Saturday, July 25, 2009

Hulabaloo: Lumping Racial Issues and Grievances Together

Responding to a post I read over at Hulabaloo, who I usually find spot on with things, I can't help but be disappointed in how his original post and the resulting comments take the smallest grain of what happened in Cambridge with the Henry Gates arrest and then apply it to a whole host of racial and police grievances. We have to look specifically at what happened here to see if the police either abused their authority or elements of racism entered the proceedings. The biggest solution to racism is stepping away from assumptions, stereotypes and subjective anecdotes. The post and comments seem to reply heavily on these for support.

From what's been reported the police followed proper procedure to respond to a reported break in at a private residence. Gates front door was stuck and he and his driver were literally forcing his front door open when police arrived. I think it's reasonable for a passerby to see that as needing a police response.

Secondly, I think it's reasonable for the police when they arrived to ask Gates to identify himself, explain why he was forcing the door open and prove he owned the property and had legal right to be there. They don't and can't know any more than what they witness. Forcing his way in could have been for any number of reasons and the police have no idea who he is, why he's there or his intent. They need to know for their own assurance exactly what the circumstances are so that they can leave the scene secure both for the safety of those involved and potential allegations of negligence after the fact. At this point it seems that Gates was already becoming agitated in having to actually explain himself and his actions to the police.

But it wasn't until the police were leaving when things truly got out of hand. The police were wrapping up, leaving the property and Gates was even further agitated and belligerent toward the officer screaming things about how he wouldn't be treated that way if he weren't a black man. More on that later. But the police perceived it as an aggressive and threatening move and so they cuffed him and charge him with disorderly conduct. Again this seems like appropriate procedure.

Gates is absolutely right he wouldn't be treated like that if he weren't black. I think if he were white he would have had less racial chip on his shoulder, he would have quickly complied with some humility for the perception of what was happening and the police would have been on their way. I think it would have been very different if the responding officer were black as well. Gates would have no racial bargaining chip to not comply with their requests. I've seen no evidence that if the tables were turned, if Gates were white, the police would (or should) have acted differently. It was Gates' reaction and seriously subordinate behavior that led to his arrest. When the call came in the police were obligated to respond. Gates in turn should have felt as obligated to quickly and clearly resolve the matter.

The Gates matter is not a racial issue. It's an issue of privilege. I think the true nature of Gates' behavior stems from thinking himself above the law, a nationally prominent ivy-league professor, wealthy, living in a posh neighborhood - someone who knows the President of the United States personally. His behavior stems from the mindset of "how dare he" about a more common person questioning his actions. It's how anyone in a position of power, who thinks them better than someone else based on status, wealth, class or actually race might act. It was only convenient that Gates was black and the officer white that Gates had the opportunity to blame the situation on racism.

There are obviously times when police and other authority figures abuse their power. There are obvious and regular examples of mistreatment by police because of racial elements. This however, does not seem to be the case and it frustrates and sickens me as more and more people pose him as some hero crusading against white authority. I truly respect Gates, having watched his PBS television show, but this is an ugly example of using perceived bias to one's own advantage.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Sotomayor Hearings: Parade of the Random

I’m listening to testimony of the third party witnesses and it is such a collection of random contributions.

Some are very pointed, friends or work colleagues of the judge, with personal character statements. There have been litigants whose cases Sotomayor has ruled on. I understand including these. But there’s this whole list of other people of whom I have no idea why they’re testifying.

One fellow’s brother was brutally killed but other than that I’m not sure what his qualifications are to give testimony about a judge, especially regarding criminal prosecution. He’s apparently on the boards of several large companies.

Then there was the baby J.D. from George Mason who prattled on about some abstract something or other. I see she has qualifications that are more applicable than the businessman for offering testimony about a judge, but what the hell was she even saying?

Then there was the mystical coke-bottle glasses imitation of Barney Fife. I was just waiting for him to say something about Andy and Aunt Bea in between these obtuse thoughts about relying on the Koran or the Bible for judicial reasoning.

They’re going on and on. In theory, I understand the importance of regular people being able to offer testimony either for or against the nomination. But this side show has offered mostly subjective observations or abstract concepts they attempt to link to the judge outside of her professional record.

And it’s pronounced Soh-toh-mah-yohr. Not SotomaJOHR. Not SOOtermayEHr. Not SOHDermayor.

Oy.

Sotomayor Hearings: Can you live on that salary?

What was that weirdness with Sessions and the comment and question about judge’s salaries. That was weird.

And now he’s pontification in the abstract. Give it a rest already.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

GayPatriot: Misrepresenting the Timing of the Sotomayor Hearings

This is the first time I’ve ever heard that Senator Leahy scheduled the hearings for summer because “fewer Americans are focused on the news and thus less likely to follow the debate over her nomination.” The Republican meme before was that there simply wasn’t enough time to review Sotomayor’s past in the time allotted before the hearings (which has been soundly rebutted). But now GayPatriotWest / Dan Blatt complains the hearings should have been held later to accommodate people’s summer vacations or something?

Frankly Americans have a huge freedom to pay attention to or not pay attention to the goings on of their elected officials. Why would summer, with no school, vacation time and constant reruns on television make it harder for people to pay attention to the hearing of Sotomayor?

Or is it yet another strawman argument from GayPatriotWest?

GayPatriot: Misrepresenting Sotomayor Hearings

Interesting that GayPatriotWest / Dan Blatt is attempting to compare Judge Sotomayor’s comment regarding Roe v. Wade as “settled law” to  Plessy V. Ferguson.

If he had been listening to the hearings in the full context of her answer, rather than the talking points of some Right-wing blog that he regularly relies on, he would realize that the representation he’s portraying is wrong.

When asked about the Roe v. Wade decision, Sotomayor characterized the decision as “settled law” in the context that the Supreme court has not chosen to review cases that challenge the ruling in whole or in part. It is therefore “settled law” in that regard. She made it clear in numerous other cases in her previous judicial roles required her to abide by standing precedent unless some aspect of law required her to challenge that. For her, in her roles, Roe v. Wade was “settled law.” For the Supreme Court until they choose to review rulings related to Roe v. wade, it is “settled law.” Until the Congress chooses to change rules regarding abortion, it is “settled law.” Roe v. Wade is “settled law” just like every other unchallenged law set by the Congress of the United States.

Wouldn’t challenging the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade without legal reasoning against “settled law” be a perfect example of the “judicial activisim” that Republicans and conservatives are so noisily worried about in judicial nominees?

The Brown v. Board of Education case put forth a question that the Supreme Court felt necessary to address and answer regarding “settled law” of Plessy v. Ferguson. If a case is raised that would put some aspect of Roe v. Wade in question in the context of law, or Congress changed laws regarding abortion, Judge Sotomayor’s answers have made it clear that she would be compelled to review those issues similar to the SCOTUS hearing Brown v. Board of Education. Anyone who has listened to the hearings or is familiar with her 17-year record as a judge would fully understand that of Sotomayor.

Dan has a J.D. from Georgetown. I think his professors would be mightily disappointed in his post today.

Cornyn Statement at Mid-day Hearings Today

What exactly is “Puerto Rican extraction?” Is that some cooking flavoring I’m not familiar with?

Sotomayor Hearings: She’s Over the Republicans

I’m one of those weirdos listening to the hearings the last few days. I’ve been amused to hear her interactions with the Republicans.

Day one everyone was nicey-nicey, Judge Sotomayor was eminently gracious with the Republican senators in their opening statements. Day two, she was indulgent in conscientiously and thoughtfully attempting to answer some of their more leading questions.

But this morning with Senator John Cornyn, who ostentatiously preceded some of his questions with, “because I was a judge,” I was happy to finally see some of Sotomayor’s rumored feistiness come out in how she soundly schooled him on issues that, as a judge, he should already know and should know better in asking. She seems much less polite and more to the point with these ridiculous questions today.

I think she may get a larger Republican vote than anyone imagines.