Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Real, Old-Fashioned Journalism

In this day and age of entertainment and declining-profit driven newspapers, with a generation weaned on texting as written communication, to read real, old-fashioned, top-quality journalism is a joy. Since such journalism is not common any longer, when it passes in front of my eyes I take note. On the links to the right, you will see Tom Englehardt's TomDispatch.com. Mr. Englehardt writes really, really well in the journalism sense of the word. However, as many of my kith would not be inclined to read a TomDispatch (as they do not share my political and social views), here is a link to a recent TomDispatch where he examines his face in the mirror and how he has reached the age where he sees his father looking back at him. The article is a pleasurable exercise in journalism and a joy to read.

Christopher Dinnes
The Farm
Spicewood, Texas

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Judicial Activism is Bad... Sometimes?

Those who beat the drum loudest about being against "Judicial Activism" appear to also be beating the drum loudest decrying the Second Circuit Court of Appeals upholding the District Court's findings against the New Haven firefighters. The hypocrisy of this almost defies description. Had the Second Circuit, (Judge Sotomayor was a part of the three judge panel), overturned the District Court's finding, they (the Second Circuit) would have been "guilty" of judicial activism. The Second Circuit found that the District Court's findings adhered to the law and followed established precedent. The Supreme Court overturned the Second Circuit by setting a new standard by which this case was viewed. In other words, by engaging in a bit of judicial activism. Which is, horror though it may be to some, a necessary part of our judicial system. Otherwise we wouldn't need judges. Everything would be cut and dried, two plus two equals four, no shades of grey.

Here is a link to Senator John Cornyn's questioning of Judge Sotomayor which includes a couple of questions on the New Haven firefighter's case. It's a fair bit of reading so scroll down to the end, the questions at hand are the last two. (However, the whole line of questioning/answers is worth the read if you have the time.)

Sometimes we need to move outside of established law and precedent in order that justice be served. Established law and precedent gave us the Plessy decision, but didn't give us justice. (In 1896, Plessy v. Ferguson was the case that firmly legalized racial segregation in the U.S.) Could established law and precedent of the time found for Plessy instead? Or would that have been "judicial activism" and therefore a bad thing? Therein lies the real question that can be applied to virtually every case where "judicial activism" is decried. The answer of course depending entirely upon to whom one talks.

Christopher Dinnes
S/S Cornhusker State
Newport News, VA

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Hypocrisy of Judgement

It should be obvious to the most casual observer that all judges are affected by their backgrounds, personal and political philosophies, and cultural mores. Otherwise all judges would come to the same conclusions all of the time. One descriptive phrase of who she is, spoken by the current Supreme Court Nominee Sonia Sotomayor, has garnered endless bashing, led by the Fox Network, of her suitability to sit on the Supreme Court. This in spite of a long and diverse record of judicial decisions by Judge Sotomayor showing an exemplary record of applying the law even when she had every reason to be sympathetic to those whom she ruled against. (A prime example of this can be found here as described in Glenn Greenwald's Unclaimed Territory. It's a long article, with lots of links, but if you are interested in reading just how spurious are accusations of Judge Sotomayor being emotionally biased in her judicial findings, it is worth the read.)

Of note, here's a quote from Justice Alito at his Supreme Court confirmation hearing:

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" . . . .

When I get a case about discrimination, I have to think about people in my own family who suffered discrimination because of their ethnic background or because of religion or because of gender. And I do take that into account.

The difference between this and what Judge Sotomayor said about being a 'wise Latina woman' is what, Oh Fair And Balanced Ones?

(For those interested, here is a link to the video from Justice Alito's confirmation hearing from which the above quote is extracted.)

Christopher Dinnes
S/S Cornhusker State
Naval Station Norfolk