Archive for May, 2009
31 May 2009

Death of America’s Auto Industry

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My dad once owned a 1960 Chevrolet Bel Air

P.J. O’Rourke
wrote an elegy for the American Automobile, murdered by federal regulators, union leeches, and socialist looters.

Pointy-headed busybodies of the environmentalist, new urbanist, utopian communitarian ilk blamed the victim. They claimed the car had forced us to live in widely scattered settlements in the great wasteland of big-box stores and the Olive Garden. If we would all just get on our Schwinns or hop a trolley, they said, America could become an archipelago of cozy gulags on the Portland, Ore., model with everyone nestled together in the most sustainably carbon-neutral, diverse and ecologically unimpactful way,

But cars didn’t shape our existence; cars let us escape with our lives. We’re way the heck out here in Valley Bottom Heights and Trout Antler Estates because we were at war with the cities. We fought rotten public schools, idiot municipal bureaucracies, corrupt political machines, rampant criminality and the pointy-headed busybodies. Cars gave us our dragoons and hussars, lent us speed and mobility, let us scout the terrain and probe the enemy’s lines. And thanks to our cars, when we lost the cities we weren’t forced to surrender, we were able to retreat.

But our poor cars paid the price. They were flashing swords beaten into dull plowshares. Cars became appliances. Or worse. Nobody’s ticked off at the dryer or the dishwasher, much less the fridge. We recognize these as labor-saving devices. The car, on the other hand, seems to create labor. We hold the car responsible for all the dreary errands to which it needs to be steered. Hell, a golf cart’s more fun. You can ride around in a golf cart with a six-pack, safe from breathalyzers, chasing Canada geese on the fairways and taking swings at gophers with a mashie.

We’ve lost our love for cars and forgotten our debt to them and meanwhile the pointy-headed busybodies have been exacting their revenge. We escaped the poke of their noses once, when we lived downtown, but we won’t be able to peel out so fast the next time. In the name of safety, emissions control and fuel economy, the simple mechanical elegance of the automobile has been rendered ponderous, cumbersome and incomprehensible. One might as well pry the back off an iPod as pop the hood on a contemporary motor vehicle. An aging shade-tree mechanic like myself stares aghast and sits back down in the shade. Or would if the car weren’t squawking at me like a rehearsal for divorce. You left the key in. You left the door open. You left the lights on. You left your dirty socks in the middle of the bedroom floor.

I don’t believe the pointy-heads give a damn about climate change or gas mileage, much less about whether I survive a head-on with one of their tax-sucking mass-transit projects. All they want to is to make me hate my car. How proud and handsome would Bucephalas look, or Traveler or Rachel Alexandra, with seat and shoulder belts, air bags, 5-mph bumpers and a maze of pollution-control equipment under the tail?

And there’s the end of the American automobile industry. When it comes to dull, practical, ugly things that bore and annoy me, Japanese things cost less and the cup holders are more conveniently located.

The American automobile is—that is, was—never a product of Japanese-style industrialism. America’s steel, coal, beer, beaver pelts and PCs may have come from our business plutocracy, but American cars have been manufactured mostly by romantic fools. David Buick, Ransom E. Olds, Louis Chevrolet, Robert and Louis Hupp of the Hupmobile, the Dodge brothers, the Studebaker brothers, the Packard brothers, the Duesenberg brothers, Charles W. Nash, E. L. Cord, John North Willys, Preston Tucker and William H. Murphy, whose Cadillac cars were designed by the young Henry Ford, all went broke making cars. The man who founded General Motors in 1908, William Crapo (really) Durant, went broke twice. Henry Ford, of course, did not go broke, nor was he a romantic, but judging by his opinions he certainly was a fool.

America’s romantic foolishness with cars is finished, however, or nearly so. In the far boondocks a few good old boys haven’t got the memo and still tear up the back roads. Doubtless the Obama administration’s Department of Transportation is even now calculating a way to tap federal stimulus funds for mandatory OnStar installations to locate and subdue these reprobates.

31 May 2009

16 Year Old Iraqi Immigrant Scores Math Success in Sweden

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A 16-Year-Old Iraqi immigrant to Sweden working over four months apparently independently produced a formula for simplifying the generation of the Bernoulli Numbers, a sequence of rational numbers significant in number theory first identified in the Swiss mathematician Jacob Bernoulli‘s Ars Conjectandi, published posthumously in 1713.

Mohamed Altoumaimi’s formula was actually already known by mathematicians, but his generation of the same formula independently sufficiently impressed the academic community in Sweden that the young man was immediately offered admission to Upsala University. He has decided to finish secondary school first, however.

AFP

AHN

SoftSailor

31 May 2009

Extreme Paper Art

100 examples of extreme paper art. Some are better than others, but it is worth a look. <

30 May 2009

Extreme Left Not Satisfied With Obama

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Warner Todd Huston observes that despite the Obamessiah’s apologies for America and efforts to nationalize health care and the financial and auto industries, the democrat left is not satisfied.

They’ve destroyed liberal presidencies before. Remember Lyndon Johnson? Huston wonders if the mob will ultimately turn upon the Chosen One.

[Ultra-left cartoonist Ted] Rall is upset because Obama didn’t instantly turn the United States into a communist, third-world nation the second he got his key to the Executive Mansion washroom. Rall wanted all of Bush’s administration in jail, the entire corporate world summarily fired, the government to take over the economy, the Constitution wiped clean to be replaced by some manifesto or another, and all U.S. troops to be dismissed from service and he’s mad that all the things that Obama promised he’d do seem to have come with an expiration date of January 20, 2009. But Rall is not alone as this rumbling is being felt in many quarters on the left-wing.

A quick Google search finds many disappointed voices out there among the left. From lone voices, to some common folks at a Yahoo Answers page, to CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, and half-baked lefty economist Paul Krugman the rumblings of Obama being a failure seems to be building. After initial praise, some gays aren’t happy with Obama and even the whack-jobs at the DemocraticUnderground are busy deleting comments that attack Obama as a failure. If one looks carefully, some rumblings can be found at The Huffington Post and the DailyKos, as well.

So, what will this do to the Obama presidency? Will it drag him wildly to the left causing centrists to grow tired of him? Will he be able to successfully steer a safe path between the un-American left that got him to office and the rest of America? Will Obama continue to ignore his patrons of the far left until they LBJ him? I won’t pretend to know the answers to these questions, especially seeing as how early we are into the era of Obama. But it is interesting to see the once starry-eyed left sour on this president so quickly. After all, he only has five months under his belt!

30 May 2009

Justice Obama-Style: No Prosecution For Voter Intimidation By Black Panthers

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Billy-club wielding Black Panthers outside Philadelphia polling station

The 2008 Presidential election featured brazen acts of voting fraud and voter intimidation in favor of the democrat party candidates. The Obama Administration’s Department of Justice just sent a message to its supporters assuring them crimes committed in support of democrats will not be punished.

Washington Times:

Justice Department political appointees overruled career lawyers and ended a civil complaint accusing three members of the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense of wielding a nightstick and intimidating voters at a Philadelphia polling place last Election Day, according to documents and interviews.

The incident – which gained national attention when it was captured on videotape and distributed on YouTube – had prompted the government to sue the men, saying they violated the 1965 Voting Rights Act by scaring would-be voters with the weapon, racial slurs and military-style uniforms.

Career lawyers pursued the case for months, including obtaining an affidavit from a prominent 1960s civil rights activist who witnessed the confrontation and described it as “the most blatant form of voter intimidation” that he had seen, even during the voting rights crisis in Mississippi a half-century ago.

The lawyers also had ascertained that one of the three men had gained access to the polling place by securing a credential as a Democratic poll watcher, according to interviews and documents reviewed by The Washington Times.

The career Justice lawyers were on the verge of securing sanctions against the men earlier this month when their superiors ordered them to reverse course, according to interviews and documents. The court had already entered a default judgment against the men on April 20.

A Justice Department spokesman on Thursday confirmed that the agency had dropped the case, dismissing two of the men from the lawsuit with no penalty and winning an order against the third man that simply prohibits him from bringing a weapon to a polling place in future elections.

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Original 1:21 video

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The same Washington Times ran the following editorial.

Imagine if Ku Klux Klan members had stood menacingly in military uniforms, with nightsticks, in front of a polling place. Add to it that they had hurled racial threats and insults at voters who tried to enter.

Now suppose that the government, backed by a nationally televised video of the event, had won a court case against the Klansmen except for the perfunctory filing of a single, simple document – but that an incoming Republican administration had moved to voluntarily dismiss the already-won case.

Surely that would have been front-page news, with a number of firings at the Justice Department.

The flip side of this scenario is occurring right now. The culprits weren’t Klansmen; they belonged to the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. One of the defendants, Jerry Jackson, is an elected member of Philadelphia’s 14th Ward Democratic Committee and was a credentialed poll watcher for Barack Obama and the Democratic Party when the violations occurred. Rather conveniently, the Obama administration has asked that the cases against Mr. Jackson, two other defendants and the party be dropped.

The Voting Rights Act is very clear. It prohibits any “attempt to intimidate, threaten or coerce” any voter or those aiding voters.

The explanation for moving to dismiss the case is shocking. According to the Department of Justice: “These same Defendants have made no appearance and have filed no pleadings with the Court. Nor have they otherwise raised any other defenses to this action. Therefore, the United States has the right … to dismiss voluntarily this action against the Defendants.” In other words, because the defendants haven’t tried to defend themselves, the Justice Department won’t punish them.

By that logic, if a murderer doesn’t respond to the charges, he should be let free. That’s crazy.

29 May 2009

Going On Holiday Again

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American foxhounds at 2008 Bryn Mawr Hound Show

The management will be out of town later today through Sunday, attending the Bryn Mawr Hound Show.

Possibly Internet access will be found at our lodgings on the road, but there is no guarantee of such amenities in the wilds of Philadelphia’s Main Line. There will be limited or no blogging until Monday.

29 May 2009

Today’s Animal Behaviorist; Tomorrow’s Lunch

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South Africa’s Kevin Richardson is following in the footsteps of such other renowned animal behaviorists as Timothy Treadwell.

2:41 video

Hat tip to Gwynnie.

29 May 2009

An Accidental Conservative Looks Back at the Left

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Spiegel editor Jan Fleischhauer grew up in a haute bourgeois left-liberal family, the kind that boycotted Hollywood movies, Pepsi Cola, and oranges, all on grounds of US or right-wing associations. Converting to Conservatism, he reports, was not easy, since doing so required breaking ranks with the entire community of culture and fashion.

Go to any theater, museum or open-air concert, and you’ll quickly realize that ideas beyond the mindscape of the left are unwelcome there. A contemporary play that doesn’t critically settle scores with the market economy? Unthinkable. An artist who, until George W. Bush left the White House, could associate anything with America other than Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and the Washington’s refusal to sign the Kyoto Protocol? Out of the question. Rock concerts against the left? A joke.

The left has won, across the board, and has become the happy medium. When we search for a definition of what left means, we can draw on an impressive array of theories. Leftism is a worldview, as well as a way of explaining the world and how everything is interconnected. Most of all, however, it is a feeling. A person who lives a leftist life is living with the appealing awareness of being in the right, in fact, being right all the time. In Germany, leftists are never truly called upon to justify their views. In fact, their views have become the dominant views, not within the population, which stubbornly adheres to its prejudices, but among those who set the tone and in circles where they prefer to congregate. …

In the business of opinions, where I earn my money, there is practically nothing but leftists, and anyone who is not is well-advised to keep it to himself. One reason for the cultural dominance of the left may be that the other side has nothing to say or leftist ideas are so convincing that everything else pales by comparison. But I would hazard to guess that many are to the left because others are.

Man’s tendency to assimilate, though well-documented in experimental psychology, is a trait routinely underestimated in everyday life. What we call conviction is often nothing but adaptation in an environment of opinions. Opportunism is an ugly word that doesn’t apply here, because it assumes that we adopt opinions for purely calculated reasons. Let’s call it social instinct instead. No one wants to be the only person in an office who isn’t asked to join the group for lunch.

The liberal family has many clans competing sharply with one another, but in the end it remains a family, and it sees itself as a family. The left, with which I have dealt throughout my life, is a milieu that could be described as the leftist bourgeoisie. In English-speaking countries, terms like “chattering class” or “creative class” have taken hold. Middle-class socialism or leftist chic are other attempts at description, but they all mean the same thing. This milieu is inhabited by a type of person easily recognized by his consumption and cultural habits (even if he prides himself on his nonconformity), and who is characterized by a pronounced elite awareness, even though the word elite is much as a taboo for leftists as words like nation, homeland or ethnic group.

Liberals in Germany rave about Obama, fear climate change and the surveillance state, do their best to eat organically acceptable food and read the opinion pages of the Süddeutsche Zeitung, the arts section of the Frankfurter Allgemeine’s Sunday edition and, with a certain amount of feigned contempt, the political section of SPIEGEL. Their children attend exclusive schools, even though they are fundamentally in favor of public schools. They like to spend their weekends visiting friends in the country who have been renovating a stone cottage for years — with attention to historical authenticity, of course — and in Italian restaurants they always order in Italian, no matter how well they actually speak the language. Of course, liberals and conservatives probably share some of these traits, but not to the point of excluding everything else, and certainly not as one of the prime attributes of a lifestyle.

Members of this social class are critical of the market economy, and yet are unable to specify an alternative. In their view, the current economic crisis is a gift from God, because it provides perfect fodder for all kinds of prejudices and practically eliminates the need for argument. All it takes is to mention words like “Deutsche Bank” or “Wall Street” in any discussion in which someone has dared to voice a cautious objection, and everyone standing around will quickly nod their heads in agreement, causing the troublemaker to withdraw, while mumbling apologies. In secret, however, they hope that this crisis of capitalism will not progress too far, because their own prosperity depends on capitalism and because, for the past 150 years, no one has been able to demonstrate that a comfortable retirement was possible under good old Karl Marx.

Read the whole thing.

His book, Unter Linken: Von einem, der aus Versehen konservativ wurde (The Left, From the Perspective of an Accidental Conservative), has not so far been translated into English.

Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

29 May 2009

Empathy Above Impartiality Equals Judicial Activism

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Kenneth Vogel, at the Politico, notes that Sonia Sotomayor is burdened by a prominent record of hostility toward First Amendment campaign speech rights.

Sonia Sotomayor may not have a long paper trail on hot button social issues, but in one area of the law—campaign finance—she has staked a position that could have far-reaching political consequences.

The clarity of her support for limits on campaign fundraising and her background as a pioneering campaign regulator is raising eyebrows among election law experts who say her record is more substantial and explicit than that of any Supreme Court nominee since the dawn of the modern, post-Watergate campaign finance regime.

“There hasn’t been one with as vigorously expressed policy views on campaign finance as this one that I am aware of, and I’ve been pretty aware for a number of years,” said James Bopp, a leading conservative attorney who has won four Supreme Court cases challenging campaign finance regulations.

“I can’t think of anybody who has had such a track record,” said Bob Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies and a follower of battles on the issue since the early 1970s. “There are clearly going to be cases coming before the court that will be challenges to the law, and there will be some very important cases.”

Sotomayor brings hands-on experience to the issue from her four years of experience on the New York City Campaign Finance Board, an independent, nonpartisan city agency created in 1988. One of the first members appointed to the board by then-Mayor Ed Koch, Sotomayor helped implement—enthusiastically, according to her cohorts—one of the most comprehensive campaign finance laws in the country.

In a rare and little-noticed law review article, she forcefully defended the policy motivations behind such restrictions, questioning the line between campaign contributions and “bribes,” calling on Congress to overhaul campaign finance laws – including suggesting public financing of its own elections – and blasting the Federal Election Commission for not enforcing existing laws.

“The continued failure to do this has greatly damaged public trust in officials and exacerbated the public’s sense that no higher morality is in place by which public officials measure their conduct,” she wrote in a law review article based on a speech she gave to Suffolk University Law School in 1996, when she was a federal district court judge.

On the only occasion when she was confronted with the issue as a jurist, Sotomayor joined a decision that effectively gave a pass to a Vermont law that severely limited campaign contributions and capped campaign spending – a law that the Supreme Court later overturned as a First Amendment violation.

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The same James Bopp, Jr. mentioned in passing in Politico, who practices law in Terre Haute, Indiana with the firm of Bopp, Coleson & Bostrom, yesterday in the Election-Law listserv, discussed Sotomayor’s 1996 law review article and found her philosophy disturbing.

In 1996, the Suffolk University Law Review published Returning Majesty to the Law and Politics: A Modern Approach, by Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. This article touches on her legal philosophy in general, as well as her understanding of the First Amendment in particular. The views expressed in this article are troubling, and should give all Americans pause.

Judge Sotomayor writes, “The law … is uncertain and responds to changing circumstances.” It is true that some development in the law takes place as new circumstances arise. For instance, courts today are working out the contours of ‘cyber-law’—a concept that was unheard of a mere thirty years ago. With the proliferation of personal computers and the Internet, however, cyber-law is now a rapidly developing body of law. Some of the old rules regarding the formation of contracts have had to be re-considered to take into account e-transactions. And laws regulating what can, and cannot, be posted on the Internet have had to be evaluated in light of First Amendment protections.

To say that the law develops as new situations arise, however, is far different than what Sotomayor is saying. She calls it a “public myth” that law can be stable, or provide predictable results. Instead, she suggests that the law is in such a constant state of flux that one can never be sure what the law is, or what one’s rights or obligations under it are. What we have, she writes, is an “unpredictable system of justice.” And she believes this “continually evolving legal structure” which leads to what she calls “the uncertainty of law” is a good thing for society.

This is a wrong understanding of the role and function of law in our society. Law is not to be uncertain and arbitrary. Rather, it is to provide rules that all must live by, and guidance whereby we can structure our lives. Sotomayor’s position, though, is that such certainty is a bad thing, and uncertainty in the law is the desired result.

This philosophy opens the door for Sotomayor, and judges who believe similarly, to avoid following what the law actually says. It allows them to place “empathy” above impartiality. After all, if the law is uncertain and constantly changing, why shouldn’t a judge rule in favor of the party that she likes best or agrees with most? Sotomayor’s philosophy facilitates the type of judicial activism and legislation from the bench that decides cases according to what the judges personally believe should be the correct result, instead of what the law actually says should be the correct result. It also destroys any confidence Americans might have in the law’s fairness, if judges are free to make rulings which go against what the law says in order to benefit parties they like or agree with.

Perhaps nowhere is Judge Sotomayor’s problematic philosophy better illustrated than in her approach to campaign finance law. In Returning Majesty to Law and Politics, she compares restrictions on the fundamental First Amendment right of citizens to engage in political speech and association by making contributions to candidates, with restrictions on gift-giving to politicians. Because gift-giving can be restricted, she seems to say, contributions should be restricted, too. She suggests that both gifts and contributions can function as bribes, and seems to be open to the elimination of what she terms “private money” from politics.

The problem with that reasoning, of course, is that there is a difference of constitutional magnitude between buying lunch for a bureaucrat and making of a political contribution to a candidate. The Founders thought that the right of Americans to engage in political speech and association was so important that they enshrined it in the First Amendment to the Constitution and the First Amendment protect campaign contributions.

Our Constitution, including the First Amendment, should not be regarded as evolving. Rather, it should be understood as a constant guarantee: It is a contract between the previous generation of Americans and this one, and between this generation of Americans and the next one. It assures us, and each succeeding generation of Americans, of the nature of the Republic and our rights within it. And so, our freedom to engage in political speech and association guaranteed by the First Amendment—including our right to make contributions to the candidates whose message we agree with—should be absolute. It should not be subject to the whim of a judge who believes that the law is uncertain and constantly evolving.

Judge Sotomayor, however, appears to disagree. While her thoughts regarding campaign contributions are difficult to discern from her law review article, they are more clear in a decision she signed onto in 2005. This case, known as Randall v. Sorrell when it was before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, involved a challenge to Vermont’s contribution and expenditure limits. A three-judge panel of the Second Circuit upheld the district court’s decision that the contribution limits were constitutional, but determined that the case should be remanded to the district court for reconsideration of the expenditure limits. The plaintiffs in that case asked for the full Second Circuit to rehear the case, and the Second Circuit denied that rehearing. (The plaintiffs would eventually win in 2006 at the Supreme Court when, in Randall v. Sorrell, the Court held that both the contribution and expenditure limits were unconstitutional).

Judge Sotomayor signed onto an opinion written by two other judges which concurred in the decision to deny rehearing. This opinion which she signed began by noting that the question before the Court involving whether the plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights were being trampled was not important enough to justify rehearing the case. Instead, the judges noted that disputes which are highly political or partisan should not be addressed by the courts.

There’s just one little problem with that: If the Court will not vindicate our First Amendment rights, who will? Judge Sotomayor is correct when she observes that campaign finance is partisan and politicized. Incumbents frequently enact campaign finance laws in order to protect themselves, and if they can do so in a way that benefits their political party, so much the better. Far from providing that the courts be reluctant to involve themselves in such matters, the Founders envisioned a vigorous role for the courts in upholding First Amendment freedoms.

A judge who sees the law as constantly changing and evolving, however, feels more free to refuse to vindicate Americans’ rights when she personally does not think that Americans should have them. So, since Sotomayor is of the opinion that severe restrictions (or, even the elimination) on private money in politics is acceptable, she did not feel the need to consider the plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights in Randall.

Such a judicial philosophy is troubling. It places all Americans’ rights at risk. Judge Sotomayor should be questioned on this extensively, and should not be confirmed if this is really her view.

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Hat tip to Daniel Lowenstein.

28 May 2009

Sotomayor’s Identity-Based Justice

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Janós Blaschke, The Goddess Themis, 1786

Justice is conventionally depicted in countless engraved, painted, or sculpted representations displayed at courthouses and in judicial chambers at every administrative level around the European world in the form of the goddess known to the Greeks as Themis, to the Romans as Iustitia. Justice carries a sword and a balance, and is blindfolded.

Themis’ blindfold signifies not her lack of access to reality or to the facts of the cases she is adjudicating, but her indifference to persons or affiliations, her impartiality and objectivity. Themis was not the goddess of justice as an expression of human whim or desire, but of justice in accordance with the divine order.

Judge Sonia Sotomayor, in delivering the Judge Mario G. Olmos Memorial Lecture in 2001 at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, expressed a very different, more contemporary view of justice.

Judge (Miriam) Cedarbaum expresses concern with any analysis of women and presumably again people of color on the bench, which begins and presumably ends with the conclusion that women or minorities are different from men generally. She sees danger in presuming that judging should be gender or anything else based. She rightly points out that the perception of the differences between men and women is what led to many paternalistic laws and to the denial to women of the right to vote because we were described then “as not capable of reasoning or thinking logically” but instead of “acting intuitively.” …

While recognizing the potential effect of individual experiences on perception, Judge Cedarbaum nevertheless believes that judges must transcend their personal sympathies and prejudices and aspire to achieve a greater degree of fairness and integrity based on the reason of law. Although I agree with and attempt to work toward Judge Cedarbaum’s aspiration, I wonder whether achieving that goal is possible in all or even in most cases. And I wonder whether by ignoring our differences as women or men of color we do a disservice both to the law and society. ….

Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences, a possibility I abhor less or discount less than my colleague Judge Cedarbaum, our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging. Justice O’Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases. I am not so sure Justice O’Connor is the author of that line since Professor Resnik attributes that line to Supreme Court Justice Coyle. I am also not so sure that I agree with the statement. First, as Professor Martha Minnow has noted, there can never be a universal definition of wise. Second, I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life. …

[O]ne must accept the proposition that a difference there will be by the presence of women and people of color on the bench. Personal experiences affect the facts that judges choose to see. My hope is that I will take the good from my experiences and extrapolate them further into areas with which I am unfamiliar. I simply do not know exactly what that difference will be in my judging. But I accept there will be some based on my gender and my Latina heritage. …

Each day on the bench I learn something new about the judicial process and about being a professional Latina woman in a world that sometimes looks at me with suspicion. I am reminded each day that I render decisions that affect people concretely and that I owe them constant and complete vigilance in checking my assumptions, presumptions and perspectives and ensuring that to the extent that my limited abilities and capabilities permit me, that I reevaluate them and change as circumstances and cases before me requires. I can and do aspire to be greater than the sum total of my experiences but I accept my limitations. I willingly accept that we who judge must not deny the differences resulting from experience and heritage but attempt, as the Supreme Court suggests, continuously to judge when those opinions, sympathies and prejudices are appropriate.

There is always a danger embedded in relative morality, but since judging is a series of choices that we must make, that I am forced to make, I hope that I can make them by informing myself on the questions I must not avoid asking and continuously pondering.

In her lecture, Judge Sotomayor acknowledges the existence of an ideal of impartiality, but implicitly rejects the concept of an objective legal or moral order. She additionally denies that human beings are really capable of impartiality and objectivity.

In the place of the Natural Law, which guided the Greeks and Romans and the framers of the United States, Sonia Sotomayer enshrines the left’s identity politics, its narrative of the victimhood of certain groups, its indifference or hostility to others. As a judge, Sotomayor denies the possibility of transcending human partiality and prejudice. Her openly expressed relativism denies that any real distinction between justice and injustice exists in any case.

In place of justice, “as circumstances and cases require,” Sotomayor proposes to substitute personal emotion.

Her cherished personal emotions, of course, amount really to ethnic and gender-based chauvinism combined with carefully cultivated group and class grievances. Instead of believing that judges should strive to emulate the divine, modern liberalism encourages its representatives in the judiciary to sink and become “all too human,” to be their worst, their most self-infatuated and partisan selves rather than to transcend their own prejudices and animosities. The liberal judge does not aspire to be a disinterested servant of the law. The liberal judge proposes to pursue the interests of groups or persons he or she feels to be specially deserving of advocacy and assistance.

Thomas Sowell describes how Judge Sotomayor’s jurisprudence actually works when applied in reality.

Empathy” for particular groups can be reconciled with “equal justice under law” — the motto over the entrance to the Supreme Court — only with smooth words. But not in reality. Obama used those smooth words in introducing Judge Sotomayor but words do not change realities.

Nothing demonstrates the fatal dangers from judicial “empathy” more than Sotomayor’s decision in a 2008 case involving firemen who took an exam for promotion. After the racial mix of those who passed that test turned out to be predominantly white, with only a few blacks and Hispanics, the results were thrown out.

When this action by the local civil service authorities was taken to court and eventually reached the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, Sotomayor did not give the case even the courtesy of a spelling out of the issues. She backed those who threw out the test results. Apparently she didn’t have “empathy” with those predominantly white males who had been cheated out of promotions they had earned.

In judging, better to have Themis than Thersites.

27 May 2009

Sotomayor’s Dismal Reversal Record

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The US Supreme Court has reviewed six cases decided by Sonia Sotomayor. Her decisions were reversed five times, and in the only case in which her decision was upheld, her reasoning was unanimously rejected by the Court because it “flies in the face of the statutory language.”

Meanwhile she has a pretty decent chance of receiving a further reversal in Ricci v. DeStefano, an affirmative action case from New Haven, Connecticut involving white firemen being denied promotion because no minority applicants scored satisfactorily on the promotion exam. Sotomayor was part of a three judge panel which supported the city against the firemen, and voted against the full appeals court reviewing the case.

27 May 2009

“More Than Twenty Centuries Ago”

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No wonder liberals like Obama and Sotomayor think the Constitution is irrelevant and requires updating.

0:33 video

Hat tip to Ed Morrissey.

27 May 2009

“A More Aggressive Carterism”

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Presidents like to use catch phrases to identify their domestic and their foreign policies. Teddy Roosevelt had the Square Deal and Big Stick. Franklin Roosevelt had the New Deal and the Good Neighbor Policy. No doubt admiring the Obama administration’s “angry letter to the Times” response to Iranian missile launches and North Korean nuclear bomb tests, Jules Crittenden proposes that Barack Obama might add A More Aggressive Carterism on the foreign policy side to his domestic New Foundation.

It’s like Carterism on steroids. Like Carter with abs. Cooler, too, I guess. It wears shades sometimes.

I was having lunch downtown the other day with a couple of my crazed war vet pals I hadn’t seen in a while, one left, one right, and the right one says, “So, what do you think about Obama?”

Like he needed to ask. I gave it a couple seconds thought on how to do it simply, without running off at the mouth, and said, “He’s like a more aggressive Jimmy Carter. Jimmy Carter kind of sat back and let things happen to him. Obama goes looking for it.”

“Ha ha” says the right one. “A more aggressive Carter. I like that.”

27 May 2009

Sonia Sotomayor: Liberal, Arrogant, and Dumb

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The New Republic’s Legal Affairs editor Jeffrey Rosen is today urging Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation, and claims that “conservatives are misreading” him on Sotomayor, but back on May 4 Rosen wrote the following paragraphs as part of an article titled “The Case Against Sotomayor.”

[D]espite the praise from some of her former clerks, and warm words from some of her Second Circuit colleagues, there are also many reservations about Sotomayor. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been talking to a range of people who have worked with her, nearly all of them former law clerks for other judges on the Second Circuit or former federal prosecutors in New York. Most are Democrats and all of them want President Obama to appoint a judicial star of the highest intellectual caliber who has the potential to change the direction of the court. Nearly all of them acknowledged that Sotomayor is a presumptive front-runner, but nearly none of them raved about her. They expressed questions about her temperament, her judicial craftsmanship, and most of all, her ability to provide an intellectual counterweight to the conservative justices, as well as a clear liberal alternative.

The most consistent concern was that Sotomayor, although an able lawyer, was “not that smart and kind of a bully on the bench,” as one former Second Circuit clerk for another judge put it. “She has an inflated opinion of herself, and is domineering during oral arguments, but her questions aren’t penetrating and don’t get to the heart of the issue.” (During one argument, an elderly judicial colleague is said to have leaned over and said, “Will you please stop talking and let them talk?”) Second Circuit judge Jose Cabranes, who would later become her colleague, put this point more charitably in a 1995 interview with The New York Times: “She is not intimidated or overwhelmed by the eminence or power or prestige of any party, or indeed of the media.”

Her opinions, although competent, are viewed by former prosecutors as not especially clean or tight, and sometimes miss the forest for the trees. It’s customary, for example, for Second Circuit judges to circulate their draft opinions to invite a robust exchange of views. Sotomayor, several former clerks complained, rankled her colleagues by sending long memos that didn’t distinguish between substantive and trivial points, with petty editing suggestions–fixing typos and the like–rather than focusing on the core analytical issues.

Some former clerks and prosecutors expressed concerns about her command of technical legal details: In 2001, for example, a conservative colleague, Ralph Winter, included an unusual footnote in a case suggesting that an earlier opinion by Sotomayor might have inadvertently misstated the law in a way that misled litigants. The most controversial case in which Sotomayor participated is Ricci v. DeStefano, the explosive case involving affirmative action in the New Haven fire department, which is now being reviewed by the Supreme Court. A panel including Sotomayor ruled against the firefighters in a perfunctory unpublished opinion. This provoked Judge Cabranes, a fellow Clinton appointee, to object to the panel’s opinion that contained “no reference whatsoever to the constitutional issues at the core of this case.” (The extent of Sotomayor’s involvement in the opinion itself is not publicly known.)

Not all the former clerks for other judges I talked to were skeptical about Sotomayor. “I know the word on the street is that she’s not the brainiest of people, but I didn’t have that experience,” said one former clerk for another judge. “She’s an incredibly impressive person, she’s not shy or apologetic about who she is, and that’s great.” This supporter praised Sotomayor for not being a wilting violet. “She commands attention, she’s clearly in charge, she speaks her mind, she’s funny, she’s voluble, and she has ownership over the role in a very positive way,” she said. “She’s a fine Second Circuit judge–maybe not the smartest ever, but how often are Supreme Court nominees the smartest ever?

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By May 8, Rosen was regretting his earlier title, and trying to qualify his own position. But he still took the occasion to publish excerpts from Sotomayor’s entry in the Almanac of the Federal Judiciary, which includes rating of judges based on reviews of attorneys appearing before them.

Usually lawyers provide fairly positive comments. That’s what makes the discussion of Sotomayor’s temperament so striking. Here it is:

    Sotomayor can be tough on lawyers, according to those interviewed. “She is a terror on the bench.” “She is very outspoken.” “She can be difficult.” “She is temperamental and excitable. She seems angry.” “She is overly aggressive–not very judicial. She does not have a very good temperament.” “She abuses lawyers.” “She really lacks judicial temperament. She behaves in an out of control manner. She makes inappropriate outbursts.” “She is nasty to lawyers. She doesn’t understand their role in the system–as adversaries who have to argue one side or the other. She will attack lawyers for making an argument she does not like.”

Not all of Sotomayor’s lawyers’ evaluations in other areas were this negative. As the Almanac puts it “most of lawyers interviewed said Sotomayor has good legal ability,” and “lawyers said Sotomayor is very active and well-prepared at oral argument.”

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You can get an idea of what Sonia Sotomayor is like from this 2:10 video excerpt from what seems to be a panel discussion of legal career options at Duke University Law School in 2005. We will be seeing her in the clip, indicating with derision her contempt for the notion of judicial restraint, a good deal in the near future.

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