Aharon Barak is the new "wise Latina"

Looking at the opening statements of the Republican members of the Senate judiciary committee, it appears that, as expected, Elena Kagan's description of former Israeli Supreme Court President Aharon Barak as her "judicial hero" is going to be the "wise Latina" of her confirmation hearings

Here's Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.):

She clerked for Judge Mikva and Justice Marshall, each a well-known liberal activist judge. And she has called Israeli Judge Aharon Barak-who has been described as the most activist judge in the world-her hero.

These judges don’t deny activism; they advocate it. And they openly oppose the idea of a judge as a neutral umpire.

Jon Kyl (R. Ariz.):

“Ms. Kagan has called Israeli Supreme Court Justice Aharon Barak her ‘judicial hero.’ Justice Barak is widely acknowledged as someone ‘who took an activist approach to judging.’

“One respected judge, Richard Posner, described Barak’s tenure on the Israeli Supreme Court as ‘creat[ing] . . . a degree of judicial power undreamed of even by our most aggressive Supreme Court justices.’

Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.):

Your judicial hero is an interesting guy. You’re going to have a lot of explaining to do to me about why you picked Judge Barak as your hero because when I read his writings, it’s a bit disturbing about his view of what a judge is supposed to do for society as a whole, but I’m sure you’ll have good answers and I look forward to that discussion.

I'm not. In fact I'm willing to bet good money that Kagan and the White House have prepared aswers to the Barak question that shed absolutely no light on her views on judicial activism. The whole Barak issue may be a little strange, but if the Obama administration is going to pick a Supreme Court nominee whose views on a range of key issues are largely a mystery, they can't really complain when Senators go on these fishing expeditions.

Mark Wilson/Getty Images


The West Bank's Danica Patricks?

While stoppages and barricades stymie the "Freedom Flotillas" en route to Gaza, the "Speed Sisters" -- an eight-woman speed-racing troupe breaking onto the driving scene in the West Bank -- are revving up to shatter barriers at high speeds.

These unfearing females -- comprised of Christians and Muslims from ages 18 to 39 -- competed last Friday in the "Speed Test," a car race in the West Bank city of Ramallah that makes the typical NASCAR loop look like child's play. Thousands of fans attended the event to cheer on the seventy helmet-clad contestants as they navigated through treacherous obstacles, spinning loops, and serpentine pathways. And these eight women, gripping the wheels with fingerless gloves that accentuate their brightly painted fingernails, may have particularly piqued the crowd's interest: they are the first female team to enter the Speed Test. The Speed Sisters follow in the footsteps of the one female contestant -- now the group's coach -- who raced in the first competition five years ago.

While racing, many of the Speed Sisters wear t-shirts emblazoned with the British flag to pay homage to their sponsor, the British consulate in East Jerusalem. It is the consulate's personnel that facilitated the creation of the women's team, and its budget that subsidized about $8000 worth of training, coaches, and car refurbishing -- all part of a campaign to foster development in the West Bank and other communities of Palestinian refugees. But even with a financier, the women's road to the finish line is a bumpy one: they share a donated hatch-back that pales in comparison to the other high-powered BMWs and Mercedes on the track, and they face doubt and skepticism from their male counterparts.

Regardless, this strong female showing in a male-dominated arena is inspiring in such a conservative Muslim society -- especially one in which mounting political strife can often preclude a focus on social equity.