One more big reason to oppose Roberts

John Roberts apparently doesn't want the federal judiciary to be able to do its own job.

Remember last year when the House passed legislation selectively stripping Article III courts of jurisdiction to hear cases concerning the "under God" clause? At the time, it seemed almost comical to me and not worth further consideration; the Supreme Court, not even Scalia or Thomas (well, maybe Thomas), would never agree to give away any of the judiciary's power and would find such action unconstitutional. (Interesting myDD thread from several months ago on this very topic.)

It turns out this was an issue back during the Reagan administration, though, back when Roberts was a rising star at the DOJ. The big pile of documents released this week indicates he actually thought this selective jurisdiction stripping was constitutional, just a bad idea from a political (or perhaps a PR) standpoint! (Click here, then scroll down to "Limiting Supreme Court's Reach.)

Roberts argued that Congress had the power to limit the Supreme Court's appellate jurisdiction on controversial issues, like abortion, busing and school prayer -- but advised that doing so would be "bad policy," according to recently released memos.

A document dated April 12, 1982 shows that Roberts disagreed with the view of then-Assistant Attorney General Ted Olson that Republican legislation in Congress to limit such jurisdiction faced constitutional problems.

Three years later, in a memo to his boss in the White House counsel's office, Fred Fielding, Roberts would still argue that the Senate bill to stop the Supreme Court from hearing challenges to voluntary school prayer laws was constitutional.

But he also advised that the Justice Department not reverse course and to "let sleeping dogs (an apt reference, given my view of the opinion) lie," he wrote.

In the 1982 memo, Roberts wrote "NO!" in the margin next to one of Olson's arguments. He also offered a handwritten retort to Olson's contention that the Reagan administration would be seen as "courageous" by opposing such limits.

"Real courage would be to read the Constitution as it should be read and not kowtow to the Tribes, Lewises and Brinks!" Roberts wrote.

("Tribes" likely refers to liberal Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe. The Washington Post speculates that "Lewises" and "Brinks" refer to New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis and then-American Bar Association President David Brink, who opposed the legislation.)

To me, this is pretty stunning, not only because it places Roberts well to the right of the frothing-at-the-mouth Ted Olson, but that it shows that Roberts thinks there's a constitutional basis for the judiciary rolling over and playing dead rather than obstructing unconstitutional statutes coming out of the legislative branch (well, assuming they further the right-wing agenda). (At least this is consistent, given his DC Circuit track record of giving complete deference to the executive in terror detention cases.)

So, perhaps the most important question the Senate should be posing to Roberts is: is the judiciary truly independent, or are they to be subsumed into the executive or legislative branches when it's politically expedient? If it's the latter, doesn't that mean that Marbury v. Madison was wrongly decided and that the whole principle of judicial review is bogus?

Eliot Spitzer takes on Payola

So you thought Jennifer Lopez and Good Charlotte were played on the radio because they're talented. Ooops, turns out they're being played on the radio because Sony was illegally paying DJs to play them.

Eliot Spitzer (New York's AG and likely next governor) has waded into the ultimate cesspool of corruption... the music industry... and is close to settlement with Sony BMG regarding past abuses, particularly ending their circumventing payola laws through their use of "middlemen" who give money to DJs in exchange for airplay.

E-mails released today as part of the investigation show how routinized the practice was:

"Please be advised that in this week's Jennifer Lopez Top 40 Spin Increase of 236 we bought 63 spins at a cost of $3,600."

"Please be advised that in this week's Good Charlotte Top 40 Spin Increase of 61 we bought approximately 250 spins at a cost of $17K ..."

This shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who follows the music industry closely -- it's been a persistent problem since the 1950s -- but it's nice to see one of our most fearless politicians taking it head-on.

WA Sen 06: Cantwell v. McGavick (probably)

Here's a pretty strong indication that the GOP Senate nominee in Washington in 2006 will be Mike McGavick: he just gave up his cushy job as CEO of Safeco (the largest northwest-based insurance company). He explicitly stated that he wants to "explore" a run for the Senate.

Nobody has said that the path was formally cleared for McGavick, but I can't imagine leaving your $7.3 million/year job without some sort of promise along those lines. According to state chair Chris Vance, apparently the state GOP plans to endorse a candidate "within several weeks" to avoid a primary fight, so they're trying to get this done fast.

The reason you've never heard of McGavick is because he's never held public office before. He ran Slade Gorton's 1988 Senate campaign, though, and then served as Gorton's chief of staff for a while. Based on his bio, it seems a pretty safe bet he's from the corporate, not theocrat, wing of the party.

Bottom line for the Dems: this is good news. Ask just about any voter about McGavick and the response will be "who?" Polls have indicated that Dino Rossi was the only challenger capable of beating Cantwell, and he seems to be waiting for a rematch of the governor's race. And anyone else with better name recognition than McGavick - Jennifer Dunn, George Nethercutt, Rick White - is sitting this one out (they're all well-paid lobbyists now, so I doubt they'd want to take the pay cut involved with being a senator).

Cantwell's approval ratings have been trending upwards lately, probably associated with her taking the lead on issues like ANWR and alternative energy sources, so this race should probably be considered "likely Dem."

Statistical support for Howard hyperbole

We're all aware of Howard Dean's comment that Republicans are the "white, Christian" party, and I think we agree with that sentiment even if there's no agreement on the wisdom of how he said it. How do we demonstrate the truth of his statement? The USA Today poll stating that 83.5% of Republicans are white Christians is the best starting point. Here's another approach to the question.

Of the 100 "whitest" counties in the U.S. (where "whitest" means highest percentage of non-Hispanic whites according to the 2000 census), only 15 voted for Kerry.

There are 534 counties that are 97% or more non-Hispanic white. Of these, only 68 counties went for Kerry. (And of those 68, 15 are in either Vermont or Maine.)

Of the 100 "least white" counties in the U.S., only 11 voted for Bush. (All 11 of these counties are majority-Hispanic counties in southern Texas where very low voter turnout, as a percentage of total population, suggests predominantly Anglo voting.)

There are 250 counties where the percentage of non-Hispanic whites is less than 50%. Of these, only 70 counties went for Bush. (Again, the large majority of these counties are Hispanic-plurality counties in the southwest with very low turnout. The remaining few are closely split between whites and either blacks or Native Americans.)

(If a stats geek were to tell me that this isn't statistically significant, I would be the first to agree. There is no real correlation once you move away from the margins into the middle. Consider this for illustrative purposes only.) (I would also agree that counties aren't the best unit of analysis; they're generally small, rural, and disproportionately Republican and white compared with the broader U.S. population. In terms of both election data and census data, though, counties are easy to work with.)

I won't reproduce the lists in their entirety, but here are the 10 whitest and 10 least white counties, with percentages representing Kerry's share of the vote and the percentage of non-Hispanic whites.

10 whitest counties
Slope, ND        20.5     99.6
Hanson, SD       35.1     99.5
Scott, IL        35.3     99.3
Faulk, SD        30.7     99.2
McPherson, SD    23.8     99.2
Campbell, SD     25.2     99.1
Griggs, SD       35.8     99.1
Hand, SD         31.1     99.1
Liberty, MT      27.7     99.1
Wheeler, NE      18.1     99.1

10 least white counties
Starr, TX        73.8     2.0
Maverick, TX     59.6     3.4
Shannon, SD      87.1     4.4
Webb, TX         57.1     4.9 (contains Laredo)
Brooks, TX       68.3     7.9
Zavala, TX       75.0     8.0
Jim Hogg, TX     65.4     9.0
Hidalgo, TX      55.1     10.4 (contains McAllen)
Duval, TX        71.5     11.1
Menominee, WI    83.0     11.5

WA Gov race: Dems win court challenge

The 2004 election finally ends. Onward to 2005!--Chris

It's over! (For several days, until the GOP appeals to the Washington Supreme Court.) Judge Bridges ruled that Gregoire's election should stand, and in fact the GOP case was "dismissed with prejudice!" (That's a polite way of saying "this is bullshit.")

First he roundly rejected any claims of fraud, for which there wasn't even circumstantial evidence. More importantly, he rejected the idea of proportional deduction, which claimed that illegal votes could be allocated and subtracted according to how the precinct as a whole voted.

For more in-depth coverage, here's David Postman at the Seattle Times, and here's Horse's Ass, who've both done great work on this case.Update [2005-6-6 13:17:2 by Crazy Vaclav]: Here's perhaps the most amusing part: as a result of the GOP challenge, Gregoire's margin of victory actually increased. The Dems deposed five felons as part of the discovery process; it turns out that of the five, four voted for Rossi and one voted for Libertarian Ruth Bennett. Bridges ruled that these four votes should be subtracted from Rossi's total, so Gregoire now wins by 133 istead of 129. Woooooo!Update [2005-6-6 20:35:31 by Crazy Vaclav]: This just in (5 pm Pacific): Rossi won't appeal to the Washington Supreme Court. I think, realizing the complete demolition of the case at the trial level and the moderate nature of the Washington Supreme Court, he realized he had a snowball's chance in hell. So now it really is over.

Conservative columnist supports universal health care

Here's one of the last people I'd expect to see coming out in favor of universal health coverage, but for some reason it happened. (Well, Lance Dickie is more of a center-right bloviator like Broder than a diehard conservative, but he's typical of the Seattle Times editorial page, which is more conservative than the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.)

His argument -- it might be wishful thinking, but there's a kernel of reality there -- is that it'll happen because big business will be the one pushing for it. (It's an idea I've seen mentioned here too or at Kos, although I can't remember by whom.) General Motors will get tired of huge losses and junk bond status because it can't control its health care costs. Who knows, even Wal-Mart may get tired of states coming after it demanding it cover employees or pay into Medicaid (as happened in Maryland, although Ehrlich vetoed the bill). They'll eventually turn to the federal government and say "Solve this mess for us."

I'd also like to think that big business would be smart enough to realize that single-payer health care would save money, in the long run and on a national scale, by being more efficient (vertical integration, economies of scale, insert other Econ 101 buzzwords here), and also by cutting costs by ensuring that problems get caught during routine preventive care instead of in an emergency room when problems are acute.

What seems interesting to me is that this would seem to presage another division within the Republican alliance -- not so much between corpo-crats and the Religious Right, since I think a lot of rank and file values voters would be all over universal health care as long as it was proposed by Republicans and sold under the theme of "making us more competitive with Japan and China," rather than, y'know, "making sure that poor people don't die." Instead, it could create internecine warfare within big business, with manufacturing and retail lining up against insurance companies and hospital corporations. And since we all know which horse Bill Frist has in that race, I don't think we'll see any progress on this any time soon.

Splitting Washington state?

No, really... it's on the table, albeit in a half-assed, light-hearted fashion.


Today in Olympia, the Senate Government Operations Committee is discussing the idea of dividing the state into Western Washington and Eastern Washington. 10 (out of 23) GOP Senators are supporting the idea. Now, of course, it isn't going anywhere, as the Democrats control both chambers of the legislature, and ultimately it's up to the federal government as to whether they're going to add more states, and it sounds like all involved know this.

There's more...


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