Thursday, May 28, 2009

On May 28th, The Herald ran a front page hit job against 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Sonia Sotomayor, President Obama's nominee to replace retiring justice David Souter. Admittedly, I am not familiar with Steve Collins's work, but to see such abysmal journalistic standards grace the front page of any newspaper is deeply disturbing at best. 

Mr. Collins and the critics of Judge Sotomayor whom he presents to us try to characterize the case as though Avery Doninger had been punished for calling her school's administrators a mean name on the internet. And who wouldn't sympathize with such a case? The problem is, the case was not nearly so simple. The communication also gave instructions for mass e-mailing and phone calls with the stated purpose being “to piss off” the school officials – in other words, inciting others to harass the administration. Her plan succeeded, and as punishment for inciting the disruption, she was not allowed to run for class secretary.. Her reason for starting a mass phone and e-mail riot? The school administration had canceled the Battle of the Bands Jamfest she was planning, although it did offer to meet with her to discuss a different date.

Mr. Collins also fails to explain the procedural circumstances right. The case Judge Sotomayor heard was only on the matter of a preliminary injunction to invalidate the school election. The decision was that Ms. Doninger's case did not stand a good chance of winning on its own merits, and therfore the injunction was not granted. And the “offending comment” about “respecting authority” reads quite differently when put into its actual context: 

“Avery, by all reports, is a respected and accomplished student at [Lewis Mills High School]. We are sympathetic to her disappointment at being disqualified from running for Senior Class Secretary and acknowledge her belief that in this case, "the punishment did not fit the crime." We are not called upon, however, to decide whether the school officials in this case exercised their discretion wisely. Local school authorities have the difficult task of teaching "the shared values of a civilized social order" -- values that include our veneration of free expression and civility, the importance we place on the right of dissent and on proper respect for authority.”

That one phrase, cherry picked from a thoughtful paragraph that expresses empathy for the student while recognizing the delicate nature of the case, is now used by Mr. Collins and the Herald to slander Judge Sotomayor as an authoritarian enemy of the Bill of Rights. Nothing could be farther from the truth. For more reading on Judge Sotomayor, I urge anyone with an interest in our next Supreme Court Justice to research the case Pappas v. Giuliani, in which Judge Sotomayor provided the sole dissenting opinion in favor of the First Amendment rights of an openly racist police officer, even though it was speech with which she did not agree.

I also urge the astute reader to investigate the sources used for the original article by visiting Andy Thibault's blog at (address NOT provided to the public by Mr. Collins) and try to find an actual legal or otherwise rational argument against Judge Sotomayor amidst the jungle of Ad Hominem attacks that Mr. Collins staked his journalistic integrity on.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Back to the cities to save the planet

The drawbacks of suburban sprawl and the decline of cities have been familiar subjects to those seeking more equitable tax structures, regional solutions and urban revitalization.

This video from the Center for New Urbanism defines the problem" "too many cul-de-sacs"