Nixon had an Enemies List. Obama has the Census.

Obamaschickens

I imagine that most presidents reach a point where they feel as if the White House is one gigantic, well decorated chicken coop and all — or at least many — of their chickens are coming flapping home. 

President Obama appears to be in the chickens-come-flapping-home phase of his presidency. It turns out that his chickens look a lot like vultures and the carrion they’ve been feeding on is the Constitution. 

Richard Nixon has his infamous “Enemies List” of people who got audited by the IRS and otherwise harassed by the government. He never got publicly called out on it, but I think Ronald Reagan did too. 

Ronald Reagan Richard Nixon

The reason I say that about President Reagan (who, I realize, is a bit of a minor deity to a lot of people,) is because I, and a lot of my Democratic colleagues ran afoul of something that looked suspiciously like partisan attacks by the government. Many of us were audited by the IRS, and I don’t mean just audited, we were put through a heavy wash cycle in which we had to verify every single line on our income tax report. Married? Produce your marriage license. Own your home? Show us the deed.

The IRS camped out in our kitchen and audited our one page report for weeks. We didn’t own businesses or have complex issues in that report. We didn’t drive expensive cars, live in a fancy house or otherwise live large. We had our salaries, regular paychecks, and that was all. We spent thousands, producing records for them, but unfortunately, we couldn’t produce them all. Some of the bank’s records were fogged.

In the end, they said that every dime we deposited in our checking account that we couldn’t provide a record for was unreported income. This meant that every deposit on those fogged records was charged as unreported income. They charged us for wedding gifts and birthday presents of less than fifty dollars, for small (one or two hundred dollar) transfers from our savings to our checking. They even charged us for our income tax return from the previous year. Every single deposit to our checking account which we could not source in writing got charged as unreported income. 

Then, they added fines and fees and interest on top this. It came to $5,000 we owed on a simple, one-page report. 

On the other side of the coin, someone in the Oklahoma Tax Commission took a reporter on a trip through the tax returns of several Democratic legislators. The source told the reporter that I hadn’t filed my tax return. The result? I ended up with a photo of me as the lead story in the Sunday paper for not filing my tax returns. The only problem is that the story was untrue. The newspaper had to print a retraction. 

The point here is that tax returns are supposed to be private. There are laws about this. Think about all the hullabaloo we have every four years about presidential candidates “releasing” their tax returns. 

This is the reason I haven’t written about President Obama’s behavior. I could not just shake and rattle with indignation about him and not talk about the simple fact that I know he’s not alone. Presidents and other government officials are using their powers to harass their political enemies. More than one of them has done it. 

It seems as if each president we elect has less respect for the Constitution and our freedoms than the one before him. Was I surprised that the president who has so little regard for the First Amendment that he signed the HHS Mandate also runs a government that spies on his enemies?

Nope.

What did surprise me is that some of the reporters the government was spying on seemed surprised that these violations of civil rights were directed at them. 

What did they expect? 

Were they under some illusion that you can be half pregnant? When you start knocking down the Constitution in the blatant fashion of the HHS Mandate, you’re telling the whole wide world that you don’t much respect that document or the freedoms it protects.

Despite all this, I have to admit that this latest revelation did take me aback. Richard Nixon had his enemies list. But it appears that President Obama has the census. His “enemies” appear to be the American people.

All our phone records and emails are evidently being poured into that big government database in the sky. The law enforcement fishing expedition has broadened to include all of us. 

7827The Patriot Act Posters1

The authority to do this is the Patriot Act, which leads me to our responsibility as citizens. Remember 9/11? Remember President George W Bush and his Patriot Act? Did you know what you were doing when you backed this guy in passing that law? 

If you didn’t know before, you do now. 

There are people who seem to have unlimited trust in the government to protect them. Not to protect everybody, mind you. Just them. They seem to think that we can enact laws repudiating the rights of all sorts of people, but those laws will never affect them. 

The Patriot Act and this spying on all of us puts that fantasy to the lie rather soundly. 

Now for the other dirty linen. It turns out that President Obama didn’t do this on his own. He informed every member of Congress, or, as he put it, our “duly elected officials” about what he was doing. In other words, all those guys in Washington, all those guys in Washington, have all of us on the government enemies list.

Sweet.

 

  • D. A. Christianson

    I agree with you wholeheartedly. And yes, I did have qualms, serious ones, about the Patriot Act.

    But in general, legislation pushed in the aftermath of an event as a quick cure for whatever we think we learned, is rarely correct. It may be but we need to stop and reflect for a while, not knee-jerk our way along. And that’s why I’m chary even of your proposal on tornado shelters, you may be right, in a lot of ways, I think you are, but we need to make sure we think things through before we make them law.

    And yes, at least now “We, the People” know who considers us their enemies.

  • AnneG

    Back in the ’80′s a very good friend of mine had the same thing happen with the IRS and tax returns. So did my father. Only they were both Republicans. As I recall, what happened was the IRS agents were rewarded in their performance evaluations for aggressively pursuing anything to increase tax liabilities.
    These incidents are different. They are directed against pro-life and pro-marriage as well as conservative political groups and include release of confidential information to opposing non-governmental organizations, a felony. There is also a cover-up. I think it is time to shut down the IRS.
    You seem to conflate that with tracking phone calls, not listening in on them. Besides being government intrusion and overreach it also confuses the issue of who should be watched. Several years ago, in an attempt to avoid “profiling”, what became TSA began random inspections at airports. Rather than looking for dangerous people they searched wheelchair bound grandmothers and 5 year olds.
    In a similar way the Patriot Act opened up a panoply of information that could be used against political enemies. Do you not see a political problem here?
    Corruption is a problem always. So is “reward your friends, punish your enemies.” Sounds like you were recipient of that principle.
    We cannot maintain our country without people, elected and voters who voluntarily obey the law.

    • hamiltonr

      Anne, I’m not sure I fully understand what you are saying. I don’t doubt that the IRS is auditing people who support traditional Christian values. I believe it. However, I do not thinnk that tracking private citizens’ phone calls where the sweep virtually the whole citizenry into it is a benign act, even if they claim that they are not listening in on them. (Notice I said, “claim.”)

      “We cannot maintain our country without people, elected and voters who voluntarily obey the law. ”

      True.

      • AnneG

        Sorry, too many things in a row. I don’t think they are listening to random phone calls, usually. They are collecting so much data that it becomes useless, but sits there in case somebody wants it. That isn’t good. I do not, though have a problem monitoring calls from some locations, nor from some people with even sealed subpoenas. The problem I referred to is a quote from Rahman Emmanuel and best describes the way politics does things, but particularly this gang from Chicago, the most corrupt place in the US. Repeal the Patriot Act, do away with the IRS and Homeland Security while you are at it.

        • hamiltonr

          I agree.

          • D. A. Christianson

            I think Anne’s point on the TX calls both right and wrong. I doubt they are listening to hardly any, although they may run some through what used to be called Echelon which looks for certain keywords. I think rather what they are doing is using the ‘metadata’, who called who (numbers not names) for how long and how often and who they called next etc. and anything else in the header.

            Harmless? Not even close to it. This is exactly the model that built Google into the largest corporation in history. Analyzed properly, it will tell you MORE than the contents.

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    I never heard that about the Reagan administration. You don’t think Liberals would have blasted that all over the news if that were true? You don’t think they would still beblasting it now? You’re also conflating a lot of things in that blog. The IRS scandal has nothing to do with the Patriot Act.

    I supported the Patriot Act and still do, if it’s still deemed necessary as Obama has declared the war on terrorism over. If the war is over, then perhaps the patriot act needs to end, but if not then it’s still needed. Remember, Abraham Lincoln suspended Habeas Corpus during the civil war. That’s the right to not be unlawfully detained. Every American citizen could be detained at a whim during the civil war. Obama as usual is all mixed up since he’s declaring the war over and still advocating war footing policies.
    The problem with Obama is the hypocrisy. He ran against this in 2008. This is about as sacriligious as you get for violating the Liberal religion. Obama has become Nixon.

    • hamiltonr

      Darn. I’ve fallen from statesman to nasty ole Democrat. :-)

      • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

        :-)

    • Jerry Lynch

      That Lincoln wrongly acted as a dictator during the Civil War justifies the Patriot Act?

      Here are a few things to consider, Manny:

      According to the Martin-Niemöller-Foundation the text is as follows, spoken about the Nazis:[2]

      First they came for the communists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

      Then they came for the socialists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.

      Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

      Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.

      Or this:

      Freedom of speech is a principal pillar of a free government; when this support is taken away, the constitution of a free society is dissolved, and tyranny is erected on its ruins.
      Republics and limited monarchies derive their strength and
      vigor from a popular examination into the action of the magistrates.

      Again from B. Franklyn:

      Sell not virtue to purchase wealth, nor Liberty
      to purchase power.”

      Or try these variations:

      They that can give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.

      They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

      Those Who Sacrifice Liberty For Security Deserve Neither.

      He who would trade liberty for some temporary security, deserves neither
      liberty nor security.

      He who sacrifices freedom for security deserves neither.

      People willing to trade their freedom for temporary security deserve neither and will lose both.

      If we restrict liberty to attain security we will lose them both.

      Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little
      security will deserve neither and lose both.

      He who gives up freedom for safety deserves neither.
      Those who would trade in their freedom for their protection deserve neither.

      Those who give up their liberty for more security neither deserve liberty
      nor security.

      • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

        Your argument may be reasonable, but please don’t substatiate it with third grade cliches. I understand the dangers of limiting freedoms, but unfortunately war requires it. Lincoln, who is considered a saint in American pantheon, limited freedom. So did Wilson in WWI, Roosevelt in WWII, and we had the draft system during the cold war and fairly large espinage beuracracy. If the war on terror is over, then let’s end it, but I think that is being near sighted and naive. Tracking phone calls is about as light an imposition as I can see.

        • Jerry Lynch

          But it’s not just tracking phone calls: have you been reading or watching the news? And call what B. Franklyn had to say on this issue as a “third grade cliche” if you will, yet he was there at the start and it would seem his notions would count for something.The war on terror is over in its former form.

          • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

            If it’s not just tracking phone calls, what else? No I have not heard.

  • FW Ken

    An important piece of our founding philosopher is a profound distrust of power. A fair few have carried this over into anti-government paranoia that’s not helpful (IMHO), but there is a truth to the old cliche: power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely Yes, the nation has survived abrogation of civil rights in the past; technology did not, however, provide for widespread tracking and data collection. A precedent has been set, and people of all political stripes should be concerned: if liberals can accomplish their goals through tyranny, so can conservatives. A true conservative wouldn’t, of course, but who was the conservative president? Eisenhower? Reagan and both Bushes expanded government dramatically to accomplish their goals.

    Another true cliche: the ends don’t justify the means.

  • tedseeber

    Every President in my lifetime has been significantly worse than the one before.

    And people wonder why I’m against the Constitution itself, as currently interpreted.


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