Sunday, June 26, 2011


According to a detailed report at FireDogLake, Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Prosser physically assaulted a fellow justice (and a woman at that) prior to his upholding the "budget" law designed this past spring by Governor Walker and passed under dubiously legal circumstances by the Wisconsin Legislature.  Here's a link to the story at firedog:

As you can read in the piece, much has yet to be fact-checked.  On the other hand, no clear denials are forthcoming from Justice Prosser, and one has to wonder if one is simply a reasonable person.  And once again, I have to note that this sort of exchange is basically a hallmark of authoritarianism--fascism if you will.  We're seeing a lot of this these days, in a lot of contexts.  Too many seem to think that if things aren't going their way, it's time to choke, punch, and even shoot.  As Mussolini said to the reporter when asked what his first act would be upon becoming the Supreme Leader of Italy--"Why, to kill you."  I've quoted that before.  I just think it's a striking illustration of the moment when dialog becomes something else--something not about ideas any more.

I hope someone somewhere is working on a book about how all these right-wing governors and legislatures cooked up this state-by-state mini-revolution that's now underway.  I find it very hard to imagine that it was just "in the air," although perhaps the ground-swell of Tea Party activism which preceded last fall's elections really lifted all these people to at least temporary power.  Certainly plenty of people at the Tea Party rallies were capable of living in immediate inconsistency: there was more than one quote along the lines of "get government out of health care, but hands off my Medicare."  Humans are more than capable of living in profound inconsistency.

Indeed, just yesterday I was reading a shocking article in the New Yorker* concerning a woman who refused ever to admit she was mentally ill and who eventually was discharged from an institution in New Hampshire and subsequently starved to death living in an empty house, enthralled and distracted by her fantasies.  She wrote a journal describing her life to the bitter end, and survived for months only on apples until they finally ran out.  This true story reflects a general trend in the ongoing "contest," if you like, between a law of absolutes and a psychiatry which deals with what we actually find here in the world--complexity and shadows.  The woman's sister is suing the hospital for discharging her without any word to anyone in her family.  The hospital, grounded in many legal decisions handed down since the '70s, believed they were simply following the woman's wishes and decisions: the woman, "Linda," refused all treatment, asserted that she had no mental illness, believed her sister was controlling, stood firmly on her right to "liberty" as she walked out the door with pocket change and no plan of survival.  The question--perhaps forever an open one--is where "decisions" can be judged by others to be so misguided as to be overruled--even at peril to some absolute "freedom" that we also all support here in the USofA.  It's a conundrum, that's for sure, and it exists not only at the personal level, but at the level of the body politic.  Let us not forget:  Hitler was elected.  Thus, in a real sense the rubble that was Germany in the fall of 1945 was a result of the will of the people of Germany.

I mentioned the fine conversation with Billy Wilder I happened to watch the other day on Turner Classics.  Mr. Wilder had escaped Germany in 1933.  He made a movie about the concentration camps in 1945.  Germans walked out of it--until he tied their food ration card access to sitting through the film.  His hope was that they would see--admit to themselves in other words--what had "really" happened.  This was not an easy task.  People would much rather deny painful truths.  And frequently people actually succeed in denying--until some harsher reality simply asserts itself in its complete undeniability.  The apples ran out and Linda starved to death.  And right now, Congress withholds funding the EPA.  Just sayin'. 

*God Knows Where I Am, Annals of Mental Health, Rachel Aviv, New Yorker, May 30, 2011.  [I've been told in conversations down at the Texaco that any reference to the New Yorker is suspect, because the New Yorker is a "liberal" source not to be trusted.  I offer this footnotal anecdote as an example of the methodology of denial, living and breathing--indeed puffing on a cigaret--even here in Chatham County.]

Update: Ann Althouse has obliquely confirmed the news that Justice Prosser assaulted Justice Bradley last weekend.   Here's the link:
I take quibbling about who's "bigger" implies that the event is a fact and not some leftist smear.  

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