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Archive for May, 2009

Going Galt — Aqua Style!

[ 0 ] May 29, 2009 |

A group of libertarians seeks refuge from our parasite society by forming some sort of ocean colony. Whether this even puts them above the mean level of craziness among the contemporary American comservative movement is unclear. I mean, beats this, you have to admit…

[Link to relevant video because I can’t seem to disable irritating autoplay feature…]


[ 0 ] May 29, 2009 |

Friday Cat Blogging… Starbuck and Ripley

Today In Self-Parody

[ 0 ] May 29, 2009 |

It doesn’t get much better than Fred Barnes questioning Sonia Sotomayor’s intellectual credentials (in the midst, natch, of wholly unsubstantiated assertions that Sotomayor has been a beneficiary of affirmative action). To borrow DrDicks’ line, this is the coal bucket calling the Waterford crystal black…

Scalia v. Sotomayor

[ 0 ] May 29, 2009 |

You’ll be shocked to see double standards about that less-than-precise category known as “judicial temperament” manifesting themselves….

Medical Professionals and Torture

[ 0 ] May 28, 2009 |

Randy Paul has been writing an excellent series on medical professionals and torture, stemming from his attendance of a symposium on the subject two weeks ago. Long story short, “enhanced interrogations” often require the presence of a medical professional in order to make sure that the person who is definitely not being tortured doesn’t, you know, die. Randy notes that there is a bill floating through the New York State Assembly intended to create consequences for medical professionals who participate in such interrogations. Physicians for Human Rights has a petition in support of the bill; check it out.

Give ‘Em Enough Rope

[ 0 ] May 28, 2009 |

I have an article up over at Comment Is Free about he Sotomayor nomination. Since her confirmation is (barring unforseen circumstances) inevitable, what matters is the nature of the process itself. And I can only hope that Senate Republicans will follow their pundits and operatives in their noxious attempts to portray a choice as formally well-qualified as any in my lifetime as an unqualified minority:

With respect to Sotomayor’s qualifications, a number of Republican pundits and spokesmen – including Karl Rove – have attempted to argue that Sotomayor was not appointed on the merits but because she was a woman of Puerto Rican descent. These arguments are unlikely to gain traction beyond the most reactionary Republican senators for the obvious reason that they’re absurd, and in some cases come close to outright racism.

Of course, Sotomayor’s compelling life story and background was not irrelevant to her selection – diversity of various kinds (regional, religious, ethnic) has always played a part in the modern supreme court process, on the part of both Democratic and Republican presidents. But her formal qualifications – advancing from poverty in the Bronx to Princeton, editor of the Yale Law Journal and nearly 20 years of distinguished service on the federal courts – are comparable or superior to any recent nominee.

They’re certainly more impressive than those of the conservative icons William Rehnquist, who had never served a day as a judge and had served only about three years as assistant attorney general, and Clarence Thomas, who had been a judge for less than two years, although he had been head of an important federal agency for eight.

Attempts to portray a nominee whose qualifications are remarkably similar to the most recently confirmed justice (Samuel Alito, also a Princeton and Yale Law graduate) as unworthy of the court are more likely to damage politically those making the arguments than Sotomayor’s nomination prospects.

I also have some arguments about how the Dems should approach the process.

How gauche

[ 0 ] May 28, 2009 |

There’s a great little exchange at the beginning of the Godfather II, when the corrupt senator is trying to shake down Michael Corleone. The senator makes a point of pronouncing Corleone’s name with exaggerated correctness. This is a double insult, both because of the exaggeration, but more so because an hour earlier the senator had (now obviously intentionally) mangled the pronounciation of the family name when acknowledging the acceptance of a large charitable contribution from them, during his speech to the audience at Michael’s son’s first communion.

That seemingly trivial matters of etiquette can be fraught with all sorts of social and political significance is evident in things like Mark Krikorian’s continuing insistence that there’s something un-American about trying to pronounce “foreign” names as the bearers of those names pronounce them.

While Krikorian’s first post on this was silly, his followup is grotesque. I happen to remember the press conference at which Ronald Reagan introduced Antonin Scalia as his SCOTUS nominee. The very first question was how to pronounce the nominee’s name correctly. Has Krikorian ever anglicized the pronounciation of Scalia’s or Alito’s names? How about Sen. John Breaux? Etc. I bet you this principle of mispronouncing (Hispanic) names in order to hold back the dreaded tide of multi-culturalism occured to him about fifteen minutes ago, after someone whose name sounds a lot like his maid’s* got nominated to the Court.

This is actually all typical right-wing elite faux-populist posturing, of course. Anglicizing foreign names is something people are far more likely to do as you move down the SES scale. So, in winger land, it becomes an “authentic” thing to do, at least in a context in which you also have an irresistable urge to gratuitously insult America’s 30 million Hispanic voters. (I can well imagine Krikorian’s late employer’s reaction if he had asked him how the skiing was in Ge-Stad).

*I’m guessing here — maybe his maid is Polish. Speaking of which I wonder how Krikorian applies his principle of using the “English” (sic) pronouncation for Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski’s name?

Identity Politics

[ 0 ] May 28, 2009 |

The GOP doesn’t like the fact that they’re not working as well as they used to for reactionary southern (or mock-southern, as the case may be) white men.

The Narrative Continues

[ 0 ] May 27, 2009 |

Dana Milbank is the latest to assert that Sotomayor just can’t be all that bright and doesn’t know her place. Does anyone think in a million years that Milbank would be questioning the intelligence of a white appointee with similarly sterling academic credentials? Like, to pick a random example, Sam Alito? This is just appalling stuff.

"Racisalism" Is Bad. If It Might Affect White People.

[ 1 ] May 27, 2009 |

Adam has the inevitably hacktacular Stuart Taylor dead to rights here:

Moreover, Taylor, who believes the greatest injustice in Western history was Sotomayor’s failure to ignore established precedent in the Ricci case and act as an empathetic, activist judge on behalf of a plaintiff he finds sympathetic, has been a fervent supporter of racial profiling. Sotomayor’s statement about life experience affecting the way judges rule is a plainly innocuous statement, and contains none of the malice Taylor attributes to it. But I’d be interested to understand how Taylor explain how the law should be color-blind in situations when he feels whites might be disadvantaged, but not when it comes to assuming people are criminals or terrorists based on the color of their skin. That sounds pretty “racialist” to me.

It’s going to be equally amusing seeing this Bush v. Gore apologist criticize Sotomayor for “judicial activism” and alleged defects in legal craftsmanship…


[ 0 ] May 27, 2009 |

Eugene Volokh expresses concern about the consequences of having an actual liberal on the Supreme Court:

And she might move that seat further to the left, if she proves to be a solid liberal, like Justices Brennan and Marshall, as opposed to a moderate liberal, like Justice Souter and the most recent Democratic appointees, Justice Ginsburg and Justice Breyer.

That’s obviously important for a wide range of issues on which the liberal position would trouble not just conservatives, but also libertarians and moderates: the individual right to keep and bear arms, the right of Asians and whites to equal treatment under the Constitution’s racial equality provisions and federal equal rights statutes, the constitutionality of even-handed school choice programs that include religious schools on equal terms with secular ones, the right of people and organizations to participate effectively in political campaigns, and more.

On one of these cases (Heller) I actually agree with Volokh; on the others, I’m less sympathetic. But the first thing I notice about these cases is that nothing would change if you substituted zombie William O. Douglas for one of the Court’s moderates. All four of the Court’s current moderate liberals dissented in Heller. It was Breyer who wrote the major dissent (joined by Souter as well as Stevens and Ginsburg) in Parents Involved, and Stevens who (correctly in my view) compared the Roberts/Volokh position that racial classifications used to promote integration are indistinguishable from racial classifications used to uphold a caste system to Anatole France’s mock observation that “The majestic equality of the law, forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal their bread.” Souter himself wrote the brilliant dissent in Zelman (again, joined by the other three more liberal justices) noting that the voucher program in question was anything but “even-handed” between religious and secular programs, given that its construction guaranteed that virtually all of the money had to go to parochial schools. Leaving aside the fact that ifthe goal is the “effective” participation in political campaigns the desirability of First Amendment absolutism on campaign finance is far from self-evident, again Souter and Breyer have consistently voted against the Court’s conservatives in these cases. So for every one of the areas Volokh mentions, whether Souter is replaced by another moderate or another Brennan will make no difference whatsoever.

The other thing you notice about the cases Volokh cites, of course, is that they’re all absolutely standard-issue Republican obsessions, with no particular libertarian content at all — Pat Buchanan would presumably agree with Volokh on all points. Conversely, criminal procedure cases are an area in which replacing a Souter or Breyer with a Douglas or Marhsall really would make a difference, and moreover would make a difference in a way that you’d think an actual libertarian would approve of. But Volokh has nothing to say about them.

Why, it’s enough to make me wonder in what sense Volokh is a “libertarian,” as opposed to an ordinary conservative, at all. (Or, as Henley said long ago, “[t]he further you get from standard Republican issues like guns and university speech codes, the more likely he is to arrive, with exquisite regret, at the conclusion that the State, particularly when helmed by George W. Bush, must have its way.”)

Understanding the Zombie-Terrorist Menace

[ 0 ] May 27, 2009 |

Max Baucus will not allow them to feast on the warm, nourishing brains of his constituents:

“Housing potential terrorists in Montana is not good for our state,” Max Baucus, the state’s senior Democratic senator, wrote to Smith. “These people stop at nothing. Their primary goal in life, and death, is to destroy America.”

Baucus did not specify whether the zombie terrorists are of the slow-moving variety — as in the 1978 version of Dawn of the Dead — or of the speedier breed to be found in the 2004 version of the same film. We pay our leaders, however, to protect us from such awful knowledge; more importantly, disclosing such information would compromise national security by alerting the terrorists to the fact that we know what kind of zombies they will become. Smart.

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