The Making of a (Soto)mayor

If she was not perjuring herself, she is intellectually unqualified to be on the Supreme Court. If she was perjuring herself, she is morally unqualified.

So said Georgetown law professor Mike Seidman (linked here at the Volokh Conspiracy) when referring to Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor’s startling [expected?] remake as an originalist, conservative, judicial minimalist.

Seidman is right to be concerned about the judge’s testimony yesterday and today (albeit for the wrong reasons). Seidman was upset, of course, that Sotomayor’s handlers in the Obama Administration felt it necessary for her to not only tone down her rhetoric, but to dispatch of almost 20 years worth of legal opinions and legal writings and speeches. Still, accusing someone of perjury is a serious charge.

Seidman continues “Either Judge Sotomayor had to misrepresent what she knows judges (all judges, conservative and liberal) do in hard cases, or she had to risk defeat. I’m willing to concede that this is not an easy choice, but I nonetheless think that she made a serious mistake.”

As Jim Geraghty said on National Review Online today,

If you knew absolutely nothing about Sonia Sotomayor before Tuesday’s confirmation hearing and judged her entirely on her answers, you could easily come to the conclusion that she had been nominated by Pres. George W. Bush and was likely to sail through confirmation with the strong support of conservatives in the legal community…But most likely, her rhetoric suggests a concession on the part of the Obama administration that the attitudes exhibited in her previous statements and speeches just won’t sell.

No conservative, of course, should believe that the nominee has completely changed her judicial philosophy since she was nominated for the Supreme Court, but it’s encouraging to know that her views and the views of Seidman and his ilk, are far outside the mainstream (although they are mainstream among legal academics).

James Copland of the Manhattan Institute nonetheless believes the theater playing out this week before the Judiciary Committee is good for the future of legal politics, stating “Sotomayor embraced legal formalism and rejected legal realism, critical race theory, and the host of other academic deconstructionist fashions of the past eighty-odd years.” He continues by arguing that any future nominee will be held to the Sototmayor Standard: someone who professes to be as leftwing as any potential Obama nominee actually is will seem even more outside of the mainstream when compared to this week’s Sotomayor.

If only Justice Sotomayor would actually decide cases according to the judicial philosopy she claims this week.

“Catholic” Sotomayor’s Confirmation

Sotomayor is on the path to judicial confirmation. And barring any serious red flags, she will be confirmed. Scalia, of course, predicted this. Then again, most political pundits would have guessed the same. Female. Hispanic. Protestant – scratch that – Catholic. With a Democrat in the Oval Office, the addition of one more label trumps them all: liberal.

Her opening statement, I felt, was quite disingenuous. Her judicial philosophy: “fidelity to law.” The goal: “uphold[] the Constitution as a Justice on the Supreme Court.” Contrast this with her statement at Duke’s law school where the stated that appellate courts are where policy is made. Apparently, the distinction between applying the law and making the law is lost on Sotomayor. The Supreme Court is the final court where the impact – and consequences – of decisions reverberate through numerous generations.

Unfortunately for conservatives, there is little to halt the confirmation. Churchill remarked that “history is written by the victors”; this confirmation elucidates this truism quite well. Republicans failed to find the Achilles heel of a liberal justice. Granted, Sotomayor’s “wise Latina” comment provided fodder for a decent firefight; but without a spark, the fire fails.

Perhaps that spark could have been Ricci v. DeStefano, but outrage at Sotomayor’s decision is also seemingly feigned. I believe Sotomayor is an activist judge (see here), but I wouldn’t use DeStefano as the lightening rod to mount opposition against her. After all, four Supreme Court justices agreed with Sotomayor’s ruling. The case could have very well come out the opposite way had the Court’s composition been reversed.

This is not “que sera, sera”; I am not so disengaged to believe that. I recognize though that while Sotomayor’s confirmation is virtually inevitable, this is not the be-all-and-end-all. Frustrating yes, but remember, the Court’s makeup still has not changed.

Dead Tree Watch

Lets all give the New York Times Co. a round of applause for this great idea, charging readers monthly fees to access online content (and in the midst of an economic downturn no less.) That’s sure to help the Times flagging readership numbers…

If you’ll remember, the NYT famously tried this with their opinion columnists a few years back, and they were forced to pull the plug when no one bit. With print newspaper readership cratering, this is exactly the wrong tact for the Times, or any other newspaper, to be taking. What the future of the print media is is anyone’s guess – will it be scaled down dailes? Transformed bi-weeklies? Or will print media be discontinued completely?

What does seem certain is that consumers will be looking more and more to web-based media for their news. How traditionally print mediums can adapt to this format, while competing with already established web-based news sources like Politico and Huffington Post, will determine the fate of the industry.

It’s Not A Slippery Slope…

…it’s a swan-dive off a cliff.

In the past, Oregon’s “physician-assisted suicide” regime has been upheld by the highest court in the land, in the face of dire warnings that the system would lead to the same horrifying abuses that have followed in other nations.

Oregonians are now faced with a situation where their state is not only actively killing its citizens, in Stroup’s case, it is seemingly soliciting “patients.”

I submit that a system like Oregon’s is not a “step” toward anything, it is as horrific and terrifying in its implications as anything found in science fiction. The scope here is not as broad, the machinations are not as smoth, but the callousness and disregard for the value of human life is every bit as chilling.

Oregon (and by extension, the nation) is not sliding down a slippery slope, it’s gone off the edge and is in free-fall.

A Conservative’s Dilemma

The Omnivore’s Dilemma was an interesting read. Michael Pollan is an engaging writer who takes the reader on an interesting journey through the food chain. A friend of mine from high school called the book “transformative.” Informative, for sure, but transformative? No.

Pollan provides an inside look into the corn-rich diet in America first by looking at the many ways corn has morphed from being a crop into a commodity. After discussing the corn-industrial food chain, he looks at the organic chain and the forager-hunter chain.
The abnormal approach to food taken by large industry is frightening. I’m not typically a food Nazi and I do not eat organic all the time (I don’t make that much money). What I do, however, is make food decisions that will promote optimal health. I do not eat a lot of sweets, I avoid processed foods, I stay away from high-fat products. Thus it seems only natural that I would stay away from meat that comes from a cow fed an unnatural diet who only remained healthy enough to make it to slaughter by being fed with various chemicals mixed in the feed.
The other food chains Pollan describes are far more complex both in their operation and their ability to survive in our culture. He takes a deep look at the organic-industrial food chain embodied by Whole Foods and asks whether it is really any better than the highly processed corn-food chain above. The answer is no. The organic food chain is just an industrial food chain in different clothing pandering to the masses.
True organic, as in the farm Pollan visits in Virginia, is less a food chain than a foo
d cycle. There, the symbiosis of nature shines forth in the quality of the food, and the quality of life of the animals. From a pure foodie standpoint, this is the way to go–better taste, better quality, and working with a farmer who understands and loves his trade. But in our mass-produced, immediate gratification culture, such small farms may become extinct soon enough.
The forager’s chain was an extended discussion of firsts: Pollan’s first time hunting, his first time gathering mushrooms, etc. It was also a lesson in how far technology has developed the way we eat. Instead of killing our food and dragging it home (or going hungry), we need only to go to the grocery store and pick up a ready-made meal to pop in the microwave. We’ve come a long way, but I’m not convinced it is the right way.
Another book, closely related to the Omnivore’s Dilemma, that was influential in my conservative thinking is Crunchy Cons. Dreher’s book describes a riff on the conservative movement that is very appealing to me. After reading it, I told my wife that there is finally a label for us. Don’t get me wrong, not everything in Dreher’s work appeals to or describes me. Much of it, however, speaks to something conservatism has lost.
Dreher and Pollan both ask us to re-think the way we interact with the world. This is not a nature-loving, tree-hugging moment, but a serious inquiry into man and the world. If the Bible says that we are to have dominion over the world, what kind of caretakers will we be?
How we act shows forth who and what we are. If we are conservatives, it stands to reason that we should be in favor of conserving the goodness and abundance we’ve been given. Books like these could be highly influential in conservative circles as we strive to develop a coherent environmental policy for 2012 and beyond. The only trick is getting people to read them.

We Hold These Truths to Be Self-Evident

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness…

And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.