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Sugar Free Cookies?

[ 0 ] May 29, 2009 |

Hardened Al Qaeda terrorist succumbs to cookie:

Abu Jandal’s guards were so intimidated by him, they wore masks to hide their identities and begged visitors not to refer to them by name in his presence. He had no intention of cooperating with the Americans; at their first meetings, he refused even to look at them and ranted about the evils of the West. Far from confirming al-Qaeda’s involvement in 9/11, he insisted the attacks had been orchestrated by Israel’s Mossad. While Abu Jandal was venting his spleen, Soufan noticed that he didn’t touch any of the cookies that had been served with tea: “He was a diabetic and couldn’t eat anything with sugar in it.” At their next meeting, the Americans brought him some sugar-free cookies, a gesture that took the edge off Abu Jandal’s angry demeanor. “We had showed him respect, and we had done this nice thing for him,” Soufan recalls. “So he started talking to us instead of giving us lectures.”

It took more questioning, and some interrogators’ sleight of hand, before the Yemeni gave up a wealth of information about al-Qaeda — including the identities of seven of the 9/11 bombers — but the cookies were the turning point. “After that, he could no longer think of us as evil Americans,” Soufan says. “Now he was thinking of us as human beings.”

On the other hand, we could have tortured him into saying whatever we want. That would, after all, be more heroic; I don’t recall Jack Bauer ever wasting time by offering his foes a plate of muffins.


Empathy For Me…

[ 0 ] May 29, 2009 |

Shorter Michael Gerson and Charles Krauthammer: “It’s outrageous that President Obama would suggest that empathy is a useful trait in a Supreme Court justice. And it’s outrageous that Sonia Sotomayor didn’t set aside the law to assist a sympathetic defendant who may or may not have been helped by a different ruling.”

On Ricci, see also Hilzoy and Richard Thompson Ford.

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…