In Dicta

Friday, February 03, 2006

Wow.. that's A LOT of money

"The Bush administration said Thursday it will ask Congress for $120 billion more for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

If approved by Congress, the war money would push spending related to the wars toward a staggering half-trillion dollars."

I'm not arguing about the rationality of the war(s) or not, but still, it is a lot of money.

From MSNBC News.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Alito's first (real) vote

"Alito splits with conservatives on first case"

"New Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito split with the court’s conservative wing Wednesday night, refusing to let Missouri execute a death-row inmate contesting lethal injection.

Alito, handling his first case, sided with inmate Michael Taylor, who had won a stay from an appeals court earlier in the evening. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas supported lifting the stay, but Alito joined the remaining five members in turning down Missouri’s last-minute request to allow a midnight execution."

From MSNBC News.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Another interesting Alito piece

In the Washington Post as well. "New Justice's First Challenge: Clap On or Clap Off":

Samuel A. Alito Jr., barely eight hours into his job as a Supreme Court justice, had to make a series of important rulings as he sat in the House chamber for last night's State of the Union address.

For instance: How enthusiastically would he applaud for President Bush? (More vigorously than Justice Stephen G. Breyer but less than Justice Clarence Thomas and about the same as the chief, John G. Roberts Jr.)

And: How would he react when Bush introduced him to Congress? (He would make a self-conscious grin.)

Shifting the Court... literally

Interesting take on the Alito story you don't see everyday by The Washington Post:

"Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. may or may not change the Supreme Court's jurisprudence. But he will shake up one aspect of court business that was unchanged for more than 11 years: the seating chart.

As the junior associate justice, Alito will occupy the end of the bench farthest to the courtroom audience's right during oral arguments. Justice Stephen G. Breyer, who has sat there since October 1994, will move across to the audience's extreme left.

The other justices will shift according to seniority as well, except for John Paul Stevens, the senior associate justice, who will remain just to the left of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. Justice Antonin Scalia will occupy the chair to Roberts's right, where retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor sat.

The chief justice has the middle chair, regardless of how long he has been on the court. Thus, Roberts, a rookie, did not alter the seating arrangement when he replaced the late Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist in October.

Breyer is also in for other changes: no longer will it be his job to answer the door during the court's closed conferences, nor must he report the justices' votes to the clerk of the court. Those jobs, traditionally done by the junior justice, now belong to Alito.

Breyer was the court's junior member for 11 years, 181 days, about a month shy of the record set by Joseph Story, who served during the 19th century.

In a brief interview, Breyer jokingly observed that sitting at one end of the bench and standing last in line "require no talent," though "opening the door and reporting the results might."

"But," he said, "I am confident that Justice Alito will carry out those responsibilities perfectly."

Awesome (Yes, I am a law geek).

Suit: Ipod may cause hearing loss; pay me.

More frivolous suits:

"A Louisiana man claims in a lawsuit that Apple's iPod music player can cause hearing loss in people who use it.

Apple has sold more than 42 million of the devices since they went on sale in 2001, including 14 million in the fourth quarter last year. The devices can produce sounds of more than 115 decibels, a volume that can damage the hearing of a person exposed to the sound for more than 28 seconds per day, according to the complaint.

The iPod players are "inherently defective in design and are not sufficiently adorned with adequate warnings regarding the likelihood of hearing loss," according to the complaint, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in San Jose, Calif., on behalf of John Kiel Patterson of Louisiana.

The suit, which Patterson wants certified as a class-action, seeks compensation for unspecified damages and upgrades that will make iPods safer. Patterson's suit said he bought an iPod last year, but does not specify whether he suffered hearing loss from the device."

From Yahoo! News.

Triumph of perserverance and entrepreneurship

I love to hear stories like these:

"SIX years ago I received a call from a man named Edwin Rodriguez, an unemployed janitor. He had invented a plantain peeler and wanted to know if I would like to see it. A few days later Mr. Rodriguez's prototype arrived in the mail. It was carved from wood and painted green and lemon yellow like a child's toy — and was otherwise the most phallic cooking tool I'd ever seen. I quickly tucked it into my desk drawer.

But when I tried it out in the privacy of my home kitchen, it worked ingeniously. There was a blade for trimming off the ends of the fruit and cutting seams into the peel without harming the inner plantain. And at one end was a spade-shaped wood piece designed to mimic a thumbnail — the implement that, in the absence of a plantain peeler like Mr. Rodriguez's, is normally is used to wedge under the peel and lift it in strips. Peeling a green plantain is not like peeling a banana. The skin sticks, and if you're not careful you can easily split the fruit's flesh; you need a sharp paring knife and good knife skills.

I called Mr. Rodriguez to tell him I was impressed by his invention and wanted to write about it.

"Where can you buy it?" I asked.

"Oh, but we don't have a manufacturer," he said. With regret, I explained that it would be hard to write about a product that readers couldn't experience for themselves, and encouraged him to call back once it was in production.


Without money or connections it had taken Mr. Rodriguez, 58, more than 12 years to move his E-Z Peeler from concept to manufacture. The process began in 1990 when Mr. Rodriguez, who had grown up in Puerto Rico, was laid off from Public School 117 in East Harlem, where he had been a janitor."

That is what I call a person who will go forward in life.

From The New York Times.

Justice Alito and the President

A picture worth a thousand words... and 58 Senate votes.

Sheehan: publicity hound

Capitol Police arrest antiwar activist Sheehan
Invited to State of the Union address, she is removed from gallery

NBC News and news services
Updated: 3:37 a.m. ET Feb. 1, 2006

Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a fallen soldier in Iraq who reinvigorated the antiwar movement, was arrested and removed from the House gallery Tuesday night just before President Bush’s State of the Union address, a police spokeswoman said.

Sheehan, who was invited to attend the speech by Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif., was charged with demonstrating in the Capitol building, said Capitol Police Sgt. Kimberly Schneider. The charge was later changed to unlawful conduct, Schneider said. Both charges are misdemeanors.

Sheehan was taken in handcuffs from the Capitol to police headquarters a few blocks away. Her case was processed as Bush spoke.

Schneider said Sheehan had worn a T-shirt with an antiwar slogan to the speech and covered it up until she took her seat. Police warned her that such displays were not allowed, but she did not respond, the spokeswoman said.

The T-shirt bore the words “2,245 Dead — How Many More??” in reference to the number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq, protesters told NBC News.

Police handcuffed Sheehan and removed her from the gallery before Bush arrived. Sheehan was to be released on her own recognizance, Schneider said.

“I’m proud that Cindy’s my guest tonight,” Woolsey said in an interview before the speech. “She has made a difference in the debate to bring our troops home from Iraq.”

Unbelievable. A mother using her son's tragic death to make herself the center of attention.

From MSNBC News.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Alito en route to High Court

"Republican senators, aided by 19 Democrats, cleared the path yesterday for Samuel A. Alito Jr. to join the Supreme Court and for President Bush to put his stamp firmly on the nine-member bench.

The Senate voted 72 to 25 to end debate on Alito's nomination and to allow a roll call on his confirmation today, shortly before noon. Alito's supporters garnered a dozen more votes than the 60 they needed to choke off a Democratic filibuster effort, which would have allowed debate to continue indefinitely.

Leaders of both parties said Alito, 55, will comfortably win confirmation today, although not by the 78 to 22 margin that Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. received last fall. Legal analysts say Alito's 15-year record as an appellate court judge suggests he may be more consistently conservative than Roberts. Moreover, they say, Alito is poised to make a larger impact on the court because he will replace Sandra Day O'Connor, the deciding vote in numerous 5 to 4 decisions over the years. Roberts succeeded a fellow conservative, the late William H. Rehnquist."

Which is certainly a good thing.

From The Wasington Post.

Innocent until proven guilty...

unless it's one of these bozos?

"Enron Jury Chosen in First Day, Setting Stage for Opening Arguments
HOUSTON, Jan. 30 — In a single day, the federal judge presiding over the Enron trial here defied skeptics by selecting a 12-person jury to decide whether Kenneth L. Lay and Jeffrey K. Skilling, the former chief executives, conspired to defraud investors in the biggest business collapse in history.

Despite expressing serious reservations about Judge Simeon T. Lake III's plans to make final jury selections in a day, defense lawyers and Mr. Lay himself said afterward that they were satisfied with the jury of 8 women and 4 men. The 12 were selected out of a final pool of nearly 100 prospects.

"They're a well-educated jury, better educated than most," Michael Ramsey, Mr. Lay's lead lawyer, said.

The jurors range in age from 24 to 66 — six have college degrees and of those, two also have master's degrees. Three work in the oil and gas industry, and a few are in accounting. Three are in education, and two are self-employed. Two are Hispanic and one is Indian; the rest are white.

"We had some issues, but we are very pleased with the jury that we have," said Daniel Petrocelli, Mr. Skilling's lead lawyer. "They know this is a court of law, not a court of public opinion."

Mr. Lay, speaking to a throng of news media gathered behind a metal barricade, said: "We are pleased with the outcome. My fate and Mr. Skilling's are in their hands."

Mr. Lay arrived early Monday, walking briskly past a phalanx of cameras, tightly clutching the hand of his wife, Linda, and looking downward. When a journalist yelled from the crowd, asking if this trial would be "a chance to clear your name," he called back, "It certainly is."

Continue reading at The New York Times (free subscription required).

Kennedy (not that one) in the middle

Probably a very correct sentiment:

"Should Samuel A. Alito Jr. be confirmed to the Supreme Court today, as expected, it will mark the beginning of a new Supreme Court era -- and, perhaps more important, the end of an old, familiar one.

For much of the past 24 years, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, whom Alito would replace, has wielded the swing vote on a split court, usually casting her lot with the court's four other conservative justices, but siding with liberals on such crucial issues as abortion, affirmative action and campaign finance reform.

Alito's arrival, however, may turn the O'Connor Court into the Kennedy Court. If, as many expect, Alito forms a four-vote conservative bloc with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, that would leave Justice Anthony M. Kennedy -- a conservative who has occasionally voted with liberals on gay rights, the death penalty and abortion -- as the court's least predictable member.

"Assuming the predictions about Alito's views are correct, he turns Justice Kennedy into a swing vote on a lot of issues," said Pamela Karlan, a professor of law at Stanford University who teaches a course on the current Supreme Court.

No case illustrates the new dynamic better than the challenge to a Republican-drafted congressional redistricting plan for Texas, which the court will hear on March 1. The stakes in the case are huge and could include eventual control of the closely divided House.

The Texas plan, drafted at the request of then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R) and rammed through the state legislature in 2003 over Democratic protests, created a first-ever majority-Republican congressional delegation to match the state's overall GOP voting preference.

But opponents say it was an unconstitutional, partisan gerrymander. The court has split down the middle on such claims in the past, with the four liberal justices -- John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer -- saying that the court can and should decide when partisanship goes too far.

Conservatives -- the late Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, O'Connor, Scalia and Thomas -- said the courts should stay out of this political thicket.

Kennedy, however, said that he would not rule out the possibility that a partisan gerrymander could violate the Constitution, although such a plan had not yet been found.

On this issue, at least, Alito, who acknowledged at his confirmation hearings that he was a youthful skeptic about the court's past efforts to fix legislative districts in the name of "one person, one vote," could vote as O'Connor did. If, as expected, Roberts followed suit, that would leave Kennedy to decide the case.

Presidential war powers
Another issue on which Alito faced sharp questioning at his hearings -- presidential war powers -- is also on the court's docket. The key case is a challenge to President Bush's plan to try terrorist suspects at military tribunals.

A former aide to Osama bin Laden, Salim Hamdan, claims that his pending trial before a tribunal is unlawful because it has not been authorized by a statute or the Constitution. He also argues that the federal courts should be allowed to enforce his rights as a prisoner of war under the Geneva Conventions.

The Bush administration argues that the tribunals are based both on the president's constitutional powers as commander in chief and on the Sept. 14, 2001, joint congressional resolution authorizing the use of force to battle terrorists.

The administration prevailed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, in a decision joined by Roberts while he was still a judge on that court.

Roberts will have to sit out the case at the Supreme Court, leaving just eight justices to decide the matter.

The outcome is difficult to predict; in the past, court conservatives have splintered on similar issues, with Thomas lining up fully behind the administration, Kennedy and Rehnquist lending partial support, and Scalia actually joining with the court's most liberal member, Stevens, in rejecting the administration's claim that it could indefinitely hold a U.S. citizen captured in Afghanistan without charges.

One option for the court would be to dismiss the matter, citing a new law enacted by Congress that, in the administration's view, strips the courts of jurisdiction to hear challenges to the tribunals. But Hamdan's lawyers are resisting that.

The court will soon meet in closed-door conference to decide whether it should hear a case on the constitutionality of the federal law banning the late-term abortion procedure known by opponents as "partial birth."

The law, passed in 2003 and signed by Bush, has been struck down by lower federal courts. They cited a 2000 decision striking down state bans on late-term abortion -- a case in which O'Connor cast the fifth and deciding vote.

Padilla’s fate
Alito opposed the court's abortion rights rulings as a young Reagan administration aide, and voted to uphold a state limitation on abortion rights in a 1991 case. But as a federal appeals judge, he applied Supreme Court precedent in striking down a New Jersey late-term abortion ban.

Also, the court will have to decide whether to hear the case of Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen arrested and held in military custody without charges as an "enemy combatant." The Bush administration has recently turned him over to civilian authorities, but Padilla's lawyers say the constitutional issue is still alive.

If the court accepts either or both of the cases, it would probably hear them during the term beginning in October."

From MSNBC News and The Washington Post Company.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

If true, this is worrisome

I'm not a true environmentalist, but I am human:

"Now that most scientists agree human activity is causing Earth to warm, the central debate has shifted to whether climate change is progressing so rapidly that, within decades, humans may be helpless to slow or reverse the trend.

This "tipping point" scenario has begun to consume many prominent researchers in the United States and abroad, because the answer could determine how drastically countries need to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in the coming years. While scientists remain uncertain when such a point might occur, many say it is urgent that policymakers cut global carbon dioxide emissions in half over the next 50 years or risk the triggering of changes that would be irreversible.

There are three specific events that these scientists describe as especially worrisome and potentially imminent, although the time frames are a matter of dispute: widespread coral bleaching that could damage the world's fisheries within three decades; dramatic sea level rise by the end of the century that would take tens of thousands of years to reverse; and, within 200 years, a shutdown of the ocean current that moderates temperatures in northern Europe."

From MSNBC News.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Sheehan is a crazy attention grabber

I don't consider myself a "right-winger," but not a "leftist" either. However, I really dislike Cindy Sheehan. She is an attention-seeking political hack who has profited from her son's death in Iraq. And just to prove the point that this is no longer about the Iraq war, comes this:

"Cindy Sheehan to Dianne Feinstein: Fillibuster [sic] Alito or I’ll Challenge Your Senate Seat."


Courtesy of The Volokh Conspiracy.

I hate pork...

... but not the kind you eat. The Washington, D.C. kind.

Judicial biographies (or hagiographies?)

Jeff Rosen has an interesting article out in today's New York Times:

"During his Supreme Court confirmation hearings, Judge Samuel Alito talked frequently about his father, an Italian immigrant. "My father was brought to this country as an infant," Alito declared. "He grew up in poverty." Offering up homey autobiographical anecdotes to build political support is a familiar strategy among nominees. But now personal exposure is becoming a strategy for judges to connect to the public even after they are confirmed: In 2002, Clarence Thomas received a $1.5 million advance for a memoir, tentatively entitled "From Pin Point to Points After," that promises to describe his rise from obscurity, including his personal impressions of his "emotionally overwhelming" confirmation battle, in which he was accused of sexual harassment by Anita Hill. And Sandra Day O'Connor recently appeared on "Good Morning America" to promote "Chico," her second book about her childhood on the Lazy B Ranch.

In an unbuttoned, confessional age, the judiciary has remained the last institution of American government to resist the public's relentless demands for personal exposure. But the norms about what's appropriate for judges to reveal about themselves are in the middle of a sea change. Before the gossipy anonymous blog Underneath Their Robes (which insists that judges should be treated as "legal celebrities") temporarily shut down last November, Judge Alex Kozinski wrote the site a playful letter nominating himself as a "judicial hottie" while Judge Richard A. Posner - one of the first federal judges to start his own blog - sent giddy fan e-mail messages."

Interesting stuff. Keep reading.

I'm back

Hopefully for more regular posting.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

If you thought the Michael Brown saga was over...

"Brown serving as consultant to FEMA"

A congressional panel on Tuesday is expected to scrutinize the decision to keep ousted Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Michael Brown on the federal payroll.

Brown told congressional investigators Monday that he is being paid as a consultant to help FEMA assess what went wrong in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, according to a senior official familiar with the meeting.

Brown also said he wished he had pushed more forcefully -- and earlier -- for federal troops to be brought in to restore order in New Orleans, the official told CNN.

Brown's comments were made to investigators for Rep. Tom Davis, R-Virginia. Davis leads a House select committee probing the federal, state and local response to Katrina, and Brown is scheduled to appear before the panel Tuesday in a highly anticipated appearance.

Congressional aides told CNN that given all of the questions already raised about Brown's qualifications for the FEMA job, the decision to keep him on the payroll for about a month will be examined at Tuesday's hearing.