May 2009
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Month May 2009

Proposed Amendment to Article VIII of the Draft Democratic Platform – lets talk about JUSTICE

What bothered me, personally, the most about the draft platform is that while it had plenty to say about “tough on crime” and law enforcement, the Draft Platform says nothing about access to justice, nothing about an independent judiciary, checks and balances, or that the Judicial Branch is an equal branch of government.  In fact, the Draft Platform does nothing to affirm any commitment to justice at all.  Here is my proposed substitute for discussion: Proposed Amendment to the Draft Platform In place of “Article VIII Public Safety and Crime Prevention” insert: “Article VIII Open Courts, Access to Justice, and Public Safety Democrats fully support Article XI of the Massachusetts Constitution, the “Open Courts Clause”, which states:  Every subject of the commonwealth ought to find a certain remedy, by having recourse to the laws, for all injuries or wrongs which he may receive in his person, property, or character. He ought to obtain right and justice freely, and without being obliged to purchase it; completely, and without any denial; promptly, and without delay; conformably to the laws. Therefore, Democrats support for the Judicial Branch as a co-equal branch of government, fully funded to ensure access to justice across the entire […]

Barbara Anderson — supporting the Governor’s reforms

sort of, but not his revenue proposals. (Or anybody else's for that matter.) Here she is expaining it all to Keller after the ad. I miss working at the State House with Barbara to tell the truth: She's an honest, kind, principled, witty and demanding advocate for good government that is both effective and efficient. But then I've got a soft spot for white haired activists who lack the patience to suffer fools gladly. And while so many us hate all the work we have to do to win Prop 2 1/2 over rides, we have to admit that the process forces budget transparency in local government and forces us to ask the essential question, “What kind of Government do we want and how do we pay for it?”  

What Judge Sotomayor Didn’t Say

Although Judge Sotomayor did not make the claim, it’s long been accepted in the “diversity business” that occupying a less advantaged status in society can make an individual more insightful than the norm. The reason is simple:  The individual in a “subordinate” position must live in a world where the rules and customs are dictated by those of more “dominant” status.  In order to survive and succeed in such a world, that subordinate individual must learn about his/her own culture AND about the dominant group’s culture. In contrast, the individual in a dominant position can ignore the rules and customs–even the dreams and preferences and opinions–of the less fortunate because he/she lives in a world created by his/her own kind.  He/she can remain oblivious to the culture and mores of the less advantaged and still live quite comfortably. So let’s reconsider Judge Sotomayor’s comment: “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 hasn’t lived that life.” This is not racist.  It is simply a statement that a judge who understands both the powerful and the weak, the ins and outs, […]

Sotomayor ruled against race discrimination plaintiffs nearly 90% of the time

As I’ve said many times, if you really want to know what’s going on with all things Supreme Court-related, your first stop should always be SCOTUSblog.  Their latest work conclusively refutes any notion that Sonia Sotomayor routinely engages in race-conscious decision-making or improperly favors plaintiffs claiming racial discrimination. Other than Ricci, Judge Sotomayor has decided 96 race-related cases while on the court of appeals. Of the 96 cases, Judge Sotomayor and the panel rejected the claim of discrimination roughly 78 times and agreed with the claim of discrimination 10 times; the remaining 8 involved other kinds of claims or dispositions.  Of the 10 cases favoring claims of discrimination, 9 were unanimous.  (Many, by the way, were procedural victories rather than judgments that discrimination had occurred.)  Of those 9, in 7, the unanimous panel included at least one Republican-appointed judge.  In the one divided panel opinion, the dissent’s point dealt only with the technical question of whether the criminal defendant in that case had forfeited his challenge to the jury selection in his case.  So Judge Sotomayor rejected discrimination-related claims by a margin of roughly 8 to 1. The cases in which Judge Sotomayor disagreed with her colleagues are rare. Of […]

RosenGate continues

One of the more bizarre developments with respect to the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court is the role that Jeffrey Rosen’s irresponsible, pre-nomination “blog post” about her has played, and continues to play, in the national conversation.  This morning, NPR ran a piece about what I am hereby dubbing RosenGate, in which Rosen claims that parts of his piece have been taken terribly out of context, that he is shocked! shocked! that some conservatives have “misrepresented” his article, and that there was really nothing wrong with his piece in the first place.  

Rosen’s efforts to defend himself are, to put it mildly, unsuccessful.  He should just bloody well confess that he screwed up big-time and try to move on.  But he won’t — you can’t do that and still retain your cherished position as part of the NY-DC commentariat.  Instead, he will continue to play the victim.

To refresh your recollection, back on May 4 (Sotomayor’s nomination was announced May 26) Rosen published a piece that ran several paragraphs on the New Republic’s website.  It was provocatively entitled “The Case Against Sotomayor.”  As I’ve already noted, Glenn Greenwald has completely demolished the original piece.  Rosen subsequently claimed that he didn’t see the title until the piece was published, and that it “promised something much stronger than I intended to deliver.”  In fact, however, the title is perfectly accurate.  

Now, just for fun, let’s see how the original piece and today’s defense on NPR stack up.  To the flip!

New Yorker has a must-read article on health care reform

Surgeon, MacArthur fellow, and writer Atul Gawande offers a must-read article, “The Cost Conundrum: What a Texas town can teach us about health care,” in the June 1st issue of the New Yorker.

Gawande examines a Texas town, McAllen, that  has health care costs that are almost twice the national average – and contrasts it with Grand Junction, Colorado, and Rochester, Minnesota (near the Mayo clinic), which deliver better care at much lower costs.  

Gawande concludes that McAllen’s higher costs are due not to a sicker population, greater access to care or the provision of better care, or the usual scapegoat, insurance companies, but rather the profit motive of medical providers in McAllen leading to overtreatment and overutilization of care.

About fifteen years ago, it seems, something began to change in McAllen.  A few leaders of local institutions took profit growth to be a legitimate ethic in the practice of medicine.  Not all the doctors accepted this.  Bt they failed to discourage those who did.  So here, along the banks of the Rio Grande…a medical community came to treat patients the way subprime-mortgage lenders treated home buyers: as profit centers.

Kennedy/Baucus Plan…. A Debaucle!

Hi All:

    I just heard that Senator Kennedy’s grand plan for national insurance coverage is to require everyone to get health insurance at market rates. Why is it that the United States was the first country on Earth to propose single payor health insurance and we are dead last in implimenting it?

    The President of Tufts Health Plan here in Massachusetts makes as much as President Obama, and insurance companies like UHC, Aetna and Cigna have farmed out their customer service jobs to India, Jamaica and Canada respectively. What gives?


“Auto-tune the news”

I think this is genius. Watch for the appearance of Rep. Markey, who seems to be borrowing Theo Epstein's old duds. … and it actually reminds me a bit of Steve Reich.

Welcome back, Jay Severin!

Hey, awesome news from WTKK (email, no link)! “We have had conversations with Jay Severin over the past several weeks about his hurtful, inappropriate remarks.  He understands that we will not accept this type of commentary on our airwaves in the future.   Based on this understanding, we have agreed to conclude Jay’s suspension and he will return to the 96.9 FM WTKK airwaves on Tuesday, June 2, 2009.  We want to emphasize that WTKK still strongly supports an open and spirited debate about the many issues our community and our country currently face. There will no doubt be times when people disagree with what Jay says.  Our goal is to maintain a level of discourse that is compelling and thought-provoking, yet civil and respectful.  While we will not always succeed in walking this line, we will continually strive to do so.” Who wants to organize the betting pool for how long it takes Severin to say something equally or more offensive than what got him suspended?  Also, is the appropriate metric days, or hours?  Will WTKK stick to its guns and fire him, or cave, when the inevitable happens?  Finally, what will the advertisers do?

Judge Sotomayor and the “wise Latina” remark

It’s all the rage among right-wingers and even the occasional NPR commentator (thanks, Juan Williams) to call Judge Sonia Sotomayor a “racist” for her “wise Latina” remark, to the point that President Obama is now saying that she would “restate” the remark given the chance, and his spokesman is describing the word choice as “poor.”  There’s a pretty good sampling of conservative opinion on the “racist” question here.  The more sensible voices on the right recognize that Judge Sotomayor is obviously not a racist, and that such talk is pointless and ultimately self-defeating.  Ilya Somin from the right-leaning blawg Volokh Conspiracy:

I believe her position is wrong. But it isn’t racist. Sotomayor did not suggest that whites are an inferior race relative to some other group or that they should be denied equal rights or relegated to second-class citizenship. Conservatives often rightly denounce overblown accusations of racism advanced by leftists. For that reason, among others, it is important that they avoid committing the same sin themselves.

Even more sensibly, here is Daniel Larison from The American Conservative:

The … quote expresses at most an aspiration or desire that her kind of experience would make her a better judge. Suppose for a moment that a conservative Catholic man in a similar position said that he hoped that the richness of his religious tradition would inform and shape his judgments that would more often than not help him to make better judgments than someone without that background. Such a person might reasonably and legitimately claim this…. One might almost think that her recognition that impartiality is something to be pursued, but that it is never fully achievable, would be considered a refreshingly honest admission that judges have biases and are shaped by their past experiences.

Let’s hope that these (relatively) sensible voices eventually drown out the nonsense emanating from Limbaugh, Tancredo & Co.  Meanwhile, judge for yourself.  The entire speech is available here, and I’ve reprinted the context around the now-famous remark on the flip.  And I tend to agree that the word choice was probably less than felicitous, but that in reality she was doing nothing more than making the case for life experience, which inevitably includes one’s heritage, being an influence on the way judges decide cases — a point that Justice Alito made in his confirmation hearings in referring to his Italian immigrant ancestors.