Saturday, July 11, 2009

Making Negatives Out of Positives in Sotomayor's Rulings

By most accounts Judge Sonia Sotomayor has a well-qualified resume. Except from conservative ideologues, she brings broad support to her confirmation hearings. Nevertheless, as the hearings approach, the Washington Post's Jerry Markon weighs in. And it appears he's trying hard to turn positives into negatives.

I’d like to ask: Since when is thoroughness a liability? If you're the Democratic nominee for the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor. In a recent Washington Post article, Jerry Markon purports to analyze Sotomayor’s rulings. Said, Markon, she “delivered those rulings with a level of detail considered unusual for an appellate judge.” She has made herself an expert on a number of issues. However, we are told she does a “granular” analysis of every piece of evidence. How very wrong of her (snark)!

When it comes to analysis, I might question that done by the author—and his main source, So. Carolina political scientist, Donald Songer. First, he used a database of 5400 cases with labels of “liberal” or conservative,” depending on whether one ruled for the defendant (“liberal”) or the prosecutor “conservative”). Think about this: The operational definition here is strikingly stereotypical, and ideological itself. If one's operational definition is flawed, the research cannot show what the researcher claims it does.

Whether one rules for or against a defendant should have nothing to do with whether one is a liberal or conservative judge. And labeling a judge so means nothing, except politics. And what this prejudice (and is a prejudice) suggests is that those who believe such a thing cannot afford a defendant a fair trial. But from this operational definition and "analysis," Songer says “I don’t think it’s possible to classify her as tough on crime.” But being tough on crime does not mean that every prosecutor is right. It has nothing whatever to do with which side one finds for. But that is one way “tough on crime” politicians have tried to hijack our legal system. We want our prosecutors to enforce the law by bringing criminals to trial. But don’t’ we expect them to play by the rules? And if they do not, don’t we expect the courts to deal appropriately with prosecutors who don’t follow the law, or who violate due process? Don't we expect the process of the trial to be examined on appeal? Not everyone expects that, of course. For some are concerned, you can hear almost hear the derision of “technicalities” as justification for retrial. But there's more...

In one paragraph, the author makes sure to mention she supported the First Amendment. Isn’t that what all justices must do?

When she threw out one case to set free a convicted murderer, she is dissed by the WAPO writer because she didn’t base her ruling on his guilt but on the appropriateness of the charge he was brought up on. I am not a lawyer, but isn’t serving as arbiter of the process a primary task of the appellate level?

Of particular note, Republicans were furious when Sotomayor handed out a federally mandated minimum sentence, but simultaneously railed that the guidelines are an abomination. She explained later that her ire came from an aspect of the guidelines that Congress has now changed. But that's no excuse (snark!).

In another study reported on NPR this morning (story not available online till later today), she actually convicted more often than her peers, AND she gave longer sentences for both white collar and other criminal violations. But our intrepid WAPO reporter doesn’t see fit to use such considerations. There’s a frame to be made.

Despite the fact that the writer acknowledges that “Her decisions are filled with citations of law and precedent,” he hangs around her neck the infamous “court sets policy" bruh-ha-ha), which she has clarified. But it is a fact that the appellate court does address how court cases should be tried (policy for that). The author also rips Sotomayor for obsessively immersing herself in facts, and then cites a fellow Democratic appointee who criticizes Sotomayor for "disregarding the judges "role as finder-of-facts."

Then the author says her style is "consistent" even when she finds against defendants. With bias and a negative frame such as Markon's, she cannot win. Honestly, this is how to smear and take apart a candidate, inch-by-inch. There’s more at the above link (ad nauseum). Suffice it to say, Mr. Markon was out to find in the negative for Sotomayor. And that’s mostly what he did. No lemonade from lemons here, only rotten lemons, faulty assumptions, and a biased case.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Sarah Palin Was Allegedly AWOL from her Governorship, But Claims Higher Calling

Sarah Palin was allegedly AWOL from her governorship, but claims a "higher calling ." Thus begins the newest excuse for playing hooky and then resigning her job as governor of Alaska. She's only nominally served two of the 2.5 years because much of 2008 was focused on national ambitions. She was laying the groundwork before August 2008. Indeed all of that seemed more important than staying home to safely deliver the her latest child.

Among all the other curiosities concerning the bizarre departure announcement by Sarah Palin is this: She’s not been all that engaged in her job anyway. According to MSNBC, Sarah Palin had “gone fishing.”

So, what of this "higher calling”? Is she trying to tell us (ala GWB) that "God" whispered in her ear? God also ate her homework, apparently. Palin claims this "higher calling" to unite the country along conservative lines. So now God wants the country to be run according to conservative lines. Evidently, Palin doesn’t know what the Bible really says about humility, much less the poor, the meek, the hungry. And, btw, perhaps God takes a dim view of loading your selves up with designer clothing from a shopping spree on someone else's dime (or rather $150,000).

In the last few months, Palin had laid the groundwork for a possible presidential run, establishing a political action committee, SarahPAC. She has a very lucrative (especially for someone who is not all that literate) book deal. Of course, she has a co-writer. And she is moving forward to whatever she is up to.

The recent Vanity Fair piece here shows the extent of her unpredictable, even erratic, behavior. It’s a sobering look at one who could have sat in the second highest office in this country. Our nation's near-peril was trifled with by a GOP which ironically only wanted to win and reflexively dismissed the larger issue of fitness to serve.

What is once again evident is that far too many people fail to vote with a grasp of the facts, knowledge of candidate inconsistencies and fabrications, and fitness for office. Too many were and are willing to fall into line if their buttons are pushed and the right ideological buzzwords uttered. It’s a frightening thought and not at all comforting as we await the Barracuda's next move.

The responsibility for the crisis belongs with candidates such as John McCain, who don’t thoroughly vet their choices; with candidates such as Sarah Palin, who care more about power and little about serving the public; and with the voters who vote for senseless candidates because they think she is “Godly” or “pro-life” or a “values” candidate, when she really none of these. Her notion of valuing "life" is so one-dimensional it would be laughable if it weren't so appalling.

When citizens fail their precious duty, to vote with knowledge and thoughtfulness, we become our nation's gravest hazard. The sad thing --and the outrageous thing--is we had just been there, with a know nothing and no-nothing George W. Bush. Along with his VP he formed a two-person wrecking crew. How soon we forget?

In her repeated tantrums, her anger, her fulminating at the media, she saw everyone else as to blame. And it becomes clear that, sadly, Sarah Palin cares only about herself. That is her legacy (to herself). America will have to, must, look elsewhere. But in Evansville, IN, this spring, Sarah Palin brought out thousands to the local civic center. We write off this dangerous political figure at our--and our nation's-- peril.