Best of 2009: “Was Rosen really right?”

This was posted on July 16, 2009.

Hm. Instapundit cites Randy Barnett, who writes:

When [Jeffrey] Rosen published his critique [of Sonya Sotomayor], I knew very little about Sotomayor. After forcing myself to watch much of the hearings, I wonder if those who criticized him then are having any second thoughts today.

I am having second thoughts about my own measured enthusiasm for Sotomayor, which was based on a selfish interest in a particular area of law plus what I believed was the range of options from this Administration, yes.

But do I have second thoughts about my criticism of Jeffrey Rosen (it’s buried in here; and no, I don’t think Jennifer Rubin meant me when she asked the question)?

No. Rosen’s article seemed rushed, and was based on very few specifics, and a lot of anonymous sources. The specifics were also very pedestrian. She was obviously vulnerable on Ricci v. DeStefano, but, well, “everyone” knew that — I am sure that that includes Randy Barnett. If her opinion in Ricci was that bad (and evidently it was!), why couldn’t Rosen give us six more such-a’s? That was his job as a reporter.

To the contrary, Rosen is to be criticized not only for pulling back from his original view so he wouldn’t lose out on invitations to all the right parties, but for writing such a damned lazy legal journalism article when in fact there may have been not only smoke but some fire to report. There’s a lot of that going around.

I also didn’t, and still don’t, think much of this slam by Jennifer Rubin, also cited by both Glenn and Randy:

The question is not whether Sotomayor will get through, but why the president felt so compelled to select her. If he was desperate to find a Latina, he should have found a wise one.

Talk about “wise.” I know wisdom is not the same as intelligence, but I don’t think Jennifer Rubin has the slightest inclination to make that distinction here.

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Best of 2009: “At the junction”

This was first published on June 24, 2009.

My first reaction when I saw this post on a blog called Infrastructurist (looks very cool) (via Boing Boing) was just to link to it on my Facebook page. I also lament the loss of these great — well, in some cases very large and grandiose, if not necessarily actually great — civic works of sculpture. I come to work, in fact, through the new Penn Station every day, and work in One Penn Plaza (yeah, me and those buildings!), overlooking (actually, straddling) the non-entity of a transport hub that now bears the Pennsylvania Station name as well as the depressing Madison Square Garden.

Pennsylvania Station

Then I went ahead and wrote this comment, and decided to recycle and touch it up a little here, for the benefit of my larger other audience.

To a large extent the manner in which the loss of these temples of transit compels so many of us is a testament to what we really think about a world ruled solely by utilitarian concerns. That latter, callous attitude toward the spiritual importance of environment on human existence, in the cities as much as anywhere else, is displayed by Alon Levy in the comments at the original post.

God help us in the soulless, bottom-line libertarian future that so many think they want!

Ironically, the utilitarian worldview is incapable of accounting for the long-term utility and welfare (in the microeconomics sense of the word) that derive from civic pride — the decline of which, from the 1950’s on, along with the decline in the quality of inner city life, surely must be linked to the decline of the humane in urban architecture.

And yet: As the (not so godless?) Alon says in a subsequent comment, “Ron Coleman, you’re the first person I see use the word spirituality to mean ‘preserving train station facades.’” Indeed: Many of these buildings were and are obsolete, and the cost of their respective upkeep, utility expense, restoration or retrofit, relevance to modern transportation need or all of the above would constitute a preposterous budget item for almost any public entity saddled with such costs. Only religious dogma, and perhaps theocracy, could justify such devotion.

Rail transport, despite its highly romantic appeal, is great for everyday commuting but is seldom of the choice of travelers from afar, for whom flying — even in its own diminished state as a culture and a humane experience — is a clearly superior choice. Most other travel remains, in America, highway-based, because Americans want to go where they want, when they want and with whom they want, and they want to get back home that way, too.

In addition, the cheap labor and lax or nonexistent building, fire, safety and access standards of the nineteenth century, which made it possible to erect and use these behemoths, are truly relics of a different age. So who is going to foot the bills to maintain these buildings as obsolete white elephants? Or is someone here volunteering for a special tax assessment so Detroiters can stare at their irrelevant grand terminal?

There’s the facts, Jacks.

I sure wish we had the old Penn Station here, though.

Comments at the original post.

Best of 2009: “The Specter circus”

This was first posted on May 7, 2009.

Oh, man. Okay, let’s say one more blog post on this Arlen Specter for the week. Check this out — a rundown of primo Specter humiliations from the Washington Post:

• Specter pronounced that he would be keeping his seniority when he announced his party switch last week — maintaining that his ability to deliver for the state would not be diminished in any way shape or form by his move across the aisle. Except, that wasn’t exactly right. The Senate’s approval of Specter’s junior status on a series of committees led to a “he said, he said” between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) and the newest member of his caucus. Asked about the back and forth by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Wednesday, Reid stood his ground saying simply: “He is a person who’s been in the Senate since 1980. I think he should be able to handle himself.”

Now, that’s a caucus you want to join, eh! “I want to thank you all for your hospitality and for welcoming me to your — hey! Where’s my wallet?!” Next:

• In a sitdown with the New York Times’ Deborah Solomon, Specter said he was hoping that the Minnesota courts would do “justice” and declare former Republican Sen. Norm Coleman the winner in the contested 2008 election. Whoops! Specter tried to walk the comment back [and] told Reid that he briefly “forgot what team I was on.”

Whoops! Come again? Here’s the actual report in the Times:

He voted against the Democrats in his first two big votes since the switch, opposing the Democratic budget and helping defeat a measure to allow bankruptcy judges to modify mortgages for troubled homeowners.

And on Tuesday night, he retracted a statement, made in an interview, in which he said the Minnesota courts should rule in favor of the Republican, Norm Coleman, in the state’s disputed Senate race.

Republican press releases snipe at his every misstep.

And the comment about Minnesota, where Democrats need Al Franken to become their crucial 60th vote in the Senate, prompted the majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, to confront Mr. Specter on the Senate floor.

“Arlen,” Mr. Reid said in his trademark low-volume growl, “What’s going on here?”

Mr. Specter replied that he had forgotten “what team” he was on. Later, he told a reporter: “I conclusively misspoke.”

Because it’s the team you’re on that tells you which side of a court case is in the right. Did I ever mention to you he used to be a prosecutor? The last one of the trifecta, from the Post story, is this:

• Specter has done little to back off his initial assertion that his decision to switch parties was based almost entirely on political calculations and had little to do with ideology. While most party switchers are almost certainly guided by personal political concerns (what politician isn’t?), most don’t come right out and say it because it is a turnoff for voters who want to believe that their politicians believe in, well, something.

It’s just that open and obvious.

Has it become pathetic? It has. In so many ways.

And I feel sorry for him, frankly. I guess that’s why I’ll never be reliable politically. I always find it pitiable to watch a man fall from grace, regardless of whether he brought it on himself, as Senator Specter surely did. And no matter what else, and no matter how much he wishes he hadn’t done this — and I bet that now he actually does wish he hadn’t, because a man in the service of his ego alone cannot be enjoying this one bit — it can’t be undone. Quite unlike Arlen Specter himself.

Best of 2009: “Bipartisan? Whew!”

This was first posted on April 21, 2009.

Obama on show trials of CIA employees:

Mr. Obama, who has been saying that the nation should look ahead rather than focusing on the past, said he is “not suggesting” that a commission be established.

But in response to questions from reporters in the Oval Office, he said, “if and when there needs to be a further accounting,” he hoped that Congress would examine ways to obtain one “in a bipartisan fashion,” from people who are independent and therefore can build credibility with the public.

Regrets, we have a few.

Regrets, we have a few.

The horror.

I’d like to say this is fundamentally a dodge. It is a dodge — he wants to look ahead, not back, he’s not suggesting, he’s leaving doors open… it is a dodge, and frankly a contemptible one.

But fundamentally it is not a dodge. Fundamentally it is something much more horrible. It is the process by which the United States takes on a practice associated with tyrannies and, far from being an endorsement of the rule of law, elevates the assumption to power to the ability to punish the previous regime for “incorrect” — and hence “criminal” — policies.

It is no different from the argument about the supposedly inevitable impeachment of ex-President Bush, also based on supposed crimes arising from torture. As I wrote on a private list, made up mainly of attorneys, discussing that topic (adapted here), there is a tendency among certain people, and in particular those attracted to a certain pole in political debate, to regard their political choices or philosophical conclusions as the sole “moral” choice. In fact, (a) criminalization of political disagreement, (2) the use of penal power to punish players in the previous regime, and (3) the adaptation of legislative bodies as proxies to loose the necessary political “justice” when the traditional judicial organs refuse to comply, have historically been popular options for playing out this partisan outrage and sating the desire for “moral” vindication on the politically deviant.

Just not in this country.

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Best of 2009: “Social notworking”

This was first posted on March 3, 2009:

I liked this Business Week article about certain social networking myths, sent to me by Ben Rothke (my computer security maven friend whom I also linked to last week on the other blog). Two passages deserve to be excerpted. The first one is about the gigantic baloney factor out and about there right now:

A surfeit of whiz kids and more experienced marketers are claiming to be social media experts and even social media gurus. Search the bios of Robert Scoble’s 56,838 Twitter followers using Tweepsearch (, an index of the bios of Twitter users, and you’ll find:

• 4,273 Internet marketers

• 1,652 social media marketers

• 513 social media consultants

• 272 social media strategists

• 180 social media experts

• 98 social media gurus

• 58 Internet marketing gurus

How many of them have actually created a successful campaign for clients using social media tools? I bet you’d be hard-pressed to find half a dozen with real track records.

I think you’d also be hard-pressed to call at least half of these characters any kind of “kids,” much less whizzes. “Social media consulting” is about as accurate a term for most of these wizened hustlers really have to sell as “coaching” (another racket we’ll have to talk about one of these days).

Here’s the second excerpt I liked:

Social media is great if you’re already a star, but that doesn’t happen overnight. . . .

Zappos Chief Executive Tony Hsieh, whose company has millions of customers who are evangelists for the great service that built the brand, quickly became a Twitter star, with more than 32,000 followers. When Dell, JetBlue Airways, the Chicago Bulls, and other love-’em-or-hate-’em brands joined Twitter, they immediately developed huge followings.

Tweets can be used to drive traffic to articles, Web sites, contests, videos, and so on—if people already care about your brand, or if you have a truly original idea that people will want to share with their followers.

The focus, really, in the second excerpt should be on the last sentence.

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Best of 2009: “No takers”

This was first posted on February 20, 2009.  It is clearly the most popular post I ever wrote here, but probably not for the reasons I might have wanted a post to be.  But, hey, traffic is traffic, right?

Popehat on the F-15‘s hoary origins:f15_15

Our air supremacy is built on the same tech level of the 8-track tape, and succeeds because no one will fly against it.

Not only won’t they fly against it — Saddam hid his MIG’s under the sand just at the thought of tangling with the F-15.

Worth remembering.


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Attorney Ronald D. Coleman