A Big Shock

Copyright © by Len Holman, 5/21/13


  The Obama administration is involved in several “scandals,” though this word is loosely, and inaccurately, being used—especially by conservatives, who would seem to want to have Cotton Mather as President and Sitting Bull behind bars.  It seems that the Internal Revenue Service is accused of targeting conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status, that the Justice Department is accused of “chilling” free speech by collecting phone call records of AP reporters without notification, as is required by law (under a “national security” exception), and that Obama is suspected of somehow allowing the ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, to be killed, with the aid of an unaware and callous Secretary of State, because the President thought his re-election chances would be better with the “real truth” withheld—or at least delayed. 

  All of this comes in the midst of stories on drone strikes, Guantanamo hunger strikes, states’ refusal to implement Obamacare, and the general rumblings of mutiny from even the progressive wing.  The big shock is not that the government is not doing a very good job; the big shock is not that the government—when it does something, doesn’t do it very well; the big shock isn’t that no one seems to know who did what, when, why, and how.  No, the big shock is that anyone is shocked.  Those days are gone when the whole of the federal government apparatus could fit into one fairly large building—with room for some tables filled with hard cider. The government today is as vast and complicated a machine as has ever been erected—including that of the Roman Imperium, any Chinese dynasty civil service organization, the Vatican Curia, or the California DMV.  It would seriously strain my already-skeptical mindset if I found out that ANYONE knew everything there was to know about the federal government.  I would be incredulous if anyone knew more than about HALF of how the government worked, where the levers were and who to see for a decent haircut. 

  When Hillary Clinton tells a Senate committee that she didn’t read the thousands of cables which come to the State Department every day, I would not have trouble believing her. When she says she didn’t read a cry for help from a well-respected ambassador, I don’t believe her at all, but I’m pretty sure SOMEONE saw that cable, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it had to pass through about 100 pairs of hands to get to someone who could make a command decision as to where that important, fateful cable would go next. The Benghazi hearings and subsequent inquiries are a maze of claims and counter-claims, centering on a mass of testimony and things called “facts” which are only accusations, but all depending on how the government works, and it is obvious that—even given that it doesn’t work most of the time—no one is quite sure HOW it works, where one goes to get the final, complete answer to any particular question.  There may be no final and complete answer, and it is shocking that the American consumer of this torrent of so-called information expects there to be a clear, black-and-white answer to what the government does, who does it and why. 

  The IRS issue is even more convoluted.  Did the IRS “target” conservative groups based on the names in their titles like “Tea Party,” and “Patriot”?  It’s this agency’s job (aside from garnishing the wages of restaurant workers and letting churches with five members—all of the same family—have tax-exempt status), to determine who gets to pay no taxes. If you are a financial concern with a monster account in the Caymans, you like this outfit.  If you are struggling to figure out your tax forms before April 15, you wonder why you just don’t open a vein and be done with it. The IRS is saying it’s just a matter of a “mistake” (remember the passive-construction government slogan:  “Mistakes were made”), and no one was targeted.  Some minor guy was canned and Obama expressed outrage and now the administration seems to have decided to let it ride and rely on the labyrinthine corridors of Tax City to shield, obfuscate, and generally cover over all omissions, sins, venality, and stupidity. Which is certainly not a stretch. 

  The AP story is more of the same: somewhere, with the blessings of someone, some group is monitoring every email, text, phone call, and dirty picture sent through space and cyberspace, under the cover of calling it a matter of national security, which is what Obama is doing, and for which he explicitly said he would not apologize. We used to get all over Bush and Cheney’s asses for this, but not this time.  A few disgruntled reporters show up on TV and write blogs, decrying this invasion of their First Amendment rights, but no one cares, and no one without five years and lots of time and lots of access to waste could possibly track down the source of all this snooping.  In short, the government of the United States is big. Really big.  Perhaps it is too big to manage and too big to do good and too big to be monitored and checked.  Here is another shock:  this government of ours is not going to get smaller, no matter which party controls the White House or congress.  It’s too late for that.  So we might look forward to a time (which we are starting to see now) when individual states will do what they want, what they must, what they see fit to do, and basically dare Big Brother to do something about it.  Can we last as a unified country if that happens?  Should we?  Do we deserve to?


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