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Archive for May, 2009

The Wait to Reach Rock Bottom Is Over

[ 0 ] May 27, 2009 |

When I see that Sonia Sotomayor’s competence is being questioned by John Yoo — you know, the guy who constructed a farcical argument that a Constitution that gave Congress numerous specific powers over warmaking was actually intended to replicate monarchical executive power? And did so to justify an arbitrary torture regime? — I…what else can you say?


North Korea, You Got the Weight on Your Shoulders that’s Breaking Your Back

[ 0 ] May 27, 2009 |

I have a piece up at Comment is Free on the prospects for cooperation between China and the US on managing North Korea. The title, sadly, was not of my invention.

First they made us pronounce her name correctly . . .

[ 0 ] May 27, 2009 |

. . . and I said nothing because I had an Armenian name.

Beside the general weirdness involved in asking what the protocol for pronouncing someone’s name is, (how about “like the person does?”) I’m frightened and confused by Krikorian’s suggested English pronounciation of Sotomayor. I mean if you’re anglicizing it wouldn’t you pronounce “mayor” like the mayor of Cleveland, not like “meyer?”

On the more general point, I think the correct etiquette in these situations is for the non-native speaker of the language from which the name is derived to try and fail to pronounce the name as it’s pronounced in the person’s native language, and for the person to ignore the mispronounciation. That’s what I do anyway (in both directions).

North Korea Getting Blustery

[ 0 ] May 27, 2009 |


North Korea, facing international sanction for this week’s nuclear test, threatened on Wednesday to attack the South after Seoul joined a U.S.-led initiative to check vessels suspected of carrying equipment for weapons of mass destruction.

The threat came after South Korean media reported Pyongyang had restarted a plant that makes weapons-grade plutonium.

U.S. President Barack Obama is working to form a united response to Monday’s nuclear test, widely denounced as a major threat to stability that violates U.N. resolutions and brings the reclusive North closer to having a reliable nuclear bomb.

A North Korean army spokesman reiterated that the country was no longer bound by the armistice signed at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War because Washington had ignored its responsibility as a signatory by drawing Seoul into the anti-proliferation effort.

Attention deprived behavior? Yes, but you do sometimes worry that actors within North Korea’s byzantine governance system will get rhetorically locked into certain policy options. Nevertheless, a North Korea attack on the South would be tantamount to national suicide, and I don’t believe that countries regularly commit national suicide. The issue of the day is the Proliferation Security Initiative, which is probably the only good idea John Bolton ever came up with; it’s an international regime to monitor maritime export of illicit or illegal arms from North Korea (its primary target) to international customers. Since proliferation of nuclear and ballistic missile technology is probably the biggest threat that North Korea poses (while fears of export of an actual nuclear weapon are kind of silly, the export of machinery and ballistic missiles has already taken place), South Korea’s participation in PSI makes sense to me. It’s also possible that the nuclear test may push China to join PSI; Beijing has thus far been reluctant for reasons that have little to do with North Korea.

Reactionary Hack of the Day

[ 0 ] May 27, 2009 |

Ross Douthat.

That Settles It; She’s Replacing Dowd

[ 0 ] May 27, 2009 |

Shorter Verbatim Althouse: “And let’s also talk about the interesting mannerism of placing one’s left hand inside one’s clothing up around one’s shoulder. I know someone who does that at times, and I’ve given a lot of thought to what it signifies. I have my theory, but I’ll save it until some of you weigh in.”

Yes, truly fascinating. And yet, nobody has asked an even more important question: what kind of mustard does Sotomayor prefer?

…meanwhile, one of her commenters seems to think that a woman’s, er, “cooch” is on the side of her body. I suppose it goes without saying that this comment was approvingly elevated…

Upholding Prop H8

[ 0 ] May 26, 2009 |

I assume that many of you have heard that Proposition 8 has survived judicial review (but isn’t being applied retroactively.) I think the decision was both inevitable and probably correct on the merits, so I don’t have a lot to add. Hopefully it won’t survive another electoral cycle…

A kind of progress

[ 0 ] May 26, 2009 |

Assuming Sotomayor is confirmed, the SCOTUS is going to have only one Protestant justice, along with six Catholics and two Jews. (And Stevens appears to be the most nominal of Protestants, as he doesn’t list himself as a member of any particular denomination).

Given that for most of American history the conventional wisdom was that the Court had room for one Catholic and one Jewish seat at any particular time, this is in some ways an even bigger shift than letting girls into the club.

What’s next, a black Muslim president?

Changing the Definitions of Merit to Suit Republican Policy Preferences

[ 0 ] May 26, 2009 |

I generally respect Ramesh Ponnuru, but his assertion that Sotomayor is “Obama’s Miers” is just appalling stuff, and is a classic example of the double standards that Sotomayor is likely to be subjected to. The comparison is indefensible on its face; Sotomayor’s formal qualifications are as impressive as any justice in recent decades (and considerably more impressive than those of conservative idols Thomas and Rehnquist, let alone Miers, who had virtually none of the experience generally expected of contemporary Supreme Court nominees.) We can argue about whether these qualifications are good ones, but to claim that Sotomayor is comparable to Miers is absurd.

So what is Ponnuru’s justification? He first cites Sotomayor’s utterly banal in context argument about circuit courts making policy, which doesn’t exactly compare with what Miers’s almost complete ignorance of federal constitutional law. The second point is (of course) Rosen’s poorly substantiated smear job, which should of course be given very little weight. The fourth talks about her reversal rate; he doesn’t say what he considers “high”, but as a more liberal justice in the era of a conservative Supreme Court this means very little. The third point — about Obama having a “litmus test” on Roe v. Wade is the silliest of all, not only because it would logically apply to any Obama nominee but because conservatives rebelled against Miers precisely because of she didn’t have a demonstrable record of consistency with various conservative litmus tests.

Ponnuru, like other conservatives, is welcome to disagree substantively with Obama’s pick (and, indeed, they should.) But the comparison to Miers is not merely transparently silly but offensive. And we’re going to see worse.

…Another example from Amanda Terkel here; the idea that Sotomayor lacks sufficient “qualifications” is about as close to explicit racism as you can get without crossing the line.

…in comments, Matt notes that Ponnuru’s unsubstantiated claim about reversal rates is not merely useless but also wrong.

A Pocket Guide To Republican Confirmation Hearing Discourse

[ 0 ] May 26, 2009 |

IB explains, saving you the trouble of listening to them throughout the process:

  • Extremism
  • Activism
  • Results-orientism
  • Lack of Merit (due to being Hispanic a woman an “affirmative action hire”)
  • Non-Judicial in Temperament
  • Heck, Even the Liberal New Republic® etc. etc.

In addition, the primary source of evidence adduced for her “activism” is the potential that she will defer to the integration programs of electorally responsible officials. although these programs are not explicitly inconsistent with the text of the Constitution and are also consistent with precedent and (to the extent it’s meaningful) the original understanding of the constitutional text. (Bonus points if claims about “activism” are made by admirers or former employees of Clarence “Let’s Burn Down the New Deal” Thomas.)

And, of course, I hope you will also note that such accomplishments as Ivy League degrees and distinguished appellate court service are about to become much less important as standards of “merit” than they were for reactionary white guys appointed by George W. Bush…

Natural born killers

[ 0 ] May 26, 2009 |

One problem with pointing out that if torture and preventative detention are such nifty tools in the fight to keep Americans “safe” why aren’t we using them against common murderers, given that they’re about 10,000 times more common than terrorists, is that lots of people are sure to say that’s a really good idea.

It’s Sotomayor

[ 0 ] May 26, 2009 |

A few random thoughts/links about the big news you may have already heard about, Obama tapping Sonia Sotomayor as his first pick:

  • It’s a good, solid pick. Not a home run like Karlan would have been, but I also don’t think she’ll be another Breyer; I see another Ginsburg at worst. For me, she would have been #2 among the viable candidates after Wood, and I don’t think Wood is clearly more liberal; they’re within a range in which appellate court records don’t reveal enough information to make firm judgments.
  • If the GOP wants to make a big stand on affirmative action in the context of the first Hispanic-American nominee — and hence continue its demographic death spiral — I say bring it on.
  • Useful link of cases at the Times here. If you didn’t see it at the time, this Goldstein post is also excellent.
  • At the very least, this pick will make Jeffrey Rosen and Stuart Taylor cry. Let’s just hope that their respective predictive track records continue to be what they’ve been. Amusingly, Taylor recently moved Sotomayor below well-known no-hoper Jennifer Granholm on his Supreme Court short list. Well, at least that’s not as bad as “Sam Alito, the moderate who will disappoint conservatives”…

[X=Posted at TAPPED.]

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