Tuesday, January 31, 2006


Bro's take on the Google-China deal.

Thursday, January 19, 2006


Sheesh. Is there anything else this man can do to disgrace himself?

And the story of his little bastard child had to break days after he lectured Sam Alito about integrity.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose

Bro's got the Abramoff scandal perfectly in perspective.

No party owns the franchise on the "culture of corruption."

Greed has no ideology.

A $1,000 suit cannot hide a shabby character.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Reflections on Alito Hearings

I listened to every day of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings last week (call me a masochist), and I am struck by something I thought I'd share.

The hard core liberals on the Committee (Kennedy and Schumer, in particular) are utterly convinced that Sam Alito's personal beliefs (i.e., those he freely shared before he was appointed to the bench) cannot be separated from his role as a jurist -- that a human being in the jurist's position cannot avoid injecting his political beliefs into the performance of his job. To be fair, if the shoe were on the other foot, we'd be hearing the same line of baloney from the conservatives.

And yet, Judge Alito attempted to explain, repeatedly, how he would go about conducting "the judicial process" in analyzing the facts and the law in any dispute to arrive at his position, careful to assure questioners that his personal opinions are not relevant to such a task.

I think there is an organic distinction between the DNA of the politican and the DNA of the jurist. That is the innate ability to remove one's ego from the exercise of the task at hand. The politician seems to be constitutionally incapable of such a Herculean feat, and therefore is skeptical of any other mortal's ability to do just that. And yet it is precisely that attribute that Alito's colleagues repeatedly cited in articulating their unqualified endorsements of his nomination.

It is illuminating to consider some of the pith of these witnesses' endorsements, and reflect as you do on whether you know of any politician today who is even remotely capable of emulating the characteristics described.

Yale Law Professor ANTHONY KRONMAN, one of Alito's law school classmates:

...Sam listened ... in the deeper and more consequential sense of straining to grasp the good sense of [another's] position and to see it in its most attractive light....

...Sam always spoke with modesty. But even when he was defending a position that he believed clearly to be right, did so with the knowledge that he might be wrong….

...The temperament of the judge, as I see it, is marked by modesty, by caution, by deference to other, in different roles with different responsibilities, by an acute appreciation of the limitations of his own office, and by a deep and abiding respect for the past.There is a name that we give to all of these qualities taken together. We call them judiciousness. And in calling them that, we recognize that they are the special virtues of a judge.

[I hesitate to venture how many members of Congress would meet this description these days. Appreciating the limitations of his own office? Talk to Jack Abrahamoff. Deference to others? Speaking with modesty? It's just not in the job description.]

The Honorable EDWARD R. BECKER , colleague of Alito's on the Third Circuit Court:

Sam Alito is modest and self-effacing. He shuns praise. When he had completed his tenth year of service on our Court Sam declined my offer, extended as Chief Judge, to arrange the usual party to observe ten-year anniversaries. Sam was uncomfortable at the prospect of encomiums to his service. ...

...Sam is said to have certain ideological views, expressed in some twenty-year-old memos. Whatever these views may have been, his judging does not reflect them. The public does not understand what happens when you become a judge. When you take the judicial oath, you become a different person. You decide cases not to reach the result you would like, but based on what the facts and law command. ... Sam is faithful to his judicial oath. ...

The Honorable ANTHONY SCIRICA, Chief Judge Third Circuit Court of Appeals:

...Judge Alito approaches each case with an open mind, and determines the proper application of the relevant law to the facts. He has a deep respect for precedent. His reasoning is scrupulous and meticulous. ...His personal views, whatever they might be, do not jeopardize the independence of his legal reasoning or his capacity to approach each issue with an open mind. Like a good judge, he considers and deliberates before drawing conclusions. I have never seen signs of a predetermined outcome or view. ...

I also admire him as a person. Despite his extraordinary talents and accomplishments, he is modest and unassuming. ...

The Honorable RUGGERO ALDISERT, Judge (Senior) Third Circuit Court of Appeals :

In May 1960 I campaigned with John F. Kennedy and his brother Edward in the critical Presidential primaries of West Virginia. The next year I ran for judge in Pittsburgh on the Democratic ticket for the Court of Common Pleas in Allegheny County and I served for eight years as a state trial judge. Democratic Senator Joseph Clark of Pennsylvania, was my chief sponsor when President Lyndon B. Johnson nominated me to the Court of Appeals in 1968. Senator Robert F. Kennedy of New York was one of my key supporters….

Yet, political loyalties became irrelevant when I took up my commission as a federal judge. The same has been true in the case of Judge Alito, who served honorably in two Republican administrations before he was appointed to our Court. Judicial independence is simply incompatible with political loyalties, and Judge Alito’s judicial record on our Court bears witness to this fundamental truth. I have been a judge for 45 of my 86 years. Based on my experience, I can represent Judge Alito is among the first rank of the 44 judges with whom I have served on the Third Circuit, . . .

The Honorable LEONARD GARTH, Judge (Senior) Third Circuit Court of Appeals, nominaed by Richard Nioxon, confirmed in 1969:

His fairness, his judicial demeanor and actions, and his commitment to the law do not permit him to be influenced by individual preferences or by any personal predilections. ….A word about Sam’s demeanor is in order. Sam is and always has been reserved, soft-spoken, and thoughtful. He is also modest and, I would even say, self-effacing. These are the characteristics I think of when I think of Sam’s personality. It is rare to find humility such as his in someone of such extraordinary ability....

The Honorable JOHN GIBBONS Judge (Retired) Third Circuit Court of Appeals, nominated by Richard Nixon, confirmed in 1970:

This Committee should also appreciate that appointment to an appellate court where one has life tenure is a transforming experience. A good judge puts aside interests of former clients, interests of organizations one may have belonged to, and interests of the political organization that may have been instrumental in one’s appointment. I personally experienced that transformation, and I witnessed it repeatedly in judicial colleagues who joined the court after I did.


I find this notion of the "transforming experience" to be particularly ironic, because, based on my experience and personal observation, politicians also undergo something of a transformation after they get elected -- but the two transformations could not be more different.

The transformation to jurist involves the shedding of one's persona to a significant extent -- Justice Roberts said during his confirmation hearings that "Judges wear black robes because it doesn’t matter who they are as individuals. That’s not going to shape their decision. It’s their understanding of the law that will shape their decision." (*while Judge Roberts, I think, was making a point of using the black robe as a metaphor, there is at least
one decidedly less significant historical reasoning behind behind this tradition). But here we have several experienced jurists explaining the transformation in which the individual leaves his past behind him, casts off his allegiances, his prior advocacies, his personal opinions, and becomes another person, sworn to only one allegiance, the Constitution and his oath of office to uphold it.

By contrast, when elected to political office, citizen Smith so often is transformed in a decidedly more unseemly way. Where he first was in awe of the splendor and accoutrements of his office, he eventually comes to consider himself Important; he carries himself higher, he does not appreciate the deference shown to his position, he expects it. When I first left college in 1977 and went to Washington D. C. to interview for a job with Senator Leahy, he assured me that everyone in the office called him"Pat." Years later when I stopped in to say hello, staff laughed at my recounting of the story, and assured me they refer to him as "Senator."

And with respect to political ideology, the case is even more stark. Where once statesmanship and common ground were lauded (my past musings here), today in Congress, ideological stridency is the coin of the realm for both parties. Middle-grounders are marginalized by leadership and ridiculed by the "party faithful" (and convincingly re-elected by their constituents). Presidential hopes rise or fall on the candidate's ability to court the wings during the primaries and win the mad dash to the center for the general election.

And yet we are compelled to witness the antics of Ted Kennedy attempting to bully Judge Alito and lecture about "ethics," as though there is anything in his checkered career that would qualify him to hold forth on the subject. We must listen to Chuck Schumer tell us how unconvinced he is that Judge Alito can set his personal opinions aside, when it is plain that Schumer himself would not, could not, subjugate his own opinion to anyone else's, let along admit that he may be wrong, unless his political survival depended on it. Nonetheless, something tells me that, may years from now, if Schumer were to tire of the Senate and was enticed by the lure of lifetime tenure on the federal bench, he would steadfastly assure us that his thirty years of partisan bomb throwing was "just politics," and expect us to believe him.

Well I don't believe him. Now or ever. I believe in the statements of Judge Alito's colleagues on the Circuit Court and from the U. S. Attorney's office. I believe those who have worked with him and studied with him. And I believe in the process of transformation, so eloquently described by the jurists that endorse him.

I only wish that we could convince Congressmen to wear black robes.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

A Genuine Circus

I have been watching the CSPAN broadcast of the Alito hearings for the past two days.

This cartoon portrays it perfectly.

Kennedy's blustering is truly comical.

And there can be no more obtuse member of the Senate than Diane Feinstein.

And Chuck Schumer is just the personification of smarm.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Real Lobbying Reforms? Don't Hold Your Breath

Now that Jack Abrahamoff is warming up his vocal chords, the majority party coincidentally decides it's time for some real lobbying reforms?

Well, I can't say I'm totally skeptical -- after all, I've had more than one foxhole conversion myself. But you have to admit, it's hard to have faith in a bunch of politicians who (necessarily) survive on the contributions of special interests (both parties, please) to bite the hands that feed them.

Nonetheless, it appears that some action is in the offing. I'd like to offer a few suggestions myself. Here are a few items being pushed out of the box:

1. Lobbyists must disclose their contacts with members of Congress or their staffs.

Why the lobbyists? Why not the members of Congress and their staffs? I suggest that both branches of Congress implement a public-access Outlook Calendar of sorts, on which every meeting between a member or their legislative staff must be disclosed at least 24 hours prior thereto. What good does it do to have these meetings disclosed by lobbyists weeks or months after legislative action has taken place? It wastes too much time looking back, and by that time, the damage has already been done.

2. Prohibition on gifts and travel.

This is only twenty-five years overdue. What member of Congress needs a gift? They're plenty popular with their constituents. Another brass clock is really just tacky. And this whole nonsense about the invaluable "fact finding mission" is silly. If it's important enough for facts to be found, then increase the Congressional travel budget and have members justify the need to their own internal Comptroller of Travel. Speaking at a "conference?" If it's important enough for your prestige or position, pay for it out of your campaign account. And is it absolutely necessary to stay in the presidential suite at The Boulders?

And please, don't tell me that you "can't be bought for the price of a meal." I've been there. I've said the same thing. It's not true. Men of abiding ethics and principles are not immune from establishing loyalties to persons or causes. These loyalties are formed outside of the building, and all the more so when the solicitor of the loyalty is picking up the tab. It's only natural. Don't tempt human nature.

3. Floor votes on pork barrel earmarks.

Wow. This is serious. Congressman Jeff Flake (heh) proposes to permit any single member to force a floor vote on any earmarked appropriation that comes to the floor. He says that it is too easy for a member to earmark special money at the behest of a lobbyist.

The problem here is that this would bring congressional action to a standstill. The minority party could simply bulk-challenge every amendment to an appropriation bill, and we'd be into November before a budget got passed. But is this a problem? Judge Gideon Tucker, a New York legislator in the 19th century, said that "no man's life, liberty or property is safe while the legislature is in session," and his words may be truer now than in 1866 (the words have variously been attributed to Mark Twain and others, but my old colleague Royall Switzler sets us straight, as he has always been wont to do).

Nonetheless, I think there is a more efficient method to discourage lobbyist-induced earmarking. That would be simply to require that any member offering a legislative amendment (appropriation or not) at the behest of a special interest must disclose, on the face of the amendment, the identity of the special interest at whose behest it is offered.

I can hear the squealing now.

The great challenge to meaningful reform is that the relationship between Congress and lobbyists has become deeply institutionalized and balkanized. It's like a metastasized cancer. In order to effect a cure, you have to dig so deep you risk the life of the patient.

But there is no greater cure than sunshine. Roaches scatter when the lights go on. And lobbyists are not the only roaches infesting the institution. There are Congressmen seeking to perpetuate or enhance their power, ambitious staffers seeking promotions, petty rivalries and scores to settle, and idealogues of every stripe for whom any means is justifies by their sanctimonious ends. It is a mean and dirty business that puts no premium on statesmanship or intellectual honesty.

And it is driven by money. Lobbyists' money. Labor union money. And it is money that will drive this "reform process" as well.

Watch whose ox gets gored in this, and tell me I'm wrong in the end.

Wiretapping Mess and Judge Alito

So seldom these days does anyone request my opinion on weighty matters (perhaps one of the great benefits of blogging is that you don't have to wait for someone to ask your opinion!) --

However, the redoubtable Karen, a resilient reader, loyal commenter and ardent Patriots fan, requested that I offer a few words on (1) the wiretapping mess and (2) Samuel Alito; and I am happy to oblige.


I confess that I have not been scouring the domestic surveillance facts as closely as one should before wading into the debate -- because I really don't care that much, frankly. My understanding is that these "wiretaps" are principally computer-generated scans of thousands of telephone records reviewed to monitor the existence of connections between the telephone numbers of known or suspected foreign enemies of the United States and telephone numbers of people in this country, whether citizen or not. If that is the issue, then the controversy is one big load of predictable, bullshit politics.

If, as a result of these monitorings, federal agents are eavesdropping on actual conversations between citizens of this country and foreigners who are known or suspected enemies of our country, I don't even have a huge problem with that -- although I will grant that history should suggest we be wary of trusting our government too much on that front, we live in a different time than when J. Edgar Hoover was spying on Martin Luther King or Abbie Hoffman.

Given the nature and resources of our enemies, and the tactis they employ, I think that the penultimate goal should be to reduce as far as possible the chances that another 9/11 can be perpetrated on us. The Marquis of Queensbury Rules do a gentleman no good when he is in the ring with an unprincipled murderer.

Judge Alito

I think Samuel Alito is as equally qualified to sit on the Supreme Court as John Roberts or any other nominee in the last four decades. That he is a conservative is just tough luck for the Democratic minority. I do not believe he will bring a conservative activism to the bench, and I think, after he is confirmed (as he will be), he will surprise (or disappoint) many with his restraint and even-handedness. Not in the fashion that David Souter has, thankfully. Just my prediction.

I would be remiss, however, if I failed to express my deep contempt for the likes of Chuck Schumer and Ted Kennedy for their never-ending hypocrisy and bottomless wealth of intellectual dishonesty. Both are smart enough (at least smarter than Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, who I believe do not know any better) to appreciate the role of the Senate in judicial confirmations and the utter devastation their assertion of "ideological qualification" would have on the advise and consent function of the Senate.

Thank you, Karen, for asking. I feel slightly better now.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

A "Pot Calling Kettle" Argument

This is, of course, unfair as serious commentary, befitting only the mooniest of the moonbats, but as editorial cartooning goes, it is hilarious.

We really need to maintain a healthy sense of humor, lest we end up in the Black Hills of Dakota stockpiling weapons for the final seige, a la Randy Weaver.

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