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Keep your friends close… and your family closer

This looks really cool:  a The Washington Post reports on the MedCottage, or “Granny Pod,” a “portable high-tech dwelling that could be trucked to a family’s back yard and used to shelter a loved one in need of special care… The dwelling would take up about as much room as a large shed and, like an RV, could connect to a single-family house’s electrical and water supplies. It could be leased for about $2,000 a month.”

A pop-up hospice unit for your baby-boomer parents to end their lives in your backyard? Better think about selling that nursing home stock. Below the fold: picture, controversy, and a stretch for a Williams connection.

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In Speak Up, hwc asked:

Has Adam Falk taken a position on the DREAM act?

This is the bill before Congress that permits undocumented immigrants who entered the US before age 16 to join the military, attend college, and receive financial aid, workstudy, and student loans. They receive a conditional residency status and can apply for citizenship upon completion of a two year or four year college degree or two years of military service.

The Presidents of Harvard, Stanford, UPenn, and Cornell have all publicly supported the bill.


Neither Williams College nor President Falk (speaking qua President) should take a position on the DREAM Act. Indeed, Williams should avoid taking position on any partisan issue that is not directly and substantively connected to its primary mission of being the best liberal arts college in the world. Every Eph has opinions on all sorts of topics: the DREAM Act, the Iraq War, American Idol, et cetera. But Williams as an institution does not take sides unless its mission is substantively (not just symbolically) impacted. Whether or not the DREAM Act passes has zero impact on who attends Williams, so President Falk should avoid the topic entirely. For the most part, this was the policy followed by Morty.

I have added hwc’s initial question and other comments from that thread below.


Why Not Give Them Hell?

(to be published Tribune, UK) April 2010

The decline in American industry has been compensated, in a way, by the rise in the export of services. Surely, one of the most egregious of these has been the vending of electoral counsel by our political consultants. Along with its bastard sibling, lobbying, in Washington and the state capitals, political consultancy is a recession-proof source of income, if not always of status. Consultancy often approximates the dignity and cultural weight usually attached to piano playing in brothels . In the current British campaign, I gather that the parties are using native talents—such as they are.

One person (not a professional consultant but with a certain experience of electoral politics) who could have helped Gordon Brown and our Labour comrades is, alas, long dead. His name is Harry Truman, he was a New Deal Senator from Missouri, a strong ally of the labor movement, Franklin Roosevelt’s Vice-President from January to April of 1945, and then President. When he sought election on his own account, in 1948, he was regarded as defeated before he started. Read more


Historical Limits

Dear Chancellor, (Published (German and English) Handelsblatt, 12 April 2010)

When you visit, I hope we may be spared the usual pieties about the values which unite us, assurances that we stand together against named and nameless enemies, pledges of cooperation in matters economic and environmental. Certainly, America’s Jewish leaders, shocked by Obama’s even handedness in the Holy Land, will expect you to treat Israel as if it were a state of the Federal Republic. As a friend, perhaps you could ask them to rethink their increasingly primitive ethnocentrism. Indeed, you could exchange the dreary rituals of Transatlantic friendship for its substance. Do us the honor of supposing that we are adult enough to tolerate difference.

Your Presidential host, despite achieving health care legislation which might bring the US into the middle of the twentieth century, confronts a divided nation. The hatred and violence welling up from the bottom reflects not the country you imagined from the other side of the Wall, but a society which, politically, cannot master its social conflicts. We can hardly unite with the Europeans in defense of freedom when we do not agree on what it means. There is something absurd, even spectral, in the platitudes of the Transatlantic experts who people the research centers in Berlin, Brussels and Washington.— they seem to be circling the earth in a spaceship.

We urgently need to begin an exit from empire. Read more


Rephsearch #2: My classmate and current williams prof

Update: I love the internet! Justin was kind enough to e-mail me with a copy of his more recent article. Justin’s also open to answering questions, so let’s get started.

Who better to exemplify how bad-ass Williams people are than an alumni who is just finishing his first year (I believe) as an Assistant Professor? We turn, then, to Justin Crowe’s work. Professor Crowe’s work is on the role of the Supreme Court in the American political system and its history. It’s a topic Williams has often had a strength in, and it’s quite nice to see a Williams alum return to keep that tradition going!

His most recent article was just published almost exactly one month ago in Studies in American Political Development and is not available for free online (sad!). Fortunately, (yay!), the abstract is available here and earlier work can be downloaded in its entirety here . In light of Stevens’ retirement, the work available in full seems particularly interesting and relevant: the decline of short-term judges in the federal judiciary and an attempt to bring a social science outlook into a field of interest traditionally dominated by law professors. And there are many stories I could tell about law professors sticking their necks into the social sciences without adequate preparation, so it’s extra nice to see Justin’s work do the opposite and (it seems to me) with adequate preparation. Abstracts below the fold: Read more


Former Midd president John McCardell on lowering the drinking age

From Reason TV:


End of an era

David Kaiser writes about the retirement of John Paul Stevens:

The retirement of John Paul Stevens marks the passing of the last truly influential member of the GI generation from our national life. There are still four GIs in the Senate (Robert Byrd, Frank Lautenberg, Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka), but none is playing a very prominent role in events. His retirement also reminds us of the passing of two important and related elements in American life: the centrist, responsible Republican Party, which has been dying since the day on which he was appointed to the Supreme Court by Gerald Ford, and the much-lamented, much-misunderstood consensus era of American politics of which it was a part.

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The President’s Struggle To Take Command

The conflict between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu is in fact a struggle by the President to take command of his own government. The egregious Israel Prime Minister, the cynical Israel political class are not his primary antagonists. These are in the US, where parts of the foreign policy apparatus, the Congress, the media believe or claim to believe that the interests of the US and Israel are identical The President has now sided with the diplomats, military commanders, foreign policy thinkers who for decades have sought, at risk to their careers, a Mideast policy which takes Palestinian rights a precondition of an alternative US role in the region and the Muslim world.

The antagonists confronting the President are by no means exclusively or primarily Jewish. The President knows of the deep divisions within American Jewry .Many liberal and secular (and younger) American Jews reject the unthinking attachment to Israel of the leaders of most American Jewish organizations. The President’s Jewish supporters identify themselves with the US . They are quite aware of the paradox of contemporary Zionism. So far from serving as a spiritual home and potential refuge for the Diaspora, Israel is dependent upon the Diaspora for political support—and many of its own citizens, with dual passports, are already part of the Diaspora. .

What has made the Israel lobby so strong in the US is its connection with major themes of American history. A Calvinist reading of Exodus as anticipation of the white conquest of North America made honorary Yankees of the Israelis. American guilt over inactivity during the Holocaust has been sedulously exploited by Israel. The Jewish state has been, since the nineteen sixties, a Cold War ally and asset of American power. The campaign against “terror,” with all of its deformations and historical distortions, has reinforced Israel intransigence. The President has his own, different, reading of modern history. The speech in Cairo and now the conflict over East Jerusalem suggest that he will not renounce it.

Few in Europe will have heard of an “American Coalition Against a Nuclear Iran,” a well funded lobbying group. Its directors include the President of the Conference of Major American Jewish organizations, and the former CIA Director James Woolsey (a loud proponent of the fraudulent allegation of an alliance between Baathist Iraq and Al Quaida) and a miscellany of Democrats and Republicans living by such wits as they possess..It is reminiscent of “The Committee on the Present Danger” –a coalition of Democrats and Republicans who responded to the defeat in Viet Nam by demanding confrontation with the Soviet Union. The Committee’s domestic antagonists were not only the Viet Nam peace party but Kissinger, Nixon and Ford, who after all, had evacuated Saigon and then pursued arms control with the USSR. The Committee, included partisans of Israel who demanded that any agreements with the USSR be conditional upon the Soviet Union allowing Jewish emigration. The Committee did not seriously intend this: the USSR could not stand the loss of intellectual capital entailed in Jewish emigration, which would also have destroyed its alliances with the Arab nations. The actual situation of the Soviet Union and the well being of its citizens was of no interest to the Committee.

Similarly, the directors of the “American Coalition Against A Nuclear Iran” have no concern with or knowledge of Iran or its people. They seek immediate confrontation as part of a permanent American mobilization. The Iran question solved, one can easily imagine them applying the same rhetoric to China a decade hence. Here, the interests of Israel and those who have ideological and material interests in unrelenting increase in American power coincide.

The President relies on veterans of our long series of imperial misadventures: Secretary Gates, National Security Advisor General Jones, and Senior military commander Admiral Mullen. Unlike the desktop belligerents of the opinion pages, Jones and Mullen know war at first hand. They can also count. Adding up our many wars since 1945, the two the US has has won were against Granada and Panama. One understands their resistance to attacking Iran. Our imperial managers are clear: their primary task is to prevent new disasters.

The President’s demands on Israel are also, then, a response to the Israel attempt to involve the US in war against Iran. In fact, Israel and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee had made the threat from Iran the central theme of the Prime Minister’s visit. The President’s obduracy in putting first things first took them by surprise. AIPAC did obtain the signature of not quite three hundred of the 435 members of Congress to a letter stating that since US and Israel were so close, public discussion of differences was highly inadvisable. Seldom can members of a parliamentary body have so summarily renounced their rights.

A week after the confrontation, both the NY Times ands the Post in their Sunday editions were silent about it—but offered their readers familiar matter on Iran. The Times published a series of surmises on the Iranian nuclear project, with a ration of speculation to fact of about twenty to one. Its Washington bureau chief recapitulated a trivial Brookings Institution war game of an Israel attack on Iran, extensively reported months ago. The Post published a column by William Kristol in which he urged war on Iran, recycling every cliche of the past half century. General Petraeus’ warning on the dangers to the US national interest of total alignment with Israel was not mentioned. True, the politically agile general had telephoned the Israel chief of staff to say that his report was “taken out of context”—-but in context, it is unequivocal.

The Israel elite, meanwhile, is in a state of shock at the thought that Obama may actually mean what he says. The American Jewish leadership is no less stunned, and seems unable to grasp that the fictions that it has long purveyed are now matters of debate. The President would be helped by a strong European contribution to the debate. More than a half million Israelis are flying to Europe this week for Passover holidays. Much would be gained were they to return with the impression that more civilized standards are required of Israel. Whatever he says, even so ordinary a figure as Netanyahu knows that since his White House visit, nothing will be the same.

This article was also published in today’s El Pais


Federal employees making more amidst recession…

The number of federal workers earning six-figure salaries has exploded during the recession, according to a USA TODAY analysis of federal salary data.

Federal employees making salaries of $100,000 or more jumped from 14% to 19% of civil servants during the recession’s first 18 months — and that’s before overtime pay and bonuses are counted.

Federal workers are enjoying an extraordinary boom time — in pay and hiring — during a recession that has cost 7.3 million jobs in the private sector.

The highest-paid federal employees are doing best of all on salary increases. Defense Department civilian employees earning $150,000 or more increased from 1,868 in December 2007 to 10,100 in June 2009, the most recent figure available.

When the recession started, the Transportation Department had only one person earning a salary of $170,000 or more. Eighteen months later, 1,690 employees had salaries above $170,000.

The trend to six-figure salaries is occurring throughout the federal government, in agencies big and small, high-tech and low-tech. The primary cause: substantial pay raises and new salary rules.

I wonder if any Ephs working for the government can comment about this. I’ll be posting it on WSO to see what current students think about this, and whether or not it will influence future career decisions. Full article after the break.
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Salute and respect

David Kaiser makes the case for repealing DADT in response to this editorial by Gen. McPeak.



The Obama government is being severely criticised for its failure to prevent the young Nigerian of the Christmas Day attack from flying to the United States. Some critics assume that the Kingdom of the Netherlands recently joined the American Federal union as the fifty first state, and that Amsterdam airport like Boston or Chicago is under direct control of our government. Their ethnocentrism is telling. The anger at the lapse reflects a persistent American belief: if we are not invulnerable to the misfortunes that beset other nations, we should be.

The performance of the Bush administration before 11 September of 2001 was miserable. A judge denied the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s request to listen to the telephone of one of the later 11 September attackers, on grounds that the FBI kept asking for wire tap warrants in cases it could not sustain. President Bush himself instructed his National Security Advisor, Dr. Rice, that he had heard enough of Al Quaeda’s threats and wished to hear no more.

The American combination of arrogant complacency and administrative ineptitude has historical precedents. Read more


Is There An Imperial Exit?

(this article by Prof. Norman Birnbaum ’46 was originally published in El Pais, 28 February 2010)

We know, thanks to biographers and historians (and novelists) how the United States constructed its modern empire. Now that its costs are so high, however, and the nation increasingly divided again on how to deal with the world, we Americans know neither how to keep it or withdraw from it.

After continental conquest and continuous warfare, our modern imperial epoch began in 1898, at Spain’s cost. US participation in the war of 1914-18 (like the war with Spain) provoked domestic opposition. German and Irish immigrants were instinctively dubious, agrarian populists and urban socialists were ideologically so. Still, war intensified the assimilation of the millions of Europeans who had arrived before and after the turn of the century. Wilson, the son of a Calvinist pastor, depicted the US as a new Israel—chosen to write history anew, and most Americans assented.

The US emerged from the First World War as global banker and manufacturer. The nation plunged into consumer capitalism, and Armstrong, Chaplin and Hemingway carried our culture nearly everywhere. The isolationists between the wars were not a coherent bloc. Some were motivated by ethnic resentment of the Anglo-Saxon elite, others by politial suspicion of the ruling class, others were ancestors of the later unilateralists. Unimpeded by much public attention, three very internationalist Secretaries of State from the older elite, Hughes, Kellog, Stimson, extended American power by enlisting finance and industry in the task. The military prepared assiduously for the next Great War. Franklin Roosevelt in 1933 began his Presidency as a cautious internationalist.When he succeeded in bringing the nation into war in 1941, he drew upon the banks, law firms and universities to command the new warfare state. The public, remote from the conduct of foreign policy, agreed that war was necessary to defend the economic and social substance of the nation. Read more


Bilious Purging

Bill Bennett ’65 takes on Glen Beck.

There’s a lot to say about CPAC. This morning the major papers are highlighting Glenn Beck’s speech. I like Glenn a lot and I think he has something to teach us. But not what he offered last night.

Third, to admit it is still “morning in America” but a “vomiting for four hours” kind of morning is to diminish, discourage, and disparage all the work of the conservative, Republican, and independent resistance of the past year. The Tea Partiers know better than this. I don’t think they would describe their rallies and resistance as a bilious purging but, rather, as a very positive democratic reaction aimed at correcting the wrongs of the current political leadership. The mainstream media may describe their reactions as an unhealthy expurgation. I do not.

A year ago, we were told the Republican party and the conservative movement were moribund. Today they are ascendant, and it is the left and the Democratic party that are on defense — even while they are in control. That’s quite an amazing achievement. But anyone who knows the history of this country and its political movements should not be surprised. America has a long tradition of antibodies that kick in. From Carter we got Reagan. And from Ted Kennedy and Barack Obama we took back a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, with midterm elections on the horizon that Republicans and conservatives are actually excited about, not afraid of.

To say the GOP and the Democrats are no different, to say the GOP needs to hit a recovery-program-type bottom and hang its head in remorse, is to delay our own country’s recovery from the problems the Democratic left is inflicting.

Indeed. One of the reasons that I voted for Obama is that I hope/predicted that we would see precisely this sort of dynamic.

EphBlog readers will certainly disagree about the Tea Partiers, but surely we can agree that Bennett is a better/smarter conservative than Beck.


Ruining Lives and Livelihoods

Instead of interrupting Dick Swart’s excellent post about the World War II internment of Japanese-Americans, I thought it useful to move the discussion to a new thread. Start with this item in the Daily Messages:

This message was sent to Students, Faculty, and Staff on February 19, 2010 by Rebecca Ohm, Williams College Libraries.

Executive Order 9066 On this day in 1942, Franklin Roosevelt signed Exec. Order 9066, authorizing “removal of resident enemy aliens”, to what were described as “military areas”. U.S. citizens or not, thousands of Japanese-Americans were interned in these camps, ruining lives and livelihoods in the process. MORE: from Rebecca Ohm, Williams College Libraries

Message details:

For more on this dark period in U.S. history, explore the extensive library collections on this aspect of WWII; search FRANCIS for subjects: Japanese Americans — Evacuation and relocation, 1942-1945 Japanese Americans — Reparations World War, 1939-1945 — Japanese Americans

This is a cute little example of political correctness at Williams because it pretends that there is only one reasonable position to hold: That internment was evil. In fact, as with most controversial issues, there are two sides. Curious about the other side? Start with In Defense of Internment: The Case for ‘Racial Profiling’ in World War II and the War on Terror by Michelle Malkin. Note especially the seriousness with which Malkin engages her academic critics.

Best part? The Williams libraries do not own a copy of Malkin’s book! Wouldn’t want to confuse the students . . .

UPDATE: Just to clarify, I don’t mean to accuse Rebecca Ohm of political correctness. I don’t know her. But every member of the Williams library staff that I have dealt with has been knowledgeable and cordial. Instead, I think this Daily Message illustrates an attitude that is widespread at Williams, as Professor Sam Crane’s comment demonstrates.


Guess Who Taught at Williams …

… the slightly (to put it kindly) unhinged Obama basher of the moment, John Drew.  (If you don’t believe him, you can even see his Williams ID … and be sure to check out who, unsurprisingly, tracked him down in the blog comments … actually, I’m surprised that he and David weren’t buddies during their mutual tenure at Williams).  Drew has achieved some minor notoriety in the extreme right-wing blogosphere via his claim that President Obama expressed … gasp … Marxist sympathies late one evening when Obama was a college sophomore.  Awww, snap!  What is his claim based on?  An unverifiable description of a single conversation that Drew purportedly had with a teenaged Obama, some 30 years ago.  I can certainly recall, with precise clarity, every conversation I had during chance meetings with strangers in the Perry keg line.

This guy’s blog and twitter feed read like they were written by Colbert staffers as a right-wing parody:

  • self infatuation? Check … “My own credentials, by the way, were somewhat spectacular since I was the winner of the William Anderson Award from the American Political Science Association in 1989” [yes, certainly “spectacular” to have published, apparently, a total of zero scholarly works other than various versions of a thesis written while in graduate school, and to hold down a series of part-time jobs at esteemed institutions like the University of Phoenix … this guy’s resume makes Bernard Moore look like James MacGregor Burns]
  • paranoid belief that any and all personal failure is explainable by the pernicious effects of affirmative action (including a demand for “reparations” because he was born white)?  Check.
  • religious-style “conversion” from the evils of Marxism to the righteous ways of Conservatism?  Check.
  • distaste for Obama’s perceived meterosexuality and attempt to link any critique of Obama, no matter how attenuated (or nonexistent) the connection, to Tony Rezko or Jeremiah Wright?  Check.

Only a matter of time before this guy is doing the rounds with Hannity, Beck, O’Reilly, Coulter, Palin, and the rest of the hate-Obama brigade … I love, in particular, that Drew states that he is an “award winning” political scientist who taught at a few of our nation’s “formerly prestigious institutions.”  I can only assume that he considers Williams to be “formerly” prestigious, unlike his more recent employers, like Hope International (the seventh best Christian business school in the country!) and UoP.

UPDATE: ID photo added by DK, along with material below.
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The US And Iran

This essay, by Professor Norman Birnbaum ’46, was originally published in the Berlin daily Die Tageszeitung (taz) as >>Krieg gegen Teheran?< <.

The Iranian leadership is learning, haltingly, the aggressively manipulative flexibility occasionally shown by the USSR in relations with the west. When, under Khrushchev especially, it indicated a willingness to discuss a western proposal, the western capitals became confused, even panicked. The Iranian offer to discuss uranium enrichment abroad has provoked the US and the ever dutiful Europeans to denounce Iranian deceit. There is no western strategy for Iran—only non-negotiable demands, and condemnation, provoking Iranian erraticism.

The US has three immediate options with respect to Iran. The unilateralists nostalgic for the ideological simplicity of Bush and Cheney and,the Israel lobby (it could be renamed the Likud lobby, as signfiicant segments of American Jewry doubt the competence of the Israel politicians now in power) propose to attack Iran, with no delay, after demanding instant cessation of Iran’s nuclear projects. That Iran is developing nuclear weapons is an item of faith for those who make no apologies for using falsified evidence to justify war on Iraq. For them, a prior attack by Israel is neither necessary or desirable. The Israel elite doubts that Israel by itself can successfully attack Iran, and prefers to let the US do so. The previous Israel Chief of Staff, the air force general who led the inconclusive war with Hezbollah, has just warned his nation against over estimation of its capacity to strike Iran.

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Tragic figure

Evan Miller ’06 defends someone that, quite frankly, I didn’t expect to see anyone defending.


Open Thread On SOTU

I continue discussions with folks at EphBlog and at Williams about the best way to foster political discussions among the Ephs. In that spirit, let us try an open thread about President Obama’s State of the Union speech. Got an opinion? Tell us in the comments.

Extra credit for any Eph references!

UPDATE: McDonnell reply here.

And just because Obama is done speaking does not mean that the political conversation needs to end here. What was the most surprising/enjoyable/annoying part of either speech for you?


The Prisoner in the White House

At my request, Norman Birnbaum ’46 will be sharing some of his articles with EphBlog. Here is the first. – DK

After a year in office, the President seems—rather like most of his predecessors—a prisoner in the White House. The New York Times, not conspicuous for its irony, has just written that, other matters permitting, he hopes to do something about unemployment.

Failure to reverse it would indeed make his re-election very difficult in 2012, and is likely to result in large Republican gains in the Congressional elections of November 2010 when the entire House of Representatives and a third of the Senate will be at stake. The victory in the special election to choose a successor to the late Senator Edward Kennedy in Massachusetts (held exactly one year after the President’s assumption of office) of an unknown and not visibly gifted local politician who campaigned as exponent of the ordinary people’s virtues against the vices of the political elite, shocked the Democrats—who became aware of the danger too late to avert it. The President’s approval ratings in the public opinion polls are not worse than that of many of his predecessors at this period of the Presidency (at the end of January, half the public thought he was performing to their satisfaction) –but the contrast with the large expectations he evoked earlier, the returned confidence of the Republicans and demoralization and pronounced division amongst the Democrats, is very striking.

The relationship between domestic and foreign policy in American Presidencies follows no very standard pattern. In general, a President whose standing in domestic matters is high is freer to maneuver in foreign affairs. That is not always the case, and Lyndon Johnson, a very successful and major domestic reformer, knew that the Vietnam War was unwinnable but did not act on his insight because he feared being attacked as weak. Yet in 1964 he had won a very convincing victory against his opponent, Senator Goldwater (whom he charged with planning to do what Johnson promptly did in 1965, expand the war in Vietnam.) Nixon, per contra, entered the White House in 1969 with a reputation for unmitigated bellicosity, and proceeded to open relations with the People’s Republic of China (refused by the US, absurdly, since the Communists’ assumption of power two decades earlier), engaged in serious negotiations with the Soviet Union, and in effect abandoned our south Vietnamese client state to its fate. As the last President Bush became increasingly mired in what struck an American majority as an interminable and for many, unnecessary, war in Iraq he found that despite his re-election in 2004, he had no majority for his domestic priorities, permanent and structural rather than incidental reductions in expenditure for the American welfare state.

The Obama Presidential majority of November 2008 clearly sought a new beginning in our politics, but how many of the President’s voters shared his complex and differentiated foreign policy perspective is not at all clear. He took his election as a mandate to announce policies which would have been inconceivable under Bush and unimaginable had McCain won: reconciliation with the Islamic world, new beginning of cooperation with China and Russia, an end to hegemonic bullying in the western hemisphere, an invitation to the European Union to propose its own initiatives in world politics (of which it proved incapable), US cooperation in serious measures to control environmental destruction, a new US initiative to bring Israel and the Palestinians to a settlement, and negotiations with Iran on its nuclear project. Read more


Historical Perspective on Citizens United

Good essay from Prof. David Kaiser:

Political speech was free, or almost free, when the first amendment was passed, in two different ways: not only did the law now protect it, but the production and distribution of written materials (the only ones then available) was extremely cheap. In the early nineteenth century, yours truly might have started and turned out a weekly broadsheet almost as easily as I now turn out this blog. The point is not whether material like Hillary can be produced–of course it can, although it testifies to the decline of American political discourse in the last half century–the point is who will have the money to advertise it and broadcast it on cable television. Just as Anatole France remarked that the law impartially forbade both the rich and the poor from sleeping under bridges, the law now impartially allows David Kaiser, the heads of Citibank and Goldman Sachs, and Glenn Beck to make their views available on television to audiences of millions. The problem is that only three of them will be able to do so. The reformers of the 1900-80 era did not need rocket science to figure out that increasingly expensive modern forms of communication would obviously give incredible advantages to the rich and powerful and thus had to be regulated to give ordinary citizens a chance to be heard. A 5-4 Supreme Court majority has now thrown out a century of tradition and returned us to a form of political Darwinism (see my earlier posts on social Darwinism several years ago, easily located by a search at the top of the page.)

The current crisis in American life, I have been saying here now for five years, will lead either to a kind of New Deal revival or to a return to the Gilded Age. Karl Rove understands this and cited William McKinley as his political hero. The court just brought us immensely closer to a return to McKinley’s age.

Those like me who never have and never will abandon the New Deal principles they learned in their youth inevitably mourn the likely eclipse, for the rest of our lifetimes, of those principles. But once again my training as a European historian at least enables me to say that things could be much, much worse. Although the Republicans have frequently bent the law (most notably in 2000 and again this week), they have successfully undid the work of our parents and grandparents mainly through legal means. There is no Fascist movement or dictatorship on the horizon (although one could still emerge.) It was the America of the Gilded age to which my paternal grandfather came around 1900, making my own life possible. The liberal tradition will survive, even if will only be revived years after the Boom generation has passed from the scene. (I do not exclude the possibility that my own side might still prevail even in this crisis, but it does not look at all likely.) If the Founding Fathers managed to design a system that can preserve essential liberties and survive even severe swings to the right and left, they will still deserve our thanks.

Emphasis mine. Read the whole thing here.

The central theme of the recent book Packing the Court by Prof. James MacGregor Burns is the undemocratic and unconstitutional rise of Supreme Court power. He writes (emphasis mine):

In retrospect, the court has far more often been a tool for reaction, not progress. Whether in the Gilded Age of the late nineteenth century or the Gilded Age at the turn of the twenty-first, the justices have most fiercely protected the rights and liberties of the minority of the powerful and the propertied. Americans cannot look to the judicial branch for leadership.

Confronted with what he calls “unelected and unaccountable politicians in robes”, Burns proposes that the only way to break judicial power is for the democratic branches of government to challenge it, either through a constitutional amendment, or a somewhat more daring strategy:

Confronted by a hostile court repeatedly striking down vital progressive legislation, a president could declare that there is no place in a modern democracy for unelected judges to veto twenty-first-century laws. The president would announce flatly that he or she would not accept the Supreme Court’s verdicts because the power of judicial emasculation of legislation was not – and never had been – in the Constitution. The president would invite the partisans of judicial supremacy to try to write that authority into the Constitution by proposing a constitutional amendment. Through their representatives in Congress and the state legislatures, the American people would be given the choice denied them in 1803: to establish in the Constitution the power of judicial supremacy, or to reject that power. Only by this route could judicial rule be legitimated, “constitutionalized.” In the meantime, until the matter was settled, the president would faithfully execute the laws the Supreme Court had unconstitutionally vetoed.

It would be a risky strategy, an open defiance of constitutional customs and the myths and mysteries that have long enshrouded the court. Traditionalists would be outraged. Professors of law would express their concern in learned treatises. Powerful interests with a stake in the status quo – business groups, conservative lawyers, and their supporters in the political class – would spearhead a campaign of opposition. There might even be demands for impeachment. In the ensuing turbulence, though, the president would have an enormous strategic advantage. He would need only to sit tight. The burden would be on his adversaries to initiate the new and momentous amendment to the Constitution and to obtain a mandate for judicial rule. For once it would be the foes of reform, not the reformers, who would have to go through the constitutional hoops of amendment, with all the traps and delays.

Above all, it would be a test of leadership, of the president’s ability to mobilize followers behind a transformational goal, as FDR had so markedly failed to do in 1937. He would present the idea for what it was – a revolutionary challenge to judicial business-as-usual, to minority rule by a handful of judges, a fight for the Constitution as the people’s charter, not a lawyer’s contract.[…]

If judicial rule was not ratified by the people in the amending process, the Supreme Court’s exclusive grip on constitutional interpretation would be broken. Shorn of its supremacy, the court would still retain crucial tasks. It would still be called upon to interpret ambiguous statutes, adjust conflicting laws, clarify jurisdictions, and police the boundaries of federal-state power – virtually all of its present responsibilities except that of declaring federal laws unconstitutional. It would simply be brought closer to the role the Framers originally envisioned for it.

Quotation above taken from the Epilogue, “Ending Judicial Supremacy”, to Prof. Burns’ book.

Burns seems to expect that a constitutional crisis of this magnitude will occur at some point in the future, perhaps in the near future. With Citizens United, the opportunity for the democratic branches of govt. to reform judicial power may have occurred before even he would have expected it. What are the chances that the Democratic leadership in Congress and the White House will challenge the court?


Feed Us Happy-Talk

I enjoyed this letter in the Transcript.

To the Editor:

A year ago, if we had read in the paper that employers were hiring again, that health care legislation was proceeding without a bump, that Afghanistan suddenly became a nice place to take your kids, we would’ve known we were being lied to. Back then, we recognized that the problems Obama inherited as president wouldn’t go away overnight.

During his campaign, Obama clearly said that an economy that took eight years to break couldn’t be fixed in a year, that Afghanistan was a graveyard of empires and would not be an easy venture for us.

Candidate Obama didn’t feed us happy-talk, which is why we elected him. He never said America could solve our health care, economic and security problems without raising the deficit. Instead, he talked of hard choices, of government taking painful and contentious first steps towards fixing problems that can’t be left for another day.

It’s time for Americans to realize that governing is hard work and that a president can’t just wave a magic wand and fix everything.

Ellie Light


Indeed. The College Democrats ought to invite Ellie Light to give a talk on campus. I bet that it would be very interesting . . .


Coakley reflects on loss

From The Boston Globe:

(thanks to nuts for the link)



If you are a resident of Massachusetts, you should probably vote today.


Scoff at soybean subsidies, hwc? I think not …

The Eastern Bias shows up once again in these elitist pages filled with the spewlings of trust fund bunnies!

Soybean subsidies keep the Midwest economy going with food on the table for families and the world filled with plastics and culinary imitations, while EphBlog readers complain about the recent increase in the fresh tuna price at Dean and deLucca!

Question those senatorial hopefuls, hwc! And be sure to include the all-important soybean conjecture!


As fraudulent as Bush

Andrew Sullivan reads the Globe op-ed penned by Martha Coakley’s Republican opponent Scott Brown:

His Globe piece is presumably a good way to assess his platform. And it highlights all the bankruptcy of the current conservative establishment. Take a couple of issues. He starts by listing national problems:

Public debt has reached $12 trillion and counting, and Washington politicians want to borrow trillions more.

His solution?

My plan for the economy is simple: an across-the-board tax cut – in the tradition of John F. Kennedy – for families and businesses that will increase investment and lead to immediate new job growth. More tax increases will hurt our recovery. That’s why I have taken a no-new-tax pledge. My opponent will raise taxes.

Does anyone see the contradiction here? Without any tax increases, indeed with more taxcuts, the spending reductions required to reduce the debt will be fantastic: massive cuts in Medicare, Medicaid, and defense. Where does he outline these spending measures? Nowhere. Fiscally, he’s as fraudulent as Bush.

More absurdity here:

It’s time to admit that while the $787 billion stimulus had the best of intentions, it failed to create one new job.

Even if you believe that stimuli are wasteful or inefficient, I know of no sane economist who believes that $800 billion did not create one new job.

Then he’s in favor of the Massachusetts universal health insurance reform, on which Obama’s is based, but for some reason against the one for the country. Why?

But the healthcare bill under discussion in Washington is not good. It will raise taxes and increase spending. If you are a senior on Medicare, it will lead to a half trillion dollars in cuts to your care.

So Brown supports health care exchanges, a mandate, and universal care … but opposes healthcare exhcanges, a mandate and universal care. He is worried about the debt but actually opposes the proposed cuts in Medicare that can make universal insurance affordable – let alone the cuts necessary to bring us back from the fiscal abyss.

He is, in other words, a parody of the brainless bush Republican, mixed with Romney-like cynicism.


Attention Ephblog: Not all political writers hate Coakley ’75!

In case the…biases…of certain ephblog authors weren’t clear to you already, consider the following views of Coakley:

Left wing media supports Coakley .

Or this evidence that her opponent might be a dick/IRS cheat . Apparently, the health care coverage is less important than the fact that he’s making his staffers pay their own taxes so he can avoid payroll tax.

Or there’s Vicky Kennedy’s endorsement to consider .

Or the huffington post gets mad at centrists flip flopping .

And now, back to your regularly scheduled ephblog…


Coakley ’75 Down 4% in Senate Race

If you had told me last month that Martha Coakley ’75 might lose her race for the Senate, I would have said you were an idiot. Perhaps I am the idiot.

Riding a wave of opposition to Democratic health-care reform, GOP upstart Scott Brown is leading in the U.S. Senate race, raising the odds of a historic upset that would reverberate all the way to the White House, a new poll shows.

Although Brown’s 4-point lead over Democrat Martha Coakley is within the Suffolk University/7News survey’s margin of error, the underdog’s position at the top of the results stunned even pollster David Paleologos.

“It’s a Brown-out,” said Paleologos, director of Suffolk’s Political Research Center. “It’s a massive change in the political landscape.”

Unbelievable (almost). Losing Curt Schilling probably doesn’t help, nor telling Catholics that they should not work in emergency rooms.

I want Coakley to win because she is an Eph. But I also remember Gerald Amirault. Do you? Amirault remembers Coakley.



According to FiveThirtyEight

Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight is a remarkably good polling analyst. When he calls it a toss-up, I tend to believe him.

Here’s the aggregated chart:


Hate-filled opportunism

Brother Spotless is angry.

Go read the whole thing.


Coakley ’75 lead down to 2

According to Rasmussen Reports.

via David Weigel, who notes:

All of that comes after Coakley, roused from what Democrats admit was a fairly lazy campaign, launched new TV ads.

The really surprising thing about this poll? While Brown has made his campaign explicitly about the chance Massachusetts voters have to block the health care bill, Rasmussen finds a solid majority of voters in support of the bill. According to the internals, 52 percent of voters back “the health care reform plan proposed by President Obama and the congressional Democrats” to only 46 percent who oppose it. A plurality, 41 percent, of voters say the stimulus package has helped the economy–only 23 percent say it’s hurt. Coakley’s bumbling campaign can’t close the deal with an electorate that agrees with her on the issues.

Also, thanks to Cameron Henry ’09 for pointing us to this article:

GOP candidate in Mass. Senate race says he raised $1.3M in 24 hours


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