Thursday, May 28, 2009

Dodd needs to go; it's a Republican opening, but will a liberal Democrat challenge Dodd?


Conn. Senator Chris Dodd 's poll numbers are sliding. His job approval rating is 38 percent, and his job disapproval rating of 53 percent.
a) He has been too close to the financial services industry.
b) He has had some questionable financial doings.

Former Greenwich First Selectman Roger Pierson laid out some key points on both areas.
From the Litchfield County Times:
a) "He [Pierson] recalled that when the Congress revised the Glass-Steagall legislation of 1933, Senator Dorgan was quoted as saying, "You might as well call these financial services institutions casinos."
"In 10 years, 2009, you will rue the day you did this," Mr. Pearson quoted Mr. Dorgan as saying. "This is a harbinger of bad things to come."
He said that Mr. Dodd, who is now the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, and other lawmakers made a poor decision in approving the revision, which he believes led to the crisis of last fall in the financial services sector.
The 1999 legislation was sponsored by U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Tex.), and U.S. Reps. James Leach (R-Iowa) and Thomas Bliley (R-Va.)
Mr. Pearson said in a recent interview that Glass-Steagall, which was established during the Great Depression, "created silos" for banks, insurance companies and brokerage houses.
"Human nature didn't change over the decades," he said. "What worked its way into the system again was greed."
Mr. Pearson said that 5 percent of the mortgages were subprime in 1999, and by July 2007, when the real estate market crashed, the figure had escalated to 30 percent.
. . . .
"He's become the banks' senator," said Mr. Pearson, who has a law practice in Stamford and represented some major tennis players years ago, including former Greenwich resident Ivan Lendl, who captured eight grand slam titles.
"He had a legislative record for the first 20 years that was distinguished," he said of Mr. Dodd. "The last 10 years was not so distinguished." "
b) "Mr. Dodd, who has been easily elected five times to the U.S. Senate, the longest career any Connecticut resident has had in the upper body, has, according to Washington Post political columnist Chris Cillizza, been in a "free fall" for more than a year as he has had to answer questions about the refinancing of two mortgages, a transaction on a home in Ireland and conflicting answers regarding his role in bonuses for executives at AIG, which has received federal funding during the financial crisis."
Alas Pierson, a decent critic of Dodd, is not what we need in the senate. He is a Jimmy Carter-style economic moderate. As we saw with the Ned /Lamont primary challenger to Joe Lieberman, the Connecticut electorate is not in the mood for a moderate.
Dodd's plummeting poll numbers suggest a fine opportunity for Republicans to launch a viable challenge. Rob Simmons is currently the news-making Republican 2010 challenger to Dodd. (He is a former U.S. House Representative from eastern Connecticut.)
Simmons is leading Dodd by 45 percent against 39 percent, according to the Quinnipiac Poll of May 25. (An April Quinnipiac poll put Simmons 16 points ahead of Dodd.)

Scotus blog on cases in which Souter to Sotomayor change would count


Ken Russell at sought to provide some nuance to the usual interpretation that a liberal Sonia Sotomayor would not bring much change in contrast to a liberal David Souter.
He noted the following in considering instances in which the change of justice could result a change in the Supreme Court ruling.
The universe of possible cases in which Souter’s replacement might make a difference to the outcome is necessarily limited to cases decided by 5-4 margins with Justice Souter in the majority. This rules out the fair number of cases with traditional conservative-liberal 5-4 splits, in which Justice Souter was in the dissent - even if his replacement voted more conservatively than he did, that would just widen the margin, not change the result.

That leaves two other kinds of cases. The first are cases in which the liberals (including Justice Souter) attract a fifth vote, and it is possible that Judge Sotomayor would vote with the conservatives when Justice Souter voted with the liberals. One would predicate that - at least on hot-button issues, like abortion and affirmative action - the President would not have nominated Judge Sotomayor unless he were fairly confident that she would vote consistently with Justice Souter’s liberal-leaning record. But there may be less high-profile cases in which that would not hold true, perhaps in the criminal context where Judge Sotomayor has often sided with prosecutors and Justice Souter sometimes has not (although he has been far from a sure vote for either defendants or the Government in criminal cases). We will look for such cases in a subsequent post.

The second category of cases in which the change in Court personnel might make a difference, and the one we will review first, is in the relatively rare, but nonetheless recurrent, cases in which the Court splits 5-4 along non-traditional lines, with Justice Souter in the majority.

One example of such a case was United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220 (2005), in which a majority of the Court, including Justice Souter, declared the federal sentencing guidelines unconstitutional in part. The majority included liberal Justices Souter, Stevens, and Ginsburg, joined by conservative Justices Scalia and Thomas. Dissenting were Justices Rehnquist, O’Connor, Kennedy, and Breyer. If Judge Sotomayor had been on the bench at the time, and voted differently than Justice Souter, the case would have come out the opposite way.

While it is unlikely that the Court will revisit Booker anytime soon, the case continues to give rise to subsidiary questions. For example, this term in Oregon v. Ice, No. 07-907, the Court divided 5-4 over whether the principles animating Booker require that juries, rather than judges, find the facts necessary to the imposition of consecutive, rather than concurrent sentences of multiple offenses. If she is confirmed, Judge Sotomayor thus may play a critical role in the future development of this line of cases.

Thus far, there have been two “quirky lineup” cases decided this term in which Justice Souter was in the majority.

The first was Arizona v. Gant, in which a bare majority of the Court, including Justice Souter, voted to overturn (or at least narrowly cabin) a prior precedent that allowed the police to search a vehicle incident to the arrest of its driver without any showing of particular suspicion or need. The majority included Justices Stevens, Scalia, Souter, Thomas, and Ginsburg. Justice Breyer agreed that the old case was wrongly decided, but declined to vote to depart from it, on stare decisis grounds. Had Judge Sotomayor been on the Court, and agreed with Justice Breyer’s position or the position of the dissenters, the case would have come out differently.

The second such case was Vaden v. Discover Bank. This case involved a question about federal courts’ jurisdiction to here claims asking to compel arbitration under the Federal Arbitration Act. As a matter of statutory interpretation, Justices Ginsburg, Scalia, Kennedy, Souter, and Thomas, held that the federal court has jurisdiction to compel arbitration only if it would have jurisdiction to resolve the underlying dispute between the parties, looking at the type of claims asserted in the original complaint.

This will all be interesting to watch, after the Republicans bury themselves with their obstinacy in this summer's confirmation hearings.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Ron Kuby, & his slim chances of returning to Air America


For whatever reason, Air America Radio moved "Doing Time with Ron Kuby" from 3 PM - 6 PM to 12 PM - 3PM on May 19, 2009. The new time is hurting him, since Air America affiliates run either Ed Schultz or Thom Hartmann at that time slot.

For the reasons of his business dealings after that date, it is likely that Air America will want less to do with him. For on May 20, 2009 James Cromitie and three other bomb plotters arrived at a Riverdale synagogue, bent on exploding it. A few days later Kuby's face appears along with his defendants in photos in New York City's daily tabloids.
So, as homegrown religious extremists turn their war to our cities, it would be hard for Air America to get advertisers to support programming with Ron Kuby's name.

... Replacing Ron Kuby is former television talk show host, Montel Williams in "Montel Across America."

Republicans, Sotomayor, ethnic voters and the long reach of political memory

Just minutes after President Barack Obama's nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to be the first Latina justice and the third woman on the Supreme Court, the Republican right was assembling the bandwagon with ideological vitriol against her.

Republicans to be mindful of how their rhetoric and conduct will resonate for many Latino voters. Diversity rings differently for different voters. For many voters in the white majority it sounds like quotas, of lowered expectations. But for many voters in groups that have been long excluded, it means that they (the excluded group) are no longer excluded, that America is including them, that the American government is finally representing them, that the American government is no longer a white government, but a government for the range of various communities that compose the country.
Simon Rosenberg, of the New Democrat Network:
"The movement of our nation from a majority white to a more racially complex society is perhaps the single greatest societal change taking place in our great nation today,'' he suggests.
"And if the Supreme Court is to have the societal legitimacy required to do its work, its justices must reflect and speak to the people of America of the 21st Century,'' he says.

And here, politicians and pundits are on board with sharing the belief that Republicans will have to tread very carefully in how they treat Sotomayor: Sam Youngman, "Senate GOP risks alienating Hispanics over court pick," May 26, 2009 from "The Hill":
Democratic strategist Guillermo Meneses said Republicans will stay in the minority for years to come if they try to bruise Sotomayor.

“If Republicans unleash the attack dogs on Sotomayor, they will be looking at becoming a regional, minority party for the next couple of decades,” Meneses said. “They really have written the playbook on how to antagonize Latinos, the fastest-growing political power in our nation.”

Former Republican Rep. Henry Bonilla (Texas), an ally of President George W. Bush's, told The Hill on Tuesday that Senate Republicans will have to be mindful of how they treat Sotomayor.
“That is the political reality,” Bonilla said. “In an ideal world, you would decide on a Supreme Court justice based on their qualifications. But in the real world, this is something Senate Republicans are going to have to deal with, and that's her ethnicity.”

So, we will have conservative Republicans blathering on about "dubious qualifications," "unqualified," "token." They will speak to the choir with their scathing rejection of her fitness for the high court. And how will many (yes, not all) Latinos will hear racism (or at least suspect racism) in the Republicans' opposition to her.
(Already, reports that Rush Limbaugh has said that he wishes Sotomayor fails, and Mike Huckabee called her "Maria.")
Many activists in the Party of No believe that the best route is to cast the center aside and go with the faithful core. Yet as they play to the Fox News crowd, they need to consider how their tone and words resonate for viewers of the Univision, Telemundo and Telefutura television networks.
True, there are plenty of conservative Latino voters that will stick with the Grand Obstructionist Party, on issues such as personal libertarianism or conservative social values. But more broadly, we can envision the Republicans losing hefty enough numbers of Hispanic voters in marginal states, such as Nevada, Arizona, Florida, and maybe even Colorado. The buzzword in the context of this appointment is "Hispanic legitimacy." The Republicans of the Party of No will giver further reason for voters to see them as intolerant, if not old fashioned and exclusionary.
A recent poll said that 68 percent of voters did not see it remarkable that a Latina judge was selected.(Mark Silva at Chicago Tribune's "Swamp Politics, May 26, 2009.) While that might be true, the Republicans did poorly, broadly, in so many regions. The Republicans need to worry about the partisan fence sitters in that remaining 32 percent.
Here's another interesting nugget: the Republicans will scream about how a) she is too political in her rulings or b) dubiously qualified. But they have to remember that not only did Bill Clinton appoint her to federal court positions, but Bush I (George H.W. Bush) gave her an earlier boost in 1992 to the federal judiciary. If she is so disreputable, key Republicans with judiciary assignments will have to explain why they supported --with their votes Clinton's 1998 promotion of Sotomayor. Also from Youngman's piece in "The Hill":
When former President Bill Clinton nominated Sotomayor to the U.S. Circuit Court, 25 Republican senators voted to confirm her. Seven of those 25 — Sens. Bob Bennett (Utah), Orrin Hatch (Utah), Susan Collins (Maine), Olympia Snowe (Maine), Thad Cochran (Miss.), Richard Lugar (Ind.) and Judd Gregg (N.H.) — still serve in the upper chamber. An eighth, Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.), was a Republican at the time but switched to the Democratic Party earlier this year.

These Republicans will have to explain their sudden "realization" that Sotomayor is extreme or unqualified.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Manhattan Institute pundit vouches for Sotomayor's position on appeals courts


Perhaps the leading talking point that the right wing pundits are using against Judge Sonia Sotomayor, is the charge that her statement on federal appeals courts and policy. The right, whom we can suspect will include Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and Fox News in general, have been calling attention to a YouTube video in which Judge Sotomayor, at an academic conference, says that appeals courts are where "policy is made."

Yet, James Copland of the conservative, economic libertarian-minded New York City-based think tank, the Manhattan Institute, demonstrated intellectual integrity in properly putting the appeal court role in perspective.
From PBS News Hour, May 26, 2009:
JAMES COPLAND: Well, I'm largely satisfied with the answer on the sort of the Second Circuit or the Circuit Courts make policy answer. I think it was a bit of a misstatement, but I do think that it's, in fact, the case that the law of the land is largely determined by the appellate courts.

The Supreme Court takes a very small number of cases, and the Circuit Courts actually sort of set the law out there that's followed by all the trial court judges in the country. So I don't find that particularly objectionable.

Another point that Copland made, as well as the readily-posed to strike conservative opinion molders on cable TV and talk radio is the charge that President Barack Obama nominated her for justice, on the basis of her gender and her ethnicity.

Copland said that this nomination was "demographic selection." But Judge Sotomayor has a stellar resume. She had high honors in college and in law school. While studying at Yale Law School she was the editor of the Yale Law Journal.
In addition to serving in federal court she has recently also served as a part-time law lecturer and Columbia Law School since 1999. She has also performed similar law instruction work at New York University Law School.

Think of the numerous white male nominees that have successfully made their way into the Supreme Court. --nominees that often had less stellar credentials than Sotomayor. Where was the outcry when the Court was entirely white male (save for Marshall, O'Connor or Thomas)? When we have a top notch nominee, why not have a nominee whose selection is a corrective measure, diluting the dominance of males? Women are half of society; so shouldn't it be fitting that the Court have women as at least two of its nine members? Latinos are the second largest minority. Where is the outrage in choosing a highly qualified judge that happens to be a Latina?

Justices Scalia and Alito have Italian-American heritage and are Roman Catholic in their religious orientation. Thus they come from two groups that are heavily sought after group by the two political parties. If people are going to have outrage over Sotomayor and her Latina background, they are being disingenuous if they do not express the same outrage in Republican presidents' selecting two Italian-American Catholics for justice.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Bronx terror plot on synagogues and rethinking Gitmo prisoner reassignment


President Barack Obama is facing his first serious challenge and rebuff with Congress' rejection last week of his plan to shut down the Guantanamo Bay prison (or Gitmo).
Congress' rejection of his plans to shut the facility by January 2010 came at a crucial moment. The vote came within days of an attempt by US-born Islamic radicals to bomb synagogues in Riverdale, the Bronx, New York City and to fire a Stinger missile at airborne aircraft at the Stewart Air Base in Newburgh, in Orange County, New York.
The fact that the terror plotters were jail-house converts to radical Islam should Obama the impulse to rethink his decision to ship detainees out of Guantanamo Bay.

The prisoners should not be housed in the general population in the prisons. Placing these prisoners in the general prison population runs the serious risk of spreading radical ideas among the general inmate population. The only circumstance whereby Obama could reasonably place these prisoners in the general population, would be if he had the prisoners placed in an isolated wing or corridor of the prison away from the prison population at large. It would be absolutely reckless to place possible religious radicals in with the general prison population. This could serve to facilitate an expanding base for violent religious extremism.

It is disappointing that conservatives are so far the voices out front on this perspective. (For the denial-ville approach: Witness this contribution to the Daily Kos blog: "Prisons, Islam and American Bantustans.") Contrasted with this conservative columnist: Michelle Malkin, May 22, 2009 "Breeding Jihad in U.S. Prisons."
Liberals and leftists should also counsel against anything that could assist the expansion of religious radicalism. We should remain consistent with our principals. The ultimate reason why we are against hate groups is that we oppose the worst thing that these groups could do: act towards the murder of people. Mass killing is exactly what these homegrown terrorists, James Cromitie and company, had planned for Riverdale last week. We liberals and leftists cannot cherry pick the instances in which we want to oppose hate groups.

* * *
Eric Gorski and Rachel Zoll, Associated Press, Friday, May 22, 2009,
Bronx bombing plot renews fears of radical Islam in prison

Wil Cruz, Joe Kemp and Patrice O'Shaughnessy May 22, 2009 DAILY NEWS STAFF, ""

Elisabeth Bumiller's New York Times article on US terror suspect recidivism rate, "Later Terror Link Cited for 1 in 7 Freed Detainees" May 20, 2009.

The New York Times' report on named recidivist individuals, active in terror, "The Recidivism Docket."

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Upstate NY men arrested in Jihad terror plot in Bronx


From MSNBC news, Wednesday, May 20:
Four men have been arrested in a plot to attack several targets in the New York City area, including synagogues, federal and local authorities told NBC News Wednesday.

Authorities said the four men have long been under investigation and there was little danger they could actually have carried out their plan, NBC's Pete Williams reported.

Investigators say the four, described as Black Muslims from the Bronx, had planned to place bombs at various targets. But New York city police and federal agents got wind of the plot and kept the men under careful surveillance.
In fact, officials say, the men recently bought what they thought were explosives, which they put in storage lockers outside the city. But what the men did not know is that the material they bought was actually harmless, sold to them by informants posing as explosives dealers.

Officials emphasize that the men never had actual bombs and could not have pulled off any attack.

According to court documents, an informant met the apparent ringleader of the group, James Cromitie, in a Newburgh mosque last June. He told the informant that his parents lived in Afghanistan before he was born that that he was "upset about the war." If he died a martyr, Cromitie told the informant, he would go to paradise.

For the past year, the informant has followed Cromitie and three others, David and Onta Williams and Laguerre Payen, as they bought a camera, photographed potential synagogues to attack, and scouted out a place from which to shoot at planes at the Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh.

Two weeks ago, three of them met the informant at a Connecticut warehouse to inspect what they thought was a Stinger surface-to-air missile obtained from a terrorist group and plastic explosives. All the materials were actually provided by the FBI and were harmless.

The four are expected to face the charges in federal court Thursday.

Two years ago, two Muslims pleaded guilty to plotting to attack synagogues in Los Angeles. But officials said that they knew of no connection between those arrests and this latest plot in New York.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Few analysts or pundits have addressed factor of ethnic divisions in Pakistan


Analysts have not addressed the ethnic-social division in modern Pakistan.

(Actually, increasing number of leaders have been from non-Sindh, non-Punjab gorups.)

The overwhelming majority of industry, agriculture and commerce lies in the two eastern provinces adjacent to India, Punjab and Sindh.
The Indus River and the river valley forms a western border for these two provinces.
Here is a link to a 2004 online academic paper on Pakistan's political shakiness and social division, Hussain Haqqani, "The Role of Islam in Pakistan's future," "The Washington Quarterly," 28:1, Winter 2004-2005, 85-96:

In a larger context, Pakistan suffers from low development in social infrastructure, in contrast to its neighbor to the east. Namely, in the period from 1947 and [2000?] India tackled literacy. Literacy is 35% in Pakistan and 67% in India.

In a historical context, the rootedness of the cultures in the regions west of Punjab and Sindh to Pakistan is not as strong. Numerous maps from the 1600s to the 1800s indicate that the western regions were under the control of Afghanistan, Iran (nee Persia), an independent Baluchistan, or in Baluchistan.
Reference to ethnic maps.

Terrible fate from British acquisition of western territories. Most of the alienated provinces came after Britain's earlier 1850s acquisitions:
Balouchistan, acquired 1876; Northwest tribal provinces (capture finalized in Durand line, 1893. (Durand Line of 1893.) These areas remained for centuries OUTSIDE of the Indian/ South Asian politaical tradition. The Kasmir princely state sidd withBrits in 1857 rebellion theres after went w Brit rule. (see keay maps.)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Jinnah's tragic legacy

The bitter feeling from the saga of India and Pakistan of several years of the recent decades has cast a shadow over Muhammad Ali Jinnah's partition vision. He envisioned partition of India into a Muslim nation and India proper, motivated by concern for justice for Muslims. He feared that their concerns would be ignored by a Hindu-dominated India.

Instead, we have on-going military spats between the two nations;
and now the two rivals are nuclear-armed.

An idealist supporting partition at the time might argue: partition will spare the respective nations of communal violence. Hardly. It has been keen feature in India.

One can just envision how things might progress, if the current Islamist destabilization continues. Imagine the following:
Talibanists further penetrate Pakistani society, not merely militarily, but inserting their presence in popular thought and allegiances; and they eventually control more of the country.
Pakistanis realize the danger and in a desperate move to stanch the Talibanist drive and ultimate takeover of Pakistan,
seek union of the remaining non-Taliban regions of the country with India.

Imagine the alternate gloom scenario:
Talibanists take over all of the country: not just rural regions, tribal regions and secure not just allegiances of a few corrupt security force members,
but also take over the commercial and governmental cores of Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi. Securing the military apparata, they also secure nuclear weapons.
Pakistani government statement, cited in "Pakistan Times."