It may not be news in principle, but its still disheartening to learn the details of political corruption, rather like walking in on someone you knew was having in affair in theory before seeing them in flagrante delicto. Peter Schweizer lays out gory excerpts from his book, Extortion: How Politicians Extract Your Money, Buy Votes and Line Their Own Pockets in the New York Times. It makes depressing reading, but it is also very illuminating.
Schweizer describes “John Boehner’s ‘Tollbooth’, by which the Speaker of the House extracts money by soliciting political donations before he holds crucial votes on the House floor. He details the Obama “Protection Money” racket, where the Administration targets industries for criminal investigation but passes over the lintels of those who are key political donors. Doubtless Schweizer regales us with many other forms of this activity, but they boil down to the same thing.
Schweizer’s expose makes it easy to understand why the “showdown” over Obamacare and the debt ceiling was in many respects an act. It wasn’t about “yes” or “no” but always about ‘how much’.
Money, or rather the lack of it, is the root of all evil. And often the public, fatted on the narrative, is the last to know. We now learn that Federal Workers are going to get backpay for the days they missed and collect unemployment insurance for those same days to boot. That the Senate budget deal which ended the shutdown actually provided backpay as part of the bipartisan settlement. It turns out that nobody lost a dime in the crisis that was billed as the End of the World, unless of course you count the taxpayers. And they don’t count.
But you didn’t really need to read Schweizer’s book to guess what it says. Of late government officials have taken to hawking influence openly, from the housetops. The Washington Post noted that Kathleen Sebelius had “gone, hat in hand, to health industry officials, asking them to make large financial donations to help with the effort to implement President Obama’s landmark health-care law, two people familiar with the outreach said.” I wonder what she needed the money for. She had six hundred million and now has access to an unlimited debt ceiling, yet all the public has seen so far is what one tech professional described as a Third World website. Maybe a X billion from contributions gets it to Second World standard.
Note the use of the word: “outreach” in the Sebelius story. That’s the in term for when you have your hand out.
Or you can just read the Washington Examiner to understand why “immigration reform” will never die, no matter the outrage, no matter the consequences. It’s nothing to do with public policy, rights and wrong, mom and apple pie or even compassion for the poor Mexicans struggling to breathe free. John Yarmuth explains what it’s really about.
At a recent Congressional Hispanic Conference meeting, Democratic Rep. John Yarmuth, of Kentucky, noted that the forces of comprehensive immigration reform include vastly wealthy businesses willing to spend big to win. And the other side? “There is no money on the other side of the issue,” Yarmuth said. “There is nobody out there ready to spend $100 million against this.” For the pro-reform side, supporters like Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg — who wants looser visa standards for foreign high-tech workers — can rustle up that much with the help of a few Silicon Valley friends.
“There is no money on the other side of the issue” means that “immigration reform” passes. It’s that blatant. Politicians don’t even bother to hide the shakedown any more. Al Gore warned investors against investing in oil stocks because, you know what, that oil is never going to reach the market.
“The valuation of those companies and their assets is now based on the assumption that all of those carbon assets will be sold and burned. They are not going to be burned. They cannot be burned and will not be burned. No more than one-third can ever possibly be burned without destroying the future.”
It’s not going to reach the market because it has to go through the tollbooth, turnstile, protection agreement, reform and Al Gore. So take his word for it: don’t buy oil stocks.
There is among some ordinary people the belief that some guy on a white horse will save them from the toll collectors. But unless the Lone Ranger shows up history teaches that ordinary people just get the shaft, crumple up and die. Nobody came to save the victims of the Katyn Massacre in 1940 or now. “The European Court of Human Rights has ruled Russia did not violate the rights of the relatives of the 1940 Katyn massacre victims … The ECHR ruled it has no competence in verifying the adequacy of the Russian investigation into events which had taken place ten years before the European Convention on human rights was adopted.”
Did the Poles actually expect the European Court of Human Rights to get up on a white horse? Unfortunately, there isn’t much justice on the earth and what there is results either from personal effort or from God at the last trumpet. Near as history can tell the bad guys mostly get away. NKVD chief executioner Vasili Blokhin killed 7,000 Poles personally in Katyn, working at the rate of 300 a day. He even used a .25 caliber Walther pistol so his hand wouldn’t hurt.
Blokhin would stand waiting behind the door in his executioner garb: a leather butcher’s apron, leather hat, and shoulder-length leather gloves. Then, without a hearing, the reading of a sentence or any other formalities, each prisoner was brought in and restrained by guards while Blokhin shot them once in the base of the skull with a German Walther Model 2 .25 ACP pistol. He had brought a briefcase full of his own Walther pistols, since he did not trust the reliability of the standard-issue Soviet TT-30 for the frequent, heavy use he intended.
For his efforts he received the Order of the Red Banner from Stalin and even made the modern record books. “His count of 7,000 shot in 28 days remains the most organized and protracted mass murder by a single individual on record, and earned him the Guinness World Record for ‘Most Prolific Executioner’ in 2010.” If you don’t believe in God — and it’s not fashionable these days to — then you’ve got to admit, Blokhin got away.
But it’s people like Blokhin that compel us to define our lives. People like him, and to a lesser extent events like tollbooths and extortion make it hard to lamely sink back into indifference. They’re too obvious, too much like the devil walking in the broad day unfettered by either the European Court of Human Rights nor any other human agency to ignore. Once you realize that nobody will save you it is clear that you can’t go back to the six pack and featured game even if you could still afford the beer and cable.
The sophisticated elite laughingly say that only the foolish to believe in eternal justice. And by that they mean it’s best to be satisfied with whatever we get from them. But you might well argue that its even more foolish to believe in justice from human institutions. Because we ain’t going to get squat from them. So what’a a man to do? Camus once argued that the only meaningful question facing the thinking man was why he should not commit suicide. But Camus is wrong. The only real dilemma is why we should not choose to be like Blokhin.
If the bad guys win then we should hasten to join them. Board the gravy train. Don’t ask about justice. Ask Boehner instead for a job in the tollbooth. Don’t get outraged at the Obama shakedown. Focus on getting your share of the pie. Don’t expect an Obamacare website that works. Do you think the bosses care? Take a cue from Sebelius and use it as a tin cup to shake down some pennies. The despair of some old retired couple eating dog food to afford crappy Obamacare coverage should be the least of your worries. Forget that Global Warming is a fraud. The only fraud we should dislike is when we’re not part of the division of spoils.
To choose not to be like Blokhin is so unreasonable that being decent is really an act of faith that would put many a religious zealot to shame, though we seldom think of it as such. We should jump at the chance to be scoundrels. Why don’t we? The greatest mystery in the world is whatever possesses so many people to choose decency. We might think a miracle is a mountain levitating but that’s nothing beside the spectacle of humanity in age after age going on despite everything.
It can’t be because they hope for justice from the European Court of Human Rights. Fat chance of that. The only explanation is that some residual stubbornness or unquenchable hope condemns humanity to refuse to buckle under, so that there are always enough fools in each generation of the world to say, ‘hey carbon man, the hell with you’. And that keeps the world from going under. Not that it takes it to perfection, but it forces the match to another round, in a bout whose scorecard no one can predict. As Tolkien wrote of his mythical everyman: ‘We will bear the Ring, though we do not know the way.’
Did you know that you can purchase some of these books and pamphlets by Richard Fernandez and share them with you friends? They will receive a link in their email and it will automatically give them access to a Kindle reader on their smartphone, computer or even as a web-readable document.
The War of the Words for $3.99, Understanding the crisis of the early 21st century in terms of information corruption in the financial, security and political spheres
Rebranding Christianity for $3.99, or why the truth shall make you free
The Three Conjectures at Amazon Kindle for $1.99, reflections on terrorism and the nuclear age
Storming the Castle at Amazon Kindle for $3.99, why government should get small
No Way In at Amazon Kindle $8.95, print $9.99. Fiction. A flight into peril, flashbacks to underground action.
Storm Over the South China Sea $0.99, how China is restarting history in the Pacific
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