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Big Brass Blog is a group blog founded in February of 2005 by Pam Spaulding of Pam's House Blend and Melissa McEwan of Shakesville (formerly Shakespeare's Sister). The mission of this collaborative effort is to stand as the premiere forum where strong, enduring voices of Progressivism provide what liberal politics has been missing: the unapologetic, unrelenting voice of liberalism in the darkness visited upon our world by Right-wing extremists, their ruinous policies, and their hypocritical beliefs.

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22 January 2010

The Bell Tolls For Thee

by: Anna Van Z

"Slavery is the Legal Fiction that a Person is Property; Corporate Personhood is the Legal Fiction that Property is a Person." -Poclad.Org

They're not even hiding it anymore, are they? It's right out there, in our faces. And why not? The PTB believe that the populace is too lethargic, too slow on the uptake to see it, or care. So every branch of government continues its dogged quest to transfer even more unregulated power and/or public wealth to corporations. Only these days it's far more out in the open, even if it is often couched in economic mumbo-jumbo. It wasn't enough to offer a trillion + taxpayer dollars to CorpWorld, thus socializing the cost of their financial shell games while keeping the profits private.

No, that wasn't nearly enough. Now we have the majority of a festering SCROTUM - er, make that SCOTUS - that has chosen to align itself with the interest of corporate money over the interests of the citizenry of these United States.

In a decision that's being called radical and destructive, five activist judges from the extreme right have decided that corporations should be able to use unlimited amounts of money to influence the outcome of elections. Including corporations that are essentially foreign. Lisa Graves, executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy described it as "a revolution in the law." It's difficult to grasp at the moment all the disastrous outcomes that this decision will undoubtedly spawn, but what's painfully clear is the fact that it's extremely bad news for anyone who favors an actual democracy.

Check out the following from Alternet:
Supreme Court's 'Radical and Destructive' Decision Hands Over Democracy to the Corporations
By Liliana Segura

"The Supreme Court has just predicted the winners of the next November election," Sen. Chuck Schumer announced this morning. "It won't be Republicans. It won't be Democrats. It will be Corporate America."
Indeed, in a momentous 5 to 4 decision the New York Times called a "doctrinal earthquake," the U.S. Supreme Court handed down an unprecedented ruling today that gives new significance to the phrase "corporate personhood." In it, the Roberts court overturned the federal ban on corporate contributions to political campaigns, ruling that forbidding corporations from spending money to support or undermine political candidates amounts to censorship. Corporations, the court ruled, should enjoy the same First Amendment rights as individuals.
Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said the Supreme Court rejects "the argument that political speech of corporations or other associations should be treated differently under the First Amendment simply because such associations are not 'natural persons.'"
In other words, as Stephen Colbert put it last year, "Corporations are people too."
On a conference call with reporters following the decision, critics could not overemphasize the enormity of the ruling, whose implications will be visible as early as the upcoming midterm elections. Bob Edgar, head of the watchdog group Common Cause, called it "the Superbowl of really bad decisions." Nick Nyhart of Public Campaign called it an "immoral decision" that will make an already untenable mix of money and politics even worse.
"This is the most radical and destructive campaign finance decision in the history of the Supreme Court," said Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21. "With a stroke of the pen, five justices wiped out a century of American history devoted to preventing corporate corruption of our democracy."
Writing about the ruling, Lisa Graves, executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy described it as "a revolution in the law," one that has been in the works for years thanks to conservative activism.
"Today's decision is a huge gift to corporations from a Supreme Court that has been radicalized by right-wing ideology, whose political agenda was made obvious in the Bush v. Gore case and whose very political decision today only makes things worse."
Of course, corporate cash has long had a corrupting influence on our politics, but never before has it been seen as some sort of fundamental freedom.
"This court has said it's the constitutional right of a corporation to spend as much money as it wants to influence an election," said Wertheimer. Read the rest.
01 June 2009

Democracy And Empathy

by: Foiled Goil

Empathy, Sotomayor, and Democracy: The Conservative Stealth Strategy

By George Lakoff:

Empathy is at the heart of progressive thought. It is the capacity to put oneself in the shoes of others — not just individuals, but whole categories of people: one’s countrymen, those in other countries, other living beings, especially those who are in some way oppressed, threatened, or harmed. Empathy is the capacity to care, to feel what others feel, to understand what others are facing and what their lives are like. Empathy extends well beyond feeling to understanding, and it extends beyond individuals to groups, communities, peoples, even species. Empathy is at the heart of real rationality, because it goes to the heart of our values, which are the basis of our sense of justice.

Progressives care about others as well as themselves. They have a moral obligation to act on their empathy — a social responsibility in addition to personal responsibility, a responsibility to make the world better by making themselves better. This leads to a view of a government that cares about its citizens and has a moral obligation to protect and empower them. Protection includes worker, consumer, and environmental protection as well as safety nets and health care. Empowerment includes what is in the President’s stimulus plan: infrastructure, education, communication, energy, the availability of credit from banks, a stock market that works. No one can earn anything at all in this country without protection and empowerment by the government. All progressive legislation is made on this basis. [snip]

Why do we promote freedom and fairness for everyone, not just ourselves or the rich and powerful? The answer is empathy. We care about our countrymen and have an obligation to act on that care and to set up a government for the protection and empowerment of all. [snip]

In describing his ideal Supreme Court justice, President Obama cited empathy as a major desideratum. Why? Because that is what our democracy is about. A justice has to take empathy into account because his or her decisions will affect the lives of others. Before making a decision you have to put yourself in the shoes of those who your decision will affect. Similarly, in judging causation, fairness requires that social causes as well as individual causes be taken into account. Empathy forces you to notice what is crucial in so many Supreme Court cases: systemic and social causes and who a decision can harm. As such, empathy correctly understood is crucial to judgment. A judge without empathy is a judge unfit for a democracy.

President Obama has described Justice Sotomayor in empathetic terms — a life story that would lead her to understand people who live through oppression and deprivation and what it does to them. In other words, a life story that would allow her to appreciate the consequences of judicial decisions and the causal effects of living in an unequal society.

Empathy in this sense is a threat to conservatism, which features individual, not social, responsibility and a strict, punitive form of “justice.” It is no surprise that empathy would be a major conservative target in the Sotomayor evaluation.

But the target is not empathy as it really exists. Instead, the conservatives are reframing empathy to make it attackable. Their “empathy” is idiosyncratic, personal feeling for an individual, presumably the defendant in a legal case. [snip]

We cannot let conservatives get away with redefining empathy as irrational and idiosyncratic personal feeling. Empathy is the basis of our democracy and its true meaning must be defended. [snip]

Taken together, the attacks on Sotomayor work as attacks on Obama and progressive thought. They are also attacks on “moderate” conservatives, who think with progressives on many issues. [snip]

Democrats should go on offense. They need to rally behind empathy — real empathy, not empathy reframed as emotion and personal feeling. They need to speak regularly about empathy as being the basis of our democracy. They need to point out that empathy leads one to notice real social and systemic causes of our troubles and to notice when and how judicial decisions and legislation can harm the most vulnerable of our countrymen. And finally that empathy is the reason that we have the principles of freedom and fairness — which are necessary components of justice.

Above all, Democrats should be aware that the attack on Sotomayor is not just about Sotomayor. It is an attack on the basis of our democracy and must be answered.

· · ·
30 May 2009

Wisdom and Experience

by: Dark Wraith

In the current war between those who support President Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor, and those who oppose her, Right-wing critics have focused much of their campaign against her confirmation upon words she spoke at a University of California, Berkley, symposium in 2001, when she said, "Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences... our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging... 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."

Without the preceding part of that speech, those words unambiguously reveal a person who believes that she, as a "Latina woman," can "reach a better decision" than any Caucasian man could, at least "more often than not."

Ambiguity arises, however, when more of what she actually said is revealed: at the very minimum, she noted that wise decisions had been made by white men, and she made no statement whatsoever that would set aside the scope of common law that had been constructed by the white men who have dominated — indeed, controlled — the arc of justice to this very day. For her to have done that would have been for her to repudiate the legal system upon which she and others of a progressive heart rely for that arc to become more inclusive, more broadly just, and better with each generation.

I support the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor. I do not do so because hers is a particularly stellar legal mind; it is not. Neither do I support her because she is a woman and of color. While affirmative action is an altogether reasonable means by which employment opportunities can be opened in so many workplaces where the history of discrimination would otherwise ensure the perpetuation of that abominable practice, artificial guidelines that become as important as great merit in selecting among the qualified at the most powerful levels of society will lead to bad ends. I am hopeful that Sotomayor was nominated because the society, itself, has become so pluralized that her appointment is a natural reflection of the extraordinary diversity in the country: we are now (and, of course, always have been) one nation of many peoples, and the diversity of our ethnic landscape is so great, so compelling that the continued, uninterrupted selection of white males would be the obviously, unconscionably unreasonable path.

At the same time that I would defend Judge Sotomayor against the outrageous charge that what she said in the 2001 UC Berkley speech was somehow "racist," I am not entirely at comfort with it, and my dismay is, on one level, quite personal; but on another level, my concern is wider.

The citizens of the United States number about 300 million. The population of the world is perhaps 6.6 billion or so. The living probably outnumber the dead, and among the two groups — those still alive and those who have passed on — is an incomprehensible, almost entirely untold story, the story of the human experience.

We who are still among the living, and those of our kind now gone, have each gone through so much, seen so many things, learned an untellable amount, and felt such emotions that words cannot contain the scope of the unimaginably amazing story. Some might think that we now have, or someday will have, machines that can store just about everything, but that idea is just plain folly: to collect the lives of everyone who lives and has lived, to capture every detail, every emotion ever felt, every turn of symbolism in every dream, every fantasy, every love, every despair, every hope, every fear — that is beyond any storage device that will ever be made.

For the remainder of this article, I address Sonia Sotomayor, herself, but I encourage readers to follow along, and if they are of a mind, to address me concerning what I am about to write. She will not read this, so it is for those who will that I set these thoughts to words, what I want to tell Sonia Sotomayor.

You do not know me, Ms. Sotomayor. Even if we were one day to cross paths, you would not. You have no idea what I seen, just like I have no idea what you have seen. To the same extent that I cannot judge the wisdom of any decision you make, particularly before you have made it, you cannot possibly judge the wisdom of any decision I would make, especially before I have made it.

To reduce me to a "white male" is grotesquely degrading. You have no idea what I have seen and how the life I have lived has intersected with the essential, enduring aspects of my inner self, where the world outside becomes distilled, interpreted, and used for what is to come.

"Wise decisions"? No, not for me; otherwise, I would make as much money as you, but instead I make about one-seventh what you make. I would have gone to a fabulous college and been one of the shove-and-bully types who gets the honors, the fancy diplomas with the Latin accolades, and the notice of the powerful. I would have gone up the ladder trampling people under me to make me do well, and I would have left the fate of family to the winds of someone else's decisions. I would have been one of those all-too-common, yet ever-curious case studies in people of mediocre mind who seem to keep percolating to this nation's pinnacles of power, including the presidency, the Congress, and the Supreme Court, where their non-existent brilliance is too often lauded by those who should know better and usually denied by those who know only spite without reason.

But "richness of experience"? Spare me some moral superiority. It is not only what we see, but also — and far more importantly — how our experiences affect us. I shall put a few of my meager cards on the table.

Let me start with death. I have seen it, and I just hate it. I hate it viscerally because it has hurt me so much. Anymore, I cannot stand the sight even of an animal suffering before death. I just hate it, and I hate the disgusting advice that I should just "move on," "work through my grief," or somehow "come to grips with" mortality. No, I choose not to do any of those things that would bring false joy to the world of all things that must come to an end. Even worse for me, to use an old saying among veterans of the Civil War, "I seen the elephant." With no intention to redundancy, if you know what that means, you know what that means. I had no mind to buy the ticket, but somehow I did. I wish with all my heart, with all my soul, that I had not. But I did.

Now, let me speak to violence. I have seen that, too, and it is horrible. Hurting people is but one part of willful cruelty that has, in its very worst expression, the purpose of actually taking pleasure in the suffering of the living, human and otherwise. I have been beaten quite literally to within an inch of my life; and, yes, I have been beaten by women. "Duty to flee" was my personal excuse for not fighting back and destroying them with one blow. In fact, by the time in my life that I was in such ego-destroying, demeaning situations, I could not bring myself to do to them what I hated so much that they were doing to me. For that reason, I could not find within myself the will to reciprocate the emotional abuse that was even more common. For the rest of my life, I will not go anywhere near emotional proximity to or physical vulnerability with a woman. I have no desire to be hurt ever again, and I consider myself at least smart enough not to go where risk imagined has already been danger realized. How is that for decision-making from experience? I think it's pretty good: I haven't been hit in a long, long time.

Finally, before I conclude this article with a story, let me briefly describe fear. It is terrible to live large parts of one's life afraid. The powerful, the rich, the mean, the corrupt, the heartless: they rule, they dominate, they control. I am not among any of those classes of people, so I have to scurry through the shadows, hoping they will not take notice of me; if they do, I get hurt, and it happens every last time. You are among the powerful; all you can do is hurt me. That's how power works.

You are a living representative of the law, and the law is the more-or-less civilized expression of the fist by which the powerful organize the society to suit their needs and especially their proclaimed values that they, themselves, cannot abide for their own lives. The icon of Lady Justice need not remove her blindfold; by the very fact that you are a judge, it is you and your kind who will ensure that she knows to bring her sword down upon me and my kind. Judging from the incarceration rate in this country, you and Lady Justice work with the efficient fury of machine guns on cowering civilians.

If you ever have occasion to meet me, to get to know me, I am quite certain you will come rather quickly to dislike me. People of power are that way with me, and this is especially true with women of power. The impenetrable mystery to me is the question of why women who are in no position of official power — be it corporate, academic, or otherwise — react so fundamentally differently to me. That question aside, I am most glad that we will probably never meet. All you would see in me is a swaggering, self-assured, pompous ass who acts like he knows everything and seems to be just a little too ill-tempered for all but the stupidest of rednecks and the dumbest of gang-bangers to disrespect. All I would see in you is just another power-wielding, ill-tempered, unimaginative cog in the machine of repression that is our modern system of justice.

What you see, and the basis upon which you would judge me, would be an illusion, partly of your own making because you see a "white male," partly of my making because that is what I want you to see.

What I see, and the basis upon which I would judge you, would be an illusion, too, of course. At the very least, that is my hope; and it is upon that hope — and only that hope — that I wish you success in your aspiration to become an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

I shall now conclude this article with a story. From time to time, I write and publish personal stories, some meant to be humorous, like "A Hill People Story for Sunday Night," some quite painful, like "I Am Become Battle," "Remembering Shelby," and "The end of all things."

Long-time readers of my literature might remember the one I am reprinting below as part of a larger article I wrote a few years ago. The purpose tonight is to share with you a single example in a life with "richness of experience" that is, in your own words, a predicate to making wise decisions. Above, I disclaimed any ability to make wise decisions; I will leave wisdom to you and others. Below, and in conclusion, I offer you an opportunity to dismiss some of the certainty you might have that your life has been richer than mine.

Quite a long while back, I told the following story in a comment here at The Dark Wraith Forums; but while that comment was a rather vague and quite truncated version of how certain incidents went down a couple years ago, here I shall be far less circumspect and much more vivid in details.

My last gig at one of those religious colleges is instructive on several levels. If I were to tell you the name of the college, you might recognize it right away. It has been the beneficiary of large infusions of cash, pretty much all of which has been spent on a few buildings, including the chapel, a student union, and the administrators' offices. These places on campus are just gorgeous, and people see these in the college recruitment brochures and on the campus tours.

The building in which I taught and had my office wasn't in any brochure and never did get included in tours given to parents and their high school-aged kids. My office was in a room on the top floor. It had no heat, so it was unbearable to be in there during the cold months. My classroom on the bottom floor of that building had water pouring into it through the ceiling every time it rained outside. In the warm months, because there was no air conditioning, the entire building was so hot that teaching and learning were quite a challenge, but no one was allowed to open the windows because the hornets would come in from their nests that had been in the overhangs of the roof for so long they could be seen from the street.

This building wasn't the exception, either. One permanent professor there told me I was lucky to be in one of the "good" buildings, falling apart as it was but protected by its status as a landmark.

Now, let's talk about the students. A handful of religious zealots dominated the campus; everyone else just stayed out of their way. During the 2004 Presidential campaign, the voter registration table was in the cafe where a group of old alumni sat around with the young religious bullies loudly yelling vile, sometimes even sick, invectives against Democrats. This went on every day of the week, all to the tune of Fox News blaring on a big TV in the corner.

Aside from the howling religious nuts, most of the students I met wanted to be elsewhere. Many, many of the kids had become disillusioned within the first couple of years of schooling there; some within the first couple of months. They hated the place, and they knew what prospects awaited them on the outside with their degrees. Only those committed to life within a religious community were very much at peace with their educational progress, but the overriding sentiment felt by students was that they were trapped by financial and psychological dependence on their parents and others. I was surprised by how many grasped that they were not getting anything remotely like a genuine, academically challenging, liberal arts college education.

It took a very short amount of time for the student body to figure out that I was an aberration there, someone who had been picked up because both the institution and I were desperate.

Let me now get to the specifics of just how much I have my head in the sand about religious colleges.

The last significant incident in my mind about that place was trying to help a girl in her first semester hide the fact that she'd gotten knocked up by one of the football players. She was scared to death, and the pregnancy was making her a total physical wreck from the get-go. She was a small, mousy girl who could have passed for fourteen. She had little, puffy cheeks that framed large brown eyes she would raise up to me as she kept her head down out of some kind of deference to male authority figures. She trembled in even the slightest chill of autumn breezes. For this story, I shall call her "Ellie."

She was a stunningly good math student, at least at first. After about a month, though, she started missing more and more classes. Not too long after her absences had become a matter of concern to me, one of her friends in the class told me about the pregnancy. An older woman in the class whom I'll call "Janice" was right there at the time and explained to me that this had to stay a secret: Ellie would be expelled if the administration found out. Ellie's friends were covering for her as best they could. In fact, they were covering for more than a few girls. Janice, who lived in the area and picked up classes from time to time at this dump, explained that it was like this every year: girls getting knocked up and trying to hide it so their parents didn't find out and the school didn't hear about it.

Janice, herself, was bitter about the college. It seems that only a matter of weeks before the semester began, she had undergone a hysterectomy, only to realize that the classes she had already paid for would be a real challenge to attend. The college had no handicap access in the old buildings where most of the classes were held. The administration variously claimed the buildings were exempt from requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act because they're landmarks, or the whole school was exempt because it's a "private religious institution." Whatever. All Janice knew was that she had to have a couple of the big horse-type guys help her up the steep steps so she could get to classes, including mine.

Anyway, Ellie was being torn up by the pregnancy, and her emotional state was something almost indescribable. She came to class only rarely. She'd generally be there if one of her friends in the class told her I was going to do a "surprise" quiz. (I started violating my long-standing policy about not warning of impending quizzes just because I wanted Ellie to know when she simply had to show up at class.)

Meanwhile, Janice—a tough broad who had been everything from a truck driver to an auxiliary law enforcement officer—finally got up the nerve to hint that she could get Ellie to an abortion clinic in the big city. I let her know in no uncertain terms that I would help. That meant I was going to stand ready to pay for the procedure.

My days at that school were numbered, even though I was still lying to myself by thinking that my great teaching would win the day. I had a religious lunatic for a department chairman: he would even sometimes stand outside the closed door to my classroom just so he could listen to my "unacceptable" use of language. In one instance that sent him into a hissy-fit, when I was about to pass back a test, a student asked me how they all did, and with a grin on my face I said, "Well, your tests sucked," to which the students laughed. All except for two, that is: young men with butch haircuts and a mission to tell the school authorities and their parents about every awful, horrible, un-Christian thing that happened at college. Both of those fellows, by the way, were failing my class miserably, and the other students hated their guts, in part because they squealed on everyone and in part because they were otherwise bizarrely withdrawn human beings. As one of them told me as he looked everywhere but into my eyes, "I am in this world, but not of it." (I replied to him with perhaps too much levity that he still had to study for my class and pass my tests or I would flunk his ass cold.)

Returning to the main story, Ellie's friends knew what we were planning, and several of them approached her with the way out of her mess. All I heard about that part was that she couldn't bring herself to reject the idea out of hand, but that she was simply horrified by the very idea of going even further into sin than she already had gotten. She wouldn't even tell anyone who, exactly, it was who got her pregnant; that part was left to one of the other girls at the party where it happened. (The young man, by the way, never suffered any punishment for his role in her pregnancy.)

If Ellie was going to get in even more trouble than she already was, she had no intention of taking anyone else with her. As November progressed, Ellie withdrew even further from those who wanted to help her. She missed the last term exam in my class, and no one volunteered any information about what was going on.

The last time I saw Ellie was in the cafe. The place was eerily empty despite upcoming finals. The TV wasn't even on. But there was Ellie. She was sitting in a chair with her legs pulled up to her; she was curled over in almost a ball. She had her back to the entrance, so she didn't know it was I who had come in until I was just behind her. She turned around and lifted those brown eyes up to me.

That smile across her pale, sunken face nearly made me choke. In her hand she was squeezing a bus ticket. She had nothing but the clothes on her back. Her light flannel hoodie was all that would keep the bitter December wind from her frail body.

I had nothing I could say to her. She'd been ratted out by one of the Christian psycho-bitch enforcers in her dorm. She was expelled, her parents were told about the outrage of it all, and everybody on campus knew she was the latest case study in the wages of sin.

She was so small that she vanished quite easily from that world of decent people.

And there I was. I could have done something about it, but I didn't. All I had was a pat solution that freaked her way too much. I could have put alternatives in front of her: adoption agencies, and not those Christian predators, either; friends who would have gladly taken her in and helped her ride it out if that was her choice. I could have offered her more than a mere cowardly professor's detached, meaningless gestures by proxy. I'd been going extra miles for years, but there I was, off my game, somehow fantasizing for too long that I could make a living for a few years by playing both sides against the middle in that dump. Ellie vanished from my sight while I was standing there flat-footed like every other useless non-player in the high-stakes game of life.

The next semester I got a gig at a regional community college. The first day of the semester, I was out in the smoking area when around the corner came three young men, all from that religious college. They'd had enough, so they were willing to drive more than an hour just to get something approximating a real education.

They all stopped dead in their tracks and stared at me with huge smiles. "Oh my fuckin' God!" one of them said.

I walked right up and shook hands with them, welcoming them to real academia. They were so macho-tough-excited-giddy-laughing-profane. They were so normal, and they were so glad to see a familiar face. I told them I was glad to see them, too; but I told them I was still going to kick their butts if they were unfortunate enough to end up in any of my classes.

They informed me that they were but three examples of a continuing leakage that religious college had of kids who manage to find a way to get out. Apparently, the community college, along with several other colleges and universities in the region, had long been the beneficiaries of that continuing stream of students escaping what would otherwise have been a miserable, pseudo-college experience leading nowhere. One of those young guys even mentioned the "bullshit" that happened to Ellie and how that's the kind of thing that makes students get out of there if they can. It's just that most can't.

There was yet another option I didn't think about in my bag of tricks for Ellie. That community college is dirt cheap, getting a surprisingly generous matrix of subsidies from all kinds of sources.

God Almighty! had I been off my game. What a dumb-ass I'd been through that whole messy experience at that religious Hell-hole.

Four years before, I was running a two-year school that trained paralegals and court reporters. It was in an urban ghetto, about as dangerous as a place could be just going to and from the parking lot after dark. The students were mostly female, mostly urban African-Americans along with low-income Whites. Every last day was a ride through rough terrain, and I was at the top of my game. I could solve any problem, I could get even some of the most hopeless cases through the curriculum and out into decent jobs. I swear, it seemed some days like I could have fixed the whole damned world one person at a time.

God! how far I had fallen by the time Ellie and others at that Christian college needed me.

Someday not too long from now, I'll leave this part of the country where so many churches dot the landscape. Too many people here love their god; they love their god more than they love the child-women and child-men stumbling and falling on the hard concrete of adulthood where they then look up with soulful eyes to see if anyone's there to help show them the way to their feet again.

Someday I'll go back to the streets that are mean in ways I handle better. I'll try to do a lot of good and little harm, and I'll finish this life trying not to think about the awful failures on my conscience. I don't think I'll do too well at forgetting, though, since I'll be seeing Ellie in every class, on every street, and in every bus station where some kid is looking up hoping someone has a good reason that one-way ticket to the end of the line isn't the only choice left.

I'm finished writing for the evening, now.

Cross-posted from The Dark Wraith Forums

· · · ·
27 May 2009

Jabber Wacky

by: Foiled Goil

Reading Between the Lines: Obama Warns GOP That the Right Fights Sotomayor Confirmation at Their Own Peril
Besides Vice President Joe Biden's grin and insistence that the assembled audience must "really like" her, the announcement of Federal Appellate Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor as the Obama Administration's Supreme Court nominee was relatively uneventful. Unless you're a Republican Senator who has the rare gift of a pair of working ears, that is.

President Obama seems to have learned an important framing lesson over the past couple of months. At no point in the press conference organized to officially unveil Sotomayor as the nominee was the newly-controversial word "empathy" uttered. In fact, Obama was sure to emphasize as important qualities for a Supreme Court justice a "recognition of the limits of the judicial role," and "respect for precedent" in their role to "interpret -- not make -- law."

No, the message was more of a dare to the right wing than a defense of Sotomayor. As in, "Do you really want this to be the sword you fall on?"

SCOTUS: Get Yer RNC Talking Points Here
Oh my. So much for the super secret wingnutty wurlitzer blast faxer-iffic strategery. The RNC has sprung an unintentional media leak out the wazoo.

Conservatives Blast Obama’s Hispanic SCOTUS Nominee As ‘Not The Smartest’ And An ‘Intellectual Lightweight’

Rove: Attending top schools doesn’t mean that Sotomayor is smart, but it proves that Bush is.
Rove’s dismissal of Ivy League attendance is ironic considering that in an interview previewing the debate, he cited George W. Bush’s experience at Harvard and Yale to mock claims that Bush is stupid.

Sonia, Maria, Harriet....Whatever.
"Liberal judicial activist."

"Legislating from the bench."

"Far left."

"Hispanic chick lady..." Uh, wha????

There are your run-of-the-mill talking points that you know you're going to hear from the right no matter who the nominee is--yesterday The Hill even got the full list of them when that well-oiled political machine that is Michael Steele's RNC accidentally sent their talking points not just to their jabberers, but to the media they jabber on.

GOPers already going overboard with ugly (and ridiculous) attacks on Sotomayor
The Republicans just can't help themselves. They can't control their most base instincts. It's instinctive: Must throw every every nasty and racist (sometimes subtle, sometimes not) attack at Sotomayor without regard to the political consequences. This really is who they are.

Scraping The Bottom of Barrel
So far the criticisms of Sonia Sotomayor are much more revealing about her conservative critics than they are about her.

The Sotomayor nomination and the limits of language
Nowhere in this labeling frenzy was there any analysis of Sotomayor's legal decisions -- other, of course, than that as a wise Latina woman the judge naturally detests white male firefighters; just a dulling, deafening repetition of reductionist simplicity -- liberal, liberal, leftist, leftist, radical-radical activist. Joe would have been proud, and I've no doubt that Frank is.

While the American Left has been developmentally deficient in thunderous slogans and bumper-sticker intellectuality, the American Right has excelled at them. Its first modern major success was "liberal media," an efficient assault on two political birds with one deceptive stone. And with that success, the right then saw what it took as the unlimited possibilities of make-believe language.

Sotomayor on the Bench
A couple of weeks ago, Tom Goldstein of the SCOTUS Blog pointed out that the debate over Sotomayor's qualifications seemed to ignore the single most important source of information about her legal thinking: the opinions she's written while serving as a judge on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. While fools like Jeffrey Rosen love to focus on gossip, innuendo and b.s., the rest of us are fortunate to have a detailed, extensive, and public trove of data to analyze. Even better, Goldstein's crew has pulled together summaries of what they consider Sotomayor's most important civil decisions. A sampler...

Gee, what a surprise: The right-wing talking points on Sotomayor are misleading distortions
Again, Media Matters has the goods:
The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States (2005) notes that federal appellate courts do in fact have a "policy making" role...

Flashback: Seven GOP Senators Backed Sotomayor For Judge
Seven Republicans currently in the Senate voted for the appointment of Sonia Sotomayor in 1998 as U.S. Circuit Court judge, suggesting that Republican ranks could be divided over whether to confirm her to the Supreme Court.

According to the roll call, the seven Republicans who backed Sotomayor at the time are Richard Lugar, Olympia Snowe, Robert Bennett, Thad Cochran, Susan Collins, Orrin Hatch, and Judd Gregg.

She was also supported by Arlen Specter, who of course is now a Democrat but whose backing for Obama’s SCOTUS pick was seen as anything but assured.

If some of these Senators continue to back Sotomayor, it could divide the GOP caucus and kill any efforts by the GOP to filibuster the nominee.

Hypocrisy watch: Under Bush, Senator Grassley and his GOP colleagues demanded an "up or down vote"
A most excellent op-ed in the Des Moines Register by our friend, Ari Rabin-Havt, on the expected hypocrisy from the GOP over the upcoming nomination battle. Working for Harry Reid, Ari had a front row seat when Republican Senators were espousing the need for "up and down" votes for Bush's judicial nominees. Back then, they were vehemently opposed to any delays -- and GOP leaders were going to invoke the "nuclear option" to preclude any filibusters.

In Praise of the Nuclear Option
Just like the Judicial Confirmation Network, many prominent Republicans argued -- not so long ago -- that filibusters of judicial nominees was unconstitutional. They threatened to go nuclear. They praised presidential discretion. Media Matters Action Network has compiled video and transcripts of some of their remarks. [...]

On the "Democracy or Hypocrisy" question, I doubt there's any uncertainty at all as to the actual outcome. They'll try to filibuster; they'll need to satiate their base and their baser instincts.

Fact Check - In Their Own Words: The Majority's Prerogative
In 2005, many Republican Senators went so far as to claim the filibuster of judicial nominees was unconstitutional. Now four years later, with President Obama's first Supreme Court appointment looming, will they remain consistent in their position or commit one of the most blatant acts of hypocrisy in the 220-year history of the United States Senate?

ThinkFast: May 27, 2009
Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), head of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said in response to Judge Sotomayor’s nomination yesterday that Republicans need to be “very cautious and careful” about criticizing her as it could damage their “standing with Hispanics.” Former Bush adviser Mark McKinnon remarked, “If Republicans make a big deal of opposing Sotomayor, we will be hurling ourselves off a cliff.”

· ·
26 May 2009

Another Dumb, Biased Ruling

by: Debra

It's time to leave.  I thought I was ashamed of my country because of torture, now I'm terrified that I live in a police state that has no rules or regulations to protect me from people who are already known to coerce confessions out of innocent people.
Scalia, who read the opinion from the bench, said their decision will have a "minimal" effects on criminal defendants. "Because of the protections created by this court in Miranda and related cases, there is little if any chance that a defendant will be badgered into waiving his right to have counsel present during interrogation," Scalia said.
What kind of drugs is he on if he thinks that cops won't badger people?  Hell, they tase sleeping naked people.  I may know my rights but a lot of people don't and if cops tell a suspect, and you know they will, that they have no right to an attorney they will be able to force confessions out of innocent people.  They've done it before and now it will become standard practice.  As if the Sotomayer pick is going to change anything.  Too little, too late.

Banana Republic?  Yes we are.  The average American is so screwed.


· ·
28 April 2009

Freakin' Unbelievable!

by: Debra

The out of touch with reality old fogies have struck again.  My take on the Supreme Court determination that the FCC can fine television stations for unplanned "fleeting expletives"?  Fuck 'em!  I hardly ever curse on this blog but I do in real life.  As do most people, especially those under pressure or who have had a little too much to drink.  And have you heard the kids of today?  They learned those words at home, not from watching broadcast television and if they are watching cable that's a parental problem, isn't it?  Hearing the F or S word does not make me think about sex or using the bathroom, they make me think the person was either really surprised or really upset.
"It suffices to know that children mimic the behavior they observe -- or at least the behavior that is presented to them as normal and appropriate," Scalia wrote. "Programming replete with one-word indecent expletives will tend to produce children who use (at least) one-word indecent expletives."
Deadwood was not the issue, Cher and Nicole Ritchie were.  I guess frak" isn't allowed either.  A one off is not a show replete with one word expletives and if children are mimicking the behavior they see on television, then shows such as Survivor, 24, and the Power Rangers shouldn't be allowed.  Or maybe their parents could pay more attention to them and what they're watching so they can explain that it isn't real and life doesn't really work that way.

So, it's okay to penalize a station for unplanned speech by an individual they can't control but not okay to penalize a station for inciting to riot, deliberately spreading falsehoods, encouraging intolerance towards others or lowering the IQ of the nation under the guise of "fair and balanced" news?  What's next boys, strip searching 13 year old girls for Advil without their parents being notified?  That smacks more of pedophiliac sexual tendencies on the part of those who think it's okay than expecting an accidental curse on live television to affect children for the rest of their lives.  Big Brother, indeed.


01 July 2008

On the RadarCalifornia Having Hard Time Killing People; Supreme Court Having Hard Time

by: Missouri Mule

Duly Noted

California now takes between 20 and 25 years to kill off one of their many pesky death row inmates. (The state also has 30 prisoners who have been there more than 25 years.) Still, sooner or later they get 'em—after all, the average age of arrest is just 28. (Really takes the fun out of it though, when they're all old!) In short, California is finding that it is not spending enough money to kill people and so the whole system is lurching into a shambles. But it's good news for the rest of the country!

The Supreme Court ruled back in April that lethal injection was so totally not cruel and unusual, and so a killing spree began across the nation. Whee!

Except it turns out the Court don't read so good. And a couple of academics show up on the Washington Post editorial page to dispute the Court's reckless misreadings of research:

A prominent line of reasoning, endorsed by several justices, holds that if capital punishment fails to deter crime, it serves no useful purpose and hence is cruel and unusual, violating the Eighth Amendment. This reasoning tracks public debate as well. While some favor the death penalty on retributive grounds, many others (including President Bush) argue that the only sound reason for capital punishment is to deter murder.
Justice Stevens argues, "In the absence of such evidence, deterrence cannot serve as a sufficient penological justification for this uniquely severe and irrevocable punishment." Perhaps. But the absence of evidence of deterrence should not be confused with evidence of absence.
Got that? Nobody knows yet if killing people keeps people from killing people. Except, you know, after they're dead. Dead people don't kill people ever.

30 July 2007

Breaking News: SCOTUS Chief Justice Hospitalized after Seizure

by: Dark Wraith

CNN is reporting that United States Supreme Court Justice John Roberts, appointed to the High Court in 2005 by President George W. Bush, has suffered a seizure of unknown cause at his summer home in Maine and has been taken to a hospital in nearby Rockport, where doctors are at this time downplaying the severity of the incident.

Roberts suffered a similar seizure in 1993. Doctors are claiming that there is no cause for concern and are characterizing the episode as a "benign idiopathic seizure." His previous seizure was blamed on stress.

Although Roberts' seizure 14 years ago was duly reported to Senate Judiciary Committee members when they were considering his nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, no concern was expressed at the time because of how long ago it had happened.

· ·
16 October 2006

Interesting Times

by: Debra

Of all the people who have disappointed me politically in the last six years Sandra Day O'Connor tops the list. At the time the country needed her the most, she walked away. I realize her husband had Alzheimer's but the needs of the many sometimes outweigh the needs of the few.

Her resignation has swung the court in an untenable direction, led by those who would put their own beliefs ahead of the populace. The conservatives who like to have things both ways or as I like to refer to them, the do as I say not as I do crowd, are determined to remake America as the mirror image of Afghanistan under the Taliban and her timing on leaving the high court has increased the speed and boldness of their crusade against women.

When I hear Scalia say things like
"The Constitution very clearly forbids discrimination on the basis of race," Scalia said in response to a question by moderator Pete Williams of NBC. "It doesn't seem to me to allow Michigan to say we think it's good to discriminate on the basis of race when you want to make sure everyone is exposed to different backgrounds. We cannot use race as the test of diversity."
because his rationale is
During Sunday's debate, Scalia outlined his judicial philosophy of interpreting the Constitution according to its text, as understood at the time it was adopted. He reiterated that race has no place in school admissions, a viewpoint that put him on the losing side in 2003.
I feel chills run up and down my spine because using that logic makes me worth less than three fifths of a human being. While slaves fell under the Three-Fifths Compromise, women weren't included at all. We had to wait for the Nineteenth Amendment.

Since we have very little of the Bill of Rights that will be in force after the Decider signs the Military Commissions Act, the rest of them can't be far behind. Actually, I think the Military Commissions Act guts the Fourteenth Amendment and nobody is talking about that. Though I do find one small ray of hope
But during Sunday's debate, Scalia noted there were cases in which he and the ACLU agreed. They included rulings upholding flag burning and a 2004 opinion arguing that a U.S. citizen seized in Afghanistan in wartime could challenge his detention as an enemy combatant in U.S. courts.
One very small ray, I don't know how strong it really is.

When I was a little girl I just knew that the future would change all the restrictions I saw for women. I had faith that as time went on the world (the world did, America not so much) would become more accepting of women and their capabilities and it really looked like women would finally be considered equal. When Ms. O'Connor was raised to the Supreme Court I knew she would be a voice of calm and reason. I knew that in thirty years we would have parity. Boy was I wrong. We almost got there but now there are no longer any level voices left to keep the scales in balance. The past will become the future.

We are living in interesting times that I hope will not become a curse.

Crossposted at Debsweb


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