The Corpus Callosum

Under-the-Radar Politics

Under-the-Radar Politics

I sure hope this doesn’t sound too alarmist, gevalt,
over-the-top, whatever, but I noticed a post on Integrity of
that woke me up a little bit – before my coffee was
finished brewing.

(The coffee, by the way, is Trader Joe’s Tarrazu; it’s made in
a co-op in Costa Rica. It’s worth a try, if you can find it.)

The post is this one:

Oversight Policy Bad for Science-based Decisionmaking

on: January 19, 2007 2:44 PM, by Ian Hart

President Bush
signed a whole heap of bad yesterday. Amendments to a Clinton-era
executive order will substantially increase the influence of the
President’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) over federal
agencies such as NASA, the EPA, and the FDA…

will not be able to begin developing any rule without the approval of
the political appointees…

The disturbing things about this is the degree to which this opens
a pipeline to the Administration about what is going on in the
various agencies, and the degree of control that is given to
political appointees.

The policies, rules, and regulations promulgated by the various
agencies determine, to a large extent, how the various agencies
directly affect the lives of citizens. Although Congress is the body
that writes the law, it is the federal agencies that implement the
law. The agencies are still under the control of the President, so
why is the change happening now?

Now that Congress is getting back to its proper role – as a
check-and-balance to the Executive branch – the Administration is
doing what it can to put the whole system out of balance again.


There is a word for a political appointee who has direct oversight
over the behavior and inner workings of government agencies:
zampolit. In the past, those persons wore hats like the one
pictured above…

Well, no, that is an exaggeration. The cap is was a
part of the uniform of the Political
in the Soviet military. Later known as zampolit,
an abbreviation for "заместитель командира
по политработе", "deputy of the commander for
political work." [source: Wikipedia] The commissars were
attached to military units, to ensure that the military acted in
accordance with Party doctrine. In contrast. political appointees
that controlled government agencies were People’s
, “Народных Комиссаров.”

The difference between the new commissars in the USA, and the old
Soviets ones, is that in the USSR, regulations promulgated by the
commissars were routinely approved as carrying the full force of law.
That will not necessarily be the case in the USA, when Congress is
doing its job. The problem is that there are so many agencies, and
the inner workings of the various agencies are so obscure, that it
will be extremely difficult for Congress to exercise the oversight
that will be needed to keep these people in line.

Although we have no reason to think that Executive branch of
government has any intention of exerting the iron-fisted control that
the Sovnarkom did, I think we need to notice that we have moved one
step closer to having a true unitary executive.


  1. #1 iRobot
    January 20, 2007

    Do we need anymore proof that fascist is the correct term to describe the republican party? No!

  2. #2 Robert P.
    January 20, 2007

    I understand there will be a science subcommittee that will have subpoena power and will focus on politicians…I can’t think of a nice way to say this, f**king with good science.

    When I hear more, I’ll try to come back and report it.

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