A Cautious Man
May 27, 2009
Be True To Your School ...
This little tidbit was in the middle of today's New York Times profile of Judge Sonia Sotomayor, President Obama's nominee to the United States Supreme Court -

When Ms. Sotomayor arrived at Princeton in the fall of 1972, she was one of the only Latinos there: there were no professors, no administrators, and only a double-digit number of students. Princeton women were sharply outnumbered as well; the first ones had been admitted only a few years earlier, and some alumni had protested their increasing ranks. (Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., who graduated just a few months before Ms. Sotomayor arrived, belonged to one of the groups that protested.)

Good times coming on the Supremes!

I Like To Be In America
Immigrant goes to America,
Many hellos in America;
Nobody knows in America
Puerto Rico's in America!

- "America", from West Side Story, Music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.

Some right-wing clown named Mark Krikorian warns that once we have to pronounce people's names correctly, anarchy will follow.

Most e-mailers were with me on the post on the pronunciation of Judge Sotomayor's name (and a couple griped about the whole Latina/Latino thing — English dropped gender in nouns, what, 1,000 years ago?). But a couple said we should just pronounce it the way the bearer of the name prefers, including one who pronounces her name "freed" even though it's spelled "fried," like fried rice. (I think Cathy Seipp of blessed memory did the reverse — "sipe" instead of "seep.") Deferring to people's own pronunciation of their names should obviously be our first inclination, but there ought to be limits. Putting the emphasis on the final syllable of Sotomayor is unnatural in English ...

He then proceeds to explain how he is such a wimp that he happily lets people mispronounce his own name -

For instance, in Armenian, the emphasis is on the second syllable in my surname, just as in English, but it has three syllables, not four (the "ian" is one syllable) — but that's not how you'd say it in English (the "ian" means the same thing as in English — think Washingtonian or Jeffersonian). Likewise in Russian, you put the emphasis in my name on the final syllable and turn the "o" into a schwa, and they're free to do so because that's the way it works in their language.

It's all for a higher purpose, however - nothing less than preservation of American culture -

This may seem like carping, but it's not. Part of our success in assimilation has been to leave whole areas of culture up to the individual, so that newcomers have whatever cuisine or religion or so on they want, limiting the demand for conformity to a smaller field than most other places would. But one of the areas where conformity is appropriate is how your new countrymen say your name, since that's not something the rest of us can just ignore, unlike what church you go to or what you eat for lunch. And there are basically two options — the newcomer adapts to us, or we adapt to him. And multiculturalism means there's a lot more of the latter going on than there should be.

We're not talking about throwing widows on their husbands' burning funeral pyres, we're talking about how people say their own name!!!! It's almost as if there is a deep-seated conservative need to use schoolyard taunts as a way to assert themselves, whether it's deliberately mispronouncing someone's name (especially if that name is Hispanic) or referring to the "Democrat Party".

Something tells me that when Mr. Krikorian and his fellow-travelers think about Judge Sotomayor, this is what they see in their minds -

May 08, 2009
Facing Up To Their Responsibilities
From today's news -

The director of the White House Military Office has resigned, an administration official said Friday, two weeks after he authorized an Air Force One backup to fly over the Statue of Liberty that terrified thousands of people in New York City. The director, Louis Caldera, who served as the secretary of the Army in the Clinton administration, had apologized for approving the flyover. He submitted his resignation on Friday, after the president ordered an internal White House review.

For those of you who are keeping track -

Number of government officials taking responsibility for mistakes which allowed a flyover that reminded people of the 9/11 attacks: 1.

Number of government officials taking responsibility for mistakes which allowed the 9/11 attacks: 0.

Concluding that this is a different kind of Presidency doesn't even begin to explain this.

May 07, 2009
"News From The Home Office"
Related to the post right below, I wonder if the clerics criticizing Notre Dame are now going to have to start arguing that the Vatican's newspaper isn't "Catholic" enough? Via E.J. Dionne, who writes -

We now know that the reaction of right-wing Catholics to Notre Dame's invitation to President Obama falls into the category of "more Catholic than the pope."

To the dismay of many conservatives, the Vatican's own newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, has offered what one antiabortion Catholic blog called "a surprisingly positive assessment of the new president's approach to life issues" -- so positive, in fact, that a spokesman for the National Right to Life Committee was moved to criticize Pope Benedict XVI's daily.

The Vatican newspaper offered its analysis as Catholic liberals and conservatives are battling fiercely over Notre Dame's decision to invite the president as this year's commencement speaker and to grant him an honorary degree. The article will strengthen the liberal claim that the Catholic right's over-the-top response is rooted at least as much in Republican and conservative politics as in concern over the abortion question.

The April 29 essay by Giuseppe Fiorentino, L'Osservatore's frequent foreign affairs contributor, painted Obama as a moderate on many fronts. "Some have accused him of practicing excessive statism," Fiorentino wrote, "if not even of making the country drift toward socialism." But "a calmer analysis," he said, suggests that Obama "has moved with caution." (I rely here on a translation of the article posted yesterday on the Vatican's official Web site.)

That translation is here at the Vatican's website. It's a lot more "fair and balanced" than your average Fox News coverage of the Presidency. For example, while the essay notes differences with the President's approach to abortion rights, it also approvingly notes other legislative initiatives: "Moreover, a definite cause for surprise was the presentation of a law designed by the Democratic party: the Pregnant Women Support Act, aimed at limiting the number of abortions in the U.S. through initiatives to assist pregnant women. While not a negation of the doctrine that Obama has conveyed up to this point regarding abortion, this legislative project could represent a rebalancing in favour of motherhood."

Mr. Dionne's column concludes on a cautionary note -

And so when Obama rises to speak at Notre Dame on May 17, the stakes will be highest for moderate and liberal Catholics who insist the president is seeking common ground on the moment's most contentious ethical issues. It is likely to be his most consequential intervention in the debate over religion's role in American politics. In accepting the invitation, Obama has assumed a large responsibility that he should not try to escape.


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