A Black Hole Party: Five Things You Would Send From The Imperial City

It’s the new jenga you’ve seen on the InterTubes. You know, throwing black hole parties. How does it work? For example, GameLife offered a list of games so bad they should be tossed into a black hole (Sonic was number one). In July gadgets got The Gong.

Why not here? The Imperial City in August itself is relatively quiet if one is not enmeshed in the health care morass. Brownshirts are out on location. Even Novak’s Corvette doesn’t menace drivers and pedestrians like just a few scant years ago.

So, what should go into a black hole? We’re setting some boundaries. First, we can exile things or persons that started in, or have a {Barry McCaffery’s-best-closing-new-client-retainer-voice} ‘center of gravity’ {/Barry-McCaffery-voice} in D.C. So, for example, News Corp. itself is out of bounds. Conversely, Britt Hume’s All Stars aren’t. And so on. Here’s our list and why. By all means, offer better suggestions or save a candidate:

1. Focus Groups

They’re a disgrace. What a crude thing to exert such a cynical, corrosive impact on political conversation in America. Two specific individuals are probably responsible for staking this statistically meaningless, rare and theatrical practice into the heart of American politics. What followed for those two was a tsumani of personal wealth, empty posturings and professional copy catters. These farcical bull sessions with 20 or so participants are the political equivalent of the Wall Street fake wealth creation of the 2000s. CDOs with zero real value and lots of toxicity. Yet the practice determines the very vocabulary that almost everyone uses on a policy issue, changing estate taxes to ‘death taxes’, global warming to ‘climate change’, and so on whether they know it or not.

We cop to using them, too, to manipulate a Congress, media and White House on behalf of private sector clients. Mostly because our clients believe in the stuff like some arcane druidic rite. Sadly, it also works. (You’d be surprised how ‘sophisticated’ media, politicians, other operatives lap it up). There was a time when a politician or their speechwriter offered the best words they knew how at the time. America was a better place then.

Don’t believe us? You must adore Xe!

Extra Credit For Those Who Smile Seeing This

2. 501(c)(3)s and the IRS Itself

Get rid of them all. Completely. Start over. Keep the valuable and honest ones going. Cut out cynicism from the system.

Too good to be true? A black hole can work wonders. The 501(c)(3) designation is from the IRS. It identifies non-profit, non-partisan organizations to whom donations might be made tax exempt. Originally, no irony was intended. The claim is that the IRS bans ‘action’ organizations — that may be the funniest thing on the entire IRS website. Charitable organizations naturally are permitted to do ‘some’ lobbying. The IRS even permits tax free entities to do ‘some political activities.’

The IRS Code is not known for ironic humor but it’s here in spades. Does Heritage do ‘some’ lobbying? You betcha. We’ve been in the meetings on the Hill at the personal office and Committee levels. But are those meetings ‘some’, ‘eh, not so much’, ‘alot’? That speeding ticket is so old everyone’s eyes just roll. Norquist’s ATR is another huge joke. Particularly now, given their role in networking and communicating with the ‘angry, white Jesus-lovin’, Obama-fearin’ Amerikhuns storming recess town halls. Now Grover, whatever you may think of him personally, is not stupid. ATR’s public appearances and (we are confident) emails are all tailored to sail just this side of IRS regulation ‘on their face’. We suspect Armey’s shop is as well lawyered up. But one never knows. You’d be surprised how dumb smart politicos often are.

What we could type. But D.C. is littered with so many similar 501(c)(3)s you can’t shake a stick and . . .

All of them could become 501(c)(6)s and openly lobby, but they lose that crucial tax exempt status. In this economy particularly, that status is essential. We’ve set up 501(c)(3)s to represent industries educate lawmakers and the public. And worked for 501(c)(6s). We know the line. And how it is such a quaint Ward Cleaver notion in practice at the State level, on the Hill, across Democratic and Republican Administrations and of course, the media.

Send all the 501(c)(3)s into the Black Hole. Followed by the IRS itself. Forget reform. It’s time to start over. For the 501(c)(3)s, let’s have them re-apply under more simple, clear cut and non-arbitrary or discretionary conditions. And as for the tax code? Blank sheet of paper, baby. (And you thought health care reform drew out lobbyists?).

3. Regulators, Oversight Mechanisms and Contracting

Here’s the catch all bucket that would have included IRS anyway. The U.S. economy is now too complex, too baroque, too gamed to benefit a select few against the interests of the many. (Thought we were going for the Spock there, didn’t you?) From the FCC to the EPA to GSA to DoD and so on — one has only to look at the C.F.R. to understand that regulation is a game already won by the regulated and their familiars. Of course, their lawyers et al. bill $450 an hour to read the C.F.R. You would, too. A normal person would put a gun to their head within half an hour otherwise. The word in academia on regulation is ‘captured’. Or in the case of SEC, gutted, captured and over matched. The game is complicated and understood by the alleged regulators and and the alleged ‘regulated’ — everyone else is deliberately cut out.

The FCC was and remains one of the most gamed systems in town. We say this having sat with Reed Hunt and Blair Levin (his then CoS) trying to explain why their particular administrative coercion in favor of CLECs (not that we were carrying water for the LECs) or this or that designation of spectrum would only further distort market forces and regulatory barriers to entry. Or on other matters. But we digress. We’ve seen it at every regulatory entity we’ve either been before. It’s all the very definition of inside baseball.

This black hole expedition we would synchronize, like swimming but without the water, swimmers or pool. First would go the feeble governmental entities that are the lifeblood of this ecosystem. After they slip the event horizon, then the courtiers (lobbyists). Later, the parasites (the lawyers). Then, finally, the D.C. offices of the allegedly regulated entities. Making them witness the fin de siecle before going. Buh bye. All into the black hole.

Siecle might be misplaced. Perhaps this toilet flush is necessary every 25 years or so. If so, we’d consider frequent flyer benefits at the event horizon duty free shop. We’ll put out a RFC (request for comment) and hold some administrative hearings after the Federal Register heads up.

Start new. With regulatory frameworks designed for a 21st century economy. Designed to understand and guard against the concept of capture.

4. Networked Right Wing Authoritarian Religious Infiltration

Obvious, we know. The whole C Street thing. Ensign, Sanford, Pickering, etc. But it’s far more pervasive and subversive. First, it’s as authoritarian and hostile to civil society as reported. Second, it is all about infiltration; it is an active, expanding self-aware network. We’ve seen it in action and been approached personally. It’s similar to EST and Scientology and many other organizations discussed in Margaret Singer’s “Cults in Out Midst.” Typically, we’ve seen it with Right Wingers in their fifties to early sixties. They wait for a ‘friend’s’ (this is Washington) hiccup in life or they deliberately misconstrue an event as a hiccup as an excuse to offer essentially Rick Warren’s ‘Purpose Driven Life’ Cliff Notes – although it is not ‘evangelical’ per se. The invitations to Church follow, Bible study, ‘coaching’ as ‘Christian duty’. Most tend to be Catholic that have approached the Stiftung (but not all). We won’t go into more here but will say within say two layers of relationships usually is a Senator or two you would recognize. But it’s not limited to Congresscritters.

And we are not amused. All of them. Off to the black hole.

5. The Tweeties

Ah, the Tweeties. No elegance, just shove em out the hatch. And not just the big mack daddy himself. Dana Milbank? Buh bye. Stephen Hayes? GONG (that beard and Cheney bio were beyond camp). Kristol, Krauthammer, Cokie, Gregory et al? GONG, GONG, GONG and GONG. And so on.

Now, we understand the murmurs. “OK Stiftung, we’re on board for this black hole thing, but here, we’re not so sure. I mean, isn’t Chris Sillizza kind of dope? And what about Chris Hayes at the Nation? Can’t we pardon some?”

It’s a legitimate concern. We have those same nightmares doubts, too.

“Stiftung, wouldn’t this black hole trip leave a huge swath open for cadres of Rachel Maddows? They’d be enthusiastic, well-intentioned, perhaps even good hearted. But wouldn’t they be also profoundly over their head, too? You know, Stiftung, proof what the Brits have shown for centuries? That an Oxbridge degree (especially via endowed slot or to up front paying Americans) means squat?”

Personally, we’d take the hit. And the karmic balance works. David Korn and Fred Hiatt in heated debate across billions of years inside the black hole. Who knows, David Broder might even decide to retire during the interregnum.