Flags at half-staff to honor Justice Antonin Scalia

February 15, 2016

U.S. Flag flew at half staff outside the Supreme Court on Sunday, February 14, 2016, in honor of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, who died February 13.

U.S. Flag flew at half staff outside the Supreme Court on Sunday, February 14, 2016, in honor of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, who died February 13. VOA image.

President Barack Obama ordered flags to be flown half-staff to honor Justice Antonin Scalia, who died February 13.  The half staff honor continues through the end of the day on which Justice Scalia is interred.

The order from the White House:

Presidential Proclamation: Death of Antonin Scalia

As a mark of respect for Antonin Scalia, Associate Justice of the United States, I hereby order, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America, including section 7 of title 4, United States Code, that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and on all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions until sunset, on the day of interment.  I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same period at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirteenth day of February, in the year of our Lord two thousand sixteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and fortieth.


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The mourning period in which flags are to be flown half staff probably will include Presidents Day, February 15. Flags flown in honor of Presidents Day 2016 should be flown half staff. Where flags cannot be lowered, fly the flag as it is normally displayed.

Justice Ginsburg errs, wonderfully

July 8, 2009

David Bernstein writing at the Volokh Conspiracy corrects Justice Ginsburgh.  She told a reporter for the New York Times that she thought nominee Sonia Sotomayor might be, when confirmed, the first justice who didn’t speak English as a first language at home.

Not so fast, Bernstein said.  In a wonderful and fun display of historical knowledge and research, suggests several justices from earlier appointments who spoke something other than English first.

  • Justice Louis Brandeis, German –
    “I’m not sure what language was primarily spoken in the Brandeis household, but I would guess German, based on the following information: Brandeis’s parents were German-speaking immigrants; Brandeis attended a German-language elementary school, the ‘German and English Academy;’ the school was co-founded by his father, suggesting that his father had great fondness for the German language and culture; and Brandeis spent two of his teenage years studying in Germany.”
  • Maybe Justice Arthur Goldberg, Yiddish –
    “It’s also possible that Arthur Goldberg’s parents, immigrants from a shtetl in Ukraine, spoke Yiddish at home.”
  • Justice Felix Frankfurter almost definitely, German –
    ” . . . a commenter points out that Felix Frankfurter’s family didn’t arrive in the U.S. from Vienna until Frankfurter was twelve years old.”
  • Justice Clarence Thomas, Gullah –
    ” . . . I remembered that Justice Thomas’s first language is Gullah, an Afro-English creole dialect”

Thomas spoke Gullah originally?  When we shared a wall on Senate staff (he on John Danforth’s staff, I on Orrin Hatch’s), we also shared lunch on a few occasions, and meetings on energy and environment issues.  I was struck by his great enunciation, the clear way that he used his nearly baritone voice to make English work.  I wonder whether he can still command Gullah — it’s got to be one of the most minority languages on Earth right now.  Fascinating.

Are there other Supreme Court justices who may have spoken a language other than English, first?  Historians?  Got candidates? Justice Warren Burger’s family was of German descent, and in Minnesota, when he was born, it would not have been uncommon for an entire town to have German as its primary language.  I haven’t found anything to suggest that’s the case, though. Justice William J. Brennan’s parents were Irish immigrants, so there is an outside chance they spoke some Gaelic dialect.

I wouldn’t be surprised if we could find another justice who served between 1840 and 1960 with German as a first language.

How about Cardozo, and a Sephardic dialect, or Portuguese?  Any justices of French descent?  Welsh descent?  Readers, help out!

Texas Darlin’ on Sotomayor: Still ugly

June 15, 2009

I can’t bite my tongue and let idiots rage on unfairly and inaccurately about important matters.

Earlier I noted the difficulties with reality at Texas Darlin’.  The warden of the blog dropped by and suggested I should join the discussion there if I had something to say.  It always ends badly.  Someone there says something plug ugly stupid, and I note the facts.  My posts get edited, or censored.

Some post linked there, and I looked.  I couldn’t resist.  The owner and commenters are flailing around like a bass in the boat, trying to make a case that Sonia Sotomayor shouldn’t be a justice of the Supreme Court.  They have convinced themselves that she’s a racist, she’s sexist, she got where she is solely because of affirmative action and the Great Cabal that Runs the World.  And they are stuffing tinfoil in their ears now — it makes their hats leak, but it keeps them from hearing anything that might upset them.

I expect they’ll remove my posts soon.  If you care, I’ve made some defense of Sonia Sotomayor, and I copied the posts below the fold.  Texas Darlin’ inmates correspondents repeat every canard about Sotomayor you can imagine.  And some you can’t imagine.

Texas Darlin’ is neither.

I am persuaded to do a series of posts on the nomination of Sotomayor.  In the interim, here’s my attempt to square things at Texas Darlin’, below the fold.

Read the rest of this entry »

Fillmore wasn’t the only one with White House/bath tub troubles

June 9, 2009

Jim Butler alerted me to this little piece at I Can Has Cheezburger?  Notice the historical/mathematical error, explained below:

Yeah, it’s funny.  But Taft didn’t serve in all three branches of the federal government. He was never a member of Congress.  He served in the executive branch and the judicial branch, at least twice in each, but he never served in the legislative branch, in Congress.

Taft was collector of taxes for the IRS, Ohio state judge, Solicitor General of the U.S., judge on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals for the U.S., chairman of the commission to organize a government for the Philippines after the Spanish-American War, and then Governor-General of the Philippines, Secretary of War for Teddy Roosevelt, Acting Secretary of State, Governor of Cuba, Co-chairman of the National War Labor Board in World War I, and then Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, but never a member of either the House of Representatives or the Senate.

The LOLphoto is still funny.

Oh.  Kenny just found the same thing posted at Kitchen Pundit.   Still wrong.  Still funny.

What “bathtub trouble?” Well, yeah, we ought to explain that.  The story is that Taft was so large — 330 pounds plus as president — that he once got stuck in a White House bathtub, and consequently had a much larger tub installed there.  Is the story accurate?

Here’s a news story of Taft’s bathing troubles post-presidency, from the New York Times:

CAPE MAY, N.J., June 18 [1915]. — Ex-President Taft, who came here yesterday as the guest of the Pennsylvania Bankers’ Association, took a bath in his apartments in the Hotel Cape May. He failed properly to consider the size of the average seashore hotel bathtub, however, with the result that when he got into the tub the water overflowed and trickled down upon the heads of the guests in the dining room.

And the White House?  Here’s a photo of the specially-made Taft bathtub just before its installation at the White House, about 1911:

Four men show the size of President Tafts bathtub, 1911 - White House Museum.org photo

The National Archives and Records Administration has an exhibit right now at the Archives building on “BIG,” celebrating 75 years of NARA.  Included are orders for big tubs for Taft, and a replica of the giant tub installed at the White House (which was broken when it we removed in 1948 for renovation).

As evidence that William Howard Taft was the biggest man to serve as President of the United States, the exhibit presents the 1909 order for a bathtub and other items specially ordered to accommodate Taft’s 300-plus-pound frame. In January 1909, two months after being elected President (he was inaugurated on March 4, 1909), Taft boarded the USS North Carolina to set sail to inspect the Panama Canal construction zone. The ship was outfitted specially for him. The captain ordered the following items: “1 brass double bedstead of extra length; 1 superior spring mattress, extra strong; 1 bath tub, 5 feet 5 inches in length, over rolled rim and of extra width.” Later newspaper accounts (and a photograph) revealed that the bathtub was built on an even bigger scale—that it had “pondlike dimensions . . . [it] will hold four ordinary men and is the largest ever manufactured . . . the tub is 7 feet 1 inch long, 41 inches wide and weighs a ton.”

Soon after leaving the presidency, Taft lost 70 pounds, which he maintained throughout the remainder of his life. In 1921, Taft was appointed Chief Justice of the United States, becoming the only person to hold the highest office in both the executive and judicial branches.

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