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Did Elena Kagan really pal around with 'the worst judge on the planet'?

I think some of the concerns about Elena Kagan's "blank slate" judicial record are understandable, but if this is the best line of attack Senate Republicans have against her, I don't think she has a whole lot to worry about: 

[Aharon] Barak, the retired president of the Supreme Court of Israel, has advocated an expansive role for the judiciary in his home country. But in this country, he has emerged over the past few days as a kind of liberal judicial villain for Republicans and conservatives, who are trying to turn Ms. Kagan’s praise for him against her.

In 2006, while dean of Harvard Law School, Ms. Kagan introduced Judge Barak during an award ceremony as “my judicial hero.” She added, “He is the judge or justice in my lifetime whom, I think, best represents and has best advanced the values of democracy and human rights, of the rule of law and of justice.”[...]

Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, on Thursday called Ms. Kagan’s introduction “very troubling” and suggested it “might provide real insight into her approach to the law.”

On Wednesday, Judge Robert Bork, whose own Supreme Court nomination in 1987 resulted in a Senate vote against confirmation, said Judge Barak “may be the worst judge on the planet, the most activist,” and argued that Ms. Kagan’s admiration for him is “disqualifying in and of itself.”

First of all, Barak advocates an expansive role for the judiciary in a country without a written constitution, so his views aren't really analogous to the U.S. court system. And noted judicial activist Antonin Scalia has also praised him.

Secondly, can Robert Bork really believe that Barak is the "worst judge on the planet"? That would mean that Iran's "judge of death," Abolghasem Salavat is a superior jurist to the former chief justice of the Israeli Supreme Court. I'd love to hear what the good folks at AIPAC have to say about that one.  

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Stalin's hometown tears down his statue

Stalin's postmortem downfall was (quite literally) on display last night in Gori, Georgia, where a statue of the Soviet leader was dismantled from its decades-old perch in the square of Uncle Joe's hometown. The unceremonious removal -- conducted without announcement or fanfare in the dead of night -- sounded strangely reminiscent of a criminal enterprise (albeit one carried out by amateur vandals). Stalin's unexpected departure, however, came at the directive of the city's parliament, which explained its decision as a necessary product of modernization. Even President Mikheil Saakashvili weighed in to express his approval: "A memorial to Stalin," he declared in televised remarks, "has no place in the Georgia of the 21st Century."

Saakashvili's assessment isn't as cantankerous as it may sound -- in fact, Stalin-bashers in Gori are by all measures behind the curve. After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, rioters across the crumbling USSR eagerly demolished all signs of the former leader (à la Baghdad in 2003), but Georgians in Gori staunchly resisted the revisionist portrait of their homegrown hero: Hundreds of locals reportedly gathered to protect the statue against its would-be defilers. Stalin's corpse was removed from its original resting place inside Red Square in 1961, just a few years after its entombment; half a century later, what's thought to be the last remaining statue of the leader in its original locale has finally come down.  

Of course, these Georgians aren't merely catching up with a trend; they plan to take their protest one step further. In a not-so-subtle gesture to their neighbors, the now-ousted statue will be replaced by a memorial for Georgian soldiers who died in the country's 2008 war with Russia.

The now-dismantled Gori Stalin made FP's list of the world's ugliest statues in April. 

-/AFP/Getty Images