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Remind you of anyone? Macaulay on James II:

The obstinate and imperious nature of the King gave great advantages to those who advised him to be firm, to yield nothing, and to make himself feared. One state maxim had taken possession of his small understanding, and was not to be dislodged by reason.

To reason, indeed, he was not in the habit of attending. His mode of arguing, if it is to be so called, was one not uncommon among dull and stubborn persons, who are accustomed to be surrounded by their inferiors. He asserted a proposition; and, as often as wiser people ventured respectfully to show that it was erroneous, he asserted it again, in exactly the same words, and conceived that, by doing so, he at once disposed of all objections.

History of England, Vol. I, Chap. 6, "The King's Temper and Opinions," p. 569 of the Edinburgh Edition.

Obama and the religious Left If you're curious about how to use religious imagery to carry liberal arguments, invoke the idea that all human beings are created in the divine image as the fundamental justification for equality, and then use the imagery of Exodus to sanctify the civil rights movement and the story of Joshua to frame the task of moving forward from here.

The first thing to say about this is that it's among the best ways to appeal to the part of the African-American community that's organized around that powerful social engine, the black church. It was so when Martin Luther King did it, and it's so now. Is that the entire African-American community? No. But if King's rhetoric was appropriate, why isn't Obama's equally appropriate?

In fact, the use of religious language to appeal to black (and Latino) voters isn't controversial among liberals. The controversy is about whether liberals should try to woo Bible-believing, church-going, born-again whites. To which I say, "Why not?"

Are racism and reaction more prevalent in that group than among white seculars, occasional churchgoers, and non-believers? Sure they are: in part as a function of education and social class, in part as a result of the narrow-mindedness of much of the white evangelical clergy. But that doesn't mean that Genesis shouldn't be joined to Jefferson in appealing to that group to overcome racism and move beyond reaction. After all, Jefferson himself — no orthodox believer — chose to frame his assertion of human equality and human rights in religious terms.

We don't need to carry the white evangelical vote. If we can shrink the Republican advantage among that group, that would be enough. And the Christian tradition, and especially the Gospels, has within it enormous resources for liberalism. Someone said that if November '08 comes down to Obama v. Brownback, we'd be running the Sermon on the Mount against the Book of Leviticus. I think Jesus would run pretty strong in that election, in precincts the Democrats don't usually carry.

Damn, but he's good! And the fact that Joshua's divinely assigned task was what we would call ethnic cleansing and genocide is really neither here nor there.

Screw freedom of the press A breaking prior restraint case in Kansas City, where on Friday a state court judge the and the local alternative newsweekly, (owned by Village Voice Media), to remove articles about the Kansas City Board of Public Utilities from their websites and barred them from publishing certain articles about the BPU in their print editions. At issue was a confidential letter, upon which the articles were based, written to BPU officials by the board's attorney about BPU power plants. As if the prior restraint were not egregious enough, the judge didn't schedule the next hearing on the matter until next Friday.

Chaos at Walter Reed Last week's management shake-up at Walter Reed looks increasingly suspect. The Washington Post reports today that the hospital chief who was relieved of duty, Army Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman, is "well respected in the military medical community and well liked among the staff at Walter Reed." He had been at the hospital for just half a year, and "instituted some changes to improve outpatient care." Weightman is being replaced for now by Army surgeon general Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley. As ThinkProgress documented yesterday, Kiley has known for years about the neglect and deplorable conditions at Walter Reed. Kiley was personally told about injured veterans who were "languishing and lost on the grounds," sharing drugs and "drinking themselves to death," and reportedly did nothing to address the problems. In one stunning case, Kiley took no action when personally informed that a soldier was sleeping in his own urine. The Post today cites a defense official saying that Weightman’s firing and his replacement by Kiley "are likely to be demoralizing to the staff at the medical center." The L.A. Times says Kiley may still be fired.

The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has subpoenaed Maj. Gen. George Weightman, who was fired as head of Walter Reed Army Medical Center, after Army officials refused to allow him to testify before the committee Monday. Committee Chairman Henry Waxman and subcommittee Chairman John Tierney asked Weightman to testify about an internal memo that showed privatization of services at Walter Reed could put "patient care services... at risk of mission failure." ... The memorandum "describes how the Army's decision to privatize support services at Walter Reed Army Medical Center was causing an exodus of 'highly skilled and experienced personnel,'" the committee's letter states. "According to multiple sources, the decision to privatize support services at Walter Reed led to a precipitous drop in support personnel at Walter Reed." The letter said Walter Reed also awarded a five-year, $120-million contract to IAP Worldwide Services, which is run by Al Neffgen, a former senior Halliburton official. They also found that more than 300 federal employees providing facilities management services at Walter Reed had drooped to fewer than 60 by Feb. 3, 2007, the day before IAP took over facilities management. IAP replaced the remaining 60 employees with only 50 private workers.

“American troops today, American and Afghan officials said, in an incident that the Americans said left 16 civilians dead and 24 wounded as they fled the scene of a suicide car bombing in eastern Afghanistan. One American was also wounded.” ... “Afghan journalists — some working for the Associated Press — covering the aftermath of a suicide bomb attack and shooting in eastern Afghanistan Sunday said and warned them not to publish or air any images of U.S. troops or a car where three Afghans were shot to death.”

Not that anyone cares, but.... the garment with sleeves that tie in the back to restrain the wearer is a "strait" (i.e., narrow, confining) jacket, not a "," which I think is what came with a leisure suit. By the same token, there is no "straight and narrow path" of righteousness. Matthew 7:13-14 reads (in the King James Version)

Enter ye in at the strait gate:
for wide is the gate, and broad is the way,
that leadeth to destruction,
and many there be which go in thereat:

Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way,
which leadeth unto life,
and few there be that find it.

A strait is literally a narrow body of water, as in "Strait of Gibraltar." Passage through a strait can be dangerous for a ship, leading to such expressions as "desperate straits." (I suppose that a "desperate straight" is either a very horny heterosexual or the Ace, King, Queen, Jack, and Ten of mixed suits facing an opponent holding five diamonds.)

 

This has been another obsolete and irrelevant message from the language police. You may now resume your normal (and presumably more productive) activities.

My Gov'nor finally gets something right Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle (D) “has directed the state to because new rules would limit how much recipients could talk about contraception or sexually transmitted diseases this year.”

Blaming the victim: a standard symptom of conservatiasis Newt Gingrich blames of Hurricane Katrina for their "failure of citizenship."

King's George's injustice Back in the Stalinist days of the Soviet Union, someone could be held in prison without charges for five years, tortured, and then charged under a law that hadn't even been passed when he was picked up. If he ever got a trial at all and his defense attorney, in the course of defending him, dared to criticize the Party Secretary or the Defense Minister, the prosecutor could charge the defense attorney with "using contemptuous language toward high officials," a charge for which the defense attorney could be sent to prison. Aren't you glad we don't live in such a country?

But of course our government would only do that sort of thing to "the worst of the worst," people who are such dangerous terrorists it would be madness to release them until the end of the War on Terror. Never, for example, and agree not to make a big fuss in court about their treatment while in captivity. I'm with : I have absolutely no idea why anyone would doubt the fundamental fairness of the military commission system.

I must admit that the case of David Hicks, the Australian held at Guantanamo, has been off my radar lately, and it shouldn't be. It's a national embarrassment. Here's the latest. Hicks this week became the under the new military tribunals set up by Congress just before the mid-term elections in response to the Supreme Court's Hamdan decision striking down the old tribunal system. After being held for five years without a trial and being originally charged with conspiracy to commit murder and engage in acts of terrorism, attempted murder and aiding the enemy, Hick was charged with a single count of providing material support for terrorism, which, his lawyers argue, wasn't outlawed until 2006. Australians are . Understandably so.

Now comes that Hicks' trial may be delayed because his American military lawyer, Maj. Michael Mori, is being threatened with prosecution under the UCMJ by the chief American prosecutor, Col. Morris Davis:

Colonel Davis has accused Major Mori of breaching Article 88 of the US military code, which relates to using contemptuous language towards the president, vice-president, and secretary of defence. Penalties for breaching the code include jail and the loss of employment and entitlements. Major Mori denied he had done anything improper but said the accusations left him with an inherent conflict of interest. "It can't help but raise an issue of whether any further representation of David and his wellbeing could be tainted by a concern for my own legal wellbeing," Major Mori told the Herald. "David Hicks needs counsel who is not tainted by these allegations." Major Mori, who has been to Australia seven times, will seek legal advice. The issue will also have to be raised with Hicks when his legal team next sees him.

Morris has criticized Mori's frequent trips to Australia; and, as The Times yesterday, American embassy officials tried and failed to have the Pentagon bar Mori from coming to Australia. Why would anyone doubt that Hicks will get a fair trial?

Good times with the GOP At the CPAC conference Ann Coulter goes on stage to call John Edwards a 'faggot'. Coulter said: "I was going to have a few comments on the other Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, but it turns out you have to go into rehab if you use the word 'faggot,' so I - so kind of an impasse, can't really talk about Edwards." Audience members said "ohhh" and then cheered.Good times, good times. Go here to see the . John Edwards starts a.k.a. campaign contributions, off of her "faggot" slur at the CPAC conference. Relatedly, let's not forget another equally tasteful from last year's CPAC event.

Just wondering, Ann... I've been wondering why it is that among the conservatives it isn't saying the word 'faggot' that gets you chucked into rehab, but actually turning out to be one.

Those golden oldies that just keep on giving. Remember the Denver Three? Their civil suit is proceeding, and today the reports: "A former White House official who ordered three activists expelled from a 2005 Denver public forum with President Bush says it was White House policy to exclude potentially disruptive guests from Bush's appearances nationwide." But of course...

Fightin' words (I hope) Alberto Gonzales to House Democrats: . Here's the latest on the in the House over the coming showdown between Congressional Dems and the White House over Iraq. Relatedly, check out against the Dems.

Farewell Former Sen. Thomas Eagleton at 77.

What was it Dubya saw in Putin's soul? Pro-democracy demonstrators by police in St. Petersburg. If you have only a vague sense of how bad things have become in Putin's Russia, you might be interested in Michael Specter's in The New Yorker. More on the St. Petersburg clash .

Attorneygate update Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) releases a statement about his call to U.S. Attorney David Iglesias: "I regret making that call and I apologize." Read the whole statement . Sen. Pete "" Domenici (R-NM) has had an and now does have an idea what canned U.S. Attorney David Iglesias was talking about when he said Domenici called him about a high-profile public corruption case in New Mexico shortly before the mid-term elections.

Oh, THAT call.

Well, sure, I called him, Domenici said in statement released to home state media Saturday, but I never told him what course of action I thought he should take, or pressured him, or threatened him in any way. Nonetheless, hindsight being 20/20, I regret making that call. And even though I didn't threaten, pressure, cajole, suggest, hint, wink, or nod, I apologize.

I was waiting for him to say that he's just some old guy who wanders Capitol Hill in his . Who would take that guy seriously?

Well, when a U.S. Senator--a senior Senator from your own party, no less--calls you about a case, you can be damn sure it's not a social call. Here's what Domenici says transpired on the call:

I asked Mr. Iglesias if he could tell me what was going on in that investigation and give me an idea of what timeframe we were looking at. It was a very brief conversation, which concluded when I was told that the courthouse investigation would be continuing for a lengthy period.

What timeframe "we" were looking at? The royal "we." It's just us Republicans here, old boy. Notice too that Domenici's version of events doesn't preclude him having abruptly hung up the phone, as Iglesias claims.

But Domenici knows he screwed up. Otherwise, what's to apologize for? Maybe with a mea culpa, I'm sure the thinking goes, he can put this behind him and move quickly on. Nice touch, that written statement. No follow-up questions. No need to provide a timeline. May get the local reporters off his back for a while.

So many question remain. Here's one: Did the good senator ever have any discussions with Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM) about their calls to Iglesias?

Oh, this is good. One of the fascinating dynamics in the Justice Department for going on 4 years now has been the tension between the Bush loyalists and those loyal Republicans who still have a shred of decency left. The poster child for the latter category has been , the deputy attorney general for part of John Ashcroft's tenure, who appointed his old friend Patrick Fitzgerald as special prosecutor to investigate the Plame affair. Comey was also the guy who refused to reauthorize the NSA warrantless wiretapping program, forcing the White House to get Ashcroft to sign off on it from his hospital bed. Bush, as is his way, Comey "Cuomo."

Comey is two years removed from DOJ, now serving as general counsel for Lockheed Martin. But, as Josh , Comey popped up this week singing the praises of canned U.S. Attorney David Iglesias to the Washington Post: "David Iglesias was one of our finest and someone I had a lot of confidence in as deputy attorney general."

You could almost hear the knives being sharpened.

Then yesterday, as Paul , the Bush loyalists fired back, telling the Post that Comey had been consulted by his successor as deputy attorney general, Paul McNulty, about some of the canned prosecutors before McNulty approved the final list.

Ooops. Not so, the says today:

In a related matter, administration officials said they were mistaken in saying that Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty consulted his predecessor, James B. Comey, about some of the U.S. attorneys before they were fired. Comey was not consulted, the officials said Saturday.

In a different era, this would call for pistols at dawn. Good stuff.

What about the good news? Haven't had in a while:

After centuries full of vibrant interaction, of marrying, sharing and selling across sects and classes, Baghdad has become a capital of corrosive and violent borderlines. Streets never crossed. Conversations never started. Doors never entered.

Sunnis and Shiites in many professions now interact almost exclusively with colleagues of the same sect. Sunnis say they are afraid to visit hospitals because Shiites loyal to the cleric Moktada al-Sadr run the Health Ministry, while Shiite laborers who used to climb into the back of pickup trucks for work across the Tigris River in Sunni western Baghdad now take jobs only near home.

I'm told, though, that the sectarian-segregated crews have done a really good job of painting many schools. Many schools. Why do you hate America?

Right on. As usual, :

This hideous face of the Republican Party has been obvious to those of us who have been paying attention for a long, long time. It is the single most important reason why our politics have devolved into a filthy grudge match.

For a long time liberals were paralyzed or indifferent as the GOP demonized liberalism as the root of every problem and pathology in American society. We were derided as unamerican, treasonous and evil. After the congressional harrassment of the 90's, the partisan impeachment, the puerile coverage of campaign 2000 and the resulting installation of a Republican president under very dubious circumstances, Democrats of all stripes heard both the Republicans and the media smirking at our outrage and telling us to "get over it."

And all of this was his was after Bill Clinton had moved the party to the center, had governed as a bipartisan compromiser and the Republicans impeached him anyway. Clearly, the Democratic party was blind if they didn't take the Republicans at their threatening words.

Breaking the news Mother Jones has a package of stories this month about media consolidation, and the lead piece is an article by Eric Klinenberg lamenting the decline of local news. He starts off with a story about a March 2005 Senate hearing in which Barbara Boxer questioned Kevin Martin, who had been nominated to head the FCC, about a study the commission had done on the

Unsuspecting, Martin said that it had never been completed. Then, as he watched glumly, Boxer brandished a draft of the study, which had, in fact, been written more than two years earlier, only to be buried by the FCC. The report found that locally owned television stations, on average, presented 5 1/2 minutes more local news per broadcast than stations owned by out-of-town conglomerates. The findings squarely contradicted the claims made by Martin, [former FCC chairman Michael] Powell, and big media companies, who have argued that lifting limits on ownership would improve local news coverage.....The discovery of the missing studies wasn't just bad for Martin's image, it was a blow to his pet project -- trying to repeal what's known as the cross-ownership ban, a 31-year-old FCC rule that prohibits a single company from owning a newspaper and a TV station in the same regional market....Lifting the ban, he said, "may help to forestall the erosion in local news coverage." But now, the FCC's own internal findings confirmed what its critics had been saying for years -- that letting one company dominate a city's news business actually undermines the quality of the local media that most Americans rely on for their news.

The whole package is including a Kevin Drum that suggests the decline of national and international bureaus is an even bigger problem than the decline of local news. Even bloggers are going to feel that pinch eventually.

Funny if you can stomach it

Brave New World Mickey Kaus offers up the following political analysis of the

Voters--even many socially liberal peacenik voters--traditionally worry that if Dems gain full power they will a) serve their special interests and b) cripple American capitalism in a fit of leftish nostalgia. This bill legitimately triggers both fears.

Jeez. Making it modestly easier for unions to organize will cripple American capitalism? Who knew that paying janitors ten bucks an hour would doom our way of life?

In any case, the underlying question, I think, is whether you believe that workers have too little bargaining power these days, thus leading to stagnant median wages.

Is a return to unions the best solution to the market power imbalance? Should we return to the past, or should we try to use the changing political landscape as an opportunity to build better institutions for both workers and firms, institutions that offer workers the same degree of bargaining power that unions provide, and the the same degree of income, health, and retirement security, but do so more efficiently? We already know how unions work, pretty much, but can we do better?

Well, that's the question, isn't it? If you don't care about boosting stagnant wages, then the whole question is moot. Of course you'll be opposed to unions. But if you do care about boosting stagnant wages, then either you support unions as the best answer we currently have, imperfect though they may be, or else you need to propose an alternative.

Unfortunately, that's where everything stops dead. The alternatives on offer are usually either pie in the sky (tighter labor markets! night classes!) or transparent conservative shilling (voucher schools! lower capital gains taxes!). In the past three decades, the only thing that's succeeded in raising even a little bit was the late-90s dotcom boom, and I don't think that's something we can count on replicating. I'm mightily interested in feasible real-world proposals for "better institutions...that offer workers the same degree of bargaining power that unions provide," but what are they?

The Myth of Reagoldwater Ross Douthat that needs to be said, but let me just state it very clearly -- the idea that Ronald Reagan's charisma and sunny disposition won landslide victories for Barry Goldwater's substantive views on the size and scope of government is false. Very false.

Reagan was, famously, the political beneficiary of a backlash against the liberalism of the 1960s and 1970s. The important thing to remember about this is that unless you think people were lashing back against the Peace Corps, this was a backlash entirely against programs that didn't exist during Barry Goldwater's 1964 campaign. It was only after Goldwater lost that "welfare as we knew it," Medicare, Medicaid, major federal involvement in education, federal environmental policy, federal consumer safety regulations, affirmative action, etc. came into exist. Reagan's political mobilization was aimed at a subset of this post-Goldwater flowering of big government. He didn't tilt against Medicare, by far the biggest Great Society program. And he certainly didn't campaign for the repeal of the New Deal (indeed, he repeatedly explicitly disavowed any intention of doing so).

The Goldwater-Reagan similarity is that they both led "conservative" factions of the GOP against "accommodationist" factions. But between 1964 and 1976 the country experienced a massive policy revolution that shifted the status quo way, way, way to the left of where it had been. Reagan then simultaneously shifted the GOP to the right of where Gerald Ford had initially positioned it while shifting the conservative movemenet to the left -- to acceptance of a federal responsibility for retirement security and quality education, to acceptance of the Civil Rights Act (opposition to which was, of course, Goldwater's only reliable vote-getter in '64), and to acceptance of popular middle class entitlement programs.

Published

March 5, 2007 - 8:40am

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