Friday, 29 May 2009

Rush: Republicans are Like Blacks in Jim Crow Era

I rarely pay much attention to the pile of bile that is Right Wing radio host, Rush Limbaugh. For me, it s kinda like a boycott - his product is outrage therefore if I buy into his deliberately outrageous provocations I become his customer. I have no desire to buy anything from El Rushbo.

But sometimes, even the picketers outside the store have to tip their hat when a retailer stocks an especially remarkable bit of merchandise. And so, I feel force to break my self imposed discipline to report to you that apparently Republicans in America are being lynched by angry mobs of Democrats. Or something:

If ever a civil rights movement was needed in America, it is for the Republican Party. If ever we needed to start marching for freedom and Constitutional rights, it's for the Republican Party. The Republican Party is today's oppressed minority. It knows how to behave as one. It shuts up. It doesn't cross bridges, it doesn't run into the Bull Connors of the Democrat Party. It is afraid of the firehouses and the dogs, it's compliant. The Republican Party today has become totally complacent. They are an oppressed minority, they know their position, they know their place. They go to the back of the bus, they don't use the right restroom and the right drinking fountain, and they shut up.

Ah. Right, then. If EVER a civil rights movement were needed, claims Signor Rush, it is needed for the mildly mentally repressed Republican party. Certainly it was not needed for the group of people who were actually being forced to the back of the bus, treated as legally unequal, deprived of voting rights and violently murdered in appallingly high numbers by men in hoods.

Indeed no. For THAT, you see, was merely an example of the glories of our federalism in which we recognise the inalienable rights of the state.

Rather, we should have held fire at the time and saved our organising for the inevitable moment when, 40 or so years on the Republican party would peacefully lose an election because they have so badly screwed up the country that almost no one still agrees with them about anything. That, apparently, is what it means to be an oppressed minority.

Ya know, Rush, just because you're a minority doesn't mean you're being oppressed.

But furthermore - why is language like this allowed to persist? Slavery and the later civil rights abuses perpetrated against African Americans in this country were an American atrocity - an original sin of the nation that we have fortunately begun to overcome. I'm not saying that we should hang our heads every day for shame, or that those of us who were born after the worst moments of oppression had ended necessarily bear personal responsibility for it.

But surely, we owe more to those who were its victims than this kind of glib comparison, yes? People were rounded up by angry mobs by moonlight and beaten then cut, then hung and then set on fire. Thousands of them were. In living memory. Even generations after we had to fight a war to ensure their ancestors could no longer be enslaved.

When people make these kinds of facile comparisons between whatever is the current Outrage Du Jour and the Holocaust perpetrated against Jews, the Anti-Defamation League has made it a habit to object in the strongest possible language, on the grounds that this cheapens the memory of the real victims. I can't see any reason why it should be acceptable to treat the real victims of the Jim Crow South with any less consideration. Even if you are a professional merchant of slime.

Oppression? I'll show you oppression. Oppression right on your behind. Crazy!

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Sotomayor Pictures

And by the way, if you're looking for some good pictures from throughout the life of our hopefully-next Supreme Court Justice, the New York Daily News has some good ones.
For instance, here she is at a baseball game with her nephews:

Here she is graduating from High School:

Not So Dumb

On the one hand, you have a group of people who are arguing in favor of supporting a candidate for the Supreme Court. They point out that this candidate graduated Summa Cum Laude from Princeton University (accompanied by an undergraduate award for outstanding academic merit). They mention that the candidate went on to Yale Law School where she became editor of the Yale Law Journal and earned a Juris Doctorate degree. Further, they add, after graduation the candidate worked for five years as a Prosecutor, taking on challenging cases including many murders. Her advocates remind you that after leaving the prosecutors' office the candidate took a partnership in a lucrative private practice, specialising in intellectual property law. The candidate has been an appeals court judge for 12 years, where her notable cases included a dramatic intervention to end an ongoing baseball strike, and was a federal judge for 6 years before that.

She was also, as her supporters have not yet gotten around to mentioning, an adjunct professor of law for both New York University and Columbia Law Schools. She is a trustee of Princeton University. Her supporters point out that in addition to all of these CLEARLY relevant displays of intellect and experience, the candidate also happens to be the child of a widowed mother raised in modest circumstances whose achievements are all the more impressive for not having been backed by familial wealth or priviledge. In summary, her supporters conclude, the candidate has met or surpassed every conceivable qualification for the Supreme Court posting for which she is being nominated - in terms of proven academic merit, in terms of depth and breadth of legal experience, in terms of applied legal reasoning, and finally in terms of her ability to provide a valuable new perspective based on her unusual-for-the-Court but not unusual-for-America background.

On the other hand, those who oppose her suggest that might be kind of dumb.

I'm working REALLY hard to find any way of thinking about that particular argument that doesn't rely upon Sotomayor's opponents being blatantly sexist and/or racist. The only thing I can come up with so far is that maybe they were just totally misinformed about her actual credentials. But that seems unlikely since she's been talked about as a likely pick for quite some time.

And so, I am at a loss. I have no desire to "play the race card" still less "the gender card" (although I would gently suggest that there's something unseemly about talking of females as if they represent a small minority before whom the Democrats quaver when in fact we're a slight statistical MAJORITY...) since someone somewhere decided that even raising the possibility of sexism or racism automatically invalidates any other arguments you may make... So I'm not sure where to go here.

Perhaps I could just politely suggest that those who suggest she is somehow an intellectual lightweight could point to specific opinions or writings that they consider in some way deficient?

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Morgenthau on Sotomayor

Legendary Manhattan DA Bob Morgenthau weighed in to the discussion of (now) Supreme Court Nominee Sonia Sotomayor a few weeks ago with a strikingly strong letter in the Wall Street Journal:

Some have suggested that the judge is "liberal," and that allegation makes me smile. Judge Sotomayor was a fearless and effective prosecutor while she was here, and I am sure that none of the defendants in her cases thought of her as a "liberal." To be sure, she is in favor of civil rights, in the sense that she believes there should be no discrimination against minorities. And she understands poverty, and does seem to favor government action that will provide a safety net to the poor. Those are, however, not exactly radical positions.

As is very evident from the opinions she has written, Judge Sotomayor believes in the rule of law. Some notice that she is Hispanic and female, and would typecast her as an "activist." But I look at her record, and see an able champion of the law serving with great distinction on the second most important appellate court in the world. Judge Sotomayor is highly qualified for any position in which wisdom, intelligence, collegiality and good character would be assets.

Robert M. Morgenthau New York Mr. Morgenthau is district attorney of the County of New York.

Sotomayor was a prosecutor under Morgenthau for five years, early in her career. Indeed, one of the striking things about her is how very much she is a New York success story - hailing from the Bronx, working for the DA's office, serving on New York's Federal bench. And, of course, endearing herself to Yankees fans in the 90's by saving baseball from a crippling strike...

More on Sotomayor (Loving SCOTUS Blog...)

SCOTUS Blog has an excellent post summing up likely Conservative attacks against the nominee and why, ultimately, they do not expect these attacks to be successful.

Republicans cannot afford to find themselves in the position of implicitly opposing Judge Sotomayor. To Hispanics, the nomination would be an absolutely historic landmark. It really is impossible to overstate its significance. The achievement of a lifetime appointment at the absolute highest levels of the government is a profound event for that community, which in turn is a vital electoral group now and in the future.

Equally significant for not only Hispanics but all Americans, Sotomayor has an extraordinarily compelling personal narrative. She is a first generation American, born of immigrant parents. She grew up in a housing project, losing her father as
an adolescent, raised (with her brother) by her mother, who worked as a nurse. She got herself to Princeton, graduating as one of the top two people in her class, then went to Yale Law. Almost all of her career has been in public service–as a prosecutor, trial judge, and now appellate judge. She has almost no money to her name.


Objectively, her qualifications are overwhelming from the perspective of ordinary Americans. She has been a prosecutor, private litigator, trial judge, and appellate judge. No one currently on the Court has that complete package of experience.

Read the whole thing - it's fascinating.

Sotomayor: Her (Legal) Opinions

There will no doubt be a hurricane's worth of hot air blown about Sonia Sotomayor as Republicans attempt to position her as a liberal extremist who hates puppies, and Democrats as utterly mainstream, so conventional in her views as to be practically tedious (for this appears to be how Supreme Court nominations go...). But in the midst of wading through this shout fest you might find it useful to get some facts.

The invaluable SCOTUS Blog has a long series taking a detailed look at Sotomayor's actual rulings on matters before the Federal and Appeals courts on which she has served.

Here's a rundown of her opinions in civil cases.

Since joining the Second Circuit in 1998, Sotomayor has authored over 150 opinions, addressing a wide range of issues, in civil cases. To date, two of these decisions have been overturned by the Supreme Court; a third is under review and likely to be reversed. In those two cases (and likely the third), Sotomayor’s opinion was rejected by the Supreme Court’s more conservative majority and adopted by its more liberal dissenters (including Justice Souter). Those outcomes suggest that Sotomayor’s views would in many respects be similar to those of Justice Souter.

Here's lots more on a wide range of cases.

Supreme Court Pick to Be Announced Today: Expected to be Sonia Sotomayor

Today at 10:15 AM Eastern Time, President Obama will make a live address from the White House in which he is expected to announce his appointment to the US Supreme Court.

Both the New York Times and CBS News are reporting that the nominee will be Sonia Sotomayor, appeals court judge on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. Born in the Bronx to Puerto Rican parents under very humble circumstances, Sotomayor certainly appears to meet Obama's expectation for a Justice who can empathise with the struggles of ordinary citizens. She would be the first Hispanic ever to be appointed to the Court, and only the third woman (the second on the current Court, joining Ruth Bader Ginsburg).

Confirmed to the Appeals court by President Clinton in 1997, she has also in her career gained support from major Republicans as well - her first Federal court appointment was made by President George H. W. Bush in 1991.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Ask Not For Whom the Soldiers Died...

they died for thee.

Today is Memorial Day in America - the day we set aside to remember the soldiers who fought and died in all US wars.

Apparently, the custom of setting aside this day for remembrance began with local ceremonies in honor of the fallen after the Civil War, and was made an official federal holiday in 1888.

Many of the American men and woman that the country honors today died in heroic fashion, for inarguably noble and successful causes. (All of us in Europe are especially grateful to them for their decisive role on the final victory over Germany in WWII.)

But not always. As painful as this is to admit, some of these men and women died pointlessly - in friendly fire incidents that could have been prevented, for example. Some of our soldiers died because of terribly mistaken orders from our own military or civilian leaders. Some died because they didn't have the right equipment, or necessary medical supplies, or good information when they needed it.

Whether they died as heroes, or as accidents, they died for us. Even if they died in a war you opposed, they died to for you. It's relatively easy to honor men and women who died under unequivocally admirable circumstances. Everyone's chest can swell with patriotism and pride unmitigated by doubts and the need to improve.

But we owe our veterans more than a "well done" and the satisfaction of pride. We owe them the hard work of looking hard at what goes wrong, when things do go wrong. We owe them a commitment to making sure that every military engagement we send them on is necessary, that we have a plan to win, that we know how to secure the peace, that we give our men and women the arms and equipment to do the difficult jobs we ask them to do, and that they will always get the best treatment available when they are injured in the line of duty (whether that injury be physical or emotional). We owe them a guarantee that their families will not have to live in poverty because they served their country.

We owe it to them to remember them every day, not just memorial day.

Or to put it another way,

"Our fighting men and women — and the military families who love them — embody what is best in America. And we have a responsibility to serve all of them as well as they serve all of us," Obama said during his radio address.

Obama and his wife, Michelle, have made veterans and military families a priority during his young administration. Obama's budget proposed the largest single-year funding increase in the last three decades to revamp the Department of Veterans Affairs.
So thanks to every service member living and dead, and to their families and loved ones. I hope that we don't let you down.