Sotomayor: My Mom Doesn’t Get It

Celina Sotomayor (AP)

The Senate confirmation hearings of Judge Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court were bland and brought little to surprise anyone. Certainly, if I were a US Senator I would vote to confirm. That said, I must report my unease at her response, which I heard on CSPAN, to comedian Al Franken’s question: why do you want this job. I have so far been unable to obtain the transcript of her response, but the NY Times blog The Caucus gives an account very close to what I remember:

Franken and the Job | 12:16 p.m. Why does the judge want to join the Supreme Court? asks Senator Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota.

This prompts a lengthy story from the judge, in which her mother, Celina, and her stepfather, Omar, play a role. As she tells it, her mother couldn’t understand why she would take a job that involved a sizable pay cut from her lawyer’s work in private practice, would limit her foreign travel and would prohibit her from having friends who might come before her in court. Her stepfather apparently, at the end, turned to his wife, and said in Spanish, “You know you daughter and her stuff with public service.”

And the judge continued: “That really has always been the answer given, who I am, my love of the law, my sense of importance about the rule of law, how central it is to the functioning of our society …” Those have always created a passion in her, she added. “I can’t think of any greater service I could give to the country.”

As I recall the Judge, she said “all this was in Spanish,” wink wink, suggesting, when taken together with her verbiage here, an unpleasant condescension toward her mother –how cute, my old mom, but alas lacking in the sophistication of all those Eastern schools where I learned my selfless morality. There is no doubt that the judge has great affection for her mother, whom she has praised repeatedly in the public record. But condescension nevertheless.

As it happens, Celina Sotomayor achieved graduation from college in New York and became a Registered Nurse, passing her RN boards in English, so the Judge’s condescension is doubly misplaced.

Doubly: even if her mother had not had American higher education, or English proficiency, it is a bit outrageous to suggest that our immigrant parents and grandparents cannot be trusted with making ethical decisions as good as ours.

The Chomsky Network: Churchill, Finkelstein, and especially Shahak

Professor Noam Chomsky has very enthusiastic fans, and also detractors. A great deal is written about him, a very great deal. But in all this material, it is his enthusiastic endorsements that reveal the most about him. Here I mention but three such cases: Churchill, Finkelstein, and, most important, Shahak.

1) Professor Ward Churchill has been fired from the University of Colorado for a variety of misdemeanors, most conspicuously intellectual fraud. Vincent Carroll of the Denver Post gives a good outline of what needs to be known about Churchill. With all that, Professor Churchill enjoys the full support, albeit couched in Chomsky-speak, of Noam Chomsky (as reported on Churchill’s website):

Without reservations, I support Churchill’s right to free speech and
academic freedom, and regard the attack on him as scurrilous – and by
now craven cowardice as well, as the state authorities and other critics
pretend that the issue is (suddenly) his academic credentials and ethnic
origins. That’s a real disgrace.

As for his work, I’ve never read this article [on 9/11] and have no
interest in doing so–in fact, would not do so as a matter of principle in the present context, for reasons that go back to the Enlightenment origins of defense of freedom of speech. I was interviewed by Colorado
newspapers, and told them basically what I’ve just written. I was then
asked what I thought of his earlier work, and told the truth: that I found it serious and important, stressing again that these comments have
precisely nothing to do with the outrageous events now underway.
I have no idea what the plagiarism and other issues are, [but] if the
charges were serious, they would have been brought up before. For what it’s worth, there’s no indication of that in anything of his I read–that is, nothing more than is standard in scholarship. . . . . Such matters are sometimes raised in the context of political persecution, by cowards who are desperately seeking to conceal what they are really doing. Seems pretty transparent in this case. Why now and not before?

2. Dr. Norman Finkelstein‘s academic record roughly parallels that of Professor Churchill: fired for academic incompetence and for confounding extremist rhetoric with scholarship. (Click here for Paul Bogdanor’s review of one of his books; click here for CAMERA’s review.) But here is Noam Chomsky, calling Finkelstein “an outstanding scholar”:

3. Finkelstein and Churchill are familiar to American newspaper readers. Not so Israel Shahak (1933-2001). By himself, Shahak would not at all be notable. He was an obscure instructor of chemistry in Israel, a Holocaust survivor, who, nevertheless, took it into his head that it was the Jews in history who were responsible for most of the calamities that have befallen the human race. I have reviewed his major opus “Jewish History, Jewish Religion, The Weight of Three Thousand Years some years ago; click here for this review. While some of Shahak’s assertions are just funny (“Jewish children are actually taught” to utter a ritual curse when passing a non-Jewish cemetery; “both before and after a meal, a pious Jew ritually washes his hands….On one of these two occasions he is worshiping God… but on the other he is worshiping Satan…”), the bulk of his book is viciously anti-Semitic, no less virulent than the Nazis. And, indeed, all the major anti-Semitic crackpots of our day have taken him up as one of their heroes, the only truly good Jew that they can find.

And Professor Chomsky ? “Shahak is an outstanding scholar, with remarkable insight and depth of knowledge. His work is informed and penetrating, a contribution of great value.” Noam Chomsky. Whatever else there is to be known about Noam Chomsky (there is a lot), this endorsement of Shahak is, to my mind, the most revealing.

Read “The Jews Are Bad,” my review of Shahak.