Battle beyond the czars

>> Monday, September 14, 2009

Peter The Grrrrreat
People think I'm insane because I am frowning all the time
All day long I think of things but nothing seems to satisfy
Think I'll lose my mind if I don't find something to pacify
Can you help me occupy my brain?

"Paranoid," Iommi, Osbourne, Ward, Butler


I have to wonder, I really do. About the conservatives, or some of them, at least. Not about the rank and file, Cthulhu knows the classic lines from Mel Brooks' Blazing Saddles have never been more true--

You've got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know... morons.


--no, I mean the leadership, such as it is. The Becks, the Palins, the Malkins, and now, it seems, the Hutchinsons. Are they crazy or just dishonest? Do they believe the shit they're shoveling? Does it matter? If you're not mentally ill but you still sound like you are, is there some existential difference that matters? If you're not, yourself, personally a racist but you give the racists swill to work with, does that make you a kind of racist yourself?

We have "deathers," who think the President wants to kill your grandmother. There are "birthers," who evidently want Joe Biden to be President (now that's devotion--there are plenty of Democrats who don't want Joe Biden to be President). There's the same gathering of idjits who think (a) the President is a Muslim and (b) that would matter.

The latest thing seems to be a group you might call "the czarists." I feel like I have to apologize a little for this one, because a friend of a friend recently seemed to swallow the czarist bit hook, line, sinker. This is a notion that appears to originate with Glenn Beck, a man who is evidently so loathe to fact-check he heroically refuses to even use a spell-checker. (I want to play Scrabble with Mr. Beck. For money.) Anyway, this czarist thing is the claim that the Obama administration is in the process of creating some kind of secret and completely unprecedented (their word) bureaucratic layer of "czars" who will wield some sort of mysterious extra-governmental power to communistify and fascify the government and completely seize power. They are a bit less clear on how this is supposed to work: purportedly, the czars will craft all these regulations which will somehow do something to something and then something will happen--it probably involves stealing underpants at some point, though that actually seems strikingly rational compared to what you hear from some of Beck's biggest fans.

What's most boggling about the accusation, actually, is that this is purportedly a conspiracy planned and put into effect by Democrats. Democrats. Let me put it to you this way: the Democrats are currently in the process of failing to enact healthcare reform in spite of the fact they control a majority in both houses of Congress and the Presidency. Will Rogers once quipped that he didn't belong to any organized party, he was a Democrat; it's only gotten worse since the 1930s.

Aside from that, even if you accept the idea that Democrats could conspire to plan a picnic, the czarists have a poor grip on... what are those things called again? Those little pieces of information that are true and that you can put together to assemble a working picture of how the world works? Fritos... falchions... facts... facts! That's it, facts! They say, for instance, that the Obama appointments are unprecedented, when, by-and-large, they involve offices that were created during previous Presidential administrations, some of these positions (at least two) going back as far as the Reagan administration (guess the Kenyans got to him, the bastards). They point to the President's use of "czar" when (a) he's only used the word to refer to the so-called "drug czar,", (b) the term "drug czar" goes back to 1982 and (c) referring to a Presidential advisor or cabinet member as a "czar" actually goes back to 1973 (oh, and (d), he's de-powered the drug czar so that drug czar is no longer cabinet level--talk about yer power grabs). They claim that some of these offices are new, when several go back at least two decades. They claim that these positions are filled without oversight, when several of the positions require Senate confirmation (including some alleged "czars" who are in fact cabinet members).

This weekend The Washington Post printed a czarist op-ed from Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson, who is apparently trying to rile up the crazies to turn out for her in a contested election. Hutchinson's claims are typical of the crazies--is she one of them, or just pandering? Anyway, they cover the usual gamut of incorrect (dishonest?) claims, sinister innuendo, and sheer ignorance (perhaps willful in Senator Hutchinson's case).

Consider this passage:

So what do these czars do? Do they advise the president? Or do they impose the administration's agenda on the heads of federal agencies and offices who have been vetted and confirmed by the Senate? Unfortunately--and in direct contravention of the Framers' intentions--virtually no one can say with certainty what these individuals do or what limits are placed on their authority. We don't know if they are influencing or implementing policy. We don't know if they possess philosophical views or political affiliations that are inappropriate or overreaching in the context of their work.


Oh noes! If only Congress could, I don't know, hold some kind of hearings about this! But who? Who has the responsibility? Who has the oversight? The seniority? The jurisdiction over, I don't know, maybe even jurisdiction of as few as a third would be enough to break this wide open?

As the senior Republican on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, I oversee legislation and agencies that cover policy areas as vast and varied as trade, technology, transit, consumer protection and commercial regulation. As many as 10 of the 32 czars functionally fall under my committee's jurisdiction. Yet neither I nor the committee chairman have clear authority to compel these czars to appear before our panel and report what they are doing. The Obama administration presented only two of these officials for our consideration before they assumed their duties. We have had no opportunity to probe the others' credentials.


Oh. But, aha! She doesn't have the authority to compel anybody to appear before her panel--

As a tool of legislative inquiries, both Houses of Congress authorize their committees and subcommittees to issue subpoenas to require the production of documents and the attendance of witnesses regarding matters within the committee’s jurisdiction. Committee subpoenas "have the same authority as if they were issued by the entire House of Congress from which the committee is drawn." If a witness refuses to testify or produce papers in response to a committee subpoena, and the committee votes to report a resolution of contempt to the floor, the full House or Senate may vote in support of the contempt citation.

-Louis Fisher,
"Congressional Investigations: Subpoenas and Contempt Power," April 2, 2003
Congressional Research Service


--oh... yeah, that's right.

Well, I mean, Senator Hutchinson has only been in the Senate since 1993, I mean, it's not like she's been around long enough to hear the phrase, "Congressional subpoena," right? Right?

Now, granted (and we're talking seriously now, or as seriously as the batshit craziness seems to warrant): it might be difficult for a minority chair to get a committee chair to issue a subpoena. But if you were as concerned as all that about t3h 3viiii1 conspiracy to have a bureaucratic coup, you'd think maybe you could mention how you wanted to subpoena everybody and were blocked instead of saying, "Nope, no idea how to do it." Of course, to get to that point maybe you'd have to admit that, you know, you sort of are aware that maybe most of these people were, in fact, vetted by various committees because that's what's been required since their positions were created, oh, say, twenty-seven years ago in 1982.

I mean, basically her entire piece is a bunch of batshit-crazy lies, but it'll carry some level of weight because The Washington Post printed it and because people have no idea how their government works anymore. And it's not because it's all that confusing or mysterious, it's because we, as a people, revel in our ignorance and stupidity. We mock nerds, are suspicious of scientists, deride teachers, mistrust the press (sometimes with reason, but still), and are generally pleased as punch to know absolutely nothing except what we believe.

Hell. I'm not sure why I even bother. The only people who'll read this on purpose aren't stupid, and any stupid people who stumble across it will be too stupid to know they're stupid.

10 comments:

Leanright,  Monday, September 14, 2009 at 6:08:00 PM EDT  

So, not a big Glen Beck Fan?

Janiece Monday, September 14, 2009 at 6:12:00 PM EDT  

Stoopid is as stoopid does, you know.

And all things considered, I'd rather listen to Forrest Gump wax political than any of the wackies on either side of the aisle.

WendyB_09 Monday, September 14, 2009 at 6:44:00 PM EDT  

I wonder sometimes how these people manage to get elected, let alone stay elected. Even scarier, it is painfully clear they have no idea what spew comes out of their own mouths. Worse, people pay attention because its coming from someone in a position of authority who should be in the know. NOT!

Leanright,  Tuesday, September 15, 2009 at 1:14:00 AM EDT  

Are you all familiar with a couple of morons named "Chris Matthews" and "Keith Olberman"?

Eric Tuesday, September 15, 2009 at 9:09:00 AM EDT  

Yes, Dave, I am. The first is a total douchebag and the second is a Murrow-wannabe who occasionally says something brilliant but mostly comes off as a smug prick. Why? Have they embraced the czarist crazy trip?

If not, how are they possibly on-topic?

Leanright,  Tuesday, September 15, 2009 at 12:23:00 PM EDT  

Beck was mentioned, so I guess I made the mistake of believing that "Political Commentators" was at least a branch off of this Conversational Tree.

ntsc Tuesday, September 15, 2009 at 1:41:00 PM EDT  

Carthago, delenda est!

Had nothing to do with reality, but there is no Carthage anymore is there?

Leanright,  Tuesday, September 15, 2009 at 11:37:00 PM EDT  

May I just say, that Jimmy Carter...It's about time he just fucking vanishes.

Eric Wednesday, September 16, 2009 at 12:21:00 AM EDT  

Oh for fuck's sake, Dave, where did that come from.

If this is about Carter's comments on racism:

"I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man," Carter told NBC News' Brian Williams. "I live in the South, and I've seen the South come a long way, and I've seen the rest of the country that share the South's attitude toward minority groups at that time, particularly African Americans. And that racism inclination still exists. And I think it's bubbled up to the surface because of the belief of many white people, not just in the South but around the country, that African-Americans are not qualified to lead this great country. It's an abominable circumstance, and it grieves me and concerns me very deeply."

--I happen to agree with him 100%. I honestly do not believe that a white President would be the target of the irrational, slavering, bugfuck-crazy hostility that this President is on the receiving end of. Lunatics want to see his birth certificate. They insist, paradoxically, that he's a Muslim and then make a huge stinking deal over his Christian pastor's supposedly inflammatory comments. They tearfully scream that they want their country back--from who, exactly? And they do things like make a big deal out of obscure appointments.

In my lifetime, I do not believe there has been a President more inimically hostile to every core belief and value I hold or more dangerous and threatening to my liberty or the ideals of my nation, and yet I managed to go eight years without once even thinking about who he might have appointed to an obscure Reagan-era regulatory office or that his appointments might lead to my being rounded up and killed. And as violently opposed as Bush and I are, I don't believe I have ever doubted that somewhere in his brain he thought he was doing the right thing, the best that he could, his duty to all Americans, yada, yada, yada. And here's President Obama not even getting eight months.

Yeah, I'm sick of it, I'm offended, and I don't think the motives of some of the opposition are all that loyal or benign. I was just reading Salon's piece on Glenn Beck's intellectual inspiration, Cleon Skousen--and while Salon may be a liberal rag, there's no getting around Beck's raving over Skousen's alleged awesomeness and the fact that Skousen was a Bircher and racist whose views were repudiated by conservatives of his era. It's not that the President is beyond criticism, and it's not that all conservatives are racists, nor is it that all of the President's critics are conservatives (note that I've been fairly critical): it's that a very vocal group of conservative critics are malignantly uninformed and say things about their country being "stolen," etc., that create a reasonable suspicion they're bigots, racists, pin-brained scum. And Beck happens to be their ringleader and emcee.

Now, if you'd like me to vanish, you can subjectively achieve that by not reading me anymore.

And Dave, if you do keep reading: you're welcome to comment, you're welcome to disagree, but it's time to cut the crap. You're capable of offering on-topic and insightful comments. So why don't you?

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