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Posts Tagged ‘Maureen Dowd’

“Boss” Reality Check

July 14th, 2010 No comments

Leave it to Maureen Dowd to unearth the story that perfectly captures the essence of George Steinbrenner. It comes from “Seinfeld,” where the blustering “Boss” was voiced (but never seen) by the brilliant but thoroughly annoying Larry David. Link to her column and read of Steinbrenner’s caprice, almost wilful ignorance, and plain stupidity — followed by a casual retraction of everything he’d said. Many a Yankees employee (players, front-office administrators, and especially managers) can recount stories with similar patterns.

You’d never know that from reading the hagiographic accounts of the man. Derek Jeter described him as a friend. Maybe that’s true in this one case, because Jeter floats in an unbreachable bubble created by his mix of talent, good looks, media savvy and (faux?) modesty. But others should know better.

Let’s give the man his due: He wanted the team to win desperately, and often (especially in the 1990’s) got what he wanted. He was willing to put his vast money where his even bigger mouth was. But let’s be honest: When you’re sitting in your thousand dollar-plus seats (the priciest originally went for $2,500 per seat, until even the Yankees realized the market wouldn’t bear it), remember that Steinbrenner — and the organization he created in his image — was really spending your money, not theirs. And that working for him was, for many, hell.

“Gavin, Gorby”; “Gorby, Gavin”

January 22nd, 2010 No comments

Glasnost. Perestroika. Marriage equality.

Gavin, meet Gorby. Gorby, meet Gavin. (“Oprah, Uma. Uma, Oprah. )

Sometimes it happens that leaders of social change are left behind by the very forces they helped unleash. After Mikhail Gorbachev awoke the sleeping Soviet bear, he was quickly — rudely — brushed aside by the faux-democratic Yeltsin, who twisted the great visionary’s call to greater democracy into cynical manipulation: Appear to be more democratic while playing to populist fears that will enable you to consolidate power. Things have of course gotten exponentially worse under Putin and his “successor” Medvedev.

So too has San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom been unceremoniously elbowed aside — eclipsed, as Maureen Dowd noted earlier this week — by old school forces that see him as the “gay marriage” one-trick pony. He might as well have acted the role of Superman: With apologies to Chaucer, The Reeves’ Tale  (George and Christopher Reeve(s), that is) did not end well for either guy.1 Newsom’s quest for the state house has stalled, despite his similar charm and good looks. According to this expansive and wise letter in today’s NY Times, it seems he can live with that:

From the moment we issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples six years ago, I knew we were beginning a long-term battle that would ultimately be taken up one day in courtrooms in California and Washington. The federal trial in San Francisco this month is the latest chapter in that battle and a logical result of the events that have unfolded since San Francisco wed more than 4,000 same-sex couples in 2004.

But victory in the fight for marriage equality is as much about changing people’s hearts and minds as about changing the law. That’s why we first married Phyllis Lyon and the late Del Martin, together for more than 50 years, to give a much-needed human face to the struggle for marriage equality.

In that sense, your article is correct that I have been “eclipsed” in the fight for marriage equality. Indeed, all of us, whether politician or lawyer or advocate, are eclipsed every day by the stories of Phyllis and Del and the thousands of same-sex couples who have married since 2004. Because the fight for marriage equality is about them — the men and women whose loving, committed relationships are still treated as unequal in the eyes of the law.

I have never been prouder of our decision in 2004 to defy California’s unjust marriage laws and do our part to carry the banner for civil rights. And we will never step back from our commitment to marriage equality until justice prevails in California and in our nation’s capital.

I met and interviewed Newsom some months ago. He’s a relaxed guy who makes everyone feel comfortable. Except, it appears, other politicians. As he steps aside, he unleashes this parting salvo against Obama (as related to Dowd):

I want him to succeed. But I am very upset by what he’s not done in terms of rights of gays and lesbians. I understand it tactically in a campaign, but at this point I don’t know. There is some belief that he actually doesn’t believe in same-sex marriage. But it’s fundamentally inexcusable for a member of the Democratic Party to stand on the principle that separate is now equal, but only on the basis of sexual orientation. We’ve always fought for the rights of minorities and against the whims of majorities.”

He said the promise of Obama sparking an “organic movement” has faded and “there’s a growing discontent and lack of enthusiasm that I worry about. He should just stand on principle, put this behind him and move on.”

What’s to add?

  1. The actual reeve of the Canterbury Tales was quite a nasty fellow.

Empathy and Activism: A Look at Senator Cornyn’s Own Judicial Record

July 16th, 2009 No comments

During the Sotomayor hearings, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas has been among the most aggressive questioners. He seems particularly overwrought about the nominee’s statements that her experience as a Latina would somehow affect, or even improve, her decision-making. (Of course, the would-be justice has run as far from those comments as possible.) He and other conservatives also worry about “activist judges” who “legislate from the bench.” It’s amazing he can express these concerns without blushing.

As I noted when this issue broke, there are several ways to interpret the “wise Latina” comment. The most benign is that all of us are a product of our environment and experience; our empathy should be for all litigants, but we’re not, and shouldn’t pretend to be, robots. (That said, Sotomayor’s performance so far has been that of Automaton Lawyer.)

Cornyn, though, is having none of this; empathy isn’t and shouldn’t be part of decision-making. NY Times columnist Maureen Dowd is at her skewering best in yesterday’s take on the Republican Legion of (White) Super-Attackers. Smashing the tennis ball with deadly accuracy, she nails every line and corner of the court:

“A wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not know that a gaggle of white Republican men afraid of extinction are out to trip her up.

“After all, these guys have never needed to speak inspirational words to others like them, as Sotomayor has done. They’ve had codes, handshakes and clubs to do that.

“[P]resident Obama wants Sotomayor, naturally, to bring a fresh perspective to the court. It was a disgrace that W. appointed two white men to a court stocked with white men. And Sotomayor made it clear that she provides some spicy seasoning to a bench when she said in a speech: ‘I simply do not know exactly what the difference will be in my judging, but I accept there will be some based on gender and my Latina heritage.’

“Republican Lindsey Graham read Sotomayor some anonymous comments made by lawyers about her, complaining that she was “temperamental,” “nasty,” “a bit of a bully.” Then he patronizingly lectured her about how this was the moment for “self-reflection.” Maybe Graham thinks Nino Scalia has those traits covered.

“But the barbed adjectives didn’t match the muted performance on display before the Judiciary Committee. Like the president who picked her, Sotomayor has been a model of professorial rationality. Besides, it’s delicious watching Republicans go after Democrats for being too emotional and irrational given the G.O.P. shame spiral.

“W. and Dick Cheney made all their bad decisions about Iraq, W.M.D.’s, domestic surveillance, torture, rendition and secret hit squads from the gut, based on false intuitions, fear, paranoia and revenge.

“Sarah Palin is the definition of irrational, a volatile and scattered country-music queen without the music. Her Republican fans defend her lack of application and intellect, happy to settle for her emotional electricity.

“Senator Graham said Sotomayor would be confirmed unless she had ‘a meltdown’ — a word applied mostly to women and toddlers until Mark Sanford proudly took ownership of it when he was judged about the wisdom of his Latina woman.

“And then there’s the Supreme Court, of course, which gave up its claim to rational neutrality when the justices appointed by Republican presidents — including Bush Sr. — ignored what was fair to make a sentimental choice and throw the 2000 election to W.

“Faced with that warped case of supreme empathy, no wonder Sotomayor is so eager to follow the law.”

*********

Cornyn’s own record as a Texas Supreme Court Justice reveals a similar “supreme empathy” — to insurance companies. In the area of tort law, he consistently sided with majorities that eviscerated long-standing rules and principles, consistently to the advantage of defendant businesses and the insurance companies that ultimately would have had to account for the losses.

These decisions, often by the barest of majorities, were not in cases that any other state supreme court would have agreed with. In the 1992 case of Keetch v. Kroger Co., 845 S.W.2d 262 (Tex. 1992), Cornyn and three other justices held that a supermarket wasn’t necessarily liable for a slippery condition that its own employee had created. Maybe the employee didn’t know the spray he’d used had landed on the floor. The flabbergasted dissenters pointed out that the majority’s decision, in addition to being at odds with settled and uncontroversial law in Texas as well as everywhere else, effectively told employees and store owners to “look the other way.”

The majority also tripped the plaintiff up on a procedural error, one that the dissent noted was now applied only to those bringing suit, not to those defending: “Today the court… extends a dual standard of justice–an easy requirement for defendants, an inexplicably strict one for plaintiffs.” (Mauzy, J., dissenting)

This willingness to use arcane procedural rules to defeat claims sometimes meant that valid cases never got a hearing. In the inexplicable H.E. Butt Grocery Co. v. Warner, 845 S.W.2d 258 (Tex. 1992), Cornyn wrote only for himself (but as the majority because of an oddity of Texas law) in tossing out a case involving a woman who’d slipped and been injured allegedly because of an ill-conceived “bag your own chicken”1 promotion. Despite the clear description of the dangerous condition set forth in the complaint, then Justice Cornyn found that it hadn’t provided legally sufficient notice of the problem. I leave to the law-curious among you the details, but this telling comment from the dissent bears quoting:

“”The majority opinion defies modern rules of pleading, which require only that a plaintiff put the defendant on notice of the claim. [This] retrograde analysis runs counter…to modern tenets of procedure….”

Empathy for insurance companies and judicial activism: Not just for leftists, apparently. Cornyn’s decisions spawned dissents that were downright angry and accusatory. Here’s a good place to finish, again stemming from a pro-insurance decision by a Cornyn-led majority:

“When an unequivocal constitutional command and  concern for the insurance industry collide in this Court, the outcome is no longer in doubt. [T]oday’s decision is but one example of the court’s recent indifference to precedent and its commitment to wholesale revision of Texas law.” (Doggett, J., dissenting)

  1. Ick.