Supreme Court Justices – Liberal, Conservative, or Realist?

Posted on April 8th, 2007 in Politics by EngineerBoy

Supreme CourtI just read an article where the voting records of Supreme Court Justices were analyzed to determine if justices tended to stick to their leanings at the time of appointment (Liberal, Centrist, Conservative) or if they strayed over time. To the surprise of the investigators, the justices tended to drift over time, and sometimes even oscillated between positions from ruling to ruling.

I find this to be not only not surprising, but also dramatically refreshing. Interpreting the law of the land is not the milieu for rigid dogma, it is the place for thoughtful consideration of all sides of an argument. And, if one is to thoughtfully consider all facets of every argument, it becomes increasingly more difficult to stick to preconceived notions of right and wrong, of liberal versus conservative, of Republican versus Democrat.

If you then remove the external motivations of re-election/re-appointment or personal enrichment and replace them with the fact that justices are evaluated almost exclusively by the backward lense of history, and that the railings and wailings of any pundits du jour have absolutely no effect on the life or career of a justice, we find (to me simplistically) that over time justices tend to actually try to do what is right and just.

Now, we all have differing opinions on what is right and just – that’s why there are nine justices. And I certainly don’t agree with all decisions by the Court, however, if/when I take the time to actually read the opinions I find that the rulings, while not what I would have decided, are (with exceedingly rare exception) based on law, logic, and justice.

What I find most surprising is when self-labelled Conservative or Liberal talking-heads bemoan the fact that one Justice or the other “betrayed” their ideology by voting in a certain way in a certain case which said talking-head is holding up as a rallying flag for “the cause”. The judges are then labelled as “activist”, which in the US political arena is apparently defined as “making decisions with which I do not agree”.

Well, guess what? That’s *exactly* how it’s supposed to work. Supreme Court Justices are *supposed* to be free from the political pressures of re-election or re-appointment, specifically to allow them to practice rationality instead of dogmatism. And the pundits and talking heads flail about in histrionic rage which they direct at the justices, when instead they should direct at their own stupidity for not understanding the basic construct of the US government.

Suck it, true believers, the system works.

You Are Worthless, Alec Baldwin (A Worthless Pig, In Fact)

Posted on April 2nd, 2007 in Commentary,Entertainment by EngineerBoy

As a divorced father I can understand the frustration that arises from conflict with an ex-spouse (as I'm sure my ex can, as well). As a father I can state unequivocally that the ranting, vitriolic, spiteful, hateful voice mail message that Alec Baldwin left for his 11 year old daughter is completely inexcusable. It doesn't matter what his daughter or his ex (Kim Basinger) have done. It doesn't matter that his daughter didn't answer his call. What matters is that his daughter is 11 years old and as a child of divorce needs a loving father.What the message demonstrates, to me, is that Alex Baldwin is truly a psychopath, which is defined (by our friends at Wikipedia) as: A condition characterized by lack of empathy or conscience, and poor impulse control or manipulative behaviors. I think that describes him perfectly, particularly if you throw in a dash of pathological narcissism. For those who may have missed it, here's a transcript of the cell phone message that Baldwin left for his daughter:Alec Baldwin Parenting Skills:“Hey I wanna tell you something OK? And I want to leave a message for you right now because again its 10:30 here in New York on a Wednesday and once again I've made an ass of myself trying to get to a phone to call you at a specific time. When the time comes for me to make the phone call I stop whatever I'm doing and I go and I make that phone call at 11 o'clock in the morning in New York and if you don't pick up the phone at 10 o'clock at night and you don't even have that god damn phone turned on. I want you to know something okay, I'm tired of playing this game with you. I'm leaving this message with you to tell you, you have insulted me for the last time. You have insulted me, you don’t have the brains or the decency as a human being, I don't give a damn if you're 12-years-old, or 11-years-old, or that you're a child, or that your mother is a thoughtless pain in the ass, who doesn't care about what you do as far as I'm concerned, you have humiliated me for the last time with this phone, and when I come out there next week, I'm gonna fly out there for the day just to straighten you out on this issue, I'm gonna let you know just how disappointed in you I am and how angry I am with you that you've done this to me again. You have made me feel like shit and you have made me feel like a fool over and over and over again, and this crap you pull on me with this god damn phone situation that you would never dream of doing to your mother and you do it to me constantly, and over and over again. I am gonna get on a

Virginia Tech Massacre

Posted on April 1st, 2007 in Commentary by EngineerBoy

In the wake of the Virginia Tech mass-murder, the failings and hypocrisy of the media and “leadership” in the US stand in plain sight. Key points as follows:

The killer mailed a package of pictures, videos, and writings to NBC headquarters in the middle of his spree. NBC had every opportunity to quietly turn over this information to authorities as evidence. Unfortunately, they chose to exploit it for ratings value by playing it endlessly. The other “news” outlets, of course, followed suit.
Many, many of these types of sick individuals have a history of glorifying and idolizing past violent killers. Where is the hue and cry to restrain the so-called “press” from feeding such idolatry? Unfortunately there’s not much to be done here, as a free press is a basic part of the structure of the United States. However, we as news consumers should become more discriminating and reject the offerings of pandering news outlets who focus on violence, gore, and prurience.
When these types of events happen, pundits and dogmatists are quick to point fingers at violent video games, dark music, drugs, or even the teaching of evolution in schools. However, in this case (as in many others) the killer cites Jesus as a factor in his actions – where, then, is the hew and cry to ban religion? Mothers drown their innocent babies in the name of God, but are found to be poor, helpless, sick people – but if you play World of Warcraft? The game is to blame. And if you think that religion is all about peace and love you should go back to the source material (Bible, Qu’ran, Torah, etc) and check.
The poor professors and counselors at Virginia Tech must be suffering from extreme angst over the fact that Cho Seung-Hui was identified by them as troubled and dangerous, but they were still unable to stop him from slipping into psychopathic action. How, then, do we modify the boundaries of acceptable actions to allow people to force obviously troubled persons to get help? Can this even be done in a free society?

That last one has some personal resonance for me, and maybe for a lot of you, too. Over the course of my life I’ve interacted with roughly a dozen people who I *knew* were a danger to themselves and/or others and needed to get help. People who needed to be *forced* to get help, involuntarily, if needed. However, none of them had done anything (that I knew of) that could justify such action under the law. Don’t you know people like that? Crazy mother****ers who just need to be taken out of society for the good of themselves and of society. Everybody who knows them knows it as well. But what can you do?

The answer is, if you’re not a qualified professional (doctor, therapist, counselor, etc) there’s almost nothing you can do if said crazy MF