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Balls, Strikes and Empathy

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"We expect a judge to merely call balls and strikes? Maybe so, maybe not. But we certainly don't expect them to sympathize with one party over the other, and that's where empathy comes from." -- Senator Tom Coburn

Yesterday, in Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation hearings, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee used the phrase "balls and strikes" 11 times, "umpire" or "umpires" 16 times, and "playing field" twice. Someone once asked Aimee Mann how to write a bad song. "Gambling imagery," Mann replied. I kept thinking about that, yesterday. You hear the same puerile baseball analogy four, five, six, eleven times, you start thinking: Aimee Mann is wrong; I would kill for some tumbling dice.

Or maybe something about video poker, just to see if William Bennett is paying attention.

They've got to give the balls and strikes thing a rest. She's replacing David Souter, not Benito Santiago.

And justice isn't a game and a Supreme Court Justice isn't an umpire. That's an imbecilic analogy. If all judges did was read the rulebook we'd still have segregation. And that would be bad. Because all our best baseball clichés would be stuck in the Negro Leagues.

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Speaking of America's past, when everything was perfect, and white men weren't constantly oppressed by Latina women, this Sunday it'll be sixty years since Frank Murphy died.

Justice Frank Murphy served on the Supreme Court for nine years. He was an extraordinary judge, a compassionate human being and a terrible umpire. The joke during his tenure was that justice was "tempered with Murphy." He was a champion of free speech, of civil rights, of workers' rights, of racial and sexual equality. He wrote the ruling that said picketing was a form of speech and dissented when Japanese-Americans were interned by FDR, the president who appointed him. And he wrote:

This is a time to strengthen our civil liberties--to freshen our understanding of them and to redouble our efforts to extend them in full to every member of our democracy...from the poorest laborer to the wealthiest man in the land. That is the American way. It is--this idea that liberty must be for all--the finest thing that America has given to civilization.

And when he died, Harry Truman said:

His opinions were ever tempered with a deep sense of justice and righteousness and an abiding love for his fellow man.

Tom Coburn would have hated Frank Murphy. But this is a better country because he was on the Supreme Court. Maybe there's room for another judge like that.

It's almost like Frank Murphy was kind of a human being, and John Roberts, who came up with the "balls and strikes" thing, is just a prick.

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"Now we must study her record and philosophy carefully to ensure that she understands the proper role of the judge as impartial umpire - not pitcher or catcher." -- Sen. David Vitter

Catcher (n.) 1. The bottom partner in anal intercourse. The pitcher is the top one. -- Glossary of Gay Slang Terms

Oh, David! You and your bottom!