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July 25, 2005

Maybe Roberts isn't a slam-dunk confirm after all

Jonathan Turley in the LA Times has picked up on something that, if true [see the Updates below for more on that], does actually call into question whether John Roberts can effectively serve as a Supreme Court Justice - or, really, as a judge of any court.

According to sources present in Roberts' courtesy call chit-chat with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Durbin asked what Roberts would do if the law called for a ruling that, according to the dictates of Roberts' faith, was immoral. 

Let's pause for a moment and note that the "right" answer, of course, is: "Well, Senator, matters of faith are personal and quite distinct from my duties as a judge.  Of course I would vote to uphold the law regardless of the Church's view on a particular moral question.  Part of being a good judge is being able to recognize that the law sometimes requires a result that may run contrary to the judge's personal beliefs, and to rule accordingly in those instances."

Roberts, however, took quite a different approach.  His answer: he would have to recuse himself.

Whoa - stop the presses.  If he's serious about that, it seems to mean that Roberts would have to recuse himself:

  • every time the law demanded that the death penalty be imposed.
  • every time the law demanded that an abortion restriction be struck down.
  • every time the law demanded that a sodomy law be struck down.
  • every time the law demanded that a restriction on embryonic stem-cell research be invalidated.

I could go on, but the point is clear enough.  The Catholic Church, of which Roberts is reportedly a devout member, has taken strong positions on a lot of issues that regularly come before the Supreme Court.  If Roberts cannot participate in those cases, he simply cannot do the job for which he has been nominated. 

This development should seriously trouble those on the right as well as the left - no one wants a bunch of 4-4 votes, with Justice Roberts not participating, on these issues.  Turley notes that Justice Scalia has taken the view that "the choice for a judge who believes the death penalty to be immoral is resignation, rather than simply ignoring duly enacted constitutional laws and sabotaging the death penalty," and it's hard to argue with that.

Finally, the Senate really has something to ask Roberts about!

Hat tip: DavidNYC at dKos.

UPDATE: Scott McLellan was asked about this at the White House daily briefing, but, predictably, punted.

FURTHER UPDATE: Reuters is now reporting that a spokesperson for Sen. Durbin has said that Turley's account of their conversation is wrong.  So this may be a big "never mind." But see below.

FURTHER FURTHER UPDATE: According to the NYT, Turley is sticking to his story and claims that it's Durbin himself who relayed the conversation.  Stay tuned.

Posted by David at 04:12 PM in Law and Lawyers | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Is it too early to call it "FederalistSocietyGate"?

Curiouser and curiouser.  Supreme Court nominee Judge Roberts' apparent non-membership in the Federalist Society (the conservative networking group for lawyers, membership in which has become de rigueur for right-leaning lawyers who want to get ahead) has raised eyebrows on both the left and the right.  Everyone assumed he was a member; then the White House started calling reporters to insist that he wasn't; and no one really knows why he didn't join.

Now, however, the WaPo reports that Roberts is listed as a member of the steering committee of the Federalist Society's Washington DC chapter in 1997-98, when he was still a partner at Hogan & Hartson.  Oh, no problem, says a FedSoc VP - formal membership in the organization is not required in order to serve on a steering committee.  But of course, the FedSoc regards its membership rolls as confidential, so they won't say whether he ever actually joined.

What in the hell is going on here?  Before this all began, no one would have been surprised to learn that Roberts was a FedSoc member - in fact, everyone assumed he was, which is why the fact that he supposedly isn't and never has been made the news.  But it's passing strange to see him listed as a member of a steering committee of a group that he was supposedly never a member of.  It's even stranger, IMHO, for him never to have shelled out the $50 to join a group whose activities he found sufficiently important that he agreed to serve on its steering committee.  It's not like a Hogan & Hartson partner pulling in a salary in the high six figures couldn't afford it.

And so I demand that the administration answer, with respect to this urgently pressing matter: WHAT DID THE PRESIDENT KNOW, AND WHEN DID HE KNOW IT?

OK, kidding.  Still, it's weird, don't you think?

Posted by David at 12:03 AM in Law and Lawyers | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 24, 2005

Will he ever return?

I hereby apologize to every reader of this blog. Here goes:

(To the tune of "The Ship That Never Returned"/"Charley on the MTA")

1. Let me tell you the story
Of a man named Romney
On a tragic and fateful day
He put a dollar in his pocket,
Brought his high-priced handlers,
Went to ride on the M(B)TA.

Romney handed in his dollar
At the Park Street Station
And got off at Downtown Cross-aing
When he got there the reporters told him,
"One more quarter."
Romney could not get off that train.

Did he ever return,
No he never returned
You know, it's not his "regular commute" (oh no Romney)
They don’t take Visa Platinum
for a 14-second ride,
No, the guv’nor never returned.

2. Now all night long
Romney rides through the tunnels
Saying, "What will become of me?
How can I afford to see
My wife in Belmont
Instead of dealing with the cat lady?"

Now his handlers go down
To the Park Street station
Every day at quarter past two
And through the open window
They hand Romney a canape
As the train comes rumblin' through.


3. As his train rolled on
Through Greater Boston
Romney looked around and moaned,
"Well, I'm not a T ridah --
I’m goin’ back to Carolina
Where they made me feel right at home."

Now you citizens of Boston,
Don't you think it's a scandal
That the Guv’nor has to pay and pay
If you see him riding,
Flip the poor man a quarter,
Get poor Romney off the MTA.

So that he'll never return,
No he'll never return
And his fate will be unlearned
He may ride forever
on his mower in Belmont
He's the man (Who's the man)
He's the man (We can plan)
He's the man who never returned.

(Inspired -- if you can call it that -- by sco.)

Posted by Charley on the MTA at 10:45 PM in Massachusetts | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

July 23, 2005

Who cares about the internets?

As you are undoubtedly well aware, Deval Patrick recently undertook a massive blog outreach effort, giving interviews to .08, Eisenthal, and the three of us here at BMG.  His campaign also approached Left in Lowell and Cape Ann Dem, and possibly others, and we look forward to seeing the results of those interviews as well.

We wondered whether other campaigns might be interested in doing the same thing - after all, Howard Dean does seem to have shown that you can generate a lot of money and a lot of interest by undertaking a sophisticated internet-based campaign, and the phenomenon of internet-based activism, whether via blogging or otherwise, is only going to grow in importance.  So we sent an invitation to Tom Reilly's campaign a couple of weeks ago wondering whether he might be interested in holding a similar conversation.  So far, nothing.  [cue crickets chirping]

In addition, in an effort to find out more about the candidates for the Second Middlesex Senate seat, earlier this week we sent a brief questionnaire to the four major Democratic candidates (Pat Jehlen, Paul Casey, Michael Callahan, and Joe Mackey) asking them to elaborate on three issues important to the "progressive" community (health care, education, and transportation).  Jehlen's campaign responded promptly and promised she would answer [UPDATE: and Mackey's campaign has said he would answer as well].  Nothing from the others so far.  (To be fair to Callahan, I had to snail mail his since I could not find an email address for him, so he's probably only receiving the questionnaire now.)

I very much hope that we get a response from Reilly and from the Senate candidates, since I welcome any opportunity to find out more about where the various candidates stand on "the issues."  But I also think that a campaign's decision as to whether or not to respond at all says quite a lot about how that campaign intends to operate, and who it sees as a possible source for voters.  So far, Patrick and Jehlen [UPDATE: and Mackey] have indicated that they think Howard Dean was really onto something (I don't care what you think about Dean on the merits - his biggest accomplishment in the '04 campaign was on process, including raising a ton of money, not on substance).  The others, as of yet, not so much.

Maybe the traditionalists are right.  After all, George Bush won in 2004 despite the Dems thinking that they had learned what made Dean's campaign tick.  And Mike Moran won the Allston/Brighton/Brookline special election despite Tim Schofield's more aggressive outreach to the "progressive" internet-based community.  But Schofield came really close (64 votes) - a lot closer than he would have come otherwise, given Moran's lifelong roots in the community and his endorsements from both the Globe and the Phoenix.  And, it is said, Schofield's strong presence in the race pushed Moran to adopt more "progressive" positions on certain issues (including but not limited to gay marriage) than he otherwise might have.

So a sophisticated internet operation may or may not be outcome-determinative in these kinds of races, but I think there's little doubt that the internet matters, and that it will matter increasingly as time goes on.  Seems to me that the candidates who get that now will be better positioned in the future than those who don't.

Posted by David at 10:57 AM in Massachusetts | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Excuse me.... is this strawman organic?

Cookbook author Julie Powell writes an op-ed in the Times decrying the supposed gastronomic and class snobbery of those who buy organic food, finding herself "uncomfortable" in Whole Foods and "longing for the nonjudgemental aisles of low-end supermarkets".

While acknowledging that buying organic food is a reasonable and ethical if expensive choice, she claims that those who buy it are snobs, with this pivoting statement: "When you wed money to decency, you come perilously close to equating penury with immorality."

Well, no. (Going back to high school math-class logic, that's the inverse error, i.e. If buying organic food is good, then not buying organic food is not good. FALSE.)

I wonder if Powell has friends who cluck their tongues at her "Honduran family at the discount grocery" buying what they can afford. If so, she needs to get new friends. If she doesn't know real people who feel that way, she should stop making up bogus arguments to rail against.

Luckily, even organic food doesn't necessarily cost more than ordinary supermarket stuff: We have a "share" (that we then share with another couple) in a Community Supported Agriculture farm in Lincoln called The Food Project. You pay your money and get fresh organic vegetables for about five months: June through October. For our part it comes out to about $15-$20 a week for all the vegetables we can eat; for the amount of food it doesn't seem expensive to me. In addition, The Food Project (a non-profit) has programs for area youth, they give food to local shelters, and so forth. It's a good deal: good food, organic, very reasonable price, and a clear conscience -- clear even of pernicious foodie classism.

Posted by Charley on the MTA at 08:59 AM in Random | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 22, 2005

You can't handle the truth!

And while we're on the subject of petroleum-based reality... Congressman Joe Barton, chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and a fully-owned subsidiary of the oil lobby has requested the congressional equivalent of a police raid from Michael Mann of the University of Virginia, who created the influential "hockey stick" model of global warming six years ago. Here is part of Rep. Barton's request, which gives you an idea of what kind of witch hunt this is:

To assist us as we begin this review, and pursuant to Rules X and XI of the U.S. House of Representatives, please provide the following information requested below on or before July 11, 2005:

1. Your curriculum vitae, including, but not limited to, a list of all studies relating to climate change research for which you were an author or co-author and the source of funding for those studies.
2. List all financial support you have received related to your research, including, but not limited to, all private, state, and federal assistance, grants, contracts (including subgrants or subcontracts), or other financial awards or honoraria.
3. Regarding all such work involving federal grants or funding support under which you were a recipient of funding or principal investigator, provide all agreements relating to those underlying grants or funding, including, but not limited to, any provisions, adjustments, or exceptions made in the agreements relating to the dissemination and sharing of research results.

... It goes on. Way on.

Scientists are naturally outraged. Congress does indeed fund reports, but they don't get to dictate the results, any more than they can legislate the value of Pi or outlaw gravity. But when all else fails, blame the messenger!

Who knows, maybe there should be hearings. I'd love to see the scientists go up against Barton face-to-face. Good times...

Posted by Charley on the MTA at 11:16 AM in National | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The tiger that's a red herring

ExxonMobil seems to be feeling the heat of its own making: A coalition of environmental groups have called for a boycott of the most stubborn, recalcitrant global-warming-profiteering company out there. ExxonMobil finances "pay-to-play" propaganda studies questioning global warming.

So naturally, ExxonMobil would like to draw your attention to their cute mascot, a "charismatic mega-fauna", the tiger. Their usual "op-ad" on the NY Times op-ed page a few days ago says they're sponsoring a campaign to save tigers in India. Great. What about saving our skins?

I harbor no animus for the local owners of ExxonMobil stations. But I'm not going to buy their products. ExxonMobil as a corporation may only be one of the worst of the bunch, but they richly deserve their embarrassment. I hope the boycott works, and sooner rather than later.

Posted by Charley on the MTA at 10:41 AM in National | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Mitt Romney, meet your fellow one-termer George H.W. Bush

Both the Globe and the Herald are reporting Mitt Romney's howlingly funny PR disaster of trying to reassure T riders that public transit in Boston is still safe by taking the 14-second Red Line ride from Park Street to Downtown Crossing (yeah, I'm sure that really reassured the riders who spend 45 minutes on three different lines twice a day).  First, asked by reporters how much a token costs, Romney got it wrong.  He said it costs "a buck."  Oops.  That was your T board that raised it to $1.25, Guv.  Informed of his error, Romney apparently flipped a quarter into the crowd, as if to say, "a buck, a buck and a quarter, who cares?  The extra 25 cents really doesn't make any difference to a rich guy like me.  I flush quarters down the toilet every day as a way to keep my mansion's plumbing running smoothly - it's like roughage for pipes."

Anyway, to add insult to injury, the crazy cat lady then started harassing Romney, screaming that he had killed her cats.  And asked when the last time he had actually ridden the T was, he came up with this gem:

''Let's see it was, we did it with the Charlie card and then also the . . . it was with [Senate] President [Robert E.] Travaglini -- I'm trying to recall," he said, asking aloud, ''We were at a station, what was it . . . Ashmont station? Ashmont station, it was Ashmont station . . . It's not my regular commute."

"Not my regular commute."  Kinda says it all.

The obvious historical reference here is George H.W. Bush's infamous gaffe at a supermarket where he expressed wonderment at the remarkable "scanner" technology.  (Some say that story was overblown, but the legend does live on.)  Romney has become so disengaged from Massachusetts that he's forgotten how much it costs to ride the T.  If he lived in Northampton, that'd be one thing.  But he lives in the Boston area, and he works up the hill from the Park Street T stop - and it's not like the fare hike flew below radar when it happened.  It was a big deal.  Governors are supposed to be aware of stuff like this.  Maybe presidential candidates aren't.

Posted by David at 10:06 AM in Massachusetts | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 21, 2005

OK, that was fun. Now back to the important stuff.

Well, all this John Roberts for the Supreme Court business has been interesting.  But let's face it - he's going to be confirmed, and probably in a walk.  The requisite interest groups will make the requisite loud noises about it, and Senators will ask some tough questions, but at the end of the day, he's in.  And he's not as bad as some of the others on Bush's short list, so let's count our pathetic blessings, such as they are, and move on.  (Move on - get it?  Heh.)

To what, you ask?  To this, for example: Bloomberg will run this story tonight reporting that Karl Rove and Scooter Libby are both under investigation for having given false testimony to the Novak-Plame-gate grand jury.  Which would mean, of course, that both of them are candidates for perjury or obstruction of justice indictments. 

Homerbeer_1 Mmmm...indictments....


Anyway, as I was saying, word on the street is that Bush rushed his announcement of Roberts because the heat on Rove was becoming unbearable.  And sure enough, Novak-Plame-gate (which I should maybe rename Rovegate) has been out of the papers for a couple of days.  Well, it's time for that little vacation to end.  With Rove and Libby (and probably others) likely having given false testimony, and with rumors swirling about who had access to the mysterious secret State Department memo that mentioned Plame's identity (also discussed in the Bloomberg story), the shit is hitting the fan on this one, and all the world needs to know about it.

So stop worrying about Roberts.  He may not be the guy we'd choose, but he's a perfectly defensible pick for a Republican president.  What is NOT in any way shape or form defensible is this administration's willingness to compromise national security by leaking the identity of a CIA agent to the press for political purposes, possibly breaking laws in the course either of the leak itself or of covering it up.  THAT's the big story, folks, and THAT's where everyone's attention should be.

UPDATE: Slate.com's Mickey Kaus agrees with the sentiments expressed here in a post called "OK, he'll do. Now back to Plame!"  (I promise I hadn't seen his post before I wrote mine.)

Posted by David at 10:06 PM in Law and Lawyers, National | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Second Middlesex Senate race update

We interrupt our wall-to-wall John Roberts coverage to remind you (and ourselves) that other important stories continue to percolate along.

The field in the Second Middlesex Senate race has narrowed considerably.  What looked for a while like a free-for-all is now down to four major Democratic candidates, Rep. Pat Jehlen (D-Somerville), ex-Rep. Joe Mackey (D-Somerville), Rep. Paul Casey (D-Winchester), and Governor's Councillor Michael J. Callahan (D-Medford), along with Bob Publicover about whom I know nothing.  Today's Globe has this interesting piece on Mackey's innovative use of technology - a CD containing a brief movie about him - in his campaign.  Also on the technology beat, Mackey and Pat Jehlen both have set up spiffy websites; Casey and Callahan have not, though Casey told the Globe he's planning to (Callahan was mum on his technology plans).

It's shaping up to be a very interesting race.  Jehlen, of course, has lined up a slew of endorsements from "progressive" interest groups, liberal-ish unions like SEIU and the Teachers' Union, and left-leaning individuals, and is clearly banking on that crowd's ability to get out the lefty vote.  Mackey has also positioned himself as a "progressive" candidate, though he hasn't had the success with obtaining endorsements that Jehlen has, perhaps relying instead on a combination of his fancy CDs and shoe-leather.  At the opposite end of the spectrum appears to be Callahan, who is taking the more traditional Democratic approach - lining up endorsements from conservative-ish unions like the police and NAGE, and local elected officials like Medford's popular and long-serving Mayor Michael J. McGlynn and Woburn Mayor John Curran.  Callahan, too, will no doubt be hitting the bricks this summer.

Of course, everyone recognizes that a special election campaign like this one is all about turnout.  And it seems fair to say that both the "progressive" Dem crowd and the "traditional" Dem crowd are well represented in Somerville, Medford, Woburn, and Winchester.  In a totally unscientific survey of a small corner of Medford, I saw a smattering of Callahan lawn signs, along with a couple of Mackeys and Jehlens (in case you're wondering, a "smattering" is more than a "couple").  But there are plenty of voters out there for all of these candidates.  Who can get them to show up on August 30?

Posted by David at 02:51 PM in Massachusetts | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack