Saturday, February 17, 2007

Well, it’s Ladies Day at the NYT. First up we have Ann Althouse (yes, that Ann Althouse) on Justice Kennedy and how poverty-stricken the federal judges are, then it’s Maureen Dowd on something she learned on Oprah’s show, I think… First up, Ann Althouse:

It’s hard to ask for a raise, especially when you’re a judge. Look at poor Justice Anthony Kennedy supplicating before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Valentine’s Day. With stilted locutions — “it’s frankly most awkward for me” — he staked out pedantic points about the constitutional scheme of separation of powers, and lumbered toward a conclusion that federal judges need to make more money.

His theory worked the theme of “excellence”: unless the pay is good, excellent judges will leave the bench, excellent lawyers and law professors will not accept appointments, and if the judges aren’t excellent, they won’t be independent, as the Constitution contemplates. (Unfortunately, the Constitution also contemplates the justices’ having to beg Congress for a raise, or Justice Kennedy wouldn’t have found himself straining through that theory.)

Senator Arlen Specter acted as though he found this all very enlightening. When you come before us, you appear on television, and you’re educating the public, he said. But I don’t think Kennedy’s excellence theory had actually impressed him. It was more that he perceived a segue to the subject he wanted to drag onto center stage.

He had just reintroduced his bill to require the Supreme Court to televise its oral arguments, and he wanted to talk about cameras in the courtroom: think of the profound educational effect of showing the oral arguments; you justices are already going on TV all the time to explain your notions; people get their information through TV, so you ought to let them see the room, see how you operate.

Earlier, Justice Kennedy had brushed off Senator Patrick Leahy, who had convened the hearing by going on about those terrible hotheads who denounce the judiciary, call for impeachment and even threaten violence against judges. Justice Kennedy sounded unperturbed: there should be a public debate about what the Constitution means — it’s the people’s Constitution — and it might be nice if everyone were rational and respectful, but we’re used to the “hurly-burly, rough and tumble” of democracy.

For Justice Kennedy, the real threat to the judiciary is the low pay.

But Senator Specter’s Congressionally imposed cameras stirred up the justice. It would change the “collegial dynamic.” Justice Kennedy portrayed the justices’ interaction with the attorney at oral argument as almost a private undertaking. The justices, who haven’t yet talked with each other about the case, “are using the attorney to have a conversation with ourselves,” he said. He quickly added: “And with the attorney.”

He took a stern tone: “This is a dynamic that works.” He pinched his fingers together as if he could forcibly squeeze the Congress out of the Supreme Court’s domain. He paused a long time, trying, it seemed, to contain his emotion and find the proper attitude.

He went with abject pleading: “Please, Senator, don’t introduce into the dynamics that I have with my colleagues the temptation — the insidious temptation — to think that one of my colleagues is trying to get a sound bite for the television. We don’t want that.” He had come to beg for more money to reach some idealized form of independence understood as a matter of excellence. And now, here he was fending off the intrusion of the dreaded cameras into his precious collegial conversation. Isn’t part of this independence deciding when to let everyone watch them?

Needing to present himself as an excellent judge, Justice Kennedy couldn’t say anything intemperate. Think of what he didn’t say.

If the pay is low, the judges will be the kind of people who don’t care that much about money. They might be monkish scholars, or they might be ideologues who see in the law whatever it is they think is good for us. Justice Kennedy could say that judicial work is satisfying in ways that have nothing to do with money. He couldn’t say that we can’t trust people who don’t care enough about money.

We need judges who are the kind of solid, common-sense lawyers who factor money into their decisions. These are the same people who take the kind of conventional law-firm jobs that pay a good salary and require the greatest sacrifice to leave.

Low judicial pay should trouble us not because the judges will somehow lack “excellence.” It should trouble us because the law will be articulated by ideologues and recluses.

Ann Althouse is a law professor at the University of Wisconsin and writes the blog Althouse. She is a guest columnist this month.

Now here’s MoDo:

So I was sitting around watching “Oprah” yesterday afternoon when I realized how I could stop W. and Crazy Dick from blowing up any more stuff.

All I needed to do was Unleash my Unfathomable Magnetic Power into the Universe!

Energy flows where intention goes. Or maybe it’s the other way around.

Anyhow, Oprah taught me how to stop abusing myself and learn The Secret. I finally get it: because the Law of Attraction dictates that like attracts like, my negativity toward the president and vice president is attracting their negativity and multiplying the negative vibrations in the cosmos, creating some sort of giant doom magnet.

I need to examine my unforgiving stance toward them and use my power of visualization to let them know that in my consciousness and awareness, they cannot determine my destiny. I am severing those emotional and vibratory tonalities that keep me tied to their toxic energy, causing me to repeat the same old pattern of bemoaning in the newspaper their same old pattern of blundering in the Middle East.

Oprah did her second show in eight days on “The Secret,” the self-help book (and DVD) by Rhonda Byrne, an Australian reality-TV producer. The book hit No. 1 on the USA Today best-seller list this week.

At first glance, “The Secret” might seem like inane piffle, a psychobabble cross between Dr. Phil and “The Da Vinci Code,” a new-age spin on Norman Vincent Peale’s 1952 classic, “The Power of Positive Thinking” and the Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations.” But that’s a negative way of thinking.

James Arthur Ray, a teacher of The Secret method, who talked to Oprah, says it’s “very, very scientific.”

“If you think you’re this meat suit running around, you know, you have to think again,” he said. “You’re a field of energy in a larger field of energy.”

Oprah enthused that The Secret “really is touching a nerve around the world” because “so many people are hungry for guidance and meaning.” Ms. Byrne claims it improved her eyesight; others say it works on everything from weight loss to panic attacks to getting rich to snagging the mate of your dreams or a good parking space.

“We create our own circumstances by the choices that we make, and the choices that we make are fueled by our thoughts,” Oprah explained in her first show. “So our thoughts are the most powerful thing that we have here on earth. And based upon what we think — and [what] we think determines who we are — we attract who we are into our lives.”

Or as the book so eloquently puts it, “You must feel good about You.”

If it works on eyesight, can’t it work on foresight? Can’t we use The Secret on the secretive Bush White House to prevent a calamity in Iran?

According to the Sacred Principles set out by the Law of Attraction Specialists, the universe responds to your thoughts. So if I want certified chuckleheads to stop mucking up American foreign policy, all I have to do is let the universe know. I forgive the president for being a goose and the vice president for being a snake, and I start thinking about the sort of amazing, or even mildly competent, leaders I deserve to have in my life.

Maybe W. should read the book. He likes things biblical, and “The Secret” says it takes its Creative Process from the New Testament.

He would learn, as Mr. Ray said, that “trying is failing with honor,” adding: “Take the word ‘try’ out of your vocabulary. You either do it or you don’t.”

W. could have applied that to Iraq, where he has always done only enough to fail, including with the Surge.

A main tenet of The Secret is learning to avoid the chain reaction of churlishness, which begins with a single thought: “The one bad thought attracted more bad thoughts, the frequency locked in, and eventually something went wrong. Then as you reacted to that one thing going wrong, you attracted more things going wrong.”

It’s an apt description of Iraq policy. A bad thought that led to more bad thoughts, and the negative frequency is now locked in on Iran, which is responding with its own negative frequency.

With The Secret, W. will realize that all he needs to do to change his current reality is admit that it’s fake. (Similar to the wisdom of Dorothy clicking her shoes three times.)

Once he stops his chain reaction of negative thought, I can stop my chain reaction of negative thought. And then there will be peace on earth and parking spaces for everyone.


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