Friday, 17 July 2009

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The Passion of the Sotomayor, Part II JOHN CORNYN (R): Do you believe that judges ever change the law? [Let me clarify: I don't think they should when people like you are on the bench.] JOHN CORNYN (R): You wrote that the law judges declare is not, quote, “a definitive capital-L Law that would many would like to think exists,” and, quote, “that the public fails to appreciate the importance of indefiniteness in the law.” Can you explain those statements? [The Law is like the Bible: it has always said what I say it said the moment I say it said it.] JOHN CORNYN (R): In a 2001 speech at Berkeley, you wrote that “whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences . . . our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging.” The difference is physiological if it relates to the mechanical, physical, or biochemical functions of the body, as I understand the word. What do you mean by that? [I'm a convenient egalitarian and I'm going to pretend your statement applies to judges on the bench instead of whether we ought to let blind people be fighter pilots .] JOHN CORNYN (R): We’re not talking about pilots. [Enough with the pilots already. If you don't stop addressing the substance of your argument, I won't be able to trick you into saying you believe ridiculous things.] JOHN CORNYN (R): So you stand by the comment or the statement that inherent physiological differences will make a difference in judging? [Why won't you walk into my trap? It says it right there: THIS IS A TRAP. Are you fucking illiterate?] JOHN CORNYN (R): I’m struggling a little bit to understand how your statement about physiological differences could affect the outcome or affect judging and your stated commitment to fidelity to the law as being your sole standard and how any litigant can know where that will end. But let me ask you on another topic. [Fine. If you don't like that trap, I have others.] JOHN CORNYN (R): There was a Washington Post story that said, “The White House scrambled yesterday to assuage worries from liberal groups about Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s scant record on abortion rights.” It goes on to say, “the White House press secretary said the president did not ask Sotomayor specifically about abortion rights during their interview.” If that’s the case, on what basis would White House officials subsequently send a message that abortion rights groups do not need to worry about how you might rule in a challenge to Roe v. Wade? [How exactly would the mainstream liberals in the White House know what a mainstream liberal like yourself believes?] JEFFERSON BEAUREGARD SESSIONS, III (R): I would offer a letter for the record from the National Rifle Association in which they express serious concern about the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor. I would also offer for the record a letter from Mr. Richard Land, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, also...
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Superior adaptations of inferior novels (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince) Reviewing a film based on a book you haven’t read is always a dicey proposition—you likely missed or misread the winks and nods aimed at the readers surrounding you—but I think an exception can be made in the case of a film that works because you haven’t read the source material. So I begin with an admission: I can’t read the Harry Potter novels. I got through 100 pages of the first three and stopped once I realized that they are, on the whole, terrible; and that when they rise to the level of unsubtle Dickensian grotesquerie (minus the wit), they’re merely awful. But I mostly enjoy the films, which dispense the requisite infodumps in digestable bits and—by virtue of being films—relieve J.K. Rowling of the burden of pretending to be Mervyn Peake. The best of them is Alfonso Cuarón’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, but that has more to do with having Cuarón at helm than the quality of the source material, as his filmography consists of superior treatments of the same narratives at play in Rowling’s novels: a tale set in a strict boarding house during a period of great struggle (A Little Princess), about an orphan with an unknown destiny and mysterious benefactors (Great Expectations) who comes of age sexually (Y Tu Mama Tambien) as the fate of the human race is being decided (Children of Men). But even with Cuarón behind camera, the film felt forced—as if the removal of Rowling’s expository indulgence required a labor so great, evidence of it clung to the film like slight stains in the pits of an otherwise smart shirt. The same cannot be said of the latest film, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, in which the narrative excess of the novels becomes a matter of allusion over excision. The result? The first film in the series to have the effect the novels are wrongly purported to: it presents an unnerving and captivating account of a world and moment the audience can't fully fathom. The confusion was compelling: I was drawn into situations whose meaning escaped me, but whose significance was clear, and so I spent the entire film intellectually engaged. In the previous films, all the guns belonged to Chekov, and you appreciated the arrangement of the firing squad or you didn’t—but in either case, you knew which guns would be fired because the overwhelmed screenwriter removed anything that might be mistaken for a decoy. The earlier films never alluded; they either explicated at length or vehemently pointed at the mystery the movie would explain. In The Half-Blood Prince, David Yates includes scenes whose importance is not established by the mere fact of their inclusion. The narrative wanders, forcing the audience to debate which of the various elements will ultimately be meaningful. Will it be the stroking and stoking of Ron’s ego? The development of Harry and Hermoine’s increasingly complex friendship? The pangs of conscience Draco Malfoy felt upon murdering a bird? Or will it be...

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