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The Audacity of Government
April 2, 2008 7:45 AM   Subscribe

A very special 'This American Life' about an administration with the endemic belief that laws only apply to the little people, and a limitless refusal to concede on even petty issues, no matter the costs. The highlight is about immigrant widows of US citizens (30:50). The program also discusses the constitutional beliefs of the presidential candidates.

Bonus post: Expecting a tax rebate check? Yesterday's 'Marketplace' says think again. (Marketplace transcript)
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 (43 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
WTF IRS?
posted by nathan_teske at 7:47 AM on April 2, 2008


Why the April Fool's joke on April 2?
posted by NoMich at 7:51 AM on April 2, 2008


Should have posted this yesterday, doncha think?
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 7:51 AM on April 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


Okay, that "Marketplace" piece was hilarious.
posted by DoctorFedora at 7:52 AM on April 2, 2008


The second link is the best April Fool I've ever heard and yeah probably should have been posted yesterday but I was busy.

Unfortunately the first link is deadly serious.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 7:54 AM on April 2, 2008


The TAL episode is very good indeed. Act Two is especially heart-wrenching.
posted by aheckler at 8:00 AM on April 2, 2008


I didn't realize the depth of how truly f'ed up our current administration is until I listened to the first 2 segments of this episode of TAL.
posted by jaimev at 8:05 AM on April 2, 2008


I heard the Canada-US border saga portion this weekend and it is well worth a listen.
posted by caddis at 8:08 AM on April 2, 2008


This is how we're going to wind up with May Fool's Day in ten years.
posted by ericbop at 8:13 AM on April 2, 2008


Did they really get a Robert Reich interview for the April Fools? It sure sounds like him.
posted by fungible at 8:15 AM on April 2, 2008


...a limitless refusal to concede on even petty issues, no matter the costs.

Cheney. He (and his co-conspirators) want an ultrapowerful executive (at least during Republican administrations). Conceding even on a petty issue would have a major cost--it would negate their underlying argument that there's no need to compromise between an Emperor and an irrelevant body (Congress, the Judiciary or the public, take your pick).
posted by DU at 8:15 AM on April 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


It is not as if this surprises me. We have been hearing about this admin playing hardball with disabled vets, for god's sake. It just makes me sad. So sad.
posted by pointilist at 8:17 AM on April 2, 2008


Reich is a regular contributor to Marketplace.
posted by middleclasstool at 8:38 AM on April 2, 2008


Oh, thank heavens. My wife caught only the first 3/4's of the IRS piece and when she exclaimed about it to me I for several minutes considered it entirely plausible. Well done NPR!
posted by cavalier at 8:47 AM on April 2, 2008


I heard the TAL piece over the weekend. Hearing the attorney with the class action suit on behalf of the widows saying that his greatest fear in the world was that he'd die before the suit was completed, and that he's 37 years old and in good health, sent a cold chill up my spine and brought tears to my eyes. How have we allowed tyranny to take over our nation?
posted by Dreama at 8:48 AM on April 2, 2008


Yeah, the IRS thing had me, I always get fooled on April 2nd. I was ready to jihad some shit. :) Best april fools yet because I could believe it happening.

The first part, the issue of presidential abuse covered on TAL, is something that doesn't get ANY attention in the mainstream media and that's criminal, if you ask me.

Instead of talking about blatant abuse of power by the presidency and economic recession, their talking about some little terminally ill girl who wants to get her convict Dad out of Jail to see her before she dies? I don't know the details and I don't really give a shit.
posted by hellslinger at 9:15 AM on April 2, 2008


they're*
posted by hellslinger at 9:15 AM on April 2, 2008


[America's] Sad Lexicon

These are the saddest of possible names:
"Rove and Cheney and Bush."
Trio of Repub's, with fraudulent claims,
Rove and Cheney and Bush.
Ruthlessly pricking our Constitutional bubble,
Making Al-Qaeda's enrollment double --
Names that are heavy with nothing but trouble:
"Rove and Cheney and Bush."
posted by Someone has just shot your horse! at 9:53 AM on April 2, 2008 [4 favorites]


After listening to This American Life, I was in a frame of mind where the Marketplace joke seemed entirely plausible. Of course, they're going to spend my money on a space heater or something. What about this administration could surprise me?

When it was revealed as an April Fool I practically had a seizure.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 10:03 AM on April 2, 2008


The sad thing is that it is all too plausible . . . .
posted by birdhaus at 10:04 AM on April 2, 2008


Wow, I -totally- fell for that marketplace april fool's. As much as I get sick of internet idiot day, that one wins.
posted by flaterik at 10:04 AM on April 2, 2008


I heard the marketplace one on the radio and it was so incredibly plausible, just the kind of idiocy I expect from this gov. that I didn't suspect it was anything but the truth. Until the end when Risdal?(the host) says "C'mooon, what day is it?"
posted by From Bklyn at 10:28 AM on April 2, 2008


I didn't realize the depth of how truly f'ed up our current administration is until I listened to the first 2 segments of this episode of TAL.

For the record, the second act is not necessarily administration specific.
posted by Pollomacho at 10:46 AM on April 2, 2008


That was one of those segments of TAL where you stay in the car after you've parked until it's over.

What marks out the USCIS (formerly known as INS)? The people it deals with, for the most part, can't vote. The flip-side being that the majority of voters have no interaction whatsoever with the immigration bureaucracy. While Congresscritters may personally intervene on immigration issues -- say, to speed up an ice skater's naturalization so that she can compete in the Olympics* -- they tend to play to the natural-born majority (or pay little attention) when it comes to immigration law, and damn the consequences. So the agency festers into something that would horrify Kafka.

* Not that the tangle of rules delaying Belbin's naturalization wasn't ridiculous.
posted by holgate at 10:57 AM on April 2, 2008


For the record, the second act is not necessarily administration specific.

Sure it is. Under a previous administration the INS spelled out in no uncertain terms that widows should be granted their green cards. Would other administrations have ignored that ruling, pretended it didn't exist, then admitted it did exist but use it to justify denying the right to appeal, then fighting all the way into federal court, then acknowledging the verdict against them, but only applying it in the ninth circuit, AND inventing a "humanitarian need" requirement, AND then grotesquely abusing Bush terrorism legislation to automatically deny even the applications in the circuit that were specifically required by the court, for secret reasons and without appeal? All the while haemorrhaging taxpayers money? Just to kick out 130-something innocent widows?
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 10:58 AM on April 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


Dude, 9/11 changed everything. Do you want the terrorists piloting hijacked widows into our skyscrapers? You probably do. Freedom-hater.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:08 AM on April 2, 2008 [3 favorites]


While Congresscritters may personally intervene on immigration issues -- say, to speed up an ice skater's naturalization so that she can compete in the Olympics* -- they tend to play to the natural-born majority (or pay little attention) when it comes to immigration law, and damn the consequences.

For the record there, Congress did not "speed up the process" they completely circumvented it by passing a Private Law stating that Belvin was made a citizen. They actually do this every term for various and sundry people of note.

Under a previous administration the INS spelled out in no uncertain terms that widows should be granted their green cards.

If you listen again, you will see that the attorney mentions at least two cases (Matter of Varela , 13 I&N Dec. 453 (BIA 1970) and Matter of Sano, 19 I & N Dec. 299 (BIA 1985)) these cases date back to 1970 showing that this type of denial is nothing new. They did not stop in 1985 with Matter of Sano's modification of the Varela decision (note: not overtrning it), the INS tactics simply changed to meet the BIA's ruling. With the switch to DHS in 2003 only the name changed at INS, not the policy. The "abuse" was not a result of "Bush terror legislation", it's been going on far longer. While I'm not arguing if there is abuse or not or even that it is a Bush admin policy, it's just not strictly a Bush admin thing.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:36 AM on April 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Jesus. I just finished listening to that TAL episode, and now I want to smash things.

East Manitoba, thanks for the linkÔÇŽI think.
posted by adamrice at 11:36 AM on April 2, 2008


EMRJKC94 -- it may be severely pathos-inducing but as a person who has had several friends, relatives and countrymen endure the gauntlet that is US immigration over the last 30 years, I can say to you that the pettiness, bureacracy and callousness that you describe existed before Bush came to power.
posted by bl1nk at 11:37 AM on April 2, 2008


What can US citizens do to fix this INS issue?
posted by zippy at 11:46 AM on April 2, 2008


What can US citizens do to fix this INS issue?

Time travel to the 1970's and tell Congress what a big mistake their proposed "reform" of the INS is going to be.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:52 AM on April 2, 2008


I just remembered why I don't listen to TAL in my down-time at work. I got through the first link and now I'm all pissed off and want to rant about the inequities in our system, and my co-workers are all looking at me like I'm crazy.
posted by quin at 1:08 PM on April 2, 2008


Mmmmaaaaannnn.... I was sitting at home happily listening to Yahtzee zero punctuate a slew of games I'd never play and then the missus comes home and says, "ZOMG have you listened to TAL yet?" and I'm like "No, when's dinner ready?" and she's like "You'll fucking starve until you listen to This American Life." and I'm all kinda hungry and maybe want some lovin this evening so I listened to the linked episode of This American Life.

Holy Crap. The signing statement stuff at the end is what hit me the hardest. Whoever is elected in November needs to fucking lay down these fucking 'Signing Statements' at the banks of the Rubicon upon election. Like 15 minutes after they get sworn in, they need to go to and sign the first innocuous bill ("HR 76325: Puppies are cute!") they can find and issue their own signing statement saying that not only are signing statements illegal and an affront to American democracy but that all previous statements are now null and void.

And then he or she needs to drop trow and take a steaming dump for Liberty on the transcript of every other signing statement ever written.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 2:44 PM on April 2, 2008 [7 favorites]


How have we allowed tyranny to take over our nation?

Apathy? A news media that's interested in keeping our 3.2 second long attention span keenly focused on "ZOMG amissingwhitegirl ZOMG" because that sells airtime by keeping our myopic eyeballs stuck to the screen while Airwick sells us automatic scent dispensers?

I don't think George Bush or Dick Cheney are at fault. I blame us, the American people, for electing them and then sitting back and not paying attention. That is, when I can be bothered to actually give a shit.
posted by disclaimer at 3:24 PM on April 2, 2008


And I thought that was a pretty good TAL.
posted by disclaimer at 3:25 PM on April 2, 2008


I need to listen to the podcast of this TAL. I started it yesterday but I just got so sad and tired I couldn't go much further. I get enough outrage fatigue from DN! every day.

Much love for the Marketplace joke, though. I actually understand the economy, a little bit, now that I listen to that show.
posted by sugarfish at 4:24 PM on April 2, 2008


Where are all the usual "I can't stand TAL/Ira Glass" comments in this thread? Huh? Huh?
posted by spock at 7:32 PM on April 2, 2008


Well, I'll go hotter than lukewarm, howzabout that? I used to adore the show above all on public radio, but I've backed off that heavy lurving a bit, pretty much ever since I discovered RadioLab (which I believe to be the best radio show I have ever heard, bar none). I still like TAL a bunch, and much respect for Ira, but to me the difference between TAL and RL is like the difference between giving a really, really vivid description of the moon and actually taking you there. TAL's still number 2 on my favorite podcast list, though.
posted by middleclasstool at 8:17 PM on April 2, 2008


The most chilling part for me was the interview in which the lawyer defending the widows was asked what he feared most -- and he couldn't answer -- not because he didn't know the answer, but because he was so genuinely afraid . . . and because I assume he knows enough about the legal system to know when such fear is justified.
posted by treepour at 8:52 PM on April 2, 2008


I listened to this episode last weekend. I was driving around running errands and after listening for about 45 minutes I felt too sick to drive. I had to pull over and just sit there and listen. The 'WHY?!?' of it all just exploded my brain.

It makes me think of the case where Wal-Mart sued a brain damaged woman for $500,000. They did it in order to recover money their insurance spent on her heath care after she was struck by a tractor trailer truck. They could have elected not to sue, but they have a company rule and they can't bend the rules for a brain injured former employee. Gah.
posted by Alison at 7:45 AM on April 3, 2008


you know they dropped that suit
posted by caddis at 7:55 AM on April 3, 2008


you know they dropped that suit

....once it became public and they caught a lot of flack. They had fought it through the courts until the Shanks exhausted their appeals, at that point the Shanks went public and Wal-Mart reconsidered.
posted by Challahtronix at 10:35 AM on April 3, 2008


they completely circumvented it by passing a Private Law stating that Belvin was made a citizen.

For the record there, not so. Private Bills specify the beneficiary, and nearly all grant permanent residency rather than citizenship. The Levin Amendment wasn't yer usual private bill naming the person to be allowed permanent residence or the right to swear the oath, but one that reduced the waiting period for O-1 visa adjusters to 3 years (i.e time served) if they needed 'to represent the United States at an international event.' (Belbin's adjustment of status was filed before Sept. 11 2001, but processed after, and subject to an extra two years wait between green card and N-400.)

While the Michigan-based beneficiary was obvious, the amendment wasn't individual in nature, and others got the right to expedited naturalization as a result. But that kind of legislative spaghetti is US immigration law at its finest. [/obPedant]

But you're right: this isn't a 'Bush thing', though other aspects of the obsolescent mess of immigration law are very much 'Bush things', such as the heightened demands for I-visas. The real issue here is that an agency that by definition doesn't deal with voters can very easily become a legislative plaything and a bureaucratic morass. It takes citizens who have compassion and clout (or just the pragmatic desire for a government that sucks less) to change things.
posted by holgate at 10:23 PM on April 3, 2008


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