Sunday, June 7, 2015

(No Shortage of Acolytes for Rich Whites, and If Blacks Parrot Proper Paradigm, Whites Are Overjoyed)  Why CEO Pay Brings Inferior Results (See Citigroup History)   Rattlin' Wall Street! (JPMorgan Chase Waivering Letter of Aquittal at Losers)   King George's Revenge?  (Hyper-Rich Ready To Seize Total Power)

I hope my readers saw the all-too-evident new (but extremely familiar) hope for right-wingers' ability to write their own fantastic versions of history (reality), and attempt to fool a whole country, once again, with this recent story:

Lessons from Carolina:  Paying People to Not Work is Losing Policy, Tax Cuts and Reforms do Work

Except of course that it's a lie and uses fabricated figures to prove a point that can't be proved because it's not true. Unfortunately this won't stop them from lying about it as the right-wing team now running NC into the ground is not going to stop until NC's population is back to 1950's numbers and the people are back to 1950's wages. Except for those running things, course. The Pope/Koch Brothers' racket is working overtime now taking NC apart. And coming soon to a state near you.

Here's the essay that exposes some of the lies:

Stephen Moore Declares a North Carolina Miracle

The main lie is that 200,000 jobs were created (in Moore's mind anyway), while job creation, which was closer to 50,000, was far below that needed to make up for jobs being outsourced let alone to just stay even with the normal increase in population. The result of the current and deepening lower-class unemployment problem is that the charities and churches/religious organizations which try to serve the needy are at their limits in trying to provide food and services to the people out of work.

Thanks to my friend, R.J Sigmund for sending these essays to me.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _

And on another front of injustice ~

No one should experience any real surprise at the verdict and heartily announced death endgame of the Boston Bombing trial.

The CIA/NSA has an unlimited budget and a charter given by ignorant, naive politicians to do anything they deem appropriate to stop "terrorist" attacks.

Even fake terrorist attacks.

And if they happen to be real terrorist attacks, don't worry about having to explain any details.

Just do it.

(Oh, and wolves run in packs.)

Boston Bombing Core Mystery:  Why Are Feds Not Interested in This Man?

May 26, 2015 by Jill Vaglica

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been sentenced to death for his role in the Boston Marathon bombing, though important FBI statements were never heard at trial.

Now that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been sentenced to death for his involvement in the Boston Marathon Bombing, and the lengthy inevitable Death Row appeals process begins, the investigative work for conscientious journalists continues as well.

As readers of WhoWhatWhy know the case is chock full of unresolved issues, inconsistencies, and anomalies that cast doubt on whether we learned even the most basic truths of what happened on April 15, 2013, or why.

Perhaps most troubling is the FBI’s successful effort to minimize its prior relationship with Tsarnaev’s dead older brother, Tamerlan — a relationship that demands focused attention because of the Bureau’s long, documented history of placing its own assets inside violent plots as infiltrators or informants. A cast of “highly interesting” secondary characters have behaved oddly enough that any serious inquiry would focus on them.

One in particular draws our attention:  a Chechen native who immigrated with his family to Chelsea, MA in 2004, Viskhan Vakhabov. He received telephone calls from Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the bombings’ alleged senior conspirator, at two incredibly important moments:  right after the bombs went off, and right after Tsarnaev allegedly shot an MIT patrol officer and was about to commit a carjacking.

Yet federal authorities have bizarrely shown almost no interest in Vakhabov. Indeed, the FBI and Justice Department seemed only too glad to let the man avoid testifying in Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s trial. It is hard to see why those seeking the truth could possibly not consider Vakhabov crucial. The government appears to be shielding a man who may have crucial knowledge about the case, which supposedly was a “lone wolves” operation limited to the two brothers.

“I don’t have any comments or anything to talk about,” Vakhabov told "WhoWhatWhy" via phone.

Earlier, the government said that Vakhabov lied to the FBI about “matters of great import” relating to the Boston bombing investigation, according to a court transcript. But when Vakhabov refused to testify in court, citing his Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination, the prosecution fought to keep his FBI statements from being admitted into evidence.

Hiding What?

What could possibly be self-incriminating about Vakhabov’s statements to the FBI, if the Tsarnaevs (as the government claims), acted alone? Vakhabov spoke with the Tsarnaev brothers on their secret cell phones two hours before the carjacking on Brighton Avenue. Could Vakhabov have been in any way involved? If so, why hasn’t he faced any criminal charges?

Particularly interesting is that the government heavily redacted Vakhabov’s FBI 302 interview summary form. It could contain crucial and “self-incriminating” information relating to the bombing investigation—and specifically, the carjacking allegedly perpetrated by the Tsarnaevs after video with their images was released by the FBI three days after the bombings.

In order to justify that Vakhabov should be dismissed as an unreliable witness, prosecutor William Weinreb revealed in court some tantalizing facts about him. “I think it’s undisputed that Tamerlan Tsarnaev contacted him on April 18th, I believe, between the time that Officer Collier was murdered and the time that Dun Meng was carjacked,” Weinreb said. “And he has given quite inconsistent statements about what that conversation was about and about what Tamerlan Tsarnaev may have asked him or said to him.”

Why would Tamerlan Tsarnaev contact this man — or any person — while subject to an intense manhunt? Obviously, that call should have been important to investigators, perhaps even a crucial indicator of a larger conspiracy.

That phone call wasn’t even the only significant interaction between the two. According to phone records released by the DOJ last month, Weinreb failed to mention that the Tsarnaevs called Vakhabov from the prepaid “burner” cell phone account they opened in order to coordinate the bombings. Vakhabov is the only person they spoke with using the “burner” phone. Why did the brothers deem it acceptable to contact Vakhabov with this cell phone? If he had nothing to do with their actions, why not just call his number on their regular cell phones?

Last month, FBI Special Agent Chad Fitzgerald testified that Dzhokhar, or at least the phone registered under the name “Jahar Tsarni,” placed an 88-second call to someone at a number in the 617 (Boston) area code. This number traces back to Vakhabov. It was the first call Dzhokhar made on this burner cell phone since the day of the bombings. And, according to phone records released in court, Vakhabov’s number is the only one Dzhokhar called on this phone (other than his brother Tamerlan) since he opened the account on April 14.

*857-928-4634 is Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s cell phone

Vakhabov has registered numerous websites to the address of 26 Park Vale Avenue, Allston, which is more or less a five-minute walk from the spot where Tamerlan allegedly carjacked Dun Meng’s Mercedes at 60 Brighton Avenue.

Given his proximity in time and location to the Brighton Avenue carjacking, could Vakhabov know more about the brothers’ plans or in some other way be connected?

Despite the wave of arrests, brutal profiling, and harsh crackdown on Tsarnaevs’ former friends for the slightest infraction in the FBI’s Boston bombing investigation, the government decided to let Vakhabov go. It also heavily objected to admitting his 302 FBI interview report into evidence at Tsarnaev’s trial, despite the fact that this report contains statements of “great import,” according to the government itself. Why?

Vakhabov remains free, and the government has acted to keep his “self-incriminating” statements to the FBI from being admitted into evidence at court. This kid-glove treatment is in sharp contrast to the way the feds have treated Khairullozhon Matanov and Robel Phillipos, two former friends of the Tsarnaev brothers who have been charged with lying during a terrorism investigation.

Matanov allegedly called the Tsarnaevs 40 minutes after the bombing, and invited them to dinner. He initially lied to the FBI about the fact that he had driven the Tsarnaevs to dinner, downplayed the extent to which he shared a similar philosophical justification for jihad as the suspected bombers, and deleted his computer history during the week of the bombing, according to his indictment. Downplaying one’s religious and philosophical views does not violate any laws; indeed, it’s a First Amendment right. Through these actions, the government claims Matanov intentionally misled investigators and destroyed evidence. But was Matanov’s computer history as important to the Boston bombing investigation as Vakhabov’s misleading statements to the FBI?

Where are the witnesses

Other potentially important witnesses seem to have vanished from public view. One is the man who attended the Wai Kru gym with the brothers three days before the attack. He is now identified as Magomed Dolakov. After meeting Tamerlan Tsarnaev at a mosque in August 2012, one month after the elder Tsarnaev returned from a six-month trip to Russia, Dolakov regularly discussed radical Islam with him. Is this not a matter of great import?

Tsarnaev’s defense had hoped to utilize Dolakov’s 302 report, but it too is unavailable, according to the court trial transcript. Neither the government nor the defense can locate Dolakov, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s defense attorney Miriam Conrad told the court.

Given the extensive surveillance and even harassment of the Tsarnaevs’ former friends and associates by the the FBI, the inability of the government to learn Dolakov’s whereabouts is striking. Investigators used a single spy drone to monitor Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s friend Khairullozhon Matanov at his home in the Boston suburb of Quincy for over a year after the bombing.

This surveillance led to his arrest in May 2014, and to his guilty plea to the charge of making false statements in a federal terrorism investigation. Clearly, the authorities have the surveillance resources to locate Dolakov, if they wanted to. So why the hands-off treatment? If Dolakov had any prior knowledge of the marathon attacks from his regular discussions about jihad with Tamerlan Tsarnaev, why would the FBI not be interested in him?

Could he have been an informant for the FBI? Given that Dolakov met Tamerlan Tsarnaev at the mosque right after his return from six months in Russia, odds say it’s possible.

Is the government really unable to locate these witnesses? Are they under any sort of protection? If yes, from whom, and for what purpose?

Who is the third friend?

Dolakov reportedly told the FBI that he and Tamerlan Tsarnaev hung out with an unnamed third friend and discussed topics relating to Islamic terrorism.

In August 2012, according to, “Dolakov said he and Tamerlan went to a Quincy mosque together, after which they relaxed on a nearby beach with a third friend and discussed a recent suicide bombing.”

Khairullozhon Matanov lived and worked in Quincy. Could he be that unnamed “third friend”? If yes, what could he know about the relationship between Magomed Dolakov and Tamerlan Tsarnaev? Why did the FBI monitor Khairullozhon for over a year after the bombings before arresting him? Were they afraid Matanov would blow the whistle on matters of great import?

“The FBI is trying to destroy my life,” Matanov wrote to the Daily Beast last fall.

Historically, the FBI has targeted Muslim immigrants like Matanov to recruit informants. Refusing such recruitment is often a choiceless choice, with some recorded instances of the FBI torturing those who refuse.

After refusing to wear a wire for the FBI to speak with a former friend of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, another Chechen friend of Tamerlan, Konstantin Morozov, was detained. Morozov told the Boston Globe that the FBI offered to accept his application for political asylum if he cooperated.

Crackdown on Tsarnaevs Friends

Despite the official narrative adamantly claiming that the Tsarnaevs were lone wolves, the specifics of the FBI’s investigation show evidence to the contrary. There have been eight reported instances in which the Tsarnaevs’ friends and associates have faced charges for allegedly helping the brothers and misleading the FBI in its investigation.

Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov were charged in May 2013 with obstruction of justice and conspiracy after Kadyrbayev allegedly removed from the younger Tsarnaev’s dorm room and threw away a Jansport backpack that had shortly before been emptied of illegal fireworks.

But, Assistant US Attorney B. Stephanie Siegmann said neither of the friends’ DNA was found on it.

Dzhokhar’s friend Phillipos denied knowledge that Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov had removed the Jansport backpack from Tsarnaev’s UMass Dartmouth dorm room. Phillipos now faces up for 16 years in prison for these statements to the FBI.

If Vakhabov lied to the FBI about matters material to the investigation, why does the government refuse to prosecute him, while expending great time, effort and expense to imprison all these other men on what appear to be petty matters?

On Assassins and Assassinations


We are living in time of great change and lots of information never seen before get uncovered. I would like to join this positive trend by showing some more or less unknown connections between many major assassinations. The implications of these connections are enormous.

Just before the Bay of Pigs invasion, a super secret special team of skilled killers was put together under the name Operation 40. One of the leaders of the group was CIA’s David Atlee Philips, a key player in the plot against JFK.

. . . This cold-blooded killer was active very early in life. In the late 1960s, David Atlee Philips (backed by Henry Kissinger) sent Michael Townley to Chile with many covert tasks, one of them organizing covert groups to take part of the overthrow of president Salvador Allende.

Two of the group members were the killers Roberto Thieme and Julio Izquierdo Menéndez (both on location with Townley at the time of the Olof Palme-hit in February, 1986).

Operation 40 and Its Evil Spider Web

"Operation 40" was a Central Intelligence Agency sponsored undercover operation started in the early 1960s, which was to become active in the United States and the Caribbean (including Cuba), Central America, and Mexico as well as Europe and South Africa.

Allen W. Dulles, the director of the CIA, established Operation 40 after a confidential memorandum from Colonel J. C. King, chief of CIA’s Western Hemisphere Division. It obtained its name because originally there were 40 agents involved, mainly Cuban exiles. It was approved by President Dwight D. Eisenhower and was presided over by Vice-President Richard Nixon.

George Herbert Walker Bush was asked to cooperate in funding the group. The man assigned to him for his new mission was Féliz Rodríguez. This included finding private funding as a result of pressure from American corporations which had suffered at the hands of Fidel Castro.

One member, Frank Sturgis, allegedly told author Mike Canfield:  “This assassination group would upon orders, naturally, assassinate either members of the military or the political parties of the foreign country that you were going to infiltrate, and if necessary, some of your own members who were suspected of being foreign agents …”

Blue Dogs And New Dems Are Still Working To Undermine and Take Over The Democratic Party

The inestimable Driftglass intones solemnly:

And here is where the Very Serious People found their salvation, their battle cry and their new High Priest:  Mr. David Brooks - once Bill Kristol's loyal creature at the "Weekly Standard," now a columnist-for-life at the "New York Times" and the CEO of "Humility Incorporated" - pounding away, week after week, column after column for year after year, in a relentless artillery barrage of raw denialism and silky Both Siderism, all sheathed in the language of faith and piety of Mr. Brooks' Church of Lyin'tology.

From it's humble origins in the fiery wreckage of the Bush Administration, Mr. Brooks' "Church of Lyin'tology" has grown into a vast and profitable enterprise. Its hymns are sung on every Sunday by every member of the "Gasbag Cavalcade," and its dogma is scrupulously copied out in the editorial pages of virtually every major American newspaper. It's why Bill O'Reilly will never be fired no matter what he says or does, and why Joe Scarborough can lie with impunity for three hours a day, every day, on your Liberal teevee.

Because every member of the conspiracy knows that once any of them starts pointing fingers, naming names and demanding accountability - once demanding truth and consequences is permitted - their whole, multi-billion dollar sham starts to unravel.

But no matter how huge and powerful their confederacy of denial may be, the "Big Iraq Lie" is still the pillar of their temple. Defend that ground, and every other lie on which the Right and the Fake Center depends is strengthened.

Getting back to one of my favorite themes . . . how the god-fearing Christians explain that they deserve the riches they've stolen.

And the poor are poor because . . . they enjoy being dirty.

And eating McDonalds'.

Or something.

The Pathology of the Rich White Family
May 17, 2015

By Chris Hedges

The pathology of the rich white family is the most dangerous pathology in America. The rich white family is cursed with too much money and privilege. It is devoid of empathy, the result of lifetimes of entitlement. It has little sense of loyalty and lacks the capacity for self-sacrifice.

Its definition of friendship is reduced to “What can you do for me?” It is possessed by an insatiable lust to increase its fortunes and power. It believes that wealth and privilege confer to it a superior intelligence and virtue. It is infused with an unchecked hedonism and narcissism.

And because of all this, it interprets reality through a lens of self-adulation and greed that renders it delusional. The rich white family is a menace. The pathologies of the poor, when set against the pathologies of rich white people, are like a candle set beside the sun.

There are no shortages of acolytes and propagandists for rich white families. They dominate our airwaves. They blame poverty, societal breakdown, urban violence, drug use, domestic abuse and crime on the pathology of poor black families — not that they know any. They argue that poor black families disintegrate because of some inherent defect — here you can read between the lines that white people are better than black people — a defect that these poor families need to fix.

Peddle this simplistic and racist garbage and you will be given a column at "The New York Times." It always pays to suck up to rich white families. If you are black and parrot this line, rich white people are overcome with joy. They go to extreme lengths to give you a platform.

You can become president or a Supreme Court justice. You can get a television talk show or tenure at a university. You can get money for your foundation. You can publish self-help books. Your films will be funded. You might even be hired to run a company.

Rich white families, their sycophants opine, have tried to help. Rich white families have given poor people numerous resources and government programs to lift them out of poverty. They have provided generous charity. But blacks, they say, along with other poor people of color, are defeated by self-destructive attitudes and behavior.

Government programs are therefore wasted on these irresponsible people. Poor families, the sycophants tell us, will not be redeemed until they redeem themselves. We want to help, rich white people say, but poor black people need to pull up their pants, stay in school, get an education, find a job, say no to drugs and respect authority. If they don’t, they deserve what they get. And what the average black family ends up with in economic terms is a nickel for every dollar held by the average white family.

Starting at age 10 as a scholarship student at an elite New England boarding school, I was forced to make a study of the pathology of rich white families. It was not an experience I would recommend. Years later, by choice, I moved to Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood when I was a seminary student. I lived across the street from one of the poorest housing projects in the city, and I ran a small church in the inner city for nearly three years.

I already had a deep distaste for rich white families, and that increased greatly after I saw what they did to the disenfranchised. Rich white people, I concluded after my childhood and Roxbury experiences, are sociopaths.

The misery and collapse of community and family in Roxbury were not caused by an inherent pathology within the black family. Rich people who treated the poor like human refuse caused the problems. Layers of institutionalized racism — the courts, the schools, the police, the probation officers, the banks, the easy access to drugs, the endemic unemployment and underemployment, the collapsing infrastructures and the prison system — effectively conspired to make sure the poor remained poor.

Drug use, crime and disintegrating families are the result of poverty, not race. Poor whites replicate this behavior. Take away opportunity, infuse lives with despair and hopelessness, and this is what you get. But that is something rich white families do not want people to know. If it were known, the rich would have to take the blame.

Michael Kraus, Paul Piff and Dacher Keltner, social scientists at the University of California, did research that led them to conclude that the poor have more empathy than the rich. The poor, they argued, do not have the ability to dominate their environments.

They must build relationships with others to survive. This requires that they be able to read the emotions of those around them and respond. It demands that they look after each other. And this makes them more empathetic. The rich, who can control their environments, do not need to bother with the concerns or emotions of others. They are in charge. What they want gets done. And the longer they live at the center of their own universe, the more callous, insensitive and cruel they become.

The rich white family has an unrivaled aptitude for crime. Members of rich white families run corporations into the ground (think Lehman Brothers), defraud stockholders and investors, sell toxic mortgages as gold-plated investments to pension funds, communities and schools, and then loot the U.S. Treasury when the whole thing implodes.

They steal hundreds of millions of dollars on Wall Street through fraud and theft, pay little or no taxes, almost never go to jail, write laws and regulations that legalize their crimes and then are asked to become trustees at elite universities and sit on corporate boards. They set up foundations and are admired as philanthropists. And if they get into legal trouble, they have high-priced lawyers and connections among the political elites to get them out.

You have to hand it to rich white families. They steal with greater finesse than anyone else. If you are a poor black teenager and sprint out of a CVS with a few looted bottles of shampoo, you are likely to be shot in the back or sent to jail for years. If there were an Olympiad for crime, rich white families would sweep up all the medals; blacks would be lucky to come within a mile of the first elimination trial. I don’t know why black people even try to compete in this area.

They are, by comparison, utter failures as criminals. The monarchs of crime are rich white people, who wallow in their pilfered wealth while locking away in prisons a huge percentage of poor men of color.

Rich white families are also the most efficient killers on the planet. This has been true for five centuries, starting with the conquest of the Americas and the genocide against Native Americans, and continuing through today’s wars in the Middle East. Rich white families themselves don’t actually kill. They are not about to risk their necks on city streets or in Iraq.

They hire people, often poor, to kill for them. Rich white families wanted the petroleum of Iraq and, by waving the flag and spewing patriotic slogans, got a lot of poor kids to join the military and take the oil fields for them. Rich white people wanted endless war for the benefit of their arms industry and got it by calling for a "War on Terror."

Rich white people wanted police to use lethal force against the poor with impunity and to arrest them, swelling U.S. prisons with 25 percent of the world’s prison population, so they set up a system of drug laws and militarized police departments to make it happen.

The beauty of making others kill on your behalf is you get to appear “reasonable” and “nice.” You get to chastise poor people and Muslims for being angry fanatics. You get to spread the message of tolerance with a cherubic smile — which means tolerating the crimes and violence of rich white people.

Compare a drive-by shooting in Watts with the saturation bombing of Vietnam. Compare a gangland killing in Chicago with militarized police shooting a person of color almost every day. No one else knows how to churn out corpses like rich white people. One million dead in Iraq alone. And the rich and powerful kill staggering numbers of people and never go to prison. They can retire to a ranch in Crawford, Texas, and paint amateurish portraits of world leaders copied from Google Image Search.

There is no decadence like the decadence of rich white people. I knew a billionaire who in retirement spent his time on a yacht smoking weed and being catered to by a string of high-priced prostitutes. The children of rich white families — surrounded by servants and coddled in private schools, never having to fly on commercial airlines or take public transportation — develop a lassitude, sometimes accompanied by a drug habit, that often leads them to idle away their lives as social parasites.

Mothers never have to be mothers. Fathers never have to be fathers. The help does the parenting. The rich live encased in little kingdoms, one guarded by their own private security, where the real world does not intrude. They are cultural philistines preoccupied with acquiring more wealth and more possessions.

“Material success,” as C. Wright Mills wrote, “is their sole basis of authority.” They meld into the world of celebrity. And the organs of mass media, which they control, turn them into idols to be worshiped solely because they are rich. Public-relations specialists manufacture their public personas. Teams of lawyers harass and silence their critics. Acolytes affirm their sagacity. They soon believe their own fiction.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan in 1965 wrote what is known as the Moynihan Report, or “The Negro Family:  The Case for National Action.” The report concluded that “at the heart of the deterioration of the fabric of Negro society is the deterioration of the Negro family.”

The oppressed were to blame for their oppression. Social programs alone could not save the poor. The report offers a classic example of a neoliberal economic model repacked as an ideology.

The pathologies of the rich will soon drive us over an economic and ecological cliff. And as we go down, the rich, lacking empathy and understanding, determined to maintain their privilege and their wealth, will use their Praetorian Guard, their mass media, their corporate power, their political puppets and their security and surveillance apparatus to keep us submissive.

“The secret of a great success for which you are at a loss to account is a crime that has never been discovered, because it was properly executed,” Honoré de Balzac wrote of the rich in his novel Le Père Goriot.

The rich executed a coup d’état that transformed the three branches of the U.S. government and nearly all institutions, including the mass media, into wholly owned subsidiaries of the corporate state. This coup gives the rich the license and the power to amass unimaginable wealth at our expense.

It permits the rich to inflict grinding poverty on growing circles of the population. Poverty is the worst of crimes — as George Bernard Shaw wrote, “all the other crimes are virtues beside it.”

And the ability of a rapacious power elite to let children go hungry, to let men and women suffer a loss of dignity and self-worth because there are no jobs, to abandon cities to decay and squalor, to toss the mentally ill and the homeless onto the streets, to slash the meager services that give some hope and succor to those who suffer, to lock hundreds of thousands of poor people in cages for years, to wage endless war, to burden students with crushing debt, to unleash state terror and to extinguish hope among the least fortunate exposes our wealthy oligarchs as the most dangerous and destructive force in America.

Selected Comments:


The relation between wealth and sociopathy is well documented. Well done, Chris.

original_ekobe Peter Quinn

Bravo! Succinct and spot on. It can also spread to those climbing the same peak. I note Obama's personal wealth become public at almost 7 million which ought (to) double or triple after he leaves office tied to the 100K speaking circuit for a hours work. The payoff for eight obedient and loyal years to his handlers in the plutocracy.

Peter Quinn original_ekobe

In which, once again, we are told boldly that the NeoLib Cons are not even democrats, let alone Constitutionalists. They are, on the other hand (if you let them have their way), fascists.

Although "nice" people won't use that term.

Jeb Bush’s Favorite Author Rejects Democracy, Says The Hyper-Rich Should Seize Power

by Ian Millhiser

May 26, 2015

"Jeb Bush’s Favorite Author Rejects Democracy, Says The Hyper-Rich Should Seize Power"

Colonial British monarchs would find a lot to like in Charles Murray's new book against democracy

Pre-Revolutionary kings would find a lot to like in Charles Murray’s new book against democracy

(CREDIT: public domain via Wikipedia)
At the height of 2011’s debt ceiling crisis, then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) offered a candid explanation of why his party was willing to threaten permanent harm to the U.S. economy unless Congress agreed to change our founding document.

“The Constitution must be amended to keep the government in check,” McConnell alleged. “We’ve tried persuasion. We’ve tried negotiations. We’ve tried elections. Nothing has worked.”

The amendment McConnell and his fellow Republicans sought was misleadingly named the “Balanced Budget Amendment” — a name that was misleading not because it was inaccurate, but because it was incomplete.

The amendment wouldn’t have simply forced a balanced budget at the federal level, it would have forced spending cuts that were so severe that they would have cost 15 million people their jobs and caused “the economy to shrink by about 17 percent instead of growing by an expected 2 percent,” according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. It was, in essence, an effort to permanently impose Tea Party economics on the nation, and to use a manufactured crisis to do so.

Few politicians are willing to admit what McConnell admitted when he confessed that elections have not “worked” to bring about the policy Republicans tried to impose on the nation in 2011. Elected officials, after all, only hold their jobs at the sufferance of the voters, and a politician who openly admits that they only believe in democracy insofar as it achieves their desired ends gives the middle finger to those voters and to the very process that allows those voters to have a say in how they are governed.

Charles Murray, an author who GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush recently named first when he was asked which books have had a big impact upon him, is not an elected official, so he is free to rail against democracy to his heart’s content.

And that is exactly what he does in his new book, By The People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission.

Pay no attention to the title. Government “by the people” is the last thing Murray cares to see. Murray admits that the kind of government he seeks, a libertarian fantasy where much of our nation’s regulatory and welfare state has been dismantled, is “beyond the reach of the electoral process and the legislative process.”

He also thinks it beyond the branch of government that is appointed by elected officials. The Supreme Court, Murray claims, “destroyed” constitutional “limits on the federal government’s spending authority” when it upheld Social Security in 1937.

Since then, the federal government has violated a “tacit compact” establishing that it would not “unilaterally impose a position on the moral disputes that divided America” (Murray traces the voiding of this compact to 1964, the year that Congress banned whites-only lunch counters).

King George’s Revenge

Murray is probably best known for co-authoring 1994’s The Bell Curve, a quasi-eugenic tract which argued that black people are genetically disposed to be less intelligent than white people. Yet, while The Bell Curvepractically spawned an entire field of scholarship devoted to debunking it,” Murray remains one of the most influential conservative thinkers in America today.

Dr. Murray’s pre-Bell Curve work shaped the welfare reforms enacted in the 1990s. Former Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan cited Murray in 2014 to claim that there is a culture of laziness “in our inner cities in particular.”

Last April, when Jeb Bush was asked what he liked to read, he replied “I like Charles Murray books to be honest with you, which means I’m a total nerd I guess.”

So when Murray speaks, powerful and influential men (and his acolytes are, almost invariably, men) listen, including men who shape our nation’s fiscal policy and men who could be president someday.

By The People, however, rejects outright the idea that Murray’s vision for a less generous and well-regulated society can be achieved through appeals to elected officials — or even through appeals to unelected judges. The government Murray seeks is “not going to happen by winning presidential elections and getting the right people appointed to the Supreme Court.”

Rather, By The People, is a call for people sympathetic to Murray’s goals — and most importantly, for fantastically rich people sympathetic to those goals — to subvert the legitimate constitutional process entirely.

“The emergence of many billion-dollar-plus private fortunes over the last three decades,” Murray writes, “has enabled the private sector to take on ambitious national or even international tasks that formerly could be done only by nation-states.”

Murray’s most ambitious proposal is a legal defense fund, which “could get started if just one wealthy American cared enough to contribute, say, a few hundred million dollars,” that would essentially give that wealthy American veto power over much of U.S. law.

Murray, in other words, would rather transfer much of our sovereign nation’s power to govern itself to a single privileged individual than continue to live under the government America’s voters have chosen. It’s possible that no American has done more to advance the cause of monarchy since Benedict Arnold.

Madison’s Ghost

One of the heroes of By The People is James Madison, or, at least, a somewhat ahistoric depiction of Madison favored by Murray. Madison, as Murray correctly notes, favored an interpretation of the Constitution that would have made much of the modern regulatory and welfare state impossible (other members of the founding generation, including George Washington, interpreted the Constitution much more expansively than Madison).

Thus, Murray states in his introduction, “[i]f we could restore limited government as Madison understood it, all of our agendas would be largely fulfilled.” Murray even names his proposal for a billionaire-funded organization intended to thwart governance the “Madison Fund.”

In Murray’s narrative, Madison becomes a Lovecraftian deity — dead, but not entirely dead, and still capable of working ill in American society. In his house at Montpelier, dead James Madison waits dreaming.

The real James Madison would be shocked by this suggestion that his dead-but-dreaming tentacle could reach into the future and re-instigate long-settled battles over the Constitution. Needless to say, the view Murray attributes to Madison — the view that, among other things, would lead to Social Security being declared unconstitutional — did not prevail in American history.

And Madison, unlike Murray, was reluctant to displace well-settled constitutional law. As a congressman, Madison opposed the creation of the First Bank of the United States on constitutional grounds. Yet, as president, Madison signed the law creating a Second Bank.

He explained that the nation had accepted the First Bank, and he viewed this acceptance as “a construction put on the Constitution by the nation, which, having made it, had the supreme right to declare its meaning.”

Madison, it should also be noted, admitted late in life that his reading of the Constitution was not consistent with the document’s text.

Nevertheless, he argued that “[t]o take [the Constitution’s words] in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators.”

To his credit, Murray acknowledges that undoing the entire post-New Deal state is not a realistic goal. The Supreme Court, he laments, “never overturns a decision like "Helvering,” the 1937 case upholding Social Security, “because such a ruling would not be obeyed and the Court’s legitimacy would be shattered.”

Yet the limits Murray would impose on the federal government are simply breathtaking. All employment law, according to Murray, must be subject to the strictest level of constitutional scrutiny. So must all land use regulation, and all laws that fall into vague categories Murray describes as regulations that “prescribe best practice in a craft or profession” or that “prevent people from taking voluntary risks.”

If these limits were actually imposed on the federal government, the minimum wage, overtime laws, most environmental protections and financial reforms, many worker safety laws and even, potentially, anti-discrimination laws would all fall by the wayside.

The Koch Veto

To impose these limits on society, Murray claims that his Madison Fund can essentially harass the government into compliance. The federal government, Murray claims, cannot enforce the entirety of federal law “without voluntary public compliance.”

Federal resources are limited, and only a small fraction of these limited resources have been directed towards enforcement. Thus, Murray argues, by simply refusing to comply with the law and contesting every enforcement action in court, regulated entities can effectively drain the government’s resources and prevent it from engaging in meaningful enforcement.

The Madison Fund would spearhead this campaign of harassment, defending “people who are technically guilty of violating regulations that should not exist, drawing out that litigation as long as possible, making enforcement of the regulations more expensive to the regulatory agency than they’re worth, and reimbursing fines that are levied.”

There are, of course, a number of practical obstacles to this plan. One, as Murray acknowledges, is the need to find enough people with “billion-dollar-plus private fortune[s]” who are willing to contribute to such a campaign. Another is the need to find lawyers willing to risk their law licenses in order to become pawns in Murray’s game.

Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires attorneys to certify that they are not filing court documents “for any improper purpose, such as to harass, cause unnecessary delay, or needlessly increase the cost of litigation.”

The American Bar Association’s (ABA) Model Rules of Processional Conduct provide that a “lawyer shall not bring or defend a proceeding, or assert or controvert an issue therein, unless there is a basis in law and fact for doing so that is not frivolous.”

Admittedly, lawyers have more leeway in criminal cases, but the legal profession generally frowns upon attorneys who engage in the kind of legally meritless harassment Murray proposes.

Nevertheless, Murray’s proposal cannot be dismissed out of hand simply because it is built upon a foundation of frivolous litigation. The first Supreme Court case attacking Obamacare was widely derided as meritless — an ABA poll of legal experts found that 85 percent believed that the law would be upheld.

And yet the justices came within a hair of repealing the entire law. The lawyers behind a more recent attack on the Affordable Care Act, "King v. Burwell," make demonstrably false claims about the history of the law, and they rely upon a completely unworkable method of interpreting statutes.

But that hasn’t stopped at least some members of the Supreme Court from taking this lawsuit seriously. Conservatives simply have more leeway to assert meritless legal arguments than they once did.

Bad Advice

By The People is, at its heart, a work of constitutional law. It assesses what Murray believes to be fundamental flaws in our constitutional democracy and proposes a course of action that bypasses the Constitution.

Yet Murray is, by his own admission, not the least bit qualified to write such a book. “Not being a constitutional scholar myself,” he explains in a sidebar, “I have drawn my description of the key Supreme Court decisions and their historical context” from a rogue’s gallery of constitutional scholars who are very much on the outskirts of the field.

They include Obamacare antagonist Randy Barnett; Richard Epstein, a law professor who wrote an entire book arguing against employment discrimination laws; and Michael Greve, a man who compared the Affordable Care Act to the Holocaust.

Constitutional law is a rich and diverse field, and it is obviously difficult for a lay person to sort out reliable constitutional scholars from cranks. Nevertheless, here’s a pro tip for Dr. Murray:   if your constitutional advisers lead you to the conclusion that Social Security is unconstitutional, that’s a pretty good sign that you need better advisers.

So Murray has written a terrible book. It is at once credulous of fringe thinkers and contemptuous of American democracy. Yet he has also written a deeply revealing book about the nature of conservatism in the age of Obama. When President Ronald Reagan was in office, he spoke with the confidence of a man who believed that the American people were on his side.

Reagan pledged to appoint judges who support “judicial restraint,” a testament to Reagan’s belief that he did not need the unelected judiciary to enact conservative policies, and his administration’s understanding of the Constitution was decidedly moderate when compared to the ideas of men such as Barnett, Epstein and Greve.

Since then, however, the Republican Party has lost Reagan’s self-confidence. Instead, they reflexively turn to the judiciary when they are unable to win battles on health care, immigration, the environment, or a myriad of other issues. Democracy, as McConnell said in 2011, no longer works to give conservatives what they want.

Yet this strategy has yielded only mixed success. The Supreme Court rendered a key prong of Obamacare optional, but they kept the bulk of the law in place.

Religious objectors enjoy a right to opt-out of federal birth control rules, but the rules still bind most employers.

A high-profile Supreme Court attack on the Environmental Protection Agency barely ended with a whimper. Republicans dominate the Supreme Court, but these justices do sometimes temper their Republicanism with obedience to the law and the Constitution.

By The People, by contrast, bypasses the law entirely. It abandons even the trappings of a legitimate constitutional process, and instead places government in the hands of billionaires loyal only to an anti-government agenda. It is, in many ways, the perfection of post-Obama conservatism, barely even bothering to pay lip service to the notion that the American people should be governed by the people they elect.

But By The People is also more than an unintentional indictment of conservatism, it’s also a warning for liberals. In a 1993 tribute to the late Justice Thurgood Marshall, future Justice Elena Kagan wrote about a case, Torres v. Oakland Scavenger Co., that came before the Court during her year clerking for the legendary civil rights advocate.

The case involved whether an employment discrimination suit would fail because a lawyer’s secretary accidentally omitted the name of one of the plaintiffs from a court filing. Kagan and her fellow clerks pleaded with Marshall to say that this accident was not fatal, but Marshall refused, citing the essential role that obedience to legal rules play in protecting the least fortunate:

The Justice referred in our conversation to his own years of trying civil rights claims. All you could hope for, he remarked, was that a court didn’t rule against you for illegitimate reasons; you couldn’t hope, and you had no right to expect, that a court would bend the rules in your favor. Indeed, the Justice continued, it was the very existence of rules — along with the judiciary’s felt obligation to adhere to them — that best protected unpopular parties. Contrary to some conservative critiques, Justice Marshall believed devoutly — believed in a near-mystical sense — in the rule of law. He had no trouble writing the "Torres" opinion.
Men and women who seek to lift up the poor and the downtrodden, in other words, must rely on the law to do so. And this very enterprise depends on the law itself being afforded deference and legitimacy by officials who would rather disregard it. Meanwhile, men and women such as Murray, who wish to shield the already powerful from the forces of government, may do so either by making the law more favorable to the most fortunate or by tearing down the institution of law itself. In a state of nature, the strong man always eats first.

This is why liberalism is an inherently more challenging project than conservatism. Liberals must constantly fight a two-front war — supporting laws that extend opportunity broadly while simultaneously recognizing the legitimacy of many laws that undermine this goal. Charles Murray, meanwhile, can work within the edifices of government or he can simply decide to tear the entire edifice down.

No comments: