Thursday, May 28, 2009

Obama's SCOTUS nominee

Sonia Sotomayor, President Barack Obama's nominee for the Supreme Court, "has an inflated opinion of herself" and is "kind of a bully on the bench."

That view doesn't come from a conservative -- it's the view expressed by a former clerk for a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, where Sotomayor now serves, to Jeffrey Rosen, legal affairs editor for The New Republic. The New Republic is a decidedly liberal publication -- but the magazine published a harsh portrait of the new Obama nominee three weeks ago, when she was being mentioned as a contender for the Court post.

Rosen's article, headlined "The Case Against Sotomayor," also noted that he had spoken to a range of people who have worked with Sotomayor. Rosen wrote: "Most are Democrats and all of them want President Obama to appoint a judicial star of the highest intellectual caliber who has the potential to change the direction of the court.

"Nearly all of them acknowledged that Sotomayor is a presumptive front-runner, but nearly none of them raved about her. They expressed questions about her temperament, her judicial craftsmanship, and most of all, her ability to provide an intellectual counterweight to the conservative justices, as well as a clear liberal alternative.

"The most consistent concern was that Sotomayor, although an able lawyer, was 'not that smart and kind of a bully on the bench,' as one former Second Circuit clerk for another judge put it. 'She has an inflated opinion of herself, and is domineering during oral arguments, but her questions aren't penetrating and don't get to the heart of the issue.'"

Rosen added: "Her opinions, although competent, are viewed by former prosecutors as not especially clean or tight, and sometimes miss the forest for the trees."

Even's Glenn Greenwald, who defends Sotomayor, cites some of her less-than-praiseworthy behavior in court. Greenwald writes that he remembers, "... she was very assertive and aggressive - at times unpleasantly so - in how she presided over her courtroom. "In the first case I had with her ... I committed some sort of substantial procedural mistake ... and she very harshly excoriated me in a courtroom packed with lawyers from other cases. I certainly did not enjoy that, and at the time harbored negative sentiments towards her (who wouldn't?), but that behavior - for judges - is the opposite of uncommon."

The most controversial case in which Sotomayor participated as an appellate judge is Ricci v. DeStefano. She sided with the city of New Haven, Conn., in a discrimination case that white firefighters brought after the city threw out results of a promotion exam because too few minorities scored high enough.



America is re-segregating

Sotomayor wasn't chosen solely for her liberal judicial philosophy, although that was a prerequisite. She was chosen for her status as a Latina woman. As Stuart Taylor of National Journal writes, "If Republicans attack Judge Sotomayor's more controversial actions, they risk provoking a backlash among Hispanic voters, who have already been moving into the Democratic column in droves.” Following on the heels of President Obama's election, which was largely about his status as a black man, we have entered a period in which politics is becoming more, not less, racial in nature.

With the election of Obama, many Americans believed that racial polarization in the country was over. White Americans in particular assumed that Obama's election would be a transformative moment, effectively capping America's centuries-long odyssey toward racial equality.

Unfortunately, this has not been the case. Over the past decade, racial groups have become more polarized, not less. A simple example will suffice. A personal friend, a white man who teaches at an inner-city school in Los Angeles County with an almost entirely Hispanic population, polled his students shortly before the 2008 election regarding their parents' presidential preferences. Every hand in the classroom went up for Obama. After class, my friend approached one of the students. "Why are your parents voting for Obama?” he asked a 10-year-old Hispanic girl. She answered him in four words: "Because he's not white.”

"Because he's not white” has become the rallying cry for racial minorities all across the country. There are 24 members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Twenty-three are Democrats, and one is an independent. Leaving aside U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., and two members of Congress who represent no district, the Hispanic population in the districts they represent averages 59.23 percent. That means that concentrated pockets of Hispanics elect Hispanics.

The same is true for the Congressional Black Caucus. There are currently 44 members of the Congressional Black Caucus; all are Democrats. Leaving aside Senator Roland Burris, D-Ill., and two nonvoting, at-large members of Congress, the black population in the districts they represent averages 48.47 percent. That means concentrated pockets of blacks elect blacks.

The same is largely true of whites, of course. The difference is that whites elect members of both parties -- racial identity is not bound up in political identity. For the Hispanic and black communities, however, racial and socioeconomic identity increasingly mean allegiance to one party: the Democratic Party. Thus, when Miguel Estrada is grilled by Democrats, no one worries about the electoral ramifications for the Democrats among Hispanics, yet when Sotomayor is nominated, critics worry that Republican criticism will drive away Hispanics. The same holds true for the black community: When Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is raked over the coals by Democrats, no one worries that blacks will run from the Democratic Party; when Barack Obama is criticized by Republicans, however, the press declares that Republicans will lose the black vote forever.

The implications of the racial separation of our republic are supremely dangerous. It seems that racial groups more and more often vote along tribal lines; multiethnic democracy now means racial re-segregation, at least in terms of electoral politics. Small-R republicanism relies on the willingness of individuals to discern and vote for the politicians with whom they agree, not the politicians with whom they share a skin color, racial heritage, and economic background.

Barack Obama's candidacy was supposed to usher us into a post-racial America. It seems that his election, and his continuing exploitation of racial differences through nominations like Sotomayor's, has only deepened the racial divides.



GM Bondholders Are People Like You and Me

The government is punishing one group of workers to reward another

I am an American retiree. Like many small investors, I am relying on "safe" investments such as bonds backed by America's largest companies to fund my retirement. One of these companies is General Motors.

First, let's set the record straight about who owns GM's bonds. We are hardworking families, individual investors and retirees who purchased billions of these bonds in $25, $50 and $100 increments. Many bonds were bought directly and others are held in our pension funds, 401(k) plans and other retirement programs. I purchased GM bonds in 2005 and own $91,000 worth. These bonds account for a very sizeable portion of my retirement income, and so it is absolutely devastating to watch GM's problems bring the once venerable company to the brink of failure. My standard of living is truly in jeopardy.

Despite the terrible position my fellow bondholders and I are in, we are being portrayed as the cause of GM's problems and inability to restructure. Who is perpetrating this myth? The American government, which is at once encouraging investment in U.S. companies and vilifying those who have already invested. Billions upon billions of taxpayer dollars have been used to stabilize companies to restore investor confidence. But how can investors be confident when they're at risk of ending up on the wrong end of the government's stick?

Even more disturbing: The government's proposed restructuring plans benefit one class of retirees at the expense of another. I understand that we each have equal claims in bankruptcy. However, under the current plan GM's union retirees will receive 39% of the restructured company and $10 billion in cash in exchange for $20 billion in claims. Bondholders, however, receive a mere 10% for $27 billion in claims in the form of stock (and no cash).

I am a retired dye-making trade worker and even worked in the auto industry during my career. I don't understand why the government is penalizing people like me just for having funded my retirement with GM bonds. Bondholders, especially small bondholders, are being ignored in negotiations and singled out to bear the greatest share of the cost of restructuring GM.

We are not an unreasonable group. We understand that to save GM everyone will need to endure economic pain. But we are very troubled by the government's decision to give UAW retirees -- equal members, with the bondholders, of the unsecured creditor class -- preferential treatment. The government cannot be permitted to rewrite bankruptcy rules on a whim to selectively benefit equal groups.

Small bondholders use the interest from GM bonds for everyday living expenses and cannot afford to see GM go bankrupt. And though we've been branded as an obstacle, small investors like me are in fact the solution. Our continued investment in U.S. companies and markets is critical to an economic recovery. By treating investors fairly, GM could take the lead in making the market attractive once again.




Government Expected to Own 70% of Restructured G.M.: "In better times, many employees of General Motors called their company “Generous Motors” because of its rich benefits. Now G.M. may stand for something else: Government Motors. The latest plan for the troubled automaker, which is expected to file for bankruptcy by Monday, calls for the Treasury Department to receive about 70 percent of a restructured G.M. Including the more than $20 billion that has already been spent to prop up G.M., the government will provide G.M. at least $50 billion to get the company through Chapter 11, people with direct knowledge of the situation said Tuesday. By some estimates in Detroit, tens of billions beyond that amount may be required. The United Automobile Workers, meanwhile, will hold up to 20 percent through its retiree health care fund, and bondholders and other parties will get the remaining share. Shareholders would be virtually wiped out."

Homosexuals demonstrate against new law: "Around 175 people were arrested in San Francisco in peaceful protests against a California Supreme Court decision to uphold a ban on same-sex marriage, police said. A spokeswoman for the San Francisco Police Department said the arrests came as demonstrators blocked an intersection near the court building. Those arrested were released at the scene, Sergeant Lyn Tomioka said. Rallies were being held in several cities across California yesterday following the court ruling, which reaffirmed the results of a referendum that redefined marriage in California as unions between men and women."

Crooked NYC top cop: "[Former New York City police commissioner Bernard Kerik -- above] faces trial in Washington on charges he lied to White House officials who were vetting him for the position of Homeland Security secretary. … Kerik is charged with falsely denying to White House officials that as a public official he had any financial dealings with individuals seeking to do business with the city. Prosecutors say contractors seeking work with the city spent more than $255,000 renovating Kerik’s apartment.”

10th Amendment movement: Return power to the states: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people. — U.S. Constitution, Tenth Amendment. Fed up with Washington’s involvement in everything from land use to gun control to education spending, states across the country are fighting back against what they say is the federal government’s growing intrusion on their rights. At least 35 states have introduced legislation this year asserting their power under the Tenth Amendment to regulate all matters not specifically delegated to the federal government by the Constitution.”

Army chief: US ready to be in Iraq 10 years: “The Pentagon is prepared to leave fighting forces in Iraq for as long as a decade despite an agreement between the United States and Iraq that would bring all American troops home by 2012, the top U.S. Army officer said Tuesday. Gen. George Casey, the Army chief of staff, said the world remains dangerous and unpredictable, and the Pentagon must plan for extended U.S. combat and stability operations in two wars. ‘Global trends are pushing in the wrong direction,’ Casey said.”

Obama Blinks. Union bullying fails: "On April 30th, the Obama Administration sent to the California state government an unmistakably blatant letter threatening to withhold California's Medicaid "stimulus" money if a home healthcare workers wage cut was not rescinded.... To its credit, California pushed back—hard—stating that the budget cuts were necessary to make up for a $23 billion budget shortfall. The truth is, California had every duty to act in its own interests as a sovereign state to save $74 million on home healthcare workers. California's receipt of some $6.8 billion in federal stimulus, supplemental Medicaid money had been conditioned upon rescinding the cut, which reduces the state's maximum contribution to home health workers' pay from $12.10 per hour to $10.10 in July. Last week, ALG News and other media had called for Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to uphold the principle of federalism, and to rescind the ultimatum. Fortunately, Obama cowered when the blatantly thuggish Obama-union aggression was exposed. The Obama Administration was finally forced to back off its threat to withhold the supplemental Medicaid funds from California."

Millionaires Go Missing: "Here's a two-minute drill in soak-the-rich economics: Maryland couldn't balance its budget last year, so the state tried to close the shortfall by fleecing the wealthy. Politicians in Annapolis created a millionaire tax bracket, raising the top marginal income-tax rate to 6.25%. And because cities such as Baltimore and Bethesda also impose income taxes, the state-local tax rate can go as high as 9.45%. Governor Martin O'Malley, a dedicated class warrior, declared that these richest 0.3% of filers were "willing and able to pay their fair share." The Baltimore Sun predicted the rich would "grin and bear it." One year later, nobody's grinning. One-third of the millionaires have disappeared from Maryland tax rolls. In 2008 roughly 3,000 million-dollar income tax returns were filed by the end of April. This year there were 2,000, which the state comptroller's office concedes is a "substantial decline." On those missing returns, the government collects 6.25% of nothing. Instead of the state coffers gaining the extra $106 million the politicians predicted, millionaires paid $100 million less in taxes than they did last year -- even at higher rates."


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


No comments: