Tuesday, 30 June 2009


Ken Berwitz

For many years, New York City's venerable Russian Tea Room  (on 57th Street next to Carnegie Hall) used the following slogan to establish that it was a full-menu restaurant:

"When is a tea room not a tea room?  When it's the Russian Tea Room"

I was reminded of this slogan while reading the New York Times' account of what happened in Honduras over the past this weekend:

"When is a coup not a coup?  When it's the Honduras coup" 

The Times certainly has made its opinion known:  between the headline, the text and Barack Obama's comment, the Times referred to the Honduras situation as a coup 9 times. 

It also took pains to assure readers of how badly the US has acted toward Latin America in the past and how deeply involved the US is with Honduras' military.  

Why this was necessary is a bit of a mystery, since there has not been any coup in Latin America, USA-supported or otherwise, in 16 years and US involvement with the Honduras military existed throughout zelaya's entire reign as President.  But, hey, this is the New York Times, right?  Who cares if it's in the news section.  What a great opportunity to propagandize.

However, even the Times has to cover itself by inserting the other side of the story here and there.  So, buried deep in the article, there are also these little tidbits:

-"...things reached a boil last Wednesday and Thursday, when Mr. Zelaya fired the leader of the armed forces and the Supreme Court followed up with a declaration that Mr. Zelayas planned referendum was illegal."



-"Roberto Micheletti, the veteran congressional leader who was sworn in by his fellow lawmakers on Sunday to replace Mr. Zelaya, seemed to plead with the world to understand that Mr. Zelayas arrest by the army had been under an official arrest warrant based on his flouting of the Constitution.

We respect the whole world, and we only ask that they respect us and leave us in peace, Mr. Micheletti said in a radio interview, noting that previously scheduled elections called for November would go on as planned."


In other words, the article insists this was a coup.  But, in as unobtrusive a location within the article as possible, we find that Honduras' supreme court declared the President's actions illegal, his replacement was an elected congressional leader, he was sworn in by his fellow lawmakers, there was an official arrest warrant for the President because he acted illegally and that the November elections will go on as planned.


I don't know about you, but when I hear the word "coup" and see that the military was involved, I think of some General or Colonel imposing a junta (unelected military government).  I don't think of a series of legal moves to oust someone who was found by the supreme court to have flouted the law.


It seems to me that the side acting legally is the side that removed zelaya.  He is not some aggrieved party ousted in a coup, he is a wannabe dictator whose actions caused the country's supreme court to order him removed.


Maybe somebody should tell that to the New York Times


And maybe somebody should tell that to President Obama -- the guy who couldn't find a reason to support freedom marchers in Iran but happily stood up with a leftist dictator-in-progress in Honduras.

Zeke Oh my darling. . . Oh my darling. . . Oh my darling party line. . . I will ne'er forsake you. . . 'cause I love this life of mine. . . (to the tune of Clementine) (06/30/09)


Ken Berwitz

This article was published today by Warner Todd Huston, writing for Publius Forum. 

Huston concludes that Sonia Sotomayor is an overt racist, a product of affirmative action (using her own words) and a judge whose rulings are consistently reversed by the US Supreme Court she is in line to be part of.

Here is his reasoning.  Read it  and judge for yourself:

Obamas Racist Judge

June 30, 2009

-By Warner Todd Huston


Soon the Senate will take up the cause of President Obamas nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the United States Supreme Court. In the news this week, one of her decisions that appeared before the current court was reversed. With Sotomayor in the news, then, it is time to look her over once again. It must be said, though, that any close scrutiny finds her wanting.


To begin with, its shocking that President Obma has nominated for a spot on the Supreme Court a judge whose decisions have been reversed or rejected in five out of the six times her cases appeared before that august body. Additionally and by her own admission, she was admitted to Princeton ahead of other law students as a result of affirmative action despite having lower grades. She once gleefully called herself a perfect affirmative action baby, even as her grades were highly questionable.


My test scores were not comparable to that of my colleagues at Princeton or Yale, Sotomayor once said on a discussion panel during an event sponsored by a non-profit law organization in the 1990s.


(Story from The New York Times on the videos)


All that is bad enough. To be sure, high grades in law school are not in and of themselves any guarantee of an ideal Supreme Court Justice and should not stand as a final qualification at any rate. One must determine a candidates judicial mentality in order to find the most important benchmark by which to consider confirmation and it is that mentality that should serve to disqualify Sotomayor immediately. Her judicial philosophy is a far more disqualifying factor in her bid for the highest court of the land than her grades.


Her views are racist, simply put. There is no way to construe them otherwise despite what her supporters spin may be.


Those most familiar with Sotomayors most publicized comment will recognize her infamous 32-word statement.


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 hasnt lived that life.


Her supporters have said that this quote has been taken out of context and that read in context with the rest of the speech, this single sentence culled from the whole is easily misconstrued. But that is simply not the case. The New York Times helpfully published the entire speech and there is no way, when all is said and done, not to understand that

Sotomayor is asserting in a straight forward manner that minorities Latinas in particular are better judges than white men. She further asserts that white men are less likely to have such experiences that will make them a good judge unless they are fortuitous enough to have reached moments of enlightenment that will put them on par with minorities.


Put plainly, she is saying Latinas make better judges simply by virtue of being Latinas.


That is as perfect an example of racist sentiment as can be imagined.


The whole piece is shocking for its basic assumptions but, aside from the sentence quoted above that everyone is familiar with, the following paragraphs are revealing.


However, to understand takes time and effort, something that not all people are willing to give. For others, their experiences limit their ability to understand the experiences of others. Other simply do not care. Hence, one must accept the proposition that a difference there will be by the presence of women and people of color on the bench. Personal experiences affect the facts that judges choose to see. My hope is that I will take the good from my experiences and extrapolate them further into areas with which I am unfamiliar. I simply do not know exactly what that difference will be in my judging. But I accept there will be some based on my gender and my Latina heritage.


I also hope that by raising the question today of what difference having more Latinos and Latinas on the bench will make will start your own evaluation. For people of color and women lawyers, what does and should being an ethnic minority mean in your lawyering? For men lawyers, what areas in your experiences and attitudes do you need to work on to make you capable of reaching those great moments of enlightenment which other men in different circumstances have been able to reach. For all of us, how do change the facts that in every task force study of gender and race bias in the courts, women and people of color, lawyers and judges alike, report in significantly higher percentages than white men that their gender and race has shaped their careers, from hiring, retention to promotion and that a statistically significant number of women and minority lawyers and judges, both alike, have experienced bias in the courtroom?


The first paragraph taken by itself seems almost sensible. Of course everyones experience might tend to interfere in how they perceive things. But taken with the second paragraph, one sees that Sotomayor is saying that only a Latinas experience serves as the best basis for judicial perfection. The most stunning part nestled in this excerpt is when Sotomayor said that white men are less able to judge because of their experiences unless, she says, they make some supreme effort toward enlightenment.


I quote again from the second paragraph:


For men lawyers, what areas in your experiences and attitudes do you need to work on to make you capable of reaching those great moments of enlightenment which other men in different circumstances have been able to reach.


Her basic premise here is that white men are incapable of being inherently good judges unless they make that effort toward enlightenment like other men have been able to reach. Yet, Latinas are simply in the perfect place to judge without having to reach for any such enlightenment. They just have it by virtue of being Latinas and by the very nature of their experiences.


How this cannot be understood as an assumption of racial superiority is beyond me. Maybe Im just not enlightened enough to understand how a bald-faced assumption of racial superiority is not a racist sentiment?


So, this is the person that a President of the United States has proffered to take a seat on the nations highest court. A racist with low grades and a sense of entitlement that has been reversed or scolded in five out of the six cases of hers that have appeared before past Supreme Court sessions.


It shouldnt be so hard to vote no on such a candidate.

Sotomayors Cases Before the SCOTUS

  • Ricci v. DeStefano 530 F.3d 87 (2008) reversed on a 5-4 vote. Sotomayor was part of a three-judge panel that ruled to uphold a lower courts decision in favor of the City of New Havens decision to ignore results of an exam for promotions in the fire department. Promotions were denied because no blacks and only one Hispanic passed the test. White and Hispanic firefights fought the ruling.
  • Riverkeeper, Inc. vs. EPA, 475 F.3d 83 (2007) - reversed 6-3. Sotomayor, writing for a three-judge panel, ruled that the EPA may not engage in a cost-benefit analysis in implementing a rule that the best technology available must be used to limit the environmental impact of power plants on nearby aquatic life. The case involved power plants that draw water from lakes and rivers for cooling purposes, killing various fish and aquatic organisms in the process. Sotomayor ruled that the best technology regulation did not allow the EPA to weigh the cost of implementing the technology against the overall environmental benefit when issuing its rules. The Supreme Court reversed Sotomayors ruling in a 6-3 decision, saying that Sotomayors interpretation of the best technology rule was too narrow.
  • Dabit vs. Merrill Lynch, 395 F.3d 25 (2005) - reversed 8-0 In a 2005 ruling. Sotomayor overturned a lower court decision and allowed investors to bring certain types of fraud lawsuits against investment firms in state court rather than in federal court. The lower court had agreed with the defendant Merrill Lynchs argument that the suits were invalid because the Securities Litigation Uniform Standards Act of 1998 required that such suits be brought only in federal court. The Supreme Court unanimously overturned Sotomayors ruling, saying that the federal interest in overseeing securities market cases prevails and that doing otherwise could give rise to wasteful, duplicative litigation.
  • Malesko v. Correctional Services Corp., 299 F.3d 374 (2000) - reversed 5-4. Sotomayor, writing for the court in 2000, supported the right of an individual to sue a private corporation working on behalf of the federal government for alleged violations of that individuals constitutional rights. Reversing a lower court decision, Sotomayor found that an existing law, known as Bivens, which allows suits against individuals working for the federal government for constitutional rights violations, could be applied to the case of a former prisoner seeking to sue the private company operating the federal halfway house facility in which he resided. The Supreme Court reversed Sotomayors ruling, saying that the Bivens law could not be expanded to cover private entities working on behalf of the federal government.
  • Tasini vs. New York Times, et al, 972 F. Supp. 804 (1997) - reversed 7-2. As a district court judge in 1997, Sotomayor heard a case brought by a group of freelance journalists who asserted that various news organizations, including the New York Times, violated copyright laws by reproducing the freelancers work on electronic databases and archives such as Lexis/Nexis without first obtaining their permission. Sotomayor ruled against the freelancers and said that publishers were within their rights as outlined by the 1976 Copyright Act. The appellate court reversed Sotomayors decision, siding with the freelancers, and the Supreme Court upheld the appellate decision (therefore rejecting Sotomayors original ruling).
  • Knight vs. Commissioner, 467 F.3d 149 (2006) - upheld but unanimously rejected the reasoning she adopted In 2006, Sotomayor upheld a lower tax court ruling that certain types of fees paid by a trust are only partly tax deductible. The Supreme Court upheld Sotomayors decision but unanimously rejected the reasoning she adopted, saying that her approach flies in the face of the statutory language.
  • Empire Healthchoice Assurance, Inc. vs. McVeigh, 396 F.3d 136 (2005) affirmed on a 5-4 vote. Sotomayor ruled against a health insurance company that sued the estate of a deceased federal employee who received $157,000 in insurance benefits as the result of an injury. The wife of the federal employee had won $3.2 million in a separate lawsuit from those whom she claimed caused her husbands injuries. The health insurance company sued for reimbursement of the benefits paid to the federal employee, saying that a provision in the federal insurance plan requires paid benefits to be reimbursed when the beneficiary is compensated for an injury by a third party.



Ken Berwitz

It pains me to say this, because I think the election was stolen (I've explained why numbers of times in here, and won't belabor the issue any further).  But the Minnesota Supreme Court has unanimously ruled in favor of al franken on the vote count.

At this point Governor Pawlenty should certify franken and allow him to be seated as Minnesota's new senator. 

If Norm Coleman wants to pursue this to the Supreme Court, I wish him well.  But, for better or worse, Minnesota's highest legal authority has spoken.

If Minnesota can survive Jesse Ventura, I suppose it can survive al franken.


UPDATE:  Norm Coleman has conceded.  End of issue.


Ken Berwitz

Better have a barf bag handy. 

Here is an excerpt from today's Associated Press article reporting on the bernard madoff sentencing.  The maroon is the article's text, the blue is my reaction to it:

When asked by the judge whether he had anything to say, Madoff slowly stood, leaned forward on the defense table and spoke in a monotone for about 10 minutes. At various times, he referred to his monumental fraud as a "problem," "an error of judgment" and "a tragic mistake."   A problem?  An error of judgment?  A tragic mistake?  You spent DECADES screwing the people who trusted you and robbing them blind.  That isnt a problem, an error or a mistake.  It is that you are a low-life, scumbag, amoral thief who lived a life of unbelievable opulence off of the money you stole.  I hope you rot in hell for eternity.


He claimed he and his wife were tormented, saying she "cries herself to sleep every night, knowing all the pain and suffering I have caused."   If ruth madoff is crying, it is because her scumbag husband got caught, so she has to give up the penthouse, the other homes around the world, the yacht and the limos.  And because if there is any justice, they will be coming for her next.


He said: "I live in a tormented state now knowing of all the pain and suffering that I have created. I have left a legacy of shame, as some of my victims have pointed out, to my family and my grandchildren. That's something I will live with for the rest of my life."   Poor baby.  YOURE going to live with this for the rest of your life?  Its about YOU?  Enjoy the three hots and a cot, courtesy of the US penal system.  Youll be living better than some of the people you destroyed.


His immediate family did not attend the sentencing. But Ruth Madoffoften a target of victims' scorn since her husband's arrestbroke her silence afterward by issuing a statement through her lawyer. She said she, too, had been misled.


"I am embarrassed and ashamed," she said. "Like everyone else, I feel betrayed and confused. The man who committed this horrible fraud is not the man whom I have known for all these years."   You stinking liar.  You were in that office every day with him.  You handled the books.  You should be in a cell too, for as long as he will be, for exactly the same reason:  because you are a low-life, scumbag, amoral thief   And that goes for your brother in law and both your kids too.   There is no way I will ever believe they weren't in on this as deeply as you were.  Not a chance.

Does what I just said make anything better?  Nope.  But it feels good to get it out.


Ken Berwitz

In case you are wondering how well the so-called "stimulus package" is doing, the Associated Press has your answer:

Jobless rates rise in all US metro areas in May

By Jeannine Aversa, AP Economics Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Unemployment rates rose in all the largest U.S. metropolitan areas for the fifth straight month in May.

The Labor Department says jobless rates in May rose from a year earlier in all 372 metropolitan area it tracks.

The unemployment rate in Kokomo, Ind., jumped to 18.8 percent, up 11.7 percentage points from a year ago, the largest increase of all metro areas. The second-highest jump occurred in Indiana's Elkhart-Goshen. Its rate jumped to 17.5 percent, up 11.4 percentage points from a year earlier. Both areas have been slammed by layoffs in transportation equipment manufacturing.

It is now 4 1/2 months since the "stimulus package" was passed. 

We were told that, in return for putting a crushing multi-trillion dollar burden on our children and grandchildren, we would see a substantial improvement in the economy in a matter of weeks or maybe a few months.

Does that look like substantial improvement to you?

And let's not forget that unemployment, which the "stimulus package" was supposed to cap at about 8%, is now at 9.4% and even the Obama people admit that it is headed into double-digit territory.

Bottom line:  This harebrained scam which put us in unprecedented debt not only has not helped, but has put us in worse shape than we were before it was passed.

And the Obama administration's explanation?  It's Bush's fault.  Bush's fault.

How can you believe a word these people say?

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