A Streetcar Named Reform

Updated below.

Oh My Gosh! There’s been a HOSTILE TAKEOVER of the GOP.

So imagine the shock when conservative justices repeatedly spouted views closely resembling the tweets and talking points issued by organizations of the sort funded by the Koch brothers. Don’t take it from me. Charles Fried, solicitor general for Ronald Reagan, told The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein that it was absurd for conservatives to pretend that the mandate created a market in health care. “The whole thing is just a canard that’s been invented by the tea party.?.?.,” Fried said, “and I was astonished to hear it coming out of the mouths of the people on that bench.”

Staunchly conservative circuit judges Jeffrey Sutton and Laurence Silberman must have been equally astonished, since both argued that overturning the law would amount to judicial overreach. Yet moderate opinion bends over backward to act as if this is an intellectually close question.

I don’t want to play “I told you so,” or anything snippy. That is not my point. It is, rather, a validation of what I’ve been trying to get across for some time now, and, since authority conveys gravity, I would merely like to humbly shuffle up to the MeToo Trolley, hoist myself up from street level by grasping the cool metal of the vertical pole, pay my toll,  and feel its slow ascent up the hill to my destination.

There should be nothing shocking to us, who have mutely witnessed as the water around us has been slowly notched up towards boiling.

Woman: What makes saloonkeepers so snobbish?
Banker: Perhaps if you told him I ran the second largest banking house in Amsterdam.
Carl: Second largest? That wouldn’t impress Rick. The leading banker in Amsterdam is now the pastry chef in our kitchen.
Banker: We have something to look forward to.

Mr. Dionne continues, and then this:

Yet mainstream journalism and mainstream moderates play right along.

A brief look at history suggests how far to the right both the Republican Party and contemporary conservatism have moved. Today’s conservatives almost never invoke one of our most successful Republican presidents, Dwight D. Eisenhower, who gave us, among other things, federally guaranteed student loans and championed the interstate highway system.

Even more revealing is what Robert A. Taft, the leader of the conservative forces who opposed Eisenhower’s nomination in 1952, had to say about government’s role in American life. “If the free enterprise system does not do its best to prevent hardship and poverty,” the Ohio Republican senator said in a 1945 speech, “it will find itself superseded by a less progressive system which does.” He urged Congress to “undertake to put a floor under essential things, to give all a minimum standard of decent living, and to all children a fair opportunity to get a start in life.”

The far Right of the Eisenhower Era (in which I was born) is now the Left of the Tea Party Age. But it gets worse. Who needs politics when you’ve got the Alter Boys at the Supreme Court, which issued yet another over-broad and frightening ruling today?

The Supreme Court has (predictably) expanded police powers broadly, ruling broadly in a case involving strip searches and jail visits, to expand all police’s rights to strip searches (including cavity searches) of anyone for just about any violation — including, as Justice Breyer notes in his dissent, a traffic offense:

The petition for certiorari asks us to decide “[w]hether the Fourth Amendment permits a . . . suspicionless strip search of every individual arrested for any minor offense . . . .”  This question is phrased more broadly than what is at issue. The case is limited to strip searches of those arrestees entering a jail’s general population. And the kind of strip search in question involves more than undressing and taking a shower (even if guards monitor the shower area for threatened disorder). Rather, the searches here involve close observation of the private areas of a person’s body and for that reason constitute a far more serious invasion of that person’s privacy.


In my view, such a search of an individual arrested for a minor offense that does not involve drugs or violence—say a traffic offense, a regulatory offense, an essentially civil matter, or any other such misdemeanoris an “unreasonable searc[h]” forbidden by the Fourth Amendment, unless  prison authorities have reasonable suspicion to believe that the individual possesses drugs or other contraband.  And I dissent from the Court’s contrary determination.


A strip search that involves a stranger peering without consent at a naked individual, and in particular at the  most private portions of that person’s body, is a serious invasion of privacy. We have recently said, in respect to a  schoolchild (and a less intrusive search), that the  meaning of such a search, and the degradation its subject may reasonably feel, place a search that intrusive in a category of its own demanding its own specific suspicions.”

Every small town cop in America must be partying tonight.

Come back here! I need to search your cavities!

Captain Renault: By the way, last night you evinced an interest in Señor Ugarte.
Victor Laszlo: Yes.
Captain Renault: I believe you have a message for him?
Victor Laszlo: Nothing important, but may I speak to him now?
Major Heinrich Strasser: You would find the conversation a trifle one-sided. Señor Ugarte is dead.
Ilsa: Oh.
Captain Renault: I am making out the report now. We haven’t quite decided yet whether he committed suicide or died trying to escape.

Woo Hoo!

Er, didn’t Scalia and Thomas speak to Koch
secret millionaire conclaves?  I wonder if
the same logic applies there? 

There are two distinct possibilities at this point, both leading to the same conclusion:

  1. That the GOP will arise from its own ashes as someone significantly reformulates philosophy and rebrands a “new” GOP that IS significantly different than the failed larceny of the party that’s been in charge of not one, but TWO bank meltdowns since the “Reagan Revolution.”
  2. That the GOP will die, like the Whigs, and reformulate around the Libertarian wing, as seems increasingly likely.*

[* From Memeorandum today:

Megan McArdle:
Atlas raised his eyebrows —  Perhaps predictibly, Ayn Rand is making a comeback on the right, with Congressmen handing out her books, and loose talk of rich people “Going Galt”.  —  I don’t think that we will see a mass exodus of productive people to secret hideouts.

David Weigel / The Washington Independent: Congressman: We’re Living in ‘Atlas Shrugged’
Michelle Malkin: Where in the world: Going Galt and Wreck-overy.gov logo-mania
TBogg: You’re going to miss me when I’m gone.  No. No I won’t.  Why are you still here?
Sonny Bunch / Conventional Folly: Atlas Shrugged (Again) ]

That was from “Daddy Long Legs,” 5 March 2009.

Stop and think of how the Court sold us down the river with Citizens United:

A free press that has become utterly beholden to the purchasers of all those political ads. A free press that is mostly owned by the selfsame operators who paid for those political ads in the first place. A free press that watch Faux Nooz™ blatantly become a propaganda arm for the puppeteers behind the GOP, and yet, following the assassination of Helen Thomas, voted to move the Faux Nooz™ reporter to the front row of the White House briefing room.


But we are no longer citizens. We are demographics — the MOST racist kind of characterization possible. We wanted to get away from judging people by the color of their skin, and now we’ve devolved into something even more insidious, playing the smallest demographics one against the other, without any more regard for their humanity than the scientist feels humanely when fractionating rats’ brains on a $2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health for another cancer treatment study.

The sheer dyslexia of the election was astonishing: no facts, self-contradictory Truths (tax cuts for zillionaires AND balance the budget, etc.), the Dog and Pony Show of the “Tea Party” bus tours. I saw the CNN report on the tea party and the Tea Party Express, which was as slick a shell game as ever shucked a rube of his seed money. In this case, the CNN reporter, who was as buffaloed up close as most everybody else was from afar.

This isn’t about Republican and Democrat. It isn’t about Left and Right. It’s about the conscious subtraction of facts and knowledge from the equation. It’s about suppressing and dumbing down the electorate and it’s about the complicity of a corrupt and dying Old Guard media in the ongoing political sodomy of the First Amendment.


And, worst of all, as I was channel surfing the early coverage last night, I heard this horrific presaging: “We’ll take a look at the big races, and we’ll have a preview of the 2012 Presidential campaign when we get back. After this.

Couldn’t we have gotten ONE day, at least, before the next round of sheer political daydreaming supplants all that news, fact and information (truth) that might have set us free?

That was from “The Finest and Best Elections That Money Can Buy,” 3 November 2010.

Too bad the world reported and the world we see don’t have any sort of one-to-one correspondence these days.

Ugarte: Too bad about those two German couriers, wasn’t it?
Rick: They got a lucky break. Yesterday they were just two German clerks. Today they’re the “Honored Dead”.
Ugarte: You are a very cynical person, Rick, if you’ll forgive me for saying so.
Rick: [shortly] I forgive you.

The willingness of the Alter Boys to fall into ideological lock-step was the subject of the all-time number one most popular post on this blog (ahead of Schizoid in Barbieland and Christina’s Outing) was 1 May 2009’s “Catholic Bigotry Rides Again,” which doesn’t exactly sound dated [emphasis added]:

Declining Notre Dame: A Letter from Mary Ann Glendon*
[* “Mary Ann Glendon is Learned Hand Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. A member of the editorial and advisory board of First Things , she served as the U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican from 2007 to 2009.”]

By Mary Ann Glendon
Monday, April 27, 2009, 9:32 AM

April 27, 2009
The Rev. John I. Jenkins,
University of Notre Dame

Dear Father Jenkins,


Last month, when you called to tell me that the commencement speech was to be given by President Obama, I mentioned to you that I would have to rewrite my speech. Over the ensuing weeks, the task that once seemed so delightful has been complicated by a number of factors.

First, as a longtime consultant to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, I could not help but be dismayed by the news that Notre Dame also planned to award the president an honorary degree. This, as you must know, was in disregard of the U.S. bishops’ express request of 2004 that Catholic institutions “should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles” and that such persons “should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.”

Er, because he holds an opinion on a deeply personal decision that he will never make that is at odds with a deeply wrenching personal decision that no priest or bishop will ever have to make? Or because he’s a “nigger”?

Does that word OFFEND you? I hope to ghod it does. I hope it pisses hell out of you, because when the silence of the back rooms and the code words and the sleazy rationalizations screams that word, I am NOT going to pretend that it isn’t there. And you’d better not, either.

Given their ugly history of slavery and complicity in the ugliest excess of human darkness, neither the “Republicans” of the New Old South, nor the “bloody Church of England/in chains of history” (and various other franchise names) deserves a pass merely based on “civil speech.”

But isn’t it weird that we’re right back there (as though we ever left) today? And the radicalism of the Church as regards their male-dictated doctrine (since only the 1870s, prior to that, it was actually much like Roe v. Wade, going back to St. Augustine.) is only eerily echoed in the fact that the firebombing of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Wisconsin hasn’t exactly been much more than a typical car accident report (Washington Post):

On Sunday, a Planned Parenthood office in Grand Chute, Wisc. was damaged when a small homemade explosive device was placed on a building windowsill, the Associated Press reports. Planned Parenthood told BlogPost in a statement that there was minimal damage to one of the facility’s exam rooms, and told the AP the clinic will reopen Tuesday.

Police are investigating the incident, and the local Appleton Post Crescent reported that neither police nor clinic officials were aware of any threats to the center prior to the incident. The newspaper said the FBI had assigned an agent to work with local police.

Historically, the number of antiabortion arsons has been declining. But over the past few months, there has been a spate of firebombings that appear to fit into the antiabortion violence category.

Sunday’s incident comes on the heels of a firebombing at the office of Texas Sen. Wendy Davis’ (D) in March. Officials said they don’t have a motive for the attack, but the news site Think Progress pointed out that Davis is a vocal supporter of Planned Parenthood. The attack came just after Texas announced it would cut funding to Planned Parenthood clinics.

In January, the Pensacola, Fla.-based Ladies Center Clinic, which provides abortions, was similarly firebombed by a homeless man, also in the wake of antiabortion measures being pushed in the state legislature, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Florida lawmakers passed several anti-abortion laws in 2011, including one that mandates ultrasounds before all abortions…

Barbie Rage, then, at President Obama

And, undoubtedly, many cases against many such laws are heading to the Supreme Court.

Captain Renault: Oh no, Emil, please. A bottle of your best champagne, and put it on my bill.
Emil: Very well, sir.
Victor Laszlo: Captain, please…
Captain Renault: Oh, please, monsieur. It is a little game we play. They put it on the bill, I tear up the bill. It is very convenient.

James Fallows writes, in the Atlantic: [emphasis mine; emphasis his]

Still… in recent history we have seen … The 5-4 ruling in Bush v. Gore, which 12 years ago was shocking not so much in its outcome as for the naked “results-orientation” of the five-member majority. (If you have forgotten: the ruling specified that it should not be used as precedent for any other decision, and was issued under circumstances that made it effectively impossible for the losing party to appeal.) For all of their esteem as the “swing” members of the court, the reputations of both former Justice Sandra O’Connor and current swingman Anthony Kennedy should forever be diminished by their having made up the majority. As John Paul Stevens said at the end of his memorable dissent:

…[T]he majority of this Court can only lend credence to the most cynical appraisal of the work of judges throughout the land. It is confidence in the men and women who administer the judicial system that is the true backbone of the rule of law. Time will one day heal the wound to that confidence that will be inflicted by today’s decision. One thing, however, is certain. Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year’s Presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the Nation’s confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law.

John Roberts at Red Mass

And Kennedy continues to dig the hole. He wrote the opinion on strip searches published today.

[Ugarte gives letter of transit to Rick for safe keeping]
Ugarte: Rick, I hope you’re more impressed with me, now? Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll share my luck with your roulette wheel.
[Starts to walk away]
Rick: [stands up; Ugarte stops] Just a moment. I heard a rumor those two German couriers were carrying letter of transit.
Ugarte: Huh? Oh, huh, I heard that rumor too. Poor devils.
Rick: [sternly] You’re right, Ugarte. I *am* a little more impressed with you.
[Rick exits casino]

Sadly, it is all of a piece. If you decide to back them, good luck and don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way out. If not …

Victor Laszlo: Welcome back to the fight. This time I know our side will win.*

And the sound of the trolley’s brakes is heard above the din of traffic.

Good to talk to you. This is my stop.


All quotes from Casablanca, Warner Bros., 1942, in case you needed to know.

UPDATE 5 AM PDT April 3: Looks like I was tapped into the zeitgeist deeper than thought:

April 02, 2012 07:00 PM
Vicki Kennedy Disinvited As Commencement Speaker After Catholic Bishop Pressures College About Her ‘Apparent’ Beliefs

By Susie Madrak

Isn’t that special? Once again, the conservative American Catholic leadership selectively brings its position to bear on any Catholic who opposes their highly-politicized positions on abortion, birth control and gay rights — in this case, Vicki Kennedy, widow of Senator Ted Kennedy….


A writer, published author, novelist, literary critic and political observer for a quarter of a quarter-century more than a quarter-century, Hart Williams has lived in the American West for his entire life. Having grown up in Wyoming, Kansas and New Mexico, a survivor of Texas and a veteran of Hollywood, Mr. Williams currently lives in Oregon, along with an astonishing amount of pollen. He has a lively blog His Vorpal Sword. This is cross-posted from his blog.

Bookmark and Share

About Hart Williams

Mr. Williams grew up in Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas and New Mexico. He lived in Hollywood, California for many years. He has been published in The Washington Post, The Kansas City Star, The Santa Fe Sun, The Los Angeles Free Press, Oui Magazine, New West, and many, many more. A published novelist and a filmed screenwriter, Mr. Williams eschews the decadence of Hollywood for the simple, wholesome goodness of the plain, honest people of the land. He enjoys Luis Buñuel documentaries immensely.
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.