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Kagan passes Judiciary Committee, but is she qualified?

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Today, Elena Kagan’s nomination was approved by the Senate Judiciary committeee by a vote of 13-6.  The vote was along party lines, with only 1 Republican(Lindsey Graham) joining the Democrats. I expect the vote to go along party lines in the Senate, ensuring that she will be the newest Justice.

But is she qualified? Much in the press has been made about that question, and the answer to that question I think is not as simple as it sounds.  On the surface, someone with no experience as a judge would seem like a long shot at best

History proves otherwise.  Of the 111 Justices, 40 of them have no experience as a judge.  Many of them don’t even have experience in the legal system, and include occupations such as governor and treasury secretary.

What is different about Kagan’s case are the polls. As the LA Times reported, Kagan would be the first Justice not to have support from the majority of Americans.  Of course, there is plenty of time for Kagan’s popularity to increase and make that a moot point. But still, it is a little disconcerting that a Justice could be confirmed and whom the majority of Americans don’t trust.

What is really a problem to me is not that Justices without judicial experience are confirmed, it is the fact that it is taboo to talk about their opinions of law and how they might handle issues that may arise. The rare time that nominees are asked about specific legal issues, they often dodge the question.

Let me ask you this: When was the last time you went to a job interview and were asked about how you would handle specific situations? Practically every interview you have been in right? So why would justices be any different?

Yes, I am aware that Justices should know the facts and opinions of a specific case before making a decision, but asking their general opinion about certain subjects doesn’t mean that they should be held to that opinion in every case(as they shouldn’t). Besides, they are appointed for life so it’s not like if they don’t do what someone thinks they will that they will lose their jobs.

My problem with Kagan’s eventual confirmation isn’t that she has no judicial experience, it’s that, so far, the country doesn’t support her and we will go through an entire confirmation hearing and learn very little about her. With someone who has a very little track record, that’s a problem.

Written by Matt

July 20, 2010 at 9:03 pm

Posted in Politics

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Should a mosque be built near Ground Zero?

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Last Tuesday, the Community Board responsible for approving construction projects in an area that includes Ground Zero approved a plan to build a mosque and Islamic Center two blocks from Ground Zero.

Obviously, the mosque, called Cordoba House has sparked intense debate especially amongst survivors as well as families and friends of 9/11 victims.   Many(but not all) families of 9/11 victims call the project insensitive, saying that the mosque would be a constant reminder to them of the people who killed their loved ones.  To a certain extent, I empathize with them. I can not imagine the grief the families went, and probably continue to go through.   Even for rationally and usually tolerant people,  I can understand the hatred one would feel for a religion that a family member was killed in the name of, even if I do not believe that Islam advocates murdering people(which I don’t).

What I do not have tolerance and sympathy for are comments like those made by Tea Party Express chairman Mark Williams called the mosque a “monument to the terrorists’ monkey-god.”  Now to be fair, he has apologized for those comments and also stated he was referring to what the terrorist’s worship, and not Muslims as a whole. However,  his personal blog contains several posts attacking Islam specifically casting doubts on the sincerity of that apology. Also, his comments still suggest an opinion that all mosques breed terrorists.

Personally, I feel this could be an opportunity for Cordoba and the Muslim American community, if they play their cards right. The group’s mission, it should be noted, states that it “aims to achieve a tipping point in Muslim-West relations within the next decade, bringing back the atmosphere of interfaith tolerance and respect…”. The institute are involved in a number of initiatives that I feel many Westerners would approve of, including advocating for woman’s rights throughout the Muslim world.

While I sympathize with the anger of the families of the families of the victims of 9/11, I feel that this could be an opportunity here to help cultivate religious tolerance amongst Christians, Muslims and Jews as well as work to break down stereotypes held by both U.S. citizens and Muslims alike.

The website for the Cordoba Initiative can be found here:

http://www.cordobainitiative.org/

Written by Matt

May 28, 2010 at 5:59 pm

Posted in Politics