Sotomayor Is a Fast Learner
Her membership in an elite no-boys-allowed club isn't problematic from an ethical perspective, but...
...she said she didn't want questions about it to "distract anyone from my qualifications and record."
Norwegian Plaudits Go Only So Far
I've said it before; I'll say it again. When you predict a recession every year, you're going to be right occasionally. On average, every 7-8 years. And if you play those odds, rather than endure the inglorious years-long process of developing actual predictive capacities, you'll ultimately be hailed as a rarefied genius.
Oddly enough, if a lazy meteorologist were to predict a freak storm every day and get lucky every several years, we wouldn't likely laud him with lofty global praise once that storm eventually, inevitably makes landfall.
Sadly, in the messy world of economic prognostication, the impulse is to do precisely that for the perennial doomsayer once his gloomily stopped clock occasionally coincides with the actual time.
Worse, the natural impulse of an answer-thirsty populace is to blindly suckle at that occasionally on-point teat of accidental accuracy thereafter, without much thought given to the patently abysmal predictive records that so often silently sully such ostensible econo-prophets.
Longtime readers surely will have already guessed that I'm speaking of New York Times "Conscientious Liberal" and Nobel laureate (stop giggling, it's rude) Paul Krugman.
Krugman has recently aimed his considerable acumen in the direction of SCOTUS nominee Sonia Sotomayor, assuring this wary republic that this woman - who presumably wields enviable stores of empathy - was merely attempting to be "entertaining" when she maintained that Latina women are judicially more capable than boorish white males.
"This was a speech," New York Times columnist Paul Krugman pointed out Sunday on ABC's "This Week." "The famous line comes from a speech where she was trying to be entertaining...Have I somewhere along the line said, I’d like to think that bright Jewish kids make the best economists. I probably have somewhere along the line. It doesn’t mean anything. …The judicial record shows nothing of this."
[Pause for laughter]
If there's one thing that's been missing from the Supreme Court in recent decades, it's been the ability to laugh.
Far be it from me to differ with the esteemed Dr. Krugman. Instead, read Sotomayor's speech and decide for yourself if her comments about the superior jurisprudence of Latina over Whitey elicit the heartiness of guffaw for which Krugman must be aiming.
As a refresher and for posterity, if you can't be bothered to click the link:
Second, I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life.
Sonia Sotomayor: Supreme Empath Nominee
Update: Sotomayor at Duke Law School in 2005:
"Court of Appeals is where policy is made... and I know this is on tape and I should never say that, because we don't make law, I know..."
SCOTUS Vacancy Scouting Report
Michelle runs down Obama's top three likely picks for Souter's replacement: Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, and Diane Wood.
Meanwhile, Drudge is reminding us that Obama, Biden, and Clinton all supported the failed filibuster of Alito in 2006. The purely ideological obstruction, as Ted Kennedy noted at the time, was based on the opinion of a sub-minority of Senators that Alito "does not share the values of equality and justice that make this country strong."
"And I Hate... the F***ing Eagles, Man."
Eagles founder Don Henley and Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell sued Assemblyman Chuck DeVore and a campaign worker Friday in federal court in Los Angeles, alleging that DeVore infringed on the copyright of their 1984 hit "The Boys of Summer."
According to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court, DeVore, R-Irvine, and his Internet strategist Justin Hart created an online video in which new lyrics criticizing President Barack Obama replace Henley's words.
"The unauthorized use of Henley and Campbell's copyrighted work is synchronized with a series of photographic images of DeVore, Hart and President Barack Obama, among others," the lawsuit contends.
"Henley and Campbell did not, and would not, authorize the use of their song for this purpose," the suit said. "Viewers might also conclude that Henley and Campbell are political supporters of DeVore, which they are not."
DeVore is seeking the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat held by Barbara Boxer.
Henley, a longtime vocal supporter of Democratic causes, has drawn boos from fans in Orange County over the years for making political comments between songs during concerts.
E.M. Zanotti pens a preemptive amicus brief, in case it reaches the appellate stage.
"Mr. Henley has clearly missed that parody is a protected use of copyrighted material, through both the fair use exception and the laws explicit recognition that a derivative work, which this is, is a new work and therefore not subject to the copyright protections on the original work. Also, Mr. Henley clearly missed that this parody may, in fact, be better than the original song."
Update: Justin Hart (one of the two defendants) weighs in further.
One one side of the coin we have an excellent case. This was a parody (using a Don Henley son as a big trouble making lib) and a satire (on Obama). The former being absolutely protected, the latter being less so but still viable. Take, for instance, the Capitol Steps. Their Wiki page indicates that they never ask for permission for their parodies and satires.Still, there is the case against Jib Jab, which didn't turn out that way.
In short, it's relatively unsettled law in many respects. But I still feel confident we can go forward with it.
Update: More from Hart on the dead video link.
Here's the lowdown:1) The YouTube video was pulled early last week at the request of Henley2) We posted it on another streaming account (Hipcast)3) We filed an objection to YouTube pulling the item4) Henley had 10 days to rescind or file an actual lawsuit (which he did)5) Hipcast subsequently pulled it without the ability to counter (the jerks)6) We posted our second video of a Henley song "All She Wants to do is Tax, Tax" (which received 25,000 views)7) Henley doesn't own the rights to that but the REAL owners yanked it from YouTube yesterdayWe haven't decided whether to counter that one yet.Getting off the phone with a potential lawyer for our side we feel even more confident. The orchestration was a karaoke track from iTunes "(in the style of Don Henley)"He says our case is even stronger since Henley's lawyers indicated that they would have NEVER allowed permission for the use of the song. Which indicates that it's not about money but about politics.
Spitzer's VIP Streetwalker Scores Record Deal, Pun
After a longer-than-expected delay, Client #9's best gal has finally embarked on her singing/dancing/writing/acting/modeling/handbag-designing/celebreality career.
The call girl who cost New York [Democratic] governor ELIOT SPITZER his job has signed a music deal with Violator Records - the same company behind rappers BUSTA RHYMES and MISSY ELLIOT.
Ashlee Dupree shot to fame when her relationship with married politician Spitzer hit the headlines in March (08).
An aspiring singer, Dupree benefited from the exposure and her songs Move Ya Body and What We Want, both posted on her MySpace.com webpage, went on to receive over 3 million internet hits.
And now Dupree has landed a record deal with Violator, according to the New York Post.
A source confirms to AllHipHop.com, "She deserved a fair shake and Violator isn't scared of the controversy."
This Should Make Liberals Happy
Despite attempts by movementarian politicians to selectively quash it, the Bill of Rights was upheld today by the Supreme Court.
Answering a 127-year old constitutional question, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to have a gun, at least in one’s home. The Court, splitting 5-4, struck down a District of Columbia ban on handgun possession. Although times have changed since 1791, Justice Antonin Scalia said for the majority, “it is not the role of this Court to pronounce the Second Amendment extinct.”
Examining the words of the Amendment, the Court concluded “we find they guarantee the individual right to possess and carry weaons in case of confrontation” — in other words, for self-defense. “The inherent right of self-defense has been central to the Second Amendment right,” it added.
The individual right interpretation, the Court said, ”is strongly confirmed by the historical background of the Second Amendment,” going back to 17th Century England, as well as by gun rights laws in the states before and immediately after the Amendment was put into the U.S. Constitution.
What Congress did in drafting the Amendment, the Court said, was “to codify a pre-existing right, rather than to fashion a new one.”
It's a little frightening that 44% of justices dissented, but this is still a nice win for fans of the Constitution.
Ashley Dupre Learned a Trick Or Two From Her Gubernatorial Trick
It seems Eliot Spitzer's call girl has a beef with Girls Gone Wild founder Joe Francis. And in a move certain to make Client #9 beam with pride, she's taking him to court in pursuit of exorbitant self-enrichment.
The lawsuit seeks more than $10 million in damages. In legal documents, Dupré alleges that Girls Gone Wild representatives approached her while she was vacationing in Florida in 2003, offered her alcohol and cajoled her into exposing her breasts for their cameras when she was just 17 (and not of proper legal age to sign a release form allowing her to be filmed).
Since then, the suit claims, Girls Gone Wild has illegally exploited Dupré's name, picture, voice and likeness in a number of deceptive ad campaigns and on Web sites.
Francis said he was "surprised and in fact amazed" by the lawsuit, noting he has not released new video of Dupré "due to corporate policy of not using footage of individuals younger than 18" and asserting she gave her consent on video, providing identification.
"She's seeking $10 million for topless photos taken in front of a room full of people, including two newspapers and multiple crews we had in the room," adds Francis. "These images were taken in public places and contain no sexual contact. We expect to triumph in this matter."
Separation Of Powers, New York Style - Part II
We've only had three days to digest the news of the chief judge of New York suing the state legislature for not raising judicial salaries (or rather, for attempting to tie judicial raises to raises for themselves).
If that wasn't litigiously bizarre enough, today we learn that State Supreme Court Justice Jack Battaglia is jumping across the bar as well, by bringing a $1 million slip-and-fall suit against New York State (and a janitor).
A politically connected Brooklyn judge plans to file a $1 million lawsuit against the city after slipping on a just-mopped floor in his own courthouse, the Daily News has learned.
Supreme Court Justice Jack Battaglia - who hears civil cases and earns $136,000 a year - is even targeting the courthouse cleaning lady who wielded the mop, according to legal papers.
The judge fractured his knee in the Nov. 9, 2007, tumble outside room 452 and was forced to undergo surgery and physical therapy.
In his Jan. 31 notice of claim, Battaglia accuses the city of "negligently using a mop bucket and wringer" and "negligently using a mop and soapy water" to create a "dangerous and hazardous traplike condition."
Battaglia, who is the brother of Brooklyn Democratic boss Vito Lopez's girlfriend, did not return a call for comment. Lopez also couldn't be reached.
Battaglia's sister Angela is also New York's City Planning Commissioner. She and cohabitational beau Assemblyman Lopez have, as the Daily News put it, "occasionally drawn fire from snoopy journalists who contend the duo uses its combined clout to win friends and pork-barrel funding from City Hall and Albany."
Previously: Separation Of Powers, New York Style
Separation Of Powers, New York Style
Perhaps envious of the dignity and decorum with which the state's executive branch oozes, New York's judicial and legislative branches have engaged each other in a terribly dignified slap fight.
The state's chief judge [Judith Kaye], having failed to persuade the Legislature to grant her a pay raise, is bringing her battle before a fellow state judge, filing a lawsuit asking him to give himself, herself, and their colleagues pay raises of tens of thousands of dollars each.
It all sounds rather self-dealing, but in fact it was the legislature's self-dealing ways that prompted the suit.
It all sounds rather self-dealing, but in fact it was the legislature's self-dealing ways that prompted the suit.
Repeated efforts in Albany to boost judicial pay have foundered because legislators have linked the question of pay raises for judges to pay raises for themselves. "This situation is not only untenable and disgraceful, it is unconstitutional," the complaint states.
New York Supreme Court judges are paid $139,600 per year, a salary that hasn't increased in nine years. Adjusting for inflation, that amounts to a 21% pay cut, which the suit alleges violates the state's constitutional provision that judges' salaries "shall not be diminished."
The Republican-led State Senate has already passed legislation that would increase judges' salaries, while the Democrat-led Assembly has yet to get on board.
The Senate majority leader, Joseph Bruno, responded to news of the suit with a statement. "Judges don't need to sue to get a pay raise, they need to step up pressure on the State Assembly to act on either of two judges' salary increase bills already approved by the State Senate," he said. "Last April, the Senate passed a bill (S.5313) that included Chief Justice Kaye's pay raise proposal. It would provide salary increases for state justices and establish commissions to review future compensation. In December, the Senate passed a nearly identical bill (S.6550) to raise judges' pay. The Assembly did not act on these, or any other, judges' pay raise bill. If it had, this issue could have been resolved long ago."
S5313 was a nearly perfect party line vote, with 33 of 34 Senate Republicans and just 1 of 28 Senate Democrats voting for the pay raise.
Whales, Dolphins Suing Oil Company
Somewhere in a sprawling house in North Carolina, little cash register dollar signs are popping up in John Edwards' eyes.
CEBU CITY, Philippines -- In what could be a landmark case in the country, resident mammals of the Tañon Strait have been named petitioners in the injunction case filed on Tuesday before the Supreme Court against three Cabinet officials and a foreign oil exploration firm.
Among the animal petitioners are toothed whales, dolphins, porpoises and other cetaceans that populate the Tañon Strait protected seascape between Negros and Cebu islands.
The mammals are represented by environment lawyers Gloria Ramos and Liza Osorio as "legal guardians of the lesser life forms and as stewards of God's creations.
Say What You Will About Norman Hsu...
But the man is nothing if not bold.
Disgraced political donor Norman Hsu wasn't hiding from anyone over the past few years, his lawyers say. If California authorities really wanted to find him, they could have asked Hillary Rodham Clinton or one of the other prominent Democrats he showered with cash donation.
Hsu is asking a judge to toss his 15-year-old felony fraud conviction, arguing that his right to a speedy trial was violated because authorities weren't actively pursuing him.
Yes, Hsu is arguing that his due process rights were trampled because he'd undertaken the life of a fugitive and the state wasn't holding up its end of the bargain by chasing him diligently enough.
I have to agree that the authorities did an inexplicably dismal job in his pursuit, but I'm not sure I buy that this failure somehow disadvantaged Mr. Hsu. Even if he can convince a judge to swallow this Sixth Amendment-wrapped turd of a premise, it seems moot, given that Hsu was duly (and speedily) charged, pleaded out, and convicted of this crime back in 1992. When Hsu cheesed it, he wasn't awaiting trial, but simply the formal sentencing of his agreed upon punishment of three years in prison.
If [Hsu's attorney James] Brosnahan fails get the case dismissed outright, he says he will then ask that Hsu be allowed to withdraw his 1992 plea because the judge who accepted it and was scheduled to sentence Hsu before he fled has since retired. If Hsu succeeds in taking back his plea, his case goes back to square one and could then go to trial.
"Mr. Hsu has the right to have the same judge who accepted his plea impose sentence," Brosnahan wrote in court papers.
Again, didn't Mr. Hsu himself cede that right by fleeing justice for the remainder of that judge's career?
However that plays out, Hsu has plenty of fresh troubles, in the form of multiple federal felony charges alleging his orchestration of Ponzi schemes and violation of federal election laws, and a pair of lawsuits brought by investor groups in California and New York, accusing Hsu of swindling them out of more than $60 million.
Still, I would imagine the prior felony fraud conviction could have an impact on sentencing for any additional convictions, which may be why Hsu is eager to wriggle out of it.
Any prosecutors or criminal defense attorneys feel free to weigh in.
Hillary Defends Possible Straw Donor Cash With Disingenuous Straw Man Argument
Judging by Hillary's refusal to return the hundreds of thousands in Hsu-tainted funds that she raked in through her Senate campaign and HillPAC, and now her insistence that she'll keep (and keep on keeping) the questionably princely sums that are pouring out of low income, possibly non-existent Chinatown residents, one has to presume that she's decided the scandal has finally hit that magical Clintonian critical complexity, beyond which neither the public's attention span nor the media's already mild appetite for Democrat-damaging stories will hold her to any kind of reasonable standard of conduct.
She took advantage of the controversy's complexity this weekend in a defiant speech that addressed not the impropriety of keeping questionable funds, without so much of a second look even after serious questions were raised about the legality of those contributions, but the non-issue of the propriety of accepting donations from first-generation Americans.
A defiant Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton says she has no intention of curtailing her fundraising in the Chinese community despite reports that she accepted cash from dozens of questionable donors in Chinatown earlier this year.
“I represent New York and New York is a symbol of the success of immigrants coming to America,” the senator told reporters Saturday after addressing supporters at the Oak Park Elementary School in Des Moines.
“I am pleased to have a lot of first-generation American support as well as people who have been longtime involved in the political process … I’m going to keep reaching out to everybody in our country. I want to be a president to everybody.”
Earlier this year, Clinton returned about $7,000 of about $380,000 raised during a fundraiser that targeted donors from China’s east coast after campaign officials raised red flags about the donors. It’s not clear whether other refunds will be issued.
It's a good try. And possibly shrewd, in a wholly deceitful way. Hillary's disingneuous straw man argument may work if people are losing enough of the plot to swallow the idea that what she's being assailed for is accepting donations from hard-working immigrants. That, she can spin into an "I'll champion the underdogs, no matter how much they the establishment tries to stop me!" cry. But of course that's not what's at issue.
As with the Norman Hsu scandal (which I suspect can be tied to the Chinatown situation at some level), the problem here is one of significant irregularities among Clinton's donors, specifically an apparent financial inability of many of the tightly clustered contributors to afford such largesse. In the Hsu case, the tainted funds came from two sources - alleged straw donors who were reimbursed by Hsu and investors in the New York and Orange County investment funds who were pressured by Hsu to contribute to Clinton in order to participate in what they thought were legitimate business deals.
The specifics of the peculiar Chinatown donations have yet to come into focus, but based on the L.A. Times' investigation and follow-up by the New York Post, the contributors in question either cannot be found (sometimes because their addresses don't exist), hold minimum wage jobs that typically wouldn't support 4-figure political contributions, are not registered to vote, and/or specifically admitted they had been reimbursed for their donations.
The Chinatown cluster involves some 150 donors, suggesting it represents a sophisticated, large-scale, coordinated effort to circumvent federal election laws. As in the Hsu case, the implications here are severe enough to warrant a more mature response from the Clinton campaign than a dishonest dismissal of the problem as one of ethnic intolerance.
"We do not ethnically profile donors," growled [campaign spokesman] Howard Wolfson. "Asian-Americans in Chinatown and Flushing have the same right to contribute as every other American."
Agreed. Just as they're subject to the same prohibitions from violating election laws as every other American.
If, as appears to be the case, Hillary has made the decision to bank on the scandal's complexity to save her not only from having to answer for these ubiquitous irregularities, but even from having to return the tainted funds, she may be in for a surprise. The public's Clinton scandal stamina may not have improved, but as the sordid details and immense scope of Hillary's fundraising problems continue to unfold, more and more mainstream media outlets are taking an interest.
Surely, she could wriggle out of almost any underlying impropriety, but overt denials, dismissals, and failures to address the irregularities as they splash across the front pages (i.e. precisely what we're seeing now in the Chinatown brush-off and the sloppy and incomplete Hsu refunds) may make for a stickier mess.
Hillary says she wants to be "President to everybody." She can start by showing everybody that she's dependable and conscientious enough to deal responsibly with serious issues when they present themselves, not sweep them under the rug or shrug them off as the product of the prejudices of others.
Want To Get Out Of Jury Duty?
It's as easy as visiting this blog.
(HT: La Shawn Barber)
Chief Justice Roberts Hospitalized After Suffering Grand Mal Seizure
Very disconcerting and apparently not the first time, though a SCOTUS spokeswoman says there's no cause for concern, following a medical work-up.
WASHINGTON - Chief Justice John Roberts suffered a seizure at his summer home in Maine on Monday, causing a fall that resulted in minor scrapes, Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said.
He will remain in a hospital in Maine overnight.
Roberts, 52, was taken by ambulance to the Penobscot Bay Medical Center, where he underwent a "thorough neurological evaluation, which revealed no cause for concern," Arberg said in a statement.
Roberts had a similar episode in 1993, she said.
Ace offers up some highly relevant perspective.
The speculation is that he's epileptic. Let me say, as an epileptic who gets grand mal seizures, he is epileptic. One seizure, maybe, possibly, it's some other malady, some accute condition.
A second one, it's chronic, and you're epileptic.
In case anyone has any doubt, it is a quite livable condition if medicine can control it (which medicine can, in most cases, though it might take a couple of tries to get the right medicine to the patient).
I'd also suggest Atkins for Roberts. Low-carb diets are often prescribed to young epileptics -- high carbs, high sugar meals tend to provoke seizures -- and since I've been on Atkins or semi-Atkins I've had no seizures and very few "halos" (pre-seizure like problems).
Via SCOTUSblog, the Supreme Court has released this statement:
"Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., took a fall about 2 p.m. today near his summer home in Maine after suffering what doctors describe as a benign idiopathic seizure. He experienced minor scrapes in the fall. The Chief Justice is fully recovered from the incident. He was taken by ambulance to Penobscot Bay Medical Center in Rockport, Maine, where he underwent a thorough neurological evaluation, which revealed no cause for concern. He will remain overnight at the medical center as a precaution. The Chief Justice experienced a similar event in 1993.
"The Chief Justice is 52 years old and was appointed to the Court in 2005."
Sic Semper Tyrannis
[T]oday’s verdict represented a moment of triumph and catharsis for many Iraqis after decades of suffering under Mr. Hussein’s tyrannical rule.
“I feel happy,” said a 31-year-old Shiite shop owner, who was smoking apple-flavored tobacco on the sidewalk in Karrada, a well-to-do neighborhood in central Baghdad. “I think he got his punishment. There was no Iraqi house that didn’t have damage because of Saddam Hussein.”
Just for fun, let's all question the timing.
Hot Air has video of the President's reaction.
POW! Right in the Khalid.
Today, the Bush administration announced that 9/11 masterminds and other high-value al Qaeda detainees will be given prisoner of war status by the United States, granting them protection under the Geneva Convention.
The 14 such prisoners now held by the CIA in previously unconfirmed secret prisons, which include 9/11 architect Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah, and Ramzi Bin Al Shibh, will be transferred to the Department of Defense where their fates will be determined by whether or not Congress authorizes military tribunals for such POWs.
Therein lies the shrewdness of the move, which superficially strikes as a doveward one. How many legislators are likely to support anything less than full military commissions for these pinnacles of human garbage that wrought unspeakable war crimes on thousands of innocent American civilians?
If the legislation paves the way for tribunals for other detained terrorists, Salim Hamdan (Osama's driver, Gitmo detainee, and successful Supreme Court petitioner) may be getting a lesson in unintended consequences.
On the prospective legislation, the White House released a fact sheet that included the following:
Legislation Authorizing The Creation Of Military Commissions To Try These Suspected Terrorists For War Crimes
Today, The President Sent Legislation To Congress To Specifically Authorize The Creation Of Military Commissions To Try These Suspected Terrorists For War Crimes. The Bill ensures that these commissions are established in a way that protects our national security and ensures a full and fair trial for the accused. As soon as Congress acts to authorize the military commissions the President proposed, the men our intelligence officials believe orchestrated the deaths of nearly 3,000 Americans on September 11, 2001, can face justice. We will also seek to prosecute those believed to be responsible for the attack on the USS Cole – and an operative believed to be involved in the bombings of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
The Legislation Also Includes Vital Provisions To Preserve Our Ability To Question Key Terrorist Leaders And Operatives. We will continue to hunt down terrorist leaders and operatives. And as more high-ranking terrorists are captured, the CIA program will be crucial to obtaining the life-saving information they can provide.
Ø The Supreme Court's Recent Determination That Common Article Three (CA3) Of The Geneva Conventions Applies To The War With Al Qaida Put In Question The Future Of The CIA Program. CA3 prohibits "outrages upon personal dignity" and "humiliating and degrading treatment." These and other provisions are vague and undefined and could be interpreted in different ways by American and foreign judges.
Ø We Owe Our Military And Intelligence Personnel Involved In Capturing And Questioning Terrorists Clear Rules So They Can Continue To Do Their Jobs And Protect Our People. We are asking Congress to pass legislation that will clarify the rules for our personnel fighting the war on terror. We need to ensure that those questioning the terrorists can continue to do everything within the limits of the law to get information that can save American lives.
Passing This Legislation Is A Top Priority, And We Will Work With Congress To Act Quickly To Strengthen And Clarify Our Laws To Meet The Threats Of A New Era. We will ensure that the CIA program goes forward in a way that follows the law, meets the national security needs of our country, and protects the brave men and women we ask to obtain information that will save innocent lives.
Bringing terrorists to justice - it seems to have a universally agreeable ring to it. Still, I think there's no question that, in the currently polarized political environment, a few agitators will see an angle to work a little mileage out of opposing it.
Frank, commenting at Hot Air, asks perhaps the most pertinent question about Mohammed's state of affairs.
Will the Geneva convention give him a better fitting undershirt?
What's a CourtTV Programmer To Do?
Saddam Hussein's 2nd trial begins today, in which he'll be held to account for his genocidal efforts to extinguish the entirety of Iraq's Kurdish minority. In the grim Anfal campaign, Saddam did successfully wipe out somewhere between 50,000 and 180,000 human beings, with the help of his northern commander and co-defendant Ali Hassan al-Majid, aka "Chemical Ali". This mass murder has gone unanswered for 17 years.
Meanwhile, former schoolteacher John Mark Karr sits in a Los Angeles jail, awaiting transfer to Boulder, Colorado, where he'll be tried in a 10-year old murder case.
Not to say the belated prospective resolution to the JonBenet case isn't newsworthy, but in the grand scheme of things, does it seem reasonable that (according to the scientific Google News story counting method) it commands nearly 3 times the media bandwidth as Saddam's genocidal reckoning?
Moussaoui About To Die a Little Every Day, Maybe a Lot One Day
Following yesterday's verdict that his life be spared, Moussaoui is on his way to the same Colorado Supermax facility (the "Alcatraz of the Rockies") that houses his buddy, shoebomber Richard Reid.
Inmates - a volatile mix of terrorists, murderers, drug dealers, street-gang leaders and mafiosi - have their wrists cuffed behind their backs on the rare occasions when they get to leave their cells, and are always escorted by at least two guards.
About the only place for them to go is the small concrete-walled recreation yard, where they can run laps or use fixed equipment.
Cells feature a sabotage-proof bed, a desk and a stool of poured concrete and a shower, with a spout in the ceiling and a drain in the floor.
A 12-inch black-and-white television in each cell pipes in closed-circuit classes on anger management and parenting. Literacy and religious services are played via video feed.
The combination of living in a concrete box with minimal human contact and no hope of getting out takes an awesome toll on inmates.
Even among the toughest criminals, the prison is notorious. Latin King gang leader Luis Felipe, sentenced to serve life plus 45 years there on murder charges in 1997, shouted at the federal judge, "You're killing me. You have sentenced me to die a little each day."
It seems likely that in any other facility, where there were any regular contact among prisoners, Moussaoui would die completely, probably on his first day.
Keeping [Supermax] prisoners isolated is key to security, as contact between them is "just not safe," said Krista Rear, the facility's public information officer.
Hmm, yeah. I still won't be shocked to wake up to the headline "Moussaoui Killed in Prison" one day soon. Anyone like to take a square in the death pool? Express your pick in number of days survived and be sure to specify manner/implement (shiv, poisoning, suicide, fatal "tune up" by guards, etc.), as this will be used to break any ties.
Elsewhere: Expose the Left has video of victims' families reacting to Moussaoui's sentencing.
"We Just Wanted To See If a Picture of His Face Was Really Under the Word 'Evil'."
No one knows exactly why (perhaps to confirm the spelling of one or more of the words in the phrase "consummate candidate for extermination"), but the jury deliberating the fate of Zacarious Moussaoui asked the judge for a dictionary today. The judge said no, but did offer to help them with any specific definitions they may need.
The jury is in their second day of deliberation, following closing arguments that included a mild argument against dispatching Moussaoui to the hereafter.
Moussaoui's court-appointed defense lawyers, who have been at odds with their client for years, said a death sentence would be giving Moussaoui exactly what he wants an execution at the hands of his enemies and martyrdom.
Moussaoui has said at various times that he believes being executed by the Americans may grant him a path to paradise in the afterlife.
Great, then everybody's happy. What's the hold up? Chop, chop. Hoka hey.
There Can Be Only One
John Roberts gave a speech at the Reagan Library today, at the invitation of of Nancy Reagan, during which he recounted the first conversation he had with his son Jack (you remember Jack) about his new job.
Jack's initial response was apparently, "Daddy, do you get a sword?"
I think Roberts should indeed get a sword. Good call, Jack. After all, Lady Justice gets a sword. Why not Chief Justice?
A Step Back for Tort Reform
The Supreme Court has handed down a 7-1 decision that allows Philadelphia woman Barbara Dolan to sue the U.S. Postal Service for injuries sustained when she tripped over packages left on her porch.
Clarence Thomas was the lone dissenter.
[T]he Federal Tort Claims Act, waives the government's sovereign immunity from suits in circumstances under which a private individual would face liability.
The outcome turned on the phrase "negligent transmission," or, more specifically, on the single word "transmission." If transmitting mail meant the same as delivering mail, as the government argued and the lower courts held, then negligent mail delivery would be covered by the exemption and could not give rise to a lawsuit.
Consequently, Justice Kennedy said, "we think it more likely" that Congress meant to immunize the Postal Service only for injuries caused when mail arrives late, damaged or at the wrong address, or does not arrive at all.
This one came down to the interpretation of the particulars of package remittal, but it should nonetheless prove titillating to trial lawyers everywhere.
John E'wards was just resurrected a little inside.
Speaking of lawyers, lobbyists, and Democrats (oh my), let's not forget the political dynamic at play in the big money game of slippin' and fallin' for dollars:
John E'wards Just Died a Little Inside
Sometimes obstruction can be a lonely game.
Harry Reid learned as much in his bid to block debate on a Senate Bill that could settle (and thus do away with) thousands of pending asbestos lawsuits, one of the holy grails for hungry, hungry trial lawyers.
The bill would create a $140 billion trust fund to compensate victims for asbestos-related medical problems, financed by asbestos manufacturers and their insurers, who could no longer be sued in court. Attorneys' fees would be capped, and payments to victims would be based on the level of exposure and type of disease.
Despite its vast complexities and narrow focus, the bill is politically charged because so many special interests have a stake in it. Major manufacturers, unions, insurance companies and trial lawyers are bitterly divided over whether the fund is fair and workable -- creating conflicting pressures on lawmakers and making the outcome difficult to predict.
Illustrating the efficacy of Reid's leadership, the Senate voted 98-1 in favor of moving forward with the bill. (Reid couldn't even convince himself; Senators Inhofe and Coburn, both Oklahoma Republicans, were the Nay and non-vote, respectively.)
"This bill has been subjected to more analysis and more investigation and more consideration" than any other in Senate history, Specter said.
Reid countered that the fund was "doomed to failure" and said "one would have to search far and wide to find a bill as bad as this."
Why does the Democratic leader find the bill (whose most ill-affected group is far and away the trial lawyers) so singularly bad?
More at GOP Bloggers
Picking Pickering's Brain
John Hawkins at Right Wing News has posted his interview with retired Judge Charles Pickering (sent to the federal bench by President Bush in a recess appointment after being filibustered by the minority), author of the recently published Supreme Chaos: The Politics of Judicial Confirmation and the Culture War.
Judge Pickering offers keen insights into Constitutional philosophy and the judicial confirmation process. Very much worth the read.
John Hawkins: Do you think the idea of a "living constitution" is a fundamentally undemocratic concept? If so, why do you think that?
Charles Pickering: Absolutely. Well, I think it is because of this: in our Constitution that was adopted and the people ratified it, that became a contract between the people and their government and we lived under that until 1971 which is almost 200 years. It was amended some 16 times, an average of once every 10 to 11 years. From 1933 to 1971 it was amended 7 times for an average of once every 5 to 6 years. Now, since 1971 far left groups, radical groups, learned it was easier to convince 5 members of the Supreme Court to change the Constitution than to convince the voters and their elected representatives to change it.
Read the whole thing.
If You Don't Have Anything Nice To Say...
Once again John Kerry reminds us that you should never let the truth stand in the way of making an asinine argument.
On NBC's Today Show, in re Bush's education initiatives outlined in the State of the Union Address (as transcribed by Drudge):
KERRY: That's terrific. But 53 percent of our children don't graduate from high school. Kids don't have after-school programs... He didn't ask America to sacrifice anything to achieve great goals and the biggest example is making the tax cut permanent for the wealthiest people in America. The average American struggles to find time to take carry of families, working two or three jobs... It's a disgrace. He did not tell the real state of the union.
According to National Center for Education Statistics, the high school graduation rate currently stands at nearly 75% (measured as the number of new graduates as a percentage of all 17-year-olds). What's more, this figure has risen consistently during Bush's Presidency.
Source: NCES Table 102 (Excel)
And those figures are likely to understate the real high school attainment rates, as the denominator used (population age 17) will be overstated, as many of a given year's new graduates will be a number of years older, and those graduates would have had smaller respective population bases (assuming positive population growth). So the percentage of current 17-year-olds that will eventually graduate from high school should be higher still.
Indeed, the Census Bureau (Excel) shows that the high school attainment rate in 2004 for all Americans was 79.6%.
Further inspection of the Census table mentioned above makes me wonder if Kerry is cherry picking the 53.8% number representing "High School Graduate or Higher - 15 to 24 Years", which will obviously be a lower number as a third of the sample set is younger than typical graduation age.
(Actually, the 79.6% figure includes the 15- and 16-year-olds too, so even that number will be too low.)
Pessimism, for all its ill consequences, is typically rooted in a cynical or overly negative evaluation of actual *facts*. Here, Kerry makes a heroic leap by incorporating pure fiction into his maligning of the President's policies.
Liveblogging the State of the Union
Watch this space for a liveblog of tonight's State of the Union Address...
9:00 Chief Justice Roberts files in with Associate Justices, including that up-and-comer Sam Alito.
9:05 Fox News reports Cindy Sheehan was detained in the gallery above the chamber when unfurling a banner. Blogs for Bush on the matter. FNC reports Sheehan was someone's guest, perhaps Rep. Lynn Woolsey's.
9:08 Unexplained delay as Bush is kept in a holding room outside the chamber. Because of the Sheehan fracas? ... Ah, here he comes. ... Clapping ... Clapping ... Intro by Hastert ... Clapping ...
9:15 The state of our union is... "strong. And together we will make it stronger."
9:20 Echoes of the second Inaugural:
Dictatorships shelter terrorists ... and seek weapons of mass destruction ... Democracies replace resentment with hope ... and join the fight against terror ... We will act boldly in freedom's cause ... The advance of freedom is the great story of our time.
9:25 A nice dig at Presidential and military detractors:
Hindsight alone is not wisdom. And second guessing is not a strategy.
9:30 More on the theme of seeding worldwide democracy:
Elections are vital, but they are only the beginning ... Now the leaders of Hamas must recognize Israel, disarm, and work for lasting peace ... Liberty is the future of every nation in the Middle East. Because liberty is the hope and right of all humanity. The regime in Iran sponsors terrorists in the Palenstenian territories and that must come to an end. The nations of the world must not permit the Iranian regime to get nuclear weapons.
Speaking directly to the people of Iran, Bush expresses his respect and compassion for them and speaks of his desire to become the "closest of friends with a free and democratic Iran."
9:35 On to brass tacks. Bush urges reauthorization of the Patriot Act. He cites precedent set by previous Presidents for the Terrorist Surveillance Program.
If there are people in our country talkin' with al Qaeda, we want to know about it. Because we will not sit back and wait to be hit again.
9:37 Cut to Senator Clinton, clapping what looks like a very sarcastic clap.
9:40 Bush argues for keeping America globally competitive and refers to economic centralization (read: a business-unfriendly, taxy federal government) as "protectionism" and "isolationism" for the severalth time. This was a theme and a specific phraseology we'd been advised the President would hammer home. I like it.
Second Congressional urging: Make the tax cuts permanent.
9:43 And a third (this one on earmark reform): pass the line item veto.
9:45 Bush refers to "two of my Dad's favorite people" about to hit retirement age... "me and President Clinton." Notes that Congress did not act on his social security reform last year. Now Hillary (and her side of the room) are clapping a very genuine clap (Hooray for obstructionism!). Yet entitlement spending is a problem "That. Is. Not. Going. Away." replies Bush. The right side of the room replies with an ovation of their own.
9:48 A fourth legislative urging: pass medical liability reform this year.
9:50 And now on to energy policy... Bush announces the Advanced Energy Initiative. Lots of benchmarks and alternative energy sources, but nothing terribly innovative.
9:52 Bush also announces the American Competitiveness Initiative. More acronyms, more benchmarks.
9:53 Here are the full remarks as prepared for delivery, just arrived courtesy of the the RNC.
9:56 Bush recognizes Justices Alito and Roberts. He does it graciously, but firmly, and I'm glad he didn't omit such nods for fear of seeming gloaty.
10:03 Parting comment:
Before history is written down in books, it is written in courage. Like Americans before us, we will show that courage and we will finish well. We will lead freedom’s advance. We will compete and excel in the global economy. We will renew the defining moral commitments of this land. And so we move forward – optimistic about our country, faithful to its cause, and confident of victories to come.
Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless America.
There is a better way.
Rewind. Repeat ad nauseum.
Length of Address: 50 minutes
Interruptions for Applause: 61
Most Potent Quotable: "America rejects the false comfort of isolationism."
Best Instalexicon Entry: "Terrorist Surveillance Program"
Best Soundbite: "We love our freedom. And we will fight to keep it."
(in Bush's I'm dead serious tone)
- Reauthorize the Patriot Act
- Make the tax cuts permanent
- Pass the line item veto
- Pass medical liability reform this year
The general tone was often conciliatory and at times, even reminiscent of leftward rhetoric (e.g. green energy initiatives, swelling government programs). The right elements were in there (the four legislative urgings, the tough talk on Iran, unabashed pride in the success of economic policies, reiterating the grand vision of the second Inaugural address), but they were underrepresented in a 50 minute speech in which they should have been front and center. That said, the President's overall passion, toughness, and eloquence were decently in force. These addresses are largely pageants in leadership; tonight, Bush cut a sufficiently strong leadership profile as to make the speech a success. But there were missed opportunities to do the job more convincingly by staying more on his own message, something this President is typically a master at.
Blogs for Bush, The American Princess, Weapons of Mass Discussion, Publius Rendezvous, The Washington Patriot, Daily Perspective, Conservative Blogger, Right Wing News, Captains Quarters
Justice Alito Confirmed
Sam Alito was confirmed to the Supreme Court by a vote of 58-42. The vote went down party lines with the exceptions of Lincoln Chafee (surprise, surprise) on the Republican side, and Ben Nelson, Kent Conrad, Robert Byrd and Tim Johnson among the Democrats.
The delay tactics employed by Senate Democrats, fully aware of Alito's inevitability, aiming at least to kick the confirmation past the State of the Union Address to embarrass the President have certainly backfired. The President can rightfully stride into the chamber with added grandiloquence tonight.
We're 2 for 2 so far on today's happy developments.
A Baker's January
As goes January, so goes the year (so goes the adage). And so far, despite some rocking and rolling, January looks to have held its own as it trudges through its final trading session.
Even if you net out the roughly 1.5% pop the market enjoyed on the first trading day of the year, the major market indices are still all higher (pictured are the daily price charts for January for the S&P 500, the Dow, and the NASDAQ Composite).
Granted, today is off to a
rocky fugly start, but all day (and all night) long we've got market buoying economic and political events to look forward to. More than anything else, the next 12 hours are going to see a lot of uncertainty taken out of financial markets and the American economy, likely supplanted by renewed optimism for growth. Even if one or two of today's focal points falter, there's a lot about to unfold that should give January (especially if we help ourselves to one day of February (a baker's January if you will)) the shot in the arm it needs to put up a very convincing number.
Some highlights to watch for:
- 10:00 am: Consumer confidence numbers released
Update: The index rose to 106.3, the highest level since June 2002 and above economists' expectations. Off to a good start.
- 2:15 am: Federal Reserve FOMC statement due out
Alan's last hurrah is basically a lock to raise the fed funds rate a 14th consecutive time to 4.5%, but this is the meeting many economists have been waiting for to get clarity on whether the Fed will quit after one more. If the language changes to confirm the end is nigh (key words: accommodative and measured), expect a healthy boost in market sentiment.
Update: The FOMC went to 4.5% as expected, and rolled out some new language, which seems to me to clearly telegraph an intended pause on the near horizon, as they do not refer to policy as "accommodative", and note that it "may" (versus "is likely to") need additional firming depending on inflation pressures, which is markedly dovish for Greenspan's Fed.
- 2:30 pm: Judge Alito will be confirmed to the Supreme Court
Another event that removes uncertainty and allows the Senate to return quickly to other pressing business like tax reform and renewing the Patriot Act.
Update: Well, it came a few hours early, but it came just the same. 58-42.
- 4:00 pm: Google's fourth quarter earnings will be released after the closing bell
Expectations for Google have gotten pretty stratospheric, so this is a bit of a wild card, but they've shown a knack for surprising to the upside, no matter how lofty the estimates. If Google delivers, tech stocks should enjoy a swell tide.
- 9:00 pm: State of the Union Address
A Wall Street Journal poll recently showed only 22% of the country believes the economy has gotten better over the last year. When sentiment is so low, compared to the actual economic picture, it's got nowhere to go but up when new data illustrate the more favorable reality and when the spotlight is shining on the strengths and successes supporting a more optimistic outlook. The SOTU will be a fine opportunity for the President to remind us of these strengths and to lay out and reaffirm a conservative economic agenda, filled with market-pleasing morsels like tasty tax cuts, strong security policies, and entitlement and tort reform.
Whenever confidence in the economy rises (and uncertainty dwindles) we can expect to see the markets improve. And with so many blithe bits of news befalling us all at once, I expect we're in for a hearty 2-day rally to close out the month of January+1.
(Hat tip: Stop the ACLU)
Congratulations, Judge Alito, President Bush, 75 Constitutionally honest Senators, and American democracy. This will put just a little more bloom on the SOTU rose tomorrow night. I want to see a little swagger en route to the pulpit.
For posterity, here are the 25 Senators who remained confused about their roll in the confirmation process (including 7 of the 8 Judiciary Committee Democrats):
NAYs - 25
Ever notice how certain euphamisms and mealy-mouthed double speak have a knack for sneaking into the political lexicon when no one's looking?
I've long scratched my head about the sanitized misnomer "undocumented immigrants" to capture (no pun intended) everyone from murderous sleeper cells to run-of-the-mill illegal aliens. But lately it's "extended debate" that's stuck in my etymological craw.
Say what you mean. "Filibuster". "Obstruction". Or very least "stalling".
Supreme Idol: Sam, You're Through To the Next Round
The Judiciary Committee has voted (one week late) to send Judge Alito to the Senate floor. The vote went straight down party lines, meaning Senators Feingold, Leahy, and Kohl found Justice Roberts to be qualified but Judge Alito not to be.
Matt Margolis liveblogged the vote, as well as the excuses.
THE FINAL VOTE:
The results are not surprising, but they don't bode well for the tally in the full Senate. With presumed support of all 55 Republicans and at least 1 Democrat (and especially in light of the fact that more than 1 GOP G14er is ready to invoke the Constitutional option upon a filibuster, giving it majority support), Alito will almost certainly be confirmed. But his vote total will be far lower than it should be, assuming the new test (i.e. "Would this nominee have been my pick?") applied by the Judiciary Committee Democrats is adopted by their colleagues in the full Senate.
Much as a photogenically challenged individual might be said to have a "face for radio", I fear I've just made a compelling argument that I have a "voice for blogging".
Even so, check out the 2nd weekly podcast over at Blogs for Bush. Matt Margolis and Mark Noonan were kind enough to invite me to cut my teeth on the format in a riveting and expansive discussion this afternoon.
The primary topic was the lurking prospect that Senate Democrats will succumb to the building pressure from left wing groups to filibuster Sam Alito (background).
Just in time for Harry Reid's emergency Obstruction Summit that he called last week, urging Senate Democrats to attend before making up their minds about Judge Alito (and helping to kibosh the agreed-upon confirmation timetable), GOP.com has unveiled an interactive web tool that allows you to check in on your favorite member of the Senate minority to see where he or she stands.
(For your convenience, they've also included phone numbers where you can reach the Senators, should you be so inclined.)
There's a lot of baseless opposition out there pre-summit, but don't despair. To salve your indignation over the double standard Democrats are applying to Bush's nominees, just focus on how much of that map comprises states without any Democratic Senators.
And There It Is
Can You Back That Up, Chuck?
Sen. Chuck Schumer just appeared on Fox News Sunday opposite Sen. Lindsey Graham (Judiciary Committee members, both), discussing the tone of Judge Alito's confirmation hearings and the prospect of a filibuster.
Schumer plaintively told Chris Wallace that he pined for the time when Presidents pursued consultation ("real consultation") of Senators from both sides of the aisle, before submitting a Supreme Court nominee.
I'm reminded of the words of Steve Schmidt, Special Advisor to the President in charge of the White House confirmation team. In a conference call in November (in response to similarly flawed complaints being voiced at the time by G14ers), Schmidt noted that more than 80 Senators were consulted in connection with the Alito nomination (above and beyond the 75+ consultations that were held leading up to Harriet Miers' nomination).
However the distribution worked out, the majority of Democratic Senators were consulted, many twice. How is that less than "real consultation"?
Schumer then went on to dodge the filibuster question, when posed by Wallace. After some inapt equivocation, Chuck said it was "premature" to comment before they finish evaluating Alito's record.
Alito - Les Jeux Sont Fait
At the end of today's session of Judge Alito's confirmation hearings, the rest of the pieces fell into place, effectively plotting how the rest of the process will unfold.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said in the waning minutes of Alito's confirmation hearing that unnamed Democrats will "exercise their rights" to put off next week's scheduled Alito vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
... Democrats say they won't be ready Tuesday to vote on his nomination, since Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada has called on party members to hold off making a decision until after a Wednesday meeting.
There can be no mistaking this effort for anything but a baseless, partisan, and utterly aimless stall tactic.
Since Alito assuredly has majority support in the Senate, only a filibuster can block his confirmation. 5 of the 7 Republican G14ers (Graham, DeWine, Snowe, Collins, and Chafee) have publicly stated they don't see the kind of "extraordinary circumstances" they require in order to oblige a Democratic filibuster. And since Senator Frist has made it clear (even recently reiterated) that he's got the Constitutional option at the ready, any filibuster attempt should meet with a filibuster-busting vote of at least 53-47.
This regrettable move is just what I was lamenting on Wednesday - the biggest "win" that Senate Democrats could hope to achieve, given a lack of any actual grounds to oppose the nominee. I'm confident that this delay will be parlayed into a subsequent delay (once they've had a week to concoct some new facet of Alito's background they find "troubling"), which will punt the eventual floor vote past the State of the Union address.
That way, while Alito is still ultimately confirmed, the Democrats don't have to mount a filibuster (and risk losing that tactic for a possible 3rd Bush nominee), yet they're still able to slather a little egg on the President's face as he ascends the annual uberbully pulpit (otherwise reliably a big boost to the approval ratings), suffering the mild embarrassment of a nominee successfully jammed up by the minority.
At this point, the only card left to play is Senator Frist putting strong, highly publicized pressure on the Judiciary Committee to stay in session tomorrow, Sunday, Monday, as long as it takes for them to do whatever they need to get ready to vote. Further, I would hope a little pressure would be brought on Senator Reid to move his Wednesday meeting up a few days. If whatever's on the agenda is so important that it needs to disrupt the agreed-upon and long-awaited confirmation schedule (and has unfolded so suddenly that it couldn't have been foreseen until now), then maybe any concerned Senators ought to forgo some of their long weekend plans for the sake of keeping the business of the U.S. Senate on track.
All in all, this isn't worth getting too worked up over (well, maybe that horse is already out of the barn...) since the end result is that a 2nd superb Justice makes his way onto the Supreme Court. But this groundless delay is still highly irksome and bodes poorly for the tenor of future proceedings.
Not to mention what it does for the American public's view of civility and integrity in politics.
Liberal Bullies Punch Each Other In the Arm, Giggle
Which one's the party of tolerance and compassion again?
RNC/SRC Bloggers Forum: Debrief
After 3 straight days of sitting on my duff in the halls of the Senate, now I know how it feels to be a U.S. Senator.
(ba dum dum... ksshh)
The extravaganza of hospitality granted over the last few days by the RNC and the Senate Republican Conference (not to mention the various Senators and their staffs, senior White House staff, former Alito law clerks and colleagues, and others who took time out during a crazy week to meet with us) resulted in an epic bloggeruption that I couldn't begin to digest into a single post.
Instead, feel free to wander through the accumulated archives via the following categorized links.
Chats With Senate Judiciary Committee Members
Chats With Other Legislators
Chats With Alito Law Clerks
Chats With Bigwigs and Luminaries
Cogitation and Commentary
Blogs for Bush
Human Events Online
National Association of Manufacturers
Power Line Blog
Right Side Redux
The Political Teen
Chat With Judiciary Committee Member Senator Sam Brownback
We've just been joined by Senator Sam Brownback. A synopsis of the discussion is presented below (paraphrased throughout):
None of these opposition issues (1 person 1 vote, Vanguard, CAP) have stuck, so committee Democrats are now beating a dead horse.
Is the level of discourse more distasteful than you would've predicted?
Yes. There was not this level of character assassination in the Roberts confirmation. Judge Alito has been on the bench for 15 years. They can't make any headway based on the merits, so they're trying to smear him.
Will the American people appreciate that this is an inappropriate way to conduct hearings?
I don't know, but I hope my Senate colleagues will.
Why wasn't there as much character assassination in the Roberts confirmation?
I think they decided to let Roberts through and wait to do real battle and vote against the nominee in the following round.
What is the goal of obstructionist committee Democrats, if they don't believe blocking the confirmation is realistic?
To play to their constituents, to attack the Bush administration while numbers are down and charges are flying.
Chat With Judiciary Committee Member Senator Jon Kyl
We've just been joined by Senator Jon Kyl. Highlights of our discussion are presented below (paraphrased throughout):
Wouldn't the Kennedy-demanded subpoena for the writings of people associated with an organization that Alito once held an affiliation with set a horrible precedent? What if Republicans had tried to subpoena the writings of ACLU members during Ginsburg's confirmation?
Very good analogy. I'm surprised Kennedy is calling for this, since he is so concerned about privacy matters himself. It was McCarthy-like to be reading into the record comments of others that none of us would ever agree with. There's no purpose other than to imply that Judge Alito shares these views, which is the crassest kind of guilt by association.
What's been most disappointing today?
The crass, blatant innuendo. Also, liberal groups' failure to understand that ruling one way or another is not an indication of bias against the party ruled against.
Will there be a 3rd round of questioning?
I think so.
Will one more Democrats cause Alito to be held over?
They may. If so, it will likely be "out of pique" or as a means to stall for another week while they root around to try to find something else to use against the nominee.
Chat With House Judiciary Committee Member Trent Franks
We've just finished a conversation with Congressman Trent Franks (R-AZ), who had some comments about the tenor and tone of the Senate confirmation hearings.
Franks is disappointed that the only discernible tactic being employed by committee Democrats is to personally attack Judge Alito by distorting the truth. I asked him if he thought, things would get uglier, having witnessed Kennedy's silly tirade. He said he thought it might, but that it wouldn't hurt the nominee.
The willingness to be "unconstrained by the truth" is something Franks sees as dragging us "down into a philosophical twilight zone". He finds each of the now repeatedly refuted opposition arguments to be bogus and observes that one side "shouldn't win a debate simply because they're willing to say more vitriolic things".
Franks also spoke briefly about the majority leader race in the House. He stated that, assuming Mike Pence does not seek the post, Franks would support fellow Arizona Congressman and longtime acquaintance John Shadegg (assuming Shadegg pursues it).
ReHatched: Follow-Up Chat With Senator Orrin Hatch
We've just finished a discussion with Senator Orrin Hatch, following up on our meeting yesterday, a synopsis of which is available here.
On Teddy Kennedy's freshly thrown tantrum about voting in closed session on a subpoena for the writings of CAP members (paraphrased throughout):
It's totally inappropriate and a further indication that the Democrats can't win on the merits, facts, or law, so they need to use innuendo to try to distort Alito's character. If we do need to consider this subpoena, I think we should do it in the open. This is "another bush league attempt to delay" proceedings. If we did this, "we'd be destroyed in the press."
This now means a 3rd round of questioning is likely and we will probably be here until at least Saturday. Republicans should stop asking questions after this round, but that can be hard to do.
Assessing this obstructionist strategy, which has the Daily Kos in a gleeful snit:
It makes them look ridiculous. The Democrats cater to liberal groups and in so doing, fail to treat the nominee with the dignity and respect he deserves. I have no doubt the Democrats are getting their marching orders from external liberal groups. Just read their blogs and listen to the comments of the Senators.
On Alito's performance:
Alito is holding up tremendously. I didn't think anyone could match up to Chief Justice Roberts, but substantively, Alito has outmatched him. From a true judgeship standpoint, he has a mastery I've never seen. No nominee I've ever seen has been so thorough about the methodologies involved in the process of deciding cases.
Whoever is President deserves true deference for his or her nominees, and we should vote for them as long as they're qualified (in terms of ethics, ability, temperance, decency, honor, and intelligence). As much as you might differ with Roberts and Alito, they're both qualified.
Kennedy Loses His Cool, His Mind, His Grasp of Procedure, etc.
Deciding to converge on the Princeton CAP issue, among the various issues that have already been thoroughly and satisfactorily addressed in the hearings, Kennedy has just requested the Judiciary Committee meet immediately in executive session to vote on issuing a subpoena for CAP records.
This touched off a heated debate between Kennedy and Specter, as Specter agreed to consider the issue, and Kennedy completely failed to understand what was going on around him, what with all the lights and cameras and people talking.
Kennedy growled that despite having his request shot down (wrong), he would keep calling for it again and again and again. Specter instructed Kennedy that he would not allow him to run the hearing, that he had no standing to demand an immediate executive session, and that the matter would be considered in due course.
During the next 15 minute recess, expect a Democrat media bite lamenting the fact that they're being suppressed by the committee majority, that they're not receiving necessary documentation, that their requests are not being considered, etc. Whether Kennedy was simply spouting soundbites he wanted to get on the news or whether he truly couldn't grasp what Specter was trying to tell him is unclear. But these first overt fireworks of the hearings are sure to tee up the as-yet absent "bombshell" the Democrats will use delay the process, either through a 1-week holdover or at very least a 3rd round of questioning.
Other than Leahy, Kennedy was the first Democrat to exhaust his 2nd round, so it's not likely a coincidence that it was right at the end of his time when sparks first flew, laying groundwork (however flimsy) for the necessity of a 3rd round.
Elsewhere among the bloggers' forum:
As it turns out, these documents were provided by William Rusher (involved in the founding of CAP and former editor at National Review) to The New York Times in November and will indeed be available to the Judiciary Committee without subpoena. Clearly, if the Times has had them for two months, there couldn't be anything in them even for disingenuous smear-mongers to use to impeach Alito.
Specter gave Kennedy a minute or two to sound triumphant about the fact that these documents will soon be reviewed, but again noted the peculiar fashion in which Kennedy demanded them (especially given that they were expected to require a subpoena to obtain), failing ever to mention it to Specter until now, despite seeing each other frequently, including in the Senate gym, an irregularity which Kennedy excused by noting he hasn't been to the gym since December.
Most shocking disclosure from this episode: Teddy Kennedy was in a gym in December.
2nd ZagAlito Survey: Chat With More Alito Law Clerks
We've just been joined by three former law clerks of Judge Alito's - David Moore, Jeff Wasserstein, and Keith Levenberg. Yesterday, we had conversation with another three clerks, the Zagat-style synopsis of which is available here.
The former clerks mentioned that every Alito clerk that was permitted to do so, from across the political spectrum, unanimously endorsed Alito in a letter to the Judiciary Committee.
(Paraphrased, except as noted.)
- David Moore, who clerked for Alito during Bush v. Gore, noted that politics is not something the Judge "brings to chambers". Dave judges the judge's responses thus far to have been "incredibly forthright" and "demonstrated how bright he is", despite certain Senators who are simply "playing to their constituents". Given the complaints among Democrats that the nominee is not providing sufficient new information, David responds, "If you want answers, you have to ask questions, not spend half your time giving speeches."
- Jeff, who clerked during the Lewinsky scandal, remembers facing a near "Constitutional crisis" at the time, one which the clerks frequently bantered about, but as it was "outside the judiciary", never heard discussion of the matter from Judge Alito. A self-described "liberal democrat with a Kerry bumper sticker", Jeff noted that he and other clerks with liberal leanings never saw conservative ideology, as is being claimed by Alito's opposition. "Some of the groups have disappointed" Jeff, who gauges the unfolding of the process to be "politics as usual".
- Keith Levenberg, who clerked during the run-up to the Iraq war, observed Alito found it inappropriate to "bring politics through the doorway" into the courthouse. As to whether it is a hindrance that Alito lacks private practice experience, Keith noted that his own practice area of securities law is "not the most challenging area", but that jurisprudentially and in particular at the appellate level, "these cases are about judicial issues", for which experience reading countless corporate e-mails is largely irrelevant. Keith says Alito also brings "a certain expertise in legal issues" regarding liberty and terrorism and gives credit to the President for choosing "the most qualified candidate in this area, not the most predictable one".
Chat With Judiciary Committee Member Senator Chuck Grassley
We've just been joined by Senator Chuck Grassley. This post will be updated with highlights from our discussion.
I've ever dealt with a nominee with so much experience. Given how long his paper trail is, I'm somewhat surprised the proceedings have not been more cantacerous. The demeanor is a little more reserved than I expected.
Unless there's a bombshell soon, he will be confirmed. Not by Justice Roberts' margin, which is a shame (and Roberts only receiving 78 votes was a shame too), but he will be confirmed.
By virtue of Alito's record, we're seeing a person who is sincere, open minded, and waits until the last brief is before him before making judgments.
The bottom line is: what's the role of the Senate in these matters? According to Federalist Paper 78, by Alexander Hamilton, the Senate's evaluation is intended to prevent two types of people from being confirmed: incompetents and political hacks.
We're seeing quite clearly that he's not a political hack and that he's clearly competent.
Given that, Democrats should give same deference to Alito (though they didn't give it to Roberts) as Republicans gave to Ginsburg. I didn't agree with her political views, but she's competent and not a political hack, so I voted for her because that's what was required to fulfill my role as a Senator.
Speaking of the role of the Senate, Senator Feingold refuted your characterization of Alito's opponents' methods and smears as torpedoing and unfair tarring of the nominee. Feingold claimed this was simply their job. What's your response to that?
This demonstrates that my colleagues across the aisle, pushed by left-wing extremists, see this as a political campaign. This approach is appropriate in an electoral campaign but not in a judicial confirmation.
Were Leahy's comments this morning a prologue to scheduling a 3rd round of questioning?
I talked to my staff about that and we have no idea. I interpret that the Democrats see this obstruction as a losing cause. Leahy may want to demonstrate to his outside base that they are not giving up and he may have been putting the Chairman on notice that would want a 3rd round.
Is there a chance that the lack of of cantancerousness among most Democrats that you were surprised to see yesterday (and that the press has since trumpeted) could lead Alito's opposition to ratchet it up in the 2nd round?
That could happen.
A recent poll shows 40% of Democrats support confirmation. Will 40% of Democratic Senators vote to confirm?
[Laughs] No. But moderate Democrats from Arkansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, Florida, etc. may vote to confirm.
This should prove to be an interesting inflection point. I'll be curious to see whether the Democrat rhetoric ratchets up (my guess) or down (as Grassley predicts).
Next up, Senator Hatch will be joining us for the second time at noon (a synopsis of our chat from yesterday is here). Later today, Senators Brownback, Kyl, and Coburn will be coming through.
Day 3 Hearings Begin
First up is Senator Durbin, as we continue with the first round of questioning.
Liveblog coverage will continue here until 10:30, at which point Senator Grassley will be joining us for a chat.
All of the following is paraphrased, summarized, and hastily and selectively excerpted.
Before Durbin began, Senator Leahy prefaced that several committee members continue to be "troubled" by "inconsistencies" on a number of issues, including 1 person 1 vote, Vanguard, the "theory of unitary government", judicial recusal, and CAP. Let's hope this wasn't an early teeing up of a needless third round of questioning.
Durbin started off saying he couldn't understand Judge Alito's answer to Schumer's [Constitution-waving] question on abortion, in which the nominee said he found Constitutional protection for free speech since it is explicit in the Constitution, but does would not comment on whether he found similar protection of freedom of abortions.
He claimed that the 1985 job application memo in which Alito stated he did not find such Constitutional basis suggested the Judge's mind was "closed" to the issue.
When he actually got around to asking a direct question, Durbin asked why Alito could find Constitutional support for Brown [equal protection] and Griswold [contraception], but not Roe?
Alito's response was swift and clear. Brown addrressed equal protection under law, the basis for which is explicit in the language of the Constitution. Griswold on the other hand dealt with an issue unlikely to come before the Supreme Court again, meaning the nominee could comfortably answer. Abortion, on the other hand, is a matter still in litigation and likely to come before Court again.
Durbin: John Roberts saw Roe as "the settled law of the land". Do you see it that way?
Alito: Roe is an important precendent, challenged and reaffirmed on a number of occasions, sometimes on the merits, sometimes on stare decisis. Reaffirmation strengthens a precedent's value.
Durbin: Is it the settled law of the land?
Alito: If settled means can't be changed, that's one thing. It's precedent to be respected.
Durbin: How do you see it?
Alito: As I've tried to explain, it's been on the books for decades, it's been repeatedely challenged and affirmed, and is involved in litigation now - cases in the Supreme Court and various courts of appeal in lower courts, working toward courts of appeal.
Later in his questioning, Durbin went on a griefbating binge, asking the nominee about a case of statutory interpretation in which he opined that a facility (described by Alito as "a pile of coal") was not, for purposes of federal mine safety regulations, a "mine". Despite Durbin's suggestion that the nominee was uninterested in the safety of this facility, Alito succinctly explained that this was a matter of regulatory designation. The facility was not, according to the regulatory definition, a "mine", and so was not subject to mining regulations, but was still subject to OSHA and perhaps additional state safety regulations.
The day is young, but Durbin is an early frontrunner for the Most Unseemly Attack of the Day Award.
The Supreme Court has gotten a lot of cases wrong over the years - more than 200. Thankfully, they have been overturned or altered in the years since. Do you feel Plessy v. Ferguson [approving de jure segregation] was wrong?
Brownback: And when the Supreme Court considered Brown v. Board of Education, which would overturn Plessy (in place since 1896, twice as long as Roe v. Wade), should stare decisis have instructed the Court to uphold Plessy?
Alito: Stare decisis would be a factor in the decision, but ultimately Plessy was a "spectacularly wrong" decision, and "erroneous decision" that it took a long time to overturn.
Judiciary Committee member Chuck Grassley is on his way in. Liveblogging of the hearings will continue later. Meantime, watch for a recap of the meeting with Senator Grassley.
Alito Blogging - Eye On Day 3
With two days of hearings in the can, Judge Alito's confirmation seems to be moving ahead nicely.
Everyone we met with Tuesday, from Senators on the Judiciary Committee to party officials, from Judge Alito's law clerks to his former classmates, agreed that the nominee was handling the questioning with poise and aplomb.
What struck me most (perhaps because I was semi-nervously watching for its absence) was how aptly ("apt" = the opposite of "inapt", incidentally, Senator Schumer) Alito managed to remain ever-responsive to the questions of his opponents, without falling into the traps they rather inaptly set to goad him into staining the litmus paper.
Whenever a question sought to elicit a prejudgment of a prospective Court matter, rather than stalwartly (though not inappropriately) refusing to comment, Alito was consistently thoughtful, thorough, and respectful in his treatments, giving as much substance as he could, before noting that more specific comment would require analysis of the specifics of any such case.
The vital significance of this aspect of Alito's performance of course draws from the fact that Schumer, Kennedy, Biden and others have pre-declared "refusal to answer" to be grounds for obstruction. Interestingly, now that Alito has shown a clear aptitude for answering (while not necessarily - as Senators Cornyn and Hatch both noted today - answering the way his opponents might have liked), this trigger language has since shifted. Before his bombastic half hour in the spotlight tonight, Senator Schumer made the updated statement, "Thus far we know nothing more than we did after [Alito's] opening statement."
Not "Alito is being unresponsive." Just "We know nothing more."
Well, if the man is answering the questions posed to him and you're not learning anything new, maybe you ought to think about asking some new questions. Or maybe the abnormally prolonged pre-hearing schedule the Democrats negotiated was sufficient for you to educate yourself comprehensively ahead of time. Either way, I don't see this new "Where's the bombshell?" complaint being compelling grounds for undue delays in the Judiciary Committee or on the Senate floor.
On that front, I was pleased during our meeting to hear Bill Frist pledge to do everything in his power to keep the committee at work straight through the holiday weekend if necessary to keep the proceedings on track. Unfortunately, the power to impose a groundless 1-week delay in committee lies in the hands of any single member and Frist seems to suspect that this move could be a precursor to then punting until after the State of the Union address (the presumed purpose being simply to embarrass the President by putting him on stage with Alito's confirmation unexpectedly outstanding).
With the strong performance put up by Judge Alito over the first two days of hearings, I tend to suspect that just such a delay, aiming only to embarrass Bush as he mounts that bulliest pulpit, is about as much of a "win" as committee Democrats can realistically hope for at this point. That would of course be partisan, petty, and ultimately pointless. And it's exactly what I predict will happen.
Meanwhile, I'm chomping at the bit (byte?) for a third day of on-the-scene blogging. The RNC, the Senate Republican Conference, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and others have been treating us like royalty and serving up insane access to key legislators, senior White House and campaign staff, and other bigwigs. They've officially set a super duper precedent for all future events.
Wednesday's highlights should include additional access to the confirmation hearing room, as well as meetings with Senators Orrin Hatch, Jon Kyl, Chuck Grassley, and Sam Brownback and another jam-packed scad of special guests.
Nostalgic for Day 2?
In the Hall Of the Obstruction King
ZagAlito Survey: Chat With Former Alito Law Clerks
Chat With Judiciary Committee Member Senator Orrin Hatch
Chat With Judiciary Committee Member Senator John Cornyn
Chat With Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist
Questions, Questions, Questions
On Replacing O'Connor
Alito Day 2: The Questioning
How about Day 1?
Chat With Beltway Boy Fred Barnes
Chat With White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove
Chat With White House Director of Political Affairs
Chat With Deputy Director of National Economic Council
Alito Hearings Opening Statements
Republican Strategist Briefing
Chat with Ken Mehlman
Can I Get a Witness (List)?
In the Hall Of the Obstruction King
Chin up, Chuck!
I just got back from the confirmation hearing room, where The Political Teen and I were snapping some pics and video during Schumer's Big Rant (which resulted in a nice zinger at the hand of Judge Alito that Captain Ed was tickled by).
We were seated toward the back of the room, but (as is evident at left) a decent zoom lens still rendered this Schumer encounter uncomfortably close.
Before the Capitol Cops made us stop filming, I was able to capture about a minute's worth of Chuck hurling litmus paper at Judge Alito.
The video is here (Quicktime).
ZagAlito Survey: Chat With Former Alito Law Clerks
We've just finished chatting with three former Alito law clerks (Dana Douglas, Michael Park, and Craig Gottlieb). Below are highlights from our conversation (generally paraphrased, except as indicated Zagat-style):
- Craig Gottlieb assesses that Alito is so far doing "quite well" in the hearings and that the tone of his testimony has been similar to his "normal conversation style". On the topic of attacks from the opposition (notably the Vanguard and CAP issues), he feels the arguments have been "effectively and correctly diffused."
- Michael Park remembers the nominee as a "great boss" who he "can't say enough good things about". He found his demeanor to be a perfect balance between "hardworking and intense" and "laid back and relaxed". He also believes the judge to be more "judicially restrained" and less "ideologically driven" than either Justice Thomas or Justice Scalia.
- Dana Douglas reports her clerkship was the "best experience of [her] career". Alito was an "excellent mentor" from whom she learned a lot. She found him to be "mild mannered and respectful" and a man who the "American people would be lucky to have on the Court," though she did suggest he would do well to "smile more" during the hearings.
Chat With Judiciary Committee Member Senator Orrin Hatch
Senator Hatch has just arrived. Highlights from our conversation will be appended to this post (paraphrased, summarized, etc.):
How do you think it's going?
Very well. Probably as well as it went with Roberts. Alito has offered healthy and strong explanations every step of the way. He's a bright guy and very good judge. This is a real home run for kid from the lower middle class.
We can expect fireworks from Schumer.
Will there be a Democrat-led delay in the committee?
They will have tough time delaying unless they are able to lay gloves on the nominee in next day or so.
Will the committee vote be party line?
If that's true, how may it affect the floor vote?
Democrats will have to think very hard about voting against Alito, because it may put them in real jeopardy (especially for those hailing from in red states).
Ultimately, the confirmation process comes down to abortion for Democrats. For many, that is their single litmus test.
Is there any way to get that elephant out of room legislatively?
No. When it was brought up before, it met fire among both left and right (though it had the support of 49 Senators).
Will the Democrats filibuster?
I don't think they dare, because i think we have the votes for the Constitutional option.
Is this indicative of the future of confirmations - that they will be so strictly partisan?
I think Stevens will retire before the end of Bush's term. If so, that'll really be armaggedon.
Any predictions for the new balance of power in the Senate after 2006?
If we get our house in order, we can maintain majority in both houses. But the MSM ("to use your symbol") will not help us. They're finding these hearings boring, because they want fire from the Democrats and so far they're not getting it.
What are Mitt Romney's chances in 2008? [blogger's note: Mitt's my early pick for top of the ticket]
Mitt is head and shoulders the best administrator and manager in the business. He's also a brilliant governor, turning a $3 billion deficit into a surplus, despite the opposition of his Democratic legislature.
His primary problem is that he's a Mormon, as am I. Many [wrongly] believe Mormons are not Christians, and despite being the 5th largest religion in America and one of the fastest growing, polls show [or showed in 2000 when I was exploring a Presidential bid] that 18% of Americans won't vote for a Mormon under any circumstances.
There are many other good candidates, but Mitt can't be discounted. He's got the time, the wealth, the looks, the dedication, and the ability to win. He's just that good a person.
Senator Hatch will be returning for a second chat tomorrow, so if his comments inspire any follow-up questions, submit them via e-mail or comment.