Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Paul Krugman, 12/19/05:
Now, I never had any illusions about intellectual integrity in the world of right-wing think tanks. It has been clear for a long time that so-called analysts at many of these think tanks are, in effect, paid to support selected policies and politicians. But it never occurred to me that the pay-for-play schemes were so blatant.

In fact, most deals between lobbyists and conservative intellectuals probably aren't that blatant. For the most part, people employed by right-wing think tanks don't have to be specifically paid to support certain positions, because they understand that supporting those positions comes with the job. Senior fellows at Cato don't decide, after reconsidering the issue, that Social Security shouldn't be privatized. Policy analysts at the Heritage Foundation don't take another look at the data and realize that farmers and small-business owners have nothing to gain from estate tax repeal.

But it turns out that implicit deals between think tanks and the interests that finance them are sometimes, perhaps often, supplemented with explicit payments for punditry. In return for Abramoff checks, Mr. Bandow and Mr. Ferrara wrote op-ed articles about such unlikely subjects as the entrepreneurial spirit of the Mississippi Choctaws and the free-market glories of the Northern Mariana Islands.
There will be the temptation to ignore the backstory - to treat Mr. Abramoff as a rogue, unrepresentative actor. In fact, before his indictment, Mr. Abramoff wasn't off on his own. He wasn't even a lobbyist in the traditional sense; he's better described as a bag man, running a slush fund for Tom DeLay and other Republican leaders. The point is that there really isn't much difference between Mr. Abramoff's paying Mr. Ferrara to praise the sweatshops of the Marianas and the Department of Education's paying Armstrong Williams to praise No Child Left Behind. In both cases, the ultimate paymaster was the Republican political machine.

And inquiring minds want to know: Who else is on the take? Or has the culture of corruption spread so far that the question is, Who isn't?
Hilzoy, 12/18/05:
Since the President apparently feels that he doesn't need to concern himself with what's legal, why can't we "afford to be without this law for a single moment"? How on earth could not having it "endanger the lives of our citizens"?

As far as I can tell, Bush and his crack legal team think that it wouldn't matter if the law said that he could order wiretaps only at midnight on Hallowe'en while dangling from a chandelier wearing a gold lamé evening gown and stiletto heels. He can do whatever he wants.

So why on earth does the fate of the PATRIOT Act matter to him?
The role of the Legislature is to write the laws and to impose taxes. The role of the Executive is to carry out those laws.... When one branch takes it upon itself to usurp the powers of the others, the separation of powers is threatened, and our liberty is at risk.
What George Bush has done, by signing his Presidential Order, is to produce exactly that accumulation of powers that Madison and the other framers of the Constitution were determined to prevent. He has decided to circumvent the courts' power to decide whether the government has enough evidence to place someone under surveillance, thereby removing a crucial check on executive power, and arrogating one of the powers of the judiciary to himself.
In addition, in deciding that he has the right to disregard clear statutes, President Bush is arrogating to himself the power of the legislature as well. The Legislature has the power to make laws; the Executive carries out the laws the Legislature has written. Had George W. Bush wanted to, he could have gone to Congress and asked it to change the laws. Instead, he decided to simply ignore them: to act as though he had the powers that the Constitution reserves to the legislative branch.

He is, essentially, claiming that he has the right not just to execute the laws, but to write them himself, and then to judge their application. Moreover, he claims the right to do this in secret. Were he to announce openly that he had decided to concentrate all the powers of government in his own hands, we could at least argue about whether or not we thought that was a good idea. But by acting in secret, he is, essentially, asserting the right to amend the Constitution unilaterally and without having the decency to let us know.
Shakespeare's Sister, 12/18/05:
The question each American, irrespective of political leanings, has to ask her- or himself is whether the circumvention of checks and balances, the evasion of official oversight, the subversion of civil liberties—including, possibly, your own—is, in the end, a bigger threat to freedom than the threats (of terrorism? of peaceful demonstration?) used to justify an abandonment of the rule of law in the first place.
Shakespeare's Sister, 12/17/05:
I always find it particularly curious when a self-identified born-again Christian seems so patently incapable of admitting being wrong, as forgiveness is such a significant part of Christian doctrine. When a Messiah has died for your sins, surely it indicates an expectation that you’ll commit some.

Back in July, Mannion penned (so to speak) a brilliant post on why (certain) conservatives feel free to cast the first stone, which included one of my favorite lines of all time:
[I]f Jesus were around today and a woman taken in adultery ran to him for protection and he said to the crowd, Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone, forty-six Republican adulterers would bean her with rocks.

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