Excusing Murderers

by Brian on April 4, 2005

Josh is entirely right that Sen John Conryn’s statements in the Senate today about violence against judges are utterly unacceptable. Saying that judges are somehow to blame for violence against judges and courtworkers should be enough to get you kicked out of any ethically responsible caucus. This being the contemporary GOP, I’m not holding my breath.

{ 73 comments }

1

BigMacAttack 04.04.05 at 10:22 pm

Sigh.

So the most recent episode of judge killings would lead us to conclude that nig**** have no chance in the USA, and because judges are making decisions that are unaccountable to the nig**** public, the end result is a build up, that results in violence.

2

epist 04.04.05 at 11:18 pm

Is it me, or is this place increasingly like South America?

I’m dreading hearing about a charismatic ex-general vying for the GOP candidacy.

Oh wait…

3

rilkefan 04.05.05 at 12:29 am

Do we have to go over the difference between explaining and explaining away, between analyzing and excusing?

4

Katherine 04.05.05 at 1:19 am

Let’s take one of the recent cases: the murder of two family members of United States District Judge Joan Lefkow. The killing was carried out by an unemployed electrician named Bart Ross who was furious because Judge Lefkow dismissed his malpractice case. Ross committed suicide several weeks after the murders, and left a letter which

declared Ross a victim of medical malpractice and contained a hit list of seven federal judges, four state judges, 10 lawyers and five doctors, according to the newspaper.
Ross, a heavy smoker, was treated for cancer of the mouth from 1992 to 1995. Surgery and radiation saved his life but disfigured his face, and Ross set out through the court system trying to make his doctors pay for what they’d done. Lefkow had dismissed the most recent of his repeated lawsuits last year.

“I was left with no possibility to live my life, but to progressively suffer more and more, so like those who jumped down from the WTC Towers on September 11, 2001, I ‘jumped’ too. On the way, I intended to send to Hell as many of the listed (expletive) as I was lucky to get,” Ross wrote, according to the Tribune.

“I am not a murderer,” he wrote in the letter. “The murderers are the listed (expletive), who violated me like Nazis and terrorists and deprived me justice and compensation to put my life in order, and in this way deprived me possibility of salvaging my life.”

The idea that this has anything to do with Justice Kennedy’s flawed legal reasoning in the death penalty case, or Roe v. Wade, or anything other than the voices in Ross’s head & his decision to murder innocent people, is just so, so, so, so stupid.

Here’s the other recent case of violence against the judiciary:

a defendant on trial for rape overpowered a sheriff’s deputy, took her gun and opened fire in a downtown courtroom Friday, police said, killing the presiding judge, a court reporter and another deputy who tried to apprehend the fleeing suspect.

A manhunt was on Friday night for 33-year-old Brian Nichols, who accosted two people in their vehicles before pistol-whipping a newspaper reporter and escaping in his green 1997 Honda Accord, authorities said.

Again, the idea that this was connected to anything David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg or any other “activist judge” did, is moronic.

Cornyn is a graduate of two law schools, has served as a judge for 13 years including 7 years on the Texas Supreme Court, was the Texas Attorney General, and is now a U.S. Senator. He can be plenty stupid, but he’s not THIS stupid. He either knows this causal link is false, or doesn’t care whether it’s true or false.

Either way–it doesn’t deserve to be called an analysis or an explanation. “Analyze” and “explain” imply actual thought.

5

rilkefan 04.05.05 at 1:44 am

So there’s no such thing as “a moronic explanation”?

I can in fact well imagine that the atmosphere of dislike and disrespect for judges (fomented on the right by those who want to get more power into the hands of DeLay et al. and on the left by those who are aware how bad and partisan decisions like Bush v. Gore have been) might indirectly lead to a higher likelihood of violence against them.

If Cornyn was a judge, then, well, he really has no excuse for being this badly informed, assuming as I do that he’s not evil.

6

bi 04.05.05 at 3:11 am

Where’s our Mr. “WAH WAH WAH R4ND0M V10L3NZ3 33Z 33VIL” when we need him?

7

nervous 04.05.05 at 4:10 am

Rilkefan,

I think your interpretation is overly charitable. The senator uses a familiar hydraulic trope when he speculates that discontent “builds up and builds up and builds up to the point where some people engage in violence.” What’s the point of this, if not to excuse the killers? In this picture, the ones doing the violence can’t help themselves; the ever-increasing pressure of their righteous outrage has pushed them past the point of self-control.

8

Matt McGrattan 04.05.05 at 7:07 am

“If Cornyn was a judge, then, well, he really has no excuse for being this badly informed, assuming as I do that he’s not evil.”

Why would you assume he’s not evil? Seriously.

9

Steve LaBonne 04.05.05 at 7:28 am

I’m always happy when these people display their flagrant insanity in public. I just hope moderate voters are paying attention. And the Democrats need to get their act together and bring it to their attention. Do everything possible to make damn sure the Republican Party is stuck with the likes of DeLay and Cornyn as its public face.

10

jet 04.05.05 at 7:36 am

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Conryn’s intended audience wasn’t the members of CT, nor Congress, but his own constituents. And that is the perfect rhetoric that would make most of his representees just nod their had at the “intrensic obviousness” of that statement.

You might say it was a crazy thing to say, but only if you mean crazy like a fox. (can anyone spell “pandering” for me?)

Just another example of the etremely high level of debate and honesty that extreme partisan politics brings us. The base voters on both sides eat this type of rhetoric up. (Whups, now I’m as guilty of Conryn for explaining things away).

11

Uncle Kvetch 04.05.05 at 9:00 am

Clearly, the tragic murder of Judge Lefkow could have been avoided, had Mr. Ross been allowed to circumvent the activist left-wing judiciary and take his case to the only truly fair and impartial arbiters left in this country: Tom DeLay, Bill Frist, and Jeb & George W. Bush.

12

Sebastian Holsclaw 04.05.05 at 9:24 am

The Conryn statement is ridiculous. I don’t like that style of excuse-making when employed in defense of Palestinians, and I don’t like it when employed in defense of anyone else.

13

stand_up_philosopher 04.05.05 at 9:38 am

rilkefan, I like this “explain” vs. “explain away” distinction. Let me see if I get it:

US foreign policy in the Middle East in the Cold War era resulted in the construction of a network of militarized Saudis, who in turn recruited others caught up in a radical fundamentalist version of Islam, in a war against the Soviets in Afghanistan. Having been politicized by this experience, and turning an eye to hundreds of years of European colonialism in the Middle East and to what he perceives to be the continuation of that colonialism in the construction of the state of Israel, a young veteran of the US-trained Saudi campaign in Afghanistan turns on his masters and declares war against them, resulting in the 9/11 attacks.

I seem to remember lots of people trying to distinguish this explanation of 9/11 (call it the “blowback” thesis) from a moral justification of it (“explaining away” or what we could call the “payback” thesis).

Do I have you right, rilkefan?

14

Matt Weiner 04.05.05 at 10:05 am

Yglesias has an excellent post arguing that the point of this statement is to intimidate judges. I like his ending:

Nevermind that he and his ilk are the ones whipping up the anger. It wouldn’t cross his mind to tone down and suggest that his colleagues do likewise. Suggest that in the wake of some murders and some controversial court cases that we all agree that we are a country under law and that despite disagreements we should respect judicial offices and their holders. No. Far better to note that there may be a connection between non-Cornyn-approved court rulings and the murder of judges. He’s just trying to be helpful.

This Godwin-violating comment also strikes me as a good explanation about exactly why this is so offensive.

15

asg 04.05.05 at 10:30 am

Note: Matt above means “Godwin-affirming” when he says “Godwin-violating.”

16

Andrew Boucher 04.05.05 at 10:47 am

“Why would you assume he’s not evil?”

Good question. Also: How can a U.S. Senator utter such an evil remark?

17

Ben 04.05.05 at 11:34 am

“Saying that judges are somehow to blame for violence against judges and courtworkers should be enough to get you kicked out of any ethically responsible caucus.”

I agree completely. Replace “Judges” with “Women” and I agree completely. Replace “judges” with “America”, and I also agree completely. But I seem to be pretty unique, there. The mental disconnect that allows 99% of the Left to understand the first two instances, and deny the third, is at the core of the left’s current problems.

18

Patrick 04.05.05 at 11:42 am

Saying that women are somehow to blame for violence against women should be enough to get you kicked out of any ethically responsible caucus.

Can’t agree more

19

rilkefan 04.05.05 at 11:59 am

stand-up – exactly – in fact I made that argument on Obsidian Wings.

Why do I assume Cornyn’s not evil? Well, I’ve not seen any evidence. And there’s a perfectly good non-evil explanation to reach for first – he’s not too sharp, it was late, he’s a rabid partisan with some looney ideas and some looney misinformation, and he has the kernel of what seems like a true thought to me – the anti-judiciary emotions out there are frightening.

Imagine, if you will, my fellow lefties, that you read a post by David Neiwert saying, The Republicans are whipping up a fervor against judges, and it’s going to end with another Tim McVeigh. Wouldn’t you nod your heads and say, “Orcinus is a wee bit paranoid, but maybe he’s right.”

20

Peter Clay 04.05.05 at 12:27 pm

This word replacement game is fun.

“Saying that terrorists are somehow to blame for violence against terrorists should be enough to get you kicked out of any ethically responsible caucus.”

“Saying that black people are somehow to blame for violence against black people should be enough to get you kicked out of any ethically responsible caucus.”

“Saying that Daleks are somehow to blame for violence against Daleks should be enough to get you kicked out of any ethically responsible caucus.”

21

stand_up_philosopher 04.05.05 at 12:31 pm

rilkefan, good, then we agree that “ben” is completely off base in thinking that “99% of the Left” is engaged in “blaming” (=”explaining away” = “morally justifying”) “America” when a “blowback” as opposed to a “payback” thesis is advanced re: 9/11.

22

stand_up_philosopher 04.05.05 at 12:35 pm

Oops, malformed last post. It should read:

rilkefan, good, then we agree that “ben” is completely off base in thinking that “99% of the Left” is engaged in “blaming” “America” when a “blowback” (plausible historical reconstruction of events) as opposed to a “payback” (=”explaining away” = “morally justifying”) thesis is advanced re: 9/11.

23

Sebastian Holsclaw 04.05.05 at 12:46 pm

But an (un)healthy percentage of the left has absolutely no problem playing that game with suicide bombing against Israel (in the diplomat’s phrase “that shitty little country”.

24

roger 04.05.05 at 1:05 pm

Interesting how the U.S., which is now being run by the inheritors of the spirit of the Confederacy, is starting to re-run its history in the Senate. Conryn would have been at home in the legislative session that saw the beating, almost to death, of Charles Sumner.

The up side, here, is that, ultimately, the global incompetence of these people will pretty much cripple the American hegemon, thus vitiating its ability to spread aggression across the world and maybe even turning America itself to its former more modest and republican ways.

25

stand_up_philosopher 04.05.05 at 1:13 pm

sebastian wrote: But an (un)healthy percentage of the left has absolutely no problem playing that game with suicide bombing against Israel (in the diplomat’s phrase “that shitty little country”.

Do you really think many people on the left morally justify suicide bombing? Who are these creatures?

And do you really think someone in Jacques Chirac’s government (the “diplomat” you refer to) is on the left? When was it exactly that Chirac became a leftist? That seems to have escaped my attention.

26

rilkefan 04.05.05 at 1:19 pm

stand-up, are you aware I’m a shrill Democrat?

SH, got any examples re Israel? E.g., I think Juan Cole’s wrong about most of his political views on Israel, for example, but I don’t think I’ve ever caught a hint of a whiff of apologism for suicide bombings from him. Yes buttery, certainly, but no games.

Don’t see how you could have voted for any Republican president since the Civil Rights movement if you’re unwilling to have their Southern flirtations explained – probably any politician for that matter. E.g., I didn’t take General Clark’s stance on the flag as indication of nuttiness – I explained it to myself in view of the context…

27

stand_up_philosopher 04.05.05 at 1:31 pm

rilkefan, i wasn’t trying to catch you out. sorry if i gave that impression. i was trying to enlist you in pointing out ben’s (and now sebastian’s) inability to see the point you and i are trying to make, together.

28

Katherine 04.05.05 at 2:47 pm

a Democrat, but alas, not nearly shrill enough.;)

When you mention your fear of the political extremists on the opposite side as you of a war or a political debate will harm the people on your side or innocents caught in the middle, you couldn’t possibly be encouraging them. You might be attempting to exaggerate their influence for your political purposes, but that’s a different thing. If you mention your fear that people on the same side as you will harm the people on the opposite side of you, you might be making a threat. If your analysis is blatantly false and stupid, that also undercuts your supposed concern. If it is within your power to do something about your concern and you fail to do so, that also undercuts your supposed concern. This can be tricky to sort out sometimes. This isn’t one of those times. Cornyn is not threatening the judiciary with violence, but he is making political use of violence against the judiciary to score rhetorical points against the judiciary.

29

cleek 04.05.05 at 2:50 pm

Note: Matt above means “Godwin-affirming” when he says “Godwin-violating.”

actually, to not invoke Hitler is a violation of Godwin’s law, which merely states that any conversation of sufficient length will result in a reference to Hilter and the Nazis.

30

Sebastian Holsclaw 04.05.05 at 4:54 pm

“Do you really think many people on the left morally justify suicide bombing?”

I don’t think you are reading carefully. There are absolutely people on the left, some of them on this very site, who refer to suicide bombing in the same type of language as Conryn used. The fact that you recognize it as morally justifying when Conryn does it but not when it is employed against Israel is exactly my point.

31

Sebastian Holsclaw 04.05.05 at 5:02 pm

“And do you really think someone in Jacques Chirac’s government (the “diplomat” you refer to) is on the left? When was it exactly that Chirac became a leftist? That seems to have escaped my attention.”

From the point of view of the American public, Chirac is definitely a leftist. But his location more to the center by European standards only reinforces how routinely anti-Israeli language (and justification akin to that currently worried about when employed by Conryn) is used by those in high positions in Europe.

And I don’t think you are going to argue that those more to the left of Chirac are less likely to employ soaring rhetoric against Israel, so I’m not really sure what your point is.

32

ASteele 04.05.05 at 5:56 pm

Of course what sebastian fails to notice, is that in the case of Israel, it is unarguable that Isralei policies have SOMETHING to do with the suicide bombings; while politically unpopular rulings have ABSOULTELY NOTHING to do with the recent violence against judges.

Bonnus points are to be awarded however, both for confalting in importance the statements by a standing US senator, and by random unamed (possibly nonexsistant) leftists, and for derailing a conversation about looney republicans to one about French diplomats.

33

Sebastian Holsclaw 04.05.05 at 7:15 pm

See, I don’t even have to go looking for quotes. Asteele came to me.

34

stand_up_philosopher 04.05.05 at 7:31 pm

I’m not reading carefully? Where do I say anything about Conryn being morally justified? I was referring to rilkefan’s attempt to say that what he was doing was explaining Conryn’s remarks (offering a plausible reason for why he did such a thing) vs explaining them away, that is offering a moral justification of them. I said I appreciated that distinction and offered a possible explanation, not a moral justification, of ObL, as an example of the difference. Now I would freely admit many people on the left attempt to explain Palestinian suicide bombers just as I tried to explain al-Queda suicide bombers, but I repeat that I don’t know many people who morally justify them.

Now if what you’re trying to say is that Conryn is attempting to explain violence against judges rather than morally justify it, then that is a plausible characterization of it. But of course he does such a bad job of it, for the reasons others have cited, that many are led to suspect that he is not really offering in good faith a sociological hypothesis, but is rather either trying to intimidate the judiciary, or build up sympathy for the “nuclear option.”

Now you are perfectly free to think that the explanations offered by people of Palestinian suicide bombers are so weak that they hide other factors, but what you are doing then is precisely trying to explain their actions.

As far as Chirac being a leftist in the eyes of the “American public,” that might or might not be true, but if it is true it only shows how fare to the right global politics has shifted.

As far as the prevalence of “soaring rhetoric” about Israel goes, I dunno about all that, but my point was only to distinguish explanation from moral justification.

35

roger 04.05.05 at 7:35 pm

Actually, the obvious point here is that a noted American leftist, Bernadette Dohrn, once praised Charles Manson. Thus, there are some leftists who think we should all murder Hollywood starlets. And then they work up a fit of dudgeon about a Senator from Texas, who has never once said we should murder Hollywood starlets, or at least pregnant ones!
The hypocrisy of the left is truly disgusting, here! Clearly, endorsing threats to murder — but not murder, itself — the judiciary is a little above the moral sewer of the well known I love Charlie Manson crowd that writes for Crooked Timber.

36

ASteele 04.05.05 at 7:58 pm

Of course since I wasn’t excusing anything, sebastian is just willfully misreading me. Which is his style in general, and thus why actually discussing things with him is impossible.

37

Sebastian Holsclaw 04.05.05 at 10:13 pm

“Now you are perfectly free to think that the explanations offered by people of Palestinian suicide bombers are so weak that they hide other factors, but what you are doing then is precisely trying to explain their actions.”

That is precisely what I think. Hence my comparison between such rhetoric and the lines that Cornyn used. The same type of explanation-as-not-quite-justification is being employed in both cases.

As for asteele: “Of course since I wasn’t excusing anything”. Excellent illustration of deniability. Just like Cornyn said today on the floor: “My point was, and is, simply this: We should all be concerned that the judiciary is losing the respect that it needs to serve the American people well. We should all want judges to interpret the law fairly – not impose their own personal views on the nation. We should all want to fix our broken judicial confirmation process. And we should all be disturbed by overheated rhetoric about the judiciary, from both sides of the aisle. I regret it that my remarks have been taken out of context to create a wrong impression about my position, and possibly be construed to contribute to the problem rather than to a solution.”

Right. Out of context. Ever thought of running for office asteele?

38

stand_up_philosopher 04.05.05 at 10:44 pm

sebestian, okay, since i take it that you implicitly admit that very few if any leftists morally justify suicide bombing, the next step is for you to cite such a bad proposed explanation of suicide bombing that the only plausible explanation of that bad proposed explanation is something else instead.

39

ASteele 04.05.05 at 11:12 pm

As I said willful misreading. What I was trying to point out was that your analaogy between Palenstein/Israel and the judge thing isn’t a very good fit. In the case of the Senator’s statement there is no underlying casual connection between the violence, wherein in the case of Isarel it looks like there is. The Senator’s statement would be like claming that it was Israel’s selling missle technology to the Chinese that is provoking the terrorism. Politically sensitive judgements have nothing to do with the recent violence against judges.

However, you decided to read that as me loving me some suicide bombings. Which I don’t. I assume if I said that sucide bombings in Iraq have something to do with the fact we invaded their country, you’d accuse me of supporting the insurgency. Or if I said that American policies in the 1940’s had something to do with pearl-harbor, you’d accuse me of supporting the Japanese.

40

Sebastian Holsclaw 04.05.05 at 11:24 pm

You aren’t understanding my point. Few if any leftists actively justify suicide bombing ANY MORE THAN Conryn justified killing judges. Conryn wasn’t explicitly justifying killing judges, he was lending deniable rhetorical support to justifications of killing judges. He did so in precisely the same way as many leftists offer deniable rhetorical support to justifications of suicide bombing (the classic “of course it is wrong but you have to understand that the Palestinians justifiably feel oppressed blah blah blah”). That is exactly what Conryn did with judges, and it is exactly what many leftist (including here) do to Israelis

41

Sebastian Holsclaw 04.05.05 at 11:42 pm

Asteele, Conryn said (though now appears to have backed away from) the idea that generalized anger at an out-of-control judiciary contributed to a climate of disliking or disrespecting judges that could have helped inspire recent anti-judicial violence (which of course, of course, of course he says slyly is wrong). This is exactly what leftists do all the time about suicide bombings. It isn’t quite an excuse but it really is. If you recognize the rhetorical technique in Conryn you should be able to recognize it when other people use it. You don’t have to personally believe that bombing coffee shops is good (Conryn almost certainly doesn’t believe that murdering judges is good, he was one). Instead you use pseudo-justification rhetoric to make a morbid point about the badness of the people being killed. Which is exactly what you did and are still doing vis-a-vis Israel.

42

bob mcmanus 04.06.05 at 1:09 am

“Asteele, Conryn said “

Darn it, like it or not, he is my Senator, and the name is Cornyn. Even the poster got it wrong, and it hasn’t been corrected in the thread.
Disgraceful. :)

43

monica 04.06.05 at 4:00 am

“It isn’t quite an excuse but it really is.”

No, it’s not! To quote a very very relevant and very very obvious thing Josh Marshall pointed out:

Let alone the fact that the statement is ridiculous on its face since violence against judges in this country is almost exclusively the work of disgruntled defendents or homicidal maniacs who manage to wrestle a gun away from a bailiff

How can you not take that into account?

You’re drawing a comparison between a *war context*, where terrorist groups targets Israel, Israeli citizens become target of a fight against Israeli occupation (that’s the obvious stated intent of terrorism, just like in Iraq, the stated intent is to fight the US occuaption, nevermind the moral justification or lack thereof or the success of that strategy or lack thereof – that’s what the terrorists who kill and kidnap civilians, as well as military, have as political target, any political analysis acknowledges that because that is a matter of fact statement, not an endorsement!) and the *ordinary context of a legal system in a democracy*, when the extraordinary violence against judges is committed by lone psychos and murderers with no stated political intent except take it out on those who rightfully sent them to jail.

Or do you honestly think that those wackos who fire at policemen and judges for simply upholding non-debated, non-political laws like, oh, punishment for murder, are motivated by some political intent to protest against ‘activist’ judges?

That is what Cornyn is suggesting, even if he doesn’t say so explicitely, he first disclaims a cause-effect link yet he goes and implies exactly that inference.

To compare this with war and terrorism is absurd. It is only a very poor attempt at deflection. If there is any comparison to be made, then that violence against judges can be said to be more similar to the mafia killings of judges in Italy in the 80’s, and even that was a lot more political because the mafia is an organisation with political branches, not a handful of isolated disrgruntled defendants and homicidal maniacs who _simply hated being brought to the law_ for crimes whose nature no one is debating.

It’s just paradoxical to refuse to consider that little detail of who is actually doing the killing. Even in Israel, murders occur, independently of the war and terrorism context. If a man who killed his wife were to assassinate an Israeli judge who sentenced him to prison for killing his wife, would anyone be so crazy to infer any link with the wider political situation — which is clearly a lot more dramatic and obvious in every aspect of public life in Israel, than the political fighting between the executive and judges in the US?

Your comments, Sebastian, would only make sense if those who are attacking judges were sent by those political groups who do voice political attacks against “activist judges”.

So paradoxically, only if Cornyn himself was a judge killer and a cop killer, then he would have a point…

44

Daryl McCullough 04.06.05 at 7:57 am

Sebastian,

If someone makes a statement along the lines of
“Conditions C make violence more likely”, then the first thing to ask in judging such a statement is this: Is the statement an attempt to provide insight, or is it an attempt to manipulate?

Now, it is possible that a statement can be a legitimate attempt to provide insight, and yet still be inappropriate, because of the side-effects it might have on listeners: It might encourage violence, it might offend or intimidate innocent people.

But surely it is much worse to make such a statement when it is purely for the purpose of manipulation. Cornyn’s statement had no effect other than manipulation. It doesn’t provide any insight into violence against judges, because, as many people have pointed out, that violence is unconnected with the sorts of political decisions that Cornyn talks about.

45

Daryl McCullough 04.06.05 at 8:19 am

Just to follow up:

I’m a little bit uncomfortable with telling people that “What you say is true, but you can’t say it out loud! We must act as if it is not true.” But I don’t have any such problem in blasting Cornyn, since what he said was both unwise and untrue.

46

ASteele 04.06.05 at 9:14 am

What I feel is totally insane, is the fact that there is no way to point out the flaw in Sebatisan’s analogy without him accusing the person doing so of supporting terrorism.

47

Brett Bellmore 04.06.05 at 9:20 am

It IS true, at the limit; While judges are not sufficiently “activist” today to inspire their murder at any significant rate, it’s certainly possible for them to become so blatently illegitimate in their rulings as to start attracting assasins.

48

Daryl McCullough 04.06.05 at 9:39 am

brett bellmore writes: While judges are not sufficiently “activist” today to inspire their murder at any significant rate, it’s certainly possible for them to become so blatently illegitimate in their rulings as to start attracting assasins.

That seems completely wrong-headed to me. People don’t commit murder over a disagreement about the proper role of the judiciary. A nutcase might kill a judge because of a judge’s ruling, but it would be because the nutcase didn’t like the ruling. Whether the ruling was legitimate or not is irrelevant.

49

Sebastian Holsclaw 04.06.05 at 9:44 am

“But surely it is much worse to make such a statement when it is purely for the purpose of manipulation. Cornyn’s statement had no effect other than manipulation. It doesn’t provide any insight into violence against judges, because, as many people have pointed out, that violence is unconnected with the sorts of political decisions that Cornyn talks about.”

Absolutely. I’m not defending what Cornyn says at all. I’m pointing out that he is appropriating the murder for the purpose of demonizing the victim and people in a class loosely like the victim. Those here are quick to see that when it is done by a conservative. Those here are sloth-like in their ability to apply that insight to those on their own side. It’s not shocking. I’m slow to apply such insights to my own side too. But that doesn’t make them untrue. That makes them uncomfortable. Very rarely do I see the “yes, but” statements about suicide bombing coming up in a constructive context. Almost always they transform the death of Israeli civilians into a narrative of demonizing Israelis. It isn’t impossible to talk about them in a constructive way, but it is certainly rare. The interesting thing about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is that the rhetorical device get applied by both sides. In conservative circles, Israeli excesses almost always get turned into morality stories with a lesson which could easily be summed up as “she asked for it”. That is one of the problems with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in general. In the international community it is more likely to be used as a dramatic illustration of some outside point about imperialism or terrorism than it is actually dealt with as a conflict that anyone want to try to end.

50

Brett Bellmore 04.06.05 at 10:28 am

Daryl, I’d call that a failure of imagination on your part. Though, by “illegitimate”, I don’t mean a case the judge shouldn’t have been ruling in, I mean a case where the conclusion the judge arrived at was illegitimate, blatently based on inappropriate reasoning and motives, in a case of national importance.

Let’s suppose, for instance, that in 2000, instead of the Presidential election being a virtual tie in Florida, with the Supreme court simply ordering an end to recounts all of which had shown Bush winning, it had been a clear Gore victory, and the Supreme court had simply, and blatently, overturned the result, using some BS rationale that didn’t pass the laugh test. You think that wouldn’t have gotten a fair number of people killing mad?

Or, from the flip side of the spectrum, let’s suppose that the Supreme court finally stops ducking 2nd amendment cases, and takes one. And after being presented all the evidence, rules that the 2nd amendment doesn’t guarantee any individual right, not because that’s what it means, but just because the majority thinks it would be bad policy to guarantee such a right. I can tell you right now, there aren’t enough Secret service agents to secure the lives of THAT majority.

The judiciary isn’t that bad today, though with Roe they came close. But it’s not impossible for them to get that bad.

51

Daryl McCullough 04.06.05 at 11:04 am

brett writes: Daryl, I’d call that a failure of imagination on your part.

No, I can imagine it, in the sense that I can imagine my winning the Nobel prize. But I don’t consider it a possibility worth considering.

52

Daryl McCullough 04.06.05 at 11:18 am

Sebastian writes: I’m not defending what Cornyn says at all. I’m pointing out that he is appropriating the murder for the purpose of demonizing the victim and people in a class loosely like the victim. Those here are quick to see that when it is done by a conservative. Those here are sloth-like in their ability to apply that insight to those on their own side.

You say you aren’t defending Cornyn, but it sure sounds that way to me. If I accuse someone of stealing my car, and you respond with something like: “Well, aren’t some of your friends guilty of something quite similar?” then that sure sounds to me like you are defending the thief.

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Daryl McCullough 04.06.05 at 11:20 am

brett,

I don’t see what your examples have to do with anything. Yes, a judge can rule in a way that will strike the majority as unfair or illegitimate. So what? What does that have to do with violence against judges? Nothing. Violence against judges is not caused by judicial activism.

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Brett Bellmore 04.06.05 at 11:41 am

Daryl, violence against judges, in the US, right now, is not caused by judicial activism. I’m simply pointing out that that doesn’t HAVE to remain true. And the key to it remaining true, is judges NOT thinking they can get away with anything they feel like.

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monica 04.06.05 at 11:55 am

Shorter Sebastian: Oh looky there, all those pro-palestinian protesters, they don’t acknowledge they demonise victims of terrorism! So this makes a politician demonising victims of lone psychos a bit less troublesome, doesn’t it! Phew, we can all go home now, moral clarity once again established.

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Sebastian Holsclaw 04.06.05 at 12:05 pm

Nope, I’m accepting the gravity of his words. That is the only way my criticism makes sense.

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monica 04.06.05 at 12:14 pm

“And the key to it remaining true, is judges NOT thinking they can get away with anything they feel like.”

There you go, another one for the series “I’m not really excusing what Conryn said but he has a point.” Or may have, in the near future. If those pesky judges don’t stop attracting psychotic killers like bees on honey — killers who no doubt, had the debate over euthanasia in mind when they planted a bullet in that judge’s head. Maybe they were thinking of that debate in a slightly different perspective from the political ones we’re used to, granted, but still… those judges need to learn they can’t simply apply existing laws to send criminals to jail, and get away with it. The nerve.

Maybe politicians need to learn they can’t just rewrite laws or even, gosh, propose new ones and get away with it?

I think my postman also needs to learn he can’t just deliver any mail he wants, and get away with it…

And what about professors and school shootings?

After all, just because you’re doing your job, doesn’t mean you should be safe from crazy people with guns, really. That’s just asking too much.

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Daryl McCullough 04.06.05 at 1:07 pm

bret writes: Daryl, violence against judges, in the US, right now, is not caused by judicial activism. I’m simply pointing out that that doesn’t HAVE to remain true. And the key to it remaining true, is judges NOT thinking they can get away with anything they feel like.

You are suggesting that judges change their rulings to accommodate purely hypothetical future terrorism? In other words, we should fight terrorism by giving the terrorists everything that they might want, ahead of time. Interesting approach.

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Brett Bellmore 04.06.05 at 3:01 pm

In am suggesting that anybody, ANYBODY, in a position of power, will be tempted to abuse that power. Including judges, who are members of the same species as the rest of us, just as subject to temptation as anybody else. And that the less they are accountable to their victims, the greater that temptation.

Judges, with lifetime tenure, start out particularly unaccountable to the public. Essentially the only formal accountability they need be concerned about is the possiblity of impeachment. When even a large minority in the legislature approves of their abuses, that possiblity of being held acountable vanishes, and they exercise power without consequence. Are capable of judicial impositions which could never be enacted, and which are beyond the reach of the public to stop.

Indeed, a great deal of modern constitutional theory is nothing more than sophistry designed to rationalize such abuses, to salve the consciences of judges who commit them.

Like it or not, the existance of an armed populace, able, and in extreme circumstances, willing to, resort to violence, is an informal constraint on the abusive exercise of power, which even somebody who is free from any formal constraint must take into account.

Don’t like this reasoning? Tough noogies. We probably aren’t philosophical brothers under the skin.

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Ben 04.06.05 at 3:45 pm

In the view of the guy who shoots a judge, yes, absolutely the shooting is caused by judicial activism. Had the judge never ruled the way the guy felt the judge should have ruled, no problem. And we all know “judicial activism” means nothing more than “ruled the way I don’t like.” I doubt conservative or liberal can point to a lot of judges saying “screw the law, this is what I think should happen, so I’m ordering it.”

So back we go- payback, blowback, same thing. You shoot a judge for having a policy you don’t like, you shoot a nation for having a policy you don’t like, same thing, despite the moans and groans to the contrary. One of the telling points of racists, fascists, and terrorists is their habit of collectivizing their opponent- and so, in his own head, the terrorist is striking at “America” because America pissed him off. No different from the guy shooting the judge.

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jet 04.06.05 at 3:49 pm

Heh, there have been a few supreme court justices so corrupt (at least in biographies of them) in their private and professional lives that if the truth had gotten out, they probably would have been assassinated (if not directly impeached). But from my hobbyist historical view point, I can’t think of one single case of a judge being killed for his interpretation of the law (yet many for their willingness to pass judgement).

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Uncle Kvetch 04.06.05 at 4:42 pm

Judges, with lifetime tenure, start out particularly unaccountable to the public. Essentially the only formal accountability they need be concerned about is the possiblity of impeachment. When even a large minority in the legislature approves of their abuses, that possiblity of being held acountable vanishes, and they exercise power without consequence. Are capable of judicial impositions which could never be enacted, and which are beyond the reach of the public to stop.

Goddamn stupid constitution.

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monica 04.07.05 at 3:22 am

Really, why should a constitution get away with separation of powers between executive, legislative and judiciary, where the judiciary, not being democratically elected by voters in polls with a 45% turnout, is clearly “unaccountable”? Somebody is probably preparing to shoot the constitution right now…

How about cops, too. Maybe they’re excused because they have guns, too? People with guns, that’s who should rule, that’s who guarantees the balance of power. It makes sense.

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Brett Bellmore 04.07.05 at 5:09 am

I kind of expected a reaction like that; People have a really hard time understanding views far from their own, and liberals have fallen into the easy vice of simply assuming that anyone who disagrees with them is malevolent.

Separation of powers is great. Abuse of powers is not so great. The independence of the judiciary facilitates abuse of power, but what causes it is the type of people the executive branch selects, and the legislative confirms; The judges are only doing what they were hired to do, even if it is something they shouldn’t be doing.

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Daryl McCullough 04.07.05 at 7:27 am

brett writes: …liberals have fallen into the easy vice of simply assuming that anyone who disagrees with them is malevolent.

Why do you think that’s more common among liberals? I find the opposite true.

Of course, conservative politicians and pundits might be only portraying opponents as traitors, immoral, anti-life, anti-family, etc. for political purposes. Maybe they don’t actually believe what they are saying?

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KCinDC 04.07.05 at 9:06 am

So Ronald Reagan was selecting the wrong type of people for judicial appointments, Brett? Only a few of all these “activist judges” the Republicans are ranting about were appointed by Clinton. What’s the solution, then?

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Brett Bellmore 04.07.05 at 10:29 am

“So Ronald Reagan was selecting the wrong type of people for judicial appointments, Brett?”

Yes. Selecting judges who will allow federal usupations of power to continue is a bipartisan game, the people who actually run the GOP have long since made their peace with the Leviathan, and aspire only to be the ones who control it, not to kill the beast.

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Uncle Kvetch 04.07.05 at 1:01 pm

The independence of the judiciary facilitates abuse of power

Then why bother having judges at all? I’m not being the least bit facetious. You’re basically making the case that the judiciary should serve as a rubber stamp for the other two branches of government–in that case, why bother with it?

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Sebastian holsclaw 04.07.05 at 1:35 pm

Somewhere in the middle of the continuum between rubberstamping and making shit up as they go along is found the proper role of judges.

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Uncle Kvetch 04.07.05 at 4:17 pm

I’d like to know what judicial decisions you’re referring to, Sebastian. It’s one thing to disagree with a decision–it’s another thing to find a decision poorly argued, or illogical, or sloppily worded–but the suggestion that judges simply “make shit up as they go along” on a regular basis is, frankly, preposterous.

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Brett Bellmore 04.07.05 at 4:50 pm

“but the suggestion that judges simply “make shit up as they go along” on a regular basis is, frankly, preposterous.”

I agree; They’ve gone too far down that road, but they’ve scarcely reached it’s end yet. But what are we to do, withold all complaints until abuses have become the rule, rather than the exception? Even if they only occasionally make shit up, it’s too often.

Frankly, though, the most important abuse of the judiciary is their failure to act, not positive abuses. Faced with a legislature and President routinely exercising powers they have no legitmate claim to, the courts simply throw up their hands and find some excuse to let them do it, instead of calling them on it.

And this is only to be expected, because the corruption of the judiciary is a consequence of the corruption of the other two branches, it’s not independent. A President and Senate which want no limits on their own power, appoint judges disinclined to enforce those limits. And it should come as no supprise that someone who’s willing to let someone ELSE usurp power, might be up for a bit of usurping of their own.

And all because FDR couldn’t be bothered to amend the Constitution, to get the powers he wanted, legitimately, and so corrupted the courts as a shortcut to power.

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KCinDC 04.07.05 at 9:53 pm

I’m really confused now, Brett. Congress and the President should rein in the courts because the courts have been letting Congress and the President get away with too much? Stop me before I abuse the Constitution again!

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Uncle Kvetch 04.08.05 at 7:41 am

What kcindc said.

Even if they only occasionally make shit up, it’s too often.

Again, no specifics are offered.

Nothing that’s been said in this thread has disabused me of the notion that “judicial activism” is nothing more than a nifty label for “judicial decisions I don’t like.”

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