No Comment — June 8, 2007, 9:28 am

The Ship of Fools Flounders On

The Brennan Center at NYU has released an important study of the conduct of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division over the last three-years. The shorter version would be to say that scare quotes now need to be attached to the words “Justice” and “Civil Rights,” because what’s going on there is quite the opposite of what those labels imply. “The Bush administration engaged in a three-year effort to suppress likely Democratic votes,” says the report.

Of course, everyone who watched Brad Schlozman testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee knows this already. The real shocker in the Brennan report was the statement that the career employees of the Division – 55% of them – have departed, either being hounded out or leaving in disgust over what was happening. It’s not surprising that conscientious, career lawyers would abandon the rat and rot infested vessel under the command of the man known to his closest friends by the mafia moniker – “Fredo.”

The real worry is about those who are left aboard. Increasingly this is becoming what was known in the literature of the High Middle Ages as a ship of fools (Narrenschyff):

Ja würt all gschrifft vnd ler veracht/Die gantz welt lebt in finstrer nacht/Vnd dût in sünden blint verharren/All strassen/gassen/sindt voll narren.

”All scripture and learning they detest/they bring the world into darkest night/and wallow in sin and blindness/all streets and alleys are full of fools.”

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I first heard the name Barack Obama in the spring of 2004, while visiting my mother in Chicago. As we sat around the kitchen table early one spring morning, I noticed a handsome studio portrait among the pictures, lists, cards, and other totems of family life fastened to the refrigerator door. “Who’s the guy with the ears?” I asked, assuming he was some distant relative or family friend I didn’t know or else had forgotten. “Barack Obama,” she answered with a broad smile. “He’s running for Senate, but he’s going to be the first black president.”

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