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Thoreau: "Government is Best Which Governs Least"

Archive for May 2009

The Two Statements of Sotomayor


There are two statements made by Judge Sotomayor which are making their way around Internet blogs and media outlets, but for all of the writen and verbal discourse regarding these statements, I see very little critical analysis eschewed.  There have been calls of racism against Sotomayor and juxtaposed claims of her statements being taken out of context; therefore, let’s examine both statements with a critical eye:


Statement 1

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

 Statement 2

“A court of appeals is where policy is made.”

The first statement is obviously the one that has had racist characterizations attached to it, and the second statement is one where opponents stress that the statement amounts to judicial activism.  Let’s study the first statement and analyze it within its context. 

The first statement was taken from a speech made at Berkeley and within the context of the speech the theme appears to be about differences rather than a superiority of one individual over another.  Racism is a serious charge.  Given the way racism labeling was used in the last election the charge seems to have been diminished, but let us for our purposes here remain committed to the idea that racism is a serious charge to make against another person.

I believe to some extent it is egregious to summarily state that Judge Sotomayor’s statement is racist.  It takes a more careful eye and a more critical thought to understand her statement and to question her motives.  I think a fair assumption that we can make about Judge Sotomayor’s speech given at Berkeley is that she passionately believes that her life experiences make her the woman she is and influence her thoughts and opinions.  As a result, I believe she is arguing that her decisions as a judge are profoundly influenced by that life experience.  However, the words that remains in trouble with our contemplation of whether or not her statement is racist is the use of the word better rather than using the word different.

I do not know Judge Sotomayor’s heart, but I suspect we will hear her testify as to her meaning of this statement.  I tend to believe that Judge Sotomayor is far from a racist and that her use of the term better in this statement rather than the term different speaks more to her possible arrogance than a racist tendency.  But more important for me is that fact that she argues at length that her life experience enter into her decisions as a judge in general.

As a result, the full comments of this speech, to me, indicate a judicial activist more so than a racist tendency and that is troubling to me for our legal standard bearer has scales and wears a blindfold and is to ignore life experience, prejudice and empathy when deciding on the rule of law.  It is the second statement that appears on the face of it to support her belief in judicial activism, but again let us look at this statement more critically and within its context.

The second statement was made at a conference where she was on a panel of judges.  After she makes the statement she also jokes that she knows that she is being recorded and that judges aren’t supposed to say that they make law.  She then continues to joke that she is neither advocating nor denying that judges make law and this is all said within the context of appellate judges and not other judges making law.  This second statement I find far more difficult to analyze not knowing Judge Sotomayor personally.  It’s hard for me to know whether she is stating what she believes to be true, i.e. a reality of our judicial system or whether or not she believes it is the role of the appellate judge is to make law.  It is therefore this line of questioning that I would like to see aggressively pursued during her confirmation hearings as it is imperative that our U.S. Supreme Court Justices do not believe they are placed on the highest court in the land to make law.  They are only there to interpret what the laws are and that the judicial process has been followed.  If Judge Sotomayor wishes to make law (which I do not know if she does or does not) the appropriate venue is to get herself elected to a legislature not continue on as a judge.

I wish in this day of the information age that Americans truly did seek information rather than sound bites.  My fear is that too many of us wish to take the easy way out and would rather not think critically upon these issues.  But critical thought given to these issues is tantamount to our success moving forward as a nation.  If we allow ourselves to be manipulated by sound bites, we will never see the truth.  The thing we must always remember is that the truth may not always be our own desired outcome.  For example, maybe our bias tells us we do not want Judge Sotomayor as our next U.S. Supreme Court Justice and yet maybe given critical thought to her statements, an extensive look at her record and an analysis of the hearings that take place for her nomination our minds would be changed.  Do we have the courage to critically come to a thoughtful conclusion, and if we do not possess this courage, what does that say and mean for our futures?  For now, I am reserving judgment.  Are you?

Written by KJ Kaufman

May 27, 2009 at 1:41 pm

Judge Sonia Sotomayor — The Judicial Female Obama


Having not yet researched Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s record, it is premature for me to determine whether or not I personally would support or oppose Judge Sotomayor’s nomination.  Of course, we could lean toward denial of an endorsement of her if we took two simple statements made by her instead of looking at her record in total (from a NY Times article):

She also once said at a conference that a “court of appeals is where policy is made,” a statement that has drawn criticism from conservatives who saw it as a sign of judicial activism.

And from Michelle Malkin’s site, she has the infamous quote by Judge Sotomayor at a 2002 speech given at Berkeley where she stated:

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

I believe it is unfair to take these two statements from a 17 year judicial career without looking in detail at her record on cases.  Of course early reports indicate that her judgements in cases in the 2nd District Appellate Court have not been sound as four of them have been overturned by the Supreme Court, but we must look at these cases in detail before offering judgement.

What I believe is more compelling is the appearance to me that President Obama picked Judge Sotomayor over his other choices because he believes she mirrors his view of the role of the Supreme Court Justice with respect to the Constitution.  In addition, I believe her personal story has many parallels to his which intrigues President Obama and makes him think she would judge cases as he would.  Let’s begin with the personal parallels.

Both were born minorities.  Both lost their fathers at a very young age:  President Obama’s through abandonment and Judge Sotomayor’s through death.  Both were educated in Ivy League Schools.  Both have elusive records of their public service life.  President Obama has chosen to hide many of his most important records such as his college transcripts and Illinois State Senate voting record while Judge Sotomayor has been brief in her opinions offered in controversial rulings.  In other words, looking at the records of each, it is difficult to determine a clear picture of each individual and their corresponding views.  When you view these simple facts, it is easy to surmize that President Obama feels a kinship with Judge Sotomayor.  But beyond this kinship, it seems to me that Obama also sees Judge Sotomayor as a person who would rule as Obama would if he sat on the Supreme Court.  First let us review how Obama views the role of the Supreme Court Justice and how they should rule on cases.

In an earlier piece on this site, I wrote about President Obama’s judicial views as follows:

In the last Presidential Debate this subject of the Constitution came up in the form of the judges the two candidates would appoint to the U.S. Supreme Court.  Senator Obama told us in essence that he believes the Constitution of the United States of America is a “living” document  and therefore would appoint judges in this vain.  In essence, he talked about judges putting on their 21st century hats and interpreting the Constitution in modern day America.  Let’s look at his exact words to be sure:

“[W]e need somebody who’s got the heart, the empathy, to recognize what it’s like to be a young teenage mom. The empathy to understand what it’s like to be poor, or African-American, or gay, or disabled, or old. And that’s the criteria by which I’m going to be selecting my judges.”

This school of thought is typically referred to as a philosophy that the Constitution is a “living” document.  As George Neumayr pointed out in his October 29th article in The American Spectator entitled “Obama’s Living-Will Constitution,” the reason this judicial philosophy is dangerous is as follows:

Why not? He is on record saying that judges need to view the Constitution through the prism of political correctness <snip>

This is creeping tyranny cast as “change.” The whole point of a written constitution with prescribed procedures for its official change is to prevent this tyranny and the inevitable chaos that erupts after the people realize the meaningless character of law under such arrogance. After all, if the “living” constitutionalists don’t have to listen to the words of the framers and can insert new meanings into the place of those words, the people, by the same logic, don’t have to listen either and can reject those new meanings just as lawlessly.

When President Obama speaks of selecting his judges based on their ability to empathize with litigants when ruling combined with Judge Sotomayor’s comment that a wise Latina women would make better judgements seems to jive.  It appears that President Obama thinks he has found his perfect empathetic judge.  I think, however, we act hastily if we take these two comments and conclude they are in sync without looking at Judge Sotomayor’s record.  The Obama Administration has not produced a sound record when vetting individuals, and it is possible that President Obama thinks Judge Sotomayor is in sync with his views of judicial activism, but if we look at her record it is possible that we may find she is not a judicial activist.  We have to look at the record, then we can make the judgement.  I think it is quite clear that President Obama views Judge Sotomayor as his philosophical judicial female equivalent.  The important point at this juncture is whether or not President Obama is correct.

Written by KJ Kaufman

May 26, 2009 at 1:13 pm

Internet Search Engine Revolution

aiThere is a new Internet search engine that will be released at the end of this month that is revolutionary in scope and may just provide all of us searching for truth on the Internet a much better way to find it.   As one article on the subject described it:

The biggest Internet revolution for a generation will be unveiled this month with the launch of software that will understand questions and give specific, tailored answers in a way that the web has never managed before.  <snip>

The real innovation, however, is in its ability to work things out “on the fly”, according to its British inventor, Dr Stephen Wolfram. If you ask it to compare the height of Mount Everest to the length of the Golden Gate Bridge, it will tell you. Or ask what the weather was like in London on the day John F Kennedy was assassinated, it will cross-check and provide the answer. Ask it about D sharp major, it will play the scale.  Type in “10 flips for four heads” and it will guess that you need to know the probability of coin-tossing. If you want to know when the next solar eclipse over Chicago is, or the exact current location of the International Space Station, it can work it out.

Dr Wolfram, an award-winning physicist who is based in America, added that the information is “curated”, meaning it is assessed first by experts. This means that the weaknesses of sites such as Wikipedia, where doubts are cast on the information because anyone can contribute, are taken out. It is based on his best-selling Mathematica software, a standard tool for scientists, engineers and academics for crunching complex maths.

“I’ve wanted to make the knowledge we’ve accumulated in our civilisation computable,” he said last week. “I was not sure it was possible. I’m a little surprised it worked out so well.”

Read Full Article Here

Imagine what this means?  From a pure research perspective, it will be invaluable and revolutionary.  And all of you political bloggers just think how powerful the truth is.  Now it will be at the tip of your fingers.  There cannot be a more a powerful tool to us at this time then being able to easily access facts and data regarding political subjects.  This could be the death of the Main Stream Media especially the newsprint media unless they begin to report the facts. 

The new search engine is supposed to release at the end of this month and will be free.  Enjoy our brave new world of truth.  Ain’t artifical intelligence just grand?

Written by KJ Kaufman

May 3, 2009 at 12:45 am