By Karl Grossman | May 16, 2013
President Barack Obama got it right and wrong Monday when he stated, “If you’ve got the IRS operating in anything less than a neutral and nonpartisan way, then that is outrageous, it is contrary to our traditions.”
He was right in declaring it was “outrageous” for the IRS to target conservative organizations for tough tax treatment. But he was incorrect in saying “it is contrary to our traditions.”
For the U.S. Internal Revenue Service has for decades gone after organizations and individuals that take stands in conflict with the federal government at the time. This has been a tradition, an outrageous tradition.
It is exposed in detail by David Burnham, longtime New York Times investigative reporter, in his 1991 book A Law Unto Itself: The IRS and the Abuse of Power. He relates how President Franklin D. Roosevelt likely “set the stage for the use of the tax agency for political purposes by most subsequent presidents.” Burnham writes about how a former U.S. Treasury Secretary, banker Andrew Mellon, was a special IRS target under FDR. During the presidencies of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, he recounts, the focus of the IRS’s efforts “at political control” were civil rights organizations and those against the U.S. engaging in the Vietnam War. Nixon’s “enemies list” and his scheme to use the IRS against those on it is what the current IRS scandal is being most compared.
History Professor John A. Andrew III in his 2002 book Power to Destroy: The Political Uses of the IRS from Kennedy to Nixon—its title drawn from U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall’s dictum “The power to tax is the power to destroy”—focuses further on this tradition. He tells of how John F. Kennedy administration’s “Ideological Organizations Project” investigated, intimidated and challenged the tax-exempt status of right-wing groups including the John Birch Society. Then, with a turn of the White House to the right with Nixon came investigations, he writes, of such entities as the Jerry Rubin Foundation, the Fund for Investigative Journalism and the Center for Corporate Responsibility.
During the Reagan administration, I had my own experience with the IRS—ostensibly
because of a book I wrote. Nicaragua: America’s New Vietnam? involved reporting from what was then a war zone in Nicaragua and in Florida—where I interviewed leaders of the contras who were working with the CIA to overthrow Nicaragua’s Sandinista government—and Honduras, being set up as a tarmac for U.S. intervention in Nicaragua. I visited a U.S. military base there. The book warned against a U.S. invasion of Nicaragua (subsequently decided against by the Reagan White House after the Iran-contra scandal). The book was published in 1985 and soon afterwards I was hit with an IRS audit. It would be more, I was informed, than my showing up at an IRS office. The IRS was to come to my house for a “field audit.”
The investigator sat on one side of our dining room table and on the other side was me and my accountant, Peter Berger of Shelter Island. What would be an all-day event started with the investigator asking me to detail how much my family spent on food each week and then, slowly, methodically, going through other expenses. Then he went through income. He obviously was seeking to determine on this fishing expedition whether income exceeded expenses. He went through receipts for business expenses including restaurant receipts, asking who I ate with. He sorted through receipts for office supplies. By mid-afternoon, he had gotten nowhere. At that point, having been hours together, a somewhat weird relationship had been formed. And he began to tell me how his dream in college was to become a journalist. He expanded on that, and then asked: “Have you ever faced retaliation?”
“What do you think this is?” I responded.
He was taken back—insisting my name had come up “at random.”
In the end, all he did was trim some of what was listed as business use of my home phone.
Was I being retaliated against for the book I had written? One would never know. Recently, I ran into accountant Berger, now retired, and he commented about how that day at my house was the strangest IRS audit he had ever been involved in.
The IRS has been beyond reform. Burnham writes in A Law Unto Itself: The IRS and the Abuse of Power that a “political imperative of not messing with the IRS” has become “close to being a law of nature almost as unbending as the force of gravity.” It is “rarely examined by Congress.”
President Obama announced yesterday that the acting commissioner of the IRS was asked and agreed to tender his resignation as a result of the scandal. That’s a small start. Far more important is somehow ending the tradition of IRS political tyranny. Fundamental change in the IRS is called for.
Karl Grossman, professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College of New York, is the author of the book, The Wrong Stuff: The Space’s Program’s Nuclear Threat to Our Planet. Grossman is an associate of the media watch group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR).
The Syrian rebels would be immeasurably weaker today without al-Qaeda in their ranks. By and large, Free Syrian Army battalions are tired, divided, chaotic, and ineffective. Al-Qaeda fighters, however, may help improve morale. The influx of jihadis brings discipline, religious fervor, battle experience from Iraq, funding from Sunni sympathizers in the Gulf, and most importantly, deadly results.
– Ed Husein, Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations
It has been said that America’s last liberal President was Richard Nixon. Nixon set up the EPA, OSHA, and created the Clean Water Act. Additionally, he had a better health plan than Obamacare, and proposed a guaranteed minimum income. Nixon also implemented price controls, which notably — in recent history — Hugo Chavez, has been attacked in Western media, for introducing on basic foodstuffs and household goods.
1981 is said to be the breaking point of when the modern Republican Party began its failure in accepting that government has a role to play in propping up — and, moreover, aiding and abetting — Americans’ livelihood and well-being: the much ballyhooed advent of the so-called Reagan Revolution. This began the coalescing of a system of essentially two neoliberal, militarist, Wall Street political parties largely indifferent to the needs of significant sections of the American population.
We should keep this in mind considering that we have just been enduring the revolting, gross, and gratuitously self-congratulatory (taxpayer funded) spectacles of the — decrepit, moribund and abounding with cretinism — duopoly conventions. So, what are we to make of things after envisaging these überlurid, radically self-aggrandizing, and entirely putrefactive celebrations? For one it’s clear to me that a battle royale between Jill Stein and Gary Johnson would be a marked improvement over the bromides, platitudes, and, undoubtedly, soon-to-be-broken promises of the plutocracy’s kept candidates of their choosing.
Clearing brush, pork rinds, arithmetic, surreptitious tax returns, “presidential” beer recipes and gaffing vice presidential candidates, are about the utmost the level of “cerebreality” that these folks, unequivocally, want to “ascend” toward. Celebreality is much more important anyhow! That is to say, what kerfluffle has a prominent Scientologist befallen him or herself into at the present moment! This stock in trade is all the more important than wars and peace, progressive taxation (or a Tobin tax), guaranteeing health care, poverty, the Great Recession, unemployment, and the greatest disparity of wealth in all of the Western world!
On the foreign affairs front, the French have lurched forward into the preeminent imperialist role in the decapitation, sacking and dismemberment of the Arab Republic of Syria. The “socialist” Hollande is now planning to arm Islamist guerrillas who include voluminous battle-hardened Salafis, and even — the sometime NATO/Western mortal enemy/adversary — Al Qaeda. The neocon enemy image, in fact, which has eroded so many civil liberties in America; cast aside the Constitution and metamorphosized the country into a police/surveillance society and/or (take your pick!) ultra-security state.
Now, of course, Al Qaeda has been reborn as an ally planting “American” values against a regime that is unequivocally authoritarian, but not without its positive attributes. Which includes tolerance of a mosaic of religious and faith traditions, exceedingly low cost university-level education, and government subsidy of many basic provisions, foodstuffs, household items, and everyday wares. In fact, in 2005 the Christian Science Monitor ran an article about what an agreeable experience — that so many Americans were having — studying Arabic in the capital city of Damascus. The Arab Republic of Syria, even with all of its drawbacks, is certainly preferable to the theocratic, anachronistic, strict sharia caliphate “alternative” proffered by precisely the wild-eyed militants that the NATO/Western countries are currently so myopically and narrow-mindedly backing, and so vehemently in support of. (Many of them are not from Syria by the way. They are being brought in from Libya, Chechnya, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere — about 60% according to a Medecins Sans Frontieres doctor, who was only recently in the country.)
The French are no doubt stepping up the brazen adventure/interventionism, whilst the American political silly season places handcuffs on some of America’s hegemony; that might spell trouble for Beltway spin doctors to massage, repackage, gussy up, and/or twist or otherwise festoon for the voting “riffraff”, “the great unwashed”, and “the rabble”. Better off not to patently and intentionally seriously over-complicate, a (previously) unsophisticated and garden variety flimflam/deception.
In Libya some Muslim radicals, that are now readily operating in that country — and exceedingly armed-to-the-gills — recently destroyed some sacred Sufi sites, to no doubt christen the US/NATO-brought “freedom” to that country. This, undoubtedly, reminds one of the benighted mentality that led the Taliban to bringing about the batty-headed, incoherent, and lunatic bombing of the Afghan Buddhas of Bamiyan.
Of course, the ignominious Ronald Reagan christened the inordinately fanatical mujaheddin, as much like America’s own Founding Fathers. And perhaps, ironically, today our “democrats” in Libya would seem to be of rather similar rearing, upbringing, tack, style, attitude, worldview and overall demeanor. No doubt, anyone of any other faith would have a difficult run-in with these folks — should they encounter them in a dark alleyway — or, for that matter, any place at all! And moreover, anyone who has been persistently following the events in Libya since the “mainstream” media lost all interest in them, was not, of course, surprised at all to the see the Benghazi consulate attack — and the needless deaths that occurred there (sadly), as a result.
The Christians in Syria, who predominantly support Dr. Bashar al-Assad, know precisely what kind of “freedom fighters” that the West has taken great relish in seemingly infallibly, consistently and unflinchingly backing. In fact, Patriarch Gregorios III of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, has cautioned against foreign interventionism in his country, and furthermore accused the Western media of negligently misreporting on the conflict. A Syrian nun, Sister Agnes Mariam, has recently recounted that she personally witnessed the beheading of nine Alawite Syrians. According to the Sister, they were murdered simply for being Alawite, by, of course, the Western-backed “democratic”, and indeed, raucous proxy forces.
Clearly, an agenda of stopping development on a multitude of levels is an aspect of the pernicious strategy that appears to be at work here. Freedom, human rights, women’s rights, and rights of speech and expression are thinly veiled patinas for domination and “creative destruction” of a ravenous, retrograde, ignoble, antediluvian, and in-illustrious breed. Of course, America has never acted truly consistently toward Wilsonianism, but this is, certainly, a far cry from it, indeed!
Seemingly, that once great beacon on a hilltop has become a beacon of benightedness, for sure. Allied with some of the most backward absolutist monarchies, and the most obtuse of “pious” militants, death squads, and “Godly” roving “religious” warriors, miscreants, and thugs. Unfortunately, for Americans and non-Americans alike, Americans have virtually no choice in this matter at their polling places in the ongoing presidential election/food fight/sham. Either of the two candidates that are capable of winning will continue on with this sordid trash.
Fortunately, we seem to see other nations (and blocs) rising, unalike that of which we have envisioned in some time. Some examples, of course, include the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas), the Non-Aligned Movement, and the BRICS. This sort of thing, I think, is most probably the beacon lying abreast of today’s enlightened hilltop for all to look upon with great positive portent, and the highest and the utmost of regard.
The wanting of a world with the ending of these vicious cycles of domination, with “great powers” dictating schemes to “lesser”, and “inferior” subsidiary client nations. Of course, the new power configurations aren’t going to be any guarantee of rule by the diminutive, the genteel, the dignified, the noble — and the altruistically and the courageously strong. But at least there is new hope within these nascent rising power configurations. There is hope for elements to originate and to fully consummate that will far outweigh, if it even had any, the positive elements of the previous (ancien) global de facto administration/regime.
Sean Fenley is an independent progressive who would like to see the end of the dictatorial duopoly of the so-called two party adversarial system. He would also like to see some sanity brought to the creation and implementation of current and future U.S. military, economic, foreign and domestic policies.
- The Terrorist War Against Syria (intifada-palestine.com)
By HOWARD LISNOFF | April 6, 2012
In order to understand the roots of contemporary police repression in the United States, readers need to return to the Vietnam War era and the attempt of the government to squelch political activism through the use of a centralized system of monitoring and responding to domestic social action and peace movements.
The protest movement of the Vietnam era scared the hell out of the government. The decision of Lyndon Johnson not to seek a second term and the resignation of Richard Nixon (in addition to the specter of Watergate) were reactions to the peace movement and reflections of that fear. Images of Nixon holed up in the White House portraying himself disinterested in the protest movement are at odds with the paranoia that produced Watergate.
Nixon responded to the demonstrations on the streets of the US by putting into motion the apparatus to monitor peace activists around the nation. By the time Jimmy Carter took office, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (now under the Department of Homeland Security), originally given the responsibility to respond to disasters, expanded into the area of civil affairs. It was no accident that FEMA set up shop in places like National Guard armories around the nation and in other locations. The agency was given enormously expanded powers under the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, allowing it to coordinate state defense forces (Martin, Harry, V. “FEMA-The Secret Government,” Free America, 1995). Of course, all of this pales in comparison to the enormous powers that both George W. Bush and Barack Obama have added to an imperial presidency! Barack Obama has also given himself the power that allows for the assassination of US citizens deemed a threat to the country. A parallel development in policing that took off as FEMA enlarged its powers was the development of special weapons and tactics (SWAT) teams that resembled storm troopers, or alternately, the forces of darkness portrayed in movies like Star Wars. So, now there existed a centralized apparatus to respond to and track protest movements, and also to respond to them in a way that elicited terror for those who took to the streets in opposition to government policies and actions. It became routine to view nightly news broadcasts showing masses of police storming an area where a suspected criminal was located. Soon, these same shock troops showed up with regularity at protests in increasingly intimidating gear and in larger and larger numbers. Fast-forward over three decades later and it became expected that peaceful Occupy movements across the nation would be subjected to repression by SWAT teams and assaulted. Indeed, The Department of Homeland Security and Patriot Act gave added life to these shows of brute force in the face of peaceful demonstrations.
Now the police role of local, state, and national governments will be heightened by the 2013 completion of the National Security Data Center in Utah, run by the National Security Agency. Every communication, every traceable word, every electronic connection will be monitored by this spy agency. The data center is an Orwellian scenario in its intent and scope.
The tragic events of September 11, 2001 gave added sustenance to the security state mindset that is now routinely practiced on the streets of this nation. Occasionally, the security state spills over into what is routine policing. Incidents of police violence are now part of evening news telecasts. Such was the case in the police response to a mistaken call for help placed to a medical alert company in November 2011 in White Plains, New York.
Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr. accidentally activated the button on his medical alert device in the early hours of a November morning. When he cancelled the false alert, the police showed up at his apartment in force along with an officer dressed in SWAT riot gear. Police demanded entry into Chamberlain’s apartment. He opened his apartment door a crack and told the police to leave. They insisted on entering and removed the door by its hinges and shot the unarmed former Marine Corps veteran dead within minutes of their incursion into his home, but not before taunting him for responding with “Semper fi” in answer to police taunts (“Officers, Why Do You Have Your Guns Out?” The New York Times, March 5, 2012). Ironically, Kenneth Chamberlain had spent twenty years as a corrections’ officer. He suffered from a serious heart ailment. For Kenneth Chamberlain’s innocuous mistake of activating his medical alert device, he paid with his life. At least one officer from White Plains was also heard shouting racial epithets prior to the shooting.
So, whether protesting on the streets of the US or accidentally activating a medical alert device, we are no longer safe and secure within the US security state!
Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.