On Saturdays, the editorial page of the Oklahoman comes up with seven or eight quick pieces instead of one or two long and usually lugubrious pieces, under the collective name "ScissorTales." This title is mockworthy for several reasons, but it does convey a sense of brevity, something well worth having these days. And it almost justifies quoting an entire ScissorTale from yesterday:

During an appearance this week on MSNBC's Morning Joe program, Mike Huckabee offered an interesting proposal for the nation's campaign finance system: No limits on giving, and full disclosure by candidates. "Prohibit nothing, disclose everything and disclose it on the spot," Huckabee told host Joe Scarborough. "And let the voters make up their mind. And if you want to beat me up for having taken a check from someone, OK, do it." The former Arkansas governor, who is among 10 officially declared Republican candidates for president, said that would be better than the current system, which limits individuals' donations to candidates but allows unlimited giving to super PACs. "Let the candidate stand up and say, 'Yes, Joe Scarborough wrote me a $25 million check, and I'm a wholly owned subsidiary of Joe Scarborough.' That would be less disingenuous than what we have now," Huckabee said. There's a good bit of common sense in this suggestion, which means it'll probably go nowhere.

Of course, the ostensible limit on "individual" donations is made meaningless by the existence of so many alternative means of contributions, all of which our one-percenters are happy to put to use. And just as all software programs contain bugs, all laws contain loopholes, and woe betide the candidate who doesn't take advantage of them. Nor is this phenomenon limited to political campaigns:

In eastern Germany during the 19th and early 20th centuries, the authorities pursued an active policy of Germanisation. Prussian law required that government permission was obtained before erecting a house, but this provision was often selectively used against ethnic Poles. Under the law, any dwelling place would be considered a house if it stayed in one place for more than 24 hours. In 1904, Michał Drzymała, an ethnic Polish peasant from Grätz (now Grodzisk Wielkopolski), bought a circus caravan and set himself up in it. To get around the rule, each day he moved the caravan a short distance, thereby exploiting the legal loophole and frustrating all attempts to evict him, until in 1909 he was finally granted permission to buy a house. Drzymała has become something of a folk hero in modern-day Poland for his ingenuity.

Still, the simplest programs, down around the "Hello world!" level, seldom actually crash, because there's so little to them. This is the advantage of Huckabee's proposal: if something goes awry, it's not because of a program vulnerability per se, but because someone screwed up one of the variables. Inevitably, someone will try, because rather a lot of someones in politics are hardwired for chicanery, but they'd do the same no matter what laws happen to obtain.

And I assure you that it doesn't take a genius to come up with a scheme like Huckabee's. Please allow me to point out that I was saying this nineteen years ago in Vent #26:

No more restrictions on contributions, coupled with full disclosure of the list of contributors.

To pick an example entirely at random, if some neofascist newspaper publisher from some provincial backwater wants to pour his fortune into getting a kindred spirit into one of the seats of power, he ought to be able to — and the public should be able easily to identify the anointed one as "Mr _________'s lackey".

I have always believed that things would have gone better if you'd done them my way in the first place; I did not, however, expect Mike Huckabee, of all people, to fall in line behind me. And this scheme of his — I don't think of it as "this scheme of mine," since I'm sure I'm not the only one ever to propose such a scheme — will almost certainly go unnoticed, because too many people see themselves as having too much to lose were it to become reality — and yes, because it's Mike Huckabee fercrissake and since when does Mike Huckabee propose anything without claiming it's what Jesus wants?

In the meantime, we have what we have, tailor-made for the faux populists who extol the presumed virtues of the poor while sucking up to the money men. Democrats turn these out by in vitro fertilization; Republicans try to copy them with 3D printers. At best, it's a full-employment scenario for anyone who claims to be a political consultant.

The Vent

  7 June 2015

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