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Sotomayor: Not Lost in the Meritocracy

The Sotomayor nomination, like all Supreme Court nominations, offers politicians and pundits a golden opportunity to make total arses of themselves. Something about these nominations brings out the worst in people.

Here's the National Review: "Judge Sonia Sotomayor is female, Hispanic, liberal, and mediocre."

Right, so from a Bronx tenement, raised by a single mom, diabetic, this Puerto Rican American goes on to win the Pyne Prize at Princeton. Would that I could be so mediocre!

Tom Tancredo, meanwhile, says she's a racist [via Memeorandum] and will only get a pass because she's Hispanic.

And there's more out there, and more to come.

Some conservatives, trying to find firm footing on the Sotomayor nomination, are taking umbrage that the future justice (I predict she gets 85 votes minimum in the Senate) believes a person's background, gender, ethnicity, etc., play an inevitable and valid role in shaping one's view of the law.

The WSJ is squirming: "In the President's now-famous word, judging should be shaped by 'empathy' as much or more than by reason. In this sense, Judge Sotomayor would be a thoroughly modern Justice, one for whom the law is a voyage of personal identity."

A wild overstatement, but let's ask the question: Should biography matter in picking a justice? Should one's personal experiences shape one's interpretation of the law?

You can argue these things round or square, but it seems to me that, in most instances, interpreting the Constitution is not like interpreting a mathematical equation. The Constitution says nothing of stem cells, affirmative action, sexting, gay marriage. The cases that reach the Supreme Court are the hardest ones to solve, where there's no indisputable answer, and where even the sharpest legal minds, sworn to uphold the Constitution, will split 5-4 on what should be the law of the land. A justice's personal background shouldn't dominate the analysis, but neither should it be irrelevant.

I read somewhere this morning that Sonia Sotomayor's personal journey is similar to that of Barack Obama, but in one key way her life is more like that of the first lady. Both went to Princeton, were involved with the Third World Center there, and felt like outsiders. (Michelle Obama has hardly ever been back, but Sotomayor is now on the Board of Trustees.)

Here's what Sotomayor, as a Princeton senior, said at Alumni Day in 1976: "We are attempting to exist distinctly within the rich Princeton tradition, without the tension of having our identities constantly challenged and without the frustrations of isolation."

Having a person on the highest court who knows what it feels like to be an outsider -- and has also succeeded at everything she's ever done -- isn't a bad idea.

My old schoolmate Walter Kirn has a memoir that just came out, "Lost In the Meritocracy," about his difficulties at Princeton in that same era. It's a hard place to walk into if your name isn't, say, H. Brockholst Livingston. But Sotomayor didn't get lost at all. She has found her way through life quite ably.

By Joel Achenbach  |  May 27, 2009; 8:37 AM ET
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At least pretty much all the pundits got her name right. Unlike Mike Huckabee who came out slashing at Maria Sotomayor. The correction came fast but still...

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | May 27, 2009 12:44 PM | Report abuse

I never got *lost* in the meritocracy, but I identify with Justice Sotomayer's struggle.I wish her well and believe she will be an able and effice member of SCOTUS.

Posted by: slyness | May 27, 2009 12:45 PM | Report abuse

Such a great piece, Joel. Folks continually make the point that, if you are a minority in America, "you are damned if you do, and damned if you don't."

Being Hispanic in this country now is not easy, even if you are successful. At the best, you look like other people that are being tossed in our jails for deportation hearings.

If you manage to be a sitting judge who wins awards your entire life, you get called mediocre.

Mediocre is a guy like Sessions.

Actually, Sessions is sort of average, but he did have an "unaware racist" streak to him. I guess that, in some circles, may be considered an oxymoron.... average and racist.

My favorite two bit trick is to call every minority activist or politician a racist. That, being from so-called conservative hacks. Just one of those knee-jerk talking points that can be predicted to arise.

Posted by: russianthistle | May 27, 2009 12:47 PM | Report abuse

Kirn got lost because he never got past trying to fit in and prove himself, he got caught up in winning for winning's sake, he didn't seem to have an inner goal to his life. I don't think it matters that much if you are of the elite or not, if you don't have inner reasons for doing what you do, life is empty and you come out cynical. Sotomayor does not seem anything like that. She has seemed to have an inner drive and vision of what she wanted to accomplish.

The criticisms of her speech where she talked about the influence of background on your decisions are just wrong. They are distorting what she was saying. She was simply stating what is true, that we are people and our backgrounds and feelings will influence our decisions no matter how detached we think we are or how logical we are. The only way to escape your personal bias is to know what it is and take it into account. That's all she was saying. Nothing wrong with that at all.

Posted by: catherine3 | May 27, 2009 12:55 PM | Report abuse

Re-posted from last Boodle, in response to bc's response to my zeppelin fixation:

Sorry, man. I know I'm repetitive on that point. They just have such style!

Posted by: ScienceTim | May 27, 2009 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: ScienceTim | May 27, 2009 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Oh... the humanity!

Posted by: -TBG- | May 27, 2009 1:06 PM | Report abuse

catherine3... I couldn't agree more. Those same folks were the ones who told us Sarah Palin would make a great VP because she was "one of us."

Posted by: -TBG- | May 27, 2009 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Hi, all! In my always-timely fashion, I feel the need to brag about my farming attempts this Spring. I have planted 5 fruit trees (three are thriving), 6 grape vines, 5 asparagus, 6 tomatoes, one pepper plant, and a whole bunch of red potatoes. Our little half-acre is on its way to being self-sufficient for about a week in August. In 2011. Oh well, it's fun. I've always wanted to try potatoes, so when I found a nasty sprouted bag back in the cupboard I just cut them up and stuck them in the ground. They're up 8 inches and are pretty plants. I'm brazenly flouting neighborhood rules against vegetables in the front yard with the potatoes and asparagus. I may just rout out the sickly evergreens and go with more food plants. I'm thinking strawberries instead of impatiens next year.

Posted by: Wheezy11 | May 27, 2009 1:17 PM | Report abuse

A Text Message I may have received that was not intended for me:

"INBOX: Pres 44

From: SoniaSCOTUS

Thx 4 the Nom & nice words ystrday.
I promise 2 Sphinx until the conf hearings if u promse 2 take me 2 a Nats/Cubs game (can't get comp passes 2 ballgames n e more - I wonder why ;).
And to not mention Harriet Miers.
Best 2 M and the girls, & good luck with the mutt (got rid of mine in '83 ;). -S

PS What aftrshave u wearin ystrday? U smell *fab*. -S"


Posted by: -bc- | May 27, 2009 1:21 PM | Report abuse

That Sotomayor is qualified for the job seems clear. She has the education and experience. What many critics will doubtless assert is that she is not the “best” person for the job because she belongs to not one, but two, minority fractions of possible candidates. That the “best” person just *happens* to be a female Hispanic, they will claim, is clearly a ludicrous position.

But I believe this is a spurious argument because the objective “best person” standard for such a complex position is theoretically impossible. The criteria for being a successful Supreme Court Justice can’t be quantified. There are always judgments to be made involving subjective intangible factors. That these factors might have included gender and ethnic background simply makes them more salient than some.

None of this will, naturally, prevent the right from accusing Obama of reverse discrimination because, outside of limiting his selections to middle-aged white guys, there is no way to actually disprove this assertion. But does anyone really believe that the right would happily support *any* appointment made by Obama? Of course not. There would be a fight from the Senators Who Say No no matter what, and Obama knows this.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | May 27, 2009 1:23 PM | Report abuse

This is where I once again mention that everything I know about life at Princeton I learned from "Mushroom: The Story of the A-bomb Kid" by John Aristotle Phillips (good Greek name there).

Because of that book I wanted to go there but my dad pointed out that if I wanted to go to an urban campus I should look at a map of New Jersey first. Then Brooke Shields enrolled and it lost some luster.

I also wanted to apply to Penn, but my dad said that it was in the middle of a ghetto. I think my dad just didn't want me going to an Ivy League school.

I'm still trying to figure out the pecking order here. Harvard grads and Yalies become President. Tigers have to settle for the Supreme Court.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 27, 2009 1:24 PM | Report abuse

Ruth Marcus this morning said something I took umbrage to:

"Since Obama is likely to have more than one high court spot to fill, picking a Hispanic woman for the first vacancy gives him maximum flexibility for the future -- maybe even a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant, a somewhat endangered species among the justices."

Others have noted that if Sotomayor makes the bench, she will be one of six Catholics. I've having a hard time believing that WASPs are in danger of becoming an under-represented group.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 27, 2009 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Howdy y'all. I'm about to drive to a whole nuther state and will be out of pocket for a while but could not resist commenting on the Kit. Very well said, Joel.

Anyone who believes that "regular" judges decide cases and issues based only on pristine legal principles is either fooling themselves or a fool. Obvious point: the mass of this country's jurisprudence, that objective legal body on which these objective judges should rely, was created over two centuries by older white men. Think they didn't decide cases based on their worldview and experience? It just happened to be the same as that of the other guys in power, so nobody thought of them as making decisions influenced by their life and experience. Remarkable how that changes when it is someone else's life and experience you're talking about.

Fun fact about necessary qualifications for the Supreme Court: None. Yup. That's it. The Constitution provides that the President shall appoint Justices of the Supreme Court. Now, remember the time in which this was written. Were there unspoken assumptions which governed? Who would have been eligible, practically speaking, for such a post? A white male property owner, that's who. Not necessarily a citizen, since the country was brand spankin' new. Not a lawyer, neither. Strictly speaking Justices don't have to be lawyers.

Given this background, I view all the impassioned pronouncements over who is "qualified" to be on the Court with a somewhat jaundiced eye, and am amused.

As far as I can tell Sotomayor is qualified by any objective standard you want to name: education, experience, citizenship, lack of personal scandal (remember, she's been vetted for the bench twice already). That's more than you can say of some past Justices.

Posted by: Ivansmom | May 27, 2009 1:33 PM | Report abuse

I believe women are the majority RD Padouk, not a minority. Outside the circles of power anyway.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | May 27, 2009 1:44 PM | Report abuse

*Tim, style does count.

If I made a zepplin capable of commerical interplanetary flight, would you buy tickets to fly on it?


Posted by: -bc- | May 27, 2009 1:44 PM | Report abuse

You took the words right outta my mouth, Ivansmom.

I have this to add: laws are *not* created in a vacuum and laws can thereby not be interpreted in a vacuum. So, how can Sotomayor be viewed as an "activist judge" when Scalia (especially), Thomas (in lock step), Roberts and Alito are not. Don't tell me that these guys are cling-to-the-rule-of-law types. No siree. Let's consider the Lily Ledbetter law which came into play because the *guys* on SCOTUS thought that 180 days after the offense occurred was a good enough window during which to file a discrimination lawsuit -- unfortunately, the victim of the discrimination didn't find out about it until umpty-ump years later. The original law was created in a vacuum, you see. But the updated law wasn't, as the clear reality of the situation was fixable, and Congress fixed it.

I read statutes all the time, trying to make heads or tails outta them on my client's behalf. It can be d@mned difficult.


Okay, forgive the fulmination, but I am 100% in support of the soon to be Madam Justice. Finally, Ruth Bader Ginsburg will have another woman-friend on the court. Woo-hoo for her, and woo-hoo for all of us.

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | May 27, 2009 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Sotomayor has been a whispered favorite for some time and the talking points have already been distributed. The Republican Big Lie Machine has been gearing up for a while now. I think the strategy is to portray her as a drooling moron that barely stumbled through Princeton and takes her orders direct from Eugene Debs and Fidel Castro.

I would hope that the major deal-breaking issues have already been closed, but the Obama vetting machine has been less than perfect in the past.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 27, 2009 1:54 PM | Report abuse

sd - please re-read what I wrote. I said a minority fraction of the possible candidates. Now, while the Pres can appoint whomever he wants, for all intents and purposes the candidates have to be highly educated and experienced lawyers. In this specific subset of the general population women are still a minority.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | May 27, 2009 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Penn State, for a very, very long time, was inhospitable to blacks. In the 1970s, I don't know if anyone there was even thinking about Hispanics.

Sotomayor's "frustrations of isolation" must have been felt a million times over.

Walter Kirn's memoir makes me wonder what it must have been like to be an impoverished kid from the Deep South (i.e. Gainesville, home of the Gators and, perhaps annoyingly for Princeton, what should be a pretty good rowing team. Rowing, like football, has gone from Ivy to Southern).

My memory of northwestern Puerto Rico from junior high, long ago, is of lingering poverty and at least one health problem that had mostly disappeared from most places inhabited by US citizens--tuberculosis. My recollection is that it was still a serious matter.

I keep reminding myself that Puerto Ricans have been citizens of the United States longer than my mother's family. Her parents arrived at Ellis Island just before immigration was cut off. Mom didn't learn English until elementary school. Two central European languages came first.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | May 27, 2009 1:56 PM | Report abuse

What would be the slogan of your zepplinline bc?
I suggest Fly the Lighter than Vacuum!

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | May 27, 2009 2:00 PM | Report abuse

A brief comment, on-topic, I believe:

I think that Judges are judges and like every other human, behave and think based on their experiences as well as their learned knowledge.

We citizens of this country pay our judges to - wait for it - *judge* cases set before them based on everything they have at their disposal within the law to deliberate and render those judgements as fairly as they can.

And that includes what they have in their heads and hearts. I'm not advocating that any judge at any level act based solely on emotion or their personal past, but I do think that a good judge uses judgement (there's that word again) that includes consideration of humans as well as the law.

Call me naive, but there I am.


Posted by: -bc- | May 27, 2009 2:00 PM | Report abuse

When Sotomayor went to Princeton, the university had barely begun to admit women as undergraduates. So had she been a bit older, where might she have applied? I think the University of Pennsylvania, which was more enlightened.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | May 27, 2009 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Here's the real point. It is not a question of whether "one's personal experiences" should "shape one's interpretation of the law", because one's personal experiences invariably do shape our interpretation of everything, the law included, whether we know it or not. (See David Brooks' comments in the "The Conversation" in the NYT today). That being the case, a diversity of experience is necessary in interpreting the laws of a very diverse nation. The current court is simply too much like me (male WASP).

Posted by: wmw4 | May 27, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse

To any of Sotomayor's supporters, I ask this: why should I, a white male and father of three white male sons, NOT be at least a little concerned that Sotomayor feels her Latina background enables her to make "better" judicial decisions than my non-Latina background? Suppose I or some other white male ends up in a legal case involving a Latina that ends up before the Supreme Court and Sotomayor happens to be the deciding vote (let's say it's a business issue involving a white male employer and Latina employees) ... why on earth should I not be concerned that she will be biased in favor of the sort of person who already meets her self-described definition of being "better" in certain areas? Why would she not automatically consider the Latina's case "better" than my case? This is what is so disturbing about her nomination--we all might assume that justices can be biased in one way or another but Sotomayor has come right out and proudly told us of her bias, yet this is seen as one of her "strengths" rather than the potential problem that it really is.

Posted by: ToughChoices | May 27, 2009 2:14 PM | Report abuse

I think that Scalia, Alito, Thomas, Kennedy and Roberts would object to being classified as WASP. There is a diversity of racial and ethnic origin in that bunch of Roman Catholics. But male they are.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | May 27, 2009 2:21 PM | Report abuse

Oh stop your whining Joel. You didn't seem to care about the liberal media's attacks on Alito. In fact, you joined in:

Posted by: bobmoses | May 27, 2009 2:29 PM | Report abuse

ToughChoices, your premise is ludicrous on its face, since the big old white guys on the bench would by your reasoning (I use that word in its loosest possible sense) be inclined to be biased against anybody not in that demographic, but you don't extend your argument (Iutwiilps) that far.

Posted by: Yoki | May 27, 2009 2:31 PM | Report abuse

ToughChoices, read the entire speech.

Then we'll talk.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | May 27, 2009 2:36 PM | Report abuse

Alright, I'll bite, ToughChoices. Why should 9 white male justices (which is what the SCOTUS looked like for centuries before Sandra Day O'Connor came on) not automatically consider the white male's case "better" than the case of, for example, slavery of blacks, voting rights for women, internment of persons of Japanese descent (American citizens all!) during WWII, and the list goes on and on.

But, wait a minute -- those 9 white male justices DID consider their case "better" didn't they?

Because now, you consider that your race/ethnicity is somehow now not the center of attention (BTW, I'm a white woman) suddenly you feel immensely threatened -- instead of feeling pleased that a country with an enormously and varied diverse citizenry can now be represented on the highest court in the land by a diverse group of justices? And another BTW for you -- if she has the deciding vote, it means that there are at least 4 other justices who agree with her.

Bias? Holy cow! Everyone in the world, every single human on the planet, has a bias. Take your insecurity and turn in into something positive -- please!

And one more thing -- the notion of "reverse discrimination" is a nothing-burger. There either is discrimination or there is *not* discrimination. Whites don't own the majority of human beings. The nation which owns most of the US debt does -- China. Let's get over ourselves, shall we?

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | May 27, 2009 2:37 PM | Report abuse

High Five! ftb

Posted by: Yoki | May 27, 2009 2:38 PM | Report abuse

On the contrary, I do NOT believe that, using your rather biased term, the "big old white guys" will be biased. I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. But how can we give Sotomayor that same beenfit when she has proudly proclaimed her bias. She thinks it's one of her strongest traits, one of the reasons why--in her mind--she's a great judge. Now, if you want to simply say it's political payback time, that big old white guys have had their chance and now it's somebody else's turn to be prejudiced and biased in favor of certain groups, at least be honest about it. Do not protend Sotomayor will be a fair and impartial justice--even she doesn't think she will be ...

Posted by: ToughChoices | May 27, 2009 2:40 PM | Report abuse

RD, thanks for that link. I was about to go googling for it, but you beat me to it.

Posted by: -bia- | May 27, 2009 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Vaporous. The new Justice will likely be better than the Republican-appointed ones. I will wait and see how she does when the Megacorp wants even more power and monopoly.

(Gee, I read in the Constitution that Congress is to decide a president if the election does not pan out. But 2000, if that wasn't constructivist I don't know what is.)

No, I don't own any real airplanes. I wish. I got a flight simulator (MS FS2004 - A Century of Flight) a while back, and after learning the thing from the De Havilland I soon gravitated to the DC-3. The jets are no challenge to actually "fly" (but if you like night landings on instruments there is challenge aplenty!) The old props are really appealing.

Anyone who gets that sim really ought to master the Wright plane - it's incredible what it will show you about what Wilbur went through.

The DC-3 drives like a truck. A real GOOD truck. It's strong as an ox but not invulnerable.

Posted by: Jumper1 | May 27, 2009 2:45 PM | Report abuse

TC, gosh darn it. I don't thing you read the speech. Sotomayor is not saying she will be ruled by her biases. She is pointing out that the sum of her experiences create a unique viewpoint that, in synergy with other viewpoints, will lead to better judging. She is pointing out that we all have "biases" but a professional is not a slave to them.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | May 27, 2009 2:46 PM | Report abuse

I used to work with a tax lawyer whose mantra was "Read the Act." I would now say "Read the Speech." Sotomayor never said she was going to be...

Oh, I see I am eating RD_Padouk's dust. Nothing new there.

Posted by: Yoki | May 27, 2009 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Firsttimeblogger, well at least you are honest in declaring that you assume that everyone is biased ... that is refreshing ... but if you are correct, and it all just comes down to one person's bias versus another's (rather than any possible notion of impartiality and equality under the law) why on earth should I be pleased that the supreme court will now include someone who will be--by her own statements--biased against someone like me? Why should I want anyone but white men on the bench? It certainly won't add any greater sense of "justice" to the system--instead it will promote the worst forms of cynical, divisive, power-play identity politics ... indeed, such attitudes have taken the once wonderful promise that in America anyone can achieve anything and turned it into a twisted form of political correctness: now, anyone can achieve anything--so long as he or she is the right gender, race, ethnicity, etc., to fulfill whatever quota is currently in demand ...

Posted by: ToughChoices | May 27, 2009 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Read the speech.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | May 27, 2009 2:55 PM | Report abuse

It was once said that if a lawyer has the facts on his side he argues the facts, if he has the law on his side he argues the law, and if he has neither he just pounds the table ... so is having"empathy" (or using "the sum of her experiences" to "create a unique viewpoint") an entirely new way for lawyers to respond or just a new way of pounding the table? It's sure not the law or the facts ...

Posted by: ToughChoices | May 27, 2009 2:58 PM | Report abuse

I think we're up to 4 women out of 9 on the Supreme Court of Canada, including Chief Justice Bev Mac. Does it make a difference? I don't know.
But my favourite Justice is still Thomas Cromwell for the obvious reason.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | May 27, 2009 3:03 PM | Report abuse

The law is subject to interpretation. Facts invariably support multiple narratives. This ambiguity in our legal system is why we have judges to begin with.

All judges, indeed all individuals, have inherent assumptions based upon their unique experiences. This is why there is more than one Justice on the court, and why these Justices frequently disagree in their rulings.

The dynamic interplay of these different outlooks is the basis for the creative evolution of law. And this works best if people are not all clones.

Sotomayer is pointing out that one of the many legitimate sources of this necessary diversity of interpretation is our life experiences.

I know this because I read the speech.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | May 27, 2009 3:06 PM | Report abuse

He's from Chicago--he should have nominated Thurgood Marshall.

Posted by: osha1 | May 27, 2009 3:07 PM | Report abuse

osha1... good one!

Posted by: -TBG- | May 27, 2009 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Here's the kicker paragraph from that speech concerning the bias claim, though there's plenty of other food for thought throughout:

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

It seems to me that she's arguing that differences do in fact exist, and that dealing with them consciously is better than ignoring them. Her awareness that her decisions "affect people concretely" is what I would guess Obama means when he talks about empathy.

Posted by: -bia- | May 27, 2009 3:09 PM | Report abuse

I would think a kid named Thomas Cromwell would have nighmares about being beheaded with a rusty ax and have his head boiled afterward.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | May 27, 2009 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Oh, TC -- please read the speech. Your take on it (just the teeny-tiny part of it that lit your fuse) is not what she meant by what she said. *sigh*

Furthermore, I learned that which was "once said" from my father who practiced patent law for 50 years before he died -- if neither the law nor the facts are on your side, attack the other lawyer. But, you see, there are all different ways of saying the same thing.

And, sure, empathy can encompass the law and/or the facts. Where do you think laws come from? As noted in one of my posts earlier -- laws are not created in a vacuum, nor are they interpreted in a vacuum. As for me, I'd *much* rather have someone on the court with empathy than someone on the court without empathy (cf. Scalia, who wouldn't even consider recusing himself in a case involving something that Cheney was involved in, all the while going duck hunting (or "friend shooting" with Cheney)). All I can blurt out is WTF???

Consider the kinds of "courts" or "justice system" under the Third Reich (Nazis, if you don't know your history). Look what's happening in Burma? You don't want an empathetic judge? If not, you'll be left with merely pathetic judges.

For the life of me, I can't fathom why you seem to feel so threatened.

And Yoki -- high five back atcha!

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | May 27, 2009 3:11 PM | Report abuse

For those who seem to be confused by the term "WASP," the "P" stands for Protestant. So, in fact, there is only one WASP currently on the Court (Stevens) -- the other (Catholic) white guys are not. (Not to suggest that I'm bothered by this -- just clarifying.)

Posted by: Janine1 | May 27, 2009 3:13 PM | Report abuse

By the way, RD_Padouk, why on earth did you want me to read that speech? It's actually even more disturbing--did you actually think her statements about how "shocking" it is that there aren't more non-white males on the nation's court would somehow assuage my concerns? Did you think that he statements regarding the likely impossibility of avoiding persopnal bias would make me nod in silent agreement? Perhaps you should reread this section:

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

Sotomayor questions the very idea that judges can "transcend their personal sympathies and prejudices and aspire to achieve a greater degree of fairness and integrity based on the reason of law." Indeed, she suggests it is a disservice to the law to ignore such personal sympathies and prejudices that arise from gender and ethnicity (though presumably she would not grant that same right to the bland, boring, non-rich experiences of people-not-of-color). But all I seek from the law is fairness and integrity based on reason--that is why I would reject her nomination.

Posted by: ToughChoices | May 27, 2009 3:14 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, bia. That paragraph should be read slowly with ALL the words included. Aloud, for preference.

Any reading comprehension issues should not be dumped here on the boodle.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | May 27, 2009 3:21 PM | Report abuse

Pretty soon someone will say that Judge Sotomayer is a judicial activist. Life experience tends to have a great effect on the decision making process. IMO, the broader your experience, the better. Justice Thomas' experiences are equally broad, no pun intended. His conservative philosophy, however, hardly squares with my mopre liberal views. If Judge Sotomayer's life experience counters this, fine.

Posted by: -jack- | May 27, 2009 3:22 PM | Report abuse

TC -- fairness and integrity based on "reason" is up to any number of interpretations. 150 years ago, it was "reasonable" to keep people as slaves, and refuse to have them educated (in fact, it was "reasonable" to murder them if they tried to learn to read and write). In the last century, it was "reasonable" to force-feed women to the death of many who went on hunger strike for the right to vote.

"Reason" is a very, very relative term.


Posted by: firsttimeblogger | May 27, 2009 3:23 PM | Report abuse

But I interpret that very differently for the reasons I have presented earlier. I accept that individuals cannot fully ignore their inherent assumptions. This is an impossible standard and one that no Justice has, or can, honestly fulfill. Nor should we. It isn't bigotry, it is creative disagreement, which is the basis of our legal system.

Look, that we both read the same thing and interpreted it differently clearly makes my point.

And, by the way, I'm a white middle aged guy.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | May 27, 2009 3:23 PM | Report abuse

Somewhere I got confused. Ruth Marcus was slyly pointing out that most of the justices are not Protestant. I'm not even sure what the quantity of Catholics on the bench in and of itself indicates since (as our own CqP demonstrates) the ideological range within the Catholic faith as practiced in America runs the political spectrum.

Ironically, the last two protestant Republican presidents have been appointing very conservative Catholics as a form of blind litmus test because they are so reliably anti-abortion.

If one were to look at the legal profession as a whole, I think a case could be made that Jews are currently the most under-represented group on the bench.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 27, 2009 3:30 PM | Report abuse

How dare you use cute phrases ("Nazis, if you don't know your history") to impuign my views simply because you disagree with them. I will put my study and reading of history up against anyone else's other than an actual history professor (and I'll bet I can keep pretty good pace with them as well). Why is it that when liberals run out of convincing arguments they turn to personal attacks? In case you have never read anything about the Nazi years, the problem with Nazi courts was precisely that they used their personal prejudices to decide cases and NOT anything like reason and the law. Why do I feel threatened? Because Sotomayor has spelled out her failings for all to see, her biases toward people like herself, and rather than be a disqualifying factor this is seen as one of her greatest strengths ... that is disheartening for anyone who loves this country and what it has stood for. Now I will sit back and wait for all the responses that spell out why this country really has been such an evil, racist, sexist place, etc., etc., etc.

Posted by: ToughChoices | May 27, 2009 3:30 PM | Report abuse

It just struck me that the issue with ethnic/cultural/gender identity in these sorts of situations is not just that people will ask whether the nominee will behave preferentially toward people who are "like her," and that they'll tend to ask that question more of people who are members of less-represented groups. Part of it is also that successful members of less-represented groups are likely to be invited to speak explicitly of these issues at places like the conference where Sotomayor gave this speech. Since these issues are notoriously complex, speaking on them at all would pretty much inevitably lead to her being on record as saying things people can pull out and present as objectionable. Whereas a member of a well-represented group could easily avoid going on record on these topics at all.

I think these are real issues, and I'm glad she's thought them through, and I think the whole speech is thoughtful and thought-provoking. But it's also true that that one sentence does provide ammunition for those who were looking for it. Even in context, I don't know that I agree with it, and I kinda wish she hadn't said it. Still, although people will yell, I'm not worried about her confirmation or about her performance on the bench.

Posted by: -bia- | May 27, 2009 3:32 PM | Report abuse

Nice work Señor Achenbach! Just a little note; Puerto Rico is a US territory, therefore, a Puerto Rican American sounds like a Virginian American. That is, redundant. The Nuyoricans, New Yorkers of Puertorican descent, are proud of their contributions to both identities. Artists, military, merchants, scientists, civil servants are now to be represented on the highest court in the land. After 111 years of "liberation" Puerto Rico, USA is still "foreign". Will the Supreme Court have to decide why five million US citizens in Puerto Rico and the USVI remain second-class citizens? "Estado 51" anyone ...

Posted by: RUBENMORTIZ | May 27, 2009 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Oh, dear. Relax, TC.

First of all, how the H do I know how old you are and what you've learned (or not)?

The SCOTUS has over the centuries used the personal prejudices of its justices in every single decision that has been made. What? Do you actually truly believe that every single decision made by the justices of the Supreme Court have been based on the cold emotionless interpretation of whatever the laws were at the time? No siree. Judges are (arguably) human beings -- trust me, I've practiced before quite a few of them and if they've got a nut up there hind end, they won't listen to reason (they will call me "honey"), they will not give a rat's behind about the law or the facts -- and it happens every single day in every single court. I have found in my law practice of almost 30 years that you take your chances in litigation. Reason? Personal preferences? You got it, TC -- *everyone* has them. You don't like Sotomayor? Fine. I do, both as an attorney, as a woman, as a citizen of looong standing in this country, as a patriot (or might that be matriot? Nah, sounds too much like a hotel chain).

Again, Scalia scares the guano outta me, and I'm glad that Sotomayor will give him a good run for his money. She will give just as good as she gets -- my kinda woman!

You see, TC, unlike what you appear to be, I, along with 99.9999% of the people who belong to this blog, am inclusive. It's an exceedingly small world, the Chinese outnumber us all, we all gotta live together.

This "how dare you" stuff I find simply tiresome and playgroundish. And I don't feel threatened by it. All I have to do is take a shower. May you do the same.

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | May 27, 2009 3:44 PM | Report abuse

Besides, the Boodlers here *like* my cute phrases (dontcha???) and I don't need your permission to blurt them out.

Hey Rubenmortiz -- would you mind waiting until after the District of Columbia gets statehood and maybe become Estado 52?


Posted by: firsttimeblogger | May 27, 2009 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Good piece. The constitution should only be allowed to be interpreted by americans who are not white, rich and male. Consitutional protections grow weaker and weaker because those who need to be protected have no say. Of course Scalia thinks that there's no reason to require police to wait for appointed counsel to be present before interrogations can begin; he has never been interrogated without counsel present. Nor will he ever be. Nor will anyone he goes hunting with for a million dollars a day ever be. Anyway; we need more folks like her on the Court and less rich men.

Posted by: hacksaw | May 27, 2009 3:49 PM | Report abuse

Kinda redundant to offer a Front Page Alert at this point, mais non?

*dusting off the bunker's coffee table*

Posted by: Scottynuke | May 27, 2009 3:49 PM | Report abuse

"The Sotomayor nomination ... offers politicians and pundits a golden opportunity to make total arses of themselves"
Count yourself amongst the arses. The frequency of 5-4 votes attests more to the intransigence of the judges than the intricacy of the issues. The intricacies of law are less expansive than many other endeavors, including mathematics.

Posted by: johnbowers | May 27, 2009 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Hey Snuke -- the bunker has a shower, right?

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | May 27, 2009 3:54 PM | Report abuse

"Why should I want anyone other than a white man on the bench"??????????????

OK, I just have to get up and walk away. I can't participate in this discussion without going bats--- crazy.

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | May 27, 2009 3:54 PM | Report abuse

Really enjoyed the kit Joel.

ftb - I love your cute phrases and have enjoyed reading the discussion from today.

Posted by: dmd2 | May 27, 2009 4:00 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, dmd2 -- luv u 2

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | May 27, 2009 4:01 PM | Report abuse

There might be a couple of extra Kincaides stored in there, ftb...


Posted by: Scottynuke | May 27, 2009 4:04 PM | Report abuse

Well if I hadn't known you were a lawyer I would probably have guessed--who else would make a snide comment and then say "how the H do I know how old you are and what you've learned (or not)?" If you didn't know what I had learned or not why would you put in such a condescending comment about how the Third Reich was also the Nazis (which is rather similar to the joke in the producer's in which the very flaky director diodn't know that the Third reich involved Germany, so you might be guilty of plagiarism as well as rudeness) .. and then to take umbrage at my "how dare you" when you were the one hurling the insult? Again, a clever lawyer's trick--why on earth would you feel "threatened" by being offended by your rudeness? Or were you just showing empathy? You also assume far too much--how does opposing Sotomayor for her clearly stated biases amount to not favoring inclusion? Or would also say that those who opposed Clarence Thomas or Miguel Estrada were also against inclusion? I hope so--or do you consider consistency to be the hobgoblin of a small mind? I'm glad, though, that you feel so comforted by the thought of Sotomayor saving you from the big bad Scalia monster--perhaps you should take that shower after all and toddle off to bed before the night's shadows get too scary for you ...

Posted by: ToughChoices | May 27, 2009 4:07 PM | Report abuse

The "old-country=tyranny" to "she represents the American dream" spin is a denial of what the US jurisprudence has considered "justice". Segregation, colonialism and exploitation of foreign "cheap" labor is what Ms. Sotomayor's family left behind in Puerto Rico, USA. If white males feel underrepresented is because societies develop. Democracy is a numbers game. And if DC, together with the remaining US territories have not yet achieved full representation in Congress, is in part a legacy of white males' governance. We can not tolerate with decision makers slurring slogans and 30-second political ads.

Posted by: RUBENMORTIZ | May 27, 2009 4:09 PM | Report abuse

Hey, I've seen this episode of West Wing! Supreme Court nominee James Edward Olmos is arrested for driving while Hispanic just before the Cylons nuke Caprica.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 27, 2009 4:11 PM | Report abuse

Yup Ruben, it's time to give a break to the Sharks. Enough with the Jets.

I wish you all an "America" tune cootie.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | May 27, 2009 4:12 PM | Report abuse


The comment was not meant seriously but satirically. If justices treat all people equally under the law, then it doe snot matter what race, ethnicity, or gender they are. But if the justices are going to base their decisions on their own racial identity, personal experiences, cultural background, empathy, etc., rather than on what the law says or does not say, then under those circumstances please tell me why I would not want everyone on the court to be exactly like me? If the game is going to be rigged--as it is under identity politics--then I simply want it rigged in my favor, like everyone else. But I'd rather have the system be fair and impartial.

Posted by: ToughChoices | May 27, 2009 4:15 PM | Report abuse

yello, I thought it was just before Olmos congratulated Deckard on the roof, in the rain, before declaring "It's a shame she has to die."

Posted by: Scottynuke | May 27, 2009 4:19 PM | Report abuse

We know so little about Sotomayor. But that does not stop people from judging her or judging each other's judging of her in a relative vacuum.

The fact is, Obama did her (or any of his potential nominees) an injustice with his shallow, vacuous "empathy" comments. Empathy has little place on the bench of the Supreme Court. And the reason is very simple: It is very, very difficult to be an independent arbitrator and simultaneously empathetic with one side of an arguement between two parties. So, Obama has laid down a gauntlet of the neo-left and now, Sotomayor is stuck with haviung to navigate around the press' obsession with it.

I hope that the dems and gop give her a workover to ascetrtain, as with any nominee for life to this influential body, that she is learned, balanced, deliberative and consultative. I hope that they also work to ascertain that she is not overly influenced by factors of ethnicity, religion, gender or personal experience.

I hope that no one feels compelled to confirm or deny her because of any factor other than qualification.

We can't afford to have anything less.

Posted by: DOps | May 27, 2009 4:22 PM | Report abuse

ToughChoices doesn't your argument entail believing that all - "white people" have similar values, beliefs, religions, bias.

No one person can be exactly like you as our individual circumstances change from person to person. Each of those individuals would bring a unique set of bias with them.

How they act on those bias is what would determine the quality of the judge.

I believe Ivansmom, Yoki, ftb and others have expressed this much more concisely previously.

Posted by: dmd2 | May 27, 2009 4:26 PM | Report abuse

You may be right Scotty. But at least he will stand and deliver.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 27, 2009 4:27 PM | Report abuse

TC -- you completely missed the irony. And, no, I'm not threatened, much to your possible disappointment. And, no, Scalia doesn't really invoke the heeby-jeebies -- just a metaphor. And, now, I'm done w/ you.

Ruben -- do please stick around with us on the Boodle. Your thoughtfulness is exactly what is appealing here. Democracy is indeed a numbers game. Those who have been on top, by virtue of force or legacy, have always been reluctant to lose that position, especially to those whom they believe to be "inferior" -- the last 8 years have shown the exaltation of incompetence of someone who was on the top by virtue of legacy (as was his father). It makes it even more refreshing that we now have a real adult in the White House and leading this nation.

cya later.

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | May 27, 2009 4:30 PM | Report abuse

I recall that as white South Africans anticipated the change-over of governmental dominance with the end of apartheid, they spoke fearfully of what would happen to them under majority rule. What came across clearly in interviews and news coverage was that what they really feared was not "reverse injustice", but simple justice. They knew they had evilly oppressed the majority and anticipated how bad the payback would be, because there was really no question but that it was deserved. Which is one of the reasons why I remain completely in awe of Nelson Mandela, because that kind of payback did NOT happen.

Toughchoice's argument sounds basically the same (admittedly on a lesser scale): he dreads the loss of the rigged game that has favored him so far. And favored me, for that matter.

Posted by: ScienceTim | May 27, 2009 4:31 PM | Report abuse

I kind of hope that Sotomayor's nomination hearings might include a statement somewhat like this: "That's an interesting theory of jurisprudence, Mr. Senator, entirely consistent with the fact that you have never been a sitting judge." But she won't say that -- not if she wants the job.

Posted by: ScienceTim | May 27, 2009 4:34 PM | Report abuse

dmd2 ... as I just explained to curmudgeon, the point I said about wanting all the justices to be white guys was meant satirically. Clearly, not all the white males on the court think alike, nor do all white males in general (though the media and several bloggers here would have you think otherwise). What I have been trying to point out is the classic double-standard of indentity politics, reverse discrimination, or whatever you wish to call it: IF the left says that ONLY people of diverse backgrounds, different genders, ethnicity, etc., can truly understand what it's like to be anything other than a power-holding white male, then the same holds true for white males. If Hispanics or women or African-Americans do not want their legal cases decided by white men but would prefer people of their own gender, race, etc., then so do I and for me the more middle-aged white men the better! But the goal of justice in this country has always been for the justices to be impartial and to treat everyone equally under the law. That has obviously not always been achieved--but under the gender/enthnicity/racial focus of indentity politics it's no longer even the goal.

Posted by: ToughChoices | May 27, 2009 4:34 PM | Report abuse

If her background and credentials are true as stated by President Obama, she is a fine candidate for the US Supreme Court.

She may have ruled in cases that have indeed been overturned by the US Supreme Court. She is a human being who trys to rule on imperfect laws. Whether the rulings were unanimous or by split opinion reflects the attitude of the court at that point in time.

Having said this, S Sotomayor should be able to hold her own under tough questioning. I suspect that if anyone goes beyond the pale, it will be a male senator on the extreme rightwing of the Republican Party.

Posted by: EarlC | May 27, 2009 4:35 PM | Report abuse

ScienceTim: I do not believe the game has been rigged in my favor--though a white male I am hardly from a wealthy or priviledged background. But there are many in our divisive politics who would say that merely being a white male has made me some sort of priviledged creature. I am using the rigged game analogy to describe the sort of system that will result if identity politics are not ended.

Posted by: ToughChoices | May 27, 2009 4:38 PM | Report abuse

An interesting point in Judaism, I have learned through moderately close association, is that its best thinkers have spent the past few thousand years trying to figure out the interpretation and application of The Law (the Torah) in the real world of flesh and blood and the need to eat and the need to work for a living and the need to have a decent life. The job is far from complete. The process of interpretation is far from trivial, and far from definitive. We are stuck with fulfilling the commandments (mitzvot) of the Torah in a world of imperfect people who are forced to make compromises, compromises that change as society and technology change. How could human laws, created by inherently imperfect humans in an imperfect political process, be so comprehensive and so perfectly just and fair that they can be enforced without any reference to individual realities -- i.e., an understanding of what it means to be a human subject to those laws? That is what it means to be empathetic. If laws required no human judging or moderation than we could do away with judges and just use computers or clerks with checklists ("If the defendant DID kill the victim, DID/DID NOT the defendant cut off the head? If yes, proceed to line 23, "Heinous Monster", if not, proceed to line 22, "Still Some Hope of Redemption.")

Kathleen Parker actually had a pretty good column on exactly this today -- the problem of demanding certainty and rigid rules from a world that cannot offer these things.

Posted by: ScienceTim | May 27, 2009 4:49 PM | Report abuse

DOops, thanks for pointing out that we're just at the beginning of this process. We will hopefully learn a lot more of substance through the confirmation process. I have been somewhat disappointed (though not surprised) at the immediate focus of the analysis on the nomination as a political strategy, rather than on the judicial record of the nominee.

That said, I can't agree with your empathy comment. Being empathetic means being open-minded enough to put oneself in someone else's shoes, even when that person, their background, and their interests may be different from one's own. Someone who can do that only for one side of an argument is by definition not empathetic. I'm making no argument about Sotomayor's degree of empathy -- as you say, we don't know much yet -- but I consider it a valuable quality in a judge.

Posted by: -bia- | May 27, 2009 4:58 PM | Report abuse

Besides, Judge Sotomayor has already gone through two grillings successfully before -- once before becoming a District Court judge and the second before being elevated onto the 2d Circuit Court of Appeals. She'll do fine.

And (one more try), please, TC, don't get me wrong -- I'm not excluding all men from my worldview -- I'd never do that, and it wouldn't occur to me to do so.

What I would never agree with by any stretch of the imagination is to succumb to an entitlement argument. That was Bush I and Bush II and many who think that it is "their turn" without even a whiff of qualification about them. I also don't like to see "white" paraded as the best, the brightest, the most wonderful when that isn't always (or even ever under some circumstances) the case. When one considers that all of us bazillions of years ago emanated from East Africa where we were all the same color, wandering to places where we didn't need that adaptive, protective shading anymore -- after the (wait for it) evolution (*ducking*) of the species -- I find it remarkable that whites feel so effing entitled to be the top of the heap of humanity.

And as for snarky comments about attorneys -- well there you go. There are some great lawyer jokes, and I know exactly who they resemble. I practice law on the highest ethical basis that I can, and I have turned down clients who want me to do something I would *never* consider doing. Generalize all you want, but when you need a lawyer, if you ever do or think you do, you might want to consider that all is not as it appears in the jokes. Do your due diligence. If the first attorney is not to your liking, another will likely be. Just be careful, as in all transactions, of your assumptions.

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | May 27, 2009 4:59 PM | Report abuse

TC, you have no hope of convincing any of the regulars here, as they have a considerably different viewpoint on what reality is than you do. It's not that you don't have your reasons--it's that your reasons are not in accordance with what the regulars consider to be an acceptable worldview.

I gotta admit, I agree with 'em. 'Tis a sad state of affairs I admit, but then, it was once a free country, y'know?

Posted by: Nebreklaw01 | May 27, 2009 4:59 PM | Report abuse

The way to end identity politics is not to play it.

In the 16th century, Britian was busy making Ireland its "first colony." Racist ideas were formulated even as armies were slaughtering the Irish and doing atrocities such as heads on pikes and such to subjugate Ireland and prevent revolt. They also "colonized" Ireland with British protestants.

This racist attitude towards the Irish (which seems incredible to modern eyes), influenced Americans, despite the sizeable number of Irish immigrants.

In the late 19th century, Mark Twain wrote a story in "Roughing It," intended to be humorous (and it is), which referred to the employment barriers for the Irish--
"No Irish need apply!" One character kept saying this in his story. This is ONE example of how racist attitudes formulated for a specific purpose can persist long after the original cause is long extinct.

Now, I'm sure you're very familiar with Jim Crow laws and other laws designed to create inequality.

We are working towards LEGAL equality, but the fact is that people who want to discriminate will find subtle ways to do so.

I've myself been barred from housing on the basis of "having held the same jobf for X years"-- which is itself a form of hidden age discrimination; I've been treated disrespectfully because I'm deaf, in both housing and employment.

Now, when you're talking about age, racial, or other discrimination, the cases that come in front of a judge will rarely be as simple as "Yeah, we put up a sign saying No Irish need apply" (or other minority.)

The IMPACT of such laws and rules has to be looked at, not the INTENT.

And the best way to judge the IMPACT is precisely to have a cross-section of America in dialogue on exactly where and if inequalities are occuring.

I think people like you get upset because you assume that stuff that has the IMPACT of discrimination was originally designed to INTEND such, and that liking the system means you INTEND to discriminate.

That's not the case. But the truth is, a lot of rules are actually intended to discriminate just a little bit against people who they don't want to rent to nor employ-- poor credit ratings, rude, disrespectful employees, etc.

But none of us are omniscient and none of us can possibly see all the consequences of a rule that pushes legality just a little.

Overt racial discrimination can be replaced by a policy of only hiring from certain neighborhoods or universities that "don't have too much of the undesireables."

This is anti-American and hurts YOU, not just minorities, if you don't have the good old boy network to work, either.

The more that happens, the less equal America becomes for all of us.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | May 27, 2009 5:00 PM | Report abuse

It's inevitable that the right would find something to carp about no matter who Obama selected, just as the left will do the same -- if there's ever another Republican in the White House.

Posted by: EnemyOfTheState | May 27, 2009 5:00 PM | Report abuse

TC, it's rigged in your favor. I'm using the word 'your' broadly. It's a tad unrealistic that you wouldn't know this, but maybe you don't have any daughters, sisters, or a wife. Or maybe you live in an extremely homogeneous area and don't have regular interaction with someone who doesn't look like you, and or maybe you haven't really kept up with some of the statistics. Maybe you don't live in the States. I don't know. But a thread of ethnocentricity runs through your posts. Or you're joking.

And I'd go ahead and put my 'study and reading of history' up against yours. (Be careful throwing down a guantlet. Someone might just walk on by and pick the darn thing up. I'm guessing Mudge either has a backache or is having one of those days where Superman just walks on by the phone booth.)

Having said all this, I'm glad to have your opinion. If everyone thought the same way....

Have a happy day all.

Posted by: LostInThought | May 27, 2009 5:12 PM | Report abuse

"But there are many in our divisive politics who would say that merely being a white male has made me some sort of priviledged creature."

(A) You are privileged. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and look around. Getting stopped for "driving while black" is a known problem. Women continue to be under-compensated for equal work. Whether privileges have flowed equally to you among all other white males is a secondary issue. Our demographic class, the class of white males, continues to benefit from discriminatory practices of earlier generations, even if we ourselves do not actively choose to discriminate.

(B) I wouldn't say so "many" describe you and me pejoratively, so much as that those that do so are quite loud about it. Shout all they like -- the game is still rigged, and it's rigged in favor of white guys. If they embarrass you, then good -- maybe you'll be motivated to help fix the game.

(C) Sotomayor was not arguing that she would be a good judge because she would play better identity politics. She said she would be a better judge because she would remain aware of her identity -- better than she otherwise would be, not better than others could be. Identity is real, and it colors our thinking, both for good and ill. If we had no identity, we would not be people, we would be meat-puppets. Only by being aware of our own identity can we acknowledge and compensate for our own biases, and only by being aware of our own identity can we comprehend the impact of our actions within the lives of others -- including those whose identity is not superficially the same as our own.

So what do we do? How do we react to the rigging of society's game? One possibility is to refuse to participate in a discriminatory society, which means (metaphorically) living in a cave like a hermit. That's a dumb choice -- I have talents and a right to a decent life, the same as anyone else. So, I have three other alternatives -- (1) I can work to perpetuate a system that unfairly favors me in order to continue to get those favors; (2) I can use my talents, take my shot at a decent life, but remain neutral and stay out of the way of societal change; or (3) I can use my talents, take my shot at a decent life, and actively work to promote the ability of others to fulfill their talents and to have their shot at a decent life, too. That means society will change, and people who have interests different from mine will become important in society. Somehow, I'll just have to grow up and learn to cope.

For myself, I pick #3. What do you pick?

Posted by: ScienceTim | May 27, 2009 5:14 PM | Report abuse

By golly, I finally noticed the crux of the misinterpretation problem -- Sotomayor said that acknowledging her own identity would make her a better judge. Not better than other judges, but a better judge than she otherwise would be. She was speaking of improving herself as a judge, not speaking of her superiority to other judges. Jeeze.

Posted by: ScienceTim | May 27, 2009 5:16 PM | Report abuse

ToughChoices: Welcome to the Boodle. You have questioned whether a Justice Sotomayor would be a fair and impartial jurist given that she believes her background has influenced her perspectives on all manner of human endeavor. I believe that's a reasonable concern, but perhaps I can allay your fears.

In the speech referenced by other posters, Judge Sotomayor has simply acknowledged that her background has created personal biases. Her awareness of her biases informs her determination to make legal decisions based upon fairness and impartiality.

Consider the case of another Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. When he was interviewed by Congress during his appointment hearings, he stated flatly that he had no "agenda." In other words, he was a blank slate upon only the pure words of the rule of law would be written. He probably believed what he said. Lacking the self-awareness of his own biases, he assumed he would only make unbiased decisions.

I think we can all agree that Justice Scalia has biases. If perhaps he was more aware of them, he might try to behave in a more impartial manner.

So, the justice candidate is aware of her biases and - because of this awareness - endeavors to overcome them. Better this than a justice who blithely assumes he/she is divorced from his/her "background."

Does this help?

Posted by: jp1954 | May 27, 2009 5:16 PM | Report abuse

I hate to interrupt this great discussion but will someone please tell me how "financial prudence" fits in this listing?

Posted by: -TBG- | May 27, 2009 5:19 PM | Report abuse

Aahhh, there we go. I was wondering how long it would be before someone threw out the "close-minded regulars" card.

Yup, them 'boodlers are narrow-minded little clique!

Posted by: bobsewell | May 27, 2009 5:21 PM | Report abuse

Oh my, such an interesting afternoon!

Mudge, the bunker is open and ready for business. Maybe, instead of closeting outselves, we should invite the new folks in for a chat and some good wine-and-cheese. I stocked up the other day at the Ashe County Cheese Store (fact).

While you all were arguing about Judge Sotomayor, Mr. T and I were visiting the Armstrong Redwoods Forest Preserve. This magnificent stand of redwoods was saved by by its owner, a timber baron who decided they were worth preserving. One tree is thought to be over 1400 years old, the tallest is 316 feet. For all our sakes, I am glad this place still exists on earth, that not all the redwoods were turned into siding or picnic tables.

SD, I caught your reference to Thomas Cromwell. What WERE his parents thinking? I hope he is a good justice.

There are acres and acres of grapevines in Sonoma County. I'm looking forward to checking out some of the wineries. I'll make sure to ship appropriate vintages back to the bunker.

And I still think Judge Sotomayor will make a good justice. The more viewpoints brought to bear on an issue, the better the outcome for all. That's elementary decision theory.

Posted by: slyness | May 27, 2009 5:22 PM | Report abuse

Of course, the "perkiness" in that listing is most definitely appropriate for THIS venue.

We're all pretty d@mned perky!

Posted by: -TBG- | May 27, 2009 5:23 PM | Report abuse

I'm a little late today, but keep it up TC, you da man!

Posted by: capsfan77 | May 27, 2009 5:25 PM | Report abuse

Tom Tancredo is one of the last people who should be calling someone a racist.

Posted by: presto668 | May 27, 2009 5:26 PM | Report abuse

TBG, I think the financial prudence is in making the coffee in your own dorm room, rather than buying it at the corner Starbucks. After all, the original investment was made by the person who bought it for the student, not by the student himself/herself, so it doesn't factor into the equation.

Though I'd think that you'd save on coffee beans by making a little pot rather than a single cup at a time. What sleep-deprived student ever drinks only a cup at a time?

Posted by: -bia- | May 27, 2009 5:30 PM | Report abuse

capsfan, you made me giggle, thanks.

Posted by: -bia- | May 27, 2009 5:34 PM | Report abuse

Ruth Marcus this morning said something I took umbrage to:

"Since Obama is likely to have more than one high court spot to fill, picking a Hispanic woman for the first vacancy gives him maximum flexibility for the future -- maybe even a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant, a somewhat endangered species among the justices."

Others have noted that if Sotomayor makes the bench, she will be one of six Catholics. I've having a hard time believing that WASPs are in danger of becoming an under-represented group.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 27, 2009 1:30 PM

You do realize that if you're Catholic, you are, therefore, ineligible to be a WASP, right?

Posted by: NoVAHockey | May 27, 2009 5:39 PM | Report abuse

When do us cliquey insiders get to vote for the Troll Of The Week. We got some pretty serious contenders.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 27, 2009 5:42 PM | Report abuse

slyness -- I've been (several times) to the Ashe County Cheese Store in East Jefferson -- mighty nice place to stock up on cheeses and, I might add, nice baskets in the back room. Haven't been down there in years. The mountains are a beautiful part of the state. I was at (on?) the Outer Banks a couple of years ago, though. But I do prefer the mountains.

And whoever posted that it was "once a free country" above -- I wonder how many had to pay for the "free" of others. Yep "for a small fee in America" (copyright attribution to the owner(s) of West Side Story).

And Sci Tim -- I definitely *heart* you.

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | May 27, 2009 5:44 PM | Report abuse

That sounded WASPy, NoVAHockey.

Yeah, WASC, one letter difference.

And from my limited safari experience into protestant churches, protestantss are so heterogenous that you could have somebody who believes nearly the same as a Catholic worshipping next to somebody who might as well be a Wiccan.

So what would be under-represented, exactly, yellojkt? Is it the WAS part, really?

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | May 27, 2009 5:44 PM | Report abuse

And, tonight: GO RED WINGS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Kinda cool that the Wings and the Penguins will meet again in the finals (let's face it, Chicago has run its course, and the Wings are playing at home).*

*and if the Wings lose tonight, I expect sympathy along with snarky comments about my confidence. May I see a show of hands?

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | May 27, 2009 5:47 PM | Report abuse

Col. James Boydston Armstrong, formerly of Ohio who after the Civil War eventually found his way to Cloverdale, Calif., was a lifelong friend of Luther Burbank of Santa Rosa.

Heard a great program very recently on NPR's Science Friday about Burbank. Those little Shasta daisies I planted in my Texas front yard this spring--a Luther Burbank creation. :-)

Posted by: laloomis | May 27, 2009 5:47 PM | Report abuse

I'm a Catholic who grew up in the South, It might be one letter, but it's a world of difference.

Posted by: NoVAHockey | May 27, 2009 5:49 PM | Report abuse

Uh, yeah.

My point is that you could have six Catholic justices, two Buddhist monks and one stoned Pastafarian and the interests of WASPs will still be well represented. The lack of actual WASPS on the Supreme Court has not reduced their effectiveness in achieving their agenda. As I mentioned earlier, the presence of hyper-conservative Catholics has served the interests right wing evangelicals pretty well.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 27, 2009 5:50 PM | Report abuse

To give credit where credit is due, it was Lizzie Armstrong, the colonel's daughter, who spearheaded the drive to save the plot of land that is today's Armstrong Redwoods in Sonoma County.

Posted by: laloomis | May 27, 2009 5:50 PM | Report abuse

Tough Choices,

A year ago I went to a class regarding how the Courts in Germany failed the country during the Third Reich. One of the decisions mentioned was a judge who flat out contradicted the law to save a young man's life. (He ruled that because of the defendant's "contribution" to athletics he was to be spared the death penalty despite the fact the defendant was a marginal at best athlete and instead sentenced him to a labour camp.)

This judge was not coldly applying the law which would have meant the young man would have died. Instead, the judge used his reasoning, experience and power to spare a life as a man who knew that the law was wrong. The ultimate activist judge if you will.

Each judge who steps onto the bench has to learn what this judge learned-that mere application of the law to the facts does not always render justice and can in fact cause a grave injustice. If it was so, judges would not need to care why someone did something but merely that they did it. And we could replace all judges with a set of computers.

What she said was a bit much but no more than the truth-she will strive to be more but understands she cannot achieve it.

Posted by: emayrogers | May 27, 2009 5:55 PM | Report abuse

ToughChoices, I don't know if you're still here, but I thought about this on the drive home and I'd like to give it a shot. (Forgive me, Boodle denizens, as I drag out the topic.)

I don't believe it's strange to assume that people will have subconscious biases and subconscious prejudices no matter how hard they try to be impartial. This is human nature, really. We're going to be predisposed one way or another on any number of issues due to any number of life experiences we've had. Justices of course should strive for impartiality, but I think it's better to recognize that

Did Ms. Sotomayor say she thinks her female and Latina background will enable her to make better decisions (than she would have made if she had been a white male)? Can you give me a quote where she said this directly? I wonder if the real gist of her meaning was that the court's decisions will be enriched by adding her experiences (something I wouldn't disagree with). There's absolutely nothing wrong with white males, but there is something wrong with a Supreme Court composed almost entirely of white males when that's not the composition of this country. I'm not saying that we should intentionally stack the court so that it perfectly mirrors a US Census result; but all things being fair, shouldn't it end up looking like a representation of the country just by default?

Finally, you asked why you wouldn't want an all-white, all-male court if judges are indeed sometimes biased. Why would I not want a court full of young white southern women like me? My answer is, because it wouldn't be just. Because this country isn't made up completely of young white southern women, and a court like that may miss things only older, northern, western, male, black, latino, etc people would understand better. I can try to be as sympathetic as possible to men and people who aren't white, but there are things that only men and people who aren't white will be able to know and understand.

So I'm willing to give up the hypothetical advantage an all-white, all-female Supreme Court would give me so that everyone else has a fair shake.

Posted by: schala1 | May 27, 2009 6:09 PM | Report abuse

Whoops, sorry, I didn't finish a sentence up there:

"Justices of course should strive for impartiality, but I think it's better to recognize that" even they cannot be completely impartial.

Posted by: schala1 | May 27, 2009 6:11 PM | Report abuse

ftb, I will remind you I live a short distance from Toronto, should the Wings lose tonight suffice to say there will be no sympathy. Next you will be asking me to cheer for the Tigers :-)

Still crossing my fingers for a chance to cheer on the Hamilton Coyotes!

WASP/WASC like there is really a difference.

Posted by: dmd2 | May 27, 2009 6:22 PM | Report abuse

As interesting as this discussion has been, there is another major controversy that has been sadly overlooked by the boodle.

Really Veronica?

Posted by: dmd2 | May 27, 2009 6:25 PM | Report abuse

Who is buying Archie comics these days?

Posted by: TBG- | May 27, 2009 6:29 PM | Report abuse

dmd2, I was doing just fine on the rage-o-meter until that link. Veronica! Excuse me, I need to go have a lie-down.

Posted by: schala1 | May 27, 2009 6:30 PM | Report abuse

The same people that always have: ten-year-old girls.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 27, 2009 6:31 PM | Report abuse

dmd2: GO TIGERS!!!!!!!


Posted by: firsttimeblogger | May 27, 2009 6:36 PM | Report abuse

'Maters!!!! I got 'maters!!! One of my six tomato plants has two little greenies. The larger one is about the size of a marble, the other one half that. But by jiminy they be t'maters here!

*turning and running back into the bunker lickety-split, where I am halfway through totally replacing our master bedroom shower stall. The old one gave up the ghost this week and this afternoon we went to Lowe's a bought a new one for $300. So I am up to my eyeballs in tile drill bit dust and caulk and instructions written in seven languages, at least three of which seem to have no vowels. So I really couldn't give this boodle the umbrage it deserves. I am better off where I am*

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | May 27, 2009 6:40 PM | Report abuse

West Jefferson, FTB. Jefferson and West Jefferson. We haven't explored Jefferson, but there's an excellent barbeque place in West Jefferson and a country ham curing plant that produces The.Best.Country.Ham.Ever. That's the place I buy ham from for Mudge's morning ham biscuits.

The last time I went to the Outer Banks was when Elderdottir was 3 months old, almost 27 years ago. That area is much closer to DC than it is to Charlotte. Manteo is about an 8-hour drive from Charlotte, and US 64 is still mostly only 2 lanes.

Posted by: slyness | May 27, 2009 6:44 PM | Report abuse

Surely there's going to be some sort of "Graduate" moment to put the kibosh on THAT pairing!? Veronica?

Posted by: bobsewell | May 27, 2009 6:50 PM | Report abuse

Yello, I know an Archie fan who is male, non-native born, and who took Archie to represent the American teen dream-- chased by two girls at the same time?

Lets face it, riches over merit is so Archie, that shallow jerk.

Jughead'll wind up with Betty-- she can cook, and he can eat. That, or he winds up dating Moose.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | May 27, 2009 7:03 PM | Report abuse

Let's not even get started on the homoerotic subtext in Archie comics. Or why Jughead is the prototype for all comic stoners from Maynard G. Krebs to Shaggy.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 27, 2009 7:16 PM | Report abuse

For the record:

Betty Cooper
Mary Anne
Betty Rubble

Posted by: yellojkt | May 27, 2009 7:18 PM | Report abuse

Good points, schala1 and *Tim, especially re: fairness.

Aside from claiming to have slept at a Holiday Inn last night, I was married to an historian for 14 years, I've known and lived among dozens of fine history professors, had them over for weekly BBQs and filet at graduation dinners, cocktail parties, departmental functions, impromptu iced tea on the back deck, conferences and research trips. I can't think of a good one who thinks that any judgment is unbiased or totally unrelated to one's past. It's why historiography exists. Kind of like judges or anybody who's self-aware.

Okay, okay! Off to bed--Dublin calls early. Have a good night, Al. Tomorrow the braces come off my teeth, I'm only working half a day and theoretically have Friday and Monday off. Maybe I'll finally get the planting done.

Posted by: -dbG- | May 27, 2009 7:22 PM | Report abuse

For once, the cavernous space between my ears returned a relevant factoid all on its own -- Archie's adventures were based on happenings in the small mill city where I was born, and just across the state line from where I was raised.

Hey there, schala and emayrogers and capsfan77 and nebreklaw and all!! *perky Grover waves*


Posted by: Scottynuke | May 27, 2009 7:32 PM | Report abuse

S-nuke - Let us not forget ToughChoices, who was being intentionally provocative, but was trying to make a logically defensible point, and was reasonably civil in the face of some retaliatory provocation.

[How dare you silly kids make me have to remind you that gratuitously bringing up the Third Reich, even if only to accuse the opponent of historical ignorance, is, well, silly!]

[[And tiresome, and unproductive, and...]]

Posted by: bobsewell | May 27, 2009 7:45 PM | Report abuse

I'm totally unbiased and have no hidden agendas. All my values are the correct ones. Vote for me, George Tirebiter. Sector R.

Posted by: Jumper1 | May 27, 2009 7:52 PM | Report abuse

I always wondered why the condom company didn't pick up THAT mascot once the college retired him!

Posted by: bobsewell | May 27, 2009 7:56 PM | Report abuse

TBG, EYE am exceptionally perky this evening, which may well spill over here.

Posted by: Yoki | May 27, 2009 7:59 PM | Report abuse

*spreading a little extra Sorbitol in the bunker in case of spilled perkiness*

Forget who, Bob S.?


Posted by: Scottynuke | May 27, 2009 8:02 PM | Report abuse

I once met, in a professional capacity, someone who sold Trojans on a massive scale (like, Thailand) for a living.

He handed out his business card on a prodigious scale. "Best. Networking. Device. Ever." is how he described it.

Posted by: Yoki | May 27, 2009 8:04 PM | Report abuse

For those who need a bit more George Tirebiter, there's always:

"Don't Crush that Dwarf, Hand me the Pliers"

Posted by: bobsewell | May 27, 2009 8:08 PM | Report abuse

Oh, and a further Midnight update...

He's just too darn sweet. Literally. At least now I get to return all those punctures he's administered to my legs in the past. :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | May 27, 2009 8:24 PM | Report abuse

Yay! Scotty, that's great! A treatable illness. Wheeeeee!

Posted by: Yoki | May 27, 2009 8:25 PM | Report abuse

Lick sugar kitty
Black tail's sweet as licorice,
Paws dainty as roses--


Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | May 27, 2009 8:31 PM | Report abuse

I was going to flag the Godwin's Law violation earlier, but I decided to let the game play. I'm like a referee in the last quarter of Game 7 of the NBA finals.

I had no idea you were from Riverdale. My mother is from nearby Merrimac.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 27, 2009 8:35 PM | Report abuse

Small world, yello, small world... *L*

Posted by: Scottynuke | May 27, 2009 8:38 PM | Report abuse

SciTim writes, "By golly, I finally noticed the crux of the misinterpretation problem -- Sotomayor said that acknowledging her own identity would make her a better judge. Not better than other judges, but a better judge than she otherwise would be. She was speaking of improving herself as a judge, not speaking of her superiority to other judges. Jeeze."

Indeed. Think of all the umbrage that could be avoided if people weren't so inclined to view everything from an "I'm-better-than-you" perspective, or a "So-you-think-you're-better-than-me!" perspective.

"True nobility isn't about being better than someone else. It's about being better than you used to be."

-- Wayne Dyer

Posted by: -Dreamer- | May 27, 2009 8:40 PM | Report abuse

Scottynuke, at least you know what's going on with that swingin' cat now and how to tweet it.

Er, I mean *treat* it. And I'm pretty sure you don't have a Twitter account.

An interesting day in here from both the Classic Boodlers and the Topical link-followers. Interesting arguments about the composition of individual SC Justices -- or any *judges,* for that matter. Should they be sexless beige robots, flesh and blood humans, or someone/thing in the middle?

And is it fair to consider the composition of the Supreme Court as a whole in considering individuals to serve as Justices?

For about the thousandth time since January 20, I do not wish for President Obama's job. Though I see that his text messages are far nicer than the ones I usually get.


Posted by: -bc- | May 27, 2009 8:47 PM | Report abuse

Dreamer - That's a great quote from Dyer. I'll work on it.

Posted by: bobsewell | May 27, 2009 9:07 PM | Report abuse

re: the Tirebiter link above - I long ago stopped trying to sell anyone on the Firesign Theater. Definitely not everyone's cup o' chai. But for (for them what's interested) a bit of background, and some plot explication, I offer:

Posted by: bobsewell | May 27, 2009 9:25 PM | Report abuse

A vaguely on-boodle comic...;_ylt=AhyzNEANnVhvr11wscFc3bbV.i8C

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | May 27, 2009 9:27 PM | Report abuse

More coffee Warden?

Bob, I've been a devoted Firesigner ever since, well, 1968. Waiting for the Electrician, or Someone Like Him. But my fav is "Not Insane, or Anything You Want" (1972), the great Shakespeare riff.

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | May 27, 2009 9:44 PM | Report abuse

One of the commenters seemed so certain of his own unquestionable lack of any bias, and his own Jovian certitude, that it reminded me of the world Tirebiter lived in.

Posted by: Jumper1 | May 27, 2009 9:57 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod - More than vaguely. Nice!

Posted by: bobsewell | May 27, 2009 10:00 PM | Report abuse

This will be everywhere soon. It's in Salon right now.
"Because when a case comes before me involving, let's say, someone who is an immigrant -- and we get an awful lot of immigration cases and naturalization cases -- I can't help but think of my own ancestors, because it wasn't that long ago when they were in that position.

"And so it's my job to apply the law. It's not my job to change the law or to bend the law to achieve any result.

"But when I look at those cases, I have to say to myself, and I do say to myself, "You know, this could be your grandfather, this could be your grandmother. They were not citizens at one time, and they were people who came to this country." (his confirmation hearing)

Darn his empathy!

Posted by: Jumper1 | May 27, 2009 10:02 PM | Report abuse

Jumper - I got it, loved it, and (far too often) resemble it.


Posted by: bobsewell | May 27, 2009 10:02 PM | Report abuse

I refer, of course, to my Jovian certitude, not my extraordinary empathy.

Posted by: bobsewell | May 27, 2009 10:10 PM | Report abuse

I've always said you were very Jovial, Bob.

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | May 27, 2009 10:13 PM | Report abuse

Reminds me of Holst.

Posted by: Yoki | May 27, 2009 10:21 PM | Report abuse

YAYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!! Red Wings just won in overtime. Next up, the Penguins. Just like last year. And I hope we beat 'em. Just like last year. Stanley -- nice name, eh?

Snuke -- great to hear that Midnight's ailment is treatable. Purr that lovely cat some gratefulness from me, too.

Hey, Yoki! You wear your perkiness awesomely.

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | May 27, 2009 10:27 PM | Report abuse

I've only back boodled through the first 50 comments, so forgive me if this has been asked before, but doesn't anyone realize that "empathy" doesn't mean taking a side? If anything, a truly empathetic person could find within herself the capacity to understand both sides.

I now return you to your regular exchange of jabs and witticisms while I finish catching up.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | May 27, 2009 10:29 PM | Report abuse

Love this cover of Stevie Nicks 'Landslide'

It's by Smashing Pumpkins

Posted by: omnigood | May 27, 2009 10:32 PM | Report abuse

Ommms! Yer back! (Missed yer quizes.)

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | May 27, 2009 10:43 PM | Report abuse

The reality is that the vast majority of the country doesn't give a flying f' to what the Cheney/(I need a constant) Rush conservatives think or say. They are Irrelevant.

Posted by: dogsbestfriend | May 27, 2009 10:46 PM | Report abuse

*icing down a sixer of Old Style for ftb*
The better team won. Well done. Have mercy...

Posted by: -jack- | May 27, 2009 10:59 PM | Report abuse

s'nuke!!!! Such a relief. The frostcats send Midnight some kitty lovins.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | May 27, 2009 10:59 PM | Report abuse

Achenblog, I will cherish your words during the tsunami of insults and racism and misogyny about to buffet Judge Sotomayor.

Posted by: coqui44 | May 27, 2009 11:01 PM | Report abuse

alright! omni! where's the quiz?

Posted by: -jack- | May 27, 2009 11:02 PM | Report abuse

Mediocre?! Mediocre would have been the dearly forgotten Alberto Gonzalez who came within a whisker of being nominated by his good bud GW. I suppose we must give "some" credit to the Republican base who either saw thru the Gonzo capability scale or could not bring themselves to accept a Hispanic. All in all, I think we got lucky, Alito notwithstanding.

Posted by: mendonsa | May 27, 2009 11:03 PM | Report abuse

and kitty lovins to s'nuke and nukespouse for vigilance and swift medical attention
-the frostcats

Posted by: frostbitten1 | May 27, 2009 11:03 PM | Report abuse

After reading this, I have half a notion to head to the laundry room, break out the pressure cooker and Ball jars, and test my canning aptitudes. With socks. For posterity, of course.

Posted by: -jack- | May 27, 2009 11:10 PM | Report abuse

watya get wen ya cross a donky widda a Boodle?

Posted by: omnigood | May 27, 2009 11:11 PM | Report abuse

Oops, that was a major BooBoo.

Asked for a quiz, and I give ya a Booed Riddle.

'Ave at it any hoo...

Posted by: omnigood | May 27, 2009 11:18 PM | Report abuse

Ummm... a sphincter?

Posted by: -jack- | May 27, 2009 11:21 PM | Report abuse

Welcome dogsbestfriend,
Are you a tasty steak bone
Or expert petter?


Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | May 27, 2009 11:25 PM | Report abuse

An Achenburro?

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | May 27, 2009 11:29 PM | Report abuse

A mule with a big doily on his ass?

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | May 27, 2009 11:31 PM | Report abuse

omnigood, so good to see you back in here, sir.

I think I know the answer to your riddle: is it -- me?


Posted by: -bc- | May 27, 2009 11:34 PM | Report abuse

finished with the shower, mudge? Tough job.
I went to the doc yesterday for the first pre-op, and gave them permission to do surgery. In a worst case scenario, they give me a dose of radioactive iodine. That scenario will keep the rest of the family has away from the loo until I cease to be radioactive. HehHeh. I'm bound for super powers.

Posted by: -jack- | May 27, 2009 11:38 PM | Report abuse

The VW will transform into the Batmobile.

Posted by: -jack- | May 27, 2009 11:40 PM | Report abuse

"I would hope that a wise white man with the richness of his experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than an Hispanic man who hasn't lived that life."

What if Obama's SCOTUS nominee said that? No matter how much of an "outsider" he was, no matter how many kids made fun of him once upon a time, or how awkward it was for him to go to the Ivy Leagues, I bet you wouldn't support him.

Let's recognize Sotomayor for what she is: Someone who believes not in the universality of law or of human experience, but one who has a decidedly racialist notion of the world, and of the law. How will this understanding of the law affect her opinions? How will it affect America and its future as a nation based on objective laws that are equal for all, regardless of skin color?

She's a racist -- you'd be surprised, but non-white people can fit that bill as well. Unfortunately, when we confuse identity politics and the highest court, we're treading down a dangerous slope. I hope you're comfortable with your sentiments here in the years to come, Achenbach.

Posted by: itchy1 | May 27, 2009 11:46 PM | Report abuse

Doodle was what I was thinking, but yourall answers make me laugh...thanks

This is your quiz...define the following

1 scoriae
2 feculae
3 musmons
4 tufa
5 ciacatrization
6 battue
7 horripilations
8 febrifuge
9 succedaneum
10 ci-devant
11 chef-d'oeuvres
12 mobils in mobile
13 chaplets
14 onager
15 lenticular
16 pediment
17 ebbulition
18 antifebrelie
19 rinforcando
20 keelson
21 fuliginous

According to spell check I got 7 words spelled correctly. 13 are incorrect, not counting the latin.

for extra credit ... name the book!

hey ... you asked or it!

you were expecting a link to something easy?

Posted by: omnigood | May 28, 2009 12:00 AM | Report abuse

itchy, go scratch

Posted by: omnigood | May 28, 2009 12:05 AM | Report abuse

oops, sorry for the incitation


Posted by: omnigood | May 28, 2009 12:12 AM | Report abuse

Well, I just copied all the words into Google (all at once) and got no hits. That's it for me.

'night, all. Good to see you again, Omni. Good luck tomorrow, Jack.

Posted by: Wheezy11 | May 28, 2009 12:23 AM | Report abuse

reminder: This is mosquito weather, so close the windows without screens and remember the bug repellant if yo go out at dusk

Posted by: omnigood | May 28, 2009 12:30 AM | Report abuse

Itchy...way not fair, but good try. You made some leaps there that might blipped over if someone weren't paying that close attention....

There's the whole second paragraph there. What's your point? All other things being equal? But all other things aren't equal. An exercise in futility standing on it's aren't gonna find out if your guess is correct, and even if you could, chances are your guess wouldn't even be close. (And it's not darts. Or is it hand grenades? Horseshoes? I digress.)

Then there's the way you use the word racist. Define that word. Seems to me that you're saying being proud of one's heritage, being aware of it's advantages and disadvantages, is by definition racist. That's not the defition of that word, and I'm betting I can find (without really looking) people of Greek, African-America, Irish, Italian, Asian, etc heritage who would argue the point with you. Vehemently.

I think the point is that *because of the importance of heritage* in her life and her awareness of how hers differed, she will be better able to intellectually evaluate those issues before her with an eye toward adjusting for ethnocentricy. And really, wouldn't this world be a whole lot better place if everyone tried to adjust for that? Don't you think the Supremes should have at least one person whose synapses fire like that?

Ridiculously, it's time for me to go look at more paperwork. And I need new glasses. Happy dreams all.

To everything there is a season. One day, someone studying this will think we're all just silly rubes.

Itchy...way not fair. You made some pretty impressive leaps there.

There's the whole second paragraph there. What's your point? All other things being equal? But all other things aren't equal. An exercise in futility standing on it's ain't gonna find out.

Then there's the way you use the word racist. Define that word. Seems to me that you're saying being proud of one's heritage is by definition racist. That's a skewed interpretation of the word, and I'm betting I can find (without really looking) people of Greek, African-America, Irish, Italian, Asian, etc decendants who would argue the point with you. Vehemently.

I think the point is that *because of the importance of heritage* in her life, she will be better able to intellectually evaluate those issues before her with an eye toward adjusting for ethnocentricy. And really, wouldn't this country be a whole lot better place if everyone tried to adjust for that? Don't you think the Supremes should have at least one person like that?

To everything there is a season. One day, someone studying this will thik we're all just silly rubes.

Posted by: LostInThought | May 28, 2009 12:38 AM | Report abuse

Oh my gosh. Way bad. I raelly do need an opthomoligist. Tomorrow would probably be good.

Posted by: LostInThought | May 28, 2009 12:39 AM | Report abuse

You made sense even with your sore eyes, LiT.

Yeah, I'm sick of too many people assuming THEY are the American way today.

Nary a single one of them has proposed an equally or more suitable candidate for the SCOTUS, I notice.

She seems to have a jurispendence doctrine that is compatible with Obama's focus on social justice, and abundant experience on the bench.

I think in that regard she is a good first choice. Completely unobjectionable on the basis of her resume.

Ruth Ann Ginsberg she ain't.

Of course, that leaves only one choice for the opposition-- to sling mud at her nonstop and hope some of it sticks.

Go and find something concrete, boys and girls, and we'll discuss it.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | May 28, 2009 2:03 AM | Report abuse

This is one very intelligent lady who should have be the first woman in the Supreme Court :

Posted by: rainforest1 | May 28, 2009 2:43 AM | Report abuse

SCC : have been...

Posted by: rainforest1 | May 28, 2009 2:46 AM | Report abuse

'morning all. The SCOTUS discussion carried on into the night, interesting that. I suspect Obama will have to name one, maybe 2 other judges so remember this discussion, it will be repeated.
We had about an inch of rain yesterday and more is in the forecast. An embarrassment of riches, really.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | May 28, 2009 6:58 AM | Report abuse

Can you send some of that rain Shriek, rained all around us but not where I live - we received just a tiny amount. Quite dry here.

Posted by: dmd2 | May 28, 2009 7:10 AM | Report abuse

This is way off topic but perhaps the readers of this 1457 magazine? would have been boodle commentators if they could.

Posted by: dmd2 | May 28, 2009 7:25 AM | Report abuse

*rubbin' mah puffy eyes after all dat kitty lovin'* :-)

Dawn Patrol was particularly muggy, but otherwise uneventful. The day, however, has suddenly become complex, dangit.

*wondering-where-that-holiday-weekend-went-so-darn-quickly Grover waves* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | May 28, 2009 7:27 AM | Report abuse

Cool 1457 Cosmo magazine, although I was hoping to find some instructions for how to properly wash my hair shirt.

Posted by: TBG- | May 28, 2009 7:35 AM | Report abuse

Wonder if Mudge worked for that mag?

Posted by: dmd2 | May 28, 2009 7:40 AM | Report abuse

Morning all... got total confirmation this morning that Daughter is truly the offspring of my husband.

DNA test? No... more definitive than that... she didn't feel well this morning but wouldn't stay home from school today because she didn't want to miss dissecting the fetal pig in Biology.

Posted by: TBG- | May 28, 2009 7:41 AM | Report abuse

TBG, tell me she doesn't have... :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | May 28, 2009 7:54 AM | Report abuse

Ha! No! That would be funny... kind of.

Nah... just a headache from getting very little sleep last night. They've just finished their big round of standardized tests (so aptly named the SOLs), so I'm actually surprised they are still learning.

Three more weeks of school.

Posted by: TBG- | May 28, 2009 8:02 AM | Report abuse

Made me laugh, TBG. Isn't it funny when some absolutely undiluted characteristic of one parent pops up in the little buggers?

I'm glad your daughter is still learning, impressive. My son has a full blown case of senioritis. After his last AP test he seems to have disabused himself of the notion that he has any responsibilities at school. Except the video project with his runnin' buddies, of course. I sat next to his AP English teacher at the Coldplay concert last week and she assures me that he hasn't burned his bridges.

Speaking of Coldplay, the amphitheater near me had a special on lawn tickets for $10 dollars, so we decided to go. The concert was worth so much more than that. It was one of the best concerts I've seen. They had a small stage set up in the lawn and ran out and played 4 songs on that stage and we were right at the foot of it. Fun! I wasn't a particular Coldplay fan before, but I am now.

Scotty -didn't go far enough back to see what was wrong with your kitty, but I'm glad she's better. I'm going backboodle now to see how much trolling was going on about Sotomayor.

I liked the kit, btw, excellent.

Posted by: Kim1 | May 28, 2009 8:21 AM | Report abuse

Fetal pig? Man, in my day all we got were some stinkin' crayfish. (Seriously. The formaldehyde made my eyes water.)

Although, in truth, even cutting into that lowly arthropod made me kinda queasy.

Speaking of learning, this fellow shows the kind of intellectual honesty that I fear is missing from some conservative critics.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | May 28, 2009 8:22 AM | Report abuse

Dissecting a Fetal Pig is NOTHING!!! What I want to see is a class dissect a mature living pig with the same instruments. If you could do that, then I would be impressed.

Posted by: russianthistle | May 28, 2009 8:22 AM | Report abuse

RD, what I would love to do today is get together to dissect a couple soft shell Callinectes sapidus ... that have been properly prepared for research.

Posted by: russianthistle | May 28, 2009 8:25 AM | Report abuse

Indeed RT. But with less formaldehyde and a lot more Ale.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | May 28, 2009 8:27 AM | Report abuse

Good morning!

First off, I wish to extend my gratitude to Jack for his very sweet gesture after the Red Wings won last night. I did think of you, Jack, throughout the series. Now we gotta knock down a buncha Penguins. Also, to Jack, an abundance of healing karma is being faxed to you as we speak. And there's more where that came from.

When I was in high school, wayyyyy back in the last century, our dissection series in biology involved frogs. I didn't like it much, gotta admit. A friend of mine who is a physician out in California, went to medical school at Ohio State. I visited her when she was in her first year, taking anatomy. Now, this is when they work on cadavers. I went with her to class and to the lab. I must say, that I felt a combination of ookiness and fascination. You really, really have to divorce and detach yourself from any feelings at all surrounding the person who embodied the body (so to speak) in front of you. That might be the most difficult part -- or maybe it would be for me. OMG!!!! I think I just caught that EMPATHY bug. Oh, s**t! Is there a vaccine? Cripes!

*peals of laughter*

I am struck by the lack of any humor in the more fulminating postings of yesterday. Makes me laugh.

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | May 28, 2009 9:23 AM | Report abuse

Ah, history...and its details...

ftb, yesterday, in her 2:37 p.m.:

Why should 9 white male justices not automatically consider the white male's case "better" than the case of, for example, slavery of blacks, voting rights for women, internment of persons of Japanese descent (American citizens all!) during WWII...

LL: The practice of slavery certainly predated the history of the United States, by many centuries. White men? Not always... as this science article at the NYT yesterday points out, slavery mentioned in conjunction with the likely origin within and spread of leprosy from India... and, at the end of the reporting, women imported on slave ships from India to Egypt, carrying leprosy aboard the vessels.

Before the U.S. Supreme Court, 1857, Dred Scott v. Sandford, and in 1896, the Plessy case on the subject of separate but equal, although the Constitution had been altered by the 13th Amendment in 1865 to abolish slavery.

Voting rights for women? Wyoming was one of the first states giving women the right to vote in 1869, for religious and poitical regions, as I've pointed out earlier, some time before the Constitutional amendment came along in 1920. In 1874-5, a Constitutional challenge in Myner v.Happerstett, a claim dismissed out-of-hand by the court that women have the right to sufferage.

As for the internment of Japanese during WWII, FDR's Executive Order 9066 was actually a follow-on to an opinion expressed by then-California Attorney General who believed that Japanese-Americans should be evacuated from the West Coast. Warren later became SCOTUS' Chief Justice, appointed in a legislative recess by Eisenhower. In 1944's Korematsu v. United Sates, the Supreme Court, in a 6-3 decision, sided with the government and ruled the exclusion order was constitutional.

Posted by: laloomis | May 28, 2009 9:40 AM | Report abuse

'Morning, Boodle.

Actually, dmd, yes, I *did* work for that magazine back in 1457. And yes, it was called Cosmopolitanus. The editor was a former prioress, Helena Gurleyae Fusca, and she was quite a formidible woman editor in her day, pioneering a great number of techniques and features that later became quite commonplace and imitated by others.

For instance, Fusca paid a lot of attention to the cover, and had a crack staff of illuminators who usually featured a drawing of a good-looking young woman on the cover dressed in a cassock or a milkmaid's outfit. Then the scribes would write story headlines and teasers around and sometimes over the model. These were the things that Fusca herself led the way in developing, with headlines such as:

"Is the Red Death the New Black Death?"

"What Every Serving Wench Needs to Know About Coit us Inter ruptus."

"15 Tricks to Drive Your Squire Wild."

"Cellulite: Not Just for the Rubenesque."

"Bosch's 'Garden of Earthly Delights': Haunting Vision or Just an Average Weekend at Bernie de Medici's?"

"Finger Foods for Summer Picnics (Remember, We Haven't Invented Utensils Yet)."

"Don't Point That Finger at Me, Big Boy: David Bromstad Critiques the New Cistine Chaple Ceiling."

"Flaying With Bobbie Grill."

"Penitence on Parade: Self-Flagellation Comes Out of the Closet."

"Droit du Seigneur: One Toke Over the Line?"

and many more.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | May 28, 2009 9:49 AM | Report abuse

However, I do feel uncomfortable about the New Haven case. Since, I would wager, not one of us has seen the test and its various components, that was given to Connecticut firefighters, I would think that we would withhold opinions. Because the crux is the test and its fairness in measuring what it's purported to measure--firefighting skills and knowledge, and leadership ability.

I'm more inclined to agree with NYT's David Brooks' opinion given one or two Sundays ago on George S.'s program. If certain individuals with ethnic groups are incapable of achieving suitable or passing scores on a test, then it's incumbent on us to empower these individuals to achieve and obtain the skills necessarty to compete. Vastly improved schools--better curriculums, better educational assessment, no (social) promotions without competency, huge increases in parental involvement in education. No excuses, no victim mentality. And promotion based on merit, not skin color or ethnicity.

Posted by: laloomis | May 28, 2009 9:53 AM | Report abuse

Yesterday was the day for my HS daughter to dissect a cat. The feline weighed almost 40 pounds. As she put it - "Dad, the teacher gave us a panther to cut apart!"

I remember doing a nightcrawler back in the day. Jasper has 4 hearts.

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | May 28, 2009 9:58 AM | Report abuse

Mudge!!! You know how I love history ... so, I must very much thank you for making me explode with deep chortling with your most wonderful 9:49.

Ah, and for the rest of the 9:40's I must just let it pass. Somewhere on Amazon there is a copy of "David Brooks for Dummies."

Posted by: russianthistle | May 28, 2009 10:14 AM | Report abuse

You've outdone yourself, Mudge. I'm grinning.
Hope Slyness (and all, really) sees the excellent Rainforest recommendation (reposted here:)

Posted by: Jumper1 | May 28, 2009 10:25 AM | Report abuse

One last note... AP blurb in WashPost...

The job market is far from healthy _ the number of people continuing to receive unemployment benefits rose to a new record. Investors were also disappointed by an outlook issued by consumer products maker Procter & Gamble, and hesitant ahead of new home sales data scheduled for 10 a.m. Eastern time.

"We still have headwinds ahead, in terms of the housing market going down," said Michael Sheldon, chief market strategist at RDM Financial Group. "And we don't know how high the unemployment rate is going to peak. But for now, investors continue to focus on the positives."

Economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters forecast that sales of new homes rose in April for the second straight month.

New claims are in the range of 620K to 630K with an economy which is not hiring at anything close to that rate. Remember that we add a seasonally adjusted 150K workers a month on top of that number that will be looking for their first job or re-entering the workforce.

Previous experience would suggest that we are about 6 months away from a reversal of employment numbers. Hate to be doom and gloom, but there is A LOT riding on the GM deal.

The fear we all have is that any improvement in the national numbers will be through folks falling off the 'backside' of their benefits.

Posted by: russianthistle | May 28, 2009 10:28 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: Yoki | May 28, 2009 10:28 AM | Report abuse

A friend emailed me that he picked up Richard Nisbett’s new book, Intelligence and How to Get It.

(I'm skeptical and wrote him this:)
"'Intelligence' can be defined so many ways I distrust the
concept. Hardly any researcher defines it as something they
personally don't possess in superior quantities. I think you can
break it down into lots of subroutines:
processing speed
sensory evaluation
interest or attention
experience or practice
affinity for language
'people reading'
any of which can be present in lesser or greater amounts in any
given individual."

I looked for some criticism on the net and found some positive. The negative comes from groups such as various White League type organizations.

Posted by: Jumper1 | May 28, 2009 10:39 AM | Report abuse

WhackyWeasel, let me say - from my own High School experiences - that should students discover the on-site storage locaton of said freeze-dried felines over the last weeks of school, Bad Things Will Happen.

Sheesh. [bc shaking his head at the memories]

I wonder how much of this consternation over Ms. Sotomayor's nomination has simply to do with Fear of the Other, as it did with the campaign and election of the man that's nominating her.

And the ideas that fairness and interpretations of the Law may take different forms, based on differing perspectives.

I guess that some people may be afraid of this (it *is* change which puts the Other in a position of power in some peoples' minds, after all), others welcome it.


Posted by: -bc- | May 28, 2009 10:45 AM | Report abuse

From the home page:

"Time Warner to Spin Off AOL
Lagging Internet unit would continue to operate as an independent, publicly traded company."

I detect a bit of rose-colored glasses optimism there... :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | May 28, 2009 10:52 AM | Report abuse

New Kit!!! :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | May 28, 2009 10:53 AM | Report abuse

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