The timelessness of privileged anxiety

Facebook’s current outage is a great impetus to do more with my blog….

There’s a great little piece in today’s Sift that is worth highlighting:

Conservative rhetoric seems to be timeless. I ran across this quote in the book Freedom: an unruly history by Annelien de Dijn (which I will say more about after I finish it). Cato the Elder, speaking in 195 BC in favor of an anti-luxury law that the women of Rome wanted to see repealed (because it specially targeted women’s jewelry), warned against allowing women to have a voice in government:

The moment they begin to be your equals, they will be your superiors.

We still hear that point today from every overprivileged class, directed at every underprivileged class. Whether the subject is women, people of color, non-Christians, gays and lesbians, non-English speakers, transfolk, or what have you, the message is the same: There’s no such thing as equality. So if men, Whites, Christians et al. stop being the masters, they’ll become the slaves.

In spite of Cato’s efforts, the Lex Oppia was repealed. But Rome never did become a matriarchy. In more than two thousand years of testing, Cato’s they’ll-take-over theory has never proved out. And yet we still hear it.


Via Michael Cohen, here’s the part of Article 88 of the Uniform Code which deals with insubordination:

Any commissioned officer who uses contemptuous words against the President, the Vice President, Congress, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of a military department, the Secretary of Transportation, or the Governor or legislature of any State, Territory, Commonwealth, or possession in which he is on duty or present shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.

Americans are fond of quoting John Adams’ description of their country as “a nation of laws, not of men.” So when do the courts-martial start?
UPDATE: I was just reminded of Truman’s wonderful assessment of MacArthur:

I fired him because he wouldn’t respect the authority of the President. I didn’t fire him because he was a dumb son of a bitch, although he was, but that’s not against the law for generals. If it was, half to three-quarters of them would be in jail.

The lesson for Bibi

Larison considers the world reaction to Israel’s incompetent attack on the flotilla, and nails the big lesson for Israel:

Regardless, Gelb should regard the outrage as a good sign. It means that most governments around the world have not resigned themselves to thinking of Israel as nothing more than a dangerous pariah. It will be a far worse day for Israel when the reaction to the next blunder is the sigh of resignation, “Well, really, what can you expect?”

"You didn't lose your country, you just lost an election"

The protestors keep saying that they want their country back. Sorry, my fellow small-governmenters, but this country is a democracy, and you didn’t lose your country, you just lost an election. You had your chance for eight years. You blew it, and you lost. What Obama is doing is what he was elected to do. The principled response is not a massive, extremist-riddled hissy fit a few months in, but a constructive set of proposals to build on universal care for a more market-friendly and cost-conscious system in the future. You have to win some political credibility for that; and then you have to beat the man you lost so badly to last year. That’s the civil and civilized way forward for the right. It also seems, alas, to be the one they are currently refusing to take.

Andrew Sullivan.

Defining "liberal tolerance"

Russell Blackford takes on Terry Eagleton’s bullshit, and in doing so gives us a particularly good definition of liberal tolerance:

A liberal is not someone who takes the contorted view that her own viewpoint is no better than others on offer (that would be a vulgar and implausible sort of relativism). She is someone who takes the principled political stance that, although she considers her comprehensive worldview (perhaps a rationalist one, but perhaps even a religious one of some sort) to be superior, she will not attempt to impose it by means of fire and sword, as long as others do not attempt to use fire and sword to impose their views on her.

Generally speaking, liberals are even prepared to tolerate (at least up to a point) those who do not reciprocate. That’s a practical necessity in modern societies because it may well be that the majority of religious and similar groups are not totally prepared to reciprocate. They do so only with reservations.

There are, of course, difficult issues about how far liberals should tolerate the intolerant, such as Catholic cardinals with theocratic tendencies. However, the general assumption is that individuals and groups which advocate intolerant laws and social arrangements will themselves be given a broad measure of tolerance. That doesn’t mean that they should receive credence or be immune from criticism or beyond satire.

"Never again"

More from Andrew Sullivan on the torture memos:

If you want to know how democracies die, read these memos. Read how gifted professionals in the CIA were able to convince experienced doctors that what they were doing was ethical and legal. Read how American psychologists were able to find justifications for the imposition of psychological torture, and were able to analyze its effects without ever stopping and asking: what on earth are we doing?

Read how no one is even close to debating “ticking time bomb” scenarios as they strap people to boards and drown them until they break. Then read how they adjusted the waterboarding, for fear it was too much, for fear that they were actually in danger of suffocating their captives, and then read how they found self-described loopholes in the law to tell themselves that what the US had once prosecuted as torture could not possibly be torture because we’re doing it, and we’re different from the Viet Cong. We’re doing torture right and for the right reasons and with the right motive. Many of the people who did this are mild, kind, courteous, family men and women, who somehow were able to defend slamming human beings against walls in the daytime while watching the Charlie Rose show over a glass of wine at night. We’ve seen this syndrome before, in other places and at other times. Yes: it can happen here.

The torture memos

I’ve just been reading the torture memos which the Obama administration has released. Read them yourself – please. I’m not sure that I trust myself to describe my reactions, but Andrew certainly speaks for me:

Bybee is not representing justice in this memo. He is representing the president. And the president is seeking to commit war crimes. And he succeeded. This much we now know beyond any reasonable doubt. It is a very dark day for this country, but less dark than every day since Cheney decided to turn the US into a torturing country until now.

Setting aside questions of a “truth commission”, and also whether individual interrogators should be prosecuted, two things stand out very starkly.

  • Yoo and Bybee should be disbarred from legal practice – including the teaching of law – for life.
  • All of the doctors who supervised the torture sessions have violated their Hippocratic oaths. They should be struck off and never allowed to practice medicine again.

Uncanny prescience

Congress approved landmark legislation today that opens the door for a new era on Wall Street in which commercial banks, securities houses and insurers will find it easier and cheaper to enter one another’s businesses.

The measure, considered by many the most important banking legislation in 66 years, was approved in the Senate by a vote of 90 to 8 and in the House tonight by 362 to 57. The bill will now be sent to the president, who is expected to sign it, aides said. It would become one of the most significant achievements this year by the White House and the Republicans leading the 106th Congress. […]

The opponents of the measure gloomily predicted that by unshackling banks and enabling them to move more freely into new kinds of financial activities, the new law could lead to an economic crisis down the road when the marketplace is no longer growing briskly.

I think we will look back in 10 years’ time and say we should not have done this but we did because we forgot the lessons of the past, and that that which is true in the 1930’s is true in 2010,” said Senator Byron L. Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota. “I wasn’t around during the 1930’s or the debate over Glass-Steagall. But I was here in the early 1980’s when it was decided to allow the expansion of savings and loans. We have now decided in the name of modernization to forget the lessons of the past, of safety and of soundness.”

From the New York Times issue of November 5, 1999. I guess that Republicans will complain that Dorgan was grossly inaccurate, because his prediction was a whole year off. You can see Rachel Maddow’s recent interview with Dorgan here.

"I want everything he does to fail"

Steve Benen at The Washington Monthly waxes incredulous at Rush Limbaugh’s latest piece of… well, treason is about the only word for it:

The right-wing host went on a similar tirade yesterday when talking about the economic recovery package: “I want everything he’s doing to fail… I want the stimulus package to fail…. I do not want this to succeed.”

Limbaugh is, without ambiguity, rooting for failure. In the midst of an economic crisis, Limbaugh quite openly admitted that if Obama’s economic policies are successful, it would undermine the talk-show host’s worldview. As such, Limbaugh wants desperately to see more Americans suffer, more workers unemployed, more businesses close up shop. […] Limbaugh would much prefer a suffering nation than a reevaluation of conservative ideas.

Keep in mind, of course, that such talk under Bush’s presidency would force someone from the airwaves. If a prominent progressive figure said, just as the president was sending troops into war in early 2003, “I want everything he’s doing to fail. I want the war in Iraq to fail. I do not want the president’s national security agenda to succeed,” he or she would lose all advertising revenue and be fired. In the midst of a crisis, Americans rooting against America, based on nothing but ideological rigidity, are pariahs.

Or, at least, they used to be.

Are there any limits?

Digby at Hullabaloo:

But the fact that the white house consciously and knowingly used anal rape to control, interrogate and punish prisoners and went to some length to protect those who were doing it from scrutiny, still has the power to stun me.
Are we really just going to let this stuff go? Really?