Patterico's Pontifications



Filed under: General — Patterico @ 11:45 pm

Interesting essay by Howard Bashman regarding U.S. Senators’ tendency to focus on the personal views of nominees to the U.S. Courts of Appeals. Bashman argues that the U.S. Courts of Appeals tend to deal more with abstract, intellectual matters, and rarely confront cases presenting social or political issues. As a result, it is more important to worry about whether the nominee has the intellectual ability and sound work ethic required to do an outstanding job.

I think the article has some good points to make, especially for non-lawyers. But Bashman qualifies his thesis in a significant way. In arguing that personal views make no difference, Bashman concedes that this is true only if those views “play no role whatsoever in the decision of an appellate case.” This, however, is the eternal problem: knowing when nominees really will commit to keeping their personal feelings separate from their judging. If they can’t, then their personal feelings suddenly become much more important than their intellectual ability — and they are unqualified to be judges at any level: trial, appellate, or the Supreme Court.

And when they can’t put their personal feelings aside — as in notorious cases such as that of Stephen Reinhardt of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals — it can be a really big problem, even on the Courts of Appeal. The reason is that the federal Courts of Appeal are (practically speaking) the courts of last resort for virtually all litigants in the federal system. The Supreme Court gets to choose which cases it hears — and it doesn’t choose many. According to Chief Justice Rehnquist’s Year-End Report, the Supreme Court issued only 76 signed opinions last term. By way of comparison, in 2002, a total of 57,555 appeals were filed in the Courts of Appeal!

What this means is, if you live in California or one of the other western states, your case will almost certainly go no further than the court on which Stephen Reinhardt sits. That is why he doesn’t care about the fact that he gets reversed more than any other federal appellate judge. As Reinhardt says: “We deal with a lot of important cases. Some of them may get reversed, others don’t, and we can’t worry about that.” In other words, they can’t reverse me on everything!

That’s one reason why Senators do have to care about the Courts of Appeal to some degree.

NINO MAH MAN: Antonin Scalia,

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 11:11 pm

NINO MAH MAN: Antonin Scalia, you should all know, is the shining example of what a judge should be. It turns out he has some timely comments regarding the politicization of the federal judicial nomination process. You can read an article about his comments here. An important quote from the article: “We’re not looking for good lawyers anymore . . . The most important thing we look for are judges who will read into the Constitution the rights that we like, and read out of the Constitution the rights that we don’t like.”

And that, friends, is the problem.

ESTRADA REDUX: Here at Patterico’s

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 9:54 pm

ESTRADA REDUX: Here at Patterico’s Pontifications, we aim to please. I have gotten yet another request for more on Estrada, and I do have a lot to say, so why not get started? Estrada, of course, is the Bush judicial nominee who is getting filibustered by Senate Democrats for no good reason whatsoever.

The main point to make — the one that takes precedence above all others — is that the Democratic arguments regarding him are all complete horsefeathers (this is a family blog, so the more appropriate term is left to your imagination). I started a post to explain why, but there were too many silly arguments to refute, and 4-5 reasons why each argument was silly. The post was just too long. Plus, the arguments have all been refuted thoroughly here — in a letter from Alberto Gonzales to Sen. Leahy and Sen. Daschle. Read it, if you have the time (it’s even longer than the post I started).

If you have any doubt about whether Leahy, who is leading the Estrada filibuster, is a complete hypocrite, let me put that to rest right now. Here is Pat Leahy in 1998, in his own words: “I have stated over and over again on this floor that I would refuse to put an anonymous hold on any judge; that I would object and fight against any filibuster on a judge, whether it is somebody I opposed or supported; that I felt the Senate should do its duty. If we don’t like somebody the President nominates, vote him or her down. But don’t hold them in this anonymous unconscionable limbo, because in doing that, the minority of Senators really shame all Senators.” 144 Cong. Rec. S6522 (June 18, 1998). You can read it for yourself here — in a press release on Leahy’s own web site.


Filed under: General — Patterico @ 9:28 pm

YOU GOT QUESTIONS, I GOT ANSWERS: A correspondent makes several points, at least two of which I should address. His first point was, essentially, “don’t you have a day job?” (Actually, a couple of people asked me that one.) And the second is that some of the posts are a little long for our MTV attention spans.

As to point number one: yes, I do, but I am currently on vacation. When I return to work, the posts will have to be made in early morning and evenings.

As to point number two — good point. Enough said.

TIMELINE: A reader said he

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 4:58 pm

TIMELINE: A reader said he would like to see a timeline that lays out the history of the attempts to disarm Saddam. The best timeline I have seen is here. It’s worth checking out even if you think you know the history already. Trust me.

MUST-SEE: Everyone must see this.

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 3:51 pm

MUST-SEE: Everyone must see this. Interviews with our thoughtful war protesters. Absolutely brilliant.

MORE FEEDBACK: Another e-mail from

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 2:47 pm

MORE FEEDBACK: Another e-mail from one of the hordes of folks reading this blog! Keep ’em coming! This e-mailer is a Bush supporter, but is troubled by certain aspects of the coming war, which he specifies. This is great, because I think this person gives a very good summary of what many Americans are thinking nowadays. I would like to summarize and respond to his main points.

First, my e-mailer says: “I haven’t seen a clear connection (or really, any sort of connection at all) between Al Queda and Saddam Hussein/Iraq.” He therefore wonders why the “war on terrorism” has been “steered” towards Iraq.

Now, it is a common complaint of the Democrats (not that I accuse my correspondent of being one) that Bush is ignoring Al Queda to focus on Iraq. That’s a nice spin point, but if there’s any hard evidence to show that the impending Iraq action has in any way detracted from what we are doing against Al Queda, I have yet to hear it. More fundamentally, I think that if 9/11 should have taught us just one lesson, it is to try to anticipate bad things before they happen. (As a parallel — wouldn’t it have been nice if the newspapers had published major stories about the space shuttle’s frequent brushes with danger before it disintegrated, rather than waiting until afterwards?) So I don’t require a photo of Saddam and Osama hugging each other to become concerned that Iraq might pass weapons to Al Queda. They both hate America and would like to see us destroyed — that’s enough of a potential connection, together with all of the other problems with Hussein, to justify our policy.

By the way, I think this is also the answer to another concern raised by my correspondent: why now? I think the answer is that Saddam has been thumbing his nose at the world for 12 years, and after 9/11 we started to realize that waiting to see if that could result in a catastrophe is not the best option.

The reader then asks: what about North Korea? He provides a link to an Onion article that makes the point in satirical fashion. The article is titled: “North Korea Wondering What It Has to Do to Attract U.S. Military Attention.” It purports to quote maniac Kim Jong Il as complaining about being ignored by Bush. “Bush says his number one priority is eliminating weapons of mass destruction, but he sure doesn’t act that way,” Kim is quoted as saying in the article. “Iraq may have weapons of mass destruction and may be developing more. The DPRK, on the other hand, does have weapons of mass destruction and isn’t about to stop making them any time soon.”

Very cute. However, the true answer to the question, as I understand it, is precisely that North Korea apparently does have weapons of mass destruction — namely, nuclear (or if you’re a die-hard Bushie, “nookyoolur”) weapons. Intelligence estimates I have heard say that North Korea actually has between 2-5 nuclear weapons. (Largely thanks to a deal it made with — you guessed it — Bill Clinton. But that’s another story.) Given that fact, I don’t know what we’re supposed to do militarily. Unfortunately, I think the fact that they have the weapons basically means it’s game over. Bombing the reactor, which would have been an attractive option back when Clinton was president, is not really an option anymore.

To make it perfectly clear: when President Bush said in his State of the Union address regarding North Korea: “The United States will not be blackmailed,” what he really meant was “The United States will be blackmailed.”

If we could have put a stop to North Korea’s development of nukes before it was too late (and we could have), should we have passed on that chance? That’s basically the situation we are in with Iraq now. We know Hussein has biological and chemical weapons. It is illogical to think he has not tried to develop nuclear weapons. Do we want to wait until he has one, and then goes marching into Kuwait again — but this time armed with nukes?

The answer to this question may have a great impact on the actions of many other countries with nuclear ambitions. Iran leaps to mind.

As always, feedback is welcomed.

FEEDBACK: A reader writes to

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 1:25 pm

FEEDBACK: A reader writes to voice support for this site, but cautions that “those that really need to read it will probably think you’re a raving conservative, and quit after the first few paragraphs.” (In keeping with the pretense that this is some huge, widely read site, I am going to keep saying “a reader writes” rather than, for example, “my sister writes” . . .) All I can say is what I think. Sometimes, as in the post about Dennis Hastert, or the post about Bush’s post-war plans for Iraq, I will criticize Republicans. But I think it’s fair to say you could wait a very long time before you’ll see me say something nice about Bill Clinton. If anyone disagrees with specific opinions of mine, I am always eager to hear from them — liberal or conservative.


Filed under: General — Patterico @ 12:48 pm

AH, THE FRENCH: I have been watching a great series about World War II called “The World at War.” It was made in the 1970s and narrated by Laurence Olivier. There are many memorable moments, scenes, and quotes, but one in particular comes to mind.

Early in the war, the French and Germans were in a state of war, but Germany had not yet attacked. German forces were diverted elsewhere, and the Germans were gambling that the French would not attack. A German general is quoted as saying that if the French had chosen that moment to attack, the Germans would have been overrun within two weeks, and it would have ended the war.

At that time, a journalist interviewed French soldiers on the front lines. He said to one of the French soldiers: “I don’t understand. The Germans are right over there. You can see them. Why aren’t you shooting at them?” According to the journalist, the soldier took a drag on his cigarette and calmly replied: “Why should we? They aren’t shooting at us.”

It was impossible not to think of that when I read here that Jacques Chirac said recently: “We consider that war is always, always, the worst solution.”


Filed under: General — Patterico @ 12:38 pm

FURTHER PROFILES IN COURAGE, OR, CLINTON THEN AND NOW: It is so very interesting to read Bill Clinton’s justification for ordering airstrikes on Iraq in 1998. It is full of quotes like this: “Saddam (Hussein) must not be allowed to threaten his neighbors or the world with nuclear arms, poison gas or biological weapons.” Clinton said Saddam had been given a “final warning” and had abused his “last chance.” He added: “In halting our airstrikes in November, I gave Saddam a chance — not a license. If we turn our backs on his defiance, the credibility of U.S. power as a check against Saddam will be destroyed.”

Now, of course, he wants the world simply to leave it all up to Hans Blix. “We should let Blix lead us to come together,” our illustrious former president now says.

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