Patterico's Pontifications


Hail To The Chief

Filed under: Judiciary — Justin Levine @ 11:55 am

 [posted by Justin Levine]

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will soon be getting a Daily Koz fix. Very cool indeed.

A Predictable Response from Nancy Pelosi and the White House Press to Good News from Iraq

Filed under: Media Bias,Politics,War — DRJ @ 9:17 am

[Guest post by DRJ]

In Monday’s White House press briefing, Press Secretary Dana Perino introduced General Lute, the Assistant to the President for Iraq and Afghanistan, to discuss the signing of a US-Iraq Declaration of Principles. President Bush and Prime Minister Maliki signed the Declaration in a video teleconference Monday morning.

General Lute described the Declaration as a non-binding agenda designed to guide the US and Iraq into a long-term agreement governing any future US presence in and/or assistance to Iraq:

“Today’s agreement is not binding, but rather it’s a mutual statement of intent that will be used to frame our formal negotiations in the course of the upcoming year. It’s not a treaty, but it’s rather a set of principles from which to begin formal negotiations. Think of today’s agreement as setting the agenda for the formal bilateral negotiations that will take place in the course of ’08.

Let me just outline the importance of this document. First of all, I think it’s important to the people of Iraq. It signals a commitment of both their government and the United States to an enduring relationship based on mutual interests. The basic message here should be clear: Iraq is increasingly able to stand on its own; that’s very good news, but it won’t have to stand alone.”

Reactions to this agreement were mixed, ranging from Don Surber’s “We Won” to this statement from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi:

“President Bush’s agreement with the Iraqi government confirms his willingness to leave office with a U.S. Army tied down in Iraq and stretched to the breaking point, with no clear exit strategy from Iraq.

“The President should take responsibility for his Iraq policy rather than expect the American people or the next Admisitration [sic] to bear the consequences of his mistakes. The President can do that by working with Democrats who are fighting every day to bring our troops home responsibly, honorably, safely and soon.”

The truth probably lies somewhere in between Surber’s and Pelosi’s views but Surber is a lot closer than Pelosi. Nevertheless, while it may be difficult to predict where Iraq will be in a year, the White House press corp’s questions were predictable and pathetic. The following are selected questions from the press conference, and my summary of General Lute’s responses appears in brackets following each question:

Q “Is there any precedent for this in history? I mean, there wasn’t anything like this after Korea or Vietnam or any other kind of American engagement.”

[The US has been a party to a long-term agreement with Korea and is a party to bilateral agreements with 100 other nations.]

Q “How can any nation make a deal under occupation and not feel coerced? And anyway, they don’t really have a sort of government there at all.”

[A declaration is not something that must be voted on but, nevertheless, all major Iraqi leaders agreed to it and it was read to, discussed and generally agreed to by the council of representatives.]

Q “Is this a facade for the Middle East conference, so it doesn’t wave this big cloud of our being in Iraq?”

[The declaration is part of a process that started August 26 and has no relation to what’s going on in Annapolis.]

Q “You mentioned the size and the shape or the scope, stuff like that. Will this contain time lines or goals for the withdrawal of troops?”

[That’s not part of the declaration but it will be part of the negotiations and “all these things are on the negotiating table.”]

Q “General, will the White House seek any congressional input on this? … Is the purpose of avoiding the treaty avoiding congressional input?”

[Negotiations like this are handled by the State Department and are not subject to Congressional approval. There are about a 100 similar agreements between the US and other nations and the vast majority are not treaties.]

The White House transcript didn’t identify the questioners but it’s not hard to guess who may have asked these questions.

H/T Instapundit.


Another Measure of the Gang of 14’s “Success”

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:31 am

Ed Whelan has the sad details of the record-setting slow pace of confirmations of President Bush’s judicial appointees.

Hooray for the Gang of 14!

L.A. Times Sucks Up to Yagman Even As He Is Sentenced to Prison

Filed under: Crime,Dog Trainer,General,Scum — Patterico @ 6:41 am

In his story on the Yagman sentencing, anti-LAPD reporter Scott Glover gives prominence to the theme that the government picked on Yagman because he is an anti-establishment hero. Here are the first few paragraphs of Glover’s article. Pay special attention to whose spin is given the primary emphasis.

Stephen G. Yagman, a pugnacious lawyer who made a career of suing the Los Angeles Police Department and other law enforcement agencies, was sentenced Tuesday to three years in federal prison for tax evasion, money laundering and bankruptcy fraud.

He did not go quietly — or quickly.

In an unusual courtroom hearing that spanned three days, Yagman and his attorneys painstakingly went over the evidence in the case and accused the U.S. attorney of targeting him because of his long and confrontational history with the federal government.

“A cage went in search of a bird,” Yagman told U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson, quoting from Franz Kafka’s book “The Zurau Aphorisms.” “I’m the bird, and they got me.”

Wearing a blue suit and a sailboat-decorated tie, Yagman also quoted from, or referred to, Woody Allen, Abraham Lincoln and Socrates during more than four hours of oration. At times, he was remorseful, but for the most part, he was defensive.

Government officials, he said, “want to scorch everything around me . . . destroy me.”

Yagman’s sentence, which includes an additional two years of supervised release after his prison term, was significantly less than the nine years that prosecutors had recommended. He is scheduled to surrender to authorities and begin serving his sentence Jan. 15.

The convictions, in all likelihood, mark an end to Yagman’s work as a litigator. It was a career in which he occasionally broke new legal ground and antagonized some of L.A.’s most powerful leaders, often while representing gang members and other criminals who allegedly had been abused by the police.

That’s eight paragraphs packed with Yagman spin about about how this was a politically motivated prosecution against a crusading civil rights attorney. Finally, in paragraph nine, Glover quotes Judge Stephen Wilson as saying that Yagman was guilty and the jury got it right.

Glover probably figures that if he puts the pro-Yagman spin up high, the other stuff that he has to include for “balance” might be stuffed on the back pages. I don’t have the hard copy of the paper to see if this tactic worked; I’ll try to check it out today and report back later. If you have a hard copy, let me know where the jump happens — assuming that this story even made it to the front of the California section.

Not only did Wilson say Yagman was guilty, he said Yagman was a liar — and a bad one:

Ultimately, the judge said he concluded that Yagman had not only committed the crimes, but also lied and fabricated evidence to cover his tracks.

“Frankly, I was shocked by his testimony,” Wilson said, calling it “transparently untrue in so many areas.”

In discussing the facts, Glover retreats to the allegations of the indictment, as if there had been no trial:

The government’s investigation spanned five years and centered on a tax liability totaling more than $100,000. Yagman was indicted in June 2006 on 19 counts of tax evasion, bankruptcy fraud and money laundering.

And what was he convicted of?

According to prosecutors, Yagman transferred his Venice Beach home into his girlfriend’s name, hid money by depositing his income into her bank account — from which he wrote checks — and declared bankruptcy in New York without disclosing his assets in California.

Shortly after claiming he was broke, prosecutors said Yagman spent $2,000 on clothes and shoes on New York’s Madison Avenue, then had a $260 dinner.

Guess what? The jury convicted on all counts (although, unreported in this story, Judge Wilson later overturned some of the guilty verdicts on technical grounds). We’re not just talking about allegations here, or what “prosecutors said” — we’re talking about what the jury found, and what the judge confirmed the jury was right to find.

For a more revealing story, read Patrick McDonald’s L.A. Weekly piece on the sentencing, here.

P.S. I’ll reiterate, as I have before, that I disapprove of prison rape jokes, even about Yagman — and it’s unfortunate that one such joke was made on this site by a commenter, and quoted in the L.A. Weekly article. I will tell you this: the commenter who made the joke had his career essentially ruined by lost a job opportunity due to the actions of Yagman despite having done absolutely nothing wrong. (I spoke with the commenter about his situation on the phone several weeks ago.) Due to the fact that Yagman named the commenter (along with dozens on others) as a defendant in a lawsuit — simply because his name had appeared in a report somewhere — the commenter missed out on a job opportunity he had sought for years. He ended up testifying in the suit for five minutes about his complete lack of involvement in the events at issue, and was dismissed out — but the damage was already done. Police departments don’t like to hire defendants in lawsuits, and during the years-long pendency of the suit, he lost his other opportunity. So while I deplore his prison rape joke, the commenter had good reason to be upset at Yagman. I may tell his story here in detail some day. Yagman affected a lot of people in a negative fashion, and there is indeed a lot of glee among law enforcement types now that he is going to prison.

UPDATE: The commenter clarifies that his career wasn’t “ruined” — that was poor phrasing on my part. He did lose out on a job opportunity that had a significant effect on his life, however. Apologies for the infelicitous phrasing.

Slow Moderation

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 6:15 am

Still no comments approved at the Readers’ Representative blog. It’s not a “conversation” if the readers’ side can’t be heard . . .

UPDATE: A few comments have now been posted, but nk’s comment wasn’t. We know they know about it, because Jamie Gold wrote nk about it.

Amy Alkon notes a caveat in their comment posting policy:

Those that touch on topics of wide interest or raise new aspects of the conversation will be posted.

Very sly, that.

They aren’t going to post all comments. Just the ones they choose to post.

“Conversation,” indeed.

I want anyone who leaves a comment there to save it and e-mail to me.

If they don’t post it, I will.


Girls with Guns

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 11:18 pm

Meryl Yourish has a post titled Girls with Guns. Good title, and it has pictures. But she blew the opening line. The best one has already been taken:

The other day I spent most of the morning with a .38 in my hand.

OK, so you can’t use that, Meryl. But you get the idea.

Matt Welch to Head Up reason Magazine

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:29 pm

Matt Welch is becoming the editor in chief of reason magazine. I have known this for over a month, when I overheard Emmanuelle telling Eugene Volokh about it at Matt’s book party. But it was clear that Matt didn’t want this out, so I didn’t say anything.

(Knowing that Matt wanted to keep the move under wraps didn’t stop Luke Ford from spilling the beans. But, unlike Matt’s former employers at the L.A. Times, I don’t take the view that publication of news in any venue justifies spreading it as far and wide as possible. Hence, the silence until today.)

I’m thrilled to finally have the opportunity to publicly congratulate Matt.

The Readers’ Representative Blog Is Online — So Go Leave a Comment!

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 6:52 pm

The blog of the L.A. Times‘s “Readers’ Representative” is now online.

One of the first posts addresses an area that the Readers’ Representative had said she was going to address: the paper’s decision to name an undercover officer despite the LAPD’s request that he not be named.

I was worried about interactivity, but I am pleased to see that the blog has comments. At least, it has the capacity for comments. As of right now, no comments have been left and approved. I find it hard to believe that nobody has commented, so I’m guessing they’re very slow to approve them.

I suggest you go to the introductory post and leave a comment, if you are so inclined, and have any unanswered questions about the paper’s recent performance.

You might find fertile ground for comments in my recent post on Tim Rutten — in particular my unanswered e-mail about the difference between making an error and “concocting” a story. Or maybe you’re curious about Rutten’s violation of the paper’s policy on using anonymous sources, and when this issue will be raised on the blog.

You might even have questions that have nothing to do with Tim Rutten!

Go forth and leave a comment!

UPDATE: Actually, they will only publish the comments they choose to publish. In other words, it’s what I thought to begin with: only such interactivity as they specifically permit.

BREAKING: Yagman Gets Three Years

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 6:11 pm

Stephen Yagman has been sentenced to three years in federal prison.

His surrender date is January 15.

This morning I predicted he would get 4-6 years, and be allowed to surrender in 2008. This is a hair less than the sentence I thought he’d get, but not much.

UPDATE: Justin posted about this one minute after I did. I’m taking his post down and transferring the content to this update. Justin said:

My understanding is that with federal prison, 3 years actually means something close to 3 years.

Initial round up here, here and here.

Patterico’s own prediction/guess was off by a year – but he got the surrender date right. Not bad actually.

Especially for a completely uneducated guess.

Gems from the article linked above:

Yagman said he thought it wasn’t a crime to file tax returns but not to pay taxes.

After his 1998 suspension by the State Bar of California, Yagman had three surgeries on his back and was taking the drugs Vicodin and prednisone, he said. The drugs made him paranoid when the Internal Revenue Service began demanding back taxes, he said. As a result, he didn’t pay the taxes he owed.

. . . .

U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson called Yagman’s explanations “difficult to swallow.”

Gee. Ya think?

This Judge Meant It When He Said “Turn Off Your Cell Phones”

Filed under: Judiciary,Law — DRJ @ 4:26 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

The New York Commission on Judicial Conduct has removed from the bench a Niagara Falls city judge who, during court in 2005, sent 46 people to jail because of a ringing cell phone:

“A sign in Niagara Falls’ city court warns that cell phones and pagers must be turned off. Folks there believe it. On Tuesday, a judge was bounced from the bench for jailing 46 people after none would own up to a cell phone that began ringing during his court session.

Judge Robert Restaino “snapped” and “engaged in what can only be described as two hours of inexplicable madness” during the March 2005 session, Raoul Felder, chairman of the state Commission on Judicial Conduct, wrote in the decision to remove the judge.

Restaino, who became a full-time judge in 2002 after serving part-time since 1996, was hearing domestic violence cases when a phone rang.

“Everyone is going to jail,” the judge said. “Every single person is gong to jail in this courtroom unless I get that instrument now. If anybody believes I’m kidding, ask some of the folks that have been here for a while. You are all going.”

When no one came forward, the judge ordered the group into custody and they were taken by police to the city jail, where they were searched and packed into crowded cells. Fourteen people who could not post bail were shackled and bused to the Niagara County Jail in Lockport, a 30-minute drive away.

Later in the afternoon, after being told reporters were calling, the judge ordered the defendants released. The judge told the state panel he was under stress in his personal life.”

Based on the judge’s quoted statement (“If anybody believes I’m kidding, ask some of the folks that have been here for a while”) and the next article, this judge may have *snapped* more than once. This article about a 2006 2005 incident in which the same judge jailed five people over a watch alarm. The judge was sued but successfully claimed judicial immunity:

“The instant case stems from allegations by the plaintiffs, Mark E. Glavin, Joseph R. McCarthy, Marcellus Overton, Martha R. Seaberry and Dedrick G. Williams, against the defendant, Niagara Falls City Court Judge Robert M. Restaino. Each of the plaintiffs were charged with various offenses and had to appear before Judge Restaino in city court on March 11, 2005.

During the court proceeding a wristwatch alarm sounded several times. The judge believed it was a ringing cell phone and asked everyone in the courtroom, including the plaintiffs, about the source of the noise.

As each plaintiff appeared individually before the judge, he assessed new bail requirements for each of them, based on his conclusion that they failed to cooperate in his investigation as to the source of the noise. Each of the plaintiffs were subsequently taken into custody and placed in the lockup for a minimum of one and one-half hours.

The Judicial Commission had no choice but it took at least two years (maybe more) to put a stop to his conduct. This story illustrates how important it is to select good judges, if only because it’s hard to get them off the bench.

I don’t know if New York has elected or appointed judges. While the process of electing judges has many drawbacks, I think judicial elections work better at the local level. It’s much harder to get away with this kind of behavior when it happens to you or your neighbors and is reported in the local newspaper.


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