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January 31, 2007

U.S.S.A.
Posted by Patrick at 08:23 AM * 89 comments

You’ve probably heard about this by now:

WASHINGTON, Jan. 29—President Bush has signed a directive that gives the White House much greater control over the rules and policy statements that the government develops to protect public health, safety, the environment, civil rights and privacy.

In an executive order published last week in the Federal Register, Mr. Bush said that each agency must have a regulatory policy office run by a political appointee, to supervise the development of rules and documents providing guidance to regulated industries.

You know, there’s a word for that kind of political appointee, chosen for their loyalty to the party line, and dispatched to enforce it at every level of the system. Ah, there it is: commissar.

Avedon Carol had the most succint response:

If you thought Brownie did a heckuva job, just imagine every single agency being run by political appointees who are free to overrule any standard of professionalism, and probably will.
Of course, along with their constant efforts to punish civil servants who step out of line, the transformation of the civil service into a patronage machine has been a Bush administration priority since Day One. Plenty of you reading this were probably fine with this, since for you the words “civil servant” and “union” summon up images of lazy postal workers. You know what? You’ve been played.
Comments on U.S.S.A.:
#1 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 08:45 AM:

Ooo. A Political Officer? Wow. I didn't think the country formerly known as the Soviet Union still had those. So when do we get to call each other "comrade," or maybe we'll just say "tax payer."

#2 ::: Nix ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 08:52 AM:

That's `Consumer', I think.

#3 ::: Pete Darby ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 09:00 AM:

"peon", "Dupe" and "mark" are also acceptable.

#4 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 09:15 AM:

Meanwhile, here in the UK, Lord Levy, fundraiser for Tony Blair, has been charged with Conspiracy to Pervert the Course of Justice.

Two countries, divided by a common something or other.

#5 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 09:17 AM:

Huh. Do you folks have a "Nightwatch" program running yet?

#6 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 09:27 AM:

Not USSR, I think; more Mexico. (In some ways that is worse.)

#7 ::: Pablo Defendini ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 09:56 AM:

Bush has done irreparable harm to this country. . . (dons tin foil hat) and I still have my doubts as to whether he and Cheney will relinquish power in '09 (/tin foil hat).

#8 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 10:06 AM:

What amazes me is that a majority of voting (not officeholding) Republicans can't seem to get thier heads around Hillary Clinton with that kind of power. They just keep blindly supporting Bush for the most part.

None of them realize that, if Hillary Clinton gets that kind of power, she's not going to abandon it.

And it's looking an awful lot like a Democratic Senate, House and White House in 2008, barring an actual coup.

If there's a coup, my family has land in New Zealand. If not, I look forward to the cries of anguish from Republicans as President Clinton (or Obama) uses the vast powers Bush grabbed for the presidency.

#9 ::: Nangleator ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 10:07 AM:

Pablo, I have the same fear in re: relinquishing power. There may be some sort of 'emergency' late '08 which will require 'extraordinary measures' to ensure our 'safety.'

I suppose if that happens, I can report to the Ministry of GoodHistory to use my skills photoshopping inconvenient nonpersons out of the public record.

#10 ::: theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 10:14 AM:

Well, I do wonder how long I can ethically keep working at the USEPA after the political commissars are in place. It's been bad enough with them editing the science out of the regulations; if they're going to do it with the guidance, I may simply have to quit.

#11 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 10:26 AM:

#9 Nangleator, that would be the Ministry of Truth, and I'm already working on my internship application.

#10 theophylact, that's exactly what they want the good people (read competent and know what they're doing, not "they're 'good people', luvey") to do.

#12 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 10:28 AM:

Huh. Do you folks have a "Nightwatch" program running yet?

(outgeeking) IMPEACH PRESIDENT CLARK NOW!

#13 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 10:39 AM:

Dave Bell writes in #4:

Meanwhile, here in the UK, Lord Levy, fundraiser for Tony Blair, has been charged with Conspiracy to Pervert the Course of Justice.

Man, your crimes just sound better than ours.

#14 ::: Barbara ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 11:15 AM:

delurk... Harrumph! My beloved husband, the "lazy" letter carrier, has his time, movement and productivity per minute electronically monitored at multiple time swipe stations on his route. Plenty of us reading this might wish to likewise tag Bush admistration cronies ....relurk

#15 ::: retterson ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 11:17 AM:

Eh? I missed something -- isn't every agency already run by political appointees?

This executive order (from what I understand) adds clarity to a position created by Clinton.

#16 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 11:18 AM:

The ongoing demonization of Civil Servants, Beauraucrats, and Attorneys (especially trial attorneys, and double-especially tort-oriented trial attorneys) is a deliberate program to render the average person powerless, helpless, and without hope of entry to the system of power.

#17 ::: Pablo Defendini ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 11:43 AM:

Nangleator, exactly. To make matters worse, there's already some sort of faint precedent, in how Rudy Giulliani held on to the mayor's office for a few months after his term was up, in the wake of 9-11. October surprise indeed.

#18 ::: Katie W. ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 12:11 PM:

Nangleator @ #9: "Pablo, I have the same fear in re: relinquishing power. There may be some sort of 'emergency' late '08 which will require 'extraordinary measures' to ensure our 'safety.'"

Then we all get to don our Guy Fawkes masks and blow up the Houses of Parliament.

Oh. Wait. Wrong country. Still. Every time I watch that movie I see more and more of Bush's machinations in it.

Hopefully we've learned our lesson and aren't going to let him hijack any more elections.

And Re: The original post-- I've NEVER believed that about union workers. My parents both taught for over thirty years (each) and some of my earliest memories are picketing the district office on behalf of the teacher's union. We have pictures of me at four years old, bundled up against the cold, holding a sign bigger than I am and screaming at passing cars.

But don't get me started. Bush has made it clear that he's a union breaker and I have no tolerance for people who don't respect the need for unions. (Plus you just know he's the kind of guy who would cross a picket line without any hesitation.)

#19 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 12:24 PM:

Katie W 18: I really wanted to have a demonstration where everyone wore Guy Fawkes masks and just walked up to the fence in front of the White House and stood there. Staring. Silently.

I don't understand why no one made a consumer version of the masks worn in that movie.

Oh, well. We probably would have been shot at Rove's orders, anyway.

#20 ::: vjstewart ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 12:36 PM:

I quit a B5 forum once when it became clear everyone thought GW was Sheridan fighting the Islamofascist Shadows. *shudder*
vj

#21 ::: moe99 ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 12:53 PM:

Chalmers Johnson, a highly regarded historian has taken a broader look at what is going on and it is not just sobering but fear inducing. There's a good discussion started over at the Talking Points Memo subset, The Muckraker and it's worth your while to take a look and reflect.

Chalmers Johnson on Nemesis

#22 ::: Zeborah ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 01:01 PM:

Xopher @19: There was one, sort of: http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2006/11/349938.shtml

#23 ::: theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 01:04 PM:

#11 Steve Buchheit,

I've been at EPA since 1978. Lived through the acid reign of Ice Queen Ann Gorsuch. Even Reagan didn't go this far; he wound up having to replace Gorsuch with the decent Ruckelshaus to repair the damage done.

This administration never admits, never apologizes, never repairs.

#24 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 01:05 PM:

Johnson's view is grim.

Thanks for that link.

#25 ::: pat greene ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 01:13 PM:

NASA has been hit with this before. Now it won't be possible to get rid of the political operative.

Lysenkoism. It's what's for dinner.

#26 ::: RedMolly ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 01:44 PM:

This sounds sort of like Hugo Chavez' recent pronouncement re: scrapping and remaking the Venezuelan constitution, but with much less discernible humanitarian impulse behind it.

#27 ::: FungiFromYuggoth ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 01:51 PM:

#5 - back in 1996, the big banner at Bob Dole's election night headquarters was "Election Night Watch". That second space might have been a typo...

#8 - I think you're underestimating the ability of the right wing to pivot its beliefs for polical reason. In other words, It's Okay If You're A Republican.

#28 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 02:01 PM:

FungiFromYuggoth: (27)
back in 1996, the big banner at Bob Dole's election night headquarters was "Election Night Watch".

I want to see the Rembrandt version, even though the subject matter is more Norman Rockwell.

Sorry, brain-snag. Carry on.

#29 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 02:03 PM:

Bill, #13

Consider this:

At the high Co[ur]t of Justice for the tryinge and iudginge of Charles Steuart Kinge of England January xxixth Anno D[omi]ni 1648.
Whereas Charles Steuart Kinge of England is and standeth convicted attaynted and condemned of High Treason and other high Crymes, And sentence uppon Saturday last ˆ was pronounced against him by this by this Co[ur]t to be putt to death by the severinge of his head from his body Of w[hi]ch sentence execuc[i]on yet remayneth to be done, These are therefore to will and require you to see the said sentence executed In the open Streete before Whitehall uppon the morrowe being the Thirtieth day of this instante moneth of January betweene the houres of Tenn in the morninge and Five in the afternooone of the same day w[i]th full effect And for soe doing this shall be yo[u]r sufficient warrant And these are to require All Officers and Souldiers and other the good people of this Nation of England to be assistinge unto you in this service Given under o[ur] hands and Seales

We've done this sort of thing before.

#30 ::: PurpleGirl ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 02:07 PM:

Pablo @ 17: Guiliani wanted to hold onto the mayoralty, very much so, and the idea was floated to postpone the election in 2001. It was soundly shot down and he left office on schedule and Bloomberg took over.

#31 ::: Jeffrey Smith ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 02:11 PM:

My feeling is that how harshly W will be judged by history will depend on how long it takes the country to recover from his Presidency. My guess as to that: Not in my lifetime.

And as someone who has spent most of his working life in the public sector (including a stint as a letter carrier) -- I've seen a lot of people shaving corners (parenthesis one: just like in the private sector) (parenthesis two: hey, I'm at work right now), but I mostly see a lot of people doing their jobs.

#32 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 02:16 PM:

Pablo, my memory says Giuliani tried to get his term extended, but failed. I've been unable to find anything online that contradicts this memory.

#33 ::: Annalee Flower Horne ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 02:16 PM:

oh for Chrissakes.

I'm starting to seriously consider just staying on this side of the pond until after we inaugerate the next guy (or gal; I'm not picky).

On the Nightwatch/clark jokes:
in early 2002, we started seeing advertizements in bus stops that were just white lettering on a black background-- slogans like "God Bless America," "United We Stand," and "If you're not with U.S., you're with them."

Someone covered over a few of them with "War is Peace" and "Ignorance is Strength," but my personal favorite was this set a geek must have gotten to first. They read: "The Corps is Mother. The Corps is Father," "Trust the Corps," and "Obey." I just about died from laughing.

#34 ::: Heatherly ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 03:20 PM:

...delurk:
With respect to Avedon Carol's response, this idea for a political cartoon was the first thing that jumped to my mind. (Which I will never create, lacking any artistic ability):

Box 1: Bush congratulating Brownie with the remains of N'awlins in the background. (Date noted)
Box 2: (April 2007): Bush congratulating Anonymous Appointee 1, standing in front of a factory of some sort, workers proudly removing all air quality controls--with all parties having gas masks hanging from their belts.
Box 3: (May 2007): Bush congratulating Anonymous Appointee 2, standing in front of a massive logging operation, a sign for "Olympic National Park - Old Growth Forests" being cut down by the first logger.
Box 4: (August 2007): Bush congratulating Anonymous Appointee 3, cutting the ribbon to re-open a public high school, all the children smiling tightly, their bibles clutched to their chests. Several of the students are wearing head scarves or yarmulkes.

Having no artistic ability, however, I will have to simply forward this article onto friends and family, with thanks to PNH...and hope that I am being overly paranoid.

...relurk

#35 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 03:24 PM:

I have a simpler cartoon idea that popped into my head this morning:

The Statue of Liberty bent over in pain and involuntarily, the pointy headdress converted into a spiked collar spikes inward, being anally raped by a certain person from Texas...

#37 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 03:48 PM:

Paula:

Fix that link!

#38 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 03:52 PM:

Yeah, I want to read that! That could make my day.

#39 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 04:00 PM:

Here's the link directly:

http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/013107Z.shtml

And trying again to make it hyperlinked...

Cheney's Handwritten Notes Implicate Bush in Plame Affair

#41 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 04:06 PM:

I guess this explains why Bush has been so careful not to testify under oath.

#42 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 04:15 PM:

I think it's even MORE notable now, that when Fitzgerald announced the charges against Libby, in an extremely frustrated tone of voice, he said that the charge against Libby was lying because there were so many lies involved from all sorts of different people that it was impossible to get truthful information to base any other charges on....

#43 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 04:16 PM:

It also explains why Bush said he'd fire the leaker -- he knew he couldn't fire himself.

#44 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 04:18 PM:

Will any honest Congresscritters in the House of Representative PLEASE stand up and charge the Executive Branch of US Government include the fellow nominally the President, the Vice President, the past and current Attorneys General of this misadminstration, Karl Rove, etc. etc. etc. with high crimes and misdemeanors of conspiracy to evade US law including various Amendments to the US Constitution in Bill of Rights, and US law about going to war and invading sovereign nations? ...

#45 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 04:29 PM:

#39, #40:

Looks to me, when you get down to the copy of the handwritten note, that what was crossed out was not "this Pres" bt rather "the Pres". I base this on the fact that all the other "i"s are very clearly dotted, and that one is not--the squiggles look exactly like the "the" two words earlier.

Which, I think, might make it even more explicit?

But what does it do to the evidence if the witness(es) misread it?

#46 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 04:44 PM:

I find the continued existence of this kind of note, with that emendation, as nothing short of amazing. It blows away any assumptions I had about how this trial was going to come out.

More popcorn, please -- no butter.

#47 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 04:46 PM:

AP wire headline at LA Times website:
Bush: Link Exec Salaries to Performance

Gee, can we do that with his salary? (To do it properly, though, he'd have to be paying us.)

#48 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 05:07 PM:

No, Retterson, every agency isn't run by political officers, and that wasn't a policy of Clinton's.

#49 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 05:14 PM:

Gag Order G(e)orge... who said it would be so much easier if here were a dictator...

However, belief does not necessarily make Reality, it can affect it, though not always the way the Believer wants Reality affected...

The neocon Beliefs about the results of invading Iraq, and reality were massively divergent.

#50 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 05:21 PM:

Concerning these new "regulatory policy" departments, I think we are seeing one of the Bush team's reactions to the November results. There are ways in which Bush is dealing with the same issues that other presidents have, but is choosing more and more drastic measures as his influence declines.

One consistent problem for Presidents, since WWII at least, is the problem of the "permanent government", and organizational capture of their administration. As soon as a president finishes the oath of office, the permanent government looks at him or her, and thinks, "We were here before you, and we will be here when you are gone." This is the problem of iron triangles, the systems of reciprocal support between congresscritters, regulatory agencies, and interest groups. (You might consider the various components of the military industrial complex as good examples.) A president has a program to enact, and a limited amount of time to do it in. The permanent government often resists these changes. Also, there is a tendency for executive appointees to identify more strongly with the agency they are serving in, instead of with the president and the president's policies. For example, Reagan's SecDef Caspar Weinberger was widely considered to have been "captured" by the Pentagon. White House staff openly wondered "Who the hell does he work for anyway," and many Reagan staffers who had been friends would not talk to him after he left office.

Every president has the problem of somehow establishing and keeping influence within the permanent government, and many have failed at it. (A reason why second terms often end badly. The permanent government has little interest in the opinion of a lame duck -- or a dead one.) Bush 41 hasn't had that problem until now. With solid Republican control of both houses, and the (temporary) success of the K Street Project, Bush had leverage on two of three sides of the iron triangle. Regulatory staffs, as a result, have had little defense against presidential interference. There was little in the way of the wholesale dismantling of many kinds of regulatory work, even the most necessary. Abramoff was a feature of this system, not a bug.

One day last November changed all that.

The war in Iraq is a sideshow to most of the interests that put Bush in office. These folks want results that accrue to their various bottom lines either in money or power. If he does not produce results for them, as he has so richly up to this point, they will have no further use for him, and look somewhere else. So much for the Bush dynasty.

The problem is that this bunch has shown no real concern for what they leave behind them. Forget Broder and his hissy fits over Clinton, this is the crowd trashing the place. I see no sign that this gang cares about what happens in the next administration -- they plan to be comfortably settled somewhere else at that point. The political battle of 2008 has started -- not just over who will be President, but what will be left to be President of.

#51 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 05:26 PM:

The Louis XIV approach, he had not interest in France lasting beyond his death....

"After me, nothing" or some such sentiment.

#52 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 05:31 PM:

Bush's other big act against government workers this year is that he didn't give them the same percent raise as the military got for the second year in the row. Apparently people in offices are not as valuable.

Paula, #35, I have a slightly more subtle piece of beadart in the design process -- I have all the parts, just need to finish the graph for the US. It will have a miniature kitchen table with a beaded US laid out on it. Alaska, Hawaii, Florida, and Maine will all be chained to the table legs and black/red drop beads will be coming out of the mid-Atlantic states and falling to the ground. Standing right there will be an oil tower. The title is "Crude."

#53 ::: karen marie ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 07:25 PM:

i guess you guys are just catching up with me ... right after the 2004 election i bet my brother $20 that bush would declare martial law before the end of his second term. and i don't even own a tinfoil hat.

#54 ::: karen marie ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 07:29 PM:

i'm having a mad crush on claude (#50) and his sharp insights.

thanks for the elucidation, claude.

#56 ::: pat greene ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 08:00 PM:

Marilee, I haven't been paying as much attention to the pay raise issue as I should have, considering that it's what keeps the lights on around here, but I have no problem with military personnel getting a bigger raise than civil servants. Provided, of course, that the bulk of those raises went to fighting men and women who are notoriously underpaid as it is. Of course, I'm a little dubious about that.

Being a civil servant may mean that you get paid less than you would in a private sector job (if you do any sort of tech or engineering work) but you don't get shot at.

#57 ::: Avedon ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 08:14 PM:

So when do we get to call each other "comrade," or maybe we'll just say "tax payer."
...
That's `Consumer', I think.
...
peon", "Dupe" and "mark" are also acceptable.

"End user".

#59 ::: Xopher is pretty sure Mary Aileen is correct ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 09:13 PM:

Spambots are getting clever.

#60 ::: Barry ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 09:43 PM:

Claude: "With solid Republican control of both houses, and the (temporary) success of the K Street Project, Bush had leverage on two of three sides of the iron triangle. Regulatory staffs, as a result, have had little defense against presidential interference. There was little in the way of the wholesale dismantling of many kinds of regulatory work, even the most necessary. Abramoff was a feature of this system, not a bug."

Add onto that that the Bush administration was generally working *for* the enrichment and power of the private sector of the iron triangle.

The way I like to put it is that his first act was to cut taxes, mainly on the rich. Clinton's was to raise taxes, mainly on the rich.

#61 ::: Barry ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 09:51 PM:

#8 ::: Josh Jasper:

"What amazes me is that a majority of voting (not officeholding) Republicans can't seem to get thier heads around Hillary Clinton with that kind of power. They just keep blindly supporting Bush for the most part.

None of them realize that, if Hillary Clinton gets that kind of power, she's not going to abandon it."


The way that I see it, the minute that a Democratic politician wins the presidency in November, 2009, you'll see the following things happen:

1) The press will have a swift reversal on the powers and respect of the presidency. The phrase 'Commander in Chief' will decline majorly.

2) With literally a few exceptions, the Republicans in Congress who served Bush as servants will suddenly rediscover the Constitution, separation of powers, and the concept of co-equal branches.

3) The entire AM hate radio spectrum will sound like viscious raving anarchist libertarians. You'll hear things like 'I love my country, but fear my government' again. A

4) The entire GOPgelical church will shove the 'serve Nero' doctrine back where it came from, and start talking about the moral duty of 'christians' being above Man's laws. Again, with rare exceptions, involving those freaky people who are honest.

5) The Democratic Congress will be consistent, in having not so much respect for a Democratic president.

6) There'll be some switch among GOP judges, although that might not be so noticeable to laypeople.

#62 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 10:08 PM:

stalin and hitler would have laughed out loud
at georgie w's concentration camp
but he stands alone defiantly proud

at such obfuscations made before the crowd
saying that water torture's but a bit of damp
stalin and hitler would have laughed out loud

if anyone should ever ask just how'd
he justify evil he'd get mental cramp
but he stands alone defiantly proud

dame liberty is now beneath a shroud
dull is the burnish on her copper lamp
stalin and hitler would have laughed out loud

the trumpet of freedom once rang out aloud
is now all silent instead the boots stamp
but he stands alone defiantly proud

we all are now waiting silent with heads bowed
as tired soldiers all march down the ramp
stalin and hitler would have laughed out loud
but he stands alone defiantly proud

#63 ::: pedantic peasant ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 10:37 PM:

Take back your tired, your poor.
We're huddled here, scheming how to sieze
The freedoms we somehow missed before.
Surrender these in the name of "security"
I lift my leg upon your rights of yore.


Or perhaps:

And then the republi-grinches moved on
to other partisan fights-es
To rip out the core
of other citizen's rights-es.

#64 ::: Pablo Defendini ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2007, 11:23 PM:

PurpleGirl, Avram, I stand corrected. A quick Wikipedia check for Giuliani (which I suppose I should have done before posting, but I was pretty confident in my memory) reveals that the primary mayoral elections were delayed two weeks, not the mayor's term. Although Rudy proposed to extend his term, he was not allowed to do so by the state senate. I guess I got the two events confused. Thanks for clearing that up.

#65 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2007, 12:00 AM:

Plenty of you reading this were probably fine with this, since for you the words “civil servant” and “union” summon up images of lazy postal workers.

Hello from coal-mining country (Matewan, anybody?), just south of the steel mills. Some of my ancestors worked in textiles, too. Even with "America, love it or leave it" parents, I learned in elementary school not to cross picket lines.

#66 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2007, 12:29 AM:

Xopher @59: Spambots are getting clever.

I think that may have been a spamborg (that is, it assimilated a human being).

#67 ::: Meg Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2007, 05:51 AM:

I'd start worrying about things when Georgy-boy gets a name change to "Nehemiah Scudder". But then, I'm an optimist, and I'm living on the other side of the world...

However, as a former public servant, I have to admit I find the US public service positively incomprehensible anyway. I mean, in a country where every single office of any influence whatsoever, from dog catcher right the way on up to Supreme Court Justice is selected by public election, it's hard to figure out where the heck the public service would fit. I mean, in the UK and even in Australia, to some degree, the public service is a respected institution, the power behind the throne, and the mitigating force which limits the power of the elected to ruin things for the electors. Yes, it does mean there's an institutional agenda which builds up, and yes, it does mean that agenda is decided by the people at the top. But the people at the top remain there for a long period of time (although in the Australian service, this is changing) and the service *as a whole* is apolitical.

No, individual public servants aren't forbidden from talking about their political opinions. Heck, the Australian Capital Territory, where you can't heave a brick without hitting either a public servant, or someone connected to the government in some fashion, is one of the safest Labor seats in the country (or in other words, most public servants are left-leaning in private), but the Howard Liberal government has managed to get the majority of its policies into place. The job of the public servant, under the Westminster system, is to figure out how to make the policies of the politicians into a workable reality. They are the do-ers, not the thinkers.

This isn't to say that the depiction in "Yes Minister" of the civil service as "the opposition in residence" (as opposed to those on the opposition benches in parliament, who were "the opposition in exile") doesn't have a certain degree of truth in it.

[Just by the bye, there's a minerals boom happening here in Western Australia, and there's a lot of jobs going, if anyone's interested. Our PM isn't quite as rabid as your President, and it's still legal to call the silly bastard a silly bastard.]

#68 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2007, 06:46 AM:

Meg: well, in the absence of any asteroids for the fleeing dissidents to homestead, I suppose WA is the next best option.

#69 ::: Martyn Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2007, 08:06 AM:

#4 - Dave Bell

Never let the facts get in the way of a decent prejudice. Lord Levy was arrested and released. He hasn't been charged. Yet. He also hasn't been convicted. Yet. Or is innocent until proven guilty reserved merely for people we like?

#70 ::: Sisuile ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2007, 10:06 AM:

Meg @ #67

In theory, that's what we do have. Relatively few people who collect a federal paycheck are elected. The entire point of having vast agencies full of public servants who are there for 20-yr stints is to prevent major changes by any president. What we're dealing with in this executive order is the president's effort to hamper that apoliticality by putting in place comissars to shape what that agency can do and say to the president's whim.

#71 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2007, 06:50 PM:

Postponing the primaries made sense: Primary Election Day was 11 September 2001. They were postponed partway through the day, in fact. Since I routinely vote in the morning (it avoids worrying about whether I'll get home in time to do so in the evening), I had already voted; I went back and cast my ballot for the same people two weeks later.

#72 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2007, 07:15 PM:

Paula 51: It was Après moi, le déluge (after me, the flood). And it was actually Louis XV, much as it sounds like the attitude of the earlier scumbag.

#73 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2007, 08:25 PM:

#61 Barry:

When is the last time a president voluntarily gave back some power? No doubt many Republicans will cry about civil liberties and the constitution, and many Democrats will suddenly find less to worry about in executive power and think of lots of good things it can be used to do, but short of being forced to give back those powers, no president is going to. Twenty years from now, we're still going to have constant surveilance of telephone calls and email, warrantless gathering of call records and tracking of location information from cellphones. We'll probably still have a president who thinks he or she can order American citizens disappeared off the street and held incommunicado for as long as he/she likes.

Ah, but it will be for the good of the country, to protect us from terrorism. And anyone who complains will want the terrorists to win. And reporters who don't know much about the constitution, but know that losing access to their leaked sources will screw their careers, will find it in their hearts to spin whatever they report about it in a good light.

#74 ::: Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2007, 07:35 AM:

Xopher #72: And, in a rare example of gallows humour being institutionalised, it is the motto of 617 Squadron (The Dam Busters). Almost as good is the heraldic description of the squadron badge: "On a roundel, a wall in fesse, fracted by three flashes of lightning in pile and issuant from the breach water proper".

#75 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2007, 08:01 AM:

Albatross:

When is the last time a president voluntarily gave back some power?

Around the time of the ABC movie about Sept. 11 there were a number of interviews with ex-Clinton officials. I don't remember the details, but during one of those interviews I remember that the show host said the same thing word for word to one of the officials and was brought up short: seems that Clinton had looked over some executive orders that had been made in the past and decided that one in particular was much too invasive and repealed it. Certainly there's some Clinton fan or civil liberties fan here that will recall the details for us.

#76 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2007, 03:40 PM:

I'd love to hear more about this.

I associate the Clinton administration with Clipper and the CDA, the Waco disaster, the occasional missile strike on Cantfinditonamapistan when the headlines were bad, starting the bombing in the Balkans the day of the impeachment hearing, IRS audits of right wing organizations, and the scandal involving getting FBI files on prominent Republicans, just off the top of my head.

None of that is remotely up to Bush II's standards, I'll admit, but it doesn't make me feel like the most recent Democratic administration was concerned with too much power accumulating in his office. I just don't think when you get into the white house, that's likely to be your big concern. Other than the end of a war, I can't think of a time when a president backs away from broad powers he has.

#77 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2007, 03:57 PM:

Albatross, I'm just tired and irritated from having people respond to discussions of GWB by bringing up Clinton. That's not your fault, and anyway 99% of them are right-wingers, which you aren't; but I'm still too tired of it to get up much enthusiasm for the discussion.

The Clinton years were much better than the two Bush administrations. I still tend to feel that before you light into the politicians on your own side for being imperfect, you ought to ask yourself whether you'd prefer to see their opponents elected.

I know that can't be a general rule for political discourse. It's particular to election season. Which, these days, seems to go on forever.

#78 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2007, 09:41 AM:

Teresa:

Albatross, I'm just tired and irritated from having people respond to discussions of GWB by bringing up Clinton.

But, but...he asked "When is the last time a president voluntarily gave back some power?" and I was just answering the question--couldn't remember any from Johnson or Carter, Nixon is a flat no unless you consider the Legal Services Corporation, couldn't remember any from Reagan or GHWB. (Backs away, whining piteously.)

#79 ::: Ragnell ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2007, 10:29 PM:

I don't remember the details, but during one of those interviews I remember that the show host said the same thing word for word to one of the officials and was brought up short: seems that Clinton had looked over some executive orders that had been made in the past and decided that one in particular was much too invasive and repealed it.

Umm.. I don't know the details but you just made me want to vote for his wife.

#80 ::: "Orange Mike" Lowrey ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2007, 05:11 PM:

Plenty of you reading this were probably fine with this, since for you the words “civil servant” and “union” summon up images of lazy postal workers.

Not in this family!
AFSCME Council 24, in the house!

(And our new title will not be 'Comrade YOURNAMEHERE' or 'Citizen YOURNAMEHERE': one is Commie, the other French. We are merely to be passive consumers, and will be 'Customer YOURNAMEHERE' [except for the growing number of us who will just be known by our prisoner numbers].)

#81 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2007, 06:15 PM:

Meg, "civil servants" on the Federal Level in the U.S.A are mostly hired for the job. The top tier (i.e. Cabinet members like the Secretary of State) are appointed by the President and are subject to confirmation by the Congress.

The situation is similar in most States -- the Governer is elected, and he appoints the Heads of various State Agencies. The agency employees are hired not elected or appointed.

BTW, I work for the Federal Government, and have done so for more than 28 years.

#82 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2008, 03:30 PM:

That's the stuff that's been all over, starting last night. Weird is right.

#83 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2008, 03:41 PM:

The spam, it is dead.

Irony: if they had been competent in creating those links, they would have been put in moderation for excessive linkage.

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