Archive for May, 2009
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.

26 May 2009

Don’t Hold Back, Ralph, Tell Us What You Really Think

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Ralph Peters has a simple solution to the indefinite detention conundrum which keeps wet liberals like Marc Ambinder up all night sobbing into their pillows over the neglected “rights” of terrorists given quarter and taken alive.

Silly narcissistic people, like Ambinder, who make moral statements along with their fashion statements and for the same reasons, will never recognize the inevitable fruits of their eager intrusion into the issue. Bang! goes the gun in the hand of the US soldier or intelligence officer who now knows better than to take any prisoners who are going to serve as the focus of such a costly, idiotic, and self-lacerating domestic debate.

There can be little doubt that what Ralph Peters advocates will de facto be the never-expressed policy.

We made one great mistake regarding Guantanamo: No terrorist should have made it that far. All but a handful of those grotesquely romanticized prisoners should have been killed on the battlefield.

The few kept alive for their intelligence value should have been interrogated secretly, then executed.

Terrorists don’t have legal rights or human rights. By committing or abetting acts of terror against the innocent, they place themselves outside of humanity’s borders. They must be hunted as man-killing animals.

And, as a side benefit, dead terrorists don’t pose legal quandaries.

26 May 2009

An Evening’s Entertainment in Victorian England

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Terrierman has an eminently politically incorrect posting discreetly lamenting humanitarian reform and the abolition of the Rat Pit.

Just look at those four obviously extremely naughty girls, one smoking a cigarette (in public no less), another casually lifting her skirts just clear of the fracas below. The young ladies’ enthusiasm for blood sport and obvious ease in masculine surroundings almost makes one want to classify them as consoeurs of Pierce Egan‘s Corinthian Kate in Life in London (1821), representatives of the Pooter-free epoch predating Victoria, the epoch of the Mohawk, the Corinthian, and the Buck. But, just look at their dresses!

The young ladies are obviously representatives of the gas-light era of Sherlock Holmes, not of the Regency. Moreover, there is that cigarette. The cigarette did not become commonplace until after James Bonsack’s invention of a machine for their manufacture in 1881.

The Rat Pit may have been outlawed in England in 1835, but there they are, enjoying a bout of ratting considerably after the date of the ban. My own surmise would be that these ladies have every intention of concluding their evening at yet another completely illegal establishment of entertainment, too.

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Again, hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

26 May 2009

Taken (2008)

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In reviewing the recent Liam Neeson film Taken on the occasion of its DVD release, Big Hollywood’s Leo Grin invokes approvingly a quotation from D.H. Lawrence that seems a little familiar somehow.

    He is a man with a gun. He is a killer, a slayer. Patient and gentle as he is, he is a slayer. Self-effacing, self-forgetting, still he is a killer. . . All the other stuff, the love, the democracy, the floundering into lust, is a sort of by-play. The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer. It has never yet melted. — D. H. Lawrence, Studies in Classic American Literature (1923)

Every once in awhile an action film comes along that revives. That proves that — no matter how strong the political correctness of an age, no matter how pale and pathetic its notions of masculinity, no matter how much Ritalin is force-fed to little boys, no matter how many toy guns, xylophone mallets, and Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots get banned from stores and playgrounds — there are certain aspects of the male soul that are inviolate, and certain primal yearnings that are evergreen. Taken (2008) is one of those films, and its release last week on DVD and Blu-ray should be heralded by lovers of all things red-blooded, hairy-chested, and morally sound.

Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

26 May 2009

Obama Honors Confederate Dead

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The Confederate Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery

Ignoring loud voices from the Academic left and the moonbat sector of the blogosphere, President Obama chose to continue a presidential tradition dating back almost a century to the Wilson Administration of sending a wreath on Memorial Day for placement at Arlington National Cemetery’s Confederate Memorial.

ABC News

NYM joins Warner Todd Huston in congratulating President Obama for a statesmanlike decision, which avoided the exploitation of divisive historical oversimplifications.

President Obama sent a wreath to the Confederate memorial at Arlington cemetery during the memorial services to recognize the sacrifices and service of the members of our armed forces this week. It has been a tradition since Woodrow Wilson offered a wreath to memorialize Confederate dead at Arlington and a tradition that many on the American far left wanted to see ended. They have been disappointed.

But the president also started a new tradition, one that everyone should welcome and one that we should all hope is continued by every succeeding president that comes after Obama. President Obama also laid a wreath at the African-American Civil War Memorial at Vermont Avenue and U Street Northwest in Washington D.C.

President Obama struck just the right balance on this and he should be commended. By memorializing the fallen from federal service, the fallen from Confederate service, and the fallen memorialized by the African-American monument we have at last a united effort that recognizes the sacrifice of all Americans, equally.

The contemporary left’s enthusiasm for re-fighting the Civil War ignores the historical truth that the war involved larger issues than Slavery, that the majority of men serving in the ranks of the Confederacy owned no slaves, and most prominently ignores with deliberate deceit the services of black confederates.

Scott K. William’s Black Confederates web-site supplies a good deal of information.

It has been estimated that over 65,000 Southern blacks were in the Confederate ranks. …

Frederick Douglas reported, “There are at the present moment many Colored men in the Confederate Army doing duty not only as cooks, servants and laborers, but real soldiers, having musket on their shoulders, and bullets in their pockets, ready to shoot down any loyal troops and do all that soldiers may do to destroy the Federal government and build up that of the…rebels.” …

The “Richmond Howitzers” were partially manned by black militiamen. They saw action at 1st Manassas (or 1st Battle of Bull Run) where they operated battery no. 2. In addition two black “regiments”, one free and one slave, participated in the battle on behalf of the South. “Many colored people were killed in the action”, recorded John Parker, a former slave. …

The Jackson Battalion included two companies of black soldiers. They saw combat at Petersburg under Col. Shipp. “My men acted with utmost promptness and goodwill…Allow me to state sir that they behaved in an extraordinary acceptable manner.”

A quota was set for 300,000 black soldiers for the Confederate States Colored Troops. 83% of Richmond’s male slave population volunteered for duty. A special ball was held in Richmond to raise money for uniforms for these men. Before Richmond fell, black Confederates in gray uniforms drilled in the streets.

In fact, the first memorial in the nation’s capitol to honor black Americans’ military service is the same Confederate Memorial, designed in 1914 by Moses Ezekiel, a Jewish Confederate.


A black confederate soldier (4th from left) marches in the same ranks with other confederates)


A southern officer leaves behind his children in the care of a black servant

25 May 2009

Gay Marriage Will Never Work

Predicts Sam Schulman, who proceeds to explain why Gay Marriage will prove a failure as social experiment, while nonetheless inflicting serious harm on society.

The relationship between a same-sex couple, though it involves the enviable joy of living forever with one’s soulmate, loyalty, fidelity, warmth, a happy home, shopping, and parenting, is not the same as marriage between a man and a woman, though they enjoy exactly the same cozy virtues. These qualities are awfully nice, but they are emphatically not what marriage fosters, and, even when they do exist, are only a small part of why marriage evolved and what it does.

The entity known as “gay marriage” only aspires to replicate a very limited, very modern, and very culture-bound version of marriage. Gay advocates have chosen wisely in this. They are replicating what we might call the “romantic marriage,” a kind of marriage that is chosen, determined, and defined by the couple that enters into it. Romantic marriage is now dominant in the West and is becoming slightly more frequent in other parts of the world. But it is a luxury and even here has only existed (except among a few elites) for a couple of centuries–and in only a few countries. The fact is that marriage is part of a much larger institution, which defines the particular shape and character of marriage: the kinship system.

The role that marriage plays in kinship encompasses far more than arranging a happy home in which two hearts may beat as one–in fact marriage is actually pretty indifferent to that particular aim. Nor has marriage historically concerned itself with compelling the particular male and female who have created a child to live together and care for that child. It is not the “right to marry” that creates an enduring relationship between heterosexual lovers or a stable home for a child, but the more far-reaching kinship system that assigns every one of the vast array of marriage rules a set of duties and obligations to enforce. These duties and obligations impinge even on romantic marriage, and not always to its advantage. The obligations of kinship imposed on traditional marriage have nothing to do with the romantic ideals expressed in gay marriage. …

Sooner rather than later, the substantial differences between marriage and gay marriage will cause gay marriage, as a meaningful and popular institution, to fail on its own terms. Since gay relationships exist perfectly well outside the kinship system, to assume the burdens of marriage–the legal formalities, the duty of fidelity (which is no easier for gays than it is for straights), the slavishly imitative wedding ritual–will come to seem a nuisance. People in gay marriages will discover that mimicking the cozy bits of romantic heterosexual marriage does not make relationships stronger; romantic partners more loving, faithful, or sexy; domestic life more serene or exciting. They will discover that it is not the wedding vow that maintains marriages, but the force of the kinship system. Kinship imposes duties, penalties, and retribution that champagne toasts, self-designed wedding rings, and thousands of dollars worth of flowers are powerless to effect.

Few men would ever bother to enter into a romantic heterosexual marriage–much less three, as I have done–were it not for the iron grip of necessity that falls upon us when we are unwise enough to fall in love with a woman other than our mom. There would be very few flowerings of domestic ecstasy were it not for the granite underpinnings of marriage. Gay couples who marry are bound to be disappointed in marriage’s impotence without these ghosts of past authority. Marriage has a lineage more ancient than any divine revelation, and before any system of law existed, kinship crushed our ancestors with complex and pitiless rules about incest, family, tribe, and totem. Gay marriage, which can be created by any passel of state supreme court justices with degrees from middling law schools, lacking the authority and majesty of the kinship system, will be a letdown.

When, in spite of current enthusiasm, gay marriage turns out to disappoint or bore the couples now so eager for its creation, its failure will be utterly irrelevant for gay people. The happiness of gay relationships up to now has had nothing to do with being married or unmarried; nor will they in the future. I suspect that the gay marriage movement will be remembered as a faintly humorous, even embarrassing stage in the liberation saga of the gay minority. The archetypal gay wedding portrait–a pair of middle-aged women or paunchy men looking uncomfortable in rented outfits worn at the wrong time of day–is destined to be hung in the same gallery of dated images of social progress alongside snapshots of flappers defiantly puffing cigarettes and Kodachromes of African Americans wearing dashikis. The freedom of gays to live openly as they please will easily survive the death of gay marriage.

So if the failure of gay marriage will not affect gay people, who will it hurt? Only everybody else.

As kinship fails to be relevant to gays, it will become fashionable to discredit it for everyone. The irrelevance of marriage to gay people will create a series of perfectly reasonable, perfectly unanswerable questions: If gays can aim at marriage, yet do without it equally well, who are we to demand it of one another? Who are women to demand it of men? Who are parents to demand it of their children’s lovers–or to prohibit their children from taking lovers until parents decide arbitrarily they are “mature” or “ready”? By what right can government demand that citizens obey arbitrary and culturally specific kinship rules–rules about incest and the age of consent, rules that limit marriage to twosomes? Mediocre lawyers can create a fiction called gay marriage, but their idealism can’t compel gay lovers to find it useful. But talented lawyers will be very efficient at challenging the complicated, incoherent, culturally relative survival from our most primitive social organization we call kinship. The whole set of fundamental, irrational assumptions that make marriage such a burden and such a civilizing force can easily be undone.

25 May 2009

National Memorial Day Parade Today

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The Americans Veterans Center in Arlington has brought to my attention that this Monday, May 25, 2009 The National Memorial Day Parade will start at 2:00PM on Constitution Avenue between 7th and 17th streets NW. The parade has been an annual event since it was revived in 2005 after a 70 year hiatus in the nation’s capital.

This year’s program advises:

It is the largest Memorial Day Celebration in America and will have more the 250,000 in attendance honoring those who have served and sacrificed. There will be marching bands, veterans units, and uniformed military personnel from around the country. The parade will also feature a special tribute to the U.S. Navy, and include Navy vet and Oscar winner Ernest Borgnine, fellow actors and veterans’ supporters Gary Sinise and Joe Mantegna, and music star Lee Greenwood. Also participating is Edith Shain, the nurse from the famous World War II “V-J Day in Times Square” kiss photograph.

National Memorial Day Parade web-site

8:56 video of a previous year’s parade.

25 May 2009

Memorial Day 2009

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WWII Victory Medal

All of my grandparents’ sons and one daughter, now all departed, served.

Joseph Zincavage (1907-1998) Navy
William Zincavage (1914-1997) Marine Corps
Edward Zincavage (1917-2002) Marine Corps
Eleanor Zincavage Cichetti (1922-2003) Marine Corps

23 May 2009

SMERSH or SPECTRE Operative?

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The Republican National Committee has a video warning about a dangerous and underhanded enemy of America’s Central Intelligence Agency (and its British ally James Bond).

1:38 video

23 May 2009

On Holiday

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English Hound: Live Oak Apache

There won’t be any blogging Sunday morning as we will be leaving very early to attend the Virginia Foxhound Show, an all day event.

23 May 2009

President Above-It-All

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“In my long experience in Washington, few matters have inspired so much contrived indignation and phony moralizing as the interrogation methods applied to a few captured terrorists.”

–Dick Cheney

Rich Lowry hits Obama’s nail right on the head.

Put Barack Obama in front of a Tele PrompTer and one thing is certain — he’ll make himself appear the most reasonable person in the room.

Rhetorically, he is in the middle of any debate, perpetually surrounded by finger-pointing extremists who can’t get over their reflexive combativeness and ideological fixations to acknowledge his surpassing thoughtfulness and grace. …

It’s natural, then, that his speech at the National Archives on national security should superficially sound soothing, reasonable and even a little put upon (oh, what President Obama has to endure from all those finger-pointing extremists).

But beneath its surface, the speech — given heavy play in the press as an implicit debate with former Vice President Dick Cheney, who spoke on the same topic at a different venue immediately afterward — revealed something else: a president who has great difficulty admitting error; who can’t discuss the position of his opponents without resorting to rank caricature, and who adopts an off-putting pose of above-it-all righteousness.

Read the whole thing.

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