Monday, June 26, 2006

Oh, THAT Liberal Media, part One Hojillion and Two

A number of SCOTUS decisions were handed down today, of varying importance. Now, I'm not gonna comment on the propriety of any of them. What I am going to do is point to this article, particularly to the opening paragraphs:

Justices split 5-4 in the term's oldest case, which was argued in December before Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's retirement. A new argument session was held in April so that Alito could break a deadlock.

The justices are in the final week of their term and handling some of the most contentious and important cases. They meet again Wednesday to announce more decisions.

The Kansas case was unique. The state law says juries should impose death sentences if aggravating evidence of a crime's brutality and mitigating factors explaining a defendant's actions are equal in weight.

Justice David H. Souter, writing for the liberals, said the law was "morally absurd."

But the five conservatives, including Alito, overturned a Kansas Supreme Court ruling that found the law violated the Eighth Amendment's protection against cruel and unusual punishment.

The emphasis on the offending statements is mine. My initial reaction was "What the crap is that???" -- or perhaps a more Jon-Stewart-like "Whaaaaaa?". Since when has the SCOTUS been clearly divided into four "liberals" and five "conservatives"? Now, for any sensible person, I think my complaint speaks for itself. Additionally, to my own knowledge, only sensible people read this blog. But just to be thorough: It seems fairly obvious to me that the press is now trying to play up how ChimpyMcBu$hitlerburton has stacked the once sacrosanct supreme court with his cronies, thus making it a "conservative dominated court" -- a meme that just won't die. Never mind that basic math makes this point absurd. Let us assume for a moment that "originalist" and "conservative" are one in the same, which they are not: prior to Bush, there were three: Rehnquist, Scalia, and Thomas. Minus one Rehnquist, that makes two. Add one Roberts, that makes three again. Minus one O'Connor, that makes three still (what? O'Connor not a conservoriginalist? Say it ain't so! I stand by that remark without qualification for the time being). Add one Alito, that makes, at most, four. Hmm. I seem to remember NINE supreme court justices, and if grade school fractions are any indicator, 4/9 is not a majority. Ah, math, the class that's "just too hard" for people who end up growing up lefty. "But what about Kennedy?", you might say. Feh. He's another O'Connor, if you ask me. Maybe light to her shadow, or shadow to her light, I'll let you decide. My point is that nobody ever accused him of being part of any VRWC. Well, except may a Kos kiddie, but I'm too lazy to back that up with "facts" -- and besides, they have enough trouble nowadays (wink, wink, nudge nudge).

The fact that the article so blatantly lumps the four dissenters together as the "liberal bloc" and the five concurrors (is that even a word?) as the "conservative bloc" is just grossly biased, particularly when Alito and Roberts have yet to prove themselves substantially. Sure, the liberal remark is justified, based on a consistent voting record, but not the conservative one, and that's important, because that imagined "bloc" constitutes a majority.

You'll note that this article is on foxnews, which I freely admit displays a notable conservative bent in its opinion "pages". As a habit, whenever I detect a liberal bias in any foxnews article, I immediately scan up to the byline, and INEVITABLY, there it is: the good ol' "Associated Press" credit. Never fails.

Update: Oh, and the headline: "Alito Breaks Tie to Uphold Kansas Death Penalty Law". While factually correct (The case had to be re-argued with Alito as a member due to an actual tie prior to his joining the court, although admittedly I'm not sure how this happened, since O'Connor's retirement was entirely dependent on her successor's appointment), it further emphasizes the "conservative packed court" meme by making it seem as though Alito made all the difference. He did not. Four other justices had to cast their lot that direction first for there to even be a tie. Claiming a tie was broken just because there was a one-vote difference is absurd. It's like the idea that, in a closely contested sports game (I'm thinking of Steve Bartman here), a single player's error "cost the team the game". This is just (almost) never true. True, that error might have cost a single point, but the team's failures in allowing the other team to score all those other times sure did help! This is especially true in the Bartman/Cubs case -- they had a substantial lead up to that point, and completely collapsed afterward! This was the fault of every infielder/outfielder/etc for not stopping the avalanche of runs by their opponents. It's just that society loves a scapegoat, particularly when it contributes to some other agenda, hidden or not.

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Anonymous Marty said...

Ben. You're so quiet in person.

Alito did "break the tie" in a temporal sense. It was, after all, tied, until Alito came aboard. But, unlike the case of a game or sporting contest, the "temporal" sense is immaterial in a court decision. So your criticism of this typically biased AP story is correct.

If the score is tied near the end and one guy screws up, "costing the game", he wears it. That's because during a close game, it's a new game every minute. Big time athletes are supposed to be "clutch" performers. Buffalo Bills fans know this. Ask Scott Norwood, who was a pretty good kicker until the 1991 Superbowl. The Bills themselves player both brilliantly and terribly throughout the game, leading to a situation in which almost everyone on the team could have been either blamed for the fact that the game was so close, or given credit for keeping it as close as it was. But in the final minutes, it all hung on one guy, who would now have a statue in Buffalo in a public square named for him if he had not kicked "wide right".

8:05 AM  
Blogger Benjamin said...

Maybe it's the pseudo-anonymity of the internet that helps me speak up? Or maybe I'm just afraid if I talk in the halls some horrible liberal will come up and start a conversation, and then there will be blood. Oh yes, there will be blood.

As for the sports analogy, I agree with you -- singular "tie losers" do take on the blame for the loss, despite the contributions of all the other players. I'm merely stating that such a conclusion is false and wrong on the part of the fans for doing so.

Of course, when you're the Mariners going into the seventh inning with a 14 point lead and you blow it, TO THE RANGERS, the whole team gets rightly blamed. But that's a whole different case.

8:17 AM  

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