Saturday, May 30, 2009

What the Right Says About Judge Sotomayor

It has only been a few days since President Obama nominated Judge Sotomayor to the Supreme Court of the United States, but it hasn't taken long for the Republicans to start making all kinds of accusations against her. It is worth noting how many of those accusations are based on things that she has said as opposed to her rulings as a United States Circuit Court Judge. Anyway, I wanted to take some time to examine some of the current, initial crop of charges.

Let's start with this gem from former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colorado) who told CNN's Rick Sanchez:

If you belong to an organization called La Raza, in this case, which is, from my point of view anyway, nothing more than a Latino — it’s a counterpart — a Latino KKK without the hoods or the nooses. If you belong to something like that in a way that’s going to convince me and a lot of other people that it’s got nothing to do with race. Even though the logo of La Raza is “All for the race. Nothing for the rest.” What does that tell you?
For those who aren't familiar with La Raza, a more accurate comparison would be the Latino version of the NAACP or B'nai B'rith. (For the record, Tancredo is completely wrong about the logo or motto of La Raza.) What does La Raza say about itself:

Those familiar with the work of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) know that we are the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the U.S., and that we are an American institution committed to strengthening this great nation by promoting the advancement of Latino families. Our mission is to create opportunities and open the door to the American Dream for Latino and other families.


We recognize that some people might be confused about our organization’s name, our mission, and our work. Much of this is understandable. Compared to some of our venerable counterparts in the civil rights and advocacy community, we are a relatively young institution representing Latinos, a historically disadvantaged and often misunderstood ethnic minority. We have a Spanish term in our name, “La Raza” (meaning “the people” or “community”), which is often mistranslated. Furthermore, we are engaged in some of the most controversial issues of our time, which we believe is essential if we are to stay true to our mission.

Even a brief look at La Raza's website will reveal that it is an organization striving to do good work and membership in La Raza is something to be proud of, not hidden or scorned. President Bush, Sen. McCain, and Karl Rove have all spoken at recent La Raza conventions. And Tancredo? Well, don’t forget that he suggested walling off Brownsville, Texas to keep immigrants from penetrating further into America, sang “Dixie” in front of Confederate flags during a campaign event in South Carolina, referred to Miami as a third world city, and suggested a nuclear attack on Mecca.

It is also worth remembering that the last Justice confirmed to the Supreme Court, Samuel Alito, was a member of Concerned Alumni of Princeton, a group with an innocuous name but an agenda to limit admission to Princeton of minorities and women (say, like Sonia Sotomayor who entered Princeton the fall following Samuel Alito's graduation and the formation of Concerned Alumni of Princeton...). Yet I don't recall hearing people like Tancredo calling Alito a racist or a bigot as a result of his membership in that organization.

The quote of Judge Sotomayor that is getting the most attention is the following nugget from a fairly lengthy speech given in 2001 at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law:

I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life.

Some have taken those 32 words -- part of a nearly 4,000 word speech -- to suggest that Judge Sotomayor is a racist (and thus, should not be confirmed to the bench). While I will agree that the statement might not be the most artful ever uttered, I would also posit that most of those who have jumped on the statement as an indication that she is a racist have not read the rest of that lecture. Let me offer a longer excerpt of her lecture that includes the quote in question (and I suggest that you take the time to read the entire lecture):

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. Whatever the reasons why we may have different perspectives, either as some theorists suggest because of our cultural experiences or as others postulate because we have basic differences in logic and reasoning, are in many respects a small part of a larger practical question we as women and minority judges in society in general must address. I accept the thesis of a law school classmate, Professor Steven Carter of Yale Law School, in his affirmative action book that in any group of human beings there is a diversity of opinion because there is both a diversity of experiences and of thought. Thus, as noted by another Yale Law School Professor -- I did graduate from there and I am not really biased except that they seem to be doing a lot of writing in that area - Professor Judith Resnik says that there is not a single voice of feminism, not a feminist approach but many who are exploring the possible ways of being that are distinct from those structured in a world dominated by the power and words of men. Thus, feminist theories of judging are in the midst of creation and are not and perhaps will never aspire to be as solidified as the established legal doctrines of judging can sometimes appear to be.

That same point can be made with respect to people of color. No one person, judge or nominee will speak in a female or people of color voice. I need not remind you that Justice Clarence Thomas represents a part but not the whole of African-American thought on many subjects. Yet, because I accept the proposition that, as Judge Resnik describes it, "to judge is an exercise of power" and because as, another former law school classmate, Professor Martha Minnow of Harvard Law School, states "there is no objective stance but only a series of perspectives - no neutrality, no escape from choice in judging," I further accept that our experiences as women and people of color affect our decisions. The aspiration to impartiality is just that--it's an aspiration because it denies the fact that we are by our experiences making different choices than others. Not all women or people of color, in all or some circumstances or indeed in any particular case or circumstance but enough people of color in enough cases, will make a difference in the process of judging. The Minnesota Supreme Court has given an example of this. As reported by Judge Patricia Wald formerly of the D.C. Circuit Court, three women on the Minnesota Court with two men dissenting agreed to grant a protective order against a father's visitation rights when the father abused his child. The Judicature Journal has at least two excellent studies on how women on the courts of appeal and state supreme courts have tended to vote more often than their male counterpart to uphold women's claims in sex discrimination cases and criminal defendants' claims in search and seizure cases. As recognized by legal scholars, whatever the reason, not one woman or person of color in any one position but as a group we will have an effect on the development of the law and on judging.

In our private conversations, Judge Cedarbaum has pointed out to me that seminal decisions in race and sex discrimination cases have come from Supreme Courts composed exclusively of white males. I agree that this is significant but I also choose to emphasize that the people who argued those cases before the Supreme Court which changed the legal landscape ultimately were largely people of color and women. I recall that Justice Thurgood Marshall, Judge Connie Baker Motley, the first black woman appointed to the federal bench, and others of the NAACP argued Brown v. Board of Education. Similarly, Justice Ginsburg, with other women attorneys, was instrumental in advocating and convincing the Court that equality of work required equality in terms and conditions of employment.

Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences, a possibility I abhor less or discount less than my colleague Judge Cedarbaum, our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging. Justice O'Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases. I am not so sure Justice O'Connor is the author of that line since Professor Resnik attributes that line to Supreme Court Justice Coyle. I am also not so sure that I agree with the statement. First, as Professor Martha Minnow has noted, there can never be a universal definition of wise. Second, I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life.

Let us not forget that wise men like Oliver Wendell Holmes and Justice Cardozo voted on cases which upheld both sex and race discrimination in our society. Until 1972, no Supreme Court case ever upheld the claim of a woman in a gender discrimination case. I, like Professor Carter, believe that we should not be so myopic as to believe that others of different experiences or backgrounds are incapable of understanding the values and needs of people from a different group. Many are so capable. As Judge Cedarbaum pointed out to me, nine white men on the Supreme Court in the past have done so on many occasions and on many issues including Brown.

Does that sound like a racist to you?

And, as long as we're discussing the impact of race or gender on a jurist's viewpoint, let's remember what has been said in the past. For example, what did Judge Alito have to say about the subject during his nomination hearings just a few years ago?

I don't come from an affluent background or a privileged background. My parents were both quite poor when they were growing up.

And I know about their experiences and I didn't experience those things. I don't take credit for anything that they did or anything that they overcame.

But I think that children learn a lot from their parents and they learn from what the parents say. But I think they learn a lot more from what the parents do and from what they take from the stories of their parents lives.

And that's why I went into that in my opening statement. 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."

When I have cases involving children, I can't help but think of my own children and think about my children being treated in the way that children may be treated in the case that's before me.

And that goes down the line. 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. When I have a case involving someone who's been subjected to discrimination because of disability, I have to think of people who I've known and admire very greatly who've had disabilities, and I've watched them struggle to overcome the barriers that society puts up often just because it doesn't think of what it's doing -- the barriers that it puts up to them.

So those are some of the experiences that have shaped me as a person.

So, apparently it is OK for a white man to consider his gender and ethnic background but the same does not hold true for a hispanic woman? What about any woman? Well, here’s what Justice Sandra Day O’Connor had to say about herself:

I bring to the court the perspective of a woman primarily in a sense that I am female, just as I am white, a college graduate, etc.

“Yes, I will bring the understanding of a woman to the court, but I doubt that that alone will affect my decisions,” she said. “I think the important fact about my appointment is not that I will decide cases as a woman, but that I am a woman who will get to decide cases.”

And Justice O’Connor also noted that Justice Thurgood Marshall “imparted not only his legal acumen but also his life experiences”.

Even Judge Clarence Thomas acknowledged during his confirmation hearings that his background played a role:

And I believe, Senator, that I can make a contribution, that I can bring something different to the Court, that I can walk in the shoes of the people who are affected by what the Court does. You know, on my current court I have occasion to look out the window that faces C Street, and there are converted buses that bring in the criminal defendants to our criminal justice system, bus load after bus load. And you look out and you say to yourself, and I say to myself almost every day, "But for the grace of God there go I."

Yes, I recognize that Judge Alito's and Justice O’Connor’s and Judge Thomas’ comments are not precisely the same as Judge Sotomayor’s; however, when examined in their broader context, I believe that all of these judges are saying essentially the same thing: Who we are and where we come from has an impact on our view of the world and our understanding of the issues with which we are confronted. And is that so bad?

President Obama has also been criticized for saying that he wanted to appoint to the bench someone with "empathy"; the right has argued that word is simply a code word for "activist judge". If so, then they might want to have a talk with President George H.W. Bush who said when nominating Clarence Thomas: "He is a delightful and warm, intelligent person who has great empathy and a wonderful sense of humor” (emphasis added). And John Yoo (now infamous for his role in the torture memos) said this about Justice Thomas (in a review of the Justice's memoir):

Justice Thomas's views were forged in the crucible of a truly authentic American story. This is a black man with a much greater range of personal experience than most of the upper-class liberals who take potshots at him. A man like this on the Court is the very definition of the healthy diversity his detractors pretend to support.

So both empathy and life experiences are apparently acceptable as long as they're not from someone on the "left".

While most of the Senators who have spoken about Judge Sotomayor’s nomination have endeavored to keep their comments fair and suggest that their minds remain open, many mouthpieces from the right haven’t been so civil. Besides the comment from Tancredo, mentioned above, former Speaker of the House New Gingrich took time out from a visit to Auschwitz to tweet:

White man racist nominee would be forced to withdraw. Latina woman racist should also withdraw.

It’s bad enough that Gingrich thinks she’s a racist; it’s even worse that he felt the need to take time out from touring Auschwitz. Apparently the death camp wasn’t making much of an impression on Newt. Then we have Rush Limbaugh, who is always good for a quote or two:

She's got a -- she's an angry woman, she's got a -- she's a bigot. She's a racist. In her own words, she's the antithesis of a judge.

And finally, we have G. Gordon Liddy:

Let’s hope that the key conferences aren’t when she’s menstruating or something, or just before she’s going to menstruate. That would really be bad. Lord knows what we would get then.

Ah, yes. High-minded civic dialogue.

Some of the criticism has been less vicious and more, well, weird. An article posted on The Hill left writer Alexander Bolton wondering whether Republicans were seriously worried that Judge Sotomayor's cuisine would influence her decision-making:

Sotomayor also claimed: “For me, a very special part of my being Latina is the mucho platos de arroz, gandoles y pernir — rice, beans and pork — that I have eaten at countless family holidays and special events.”

This has prompted some Republicans to muse privately about whether Sotomayor is suggesting that distinctive Puerto Rican cuisine such as patitas de cerdo con garbanzo — pigs’ feet with chickpeas — would somehow, in some small way influence her verdicts from the bench.

Curt Levey, the executive director of the Committee for Justice, a conservative-leaning advocacy group, said he wasn’t certain whether Sotomayor had claimed her palate would color her view of legal facts but he said that President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee clearly touts her subjective approach to the law.

A blogger with Talking Points Memo called The Hill's reporter to ask about these comments:

I called Bolton earlier today and asked him whether this was for real--whether any conservatives were genuinely raising this issue. He confirmed, saying, "a source I spoke to said people were discussing that her [speech] had brought attention...she intimates that what she eats somehow helps her decide cases better."Bolton said the source was drawing, "a deductive link," between Sotomayor's thoughts on Puerto Rican food and her other statements.

That's like suggesting that Justice Ginsburg and Justice Breyer are liberal because they enjoy lox on their bagels or maybe a little gefilte fish at Pesach.

Finally, I couldn't help myself and had to offer this final "criticism" directed against Judge Sotomayor (I think she’s the target, but I’m not exactly sure…) by Mark Krikorian for National Review Online (emphasis in original):

Most e-mailers were with me on the post on the pronunciation of Judge Sotomayor's name (and a couple griped about the whole Latina/Latino thing — English dropped gender in nouns, what, 1,000 years ago?). But a couple said we should just pronounce it the way the bearer of the name prefers, including one who pronounces her name "freed" even though it's spelled "fried," like fried rice. (I think Cathy Seipp of blessed memory did the reverse — "sipe" instead of "seep.") Deferring to people's own pronunciation of their names should obviously be our first inclination, but there ought to be limits. Putting the emphasis on the final syllable of Sotomayor is unnatural in English (which is why the president stopped doing it after the first time at his press conference), unlike my correspondent's simple preference for a monophthong over a diphthong, and insisting on an unnatural pronunciation is something we shouldn't be giving in to.

For instance, in Armenian, the emphasis is on the second syllable in my surname, just as in English, but it has three syllables, not four (the "ian" is one syllable) — but that's not how you'd say it in English (the "ian" means the same thing as in English — think Washingtonian or Jeffersonian). Likewise in Russian, you put the emphasis in my name on the final syllable and turn the "o" into a schwa, and they're free to do so because that's the way it works in their language. And should we put Asian surnames first in English just because that's the way they do it in Asia? When speaking of people in Asia, okay, but not people of Asian origin here, where Mao Tse-tung would properly have been changed to Tse-tung Mao. Likewise with the Mexican practice of including your mother's maiden name as your last name, after your father's surname.

This may seem like carping, but it's not. Part of our success in assimilation has been to leave whole areas of culture up to the individual, so that newcomers have whatever cuisine or religion or so on they want, limiting the demand for conformity to a smaller field than most other places would. But one of the areas where conformity is appropriate is how your new countrymen say your name, since that's not something the rest of us can just ignore, unlike what church you go to or what you eat for lunch. And there are basically two options — the newcomer adapts to us, or we adapt to him. And multiculturalism means there's a lot more of the latter going on than there should be.

Analysis of Judge Sotomayor's judicial philosophy, a careful reading of her written opinions, and her testimony before the Senate are all important facts to weigh in deciding whether she should be confirmed as the next Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. But taking out of context one brief comment from a much larger speech or criticizing her involvement with a civic organization (and suggesting that the organization is nefarious) or wondering about her empathy or choice in cuisine or the pronunciation of her name is just silly. No, that's not right. It would be silly if this weren't so meaningful. It is wrong. Let's have an honest discussion of her merits as a judge, not on where the emphasis goes when pronouncing her name or whether she likes pork with her rice and beans. That is demeaning to her, demeaning to the office, demeaning to the process, and demeaning to the country.

Oh, two more quick items that I’ll mention briefly now and try to write about later in more detail: You may also hear the suggestion that Judge Sotomayor is not a good judge because she has been overruled by the Supreme Court 60% (or even 80%) of the time. Here’s the problem with that statistic. First, it is less than average. Second, at the Court of Appeals, Judges work in panels of 3 (or sometimes, more) judges. Third, the Supreme Court has the privilege to decide which cases its wants to hear and a large percentage of those cases are heard precisely because they will be overturned. And finally, that whopping 60% number? Well, in reality it amounts to a grand total of about 6 cases in 16 years. She’s apparently written nearly 400 opinions in that time. Suddenly those odds don’t seem quite so bad, do they?

Finally, several pundits (Pat Buchanan being the prime example) have called Judge Sotomayor’s nomination an affirmative action nomination and suggest that her race and gender were critical components of her selection. That may be true. But here’s the problem with that analysis: Any nominee who is not a white male (and probably a Christian white male, at that) would probably face the same allegation. In other words, any nominee of color, any non-Christian, any woman, could be charged with being an affirmative action nominee or a nominee selected for identity politics purposes rather than judicial qualifications. Don’t forget the scorn directed at President Bush (#1) when he nominated Clarence Thomas to replace Thurgood Marshall. Nobody other than President Bush really believed that Judge Thomas was the most qualified candidate. But today, while I’ve heard many people criticize Judge Sotomayor for all sorts of reasons, some real, some manufactured, very few people have made any sort of case (let alone a compelling case) that she is not eminently qualified to serve. Thus, the charge of identity politics may be true, but it may also be a trap that President Obama could only avoid by appointing yet another white, male, Christian to the bench. And of course, had he done so, that would have been identity politics, too, wouldn’t it?

(Note: Reposted July 16 following accidental deletion of original post.)


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Friday, May 29, 2009

Amazon Lowers Price For Me Me Me Me Me

This morning I noticed that Amazon has lowered the price for a subscription to this blog from $1.99 per month down to a mere $0.99 per month (with a free 14 day trial, too)! And, for those of you without a Kindle, you can download the free Amazon Kindle app for your iPhone and then buy yourself a subscription! Just think, at $0.99 per month, I should be earning the big bucks really soon.


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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Burton Repeats Debunked Energy Cost Figure

On May 21, Rep. Dan Burton (R-Indiana) and Rep. Mike Pence (R-Indiana; House Republican Conference Chair) gave an interview to The Shelbyville News. The discussion focused largely on President Obama's proposed "cap and trade" legislation. Among the claims made by Rep. Burton in the interview is the following:
Now they say it's not going to be a tax on individuals or households, but the
fact is it will be an indirect tax because the business and industries of this
country that are taxed are going to pass those costs along to the consumer,
which means that every single household in this country will have to spend
between $3,000 and $4,000 in additional expenses every single year.
I'm all for a good and honest debate about whether the proposed cap and trade legislation is a good idea or a bad idea. However, honest is a critical component to the debate. With both that and Rep. Burton's claim in mind, recall the following portion of my post Michelle Bachmann: The Idiot Who Won't Shut Up from May 2, 2009:
On April 7, 2009, Rep. Bachmann wrote an op-ed for the Minneapolis Star-Tribunein which she repeated a Republican talking point that President Obama's proposed cap-and-trade program would impose a severe burden on American families: "According to an analysis by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the average American household could expect its yearly energy bill to increase by $3,128 per year." Pretty scary, the idea of every family having to pay $3,128 more each year. And, hey, if MIT says that is what will happen, then we should probably be willing to rely on that information, right? Well, not so fast. You see, Rep. Bachmann, like a number of other Republicans, got the math wrong. In fact, one of the authors of the MIT report told Republicans that they were wrong before they began using their bogus scare-tactic. After the Republicans began touting this number, several news organizations demonstrated its falsity, but Republicans, including Rep. Bachmann continued to offer the false analysis. For more information, see GOP full of hot air about Obama's "light switch tax".
In other words, Rep. Burton continues to base his opposition to cap and trade on numbers that he should know are false and which were debunked nearly two months ago! So much for honest debate, but then this is Rep. Burton we're talking about...

Incidentally, yesterday I received an email from Twitter telling me that Rep. Burton was now following me. In response, I tweeted the following:
Rep. Dan Burton is now following me. Do you think I can lead him out of Congress?
Hmm. I haven't heard back from Rep. Burton.


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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

What Is an Activist Judge? (And a Few Bonus Thoughts)

Now that President Obama has nominated Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, we will undoubtedly begin to hear the Republicans proclaim that she is an "activist judge" and, thus, should not be confirmed to the bench. The next time that you hear that phrase, however, stop and think about what it really means. We often hear Republicans using the phrase "legislate from the bench" when describing a so-called activist judge. Again, what does that phrase mean? If a friend or colleague describes Judge Sotomayor as an activist judge, ask them to explain precisely what that means and don't let them simply say that she legislates from the bench. Ask for specific examples of what is meant by judicial activism and legislation. And if the only thing that your friend or colleague can come up with is some mumbo jumbo about creating new rights, you might ask what, precisely, is wrong with finding that people have certain rights...

Anyway, when thinking about the answers to those questions, consider the following. By one measure, legislating from the bench could be thought of as countermanding the will of the elected leadership of the nation, in other words, invalidating legislation passed by Congress or a state legislature. Back in 2005, The New York Times examined the voting records of the nine Supreme Court justices for the period from 1994 through 2005 to see which ones most frequently struck down Congressional laws. Before looking at the results, take a minute guess which justices you think will have been the most active at striking down laws, then see if the actual results conform to your guess:

Thomas 65.63%conservative
Kennedy 64.06%moderate
Scalia 56.25%conservative
Rehnquist 46.88%conservativereplaced by Roberts
O’Connor46.77%moderatereplaced by Alito
Souter 42.19%liberalto be replaced by Sotomayor
Stevens 39.34%liberal
Ginsburg 39.06%liberal
Breyer 28.13%liberal

For those who are not Court watchers, I've noted above which justices are generally thought of as liberals, moderates, or conservatives and I've made notes about the justices that are no longer on the bench (and who replaced them).

Or, take a look at these results from a similar study done by Cass Sunstein for The Washington Independent in which he examined the rate of the justices of upholding agency decisions:
Breyer 82
Souter 77
Ginsburg 74
Stevens 71
O’Connor 68
Kennedy 67
Rehnquist 64
Thomas 54
Scalia 52

Did you notice anything odd about those results? The three conservative members of the Court were far more likely to strike down laws passed by Congress (or were less likely to uphold agency decisions) than were the liberal members of the Court. But how can that be? Wouldn't the act of striking down a law passed by Congress be a case of legislating from the bench, the hallmark of an "activist judge"? Hmmm. Things to think about as the nomination process moves ahead.

I'm sure that I'll have more thoughts on the nomination in the weeks to come, but I did want to offer a small taste of what I suspect we can expect from the nomination process. Here, for example, is a portion of the comments of Sen. James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) (and yes he's the senator that I took to task for hypocrisy in an IN Touch posting) about Judge Sotomayor:

In the months ahead, it will be important for those of us in the U.S. Senate to
weigh her qualifications and character as well as her ability to rule fairly
without undue influence from her own personal race, gender, or political

I wonder whether Sen. Inhofe has the same concerns about white men? After all, if Judge Sotomayor is confirmed, there will only be six white men left on the Court. Moreover, clearly white men have never been influenced by their own race, gender, or political preferences, have they? I mean, it isn't like white men ruled that separate but equal was acceptable. (It is also worth noting that, if confirmed, Judge Sotomayor would be the sixth Catholic to sit on the current bench.)

Second, Republicans from Karl Rove on down the food chain are already expressing concerns that Judge Sotomayor might not be "smart enough" to be on the Supreme Court. To quote SCOTUSBlog:

The objective evidence is that Sotomayor is in fact extremely intelligent. Graduating at the top of the class at Princeton is a signal accomplishment. Her opinions are thorough, well-reasoned, and clearly written. Nothing suggests she isn’t the match of the other Justices.

Oh, and she was also an editor of the Yale Law Review and the editor of another Yale law journal.

I suspect that those who claim that Judge Sotomayor isn't smart enough are the same people who weren't particularly impressed by candidate Obama's academic credentials and who thought that Sarah Palin's attendance at tiny schools nobody has ever heard of was more than sufficient for her to be elected to the office of Vice President. (See my previous post Elitism in Politics for more on that thought.)

Over the coming weeks and months, you will hear plenty of criticism (and praise) for Judge Sotomayor. Just remember to consider the source of the comment, whether the source has an agenda, whether the source knows what they're talking about (it is easy to comment on a judicial opinion; it is another thing entirely to actually read the opinion and then speak knowledgeably about it), and whether the source has been even-handed in criticisms of other nominees (and the nomination process). Then take some time and do some independent reading. Don't just listen to a particular soundbite that may be taken out of context; go listen to the speech (or at least more of it). Don't just presume that what an advocate tells you is, in fact, true; go see for yourself. To get you started, here's an article from SCOTUSBlog on her judicial record.

And, for the record, I have not yet had an opportunity to review her judicial record or learn much more about her than what has been on the news over the last day or so. Thus, I have not made up my own opinion as to whether she should be confirmed or will likely make a good justice. I'll make an informed decision as I learn more.

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Carmel Clay Schools Weigh in on Budget Debate

Readers outside Indiana may not be aware that our General Assembly did not pass a budget this spring and will, therefore, be called back for a special session by Gov. Mitch Daniels. Numerous rumors and issues are swirling around the budget debate (everything from fears of a government shutdown to strong-arm techniques to force through government consolidation or property tax caps; everything from education to welfare and the broke Capital Improvements Board [which manages Indianapolis' sports venues] appear to be on the table). Even with all that in mind, I was somewhat stunned by the email that I received today from the public school system that my kids attend (which is probably the best-funded school system with the best schools in the state), especially given that the school district is in a very heavily Republican district:

May 27, 2009

Dear Parents and Staff,

Carmel Clay Schools needs your help to maintain the quality of education this community expects and deserves. By contacting our Governor and legislators, you can influence critical budget decisions in the upcoming special session that will dramatically affect our schools. A short explanation of the current budget issues follows, along with contact information for your convenience.

The Carmel Clay School Board has approved spending cuts in excess of $1.5 million. Previous to these reductions, approximately $300,000 was cut from the budget. Unless the General Assembly and Governor provide adequate funding, we will see additional cuts in programs and services. Because such a large percentage of our budget is for professional staff, these cuts will result in the loss of valuable programs and increases in class size. A provision in the proposed funding formula takes away our ability to use the capital projects fund for paying utilities and insurance as has been allowed in the past, which will result in additional cuts totaling an additional $2.5 million burden to Carmel Clay’s general fund. This provision would have dire financial consequences for Carmel Clay Schools.

To help, you can contact the Governor and copy our area legislators. Let them know the impact that the current thinking on the state school budget and formula would have on our schools and programs. Governor Daniels is expected to provide a budget proposal of his own to a Special Budget Subcommittee by June 1. That subcommittee will then develop a proposal to be considered in the special legislative session that is expected to begin in mid-June so that a budget can be passed before July 1. Now is our opportunity to influence state leaders before they pass a final budget and formula for distribution to schools. Following is contact information for the governor as well as state representatives and senators serving our district:

The Honorable Governor Mitch Daniels
200 West
Washington, Room 206
Indianapolis, IN 46204

State senators or representatives below can be reached by mail at:
200 W.
Washington Street
Indianapolis, IN 46204

Representative Cindy Noe Email:
Representative Gerald Torr Email
Representation Edward DeLaney Email

Senator Luke Kenley Email:
Senator Teresa Lubbers Email:
Senator Michael Delph Email

Thank you for your support of Carmel Clay Schools and our students’ future.


Barbara Underwood, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools

It is also worth noting that Superintendent Underwood has already announced her upcoming retirement (before she sent this email).

Obviously I agree with the concerns expressed in Underwood's email. I'm just surprised that the school district has decided to raise those concerns in such a public "in your face" way. Good job!

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

LibraryThing: Several updates

I've updated my LibraryThing catalog with brief reviews of Fault Line by Barry Eisler (his first novel not to feature John Rain), The Wine Trials by Robin Goldstein, and The Faithful Spy [John Wells #1] by Alex Berenson. I actually posted the reviews of Fault Line and The Wine Trials back in April and forgot to mention them here. Oops. Anyway, I'm now reading Gone Tomorrow [Jack Reacher #13] by Lee Child.


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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Participating in Representative Democracy

As we learned in high school civics, ours is not a pure democracy, but rather, a representative democracy. We don't vote on every issue confronting our country; we elect representatives to do so for us. Yet when we elect those representatives we don’t know every issue upon which they will vote. Which brings us to the second component of representative democracy that is often ignored: Communicating with elected representatives.

We hear about high paid lobbyists and special interest groups working to sway votes. Certainly those are important parts of our system. What is often forgotten is the power that each of us has to let our representatives know what we're thinking. I'm not naive enough to suggest that a handful of phone calls will be enough to overcome organized lobbying efforts. But most elected representatives (those who are not complete ideologues) care about what their constituents believe. Most members of Congress (and state legislatures) take seriously their jobs and the representative positions that they hold. And they want to get reelected.

Most elected officials will tell you that they hear from constituents on controversial issues and they hear about things that constituents oppose. They are less likely to hear from constituents about more mundane issues or about issues that constituents support. And, with the exception of the biggest and most controversial issues, I believe that you'll find that elected officials don't hear from nearly as many voters as you might think.

So, next time you hear or read about an issue or topic that is important to you, take a few minutes and contact your elected representatives. Tell them what you support or oppose and why. Be courteous and cogent, but not silent. Don't expect democracy to work with no effort other than pulling a lever or marking a ballot every few years; instead, take the initiative and participate. It's easy, doesn't take much time, and just might help make our country a better place.

(I wrote this post after calling the offices of Sen. Lugar and Sen. Bayh to tell them that I support the nomination of Dawn Johnson to the Office of Legal Counsel. I was prompted to call by the report in today's The Indianapolis Star that Republican state senators had sent Sen. Lugar and Sen. Bayh a letter asking them to drop their support for Johnson because she is pro-choice.)

Update (September 11, 2015): Fixed a typo in the title. Seriously.


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Monday, May 18, 2009

Me Me Me Me Me Now Available on Kindle

I'm a big fan of the Sony Reader and I think that it has lots of advantages when compared to Amazon's Kindle. That said, the Kindle is very popular and has the advantage of being able to wirelessly download material. For some time, several popular blogs were available for subscription the Kindle. Now, Amazon has made this service more widely available.

Thus, I am pleased to announce that Me Me Me Me Me is now available for subscription on and wireless delivery to the Kindle.

Amazon set the price at $1.99 month (I have no idea how they determine the pricing) and apparently I get 30% of that. Yeah, I know. It doesn't sound like a great deal to me either. But the point of making my blog available for the Kindle is to allow people who may be interested in what I have to say to read at their leisure (I've been told that I'm a bit long-winded) without having to sit in front of their computer.

I keep hearing that some bloggers make big bucks with their blogs. At $1.99 per month it should only take several thousand subscribers more than I currently have for me to hit the blogging jackpot!


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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day

My children were very creative with their Mother's Day gifts for my wife, so I thought that I'd share them. First, here is the picture that our son drew (you may not be able to tell, but it is actually six sheets of paper taped together to make a very large picture).
Ian's Mother's Day picture
My  daughter bought my wife a journal and wrote the following note (I’ve left her spelling intact; it adds character):
This book is for mom.
I love my mom because she is really nice and sweet. She douse every thing for me and only a little for herself. She also always buys me whatever I want. Since she runs a tootering bussieness she makes sure I get the best edgecution. We do lots of things together. Like we go shopping and take walks and go to movies and even sometimes too partys. My mom almost never ever yells at me. She also plays outside whenever she could. She treats every one in the family the same. When I say that I mean she loves every one of us equaly (including Ranger). I could never ever ever imagine hving someone else as my mom. If i did who knows what I would do. So all of those things I said well that is why I wrote this book.
I love you mommy!!
My wife cried.


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Friday, May 8, 2009

Hamas Child Care

Over the years, and especially during and immediately after the recent conflict between Israel and Hamas, we've been treated (subjected?) to innumerable pictures of alleged Palestinian suffering. I say "alleged" because there is plenty of evidence that many of the images that we've seen have been either doctored or staged. I'll leave that discussion for another day. In the meantime, I thought that I'd share some photos of children, mostly in Gaza, that we don't normally see in the mainstream media and which we certainly don't see from Israel's critics. Here, then, is child-care, Hamas-style (the green headband is a Hamas symbol; a yellow headband represents Hezbollah):

 hamas HamasProtestHamas terrorists teach the art of suicide bombing to a 5-year-old. (Israel News Agency)assud.JPG

I know that the bunny picture requires a bit of explanation. Assud the bunny was one of the stars of a Hamas children’s television program entitled “Tomorrow’s Pioneers” which airs on Hamas’ official TV station. The show was apparently modeled on Barney and Sesame Street (and had a Mickey Mouse lookalike). However, as you can see from the translation above (provided by Palestinian Media Watch), Assud the bunny taught children lessons far different from those taught by Barney, Big Bird, or Mickey Mouse. Assud, like several of the characters that preceded him was “martyred” (in the case of Assud, he “died” during the recent conflict in Gaza and on his deathbed called for the liberation of Tel Aviv and Haifa).


Of all the pictures on this page, I think that the pigtails, pink hair clips, bright blue eyes and rosy cheeks contrasted with the headband, gun, and flak jacket is the hardest to look at.

child-of-hamas by steppenwolf391.image image

I know that it may be hard to see, but note the burning Israeli flag in the above-picture.

image imageFor those who don’t recognize it, the building with the golden dome on the table is the Al-Aqsa mosque (also [though inaccurately, I believe] called the Dome of the Rock) in Jerusalem. Despite Israel’s control of east Jerusalem, the mosque and its environs remain under control of the Islamic Waqf of Jerusalem. For what it’s worth, it is also worth remembering that when Jordan controlled east Jerusalem, Jews were not allowed to visit the Western (Wailing) Wall which is adjacent to Al-Aqsa.image Image Hosted by ImageShack.usImage Hosted by

I could probably find thousands more similar pictures online, but I think that the point has been made. I understand that the Palestinians have issues with Israel and Jews; I understand that they believe that they have been wrongfully dispossessed of that which they believe belongs to them. But what does it say of a society that it would glorify war and martyrdom, especially suicide martyrdom, among its children?

How can peace ever be achieved, let alone sustained, when one side has indoctrinated its children with such a mindset of violence, hate, and death.

Leaders of Hamas and Hezbollah often say: “We love death more than the Jews love life.” These pictures make me think that we should take them at their word.

Updated November 15, 2012: Repaired a few dead links.

Updated June 12, 2013: Repaired a dead link, fixed a typo, and made a small correction.

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Take Pride in Literary Accomplishments

Sometimes people can -- and should -- be proud of small things. My wife's aunt has, for years, enjoyed writing for local publications (garden club and the social register, for example). She takes great joy and amusement from this endeavor and who can blame her. Well, now she has something of which she can be justifiably proud. One of her poems has been printed in the June 2009 issue of The Saturday Evening Post.

Just in case the text is too small in the scan, here is her poem:
And We Call Them Weeds

Don't be down on dandelions;
I'm not.
They have something to say,
And they mean a lot.
One morning you look out,
And guess what appears?
All you can see are the little dears.
They pop up their colors
In bright yellow and green.
They're so happy,
Never intending to be mean.
Dandelions were imported,
Those versatile gems,
By colonists who cooked
And fermented even their stems.
How graceful bobbing their heads
In tune with the wind,
Knowing not how soon
Their flock to be thinned.
Enjoy their short company,
Who sleep from dusk to light.
And before you cut them all down,
Bid them all a "Good night!"

--Pearl Joffe
How many of us can say that we've had our creative writing published in a magazine whose origins predate the birth of America?

Update (September 11, 2015): Fixed formatting.

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Saturday, May 2, 2009

Michelle Bachmann: The Idiot Who Won't Shut Up

Since posting Seditious Words From Republican Who Believes Democrats Are Anti-American on March 24, 2009, I've been negligent in providing updates on the continuing idiotic mutterings of Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minnesota). Unfortunately, this lunatic masquerading as a member of Congress keeps opening her mouth and each time that she does so, more drivel and inanity ensues. So, let me take this opportunity to highlight a few of her more recent pronouncements. (For those who want a refresher on Rep. Bachmann, take a look at these other previous posts: Republican Congresswoman Follows Palin's Lead and Calls for Investigation Into Anti-Americans in Congress, Bachmann Misreads Herself! Huh?, Another Republican Accuses Liberals of Being Unpatriotic, Bachmann Calls Her Own Comments an "Urban Myth", and Seditious Words From Republican Who Believes Democrats Are Anti-American).

First, in late March, Congress passed the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act which, as described by The New York Times "expand[s] national community service programs, increasing the number of positions to 250,000 from 75,000 and creating new cadres of volunteers focused on education, clean energy, health care and veterans." The Act expands AmeriCorps and creates several other similar organizations. The bill passed the Senate 78-20 and the House 275-149. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) called the Act "probably the most bipartisan bill we will see on the Senate floor this year". Yet in Rep. Bachmann's world of conspiracies aimed at American freedoms, the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act is a dangerous first step toward brainwashing America's youth:

I believe when it's all said and done, this service that -- I believe that there's a very strong chance that we will see that young people will be put into mandatory service. And the real concern is that there are provisions for what I would call re-education camps for young people, where young people have to go and get trained in a philosophy that the government puts forward and then they have to go and work in some of these politically correct forums. It's very concerning.
(My emphasis.) Really, Rep. Bachmann? Re-education camps? And even if some form of mandatory service were enacted (I doubt that there would be much support for that...), how does that equate to re-education camps? To me, it seems that her use of that phrase was intended (presuming that she is even smart enough to have intent) to have her right-wing audience equate the Act with the re-education camps of communist regimes (remember the whole "Obama is a socialist/Marxist" talking point...). Well, now Rep. Bachmann apparently wants to equate President Obama's ideas to enhance youth service opportunities with Mao and Pol Pot and the Gulag. Yep, volunteering to help with clean energy projects or health care for veterans is but a short leap to "re-education camps". Do you think she ever takes a moment to even listen to herself?

On April 7, 2009, Rep. Bachmann wrote an op-ed for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune in which she repeated a Republican talking point that President Obama's proposed cap-and-trade program would impose a severe burden on American families: "According to an analysis by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the average American household could expect its yearly energy bill to increase by $3,128 per year." Pretty scary, the idea of every family having to pay $3,128 more each year. And, hey, if MIT says that is what will happen, then we should probably be willing to rely on that information, right? Well, not so fast. You see, Rep. Bachmann, like a number of other Republicans, got the math wrong. In fact, one of the authors of the MIT report told Republicans that they were wrong before they began using their bogus scare-tactic. After the Republicans began touting this number, several news organizations demonstrated its falsity, but Republicans, including Rep. Bachmann continued to offer the false analysis. For more information, see GOP full of hot air about Obama's "light switch tax". It is also worth noting that Rep. Bachmann is a staunch opponent of the idea of global warming; just recently, in fact, she mentioned that carbon dioxide isn't harmful at all. There are scores of videos available online of her speaking out against the notion of global warming. So, as a reward for her failure to pay any attention to things like facts and her continued insistence that global warming isn't real, the Republican Congressional leadership appointed Rep. Bachmann to the GOP's "Energy Solutions" group.

When it comes to her thoughts on President Obama's policies, here are a few choice pieces from an interview Rep. Bachmann did with right-wing blogger Atlas Shrugs (who last year claimed that Barack Obama is the illegitimate child of Malcolm X) on April 1. Unfortunately, none of this was an April Fool's joke:

  • "We have to be extremely bold in our agenda for freedom, we need a freedom agenda, that would repeal and cut out what president Obama has implemented, but go beyond that and put this nation back on a footing where we will be the venue for risk taking, and to be a preserver of the freedoms that are enshrined, not only in the Constitution but in the Bill of Rights [editor's note: Um, isn't the Bill of Rights part of the Constitution?]. The Bill of Rights has been trampled upon, because the Bill of Rights as you know, was enjoining government from treading upon the liberties the people. It was all about ensuring individual liberties and rights, and President Obama is marching full steam in the opposite direction."

  • "And then we would pull way back on our spending, including eliminating the federal department of education."

  • "And so we need to once again decide, do we want to be free, or do we want to be slaves? We have to make that decision. And I know I've made my choice, you've made your choice. And we have to act in concert if we want to make sure that we can hold on to what we have."
Think about these comments for a moment. On April 1, President Obama had been in office for less than 3 months and Rep. Bachmann is talking about the Bill of Rights being "trampled upon"? Um, sorry, but perhaps she was confusing the Obama administration with the Bush administration. I'm curious to know precisely which portions of the Bill of Rights she believes have been trampled upon by President Obama and I'm equally curious to know why she wasn't screaming at President Bush (instead of hugging him and refusing to let go) as he imprisoned Americans with counsel or trial. Even more bizarrely, Rep. Bachmann appears to actually equate President Obama's economic policies to slavery (with a sly wink to the whole wealth distribution argument from back in the campaign). Slavery? Really? Because he wants to give working families a tax break? Or maybe the reference to slavery -- with an African-American President -- is really just a not-very subtle racist taunt for her ultra-conservative followers.

Remember the report that the Department of Homeland Security issued concerning the possibility of right-wing extremism? (For the record, it is worth noting that the report was begun during the Bush administration and a similar report was issued concerning left-wing extremism.) Well, Rep. Bachmann apparently read the report, too (well, "read" might be to strong a word; perhaps "skimmed" or maybe "saw it on a bookshelf" or even "listened to Glenn Beck tell her what the report said" would be more accurate). Anyway, the report has Rep. Bachmann shaking in fear and anger. Here are some of the thoughts that she expressed about the report in a speech in Congress:

Homeland Security has redefined pro-life gun-owning veterans who like smaller government and who believe America should secure our borders against invasion from illegal aliens as domestic right-wing extremists, as you have in the report upon the stand.


You can't get on a plane in the United States, a commercial aircraft, without going through security. What's going to happen now? Will the Federal Government start IDing returning veterans, start IDing gun owners, start IDing pro-lifers and then pull us out of line for special searches at the airports before we are allowed to get on a plane because we could be considered a domestic right-wing terrorist while we would see Osama bin Laden and his friends skate by because they are not, because maybe they would be involved in a manmade disaster. But those who are pro-life gun owners, returning veterans on the other side, they are the real threat?

This is an upside down Alice in Wonderland world. I can see why the American people are so upset right now. They are so upset. They look at what's happening. They shake their head. They say, is this America? Is this what we are used to? We are normal God-fearing people who love this country, and now we are the threat while Osama bin Laden and the people who seek to really bring us harm are let off scot free. And we are going to call them manmade disaster, we have got to be nuanced and so careful so we don't hurt their feelings? (Transcript [with minor typo corrections] taken from C-Span.)

I'll leave discussion of what the DHS report really says (and how some of it just might be true; after all, look at the recent spate of killings of police officers by just the sort of people that the report describes; oh, and don't forget Timothy McVeigh...). Instead, focus on the "Alice in Wonderland" world of Rep. Bachmann where she is less concerned with trying to actually understand the report or, more importantly (and especially in her case) an examination of whether some of the suggestions and concerns raised in the report might be true (and I can't imagine where right-wing extremists might get the idea of violence; after all, it isn't like members of Congress are suggesting armed revolu ... oops ... my bad ... never mind). Instead, she wants to go on one of her usual fear-mongering diatribes, this time suggesting that the TSA might use the report as a basis for screening veterans, gun owners, and pro-life advocates. Huh? You see, that demonstrates the problem with Rep. Bachmann (and others of her ilk); rather than read what the report actually says and think about its conclusions (and maybe take a giant step back from calling for armed revolution or McCarthy-esque investigations into patriotism), she wants to simply scare people. It is a far, far journey from making law enforcement aware of potential societal and economic factors that could play into the radicalization of certain elements of society to the suggestion that all members of society who happen to fall into the broadest categories of this societal cohorts should be viewed as dangerous. (And I didn't hear Rep. Bachmann worrying about left-leaning computer users being targeted, notwithstanding the DHS report suggesting they might be a source of cyber-terror.)

And one more thing: Where does she get the notion that bin Laden is being let of "scot free"? If I recall, President Bush (who you'll recall, Rep. Bachmann just loves to hug), had 7 years to find bin Laden (and yesterday was the 6th anniversary of President Bush's "Mission Accomplished" speech). I haven't heard the Obama administration say anything about letting bin Laden off the hook; instead, I recall hearing then-candidate Obama talk about re-focusing our attention from Iraq to al-Qaeda and those who really seek to do us harm. And President Obama just sent more troops to Afghanistan and his administration is currently working to convince Pakistan to get more serious about their actions against the Taliban.

Finally, here is one of her latest (and funniest, in a scary-sort of way) bizarro-world conspiracy pronouncements:

I find it interesting that it was back in the 1970s that the swine flu broke out then under Democrat President Jimmy Carter. And I'm not blaming this on President Obama, I just think it is an interesting coincidence.
There are two problems with this quote. First, what is the point of noting the "interesting coincidence" other than to raise some kind of conspiracy fear at the same time that she says she isn't doing just that? She isn't blaming President Obama, but... What makes the coincidence interesting in her neanderthalian brain (oops, she doesn't believe in evolution, so that metaphor probably doesn't work). Perhaps we should also note that the Pittsburgh Steelers won the Super Bowl in 2009, just a few months before the swine flu outbreak and they also won the Super Bowl in 1976, the month before that previous swine flu outbreak. Now that is an interesting coincidence, too! So, maybe the real culprit is the Steelers! Of course if you read that previous factoid carefully, you'll note the other problem with Rep. Bachmann's ongoing idiocy. The previous swine flu epidemic occurred in 1976 -- during the administration of President Gerald Ford, a Republican! But then, when you're trying to create a conspiracy fear, why bother to let mere facts get in the way. (And while I'm on the subject, MSNBC offered an interesting tidbit while ridiculing Rep. Bachmann on this point: Legionnaire's Disease, HIV/AIDS, Avian Flu, and SARS, all made their presence known during Republican administrations. Hmmmm.)

I could go on and on with some of her other recent idiotic statements. For example, Rep. Bachmann blamed Franklin Roosevelt for signing legislation that caused the Great Depression, even though the legislation in question was signed by Herbert Hoover and authored by Republicans, not to mention the fact that the Great Depression started several years before Roosevelt was elected. Rep. Bachmann has also argued that recent discussions about altering the world's reserve currency meant that the United States was considering giving up the Dollar as our national currency. Rep. Bachmann even introduced a Constitutional Amendment to prevent us from doing so; the funny thing is that if you read the text of the proposed amendment, you'll see that she doesn't understand how the separation of powers works because in drafting the amendment she seems to have forgotten that while the President can sign a treaty, only the Senate can ratify a treaty. (So far, 36 Republicans have chosen to co-sponsor the Amendment.) Nothing like amending the Constitution to stop a non-existent problem in a way that isn't necessary; now that's conservatism for you! However, after going through her statements and trying to address them point by point, I find myself becoming exhausted, exasperated, and I usually develop a bout of nausea and a bad headache.

Of course, Rep. Bachmann thinks things have been a bit overblown. She told The Minneapolis Star-Tribune "I haven't purposely been trying to be inflammatory" and that she was "trying to just explain to the American people what’s happening here in Washington, D.C." Well, considering that her frightening rhetoric has netted her over $300,000 in campaign contributions for the first quarter of 2009, I can't say that I feel any better.

The point to all of this is that Americans of all political viewpoints (other than the nutjobs at the fringes) need to be aware (or "armed with information" as Rep. Bachmann might say) with just what some of our elected leaders are really saying. Our leaders should be free to hold whatever viewpoints they want (subject to election and subsequent defeat by the electorate), but they should at least make a minimal effort to back up their statements with accurate facts, to avoid creating or feeding conspiracy theories, and to avoid inflammatory rhetoric that serves no purpose other than to divide and cause dissension, fear, and perhaps violence. Rep. Bachmann may be a buffoon, but those campaign contributions demonstrate that some people believe in what she is saying. And that is really scary.


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Friday, May 1, 2009

IN Touch: Germ Factory Lessons

My eighth post on The Indianapolis Star's IN Touch blog is now online. I'm going to keep re-posting those entries here (at least until someone from the Star asks me to stop). Go ahead and visit the post on the IN Touch site, anyway.

This week I've received two notices from the Carmel-Clay Public Schools providing information about the swine flu (oops, the H1N1 flu), including reminders about hand-washing and the school district's policy on when children should be kept home from school (fever of 100 degrees or higher).

We've made sure that our children understand that the flu is serious and that simple precautions can help keep them healthy.

What I don't understand, however, is why, if the school district is concerned enough to send numerous emails to parents, no attention is being paid to the flu by teachers. When I asked my children if any teachers had told them about the flu or reminded them to wash their hands or cover their mouths if they coughed or sneezed, they told me that the teachers hadn't said anything.

It seems to me that the schools need to make a concerted effort to be sure that the germ factories (also known as children) in their charge remember take those simple steps that can help prevent the spread of illness.

Update (May 2, 2009): This post was printed in The Indianapolis Star on May 2, 2009.

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