Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Rush Limbaugh Is For Affirmative Action*

Two tiny political things I'm thinking about.

There have been a lot of things on the White House Blog lately about greening and environment and infrastructure and jobs. The Veep is on a tour with something called the Middle Class Task Force and a lot of what they're doing is working to find ways to create jobs while fighting "global warming." I suspect the things the task for are doing are quite good but Christ on a soggy town house cracker I hate that the government of a first world country is using so inaccurate a phrase in official publications and speeches. I make plenty of "you call this global warming?" jokes, I'll admit but who the hell listens to me? (By the by, thanks for listening to me, I really need that.) It's climate change. While some places and times will become warmer other places and times will become colder. Some will be wetter, some dryer and a hefty chunk of them may feature buildings and livestock flying through the air. It's about extremes in all directions not just in the direction of warmth so "global warming" is the wrong term. It's inflammatory and it invites misunderstanding which you have to admit is counter productive, no? Is it crazy that I want to fight climate change with words first? Maybe. But the first thing you have to do in a fight like this is recruit people to your side and recruiting is about language so get your terms right!

Secondly, I'm only partially kidding about the Limbaugh thing. I read somewhere (I can't remember where and if he's not going to cite his sources then I feel OK not digging around for mine. If that bugs you no end leave a polite comment and I'll find it.) that he's calling Obama (and someone else, can't remember who, Barbara Boxer maybe?) a reverse racist based on the short list for Supreme Court nominees. From what I've heard not one person on the short list has a penis. (Horrors!) I haven't heard but assume that few, if any, of the people on the list are Caucasian. So, does Mr. L feel we should include a man on the list just for the sake of interviewing across the spectrum? Isn't that how a lot of people describe Affirmative Action when they are pointing to its failings? It's all more complicated than that, of course, but my brain can't help nailing that point over and over again.

Here's a third, marginally political, thing I loved today. Inmates at Sing Sing are doing (or perhaps have just completed) performances of Macbeth. They do a play each year and this year's choice was controversial but, it seems, quite successful. FYI for the haters, it's an outside group that comes in to work with them on this so state money is not spent on the program. It's also not a unique program. Check out Shakespeare Behind Bars next time you're renting videos. Why would I advocate letting criminals have fun? Mostly because it's not about them having fun it's about working toward reform (Why do you think they call it a reformatory?) and these programs teach inmates skills they can take "over the wall," if you will. The rules for inclusion are, historically, quite tough and the result tends to be leaps forward in progress for participants in many skills (reading, writing, critical thinking, anger management, follow through, interpersonal relations and self-confidence to name but a few). I've worked in prisons and alternative education situations a few times and I really love it. For about a year I've been thinking about how I could incorporate that work into my life. Still working on it.

So tell me, what have you learned today?

*Welcome Rush Limbaugh fans! This title was written in "humor" font, in case your computer is not displaying it as such.

Photo Credit


  1. The term "reverse racism" doesn't make any sense to me.
    Racism is racism, no matter who is what race hating on another who of any other race.
    So, reverse racism would be the absence of that?
    I don't know. Doesn't make sense to me.

  2. You'll get no argument from me about the language issue. Until everyone is clear about exactly what it is we're talking about, nothing productive can happen.

    Chrome is right, by the way; the term "reverse racism" implies that racism only applies to a certain group. We all know that racism is an equal opportunity disease.

  3. You both make a strong point. I should have put that in quotes, too, since I pulled it straight from the post I read. It's all racism.

  4. Miflohny11:12 PM

    Yes, but it's not racist to say, "Hey, here's this extremely important institution that is almost all white and almost all male, and was exclusively white male for over 150 years. As such, it doesn't adequately represent the interests of the population at large. I'm not going to even consider any more white men at this point - it's safe to say, they've had their say and will continue to have their say. If I want to make this institution seem at all relevant to large chunks of the population at large, yet another white guy is not going to do it - no matter how good a justice he may be based on other considerations." I'm not saying Obama said that, of course, but it wouldn't have been racist if he had!

  5. Miflohny8:46 AM

    Also, I would argue that Global Warming is a valid term in (as is Climate Change). The reason I would say that Global Warming is valid is that the overall trend in temperatures is definitely warmer, on a scale that hasn't been seen before (over so short a time span) - and it is BECAUSE of this overall warming trend that the weather patterns are changing and the oceans are warming and the ice caps and glaciers worldwide are melting and the ocean currents are changing and the weather is becoming more extreme and the animals are migrating, or when they can't move to a different environment they are dying, etc. NONE of the extremes would be happening without the warming. Whatever you call it, it's depressing...

  6. I'm flabbergasted by the whole "racist" talking point about Sotomayor. The snippet they take out of context is actually contradicted by the whole of her speech. I am not surprised by the manipulators who are doing it, but I am surprised that no one in the press calls them on it.

    No, I don't think there's anything funny about Limbaugh. Demagogues aren't funny.

  7. I can't even stand to look at that man.

  8. If Sotomayor was in fact the most qualified person for the job, then congratulations to her for getting the job, and congratulations to Obama for making the right pick.

    If she was not the most qualified person the job, however, and rather was chosen because she was born poor, female, and Puerto Rican, then shame on Obama for making a choice based on class, gender, and race.

    If the short list for this position was all female because they were the most qualified people for the job, then fine. I honestly and sincerely have no problem whatsoever believing that could happen.

    If the short list was all female, however, because Obama simply didn't want any men, regardless of their qualifications, on the list, because he didn't want to seem to be pandering to the "old boy network," then shame on him for making those choices based purely on gender.

    Empathy and representing the interests of any section of the population should not play into being a Supreme Court Justice. An SCJ is not a representative - he or she is a JUDGE. As an SCJ your job is to hear the facts of a case, interpret the law as it applies to those facts, and pass judgement dispassionately and impartially. Any emotion should not be part of the equation. That applies to any SCJ - black, white, male, female, gay, straight, Republican or Democrat.

    I've read Sotomayor's speech with the snippet in question (for those who are interested, I found a transcript here:, and g is correct - the general tone of her speech (when she finally gets done rambling about Puerto Rican cuisine) does seem to indicate that she wants to strive to avoid letting her sympathies get in the way of her impartial judgement. The way the "damning" quote in speech is fitted into it makes me want to find the speech on video or audio - I almost think she made the quip as a joke, but, of course, with just the written word it's hard to tell.

    As far as Limbaugh goes, try to remember something, folks - he is not a politician. Nor is he an economist or a sociologist. Neither is Sean Hannity or Glen Beck or Howie Carr or Michael Savage or any of their ilk. They are entertainers. As such, they do the things they do and say the things they say for one overriding reason: to generate attention for themselves. If they get you riled up enough(either in support or opposition - it really doesn't matter to them) to start talking about them, then you are doing exactly what they want you to do. They want you to go into work or online or out with friends and say "Did you hear what Limbaugh said today?" Whether the tone of that question is admiration or outrage is irrelevant; by asking that question you are provoking any person who hears the question to think to themselves, "What did he say? What will he say tomorrow? Maybe I should listen in..."

    And that is EXACTLY what they want.

  9. Re: Limbaugh

    Really? Is THAT what he is and what he wants? Well heavens to Betsy, I'll try to remember that.

  10. Miflohny12:47 AM

    No, judges are not representatives. I'm fully aware of that. But life experiences, which are greatly influenced by who the world sees you as (gender, race, class, sexual orientation, etc.), influence what a judge will hear, how a judge will interpret, and how a judge will decide a case. Any number of justices will come to different decisions while still being impartial and still interpreting and applying the law in a way that the justice sees as fair. If there was only one appropriate decision we wouldn't need judges - we could use computers. But thank goodness we use people, who have the capacity to use judgment and see that laws involve people and affect lives. We need justices who are not only smart and qualified, but who have different viewpoints, so that the population at large feels that there's at least a chance that their lives are being considered when extremely important decisions are being made. The vast majority of justices up until now were picked because they were white and male - because the people picking them, also white males, knew that then they'd have a greater chance of having their interests reinforced that way. So to now say that we can't think of a prospective justice's race, gender, class, etc., when picking that justice because that shouldn't matter because it shouldn't affect their decisions, is disingenuous. An all female Supreme Court would surely have ruled differently in the Ledbetter case, to site a recent example, and they would have been following both the generally acknowledged precedents and intent of Congress had they made a decision that wasn't based on the idea that somehow people who are being discriminated against in their compensation week after week should have somehow known they were being discriminated against almost from day one or they had no recourse. But most of the justices are male, so they had no experience of gender-based pay discrimination. (Being justices, they don't have much experience of what the work environments are like for most people, male or female, either.) But somehow the gender, race, class, sexual orientation, etc. of a candidate should be ignored as if it doesn't matter? White males can generally get away with not thinking about their race and sex and downplaying or ignoring how it affects their lives. Other people cannot.

  11. Miflohny, I agree that it is impossible for any human being to completely remove their emotions and experiences from their judgement, regardless of their race, gender, gender preference, etc., etc...

    My point it that those emotions and experiences should not override qualifications when choosing an SCJ. As I said at the beginning of my initial response, if Sotomayor was the most qualified person for the job, irregardless of her childhood social status, her ethnicity, and her gender, then congratulations to her for getting the nomination, and congratulations to Obama for making the right choice.

  12. Miflohny8:58 PM

    I definitely think all justices should be deemed qualified in terms of their intelligence, knowledge of the law, fairness in applying the law, experience in applying the law, etc., but I think identity issues and life experiences are a part of the qualification for the job - they're a part of the equation of determining who is the best and most qualified person for the job, and always have been - whether they've been used as an exclusionary force or an inclusionary force. Who is the most qualified person for the job depends on who you ask - because everyone weighs different qualities differently. I want a justice who has deep emotions and I want a mixture of justices with varying life experiences. I want justices who are highly intelligent but who never forget that laws apply to living, breathing people. I want justices who care about justice. I don't think life experiences should ever be left outside the deliberation room - but intelligent, caring justices will understand that not everyone has the same life experiences and that they have to apply the law fairly. Other issues are important to you - and that's great, because these issues are too important to not think and deliberate about. Your point of view is one of many valid points of view on this subject. You don't have to agree with me, but I hope you can see that my point of view is valid. If not, we'll have to agree to disagree, and I will just have to regret that I'm not eloquent enough to truly convey the heart of what I'm trying to say.

  13. Mediaguy10:17 PM

    This reminds me of Jon Stewart's response to Rush Limbaugh claiming that Colin Powell wouldn't endorse Obama if he was white- "So Powell wouldn't endorse Obama if he was a totally different person?!" I doubt Obama's team - and this team met long before Souter quit - started with "get an Hispanic woman." A lot of thinking, almost all of it political and some of it ideological, goes into picking a Supreme Court Justice. Closer to home, we're picking students for paid jobs at my school for summer technology internships. Girls have never applied, so they have never been hired, so they have never worked as summer technology interns. This year two girls applied. One clearly applied without credentials because her boyfriend applied and they wanted to spend the summer together. The other is qualified. I think she's an automatic hire. The technician does not. The boss is on the fence. Why don't they want to hire her? Because they have too many qualified candidates for the first time. The technician wants to be the one to pick who gets the paid job. The boss wants an application process. I think we have to diversify. Why haven't girls applied before? Perhaps the Technology office culture has dissuaded them from doing so. Picking the "most qualified" person for the job is hard. Is the "most qualified" person the one who completes the task in the quickest amount of time? Is the "most qualified" the one who has the best personal interfacing with coworkers and customers? Is the "most qualified" the one that mollifies your base? It's hard to say. It gets more complicated the more people involved in the decision, and more complicated with the more people affected by the decision. Sotomayor may be the "most qualified" for the Obama Administration. She was "most qualified" for Bush to sit on 2nd Appellate. The technician is using "most qualified" as the reason not to hire the one qualified girl, because...she didn't work there last summer, and the other four applicants are all returnees. He doesn't want to train her for one summer and have her go to college. But in the long run, will hiring that one girl get our program more girls applying for these jobs? I hope so. I'm staking my professional reputation on supporting her candidacy. If she's flaky, if she's late, if she doesn't understand how to image a PC...if, if, if...well...she might be the last girl the program hires. On the other hand, the technician doesn't seem to understand that if we reject her application, fine, but if we keep rejecting girls, well, he and I and our boss might someday rightly be named in a lawsuit.

  14. Miflohny and Mediaguy, I absolutely see your points as valid (and Miflohny, I don't think a lack of eloquence is a problem for you :) ). Perhaps the best way to say it isn't so much a question of "qualification" but rather how one prefers those qualifications to be prioritized, and, apparently, we would prioritize them differently.

    Fair description?

  15. Miflohny2:55 PM

    That's a fair description.