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June 6, 2009

An astounding misuse of the word “lynch”
Posted by Teresa at 10:20 AM * 166 comments

Talking Points Memo, on the misdeeds of Tom Tancredo’s aide Marcus Epstein:

Tancredo Aide Pleads Guilty to Karate Chopping Pedestrian, Calling Her ‘Nigger’
By Brian Beutler - June 1, 2009, 11:23AM

Remember how Tom Tancredo went on CNN last week and called Sonia Sotomayor a racist, accusing her falsely of being a member of a “Latino KKK”? Well, if racism so offends him, how does he explain this?

On July 7, 2007, at approximately 7:15 p.m. at Jefferson and M Street, Northwest, in Washington, D.C., defendant was walking down the street making offensive remarks when he encountered the complainant, Ms. [REDACTED], who is African-American. The defendant uttered, “Nigger,” as he delivered a karate chop to Ms. [REDACTED]’s head.
That defendant is named Marcus Epstein—a former Tancredo speechwriter who now works as executive director of Tancredo’s political action committee.

Epstein pled guilty to the charge, but, according to Dave Weigel of The Washington Independent, he’ll remain on the job “until he leaves for law school in the fall.”

My goodness.

Here’s TPM’s followup:

Bay Buchanan: After Assaulting Black Woman, Calling Her ‘Nigger,’ Epstein Was ‘Lynched’
By Brian Beutler - June 5, 2009, 4:12PM

Bay Buchanan has once again responded to critics of her karate chopping employee Marcus Epstein. This time, though, she’s taken it to the website of the conservative magazine Human Events.

In the piece she acknowledges both that she knew all along about Epstein’s crime and that she nonetheless kept him on staff at both of the anti-immigrant organizations which she chairs—facts which she more or less conceded when I interviewed her earlier this week.

She also writes this: “What happened next was a modern day lynching by a faceless, angry, ignorant mob who reveled in the collective assault on their victim.”

That’s premium-grade BS. The blogosphere didn’t have it in for Marcus Epstein. They picked up on the story because it’s colorful and newsworthy. A rising right-wing politico who works for Tom Tancredo and Bay Buchanan went out in public drunk on his ass, made offensive remarks while walking down the street, and then committed an unprovoked assault on a passing black woman while addressing her as “nigger.”

It takes a truly remarkable sense of entitlement, and zero sense of history, for Buchanan to label the perpetrator of this racist hate crime as the victim of “a modern day lynching,” and the act of writing about it as a “collective assault.” Buchanan’s anger has nothing to do with affronted principle. It’s all affronted privilege: one of her people has been disgraced. If positions had been reversed, and that nameless black woman had randomly assaulted Marcus Epstein and called him a racist epithet, I’m sure she’d have a very different take on it.

Buchanan’s tearjerker in Human Events is a real piece of work. It’s all about what a terribly troubled and talented young man Marcus Epstein is. (Funniest line: “I write this story not as an excuse for Marcus’ actions.”) Apparently he’s got a severe problem with alcohol. He also suffers from depression, which is not surprising if he’s drinking that much. I’m sorry to hear he’s having such a hard time, but Buchanan’s special pleading does nothing to alter the story or its significance.

Here’s the crux of it: Epstein was stressed out and drunk at the time. That is, he was disinhibited. Anyone might behave badly under those circumstances. What’s pertinent is the way in which he misbehaved. Disinhibition doesn’t put ideas into your head. It lets the ideas that are already in there escape.

What came out of Marcus Epstein was racist hate speech plus an unprovoked attack on a passing black pedestrian. If Tom Tancredo and Bay Buchanan think those are acceptable sentiments for political operatives they employ—well, that’s news.

Comments on An astounding misuse of the word "lynch":
#1 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2009, 10:42 AM:

Words of wisdom from the Drive-By Truckers' Mike Conley:

You know the bottle ain't to blame and I ain't trying to It don't make you do a thing it just lets you

One point of disagreement:

What came out of Marcus Epstein was racist hate speech plus an unprovoked attack on a passing black pedestrian. If Tom Tancredo and Bay Buchanan think those are acceptable sentiments for political operatives they employ—well, that’s news.

No, it isn't.

#2 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2009, 10:48 AM:

The only person assaulted in this case was the woman that this hooligan hit in the head.

Perhaps Bay Buchanan ought to educate herself on what a lynching is.

#3 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2009, 11:02 AM:

I wonder what kind of talk comes out of Buchanan (either one) and Tancredo when they've had a couple too many.

On second thought, I'd rather not find out, because I think the staffer is an example.

(The other thing TPM picked up was that the guy is not going to be going to UVa's law school, no matter what Bay Buchanan says. They won't take him now, assuming he'd actually been accepted.)

#4 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2009, 11:03 AM:

Dammit, that's Mike Cooley, not Conley. I got Razorbacks on my brain. Sorry.

#5 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2009, 11:06 AM:

John Arkansawyer: No, it's not news; but if they're willing to publicly stand by him, it is.

#6 ::: ADM ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2009, 11:14 AM:

And yet ... I'm just no longer surprised. In fact, here's a thought that I find really depressing: This kind of behaviour is far less surprising to me after the past 10 or so years than is the feeling I have every time I see President Obama on the tv screen, and think, "Wow, that's the president!?" That I still have trouble believing, in the same way I expect I'd have trouble believing I saw a unicorn.

#7 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2009, 11:15 AM:

I don't see why. "Racist stands by racist." That's news? If so, then so is this:

But the most beautiful love, the love of all loves/Even greater than the love of a mother/Is the infinite, tender, passionate love,/of one drunk for another.

(I know, I'm playing with the word "news". You mean, and I know you mean, "is worthy of the interest of journalists and the public at large." Which it is. It's just not news.")

If I had the talent, I'd be drawing a cartoon involving a robed Klansman with strange fruit in the tree behind him, a reporter taking a photo, and Bay Buchanan and Tom Tancredo each taking one of the Klansman's arms, one--Tancredo, I think--telling him, "What a horror it is to be lynched!" and the other--Buchanan, perhaps--saying to him, "Oh, yes it is! You poor thing!"

#8 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2009, 11:22 AM:

I am shocked, shocked, to hear of such an attitude among Republican politicians!

#9 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2009, 11:31 AM:

John @ #1, its not news in that it's not worth reporting because it's boring, or it's not news in that we knew that these people were racist scumbags, so the when they do something that scumbagish and racist, it's sort of like reporting that water is wet?

I respectfully disagree with both sentiments. You and I may know that these people are racist scumbags but I don't think enough Americans really know for sure who they are, or what sort of people they consider to be worth defending, and how they do it.

#10 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2009, 11:31 AM:

John A. A, @7 -- that does depend on how you define the word "news". I'd agree that it's not new. How much are you paying that word, anyway?

Probably not as much as the person using the word "lynch" here was paying his words.

It's quite possible other people were victims of assault here, James; but only one person was a victim of battery.

#11 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2009, 11:31 AM:

Anyone with the talent to realize the last paragraph @ 7 is certainly welcome to do so. Credit for the idea would be appreciated, but don't let it get in the way of doing what's right.

#12 ::: Giacomo ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2009, 11:33 AM:

Blatant case of "in vino veritas".

#13 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2009, 11:34 AM:

The GOP: the party of racism, torture, and lies.

Stamp it out in our lifetime, sez I. I want to see this:

The GOP: the party of the ashheap of history.

#14 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2009, 11:38 AM:

I'm just in a grumpy mood this week, Josh. First the doctor getting murdered in Wichita. Then the soldiers being shot, one killed, on the corner where I turn to go to church. Now this, which in its own nasty little way is more ominous than the Wichita terrorism. And that leaves out the various open bigotries of Arkansas Republicans over the last few weeks, one aimed at Charles Schumer.

But you're right: It's necessary to report this precisely because it isn't "news", but it is news.

#15 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2009, 11:58 AM:

Now this, which in its own nasty little way is more ominous than the Wichita terrorism.

You are absolutely right about this. They're not even trying to distance themselves from it the way they did from the terrorist attack in Wichita. The response isn't even an insincere "we deplore this act of violence by a lone lunatic" -- it's "he was just drunk, he didn't do anything really wrong, so why is everybody so upset?"

Decoded: "It's fine to physically attack people while spewing racist epithets as long as you've been drinking." And don't think for a minute that the Republican base won't understand that.

#16 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2009, 12:01 PM:

To call the mild legal punishment of a racist asshole for a criminal act a lynching is, shall we say, interesting.

#17 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2009, 12:11 PM:

John - I've been pretty cranky myself this week. This morning, I was cheered up by a mug of spiced coffee, and the news that a loved one who's been unemployed for the better part of a year has finally landed a job.

May you have tasty treats and good news in your day too.

#18 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2009, 12:11 PM:

I think that they're calling the fact that newspapers and blogs picked up the story "a lynching."

Sort of like questioning someone's fitness for office is "a lynching" (vide: Justice Thomas).

I think Bay is using the "boys will be boys" defense, which is akin to the "why are you so upset about what amounts to fraternity hazing?" defense, which is all still the It's-Okay-If-You're-A-Republican defense.

#19 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2009, 12:15 PM:

Let's mock-hang them the way they think it's OK was done in Abu Ghraib, and invite people to bring picnic baskets and watch, and stop at the last moment after they piss themselves with terror, and put the tape of the whole thing on YouTube under the title Buchanan and Tancredo Learn the Real Meaning of the Word 'Lynch'.

On second thought, let's not. We need to avoid becoming what we hate most.

#20 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2009, 12:18 PM:

For a really depressing thought experiment, I recommend wrapping your head around the proposition that there is a twisted sense of the verb "to lynch" in which this usage can be made to carry something like meaning.

If your idea of a lynching is that it's an ad-hoc committee formed for the purpose of expressing an unjust grievance, and the strange fruit is just a secondary output, then it isn't difficult to decide the word applies in a case like this.

#21 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2009, 12:18 PM:

...and no, I hadn't seen Jim's comment just prior to mine before writing it. Similar thought patterns occupy the minds of the great...or something.

#22 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2009, 12:33 PM:

"Whisky don't make liars, it just makes fools."

--James McMurtry

#23 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2009, 12:34 PM:

It's not really surprising that so many people are upset that their white privilege of dissing anyone darker is being attacked. It's just depressing.

#24 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2009, 12:48 PM:

Lee @ 15:

Decoded: "It's fine to physically attack people while spewing racist epithets as long as you've been drinking." And don't think for a minute that the Republican base won't understand that.

Actually, it's worse than that. I think I'd try instead, "It's fine to physically attack people while spewing racist epithets as long as you have some excuse for not hiding your true nature such as you've been drinking, or you have 'gay panic', or you're feeling oppressed by political correctness, or God told you, or it was the wrong phase of the moon, or..."

I wish that people like that would be punished, but they have so much power and enough powerful friends that it won't happen.

#25 ::: J.D. Rhoades ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2009, 12:58 PM:

White Republicans are, after all, the real victims of racism in our society.

These people have based their entire marketing strategy on whining.

#26 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2009, 01:25 PM:

I read this to Danny, who wondered if the next excuse we heard for Epstein's behavior would feature Twinkies.

As a friend says: "Privilege: You're Soaking in It."

#27 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2009, 02:09 PM:

Has Epstein actually received martial arts training, or was he merely indulging in movie-fu?

#28 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2009, 02:14 PM:

Thanks for this. I used it as sprinboard for two posts.

#29 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2009, 02:17 PM:

Remember, the Rethuglicans are all about projection... they accuse everyone else of all the offenses they want to commit themselves.

#30 ::: Spiny Norman ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2009, 02:37 PM:

When people on the internets make the error of trivializing the word "lynching," it is useful to refer them here.

#31 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2009, 02:57 PM:

Note also that Buchanan's position seems to be "He did nothing wrong, so how dare you tell people he did something that isn't important and that we have an employee who did nothing really wrong!"

#32 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2009, 02:57 PM:

Hee. I didn't get past the TPM links when I wrote my piece (And the research on that was disgusting. Marcus Epstien is a racist, he's got the writings to prove it; at his website, VDare and Lew Rockwell).

I am amused that both Teresa and I independently pointed out the bottle doesn't talk, it, just makes it easier for you to talk.

#33 ::: Spiny Norman ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2009, 03:32 PM:

Whoops; I see that I've re-posted Jim's link @2. Apologies.

#34 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2009, 04:03 PM:

Spiny Norman: and I used it in another post. It's a good link, and can use all the exposure it can get.

#35 ::: Andrew T ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2009, 04:56 PM:

I'm interested in the circumstances under which people should lose their jobs for crimes committed during their personal lives.

Indulge me with a thought experiment. Marcus Epstein is your personal assistant. He's a bright young man who does his job well. One day you pick up the paper and read in the police blotter that he was arrested for karate-chopping a random pedestrian and calling her a racial epithet. Do you fire him?

If you do not, how do you justify keeping a racist jerk in your office?

If you do, do you consider destroying his career to be a proportionate response to his offense? (The assault and hate speech was pretty bad, so this may not be a difficult decision. Can you imagine other, lesser offenses, that would make this decision difficult? Ideally, can you imagine an offense that sets off your "ick" response, but does not really merit derailing a career? How do you respond then?)

Assuming you decide to fire him: Do you now consider it your responsibility to read the police blotter every day to ensure that none of your subordinates have committed crimes?

Does the job matter? Does working for a politician make a difference? What if the offender works for the civil service, or for a private company that works for the government under contract? Does being paid by tax money require a higher level of moral uprightness?

To me this seems like one great big grey area. Some years ago, I was in this position. A subordinate was accused of an offense, never charged. My call whether to ask for his resignation or ignore it. I think I made the wrong decision. I've tried, but I've never been able to formulate a clear moral theory to answer these questions.

#36 ::: tobias s buckell ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2009, 05:08 PM:

Andrew T: when the person is a 'public servant' and things like this are revealed, I think the people are right to demand that person be accountable to the job, as they have a right to be suspicious that this attitude has a solid chance of effecting public policy, freedoms, and sends a message to other politicians about how the polity feels about politicians (who work for the polity, after all).

If an employee physicall attacks their boss and calls them a racial epithet, I imagine no one would be surprised if they were fired. In this case, a part of the body of the polity who is the boss of this person was attacked, literally. The boss is responding. The boss wants this person fired.

The fact that middle management (Bay Buchanan) is pushing back against the boss now tells the polity something else.

#37 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2009, 05:24 PM:

Lee @ #15: Decoded: "It's fine to physically attack dark skinned and/or female people while spewing racist epithets as long as you're a white male and you've been drinking."

FTFY.

Earl Cooley III @ #27: Has Epstein actually received martial arts training, or was he merely indulging in movie-fu?

Dunno, but if I'd trained him, I'd bust him back to white belt. We have a tenet about not misusing taekwondo.

Andrew T @ #35: it not infrequently happens that institutions in the public eye, when circumstances like this are brought to their notice, suspend the employee with or without pay while the matter is investigated. I think that would have been an appropriate response here--or at least, more appropriate than what's actually been done.

#38 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2009, 05:28 PM:

When I worked for a large financial organization, there was a clause in my contract about "bringing my employer into disrepute". It was a sackable offense.

What, precisely, constitutes bringing one's employer into disrepute is of course the basis of a certain amount of judgment. I witnessed a number of scenes, both at the pub and in-house, where the organization (as represented by those in attendance) was looking pretty damned disreputable. However, the only case that I am aware of where this clause was invoked involved an arrest for unlawful trespass and impersonation of a soldier on an active military base*.

I think that there are certain jobs, including pretty much everything in politics, where there is a place for this sort of clause. And I'd say this case certainly fits the definitions.

-----
* Edinburgh Castle, if you're wondering.

#39 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2009, 05:35 PM:

Andrew T, the Latrell Sprewell saga might be instructive. He's a former NBA player who choked his coach, was suspended for 68 games and had his contract revoked by his team. The revocation apparently violated the collective bargaining agreement between the NBA and the players and was voided, but he got traded to a different team, one willing to take a chance on a individual with that sort of incident in his background.

#40 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2009, 05:36 PM:

Andrew T.: Is your answer different if the job is Executive Director of Team America PAC or lug-nut tightener at the local Fix-A-Flat tire place?

How about this thought experiment: A person is the crusading anti-corruption governor of a Mid-Atlantic state. Despite the fact that he's married you learn that he's spent thousands of dollars on call girls (on his own time, and with his own money). Should he keep his job?

Or this: A person is a paid professional fire fighter in a city plagued with arson. One day you read in the police blotter that he's been caught red-handed torching an abandoned building. He pleads guilty but offers in his defense that he was drunk and depressed at the time. Should he keep his job? I mean, he wasn't on the job when he started the fire.

Or this thought experiment: You're a bishop. A person in your diocese is a priest. One day you discover that he's been molesting kids at his parish for the past twenty years. You ask him about it and he admits everything, but says he's really sorry now. Should you shuffle him off to a new parish where no one knows him and keep the details under wraps? After all, if anyone finds out his reputation will be destroyed.

Or this thought experiment: A person is an officer at the bank of which you are president. One day you read in the newspaper that he has been arrested for embezzling cash from a local charity that he helps run (on a volunteer basis, on his own time). Should he continue to have access to the money and records at your bank?

Should you read the police blotter every day to see if your employees turn up? No, probably not. But if a crime is so notorious that you learn of it in the course of your day-to-day life (or the person calls you from a police holding cell), shouldn't you start asking some questions?

#41 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2009, 05:56 PM:

Andrew T: I think (at least based on my writings) there are a couple of things going on.

If Tancredo wants to keep him on the payroll (and it seems he did. His arrest/charging, seems to have not gotten him dismissed from his speechwriting gig, and the PAC position was subsequent to that), that's Tancredo's lookout.

I didn't call for him to be sacked. I am sure there are those who have called for his sacking.

What I took people to task for was the contradiction between calling Sotomayor a racist for what she said, and saying, "Poor Marcus isn't a racist, all he did was beat on someone and call her a nigger; unprovoked. That's not something to be mean to him over".

So they have are hypocrites, have a very different view of racism than I do (which seems quite likely), or it's all a sham meant to get the "base" riled up and derail the appointment of Sotomayor because they are afraid her view of the law is out of keeping with the direction they want the court to go (nothing, of course, prevents some combination of all these things).

The other aspect... he took a long leave of absense from his job, for rehab. The employer doesn't have to keep the job open. I'm curious about his status while he was undergoing treatment.

As Tobias Buckell said, those in the public eye have different responsibilities. Recall the flap over the bloggers hired by the Edwards campaign. Me, I thought they ought to have been kept. Then again, I didn't think they had said anything of a nature which cast Edwards into disrepute.

They also hadn't been arrested for beating someone.

What I do think appropriate is the denial of admission by the law school. Officers of the court ought not be the sort who randomly assault and batter people. I'd like to the think the background check would preclude him from being admitted before before bar, in which case UVA is doing him a favor.

#42 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2009, 05:59 PM:

Earl, #27: If Epstein has any actual martial-arts training, I hope to hell his sensei rips him a new one. As I understand it, one of the major concepts in such training is that it is NOT to be used to pick fights, but to defend yourself in a fight that's been forced on you. (For values of "forced on you" that do NOT include variations on the abuser's, "Well, if you hadn't done X and provoked me, I wouldn't have had to beat you up.")

Lila, #37: You're probably right about that, but I think they might also defend a highly-enough-placed token, as long as said token only assaulted someone lower in the social hierarchy.

#43 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2009, 06:03 PM:

At the risk of being stereotypical: I doubt Mr. Epstein has the mental discipline to make significant advancement in an art, be it Aikido, fencing, Karate, etc.

Add the drinking, and the travels of campaigning, etc, and he is almost certainly (should he have had training as a youth) is a fair bit out of practice.

#44 ::: Andrew T ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2009, 06:18 PM:

James @40: What I take from your examples is that if a person commits a crime that directly conflicts with their job responsibilities, they should lose their job. I agree.

Wikipedia just told me that Team America PAC is all about the "illegal immigration" issue. So as Executive Director, Marcus Epstein had a special responsibility to not be racist. And so he should be fired. Sounds good to me.

Linkmeister @39, I think the "direct conflict" principle covers the Latrell Sprewell case too.

I hope I'm not threadjacking, but what about cases where "direct conflict" doesn't apply? What if Marcus Epstein hadn't uttered the hate speech? Drunken assault on a stranger is still pretty bad.

Tobias @36, I agree with your first sentence. People who influence policy will often run into this "direct conflict" issue if they commit crimes. But I don't agree with your second sentence. Just to take your argument to a ridiculous extreme (in the time-honoured tradition of internet conversations everywhere), your position suggests that if two janitors fight each other at a bar, and one of them works at a government building while the other works at a private corporation, the government janitor should lose his job because he punched his "boss" - a taxpayer.

#45 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2009, 06:33 PM:

abi @ 38... Are those days behind, when you used to take people to houses of ill repute?

#46 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2009, 06:45 PM:

Andrew T, #44, Wikipedia just told me that Team America PAC is all about the "illegal immigration" issue. So as Executive Director, Marcus Epstein had a special responsibility to not be racist.

No, you're reading that wrong. The PAC is about getting illegal immigrants out of the US, not welcoming them in. They're not doing much about the non-Hispanics who overstay their visas, though, they're clearly aimed at the Hispanics.

#47 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2009, 06:46 PM:

Nick Mamatas has an interesting post on free speech versus shame here. Following the reasoning there, Mr. Epstein should be ashamed, in my opinion--among all the other reasons for that mentioned so far here, he's damaged his employers' ability to influence public opinion outside the range of what current GOP strategists like to describe as their base. This is why Bay Buchanan is spinning so frantically right now. Whether she thinks he's a sad case in need of help, a loser she'd just as soon kick in the pants, or perfectly justified in his conduct, she knows he's made the person connected with him look bad. Whether they can't fire him for fear of the base, or because they truly feel compassion for a troubled soul who desperately needs help, they still have to spin. And so these people paint themselves into a smaller and smaller corner.

#48 ::: Andrew T ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2009, 06:46 PM:

Terry @41: You're right. Tancredo's contradictory ideas about racism are the more interesting part of this story.

Again, I hope I'm not hijacking the conversation with my questions about the ethics of firing employees who do wrong.

I usually feel sorry for junior members of political organizations who get axed for indiscretions. Not this time, of course. Punching someone in the head and uttering hate speech isn't an "indiscretion". But there's something about the "public eye" idea - that everyone, top to bottom, in a political organization is fair game for humiliation and PR-driven termination should they make a mistake - that feels wrong.

#49 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2009, 06:52 PM:

What's got Buchanan's panties in a twist isn't that her protege has been revealed as a racist, it's that she's been revealed as a racist and a hypocrite. She doesn't care about him; she's making excuses for herself and her own lack of judgment.

Nor would anyone else give a flip about this young man if he couldn't be used as a stick to beat on Tancredo and Buchanan.

Why can he be used as a stick? Because their actions (or inactions) were so clearly wrong.

#50 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2009, 07:20 PM:

What James said. What amazes me is that his writings (which are extensive, and not recent) haven't been made more of; most especially as Buchanan makes a point of mentioning his brilliance as a writer in her apologia

I looked at some of them when I was putting my post together. I think my favorite was his saying Gary Condit was guilty, in some way, for the murder of Chandra Levy because he wasn't in favor of the sort of immigration restrictions Epstein and Tancredo like, though this, from 2005, is perhaps the capper:

What happened to Mr. Carrington was tragic, but at the end of the day it was his choice to make stupid decisions, and no one else should bear any legal responsibility.... which was his defense of four people charged with torture in the hazing death of a fraternity pledge.

The core of his argument: The pledge voluntarily entered into the hazing, and you can't stop it, so punishing people who abuse and torture pledges isn't fair.

I'm not kidding about the "can't stop it either:

While at the College of William and Mary, I was in a fraternity. My junior year, one of our pledged walked out of a pledge meeting while he was being hazed, and then decided to drop out of the process all together. No one stopped him from doing anything. He told the administration what happened and our fraternity lost its charter. It will be brought back in 2008 and filled with the people who couldn’t get into a fraternity à la the Tri Lams in Revenge of the Nerds. Within a year or two, they will be hazing again. This happens to a fraternity almost every year at William and Mary and at almost every college campus with a Greek system in the country. Despite the best efforts of the national chapters and the university administrations, hazing still is pervasive within almost every fraternity at every school.

I’m not writing this because I think that hazing is a positive social good, but simply that it happens to tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of students each year, it’s not going to go away anytime soon, and only very rarely does a tragedy like the one at Chico State occur. The reason is a combination human nature, the fact that it’s a long established tradition, and most of all because you have a bunch of post-adolescents with no responsibility and their parents’ money while attending colleges where they can graduate in five years while barely attending class.

So there you have it. Young men are beasts, and punishing them for being beasts is unfair.

Seems the song doesn't change.

#51 ::: 'As you Know' Bob ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2009, 07:56 PM:

It's probably relevant here that Bay Buchanan's brother Pat also has a history of street-fighting.

(But in Pat's case, without suffering much in the way of consequences: which of course is one of the privileges of wealth.)

#52 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2009, 07:58 PM:

Andrew T @35: I'm interested in the circumstances under which people should lose their jobs for crimes committed during their personal lives.

I've worked as a security guard, and had to pass a background check to get the job. I had a co-worker lose a job because they had been arrested on their off time — I don't know if the arrest itself was sufficient to lose the job (I have no knowledge about the nature or circumstances of the arrest), or if the fireable offense was not reporting it to the supervisors.

In the case at hand, I would forgive a fender-bender; but a racist assault, no.

#53 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2009, 08:08 PM:

Xopher @13, I dunno. Time was, the Democrats were the party of slavery and racism. I'd rather see the GOP restored to something less shameful.

Which might take a while. It took a century to get from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Act.

#54 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2009, 08:44 PM:

As driver for Domino's one has to keep a clean driving record. In Colorado you have to keep a clean driving record (or did when worked for Domino's) for "inside jobs", at least the manager did (my boss was in LA, because he'd been stupid and lost his clean record, so he went from a shop with 20 drivers on duty to one with three, and in another state).

#55 ::: Ron Sullivan ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2009, 09:29 PM:

A footnote with some humor value, I think: A veteran lefty friend of ours has a lynching charge? conviction? (dunno) on his police record, for freeing a fellow demonstrator from a police car while the cops' attention was elsewhere. (And, obviously, not getting away quite fast enough himself.) Taking somebody from official custody is, technically, "lynching." You could look it up.

Gee, you think this was what Bay was talking about? Neither do I.

#56 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2009, 10:27 PM:

I'm not 100% sure of that, Ron. At least not in every jurisdiction.

From http://definitions.uslegal.com/l/lynching/

A lynching is a killing by a mob of people. In efforts to lobby Congress to enact a law against lynchings, in 1921 the NAACP proposed setting the size of the mob at no fewer than five. The NAACP later agreed that for a killing to qualify as a lynching, the killers had to act under pretext of service to justice, their race or tradition. Lynchings were more common in the post-Reconstruction South, where southern whites used lynching and other terror tactics to intimidate blacks into political, social, and economic submission.
#57 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2009, 11:16 PM:

Ron Sullivan: In California it may be, but isn't, per se.

405a. The taking by means of a riot of any person from the lawful custody of any peace officer is a lynching.

The means are an important part. Not just spiriting them away, but doing it by means of riot.

404. (a) Any use of force or violence, disturbing the public peace, or any threat to use force or violence, if accompanied by immediate power of execution, by two or more persons acting together, and without authority of law, is a riot.

#58 ::: Wyman Cooke ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2009, 11:54 PM:

One thing that has me curious. How long had he been drinking? Say he got out of the office at 5pm. That would leave him two hours and fifteen minutes, minus traveling to and from the bar, to get his drink on. This sounds more like a drunk at 11pm then at 7pm.

They were so careful to say they were standing beside him, why didn't they put him into a twelve-step program if they're so supportive? Sounds like he needs one, pronto; he's a mean drunk.

#59 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 12:35 AM:

One presumes that, had Judge Sotomayor gotten drunk out of her mind, gone walking down the street in the Bronx, and hit some white guy in the head while calling him a rabiblanco that it would have been all cool with Buchanan and Tancredo. Nothing racist about that.

(Wyman: Apparently he's been in AA, which is a Twelve-Step program.)

#60 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 02:05 AM:

Andrew T @ 35: "If you do, do you consider destroying his career to be a proportionate response to his offense?"

Having a career isn't an inherent right. It's earned, and wandering around drunk punching people is not behavior that indicates worthiness of promotion. He has no more right to a career in politics (or any other field) than I have to a career in the NBA. The fact that Bay Buchanan thinks otherwise is called privilege.

I don't think they have to fire him. They only have to fire him if they think his actions were contrary to the spirit of their organization. Obviously they don't; they just don't want to take the public relations hit that comes with being seen as a racist-abetting organization.

#61 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 02:07 AM:

Wyman Cooke: It seems, by Buchanan's account, and the subsequent rehab, he had a drinking problem.

We know how considerate of drug addicts the Republicans are, which is why they didn't abandon him.

#62 ::: Leroy F. Berven ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 02:33 AM:

Andrew T @ 35:

As one possible starting point, I would think that pretty much anything that would disqualify an applicant from employment at an organization might also plausibly suffice as reason for dis-employment. For close cases and grey areas, especially with an employee who has a long and/or very good employment record otherwise, I can also see various lesser degrees of punishment (censure, suspension, "one more time and you're fired" warning, etc.) as reasonable options.

#63 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 05:34 AM:

Actually, for a Buchanan writing in Human Events, this is a comparatively reasoned discussion of race, at least compared to Pat's Imus was flogged, like, with a whip for ten days and then, literally, lynched, despite the existence of Al Sharpton and black people are morally crippled thugs because they're not grateful enough for the boon America bestowed upon them by enslaving their ancestors

Bay is, as is her wont, full of crap here. Pat, Bay and Tancredo are paying a "heritage enthusiast" with a mental illness that manifests as racial hate crime to run the groups they started to deal with the not all americans being northern european white folks problem..

That they are doing this while they make the rounds trying to derail the Sotomayor nomination because being of puerto rican descent and having a heritage makes you a racist and that's a very bad thing is lagniappe.

Pfui, Bay.

#64 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 06:02 AM:

'As you Know' Bob @ 51:

It's probably relevant here that Bay Buchanan's brother Pat also has a history of street-fighting.

Pat should only be that family's worst impulse-control problem

The older brother of presidential candidate Patrick J. Buchanan is facing a charge of assault with a dangerous weapon after allegedly brandishing a gun at a Northwest Washington home owned by a relative of a top State Department official, relatives said yesterday.

Hank Buchanan, 61, is expected to surrender to police within a few days, his brother Tom Buchanan, 45, a lawyer, said last night. Tom Buchanan added that he understood that a warrant had been issued for his brother's arrest.

Hank Buchanan, who family members said is a manic depressive, checked into Sibley Memorial Hospital in Northwest Washington this week for treatment of mental illness, Tom Buchanan said.

The allegation stems from an incident Sunday in which an intruder broke into the garage of Cody Shearer, a freelance journalist and brother-in-law of Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, Buchanan's relatives confirmed.

The intruder slashed the car tires and, when confronted by two house guests, "brandished a handgun" before fleeing to a parked car, according to a statement issued by Shearer's attorney, William J. Murphy. Shearer turned the license plate number over to police.

Last week, cable TV show host Chris Matthews suggested on his "Hardball" program that Shearer intimidated Kathleen Willey -- who has accused President Clinton of groping her in the Oval Office -- outside her Richmond home in January 1998. Through his attorney, Shearer denied the allegations and said he was in California during the period in question. Matthews apologized Monday on

Cognitive dysfunction seems to appear in oddly specific ways in that circle.

#65 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 06:04 AM:

Serge @45:
Are those days behind, when you used to take people to houses of ill repute?

Those days are past now,
And in the past
they must remain,
But they can still drink now,
And be the comp'ny again,
That stood against all
That's sane and sober,
And staggered homeward,
Tae drink again.

#66 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 06:21 AM:

Terry, you should post your URLs when you refer to them. In this case:

http://pecunium.livejournal.com/419485.html
http://pecunium.livejournal.com/419804.html

Terry @32:

"I am amused that both Teresa and I independently pointed out the bottle doesn't talk, it, just makes it easier for you to talk."
Just so. "He was disinhibited, and behaved badly" is one thing. "While disinhibited, he misbehaved in some specific and disturbing ways" is something else entirely.

I first sorted that out in connection with the case of Dr. Allan Zarkin, the gynecologist who became famous when he carved his initials into the abdomen of a patient who'd just given birth via caesarean section. His lawyers defended him on the grounds that he had a rapidly developing disinhibiting neurological disorder.

I figured that was BS, on two separate counts. The first, and the one that's pertinent here, is that saying the root problem was disinhibition implied that it's normal and acceptable for a doctor to want to carve his initials into his patient's flesh, and that Allan Zarkin's boo-boo was simply that he acted on the impulse.

(The other reason, which I really have to stop being a chicken and write about one of these days, was that he'd formerly been my gynecologist, and I'd stopped going to him because he creeped me out. I knew damned well he'd been an abusive, manipulative, irresponsible, ego-tripping SOB years earlier.)(But I digress.)

On whether Marcus Epstein "deserves" to lose his job and/or career, and if so, what principle is at work there:

I'd say Tobias Buckell nailed this one, back at #36:

"when the person is a 'public servant' and things like this are revealed, I think the people are right to demand that person be accountable to the job, as they have a right to be suspicious that this attitude has a solid chance of affecting public policy, freedoms, and sends a message to other politicians about how the polity feels about politicians (who work for the polity, after all)."

This isn't about employee requirements. It's about fitness for command. Epstein was probably never headed for a top position, but he's on the career track to be someone who advises and influences those in power, and who, as a writer, gives them their voices. Poor self-control and an assumption of privilege are bad signs, but what really disqualifies him is his deep and (apparently) persistent racism. Attitudes like that aren't short-term positions people adopt and discard with the changing times. They're the kind of bad habits that over time become character.

#67 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 06:46 AM:

Teresa Nielsen Hayden @ 66: "Poor self-control and an assumption of privilege are bad signs, but what really disqualifies him is his deep and (apparently) persistent racism."

Unless of course one believes that deep and persistent racism qualifies a person for political power. The problem that Buchanan and Tancredo find themselves facing is that they believe racism to be a virtue and wish to employ racists, but are loathe to admit to it in public. Thus the dance.

#68 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 07:52 AM:

abi @ 65...

But they can still drink now,
And be the comp'ny again,
That stood against all
That's sane and sober

T'lean on insober
They'd both fall over.

#69 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 07:58 AM:

James @ 40: I don't think Eliot Spitzer did anything wrong.

#70 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 08:41 AM:

John @69: You don't think that demonstrable stupidity is a bad quality in a governor?

#71 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 09:15 AM:

Jim @ 70: I'd call it recklessness in his personal life rather than stupidity, but that's splitting hairs, I suppose.

Every other example we've had here involves serious criminal conduct--theft, fraud, assault and battery, hate crime, arson, child molestation. What did Spitzer do next to that? He bought sex from a grown woman. Big deal.

What he did wasn't wrong.

#72 ::: Connie H. ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 09:44 AM:

Just out of curiosity, has Epstein made any recompense to the woman he attacked and/or paid a fine/did public service/attended court-ordered rehab or treatment? Because that would certainly influence how I'd look at an employee or coworker of mine who was trying to put a bad act behind him or her, and whether I'd publicly defend said person.

#73 ::: Wyman Cooke ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 10:02 AM:

Spitzer's problem wasn't the sin, it was the contrast with his reputation. Going from crusading DA to call girl's John is a breath-taking fall from grace.

#74 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 10:38 AM:

Wyman, #73: Good point, and highly relevant to this thread. The issue in both cases is hypocrisy; in Spitzer's case, it was specifically "Mr. Law and Order" flagrantly breaking the law (because whether you agree that prostitution should be illegal or not, it is illegal). And Jim has a point as well -- after what happened to Bill Clinton, any politician should know that stunts like that are serious CLMs if discovered, and adjust their behavior accordingly.

#75 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 10:40 AM:

What Bill Clinton and Eliot Spitzer did wrong was not to look directly into the camera and say, "My sex life is none of your business. Next question, please."

Clinton didn't have the requisite character to do so. I'd hoped for better from Spitzer.

#76 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 10:46 AM:

I think I'll shut up now, as I'm in danger of hijacking the thread onto a subject about which I feel strongly, but which is neither the subject under discussion nor strongly related to it.

#77 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 11:13 AM:

Lee @ 74: "The issue in both cases is hypocrisy; in Spitzer's case, it was specifically "Mr. Law and Order" flagrantly breaking the law (because whether you agree that prostitution should be illegal or not, it is illegal)."

As I recall, he specifically went after sex trafficking rings as a DA--it was one of his big issues. Such a disconnect between his private actions and his public ones demonstrates a lack of a moral compass: his actions were governed by what best served the moment, not by what was right. (The stupidity and arrogance exhibited by the episode didn't exactly make me eager to hold him up as a symbol of my politics either.)

#78 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 11:23 AM:

Lee @ #42, you're right, of course.

Andrew @ #44, if I were an employer and an employee of mine had committed an unprovoked assault, drunk or not, I'd be concerned that it would happen again--to a co-worker or a customer perhaps. Thus I'd feel some responsibility for lessening that risk--maybe by suggesting he get counseling? Of course, I'm not an employer, so what do I know?

#79 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 11:37 AM:

I don't agree with the consensus in this thread at all. I don't know much about Bay Buchanan, but Pat Buchanan and Tom Tancredo are a couple nasty pieces of work, and I expect little better of Bay. (And I have no interest whatsoever in defending any of those three, or for that matter their staffer who was involved in a drunken racial assault on some random black lady.) But there seems to be this idea here, in its most basic form, which says:

If an employee does X off the clock, and you find out about it and don't fire him for it, you are giving tacit support for X.

I don't agree with this at all. Further, I think only people already strongly inclined to suspect the employer of support for X would accept this as evidence of their support for X. It's remarkably weak evidence, for several reasons:

a. Many employers, when they have an employee with some kind of major problems, will try to support that employee in recovery. In most cases, that's seen as a decent thing to do, not an evil thing to do.

b. Many employers will (rightly, IMO) treat off-the-clock misbehavior as not really their business, unless it directly affects their business somehow.

(It's also worth noting that accepting that as a general principle would make the world a much, much less free place, along the lines of Trotsky's wonderful phrasing that "he who does not obey, shall not eat.")

Here's how this looks to me: Most of us look at someone like Tancredo, and say "Given his positions and public statements, this guy is probably a racist." Then, when we see ambiguous evidence that could be taken as evidence in favor of that claim, we tend to want to treat it as definitive, because we already more-or-less know the conclusion we expect. But that pattern of reasoning isn't sound; it's the pattern of reasoning that supports confirmation bias. Evidence for stuff you're already pretty sure of is held to relatively low standards, evidence for stuff you're very doubtful of is held to very high standards.

This is the mental process that convinced millions of dedicated Republicans that Obama was a socialist and a secret Muslim, that Iraq was an imminent threat to the US and was heavily involved with Al Qaida, and that American liberals who opposed the war in Iraq or massive domestic spying or torture were traitors. (This last is especially apt, because it's another case where people take very ambiguous evidence as proof of a hidden, shameful internal mental state of their enemies.)

This mental process leads nowhere good. It makes its practitioners feel good, but it can lead you to true statements only by accident.

One good way to assess this mental process is to use the mirror method. If it turned out that, say, Obama or Dean had not fired an aide who'd been arrested for a drunken domestic assault, would that be evidence that Obama believed wife beating was okay? Male privilege in action? Or might it be taken in a different light, somehow?

#80 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 11:49 AM:

albatross @ 79

Under the same circumstances, I'd expect Obama to fire the staffer.

Of course, I expected him to fire this guy. I have a naive streak.

#81 ::: Throwmearope ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 12:26 PM:

That twit Tancredo used to be my representative. He has been replaced by the oh-so-creepy Coffman who tried (unsuccessfully--not the brightest Crayola around) to dis-enfranchise thousands of Coloradans once it became clear we were gonna vote for Obama.

A few of you have alluded to what I think is the truth behind Bay and Tom's indignation. They don't see Epstein's behavior as aberrant. At all. For them, this is not a problem. He did nothing wrong! They think that Epstein is entitled to punch a mere women and use the N word freely. They think it's okay. Perfectly acceptable behavior.

Having the excuse that Epstein was drunk--well, there you go. By their barometers, those of us who would judge him are morally wrong.

Racists believe in their own superiority so deeply, that they cannot imagine anyone questioning the inferiority of what they see as lesser beings.

Inigo Montoya is quoted a lot at this site--so I will refrain from doing so again. But they have no clue why anyone would object to Mr. Epstein's behavior in the first place.

#82 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 12:27 PM:

#79 If an employee does X off the clock, and you find out about it and don't fire him for it, you are giving tacit support for X.

Not really.

If the employee commits a felony on his own time, and the nature of the crime is related to his duties in your organization, he should be removed from those duties.

#83 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 12:33 PM:

albatross, #79: Because I don't want to get into a long, nasty, and ultimately fruitless argument with you, I am going to say only this: I really dislike seeing you use phrases like "making us less free" when the context is a lack of consequences for criminal behavior. It's very close to being a magic-word argument.

#84 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 12:46 PM:

heresiarch @ 67:

The problem that Buchanan and Tancredo find themselves facing is that they believe racism to be a virtue and wish to employ racists, but are loathe to admit to it in public. Thus the dance.

I knew a guy who said that he liked Southern racists better than Northern ones, because the Southern ones didn't feel the need to hide it. He didn't like racists at all, mind you.

albatross @ 79:

As with a great many things, I'd say It depends. You're right in that if an employer fired someone for every offense it would be rather cruel. Firing someone over a speeding ticket would be obnoxious. Firing someone over a charge of murder would be wrong; innocent until proven guilty and all that. But would you really want someone who has pled guilty to or been convicted of stealing working in your office?

Something like the case under discussion here, however, can directly affect a business. People might be reluctant to go to meetings with the person, others would decide not to do business with them at all until something was done. Some newspaper or other might report the employer's name, and then it would be a spot on their reputation until they did something.

I think this is a gray area for the general case. In this particular case, if he were working for just about any other organization, I'd expect him to be out on his ear.

To address your second point, I think there's much more evidence that Tancredo is racist than than Obama is a Muslim. However, ignoring that for the moment, what's really slimy about this whole situation is that this group was saying that someone was unfit for a position of power because she was racist, and then, when someone in their own organization aiming at a position of power behaved in an ugly and demonstrably racist way, they're pretending that it's no big deal. That's hypocracy, and that tells us a lot about their moral character right there, which is, I think, the whole point of this exercise.

#85 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 01:03 PM:

Firing someone over a speeding ticket would be obnoxious.

If the work involved driving, especially driving buses or taxis, I'd say that firing them over speeding might be justified, especially if it's repeated behavior.

(One of my co-workers was fired this week, despite being one of our best people, because he argued once too often with higher-ups over the way we should be doing our work. Mind you, I think he was probably correct, but he'd been warned about it before.)

#86 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 01:45 PM:

If my work situation is such that I can influence what Society decides is moral and/or legal, and thus affect the rights of others, I'd better follow the rules that I decide or enforce. Otherwise I have no right to be in that position.

Also, there's this saying about the inadvisability of throwing bricks inside a glass house. And what is it that Jesus said about who can cast the first stone?

#87 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 01:46 PM:

P J Evans @ 85:

Yes, true, someone whose job it is to be a safe driver should not have speeding tickets. (If more cops received speeding tickets for non-job-related speeding, the world might be a better place. Also, I'd like a pony.)

I'd say that's pretty rough on your coworker, but he had been warned. Unless it was about a matter of ethics or gross incompetency, there's not a lot to be done there.

#88 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 02:06 PM:

Keith S @ 84/87

...what's really slimy about this whole situation is that this group was saying that someone was unfit for a position of power because she was racist, and then, when someone in their own organization aiming at a position of power behaved in an ugly and demonstrably racist way, they're pretending that it's no big deal

The grand irony here is that the one person in this situation young Epstein could count on to stand behind his right to be a (nonviolent) racist in private life is Sonia Sotomayor

Thomas Pappas had worked in the New York City Police Department since January, 1982, primarily in the Management Information Systems Division. In August 1999, he was fired by then commissioner Howard Safir after it was discovered that he had mailed more than 200 pieces of racially insensitive and anti-Semitic material from his home to various political groups who had been soliciting him for donations. Among the more than 200 or so pieces of literature Pappas had sent out were pamphlets from the National Association for the Advancement of White People.

A member and chairman of the Populist Party of the Town of North Hempstead, whose platform included repealing the federal income tax and abolishing the IRS, Pappas sued Safir and New York City's Mayor Rudy Giuliani on grounds that they had violated his First Amendment rights. In October 2000, U.S. District Court Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald ruled that the NYPD had operated within the rule of law.

The case was appealed and in 2002 it found its way to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. The three-judge panel, which included Sotomayor, considered two main components of the case: Whether Pappas's "speech" was of public concern and whether it had "interfered with" the NYPD's activities. Two of the three judges upheld the district court decision that it didn't matter that Pappas had sent these mailings anonymously from his private home. "Although Pappas tried to conceal his identity as speaker," they ruled, "he took the risk that the effort would fail."

While finding the speech "offensive, hateful and insulting," Sotomayor dissented. Her basis was the precedent established by Rankin v. McPherson, in which the Supreme Court held that a public employee in Texas who cheered the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan in a conversation with a fellow worker had not interfered with the office's operations, because her job did not require public contact. But Sotomayor also did not shy away from the constitutional implications of the Pappas case.

"I of course do not dispute the majority's premise that a public employee's free speech interest is often subordinated to the effective functioning of a government employer," Sotomayor's dissent read. "I also agree that it is appropriate to consider the agency's mission in relation to the nature of the speech, and I appreciate the enormous importance of race relations to the operation of the NYPD. These facts alone, however, do not support the constitutionality of the NYPD's termination of Pappas. The well-established case law of the Supreme Court and this Court requires a more searching inquiry."

#89 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 03:10 PM:

The use of the word "Nigger" alone would be reprehensible, but not necessarily a firing offense. The assault alone on a stranger should be a firing offense. I'd think I should be fired if I'd done both, drunk or not; and I'd have to make some pretty visible amends to get another (similar) job. I actually don't have a real problem with people writing speeches they don't believe -- I do have a problem with people going on record delivering speeches they don't believe.

#90 ::: Larry ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 03:13 PM:

@albatross:

The situation mentioned would demand that the person be fired imho. Also this is not a simple domestic assault. A case could be made that this was a hate crime. He attacked a black woman while calling her the N word. I don't care who you are, or who you work for if you do that you need to be tossed out.

The arguments over whether this is news or not is a distraction. You have people accusing Sotomayor of being a racist while condoning one of their own being violently racist. That is the issue here and it calls into question their own motives for what they are saying.

It ends up looking like racist behavior (real or perceived) is ok as long as it is not against non-white males. At least that is how I take their reactions and statements.

#91 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 03:45 PM:

Teresa: Terry, you should post your URLs when you refer to them. Ok. I shall try to feel less self-aggrandizing when such things come up.

Connie H: His sentence (part of a plea bargain to bring it down to simple assault), included a letter of apology and $1,000 donation to the Negro College Fund.

John A Arkansawyer: There are a few things going on. 1: Irrespective of what you, I, or anyone, thinks of what the legal circumstances of prostitution ought to be, it was illegal. 2: Spitzer wasn't just Joe Schmoe, he was the governor. Had it been a mistress, I'd not have cared a whit. 3: He had made enemies. To think he could get away with this was foolish and, were it muy governor, showed a lack of tactical competence I don't want to see.

What if it weren't people who wanted him out of office who'd dug this up? What if someone who had a more devious mind had found out, and kept it close to the vest. At that point he is compromised. Someone will get a piece of legislation they want passed, or an investigation they want derailed derailed.

Because they either get Spitzer to roll over, or the news becomes his being threatened, etc. and whatever it was becomes background.

So, yes, I don't want that in a politician. They need, because they hold the levers of power, to be held to a more stringent standard; even when we think the laws in question are stupid. That's what the Rule of Law is all about.

albatross: 1: I don't think I said that. I think I said something more akin to Jim at #82.

And, as I said in the first post Teresa told me I should have linked:

And it's not a "lynching". It's not even about him, really. If he were just some random guy, even a random Republican player/operative, this wouldn't be news. This is someone whom the PAC of Tom "Sotomayor is a Racist" Tancredo is paying. Someone the PAC has gone out of it's way to help. They didn't give him a placeholder job so his bills would be paid, no, they made him an executive director. It may be they have dozens, and the title is actually meaninless, but that's not how it looks (and to be honest, I doubt they have the sort of budget for that).

Lynching is a pretty specific term, and has some aims and goals; mostly to keep a group in line by making it plain that stepping out of bounds is fraught with peril.

This isn't that. He attacked someone, he plead guilty. So far it's no big deal. But his boss, who has been beating a the "racist" drum about a nominee to the Supreme Court kept him on after this. One suspects his early admission to UVA Law was in part because he had contacts who advocated for him (his admission has since been revoked... Buchanan blames, "the left blogoshpere," but I'd like to think the guilty plea might have had a little to do with it).

What this entire post (and the meat of the controversy) is actually about is that third word the players in this sordid little tale don't seem to understand.

Hypocrisy.

If they want to keep an open racist (and I've read too many of his writings to think him anything else), that's their lookout. If they want to try to set policies which relate to race, then it's fair game to talk about.

If they want to use a passing comment about how race affects worldview, and a wider worldview might make for a better jurist, and call it racist, they can.

But if they want to say smashing the head of someone their employee has drunkenly staggered into, while calling her a nigger, isn't racist... well I'm not giving them a pass on that.

#92 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 04:46 PM:

Lee @74: as heresiarch already pointed out, your defense of Spitzer omitted some very crucial information. Namely, that as a prosecutor, he went after prostitution rings, even though he was hiring prostitutes. Setting aside the rank hypocrisy, there's something very ugly about doing business with people you have the power to send to jail, whether or not the threat is made explicit.

#93 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 04:58 PM:

Terry Karney #91: A (tiny) fraction of Epstein's fine will go towards my salary.

#94 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 05:06 PM:

Err- one small question- is it really necessary to keep using the word Epstein used in talking about him, his actions, the reactions of other people, and actions like that in general?

#95 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 06:10 PM:

Raphael: Why should he be treated differently from others?

The convention is to give a full name (and title, where appropriate) on first mention, and last name alone thereafter.

One of the things (and I noticed it on NPR) is the strange habit I am hearing of, "Mr. Obama." I don't recall them saying, Mr. Bush.

Is that me being over sensitive?, or are they treating him differently?

#96 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 06:12 PM:

Terry, I think you misread Raphael's post. He asked, "is it really necessary to keep using the word Epstein used" (emphasis mine). I took him to mean "the N-word".

#97 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 06:13 PM:

I'm not sure you got me right- I didn't say "the word "Epstein"", I said "the word [that] Epstein used".

#98 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 06:15 PM:

Bruce Cohen, yes, exactly.

#99 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 06:19 PM:

Leonard Pitt's two most recent columns are closely tangent to this thread. He's well and truly, and with justification, pissed off, and in the well-written and compelling style he uses, especially when pissed off, he discusses racial stereotypes and the hypocrisy of the "racist" characterization of Judge Sotomayor.

#100 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 06:39 PM:

oh... well I'm of a mixed mind on that. I'm offended by it. I happen to find the various circumlocutions ("the n word", "an offensive racial epithet") offensive in different ways.

Certainly, when quoting myself I am not going to be hypocritical and change what I wrote.

Which is to say, I don't know what to tell you. It's the word he used. It's part of the conversation.

#101 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 06:43 PM:

Oops, make that "Leonard Pitts'", not "Leonard Pitt's". It's hard enough getting the possessive form right, let alone when last names can either singular or plural.

#102 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 06:58 PM:

We recently had a case in DC where the attack was very similar, but with reversed races. (The difference in the reverse is that the black man claims to have been called a racist epithet by the white man, but there's no proof.)

#103 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 06:58 PM:

… and, on the name ‘Epstein’; if someone had drunkenly punched/chopped him in the street while shouting about ‘dirty Jews’, I wonder what reaction we’d’ve seen.

[Dunno his actual ethnicity, name is stereotypical.]

#104 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 07:22 PM:

mythago, #92: If you think that what I said was in defense of Spitzer, please read my comment #74 again.

#105 ::: Marna Nightingale ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 07:44 PM:

Mythago @ 92: Yes. Thank you.

Plus, you know, all things being equal I'd like to be represented by people who did not think of persons of my gender as things that one rents.

This is, admittedly, a bit unrealistic of me, but still. I would at least like to be advised of their opinion on this matter before I am asked to vote for them, so that I can make my own cost-benefit analysis.

If they have falsely claimed not to think this - say, by going after prostitution rings - when they were asking for votes, and it later proves, after they have gotten them, that they were lying, then, no, I'm not going to feel particularly awful if that doesn't work out too well for them.

#106 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 07:51 PM:

Marna @ 105: I don't like being thought of as a thing to be rented, either, but that's capitalism. I think your quarrel is with the system of wage labor rather than Eliot Spitzer.

#107 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 08:07 PM:

Yes, I know I said I'd drop it, but that was in the hopes the conversation would get back to where it was before I screwed it up. That doesn't seem to have happened, so:

Terry @ 91: In the state of Arkansas, homosexual sodomy is still illegal. You have just given an argument for not electing any gay officials in my state until that law is overturned.

This is not a theoretical concern to me, as my state representative (with whom I am as well-pleased as I could be, given the realities of electoral politics) is an out lesbian, and prominent elements of the Arkansas Republican Party (at least, while they aren't jew-baiting Charles Schumer) are currently trying to turn her sexuality into a statewide issue.

Suppose they get a prosecutor to gin up a sodomy charge against her. What then? Should I just shrug and say, "Well, she knew it was against the law to have that sort of sex?"

Sex laws (with a few exceptions, involving power, coercion, or assault, with sex as an incidental element) are an offense against humanity, and I don't see why anyone should respect them. They are the sort of intimate authoritarianism that overrides my respect for the rule of law. It takes quite a lot to do that, and when it happens, it's a result I take seriously.

#108 ::: Marna Nightingale ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 08:08 PM:

John @ 106:

I think it is going to be entirely impossible for you and I to have a productive, or even civil, conversation on this topic. So I shan't try.

#109 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 08:18 PM:

John A Arkansawyer: In the first case, Lawrene v Texas ought to prevent any such law, in the second:

It's a problem. It's the Catch-22 which used to exist in relation to homosexuals and clearances. The difference (in this case; to me) is the out nature of it. No one can use it to blackmail her.

All being equal, the sodomy charge would end up (after much hassle) a fruitless (and probably expensive to the jurisdiction) exercise, because the controlling precedent is that such laws are unconstitutional.

It's a painful thing (as with Skokie), when principles conflict with what one desires.

#110 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 08:19 PM:

Marna @ 108: I would hope we could, but this is not the time and place to take that risk, so I will now go back to quietly seething over a former co-worker, fired after nearly thirty years of exceptional service, over an accusation of unintentionally violating one of those sex laws, and the twenty years in prison he's facing if things go even more pear-shaped for him.

But if you'd like to try to have that civil conversation at some other time and place, I'm game.

#111 ::: Marna Nightingale ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 08:27 PM:

John, that is quite possible. And I am extraordinarily sorry about your co-worker.

Possibly there will be some other time. At the moment, I'm in a foul mood over a related issue myself, so this is probably just not the time.

FWIW, which is mostly clarification and not an attempt to forward the fight by other means, I agree that:

Sex laws (with a few exceptions, involving power, coercion, or assault, with sex as an incidental element) are an offense against humanity

Where we disagree, based on your response to me, appears to be that you do not think the sex trade meets those criteria for exception, and I think it meets them extraordinarily well.

And that is a discussion I'm happy to have with you sometime, but, no, not now.

#112 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 08:31 PM:

Terry @ 109: I can't argue with that, mostly, other than to note the laws are still on the books here (I think--I'd've heard if they'd been repealed) and that an unscrupulous prosecutor could still make hay with them. I'd also suggest resolving that Catch-22 involves eliminating the type of sexual shame which was used so effectively against both Clinton and Spitzer.

And now, I swear, I'm going to try to stop. It is a discussion worth having, but this is really not the time or place for it. Like I said, I'm just a bit touchy lately, which is my problem, not yours.

#113 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 08:42 PM:

Marna @ 111: Thank you for that. We may not be so far apart as it seems, as there are very large segments of the sex trade that I would outlaw. I also think it's hard to untangle the parts that don't fit that description from the parts that do. Given that, it's reasonable to advocate outlawing the sex trade generally. I just don't share that position (which may not be yours).

I could maybe be convinced of it, though. I used to think that, and I might again someday.

And now, really, I will stop. If I don't, someone please block my IP for a day or two. I won't mind.

#114 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 08:44 PM:

Ack. I didn't mean to imply whatever your position was was unreasonable if it wasn't the one I lined out. What I wrote could be read that way, but that was not my intention.

And now I really will stop. I mean it this time.

#115 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 08:57 PM:

*contributes money to John's "get my brakes looked at" fund*

*really hopes John knows he's only kidding*

#116 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 09:22 PM:

Tery@61: butbutbut ... alcohol isn't a \drug/ ... at least, not when a Right-Thinking Amurrican uses the word....

julia@63: That's not the stated reason why they're down on Sotomayor; unfortunately, she's given the Wrong better ammunition than a federal-level non-conservative judge usually lets slip.

#117 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 09:27 PM:

CHip @ 116: What do you see as their hit on her?

#118 ::: Marna Nightingale ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 09:33 PM:

John @ 114:

1) S'all good, was read as intended.

2) Look! Boobies!

#119 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 09:47 PM:

John A Arkansawyer @ 71... He bought sex from a grown woman

Why do I find myself thinking of Bladerunner?

#120 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 10:07 PM:

Marna @ 118: I'll see your boobies and raise you a pair of tits.

#121 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 10:31 PM:

John: I don't think Clinton and Spitzer are comparable. Clinton was set-up, to take advantage of embarrassment of something which wasn't illegal, to trump up false charges (because his denial didn't meet the requirements for perjury).

Spitzer engaged in one criminal behavior, was caught because people went looking for evidence of another, and had engaged in conflicts of interest which called his critical, and ethical, judgment into account.

I think the former was criminal, and the second proper.

#122 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 10:40 PM:

Chip #116:

Of course, the real reason they're against her is because she's Democrat and a liberal, and so is in disagreement with a large fraction of the policies they'd like to see. They will seek reasons to oppose her that may convince more people than "because she's a liberal Democrat," but that's ultimately what it comes down to[1]. Indeed, the Republicans have almost no chance of preventing her ending up on the court, absent some huge scandal materializing. My sense is that they're fighting anyway for a couple of reasons:

a. Because being seen to fight is beneficial for their position within the party, and their near-term fundraising. This is especially true with pro-life voters, whose money can be got most efficiently by promising to fight like hell to keep pro-choice judges off the bench.

b. Because by pushing back on this nomination, they hope to push Obama into choosing moderates rather than liberals in future nominations.

[1] Note the remarkably small number of Republicans who could find much bad to say about Condoleeza Rice or Alberto Gonzales or John Yoo. That makes it kind of hard to believe that the fundamental issue here is one of race. The Republicans will throw race into their attacks sometimes, because that doesn't offend the shrunken set of voters still self-identifying as Republican in the way it does most everyone else. But they were crying foul at the smallest hint of such comments, when directed at one of their own, even a few years ago. (Remember the mock outrage at Kerry for mentioning that Cheney had an openly lesbian daughter?)

#123 ::: Marna Nightingale ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 10:41 PM:

John @ 120:

Sir, you leave me no alternative but to resort to flashing a little ass

#124 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 10:59 PM:

And here's some cock.

#125 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 11:17 PM:

http://video.yahoo.com/watch/445760/2492084

cock fighting

#126 ::: 'As You Know' Bob ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 11:34 PM:

albatross @#116: Of course, the real reason they're against her is because she's Democrat and a liberal...

Well, "Democrat", sure, but from where I stand, she doesn't even look all that "liberal". To me, she looks to be about where Souter is.

What she is, is not an obviously-batshit-insane wingnut.

#127 ::: 'As You Know' Bob ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2009, 11:36 PM:

(I mean "albatross at #122"; it's past my bedtime.)

#128 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2009, 01:19 AM:

As you know Bob: Worse, she seems to be a very technical jurist, so (unlike Scalia, Alito and Roberts) precedent binds her a fair bit, this means she is a lot less likely to reverse mistakes of the past.

E. g. Roe is safe, but only insofar as it stands today.

#129 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2009, 01:19 AM:

As you know Bob: Worse, she seems to be a very technical jurist, so (unlike Scalia, Alito and Roberts) precedent binds her a fair bit, this means she is a lot less likely to reverse mistakes of the past.

E. g. Roe is safe, but only insofar as it stands today.

#130 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2009, 02:15 AM:

albatross @ 79: "b. Many employers will (rightly, IMO) treat off-the-clock misbehavior as not really their business, unless it directly affects their business somehow."

There are two things wrong with this: 1) racially-motivated assault isn't a "misbehavior;" it is a misdemeanor at the least. 2) Racially-motivated assaults clearly do affect the business of any political organization, especially so when the employee in question works for an organization involved in a racially-sensitive issue. It's as relevant as a OB/GYN accused of sexual harassment.

"If it turned out that, say, Obama or Dean had not fired an aide who'd been arrested for a drunken domestic assault, would that be evidence that Obama believed wife beating was okay? Male privilege in action?"

I would expect that such a person would be fired, and if he was not I would indeed think that Obama was prioritizing the welfare of his aide over domestic violence, and I would think less of Obama for that.

If it seems like we're being overly stringent with politicians, it's because nearly everything is relevant in their job. If an FDA official has weird ideas about broadcast standards, then I don't care. If a FCC employee is a kook when it comes to CAFOs, I don't care. If a politician has peculiar beliefs about either issue I do care, because her portfolio quite possibly includes both. Politicians can lose their jobs for any number of "misbehaviors" because their jobs touch upon so many issues--thus they are held to higher, or at least wider standards.

Marna Nightingale @ 118: "2) Look! Boobies!"

Those are some nice boobies.

#131 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2009, 02:46 AM:

heresiarch: Like boobies? I got lotsa boobies for ya.

#132 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2009, 04:39 AM:

albatross @122, I think you're forgetting c) they just can't help it. And there her race and gender clearly play a big role, since while they generally aren't good at self control in dealing with their opponents, they lose it even more once gender and race get involved (and no, the fact that they can be temporarily nice to individual minority members and women who are temporarily in their good graces doesn't change that).

#133 ::: Micah ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2009, 06:12 AM:

Raphael @132: The prime example of how temporary the good graces of the right are is Colin Powell, who has been called a racist and general treated terribly by quite a few right-wingers because he supported Obama.

#134 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2009, 12:11 PM:

Speaking of Tom Tancredo and the appeal of his message to the masses:

In New Hampshire Tom got only twenty more votes, statewide, than the guy who campaigned wearing an upside-down boot on his head and carrying a giant toothbrush over his shoulder. In one district Tom got fewer votes.

#135 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2009, 06:39 PM:

Marna, Serge, Terry, albatross et al.: Here's a photo of my pussy.

(er, technically, that's one of the two that I possess)

#136 ::: Throwmearope ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2009, 10:09 PM:

@James D. Macdonald, #134.

Tancredo always won my district by a landslide. Glad to see New Hampshire has more sense than my neighbors.

#137 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2009, 10:20 PM:

julia@117: the fact that she said that (simplifying) a Latino woman would make a better judgment than a white man. The actual quotes I've seen are hedged, although they don't say (what is believable, ) that a minority usually has also learned the majority viewpoint in self-defense; but the quote gives them a club to beat her with.

albatross@122: see above; IIRC none of your cites made what could be seen as a claim of special virtue. The most-bruited claim is not that Sotomayor's ]race[ disqualifies her, but that she is herself a racist (although Gingrich, in a moment of sense (or greed for 2012?) backed down from this).

#138 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2009, 11:30 PM:

James Macdonald at # 134:

That's Vermin Supreme, who I saw in various open mikes and stuff in my neighborhood.

He once ran for mayor of the United States.
He said that he supported nuclear power because radiation causes cancer, cancer is a growth, and he supports growth.

#139 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2009, 12:18 AM:

James D. Macdonald @134, Throwmearope @136, wasn't that after he had already given up?

#140 ::: Marna Nightingale ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2009, 12:22 AM:

debcha @ 135: and here is one of mine, with a man's head half-buried in it, no less!

#141 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2009, 12:48 AM:

CHip @116, there was a piece I saw a few days back, I forget where, that points out that professionals from racial minorities are often asked to give speeches on the experience of being a minority in a white-dominated profession, and that it's incredibly difficult to give public speeches on that topic without saying something bound to offend someone.

It's especially difficult for minorities to speak openly about race without offending privileged whites.

#142 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2009, 02:40 AM:

Avram, #141: ...professionals from racial minorities are often asked to give speeches on the experience of being a minority in a white-dominated profession, and that it's incredibly difficult to give public speeches on that topic without saying something bound to offend someone.

Wow. Built-in booby trap. Wow.

I consider myself duly warned.

If you happen to be able to find the article, I'd love to read it.

#143 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2009, 09:40 AM:

Raphael #132:

Well, they seemed able to help it when their people were minorities. And that wasn't all that rare during the Bush administration--this and his AIDS policy in Africa may be the only obvious places where the Bush administration has much to be proud of. (But I know little of his AIDS policy in Africa other than that it has gotten a lot of praise from apparently clued-in, sensible people--maybe he made a hash of that, too.)

Similarly, the Republicans who decry using the race or gender of a candidate to insulate him or her from criticism certainly seemed to have a different idea when they were nominating Clarence Thomas to the court, or defending Condoleeza Rice from criticism. They seemed very comfortable (rightly) claiming the credit for having the first black man and the first black woman as secretary of state, as well as for having the first hispanic attorney general.

A cynic would almost suspect that they really just express those beliefs w.r.t. race and politics that support their side, and that since there aren't all that many black or hispanic Republicans, they often find it advantageous to argue that race shouldn't be a plus in anyone's weighing of candidates, or that too much emphasis on having minority candidates is evil identity politics, or that minorities probably got their start through affirmative action programs[1] and don't deserve it anyway, or....

[1] When applied to someone who's succeeded at the level of being a serious candidate for this kind of job, this argument is absolutely idiotic. Getting to where Sotomayor has gotten is several orders of magnitude harder than getting into Yale law school. It's like you've got an NBA all-star, and someone's b-tching that he got to start on the team back in high school because his uncle was the coach. More fundamentally, if AA is taking poor but brilliant Puerto Rican girls and sending them to elite colleges, from where they go on to have distinguished judicial careers and end up nominated to the Supreme Court, it's hard to argue that this represents a failure of AA.

#144 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2009, 09:41 AM:

Chip #137:

Fair enough. An interesting thing, to me, is the way the attacks on Sotomayor have relied so heavily on "gotcha" quotes and inferred evil beliefs and motives. And as with nearly all cases where you see this, the real reason seems to be that:

a. There's a political need to attack her on something.

b. There's not really much of substance to attack her on.

And inferring these evil hidden beliefs from the gotcha quotes is a lousy way to learn anything about reality, but a fine way to come up with rhetoric to attack her that will sound good to your base.

By contrast, her record of decisions and votes on the court provide useful information about what kind of judge she'll be--and I gather that they suggest a rather middle-of-the-road judge with no particular inclination toward radical ideas, though I'm no legal scholar.

It is worth asking, though: if the out-of-context "gotcha" quotes being used to attack Sotomayor are misleading, might it be that this is because the whole game of looking for "gotcha" quotes with which to infer some evil hidden beliefs or motives is misleading?

#145 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2009, 09:51 AM:

Avram #141:

The irony is, at least from what I saw of the "wise hispanic" quote, what Sotomayor seemed to be saying made a lot of sense. Specifically, having judges from a variety of starting places in life probably has huge advantages, because it means that those decisions are made with more information and understanding of what the world looks like from many different places.

There's almost no way to communicate in an environment in which you can expect whatever you say to be taken in the worst light possible. The kind of communications you get from that environment are standards documents and legal contracts--painful to write, painful to read, and with far more energy spent getting the phrasing right than getting the ideas/content right.

But this assumes a "send conservatively, receive liberally" approach, in which the listener/reader assumes the speaker/writer is trying to say something sensible, and looks for a way to decode what's said in that light. An alternative is to assume the speaker/writer is crazy, evil, and stupid all at once, and to look for ways to decode what's said in *that* light. This doesn't do much for communication or understanding, but it's great for coming up with 30-second attack ads and smears.

#146 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2009, 09:54 AM:

(and yes, I swapped my last two paragraphs somehow)

#147 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2009, 10:14 AM:

debcha @135, poor thing. I don't think I've ever seen one that scared. I hope it got better. And, given its apparent ability to turn into an amorphous mass, I hope it's not a Dominion infiltrator.

#148 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2009, 10:32 AM:

albatross: A cynic would almost suspect that they really just express those beliefs w.r.t. race and politics that support their side,

Thing is, they've often done stuff like their current actions in situations where, from a purely cynical perspective, they have a lot more to lose than to gain from that kind of thing, including this time. That clearly suggests there's more to it than that.

The irony is, at least from what I saw of the "wise hispanic" quote, what Sotomayor seemed to be saying made a lot of sense.

I'd say that's only ironic if you find it surprising, which I don't.

#149 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2009, 07:55 PM:

debcha, #135, one of mine hides in the corner the water heater is backed into. The only way I can get her out is to push at her tail end with my reacher, which is why I try to close that door before I need to catch her.

#150 ::: SeanH ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2009, 08:13 AM:

Wait, why have we been calling Sotomayor a Democrat? (#122, #126 & I think elsewhere) I'm not aware of any party affiliation, and couldn't find any on her Wikipedia page. She's being nominated by a Democratic President to the SC, but she was nominated to the District court by the first Bush...

#151 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2009, 01:05 PM:

Wishful thinking?

#152 ::: Bill ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2009, 06:20 PM:

Ah, yes, Pat Buchanan. Every once in a while he'll come on TV and start making some stirring heartfelt speech about how America should stop trying to be the world police, and should bring our troops home before any more of them get killed enforcing a President's ego and stop the collateral-damage killing of civilians in other countries, and bring up George Washington's exhortations against getting in trouble through alliances with foreign governments, and I have to wonder if I've somehow been wrong about the world or Pat because I'm agreeing with him.


Then of course he finishes it off by saying that when the troops get home, they should all be deployed in a line along the Rio Grande to keep those dark-skinned people who refuse to talk normally from coming over here and diluting our culture, and I realize that no, he's still the same bully he always was, but even a broken clock can sometimes be right once or twice a day.

But even with that, I have to admit that Pat really does have a shred of human decency, even if he doesn't take it out and use it very often. On the other hand, I'd probably rather not have anybody challenging my religious convictions by asking me if I can say the same thing about Dick Cheney; it's tough enough to acknowledge that he probably didn't usually eat live puppies for breakfast _before_ going over to the Dark Side, much less get serious about understanding why someone would be willing to do the things he's done and become the person he has.

#153 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2009, 07:34 PM:

You could just say "I have no doubt that God understands Dick Cheney's heart."

Then fall silent.

Any listener over the age of 25 (and many below it) will know that you mean you have nothing good to say about him, and that you don't understand how someone can be so evil.

#154 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2009, 08:26 PM:

Perhaps in the Victorian era anyone over the age of 25 would understand that, Xopher. It wouldn't be the first thought that sprang to my mind.

#155 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2009, 08:57 PM:

Bill @152: Ah, yes, Pat Buchanan.

My understanding is that when he was working for Richard Nixon, he advocated the politics of division. His argument was 'that if we split the country, we will have the larger share'.

I think this explains much of the past 40 years.

#156 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2009, 09:51 PM:

"I have no doubt that God understands Dick Cheney's heart.", from Xopher & Tom (#153, #154)

I'd appreciate a nice formulation for an agnostic/atheist who'd like not to be called out on using 'God' when convenient to use:
"Some omniscient being may understand Dick Cheney's heart"?

#157 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2009, 10:16 PM:

"As a rationalist I cannot entirely rule out the possible existence of Dick Cheney's heart."

#158 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2009, 10:22 PM:

The hard part is finding the magic box in which he keeps it. Well, that and getting past the various traps and monsters and demons that protect it.

#159 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2009, 10:35 PM:

Watch out, Mez, or we'll have Neil set Mad Hettie on you. There's a high cost associated with that.

#160 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2009, 12:41 AM:

Hmm. Maybe we should start dropping hints around the neocon leaders about that great and powerful artifact, the Heart of Cheney. "Although it appears to be a mere lump of grey stone, this ancient relic can bestow great powers upon the one who is strong enough to hold and use it, including almost unlimited Command and Control abilities. To gain control over the Heart, its owner must have his or her own heart cut out, and the Heart of Cheney placed in the chest cavity, where it will instantly graft to the rest of the body and resume normal functioning..."

#161 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2009, 01:55 AM:

Considering all the procedures Chaney's had on that heart, the inorganic material may be the majority of the mass by now.

#162 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2009, 03:54 AM:

Joel Polowin #160: Maybe we should start dropping hints around the neocon leaders about that great and powerful artifact, the Heart of Cheney.

Or you could convince them that the Head of Cheney is even more powerful than the legendary Head of Vecna.

#163 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2009, 09:50 PM:

Xopher @ 157: Ooh, I like that.

#164 ::: David Harmon sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2012, 08:30 PM:

Self-publishing, yet!

#165 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2012, 08:30 PM:

Good gods, what a nerve.

#166 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2012, 08:35 PM:

Joel Polowin #160: Also, a funny thing happened to that Heart of Cheney....

(Dunno how durable that link will be, though.)

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