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A Congressman’s Job

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

A few weeks ago, The Washingtonian published a best of/worst of list about Congress. It stands out amongst other “tops” lists because the voting is done by White House staffers. This is what the employees think about their prima donnas. I mean bosses.

The most interesting winner appeared near the end, “Lobbyists’ Worst Enemy.”

The “Lobbyists’ Best Friend” category was topped by John Boehner and Eric Cantor. The “Worst Enemy”— which has to be the highest badge of honor on this list — is Justin Amash.

And if you are wondering why lobbyists might not take a shine to this Republican Representative from Michigan’s Third Congressional District, consider the calumnies his detractors directed against him.

Mike Rogers, also a Michigan House Republican, accused Amash of being “Al Qaeda’s best friend in the Congress” because of Amash’s well-known anti-NSA stance. Devin Nunes, from California’s Republican delegation, insisted that Amash “votes more with the Democrats than with the Republicans,” was not serious, and just liked siding with the GOP’s opponents.

A debunking in Rare (“America’s News Feed”), published in June, beat down all these charges. Not only has Amash voted with his party over 80 percent of the time, he’s voted against former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi more than any other Representative.

But there’s something more impressive about Amash, as Rare points out. He has voted every chance he got. He has the longest tardy-free voting record in Congress. And, furthermore, Amash explains, via social media, every vote he makes.

That is, he does his job.

No wonder lobbyists don’t like him.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

IRS Re-Unleashed

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

Outrageous. That’s the best word for the recent court decision letting the Internal Revenue Service off the hook for ideologically targeting organizations that apply for tax-exempt status.

True the Vote, which combats voter fraud, sued the Internal Revenue Service because of the tax agency’s deliberate obstruction of applications from Tea Party and conservative organizations like True the Vote. The long delay in approval was costly in part because many prospective contributors to TTV had been awaiting the granting of 501(c)(3) status before going ahead with their donations. True the Vote’s president, Catherine Engelbrecht, was also harassed by other government agencies after submitting the application to IRS.

Nevertheless, Judge Reggie Walton has cavalierly dismissed the suit, asserting that the eventual granting of the tax-exempt status means that the IRS had taken adequate “remedial steps to address the alleged behavior.”

Following the same exalted principle of jurisprudence, Walton would presumably dismiss charges against a mugger so long as at some point the arrested criminal had tossed the wallet back to his victim.

The dismissal, no matter how outrageous, is not in the tiniest bit surprising.

IRS personnel often behave as if they may assault our rights (e.g., to our bank accounts) with impunity, so long as they occasionally defer to our protests by announcing temporary or cosmetic reforms. Others in government cooperate in letting the agency run riot. Perhaps because they agree that the IRS (maybe themselves, too) should enjoy virtually unlimited power over us.

Or perhaps simply because they, like the rest of us, are scared of the IRS.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

The Military vs. Weather

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

The purpose of a military — unless invading places for the hell of it — is to wield violence against violent threats to your country. What else are all the tanks and guns for?

The putative threats haven’t normally included . . . the weather.

But that’s been changing.

We probably shouldn’t be surprised to learn that Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is on board with scare-mongering about catastrophic “climate change,” supposedly wrought by mankind’s industrial contributions of carbon to the atmosphere. But Chuck needs to study harder if he thinks that hurricanes, tornadoes, and other rotten weather — or, for that matter, changes in average global temperature — are anything new on this planet.

He also credulously accepts the most dire predictions about melting glaciers, rising sea levels, islands sinking under the ocean, rising emigration and global unrest, etc. And without a touch of irony avers that we must be “clear-eyed” about “the security threats presented by climate change, and . . . proactive in addressing them.”

How are soldiers supposed to “address” variations in weather except, like all of us, by proactively wearing coats, carrying umbrellas, turning on air conditioning, moving away from eroding shorelines, building arks, etc?

Drop bombs on coal plants?

Not quite.

Secretary Hagel wants defense ministers to start attending UN climate-change conferences, for starters.

In other news, scientists say the rate at which plants are absorbing carbon dioxide (green things love the stuff) has been substantially underestimated in climate models.

Just when you think you’ve got the enemy figured out. . . .

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Baghdad Boots

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

Are we being misinformed about the war now being waged against ISIS in Iraq and Syria?

Or should I call it a “counter-terrorism operation”?

Oh, I know there is an election in a few weeks, so we don’t want to bother the pretty little heads of our national representatives in Congress. They’re far too busy running for re-election.

And, though the president isn’t on the ballot, as he points out, his unpopular policies certainly are. Mr. Obama’s concern for his own political legacy must of course come before the ordinary lives of our sons and daughters that he has placed in harm’s way.

Get realpolitik.

Don’t expect a congressional debate over the U.S. commitment now. And give the Prez a break; he’s ordering enough airstrikes to supposedly keep a lid on things until after the election.

Chill out. Our commander-in-chief has repeatedly assured us there are no boots on the ground. Certainly, the city-within-a-city U.S. Embassy in Baghdad isn’t going to be overrun or anything like that.

Except, well, we do have boots on the ground. Or just above it, flying attack helicopters on combat missions . . . because ISIS soldiers have gotten within 15 miles of the Baghdad airport.

“The tool that was immediately available was the Apache,” explains Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “You’re not going to wait until they’re climbing over the wall. Had [ISIS forces] overrun the Iraqi unit, it was a straight shot to the Baghdad airport.”

Boots guard that airport. But who’s guarding truth, justice and the American way?

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

An Ebola Education

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) faces a tough re-election contest. Following his campaign, MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt inquired: “Do you think the Obama Administration has done an appropriate job handling the Ebola crisis?”

The senator responded with the universal politician distress call: “Uuuhhhhmmmmmm.”

Then Pryor stumbled ahead: “I would say that . . . it’s hard to know, ah, because, um . . . I haven’t heard the latest briefing on that to know all . . . [inaudible] can somehow read the paper and all. My impression is that we have people over there both from CDC and other medical-type people and even some engineers to try to build . . . um, you know, medical facilities. That’s what they need over there; they need the medical infrastructure.”

When Hunt asked whether the Administration had been “aggressive enough,” the senator returned to: “Uuhhhmmmmm. Again, I’d have to see the latest numbers.”

“Oh my god,” uber-liberal host Mika Brzezinski reacted to Pryor’s stumbling. “She asked a gentle question . . . and the guy just collapsed.”

“What was that, Kasie?” laughed Joe Scarborough. “Why were those questions so hard for the senator to answer?”

“I was a little surprised . . .” Kasie chuckled, noting that Sen. Pryor had earlier run a ludicrous TV spot accusing his Republican opponent, U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, of voting “against preparing America for pandemics like Ebola.”

One might think the incumbent senator actually followed and cared about the effort to combat a horrible disease that could kill untold people. Instead, it appears he knows Ebola only as a brickbat with which to slug a political opponent in hopes of staying in power.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Buy Whoppers to Oppose Whoppers

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown has proposed a boycott of Burger King. Try Wendy’s or White Castle instead, he urges.

Why? Are the Burger King burgers moldy now?

No, they’re still delectable. In fact, I’m stepping up my patronage of Burger King thanks to Brown’s attack. All who seek to productively improve their lives should follow suit.

For that’s the actual crime here. Honest self-improvement. Contrary to Brown, though, it deserves no chastisement.

Burger King has been caught pursuing an opportunity to improve its offerings and bottom line. It is buying Tim Hortons, a Canadian coffee-and-donut chain. It will also be moving its headquarters to Canada.

Why?

Because our federal government taxes corporate earnings more heavily than many other countries do, the Burger King move north means a smaller tax bite. More money for the shareholders.

And, thus, less money for Uncle Sam.

Fine with me. I don’t begrudge an honestly earned dollar. And our government’s wastrel ways  won’t be cured by ever-higher taxes on us. But if politicians fear the exodus of U.S. firms for tax reasons, why not eliminate that motive by reducing corporate taxes?

Brown gestures in the direction of lower taxes but also demands a “global minimum tax rate” to thwart absconders. Nah. Chuck the stick. Just use the carrot. Slash what U.S.-based firms must pay and American firms will stay.

Slash them enough and maybe successful foreign firms will move HQs here, too.

Entice the economic titans who benefit us so much; don’t chase them away. Instead of badgering with boycotts, inspire with freedom.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Foreign Policy Evacuation?

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

Last week, the United States closed and shuttered the embassy in Tripoli, Libya, evacuating from the country its personnel — 158 diplomats and 60 Marines. Fighting between two rival militias reportedly got so close that the embassy was actually being hit by stray small arms fire.

I certainly don’t object to the decision to pull people out. Seems prudent, especially in light of the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which left four Americans, including our ambassador, dead.

But the protective move sends an unmistakable signal about Libya and US foreign policy. Obama’s 2011 military intervention into Libya via NATO — famously promoted as “leading from behind” — has clearly and obviously failed.

Libya is in chaos, unsafe for Americans . . . or Libyans.

President Obama is hardly the sole leader deserving blame. Military campaigns launched by President Bush, who led from in front, haven’t worked, either.

After years of “pacifying” Iraq, at the cost of thousands of American lives, and building up Iraq’s military forces, the Iraqi army disintegrated at the first sign of conflict. The Iraqi government remains thoroughly corrupt.

Sadly, the same fate awaits the end of our nation-building stint in Afghanistan. A recent Washington Post story quoted Sgt. Kenneth Ventrice, a veteran of three tours in Iraq and now serving his second in Afghanistan, saying, “It’s going to fall a lot faster than Iraq did.”

These foreign interventions are failures.

But the biggest failure? Not to learn from our mistakes.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.