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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.]


[ 0 ] May 26, 2009 |

Good Christ, the idiocy is flowing like wine this morning from the right. It’s hardly surprising that right-wing bloggers can’t tell the difference between the argument that a) North Korea won’t test another nuke, and b) a North Korean nuclear test doesn’t matter; they are, by and large, morons. In fairness to John Bolton, he was as critical of the Bush administration as he has been of the Obama, but that’s why he’s viewed as a crazy person by the greater portion of the American foreign policy community. It wasn’t that difficult to predict that North Korea might test a nuclear weapon; I predicted such on May 7, fully thirteen days before the oracular John Bolton made his pronouncements in the Wall Street Journal. The question is, and has always been, what the US can and should do about North Korea’s weapons program. The answer that the Bush administration discovered and that John Bolton never grasped is this: Not much.

That “not much” is the answer is pretty clear from this garbage by Bahukutumbi Raman at Forbes. North Korea has tested another nuclear device, we learn, because Obama is weak like Jimmy Carter. That Raman notes himself that North Korea pursued precisely the same strategy under the Bush administration doesn’t dissuade him from this conclusion. Raman’s policy recommendation? The US needs to be more supportive of Israel and India. That’ll teach the North Koreans that we mean business, and how!

Gangsters and Weak States

[ 0 ] May 26, 2009 |

Last week I spoke with Vanda Felbab-Brown of Brookings about gangsters, pirates, insurgents, and weak states. Here we talk a bit about the violence of the Mexican drug cartels:

Vanda also has a paper on the Mexican drug cartels from Brookings that’s worth your valuable time.

No Karlan For You!

[ 0 ] May 26, 2009 |

Not that anyone expected otherwise, but it remains unfortunate. I do suspect, though, that there’s at least some political positioning going on here, emphasizing the moderation of even pretty liberal picks. Wood, in particular, seems definitely better than Breyer, and has a more liberal record than Ginsburg did when she was appointed. Similarly, I’m not really bothered by Geoffrey Stone’s claim that she would be “an “incrementalist” not inclined to take on broad structural changes in the law.” Broad structural changes, after all, can only happen with 5 votes. I’ll say more about this issue tomorrow, but let’s just say that I think most progressives would be overjoyed with a liberal Alito, but Alito prefers incrementalism to broad pronouncements. If they’re in the right direction, incrementalism and broad strokes can be nearly indistinguishable, as the first terms of the Roberts Court should teach us.

Things That Make Me Feel Old

[ 0 ] May 26, 2009 |

The Only Championship Team I Will Ever Cheer For won its only championship 20 years ago today. (The last remaining member of the team hung it up this year too.) Since I’m a Flames fan, though, it feels even longer than 20 years…

Mission Accomplished!

[ 0 ] May 26, 2009 |

A writer for the Weekly Standard begins with the premise that opposition to same-sex marriage is not always motivated by anti-gay bigotry or fundamentalist nonsense. He then goes on to make a case against SSM consisting almost exclusively of…creepy misogyny. So I suppose you’d have to say that he proved his point; there really are a multitude of indefensible reasons for supporting marriage discrimination…

…the great sky-blue satan IDs another choice quote.

…and see also Echidne and Mr. T. Bogg.

…Chotiner hands out more rope.

My Brain is Hanging Upside Down

[ 0 ] May 25, 2009 |

Ronald Reagan received well-deserved scorn in 1985 for visiting Kolmeshöhe Cemetery, where several dozens of SS members were buried; even so, the circumstances of that visit could at least be rendered moderately sensible, given the incompetence that preceded the trip in the first place (e.g., Michael Deaver’s inability to realize who were buried there) and the political conditions that Reagan claimed had boxed him in (e.g., Kohl’s earlier support for missile deployment). The fact remains, though, that Reagan’s gesture of “reconciliation” was a disaster that subsequent presidents have wisely elected not to repeat.

By way of comparison, I have no idea why US presidents continue to honor the memory of soldiers who died fighting for the rights of white people to own black people.

A little over 140 years ago the residents of the American south rose up and began brutally slaughtering thousands of their fellow citizens to defend a despicable system of slavery. They chose to kill and destroy instead of recognizing that the tide of history had finally turned against them. Yet the memory of these traitors and murderers is honored, the reasons for their crimes santized. Deserters from the US military – men who took and then broke an oath of service to the Constitution of the United State – are given memorials and characterized as men of honor.

No shit. What respectable constituency is served by this annual rite of national humiliation? That anyone would mourn the confederate dead is beyond my range of comprehension; it’s unfortunate enough that William McKinley ever set in motion the process that eventually brought tens of thousands of Southern corpses under the care of the US government, when the nation would have been more properly served by stacking them on barges and launching them onto the North Atlantic current. But I’m kind of an asshole that way. The scandal here, however, is that Obama and his predecessors have specifically granted legitimacy to a memorial that — as a heap of scholars properly note — is nothing more than an ode to white supremacy and Lost Cause mythology. It continues to serve as a beacon to neo-Confederates who believe the South was engaged in a divine struggle against evil and that its founding principles have been vindicated over the past century and a half. Unless the wreath Obama sent to the memorial happened to be attached to a jackhammer, the effort was surely wasted.

Isn’t that Just Like the French…

[ 0 ] May 25, 2009 |

…to go after a fraudulent religion just because it comes from the United States:

The Church of Scientology’s French branch went on trial on Monday on charges of organised fraud, in a case that could lead to the group being dissolved in France.

Registered as a religion in the United States, with celebrity members such as actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta, Scientology enjoys no such legal protection in France and has faced repeated accusations of being a money-making cult.

The French branch of the group said on Monday religious freedom was threatened.

Brief Memorial Day Baseball Thought

[ 0 ] May 25, 2009 |

Performance this year notwithstanding, this is a beautiful picture for any Mariner fan: