Framing the Dialogue

If A Crook Falls In The Forest….

A famous philosophical puzzle asks the question whether a tree that falls in the forest makes any sound when there is no one around to hear it.  As an engineer by education and thought I really did not enjoy these types of “core” classes in college even though they gave me a “well rounded” education.  My philosophy class was perhaps the most tedious class ever and was dominated by seemingly endless discussions about what ifs and could be’s.  Our bearded professor certainly looked the part and in many ways I was happy that at least one person with a degree in philosophy was gainfully employed in his profession.

I am starting to believe that many politicians must have gotten philosophy degrees before going to law school.  From what I have read about America’s brief history, the elected leaders used to be regular people who stepped up to briefly work for the common good counting the days until they could return to their normal lives as farmers, doctors, etc.  It seems like something morphed in the 20th Century and now government is dominated by folks who have done nothing but government work or who have never really been anything but a politician.  Most have admittedly worked at law firms, owned baseball teams, or organized communities, but these “jobs” seemed to be mere placeholders between stints in government.

Washington (and all) politics seems to have its own “golden rules” of philosophical thought (or Political Philosophical Rules – PPRs) that is eerily similar the the aforementioned tree scenario;

  1. If a crook is not caught then is their activitiy still a crime?
  2. If caught and you claim to have made a mistake (oversight, error, had no knowledge, it’s Bush’s fault) is it still a crime? and
  3. If I quietly pay/make restitution can I pretend it never happened?
  4. If the size of the offense can be minimized or I am too important is it still a crime?
  5. If I deny it long enough and vehemently enough and blame others is it still a crime?

Perhaps the most grievous act in this genre of political crime, at least in my mind, has been Obama’s pick for Treasury Secretary, Tim Giethner.  Mr. Giethner was hailed by President Obama as the only man who could save the economy.  In his prior job at the International Monetary Fund, Mr. Geithner (please remember that this brilliant man is the only one who could run our economy) seems to had forgotten to pay his taxes.  In case you didn’t know as Secretary of the Treasury he is in charge of the IRS.  Some might call that ironic.  Read about it in more detail by the following link to a Wall Street Journal article.  In the midst of the turmoil during Giethner’s confirmation the White House’s comments encompasses some of the above political philosophy:

“Obama aides said they didn’t think these issues would present a problem, given what they characterized as the minor nature of the infractions and the gravity of the role Mr. Geithner has been nominated to take. Mr. Geithner’s “service should not be tarnished by honest mistakes, which, upon learning of them, he quickly addressed,” Obama press secretary Robert Gibbs said in a statement.”

Giethner never would have paid even though he was specifically “pre-embursed” by the IMF for his tax liability and was remided by his employer of his liability.  He chose to pocket the money (Political Philosophy Rule #1), then admitted it was a mistake (PPR #2), made restitution (PPR #3), and the coup de gras…”the minor nature of hte infractions” compared to “the gravity of the role” as our economy’s savior (PPR #4)!!

Giethner’s “mistake” amounted to around $25,000 and oddly the next example’s alleged crime came in around the same amount.  It seems that a Texas Congresswoman who oversaw a college scholarship program was a literal liberal with her disbursements when it came to family and friends or at least their children.  I know that you want to assume that a politician from Texas is a Republican, but Eddie Johnson is from big city Dallas and is a Democrat.  Ms. Johnson’s grandchildren and children of staff members were “awarded” generous scholarships from the fund she directed, but she was contrite after denying any wrongdoing;

“While I am not ashamed of helping, I did not intentionally mean to violate any rules in the process. [PPR #2]  Johnson said in a written statement issued Monday night, after two days of national scrutiny and sniping from critics, including her campaign opponent [PPR #1]“To rectify this matter immediately, I will reimburse the funds by the end of this week.” [PPR #3]

 California Democrat Maxine Waters has taken on a different tactic and has boldly invoked PPR #5 and has gone on the attack,

“We did not influence anyone and we did not gain any benefit.”  [Even though she and her husband owned stock in the bank in question which would have become worthless]

“The question at this point should not be why I called Secretary Paulson, but why I had to.  The question at this point should be why a trade association representing over 100 minority banks could not get a meeting at the height of the crisis.”  [Translation:  Bush/Republicans hate minorities so I had to step in.  My benefitting from my actions was not my intention]

It is not clear whether this last example is a crime yet, but a Pennsylvania Congressional Democrat running for a seat in the U.S. Senate,Joe Sestak, seems to have placed an earmark (pork project) for a “for-profit” company in a spending bill.  Here I thought Democrats hated companies that sought profits.  In his defense the earmark went to a non-profit organization that would have passed the money through to its for profit partner.  The non profit was describe in the linked article as a “paper” organization.  At this point Sestak and his staff are sticking first to PPR #5 with PPR #2 as a strong back up.

Politics has always been full of corruption to the point that the tsunami of recent stories barely makes the front page and certainly not above the fold.  Politicians seem to believe they have this right to our money to use as they see fit.  Often times their goal is to ensure that they get re-elected and retain power.  No longer is the “pursuit of money the root of all evil” it is now the pursuit of POWER.  Ask yourself why the richest Senator, John Kerry, would agree to pay a $500,000 tax/fee for his yacht and an annual $70,000 tax in Massachusetts for his legally dock ship in Rhode Island.  Was it to save his $174,000 job or to hold onto his POWER?

It’s all about POWER.

I have never given homework before and I am not now, but if you are bored sometime do an Internet search for the following and try to identify the PPRs used by the offending parties:

  • Tom Dashle taxes
  • Rangel taxes
  • William Jefferson cold cash
  • Chris Dodd VIP Countrywide
  • Barney Frank Fannie Mae [you MUST include the “mae” part or you’ll likely be redirected to gaysites – not that there is anything wrong with that]
  • James Traficant bribes
  • Nancy Pelosi pineapple princess
  • Harry Reid land deal
  • Obama Tony Rezco and an oldie but goodie
  • Clinton Lewinsky

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