Corruption

We're Having a Party

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So you're a New York politician. One of your colleagues is facing allegations that he hoarded rent-controlled apartments, cheated on his taxes, and committed various other financial improprieties. Oh yeah, he also headed up the House committee that writes tax policy until forced to step down in disgrace. But golly. It is his 80th birthday. What do you do? Isn't it obvious? You throw him a big birthday bash, and celebrate the man's commitment to public service!

I think my favorite allegation against Rangel is the one where he's not in trouble because he offered hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks to companies in exchange for a donation to the City College of New York to support a new wing named in his own honor. He's in trouble because he solicited those donations on official House stationery.

Because that besmirches the integrity of the institution.

(Photo via TPM. Video via Huffington Post.)

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  1. Where is Lee Harvey Oswald when you need him?

    1. I have reported the above death threat to the appropriate Federal authorities. They should be tracing your physical address now.

      Online forums must not be allowed to degenerate into havens for violent and criminal behaviour. I have faith that federal intervention can uphold the finest of American values and standards.

      1. I knew I could count on you for supporting the effort to edsel all of those who would be participating in the federal intervention.

        Don’t worry, I won’t leak the above.

    2. Where is Special Sauce?

      1. For those of you in WTF land: reference.

    3. I think he’s dead. (Jack Ruby shot him)

  2. You know, when I’ve pushed hard on the idea of adding a new branch to the federal government–the Censor–I’ve always felt that the two hardest parts were (1) minimizing political/partisan motivations within the branch and (2) building in adequate checks on the Censor’s removal powers.

    I’m now thinking that maybe the Censor doesn’t need that many checks on its removal powers. Even if motivated at times (depending on the people in the branch) by politics, that’s fine–yank ’em all out. God knows most of them are corrupt as all get-out, regardless of whether such corruption is tolerated or not.

    1. The problem then, ProL, is that politicians become beholden to the Censor’s whim (if they don’t like you, you might get yanked), and the Censor then becomes incredibly powerful as all the politicians try to stay on their good side.

      This is why I’m an anarchist, because there is no solution for human nature. You can come up with a zillion different plans to circumvent and restrain the very human lust for power, and they will all fail. Some may fail more slowly than others, but in the end, they will all fail.

      Why bother with the bullshit pretense that government is anything other than a system that those with the desire for power will learn to game anyway, and actually proves no obstacle to them at all? It’s much cleaner to stop with the farcical “laws” and just be honest about it. Sure, strongmen will appear, but it’s not like they don’t now. I mean, if your local police chief hated your guts, you’d be fucked. At least in an anarchistic society you could shoot him if he fucked with you.

      1. I hear you, but the problem is that we’re not getting rid of government altogether. All we can do is to try to reduce the power of it. Unfortunately, you’re right that it seems inherent in government to grow in power and scope.

        In all seriousness, I think the checks on the power of something like the Censor would have to be considerable, and it’s possible that such power would be too great and would destabilize our system.

        Historically, the Roman republican system did pretty well until the censors began to lose power. Not to suggest that’s remotely the main cause of the collapse of the Republic, but I think it was instrumental.

        Long term, we’re fucked. It’s built into our DNA.

        1. The Republic destabilized because the tribunes gained too much power through populist means and it freaked the Senate out.

          Regardless, the only thing that will help the liberty-minded is having new frontiers, which right now, we have none of. Space may be the next one, but we’re not even near being able to make it a frontier, so for now, those of us who are seeking greater liberty are fucked.

          Especially you.

          1. In fact, I do take it as a personal attack on my liberty.

            I’m retiring on Mars at Musk’s planned city.

            1. Planned city? That’s crap. Mars is wild, untamed! I’m forming a cadre of Martian Knights, charged with enforcing Martian law!

              1. I meant planned in the sense that he intends for there to be a colony on Mars for him to retire to. Not planned in the bureaucratic sense.

                Or maybe he just “plans” a big home with him and fifty dancing robot girls.

                1. Robots or Barbeaubots?

                  (stop me if you’re not a Sealab 2021 fan)

                  1. Never saw it, but I did watch Maude.

              2. Dibs on Sir Phobos.

                1. I dub thee Sir Phobos, Knight of Mars, Beater of Ass. Be a hitter, babe.

                  1. The key is to hit real hard… With the bat.

                    1. Silence! I am enforcing the sacred law of the Red Planet.

                      You two! Me and Ares are a little tired of all this sinning!

          2. I disagree about the tribunes, by the way. If you want to talk about large issues, the key one was probably the rise of the populists. The grievances of the plebs and other less-than-enfranchised groups were legitimate, but after they won some victories (including installing the plebeian office of tribune), the political predators moved in and used populist causes to destroy the constitution and cease power.

            1. Sorry, seize. Nobody ever willingly ceases power. Except maybe Cincinnatus and George Washington. Ever.

              1. “Except maybe Cincinnatus and George Washington.”

                You really have to give washington a tremendous amount of credit as a unique exceptional human being. He could have become a cromwell or naplolean if he wanted to.

                1. Hmm…

            2. You don’t think that the ascendancy of the Gracchi brothers to power, and their subsequent assassination, was a pivotal cause of the destabilization of the Republic?

              1. They highlighted the problem (especially when the Senate murdered not one but both brothers), as did Marius and, later, Caesar. Once politicians realized they could circumvent the constitution through violence and catering to the mob, the whole trick was up.

                1. Don’t forget the way in which the loyalty of the soldiers shifted from “Rome” to their generals. There’s no violence like marching an army over the Rubicon, you know?

                  1. Once violence becomes an accepted part of your political system, it’s inevitable that the guys that can do the most violence will try to take power.

              2. I rememer the Gracchi brothers. Such nice boys. They had a trash-hauling business in Hoboken didn’t they?

        2. I hear you, but the problem is that we’re not getting rid of government altogether. All we can do is to try to reduce the power of it.

          Stefan Molyneux put forward an interesting argument that basically says the smaller and less intrusive a government is to start with, the more likely it will end up growing rapidly into empire and subsequently collapsing.

          It sort of enters a cycle like this:
          1. Small government leads to active market lots of innovations
          2. Successful market leads to larger government revenue
          3. Larger government revenue leads to larger and more active government
          4. Repeat steps 1-3 until government expands in size beyond the market, strangles the market in an effort to sustain itself, and inevitably collapses (while usually hitting “empire” status along the way).

          For historical examples, he uses pre-empire Rome, the mostly free-market Britain in the 19th century turning into an empire, and the US in the 20th.

          1. The U.S. had a pretty good run as a limited government until the first half of the 20th century.

            1. You could probably say the first 20 years of the 20th set the stage for rapid growth. Teddy Roosevelt’s Big Stick Diplomacy, Woodrow Wilson, the early Progressive movement, the Temperance movements, the Income Tax, the Federal Reserve, the entrenchment of public schools.

              These institutions are about 100 years old at this point, I don’t think America will ever go back to being a limited-government republic.

              1. I agree that the Progressive movement and some of the other fun and games in the early-to-mid 20th set the stage for an accelerated expansion of government, but, in many respects, we could still claim to have a relatively limited government for a good part of the last century.

                1. Pro, go back a few years. Up to 1860. Need I ask what does limited government have in common with the incarceration of thousands of newspaper reproters, editors and publishers? Or the imposition of the income tax? Or the deportation of a sitting congressman?

                  Ah, but perhaps the above are just trifles.

                  1. I didn’t mean to suggest it was perfect. We also had slavery, and states actually regulated some things that would appall us today.

                  2. libertymike, you are such a racist for even asking those questions.

          2. What about me?

          3. This is an excellent theory. The only reason our government can take 50%+ of our income through taxes, fees, etc. and not have us burn the fucker down and hang the politicians is that we’re so fucking prosperous that we can still have pretty good lives after being stolen from.

            Prosperity makes for bigger government.

            1. The prosperity made us tolerant of government actions that didn’t obviously subtract from that prosperity. The question is, when is the friction of government on the engine of prosperity too much? I think we’re getting near a breaking point now, but whether that means we take one step back and fifty steps forward (and off the cliff), or it means that we blow up and end up with something entirely new is anyone’s guess.

              Which is why a new life awaits me in the off-world colonies.

              1. Nothing blows up, we just enter a long stagnant decline. There’s a lot of people that buy into the propaganda that we are the best, most free, most liberal society in the world. Until there is a clear and viable alternative, government will leech off people who will continue to brag about how their shackles are the most comfortable.

                1. Personally, if we don’t somehow reverse the trend (I’m dubious that we will, at least for more than a short time), I expect that we’ll fade, with a more authoritarian state and increasingly more obvious socialism or some other kind of command-and-control system.

                  1. I’ve been thinking the same. I think it’s inevitable, and I’m really really curious what the breaking point for cash-heavy innovative companies is going to be. The biggest indicator of decline will be when the big market innovators decide that costs of being in the US outweigh the benefits, and start to move overseas (while still selling products here, of course).

                    1. I wonder if the slight market liberalization we seem to be seeing in Europe could become a full-blown repudiation of the nanny state? If so, there’s at least potential that we’ll pull out of this in a few decades.

                    2. There will generally be a see-saw action as less-well-off nations and states try liberalizing in order to pull capital from the more established but regulation heavy giants. The thing is, I would have expected more of this over the last decade, but everyone seemed to be going for tons more government. Maybe it’s gotten bad enough for some locations to try again.

                    3. Actually, SE Asia, India, and China are where the liberalization side of the see-saw probably took effect in the last decade. It’s just the West that’s been going full-throttle for tons more government.

  3. Alt-text me. Now.

    1. “Hey! Hey, everybody, check out my Howard Dean impression!”

  4. What position do you need to assume? This position foo.

  5. Well, he seems to have had good dental work. Does the House Health Plan cover Dental?

  6. “It burns! It burns us!”

  7. Three Olives vodka was considering Rangel for their next “what’s your O-face?” ad. In a lateral move, they went with Lil’ Kim instead.

  8. I’m now thinking that maybe the Censor doesn’t need that many checks on its removal powers. Even if motivated at times (depending on the people in the branch) by politics, that’s fine–yank ’em all out.

    But the pool of qualified replacements is infinitesimally small; not just anybody could do the job Maxine Waters does.

  9. Sucky Sucky!! Me love you long time!

  10. Or.

    This is my “O, O, O” face.

  11. I always wonder what it would be like to be in Congress. While I know that I’m not corruptible and that I’d spend my one term voting no and sponsoring government-gutting bills that would get ignored, I do wonder if being up there distorts your view of reality, given all the bullshit you hear. Stay there long enough, and you could really lose your way.

    Not me, of course, because I’d be out after one term. For not bringing home any bacon.

    1. Pro Lib, after a while in office:

      “I will face the peril! I will face the peril!”

      1. I get plenty of peril from my wife, thank you very much.

    2. Having an army of sycophants can distort your perspective, and there is no shortage of sycophants in DC. A lack of critical feedback is a bad, bad thing, as even the best of us make mistakes.

      For people in the business world, the market may provide feedback even if no one else does. For politicians, who are not completely accountable, and only have to get more votes than one other person every two, four, or six years, the feedback loop is far less rigorous.

      1. That’s a good point. Just like with celebrities, politicians don’t hear the word “no” often enough. Or, better yet, the words “That’s fucking stupid. Are you a moron?”

        1. Are you serious??

  12. I favor the “presumption of guilt” for anyone who draws a paycheck from the government.

    1. There’s something to be said for that. Certainly to the extent of tossing someone out of office (not criminally prosecuting them), I think the standard should be more “Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion” than “Beyond a reasonable doubt.”

    2. I’m okay with that, a long as I’m exempt.

  13. Why are they orange?

    1. Well, as anyone “in the know” is aware, the dark skins found on some politicians are actually the product of rub-on tanning lotions. In fact, the country is entirely run by white men. Yes, and that means there’s something else I have to tell you.

  14. Charlie Rangel!

    1. Nice. That was the pinnacle of all things Dave Chapelle/Charlie Murphy.

  15. Get up offa that thing and dance!

    Yes, celebrity is a great alibi.

  16. “I feel good!”

  17. Release the kraken!!

  18. You left out the best part: it’s called The Rangel Center for Public Service. Remarkable, 40 years of pissing away others people’s money.

    Don’t get me wrong, I like Rangel, and Sharpton. You don’t see dudes with old school conks all the time. I think they should keep Rangel around like Milton in Office Space. Just let him get up and ramble on about some nonsense from time to time.

  19. This is only to be expected in a legislative body where a member who calls someone a liar is sanctioned and denounced in the media, while actually lying is accepted as daily business.

  20. click on my name,you can find cheap watches

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