May 9, 2009

Counterscape.

DSC00108

"White House 9/11 evoker resigns."

The headline in Iran.

The asinine photograph:

Out in Ohio.

There's green grass:

DSC00089

Leafy shade:

DSC00070

And a picnic:

DSC00040

My Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T9 died...

... so I bought a Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T900.

I've always loved my little Sony digital cameras, and I've gotten a lot of use out of them. I passed the first one along to one of my sons because I wanted something skinnier to fit in a handbag. That second one was the T9. It developed a weird error that caused it to vibrate. Searching the web, I saw that this does happen, and there didn't seem to be much to do about it. Tapping on it could sometimes get the vibrating to stop for a while, but that got less and less effective. Another option was the optimist's approach: Look for the good. See? It's a special effect!

DSC00043

That's a dilapidated barn, by the way. Cute, but not versatile. I found myself in a Sony Store yesterday, and I decided to buy what looked to be the best current Sony. Despite the malfunction of the T9, I love Sony cameras. They've served me well. I've taken many 1000s of photos with that T9 and banged it around in my handbag for years. And I'm ready to see what the new one can do. (HD video for one thing.) So I went with the Sony again.

Are you still thinking about why you voted the way you did last November?

Last night, I'd done another one of my Obama-is-like-Bush posts — re global warming and polar bears — and Zachary Paul Sire commented:
It's just as bad now that Obama is doing it. Worse, even.
Palladian taunted:
But you'll still love to tongue his armpits, won't you Zachy baby?!
Yanking me onto his side, Zachary came back:
You always hysterically try to paint people who voted for Obama as some kind of mob of horny, brainwashed maniacs, so is that what you make of Althouse, who voted for Obama?

And what about you, darling Palladian? Are we to assume that you voted for John McCain, or did you not vote at all? Just because there is no magic candidate that reflects all of your wildest hopes and dreams doesn't mean you have to take it out on everyone else.

Sometimes, people have the fucking balls to go with a candidate and hope for the best. Sorry you couldn't man up.
Palladian says he mainly thinks of Zachary as a horny, brainwashed maniac, and as for Althouse, he sees why I voted the way I did, though he disagrees. As for himself, he says:
I voted for McCain/Palin, but it was a meaningless vote considering my state and district. I voted out of contempt for the other candidates and as a protest against the incredibly distressing mob mentality exhibited by the citizens of my city. I was actually not going to vote for anyone on the Presidential/Vice-Presidential ticket but when I was in line at my polling place, someone laughingly said "we're racking up the votes for our man Barack!" and a few people cheered which irked me enough to pull the lever for the opposition ticket.

"Just because there is no magic candidate that reflects all of your wildest hopes and dreams doesn't mean you have to take it out on everyone else."

Huh? See, this is the difference between lovers of liberty and freedom and people like you. We don't want or need a candidate who reflects all of our "wildest hopes and dreams". We want a candidate who will leave us alone. Neither party generally delivers such candidates. It is liberals (and often also conservatives) who need to be "led", who look for a politician to be their "savior", who vest their "hopes and dreams" in the person of a politician. This is a mistake, a pathetic vestige of our dark days when we dropped on bended knee and surrendered ourselves to worldly kings and potentates.

It was your candidate who based his entire campaign upon the ambiguous and ultimately meaningless word "hope", it was you who looked to him to reflect your wildest hopes and dreams of further enslavement to the State and further erosion of our national character. And, as it always happens, it is you who ended up with the political equivalent of vaporware inhabiting the Oval Office.

"Sometimes, people have the fucking balls to go with a candidate and hope for the best. Sorry you couldn't man up."

It's funny to hear liberals constantly, un-ironically, deploy the rhetoric of masculine power (balls, fucking, "man up") in defense of the weakest of feminine traits. There's nothing manly about "hope". Men don't hope for things, they make them happen. You sold your birthright for a mess of pottage. There's nothing manly in that.

Reap the whirlwind, dear Zachary. It's wonderful to watch you twist in the wind.
Zachary? Zachary? Where are you? Evaporated?

The beautiful, horrible press conference.

Jose Canseco has something to say about Manny Ramirez.

(Via The Sporting Blog.)

"Often the only way victims can prove that they are being stalked... is through new technologies like GPS."

From a NYT article about the use of GPS technology to monitor individuals who are accused of stalking:
The scope of stalking was revealed in a study released by the Justice Department in January, which found that 3.4 million people had been subjected to stalking over a one-year period....
"Subjected to stalking"? Does that mean they believed they are being stalked or that it has been proved? Note how the quote in the title suggests that GPS should be used to substantiate allegations — but you're not supposed to notice the threat to individual privacy, because these allegations aren't called allegations. These are statements by "victims" who have the problem of needing to "prove that they are being stalked." But if it's the "only way" to prove there is stalking, then how do we know whether the accused deserves to be monitored?

What's the difference between "monitoring" and "stalking"? Monitoring is what the government does.

I'm not trying to say that GPS monitoring is never warranted. Go read the article to see some good examples of persons who deserve monitoring. What bothers me about this article is that there's nothing about excessive government surveillance.

(And when it comes time to write a NYT article about the surveillance of suspected terrorists, I have the feeling that the threat of government abuse will not be forgotten.)

I'm out here on the front porch.

photo-3

Were you wondering where I was?

Yeah, I'll do some blogging. Just hang on a sec.

May 8, 2009

At the Dog in Clover Café...

IMG_0091

... maybe you'll get lucky.

"Why Does President Obama Hate The Polar Bears?"

Just one of those things that were terrible when Bush did them.

"The hair is gone. Her famous hair. I have it at home. She didn't care. I rub her head."

"It's kind of fun, actually, this great, tiny little head. How she carried all that hair I'll never know. She doesn't have a vanity about it."

Jeffrey Rosen defends his attack on Sonia Sotomayor.

As you may recall, on Monday, Rosen quoted unnamed former clerks to make what the headline called "The Case Against Sotomayor." The "case" seemed to be mainly that she wasn't smart enough. Rosen got slammed. Finally, today, he responds:
I've just returned from London to find that my piece on Sonia Sotomayor has provoked an energetic response in the blogosphere.
Everyone knows there's no way you can check the internet in London, and anyway, why would you even think to look when, after all, you only just threw a huge stinkbomb?
Many people have mischaracterized my argument, and I can understand why. The headline--"The Case Against Sotomayor"--promised something much stronger than I intended to deliver...
Blame the headline writers. Yes, they do have a tendency to state bluntly the things you swathed in verbiage.
Readers have asked for more information about my sources....
Rosen assures us his sources are trustworthy and must remain anonymous.
I was satisfied that my sources's concerns were widely shared when I read Sotomayor's entry in the Almanac of the Federal Judiciary, which includes the rating of judges based on the collective opinions of the lawyers who work with them....
Yeah, the evaluations are bad — not on the point that she's not smart enough, but that she lacks "judicial temperament."
Some readers have also questioned my confession at the end of the piece that I hadn't read enough of her opinions to make a fully confident judgment.
Now, he's read some more opinions. He stands by his original opinion, which, he notes, accords with that Almanac of the Federal Judiciary.

Rosen concludes:
[I wanted] to encourage the White House to weigh considerations of temperament against the many other factors they'll be considering.
Ah, he's shifted to the temperament argument. He really didn't defend the "not smart enough" position.
For the next Supreme Court seat, the president needs to be sure that the nominee's temperament and abilities are not merely impressive but absolutely stellar. She--and the next justice should indeed be a she--must be ready to challenge the conservatives and persuade her fellow liberals from the very beginning.
Must be a woman. (I agree.) Must be a woman who can interact well with the Justices already on the Court. Fine... boilerplate. But read as a whole, this new Rosen piece — put bluntly, in the manner of a headline writer — is saying that Sonia Sotomayor would be a terrible choice for the Supreme Court.

"If people here are like me — I call myself a 120-percenter. If I'm not doing any job at 120 percent, I think I'm failing."

Well, you're failing math.

May 7, 2009

"Obama Pressed to Engage..." on all things gay.

Should he?

Does he gain or lose politically? (That's really the question.)

How can he rake in votes just by seeming to care about the rights and interests of gay people? Not even seeming all that much — he's against same-sex marriage! — but just by stirring hopeful feelings and looking like somebody who cares. Well, he's already done it once. Why shouldn't he believe that what worked once will work again?

Is Letterman mocking Sonia Sotomayor or mocking the mocking of Sotomayor?



If he's not mocking the mocking, he looks anti-Hispanic, and I'm pretty sure his show is careful about avoiding the appearance of bigotry.

Brian Beutler opines:

The campaign against Second-Circuit Court of Appeals Judge (and potential SCOTUS nominee) Sonia Sotomayor began in earnest when nameless former clerks on that court told The New Republic's legal correspondent Jeffrey Rosen that the Hispanic judge (and one-time George H.W Bush appointee) is too temperamental--and not intelligent enough--to serve on the Court....

The charges have been challenged loudly--almost immediately after the article came out, other people familiar with her work came forward to call the piece baseless. But once the cat was out of the bag, there was no stuffing it back in....

[T]he coup de grâce may have come last night when Sotomayor bashing traveled outside the beltway, and on to the Late Show...
Beutler notes the speculation that Rosen was trying to help his brother-in-law — go to the link for the details — and procures a denial from Rosen.

Here I am on May 4th wondering whether Rosen had ulterior motives:



I anticipate a careful response from Rosen (whose reputation is now on the line).

Meantime, while it counts, Sotomayor's been wounded. Her stock on Intrade has spiked and plunged.

"Finally feeling better! Coffee! My next big worry - tomorrow is Danny Gokey Day in Milwaukee area and I don't know how to celebrate."

Michael_Haz tweets....
For Gokey Day - Put up a tree? Wreath on the front door? Carve a large vegetable? Personal Day off? What? Maybe buy a new shirt?...

What's a proper dinner for Danny Gokey Day? The other holidays have all the major meat groups covered, so maybe...ice cream? Help!...
Wisconsin has our own one of the "American Idol" final 3 guys. (They are all guys now. Sorry, Allison.) Danny is not my favorite. Not at all. (I've been all for Adam Lambert since his first audition.) But he's Wisconsin, and that means something.

So let's all go to Milwaukee and do some Gokey events: Miller Park — with first pitch and national anthem, sung, presumably, without screaming — the Harley-Davidson Museum, the Harley-Davidson Roadhouse, the Milwaukee Art Museum, the bronze Fonz....

"As I got older, though, our relationship bloomed into a full-on, making out in the hallway, going to prom love fest."

Ben Solochek tells us all about his relationship... with the Badgers.
Like sex, graduation changes everything...

May 6, 2009

Americans think the Bush adminstration used torture.

But wait. They approve.

An openly gay Justice to replace Souter?

Dahlia Lithwick talks about all those females who are or seem to be lesbians.

This struck me:
Sonia Sotomayor, the Bronx judge at the top of most shortlists, was briefly married in college and never had children. In his woefully under-reported "The Case Against Sotomayor," the New Republic's Jeffrey Rosen quotes an anonymous source alleging that she is a "bully" and "not all that smart." Also included in this damning portrait: "Her former clerks report that because Sotomayor is divorced and has no children, her clerks become like her extended family—working late with her, visiting her apartment once a month for card games (where she remembers their favorite drinks), and taking a field trip together to the premier [sic] of a Harry Potter movie."

Do you think Justice Scalia, with his devoted wife and abundant extended family, takes his clerks to see Harry Potter? Or even La Traviata? A woman who surrounds herself with young, paid employees late into the night has a faint air of scandal and desperation about her or, at the very least, of being something short of a fully realized woman.
Wow. It never occurred to me to think that way. I just thought it was really nice that she socialized with the clerks. But okay. Maybe it does look desperate.

(This all reminds me of the way, back when Souter was nominated, Senator Orrin Hatch said he would have been more comfortable with a family man.)

Arlen Specter tells us about Bob Dole's penis — and other things.

From the Deborah Solomon interview:
You and Bob Dole share a hometown, Russell, Kan. What do they put in the water there?

Debaters’ tonic. Russell is famous for its high-school debate championship teams.

Did you know Dole in your Kansas days?

No. When I moved to Russell in the eighth grade, he was much older, but in the intervening years I’ve pretty much caught up to him.

I assume this was before he was appearing on television in Viagra commercials.

From reliable sources, he did not need Viagra then.
Okay, enough cock talk. Unless this counts;
Many women can never forgive you for your aggressive questioning of Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings. Do you regret your behavior?

No. When a serious charge is made like sexual harassment, the subject is entitled to question the accuser and find out the facts, and that’s what I did.
This doesn't count:
You’re 79 and you’ve endured two bouts of Hodgkin’s disease. Why would you want to run for re-election?

Don’t forget my brain tumors or my bypass surgery or the incorrect diagnosis of A.L.S. on the list of my maladies. But I’m full of vim, vigor and vitality....
Vanity...

Specter also accidentally says he wants Norm Coleman to win. Oops!
“In the swirl of moving from one caucus to another, I have to get used to my new teammates,” he said. “I’m ordinarily pretty correct in what I say. I’ve made a career of being precise. I conclusively misspoke.”

Asked who he’s backing now in elections, Specter said, “I’m looking for more Democratic members. Nothing personal.”
And when he finds more Democratic members, may he tell us what he knows about their members too.

"My first love is teaching and scholarship."

Michael McConnell resigns from the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals — after a mere 7 years — to teach at Stanford.

Better to be a lawprof than a judge, don't you think?

At the link: pity for the law clerks who are now plunged into the job market.

"Well, I don't know who this pork eater is, but I have a question for her."

"I hear she is the Home Secretary of the former England. When has this witch heard my show, since it's not syndicated in England? When has this witch listened to my program in England? And which show or shows is this witch referring to?"

"I need a moment alone... I don't want to talk to anyone."



A bonus clip from "The Comeback" — the great, great HBO comedy with Lisa Kudrow. I was looking for a different clip, but wanted to share this anyway, or let's just say it fits today's blog theme.

What I was looking for is the scene where Valerie Cherish (Kudrow) is posing for a publicity photograph and keeps doing that ridiculous pouting thing in an effort to make her lips look sexy. I was looking for that to go along with this hilarious slideshow of "Celebrity pouters."

"I am a Christian, and I am a model. Models pose for pictures, including lingerie and swimwear photos."

Carrie Prejean, cultural monument of the moment.

"I just want to say that, when somebody has a disfigurement, or don't look as pretty as you do..."

"... don't judge them, because you never know what happened to them."

Connie Culp, whose husband shot her face off, speaking after a face transplant.
"You never know what might happen to you and you might get into a car wreck and think you are beautiful one day ....and don't look the same as you did, you never know, one day it might be taken away."

Was it fair to introduce duets when there were 4 contestants left and 3 were males?

It meant — on "American Idol" last night — that one of the male contestants would have the advantage of singing with the lone female and the other 2 males would have to sing with each other. An added complexity is that one of the males is perceived as gay.

Is Adam Lambert openly gay? It's never talked about or alluded to on the show. And — the theme was rock — when he sang "Whole Lotta Love" for his solo last night the line "Way down inside, woman, you need me" was utterly convincing — thrilling, even.

But the perceived gayness of Adam made it a special disadvantage — or should I say a special problem — for him to be paired with one of the other males, and I think that was what determined that Kris Allen and Danny Gokey would need to be the male pair, and that Adam would go with Allison Iraheta.

Or do you think that the producers put Allison with Adam to hurt Kris/Danny? The theory is: Either Danny/Kris must go this week, because you want to keep the only female and you can't lose the truly exciting Adam. (Is Adam in danger? He was in the bottom 2 last week in a shocker, but he probably wasn't anywhere near the actual last-place finisher, Matt Giraud. And the seeming close call lit a fire under his fans, so they'd call like mad this week.)

So, put Danny and Kris side by side and let people judge who is better. In the duet, it was clear that Danny was better. Unfortunately for Danny, he subsequently performed solo, attempted to sing "Dream On," and was perfectly awful. Painful, really. What happened?
The whole point of "Dream On" are the screams Steven Tyler pulls off at the end, the ones that Adam Lambert could have pulled off at the end ... and as Gokey was going through this song, it seemed like he was just going to rearrange the song to avoid them. Jen and I kept looking at each other -- now will he? -- and then, when he did, it missed as much as Scott Macintyre missed everything on "The Search Is Over," as much as Corey Clark on "Against All Odds." It was brutal. Both on his cumulative downwards slide and especially on tonight, he deserves to go home now.
Spooked by Adam's superiority, then?

Speaking of "Dream On," I dreamed I was watching the results show — yes, lame of me to dream I'm watching "American Idol" — and Danny lost — not only lost, but they ran out of time and deprived him of the farewell video montage.

Here, now be careful:



AND: It's viral!

May 5, 2009

Specter's seniority...

... squandered.

Loaner.

Got my car serviced today. The loaner was a Mercedes GLK350.

IMG_0081

I'd never driven an SUV before, and it wouldn't have been my choice. But it wasn't bulky and horrible. It was kind of fun to drive. And black cars are sleek and elegant. Still, I was glad to get my Audi TT back.

resting the car on the Big Horn scenic byway

It's so much more fun and comfortable and so much more my style.

"Deciphering Obama’s Supreme Court 'empathy' remark..."

"... Does the next justice have to be a woman?... The sex offender case that may trip up a frontrunner ... Ann to Obama: Appoint a strong liberal!... Is Obama trying to wriggle out of closing Gitmo?... Emily announces Double X, a women’s site that’s for men, too."

It's the new Bloggingheads, with me and Slate's Emily Bazelon.

Do you ever get the feeling that the Establishment Clause...

... violates the Establishment Clause?

Just how tiny is $100 million?



(Via Randy Barnett.)

"Are you ready to paint me?" — Debbie Harry.



"Yeah. It's great. It's such a great thing." — Andy Warhol.

(Via Drawn!)

"People don't understand the dictionary--it's called queer. Queer means strange and unusual. It's not like a slur..."

Joe the Plumber doesn't want gay people "anywhere near" his children.

"You know men need lessons, of course."

A completely out-of-context clip for your amusement/puzzlement:



Context to be provided later. Today, I think.

UPDATE: The context. I'm talking about Esquire magazine.

May 4, 2009

"Van Gogh's ear was cut off by friend Gauguin with a sword."

Hot news.
Although the historians [Hans Kaufmann and Rita Wildegans] provide no "smoking gun" to back up their claims, they argue theirs is the most logical interpretation, and explains why in his final recorded words to Gauguin, Van Gogh writes: "You are quiet, I will be, too".

They cite correspondence between Vincent and his brother, Theo, in which the painter hints at what happened without directly breaking the "pact of silence" made with his estranged friend.

He mentions Gauguin's request to recover his fencing mask and gloves from Arles, but not the épée....

He also pointed to one of Van Gogh's sketches of an ear, with the word "ictus" – the Latin term used in fencing to mean a hit. The authors believe that curious zigzags above the ear represent Gauguin's Zoro-like sword-stroke.
Yeah, well, Gauguin was such a jerk to Van Gogh. Just look:

I made a bet that Obama would not close Guantanamo.

Here's my bet. And here's the sleight of hand that will keep Guantanamo open:
House Democrats are refusing to pay for President Barack Obama's plan to relocate prisoners from the Guantanamo detention facility where enemy combatants are being held.

Obama has signed an executive order to close the facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, by early next year. But the Pentagon has yet to come up with a plan on where to put the 240 or so prisoners. Between 50-100 are likely to be sent to the United States.

No lawmaker wants the accused terrorists in their backyard.

House Democrats unveiled a $94.4 billion war funding bill Monday and it had no money for the relocation plan.
Ha ha. I'm on to you people.

"Fill Souter's shoes with a genial persuader."

Op-ed title.

Makes me wonder: Were they suede shoes?

Don't step on my blue persuader shoes.

There will be math.

Yesterday, I said that, contrary to Arlen Specter's assertion, black people are not underrepresented on the Supreme Court. I noted the presence of Clarence Thomas, the fact that 1 is 11.1111 percent of 9, 2 is 22.2222 percent of 9, and that African-Americans make up 13.4% of the U.S. population.

In the comments, JackOfClubs defended Spector:
Technically, he's right since 11.11...% is less than 13.4%. To get an accurate representation, we would need 0.134 * 9 = 1.206 black people on the Court. This could be achieved if the next candidate were 13/64 = .203125 black, i.e. if 13 of his or her great-great-great-great grandparents were black and the other 51 were some other race. This approximation would be precise to the 2nd decimal place which is really all we can expect given that the original statistic of 13.4% is probably rounded. A slightly more precise approximation could be achieved by looking for someone 53/256 = .2070312 black, but that would just be silly.
More math satire, from Mike S:
The views of Blacks (13% of the population) are only under-represented on the court if they are on the LOSING end of an 8-1 or 9-0 decision. If they are on the losing end of 7-2, 6-3, or 5-4 decisions, or on the winning side of any decision, they are over-represented.

The views of whites (60% of the population), on the other hand, are under-represented if they are on the LOSING end of ANY decision.

Therefore, to be fair, all supreme court cases should be decided by a nationwide poll of white people.

White male says we've heard enough from white males.

Am I supposed to listen to him?

"My goal in life is to change the entire social and economic structure of Western civilization, to make it a feminist world."

Marilyn French. RIP.

Did you read "The Women's Room"?
Her first and best-known novel, “The Women’s Room,” released in 1977, traces a submissive housewife’s journey of self-discovery following her divorce in the 1950s, describing the lives of Mira Ward and her friends in graduate school at Harvard as they grow into independent women. The book was partly informed by her own experience of leaving an unhappy marriage and helping her daughter deal with the aftermath of being raped. Women all over the world seized on the book, which sold more than 20 million copies and was translated into 20 languages....

“It was about the lives of women who were supposed to live the lives of their husbands, supposed to marry an identity rather than become one themselves, to live secondary lives,” [said Gloria Steinem.] “It expressed the experience of a huge number of women and let them know that they were not alone and not crazy.”...

Critics accused her work of being anti-male, frequently citing a female character in “The Women’s Room” who declares, after her daughter has been raped: “All men are rapists, and that’s all they are. They rape us with their eyes, their laws, and their codes.”
I didn't read this book, though I read a lot of books in 1977 (the year before I went to law school). I never read novels that weren't considered literary, and I shunned the mixture of art and politics. Nor could I identify with the troubles of submissive housewives and journeys of self-discovery following divorces. I might have read some nonfiction on the subject, but I didn't need an easy-reading novel to get me inside the feeling of a situation that didn't apply to me anyway.

Janet Jackson's breast!

Back in the news, thanks to the Supreme Court.

"It’s rather like saying that thanks to the electric toaster we can forget about Chekhov."

"[B]elieving that religion is a botched attempt to explain the world... is like seeing ballet as a botched attempt to run for a bus."

"Yet, I don't believe criminal charges are appropriate... or that they are in John Edwards' future."

"He's paid dearly for his errors in judgment and that should be enough. I see no need to kick him around any more."

Oh no? Why have these campaign finance crimes at all if we aren't going to enforce them? What is it about John Edwards that he deserves special compassion? I'd say he owes us big time for staying in the presidential race, holding our attention, when what we needed to do was compare Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. That was massively selfish — and Elizabeth Edwards didn't stop him when she had the chance. I will not be suckered into feeling sorry for them.

The death of the Boston Globe.

"From the moment the Times Co. purchased The Globe in 1993, it has treated New England's largest newspaper like a cheap whore. It pimped her out for profit during the booming 1990s and then pillaged her when times got tough. It closed her foreign bureaus and cheapened her coverage of everything from the fine arts to the hard sciences."

"Winning is like shaving — you do it every day or you wind up looking like a bum."

From a list of quotes "to remember Jack Kemp by."

So am I supposed to remember that Jack Kemp was so wrong on so many levels?

Jeffrey Rosen makes the case against Sonia Sotomayor.

The name we've heard bandied about the most may not be the best choice to replace David Souter:
She would be the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice, if you don't count Benjamin Cardozo. (She went to Catholic schools and would also be the sixth Catholic justice on the current Supreme Court if she is, in fact, Catholic, which isn't clear from her official biography.)
It fascinates me that practically no one dares to say too many Catholics. (Click that link, dammit.) If we're ever going to talk about group representation and diversity, we need to talk about the overrepresentation of Catholics. Catholics are 22% of the U.S. population. 6 is 66.6666% of 9.

On the other hand, we really can't suddenly start noticing all the Catholics just when a Hispanic name comes up for the first time. Who can estimate the destructive power of the resultant diversity vortex?

Back to Rosen:
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 examples, 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.
Not that smart. That's what I hear in that passage. The classic putdown. (Click that link, dammit.)

Who are these unnamed former clerks? What brilliant star might they want to clear the path for?
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.)
(Interesting parenthetical. The extent of Rosen's knowledge of Sotomayor's involvement is not known by me.)
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?"
Can you put a little more glue on that not-smart-enough label?

Would you have picked David Souter? Would Obama?

"He wore the same gray suit year after year. He worked long hours, including weekends, and ate lunch at his desk.... He collected old books and revered precedents in the law. He would not watch television or use a computer. He avoided Washington parties. Instead, in the evenings, he jogged several miles near his small apartment. His summers were spent hiking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire."

Some group of 9 individuals will say what the law is for us all. What sort of individuals do you want? Assume fine intellectual credentials and solid relevant experience. Aside from that, what sort of individual characteristics make you want to give a man or woman this immense responsibility?

Here's what Obama said after David Souter revealed his intention to leave the Supreme Court:
Justice Souter has shown what it means to be a fair-minded and independent judge. He came to the bench with no particular ideology. He never sought to promote a political agenda.

He approached judging as he approaches life, with a feverish work ethic and a good sense of humor, with integrity, equanimity and compassion -- the hallmark of not just being a good judge, but of being a good person.
Feverish... that is the out-of-place word that tells us something about Obama. Souter sounds utterly cool — if anything, too cold to trust with the grand decisions of life and liberty submitted to the Court.

The key thing Obama has told us about what he wants in a Supreme Court Justice is empathy:
I view that quality of empathy, of understanding and identifying with people's hopes and struggles as an essential ingredient for arriving as just decisions and outcomes. I will seek somebody who is dedicated to the rule of law, who honors our constitutional traditions, who respects the integrity of the judicial process and the appropriate limits of the judicial role. I will seek somebody who shares my respect for constitutional values on which this nation was founded, and who brings a thoughtful understanding of how to apply them in our time.
Obama — like many lawprofs — believes (or purports to believe) that emotion and engagement with real life is integral to constitutional interpretation. This is different (or certainly purports to be different) from deciding cases according to one's sympathies. But even understood that way, Obama's favorite qualification would obviously have excluded the bookish, reclusive Souter.

That word "empathy" stoked the Sunday talk shows:
“What does that mean? Usually that’s a code word for an activist judge,” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said on ABC’s “This Week.”...

“I may have empathy for, for the little guy in a fight with a big corporation, but the law may not be on his side. So I think that’s a concern,” former Republican Party Chairman Ed Gillespie said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“What I hear in President Obama’s statement is that he wants the justices of the court to try to understand the real world we live in and the impact of some of these decisions. Apply the law, but do it in a sensible fashion,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said on “Fox News Sunday.”...

Obama’s comments Friday about judges needing to identify “with people’s hopes and struggles” and the reaction to those remarks seemed to cast the early debate in a way that is likely to favor Democrats — especially at a time of economic distress, when Wall Street and big corporations are widely regarded by many as a greater threat than the rulings of federal judges.

In fact, the anti-establishment attitude that powered Obama’s campaign remains strong enough that there is serious discussion of putting a nonjudge, or even a nonlawyer, on the court, which presently consists entirely of former federal appeals court judges.

“I would like to see more people from outside the judicial monastery, somebody who has had some real-life experience, not just as a judge,” Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said on ABC.
And who was more monk-like than David Souter?

It's funny. For years, I've heard conservatives cry "No more Souters!" But now, I'm hearing the Democrats say that too. All due respect will be paid to the retiring Justice, but he isn't what they want.

And frankly, he isn't what they should want. The Court needs a forthright liberal. And Obama is perfectly entitled to pick such an individual. Of course, this person will — as Obama said — be dedicated to the rule of law, honor constitutional tradition, and respect the integrity of the judicial process and the appropriate limits of the judicial role. But he or she will do all of this in the liberal mode. I hope to see a fine Justice who will show us how this is done.

May 3, 2009

"I am interested in Nicolas Sarkozy’s bottom. No, really."

"I would like to compare its height, firmness and bounciness with the bottom of Crown Prince Felipe of Spain. Is it 'impossibly round and high,' for instance, or disappointingly flat?"

"As the Obamas walked behind shrubbery and out of sight, the unscripted moment left reporters guessing where they were going."

"To the vegetable garden? The basketball court? No final word, but they eventually came back the same way from where they started, rounding out their 8-minute walk."

"I want [snuggle] you like a [kitty-cat]!"

Apple nixes the Nine Inch Nails iPhone app — after approving it.

Trent Reznor tweets: "The objectionable content referenced is 'The Downward Spiral."

What might have been:



Tame!

"That's going to be one colorful salad. What is the plant called?" "I think they're species tulips. I wouldn't eat them!"

"Those are the butt-ugliest tulips ever planted, WTF?"

Comments from the last flower post.

Here. These are yummier:

DSC_0004

Did Arlen Specter mean to say that Clarence Thomas doesn't count as a black person?

On "Meet the Press," David Gregory questioned Arlen Specter about who President Obama should pick to replace David Souter on the Supreme Court:
SEN. SPECTER: He should be looking for someone with a strong academic and professional background. It would be my hope that he would choose someone with diversity. Women are underrepresented on the court. We don't have an Hispanic. African-Americans are underrepresented. I would hope that he would look beyond the circuit courts of appeals which now populate the Supreme Court and pick someone with greater world experience and diversity.
African-Americans are underrepresented on the Supreme Court? There is 1 African-American on the Supreme Court, which has 9 Justices. 1 is 11.1111 percent of 9. 2 is 22.2222 percent of 9. African-Americans make up 13.4% of the U.S. population. Is Arlen Specter ignorant of these facts, or does he mean to say that Clarence Thomas doesn't count as a black person?

In answering the question, take this into account:

Ripe stripes.

Stripe-leaved tulips

"No dear, you're wrong. We did not torture anyone."

"The idea that all conservatives really should regroup around and identify with is that this is not an exclusive club. Freedom is for everybody."

"That's what Jack Kemp really stood for."

***

On the occasion of the death of Jack Kemp, can you think of some good advice for the GOP?

Happiness. Joy.

Flowers and sky

It's a bright morning in May.

(Enlarge.)

Frank Rich "imagine[s] what it’s like to be among the Limbaugh-Cheney deadenders who loathe Obama."

Getting some perspective at long last?

Not really. His next words are:
Those who feel the whole world is against them.
What? Your feat of imagination has you immediately projecting your opinion of their insane paranoia?
Those who think the press corps is in the tank.
Could you pause for a moment and consider the extent to which the press is in the tank?
Those so sickened by the fawning that they’d throw a brick through the television screen if the Bush-Cheney economy had left them with enough money to buy a new set.
But it is sickening, isn't it? You had to dash headlong into that fevered image of violent brick-throwing and Bush-bashing, so you wouldn't have to think about how awful the fawning really has been.
But only for a second. I confess to being among the 81 percent (per Wall Street Journal/NBC) who like the guy...
Rich contends that all the fawning is because "[t]he journalism industry is fighting for its life" and "Obama is the one reliable product" it can offer for sale. Forgive the bad journalism. We need to make it bad so you'll buy it. Not you brick-throwing deadenders. But somebody. Anybody.

Rich goes on to inform us that the GOP is pathetically diminished, and that "with so little opposition, in the political arena or most anyplace else, to challenge his high-flying course," Obama will need to keep himself "grounded."

That's way at the end of the column, long after the discussion of journalism, but maybe journalism is what he meant by "most anyplace else."

I wish he'd gone back to his Limbaugh-Cheney deadenders! Do you really still insist they are people who feel the whole world is against them? You've just mapped out why they — and all of us — really should be alarmed. You have a massively powerful, ambitious President, unchecked by an opposition party, boosted and promoted by journalists who've forgotten what their role is. Now, go back to your imagination exercise and do it again.