Quick Links 12/14/06

*One of the more doleful implications of a very narrowly divided polity is the places it leads partisans to go in search of that one last vote that turns an election, a court, a majority, a presidency. So it is difficult for Republicans to resist the temptation to hope for a change in the Senate upon the news that South Dakota Democrat Tim Johnson is in critical condition after what may or may not have been a stroke. The right thing to do, of course, is to wish Senator Johnson and his family well (this is especially so because Tim Johnson, whatever his ideology, is not a loathesome human being like Ted Kennedy). Thinking otherwise may be only human, but it’s a reflex to resist.
All things considered, it probably would be for the better if more states had laws that require the appointment of a replacement Senator of the same party, followed by a special election, if an incumbent dies or needs to be replaced – I believe such a law is in place in Hawaii, which has a GOP Governor and two elderly Democratic Senators, and a similar law (the details of which I forget) was enacted in Massachusetts when John Kerry was running for president. That said, existing practice in the absence of such a statute is to replace the Senator however the governor wants, as happened when the Republicans lost Paul Coverdell’s Senate seat in Georgia and John Heinz’s seat in Pennsylvania (both of which the GOP recaptured at the next election), or when Jesse Ventura appointed an independent to fill out Paul Wellstone’s term.
*Count Rudy Giuliani and John McCain with the skeptics about the Iraq Study Group. As of Sunday, Mitt Romney was ducking the issue and saying he hadn’t read the report, although a commenter at RedState has a purported statement from Romney that likewise hits the right notes in rejecting consensus for its own sake and rejecting negotiations with Iran and Syria. Still, there’s a worrisome pattern to Romney’s delayed reactions. The GOP needs its next candidate to be someone who can roll with the punches and drive the public narrative.
On the other hand, Syria loves the ISG report:

The United States will face hatred and failure in the Middle East if the White House rejects the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, Syria warned on Sunday, according to The Associated Press. Syria’s ruling party’s Al-Baath newspaper urged President Bush to take the group’s report seriously because it would “diminish hatred for the U.S. in region,” AP reported.

*Academic Elephant over at RedState notes a movement (see also here and here and here), apparently with at least tacit U.S. approval, to break up the current governing coalition in the Iraqi Parliament so as to remove the increasingly ineffectual al-Maliki as leader, build a new coalition that does not depend on the support of Muqtada al-Sadr, and set the stage for a second and hopefully final military showdown with the Sadrists. This would be a necessary step to finishing the job in Iraq.
*This is just a really cool article about turtles. It also pretty well captures the NY Times science section, which still does about the best stuff in the paper – but the headline writer couldn’t resist going for an anti-people headline that is really only a small part of the article.
*Great New Republic profile of Sam Brownback, once you make allowances for Noam Scheiber’s view of the Catholic Church as a secretive cult. I’m not inclined to support Brownback for president because I don’t think he can win (not least of which, the man isn’t exactly Mr. Charisma), but I probably agree with him on more issues than most of the other candidates. He’d make a great Senate Majority Leader someday.
*Peter King (the football writer, not Peter King the Congressman) admits error, supports Art Monk for the NFL Hall of Fame.
*I’m all for attacking terrorism at its roots, but poverty ain’t it. It’s political and religious extremism married to anti-American and anti-Israel ideologies.
*Justices Scalia and Breyer debate the divisive issue of unanimity.
*Eliot Spitzer under pressure from Democratic legislators to allow drivers’ licenses for illegal immigrants. New York moved to require more secure driver’s licenses after September 11 by requiring social security number background checks before issuing a driver’s license. Little faith though I have in our new Governor, you would think he won’t be this indifferent to law enforcement and security concerns, let alone allowing the privileges of citizenship without its burdens.
*I’m sorry, this is just hilarious.
*Linda Greenhouse on the shrinking Supreme Court docket. This point is a useful fact:

One [reason] is the decreasing number of appeals filed on behalf of the federal government by the solicitor general’s office. Over the decades, the Supreme Court has granted cases filed by the solicitor general’s office at a high rate. In the mid-1980s, the office was filing more than 50 petitions per term. But as the lower federal courts have become more conservative and the government has lost fewer cases, the number has plummeted, opening a substantial hole in the court’s docket.
As recently as the court’s 2000 term, the solicitor general filed 24 petitions, of which 17 were granted. Last term, it filed 10, of which the court granted 4. This term, the solicitor general has filed 13 petitions; the court has granted 5, denied 3 and is still considering the rest.

This, I’m less convinced of:

In private conversations, the justices themselves insist that nothing so profound is going on, but rather seem mystified at what they perceive as a paucity of cases that meet the court’s standard criteria. The most important of those criteria is whether a case raises a question that has produced conflicting decisions among the lower federal courts.

I can certainly attest from my own practice that I routinely encounter issues of federal law that are deeply unsettled or as to which a circuit split exists (in areas like securities law, RICO, the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, class action procedure, etc.). The Court has been wise to trim its docket from the days of the 1960s-70s; the quality and care with which opinions are crafted has noticeably increased, and it’s crucial for the Court to get things right because it often will not return to a particular question again for decades, if ever. But if the Court really wants to take on a few more cases it should have no problem finding appropriate vehicles to clarify unsettled issues.
*Consumer fraud statutes as a remedy for descendants of slaves? (See p. 14). (H/T). I know at least under New York’s consumer fraud law, you need to show some loss beyond than just having bought something you would not otherwise have bought, and Justice Breyer has worried about the free speech implications of such lawsuits, which I guess puts him to the right of Judges Posner and Easterbrook on this one.
*DC District Court finds that its jurisdiction over the Hamdan habeas petition has been validly stripped.

8 thoughts on “Quick Links 12/14/06”

  1. Thanks for the Kissing Suzy Kilber piece. Hilarious.
    I’ve only recently discovered that blog, and I have to say, Big Daddy Drew is amazing. Just a comic marvel.

  2. *I’m sorry, this is just hilarious.
    OMG thanks for the laugh Crank, that was a real good one.

  3. There’s no good reason why if a Senator can’t serve, the state can’t just wait until a special election is called.
    Isn’t Monk a lesser Yaz without that MVP year?

  4. As far as the Johnson situation goes, both sides ought to just accept reality. Should he die, the Republicans will wind up controlling the Senate. The Democrats will feel like they are being cheated, but they really should just live with it, because it is the law. OTOH, should he survive but be incapacitated, his essentially vacant seat would continue to ensure a Democratic majority. The GOP would feel like that was cheating, but they would also have to live with it.
    Hopefully, for both moral/humanitarian reasons as well as practical political ones, neither of those things will happen, and he will recover and be able to actively serve out the rest of his term, if not longer.

  5. As to replacing Senators, laws regulating replacement are poor guidlnes easily avoided or unnecessarily complicative – How long must the person have been registered to be a ‘true’ member of the party and qualify as a replacement candidate? Should a potential apointee rush out and change parties before the coroner signs off or should the state parties keep a few stealth members on the opposition roles for such occassions? How do you replace an elected independent like Lieberman? Carried to the Logical extreme, should Pelosi decline the Presidency if Bush and Cheney meet an unfortunate dual demise?
    The current system (like the electoral college) has flaws, but they are unbiased flaws that administratively ignore party politics. Until equally dispassionate solutions can be conceived of and agreed upon, any change will be for the worse.

  6. I agree with King about the Hall of Fame. I realize that football isn’t the stat-reliant sport that baseball is, but with free agency and the new make-up and style of the league, it’s getting there.

  7. If each Senator was required to designate their chosen “in case of emergency” successor, that would be a reasonable solution for medical emergencies. It probably wouldn’t be the preferred way to replace a Senator who is forced to resign, though.

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