Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Out on a limb

I've recently made some comments at Crooked Timber and at Obsidian Wings which set me on the side of board-certified VRW Death Beast Charles Bird and not on the side of, well, practically everybody I read, including people I respect a lot and normally 98% agree with like hilzoy and Mark Kleiman, plus via linkage Instapundit and Jonah Goldberg.

The issue is that Cornyn, on the Senate floor, a) noted that he was a former judge, b) asserted that there's a lot of anger in the land against activist judges, c) noted that anger has consequences, and d) hypothesized that some of the recent violence against judges is due to that anger.

Point a) wasn't much noticed at first, but doesn't really seem to matter. Point b) is unquestionable if you add qualify "activist " with "supposedly". Point d) is loony wrong and either results from deep ignorance of the cases or from evil. Point c) seems to me to be the crux of the matter.

All liberals except me interpret this (esp. in conjunction with d)) as a threat - judges should toe the line or else. This interpretation is a question of tone and context and experience - Katherine of Obsidian Wings calls me "touchingly naive" for not hearing it. I hear Cornyn being dumb and partisan and believing d) and believing c) which, as a sentence, is inarguable. Consider for example David Neiwert of Orcinus making that statement, or making the statement, "If the right keeps attacking govt., another Tim McVeigh will come forward." (There's a good reference to John M. Ford's wonderful The Last Hot Time to be made, but it's a bit of a spoiler, so ask me if you have read the book and don't get it - if you haven't read the book, do so as soon as possible.) Whether it's excusable for a former judge to be so ignorant of the recent cases is arguable - but I believe strongly in the power of stupidity.

Sebastian Holsclaw of Obsidian Wings, a right-libertarian I guess, takes the position that to explain is to explain away. Well, I'm sure that this is not a fair reading of his position, but he doesn't present any criteria. He does posit an example that some on the left will probably find uncongenial. At OW I posited another example that ditto - here it is better expressed.

Adding some support to my opinion, Cornyn now (in my reading) clearly expresses the non-loony view and sheds d).



Anonymous KCinDC said...

I have some sympathy for your position, but your hypothetical Orcinus example is not at all parallel, since Neiwert is not on the side of the anti-government forces.

6/4/05 06:17  
Blogger rilkefan said...

True - but it's my feeling that modes of argument should not depend on the political position of the speaker - it's a good argument or it isn't.

If you want a parallel argument, liberal explanations of the roots of crime by groups of low socioeconomic status come to mind.

6/4/05 21:18  

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