Monday, May 20, 2013

Ac 27 test, 6a: Thomas a Becket's ghost warns us about target-painting, sic- the- dogs political rhetorical tactics and the Obama administration's emerging IRS targetted auditing scandal (with direct applications to us all, as "life and death lie in the power of the tongue")

Sometimes, it is necessary to speak in strong warning, in the face of the charismatic aura that gives a halo to and shields very popular political figures. 

I wish I did not have to do so today, but this is one of them, regarding Mr Obama's administration in the USA, which is ever so wildly popular in the Caribbean. 

Popular because, at long last, a black man has been elected to the presidency of the USA and has also been re-elected.

Popular to the point that many in our region are unwilling to heed warnings about some very troubling things Mr Obama and his administration have said and done. (For instance, cf. an earlier KF blog post here about the ongoing civilisational watershed, attempted homosexualisation of marriage.)

But, being a champion for an oppressed race does not confer a right to act in a high handed abusive way -- that "end justifies means" notion, sirs, is the heart of Fascism . Where also, that abusive behaviour is on the table is plain from current events, even if Mr Obama has nothing specific to do with the ongoing emerging shocking IRS targetting scandal.

Nor, does cruel speculation by others about his paternity or other similar things, give any excuse. Two wrongs do not and cannot make one right.

To make the necessary point, I need to go back almost a thousand years.

One of the chilling moments of English history is the point where in 1170, a drunken Henry II Plantagenet, King of England, in words handed down orally, burst out regarding Thomas a Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury (and a former favourite): "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?" -- or words to that notorious effect. 

(It is doubtful that Henry II of England meant this to be understood as a death sentence or a warrant for arrest where refusal to go along would be worth the life of his former friend whom he had pushed through to become Archbishop of Canterbury in 1162 but who was now alienated because he had resisted the desires of the king in defence of the traditional privileges of the church. In those days, church and state were dangerously entangled -- a result of a situation where as the Western Roman empire collapsed under Barbarian influx, one of the few remaining institutions able to provide leadership and preserve learning and social order was the church. But, king Henry was about to learn how hard words, once spoken, can have terrible effects far above and beyond what one may want or intend. Let us beware, then, of the scripture that warns that life and death lie in the power of the tongue, and refrain from speaking poisonously in anger, whether hot or coldly calculated.)

The murder of Thomas a Becket, Dec 29, 1170;
on the drunken outburst of Henry II
(HT: Eyewitness to History, read the
eyewitness account at this linked)
Hearing these words, four knights -- hoping to curry favour thereby, took this as a command to arrest or kill the cleric if he resisted.

They promptly sailed to London, and on the evening of December 29th 1170, murdered the Archbishop with their swords; literally in front of the altar in Canterbury Cathedral, as a church service was in progress, in full view of the shocked congregants.

The degree of shock that ran through Europe can be seen from an eyewitness account of the final blow, delivered by the clerk who had accompanied the knights:
"As to the fifth, no knight but that clerk who had entered with the knights, that a fifth blow might not be wanting to the martyr who was in other things like to Christ, he put his foot on the neck of the holy priest and precious martyr, and, horrible to say, scattered his brain and blood over the pavement, calling out to the others, 'Let us away, knights; he will rise no more.'" [Eyewitness to History, giving Monk Edward Grim's account. Grim was wounded in the attack.]
No wonder, in just over two years, Pope Alexander III canonised the martyred Archbishop as a Saint, and no further wonder that the king, shaken by the course of events, tried to do penance for his sins.

This grim lesson of history, about what happens when -- even in a bout of reckless anger -- high officials sic their dogs on those they blame as scapegoats or label as enemies, has a particularly painful personal component for me.

For, one of my "aunties" from childhood used to operate a shop at the top of Mountain View avenue in Kingston. During the violence-tainted election of 1980, a woman speaking for one of the so-called "progressive" front  groups declaimed in the media as to how shopkeepers were hoarding and should suffer people-action consequences for so hurting the people. As a direct result, only a few days later, my auntie, not having stocks of rice [at this time, due to collapse of Jamaica's economy, shop shelves were often literally bare and keepers had maybe a last few items kept for friends and family . . . ], turned away someone who had come for rice. Shortly thereafter the man returned to the shop, accused her of hoarding, and shot her in the heart, killing her. She barely had time to kiss her son, who rushed up, goodbye. (So far as I know, the murder has never been solved. Nor were many hundreds of other murders in that dark, dark and bloody year in Jamaica's history.)

The spokesperson for the "progressivist" front group -- may its name live forever in infamy -- then went back on media to deny that she had any degree of responsibility for the consequences of her intemperate words in a time of high feelings and violent tempers.

For shame!

With those two contexts in mind -- one in the textbooks and one forever burned into my heart, understand then how I respond to the following excerpt from an article by Kimberly Strassel in the Wall Street Journal, regarding targetted harrassment by the IRS in the context of repeated public scapegoating, target-painting rhetoric by Mr Obama and others associated with his regime:
Was the White House involved in the IRS's targeting of conservatives? No investigation needed to answer that one. Of course it was.

President Obama and Co. are in full deniability mode, noting that the IRS is an "independent" agency and that they knew nothing about its abuse. The media and Congress are sleuthing for some hint that Mr. Obama picked up the phone and sicced the tax dogs on his enemies. [NB: it seems there are cases where that was in effect done, cf. here.]

But that's not how things work in post-Watergate Washington. Mr. Obama didn't need to pick up the phone. All he needed to do was exactly what he did do, in full view, for three years: Publicly suggest that conservative political groups were engaged in nefarious deeds; publicly call out by name political opponents whom he'd like to see harassed; and publicly have his party pressure the IRS to take action. 

Mr. Obama now professes shock and outrage that bureaucrats at the IRS did exactly what the president of the United States said was the right and honorable thing to do. "He put a target on our backs, and he's now going to blame the people who are shooting at us?" asks Idaho businessman and longtime Republican donor Frank VanderSloot.

In April 2012, an Obama campaign website named and slurred eight Romney donors. It tarred Mr. VanderSloot as a "wealthy individual" with a "less-than-reputable record." Other donors were described as having been "on the wrong side of the law." 

This was the Obama version of the phone call—put out to every government investigator (and liberal activist) in the land. 

Twelve days later, a man working for a political opposition-research firm called an Idaho courthouse for Mr. VanderSloot's divorce records. In June, the IRS informed Mr. VanderSloot and his wife of an audit of two years of their taxes. In July, the Department of Labor informed him of an audit of the guest workers on his Idaho cattle ranch. In September, the IRS informed him of a second audit, of one of his businesses. Mr. VanderSloot, who had never been audited before, was subject to three in the four months after Mr. Obama teed him up for such scrutiny. 

The last of these audits was only concluded in recent weeks. Not one resulted in a fine or penalty. But Mr. VanderSloot has been waiting more than 20 months for a sizable refund and estimates his legal bills are $80,000. That figure doesn't account for what the president's vilification has done to his business and reputation . . . .
The same threat was made to conservative groups that might dare play in the election . . . . The president derided "tea baggers." Vice President Joe Biden compared them to "terrorists." In more than a dozen speeches Mr. Obama raised the specter that these groups represented nefarious interests that were perverting elections. "Nobody knows who's paying for these ads," he warned. "We don't know where this money is coming from," he intoned.
In case the IRS missed his point, he raised the threat of illegality: "All around this country there are groups with harmless-sounding names like Americans for Prosperity, who are running millions of dollars of ads against Democratic candidates . . . And they don't have to say who exactly the Americans for Prosperity are. You don't know if it's a foreign-controlled corporation."
Short of directly asking federal agencies to investigate these groups, this is as close as it gets . . . ["Strassel: The IRS Scandal Started at the Top," WSJ online, u/d May 19th, 2012. "A version of this article appeared May 17, 2013, on page A13 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: The IRS Scandal Started at the Top." READ IT ALL, HERE.]
For shame!

 No wonder, then, that we saw the sort of incident commented on last time, where, simply for publishing a call for voters to vote in accord with Bible-based values (in a day where God and his word are routinely being vilified and Bible-believing Christians scapegoated as hateful bigots . . . ), known squeaky-clean major Christian ministries such as the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan's Purse were subjected to patently harassing audits.

Let me clip:
Frankly, with reports coming in of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan's Purse BOTH receiving first ever letters of notice of audit from the IRS, on the same day, shortly after publishing a "vote Biblical values" generic statement in a context that responds to the ongoing push to homosexualise marriage and other questionable trends, such is sobering. James Dobson's new Family-based ministry has been audited. And so on and so forth.
The letter Mr Franklyn Graham, son of Billy and head of both the BGEA and Samaritan's Purse, wrote to US President Obama on May 14th, is worth citing:
In light of what the IRS admitted to on Friday May 10, 2013,  and subsequent revelations from other sources, I do not believe that the IRS audit last year of our two organizations is a coincidence -- or justifiable. Yesterday you said, "If you've got the IRS operating in anything less than a neutral and non-partisan way, then that's outrageous, it is contrary to our traditions . . . "

Already, that is a red flag: there is no credible doubt that the IRS overstepped its bounds and in a way that targetted groups on one side of major politicised, morally tinged and government oriented issues. Nor is this merely a matter of violating traditions, it is a violation of basic rights and justice.
Graham continues, hinting at the point I have just made explicit:

Mr President the IRS has already publicly acknowledged it operated in a less than neutral and non-partisan way.  We also now know that the target of their improper actions was also much wider than political or Tea Party organizations. Will you take some immediate action to reassure Americans that we are not in a new chapter of America's history -- repressive government rule?
After the election
-->  What exquisite timing, the shadow of intimidation was maintained until after the main objective was achieved.
we did receive official notice that our organizations continue to qualify for exemption from Federal income tax and that our returns were accepted as filed. Unfortunately while these audits not only wasted taxpayer money, they wasted money contributed by donors for ministry purposes, as we had to spend precious resources servicing the IRS agents in our offices.  I am bringing this to your attention because I believe that someone in the Administration was targeting and attempting to intimidate us. This is morally wrong and unethical -- indeed some would call it "un-American."
This is shameful, a disgrace to decent government.
Given that the IRS is patently one of the most feared, powerful and intrusive US Federal agencies, the evidence of political agendas pushing a widespread [It is not just two rogue lower level officials in Ohio . . . Daily Mail documents for instance how harassment also came from California and Washington DC] fishing expedition -- hundreds of groups seem to have been involved, up to 300 - 500 on various reports --  targetting conservative, Christian and Jewish groups supportive of Israel, is of concern.
We need to take a sober look at this, and to listen to the ghosts.

Mr Obama, with such behaviour, you have irretrievably damaged your reputation and any good that you may otherwise have done.  You have set a terrible precedent.

Please, in the name of the ghost of Mr Becket, stop and make amends.

And the same holds across the board in the USA and across our civilisation, where the politics of poisonous polarisation taught by Saul Alinsky has begun to take deep root.

It is high time that such poisonous rhetoric that sets up political victimisation and so entrenches injustice in politics was stopped. Let us label it for what it is: moral corruption, by abuse of the bully pulpit conferred by high office; where underlings will naturally seek to please their overlords and will seek to avoid displeasing them, often without regard to justice.

Caribbean political leaders, near to hand and a thousand miles away alike, this is speaking to you. 

Speaking, whether you have spread subtle, cruel poison under parliamentary immunity or have given vent to nasty rumours, unflattering salacious stories and slanders from the campaign platform. Or the rum shop or the verandah or the club house or wherever else.

Senior Civil servants, ordinary officers in the Service etc, this is speaking to you.

Political henchmen, this is speaking to you.

Agitators and propagandists, this is speaking to you.

Journalists, news editors and columnists, this is speaking to you.

Teachers and even pastors, this is speaking to you [us].

Spreaders of malicious gossip, as well as more calculated smears and slanders, this is speaking to you.

Those who entertain such toxic rhetoric, this is speaking to you, also.

And indeed, this is speaking to all of us.

Not least, this is a wake up call to those of us who are tempted to put up political messiahs on a pedestal, like the idols of old.

Let us all pause, and soberly read the warning that the Apostle James gives us. 

Here, in the open source NET version:
James 3:1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, because you know that we will be judged more strictly.

For we all stumble in many ways. If someone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect individual, able to control the entire body as well. And if we put bits into the mouths of horses to get them to obey us, then we guide their entire bodies.  

Look at ships too: Though they are so large and driven by harsh winds, they are steered by a tiny rudder wherever the pilot’s inclination directs.  

So too the tongue is a small part of the body, yet it has great pretensions. Think how small a flame sets a huge forest ablaze. And the tongue is a fire! The tongue represents the world of wrongdoing among the parts of our bodies. It pollutes the entire body and sets fire to the course of human existence—and is set on fire by hell.

For every kind of animal, bird, reptile, and sea creature is subdued and has been subdued by humankind. But no human being can subdue the tongue; it is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse people made in God’s image. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. These things should not be so, my brothers and sisters. 11 A spring does not pour out fresh water and bitter water from the same opening, does it? 12 Can a fig tree produce olives, my brothers and sisters, or a vine produce figs? Neither can a salt water spring produce fresh water.

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct he should show his works done in the gentleness that wisdom brings. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfishness in your hearts, do not boast and tell lies against the truth. 15 Such wisdom does not come from above but is earthly, natural, demonic. 16 For where there is jealousy and selfishness [NIV, '84: "envy and selfish ambition"], there is disorder and every evil practice.  

17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, accommodating, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial, and not hypocritical. 18 And the fruit that consists of righteousness is planted in peace among those who make peace.
God, speaking though his apostle, has given us sobering, grim warning.

Let us repent, and  let us by God's grace heed it. END