in a soup of letters about internal rules of taxation and all the other bureaucratic stuff.

Or, you could read some of the links I provided where’s it is laid out quite directly, where the IRS says “we are going to get these guys because they have the wrong political views”. It’s not that hard to follow, unless you read only things by people whose goal is to prevent you from doing so.

As for Snowden, there are so many examples of Obama Administration official like openly and explicitly to Congress that I consider Snowden himself a distraction. After all, there are more examples of that in the IRS case than the Snowden case, so I consider the IRS case a much better example of the lack of accountability in our government.

Clovis Monday, 30 September 2013 at 15:57

AOG,

— where the IRS says “we are going to get these guys because they have the wrong political views” —

The only place they did was in a interview with someone who was messing things up, IMO. He could have understood the question in the lines of a tea party group asking for exemption when it was not exercizing activities that granted it.

Or I may be misunderstanding it all too, for as I said, I do not know what are the conditions that apply for groups to get exemptions, or any other thing at all about your tax laws.

Clovis Monday, 30 September 2013 at 16:03

As a side comment AOG, I do follow your links.

The point is that to read is not to know. If I do not have a minimum knowledge of a topic, I refrain to go for conclusions (even if the story make them clear), for I have no way to judge it critically.

It is a good recipe to deal with a world of bubbles of information, where so much of it has an agenda behind. Sometimes I do fail to take this recipe as seriously as I should, for there are topics where we have the illusion of knowing it enough, but the IRS case has elements that markedly tell me I do not know enough.

Annoying Old Guy Monday, 30 September 2013 at 23:30

Clovis;

Let’s take one example, the “anti-Obama rhetoric” one.

For instance, the IRS [in internal documents] said the website of the Patriots of Charleston contains “negative Obama commentary.”

I want you to provide an explanation for that other than the IRS decided to make life difficult for these people because they didn’t like the “negative Obama commentary”.

But those links aren’t as strong they could be, sigh. If I do another post I’ll get better data, of which there is plenty (such as this).

Clovis Tuesday, 01 October 2013 at 03:44

AOG,

Again, I read your link, and again, the only thing I am sure about it is the citation attributed to Cookie Monster: he indeed said that.

How can I judge how usual or unusual all that is? When asking for my tourist visa to go to your country, among the questions I needed to answer were things like “Do you intend do practice acts of terrorism?”, or “Have you ever had training with bombs, weapons, etc?” (I cite by memory, the wording was not this one, but it was as explicit as that). You see, from my point of view every question they detailed in the link above was pretty mild.

Annoying Old Guy Tuesday, 01 October 2013 at 08:43

No, they weren’t. By regulation, law, and our Constitution, the IRS is not allowed to ask questions about political views for such applications. The questions you have would be legitimate because they ask about what you would do, not what you believe. These are radically different things.

Clovis Tuesday, 01 October 2013 at 09:21

AOG,

I was talking about questions like “whether any of their family members might be thinking about running for office”.

Well, on second thought, to ask that for a Tea Partier is not that much different from asking me if I intended to practice some terrorism while on my vacations. With the difference I may have contributed a little bit to your economy, while Tea Parties are actually sabotaing it. I should demand better treatment than they get next time :-)

Annoying Old Guy Tuesday, 01 October 2013 at 09:46

No, because one question is about you and the other is about other people. Not a small difference.

Clovis Tuesday, 01 October 2013 at 10:01

AOG,

You win. If you want my clear recognition that your IRS stepped over the line, you have it.

It still not clear to what extent it was a rogue action or directed orders. Anyway, I imagine the guys will try a lawsuit (if they are not on that already) and be reimbursed for all that. Sometimes govt. screws up and pays up for it in court, it happens. What is worse, it means you pay for it, since govt.’s pocket is everybody’s pocket. Still, what else do you propose? The end of govt.? Even a minarchy would be open to such “errors”.

Annoying Old Guy Tuesday, 01 October 2013 at 13:08

As has been pointed out, it’s actually worse if it wasn’t directed. Based on the evidence that’s come to light since the start, I am mostly convinced it originated inside the IRS. That’s a far more serious level of corruption than if President Obama or someone in his administration asked the IRS to do this.

The victims may get monetary reimbursement, but one has to question whether these actions tipped the Presidential election. How would they, and we citizens, get reimbursed for that?

What do I propose? Hold those in government who violate the law, and their own agency’s regulation, accountable. That certain could be done, but isn’t and won’t be. That is corruption that can be attached to the President. He can’t stop people in the executive branch from breaking the law like that, but he certainly can enforce them after the fact, something which he and his Attorney General have clearly chosen to not do.

The advantage of a minarchy is first, there are many fewer regulations to abuse and regulatory agencies to do the abuse. Secondly, and this is frequently overlooked, the less a government does, the easier it is to keep an eye on its activities. This is why I support not only a minarchy but also subsidiarity.

Clovis Tuesday, 01 October 2013 at 13:17

AOG,

I do not understand why you think it is worse if not directed. I tend to believe the contrary. Govts. are made of people, who will always do mistakes. That said, I do agree the govt. should also be held accountable if his Attorney General does not act. Is there no other way to start a criminal investigation and prosecution without him?

Now, could you please explain to this ignorant soul what do you mean by “subsidiarity”?

Annoying Old Guy Tuesday, 01 October 2013 at 16:32

Clovis;

This wasn’t a mistake, it was deliberately political persecution. If it was ordered from the top, you can fix it by changing the top. If it is done spontaneously, how can you stop it from happening again? It’s also far harder to detect if it’s a little bit everywhere rather than an actual conspiracy.

Subsidiarity — the concept that government functions should be handled by the smallest, most local units as possible. Doing this increases accountability and responsiveness. The Founding Fathers clearly understood this, and strove to separate government functions among the federal, state, and local levels so that each function was in exactly one level so citizens would know who to blame if it didn’t work. Now, every level does everything so there’s no good way for a citizen to trace back the cause of a failure. I consider this to be deliberate on the part of the TranZis.

This (to me) leads naturally to minarchy in that the smallest, most local unit is the citizen family. Unless it can not be left to the private sector, it should be. It is not enough to claim efficiency or organization, it must not be possible for it to remain in the private sector to justify moving it to the government sector.

Clovis Wednesday, 02 October 2013 at 03:26

AOG,

Well, thanks for the explanation.

I admire your efforts to dream of a system that would be more functional. I really do. The simplicity of the Libertarian model even inspires me. And, at the same time, this simplicity is what gives me pause: usually reality is messy when humans are involved, and too idealized systems rarely deal well with that.

Take,f or example, your rigid recipe “Unless it can not be left to the private sector, it should be.” I know you compare your local reality and thinks this other possibility would be much better. But have you given thought to the fact that, were it the new normal, people would not equally make a corrupt system of it?

Like, for example, when privatizing Prisons, have you thought of the possibility of people going to prison only to enchance profits? How Libertarian would be that?

Annoying Old Guy Wednesday, 02 October 2013 at 08:01

reality is messy when humans are involved

Yes. I don’t see how introducing even more complexity helps with that problem. My years of experience with very complex software systems is that the best approach is to introduce as much simplicity as you can, especially in the large scale design.

were it the new normal, people would not equally make a corrupt system of it?

Quite possibly, but the corruption would then tend to be localized. Robust systems avoid single points of failure as much as possible and every time you centralize something you not only create one of those, you also increase the rewards for subverting it.

Corruption is also easier to see and deal with the more local it is.

have you thought of the possibility of people going to prison only to enchance profits?

Yes. But that’s happening now (e.g., the prosecution of George Martin) so it’s unclear it would be worse. More over, by splitting the functions of law enforcement and prisons, you reduce the incentives and ability to do such a thing.

Libertarianism isn’t about utopia, it’s about containing and limiting the damage done by building with crooked timber of humanity. IMHO it is the libertarians, far more than the collectivists or regulators, who understand that. You ask me these questions, but who asks them about the people who run the regulatory state? Do they become angelic once appointed to their positions? Why does giving them concentrated power make their messes less messy?

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