Patterico's Pontifications


Miers Cartoon

Filed under: Humor,Judiciary — Patterico @ 10:58 pm


Why We Respect the Mainstream Media So Much

Filed under: Morons — Patterico @ 9:20 pm

Because of hard-hitting stories like this one about Karl Rove’s garage.

Due to my research, I can reveal that — despite appearances — this is not an Onion story.

Would Luttig Get Confirmed if Miers Withdrew?

Filed under: Judiciary — Patterico @ 9:02 pm

There’s one very good reason for supporting the Miers nomination that I don’t think I’ve seen discussed anywhere else. That’s probably because supporters of the Miers nomination tend to be rabid Bush supporters, and this particular reason reflects quite badly on the President.

The reason is this: while I believe we could have taken a good run at confirming a Mike Luttig before this disastrous nomination, I’m not so sure we could do it now.


More on Miers’s Op-Eds

Filed under: Judiciary — Patterico @ 8:31 pm

Miers supporters, have you actually read her writings?

I asked this question the other day about her thank-you notes, because seeing one “You guys are great!” quote in a newspaper story had a different effect on me than actually starting here and clicking through one example of obsequiousness after the other.

But some criticized me for mentioning birthday cards and thank-you notes at all. We all write silly things in thank-you notes, goes the argument. Some of us even suck up to the boss in these cards and notes, friends tell me. Well, I tend to be a smart-aleck in cards and notes, personally — but never mind that. We don’t all get nominated to the Supreme Court by a boss we’ve sucked up to — but never mind that. Forget I ever said anything about the thank-you notes, if it really bothers you.

Let’s look at the only other writing samples we have from Harriet Miers: her pieces in the Texas Bar Journal. These are pieces she affirmatively held out to the world as examples of her writing.

I’ve brought these up on the blog previously, but primarily to note specific issues, such as the similarity of her opinions about diversity to those of Justice O’Connor, or her criticism of Republicans for “lawyer-bashing.” I haven’t commented on the quality of the writing generally — but it is poor, and that has had an influence on my thinking.

Here’s the thing: I’ve read them.

Have you?

David Brooks has read them so you don’t have to, and discussed them in an op-ed this past Saturday:

Of all the words written about Harriet Miers, none are more disturbing than the ones she wrote herself. In the early ’90s, while she was president of the Texas bar association, Miers wrote a column called “President’s Opinion” for The Texas Bar Journal. It is the largest body of public writing we have from her, and sad to say, the quality of thought and writing doesn’t even rise to the level of pedestrian.

Nothing excuses sentences like this: “More and more, the intractable problems in our society have one answer: broad-based intolerance of unacceptable conditions and a commitment by many to fix problems.”

Or this: “We must end collective acceptance of inappropriate conduct and increase education in professionalism.”

Or this: “When consensus of diverse leadership can be achieved on issues of importance, the greatest impact can be achieved.”

Or passages like this: “An organization must also implement programs to fulfill strategies established through its goals and mission. Methods for evaluation of these strategies are a necessity. With the framework of mission, goals, strategies, programs, and methods for evaluation in place, a meaningful budgeting process can begin.”

I don’t know if by mere quotation I can fully convey the relentless march of vapid abstractions that mark Miers’ prose. Nearly every idea is vague and depersonalized. Nearly every debatable point is elided. It’s not that Miers didn’t attempt to tackle interesting subjects. She wrote about unequal access to the justice system, about the underrepresentation of minorities in the law and about whether pro bono work should be mandatory. But she presents no arguments or ideas, except the repetition of the bromide that bad things can be eliminated if people of good will come together to eliminate bad things.

Throw aside ideology. Surely the threshold skill required of a Supreme Court justice is the ability to write clearly and argue incisively.

Since most people reading this blog aren’t going to go to the source materials, no matter how much I encourage them to, I figure it’s worth giving you a few quotes here, to illustrate what I’m talking about. But if you really want to get the full flavor of what Brooks is talking about, go here. Read.

As I said when I first gave you the link to these pieces:

I have little doubt that the Miers defenders will soon tell us that it’s not important for a Supreme Court Justice to be a good writer. They have law clerks to draft their opinions, after all; the important thing is the vote, not the writing; do you want someone who’s good at grammar or someone who’s good for the country; stop being an elitist. Etc.

All I’d ask is this: before you offer these knee-jerk defenses, go and read. Then read another piece of writing I’ve recommended recently: Justice Scalia’s dissent in Stenberg.

If you’re pressed for time, just read the first paragraph of Scalia’s dissent — just the first paragraph! — and compare it to any single paragraph of Miers’s writing, whether quoted by Brooks above, or selected by you at random.

If you actually go and do this comparison, you won’t wonder why I keep saying that Miers is no Scalia. And maybe you’ll start to understand why I am so distressed.

P.S. If you’re too lazy to click over to Scalia’s dissent, here is that first paragraph:

I am optimistic enough to believe that, one day, Stenberg v. Carhart will be assigned its rightful place in the history of this Court’s jurisprudence beside Korematsu and Dred Scott. The method of killing a human child — one cannot even accurately say an entirely unborn human child — proscribed by this statute is so horrible that the most clinical description of it evokes a shudder of revulsion.

Two sentences. Sixty-six words. Does he have your attention?

Nobody will ever say of Scalia’s writing: “Nearly every idea is vague and depersonalized. Nearly every debatable point is elided.”

The power of his arguments, like those of the great dissents of Oliver Wendell Holmes, cannot be ignored. So far, he hasn’t had the votes. But when he gets them — if he ever does with weak-kneed Presidents like Bush, and vainglorious Senators like John McCain standing in the way — the sheer persuasive force of his arguments will win the day.

You just can’t say this about Harriet Miers.

Now do you see why I’m distressed?

Steve Lopez at Skid Row

Filed under: Crime,Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 7:27 pm

Steve Lopez goes to Skid Row again today. Kevin Roderick explains:

Over the last three decades or so, countless Times writers (or so it has seemed) have found their reporting muse or their social conscience writing about Skid Row. In journalism parlance it’s an evergreen story: always available, with reliable underbelly-of-the-city color, human-interest angles and a cast of heroes that has stayed pretty stable through the years. It’s also highly accessible, starting up just a few blocks from the newsroom.

Steve Lopez, the Times’ Metro columnist, is the latest to become engrossed.

Lopez is really getting to know Skid Row. He even learned what a “strawberry” is!

I go to Skid Row periodically, generally to visit the scene of a crime that I will be prosecuting — generally a drug sales crime. I am always accompanied by someone with a gun. In my suit, with my large digital camera, I tend to stand out.

As I walk around and snap pictures, I hear people calling out warnings to everyone in the surrounding area: the police are here; stop your drug-taking and drug sales for a few moments. Some heed the advice, and some don’t.

I have stood on a street corner at 5th and Main with narcotics officers — me in my suit with my camera around my neck — and watched as people shoot up and sell drugs on the opposite corner. When the drugs become available, it’s like a feeding frenzy; 5-10 people come up within a minute and engage in quick hand-to-hand transactions lasting only seconds.

I don’t take pictures of the drug transactions I see — it wouldn’t show anything, and it wouldn’t be admissible in my trial anyway — but I do take pictures of the area where my crime occurred. As I take these pictures, one of the more civil liberties-minded among the crowd will typically object. There always seems to be one person assigned to come up, get in my face, ask me who I am and what I’m doing, and proclaim that I have no right to take their pictures without their permission. The fact that I wasn’t specifically taking their picture doesn’t seem to mollify them. (This is where my companion with a gun intercedes; the gun always remains holstered, of course, but it’s good to know that it’s there.)

Not everyone is in favor of the drugs and prostutition that are rampant there. Once a man came up to me and said: “Don’t just take pictures! Do something about it!” I was tempted to reply: “I’m trying” — but I didn’t want to make it 100% percent obvious that I was a prosecutor. I could have been a movie scout — or at least a defense attorney.

You really have to go there to see what it’s like. I wish that I could take every jury that hears one of my Skid Row cases out to the scene, to see exactly where it happened.

But if you’re unlikely to visit any time soon, I recommend reading Lopez’s piece. It gives you some idea of what’s going on out there. I guarantee you that his portrait is not exaggerated.

In the Mail….

Filed under: Music — Angry Clam @ 7:24 am

[Posted by The Angry Clam]

Today I received two compact discs that I ordered via Amazon. Both of which, possibly to m.croche’s horror if he still comes around here, are modern operas.

The first, which really got a lot of the modern opera ball rolling, is John Adams’ Nixon in China, which was originally performed in 1987, and which I’ve been lucky enough to see performed.

The second is a new release from Roger Waters, the one (and future? Live 8 left us all in suspense) Pink Floyd musician, not to mention one of my all-time favorites. It’s his latest work, Ça Ira, a classically styled opera set in the French Revolution and which has been almost 15 years in the making. The recording has been out for about three weeks, so I’m probably the first one on my block to hear it.

Reviews to follow.

Will Miers Vote to Overturn Roe? It’s Anybody’s Guess

Filed under: Abortion,Judiciary — Patterico @ 6:43 am

In my view, too much is being made of this report that two friends of Harriet Miers said they thought she would vote to overturn Roe if she had the chance:

On Oct. 3, the day the Miers nomination was announced, Mr. Dobson and other religious conservatives held a conference call to discuss the nomination. . . . Also on the call were Justice Nathan Hecht of the Texas Supreme Court and Judge Ed Kinkeade, a Dallas-based federal trial judge.

. . . .

[A]n unidentified voice asked the two men, “Based on your personal knowledge of her, if she had the opportunity, do you believe she would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade?”

“Absolutely,” said Judge Kinkeade.

“I agree with that,” said Justice Hecht. “I concur.”

So what? It’s a guess. And people have been wrong about such guesses in the past.

I agree with Beldar:

Neither man claims to have based his (at-best educated) guess on anything in particular that Ms. Miers has promised, or written, or said. Indeed, Justice Hecht has repeatedly denied having heard Ms. Miers make any promises or assertions or statements about how she might rule on abortion issues if she’s confirmed, or even what she thinks of Roe as a precedent.

Paul Deignan notes this quote from Justice Hecht, which sounds similar to things I have heard him say in interviews:

“If you’re asking, ‘Is she going vote to overrule Roe v. Wade, or Lawrence v. Texas [a 2003 decision striking down Texas’ law against same-sex sodomy], I don’t know that you can ask anyone that because you don’t know until you are there.”

The bottom line is that we have no idea what she will actually do when she gets to the Court, because we don’t really have a clue about her judicial philosophy. Confident predictions that Anthony Kennedy and Sandra Day O’Connor would vote to overturn Roe based on their perceived personal beliefs turned out to be gravely misplaced. I suspect the same may be true for Miers.

Not Even Stopping at a “Third Way”

Filed under: Judiciary — Patterico @ 6:24 am

Condi Rice praises Harriet Miers:

“She is the kind of person who is _ if there have been four arguments given, Harriet’s going to look for the fifth,” said Rice, who was interviewed from London at the end of a diplomatic trip.

Sounds a lot like O’Connor to me.

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