January 10, 2006


I haven't watch a single minute of the hearings. I haven't read a single story about them.

What's the point? The first day was all prepared speeches - if anyone said anything surprising, let me know and I'll be glad to check it out. I don't think I'll hold my breath waiting. The back-and-forth stuff started today, but since Congress has this rule that you can't actually ask Supreme Court nominees about issues, the Constitution, or their own legal beliefs, the rest of the hearings are likely to degenerate into long speeches followed by short refusals to answer questions. In other words, utterly pointless. Does anyone want to explain to me how we got here? I mean, why, exactly, can't we ask any nominee about any case, or potential case? Isn't that why we're having the hearings?

Look, I realize that democracy is the worst system of government except for all the other ones that are even worse. I realize that watching democracy is like watch sausage get made: there are some things you just don't want to see. Fine. But these confirmation hearings have degenerated into utter futility.

Honestly, what's the point?

Posted by baltar at January 10, 2006 07:16 PM | TrackBack | Posted to Law and the Courts


No idea. Well, a small one. But I really don't see why the senators let nominees get by with that nonsense. These people might well be serving on the country's highest court for 30 years or more - if they refuse to answer specific questions, why shouldn't a senator vote against a nominee? Beyond this - why are the nominees only questioned for a day or two - if justice to be X will be on the Court of 30+ years, I think senators should be allowed to ask a lot more follow-up questions if they wish. But yeah, all in all - a sad bit of political theater.

Posted by: Armand at January 10, 2006 10:32 PM | PERMALINK

In case you haven't noticed, America has become a sad bit of political theater thanks to Bush and Christian Fundementalist freaks.

Posted by: John at January 11, 2006 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

No coincidence that Lawyers, Guns and Money has been calling their Alito coverage "kabuki."

Posted by: binky at January 11, 2006 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

I'm a little confused how it's the "Christian Fundamentalist freaks"' fault that Joe Biden's asking John Kerry's questions. Did he convert recently? Also, you might check your history books, because current politicians put a lot more fun into fundamentalist than the "Christian fundamentalist freaks" who lived in our country a few hundred years ago. Of course, with the televising of government, it only makes sense that their performances become more theatrical, they have an audience now. And even if they themselves weren't televised, their accomplishments are, so the emphasis is going to be on dramatic conflict rather than reasoned discourse. I'm not sure it was ever so different from this, it goes to a very human appetite for drama, for pathos, and it's certainly not the responsibility of a single party, it has to do with certain personalities being more feeling while others have a more thinking orientation. And though you thinkers may disagree, they're just different styles, one isn't better than the other, one just tends to fit each person better than the other. I'm also not sure how Biden's being boring has anything to do with theatrics, unless he thinks there's a big anti-Princeton crowd out there, and he can stir them up.

Posted by: Morris at January 11, 2006 11:40 AM | PERMALINK

I think it used to be smarter - after all, Bork was defeated b/c the Senate and the nominee actually had a real discussion of the nominee's views of their implications - and the Senate didn't like what it learned.

But on the point of political theater, I imagine John meant much of than this. Schiavo, anyone? Florida 2000? This White House has been responsible for some truly morbid and obfuscating (to be polite) bits of political theater. This just happens to be one of the more boring bits.

Posted by: Armand at January 11, 2006 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

I think there's definitely something to what you're saying about Bork that contributes to anyone practicing law now avoiding too much public view of their own interpretation of the Constitution. It's the same reason it's so difficult for senators to run for President, they have a record they can't run away from.

I think it's fair to point out as I've said the political theatrics are on the democrats side too, there was a funeral you may remember in Minnesota a few years ago that was politicized in bad taste, there was Dick Durbin comparing Gitmo to the worst crimes of the last century, there was the "war hero" going down to Crawford in his wheelchair to hand deliver a letter to President Bush (the mail in Washington wasn't working?). This whole war hero thing is one of the most theatrical bits of all this. I respect anyone's sacrifice in defending this country, but who came up with the idea that a good general is a good governor, they're separate skills, rationally speaking. These people are on stage and they know it. This is what gets them on the news, and they hope what will keep them in office. But if that's what it takes to keep a candidate I support in office, and it's done out of genuine passion, what's the problem with it? The less their faces are on TV, the more time they have to spend raising money for a campaign, the less time they can be doing whatever it is they do in Washington.

The theatrics are everywhere. Michael Savage cracks me up talking about Schumer, saying his gestures and vocal patterns belong haggling over a pickle jar in Brooklyn in the 30's, just like Kerry had a mysteriously appearing and disappearing European accent. The same people who got on Repbulicans' cases for bringing up Kerry's war and postwar activities because they were ancient history are bringing up this Princeton stuff with Alito. The same people who didn't say a thing about Cisneros getting a pardon want Enron CEO's to get a life sentence plus restitution. These conflicts, these hypocricies wouldn't happen if people only valued truth and consistency. They happen because it's human to want a little conflict too, and it's human to be attached to something powerful (a political party) from which we can draw a sense of purpose, identity, and security. It's not just conservative or just liberal, it's human.

Posted by: Morris at January 11, 2006 04:13 PM | PERMALINK

Uh, I'm not saying that Democrats aren't also theatrical, but if that's the best you can do for a list (note to Morris - I am NOT asking for a list, I get your point) it really makes it clear that the Republicans are vastly better at this - and that might partially explain why they win the presidency.

I mean the Durbin and Wellstone things were hardly carefully planned matters in the first place - much less carefully planned shows designed to benefit the party. And I don't even knwo what you are talking about in the rest of that paragraph - what, did Max Cleland go to Crawford? If so, it was such an unnoteworthy event that I've forgotten about it. And demanding to deliver letters or the like has been done by a bunch of figures for decades. Big whoop.

Nne of that is on the scale of something like Justice Sunday or the Republican staffer "riot" in Florida.

I am a wee bit troubled by you finding Savage's comments (which sound pretty damn racist to me) funny. But that's not really on point here, so I'll let it go. And I for one never heard Kerry talk with a "European" accent. Sounds more like some little bit of crap that the South Park guys made up and others took to be factual political criticism.

Posted by: Armand at January 11, 2006 04:44 PM | PERMALINK

As much as our generation was raised to be color blind, the world has color, so if we see color we're racists, though we can deny that fact. I can only guess you're generalizing between racism, acknowledging that many people base their identity and values on the race to which they belong and the history and struggles of that race, and prejudice, presuming that one race is genetically inferior to another. People who study african american studies are racist, but hopefully they're not prejudiced. Racism is about appreciating uniqueness, though I'll admit it's often generalized to mean the same thing as prejudiced. This is of course ironic, when people who lament prejudice (a sweeping generalization) commit such a generalization.

Actually, there's so much about Kerry's affected accent on the blogosphere that I can't find any non-blog sources, and yahoo news search only works for the past two months.

The Republicans need to get better publicity. Cindy Sheehan gets 3 times as many web hits as Justice Sunday, and fahrenheit 9/11 gets more than her (I had to look Justice Sunday up on Wiki to figure out what it was). And when democrats stormed a republican campaign headquarters during this past election, it didn't get nearly the air time that the republican staffers did. Of course it's natural that it gets under your skin and you remember it more when it's conservatives doing it, just as I remember it more when liberals do it. Kennedy wants to make a big deal about Alito belonging to a group that wanted to keep people like Alito out of their membership, even though Kennedy apparently was able to take other notable former senators and congressmen who had been klan members at their word when they told him they'd changed their hearts. This isn't consistent, it's a confirmatory hypothesis or it's scoring points. But it's the way things work in Washington and in most democratic societies.

Posted by: Morris at January 11, 2006 07:02 PM | PERMALINK

Morris, if you are refering to Senator Byrd (with the Klan refernce), Kennedy has no real ability to take or not take him: Byrd is elected by the people of West Virginia, and Kennedy has nothing to do with that.

I'm unhappy with Alito's membership in that Princeton organization, but I'm certainly not going to reject him for that. I'm against him for his views on Executive Power.

And if you are going to argue that the Republicans have been more picked on than the Democrats (and the news media has just ignored it, pretending that the Democrats have been more picked on), you are going to have to link to some cites. I'm just not buying it.

Posted by: baltar at January 11, 2006 10:12 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't Michael Savage the guy who is so virulent that even FOX news shut him off?

Posted by: binky at January 12, 2006 12:10 AM | PERMALINK

My point here isn't that one side picks on the other more than the other side (though your perception of it that way in a way proves this point), it's that both sides create conflict, both sides add fuel to the fire, both sides have a flair for the dramatic, the theatrical. And it isn't just about some hystrionic need of politicians to be seen because it's what people have an appetite for, it's why drama exists in the first place, it's why we spend billions of dollars on movies or fiction books. This drama, this conflict brings passion to our lives, it quickens our spirits. When Cindy Sheehan talks about how the war was based on lies the anti-war group is thinking, "Hell yeah!" And when Bush talks about bringing democracy and freedom to the Middle East to combat hate, conservatives are thinking, "Jolly good, chap!," "Way to go, mate!," or if Don King's there, "Hell yeah!" The pathos, the theatrics in our debates would have all but disappeared by now except they are nourished by a human appetite for conflict and drama. And this, specifically the war hero mystique I mentioned above, is why it takes a joint chief of staff to come out and say Murtha's out of line, because this hero worship that is part of the theatrics in any democratic political system is so strong that only another hero can effectively combat its power.

Savage is kind of virulent, true, but he offers a lot more historical references than other media types, and because his perspective is so unique, it puts other media talk shows in the perspective of being a tea party in the shadow of a mushroom cloud. Given reported progress by Iran and North Korea in developing nuclear weapons, his perspective may be more apropos for the times. If they succeed in their plot to destroy us, in our last moments before we dance on a lake of fire, we may question whether we shouldn't have just nuked them to begin with.

Posted by: Morris at January 12, 2006 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

So much here, and, with one prefatory digression, I'm going to go back to the topic of Alito's hearings as political theatre, given that I actually had time -- while on vacation -- to listen to a significant amount of Q & A over the past two days (the biggest chunk coming when I drove two hours in a convertible to Dunedin, and let me just tell you, it's pretty funny pulling up to a stop light in a white miata, top down, with the volume on the confirmation hearings high enough to overcome the wind noise; I got some hilarious looks).

First, Morris, there are some who find racism everywhere they find someone referring to race, but those people are marginal. On the other hand, mocking Schumer by invoking a blatant antisemitic stereotype is not crying wolf. Those are the comments of an anti-semite, who evidently can do no better than fall back on the jew-baiting equivalent of pernicious blackface insults. Please do not equate Sambo-level insults with critical race studies or anything of the sort. It's embarrassing and ridiculous on its face.

Prefatory digression aside, I am going to have to disagree with the knee-jerk no-business-like-show-business perception of the confirmation hearings. I have heard some fascinating exchanges in the past few days, a couple of which truly illuminated my understanding of Alito's orientation toward the constitution (and mind you, I spent a lot more time looking into this than most people did long before the hearing, as you can find at my site).

Is there theatre? Absolutely. Five-minute speeches with "Wouldn't you agree?"-type questions tacked onto the end tend not to foster robust political debate, but that's not all that I've heard. Senators grandstand; I think it's in their job description. But amid the grandstanding, for people who didn't write off listening to these hearings unfold as a waste of time, one found plenty of real discussion: for example, Kennedy's whole Q & A provided an excellent exchange. Yes, Kennedy's a little silly, but he's also an important voice in the Senate, and he met his obligations admirably (as did, to be fair, Senator Hatch, in seeking to present a countervailing view and afford Alito the chance to do same).

On the CAP issue, as well, much was revealed even in the paucity of substance to Alito's answer. Personally, his answer to this line of questioning alone (and there were many ways to approach these questions) raised serious doubts about his fitness for the Court. I want to be clear on this: I don't think his membership, in itself, is problematic, or extraordinarily so anyway. Furthermore, I take at face value his claim that his involvement, such as it was, probably was more responsive to the expulsion of ROTC from the Princeton campus. And I'm sympathetic to his and his peers' resistance to that rather hystrionic policy.

When he claims to have no meaningful recollection of membership, however, and thus attempt to slide out of the guilt-by-association racist, anti-semitic, and sexist implications of his membership in CAP, I'm troubled. Why? Because he was aware enough of his affiliation with this group that he included it in what was surely a carefuly constructed, and indeed labored-over job application for a prestigious post in the Reagan administration. How, such a careful, thorough man managed to go from specifically and affirmatively citing such membership in a job application from which many other affiliations likely were left out as irrelevant in the mid-80's to having no material recollection of that membership 20 years later defies my credulity utterly.

An average person? Sure. But one thing this whole process has made clear is that there's nothing average about Sam Alito. And consequently, I'm just not buying it. If he'd owned up to his membership, acknowledged the dirty underbelly of it, and distanced himself from those aspects of CAP's mandate, it'd be a non-issue. He wouldn't be the first good man to get into an organization for valid reasons only to fail to extricate himself from it before it shifted focus to something less valid. Instead, he played dumb, and only made himself look worse.

Regardless, to return to the main thrust of the original post, I think in Alito's discussions of executive power, and in his artful (in a non-perjorative way) and really fairly clear articulation of his views on abortion and their relevance to his consideration of any abortion-related case that might come before him as an Associate Justice, one found plenty to sink his teeth into. I was too young to closely follow the Bork and Thomas hearings, but I think these have been quite illuminating, really. In fact, I'm sort of disappointed that work precludes me from tuning in today, and I might see if I can find some audio to stream this evening while I futz around at home.

Posted by: moon at January 12, 2006 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

I'm not buying it moon. Given what is "off limits" for questioning, we're reduced to arguing about about CAP and generic/vague questions that reduce to "What limits are their on Presidential power?". The first is mostly irrelevant, and the second so vague as to be useless.

Get Alito to comment on Hamdan, or Roe, then we might be able to really see if he should be on the bench.

Posted by: baltar at January 12, 2006 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

I think there's a difference between racism and prejudice that tends to be blurred. If you're seeing prejudice in Savage commenting that Schumer is theatrical by intentionally affecting an accent reminiscent of another time and another place, if you see this being dericive to anyone but Schumer, I disagree. Here is someone who's worked in Washington for years, but somehow his accent doesn't disappear. It is curious. People in the South make jokes all the time about the crazy down home sayings we have, what it really means when people say, "Bless her heart," that kind of thing. These jokes are funny because they're true, because half the time I heard one of my grandmothers say whatever home spun wisdom it is they're talking about. We laugh about them because in the context of modern culture and language, they don't fit, there's a disconnect, and looking at that disconnect puts it in perspective. But calling something a metafer instead of a metaphor in reference to how Southerners talk isn't taking a shot at Southerners, it isn't saying they're stupid people, it's saying that our culture doesn't fit with contemporary American culture, it's unique. If you draw the conclusion that if you said it, it would be prejudiced, or if you said something about Jewish people haggling in Brooklyn during the 30's, it would be prejudiced, that's about what's in your heart and in your mind. It's been my experience that humanity is a much stronger influence in life than race, than a certain time, than a certain place. As humans, we're connected by a certain way of living, by having desires, thoughts, feelings, instincts, these things are true throughout different cultures. Henry Miller talks about when he first arrived in Paris, how a prostitute passed out and fell on the floor at a bar and was just left there, and the bartender came up to him and said, "Don't worry, she's just a whore." If you took this out of context of his love for Paris, you might think he hated these people, thought they were lower than Americans for telling a story like this, but all he was doing was commenting on their nonchalance, their uniqueness.

I don't remember saying no good would come from these hearings, and I hope they are proving to be fruitful. I guess I can't help but think back to twenty years ago for me, about the time I joined the debate team. I can just imagine being called in front of a hearing and being asked, "So, did you have knowledge that your debate team ran cases advocating extermination of the elderly, counterplans to ban economic growth, advocated a world government?" The problem with these questions is they don't ask about my activities, they ask about the activities of a group I belong to. I was a member of Society of Professional Journalists the year they gave their award to the dateline crew who ignited the gas tanks of SUVs when they turned over. Am I supposed to be held accountable for that, when I didn't even vote on it? I was a member of their organization.

And here is where the theatrics and hypocrcicies come into play. All these Senators only too happy to overlook the crimes plotted by vietnam veterans against the war while Kerry was a member are grilling Alito about his group that didn't exactly plot something so grave as the murder of elected officials. They're not grilling each other about the country clubs most of them belonged to that often in America didn't let in members equally until a decade ago, they're grilling Alito about a few letters that were not even written by him. This is hypocritical, and because it's against a conservative I experience it that way, while liberals may experience the "Go get him, all conservatives are white devil racists who make hasty generalizations."

Posted by: Morris at January 12, 2006 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

so baltar, you'll pardon my cynicism, but where's the substance in your critique given, by your own admission, that you haven't watched or listened to even a minute of the hearings.

reasonable people may differ, but i'm plenty familiar with these issues, and i actually spent hours over the past couple of days listening to the hearings.

i'm not sure where i stand on the commenting-on-specific cases thing (there is danger in forecasting specific decisions, since fact patterns tend to dictate the result in close cases and a judge gives up his flexibility when he marries himself to a particular abstract outcome), but in any event i have heard alito comment on specific cases in the past few days (brown, plessy, and some of his own abortion decisions on the 3d), and i also heard him articulate legitimate, material viewpoints on issues relating to abortion, executive power, and so on.

i'm not sure your approach here isn't a little like people who don't vote bitching about the outcome.

Posted by: moon at January 12, 2006 01:00 PM | PERMALINK


"It's been my experience that humanity is a much stronger influence in life than race, than a certain time, than a certain place."

as is your wont as a member of the advantaged race and gender. i know many women who would, and i know very few people of color who wouldn't, scoff at this statement as indicative of their american experience.

invoking haggling, pickles, intonation, and brooklyn looks like blackface to me, and if i had a dollar for every republican with an ivy league education who's been on capitol hill non-stop since shumer was in his twenties who has opted not to shuck his straight-out-of-the-barn haystack accent because it served him with the bumpkins back home too suggestible to realize that twenty-five years of nearly uninterrupted trickle-down economics still hasn't trickled down, and that their favorite putative bible-thumping politicians demonstrably care more about ADM and Monstanto than they do about the salt-of-the-earth farmers and laborers whose accent they choose to appropriate for political advantage, i'd be able to go out and buy myself one of these politicians' hermes ties. there's a history of anti-semitism in this country that's impossible to deny, and savage appears in one fell swoop to have touched every star in the constellation of stereotypes that animates this animus.

to be clear, i think bigots who make corporations money are fine right where they are, if the corporations want them there. after all, why stop now? and when i call savage a bigot it's neither due to one comment, nor in seeking his removal. i don't give a shit if coca-cola gives him a huge P.A. and a dais in times square. it's no skin off my back. but to pretend that his little shumer-as-shylock routine is akin to simple regional in-humor is preposterous, and you know it.

as for CAP, read what i said: i said if alito hadn't been such an evasive ass about it, and had said more or less what you said about his affiliation with the group, i'd probably have concluded that it was a good-faith error in judgment based on the ROTC issue and left it at that. but instead, he pulled this i'm-a-genius-in-every-regard-and-my-record-shows-it-except-this-one-time-where-i-randomly-put-something-on-my-resume-without-any-knowledge-of-its-veracity-or-its-implications bullshit, and that sort of patent evasion is as unseemly in a supreme court candidate as was thomas's squeaker with obviously bona fide sexual harassment allegations hanging over his head.

the GOP's all about honesty and forthrightness, right? none of this northeast elitist sleaze, right? tell me then: why are you defending a liar at the behest of a bunch of other liars? how long is it going to take the party to find someone for the house leadership spot untainted by the abramoff money, and just how junior is that representative going to be.

i was begrudgingly inclined to believe that dems could better direct their energy elsewhere than fighting the alito nom, given his qualifications and grace under fire. but his bullshit with CAP is no less evasive, and no more plausible, than clinton's evasions regarding his sex life (which i only bring up because if i don't you will). and last i checked, clinton's sex life hadn't staked out any really odious policy positions. contra CAP.

Posted by: moon at January 12, 2006 01:16 PM | PERMALINK

Of course my perspective is colored by my experience, but there are many male whites, people of the priveleged class and gender, who focus on their race as a defining part of who they are and how they see the world. Everyone has choices in how they define themselves, male whites, male black, male hispanics, female koreans, everyone. I've met non-whites who don't choose to define themselves by their color. They may define themselves by their sexual orientation or some other aspect of who they are. Your argument suggests that choices are a consequence of privelege, and sometimes that's right on. But enlightenment is really what choices come from, learning to know of the options that do exist, and enlightenment's not limited to a single race, gender, culture, religious orientation, sexual orientation, or ability status.
I honestly can't say for certain what Savage meant by his comment, you see something sinister and I don't, but that says more about who we are than who he is. And of course there will be politicians on both sides of the aisle who do this, that was my point, there is an advantage to this kind of theatrics.
Perhaps I didn't phrase my response well on CAP. On the debate team I was on, there were probably thrity people at any given time, and even though I've got a pretty solid memory, I'd be hard pressed to recognize half the cases they ran. Of course Alito's going to be rock solid on his own opinions, do you think he didn't look over them since his candidacy for the Supreme Court was announce? But how was he supposed to look over letters that he may or may not have received twenty years ago when he wasn't interested in CAP for that purpose? You choose to distrust him because he's part of the opposition. And if we haven't found out about his porno tapes, sexual harassment, racism, nannies, whatever, it's only because he's really smart so he's really good at hiding it.
The theatrics of this come in because of the inconsistencies, because Kennedy has the nerve to cast aspersions at a conservative (ergo Alito's a liar, right, that's already established, they're all lying liars) when Kennedy was in the same kind of group atHarvard:
"The eight-term senator belonged to an all-male social club -- the Owl -- at Harvard University. The Owl refused to admit women until it was forced to do so during the 1980s, according to records kept by the Harvard Crimson, the student newspaper."
This is theatrics, because otherwise Kennedy would have no business going after someone for being in the same type of club Kennedy was in.

Posted by: Morris at January 12, 2006 04:11 PM | PERMALINK

moon, I'm not conceding. Your analogy is off: I have no vote on Alito, so why should I listen?

I don't buy the "can't comment on cases" thing. Of course every case is different; thus, if Alito says how he would vote on Roe, that doesn't mean he would vote to overturn abortion, since Roe isn't going to come up before him - whatever abortion case it is, it will be somewhat different from Roe. That being said, knowing how a nominee thinks through a specific case (what he/she finds important or unimportant) is clearly relevent to whether to confirm the nominee. As it stands, the Senate can't ask those questions.

What percentage of the hearings are useful? If it's any higher than 33%, I'll be shocked.

Posted by: baltar at January 12, 2006 04:26 PM | PERMALINK

Morris writes: "But enlightenment is really what choices come from, learning to know of the options that do exist[.]"

Moon replies: As a white middle-class male, you've had more choices, every step of the way, than many of your peers of other races. And I think you'd be hard-pressed to dispute that, since you hail from the city voted most likely to find its poor minorities under water. Sad but true. And if enlightenment is predicated on the panoply of choices realized, and options are demonstrably less expansive for the poor of every race, than isn't it insulting to foist your abstraction on the poor and tell them they are not entitled to recognize a history of discrimination and oppression, because, hey, they had choices.

As for Kennedy's membership in the Owl, you're comparing apples and oranges. Had Alito joined an all-male eating club at Princeton -- and not lied about it, of course -- I'd have no truck with him. I have no problem with gender-restricted social organizations, and you'll never hear me say otherwise. CAP, however, was actively advocating a return to the Princeton of yore, when nary a black face, a Star of David, or a set of breasts was to be found. That's not about personal associations in a restricted social setting, that's about denial of access to one of the most vaunted institutions of learning in the known universe. Apples and oranges, Morris, and you know it.

Anyway, you still haven't responded to the critical -- indeed, only -- point I raised with regard to CAP: would you really have me believe that Alito remembered enough about his membership to deliberately put it on a job application of critical importance to his career in 1985 but somehow forgot its relevance since then? I don't think so. I think denying it was the most clever thing he and his prep team could come up with, and I think that sort of disingenuousness is troubling in a Supreme Court nominee of any political stripe.

Baltar, I certainly didn't expect you to concede, but I'm not sure what your point is. If you want to berate the confirmation process based on second-hand accounts of the hearings because you simply can't be bothered to watch them yourself, farbeit from me to stop you. I just think it's uncharacteristically unrigorous of you to do so. If it's 33% useful, it may not be worth your time, in the final analysis, but that conjecture, even if correct (and I'll grant arguendo that it is), doesn't make you any more an authority on what's been happening on a day to day basis. Thus, I just don't think your criticism of a strawman confirmation hearing instead of the real one is very interesting or authoritative.

By the way, to my knowledge, the Senate has no such rule. Whoever -- nominee or senator -- wishes to avoid hard questions about specific cases may cite the Ginsburg precedent (whatever they're calling it) but it has only the force of tradition and abstract principle behind it; it's not binding on anyone. I heard senators try to get at different case-specific topics repeatedly, not least of whom Committee Chairman Specter himself on the topic of abortion, and no one suggested directly that there was impropriety in the questioning.

If 33% of the hearings were useful, that's a third of four days, so far, that you've missed.

Posted by: moon at January 13, 2006 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

I highly recommend to you Victor Frankl's book on "man's search for meaning." It's written by a jewish man who lived through the concentration camps, probably as horrible an example of man's racial hatred as there has ever been. What he found is that while they didn't have power over their circumstances, they did have power over the attitude with which they faced those circumstances. They didn't have to define themselves as their captors did, captors who had the power of their life and death in their hands, captors who defined them unworthy, even of life. They could define themselves by their love or their scientific work, they could find inspiration that according to Frankl was the common factor among most of those who survived, most of those who didn't give up to the power the Nazis believed they had over them. This is enlightenment, this is having choices even under oppressive circumstances.

Just for your information, whites died at a higher rate than any minority race during Katrina .

Kennedy joins a group that just happens to not let women or blacks in and it's okay because they're not advocating keeping women and blacks out, they're just doing it. So, if I get this right, they're not advocating prejudice, they're just acting prejudiced, and that's substantively different?

I think what you're failing to see is the difference between remembering being in a group and knowing everything that group was doing. Alito says he was in that club to protest ROTC being kicked off campus, so it makes sense that within the venue of ROTC being kicked off campus, he would have a memory of those activities. I was a member of the programming group at Tulane, I could tell you a fair share of the movies we showed there fifteen years ago because that's why I was in the group. But if you ask me what speakers or comedians were there, I don't have the slightest idea. I was interested in the group, but should I be held responsible for someone else's decision if one of those speakers who I can't even remember suddenly decided to write a book on eugenics? The trouble with this pattern of attack is that you're not looking at the long lists of women, men, whites, minorities, and poor who've actually met Alito and worked with him, all the ones who have great things to say about him. You're looking at a group he was in twenty years ago, even though nobody from that group has come forward to say Alito was involved in any of the stuff Kennedy benefits from having you believe he was. This begs the question, why are you so desperate to doubt him?

Posted by: Morris at January 13, 2006 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

So then, Morris, you don't share the ire of your conservative brethren that regular citizen war protestors participated in protest organized by fringe leftists? I seem to recall a great deal of vociferation from the right about how the war effort was tainted by being associating with radical communists.

Posted by: binky at January 13, 2006 11:41 AM | PERMALINK


Read this (via Kevin Drum), and see if this jibes. (It isn't long.)

Posted by: baltar at January 13, 2006 11:43 AM | PERMALINK

Since we're moving to substance, I'm going to move this to the thread Armand set up for this purpose.

As for this thread, my point has been and remains that criticism of the efficacy of the hearings by someone who isn't listening or paying much attention out of an assumption that they will provide nothing worth listening to or otherwise attending is hollow.

Still, Drum's points are valid, and I take them up above.

Posted by: moon at January 13, 2006 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

I think that we have to look at context when making decisions about what exactly a particular relationship means. If anyone in the counseling profession gives a client a test, say a Beck's depression inventory, and then makes a diagnosis without doing anything else, we consider that to be unethical. There's just too much that can go wrong, so we're to do at least an interview, to see if there's a context to the answers they'd give on an evaluative instrument. A client could have recently lost someone in their life, so the counselor who doesn't look at this and then goes forward with their depression psychoeducation resources doesn't deal with the problem at hand.
I'm guessing your question gets back to Kerry, so let me know if I'm mistaken. What I saw as the context for his opposition to the war was a letter or paper he'd written about the same time essentially advocating UN government. Even during the election, he appeared even extremely reluctant to talk about the US acting on its own national interests without advice and consent of the UN. Within that context, it's not a stretch to think Kerry's agenda is peace at any cost, world unity at any cost, essentially the moral of Hero. I disagree with peace at any cost, unity (or at least some twisted version of it) at any cost. I'm a taoist, I believe in harmony, and sometimes harmony is found in oppositional forces.
Where is the letter Alito wrote to the Princeton school newspaper twenty years ago advocating women and minorities not be at Princeton? We know he was capable; if he wanted to do that, he was capable. Where is the ex-classmate who remembers him advocating this position in a CAP meeting? Do you honestly think newspapers and reporters haven't been calling his ex-brethren from the CAP? This would be a huge story.
So when I look at context, all the people around him who've known him, even liberals, who won't say anything bad about him, where's the context for him being a closet bigot? That doesn't fit into the picture for me.

Posted by: Morris at January 13, 2006 11:54 PM | PERMALINK
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