Posted by on August 21, 2014

Just When You Thought Things Couldn’t Get Any Worse…

The time is fast approaching when it will no longer be possible to dislike an Obama administration. Fortunately, an administration headed up by Hillary Clinton would probably be even easier to dislike.

Nearly all politicians are professional phoneys; in fact, that is arguably their defining characteristic. But Hilary takes this to a new level. Not only is she breathtakingly phoney, but she is so incompetent at it that only brain-dead members of the pantsuit brigade can fail to recognize it.

In June, we had her “dead broke” comment about the Clintons’ financial fortunes when they left the White House. This pathetic attempt to pander to the “average Joe (and Jane)” came asunder when photos of the two oversized houses the Clintons bought in this period were splashed across the internet. But she apologized, so I guess that’s alright.

Then there is my favorite: her explanation for the name “Hillary”. In an attempt to boost her personal narrative, she claimed that her mother named her after Sir Edmund Hillary, the first Westerner to climb Mount Everest, as an example to her that no goal was beyond her reach. After someone pointed out that she was born 6 years before the then totally obscure New Zealander accomplished that feat, she eventually had to admit that this was just an inspirational “story” her mother told her. But she apologized, so I guess that’s all alright.

Last month it emerged that Hillary had told an interviewer back in 1999 that Bill Clinton’s “sex addiction” was the result of childhood abuse by his mother. This was convenient. First, Bill’s mother was dead by then, so there was no risk of a response to the accusation. Second, the story beautifully fit the fundamental Democratic view of life that no one is really responsible for anything; it would have made a great segment on Oprah. Finally, and most importantly, it provided an explanation for Hillary’s clinging to a serial offender other than the obvious one that she is willing to endure anything to stay close to power. She was just “standing by her man”, so I guess that’s alright.

All of these things can be excused. But then we have these words, taken from her memoirs, Hard Choices: “All of us face hard choices in our lives. Life is about making such choices. Our choices and how we handle them shape the people we become.”

Almost anything can be forgiven, but publishing words this banal? That’s where I draw the line.

Hypocrisy on the Left and Right

Let’s continue with politicians. Here is something that I am probably the last person in the world to figure out.

Has anyone ever noticed that, when it comes to financial transgressions and hypocrisy in office, liberal politicians are disproportionately represented? I may be suffering from selective vision, but this certainly seems to be the case.

I was reminded of this when I recently saw that Ray Nagin, the former Democratic Mayor of New Orleans, has been given a 10-year federal sentence for taking bribes from contractors involved in the reconstruction of his city. You may remember Ray. He was the guy on television accusing the Bush administration of everything from incompetence to racism, some of the former well deserved, for failing to come to the aid of his Katrina-ravaged city quickly enough. I guess that he was complaining that his check was taking too long to arrive.

But it isn’t just Ray and it isn’t just the US. In England, for example, there was a recent scandal in Parliament over bogus expense claims; the perpetrators were overwhelmingly, both in number and larcenous creativity, members of the Labour Party. One of the reasons Tony Blair, the former Labour Party Prime Minister, is so hated in the UK is that he has pursued personal enrichment from his political connections at a pace and to an extent that is, as the Brits would say, unseemly.

Back in the States, the politicians caught in the Abscam sting, as depicted in the film American Hustle, were almost entirely Democrats. In the book Race of a Lifetime (which came out in the US under the title Game Change), which described the campaign for the presidency in 2008, the biggest villain was undoubtedly John Edwards. Edwards was a leftwing populist who occasionally pulled off the campaign trail in order to get a $400 haircut and who suspended his support for environmental causes long enough to clear an entire forest for the 28,000 square foot house he was building. When last seen, he was beating a rap for diverting campaign funds to maintain his pregnant mistress and keep her hidden from his wealthy wife, who was soon to die of cancer. While he narrowly missed a cell, we narrowly missed having him in the Oval Office.

Rightwing politicians, at least the religious right so often in the Republican Party, suffer from a different form of hypocrisy. In this case, it seems to relate to that other great motivator of human behavior: sex. I haven’t been collecting my own evidence on this but fortunately the work has been done for me. For example, the Daily Beast reviewed a large number of recent sex scandals and reports: “Republicans have more scandals (35 to 28), but Democrats have bigger ones. Democrats tend to have more problems with harassment, staffers, and underage girls; Republicans tend to have more problems with prostitutes, hypocrisy, and underage boys”.

The scary thing about all of this is that our political leaders are clearly often using their office to exorcise inner demons. For the liberals, the inner demons are envy and greed; for the conservatives, the inner demons are sexual urges, frequently deviant ones. And we are the unwilling victims of these personal psychodramas.

This is one reason I like being a libertarian. I think it is the only political creed that allows one to live without hypocrisy, a personal goal of mine I wish more politicians shared.

Do as I Say, Not as I Do

Finishing up on the theme of political hypocrisy, recently we have seen a number of politicians and regulators flaunting the unworkable laws they are only too happy to impose on the rest of us.

The first was the case of the prisoner swap for Pfc Bowe Bergdahl. Let’s leave aside the fact that this entire episode was a disaster and that Bergdahl was manifestly undeserving of the extraordinary efforts made on his behalf – contrary to the administration’s claims, this was not a case of leaving no man behind on the battlefield, unless your idea of a battle includes sneaking off base, unarmed, in the middle of the night. What really struck me was the administration’s explanation of why, contrary to legal requirements, it did not notify Congress in advance of its intention to conclude the swap. Apparently, there just wasn’t enough time. I will be sure to use this “not enough time” defense if I ever find myself in court. I am sure that it will do me a lot of good.

Then we have the case of the IRS’s targeting of tax-exempt groups with “Tea Party” or “patriot” in their names. When asked to account for this before Congress, Lois Lerner, the IRS official at the center of the controversy, repeatedly “took the fifth”. When asked to produce emails relating to this matter, the IRS claimed that Lerner’s emails had been lost in a computer crash and that the backup tapes had already been recycled. The next time my tax returns are questioned by the IRS, I will be sure to use this “my dog ate my homework” excuse.

Last, we have another Obamacare fiasco. This one relates to flawed drafting, of which there is undoubtedly plenty in this 961 page bill or its 10,535 (and counting) pages of regulations. The mistake here is that the Federal Government can only offer tax credits to people located in States that have set up healthcare exchanges, as 36 States have refused to do. The law also does not permit the IRS to impose various taxes and penalties in these States, since these are linked to the credits. So the entire edifice of Obamacare, which is built on the “carrots” of tax credits and the “sticks” of taxes and penalties, collapses.

This issue is being considered by the Supreme Court. The Obama administration is arguing, in essence, ignore what the law actually says and judge it on the basis of what it should say if it were logical. I am sure that a similar argument advanced by any citizen faced with an absurd and inconsistent law, and there is no shortage of these, would be given the utmost consideration in court.

Piracy on the High PCs

Captain Phillips was on cable the other day and I watched it again.

It is clear that those politically correct folks in Hollywood think that we should feel sorry for the Somali pirates whose economic circumstances “force” them into piracy. Well, maybe, but our feelings of pity should be strongly tempered by one fact: The historical record is clear that economic progress is dependent on certain political and cultural characteristics, notably the rule of law and respect for private property. Neither of these is consistent with a readiness to hoist the Jolly Roger. So, before we feel too sorry, we should remember that one of the major reasons for Somali poverty is precisely because they are willing to engage in piracy as a profession.

Roger Barris, London

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Comments

  1. Henri Alster
    August 21, 2014

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    Full of sharp and judiciously chosen words as usual. Breezy read that makes one feel good for exposing human foibles and the scumbags that run the world. Well done.

  2. Roger
    August 21, 2014

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    Thank you, Henry.

    Whenever I read about some new corporate skulduggery and I am outraged, I always have to remind myself that the same type of people — or probably worse — also rise to power in the world of politics. Therefore, we have a choice: do we want these people in public office, with virtually unbridled power, or do we want them in the corporate world? In reality, we want them nowhere, but far better that they are in the latter place.

    Churchill famously said “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried”. Free markets should be judged on the same standard, instead of assuming that every market misdeed justifies a government response.

  3. Jane Danielson
    August 22, 2014

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    Thank you Roger for coming through again. Your insight, wit and power of the word always makes my day. You should do a daily post!

    • Roger
      August 22, 2014

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      Thank you, Jane, for the very kind words. With encouragement like this, I will definitely increase my output!

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