Saturday, October 22, 2005

The Sports Guy asks what we're all wondering:

By the way, is anyone else rooting for Ricky Williams to score a TD, just to see whether he'll blow a hit from a mock bong as part of his touchdown dance? I think I would pay $500 to see this happen during a game that Joe Buck was announcing - his head would explode.

(Speaking of Ricky, doesn't his beard look like something that would be grown after somebody has been playing 'Survivor' for five weeks? Does he just live in the wilderness? Does he own a house anymore? Does he shower? Does he sleep at the football stadium? Can somebody follow him around for a week?)

Maureen Dowd, as she is wont to do, commits [what I can only assume to be] the journalistic equivalent of slashing Judy Miller's tires in the parking lot:

I've always liked Judy Miller. I have often wondered what Waugh or Thackeray would have made of the Fourth Estate's Becky Sharp.

The traits she has that drive many reporters at The Times crazy - her tropism toward powerful men, her frantic intensity and her peculiar mixture of hard work and hauteur - have never bothered me. I enjoy operatic types.


An interesting profile of Patrick Fitzgerald, which includes several references to his hopeless disorganization. For example:

During his time in New York, Mr. Fitzgerald's hapless bachelor ways became legendary. For months he did not bother to have the gas connected to the stove in his Brooklyn apartment. Once, in a fit of domesticity, he baked two pans of lasagna, recalled Amy E. Millard, a New York colleague. Distracted by work, he left them uneaten in the oven for three months before he discovered them, Ms. Millard said. When he tried to adopt a cat, she remembered, he was turned down because of his work habits and only later acquired a pet when a friend in Florida had to give up her cat and had it flown to him to New York.
Several months without gas: amusing anecdote. Several months without noticing the old lasagna in the oven: bizarre (and perhaps indicative of some sort of olfactory disability). Wouldn't it have started to smell? I'm no microbiologist, but I'm pretty sure that after three months at room temperature, many food products start to spoil.

Colin Powell's former chief of staff lays into the Bush administration:

"I would say that we have courted disaster, in Iraq, in North Korea, in Iran, generally with regard to domestic crises like Katrina, Rita - and I could go on back," he said. "We haven't done very well on anything like that in a long time."

Mr. Wilkerson suggested that the dysfunction within the administration was so grave that "if something comes along that is truly serious, truly serious, something like a nuclear weapon going off in a major American city, or something like a major pandemic, you are going to see the ineptitude of this government in a way that will take you back to the Declaration of Independence."

Mr. Wilkerson, a retired Army colonel and former director of the Marine Corps War College, said that in his years in or close to government, he had seen its national security apparatus twisted in many ways. But what he saw in Mr. Bush's first term "was a case that I have never seen in my studies of aberration, bastardizations" and "perturbations."

Such indignation!

Dahlia Lithwick, in a Times op-ed, rips Bush's power-grabbing:

Justice Roberts and Ms. Miers represent a one-two punch for presidential supremacy: Justice Roberts would turn the Supreme Court into a body of nine constitutional plumbers - tinkerers around the margins with no affirmative place on the national stage. And Ms. Miers is a plumber - a perfectly competent lawyer with no national distinction. Her nomination would be an insult to the court if the court's work still mattered. But President Bush doesn't want it to matter.

Friday, October 21, 2005

"Over 40% of the justices..."

You can't swing a legal brief these days without hitting an indignant (not indigent, as I originally typed it) Harriet Miers supporter vehemently shouting the statistic that 40% of all Supreme Court justices have had no prior judicial experience before their appointment to the Court. Bearing in mind the fact that conservatives are often given to misunderstanding simple facts (ho!), I thought I'd take a look at the actual numbers. And what do you know: they're right.

109 people (107 men, 2 women) have served as justices of the Supreme Court since its establishment in 1789. Every one has been a practicing lawyer in their pre-court life, but only 69 of them, or 63%, had prior judicial experience.

Among those appointed in the last...# with prior judicial experience% with prior judicial experience
25 years8 (of 8)100%
50 years16 (of 21)76%
75 years22 (of 36)61%
100 years30 (of 50)60%
216 years69 (of 109)63%

What does it all mean? Couldn't tell you. Without question, it's possible to be an excellent justice without starting your judicial career somewhere else. Those who have done it include Joseph Story, Salmon Chase, Louis Brandeis, Felix Frankfurter, and - of course - John Marshall. I suppose that if my objection to the Miers nomination was based solely on her lack of judicial experience, I'd now be shamefacedly changing my mind. But there's clearly a difference between "lack of judicial experience" and "lack of expertise." Every one of the forty non-judicially-experienced justices has had a record of accomplishment stretching well above and beyond "president of the Texas Bar."

Miers' status as White House counsel no doubt indicates that she's a fine lawyer. But that serves only as a jumping-off point, not as a qualification in and of itself. And in an administration so clouded by charges of cronyism (which has become quite the little buzzword, hasn't it?), it's even less of a qualification than it might initially seem.

I remain far from convinced that Miers is a good (or even mediocre) choice for the Supreme Court. But I am now convinced that a lack of judicial experience is not necessarily an impediment to Court performance. So way to go, conservatives!

And what of the argument that the Supreme Court is now required to hear cases of such complexity that prior judicial experience is all-but-required, and that this certainty is reflected in the fact that every justice appointed since 1971 has had some prior court experience under his or her belt? It's a fine argument, and it may very well be true. But this post is already several hundred words longer than I expected it to be, and I'm tired of writing it, so let's pretend I never brought it up.

McCain skips the Funniest Celebrity in Washington contest in favor of the $1,000-a-plate dinner in New York, but gets his laughs in anyway:

"[The dais is] like a veritable 'Who's Who' of people soon to be indicted by Eliot Spitzer," he said, referring to the state's hard-charging attorney general.

McCain described the notables in attendance as "the haves, the have-mores, the have-more-than-thats, and finally my good friend Mike Bloomberg."

Rove and Libby "have been advised that they may be in serious legal jeopardy," lawyers say. Sweet.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

When in doubt, blame it on the immigrants.

In an interview, [Margaret] Spellings called attention to the improvement in math by fourth graders. She said the less robust increases and outright declines in some reading scores were understandable in part, because the nations schools are assimilating huge numbers of immigrants.

"We have more non-native speakers, there are lots of so-called at-risk, hard-to-educate students, and in spite of that, steady progress is being made," she said. "We're on the right track with No Child Left Behind."

Oh, yeah, we're blazing an admirable trail. Not only are we continually failing to educate huge swaths of our population, but now we're also justifying that failure with the mind-boggling complaint that "educating people is hard." I understand that there's not much else they could say publicly, but I'm disheartened by the fear that they actually believe what they're saying.

Today's Last Call! Shot and Chaser:

"The questionnaire that she filled out is an important questionnaire, and obviously they will address the questions that the senators have in the questionnaire - or as a result of the answers to the questions in the questionnaire." - Bush, at today's presser (, 10/20/05)

"At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it." -- Principal ("Billy Madison," 1995).

Multimillionaire Judd Gregg gets multimillionairier:

U.S. Sen. Judd Gregg [R-N.H.] is among one of 47 people in last night's Powerball contest to match 5 numbers, but not the Powerball number. The amount he won, rumored to be in the hundreds of thousands, has not been confirmed by his office.
According to, there were actually 49 Match 5 winners, not 47, and each of them won at least $853,492.

Specter and Leahy go "insane":

The Supreme Court nomination of Harriet E. Miers suffered another setback on Wednesday when the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee asked her to resubmit parts of her judicial questionnaire, saying various members had found her responses "inadequate," "insufficient" and "insulting."
They collectively found it "inconceivable" that Ms. Miers would submit such "incoherent" and "incommunicative" answers to their "inquiries," and "intimated" that further "incidence" of "inaccuracy" on her part would result "in" a series of "indictments" leading to her possible "incarceration."

John Edwards gets hammered:

When Edwards arrived at the work site, he was handed the utility belt and a hammer. He worked for a short time before breaking to chat with reporters. His shirt remained crisp and tucked-in, but sweat soaked through the front. The sweat impressed at least one volunteer.

"He could pound a nail straight," one man said, between mouthfuls of cold pizza. "He looked like he'd been on the business end of a hammer at least once before."

That guy should keep his mouth shut. I believe that "being on the business end of a Hammer" is actually an indictable offense at this point.

ETS strengthens the GRE by making it... easier?

On the new exams, the verbal reasoning section will consist of two 40-minute sections rather than one 30-minute section, and will place less emphasis on vocabulary and more on higher cognitive skills.

The quantitative reasoning section will grow from one 45-minute section to two 40-minute sections, with fewer geometry questions and more on interpreting tables and graphs. And the analytical writing measure, which had a 45-minute essay and a 30-minute essay, will now have two 30-minute essays.

And that's not even considering the fact that the best part of the GRE - the take-it-whenever-you-want bit - is being phased out as well. It'll still be a step above the four-goddamn-times-per-year familiar to recent LSAT-takers, but come on, ETS: can't you do anything right?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

I don't usually post Separated-at-Births here, but this is really wild:

Porter Goss

Bob Woodward

Jeanine Pirro, back in action:

"That's a difference between Democrats and Republicans - we don't want them next door molesting children and murdering women," said the Westchester County prosecutor, according to Wednesday's Elmira Star-Gazette newspaper.
"And the Greens... Christ, don't even get me started on those baby-seal-clubbing weirdos."

The grand jury's term expires in nine days. This is getting exciting.

The special counsel in the C.I.A. leak case has told associates he has no plans to issue a final report about the results of the investigation, heightening the expectation that he intends to bring indictments, lawyers in the case and law enforcement officials said yesterday.
By signaling that he had no plans to issue the grand jury's findings in such detail, Mr. Fitzgerald appeared to narrow his options either to indictments or closing his investigation with no public disclosure of his findings, a choice that would set off a political firestorm.

Wait. Do you mean to tell me that the Miers nomination was cronyistic*? The hell you say!

Documents released Tuesday by the Senate Judiciary Committee reveal that the Bush administration's vetting of Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers was controlled by a few insiders, a stark contrast to what Chief Justice John Roberts experienced as a contender for a court seat two months earlier.
* - Ought to be a word, but isn't.

Bob Herbert writes a great (if not particularly unique) column about Democratic priorities. The whole thing's worth reading, but the best sentence is this:

Democrats need to tell the country the truth about taxes, about the benefits of investing in the nation's physical infrastructure, about the essential need to bolster public education from kindergarten through college, and about the shared sacrifices that will be necessary if anything approaching energy independence is to be achieved.
Amen, you starry-eyed Sam-Seaborn-sounding scrivener. Amen.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

I'm starting to believe that Jeanine Pirro is, in fact, an employee of the Clinton family.

In a potentially embarrassing (albeit minor) gaffe, one of the Aug. 19 fund-raising letters that Ms. Pirro's campaign [to unseat Hillary Clinton] sent out was addressed to none other than Mrs. Clinton.

It would have been bad enough if the letter had been addressed to, say, Mrs. Clinton's home in Chappaqua. But this one was sent to her previous residence: 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Washington, D.C. 20500-0030 - an address more commonly known as the White House. The letter was forwarded from the White House to Mrs. Clinton's Senate office.

Follow-up: Pirro responds :

"I got to tell you, was it my best day? Absolutely not," she said before adding emphatically, "Am I better than that? Absolutely not."
Isn't she great, folks?

Looks like I should have included Andy Card in my Scandalog:

The confluence of crises, all running through Mr. Card's suite just steps from the Oval Office, has some critics asking whether he needs to clean house or assert himself more forcefully - or at least consider a course correction before Mr. Bush is downgraded permanently to lame duck status.
"Downgraded permanently to lame duck status"? Gallup puts his approval at 39%. I think "lame duck" would actually be an upgrade at this point.

Democrats everywhere (not to mention the Smoking Gun) get some news to be excited about:

Rep. Tom DeLay will likely be booked in a Texas county jail this week despite attempts by his attorneys to bypass the fingerprinting and mug shot process.

This third-person inventory of Karl Rove's garage is one of the silliest pieces of national reporting that I've recently seen.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Teddy Kennedy takes a cue from Nomah:

Kennedy was walking his two Portuguese waterdogs on the shore at about 11:15 a.m. when he spotted the men, all in their 20s and from off-Cape, cut off from the shore by rising waters on a jetty that begins at the tip of the Kennedy compound, Hyannis Capt. Craig Farrenkopf said. Kennedy and a friend tried to retrieve the men in a 13-foot Whaler before rough waters forced them back. reports that Rove will likely resign, if indicted:

Even before testifying last week for the fourth time before a grand jury probing the leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity, Bush senior adviser Rove and others at the White House had concluded that if indicted he would immediately resign or possibly go on unpaid leave, several legal and Administration sources familiar with the thinking told TIME. Resignation is the much more likely scenario, they say. The same would apply to I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, the Vice President's chief of staff, who also faces a possible indictment. A former White House official says Rove's break with Bush would have to be clean - no "giving advice from the sidelines" - for the sake of the Administration.
My question to the assembled teeming masses that are my readership is this: is there any way that anyone, ever, views Rove and the Bush administration to be separate entities? In my mind, the two are so seamlessly interwoven that no amount of clean breaking can enable the "It wasn't me, it was Karl" argument to hold any water (though clearly that is unlikely to stop this particular administration from making it).

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Bush's brain? Or Bush's... Yeah. Frank Rich opines.

"Bush's Brain" is the title of James Moore and Wayne Slater's definitive account of Mr. Rove's political career. But Mr. Rove is less his boss's brain than another alliterative organ (or organs), that which provides testosterone.