Friday, January 07, 2005

Rehnquist to be Absent

The SCOTUSBlog reports today that Chief Justice Rehnquist will not be hearing oral arguments on Monday and probably will miss oral arguments for the entire month, although he does still plan to be at President Bush's inauguration for the swearing in.

With the Chief being gone for so long, he may just be attempting to stay on through the end of the term in June. Certainly, President Bush is going to get one nomination this year--for Chief Justice.

WA Governor Not the Only Election to Never End

Politics1 Website is reporting that the race for the North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner will be set aside and a revote sometime in 2005.

Politics1 - American Politics, Elections, Candidates & Campaigns

Rossi To Sue In Washington on Governor's race

The Seattle Times is reporting that Dino Rossi, the GOP candiate for governor in the never ending saga as to who will become governor may file suit today seeking to have the election overturned. Rossi may alledge everything but the kitchen sink, saying that the mishandling of provisional ballots, votes by dead people, felons and multiple votes by the same person. While the provisional ballot issue and the appearance of more votes being counted than voters who appeared at the polls is likely to be Rossi's best line of attack.

As mentioned yesterday, the Help America Vote Act that created the provisional ballot did little to prepare the states for how to handle such ballots or to prevent the use of such ballots for voter fraud. Given that there is a presumption of validity of a ballot (otherwise you get disenfranchisment) many ballots that may be invalid were likely counted. Looks like some work needs to be done.

In the meanwhile, Rossi and Gregorie and their camps are locked in a rhetorical battle about the election. If you thought Florida in 2000 was bad, it has now been better than two months since the election took place. We may never know who won, nor is there a clear idea what Rossi will ask for in his suit. In theory a judge may dismiss the claim, declare Rossi the winner or set aside this election and call for a new election.

At this point, I am prepared to let the candidates play a best two of three Rock,Paper Scissors game.

The Seattle Times: Local News: GOP expected to file suit over Gregoire's win

Thursday, January 06, 2005

More On the Supreme Court Speculation

This is an interesting article whose subtext seems to question whether lifetime tenure for federal judges, particularly Supreme Court Justices is a good thing or not.

WorkingForChange-Is Rehnquist fit?

Election Law

With a big tip of the Hat toProf. Hasen's Election Law Blog the Washington Governor's Race legal battle may be taking a new turn with the possibility of the vote being set aside. See a series of links gathered by Howard Bashman

I don't know if setting aside a vote has ever occured, but this is certainly must be the highest level office to have the idea even considered. Granted, Governor Elect Christine Gregorie's 129 vote margin is so slim that there is no way, given some of the new issues raised, to know with a definitiveness who won.

This much is certain, the Washington Governor's race and the issues raised by Congressman Conyers and other Democrats about issues in Ohio and other states, points to a critical lack of insurance about the integrity of the voting process. If we are to avoid such issues in the future, Congress and the states are going to have to spend a lot of money to increase public confidence and the accuracy of voting processes.

In Washington, it looks as though more ballots were cast than voters who voted in some counties. Reminds me of the dead men voting in Chicago. To be sure, concepts such as provisional ballots are nice, but there does not appear to be adequate controls in place to prevent some types of fraud. What is to prevent a voter from voting in his normal precinct and the going to a neighboring precinct and voting provisionally. How are procedures in place to prevent such matters?

The Help America Vote Act is a good piece of legislation to start with, but it now appears obvious that new work needs to be done.

Chief Justice Clarence Thomas? Part II's Edward Lazarus presents a different view point on whether Clarence Thomas will be elevated to Chief Justice. Lazarus points out that Clarence Thomas is too much of a ideologue and soloist be an effective Chief Justice. Lazarus writes "As Chief, Thomas would frequently face the unpalatable choice of either compromising his own views, or letting the real lawmaking at the Court fall to other justices. Either way, his influence would be muted. A Chief Justice who frequently writes alone - as Thomas seems bent on doing - and whose view of the law is idiosyncratic - as Thomas's plainly is - may be Chief in name only." Thomas has written a large body of solo opinions and those opinions stake out positions that may appeal to the Bush administration and conservatives, Thomas' own desire to remain ideologically pure to his own convictions would not create a Court that would move, ever so slowly, in a direction the Administration would want.

FindLaw's Writ - Lazarus: Will Clarence Thomas Be the Court's Next Chief Justice?

Rahm Emanuel a DCCC smartest Democratic move yet

If, as it is expected, Rahm Emanuel is named to head the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, his selection may be the smartest move the Democrats have made since chosing Harry Reid to be the minority leader in the Senate.

As the Roll Call article notes, Emanuel has significant experience as a political strategist and some fundraising skill. He may be young and still only a second term Congressman, but as a strategist, he may be the best among elected Democrats.

But the selection of Emanuel has been one of a just a few bright spots in Democratic decisionmaking in the past year or so. It remains to be seen whether Emanuel will be able to force his views on an increasingly self-destructive party.

Emanuel Expected to Head DCCC

House Dems May Try to Contest Electoral Vote

For those of you who are true political junkies know that today is the official day in which President Bush will be re-elected as Congress will certify the electoral votes today in a special session. The fun part is that Rep. John Conyers of Michigan is trying to find a way to force a debate on whether or not Ohio's electoral votes should be counted in order to call attention to the already well-publicized issue of voting irregularities in Ohio.

Personally, I think that this is another case of "sore-loser-itis." Democrats are still bitter that they lost. I have no doubts that voting problems still exist in this country-for some inexplicable reason. In a nation as advanced as ours there should be no reason for voting problems other than long lines if we ever get to the point where we have real voter turnout. Conyers' effort is nothing more than a grandstanding attempt by Democratic partisans to remind their base of how the election was 'stolen' or what ever.

Although his attempt will end in failure, Conyers and others like him just cannot seem to accept the fact that they got beat. Like any good professional, they should study the election, figure out why they got beat, learn the lesson, apply the lession, and work harder next time.

AP Wire | 01/04/2005 | House Dems to Contest Electoral Vote Count

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Chief Justice Clarence Thomas?

My reading through various blogs about the possibility of the elevation of Justice Clarence Thomas to be Chief Justice talk a great deal about discussion of Thomas' ideology (here and here), his age, his adherence or lack thereof about to natural law interpretation, and comparisons to Justice Scalia (who has also been mentioned as a possible successor to ailing Chief Justice William Rehnquist. (Big Hat tip to SCOTUS Blog)

In particular, Professor Hasen talks about the likely media furor over Justice Thomas' confirmation hearings were he to be nominate. In a debate with Jack Balkin, Prof. Hasen thinks that the media circus will be much bigger than Justice Thomas' first confirmation hearing. I tend to agree with Professor Hasen, but not for the same reasons.

The media circus will intially focus on Thomas and Anita Hill, but then quickly veer to race. Thomas would be the first minority ever considered for Chief Justice, a matter than certainly has not escaped attention. While I am sure that many minority leaders considered Thomas a "traitor" to his race, I think that the racial issue, wrongly I might add, may dominate the media initially. Certainly, Professor Balkin has a good point in that Justice Thomas may be too inconsistent and perhaps a touch unjust in his opinions, but that shouldn't disqualify him from consideration.

The public may also put too much emphasis on the title of Chief Justice. The Chief is generally thought of as "first among equals" meaning that his opinions carry no extra weight in the Court, rather, Thomas or any Chief Justice is saddled with more administrative responsiblities. The Chief Justice by all accounts from Court watchers can influence, but perhaps no more than any other Justice.

I wouldn't mind seeing Scalia or Thomas as the Chief Justice, I don't think either is a big mystery. The mystery would be how the Democrats handle the confirmation process. But more on that later.

A book Review

While generally I am reading many law books and cases, which usually happens to law students, during the semester breaks I generally try to read absolute fluff or at least non-legal stuff. Recent reads include John Grisham and Isaac Asimov. But for 14 hours of plane sitting going to a from London, I decided to read a book recently made into a film, Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger. I strongly recommend the book and not even having seen the film, I can guarantee the movie is nothing like the book.

The book takes a long hard look at the sociology, psychology and politics, surrounding west Texas high school football in Odessa, TX. Expecting a story focused on the players and what they go through in the pressure cooker of the hopes and dream of an entire town, I was surprised to see segments on political values, morals, politics and race relations as it revolved around the Permian High School football team in the late 1980's.

Bissinger writes well and probably could have done a lot better in dealing with the personalities of the players and coaches, but on the whole does a good job presenting the background against which these young players struggle. Bissinger receieved enormous backlash from the people of Odessa for portraying their town as a football mad group of knuckle draggers, but in my experience there are times with parents and communities place so much pride in their high school that the pressure upon the students is so intense that physical manifestations are not unusual. Bissinger writes of team captains who regularly vomit prior to games, who struggle with and play injured, sometimes severly so, and the nerves associated with games.

Parents and communities often put enormous pressure on young kids to succeed in some given field. But the subtext in the bulk of hte book and later explicitly mentioned, is the damage to the educational system that focusing on football created. So intense was the desire to win in the Texas communities that all sorts of behavior by the student atheletes was tolerated and implicitly condoned. Bissinger leaves the reader to make the determination of whether the community was right or wrong in the cases provided. I believe Bissinger leaves too much for the reader to determine on their own. Additional analysis would have been helpful.

In the over 15 years since Bissinger followed the Permian High School football team, I wonder how much has changed, not only in Odessa but nationwide. I am a big believer in the value of sports, particularly team sports, in the development of kids. I am also a big believer in using sports scholarships to allow kids to get a college education, but has the desire for school to have excellent sports teams undermining their purpose--that of educating kids. Ultimately, that is what Bissinger asks and my answer is yes, it has.

After Promises, Peterson Poised for Ag Spot

Follow Up on This morning's post about Congressman Peterson.

After Promises, Peterson Poised for Ag Spot

Murtha: Give Dean DNC chair

More on the race to replace Terry McAuliffe as the DNC chair. Howard Dean is getting decent support in Congress.

Murtha: Give Dean DNC chair

Party Loyalty

The story below, from the The Hill, talks about an issue that concerns me both as a student of politics and as an American. In recent years, the issue of party loyalty has become such a problem that more middle of the road members of Congress, like Collin Peterson of Minnesota, are such a dwindling minority. Peterson voted for the GOP Medicare package which included a prescription drug benefit. Peterson district, near the border with Canada had apparently instructed him to vote for the measure. But now, when Peterson's seniority puts him in line to be the ranking member of hte Agriculture Committee, the Democrats in the House Leadership, all of whom are much more liberal than Peterson, have rebuked Peterson for not being partisan enough.

This troubling trend of strongly enforced party discipline is just another sypmtom of how much Congress no longer truly represents America. Peterson's district is a middle of the political road district. Peterson himself, while a Democrat, is a middle of the road Representative. Peterson appears to have remembered who he works for, the people of his district, not Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer.

If the Democrats are looking to win in the future, getting rid of people like Peterson who can present a moderate face to vital constituencies of exurban and rural America, is not the way to do.

Good Luck Congressman Peterson, I hope you get your seat.

Leaders crack whip on loyalty

Looking for the Next DNC Chairman

With two candidates declining to run for the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee, Democrats are facing what could be a bruising battle to take over the leadership of an organization that is clearly rocked and racked with concerns over the future.

If I were a DNC delegate and I was looking for wins in the future, I would look to Martin Frost. Frost has proven credentials as a leader of the party, if not a stellar record as the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (the party lost seats in each of his two terms). Of the four candidates clearly in the race, Frost is head and shoulders above the rest in terms of profile and skill. A solid Democrat, he is not nearly as liberal as say Nancy Pelosi and as a southerner may still appeal to red staters who feared the stark liberalism of John Kerry.

Simon Rosenberg has ties to the kind of new Democrats of the Bill Clinton mold, but I would question whether the Democratic move to the center, which would be indicated by the selection of Rosenberg, is in the offering. Rosenberg's New Democrat Network has strong ties to the business community and could make like a little more difficult for the GOP, but I don't think the Democrats have the spine to make a clear break from its liberal, bicoastal base. Rosenberg is a risky candidate, but an attractive one.

Wellington Webb's appeal is that he represents what should be the future of the Democratic party, i.e. the states and grassroots networks. The problem is that the Democrats have not learned the lesson yet that politics at the grassroots takes time, organization and a lot of effort. Republican dominance in the past decade is not an overnight thing that came in 1994, rather it took decades to build networks, groom young candidates and patience to grow your organization from the ground up. Right now Democrats seem to desire a quick fix and the long view seems to be a side thought at best.

Now some would argue that Howard Dean would be one person that can build a ground up organization, just look at his internet organization and fundraising. First, no doubt about it, Dean harnessed the internet like no other candidate before to raise funds for his campaign and for others. But Dean was merely successful at a evolutionary step in campaigning, he did not revolutionize campaigning by any stretch of the imaginaion. Dean's fundraising prowess was not matched with an adequate organization on the ground, just look at his meltdown in organization states like Iowa.

No what Dean has is a connection to the states, and if the Democrats are serious about becoming a relevant party again, they must look to the states.

I think Martin Frost is the best choice. He understands the need for organization, money and more importantly time. The question will be whether the DNC will give him that time. For the GOP, they must remember not to react to the DNC choice, but rather play their own game to keep the Democrats on the defensive. Going up against Martin Frost would make the GOP that much more effective--a great opponent always improves your own game.

Field of Candidates for DNC Chairman Narrows to Four (

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

English Politlical Commentary Fun

I spent last week in England, doing a little visiting of friends and a little sightseeing. On a conscious decision, I decided to limit my news intake to the London Times, making it a little easier on myself and giving my wife a bit of a new junkie breather.

In the cab back to the airport, the driver was listening to English talk radio and I noted something a bit more interesting that we don't have in America--a royal family to bash.

To be certain we have an executive branch, a legislative branch and occaisionally the judicial branch to bash. England has that too, plus the Royal Family. Not that I want a monarchy or anything, but having another institution to question and bash is a bit of a dream. Certainly, the discussions were civil, but I thought wouldn't it be nice to comment on British politics?

I didn't get enough of a feel to comment on British politics, but ....

The Boys and Girls Are Back In Town

The 109th Congress was sworn in today and instead of all pomp and formalities, it looks like for the first time in my memory, Congress will actually do some real work in the first few days of Congress.

Without a doubt the first order of business will be tsunami relief, but it also looks like Congress is looking to do what Congress should be doing, that is providing real and vigorous debate about President Bush's priorities. I for one would like to see some real immigration reform. Also, some Social Security work is coming and so far the details look good, but I am interested to see what Members of Congress have the backbone to do the hard stuff. While I am a big supporter of the President, I expect my Congress to be more than a rubber stamp, act like big boys and girls and do the job.

As the agenda starts to settle down some and I see some concrete proposals, expect a few broadsides from this site.

Is America Stingy? (

Below is a link to an article about the "stinginess" of America. Several nations and UN emerigency relief coordinator Jan Egeland, fail to understand one key factor in Bush promising money for tsunami relief--Bush doesn't hold America's wallet--Congress does. Before Bush can promise massive amounts of money to help, he must get Congressional approval to spend the money.

I would also like to note that the British government's response was also a few days slow--that happens when the disaster strikes on Christmas weekend, a lot of people who make the decisions in the world are on holiday.

Is America Stingy? (

Powell In Asia

Outgoing Secretary of State Colin Powell is visiting the areas damaged by the tsunami and noted "an outpouring of U.S. aid for tsunami-stricken countries could begin to reverse the rise of anti-Americanism in the region by demonstrating that "America is not an anti-Islamic, anti-Muslim nation." " Quite true Mr. Secretary, but I would like to bring another point.

For the past couple of years, we have heard nothing from the Muslim community that would indicate that America is welcome, until the feces hit the fan. In good times, America is the land of the infidel, of hatred, of ignorance and of "economic colonialism." But when times are bad, who is the first nation that war-torn or naturally ravaged nations turn--yep, you guessed it, the good old U.S.A.

The natural generousity, the innate kindness to fellow man and the ability to lend a helping hand when needed, even after our nation is trashed, thrashed and called every name in the book reveals the very greatness of our country and our way of life. America and Americans have proven themselves the bigger nation by putting aside politics and providing millions of dollars in relief. Now here is the funny thing, delivering over $352 million in relief will probably cost the U.S. $3 billion or more in resources--costs that will never be repaid. If that is not generosity, I don't know what is.

When the tsunami struck, my first thought was of sadness and heartache for all those who died. My second thought was, how are we going to help those people and my third thought was, after blasting us for years, these countries are going to hold their hand out to us.

Had I been less charitable a person, I probably would have thought, "F you and the horse you rode in on. You only want help from America when you need otherwise, you would prefer to demean the most capable and helpful country in the world. So if you want our help, shut the hell up in good times." But in the end, I did what I could and provided what I could, wishing I had the ability and time to do more.

Powell Pledges Continued Support to Asia (

Another Congressional Passing

The passing of Rep. Bob Matsui from Congress is a little shocking and apparently quite unanticipated.

Congressman Matsui, whom I had the honor of meeting once, was quite a man. Despite our political disagreements on some issues, I found him to be a quiet man determined to fight for what he thought was best for his constituents, California and the United States.

His passing also presents a challenge for Democrats as Matsui had recently been chosen to lead the DCCC in its fight to maintain relevance in the House of Representatives as well as attempt to regain the majority in 2006.

This is an article that appeared in Roll Call today.

Hill Mourns Matsui's Passing

A Woman Of the People (

Congress has lost a couple of members in the past couple of days. On New Year's Day, former Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm passed away.

Any student of Congress should look into the career of Shirley Chisholm. While I may not agreed with her politics, and I don't, I do think she was a remarkable woman in any age. Here is a brief tribute from Wil Haygood at the Washington Post.

A Woman Of the People (

Back from Overseas

Okay, I admit, it is probably not wise to start a new blog and then go on vacation with no posts, but who knew I would be in the only hotel in London hard wire internet access and then find out that my wireless modem was not working so well.

Over the next couple of days I will post some thoughts about the Brits and the way they do things.

It was a great vaction and I promise not to take off again without notifying people.