Thursday, May 28, 2009

Two Black Men Kidnapped Me and My Daughter.

Bonnie Sweeten, a suburban Pennsylvania mother, was tracked to Disney World after claiming she and her young daughter had been abducted by two Black men and stuffed into a car trunk will be extradited from Florida and charged with making false reports and identity theft, a prosecutor said.

Bonnie a
nd her daughter, Julia Rakoczy, were taken into custody Wednesday night at the Grand Floridian Hotel in Orlando, Bucks County District Attorney Michelle Henry said.

Henry told reporters that Sweeten borrowed a co-worker's driver's license and presented it as her own when she bought an airline ticket in Philadelphia and flew to Orlando with her 9-year-old daughter.

They had minimal luggage and the hotel was paid through Friday, Henry said. Sweeten had withdrawn about $12,000 from several bank accounts over recent days, but authorities were investigating whether that money had been stolen.

"We believe that there were some domestic concerns with her husband and some financial concerns as well," Henry said.

In the frantic 911 calls, Sweeten, said two Black men had bumped her 2005 GMC Denali, carjacked her and stuffed her in the trunk of a dark Cadillac. She implied that her daughter was with her in the trunk, according to Philadelphia police Lt. Frank Vanore, who listened to tapes of the calls.

Sweeten, who is white, described her assailants as Black men but otherwise gave few details about their appearance, Vanore said.

"It was pretty generic," he said.

Police found inconsistencies with her story from the start, and noted that they could not find witnesses on the busy road in Upper Southampton Township who saw an abduction. The Denali was found early Wednesday on a downtown Philadelphia street, about 20 miles away, with a parking ticket issued shortly after the calls were made. Police knew the 911 calls were made in the same area.

Sweeten has two other daughters, a 15-year-old from a prior marriage and an 8-month-old with her current husband, a landscaper. Julia Rakoczy attended elementary school in Bensalem until she was withdrawn from classes May 1, said Susan Harder, an administrative assistant with the Bensalem Township School District.

Her ex-husband and the 9-year-old girl's father, Tony Rakoczy, described Sweeten on NBC's "Today" show as a good mother.

Neighbors said the family had lived in their relatively new development for about two years.

Sweeten, 38, of Feasterville, is listed as a director of a New Hope-based charity called The Carlitz Foundation, run by lawyer Debbie Carlitz. The charity's stated goal is raising money for autism research and for people in Burma. Carlitz did not return e-mail or phone messages.

"Bonnie was a very, very organized person," said Susan Cordeiro, secretary of the parent-teacher group at Belmont Hills Elementary School in Bensalem, which Julia had attended. "She was at every meeting, she was very involved. ... She's on top of her game all the time, even when she was pregnant."


I don't know about you, but I've heard Ashley Todd's story somewhere before and that somewhere is here in Boston. Twenty year old Todd from Texas is a student volunteer for the McCain campaign in Pittsburgh. Her scarred face turned up all over the internet after alleging that she was mugged at an ATM machine on Wednesday night by a knife-wielding Black man. Todd said the 6 foot four assailant also carved the letter "B" in her cheek after he spotted a McCain bumper sticker on her car. Police arrived and offered to take her to the hospital. She declined. Instead, in the hours after the alleged incident, she used her Twitter social networking account to thank fellow GOP supporters "for their thoughts and prayers" and to ask them to work together to get John McCain elected.

Todd has now confessed that she made up the story after failing a lie detector test, and after police failed to turn up a 6 foot four black Obama supporter who drew a "b"--presumably for Barack-- in her cheek like the fictitious mark of Zorro or the anti-hero in the movie "V."

This brings me back to Boston. I was having a conversation with a friend one night in October of 1989, when a local news station reported a story so dreadful that we stopped in mid-sentence: A white couple coming home from a birthing class at a local hospital in Boston had lost their way and had ended up in a "dangerous part of town" near a black housing project. While looking for a way out they were allegedly attacked by a Black mugger who came out of nowhere and fatally shot Stuart's pregnant wife, Carol, and injured Stuart.

After ingesting the news, my friend said, something's not right about this story. For one, he grew up not far from that location and said it would take some effort to "get lost" in the area where the shooting took place. To him, the story smelled of fiction.

As a journalist, especially as a journalist specializing in color politics and race relations, I am taught to treat all stories with complexity and with a fair degree of informed skepticism.

That's why Ashley Todd's story did not smell right. From the very beginning it smelled of fiction, but that did not stop Matt Drudge from headlining the incident on his much-read web site, declining to delve into the most obvious questions:

1) Why did she refuse medical treatment after such a physically and emotionally traumatic incident?

2) Did she have a reason for lying? Her story seemed too convenient. Its veracity too problematic. She's a staunch McCain supporter in a battleground state that many fear may be slipping away.

3) In the photo why was there no swelling and the scar did not appear to be a deep slash, which you would expect to result from the actions of an enraged 6 foot four mugger who takes a knife to someone's face.

In the Charles Stuart case tough questions were asked, belatedly. Only after dozens of Black men were rounded up and questioned; after hundreds of homes were raided; after an African American man was arrested and jailed on suspicion of murder; after race relations, in an already racially charged city, were set on end by the raw emotions that resulted from the tragic murders of a young woman and her not yet born baby. Charles Stuart, it was later discovered, had pulled the trigger. He jumped to his death from a bridge in 1990.

The Stuart case and the initial lack of media skepticism, continues to serve as a lesson to journalists to probe deeper when confronted with stories that smell of fiction.

But in 1994 the smell apparently was still not strong enough. A story told by Susan Smith, a white South Carolina mother, was greeted with up-turned eyebrows by only a handful of reporters. On October 25th that year, Smith told police that she had been car jacked by a Black man who drove off with her two children in the back seat. It took nine days for the story to unravel, and compelled Smith to confess to driving her Mazda into a lake and drowning her children.

The often brutal and tangible dynamics of America's racial history have made it just as easy to fall for the make-believe of alleged Black victims of white assailants. That was the case with Tawana Brawley, the Black teenager in Duchess Country, New York, who in 1988 falsely claimed she was gang raped by a group of white men. That incident may have fueled more skepticism and investigatory instincts in the years that followed -- but apparently not enough. Let's take Crystal Mangum's tale. She's the North Carolina woman who falsely accused three Duke lacrosse players of rape, and her story, on the surface, seemed plausible, given that it concerned intoxicated male athletes, strippers, a supporting witness (at least initially) and confident assertions by the white district attorney. But this case too should have been put under a microscope before it was allowed to be so heavily promulgated as truth.

Ashley Todd's story came apart at the seams a lot quicker than many, thanks in large measure to a skeptical public, good police work and a local and national press that asked the right questions. But the fact that Ms. Todd felt she could get away with telling yet another false story about a Black boogie man, suggests that some in this country have not gotten the memo. Here it is: We've been there before and our noses are getting used to the smell of fiction, especially, it seems, when it's soaked in the sullage of race.
(P. Martin)

In 2005 at the United Coast Guard Academy, cadet Kristen Nicholson told a similar story. She claimed that she had been raped by a Black man. That Black man turned out to be cadet Webster Smith, her boyfriend. They had been dating for about two years before the alleged incident. Kristen got pregnant and had an abortion. Six months or more after the abortion while she was still dating Webster Smith, she decided to claim that Webster Smith had raped her. To the amazement of rational people everywhere except at the Coast Guard Academy and the Headquarters legal staff she was believed. Coast Guard lawyers believed her story so strongly that they circled the wagons, spent over $20 thousand dollars to court-martial Webster Smith and kicked him out of the Coast Guard. And that story still does not have a conclusion. The case has been appealed to one step just shy of the United States Supreme Court.

The dynamics of America's racial history and the rabid racism of people in the Coast Guard like Doug Wisnewski, Sean Gill, and James Van Sice and others make stories like those of Kristen Nicholson, Bonnie Sweeten, Ashley Tood, Susan Smith, and Charles Stuart seem completely believable. Sometimes we would rather believe a lie than simply accept the truth.

Judge London Steverson
London Eugene Livingston Steverson
 (born March 13, 1947) was one of the first two African Americans to graduate from the United States Coast Guard Academy in 1968. Later, as chief of the newly formed Minority Recruiting Section of the United States Coast Guard (USCG), he was charged with desegregating the Coast Guard Academy by recruiting minority candidates. He retired from the Coast Guard in 1988 and in 1990 was appointed to the bench as a Federal Administrative Law Judge with the Office of Hearings and Appeals, Social Security Administration.

Early Life and Education
Steverson was born and raised in Millington, Tennessee, the oldest of three children of Jerome and Ruby Steverson. At the age of 5 he was enrolled in the E. A. Harrold elementary school in a segregated school system. He later attended the all black Woodstock High School in Memphis, Tennessee, graduating valedictorian.
A Presidential Executive Order issued by President Truman had desegregated the armed forces in 1948,[1] but the service academies were lagging in officer recruiting. President Kennedy specifically challenged the United States Coast Guard Academy to tender appointments to Black high school students. London Steverson was one of the Black student to be offered such an appointment, and when he accepted the opportunity to be part of the class of 1968, he became the second African American to enter the previously all-white military academy. On June 4, 1968 Steverson graduated from the Coast Guard Academy with a BS degree in Engineering and a commission as an ensign in the U.S. Coast Guard.
In 1974, while still a member of the Coast Guard, Steverson entered The National Law Center of The George Washington University and graduated in 1977 with a Juris Doctor of Laws Degree.

USCG Assignments.
Steverson's first duty assignment out of the Academy was in Antarctic research logistical support. In July 1968 he reported aboard the Coast Guard Cutter (CGC) Glacier [2] (WAGB-4), an icebreaker operating under the control of the U.S. Navy, and served as a deck watch officer and head of the Marine Science Department. He traveled to Antarctica during two patrols from July 1968 to August 1969, supporting the research operations of the National Science Foundation's Antarctic Research Project in and around McMurdo Station. During the 1969 patrol the CGC Glacier responded to an international distress call from the Argentine icebreaker General SanMartin, which they freed.
He received another military assignment from 1970 to 1972 in Juneau, Alaska as a Search and Rescue Officer. Before being certified as an Operations Duty Officer, it was necessary to become thoroughly familiar with the geography and topography of the Alaskan remote sites. Along with his office mate, Ltjg Herbert Claiborne "Bertie" Pell, the son of Rhode Island Senator Claiborne Pell, Steverson was sent on a familiarization tour of Coast Guard, Navy and Air Force bases. The bases visited were Base Kodiak, Base Adak Island, and Attu Island, in the Aleutian Islands.[3]
Steverson was the Duty Officer on September 4, 1971 when an emergency call was received that an Alaska Airlines Boeing 727 airline passenger plane was overdue at Juneau airport. This was a Saturday and the weather was foggy with drizzling rain. Visibility was less than one-quarter mile. The 727 was en route to Seattle, Washington from Anchorage, Alaska with a scheduled stop in Juneau. There were 109 people on board and there were no survivors. Steverson received the initial alert message and began the coordination of the search and rescue effort. In a matter of hours the wreckage from the plane, with no survivors, was located on the side of a mountain about five miles from the airport. For several weeks the body parts were collected and reassembled in a staging area in the National Guard Armory only a few blocks from the Search and Rescue Center where Steverson first received the distress broadcast.[4]. Later a full investigation with the National Transportation Safety Board determined that the cause of the accident was equipment failure.[5]
Another noteworthy item is Steverson's involvement as an Operations Officer during the seizure of two Russian fishing vessels, the Kolevan and the Lamut for violating an international agreement prohibiting foreign vessels from fishing in United States territorial waters. The initial attempts at seizing the Russian vessels almost precipitated an international incident when the Russian vessels refused to proceed to a U. S. port, and instead sailed toward the Kamchatka Peninsula. Russian MIG fighter planes were scrambled, as well as American fighter planes from Elmendorf Air Force Base before the Russian vessels changed course and steamed back

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Latina judge, Sonia Sotomayor Goes to the Supremes.

Circuit judge Sonia Sotomayor has been chosen by President Barack Obama to serve on the Supreme Court, putting her in line to be the first Hispanic person to wear the robes of a justice.

A formal announcement from the US president is expected later. Sotomayor, 54, would succeed the retiring justice David Souter, if the Senate confirms the move. Two officials revealed Obama's decision ahead of the announcement on condition of anonymity.

Administration officials said Sotomayor would bring more judicial experience to the court than any justice confirmed in the past 70 years.

Born to Puerto Rican parents and raised in a Brooklyn housing project, Sotomayor is likely to be portrayed by the right as a liberal, in keeping with Obama's own leanings, but she was first appointed as a New York district judge by George Bush in 1991. She has a reputation as neither an extreme liberal or a crusader.

Sotomayor says she was inspired to become a lawyer by watching the Perry Mason TV series as a child. She has served on the US court of appeals for the second circuit since 1998.

Sotomayor studied at Princeton and graduated with the highest honours, before going to Yale law school where she edited the Yale Law Journal. She began her legal career as an assistant district attorney in New York county before going into practice in the city, where she made partner after three years.

She was appointed as a judge in the district court while still in her 30s, making her the youngest judge in the southern district of New York, before being named an appeals judge by Bill Clinton. At her Senate confirmation hearing more than a decade ago she said: "I don't believe we should bend the constitution under any circumstance. It says what it says. We should do honour to it."

Her best-known ruling was probably the injunction she issued against major league baseball owners in April 1995, effectively ending a baseball strike of nearly eight months, which had led to the cancellation of the World Series for the first time in 90 years.

She is a prosecutor who tried violent criminals like the so-called Tarzan Murderer, a lawyer who represented silk-purse clients like Fendi and Ferrari, and a judge who ruled on subjects as varied as a strike by baseball players and the exclusionary rule. After 17 years on the district court and now the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in New York, Judge Sotomayor has accumulated so little money that her credit card and dental bills nearly match her total savings.

The documents reveal that the White House contacted her about a possible Supreme Court nomination on April 27, three days before Justice Souter’s plan to retire was publicly reported. From that point on, she wrote, she had “near daily phone calls” with White House officials, indicating how serious Mr. Obama was about her as a candidate from the beginning.

Unlike Mr. Obama, who as president has largely avoided overt discussion of his racial identity, Judge Sotomayor has made her ethnicity a regular theme of her public addresses, touching on it to make points with audiences that were sometimes largely Hispanic and sometimes not. At times, she portrayed herself as a stranger in a strange land.

“Somewhere all of us Puerto Ricans and people of color have had a defining moment when we were shocked into learning that we were different and that American society treated us differently,” she told the National Puerto Rican Coalition in 1998. “The shock and sense of being an alien will never again, I suspect, be as profound for any of us as that first experience, because I know from personal experience that our education and professional training have equipped us to deal better in this sometimes alien land.”

In another 1998 speech, she said the United States was often ambivalent about how to deal with its diversity. “America has a deeply confused image of itself that is a perpetual source of tension,” she said. “We are a nation that takes pride in our ethnic diversity, recognizing its importance in shaping our society and in adding richness to its existence.

“Yet we simultaneously insist that we can and must function and live in a race- and color-blind way that ignores those very differences that in other contexts we laud.”

Her speeches also indicate that she is not afraid to take on opponents. In 1998, after she was confirmed to the appeals court, she recounted how she was vigorously questioned by senators based on what she called “mischaracterization and misunderstanding of three of my decisions” by Rush Limbaugh. In recent days, Mr. Limbaugh has led the fight against her nomination, calling her a “reverse racist.”

In a 2001 speech, Judge Sotomayor attributed the yearlong delay before her confirmation to “Senate Republican leaders who believed that I was a potential for the Supreme Court one day.”

“They also believed that I am a liberal and therefore did not want the nomination to go through,” she continued.

She credited “support from Latino and women’s groups” for breaking the stalemate.

That was the same year she made the comment about how a “wise Latina” could make a better decision than a white man. The White House has called that a poor choice of words, but it was not the only time she used them. In 1994, she said something similar, although she referred to women generally, not just Latinas. And in 2003, she said a “wise Latina woman” would “reach a better conclusion” but did not say better than whom.

The White House argued that the fact that she had used a similar formulation in 1994 without its being questioned during the 1998 confirmation process showed that it was now being manufactured as a false issue. And to rebut the notion that she would let her background blur her jurisprudence, the administration pointed to a 2000 speech in which she said, “I have to unhook myself from my emotional responses and try to stay within my unemotional, objective persona.”

The documents submitted to the Senate underscored how much more modest Judge Sotomayor’s finances were than those of many of her would-be colleagues. Judge Sotomayor, who makes about $180,000 a year, owns no stock and has just $31,985 in savings. Her two-bedroom apartment in Greenwich Village, which she bought in 1998 for $360,000, is her only major asset, valued at just under $1 million.

After refinancing several times, she owes $381,775 on the home as well as $15,000 for credit card bills and $15,000 for dental bills, making her net worth just over $740,000.

Federal judges who spend at least 15 years on the bench, as Judge Sotomayor has, are entitled to an annual retirement benefit equal to their full salary for life starting at age 65.

Obama's nomination is the first by a Democratic president in 15 years. Obama has said publicly he wants a justice who combines intellect and empathy; someone able to understand the troubles of ordinary Americans.

Democrats hold a large majority in the Senate. Barring the unexpected, Sotomayor's confirmation should be assured. If approved, she would join Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as the second woman on the court.

Sotomayor has spoken openly about her pride in being Latina, and said personal experiences "affect the facts that judges choose to see".

"I simply do not know exactly what the difference will be in my judging," she said in a speech in 2002. "But I accept there will be some based on my gender and my Latina heritage."

From the moment Souter announced his resignation it was widely assumed Obama would select a woman to replace him, and perhaps a Hispanic as well.

Others known to have been considered included the federal appeals judge Diane Wood, who was a colleague of the president's at the University of Chicago law school, as well as two members of his administration, the homeland security secretary, Janet Napolitano, and the solicitor general nominee, Elena Kagan.

(By Helen L. Burleson, Doctor of Public Administration)
I’m going to open my premise with a very simple observation. A young child is walking alone on the parking lot of a grocery store. You observe that there is a father walking a few steps ahead of the child. Now you see a mother with a bag of groceries in her arms, one child holding her hand and another one holding onto her skirt. That simple observation may very well explain what Judge Sotomayor alluded to when she referenced the fact that as a female she views life differently than a man. Let’s face it, there is a difference between the way men and women interpret life. This may well have something to do with the way boys and girls are socialized; and, these differences show up early in life. Little girls like to dress up and play house. Little boys like to play cops and robbers and rough house.

There is even a difference in color selection where women tend to like pinks and brightly colored garments and men tend to prefer the more somber colors.

Women tend to be more nurturing and empathetic which is why merchants will tell you that more money is spent celebrating Mothers’ Day than Fathers’ Day. Most of us remember the warm embraces, the tender hugs and kisses when we were either physically or mentally bruised. Father’s tend to tell us to keep a stiff upper lip when we are hurt.

Now let’s apply this to the law, especially, the law of the land, The Supreme Court. Both males and females rise to the expectation of interpreting the Constitution of the United States of America, however, females bring a quality, called empathy to their judgements. This is not to say that men don’t have empathy, but it is less evident in most men. Some men even think of this as a weakness; but, only the strong do not fear to show empathy. This does not mean that the female is less strict in applying the rule of law, but she also has a unique perspective from her years as a nurturer that sees the human element in the law. This broader view may very well cut down on recidivism because of the morality that a female seems to engender in dealing with people and issues. Who is it who first teaches us right from wrong? More often than not it is the mother.

The letter of the law must be upheld, but there is also the spirit of the law which must be part and parcel of all decisions. Understanding and applying the spirit of the law is something that the female psyche encompasses. That is why we need more females on the Bench. I, personally, can think of no one more capable of valuing the spirit of the law because of her life story and her life experiences. The Judge has walked in the shoes of so many average Americans. The death of her father at an early age probably caused her to develop a strength, a fortitude and a level of wisdom and maturity that many children do not experience. Seeing her mother struggle to support the family is a part of her experience that probably caused her to be motivated to work hard, to set goals and achieve beyond expectations of a child growing up in a housing project. Her issue with her health is also a factor that influenced her because most children grow up healthy and are not burdened with having to deal with the rigors of adjusting to special diets and even medication. The totality of her life experiences are those that make one appreciate life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Unfortunately, illnesses are great levelers that often bring out humility, caring and sensitivity. Think about those people in your life who have suffered from chronic diseases, if they are not made bitter, they are usually more optimistic and appreciate the small things in life and are more grateful for the life they have.

The critics and the cynics are mocking the emotion – empathy. One such critic scoffed (and I’ll paraphrase) ‘empathy, empathetic, I’ll show you empathy right on your behind.’

Usually the more secure a man is the more he is willing to show his feminine side of compassion and empathy. To me, a man is never so strong as when he cries over a great loss: the loss of his parents, his spouse, and heaven forbid, his children. All emotions are good. It is even good to show anger and disgust sometimes, as long as that is not the overwhelming emotion. Experiencing the range of emotions helps us keep our equilibrium.

Beware the critics who are calling Judge Sotomayor a racist! I think they speak with a forked tongue and are projecting their deep and basic philosophies on someone else. How many of these same critics decried the fact and called it racist when for centuries the Supreme Court was 100% white males. Did they not consider this racist? Enjoy your great laugh when you hear the ignorant say she is not qualified. How on earth would they know? Small minds speak small words and perform small deeds.

There is another reason why Judge Sotomayor is needed on the Bench. America is a very diverse country and that diversity is what distinguishes us from most other nations. The richness of our diversity makes us the better for having lived in an environment where all ethnicities, races, religions, ages, gender, cultures and philosophies are incorporated, accepted and respected.

There is no question that Judge Sotomayor is qualified. Those who say she does not have the intellect are deficient themselves and in so being, are trying to make themselves feel better by devaluing those who are more talented than they are. Don’t be fooled by the motivation of the naysayers and the upholders of the status quo.

I’m going back to my opening premise. If we just all use a little common sense, or as the old folks used to call it, “Mother Wit” we would all be better off for it.

I strongly endorse President Obama’s selection of Judge Sonia Maria Sotomayor to become a justice of the Supreme Court of the United States of America. Judge Sotomayor is the epitome of a Horatio Alger heroine.

Ten Things To Know About Judge Sonia Sotomayor.

1. Judge Sotomayor would bring more federal judicial experience to the bench than any Supreme Court justice in 100 years. Over her three-decade career, she has served in a wide variety of legal roles, including as a prosecutor, litigator, and judge.
2. Judge Sotomayor is a trailblazer. She was the first Latina to serve on the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and was the youngest member of the court when appointed to the District Court for the Southern District of New York. If confirmed, she will be the first Hispanic to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court.
3. While on the bench, Judge Sotomayor has consistently protected the rights of working Americans, ruling in favor of health benefits and fair wages for workers in several cases.
4. Judge Sotomayor has shown strong support for First Amendment rights, including in cases of religious expression and the rights to assembly and free speech.
5. Judge Sotomayor has a strong record on civil rights cases, ruling for plaintiffs who had been discriminated against based on disability, sex and race.
6. Judge Sotomayor embodies the American dream. Born to Puerto Rican parents, she grew up in a South Bronx housing project and was raised from age nine by a single mother, excelling in school and working her way to graduate summa cum laude from Princeton University and to become an editor of the Law Journal at Yale Law School.
7. In 1995, Judge Sotomayor "saved baseball" when she stopped the owners from illegally changing their bargaining agreement with the players, thereby ending the longest professional sports walk-out in history.
8. Judge Sotomayor ruled in favor of the environment in a case of protecting aquatic life in the vicinity of power plants in 2007, a decision that was overturned by the Roberts Supreme Court.
9. In 1992, Judge Sotomayor was confirmed by the Senate without opposition after being appointed to the bench by George H.W. Bush.
10. Judge Sotomayor is a widely respected legal figure, having been described as " outstanding colleague with a keen legal mind," "highly qualified for any position in which wisdom, intelligence, collegiality and good character would be assets," and "a role model of aspiration, discipline, commitment, intellectual prowess and integrity."
Judge Sotomayor is an historic, uniquely qualified nominee to the Supreme Court.

(A Commentary by Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez (6/02/2009))

The president’s nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court has come during a most awkward time in the history of U.S. journalism, which many analysts claim is in serious decline, if not on life support.

What her nomination clearly shows us is that what this nation needs is more incisive journalism, not less. Yet, to be sure, the rise of right-wing media, which include FOX News and virtually all the known right-wing radio talk show hosts, is the antithesis of journalism.

Their coverage of the Sotomayor nomination points to the need for honest debate, not simply on the issues of race, but on the right wing’s aversion to truth. It also points to the right wing's pompous beliefs, on every topic, including affirmative action, that their positions are “American.”

Extremist politicos Newt Gingrich and Tom Tancredo, both of whom have zero credibility but are stars of right-wing media, have led the charge that Sotomayor is a racist. They have been joined by the usual wingnuts: Rush Limbaugh, Gordon Liddy, Glenn Beck, Pat Buchanan, Lou Dobbs, to name a few. Even Juan Williams of NPR, has parroted the claim that Sotomayor’s (out-of-context) statements are racist. The fact that the nation’s discussion centers on whether she is a racist or not -– or that she is an "affirmative action" pick (Buchanan) -– points to both the power of the wingnuts and also to the virtual impotence, or complicity, of mainstream media.

Historically, mainstream journalists have been taught that critical analysis constitutes injecting subjectivity into their reporting.

All this brouhaha is based on the Sotomayor statement that the experiences of a Latina might allow her to make better judgment in court than a white male. Her detractors say that if a white male had made similar statements he would have been automatically disqualified. They conveniently ignore the fact that the Supreme Court has been virtually all-white for most of the nation’s history. It also ignores the fact that throughout U.S. history, white males have generally not been subjected to apartheid discrimination and segregation, let alone extermination, slavery, forced removals, extra-legal brutality and false imprisonment.

The charges against Sotomayor have a familiar ring. Staunch segregationists used to charge that Martin Luther King, Jr. was both un-American and a racist. President Ronald Reagan institutionalized that kind of thinking in defense of South Africa’s apartheid regime. For him, Nelson Mandela was a terrorist, while the outlaw South African regime constituted a “democratic ally.”

Such thinking was also “normalized” during the affirmative action debate; those who attempted to dismantle the vestiges of racial discrimination were deemed “racists” or “reverse racists,” or communists by those working to maintain it. A reverse racist is precisely what Limbaugh labeled both Sotomayor and President Obama.

Those doing this labeling have well understood the nation’s changing political climate; they could no longer campaign as the defenders of white racial supremacy. Instead, they generally cloaked their views under the conservative-Republican mantle and wrapped themselves in the American flag.

They also knew that to win a debate required further subverting the nation’s political language. These same “patriots” began to reinterpret MLK Jr.'s quote about the dream of a color-blind society. In public, they gladly accepted the “dream” without accepting the societal responsibility of dismantling and remedying centuries of institutional racism and discrimination in this country.

While the majority of Americans can see through the false arguments and the “clever” subversion of the political language by these so-called patriots, this does not hold true for the mainstream media. As we are seeing with Sotomayor, all it takes is a handful of “extremists” to control and shape the media debate.

Perhaps the only upside is that Americans can now clearly see that the politics of Gingrich and Tancredo are the same as that of Limbaugh, Liddy, Beck, Buchanan and Dobbs. These pundits who daily rant against “illegal aliens,” and who daily clamor on the need to fortify the U.S.-Mexico border, are quoted as credible sources by the mainstream press. They are generally the same ones who promote the politics of fear and hate, who believe in the use of torture, and who also believe that the United States is endowed with the God-given right to conduct permanent war against the rest of the world.

Truthfully, who can discern a difference between these right-wing fanatics and the positions of mainline conservatives within the Republican Party?

Rodriguez can be reached at:

The Supreme Court ruled on 29 June 2009 that white firefighters in New Haven, Conn., were unfairly denied promotions because of their race, reversing a decision that high court nominee Sonia Sotomayor endorsed as an appeals court judge.

New Haven was wrong to scrap a promotion exam because no African-Americans and only two Hispanic firefighters were likely to be made lieutenants or captains based on the results, the court said Monday in a 5-4 decision. The city said that it had acted to avoid a lawsuit from minorities.

The ruling could alter employment practices nationwide and make it harder to prove discrimination when there is no evidence it was intentional.

"Fear of litigation alone cannot justify an employer's reliance on race to the detriment of individuals who passed the examinations and qualified for promotions," Justice Anthony Kennedy said in his opinion for the court. He was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

In dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the white firefighters "understandably attract this court's sympathy. But they had no vested right to promotion. Nor have other persons received promotions in preference to them."

Justices Stephen Breyer, David Souter and John Paul Stevens signed onto Ginsburg's dissent, which she read aloud in court Monday.

Kennedy's opinion made only passing reference to the work of Sotomayor and the other two judges on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals who upheld a lower court ruling in favor of New Haven.

But the appellate judges have been criticized for producing a cursory opinion that failed to deal with "indisputably complex and far from well-settled" questions, in the words of another appeals court judge, Sotomayor mentor Jose Cabranes.

"This perfunctory disposition rests uneasily with the weighty issues presented by this appeal," Cabranes said, in a dissent from the full 2nd Circuit's decision not to hear the case.

Monday's decision has its origins in New Haven's need to fill vacancies for lieutenants and captains in its fire department. It hired an outside firm to design a test, which was given to 77 candidates for lieutenant and 41 candidates for captain.

Fifty six firefighters passed the exams, including 41 whites, 22 blacks and 18 Hispanics. But of those, only 17 whites and two Hispanics could expect promotion.

The city eventually decided not to use the exam to determine promotions. It said it acted because it might have been vulnerable to claims that the exam had a "disparate impact" on minorities in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The white firefighters said the decision violated the same law's prohibition on intentional discrimination.

Kennedy said an employer needs a "strong basis in evidence" to believe it will be held liable in a disparate impact lawsuit. New Haven had no such evidence, he said.

The city declined to validate the test after it was given, a step that could have identified flaws or determined that there were no serious problems with it. In addition, city officials could not say what was wrong with the test, other than the racially skewed results.