Patterico's Pontifications


What in the World?

Filed under: General,Music — Patterico @ 10:00 pm

My wife is downstairs watching some show called “Fashion Rocks,” which is apparently some sort of hurricane relief rock benefit program. I heard David Bowie starting to sing “Life on Mars?” — and I ran downstairs to watch.

David Bowie is one of my all-time favorite performers, but I have little interest in the music he put out after the late 70s (with the exception of his 1983 “Let’s Dance” album). But “Life on Mars?” is a classic song from his early 70s period.

His performance was spotty: it was at times weak, at times inspired.

Also, he had a cast on his left wrist, and an apparent black eye. What’s the deal there?

P.S. Duran Duran is on now, but I’m not running downstairs, because they’re doing “Girls on Film” — one of their weaker songs.

L.A. Times on Al Muhajir Padilla v. Hanft

Filed under: Civil Liberties,Court Decisions,Dog Trainer,Judiciary,Terrorism — Patterico @ 9:26 pm

The Los Angeles Times runs a surprising same-day online editorial on the case of Padilla v. Hanft, issued this morning by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. The editorial opens:

A federal appeals court ruled today Jose Padilla, the so-called “dirty bomber,” can be held forever in jail as an enemy combatant and never allowed to defend himself at trial, although he is an American citizen and was arrested in this country.

The unanimous decision by a panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., significantly boosts the Bush administration’s secret program of jailing what it claims are key Al Qaeda and Taliban suspects around the world without filing criminal charges or holding trials in an effort to squeeze intelligence information from alleged terrorist operatives.

The ruling was reached by a three-member panel of the appellate court and was written by Judge Michael Luttig, who is considered by many to be on the short list of candidates to fill the open vacancy on the Supreme Court.

Padilla’s attorneys plan to appeal the case to the Supreme Court. But many believe it unlikely they will prevail there, making today’s ruling the all-but-final approval of Bush’s highly controversial use of executive authority to skirt America’s traditional legal process system and decide for himself who will go to trial and who will simply be held incommunicado.

(All emphasis in this post is mine.)

The editorial is unusual in several different ways. For one thing, it gives quite a different spin on the facts than does the opinion itself — which, in its first few lines, offers some facts omitted from the editorial that shed some light on the result:

Appellee Jose Padilla, a United States citizen, associated with forces hostile to the United States in Afghanistan and took up arms against United States forces in that country in our war against al Qaeda. Upon his escape to Pakistan from the battlefield in Afghanistan, Padilla was recruited, trained, funded, and equipped by al Qaeda leaders to continue prosecution of the war in the United States by blowing up apartment buildings in this country. Padilla flew to the United States on May 8, 2002, to begin carrying out his assignment, but was arrested by civilian law enforcement authorities upon his arrival at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago.

I would have liked to have seen some reference to Padilla’s adopted name, Abdullah al Muhajir, but this is otherwise a pretty good summary of the facts — most of which are omitted from today’s editorial.

There are many other unusual facts about the editorial. For example, it is signed, whereas editorials are usually unsigned. It is not explicitly designated an editorial, as editorials usually are. It is located in a portion of the newspaper’s web site usually reserved for news stories. And finally, it is written by Richard Serrano, a news reporter who has to my knowledge never before written an editorial.

How do I know it’s an editorial? Mostly from the language emphasized in the initial quote above, which says that Mr. al Muhajir can be “held forever” and “never allowed to defend himself,” in a “highly controversial” attempt to “skirt” the “traditional legal process system” which “boosts the Bush administration’s secret program” of trying to “squeeze” information from alleged terrorists.

I mean, that kind of language wouldn’t appear in an L.A. Times news story, would it?

P.S. This looks like one of those mid-afternoon first drafts. We’ll take a look at the final cut tomorrow.

UPDATE: Eugene Volokh’s post on the case reminds us that the Supreme Court has already established a process for enemy combatants to contest their designation — it’s just not a traditional trial. So the editorial’s news article’s hysterical tone is overwrought; the only question is whether the location of the arrest (O’Hare’s international terminal) is different enough from a foreign country to require a traditional criminal trial that would not otherwise be required under Supreme Court precedent.

Prof. Volokh also notes that Justice Breyer may well decide that it is.

UPDATE x2: The Angry Clam makes a good point in the comments: the case depends entirely on Supreme Court interpretation of the AUMF, otherwise known as the Authorization for Use of Military Force Joint Resolution. That resolution was passed by Congress, and can be changed by Congress. So Congress can provide for those wonderful traditional legal protections for the Abdullah al Muhajirs of this world if it wants. Just something to keep in mind once this decision hits the papers tomorrow, and the nutcases start comparing the U.S. to a dictatorship.

UPDATE x3: The version that ran in today’s print edition was slightly better. It removes some of the inflammatory language, and (deeeeeep down in the story) tells the tale of al Muhajir’s trip to Afghanistan to fight against the U.S., and his training in explosives by al Qaeda. To some extent, let’s hear some kudos for the editors, who managed to temper Serrano’s zealotry on this issue to some extent.

I did find it irritating, however, to note the information included — and omitted — about the judges involved in this case. Serrano notes that the District Judge who ruled for Padilla was a Bush appointee, and suggests that Judge Michael Luttig, who wrote yesterday’s decision, should have recused himself. He does not mention that the other judges who joined yesterday’s unanimous decision were both Clinton appointees: M. Blane Michael and William Byrd Traxler Jr.

An Observation on the Katrina Rescue Efforts

Filed under: Current Events — Patterico @ 6:46 pm

For the most part, I haven’t weighed in on the raging debates over who was responsible for the failure of rescue efforts in the aftermath of Katrina. There is so much partisan wrangling, and we are still so close to the issue, that it seems any such discussion is likely to elicit far more heat than light.

But I will say this:

If you’re looking for a quick, nimble, and effective response; if you’re looking for a response that comes without bureaucracy and red tape; if you’re looking for a response that immediately directs resources where they’re needed in an efficient fashion — then you want the feds, baby! Nobody cuts through the red tape and bureaucracy like the feds!

UPDATE: Silly mangling of cliché (reversing heat and light) fixed, thanks to commenter Levans.

Arnold Will Veto Licenses for Illegals

Filed under: Immigration,Morons — Patterico @ 6:14 pm

Arnold will be vetoing the Legislature’s measure to give licenses to illegal immigrants, according to this report in the L.A. Times. Gil Cedillo is not happy:

That doesn’t change anything. We still expect him to sign it, to do his constitutional duty and his moral obligation.

Constitutional duty?? What in the world is he talking about?

Xrlq has more.

Confirm Roberts, Then Nominate Estrada

Filed under: General,Judiciary — Patterico @ 7:05 am

JP at Americans for Freedom is pushing Miguel Estrada to replace Justice O’Connor.

I think that, if President Bush were to wait until Roberts is confirmed to replace Rehnquist, and then nominate Estrada, that would be a stroke of utter genius.

JP reminds us of something I first noted on this blog in June 2003: John Roberts and Miguel Estrada have nearly identical backgrounds. Roberts was confirmed. Estrada was borked for bogus reasons — primarily a dispute over the White House’s decision to withhold the exact same sorts of documents that they are currently withholding regarding Roberts: memoranda from the nominee’s work in the Solicitor General’s office.

Republicans were able to make some hay out of the fact that Roberts was confirmed and Estrada wasn’t, despite their similar backgrounds. But let’s face it: nobody was really paying attention. This time, they would be.

No wonder the Democrats are making such a big deal out of those Solicitor General memoranda. They must see this possibility too.

If John Roberts is confirmed as Chief Justice without the release of any of his memoranda from the Solicitor General’s office, the Democrats would not have a leg to stand on in opposing Miguel Estrada. He can walk into his confirmation hearings and answer all the questions the exact same way Roberts answered his. How could Democrats possibly justify mounting a filibuster against Estrada, once they have confirmed Roberts?

The only possible argument Democrats would have is that Roberts has a couple of years of judicial experience and Estrada doesn’t. But the Republicans have a ready counterargument: Estrada would already have more judicial experience than John Roberts, if Democrats had simply confirmed him when he was nominated. But instead, Democrats filibustered him, in part because he was a Hispanic — a fact documented in a memorandum written by Democrat staffers, which said that Estrada was “especially dangerous” in part because “he is Latino.”

The staffer’s analysis was echoed by Senator Kennedy at the time: “We must filibuster Miguel Estrada’s nomination. . . . The White House is almost telling us that they plan to nominate him to the Supreme Court. We can’t repeat the mistake we made with [Supreme Court Justice] Clarence Thomas.” At the time, Stuart Buck noted that Kennedy didn’t say Scalia, only Thomas. As Buck argued, the only rational way to interpret Kennedy’s statement was: we can’t allow another conservative racial minority to be placed on the D.C. Circuit so that he could be plausibly nominated to the Supreme Court.

Republicans could have a field day with the staffer’s memo and Kennedy’s statement today. As Buck convincingly argued in his post, if Title VII applied to judicial nominations, Estrada would have had a convincing cause of action due to the disparate treatment of his nomination by Democrats. Republicans could say: we’re not going to let you be prejudiced against Miguel Estrada now because he hasn’t been a judge — something that happened only because of your previous demonstrable prejudice against him.

In any event, numerous people have become Supreme Court Justices (even Chief Justice) with no previous judicial experience, including the recently departed William Rehnquist. Other Justices with no previous judicial experience include Louis Brandeis, Byron White, Earl Warren, and Lewis Powell — and there are others.

I have pushed Miguel Estrada for Supreme Court Justice before, in this post. In my earlier post, I fully discussed Estrada’s background and qualifications, as well as the pathetically lame nature of the arguments against him. The post is rich with links, so consult that for any concerns you might have.

I’m telling you, the more I think about this, the more I like it. I am hereby making it my official recommendation to the White House: first confirm Roberts, and then nominate Miguel Estrada for the Supreme Court.

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