Friday, May 22, 2009

Quote of the Day

Limbaugh hasn't had a natural erection since the Nixon Administration; think he's compensating for something? Now, I wouldn't pick on him for any of this stuff, not his blubbiness, not his man-boobs, not his inability to have a natural erection—none of that stuff—to me, off limits until! until! Mr. Limbaugh, you turn that sort of gun on somebody else—once you start doing that, you're fair game, fat boy. Absolutely, you jiggly pile of mess. You're just fair game, and you're going to get it, too.
Ronald Reagan, Jr. from The Slog

(Via AMERICAblog)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Time to Commence

Today's the day for President Obama's commencement speech at Notre Dame's graduation, amid the protests of the small, but vocal anti-abortion activists.

Despite the media attention given to the "controversy" over his commencement, the reality is that the student body and a majority of Catholics do not oppose Obama's appearance at the university. Media Matters highlights the hypocrisy in Barack Obama, Notre Dame, and the Casey myth:

President Obama is scheduled to speak at Notre Dame's graduation ceremony this weekend, after more than a month of complaints from a small number of anti-abortion rights activists who have received media attention far disproportionate to their numbers.

Since the announcement on March 20 that Obama would speak, The Washington Post alone has addressed the controversy in 11 articles and columns. The New York Times has dealt with it in eight columns and articles. And as for television news segments, there have been too many to count.

Notre Dame's class valedictorian also dismissed the so-called controversy, noting in a Huffington Post piece, Obama Practices Catholic Values:

"This issue has not divided the campus by any means," says the Catholic, pro-life biology major who will be attending Harvard Medical School after graduation.

. . . Bollman stressed that her peers do not view the president's overall values as inconsistent with Catholicism. In fact, Bollman says Obama is practicing Catholic values in his administration. Like Jesus, Bollman says, Obama is trying to invite "everyone to the table."

A group of esteemed liberal Catholics have taken out a full page ad in the local South Bend paper welcoming the President. And, in what can only be seen as a show of support to the President of Notre Dame for asking Obama to be commencement speaker, the Class of 2009 chose him as Senior Class Fellow:

The University of Notre Dame’s Class of 2009 has selected Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., the University’s president, as the Senior Class Fellow.

Voted on by seniors, the award is an “accolade traditionally given to a member of the Notre Dame community who has had a significant impact on the graduating class,” according to W. Joseph Brown, senior class president.

Media Matters also focuses on the irony of the protests, since Democrats have been criticized for years about former PA Governor Bob Casey:
For nearly 17 years, the media have told us that the Democrats' refusal to allow Casey to speak at their 1992 national convention because of his opposition to abortion was an exclusionary, closed-minded stunt that drove away potential supporters.
Adding to the irony is the fact that Casey's son, PA Senator Robert Casey Jr is the commencement speaker at King's College today as well and his appearance there has drawn the ire from Scranton Bishop Martino. King’s College’s invitation draws Martino’s anger. Casey, like his father, is a strong anti-abortion advocate. His real sin (besides being a Democrat) is the fact that he has supported President Obama.

The Catholic Church has always been against contraceptives and other forms of birth control (other than the mommy-inducing rhythm method), as well as abortion. Yet, it is only in the past few years that it has become the Church of the Anti-Abortion Faithful. It has an all-defining and all-consuming issue for the Church, overwhelming any other creed or article of faith that was once part of the Church's teachings.

This can be seen in the clergy's reaction to Obama's selection at Notre Dame. As the Rude Pundit notes, Why Is This Pro-Choice Commencement Guest Different Than the Others?:
As bullshit protests begin to build over President Barack Obama's upcoming speech at the graduation ceremonies of the University of Notre Dame, as the froth is whipped into a rich, thick foam by self-aggrandizing pro-life activists and desperate-for-relevance Catholic bishops, perhaps a bit of history of graduation activities at Notre Dame is in order:

In 1980, the commencement speaker was Carter administration Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti, a supporter of abortion rights.

In 1987, an honorary degrees were given to the pro-choice Coretta Scott King, Alan Simpson, and Rosalyn Carter.

In 1991, an honorary degree was given to Jane Pauley, a pro-choice supporter.

In 1992, protesters lined up as pro-choice Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan was given the university's Laetare Medal, "the oldest and most prestigious honor awarded an American Catholic," according to the Washington Post. President George H.W. Bush, giving the commencement keynote, went out of his way to praise Moynihan.

In 1993, an honorary degree was given to pro-choice judge Alan C. Page.

In 2000, the commencement speaker was then-U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who supports all kinds of family planning programs, including those where abortion is allowed.

You get the idea here? The Catholic Church: stinking with rank hypocrisy since Peter stood on a rock. And Catholics: the group that really puts the sheep in the flock.
I think that William Lindsey of Bilgrimage explains the real problem that underlies the Church's stance, in Notre Dame, Anti-Abortion Extremists, and the Pastoral Failure of the U.S. Catholic Bishops:
I read about the activities of the “pro-life” extremists seeking to embarrass Notre Dame University for inviting President Obama to its commencement, and I am more than ever convinced that those staging such protests have little interest in cherishing life at all. That's not their game. That is not what this is about, the baby carriages filled with dolls covered in stage blood delivered to Fr. Jenkins’s door, the life-sized images of twelve-week fetuses placed at strategic locations around campus, the airplanes streaming giant photos of an aborted fetus.

This is about intimidation, about seeking to use fear, awe, shock as a technique to control others. It is about control, about a clearly identifiable sociological group who want to represent themselves as the voice of conscience for everyone, who sense that their control of others is waning, and who are willing to use fear as a way of reasserting their control. It is about a minority seeking to impose their will on the majority. It is about those who have for centuries claimed the right to write scripture and interpret scripture for the rest of us, continuing to assert that right in the face of claims that undermine the right.
As always with these things, it's about power & control. Or, as I've said before "Pay, Pray, Obey."


The commencement address will be live at 2 PM (EST) on the University of Notre Dame website.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Quote of the Day

Dick Cheney was on the news this week, and he said that it would be a mistake for the Republicans to moderate their policies. He said they should remain true to their core principles: gay bashing, war profiteering and torture.

- Bill Maher

Friday, May 15, 2009

Sarah's Simple Story

At yesterday's LLWL lunch, we engaged in our perpetual discussion on the winner of the Palin-Be-Gone Wager. No declared winner yet.

As part of the Sarah table talk, the discussion turned to Palin's upcoming book deal, her opportunity to finally tell her side of the story.

No title yet. However, some great contenders can be found at The Mudflats, with an opportunity to vote on a title. A few of my favs:

The Audacity of Hype
Palin Place
Beyond the Palin
Goodnight Loon
Sarah Vain and Simple
The Lyin’ The Witch and the Wardrobe.

Finally, David Letterman's Top 10 Surprises in Sarah Palin's Memoir:

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Don't Know What to do About Yoo

As an update to my previous post about the Philadelphia Inquirer adding John "Mr. Torture" Yoo to its opinion pages -- The Conservative Corner -- there has been quite the reaction from near & far.

As the NYTimes notes, Ire Over a Columnist, an Author of Torture Memos:

When The Philadelphia Inquirer hired as its new opinion columnist John C. Yoo, an author of the Bush administration’s widely criticized legal memos on harsh interrogation techniques, it was probably inevitable that the decision would draw complaints.

The surprise was that it took months to provoke much reaction, in part because it took that long for readers to realize that Mr. Yoo, a Philadelphia native, was not an occasional contributor, as he had been for years, but a regular monthly fixture at the paper. The Inquirer hired him last fall for a year, but did not make a splashy public announcement, as it did in 2007, with former Senator Rick Santorum, who writes every two weeks.
As the Times added:

Harold Jackson, The Inquirer’s editorial page editor, said he was surprised by the sudden delayed anger directed his way over Mr. Yoo. He said the decision to hire a columnist was his, but that “Mr. Yoo was suggested by the publisher,” Brian Tierney.

“There was a conscious effort on our part to counter some of the criticism of The Inquirer as being a knee-jerk liberal publication,” Mr. Jackson said. “We made a conscious effort to add some conservative voices to our mix.”

A knee-jerk liberal publication? The only people who could possibly think that are those who stopped reading it long ago. The more recent people driven away did so because it was anything but. Will Bunch noted, in Definitely not a "knee-jerk liberal publication": "I kind of thought they'd already dispelled that 'knee-jerk liberal' thing by hiring Rick Santorum, Michael Smerconish, etc., but maybe that's just me."

As for Jackson being surprised about delayed anger? Gee, I don't suppose it might have had anything to do with the fact that no one knew. As Steve Benen says, YOO CAN'T BE SERIOUS:
This doesn't work at all. First, there was "delayed anger" because no one knew -- and the paper didn't announce -- that the Inquirer had actually hired Yoo until this past weekend. As a rule, people rarely complain about a development before learning about it.
And if that's not enough, the coup d'grace was:
Post Script: Tierney told the NYT few of his readers actually care about this: "I've gotten more mail recently on our making our comics smaller than I have on John Yoo." Here's hoping that changes fairly soon.
Blogger Philebrity proposes that we locals take action to express our displeasure through a boycott of the Inky so long as Yoo Know Who is part of the paper, Editorial: Boycott The Philadelphia Inquirer.:
But to give voice to one of the architects of one of America’s darkest moments ever is simply a bridge too far. As readers and colleagues in the media (however much some Inky folks might want to deny that simple fact), we are, to put it plainly, disgusted. This city has taken a lot of abuse from the Philadelphia Inquirer over the years, and via its ongoing Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, it stands to take more — who knows how much local businesses will get stiffed when all is said and done? This is more than insult to injury. To even have Yoo’s voice emanating from this city’s presupposed paper of record is a blight upon Philadelphia itself. And it’s here that we say, “Enough.” Please join us in boycotting the Philadelphia Inquirer from this point forward — both in physical form AND online — until the paper sees fit to remove John Yoo from its pages, and encourage others to do so as well.
On the other hand, Mary Shaw of Philadelphia Freedom Blog opposes the boycott, Why I oppose the Inquirer boycott:
In this country, John Yoo has the right to spew his vile nonsense, and the Inky has every right to publish his distasteful content. I don't have to read Yoo's columns if I don't want to. But I might want to. Because a key to defeating one's opponents in an argument is to understand the opponent's thought processes.

Hopefully Yoo's columns can provide us with some insights into the psyche of the torturer, and hopefully we can use those insights constructively to present better arguments to counter Yoo's talking points.

That is where we can be truly effective. Rather than boycotting the Inky, we should read each and every one of Yoo's columns. And we should respond to each column en masse with well-reasoned and well-written letters to the editor, in great enough numbers to ensure that some will get published.
I certainly agree with Mary Shaw's sentiments, but I know that there is no way that I would waste my time with the likes of Yoo (or Santorum). In my view, some ideas are so outside the realm of reason that they are worth responding to. In fact, I think part of the problem with our discourse today is that we have given a forum to people whose extremist views should never have received a platform.

I am definitely more in the boycott camp. I have chronicled the decline of the Inky since its purchase by PR mogul Brian Tierney in May of 2006. At various times, I have been annoyed enough to want to stop getting the paper -- like when Rick Santorum was hired. My husband was even willing to do so, even though he prefers to read the actual paper than the on-line version. The quality has also declined, much like the size of the paper itself, but there are still those reporters who manage to do a great job despite what has to be trying conditions. It is for that reason that I still hesitate to pull the plug. But I'm still thinking about it.

As for Tierney, I wish him nothing but the worst. And he is getting it from all over, since Inky's stance has earned it some delicious scorn. Gawker expresses it best, Philly Paper Has 'Only Despicable Republicans' Hiring Policy:
The Philadelphia Inquirer is a bankrupt paper run by a greedy Republican flack. They're going to save themselves by hiring America's most unpopular and/ or idiotic Republicans as columnists:

John Yoo, the Bush lawyer most famous for his Torture Memos, is now a bylined Inquirer columnist. Let's examine a list of the paper's recent high-profile Op-Ed page hirings:

  • John Yoo.
  • Rick Santorum.
See also, Did I Miss the Part Where John Yoo Actually Matters?

For more opinion on the issue, see:

Is Philly Inquirer also OK with Yoo's hypocrisy?

The Philadelphia Inquirer and John Yoo

The Philadelphia Inquirer and Yoo

Cartoon of the Day

Matt Davies, The Journal News

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

What's the Matter With Yoo?

The fact that I had to read about it elsewhere is perhaps most telling of all.

The editorial/op-ed section used to be the first stop on my daily perusal of the paper, which I read front-to-back (other than the sports section). No more. In fact, I no longer read the opinion pages of the Inquirer -- what I now not-so-affectionately refer to as the "Conservative Corner" of the paper.

In a recent piece by Steven Reynolds on Why the Philadelphia Inquirer is in Bankruptcy and its hiring of Rick Santorum as a columnist (coincidence? I think not), I commented:

Not to mention that Philly is a strongly Democratic town & the editorial page is now a GOP rag (I stopped reading it a while ago). Santorum, Krauthammer & Smerconish on the same masthead makes one think of the Washington (”Moonie”) Times, not the Inky.

[Brian] Tierney is supposedly trying to appeal to the suburbanites who were turned off by the “liberal bent” of the Inky, but he misunderstands that most don’t hold his hard right views. What’s particularly ironic about the choice of Santorum is that he was mainly defeated because the republicans in SE PA rejected his brand of conservationism. And, of course, it doesn’t help that he can’t express a complete thought in a rational manner.

Despite that, I was still surprised by the most recent addition to the Conservative Corner -- none other than Mr. Torture himself, John Yoo.

As Will Bunch reveals in his AttyTood blog, Inquirer defends the indefensible: A monthly column by torture architect John Yoo:

By late last year, the world already knew a great deal about John Yoo, the Philadelphia native and conservative legal scholar whose tenure in the Bush administration as a top Justice Department lawyer lies at the root of the period of greatest peril to the U.S. Constitution in modern memory. It was widely known in 2008, for example, that Yoo had argued for presidential powers far beyond anything either real or implied in the Constitution -- that the commander-in-chief could trample the powers of Congress or a free press in an endless undeclared war, or that the 4th Amendment barring unreasonable search and seizure didn't apply in fighting what Yoo called domestic terrorism.

Most famously, Yoo was known as the author of the infamous "torture memos" that in 2002 and 2003 gave the Bush and Cheney the legal cover to violate the human rights of terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere, based on the now mostly ridiculed claim that international and U.S. laws against such torture practices did not apply. Working closely with Dick Cheney, Cheney's staff and others, Yoo set into motion the brutal actions that left a deep, indelible stain on the American soul.

Yet none of that was enough to prevent my colleagues upstairs at the Philadelphia Inquirer -- with none of the fanfare that might normally accompany such a move -- to sign a contract with Yoo in late 2008 to give him a regular monthly column.

* * * *

Because Yoo's working arrangement with the Inquirer was never formally announced, even people who work here at 400 North Broad Street, the home of the Daily News and Inquirer,weren't immediately aware (myself included)that Yoo was now a regular columnist, joining an increasingly rightward-tilting lineup that also includes the likes ex-Sen. Rick Santorum (at $1,750 a pop), Michael Smerconish, a moderate Republican who is also a forceful advocate for torture, Kevin Ferris and others.
I've already written about the what's the matter with Yoo many times in the past, including a riff on an earlier op-ed piece, Yoo What?, in which Yoo audaciously argued that the Supreme Court exceeded its authority by deciding issues of constitutional import in a manner that did not give sufficient weight to the President -- or even Congress. Of course, I'm sure he'd concede the error of his ways, now that there's a President of a different color in the House (that is, blue rather than red, of course). See also, The Horror of Yoo and Yoo Who.

Yoo's latest dribble for the Inky is to echo the latest GOP talking point, that "empathy" is not a qualification for the Supreme Court. John Yoo Argues for Neutrality, Needs Empathy. According to Orin Hatch, empathy is Code for activist. I realize that empathy is not a word in the conservative vocabulary. Not surprisingly, the Republicans believe that you have to be cold, cruel and souless in order to serve on the Court (think Thomas, Scalia and Alito).

Jonathan Valania of Phawker also has a compendium of opinion on the Inquirer's hiring of Yoo, HECKUVA JOB TIERNEY: Why Is THIS Man Bloviating About Supreme Court Replacements In The Inquirer?. As he says:
First Santorum, now Yoo. Increasingly, the Inquirer’s editorial page has become the place where the last eight years go to die. What’s next? Replacing Craig LaBan with Dick Cheney? Tom DeLay’s pitbull movie reviews? Karl Rove reviving the Marley & Me franchise?
One good thing. Yoo doesn't need a law license to write his discredited opinions on the law, so if Pennsylvania were to disbar him, as has apparently been recommended by the report for the DOJ on torture, he could still pontificate to the readers of the Inky, who appear to be matching the numbers of the GOP itself -- an ever downward spiral.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

She's a Doll

Anyone who knows me or reads this blog knows about the Palin Be Gone Wager that I had with one of the LLWL members. Our bet was whether Sarah Palin would continue her celebrity status in the aftermath of the election. As I described it before:

Although I'm normally not a gambler, I even agreed to a wager. My bet was that Sarah would slink off sooner rather than later, while my colleague said Sarah's staying. The loser has to buy pizza for the office from Old Forge, located nearby my hometown of Scranton (which I have bragged for years has the best pizza ever). After much back & forth on the matter, we decided that the Ides of March would be the date of determination. At that point in time, would Sarah Palin still be in the news?

Admittedly, Palin certainly continued full blast in the early post-election days, but then began to pale as time went on. I chronicled her decline in Out of the Spotlight and Off The Radar.

And yes, although the drop dead date for the bet was March 15th, we've yet to declare a winner. I've acknowledged that Palin has had a resurgence of sorts since the Ides of March, The Wasilla Snowbillies, but that doesn't help my erstwhile colleague. Of course, as I've mentioned before, she's willing to call it a tie, but lord knows I can never concede defeat. So our Old Forge Pizza fest is on hold, to the consternation of the rest of the office.

Along with our Palin Patter, I received an official Sarah Palin calendar as a surprise holiday present from my gambling pal. See The Year of Living Palin. It's prominently displayed on the wall facing my credenza, much to the shock & surprise of clients & friends who happen by the office. Of course, I rarely discuss politics with clients, but a few who know me well at least suspect my liberal leanings, even if they do not share them. So the expression on their face as they gaze at Sarah's face is priceless, with a look of bewilderment and confusion.

When I received my Christmas present, I was told that there was yet another present coming, but that it had been delayed. Well, it finally arrived yesterday.

My very own Sarah Palin doll!

Sexy, Sassy Sarah.

This treasured collectors item has arrived just in time too, since Sarah's been named to The 2009 TIME 100, with her praises sung by no less a luminary than Ann Coulter, who says of Palin:

Sarah Palin was arguably the most influential person in 2008, but no one notices because she wasn't influential enough to overcome the deficits of her running mate and win the election.

* * * *
John McCain was so preposterous a candidate (at least on a Republican ticket) that Palin was responsible for far more votes than the usual vice-presidential candidate. The biggest red flag proving her popularity with normal Americans is that liberals won't shut up about her. Palin is a threat to liberals because she believes in God and country and family — all values liberals pretend to believe in but secretly detest. There's a reason there's no "Stop Olympia Snowe before it's too late!" movement.
On the other hand, it all depends on your perspective. I'm not sure that Coulter gets the last word. Mitt Romney may have called it, when he remarked:
In the latest instance of a high-profile GOP member taking a passing swipe at the party's 2008 vice presidential candidate, former Massachusetts governor and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney jokingly dismissed Sarah Palin’s inclusion on Time’s list of influential people in an interview broadcast Sunday.

He asked, was “the issue on the most beautiful people or the most influential people?”
And finally, after playing the tease for a while, Sarah Palin to be part of the National Council for a New America, the latest rebranding effort by the GOP.

So, my Palin doll will be a conversation piece for a while.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Cartoon of the Day

Steve Sack, Star Tribune

'The Soloist'

We rarely see a movie in the theater (a Mother's Day outing to see Crash a few years ago may have been the last time), but we decided that the rainy weather was perfect for a family movie night. The Soloist certainly fit the mood of the weather.

My daughter's reading the book now and I'm familiar with the story from reading Steve Lopez' columns in the LA Times when he originally wrote of the story of the mentally ill musician in 2005. Lopez had been one of my favorite writers at the Inky, so I followed his columns when he moved to LA., including his awarding winning series of stories about Nathaniel Ayers, a schizophrenic homeless man who was a gifted musician and had attended Juilliard. These stories comprise the book and the plot of the movie.

The headline of the Philly Daily News review says it all, ‘The Soloist’ not a feel-good film. As Gary Thompson explains:

Did I mention it's also intentionally atonal, this dirge? "The Soloist" is a tough movie built around the difficult friendship between Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez (ex of the Inky) and the homeless man whose life he chronicles.

It begins when Lopez (Robert Downey Jr.) strikes up a conversation with a street musician named Ayers (Jamie Foxx), who's ranting and plucking on two strings of a busted violin.

The man babbles, but Lopez gets his name, hears the word "Julliard," and does a little digging. He unearths (and reports, in a series of columns) the compelling biography of a boy genius whose promise was cut short by madness, a biography that also tells the story of urban homelessness. (As does this movie, with rare emotional restraint.)

Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx gave excellent portrayals of the two men, Lopez and Ayers, as they met and eventually connected, despite their different backgrounds and Ayers mental problems. Lopez, in his own way, had the more difficult task, since he had to overcome the desire to help Ayers "fix" his life by trying to find a way for Ayers to obtain medical assistance. He also had to confront the fact that, as a writer, he connected with others through observation and maintained his distance. As he became involved with Ayers, that solo personality would prevent him from reaching the soloist Ayers. With his severe mental illness, Ayers was unable to change his behavior in any meaningful way. For him, music was the only way that he was able to soothe the voices in his head and sometimes let in the real world. Once Lopez was able to accept that reality, they were able to form a bond of sorts.

I tend to agree with Rebecca Murray's Review:

As Lopez gets to know Ayers - as much as anyone can know a stranger with severe mental problems who's not being treated for his disease - he discovers an incredible musician still exists inside the man who 99.9% of the population would go out of their way to avoid eye contact with. What started as the idea for one column turns into a life-changing relationship from which both men benefit, though in vastly different ways.

Is proclaiming Robert Downey Jr one of the best actors of his generation pushing it? Check out The Soloist and tell me Downey Jr isn't at the top of his game as a newspaper reporter who uses Ayers to get a story before finding himself unintentionally becoming the most stable friend the tortured Ayers had during his years on the streets. It's mostly through Downey Jr's eyes that we follow the story, listening in while he dictates what he's learned dealing with Ayers into his tape recorder before writing up his articles for the LA Times. Downey Jr thoroughly and absolutely becomes this veteran journalist who gets too close to his subject and finds himself caught up in Ayers' life to point where an actual friendship has formed.

Jamie Foxx delivers yet another poignant performance as he tackles what just had to be the most difficult role of his career. Whether speaking at a manic pace as Ayers' mind trips out on him or altering everything about his being when Ayers shows moments of near lucidity, Foxx never, ever turns his portrayal of Ayers into a caricature of a mentally unbalanced man.

* * * *

Wright's made an honest, unflinching film that's uncomfortable to watch at times, a pure joy to behold at others, and overall as faithful to its source material as possible while still being cinematically entertaining.

Most of the reviews of the movie were mixed, but the family all liked the movie, despite it's overall depressing theme. I'm glad that I saw the movie before I read the book, to eliminate the comparisons between the two. Both my daughter and the woman sitting behind me kept pointing out differences in the movie. (The Los Angeles Times review notes a few of the variances).

But it was my husband who was most affected, because he worked with the mentally ill homeless about 20 years ago and it brought back a wave of memories for him. In fact, he coincidentally had a meeting nearby this week, so he happened to stop at the agency he had worked. An old colleague is now running the Center. He even ran into an old client, who remembered him. The man, still homeless after all these years, was excited because he thought my husband was returning to the Center.

All in all, we thought the movie was a realistic portrayal of mental illness & homelessness that certainly won't leave you feeling uplifted. Yet, it was well-done & managed to be moving nonetheless.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Long Time Passing

Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

Pete Seeger

Born this day, May 3, 1919

Celebrates 90

(& Happy Birthday to Karen, who's a few years younger than Pete)

Jumping Up & Down

Ever since the announcement earlier this week of Justice Souter's retirement from the Supreme Court, the expectation is that the conservatives will try to nix whoever is nominated by President Obama, as the GOP gears up for Court fight. In keeping with being the "Party of No," as the Politico notes:

Senate Republicans admit they have virtually no shot at stopping President Barack Obama’s pick to replace Supreme Court Justice David Souter — but they see a definite political upside in waging a fight.

A small cadre of GOP researchers has already begun scouring the records of Souter’s potential replacements — hoping to find a trove of inflammatory legal writings or off-the-wall positions to hang around the necks of vulnerable Democrats in the 2010 midterms . . . .

“Whoever they get is basically a zero-sum replacement for Souter — so I think it’s more of an opportunity for us than it is for them,” said a senior Republican leadership aide, adding that a liberal nominee could hurt conservative Democrats like Sens. Blanche Lincoln (Ark.) and Evan Bayh (Ind.), both of whom are up for reelection in 2010. “I don’t think, given their majority, that we can stop them, but it’s a great opportunity for us to tie their incumbents to whatever crazy opinions or statements come to light.”
There has even been discussion of the possible filibuster of the nominee. As was noted by Booman Tribune, Will GOP Filibuster SCOTUS Pick?:
When Samuel Alito was confirmed, only four Democrats voted for him (Tim Johnson of South Dakota, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, and Robert Byrd of West Virginia). However, the real vote was to invoke cloture. On that vote, the Democrats were much more generous. The following Democrats (in addition to the previous four) voted for cloture: Daniel Akaka of Hawaii, Max Baucus of Montana, Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, Maria Cantwell of Washington, Tom Carper of Delaware, Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, Bill Nelson of Florida, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, and Ken Salazar of Colorado.

Progressives were furious with all of these Democrats who voted for cloture because they allowed Alito to be confirmed with less than 60 votes (he got 58 votes).

* * * *
However, the Republicans of today are a different breed from the Democrats of 1991 and 2005. They just might attempt to filibuster a pro-choice Justice with every pro-life member that they have. That would be thirty eight members, and if anti-choice Democrats Mark Pryor, Bob Casey Jr., and Ben Nelson joined them, they could sustain a filibuster. It's theoretically possible.
How could anyone even be seriously discussing the issue. A filibuster for Supreme Court by the GOP? But that couldn't be. After all, the Republicans are the strenuous proponents of up and down votes for judicial nominees. I can still recall their strident cries against even the possibility of a filibuster by the Democratic minority during the Bush years.

To refresh our collective recollection, Media Matters has assembled the quotes of various legislators on the topic, In Their Own Words: The Majority's Prerogative, observing:
In 2005, many Republican Senators went so far as to claim the filibuster of judicial nominees was unconstitutional. Now four years later, with President Obama's first Supreme Court appointment looming, will they remain consistent in their position or commit one of the most blatant acts of hypocrisy in the 220-year history of the United States Senate?
On the other hand, as Steve Benen said, in A TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE....

A talking point emerges.

...Republicans are eagerly pointing out that Barack Obama, while in the Senate, voted to filibuster the nomination of Samuel Alito to the court.

Well, that's at least accurate. Obama, as a senator, declined to filibuster the Roberts nomination, but opposed cloture on the Alito nomination. On this point, Republicans are not lying or playing fast and loose with reality.

That said, this stroll down memory lane may not be as fruitful for the GOP as they'd like. For one thing, Obama, right around the time of the Alito hearings and floor vote, made a variety of comments that Republicans may find interesting. For example, he told ABC News in January 2006, "[T]here is an over-reliance on the part of Democrats for procedural maneuvers and mechanisms to block the president [on judicial nominees] instead of proactively going out to the American people and talking about the values that we care about. And, you know, there's one way to guarantee that the judges who are appointed to the Supreme Court are judges that reflect our values and that's to win elections."

For another, the more Republicans focus on Obama's efforts during the Bush years, the more it's a reminder of their own efforts during the same period.

* * * *

I don't doubt that Republicans will shamelessly pretend none of this ever happened, and will pretend they never said the things they really did say, but I'm looking forward to the rhetorical acrobatics.

And even if there's not a direct filibuster, there may be a way for the Republicans to stymie the pick in Committee. Cornell Law Professor Michael Dorf suggests that Specter's defection from the GOP may allow that to happen, How Specter's Defection Could Make It Harder to Confirm Pres. Obama's Judicial Nominations:

Does Arlen Specter's defection from R to D strengthen the President's hand in Congress? Perhaps overall but not on judicial appointments because breaking (the equivalent of) a filibuster in the Senate Judiciary Committee requires the consent of at least one member of the minority. Before today, Specter was likely to be that one Republican. Now what?

Sam Stein of the Huffington Post confirmed this maneuver, but says that there may still be another Judiciary Committee procedural rule to get around that one. He explains the process, in How Obama's Supreme Court Nominee Can And Can't Be Filibustered:

The Majority Leader in the Senate has the power, it seems, to go around the Judiciary Committee's process. A source familiar with the rules of the Senate notes that "a judicial nomination may be discharged from a committee by unanimous consent." However, since -- in this hypothetical scenario -- Republicans are already objecting to the nominee, it seems likely that unanimous consent would fail.

That said, the source adds, "A motion to discharge a nominee from committee is also in order, but if there is objection to that motion, it must lie over a day. On the next day, you move to executive session to the motion to discharge, the vote on proceeding to executive session is majority vote, however, once you are on the motion to discharge it can be filibustered, so you would need 60 votes on the motion to discharge and then presumably on the nomination too."

In short: There is a parliamentary path to getting a stalled Supreme Court nominee out of the Judiciary Committee and to the Senate floor. That process would, like the ultimate confirmation vote, involve getting the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster just to get the nomination to the Senate floor. But with a bigger pool of Republicans (including some of like mind) it would seem likely that the White House could get the 60 votes needed to cut off debate.

No matter what, one thing is sure: That the Republicans will be jumping up & down about whomever is proposed by Obama, trying to figure out a way to stop the Senate from a straight up & down vote on the candidate.

Quote of the Day

"When liberals and progressives are out of power we hold protests about illegal wars and the mistreatment of our fellow Americans, we recruit new voters and we try like hell to convince people that our views on politics are correct. When the right is out of power they buy guns, spread lies, turn up the hate-0-meter on talk radio and Fox news and talk secession and revolution."

Steven D @ Booman Tribune

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Cartoon of the Day

(Via onegoodmove)

It's Not What You Do, It's Who You Are

Of all of the of the consequences of the current economic downturn, the worst is the rising number of suicides (especially family member murder/suicides). It seems to be a weekly, if not daily occurrence. And it seems that no one is immune.

Just last week, a Manhattan lawyer killed himself and his family in a Baltimore hotel room, while visiting their daughter at college. In that case, it appears that the lawyer, may have been involved in a financial scam that was about to be exposed.

As I've mentioned before, the legal community has been experiencing the same economic pain as is felt everywhere. Wolf, Block, a large Philly firm, decided to close last month. Lawyer layoffs are becoming a common occurrence, especially at the large firms and there doesn't appear to be an end in sight any time soon.

Another casualty of law firm layoffs was the suicide of an attorney who was told that he was being laid off by his firm. As reported by the Washington Post, Bethesda Lawyer Who Argued Before High Court Kills Self in Office on Layoff Day:

A 59-year-old lawyer with an Atlanta-based firm who was about to lose his job because of the economy was found dead in his Washington office yesterday of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to police.

Mark I. Levy, a Bethesda resident who was a former deputy assistant attorney general in the Clinton administration, was discovered by a co-worker about 8 a.m. in his 11th-floor office at Kilpatrick Stockton, in the 600 block of 14th Street NW, police said. They said evidence indicates that Levy shot himself in the head with a .38-caliber handgun.

In typical lawyerly fashion, Levy made sure all of the details were taken care of. The ABA Journal reports, Reportedly Laid-Off Lawyer is an Apparent Suicide at Kilpatrick Stockton:

An e-mail sent to Levy this morning produced this auto-reply message: "As of April 30, 2009, I can no longer be reached. If your message relates to a firm matter, please contact my secretary ... . If it concerns a personal matter, please contact my wife ... . Thanks."

His body was discovered at about 8 a.m. by a co-worker in his 11th-floor office, apparently shot with a .38-caliber handgun of which Levy was the registered owner. Today was to have been his last day, although he was to receive four months of severance pay, the Post reports, citing an unidentified source.

"The source said Levy left a note in his home, saying he loved his family and instructing his wife on how to handle finances and other matters," the newspaper writes. His teenage son found the note this morning and a Montgomery County police officer was in the home and broke the news to the family when someone called from Kilpatrick Stockton to report his death.

By all appearances, Levy was a successful lawyer. He was a Yale Law School graduate who headed Kilpatrick's Supreme Court and appellate advocacy practice group. He also worked in the U.S. Department of Justice as a senior political appointee during the Clinton administration. Yet, I'm sure that for him to face the loss of his career this way, at the age of 59, without another potential opportunity, had to be devastating. Lawyers, especially those who have done well, have a difficult time losing their identity as a lawyer. For many in the legal profession, a legal career defines them. In other words, "it's not merely what you do, it's who you are." That was the first thought that came to mind when I heard of the sad news of the suicide at the firm.

And apparently, Mark Levy was just that kind of person. It certainly didn't help that he had an appellate practice, which is extremely difficult to sustain. As noted in Mark Levy's Battle for Success:

In his 59 years, Mark Levy, head of Kilpatrick Stockton's Supreme Court practice, achieved more than many lawyers ever hope to. But friends and former colleagues believe he felt the pressure to accomplish even more.

After spending the past five years at Kilpatrick, Levy was found dead in his office Thursday morning, in what police are investigating as a gun-related suicide. Friends describe Levy as an upbeat but reserved person, who always turned out top-quality briefs and often arrived at the office before the sun came up. His career included stints at some of the most prestigious law firms around, as well as the Department of Justice.

But friends say he wasn't satisfied. And just two days prior to his death, Kilpatrick laid off 24 associates and counsel, including Levy, according to a close friend of Levy. . . .

Levy, who joined Kilpatrick as a counsel in 2004, had struggled to establish his appellate and Supreme Court practice, according to lawyers that knew him. Levy, who argued a total of 16 times before the high court, won a case for DuPont last October in Kennedy v. Plan Administrator for DuPont Savings. But prior to winning that employee benefits matter, Levy hadn't argued in front of the high court since 1989.

* * * *

Levy's age, however, may have been a factor in his unhappiness, according to psychologists.

"At age 60, you're starting to think of retirement. You're thinking that you should be immune to layoffs due to your prominence and your position," says Sherry Molock, a professor of clinical psychology at George Washington University, who studies suicidal behaviors. "You've paid your dues. You feel that you should have arrived by now."

An accompanying ABA Journal piece discusses the higher risk of suicide among attorneys, Lawyer Personalities May Contribute to Increased Suicide Risk:

Personality characteristics often associated with lawyers, such as perfectionism and competitiveness, when combined with depression may be contributing to a higher suicide rate in the legal profession, an expert says.

Lanny Berman, executive director of the American Association of Suicidology, a group devoted to suicide prevention, says risk factors for suicide include depression, anxiety, substance abuse, suicide ideation, divorce and stress. And lawyers experience many of these risk factors at higher rates than the general population, he says. Lawyers are also more likely to be perfectionist and competitive, personality traits that make a person considering suicide less likely to seek help.

Those factors may be contributing to the increased suicide rate for lawyers, he says. A major study conducted some 20 years ago by the National Institute for Safety and Health found that male lawyers between the ages of 20 and 64 are more than twice as likely to die from suicide than men of the same age in other occupations.

What did Levy's firm have to say about this news? As noted by the Washington Post, it was PR all the way:

Diane Prucino, a co-managing partner of the century-old firm in Atlanta, confirmed the layoffs Tuesday in a statement quoted by the Fulton County Daily Report.

"These actions are driven by the economic downturn," she said, adding that the belt-tightening was "structured to further the long-term success of the firm and to enhance the achievement of our strategic goals."

Of course, achievement of our strategic goals is another way of saying that cutting lawyers & staff comes before cutting compensation for the big partners. These guys deserve the big bucks, you know, even if the rest of the world is cutting back. So, I wonder, how's that working for you now?