Archive for May, 2009

Night of the Living (Dead) Government

Posted in Evilness, Revolution with tags , on May 31, 2009 by lumpy

Horror screenplay writer Andrew Klavan nails it in this funny episode of Klavan on the Culture: Night of the Living Government.

Go on!

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Wives (and Husbands) and Lovers

Posted in Evilness with tags , , on May 30, 2009 by lumpy

From Colonel Robert Neville’s post Somewhere beyond belief! Or how I learned to be free, empirical, Judeo Christian and love the Western Canon comes this YouTube version of Julie London singing Wives and Lovers. I’d like to add that, for the same reasons, husbands should always be lovers as well; although aimed at women, this song is an equal opportunity reminder and men should be just as diligent in keeping their wives interested and happy.

Oh, baby, go on.

A Worthy Effort for Homefront Heroes

Posted in Cool stuff, War on Terrorists with tags , , , on May 29, 2009 by lumpy

Vampire 06 at Afghanistan Shrugged is having a fund raiser for the women that keep our soldiers going. It’s a great-looking T and the cash goes to a worthy cause.

Go on!

Is “Shut Up” Really a Good Argument?

Posted in Issues, Media, Obama with tags , , , , , on May 28, 2009 by lumpy

On the question of whether Sotomayor’s statement was racist, one defense I’m seeing is “Shut up.”

Robert Gibbs, the White House spokesperson, responded initially that, “I think it is probably important for anybody involved in this debate to be exceedingly careful with the way they in which they’ve decided to describe any aspects of this impending confirmation.” He does not address her statement directly in any way.

Jill Lawrence at Politics Daily echoes this in an oped piece titled Wise Conservatives Might Want to Stop Calling Sotomayor a Racist:

Do Republicans really want to seem like they’re ganging up on Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina nominee to the Supreme Court, by calling her a racist? If they don’t, somebody had better get the word out, because that seems to be the talking point of the week.

The rest of her oped quotes several conservatives calling Sotomayor’s statement racist, and then giving three paragraphs from the original speech to provide context. She does not, however, address whether the statement is racist or not, and, like Gibbs, seems to be offering the argument that Republicans should just shut up.

As Andrew Klavan notes, this seems to be a common reaction from the left.

Because Sotomayor’s statement should be seen in context, here are the paragraphs that Lawrence quoted, taken from the NYT full text of that speech:

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.

Let us not forget that wise men like Oliver Wendell Holmes and Justice Cardozo voted on cases which upheld both sex and race discrimination in our society. Until 1972, no Supreme Court case ever upheld the claim of a woman in a gender discrimination case. I, like Professor Carter, believe that we should not be so myopic as to believe that others of different experiences or backgrounds are incapable of understanding the values and needs of people from a different group. Many are so capable. As Judge Cedarbaum pointed out to me, nine white men on the Supreme Court in the past have done so on many occasions and on many issues including Brown.

However, to understand takes time and effort, something that not all people are willing to give. For others, their experiences limit their ability to understand the experiences of others. Other simply do not care. Hence, one 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.

Again, I have no problem with the idea that one’s experiences affect one’s judgment, but to think that one person’s judgment is better than another based on race and gender is racism and sexism. I would not want a white man on the court that believed his experiences as a white man made his judgment better than a Hispanic woman’s, and I don’t think a white man who made a similar statement would be appointed in this day and age.

Oh, go on.

Was Sotomayor’s Statement Racist?

Posted in Issues, Obama with tags , , , , , , , on May 28, 2009 by lumpy

My conclusion is yes, her statement was both racist and sexist. Here’s why.

According to CNN’s Political Ticker:

On Twitter, [Newt] Gingrich pointed to a line in Sotomayor’s 2001 speech to a Hispanic group in Berkeley that has drawn fire from some conservatives.

“I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life,” Sotomayor said in that speech, describing how life experience can inform judicial opinions.

On Wednesday, Gingrich tweeted: “Imagine a judicial nominee said ‘my experience as a white man makes me better than a latina woman.’ new racism is no better than old racism.”

Moments later, he followed up with the message: “White man racist nominee would be forced to withdraw. Latina woman racist should also withdraw.”

There ensues a 300+ comment battle, which I won’t get into here.

Is the comment racist? Orin Kerr, at The Volokh Conspiracy, provides quite a bit more of the speech and a link to the full text. The comments there are far more erudite, but you get much of the same opinions, only expressed in witty, or pedantic, or well-argued ways. (Plus, there’s a good discussion of the term and organization La Raza.)

While there are a number there who disagree with me, I don’t find the context helpful in understanding the line Gingrich quoted, although I’m glad to have read it. Sotomayor seems to believe she has an advantage in judgment in general over a white male based solely on her experiences as a latina. She assumes her experience is rich and that a white male’s would not be. This, on the face of it, is both racist and sexist.

Some argue that, surely, Sotomayor must have meant something like “in the context of minority or womens issues,” but nothing else in the speech indicates that. Some of her defenders focus on the experience issue, claiming that she meant an experienced Hispanic woman would be better than an inexperienced white male, but again, the experience of the white male isn’t addressed; it is simply assumed to be less rich than the Hispanic female’s because he is white and male.

Darren Hutchinson at his blog Dissenting Justice points out other places where other Supreme Court justices have noted that race and gender play a role in individual experience and judgment, and he concludes with:

Many of the examples this article provides of judges accepting the reality of race- and sex-based decision making within law concerns jurors. But court doctrines prevent judges from overturning or even inquiring about the basis of jury decisions in most instances. Accordingly, juries have a central role in law — particularly in criminal cases. Furthermore, it would take a lot of argumentation and empirical evidence to demonstrate that these same identity categories and experiences do not impact judges, and most of the evidence, where available, seems to confirm the opposite. In fact, Sotomayor’s speech cites to several empirical studies which demonstrate that in particular types of cases judges tend to reach different outcomes depending on their race or sex.

The reality of race and sex does not mean that judges discard judgment and analysis or that they abandon precedent and rely solely on force and power. Instead, Sotomayor’s position acknowledges what psychologists and sociologists deem as self-evident: Decision making takes place through a prism of experience. Having diversity, rather than homogeneity, actually permits judges to isolate “fact” from identity-based biases. I applaud Sotomayor’s honest reflection on this subject.

However, this was not the question. No one is arguing that race and gender are not part of one’s experience and that one uses one’s experiences in making judgments. The argument Sotomayor explicitly makes is that the experiences her race and gender have provided her should make her judgment better than a white male’s, and that’s where the racism and sexism come in.

I believe that diversity in general is useful, but I do not define diversity as limited to race and gender. Diversity in life experience is the valuable part of it. As R.S. McCain pointed out,* Obama could have added more diversity to the Supreme Court by nominating someone (dare I say a white male?) who received his or her degree from a state university rather than just one more Ivy Leaguer.

*This is in update 2 of a rather funny 6-update post entitled “What’s Wrong With the North Bronx?”

So, like, go on, then.

Update: I added the first two sentences above a few hours after posting this, giving my conclusion first.

Update 2: Gabriel Malor, a legal blogger who also blogs at Ace of Spades, writes:

Judge Sotomayor has given us no reason to believe she is capable of approaching cases involving white people or men without discriminating against them. In fact, she’s given several reasons to believe that the opposite is true.

The two most obvious are her 2001 Berkley speech, in which she extols the special knowledge she has by virtue of her membership in minority identity groups and admonishes male lawyers to “work on” their experiences and attitudes so that they too can reach the heights of “enlightenment” which belong to certain minority identity groups.

The second obvious example demonstrating that she might have a problem with racial bias is the New Haven firefighter case, Ricci v. DeStefano, in she and the other panel members tried to sweep their support of the city’s discriminatory acts under the rug. They failed and the Supreme Court will be issuing a decision by the end of the term.

Read the whole thing, as they say.

Hey, Obama, How’s That Talk Thing Working Out?

Posted in Obama with tags , , , on May 27, 2009 by lumpy

Cuz somehow North Korea’s nuclear test, followed by missile tests, and its restarting of the nuke plant that produces its plutonium, and its threat to respond militarily to South Korean interventions, doesn’t sound like quite the direction we wanted to go with our Hopenchangeā„¢ presidency that promised everyone around the world would love us if we only crawled around on the floor like a dog who wanted his belly rubbed. But it sounded good; who can resist rubbing a cute dog’s belly when it’s on its back like that? Really.Ā  I can’t.

Go on, then.

This Spells “Fragging” to Me

Posted in Cool stuff, War on Terrorists with tags , , on May 27, 2009 by lumpy

According to NewScientist, the National Academy of Science is claiming that neuroscience may help improve soldiers’ performance on the battlefield:

If a soldier is struggling, a digital “buddy” might step in and warn them about nearby threats, or advise comrades to zap them with an electromagnet to increase their alertness.

Oh yeah, zapping a fully armed soldier in combat to “increase their alertness” sounds like a fragging waiting to happen. Also, think of the practical jokes you could play with that …

Finally, if these weren’t the first things to occur to you when you read that line, you probably haven’t served in the infantry.

Go on!