April 21, 2015

Brain Drain: The fall of the American intelligensia

From our overstocked archives
Sam Smith, 2000- Cultural phenomena don't usually sign surrender terms so it's a bit hard to pinpoint when the American intelligentsia collapsed, but the day that 400 historians joined the Clinton defense team will probably do as well as any.

In a statement replete with bad history, lousy law, and childish politics the 400 academics provided intellectual succor to the nation's leading suckee, that felonious fraud in the White House.

Ex cathedra, ex cathedra, ex cathedra onward; into the valley of fin-de-siecle decadence rode the 400. . . It was an act so obsequious in cause and transparent in purpose that only the similarly sycophantic Eleanor Clift could keep a straight face when the matter was discussed on the McLaughlin show.

The ad was the handiwork of Arthur Schlesinger Jr. who has been flailing about for the past few decades seeking a president who will treat him as kindly as did John F. Kennedy.

It was not the first time that Schlesinger has served as prop man for presidential mischief.

Back when JFK was getting ready to invade Cuba, the New Republic got wind of the CIA's training of Cuban exiles.

Schlesinger was shown an advance copy' of the article, which he promptly passed to Kennedy, who in turn asked (successfully) that TNR not print it. The New York Times also withheld a story on the pending invasion, which Schlesinger would later praise as a "patriotic act" although he admitted wondering whether if the "press had behaved irresponsibly, it would not have spared the country a disaster." Schlesinger was a prototype for that modern phenomenon, the meddlesome Harvard prof seeking manly vigor by helping presidents ravage this country or that — including sometimes our own. Henry Kissinger and McGeorge Bundy would soon follow. Later, the staff and management of the Harvard Business School would assist at the collapse of the Russian economy even as their colleagues at the Kennedy School were teaching scores of American politicians how to repeal 60 years of social progress.

Of course, gratuitous abuse by the intelligentsia began well before the Bay of Pigs.

Compared to those men of the mind involved in the Inquisition, for example, Schlesinger & Co. look pretty respectable. And it certainly hasn't all been Harvard's fault. As LBJ once told an aide, the CIA was filled with boys from Princeton and Yale whose daddies wouldn't let them into the brokerage firm.

The American intelligentsia has repeatedly let the country down. Consider that exemplar for generations of law school students: Oliver Wendell Holmes.

Prospective litigants have all learned Holmes' immortal warning that "the most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic." Fewer, I suspect, have also learned that these words were uttered in defense of the contemptible Espionage Act and that Holmes himself was among those upholding Eugene Debs' sentence of ten years in prison for saying such things as "the master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles." And as early as the turn of the century, Julian Benda noted in the 1920s, there had been a shift among intellectuals from being a "check on the realism of the people to acting as stimulators of political passions.” He described these new intellectuals as being most interested in the possession of concrete advantages and material values, while holding up to scorn the pursuit of the spiritual, the non-practical or the disinterested.

Thus there is no argument here that the capitulation of many intellectuals in the matter of Clinton is novel. What is the unique, however, is the absence of its alternative. There is, for example, nothing even remotely close to the sort of intellectual division that occurred during the Vietnam War in which the Kissingers and Bundys were matched by others — including those the New York Times in 1970 headlined as "1000 'ESTABLISHMENT' LAWYERS JOIN WAR PROTEST." 

In The Twentieth Century: A People's History, Howard Zinn describes a response by some of the intelligentsia stunningly at odds with what we are currently observing: 

The poet Robert Lowell, invited to a White House function, refused to come. Arthur Miller, also invited, sent a telegram to the White House: "When the guns boom, the arts die." Singer Ertha Kitt was invited to a luncheon on the White House lawn and shocked all those present by speaking out, in the presence of the President's wife, against the war. .... In Hollywood, local artists erected a 60-foot Tower of Protest on Sunset Boulevard. At the National Book Award ceremonies in New York, fifty authors and publishers walked out on a speech by Vice President Humphrey in a display of anger at his role in the war.

These, remember, were protests against a far more liberal, far more Democratic president than we have today — a man who had already shepherded through Congress the most progressive social changes since the New Deal.

Further, the demon waiting in the wings was not a bland George Bush virtually indistinguishable from the incumbent but Richard Nixon.

Those, however, were different days. Now we have Toni Morrison exculpating Clinton because of his "blackness" and Schlesinger exculpating him because Reagan lied as well.

Today, on the flimsiest and most sophistic of grounds, the intelligentsia has lined up behind the slimiest president in American history. It's just lucky we didn't have to rely upon this craven crowd when we were fighting George Wallace, Strom Thurmond, Carmine DeSapio and Richard Daley. They probably would have lectured us all about party unity.

April 20, 2015

Morning Line

Our three poll moving average took a shift towards the Democrats with a new CNN poll. Hillary Clinton now has a 7 point lead over Rubio and an 8 point lead over Bush, but all other GOP candidates are double digits behind

Bush leads leads by 1 point over Walker, and 5 points over Cruz Paul and Huckabee.

Walker leads in 6 states, Bush in 4, Huckabee in 3, Paul, Christie,  and Cruz in1

Clinton leads by more than 47 points over Warren and more than 50 points over all her other potential Democratic competitors.

In Senate races, Democrats stand to pick up 2 seats

Jazz break

What's happening

On the eve of the 5-year Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference, thousands of people from around the globe will gather in New York City April 24-26 to demand a nuclear-free, peaceful, just and sustainable world.

One more reason why TPP threatens America's sovreignty

State laws and regulators are increasingly important as gridlock in Washington makes broad federal action on important issues an increasingly rare event. From environmental protection to civil rights to the minimum wage, the action is at the state level. Ironically, one thing that may get done soon in Washington is a trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which has the potential to undermine a wide range of state and local laws. READ MORE

Eric T. Schneiderman, New York Attorney General, Politico -   One provision of TPP would create an entirely separate system of justice: special tribunals to hear and decide claims by foreign investors that their corporate interests are being harmed by a nation that is part of the agreement. This Investor-State Dispute Settlement provision would allow large multinational corporations to sue a signatory country for actions taken by its federal, state or local elected or appointed officials that the foreign corporation claims hurt its bottom line. Most Popular

This should give pause to all members of Congress, who will soon be asked to vote on fast-track negotiating authority to close the agreement. But it is particularly worrisome to those of us in states, such as New York, with robust laws that protect the public welfare — laws that could be undermined by the TPP and its dispute settlement provision.

To put this in real terms, consider a foreign corporation, located in a country that has signed on to TPP, and which has an investment interest in the Indian Point nuclear power facility in New York’s Westchester County. Under TPP, that corporate investor could seek damages from the United States, perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars or more, for actions by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the Westchester Country Board of Legislators or even the local Village Board that lead to a delay in the relicensing or an increase in the operating costs of the facility.

The very threat of having to face such a suit in the uncharted waters of an international tribunal could have a chilling effect on government policymakers and regulators.

Or consider the work my office has done to enforce the state of New York’s laws against wage theft, predatory lending and consumer fraud. Under TPP, certain foreign targets of enforcement actions, unable to prevail in domestic courts, could take their cases to TPP’s dispute resolution tribunals. Unbound by an established body of law or precedent, the tribunals would be able to simply sidestep domestic courts. And decisions by these tribunals cannot be appealed.

Proponents of TPP note that similar tribunal constructs have been included in other international trade agreements involving the United States, often in order to encourage and protect our investments in countries with shaky, corrupt or even nonexistent civil justice systems. But more than in past trade agreements, a number of the nations expected to participate in TPP have the resources and legal sophistication to exploit the agreement and turn it against our laws and system of justice.

Maybe that’s why the agreement is being negotiated in secret. If it weren’t for WikiLeaks and a few media outlets, we wouldn’t even know about this dangerous provision. The effort by negotiators to keep their discussions from the public is telling.

The beneficiaries here would be a discrete group of multinational business interests that should be entitled to treatment no better and no different than any other plaintiff receives in the trial and appellate courts of this country. The separate and unaccountable system of justice that TPP would create poses a major risk to critical statutes and policy decisions that protect our citizens — and it has no place in a nation committed to equal justice under law.

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