Pontificator: News and Commentary

Saturday, February 01, 2003 :::
And now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

The time to filibuster Miguel Estrada is NOW. His nomination will be considered by the full Senate as early as February 4th (that's Tuesday).

Use this handy-dandy form prepared by the nice folks at People for the American Way to tell your Senator (or any Senator, for that matter) that you are requiring them to join the Estrada filibuster.

Protect the judiciary -- stop Estrada!

::: posted by Pontificator at 11:56 PM

Even better: The Cogent Provacateur, in what looks like the first of many entries, unpacks the case for invading Iraq

::: posted by Pontificator at 5:37 PM

Talking Points Memo has some beautiful posts on the Space Shuttle disaster. Much better than anything I've read anywhere else, including the mainstream media.

Instapundit also has great links and commentary, but his site is marred by his political invective, which is somewhat inappropriate for the occassion.

So even during "breaking news," it seems that the bloggers are indispensible. To think that eight months ago I'd never heard of a "blog" (!!)

::: posted by Pontificator at 4:48 PM

A postulate regarding Iraq: expectations are too high.

The conventional wisdom is that the overthrow of Saddam will be nearly bloodless for the invading Americans, with Saddam deposed in 6-8 weeks. Only after that, the conventional wisdom goes, will things get tough.

Presumably, expectations are high because the naysayers were proven wrong by relatively quick military successes in Kuwait under Bush I, and in Afghanistan after September 11 (not to mention Kosovo).

With the naysayers cowed, no one is seriously examining whether toppling Saddam will turn into a bloody debacle.

We all hope and pray that things go as smoothly and as bloodlessly as possible.

But if things go awry (it is war, after all), considering where expectations are, we will have one horrifically shocked American electorate.

::: posted by Pontificator at 1:29 AM

Friday, January 31, 2003 :::
Rank and file conservative Republicans, many of whom I speak with regularly, are deeply confused about what we're doing in Iraq. Although they vaguely support war, because it's the Republican thing to do, they're not really sure WHY they support sending live troops into Iraq to overthrow a foreign government. Moreover, when pressed, they admit that they're scared to death about terrorist blow-back after the shooting starts. (Yes, I'm in a big city where people are concerned about such things).

Now these people I'm talking about are true-blue Republicans who wouldn't vote for a Democrat if the voting booth was on fire and pulling the donkey was the only way to get out alive. If these slavish Bush fans are this confused about why the heck we're taking out Iraq, and this scared about terrorist blow-back, I think Bush is in real trouble if things go wrong after the shooting starts.

::: posted by Pontificator at 11:00 PM

Another hare-brained idea from Dick Cheney:

"On national security, Mr. Cheney has been consumed by planning for the political reconstruction of a post-Hussein Iraq. The plan, so far, is for an American military commander to run the country alongside a civilian administrator, with an eventual transition to an Iraqi-led government."

Hmm, an American military commander of an Arab country? Why doesn't Cheney just shoot Osama's next recruiting video while he's at it??

I think I'm starting to agree with Josh Marshall that Cheney is a man of "disastrous principles."

::: posted by Pontificator at 11:24 AM

Orrin Hatch's Hearing-Packing plan.

Meanwhile, on a totally unrelated subject:

If we cannot find Osama, bomb Iraq.
If the markets hurt your Mama, bomb Iraq.
If the terrorists are Saudi
And the bank takes back your Audi
And the TV shows are bawdy,
Bomb Iraq.

If the corporate scandal's growin', bomb Iraq.
And your ties to them are showin', bomb Iraq.
If the smoking gun ain't smokin'
We don't care, and we're not jokin'.
That Saddam will soon be croakin',
Bomb Iraq.

Even if we have no allies, bomb Iraq.
From the sand dunes to the valleys, bomb Iraq.
So to hell with the inspections;
Let's look tough for the elections,
Close your mind and take directions,
Bomb Iraq.

While the globe is slowly warming, bomb Iraq.
Yay! the clouds of war are storming, bomb Iraq.
If the ozone hole is growing,
Some things we prefer not knowing.
(Though our ignorance is showing),
Bomb Iraq.

So here's one for dear old daddy, bomb Iraq,
From his favorite little laddy, bomb Iraq.
Saying no would look like treason.
It's the Hussein hunting season.
Even if we have no reason,
Bomb Iraq.

I don't really get the part about the bank taking back your Audi (must be something to do with the lousy economy) . Otherwise, pretty funny.

::: posted by Pontificator at 10:20 AM

Thursday, January 30, 2003 :::
The time to filibuster Miguel Estrada is now. As per Senator Leahy:

"Just this morning the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus restated their concerns and just this week, the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), and the Southwest Voter Registration and Education Project (SVREP) reiterated their concerns. Likewise, a large number of this country’s most respected Latino Labor leaders, including Maria Elena Durazo of HERE, Arturo S. Rodriquez of the UFW, Miguel Contreras of L.A. County Fed., Cristina Vazquez of UNITE and Eliseo Medina of SEIU, have indicated their strong oppostion to this nomination.

I quote briefly from the MALDEF and SVREP letter from Antonia Hernandez and Antonio Gonzalez:

“As a community, we recognize the importance of the judiciary, as it is the branch to which we have turned to seek protection when, because of our limited political power, we are not able to secure and protect our rights through the legislative process or with the executive branch. This has become perhaps even more true in light of some of the actions Congress and the executive branch have taken after 9/11, particularly as these actions affect immigrants.

After an extensive review of the public record that was available to us, the testimony that Mr. Estrada provided before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the written responses he provided to the Committee, we have concluded at this time that Mr. Estrada would not fairly review issues that would come before him if he were to be confirmed to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. As such, we oppose his nomination and urge you to do the same.”

They go out to analyze an array of issues that affect not only the Latino community but all Americans on which they find this nomination wanting. Of course, MALDEF had outlined its concerns in advance of the hearing last fall in a memorandum to the Committee and to the White House. As their current letter notes:

“[T]he Judiciary Committee gave Mr. Estrada ample opportunity to address [their concerns]. Ultimately, Mr. Estrada had the affirmative obligation to show that he would be fair and impartial to all who would appear before him.

After reviewing the public record, the transcript and the hearing, and all written responses submitted by Mr. Estrada, we conclude that he failed to meet this obligation. He chose one of two paths consistently at his hearing and in his written responses: either his responses confirmed our concerns, or he chose not to reveal his current views or positions.”

My view of the record is in accord with theirs and is shared by the respected Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Senator Schumer chaired a fair hearing for Mr. Estrada last September. I was hoping that the hearing would allay concerns that have been raised about this nomination, but I was left with more questions than answers after all of the steps Mr. Estrada took to avoid answering questions.

The recent statement from Latino Labor leaders makes the following point: “Mr. Estrada is a ‘stealth candidate’ whose views and qualifications have been hidden from the American people and from the U.S. Senate.

Since his nomination, Mr. Estrada has consistently refused to answer important questions about his views and his judicial philosophy.” They go on to note that it would be “simply irresponsible for the Senate to put him on the bench.”

After a thorough review, PRLDEF concluded that Mr. Estrada was not sufficiently qualified for a lifetime seat on the nation’s second highest court and “that his reportedly extreme views should be disqualifying; that he has not had a demonstrated interest in or any involvement with the organized Hispanic community or Hispanic activities of any kind; and that he lacks the maturity and judicial temperament necessary to be a circuit judge.”

I remain concerned about several of the issues raised by PRLDEF based on their review. They noted that “a number of his colleagues have said unequivocally that Mr. Estrada has expressed extreme views that they believe to be outside the mainstream of legal and political thought.” According to PRLDEF, Estrada has “made strong statements that have been interpreted as hostile to criminal defendants’ rights, affirmative action and women’s rights.” They also expressed serious concerns about his temperament. People they interviewed about Mr. Estrada described him as “arrogant and elitist” and that he “‘harangues his colleagues’ and ‘doesn’t listen to other people.’”

In their view, Mr. Estrada was not even-tempered and was “contentious, confrontational, aggressive and even offensive in his verbal exchanges” with them.

. . . .

What little record we have calls into question his sensitivity, his fairness, and whether he would be neutral referee or an advocate and activist from the bench. For all of these reasons, I cannot vote in favor of his confirmation to the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. "

Time for Seante Democrats to show whether they've got a pair.

::: posted by Pontificator at 4:18 PM

Wednesday, January 29, 2003 :::
Somebody should tell Matt Drudge about hair dye.

::: posted by Pontificator at 4:03 PM

Tuesday, January 28, 2003 :::
Here's the SOTU, summarized:

tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts,

oh, and we'll have to lay out a few hundred billion buckeroos on Iraq over the next few years.

oh yeah, and more tax cuts.

Basically, a fairly uninspiring, pathetic job. I doubt he'll get much of a bounce. He didn't make the case for war, he just re-played the tired argument that Saddam might slip a nuke to Osama. If you buy that argument, don't you think Saddam might do that WHETHER OR NOT we go to war?

I liked the parts about the Hydrogen fuel cell research money and the money to fight AIDS in Africa (although I'd like to see some independent analysis to make sure he's not just blowing smoke up our ass). We should hold his feet to the fire to make sure these things actually get done, and done effectively. And if Bush lets them go, we need to call him a liar.

::: posted by Pontificator at 10:35 PM

Edward Jay Epstein points out the limited powers of the 9-11 Commission:

"The 9-11 Commission. . . was purposefully established as a partisan body by a joint resolution of both Houses of Congress. The joint resolution specified that the Commission's chairman must be selected by President Bush and its Vice Chairman must be a member of the opposite Party. Of its eight remaining members, it specified four must be selected by the Republican leadership and four by the Democratic leadership. The Commission is thus equally divided between Democrats and Republicans.

As it is currently organized, its staff is also partisan. The majority staff reports to the 5 Republicans on the Commission, the minority staff to the 5 Democrats.

The joint resolution also limits its subpoena power. It can only subpoena a witness or document if both the Republican Chairman and Democratic Vice Chairman concur in writing, or if six of the remaining eight members concur. Even if it issues a subpoena, it has no power to compel testimony by granting immunity.

Most important, unlike the Warren Commission, the 9-11 Commission cannot start with a clean slate and do an independent review of "matters relating to the intelligence community." The resolution expressly requires the 9-11 Commission to first review the report of the Joint Inquiry of Congress before pursuing any intelligence-related issue. It can then proceed if, and only if, it determines the Joint Inquiry omitted the issue or did not complete its investigation of it. So, again, either the Democrats or Republicans on the Commission can block the Commission looking into any intelligence-related issue."

A cynic would call this Commission a political fig-leaf for George and Karl. You'd think the victims of 9/11 would deserve more than this.

::: posted by Pontificator at 7:25 PM

Buy the "Faux News" T-shirt.

We distort, you comply!

::: posted by Pontificator at 7:20 PM

Another example of the "liberal media." The CNN headline announcing Gary Locke, the Governor of Washington, will deliver the Democratic Response to the State of the Union is as follows:

"GOP Sees Easy Target in Democratic Speaker"

The article which follows basically regurgitates the Republican talking points, noting "Republicans didn't have to dig hard to craft a comprehensive hit piece on him."

Well I say, damn the media, go Gary Locke!!!

::: posted by Pontificator at 6:07 PM

WGAB AM 1180 in Evansville Indiana is for sale on eBay. (Thanks to Cursor for the link). Presently, its lineup features Dan Savage, Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity. Presumably, the new owner can set whatever lineup he or she chooses.

Senator Corzine, here's another chance to put your money towards the public good!

::: posted by Pontificator at 5:00 PM

The Rush Limbaugh boycott is WORKING.

Rush is on the ropes -- this is no time to let up.

::: posted by Pontificator at 2:38 PM

Monday, January 27, 2003 :::
Bill Richardson for President. He's not running, but he should be.

He has impeccable foreign policy credentials, and his negotiating abilities would stack up well against Bush's shallow unilateralism. Also, the press loves him. Plus, his southwestern pedigree would help the Democrats win several hard-fought battleground states, including New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and Colorado.

Also, baseball players are generally more popular than baseball owners:

"So when [Bill Richardson] was asked to name the most important decision he ever made, he gave his answer. . .

The first, he said was when he was 21 and about to sign a major league baseball contract to pitch for the Kansas City Athletics' farm team.

"My father insisted I go to college," he said."

Most important, however, is the fact that Bill Richardson has gotten a lot things done that are beyond the ken of the typical all-style-no-substance run-of-the-mill politicians. For instance:

"As a special envoy for President Clinton, he earned a reputation as a problem solver and negotiator, parachuting into one international crisis after another. He negotiated the release in 1994 of American pilot Bobby Hall from North Korean captors. In 1995, he successfully negotiated with Saddam Hussein for the release of prisoners and has worked similar deals in Sudan and Cuba. He's been nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to free people."

Basically, Governor Richardson is better at foreign relations than the foot-in-the-mouth unilateralists running things now:

"Q: According to Richardson's Negotiation Rules: 1) make friends, 2) define your goal, 3) shrug off insults, 4) close the deal and 5) always show respect. How do you ''make friends'' with and ''respect'' the likes of Saddam Hussein or Fidel Castro or Kim Jong Il?

A: You cede what you consider easy territory. I'll go to Iraq. I'll go to Cuba. I give them the turf that they want. I make my points with respect and don't overdo the ''U.S. superpower'' angle. I try then to show why it is in their interest to do something that I want. With the North Koreans, you can't browbeat them. You can't even raise your tone. You have to make them comfortable and treat them with respect. They feel that they've been insulted by the United States, by Clinton and Bush.

Q: To what extent did the phrase ''axis of evil'' fuel the current conflict?

A: It didn't help. It didn't help. There was a perception among the North Koreans that the Bush administration was rejecting everything that the Clinton administration did. In reaching out to me, the North Koreans found somebody they had dealt with successfully before, somebody with a different point of view, someone who still had some ties with the Bush administration. My ties are strong with Powell, but nobody else."

Bill Richardson looks like a winner to me, and like somebody I'd trust at the helm in this post-9/11 world. Plus, unlike almost every other Democrat running, he's a Governor, not a Senator. Anyone who has looked at the record of past Presidential candidates has to conclude that Governors do better than Senators in these elections.

Bill Richardson in '04, I say. I think a letter writing campaign, or something along those lines, is in order.

::: posted by Pontificator at 2:18 AM

Despite Bush's outrageous record of partisan judicial appointments, Democrats have been far fairer in confirming those appointments than were Republicans during the Clinton administration:

"Since the Senate changeover in July 2001, the Democratic-led Judiciary Committee and Senate have acted far faster on judicial nominations than their predecessors did in the previous six years of their tenure, doing more in 17 months than Republicans did in the previous 30 months. The Democratic-led Judiciary Committee also opened the process to the public and the press (making blue slips public) and restored steadiness to the hearing process (hearings every month of Democratic control, even during an August recess period). The Democratic-led Senate confirmed 100 of President Bush’s judicial nominees, more than a Republican Senate confirmed for President Reagan in his first two full years in office (89) and more than were confirmed for President George H.W. Bush in the first two full years in office (70), and even though Democrats had only 16 months, not 24, to achieve that. In 2002 alone, the Democratic-led Senate confirmed 72 judicial nominees. This exceeds the number of confirmations in any year of the prior years of Republican control, with the 56 district and circuit judges confirmed in 1995; 17 judges (and no circuit judges) confirmed in all of 1996; 36 judges confirmed in all of 1997; 64 judges confirmed in 1998; 34 judges confirmed in all of 1999; and the 39 judges confirmed in all of 2000. Even the fiercest partisans understand that the raw numbers, not percentages, reflect the true work of the committee, and overall numbers, not percentages, also are what is important to the work of the federal judiciary. The previous Republican Senate iced nearly 60 of President Clinton’s nominees by denying them hearings and votes, after waits as long as four years."

::: posted by Pontificator at 12:34 AM

Strong words from Patrick Leahy on Miguel Estrada, one of Bush's nominees for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals:

"The Chairman has instead exercised his prerogative to list the nomination of Mr. Estrada to the D.C. Circuit. This, too, has been a difficult nomination for this Committee. I have significant concerns about Miguel Estrada’s nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Many of us would like to have sufficient confidence based on a record and a strong confidence about the type of judge he would be, in voting on this nomination. Sadly, that is not the record before this Committee. I am not convinced that he will not become an activist on that court, given what we have learned about him and given the insufficient record we have. Mr. Estrada has no judicial experience. He has no publications since his law school note. He is not a distinguished legal scholar or professor of law and has never taught a class. While he has experience arguing criminal cases before the Supreme Court, on which he clerked, he appears to have no experience handling the types of civil cases that make up the majority of the docket of the D.C. Circuit. Additionally, his selection for this court has generated tremendous controversy. I think that is, in part, because he appears to have been groomed to be an activist appellate judge by well-placed conservatives."

Miguel Estrada. Another fine candidate for a FILIBUSTER!!!

::: posted by Pontificator at 12:31 AM

Advertising on Rush Limbaugh supports terrible things!

::: posted by Pontificator at 12:19 AM

Sunday, January 26, 2003 :::
Bill Richardson for President?

::: posted by Pontificator at 5:28 PM

The headline-speaks-for-itself award:

"Collateral Chaos: Air Force Report Expects Numerous Civilian Deaths, Damaging Publicity"

That darn left-wing peacenik airforce.

::: posted by Pontificator at 2:35 PM


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